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Authors: Jenna Mills

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense

Sins of the Storm (2 page)

BOOK: Sins of the Storm
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The movement was violent. So was the hard, shuttered breath that ripped from her body. But her voice was soft, quiet. “Don’t.”

The single word stopped him. He paused with his hands inches from her body, while everything around him surged and flashed, twisted.


Then she spoke again, equally soft, equally quiet. Equally damning. “We all have choices, Jacques.” Slowly, she turned. “Isn’t that what you always said?”


She always knew she would see him again. That was just the way of it. She always knew their paths would somehow cross. No road led away forever. Eventually everything circled back to the beginning.

But she hadn’t wanted it to be here, now, this way. That’s why she’d come under the cover of night. She hadn’t wanted him to find her in Whispering Oaks. She hadn’t wanted Jacques Savoie to find her at all. She’d wanted this reunion to be by her choosing, on her terms. She’d wanted to be…ready.

But now, standing with rain-soaked clothes plastered to her body and her hands in the air, watching the slow wash of shock bleed through his eyes, she knew there was no way she could ever have been ready for this.

For him.

Her name was rough on his voice, hoarser than his drawled commands when he’d swaggered into the musty room in full cop mode. “Jesus, God…Camille.” And there in the rich brown of his eyes, it all clashed with a violence she did not remember from before—the shock and the questions and the disbelief, the horror and the possibilities. The relief.

The accusations.

And for the briefest of moments, against the play of shadows, something else, something…tender.

But it was gone before she could understand, all of it congealing into a hard glow that jammed the breath in her throat.

“What the—” he started. “Where the hell—” And then he was reaching for her, destroying the distance and the years between them, and pulling her into his arms.

She should have stepped back. She knew that. But for a moment it felt so good and right, to be there in that room, in Jack’s arms.
To hear the hard rhythm of his heart and to breathe in the scent she remembered from so long ago. He’d left Bayou d’Espere for active duty, had put his life on the line and lived through the kind of atrocities most people didn’t even want to read about. But, God help her, the scent of soap and sandal-wood still clung to him.

Maybe that’s why she stiffened. Maybe that’s why she tried to pull back. But her movement only dislodged her baseball cap, and then it was Jack pulling away. Jack lifting his hands toward her face—

Jack stepping back.

That shouldn’t have hurt. It was what she wanted. She hadn’t come back to Bayou d’Espere for him, knew there was no way to pick up where they’d left off. She’d always been like a kid sister to him—little Cami with her pigtails and freckles—long after she’d quit seeing him as a surrogate big brother.

She’d been warned. Her cousin had told her about the explosion that had ended his Air Force career and the accident that had taken his wife. But nothing she’d heard, nothing she’d imagined, had come close to preparing her for his eyes. Once, they’d dazzled. Now they—

She made her living through carefully chosen words. But here in this old bedroom, she couldn’t think of a single word to describe what she saw in Jack’s eyes. Violence. Regret.


A cop’s eyes, she rationalized. A veteran’s eyes. Even as the thoughts formed, she dismissed them. She’d seen eyes such as Jack’s before, many times, in person and in pictures. They were not the eyes of a cop, or a soldier.

“You’re real,” he muttered, and the edge to his voice cut deep. “Sweet Mary, we looked for you—”

She didn’t want to hear it. “Think we can put that down now?” She detoured him with a glance to the gun in his left hand. A Glock, she realized. Standard police issue. “I promise I’ll behave.”

She’d meant the words to be light. She’d meant the words to break the tension, toss the two of them back onto familiar territory. To make him quit looking at her as if he didn’t know whether to pull her back into his arms—or throw her in jail.

But as the silence breathed between them, she realized her mistake. Time moved forward, not backward. The familiar territory they’d enjoyed as children no longer existed.

“I know you have questions.” Everyone did. “And I’ll answer them as best as I can,” she added as a shiver ran through her. Because of the damp, she told herself. Not because of the memories, and not because as a child, she’d always believed this room, where several of her ancestors had been born—and died—felt cooler than the rest of the house. “But guns—”

Jack’s eyes met hers, and in them, at last, she saw him. Saw Jacques. Saw him tearing through a briar brush and squatting before her, saw the lightning flash as he reached for her and pulled her into his arms, held her.

She’d been twelve years old.

He’d been fifteen.

A gun,
she’d cried against his wet jacket.
God, he has a gun….

“Jack,” she whispered for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, and on his name, her voice broke.

