Title: Heathen (Book 2, Redwood Rebels)
Author: Rachel Leigh
Release Date: January 28th
Genre: Dark Enemies to Lovers
Cover Designer: Ya’ll, That Graphic
Cover Model: Eric Guilmette
Photographer: Armando Adaja
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I’ve done very bad things.
I’m not a good man.
There’s skeletons in my closet
And blood on my hands.
I should be reaching for that sliver of light.
But deep in the darkness lies the loyalty of my friends. Along with the secrets we’ve buried.
It’s become comfortable and safe and all I really know.
It’s all that I deserve.
Yet, there’s someone who thinks I’m worthy of conviction.
She’s the solemn in this chaotic world.
Frail and pale as snow with a cross around her neck.
She’s nothing I want, but everything I desire.
But she has secrets, too.
And keeping hers safe means I’m forced to expose mine.
She could be my chance at redemption.
Or she could be my biggest mistake of all.
“Take my hand,
I’ll show you the way.
There’s light in the dark.
I’ll keep your demons at bay.”
I’m not sure where I’m headed but for some reason, I end up on Hayworth Drive in front of the church. Willa’s church. I know she’s here. She’s always here. Bible study, choir practice, youth group. I wasn’t kidding when I said the girl is a saint. Her car is also parked in front, so there’s that. The next thing I know, I’m getting out of the car and slamming the door shut. Still smelling like a brewery, I zip up my leather jacket and smooth my hands down my black holy jeans—no pun intended.
Cupping my hand over my mouth, I breathe out and sniff. Just the scent of my cinnamon gum. Even if the whiskey was still lingering, Jesus drank, so they can’t judge me. My fingers wrap around the u-shaped handle and I open the door. I’ve been in the church before, but it’s been awhile. I should have known I’d be opening the door up to a room full of tables and chairs, and of course, about thirty people staring at me. I hold a hand up and wave at all the unfamiliar faces. “Hi. I just need to borrow her for a minute.” I point to a flustered Willa.
The sound of chair legs scraping against the floor darts my attention to Pastor Jeffries, who is on his feet. His eyes narrow in me and I don’t think God would be happy with the look he’s throwing at me right now. “Young man, you have some nerve showing up here.” He whisper-talks as he jerks me by the arm and out the door I just walked in.
“Woah, Pastor. Chill the h..heck out.” I correct myself in just the knick of time. “I just need to talk to Willa.” He gives my arm a shove and he’s lucky he has God on his side because I’d be unleashing the devil if he were anyone else.
“You stay away from my daughter.”
“Step-daughter.” I retort, but quickly eat my words because it seems to do anything but calm him.
“Willa is my daughter and after what you did to her, you have no business even coming to this church.”
“Hmm, I didn’t know churches discriminated against sinners. What’s going on tonight? Open bible study?” I arch a brow. “Maybe I wanna join. Ya know? Let Jesus in and all that jazz.”
“Even Jesus can’t save you, son.” He pats a hand to my shoulder and attempts to spin around to face my car that’s parked right in front.
“Now, what kind of pastor talks like that.” I push past him and pull the unlatched door back open. When I step inside, it’s like deja vu when everyone looks back at me. Ignoring all but one person, I walk over and take one of the two empty seats at the end of the joined tables. They’re all lined up to make a square with an empty space in the middle. The smell of the room floods memories of Colby’s funeral. I’m not sure if it’s the smell, or the attention laser focused on me. That day, everyone watched me as I sat quietly with my hands in my lap and my head hung low. The difference is, today my head is held high. I have just as much of a right to be here as all these other people. They sin. They fuck up.
Willa is sitting directly across from me. Her eyebrows are pinched together and her cheeks are blush colored. When Pastor Jeffries walks back and in and takes the only empty seat beside me, I let out a breathy huff. “Where were we?” he asks, looking Willa dead in the eye.
“The Christmas Pageant. We were agreeing on a timeframe for each set.” Willa chokes out as she taps a pen to an open notebook.
I guess I’m not at bible study after all. When Pastor Jeffries begins talking to the group, I catch Willa’s attention. “Can we talk?” I mouth the words.
In small but rapid movements, she shakes her head then rolls her eyes away from me. We need to talk, damnit and she needs to tell me the truth. My hand slaps softly on the table. Not hard enough to get everyone’s attention, but enough to grab hers and a few others. “Yes.” I mouth again, then nod my head towards the door.
“Willa Jean. Please handle this and then come back inside. Alone.” Pastor Jeffries snaps.
When her chair slides back and she stands up, I do the same. She’s fast as she makes her way through the door. Her long navy blue skirt drags on the floor and flip flops pitter patter as she walks.
Her arms hug around her chest as she looks down at her feet. “What are you doing here, Lars?” Her voice is calm and collected and I’m starting to wonder if this girl has the capability of getting mad.
“We need to talk about this. Were you lying?”
“Not here. We can’t.”
“Do they know?”
Her voice raises, “Lars! Please just stop. Go home and we can talk tomorrow.”
I take a stance and cross my arms over my chest just as she is and step up in front of her. I raise my voice even higher. “No. I’m not leaving until I have answers.”
Looking at the door in panic, she grabs me by the arm and pulls me down the cement slab of steps. “Would you be quiet. Everyone will hear you. I’m already going to be in enough trouble because you showed up here.” Her hand flaps in the air. “You can’t be here, Lars.”
“Fine. How much longer is this meeting?”
“We’re almost done. I’ll meet you at Miner Park. Just go.” She gives me a shove towards my car.
Taking steps backwards until my back hits the car, I watch her stand there, waiting for me to leave. How could a girl like fall for a guy like me? She’s so angelic and sweet. I’m nothing but a fuck-up. Yet, for years she watched me and waited for me until I came, and when I did, I stole her innocence and fucked up her life. I guess that’s what the devil does after all—preys on the weak and pure.
Rachel Leigh resides in West Michigan with her husband, three kids, and a couple fur babies.
Rachel lives in leggings, overuses emojis, and survives on books and coffee. Writing is her passion. Her goal is to brighten at least one person’s day with the worlds she creates between the pages of her books.
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