Ethan’s only protection is Conversatio, a secret organization dedicated to the Second Coming—which may have its own dark agenda. As Ethan grows up in anonymity, ignorant of his true identity and not knowing whom to trust, he must come to terms with his miraculous abilities and make a fateful choice that will determine the future of all mankind. And for Kate, an equally difficult struggle looms, as well as a mother’s devastating choice.
Godsent is a wild religious thriller, a page-turner that keeps you guessing until the very last page. Burton, in his fiction debut, crafts a tightly-wound narrative with a heart-pounding plot and emotional resonance that will ring true to anyone with children of their own, all while the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
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|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.60(d)|
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By Richard Burton
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 2012 Richard Burton
All rights reserved.
"Isn't he good?" Kate whispered to Brady.
"If you like that kind of thing," her boyfriend answered with a superior tone.
They were on the sidewalk outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in November, watching a street artist sketching caricatures of passersby. The man was fast and funny, both with his pen and his banter, and Kate had just about decided to get one done of her and Brady, a souvenir of their trip. They were flying back to Charleston tomorrow with the rest of the youth group from St. John the Baptist, and so far she'd bought presents for her father and mother and Papa Jim, but nothing for herself. She'd thought she would ask the man to draw the two of them as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, but Brady's dismissive response doused her enthusiasm like a bucket of cold water. "Why do you have to be so negative?"
"I'm not," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "See? There you go again."
This drew an appreciative chuckle from the artist, a black kid in a red beret who looked scarcely older than she was. He glanced up from his pad, where he was rapidly sketching a fidgety little girl in pigtails seated opposite him, giving her the look of Bo Peep from Toy Story, and shot her a wink.
Brady scowled and drew her aside. "I thought we were here to see art."
Kate shook him off. "What is your problem, Brady? You've been snipping at me all day!"
He gave a sullen shrug. "I'm not the one with the problem."
Kate sighed. "This is about last night, isn't it?"
Last night, back at the hotel after seeing Cats, she and her roommate, Luanne, had been chatting and watching TV in their room when Brady had knocked at their door. Kate had been surprised to see him, to put it mildly — Sister Mary Gabriel and Sister Sarah, the chaperones for the trip, had made it crystal clear what would happen to anyone caught out of his or her room without permission — but Luanne had invited him right in. Luckily, they hadn't changed into their pajamas yet.
"Brady," said Kate, sitting up in bed. "What are you doing here?"
"I got kicked out," he explained sheepishly. "Mike and Laura are up there."
Mike was his roommate; Laura was Mike's girlfriend.
"Oh my God," said Luanne. She was sixteen, a year younger than Kate, a tall, lanky girl with braces and long, straight blond hair.
"Well, you can't stay here," said Kate.
"What am I supposed to do?" Brady asked plaintively. "Mike said it'll just be for like an hour, and then I can go back."
"Oh my God," Luanne repeated, her eyes wide. "Are they, you know, doing it?"
"Luanne!" said Kate.
"Well, are they?"
Brady's face turned bright pink. "I don't know, but Mike has alcohol up there."
"Oh my God!"
"Would you stop saying that?" said Kate, annoyed.
"Sorry." Luanne returned to her bed and flopped down.
"Whatcha watching?" Brady asked.
"Oh, I love that show!" He sat down gingerly on the edge of Kate's mattress.
As Seinfeld gave way to Cheers, Brady slid incrementally up the bed, until, by the time the closing credits rolled up, he was reclining alongside her, one arm around her shoulders.
Soft snores came from the other bed.
During a commercial, he leaned over and kissed her.
Kate kissed him back; she enjoyed kissing Brady, though that was as far as she was prepared to go, as he well knew. All the members of the youth group had pledged to stay pure until marriage, and Kate took her vow seriously, even if Laura did not. As a little girl, she'd gone through a phase where she'd been what her mother had called "nun mad," absolutely convinced that she would become a nun when she grew up; that dream had faded with other childish dreams, but her faith was still strong, and she knew that God would always be at the center of her life in one way or another.
The kiss grew more passionate, making her heart flutter. If a simple kiss could feel this good, she wondered, what must full intimacy be like? She was curious, of course, but in no rush to find out. Then she felt Brady's hand begin to slide beneath her blouse. She gripped his wrist firmly and pushed the offending hand away. "No," she whispered, afraid of waking Luanne.
"Come on, Kate," Brady whispered back. "Let me touch you ..."
"No," she repeated.
"It's not breaking the pledge," he said. "You'll still be pure."
"I said no."
He leaned back against the headboard and crossed his arms over his chest. "We've been going out since September," he said, a petulant tone creeping into his voice. "That's three whole months. And all we've ever done is kiss! I swear, I feel like I'm back in junior high or something!"
"Kissing is all I'm comfortable with right now," she said, feeling her face flush red with embarrassment and anger. "I've told you that." She glanced at Luanne, who was still snoring on obliviously, thank God. "I can't believe you're doing this!"
