Jerry Lincoln has a problem: his Sioux Falls IT consulting business has more work than one man can handle. Luckily, that means he can hire some help. Jerry just hopes his new employee, John Black Raven, ends up being more helpful than distracting—but John’s deep eyes and long hair are very distracting.
John came to town for an education and a chance at a life he couldn’t have on the reservation, but what’s important to him now is getting a job and keeping it. Six months ago, his sister died, and now her children are in foster care. Despite having the law on his side, John can’t get custody—can’t even see his niece and nephew.
As Jerry and John grow closer, John discovers he doesn’t have to struggle alone. Jerry helps him win visitation rights and provides much-needed support. Yet their victories aren’t without setbacks. Child Services is tangled up with money, politics, and red tape, and Native American children are their bread and butter. But John and Jerry are determined to fight the good fight and to win—in more ways than one.
“Mama,” he called, and I watched as he continued walking closer to the house. “Mama,” he called again. The sniffles got louder, and as he came closer I could see tears running down his cheeks. I stood up, walked down the steps, and went slowly out toward the sidewalk, where I knelt down in front of him as I heard thunder sound in the distance. I saw him jump. “Mama!” he yelled, and I touched his arm to calm him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him, looking into huge dark eyes and a dark, round face framed by jet-black hair. I heard the door of one of the neighbors’ houses snap closed.
“That’s one of them injun kids. Just leave him alone.” I turned and glared at old Mr. Hooper, anger boiling inside me. He’d been a grouch and a certified pain in the ass for as long as I could remember, but this was the first time in my life that I contemplated hitting the old bastard. Instead I ignored him.
“Are you lost?” I asked him, and the kid sniffled and nodded. “What’s your name?”
“Keyan,” he answered, and I looked at John and then back at the boy.
“It’s going to be all right. I’m Jerry and this is—” I was about to say “John” when he interrupted me.
“Akecheta,” John said, and the boy sniffed once, and his eyes widened as if he were seeing John for the first time. Thunder sounded again, and the breeze, which had been blowing softly, picked up, whistling through the trees and around the house.
“Why don’t you sit with us on the porch,” I told Keyan. “Your mother is probably trying to find you.” I figured she was probably looking frantically, and Keyan’s wandering wasn’t helping. If she didn’t show up soon, I’d call the police. He nodded as lightning flashed, followed by more thunder. Keyan jumped and squeaked before hurrying up onto the porch. He stood near one of the front railings looking up and down the street, eyes scanning for his mother. Bryce came out, and I saw him and John talking before both of them sat down.
“You two can head home. I’ll take care of things,” I told them. Bryce peered toward the west, and I knew he was wondering whether he was going to get home before the storm hit. “Go on, Bryce. We’ll review things in the morning.” He nodded and said good night to both of us before hurrying to the driveway and into his car.
The first drops of rain hit the sidewalk as Bryce’s taillights faded from view. The wind picked up, and I gently moved Keyan further back on the porch as the sky opened up. “I’d better call the police,” I told John, and he placed his hand on my arm to stop me from going inside, shaking his head.
“Don’t,” John said. “She’ll be here soon.”
I was beginning to have doubts about that, but agreed to wait a few more minutes. As I was digging into my pocket for the phone, I heard a cry from the street, and the boy raced toward the edge of the porch. John stopped him, and a few seconds later a woman had the boy in her arms. He was crying, and she looked soaked to the skin as she rocked her son back and forth. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” she scolded nervously before crushing him into a hug once more.
The rain came down harder, pounding the ground and pavement. “Please have a seat until the rain stops,” I told her, and she nodded, sitting on one of the wooden chairs with her son close by.
“He wandered off and I’ve been looking for him all over,” she explained, and I wanted to ask what had happened, but like any mother, she just seemed relieved to have found him. I turned to John and then went inside and returned with a towel that I handed to her. She dried her face and hands before handing the towel back.
“Thank you for the towel, and for helping Keyan,” she said, and I took a minute to really look at her. She was a striking woman with pronounced cheekbones and huge eyes, with black hair pulled back into braids that hung down her back. She could have been a movie star, she was so striking.
“You’re welcome. We found him fifteen minutes ago, and he’d just had a bit of a fright,” I said, and she smiled, staring out into the rain. We didn’t talk much, and when the rain let up, she lifted Keyan into her arms, and after saying thank you once again, she hurried off down the street.
