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Authors: Marata Eros,Emily Goodwin

One of Many (8 page)

BOOK: One of Many
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I move out of the closet, and Audrey covers her eyes, sobbing.

Ignoring the sticky stain on my pants, I move to her side and sit. I open my arms, and she moves into them.

Her naked body presses against my bare chest.

“I imagined that was you,” she cries softly against me. “I shouldn’t have, but I did.”

I stroke her hair.

“I
am
a whore,” she whispers in despair.

I pull her away, tilting her chin with a finger. “You're no whore. It was his fingers inside you, his tongue on your pussy—but what really made you come?”

She blinks, and I can tell she's considering my question.

The tears dry.

“Whose face did you look into? Whose hands, tongue, and fingers were you thinking of?”

A full minute pounds by between us.

“Yours,” she finally whispers.

I tuck her head beneath my chin.

I hate myself. I hate everything.

Except maybe Audrey.

 

Chapter Nine

Audrey

 

I step out of the black SUV, and the smell of fast food fills my nostrils, awakening something inside me.

It’s two days before my fourteenth birthday, and I’m walking along the sidewalk in front of the mall, my arm linked through Michelle’s. We’re trailing yards behind Justin Walker, the cutest boy in the entire middle school. Our giggles carry on the wind, and he hears us, turns around, and smiles.

My first crush turned into my first kiss.

I’m no longer in love with Justin Walker. I can’t say I ever was. I couldn’t know love at fourteen. But I wonder what happened to him and, more, wonder if he wondered about me.

I disappeared.

Gone without a trace, without a logical explanation.

Getting out of Father Weston’s expensive car and stepping into a puddle on the pavement in front of the mall makes my chest hurt. It’s not the same mall, yet the thought of seeing someone I used to know makes me anxious.

What would I say? Can I hide my embarrassment? I swallow hard and flick my eyes to the sky, a nervous habit I acquired over the years of being told God was watching my every move, ready to punish me the second my faith wavers.

It’s wavering now. Wavering so hard I’m struggling to keep it from crashing down. I prayed all night. All morning. The whole way here.

And not one prayer was answered.

Maybe Kiev is right, maybe this whole thing is—
no
—I can’t think like that.

I’m Chosen, married to a prophet. I should be proud, should want to spread his word and save others, bringing them into The Community. As I was saved.

The pardon is starting to feel like a death sentence.

Fat raindrops fall, dampening my dark hair that’s in waves around my face. I’m dressed in jeans and a baggy T-shirt, my usual attire. I’m supposed to buy dresses and heels and matching headbands and jewelry. I didn’t like dresses before.

Before.

The word hits me hard, and I pause in my step.

Father Weston comes to a halt and turns, eyeing me hard.

“Come along, Audrey,” he says and pulls his hand out of Rachel’s, much to her chagrin, and extends it for me to take.

A group of girls about my age pass us by, talking and staring at their phones. I think those are phones. They’ve changed a lot in the five years I’ve been without one.

I take Father Weston’s hand and keep my gaze on the ground, not wanting to look at those girls.
They’ll think I’m holding my dad’s hand like some sort of weirdo
. The thought is jarring, and I feel as if a bit of the old me comes back to life… and I hadn’t even realized I was dead.

We enter the mall, and my breath catches. Another memory comes crashing back, and now I want to run. Rachel and Anna get excited, talking at the same time about which stores they will take me to.

Father Weston leans in and whispers something about lingerie. Caroline says she’s going to get new throw pillows for the couch in the living room, and Ginny tells Father Weston she’s helping him pick out a new suit for Worship.

Anna links her arm through mine, and I see a sparkle in her eyes that was never there before. She steers me to her favorite store and picks out things she thinks will look good on me.

“Father Weston gets final approval,” she explains casually and grabs a hot pink halter-top dress. “He’ll be here soon, I’m sure. You try on everything for him to preview.”

“If I don’t like something but he does…” I start.

“You still get it.” She pulls a white sundress off the rack. “And wear it. We’re Chosen to make him happy, after all.”

