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Authors: Marata Eros,Emily Goodwin

One of Many (6 page)

BOOK: One of Many
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My lips twist.

“I'm married to your father.”

I dip my head, kissing her mouth again, and I swear I feel her anger turn to lust like clay taking shape into a sculpture.

“Not married.” I peck little kisses from behind her ear to her collarbone, and her breathing turns ragged. “Not really,” I whisper against skin so fragrant, perfume would be an insult.

“Stop,” Audrey says.

“No,” I say. “It's my way. And if I want you, I get you.”

She shoves this time with real commitment. I want her like this. Off kilter. Afraid. Aroused.

Unsure.

That emotional grid is perfect for my purposes.

“No,” she says in a voice with a slight tremor.

My eyebrow jerks up, and I squeeze her breast again.

She doesn't try to stop me, but another tear drops like a wet gem between us, darkening her white shirt as it lands.

Suffocating my intent. “No...
what
?” I ask with soft menace.

“I didn't
fuck
Father Weston.”

She ducks from underneath my arms, circles the oak, and slowly walks away.

I press my shoulder against the tree, my hands still hot from the heat of her beneath me.

The sway of her hips is hypnotic.

I don't snap out of it until she slips inside the house.

 

Chapter Seven

Audrey

 

My gaze remains trained to the ground, my hands clasped in my lap.

Worship is today.

The wives sit on the raised platform at the front of the House, called an altar. But from up here, looking down at the sea of faces, squinting from the bright lights, I feel as if
I’m
on a stage.

Or on trial.

My heart flutters. If this were a real trial, they’d find me guilty. Because I am. I’m guilty of having someone else’s lips touch mine. Someone else’s warm tongue slip inside my mouth, exploring, owning me.

And I don’t know what’s worse: that I let Kiev kiss me or that I liked it. Liked it enough that I hope he does it again. I liked everything about it. The way he was hot and cold at the same time. The heat of his skin fighting the chilly rain. The way the vibrant colors of his tattoos clashed with the gloomy gray sky.

His kiss was rain and sweat and mint gum and everything a kiss should be and more. His kiss was defiance.

His kiss was freedom.

Maybe I’m imagining things, maybe I’m so desperate I’m seeing something out of nothing, but I felt it pass between us.

An understanding.

He doesn’t want to be here any more than I do. He said his father’s name with disgust and reminded me that I’m not married. I thought about it all night before I understood.

And I was alone that night, I had plenty of time to think about it. Father Weston was busy with Rachel, trying to give her a baby.

Marriage is a legal contract in some sense, as well as a religious one. I remember hearing about it more than once. How in The Community, religion trumps legalities, and no one needs to worry about the “fine print,” as Father Weston puts it. God is the ultimate judge and jury, the only lawmaker we listen to.

And he tells us what he wants through Father Weston.

I watch the doors, waiting for my parents to be ushered in and take their assigned seats in the twelfth row. A few minutes tick by before I see them, and my heart swells. My mother smiles and waves, still proud that her only daughter was special enough to be Chosen. My father gives me a curt nod and takes his seat.

Chatter fills the hall, not quieting until Father Weston comes on stage—I mean, on the altar—and begins the service.

In the middle of the opening prayer, the heavy wooden doors open and close.

I jerk my head up, knowing it’s him before my gaze sweeps over his tall, muscular body.

Kiev.

Father Weston stumbles over his words upon seeing his eldest son enter the House.

Something glints in Kiev’s eyes, and he smiles. Seeing his full lips curve upward on his handsome face sends a shiver through me. He turns his gaze to me and winks.

I immediately flush, fearing the small gesture will “out” what happened between us.

No one appears to notice, and God doesn’t strike me with a lightning bolt.

I’ve sinned.

I should be getting punished, as I’ve been told. But nothing happens. Not during the rest of the service and not after, when members of The Community shake my hand and congratulate me again for being Chosen.

Mothers ask me to place my hands on their children and bless them.

Elders want me to pray with them.

Me. The sinner. The Chosen who has no idea what I’m doing. My stomach bubbles with doubt, my guilt becoming almost too much to bear.

