Anya sank into the dining chair. She shook with her shock and emotion. Her mind could barely grasp what she had been told. God had asked her to stay but not told her why. She couldn’t quite get her head around being asked to marry a man she didn’t love and give him children. Was there any point resisting, however, if he was going to insist?

For this thought, Anya almost hit herself. Of course there would be wisdom in resisting if God told her not to. He would make sure she was vindicated in trying to do only what God wanted. She did the only thing she could at this point: she got down on her knees and prayed.

Did God bring her back for this reason? What were His plans for her and how would she explain to Sherdan if they didn’t match up with his idea of their future?

She got very little answer from God. He didn’t tell her that it was why she was here but equally she didn’t get told not to marry Sherdan. She knew she wanted to start with the marriage part of his Hitchin’s second vision, if she agreed to any of it.

Anya got up and punched her pillows a few times. She hated the idea of being forced to do anything. The only reason she was in this predicament was because she had walked back at God’s command. She paced as she ranted at God.

It was His fault she was in this position. She had never expected to be locked in Sherdan Harper’s guest bedroom and be told she was going to be the next Mrs Harper, when she had left home in December.

It occurred to Anya that she’d also never expected to like Sherdan either but she actually found him attractive. However, it wasn’t her idea of wedded bliss to marry a guy so evidently controlling.

She sat down on the edge of the bed and cried. She didn’t love him but she didn’t hate him either and she felt totally lost in terms of guidance. This wasn’t the kind of decision making she’d ever expected to have to do.

Anya went around in circles, alternately getting angry and upset. She only talked to God to rant at him. Sherdan found her like this when he came back for lunch.

She immediately tried to appear calm. She didn’t want to make him angry at her. His temper was volatile and scared her. If he thought she would say no she had a pretty good idea of how he would respond.

Sherdan smiled at her and she tried to smile back but it came out as more of a pained grin.

“You don’t look so good,” he told her.

“I’m fine. I Just have a small headache. All this thinking.”

“You are thinking about our future then? Good. I was a little concerned you were buying time before refusing me.”

“No, I’m genuinely thinking about it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily agree to what you ask.”

“I’ve already said, we’re having a child. It has been foretold.”

Anya looked away and sighed.

“This is hard for me, please, can you not try and be nicer about it?”

“I am being as nice as you deserve. It is you being stubborn. I’m offering you everything and asking very little in return.”

“Forgive me if I don’t see it that way.”

“So you’ve decided to try and resist this?” Sherdan hissed.

“No, I’ve not decided anything.”

“You will be my wife, Anya. It is our future and why you came here.” She didn’t reply. She could see the look in his eyes. He believed what he was saying. Arguing further would only cause him to grow more angry and possibly violent.

It worried her that even if she agreed to marry him, giving a child to a man she didn’t love had the potential to be a very painful experience. The mere thought of it made her stomach churn. It put her off her lunch in an instant. She stopped eating and Sherdan looked at her with concern on his face.

“I don’t feel like I can eat any more,” she said in answer to his questioning gaze.

“Get some rest.” Sherdan got up and left her but she knew resting was impossible. She had a thousand questions and fears running through her head. What if she said no? What would Sherdan do in response? She didn’t think he could force the marriage. He couldn’t make her say yes at an altar.

There were plenty of other things he could force on her but she had seen his anger at the guard that had tried to rape her. She didn’t think it was a coincidence that he had rescued her at that moment but there was no knowing what he might do when angry now.

Anya turned to God again. She really needed his guidance. She didn’t even trust herself to make a sound decision. This time when she prayed she felt God’s Holy Spirit fall down on her.

It calmed her and helped her to remember God would be with her no matter what happened. Just as he had been with her in the prison cell, He’d be with her in her situation with Sherdan. He would also help her stay of sound mind. She didn’t want to develop Stockholm syndrome, though she wasn’t even sure what it was exactly.

She had made her decision finally. She didn’t think that God had asked her to stay for this reason. It made no sense that He would ask her to stay and then not confirm why.

It didn’t mean that marrying Sherdan wasn’t something that was part of her future but God appeared to be leaving the decision for that part of the plan to her. She was sure she wouldn’t give in to fear.

Anya continued praying on and off for the rest of the afternoon. Pacing often and enjoying feeling God’s closeness.

As she passed by the mirror, on one of the many paths back and fourth, she stopped. She stared at the mirror. Only her clothes reflected back at her.

She had to put her hands over her mouth to stop herself from screaming out loud but she couldn’t see her own hands as they passed over where her face was meant to be. As they moved against her skin she felt the chill of her fingers but still only her clothes could be seen.

