Lost In the Blur, Part 3

By Bokerah Brumley

They were going to roll into hell like they owned the place.

That was the scope of their plan.

Seated on a stolen motorcycle, they were going to force the warlord, Eglon the Fat, to give six-year-old Benjamin back.

The two of them against unknown thousands.

Those were the likely odds. Everything would go wrong.

But it didn’t matter; they had to go. It was the only chance they had.

Over the next rise, Leah Frakes could make out a faint glow.

She squeezed Samuel’s middle a little tighter as he drove them forward, his muscles granite beneath her palms. She tried not to think about what would come next.

It had to be done. Her heartbeat thundered loud enough to drown out the noise from the wind that rushed over them. Broken-down vehicles, overturned barricades and burned-out caution signs littered the freeway, populated by the misfortunate remnants of people that were…. Collections of skulls marked families that had perished together.

Leah thought she could hear the leftover cries, whispering through nearby tree branches and the wreckage of civility. They’d left the sprawling husk of the city behind long ago.

As they approached the last hill, Leah gnawed on her bottom lip until she tasted blood, and every little bump sent her stomach flip-flopping in her middle. The air had cooled with the setting of the sun. The darkness hid their identities the way the masks hid their faces, but they couldn’t depend on that indefinitely.

Samuel had vowed to get Benjamin back. That was all that mattered. Since her father’s death, Leah hadn’t had any trouble she couldn’t handle with her wits or her shotgun. This time, she needed help.

Samuel was the means to the end. He knew where Eglon’s compound was, and he would get her to Benjamin. Even if she died in the attempt, the rest didn’t matter. Benjamin was her son. She had to try.

The headlight illuminated the road directly in front of them but not much. Even though the asphalt had crumbled in places, the roads were mostly intact, and they had quickly covered the miles between the city and their ultimate goal.

In the dim moonlight, pine trees were daggers, leaning over the couple in oppressive, triangular shadows as they moved through the forest. They reminded Leah of teeth, and they were barreling into the mouth of the enemy. Soon, they’d be in the belly of the beast.

Once they got inside the compound, Eglon or his lackies would demand they remove their headgear. They’d ask questions if Leah and Samuel didn’t comply. She had no idea what they would do then. Samuel hadn’t shared that part of his plan, and Leah suspected even he didn’t know what should happen.

A shiver coursed through her, and she laid her cheek on Samuel’s back. She needed his strength to become hers, and she willed it to seep into her. His hand grazed her knee.

Eglon had better not have harmed her son. She wasn’t sure how, but she would exact vengeance for every bruise or scratch she found on her boy’s body. Their  facade wouldn’t fool Eglon long, but they only needed enough time to rescue Benjamin. No matter what fury waited, she would face anything to get Benjamin back.

That included the desperate game-of-dress-up idea that Samuel had concocted. Samuel slowed as they crested the ridge that overlooked a darkened valley. She could make out a forest that filled the valley below.

“The entrance to the compound isn’t far,” he yelled over his shoulder.

Leah nodded, but nothing else was worth trying to yell over the wind noise.

Samuel decelerated even more, and the wind noise lessened enough to hear the insects calling to one another. A bright light flashed at the edge of the road, followed by movements in the shadows. Samuel waved, and then there were three short bursts of light.

A sentry.

“It won’t be the last one,” he muttered under his breath.

A hundred more yards and they came to a paved road, the outlet obscured by brush. A gate drew back, taking the overgrowth with it and exposing a long drive. Samuel took the path.

Another brief glint and then another farther down. They kept on, the flashes staying just ahead of them as they went.

The scent of woodsmoke permeated the air and signaled the presence of civilization nearby. There was a time when the smell itself would have made her feel home. Now it filled her with trepidation. An army waited for them. It could be five hundred. It could be five thousand.

The tree line hid the answer to the question for so long that Leah shifted in the seat, standing up on the pegs where her heels rested. A fool’s hope, but maybe she could catch a glimpse of where they were keeping Benjamin. Her attempt to see the compound earned her an elbow to the thigh.

She grunted and punched Samuel in the side. “What?”

“Be still. Act normal,” he said. “Nobody will care we’re here until you start acting weird. Take it easy back there.”

“I want Benjamin.” She trembled, and the chattering of her teeth clipped the end of the sentence.

“We’ll get him, Leah.” The rumble of his voice crashed against the knot in her chest. He squeezed her leg, the second gesture kinder than the first.

