Authors: Lynn Shurr
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #small town, #spicy
A Trashy Affair
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Trashy Affair
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Author’s Copyright Name
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2014
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-050-5
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-051-2
Published in the United States of America
For Lois Grant,
a great storyteller,
and Julie Williams Champagne Vidos,
a wonderful librarian,
both of whom said they would love to have
a book entitled
A Trashy Affair
dedicated to them.
And also for all those
who care enough about the earth to recycle.
Sunset, her favorite time of day. Jane Marshall leaned back in the porch swing, took a sip of red wine, and prepared to enjoy the show of a blazing yellow sun embedded in sheets of orange and pink clouds sinking behind the row of longleaf pines across the way. The open oval in the lattice on the far side of the porch where she’d trained the wisteria vine provided a perfect frame for the spectacle, always outstanding this time of year, when the farmers burnt off the cane fields. She loved Louisiana where even in November she could sit outside wearing a light skirt and blouse at five p.m., the temperature being about seventy-five today. Better yet, a morning frost earlier in the week kept the mosquito population down.
A glint of silver caught her eye—not a meteor, not a speeding bullet—but a flattened beer can sailing over the wrought iron fence surrounding the newly built townhouses across the two-lane road running in front of her house. It landed in her drainage ditch, the one she constantly had to clean of other people’s rubbish simply because she lived near the new stoplight. Drivers felt free to toss their soft drink cups and fried chicken boxes there while waiting for the light to change. She glared at the man who sat on the front stoop of one of the identical houses along with a six-pack of tall aluminum cans minus one.
This aspect of Louisiana she did not love.
He probably could not see her. The wisteria had gotten a little out of hand, and the large azaleas across the front of the house were badly overgrown and needed cutting back. But last weekend she’d helped the local humane society with pet adoptions in Chapelle’s town square. The weekend before that, she ran the 10K race in support of breast cancer survivors—and finished despite not making a very good time. At the end of the next week, she’d signed on to serve a holiday meal to the poor, and right after Thanksgiving would be wrapping presents in the mall to benefit a diabetes association. The yard work must wait a little longer.
A second crushed can from the same source tumbled into her ditch like a piece of a falling satellite. Not too long ago, she could look north and see rows of sugarcane bending like green waves in the wind. Now, she had a view of the townhouses, all the same except for different colored shutters. At least, the builder had sprung for a couple of live oak saplings on either end of the row.
Jane did not entirely place the blame on the beer-swilling guy, big lout that he was. Ste. Jeanne d’Arc Parish no longer had a recycling program thanks to her. Armed with all the knowledge supplied by her degree in Renewable and Sustainable Resources, she could not convince the parish council members to continue the project. Of course, they ignored her recommendations on the new garbage collection contract, too, and what a disaster that turned out to be. Despite writing the specifications herself, despite telling the all-male governing body that Burl Oubre Waste Hauling did not meet those specifications, they’d signed on with this local man anyhow, cutting out black-owned, always reliable Senegal Trash Services.
Jane closed her eyes and saw red behind her lids. Again in her memory, her arch-nemesis on the council, Bernard Freeman, rose to make his point, or more likely to intimidate her with his height and bulk and five o’clock shadow. “Look, little lady, my constituents expect us to make the best use of their tax dollars and create jobs. Mr. Oubre, here, is one of our own and will hire more workers once he gets this contract. He submitted the low bid. We have to go with the lowest bid. It’s the law.”
Forced to look up at the councilman, she stared directly into his hard blue eyes and replied, “My name is Ms. Marshall. We do not have to give this company the contract if it cannot meet our specifications. I personally visited Mr. Oubre’s landfill. His equipment is too old and inadequate to serve an entire parish. I strongly suspect the landfill itself is in violation of several environmental laws. What will you do if it is shut down?”
Burl Oubre, better known as Bubba to his cronies, stood up in the audience. Fond of saying, “My name is pronounced oob which rhymes with boob,” he’d put on an LSU tie, though he’d never attended any college, and an ill-fitting mustard-yellow sports coat left unbuttoned to accommodate his paunch. He rubbed the gray stubble on his chin. “I plan to fix all that once I get the money from the contract, honey.”
“By his own admission, Mr. Oubre’s company does not meet our standards. Nor is he able to provide recycling services. As parish environmental project manager, I ask you to decline his bid.” At that moment, she’d felt like the wholesome filling sandwiched between a moldy crust and a piece of processed white bread—the garbage collector and the slick real estate developer/councilman.
“Mizzz Marshall.” Freeman drew out the honorific and earned a chuckle from Bubba Oubre. “Only twelve hundred out of twenty-two thousand parish residents bother to recycle. The program costs three hundred thousand dollars per year. Our people want lower taxes, more jobs. We cannot afford to recycle at such a high cost.” Showing off his best side, his beautifully cut silver hair, and his finely tailored navy blue suit, he played to a single news camera taping the meeting, not to Jane.
