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Authors: Roslyn Holcomb

Tags: #bwwm, #interracial romance, #rock star sequel, #multicultural, #anthrax, #terrorism, #smallpox

Dark Star (9 page)

BOOK: Dark Star
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Tonya couldn’t help but smile
.
He
had
read her books. “Well that’s hardly news. Despite the
obvious implications from the title nobody ends up in pieces in
Chunked
.

“So it’s not like
Scattered
,
hmmm?”

“Not in that regard, no,” she said.

“So how are they alike?” he said.

“What?”

“You said it wasn’t like
Scattered
in
regard to people ending up in pieces. How is it like it then?”

“Well, they’re both murder mysteries that are
solved by a Waffle House waitress,” she said struggling to maintain
a bland expression.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“Of course not. You’ll have to buy it like
everybody else.”

“Well hell, what’s the point of kidnapping
the author of your favorite series if you can’t get the inside
scoop?” he said sounding more than a bit put out.

Tonya laughed out loud now. “All I can say is
nobody gets dismembered in
Chunked
, but it is gross.”

“I’m surprised the Waffle House folks haven’t
put out a hit on you.”

“To tell you the truth, before I recognized
you in my hotel room I thought they had. But they’re a corporation;
they have lawyers to do their bushwhacking, legally. Besides any
publicity is good publicity. You know they don’t even
advertise.”

“Even if it involves body parts being found
in Waffle House dumpsters from coast to coast?” he raised a
quizzical brow.

“I’d say
especially
if it involves
body parts being scattered from coast to coast.”

“You always were twisted, but these books
take it to another level. The theme is definitely bent, but the
mysteries themselves are really good. Like I said, you’re a damned
good writer and I have a college degree to show for it.”

Tonya felt heat rise in her cheeks. “Thank
you. Now I’ve told you a secret. You have to tell me one.”

He gave her a wary look. “I can’t tell you
any more than I already have about what’s going on here.”

“Oh, you’ve made that abundantly clear. No, I
just want to know...Your leaving -- did it have anything to do with
all this?”

“You mean the kidnapping and the bad dudes
coming after you?”

“Yes, of course.”

Nate took a deep breath. “Yeah. It did. I
didn’t want to leave you.” His voice dropped to a husky whisper. “I
love -- d you.”

Tonya frowned at the way he stumbled over the
word and the pain in his voice, but she didn’t ask any more
questions. Partially because she was afraid of the answers, but
also as a defense mechanism. At some point she would leave him
behind. She’d worked too hard for too long to get over him. To push
him out of her head and her heart. It would be all too easy to let
him back in. And with whatever the hell he was up to these days she
was guaranteed to get her heart ripped out again, not to mention
the possibility of literally losing her head.

The conversation petered out after that as
Tonya really didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, and
apparently neither did Nate. After finishing the last few bites of
their waffles, they cleaned up the kitchen and went their separate
ways -- Tonya to her room to write, Nate to watch a movie.

* * * * *

The sunset was even more glorious than usual.
Tonya could hardly believe it was July. Back home the humidity was
almost paralyzing, but here similar temperatures didn’t result in
the same stultifying heat. That wasn’t to say it wasn’t hot. Most
days she wore cutoffs and t-shirts, or one of several sundresses
Nate had found for her. They swam every day and had got into the
habit of having dinner and a glass of wine out on the small patio
while they watched the sunset. They’d entered a tacit agreement
whereby they didn’t really talk about how she’d come to be there.
For one thing it was just too scary, and for another he had already
told her everything he was going to tell her. Asking him about it
just resulted in frustration and anger. She followed the story in
the newspapers, until her mother’s obvious despair drove her to
tears one time too many.

They didn’t really talk about their past all
that much either; both topics were fraught with risks that were too
emotionally explosive to even contemplate. She simply took his
advice and pretended she was on an extended tropical vacation. They
went spear fishing almost every morning, and though she was getting
more adept, she still hadn’t mastered the tricky maneuver necessary
to land anything. Tonight Nate had grilled some fish he’d caught
earlier and Tonya had sliced up some fresh fruit into an
accompanying salad. Now they sat out on the beautifully laid stone
patio enjoying their meal and the refreshing ocean breeze. The
table only had two chairs. This hadn’t bothered her before, but for
some reason this evening it was much too close and Tonya was
contemplating moving to the kitchen when he spoke up.