Samuel kept the motorcycle on its easy pace toward the entrance.

Leah closed her eyes, scooted down in the seat and wished for the quilt her mother had made, the one with refillable pouches of lavender and peppermint in the seams. It kept the bugs off. So Leah’s mother had always said to her, and she always said to Benjamin.

To Leah, the scent meant Benjamin, it meant safety, and the smell meant…

Home.

Where she could bury her face in Dog’s coat to hide from what she didn’t want to watch unfold. Where she could care for Sweet Pea and her babies.

Everything had better be alive when they got back. Benjamin would want to hold his little doe. With last week’s rain, Sweet Pea had plenty of grazing, and Dog could take care of the farm as well as Leah could. It had been the two of them against the world, against the Blur.

Until Samuel came.

She straightened, throwing her shoulders back. She’d get it all back. Life would return to their normal. That was the goal. That was the hope she had to hold on to.

They eased through the tree line and into an opening that had been cleared of trees. The walled compound glowed, the light inside bright enough to blot out the stars. Leftover stumps littered the knolls on either side of the road, and a heavy gate waited at the end, as unbreakable as the stone rolled in front of the grave.

A cross-armed sentry sat on a watchtower just inside the perimeter.

Samuel stiffened, but he leaned forward in his seat, waved at the guard and then pointed at the obstacle without slowing or speeding up. A deadly game of chicken.

Samuel had enough gall to pull it off, ordering Eglon’s demons around as though he had the right to command them. Yet the watchman still had to listen.

Leah ducked behind Samuel and chewed her bottom lip, her heartbeat thudding in her eardrums. Every nerve tingled as though a lightning bolt hovered in the air directly above them.

Moments ticked by, and Leah peered over Samuel’s shoulder. Finally, the heavy wrought iron gate parted and swung open. Each side crashed with a clank! against the wall behind.

Then hell welcomed them in as though they belonged there.

It reminded her of a castle. Or at least the images she remembered from picture books.

That was all Leah could come up with.

The wall of the compound was situated in an open field. Tents and tumble-down hovels littered the open places like trash discards from a giant’s lunch pail. Maybe two hundred campfires dotted the space, illuminating the faces that huddled around them.

In the center, another semicircular wall had been erected, clearly made more carefully and from better material. The moonlight glinted off of two rooflines. That must be where Eglon lived—the heart of hearts.

Leah shook her head. Their whole farm would fit inside the smaller center. Two or three times even.

The motorcycle pitched to the right, and Samuel stuck his foot out to keep them from falling over. The engine cut off and the headlight winked out. They waited for a horde to descend. When none did, Samuel set the kickstand and patted her leg. “You have to get off first.”

Leah climbed off, but her numb legs gave way. She folded in two and landed on the dirt. She struggled to her feet as quickly as she could manage. They’d been riding for hours.

Against the backdrop of serenading crickets, men bellowed crude things to one another. Others shouted greetings to them. At least three men and one woman whistled at Leah and made propositions that made her blush.

That was unexpected. From the chatter, Leah could tell that the woman she was impersonating had her fair share of interested bedfellows.

Leah swallowed the bile that burned the back of her throat. “They think…they think…” She started, but she couldn’t get the words to come out. The other woman might have had an appointment with someone. It reminded her of the night in the barn. The brutes that had found her there. Icy fingers squeezed her throat.

She panted, “I can’t. I can’t.”

“I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“How are you going to do that?” She took deep breaths, willing the flashbacks to stay away.

Through the mouth of the mask, she saw the flash of teeth. He grinned at her like they were back at home, sharing a laugh over something silly Benjamin had done. “I’ll tell them you lost a bet and you’re mine for the night.”

Leah’s mouth fell open. “You wouldn’t.”

“I’d do pretty much anything to keep you and Benjamin safe.”

She believed him.

Samuel climbed off the bike and stretched everything from the waist down.

With the cooling effect of the wind gone, the roughness of the knit mask made her cheeks itch, but she ignored it and spun slowly. “What do we do first?”

“Give our report to Eglon.” He waved to something behind her.

She turned around to find a pair of armed men heading in their direction. “Do you know them?”

He shook his head. “I don’t recognize any of them yet.”

“They’re going to make us take our masks off.”

Then the two were too close for him to respond.

“Caleb, Mary,” said the one. “Eglon wants to hear what you found. Were you able to kill Samuel?”

