Excerpt for The Lord is With Me:
 




Chapter 1


A man stood in the front of the small auditorium. "We welcome our newest members." He seemed to be the leader. From where I sat, I couldn't make out his features other than figuring out that he was older.

People clapped all around me, but I had no idea why. I was just glad to be inside from the cold January Kansas City air. However, I wasn't feeling that great, so I was still chilled.

As I closed my coat tighter, I pulled my purse up onto my shoulder and turned to Troy, the man sitting beside me. "What are we doing here?"

"I'm introducing you to my group. Why?"

"Group?" I whispered. "But when I met you at the diner, you told me you wanted to take me to a show at your church. What is this, exactly?"

He grinned and turned back to the speaker, not giving me any answer.

I studied the rest of the people in the room, filled with men and women mostly dressed in conservative outfits. The women wore long skirts with bonnets on their heads while the men were dressed in suits and ties.

Two men sat in the back, who didn't really fit in. They seemed to be observers, dressed in white polo shirts and blue jeans. Very odd, for sure. I wanted to go talk to them, because they seemed more normal.

The man standing at the front of the auditorium caught my attention once again. "We'd like to bring our newest members into the fold," he said. "They'll be joining our clan, living with us, and becoming part of the chosen."

The people in the congregation hooted and hollered, then danced around the room while forming a circle on the perimeter. They all joined arms.

The men dressed in the white polo shirts and jeans remained seated in the back with their arms crossed in irritation.

Troy pulled me to my feet and dragged me to the front of the stage. Others ushered their guests to the front as well, all appearing as if they'd been drugged. I felt kind of woozy, but kept my balance. When I got closer to the stage, I smelled something like incense, making me sick to my stomach.

"I don't feel very well," I said. "What do you think it is?"

He leaned toward my ear. "Something to make you compliant. Don't worry, it's safe."

"Compliant?" I couldn't believe my ears. "You slipped me something?"

He ignored me as we stepped onto the stage. He addressed the man in the front, but I still stared at Troy. I still couldn't get over the fact that he'd drugged me. I had to think fast, but my brain was a bit fuzzy.

"This is Destiny McNeill," Troy said to the leader. "She's my date. I'd like to make her my wife."

Uh-oh. Red flags filled my head. "But I just met you. I was out talking to your sister at a diner and you just happened to show up. I'm not your date—I'm dating someone else."

He thrust his hand over my mouth and turned his grinning face toward me. "She's compliant."

There was that word again. Compliant. I suddenly hated him and everything he stood for.

I tried to remove his hand from my mouth, but my arms felt heavy. He grabbed both of my wrists with his other hand and held them down in front of me.

"And a virgin," Troy said.

I tried to bite his hand. He knew nothing about my past and had no right to tell anyone that I hadn't found someone worthwhile yet—not even my current boyfriend.

Troy laughed. "Once she knows our ways, she'll produce many babies for our clan. She can join my other wives and make my life fuller."

Babies? Other wives? My eyes must've been as big as saucers. This was a cult group? My brain raced. I'd been set up by his sister, Lori. I was in over my head. I was raised a Christian, not a cultist.

I gathered all my energy and struggled to get free, but Troy held onto my arms, joined by three other huge men who stood behind me. I wasn't getting out of this warehouse anytime soon. But I also wasn't about to let myself become a member of their clan. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. Besides, wasn't this considered kidnapping and against the law?

The leader stood in front of me where I could get a better look. However, as soon as I stared at the guy, I wished I hadn't seen him. Scary was an understatement for how this guy looked. I knew his face would haunt my dreams. He had dark wavy hair with eyes as black as coal. I couldn't turn away from him because his stare pierced through me, seeming to make me agree with him.

However, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

"I'm Pastor Jacob," he said. "I'm the leader of the November Order of the Stars Clan. With our brothers and sisters, we'll protect you and save your soul. Only our groups around the world will be recognized as true believers. We will prevail as the chosen few. Do you agree?"

I tried to shake my head to disagree, but someone grabbed the hair on the back of my head and made me nod. What was happening? How could I make it known that I wasn't part of this group? Troy's hand still covered my mouth, so I couldn't even yell. Struggling got me nowhere. With all the men holding onto me, it wasn't going to be easy to get away. Besides, I didn't feel well. I was stuck.

The crowd broke out in cheers and my coat was yanked off.

I bit down on Troy's hand, hard, making him let go. I yelled for all I was worth. "No! I won't agree to this! Leave me alone!"

The sound of a gunshot rang out behind me and I heard a shuffle in the back of the auditorium. "This is a raid. Everyone on the floor."

A fight broke out in the warehouse as I struggled to get away. The men held me with such force, I couldn't move. The evil bad guys pulled me toward Pastor Jacob, who took my arm and dragged me with him. I kicked him in the legs with all my might, making him fall to his knees. If only I wasn't so tired, I'd have this guy on the floor.

"Satan is among us!" he screamed, trying to get to his feet. "We have to cleanse her of her evil sins."

Cleanse me? Look who was talking, Mr. Evil.

The men dressed in the white polo shirts and jeans ran to the stage and grabbed Pastor Jacob and the other men surrounding me. Cops followed behind them. The cops and the white polo shirt guys took the evil bad guys into custody, with handcuffs and all.

