The warm orange rays of autumn were soon replaced by the coolness of the evergreens. The sun-drenched asphalt gave way to dirt trails. Fall seemed to be well underway in the dense forest of the Whitetail Mountains.
Dana’s gaze was caught by a figure lying on the side of the road. She pulled over and went out to examine the body. The unfortunate man appeared to have been tortured. His body was cold, and only a yellow briefcase, the handle of which still held in his clenched hand, showed that this was not a crime of money. It was still filled with various personal effects, including a wallet with a few green bills sticking out of it.
Jacob’s men were fearsome and ruthless. Their cruelty exceeded that of Faith’s and John’s henchmen combined. Here, the torture was gratuitous. The more horrible the torture, the more the soldiers enjoyed it. It was not uncommon to find corpses crucified or hung by their feet, their heads covered with a sack. I really must put an end to Jacob’s reign. The sooner the better.
The Wolf’s Den, the underground shelter of the militia, was well hidden between the rocks. It was difficult to reach by car. Despite the distance that still separated her from it, she decided to walk to minimize the risk of being followed.
The path quickly took on the appearance of a trek, as she climbed and made her way through the tall grass. The shade of the conifers made the hike less strenuous, but it still took her about thirty minutes before she reached the Whitetails’ lair.
Eli Palmer greeted her in person. The militia leader had been warned by Pastor Jeffries of her imminent arrival.
— Deputy, there you are at last. Time is running out.
OKAY. Not even time to say hello, apparently. The people here are really strange.
— My men went to sabotage the tourist center, which the cult is using as a repository for their fucking bliss. Unfortunately, they were intercepted and are being held hostage. I’d like you to go there and rescue them, if possible without bloodshed.
— Why don’t you send more militia men ?
— Because the weirdos will get to them. They won’t expect to see you, which gives you an advantage.
He handed her a bow, quiver, and radio.
— Stealth is your best friend. Meet me back here when you’ve freed my men.
She equipped herself and left immediately. An hour’s walk later, she spotted the tourist center. Palmer hadn’t lied. One of the hostages was kneeling in front of the building’s main entrance, being insulted and beaten by two cultists. She took her binoculars to observe the surroundings. She quickly located the other militiamen, one of whom was inside the wood and stone building.
A few well-placed arrows defeated the guards at the back of the building. She slipped in silently and undid the bonds of the two prisoners. She then headed for the room where the next man was being held. The cultist did not have time to react, her rifle butt immediately knocked him out. Only the humiliated man in front of the main entrance remained. The three Whitetails she had freed came to the end of the two torturers, freeing their comrade in the process. The operation was a success. Her radio crackled.
— Well done, deputy. Unfortunately, the cult is still holding two of my guys. They’re being interrogated at Devil’s Drop, just south of your position. If they give up the location of the Wolf’s Den, we’re all screwed. And if they stay quiet, they’re the ones who are screwed. Hurry !
Please ? Thank you ? No, apparently, people in Hope County didn’t know manners. Anyway, she had no choice.
She spotted a quad bike in the center’s parking lot. She got on it and headed south at top speed, crushing tall grass and small shrubs as she went until she reached the main road. It didn’t take her long to spot the roadblock hidden at the entrance to a tunnel.
She used the bow once again to discreetly neutralize the two cultists stationed in front of the cult’s vehicles, then their comrades hidden in the tunnel. An open-air enclave contained cages and bliss boxes. There she quickly found the two kneeling militiamen, whom she untied and helped to get up. No sooner had she freed them than a deafening noise forced her to shield her ears with her hands. She looked up to see a cult helicopter. Shit, my bow won’t be enough against those guns.
She re-entered the tunnel, accompanied by the two Whitetails. Jacob’s men had stored a lot of goods, including weapons. Her face broke into a smile when she spotted a rocket launcher waiting for her. She grabbed it and aimed it at the helicopter. She held her breath and pulled the trigger. Boom ! The helicopter immediately crashed into the abyss where the cultists had planned to throw Palmer’s men. A good thing done !
At the other end of the tunnel, she spotted some cult pickups. This would do perfectly well to reach the Wolf’s Den. She was about to get into a vehicle when her radio crackled again.
