Preacher's Daughter by Flora Ferrari



Chapter One





Faith



It feels like my suitcase has barely touched the floor before my Dad announces he’s leaving again.

“But I just got home!” I protest, pouting like a child more than a college graduate.

“I know, darlin’, but this conference… I just can’t get out of it,” My Dad says meekly, looking at me with his soft, kind eyes.

“It’s only for a day or two, then I’ll be back and we can pick up right where we left off this afternoon, how about it?” he asks with infectious enthusiasm.

I can’t stay mad at the man, he’s like a saint.

Next closest, he’s the county preacher.

Whenever the topic of parents came up at college, I was always careful to be vague without deliberately lying.

I just told folks my Dad was a consultant. Not that I’m ashamed of my Dad, but trying to get a boyfriend in college with ‘Preacher’s daughter’ hanging around my neck?

It didn’t make much difference anyway, turns out guys don’t go for thick girls after all.

Not at that college anyway.

“Do you need me to drive you someplace?” I ask hopefully, suddenly not looking forward to being alone in the house.

“I got a car picking me up,” he says, wincing a little more, knowing I’m a little hurt that he’s all hello and goodbye which I have to admit, is unlike my Dad.

“It’s something I did try and get out of,” he insists as I suck in a breath and turn on my heel, hoping to hide my emotions and failing.

To make matters worse, the A/C in my room isn’t working and it’s not even the hottest part of the day yet.

I grew up down south, I know the weather here this time of year. The trouble is I’m just not used to it anymore.

“Dammit!” I yell once my hand hits the solid A/C unit in the thick timber frame of my bedroom window.

“Language!” Dad calls out, followed by his heavy steps before he’s in my doorway.

“I did apologize, honey, there’s no need to curse and there’s no need to hurt yourself either. I called a guy about the air-con. He’ll be here tomorrow, maybe,” he says, wincing again.

I slump to the floor, trying not to smile, wanting to stay mad but Dad just has the gift of making bad situations better, just by being there for me.

“But what about today, tonight?” I add. Whining now, surprised at how much coming home again has made me feel like a little girl instead of a grown up.

“Shoot!” My Dad mutters, looking at his watch. “Uh, you’ll just have to use a fan or sleep in the living room,” he calls over his shoulder as he bustles back to getting ready to leave.

Hearing him snap shut every window as he passes it sees me following him through the house.

“What are you doing, Daddy? I’ll cook in here!”

He turns, smiling as he takes me by both elbows and kisses my forehead.

“I don’t want you worrying, Faith. But there’s been talk of drifters in the area, a man. Men,” he says, suddenly looking past me as I feel myself shivering.

Not with fear, but with the intensity of my long-held fantasy.

A stranger, a real man coming out of thin air and sweeping me off my feet. Taking me in his arms and-

“Faith? Are you even listening to me?” he asks, confused by my sudden smile and faraway look.

“I don’t want you going outside after dark or opening the door to anyone, Y’hear? Plus there’s a storm coming in case you didn’t notice. Sheriff Brodie’s number’s by the phone and you have my cell. Now, I really have to get ready.”

“What about the Air-con guy?” I hear myself chime, almost sounding petulant. “Can he come inside?”

“Very funny, Faith, Now I have to-”

But it’s too late, I’m already imagining what he would look like.

I tell myself I can open all the doors and windows once Dad leaves. Let the evening breeze come in and freshen the place up.

I’ve never heard of any drifters around these parts my whole life, and I’m sure it’s just Dad’s way of trying to politely frighten me into locking the house up tight.

Locking me up tight, his only daughter.

Preacher’s daughter.

But all he’s really done is set my imagination ablaze.

On fire with a mental picture of what I think the ideal man might look like, what he might wear.

How he might take me.