The final book in The Mate Games series.
Temptation, thy name is Sunday Fallon, and I am done resisting. Once upon a time I’d been a priest, but she’d made a sinner of me and now I welcomed damnation.
She’d always been my destiny. The woman whose life was tied to mine. I just hadn’t planned on falling in love and being forced to choose between my vows and my soul.
No matter how deep my connection to her ran, I had a greater purpose I was meant to serve. And now that she was carrying the Harbinger of the Apocalypse–the result of our passion–I had to get her away from the rest of them.
Her god of mischief.
Her devoted wolf.
Her dark prince.
She belongs to me…Her twisted captor.
If she’ll let me, I’ll keep her. Hide her from everyone and everything that means to destroy her. Stop what’s coming and make her mine forever. Because Sunday Fallon is more than temptation. She’s my new religion.
I’ve made my choice. This time I will not falter. I will worship at her altar and forsake all others. No matter the consequence.
The seals are broken.
Armageddon is coming.
And I’m ready for War.
Warning: This book is not for the faint of heart. It contains an obsessive stalker, a foul-mouthed, inked and pierced werewolf, a naughty professor with a fondness for watching, a god of mischief, and plenty of heat. If you don’t like your books spicy, your men broody, built, and more bad than good, this is not the series for you. But if you do…read on, and welcome to The Mate Games.
Authors’ Note: Please refer to the authors’ website for all content tags and warning.
I stood, my head swimming with the euphoric rush of all that came to pass this day. My congregation, perhaps small in number to some, had shown up in droves to welcome me back to the island. This time as their priest.
My eyes landed on the small statue of Christ behind the altar as I made the sign of the cross and turned to walk down the aisle. As I moved along, my hand passed lightly over the age-worn wood of the pews, smooth and cool beneath my palm. Once again, nostalgia slammed into me, memories crowding my mind. These were the same benches I’d sat on as a child, restless and eager to run about with my friends and siblings. Knowing if I set a toe out of line, I’d have to face the wrath of my mam and her wooden spoon. How times had changed.
As I passed through the arched doors, the bell chimed, signaling the top of the hour, and in this case, the sunset. I surveyed the grounds as I took my time, drinking it all in.
The garden was overrun, and the chapel had seen better days. The whitewashed clapboard was dark with mud and rotten in places from neglect. The many stained glass windows hadn’t been washed in years, muting any sunlight that bravely attempted to trickle in.
But the people weren’t to be blamed for the unkempt state of their church. Five years had passed since influenza had ravaged our island, taking many, my family included, not even sparing our pastor. There hadn’t been a new one to care for this place since. The few surviving priests had been needed in the bigger cities where the parishioners were plentiful. This was the first time there’d been enough new clergy to meet the demands of the people. Which is why I was here now. It’d be my honor to restore this holy sanctuary to its once pristine glory.
I tilted my head back as the bell rang out with its final peal, my gaze traveling to the iron cross standing on the top of the steeple that my father had crafted over a decade ago.
It was good to be home.
Surveying the garden, I bent to pull a few of the weeds I could see in the dying light of day, already forming a plan to clean this up and help it thrive.
“Oh, Father Gallagher, you shouldn’t be lowering yourself to dig in the dirt. Not after such a beautiful service today.” Maureen O’Shanahan bustled her way down the stairs after locking the church doors. “I can arrange for a few of my children to come tend the garden in the morning. Lord knows they need something to keep their hands busy.”
I smiled at the woman who’d already made herself invaluable to me. “Thank you, Maureen, but I’m perfectly capable of pulling weeds. After all, this is my home as much as it is yours. There’s no job too low for one of God’s servants. We are tasked with caring for all of His creations.”
She beamed at me. “Look at you. Your mam would be so proud to know her eldest took after her. What a scandal that was. The would-be nun and the carpenter.” Her eyes twinkled as she spoke of years-old gossip, but the light in her eyes dimmed as she turned to the small cottage on the hillside. “They were a beautiful pair. God rest their souls.”
My heart sank as I followed her gaze. The windows of my family home, the one I’d helped my father build, were dark and cold now instead of filled with the glow of life and happiness. “This plague took so many and spared so few. We must do our best to be worthy in their absence.”
Her lower lip trembled as she took in a ragged breath. “When I think of your wee brothers and sisters . . .”
I placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, forcing myself not to relive the moment I came out of my influenza-induced fever dreams and realized my whole family had died. “Let us not dwell on the past, but look to the future we are building.”
She sniffled loudly. “Yes. You’re right, of course.” Pulling a handkerchief from her bag, she dabbed her eyes and then blew her nose. “We’re blessed to have you.”
“And I you.”
Her sunny smile returned at that. “Well, I’ll leave you to your settling, and I’ll be back in the morning for confession.” She batted her teary eyes at me. “Five years is a long time to go without. I hope you’re ready, Father Gallagher. The people will be lined up around the church waiting to unburden themselves.”
