Please Note: Though this book is not classified as erotica, it does involve the following subject matters/topics/ideals, which may be offensive to some audiences: religion – particularly the Catholic faith as it pertains to priesthood. It also includes detailed sexual and intimate depictions of a consenting couple and a host of situations that are adult in nature. This book is not intended to encourage or discourage those in the Catholic faith. It is a love story that deals with the human experience in its totality.
Father Dane Caruso has been a priest for seven and a half years and certain of his affirmation to help the Catholic Church and preach the Word of God. He was the person everyone called on during a crisis or emotional devastation — Dane was everyone’s rock. However, all that came into question after the death of a dear friend. Dane begins to look at his life and do some soul searching, revisiting situations and monsters from the past that continue to rear their heads in his time of need and spiritual upheaval. He seeks relief in unconventional things, his flesh forcing him to make choices that he knows are not healthy. Trying to get back on track, he goes to a local park, one of his all-time favorites, and sits and simply thinks, day after day, trying to heal a broken heart.
As he continues to visit the park for peace of mind and solace, he can’t help but notice a beautiful Bohemian woman. She more than catches his eye, arousing feelings in him he’d suppressed since he entered the priesthood. He can’t get her out of his mind, and though he can’t put his finger on it, she appears familiar to him. She is practically his polar opposite, yet the two forge a friendship built on humor, respect and admiration. However, the struggle soon ensues once Dane realizes he likes her to be more than just a friend, and he has to make serious choices that could affect so many people who love and depend on him.
He is at a crossroads — does he give up the priesthood to be with her, or forge ahead, forgetting about Lotus, the angelic songbird that floated right into his heart…
FORGIVE ME FATHER FOR I HAVE LOVED by TIANA LAVEEN
He looked back at her, and their eyes met.
“Rhapsody.” He licked his bottom lip and turned away again, then turned back, his eyes hooded. “I like you…a lot,” he finally said.
His voice sounded so deep, it made her throat vibrate. She could see he was shopping for words, trying to purchase the best that subtle money could buy. He swallowed. “Are you uncomfortable with my vocation? I want you to feel comfortable around me…”
“I’m not, I mean,” she laughed, “I’m not uncomfortable with you being a priest.”
“Are you uncomfortable with me being, well…me?” He touched his chest, his fingers spread across it.
“I don’t know all the specifics of your beliefs. I just know what mine are.” He pointed to his heart. “But, I know God brings everyone into our life for a reason and I think…I think I’m supposed to learn something from you and not only that, I’ll be honest, your song was good, but more importantly, it was true, and that’s okay. That’s good, actually.”
“It was beautiful. Your voice…” he shook his head in disbelief, “it just amazes me. The way you play, you’re so gifted.”
He’s getting closer…
He leaned toward her, their bodies almost touching. And there it was—he smelled of incense, second hand cigarette smoke and leather…and she liked it.
“Don’t thank me, I just am telling you what you know is right. You have the gift of musical ministry, Rhapsody.”
Taken aback, she rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest, wincing.
“Is this the part where you try to convert me? You heard me singing and think you have a new choir director now? It all makes sense.” She laughed huskily, a part of her really believing that may now be the motivation. As she stiffened, she felt him gently run his hand over her arm, and gasped when his fingers intertwined with hers.
“No, not at all.” His voice deepened as he looked so intensely into her eyes, she barely had room the breathe.
Oh my God…what is he doing?!
She watched him cock his head slightly to the right and stare down at her lips. They were so close, the tip of his nose brushed against hers.
Please…don’t…please…don’t…you’ll regret it, Dane…Please…don’t…
Warm air from his nostrils tickle her upper lip and his breathing accelerated as he gently pushed her back against the wall. Keeping his fingers linked with hers, only a bit tighter, he stood with her, simply quiet. Time and space had frozen while his gaze fixed on her, his lips parted—the gaze of a lover just before kissing his woman.
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed deeply. After a while, the tension subsided and he relaxed his fingers around hers, lessening the grip, although he didn’t seem to want to. Taking a half step back, he stood in front of her so she saw the want in his smoldering blue eyes, now with twinkles of silver. He hadn’t done it, but his intention was clear and she felt warm as she studied him, for he didn’t look guilty at all. Not with the smile he was just giving her.
She smiled and shook her head slowly, placing her hand on her hip.
“Are you sure you’re a priest?” she joked, causing them both to laugh. “Damn,” she said under her breath.
He put his hands on his hips and looked toward the street as if he were waiting for someone—or something—to save him from himself.
“Yes, I’m sure. Look,” he sighed as he turned back toward her, “I don’t know all the dynamics of what is going on between us right now.” He ruffled his hair with a rough hand, but didn’t seem to care. Avoiding her gaze, he seemed to be processing his thoughts into words. “I think…I need to be honest and admit to you that I’m wrestling with a lot of stuff right now.”
