~ Incommunicado ~

© 2002 by J. P. Mercer & Nancy M. Hill

E-mail: azbardandpoet@yahoo.com

For disclaimers see Part 1.

Chapter 6

Merciless heat knifed at the exposed flesh of her hands. She had no sense of direction. There was no up, no down. Precariously, she dangled above leaping flames that snaked upward, raking her face with fiery claws and lashing her body in flaming ropes. Thrashing at the stinging fingers that were drawing her into the vortex of molten lava, she saw a face. There, in the glowing center of the untouchable, white-hot river was…was Cara! Not Sam, but Cara! The face, the voice kept changing. But not the desperate eyes, pleading eyes. The mantra-like voice tortured her, accusing, demanding why. I trusted you, help me-please help me. Jake hysterically battled the flames, striving to embrace the voice. But the image was illusive, always just beyond her grasp. Screaming. It was her voice! Her heart was racing, pounding out of her chest, she was running now. Burning shreds of flesh evaporated into the inferno as the voice penetrated the darkness, the smoke, the flames, inexorably summoning her. Hot winds of fear sucked air from her lungs as she crawled toward the voice. Behind her in the distance, she heard Matt!

"Jake open up, open up. Jake, it's Matt!" he yelled, pounding on the door. "Let me in."

Jake awoke, still dazed. She couldn't remember how she had gotten home or why her clothes were damp. The realization hit her all at once; she moaned, clutching the pillow to her face. "Oh God, Cara." She sat up and pulled her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth, trying not to remember.

Matt's lean, strong-boned face peered into the kitchen through the window. Seeing no movement, he loped around the side of the house to the veranda off Jake's bedroom. The door was unlocked, and he stepped into the room. Jake looked up, but her empty eyes stared past him, seemingly unaware of his presence. When Matt sat beside her and touched her lightly on the shoulder, she turned lifelessly toward him. For a long, slow moment he said nothing at all, and when he did speak, his voice was soft and low.

"It wasn't your fault, Jake. You know how the washes flood. You…"

"Don't you dare try to blame this just on the weather and how unpredictable the washes are!" she lashed out. "I knew better. I should never have had her out there in the first place."

The unexpectedness of Jake's belligerent tone took him off guard. Matt stood and walked to the window, watching the gathering clouds in the slate-grey sky as the winds whipped dust upward in spirals. There was something comforting about the summer storms here, even in their brutality. "So are you just gonna hole up in this house and die all over again because you couldn't control the situation?"

"Why not." Jake said coldly.

Refusing to let Jake wallow in self-pity and misplaced guilt, he took an equally hard tone with her.

"Come on, Jake, snap out of it. It was not your fault, you here me. Jesus Christ, woman, this is a hard land and you know these things can and do happen. Cara was there because she wanted to be there. You did not cause this. And are you forgetting that if you hadn't been out there, that entire family would have been swept away."

The over wrought doctor struggled to regain composure. In a parched voice she asked, "How are they, Matt? Is everyone okay?" Her lifeless eyes suddenly were full of fear. "Soul, where is Soul!"

"Calm down, they're all okay and being treated at the hospital for dehydration. The young boy seems traumatized. He just clings to his dad, but they are all doing fine. Soul's in the corral now. I wanted to make sure you got home all right last night so I followed you out. I brought her home and put her in the barn so she'd be out of the rain and here when you got up."

Pulling her up off the bed, Matt observed, "You look a mess. Go shower and change. I'll put on some coffee."

Jake wiped her eyes on her sleeve and headed toward the bathroom. She stopped, turning to face Matt, her face dirty and tear-stained. "Thank you for being such a good friend."

Matt saw only the beautiful, sad eyes of the woman he had loved for as long as he could remember. He walked over and put his arms around her, holding her gently and resting his chin on her head. "I love you, Jake."

Allowing herself only a moment of comfort in Matt's arms, she pulled away. "I know, Matt. I know."

Sipping his coffee, Matt sat in the front porch rocker with his boots hooked over the railing. He heard the rattle of cups and coffeepot from the kitchen and knew Jake had finished her shower. When she joined him outside, he glanced quickly in her direction. She had dressed in jeans, boots, and a chambray shirt. Her hair, still damp, hung loosely about her shoulders. A curious emptiness filled his stomach. He was in love with Jake. She was all he wanted. All he could ever want. Yet he sat quietly helpless, unable to soothe her agony, and watched her gaze sadly out over the rolling green hills and the Santa Rita Mountains in the distance.