— Well done, deputy. You’ve officially managed to piss me off. No more little games of hide and seek. No more of your little actions with those pitiful Whitetails. My men are coming for you. Let it go, you’ll be better off. See you in a minute.
That asshole Jacob. She didn’t have time to climb into the pickup. The chosen ones hadn’t given her a chance. The only warning was the sound of the dart grazing her, digging into her calf. Her vision blurred instantly, as did her hearing. Oh no. Please. I won’t survive another stay in these awful conditions.
* * *
The cold woke her up. She opened her eyes, a taste of blood in her mouth. It was pitch black. She was in a cage, a fucking cage that the cult members used to immobilize wolves and then turn them into judges with shots of bliss and deprivation of food and water. Her jacket and boots had been removed.
Her gaze swept the surroundings. There were several of them. There were dozens of other cages, some with living human beings, some with dead bodies. Jacob… that sadist had gotten his hands on her again, the worst thing that could happen to her and the resistance.
She clung to the icy bars and desperately shook the iron prison, trying in vain to overturn it or move the door. After many minutes, she realized that the only thing she could do was to avoid wasting too much energy and heat for nothing.
She curled up in the corner of her cell, her knees pressed to her chest and her arms around her. Tears welled up, but she held them back. There was no way that Jacob would have the opportunity to see any weakness on her part, she would never allow him that pleasure. The night was long, but not as long as the day that followed, still without water, food and warmth. As the hours passed, she lost hope.
She spent another night, then another endless day, curled up in the corner of her cage, waiting for the end.
It was getting dark when someone approached. Staci Pratt ! The deputy’s heart leapt with joy at the sight. He was going to help her to leave this hell. She wanted to jump on his neck, even if her physical state prevented her from it, until he opened his mouth to declare her.
— Hi rook. Jacob wants to see you. You’re lucky, he never gives interviews to anyone. I guess he saw a potential in you !
She wanted to answer, but no sound came out of her dehydrated and burning throat. Pratt grabbed her by the armpits with the help of another of Jacob’s henchmen, and they dragged her to the adjacent building, which appeared to be a bunker. Once inside, she heard the men exchanging words with other guards, and then she was dragged back through the fortress to a room that appeared to be an interrogation room.
They sat her down on a chair and Pratt tried to tie her down. The other man seemed to think she was too weak to try to struggle — and rightly so — and felt there was no need to tie her up. They left the room, leaving her to her fate.
After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and a man entered the room. He stood in front of her, leaning his huge fists on the metal table that separated them. Jacob Seed.
She looked up into his eyes. He was tall and imposing. His side-shaven hair gave him the look of a war veteran — which he certainly was — and his flaming beard contrasted with his blue eyes, the same as John’s. She shivered as her gaze fell on his forearms. They were covered with scars and burns, which also scarred his hard, angular face. A long hunting knife hung from his belt. She didn’t want to know what he was going to do with it, but she would soon find out.
— Well, well, deputy. You’ve made quite a mess of the whole region ! But you’ve proven your strength to me many times. Two nights, three days in your cage, still alive ! Wow ! You also shined in the first training session you took recently. A good element ! Too bad you don’t want to join Eden’s Gate. We could use more soldiers like you !
He went around the table to get closer to her.
— Are you thirsty ?
He gave her a metallic flask. She wanted to be suspicious and spit in his face, but refusing the water he offered her would have been a luxury in her situation. As for wasting her saliva, it was simply impossible for her considering the dryness which inhabited her. She threw herself feverishly on the gourd and rushed it to her mouth. Jacob did not miss a single bit of it, a sadistic smile at the corner of his lips. When he thought she’d had enough, he snatched the canteen from her hands and threw it on the table.
— Fine. Keep some for later.
She swallowed with difficulty and articulated in a hoarse voice.
— What do you want from me, Jacob ? Why don’t you get rid of me right away ?
— Oh, so you can talk ? Someone has come for you…
The way he said it made her blood run cold. Her head began to spin. He approached her and took her chin in his gigantic hand, looking deep into her soul with his steely gaze.
— Are you feeling better ?
The question seemed strange to her, but she was indeed feeling better. She had stopped shivering and a comforting warmth was slowly creeping over her. Her head felt heavy and she wanted to sleep, but she struggled not to weaken before him. Gradually, she saw some flickers. More and more microscopic bright stars were circling around them, while a greenish halo surrounded her with its comfortable warmth. She could not feel her body anymore and could hardly coordinate the few movements she could articulate.
