Read Rachel Online

Authors: Jill Smith

Tags: #FIC042030, #Women in the Bible—Fiction, #FIC027050, #FIC042040, #Bible. Old Testament—History of Biblical events—Fiction, #Rachel (Biblical matriarch)—Fiction, #Jacob (Biblical patriarch)—Fiction

Rachel (8 page)

BOOK: Rachel
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He watched as Rachel and her father disappeared into the bridal tent to await him.

Rachel paced her small bedchamber until her legs grew limp. She stopped at the door. Tried the leather handle. Still barred from the outside. Her voice was hoarse from weeping, and her screams had been drowned out by the music and laughter going on outside in the courtyard. The music and laughter of
her
wedding feast! Yet it was Leah who sat beneath the veils awaiting their hour. The thought brought the tears again. And then, for the briefest moment, the wedding drums stopped.

She screamed loud and long. But the drum started up again as the door burst open. Her brother Tariq crossed the threshold in two strides, grabbed her arm, and slapped her cheek. Hard.

“You promised your silence. Let there be no more from you.” He pulled a linen cloth from his belt and stuffed it into her mouth, then wrenched both arms behind her.

She squealed and tried to spit out the cloth, but it was wedged just right, and he would not release her arms to free it.

“Not this time, you spoiled child.” He pushed her onto the bed and quickly bound her wrists behind her. She fought and kicked at him until he yanked her around and shoved her against the pillows. “I will bind your feet if you don’t stop this now!”

His tone and the look of anger in his eyes made her still.

“That’s better.” He got up and closed the door, his eyes never leaving hers, then returned and sat beside her on the bed. “Why do you make this so hard for yourself?” Tariq’s tone had gentled, and she looked away from the pity in his eyes. “In a week, Father will give you to Jacob and all will be well. Why put up such a fuss for a few extra days?” He brushed a strand of hair from her eyes, then leaned back, looking at her. “I will take out the cloth if you promise not to yell again. Do you promise?”

She nodded. His expression held wariness. “I do not know why I should believe you.” But he reached for the cloth and gently tugged it free. “Do not make me replace it.”

She shook her head, her eyes filling again. Tears fell freely down her cheeks. She had no way to wipe them with her hands bound. Tariq used the cloth and touched it to her face. “There is no sense in crying over it, Rachel. What is done is done. You cannot change it, so accept it and live with it. There is nothing else to do if you wish to live in peace.”

She studied him, this half brother who had been born before Jacob’s mother even wed his father, a brother old enough to have fathered her himself. “Of course you would take Leah’s side. Why should you favor a half sister over your own flesh and blood?”

Tariq rubbed a hand over his face, his beard seasoned with the years. “I would protect both of my sisters, even from themselves,” he said after a lengthy pause. “Jacob can protect you both.”

“Jacob doesn’t want her!” The words were broken, a quiet sob, nearly silenced by the drum whose beat now told her that Jacob would have entered the tent to unveil his bride. “What
will you do if he realizes before morning that my sister is in my place?”

Tariq tilted his head as if by doing so he could hear the friendly banter and merriment from the wedding feast. But they were too far from the courtyard to hear more than the music and distant laughter. That she was held prisoner, missing it all . . .

“Once he disrobes her, he cannot refuse her.” Tariq’s quiet words made her pause. She had not thought of that. To be alone with a woman in that way . . . it would truly be too late.

“You planned this well.” Her words were as weighted as her heart.

“I did not plan this at all.” Tariq looked at her. “I would have given Jacob what he wanted.” No mention of her wishes. “He will be angry come morning.”

“Or sooner.”

Tariq shook his head. “Father made sure he had enough to drink.” He stood, undid her bonds. “Get some sleep. Let Leah have this one night where she can feel the love you alone will know from this time forward.”

He walked from the room and closed the door, leaving Rachel to ponder his words behind him.

Leah’s heart pounded, skipping beats ahead of the wedding drum. Her father’s reassuring words as he whispered to her once they were at the door of the huppa did not help. Her only thought was what Jacob would do when he discovered their ruse. Would he strike her? Would he put her out? Fear snaked through her, and she could not stop the shaking despite the warmth of the heavy veils and the heat coming from the lamps outside.

She stood inside the tent now, her filtered gaze making out a few shapes, yet not enough to move comfortably without tripping over her own feet. They had kept the lamps low outside, with none to guide within, lest Jacob see her clearly. How glad
she was now that she and Rachel were similar in height and shape. And she had determined as she sat beneath the veils that when Jacob looked into her eyes, she would hold his gaze, unflinching. If she looked away, as she did so often without thinking, he would know. And she could not let him.

