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Shadow Warrior

May 2007
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
ISBN # 978-0373275359

One man’s forbidden love…

Proud member of the Navajo Brotherhood, Michael Ayze had big troubles. Evil shape-shifters were hunting innocents on tribal land. And now his brother’s widow had appeared in the midst of the danger, reigniting deep emotions he’d denied for years.

Michael was ready to fulfill his oath to protect his people. But with Lexie in his home, the evil ones had a pawn that could bring him to his knees. Even as Michael tried to resist her, all the forces in the universe seemed to be urging them closer than ever before—to each other and to the deadly danger waiting in the night.

NIGHT GUARDIANS - the Navajo brotherhood keeps watch in the night at any cost.

More about The Night Guardians

Shadow Warrior

 

“Are you sure Jack won’t be any trouble for your husband?” Lexie asked her mother-in-law as they came back into the house from the barn hours after breakfast.

“Trouble? No child with such an open, inquisitive mind could be considered trouble.” Louise smiled and went to wash her hands at the kitchen sink. “Would you like a cup of tea? I have a few minutes before I have to dress and leave for my luncheon.”

Lexie had reluctantly left Jack out in the barnyard with his grandfather, who was feeding the animals. She’d been concerned about being separated from her baby in such a strange and different world. But Jack had been fascinated with the sheep and the family’s one horse—and with his grandfather who never stopped talking to him about what being Navajo meant.

She’d finally come to the decision that she trusted Jack’s welfare with her newly found in-laws. Eventually she would have to leave him so she could go to work. After all, that was the main reason she’d brought them all this way.

“Yes, tea would be nice, thanks.” Lexie washed her hands and then sat down at the table. “Is your luncheon today with friends? Or is it business?”

Oops, the question seemed too personal for someone she had just met. But Lexie already felt comfortable around the woman who still insisted she call her mother.

Louise just smiled. “My youngest son may have told you that my husband and I are both attorneys, though my husband recently retired in order to have time for politics. He’s currently the elected councilman to the Navajo Nation Tribal Council from our local Red Lake chapter.”

After putting a tea kettle on the stove, Louise reached into a cabinet for cups and saucers. “My own legal work has always been more service oriented. For many years I chose to work for the Tribal Legal Aid office. Now I devote most of my time to various charities. Today’s luncheon is a fund-raiser for the Window Rock Navajo E.A.R.T.H. group.”

“Earth?”

“Education and Research Towards Health,” Louise told her as she poured the tea and sat down. “They do good work for the People. And there is so much to be done.”

Lexie smiled as she sipped her tea. It was herbal tea of some sort. Mild and fragrant. Good.

She began to feel slightly inadequate in the company of such a highly intelligent, professional woman. Though Lexie had finished three years of college, when she’d gotten married, she had been working for a casino as a high-roller’s cocktail waitress. Which had actually suited Dan just fine because he’d always wanted to be a high-roller.

During their courtship, he’d told her he came from a family who all had advanced degrees. But since the family hadn’t been terribly happy with Dan at the time, she’d never met any of them but Michael. And she certainly had never imagined them to be so refined and intelligent.

Her smile slipped a little.

“Perhaps after you settle in, you’d like to go with me to one of the charitable functions. A new volunteer is always welcome.”

The explanation for not going would be difficult to say. Better get it over with. “Uh. I’m afraid it’s urgent that I find something to do to earn a living first.”

Thank goodness it was just the two of them here talking instead of having to embarrass herself in front of the entire family.

Louise raised her eyebrows. “You and my grandson need money? My youngest son did not provide for his family after his death?”

Lexie shook her head but felt herself blanch. Damn that Daniel Ayze. She hoped his ghost was still around nearby to share in the shame.

If Dan had been still alive, she’d be willing to kill him all over again for putting her in this position. With her bare hands.

Without having an easy way to make herself disappear, Lexie shrugged and tried a weak smile. Oh hell. She’d do whatever it took for Jack’s sake.

“Do you know much about Dine tradition, my daughter? Did my youngest son ever instruct you in the Way?” Louise asked softly without making mention of money.