He flipped the lock and shoved the gun into the holster around his shoulders. Then he stunned her by unfastening it and sliding it from his body, tossing it behind the crates. “No guns.”

“Thank you.” And finally, finally she could breathe.

He chose that moment to move toward her again. “Christ, Camille…” He lifted his hands to her face, but retreated without touching. “It’s really you.”

The warmth of his body invited her to step closer. Somehow, she didn’t. “It’s me.”

“We thought—”

“I know.” She’d been gone a long time. And no one knew why, whether she’d left of her own will, or been taken. Whether she’d left at all—or been killed. Whether she was hurt, whether she even cared. If she was alive.

That reality, that truth, the pain she’d caused her family, was something she’d have to live with for the rest of her life.

“Your mother—”

“I’ve been with her the past week,” she said, bypassing questions she wasn’t ready to answer. “And Saura.” At the secluded home in a neighboring parish where her mother had grown up, and her cousin still lived.

“So I’m the last to know.” The lines of his face, those wide flat classic Cajun cheekbones, tightened.

Camille closed her eyes, saw her brother. Gabriel had been a sophomore at Louisiana State University when she left. Now he was all grown up, a New Orleans Assistant District Attorney. He’d left for Costa Rica with his fiancée—a woman named Evangeline whom Camille’s mother adored—the day before Camille arrived. “Not the last.”

But that didn’t seem to mollify Jack. On a rough sound from his throat, he shoved a hand through his hair, the same pecan color as before, but thicker than she remembered, longer than he’d been wearing it the last time she’d seen him—when he’d been twenty-one and cocksure and hot to show the world that while Gator Savoie was his father, Jack was not and never would be that man’s son—and swore softly.

Mon dieu,
Cami…where the hell have you been?”

Chapter 2

t should have been an easy question. It
an easy question. Where had she been? Where had she been for the past fourteen years, while her family searched and worried? While her mama lit a candle in church every Sunday and cringed every time a call came in from out of state?

Where had she been when her cousin Saura suffered a breakdown?

When her brother Gabe’s world fell apart?

Where had she been when Jack—

She wasn’t going to answer. He could see that in the dark haze that shadowed her eyes. Blue, he knew, the kind of soft light blue some folks compared to the sky on a summer day. He couldn’t see that blue now, couldn’t see much in the shadowy room, just the way she stood tall and defiant despite the fact her back was to the wall.

“Answer me.” The words burned, but he kept his voice nice and slow and quiet, tender even. “Please.”

Backing her into a corner, making her feel trapped, would get him nowhere.

Finally she moved. She lifted a hand to slide the damp hair from her face, drawing his attention to the freckles across the bridge of her nose. “It’s not that easy.”

He didn’t even try to stop the low rumble of laughter. “With you, nothing is.”

Her smile was slow and wide and sure, and with it, the years fell away, and he could see her again, see little Cami as she’d been before. Before she’d seen her father die. Before folks started calling her Crazy Cami.

Before she’d started throwing dragons in his path to see if he could slay them. “You shouldn’t be here.”

She didn’t flinch, just kept watching him through those secret-drenched eyes. “I’m kind of getting that feeling.”

“Damn it, Camille—”

“No.” She stepped toward him, closing the distance he’d put between them. “I didn’t expect open arms, Jack, not after all this time. But I didn’t expect this, either,” she said, glancing from him to the holster he’d tossed to the ground. “A gun?” She looked back at him. “A silent alarm?”

This is Camille,
he kept telling himself. Cami. But instincts wouldn’t let him relax. Every time he asked a question, she countered with one of her own.

“You’ve been gone a long time,” he said. “A lot has changed.” Things she may have seen, like the bridge washed out beyond town and the massive number of trees that had perished due to saltwater incursion, the new townhome development in the shadow of the abandoned sugar factory. But there were other changes, as well.

“Did you ever stop to think maybe that’s why I’m here?”

“Then you need to turn right around and leave.” The words were harsh, but out of respect for what they’d once shared, who she’d once been, he kept his voice quiet. “Because no matter what you think you know,” he added, and this time he broke his cardinal rule. He reached for her, and touched, connected. “You shouldn’t be here.”
Not now.
With the past bubbling up. The scum who called himself a writer would want to interview Camille for his exposé.

And the man she’d tried to incriminate all those years ago would do everything in his power to make sure that never happened.

“Jack…” she whispered, with a quick glance at his hands on her arms. Then she lifted her eyes. “You almost sound scared.”

