The Lost Girls of Johnson's Bayou

The Lost Girls of Johnson's Bayou

by Jana DeLeon

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In this reader favorite from New York Times bestselling author Jana DeLeon, a woman with no past meets a man who wants to share her future…

She was only six when she walked out of the swamp after the LeBlanc School for Girls caught on fire. Sixteen years after the terrifying night that stole her memory, a child’s scream lures Ginny back into the woods…where a strong arm encircles her. The gun-wielding stranger is Paul Stanton, a cop-turned-P.I., who’s come to Johnson’s Bayou looking for answers of his own.

Paul has spent almost two decades searching for his missing sister and now, this Southern beauty could be the key to his quest. But someone would rather see Ginny dead than have her memories resurface. And although uncovering the dark secrets of the past could put them both at risk, it’s a chance Paul’s willing to take if it means finding his future…with Ginny.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781488034732
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 06/11/2018
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 36,279
File size: 417 KB

About the Author

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jana DeLeon grew up among the bayous and small towns of southwest Louisiana. She’s never actually found a dead body or seen a ghost, but she’s still hoping. Jana started writing in 2001—she focuses on murderous plots set deep in the Louisiana bayous. She lives in Texas with her husband and the most spoiled Sheltie in the world. Visit Jana on her website,

Read an Excerpt

Ginny Bergeron stood in front of the cafe's plate-glass window and stared into the swamp. The setting sun cast an orange glow on the cobblestone street in front of the cafe and the thick range of cypress trees that littered the swamp beyond the edge of the small town. It was the same view she'd had every day for sixteen years, yet today, it felt different. As if something wasn't right.

"You gonna finish cleaning that coffeepot or just stare out the window all day?"

The booming voice of the heavyset woman behind her made Ginny jump, and she spun around to face Madelaine, the woman who was, for all practical purposes, her mother.

"Sorry," Ginny said. "I guess I wandered there for a minute."

Madelaine gave her an understanding smile and glanced out the window. "It's a beautiful sunset. I finished up in the back, so as soon as those coffeepots are washed, we can leave." She grabbed one of the pots off the warmer behind the counter. "Since you're up here lollygagging, I'll help."

Ginny smiled at Madelaine's teasing, more because she knew her mother expected it than because she felt like smiling. The beautiful sunset wasn't what had caught Ginny's attention. In fact, Ginny couldn't put her finger on exactly why she'd been staring out the window, or what she expected to see. But she could feel it—something out there didn't belong.

Ginny grabbed the half-empty coffeepot off the table where she'd placed it a couple of minutes earlier and headed behind the counter. Madelaine already had hot water running in the huge stainless steel sink, so Ginny poured out the old coffee and stuck the pot under the stream of water. Some of the steamy water splashed onto her bare hands and she flinched. Her mother glanced over at her bare hands and shook her head, her expression one of long-standing exasperation worn by parents who'd told a child something over and over again in vain.

"I have a pot roast in my Crock-Pot," Madelaine said. "Why don't you come over for dinner and a movie?"

"Great minds think alike. I put a roast in my Crock-Pot this morning."

Madelaine wiped the coffeepot with a clean rag and set it on the counter. "Well, if you're sure."

"I'm sure," Ginny said and placed her clean coffeepot on the counter next to her mother's.

"I guess we'll both be eating pot roast for a week then." Madelaine stared at her for a moment, the uncertainty clear on her face, but finally, being a parent won out. "I worry about you spending so much time alone. You sure you're all right? You've seemed on edge lately."

"I'm fine, and I'm perfectly happy alone. I have a good library of books." She smiled. "You ought to know, since you gave me most of them."

Madelaine didn't look convinced. "A book isn't the same as having someone else around. Like a man. Then maybe I wouldn't worry as much."

"Really? I haven't noticed that being a problem for you. In fact, in my years with you, I've never known you to even date."

Madelaine waved a hand in dismissal. "That's not the point. I made my choices long ago, and I'm happy with them. I had my run at that hill in my earlier years. Enough to know it wasn't for me. But you haven't so much as taken a step toward it."

Ginny shook her head. "You know good and well that the only single men in Johnson's Bayou are under ten or over sixty. Which would you prefer I take up with?"

"Ain't no one saying you got to remain here the rest of your life. That university in New Orleans wanted to give you a scholarship before. I bet you could get one again."

"And do what?"

