FREE Romantic Suspense Novella
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When Apache tribal police detective, Jack Bear Den, and his new wife, FBI agent, Sonia Rivas, arrive in Hawaii for their honeymoon, two near-fatal accidents put them both back on duty. Can these two newlyweds stop their attackers before they succeed in ending this marriage and their lives?
Epilogue to THE WARRIOR'S WAY — Novella — 80 pages
*~* SPOILER ALERT*~*
This story is the epilogue to THE WARRIOR’S WAY from the series, APACHE PROTECTORS: TRIBAL THUNDER. If you have not read THE WARRIOR’S WAY and do not want to know the secret of Detective Jack Bear Den’s paternity, please do not read this novella until after you have enjoyed THE WARRIOR’S WAY.
Tribal Police Detective Jack Bear Den had not been this nervous since his wife nearly died in the explosion she triggered to save his reservation. Only, this threat wasn't physical. Any minute his father's parents would pop up on the tablet now sitting still and silent on the kitchen table.
Jack placed the flat of his sweating palm on his stomach, pacing through the cramp and making the turn.
"You're making me nervous," said his new wife, FBI Explosives Expert Sophia Rivas.
He paused to smile at her. Once she had told him that she would never depend on a man. But she had changed her mind, thank God. His bride of one month had a slim build, shoulder-length black hair, and an oval face punctuated by a long nose and pointed chin. Her full, pink lips quirked as she gazed at him with deep brown, intelligent eyes. She offered her hand and he took it. Tethered now, he came to rest.
"We don't need to do this," he said.
His mother arched a brow. She had made contact by letter, then email, and now, finally, a video chat.
"They can't deny you are of their bloodline."
"They aren't denying it," said his father, Delane. "They were just being cautious. Protecting their family.
This hit them from out of the blue. I think you would do the same, circumstances reversed."
Sophia placed a hand on Jack's shoulder and they exchanged a look. She understood that this revelation had hit him exactly the same way.
His parents, aunt and uncle actually, were in a discussion about family, giving Jack a moment to speak his heart to Sophia.
"Even not knowing, I always knew."
"That's why you finally sent the DNA test with the samples from you and Carter," said Sophia, her voice low, "because you were afraid to know the truth."
He did not often admit to fear. But she was right, so he nodded.
But his mother had not had an affair, as he had suspected. His theory had been both wrong and insulting. Instead of being raised by a woman who had betrayed her husband, he had been raised by a woman of honor.
"You're lucky," she said, squeezing his hand. "Two families."
Sophia, raised in foster care, had brothers and sisters she had never met and a mother unable to care for herself, let alone her children. She had a way of making him see the bigger picture. He stroked her cheek.
She nodded her acknowledgment and then placed two fingers under his chin to focus his attention. Everything in the room stopped as he met her steady gaze. "They're going to love you as much as I do." Sophia gave him a quick kiss on the lips and let him go.
Bolstered, he paced from counter to refrigerator coming to a stop beside his twin brother, Carter, who was really not his twin, or his brother.
Carter had every characteristic of the Turquoise Canyon people, while Jack was over six and a half feet tall, outweighed all three of his brothers by sixty pounds and had features unlike those most common within his tribe. He was different. He knew it. Everyone did.
"It changes nothing," said Carter, cutting to the heart of the matter. "You are Tonto Apache, Roadrunner born of Snake and my brother, always."
Jack's eyes began to tear. Carter's did as well. Twins of the heart born of two sisters.
"Relax, my son," Annette said, speaking to Jack in Tonto Apache. "They'll love you."
His father's mother and father would be calling from Hawaii. The missing half of his linage resided an ocean away. His grandparents owned the Hilo Cattle Ranch on Maui. Jack had looked up the ranch, of course, and scoured its website. The place was picturesque, big and all indications were that his grandparents were wealthy.
He stared at the computer tablet that was black now, but any minute it would spring to life with strangers who were his grandparents.
He cursed himself for putting them all through this. They were his family. Why did he need another?
"I've never even seen an ocean," he said.
"But you will," Sophia replied. "On our honeymoon."
The tablet blipped to life and they all jumped.
Three months later
"Look!" Sophia pointed as they walked along the path from the hotel toward the marina. "Coconut trees."
Sophia had traveled more extensively than he had ever done. She'd seen Washington, DC; New York City; Niagara Falls after a training trip to Toronto; and she had been assigned to Los Angeles and Santa Fe before relocating to the Tucson office. But neither of them had been to Hawaii or seen the Pacific Ocean. And within the hour they'd be swimming in it.
