The Tithing (The Sacrifice #1) Read Online Natasha Knight, A. Zavarelli

Categories Genre: Alpha Male, Angst, Contemporary, Dark, Fantasy/Sci-fi, Paranormal, Suspense Tags Authors: , Series: A. Zavarelli
Series: The Sacrifice Series by Natasha Knight

Total pages in book: 84
Estimated words: 79889 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 399(@200wpm)___ 320(@250wpm)___ 266(@300wpm)

An ancient curse. Two families bound. A forbidden love.

When the Wildbloods presented their daughters to me on the night of the Tithing, they knew what was to come for the chosen girl.

The crescent moon that marked Willow made her mine. I had no choice but to take her.

Destiny determined our fates long before we were born, laying our roles out for us.

A Sacrifice would be made. A Tithe paid. Only then would our families be free, at least until the next payment came due.

I would have done my duty as Penitent. I tried.

But no one counted on the lion falling in love with the lamb.

And loving Willow could cost me everything.

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The hanging tree is barely visible through the mist that’s settled heavily across the land. The sun is a line on the horizon. A man crosses the field. He draws his cloak closer against the morning’s chill, his careless steps crushing the frozen ground beneath his boots.

His eyes catch mine, and he grins.

Isaiah Delacroix. The first Penitent.

He wears my face, but there’s something wrong with it. Something I can’t put my finger on.

My vision blurs and I feel myself tugged, as if hooked like a fish. My head feels as though it’s cracking open, being divided in two parts. The pain is agonizing, but it will pass. The worst is yet to come. I know.

And in the next instant, it comes. Oh, how it comes. Always the same, yet always a shock.

Because I am him. I am Isaiah Delacroix.

I see through his eyes. I think his thoughts. I feel every evil thing he feels.

“The Tithing time has come,” he says.

His words terrify me, but I am trapped and mute, a prisoner to this man whose face I have inherited. I look down at the clothes I’m wearing. I don’t recognize them. But the hands, they’re mine. The ring on my finger? It’s Isaiah’s. The ring of The Penitent.

I shove my hands into my pockets so I don’t have to see it. There’s something in one of them, though, something soft and wet.

“Duty, boy,” he says, and I turn to him because his voice is my own.

That head-splitting pain comes again. The scene before me flickers, blurring momentarily as I break free of the tether binding me to him. But I’m powerless to flee, my feet rooted to the spot. We are two men with identical faces standing alongside Proctor’s Ledge.

Except my thoughts are not my own. They’re still his.

We stand apart from the people of Salem who have all turned out in their Sunday best. They wouldn’t miss the execution of the Wildblood witch. They’re a bloodthirsty bunch. I find I hate them as much as he does. It’s the one thing we have in common apart from our last name. Mothers and fathers point out heavy branches, their children making a game out of guessing which one they’ll string her up to.

“I have my money on the highest branch, although it wouldn’t be a fair bet, seeing as how I paid for it,” Isaiah says with a laugh.

He, too, wants to see her hang. He’s hard at the thought of it. He wants to see her fear as they tighten the noose around her neck and when they pull the cart out from under her, he wants her eyes on him. Isaiah will watch her twist and turn in agony and terror as her life is stolen from her. He has bought and paid for these, her final moments. They will be his morbid keepsake. Because he has won and she has lost and she will finally know it.

Except it hasn’t gone quite the way he wanted.

Exhausted, I hear my own ragged breath and feel the bite of this freezing morning with each inhale as if this were real. As if I were truly standing here, on this ledge upon this condemned land watching an execution that took place centuries ago.

The crowd quiets at the sound of horse’s hooves approaching, signaling the arrival of the wagon carrying the accused.

Anticipation builds in them.

In me.

Anticipation of something wicked to come.

I watch, riveted, as an unearthly silence settles around us. No one dares to breathe as the carriage cuts a line through the center of the dirt road. People making way, crossing themselves as she passes. A child howls and buries her face in her mother’s neck.

She’s right to be afraid. After all, her mommy could be next if she isn’t careful.

The mist clears unnaturally, as if obeying some command. The wagon slows, and my gaze falls on the condemned woman. I know exactly who she is. The Wildbloods and the Delacroixes have a long history.

This is Elizabeth Wildblood.

She is the first of their line to be sacrificed, the first witch to be hanged.

Beautiful. Even in the filthy remnants of her rags, her finery long taken from her. A mass of the loveliest, reddest hair—a sign of the devil—tumbles thick and long down her back, over a pale, bare shoulder where her dress is torn.

She’s thrown off balance when the wagon halts, and an onlooker catches her instinctively to save her from falling. I notice how Isaiah’s hands fist at the gesture—or maybe it’s seeing the man’s hands on her. When she is righted, I see that the hair behind her right ear has been hacked off at the scalp, the skin still bloody, as if someone’s crudely taken a lock of it.

The man senses his mistake in touching the witch. He snatches his hand away as if he touched fire. The crowd gasps, each person frantically making the sign of the cross.