A mixed-blood Catholic seminarian struggles to discern his true calling: the priesthood or his ex-lover, a proud but damaged Ojibway man.
It’s been ten years since Emery Matawapit sinned, having succumbed to temptation for the one thing in his life that felt right, another man. In six months he’ll make a life-changing decision that will bar him from sexual relationships for the rest of his life.
Darryl Keejik has a decade-long chip on his shoulder, and he holds Emery’s father, the church deacon, responsible for what he’s suffered: the loss of his family and a chance at true love with Emery. No longer a powerless kid, Darryl has influence within the community—maybe more than the deacon, and he intends on using his new-found power to destroy Deacon Matawapit and the church.
Hoping to save the church, Emery races home. But stopping Darryl is harder than expected when their sizzling chemistry threatens to consume Emery. Now he is faced with the toughest decision of his life: please his devout parents and fulfill his call to the priesthood, or remain true to his heart and marry the man created for him.
The four-wheeler raced down the hill, and the powwow grandstands appeared. The tightness in Emery’s stomach faded. Their drive to the Treaty Grounds had been the longest five minutes of his life. He should have borrowed the parish car. Seeing him and Darryl squashed together on the seat might have made people wonder what they heck they were up to. Dad had warned about gossip.
When the four-wheeler stopped next to the bleachers and the rumble of the engine ceased, Emery jumped off the quad. After their jaunt through the reserve, he should have cooled off, but being wrapped around Darryl for five minutes had done nothing to lower his internal temperature, although he was shivering.
“You’re cold?” Darryl shoved his sunglasses up on his head.
“No. You kept me warm.” Bad thing to say. Emery forced a laugh as he slid the stem of his sunglasses into the neckline of his polo shirt—well, attempted to, but failed, thanks to his shaking hands. When he tried again, he secured the wraparound spectacles.
Darryl’s long, glossy black hair woven into a ponytail, stocky build, and strong arms and shoulders Emery had clutched during the drive wound his intestines into braids.
In the past, Darryl had always complained about his features, insisting his face was too round, eyes too small and lacking lids, and lips too thin. He was wrong. Everything complemented his unique physical gifts the Lord had bestowed on him.
The moisture in Emery’s throat vanished because Darryl’s gaze wandered up and down. His black brow curled into an arch, saying he more than enjoyed what he saw.
The tension erupting between them mirrored the thick humidity clinging to Emery’s skin. He’d better think of something to say or they’d be in big trouble.
He pointed at the bleachers. “Those are new.”
“You saw them last night.” Darryl snickered. He ambled across the circle. “You kept me warm, too.”
Heat flooded Emery’s face. “We were too busy… debating for me to notice the bleachers.”
Darryl pivoted on his running shoe. “You’re nervous.”
“Nervous?” Emery wiped his clammy palms on his pants. “Not really. Why would I be?”
“I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous.” Darryl meandered to the bleachers. He climbed a few rows and sat. He patted the bench. “These were upgraded a few years ago to celebrate the centennial of the Treaty. That’s what Auntie and band council told me.”
“I never congratulated you.” Emery stepped up to where Darryl had extended his short, strong legs to rest his running shoes on the bench below him. “I’m not surprised. You’re a natural leader.”
“It’s what I wanted to do when I moved back. At election time, I threw my name in the hat.” Darryl adjusted his shirt, something he’d done as a teenager to hide his slight paunch.
He’d always laughed when receiving a teasing poke from Emery. Perhaps thinking about the past wasn’t a good idea. A change of subject was in order. “How’s your aunt doing?”
Why did Emery always worsen tense situations?
“She saw the doctor today. Not good.”
“I’m sorry.” Emery was. Annie was all Darryl had in the community, since his half-brother resided in Winnipeg. There was extended family on his dad’s side, but he wasn’t close to them.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about. She drinks. Smokes. Won’t test her blood glucose levels. Won’t consistently take her medications. I have to fight with her to use her special drops ‘cause she has glaucoma. She lost the sight in her left eye. The eye specialist said she had a mini stroke in it. Now she has to see a specialist in Thunder Bay. He’s talking dialysis.”
“Her health has gotten pretty bad.”
“Any chance of home dialysis?”
“The reserve isn’t equipped for that.” Darryl’s shoulders sank. “I won’t know anything until she sees the specialist.”
If only there was a way to make everything right for him. Annie’s health was in the Lord’s hands and her own because she refused to manage her diseases. The most Emery could do was pray.
He reached over and placed his hand on Darryl’s knee. “I’ll start a novena to Saint Kateri for her.”
“Thank you.” Darryl’s words were soft. His knee twitched.
“Are you…” Emery removed his palm. No, Darryl wasn’t cold, not at the beginning of July.
A fire crackled in Darryl’s eyes.
Emery glanced away. He needed a confidant, someone who wasn’t tied to the Catholic Church. What about what Dad had said? Was Emery going against Christ or the teachings of the Magisterium? Wait, they were one and the same.
“Get out of your head.”
“Get out of your head and talk to me.” Darryl shifted closer. “Whenever we’d talk, I could tell if something was bothering you ‘cause you’d go quiet. We’re friends. Friends talk to each other. Man, your silence was my biggest bone of contention. It meant you didn’t trust me. Nothing’s changed. You still don’t.”
“See. You’re doing it again. You look at me and then look away. When you look away, you’re thinking instead of talking. Tell me what you’re thinking about.”
Emery swallowed. If he told—No, he must speak his thoughts. “I-I was thinking about…” Could he say it? What if he gave the wrong impression? Wait, what if it wasn’t the wrong impression? What did he want?
“Talk to me, Em.”
He turned his head. The last time Darryl had used that name had been on their camping trip, inside the tent, while they’d… Emery squirmed. He’d vowed to connect instead of scuttling away like a coward.
“I-I was thinking about how Father Arnold told me it’s wise to keep distance from others because if we get too close, uh, it could become too intimate. It-it can get a bit lonely.”