“It’s the least we can do,” Rachel says, holding an armload of silky blouses. “He’s saving us all. It’s such a privilege to be Chosen to obey him.”

“Are you ladies finding everything all right?” a saleswoman asks. She’s cute, with red hair that matches her freckles.

A large ring sparkles on her left hand.

“Yeah, thanks,” Rachel says, taking a step back.

She sighs and shakes her head as the saleswoman walks away. “Poor thing. She won’t be saved.”

Those words used to cause my stomach to ball up in fear for the rest of the world. But now… why will
I
be saved and not her?

Maybe it’s the other way around.

 

*

 

“Audrey,” Father Weston begins during dinner that night. “You’re awfully quiet.”

I look up from my plate, smile, and feel ice slide down my back when my gaze meets his, because that’s exactly what his eyes are: cold.

“Oh, I guess I was lost in thought,” I say apologetically. “And tired from shopping.”

“You better get some rest tonight,” he says and winks at me. Rachel’s back meets the hard wood of her chair as she huffs, crossing her arms.

If I had it my way, he’d be all yours tonight,
I think for the millionth time.

I repress the shiver of disgust that wants to course through me, and I manufacture another smile, pushing the spaghetti around on my plate. It’s good. Everything is homemade, from the noodles to the sauce. The Community is pretty self-sufficient, and everyone pitches in to work. Everyone but those living here, I’ve discovered.

“What were you thinking about?” Ginny asks. Father Weston sits at the head of the table, and the wives are seated in order of seniority.

“My family,” I say, and the entire table goes silent.

“You mean us, right?” Rachel quips. “We’re your family.”

“Oh, uh, right.” I swallow hard and set down my fork, placing my fingers around my glass of water.

I don’t pick it up, feeling the cool condensation under my skin. “You are my family, but I meant my parents.”

“Do you miss them?” Father Weston asks.

I make myself look at him again. “Yes.”

Anger crosses his face. “You have been Chosen,” he says with practiced patience. “This is home. We are your family.”

“I know, but I still miss my parents,” I blurt, not seeing why that’s wrong.

Father Weston throws his fork down on his plate. “Well, I’m not hungry anymore.” He gets up in such a rush his chair crashes to the ground. Ginny jumps up and scrambles to set it upright.

The other wives turn their heads down, but I catch Anna giving Father Weston the tiniest glare before diverting her gaze.

“Audrey, come with me,” he says and extends his hand.

Oh shit.

With trembling hands, I push away from the table and follow Father Weston into his office.

He closes the door behind us. “My darling wife, you are Chosen.”

“I know,” I whisper, wrapping my arms around myself to keep from shaking.

“It’s more than a title, you know.” He perches on the edge of his desk and sighs, rubbing his forehead. “There are many here who pray day in and day out to be Chosen. But God spoke to
me
, told me you were the one to carry out his word and save these people.” 

His gaze meets mine, and the ice melts. “You are special, my dear.” His warm smile could fool anyone.

But not me, not anymore. “I don’t feel special.”

“You are. You are my wife.”

Being a wife makes me special? More than being Chosen? “I am.”

“You see, Audrey, you need to let go of the past and embrace the present. Embrace this.” He holds his arms out. “Listen to his word and trust that we will be saved. You have important tasks to do. You have a purpose and a reason in this world. You. Are.
Chosen.

Silken words wrap around me, warming me, getting inside my head. Words that are easily believed. Words that are used as weapons.

“You’re right. The sacrifice of leaving my family is worth it for the greater good of The Community.” I only say words he’ll want to hear.

His peaceful demeanor snaps away, and suddenly he’s right there, grabbing my arms and shaking me.
I guess those were the wrong words.

“Being here is not a sacrifice,” he spits out. “It’s a
gift
, and you better fucking show gratitude. I didn’t have to choose you.”

“You didn’t. God chose me.”  My words are weapons, too, and I pulled the trigger before I aimed.

He shoves me to the ground and kicks.

