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Authors: Natalie R. Collins

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women

Ties That Bind

BOOK: Ties That Bind
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CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Epigraph

 

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

 

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Also by Natalie R. Collins

Praise for the electrifying thrillers

About the Author

Copyright

 

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”


Romans 12:19 (King James Version)

“Behold what the scripture says—man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.”

—Moroni 8:20

 

PROLOGUE

Vengeance

No,
the boy mouthed, his lips forming a perfect O. He was pretty. Boys shouldn’t look like this, with china doll complexions, sky blue eyes, and pouty pink lips. It wasn’t right. Not the way God intended.
Please no.

He tried to speak the words aloud, but no sound came out. Other than a slight hiss, the statically charged air around them was silent. Silence was golden, and this golden boy would never speak again. Fitting. It was only fair. The words that had always come from his mouth had been fatal in nature. Knife-sharp and anger-driven swords of hate. They revealed his true nature.

The boy was never winning, kind, or charming, even though his looks implied such. He didn’t help old women across the street, or concern himself with merit badges or Pinewood Derbies. The only good thing about him—his saving grace—was the way he looked. But it did not save him, not in the end. Of course, those looks served only as a façade: a lure, enticing foolish young teenage girls into thinking him lovely and witty and stirring fireworks in their stomachs. That same façade drew young men around him, as well, many of them boys who wanted to know the secret—who wanted to possess the magic potion that made him irresistible.

It gave him power.

And he abused it.

Vengeance had seen many like the boy before. There would be many to follow. This mission—one served with every facet of heart and soul, as though summoned to this work by the Church’s highest leaders—was an eternal calling. Vengeance knew this.

Of course, the mission was unknown to anyone. It came straight from the top. The “head honcho,” as it were. Not many could claim that.

And no one would ever know how the mission started. Or how it would end.

Even Vengeance could not see what was coming.

But as the life seeped out of the boy there was satisfaction to be found in the waxy pallor of the offender’s face. Soon his beauty would fade. He would be alluring no more, and only those with the closest of ties would want to touch him.

The boy’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he bucked slightly, convulsively, before all signs of life left his earthly body.

Vengeance knelt down and put a cheek near the boy’s mouth, but there was no sign of breath or life. Birth and death, two absolutes, usually set apart by many years, were very similar. Violent. Leaving the body gasping for air. The boy had fought. He was strong, but Vengeance and God’s plan were both stronger.

The boy’s bowels and bladder emptied, and the foul smell suited him. It was real. It was indicative of what he
really
was.

Now came the end-times. A chill ran up Vengeance’s spine at the thought of eulogies, prayers, and stories that would praise the boy’s useless life. “He loved the Gospel,” they would say. “He knew this church was the only true church, and he tried to live his life accordingly.”

This would be a loathsome lie, especially in the case of vermin like this one. He had known nothing good, nothing true. He had only known what made him feel good and had spent every hour chasing it.

No one had seen the truth of his character. No one but Vengeance.

The boy would have grown up to be a vain and selfish man, evil to the core, raising his own brood of bad seeds, sent to earth to torment the innocent.

Now his parents would know the truth. And it would hurt, a searing pain, burning in their stomachs. The aftermath would be like a forest fire, leaving them barren and blackened, and with little hope of eventual survival.

Vengeance shook with fiery passion, staring at the hands that carried forth the work of the Lord. It was not an easy job. These hands had seen death, caused death, worked miracles for him. God’s world was not always placid and calm. In the underbelly there was extreme violence and wrath, necessary for the washing away of sins.

Blood must be spilled. The blood would renew. For time and all eternity, the quest would continue. Few would understand.

My Father in Heaven promised it, when He came to me nightly, as I sequestered myself in prayer. I’d been promised this since I was a child. Promised that He would talk to me, if only I would open my heart and listen.

God spoke to Vengeance, sometimes whispering, sometimes screaming in His infinite anger. So the work continued.

Vengeance looked down upon the still, ashen body of the latest assignment. He would cry no tears for this heathen. Not even during the funeral, or during the necessary trips to leave the mementos that would clue the parents in to their sins. They would cry enough for everyone, anyway, and not realize what a huge waste of emotion it would be. No one would notice Vengeance did not join in their grief.

Jeremiah Malone had deserved an uglier death than he’d received. But the Lord was merciful, as was His servant.

The suffering was over. At least for the boy. For his parents, it was only beginning.

 

ONE

Home sweet home. Mark Malone walked through the side door that led from his garage into the kitchen of his serene house and let the cool, manufactured air wash across his face and body. His blond hair was neat, his body trim and athletic in his long golf shorts—just the right length to cover his sacred garments—and blue jersey-print polo Ashworth shirt.

