say I need help. Another exorcism. This is not new. This is my life. Today, I
expect to suffer at the hands of a man as warped by superstition and fear as my
mother. A man who will torture me in order to save me from things that don’t
man who actually comes to me is different.
is good and decent, and he sees what’s good and decent in me. And I don’t mean
for it to happen, but every time he looks at me, his gaze sets me on fire. He
brings me to the light, gives me back my life. For the first time, I see a
future for myself.
future with him.
for Killian-a man who’s intent on protecting me. On healing me.
doesn’t get it. The only thing that can heal me is him. But Killian will soon
be a priest. Untouchable. Forbidden.
I ask a man to choose between me … and God?
Stein is the acclaimed author of over thirty short stories, novellas and
novels, including the recently DABWAHA nominated Run To You. When not writing
deeply emotional and intensely sexy books, she can be found eating jelly
turtles, watching terrible sitcoms and occasionally lusting after hunks.
more on Charlotte, visit: www.charlottestein.net
I’ve been up here this time. Feels like days, but it can’t possibly be. If it
was days I would have peed myself. I would have made a mess or else starved to
death, yet somehow I don’t even feel hungry. Though really is that any kind of
surprise? My stomach is churning and churning at the thought of what might
happen soon. Every time it comes into my head all of this sickness rises inside
me, and only the idea of having to lie here with puke stinking me up puts a
stop to it.
room is rancid enough as it is. Momma shut the windows ages ago, and the heat
is making me sweat. I can see it shining on my bare arms and taste it
salt-sharp on my upper lip, and whenever I wriggle I get a wave of that
familiar smell. The one I never used to get when I was young and innocent, but
now get all the time.
scrub and scrub and plaster my body in deodorant, but it doesn’t seem to
matter. The ripe scent of my own body is still there, like a reminder of what
makes Momma hate me now.
I need any kind of reminder, what with the ropes around my wrists and ankles
and the fact that I’ve been here forever. Or the way she looks at me when she
comes in to see if I’m contrite and ready to plead for forgiveness. Of course I
always tell her I am, but whether I do or not don’t matter.
can you really get absolution for being possessed by the devil? I could say ten
thousand Hail Marys and recite the Bible backward, and it wouldn’t make no
difference. The demon she sees in me is invisible, and never seems to do
nothing, so it’s not like I can just scrub him out or act like he’s not there.
I can’t stop spinning the room around like in that movie with the girl who has
room has never spun around.
ask me—if I am possessed, I got some raw kind of deal. Seems unfair to have to
lie here and be so severely punished, when I don’t even get special powers. As
far as I know I haven’t so much as spoken in tongues or bent over in some kind
of weird way, and for darn sure my eyes have never turned black.
do I have to suffer?
says it’s because I sinned, but I swear to God I haven’t said or done a single
damned thing. Apart from right then, thinking damned. But I know the devil doesn’t jump into you for saying that.
Most people don’t even think of it as a curse anymore. The girls I used to go
to school with said all kinds of things, like the one with the F and the one with S and even worse—that one I’m not even going to give a letter to.
none of them ever had the devil eat her soul alive.
none of them had to wait all tied up in her bedroom, while some awful Priest
comes to exorcise the evil spirits out of them.
hear him now, climbing up the stairs. He sounds like judgment day coming to
greet me, footsteps as heavy as the hooves of the devil I’m supposed to be
possessed by. Each one slower than the last, until I have to hold my breath or
else pass out from the tension. Why isn’t he racing up here? How come he’s
dragging his feet like this?
I pull at the ropes and wish for hands as small as mice just so I could get
free. Though if I’m going to be wishing I’ll try for wings, because Lord I want
to fly away from here.
weren’t tied I’d jump right out the window, wings or not. I’d suffer two broken
legs and a snapped neck, if it meant I didn’t have to face whatever awful thing
he’s going to do to me. Beat me, most likely, because Momma would never get
anyone who wasn’t going to beat me. He’s going to stripe me from here to
tomorrow—which I could take.
the other stuff that worries me more.
boiling holy water and the drowning and the branding with crosses. She says
he’ll do that, all of that, and I believe her so completely I make myself
bleed. My wrists are bleeding and my ankles are bleeding and I’m crying when
the doorknob starts to turn. I scream for someone to deliver me from this hell,
and just as I do the door swings wide.
comes in, and after that I don’t know what to think.
silent straight away, but not because I’m choked with fear. I would be if he
was the image in my head—seven feet tall and old as sin, with eyes like winter
at the ends of the earth. Then I’d be scared and screaming still. But he’s not
that way at all.
looks like some ordinary man.
ain’t even wearing the robes and the collar and that. He has on this old beaten
leather jacket—one that is far too hot for the weather here, if his flushed
face is anything to go by—and even more astonishing a pair of jeans. I swear to
God he’s wearing jeans like he just did some fancy thing that jeans-wearing
so young I don’t even realize what’s going on at first. I’m too busy gawking at
his black, black hair and his lack of an angry beard and his kind of smooth
everything. He steps forward and I marvel at how vigorous he is—not heavy and
lumbering at all. And when he reaches for the rope around my right wrist, all I
can do is look and look at his nice hands.