I’m no more special than anyone else, but I’m Chosen.

The question is...
who
chose me?

 

*

 

“Audrey,” Father Weston says during breakfast the next day, “how would you like to go into town?”

The other wives turn their attention to me, smiling wide with excitement.

Town—Sioux Falls. Outside the safety of The Community. Away from the shelter against humanity, out in the elements with dangerous people.

Going into town goes against everything Father Weston has told us.

My mind flashes to years ago, back when my parents struggled to make ends meet, to when my mom cried from exhaustion from working two jobs and my dad suffered from desperation over not being able to find work and provide for his family. We couldn’t afford to have fun or spend money frivolously.

So Mom took me to the bookstore. We’d find a book, sit on the comfy couch in the back, and Mom would read to me. It wasn’t fancy, but it was fun.

I miss it. I’m not supposed to miss
before
. Missing the past is bad. Missing it means I haven’t accepted God's will in the way Father Weston says we should.

I feel myself frown.
Is this a trick question?

“Why would I go into town?” There. I’ll answer with a question.

Father Weston smiles warmly. “You want new clothes, don’t you? I’m sure you’d love dresses like the others. I don’t want you feeling out of place here.”

The wives giggle and fawn over him as if he’s offered me half a kidney.

Now I’m all sorts of conflicted.
What the hell is going on?

“I like my clothes,” I tell him.

Father Weston’s eyes darken.

“If you want me to get new clothes, then I will,” I quickly add, seeing his expression.

The other wives start telling me about the stores in town, talking about them as if I’m an alien from another planet and have no idea what the concept of shopping is.

Do they not know I wasn’t born and raised within The Community? It hasn’t been that long, though my teachers tried hard to erase memories of the outside from my mind. I smile and nod and play along, eager to get out and see the world around me once again.

Night falls, and after hours of cleaning, I retreat to my room.

Rachel spoke of trying again for a baby, earning jealousy from the other wives, so I don’t expect Father Weston to come into my room when he does.

“Sorry to startle you, my dear,” he says and shuts the door behind him.

I’m wearing a short silk nightgown, one that was provided for me. I cross my arms over my chest and stare into his eyes, refusing to let him see my fear. Being afraid of him gives him power, and I’m not sure he deserves that power anymore.

“You didn’t.”

He laughs. “All right. I didn’t. We need to talk about town. Do not be afraid, my dear. I will be with you.”

“We are supposed to repent of what the town offers.” I say each word slowly, hearing Mrs. Everly’s voice in my head, my primary teacher within The Community.

“I give you a pass.” He smiles at his statement, expecting me to fawn over him as the other wives do.

When we first arrived at The Community, I had to get rid of all my possessions. My favorite jeans, my lucky socks. The stuffed rabbit my grandmother made me, the one I’ve had since I was a baby. All gone.

Repent of what the outside world offers.

“Why?”

The one word cuts through the air, angering Father Weston. He strides forward and slaps me hard across the face.

I stumble back, my hand going to my burning cheek. He grabs my wrist, twisting and squeezing it so hard it hurts.

“Do not question me! You are my
wife
.” He spits the word out as an insult.

Wife. Woman.
Less than him
.

“You will look good for me,” he goes on. “And if you question me again, you will face punishment.”

He digs his nails into my skin, tearing it open before letting go and storming out of the room. Tears sting the corners of my eyes, yet I refuse to cry.

I stand there, my bare feet on the polished hardwood floor, trembling.

Footfalls echo in the hall, and a long shadow grows near.

It’s Father Weston, I’m sure. I look out the open door, wanting to see him before he comes this time. But it’s not him; it’s Kiev.

“Audrey,” he says, giving me a smug smirk. “You can’t—what happened?” The haughty smile disappears in an instant. He pauses outside the door, bites his lip, and then comes in the room. “You’re bleeding.”

“Oh.” I finally look at the clawed marks on my wrist. “I guess I am.”

“Come here,” he says and puts his hand on my shoulder, his touch shockingly gentle. Kiev doesn’t ask me what happened or who hurt me.

