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Sins Of The Father
By Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAt last he'd found her.
Roman Santangelo roared through Lone Pine on his Harley with just one thing on his mind.
He didn't pay too much attention to the way the townsfolk stared at his outrageous hair and leather gear as he floored the bike and pointed it north. Having looked like an extra for the Road Warrior movies for years, Roman was used to being stared at. Even back when he was eleven, his best friend Cole had given him the nickname "Renegade" because of his tough-guy appearance. The name had stuck through his school years as well as the decade he'd spent in the Navy. It wasn't until he'd joined the FBI that he'd reverted to his real name. But the image hadn't changed. It was the reason the Bureau kept sending him out on all those sensitive, risky jobs. His ability to blend in with the bad guys.
Okay, maybe blend in was the wrong phrase. Perhaps more apt would be that he stuck out like such a sore thumb that nobody in their right mind would ever believe he was the best undercover agent the FBI had west of the Rockies. At least that was his theory.
And as for RaeAnne, well, like the old song said, she was always on his mind. Had been for the past eighteen years. Ever since he'd walked out on her without a word three months before her high school graduation.
But this time was different. This time, he'd found her.
The smells of the high desert spring filled Roman's lungs as he swept down the highway - the scent of sage baking in the bright morning sun, the rich spice of soil growing warm after the long winter rest, the fresh tang of snowmelt flowing into the Owens River in the distance. If his stomach weren't threatening to turn inside out from sheer nerves, he'd be enjoying this May ride up US 395.
But seeing sweet RaeAnne Sommarby's - now RaeAnne Martin's - distinctive signature on that Forest Service permit at the Lone Pine station after all this time, had him breaking out in a cold sweat. Was it a coincidence? RaeAnne showing up here of all places, within sixty miles of where he grew up and the very spot his father had betrayed everything he'd always stood for? Probably not. More likely it was some kind of weird karma, or cosmic justice, at work. Roman was big on justice, but usually of the more earthly variety.
He forced himself to throttle up the Harley even faster, devouring the gently curving ribbon of asphalt leading him to his own moment of judgment. Damn, he was shaking like a leaf.
Would she recognize him? Hell, would she even remember him? True, after what he'd done to her, what woman wouldn't? He just prayed she had it in her to forgive him.
For that was the whole purpose of this trip. To beg her forgiveness. He'd carried the guilt for eighteen years now, and just like the situation surrounding his father's betrayal, he needed closure. And to move on.
I'm sorry I broke your heart, he'd say to her. Sorry I ruined your graduation, and destroyed all the plans we had together. I'm sorry I made a mistake and screwed up so badly. I'm so sorry. Then he'd throw himself on her mercy, hoping for a word of forgiveness.
And if he got it, maybe, just maybe, it would give him the strength he needed to confront his next task - proving to himself that he hadn't turned traitor to his family and his people without good reason. That he'd had no choice, justice had demanded it.
The miles flew by, and pretty soon he spotted the turn-off that would take him to RaeAnne's small archaeological dig at Cleary Hot Springs. He pondered that bit of news as he swung off the highway and bounced onto the rocky, wash-boarded dirt road heading over the coral-colored hills and up into the steep rise of the Sierra Nevada. RaeAnne an archaeologist. What a surprise.
Cresting the ridge of a hill, he brought the bike to a stop and gazed up at the magnificent mountains towering above him. Stark, rugged, awe-inspiring, the snowcapped peaks scowled down at him, as though standing guard over the woman whose world he was about to invade, ready to do battle with the man who would surely bring renewed heartache to their gentle explorer.
"I swear I won't hurt her," he promised the silent sentinels. "All I need is ten minutes. Fifteen max. To explain and apologize. Then I'll be gone and you can have her back again, safe and sound."
It was absurd talking to mountains. He knew it was absurd. Though full-blooded Paiute, he wasn't one of those mystical Native Americans who went around speaking to totems and spirits and such. He'd been brought up in the bustle and chaos of Southern California, and was firmly rooted in modern reality. He was an FBI agent; it was his job to stick to the tangible facts. But at that very moment, a chilly wind kicked up, lifting the ends of his long hair below his helmet, sending a shiver up his spine, and he could almost feel the mountains hunker down to watch his penance. To make sure he kept his word.
Giving himself a firm mental shake, he gunned the bike down the back side of the hill, and made the final turn, following the Forest Service guy's directions. The last leg was just a track, barely two shallow ruts which led down into a hidden valley.