"Leave. Leave all this behind and start a new life. A good life."

Ginny placed a hand on Madelaine's arm. "I have a good life. Maybe someday I'll want something different, something else, but for now, this is what's right for me."

Madelaine sighed and kissed Ginny's forehead. "All right then. I'll see you tomorrow morning. Ought to be a busy one with everyone in town preparing for the Fall Festival."

Ginny nodded then followed Madelaine to the front door of the cafe and locked it behind her. Ginny gave the cafe a final glance to make sure everything was in order, then hurried up the staircase at the back of the cafe kitchen to her apartment.

The apartment consisted of a small living area, an even smaller bedroom and a tiny kitchenette and bathroom. Madelaine had provided her with a worn couch that Ginny had recovered in coarse fabric with light blue and white stripes. An old nineteen-inch television sat across from the couch on a stand with peeling paint that Ginny had bought at a garage sale but hadn't had time to refinish.

She'd taken her bedroom set with her when she'd moved out of her mother's house, and the bed, dresser and nightstand left only a small walking area in the narrow bedroom. The kitchen had room in the corner for a tiny table and two chairs, but nothing else. Some people probably wouldn't consider it much, but for Ginny, it was perfect.

What some would see as sparse, Ginny saw as uncomplicated.

Her life in Johnson's Bayou certainly hadn't started out that way, but Ginny had been determined to make it that way. She'd always found comfort in knowing that today was the same as yesterday and would be the same as tomorrow. But lately, complicated thoughts had roamed her mind, unbidden. Despite her attempts to ignore them or change her mode of thinking, the thoughts kept popping back up, unwanted and uncomfortable.

She laid her keys on the breakfast table and opened the blinds on the window behind the table. The sun had almost disappeared behind the swamp, but she could still see the roofline of the old mansion just above the top of the cypress trees. The LeBlanc School for Girls. Or at least it had been.

What had happened there sixteen years ago? And had she been a part of it? Is that why the house seemed to call to her in the night? All these years, she'd had no inkling of her past, as if her mind had been scrubbed clean of the first six years of her life. She had no answers to the bizarre questions that surrounded her arrival in Johnson's Bayou, despite a significant amount of effort by the local police into searching for those answers.

Ginny had never searched for answers.

Sometimes she thought it was because she was afraid of what she'd find. Other days, she thought it was because nothing she found would change who she was today, and that's all that mattered. Curiosity had never compelled Ginny to visit the LeBlanc School. The police said the fire had completely destroyed the room the resident records were housed in, so no answers were contained there now, even if they had been before.

But lately, she felt anxious…drawn to this window where she could see the top of the house, tucked away in the bayou. Drawn to seek answers to questions she'd never asked out loud. It was as if a giant weight was pressing on her, but for no particular reason that she could determine. Why now, after all these years?

She reached for a shipping box on her table and opened it up. She'd told Madelaine it was supplies for her beadwork. With the festival coming up, Madelaine hadn't even blinked at her explanation of the heavy box. Ginny's jewelry had become quite popular in

Johnson's Bayou, and she'd even had sales to some New Orleans shops. But the item that lay inside wasn't the beads or wire or tools she'd claimed.

She pulled the spotlight out of the box and glanced once more at the woods that lay just beyond her apartment. Every night for a week, she'd taken the spotlight out of the box, determined to walk into the woods, even if only a couple of feet. Determined to prove that nothing was there. That her overactive imagination was playing tricks on her. And every night, she'd placed the spotlight back in the box, closed the blinds and drawn the curtains, trying to eliminate the feeling that she was being watched.

But tonight was going to be different.

She still wore her jeans and T-shirt with the cafe logo but didn't bother changing. In the time it took to change clothes, she could come up with a million different reasons to delay her trip another night. Before she could change her mind, she hurried out of the apartment and slipped out the back door of the cafe.

She stood at the edge of the swamp, her strength wavering as she studied the wall of cypress trees and the dense growth beneath them. Dusk had settled over the town behind her, and not even a dim ray of light shone in the swamp.

That's why you have the spotlight.

She took one step into the swamp and studied the brush in front of her, looking for any sign of a path. This was foolish. She should abandon this folly and come back in the daylight.

But in the daylight someone might see…and question.

It had taken years for the whispering about her to stop. Years for the residents of Johnson's Bayou to feel comfortable in the same room as her. The last thing she wanted to do was spook a group of already superstitious people by fueling their original fears about her—about what she was.

