The Hero (Page 5)

Author: Robyn Carr

“Fine, then. You really don’t fit anymore. You hold yourself slightly above the rest of us, as if you’re better.”

Shocked and hurt, she’d blurted, “You’re the only one here who holds yourself above the rest of us!”

And he’d slapped her. He glared at her and was so angry. When she’d first come to this family, he was so gentle, so tolerant. But lately he’d become so short-tempered and his controlling nature was skyrocketing. “I think as the man who founded this Fellowship and works every day to hold it together and protect it, I can be afforded some respect!”

It was a black day that burned in her memory. That had been a year before she’d finally left.

She read on about Jacob. Investigated and interviewed for allegations of kidnapping and human trafficking.

She thought she knew what human trafficking was, but looked it up just the same. The recruitment of human beings by means of kidnapping, coercion or purchase for the purpose of exploitation, usually for labor or commercial sex trade....

And she knew. She just had never thought of women over twenty-one who went willingly being the victims of human trafficking—she’d always assumed underage prostitutes or child laborers in dingy, dangerous factories were the kinds of people who would be the victims of human trafficking.

Jacob had picked her up outside a shelter in Seattle, Washington. He’d invested an hour in conversation with her learning that she was alone, that she longed for a family and was needy, afraid and desperate. She also fit his profile of wanting fair-skinned and blue-eyed members for his group. He treated them all so sweetly and provided a shelter that was clean and had plentiful food. She was introduced to a few other women who’d joined the group for the same reason she had. They all worked hard to sustain it and to make it a success. Then they were all stripped of their identities—driver’s licenses, social security cards and other personal effects stored away...or perhaps destroyed.

And they all loved him. At one time, even Devon had had a deep love for him, or perhaps it was gratitude. Sometimes some of them joked behind his back in whispers: He’s penning a new bible, you know.

Devon remembered Laine’s words to her. Tell if you have to, Laine had said. Tell about the gardens.

While it was never discussed openly, they all knew that Jacob and the family financed their plentiful compound by their special gardens. No matter how well their organic gardens produced, the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables was not enough to generate the kind of income needed to keep The Fellowship going. There were a couple of gardens that were kept concealed in a couple of warehouses. They used grow lights run on generators, going twenty-four hours a day and tended by only a few men. Devon had been a member of The Fellowship for a couple of years before she knew about their special cash crop—it was marijuana.

Jacob explained it to her by saying, “We are only growing medicinal herbs that the government wants to regulate. If they find out what we are doing they’ll take it all away. Strip us of everything. But it’s harmless and helpful and some states have even passed laws making it legal, which this state will eventually do, as well. Then, they’ll try to tax it to the moon. We have to grow our herbs in secret. The government would love to steal from us, which is not their right.”

Brother Jacob was a drug dealer. His cult, his Fellowship, was a cover. That’s why he kept the members close by, and why he had children with them knowing that would keep them tied to him.

Although there was nothing in her research to indicate he was being investigated for running and operating a grow-op, Devon knew the feds must be getting closer. It would explain his behavior—Jacob was now paranoid.


Lieutenant Commander Sarah Dupre hadn’t worn her diamond engagement ring to work when she’d first gotten it. Rings on the flight line were a good way to lose a finger, for one thing. As well, she didn’t want any of her coworkers figuring her out, for another. But the day her deadline for accepting or rejecting the orders that would ship her to a Florida Coast Guard Station expired, she wore the beautiful ring to work. She had written the two letters—one, rejecting the assignment and two, resigning her commission and leaving the Coast Guard.

Her boss, Commander Buzz Bachman, accepted the letters for his files, though Sarah would send both to the command HR department herself.

“Gonna do it, huh?” he said. “I can’t say I’m all that surprised. But what’s next for you?”

And that’s when she thrust out her left hand, diamond glittering on the fourth finger.

“Whoa!” he said. “Throwing us over for a man? You?”

“Don’t say it like that,” she warned him. “It’s not like it was a rash or quick decision. And I think he’s a pretty good bet.”

“Well, hell, I like Cooper all right, but what are you gonna do?”

She grinned at him and shook her head. “As soon as the Coast Guard approves my separation, I’m going to take a vacation. At least through footfall season. And until we get Landon settled on a college.”

“When’s the wedding?” Buzz asked.

“We haven’t decided....”

“Big bash?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said with a laugh. “I had a big bash when I married Derek, and that didn’t take. I think it’ll be small, quiet and private. But we’re still talking about it.”

“Are you saying I shouldn’t stand by the mailbox, waiting for my invitation?”

“Nothing personal...”

“Well, the boys are going to want to give you a bachelor party.”

She glanced down at herself. “I know it’s not immediately apparent in this flight suit, but I’m actually a girl.”

Buzz grinned at her. “That hasn’t stopped us in the past. Now get out of here. Go tell lover-boy you put your papers in.”

“That’s my exact plan,” she said.

