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Authors: Donna Clayton

Tags: #Romance, #General, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Bound by Honor (16 page)

BOOK: Bound by Honor
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Entreaty etched the deep lines in the old man's face, and Gage released his hold on the door handle of the truck.

"I realize," Chee'pai said, "that I have been . . . mulish in my thinking. But I hope you understand that I only had the best of intentions."

Gage nodded. "I do know that."

"You see, inside me there is a vicious battle going on. Two wolves are fighting. One represents my love for my family — you, your father and mother, and the others here on Broken Bow. The other represents my need to keep our heritage burning so bright that it will shine far into the future."

The small muscles around Gage's mouth softened. He knew that even though his grandfather was a hard man, his objective was pure.

"I understand," Gage assured him.

"I was proud of you in there. All the things you said to the Elders today were true. And I wanted to thank you for reminding me that the Lenape way is to be open and accepting of others and their needs. Holding on to tradition is good and right, but not at the expense of those we love. It is a delicate balance. I appreciate
your wisdom in helping me steady the scales."

The rare compliment filled Gage with pride.

"Would you give me your parents' phone number?" his grandfather asked. "I'd like to call my son and his wife. To say hello. To ask them how they are doing." He grinned. "And when they intend to visit this old man."

A smile curled Gage's lips. "They would love to hear from you." He embraced his grandfather and felt his heart pinch with warmth.

When they parted, Chee'pai tilted his head a fraction. "You need to know that you have a fierce wolf war going on inside you, too, Grandson."

Gage had no clue what to call the chaotic mess churning inside his chest, but Chee'pai had offered a pretty accurate description.

"I can feel your conflict," his grandfather continued. "I believe that one of your wolves is staunchly struggling to keep the past alive." He paused, then added, "The other is fighting for the future."

Chee'pai had trained as the tribe's shaman because he had shown inc
redible intuitive abilities Gag
was discovering just

how perceptive his grandfather could be.

"You know in your heart that you cannot live in the past. Grandson. And you have deep feelings for Jenna. Even an old fool like me can see that. She brought you back to the land of the living. Please stay with us. Those who have crossed to the other side would want that for you."

Chee'pai grasped Gage's shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. "Yet, I also understand the importance of keeping the memory fires burning. Deciding which is most crucial — the past or the future — is a dilemma for us all."

Dilemma? And here Gage had thought he'd reached an impossible impasse where his emotions were concerned. He had come to care for little Lily. Enjoyed being with her. And Jenna! His feelings for Jenna were all-encompassing. He'd enjoyed the family unit the three of them made. But each time he contemplated the situation, his conscience never failed to lapse into deep remorse. He felt guilty contemplating a future with Jenna and Lily, a future filled with happiness, when Mary Lynn and Skye weren't here to share in it.

e murmured, "And the war wage
on." Straightening his spine, he lifted hit anguished gaze
to his
You are a wise man.
man who sees
are invisible to others. I need you to tell me. Which wolf inside me will win?"

A deep abiding love misted Chee'pai's eyes as he said, "The one you feed."


Jenna was crouched beneath the desk unplugging the computer and monitor from the electrical outlet. After stopping at Arlene's to give her the good news that the Elders had granted her full custody of Lily, Jenna had asked her friend if she could keep the baby for just a little while longer so she could drive out to Gage's house to pick up her belongings. She'd hoped against hope that she could arrive at the ranch, gather the remainder of her things and leave before Gage returned.

She didn't want to cause him any more heartache.

Unbidden, an image flashed into her brain of the two of them arguing in the stable the morning after they'd made love. True torment had shadowed his eyes, rounded his muscular shoulders.

At first, she'd felt angry with him. How dare he take the beautiful moments they had shared together and turn them into something ugly. Something dark.

As she’d
seen it, noth
ing shameful had taken place
between them that fateful night.

In fact, the intimacy they had shared had been glorious. Like nothing she'd ever experienced.

And she'd quickly discovered why, too. She'd fallen in love with the man.

Love meant many things — sharing a warm summer's night, laughing together, kissing, touching, making love. And maybe she wore rose-colored glasses, but, to her, love meant something else, as well. It meant doing all in your power not to hurt the one you adore, and that was what she was doing right now.

Working swiftly, she unhooked the wires for the keyboard, monitor and speakers from the computer's tower.

Then she pulled one end of the phone cord from the outlet on the wall, and the other from the socket on the tower. She coiled it into a neat bundle.

Gathering up all the wires and cords, she backed out from under the desk on her hands and knees. The sound of the front door made her scramble a little more quickly.


Instinct had her turning toward the sound of Gage's voice and her head thudded softly against the underside of the desk.

She leaned back on her heels, pressing
palm to the back of her skull. Gage squatted next to her.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

Jenna nodded. "I'd hoped to get my computer and get out of here before you returned home."

She tried to keep her eyes trained on the floor, but the sight of him was too much of a temptation. Her gaze rose to his jean-clad thighs. His palms were splayed there, and she remembered how urgent his touch had been when they'd made love. Jenna moistened her lips and tipped up her chin, taking in his trim waist, his powerful chest. Their gazes clashed, and she knew without a doubt that she'd never meet another man like him, not even if she searched the whole world over.