The brush was less dense to the right, and when she directed her spotlight that way she could make out an open area about twenty feet away. She pointed her spotlight toward the clearing and stepped deeper into the swamp. The brush closed in around her, eliminating what was left of the natural light. The sharp branches scratched her bare arms, but she pushed forward until she reached the clearing.

It was small, maybe five feet square, and someone had taken the time to remove all the brush from the area. The ground was solid, dark dirt beneath her feet, not a sign of grass or weeds in sight. Kids, maybe? Although she couldn't imagine kids wanting to play in this area of the swamp, nor their parents allowing it. On the backside of the clearing, a tiny path stretched into the dense brush. Ginny directed her spotlight to the path and pushed through the brush for several minutes until she reached another clearing.

This one was bigger than the last and circular, with charred wood in the center. Ginny frowned. Surely no one was camping out here. Even if one didn't believe the old tales about spooks and haunts, the swamp was filled with plenty of dangers, many of them deadly. Those who'd lived near the swamp their entire lives still preferred to spend the night hours surrounded by four walls.

She studied the wood for a moment and realized it was completely rotted. A piece of it broke off easily in her hand. It had been a long time since someone placed it there and burned it, but that still didn't explain why the brush had not taken the clearing back over. Why the dirt stood barren.

Her spine stiffened suddenly and she stood motionless in the clearing. Her hair stood up on the back of her neck, but she had no idea what had set her off. She listened for the sounds of a night creature on the prowl, but it was almost as if the swamp had gone silent. There wasn't a breath of air, and even the bugs had stopped making noise. She could hear her heart beating in her chest and the sound of her breath as she raggedly drew it in and out.

Then the sound of a child's scream ripped through the night air.

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The Lost Girls of Johnson's Bayou 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
sarahconerty More than 1 year ago
DeLeon really knows her stuff, and the Harlequin Intrigue line is perfect for her. She writes the best books chock full of characters you can see in your mind and believe in who happen to be involved in dangerous, spooky adventures. Ginny is one of the "Lost Girls", a group of orphaned or unwanted girls who were gathered together at the LeBlanc School for Girls in Johnson's Bayou. Sixteen years ago Ginny was one of only two girls who survived a tragic and suspicious fire at the school. Suffering from amnesia, both girls have grown up and made lives for themselves, never knowing that they were being watched carefully, in case they started remembering what happened that night at the School. Ginny has already started remembering when handsome Paul arrives in the small town. Ginny and Paul start out as partners in mystery-solving, but soon are experiencing an intense attraction enhanced by their dangerous adventures as they try and solve the mystery of what happened that night sixteen years ago. It was hard to put this book down - I wanted to keep reading and see who the bad guy was, and how Ginny and Paul's relationship would evolve. Considering the Harlequin Intrigue line exists for solving mysteries and happy endings, creating a story that kept me reading late into the night is a real testament to the author's skill. This was my 4th book by DeLeon and all 4 have been excellent.
judiOH More than 1 year ago
ginny is one of the 'lost' girls, along with another girl no one can find. someone knows who they are, and where they are, but until now hasn't felt the need to harm them. they didn't remember the night of the fire that killed the others sixteen years ago. an orphage with a gruesonme secret shared by a few people, one a killer. into town comes a handsome man looking for his sister, and ginny starts to remember, making her a target for murder. lots of suspense as the story unfolds, along with a little romance. a not to be missed tale.
debbieaheaton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Deleon's romantic suspense novel, Ginny was only six when she emerged from the swamp after the LeBlanc School for Girls caught fire one night. Now, sixteen years later with no memory of her past, a child's scream sends Ginny back into the swamp and into the arm's of Paul Stanton. A cop-turned-PI, he's come to Johnson's Bayou to find answers to questions he's spent nearly two decades in search of. His sister had been sent into the foster care system following the death of their parents and had dropped off the radar sixteen years ago. Ginny just might hold the key to his quest but someone was targeting her as her memories begin to resurface. To find a future with Ginny, Paul is forced to help her remember those terrible secrets from years ago. Fast-paced, kept me guessing to the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second book I have read. Loved them both. They are well written,lots of suspense,a spooky old building,and a sweet romance. What else could you want?
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some mystery, some romance, some drama. Well rounded good story!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another geat read by this writer