Read the first two chapters of Gentleness in Sin EARLY and for FREE
I know, the last book ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I wanted to give you a little sneak peek of the next book early and for free! I hope this satisfies you for the next few days as you *patiently* wait for Gentleness in Sin to meet the world!
Also, starting March 22nd, you and your friends will be able to buy the ENTIRE Take me to Church series on Kindle for $9.97! Yes, that’s less than 10 dollars for all four books which equal HOURS of entertainment. This is only on participating amazons.
“Harlan. You better get going love, or you’re gonna be late!” Alison yells from downstairs. He takes a deep breath, attempting to tamp down the nervousness that has begun to bubble in his gut. He never thought he could do this without Luka. Here he is though, having to go through something this new and scary without his best friend.
Josie said she talked to him last week and thought she had made a breakthrough, but she didn’t say how. Harlan has decided that if Luka doesn’t agree to see him in the upcoming days, then he will have to sneak up to his room. His patience is running thin. He has to see him. He just needs to talk to him. He thinks that maybe if Luka is forced to see him, it will help. Being so close, yet so far away from him, makes Harlan sick. He feels like his heart is pulling toward Luka, but it can’t reach him. He feels incomplete.
With one final look in the mirror, Harlan leaves his room and heads down the hallway. He shoves his hands in his pockets to stop them from shaking as he walks toward the kitchen.
“There you are!” Paul exclaims as soon as Harlan steps foot into the kitchen. Harlan returns his smile, going to the counter to grab a banana for breakfast. Then he hops up on the counter, looking at the table where his mom and Paul are sitting.
“Yup. Bright and early,” Harlan jokes, peeling the banana while looking at his parents. They both decided to take the day off work, wanting to support Harlan on his first day of college as if it was his first day of kindergarten. Harlan rolled his eyes at the idea initially, but he ultimately came to the conclusion that they just wanted the day to themselves and used Harlan as an excuse. He can’t blame them. He has been home most of the summer, his mental state not really stable enough to be left alone. Since Asher came, they have had even less time alone. Today though, they will be child-free for the first time in months.
“It’s not that early,” Alison responds, with a knowing smile.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be worse,” Paul adds.
“Ugh… I’m not ready for 8 am again,” Harlan moans, absolutely dreading it.
“It’s only two days a week,” Paul laughs.
“So… are you nervous?” Alison asks right as Harlan takes his first bite of banana.
“Sort of. I’m also pretty excited. Psychology is my first class today, and I think I’ll find it really interesting. Calc is gonna be a bitch, though,” Harlan answers, around a mouth full of fruit.
“You can handle it. We have faith in you,” she responds with a wide smile, and Harlan rolls his eyes at the word ‘faith’. She just takes a sip of her coffee in a weak attempt to conceal a smile. She’s probably on her second cup.
They usually wake up early to see Asher off before they both have to leave for work. Alison will sometimes even make him something to eat. At first, Harlan was a bit jealous because he never got that treatment from her during high school, but then he remembers he is trying to let go of the past. What’s done is done, and Asher shouldn’t suffer because of it. Neither should Harlan anymore.
“Oh and Asher says ‘good luck’,” Alison tells him, breaking Harlan from the memory.
“Yeah. He texted me.”
“I’m so glad he seems to be doing okay, all things considered. I was worried he’d struggle,” Alison says, face settling into a frown.
“I’m just glad he hasn’t gotten into a fight. There are a lot of homophobic assholes in this town,” Harlan responds. Asher doesn’t seem the type to fight, though, but it’s hard to know how he’ll react in social settings. He has a lot of anger about a lot of things. Rightfully so.
“Me too. I guess there’s still time, but he’s got Will and Tabby. I don’t know them as well as you, but they seem to be good girls,” Paul says, taking a drink of his coffee in thought.
“They are. I think they are a good influence on him already. He even got an A on his first English essay,” Alison gestures to the paper on the fridge, held there with a magnet that says ‘God Hates Facts’ in big bold letters.
“Did you know he tried to hide it from me?” Harlan asks, watching his mom and Paul shake their heads in response. “Yeah. I saw it sticking out of his backpack. I grabbed it then hung it on the fridge.”
“Good. He should be proud of it. Hopefully, we can hang some of your college papers alongside it,” Paul says, smiling wide. Harlan rolls his eyes and shakes his head, but can’t stop the smile tugging on his lips.
“Do you want some coffee before you leave?” Alison asks, standing up and taking her cup to the sink. Harlan watches her go. It strikes him as odd. How different this scenario is compared to his first day of school last year. How far they have come as a family. How far he has come as a person and accepting himself.
He still has days where he hates himself and everything feels hopeless. He still has issues sleeping and nightmares, mostly about Luka. He still has moments of weakness where he wants nothing more than a bottle of whiskey and a knife, but he is doing better. He even got a new tattoo to symbolize that. He still wears his bracelets, but he thinks he may get to a place in his life one day where he can take them off, own his scars. Like Luka told him to do.
At the thought of Luka, a pang of sadness shoots through his chest. It feels wrong to go to college without him. It had also felt wrong to spend the summer without him. He hasn’t seen him in three months. At one point, he didn’t think he could go a week without him, and it’s been three months. Harlan isn’t sure if that’s a bad thing or a good thing.
He has come to realize that he can live without Luka if he has to, he just doesn’t want to. Doesn’t see why he should have to, and he needs to break down whatever barrier is keeping Luka from him. He just needs to talk to him. Harlan has broken down Luka’s faith in a higher being before. At least he thinks he has, and he certainly should be able to do it again.
“Nah. Me and Cade are gonna stop at Starbucks. Says we need to be proper college students. I don’t even think he knows what that means. Where he heard the term ‘proper’ is beyond me, and I’m not sure why Starbucks makes us proper. He’s paying, so it’s whatever,” Harlan responds with a shrug, finishing his banana and kicking his feet so they knock against the bottom cabinets. He tosses the peel into the trash, somehow making it. Luka would have cheered, and knowing that just makes Harlan feel hollow.
“Tell him he needs to stop watching Doctor Who,” Paul jokes, smiling at Harlan. Harlan laughs because Cadeon has been obsessed with that show all summer, discovering the seasons on Hulu. He had trouble understanding their accents at first, but quickly became addicted.
“You will have to pry that show from his cold dead hands,” Alison laughs, patting Harlan on the leg. Harlan places both hands on the counter, pushing himself off until his feet land on the floor. He nods in response to his mom, smiling at her as well.
“I better get going. I don’t wanna be late for my first class,” Harlan says, looking down at his phone and seeing a text from Cadeon asking where he is. They are going to take turns driving to campus, and today is Harlan’s turn. They don’t have all the same classes, but similar enough schedules to make it work. He feels better that, at least, Cadeon and Ezra are with him. Ezra isn’t carpooling with them because he has to go to football practice after class, but they have two classes with him as well.
“I’m sure you won’t be the only one that is late, but it probably won’t make the best impression on your first day,” Paul points out with a smile. They both wish him good luck, and Harlan nods in response, thanking them as he grabs his keys and heads out the door. He sends Cadeon a quick text saying that he is on his way.
The drive to Cadeon’s house is quick, and before Harlan knows it, he is being greeted by a wide braceless smile. Cadeon got his braces removed last week and hasn’t stopped smiling since. The braces never stopped him to begin with, but he is definitely more confident. Harlan loves that for him. Loves seeing his shiny, straight teeth. Harlan returns his greeting, his own smile not reaching his eyes.
“So how’s Asher?” Cadeon asks once Harlan backs out of the driveway, heading in the direction of the interstate. He can still hear Luka’s raspy voice in his head, giving him driving instructions. Harlan shakes it, trying to dislodge the memory. It still hurts too much.
Everything he does reminds him of Luka, and some days are easier than others. Some days he wants to hang on to it, but other days he hates it. He really needs to come up with a plan to make Luka see him. Maybe Josie will help him. She has been adamant not to push him too hard, and Harlan understands that. At the same time, though, he also knows sometimes people need a good push. He definitely needed one himself.
“He’s good I think. Mom, Paul, and I were just talking about it. He seems to be adjusting well, all things considered,” Harlan answers, glancing over at his friend before his eyes are back on the road.
“That’s good. I know it was rough for him those first couple of weeks after he got to your house,” Cadeon responds.
“Yeah, but he seems a lot happier. He even had Gage over last weekend.”
“I can’t believe I haven’t met him yet. I’m such a terrible friend,” Cadeon says, disappointment lingering in his voice. Harlan can’t help but smile. Cadeon loves everyone, so he’s sure that he and Gage will get along just fine. Cadeon has this way of bringing everyone out of their shells, and Gage definitely could use a bit of that.
“We should all try to hang out like next weekend or something. Maybe invite Will and T,” Harlan suggests, checking his mirrors as he merges onto the highway, just like Luka taught him.
“That’d be awesome. I’m sure Ezra would be tickled pink to hang out too,” Cadeon says, but Harlan can tell there is something he wants to add. He looks hesitant, which indicates that it is about Luka. Everyone has been avoiding talking to Harlan about Luka except Asher, but that is mostly because Asher isn’t aware of Harlan’s history. “What do you think happened to Lu? Like in the camp?”
