BLACK HILLS NATIVE SON – Book 5 – Black Hills Rendezvous





Naked and shivering in the mid-November cold, Eli took a deep breath of sage-scented air and forced himself to precede his patiently waiting host into the inipi, or sweat lodge.

The darkness was immediate and blinding. He stumbled over a rug or pillow of some kind, relying on guidance from the old man who called himself Tunkaschila, grandfather. “Sit, my boy,” the man said in the Lakota tongue.

Eli understood at what must have been a cellular level since he’d never been formally educated in the language of his father’s people. He sat, forcing his eyes to open as wide as possible. He assumed they’d adjust to the darkness in a moment or two, but as he looked into the heavily saturated black heat he couldn’t make out a single shape or form, although he sensed others were in the reed and clay reinforced walls of the chamber lodge.

He’d attended sweats before but never like this. Those had been casual, more or less open to anyone. Even him. An outsider of two dozen years. More or less.

“You must complete Hanblecheyapi,” his uncle had told him, using one of the traditional names for the experience most people called Vision Quest. For two days Eli had fasted in the company of strangers. Men who belonged to other tribes, who came to this place for different reasons. He’d welcomed the fast as a way to offset the effects of the copious amounts of alcohol he’d drunk since his life imploded. Then, at the last minute before the ceremony was to begin, his uncle had taken him aside and invited Eli to share a pipe.

Knowing that the smoking of the pipe was sacred to the Lakota—on par with the Christian ritual of communion—Eli had trusted his uncle not to “spike” the bowl with anything other than tobacco or possibly a little sage. He’d relaxed his rigid self-control trying to get into the spirit of the moment. He’d allowed himself to be stripped and anointed with sage. All because his uncle claimed Eli’s life was in a shambles.

“You are missing pieces of your self, nephew,” Joseph had alleged.

And how could Eli argue? He was missing a wife and the three—no, two—children they’d made together.

“It is time,” a voice said. “To put your fears aside and trust in the Great Spirit.” The darkness was so thick and suffocating Eli couldn’t say for certain whether the voice came from a real person or from inside his head. “Accept what is before you.”

He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Moist heat and the scent of his own sweat blended with sage creating a swell of awareness and energy that vibrated and expanded throughout his whole body.

Suddenly, a flicker of light appeared, a slim orange reed, dancing like the flame of a candle. He watched, mesmerized, as a tiny, black-capped bird darted in and out of the flickering image. A yearning so deep and elemental it seemed to start in the primal center of his being made him reach out. Hot tears scalded his skin and dropped like pellets of lead on his lap.

He opened his eyes again but nothing changed. Friendly and openly curious, the small bird flitted just beyond his fingertips. S’kipicickadee. The brave little bird of tribal lore that was reputed to know the truth. If he followed where the chickadee led, he might finally see his life clearly, no longer allowing his mind to be deluded by what he wanted to see.

That was when Eli knew his true quest had begun. At long last, he would learn the answers to the question he’d never dared ask: who am I, really?

And if the answer was as disappointing as he feared it might be…well, there was always his father’s way. He could drink himself to death and alienate everyone who ever loved him. The last few weeks had proven he’d learned that lesson all too well.

* * *

Char Jones had time to kill.

This almost never happened. She was a busy entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. The word tended to make her giggle—something she didn’t do well. She also didn’t idyll away precious daylight. Waiting went against her grain, but she wanted to hold off filling the balloons for Megan’s birthday party until the last minute.

Silly, really. Mylar balloons could usually be counted on to hold air for six-to-ten hours. Much longer than a five-year-old child’s attention span. But Megan McGannon was Char’s best friend’s niece, and balloons could make or break a party at that age. Char took her responsibility as bearer of the balloons seriously.

That meant she had half an hour to fill.

She drummed her fingers on the glass countertop and looked around.

The store was a shoe-box shape cedar log building with a green metal roof that had been built from a kit in the mid-70s by a pair of hippie artists who lived in the doublewide mobile home—where Char presently lived–behind the store and used the home’s two-stall garage as a studio. According to local lore, the couple financed their artistic endeavors by growing and selling pot. After they went to jail, the place had changed hands several times before Char bought it, erected her trademark white teepee, which served as the building’s main entrance during the summer months, and changed the name to Native Arts.

This is silly, she thought. There were a thousand things she could do. “Like dust,” she muttered. “My favorite thing.” Not.