Jack held her hand as they walked past the poolside bar and out the gate, following the lushly landscaped path lined with flowering birds-of-paradise and brilliant pink hibiscus. Everything was so green and leafy. The trade winds blew as they continued along, making the stiff palm fronds rattle.
They stopped at the dive shop to pick up their wetsuits and gear. Their tanks and regulators waited on the dock.
"Sophia, look." Jack pointed out the back windows at the Pacific Ocean. They were in an inlet, but out near the horizon, beyond the reef, the line of white waves rolled.
She came over to stand beside him, holding her mesh gear bag in one hand and wrapping her other arm around his waist.
"I've never seen so much water in my life," he said.
"Makes me feel small."
She grinned up at him, excitement twinkling in her eyes. "That's your heritage. You're half Hawaiian. So you better learn to love the ocean."
"I guess so."
"And we have a surfing lesson tomorrow."
He hugged her. "Sophia, you can't turn me into an islander in two days."
"Maybe not." Her smile reassured. She understood his nervousness at meeting his new family. "But you look the part."
He wouldn't meet his father's family for two more days, but his stomach still tightened every time he thought of that first actual meeting. What would they think of him?
"When do you talk to your grandparents again?" she asked.
"I can't wait to meet them. Especially your grandmother, Maua. She seems especially fabulous."
He was used to strong women surrounding him, but he could see how Sophia, raised by her grandmother until her passing, would gravitate to another warm, nurturing woman with iron in her veins. Sophia seemed as excited as he was for this first meeting.
After many video chats, Jack had formed a special bond with his father's parents, Clifford and Maua. They were big people, like him. After spending his lifetime feeling different because of his size and curly hair, he’d finally met others who looked like him. One photo had been all he'd needed to convince them, though his uncle, Marcus, had wanted a bit more proof. Proof which was understandable. As a detective, Jack was cautious as well. But the DNA test results showed a match. Jack was the son of Robert Taaga, Marcus's brother and Clifford and Maua's first-born son.
Sophia let him go. "Ready?"
They headed for the exit with their prepacked bags. The moist air struck him as they left the air-conditioned shop. It felt like someone had wrapped him in a wet blanket.
"Wow!" he said, wiping the sweat away.
"It will be cooler on the boat and in the water," she promised, then took off at a run toward the dock. Her multicolored wrap fluttered about her strong brown legs as she went. Jack shouldered his bag and chased her as her laughter drifted back to him. He caught her before they reached the dive boat, dropped his gear, and grabbed her about the waist. She squealed and laughed as he turned her around in a circle, then brought her down before him. He kissed her smiling face and thought he was the luckiest man alive.
As the dive master loaded the tanks, Jack paused on the dock to look at the bay. He'd never seen anything so blue, and not just one blue but many. Close to shore, the bay was the bright turquoise color of the gemstone his people mined. Sprinkled amid the turquoise were blue-green patches marking the reefs, and then, far beyond, lay the dark blue of deep water.
Had his father stood here and stared at this ocean? He rubbed his chest to ease the ache in his heart.
Jack had seen very little outside the Turquoise Canyon Apache Indian Reservation where he was raised. Up until this year, he'd known there was something different about him because he was too damn big to begin with, towering over his three brothers and looking nothing like Carter. The explanation had not been what he suspected, that his mother had once had an affair resulting in his birth.
The truth was more complicated and more tragic.
His father had been murdered defending his mother, his then girlfriend, from thugs in a foiled robbery.
After identifying the killer, his mother was placed in witness protection because their attacker was a member of a Chinese triad. The organized crime syndicate was expanding their territory into the southwest and the FBI were certain that his mother's testimony would bring retaliation. Not wanting her son to be raised away from their culture, legacy and, tribe, she had given Jack to her older sister to raise as her own. This act protected Jack but meant that his father's family hadn't known about him until this year.
"Ready?" said Sophia.
Jack nodded but paused when he saw an unfamiliar man standing at the dive boat helping the members of their morning class on board.
"Where's Kai?" asked Sophia as she accepted a hand aboard.
"He was assigned to a private dive. Don't worry, I'm Gary Scott, your dive master. I got you covered." The lanky redhead's florid skin showed no evidence that he had spent any time outdoors, let alone worked on a boat as a dive master. After Gary drew on his dive-skin, Jack noted Gary struggled to adjust the strap to his fin. He would expect a dive master to be well acquainted with his gear.
The warning signals in Jack's head sounded.