Jake had always felt the power of the incredible beauty that surrounded her. The tranquility and healing powers of the Sonoran Desert were the main reasons she transferred home to the Nogales/Tucson sector. This land and its mystic effect had helped heal her tormented soul and with time, an acceptable peace had infused her heart. But today, all that was gone. The harmony and quietude did nothing to diminish the ache in her heart. Wracked with sorrow, she felt helpless as old wounds opened to expose painful memories. Feeling queasy from the coffee, Jake set her cup down, picked up a leather strap from the table, and tied her hair back.

"I want to go up in the chopper. Will you call Eduardo and have him pick me up here?"

"Whoa! Jake, you're exhausted. You don't need to be out there today. The rescue teams and BP are out in full force." The minute the words were out, he knew it was the wrong thing to say.

Jake turned to face Matt, the determination written on her face. "I will see this through, and I will go up today. And if you won't call Eduardo, I will," she said resolutely. Matt seemed about to speak, but his cell phone interrupted the mounting confrontation. Jake walked to the door with quick, purposeful steps to get her phone.

"Hold up, Jake."

She turned her grave and quiet eyes to stare at Matt as he held the phone to his ear, but the look on his face caused her to step forward.

"What is it, Matt?" A cold shiver ran through Jake's body, and her face paled. "Have they found them?"

"We'll be right there, Eduardo." A slow, crooked grin spread upward from the corners of Matt's mouth. He rubbed his chin as he watched Jake's eyes fill with startled comprehension.

"Yep, they found her, or rather she found THEM. She just walked into the Ranger Station out on Ruby Road, looking pretty banged up, leading a limping horse. Hustle it up lady, she might be needing a doctor."

Eduardo relayed the message back to Ranger Station. "Matt and Jake are on the way over, Karl. You sure she doesn't want us to transport her to Tucson Medical Center to be checked out?"

Karl glanced out the window as he spoke. "We suggested it, Ed, downright insisted on it. But she insisted in no uncertain terms that she wasn't going anywhere." He blushingly remembered Cara's colorful way of saying no. "She's alert, bruised up everywhere, got a wound on her side, a gash on her head, and right now she is out looking the horse over for injuries! So, if Matt and Jake want to take her to a hospital…good luck. They can tackle this one."

Eduardo chuckled. "Shouldn't be long before they get there. Let Jake handle her."


Cara stroked the horse's mane while talking quietly into his ear. "We made it boy, some ride, huh." She ran her hands down his hind legs, inspecting them for injuries, then moved to his forelegs. Lifting Stat's right front hoof, she detected the swelling around his fetlock and a slight split in the hoof. "Looks like were both intact, fella, nothing broken anyway. This leg will be just fine as soon as we get you to a doc." The horse snorted and pushed his nose into her side. Cara grimaced in pain. Turning pale, she held her left rib area as she slowly exhaled the breath she had been holding. Startled by the familiar voice behind her, she turned to see an indignant Jake standing there.

"What do you think your doing?"

Underneath the outward appearance of anger, Cara saw the relief in Jake's face. Wordlessly, their eyes exchanged the emotions they could not voice. Cara forgot the pain in her side, and Jake was holding back tears of mixed emotions. Walking slowly over to Cara, Jake touched her cheek. "I'm glad your alright I…I…thought you…"

Cara felt herself blushing. "Hey, remember me, the lawyer from hell. I'm too ornery to get hurt." She held Jake's hand to her cheek as she whispered close to her ear. "I'm glad you made it too."

It was Jake's turn now to hold her breath. Consciously ignoring the light-headedness that Cara's whisper elicited, she turned on heel, tugging the injured woman behind her. "Come on, I want to see what you've done to yourself and look at that wound on your side."

"But I'm alrigh…"

"Don't even say it, Vittore."