"You don't know what it's like for guys, Kate. It's different for us."
"Try a cold shower," she advised him. "I hear that works wonders."
"Aw, Kate! Don't be like that." He leaned toward her again.
"I didn't mean —"
"It's late, Brady. You'd better get back to your room."
For a second it looked like he might argue, but then he pressed his lips together, biting off whatever words he was about to say. Even so, she could hear the anger in his voice as he pushed himself off the bed and made for the door. "Fine. See you at breakfast tomorrow."
She almost called him back, not wanting to end what had been such a wonderful day on a harsh note, but in the end she let him go, afraid that one of the Sisters might come by to check on them. That would be a disaster. She'd had a hard enough time convincing her parents to let her come on this trip as it was. By comparison to her mom and dad, to say nothing of Papa Jim, the nuns were downright permissive. If she were caught with a boy in her room, and her folks heard about it, she'd be grounded.
Now, outside the museum, Brady was pouting again, his blue eyes full of hurt and resentment, like a spoiled little boy who hadn't gotten his way. Kate sighed. "Look, Brady. Can't we just pretend nothing happened last night?"
"Nothing did happen."
"You make it sound like I'm the one who should apologize."
"I don't know what's gotten into you," she said. "But I had to jump through a lot of hoops to come on this trip. I want to enjoy myself. If you can't be pleasant, I'd just as soon be by myself."
"Right," he said. "Like I'm going to go off and leave you alone in the middle of New York City. Sister Sarah would skin me alive. And your grandfather would put me in one of his prisons! I'm supposed to —" He broke off abruptly, flushing bright red.
Kate felt her own blood rising. "Supposed to what?"
"Brady Perkins Maxwell, you tell me the truth right now," she insisted, hands on her hips. "If you don't, I'll never speak to you again."
He ran a hand through his short blond hair. "Okay, so your grandfather asked me to keep an eye on you. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing's wrong ... if that's all he did. But I know my grandfather. Are you sure he didn't do more than ask?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh my God," she said. "He paid you, didn't he? My grandfather paid my boyfriend to spy on me!"
"Not spy," he corrected quickly. " To watch out for you, protect you."
"Is it really important?"
"How much, Brady?"
"Um ... a hundred dollars. I was going to use it to buy you something really nice," he added.
"You can keep it," she said and suddenly, to her surprise and mortification, burst into tears.
Brady gazed at her like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
"If you take one step after me, so help me, I'll scream," she warned him, having finally managed to extricate some Kleenex from her purse. Then she pushed past him.
He didn't follow as she ran up the front steps of the museum, ignoring the looks of curiosity and concern directed toward her by passersby. At the top, having wrestled her tears under control, she stopped, turned, and looked back to see if Brady was following her. But her boyfriend — ex-boyfriend, she mentally corrected — was gone.
Relieved, Kate took another moment to compose herself, standing to one side of the entrance as people streamed in and out of the museum. She was furious at her grandfather ... but, unfortunately, not really all that surprised. Papa Jim was incredibly overprotective and didn't have the most highly developed sense of boundaries: a bad combination. She sometimes wondered if he thought of her as a person at all, or only as a possession, albeit a valuable one. As for Brady ... she didn't want to think about him at all right now, or else she'd start crying again. She felt like a jerk for caring, for hurting, when it was so clear now that he just wasn't worth it. But that didn't make the pain go away.
"Are you okay?"
Startled, she glanced up to see a young black man in a red beret — the sidewalk artist she and Brady had been watching earlier. He was no more than five four, which made him an inch shorter than she was, and he didn't look much older, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. He wore a black jacket over a T-shirt so white it looked newly bleached, and black jeans. "Excuse me?"
"I'm sorry," he said, grinning. "It's just ... well, I saw you crying. You looked like you might be in some kind of trouble."
"I'm fine," she said rather frostily, clutching her purse to her side.
"Don't be frightened," he said.
"I'm not," she said, though in fact she was. Yet it was hard to say why. She was in a public place, surrounded by people, and the man talking to her hadn't said or done anything remotely threatening. Nor was she picking up a flirtatious vibe. Just the same, something about him, or the situation, was off. She felt a tingling along her nerves, and goose bumps popped up along her arms. She hugged herself as if at a sudden chill in the air. "Look, I'm meeting some people," she began.
"South Carolina," he said.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Your accent. You're from South Carolina, aren't you? Me too."
She regarded him with suspicion. "You don't sound like it."
He grinned again and dropped into a familiar drawl, exaggerated for comic effect. "Honey, my people been down around Marion going on two hundred years now."
She couldn't help laughing. "I'm from Charleston."
"Beautiful city," he said and extended his hand. "Name's Gabriel."
She took his hand and shook, feeling that strange tingling sensation again, almost like a low-level electric shock. But the fear was gone. "I'm Kate."
He nodded as though perfectly aware of that already. "God is with you, Kate."
