Authors: Ava Lore
Copyright 2012 Ava Lore
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This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons
either living or dead is purely coincidental.
Tara Fawkes stared up at the church facade. It dominated the
skyline, huge and imposing. The statues adorning the outside might have looked
judgmental to a stranger, but to Tara she finally felt a sense of relief,
though it ran in tandem with apprehension. Tonight she was going back out on
the streets. Tonight she was going full circle. Tonight she was wrapping up her
unfinished business. They said that God never closed a door without opening a
window, and while she didn't believe in God, she was ready to close a door
forever. She wanted that window.
Running up the steps, Tara shook her hand out of the pocket
of her heavy winter coat and placed her gloved fingers against the great wooden
doors. Even through the thick soft fleece she felt the chill of the day, and it
was going to get worse. Night was falling on Baltimore, and there was work to
Pushing the door open, Tara stepped inside the church and
breathed deeply. The smell of incense and burned candles met her nose, acrid
and familiar. Just like all those years ago when she first came to the church,
though back then the scent had seemed cloying, suffocating her where she stood.
Not that it mattered, of course. Back then, her whole life had wrapped around
her neck, weighing her down, wringing the very breath from her, so the smell of
the church had been a minor annoyance at best. Now, however, it comforted her.
And stirred memories.
She hadn't been back for almost four years, but in her
chest, her heart skipped a beat, and for a moment Tara found herself huddling
into her coat, fear and doubt curdling in her stomach. Then it retreated as
quickly as it had come on—just a ghost of her old self, passing her by.
Squaring her shoulders, Tara swallowed, then nodded to the
statue of Mary as she passed through the vestibule before slipping into the
sanctuary. Stone walls loomed above her, and the windows, stained with color,
filtered the last of the dying winter light through them. It was supposed to
snow tonight, and Tara felt the oppressive weight of the ice-filled clouds
When she was younger...
But that was then.
Taking off her gloves, she rubbed her hands together and
peered around. "Hello?" she called. "Father MacEnroe?"
A rustle and footsteps off to her right. Tara turned.
Her heart stopped.
Piercing green eyes set in a chiseled face regarded her from
the doorway leading off the side of the sanctuary, back into the church
offices. Brown hair, always messy because, as she recalled, he never stopped
running his hands through it, fell in thick dark locks against a clerical
collar. For a moment she thought he didn't recognize her. Then his full mouth
broke into a brilliant smile.
Her heart ached.
"Tara?" he said.
"Father," she breathed. She broke, running across
the stone floor and flinging herself into his arms. "Father!"
He laughed, his deep voice resonating through her as he
picked her up and swung her around—a little different now that she was a
well-fed twenty three instead of drugged-out eighteen, but thrilling all the
same. "Sweet mother Mary," he said, setting her down. "Let me
look at you."
She stood dutifully before him, though her cheeks hurt from
grinning so much. He looked just as beautiful now as he did when she had first
met him. Even more so, actually, because now she knew what he was capable of.
Now she was one of his flock, if not in the strictest sense of the word, then
in the most important sense. Without Father Michael, she'd be dead. Or worse.
She would do anything he asked. Even swallow her most secret feelings. She owed
him. She owed him so much...
Oblivious to the buried turmoil she barely let herself feel,
Michael placed his hands on her shoulders and looked her up and down. "My
goodness, you've... grown," he said. "And you grew your hair back
Suddenly shy, Tara reached up and touched the long blonde
locks that had taken almost three years to stabilize. "Yeah," she
said. "The half-shaved look just wasn't...me, anymore."
He regarded her seriously. "It suits you," he said
solemnly. "I'm so glad to see you."
"I'm glad to see you, too," she replied.
They stared at one another for a long moment before Father
Michael coughed, and they both took a step back, as though through unspoken
"So," Tara said. "What are we doing
Father Michael took a deep breath. "Going straight out
onto the streets," he said. "Bringing hot food, hot drinks. Blankets
Tara raised an eyebrow. "Condoms?" she asked.
He nodded. "Those, too. But that's our little
secret," he said. "No telling."
She nodded. She'd heard through the grapevine that Father
Michael got in trouble with his superiors for handing out condoms to the ladies
of the Baltimore night, but she knew he wouldn't back down. When she'd met him,
he'd offered them to her, too.
The heat of the summer night lay against her skin, the
air thick with water from the harbor. A trickle of sweat wended its way down
her collarbone, dipping between her breasts as Tara let her hips sway, her ass
jiggle, each bounce of her body belying the gnawing hunger in her belly, the
ache in her head. She needed food. She needed dope. Her shoes—one dollar high
heels she found at the goodwill—let everyone know what she was advertising.
Tonight was the night. No turning back now.
A car pulled up beside her. Her face was numb as she
plastered a smile on it and stopped, turning to greet her first customer ever.
He was beautiful. So beautiful she almost didn't notice
the clerical collar, but she didn't let it faze her. His cheekbones highlighted
green eyes so intense she thought she might pass out. He couldn't have been
more than thirty. She was lucky. So, so lucky.
