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Single dad Jack Wolfe returns to his roots in Ireland after the death of his only son. There he meets lovely and feisty Cala McCoy. The two begin an endearing friendship that seems to transcended time and space. But dark forces are at work and threaten to pull the soul mates apart. Can the residents of a small Irish hamlet and an ancient ritual stop revenge from devouring Jack's soul and save a growing love, centuries in the making?
The scent of burning candles and ripe contrition layered the small-darkened space and clogged in his throat. Being here wouldn’t change his collision course with Hell. He eliminated that option the day he became a murderer. As the scratch of wood against wood took over the silence, he swallowed to clear a path for his words. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He took a shallow breath to steady his heart. “I murdered my son.”
“Jack, stop that, now!” the priest ordered in a sharp whisper.
For twenty-four years, Father Tim Sladek and Jack Wolfe had managed to keep their boyhood alliance strong until three years ago when Jack’s son, Conner, was born with truncus arteriosus, a genetic disease that devoured the heart of the developing fetus. Normally, an infant with this disease would die within a few hours of birth. Some rare cases, like Conner, survived to the ripe old age of three. During those three years, Tim had no choice but to fluctuate between friend and cleric based purely on Jack’s needs.
Then, six months ago, right after Conner’s death, Jack began to abuse their friendship by shutting both priest and friend out of his life.
Through those dark months, Jack prayed for absolution for being the one who passed the death sentence on to his child. When none came, Jack began purging himself through liquid fire. Night after night, he’d crawl inside a bottle until finally, one rainy night, he took what he thought was the only viable option he had left. Instead of finding peace, he ended up minus a car and spending the next month in rehab with a wracked up knee.
“If you’d like to talk about it, then meet me in the rectory,” Tim said in a strained voice. “Unless, of course, you’re here to actually make your confession?” There was no mistaking the familiar ring of hope in Tim’s voice.
“Confession?” Jack stirred the word through a heavy dose of sarcastic chuckling so Tim understood there wasn’t any chance of that.
“God and I haven’t come to terms with my penance yet.” Jack’s stomach clenched. How many prayers could be said to absolve a father of the murder of his child?
The rustling sound of a turning chair had Jack bracing himself for the cleric’s blast of fury. Instead, his friend’s words floated like a soft caress through the partition. “You have to stop blaming yourself for Conner’s death.”
Jack drew a long breath. “Okay, then maybe you can tell me who I should blame? Maybe Rebecca?” On a sigh, Jack uttered the name while folding it in contempt.
Tim snapped out his reply, “Someday she’ll seek God’s forgiveness for her sins.”
Jack knew that Tim the priest was talking now, even with the hint of prejudice tightening around the friend’s vocal cords.
“Sins?” Jack asked. “What sins did she commit?” He didn’t wait for Tim’s answer. “Hell, not marrying me sure wasn’t one, and neither was leaving a kid with his father.” Jack paused to take a breath. “See, no sins there.” The edge of Jack’s voice sharpened, but the cadence of his words slowed. “The way I see it, she just didn’t have enough guts to stick around till the end.”
“She’ll come to regret her decision.”
The small quiver of compassion he heard in Tim’s voice triggered Jack’s impatience. “Sure she will,” he snapped. “She’ll feel bad she missed seeing her child’s tiny blond head on that white satin pillow.”
“But she missed so many of the good times,” Tim said with an exhale. “Like Conner’s first words, his first steps, and…”
“And his last breath,” Jack said, slamming into Tim’s words. The sharp tsk of Jack’s tongue put an exclamation point before his next sentence. “So, there we have it. We’re right back to where we started. To me, the murderer.”
A scorching pain shot up from Jack’s knee into his thigh. He held his breath as the pain found its own level. To him it was only a benchmark of his eternity. That’s if those so-called “pains of Hell” weren’t just a fairy tale spewed out like all that other religious crap.
“God gave you your son for a reason.” The priest’s hushed tones broke through Jack’s thoughts. “Remember, He makes no mistakes.”
A small chuckle bubbled out a fraction before Jack’s answer. “You might be right about that, but He must’ve been napping the night I thought about running my car up the tree.”
“Thankfully, God was there. He knew full well that whiskey and wet roads never mix well with grief.”
Tim’s definition of Jack’s accident was that of a cleric, but it had all the earmarks of a devout friend. Jack took that as his cue to do what he came to do.
“I don’t want you to take this as a confession, Tim, but that rainy night, whiskey only played a minor role when I took on that tree.”
“Jack!” Tim’s voice shook with surprise.
“I’m telling you this, Tim, not God. He and I still aren’t on the best of terms.”
Jack heard the corrosive tone in his own voice, so he added, “I might’ve lost my faith in God, but not in our friendship. That’s the real reason I’m here.” Jack stretched out the end of one sentence to meet the other. “To say good-bye before I hop on that plane.”
There was no mistaking, Tim’s slow exhale marked the level of his frustration. That, coupled with the silence that grew between them, made Jack realize how much he was going to miss the man and their friendship.
Breaking the lengthy pause, Tim asked, “Will your knee be able to take that long flight over the Atlantic?”
Jack reached down to his outstretched leg and ran a grazing finger along the outer seam of his jeans. Even through the thick material, the scar ached under his delicate touch.
“In first class, Aer Lingus makes sure you’ve got enough room to stretch out.”
This time Jack didn’t even try holding back the hollow laugh that rumbled in his chest. “And hell, who knows, it just might be the pilot’s time to go.”
Tim clucked his tongue. “Jack, you are the most asinine man I know.”
“Asinine?” Jack chuckled. “In a confessional? Why Father Tim, that’s gotta be a first.”
Tim garbled out a cough that had all the ear markings of blasphemy, but in clear voice he volleyed, “Far from it, my friend. Far from it.”