The Priest's Graveyard (5 page)

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
11.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

He kissed my forehead, then started to say something, but I reached up on my tiptoes and kissed him on the lips. “Thank you,”
I whispered.

He blushed, then turned to the ocean. “Please, don’t do that.”

I was confused. “I’m sorry, I—”

“I don’t want to take advantage of you.” He looked at me, then took my face in both of his hands. “Do you understand? Don’t
get me wrong…I…”

He leaned over and kissed me. I felt a tremble in his hands as he gently took my lips in his.

Flushed, he stood back, releasing me. I reached for the glass wall to steady myself, but he intercepted my hand before I could
touch it.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking.”

We stood in an awkward silence for a moment. I didn’t know if he was sorry for kissing me or for letting me go.

“Here, sit.” He led me to a white leather sofa, and I eased myself down. “Better?”

“Yes.”

An elaborate display of electronics covered the wall to our left. Seeing my interest, he went to it and punched a few buttons.
Orchestral music filled the room.

“Beethoven,” he said, turning back. “Over a thousand albums, and they’re all yours to listen to. If you choose, that is.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“Would you like to?”

“I love the music.”

“Well…” Lamont returned and sat down next to me. “I was thinking of something else. Where are you going to go? When you’re
better?”

“I…I don’t know.”

“You could stay here.”

“I could?”

“You don’t have to, of course. The choice is entirely up to you.”

“You mean…”

“I mean you could live with me. Here.”

“Really?”

“We’d have to establish some rules. I don’t exactly lead an ordinary life, and I’m very particular about some things, but
yes.”

The idea excited me more than I would dare show him. It occurred to me that I didn’t know much about the man who’d rescued
me and brought me into his home. He was wealthy, that much was obvious. He was a beautiful man both physically and spiritually.
He’d rescued me, and the monsters hadn’t made an appearance in his home. The very thought of leaving terrified me.

“Of course,” I said. “What do you do?”

“I work in international investments. My partner’s the devil and I swear that one day one of us is going to kill the other,
but sometimes that’s the price one must pay for wealth. He’s twice my age and still has twice my ambition.” He chuckled.

I laughed with him. “Does this devil have a name?”

He grinned. “Jonathan Bourque. Used to be a priest, if you can believe it.”

“I take it you don’t like this so-called priest.”

“Former,” he corrected. “Let’s just say that he has his graveyard and it’s full of his victims.”

The world was a twisted place, I thought.

Lamont grew more serious. “Your living here might present us with a rather complicated relationship. It’s a dangerous world
out there, and I’m obsessive about security.” He looked at me. “I told you that Cyrus would never lay a hand on you?”

“Yes.”

“I have to confess, I might have spoken out of turn.”

“He’s after me?” I was alarmed.

“Not as long as you’re here. No one can touch you here, I’m absolutely certain of that. But short of killing the man, which
is not in my nature, I can’t keep him from being who he is.”

“But you talked to him?”

“An associate of mine had someone approach him. To say that he’s upset about having lost you would be a gross understatement.
Which is why I think you’ll be safer if you stay here.”

“Okay.”

A grin pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Just like that?”

I shrugged, and he shook his head. “No, you have to be deliberate about this decision. I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m
taking advantage of you.”

“I would never think that. I like you.”

He blushed. “I like you, too. That’s what I’m worried about.”

“I’m not a little girl,” I said.

“No. Now, that I do know.”

Lamont stood and paced thoughtfully. “I’m a little OCD, you know. I have my rules.”

“OCD, that’s like…anal?”

“No, it’s more than anal. Everything has its place.” He motioned around the room. “The doors all have two locks and a dead
bolt. The house is dustproof—no door leads directly outside. The glass must never be touched. I prepare my food in a certain
way. To the average man they’re just quirks, but for me they’re necessities. Why else do you think I live so far out of the
mainstream?”

“I’m a bit quirky myself,” I said.

“I’m gone for days at a time. I’m not sure you could handle that.”

“I’d miss you. But you’d come back, right?”

