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A soul hangs in the balance!
The only one of his kind, Deacon recalls thousands of years existing yet he has no memory of why. He can’t profess to living in seclusion because he greedily pursues pleasure in arms of so many men, he never lacks companionship. All those arms, lips, and asses, none feed his true desire. Deacon yearns for someone to make in his own image by introducing them to a hunger so vile, they will detest him forever.
Father Merck Hallowell stands at a crossroad of conscience and faith. His convictions, no longer satisfying, leave him searching for reasons to persevere. Befriending a handsome but strange parishioner opens a doorway Merck longs to enter and explore. Discovering Deacon’s secret, he realizes not only his life hangs in balance—so does his soul!
EXCERPT - THIRD CHAPTER:
Sensing Merck’s turmoil, understanding it, Deacon didn’t press for their meeting. Two days had passed and each of them Deacon waited in the same pew more than aware he was not coming. Not because he plundered his mind. Deacon hadn’t. He sensed it in his bones.
Ahh, the affect this holy man had on him.
Had it been anyone else, Deacon would have hunted them down, extinguished his desire immediately.
Today, as sun began to set, he felt Merck enter the sacristy and heard water run briefly. Standing, Deacon walked to the confessional and slipped behind the curtain. Shortly, the door beside him opened and closed quietly. He began with, “Father, I have…”
Abruptly cutting Deacon off, he asked, “Must we talk religion tonight?” A sigh signaled Merck’s weariness. “Seven hundred and thirty years?”
“Give or take quite a few hundred. That’s when I last confessed. Right around the time I became aware Catholicism resonated with me for whatever reason.” Silence wore on. “Father?”
“Call me Merck.”
“Does that ease your conscience?”
“No.” Deacon heard clothing rustle. “Why Deacon?”
“It’s… I may have been one of the first. Anno Domini, what year precisely I don’t recall, although, Stephen had been stoned to death and martyred. I opened my eyes in a meadow strewn with red lilies, and…and I…was.”
“What do you see, Merck?” Again, the swish of material. “Are you removing your robe?”
“I’m okay with that.”
Merck grunted. “And if you were not?”
“I’d ask you to put it back on. Merck?”
“Were you concerned for me in the alley?”
“As I would be for anyone.” He paused. “I don’t use this confessional much anymore. Most parishioners are satisfied with face to face.”
“Are you saying you’d prefer we do this somewhere else or that you wish our sessions to be face to face?”
“Somewhere else but I like not seeing you.”
“You must know considering you ransacked my mind.”
“I’ve not taken that liberty since you asked me not to.”
“But you could?”
“At any time, yes.”
Deacon stretched his legs out which left expensively shod feet visible beneath the curtain. “I promised to listen to you.”
“I have nothing to say.”
“Tell me when you began feeling disdain for your religion.”
“You tore that from my mental path.” Fingers laced through the ornate screen separating them. “I don’t know God anymore.” Deacon observed knuckles whiten as they tightened around wood. “I’m not sure I ever did.”
“Yet you went through with the Rite of Ordination?”
“I wanted to make a difference.”
“Not nearly half what I set out to accomplish.”
“Perhaps there is another way.” Deacon recognized confusion once again. Stronger this time and, Jesus, he didn’t want to care. Needing to stem his feelings, he asked, “Why don’t you want to see my face?”
Merck’s fingers unwrapped from the screen. Feet scrapped as he stood, and Deacon heard the door open and close. Not sticking to his vow, he entered Merck’s mind; he shoved past visions of parishioners, words on paper for Sunday’s Mass. He moved to thoughts marauding along his mental path of leaving Deacon alone in the confessional.
More than anything in the world—Merck wanted to walk away and not look back.
When Merck snatched the curtain aside, so riveted on the priest’s unrest and the fact that he might care, Deacon was caught totally off guard. Let this go, damn it. “Why can’t you look at me?” A cacophony of doubt blared in Deacon’s soul. Let. Him. Go!
“Because I want you. I can’t keep you from my mind… Not your reading it but, Lord, all I think about is you.” Merck’s head bowed dejectedly.
Deacon spread his legs, tugged him into the room and used fingers to nudge his chin up. “Look at me.”
Anguish darkened brown eyes to almost black. “Why me? Why?”
“Because.” He reached behind Merck’s neck, pulled his head down, and whispered, “I need you.” And you’re close enough to the edge to have answers or at least search for them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lips touched, tentative, sweeter than the first time. Tongues skimmed and glided in each other’s mouth acknowledging they belonged exactly where they were—together. Where did his start and Deacon’s stop? When he felt fingers touch his thigh, feather up, up until coolness seeped into Merck’s groin, he moaned. The echo in the small room should have been enough to stop him but he doubted anything or anyone could perform that feat.
