Gumbo Weather: A Bijou Bayou Christmas Novella
Colorado sports reporter, Noel Winters heads to Louisiana after finding love letters in her deceased mother’s belongings. When her car breaks down near Bijou Bayou, a handsome, struggling pitcher and part-time mechanic comes to her rescue by fixing her car, and offering to help her find her father. Only problem? As her alias, Micki Barrett, Noel wrote an article criticizing Justin Gravois's big league debut. Now she’s fallen for him, can she ever find the courage to tell him the truth? Justin Gravois, professional pitcher, wanted to make his uncle proud. When he finally got his shot, his dream turned into a nightmare. It didn’t help that sports reporter, Micki Barrett, wrote such terrible things about him. Now, Justin wants to forget about the past and move forward to next season. When he falls in love with Noel he wonders if she’s an answer to his prayer.
An hour later after visiting with several cousins he hadn’t seen in far too long, Justin headed for the kitchen. Catching up with them had been nice, but he needed some fresh air. He shrugged his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves, but it was still stifling inside.
He found the drink table and poured a glass of sweet tea.
He’d find Noel, give her the wallet, and leave. Had he heard Ms. Vivian right? Noel looking for him? She probably wanted to know what was wrong with her car.
He scanned the kitchen—no Noel.
A collective shout rang from the room adjacent to the kitchen. The excited sportscaster’s voice drew him to the crowd. Football. All right. Maybe this party would be fun after all. Several guests sat on the couch facing the TV while several more stood around, their eyes fixed on the running back headed to the end zone.
Touchdown Saints. Yeah!
The seated guests jumped to their feet, shouting and high-fiving one another. And smack dab in the middle was none other than Noel Winters. Her excitement lit up her face, and her smile beamed at his cousin, Andy, whose hand she’d just slapped.
For her—high five. For him—mid-chest.
Noel a football fan? He hadn’t seen that one. She didn’t seem the type. Did she like all sports or just football?
As he took in her exuberance, her gaze flashed his way and locked onto his. She smiled and the tremor from yesterday returned to his knees. He had to get back to his workouts. Just one week, and he was already feeling weaker. She walked around the couch and stood next to him.
Her lips moved, but he couldn’t hear her. He bent closer. She yelled, "Did you see that run? A hundred yards and nobody touched him! I can’t believe it."
He’d expected her to ask about her car, not this. "Yeah, pretty amazing," he shouted above the game’s announcer, guests yelling at the TV, the chatter from the kitchen, and music coming from the living room. The temperature in the house seemed to rise another ten degrees.
"Can we go outside?" He guided her to the back door and out onto the screened porch. He tripped on the threshold, nearly spilling his drink onto a woman who was going into the house. Sheesh. What was the deal? He turned into a total klutz around Noel. A few guests milled about gazing at the slow-moving bayou meandering behind the house. Two vacant rattan chairs in the corner beckoned.
Once seated, she asked, "My car. You can fix it, right?"
The Noel from inside the house had vanished. She returned to the cautious, reserved girl from last night, refusing to make eye contact with him. He liked the excited football fan from earlier. Liked the way her face lit up with her grand smile. Liked the way her eyes shimmered when she first saw him. "Yes, it’s the water pump. I had to order a new one. It should be here tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning."
"Good. Do you have an estimate on what this will cost?" She lifted her gaze. Concern flashed through her eyes as she waited for his answer.
A sneaky suspicion told him she was on a tight budget, so he’d omitted the labor costs when he gave her the number.
She breathed out. "Oh, that’s good. No, that’s great." A flicker of a shine returned to her eyes, giving him a glimpse of what he’d seen earlier.
"Oh, I almost forgot." He dug into his pocket. The bulky wallet caught on the lining. It finally broke free. "The reason I came today. I found this in your car. I also found a hairbrush, but forgot to bring it."
"My wallet. Where was it?"
"On the floorboard."
Her lips parted and curled, making her cheeks puff a little. He took in the way her eyes creased a little in the corners as her smile widened.
His stomach did a flippy-floppy thing. He must be hungry. Or maybe he was coming down with something. At least he hoped that was the reason.
Pelican Book Group:
Barnes & Noble:
Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves.
This Louisiana native writes her Inspirational Christmas romances and Southern women’s fiction with a Louisiana/Colorado connection from the Texas home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.
Connect with her through
What I love most about Christmas: I love how the spirit of hope prevails during this time of year. The brightness of the season from the beautiful decorative lights fills me with hope and joy of the season. But most importantly, it’s a time of deep reflection of the true meaning of the season: The greatest gift mankind has ever been given—Jesus, the messiah.