Who wants a sneak peek from Come in From the Cold (Suncoast Society 77, MM, BDSM)? (Aka “the filthy priest story.” LOL)
Although it broke his heart to leave, Douglas never thought he’d see Connor again. Douglas truly believed becoming a priest was the only way to save both their souls. But when a beloved friend from college arrives at his rectory, he can’t turn his back on her. Now he’s newly widowed, and the father of a newborn.
Connor’s heart has never healed from losing Douglas. Despite twenty-five years passing, Connor hopes the old promise he extracted—show up, and he’d never turn his back on him—might one day come to pass. Meanwhile, he’ll raise his daughter and steal what little bits of personal time he can to help ease his lonely existence.
Yet fate is cruelly kind. Connor’s boy has returned…except he became the one thing Connor cannot ever accept. The Church created bottomless wounds in Connor’s soul that have never healed. Is Douglas strong enough to withstand Connor’s righteous wrath, or will both men’s hearts remain forever frozen?
Douglas set his alarm for five a.m. the next morning, so he could spend time sitting up with Zee cuddled against him. He desperately needed the time with her, more now than ever.
He’d laid his clothes out before going to bed. Fortunately, he could dress relatively casually—dress slacks or khakis, and button-up shirts. The same clothes he’d worn at his previous clinic.
At least it wasn’t his priest uniform.
Despite how he’d felt yesterday after being separated from Zee, it shocked him how eager he felt to get moving, to take her to Etsu and head to work despite the early hour.
I’m a horrible father. Who am I kidding?
The priest gave him a gentle nudge, and Douglas found his gaze settling on the rosary, which he’d left on the nightstand.
He reached over and picked it up, bringing the cross to his lips and kissing it.
He took a deep breath and started praying.
An hour later, he’d fed Zee, changed her, dressed her, and took a shower and shaved. As he stared into the mirror and buttoned a shirt over his undershirt, he could almost blank out the sound of Connor’s front door slamming in his face.
Nope. The psychologist needed to be in the house today. The priest had taken over trying to console the broken-hearted submissive man, and those two weren’t making much noise right now.
He didn’t want to be Father Koenig anymore. He needed to be Dr. Koenig today.
He needed to forget—for a few hours—that he had a dead wife and a baby who was less than a month old.
He needed to not give the clinic any reason to regret hiring him. Doyle had really gone to bat for him with the recommendation, and he didn’t want to reflect badly on him, either. Or on Niall.
Especially since Niall’s wife was his babysitter.
It felt…weird driving in morning traffic again. He hooked up his phone and let Imagine Dragons play just loudly enough he could hear it and it not disturb Zee, who’d gone back to sleep.
I need to redo my will.
Then again, who would he give custody of Zee to? Damn sure not his family.
In the back of his mind, he realized he’d been thinking he would, in some reality, at least be able to be friends with Connor. And that he’d name Connor as her guardian.
Fuck, I need to get my head on straight.
He had his Dr. Koenig mask fully in place when he pulled into Etsu’s driveway. Aden had left already, but Niall was still home and actually had the front door open for him when he walked up.
And the Irishman wore a serious expression. “Can’t convince ye to at least take another day to get yer wind back?”
“I’m good. They warned me I’d be going through HR stuff and paperwork my first day. Why wait?”
“Ye know, Doug, we have a spare bedroom. We talked about it last night. Yer welcome to stay with us for a while. It’d make yer life a lot easier and would, frankly, set my mind a bit at ease about ye.”
“I appreciate that, but I’m imposing enough already.”
“You’re not imposing,” Etsu said as she scooped Zee from the carrier. “I’d do this even if you weren’t paying me.”
Niall glanced at her. “Love.” He touched his throat.
Douglas spotted her widened eyes before she turned and bolted, still holding Zee, down the hall.
But not before Douglas noticed she wore a leather collar.
She literally returned seconds later without it, but with a too-wide smile. “Sorry about that. Forgot to take care of something.”