Stifling a sigh, she grabbed the tacky-textured yellow cloth from under the counter and walked to the nearest display.

Grace Yellowhawk had an amazing gift for pairing fragrances and fabric. Char had been thrilled to carry Grace’s potpourri, dream sachets and unique line of handmade soaps. She picked up a pale pink, heart-shaped sachet and held it to her nose.

Rock rose, she thought, inhaling deeply. A memory from her childhood flitted through her mind. She closed her eyes and pictured warm sunshine on her upturned face. A gentle hand on her shoulder reassured her that the loud, perplexing turmoil coming from inside the house had no bearing on her. Her grandmother? Maybe. Char couldn’t remember. But when her grandfather had been alive, visits to her grandparent’s home in Pierre had been punctuated with anger, disappointment and tears.

She quickly, efficiently swiped the dust cloth over the shelf, restacked the bars of scented soap and fanned out a display of stamped hand towels. She stepped back to survey her work. “Nice.”

Satisfied, but still oddly fixated on the shadow memory, she was caught off guard by the sound of a car door in the distance. She pivoted on the heel of her pink and silver running shoes to look toward the parking lot. The floor-to-ceiling picture windows that bracketed the store’s front door would have afforded a good view if not for the various displays and the post-Halloween sales banners.

She squinted trying to make out the driver of a newer model pick-up truck that looked vaguely familiar. But a second later, the vehicle took off, churning up a small cloud of dust as it exited the parking lot.

Char was used to seeing people stop and go without coming into the store. Native Arts was located at the junction of Sentinel Pass Road and one of the main north-south highways bisecting the central Hills. Not only did the large, open driveway and parking lot make for a convenient meeting place, Char’s big white teepee made the rendezvous spot impossible to miss.

She might not have given the truck another thought if not for the passenger it dropped off.

“Hmmm,” she murmured under her breath. She sidestepped for a better view, but the person was too far away to see much detail. A man. Tall. Not skinny, but not fat. Not a typical hitchhiker because he didn’t appear to have any kind of luggage. The lack of a backpack with a rolled sleeping bag at the top told Char he wasn’t headed toward either of the prime Black Hills hiking trails in the vicinity. His boots looked rugged enough, but a bulky black sweatshirt—even the kind with a hood–wasn’t adequate protection from the extremely changeable weather at this time of year.

She was pretty sure she’d heard the morning weather report mention the possibility of snow in the next day or two. She watched the man stand there, unmoving, as if rooted to the spot, for another minute or so. He’s probably waiting for someone to pick him up, she figured. Wife. Girlfriend. Boyfriend, she thought with a rueful chuckle.

Shrugging, she quickly returned to her desk behind the counter. She tucked the cleaning products back where they belonged and walked to the flat screen monitor in an area her assistant, Pia, called the “Bat Cave.” A composite image from four security cameras let her keep an eye on things. The upper left showed a wide-screen view of the parking lot.

The hitchhiker was a shadowy image barely visible. Across the bottom were two views of the main showroom floor. The last gave a bird’s-eye view of the interior of the teepee, which was “attached” to the main building by a utility corridor that included a handicap accessible restroom.

Although Char kept the teepee stocked year-round with mostly low value items, clothing and children’s toys, shoppers were less likely to linger in the bright, interesting structure during the winter months since it had proven so difficult and expensive to heat. Char had even resorted to hanging colorful Navajo rugs across the opening leading to the adjacent corridor to keep the warm air in the main building.

She studied the monitor a moment longer then turned to an older stereo unit squeezed between the TV screen and the cash register. She pushed the On button then fiddled with her iPod until she found the folder of instrumental music she wanted. She smiled as Brule, a Lakota band with a New Age sound, filled the room. Char normally could count on the group’s serene and evocative sound to calm her down.


Not today, though, it seemed. She drummed her fingers on the counter, staring at dust motes. Her mind returned to the hazy memory her grandmother’s garden. Maybe it was pure fantasy, but she could picture herself sitting under a decaying rock feeder, trying to be as still as possible so the tiny birds, white with shiny black heads, would hop near. She blinked rapidly, suddenly overcome with an intense yearning, a strange sadness.

“What the heck is wrong with me?” she murmured under her breath, idly fingering the hand-beaded medicine pouch hanging from a tether around her neck. Her fingers squeezed the fabric to make out the shape of the object inside the pouch. A key.

“Damn,” she murmured under her breath.

