I’m waiting on edits from eXtasy Books for my upcoming release Back Where You Belong. So for this Teaser Tuesday, here is an excerpt from my cultural, contemporary romance.
An ex-cop returning to face his horrendous past, the woman who won’t forgive him, and the family who’ll never let him forget that he killed their son.
Blurb: First Nations Constable Jordan Chartrand’s guilt can’t handle the accusing stares from the family left to mourn their son after that horrible night…so he flees from his Ojibway community and the woman he loves. Two years later, his mother’s cancer diagnosis forces him to return to help her.
Devoted schoolteacher Ellie Quill wants nothing to do with Jordan after he bolted to the city and left her behind. Her life goals are set. As for her secret, she’ll keep that to herself, even if Jordan’s begging to know the truth about her child.
When the two are compelled to work on a community project to address the rampant drug problem, their forced proximity slowly melts Ellie’s icy walls. But no matter how much her heart desires to give Jordan the second chance that he’s begging for, she refuses to because providing a life for her son in the tradition of the Ojibway culture is her top priority now, not moving to the city where Jordan continues to hide.
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, First Nations Romance, Native American Romance
Heat Rating: Level 3
Publication Date: Coming Soon.
Publisher: eXtasy Books
The custodian had left the main door unlocked as promised. Jordan entered and strolled inside to silence. Being just after the dinner hour, everyone was probably at home. They were meeting in the board room at the back, so he headed across the gymnasium floor. His running shoes squeaked along the polished surface.
He entered the big room with the oval table and twelve chairs positioned around it. Since nobody was present, he started the coffee and made a pitcher of iced tea. Just as he set out the paper cups, the banging of the main door echoed through the building. Heels clicked along the floor.
He stiffened. The intruder was probably Ellie. For some reason he had to keep busy. He rifled through the cupboard, grabbing the condiments and napkins. No doubt little Raymond accompanied her. It wasn’t the child’s fault Jordan wasn’t his father. He’d still give the boy the attention he deserved.
Kids loved iced tea. He opened the fridge where he’d set the jug he’d made earlier and fixed a cup just as Ellie inched into the board room—alone.
“Oh…” Jordan didn’t mean to blurt. Blurting wasn’t in his character as a former police officer, but the words tumbled out of his mouth anyway. “I thought you brought Raymond. I fixed him an iced tea.” He held up the cup.
Ellie squinted. She studied the amber-colored liquid as if he held up a glass of cyanide.
Jordan quickly set the cup down. He wiped his hands on his pants, something else he didn’t normally do. “It’s…uh…just you and me so far.”
“Raymond’s with my sitter. I didn’t think…” She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll drink his for him. Thank you.” Sincerity threaded through her gracious reply. She leaned in and picked up the cup.
Jordan caught a whiff of her fresh, clean scent, outdoorsy as the lake, pine trees, and birch bark found throughout the reserve.
Ellie opened a cloth bag she carried. “I brought a notepad, paper, and pens in case we needed them.” She glanced around. “Everyone running on Indian time again?”
“I don’t think it’s Indian time. More like nobody’s gonna show.” Jordan sank into the chair positioned at the head of the table.
“New projects always begin this way.” There was a hint of a reminder in her reply. She withdrew the contents from the cloth bag and set them in front of her. “Nothing’s changed, in case you were wondering.”
“You’re the one with the experience. You’re a part of a group in the ’Peg.” Her tone seemed to tell him to get started. Her gaze lacked warmth. She had on her teacher hat, demanding her class pay attention because she was readying to begin a lesson.
Irritation spread across the back of Jordan’s neck. He cleared his throat. If she was going all teacher on him, he’d slip on his uniform he wore at the mall and use the voice that came naturally to him. “The group’s mandate is to provide a safe and secure neighborhood for the people by patrolling the area. We don’t intervene in situations perceived as dangerous. Instead, we work with the local police precinct by alerting them to situations that look to be or have already escalated into dangerous activities that could affect the citizens.”
Ellie’s flinch and glance at the coffee machine was a pat to Jordan’s back, knowing he’d unnerved her the way she’d earlier unnerved him.
“What about drugs?” Ice was warmer than her question.
“We don’t involve ourselves in any known drug activity. That’s the job of the police. We stay within our mandate by ensuring the area is safe. Nothing more.”
Her jawline tightened.
He did his best to hide the smirk daring to stretch his lips. In the past, she’d loathed when he’d taken that tone with her by ordering him to get out of police mode. “So what we’ll need to do is formulate our mission statement and terms of reference.”
She glanced down at the notepaper and pens. “I assume I’ll be the one doing the writing?”
“You did bring everything.” He shrugged.
If Ellie’s eyes got any hotter, she’d be shooting flaming arrows at him. “Someone had to come prepared.”
Good one, baby. You’re still my Ellie. Nothing’s changed there. “If you want, I can talk to your class. We’ll need as many volunteers as we can get. It’s a big job patrolling every night. We got lots of areas to cover. I’d say we’ll need a minimum of two volunteer groups each night.”
“You patrol every night?” Ellie blinked.
“Crime doesn’t decide to take a night off. Ever.” Jordan hadn’t meant for his words to come out like he was speaking to an infant. By the thrusting of her chin, she didn’t appreciate his answer, either.
“Then we’ll have to entice people to participate.”
“It’s for their own good and safety. The police can’t be everywhere, not when one officer is on duty per night.”
“You know that?”
“It was mentioned to me over a year ago.” By Mom. Jordan almost cringed. “I’m aware they’re having a tough time filling…” …my old position. And after what he’d endured, nobody wanted to police their own community, Mom had also mentioned. “…the vacation position.”
“It was filled twice already. Both officers left.” Ellie’s reply was flatter than her dead-eyed stare.
“They can’t further their career up here.” Jordan stood. A coffee would hit the spot and shut down the direction where this conversation was heading. “If some want to make detective, they gotta go elsewhere. It’s that simple.” He made sure to take his time filling his mug, adding cream, and two helpings of sugar. “That’s the ultimate goal for the majority—to work homicide.”
“Yes, that’s all people seem to care about.” Ellie’s teeth seemed to reach across the boardroom and sink into his shoulder. “Nobody wants to stay here and help those in need.”
Boy, she not only had her teeth out, but her nails, too. He swiveled on his running shoe to face her narrowed, accusing eyes. “I guess we’re not all saints, like you are.”
Ellie’s sucked in her cheeks. “Is that supposed to mean something?”
Isn’t that why you insisted you couldn’t come to Winnipeg? You picked the schools and kids over me when the Pemmicans pretty much forced me off the reserve. Instead of thinking his words, he should say them aloud.
The door opened and closed. Two sets of footsteps clomped heavily across the floor.
“I guess we do have volunteers.” Ellie shifted in her chair.
“Are you sure he’s here?”
Although the voice was familiar, Jordan couldn’t pinpoint which woman it belonged to, but it did cause the hairs on his skin to stand at attention.
The footsteps grew closer. Mrs. Pemmican stood in the doorway, along with her daughter—Andy’s mother, the boy he’d shot and killed.
Oh great, this was just great. He set his coffee on the counter.
“We heard you’re starting some kind of committee to police the reserve.” Mrs. Pemmican folded her arms. Her countenance was the same one when they’d met outside the diner.
Her daughter, Darla, shot forward. “I get it. You turn in your badge but now you want it back, huh? Is that why you’re starting this? Haven’t you killed enough people already?”