Harlan sighs, his eyes prickling with tears as soon as the question falls from Cadeon’s lips. He knew it was coming, but it still hurts him to even think about it. His body physically hurts for Luka, knowing that he went through something so horrible, even though he doesn’t have all the details. He feels sick even thinking about it, but it only solidifies his need to help Luka through it. He swallows, taking a deep breath before he answers, “I don’t know, Cade. I know it’s bad though, so of course, my brain is coming up with all kinds of horrible scenarios.”
“How do you know it was bad?” Cadeon questions, blue eyes studying Harlan’s face, probably gauging his reaction. Harlan grips the steering wheel, his knuckles white with tension. He keeps his eyes trained on the road, willing himself not to cry or think about what could have happened to Luka.
He only tortured himself when he looked up information about those types of places, but his curiosity got the better of him. Not all of them are abusive, but most are, especially the ones run by so-called ‘Religious Leaders’. It shocked him that some are even staffed with actual clinical psychologists. Goes to show that education isn’t everything.
“I just do. I can feel it. I know that sounds stupid, but I just know it was bad. Asher refuses to talk about it with me, but he still wakes up in the middle of the night, Cadeon. Crying and screaming for some unknown person to stop. He sometimes mumbles that he didn’t mean it, and I have no idea what he is referring to,” Harlan says, his voice cracking. He bites his lip in a weak attempt to keep his tears at bay. Luka probably does the same things at night and Harlan isn’t there to hold him. To tell him everything is okay.
“Oh… I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Cadeon says, brows creasing in concern.
“Whatever they did to him, it fucked him up. Luka was there for two more weeks after that. Two weeks of punishment for trying to escape. Two weeks of shit that Asher doesn’t even know about. Ash is in therapy now, but Josie said Luka refuses to go. It was bad,” Harlan tells him, a tear finally trailing down his cheek.
“Fuck,” Cadeon responds, and Harlan seconds that. Fuck indeed.
After that, Cadeon changes the subject, sensing Harlan’s distress. They talk about their classes and majors. Cadeon is still undecided because he doesn’t really know what he wants to do after college. Harlan is sure he will find something, though. Cadeon has always been a bit of a gypsy soul, good at everything, but never really applying himself to any one thing. Harlan could see him being a nurse or something. Someone that works with people and helps them, but he is giving Cadeon time to find himself. That is a part of the whole college experience, Harlan has been told.
They continue chatting as Harlan takes the exit, heading to Starbucks first. They go through the drive-thru, which isn’t much quicker, but at least they didn’t have to leave the vehicle. Harlan hands Cadeon his frappe and looks at the time, wincing because they are definitely going to be late for their first class.
Harlan quickly finds a parking space, and with their coffee in hand, they make their way to their destination. They came to the campus over the weekend to find the rooms their classes were located in, Harlan needing to feel prepared, to alleviate his anxiety over the situation. Cadeon and Ezra were cool about it, seeing the advantage of knowing where they needed to go.
“I can’t believe we’re late,” Harlan murmurs to Cadeon as they walk through the door of their classroom. Thankfully, the teacher doesn’t seem to have started the lecture, yet. He glances around the room, looking for Ezra, and freezes when he finds Ezra sat beside a person Harlan wasn’t sure he would ever see again. He almost collapses to the floor, wanting to sob with relief.
Maybe he’s hallucinating or perhaps he and Cadeon got into a car accident, and he is dead, somehow finding his way into Heaven. This is real, though. Heaven isn’t. Harlan takes a deep breath, bringing a shaking hand up to scrub at his face, trying to keep a steady hold on his coffee in the process. All he needs on his first day is to drop his coffee all over the lecture hall and make a fool of himself, but holy shit.
It’s Luka. Luka is sitting beside Ezra. Harlan had hoped that the person he saw in the hallway at Josie’s was just a figment of his overworked imagination, but it wasn’t. Luka looks thin, almost frail, and his blue eyes are empty, with none of their normal sparkle or mirth. Harlan’s breath leaves him because this is Luka, but it doesn’t look like him. He isn’t smiling. He isn’t being loud or vibrant. He isn’t making any quips about Ezra’s stupid fucking flat-billed hat. He is just sitting there, staring straight ahead.
He is still the most beautiful creature that Harlan has ever laid eyes on. He still has all of the features Harlan loves, and he knows that, deep down inside, it is still Luka. His Luka. His light is just so dim, and Harlan can’t help but worry that it will never shine again. They took his fucking light. How could they? How could they dim something so fucking bright, Harlan used it as his godsdamned sun?
Luka hasn’t seen him yet, and Harlan isn’t sure if that is bad or good. Ezra is trying to communicate something to them with his eyes, but Harlan doesn’t know what. Harlan forces his feet to move when he feels Cadeon nudge his shoulder breaking him out of his trance, glancing over to Luka. Harlan swallows, feeling somewhat numb. He is just having trouble processing this. It’s a total shock. He hasn’t seen Luka in so fucking long, he almost forgot the little details about him.
He still feels like he isn’t seeing him though; he is just so different. Almost like this shell of the person Harlan remembers. Harlan makes a promise to himself, right then and there, that he will help Luka find his light. Luka was Harlan’s light, and Harlan will see him shine again even if he has to use his own fucking heart as a damaged wick. It is then that Luka’s blue eyes find him, going wide and almost… scared. Harlan is definitely going to cry.
Luka groans when his alarm goes off for the third time. He grabs his phone, silencing it. He wants nothing more than to roll over and go back to sleep, or at the very least, try to sleep. He didn’t sleep very much last night. Well, he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in what feels like forever.
He still has horrible dreams about the camp that causes him to wake up screaming and fighting restraints that aren’t there, which brings back the guilt of fighting against them in the first place when they were just trying to help him. He usually ends up crying, begging God to take away his confusion. He never does. He is still punishing Luka it seems, and Luka falls into a fitful sleep again, somewhere around dawn, only for the occurrence to be repeated in the same order. It’s a vicious, endless cycle.
Luka scrubs at his face in a weak attempt to rub the confusion and exhaustion away. It doesn’t work. It never works. Nothing works. Not crying. Not sleeping. Not even praying. He glances at his clock, groaning at the time. He needs to actually drag his ass out of bed if he is going to do this. He isn’t sure he wants to, not really, but his mom is right. He can’t keep wallowing in his own misery, never seeing the light of day again.
It’s funny, in some sick way, that he went from forced isolation to self-imposed isolation. He can’t keep drowning in the chaos of his mind, the waves now so turbulent, he is beginning to feel not only lost but seasick. Aren’t sailors supposed to have a compass for their ship or something? Luka needs one because he has no idea where he is most days, but he thinks he is heading south.
He hasn’t worn actual clothes in months, so, with just the sunlight filtering through the window of the room, he makes his way to his closet. He doesn’t even bother to look at his choices, just reaches in and grabs the first thing his fingers grasp. He pulls a white shirt with small black designs out of the closet and pairs it with some basic jeans.
He stumbles into the bathroom, squinting when he flips the overhead light on, illuminating the space in a harsh glow, making pain shoot behind his eyes. He avoids looking in the mirror as he brushes his teeth, but makes the mistake of finding his reflection after he rinses his mouth.
He doesn’t think he has actually seen his own reflection since the exercise at camp where he had to tell himself that he is, in fact, straight. He has avoided it at all costs, not wanting to put a face to the person he is because he doesn’t really know himself anymore. He looks just as disjointed as his thoughts are. The face staring back at him from the mirror has his features, but he doesn’t recognize them. It’s like a stranger with his facial characteristics, but missing a few key details.
The light in his eyes, along with the crinkles beside them that his smile caused, are gone now. All of that has been replaced by eyes that are red-rimmed and hollow, a black ring around them from lack of sleep. His skin is pale and gaunt, lacking any of the natural sunkissed hue that he would normally have in the summer from hours of being outside. His cheeks are covered with three-day-old scruff that he was always so meticulous about shaving. He scrubs it with his hand, wincing at the noise that almost sounds too loud for his ears. He looks away, not being able to take another second of the scrutiny.
He quickly leaves the bathroom, finding a gray beanie to pull over his greasy hair, leaving some of it out to cover his empty eyes. He makes his way over to his bedside stand, grabbing his newly replaced phone and wallet, which feels heavy with the weight of the letter he knows is inside.
He hasn’t touched it since his mom put it in there last week. Hasn’t even looked at the damn thing, afraid that if he even so much as tries to move it, he will take a peek at its contents, which is something he simply cannot allow himself to do. His mom insisted that he get a new phone, even though he didn’t want it. The number is different. It was the only way he would agree to the purchase. He doesn’t want anyone from his old life contacting him, except maybe Ezra.
He doesn’t know how he feels about the fact that he could possibly see Ezra or Cadeon today. He thought he may have seen Ezra at church by now, but neither he nor his family have attended for the last month. The school is fairly small, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for Ezra or Cadeon to be in one or two of his classes. Luka was placed in pre-med courses because he had intended to become a doctor before all of this happened.
He told his mom and his new advisor during a phone call, that he didn’t give a fuck what they registered him for, but his mom insisted that he needed to try to stick with what was as normal as possible. Therefore Luka was enrolled in Psychology, English, Chemistry, and Biology. He figured it would be challenging enough to throw himself into, and possibly get lost in the work. Distractions are important, it seems.
He makes his way downstairs, thankful that his sisters have already left for school. He finds a note on the refrigerator from his mom saying ‘Good luck. I love you <3’. She already told him that she would have to work on his first day of college, as being new to the position as an administrative assistant at a law firm, she couldn’t get the day off.
