Triplets Under the Tree

By: Kat Cantrell


 Near Punggur Besar, Batam Island, Indonesia

 Automatically, Falco swung his arm in an arc to block the punch. He hadn’t seen it coming. But a sense he couldn’t explain told him to expect his opponent’s attack.

 Counterpunch. His opponent’s head snapped backward. No mercy. Flesh smacked flesh again and again, rhythmically.

 The moves came to him fluidly, without thought. He’d been learning from Wilipo for only a few months, but Falco’s muscles already sang with expertise, adopting the techniques easily.

 His opponent, Ravi, attacked yet again. Falco ducked and spun to avoid the hit. His right leg ached with the effort, but he ignored it. It always ached where the bone had broken.

 From his spot on the sidelines of the dirt-floored ring, Wilipo grunted. The sound meant more footwork, less jabbing.

 Wilipo spoke no English and Falco had learned but a handful of words in Bahasa since becoming a student of the sole martial arts master in southern Batam Island. Their communication during training sessions consisted of nods and gestures. A blessing, considering Falco had little to say.

 The stench of old fish rent the air, more pungent today with the heat. Gazes locked, Falco and Ravi circled each other. The younger man from a neighboring village had become Falco’s sparring partner a week ago after he’d run out of opponents in his own village. The locals whispered about him and he didn’t need to speak Bahasa to understand they feared him.

 He wanted to tell them not to be afraid. But he knew he was more than a strange Westerner in an Asian village full of simple people. More than a man with dangerous fists.

 Nearly four seasons ago, a fisherman had found Falco floating in the water, unconscious, with horrific injuries. At least that was what he’d pieced together from the doctor’s halting, limited English.

 He should have died before he’d washed ashore in Indonesia and he certainly should have died at some point during the six-month coma his body had required to heal.

 But he’d lived.

 And when he finally awoke, it was to a nightmare of physical rehabilitation and confusion. His memories were fleeting. Insubstantial. Incomplete. He was the man with no past, no home, no idea who he was other than angry and lost.

 The only clue to his identity lay inked across his left pectoral muscle—a fierce, bold falcon tattoo with a scarlet banner clutched in his talons, emblazoned with the word Falco. That was what his saviors called him since he didn’t remember his name, though it chafed to be addressed as such.

 Why? It must be a part of his identity. But when he pushed his memory, it only resulted in his fists primed to punch something and a blinding headache. Every waking moment—and even some of those dedicated to sleep—he heard an urgent soul-deep cry to discover why he’d been snatched from the teeth of a cruel death. Surely he’d lived for a reason. Surely he’d remember something critical to set him on the path toward who he was. Every day thus far had ended in disappointment.

 Only fighting allowed him moments of peace and clarity as he disciplined his mind to focus on something other than the struggle to remember.

 Ravi and Wilipo spoke in rapid Bahasa, leaving the Westerner out of it, as always.

 Wilipo grunted again.

 That meant it was time to stop sparring. Nodding, Falco halted, breathing heavily. Ravi’s reflexes were not as instantaneous and his fist clipped Falco.

 Pain exploded in his head. “Che diavolo!”

 The curse had spit from his mouth the moment Ravi struck, though Falco had no conscious knowledge of Italian. Or how he knew it was Italian. The intrigue saved Ravi from being pulverized.

 Ravi bowed apologetically, dropping his hands to his sides. Rubbing his temples, Falco scowled over the late shot as a flash of memory spilled into his head.

 White stucco. Glass. A house perched on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Malibu. A warm breeze. A woman with red hair.

 His house. He had a home, full of his things, his memories, his life.

 The address scrolled through his mind as if it had always been there, along with images of street signs and impressions of direction, and he knew he could find it.

 Home. He had to get there. Somehow.


 Los Angeles, California

 At precisely 4:47 a.m., Caitlyn bolted awake, as she did every morning. The babies had started sleeping through the night, thank the good Lord, but despite that, their feeding time had ingrained itself into her body in some kind of whacked-out mommy alarm clock.

 No one had warned her of that. Just as no one had warned her that triplets weren’t three times the effort and nail-biting worry of one baby, but more like a zillion times.

Top Books