It was a hell of a time for her to start making sense. She’d been gone, but he had not. He’d been here when her brother had nearly been killed. He’d been here when the man responsible had strolled from the courthouse, as though he owned the goddamned world. “Marcel Lambert—”

“Finally made a mistake, yes, I know,” she said, and her eyes took on a hard glow. “He went after Gabe. He confessed, told him everything.”

The truth about a legend that had haunted her family for decades, an unholy alliance to locate a religious relic that had vanished during the Civil War, lies and betrayals and deceptions, the shards of glass found on the floor of her father’s study—and the bullet that had ended his life.

“And then he claimed entrapment,” she added with a core of steel the eighteen-year-old had not possessed. “And now he’s living like a prince while his lawyers introduce one stall tactic after another.”

While the media continued to harass her brother, speculating how far he would go for revenge. That’s why Gabe had taken his fiancée to Costa Rica, to get her away from the reporters who dogged them everywhere.

“But here you are,” Jack muttered. “After all this time. Do you have any idea what Lambert will do when he finds out—”

“I’m not scared of him.”

“He killed your father.”

“And destroyed yours,” she added.

But Jack ignored her comment. Because he finally realized the cat-and-mouse game they’d been playing. The timing of her return was not coincidental. “You’re here for the trial.”

“I’m here for me, Jack. I’m here because it’s time.”

They were foolish words, and they scraped. “Time for what?”

“To get my life back.”

She made it sound so damned simple.

“I need to know what’s going on,” she said, hugging her arms around her body and drawing his attention to the knit top clinging to her chest. She was still wet, and the room was cold. “Why the gun? Why the silent alarm? It’s been a long time since anyone has given a damn what happened at Whispering Oaks.”

“Like I said,
a lot has changed.”

“Of course it has,” she conceded, watching him, almost assessing. “But that’s not an answer. What’s going on? Who did you expect to find here?”

If he knew the answer to that…“Go back to your mama’s,” he said with an insolence that brought an immediate burn to her eyes. “Let her give you some of that gumbo you always liked…give you the welcome you want.”

That he couldn’t.

For a long moment Camille said nothing, just watched him as if she could sear a hole right through him. Then she released a slow breath and damn near crucified him with her eyes.

“Bayou d’Espere isn’t the only thing that’s changed.”

And then she was gone, turning and walking away, again, leaving only the sound of her footsteps against the old wood floor, and the lingering, damning scent of lavender.


She’d forgotten.

No longer concerned with concealing her presence, Camille ignored the protest of the front door and stepped into the sauna of a Louisiana almost-summer night. The rain had stopped, but the air remained damp and thick, heavy. Thunder rumbled off to the east.

And while she should have slammed the door behind her, she left it hanging open and walked into the night.

She’d forgotten. So much. The sights and smells and feel, the taste. Survival, she supposed. The edges had to dull. If you remembered how much you loved, moving on was impossible.

But it all rushed back now, much as it had the moment she’d stepped off the plane. In some ways San Francisco had reminded her of New Orleans. Both towns had a charming mix of old and new. But while rain fell in San Francisco, sometimes a lot, lightning rarely streaked across the sky and thunder almost never rattled the windows.

It was an odd thing to miss.

It was an even odder thing to forget.

But she had. She’d missed going to sleep while the world around her rocked and rolled; so she’d forced herself to forget. Now she crossed the veranda, stunned that ferns still grew in the planters she’d tended as a child, and took the steps to the clover-covered walkway. Without even looking around, she knew Jack did not follow.

He hadn’t before, and he wouldn’t now.

He wanted her gone. That thought should not have stung. Fourteen years was a long time; she knew that, had told herself that from the start. But as she’d turned and found him standing in the shadows, with his hair thick and wavy, the cowlick she hadn’t seen in years keeping the bangs from his forehead, something inside her had shifted.

Stormy nights were not the only thing she’d forced herself to forget.

Lifting her face to the drops of water falling from the branches, Camille closed her eyes.

No, she hadn’t forgotten Jack. That would have been like forgetting how to breathe. But she had forgotten what it was like to be near him, what it felt like when her eyes met his—when his hand touched her body.

She’d forgotten—because she’d had to.

But now she remembered, and now she opened her eyes and headed for her rental car. It would be impossible to forget again, but she was older now, wiser, and she would not let Jacques Savoie deny her the closure she’d come home to find.

Rounding the corner, she turned toward the tangle of bougainvillea and wild rose that concealed her rental. As kids—

She had her hand on the front door when the shadow in the backseat shifted to reveal a man. And for a frozen moment, neither of them moved. Bushes prevented the far doors from opening—there was only one way into the sedan, and one way out.

