Sin or piety.
Those are the two things I’m choosing between when I walk up those stone steps and into the church. Heaven or hell. Pain or pleasure. But sometimes, pleasure brings more hurt than pain.
I’ve learned my lesson the hard way and that’s why I’m doing this, giving up everything I know and love for a whole new life. A life dedicated to something, someone, other than myself.
The thing is, sometimes fate has other ideas.
Out of all the churches in town, I picked this one. This building with its vaulted ceilings and stained glass and all its secrets.
This building that houses them.
My five worst sins.
My five most awesome pleasures.
My high heels are loud when I step into the hushed quiet of the church, clacking against the old wooden floors as I make my way down an aisle of empty pews toward the front of the room, the dais, and the crucifix … and the broad-shouldered man standing in front of it.
That man, he’s going to damn me to hell.
I just don’t know it yet.
"Excuse me," I say, because my hands are shaking and I'm cold as hell. I came here in a red cocktail dress. I look like sin against the muted colors of the church. "I don't really know what I'm doing here ..." I start, but that's a lie.
Thirty seconds in a holy place and already, I'm breaking the rules.
I cross my trembling arms over my chest and curl my fingers around my upper arms, waiting for the man to turn around and acknowledge me. As soon as he does, I feel my resolve cracking into pieces around me, bits of shattered glass that seem to cut.
The man in front of me is tall, taller than me even in my four-inch heels. And he's broad, too, muscular even beneath the black and white robes that cloak his beautiful form. As soon as his gray eyes meet mine, I know I'm in trouble. I don't have good impulse control.
That's why I'm here.
I walked over here from a dinner party, dragged myself away from the guests and the bullshit ... to stand here and gape at a man of the cloth like I'm about ten seconds away from tearing all his clothes off.
What is wrong with me?
"If you tell me why you're here," he starts, and I feel my body go ice-cold ... and then blazing hot. This man is a priest and yet his voice is sex incarnate. I can feel it rolling across the bare skin of my arms and legs like a hot tongue. "Then maybe I can help you figure that out."
He crosses his arms over his broad chest, sleeves sliding up a bit to reveal a plethora of tattoos. Are priests allowed to have tattoos? Maybe it's okay if they come in with them so long as they don't get more?
I have no idea.
I'm not religious.
I just know that I need a change.
Something to get away from all of ... that.
"I want to become a nun," I blurt, standing there in a cherry red cocktail dress with my nipples hard as points, no panties, my skin rippling with goose bumps at the sight of the gorgeous man standing in front of me.
But I'm dead serious.
I suck in a deep breath as the priest looks me over, his face this hard, wicked sculpture of masculinity, the lower half lightly stubbled, his dark hair short and well-kempt. He has the look of a leader, a fighter, someone who doesn't take any shit. I think I'm supposed to feel comfortable enough to confide in this man, tell him my sins, let him fill me with the word of God.
Why does it look like he'd rather fill me with something else?
Stop staring at me like that, I think as I look up at him, standing one step above me on the dais. It makes his imposing form that much taller, casting a long shadow behind me.
"A nun," he repeats, his low, easy voice making me shiver. "That's a drastic life choice, Miss ..."
"Natalia Petrova," I blurt, because there's no way a guy like this would know who I really am, all the shit I'm wrapped up in. Oddly enough, his eyes seem to get a bit wider, his mouth tightening. But the only people who should recognize my name are the ones at the party I just left. Hell, I didn't just leave--I ran away from it. Away from everything.
"You're soaking wet," the man rumbles, letting out a long sigh.
At first, I think he's making a pass at me and my mouth falls open in shock, but fuck. I've been hanging around the wrong people for too long. Of course he's not. No, he's right. I really am soaked to the bone. I didn't even realize it was raining outside. That's how messed up I am right now.
"Come with me and I'll get you a towel and a change of clothes, something warm to drink."
The man turns and leads the way behind the dais and to a small door. I hesitate for a moment before following after him. The life I've led thus far, it's proved to me that following strange men into back rooms is a bad fucking idea. A really goddamn bad idea. But there are other worshippers here, other priests. And it's a church, right?
"Okay," I whisper, feeling the stress of the day wash over me. I follow behind him and into a small foyer with a set of stairs and several other doors leading off of it.
"I'm Hawke, by the way," he rumbles, glancing over his shoulder as we continue on into a cozy little kitchen. "And this is Colt."
The man in question snaps his green gaze up to mine and takes me in ... appreciatively? I thought priests were supposed to take vows of celibacy.
"This is Natalia Petrova," he says with a certain level of emphasis that makes me raise my brows. "And she wants to become a nun."
"A nun? With that body?" Colt says, and I feel my mouth drop in shock.
"Excuse me?" I ask as Hawke spears him with this look that clearly says shut the fuck up, you moron.
"Right. Uh, I mean with a body of sin," Colt continues and I feel myself take a small step back. This guy with the bright green eyes and the sandy hair looks even less like a priest than the first one. "All people have bodies full of sin until they enter the confessional," he continues, crossing his arms over his chest.