She seemed so flustered by her slip that he let it pass as if he hadn’t noticed, but he made a mental note to himself to let Niall know later he wasn’t bothered by it.
It probably wouldn’t be appropriate to tell Niall’s submissive that, anyway. Even though the only BDSM experience he’d had was with Connor, he’d done a lot of research over the years, now able to put labels and names to things. He’d wanted to better serve his flock—and later, his patients—by knowing things, so he didn’t accidentally cause anyone harm with erroneous information.
He also didn’t want parishioners confessing things to him that they didn’t need to feel guilty over, either. Someone getting consensually kinky with their partner was not a sin, in his eyes.
Niall studied him for a long, quiet moment. “I have one to two thirty free today. I’ll grab us lunch and bring it back to me office, and we can chat while we eat, hmm? My treat. I insist.”
Douglas didn’t even try to argue. “Thank you.”
“Why don’t ye ride in with me today? No reason for ye to drive yerself. Then ye’ll know where to go tomorrow. Ye can leave yer keys here in case Etsu needs the carseat base.”
“I’ll leave the base for her, but I think I need to drive myself. I need to run some errands after work.”
“Well, the offer to ride with me stands,” Niall said. “If ye ever wish to.”
“I appreciate that. For the next few days, though, I should probably get used to the drive, the routine. I need it.”
Another slow nod from Niall. “Very well, mate.”
* * * *
Doyle was out of town until early next week, so Douglas still didn’t get to meet him in person, although Doyle did call to check on him. From Doyle’s lack of surprise about finding him at work, Douglas strongly suspected Niall had already told Doyle he’d opted to start today.
By the time one o’clock rolled around, Douglas had felt damned proud of himself for not breaking down and crying in front of anyone at work.
Hey, I’ll take the progress.
At least he had the legitimate excuse—Mackie.
Although he felt like a horrible husband for using his dead wife as a ready excuse in case he cried over the loss of his former lover and Master.
Niall toed up the doorstop that propped his office door open against the pneumatic arm closer and let it swing shut. On his desk sat two Publix bags, and he’d bought them bottles of water, sweet tea, and turkey and cheese deli subs.
They sat at the desk to eat, Niall behind it and Douglas in one of the chairs in front of it.
“Where do ye wish to start?” Niall said.
“Well, for starters, you don’t have to hide that you’re kinky from me. I might have been a priest, but I did have a life before and after the priesthood.”
Niall smirked. “Did ye already suspect before her collar malfunction this morning?”
“Yeah. I heard Aden call you ‘Sir’ yesterday.”
“Sorry about that. Of course, we won’t expose the wee one to any of that.”
“I’m sure you won’t.” A thought hit him. “Does that mean Doyle—”
Niall nodded. “Aye. Him and his boy, Mal. That’s how we first met. It was coincidental we were in the same line of work. It’s actually Doyle who pointed me toward this job. I was out in California for a few years, stupidly enough…”
By the time lunch ended, he knew Niall’s story with Aden—and Etsu—and Douglas had confessed everything to Niall.
Everything except Connor’s secret. And Mackie’s.
Those would remain with him forever.
But it did, at least, make him realize perhaps the way things had happened was for the best. He’d faced his fear, received his answer about Connor, and he’d started his new job. He no longer had any unresolved issues hanging over him to hold him back.
Now he could focus on his future, on trying to finally heal his heart, and on raising Zee.
On serving his new patients.
Even Niall had agreed perhaps it was for the best, although Douglas didn’t understand the puzzled expression the man had worn when he’d told him about stopping by to see Connor, and the reception he’d received.
I think I’m beginning to see, Lord, why You set me on this path. Thank You for bringing Niall into my life, and his family. And Doyle, of course. People who aren’t judgmental, and who are equipped to help me until I can walk on my own. One of these days, I’ll learn to trust You. Amen.
One day, although today wasn’t quite that day.
Not even close.
You can see the entire Suncoast Society series reading order and information about the series on its page. Click Here