She felt herself go, but a strong arm held her neck before she toppled backwards. She was lifted up and laid unceremoniously on the interrogation table. She could feel the surroundings without being able to hear or understand clearly what was going on. Someone was now leaning over her, and two men were talking. The presence near her seemed familiar and comforting. It brought back pleasant memories. John…
— What ? What are you mumbling about ?
Jacob laughed loudly.
— You passed through my little brother’s hands before you ended up here ? I’m not surprised, you know, that’s his way. You’re not the first and certainly not the last to spread your thighs for him. But you know, it’s always the same : he takes, he uses, and when he’s done, he throws away. You’re no exception ! Before you, there was that Holly Pepper. He did her for several weeks. Too bad for her, she got attached. But as always, when he got tired of her, we never saw her again. Too bad for him he didn’t see the potential I see in you ! He didn’t judge you for what you are, but I did.
The second man interrupted him.
— Enough, Jacob. Shut up now !
— I’ll put on a little background music for you.
The sound of a spring-loaded mechanical, then a melody filled the room. Unlike the previous time, it wasn’t “Only you,” but she still couldn’t put a name to the familiar tune.
She felt the man place himself between her legs which hung lamentably from the edge of the table. He pulled her to him by the hips then unbuttoned her blouse. She clutched his biceps, vainly trying to push him back, but he swept her hands of a gesture and imposed a brutal kiss to her.
Reassured, she passed her hands on the face then on the neck of John, taking care to avoid his hair. Something was wrong, he was different, but she could not put the finger on it. The bliss which spread in her organism had made her lose all discernment. She hugged him lovingly, as he commented on the sight of her chest etched with the wrath tattoo.
— My poor Dana… who did this to her ? Was it your degenerate brother ?
At the same time, John came like a devil to the entrance of his older brother’s bunker.
— Where is my brother ? Where is the deputy ?
Jacob’s men looked at him in a daze. They were not used to seeing the youngest of the Seeds in such a state of anger, but he was known to have a temper, and it was not a good idea to stand in his way when he was freaking out. They answered him by pointing to the control screens projecting the interior of the different interrogation rooms.
When the news of the deputy’s abduction had spread among his henchmen, he had immediately set off for the Whitetail Mountains. He knew of Jacob’s cruel training methods and did not want her to perish in this way. Joseph had warned him that if she did not pass the atonement successfully, Eden’s gate would be closed to him as well.
He scanned every monitor and felt struck to the heart when he saw her embracing a man and kissing him with a full mouth. Jealousy seized him and he lifted one of Jacob’s men by the collar, ordering to lead him to the relevant room. The armored door was closed by a valve, which he rushed to.
The glass at face level gave him a perfect view of the scene, which seemed to be interminable. The stranger, the one who had showed up at the ranch the other night with his brothers, had opened the deputy’s shirt. He was kissing her with full mouth. She had passed her arms around him and clutched his neck. When the door finally opened, a soft but infernal melody attacked his ears. Then he heard it. He heard her. She was moaning. She was repeating his name.
— John… oh John…
— What the hell are you talking about ?
— I love you, John…
Exasperated, the man grabbed her by the throat and squeezed to choke her words.
The door smashed against the wall, pushing the executioner to stand up instantly, releasing his prey, whose back struck violently the table. Jacob stepped between the man and his younger brother, looking surprised to find him there.
— What do you want, John ? We’re busy at the moment. Can’t this wait ?
— Are you mad ? What are you doing to her ?
— Apparently, the same thing you were doing… except he doesn’t intend to throw her away after use. Our friend Killian came here to get her.
— What the hell are you talking about ?
The stranger interfered in the conversation.
— I came to get my ex-teammate back. I heard she was sent on a mission here. She was always a bit of a daredevil. I’m pretty happy with the little training Jacob gave her. I hope she now understands the consequences of her actions and will not engage in kamikaze missions again.
The Baptist stepped between the man and Dana who now laid unconscious. His teammate ? The hell is going on here ? A glance at the flask that had been spilled in the heat of the moment, and the greenish liquid that was pouring out of it allowed him to understand how the situation had degenerated to this point. What the fuck did he do to her ?