Had it been the scent of the rockrose that set her on the path down memory lane today? She’d read somewhere that a person’s olfactory sense was the strongest link to memory. Or had the compulsion been lurking in her subconscious for days, waiting for a quiet moment to reveal itself?

She couldn’t say, but she knew from experience that sooner or later, she’d give into the need to re-examine her past. So, why not get the trip down memory lane over with?

Resigned, she dug out the tiny brass key and stepped to the middle of the counter. On a shelf at knee level rested a fireproof safe about the size of a toaster oven.

“This is such a bad idea,” Char muttered.

But once the safe’s door swung open she stopped berating herself. Nestled inside the safe’s thick walls rested the dozen or so cheap, lined notebooks she’d accumulated over the years. She wasn’t worried about losing them to fire, but she didn’t want her most private thoughts to fall into the wrong hands—or any hands other than her own.

On top was the only one that resembled an actual diary. It had been a gift from one of her aunts on Char’s twelfth birthday. The pink leather sported a black poodle with a rhinestone collar—not unlike the one Megan’s dog, Bella, wore.

“Megan,” Char murmured, looking at the clock again.

Still time, she decided.

She nudged the diary aside after sticking the metal tongue of the clasp back into the broken lock. She’d lost the tiny key years ago. Not surprising since she was thirty-three, now.

“Thirty-three,” she murmured lightly touching the stack of eclectic spines—wire, plastic, hard binding and soft. Like a divining rod to water, her fingers overshot then backtracked to one particular book.

She closed her eyes a moment and let out a long, resigned sigh. One quick peek, she told herself. After all, Pia might arrive early.

Her conscience made an all-too familiar tsking sound…which Char ignored. She quickly withdrew the notebook of choice and closed the safe, but before standing she paused to take a deep, calming breath. As she did, her gaze fell on the air pistol strapped to the underside of counter above the safe. She’d never used it for protection, but she liked knowing it was there.

Sorta like her journals. She could go for months without reading any of them then suddenly she’d need a fix.

She stood up and placed the hundred-page, blue-lined composition notebook face up. The retro cover sported big neon pink and yellow flowers. She couldn’t imagine why she’d choose something so gaudy. Possibly one of her aunts had given it to her. Her mother had been involved with Devon at the time, and the aunts had provided most of the things their sixteen-year old niece needed.

Except birth control. Nobody had thought about that.

She glanced at her watch. She had time to skim a few pages—most of which she knew by heart.

Or, you could write something new, Chickadee.

Char closed her eyes and mutely groaned. The voice had been mysteriously absent for a good week, but now it was back.

“Go away.”

Char looked around to make sure no one else was present. Talking out loud to oneself was bad enough, but talking to an imaginary voice that spoke with a Southern accent and the dialect and inflexion of an old Black woman took odd to a new level.

Oh, stop yer stallin’ and git this ober with so we can go to the parteee. Morgana Carlyle’s s’posed to be there.

Char rolled her eyes. She didn’t understand the old Black woman’s fascination with celebrities. But even as a child growing up in movie-star-free South Dakota, Char—and her very vocal conscience—had been titillated by stories of the rich and famous. A fascination that turned up-close and personal when Libby married Hollywood heartthrob Cooper Lindstrom.

Coop’s ex-wife and co-star, Morgana Carlyle—AKA Morgan James–was the latest celeb to fall for a Sentinel Pass local. According to a reliable source—Libby—Morgan and Mac McGannon were “in love.”

Les’ go, Chickadee. Les’ get this trip down mem’ry lane ober and dun wit’.

Char had racked her brain over the years trying to figure out why her conscience spoke in a stereotypical voice so far outside Char’s personal frame of reference. She’d even invented a genealogy assignment in one of her classes to get her aunts to open up about the Jones’s family history, thinking perhaps some long-dead ancestor had been a slave owner, but both Pam and Marilyn had clammed up as if such knowledge was a state secret.

“We come from dirt poor farmers,” Pam had told her. “They weren’t the kind to take photos or keep records. I don’t see any reason to start now.”

Char took that to mean none of her forbearers had ever lived in the South or employed a maid/housekeeper/nanny—Black or any other color. Yet this was the voice she’d heard in her head for almost as long as she could remember. She’d even written about it in her journal.

Thumbing ahead to a familiar spot, she read: The old Black woman is back. Maybe she never left. But if that’s true then where was she when I needed someone to say, “This is a really bad idea, Charlene. One you’re going to regret for the rest of your life.”

