Putting my hand on her lower back, I feel her spine go rigid through her wool coat.

Turning her head back to look at my face, she says, “You joke.”

“Meredith, what did I just say about joking?” I ask as I usher her towards the door. The wind has taken to a chilly gust. It pushes at both of our backs.

“I—” she starts.

“I keep what’s mine safe, Meredith. Never forget that, ever. I will protect you, even if I have to protect you from yourself.”

Though I’m not entirely sure what will happen to her hand if that taser goes off. There have been reports it could ruin the appendage completely.

Good thing she put it on the right wrist. I might have plans for the left hand.

Pulling open the huge oaken door, I all but have to shove her in and over the threshold.

I wonder if I would have to push her down the aisle if we got married?

Now that’s a horrendous thought. Marriage. The death nail of any coffin. Maybe… Perhaps…

Who knows?

Ushering a now very shocked and silent Meredith down the aisle between the pews, I seat us in the fifth row from the front.

Spread out around us are men and women of varying ages, all either sitting or kneeling. Some with their heads bent, others looking up at the man on the cross.

We all have our crosses to bear, I guess. Though mine is more of the flesh than wood.

Meredith, how do I count the ways I want to possess you?

A small, older man comes out of the confessional booth and walks over to sit next to his equally old wife. Both sit silently as they look up at the church’s ceiling. When they stand up slowly, taking each other’s hand, and walk down the aisle, I catch Meredith with a small smile at the corner of her lips.

She has some romantic thoughts after all it seems.

Standing up from the pew, I motion for Meredith to remain seated.

“I’ll be right back. I need to make a confession,” I say with an annoyed sigh.

“You… Confess? Ha.” she snorts quietly. “To which of your many… sins.”

I just know she wanted to say crimes.

“Too many to do today,” I say and walk away from her.

Turning back to her as I enter the booth, I look at her and then motion to my wrist. She gets the message, I hope.

Yep. The middle finger she shoots back at me ensures me she got it.

What a classy lady.

Pulling the curtain behind myself, I lean against the kneeling post and wait for the priest to open the little sliding door to address me.

When it slides with that unmistakable rasp of wood on wood, I say, “You summoned me, Father?”

“Do you have any respect, Simon?” Father Coss growls out from behind the partition.

“Respect for what?” I ask in confusion.

“Leaning against the post like a common hoodlum.”

“Ah, forgive me, your eminence,” I grumble out as I kneel.

“That’s better.”

“What did you want?” I ask.

“The damn city is tearing itself inside out trying to keep the peace, and it seems Matthew and you both won’t let sleeping dogs lie,” he says, and I can hear the anger in his voice.

“Us? What the hell do you mean?”

“Don’t you use that word in here, Simon. I’m not nearly too old to slap you around this church.”

“Try it Father and I’ll remove your fingers one at a time with a pruning shear.”

“You foul little demon.”

“Yes, I know…” I sigh.

It’s like this every time he insists it’s me who comes to this damnable place.

“The Russians have reached out to me, Simon,” he says after some time.

“Oh. When?”

Why in the world would they want to contact him?

“Eight days ago.”

“That was before the bombing…” I say quietly.

“Yes, it was, and they were requesting a sit down with Matthew.”

“What?” I ask in confusion.

“They didn’t have a hand in the bombing, and they contacted me again to make sure that you knew that. They have no clue who did it and want that made clear,” he says, and I can hear his voice clearly.

He’s being emphatic, he really thinks they’re being honest.

“Why the sit down?” I ask.

“Because the death tolls are getting too high.”

“Yeah, on their side. They shouldn’t run slave rings in our city. It’s bad for their livelihoods,” I say with a chuckle.

Our casualties… none. Theirs were far too many for them not to worry about.

“I agree, but that’s not the damn point. They are trying to broker a peace and I want you and Matthew to hear them out. I don’t care what you have to say about it. Just do it.”

“Listen carefully, Father. This is your sanctuary. At our good fucking graces, it’s yours. Don’t push too hard. But I agree, we need to sit down and talk with them. Especially if they are claiming innocence in the bombings.”

Source: www.StudyNovels.com