Samuel shrugged. “What do you think?” His voice was higher-pitched, and the cadence wasn’t his normal one. He paused and squinted toward them.

The shorter one punched the taller one in the shoulder. “Seriously, James, don’t you know who you’re talking to?” James scowled, but the other one went on. “Of course, Caleb took care of him.”

“Sorry, Caleb.” James put his hands up as if to pacify a growling dog and then glanced around. “Where’s Nathan?”

“Collateral damage.”

He nodded once. “Fair enough. I told Boss that the new guy was wound too tight to make it here.” Then he turned to Leah. “You have a place tonight? I could use some company.”

Leah’s mouth fell open, but no sound came out.

Samuel stepped closer. “She lost a bet, so she’s staying with me.”

“Maria won’t like that,” James said.

Leah forced herself not to take a step backward when Samuel leered at her and licked his lips. “Maria’s going to join us. She’s always had a thing for Mary.”

At the lie, both guards guffawed, their laughter echoing through the camp, the sound laced with envy.

“Take off your masks and stay a while,” the shorter one invited.

“Face is still cold from the ride,” Leah offered. If she could keep the quiver out of her voice, it would be enough of an excuse.

“Maybe he”—he jammed a thumb toward Samuel—“can warm it up later.”

“That’s the plan,” Samuel said.

Leah tried to laugh, but it came out all wrong—something between a hiccup and a sob. Samuel shook his head slightly, and she stopped abruptly. She was bad at lying, horrible at being anything other than what she was.

“Is she okay?” James stepped toward her.

Samuel rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, why wouldn’t she be?”

The two lackeys scowled at each other.

“Do you have something to ask me?” Leah dropped her hands on her hips and scooted closer to Samuel, trying to emulate how she imagined Mary might have acted. Leah took a breath and then draped her arms around Samuel’s neck, thankful for the mask and pseudo darkness to hide her discomfort.

“I’m ready for bed.” She licked Samuel’s earlobe. Part of her wanted to hide from the charade they were playing, but another part of her wanted to explore the maddening rush and the way she responded.

With a low growl, Samuel wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her neck. She stared at them, daring them to interfere or argue.

James narrowed his gaze while the other guy flushed.

Too close.

Simultaneously, Samuel was too close and not close enough, but she drew him nearer. They had so much to work out between them. Once they got Benjamin back.

The four of them stood like that for a long moment, frozen in a passive faceoff.

Finally, James said, “Come on. Let’s get it over with so you lovebirds can get on with your evening.” They elbowed each other.

“I’ll go let Maria know you’ll be home soon,” the shorter one said before jogging away.

Samuel raised a hand as though to call him back but must have thought better of it. “Where’s Boss Man?”

“In his study.” James started toward the center of the compound.

Leah’s knees nearly buckled from the relief that coursed through her. They could hide behind their masks for a few minutes more.

Samuel left the bike parked where they had left it and followed the two toward the interior compound. Leah brought up the rear.

They set a brisk pace toward the middle of the makeshift keep.

Eglon’s lair cast long shadows in the moonlight. Razor wire topped the high fence that surrounded the compound. In one way, it reminded Leah of their home in their valley, but the combination of high fences and razor wire never meant “welcome.” At their place, strangers coming in always got the business end of her shotgun. It was a universal truth, a symptom of survival.

In the dark, Samuel’s hand brushed against hers. She wanted to take it in hers, to cling to it like the lifeline she needed. She couldn’t tell if it was from Samuel or a part of their lovers’ act, so she let it fall away.

James led them to a door to the right of a gate that was big enough to allow vehicles in. It led into a small room. Inside, six men stared at screens displaying a live video feed from all over the compound. The security force barely responded as they moved through to the outside.

Leah stopped short. The two men halted a moment later, following her gaze. On a gravel pad, in the middle of the enclosure, Eglon’s tank gleamed in the moonlight. A dozen armed men milled about the yard around it as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Yet nobody told them to remove their masks. They all still believed she and Samuel were who they said they were. Suspicion meant survival. The guards would know that, and Eglon would demand it. He could afford the best protection anywhere.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” James asked.

“Formidable.” Leah tapped her chin. It was the best she could come up with, but she meant it.

“Caleb, we better not keep the boss waiting,” James said, gesturing toward the two houses in front of them.

They started walking again. The fake name grated on her nerves. Her legs trembled, and her heart tried to beat out of her chest.