The hours are great for the girls, though, and she seems happier making her own money, not depending so much on the money she gets from government support. Luka is secretly thankful that she isn’t here to see him off, not wanting to see her sympathetic smile or tearful frown. He can’t take it. He feels like he is disappointing her, but he doesn’t know why. He is trying to be a good person and a good Christian. What else could she want?
She is honestly happier than she’s been in years, not having the weight of Matt and his harsh rules and criticisms crushing her. Luka wants to be happy for her, but he can’t. She went against the Bible by divorcing Matt, and he cannot condone that.
She did it because of Luka, and now he blames himself for the fact that his mom is going to Hell because of him. Luka also somewhat blames Harlan because he is the reason Luka was sent to the camp to begin with. He knows Harlan didn’t force him to do any of those things; he didn’t force him to fall in love. Now, however, Luka’s mom is going to Hell because of his mistakes.
He knows Matt never treated her the way she deserved to be treated. She lived in fear of Matt, and he wanted nothing more than to ‘keep her in her place’. He did all of this because of the Bible. No one deserves to be treated like that, but there are no exceptions in the Bible. There are no ‘divorce is a sin unless the following occurs’ clauses within its pages.
Luka shakes his head, pushing the questions about the morals of the Bible out of his mind, hopefully once and for all. He tries not to recall the conversations he had with Harlan about that topic. He tries not to question it. He just needs to believe.
He doesn’t bother with breakfast, his stomach churning at the mere thought of food. He just wants to go to his classes and come back home to crawl into bed. Maybe not go to sleep, but things are less confusing in his bed. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart, then leaves the house to go somewhere other than church for the first time in over a month.
The August sun is brighter than Luka remembers, the humidity licking at his skin despite the fact that it is only mid-morning. He squints against the light, the pain behind his eyes intensifying with the brightness of it. His senses feel overwhelmed, confused by the onslaught of sights and sounds that he isn’t accustomed to anymore.
He almost turns around and runs back into the house, where the noises don’t make him feel like they are muffling his internal screams, but he takes another deep breath, forcing his feet to move to his car. He gets in quickly, shuts the door firmly, and closes his eyes when the silence returns to him like an old friend.
He places his head on the steering wheel, gripping it with shaking hands, and counts to ten, telling himself that he needs to do this. He needs to at least try to feel normal again, and this is the first step. Once he has calmed down a bit, he turns the ignition. He hasn’t driven in so long, he fears that he has forgotten how, but it seems like driving is a lot like riding a bike. You never really forget once you learn.
He doesn’t turn on the radio, just allows the silence that he is comfortable with to take over, his mind racing with what to expect, anxiety thrumming through his system. The closer he gets to the school, the more he feels as though he is going to jump out of his fucking skin.
He needs something. Something to take the stress away. Something to calm his nerves and fill him up, at least a little bit. He sees a gas station off of the next exit and makes a beeline for it, going in and returning with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He doesn’t know why he suddenly wanted them, although he has heard they are a great way to relieve stress, and he is willing to try just about anything at this point.
When he gets back into the car, he opens the pack with trembling fingers, thanking God that the person behind the counter didn’t want to talk any more than Luka did. He chose a green pack because he didn’t know what the fuck to go with, and he likes green. He holds it between his fingers, looking at it as though the object may hold the answers to all of his questions, a solution to all of his problems. It doesn’t, but he sticks the filter between his lips and lights it up.
The first drag burns his throat but not as much as the first time he smoked weed with Harlan. He pushes that memory out the window of his mind, hoping it will splatter on the pavement below, as he takes another drag. This time it is much smoother, and he only coughs twice. He silently promises himself that he won’t make a habit of this. He just needs it to take the edge off.
The smoke has a menthol taste to it that opens his sinuses. He feels better for some reason, just having something to do, so he keeps the cigarette between two fingers as he maneuvers the vehicle out of the parking lot. He no longer feels like he is going to jump out of his skin or throw up the only thing currently occupying his stomach.
The smoke continues to fill his lungs on the way to campus but does nothing for the void in his heart. He quickly finds a parking spot, surprised to see that he is actually early for class. He has no idea where he is going, but the campus is small. He has a map and the buildings are labeled, so he has no issues finding the correct classroom for Psychology 101. With the newly acquired pack of cigarettes firmly in his pocket and a single notebook in his hand, he opens the door.
He tries to breathe through the anxiety climbing into his throat as he walks into the classroom. It seats about 50 people, so much bigger than anything he is used to. There are only a handful of students present thus far, all looking wide-eyed and eager. Luka wonders how many of them are in their first-ever college class, too.
Luka avoids any eye contact and makes his way toward the back of the room. He doesn’t sit in the back row, but one down from the back. He picks a seat near the end of the row, next to the aisle, in case he needs to make a quick getaway. He doesn’t like feeling trapped, not after everything that’s happened. He jogs his leg, jumping almost every single time the door opens. Everything just seems so loud, and he really wants another cigarette.
When the door opens for the seventeenth time, Luka doesn’t jump, just keeps staring straight ahead, lost in his own mind where he allowed the self-doubt to creep back in. What the fuck is he doing here? Why would he even attempt this? Does God want him here? Luka has prayed about it but doesn’t feel like he received an answer. There was no divine voice in his head telling him what to do, just complete silence sliced through by rampant chaos.
He taps his finger on the desk, debating for the one hundred and sixty-seventh time about whether or not he should just get up and leave. No one is going to miss him here. No one is going to notice his absence. He made a promise to his mom, though. He told her he would try, and he finally makes the decision to stay, based on that fact alone. He has to start somewhere, and it’s not like Harlan will be here to tempt him. He can’t avoid the real world forever, and this may just be a test of his faith. Maybe God does want him here.
“Is this seat taken?” Luka’s head snaps up at the sound of the familiar voice, his heartbeat picking up to the point that it doesn’t feel like it’s beating at all, just one long continuous buzz in his head. Ezra’s brown eyes are staring down at him, kind and warm. Luka could say ‘yes’, and he is almost positive Ezra would go find another seat, however, Luka finds himself shaking his head.
He watches Ezra as he sits down in the seat next to the aisle, trying not to hyperventilate at the fact that he is now somewhat trapped. It’s just Ezra, though. Ezra would move if he asked, so he tries to relax. Tries to concentrate on Ezra’s genuine smile, and the words that are filtering through his lips.
“I didn’t know you changed your mind, and it’s so cool that we are in the same class,” Ezra says, his voice sounding much too chipper. Luka wonders if Ezra knows what happened. He isn’t asking questions about Luka’s disappearance thankfully, but that fact in and of itself brings Luka to the conclusion that Ezra has to know something. His mom probably told him. She had been trying to get Luka to call Ezra for the last week, but Luka always refused. He just doesn’t want to deal with the questions, even though Ezra isn’t currently asking any.
“Yeah. I just decided last week,” Luka responds, his voice sounding foreign, even to himself. He clears his throat, but he knows it won’t do any good. He just can’t seem to put his normal tone into it. It just sounds like an echo to his ears, not the real thing but close enough for most people not to notice. Ezra tries to cover a wince, so apparently, he noticed.
He takes in Ezra’s appearance. He looks good, healthy like he has been working out a lot. He is wearing a black t-shirt and jeans with a flat-billed hat. Luka can’t find it in him to give him shit for it, even though he most definitely looks like a stereotypical frat boy. He just doesn’t want to. He doesn’t feel like it, and that kind of scares him.
“Are you joining the football team? I know it’s late since we’ve already started practice, but the coach was scouting you last season. I’m sure he would make an exception for the best freshman running back in the state,” Ezra says, excitement lacing his tone. Luka winces at the mention of football.
He doesn’t want anything to do with his old life. He doesn’t want any reminders, and there is far too much about football that reminds him of Harlan. Pictures of Harlan wearing his jersey filter through Luka’s mind at a rapid pace, his lips painted black. Luka can feel his dick twitch, so he pinches his arm, reminding himself of the pain he felt during aversion therapy. He needs to associate Harlan with pain.
“No. I don’t think I will,” is all Luka says, allowing an awkward silence to fall over them. Ignoring Ezra’s small ‘oh’ in response, he stares directly ahead, praying that he can keep it together. He keeps telling himself that he just has this class and one more, then he can go home.
He can make it to his bed where he can curl up and cry again. Where he can pretend there is no temptation, and God will do as he has been begging and heal him. Everything just seems so difficult now, so fucking confusing that Luka is left with his head spinning after only a few minutes. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he hears the door to the classroom open. He hopes it’s time for classes to start because he just wants to get this over with.
When he feels Ezra tense beside him, he looks up to find green eyes on him. Green eyes outlined in black, of course, because Luka can’t have nice, virtuous things. Three things happen, all simultaneously: his limbs freeze, his stomach drops to the pits of Hell, and his heart feels like it is going to flutter out of his chest and float to the person it’s not allowed near.
Fuck. No. This can’t be happening. Luka’s limbs begin to shake as he takes in Harlan’s appearance. Luka has never understood the saying ‘a sight for sore eyes’ until this very fucking moment because he wants to cry just from seeing Harlan while he should want to run away screaming.
He thought Harlan would look different. Maybe his skin would be red with flames licking around him. It is ridiculous, but that is the only way Luka has allowed himself to picture Harlan in his mind, as the person that Satan uses to tempt him, but no. Harlan isn’t different. He is the same boy that Luka remembers, that Luka loves, with the exception of a few key differences.
