her. Jacob loved her, Rachel, and she him. Leah should not have even looked in Jacob’s direction, knowing he was bound to her sister. Was Leah so hateful?
    “Was this her idea?” The words tasted sour on her tongue.
    Laban shook his head. “You must not blame your sister.”
    “How can I not? You are telling me that she is to wed my husband!” Her voice shook as the words rose in volume again. “What of me? I am to just sit by and watch?” Tears rose so quickly they blurred her vision.
    “You do not have to watch, dear child.” His tone was placating, soothing, but she would not accept his comfort. “Give Leah her wedding week. Then I will give you to Jacob as well.”
    “It is my wedding week! This is my wedding everyone is planning, and Jacob is expecting me!” She choked on the words. “How can you do this to me?”
    “Leah is the firstborn daughter of my first wife. I cannot let you wed ahead of her.”
    “Then why didn’t you give her to another years ago? Whygive her my husband? I want to get away from her, not be forced to live with her the rest of my days!” Emotion rose so strong it took her breath. Never had she hated another human being with such force as she did her father and her sister in that moment.
    “I should have. This is why I told you it is I who am the fool. And now we are at a point that something has to be done or your sister will never wed. I cannot put Jacob off another year while I look for a man to wed your sister. He might take you in dishonor and leave Paddan-Aram.” Laban bobbed his head as if he somehow expected his words to placate her.
    “Jacob would never dishonor me. Though you seem to have no trouble doing so.”
    She felt the sting of his palm against her cheek, startling her, bringing sudden tears. She placed a hand over the heated flesh. Never had he struck her!
    “My child,” he said, his tone no longer placating. “I am your father. And while you may not like my decisions, you are still my daughter and you must live by them. It is by my good graces that you will marry Jacob at all. Yes, he is a close relative, but you are the youngest of my children. It is not fitting that you marry before the oldest.”
    He shifted from foot to foot and glanced once more at the tent door, a look of sudden discomfort crossing his face. “And though it pains me to hurt you, Rachel, the truth is, sometimes in life things don’t go our way.” He raked a hand over his beard and scratched at the stubble. “Tonight we will celebrate, and Jacob will drink too much wine, and I will lead Leah to the huppa beneath the wedding veils. You will stay in your room. Tariq will guard you, lest you think to somehow thwart my plans.”
    He reached a hand to touch her flaming cheek. She flinched, but he grasped her shoulder and held her firm. “I would not mar this beauty, my daughter, but I will not hesitate to have you bound and silenced if you do not promise me this moment that you will accept my decision. Do you agree to keep silent?”
    Tears blinded her from clear vision, but she nodded, knowing in that moment that her father had the power to do as he wished. She had always known it at some level, but never in such a personal way. What joy could he possibly get in destroying the most important day of her life?
    “Let Leah wed Jacob after me. Just please don’t take this day from us.” Jacob would be crushed when he discovered the ruse.
    “Jacob would never accept her willingly. No. This is the only way.”
    Bitterness rose within her at the flippant way he said the words, as if he had calculated every possibility and chosen the only one that Jacob could not fight. “Jacob is getting a bargain then—two brides for the price of one,” she said. Though Jacob’s seven years had already produced double what need be paid for a wife. And she would be saddled with Leah for the rest of her life.
    “Jacob will work for Leah as he did for you.” Her father’s self-assurance rocked

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