Doubting Thomas (Tarnished Saints Series)

Doubting Thomas

 

Book 1

(Tarnished Saints Series)

 

By

 

Elizabeth Rose

Copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarities to actual organizations or persons living or deceased is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without the author’s written permission.

 

Cover by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

Images provided by Shutterstock & Dreamstime

 

 

Dedicated to my parents, Stephen and Marion.

 

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The Dragon and the Dreamwalker


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Doubting Thomas


Luring Levi


Judging Judas
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Seducing Zeb
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The Pandora Curse


The Oracle of Delphi


Thief of Olympus


Kyros’ Secret


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Author’s Note:

 

Tarnished Saints Series
is a twelve book series about the twelve Taylor brothers. Each book can stand alone, but so not to ruin any surprises it is best to read them in order if possible. Because of the amount of characters this will entail, I have listed the names of the brothers according to their age as well as kept characters to a minimum in each book so as not to overwhelm you. The names and descriptions of the main characters for each story can be accessed by clicking the cast of characters’ link
that will take you to the back of the book. You can expect a new book in the series to be released every few months.
Seducing Zeb
is scheduled for release this summer. Watch my website at
http://elizabethrosenovels.com
for sneak peeks of upcoming covers and excerpts.

 

Enjoy,

Elizabeth Rose

 

 

The Taylor Brothers:

Thomas
  –
Doubting Thomas
– (1)

Matthew
Levi

Luring Levi
(2)

Judas

Judging Judas
– (3)

James
Zeb
edee (Twin) –
Seducing Zeb
–(4) (coming this summer)

James
Alphaeus (Twin) –
Wrangling James
– (10)

Simon

Saving Simon
– (5)

Peter
-
Praising Pete
– (6)

John

Loving John
– (9)

Philip

Teaching Philip
– (8)

Andrew

Igniting Andrew
– (11)

Nathanael

Playing Nate
– (7)

Thaddaeus

Taming Thad
–(12)

 

Cast of Characters for Doubting Thomas:

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Misery loves company, but Thomas Taylor liked his solitude. However, tonight he would get neither solitude nor sleep. The continual knocking on his front door only made the throbbing in his head more pronounced. After the miserable hand life dealt him six months ago, he wished nothing more than to be left alone. But wishes were for the faint of heart, and all the wishing in the world wasn’t going to make his troubles disappear.

With a groan of defeat he crawled out of the double bed, feeling the vacancy of his late wife stronger than ever. He’d often woke to find the space next to him empty, but this was different. This time she wasn’t out cheating on him - she was dead.

He stepped over his nine-year-old twin boys sleeping on the floor, stubbing his toe on the rocking chair in the dark. He left the bedroom, hopping on one foot and cursing under his breath, not wanting to wake any of his six sons. He usually cherished the night. Silence, darkness, a break for man’s mind. An escape from the trials of being a single father. But lately, he found the noise inside his own head to be louder than all six of his boys rattling on at once.

He made his way in the dark toward the front door as the rapping noise hastened. A deep bellowing voice was muffled from outside the house.

“Open up, Taylor, we’ve got your son.”

Thomas grabbed his shotgun propped up in the corner next to the door, clicking off the safety in one quick motion. Living in the woods on Thunder Lake, he wasn’t used to people showing up at his doorstep in the middle of the night. Not unless there was trouble. And he’d had his share of that lately.

“Who is it, Pa?” He saw the dark silhouette of his fourteen-year-old son limping out of the bedroom. The moonlight spilled through the window, enabling Thomas to notice the curious look of the boy’s dark eyes as he stepped toward the window.

“Get away from the window, Samuel.”

The boy slipped back into the darkness, lighting a match and holding it to a kerosene lantern on a hall table. The room glowed with soft light.

“Stay away from the door,” Thomas warned, “and keep your brothers away as well.”

Six months of living in hell wasn’t doing anything for his disposition. Photographers and reporters hadn’t stopped badgering him since the night he found his wife’s bloody body in his barn. Reporters had constantly disguised themselves as salesmen, stranded motorists, or even new neighbors, snooping around his property and trying to get a look inside his house. They kept trying to dig up evidence although there wasn’t any to be found. Police patrolled his backwoods country road constantly, making him feel like some sort of criminal.

Or murderer, as the gossip went.

Accused of killing his own wife, Thomas had fought for his innocence. Insufficient evidence made him a free man. Free from rotting behind bars, but not from the accusing whispers going on behind his back. He was tired of the gossip about him in town, and the nosey busybodies vacationing throughout the year at the Ainsley’s Bed and Breakfast down the road.

No one believed he was innocent, and he had no way to prove he wasn’t the murderer they thought him to be. Now a gruff voice from outside his door informed him they had his son. For all he knew, it could be the murderer coming back to demand ransom or possibly frame him again. All he wanted was one damned night of decent sleep, but he knew he wasn’t going to get it tonight.

