"What's in it for you, brother?" Abba's hand rested over mine, and his breathing quickened. Was he nervous or angry?
I braved a glance at Dohd. His small black eyes were piercing—but had little effect on Abba since he seldom looked up. "I'm offering Shulle a better life in Jerusalem, Haruz, where she'll be treated like royalty. She'll be a companion to our future king."
"He'll make her a concubine."
"No!" Dohd leaned forward, putting his pleading expression in Abba's line of sight. "Do you think I'd let Adnah's daughter become a concubine?"
Abba looked away. "I think you'd do anything to prove your power is bigger than your stature."
"You're too much like Abba." Dohd slammed his cup on the mat. "I've been nothing but kind since entering your home, and you've done nothing but accuse and insult me. Would you rather keep your daughter here in this hovel all her life? What can you give her? Who would marry her without a dowry? Without an abba who can make the match?"
Abba's hand grew tighter around mine, and I nearly cried out—as much from despair at my future as the moment of pain. Who could I marry in this awful little village?
"We'll go with you." Abba's voice was reedy and weak.
"What?" I whispered as his hand released mine.
Before he could answer, Dohd Shebna said, "I didn't invite you, Haruz."
Abba looked directly into his brother's eyes. "If she goes, I go." I'd never before seen him stare boldly into another human face. The courage my abba showed in that moment was like that of a warrior in battle. I'd always known I was his treasure, but now I realized he was giving up his life for me—willingly leaving everything familiar so I could embrace the unknown.
"I won't go, Abba." I wrapped my arms around his neck. "I don't need a husband. I love you, and I don't ever want to—"
"All right, Haruz," Dohd said, sighing. "You may come to Jerusalem as well."
My sorrow turned to joy as Abba's arms slid around me like a shield. He buried his whispers against my ear, "We must never forget, Shulle, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts
. Jerusalem will try to steal your heart, but we must not let it."
He kissed the top of my head and released me. I turned to thank Dohd Shebna who waited with a bright smile and a small folded bundle in his hand. He unwrapped it, revealing something brown and sticky. Candied dates! My stomach rumbled so loud both of his soldiers laughed. "Take one," Dohd said, "before the monster in your stomach attacks us all."
I shoved a whole date in my mouth and lolled it to the side so I could talk. "You must be important to require so many of the king's guards."
His smile disappeared as he wiped dripping syrup from my chin. "I was important—until two arrogant men took away everything I'd worked for." His breath smelled like spices, and those piercing black eyes drilled into mine. "I'll be important again someday, Shulle, and you will be too. I'll make sure you have candied dates every day of your life."
This excerpt ends on page 13 of the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book The Traitor’s Pawn by Lisa Harris.