Anya stared at the reflection of the room until she faded into view again. As soon as she could see her whole body properly she went up closer and prodded her skin as if she wasn’t sure it was real any more. She calmed her breathing down and paced again. Every few minutes she checked the reflection in the mirror but nothing happened.

She was still trying to get this to work again when Sherdan came back. She stopped moving the second he entered the room and stood like a deer in headlights before glancing at the mirror. She was still completely visible.

“I thought I suggested you should rest.” He wasn’t very happy.

“I wanted to pray.”

“You pray a lot.”

“There isn’t much else to do,” she explained, while trying to sound like she wasn’t complaining.

“You could think about us.”

“That’s what I was praying about.” Sherdan looked at her, hope in his eyes. “I’d like some time to get to know you better.”

“How much time?”

“I don’t know.” Anya shrugged.

“I’m not giving you any more time to get to know me. We’re getting married.”

“You can’t make me say yes to you if I don’t want to. We won’t be legally married.”

“You’ll say yes if you’re carrying my child.”

“I won’t have sex with you either.”

“I never said you would need to consent to that part,” he growled. Anya frowned but stood her ground.

“I know you won’t force me. You’ve already rescued me from that once,” she replied. Her stomach was moving around like a boat in a storm but her face remained stern.

“You and I are destined to be together.”

“If that’s really true, what is the harm in waiting and letting me get to know you better?” Sherdan didn’t respond. “Wouldn’t you rather I willingly walked down the aisle and willingly carried your child?”

“Of course.”

“Then give me some time to get to know you, especially if you think it’s inevitable. That means you don’t have to force it. It will happen when it will happen.”

“What if it doesn’t?”

“Then the vision was wrong and both of us have been spared from making a huge mistake.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Thank you,” she replied. She wasn’t sure she meant it, but the hardest part was over. She had told him what she thought and he’d not grown too angry. He wasn’t happy but he wasn’t about to force her into anything either.

They ate dinner together having finally reached a sort of truce. Anya relaxed in his company and Sherdan soon cheered up again.

When he left, taking their empty plates with him, she went to watch the snow fall again. The snow from new year’s day hadn’t melted yet and now a fresh veil was forming over the footprints, snowmen and various other sculptures that had been made.

This was where Sherdan found her when he came back. She jumped when he entered. He had never come back after eating with her before. He joined her by the window to watch the snow.

“Are you not busy this evening?” she asked.

“No. I have some spare time.”

“Can we do something? I’m bored of being by myself.”

“Yes… If you’d like we can go out in the snow?” She looked at him eyes wide. He laughed.

“Can we make a snowman?”

“If you’d like. You’ll need to wrap up warm.” Anya didn’t waste any time grabbing a jumper, coat and scarf from the old oak wardrobe where she had hung them. He helped her put everything on and then took her hand and led her downstairs.

She went where he pulled her, doing her best not to appear to be awkward at all. This was a huge step in trust and showed he was softening to her.

When they reached the security desk he made her sit down, surrounded by the guards, while he put his own coat and scarf on. Again, she made a deliberate act of cooperating and putting his mind at ease. She twirled on the swivel chair, making everyone else smile.

Excitement was evident on Anya’s face as Sherdan took her hand again. His grip tightened as he opened the front door. She lingered just outside, letting the first few flakes fall on her face before following him out onto the lawn. His own front garden had a perfect covering of snow.

She didn’t hesitate in falling over backwards into the crisp white sheet, yanking her hand out of Sherdan’s in the process. He was about to complain when he saw her laying on her back moving her legs and arms up and down, shifting the snow out of the way as she did. She then held out both hands for him to help her up.

“Snow Angel,” she explained as she pointed to the pattern she had made in the snow. He laughed.

“It’s beautiful.”

“You make one.” Anya’s eyes gleamed in delight. Sherdan looked at her as if she’d suggested he do something really stupid before looking back at the snow and laying down beside the first snow angel. He mimicked her actions and then let her help him back up as she laughed.

Before Sherdan could take her hand again she had slotted her chilly fingers into the deep pocket of his coat.

“I should have got some gloves,” she said as if it explained her actions.

“You really do keep your word, don’t you?”

“Of course. Don’t you?”

“Sometimes, it depends.”

“How do you get people to trust you if you don’t?”

“There aren’t many people I want to trust me.”

“I want everyone to trust me… Come on, let’s make a snow man as tall as you.” Anya took her hands out of his pocket and ran off before he could grab hold of her. She heard him suck in his breath as he prepared to yell at her.

She scooped the mountain of snow off the low wall at the front of the garden and patted it together to form a giant snowball. She added to it until it grew too large for her to hold then Sherdan helped her roll it around the garden, careful to avoid the snow angels.