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Lukas von Rainer was at the hotel bar with his fellow Wardens when the priest passed. Everyone’s eye was drawn to him, not only for the black vestments which brought out his dusky complexion and dark hair, but also for the rugged shape of his jaw and the surety of his movements.
Then, as if he’d sensed Lukas’s interest, he turned. Their eyes met, and Lukas was instantly lusting after him.
“He’s a priest, Lukas.” Olivia jabbed his arm with her elbow. “Put that tongue back in your head.”
“I bet you a hundred dollars I’ll have him in my bed by the end of the conference.”
“You go too far this time,” Jean-Claude said. His arm was around his half-incubus companion, a pretty brunette named Eugenie. “He’s a priest. Priests are celibate.”
“Most priests are celibate.”
“Merde,” Jean-Claude muttered and glowered at his wine. He turned to kiss Eugenie. “What do you say, ma petite? We find him a cambion like you and then he’ll stop his wandering ways.”
Eugenie looked Lukas up and down, then turned her lips into a pout. “I don’t think anything will stop him from wandering, though we could try…”
“We?” Jean-Claude smiled. “Oui.”
But Lukas ignored them, instead glancing up just in time to see the priest exit through the double doors leading to the conference area. “I’ll be back.”
Padre Rafael Esparza noticed the blond man following him and not trying to hide the fact he did so. Stranger still, Rafael could sense nothing from him. For a while, he ignored the man, moving from table to table to pick up his name tag and a schedule which fortunately had been translated into four different languages including Spanish.
Most of the attendees were as he’d expected, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and practitioners of every sort of healing he could imagine. This man was…different, though Rafael had learned long ago not to judge by appearances. He was in his late twenties, which made him about ten years younger than Rafael, and while he didn’t look like a man interested in alternative healing arts, the little Rafael could sense told him the man had a strong drive to aid others.
“I help you with something?” Rafael said formally in English. “You ask for confession, maybe?”
To his amusement, the blond man’s eyes widened in surprise. “I—no thanks, Father. I merely wanted to ask if you needed help finding your way around. This is my third time here and I don’t believe I’ve seen you before.”
He dressed like an American, and his speech patterns were American, but the German accent hinted at a different ancestry. “You are kind, but I am tired from travel and wish only my room.”
“I’ll help you find it. What’s the number?”
The man’s insistence annoyed Rafael. Besides, he smelled like beer and cigarette smoke, neither of which Rafael cared for. “There is a reason you wish me alone? It is a spiritual matter?”
“Forgive me, Father.” The man was instantly contrite. “I have offended you. Let me apologize by taking you to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant at, say, seven o’clock? I’ll answer any questions you have about the conference or Rome or…anything.”
The blond now intrigued him. He wanted Rafael’s company for something other than spiritual matters, and while Rafael had a guess, he wanted to wait to be certain. “I agree. The hotel restaurant. Seven o’clock.”
The man beamed, and for an instant, Rafael was taken by the roguish smile. “Thank you, Father. See you then.”
Rafael watched him leave and found himself looking forward to the night’s engagement.