At the first building, James stepped onto the porch, their footsteps loud in the quiet of the night. He knocked twice on the front door and then waved Samuel inside. Leah slipped inside next, and James brought up the rear.

Wide-eyed, Leah surveyed the room. Bookshelves lined the walls. She turned to James and spoke in hushed tones. “Where’s Benjamin?”

Samuel’s eyes widened.

She clamped a hand over her mouth. The words had slipped out before she could stop them.

James snickered darkly and continued on through to the next room. Eglon followed him back. Samuel positioned himself between Eglon and Leah, and then made his body as wide as he could.

“Eglon.” Samuel settled into a crouch as though he expected an attack.

Eglon eyed him and then chuckled.

Abruptly, arms clamped around Leah and ripped off her mask, drawing her off her feet before she could cry out. A sweaty hand covered her mouth. She kicked at her attacker, but she was in the middle of the room. She couldn’t get leverage.

Across the room, a figure bolted out of the shadows toward Samuel. Leah recognized James and tried to scream, but no sound came out.

She bit at the hand that held her, to no avail.

His arms wide, James leapt at Samuel, but Samuel sidestepped him and darted toward the exit. He must have a plan for escape.

Leah’s toes grazed the floor, and she kicked off, trying to throw her captor off balance. She slipped her hands in between her face and the stranger’s arms. She yanked down and then pushed back. Her captor slammed against the wall, but the man held fast. She shook her shoulders, trying to dislodge him. She had to help Samuel. She needed him to get to Benjamin.

James rushed after Samuel. A duo blocked the door, trapping Samuel inside, forcing him to pause long enough that James caught up.

“Get him. Get him,” came the whispered chant. The hand fell away from her mouth.

“Look out,” Leah screamed, but the three of them had Samuel trapped inside the room.

“Let her go,” Samuel bellowed. He swung his fists like a madman. He angled toward her, preparing to make a run at her.

“No, no, no.” She kicked at the man behind her. “Save Benjamin.”

But it was too late. The three of them already had Samuel imprisoned between them. The other two grabbed his arms and forced them behind him. One wrapped his wrists in a rope. Once done, they each took a side.

James drew back and punched Samuel square in the stomach. “Traitor.”

Samuel doubled over, coughing and struggling to breathe. James grabbed a handful of hair and yanked, his mouth stretched into a sick smile as he ignored Samuel’s pain-filled moan.

Samuel straightened.

“Masks aren’t allowed here,” James growled. He slung the knit mask aside. “New rule. Caleb’s idea.”

Samuel took a sharp breath and stepped forward to glare at the fat man full in the face.

Nonplussed, Eglon snickered. “You remember,” he said. “That’s right. It’s your fault that masks must be removed at the exterior, and everyone here knows that.”

“Not allowed?” Leah closed her eyes.

“It’s been that way since he kidnapped my wife and son.”

“She was your prisoner,” Samuel countered.

“Shut up.” James punched Samuel again and then spit in his face.

Leah cried out.

Samuel panted. “She didn’t love you.”

“She was mine,” Eglon said. “I brought her home and made her my wife. Because of you, I lost my son.”

Sobs shook Leah’s shoulders. They hadn’t fooled anyone. Eglon had known the whole time that they weren’t who they were pretending to be. It was them who had been fooled.

Samuel had led them into a trap.

“I want Benjamin!” she screamed, and her captor landed a blow that made her see stars.

“Shut her up,” Eglon said.

“Leah!” Samuel bellowed.

The man behind her pressed a sweet-smelling rag to her face.

“Don’t give her too much,” Eglon said, sounding far away.

And then everything went dark.

Leah woke, lying on her side on the dirty floor, facing the fireplace. Her jaw ached from the earlier blow even as warmth washed over her, and her throat felt like sandpaper. A bitter film covered her tongue. Over the mantel, a clock ticked away the time. Chiming bells marked the early morning hour.

Sunrise wasn’t far away. Maybe daylight would bring a solution.

She tried to sit up, but a sharp pain stabbed through both her shoulders and a band of some kind bit into her wrists, which were fastened behind her back. She yanked harder but couldn’t get any slack to work with. They’d tied her tight.

Leah blinked rapidly to clear her double vision. Beside the mantel clock, a serene face smiled down from a portrait. A noise came from behind her, and she flipped over, expecting another blow like the one that had knocked her out. She flinched when she landed. “Ow.”

“You’re awake.” Eglon sat in a rocker, swaying forward and back. He stood. “Admiring my wife?”

