"Art thou joyous, girl?" Amber's heart leapt into her throat at the sound of Reverend Josiah's voice, and she heard a tiny, involuntary squeak escape her lips. Her pale fingers froze a fraction of an inch away from the car keys as her brain locked up somewhere between flight and fright and found itself unable to choose either. Her lungs tightened, refusing to allow her to breathe, and all she could do was wonder how someone so tall could be so absolutely silent when he wanted to be. She stared at the wall, desperate to run but all too aware that Josiah stood between her and the door. She'd have to turn and face him if she wanted to leave. And that would mean looking into his eyes.
But having him behind her didn't exactly feel good, either. Amber's back itched right between her shoulder blades, right where she imagined the Reverend was staring at her with those storm-gray eyes of his. She'd only seen those eyes from a distance, just once when he was leaving the house right as she was arriving, but even from the driveway she'd been able to feel that piercing gaze upon her. She kept on driving that day, circling the block to make sure he was gone when she got home, but she could see him in the rear-view mirror watching her. Waiting patiently for his chance.
And that chance was tonight. "I said, art thou joyous, girl?" he asked, his tones even more strident against the silent shadows of the darkened house. Amber hadn't dared turn on the lights, but the streetlamp shone through the big bay window of the living room to create a kind of artificial twilight. It made everything even feel more ominous, and Amber's heartbeat pounded so loudly in her ears that she barely heard Josiah proclaim, "For a joyous heart pleases the Lord, my child. Wouldst thou not wish to make the heavens sing with happiness?"
Amber bit her tongue. She didn't dare engage with him, not after what happened with Megan. Her older sister had stayed home from work one day to give the Reverend a piece of her mind, and Amber had returned from classes to find the brunette's eyes shining with the same beatific happiness that claimed their mother. Megan's single day away from the office became a permanent vacation, her days spent in worship alongside the rest of Josiah's all-female congregation. Amber couldn't let herself be drawn into a conversation or even a confrontation, not when she was so close to escape.
She should have run days ago. She should have stopped pretending that everything was fine, given up on her family and forgotten about her college fund and crashed with her friend Becky until she could figure out what to do next. She should have trusted her gut and listened to the little voice in the back of her head that warned her that this wasn't just some weird post-menopausal spiritual crisis on the part of her widowed mom and Amber wasn't going to be able to just ride it out by leaving the house early every morning and coming home late every night until Reverend Josiah found someone new to grift.
She'd ignored all the signs. And now she was paying for it. "Your mind is heavy with doubt, child," Josiah said, sounding terrifyingly close behind her. "I can see the weight of it on you. But your heart... oh, darling girl, your heart is ready to sing to the Lord with a joyful noise! All you need to do is drop to your knees in prayer, and He will make you ready for the task you are set into this world to perform. You will know doubt no further then, only happiness." His voice was rough and husky, weathered through long years of oration into a whiskeyed growl that made the hairs on the back of Amber's neck stand on end. She could imagine it preaching revival in a stiflingly warm tent on a hot summer night, or selling snake oil from the back of a covered wagon. Not for the first time, Amber wondered how old the Reverend Josiah truly was.
"Truly, child, the Lord bringeth obedience into the hearts of the unruly that they may know the greater joy of service to His will," Josiah rasped, now sounding mere inches away. "Once the doubt and defiance is gone, girl, all that shall remain is the love of the Lord and his servants." Amber's muscles slowly began to cramp, held so tense in frozen fear that her limbs practically trembled with the strain of it. She couldn't stop picturing his hand reaching up to rest on her shoulder, then digging in with his leathery fingers to turn her away from the wall to face him. The mental image was enough to tighten her chest until her breath came away in a wheeze of panic.
