Excerpt from The Temptation






    The White House drew Ben Cranois across the street like a sorceress with graceful, mesmerizing hands luring a
    victim close.

    Ben shook his head, wanting to stay back, keep his distance. He had not planned to come here on his day off.
    He'd tried to resist. This does me no good. This makes things worse. I hate her. And I hate Him.

    President Julia Carson. And God. Two enemies that made Ben's mind rebel, his heart battle, and his gut threaten
    mutiny. Two enemies who wanted to claim his soul. But they wouldn't. They couldn't. Ben wouldn't let them.
    He'd erected a door between their influence and his soul that he kept shut, locked, and guarded. Nothing got
    in, nothing got out. Not them . . . and not the other.

    Ben stepped onto the sidewalk. The White House grounds were dead. The leafless trees reached to a gray sky,
    creating a stark backdrop to Ben's black mood. He raised his shoulders and dug his hands deeper into his pockets.
    He kept himself separate from the line of tourists waiting for the tour, from Julia's gullible fan club, braving the
    cold to enter this palace of Pollyannas. This castle of Christianity. He let out a soft snicker. Even the windows
    of the White House should be rose-colored. Hope, faith, love. Julia was destroying the country with such
    mindless-

    Ben did a double take. A figure stood at a window. He grabbed hold of the wrought iron fence and stared
    between the posts. Was that her? Was that the president?

    His hand began to wave. Hey, Julia! It's me, Ben! Remember me?

    With a violent jerk Ben's hand retreated to its grip on the fence. The knuckles whitened as the energy that
    lived inside took control. His body tightened, bracing against the inner rush. He had not been able to identify
    the cause of this new intensity-this other power-but he found it fascinating. And just a bit dangerous.

    It was an urging. A push from the inside out. A feeling that something important might happen at any minute.
    And he liked it. If his gut wrenched a bit too hard sometimes, so what? It was a small price to pay for living on
    the edge of expectancy.

    Ben closed his eyes and tried to take a deep breath, but the presence was heavy . . . demanding. He stopped
    resisting-resistance only made the urgency tighten its grip until it got its way. It was best to surrender willingly;
    sooner rather than later. He had known he would get punished for coming here, for giving into his desire to be
    close to-

    Move on, you weak fool! Get away from the sickening hypocrisy of this place. You have work to do. You must
    show the world the truth.

    Ben nodded, then opened his eyes, letting the command settle into his pores. He released his grip on the fence,
    relieved that he'd been given the strength to leave, while at the same time, reluctant to go. He shrugged his
    overcoat into place. He walked away.

    He had work to do. Important work. He was on a mission. Julia inched the sheer curtain aside. Her eyes zeroed
    in on a dark figure along the White House fence. He raised a hand as if to wave, then suddenly gripped the
    fence like a prisoner on the wrong side of the jail cell. He stared at her; she took a step back.

    Edward looked up from his morning paper. "What's wrong?"

    Julia returned for a second look. This time, she did not draw the curtain aside. "There's a man out there."

    "There are always men out there." Edward snapped the paper front to back. "We happen to live smack dab in
    the middle of a tourist attraction. You asked for it, missy. And now you've got it."

    "But this is . . . different. He's not sightseeing. He's staring me down. It's like he can see me, like he's tossed a
    rope around me and wants to rein me in." A shiver coursed down her spine.

    Edward joined her at the window, just in time to see the man walk away. "See? I'm such a strong influence, he's
    leaving. Never fear, Edward's here."

    "There you go again, taking credit where it isn't due."

    Edward returned to the couch. "Hey, I've got to take it anywhere I can. Being the husband of the president is a
    tough job. The thanks I don't get are astonishing."

    "Is the First Man feeling neglected today?"

    "Completely and absolutely. And don't call me that. You know I detest that title."

    "You picked it."

    "A lot of choice I had. First Gentleman sounds like I'm a baron who wants first dibs on a polo pony; First Guy
    makes me sound like I'm sitting around in a stained T-shirt chugging beer and sprinkling crackers on my gut.
    And you didn't like First Master."

    "Imagine that . . . " (continued)



                                                            Copyright 2016 Nancy Moser
                                                                   Mustard Seed Press