But what a valley! It was one of those magical places only California could produce, a tiny, secret paradise harbored in the nexus between lush alpine forest and the living desert. Tall pines and budding cottonwoods blended in an open tapestry with winnowing grass, fragrant sage, and colorful Indian paintbrush. And there, nestled next to a gurgling creek in the midst of this peaceful Shangri-La, was RaeAnne's ancient stone cabin.
No wonder she had picked this spot for her solitary dig. A person could easily fall in love with this place and stay forever.
Suddenly the tranquil air around him was shattered by a loud yell in a crude male voice. Roman whipped off his helmet and snapped his head toward the sound. A series of whoops and shouts shrilled through the narrow valley, making his blood run cold.
Gunning the Harley into action, he instinctively felt for the stainless steel Colt Python holstered at the back of his waistband, then reached down and flicked the snap off his boot-knife's sheath. Within seconds he was peeling around the cabin, tires spitting gravel and dust.
His heart nearly stopped at the sight that greeted him.
A half-dozen angry youths were running around in a frenzy, shouting and hoisting cardboard boxes into two dilapidated trucks. A woman stood under a tree, screaming and jerking at the ropes that held her wrists, which were tied over her head to one of the tree's low branches.
The woman was RaeAnne.
RaeAnne Martin banked her fury with an iron will and screamed again at the boys who were ruining eight hard weeks of work and possibly destroying bits of their own history in the process.
"Toby! Listen to me - you have to be careful with that stuff! Don't - !" Oh, jeez, she cursed silently as another box of fragile archaeological finds was slung into Toby Benson's rustbucket truck. "You are so going to regret this!" she screeched.
"Yeah, sure. Tell it to your sheriff," Toby yelled back.
"Have him come and arrest me."
RaeAnne ground her teeth at both the reference to her sheriff - Sheriff Philip O'Donnaugh was not hers, at least not officially - and at the inference that he'd be able to do squat. Big Pine Reservation was out of the sheriff's office's jurisdiction, and they all knew it. If the kids made it to the reservation, the only ones who could mete out punishment to these hooligans were the Tribal Council and the FBI. RaeAnne was well aware of the chances of interesting the FBI in her measly archaeological artifacts - slim to none. That left the Tribal Council, and there she was sure to lose. Didn't matter if she had all the right government permits and married Sheriff O'Donnaugh to boot.
Wonderful. Two years of planning and eight thousand bucks in grants down the drain. Not to mention the black eye to her professional reputation.
"You don't understand," she yelled at Toby. "I am not messing with Indian burials. This was just a hunting camp, shared by both Paiute and whites. That skeleton is Caucasian!"
"You know that for sure?" he shot back.
Honesty compelled her to answer, "Ninety percent. We'll know for certain when it comes back from the lab."
"No way. My ancestor ain't gettin' sent to no damn white man's lab to be desecrated."
She was completely out of patience. Hanging from a tree by her wrists tended to drain what little she possessed. "Goddammit, Toby, he's not your ancestor! He's got a bullet in his skull!"
Excerpted from Sins Of The Father by Nina Bruhns Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Not as good as the first book in this series. But I liked that for once I did not figure out who the bad guy was. That alone makes it worth reading.
Eighteen years ago, Roman Santangelo left his love, RaeAnn without so much as a goodbye. Roman is now a successful FBI agent, RaeAnn an archeologist, who is working on a dig in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, close to the Paiute Reservation where Roman grew up. Roman roars back in to RaeAnn¿s life on his Harley, determined to seek forgiveness from her after 18 years of hurt, and solve the mystery of his father¿s death. Did his father die a hero¿s death like everyone was led to believe, or was he really a criminal? As RaeAnn¿s dig uncovers some interesting bones, this incredible mystery takes off in all directions. Suspects abound, and it seems like everyone in the County has some shady business they try to cover up. Mysteries from long ago are unraveled, old wounds opened up, and the intense desire Roman and RaeAnn once shared flares to life. Will RaeAnn ever be able to forgive Roman, and take a chance on what the future may hold for them? She is more than willing to assist Roman in his quest for answers regarding his father¿s death, but reluctantly guards her heart from breaking a second time around. Along the way, they share old memories and make new ones. Roman has believable reasons for leaving town 18 years ago, and once he and RaeAnn get beyond that, and learn to trust again, you want to stand up and cheer. These are to very likeable characters that really like each other, and deserve happiness at last. Nina Bruhns has done it again, given us credible, every day people in a real life situation to love!