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Naomi has never questioned her strange upbringing in her abusive father’s cult — until she’s told she must marry a terrifying man. When mysterious Kai shows Naomi how to unleash her own supernatural powers, can she escape fate and change her future?
- Forbidden Love
- Woman in Peril
- He falls first
- Love Triangle
- Arranged Marriage
- Fish out of Water
Naomi has never tried to run away…until now.
Because now, her father wants her to get married.At sixteen.
The deadly cult that had kept her trapped for all these years just got a hundred times worse. Naomi sees no way out until one dark night when the impossible happens.
That night, an angel sneaks into her room, kisses her and opens her eyes to a whole new, supernatural power.
Using her newfound power, she fights back and discovers that she’s not the only one with a secret…
The sink propped next to our front door didn’t belong. My mother had it installed after I kept tracking in dirt and fertilizer from my greenhouse. I washed the soil off my hands with the warm water and used a file to clear the dirt out from under my nails. Then I exchanged one filthy pair of ugly tennis shoes for a pair of clean ugly tennis shoes and made my way into the kitchen. Mother didn’t allow a speck of soil from my greenhouse to dirty her home.
Paint on the cabinets peeled in white curls. A single light bulb gave enough light to cook but not enough to read a recipe. My mother stood by the tiny window, her bottle-blonde hair twisted in a bun on the back of her head. She wiped her hands on her apron, then smoothed a stray hair from my braid. I knelt down to tie my shoes, anything to avoid her touch. Physical touch burned, even something as little as a finger brushing my forehead. Mother knew it too.
“Wash your face. We have guests coming for dinner.”
My stomach knotted. I tied and untied my shoes three times, wondering how to respond. Years ago, my father closed our home to visitors. No one crossed our threshold. I was allowed to leave only to go to school and church—well, if you want to call it that. In school, I watched movies, and while I went to the Baptist church until I was eight, our new church was hardly a church.
“Why?” I asked and waited for the slap and a lecture. I’d been slapped so many times that I was all but immune to the pain. My curiosity overrode my memory of the last question I asked. Grandma died, and I wanted to know why I couldn’t go to the funeral.
Mother smiled like she was hiding something important. This was not good at all.
“For your birthday. They’re friends of your father’s from church. We have a big surprise for you.”
Of course. Friends of my father. Nothing happened in our house unless he was the center of attention, even on my birthday. At least they remembered. The surprise concerned me though, as the last surprise was a drastic lifestyle change complete with long denim skirts and strict obedience. Oh, and no more birthdays. For eight years, I was only able to mark the passing year by checking the calendar.
Until now, apparently. Maybe the surprise would be that my father finally found his sanity. That would be an amazing birthday present, but I doubted I’d get that lucky.
Dinner took place in the dining room. The cheap chandelier struggled to fill the room with light, as two of the bulbs were out, and nobody bothered to replace them. Our mysterious dinner guests turned out to be familiar. And not the good kind of familiar, either.
Dwayne Yerdin sat at the table. He was a senior but ended up in quite a few of my classes even though he was two years older. I probably shouldn’t judge him. But with his heavy-lidded, half-closed eyes, buzzed head, and classic bully laugh, I disliked him the moment I met him three years ago. Seated next to him was a pudgy man in a suit. He wore a tie, but his neck was too thick to fasten the top button. He had the same heavy-lidded eyes as Dwayne.
My father nodded to me as I waited in the doorway.
“Naomi, it’s about time. Come and meet Dwayne and his father. They go to church with us. Here, sit.”
My father indicated the chair next to Dwayne, but I sat across from him instead. My head hummed with the act of disobedience, and the air smelled faintly of wisteria. I almost smiled. Irritation passed over my father’s face, but he didn’t say anything. Next to my father, the pudgy man stared at me with piercing gray eyes. My father ran a hand through his thick blonde hair and introduced me to our guests. I dropped my eyes and murmured, “hello.”
My mother served us pot roast and baked potatoes. She piled every plate high but hers and mine. Hunger kept me humble. And skinny. I focused on my food most of the dinner, not wanting to meet Mr. Yerdin’s gaze. Or Dwayne’s. His eyes shifted rapidly around the room as if searching for the nearest exit. His eyes met mine, and he smirked, like he knew something I didn’t.
My father and Mr. Yerdin talked of politics and religion, not once acknowledging that anyone else sat at the table. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised since more than one sermon had been preached about the place of women and children. We were inferior and didn’t deserve an opinion that differed from our husbands’ or fathers’, so it was best we didn’t say anything at all.
As the conversation shifted to the complicated surgery Father had to perform on a dog that was dumped in our yard—he was a veterinarian—I tried to think of what I would get if I crossed an Iceberg rose with a Sunsprite. A nice pale yellow and only a few thorns. Could be interesting. If Grandma were still alive, she’d appreciate it.
A quick glance at the clock told me they’d only been here forty-five minutes, but it felt like days. After another excruciating hour, Mother presented the cake. The carrot cake—my father’s favorite—had sixteen candles on it. I had not had a cake with candles since my eighth birthday. On that day, the cake was chocolate, my favorite.
I missed those days, the ones before my father went crazy. When he would come home and take me canoeing and fishing. When we would wake up early on Saturdays and go to breakfast at Sheila’s Café. I blinked back tears.
After the cake, I moved to help my mother clean up, but Father put a hand on my wrist. The skin burned where he touched it.
“See,” my father said, “she’s obedient.”
Mr. Yerdin grinned. “Yes, of course she is. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Dr. Aren. Dwayne, what do you think?”
Dwayne shrugged and shifted his eyes. I kept my mouth shut and listened.
Mr. Yerdin eyed me up and down. “Well, she certainly has the required blonde hair and pale skin.”
“And she’s a virgin.” My father spoke this a little too loudly, and I flinched. My mother paused before picking up Mr. Yerdin’s plate. She met my father’s eyes and nodded. Then the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly.
My chest tightened at the thought of what my birthday surprise would be. Although part of me wanted to escape back into the quiet world of flowers and dirt, another part of me needed to know what my future would hold, why being a virgin was important.
I cleared my throat. Dwayne smiled a wide, toothy smile, and my father glowered like I’d done something wrong. Which I had, but it would be worth the punishment if I got the answers I needed.
“Could someone please explain?” There. I asked the question, so out of character for me, and yet, satisfying in a strange way. I bit my bottom lip and tasted butterscotch, which was weird because the cake we ate contained nothing of the sort.
I took a sip of my water. Asking questions was not an act of disobedience, but I recognized the power in asking. I was taking control, even if that control was small.
Father hesitated for a moment and then frowned. He glanced up and saw my mother standing in the kitchen, her eyes boring into his. He answered me, his eyes never leaving hers.
“You’ll be marrying Dwayne.”
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