“And obviously, based on the song, you already knew that but…I’m attracted to you, too, Rhapsody.” He now looked squarely at her. Her body relaxed but her heart beat faster. “I’ve always been, ever since high school. Not just physically, okay? I’m feeling things for you…feelings I’ve never felt before, well, not in many, many years.” He laughed. “My original thought, once I confirmed it this evening was…”
“Yes, I suspected my feelings were changing for you, but I guess I was still making excuses for it, for me.” He pointed to his chest. “Making excuses for what was happening inside of me, but not anymore.” He paused. “So here is what’s going on…I’m a priest,” he said, pressing his palm against his chest.
“Yes, we’ve established that.” They both laughed.
“But…I am still Dane. I have feelings, I get lonely, I notice women, but this is different, like I told you. I haven’t succumbed to any temptations, and honestly, I say to you with a straight face, I’ve never been tempted this way before since I took my vows…”
“I’m a temptation?” She crossed her legs and rocked from side to side, trying to stifle a grin.
He rolled his eyes at her and sucked his teeth. “You know that you are…” Taking a deep breath, he went on, “So, I have some choices to make, and so do you. We can try to see what happens or go our separate ways. But, before you make your choice, let me make this clear,” his voice dropped lower as his eyes narrowed in on her, “I want you. I want…I want someone to go to dinner with…but not just anyone. It has to be you, Rhapsody. I want to hold your hand at the movies…” He huffed in frustration, turning in a circle as he rubbed his forehead, before facing her again. “Not just sit there and laugh and wave good-bye afterwards. I want to be more than just your friend…”
Lonely, like me. He has all those people around him, people that are obsessed with him, no doubt…people that think he is a saint…but he is still so very lonely. Rhapsody, you’ve got a priest baring his soul to you. Mama always told you that you were trouble.
This man was falling to pieces in front of her…
“I want to take you out, on real dates, to concerts, just like the ones we talked about, the singers that inspired you. I want be right next to you, as so much more, Rhapsody. I,” he turned in exasperation, “I don’t want to be Fr. Dane to you, I want to just be Dane. I live in a parish. I have dinner with men almost every single night, men that I love and see like fathers, grandfathers, brothers and uncles…but, I don’t know…” He raised his hands in frustration. “I’ve honestly, Rhapsody, never felt compelled to seek the private companionship of a woman until you came into my life.”
It took all of her to keep her budding smile at bay.
“I am saying it again, because I feel you need to hear it, to understand. I’ve never, since being a priest, thought I might be missing out on something. Something about you,” he shook his head and briefly turned away, “I just need to find out more…”
Rhapsody, do the right thing. You want him, you do, but this isn’t right…
“Well, in all honestly, Dane, that’s heavy and I don’t—” She turned away trying to find a focal point, anything but those damned, intense blue eyes as he drilled double holes inside of her soul. “I don’t want to be the cause of you having any trouble or guilt, okay? I don’t have the same beliefs as you, let’s just get that out the gate.” She gave a nervous chuckle. “Not only that, I don’t go to church regularly and don’t want to. I have to be honest. I don’t see how you can accept me like this? Not believing as you do, as strongly as you do.”
He cupped his chin, listening intently. He didn’t appear the least bit upset; matter of fact, he looked more connected and confident as each millisecond passed. His expression made her stomach jump.
“I mean, I find you attractive,” she offered. “I already admitted that. I’m not trying to be responsible, though, for bringing a damn priest to his knees, excuse my language.”
“There’s nothing to excuse,” he said, looking at the ground.
“Dane, look.” She took a step toward him, placed her hand on his shoulder. “I know you’re lonely, but…I’m not the answer.” It took everything inside of her to utter the lie. She knew she was falling for him, but she couldn’t let him do this. The golden cross across his chest kept glimmering under the street lights, reminding her who the man worked for when those damned blue eyes had almost hypnotized her into a world of amnesia.
“You think this is just about loneliness? Really?!” He turned away from her and gave a sarcastic laugh, then threw her a glare, looking so mad it sent a shiver up her spine.
“I am fully aware that we don’t have the same beliefs. I knew that the moment after we had our first conversation. We are different, I get it. I could see the dissimilarities the first time I noticed you in the park, Rhapsody. You wear Egyptian and African adornments, sing out loud like a one-woman concert, have a contagious laugh, and you don’t care who hears you. You’re a mover and a shaker, daring to be you. I’m not an idiot, give me some credit here! Just like you know who I am, based on that little number you pulled tonight, I know who you are as well.”
Dane had managed to do the unthinkable. Render Rhapsody speechless.
“There are many things different about us. Some of those differences are obvious, some, not so much.” His eyes narrowed. “But we have far more in common and an ability to help one another. The best relationships are built on friendship, and just that, differences, just enough, so that each person can learn from one another and grow. I don’t want a carbon copy of me! I’m not even,” he said, his voice escalating—frustrated. “I’m not even sure what the hell is going on here! But I do know one thing,” he held his index finger up toward the sky, “I am certain about you, about how I feel. There are only two people that matter right now, me and you…”