When two former enemies fall in love, family secrets threaten to destroy their fragile union and everything they hold dear.
With their extreme ideas about traditional Ojibway life, the radical Kabatay clan have made enemies in their fight to rid the reserve of Western culture and its religion. Disowned by her family for daring to love the church deacon’s eldest son, Jude, Raven Kabatay longs to put an end to the feud started by her mother, brother, and sisters against the Matawapits…people she’s come to think of as her own since Jude changed her life.
Jude Matawapit suffered a humiliating divorce after his wife left him for another man, but with Raven, he’s created a beautiful, new sanctuary after losing his previous one, and his new haven is everything he’s ever wanted for himself and his children. Only two things could destroy his pristine bliss: the secret he holds close to his chest, and the vengeance Raven’s family wants to exact on the Matawapits. A secret and vengeance that could cost the unlikely lovers their hard-won, much longed for happily ever after.
Jude pulled up to an all-too-familiar place—Geoff’s Camp, a good five clicks outside of the reserve, owned and operated by a guy originally from the Northwest Territories, a big redheaded Irishman who was currently in Mexico, where he always bolted during the season’s downtime.
He shifted the gear into park. They didn’t have to race home. Emery had volunteered to watch the kids tonight after Jude had texted his little brother, saying he had to speak to Raven and wasn’t sure when they’d finish.
Raven cracked open the truck door and got out. Before joining her, Jude retrieved a couple of bottled waters from the small cooler in the backseat. She stood in the headlights, puffing on her e-cigarette.
“I’m sure it’ll be okay.” Jude winced. Trying to solve everyone’s problems, especially his ex-wife’s, was what had ended his marriage. Raven needed comfort and support, not answers or a handyman ready to fix her problem.
He cleared his throat. “I’m here for you.” Much better. “Need this?” He patted his shoulder.
Raven’s bleak stare vanished, and her downturned mouth moved upward. She did rest her head on his shoulder. He draped his arm around her waist and pecked the top of her head.
Her white puffs of breath floated away on the air. He brushed at her arm.
“You’re the best,” she said quietly.
“No. Not the best. You’re teaching me how to be a…” He’d almost said partner. Were they partners after only seeing each other since February? She was his girlfriend, but the word was more appropriate for people in their teens or twenties. Not two grown adults in their thirties. Perhaps she was his partner then.
“I’d say we’re both teaching each other.” Raven’s husky voice was the kitten-claws scratch whenever she spoke quietly. “If not for you, I woulda let Clayton hurt Darryl, and hurt Emery, hurt your family…all for a diner.”
“But you didn’t. You did the right thing by standing up to your family. Using another’s mistake against them isn’t right. Your family’s always promoting the Seven Grandfathers teachings. It’s about time they started living by them.”
“They try…they do.” Raven tapped her fingers on her hips. “It’s Mom. It’s always Mom. I’m not sure how to feel.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?” His lips brushed the smoothness of her silky black hair.
“I told you a million times, she’s had it out for me from day one. It’s not my fault Dad died when she was pregnant with me. Or that he drank himself to death. I guess me being a drug addict…I think whenever she sees me, she sees him.”
“It could be something else.”
“The recovery program teaches me I’m not supposed to judge others by how I think or how I interpret the world. It teaches us everyone has their own point of view. It’s like this one book I read. It was a memoir. The author said in the introduction this was the truth she saw during the events she described, and it might differ from how others involved in the events saw it.”
Her cell phone beeped. She dug inside her pocket.
Jude stole a sip of his water.
“It’s Clayton.” Raven gasped. “Mom’s stomach pains got so bad they took her to the nursing station.”
This wasn’t good. An ulcer? Jude could only guess until the doctors in Thunder Bay ran tests to determine what was going on.
“I-I-I don’t know what to do.” Raven wormed out of Jude’s embrace and stuck the vape between her lips.
“What do you mean?” At times of crises, Jude had always taken charge, but this wasn’t his place to tell Raven what to do. Being handcuffed to only offering support was a jail sentence.
“I-I don’t know if she wants to see me or not. She hates me. She kicked me out.” Raven hugged herself.
“Hey. Easy…” He drew her back into his arms. “Who’s all there?” He petted her hair.
Raven typed away on the phone. “When I did the sweat, I thought—”
“You consulted a higher power you believe in during your sweat. Let’s try trusting Him. Okay?”
“I’m going.” She raised her chin. “If they wanna keep hating me, they can. But at least I went, even if Mom tells me to get the hell out.”
Jude forced a nod when his head ached to shake no. “I’ll take you there. Let’s go.”