“It’s a matter of educating the public, Mr. Freeman. I go to schools and civic organizations every month encouraging people to save our environment, to—”
The parish president, dumpy, bald, tired in the eyes, and usually one of her supporters, banged his gavel. “We need to move on with the agenda. Can I have a motion to take the bid under advisement?”
Freeman so moved. Seconded. And she knew that Oubre would get the contract and recycling would be suspended.
Jane opened her eyes just in time to see another beer can—this one simply squeezed in the middle and not flattened—wing its way into her ditch, an ugly bird settling in the weeds. Well, she’d had it. She might not have any power with the parish council, but by damn, she could take down one obnoxious jerk. Setting down her wine glass before she broke the stem in her rage, she stomped to the steep-sided trench that kept her yard from flooding in the frequent heavy rains. Heedless of lurking snakes or broken bottles, snagging her hosiery or muddying her pumps, she descended to its bottom and found all three of the cans. Charging up and out onto the verge of the roadway, she crossed the street and entered the gates of Cane View Chateaus. Yeah, this guy still had a view from his upstairs rear bedroom and most likely did not appreciate it one bit.
As she approached, the man stood up and up, a six-footer and then some. At five-four, five-six in heels, she was not
short, but still he loomed over her in a threatening way. His big jaw with its blue-black shadow added to the effect. Turned up on his broad shoulders and tucked behind his ears, his dark hair needed trimming. His cheeks were gaunt and his nose a sharp blade. Under black brows, a pair of eyes that sparkling shade of electric blue she usually found attractive stared directly at her.
Jane released the beer cans to clatter at his feet. “I’m not afraid of you no matter how tall and big you are.”
“I hope not.” He unleashed a huge, white grin, the same kind of smile the Big Bad Wolf must have given Little Red Riding Hood before devouring her, but he immediately subdued it. “My granny always told me to stand up when a lady enters the room.”
He probably ate that granny right after she taught him some manners. “This is not a room.” She bit off each word and spit them at him.
“No. We could go inside, but I don’t have much furniture, only a king-size bed right now.”
The pig! “I have no desire to see your bed no matter what the size. I came about these cans you continue to toss into my ditch.” Jane gestured dramatically toward the small heap of bright aluminum.
“My mama told me we should always throw our cans by the road for the homeless guy on the bicycle to find because he needs the money. Helping the poor, you know. She heard someone say that once and believed it strongly.”
“Helping the poor, my ass! You are littering.”
He looked over her head at her ass and nodded with approval. “My mama isn’t right.”
“Damn straight she isn’t right. Our parish might not have a recycling program right now, but you could at least save these cans in a garbage bag until we get one started again.”
“I mean Mama isn’t right in the head.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry. Is she bipolar, depressed?” Groping for more mental illnesses, Jane knew her face turned the same color as her bright red blouse.
“Nope. Just simple. She was born a twin. Stayed in the birth canal too long waiting for the other one to be born. Oxygen starved, but she did better than her brother. He died premature.”
Jane stooped to retrieve the cans and hide her embarrassed face with the two wings of her chin-length bob. Right now, she wished she had hair as long as Rapunzel. She handed the fellow the squashed aluminum. “Would you save them for a while, please?”
“Sure. Why don’t you sit down and have a beer? Still three left. I like to watch the sun go down.” He gestured with one large hand toward his stoop. The other held all three smashed cans.
After her rudeness, Jane felt obligated to take a seat on the cool cement step and try to explain herself. “No thanks on the beer.”
He sprawled beside her, his long, jeans-clad legs stretched down the length of the short flight of stairs. After forming a pyramid of the crushed cans, he freed another beer from the six-pack ring, popped the top, and took a gulp. Setting his drink aside, he held out a hand sprinkled across the back and knuckles with short, black hairs.
“Merlin Tauzin. Don’t call me Mer, Lin, or Merry. Merlin is okay, but most folks call me Blackie.”
Thinking he did resemble the villain in an old western movie, Jane placed her hand in his, fully expecting him to prove his masculinity by crushing her small bones. “Jane Marshall, parish environmental project manager. Sorry I went off on you. Recycling has been discontinued, and I can’t seem to convince the council to bring it back. My fault. I mistook you for the kind of guy who throws his cigarette butts down in parking lots and walks away.”
Surprisingly, he clasped both of his hands, chilly from the sweating aluminum, around hers and gave a gentle shake. “They’re a bunch of dumb-asses, the council. And I don’t smoke. I chew.” He turned his head and hawked a gob of spit into the mulch surrounding a decorative crepe myrtle planted between the townhouse stoops.