Sitting in the medic office of the Ranger Station, Cara flinched when Jake palpated her left side. "Well, Ms. Nothing-can-hurt-me-I'm-tough-as-nails, you probably have two fractured ribs. The wound on your side is…surprise…infected and needs stitching, so does this gash on your head. You're one big bruise, and your going to hurt like hell tomorrow…if you don't already. You need a mega dose of antibiotics. And a tetanus shot."

"Are you finished now?" Cara asked, trying to take in a deep breath. "I am not, repeat not going to a hospital. I have a perfectly good doctor right here in the room with me. You can do all of the above and let me go home!"

"Cara, you need x-rays to see if a rib has punctured your lung. You're having trouble breathing. You can't even take in a deep breath." With her hands on her hips, she glared at Cara. "Don't be so stubborn.

"I am not going to TMC, Jake, and that's final. We can go to your office, you have the equipment there, and you can enjoy stitching me up and poking me with those needles of yours. End of story, take it or let me be on my way," Cara said with difficulty, trying to catch her breath.

Jake entertained the idea of letting her do just that. Feeling the old, familiar annoyance, she punctuated every word of her sentence: "You… are… the most… annoying…and irritating…and totally exasperating woman…I have ever met!" Holding up her hands in mock surrender, she continued: "But, and I do mean 'but' if you will let me do my work…with your mouth shut, and agree to stay at my ranch for a few days so I can keep an eye on you, I will go along with your craziness. Deal?"

Cara studied Jake's face, feeling too tired and weak to argue. Reluctantly, through pain-whitened lips, she managed a raspy, "One night, I'll stay one night."

Even though Jake could handle the x-rays and suturing in her office, her better judgement told her that Cara really should have gone to the Tucson Medical Center for observation and treatment. Yet, there had been no arguing with the obstinate woman. She was relieved when the x-ray revealed no rib fractures. If it had, she had no idea how she would have convinced Cara to go to the hospital, especially after the numerous oaths she had endured regarding her motives with all the needles.

On the drive out to the ranch, Jake watched Cara sleeping in the seat next to her. A sedative had helped ease the pain enough for her to relax and drift off. The dim light of dusk played across Cara's face. It was just enough, however, to let Jake continue in her unobserved study of the woman beside her. Hmm, asleep she looks so…so what, Jake? You condemned this woman for the past two years for something that was your fault. She was right, it was your error that got the DNA evidence thrown out. I shouldn't have been back to work so soon after the accident. But…she's still a priceless pain in the ass. No doubt about it, she is an irritating woman. A fascinating one but impossible. Listen to yourself Jake, rationalizing your feelings. Your hands were shaking so bad when you sewed her up it's a wonder she didn't beg you to take her to the hospital right then and there. She's the one who was hurt, but you were the one who couldn't breath. Oh! And don't forget how your heart tripped over itself when she was close enough to feel her breath in your ear. Be honest, you misjudged this woman. You like her, and you don't know how to eat crow.

Jake shook Cara gently when they arrived at the ranch. "Hey, we're here. How does a soft bed sound?" An unintelligible grumble was the only response from the sedated, exhausted woman.

"Okay, looks like you need a little help there." Jake went around to the passenger door. Wrapping her arms around Cara's waist, carefully avoiding the sensitive ribs, she eased her out of the SUV. "Come on, tough guy."


Cara rolled over on her good side, boots and all, after Jake deposited her onto the bed in the guestroom.

"Cara can you wake up and get undressed? Hey." She shook her gently. "Cara?"

Jake stood perplexed, wondering what do about Cara's dirty, bloody clothes. Now if I had insisted she go to a hospital I wouldn't be standing here like a damn intern, at a loss whether or not she could just sleep in her wet clothes, now would I? Nervously she debated. Well, I guess I can at least take off the muddy boots.

Jake gently rolled Cara onto her back and tugged off one boot and then the other.

Her socks were still damp, saturated with mud, as were her jeans.

