Home > Taken Bride : A Dark Romance

Taken Bride : A Dark Romance
Author: Alta Hensley

 

1

 

 

Ember

 

Desert thunderstorms possess an energy that can’t fully be described. You must live it. See it. Breathe it. Be it.

Powerful, majestic, beautiful, and even eerie.

You can feel the intensity in the air right before they begin. Your senses come alive; your skin tingles as you anxiously wait for the storm to come.

You can also smell it. The sagebrush releases a scent as if to welcome the dark clouds. Almost like an aphrodisiac seducing the storm to come. The dust settles, and for a brief moment, the desert has a certain freshness to it. That is, until the rain comes. The rain replaces the fresh with an earthy musk as the droplets bounce off the hard and dry ground below.

I always loved thunderstorms in the Nevada desert. Summer nights were riddled with them, and I welcomed each one with excitement and appreciation for how the lightning daggered across the gray sky. They were loud, scary, even dangerous, but I gladly watched each one with awe. I loved how they rolled in unexpectedly at times, and other times, you saw them coming from miles away.

But the thunderstorm around me right now is threatening to strike me down. The lightning going off in my heart and soul is tearing me to shreds. The storm brewing is so intense that I may not walk away from the wreckage it’s causing.

“I need you to come with me downstairs,” Louisa says, hooking her finger at me to come along.

I’m paralyzed for a moment, but as if under a trance, I eventually follow.

As we reach the top of the stairs, my knees nearly buckle as I look down below. As insanity nears, I hear her say, “They’re waiting for you.”

She’s led me into the eye of the storm, and the hurricane of emotions steals what little bit of sanity I have left.

Papa Rich.

Scarecrow.

They’re here.

Oh my God, they are here.

I try to blink away the madness, but it’s determined to stay.

“You knew where they were all along, didn’t you?” I prompt Louisa without looking at her. My eyes are pinned on Papa Rich and Scarecrow down below in the foyer.

“No, but I have the resources to hire the best in the world to hunt them down. I had no intentions of resting until they were found.”

“Why?” I barely squeak out. “Why do this to us? You knew Christopher and I were trying to stay hidden. We wanted to keep the darkness away. You knew this. So why?”

“Because I’m a mother. I understand your father in many ways. There’s nothing a parent wouldn’t do for their children. Nothing.” Her voice—calm and collected—sends a shiver down my spine.

“Ember,” Papa Rich says as he reaches his hand up to me. “It’s time to leave.”

This can’t be real.

This can’t be happening… and yet it is.

I look over my shoulder at Louisa, not sure what to do next. Alarm bells are banging against my bones, feeling as if they’re splintering beneath my flesh. Internal screams are demanding I run away from everyone in the house as fast as I can.

I need to find my husband… now. Christopher will fix this. Christopher will make it safe again. He’ll save me. He’ll save us.

But my feet are planted, and no matter what I do, I can’t move.

Insanity is a sticky motherfucker.

“Christopher—”

“Deserves to be set free,” Louisa interrupts. “He didn’t choose you. He was forced to take you as his wife, and then his morals and overall good-natured personality made him feel responsible for you. This is not love, Ember. Maybe it’s devotion at most, but not love. You are just as bad as Richard. You are stealing his freedom. You are shackling him to your broken self. You are his captor now, and I’m doing everything within my power to save my son. Nothing more than that. He deserves to be rescued.”

You are his captor now.

You are his captor now.

You are his captor now.

Maybe I always have been….

“We need to get moving, girl,” Scarecrow chimes in from below. “The pilot said he’ll only wait one hour.”

If my eyes were lasers, they would sear Louisa’s Botoxed skin from her old lady bones. “You brought them here. You didn’t just find them, but you also helped them come to New York to take me back with them, didn’t you?” I ask Louisa, not glancing down at Scarecrow as he spoke.

Maybe if I don’t look at them at the bottom of the stairs, they will disappear like ghosts. Maybe this is a nightmare. It’s not real. If I just don’t look and see them….

Louisa still hasn’t moved an inch. She’s near, but not close enough for me to strike out and hurt her, which I’m considering doing—if only I could move.

“I have the power to help people, and I have the power to hurt people. In this case, I’ve chosen to help your papa Rich.”

She says his name as if it burns her tongue. The sneer on her face is not pleasant, and I’m sure she’ll need more Botox after this conversation, for she’s surely breaking the plastic shell with her looks of disgust.

“But I want you to remember something, Amber. I can hurt far more easily than I can help. So, leave here, and never look back again. Leave my son alone. Forget he was ever in your life. Your father kidnapped him once. You chose not to help him then, but I’m asking you to help him now. This is the last time I’m asking. Consider it your last warning.” She doesn’t yell or raise her voice even slightly, but the threat in her tone is obvious.

I don’t want to go to battle with this woman. I’m too tired to battle anyone.

And she’s right.

I didn’t save Christopher. And even now, I’m keeping him captive and chained to me until death do us part.

I know this.

Louisa is speaking the truth.

I turn my attention back on Papa Rich and study his face. He’s not angry or full of rage. Dark circles are under his eyes, and he appears as if he’s aged in the short time we’ve been apart. I hurt him. I can see just how deeply I did.

He’s been out there the entire time, hiding in the smoke from the flames of Hallelujah Junction. He didn’t give up on me. He never would. Never.

When our eyes lock, he calls up, “It’s time, Ember.”

“But I’m married, Papa. You married us. You chose Christopher for my husband. I can’t just leave him. I’ve tried to be a good wife. I have.”

My voice sounds weak. I’m weak.

I hate it.

I thought I’d grown stronger, and yet, with just his presence in the room, I’m a coward once again.

“I allowed the devil to enter me,” Papa Rich says as Scarecrow nods beside him. “The decision was a poor one. I misjudged. I wanted a strong man for you, Ember. I wanted one who wouldn’t cower to me or anyone and would protect you at all costs, but—” He looks down at his boots and then back at me. “—when Christopher arrived that day in Hallelujah Junction, I thought it was a sign from God. I now know it was a temptation from the devil. I’m merely man, however, but have repented for my sins for allowing the evil within the walls of my home. Fire burned down that evil.” He takes a deep breath, his broad shoulders rising and falling in what appears to be defeat. “I chose the wrong husband for you. I will rectify that decision now.” He extends his hand again. “You don’t belong here, Ember. I’m here to save you from the grips of the devil’s work.”

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