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As soon as Dep said the word he had been waiting for so long, John’s face lit up. Once again, he violated their personal space to narrow the distance which separated them. He had always been intrusive, even from their first meeting, when he dipped and held their face in the water of the Silver Lake.
He grabbed their face in his hands. Panic seized them, was he going to strangle them with his bare hands, as he had threatened to do on several occasions ? In any case it was too late, they had yielded by granting him the answer that he so much wished to hear. They could not blame anyone but themselves if everything ended here and now.
When they had said yes, John’s blood had rushed through his veins, he was overcome with ecstasy. This deputy carried the same sin as he did, wrath. Yet they had shown anything but anger toward him in recent days. If they could change, he was convinced he could too. All it took was a reason to do so.
This reason was now glaringly obvious to him. For the first time, someone was taking a personal interest in him, without judgment. Not because of his wealth, his sexual prowess, or to get him to work for a cause. No, simply for himself. Moreover, this person, this deputy, did not leave him indifferent, far from it. They had entered his life with a bang, destroying the world he had built around him like a shell. But these walls were not only protecting him, he now realized that they were also preventing him from seeing what was going on outside.
While Dep’s heart jumped more and more strongly in their chest, the baptist crossed the last centimeters which separated them to pose his lips on their.
Rook thought they were going to faint, expecting all but that. They were divided between guilt and desire to let go. The same feeling they had experienced when he had wanted to help them icing the cookies was taking over them. They were angry at themselves for enjoying the embrace of this enemy who could be so cruel and merciless. John was the devil himself. Yet he was proving for the second time that he could also be tender and gentle when he really wanted to be.
Although it was obvious that John was very careful of his appearance, the softness of his palms on their face and his lips surprised them. His touch was more than pleasant and comforting. Strangely, Dep felt safe around him. They decided not to worry about anything but the present moment. They wanted to enjoy being here and now, they would think about tomorrow later. Rook passed their arms around the baptist to embrace him in return, sinking their fingers in his well-combed hair, and returned his burning kiss.
Feeling their surrender to him, John’s heart raced. He poured all the ardor he had previously put into hating and fighting the deputy and sinners of their kind into the actions and intentions of the moment. He concentrated all his emotions in the kiss that he lavished on Dep. It was necessary that they understood, that they felt all that he had kept deep inside him for so long and that he was ready to give up so that they grant him their love.
Rook felt John’s passion, so strong that they weren’t sure if it was his or their. Between two ardent kisses, they whispered between his lips.
— Now that I’ve said yes, will you take my soul ?
John pulled away from them to stare into their eyes.
— Only your heart. If you’ll let me.
— It’s already yours.
— Give up the fight. You are the prophet Joseph spoke of. If you don’t fight Eden’s Gate anymore, there won’t be no more collapse.
— John, the people of Hope County are counting on me, I can’t let them down.
— Listen to me. If there is no more end of the world, Joseph will stop reaping, he will just preach to the people who want to listen. Our community is already well developed, he doesn’t need new flocks.
— What about you? Are you going to continue to baptize, mark people and push them to atonement ?
— No, I won’t. I have no reason to continue this mission. No matter what I do, I will never gain the full confidence, love, or pride of my brothers. Without my wealth and my personal contribution, it will be impossible for them to continue the project.
— Jacob will kill you if you give up.
— Not if he doesn’t find me. Pack your bag and meet me in front of the airplane hangar at my ranch. I can’t take this life of resentment and anger anymore. It’s time for me to start really living.
* * *
Dep watched the landscape of Hope County drift away as the plane headed west. In their heart, they knew they had made the right decision, even if it was a painful one. It was costly to abandon the friends they had made, but their survival depended on their decision. They reached over the front seat and put their hand on John’s shoulder. Sensing their concern, he placed a quick kiss on their wrist before turning his attention back to the sky.
Time proved Rook right. With the baptist no longer part of the equation, Joseph gradually stopped trying to add new people to his cause and settled for his flock. The voice no longer spoke to him of the end of the world. Although everyone remained in their own territory, the understanding between Eden’s Gate and the people of Hope County became more cordial, as it had been when the sect had arrived and was not yet a threat. There were no more kidnappings and people lived together relatively well. Jacob’s army concentrated on hunting, which provided food for the whole county.