Meg McKee kept the peace in Sweet Creek as the no-nonsense chief of police. But to elusive Ethan Red Wolf, Meggie wasn't just the town's most capable officer. She was the soul mate he'd run away from, the woman the half-Blackfoot teenager felt he'd never be worthy of.
Meg's life hadn't turned out as she'd expected, either. Her marriage had fallen into tatters after she'd conquered breast cancer, and her teenaged son was acting out--on Ethan's land. She knew Ethan still made her heart soar like the eagles that swooped above Sweet Creek's countryside. But would the lingering shadows of the past fade in time to offer them another chance at love-- this time, forever?
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October 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Red Wolf's Return by Mary J. Forbes
A mist lay on the lagoon below Blue Mountain the September morning Ethan Red Wolf faced a past he'd buried years ago.
Won't be hi and bye this time, Meggie.
No, he'd have to make an elaborate report of the wounded eagle huddling against the boulder. Which meant talking to her.
"Easy," he soothed when the raptor squirmed weakly on the shoreline rocks. Slipping his Nikon camera into his backpack, he crouched for closer inspection--and mentally cursed.
The bird's tail feathers had been plucked like unwanted hairs.
Thankfully, the cool, rainy temperatures during the past two days had kept the scent down and coyotes and wolves at bay--a cleanup process as old as the mountain above him.
He snorted softly. Wasn't this just bloody typical? Seemed after all these years, America's heritage symbol--his heritage symbol--would be the catalyst bringing him eye to eye with Sweet Creek's police chief.
Gently he lifted the bird. "It's gonna be okay, little lady," he murmured. Rising, he cradled the eagle against his chest before starting over the rocks toward his house on the other side of the diminutive lake shrouded in the foggy dawn.
Ah, Meggie, he thought. We're about to have a real conversation. A first since she'd returned to Montana from the west coast six years ago.
Hell, if he were honest with himself, this would the first time they exchanged more than ten words in nineteen years.
Sure, they had nodded to each other on the street, said "Hi" in passing, had even traded the old, "How's it going?" "Oh, fine. You?" "Good, good..." when he used to work as her brother's foreman on the Flying Bar T Ranch.
But a conversation? An honest-to-God, intelligent discourse between two people?
Every time they were within ten feet of each other, one or the other zipped to an exit at the first chance. Him, because of her marriage--and too many other reasons he'd locked away over the years. Her...well, her reason had been the one he'd never forgotten. The one she had decided the night of their prom. You're not what I want in a man, after all.
Today, another female would alter fate. He looked down at the eagle with her shot-up wing and thigh and shook his head. Little lady...if you only knew what your sacrifice is about to set in motion.
Because he sure as hell wasn't talking to Gilby Pierce, Meggie's second-in-command. Nope, Ethan intended to speak to the head gal herself--if for no other reason than to establish some prolonged face time.
He walked through the thick timber and across a minimeadow where two hours ago his camera lens had caught the chipmunk chewing a seed on the rotted log. At the crest of a small knoll, he appraised the little homestead his grandfather Davis O'Conner had built a half century before. Protected by a grove of pine, aspen and birch, rich in autumn splendor, the renovated house sat two hundred yards from the lagoon.
His home now. His spot on the map.
He wondered if in the past year--since he'd taken residency on this side of the hill a quarter mile from where Meggie lived with her sixteen-year-old son-- had she ever looked down onto his home as he did now?
Don't be a fool, Ethan. She's a different woman than she was at eighteen. All brass and guts now.
She needed to be, as chief of police.
The Meggie he'd kissed as a teenager no longer existed. This Meggie wouldn't spare one frivolous second mooning over some bygone childhood love.
That much he'd witnessed in the past six years after Mayor Hudson Leland and the town council hired her to run Sweet Creek's police department. Hell, not long ago, she'd practiced at the former rifle range--shot bull's-eyes, in fact--an eighth of a mile from Ethan's house. A range on the property left to him by his late grandfather that Ethan had bulldozed last June to make room for the therapeutic riding center he wanted to establish. Which, of course, didn't sit well with the locals, including the mayor and his cronies--in particular Jock Ralston.
Lifting his head, Ethan sought out the mammoth boulder sitting like a rough-edged beacon across the lake. The boulder where he'd found the raptor.
Where, under a stadium of stars, eighteen-year-old Meggie McKee had once said she would love him forever.
Ethan grunted. Right. And there went a lake of water under that bridge.
Firmly cradling the bird in his arms, he walked down the hill toward the house in the trees.
A thicket of yellow aspen on the outskirts of town encircled Sweet Creek's animal clinic. Turning into its lane, Ethan squinted as the dawn light glanced off the windshield of the doctor's van in front of the tomato-red barn.
Three minutes later, after carrying the injured eagle into the reception area, he and his longtime friend and town veterinarian, Kell Tanner, considered the bird's wounds on an examination table.