— What do you want from her ?
— I’m telling you, she’s going home with me.
John gave Jacob a hateful look.
— You’re going to let him take her ?
— Why wouldn’t I ? It’ll solve all our problems very simply. Everything has gone wrong because of her.
— Joseph said he wanted her. She has to atone for her sins.
The FBI agent grabbed the Baptist by the collar, forcing him to turn around to face him.
— Listen to me, you little bastard. Whatever your brother was planning for her, she belongs to me. And by the way, I don’t tolerate anyone touching my stuff. Try one more time to lay your filthy hands on her and I’ll kill you right now.
Jacob watched the scene anxiously. Don’t push him too hard… he’ll explode… Before he could react, his brother was indeed seized with uncontrollable wrath and sent his forehead into Killian’s face with all his might, causing him to flinch instantly. Dazed, he collapsed to the ground.
In a fury, the Baptist grabbed Dana’s lifeless body, shoving his brother, and stormed out of the room. Jacob was stunned. John had never dared to speak out against him or Joseph, and he no longer recognized him. He let him leave the bunker with his loot. He might as well not aggravate the situation any further. He’d get her back eventually when she’d show up in the Whitetail Mountains. He always got what he wanted, by any means necessary. He called out to his men to take care of his friend.
When they were outside, John shouted at one of his brother’s henchmen, the deputy still unresponsive in his arms.
— Hey, you ! Can you fly a chopper ?
— Uh… yeah… sort of…
— Take me to Hope County Jail !
The cultist wasn’t sure how to react to the herald’s request. It seemed to him that the jail had been taken over by the resistance. He was, however, too terrified by the reputation that preceded the Baptist, as well as by the experience of his own baptism in which he had narrowly escaped drowning. He complied.
Once in the helicopter, John took off his coat and wrapped it around Dana’s cold body. He tried to restore some decency to her, buttoning up her shirt. He laid her down on the bench and wedged her head on his knees.
* * *
When a cult helicopter appeared in the sky, the Cougars were ready to face it, armed to the teeth. The chopper did not target them, however, but landed in the courtyard. They looked at each other, doubtful, waiting to see what it might be hiding.
The blades finally stopped, the engine still running. A figure emerged from the back of the vehicle, carrying what appeared to be a body. Tracey instantly recognized that asshole John Seed and wondered what the hell he was doing in his sister’s area, besides getting into trouble by showing up at Cougar HQ. He walked towards the building and the still motionless and dazed resistance fighters.
— I’m bringing your deputy back to you. She needs medical attention.
Stunned, Tracey ran to meet him, rifle in hand. When she got close, she saw Dana was unconscious and thinned out, and immediately noticed the purple strangulation mark on her throat.
— What the hell did you do to her, you fucking Seed ?
— I didn’t do anything. She was captured by my brother’s henchmen. He gave her a “test”.
— Oh yeah ? Then why are you bringing her back here ?
— Because she’s dehydrated and malnourished and I still want to play with her ! I heard you’ve set up the best camp around for treating bliss addicts.
Tracey hailed two young men who were waiting behind her, to whom John handed the deputy. She glared at Seed, who felt compelled to explain.
—FBI didn’t touch her. Tell her when she wakes up. She’ll know what I mean.
He got back into the helicopter, which took off immediately. One of the two resisters carrying Dana spoke to Tracey.
— Why didn’t we shoot the bastard ?
— Because to do so would put us on the same level as that damn cult. We’re not murderers.
* * *
When Dana opened her eyes and looked around the room, she had a hard time finding her place. It took her a few seconds to recognize the medical center set up within the prison. Blue curtains had been drawn between the various camp beds, acting as rooms for the patients. She couldn’t remember how she had ended up here. She gathered all her strength to try to remember.
Forest… cold, damp cage… thirst… interrogation room… John… A sudden image flashed through her : no, it wasn’t John, it was Jacob ! The memory was unclear and the images confused, but she was sure she had been dealing with Jacob. He had given her a drink, and then… and then what ? He had certainly given her a sermon like only a Seed can, but she had no recollection of how it had ended and how the Cougars had brought her back to them.