Lexie shook her head. “Not really. Dan never talked much about his family or his heritage.” She thought her mother-in-law had made a rather abrupt change in the conversation, but anything would be better than continued discussion of her embarrassing lack of funds.

“You have brought my grandson to his traditional home. Does this mean you wish for him to learn about his heritage?”

“Well...” It wasn’t why she’d come here, but the idea sounded good now she’d thought of it. “Of course I do. He should be aware of his roots and family.”

Louise nodded thoughtfully. “It would be smart then for you to learn to follow the Navajo Way as well. You could reinforce your child’s lessons. Are you willing?”

“I...”

“What are you trying to convince her of, mother?” Michael Ayze interrupted his mother’s thought as he stepped into the kitchen from the front room.

“Ah, my son. You are here just in time. This conversation concerns you as well.”

Lexie’s curiosity was peaked—along with her nerve endings. Michael’s presence tended to make her jittery, so she wasn’t surprised by the heat he’d generated when he walked into the room. But she really hoped he could help translate his mother’s true intentions, because Lexie was becoming increasingly lost by Louise’s half-finished ideas and formal speech.

Michael raised his eyebrows, also questioning his mother’s meaning. “All right, mother. Spill it. What’s that devious little mind of yours up too now?”

Louise’s smile turned to a wry frown. “You know I don’t have a devious bone in my body. Such a thing would be out of balance and the antithesis of everything we believe.”

Michael’s narrowed gaze said he wasn’t convinced.

But Louise didn’t pay any attention to her eldest son’s expression as she turned back around to Lexie. “There are many legends and traditions for you to learn, daughter. My grandson will have no trouble picking up the lessons as a child. The young are receptive to new ideas. Adults find the learning much more difficult.

“So I will expect your brother-in-law to become your teacher,” Louise continued. “In the same manner as he does in both his occupations.”

“Both?” Lexie wasn’t sure what Louise was talking about. She turned a questioning look to Michael.

“You know I’m a college professor,” he confirmed without taking his sharp gaze from Louise’s face. “But my mother is referring to the fact I’m also a traditional Dine medicine man. Part of the calling is to pass on the traditions and oral lessons.”

Michael was ready to kill his mother, but he knew she meant well. All of his immediate family was in a constant battle with themselves to find a happy melding of their old traditions and the modern world.

“I see,” Lexie said. “But I’m sure you’re too busy to worry about teaching a complete stranger your ways. Are there books I can read instead?”

“Not really. But...”

“Books aren’t necessary.” Louise interrupted. “You will have plenty of time together to absorb the lessons.”

Louise turned and took Lexie’s hands in her own. “The basic premise of the Navajo Way is to remain in harmony. Finding balance in all things is what makes you Dine.

“And the first lesson in harmony our original mother, Changing Woman, taught us was that male and female need each other for balance. One sex is not complete alone. To stay in keeping with our traditional Way, when one Dine spouse dies, another family member steps in and marries the survivor. It maintains the clans and brings harmony.”

“What?” Both Lexie and Michael jumped as each exclaimed the same thing at the same time.

For an instant they stared, unbelieving, at Louise. Then they threw sideways glances at each other before both took a step back, putting more distance between them.

Louise ignored Lexie for the moment as she turned to Michael. “Your brother died, leaving a widow and son. You know the traditions better even than I do. Is there any question of you following the Way, hataalii?”

Michael knew his mother was using the respectful Navajo word for medicine man to remind him of his duty to go along with tradition. But this was the twenty-first century, and the widow in question wasn’t even Dineh. She would never accept the idea, even if he could.

“Uh.” He couldn’t get his tongue to work for a second. “If Alexis needs money, I can give her a job or a loan - - or both. Until she gets on her feet. But she’s an Anglo. You can’t expect her to give up her own heritage and abide by an ancient Dine tradition—just like that.”

“Not ‘just like that,’” Louise said with a scowl. “Take some time together. Teach her the Way. She’s already said she wishes to help her son by learning.” Louise smiled brightly. “Thirty days ought to be adequate. I’ll use the time to plan a wedding.”

 

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