His hair has gotten much longer, the dark curls almost touching his shoulders. His bracelets are new, not the same ones Luka has seen him in countless times, but Luka doesn’t allow himself to wonder why. Lastly, Luka spots a new tattoo on the inner part of Harlan’s left bicep, near his elbow. The words ‘You Booze, You Lose’ are etched into his pale skin with harsh, sharp letters, almost like cuts. A bottle with a skull and crossbones on the label breaks up the two phrases.
Luka tells himself he doesn’t want to know what inspired the new tattoo. He tells himself that he doesn’t find the damn thing incredibly sexy. That he doesn’t have the indescribable urge to run a pointed tongue over each jagged letter. Luka shakes his head, feeling the panic rise in his chest. He tears his eyes away from Harlan as he grabs his phone, frantically texting his mom, begging her to change his schedule.
He gets a quick response telling him that there are no other Psychology courses available, and if he doesn’t take it, he will be behind in his major. He almost doesn’t care. He can’t do this. He should never have agreed to this in the first place. If he’d just stayed home where he is supposed to be, locked away from the world and its cruel temptations, none of this would be happening now.
He stiffens when he feels someone sit down behind him, the iced coffee in his hand creating a deafening noise when it rattles against the plastic sides of the cup, making Luka flinch. Shit. Shit. Shit. He takes a deep breath, thinking about climbing over Ezra and bolting. Why would God do this to him? Why would he put them in the same fucking class? Is this a test?
It has to be a test. God is testing Luka, putting his apple in front of him. Luka can’t leave the class, though, can’t run back home to his room where he is safe from God’s trials. No. He has to show God that he is serious about this. That he is willing to put in the work and show that he deserves God’s healing hands. He can do this. He needs to do this.
“Well slap some butter on my ass and call me a biscuit. What are you doing here, Lu?” Cadeon’s voice breaks Luka out of his thoughts, and Luka can’t stop the laughter that bubbles out of his chest from escaping out into the room. He isn’t sure what to do because he hasn’t heard his own laughter in so long, he doesn’t even recognize it. He doesn’t remember it, but it happened. Cadeon caught him so off guard with his comment, Luka fucking laughed. He almost feels bad for it, as if he doesn’t deserve the feeling laughter gives, but it happened.
Luka is saved from answering because the professor chooses that exact moment to start the class, going through the syllabus. Luka pretends to pay attention, but he can feel Harlan’s presence behind him. It makes him warm and his stomach flutter. The damn thing somehow made its way back from the pits of Hell just to torture him with fucking fluttering.
He hasn’t looked at him again though, keeping his eyes straight ahead, trained on the screen displaying the course outline. He nods, pretending to be overly interested in the attendance policy, and tries to keep his breathing even, reminding himself that he isn’t trapped, that his hands aren’t tied down. He can still feel Harlan’s eyes on him, and he isn’t sure if that makes him feel better or worse. He tells himself that it’s worse.
“Okay. I want you all to break up into groups of four, the people you are sitting with are fine. Tell the others a bit about yourself, and then you will introduce a member of your group to the class. You have ten minutes,” the professor says, and Luka really should remember her name. She’s young, probably a graduate student. She seems nice so far, even if she is making Luka talk to people he used to call his friends.
He feels a tap on his shoulder and flinches, looking back to find Harlan staring at him with an expression on his beautiful face Luka can’t quite read. It reminds him of all those months ago when he couldn’t read Harlan to save his life, the reason he began speaking to him, to begin with.
A tension has fallen over their group now, suffocating him. The noise of their other classmates chatting is drowned out by the blood rushing to Luka’s ears. His eyes keep going to the drop of coffee that has found its home on Harlan’s full bottom lip. Luka has never in his life been so jealous of a fucking liquid substance, and he has the ever-present urge to lick it off. Fuck.
He has to look away from Harlan. He has to because he kind of wants to kiss him but he isn’t allowed to. He needs to prove to God that he can do this, so he looks at Ezra, his stupid flat-billed hat a terrible distraction from Harlan. Luka jumps when a loud laugh comes from the group beside him, grating on his nerves. The rest of the group looks startled by the outburst, their heads snapping in the direction the noise came from.
“Jesus… no reason cuttin’ a shine like that,” Cadeon says shaking his head, and what the fuck does ‘cuttin’ a shine’ mean. Is shine something you can cut? Luka thought it was something that lights do, he didn’t know it could be a physical object.
Apparently, you can cut it though, or at least Cadeon thinks you can. Luka can’t even begin to fathom what the fuck Cadeon is trying to say, so, without thinking, he looks to Harlan for a translation. Thank God that sinful drop of liquid is no longer on his lips, but Luka almost pouts at the fact that he didn’t get to witness Harlan’s pink tongue dart out to lick it away.
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This was the last cover I came up with for this series. It took a lot of time and back and forth to figure out the best concept that would include the rainbow element the other covers had. This is honestly so perfect. It is more than I could have ever dreamed. I love it so much.
I don’t think it will be triggering to anyone, but it does show a person who is very thin. If this triggers you in any way, please look at this cover with your own discretion.
OUT MARCH 22nd!
After spending the summer in Hell, Luka Thomas is living in a constant state of confusion. Talking to his mom doesn’t help. Going to church doesn’t help. Praying doesn’t even help. Desperate to stay on the path to salvation, he hopes a new start in college will be the key.
Harlan Sharp didn’t know what to expect from his first day of college, but seeing Luka wasn’t on the list. Luka is a shell of the boy he fell in love with, but Harlan can’t give up on him. With a confidence he never knew he had, Harlan begins to deconstruct the one thing that is keeping them from being together: Luka’s restored faith in God.
When Luka’s life hangs in the balance, Harlan makes a drastic confession. Will it save Luka’s soul or send them both tumbling back to Hell?
Find out the epic resolution in the final book of the Take me to Church Series.
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Book Trigger Warning: Trauma, Psychopathy, Rape, Kidnapping, Murdering, Violence, Stalking and Torture. In my opinion, none of this is really in any graphic detail (except maybe the violence). Honestly, I’ve written worse.
August Mulvaney has always been exceptional. As the genius son of an eccentric billionaire, his off-putting behavior is often blamed on his high IQ. They say there’s a thin line between genius and madness. August is both—a brilliant professor loved by his students and a ruthless, obsessive killer tasked with righting the wrongs of a failing justice system. And he’s just found his latest obsession: Lucas Blackwell.
Lucas Blackwell was once the golden child of the FBI, using his secret talent as a clairvoyant to help put away society’s worst. Until, with a touch, he discovers his co-worker is a killer and his life falls apart. Now, the world thinks he’s crazy and that co-worker wants him dead. He seeks refuge at a small college, hoping to rebuild his life and his reputation. But then he runs into August Mulvaney. Literally.
August is immediately intrigued with Lucas and his backstory. He doesn’t believe in psychics, but there’s no missing the terror in his eyes when they collide in the hallway. Now, August has a problem. Lucas knows his secret, and August knows he wants Lucas. And August always gets what he wants.
Can he convince Lucas that not all killers are created equal and that having a psychopath in his corner—and in his life—might be just what he needs?
Psycho is a fast-paced, thrill ride of a romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a psychopath hell-bent on romance and a disgraced FBI agent attempting to redeem himself. As always, there’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, and scenes so hot it will melt your kindle. This is book two in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.
I liked this book a lot more than Unhinged, the first in the series. Just like the first book, you get right to the main characters meeting without a ton of backstory.
The readers meet August for the first time in book one, but you really get to know him in this Psycho. I actually fell in love with him. I’m such a sucker for awkward, smart guys, and that’s exactly what he is (besides being a psychopathic murderer). He is just so endearing, and he makes me swoon. He is also so smart and cunning which *swoons more*. I have nothing bad to say about him. At all. I found him so much more likable than Adam.
Lucas is an ex FBI agent who has the special ability to have visions when he touches items. He used this as an FBI profiler to find the ‘bad guy’ until he found out that another FBI agent was behind the disappearance of dozens of women. Of course when he revealed to the FBI his secret, they didn’t believe him and put him in a psych ward. The books starts after he’s been released and he took a job at a university as a criminology professor.
When Lucas literally runs into August in the hallway, he sees who August really is. August has an immediate connection to Lucas, much like Adam had with Noah. For me, this connection made more sense. I expected it to be more of a slow burn given Lucas’ past, but the author did a really good job of making the quick pace of their relationship more believable. August is cunning with the impressions he leaves for Lucas, after all.
Just like the first one, this book isn’t angsty in the relationship department. Most of the drama comes from trying to figure out the case Lucas had started during his time in the FBI which held my interest. I didn’t find any part of this book boring and the characters didn’t do anything stupid or out of character just to move the plot along.
I also love that you get to see them interact more with their family and other brothers. You still get to see peeks into Noah and Adam’s relationship and how Noah interacts with the rest of the family and now a new person. I have already started book three in the series. I’m excited to see what it holds.
I don’t have a ton to say about this book other than I definitely thing you should give the series a chance if you’re able to handle the triggers and morally ambiguous main characters.
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I have been on a dark romance kick (what else is new?), so when I found the Necessary Evils Series and read the blurb to Unhinged, I knew I found my next read. It’s one of those concepts that I read and immediately wished I had come up with myself. It’s very creative. Full disclosure: I’m already over halfway through the second book in this series: Psycho.
This review will contain small spoilers.
