The Righteous and The Wicked (2 page)

BOOK: The Righteous and The Wicked
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Sean and Eric haven’t seen each other in years and haven’t spoken much in that time, not because they didn’t miss each other, but because Eric is a failure at correspondence, and had no real desire to connect with friends from his old life.

Sean was the one person Eric knew he could contact after his life went awry. Eric’s bad habits almost led to his demise, but he’s here now, in Pine Lake, ready to start fresh. He needs a place to stay while the house is being built, but he won’t impose on Sean. Solitude is preferable, anyway. Eric’s darkness demands it.

At the used car lot, a wad of cash is pulled from Eric’s pocket as he pays the salesman and hooks a small, silver trailer onto the hitch of his black Jeep. It reminds him of a bullet, a pill, a prison. But it’s not a prison. It’s freedom. Passing through the thick woods, he drives to the new property. The one-lane road feels lonely, and it is. There’s a solitary old white house at the end of the street. He turns onto the makeshift driveway that has been cleared by the bulldozer and keeps busy, trampling through mud to unhook the trailer, his temporary home.

Examining his blueprints, he places several calls, checking on shipments of lumber and steel. He consults with the contractor who will lay the foundation. The mundane tedium permeates through him, but deep inside, he feels the familiar pang. Nothing can distract him from his hunger. It’s only been a day, and he can’t stop. He doesn’t
to stop. An old car roars up the street and he
looks toward the sound for a moment, then his attention returns to his work.

The backhoe clears the lot and the foundation is laid in the clearing. His authority is unmistakable as he barks orders at his workers and beats a path in the dirt. The smell of the earth fills his mind and leaves no room for other things—no other thoughts, no nagging needs. It’s been three days, and it’s been too long. Eric bargains with himself, promising that this is the last time. Just one more time and he will stop.

He’s trying to fight what plagues him, but he’s failing. He
to give in. After he’s done working for the day, he gets in his Jeep. He doesn’t have to think about where to go to find what he needs. It’s easy for him, and that doesn’t help. He goes shopping for clothes he doesn’t need. The thin salesgirl carries Eric’s items to the fitting room and hangs them on the hook. He follows behind her, watching.

“Let me know if there’s something I can do for you,” she says.

He licks his lips. “There is.”

Night in the forest holds a special type of darkness. At times, it can be terrifying. Sounds that no human ears should hear seep through the seams of Eric’s trailer to his ears. He can’t sleep. Crickets chirp in the night. A coyote howls. The wind rustles and moans. Eric rolls over and feels his need rising up. He turns over in his bed again, but he can’t turn away from it. On his back, he stares at the ceiling.

A new sound finds its way to his ears.
He can’t decide if it’s a bell or a chime. The sound is shrill; it stops, and then starts again.
He closes his eyes and begins to forget what he’s trying not to think of. The usual sounds of the forest lull him away and pull him down into sleep, but the wind gusts and that ringing sound starts again. He throws off the covers in exasperation, opens the door, and sets out on a quest to obliterate the source of that damned noise.

Chapter Two

It’s Friday and Emma’s happy, as happy as she ever feels these days. It’s not a true happiness, just a feeling of relief. Tomorrow is Saturday, and finally, she can sleep. She walks out onto the porch and the morning sunlight shimmers in her cinnamon hair. The floorboards are warped and sticking up. An untrained eye might not be able to maneuver around them without injury the way Emma’s feet do. Her steps beat an automatic path, but today, the path is disrupted. Something’s different. Her mother’s wind chime rests on the steps instead of on its hook. She picks it up and puts it back, nodding at it when she’s done so, silently encouraging the wind chime to go about its business as she does the same.

After work, Emma walks through the parking lot of St. Simon’s and finds her friend and coworker, Abby, smoking a cigarette and waiting for her. She taps her foot and points at her watch, urging Emma to walk faster.

“My girls have been little shits lately. I swear I wish I went your route and taught the younger ones. First graders are a hell of a lot easier to handle than these tweens. I can’t take the cattiness anymore. Note-passing, gossiping, pariahs . . . girls are such bitches.”

“You shouldn’t talk that way, Abby. They’re just kids. And you should watch your mouth. We’re right in front of the church, for God’s sake.”

“Yes, Ms. Santori . . . for
sake.” Abby shakes her head. Her dark curly hair bounces as she stamps out her cigarette. “That’s it. We’ve been at this too long now. You’re coming tonight. We’re having a girls’ night. Danielle and I can only talk about so many things, Emma. We need you there to liven up the conversation, or at least keep us in check.”

“If I go, all I’ll hear about is your amazing husband, and Danielle never stops with the wedding talk. No offense, but it’s just not for me . . . not right now.”

“Then when? When are you going to wake up?”

Emma drives home, faster than she should. Her old car rattles down the street and she gets out and slams the door. With her face buried in her hands, she sinks to the ground and holds her breath as tears escape her eyes. She’s angry at Abby—not for what she said, or for how she said it, but because she knows Abby’s right. It’s odd, to be feeling something. Emma has lived with nothing but numbness and exhaustion for months. Against her better judgment and her desire to get into her bed and never get out, she picks up the phone and dials Danielle.


The club is crowded and Emma isn’t ready for this. She shouldn’t have come. Her hair is down in soft, feminine waves and her dress is conservative, but it can’t hide her legs, their length exaggerated by stiletto heels. She doesn’t notice that several men check her out while she searches for her friends. Finally, she sees a familiar face.

“All right, this is what I like to see! Damn girl, you look hot!” Danielle appears and takes her hand. She and Emma walk to a private table where Abby waits. Three martinis sit untouched.

“You guys, I don’t drink. You know I’m not drinking,” Emma says.