“Did I ever tell you that you remind me of my
mom?”

“Your mom the saintly missionary?” Tonya
asked in astonishment. “Uh no, you’ve
never
mentioned that.”
She’d been called many things over the years, but none of them were
remotely saint-like, unless she counted the times people told her
she’d scared the hell out of them with her stories. But she was
pretty sure that didn’t count.

“I didn’t realize it before, but looking back
you two are a lot alike.”

“In what way?” Tonya asked curious about the
dubious connection. Nate rarely spoke of his parents. She’d never
pushed it feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. It really
wasn’t much better now.

He paused for a moment to top off both their
glasses with a really excellent pinot grigio. Tonya wasn’t much of
a wine drinker preferring cocktails or beer, but Nate had great
taste and she’d enjoyed all his selections. “She was a writer too.
Not so much fiction, though she dabbled. She wrote a lot of
non-fiction. I think she was planning to do an autobiography
someday. Certainly she and dad had an incredible life and some
amazing tales to tell.”

“I’ll bet. Why don’t you write it?”

“Me? For one thing, I’m no writer. You know
that better than anyone.”

“You’ve got a point there,” she said. “Did
you write even one paper after you met me?”

“Not if I could help it, no.”

“Okay, so you’re not a writer. Plenty of
people get ghostwriters. I ghosted a bit when I started out.”

“It’s not my story. And before you ask, I am
never
going to tell my story. Thank God.”

Tonya pursed her lips, but didn’t pursue the
topic. “So, how am I like her?”

Nate’s lips curved into a slow, sad smile.
“Mom was a missionary, but she was no saint. She worked hard with
my father, but I think more from love of him than love of God. She
needed her time, too and my dad always made sure she got it. But
the main thing was the way she could make me laugh -- and make me
feel loved.”

“Nate.” It was a warning. She was not going
there with him.

“I’m not trying to start anything, little
sister, but it’s the truth. You made me feel loved in a way that no
other woman ever did, except her.”

Tonya took a deep breath. She was not going
to let him get to her. Two could play this game. She took a sip of
wine letting the cold, crisp liquid clear her head so she could
strategize. Changing the subject was imperative. “You two were
close.”

“Extremely. I think it was because she was so
human. My dad...Dad was a good man. He really
was
a saint. A
legend in his own time. He was a martyr even before he died. He
never seemed to get tired no matter how awful the conditions were.
He had every godawful tropical disease you could name, and some
you’ve never heard of, but he kept going back. It was like he
sought out the worst situations, the most dire and needy countries
and the most dangerous. My mother spent most of her time protecting
him from his own stubbornness. If she hadn’t been there to watch
him he would’ve given away the last morsel of food, or the last
piece he owned. He did that more than once. He always said, ‘God
will provide.’ And she’d snap back with, ‘God did provide and you
keep giving it away.’ That’s where you remind me of her, the
protectiveness, and the pragmatism.”

“You’ve got the wrong chick. I don’t make a
habit of protecting people.”

“Yeah, you do. Look how long you’ve argued
against your mom and Reuben,” he said with a grin.

“That’s not about protecting her --”

“Yes it is, Onion. You think Reuben is taking
advantage of her.”

“Well isn’t he? He’s wasted twenty years of
her life. She could’ve found a dozen better men by now.”

“Not protective, huh?”

“Nobody wants to see their mother being used.
Look, I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” she said, taking
another bite of salad to end the conversation.

Nate nodded in agreement. Neither spoke as
they watched the sunset. Funny how the sun seemed much closer here.
It was though she could reach out and touch it and bathe in its
swirling colors. They were more intense and vibrant, probably
because they reflected off the water and were magnified by it.

“I’ve been thinking about my folks a lot
lately,” he said

Tonya looked up, taking in the sadness that
seemed to have set in around him. He looked tired and worn; the
heaviness of his eyes exaggerated the crow’s feet she’d noticed
before. There was a melancholia about him that hadn’t been there
when they were together, and it seemed significantly worse tonight.
This situation was really wearing on him. Despite her determination
to maintain her distance she was moved to try to comfort him. “I’m
not surprised. I mean, I assume that you got into this line of work
because of what happened to them.”