His leather shoe strikes me in the stomach. Then the leg. Then the stomach again.

“Get up,” he growls.

Terror and fear paralyze me, and it takes everything inside me to get to my feet.

Once I’m standing, he hits me—hard—across the face.

“You need to learn your place, bitch,” he says and hits me again. Suddenly he backs away. “My dear Audrey.” His voice is soft. “Don’t make me do this again. Be a good wife. Obey. Go up to your room and don’t come out until I tell you to.”

The tears I’m holding back threaten to come out. I nod and scurry away. I’m embarrassed as well as terrified. I didn’t mean to make Father Weston mad. I didn’t mean to be a bad wife. Maybe if I say extra prayers, surprise Father Weston with the new bra and panties he bought me today, he’ll forgive me.

I put my hand on the banister, able to see into the dining room as I ascend the stairs. The wives stand when Father Weston comes into the room.

Ginny refills his wine and lifts it off the table, bringing it to his lips.  Caroline hurries about to reheat the food on his plate.

What the fuck am I doing?

My parents are part of The Community. I’m part of The Community. Why can’t I see them?

“Causing trouble again?”

I jump at the sound of his voice. Too busy with my thoughts, I didn’t notice Kiev standing in the threshold of his bedroom.

“Should I be worried you’re going to take my place?”

“I didn’t mean to.” I come to the top of the stairs and raise my eyes. My heart lurches. Kiev just got out of the shower and is wearing only a towel. A small white towel held tightly around his waist.

I want to be that towel.

Beads of water drip down his colorful tattoos, running over each mound of muscle. I can’t help my attraction to him. My body reacts of its own accord.

“What did you do?” he asks with a grin, flashing his perfect teeth.

I’m not moving. I can’t. Kiev is a planet, and I’m stuck in his gravitational pull. Am I a meteor, destined to crash and burn? The impact will be enough to cause damage, no matter what.

“I told him he didn’t choose me but God did.”

Kiev doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. His blue-gray eyes widen, and then he laughs. “That’s fucking awesome. I wish I could have been there.”

“I wish you had been,” I grumble. “Maybe you could have stopped him from hitting me.”

The amusement disappears from Kiev’s face, and he looks at me as though he cares.

“He’s a prick.” Kiev steps into the hall, loosely holding the towel. He’s seen me—all of me—and yet I feel shy around him. There's so much to him, an energy that fills all time and space, encroaching on everything around me.

He bites his lip, looking as if he’s debating whether to say what’s on his mind. “You better be careful. I’ve seen him seriously fuck up a face before.” His eyes dart to the scars covered up under colored ink. It’s a millisecond of exposure, but I notice.

Father Weston caused those scars? I gaze over Kiev. He’s tall and solidly built. Who in their right mind would cross someone like him?

“Want to leave your door unlocked again, Little Bride?”

I cross my arms, annoyance replacing the fear. I won’t tell Kiev I’m grateful for that. “What makes you think I want
that
again?”

“Did you forget how hard you came last night?”

There’s no way in hell I’d forget that. My body is craving more with the memory.

“I’ll take your lack of response as a
yes, please fuck the ever-loving shit out of me
. And I can now, and dear old dad will never notice.”

Kiev crosses the hall, standing so close I can feel his body heat. Another bead of water rolls down his chest. I watch it fall, dripping onto the floor. “Your pussy is quivering thinking about it, isn’t it?”

“What if I told you it was?”

Kiev reaches for me, a cocky grin still on his face, but the second his fingertips touch my cheek, it disappears, and he’s staring at me as if I’m the only woman in the world. A few beats pass before he whips his hand away as if my skin has suddenly turned toxic.

“You’re not like the others,” he whispers.

“What do you mean?” A chill makes its way down my spine.

“You’ll find out.” He runs his fingers through my hair, and I’m leaning in, wanting more of his touch.

Without warning, he kisses me hard on the lips, and I wrap my arms around him.

His skin is still hot from the shower, and the front of my shirt is getting wet from being smashed against him.

BOOK: One of Many
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ads

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