A single woman battles to keep her foster child from his newly-paroled father—a dangerous man she used to love.
Blurb: Bridget Matawapit is an Indigenous activist, daughter of a Catholic deacon, and foster mother to Kyle, the son of an Ojibway father—the ex-fiancé she kicked to the curb after he chose alcohol over her love. With Adam out on parole and back in Thunder Bay, she is determined to stop him from obtaining custody of Kyle.
Adam Guimond is a recovering alcoholic and ex-gangbanger newly-paroled. Through counseling, reconnecting with his Ojibway culture and twelve-step meetings while in prison, Adam now understands he’s worthy of the love that frightened him enough to pick up the bottle he’d previously corked. He can’t escape the damage he caused so many others, but he longs to rise like a true warrior in the pursuit of forgiveness and a second chance. There’s nothing he isn’t willing to do to win back his son–and Bridget.
When an old cell mate’s daughter dies under mysterious circumstances in foster care, Adam begs Bridget to help him uncover the truth. Bound to the plight of the Indigenous children in care, Bridget agrees. But putting herself in contact with Adam threatens to resurrect her long-buried feelings for him, and even worse, she risks losing care of Kyle, by falling for a man who might destroy her faith in love completely this time.
Adam hauled himself off the bed. Screw it. He was calling. If this pissed off Bridget, big deal. He’d handled her temper in the past, and he’d do so again.
He stomped down the hall, straight to the lounge and yanked up the phone. Her landline rang and rang until voice mail greeted him. The temper he’d kicked himself about earlier grew like a wort. He punched in the numbers to her cell phone, and another voice mail greeting ran down his ear drum.
Panic swallowed his temper. His heartbeat quickened. He sputtered into the phone, “Kwe, I had no right swearing at you. You got every right to be pissed. But we gotta talk. You owe me an explanation. I’m gonna keep calling and filling up your voice mail until you talk to me. You’re the foster mother of my son. What if I need to speak to him? It goes against the rules. You can’t ignore me.”
He hung up.
The phone rang. He yanked up the receiver. “Kwe?”
“How dare you.” Her accusing words bordered on screeching.
He sat forward. “Yep. I got a lot of nerve. Who is he?”
“None of your business.”
“It’s my business if he’s sitting at a table in a restaurant with my son. I got every right to know.”
“Fine.” Sand didn’t possess the amount of grit that Bridget’s voice did. “He’s a friend of my brother’s. They met at a workshop designed for principals of the Catholic School Boards in various districts. We know Stephen’s mother through church. He’s visiting her before the school year begins. Naturally, Jude invited Stephen to join us for brunch. We usually eat at The Bistro, but Stephen suggested Benny’s. Is there anything else you need to know? Let’s see. I switched dish soap brands. I’m now using Sunshine Soap.”
Adam stifled his snort. “What was wrong with the other brand?”
“It failed to fulfill its promise.”
Ouch. She sure knew how to bite someone. “Yeah? What exactly did it fail to do?”
“It promised longer lasting suds. At first it did the job but then it stopped. I was washing dishes in nothing but hot water.”
“Stopped, hey? Maybe you should give it another chance? Maybe the brand is better now. New and improved. Isn’t that what those companies are always promoting? Finding ways to improve the stuff?”
“Why should I bother when I found a new brand that does a better job?”
“Does it really, kwe?” His voice softened. “It may work now, but it ain’t Super Suds. You said Super Suds didn’t dry your hands. Left them feeling really nice. Had a great smell. Pots and pans came out super-clean. Even shone.”
There was about a five second pause that left Adam flexing and un-flexing his fingers.
“Why should I shell out money on a brand that stopped working for me?”
“It doesn’t cost much. Take a chance.”
“I won’t give Super Suds another chance. It failed me…big time.”
“Then I’ll buy you another. I betcha you’re gonna remember all that it did for you.” He squeezed the receiver he clutched.
“Maybe I’m trying to forget all that it did for me.” The sand in Bridget’s voice vanished. Her pitch echoed the lost teenage girls on the streets of Winnipeg, trying to find a safe place to hide, anything better than the homes they’d fled from.
Adam set his elbow on his knee and cupped his forehead with his palm. He’d done this to Bridget—hurt her badly, took her trust and stomped her faith into the mud.
“Kwe, I know I made promises in the past, fucked them up bad, too. I don’t expect you to believe me if I make new promises—”
“I thought we were talking about Super Suds?” Dejection tinged Bridget’s answer.
“Never mind the dish soap.” Times like these, when Bridget’s shoulders sagged in defeat and her lower lip dragged downwards, she wasn’t his spunky kwe wearing the boxing gloves, ready to trounce him. Her misery was his misery. Her grief, his grief.
“Kwe…” Adam swallowed. He walked on hot coals now. Hell, he’d rather take on four Syndicate Skins than tangle with Bridget. “Do me a favor and keep an open mind.”
“An open mind about what?” A hint of Bridget’s shoulders back, chin raised, and eyes harder than rocks soaked the question she’d asked.
Her old fire reawakening dissolved the worry flecking the back of Adam’s neck. “An open mind about…anything.”
“Anything?” Flames erupted in her abrupt answer. “Anything is all you have to say?”
Adam gulped. Sweat slithered along his brow and down his back. He squeezed his toes. The words sitting at the base of his throat, he forced through his clattering teeth. “Me. Us.”
The dreaded silence washed over the lounge. Adam rose. He held the phone in one hand and the receiver in the other.
“No.” Bridget’s response was flatter than the pancakes the new kid had made this morning for table twelve.
Something resembling a needle invaded Adam’s chest. She couldn’t mean no. He searched to even his breathing. “I’m not asking right now. I’m saying keep an open mind for later.”
“Later? Seriously?” Her voice rose an octave.
“Well, you let me kiss you.” Adam flopped back in the chair.
“That was a mistake.” The sharpness in her tone said she was readying to yank on the gloves. “How dare you—”
“Can you put a lid on it and hear me out?” This damned conversation had gotten out of hand. The things Adam did for this woman. “I fucked up. I fucked up bad. Really bad. I let you down. I let my son down. I let myself down. I’m working on me. I’m working on my son. Now I’m trying to work on you.”
Oh boy, not only was Bridget wielding an axe at his pride, now she had his balls in sight. “Why’d you think?”
“Never mind. I gotta go.”
“Dammit. ’Cause I love you, woman.” Adam slammed his palm against his temple. He’d gone and done the unthinkable. His head fell back against the top of the chair.