Excerpt: 'The Regime'

Nicolae held up both hands. "On my honor. I ate nothing. I do not recall even drinking water."

"A man cannot live without water. Food maybe, for a while, but not water. You had to have been getting hydration from somewhere."

"Perhaps. But as you can imagine, after a while I was delirious. In fact, I was amazed to find I had been out there for only forty days. It seemed months."

"Would it surprise you to know that you are down only three pounds since I saw you last year?"

"Yes, that is a surprise."

"It's also incongruous with your story, sir."

"I cannot fool science, can I?"

"No, sir. You cannot. And if you were literally twenty-fours from having fasted for forty days in the elements, I would not be subjecting you to all these physical tests today. But your resting pulse is as low as a marathon runner's, and--"

"I have run marathons."

"But surely you did not exercise during your ordeal."

"Of course not."

"Your respiration seems normal. Your blood pressure. Sugar. Everything."

"Then crank up that treadmill."

Irene was nervous. Hopefully, because of what Rayford had just been through, he would be most receptive to what had happened to her. But she didn't want to presume. She eased into it. "I've told you about Jackie, the one at the park--"

"The religious nut who calls you Eye, sure."

"She's not a religious nut, Rafe."

He shrugged. "That's how you made her sound. Trying to get you to come to church, always talking about Jesus-her-personal-Savior, that kind of stuff. Reminds me of an obnoxious friend I had when I was a kid."

Irene's shoulders slumped. "Forget it."

"No, I'm sorry, babe. Go ahead. I was just saying I know who you're talking about."

"Well, if you think she's a nut, you may not like what's happened."

"You didn't tell her we'd visit her church, did you? Please, not that."

"No. In fact, the truth is, Rafe, she almost pushed me too hard. It got to where I didn't want to hear it anymore. She said her church was full of born again Christians trying to get other people into heaven."

Rayford stood. "See, that's just it. They ought to worry about getting themselves to heaven and let us take care of ourselves."

"But, no, they're born again--"

"Whatever in tarnation that means ..."

"--so they're already in. She says her pastor teaches straight out of the Bible."

"Sounds boring."

"And she wanted to know if our church taught salvation."

"Salvation? Well, 'course it does. Doesn't it, Irene? I mean isn't that what any church is about? You get together, sing, worship, help people, learn how to be a better person, and that makes you one of the good guys. I mean, I know I've been lax about it, but now I've made these promises, so I figure you don't have to worry about me anymore, and neither do I."

Irene knew this wasn't going to down easily. "I didn't say we would come to their church."

"But--?"

"Well, she started changing her tune a little. It must have been obvious I was uncomfortable talking about it. So she quit bringing it up."

"That's a relief."

"She talked about everything but that for days, Rafe. Frankly, I started to miss it."

"You're kidding. All that pressure?"

"The fact is, hon, our pastor doesn't teach straight from the Bible, and we don't talk about salvation. All that is just sort of understood and assumed and not discussed."

"My kind of place."

"Anyway, she told me she cared about me and said the last thing she wanted to do was offend me or push me away and so would I just take a brochure and think about it."

"I've seen those. Weird."

"This one wasn't."

"Uh-oh."

Excerpted with permission from "The Regime" by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B.Jenkins, published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 2005 Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

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