Sage Michaelson here, a Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Witness Protection Program. Although lately it feels more like a Criminal Protection Program, especially after losing my spleen on the job.
When my best friend Steven texted, “Delaney in trouble. Can you keep an eye on her while I’m on my honeymoon?” I chucked the hospital gown and split for Journey Creek. We grew up in the same orphanage—Steven, his sister, and I—so that makes us practically brother and sister. How could I say no?
Besides, I needed time to recover and reevaluate. And a little distance from my ex-fiancé couldn’t hurt. Jennifer always said I was married to my job. Guess she found a man who wasn’t because she wears a ring on her finger again. I’m OK with it. Sure, I gave her a ring and a commitment. But not my heart. How could I? The people I love always end up dead. I’m on my own. Best just to keep it that way.
What trouble was Dane in this time? That’s what we used to call Delaney. Growing up, she’d had long muscular legs. Cute, but in an awkward, gangly Great Dane sort of way. And always in trouble or causing trouble. I gather from Steven’s text that hadn’t changed.
I hadn’t seen the Dane in a few years, so it kinda threw me to see her waltzing away from the wedding reception in a silky turquoise gown, the kind of dress that forces a man to take a second look. Steven sure wouldn’t appreciate the thoughts that flitted through my head about his sister. To be truthful, I’d feel much better if she changed into her customary basketball shorts or work scrubs. Then I wouldn’t notice how she’d grown from the Dane into beautiful, vivacious Delaney. A woman who embraces passion and life with enthusiasm. A woman who puts others first, on the job and with the orphanage kids.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to ditch the doctor. All this ibuprofen seems to be messing with my head.
Steven only said that someone ransacked Delaney’s house. He didn’t warn me that a man had it out for her. Delaney insists God will protect her, but I’m not buying it. He didn’t protect my parents and sister from the car accident that killed them, or keep my granny from suffering a fatal heart attack on an airplane.
No, I can’t leave her to fend for herself. I promised Steven I would look out for her. But, somewhere along the way, protecting Delaney became less about my promise to Steven and more about my love for her…and God.
Meet Delaney Hunt
Just wait until my brother gets back from his honeymoon!
What was Steven thinking texting Sage Michaelson to keep an eye on me? Sure, I get that Steven’s worried about me after my home invasion, but now I need a Deputy U.S. Marshal looking over my shoulder? Sage just lost his spleen. He should be recovering in the hospital, not trailing after me or chasing innocent trick-or-treaters off my doorstep.
It’s not that I mind Sage being around. I’ve loved him since he showed up at Quiver Full Orphanage, always the protector, even at thirteen. But, he turned eighteen and left for the big city without a backward glance. Not at me, anyway. He kept in touch with Steven, but I haven’t heard from him since his engagement.
It’s not like he would ever love me in a non-sisterly way. When the doctor mentioned we sounded like we were married, Sage shuddered. I’m not beautiful, but sheesh! Did the man have to shudder?
And Sage could never accept my job, or even tolerate it. He suffers from a powerful fear of flying and heights. I guess I would, too, if I saw my granny suffer a heart attack and die on a plane like he did. But, I’m a flight medic. My dream job, flying all over the world helping people. It would take more than his declaration of love for me to give it up.
Besides, Sage may be scared of flying, but I’m more than a little afraid of love. Of what love means to a person, or what it doesn’t. Take my mother, for example. She didn’t have enough love to go around, not enough to give up the drugs and one-night stands. But that doesn’t stop me from praying that Sage would love…ah well, it’s best not go there.
It’s not as if I don’t have a full and satisfying life. I do. Between mentoring the kids at Quiver Full, raising money to build another orphanage cottage, working on a recycling committee, and my job, I couldn’t ask for more. Well, I suppose I could. Like figuring out who this prankster is and why he’s targeting me…