I shook my head. “No. It won’t work.” All eyes were suddenly on me. I inhaled deeply. “We are in alliance with the KKK. I helped make the deal directly. We have—Judah has—connections in government and in the police. The commune is protected. Heavily protected by powerful allies. You would be killed before anyone who could help got wind of this place. Too many people have too much to lose. I’d bet all the fucking money I have that those people are profiting from all the porn videos you’ve been telling me about. They won’t let that get out.”
“Shit!” Solomon said and rubbed his hand across his face. “Then we need a new plan, and quickly. The thought of that bastard taking her the way I have seen him with other women . . . ”
My mind raced with possibilities. But all the routes led me to just one place. One outcome. It would be death for me, but it could help the other people chained to this life . . . it could save Harmony. I lifted my head. “I have an idea. It’s risky, it might not work . . . but it could be our only choice.”
The group listened with wide, hopeful eyes as I told them of my plan. With each word, I grew more and more confident that it could work, and if I knew my brother as well as I believed I did, he would fall right into my trap. Judah’s pride would always be his biggest downfall.
“Hell,” Brother Stephen said when I had finished speaking. He locked eyes with Samson and Solomon in turn, and finally Sister Ruth. She had been silent as I had spoken, her head bowed.
“It is our only option,” Samson said reluctantly.
Brother Stephen held out his hand. I slid my hand into his as he said, “Then it is agreed.”
“But don’t tell Harmony,” I said. “I don’t want her to know, in case it doesn’t come off.”
Stephen released my hand. “I was about to ask you the very same thing. If she thought we had lost faith in her, if she thought we were removing her from this task, she would refuse. She has a strong sense of duty. She is fearless, like no one else.”
Despite all that could go wrong, and despite everything I had just discovered, I smiled. Because that was Harmony. Fearless and strong.
I sat back in my seat and took three deep breaths. As I did, I felt the tiredness I should have embraced hours ago weaken my limbs. I pushed myself to my feet. “I am going to sleep.” Sadness washed over me when I thought of Harmony in my cell. Every second I was with her, I wanted more and more time with her. I had only known her a short time, but in that time, I had been more my true self than I had ever been in my life. When I was living with the Hangmen, I had once read that the important thing wasn’t the number of minutes you spent with someone, but the quality of realness those minutes held. Every moment I had spent with Harmony saw a dead part of me being reborn. As I held her hand through the gap, as I stared into her dark eyes, she was placing herself into my soul.
It pained me that our time was finite. My heart ached at the thought of not having her by my side. So I decided that I would cherish what time I had left. I began to move my feet, my heavy limbs leading me toward where Harmony slept. Brother Stephen moved to block my path. I jerked my head up to see what he wanted. “Cain,” he said, his voice barely audible. He gripped my upper arm. His face was ashen, and I could see that something was troubling him. “Before you leave, there is something else you should know.”
I tipped my head, indicating for him to speak.
And I listened.
I listened to what he had to say, not missing once single piece of information . . . and all the while I stood there, unmoving . . .
. . . in complete and utter fucking shock.
Five days later . . .
The scents of vanilla and lavender oils being poured onto my skin brought a nauseous feeling to my stomach. I kept my eyes to the ground as Sarai roughly applied the perfume, her fingers digging into my skin. I could feel her intense blue gaze boring into my bowed head, but I kept calm. I would not let a girl of her age intimidate me.
Another sister, whose name I did not know, braided two front sections of my hair, then pulled them back from my face. My face and body were still and stoic, but my heart was racing like a duck’s legs swimming frantically under water.
It was fear, pure and undiluted fear.
Today was the day of my wedding to Prophet Cain. Despite the many days counting down to this moment, I could not believe that I was really here. I could not believe that after everything I had already been through at the hands of this faith, I was in this commune, willingly placing myself in this position.
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