“Cut the goody two shoes routine for one night, will you please?” Abby takes her glass in her hand.

Although she holds herself to a rigid moral code, a part of her wants to indulge. Emma sits as the thumping music rattles her body and the vibration sinks into her skin. She picks up her martini as Abby and Danni shout at each other and laugh. The topics of conversation are just as expected and Emma has nothing to say. She sips the liquid. It’s chilled, yet it feels as if it singes her insides. Her eyes wander around the club. They stop when she sees a man dressed in black resting his elbow on the bar.

His back is to her but she’s drawn to him. She can only see his profile as she watches him watching the crowd. He does a shot and then another. A feeling of recognition slides through her as he begins to move, his eyes focused on something or someone. He maneuvers through the crowd, approaching the dance floor like a shark surveying its prey. A raven-haired girl in a gold top is dancing with her friend. The man moves toward the girl and his face is clear now. Emma has seen him before. She remembers the face, and the eyes—Stormy Eyes. It’s the man she saw at the gas station. She sips, she watches him, and she burns.

Unaware that anyone is watching him, Eric doesn’t see anything but the dancing girl. He stalks the dance floor and he begins to bob his head with the music. He doesn’t hesitate or speak, but the dancing girl notices him immediately. Her friend is forgotten as she turns toward him and smiles as he touches her hip. She sways and he moves with the rhythm of the music. Then, their bodies move together.

Emma witnesses the searing heat between the couple and is ashamed for watching. She looks away, but she can’t help herself. She gives in and stares at the now entwined pair. They touch each other and she sees Stormy Eyes put his lips to Dancing Girl’s neck. A long forgotten feeling rises inside Emma. Her face is flushed with lust, but she succeeds in breaking out of her trance and tears herself away from watching them. When she does, she finds two pairs of eyes staring at her from across the table.

“Hey, do you want to go dance?” Abby asks.

“What? No. No, I don’t want to dance.” Emma remembers the last person she danced with, and feels love and regret rise up in tandem at the memory. Still, she sneaks a glance back at Stormy Eyes and Dancing Girl. Emma wants to be looked at the way he’s looking at her, to be touched the way he’s touching her.

Abby deciphers the emotions that are passing across Emma’s face. “It’s time to make new memories,” she whispers.

Danielle offers her hand. Emma relents and takes it, and the three girls leave their now empty martini glasses and walk toward the dance floor. Upon standing, Emma realizes how buzzed she is. The lights are dim and the club is lit with flashes of red and blue. The bass from the music pounds and different colored lights twist and swarm. Only flashes of flesh and moving limbs are discernible. A calm smile is willed onto Emma’s face, in spite of her woozy head and racing heart. The girls congregate in a small circle on the outskirts of the dance floor and Emma watches as her friends feel the music. They begin to dance alone and with each other at the same time. Eyes closed, they lip sync the song that’s playing. Emma moves her feet from side to side, but her eyes and her thoughts linger on the couple.

Dancing Girl runs her fingers through her hair, and Stormy Eyes sways with the music. Emma’s enthralled with the way his body moves. So confident, so sexy. The couple’s hips touch and rub together. It makes Emma dizzy. She knows she shouldn’t be watching this. It isn’t right, but she
to watch the way this man is making this girl feel. It’s been so long since Emma felt anything, and she’s remembering what it’s like to experience passion and be desired. She remembers the last man who made her feel that way, and for the first time in a long time, her memory of Aaron is a good one.

Aroused by the scene in front of her, Emma is transfixed. Stormy Eyes whispers something in Dancing Girl’s ear, and she smiles and nods. The couple walks off the dance floor together and Emma panics. She doesn’t want to lose this feeling so she steps away from her friends, knowing they won’t notice she’s gone for some time. There’s a flutter in her stomach as she follows behind the couple, because she’s doing something she shouldn’t. It’s exciting, and that pushes her forward. The couple walks down the hall hand in hand and stop at the women’s bathroom door. He looks inside, and then pulls the girl in with him.

Emma struggles against the strange desire and unfamiliar feelings bubbling up within her. Her conscience is telling her to stop, but instead, she continues. The alcohol has softened her usual resolve to behave according to the moral constraints of her faith. She creeps after the couple, down the darkened hallway. As she approaches the bathroom door, she hears a groan and stops, gripping her dress in her fists as she eavesdrops. Her skin crawls with anxiety and she shivers.
Emma remembers the sounds the girl is making. Not just any man can make a woman feel that way. She closes her eyes and pictures the couple making love. That description is far from what’s actually going on inside the bathroom, and Emma knows it, but she won’t allow herself to think the word. Still, she imagines it’s being done to her, by the man she still loves. The brown-eyed man who should be occupying the vacant side of her bed. She remembers what it felt like to have Aaron’s hands on her body.

She listens. It’s rough, what they’re doing, and Emma is jealous. Her conscience tells her she doesn’t deserve to feel this way, but she lusts, she covets, she sins. Warmth blooms inside her when she hears the profanities coming out of his mouth.
man never spoke that way, and she never wanted him to—but when Stormy Eyes does it, it turns her on—it makes her feel dirty. Her mind diverts away from Aaron, the person she’s still in love with, to the man inside the bathroom—and it’s his face she sees when she closes her eyes again. Not brown eyes, but blue.

Chapter Three

Eric enters the bathroom with his latest victim. She said yes. She wants it. She told him her name, but he doesn’t remember, and he doesn’t care. Throbbing with need, he pulls her into a stall. The girl’s mouth falls open as he slides his hands down her body and grips her ass. A voice inside him screams
but he doesn’t. Everything blurs. She speaks but he doesn’t hear what she’s said. His mind is focused on his goal, on filling his void, on feeding his hunger.

BOOK: The Righteous and The Wicked
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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