At this point, I was hardly lucid. My mind was spinning and I was overwhelmed by my surroundings. His cleaning habits and
travel schedule were trivial compared with the prospect of living in such a wonderful, safe environment.

“That’s not what concerns me. While I’m gone I would need to be absolutely confident that you and the house were all right.
It’s just the way I am and you might grow tired of it. I wouldn’t want you to leave the house alone, at least not until we
were sure the world outside those doors was safe for you. And I would need to know that you aren’t spilling beans on the floor
or otherwise making a mess in my absence.”

He looked at me apologetically as he said it, then he shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Sure.” I had no interest in leaving the house and I wasn’t messy.

“Sure? You’re very sure?”

“Are you forgetting my alternatives?” I asked.

“True. But you might get lonely. Are you sure you could handle that?”

“Trust me, I’ve had enough of the streets to last me a lifetime. As long as I have food, music, and television I’ll be fine.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have television. We could get it just for you. But my idea of controlling or messy might be different
from yours.” Lamont took my hand and kissed it. “Are you sure?”

“Yes!” I laughed weakly, not because I wasn’t delighted, but because I suddenly felt so tired.

“Then I think we should celebrate tonight. Our first meal together, what do you say?”

“Can I sleep first?”

I did sleep, and for most of the day.

That night Lamont bounded into my room with gifts. Seven pairs of white slippers, one for each day of the week. Seven pairs
of matching cotton gloves, in case I didn’t want to avoid touching the glass, which he personally cleaned once a week. The
gloves weren’t mandatory, just a suggestion, you know, in case…

The slippers, on the other hand, had to be worn at all times. He pointed to the matching black pair on his own feet. He’d
already cleaned the floor of my tracks where I’d tread in bare feet that morning, he told me.

His antics made me laugh. Looking back, I think I may have fully fallen in love with Lamont Myers then, when he was explaining
how important it was that I not step off the bedside rug without a pair of slippers on my feet. He was on his knees, pointing
out my tracks. When I donned the footwear, he breathed a sigh of relief.

We ate dinner by candlelight at a table overlooking the dark, foaming ocean. I had to keep pinching myself to be sure that
I wasn’t on another acid trip. I even wondered at the possibility that I was dead and this was heaven, but I knew people like
me don’t make it to heaven. Never have, never will.

I ate bland food—bread and water and some peas, a little chicken soup—because the doctor said that my stomach was still too
weak to eat steak. I had never really cared for red meat anyway.

My mind was still foggy, but in a pleasant sort of way, like a soft pot buzz. I saw the best of everything around me, and
that contented high was unlike any drug I’d ever tried.

“Why did you come to my rescue?” I asked, watching him cut his steak.

“Is that what happened? I remember you running out in front of me. I had no choice but to get out of my car. The moment I
saw you sitting there so helplessly, obviously strung out, I knew I had to save you.” He placed a neatly carved cube of meat
into his mouth. “I should ask why you ran out at me.”

“The monsters were chasing me. They were telling me they were going to kill me. I saw the streetlight. I was going for the
light, I think.”

“Monsters?”

I told him about them.

“Well,” he said, then took a drink of red wine. “Those monsters can never enter this house. Stay inside and you’ll be safe.”

A shiver passed down my neck. I was certain that he was right. “They can’t get in?”

He looked at me with those big brown eyes—my blond angel of strength—and he smiled. “No. I see everything that happens in
and around this house. I will always protect you.”

If I hadn’t truly fallen in love with Lamont Myers while he made his case for slippers, I did as soon as he spoke those words.
You might say I was easy pickings, but I wasn’t. He found me because I’d rejected Cyrus and gone on the run. Lamont had risked
his life when he picked me up off the road that rainy night. The cost to him of finding and saving me was significant.

Now he would protect me. No one had ever protected me before. As long as he lived I would love him, no matter how obsessively
compulsive he was, no matter how strange his rules.

He had many rules. Rules about touching the walls. And washing my hands. And eating only what was good for me. And wearing
only the clothes that did not disturb him. And a hundred other laws, but more on that later.

Lamont means “the law” and I suppose it was appropriate, but to me he wasn’t the law. He was my savior and he quickly became
my lover and I cherished every waking breath with him.