"My apologies," Hawke says as he puts a kettle on the stove and then moves over to the table to pull out a chair for me. "Colt is brand-new. You'll have to forgive his big mouth. Even with a vow of celibacy, we're still red-blooded men with needs." He smiles at me, and I swear, I feel it deep down in my bones. "It's resisting those needs that bring us closer to God, right Colt?"
"Exactly," the man grinds out, standing up from his chair. "If you'll excuse me a moment."
"Send Mace down with something for Natalia to wear, would you?" Hawke calls after the blond guy and he pauses in the doorway. "She's drenched."
Colt turns slightly and raises an eyebrow at me standing there, shivering, and I cross my arms over my tight nipples which are starting to feel far too obvious in the presence of priests.
"She looks it," Colt purrs with a wink, then disappears faster than I can have a chance to be offended or... shocked? I guess? Regardless, I'm pretty sure Colt took drenched to mean more than just from the rain.
Damn if he isn't right too. Since when were priests so sinfully sexy?
I groan and rub at my tired eyes, probably smearing mascara and eyeshadow halfway down my face, and not altogether caring. The last thing I need right now, is for this fucking delicious man of God to think I was coming onto him.
Even as much as my mind is running multiple scenarios of how I'd like to come on him.
God damn it Natalia, it's for thoughts like that, that you need to be here.
Great. First, I lie to a priest, then I think all kinds of dirty thoughts about two men of God--at the same time--and now I'm taking the Lord's name in vain? Oh wow, the nuns have their work cut out with me.
"You okay there, sugar?" This intense, gorgeous man asks me, and I realize he's been holding out a cup of steaming liquid to me while my thoughts wandered.
"Oh," I blush with embarrassment, hoping my sinful thoughts aren't plastered across my face, "Thank you, err..." I stare down into the cup at the plain black tea. Gross.
"We have milk and sugar if you'd like?" Hawke offers politely but his eyes seem to see straight through my soggy red dress as he runs his gaze over me. "You look like you like it sweet and creamy."
My jaw drops and a squeak in surprise before a professional smile curves his lips. His lush, kissable lips.
"Your tea, I mean," he clarifies, and I blush warm. Of course he meant the tea.
Thank god he cleared that up before I said something stupid like, no I like it rough and dirty. Tie me down and spank me Father, for I have sinned.
It probably would have been hard to play that off as anything else.
Not trusting my voice, I take the mug from him and our fingers brush. Maybe it was all the champagne, or those few lines of cocaine at the party, or maybe it was the sight of a man being shot in front of me... either way, I swear electricity jumps between us at this light touch. For a moment, our gaze locks and my breath catches in my throat. I'm frozen, captive, vulnerable, until he looks away and I can breathe again.
Sucking in a couple of deep breaths, I press a hand to my galloping heart and take the seat offered to me by the electrifying priest.
"Thanks," I murmur softly, dipping my eyes to my tea as I try to tamp down my burning attraction towards him, "Father."
Remembering where I am, I tack the title on to my thanks, and hope it’s the correct form of address for a priest. What do I know? This is my first time inside a church let alone speaking to one of God's chosen.
Hawke pauses as I say this, stopping just behind my chair and looming over me like the Holy Ghost. "Say it again," he tells me, his voice rough.
My shoulders tense. Shit, I've got it wrong! Don't tell me I've offended the gorgeous priest already?
"Say. It. Again," he commands in a tone that demands my obedience.
A visible shiver runs through me, and not from the cold, damp cloth barely covering my form. From arousal.
"I said," I whisper, licking my lips nervously, "Thank you... Father."
A sound rumbles from Hawke, like... hunger, and he strokes a finger lightly down my wet, chestnut brown hair.
"Boss." Another man's voice comes from the doorway Colt had left through. Hawke snatches his hand quickly back from my hair and continues over to the little fridge to fetch out the milk for my tea.
"Mace," Hawke replies and I turn in my seat to see who this Mace is.
Dear, sweet baby Jesus. What kind of church have I stumbled into?
I didn't research this, I hadn't googled the best places to become a nun. Hell, I didn't even know if this was that sort of church. I'd run blindly from that party, knowing I needed to be saved in both body and mind. The church offered those things. Didn't it?
But, I sure as shit hadn't anticipated this. This, a third man so painfully attractive I was beginning to wonder if this was a test, sent to me from God.
That must be it... I'd declared my intention to become His handmaiden, and now He is testing me with these men, these angels, these priests.
"Did you bring anything down for Natalia to wear? She's been out in the rain and must be freezing." Hawke places a little jug of milk, and a pot of sugar in front of me then takes a seat at the table to sip his own tea.
"Natalia, is it?" The new man asks, his dark eyes stripping me naked before him. He is huge, so broad across the shoulders he fills the entire door frame. My eyes widen as my mind automatically considers what it'd feel like to be picked up and thrown over his lap. What those huge hands would feel like on the soft skin of my naked ass.
