“I really burned her, didn’t I?” James said, breaking the silence.

“Yes, but that wasn’t the whole reason, James. I told her she needed to tell you why she wouldn’t leave the rez six years ago if the thieves weren’t quickly caught. Let me know if she doesn’t, because there is definitely more to it than your leaving.” Starla smiled with what appeared to be genuine caring. Appeared to be that is. James was not fooled though; he had seen the look in her eyes when she had glanced at Tiana.

“I’d rather she told me herself because she wants to, Starla. It isn’t going to mean much coming from you if she doesn’t want me to know.”

James watched Starla. “Why are you in such a hurry to tell me Tiana’s secret anyway? You’re Tiana’s best friend. You should be the one she can count on to keep her secrets.”

Starla shrugged. “Maybe I just don’t agree with her not telling you the secret six years ago. Maybe I think it’s about time you knew what the secret was, and if she isn’t going to tell you, then I think someone should.” Starla stepped close to James, nearly rubbing up against him. “How about I make dinner for us some night soon and you come over? That way we can discuss the case.” Starla paused.
“Maybe I’ll tell you the secret then too.”

James stared at Starla. “I might be able to arrange for the time to do that.” He said finally, a feeling of uneasiness sweeping over him.

“Great! Well, call me if you decide you want to,” Starla said, smiling like the Cheshire cat as she walked out the door.

Why was she trying so hard with him? Could she be involved with the thefts? Could Tiana and those around her be in danger? he wondered.

Feeling some discomfort at the thought that Tiana might be in danger, he climbed into his truck and headed down the mountain, following Tiana to Levina’s. At one time he would have been welcomed in Levina’s home, and he wondered if would it still be true.

There were deep ruts in the road where Tiana had hit the gas and spewed mud and gravel. There were never any half-measures with her—it was all or nothing. Now that he had been out in the real world, he saw that in this fundamental way she had the right of it six years ago. He should never have let her go. If she had been given care of a sacred object or any other type of ceremonial item about then as he now suspected, they could have worked something out. God! He had been so ignorant of human emotions at twenty-three. Looking back on it now, James knew he had made some incredible mistakes.

He sighed. The important thing now was that he was back and he knew he wanted her in his life again. The problem was convincing Tiana she wanted him back in her life. The palms of his hands slipped a bit on the steering wheel. He was nervous. It was not going to be easy, and given her reaction so far, he doubted it was going to get any easier.