He pulled the door open, his hands gripped tightly on the gun as he lifted it into position. His weapon rested just under the chin of old Clarence Ainsley, his neighbor who owned the Bed and Breakfast down the road. The man raised his hands in surrender. Agnes, his wife, cowered behind her husband, her eyes wide with fright. Thomas let out a sigh of relief and lowered the gun, clicking back on the safety.

“What is it you want, Mr. Ainsley? I warn you, this better be important to wake me in the middle of the night.”

“Oh, my!” Agnes put a hand to her mouth, digesting the fact he’d just held a gun to her husband. Not at all a good idea if he wanted the townspeople to believe he was innocent. But he hadn’t a choice. He had his sons to protect, and anyone rapping on his door at this hour of the night wasn’t going to be greeted with a smile.

“We didn’t mean to disturb you, Taylor.” Clarence grabbed the stump of the pipe from between his teeth and lowered his hands. The man’s balding head showed a few drops of sweat glistening in the moonlight. “Like I said - we’ve got your son.”

Agnes stepped out from behind her husband with Thomas’s youngest son, six-year-old Elijah half-wrapped in the woman’s apron for warmth. The boy shivered in her arms, as it was a cool June night in Sweet Water, Michigan.

Elijah looked up to Thomas with wide green eyes that begged for forgiveness, yet challenged him with a form of disrespect he’d yet to see from any of his other sons. Thomas didn’t know what ran through the boy’s mind, and wasn’t certain he’d ever understand the young one. Elijah bit his bottom lip and looked away. Thomas nodded slowly, and rested his gun back in the corner.

“So you weren’t lying.”

“Some of us tell the truth, Taylor. You ought to keep your boys locked up at night before the authorities lock you up!” snapped Clarence.

“And why would they do that?” Thomas looked from Clarence to his wife and back again. They both shifted back and forth nervously. A nervousness brought on from something besides being at the end of his gun.

Clarence stood tall, his bravado almost admirable, though Thomas knew the old man was all talk, really just as frightened of him as all the others. The smoke from his pipe encircled his head like a crown as he stuck the end back in his mouth. Old man Ainsley, king of his little corner of the world, was probably more henpecked then the chickens in Thomas’s back yard, but didn’t know it. Everyone knew Agnes was really ruler of the roost.

“You should buy your son a pair of shoes,” said Agnes. “And some decent clothes. Tell him, Clarence,” she said, directing her last comment to her husband. Clarence opened his mouth to speak, but Agnes just kept on going. “The poor child will surely catch his death of cold in these rags. He’s already so skinny it makes me wonder when the boy has last had a decent meal.” Agnes Ainsley pulled Elijah closer in a protective hold, and Thomas felt a knot forming in his stomach.

Ever since his late wife’s murder, the old woman acted like the children weren’t safe with their own father. Agnes would have taken on the role of protector and provider had Thomas let her. But he didn’t want or need anything she could possibly give. That’s why he’d sent back the cookies she baked and the fruits and vegetables she’d canned, as well as the extra blankets and crocheted slippers for the kids. They were only harbingers to the toothbrushes and soap she’d tried to give him last week.

He didn’t need handouts. And he wouldn’t tolerate sympathy. He and his boys lived simply, but that’s the way he wanted it. Thunder Lake was never meant to be a tourist attraction with half-a-million dollar houses like the one the Ainsleys lived in. No one was going to tell him how to live and raise his children. And he wasn’t going to tolerate anyone suggesting he wasn’t a good father to his sons.

Thomas looked down to Elijah to see his feet bare. Again. The boy wore his worn-out pajamas, holes in the knees and threadbare in the elbows. Thomas had sewn them up many times after failing to convince the child to wear the new pajamas he’d bought, but Elijah had a mind of his own. He liked the old ones. Like the comfort of an old friend, the boy’s threadbare pajamas helped him get a good night’s sleep. Or so he thought. With Elijah, one never knew.

“It’s none of your concern what my children wear, Mrs. Ainsley. Nor if they wear anything at all.”

“Don’t talk to my wife that way, Taylor,” said Clarence. “She’s right, you know. You need help raising these kids. They’re not getting  proper care.”

Thomas looked at Elijah and motioned with his head for the boy to get in the house. Elijah did so without a word. “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Ainsely.” Risking the sake of being rude, Thomas no longer cared, and closed the door.

He crossed his arms, but didn’t need to ask for his son’s attention. Little Elijah was already looking up at him, waiting to be reprimanded.

“What were you doing out of the house, Eli? You were supposed to be in bed.”

