Excerpt from Confessions: Priest
Copyright © 2018 by Ella Frank. All rights reserved.
My name is not Joel Priestley.
My name is Joel Alexander Donovan.
And a long time ago, I was taught that things aren’t always what they appear to be—and neither are people.
JOEL PRIESTLEY, A.K.A Priest, sat behind the wheel of his Aston Martin with his hands at the ten and two positions and his seatbelt fastened. He’d been sitting like that for the past thirty minutes or so. Ever since he’d pulled the vehicle into its designated parking spot alongside his and Julien’s—his husband’s—black Range Rover.
Sinatra had been keeping him company, as Priest tried to block out the phone call he’d made back in his office to Henri. But no matter how loud he played the charismatic crooner, nothing seemed to lessen the impact of Henri’s words and the way they had made Priest’s stomach coil.
“Nice to know you can at least follow an order if it’s to keep those you love safe… Be careful; keep an eye out…”
And that was what he’d been doing for the past thirty minutes or so. Sitting in his car, with his eyes trained on the rearview and side mirrors, as his paranoia over what used to only exist in the shadows began to slowly creep back out into the light of day.
Priest gritted his teeth and reminded himself that Jimmy wasn’t out of prison just yet and likely wouldn’t be for some time. He wasn’t about to appear out of thin air to exact absolution for what he believed was Priest’s biggest crime—abandonment. But that didn’t mean Jimmy hadn’t reached out to the others to find him. To track down the son who had turned his back on his family if, and when, he walked free.
Priest cursed and slammed the heel of his palm against the steering wheel, then he reached for the seatbelt’s release, and as it retracted across his chest, he reached up and shoved it off his shoulder where it caught. As it snapped into place, Priest pulled the handle of the door and got out of the car. He needed to get upstairs. To get inside a locked lobby, where a security guard walked the halls, and his condo had a deadbolt on the front door. It was one of the main reasons he’d been interested in Logan’s place to begin with. The additional barriers between him and those he loved—and anyone who may want to hurt them.
Julien had already texted to let Priest know he and Robbie arrived home safely. But as of yet, Priest hadn’t heard anything from Robbie, their boyfriend. Not that he’d expected to. The last image Priest had of their princess was an ashen face and betrayal in those usually bright blue eyes, and Christ, Priest wished he could erase that picture from his mind.
The three of them had been making such headway lately. They had moved past the getting-to-know-you, comfortable stage of their relationship, and had been thisclose to slipping into that space where the heart and soul of the one whose body you were worshiping was coveted.
But that had all changed now. The truth about his father having wiped out any trust he may have built with Robbie, judging by the expression on his face before Priest had left the brewhouse.
All the joy, and all the happiness, the closeness the three of them had been reveling in, had been smothered by the dark cloud that descended on them, and Priest had a feeling it was going to take a lot of explaining on his behalf before they could get out from under it—if they ever could.
Priest jabbed the button of the garage elevator, and when the doors slid open, he ran his key fob over the panel and hit the floor button. He leaned against the back wall and shut his eyes, and as the elevator ascended, he wondered how he was going to explain all of this to Robbie.
He’d only ever had to do it once before. Only ever found one other he deemed important enough to share this side of himself with. And he’d been just as apprehensive, just as sick to his stomach, at the thought of revealing all to Julien, as he was heading up to face Robert Bianchi.
Priest walked down the hallway toward their condo like a man heading toward his execution—or the execution of their new relationship—and when he got to the front door, he paused before entering.
Scanning the hallway, he looked to his left, where their neighbor lived on the other side of the corridor, before he took a final glance back in the direction he’d come. Once he was satisfied there was no one about, he unlocked the door and headed inside.
The first thing he noticed upon entry was how quiet it was. Lately, when he’d arrived home from work, the TV was on and there was the sound of someone doing something or other in the living room or kitchen. But not this afternoon.
Right now, the place felt more like a library. The kind of space where you should tiptoe and whisper in case you offended whoever was inside—provided there was someone there to offend in the first place.
But that was just his paranoia creeping in again. Of course someone was inside—two someone’s, in fact. Julien had told him so, and when Priest stepped out of the short hallway, he spotted his husband immediately.
Julien was curled up on the couch with a blanket over his legs and his phone in hand, and the second Priest moved into view, Julien’s legs came out from under him and he got to his feet. He dropped the phone on the cushion beside him, and as the blanket fell from his lap, it crumpled to the soft rug without a sound.
Julien rushed around the couch and hurried over to Priest, and when he reached him, Julien took his face between his hands and pressed a hard kiss to his lips.
“Mon Dieu, Joel,” Julien said. “I’ve been a mess worrying over you. I’m so glad you’re home.”
Priest wound his arms around Julien’s waist, anchoring himself to the man who understood him in ways Priest had never imagined possible. “You don’t know how much I needed to hear that.”
Julien trailed his fingers down the scruff on Priest’s cheek and frowned. “Was there really any doubt?”
Priest shut his eyes and let Julien soothe him in the way that only he could. His touch, his words, this man’s mere presence—they were all vital to Priest’s survival. Priest let go of Julien’s waist to cover the hand still cradling his cheek.
There were so many things he needed to say: “I’m sorry”or “You were right.I should’ve told Robert about this the second I found out.”But right then, all Priest could manage was: “There was no doubt. Not about you. Neverabout you.”
Julien’s eyes softened as Priest’s shifted over his husband’s shoulder to the closed door of their bedroom. “Is he still here?”
“I…” Priest paused as he searched for the words. “I wasn’t sure that he would be.”
“I wasn’t either,” Julien admitted, and when Priest locked eyes with him again, Julien added, “He’s been in there since we got home. Hasn’t said a word.”
“That was more than an hour ago.”
Julien nodded. “I know. But he made it very clear he wasn’t ready to talk about things yet.”
Not knowing what to say to that, Priest put his keys on the coffee table, and Julien placed a hand on his back.
“Listen, he’s processing right now. What he found out about Jimmy… It’s a lot, mon amour.”
“It’s more than that, Julien. You saw his face when he found out.”
“Oui, I did. I also spoke to him in the car on the way home.”
“He thinks I lied to him. Doesn’t he?” When Julien didn’t reply, Priest ran a hand through his hair. “Fuck,” he said. “Fuck. I should’ve told him about all of this before he moved in.”
“And when should you have done that? At CRUSH? On our first date with him? Or maybe the second, when he had dinner here? I’m surethat would’ve made him feel right at home. There hasn’t been a good opportunity. You know that,” Julien reminded him, and touched his fingers to the sleeve of Priest’s jacket. “He just needs time to—”
“No,” Priest said, shaking his head. “Time gives people a chance to distort things. To make them doubt what they once believed. You and I know that better than anyone. I won’t have him doubting this. Doubting us, Julien. Not because of fucking Jimmy. I’m going to go and talk to Robert, and he’s going to listen, and then the three of us are going to sit down and discuss this.”
Something flashed in Julien’s expression, but instead of saying what was on his mind, he let go of Priest’s arm and said, “Okay.”
Priest narrowed his eyes in question, but Julien remained quiet. So Priest turned on his heel and headed toward their bedroom to track down their boyfriend and try to make things right again.