Today Cheryl will be giving away a e-copy of her story A Heart for a Heart to one person who leaves a comment on this blog. Be sure and put your contact information if you want a chance to win.
Kiera Leslie is all set to welcome Cory Tiger into her home as a foster child. Orphaned and with a learning disability, Cory is looking forward to living with his tutor. Until his uncle shows up...
Sam Tiger returns from military duty to find his deceased brother's son being taken in by a stranger. The boy needs his family and Sam is it. He never expects the tutor to stand up to him and want to keep Cory. Then the worst happens—he finds himself attracted to Kiera.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and Cupid’s got deadly aim!
“Let's try it again, Cory.” Kiera Leslie pushed her hair back and straightened her shoulders. Nothing was more uncomfortable than these elementary school plastic chairs. They'd been working on the spelling words for the past twenty-five minutes, over half of their tutoring time gone for the day. “Look them over one more time.”
“Yes, Miss Kiera,” Cory murmured, dutifully bending to his task again.
The ten-year-old looked up at her with eyes as black as coal. His expression gave away nothing.
“Is...everything all right at the Landrums'?”
“I guess.” He scuffed his feet together under the table. “When can I come live with you, though?”
Kiera smiled. “Tomorrow, sweetie.” She put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I know it's been a very hard month for you—losing your parents and having to go into foster care.” He nodded, and she sensed his hesitancy.
“I don't like Mr. Landrum. He says things—” Cory broke off.
“Like what?” Kiera figured she had a pretty good idea, and when Cory didn't answer, she knew she'd been right. “About you being Indian?” Cory nodded, and lowered his head.
Anger shot through her, and she steadied herself before she went on. “What does he say, Cory?”
“He calls me “Chief” and he says stupid stuff in front of people. The other day, one of the neighbors came over and Mr. Landrum tried to make me dance. I told him no, and he said I had to—to dance, or I couldn't have supper.”
“I'm not lyin' Miss Kiera. I promise.”
“I know, honey,” she reassured him. “What happened next?”
Cory raised his head and looked at her directly. “I wouldn't do it. So I didn't get any supper. Mrs. Landrum came in later on and gave me a couple of cookies and a glass of milk.”
“It didn't matter.” He shrugged. “And I've just got one more night—”
One more night in hell. Kiera's lips pressed together, her mind tumbling. If she called the case worker, maybe...
“Miss Kiera, when I come to stay with you, could we order pizza sometimes? The Landrums don't believe in pizza.”
Kiera smiled. “We'll have it tomorrow night, to celebrate.” Kiera had pulled some strings to get the courts to allow Cory to be placed in her home. She'd just completed her training and background check two weeks earlier, and a friend who worked for the Department of Human Services had arranged Cory's permanent placement with her, even though she was single. The system had need of good homes, and that didn't necessarily mean two-parent homes any more, with so many of them disappearing nowadays. Kiera had passed with flying colors, and she was looking forward to welcoming Cory Tiger into her life.
She'd been Cory's tutor for the past three years, ever since the middle of second grade. Somehow, despite all the problems he'd faced, he'd managed to pass. Since she'd become his tutor, Kiera had come to know Cory and he'd opened up to her after the first few weeks they'd met.
As time went by, Kiera could see that Cory was struggling to beat the odds stacked against him. An alcoholic mother, a drugged-out father, a baby sister who had already been given to distant relatives to raise, and on top of everything, a mild form of dyslexia.
Kiera had already begun the foster care training program, and nearly had it completed when Cory's parents were killed in a car wreck. The Landrum household was a stopgap measure until Cory could be placed somewhere permanently. Tomorrow, she hoped with everything in her, that transition would happen smoothly.
“I'm ready,” Cory muttered under his breath.
Kiera's throat tightened at the worried doubt in Cory's voice. He'd been through so much—it had to all work out, for his sake. She patted his arm. “It's going to be fine, Cory.” She gave him a reassuring smile. “You'll see.”
He nodded, still looking uncertain as he turned back to study his spelling words before they went over them again.
Kiera glanced toward the door of the library, catching a glimpse of movement. A tall serviceman stood just inside the doorway in camo pants, a nondescript gray t-shirt and combat boots. His skin was a shade darker than Cory's, but when he met her eyes, she knew there could be no doubt that he and the boy were related.
Her heart jumped. He looked at her without smiling, then started toward the table where she and Cory sat.
Cory looked up, startled at first, then a joyous smile lit his face. “Uncle Sam!” He pushed the chair back quickly and stood, just as the man reached him, engulfing him in a hug.
“Cory!” He went down to his haunches after a moment, looking at Cory, his hands rubbing Cory's arms and shoulders. “Look at you!”
“I'm ten now!”
Sam laughed and came to his feet, ruffling Cory's dark hair. “I know.”
Handsome. My God, the man was handsome. With eyes as penetrating and knowing as if he carried the wisdom of the ages, short cropped black hair, and an easy, killer smile.