“You mean your prisoner?”

“That’s Samuel’s version.” He appraised her. “You know, she was like you. It’s no wonder Samuel found you. He likes spirited women, but he’s a dangerous man to have around. They’ve all ended up dead.”

“You’re the dangerous one.” She scooted away from him.

“Samuel kidnapped her and my newborn son. He’d killed her by the time I’d caught up with him, and my baby boy was nowhere to be found.”

Wheels turned in Leah’s head. There was something there, but her muddled mind wasn’t putting the pieces together. Puzzling on it made her brain hurt.

Instead she asked, “How long have I been out?”

“A couple of hours.”

She scanned the room. It was just the two of them in his study. Oil lamps rested on side tables, and nothing else had changed from earlier.

“Can you make tallow?” He drew a leather-bound book from his shelves. “My men need candles.”

She drew back. The question was out of place.

“What happened to Samuel?” she rasped. She needed a drink of water.

Eglon inclined his ear. “Speak up, dear.”

Leah frowned at his use of endearment and then coughed to clear her throat. “What happened to Samuel?”

At her question, Eglon’s face twisted in a sickly smile, but he didn’t answer.

“Tell me where Samuel is.” She floundered on the floor, feeling more like a fish than a person.

“Guard,” Eglon called. The door opened. “Help her up.”

A man entered and crossed to her. In one move, he crouched down, grabbed one of her arms and pulled her to her feet. His fingers were a vice.

Eglon filled a glass with water. He held it up, and the guard pushed her closer to him. He lifted it to her mouth. She pressed her lips closed.

He scoffed at her display but set the glass aside. “As you wish. Though I know you’re thirsty, and I have no desire to poison you. You’re far too important to me.”

Leah shivered. She didn’t want to be important to Eglon. “Where’s Samuel?”

“Let’s get you to your new home.” He gestured toward the exit. “I think you’ll love it.”

The man pushed her in the direction Eglon had indicated. He grasped her elbow when she stepped outside, and they continued without pause.

Leah marched in front of Eglon and his bodyguard with her chin held high. They were taking her to her new home. That’s what he’d said. They reached a long, low house with a wraparound porch. Despite being in Eglon’s compound, it was the nicest-looking house Leah had ever seen.

She stepped up onto the porch, curious about the inside. With direction, she strode the length of the deck, but she froze when she caught sight of Benjamin through the glass. She shuddered at the shock of seeing him, illuminated by lamplight. He was tied to a chair in the middle of a large room, a parlor of sorts.

Benjamin faced a nearby desk but had his back to the front door of the building. Nearby, a giant of a man was seated at a table that was covered in notebooks and papers. He frowned, comparing one sheet of information to another.

Benjamin threw back his head and howled, twisting and turning in the ropes until he pitched the chair backward.

“Quit doing that,” the giant bellowed. The big man loosed a stream of curses and crossed to the boy, reaching for the chair to set it upright. “They’ll be here any minute.”

“I want my mother! Where is my mother?” he screamed. Benjamin kicked at his captor’s knees. Her boy fought as fiercely as a feral mountain lion cub.

“Benjamin. Benjamin.” His name soothed her insides. Simultaneously, she hoped he would inflict damage on the man, but the aftermath would mean pain for them both. The man set Benjamin upright and then returned to his desk. Leah leaned toward her son, bumping her forehead on the glass.

The noise brought the big man’s head up from his book work.

“Get in there.” Eglon shoved her hard on the shoulder blade. He remained outside and murmured to the man that had followed them from the main house.

She did as she was told without argument. Exhaustion washed over her, taking the place of determination. She wanted nothing more than to see her boy. For a moment, nothing else in the world existed besides that six-year-old little boy. The floor creaked when she crossed over the threshold.

“Benjamin,” she whispered, tugging at the bindings that held her arms behind her. Her arms ached to hold him.

“Mama?” He craned his neck, but he couldn’t twist far enough around to see her. He dropped his head to the side and whimpered her name. He was so tired.

“I’m here.” She bolted forward, dropping to her knees in front of Benjamin.

He lifted his head and took a deep breath. “Mama,” he breathed.

“Hey, sweetie. I haven’t seen you in ages. Are you hurt?” She covered his face in tears and kisses.

He laid his head on her shoulder. “Only when I knock myself over.”

“Have you been eating?”