Book Trigger Warnings: Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Trafficking, Child Abuse, Molestation, Childhood Trauma, Psychopathy, Violence, and Torture. In my opinion, none of this is really in any graphic detail (except maybe the violence). Honestly, I’ve written worse.
Adam Mulvaney lives a double life. By day, he’s the spoiled youngest son of an eccentric billionaire. By night, he’s an unrepentant killer, one of seven psychopaths raised to right the wrongs of a justice system that keeps failing.
Noah Holt has spent years dreaming of vengeance for the death of his father, but when faced with his killer, he learns a daunting truth he can’t escape. His father was a monster.
Unable to ignore his own surfacing memories, Noah embarks on a quest to find the truth about his childhood with the help of an unlikely ally: the very person who murdered his father. Since their confrontation, Adam is obsessed with Noah, and he wants to help him uncover the answers he seeks, however dark they may be.
The two share a mutual attraction, but deep down, Noah knows Adam’s not like other boys. Adam can’t love. He wasn’t born that way. But he refuses to let Noah go, and Noah’s not sure he wants him to.
Can Adam prove to Noah that passion, power, and protection are just as good as love?
Unhinged is a fast-paced, roller coaster ride of a romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a dirty-talking, possessive psychopath and a sweet cinnamon roll of a boy with Daddy issues and a core of steel. There’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, enough steam to fog up a hundred car windows, and something a lot like love. This is book one in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.
I really enjoyed this book. The concept is just fascinating to me. It was one of those that I wish I had come up with myself. In this book, you get right into the two main characters meeting, which I very much apricated.
Adam is a bit of a spoiled rich kid who has gotten by on his good looks and his father’s money. He is a good-looking, devil-may-care model, but what he does behind the lens of the camera is a different story. He is a psychopath, and he, along with his brothers, are vigilantes. He kills people who do evil things but these people are somehow either above the law or the law just simply can’t catch them. I must admit, I was way more interested in Adam’s brothers than I was him.
Noah is the son of one of Adam’s victims. When he confronts Adam one night for his crime against his father, Adam shows him who is father really was which unlocks memories that Noah had repressed. These memories lead Adam and Noah into a dark world where Noah and many other children were the victims.
I thought this story would have worked better as a slow-burn. Their instant attraction to each other didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. The way James explains Adam’s desires for Noah is almost… supernatural? It’s reminiscent of supernatural beings who have found their mate, but Adam isn’t a werewolf. I found the explanation a bit odd, but I went with it. There was lots of steam in-between the action.
I wouldn’t describe this book as particularly angsty, especially when it comes to their relationship. A lot of their conflict comes from outside sources. There was no will-they-won’t-they questions. You knew from the beginning that they would. The conflict revolved around the mystery that was unfolding about Noah’s past.
The one thing that really annoyed me about this book is that Noah acted really out at one point for no real good reason other than to move the plot along. If James would have added a few lines about the reason as to why Noah acted out of character, then it would have made sense. The other thing that bothered is how quickly they fell for each other. The blurb made it seem like a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers, type deal but it was the opposite. Everything with their relationship happened really quickly which seemed really unrealistic to me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend you read it if you can handle the triggers that it contains. I must admit, I am enjoying the second one way more. I am looking forward to doing a review on it in the coming weeks.
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“So– umm– how’s the wedding planning going?” Harlan asks, sitting down at the table with his mom. His mom looks shocked by the question but smiles after a moment, her dimples carving into her cheeks. She seems younger somehow as if meeting Paul has added years to her life. She is definitely happier.
He tries not to notice that his foot is still tapping along to the beat of Dueling Banjos. Ever since he dubbed Luka an official hillbilly after their impromptu trip into the woods, he has been humming it to Harlan at every opportunity. It has been a week now, and just when Harlan thinks he’s finally forgotten it, Luka quietly hums it into his ear again, setting off another two days of it replaying on a loop in his head.
“Good as can be expected with it being just over two weeks away,” Alison responds with a smile at the prospect. They decided on a quick wedding, wanting to have it before Harlan goes to college. Harlan still isn’t sure he will be going, but he understands their thought process. There is no sense in having a long engagement if they know they want to be together, so his mom and Paul have spent the last month planning everything out.
“Makes sense. Are you nervous?” Harlan questions, hoping it is the right thing to ask. He never knows how to speak to his mom, so he is just trying to keep things light, even though he kind of wants to talk to her about something that has been plaguing his mind for the last few months. Something he hasn’t told anyone else about, and he desperately needs another perspective. A more mature perspective.
“Not really. Are you?” She asks, looking at him through her lashes. He can see that she is holding her breath, waiting for something.
“Kind of. I can’t believe he asked me to be his best man. I figured he would ask his son. I don’t even know what I’m gonna say in my best man speech,” Harlan answers, telling her his honest thoughts for the first time in forever. Thankfully, the ceremony will be small and intimate, with just a few family members and close friends. Luka and Cadeon will be there, which will be an added bonus.
“I’m sure it will be wonderful. He loves you, Harlan. You are important to him, to both of us,” she tells him, but he doesn’t really believe her. He forces himself to bite back the bitter remark that is on the tip of his tongue while he tamps down the anger rising in his chest.
He takes a deep, calming breath, his logical side silently reminding him that she can’t change the past. It’s just hard to move on, his instincts screaming at him to go on the defense, but it is time to give her a chance. “Yeah. I’ll figure out what to say,” Harlan finally answers, looking up at her. She smiles at him again, but this time it doesn’t reach her eyes.
“So…um…do you have a ride to get fitted for your suit next week?” she asks, changing the subject a bit.
“Yeah. Lu said he could take me,” Harlan responds with a shrug. He begins jogging his leg under the table again, and he clasps his hands, wringing them in an attempt to get rid of some of his nervous energy. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself.
“Good. You know how much I love him. He’s such a nice boy,” she says, a smile lighting up her face once more. Harlan nods, returning her smile, but it probably comes across as more of a grimace. She is looking at him out of the corner of her eye as if she knows he is about to ask her something important. She doesn’t push him, just waits patiently. Harlan takes another deep breath, closing his eyes.
“Umm– Mom, can I ask you a question?” He pushes the words out through his lungs quickly before he can even think about taking them back. Her head snaps to him, but a smile is tugging the corner of her lips, eyes twinkling in the light.
“Of course, Harlan. You can ask me anything. What’s on your mind, hon?” Alison reaches a tentative hand across the table, placing her much smaller one on top of his. Her hand is warm and sure, and Harlan can feel the prickle of a tear in his eye.
She has been touching him a lot more lately, a pat on the shoulder, a squeeze of his elbow, even a hug occasionally, but this is the first time she has held his hand. He wants to hold on to it, afraid the moment will slip away before it even starts. He is still so fucking hurt though, he is conflicted. He hears Luka’s encouraging words in his ear, which spurs him on.
“How did you know that Paul was like– the one for you?” Harlan asks, his speech pattern even slower than usual because he is so unsure. He holds his breath, looking up at his mom. Her eyes go wide for a split second before she tilts her head to the side, considering an answer. At least she isn’t laughing at him like he was afraid she would.
“Well, that’s a difficult question because it’s different for everyone. There just comes a time when you know that you’ve met your person,” she starts, and Harlan notices right away that she didn’t use a gender-specific expression.
Fuck. He’s probably being far too suspicious. Harlan opens his mouth, deciding that this is a terrible idea, and he immediately needs to abort the mission. “Um… Never…”
“When you realize that you love that person so much, your heart feels like it is about to burst with it,” she continues, ignoring his interruption. “The feeling both hurts you and makes you happy. You feel like you are able to breathe when they are around, and they just make your day better. Like you can take on anything the world throws at you as long as they are holding your hand.”
Harlan doesn’t know why he’s surprised that she just described everything he feels for Luka. Deep down, he has been aware of it for a while; he’s just been too afraid to admit it, even to himself. Harlan is in love with Luka. He swallows hard, suddenly feeling sick with his next thought. “What if your person doesn’t feel the same way?” he asks, voice hoarse and eyes stinging. Luka could never love someone who is as broken as Harlan. Harlan doesn’t even love himself, so how could he expect Luka to?
“Have you asked?” she questions, her blue eyes sparkling in the light. Harlan shakes his head, unable to form a response in fear of choking on the lump in his throat. “I see. Well, maybe you should.”
“I can’t,” Harlan tells her, looking down at his fingers, fiddling with his rings, deep in thought. There is no possible way he can voice that kind of thing to Luka. He has a hard enough time talking about his feelings as it is. So how the hell is he just going to drop something like that on Luka? Especially when they haven’t even defined their relationship.
“Talking about your feelings is hard, Harlan. I understand that more than anyone.” She pauses as if she wants to add to that confession. Harlan watches her out of the corner of his eye, too afraid to make eye contact. She takes a deep breath, “You keep a journal, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Harlan croaks out, wringing his hands so hard, he worries that the rings on his fingers will be crushed into the bone as he tries to disperse the nervous energy.
“Maybe you should write them down. If you can’t say them out loud, that seems to be the next best option. Right? You don’t have to even show them to this person, but it could help you figure things out,” she advises, patting his hand again, effectively putting a stop to his attempts at forcing the metal to meet his bone.
“Yeah. Thank you, Mom.” Harlan finally looks up to meet her eyes, squeezing her hand.
