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DESPITE THE HAPPY circumstance and the wondrous surroundings, an ever-increasing sense of gloom settled over Tempe Crabtree as they drove higher into the Sierra. Forcing a smile, she turned to her husband, Hutch, as he maneuvered his old Ford truck around the switchbacks of the narrow road.
"Bet we get snow before dark." Hutch grinned.
Perhaps the dark clouds gathering overhead, blocking out the sun and creating a premature twilight caused Tempe's dark mood. "Hope it holds off until we reach the lodge." She didn't add that she wished they'd driven her Blazer.
As he often did, Hutch seemed to read her mind. "This old truck will do fine in the snow. I've got chains. You know why I didn't want you to drive the Blazer."
She nodded. Because she was the resident deputy sheriff for Bear Creek, her vehicle, with its official seals and emergency lights, instantly identified her official status.
"This weekend we're going to forget about our jobs. I don't want anyone to know you're in law enforcement. This is going to be our second honeymoon." Behind the tortoise-framed glasses, Hutch's gray eyes sought her affirmation.
Tempe caressed his lightly freckled cheek. His thick auburn hair needed combing as usual. "Most of the people who live in Tapper Grove year-round know I'm the local deputy."
"But we shouldn't run into many of them. With any luck, there won't be a lot of guests at the lodge." His eager anticipation contrasted sharply with her own apprehension.
Tempe wanted to blame her mood on the threatening storm, but suspected her anxiety had more to do with her experience at a recent Indianceremonial. Though part Yanduchi, Tempe had never considered her ancestry an important part of her life… until lately.
Although now she treasured memories of her grandmother and the Indian legends she'd told in the past, the wonderful stories had lost importance when Tempe had reached high school. Her straight black hair, golden skin, and high cheekbones had been enough to cause some of her classmates to call her 'half-breed' and other demeaning names.
When her first husband, a highway patrolman, died in the line of duty sixteen years earlier, leaving her with their two-year-old son Blair, Tempe's ethnic mix was the least of her worries. It wasn't until she began working on cases involving other Yanduchis that she again became aware of her heritage.
The recent ceremonial experience had given her a heightened awareness. It wasn't something she fully understood, and certainly not anything she could discuss with her husband, a preacher in the local Christian church. Her previous interest in the spiritual side of her Native American heritage had already caused problems in their relationship.
"Hey, sweetheart, take a look at that." Hutch turned right onto a narrow, paved road leading into a grove of giant sequoia trees. The road curved downward past a meadow surrounded with dark, snow-dusted hillsides. A grazing deer, startled by the approaching truck, lifted its head and stared before leaping gracefully into the thick undergrowth of manzanita and fern. "This is going to be a wonderful weekend."
"I'm sure it will," Tempe said, still trying to shake the oppressive feelings.
The lodge was off to the right, smoke curling upward from stone chimneys at either end of the long, steep roof.
"Tapper Lodge," Hutch announced.
The rustic hotel dominated a community of scattered cabins and vacation homes, some occupied year-round by hardy individuals who didn't mind snowy winters or the torturous drive for supplies to Bear Creek where Tempe and Hutch lived, or twenty miles farther to Dennison, the nearest city. Wide wooden steps led to a verandah that wrapped around the stone-faced front of the lodge, built from trees harvested on the site nearly a hundred years ago. Hutch parked the truck between a wine-colored Jaguar and a black BMW.
Obviously disappointed, he said, "We aren't going to be alone."
"Maybe they're only here for dinner. We'll have the rest of the weekend to ourselves," Tempe said. Though she didn't remember seeing the Jag before, she recognized the BMW. It belonged to a resident of Tapper Grove.
As Hutch opened the truck door, an enormous Chow and St. Bernard mix, golden and furry, galloped down the stairs toward them, tail wagging vigorously. "Hey, there, boy." Hutch leaned over and scratched behind the dog's ears.
Copyright © 2004 Marilyn Meredith
Posted March 28, 2011
No text was provided for this review.