Apache Protectors: Tribal Thunder, Book 2
Could protecting her mean protecting the enemy?
As a former US Marine, Turquoise Guardian Ray Strong is no stranger to high-risk situations. But when he is assigned to protect Morgan Hooke—a single mother and daughter to the Apache who killed a mass gunman—Ray suspects there is more to his mission than meets the eye. Is Morgan an innocent bystander, or the keeper of her father's secrets and blood money? Despite his better instincts, Ray feels a powerful attraction to Morgan. Motivated by love and the loss of his own parents and best friend, Ray will do anything to keep her out of the hands of unseen enemies.
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Most folks wouldn’t trust Ray Strong to look after a houseplant let alone a woman and a child. But that was exactly what had happened. Ray watched the woman in question as she served a complimentary drink to one of the customers on the floor of the tribe’s casino—she dipped as she set down the glass to avoid showing too much leg in her skimpy skirt. A shame, really, because she had great legs.
Detective Jack Bear Den, one of his friends and a fellow member of the warrior sect of the Turquoise Guardians medicine society, told him that they had all gone to high school with Morgan Hooke. But honestly, even after observing her several times over the past five days, Ray didn’t remember her. That meant that she did not look like this back then.
Morgan was not beautiful, but compelling in a waifish sort of way. She had dark cautious eyes and a generous mouth. For reasons unknown, her thick shock of black hair was cut short on the sides and back and long on the top in a style favored by adolescent boys. He liked that cut on some actresses. But Morgan’s hair lacked the product to make it look sassy, so it fell thick and straight in a bowl haircut that looked practical but not sexy, unless you noticed the long curve of her neck. Which he did, and that slim column of sensitive flesh gave him all kinds of bad ideas.
Some of the servers had released their top few buttons to reveal more of their breasts. But not Morgan. She wore the uniform in as conservative a manner as possible. Judging from her tip glass, he was not the only man in the room that rewarded less clothing and more skin.
He watched her retreat to the bar for more drinks. She did look good walking away. Not that it mattered. Ray was not here to pick Morgan up. An outsider had been asking about the shooter's daughter. The Anglo had even been at the casino last Sunday, Morgan's day off. A coworker had furnished Morgan's name, but not where she lived and the stranger had vanished. The woman had called their shaman, Kenshaw Little Falcon, who shared her concern, so he'd sent Ray to watch Morgan's back and see what she knew about her father's involvement in the crime. His shaman had been very specific. Keep her safe and find out if she knew who hired her father. Kenshaw believed that her father had not acted out of some need for justice but had been paid to shoot Ovidio Natal Sanchez. Why was obvious. But who—now that one was a puzzle.
Not as big a puzzle as why his shaman had chosen him for this job. Real dark horse he was and he knew it.
Morgan finished her shift and Ray trailed her out to the parking lot. Morgan stopped to pick up milk and processed cheese. Ray took the opportunity to buy beer and pork rinds. She didn’t notice him. She never did because she kept her shoulders rounded and head down all the time. He didn’t like it, wanted to shout at her to stand up straight.
Ray gazed across the space that separated them. She didn’t seem the type for secrets. But she had at least one. No one seemed to know who fathered her child, Lisa. Everyone had secrets. That made it hard to tell about a person from what you saw on the outside. And no one ever got a look at the inside.
Next Morgan drove home to the small house that she had shared with her father and still shared with her ten-year-old girl. No sign of a man in her life though. A shame. She seemed fragile and Ray wondered why no man had responded to the compulsion to look after her. Not that he was that sort. Not at all.
She stopped again at the neighbor’s to pick up Lisa. Her daughter was as skinny as a split rail with hair that flew out behind her when she ran, which she did often. In her features was the promise of beauty and none of the slinking posture her mother adopted. Lisa was bright-eyed and curious. She’d made eye contact with Ray a time or two and even thrown him a generous smile. He liked her. She was outgoing and a little crazy like him, judging from the way she climbed and swung and jumped on the playground at school during recess. But today was Saturday so no school.
When Morgan reached her dark and empty house, Ray waited on the road as Lisa charged toward the door.
April in the Arizona mountains meant that Lisa still wore a heavy coat, though it flapped open as she ran. Ray lifted his field glasses. He had the house behind hers. But this spot on the road gave him a better view of the kitchen. She never shut the curtains over the sink, so he could peer right in as she made dinner.
From his place on the shoulder, he could see both the kitchen on the front corner and one side of the house, including the back window where Morgan’s father’s bedroom was located. He caught the flash of movement in the bedroom. She left the shades up during the day; he suspected she did this for her cat, who liked sitting in that sunny window on the back of a worn upholstered chair.
Seeing a man pass the window, Ray shifted the direction of his gaze. Redirecting his field glasses, he saw that the contents of the room had been tossed about and there was someone searching the bookcase.
An instant later, Ray was out of his truck and running for the house.
Excerpt EAGLE WARRIOR ©2016 – Jenna Kernan