A secret son. A lost love. A dangerous job. A frightening risk.
A second chance at the happiness their hearts were once afraid to share.
Thirteen years ago, alone and secretly pregnant, Helen Ketterling left her job as a school teacher on the Bad River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Her summer love affair with Reese Blue Sky had ended abruptly when he left the reservation to pursue his chance at a NBA career.
Now her new position, a dangerous assignment for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Reese's father's sudden death bring them both back to Bad River for a reunion at once fiery and bittersweet. Not only does Helen fear a custody battle if Reese learns that they share a son, but she can't reveal that she's working undercover at the reservation's casino.
And Reese has his own secret-one that ended his basketball career and could endanger his son. While much has changed in the years since he left home, he finds that his roots and his heritage still matter as he reaches for reconciliation with his past. Family ties are the basis of Lakota tradition, and all are threatened by political intrigue and corruption. Was Reese's father murdered because he planned to blow the whistle on the casino's outside management company?
As their investigation into his death leads them down a treacherous path, Reese and Helen struggle to bridge the memories and heartaches of a time when she was an idealistic young teacher and he was a lonely man on the verge of reaching for the stars. They'll have to search deep inside themselves to challenge the doubts that have kept them apart.
Bestselling author Kathleen Eagle set aside a gratifying seventeen-year teaching career on a North Dakota Indian reservation to become a full-time novelist. The Lakota Sioux heritage of her husband and their three children has inspired many of her stories. Among her other honors, she has received the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA Award.
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Death had a way of screwing up the best-laid plans.
Helen Ketterling was a heavy-duty plan maker. Keeping things in order required a plan. She very much resented any form of plan bomb, and death was atomic.
She stood next to her car in the graveled parking lot across from the Bad River tribal offices and puffed on a cigarette as she watched a trio of old Indian men mount the steps to the front door. Two of them were older than the man they'd come to visit for the last time, but the third one might have been a classmate of Roy's in about 1940 or so.
In the brief time Helen had known Roy Blue Sky, she hadn't gotten around to asking him whether he'd finished high school. She didn't want to offend him by asking the wrong questions. He was a wonderful storyteller, but he preferred folk tales to personal reminiscences, although she'd managed to get a few of those out of him, too. She now knew that he'd fought in the Battle of the Bulge and that he'd been married twice, to young wives, both of whom had died much too soon. He'd told her less about the second wife, the mother of his children, than he had about the first, which was how she knew that the memory of the second loss still pained him.
Or had. Nothing pained him anymore. He had found peace now, and as a member of the Bad River Lakota Tribal Council, he was lying in state beyond those bright blue doors.
He was also her son's grandfather, but no one knew that. No one but Helen.
She turned her back on the building and the mourners mounting the steps as she puffed madly on her cigarette like a sneaky kid. It was the only way she ever smoked. The only good cigarettewas a secret cigarette. Sidney had caught her at it a couple of times, and he'd read her the riot act, saying, "You're supposed to be a teacher, Mom." She'd been proud of him, the way he'd whipped those health-class facts on his mother, who still called herself a teacher even though she'd gotten into this other business because ... well, partly because it paid well. But Sidney was always holding her to her own high standards, and she'd felt guilty about her lame claim that this was such a rare indulgence that she could hardly be called a smoker. He'd asked her what it did for her, and she couldn't tell him. She hated it when she needed a good answer and realized there wasn't one.
Helen had come to Bad River to look for answers. She had a job to do, and she told herself that learning everything she could about the Blue Sky family was simply part of that job. She needed to know about their involvement with the casino she was investigating. Roy had asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs for an investigation, a fact that was particularly interesting because his son Carter was Pair-a-Dice City's general manager. In the time Helen had spent around the two men, she had observed, as was her habit, she'd listened, and she'd put a lot of pieces of a still patchy picture together, which was her job.
But she had motives beyond the duty to her assignment. She had a duty to her son. Sidney had always been her son, hers alone. It was a necessary selfishness on her part, but now that he was barreling headlong into adolescence, she had to start thinking about who he was besides her only child, and who he would become. He had questions, and God only knew how she was going to answer them when the time came for a mother's full, unambiguous explanation of the ways of the real world. So she was angling for family history, and she had been reeling it in quite nicely since she and Roy had become friends.
There were times when she was sure he knew what she was up to, and she decided he didn't mind. She sensed that he actually approved. Tacit approval counted as approval in Helen's book. It wasn't such a huge leap from knowing to not minding to approving, one small hop at a time. She wanted the old man's approval. She liked him and she knew that Sidney would like him, that they ought to meet, that Sidney ought to hear his grandfather's stories; and knowing these things pained Helen, still pained her, for she was very much alive. Her secrets were very much alive, as was the risk she was taking just by coming to Bad River. The risk was huge.
The risk was over six and a half feet tall. Thirteen years ago she had known Roy's other son, who must surely be waiting behind those blue doors, too. She turned and stared at them, tried to bore a hole through them, tried to see how he looked now, how much the very public end to his illustrious professional basketball career had changed him, and how he carried his grief.
Helen had loved Reese Blue Sky once.
She had lusted after him, anyway. From the moment her craving for him had hit her-and it had hit her hard-she had told herself that this was the Romeo-and-Juliet kind of love that could never last and should never be declared unless you wanted corpses lying all over your personal stage. Reese believed, even if no one else did, that he was on his way to becoming a sports star. Helen was on her way to graduate school, after adding Indian-reservation teaching experience to her résumé. She was too busy for love, and he was too young, too unsettled, too quiet, too sexy, too improbable by half.
But he was a powerful temptation, and she had made little attempt to resist. She had denied love and fallen headlong in lust because he was the essence of her secret, silly female fantasies. The American West was etched on his angular, roughhewn face, and he moved like a wild and natural creature, wondrously agile for his size...
What the Heart Knows. Copyright © by Kathleen Eagle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.