Char wished she could have blamed all her bad decisions on someone else—even an imaginary voice inside her head. Too bad life didn’t work that way.

Before she could resume reading, the phone rang.

“Native Arts. Char speaking.”

“Hi. It’s me, Libby. The party’s starting. You’re still coming, right?”

Pregnancy had turned Libby into an even bigger mother hen. “Of course. I’d never break my promise to Megan. I’m waiting for Pia to get here before I fill the balloons.”

Libby let out a relieved sigh. “Great. Morgana—I mean, Morgan—is going all out to make this party perfect.”

“Why? Is the paparazzi invited?”

Libby laughed. “No, thank goodness. I think we left them all in California this time. But this is Morgan’s first attempt at organizing a little girl’s birthday party and she wants to do it up big.”

Char wondered if that was for Megan’s sake or Mac’s, but she didn’t ask. Mac had been through a lot in the past year. If anyone deserved a second chance at love, it was Mac.

Unlike me.

She tapped her finger on the cover of her journal, knowing the reason behind her fall from grace was detailed on the pages in this book.

“Tell her not to worry. I’ll be there soon with a big bouquet of balloons in tow. I promise.”

In the background, Char heard the loud, joyous peal of children’s laughter. A lump formed in her throat and she could barely mumble a goodbye. Her fingers trembled slightly on the edge of the notebook but she couldn’t bring herself to open the pages she had earmarked.

“Well, Chickadee? Are you gonna read it or not?”

“Chickadee,” Char murmured. A nickname given to her by her father, Charles Ballastrad. Seed salesman by day, front man for a band called Chick Ballastrad and the Guys at night.

The Guys were losers, her mother always said.

Char barely remembered him. Her parents divorced when Char was six, and, tragically, her father and two band members were killed three years later in a bus accident after a gig in Minnesota. Char’s mother took back her maiden name and changed Char’s at the same time to help them both “move on.”

Nobody called her “Chickadee” after that.

Except the old Black woman in her head.

She opened the notebook, surprised, as always, by the meticulous penmanship.

Mom’s in love. Again. His name is Devon, but she calls him D. Short for Devine. He isn’t. Not even close. I don’t know why she can’t see what a creep he is. Even the old Black woman agrees he’s trouble.

Char licked the tip of her finger to flip ahead in rapid succession. She didn’t need to read what came next. To this day, she couldn’t be around a bonfire without picturing the entire scene unfold in front of her eyes. The Hustler magazines. The trash can. The flames that jumped far higher than she’d expected after she tossed in a match.

She skimmed to the bottom of the page.

Devon moved out this morning. Mom’s not talking to me. She stopped crying long enough to say it was ALL MY FAULT.

Char sighed. Her troubled relationship with her mother had gotten more troubled after that. Pam might have been more supportive if she hadn’t been so upset about the smoke damage. Only the old Black woman took Char’s side.

What kind of man leaves his dirty magazines around for his girlfriend’s daughter to find? A man who got hisself a problem. That’s who.

The sudden and unexpected tinkle of the bell over the door made Char slam the notebook closed. Her heart rate spiked, guiltily. “Hello,” she called out, looking left and right, trying to spot the new arrival. “Welcome.”

A man.

She rose up on her toes.

The man from the road.

She looked over her shoulder. Sure enough, the solitary figure that had last been standing near the highway was gone.

Hmmm. She didn’t believe in prejudging people—a guy in a Lexus might be just as dangerous as a fellow on foot, but it suddenly struck her that she was alone and help was several minutes away.

She reached under the counter to reassure herself that her pellet gun was there.

“May I help you?” she asked, pleased by the relative calmness in her voice.

The man stumbled slightly, nearly knocking over a rack of greeting cards by the door. “No…um…no, thanks.”

She let go of her journal and reached for the portable phone. She had 9-1-1 on speed dial, just in case.

He edged a bit further into the shop, veering to the left toward the book display. She looked at the monitor again. Damn. A rainbow arch of multi-size dream catchers obscured her view of him, but what she saw confirmed her earlier impression—no backpack and not enough warm clothes.

Maybe the guy’s ride stood him up, she thought. Her heart rate started to return to normal. Being stranded on the road didn’t make him a bad person. Generally, she’d learned to trust her instincts where strangers were concerned, and at the moment her radar didn’t feel threatened.

“There’s coffee and cookies on a table near where those Navajo rugs are hanging,” she told him.