“That was a nice thing you did. Thank you,” John told me, and I turned to look at him, confused. “You helped her.” John looked toward the neighboring porch where old man Hooper looked back at us. “Too many people are like him.” John inclined his head, and I felt my righteous indignation rising.
“Dumb old fuck,” I muttered. I usually don’t swear, but I couldn’t stop it this time. “John, do you mind if I ask a few questions? I don’t mean anything by them, but they may not sound politically correct.”
“You may ask anything,” John said a bit warily. The rain picked up a bit, and the sky darkened once more. It was early evening, but it seemed later in the darkness.
“Is everyone from your tribe beautiful?” I realized how that sounded and shook my head. “Not that I’ve met many Native Americans, but the lady, her son… you.” I knew I sounded like an idiot and wished I’d simply kept my mouth shut.
“You think I’m beautiful?” John asked, and I saw him move closer, a smile on his face, as I nodded. My heart beat a staccato rhythm in my chest, and John’s rich scent mixed with the fresh smell of the rain. John moved still closer. “I think you’re very handsome,” John told me, our gazes meeting. I could have lost myself in the soul-deep eyes that stared back at me.
I shook my head slowly. “I’m pale and scrawny,” I whispered, not wanting to break the spell his eyes held me under. “You’re dark and strong.” I wanted to touch and find out if his cheek was as soft and smooth as it looked and if his lips tasted as rich and earthy as the scent on his breath and the muskiness that flowed off him like the rainwater. I could feel my body being pulled toward him, my fantasies and longing overriding my brain. John drew closer, and I knew I shouldn’t be doing this, but I wanted to kiss him more than anything.
“Did that injun kid find its mother?”
I backed away from John with a stifled groan and glared across at the other front porch. I could feel John tense next to me, like he was getting ready to launch himself at my neighbor. “You know, Mr. Hooper,” I began calmly, “it’s better to remain quiet and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!” By the end, my words snapped out of my mouth, and I think the old fart got the message, because he stood up, shaking, his eyes trying to burn a hole through me. With a grunt, he pulled open his front door and went inside, the screen slapping closed behind him. When I turned back to John, I caught a glimpse of a shocked look that quickly morphed into a smile.
I’m really not the fangirl type. There are authors I read and would love to meet. I’m lucky in that many of the authors I read regularly are also very good friends, Connie Bailey, Ariel Tachna, Amy Lane, and many others.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be and why?
If I ever co-wrote with anyone I think it would be either Mary Calmes or Amy Lane. They’re both such talented authors and I think a collaboration would be incredible with either of them. But I don’t really know if I’m the cowriter type, but who knows.
The world is under attack and you are forced to run for your life. You only have room for one book in your survival kit, what book do you take?
I think I would take Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I’ve read that story every year for decades and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
Who are your favorite literary characters? (Yours or someone else's)
Mrs Havisham from Great Expectations, Mona Ramsey from Tales of the City, and from my own work, Eli Henninger form Love Means… No Shame.
If your friends were asked to describe you in one word what would it be?
Obsessed. That’s my partner’s word and it seems to be the consensus.
Where do you do your best work?
In the bedroom. Oh, you probably meant writing, so I work in front of the television so I can ignore it. As I’m writing this I’m ignoring Julia and Julie.
Do you find it harder to write a full-length novel or novellas?
Novellas are harder for me. Full length novels allow me to more fully explore the characters and story. Although I do write novellas if the story and characters dictate it, I won’t pad a story to get length.
When did you fall in love...with writing?
After I wrote my first novel in 2007 I realized I was hooked. I finished Master of the Revels and started what became The Best Revenge right away. After that I barely stopped. BTW The Master of the Revels is out of print, but if anyone would like a copy, simply email me and I will gladly send PDF.
Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants writer?
I’m definitely a pantser. I know where I want to go when I start, but I don’t necessarily know how I’ll get there.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
I garden, collect antiques with my partner and once a year for an entire week, we go on a cruise together just the two of us.
Favorite food Steak
Boots or heels I wear tennis shoes. I look terrible in heels :)
eReader or Print eReader
Social Media: Love it or Hate? Love it.
Beer, Liquor or Wine Diet Coke
Favorite place to get it on besides the bedroom In front of the fireplace.
Favorite TV Show Big Bang Theory
Favorite Book series (besides your own) The Cambridge Fellows by Charlie Cochrane
Pj’s or Lingerie I sleep au naturale
Vampires vs. Shifters Shifters
Favorite Genre Tossup between Westerns and Historical
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