“You’re welcome. I hope I helped a little bit,” she says with a nervous chuckle. Her eyes follow Harlan when he gets up from the table, eager to go to his room and get some of his thoughts down on paper.
“You did,” he assures her, watching her body sag in relief.
“I love you, Harlan.”
He freezes when the statement slips from her lips. He hasn’t heard her say those words in… well, he doesn’t even remember the last time she said it to him. He doesn’t say it back, but he does give her a smile, hopefully telling her that he may be ready to return the sentiment someday. She smiles back, as if she understands.
“I guess we should go in. The appointment is in like two minutes,” Harlan points out, glancing at the clock on the dashboard. They just made it to the formal-wear boutique where Harlan has his final tux fitting. Luka insisted that Harlan drive even though he would have preferred Luka to do it since they had to go to the next town over, and he had never driven there before. The drive was even more nerve-wracking since he couldn’t stop thinking about the letter in the glove compartment.
“Yeah. I can’t wait to see you in a tux,” Luka says, reaching for the door handle as Harlan turns off the ignition. Luka doesn’t know it, but Harlan is also going to be getting something formal for prom. It won’t be like the tux he is wearing for his mom’s wedding. Instead, he wants what he wears to prom to reflect his personality and how Luka makes him feel. The confidence he has found through Luka. What he wears will probably still be black, but he wants Luka to be pleasantly surprised.
“Not that special,” Harlan responds, but he can feel the blush on his cheeks. He gets out of the car, shoving Luka’s car keys into the pocket of his tight jeans as they walk inside. The man recognizes Harlan right away and smiles in greeting. He thinks his name is David, but he isn’t entirely sure.
“I have finished the final alterations to your suit, Mr. Sharp. If everything fits properly today, you may take it home. Mr. Martin has already paid for it,” David tells them, leading them to the backroom, then gesturing at the black bag the suit is in. Harlan nods and smiles, unsure of how to respond. He was with his mom last time he came, then Paul the first time, and they carried those conversations. Harlan still feels awkward on the best of days, so talking to strangers is still difficult for him.
“Thank you,” Luka replies, smiling at David. Not for the first time, Harlan is so thankful for Luka. Luka is just good at everything Harlan is not. It almost feels like Luka completes him somehow. Harlan tries not to think about that and the overwhelming love he feels for the other boy. He has thought a lot about what his mom said and if he should tell Luka. He has been working on a poem to get his feelings out. He doesn’t know if he will ever give it to Luka, but it helps him process things.
“Call me when you have it on; I’ll be right out here,” David says, smiling one more time and excusing himself. Harlan looks at the black bag reproachfully. He almost wishes he hadn’t brought Luka because he feels slightly vulnerable at the prospect of Luka seeing him in anything other than his t-shirts and skinny jeans. Of course, Luka has seen him naked, but this feels much more monumental for some reason.
“The wedding is next weekend, so we don’t have time for another adjustment. Let’s hope that it fits.” Harlan turns toward the fitting room, and Luka follows him inside without being asked. Harlan doesn’t mind, though. He has no idea how to tie a tie. Paul did it for him the first time, and David did it the second time.
“I’ll pray for you,” Luka says, with a smirk and a wink, putting his hands on the hem of Harlan’s shirt, pulling it upwards, over his head.
“Thanks. You take the Western God, and I will take the Eastern Gods,” Harlan replies with a smirk of his own, but Luka doesn’t laugh. Instead, his eyes slant in interest, his cold fingers still on Harlan’s skin. Harlan loves that look and wants to kiss him, so he does. He makes it quick, not wanting to distract him from the conversation at hand, but he just can’t help himself. Luka looks so cute when he is thinking about something.
“Who are some of the Eastern Gods?” Luka asks, fingers working on the button of Harlan’s jeans as Harlan tosses his shirt to the side. Thankfully the dressing room is quite large, so they aren’t bumping into each other. Luka looks down while he asks the question, even though Harlan knows for a fact that the other boy has no issues unbuttoning his pants without looking.
“That’s a tough question because Hinduism, which is the main religion in India, has thousands of Gods. Religion in places like China and Japan is interesting because they don’t really see religion the same way we do in our culture. Some would even go as far as to argue that theirs is more of a philosophy or a way of life,” Harlan tells him, helping Luka push the tight pants down his legs, leaving Harlan in just his underwear.
“So they don’t believe in God over there?” Luka asks, his brown brows drawing together with his question. Harlan turns around to grab the shirt first, pushing his arms through the white sleeves. Luka’s hands are on the collar, helping him guide the starch-laden material over his shoulders. It makes a scratching sound against his bracelets, but Harlan isn’t going to remove them. He can deal with that for now. His arms will be covered for the wedding, so he doesn’t have to worry there.
“It’s kind of complicated. I am by no means an expert since I have never been to that area, nor do I know anyone who is a believer. From my understanding, they follow the teachings of various people like Buddha, Confucius, Sun Tzu, and Laozi, but they don’t believe them to be gods. Well, not in the same way you see the Christian God. They don’t believe that these men created the universe or anything of that nature, and they don’t just follow one of them. Many people in that culture follow more than one because their teachings aren’t contradictory,” Harlan explains, turning around.
“Wait. Do we know these people actually existed?” Luka asks, looking down to button Harlan’s shirt.
“For the most part. Sun Tzu is debatable, but his book, The Art of War, is highly regarded by the military forces,” Harlan answers, grabbing the suit pants and pushing his feet into them while Luka holds him steady.
“Wait. I thought we were talking about religion. Why would someone have a religion based on war? Christianity is a religion of peace, not war,” Luka says, eyes on Harlan. Harlan snorts in response, but Luka looks genuinely confused by that. Harlan pulls the pants up the rest of the way, tucking his shirt in as he thinks about how to answer Luka’s question. It is really hard for people in the Abrahamic faiths to understand Eastern religions because the concept is just so foreign to them.
“Have you ever heard of The Crusades?” Harlan asks, buttoning his pants and zipping them easily, looking down at Luka. Luka nods his head but still doesn’t seem to understand Harlan’s point. He looks like he is open to it, though, almost as if he wants Harlan to tell him instead of wanting to argue the point.
“Then you know they were a series of religious wars to gain control over sites that both religions claimed as holy. The point is, Christianity isn’t a religion of peace. Do you have any idea how many people have been killed in the name of God? Christianity is so widespread because of war and their forced belief system. It’s hard to call a religion peaceful when they would throw babies against a wall because their parents worshiped the same God as them but followed a different prophet,” Harlan tells him. It is a bit crude, but it has the desired effect. Luka’s mouth falls open in shock.
“But Jesus teaches love and peace,” Luka insists, as Harlan shoves his feet back into the black boots he plans to wear for the ceremony.
“You’re right. He does, but his followers didn’t seem to get the memo. They have been forcing their beliefs on people for centuries. If he was really correct, and his teachings were sound, then why would they feel the need to force it? Why can’t they follow his path in peace instead of using force?” Harlan asks, grabbing his tie. Luka doesn’t say anything, just takes it from Harlan’s hands and gets on his tiptoes to loop it around Harlan’s neck, fixing the collar over it.
“I don’t really know,” Luka finally replies, his gaze distant despite the fact that he is currently tying Harlan’s tie. Harlan looks down at him, unsure of what to say. These types of conversations are somewhat normal for them. Luka has had more and more questions for Harlan lately, sometimes just texting him something random when he thinks of it. A few days ago, Harlan was surprised to see a text message from Luka about Noah’s Ark because he had been watching a documentary about it with his family.
Harlan replied back with a very long and thorough text about how there is no evidence in all of the historical records that indicates a flood that wiped out all of humanity. The Ancient Egyptians were keeping records around the time of the supposed flood, and there isn’t even a pause or gap, nor did they write anything about it in their text.
Not to mention the notion of having every animal in existence, on different continents nonetheless, travel to board a large boat is ludicrous. The sloth alone only travels about a mile every six hours, so it would have taken its entire life for it to have made its way to the ark.
Luka called him after that, and they got into an even more detailed discussion. Harlan loves it and hopes that he is teaching him something, but he isn’t sure what is going on in Luka’s head. He doesn’t know what Luka believes anymore. He isn’t sure that Luka even knows what he believes anymore. If the title of the poem Harlan wrote for Luka was modeled after that discussion, no one needs to know.
“Luka, you know I’m not trying to like– make you an atheist or anything. Like I said before, I just want you to see the flaws in your own religion. The religion that you allow to dictate your life and your happiness. Can you truly be happy following everything that is written in the Bible?” Harlan doesn’t say anything about love, but it is implied at this point. If Luka still truly believes in everything his family and church have taught him, then he can’t love Harlan.
“I know, love. I do,” Luka tells him, finishing his tie and patting his chest, finally meeting his eyes. Something about the moment feels raw all of a sudden. Luka’s eyes are suspiciously wet, and his fingers are shaking ever so slightly. Harlan knows his words have gotten to him, but he doesn’t want to take them back. He was just stating the truth.
Luka doesn’t fight him when Harlan pulls their chests together, wrapping his arms around the small of Luka’s back. Luka’s own arms come up around Harlan’s neck as he hooks his chin over Harlan’s shoulder, squeezing tight, breathing in deeply through his nose. Harlan kisses him on the cheek, unsure of what else to do to comfort Luka.
“Mr. Sharp, do you need help?” They jump apart at the sound of the voice from outside of the dressing room. Harlan isn’t sure how long they were hugging, but it must have been a while for David to have interrupted.
