Book 1 in the Bayou Bachelors Series
There’s nowhere hotter than the South, especially with three men who know how to make the good times roll. But one of the Bayou Bachelors is about to meet his match…
New York City stylist Poppy Kaminsky knows that image is everything, which is why she’s so devastated when hers is trashed on social media—after a very public meltdown over her cheating fiancé. Her best friend’s New Orleans society wedding gives her the chance hide out and lick her wounds…
Brandon Boudreaux is in no mood to party. His multi-million dollar sailboat business is in danger of sinking thanks to his partner’s sudden disappearance—with the company’s funds. And when he rolls up to his estranged brother’s pre-wedding bash in an airboat, a cold-as-ice friend of the bride looks at him like he’s so much swamp trash.
The last person Poppy should get involved with is the bad boy of the Boudreaux family. But they have more in common than she could ever imagine—and the steamy, sultry New Orleans nights are about to show her how fun letting loose can be…
is Book 1 in the Bayou Bachelors Series
The full series reading order is as follows:
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Poppy Amberlin Kaminsky had never been so happy to hear her real
name, no matter that she’d spent the last eight hours and had taken a taxi,
train, and plane to do so. All to get to a place she swore she’d never come
back to after a spring break visit almost a decade ago.
It was hard to tell whether the New Orleans’ bayou air or her best friend’s
cloud of Kate Spade Live Colorfully perfume embraced her first, but once
crushed against the familiar curvaceous figure of Sonja Brisco, her college
bestie, it didn’t matter. Poppy meant to give the bride-to-be a reassuring,
“glad to see you” hug, but instead ended up holding on for dear life. Tears
shoved past her carefully made-up eyes, threatening to drip off her lash
extensions. They were the only part of her previous life that she’d kept.
Sonja pulled back and stared. “Let me get a good look at you. What the
hell did you do to your hair?”
Sonja’s expression reflected the shock Poppy had also experienced at her
first glance of her new ’do. Gone was her—or rather, Amber’s—signature
sleek brunette bob. Her wild waves were back, as was her honey-blond
ombré, albeit with a little more brass. She self-consciously reached for her
bleached locks. “It’s part of my getaway disguise.” As was the huge pair
of sunglasses she’d worn from New York City to Louisiana, which had
worked since she’d garnered minimal attention on her flight. An unusual
event for Poppy after being publicly dumped and Twitter-shamed by her
ex-boyfriend. “Ex” as in I want to draw an X across his face every time I
see it. “It’s my real color, so at least the roots will grow out with no issue.”
“Aw, boo.” Sonja lifted the shades from Poppy’s nose as she uttered the
Cajun endearment and Poppy wanted to weep with the relief of having the
8 Geri Krotow
one person who really knew her—who got who she was, who she’d been,
how far she’d come—look into her eyes and smile with no judgment. “That
rat-ass did a number on you, didn’t he?”
Poppy shrugged. “Screw him. That’s history, baby. Two months and
twelve hundred miles away. I’m here, and you’re getting married!” They
both squealed and hugged, hopping around as if they were still college
roommates with big dreams in front of them. Intact dreams that weren’t
shattered in skin-piercing shards about their feet, as were Poppy’s.
“I can’t wait for you to meet Henry.” Sonja gushed as she opened the
hatch of her BMW SUV and reached for Poppy’s tote. “And he can’t wait
to meet you.”
Poppy put her sunglasses back on and took in the upgraded Sonja. Gone
was the straightened shoulder-length hair of their college days, replaced
with a sexy soft afro. Lustrous pearl drop earrings glistened in Sonja’s
ears. No more flip-flops but designer wedge sandals. Sandals that matched
her thousand-dollar bag.
“What?” Sonja didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, these old things?” She posed
like the magazine model she resembled but after a split second bent over
in laughter, her smile flashing as honest and warm as it had ever been.
“Poppy, you look like you can’t believe it. A nice paycheck and fancy
clothes aren’t exclusive to New York City.”
“Did I ever say they were?”
“You don’t have to. Hell, I’ve been trying to get you here for years and
I had to go and get knocked up and married before you showed.”