"Yes," I confirm, as meekly as I can, then realize he too wears a collar, "Sorry, I mean, yes Father."
The huge man's eyebrows raise a fraction of an inch before he nods. "Good."
He holds out a garment to me. It's black, and there's a lot of it by the looks of things, but it's probably for the best. Sitting here, practically naked and so incredibly turned on... well, it wasn't a good start to my life of chastity now, was it?
"Sorry, I hope you don't mind wearing a nun's habit? It was all I could find aside from our own clothes." Mace gives a tiny shrug as I push back from my chair and stand, taking the robe from him. I avoid touching his fingers, not sure my heart or my pussy can handle another shock like I got from Hawke.
"Thanks," I say slowly, taking the thick fabric in shaking fingers. Would it be too much to ask them for underwear? Yeah, probably. I didn't trust myself to say panties in front of these men. "Is there somewhere I could change?"
"Right over here," Mace says, his voice this deep rumbling sound that vibrates through me as he takes one of my small hands in his huge ones. His palms are warm and dry, his fingers circling my entire wrist as he leads me--in a surprisingly gentle way--over to a cracked door. "There are towels underneath the sink, plenty of them."
I nod as he lets go of my wrist, slipping inside the bathroom and flicking on the light and the fan. After a good, long look in the mirror, I turn the sink on to give myself some privacy. I hardly recognize my own eyes; they're big and wide, the pupils so dilated it looks like my irises are black instead of caramel brown. And my auburn hair? It's dark with rainwater ... and possibly blood. I don't know. It splattered everywhere; I'm not sure how much actually got on me.
Pulling myself away from the ghostly girl with the too pale skin, I strip my clothes off and shove them as violently as I can into the trash, curling my fingers around the wicker rim of the basket. Fat tears roll down my cheeks before I even realizing they're falling, hot salty drops that spatter against the white plastic liner in the can.
What am I doing with my life? What the fuck is wrong with me? A man died while he was inside of me today. He got shot in the face with his hard cock buried between my thighs.
Moving over to the toilet, I empty my stomach of alcohol and the lines of coke I did in the bathroom with Kisten. There's no food in there. Hell, I barely eat anymore. I'm too skinny now; I used to be curvy.
Throwing up bile, I stay curled over the john for a long time, so long that my lids get heavy and I almost fall asleep with my head in a fucking toilet bowl. That's the state of my existence now--and that is why I fucking came here. I need an overhaul.
A big one.
I must be in there a while because the lock on the bathroom door clicks open and then suddenly Mace is just standing there, staring down at me naked and crying on the floor of a church bathroom.
I'm still in my heels, but nothing else, wet red-brown hair dripping over my face.
'I'm a fucking mess," I tell the man who's the size of a goddamn mountain. He's the typical cliched tall, dark, and handsome type, but hell if I care. I just need someone to talk to right now and he is a priest, isn't he?
"Jesus fucking Christ," he says and then pauses, like he realizes what he's just said, making the sign of the cross over his chest and then moving over to kneel down next to me. "Girl, you're in a bit of a shit state," says, grabbing a wash cloth from a silver rack next to the counter. He's so big he doesn't even have to stand up to reach it or soak it under the still running faucet. "Err, Natalia, right? Sorry, cursing is a sin I'm having trouble giving up."
He leans forward and captures my chin in his long, strong finger, turning my face toward him. In his dark eyes, I see genuine concern. But like, less priestly and more like ... a man who's seen a woman that he wants to be his.
"I'm a mess," I repeat, naked and wet and dressed in heels and blood. Mace's eyes--a dark blue that mimics the sea beneath the moon--take me in slowly, so slowly that I swear I can feel heat sweeping my bare skin, scalding me.
"You're not a mess," he grumbles, wiping my tears from my cheeks and then cleaning off a smear of blood on my neck that I must've missed. "You just look lost."
Mace tosses the wash cloth onto the counter and leans one of his massive, muscular shoulders against the cabinet door, studying me with eyes that seem impossibly astute, like he can see everything I'm hiding deep down, everything I'm running from.
"Priests give hugs, right?" I ask, and his dark brows go up. He scrubs a hand over the messy stubble on the lower half of his face, eyes glimmering as he watches me uncurl myself from the toilet. I'd rather hug a solid, warm body than a cold piece of porcelain.
"Not to gorgeous naked women," he says and then he must see something on my face because he sighs and reaches out his arms, tugging my naked body onto his lap.
Well, he might've taken a vow of celibacy, but I suppose he can't help his body's reaction to me, right?
Leaning my head against Mace's shoulder, I close my eyes again. When he talks, his deep voice--like mountains and shadows all wrapped into one--rumbles through me, vibrating my body and making me shiver with pleasure.
"Where the hell did you come from and what the fuck are we going to do with you?" he asks, but before I can think up an answer to that question ... I've fallen asleep on a warm shoulder, smelling of musk and man and laundry soap.
I've never felt so safe .... or so exposed in all my life.