Tiffany Reisz is the multi award-winning and internationally best-selling author of The Original Sinners series from Mira Books/Harlequin. Find her online at tiffanyreisz.com.
It’s no secret that I write novels of forbidden love. My book THE SAINT (Original Sinners book #5) is a romance between a trouble teenaged girl and the handsome and enigmatic young Catholic priest who is charged with supervising her community service after she commits a felony to help her father. It was not an easy book to write and it went through many revisions. Below is the original secret prologue to the book which was later cut to get the word count down. As THE SAINT won a RITA award for Best Erotic Romance, cutting out the prologue was likely the right move. It doesn’t really move the plot forward, but it’s a sweet little scene and a glimpse into a turning point in my heroine Eleanor Schreiber/Nora Sutherlin’s life. The scene has never seen the light of day…until now.
By Tiffany Reisz
The court clerk ordered everyone to rise, and Eleanor rose with only the slightest hesitation. She had to get used to following orders. Might as well start now.
Judge Hawke, grey-haired, grizzled, and glowering, took his seat at the bench. When everyone else sat, Eleanor sat. Family court and church had a lot in common—sitting, standing, a powerful man in a fancy robe telling everyone what to do…If they made her kneel at some point during this whole process she wouldn’t be surprised. The whole courtroom reminded her of a church. It felt old. The polished desks and chairs were scratched and worn out by a hundred years of worried hands. The judge’s bench sat elevated front and center in the courtroom like an altar. On the front of the judge’s bench, Eleanor spied a carving of Lady Justice. She held scales in her hand and wore a blindfold over her eyes. Her lawyer Helen Moreland had said Lady Justice wore the blindfold to symbolize that justice was blind and should be meted out equally without regard to race, sex, or religion.
Or maybe she’s just kinky, Eleanor had said and Helen had scolded her for knowing about something she was too young to know about. She was sixteen, not six. Of course she knew what kink was. She had MTV.
Helen started speaking. Some D.A. or something replied. Through the haze of her fear, nausea, and nervousness, Eleanor heard the words “plea agreement” and “allocution.” She gripped a pencil in her hand and squeezed it hoping to move the pain in her feet to her fingers. Helen had bought her clothes to wear for the final proceedings—a plain navy skirt and simple white blouse. Her feet sweated against the plastic insoles of the navy flats and the tapered toes pinched her feet like a vise. It was bad enough she had to deal with her breasts growing from nonexistent to D-cup in one year, but did her damn feet have to grow a whole size in the last six months too?
Helen gave Eleanor’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze as the courtroom fell silent. This was her cue. She stood up with her prepared statement shivering in her hand.
“Go ahead,” Judge Hawke said, his voice surprisingly kind.
“Your Honor, on the night of March the twelfth, 1993 I, Eleanor Louise Schreiber, aided and abetted my father William Schreiber in the theft of five cars. My father told me that he had a large debt to pay to a member of a crime family by morning. I agreed to help him. Although I would not have stolen the cars on my own, my father’s financial situation in no way excuses my behavior. I could have told him no. I didn’t. I regret what I did and I apologize to you and the victims of the thefts for the suffering I caused them.”
She had a little trouble with that last line as she couldn’t quite bring herself to feel too sorry for all those rich people crying over their lost Porsches.
“I promise this court that I will never again take something that doesn’t belong to me. I apologize to my mother for putting her through this ordeal and to my priest, Father Stearns, for the inconvenience I’ve caused him.”
“And will continue to cause him, I’m sure.” Judge Hawke smiled and the few people in the courtroom laughed. “As part of your plea agreement, Miss Schreiber, you have agreed to testify against your father if the case proceeds to trial. Do you still intend to do so?”
“Yes, Your Honor, I will.”
The judge gazed at her as if weighing her sincerity or her resolve. She stared back at him and didn’t look away. Finally he nodded.
“Then I sentence you to two thousand hours of community service to be supervised by Father Marcus Stearns of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. You will report your progress once a month to a court official to be assigned. All hours must be completed by your eighteenth birthday. How old are you now?”
“I turned sixteen on March fifteenth.”
“Then you’ll turn eighteen in twenty-one months. Beware the Ides of March, Eleanor Schreiber. Any community service hours not completed between now and that day will be served in detention at Bayview Correctional Facility. You understand this?”
“Yes, your Honor.” Eleanor swallowed hard.
“Good. Now get to work, young lady.”
Eleanor managed a smile.
“Thank you, your Honor. I will.”
Judge Hawke said a few more things to the assembled, but Eleanor didn’t listen. A wave of relief overtook her. It had happened. Community service instead of juvie. She could start leaving her house again to go places other than school. Her mother hadn’t let her out of the house for any reason since the arrest, not even to go to church. Apparently she didn’t even trust her to stay out of trouble in church. Her mom probably had a point there.
The gavel struck the bench. Everything was official. She could stop holding her breath now.
“Eleanor, about your community service,” Helen said as Eleanor kicked her shoes off. “You’re going to have to take it very seriously. You won’t have much say in the work. If he tells you to scrub toilets at a homeless shelter, you scrub toilets at a homeless shelter, okay?”
“He owns me now,” Eleanor said. It wasn’t a question.
Helen didn’t deny it.
“He owns you. Could be worse. Better than juvenile detention. Anyway, two thousand is a lot of hours to work in twenty-one months. That’s twenty-four hours a week.”
“You’re really good at math.”
“I used a calculator.”
Eleanor picked up her shoes off the floor and followed Helen out of the courtroom into the hallway. A man in all black, over six feet tall with blond hair, strode away from her toward the courthouse exit. She hadn’t seen him come into the courtroom, but she should have known he would be there. It seemed he was always there when she needed him. If only he would be there when she wanted him. Because right now, she wanted him.
“Do you have any questions about your community service?” Helen asked as Eleanor watched Father Stearns until he disappeared from view. “Anything at all?”
Two thousand hours of community service supervised by her priest, Father Marcus Stearns, Judge Hawke had said.
Two thousand hours under her priest’s thumb.
Two thousand hours doing her priest’s bidding.
Two thousand hours obeying her priest’s every single order.
“Can I start right now?”
In the beginning, there was him.Gutsy, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn't want to break. She's sick of her mother's zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she'll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Søren Stearns and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Suddenly, daily Mass seems like a reward, and her punishment is the ache she feels when they're apart. He is intelligent and insightful and he seems to know her intimately at her very core. Eleanor is consumed—and even she knows that can't be right.But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. She vows to repay him with complete obedience…and a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets.Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.
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