SANCTIFIED – BOOK THREE
In the midst of a battle for leadership at their Ojibway community, two enemies of opposing families fall in love…
After suffering a humiliating divorce, infuriated Catholic Jude Matawapit bolts to his family’s Ojibway community to begin a new job—but finds himself thrown into a battle for chief as his brother-in-law’s campaign manager. The radical Kabatay clan, with their extreme ideas about traditional Ojibway life, will stop at nothing to claim the leadership position and rid the reserve of Western culture and its religion once and for all, which threatens not only the non-traditional people of the community, but Jude’s chance at a brand-new life he’s creating for his children.
Recovering addict Raven Kabatay will do anything to win the respect and trust of her older siblings and mother after falling deep into drug addiction that brought shame and anger to her family. Not only does she have the opportunity to redeem herself by becoming her brother’s campaign manager for chief—if he wins, she’ll have the reserve’s backing to purchase the gold-mine diner where she works, finally making something of herself. But falling in love with the family’s sworn enemy—the deacon’s eldest son, Jude—will not just betray the Kabatay clan. It could destroy everything Raven believes in and has worked so hard for.
Raven was the type of girl Mom and Aunt Patti would’ve disapproved of when Jude was in high school. But he wasn’t in high school. He was an adult, and he and Raven sported thick bruises from life’s many kicks.
“Do I get a ride home again?” Flirting was new. He hadn’t flirted in years. Unless his ex-wife counted.
“Sure. It’s cold outside. Y’know, I could’ve gotten you.” Raven’s hands trembled.
She was nervous. So was he. Heart pattering a little too fast. Saliva gone sticky in his mouth. A smidgen of sweat at the back of his neck. He’d only gotten divorced last month, after a year of separation required by the province of Ontario. Raven was a recovering addict sorting out her life. But she’d been sober for two and a half years.
“We should…” She licked her lips. “I guess we’re done, hey?” She reached for her parka.
Jude’s stomach drooped a smidgen. He stood. “You’re right. We should get going. I have to finish packing.”
“Going back for the weekend?” Raven zippered the coat.
“Bright and early. Emery and I are returning the U-Hauls. And I need to get my kids and the truck.” Jude forced himself to the teacher’s desk. He donned his coat and slid the files into his briefcase.
Part of him anticipated seeing Noah and Rebekah, but the man who’d spent since the age of nineteen enjoying a healthy sex life needed a companion for the night. He was more than a father, teacher, so-called Eucharistic minister, so-called lector, and so-called member of the Catholic Men’s Association. He was a flesh-and-blood man. And his flesh burned hot for a real woman, not one on his laptop undressing ala burlesque style.
Jude swiveled, clutching the briefcase. Raven stood at the doorway, hugging the books against her chest.
“Yep.” Jude strode across the floor.
They meandered down the hallway as if neither wanted to reach the main door. Jude wasn’t in a hurry. He was returning to an empty house that wasn’t a home yet. Once the kids arrived, maybe they’d add something to the cold place devoid of warmth only a family produced.
“You working tomorrow?”
“Yeah. I get Sundays and Mondays off.”
“Those the quiet days at the diner?”
“Sunday is, but Mondays are nuts.”
Their footsteps were the only sound present. A click click from his boot heels, and a smoosh smoosh from her mukluks, reaffirming they’d reached the dreaded uncomfortable silence.
Jude couldn’t ask for a date. His parents would freak. His brother and sister would freak. Okay, maybe not Emery. But Bridget…oh boy.
Raven pushed on the door. A blast of cold and the familiar scent of winter swept into the building.
“How’s your, err, brother doing?”
“He’s fine.” Even with the icy air nipping at their skin, Raven didn’t dash for her truck. She kept dragging her feet along the walkway.
Jude ambled beside her. He stole a peek at her face hidden by the faux fur lining of her upturned hood. Screw it. He’d been alone for too long.
“How about a coffee?”
Raven stopped. Her mittened hands drew the books even tighter against her parka. Tight enough to show off her flat stomach hidden beneath the barrier of clothing.
“We…um…yes, sure, but can we go somewhere besides the diner? I…um…I work there all day. It’s, uh, the last place I wanna be.”
Jude swallowed. “Sure. Where do you wanna go?”
“Uh…what about the staff room? We’re already here.”
“True.” Downtown and Old Main were the hub of the reserve. And they both lived in the busiest areas of the community. “I’d like to say yes, but I can’t use the school for…err…personal business. And having a cup of coffee off the clock would be…personal.”
“What about the church?”
“The church?” Shock gripped Jude’s spine. Miss Anti-church and religion was willing to go to a place she hated, just so people wouldn’t see them together, but was desperate enough to be with him that she’d step inside a place she considered the annihilation of their once prosperous race?
Dad had given Jude a key, first thing he’d received upon moving here. Funny how he’d been annoyed at receiving it, thinking he might be able to put in his obligatory Sunday for the sake of his kids and family. Now it came in handy.
“Okay. To the church.” There was a nice seating area at the back where the chair lift staircase was located.