What he thought impossible occurred within seconds at the sound of a nun’s voice. “Father Hallowell?”
“No, no.” He pulled away. “Deacon!”
“Shh. Breathe, Merck, she won’t see me.”
“I’m here. I thought I heard something drop to the floor during the last confession.”
“I didn’t know you used this confessional anymore.”
“Occasionally. It affords privacy some relish. How can I help you?” He turned his head toward her as he continued to pat the cushion pretending to search. Fear of being caught lessened his erection but it was the lie Merck detested more.
“The hospital called. The man you’d been asking about is awake.”
“Thank goodness.” Merck felt something cold pressed into his palm. Straightening, he looked at what Deacon gave him. A silver tie pin shaped like a rose. A rather large intense blue gem filled about an inch in the center. “I found it.” Tiny thorns poked at his hand.
The nun exclaimed, “It looks awfully expensive.”
“I’ll contact whom I believe it belongs to. Meanwhile, I’ll be at St. Pats.”
“Hope all is well, Father.”
“Thank you, sister.”
Merck twisted back to the seat. Gone. He retrieved his cassock and left. Reaching the entryway, he hesitated. “Damn you,” he grated through clenched teeth. “I know you’re here.”
He popped into view. “Perceptive.”
“You’ve got to stop…”
Fingers touched Merck’s lips, held them closed. “You’ve goddamned me once and damned me twice. It may eventually take root if you continue uttering such foulness.”
“You have got to be kidding me considering your filthy mouth?” The door pushed open and Deacon faded to nothingness again.
“Father Hallowell.” She peered around. “I thought I heard you speaking with someone.”
“My self, Mrs. Clark. I’m on my way to St. Pats. Should you require anything, Sister Elaine is inside.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine, Father. I’m lighting a candle for my sister who’s ill. In fact, she’s at St. Pats. If you could stop in I’m sure she’d appreciate it.”
“I’ll make sure to see her.”
Once on the sidewalk, Deacon burst into view. “You are quite the clothes horse.” He wore another high-priced suit with shoes that certainly didn’t look made for walking. Merck smiled envisioning a model not half as good looking wearing the suit down a catwalk. Smile evaporated when he realized money spent on Deacon’s ensemble could probably feed those in his small, rundown shelter for a month. Merck quickened steps toward the hospital hoping his brisk strides were hard to keep up with.
“What will you possibly say to the man who will surely return to being a blight on the neighborhood?”
“Have you always been cynical?”
“In the beginning, I don’t think so. However, those were simpler times. Now, among modern men and women, yes.”
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to live as long as you have.”
“And to think it’s never ending.”
“It’s called being immortal, Father.”
“Merck.” Deacon glanced sideways. “I believe you enjoy hearing your name roll off my tongue as much as I adore saying it.”
God, forgive me, I do. Overwhelmed, Merck slowed his steps. “How does it feel to bite a person?”
“You never bit anyone in the schoolyard?”
“You know what I mean.” What suddenly infuriated him? The cost of a fancy outfit or Deacon’s glibness regarding… Everything? “When your teeth sink into someone’s vein and you suck their life away.” From where Merck stood, Deacon had more than enough money if the tie pin was an indicator. His clothes. Fingernails manicured and hair styled. He halted and pulled the pin from his breast pocket.
“That’s mighty graphic, Merck.” Deacon’s head leaned. “Trivial things you are thinking I own or have access to I can fabricate with a blink of my eyes. I do prefer buying my clothing. It’s good for someone’s economy.” Mouth curved sardonically. “The pin, it’s real and it’s a rare, expensive blue diamond mounted in platinum.”
“Do you take their memories?” Merck had stopped his feet but couldn’t curb his words. “Do you care that you hurt or kill them?”
Eyes flared red. “What do you really want to know?”
“Why it’s easy for you. I want to know why you don’t seem to care about anything or anyone but yourself.”
“Why is my caring important to you? If I did, would it save my soul?”
Fisting the tie pin, Merck used such force placing it in Deacon’s hand, a tiny thorn drew blood. “That piece of jewelry could be a down payment on the building I’ve been after the archdiocese to purchase. I’d have additional room to shelter and feed people.”
“Keep it then. Have you considered buying the building yourself?” Licking his palm, he dealt with the pinprick and Merck winced until Deacon said, “It doesn’t hurt.
“You want to donate to the church; help God’s children?” Maniacal laughter jarred Merck and when he fathomed it was his, he shuddered. Unfortunately, that didn’t curtail his derision of Deacon. “Easy come, easy go when living life or taking lives. Right?”