Eglon stepped inside behind her. “Go get the other one,” he said, and the man at the table disappeared into the shadows at the back of the room.

Leah straightened, prepared to hurl herself at Eglon. Tied or not, she wouldn’t let him win. But her gaze was drawn to a portrait on the desk. It featured the same woman from the picture on the mantel of the main house. Beside her, Eglon grinned out of the frame.

The woman was familiar. Impossible as it was, it was as if Leah had seen her somewhere before.

Oh my god. Benjamin.

It was Benjamin. Her son was the spitting image of the woman. He had her eyes.

She gasped. That meant…

Eglon was Benjamin’s father. No, she wouldn’t let that happen. He would twist her sweet boy into something ugly. He would teach him to spend people as though they were worthless. He would teach him to murder.

She spun back toward Eglon. “Where’s Samuel? Did you murder him too?”

Benjamin wailed.

Eglon sneered, his spittle collecting in droplets on his chin. “Is that what you think?”

Leah took a step forward. “Of course. That’s what you do.”

Eglon chuckled. “He traded you for his freedom.”

“Samuel would never betray me.”

Eglon doubled over, his laughter echoing off the walls of his compound. Each bolt of mirth struck her heart, breaking it wide open.

“My dear,” Eglon wheezed. “He already did.”

“You lie.” He had to be lying. There was no way Samuel was a traitor. Was he?

A door closed behind her, and Leah rounded toward it. She wouldn’t die without a fight.

Samuel stepped out of the shadows with his head down, followed by the man who had been at the desk earlier. He tilted his head one way and then the other, leering at Leah.

“Untie her,” Eglon instructed Samuel.

She trembled as Samuel worked her bindings. She wanted to throw herself in his arms. She wanted to believe it was all a mistake. They were stuck in a bad dream.

“Eglon’s not lying, Leah,” Samuel said softly. “I know when I’m beaten, Leah. I’d rather be free. You’ll have a good life here.”

For a moment, she couldn’t hear anything. Spots swam in her vision.

Eglon was a liar.

Yet Samuel said Eglon wasn’t lying.

He hadn’t cared about Benjamin at all. He’d brought her to Eglon. Had Samuel guessed that Benjamin was Eglon’s son?

“Why?” The word escaped her lips.

“I need a new wife.” Eglon gestured to the house that surrounded him. “Do you like it here?” He picked up the portrait and smoothed his fingers across the glass. “The house used to be hers. You’re so much like her, Leah.”

“What?” It had to be a joke. A game. A ruse.

“But that’s not the only reason,” Samuel added. “You know things that nobody else does.”

“You think I will help you?”

Samuel’s gaze raked over her. Fury burned in his eyes. The unbridled fervor knocked the air from her chest. “We need what you know to survive.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” She scowled at him. For five months, he’d lived beside her, treating her with a level of respect that didn’t exist in the Blur. This couldn’t be real.

“We have armies that need feeding. We have always lost too many men to starvation. Yours is the only farm that survived. Yours was the only place that has been able to stand on its own. With your help, we can grow.”

Eglon regarded their exchange, considering Samuel with an expression that resembled that of a proud father. “And you will learn to live as my wife.”

“I can’t do that. I won’t.” Leah scrambled backward.

“We all have secrets,” Samuel said. He glanced toward Benjamin. “Some more dangerous than others.”

“You will show them to us,” Eglon added. “Or you’ll never see Benjamin again.”

The room tilted, and she stumbled forward, catching herself on the table and scattering papers across the room.

She’d unwittingly fed a Judas for months, cared for him, nearly invited him into her bed. For what reason? She’d forgotten the suspicion her father had taught her. She’d risked everything.

All because she had been lonely.

All for a man who had brought laughter into their home.

The revelation was a knife in her middle.

Her skills made her one part dangerous and three parts useful, and they planned to exploit her knowledge and her body to help grow Eglon’s kingdom. She shuddered.

Knowledge had been her gift from her father. Samuel wanted to take that. Pervert it. Her father would be spinning in his grave.

Samuel knew everything almost as well as she did. None of it made any sense.

As the sun crested the ridge, washing the world in morning light, the confusion became a crushing weight on Leah’s chest, and the world spun end over end.

She crumpled to the ground.

 

Bokerah Brumley is a speculative fiction writer, making stuff up on a trampoline in West Texas. She lives on ten permaculture acres with sheep, goats, turkeys, pea-fowl, guineas, geese, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, five home-educated children, and one husband.

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