Titus had lived and breathed religion his entire life, tucked away from the rest of the world in a compound in northern Wyoming. He’s destined to be the next leader of the church, deemed so by the Prophet.
God spoke and with His word He created. But God made a mistake. Titus isn’t worthy. He was born sick and it’s solidified when he rescues the most beautiful man he’s ever seen.
Torn between fidelity to his faith or his soul, Titus must reconcile the two parts of himself before he’s discovered hiding among the chosen.
First Chapter Preview:
Titus would find a dead Angel. It was just his luck. He was cursed from the start, and this was just the icing on the cake. He’d been walking through the overgrown grass on the side of the lane, when he’d nearly tripped over the body. He bent and touched his fingers to the side of the man’s neck, searching for a pulse.
His face was a mess. It was definitely a him. It was easier to tell closer up. Under the blood and dirt, he was lovely, too pretty to be a regular man. And what kind of man had long hair other than an Angel? It took his shaking fingers a moment to find the right place, but when he did, there was a steady throb under his fingertips.
Titus yanked his hand back, and he stumbled. He wasn’t dead. Well, that certainly changed things. He sat stunned in the grass, not sure what to do. He was way out here to repair a fence. What would the Prophet say if he came back with some guy? Titus might be ‘destined for greatness,’ according to his grandfather, but he was just a normal guy. The last thing he expected to find was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, lying on the side of the road. Let alone in the middle of bumble Wyoming.
He pushed to his feet and brushed the mud off his hands. Looking up and down the long road, he knew there was no way to get help and get back here any time soon. The man wasn’t one of theirs. Titus would have recognized him. He knew each and every person who lived in the compound.
He could have left. The man was alive, but something inside him wouldn’t allow it. He approached the man again and knelt next to where he lay, carefully nudging his shoulder to try and stir him. It was a few minutes before the Angel’s eyes started to flutter. Again, Titus stepped back, this time with a little more dignity.
The man lurched up and looked around, panicked. He jumped to a crouch and brought his hands up in front of his face, squaring up against Titus.
Titus put his hands up, palms out. “Hey, hey, I don’t mean you any harm. I nearly tripped over you laying there.” Then he added as an afterthought, “You look like you took a good beating.”
The man narrowed his eyes but didn’t lower his hands. “Where am I?”
“Just off Farmvalley, about…” Titus looked down the road and did the math in his head, “about twenty-five miles from Jackson.”
A tiny crease formed in the man’s brow, and at last his hands fell away. “Fuck.” He violently kicked at the grass and nearly fell over. “I’m screwed. That’s it. Might as well lie back down in the ditch.”
Titus winced at the curse. The man paid him no attention. He pushed a dirty hand into his blond hair and went to work tying it into a low ponytail at the base of his neck with a leather cord from around his wrist. “Do you have a phone I could use?”
Titus looked at the sun, which had started its path down, signifying the second half of the day. Titus shook his head. “Not on me.”
“How do you not have a phone?” The man muttered to himself about what kind of person didn’t have a phone and something about the hills having eyes. Titus had no idea what he was talking about.
“I don’t always carry it.”
He looked from Titus to the road and took a few steps back. “What are you doing out here if we’re in the middle of nowhere like you say?” He narrowed his eyes like Titus was about to lie to him.
Titus almost laughed, and probably would have, if it wasn’t for the reason he was out here. He felt a pang in his chest, and he pushed his hand into his sternum. “Penance.”
“What was that?” Both the man’s brows shot up, and he did an odd movement with his fingers. Sassy almost. If fingers could be sassy. “You’re doing penance?” Before Titus could answer, realization washed over the man’s features. “Penance for what?”
Titus closed his eyes and took a breath. To be ashamed of what was against God’s law. He shouldn’t be ashamed. He should be quick to defend his faith. Lots of shoulds, but he still fumbled over the words as he said them.
After the day he’d had, Titus didn’t have it in him to defend any of it, and he’d have to confess later for this as well. He could add it to the list of the ways he was a disappointment.
Thankfully the guy didn’t notice his non-answer. He gasped rather dramatically and started turning in circles. “My bag is gone. No, no, no, no.”
It would take the guy at least a full day, maybe two, to make it to the next city, if not more. Titus noticed his face was swollen and bruised. His high cheekbones were dark, and it looked like he hadn’t slept well in weeks. One of his eyes was blackened, making it hard for Titus to even see his eye color. Some of the strands he’d missed when he’d pulled his hair back covered his face and probably more bruises. He had a bit of scruff on his jaw, not quite a beard, but more than a few days’ worth. There were even bruises trailing down his neck and the visible parts of his arms. He’d been in a fight. A fight he’d lost.
“Can I help you?”
He shoved both hands into his hair. “I’m so screwed. I don’t have a phone. My camera.” He looked like he was going to cry. “They took everything.” He felt his pockets and seemed slightly relieved to find his wallet.
“Let me give you a ride.” Titus couldn’t stop staring. The guy could have been sculpted out of marble. Titus still wasn’t sure he was real. Everything in him told Titus he should walk away, not get involved. That if he stayed, this person might change the entire course of his life. But he couldn’t leave the stranger alone. He was too beautiful, and Titus let curiosity get the better of him. He had to know why the guy was out here. He had to at least offer assistance. He’d never be able to forgive himself if he left him out here to die.
He told himself he was just doing what Jesus would do, but it was a lie. Titus never lied to anyone but himself, but to himself he lied day in and day out. It was the only way to survive his life. The ache in Titus’ chest spread.
“You could be like a serial killer.”
“I can assure you I’m not.” He had to help. It’s the teaching of God and the Prophet. Luke 10—something. He wasn’t good with the remembering. But it was the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told them to ‘Go and do likewise.’
“I’m not too trusting as I was just robbed and dumped out here.”
“Who did this to you?”
He looked Titus over. “Bunch of guys who looked a lot like you.” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“Surely not. My people would never.”
“People? Because there are clearly lots of guys up here who have no problem doing this.” He gestured to his face.
“Yes, the Lambs of God. We live not too far from here.” He pointed up the dirt road.
“Maybe that’s not the best idea for me.” The man used his shirt to wipe the mud and blood from his face, but Titus’ eyes fell from the mark on his torso to the cut of his hips. Titus had a love for art, and in his many books there were pieces carved by Michelangelo. The man looked like he’d been hand carved himself. His skin, where it wasn’t black and purple, was porcelain, and every inch of him was muscled to perfection. Titus’ knees went weak, and his arousal grew. Shame washed over him. He wanted so badly to not react this way. He’d gone out of his way for many years not to see another man naked for this very reason. But this was different. This was more than arousal. This was lust. He’d have given nearly anything to lie with the man. To feel their skin pressed together. To kiss his pale pink lips.
“Are you just going to stand there and stare, or are you going to say something?”
Titus stammered. He wasn’t even sure he had a coherent thought to form words or ideas.
“Damn kid, never seen another person naked before?”
“It’s not that.” Titus had to clear his head of impure thoughts. He was a good Samaritan, nothing more. “Come with me, I’ll get you some water and some food, then I’ll figure out a way to get you a phone so you can get back to Jackson.”