Sworn to Protect. Kimberly Van Meter
“It wasn’t your fault.
“Whoever did this is scum,” Sundance insisted. “Help me catch him before he hurts someone else.”
“I don’t remember,” Iris whispered, shaking her head in a pathetic, scared little rabbit motion that tore at his heart. “I don’t think I want to remember. What if he’s someone I know? What if he’s watching me all the time, waiting to do it again?”
“That’s not going to happen,” he said, fighting to keep the growl from his voice. “We’re going to catch him.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know that I won’t stop until I do.”
Seeing her so broken, so torn apart mentally, awakened a grizzly bear of rage that made him want to go on a rampage. But he couldn’t do that, not when he needed to keep a calm head in order to catch whoever did this.
“He’s out there. Every time I close my eyes he’s there, watching me. Waiting.”
“I’m here.” No one was going to touch her. He’d make sure of it. He felt pressure against his bicep as she tentatively laid her head against him. “No one is going to touch you.”
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Some stories are difficult to write, but the characters burst from your imagination and demand every resource you’ve got because their story is so important. This is what happened with Iris and Sundance. Set on an Indian reservation in Washington State, this story called to my natural Native American heritage. The research was daunting at times, but the end result was wholly gratifying. I hope Iris’s courage and Sundance’s strength buoy you during their tumultuous and, at times, dark journey toward love.
This is the first in my Native Country series. Next up, Mya Jonson and Angelo Tucker, another couple who had an important story to tell and one likely to tug at your heart.
Hearing from readers is a special joy. Please feel free to drop me a line via email through my website at www.kimberlyvanmeter.com or through snail mail at Kimberly Van Meter, P.O. BOX 2210, Oakdale, CA 95361.
Kimberly Van Meter
Sworn to Protect
Kimberly Van Meter
KIMBERLY VAN METER
wrote her first book at sixteen and finally achieved publication in December 2006. She writes for Harlequin Superromance and Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
She and her husband of seventeen years have three children, three cats and always a houseful of friends, family and fun.
There’s a special pride felt by those who share Native
blood. This is dedicated to the scores of people who
honor their Native American ancestry by refusing to
forget who they are and where they come from.
To my great grandmother Ella “Tootsie” Rhoan for
trying to teach me our Native language when I was
young and for coming to my fourth grade class to
show us how to make acorn meal. I was too young to
appreciate what a gift you were giving.
A parade of pain marched across Iris Beaudoin’s body as she slowly opened her eyes and squinted against the harsh white light. Her best friend, Dr. Mya Jonson, was staring down at her, an expression of fear and worry warring with her need to fix what had been broken.
“Wh-ere am I?” she managed to croak. Her clothes were gone and she was wearing a hospital gown, which meant she was at the urgent care facility, Healthy Living, where she worked with Mya. “M-Mya? What happened?”
“I don’t know, honey, but you were found alongside the road before the Pititchu Bridge. You’ve been beaten pretty bad,” Mya answered, gingerly clutching Iris’s hand. “Do you remember anything?”
Iris swallowed and closed her eyes against the pain radiating from every pore of her body. “Hurts,” she whispered. “I can’t think…”
“Okay, honey, don’t worry. We’re going to get you fixed up and then we’re going to find out who did this to you.”
Iris nodded in a faint movement but even that small action cost her. Mya rubbed her hand and gave it a light squeeze, then said, “I have to do an SAE,” she said, her voice breaking.
SAE…Iris was a nurse and she knew what that meant. Sexual Assault Exam. A tear leaked down her cheek and she nodded again. “Okay,” she whispered.
“I’m so sorry, but we have to know,” Mya said. “I’ll make it quick. I promise.”
Iris squeezed her eyes shut and allowed her knees to part even as she fought the shuddering cries that felt trapped in her chest. Someone had assaulted her, that much was apparent, but her brain was fuzzy in the details.
She remembered…being at the bar…dancing…karaoke…and then nothing.
Iris winced as Mya swabbed her insides, quickly, efficiently, yet still Iris wanted to scream at the violation.
Finished, Mya packaged the wet mount for DNA testing and then made quick work of the pelvic exam. Iris was thankful for her friend’s sensitivity but she was nearing hysteria. The blank spots in her memory were frightening her as much as the realization that someone had done this to her.
“We had to take your clothes for evidence,” Mya said in apology. “But I don’t think you’re going to want them back anyway, honey, because they’re pretty messed up.”
“S’ok,” she mumbled, knowing her clothes were the least of her problems at the moment. She watched her best friend fight for composure and waited for Mya to tell her. But she was stalling, bringing a blanket to lay it over her, fussing over her comfort when nothing would’ve made a difference.
She met her friend’s brokenhearted eyes. “The SAE…it showed I was raped.” It was a statement, not a question, and the realization sank into her slowly awakening consciousness like a brick to the bottom of a lake. She’d been raped.
Mya drew a halting breath as she jerked a nod. “There