The safest place they know is about to become the most dangerous…
Marcella’s husband, Quinn “Black Eagle” Hollister, severed ties to his family and friends on the Seneca reservation years ago. He rarely mentions his past—until his young cousin Kitty collapses on the couple’s doorstep in the dead of a rainswept night.
After two Seneca men break into their home with intent to kill, the Hollisters flee with the mute and injured girl to Tall Pines, their cabin in the Adirondacks. Marcella, unable to bear a child of her own, unleashes her motherly instincts caring for Kitty. As the girl slowly recovers, they start to piece together who wants them dead, and why.
But their pursuers are canny and relentless. The next attack drives the trio from the sanctuary of Tall Pines, deep into the mountain wilderness.
Kidnapping. Murder. An army of murderous Seneca will stop at nothing to protect their scandalous secrets.
I had just started to heat a mug of milk in the microwave when Dak scooted to the side door and began to whine. Now I’d never get back to sleep.
“Dak. It’s three o’clock in the morning. You sure you have to go out?” I peered into the darkness blanketing Honeoye Lake. “It’s raining, schnookums. Really hard.”
At four months old, my Bernese Mountain Dog had already grown too big to play lapdog, although he still tried. He turned to look at me with his huge brown eyes and started digging at the rug near the side door. A sharp bark followed.
“Okay, okay. Let me get a coat. And don’t wake Ruby.” I shot a glance toward the covered cage in the back of the living room. All I needed was Ruby squawking “gimme cookies” in the middle of the night, waking up my husband and mother. I’d never hear the end of it.
September in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York had ended with a few nice days in the eighties, but in this first weekend of October the temperatures had plummeted to the fifties. Quinn and I had both been in denial. He’d gone swimming a few times, coming in the house with blue lips, and I’d been shivering in shorts and halter tops, hoping it would warm up again.
No such luck.
With a sigh, I hiked up my flannel nightgown, slid into my UGG boots, and shrugged into my coat. “Come on, then. Let’s go.” I snapped on his leash.
The wind-driven rain pelted my face, and Dak pulled me hard into the night. He didn’t head for his usual spot, but veered around the corner toward the lake.
“Where are we going, pup?”
Quinn still hadn’t put our bass boat away for the season, and I heard it rocking on the waves by the dock. The wind was stronger here, and I pulled up my hood.
Dak, named for our beloved Adirondack Mountains, had a mind of his own. He dragged me toward the front door of our house.
Just enough light was cast by the lamp in the living room for me to see the steps and not fall on my face.
What I didn’t expect was to see a figure huddled against the door.
I nearly screamed, but when Dak approached the figure, throat rumbling ominously, his growl quickly turned to puppy love. He began to lap the hand of our unexpected guest, his tail wagging madly.
The girl moaned, looking up at me with panicked eyes.
I crouched beside her, wondering if she’d partied too hard and gotten lost on the lake shore. In the dark, all the houses looked the same.
“Hey. Are you okay?”
She pulled into herself, as if hiding from me.
“I won’t hurt you.” It was then I noticed the blood on her face, and the bruises on her wrists. “Come on. I’m taking you inside.”
She let me help her up. The poor thing could barely walk. Slowly, with Dak wiggling between our legs, we made our way indoors.
I plopped her onto the couch, pulled back her hood, and peeled off her jacket. It was soaked through.
The girl reminded me of my husband, or at least his Seneca Indian half. Thick black hair hung loose around her face, dripping wet. Dark eyes pleaded with me, but no words came from her lips. Blood and scratches streaked her coppery skin. A large purplish lump rose on her forehead.
“Are you okay, honey?”
She shivered and pulled her feet under her.
No shoes. No purse. Ragged jean bottoms.
What happened to her?
I ran to the closet and grabbed a thick blanket. “Here, put this around you. Then we need to get you out of these soaking wet clothes and into a hot tub. You’ll catch your death.”
Although she moved with deliberate slowness, she let me wrap her in the blanket. I tucked her cold, bloody feet with another throw we kept on the couch, and ran to the kitchen to get the hot milk from the microwave. I re-heated it for thirty seconds and carried the steaming mug to her.
“Try this.” I handed it to her. “Careful. It’s hot.”
With trembling hands, she reached for the mug, but it seemed almost too heavy for her to hold. I helped her bring it to her lips.
She took one sip. Then another.
“There you go.”
After she’d finished half the milk, she fell back against the couch. I set the mug on the side table and watched her. Her eyes closed and she loosed a shuddering sigh. Damp hair fell across her face.
Dak jumped onto the couch beside her—muddy paws and all—and snuggled against her legs.
I was just debating whether or not to call an ambulance when Quinn appeared at the bottom of the stairs. His boxers were awry and his glossy hair fell in long waves over his bare shoulders. He rubbed sleep from his eyes. “What’s going on, Marcella?”
“I found this girl on our doorstep. She’s hurt.”
More alert now, he hurried to my side. “What happened to her?”
The girl moaned and turned. Her hair slid aside to reveal her bruised face.
Quinn dropped to his knees and took her hand. “Oh my God. Kitty?”
I looked at him as if he were nuts. “You know her?”
Concern settled in his eyes and he looked her over, taking in her injuries. “Know her? This is my little cousin, Catori. We call her Cat. Or Kitty. She’s from the rez.”
I looked back and forth between them. He’d mentioned a few relatives when we first were married, but he’d never contacted them. He’d left the reservation under a dark cloud. Although he never told me the details, I knew he didn’t want to go back.
Quinn’s father was a long-dead British playwright, and the only feature he’d bequeathed to his son was the turquoise color of his eyes. Other than that, Quinn resembled a proud Indian brave, one of the first reasons I’d been attracted to him when we met years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He’d grown up with his Seneca mother on the reservation not far from Buffalo. She’d passed away before we met.
Kitty looked very much like Quinn, with the same high forehead, strong jawline, supple mouth, and long-lashed eyes. Hers were a rich chocolate brown. Beneath the bruises and blood, she was striking, probably beautiful.
“She hasn’t said a word. I think maybe she’s in shock, Quinn. She needs a doctor.”
Kitty bolted upright and shook her head, eyes flared and wild. Her mouth formed the word no, but no sound came out.
Quinn took her hands and looked into her eyes. “Are you in danger, Kitty?”
She nodded, tears streaming from her eyes. Help me, her lips said. Again, no sound.
“It’s okay, honey.” I stroked her arm. “We’re here for you.”
A piece of paper fell from her hand. I picked it up and flattened it out, frowning. “It’s our address.”
Quinn went to the window and scanned the shoreline. He checked the sliding glass doors on the sun porch, locking the side door.
“We’ve got to get her cleaned up. Come on.”
I turned to the girl, who once again seemed to pull into herself. “Honey? Kitty? Who did this to you?”
No answer. With a shuddering, soundless sob, she fell trembling against my chest.
I exchanged a worried glance with my husband.
He looked outside again. “Satori.”
At the use of her full name, she looked up.
“Do you know if they followed you?”
She nodded vigorously.
Galvanized into action now, I went into high gear, racing around the room to close all the blinds.
Quinn stopped me, his arm on mine. “We should call the cops.”
“Good idea.” I patted my pocket for my cell, but realized I’d left it in the bedroom. I’d just started upstairs when the sound of breaking glass came from the back of the house.