The keys. She just needed to reach out and grab the keys, then... then she could take a few rapid steps backward, slam into him and knock him onto his holy ass. Once he was down, she could turn around and run past him while he was still recovering and get to the door. It was what, ten steps to the car? If Lilly was following her part of the plan, she'd already be out in the driveway waiting. Mom might have fucking lost her mind to this goddamn Jesus freak, but she wasn't so far gone that she'd disabled the safety releases on the window bars. They could drive away, find someone to listen to their story. Even if they couldn't, Lilly was eighteen and Amber was twenty-two. They could just find jobs or something.
"But first thy heart must be made gentle, sweet child." She could do it, she could get away. "The scales must fall away from thine eyes, so that like Saul on the road to Damascus, thou mightst see the Lord in his glory." She just needed to grab the keys and back up, a single swift motion before he could react. "The fear in your mind is merely a whisper from Satan, tempting thou to the foolish path of defiance. Heed it not." Then run. Let all that adrenaline out, knock him down and run for it. Get out. Get away. "Listen to me, darling girl. Listen only to my voice and believe...."
With a scream of rage and terror, Amber scooped the keys off the rack on the wall and flung herself backward.
She found nothing but air behind her. Off-balance, expecting her explosive charge to be met with resistance, she stumbled back and lost her footing. Her arms pinwheeled, desperately trying to keep herself from falling--the mental picture of smacking into the kitchen floor and looking helplessly up into Reverend Josiah's piercing gaze loomed terrifyingly large in Amber's consciousness, she couldn't let it become a reality. But the more she flailed, the more it became evident that she had already drifted too far off of her center of balance to overcome the error with even the most violent of motion. The keys went flying out of her hand, borne away with centrifugal force as she made a final, desperate effort to keep her footing, but the world went into slow motion and Amber had all the time in the world to realize she was going down.
The Reverend caught her. He was standing almost ten feet behind her, the closeness of his voice a deception borne of terror, but he darted forward and reached out to snatch her out of the air easily and effortlessly. He held her up with a grip that felt like granite around her wrist, then converted the momentum of her fall into a spin so that she was facing him directly. "Careful, child," he admonished, pulling her upright and favoring her with a gentle, condescending smile. "They say pride goeth before a fall, and I wouldst not see thou hurt. Thou art too dear to me and my congregation for that."
This close, Amber could see every detail of his face even in the dim light. His skin looked weathered and worn, windbeaten and suntanned but still hale and hearty underneath the tiny wrinkles that came from exposure to the elements. It was impossible to guess his age beyond a certain indefinable sense of long experience behind him and decades of health ahead of him. Even his hair was full and silvery beneath his low-brimmed hat, old enough to have lost its color but unknowable past that. She felt like she was judging the age of a monument, not a man. He could be fifty or five thousand. And his eyes....
His eyes. The Reverend's eyes. The moment Amber's gaze locked with his, she felt as though the rest of the world fell away into dim and distant irrelevance. His stare pierced right through her, pinning her into helpless immobility not just physically but spiritually--Amber's very mind froze, the tiny awareness of her own mental silence the merest wriggling around the lance of his fierce, penetrating scrutiny. Amber couldn't hide anything from those steely gray eyes. They were ageless, infinite. She couldn't imagine looking away.
"Oh, my child," he whispered, still holding her sagging form with a seemingly casual ease. "I see it all now, all the questions your spirit has been clinging to through this difficult time. There are so many, but thou must see now that they all have the same answer, do they not? The answer is faith and devotion. Drink deep from the well of my belief and let it quench the thirst inside of you. Allow it to fill you, girl, as it has filled your mother and your sister before you. There is no doubt within the house of the Lord, and his bed is warm and soft and welcoming."
Something about the timbre of his husky, growling tones when he described a welcoming bed made Amber shudder with an indefinable emotion, but the spasm passed quickly and left her muscles weak and her eyes heavy with sleep. She could feel her limbs melting into limp, lazy exhaustion until it seemed like the only thing holding her upright was the Reverend's firm, unshakable grip on her wrist. "Yes, my child," he continued, his voice caressing the inside of her head with its honeyed warmth. "I see now that thou art beginning to pass into understanding. The joy in your heart is beginning to resound, and thou canst hear its voice at last in your doubting mind."
