Her first and also her Once.
Jonathan is studying to become a priest. He is three days from taking vows. He will not be a priest.
Rebecca’s major is pre-law. She is supposed to take over her father’s law firm. She will not be lawyer.
Their paths cross at exactly the right moment, when each most needs to hear what the other has to say. Jonathan’s structured life is turned sideways, but Rebecca also helps him learn how to forgive himself. It was self-defense, not murder.
Rebecca finds the strength to stand up to her father, to be the real her. If Jonathan likes her writing, it must be worth pursuing.
They must each struggle to forge a new path without each other’s comfort and strength, with only memories of the one day that changed everything.
“What’s the answer?”
He paused. “A switchblade.”
With my fingertips, I reached out and traced the scar across his cheek. “Did you win?”
He removed my hand and closed his eyes. “Yes.”
I slid his Book back to him. “This says we can find forgiveness.”
His eyes still closed, his jaw clenched. He bowed his head. “It also says ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
I took his hand in both of mine, petted his rough skin, and then brought it to my lips. He had a talent for guiding invisibly, but I didn’t know how to do that.
He watched me again. His eyes were intense, like the black of the night sky, and his forehead was furrowed, as if his emotions were scattered, as if he was shocked at my reaction, as if he had been sure his answer would drive me away. But I knew him. Already, I knew him.
“You’re still a good person,” I said.
His jaw clenched. “I’ve been trying to believe that.”
“I have faith in you.”
He continued to watch me. His forehead never smoothed, as if he was fighting for strength, but his eyes softened. He slid around the booth, closer to me.
I didn’t move, not sure what to do, what was right, what he wanted.
He leaned closer.
I only watched him.
He touched his lips to my cheek, the faintest pressure. I struggled to sit still, to keep my hands in my lap, not to grab hold of him. And then his lips were gone, such brief contact that I couldn’t be sure if he had actually kissed my cheek or if I wanted his contact so much that I imagined it.
He spoke in my ear. “You must be some kind of final test.”
My heart pounded into my ribs, against the point of the blade. “Are you going to pass?”
His lips brushed against my jaw. “I don’t know.”
He trailed to my neck, his mouth softly pressing. My hand curled into his hair, the other on his shoulder, holding, clutching. His mouth found mine, barely touching. His warmth invaded my head.
“God give me strength,” he murmured.
The door slid open, and the compartment filled with laughter.
He closed his eyes. Then he slid away from me.
M. S. Kaye is a 4th degree black belt and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. A transplant from Ohio, she resides with her husband Corey in Jacksonville, FL, where she does her best not to melt in the sun.
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Fight Princess: Caught in an investigation of a mysterious murder, a female underground fighter from a high society family learns how to accept love.