"Now what?" Jake's eyes traveled up Cara's body. She had cleaned and stitched the wounds on Cara's side and head back at the office, but the woman's impatience hadn't allowed Jake time to clean the superficial cuts on her upper body and arms. They needed an antibiotic ointment applied; besides, the wet clothes needed to come off. Come on, you just can't let her lay there all night in wet clothes, you're a doctor, Jake, so get with it. She's flesh and blood just like everyone else, right? Huh uh, sure she is! Well, bite the bullet and get over it! You agreed, no hospital, so roll your sleeves up before pneumonia sets in. She stood a moment longer looking down at the enigmatic woman who now appeared so vulnerable and actually seemed… human! Even after all she's been through, dirty, torn clothes and all, she is…yes, she is beautiful! I wonder what's behind those sad eyes? Jake mentally censured her thoughts, shrugged, and went to gather a basin and towels. She bathed Cara's bruised body, cleansing the minor wounds and applying Neosporin here and there. Finished, she pulled the quilt over the sleeping olive skinned woman, dimmed the light, then wearily walked down the hall to her room for some much needed rest.


Jake slept through the evening hours and into the night after settling Cara in, until the sound of hard rain on the tile roof woke her. She went to the guestroom to check on Cara who was still sleeping soundly. Fully awake now, she brewed a pot of coffee and went out to the veranda to watch the spectacular lightening display in the night sky. Arizona lightening storms are a breath taking show of nature's power and are potentially very dangerous. She could feel the raw energy of the storm encroaching closer with each jagged flash of white light reaching angrily across the blue black horizon. The air was heavy with humidity and the darkness crackled with electricity. The night and all things in it seemed to be holding its collective breath waiting another onslaught of the building storm.

Jake sipped her coffee as another bolt of light lit the night sky. A low voice from behind nudged her from her solitude. "Beautiful isn't it, makes one feel in awe and quite insignificant."

Jake turned to see Cara leaning against the frame of the Spanish archway of the veranda in her bare feet and the man's pajama top she'd laid at the foot of the bed. "Hey you, your supposed to be in bed resting," Jake said in a tender voice.

"Seems I have been. Looks like I slept through what was left of the day and most of the night." She looked down at the nightshirt with a grin. "Thank you for…well, all your care last night," Cara teased. Jake felt the blush creeping up her neck and face as she stood up.

Hmm, so she did undress and wash me. Ah! Jake that is a very interesting color.

"Well I didn't want to get the bedspread dirty …now did I? Who else was going to undress and clean you up, counselor? Hmm, do you see anyone else around here? So you can just take that smirk off your face. After all I am a…a…Doctor." Damn! I always seem to feel like a raving loon around her. Well, tit for tat, counselor. "Besides, you had mud in some mighty interesting places."

This time Cara's face flushed bright red. Smiling shyly, she asked, "Uh…um…uh, would it be okay to take a shower… I mean with this dressing? I think a good share of that mud is still in my hair." Cara's dark eyes warmed as she touched Jake on the shoulder. "Sincerely, thank you for all your care and opening your home to me, Jake."

Jake felt the same odd feeling she felt the day before when she first saw Cara with Stat in the corral at the Ranger Station…a funny catch deep inside her chest. Jake lowered her eyes timidly from Cara's face. "Uh…sure, if you're up to it. I can replace the dressing, and the water isn't going to hurt anything. In fact, it would be good to keep the area clean and let the water run over the sutures.

Cara's eyes lingered a moment on Jake's face. "I'd appreciate it, thanks."

"Okay," rubbing her hands together she stood up to go inside, "you'll find clean towels and everything you need in the cabinet in the bathroom off your room. Come out and have something to eat when you're done; you have to be hungry."

She watched Jake disappear through the archway; puzzled at the effect this woman had on her.


Cara stood in front of the mirror looking at the stitches on her side. I could put a dressing on this myself if I could just reach …ouch! Okay, that's out! Well I guess the good doctor can do her thing. She pondered the last forty-eight hours, especially the exasperating blonde doctor. Curious…I wouldn't have bet two cents that I could spend an hour in the same room with the woman, let alone be sleeping in her bed. Well not exactly her bed, not that the feisty doc doesn't rouse my curiosity. Hmm, me thinks there is far more to the beautiful doctor than meets the eye. A knock on the door followed by Jake's voice interrupted Cara's thoughts.

"You ready for a clean dressing?"

As ready as I'll ever be. Buttoning the even-large-for-her pajama top, Cara answered, "Sure, come in."

Jake struggled to hide the smile that was threatening to develop into a full-fledged chuckle as she watched Cara roll up the extra long sleeves of the top that came to just above her knees. Incredible as it seemed, standing in her bathroom, smelling of apricot-peach scented body wash, half-naked, was the woman she had despised for the past two years. Her wet dark hair hung softly around her freshly scrubbed face. She's so much…younger than I remember.