She struggled to sit up. Her head was spinning and her throat was burning. She tore off the drip attached to her left arm and slowly stood up, moving toward the door. Her gaze was drawn to a garment hanging on the back of a chair : John Seed’s coat. How had it gotten there ? Had the resistance caught him ? She had to get answers fast.
She trudged down the main hallway to call out to Sheriff Whitehorse, whose voice echoed back to her. Her legs were still feverishly supporting her. She collapsed halfway through the door to the dining hall. The heavy sound of her fall alerted the occupants of the surrounding rooms, and a few people came to help.
She was supported and taken back to her bed. Tracey entered the room and asked to be left alone with the deputy. Once everyone had left the room, she sat down on the edge of the camp bed.
— Hey, beautiful. Are you feeling better ?
— Tracey… I’m okay. What happened ? How did I get here ?
— Jacob and his henchmen fell on you. He almost strangled you, judging by this mark.
Dana put her hand to her sore and still purple throat. The origin of this nagging pain was now known. The rest remained to be defined. Tracey resumed.
— It’s totally fucked up but… fucking John Seed showed up here in person, with a chopper, to drop you off.
— John ???
— Yeah. Amazing, right ?
Dana’s eyes went to the coat on the back of the chair in front of her.
— You… you got him ?
— Jacob ?
— No, John…
— No. Our methods are not those of Eden’s Gate. As much of an asshole as he is, he came unarmed and did not threaten us. We concentrated on you and the care to bring you.
She sat up straight and reached for her carefully folded clothes on the bedside table.
— What are you doing ?
— I must get up.
— No ! You’re not well yet, you need to rest and get your strength back. Deputy… I don’t know if I should tell you this or not but…
Dana looked at her questioningly, waiting for the next part.
— Jacob tried to strangle you, but I feel like something else almost happened. That asshole John was adamant about assuring me that the FBI guy didn’t touch you. I don’t know who he was talking about, you must know more.
Those words echoed in her mind. The idea that Killian could have taken advantage of her while she was unconscious made her blood run cold and inspired a deep disgust. But he hadn’t. Why hadn’t he ? What did he want from her now ? Why had Jacob let her go again ? And what did John have to do with this ? A great fatigue seized her, it would not be possible for her to answer all these questions at the moment. She decided to give in to sleep and rest. She would sort it all out when she would be fit and able to fight.
* * *
After a few days of recovery, she was up and her mind was clearer. She was provided with fresh, clean clothes and new equipment. She longed for answers to her questions. Why had the Baptist taken her back to the prison, when he had been furious with her during their last meeting ? How had he known she was in Jacob’s clutches ? And why was Killian there ? She left the prison grounds and went into the surrounding woods, where no one could hear her. She grabbed her new radio and tuned into the frequency John usually used to communicate with her.
— Seed ? Are you there ?
It took him a long time to answer her.
— Hi wrath. What’s up ? Guess you have recovered ?
— I am in great shape, the only thing remaining is the “necklace” your brother gave me.
She unconsciously put her hand to her throat.
— I’m glad to hear that. But too bad, we were pretty quiet during your recovery. No exploding silos, no burning bliss fields, no injured men… heaven on earth !
— Well, you can get ready for that to start up again soon. By the way, I got your coat ! The one with the…
— … the little planes !
— You can keep it, deputy. My wardrobe is quite full.
— I was thinking… I might come and give it to you sometime.
— Don’t bother with that.
— I really must insist. I have a few questions to ask you.
— I’m all ears.
— I’d prefer if we could talk face to face.
— All right, then. I need to check in with Faith soon. Sunday morning, at the King Hotel’s springs ?
— Sounds great. See you then !
In the following days, she had regained all her energy and had launched herself into new missions, not all of them exciting, especially the time when Chad Wolanski, the resistance’s official cook, had asked her to knock down various animals to bring back the meat that would be used as a dish for the resistance. The more time passed, the more she grew weary of such stupid requests. She was always at the service of others to the detriment of her own person. She liked the idea of going to the sources. She could take the opportunity to bathe there and give herself a short break.
When the day came, she borrowed a sports car from the prison, a small pleasure she had always denied herself. She threw Seed’s coat in the back and took the back roads to the King Hotel, her foot on the gas pedal.