“No. We’re good,” Luka says, smiling at Harlan as he hands him the suit jacket, helping him pull it upon his shoulders. Harlan isn’t sure if Luka is talking to him or David. Are they good when their future seems to be caught in the balance? If Luka can’t get past some of the shit written in the Bible, then they don’t have a future at all.
With that thought heavy in his mind, they finish the appointment, the tux fitting perfectly. Harlan takes it out to the car with them, climbing into the driver’s side once he carefully places it in the back seat. He turns the ignition as Luka shuts the passenger side door.
“What are you…” Luka starts, expression confused, as Harlan reaches between his legs. Harlan smirks at him for a split second before opening the glove compartment. He takes a deep, steadying breath and grabs the envelope, almost afraid it will burn him. He shuts the glove compartment a little too forcefully, then sits up. With a shaky hand, he slips into Luka’s lap.
“What’s this?” Luka asks, looking at it with curious eyes as he lifts it up, holding it to the light.
“Umm– It’s from the scholarship,” Harlan tells him, glancing over at Luka’s small hands holding the envelope that possesses so much hope for him. Harlan hasn’t been able to bring himself to open it, though. It’s too much. He is too scared. Every time he thinks about opening it, he considers the fact that he could be rejected and his future will go down the drain. Everything is in that envelope. The hope of getting out of this town and going to college with Luka.
“Which one?” Luka asks, his eyes lighting up with excitement. Harlan hopes it’s still thereafter it’s open. He can’t handle the light in Luka’s eyes disappearing. Harlan can handle his own disappointment and heartbreak over it, but not Luka’s. Never Luka’s. Luka is his happiness. He loves him. He isn’t ready to say it out loud, and he doesn’t actually think Luka returns his feelings, but he loves him. He really fucking does and just the thought of seeing any kind of happiness fade from Luka’s face makes Harlan’s heart hurt.
“The big one. The one that could pay for everything,” Harlan explains, swallowing down his fears. He is far too panicked over the idea of what is in that envelope.
“What? Why are you giving it to me? You should be the one opening it, Haz,” Luka says, eyes wide with the realization, looking down at the envelope as if he is holding something precious. He has been attempting to prepare himself for disappointment. Good news like that doesn’t happen to people like him. He tries not to have hope about anything anymore. It makes things much easier when the inevitable happens.
“You found the scholarship and helped me apply. I want you to open it. I have had it for almost a week, and I just– Lu, I can’t bring myself to open it,” Harlan admits, looking around at the parking lot so he doesn’t have to look at Luka. The sound of paper tearing floods the car, Luka’s nimble fingers opening the envelope, pulling out the letter within. A few seconds later, the distinct sound of a piece of paper being unfolded, then Luka’s sharp intake of breath. Harlan’s heart drops. He didn’t get the scholarship. He knows it. He just does.
“Haz…” Luka’s sentence trails off, and Harlan breaks. He finally looks over at Luka, who is still reading the paper, his firm pink lips moving along to the words printed on the page. Harlan looks at the boutique, feeling like he is going to cry. He told himself that he wouldn’t get his hopes up, but apparently, he did because his heart feels like it is in his knees.
“I knew it,” Harlan murmurs, more to himself, as disappointment floods his veins. He blinks his eyes a few times, hoping to keep the tears at bay because crying over something that he can’t change just sounds counterproductive. He holds his breath when he hears Luka’s voice again, preparing for the news he knows is about to come.
“Harlan, you got it. It says here that you can go to any school in the state, and it will pay full tuition and fees for up to four years as long as you complete 30 credit hours per year and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Hazza, you fucking did it!”
“What?” Harlan asks, his eyes snapping back to Luka’s face, who is now smiling so brightly, the fucking sun must be jealous of his radiance. Harlan still can’t believe it. He glances down at the paper then back to Luka’s face. Luka has to be wrong. He has to have read it wrong.
“You’re going to college on a full-ride, Harlan! Holy fuck! I’m so proud of you!” Luka exclaims, thrusting the paper into Harlan’s hands. Harlan continues to stare at Luka, though. There is not an ounce of jest in Luka’s expression, just joy and pride. He’s not lying. Harlan looks down at the paper to read the words for himself. The first word is ‘Congratulations’ and Harlan doesn’t bother reading the rest. Harlan got it. He’s going to college. A feeling that can only be described as elation floods him, and before he knows it, Luka has hopped over the middle console to wrap Harlan in a tight hug.
“I– I can’t believe this,” Harlan says, breathing in Luka’s scent, his warmth. He savors the touch even though now he knows he doesn’t have to say goodbye to Luka just yet. They can go to college together. They may not have to completely hide what they have there. They will be away from Luka’s family. Holy fuck. They may be free.
“You did it, love. I’m so fucking proud of you,” Luka tells him, letting him go in favor of kissing him, his mouth warm and sure on Harlan’s. Harlan could melt. He can feel the pride radiating off of Luka, and it is making him almost proud of himself. Harlan is so excited about the future now, the possibilities. They both have gotten into every single college they have applied for, so now they just need to choose.
“Thank you,” Harlan responds when Luka breaks the kiss. He is still in shock. He feels like it’s not real, but the letter in his hand says otherwise. He is fucking going to college, and he won’t have to worry about money or being in debt when he is done. He looks down at the paper again in disbelief, reading it twice before it sinks in. He looks up at Luka, whose eyes are shining in the afternoon sunlight, nodding as if to say ‘it’s real’.
Harlan eventually starts the car, even though driving back home suddenly feels like driving back to reality. Driving back to their cage. They will have to go back to hiding what they have. Harlan doesn’t know if being on a college campus will change anything. If Luka will be okay with being more open about their relationship. They haven’t really talked about it, and Harlan is too afraid to even broach the subject. Either way, they will be happier away from prying eyes. Only four more months, though. Four more months until they are in college and finally free.
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Below, I will walk you through each song that inspired Sweetness in Innocence: Book Two of the Take me to Church Series. You can also find the playlist I created on both Spotify and YouTube. In this, I am just going to cover some of the songs. There are more songs on the playlist provided, and I suggest you click on those links to listen while you’re reading the book! It just adds to the experience.
Bring me to Life- Evanescence
How can you see into my eyes like open doors
Leading you down into my core
Where I’ve become so numb. Without a soul
My spirit sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home
This song and band made up my formative years. The chapter where they go grocery shopping is somewhat monumental. It seems so simple, but it was so important for the development of their relationship. It’s the first time Harlan shows trust toward Luka. He gives Luka a glimpse into his life and his problems.
Witching Hour- In This Moment
Don’t you see the way I look at you
I can see behind your eyes
Can’t you tell the way I reach for you
I wear my halo in disguise
I watch you burn
I can feel you
I watch as you turn
What did you do
I think this is pretty self explanatory. This song coincides with the Halloween chapter and Luka, of course, wears a halo.
Follow You- Bring me the Horizon
My head is haunting me and my heart feels like a ghost
I need to feel something, ’cause I’m still so far from home
Cross your heart and hope to die
Promise me you’ll never leave my side
When Luka got hurt, I think it made Harlan realize just how much he cared for him. Before this scene, their relationship was almost one sided. Luka always went out of his way for Harlan, and I wanted to see that reversed a bit. Luka needed Harlan, and Harlan was there for him. He followed him to the hospital because he was worried. It solidified their relationship a bit more.
Half God Half Devil- In This Moment
I won’t pretend that I resist temptation
I think it’s funny when you preach damnation
I’ve been to hell and back and now it’s just a part of me
Without the darkness there’d be no light in me
I just love this song and the lyrics so much. I think this really fits with the Christmas chapter because Harlan finally lets another wall down and allows Luka inside of his home. The dark is a part of Harlan, and Luka sees that now but accepts it.
My Soul- Thrice
Are you ready for my soul?
What if I’m broken from the start?
And what if I never heal?
Are you ready for my soul?
What if I open up my heart?
And somehow we stumble into something real?
This song is just so fucking beautiful, and I felt it was perfect for their first time. Harlan really allowed Luka inside. He showed he trusted him in some small way, and it was so fucking gentle. I think it reflects Harlan’s thoughts perfectly. He worries that he will never be able to full trust anyone because the wounds from his past run so deep. He is afraid to show Luka everything because he doesn’t want to scare him off with the amount of darkness he has suffered. In turn, Luka is almost afraid of something this real. Every other time he has spent with a guy hasn’t felt this real, and that scares him a lot.
Iris- The Goo Goo Dolls
And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
I really could have just quoted this whole fucking song. It’s so fucking perfect. Harlan and Luka danced to this in Harlan’s room on New Years Eve and I think something really shifted for them. I can’t listen to this song without getting emotional. It’s a very personal song for me, for different reasons, and I knew I had to use it for such a pivotal moment in this book. The lyrics sum up their blossoming relationship perfectly.
The Judas Kiss- Metallica
Followed you from dawn of time
Whisper thoughts into your mind
Watched your towers hit the ground
Lured the children never found
Helped your kings abuse their crown
In the heart of feeble man
Plant the seeds of my own plan
The strong and powerful will fall
Find a piece of me in all
Inside you all
Warning: Do not drive while listening to this song. You will probably drive far too fast because the drums are fucking killer. This song isn’t really for a specific chapter, more so the slow demise of Luka’s faith. It also comes into play in the next book. The title that is… but spoilers.