6

One Year Later

I can remember
some things about myself but not everything. My name, Renee Gilmore, for example, is something I could never forget—how could
I, after Lamont’s constant affirmation?

You’re a beautiful girl, Renee. You’re the light of my world, Renee. I’m not sure I could live without you, Renee.

That much I could remember as I lay on my white bed in the pink-and-white room. I also knew that I was in my early twenties.
That I was dressed in the same checkered pink flannel pajamas that I almost always wore. That the one man who loved me more
than I could possibly love myself would soon be home after a long day at work.

There were other things that I knew about myself. I was no longer addicted to heroin. I never went hungry or lacked anything
I needed to live comfortably.

The thought that I might have to run down an alleyway to escape brutal men no longer entered my mind. I was safe as long as
I stayed in the house. If I ventured out alone, I might not be so lucky.

But that didn’t matter because I had no intention of leaving the house alone, at least not until I was ready. I hadn’t set
foot outside without Lamont once in the last year, and I had no desire to do it now.

Outside was where the monsters were. Outside was where the Cyruses of this world lived. Outside was where I was useless to
my dead mother and father.

After two decades of hell, I wasn’t interested in anything but this slice of heaven. Yes, there were some challenges. Lamont’s
obsessive-compulsive disorder sometimes about drove me mad, I will admit. But his need for order and perfection was something
I had learned to tolerate, then appreciate.

Had he been any other man, one less loving, less tender, less caring and affectionate, I might have rebelled. Sometimes I
was tempted to wonder what living with a different man might be like, but the thoughts didn’t last long. The moment he walked
in at the end of the day, I knew my lover had come home, and any small price I might pay because of his quirks was insignificant
compared with the love he showered on me.

I loved Lamont with all of my being.

A chime pulled me from my lazy thoughts. I jerked upright—he was in the driveway!

My head spun with a sudden surge of adrenaline, and I sat frozen for a moment. Then I dropped my feet to the ground and stood,
dazed. What to do, what to do? But I knew what to do. I did it every time he came home.

I suddenly forgot whether I’d finished preparing the food. I had to make sure the kitchen was clean, because if Lamont found
a mess, even a small one, he would immediately clean it up on his own rather than ask me to do it. It was inconsiderate of
me to leave such a mess, knowing how it bothered him. I certainly had all the time in the world to accommodate his need for
cleanliness.

I started toward the door, felt the cold marble floor under my feet, and jumped back onto the rug. I dropped to my knees and,
using one of my slippers, wiped up the tracks of moisture my feet had left.

The room hadn’t changed. The one armoire easily held all my clothes because I preferred pajamas most of the time. One nightstand,
one dresser, one bed, one chair, and one bathroom.

Naturally, I slept in Lamont’s bed when he was home, which was about half the time. Lamont was old-fashioned in that way and
wanted to be sure I was fully respected in every way. We agreed that I should keep my own bedroom if it made me feel more
comfortable.

Sometimes I did sleep alone, even though we had been married. He called me his wife and I called him my husband. We had to
have a ceremony, of course. Lamont did everything by the book. He bought me a white dress and he wore a black tuxedo. We lit
candles and said our vows in the living room with the sea foaming outside the windows. It was perfect.

I pulled on my white gloves as I hurried down the glass-walled hall. The chime was the part of the security system that alerted
us to someone opening the outer gate. Of course, that “someone” was always Lamont, which meant I had about three minutes to
clean up.

What if it was someone else?

The thought stopped me in the living room, and I considered the terrifying possibility that one day Lamont wouldn’t come home.
My heart thudded at the prospect. It had become my greatest fear and I didn’t know why, because Lamont always, always came
home.

I noticed that all the amber and green lights on the music system were lit up but there was no music playing, which was sloppy,
wasting all that electricity. I flew to the glass encasements and turned up the volume. Mozart’s strings filled the room,
and I sighed. Two magazines I’d paged through earlier lay on the leather sofa. I scooped these up and set them square on the
sofa table.