Poppy’s stomach flipped. “You’re pregnant?”
“Surprise!” Sonja threw her arms up in a big V, joy radiating from
every inch of her curvy frame. Which was about to grow rounder. “But
it’s going to have to be our secret. It’s super early, but I have all the signs
and symptoms. I’m waiting until our wedding night to tell Henry. That
man is always surprising me, spoiling me, and I want to be able to do it for
him, just once.” Sonja’s eyes sparkled the way Poppy had once dreamed
hers would. Once she was married and having Will’s babies.
“How exciting!” Her response sounded so lame even to her own ears. It
wasn’t Sonja’s fault that Poppy had planned to be pregnant with her own
baby by now, after having her own spectacular wedding on Will’s yacht as
it cruised Long Island Sound. She decided on the spot to save her pity party
for later. This weekend her wounds had to remain in her room, away from
Sonja and the gazillions of Louisianans she was about to meet. She hadn’t
packed mini-bottles of Maker’s Mark and a two-pound bag of Hershey’s
kisses for nothing. Although as the heat was already weighing in on her,
she’d be lucky if the chocolate drops weren’t all mush.
Brushing her ruminations aside, Poppy leaned forward and gave Sonja a
solid kiss on the cheek, seriously happy for her friend. And for herself—it
was a relief to close the door on her sad life for the next few days. “We
have a lot of catching up to do. I know it’s your big weekend, and that we
can’t do it all now, but I have to tell you I’m so thrilled to be here with
you, and happy that you’ve found your soul mate.”
Sonja laughed and gave her another quick hug before she hustled them
both into the car and drove away from the New Orleans airport.
“How much of this do you remember from freshman spring break?”
Sonja spoke loudly, as she had the sunroof open and the windows halfway
down. The tropical air that blew against Poppy’s face was a balm after the
chill that remained in New York’s still-slumbering spring.
“I remember that”—Poppy pointed at the Superdome as they sped by
it—“and I remember it being a lot muggier than it is right now.”
“It’s supposed to get ugly by Saturday but I’m hoping the rain stays away
at least until Sunday. All I’m asking is for the wedding to go off smoothly
and for Henry and I to get out of here for our honeymoon.”
Poppy nodded, not wanting to share that the weather app on her phone
predicted rain in a big way starting tomorrow, early. Before the rehearsal
dinner. “The ceremony’s all inside, right?”
“Of course. Henry’s from a long line of Catholics—they wouldn’t be
happy with anything but a full-on Mass. They wanted it at Our Lady of
the Rosary downtown. It’s where Henry’s little sister went to school, so
they have ties there. But we ended up picking St. Louis Cathedral. We
love the history of it.”
“Our Lady help of what?” Poppy had been raised in a Polish Catholic
enclave of Western New York and her own parish had been Our Lady Help
of Christians but she couldn’t help teasing Sonja, the professed agnostic.
Sonja laughed. “You haven’t changed one bit. Don’t even try to tell me
that you’re not the same girl I met in college.”
“Okay, I won’t.” It wasn’t the weekend to tell Sonja that any belief in
something greater than herself had sailed away with Will’s humiliating
“Where do you live again? I know you said it was outside of the city
but not far from the French Quarter. Is it near where you grew up?” New
Orleans was behind them and they appeared to be following signs for the
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.
“Did you even read the invitation, Poppy?” Sonja softened her sharp
query with a wide grin.
“I did.” And promptly forgot the details, as her life had been entrenched
in trying to put a positive spin on the bad press over her broken engagement.
Broken engagement, hell. More like the most obscene, humiliating dump
by a man ever. Her entire professional reputation had been sunk by the
painful breakup from Will. The Twitter and Instagram shaming had taken
off after Poppy’s very public Plaza meltdown in front of Will’s family. She’d
appeared every part the screaming banshee she still felt like.
“Well, I know you’re a busy gal. I used to think I was, too, but then I
met Henry, and now we’re having a baby, and we’ve been planning the
wedding for over a year….” Sonja changed lanes to avoid a trailer hauling
what appeared to be a load of empty cages. “Let’s just say I didn’t know
what ‘busy’ meant.” Sonja’s profile hadn’t changed, nor had her effusive
warmth and positive energy. She’d always been the bubbly one in their
relationship, while Poppy was more deliberate and definitely less talkative.
