Home > Scandalous 1 (Scandalous #1)(13)

Scandalous 1 (Scandalous #1)(13)
Author: H.M. Ward

He nearly choked, “Are you serious?” I nodded, “Then why do you want to go back?”

“I have to.” I repeated my story in detail, the same one I told Kate about my loans and my contract with the church. “So, if I get through this year, I go back on payroll and I can find another job. If I get canned, my career is over and I’ll die from drowning in student loans.”

He shook his head, either shocked or appalled. I couldn’t tell. I felt his gaze on the side of my face, and turned to look at him. He hesitated for a moment, then asked, “What’d you do? What could have you possibly done?”

More squirming. “Jack, do you really have to know? It was stupid. Stupid enough to get me fired and thrown in jail.”

His eyes were wide, “You went to jail?”

I sighed, “Should have. If it were any other job, I would have.” Jack looked like he was ready to jump out of his skin if I didn’t tell him. I dove into the story and didn’t come up for air until I was done. “It was bothering me. All these people pile into the pews week after week and ignore my sermons. I’d just finished a series on helping the poor, but it fell on deaf ears.” I sneered without meaning to as I stared into space, “They bought gold plates, pricey Jesus art, and new tapestries. Meanwhile they drive around in big old Caddies with a Jesus fish on their trunks, plowing down poor people at WalMart like they’re parking cones. I snapped.”

“What’d you do?” he asked.

“I kind of took their lavish stuff and sold it. You know, the communion plates, the flower arrangements, the carved mahogany table that was just like one Jesus might have carved.” I rolled my eyes, not looking at Jack. He was completely still. “Basically, I took all their crap and got rid of it. I switched things back to baskets and tin, and gave the money to the poor. I proudly announced what I’d done after the cheap WalMart baskets were passed through the church. People murmured about the gold plates. When I said I sold them there was a collective gasp, until someone asked where the silver ones went.” Looking Jack straight in the eye, I said, “They went the way of the gold plates. That nearly caused a mob. The town sheriff was there, getting his holy on, and said it could have been considered theft, but since churches are supposed to give to the poor—and I was their only minister—they couldn’t fire me without breaking my contract. Doing that would’ve meant they had to pay out my contract right then and there before they could shoo me out the door.”

“Holy shit, Abby!” he grinned, clearly excited. “You went all Robin Hood on your own church! What’d they do?”

“Yeah, that’s where this story goes south. They turned things around one me. They did to me what I did to them. After a few hours of debating in the boardroom, they came up with my sentence. They said if I survived a year on nothing but the grace of God, they’d take me back. There are stipulations in my contract that were put there for other reasons, but they twisted it. So it was walk away and come back in a year, or resign. I can’t get another job if they fire me and resigning is just as bad—it shows I didn’t have the skill to manage the people entrusted to me. Score one for the rich pew-sitters.” I held up my pointer finger and swirled it once in the air, unenthusiastically.

“That’s not the same—throwing you out with nothing. That’s totally different than you giving their things to the poor,” he said it like I didn’t realize it. I gave him a look that said I did.

“I realize it’s not the same. They still have food, shelter, and money. They didn’t pay me enough to have any savings. I have nothing. They kicked me out without a cardboard box. If Kate didn’t help me out, things would have been bad. I don’t really want to go back, but I’m kind of trapped.”

Jack nearly choked. Blue eyes wide, he asked, leaning closer, “You don’t want to go back?”

I don’t know when it happened, but the idea of going back made me sick. When I left I thought it’d be awesome if I survived the year on their terms. It would really show them what I was made of, but they already knew what I was made of and they didn’t like it. They threw me out on my ass because of it.

I shook my head, “No, I don’t. Would you want to see Belinda again?” He cringed, “Me neither. They did the same amount of damage; they just gave a different explanation for justification. The thing is, I wonder if I was right. It’s been gnawing at me, constantly in the back of my head... I brought this upon myself.”

He was quiet, staring at the sand for a moment. Finally he sighed, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye, “So, we both have our futures in the hands of crazy people who don’t give a rat’s ass.”

“So it would seem,” I answered staring blindly at the crest of another wave. My stomach turned to lead while I was speaking. It felt like I was being crushed from the inside out. Dread spread through my body, pooling in my stomach, making me nauseous.

Without a word, Jack moved to my feet. Crouching in front of me, I looked at him. He was smiling softly, dark hair messy from the wind. With his hands draped over his knees, he said, “Miss Tyndale, there is one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt—you did what was right. There’s no mistake about that.” I opened my mouth to protest, but he spoke over me, shaking his head. “And to make sure you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I’m going to drag you around in the sand until you admit it.”

There was no hesitation. Jack reached for my ankles, and pulled hard as he stood up suddenly. I fell back into the sand, my hair trailing behind me. Jack started to walk and I started to scream. With every step he took, sand inched into my pants, shirt, and hair.

