Sins of the Father
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the hero, Roman Santangelo
Sins of the Father
Silhouette Intimate Moments (SIM) #1209
Book 2 of The Warriors trilogy
2004 Dorothy Parker Award
2004 Beacon Award
2004 Colorado Award of Excellence
2004 Lories Award
Top 2 Romantic Suspense of 2003, About.com
Top Series Recommendation for March 2003
RIO, Reviewers International Organization
FBI agent Roman ‘Renegade’ Santangelo is a man bent on redemption. He has finally tracked down the love of his life, the woman he deserted 18 long years ago. He knows their bright future is impossible to recapture, but he’s determined to confront her…and beg forgiveness.
Archaeologist RaeAnne Martin is used to digging up the past. But there is no one on earth she wants to see less than Roman Santangelo — the man who was the reason she left her home, changed her name, and cut off all ties to the people she loved.
But when he roars back into her life on his beat-up Harley, looking like every woman’s bad-boy fantasy, resurrecting old secrets, unhealed hurts, and flaming passions, can she purge from her soul the memory of the only man she’s ever truly loved — and keep their heart-wrenching secrets from tearing her apart?
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At last he’d found her.
Roman Santangelo roared through Lone Pine on his Harley with just one thing on his mind.
He didn’t pay too much attention to the way the townsfolk stared at his outrageous hair and leather gear as he floored the bike and pointed it north. Having looked like an extra for the Road Warrior movies for years, Roman was used to being stared at. Even back when he was eleven, his best friend Cole had given him the nickname ‘Renegade’ because of his tough-guy outward appearance. The name had stuck through all his school years as well as the decade he’d spent in the Navy. It wasn’t until he’d joined the FBI that he’d reverted to his real name. But the image hadn’t changed. It was the reason the Bureau kept sending him out on all those sensitive, risky jobs. His ability to blend in with the bad guys.
Okay, maybe blend in was the wrong phrase. Perhaps more apt would be that he stuck out like such a sore thumb that nobody in their right mind would ever believe he was the best undercover agent the FBI had west of the Rockies. At least that was his theory.
And as for RaeAnne, well, like the old song said, she was always on his mind. Had been for the past eighteen years, ever since he’d walked out on her without a word three months before her high school graduation. So that was nothing new.
But this time was different. This time, he’d found her.
The smells of the high desert spring filled Roman’s lungs as he swept down the highway–the scent of sage baking in the bright morning sun, the rich spice of soil growing warm after the long winter rest, and the fresh tang of snowmelt flowing into the Owens River in the distance. If his stomach weren’t threatening to turn inside out from sheer nerves, he’d be enjoying this May ride up US 395.
But as it was, seeing sweet RaeAnne Sommarby’s–now RaeAnne Martin’s–distinctive signature on that Forest Service permit at the Lone Pine station, after all this time, had him breaking out in a cold sweat. Was it a coincidence? RaeAnne showing up here of all places, within sixty miles of where he grew up and the very spot his father had betrayed everything he’d always stood for? Probably not. More likely it was some kind of weird karma, or cosmic justice at work. Roman was big on justice, but usually of the more earthly variety.
He forced himself to throttle up the Harley even faster, devouring the gently curving ribbon of asphalt leading him to his own moment of judgment.
Damn, he was shaking like a leaf.
Would she recognize him? Hell, would she even remember him? Somehow, he knew she’d remember him. After what he’d done to her, what woman wouldn’t? He just prayed she had it in her to forgive him.
For that was the whole purpose of this trip. To beg her forgiveness. He’d carried the guilt for eighteen years now, and just as with the situation surrounding his father’s betrayal, he needed to get it out of his system. Closure. He needed to move on.
I’m sorry I broke your heart, he’d say to her. Sorry I ruined your graduation, and destroyed all the plans we had together. I’m sorry I made a mistake and screwed up so badly. I’m so sorry. Then he’d throw himself on her mercy, hoping for a word of forgiveness.
And if he got it, maybe, just maybe, it would give him the strength he needed to confront the next task he had to face–proving to himself that he hadn’t turned traitor to his family and his people without good reason. That he’d had no choice, justice had demanded it.
The miles flew by, and pretty soon he spotted the turn-off that would take him to RaeAnne’s small archaeological dig at Cleary Hot Springs. He pondered that bit of news as he swung off the highway and bounced onto the rocky, washboarded dirt road heading over the coral-colored hills and up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. RaeAnne an archaeologist. Now there was a surprise.
Cresting the ridge of a hill, he brought the bike to a stop and gazed up at the magnificent mountains towering above him. Stark, rugged, awe-inspiring, the snowcapped peaks scowled down at him, as though standing guard over the woman whose world he was about to invade, ready to do battle with the man who would surely bring renewed heartache to their gentle explorer.
“I swear I won’t hurt her,” he promised the silent sentinels. “All I need is ten minutes. Fifteen max. To explain and apologize. Then I’ll be gone and you can have her back again, safe and sound.”
It was absurd talking to mountains. He knew it was absurd. Though full-blooded Paiute, he wasn’t one of those mystical Native Americans who went around speaking to totems and spirits and such. He’d been brought up in the bustle and chaos of southern California, and was firmly rooted in modern reality. He was an FBI agent; it was his job to stick to the visible facts. But at that very moment, a chilly wind kicked up, soughing through the scrubby pines, lifting the ends of his long hair below his helmet, sending a shiver up his spine, and he could almost feel the mountains hunker down to watch his penance. To make sure he kept his word.
Giving himself a firm mental shake, he gunned the bike down the back side of the hill, and made the final turn, following the Forest Service guy’s directions. The last leg was just a track, barely two shallow ruts which led down into a hidden valley.
But what a valley! It was one of those magical places only California could produce, a tiny, secret paradise harbored in the nexus between lush alpine forest and the living desert. Tall pines and budding cottonwoods blended in an open tapestry with winnowing grass, fragrant sage, and colorful Indian paint brush. And there, nestled next to a gurgling creek in the midst of this peaceful Shangri-La, was RaeAnne’s ancient stone cabin.
No wonder she had picked this spot for her solitary dig. A person could easily fall in love with this place and stay forever.
Not that he had any intention of doing so. There was no room in his life right now for love, whether for a place or a woman. He had unfinished business, and this was just the first stop on his road to dealing with things that were long overdue.
Suddenly, the tranquil air around him was shattered by a loud yell in a crude male voice. Roman whipped off his helmet and snapped his head toward the sound. A series of whoops and shouts shrilled through the narrow valley, making his blood run cold.
Gunning the Harley into action, he instinctively felt for the Baretta tucked into the back of his waistband, then reached down and flicked the snap on his boot-knife’s sheath. Within seconds he was peeling around the cabin, tires spitting gravel and dust.
His heart nearly stopped at the sight that greeted him.
A half dozen angry youths were running around in a frenzy, shouting and hoisting cardboard boxes into two dilapidated trucks. A woman stood under a tree, screaming and jerking at the ropes that held her wrists, which were tied over her head to one of the tree’s low branches.
The woman was RaeAnne.