It was sickening.
Samson’s hand pushed on my back, forcing me to keep moving. I did, following Solomon up a graveled path. When we reached the top, I drank in the sight before me. Land as far as the eye could see, peppered with buildings. It was beautiful, all landscaped, with several vegetable gardens and areas for crops.
We walked over the soft grass, the ground wet from the rain. My toes squelched in my sandals. As we turned a corner, I saw a huge white house in the near distance. It was a beautiful building. Instantly, I knew that only one person in New Zion could live there.
My heart raced faster and faster with each step that I took. Grass changed to gravel as we walked up the central path to the mansion. Just as we reached the steps to the entrance, a red-haired woman came through the doors. Beside her was a young girl, no older than seven or eight, holding her hand. The little girl had long blond hair and bright blue eyes. Even from my vantage point I could see that the girl was beautiful. They disappeared from sight around the back of the mansion.
Inside, the house was vast and beautiful, a palace of opulence. I smelled heavy incense drifting in the air.
Solomon led me to a high wooden door. He rapped on the wood three times. A deep voice shouted for us to enter. I forced myself to stand straight. I forced myself to hold my composure. You can get through this, Harmony. You must.
The door opened and Samson guided me through. There were two guards straight ahead. They held guns, though they were dressed in white tunics rather than their usual black uniforms. They too looked red from exertion . . . no doubt exhausted from the Lord’s Sharing.
We came to a halt. I could not see in front of me; Brother Solomon was blocking my view. The room was silent; the sound of my slow, controlled breathing seemed to fill every inch of space.
Solomon stepped aside. I kept my head down, as Sister Ruth had told me to. Meeting the prophet was the highest honor for our people and the scriptures informed us that certain etiquette was expected.
In my peripheral vision, I saw a man sitting on a large chair in a raised part of the room, two large steps separating him from where the rest of us stood. Above us, as the prophet of The Order should be.
The silence stretched on and on. The prophet rose from his seat. My hands were clasped behind my back, and I was glad of it; my hands were shaking too much to disguise.
They betrayed my fear.
The scent of jasmine filled my nose as the prophet approached. He was wearing white, the color of purity. The prophet’s feet came to a stop before me. I was breathless as I felt his eyes scan my body. I could only see his feet, but I could sense that he was tall and broad.
“Lift your head,” the prophet commanded. I did as ordered, my eyes slowly tracing over his garment, which was open from his navel to his neck, revealing olive skin over taut muscle. His skin was glistening, and I detected the smell of a recent joining on him.
That gave me pause. The new prophet was meant to be pure. Kept innocent for his wife.
But Prophet Cain . . .
“Lift your eyes!” he said, more harshly this time. I did as commanded, to be instantly greeted with his face. Short brown beard, long brown hair and brown eyes.
Much to my annoyance I noted that he was handsome. Very handsome. One of the most handsome men I had ever seen. His eyes held me in a predatory stare. Unable to keep our gazes locked so intensely, I lowered my eyes. I saw a smug smile pull on his full lips as I did.
The prophet stepped closer, his bare chest almost touching me. I wrestled with my lungs to find breath. My hands, still clasped behind my back, shook with nerves.
“Harmony,” he said. I lifted my eyes back to his. This time when I met his gaze, I could see an excited glint in their depths. And something else. Something that unnerved me. I had always believed a pair of eyes could tell much about the spirit of a person. Their soul and the nature of their heart. As I studied Prophet Cain’s big brown eyes, all I felt was coldness. A cold and wicked spirit lurked beneath.
Prophet Cain’s lips parted and he dragged in a slow jagged breath. He lifted his hand and ran a fingertip over my forehead. I shivered as he did, but not through pleasure. “Harmony,” he said softly, passionately . . . covetously. “I can only see your eyes, but I can see you are indeed the devil’s whore.”
I swallowed as his fingers drifted to the clasp of my veil. With a flick of his wrist, my veil fell away. But the prophet did not stop there. He pushed back the headdress covering my head. My blond hair hung in waves down my back; my face was unveiled and open for his viewing.
Prophet Cain took a step back and stared. He stared and stared, his chest rising and falling more quickly with every passing second.
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