Cara quizzed with a raised eyebrow, "Hmm…let me see…a "friend's" jammies perhaps?"

"Uh, no sorry to disappoint, but they belonged to my dad," Jake responded with feigned sarcasm. Then a wicked smirk played across her face as she ordered, "Now, you can take it off so I can play doctor-and don't even think of telling me to turn around."

Bossy thing, Cara thought. Challenged by the amused look on Jake's face, she thought, so she thinks she has me with this one…well let's just see about that, Doc. Cara leveled her eyes on Jake's as she slowly unbuttoned the shirt and removed it. She stood facing Jake in all her naked glory, smugly taking in Jake's reaction.

Jake tried in vain not to let her glance travel down the body in front of her. Ooo, she did this on purpose. She gulped. My god, she doesn't play fair! Flustered and hoping Cara wouldn't notice her crimson cheeks that had to be quite obvious, she diverted her attention to the wound on Cara's side. She mustered her most professional demeanor to cover her unease. "All right, let's get this cleaned and redressed."

The fun of getting "one up on Jake" set aside, Cara was suddenly conscious of the way Jake's fingers felt on her skin as she reapplied the dressing. They were gentle, reassuring; yet distracting in a way that disturbed her. She felt Jake tremble but was afraid to look at their reflections in the mirror, terrified at what she might see. And afraid that Jake might see through the façade, the staid detachment that had been her refuge.

"Okay, we're done." Jake's thoughts were in overdrive as she finished tending to Cara's wound. She weighed her combination of confusion and disbelief at standing in her bathroom with a naked Cara Vittore. More confusing still was her reaction to the sensation of Cara's supple skin on her fingertips and being in the same breathing space. Strangely enough, she didn't want the feeling or the closeness to end.

"It looks good, should heal nicely if you take care and follow doctor's orders." Avoiding a repeat embarrassing scrutiny of Cara's body, Jake turned and stepped out of the bathroom. "I fixed some sandwiches, come out and have something to eat…uh…when you finish dressing." Jake swore she heard a "chalk one up for Cara" chuckle as she headed toward the kitchen to retrieve the food.


A sudden flash of lightning filled the room, causing the lights to flicker momentarily. Seconds later, the August night split with the resounding crash of thunder catching up with the lightning. The monsoon storm, in full wrath, alternated between violent clashes in the sky and the steady battering of rain against the windows.

"That was a good one!" Cara exclaimed in appreciation of the sudden illumination.

"You wouldn't think so if we were out there," replied Jake as she pointed beyond the large picture windows.

"We were out there, remember?" Cara retorted good-naturedly. "I have the battle scars to prove it. You, my friend, even got to fly around the misty skies in a helicopter."

"Looking for you!" Jake said incredulously, trying to hold back the mirth that threatened to escape. "Are you always so annoying?"

"Yes, some people seem to think so! And I wasn't where you were looking-I was miles down the wash, hanging on to Stat for dear life."

The easy banter that now seemed to characterize their interaction ended when both fell into a quiet, reflective moment of stillness.

Jake reviewed the events of the past two days. They'd done it. They had beaten the odds and survived an arroyo flash flood. She glanced sideways at the sharp profile of the injured woman, impressed with Cara's easy banter and ability to minimize the harrowing experience. The shower seemed to have erased much of the tiredness from her face and body, but Jake knew the battered woman had to be uncomfortable. The bizarre combination of fire and steel that was Cara Vittore remained a mystery to Jake: the energy that pulsed beneath the woman's unruffled surface; the pure pragmatism and intelligence that was offset by a raging passionate nature that could not quite be extinguished, despite being well constrained. And Jake was confounded how to remain unyielding to its force or how she could weave through the intricacies of this woman.