She was the first on the scene. Everything was quiet, serene. Not a sound of explosion or gunfire on the horizon. The blue sky and the golden sun of early autumn warmed the dead leaves spread here and there around the pond. Pure happiness.
She crouched down and stroked the spring water to gauge its temperature. Perfect. While waiting for Seed, she took off her boots, pulled up her cargo pants and started to take a few steps in the pool.
She was enjoying the warm rays on her neck, sitting on the stone steps, when footsteps in the gravel sounded behind her.
— Hi, wrath.
She stood up and turned to face him. There was no anger in his voice. He’s not angry with me anymore. Good. The orange sunrays caressed the side of his face, his hair and his beard, giving them coppery reflections. She enjoyed the sight for a few seconds before getting down to business.
— Thanks, John.
— Why ?
— I heard you walked me back to the prison after Jacob captured me. So thank you for not leaving me to die in that horrible cage… or worse.
— No need to thank me, deputy. I did what Joseph wanted me to do. If you go down as collateral damage, it’s nobody’s fault. But there’s no way one of us is going to kill you with our own hands, it’s not in keeping with the Father’s principles, and I don’t want my brother turned away at Eden’s gate for such a stupid thing.
— What exactly happened ? I only remember bits and pieces.
— You passed a “survival training” with flying colors. Then Jacob wanted to interview you and you were very cooperative after tasting bliss.
— What do you mean by very cooperative ?
— Let’s just say that you didn’t remain unaffected by the charms of one of his friends.
— Holy shit ! Tell me you’re kidding !
— There’s nothing to joke about. You literally threw yourself at him like a bitch in need. Quite an amusing show.
— You were there ???
— Yeah. I was just stopping by to get him to sign some paperwork when I caught you. Jacob was a little uncomfortable, and the other one grabbed you by the throat, so you’d let go. You passed out and my brother asked me to get you out of the bunker and dump you somewhere along the way.
— Oh John… I’m sorry !
— Sorry for what, wrath ?
She realized the ridiculousness of the situation and Mary May’s words came back to her. Obviously, the relationship they had had was purely sexual. He didn’t care if she went elsewhere.
— … forget it. I don’t remember anything anyway.
The lie didn’t sit well with John, but he couldn’t see himself explaining to her that he’d freaked out in wrath and envy at this fucking FBI guy, and snatched her from his clutches while she imagined she was in his own arms. Far too many sins in such a short time for a self-proclaimed righteous man.
She might not remember anything, but he clearly remembered hearing her. She had articulated his name, then said she loved him. That scene had stayed with him and had not stopped working on him since that moment. He knew that bliss could make people say anything, but no one, apart from his brothers, had ever said such words about him. And then there’s that asshole who’s been hanging around her…
She got out of the pool and approached him.
— Will you bathe with me ?
— I have more useful things to do.
— Are you sure ? It would be silly not to take advantage of what nature offers us.
While talking to him, she took off her shirt and pants. Seeing that he remained on his position, she tried a new approach and seized the collar of his shirt with her two hands, bringing her face closer to his.
— Would the Baptist be afraid of water ?
— You know I’m not, wrath. I don’t want to be seen here with you, you’ve caused enough trouble around me.
— As you wish.
She pretended to turn around to cross the two stone steps into the spring, then did a quick about-face and grabbed Seed’s collar again to pull him forcefully, dragging him with her into the pool.
Surprised, he flapped his arms for a moment to regain his balance, but did not succeed. He found himself immersed despite him, water up to his waist and the shirt and vest soaked by the splashes caused by his fall. He wanted to protest but she didn’t give him the chance. She threw herself on him to put a kiss on his bearded cheek, which he did not return to her.
She took his hand to drag him on the other side of the source. Seeing her mischievous smile, he felt that he was going to lose control again. She went ahead of him, his hand still in hers, and walked towards the rocks that enclosed the pool, water up to her waist. She wanted to turn around to face him but he didn’t give her the time. He rushed against her to tackle her with all his weight, face against the cold rock.
The acts followed one another very quickly and abruptly. She did not resist to the contact of his fingers which spread the fabric of her panties, nor when he began to penetrate her, but the brutality of the situation froze her blood. She did not like the direction the events were taking, especially when he seized her wrists, that he maintained against the rock to immobilize her and subject her. With a superhuman effort, she faced the lethargy which paralyzed her. She protested by shouting.
