Bayou Dreaming by Lexi Blake

prologue




            PAPILLON, LOUISIANA

            Four years ago

            Zep Guidry closed the door to his truck with a grin and wondered if the news he was about to tell his mother would actually give her a heart attack.

            After all, she wasn’t used to good news about the youngest of her children.

            He’d sown a few wild oats in his time, though not nearly as many as his reputation would have people believe. The truth was he’d had something of a wild youth, but that was going to come to an end. Oh, he would still drink and party. After all, what was life without a party?

            But he was finally going to get serious about something.

            He winced because the thing he was getting serious about was what might cause his mother’s coronary. She would laugh at first, thinking he was joking, and then would come that expression that let him know she wasn’t sure about this. He was going to get serious about higher education. The big envelope had come today. He’d picked it up at the post office box he’d rented a few years back because as much as he loved his momma, she was nosy about everything. She would open his mail without qualm, and he’d wanted a bit of privacy.

            Especially for this.

            His momma knew he’d been taking classes at a community college, but she didn’t know how serious he’d gotten about it. Half the time the classes were online since they were so remote out here, so he hadn’t even needed to leave his apartment over the garage. What she didn’t know was he’d applied to finish up his degree at a four-year university, and he had plans that went beyond that.

            He knew his small family would have supported him, but he hadn’t trusted himself to actually finish. The last thing he’d wanted to do was start something else he didn’t complete.

            There was a joke around town that the only thing Zep Guidry knew how to finish was a beer.

            He was tired of being that guy.

            He would complete his associate degree in a few weeks, and that big envelope from LSU had made his hands shake.

            He was in. He could work part time and had some money saved up. He’d managed to pay his own way through community college by doing odd jobs. Most of which he had finished. It wasn’t his fault that Dean LeRoux’s old cypress tree turned out to be full of very aggressive bees.

            He would complete his undergraduate degree at LSU and figure out where to go from there. All he knew was that he wanted to work with animals. If he got his degree, he would have choices he hadn’t dreamed of before. He might even think about going all the way and becoming a vet.

            Was he really going to do this? Was he going to walk in and announce to two women who thought he was mostly a moron that he was going to try to finish college? Would they laugh at him? They wouldn’t mean to, but it might slip out. Hell, he knew it sounded like a pipe dream.

            But he wanted to try.

            It was the right time. Everything seemed to have settled down. His big brother had left the Navy and was happy in his new job in Dallas. Sera wasn’t exactly happy, but she was trying to find the right career for herself. She would stay and help out their mother.

            Now was the perfect time to try something for himself.

            He jogged up the front steps of the house he’d lived in all his life. When he’d been younger, he’d had the room next to his sister’s. When Remy had gone into the Navy, he’d moved into the apartment over the garage.

            What would it be like to live on his own? He would likely need a roommate. Maybe he could find some gorgeous young lady who could help him through chemistry.

            God, he was going to take chemistry. He hoped he could charm the professor.

            He was going to college. He would be the first Guidry to get a degree.

            He would go to college, get his degree, and then come home because he loved this place. Maybe he could get a job with the park rangers or Wildlife and Fisheries. He could open a shelter close to here because they always had animals that needed help. He could make himself useful.

            All of his life he’d loved animals. Probably liked them way more than humans. Animals didn’t judge a man on anything but how he treated them. Animals didn’t care about a man’s past or who his family was. They didn’t care that he didn’t come from money or didn’t seem to have much of a future.