Decree of Hope

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I knew something was wrong when she called me. She never called me this early in the day. It was when I slept, and she had school. The phone rang twice before I woke up. When I saw the name on my faceplate, my breath caught. Something is wrong with Kailee.


“Come over?”


“Can you come to my house, please?”

“Kailee, tell me you’re okay.”

A beat passed before she said, “I’m fine, but um—I need you.”

I got off work at seven a.m. It was eight before I got home, and it was noon, but with those last three words how could I not go? I pulled myself out of bed, threw on clothes, and left.

She opened the door before I had time to knock. I grabbed my girl, pulling her to me and locking my arms around her. “What’s wrong, baby?” I sounded like some boy band punk. I’d purposely never called her that before, but she scared the hell out of me today.

“Can we go to my room?”

I nodded, releasing her from my arms. She intertwined her fingers in mine and led me up the stairs.


She took a yellow piece of paper off her desk and handed it to me. It was a form from the Austin Police Department. It said they’d been here, but she missed them.

“Did you talk to your brother?”

She shook her head. “He’s not going to tell me anything.”

“Kailee, you’re going to wind up in big trouble if you don’t stop dodging them. If you don’t know anything, what difference does it make?”

“I didn’t miss them on purpose this time. Abe, I’m worried. He won’t tell me what he did. It has to be bad. I don’t want them coming here. I have no idea what they’re looking for.”

Oh God. “Kailee, don’t go hiding evidence.”

“Would you let Mirriam go to jail?”

Probably not. I moved across the globe because she was being followed by a terrorist. Because she snuck out of the house and got my dad killed, and nearly got herself killed. “Mirriam is a kid.”

Kailee glared at me. “Your sister is not that innocent.”

“She’s just—rebellious.”

“Then you could say the same about Jackson, and he has PTSD.”

“Kailee, take care of this. Do it for me.” Because I need you.

She nodded. “Can I show you something?” She walked toward her desk where her laptop sat.

I started to follow then hesitated. “It’s not a suicide video, is it?”

She laughed. “Of course, not.”

She pulled out her desk chair for me, and I sat down. She leaned over me and pulled up her blog. The post title read, “Fusion.” She’s got both dummies dressed in a combination of Western & traditional Iraqi clothing. Her guy wore jeans with a long sleeved shirt almost to his knees. It had a bright colored pattern and gold around the collar. The girl wore a plain colored western style dress with a shawl that came to the floor. She had a silk scarf pinned to the back of her head in a way that covered enough hair to prevent talking back home, but showed enough that it wouldn’t be unusual here, and she carried a leather bag with gold coins hanging from it. I had never been a fashionable guy, but I knew enough to know Kailee had put time into this. Some of these pieces could not have been easy to find.

“Thank you, sweetheart.” I took her hand, guiding her to my lap. I snuggled her into me and kissed her. When she scraped her teeth against my bottom lip, I let out a moan. Her hands slid down my chest. Pressure from her nails occasionally poked me. Once or twice, I thought I would have nail prints, but it felt too good to complain. When she placed her fingertips on the inside of my jeans, I grabbed her wrists to still her hands and broke away from the kiss panting.

Her face was red. “Ouch.”

“Did I grab you too tightly? I’m sorry.” I loosened my grip on her wrists and kissed each arm.

“No, my wrists are fine. My pride isn’t.”

I had no idea what she meant by that. It took me a minute to realize she thought I rejected her. “I’m sorry, Kailee. I respect you, even if you don’t.” Then I remembered that day in the car when she called herself a whore and regretted my words.

She didn’t get upset though. She said, “Well, respect me less because I want you.”

I laughed. “I want you, too. I promise. You have no idea how hard that was.” Then something crossed my mind. “Kailee, why are you home so early, and why am I here?”

“School got out early for Gade’s funeral. I was thinking of calling you anyway, because I didn’t want to be alone today and everyone else I know is at the funeral. I talked myself out of it because you needed to sleep.”

I placed my hand over her mouth to silence her. “If you need me, you can call me. You don’t worry about what I’m doing.”

She kissed my fingertips and moved my hand. “When I came home, an Arabic chick was at my door. At first I thought it was your sister, since I don’t know any other Mid-Eastern girls, but she turned and looked at me. She burst into tears and left. And I had the police notice on the door. I’m a little freaked out.”

“That’s odd.” I thought we were the only Mid-Easterners here. “But it’s okay.” I had no idea why she got visits from the police station and some unknown Arabic chick in the same day, but I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. She was safe now.

“Abe, you look exhausted.”

“Yeah, I slept three hours this morning.”

“We could take a nap.”

“Just sleep?”

She smiled. “I want to give you a backrub.”

That sounded good. “Just a backrub?”

She laughed. “That’s usually my line.”

“I don’t want to hear about you and other guys.”

“I’m sorry.” She hopped off my lap and went to lie on her bed.

I moved to lie down beside her and buried my face in the pillows. She straddled my hips and pulled my shirt up. “Kailee…”

“To give you a backrub, I actually have to touch your back.”

