The Dark Divine Page 9

Shouts echoed in the background. A pair of headlights appeared around a corner.

"This will do." He nodded and took off into the darkness.

I stood and watched until he disappeared. I didn't even notice the headlights stop in front of my car until I heard someone call my name.

"Grace?" Pete ran up to me. "Are you okay? Why didn't you stay in the car?" I looked over his shoulder to the white truck idling in the dark. Its cabin light barely revealed Jude's face as he sat in the driver's seat. His expression was blank and stiff as if carved out of stone.

"I got the car running," I lied.

"Good, but you're freezing." Pete wrapped his arms around me and held me to his chest. He smelled spicy and clean like always, but this time it didn't make me want to be closer to him.

"Can we skip bowling tonight?" I said as I pulled away. "It's getting late, and I don't feel up to it. We can go some other time."

"Sure. But you'll owe me." He draped his arm around my shoulder and walked me to the truck.

"It's nice and warm in there, so you ride with Jude. I'll take the Corolla and then after we unload I'll drive you home. Maybe we can stop for coffee on the way back."

"Sounds good." But the thought of rich coffee made me ill. And that stony look on Jude's face as I climbed into the truck made me want to find a hole to bury my head in.

"He shouldn't have left you here," Jude said under his breath.

"I know." I held my fingers up to the heater. "But he thought he was keeping me safe."

"Who knows what could have come along?" Jude shifted the truck into drive. He didn't speak again all night.

Chapter Five Charity Never Faileth


I wandered aimlessly around the house like a ghost all morning. Except I was the one who felt haunted.

All night long, I'd dreamed of rattling car doors and that strange, high-pitched noise. And then Daniel's eyes, glinting and hungry, staring back at me through the glass. I woke up more than once, cold and sticky with sweat.

In the afternoon, I sat in my room and tried to write a report on the War of 1812, but my gaze--and mind--kept drifting out the window to the walnut tree in the front yard. After I'd started the first sentence of my report over for the tenth time, I kicked myself mentally and went downstairs to the kitchen to make some chamomile tea.

I rummaged in the pantry and found a bottle of honey shaped like a bear. It was the same kind I'd loved when I was young enough to live off of peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches with the crusts cut off. But now it seemed grainy and goopy as I squeezed it out in tiny globs on the surface of the brown tea and then watched them sink to the depths of my steaming mug.

"Got any more of that tea?" Dad asked.

I jumped at the sound of his voice.

He pulled off his leather gloves and unbuttoned his wool overcoat. His nose and cheeks were bright red. "I could use a pick-me-up."

"Um, yeah." I mopped up the puddle I'd spilled on the counter. "It's chamomile, though." Dad crinkled his Rudolph nose.

"I think I saw some peppermint in the cupboard. I'll get it for you."

"Thanks, Gracie." He pulled a stool up to the counter.

I took the kettle off the stove and poured him a cup. "Bad day?" He'd been so busy with the charity drive and the endless studying in his office for the last month; it had been weeks since we'd really talked.

Dad wrapped his hands around his mug. "Maryanne Duke has pneumonia again. At least I think that's what it is."

"Oh, no. I just saw her last night. She looked tired but I didn't think ... Is she okay?" I asked. Maryanne was my dad's oldest parishioner. I'd known her forever, and Jude and I had been helping out around her house ever since the last of her daughters moved to Wisconsin when I was twelve. She was practically our surrogate grandma.

"She refuses to go to the doctor. All she wants is for me to pray for her." Dad sighed. He looked worn, crumpled--as if the parish itself rested on his shoulders. "Some people expect miracles." I handed him a peppermint tea bag. "Isn't that why God invented doctors?" Dad chuckled. "Now, would you go tell that to Maryanne? Your brother can't even talk any sense into her, and you know how much she loves him. He told her that if she'd gone to the doctor last time, she'd probably be well enough to sing her solo tomorrow." Dad hung his head low; his nose just missed the brim of his mug. "I don't know where I'll find a replacement this late. And tomorrow is the kickoff for next semester's scholarship drive."

Dad believed that everyone deserved a quality Christian education, so he sponsored a biannual scholarship fund-raiser at the parish for Holy Trinity Academy. Eighty-something-year-old Maryanne Duke would always sing her infamous solo of "Holy Father, in Thy Mercy," and Dad and the principal and other members of the Board of Regents would give talks on charity and

"doing unto others." Mom thought that Dad gave so much to the community that Jude and I should qualify for the scholarship fund.

"Maybe I should have opted for a children's choir this year," Dad said before taking a sip. "Remember how much fun you and Jude had singing with your friends? That was the best children's choir in the state."

"Yeah, it was great," I said softly. I picked up a spoon and stirred my tea. It had grown cold unusually fast--or maybe that was just me. I was surprised that Dad would bring up the children's choir. Jude, Daniel, and I started the singing group while Daniel was living with us. But it had lasted only a few months before we lost our lead tenor. Daniel had had the voice of an angel--surprising depth and clarity for such a mischievous boy--before it turned raspy and bitter, like what I'd heard last night. When Daniel's mother took him back, it was a blow not only to our choir and our family, but to Daniel most of all.

"You could do it," Dad said.

I spilled my tea again. "What?"

"You could sing Maryanne's solo." Dad grinned, his eyes lighting up. "You have a beautiful voice."

"I'm out of practice. I'd sound like a frog."

"You would really be saving the day." He put his hand on mine. "Besides, you seem like you could use a spiritual lift."

I looked down at my mug. I hated it when Dad could see into my soul. It was like his own, special pastor superpower.

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