Sarah drove past the turnoff to the town of Thunder Point and her house and drove the long way to Cooper’s bar on the other side of the beach, parking in the rear. When she walked in, he was moving the mop around the floor, something that needed to be done frequently, given all the sand that came in on the feet of friends and customers. He stopped abruptly and just smiled at her.

“I don’t see this every day,” he said. He leaned the mop against the wall and grabbed her against him. He gave her a hearty kiss, holding her tightly. He shook his head and smiled. “I flew helicopters for a living for fifteen years and you’re the only pilot I ever wanted to peel a flight suit off of.”

“I did it, Cooper,” she said. “You better not change your mind. I put in my papers.”

His grin deepened. “Well, now. You do realize there’s no exit date on the next deal you sign up for. Right?”

“You better not get sick of me, Cooper.”

“Let me at least try,” he said, going after her lips again.

A noise behind them didn’t do anything to disrupt their very passionate kiss. Then seventeen-year-old Landon said, “Let’s remember the rules, folks. Safety first. I hope we don’t have to have another one of those talks.”

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh against Cooper’s lips—Landon was echoing her constant reminder. Landon, big, strong, beautiful and in a serious relationship with a wonderful seventeen-year-old girl who happened to be the town deputy’s daughter, could easily be considered high-risk by his older sister. And of course Landon constantly chided her for her mothering. “Is he too big to spank?” she asked against Cooper’s lips.

“ you,” Cooper said softly.

Again she laughed, leaning her forehead against Cooper’s shoulder. “At this moment, I am obscenely happy. Please don’t screw this up or dump me or cheat on me or divorce me.”

“All right,” he said, letting go of her. He turned her toward her brother.

“Rule number two,” Landon lectured, mimicking her again. “Discretion. We don’t want to embarrass people with our PDA.”

“We were alone, actually,” she said. “So, how about giving me a beer? I won’t turn you in for serving me. I’m celebrating. I did it—I put in my papers. I’m getting out.”

“Holy shit, are you kidding me? I didn’t think you’d do it!”

“You didn’t? I told you I was going to do it.”

“Yeah, but you like being the boss of things.” He pulled a bottle of beer out of the cooler and popped the top. He handed it to his sister. “Cooper, we are in trouble here. We should plan a strategy.”

“Take care of yourself, kid. I like it when she bosses me around.”

“You are so whipped. What are the rest of us men gonna think, you letting a woman get the upper hand like this? You should be ashamed.”

Cooper grabbed his mop. “I guess Eve would never get away with that, huh?” he said, mopping.

“That’s different,” Landon said with a big smile. “Eve is so not my sister. And when Eve is happy, I’m happy.”

“There you go,” Cooper said.

Rawley came into the bar with a rack of glasses, silently sliding them under the bar.

“Hey, Rawley, how’s it going?” Sarah asked. “Your cousin still around?”

Rawley stopped short as if he had to think about that. “Huh? Oh. Yeah. Still at my house.”

“Not crowding you, huh?” Sarah asked. “Been a couple of weeks now, hasn’t it?”

“I dunno. Maybe ten days or so,” he said. “She don’t bother me none. Kinda nice, to tell the truth. Remember, I had my dad full-time for years—a young woman and little child don’t take half the care my dad did. She helps out around the place. I haven’t done a load of dirty clothes since she’s been here. Besides, she doesn’t know where she wants to go yet. She said she likes it around here. Well, she likes Elmore, anyway.”

“Where’s she from, again?”

“Seattle. But I don’t think she wants to go back there. Bad memories, I gather. She’s been talking about getting work. Hard deal when you have a kid. And there ain’t nothin’ in Elmore.”

“What kind of work?”

And suddenly Rawley seemed to light up. Shine. “She can do all kinda things. Cooking, cleaning, office work, you name it. She got herself some college degree right before she got in a relationship that didn’t work out. She studied education. She was gonna be a teacher for the real little kids, or something like that. I guess that’s what makes her such a good mom. She’s a fine mother. That little Mercy—she’s something. Real smart, real nosy.”

“Well, Rawley, I think you like having them around,” Sarah said.

Rawley shrugged. “It’s okay. I never thought I’d know what it felt like to be a grandpa.” He shrugged again. “I don’t hate it.” Then he turned and went back into the kitchen.

Sarah, Landon and Cooper exchanged smiles.

Rawley brought a second rack of clean glasses into the bar and Sarah said, “So—has your cousin looked for work around Thunder Point?”

“Not that I know about. You got something?”

“No. But Saturday is Dr. Grant’s open house for his new clinic. You should bring her. It’s not exactly a job fair, but everyone in town will be there. She could talk to people. Find out if anyone knows of any jobs or any child care or babysitting. In fact, maybe someone needs child care or babysitting. Wouldn’t that be convenient?”

Rawley thought about that for a minute. Then he said, “I’ll tell her. But I’m not much for parties or a lot of people.”

“Tell her, I’d be glad to take her,” Sarah offered. “I wouldn’t miss it.”