He already knows, and that’s why he’s washing the blood away in the bathroom sink, why he’s gingerly patting it with a clean towel.

Nothing is said between us as he tends to my wound.

I watch the muscles in his arms flex and tense as he works, each one covered in ink, ink that hides a web of scars. Some scars are jagged, looking accidental. Others are straight, clean lines. Patterned. Intentional.

“What did you do to deserve this?” His voice is gruff, and I love it.

“I didn’t deserve this,” I say, and my gaze flicks to his face.

He looks straight into mine, holding my gaze.

“Dear old dad has his reasons,” Kiev says bitterly. “No matter how fucked up they are.”  He lets go of the towel and looks at the torn flesh. “You’ll live.”

He walks out of the small bathroom.

“Wait,” I blurt.

He spins around. “What do you want?”

“Answers.”

For the second time that night, the hardness instantly vanishes from Kiev’s face. “Answers require questions.”

“I have a few of those.”

Kiev looks out at the hall. “Don’t lock your door tonight.”

“I won’t—wait, how do you know I lock my door at night?”

He just grins and walks out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 

*

 

“Audrey, wake up.”

I inhale and sit up, hardly able to make out Kiev’s dark outline.

He’s in my bed, next to me. My heart flutters. Should I be afraid there is a man, a man I’ve hardly spoken to, next to me? I’m not. His presence comforts me, and I want him closer.

“I’m awake,” I grumble. “What time is it?”

“Three a.m., give or take.”

I nod, running my hands through my messy hair. I tried staying up until he came in but obviously failed. “Aren’t you afraid Father Weston is going to catch you in here?”

Kiev chuckles. “Not today, Little Bride.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“What are your questions?”

The question
Will you kiss me
again?
burns on my tongue. I shouldn’t want him to, yet I do. I’m yearning for more. To feel his skin close to mine, to be touched with passion and not ownership. Being close to Kiev makes me feel like the woman I’m supposed to be, awakening things inside I’ve only read about in romance novels.

I lick my lips, my eyes slowly focusing in the dark. “I have so many, they’re getting jumbled in my head.” I tip my head up, imagining the heavens above me. “None of this makes sense.”

Kiev laughs again. “That’s not a question. I’m starting to think you lied to get me in your bed.” He advances, putting his hand on my waist.

The warmth of his skin feels good.

I close my eyes, drink him in, then shove him away. “You were the one who suggested coming in here.”

“Damn, you’re right.” He leans back on the pillows. “None of this fucked-up shit makes a bit of sense.”

“Why?”

“Why doesn’t it make sense?”

I nod.

Kiev turns to me, shadows staining his face. “Because it’s a bunch of bullshit.”

“No, it’s…it’s...” I let that go. “What’s The Reckoning?”

“Fuck if I know. Some other made-up shit that I’ve never heard of.”

“Oh.”

“You sound more disappointed that I expected,” he says, angling his body toward mine.

I can feel the heat of his skin drawing me in like a magnet. Warmth rushes between my legs, stirring desire deep inside.

“Father Weston says I’m to be saved until then.”

“Saved?” Kiev asks, then it dawns on him. “Cunning bastard. That’s how he’s keeping things from you,” he says, as if to himself.

“Keeping what?”

“I’ll tell you later. Next question.”

“We sinned.”

“You’re bad at this asking questions thing. You do know what a question is, right?”

“Of course I do,” I snap. “What I mean is, the
kiss
was a sin. Why hasn’t God punished me?”

“Because he doesn’t exist,” Kiev says harshly. “Not in the way my father wants you to believe, and Weston doesn’t have a fucking crystal ball where he can see everything you do, no matter what he says. He doesn’t know what’s going on. Hell, I’ll prove it to you.”

Before I can react, before I can move or stop him, Kiev is on me, his arms wrapping around my waist. His lips press against mine, his tongue opening my mouth. I take a moment to taste him, then I grab him, my fingers balling his black T-shirt. Inside me rises a desperation I didn’t know existed, and Kiev can’t be close enough.

BOOK: One of Many
10.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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