His shoulders sagged a fraction as he sighed. "I can't believe what I've done."

The statement confused her.

He stood in one fluid motion, murmuring, "I've fed the wrong wolf."

Gage reached out his hand to her.

"Fed the wrong ..." Shaking her head in bewilderment, she slid her palm into his and let him help her to
her feet. Acute disappointment fl
ooded her when he released her hand immediately. She reached over and set the
telephone cord on the desktop.

"What are you talking about?"

"I talked to my grandfather after the meeting."

Jenna glanced at the keyboard. "I can't believe Chee'pai voted to give me custody. I never thought that would happen." She took a deep breath and looked at Gage. "It was you, you know. You convinced him. You convinced them all."

"I only spoke the truth. I've seen you with Lily. You've become her mother."

Her heart warmed. "Thank you, Gage. For everything. I wanted to speak to you after the meeting, to thank you, but . . ." Chagrin made her pause, but he deserved to know why she hadn't expressed her appreciation. "But I thought you'd rather I come here and clear out for good."

A frown scored his forehead as he said, "I did make you think that, didn't I?"

What an odd question for him to ask. She had no idea how she was supposed to respond or if he even expected her to, so she remained silent.

"I'm as stubborn as Grandfather, Jenna." He ran agitated fingers over the upholstered back of the desk chair that sat close by. "I've said things . . . done things ..."

Jenna went very still.

Gage was silent
for several long moments.

Finally, he said, "When Mary Lynn and Skye and I were a family, I felt like a towering ponderosa pine. Strong. Lush. And forever green, alive. I was happy. I thought nothing could touch us. But the accident. . . the accident cut me deep. Cut me clean in two. And in an instant, there was nothing left of me but a dead stump. And I stayed that way for months and months and months."

He reached out. Hooked his little finger with hers.

"Then you came along," he said. "You brought sunshine with your nurturing ways. With your laughter. With your kindness and concern. And the roots of my soul sent out new shoots and branches and leaves." Gage smiled. "I'm alive again, Jenna. Because of you."

"B-but . . . you said —"

Gage leaned forward and gently touched his index finger to her lips. "Shhh, please don't remind me of how stupid I've been." He heaved a sigh. "I wasn't happy to have you here when you first moved in, you know that's true. I was afraid. Afraid that having Lily in the house would churn up bad memorie
s for me.
But what I
realized was that spending time with
her made me rem
ember wonderful moments that I had
spent with
Skye. Moments that had been buried under a thick blanket of grief.

"But the worst thing I felt," he continued, "was the guilt of wanting you."

Jenna would have been lying if she said she didn't feel just a little vindicated by his admission. That he wasn't placing all the blame of what happened between them on her shoulders.

"The morning I woke up with you in my bed —" he closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head back and forth "— it was horrible, Jenna. And when you came out to the stable and we argued . . . everything you said was the truth. But I was too enveloped in darkness to admit it. I couldn't seem to find a way to hold on to the memories of a past I cherished and reach out to the bright future you represented. And knowing that I had taken your virginity ..."

He closed his eyes and shook his head again. "I felt I deserved to be horsewhipped, and I was too overwhelmed to think clearly." His tone was soft as he added, "I don't mind telling you, though, that after you packed up and left, this house has never felt so empty.

"I don't want to be empty anymore, Jenna. Not my house. Not my life." He slid his hand into hers. "Not my heart."

The whole while he'd been talking, she
felt her chest fill with an airy lightness. She recognized it as hope. Still, she had a question that was burning to be asked.

"What about the guilt you've been feeling? It can't have just dissolved."

He seemed to ponder for several seconds. "I told you I talked to Grandfather. He's been a stubborn man for as long as I can remember. But he told me he's going to call my parents."

"That's wonderful," Jenna said; however, she couldn't see how his grandfather had anything to do with the two of them.

Gage nodded. "I don't want to wake up one day and realize that I allowed the past to hold me prisoner. I want to let go of my guilt. I want to remember Mary Lynn and Skye because I loved them. And they deserve to be remembered. But I know in my heart that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes events don't seem logical, or even sane, but it's those times that I must remember that Kit-tan-it-to'wet is in control. I don't have to understand it all. But I do have to take part in life. I have to appreciate each glorious day as it comes. And I haven't taken part or appreciated my blessings for a long time."

Jenna fell intensified and grew

"We were meant to meet on that rainy road," he said. "That day was the beginning of my rebirth. And I was too blind to see it." He inched closer. "What I'm trying to say, Jenna, is that I love you. I want you. And Lily. Here. With me."

Suddenly, he couldn't meet her gaze, and Jenna smiled at his sudden shyness.
Then he looked directly into her eyes.

"Would you think about it?"

Pure joy burst inside her, filling every nook and cranny with wonder and delight. An elated smile spread across her lips.

"Think about it? I don't need to think about anything!" She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissed him on the mouth, on the jaw, on the cheek. "I love you, Gage Dalton," she whispered in his ear. "And although I have no clue what you meant about feeding the wrong wolf, I fully intend to help you fatten up the right one."

BOOK: Bound by Honor
7.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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