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Hot Under His Collar



   MOST PEOPLE MADE THE mistake of assuming that Sasha Finerghty was a nice girl. This was understandable because she tried to be kind to others, but she’d quit trying to be nice about a year ago. Before that, she’d always followed her mother Moira Finerghty’s rules for comportment for girls. First, one must always be pleasing to the eye. Keep ugly emotions, dark circles, and pimples well-concealed, and—most important—never do anything that could cause Moira a moment of embarrassment in front of the Ladies Auxiliary Board.

   That last one was the kicker. Moira was embarrassed by anything that didn’t fit her extremely precise and exacting—yet constantly shifting—standards for behavior. Moira believed that not only was perfection possible, it was the least her daughters could do for her.

   Of course, she still looked the part of “one of those nice Finerghty girls.” She was all perfectly pressed sheath dresses and Mary Jane heels with no scuffs. And she never told anyone that she had started experimenting with simple carbohydrates, sleeping until noon, and binge-watching Lucifer all day.

   That would be like a fluffy black kitten going around and telling everyone that she was a ferocious panther. No one would believe her. Even her best friend, Hannah, didn’t know the depths of her depravity and thought of Sasha as some sort of stalwart moral compass.

   If it was improper, untoward, fun, or her mother would think her lax-in-morals for it, she wanted it. And the list of what her mother thought to be depraved was legion: white after Labor Day, black panties, red panties—anything involving panties, really—dark nail polish, cursing, drinking, smoking pot, and even thinking about having sex outside the confines of a heterosexual marital union blessed by the Holy Church in Rome.

   Sasha had come by her taste for the taboo quite honestly—given the propensity of children to rebel against their parents—but had learned to keep it under wraps because it made her life easier.

   Forbidden fruit would be Sasha’s downfall. And it would come either in the form of mangoes, which would give her anaphylactic shock, or the insane amount of lust she felt every time she laid eyes on Father Patrick Dooley.

   It didn’t matter if he was all the way across the sanctuary of St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church, and she was working to make sure that flower girls, bridesmaids, and the bride walked down the aisle on cue while simultaneously ensuring that the caterer had shown up at the reception venue.

   Every time she saw Patrick Dooley, she went wobbly-kneed and flushed. There was something about the way the candlelight glinted off the strands of his jet-black hair and made his green eyes look almost otherworldly. The lilt of his voice as he said the introductory rites caused her to feel indecent things—as though he were whispering dirty nothings right in her ear.

   The first time they’d met, her best friend had prepared her.

   “He’s a total Father What-a-Waste,” Hannah had said.

   Sasha hadn’t really taken her seriously. “Oooh, I haven’t seen one of those in the wild for a very long time.”

   Hannah had the last laugh when Sasha’s throat had dried out and she’d muttered a hello and made a beeline for the bar when introduced to the man. She—who had been a debutante—lost all sense of manners when she met that man.

   Father What-a-Waste didn’t come close to encapsulating Patrick Dooley. He had vitality coming out of his pores. The way he smiled and looked everyone directly in the eye as though they were the most important people in the world was captivating.

   Sasha didn’t know why he’d become a priest, and none of their mutual friends had shared. She didn’t dare ask, because she didn’t want to seem too curious about the man. But she couldn’t stop imagining the scenarios. And every time she’d seen a hot priest on screen—not that she’d started seeking them out or anything—she’d superimposed Patrick’s face on them in her mind.

   She’d never had a thing for a full-on priest before, and it was extremely taboo, even for her. More mortifying than the fact that she had a crush on him was that their friends had noticed her crush, despite her best efforts to hide it. Her best efforts weren’t very good, apparently.

   It was rather annoying, given that she’d recently decided not to covet unavailable men. Aside from being deeply sinful in this case, it was not going to get her any closer to being married. She’d often tried to tell herself that there really wasn’t anything about Father Patrick’s hair, or his eyes, or the craggy dimples in his clean-shaven cheeks that was so much more handsome than every other man she’d ever met. But that was a lie. It was that he was the epitome of unobtainable, and the taboo of it gave her a kind of rush she couldn’t get from overindulging in reality television and pastries. Definitely not from any of the perfectly blah men she’d met on the three dating apps she was currently juggling like a part-time job.

   But she had to learn to ignore it if she wanted to get married and have a family. That was something she wanted that she could actually have. And it didn’t matter whether she could summon even a scintilla of the passion aroused by Father Patrick Dooley’s wedding homily or the frisson of something she felt whenever he looked at her, even though he barely looked at her.

   She only wanted him with the heat of a thousand suns because (a) he was a priest, and therefore she could never have him, and (b) even if he wasn’t a priest, he wouldn’t acknowledge her existence.

   It was just like her first real crush—Jake Sanders in the sixth grade. He was the cutest guy in school, but he persistently ignored her batting her eyelashes and dropping things in front of him. She’d even baked him cookies on his birthday. He’d pointedly thrown them in the trash, and somehow it had only made her want him more.

   And her crush on Patrick was eerily reminiscent of her lusty imaginings about her first-year English professor—a Canadian former professional hockey player with a rakish scar from a split lip to show for it. And the way he talked about books by old, dead, cis white men made them seem almost interesting at the time.

   Patrick made God seem more interesting than all the Catholic schoolteachers, theology professors, elderly Fathers, and relatively nubile seminarians she’d met in her whole life had.

   It was a miracle that she made it through the ceremony without interrupting the proceedings with an audible, wistful sigh. She knew she’d made cow eyes at Father Patrick the whole time because Hannah rolled hers as they left the church for the reception venue.

   “Thank God he won’t be at the reception; otherwise you would combust.” Although Hannah had no clue as to the depths of her crush, she’d sussed out that Sasha had a crush on Patrick. Hannah thought it was cute rather than a ticket straight to hell and made jokes about it. Sasha let her do so because getting her to stop would require her to reveal how deeply serious her pants feels for the good priest truly were. She would never survive that sort of humiliation, so she kept her mouth shut.

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