big, but they’re not the least bit wrinkled or riddled with veins. He could be
just a few years older than me—maybe twenty-five? He could be younger, even
though that seems crazy. Momma would never bring someone like this to deal with
me. She would laugh at someone like this. She took us away from the church
because the new Priest was all young and into love and forgiving, so this makes
then I realize what he’s doing, and it makes even less sense than that.
untying me. He’s doing it fast too—like he knows Momma might come in any second
and stop him. Only I can see Momma in the door with her face all pinched and
her hands wringing and wringing and she doesn’t take a single step toward him,
so maybe his quickness is something else.
seems like he’s horrified about something.
think the horrified something might be me. He mutters a word as he sets me
loose, and I’m pretty sure the word is barbaric.
But him believing that and not wanting to thrash the devil out of me is so not
what I’ve been thinking all this time that it kind of won’t sink in. I keep
trying to look around him to Momma, waiting for her to step in.
him to change his mind. Maybe this is all just a trick or a trap, and suddenly
he’ll get out a switch to line my skin. Could be he has something worse on
him—like a thick leather belt or some kind of whupping device—and I can feel my
body bracing for it. Hurt like a son of a b-i-t-c-h when Momma went at me with
that rolling pin one time, so Lord only knows what will happen with this man
wielding something bigger.
comes closer and I wince away from it.
I’m wincing away from nothing at all. He doesn’t lash me or strike my face. He
gets his hand underneath my bare bruised legs and the other around my back and
then he says, “Put your arms around my neck.”
me a while to understand what he means, though. I sit there thinking—this must be some other new kind of punishment, and the minute I do as he asks,
pain will make me pass out. He might have shockers behind his ears or something
like it, and even after I find out he doesn’t I’m wondering.
wonder right up until he lifts me into his arms.
which my thoughts go kind of still and stunned. No one has ever lifted me up
before. Could be my dad did once, but I can barely remember him. And Momma sure
never—she would have hated touching me this much. She would have complained
about me making her hands all dirty, yet somehow the Priest don’t seem to care.
holds me all firm against his good clean clothes—that leather smells like old
books and the shirt underneath just the same. And when Momma moans and asks
what he’s doing in a weak sort of voice, he answers like it’s only sensible.
taking your daughter to the hospital,” he says, even though it must be miles to
Sacred Heart and I will have to go all the way in his car in my worn thin
housedress and my stink of a too-hot room and my red hair so lank it looks
will laugh at him, I reckon.
doesn’t seem to care at all.
even care when Momma goes to bar his way. He tells her, “Step aside, Mrs.
Emerson,” and for a second I go hot
and cold thinking of someone disobeying her and provoking her wrath. Then I
remember: he isn’t just someone. He’s a man of God and he has all the things
she believes in on his side, and no amount of hand-wringing can change that.
has to do as he says, and she does. She lets him go on through and down the
stairs with me in his arms, though it’s only once we’re outside that I really
feel what’s happened. The breezy autumn air hits my fevered skin and I breathe
out for the first time in years.
breathing out sounds kind of like a sob. It comes out loud at any rate—so loud
I know he must hear it for what it is. But if he does, he gives no sign. He
just keeps on walking to his car, while I look back over at the clapboard place
I lived in all these years. Somehow I understand that I’m not ever coming back
is it now, this is my freedom, and it looks like a Priest in his old sedan,
with my momma running out in her black skirts calling to me. “Dorothy,” she
screams, “Dorothy,” and in my head I’m already turning into someone else. They
will ask at the hospital and I will say.
name is Dot.
Hot. Intense. Emotional. Sexy. Charlotte Stein writes provocative erotic romance so deliciously you never want her books to end!
— New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy
“Stein’s surreal storytelling is elevated to a whole new level of madness with Intrusion…Stein has a delightfully peculiar voice and makes colorful use of stream of consciousness with Beth’s first person point of view. Readers won’t want to wait to see what she does next.”
— Romantic Times BOOKclub, 4.5 stars Top Pick for INTRUSION
“Charlotte Stein put me inside the heroine’s mind and it was an amazing place to be. I never wanted to leave.”
— New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Tessa Bailey
— Publishers Weekly (starred review) for INTRUSION
“A short, steamy, moody read that will have the reader taut with all kinds of delicious tension ….”
— Jay Crownover, New York Times bestselling author
“Fans…will be mesmerized by Noah’s amazing intellect, social awkwardness, vicious inner strength, and palpable vulnerability. Readers will find themselves inwardly cheering for Beth—both a survivor and a worthy heroine. Although the relationship between these characters is a slow-build, their dynamic both in and out of bed is very raw and intense, creating strong sexual and emotional tension.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
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