Sonja always seemed so much more certain of herself. Of life.
Poppy looked out her passenger window. Of course Sonja was grounded
and happy. Most twenty-eight-year-olds had a good idea of where they
wanted their life to go, right?
Except Poppy. Whoa. Pity party is later.
Sonja playfully tapped her thigh. “Listen up. Our new home, where
you’re going to housesit, is in the little town of Millersville. It’s nothing
like where I’m from, closer to the city. My parents are still in a bit of shock
that someone from New Orleans society has asked me to marry him, and
Henry’s parents are, well, coming around. Let’s just say this isn’t New
York City, right?” Sonja tapped her long fingers on the steering wheel.
Poppy sensed there was more emotion under Sonja’s casual demeanor.
“Our house is huge, on the river, and it’s spectacular if I do say so myself.
Roomy, with a huge deck to enjoy the water view. We even have a small
guest cottage. But you’ll stay in the main house, of course. You’re going
to love the greenery after all that concrete.” Sonja and Henry were both
attorneys for the generations-old Southern law firm owned by Henry’s
family. It’s how they’d met, when Henry’s father had hired her.
“So things are still going well with the firm? No conflicts of interest
with Henry’s family?”
“It’s his parents that have issues with our marriage, and they’re all
calmed down for the time being. By that I mean they haven’t requested
any more meetings with us, to try to persuade us differently. And they’re
not totally awful people, if you ignore the ‘Henry’s marrying a black girl
from the bayou’ ’tude.” Sonja adjusted her sunglasses and pursed her lips.
“I hate seeing him so torn up about this. They’ve given him such a hard
time over marrying me. As if I’d sully their good family name. It’s the
god damn twenty-first century.”
“From what you’ve told me, Henry’s family is very old school.”
“Say it like you mean it, girl. You mean ‘bigots with old money’ and
they sure are careful about anyone who gets close to it! Hiring me was
one thing; my résumé speaks for itself. I made them look as if they were
diversifying the partners by hiring a black woman who wasn’t family, and I
wasn’t a threat to the family bank account or gene pool. They put me in the
New Orleans office, of course, far from where his father runs the offices
in Baton Rouge. But having their son fall in love with me? Another thing
entirely. This wasn’t part of their equal opportunity plan.”
“But they’ve decided to come to the wedding and are supporting you
both now, right?”
Sonja stayed silent for several minutes. Poppy waited, knowing that her
friend was trying to keep a positive spin on the ugly circumstance. “Let’s
hope so. It’s either that or look like the asses they are. They’re often in print
in the society pages. I’m betting they’ll show, at least for the professional
photographs.” Sonja’s smirk forced a quick laugh from Poppy. Laughter.
Not something she’d been doing much of.
“Doesn’t sound much different than New York. The high society part,
I mean.” The sun was healing on her nape as the rays reached through
the open sunroof.
“Trust me, when it comes to high society, they’re all the same. Not
the bigoted part, necessarily.” Sonja made a lane change and gratitude
washed over Poppy in a brilliant wave of nostalgia. Sonja was every bit
the open, honest young woman she’d been years ago. “Enough about the
wedding drama. I don’t want to spend our precious time together talking
about Henry’s parents. Are you still sure you can stay here for the full
two weeks to housesit?”
“Are you kidding me? You’ve seen the latest on my Instagram and
Twitter accounts, right? Before I shut them down, that is. I can’t go back
to New York, not yet. You’re doing me the favor by giving me a safe
place to catch my breath. I have a lot to work on, with the new Attitude
by Amber deal.” Poppy was excited to have Sonja and Henry’s waterfront
home to escape to. No paparazzi, no constant stream of Instagram pics of
her at her worst moments. Leaving the gym with her consolatory Ben &
Jerry’s nights displayed prominently in the width of her ass, walking in
12 Geri Krotow
or out of her apartment with that awful pinched look on her face that she
felt down to her toes.
