This is the sequel to "The Obstinate Rose". Hope you enjoy the horrible tension you're about to experience. :D

PROLOGUE

The side of her head throbbed while thin strands of blondish hair gleamed in the moonlight drifting through her bedroom window. As great tear drops splashed between the ripped-out locks, she rocked back on her heels, whisking 'rain' away with her free hand and cursing the dog next door, whose incessant barking increased the pounding in her brain and her chest.

She sniffled.

"Bekah?"

Sniffed again, wiping her cheek with trembling fingers. She pressed her fist just below her heart and squeezed her eyes so tightly that it was a wonder any more tears managed to escape at all. But they did.

They'd become a common occurrence.

"It's just the alcohol," Alice said softly behind her. "You need to just sleep this off, OK?"

Bekah sucked in a breath and let it out slowly. "No... I don't. I meant what I said."

"You just shouldn't have gotten involved with Brian, and you knew it," her friend insisted, and Bekah's stomach lurched, either from the mention of that jackass' name or from the one-too-many bottles of Jack Daniels.

"Don't talk about him," she rasped as she stretched out her legs and kicked off her shoes, her ripped out, tangled strands of hair becoming lost in the burgundy blankets.

"I'll be back," said Alice. "I'm going to get you some coffee."

"You're not my servant," Bekah snapped. "And stop babysitting me!"

"You need a babysitter right now! You're-"

"Don't start!" Bekah's hand slashed between, but she caught the flash of Alice's dark eyes, followed by the slow frown. Through the dimness, Alice looked like Esmeralda from the 'Hunchback of Notre Dame', with her wild, dark curls, tanned skin, and determined expression, softly illuminated by God's Night Light.

"But I'm worried about you," said the girl who used to carry a Snow White figurine in her purse. "Remember when you and Mr. Fields-"

"I don't want to hear about him either!"

But you still love him.


No!

No, I don't.

"I said I'm swearing off of men, and that's what I meant!"

"What about God? Did you swear off of him, too?"

"Alice!" Bekah screeched and sprang to her feet, so that she barely towered above her companion, whose cheek was now streaked with a glimmering tear of her own. The room swayed, and Bekah plopped back down on the bed, burying her face in her hands. "Just get out, OK? I don't want to talk right now."

"Yeah, you shouldn't," Alice hissed. "You're too drunk!"

With her face hidden against her knees, Bekah moaned.

She remembered Dan's sorrowful tone of voice, the tears sparkling in his chocolate eyes the night he'd said goodbye. She remembered his last email and made a fist. Good thing the window was open, because she'd probably ram that friggin fist right through the glass.

Dan was out there achieving his goals while she'd spent the last year and a half finishing high school and partying. Dan was busy and too entangled to come home 'yet'. He seemed to be having the friggin time of his life, and had probably met someone else. Yep, he was too busy to come home, even though he knew that she'd been 'befriending' Brian.

They'd been more than friends, but hopefully she'd managed to conceal that from Dan.

What the hell did it matter, though?

Dan was just as bad as Brian, making promises and then ditching her.

Bekah forced her words through gritted teeth: "I know what I want, even if I'm drunk." Her tears vanished, and in their place came the determination that her mother had tried so hard to instill her.

Suddenly, she could feel the desire welling up in her more strongly than she'd ever felt it. She pictured herself with shoulder-length, shiny hair and a make-up-less face, her white doctor jacket pulled about her petite yet curvy figure. She could be hot and respected and cool. She could be a lawyer, dressing daily in tight skirts and suit jackets, tailored to catch the eye of every man who wouldn't dare come any closer than five feet as she sneered in his direction. She could be tough. Tougher than she'd ever been before. Heck, she'd decked a guy more than once, and that force inside of her... that force that drove her to fight, to protect herself, would carry her anywhere she went.

Yes, she laughed inside. She could drive men nuts but keep them out of her life.

She didn't need a lover. She just needed power, control over her own destiny, control over her own life. Control over her own heart.

Her heart would not be trampled on again. Not by her father, not by any teachers or preachers, not by peers or friends. She could be strong, hard, determined, and fierce.

Screw the men of the world.

"For when I am weak, then am I strong."

"What?" She frowned.

"It's in the Bible. Don't be afraid of weakness, Rose, because when you're weak, you're relying on God's strength."

"I don't know how to do that."

"I'm not sure I do either... but we'll learn, right?" He tweaked her nose, and she returned his hint of a grin.

"It sounds to me like you're really staring to believe."

He nodded. "Yeah, well... I found a creation science website... I'd like to share it with you later.

Her tight smile loosened, but the prick in her heart left as quickly as it had come.

She'd connected with a teacher for a short time. Together, they'd found faith in a God they'd previously known little of.

But was He here now? Had He abandoned her, since she'd abandoned Him? Had she ever really known Him?

Had she ever really known Dan Fields?

She could safely say she'd never gotten to know Brian, as hard as she'd tried to figure him out, the skunk.

You knew better, after everything he's put you through, but nooo. You're such an idiot, Rebekah Rayne Rose. Don't you ever learn?

She sucked in a deep breath and allowed it to sit in her swollen chest for several moments before exhaling. The oxygen made her brain feel clean and clear, like those ridiculously shiny floors in Mr. Clean commercials. Clean and clear, despite the lingering effects of alcohol. She really hadn't had that much to drink, had she? She didn't think so, as her new desire sprang up from her heart back into her mind.

"Remember what I told you, Rebekah," her mother had said the night before. "You don't need a man. We can make it without any men, do you hear me?"

Bekah had hung up the phone with those words hovering in the air like the thick smoke of burnt rubber.

And now they seemed more like the majestic glow of sunrise.

"I don't need men," she spouted as she raised her head and Alice's frown slid away. "I know what I want, Alice. And men can all go to Hell!"

Alice stared at her with her arms folded, and then shook her head as a crisp giggle rippled into the space between them. "You're nuts, Bekah. You'll never make it."

Bekah squared her shoulders as her friend swaggered toward the door and the dark hallway. "This coming from Miss Religious Fanatic!"

Alice had been attending church with her goody-goody new boyfriend for the past six months. Gone were the days or drinking and partying, and in were the days of Bible studies and begging Bekah to give up the booze. "You and Dan stumbled on something, and you're just throwing it away," Alice had nagged repeatedly.

"No, I'm not," Bekah would argue. "I just... I need some time to clear my head!"

"With Brian Cruise, huh?"

With that memory, Bekah clenched her teeth so harshly together that her jaws ached. "I mean it, Alice!" She yelled into the damned darkness. "Men can go to Hell!!"