For Cara, everything hurt. Her arm hurt. Her back hurt. Even her hair hurt. She had been near physical exhaustion, struggling to save herself and Stat after being swept into the middle of the flashflood. Luckily, the horse saved both of them, finding his footing and hauling the two of them out of the arroyo to safety. Cara still felt the effects, but her senses were keen. She casually studied the willowy woman setting food on the carved oaken coffee table. The lawyer was impressed by the balance of strength and beauty that emanated from this conflicting woman. Her gaze lingered on Jake's lovely face, the expressional hazel eyes and the silky blonde hair tied loosely at the back of her neck. So well disciplined was Cara, so automatic had the reigning-in of any impulse that threatened her become, that she was almost unaware of these feelings. Life had groomed her well. Yet now, she who had perfected the persona of remaining untouched by human weakness and emotion, found herself fighting resolutely to ignore the suggestive images that filled her mind at the sight of Jake's long legs and slim, tanned hands.

"Do you need anything? Something to drink, maybe?" Jake asked.

"Do you have any wine?"

"It doesn't mix with the pain meds," Jake admonished.

"I didn't take any, but a glass of good wine would soothe the soul…and the aches.

Jake supposed a celebration of sorts was in order and walked to the small cabinet in the corner of the room. After a moment of deliberation, she held up the bottle of Cipriano Merlot.

"I've been threatening to open this for a long while, now is as good a time as any." Uncorking the bottle, she poured two glasses then handed one to Cara. "My father gave me this bottle of wine when I graduated from Med. School. I've been saving it for a special occasion."

Jake was struck by Cara's introspective appearance as she watched slender hands reached to touch the bottle. The silence that accompanied the sensual manner in which she held the wine bottle, coupled with the distance in Cara's eyes as she gazed at it and then to the contents of the glass swirling in the light, sparked an odd sense in Jake that she was intruding upon a intimate moment for Cara. Jake stepped back into the kitchen to get a snack of cheese and fruit to go with the wine, leaving Cara to her moment of reflection alone.


Cara recognized the all too familiar bottle of 'Cipriano Merlot'. She had no idea that a single bottle still remained from the vintage of that year of disparate emotions. It was the year simple joys had flourished along with the grapes, the year of tumultuous sorrows when the innocence of youth had fled. Memories surged in like a tsunami-she couldn't have held them back if she had tried. That year, Grandfather had named her Padrone, and the relic she held now was from the first bottling she had overseen, albeit was still under his watchful eye since she had not yet completed her education. It had been the summer of the fastest car and the best wine, the year of sensual pleasures of adolescent freedom and awakening. She saw Stephen splashing in the blue-green waters of the Pacific, his face grinning with the love and admiration of a little brother who idolized his big sister and their best friend Maggie.

Cara's heart fluttered as she remembered how he never could disguise his feelings when he looked at Maggie. "I don't think he even tried," she silently mused. Yellow paint flashed in her mind with the memory of the '79 Triumph TR7, of how she and Stephen had restored that little gem to mint condition. She couldn't suppress the outward smile as she recalled the "discussion" about the color. She had wanted black, but Stephen insisted that it should be the original yellow…something about how it reminded him of how a streak of lightning might look if it raced down the PCH. And then he had flashed her that idolizing, toothy grin while explaining ever so logically how cool he would be cruising Cabrillo Boulevard in the fastest car with the two prettiest girls in Santa Barbara, even if one was his big sister. As usual, Stephen had gotten his way with her. "Oh my, but we were just children. I was only nineteen, Maggie was seventeen and Stephen was barely sixteen." It had been the summer of wild abandon. Neither would ever again enjoy such a time, these moments now locked away like fossils in amber. Oh, the countless mornings the three of them threw only a halter on their horses and rode bareback, tearing headlong and carefree across the terraces. "Last one to the old oak has to brush down the horses! And sweep out the stalls!" Stephen's laughter rang clear in her mind. She could see his inky black hair billowing in the wind as they raced toward the edge of the vineyard. How many times had she let him win! And the nights hurtling down the PCH, moonlight gleaming like a white ribbon on the ocean, in the little yellow streak of lightning that zipped down the highway. Cara's mind raced to the morning she had left for Harvard. She saw again the hint of a tear on Stephen's cheeks as he promised to take care of Grandfather until she returned. She knew he was being brave for her sake, knew how the boy would miss her. She knew too, she would never again see the love and admiration in his eyes, knew how his heart would break, if he found out that Maggie had spent the night in her bed. "My God, little brother, I am so sorry."

