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Midnight Mass (Priest #1.5)
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We are told that God will punish the wicked. That sinful men will reap what they sow. We are told to scourge our souls with prayer and pain to become clean once again.
Well, here I am. Wicked and sinful. Desperate to become clean…even though it feels so good to be dirty.
But even I never expected what came next.
Even I never expected my punishment to come so soon.
***Midnight Mass is a novella and a sequel to Priest. It’s intended for mature audiences only.***
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Sometimes I think I’m haunted by the ghosts of my former selves.
There’s the small boy who used to run into his sister’s room after having a nightmare. There’s the teenager who pulled that same sister from a rafter in his parents’ garage. There’s the college student who drowned his pain in aggressive sex and whiskey.
And then there’s the parish priest who couldn’t stop himself from falling in love.
I feel them crowding behind me as I walk across Princeton’s tree-filled campus. I hear them whispering as I make love to my wife.
I see them behind my eyelids when I kneel to pray.
Of all the ghosts that haunt me, it is the priest who stays the closest, who dogs my steps from dawn until dusk. It’s the priest who reminds me of my sins, of everything I’ve left behind, of every part of secular life that is flat and colorless and petty.
It is the priest who tells me to be afraid of being punished.
Like I’m not already afraid.
But I never expected my punishment to come so soon.
Moonlight poured into the room like a diaphanous waterfall, thick and pooling on the floor. I’d been staring at that moonlight for an hour now, trying to fall asleep, but sleep refused to come. Instead, my brain kept running through arguments against theological theism and rifling through remembered Aquinas quotes.
The danger of being mid-dissertation, I supposed.
I rolled over to be closer to Poppy, my wife and my lamb, who was currently fast asleep and facing away from me, her knees drawn up to her chest. I ran a hand over the swell of her hip, the lace of her boy shorts tickling my palm and pulling my mind slowly but steadily away from long-dead Catholic philosophers.
I moved closer to her, pressing my lips to the back of her neck and curling my body around hers. She was warm. Soft. Lavender-scented.
Even after three years of marriage, that word still punctured me, pained me with the beautiful awe and wonder of it all. This woman, this polished, driven, smart-as-fuck woman, had chosen me.
And now I was hard.
So very hard.
I wanted to wake her up. I wanted to roll her onto her back and wedge my knee between her thighs. I wanted to hook a finger in the crotch of those panties and pull them aside, and then I wanted to sink into her. I wanted to fuck her until I came, and then I wanted to fuck her again. Hell, I wanted to fuck her all night and all day until we left for her parents’ Newport mansion for Thanksgiving in a couple of days.
My upcoming dissertation deadline and her busy work schedule meant that there’d been a lot of nights in the last twelve months that we’d gone without each other, and now I lived with a constant gnawing lust deep in the pit of my stomach—a hunger that never felt completely sated, even immediately after we had sex. Poppy teased me about the feast or famine nature of our sex life this year, and I hoped that the teasing didn’t mask a deeper unhappiness. Because I knew I was certainly unhappy about it.
And it was my dissertation causing it. So in a way, it was my fault, which made me even more unhappy. But this project was the culmination of the last four years of my study, the pinnacle of this new, post-clergy phase of my life. It was fascinating and meaningful and magical, and those long, silent nights in my library stall were so peaceful and rewarding. I was finally in the dusty, scholarly cave I’d wanted to be in for so long. Just…why did it have to come at the expense of time with Poppy?
Tonight had been prototypical of our new life. She’d sent me a text in the afternoon:
Come home early tonight. I am excited to tell you about my day!
So I’d promised Poppy I’d be home from the library in time to eat a late dinner. And then dinnertime came and went, and so I promised her I’d be home before ten. And then I found an annotated set of Paul Tillich’s essays in the Barth collection and lost track of time, and when I finally checked the clock, it was past two a.m. I’d rushed home, racing past Trinity Church, jogging with my heavy laptop bag the whole way to our townhouse—a narrow brick thing close to the cemetery. When I walked into the bedroom, I saw a sight that was now heartbreakingly familiar to me: Poppy in her adorable lace sleeper set, asleep with the light on and her finger in between the pages of the latest Galbraith mystery, as if she’d closed it thinking she would rest her eyes for just a minute.
She’d tried to wait up for me, like she always did. And I’d failed her.
Like I always did.
I’d shrugged off my laptop bag and sank onto the bed, not even trying to quash the self-recriminating bitterness that squeezed my heart and repeated all the things I already knew.
You don’t deserve her.
You’ll never deserve her.
And the worst: You failed at being a priest. Now you’ll fail at being a husband.
It didn’t matter that the dissertation was almost done. It didn’t matter that I’d blocked off all of Thanksgiving break to be with her, and that by Christmas, I would have unlimited time and attention to shower upon her.
What mattered was that she waited up for me, night after night, like a princess in a tower. And unlike the fairytale princes, I never rode to her rescue.
And so now here I was curled against her, with a throbbing erection and a guilty heart, and how could I wake her up to fuck her this late when she’d waited all night, alone, for me? What kind of selfish jackass would I be if I did that?
With a mental groan, I rolled onto my back, my dick screaming obscenities at me as it left the warm, firm cradle of her ass. It was more instinct than intention when my hand found my cock, though I couldn’t say the same for my other hand, which gently palmed her ass again.