— John, you’re hurting me !
With his face in Dana’s neck, Seed came face to face with the strangulation mark left by Killian. The memory of the bastard between her thighs came back to him. The thought of someone else putting their hands on her was driving him crazy. He only wanted her for himself, he needed her to be faithful to him, as he was to her. He had to tell her right away, he had to make her understand the effect she had on him.
He pulled back, seized her by the shoulders and turned her over abruptly. He stared at her in the eyes to order her harshly.
— Spread your thighs !
She was stunned. Still, she complied without even realizing it as he pinned her back against the rock, his fingers planted in each of her hips. The order had reminded her of a vision of Jacob explaining to her that she was not the first nor the last to spread her thighs for John. A sense of dread awoke in her as Killian’s face appeared before her.
John pressed his cheek to her ear to whisper.
— You belong to me, wrath. If you come near anyone but me, I’ll kill him. You are mine, only mine. I won’t let anyone else touch you or even approach you. Especially that fucking FBI bastard.
Panicked, she tried to release herself, but he maintained firmly his embrace and penetrated her now brutally. Each one of his hips strokes increased the friction of the rock, provoking multiple notches on the fragile skin of her back.
She repeated that he made her hurt, closing her eyes to retain tears. He stopped only after having ejaculated in her, in a deep rattle which evoked more relief than pleasure.
When he finally released his hold, she remained frozen against the rock, trembling in fear and not realizing quite what had just occurred. He had not even granted her a caress, only imposed his brutality and his psychopathic impulses. When she regained consciousness slightly, in a state of shock and still trembling, she asked him the only question that came to her mind.
— Who is Holly Pepper ?
He looked at her, astonished, to answer.
— It’s none of your business, and she’s nobody.
Nobody, that you fucked and dumped when you had enough, just like me.
That’s all it took to confirm that John Seed really was a scumbag. She ran as fast as the water would let her, back to the stairs at the other end of the pool and grabbed her clothes, which she quickly put on. She feverishly walked to the car without turning around, afraid to meet his eyes as he vainly called her back.
She started off with a bang and drove far, long and aimlessly. When night fell, she parked somewhere by the river, not knowing where she was, but it didn’t matter. When she saw Seed’s coat in the rearview mirror, she broke down. She cried her eyes out for several hours, she had never felt so alone. The only person she had any connection to was the same person who had stabbed her in the back.
She had no one to confide in and had only herself to blame. After all, she had known all along that all members of the Seed family were evil twisted people, so why should he be an exception ? She was too naive. From the beginning, he had used her to satisfy his sadistic urges. She should have killed him after she shot down his plane, instead of letting him live, playing the hero and falling for him. And now Killian was adding a layer of shit to the situation. Poor stupid girl.
John watched her walk away, still in waist-deep water. He called out to her several times, but she ignored him. He didn’t want her to leave like that, realizing that the situation had more than degenerated and that control had totally escaped him. He had tried to make her understand how important she was to him, but she hadn’t gotten the message. Enraged at himself, he struck the surface of the water with both fists, cursing himself.
As soon as he got back to his pickup, he grabbed the knife from the compartment and opened his still-soaked vest and shirt. He cut deeply into the lust word, which had first been etched with a dermograph and then, for the second time in a month, with a blade. The sight and warmth of his own blood running down his waist calmed him and soothed his anxiety.
He remembered the first night they had spent at the ranch. That morning, before going to his office, in the silence of the dawn, he had looked at her sleeping at his side. Then he had gotten up without a sound. He had slipped into the bathroom and silently pressed that same blade in a similar way, slowly rewriting the forbidden word, until the tears came to his eyes. He had to feel all the pain he deserved for letting himself be consumed by the poison of sin and disobeying Joseph.
He sat at the wheel for a long time, his eyes blank, feeling alone and misunderstood. He finally grabbed the car radio and tried to reach the deputy on the usual frequency, but she had cut her own line.
Over the next few days, he repeatedly tried to contact her, always in vain. Either her line was disconnected or she would pick up the call and say, “Go to hell,” “Get out of my life,” or “Leave me alone, you psycho !” and then disconnect. It seemed to him that his life was even more empty than before.