Eighteen holes of golf on a hot August Saturday took the stuffing right out of a man. Still, it was necessary for his business to make these sacrifices. And he did enjoy the game, and even an occasional side bet, although that needed to stay between him and the Lord—and his biggest client and golf partner, a Catholic man who drank heartily and cursed vilely during every game. Next to that man, surely God didn’t begrudge Mark a few small vices.

He worked hard at his insurance business every day and listened to people’s problems every night, trying to resolve issues that local bishops could not. It was part of his calling as stake president: an overseer to the web of wards that constituted the Kanesville East Stake. Each bishop took care of several hundred families, and in turn, Malone took care of those bishops, which included intervening in problems they could not solve.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a stranglehold on this landlocked state, and almost everyone who lived here was touched by it in some way, even if they were not regular, faithful, tithe-paying members.

That meant a lot of people, a lot of clients, a lot of problems.

His church calling constituted a difficult job—one that came with no earthly pay or training, but heavenly blessings. It often drained him more than he had believed possible. Sometimes he thought it was too much for any one man to bear. Just last night he had been faced with a young father addicted to Internet pornography—and it was destroying his marriage. The young wife’s tears had stirred something inside Mark, and he’d admonished the man severely, counseling him to seek repentance with the Lord and to disconnect his Internet. Mark felt he’d handled the situation well.

When he’d received his calling he’d been flattered and thankful and, of course, secretly, overwhelmed at the prospect. Would he be up to the spiritual challenge? Was he in tune with his Savior enough to offer the right advice? Was God really inspired when He made his choice?

Mark Malone was not a man without sin. Yet surely God must forgive that sin, or he would never have been called. Everyone knew that Mormon callings were “inspired” and of the spirit. Knowing this, he had embraced his position. Unfortunately, his family had been, well, less than supportive. Especially Jeremiah.
Teenagers
. Having a father who was in such a position of responsibility within the church community seemed to be a burden to him. Mark’s beautiful boy, who had once looked up at him with open, shining eyes and begged for a game of catch, now watched him with hooded lids and flashes of derision. All he “caught” was the hatred in the boy’s glares.

As Mark thought of the resentful teen, his eyes flashed to the dormer window that overlooked the backyard and anger began to seep into his chest. The lawn was long and unattractive, and he was having his counselors in the stake presidency and their wives over tonight for a barbecue. The only job he had required of Jeremiah was to mow the lawn and trim and edge it, not very difficult for a strapping young man.

But it hadn’t been done. Not one piece of grass had been touched.

One little thing. All he’d asked.

“Jeremiah!” he yelled, his voice strained and rigid with control. The anger was hot and tight inside him, wanting out, forcing the blood to pound through his veins. “Jeremiah, the lawn is still not mowed. What the heck have you been doing all day?”

No answering voice. Not even that of his wife, who had an entire barbecue to prepare. He knew where she was, of course. In her bed, sleeping away her horrible, horrible life. After all, she
only
had a beautiful three-thousand-square-foot home and a husband who was at the top of his church’s career ladder, at least as far as one could go at a local level. She was not forced to go outside the home and work, like so many other Mormon mothers; her only job was to care for his house and his son, Jeremiah.

She had done neither very well. Mark felt the stirrings of guilt in his gut, the same things he felt whenever he considered Lydia’s mental state. Had he somehow brought this on? Did he fail in this most important aspect of his life—being the solid cement that would hold together his eternal family?

There was a housekeeper/cook who provided meals that could be heated in the oven shortly before he got home. That woman also kept the house clean and the laundry up. The guilt moved aside and resentment filled his broad chest, mixing with the anger. It was a powerful combination.

Lydia had been writing her master’s thesis in education when they had met at Brigham Young University. She’d been young and beautiful, her fiery auburn hair matching her spirit.

Now there was no fire. There was nothing but flat eyes and a flabby body and a vacant look that said he could be the mailman for all she cared. His eternal companion should have stayed young and vibrant and attractive and, most of all, still interested in him. And Lydia had given him only one son instead of a large family. Slowly, the person he’d married had slipped away and become just a semblance of the woman she’d been, emotionless except for resentment and a grief he couldn’t identify or assuage.

“Jeremiah?” he yelled again. He opened a cupboard, took a glass from it, and walked over to the side-by-side refrigerator. He pushed the glass into the opening in the door, and ice, then water quickly chunked into his glass. He took a long sip and, carrying the glass, headed out of the kitchen and toward his son’s room.

When they’d built the house, Lydia had insisted on a rambler, all one level, with the bedrooms close together. Although Jeremiah had been only eight at the time, she was already worried about his teenage years—him sneaking out, possibly getting hurt and never coming home. The Lydia-that-used-to-be hit Mark in the chest like a punch. Irrational and sometimes breathless with fears of which he would never even have conceived. Back then, that eccentricity had been part of her charm. Now it was her downfall.

BOOK: Ties That Bind
11.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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