Breakfast had been nothing to write home about, but Cara really hadn’t expected much out of it. She ate in silence despite Kat’s offer to stay in the room with her for entertainment. After much griping, the bubbly young woman decided to take her leave. Cara took the opportunity to stew in the rage brewed within her.
Once she got out of there, she’d start making her way back into town. Maybe one of the nuns was planning to head out—she saw a dusty station wagon just outside her window. They had to get food sometime. . .right? Of course, that probably meant a few more days in the hole. Well, she’d handled worse sleeping arrangements in the past.
Almost as soon as she lowered the fork to her empty plate, there was loud, booming knock at the door, startling Cara half out of her mind. Her face curled up in a frown as she answered the summons. The door quickly opened, revealing a woman that had surely haunted the dreams of Catholic School Girls for generations. The woman’s face was severe and full of lines from ages of frowns. Her stormy-grey eyes were narrowed and lips were drawn in a tight line. Indignation flushed her rounded cheeks.
Those monsters were scary, but this lady gives them a run for their money! Cara thought to herself.
“So, you’re our ward, are you?” her voice was as severe as her face. It sent chills down Cara’s spine. “Miss Kitty has done nothing but prattle on about you since you’ve woken up.”
“How nice of her,” Cara said with a smile, though her words were between tightly clenched teeth. “Who are you supposed to be?”
“I’m the Mother Superior,” the older woman snapped. “It would do you well to remember that.” The woman looked around the room before stepping through the doorway. She took her arms from behind her back, revealing a small stack of clothes. “Here are some leftovers from other wayward children that stumbled upon our home. You’re filthy and need a shower.”
Cara couldn’t stop her mouth gapping at the crazy old woman before her. Reminded her of her mother and all the crap she was running away from. Of course, she wasn’t quite ready to admit it to herself just then. She reached out and took the clothing from the old crone less-than-graciously. The woman smirked at her.
“After you have cleaned and dressed, Father Marcus would like to meet with you out in the court yard. One flight down and passed the hallway on the left.” She gave Cara a once over, raised a disapproving brown. “The shower is just to the right of the room. Remember, cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Once the old woman left the room, Cara rolled her eyes and mockingly mouthed the words at her departing form. What a raging bitch. Cara had slapped people for saying and for doing less.
But she had to admit she felt pretty cruddy. So, though she didn’t want to give in to the old woman, Cara made her way towards the showers.
The shower was unsurprisingly tiny. And, naturally, the shower head was low, so the water only reached as far as her chest. Problems aside, the shower served its purpose. She felt refreshed and a little less out of sorts.
The clothes of the wayward children left much to be desired. Cara, being tall and lanky, already had a hard time finding things that fit appropriately. These pieces would hang off of her like a burlap sack. She found a couple of things that almost fit, but it made her look shapeless, much to her chagrin.
After taking care of herself, she sought out the Preacher Man.
It only took a moment or two to find the court yard nestled between the two large towers of the grounds. Cara cautiously walked on the pathway of sand stone pavers until she reached the heart of the space.
There he was. He looked much too young to be a priest of any sort. His long, thick shaggy brown hair danced about his child-like face thanks to the musty, hot desert breeze. If it weren’t for the bushy beard along his angular face, she would have pegged him for a high-schooler. Even sitting on the stone bench, she could tell the man had quite a bit of height to him. And, hell, was he a lanky son-of-a-bitch. All arms and legs, that one. Well, she had to assume the leg part since he wore the full priest get-up.
He didn’t notice her at all, of course. His pointy nose was buried in a large and ancient looking book. Cara had to clear her throat loudly to get his attention.
Father Marcus looked up at her with warm hazel eyes that pierced right though her. He brought one surprisingly graceful hand to his face and pushed up his small, round glasses as he focused all his attention to the woman before him.
“Hey, you’re Father Marcus, right?” she asked. She felt very exposed. She tried to hide her anxiousness.
He smiled at her thoughtfully. “Good morning. Cara, is it?” His voice was soft, but deep.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Mmm, yes. Miss Kitty has been talking about you nonstop this morning.”
Cara tried to fight the urge to roll her eyes at that, but ultimately lost. It didn’t surprise her Kitty already made her rounds to everyone. She seriously didn’t enjoy being talked about so much.
“Ah,” was all the remark she decided to make on the matter.
“She does talk a lot,” Father Marcus said apologetically. Cara silently berated herself for not keeping her expressions in check. “I hope your rest was comfortable.”
Cara shrugged. “Guess it was better than sleeping on a doorstep.”
Father Marcus chuckled quietly. “I suppose that’s true.”
He stood then, placing the large tome on the bench as he did. She figured he was tall, but with him before her, she had to look up at him. Cara herself already stood at almost six feet. The priest had a good head of height on her. She had to block her eyes with a hand as she stared at him since he stood directly in the sun. The light made a halo around his shaggy head.
Okay, pious. I get the message, she thought to herself.
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you need. We don’t turn anyone away,” he offered. His voice was so smooth and welcoming, she almost felt compelled to agree.
“This place really isn’t my speed. I was kind of hoping to get out of here pretty soon.”
He brought his fingers to his beard, pinching the end hairs between his thumb and forefinger. “Yes, I could see how it could be off-putting to some.”
The priest moved even closer, so much so, she could feel the warmth from him. He blocked the sun then, allowing Cara to drop her arm. She wanted to ask him to back off, but she wasn’t sure if that would be rude. Besides, she didn’t want him thinking she was a coward. Instead, she wrapped her arms about herself defensively and gave him a very clear “don’t mess with me” vibe. Or at least she was trying to.
“Don’t let the name of this facility sway your thinking, Ms. Cara. This is the safest place in the area. Just because we’re called a ‘convent’ doesn’t mean we follow the traditional meaning of it.”
She cocked a brow at him. What exactly was he saying here? Why did it send a shiver up her spine?
“Okay. . .So. . .?” she said while she shrugged impatiently.
“All I’m saying is you’re a stranger in a very strange land. We’re offering a safe-haven.”
He looked oh-so-honest as he spoke. For a moment, she felt her defensive try to dissolve. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad lying low at the convent. But still, why was he pushing this so hard?
“And what’s so strange about Braeden?” Her forced her voice to stay even. She wanted to know if he knew about the monsters. Hell, she wanted to know if they were actually real.
No, they were real. I felt them. I smelt them. He must know about it, too.
Father Marcus just stared at her with what she thought was a knowing glimmer in his eyes. He didn’t say it, but she could tell he knew. She licked her lips, impatience starting to rumble through her.
“The world is dangerous as a whole, little sister,” he said finally. She could tell he was evading the question. Before the she could yell at him, a bell tolled in the nearby tower.
He brought a hand to her shoulder. Something about his touch gave her comfort. It felt warm and secure and it made her sad and elated at the same moment.
“Come, I am about to give a small morning service. I would like for you to join us.”
She backed up from his touch. “No, I don’t think that’s for me, Father.”
He moved in again and placed another hand on her shoulder. This time it was like lightning through her. His big hazel eyes looked like liquid she could drown in.
“It’s for everyone,” he conjoled.
Cara thought for a moment, but eventually his liquid eyes convinced her to come with him. “Yeah, okay.”
He grinned at her, stepped aside, and gestured the path to the chapel.