I was half-screaming, half-laughing. “Ahh! Stop! Put me down! Sand’s going places it shouldn’t go!” my voice was shrill. Jack was getting closer to the water. The sand went down the waist of my jeans and was making a sandcastle in my panties. I’d been at the beach when I was a kid and there was always a ton of sand in my swimsuit when I went home, but it was never like this. Dragging me, fully clothed, was forcing enough sand down my pants to fill a sandbox.

Jack was laughing so hard he almost fell over. The muscles in his arms were ripped as he fought to hold onto my kicking legs. “Then say it,” he laughed with his hair in his face, beautiful eyes sparkling. “Say you were right or this demonstration ends in the water!” Laughter erupted from him, as he moved faster toward the sea.

Twisting my body, I tried to flip over and kick him to make him let go, but that only filled my bra full of sand, too. “Jack! Put me down!” Pushing off the ground with my hands, I raised my head to avoid a mouth full of sand.

“Say it!” he yelled back, smiling so wide his dimples were showing.

The sand was damp under my hands. Clumps of cold wet grains were being forced into my pants as he pulled. It felt so disgusting that I shrieked, “I was right! I was right! Stop!” Jack dropped my legs in the sand, my feet falling into the surf.

Breathing heavily, he said, “That was really close. I thought you were going in.” He was doubled over, hands on his knees grinning ear to ear.

I laid on my back, staring at the sky, laughing, and spitting out sand that had gotten into my mouth. “You suck, you know that?” I laughed, cringing as I felt sand in places sand shouldn’t be. “I’m full of sand. All my clothes could be from Sandcastles-R-Us.”

He straightened, “Is that so?”

“Which one? The sucking or the sand?” I laughed. I couldn’t stop. I hadn’t laughed so hard in forever. My sides felt like they were going split open. Before I knew it, Jack was leaning down, reaching for me. I laughed, swatting him away, not realizing what he was doing. He managed to get a hold of my wrist and my thigh. He swung me up over his shoulders while I kicked and screamed.

Jack began to wade into the water, as I pulled his hair trying to stop him. “The sucking or the sand,” he murmured, still laughing as he went into the water deeper. When it was up to his knees he spun around and I shrieked. My hair flew out, sand flying as I clawed onto Jack to keep from falling. The more he spun, the dizzier we got. He made it four rotations before losing his footing when a wave knocked him off balance. We toppled over like a drunken totem pole, splashing into the cold water. The salty water filled my clothes and forced clumps of sand out. Gasping, I tried to sit up, but the surf was beating me down.

Jack grabbed my shoulders and pulled me to my feet. Water dripped from his scalp. Inky hair fell across his forehead in clumps of black. Jack pushed a tangle of hair out of my face. “You okay?” The smile was still on his face. I nodded. My shirt clung to every inch of me, revealing how cold I was. I shivered. Jack didn’t move. Another wave beat into our legs, nearly knocking me down, but his arms pulled me tightly against him. Jack was tense, every muscle flexed tight, holding me. I splayed my hands on his chest, not looking him in the eye. I thought it would help break the moment, but it didn’t. If anything it made it more intense. The curve of his toned body beneath my hands felt perfect. The way his shirt clung to him revealed what he would look like without it.

Jack spoke, his voice deep and alluring. “Were you serious before? You wouldn’t go back, if you didn’t have to?” Waves pelted at my thighs, making me wobbly. Jack held me tighter, pressing my body closer to his. I raised my hands to his neck to keep from falling over.

The sound of the surf filled my ears. I shook my head slowly. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to deal with the mess I left behind, but it was so much more than that. Dread filled me, choking me. What if I was wrong? All this time I thought I’d chosen the right path, believed the right things. What if it was all for nothing? I couldn’t stomach the thought. Answering slowly, I said, “I don’t want to, but I have to. I have to fix it.”

“What if I gave you a way to fix it on your own?” his voice was serious, all traces of laughter gone. The surf beat into us, but I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face. The suggestion, his idea, was the beginning and the end. It consumed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The idea was like Jack in every way—completely tempting and completely forbidden.


I couldn’t believe what Jack suggested, but he was serious. I stood there shocked, mute. “Think about it, Abby,” was the last thing he said before taking me by the hand and walking up toward the studio.

We were both soaking wet and frozen. He spoke to me, and I answered, but I can’t remember any of it. The only thing that kept swimming to the front of my mind was the way his eyes moved over my body. It made me warm, and instead of feeling shy, I wanted more. No one ever looked at me like that—like I was desirable, like I was beautiful. I tried to ignore it, gazing at his broad shoulders as we traipsed through the sand, but that only made it worse. The way his wet clothing clung to his lean figure made me want to touch him, and run my fingers along his tight muscles.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)