A Reason to Fight- Disturbed
When the demon that’s inside you is ready to begin
And it feels like it’s a battle that you will never win
When you’re aching for the fire and begging for your sin
When there’s nothing left inside, there’s still a reason to fight
Luka sang this to Harlan during the concert. Harlan has a lot of demons. Luka doesn’t know why yet, but he knows that it’s a constant battle for Harlan. He wants to give him a reason to fight those demons, and this song sums that up perfectly.
Avalanche- Bring me the Horizon
Cut me open and tell me what’s inside
Diagnose me ’cause I can’t keep wondering why
And no it’s not a phase ’cause it happens all the time
Start over, check again, now tell me what you find
‘Cause I’m going out, I’ll fake what’s real
Can anyone respond?
When Ezra finally confronts Luka about what he’s been hiding, I think we were all holding our breaths. Luka still hasn’t accepted that it’s just a part of him. A small portion of his mind is still telling him that he’s sick for his sexuality and he needs to pray and ‘fix himself’, so I think this song perfectly reflects Luka’s inner turmoil.
Brighter Than the Sun- Poets of the Fall
Like a miracle you change me, raise me
Brighter than the sun till I’m ready to be me
And your love is the reason, yeah
Like a miracle you wake me, make me
Brighter than the sun when it used to blind me
I know your love is the reason
Love never goes out of season
Harlan compares Luka to the sun more times than I care to admit. I think he is finally starting to accept the positive changes Luka has made in him. I wanted to end this book on a positive note, and I think this song does just that. Luka is the reason he’s happy now, and he is starting to realize his feelings for Luka.
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A few weeks ago, I randomly picked up this Maahes by Emma Jaye after searching Amazon for “mm dark gay romance with crime”. I was immediately drawn to the book by the summary. Not many of you know this, but I have always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt. I wanted to be an archaeologist for the longest time because Ancient Egypt had drawn me in from a young age. When I saw that a lot of this book revolved around the religion of the Ancient Egypt, I couldn’t stop myself from downloading the sample on my Kindle.
As always, this review will contain small spoilers.
Book Trigger Warnings: violence, mentions of rape/non-con , dub-con (between the to MCs), mentions of incest, animal cruelty, BDSM (primal kink specifically), dark romance, angst, and main character death (sort of).
Corrupt to survive or seduce to kill?
Lev lives for death.
Tainted from birth and despised for sacrificing fellow Servants of Maahes, Lev pursues a life of devotion and abstinence as the Left Hand. His reward will come in the Afterlife.
Živan Bratko, bastard heir to a Bulgarian crime family, lives in the moment, rescuing big cats and slaking his lust with even wilder men. He can’t resist the challenge of corrupting one of the legendary Hands of Maahes.
A sociopath hedonist versus a devout assassin. Who will be hunter or prey when lives and souls are the ultimate stakes?
A dark contemporary mm story featuring a collision of cultures, manipulative main characters, assassins, kidnap, and hungry lions.
Welcome to the dark world of Malicious Gods: Egypt. A collection of standalone modern tales, both magical and non-magical, featuring deities from Ancient Egypt. You’ll find reincarnated Gods, assassins, gangs, madness, and different realities. Expect high heat and morally ambiguous themes. Seductive and often twisted, they are not for the fainthearted.
For the first time in my life, I’m not even sure where to start. I am almost positive I love it, and I wonder how fucked up that makes me (I mean this in the best way possible). The beginning was super slow with lots of world building and setting the scene. Our two lovely main character didn’t even meet until the reader is about a third of the way into the book. That usually annoys me a bit, but I found I didn’t mind. The world building was intriguing enough to get me hooked.
Lev annoyed me in the best possible way. He is very ‘holier-than-thou’ in the beginning. I’m not a religious person (as you may know) so reading a character that is so devoted to his faith was a bit strange for me. I didn’t relate to him because I didn’t know where he was going to end up with this story in term of faith. The further into the story I got, the more I grew attached to him, much like his male counter part.
Živan is an irritably charismatic character. I may or may not be in love with him at this point. He’s incredibly intelligent and witty. He pretends not to care, when deep inside his heart, he cares a lot. He is just very selective about it. He is very cocky in the beginning. I hated the clicker almost as much as Lev, however, I do love how Jaye always brought it full circle, even with the clicker. I also found his kinks fascinating. I have read a lot of BDSM, but I’ve never really heard of a primal kink in this way.
I didn’t find this book particularly triggering, but then again, very little actually triggers me. There was a part that was sort of dub-con that was between the main characters, but it was a very gray area. I’m still unsure of how I feel about it, but I know for a fact that I do not hate this book. Not at all. It’s dark, sexy, and intriguing. Everything I ask for in a book.
The reader in me sort of hated the ending of this book, but the writer in me is incredibly impressed with the balls Jaye has. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I was in complete shock. I do feel like I was left with a lot of unanswered questions that I’m not sure will be answered in the sequel. I wouldn’t call it a happily ever after, but definitely a happily for now.
Download Maahes by Emma Jaye
Please read this book at your own risk. Take the trigger warning very seriously. If you have an questions or want more spoilers, feel free to DM me on any social media platform listed below.
Trigger warning: Self Harm
I’m actually very nervous for this cover reveal because the contents of this cover may be triggering to some people. I think it’s no secret at this point that the third book is very dark. I wanted a cover and title that reflected that darkness.
This was actually the first cover I came up with for the series. All the other covers are based off of elements from this one. I knew when it finally came to life, it would be a gamble because it could trigger some people, but I think a cover like this is incredibly important.
I have tested it with many individuals, including those who have this particular trigger. They all said the same thing: they had a visceral reaction to the cover but not really a negative one. In fact, one person even said that the more she looked at it, the more beautiful it became. Honestly, that’s what this series is about. Seeing the beauty in the broken. Scars are human. They aren’t supposed to make people uncomfortable, and it’s time to realize that.
The cover isn’t graphic. There is no blood, but it does show self harm scars, so viewer discretion is advised. If this something that could trigger you, please hit the back button (and you may not want to read the series if I’m honest).
I wanted to give a special thank you to my cover artists/designers Bibi and Daria. Bibi drew the cover exactly how I envisioned, and Daria made it come to life. They’re both so amazing, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the final one.
Paradise in Death: Book Three of the Take me to Church Series is available for pre-order now (the ebook).
Avoiding Hell is getting harder and harder for Luka Thomas. Because of one boy, he teeters somewhere between salvation and falling from grace. With the looming threat of his family disowning him, every day spent with Harlan is more risky than the last.
Harlan Sharp holds secrets close to his damaged heart, but Luka makes him forget all of the pain he’s endured. Facing his struggles with trust, he is finally ready to share his story with Luka. He just hopes the outcome isn’t at a cost.
After an emotional prom night spent with Harlan, Luka makes a confession that will change his life forever. The lies he’s woven suddenly rip apart, leaving him scared and vulnerable.
Will love be enough to keep him sane during his nightmare or will he turn his back on Harlan, praying for forgiveness and salvation?
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Paradise in Death will be released on December 7th, 2021. Follow me on my social medias below for sneak peaks, give away and more.
A month ago, I signed up to receive an ARC for Willow Erdem’s upcoming book, Wilde & Twisted which will be released 7/7/2021. It is an m/m romance novel about battling your demons, discovering your sexuality and falling in love. Erdem has a poetic way of writing. She has a way with metaphors, really drawing the reader into the scene. She writes third person, split POV and present tense, which is something we seem to.
Silver-tongued lawyer, Linus Twist, has expensive tastes. The sharpest suits, the purest drugs, and the dirtiest sex; Linus wants it all in excess, especially the sex, and especially with the wrong types of men. So when he impetuously follows a foxy redhead into the gym shower and gets kissed like it means something, Linus knows he’s headed for certain disaster.
Finnigan Wilde is a dreamer, a wanna-be novelist, searching for himself. In love with the idea of love, Finn only knows what he feels. He woos Linus with lilacs, speaks to him in filthy poetry, and touches him like he doesn’t care who’s watching. But can Linus set aside his sinister tendencies, his ambition, and one vital fact: that, as far as the world is concerned, Finn is straight?
Wilde & Twisted is a bisexual-awakening, opposites-attract novel, with a happily-ever-after.
I must admit, when I first picked this book up, it took several chapters for it to really hook me. I am sincerely glad I stuck with it though because the story was worth it. At first, I didn’t like Linus (fucking) Twist at all. He was pompous, arrogant, and his actions didn’t really make sense to me. After I was finally introduced to Finn Wilde, and his character really drew me in.
Finn is an aspiring writer (relatable) who works as a trainer. He is a cupcake. That’s literally the one way he can be described. He is young and dumb, and doesn’t always make the best decisions, but who does? He is really sweet and patient. He deserves the world even though he pissed me off a few times.
Linus is a divorce attorney that is very clearly good at his job. Even though I hated him at first, he grew on me. After I started understanding his past more, I found myself forgiving of his all around asshole-ness (yes that’s totally a word). He is caring in his own way and very protective over the people he loves even though he doesn’t always know how to show it. Without spoiling it, I was very proud of a decision he made near the end. It was much needed.
This book has it all. Steam. Poetry. Fucked up, imperfectly perfect characters that you hate to love. My favorite kind of stories are about imperfect people. Real people have flaws. It’s important that they grow and own up to them in the story, which is exactly what happened. I appreciated the character growth. It was a Wilde (& Twisted) ride, but I would recommend it in the end.