Midnight Bayou Page 71

Something happened to her up there. And he never knew. He grieved himself to death not knowing. I need to find out for him. And for myself. I need you to help me.”

"What can I do?”

"Come to the nursery with me. We're closer now. Maybe you'll remember this time.”

"Declan." She took his face in her hands. "There's nothing for me to remember.”

"You hang witch bottles out in my tree, but sit here denying any possibility of reincarnation, which you brought into the mix in the first place.”

"That's not what I'm doing. There's nothing for me to remember because I'm not Abigail. You are.”

She might as well have slipped on a pair of brass knuckles and plowed her fist into his stomach. The shock of her words had him reeling.

"Get out. That's not possible.”

"Why not?”

"Because …" Flustered, oddly embarrassed, he pushed to his feet. "You're trying to say I was a girl?”

"I don't know why that's such a shock to your system. A lot of us get along just fine female."

"I don't. I'm not. I wasn't.”

"It makes the most sense, if any of this makes sense.”

"No sense. None. No way.”

"You're the one who keeps hearing the baby cry." She'd never seen him quite so flustered. "Mothers do, before anyone else. And you're drawn to that room upstairs, the way a mother would be to her baby. Even though the room scares you, you're pulled back. You said how you wandered through the servants' wing, how easy it was to find your way. She'd have known it, but why would Lucian?”

"It was his house." But he remembered how he'd imagined looking out the window, imagined seeing the two men riding toward the house. Why would he imagine seeing Lucian riding home if he'd been Lucian?

"A couple other things," Lena continued. "One telling one. That day when I came along and saw you walking toward the pond. Trancelike. You walked oddly. I couldn't figure out what it was about the way you walked that struck me. But now I know. You were walking the way a very pregnant woman walks. Waddling a bit," she said as he turned and gaped at her with something like horror. "A hand pressed to the small of your back. Small, careful steps.”

"Now you're saying I wasn't just a girl, but a pregnant girl?”

"Oh for heaven's sake, cher, some people believe you can come back as a poodle. What's so bad about a pregnant woman?”

"Because pregnant women go into labor at a certain point, then have to push several pounds of baby out of a very limited space.”

The horror on his face was comical, and enough to have her relaxing into the theory. "I don't think you'll have to repeat that performance in this life. Have you considered that if you look at this puzzle from this new angle, you might find the answers you want?”

He found himself wanting to rub at his crotch just to make sure everything was where it should be. Maybe work up a good, manly belch. "I like it better the other way.”

"Keep an open mind, cher. I've got to get to work.”

"Wait a minute, wait a minute." He dashed after her. "You're just going to drop this bombshell on me, then leave?”

"I've got to work for a living."

"Come back after closing. Stay.”

"I need to stay at Grandmama's for a night or two, till she's feeling steadier.”

"Okay. Okay." He let out a breath when they reached the main floor. "Let me try this." He spun her around, crushed his mouth to hers. Then took the kiss deep and dreamy.

"You didn't get any lesbian-type vibe from that, did you?" he asked when he drew back.

"Hmm." She touched her tongue to her top lip, pretended to consider. "No. I can attest that you're all man this time around. Now, shoo. You've got plenty to do the next few days to keep your mind occupied. This whole thing's waited a hundred years, it can wait till after Remy's wedding.”

"Come back and stay when Miss Odette's feeling better.”

"All right.”

"I love you, Lena.”

"I'm afraid you do," she whispered, and walked away.

Lena left the bar as early as she could manage, but it was still after one in the morning when she pulled up to the bayou house. The porch light was burning, and the moths seduced to death by it. She sat for a moment, listening to the music of the frogs and night birds, and the teasing whisper of a faint breeze.

This was the place of her girlhood. Perhaps the place of her heart. Though she'd made her life in the city, it was here she came when she was most happy, or most troubled. Here she came to think her deepest thoughts or dream her most secret dreams.

She'd let herself dream once-those innate female dreams of romance and a handsome man to love her, of home and children and Sunday mornings.

When had she stopped?

That sticky summer afternoon, she admitted. That hot, hazy day when she'd seen the boy she'd loved with all her wild heart and foolish youth coupling like an animal with her mother on a ragged blanket in the marsh.

The marsh that was hers, the boy that was hers. The mother that was hers.

It had sliced her life in two, she thought now. The time before, when there was still hope and innocent dreams and faith. And the time after, where there was only ambition, determination and a steely vow never, never to believe again.

The boy didn't matter now, she knew. She could barely see his face in her mind. Her mother didn't matter, not at the core of it. But the moment mattered.

Without it, who knew what direction her life would have taken? Oh, she and the boy would have parted ways soon enough. But it might've been with some sweetness, it might have left her with some soft memory of first loves.

But that stark vision of sex and betrayal had forged her. She'd understood then what it might have taken her years to learn otherwise. That a woman was smarter, safer, to drive the train herself. Men came, men went, and enjoying them was fine.

Loving them was suicide.

Suicide? she shook her head as she climbed out of the car. That was overly dramatic, wasn't it? Heartbreak wasn't death.

He'd died from it.

She all but heard the voice in her head. It hadn't been the knife wound, it hadn't been the pond that had killed Lucian Manet.

Prev Next