But I could only watch. My head hurt and I fell down, sitting on the stage with a thud. I was so tired.

"You would've been my special one." Troy's voice was quiet as two men handcuffed him behind his back. He continued speaking to me anyway, even though he did have the right to remain silent. "You have the most spunk and would've given me the best children."

I wished he would've remained silent, actually.

"Shouldn't it be my choice?" I looked up at him with one eye shut from the glare of the lights.

He chuckled. "Women aren't allowed to choose."

I lowered my head. "Lori's going to hear about this one."

"She's already gone elsewhere to find me another wife."

The cops took him out the back door.

A touch on my shoulder made me stand up and spin around. For some reason, I got a second wind. I punched and blocked, fighting for my life once again. I had the guy in a headlock before he spoke.

"No, Destiny," he managed to say. "I'm one of the good guys. I'm here to rescue you."

"Doesn't look like it from my viewpoint," I said into his ear. I didn't even care that I felt awful. I had to fight for my life and my sickness had to take a back seat. "Looks like I'm the winner and I'm not going to let you touch me."

"I have a gun. Check my pocket. These people don't carry guns to their services."

I pulled up on his neck even more, staring into his bright blue eyes while he winced. "How do you know they don't carry guns?" I asked.

He was very handsome, with medium blond hair, very blue eyes, high cheekbones and the softest looking skin. Because he wore a white polo and jeans, he definitely wasn't part of this group. But since he was so handsome, I had to keep reminding myself I was taken.

The man didn't fight back. "We've infiltrated this group and were working to take it down, with the help of the local cops and the FBI. How do you think we knew they were having a harvest today?"

"A harvest?"

He sighed. "When they add people to their group."

I thought it over for a bit, found the gun in his pocket, and let the man go.

He straightened up and dusted off his white polo. "I'm glad you did that. It shows they haven't given you the drug yet."

"Do you care to explain this to me?" I looked around the room. "I can't even believe I'm here."

He took my hand with a grin. "Want to get out of here?"

"What's your name?"

"Adam Jones. I'm a leader in the RIA."

I must've looked confused because he almost laughed at me. "RIA? What's the RIA?"

"Rescuers in Action. We save persecuted or bullied people around the world. Think CIA, but with an 'R.'"

I didn't take his hand, but sat back on the stage and lowered my head to stop the room from spinning. "I don't feel that great."

Adam knelt beside me, lifted my chin, and stared into my eyes. "I see that." He nodded to someone in the back. "Barry, we have a victim here."

A big man with a dark military haircut, wearing a white polo shirt and jeans, ran to the front with a medical bag in his hand and a stethoscope around his neck. As soon as he got to where I sat, he checked my heart and pulse, and then turned to Adam. "We'll take her in and check her over. Something's not right."

"I'll meet you at the hospital," Adam said. "Check all her vitals along the way. I think we might need to talk privately."

Barry chuckled. "We need more recruits." He searched in his bag, pulled out a flashlight, and directed the light into my eyes. "Did they hurt you?" he asked me.

"No. You guys stopped them from kidnapping me. Thank you." I looked up at Adam. "I'm sorry I thought you were one of them."

"No problem." He even chuckled.

Barry put his flashlight away. "They would've married you to the man beside you with some weird ritual. Be thankful it didn't happen." He paused. "Now, can you walk to the ambulance?"

I looked down at my feet. "I hope so. Troy said he drugged me to make me compliant but I'm not sure what it was. I'm ready to pummel him for it, too." I looked up at the two men in front of me. "How dare he? Who does he think he is, anyway? Can I have a gun to take care of him right now?"

Barry glanced over at Adam. "You're right. We do need to have that discussion."

As soon as I grabbed my purse, Barry put his arm around me and helped me toward the front door, talking the whole time. "You're very lucky we'd been watching the N-O for a while."

I leaned against him for support. "The N-O?"

"November Order. If we'd have waited a minute more, they'd have brainwashed you and you wouldn't be the same person you are now."

I looked up at him. "How can they brainwash someone that fast?"

"They shoot you with a drug from behind to make you believe what you're being told. It takes months to get the victim back to normal, then months after that to make their fear disappear."

"How do you know that?"

He was silent for a moment while taking me out the door. "My wife was kidnapped and forced into their slavery in New Mexico."

"But we're in Missouri. They kidnapped her and took her across state lines? Why wasn't the FBI contacted?"

"We didn't know where she was," he said. "We found her body a year later, after she'd given birth to a child who died at birth. They killed her for a stillbirth, according to our investigation. That's how I learned all about their ways."

"I'm so sorry." I lowered my head to make sure I wouldn't pass out. "What's being done about this?" I looked up, feeling the cold night air on my face. It helped a little bit, but whatever I'd been given wasn't nice. I was ready to sue Troy for damages.

Barry looked over at me as we approached the ambulance. "We're working on it and we've done internal investigations." He glanced into the back of the vehicle. "Can you step up?"

"I'll try." I climbed into the ambulance and sat on the gurney, lowering my head. "What can I do to help?"

Barry joined me. "I'm so glad you asked."







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Copyright © 2008 - Eryn Grace
All Rights Reserved.