Once and Again by M.S. Kaye
Release Date: 06/19/2014
contemporary inspirational romance
length: 26000 words/novella
cover art by Celia Kyle/Winterheart Designs
On her deathbed, Aiden’s mother asks him to find his father, who had left them and disappeared thirteen years ago, shortly after Aiden’s brother died. While searching the roughest area of Baltimore, Aiden meets Maylynn. After eight years of seminary and one year of priesthood, Aiden had thought he was capable of seeing beautiful women in only a platonic way. But Maylynn proves to be too difficult.
Seven years later, Maylynn shows up on Father Aiden’s doorstep for a premarital counseling session with her fiancé. Aiden soon realizes something is wrong, more than just his constant struggle against his attraction—Maylynn and her fiancé, Davis, are hiding something from him.
He knelt at his mother’s deathbed. The doctor said it was a matter of hours. He prayed with her—she’d reverted to Spanish, and he’d followed her lead.
She touched his arm, and her voice was weak and raspy. “I’m not in pain. No need to talk to God so much—I’m going to see him in a little while.”
He knew that was supposed to comfort him. He leaned forward and rested his forehead on her delicate hand. “I’m praying for strength for me, not you.”
She moved her hand, and he let her lift his chin. “You’re a strong man. I couldn’t be prouder.” She sighed as her hand fell back to the mattress and the blanket she’d brought with her from Mexico. “My only regret is that I never had grandchildren.”
He lowered his gaze. He’d taken his vows a year ago, and had spent eight years before that in seminary. He’d hoped she’d let go of the dream of grandchildren by now.
“Aiden,” she said.
He looked up.
“You’ve made noble choices.”
He nodded. Being noble certainly wasn’t the reason he’d chosen to serve God. There were too many reasons to articulate, most of which his mother didn’t know.
“I just…” She took a labored breath.
He shifted to stand, to try to help, to anything.
She lifted her hand, barely off the blanket, and he settled back into his kneeling position.
She rested her frail hand on his. “I wanted you to have a family. Siblings, nieces and nephews…a father.”
“You’ve always been all the family I need.”
Her voice barely made sound. “But I’m leaving you.”
He said nothing. The church was also his family, but he knew he would likely never heal after losing his mother. Like he’d never healed after losing his brother, or watching his father walk out on them.
She turned her head a few inches—the tendons in her neck strained.
He knew what she was looking at. He reached across her, took her left hand, and brushed his thumb over her engagement ring and wedding band.
She kept looking at the rings.
His father left them thirteen years ago, after Aiden’s little brother died in a hunting accident. Aiden’s mother had never seen other men, or taken off her wedding band. Aiden used to wonder if her loyalty stemmed from how his father took her out of poverty and brought her to America, but he knew now that she simply loved him that much. If she could live with him in a shack back in Guadalajara, she would.
“I want you to find him.”
Aiden looked up. She was still looking at her rings.
Then she met his eyes. “I’ve been looking.”
“I think I’m getting close. Or I suspect.”
“Mamà, why didn’t you tell me?”
She hesitated. “You would’ve worried.”
His back straightened. It’d been a long time since he’d felt this protective aggression flood his body, not since his days in the Marines.
His voice was level and low. “Why would I have worried?”
She squeezed his hand. Her grip was weak, and yet her hand shook as if she was holding as tightly as she could.
Aiden focused on relaxing his frame. This could be his last conversation with his mother. She’d always been there, always supported him. “I’ll do anything you ask me,” he said.
She smiled a little, and he realized she was straining just to do that.
“It’s okay, Mamà. Relax.”
“I am,” she murmured. “Too much.”
He stood and leaned over her. He touched her cheek, skin paler than he’d ever seen it. She was usually golden, sunny.
“Not yet,” he whispered. “Please not yet.”
She took a halted breath.
“I love you,” she barely forced out. “My dear son.”
Her eyes fell shut, like how the sun falls behind the ocean.
His heart seemed to stop in his chest.
She’d made him promise to let her pass at home, not to fight it. Her disease was too strong. He knew he couldn’t save her, but he didn’t know how to just stand here.
Looking at her limp frame.
He knelt at her bedside for a long time, holding her hand. He prayed for her soul, asked God to take care of her, and asked for strength to get through this.
With shaking hands, he anointed her skin with perfumed oil and completed the last rites.
It took all his strength to make the call—to have her taken away.