His low grunt brought to mind her grandfather, a loud, vitriolic figure who passed away shortly after Char and her mother moved back to Pierre. Unfortunately, Char’s sainted grandmother soon followed.

Char followed the man’s slow meandering on the screen. She’d scoffed when her friend, Jenna, first broached the idea of setting up in-store surveillance. But after Jenna’s family’s business, the Mystery Spot, got vandalized, Char decided to invest in a scaled down version of the same system. Now, the unit didn’t seem so frivolous.

When she saw him stop beside refreshment table, she went back to her reading. Helping a traveler in need was supposed to be good karma–something she could always use.

Keeping one ear primed for anything suspicious, she quickly flipped ahead. Her mother’s anger had turned to depression, evidenced by her nightly visits to the bar.

“I hid Mom’s car keys. She knew it, but she didn’t get mad or nothing. Instead, she smiled all pretty and sweet and said, ‘The weather is so nice I believe I’ll walk to Frenchie’s.’ She didn’t get arrested for drunk driving but she wound up with a big cut on her knee from falling down. Aunt Pam made me give Mom back her keys.”

Char used to wish that her life was more like the Brady Bunch, but following the Hollywood gossip magazines was a good way to see that acting in a fake perfect life didn’t mean your real life was guaranteed to turn out well. And there were so many things you had not an ounce of control over. Like the size of your breasts.

Pam took me shopping for school clothes ‘cause Mom was hung over. I went up another bra size. Pam said I inherited my grandma’s bosom. Great. Just what I need. A crazy voice in my head and big boobs. Life sucks.

Char didn’t actually remember writing any of the diatribes she could point out from her freshman year, but she had a deep abiding sympathy for the girl who felt ugly, different and odd. Big hair had been the rage in Pierre at that time, and, unfortunately, Char’s hair didn’t have the first clue how to behave.

As for her figure…, she skimmed down the page until she found what she was looking for. Are they ever going to stop growing? I asked Pam about getting surgery and she yelled at me. Said I needed to accept who I was and not try so hard to fit someone else’s idea of who I should be. She didn’t even listen when I told her Becky Robison said someone drew a picture of me on the bathroom door in the boys’ locker room. When she told me what they were doing when they looked at it, I nearly puked.

She slammed the journal shut. She didn’t know why that still got to her. Was it unpleasant being the butt of a joke? Of course. But that had been seventeen years ago. Get over it, she told herself. She had a business to run. Balloons to fill.

Instead of walking to the helium tank, she leaned as far to the left as possible trying to spot her lurker. He’d left the refreshment table and was now hanging around the display of authentic reproductions of early Native American hunting spears. Carl Tanninger, a rancher down by Custer, had researched arrowhead production and made each piece by hand.

Given their value—and price tags—she’d tethered them to the display with a steel gauge wire locking system. She’d never felt more relieved.

“Um…pretty cold out there today, isn’t it?” she asked, feebly attempting to be social. She never pestered customers but most were a bit friendlier than this guy.

His back to her he asked, “Bathroom?”

“Push your way through the Navajo rugs. They’re partly for looks and partly to keep the heat in. The restroom is on your right,” she said. Was she thrilled about sending him out of sight? No, but even if he wandered into the teepee there wasn’t anything of great value to steal. Mostly summer clothes and kids things.

Kids.Megan’s balloons.

She abandoned her notebook on the counter and hurried to the upright tank where she’d set out the balloons she planned to fill. Gift balloons hardly fit the theme of her store, but she was a retailer, first; and balloons were good for business. Guys would come in for a balloon bouquet for their girlfriends and wind up buying a nice piece of jewelry, too.

Tinkerbelle, first. Char was dying to see the special balloon-within-a-balloon inflated.

She smiled as she watched the little blond fairy take shape. She’d ordered it a month ago for Megan’s actual day of birth, but so much had been happening—family wise—Mac had postponed the party by a couple of weeks. Once it was filled to capacity, she clamped the end and attached the wrapped gift that had come with it. Soon, Megan and Tinkerbelle would be wearing matching necklaces.

She attached one of the ribbons she already had cut and released the balloon. It bobbled to the end of its tether, but didn’t soar away thanks to the extra weight of the present. Still, Char carefully secured the ribbon to the handle of the tank’s cart while she filled the next balloon.