And they both knew it.

“Back away,” came a rough voice from inside the car. “Be a good girlie and nobody gets hurt.”

Camille didn’t move. Wasn’t sure she could. Narrowing her eyes, she stared through the darkness and saw her briefcase in the man’s hands. “Put it down.” Her laptop was inside. “Now.”

“No can do,” the man said, lunging toward the back door and shoving it open.

Maybe she should have run. Maybe she should have screamed. But Camille had run before, and it had cost her.

Shoving aside the scared girl she’d once been, the woman she’d become surged after the man—and her computer.


The single word ripped through the blur of motion, but the disheveled man twisted, using momentum to send Camille staggering into the bushes. She scrambled to her feet, but before she could give chase Jack emerged from the darkness at a dead run.

“Hold it right there!” he shouted, but the gangly man vanished into the woods. Then Jack was there, tall and hard-eyed, crouching beside her. “Camille.”

Upstairs, the years separating them had gaped like a horrible chasm. But now all that fell away and for a moment he was just Jack, and she was just Cami, and he was here, on his knees and reaching for her.

“Sweet God.” The rasp slipped through her like a dangerous drug. “Are you all right?”

No. She wasn’t all right, couldn’t be all right, not when the dark light glowed in his eyes.

“He’s getting away!” she forced herself to say, taking his hand from her body as she did, and refusing to feel the warmth. “He’s getting away…”

Jack didn’t move, wouldn’t let her stand, no matter how hard she tried. He kept holding her, kept his hands on her arms—his eyes, shuttered and alarmed on hers. And for a dangerous moment it all flashed, all those years between them, the lies and the secrets and the hurts, and she was twelve years old again—and the blood was still on her clothes.

“Did he hurt you? Are you—”

“I’m fine!” Or at least she would be—as soon as he quit touching her. “But he’s getting away!” With her computer.

The lines of Jack’s face tightened, and the disjointed moment crumbled. “Get in the car and lock the doors.” Then he took off toward the woods.

Camille didn’t move. There was no reason to get in the car and lock the doors. The man wouldn’t be back. She’d been warned, after all. Quite explicitly. If she returned to Bayou d’Espere—

The memory sliced through the stillness, and for a moment she was in San Francisco again, sitting on her sofa, a chai latte on the small table. The letter had looked benign enough, not all that different from others she received, except there’d been no return address. The envelope had been plain and simple and white, the address typed. The stamp that of a flag.

Inside, the single sheet of paper had stopped her breath.

The unknown sender wanted to stop a whole lot more.

She made no move to return to her car, no move to step away from the rain dripping from the canopy of oak. And as a shiver whispered through her, she made no move to warm herself.

The threats were nothing new. She’d been receiving them for years. But always before she’d been able to separate herself from them.

This time that was impossible. It was
father who’d been killed. It was she who’d sat crouched in the corner of his office—she who’d heard everything.

Seen everything.

She alone who had the power to make sure her father’s murderer no longer walked free.

Somewhere nearby, the toads made their presence known. And the crickets—the cicadas. Night sounds, so very different from the horns and sirens she’d grown accustomed to hearing from her condo by the bay.

And when the warm, salty moisture welled in her eyes, she did not blink it away.


He found her where he left her. She stood in front of an overgrown climbing rose, a big tangled mass of branches and leaves and thorns, pulled down by showy peach blooms.

The sight should have brought warmth. The sight should have made him quicken his step, reach for her and crush her in his arms. She was here. Cami was. She was alive. She was back.

But as he drank in the blond hair, the damp clothes, his chest tightened.

“Did you catch up with him?” she asked, and with the storm to the east, the sky had cleared enough to reveal the glow in her eyes. “Did you—”

“Get back what he took from you?” Jack kept his voice nice and slow, despite the hard roar inside of him. If he’d stayed upstairs thirty seconds longer—“No.”

He closed in on her, kept right on walking until he was close enough to touch. “You mind telling me what the hell that was all about?”

“I found him in the backseat—”

“I got that part,
but what I want to know is why.” Why she was back, after all this time—and why she was lying.

The wince was subtle, but he saw it, even as she tried to pull back. “Why did you hide your car?” That was question one, and even though he gave it voice, he already knew the answer.

She may have come home, but Gabriel’s wild child sister was still hiding.

“Why did someone break in?” The sedan was a rental; there was no reason to suspect anything of value inside. Unless someone knew the car was hers—and what she was hiding.

BOOK: Sins of the Storm
11.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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