Amber wanted to nod, but her head felt frozen in its astonished stare. Indeed, her whole body seemed to float away, leaving her a creature of pure spirit within the depths of Reverend Josiah's infinitely powerful gaze. "Thou wantst to be joyous now, is that not the way of it? Thou wantst to kneel in reverent prayer, to make your heart obedient for the Lord and show him the truth of your devotion. To accept His sacrament and His blessing as offered by his faithful servant. Nothing would please thou more than to be baptized into His faith and His will, isn't that right, my child?" Amber still couldn't move. All she could offer was her pleading, helpless stare to show her acquiescence.
Josiah slowly lowered her to the floor, and Amber's weak, rubbery legs collapsed into a kneeling position as if supplication was now her natural state of being. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the bulge in the Reverend's trousers, but she couldn't focus on it--her gaze was still directed upward, still pinned by the force of his potent and inescapable stare. Even when he undid his fly and pulled out his hard cock, whispering, "Accept the sacrament of the Lord, my sweet child, and let it make unto your heart a joyful noise," Amber didn't really realize what she was doing. Her body seemed distant, irrelevant. The shaft filling her mouth only vaguely registered, and only as a sign that she was finally happy in the service of the Lord.
He rocked back and forth, still holding her wrist in his inescapable grip as he fucked her mouth with vigor and determination. Amber's throat opened to receive his sacrament again and again, all the way down until her lips pressed against the base of his cock and his balls smacked into her chin over and over. But through the miracle of his penetrating stare, her gag reflex simply disappeared. She found herself able to take the whole length of Josiah's shaft, every single time, slurping and gulping him down with a sound that made her pussy drip with arousal. It was the sound that he promised her, the sound of pure joy. And in that joyous noise, Amber's sleepy mind finally found the peace of devotion at last.
She had no idea how long she spent on her knees in reverent devotion, praying at a new kind of altar whose existence she couldn't have imagined before she fell into the Reverend's endless gaze. Time held no meaning to her anymore, not when she was serving the will of the Lord and bringing happiness to his faithful servant. Even Josiah's voice in her ears slipped into the background, caressing Amber's thoughts without actually stirring them, until she moaned helplessly around his shaft in blank, mindless ecstasy. Her old beliefs fell away. She knew now what true supplication meant, and she welcomed it with rapt and eager delight.
Until finally, his baptism spilled into her mouth, filling it to overflowing until pearly white fluid ran down her chin and dripped onto her breasts. "That's it, my child," Josiah murmured, letting her limp arm fall from his grasp at last and allowing her to slump sideways onto the kitchen floor. "Now thou hast the way of it. Now there is a joyful and obedient heart beating within your chest. Thou feelst the power of the Lord, the same power that has sustained me all these many years. Thus endeth the lesson, girl, but I assure you... there will be another."
Amber fully believed him. Even through her muzzy, unfocused gaze, she could see that the Reverend's cock hadn't wilted in the slightest--the same divine power that gave him physical strength and potent, overwhelming will also appeared to grant him endless stamina. Without even noticing, she began to wriggle out of her jeans, her body instinctively and automatically preparing itself for another blessing from the Lord's most faithful servant. A tiny fragment of her mind struggled for just a moment to reconcile her new devotion with her old understanding of religion, but the memory of Josiah's stare melted it away like cobwebs under a blowtorch. She mewled, begging him wordlessly to fuck her slick and dripping cunt.
But Josiah's slow crouch was interrupted by the sound of a voice at the door. A hesitant, terrified voice, putting all of its courage into a querulous whimper. "Amber?" Lilly called out, uncertainty warring with concern. "Amber, are you--? Oh. Ohhh. Ohhhhhh...." Amber's eyes had slipped shut in drowsy exhaustion, and she couldn't see what her sister was reacting to. But she had faith in the servants of the Lord, and in Josiah's ability to return a wayward sheep to the fold.