“I am so thrilled for you, Poppy. I read that they’re saying you’re the new
Nate Berkus. This is so incredible! My college roommate, the country’s
darling stylist. I’m so proud of you for landing this deal with what, every
single most successful department store in the country? You’re on the
brink of being a gazillionaire. You know that, right?”
The money wouldn’t be in her accounts until the actual launch of her
custom line of clothing, furniture, and home accessories. With her personal
stylist business accounts frozen, she was feeling more than vulnerable,
financially. But Sonja didn’t need to know about Poppy’s money woes.
“I’m lucky, yes. But after a while, how much does anyone really need?”
Sonja’s smile disappeared and she gave Poppy one of her classic “don’t
bullshit me” looks. “Let’s get real, honey. As in, how are you really doing,
Poppy? You’ve sounded better on the phone this past week, but I can’t say
you’re looking your best.” Sonja was right; she had felt better this week.
Until the last round of tweets from Will. And the threatening private texts
from her former assistant, Tori. Nothing she was going to talk to Sonja
about now, during Sonja’s wedding weekend. No ma’am.
“Thanks a lot! I don’t have much makeup on, and I’m a little tired.
Things are better. I’m better. Really.”
“Is that so?” Sonja frowned. “Remember me, Poppy? The one who
knows you better than anyone else?”
“Yes, you do, and you’re right—this has been hard. But I’m doing
a lot better. Sure, the pyscho tweets and photos suck but it’s not about
me. I’m not the crazy one here.” It was never about her, even when she
and Will had been together. That was what probably hurt the most. Not
disappointment in herself that she’d broken her own personal ethics code
and dated a client, nor that she’d believed what she’d seen too many women
fall for: that she’d be the one to change him. That Will Callis, billionaire
entrepreneur and famous playboy, would stop whoring around and settle
down for one woman. Her.
She’d been partially right. Because Will had changed and settled down,
but not with her. The new and improved Will was on this very same
weekend marrying her former personal assistant, a twenty-one-year-old
college intern. Who was five months pregnant with his child.
Will had been screwing around on her for more than half of their
engagement, at a minimum.
“So what will you do? When you go back to New York?”
Poppy watched the water that surrounded the causeway, finding the
deep shade of blue soothing. “I’ll become the goddess of American style.
It’ll be a full-time job running Attitude by Amber. I never have to style
another person again if I don’t want to.” She ignored the New York City
part. Of course she’d go back to New York. It was where she belonged.
“Oh, Poppy. I hope you mean it. I never thought being a personal stylist
was the best job for you. You’re too smart to just cater to other people.
And Will wasn’t the guy for you, sugar.”
“Sounds like you’ve been talking to my family again.” Poppy’s mother
and sister had at first resented that she’d made it out of their downtrodden
suburb, away from their sorry family drama, and made a name for herself.
Until they realized her earnings could be their ticket out, too. Her mother
had been vociferous about her suspicions that Poppy had somehow bought
her engagement to Will. Why would he want a girl like her, after all?
“I beg your pardon. I’d never sound like them.”
“No, you won’t, and you don’t. I’m sorry, Sonja. It’s just that they’ve
always thought Will was crazy to date me, and wondered what he saw in me.”
“Poppy Kaminsky. I never want to hear that out of your mouth again.
Will is a lying no-good bastard. You deserve better, so much better. And
why are you taking any kind of relationship advice from your family?”
Because even though she’d survived her upbringing and against all odds
made it into the big-time, a happily-ever-after love wasn’t in the cards for
Poppy. She was just like her mother and sister, and grandmother and aunt,
and all the women in her family. They didn’t find true love with the men
in their lives. Birds flew, bees buzzed, and men left.
Poppy had outrun the poverty of her childhood, the struggles of a
fatherless family. And ran headfirst into the wall that derailed all of the
Men liked Poppy; they might even love her at times. But men didn’t
stick around in her life. Poppy wasn’t a woman men gave everything up for.
Which wasn’t a problem for her, because Poppy had everything she
needed. Good friends, a great paycheck, or well, soon-to-be humongous
paycheck, and freedom to do whatever she wanted.
After the haters stopped stalking her and Twitter judging every aspect of her life.