She’d managed to fill all the character balloons—party favors for Megan’s friends–and was starting on the solid colors when her customer returned. At first, she thought he was going to head her way, but he took one glance at the balloons and fled toward the pottery.

Fine. You couldn’t shoplift pottery very easily.

As she filled the last balloon–an extra-large fuchsia one, she noticed her notebook had flopped open. Even from a few steps away, she could see her doodles. Her name and Eli’s paired in flowery hearts. Line after line of Eli Robideaux and Char Jones. Or, rather, Mrs. Char Robideaux. Did every dumb girl suffering from unrequited love doodle the object of her daydream’s name, over and over?

The old Black woman had warned her not to pin her heart on the first cute boy that looked her way, but Char had been caught up in something she hadn’t expected and apparently had no control over.

She knew what Kat would call it: swoo. Kat Petroski, Char’s friend who had fallen for the wrong swoo twice, defined it as that indefinable element that makes a certain girl gaga over a certain guy. Love was different, Kat said. That came later…if you were lucky. Swoo was first strike. Wham, bam, damn.

That’s how it had been for Char when she first met Eli—an upper classman jock heartthrob who didn’t know she was alive. That fine spring day of her freshman year when she literally bumped into him in the hallway of school, every stupid thing she’d ever seen in a movie or read in a book about love, lust and sex hit her square in the chest.

Being a shy outsider, she’d adored him from afar until opportunity—God? Luck? Fate?–she didn’t know what—had intervened. What happened next was written in black and white on the pages of her journal.

A hissing sound made her fumble slightly as she remembered to cut off the flow of helium to the balloon before it exploded. Impatient with herself for zoning out, she quickly applied the clamp. Her fingers felt thick and out of touch as she attempted to attach the last remaining ribbon.

“Damn,” she muttered the same moment the stranger entered her peripheral vision. He’d probably been standing close by for a second or two, but she’d been so involved in her trip down memory lane she’d overlooked his presence.

“Oh. Hello. Sorry. What can I do for you?”

The hood of his thermal-weave sweatshirt had fallen away and was scrunched around his neck. Chin down, his gaze seemed fixed on something inside the lighted display that separated them. His straight black hair–oily and clumped together in spots as if he’d been wearing a stocking cap at some point–was her first clue to his ethnicity. His skin tone was several shades darker than Char’s. That could have been attributed to the sun or the cold wind, but his cheekbones cried Native American. Char guessed him to be her age or a little bit older. Overall, he had an I-clean-up-better-than-I-look-at-the-moment way about him.

He brought his hand up and coughed into his fist. Something in the gesture set all sorts of alarms off in her mind, rendering her fingers useless. The balloon she was holding slipped from her grasp. She made a wild reach to grab it, but the brush of air merely encouraged it to go up, until it reached the ceiling where it bounced along until becoming trapped in the acrylic dome skylight.

The stranger turned slightly to follow the pink escape artist as it made its brave drive for freedom. In profile, she could see his scrubby black beard. It contained a hint of silver.

The fluttering sensation in her chest grew.

“Hey, do I know–,” she started to ask. Her words got stuck in her throat the instant his gaze met hers. Those eyes. She would never in a million years forget those eyes.

Yep, chickadee, that’s him, the voice in her head chortled. Eli Robideaux. The source of all your moanin’ and groanin’ and weepin’ and carryin’ on all these years.

“And, if I’m not mistaken, he’s here to rob you.”

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Reviewed by B. Ferris:

What a mess this could be but both Char and Eli are trying to make things not so stressful for all, including themselves. They really don’t know each other – those high school memories are just that. It’s seventeen years later and now they are going to find their son.

Char’s life is the same as it’s been for some years now. She is alone but has her good friends from Wine, Women and Words Bookclub and the town of Sentinel Pass but the 3 of women from the bookclub are either married or getting ready to be also involved in the Sentinel Pass TV show so she was on her own really and not minding it too much.

Eli’s life has taken a real beating lately and he feels he’s almost at rock bottom then by accident he finds Char and he finds he has another child with the woman he barely remembers from high school. His wife, Bobbi, and 3 children are living at her parents with the idea she’s going to divorce Eli and marry his cousin. She has kept a big secret from Eli all these years.

Char also had a secret but she didn’t feel she had to tell Eli and make a mess of his new marriage. Eli and Char talk with Char’s aunt to help find their way to finding that son neither knows. Eli’s a policeman on the reservation so he knows how to solve a mystery.

Their search leads to their special love story.