"Um, yeah ..." Uh-oh. So that's what she'd been picking up on. The guy was some kind of street preacher, trolling for fresh converts. She so did not need this right now.
"I'm not trying to convert you or anything," he said as though reading her mind. "I know you're a good Catholic."
Okay, now the fear was back. How could he know that?
"You're blessed, Kate. God's grace is upon you."
"Uh, thanks, but I really better get going ..." She began to move off, but he stepped in front of her, blocking the way.
"This is for you." He held out a sheet of paper that had been folded in half.
"It's a sketch. Go on, take it."
Eager to get away, and not wanting to do anything that might rile him up, Kate took the paper and tucked it into her purse. "Thanks. Now, I really do have to go."
"Of course." He stepped politely aside.
With a nervous smile, Kate hurried past, into the haven of the museum. She half expected him to follow, but he didn't; when she turned, she saw him heading back down the steps ... or, rather, his red beret. It bobbed like a darting bird, a cardinal, before vanishing into the afternoon crowd.
What a day this is turning out to be, she thought. First Brady, then Gabriel. What next? But strangely, she felt better now than she had before. The odd encounter had lifted her spirits. It struck her as a quintessentially quirky New York experience. Smiling, she imagined herself relating it to Luanne later. She could practically see the girl's wide eyes, hear her breathy "Oh my God!"
For the next two hours, Kate lost herself amid the treasures of the museum. A sense of peace settled over her as she drifted from gallery to gallery, making her way up to the second floor and the European Paintings gallery. There she lingered longest. She loved the centuries-old paintings best of all, especially those from the Renaissance: the bright, vibrant colors, the heavy shadows, the keen and vivid representations of scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Despite their great age, the canvases seemed fresh to her, invested with a spiritual life missing from much of the more modern artwork on display. Full of angelic visitations, acts of sacrifice and devotion, the paintings seemed to glow with a soulful inner light.
She basked in that glow, deeply moved by the expressions on the faces of those depicted there, men and women who appeared so ordinary and yet had been touched by the divine. Mary most of all. To know God directly, how could there be a greater joy? She saw it on the rapt faces, in the eyes turned Heavenward with longing. In the tender looks that passed between Madonna and child in the many paintings of that subject. Yet she saw fear too, and suffering, and sadness that tugged at her own heart. Sometimes the eyes were directed outward, beyond the plane of the painting, to the viewer, to her, and in those gazes she thought she discerned a secret knowledge that was perhaps as much a torment as a blessing to those who possessed it.
A verse from Luke rose up in her memory: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required ..." She'd always taken that to mean that rich people, like her own family, had special obligations and responsibilities to give generously of their wealth, but now, suddenly, she realized that those who had been touched by God were the richest of all, and that it was they who would be required to give the most, even their very lives, just as Jesus had given His life ...
The touch of God must be a hard thing for a human being to bear, she thought and shuddered slightly, as she might have shuddered at a scene in a movie, full of sympathy yet glad, too, that she was only a witness and not a participant in the events depicted onscreen.
By then it was getting late. Kate left the museum and hailed a cab to take her back to the hotel, where she hurriedly showered and changed. Then she and Luanne, who'd been napping when she came in, went downstairs, where the group was gathering under the stern and watchful eyes of Sister Sarah and Sister Mary Gabriel. Kate avoided Brady, who seemed content to be avoided.
Dinner that evening was at Sam's, an Italian restaurant in the theater district. Afterward, they saw the revival of Hello Dolly, with Carol Channing, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The next morning, there was an early Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, followed by a brief audience with Cardinal O'Connor that had been specially arranged by Papa Jim.
Then it was home to Charleston, where she slid smoothly back into the normal round of school and church, family and friends. Brady tried to make up with her at first, but it was too late for apologies or amends. It didn't help that he was wearing a new pair of Air Jordans, either. It took a couple of weeks, but finally he seemed to get the message.
That was more than she could say for Papa Jim. When she confronted him about what he'd done, her grandfather took the cigar out of his mouth, leaned his shiny bald head back, and roared with laughter. "A hundred? Is that what that boy told you? Heck, I paid him twice that!"
"Go on now, baby girl. Papa Jim's got work to do."
Two months later, in early January, following a routine physical exam, Kate's doctor informed her that she was pregnant.CHAPTER 2
"I'm what?" She stared at Dr. Rickert in shock.
"You're pregnant, Kate," he repeated quite seriously from the other side of the desk.
Dr. Rickert had been her doctor ever since she was a girl. He was a stocky man of forty-five or so with thick, curly black hair, a finely trimmed mustache, and small hands that were so white and well-manicured that they always kind of creeped her out, as if they belonged to a mannequin rather than a man. Not once in all the years she'd been coming to see him had he given her any reason to suspect that, in addition to being a physician, he was also a comedian. But that was the only explanation for what he was telling her now.
Either that, or he was completely out of his mind.
Excerpted from Godsent by Richard Burton. Copyright © 2012 Richard Burton. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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