Overruled / Page 54

Page 54



After the heated sensations cool to soft embers, I open my eyes. Shining dots of light sparkle on the outer edge of my vision, and in the center is Stanton’s face—watching me with tender satisfaction. I feel his hand hold my jaw, and when he kisses me slowly, I taste a pleasing combination of tart alcohol and my own sweetness on his lips.

Drained and boneless, we crawl up the covers, rest our heads on the pillows, and with mingled breaths, close our eyes to the rest of the world.

14

Stanton

There’s a body of scientific study on sleep—the benefits, the side effects, how best to fall asleep, how many hours, which position, what kind of bed, what type of pillow, optimal room temperature. Researchers agree it’s best to wake up naturally—when your body tells you it’s had enough. If you work for a living, that’s probably not possible.

Second best is to be woken gradually—which is why there are clocks with crashing waves, classical music, and Tibetan chimes for alarms. But whatever the fucking sound, gentle is always better.

This is not a theory my mother has ever subscribed to.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding . . .

Sofia shoots upright, hair flying, arms swinging.

“What? What’s happening? Where . . . are we under attack?”

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding . . .

I barely muster the energy to moan, “It’s a triangle dinner bell.” My momma’s favorite wake-up call. “As for under attack . . . you could say that.”

Shit. I feel my forehead, run my hand over my hair—looking for the pickax that’s obviously sticking out of my goddamn head—splitting it in two.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding . . .

“It’s getting louder . . .” Sofia wails before wrapping the pillow around her face like a taco. “Why is it getting louder?”

I fumble for my phone on the nightstand and check the time.

Fucking hell.

“It’s gettin’ louder because it’s Sunday.” My own whisper grates on my ears. “And because we’re in Mississippi.”

She lets half the pillow drop, picks up her head, and looks at me through one open eye. “Is that supposed to mean something?”

“Yeah. It means we’re goin’ to church.”

She plants her face right back in the pillow.

And I know just how she feels.

• • •

Not all Southern Baptist churches are the same. There’s the contemporaries—with their modern, sometimes “mega” buildings, huge amphitheaters, Christian rock, advanced sound systems, and arm-waving, amening congregates who sometimes number in the thousands. Then there’s the traditionals—like the First Southern Baptist Church of Sunshine, Mississippi, built before the Civil War, no air-conditioning or heat, wooden pews, quiet congregates whose asses are in the seats every week, with the closest thing to a sound system being the organ player, Miss Bea, my old ninth-grade teacher.

We sit in the pew in the back half of the room, flanked by my parents—my sister Mary texting as quickly as she can before my mother sees, and Marshall, who’s falling asleep. Sofia caused quite the stir when we first walked in. Not because she’s not dressed suitably for church, but because she’s a new face—a fucking gorgeous face—with her dark hair piled high, her rich purple dress that highlights her hazel eyes, and strappy sandals that make me think about tying her down to a nice comfy bed.

She’ll be starring in the jerk-off fantasies of every teenage boy in this place—and several of their fathers.

Just before the service begins, I catch sight of the back of Jenny’s and Presley’s heads a few rows in front . . . and the dark-haired man sitting beside them.

Mine. I want to shout, write it on the wall—tattoo it on Jenny’s forehead in all capital letters.

He leans over, whispering, and Jenny covers her mouth, fucking giggling. My teeth grind and I exhale like a fire-breathing dragon—ready to launch myself across the room, scoop them up, and turn his ass to goddamn soot.

Probably feeling my stare, Presley turns around and gives me a smile that takes up more than half of her face. I blow her a kiss back. Thirty seconds later she’s coming over, after getting Jenn’s permission. She sits between us, whispering happily with Sofia, the perfect distraction from the man I’m itching to pummel.

When Pastor Thompson begins the service, I hear my daughter inform Sofia, “That’s Pastor Thompson—he’s a hundred and twenty years old.”


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