Cara wasn't aware of Jake or anything else-except the flood of memories the year on the wine bottle evoked-until. "What do you think?" Jake asked, watching Cara swirl the wine in her glass. "A good year?"

She sensed Cara's thoughts were an unwelcome foray into something that obviously troubled her. "My dad was the 'connoisseur of wine,' and he valued this bottle. He said it was, hmm…let me see…it was the 'judicious blending of the noble, heady Cabernet Sauvignon and lush, velvety Merlot that tamed the tannic red.' "

"Your father was right," Cara whispered, her mind wandering to the day she approached Grandfather with her idea to do just that. He had listened tacitly. When she was finished, he smiled, "You are my choice for Padrone, Mia Cara, the grapes they love you. You will nurture them, create your destiny. It is your legacy."

"Your father knew his wine."

Jake smiled, reaching back into the wine cabinet to produce another aged bottle of red that she handed to Cara. "Well, I guess he did at that."

Looking at the private label, Cara questioned, "This wine was made here, in Santa Cruz County?"

"Yes. When my dad retired from the FBI, he bought a partner's interest in a small vineyard owned by Matt's father. He took full responsibility of the grapes and wine after Matt's father died. Matt and Sandro were too young to shoulder the responsibility themselves. Maria, Matt's mother, you met her at the café, hadn't been involved in the making of the wine-too busy raising two boys and running the Café. "

"Sandro? Is that the same guy who is with the Mexican police?

Jake looked at Cara quizzically. "You've met Sandro?"

"No, Matt was talking to him on the phone in Maria's the day I got here. He lived with Matt's family?"

"Yes, Maria raised Sandro. We all grew up together, went to the same schools here in Nogales. Sandro went back across the border to live and work with the Mexican police after Matt and he came home from the service."

Cara's gaze went from the bottle of wine back to Jake. "Where is your father now?"

Jake's eyes clouded with deep sorrow. "Dead. He was murdered."

"Murdered? Wait, Jack Biscayne, two years ago. Wasn't he killed investigating the Rivera drug cartel? I remember reading about that case. It was never solved was it?"

Jake held in the tears she felt stinging her eyes. "No, it's still open with no arrests and no leads. He spent thirty years with the FBI and came out of retirement as a consultant. He was always so aware, so careful. It's still hard for me to believe someone got close enough to kill him without a struggle."

Cara felt guilty. She had been so self absorbed that she didn't recognize Jake had her own story, her own grief. Steadying her gaze on Jake's moist hazel eyes, she reached over and held her hand. "I'm sorry, I know it is never easy to lose someone you love, let alone for them to be taken so brutally." Two years ago, that was about the time of the Pendleton trial! No wonder she missed that loop hole in the evidence.

Cara's touch conveyed more than the warmth of her skin. The deliberate expressiveness within that simple gesture traveled throughout Jake's body like ripples on a lake when you drop a pebble in. She lifted her face to Cara's and returned a look of acknowledgment into caring, brown eyes. In that moment, something passed between them-the mutual recognition of kindred souls burdened by loss and pain. No Cara, it isn't, especially when you lose the two most important people in your world within weeks of each other. . .both murdered. Jake barely nodded and squeezed her fingers around Cara's. The two women sat in comfortable silence watching the monsoon light up the Arizona sky until Jake sensed the extent of Cara's fatigue. "Hey there, I think you could use another good night's rest, don't you?"

Cara's voice belied the weariness deep in her bones. "I need to call my office, I usually check in everyday when I am gone. They'll be wondering what happened to me… "

"Tomorrow. You can call then, and no they won't be worried. I called your office and talked to Laura. She said that Mark is aware of the situation and insisted that you take some R and R to recover. Oh, before I forget… he said to remind you, if you're up to it, about the arrival of the new associate at the end of next week. Now," pulling Cara up from the sofa, "Doctor's orders, one good night's sleep. "

"You're a bossy thing. Do I have anything to say about…anything?"

"Nope, might as well accept it."

Crossing her arms across her chest, Cara offered a bargain. "Say, if I go quietly, how about showing me around tomorrow. I'd like to see your ranch and the vineyards."

"A bit of blackmail here?" Jake asked with a quiet chuckle, pointing to the guestroom. "We'll see, now to bed with you."

Part 7

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