I didn’t know what had gotten into me. Normally I cleaned up after myself as I went. It was just easier that way. But I’d
left a trail of broken rules behind me today, including, I realized, a smudge on the white leather.

I wasn’t going to make it! I still had to clean up the kitchen! So I spit on my finger, wiped the smudge clean with my saliva,
then rubbed the leather dry with my sleeve.

The first lock on the front door clicked and I hadn’t touched the kitchen. The second, the dead bolt, clunked open and I ran.
I was the one who’d suggested he put locks on the outside of the doors so that I couldn’t mistakenly wander from the house
if I ever was confused or forgetful. I still had those moments.

Blood roared in my ears, something that happened whenever I exerted myself. Lamont said this was a side effect of my medications.

I hit a chair as I rushed past the dining table. Panting now, I spun back to set it straight. The third and fourth locks opened.
He was in a hurry tonight, opening them quickly.

I slipped on the smooth marble floor as I hurried into the kitchen, but I caught myself on the counter. I could see it all
then with one glance: the carrot neatly cut up on the cutting board, the sliced cucumber next to it laid out in a perfect
row, the cubes of tofu stacked in a pyramid the way Lamont preferred. Not a peeling or a wasted drop of juice to be seen.

But the lettuce…I’d left the full head on the counter and hadn’t yet shredded it. Worse, the plastic wrap it had come in was
on the floor. This would give Lamont heart failure. Had I done this?

I couldn’t remember touching the lettuce, much less unwrapping it. In fact, I had only a vague recollection of preparing any
of what was now on the counter, though I always prepared food for Lamont.

My memory still wasn’t what it should be. The heroin had affected my mind more than the doctor had initially thought, and
I faced a long road back to full health. Thank goodness Lamont was patient with me.

I had taken my first step in the direction of the lettuce mess when the door to my right opened. Lamont walked in, glanced
at me, then closed the door behind him and engaged two of the locks.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just stood there, feet planted in a stride.

He turned, ran his hand back through his hair, and sighed, eyes settling on me. Something was concerning him, and I hoped
it wasn’t the lettuce.

“Hello, Renee.”

“Hello, Lamont.”

He looked like the same angel who’d swept in to rescue me a year earlier. That light blond hair, those soft brown eyes, his
strong shaven jaw and large hands. He still favored black suits worn with tailored shirts, collar open.

He smiled and crossed the kitchen. Then he took me in his arms and held me tightly. You see, this was why I loved Lamont so
much. He was quirky with all of his laws, sure. But he kept me perfectly secure and held me close.

“Hmm. You feel so good, darling.”

I smiled and wrapped my arms around his midriff. I was still only a hundred pounds—​it was important that I not gain too much
weight because of my medical condition—​and enfolded in Lamont’s muscular frame, I was like a twig in God’s fingers.

“So do you.”

Then he saw the lettuce wrapper and his body stilled. But he didn’t complain as he might have. He simply released me, walked
to the plastic wrapper, picked it up, and dropped it in the garbage.

“What do you say I cook us some meat tonight?” he asked.

“Meat? I can’t eat meat.”

“Once won’t hurt you.”

“Are you sure?” It wasn’t like him to break rules. Had something happened?

“Of course I’m sure.”

“I cut the cucumber and carrot, and the tofu—”

“I need a steak and some wine,” he said. “And please, darling”—he faced me, looking worn and exhausted—“join me. Just this
once.” A thin smile curved his lips.

“Okay.”

“You’ve taken your pills?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ve cleansed your system?”

“Yes. An hour ago.”

“Then you should be fine.” He came over, lifted my hand, and gently brushed his thumb over the purple bruise where my knuckles
had hit the door frame in my bedroom two days earlier. “Does it still hurt?”

“Not really,” I said.

He kissed my injury. “Why don’t I finish up here while you make yourself presentable?”

I felt like a schoolgirl being asked out on her first date. “I would like that, Lamont. Thank you.”

He smiled. “Hurry back.”

It took me half an hour to shower, dry and fix my hair the way he liked it, and slip into his favorite white dress. I was
so excited not only to have him home, but to eat meat and drink wine. I wanted everything perfect. What did the doctor know
anyway? I was so good most of the time. Lamont was right, a little meat wouldn’t hurt my digestive system.

