Chapter 14

Sorry for the delay, y'all. Real life has been a doozie. I had hoped to have this fic marked complete by early April...actually, I've been sitting on these few words for more than two months because I felt the story should have ended at the previous chapter. Any hoo. I wrote a lil bit more which I think ties things up nicely.

Gator fishing was hard work, but wading through waters heavy with vegetation while wearing thick, rubber britches, and towing a loaded down piroque was downright grueling. Edward's cargo was precious, though. His swamp queen sat there, recording the depth measurements he called out along with expertly completing her own tasks. Man alive, his woman was lagniappe. Mac was all right, too.

His legs felt as if they weighed a thousand pounds each as he slogged through the water. Their crew had been out here for just a couple of hours, painstakingly documenting the small body of water birthed after last year's successive hurricanes. Incessant rains had grounded Edward's mission. That semester had been a lost cause, and Edward's intern a pain in the ass. Tyler Crowley had very nearly caused the man to decline a post for this year.

Had he rejected the offer to teach this semester and not returned to the Crescent City, Edward would have never anchored his boat in Spud's fishing grounds. He would have never met Itsy…Bella... He might have very well forfeited his happiness.

It was a foolish notion, and one Edward was glad he did not carry out.

Glancing behind him, his heart stuttered at the sight of Bella's honey-tan skin shimmering in the September sun. Her face upturned toward wispy clouds, she smiled at a flock of blackbirds passing overhead. Her eyes followed the birds' path as they briefly blotted out the sun before landing in a nearby tree. Bella's eyes met Edward's as the birds settled on perches directly ahead of him.

He smiled with his whole body at their silent exchange before turning around and continuing on their course.

"You know, blackbirds are said to show you the most direct path to wherever you're meant to be," Alice whispered.

Bella could only nod. The salty sea air carried a warm, sticky sweetness that saturated her lungs, coating her insides with the essence of the swamp.

Lagniappe. Every moment Itsy had spent in the swamp was a gift that gave her more than she expected. She found love with Dink, and knew she and Mac could be close. Out in the wilds of the swamp, Itsy was reborn.


As always, this sucker is un-beta'd.

My undying gratitude goes out to all of you who have read, reviewed, lurked, faved, followed, and NOMINATED. This fic was birthed a long time ago. Thank you for your support. For those of you whom I have personal relationships with know I have no desire to write anymore fanfiction. I joined this fandom to watch and learn and make some friends. I've done all those things-I'm ready for the next challenge. If God is willing and the creek don't rise, you'll see my name in the acknowledgements as an editor of your new favorite books.

Be well.