Resolve quickened her pulse as the drum picked up its cadence. In the distance, she had heard Rachel’s cries, though her words were indistinct. Guilt filled her at what they were doing to her, to Jacob. Especially to Jacob. For though Leah could happily put Rachel aside and leave her in their father’s home while she traveled with Jacob alone to Canaan, she would not be able to live with herself knowing how much Jacob would suffer.

Laughter grew closer, and she heard the sound of her father’s voice. “Treat my daughter well, my son.” A friendly slap on the back, perhaps.

“You have nothing to fear, my lord.” Jacob’s voice, strong, though slightly slurred.

Leah’s pulse jumped as the voices ceased and the tent flap opened and fell back in place, closing them in darkness. She could feel his presence, though his form lay in shadows. He moved closer, his breath hot against her cheek.

“Rachel.” He said the name like a caress. Leah cringed inwardly, her resolve weakening. His touch on her shoulder sent little waves of joy through her. Never had he touched her in any way, and now his hands probed her veils, seeking their release. “We are alone at last, beloved.”

She nodded, not daring to speak. He would recognize her voice. Surely he would! Her mind whirled with what to do, all her mother had reminded her to do.
Whisper.
Of course. He would not be able to tell her voice if she kept it low, husky.

“Jacob,” she said, so softly she thought at first he did not hear. But his fingers worked more quickly, pulling and tugging the fine linen from her face until at last he freed it.

She held her breath, waiting for him to continue. Did he recognize her already?

But his hands cupped her cheeks, and his head bent, his eyes closed. He kissed her eyes, her nose, until his lips rested on hers. Soft, tentative, but when she responded, the kiss deepened, taking her breath with it. He pulled back at last and looked into her eyes. She held his gaze, unflinching, praying the dim light would conceal the pale color, praying the kohl that she had used to match the look of Rachel’s eyes would disguise her just enough.

A smile lifted the corner of his lips, and his gaze moved from her face to the rest of her veil-draped form. Slowly, carefully, he removed her robe. Then as if in a dance, keeping pace with the music outside, she placed her hands on the sash at his waist and undid the knot. His robe slipped to the tent floor where hers now lay in a heap. When at last the unveiling was complete, Jacob led her to the mat, whispering sweet words to her. Words she knew belonged to Rachel. Words she didn’t deserve.

Yet words she clung to, pretending that for this one night, they were meant for her alone.

7

Jacob awoke the next morning, his head throbbing. Where was he? For a moment the thoughts would not clear, but then slowly, enticingly, the memories returned.
Rachel.
He let his mind travel over each moment of the night before, relishing the tender feel of her touch. How sweet the love they’d shared! And all the more so for having waited so long. He’d been almost surprised to find her so willing, so passionate. He smiled, though the action made his head hurt worse. Laban had filled him too full of wine! But the wine had not stopped him from enjoying each moment with his beloved.

He glanced at the woman still curled on her side, asleep. Love filled him. He rested his head on the soft pillow and closed his eyes. How different life would be now that they were together. Ima would be proud of his choice.

Thoughts of his mother made him yearn for home. Surely the danger of Esau’s anger had passed. He would speak to Laban as soon as their wedding week ended and make plans to travel to Canaan within the year.

Rachel shifted toward him, drawing his thoughts back to this amazing bride. Dappled sunlight filtered through the tent’s side as dawn broke free of night’s hold. He turned, facing her. Stroked fingers through her undone hair, hair that spilled over
her bare skin and the thin sheet that covered her. A shiver passed through her at his touch, and he smiled, watching as she slowly awoke and grew aware of her surroundings.

“Good morning, my love,” he said, the words a caress against her ear.

She stiffened ever so slightly, then seemed to relax into his embrace. “Good morning, my lord.”

No longer the whispers of the night, her words sounded strange to his ear. Perhaps the food and drink of night had somehow altered her voice. He sighed. Perhaps his own headache was to blame.

But as he lay with his arm draped over her, enjoying the feel of her by his side, a new thought shoved its way forward like a warrior with sword drawn. Memories of his own voice speaking deceitful words in his father’s ear, words his father trusted despite his doubts. If only his father had listened closely and trusted his senses, he would not have been deceived.

The guilt cut through him as though it were yesterday, and with it an unnamed fear. Slowly, as one still awakening from sleep, he rose on one elbow and faced her. Hair the color of Rachel’s, yet with ruddy streaks of the same red that covered Esau’s frame from head to foot, spilled over creamy tan shoulders. His heart stopped.

He drew a ragged breath, his fingers moving of their own accord to brush the hair from her eyes. She lifted their closed lids. Met his gaze with eyes too pale, unable to hold his without skipping to some point behind him.

BOOK: Rachel
4.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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