“Eli, you’re in for it now,” came Ezekiel’s warning. Ezekiel, or Zeke as everyone called him, was Thomas’s eleven-year-old. Curly auburn hair and freckles were the markings of Thomas’s first wife’s Irish heritage. Brianne, his first and only love, died seven years earlier when the twins, Joshua and Jacob were only two years old. She was a loyal wife and Thomas missed her deeply. But he had five sons to remember her by. All he had to remember his cheating wife, Fawn by, was Elijah. The mantle clock ticked away impatiently as Thomas waited for Eli’s answer.

“I’ll ask you again, son. What were you doing outside when you were supposed to be sleeping?”

The boy looked down at his feet, but didn’t answer. Thomas’s gut tightened, hoping this time would be different. But it wasn’t. Eli hadn’t spoken a word since the night his mother died. It ate away at Thomas that he couldn’t take away the boy’s painful memory of the horrible scene. All his boys had seen Fawn’s dead body, and he had been too much in shock to even try to stop them from looking. It kept Thomas awake at nights, trying to think of ways to make Eli talk and make him the happy boy he used to be.

“Alright, then get dressed,” he said, not wanting to pressure the child. “All of you.”

“What?” asked Jacob, the higher-spirited of the twins, walking from the bedroom rubbing his eyes. A dark curl of hair lay across his forehead. “Is it morning already?”

“No. But since we’re all so wide awake we can start our chores early.”

“It’s because of Eli, isn’t it?” asked Joshua, the quieter of the twins.

“If he hadn’t been outside, we wouldn’t be getting punished,” exclaimed Zeke.

“It’s not a punishment,” Thomas conveyed. “We’ve got to start preparing soon for winter. There’s lots to be done. They’re predicting a hard one this year.”

“So what’s his punishment?” Zeke spoke out, pointing an accusing finger at Eli. The twins nodded in agreement.

Thomas hated punishing any of his sons. Especially Eli. It hurt him worse than it did them, but they knew the rules. Going outdoors after lights-out wasn’t tolerated.

“I’ve got to think about it,” he said, rubbing a hand over the newfound beard on his chin. “I’ll know more in the morning.” He didn’t want to punish Eli. The boy was so fragile, he didn’t want to do anything to scar him.

Thomas caught his reflection in the mirror, wondering when he’d let himself go so long without a shave. Nearly a week’s worth of growth told him his mind had been preoccupied once again. His eyes felt sunken in their sockets, and he had a headache that could rock the nation. Had he been drinking, he’d have good cause for feeling this way. But he’d never been one to try to solve his problems with alcohol. Or at least not until he’d married Fawn.

Still, he didn’t need anyone adding drunkard to their list of reasons why they thought him to be an incompetent father. He’d never tested those waters of temptation again after that horrible night.

“Pa!” Daniel, his eldest son of sixteen years ran out from the other room, hopping on one leg, trying to pull his pants up along the way. “I think the horse jumped the fence again. I heard it run past the window.”

Thomas dragged a hand through his tousled hair, down the side of his face, and past the small gold hoop earring he’d worn since the day he’d learned to drive a car. Life had been simple then. His biggest worry was if he’d have a date on Saturday night. This was the second time this month the horse had run off. Last time it cost him an entire day’s work to find it.

“Take the mare and go after it,” he told Daniel. “Thor is a wild one. I should have known it’d be nothing but trouble ever since it was born breech.”

“I’m on my way, Pa.” Daniel threw a shirt over his sturdy, bare chest, and Thomas realized his boy was turning into a man. Hard work and splitting logs had toned his muscles. He’d recently started growing facial hair, and would have left the scraggly-down in place if Thomas hadn’t insisted he shave it.

Dan’s height was nearing Thomas’s, and at six foot two, Thomas wasn’t a small man. Pride swelled in his chest for the way his eldest son was shaping up. He was a good boy, not one who would be likely to inhabit a barstool over at Burley’s strip joint at the edge of town. Thomas never had either. But had he, he would have known right off the bat that’s where Fawn had been spending her nights.

“Try to make this a quick trip. Your brothers will see to your chores in the meantime,” Thomas told him.

“Sure, Pa.” The door slammed after him, the noise splitting the night air.

“And stay away from - ” It didn’t matter. Though Dan was a hormonal teenager, he wouldn’t go anywhere near Burley’s. He was interested in girls all right, but not the kind that blinked their long lashes and turned a man to putty in their hands. Damn the powers of a woman. Damn the day he had let Fawn look at him that way.

He walked back into his bedroom and found Eli fast asleep on the foot of his bed. The twins were yawning and rubbing their eyes. Sam limped towards him, the ever obedient son, always wanting to make his father proud. Zeke was already gone, as usual. He was surprised it hadn’t been Zeke who the Ainsleys found outdoors. That boy loved nature and hiding away in it. And he hated chores.

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