“I can’t wait.”
She snickered, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “Tell me, Father. Is the listening as exciting as I imagine it would be?”
I pretended to lock my lips, unable to keep the smile off my face.
“Good man, you are.”
She walked away, leaving me with the looming figure of the church as my only companion. I wasn’t ready to end my day yet. It didn’t seem possible to finally have something I’d worked for be real. Not after everything had been taken from me. But God had His plan, and I was His humble servant. I had to follow where He led.
Pulling the heavy keys from my pocket, I returned to the church doors, wanting one final moment of quiet reflection before supper. I wasn’t without options, thanks to my parishioners and their many generous offerings. If the housewives of this island were any indication, I’d be well-fed, and gluttony would be my first sin.
I walked silently, my footsteps barely more than a whisper over the weathered floorboards as I lit a few candles to cast the interior in a soft glow. When I reached the pulpit, I moved to stand behind it, glancing down at the notes from my earlier homily with amusement. What a pretentious arse I could be.
The creak of the door opening had me glancing up, a smile on my face. “Forget something, Maureen?”
Instead of the short but fiery redhead, I found a tall, statuesque woman staring me down, her skin an eerily pale white, eyes a shade of green I’d never seen before. Her long dark hair fell in wild, tumbling curls to her waist. Strange for the fashion of this village. Women here wore their hair pinned back, out of the way, because they needed to be able to work. This was an extravagance.
“My apologies. I thought you were my secretary.”
She smiled, her beauty startling and unnerving all at once. I gripped the pulpit hard enough that my knuckles turned white.
“Father, I hope I’m not too late to make my confession.”
Technically confession was at a set time every day to help prevent these impositions on my personal time, but I couldn’t turn her away. These people had been without for so long; the least I could do was sit and offer her absolution.
“Of course not, my child. Please come in.”
That smile again. As though she had a secret she’d never share with me. “Thank you.”
“What is your name?”
“Aisling O’Connor. And you’re Father Caleb Gallagher, the talk of the town. The prodigal son returned.”
She practically glided across the floor as she approached me, ignoring the confessional booth, her focus trained on my eyes.
“Aisling . . . Shall we continue our conversation in the confessional?”
Her palm was on my chest before I could blink, alarm bells ringing in my head. “No, Father. I don’t think so.”
“What are you playing at?” I gripped her wrist, trying to keep her from touching me.
“Immortality.” She licked her lower lip, then bared her teeth at me, fangs glinting in the candlelight.
This had to be a trick. A hallucination left over from the nightmares that plagued me since my illness.
“The only immortality I seek is given by the Lord Almighty.”
“Aren’t you precious,” she breathed, her eyes taking on a feral glow. “I think I’m going to keep you. I’ve always wanted a priest for my collection.”
I backed away, but she gripped my shirt, and try as I might, I couldn’t break her hold. “Release me.”
“I think not. My, my, I had no idea priests could be so . . . handsome. Tell me, Father, are you as hard everywhere?” She slid her free hand between my legs, cupping me, making my stomach turn.
“This is a house of God. You are not welcome here if you mean to defile it.”
“I mean to defile you. Now you have one more chance to come willingly. I can make it feel so nice, Father. So nice indeed.”
Her grin turned wicked, her eyes hardening. “Wrong answer. Now I’m going to make it hurt.”
Before I could move, her eyes bore into mine, and I felt as if I was falling.
“Stand very still. I’m going to make you mine now, Caleb. And then you’ll never tell me no again. But I’ll punish you for that later.”
I heard her words as if they were floating down through water. I didn’t want to obey, but my body was locked in place. Held captive by her evil spell. Panic and fear raced through my blood as half-formed prayers flitted through my mind. Father, please. Save me. Do not let her do this to me.
With fingers cold as death, she traced the line of my collar. A sneer curled her upper lip as she tore the white band off my throat and tossed it to the floor. “I bet you’re going to be the sweetest I’ve ever had. I can smell your virgin blood thrumming through your veins.” She inhaled deeply and let out a shuddering, sensual moan. “I’ll take that too. You’ll be mine in every sense of the word.”
“No,” I whispered, fighting through whatever spell she’d put me under.
Her low chuckle was the last thing I heard before she struck. Fangs I’d tried to deny existed ripped through my flesh and sank deep into my neck.
I floated on a sea of pain and despair as darkness clouded my vision. I think I screamed, but I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t aware of much of anything outside the agony of her bite. Just as suddenly, she released me. I sagged to the ground, my legs incapable of keeping me upright after losing so much blood.
She followed me down, red smears obscenely decorating her face as she bit into her wrist and held it up to my lips. “Your turn.”
I tried to turn my face away, my gaze landing on my collar, now splattered with crimson drops of my blood.
“Eternal life, Caleb. Exactly what your god promised you.”
Everything around me went gray, the world turning cold as my life bled from me and into the old bones of the church. Then her blood slipped into my now open mouth, and all I knew was darkness.
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