“Looking for a date?” she said. Her voice came out
strained, but she thrust her breasts out and pretended she knew what she was
doing. Fake it til you make it. Yeah.
His voice reached out and wrapped around her. Sensuous
and sultry in the late hours. She could have straddled that voice and ridden it
She got in.
The atmosphere in the car was heavy. She found it hard to
breathe. Next to her, the priest was a gargantuan presence, a weight in the
world, and she knew she was falling toward him, helpless to resist his pull.
She would fuck him tonight. She would suck his cock. She
would do anything he wanted.
And he'd give her that fix that made it all go away.
“You seem young,” he said after a moment.
“I'm legal,” she said, staring at the rosary hanging from
the rearview mirror. A Catholic priest. Naughty. “Twenty for a bj, more if you
He was quiet. The engine idled. She forced herself to
meet his eyes, to study his handsome face. This was her fate. This was where it
ended, just like her mother always told her, just like she knew it would when
she left home two years ago.
His green eyes shone, and her heart stuttered and died in
her chest, a thousand times over.
“You're new,” he said at last.
She swallowed. “So?”
His clothes rubbed against the upholstery, a rough,
cotton sound that grated on her ears like sandpaper. She turned to stone as he
reached over, his body drawing closer and closer to her.
Then he popped the glove compartment, and a long string
of condoms fell into his hand. He held them out to her, and when she didn't
take them he gently took her hand and placed them in it. His fingers were warm,
dry, calloused. They brushed against the sensitive valley of her palm. Tickled.
Danced. As though she were a regular girl, with desires and needs, her body
responded to his touch.
It frightened her.
“You'll need these,” he was saying, “if you mean to go
through with it,” It took her a moment to realize he had spoken. His voice was
Tara stared incredulously at the condoms. He'd seen right
“I can get you off the streets, if you want.”
What she wanted to do was to scream. She wanted to throw
them back in his face. Wanted to break down into tears and hope he'd hold her.
He didn't know her, didn't know anything about her. She
couldn't let them find her, and she knew he would fuck it up. There
nowhere else. Nowhere to be safe. Nowhere to be calm. The only thing that made
her push forward were the drugs, and now that prospect was dimming with every
second spent in this junker of a car. "Aren't I going to go to hell if I
use these?" she snapped at him, sarcasm dripping from her words.
"No," he said. "You'll die if you don't."
"I'm gonna die anyway," she said, recklessly.
Turning, she put her hand on the car door, but gentle fingers on her arm
stopped her. "What?" she snarled, turning on him like a wounded
animal. "A girl's gotta work."
He stared at her. His face, lovely in the light, like an
angel. When she saw the guys most girls went home with she could barely repress
a shudder. This man, though...it wouldn't have been so bad. He would have been
a gentle introduction into the trade.
She should have known better. It was going to take her
another week—or more—to work up the courage to try again.
His green eyes shone in the light of the streetlamps, and
his face studied hers. He looked so sad, watching her.
Deep inside, his sorrow struck a chord, plucked a heart
string. In her breast, there was an answering sorrow, so deep she lost her
breath, and she wanted to hide her face in shame.
"Here," he said, pulling a card out of the
pocket of his black shirt. "Please, take this. Come by the church if you
need anything. If I'm not there, I'm out here."
"Whatever," she snapped. "I'm out of
"God keep you," he said.
She slammed the door behind her and stormed off down the
street. In her hand, the card crumpled into sharp corners, cutting against her
skin as she balled it up and threw it into the street.
The memory feathered against her, bringing a fresh flush of
shame, even though Michael had told her there was no shame in suffering.
Whatever she had done, she did to survive, even—and this always surprised
her—the drugs. They had been a tool, he told her. Anesthesia for the soul. Just
as the shock of surgery could kill you if you weren't properly sedated, so
could the open wounds of the heart.
Sometimes, you needed to be numb to survive, and you used
whatever tools were at hand.
Now, five years down the road, Tara thought she was getting
closer to finding peace. Instead of living on the streets, she was in college,
studying sociology. If it hadn't been for Father Michael, she probably would
have died of a drug overdose before she was twenty.
Now, tonight, she was going out on the streets again, this
time as Father Michael's companion, to help him minister to the prostitutes of
Baltimore. Although minister didn't really seem like the right word... Help,
perhaps? He helped. Small ways and big ways. Fresh clean needles, condoms, hot
food and hot drinks on the cold nights, winter clothes, though of course you
could never cover up too much or no one would know what you were selling.
Standing out in the cold, half-frozen... she remembered those days. And if a
girl wanted off the streets, she had only to ask.
So few of them did, though. She was one of the only success
stories. Sometimes she wondered what had made her special enough to escape. She
hadn't deserved it at all.
Pressing her lips together, Tara lifted her chin.
Father Michael reached out, one large, warm hand alighting
on the sleeve of her coat. Tara imagined she could feel its heat through her
clothes. "You don't have to do this tonight," he said. "The
destitute will always be with us. You can leave if you like."