But the big surprise came when I returned to find that Lamont had set up the table on the deck overlooking the ocean. I stared,
dumbfounded.

He walked out of the kitchen holding two glasses of red wine. “What do you say? I thought a little air might do us good.”

I rushed up to the window and peered outside. He’d placed two red candles on the white tablecloth and set a pink rose between
two settings of our white china. I’d been on the deck with him many times, of course, but never to eat and certainly not to
eat such an extravagant meal.

This was the kind of man Lamont was, caring for me even if it meant bending all the rules. I was what mattered to him.

“It’s…Oh, Lamont! It’s perfect!”

He chuckled, and I followed him out onto the cedar deck. The waves crashed a hundred yards down the beach. Sea breezes gently
brushed my skin. The candle flames danced seductively against a black sky of bright stars.

When I took my first bite of meat I was sure I was living in a dream. I’ll admit I was a bit dramatic about it all, but I
was a simple girl easily impressed by simple pleasures.

Lamont smiled and nodded, but he seemed distracted and I hoped I hadn’t done something to concern him.

“Is anything wrong?” I asked.

“A hard day.”

“Sorry.” I ate another bite of meat, but now I couldn’t enjoy it as much. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Normally he would dismiss his troubles. He rarely discussed his work with me. I knew he was in some kind of partnership that
funneled a lot of money among international organizations, and that the transactions were mostly related to investments and
charities. I knew that he was a shrewd accountant who made millions for other people. And I knew that he worked with the Bourque
Foundation, named after his partner, Jonathan Bourque. But that was all I knew.

So I expected him to wave off my question, but he set his fork down and rested his elbows on the table.

“I stumbled across some information today,” he said.

“Really? Something bad?”

He looked out at the ocean as if trying to decide whether to tell me.

“I’ve learned that the man I work with is involved in some very disturbing business. Something I find appalling.”

“Oh no. Will you stop him?”

His eyes settled on me. “I wish I could. He knows that I know.”

“He does?”

Lamont leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. I’d never seen him so upset, and this frightened me.

“Is there going to be a problem?” I asked.

“He knows that I know and yes, that could be a problem. He’s a brutal man who would think nothing of cutting my feet out from
under me. I wouldn’t put it past him to kill everyone who knows.”

My tower of strength was crumbling before my eyes. I didn’t know what to think, much less say. I set my fork down.

“Kill?”

“What do you do? You build everything up around you to keep out the wolves, then one sneaks in and just like that”—he snapped
his fingers—“it’s over.”

“Don’t say that!”

“You see, this is where the law fails. I should know, right? Me and all my rules and laws.” He used his hands to make his
points. “Don’t do this, don’t do that. Do it like this, do it like that. The law, the Ten Commandments, the police, me. And
what’s it worth in the end? Nothing! A man like Bourque can run circles around the law. He can come in and snuff out someone
like me with one pinch of his fingers.”

“Please don’t say that!”

“Sometimes I think the vigilante has it right. I’m tempted to reach out and teach Bourque a lesson myself.”

“What vigilante?”

“Some guy in the news. The point is, there comes a time when the law fails, and then you wish you could set things straight.”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” I objected. “You’re just talking, right?”

He looked at me, then nodded and offered an apologetic smile. “You’re right. I’m just blowing off steam.”

Relieved, I tried to laugh.

“You’re right,” he continued. “We have rules for a purpose. They keep us safe. Like religion, the law plays a vital role in
people’s lives. And you, my reborn, are the greatest benefactor of that law.”

I raised my glass and toasted the air. “Then to the law.”

“To the law.”

We drank.

“But if the system ever fails you, Renee, then forget about the law and go after the pig with both guns blazing.”

I stared.

He flashed a grin, brown eyes bright beneath that halo of blond hair. “So to speak.”

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
11.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Secret Letters by Abby Bardi
Deadly Passion, an Epiphany by Gabriella Bradley
American Quest by Sienna Skyy
even if i am. by Glass, Chasity
Full Speed by Janet Evanovich