Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)(3)

He wore a handsome plumed hat, and his sword was encased in a sheath belted around his hips.

She closed her eyes, wondering what a Southern soldier had done to end up buried out here.

Please, please go away, she thought. Because she was afraid. The air here on top of the bluff was growing chilly in the dark, and she still felt as if she could hear—in her head, at least—the soft sound of sobbing.

The cavalryman was still walking toward her.

Screw the damned club. What an idiot she’d been.

“Don’t worry, I’m going to help you.”

At first she thought it was the ghostly Confederate who had spoken. But it wasn’t. It was someone made of flesh and blood, someone real, and that realization startled her so badly that she let out a horrified scream.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he protested, stepping closer and starting to work at the ropes that bound her. “It’s all right. I’m Ethan Delaney. I’m here to help you.”

She blinked. Ethan Delaney. She knew him, even if she didn’t know him well. His father was a teacher and had recently taken a job at a music school in New Orleans. His mother taught piano. Ethan had graduated soon after she’d gotten to high school; he was three years her senior. She’d really only seen him from afar. When she’d been about eight or nine, he’d gotten stuck babysitting for her and some other kids because their parents were all friends.

What she knew about Ethan—what everyone knew about him—was that he was considered special, but not in a bad way. In a good way, in fact. He’d excelled at sports and qualified for scholarships at a bunch of schools. He’d ridden a motorcycle—when he hadn’t been riding around on Devil, his dad’s big buckskin quarter horse. People nodded when they heard his name and said things like That boy’s gonna make something of himself.

He’d been gone from town for a while now. Gone off to college in New Orleans. Soon his parents would move to New Orleans, too, and there would be little reason for him to come back to town.

But—amazingly—he was here now and about to free her from her misery.

“Ethan. Delaney,” she said, still not entirely sure that he wasn’t an apparition. She hadn’t seen him coming; she’d been distracted by the Confederate soldier just in front of him.

She stared as he kept working at the ropes. She could smell him, and he smelled good. He’d been riding earlier, she thought. He smelled of leather. He leaned back, focusing on one of the knots. She watched him as he concentrated. He had cool eyes. They were a golden green color. He was tanned. He had a lean face, and a thick strand of dark hair fell over one eye.

He was gorgeous.

She wasn’t in his league.

But here he was, helping her.

“Thank you,” she managed to say.

“How the hell did you get here?” he asked.

“Pledging,” she told him.


“I know. I told them I’d had it, I didn’t want to be in their presence, much less their club,” Charlie said, her voice tight. “They didn’t listen.”

“I see that.”

She was suddenly freed, and immediately she tried to stand. Her legs wobbled, and he reached out to steady her. She looked up.

Suddenly she was in love.

She couldn’t let him see it.

Charlie cleared her throat and fought to quickly maintain her balance on her own as she forced a smile to her lips.

“Thank you, Ethan. I owe you big-time.”

“It was nothing...” He hesitated. “Nothing at all.”

He doesn’t even know my name.

Their parents were friends; he’d been to her house. But had he ever thought of her as anything other than a little kid? Did he even recognize her?

He was smiling at her. “Listen, I walked here. I don’t have a car. But when we get back to my parents’ old place—he’s in NOLA, and Mom is there picking up stuff, ’cause she’s in the middle of moving—I can use her car and drive you home.”

“I hate to trouble you. I can walk home now that I’m not tied up, thanks to you.”

His smile deepened. She noticed that he had a dimple in his chin. “I’m sorry, miss, but I was raised Southern, and my mama would probably still tan my hide if I didn’t see you home safe.”

He turned, holding her elbow—probably worried that she might trip on a gravestone, she thought.

“I have a name,” she told him, sounding more strident than she’d meant to.

He stopped and looked down at her, that shock of hair still covering one of his eyes. “Of course. I’m so sorry. It’s just that I don’t know—”

“Charlie. Charlene, actually. Charlene Moreau.”

Something flickered in his eyes. “Moreau. You used to hang at my house when you were little. Our parents are friends. Your dad is Jonathan Moreau, right?”

“Yes.” She waited, afraid that somewhere along the line her father might have done something to bug him.

“Wow,” he said with admiration. “He’s brilliant. He knows more about local history and politics than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“Yep, that’s him.”

“Come on, then. My mom can make you some tea or something, and then I’ll take you home.”

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