“Is that what you believe?” Deacon grabbed his arm and pulled him into an abandoned doorway. “You think I live some romanticized version of Count Dracula where I happily skip through life biting people and living off stolen riches?” He shoved Merck against the door. “Yes, I have billions and I earned every penny in one way or another.” He smashed lips against Merck’s, kissed him hard and long while his palm sought out and rubbed over his shaft. Finished, he tightened his grip on Merck’s swelling penis. “Your anger stems from this, Father. You’ve got a hard on and you don’t know what the fuck to do about it.”
“You… You bastard.” He struggled from Deacon’s grasp.
“That wasn’t so hard to say now, was it?” Placing the pin back in Merck’s breast pocket, he patted it. “You’ll earn this.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not a liar. You’ll keep your word.”
“I refuse to continue this charade in church.”
“Pick any venue. I don’t care.”
“If I don’t?”
“The man you’re going to visit?” Deacon stepped from the hidden doorway and glared at Merck. “He’ll be dead before you reach the motherfucking lobby.” He spun and walked away.
Life is complicated, it’s loud, death arrives silently. – J. Hali Steele (from Twice the Burn)
THE ESSENTIANTS – Full series
Amazon ebook: https://tinyurl.com/y8yac99q
B&N ebook: https://tinyurl.com/y8cyuoyv
Healing Hell – Book 1
A soul is a terrible thing to waste.
Ion Toso is an Essentiant—a creature who steals souls. A world-renowned model who also poses as a live mannequin, Ion is weary of loneliness and dreams of finding someone to accept the part of him that steps off the runway or from the window, the part no one dares look at twice.
Breaking Heaven – Book 2
A soul for your thoughts…
Dresdan Mati thrives on stealing souls and he possesses the strength to heal. He can conquer the pain of a thousand deaths but he can’t overcome his desire to bed a virgin tethered to God. To have the one woman who eases his torment he must show his true self—a minion of pure evil responsible for stealing the last breath of the living.
In one tiny moment, internationally famous model and poser Ion Toso tumbled from his public throne.
A quick glance at the clock placed out of sight beneath the window ledge let Ion know he had ten minutes remaining. He wasn’t going to make it. Damn, growing complacent and lax, he had not taken sustenance, which would have given him more power to control the small crowd and avoid the awkward situation.
Standing, he twisted and bumped the plastic female mannequin in white lacy underwear behind him, sending it flying with a crash through the curtain. Jumping from the rise, he ignored murmurs and smirks from workers unpacking merchandise, and walked quickly down the hall. Not wishing to run into someone in the elevator, he took stairs down to where a dressing room provided for his privacy was located.
When he entered the room, his best friend peered at his watch, set his coffee down, and stared at him. “You okay? It’s only ten till nine.” Giving Ion the once-over, Dresdan Mati burst out laughing. “I’ll be damned. You’re sporting wood.” He continued to peruse Ion’s body. “Christ, did you come in your panties?”
“Shut the hell up. They’re briefs.”
“Jesus, I’d like to get a look at the babe who did this to the great poser.” Dresdan chuckled, a sound he seldom emitted. “I suppose pictures were taken?”
“Dres, I don’t need your shit.” He stepped behind a screen, pulled the underwear off, and tossed them in a trash can. Grabbing jeans from the chair back, he drew them on and stuck his feet in sneakers. Ion walked over and leaned hips against the table. “I know I have to end this soon, but not quite yet.”
“Ion, you are more than a pretty face.”
“I’ve tried the doctor thing, not my cup of tea.”
“It’s what I was before…before I knew I was different.”
“I can’t even remember when I became aware I was different.” He glanced at Dres. “It’s been much longer for you.”
Dres changed the subject. “You know there’s no way to stop the questions that will arise regarding your age?” Air whistled through his lips. “She must be special.” Loneliness filled the quiet words. “And I suppose because you got a hard-on, she somehow made you feel normal.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Your insatiable need to feel as they do.” Dres sucked in a draught of air. “We accost them at night and draw their souls into ours leaving only a shell of the human they once were.”
“God, you’re a sadistic son of a bitch sometimes.”
“It keeps me alive.”
“Don’t you ever get lonely, Dres?”
The look on the older man’s face didn’t change. “I have memories and…there are diversions.” His eyes grew hooded. “They’re all the same after a while.”
Ion repeated the word aloud. “Diversions.”
Dres grunted. “I can’t continue to trail your ass around so you can show off your pretty face.”