He rubbed his chin then leaned back in the
chair. “God, I’d forgotten how well you knew me, could see things
I’d rather you not see. Anyway, I really don’t want to talk about
that.”

“Okay, that’s understandable, but can I ask
you one question?”

“Sure, doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”

“Well, that’s a given. Would they approve of
what you’re doing? I mean, from what you’ve told me they were
Christians and peaceful people, it was part of their mission. Would
they approve of violence? Of you being a killer. You are a killer,
aren’t you?” she asked, reflecting back on Deringer’s comment about
Nate blowing up a strip club. How did such a thing happen by
accident?

He was quiet for so long Tonya thought he
wouldn’t answer. She poured more wine into her glass and topped off
his.

He took a sip from his glass. “No, they
wouldn’t approve. They’d hate it,” he said through pinched lips,
not really answering her question about whether he was a killer,
but his non-answer pretty much confirmed her suspicions.

“So why are you doing it?” she said.

“Because this is all I can do. I can’t save
them.”

“No one could. Especially not you. You were
just a kid.”

“But if I’d been there -- ”

“You’d be dead too.”

“No, that’s not how these people operate.
They probably went for my parents because they were older and my
dad was sick. They wouldn’t have taken them on if there had been a
healthy young male with them. Too much trouble,” he said.

“You can’t know that.”

“I know that I wasn’t there because I was
tired of running around saving people. Kind of ironic, considering.
I wanted to go to an American school, play football, raise hell,
chase tail. Have fun. I was sick to death of disease and famine. In
a word, I was a selfish brat and that’s why my parents are
dead.”

Tonya rolled her eyes. “Don’t you think
you’ve got yourself overrated just a bit here? I mean you’re cute
and all, but last time I checked you weren’t a freaking superhero.
What makes you think you had the power to save anybody? And I’d bet
your mom would tell you the same thing. God has pretty much got a
lock on being God. You need to spare me the melodrama. Besides you
were a kid. Kids are supposed to be self-absorbed.”

Nate laughed, as Tonya had known he would.
“Okay, maybe I was laying it on a bit thick. I’ve just lived with
all this for so long. It’s not something I think about all the
time. In fact I try not to think about it at all, but when I’m with
you. I feel...I feel open, vulnerable. Like I can talk to you about
stuff and you just get it. You get me.” He shrugged.

“Do you think they’d be angry at you? Or want
you to blame yourself for what someone else did?”

“They weren’t angry with me. I know that.
They understood. They always understood, but maybe they should’ve
given me the kick in the ass I deserved. Made me stay with
them.”

“That was their mission in life not yours.
It’s not service if someone has to make you do it,” she said.

“That sounds familiar.”

“I’m sure you heard Mama say it once or a
thousand times. Of course, that didn’t keep her from making me go
to church every Sunday.”

“Heathen,” he said.

“Hardly. I just never thought I needed to go
to church to be close to God.”

“Cop-out. Church isn’t about your need. It’s
about the needs of others,” they recited almost in unison.

“Damn. I guess our parents read from the same
playbook, huh?” Tonya said laughing. She sat back in her chair as
they enjoyed the wine in convivial silence watching the titian rays
of the sun as it descended beneath the languid waves of the endless
sea.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

The music was blaring fit to rupture her
eardrums and Tonya rushed into the living room to turn it down.
Nate loved music and he loved it loud. Idiot. Weren’t they supposed
to be hiding out? Anyone would be able to find them by the decibel
level alone. It was probably registering on the Richter Scale. She
shook her head in amusement when she found him in the middle of the
living room floor rocking out and playing air guitar to a StormCrow
tune; “Fire Don’t Burn.” He sang along with the chorus, “Fire don’t
burn as hot as you. Sear my soul through and through.”
Unfortunately singing wasn’t one of Nate’s talents. Odd, despite
his affinity for languages he was tone deaf. That had never stopped
him from belting out a tune though -- usually at the top of his
lungs.

BOOK: Dark Star
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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