If this was a backrub and I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t going to argue with it. She slid my shirt over my head and started working her little hands into my shoulder blades, spine, and the small of my back. Her touch was warm and light and more than once I moaned in pleasure. Her touch teased me mad, and if she made the kind of move she tried earlier, I wouldn’t be able to tell her no. So I reached my arms behind my back and pulled her down beside me. I rolled onto my hip, pulling Kailee closer to me. She laid her head on my bare chest and kissed it. Kailee, you’re killing me. No kisses. But if I told her that, she’d feel rejected. “Nap time. I’m exhausted.” I left one arm snug around her and used the other arm to fluff a pillow under my head. I was Kailee’s pillow. My body was on fire, aching with desire, but I wouldn’t trade this moment for the world. “Is this—are you enjoying this as much as I am?”

“More.” She sighed.

She was insane. There was no way she was enjoying this more than me, but it was nice to hear.

Her door opened. “Kailee—” His tone was still even. He hadn’t seen me yet. This was bad. Should I stay here and hope he doesn’t see me? Should I get up and put my shirt on? He’s going to kick my ass, and I can’t blame him.

Kailee sat up and gasped as something flew at her head. It was a trophy from her dresser and I managed to block it with my hand before it hit her. Time to get up and take it like a man. This was going to look so much worse than it was. My body was as excited from her touch as I was. He was bound to notice that I climbed out of his sister’s bed without my shirt.

I put my hands out in front of me as I shifted my weight to get up. “It’s not what it looks like,” I said. This guy is going to kill me. I found my shirt on the floor and moved toward him to talk to him.

“You little bitch! You’re in bed with the sand nigger the day of Gade’s funeral?”

I snapped. He could have said or done whatever he wanted to me. He did catch me in bed with his sister, but I wouldn’t watch him attack Kailee. “Hey, don’t talk to her like that! You’re mad at me.”

Kailee got up and came between us. “I told you not to talk about him like that! Get out of my room, Jackson. Now!”

So they had fought over me before. I thought I was going to be sick. I never wanted to make Kailee’s life harder. “Kailee,” I started.

But Jackson spoke at the same time, and he was louder. “You little slut, you couldn’t wait until the day after Gade’s funeral to bring this kind of shit into our house?”

I came unglued as soon as the word “slut” came out of his mouth. I slid Kailee out of my way and got as close to his face as I could, because he was going to apologize to my girl. And he was going to do it now. “Don’t talk to her like that.”

“You’ve got some nerve. This is my house.”

I saw his arm when he swung, but it connected with my jaw before I could grab it. Kailee shrieked. My jaw hurt like hell, but I wasn’t in the mood to care. I grabbed his fist and threw the guy to the ground. I pinned his legs to the ground with my legs, kept my weight on the fist I used to drop him, and with my free hand I pulled his other arm across his body. “I said apologize.”

He spat in my face, so I pulled his arm farther across his body. “She’s not a slut, and she doesn’t need you to talk to her like that. Apologize.”

The jackass shifted his weight under me. He made an effort to flip us, but I centered my weight because that wouldn’t happen. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I don’t think she heard you. I barely heard you.”

His face was red. He wanted to kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to hold him down like this forever. But I’d roll with it. “I’m sorry, Kailee,” he yelled.

I loosened my grip on the arm I’d pulled like a pretzel. “Calm down.”

“What the fuck?”

“You need to calm down, so we can talk.”

“You son of a bitch, when I get up, I’m going to kill you.”

Yeah. I kind of thought so. “Take it out on me. Leave Kailee out of it.”

“I’m going to take it out on you all right.”

I sprang into a standing position. I couldn’t keep him on the ground forever, but I wasn’t letting my guard down either.

He moved to his feet. “Outside now.”

“Abe—” Her voice was full of panic.

“It’s fine, sweetheart.” I followed Jackson out of her room and down the stairs.

“How is your jaw?” he asked calmer than I would expect for a guy that just found me in bed with his little sister, not to mention everything that happened after that.

Busted. You’ve got a hell of a right hook. “I’m good.”

“You’re not the first guy I’ve found up there, you know?”

That was the harder blow, but I nodded.

“You really care about her. Don’t you?”


He nodded. “Then I’ll leave you alone, but don’t try any weird raghead shit on my little sister or I’ll kick your ass.”

Yeah. I think we just saw how well that would go. “Raghead shit?”

“She’s not wearin’ the towel. You don’t own her, and she’s not your plaything.”

I was ready to drop this guy again. “Uhh—I’m actually not Muslim, and I have no idea what you mean about owning her or her being my plaything.”

“I’ve been to Afghanistan. I know men in your part of the world order women around a lot.”

Only when they’re being dumb and skipping chemistry to practice jumps in a skirt so short I don’t know how it can be called clothing. “No more than any redneck. But Iraq is a long way from Afghanistan.”

“Whatever. Don’t hurt my sister.”

“I won’t.”

“And if I catch you in her bed again—”

I held my hands up in an apology. For the first since he had opened his fat mouth, he was right. It was less than what I would say if the situation were reverse. “It won’t happen again. But for the record, I’ve never done anything to harm your sister’s reputation. You have a white jarhead to thank for that.”

“Noted. Now get out.”

“Can I tell her goodbye?”

A crease formed in his forehead, and he glared at me. “No way in hell are you going back to my sister’s room.”

Fair enough.

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