Moving to the mirror, Ion ran a comb through his dark hair. “Go out and tell that crowd I took sick or something.” Ion gazed at Dres’ reflection. The two spoke often about their supernatural heritage making them beautiful to easily mesmerize their prey, but he didn’t fool himself about who was the better looking of the two. Silver strands edged the temples of his friend’s almost black hair, and unlike Ion’s, the gray was real. He was slightly taller, his shoulders were broader, and the phrase “washboard abs” quite possibly could have been coined for Dres. A mouth too often curled in cynicism now formed a slash. “Seeing you will wet their panties.”
A brow quirked up, and gray eyes matching Ion’s perfectly glowered. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”
“Rosalind is going to visit us for a while.” Ion evidently suspected or knew something.
He had made things easy for Dresdan. “It would have happened eventually.” Dres shrugged. Didn’t make a difference to him when Rosalind Graves came to Malibu because he had known the minute he walked out of the church she was coming to California—one way or another. His intent had been to get Ion along with
Sandy home, and after
settling a few things at his house and the hospital, he’d return to Philly. “I
was flying back next week.”
He was determined to have Rosalind.
Ion’s brow lifted. “Is there something I should know?”
“Other than the fact that I want her, not really.” Dres looked at the overhead panel, flipped a few switches, and radioed the tower in preparation for takeoff. He turned in the pilot’s seat to look at Ion. “Anything else?”
“Dres, Sandy likes her. Is this a good idea?”
“Hell, Ion, I’m not going to devour her soul. I just want to spend some time with her.”
“She’s alone in the world and vulnerable.” Ion stroked his chin. “She was going to be a nun.”
“That would account for her holier-than-thou attitude. I’m glad she decided not to be because fucking a nun wasn’t quite what I had in mind.” He started the engines. “Limo’s arrived. Get them aboard and seated quickly because I’ve been cleared for takeoff in ten minutes.” Dres’ copilot entered and quietly took his seat. “Ion, is there a problem?”
“Don’t hurt her.”
Dresdan laughed. “I remember uttering similar words not long ago to Miss Brittingham.”
Dres adjusted the steering control. “So am I. Anyway, don’t see how it’s your business who I choose to fuck.”
Ion spun to leave the cockpit but not before he muttered, “You’re a son of a bitch sometimes.”
“I love you too, man.”
Dresdan preferred piloting the plane himself. It was another way to maintain control. Finished with the preparation drill, he turned to his copilot. “We’re set.” The flight attendant knocked then opened the door to inform them everyone was ready for takeoff. Dres asked her to make the announcement but to hold off serving a special brunch he’d had prepared until he joined the group.
His private jet was much larger than Ion’s. It carried ten in the main cabin and contained a well-appointed galley equipped to serve full meals. Though he kept no alcohol on board, guests could request almost any other beverage they desired. There were two bathrooms, one in the main area and one in his private suite, which boasted a plush sleeping area and a small office space.
Once the plane reached its designated altitude and path, he said to the copilot, “It’s all yours.” He’d flown with him before and had formed somewhat of a bond. Still, he warned, “Don’t break anything or crash.”
The man smiled with a glint in his eyes. “Special cargo, Captain?” Evidently, he’d paid attention to the conversation Dres and Ion had.
“Smart ass.” Opening the door, Dresdan entered the cabin. The pretty blonde attendant chose that moment to step into the aisle with a tray full of beverages. Dresdan gripped her waist and pulled her against his body to keep her from losing balance. “You got it?”
“Yes, sir.” Her face flushed red.
When Dresdan glanced up, he noted Rosalind’s dark head raise and that she stared at him, her mouth forming an O.
Ignoring the look of surprise, he walked down the aisle and swung into the chair beside her. “We’ll be in Van Nuys in three hours and twenty-five minutes.”
“No, we won’t.” He turned to Ros. “Wouldn’t want to keep you ladies from whatever plans you have.”
“I… No one told me…uhh…”
“Honey, take a breath and relax.”
She glared at him, her hazel eyes alight with fire. “Please call me Rosalind or Ros.”
He pinned her with a look, one that undressed her piece by piece. “I like either.” His eyes locked with hers. “But Honey suits you much better.” He stroked a finger across the back of her hand and watched a red flush crawl up her cheeks, making her appear even more beautiful than he remembered.
She removed her hand from the table, placing it in her lap. “Mr. Mati, I didn’t know you were the pilot. I would have bought a ticket and followed in a public carrier.”
“Ahh, but they wouldn’t have taken the great care of you I will.”
“Perhaps I don’t want you to care for me.”
He studied her hard before he replied. “Rosalind, it’s far too late for that.”
Growl and roar—it's okay to let the beast out. – J. Hali Steele