Home > Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen #4)(6)

Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen #4)(6)
Tillie Cole

We were the last commune to join the Repatriation.

I looked around our small plane. There were fewer than thirty of us on board; I did not know most of them. The eyes of the unfamiliar men and women met mine. Their expressions varied. Some looked happy to be leaving Puerto Rico. Others looked terrified.

From the minute we were gathered this morning, many had regarded me with suspicious eyes. Some were looking at me that way now.

I quickly turned my head, panic and fear seeping into my skin. I had stayed hidden from these people for a reason. I had only been exposed to those who cared for me . . . those who did not want to hurt me.

I sat back in my seat. Sister Ruth’s hand tightened on mine. As I looked at the woman who had become one of my most faithful guardians, a sliver of dread penetrated my heart. I could see the trepidation in her eyes and face—it was the same racking fear I knew was in mine.

These past few weeks, Brother Stephen, Sister Ruth’s closest friend, had been out of sorts too. New Zion. Our fear of New Zion was palpable. As we drew closer to our new home, my hands began to shake.

Be strong, I thought to myself. You must stay strong.

I focused on breathing deeply. The plane seemed to have moved past whatever wind had held us in its grasp, and everything had calmed. Releasing my hand from underneath Sister Ruth’s, I stretched out my fingers, then moved them to lift up my veil.

As soon as the thin pale-blue material was away from my mouth, I took in a long, deep breath. The veil was not too bad to breathe through; Sister Ruth had designed it to be light and easy to wear. But when it lay over my face I felt suffocated.

Sister Ruth guided my hand down to my lap. She slowly shook her head. “Harmony, you have to get used to it.” Sister Ruth fixed the pale-blue veil back in place and flattened the matching headdress over my blond hair.

“I hate it,” I confessed as quietly as I could, clenching my teeth in frustration.

Sympathy flooded Sister Ruth’s eyes. “I know, angel.” I smiled at her tenderness, but that smile faded when she added, “But the prophet has commanded that you wear it.”

I flattened my hands over my long dress, which was the same shade of pale blue as the veil. I thought of the new prophet. I had heard he was ruthless and strong. And he must have been, because he had found me. I had managed to live in peace until a few weeks ago, when one of Prophet Cain’s disciple guards came to help with closing our commune. I was discovered when he called each member to report to his quarters.

Discovered and branded . . . A Cursed Sister of Eve.

*****

“I must come out?” I asked Brother Stephen as he opened the door to my room. I could see the regret and sadness etched in his brown eyes, but he nodded his head.

“They will come for you if you do not. They are assessing each member of the commune,” Brother Stephen informed me.

A pit formed in my stomach. I had to lock my knees together just to try and stop the shaking of my legs.

“Come,” Brother Stephen said gently and held out his hand. I placed my trembling hand in his, keeping my head low, so as not to see the sympathy in his gaze.

Brother Stephen led me outside. I squinted as the bright sun speared its blinding light into my eyes. The commune was deathly silent, my feet sounding like cracks of thunder on the ground.

“Harmony, this is Brother Ezrah,” Brother Stephen said.

I drew in a shaky breath. My fingers still trembled, my legs still shook, my breath came short . . . but I remained standing. I stood strong.

Two heavy-booted feet came into my sight. My heart beat too fast to be normal, pushing my blood too fast through my ears. Then a finger landed below my chin and roughly forced my head up. I heard the quick inhale of breath from the guard before me.

A warm gentle breeze brushed across my face, sending Brother Ezrah’s scent into my nose. Musk. He smelled of something musky. Subtle . . . familiar.

“Lift your eyes,” Brother Ezrah ordered. His tone brooked no argument. I silently counted to three, then lifted my head.

The minute our gazes collided, I saw a fire light in his eyes. He shifted his hand from my chin and ran it over my long blond hair. His fingers brushed delicately over my face, his blue eyes studying my dark brown. A slow smile tugged on his lips.

Brother Ezrah turned to Brother Stephen. “What is this? Why was she not declared sooner? The new prophet sent word to each commune asking for their girls to be assessed weeks ago. She should have been declared for our inspection.”

Brother Stephen feigned ignorance. My stomach dropped as Brother Ezrah turned to a lesser guard. “Contact the prophet. Tell him we have found a potential Cursed.”

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