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At the Compound, there was never enough hot water for more than a quick shower. But now I washed my hair and body with a little bottle of shampoo I found in the hotel’s shower stall, while the hot water came pouring down on me. After I was finished, I lingered awhile, basking in it. Because there was nobody to yell at me to get moving.
Then, feeling more refreshed than I had in a long time, I toweled off, listening to my stomach growl. There was a big mirror over the sink, which I found fascinating. We didn’t have mirrors at the Compound, except for tiny ones in the shower, meant for shaving. Because vanity is a sin.
Except for the occasional reflection off of a window, I hadn’t seen myself properly in years. I thought of myself as a scrawny thing. So I was surprised to find that my shoulders were much broader than they used to be. I looked stronger and more solid than I’d thought.
My face wasn’t the same as I remembered, either. I saw a squarer jaw then I used to have, and my hair was bleached out from the summer’s sunshine. Not half bad, I realized.
Standing there, I looked a long time at myself. Which was precisely why there were no mirrors in Paradise.
Wearing a towel, I tiptoed back in the room, testing the seams of my clothing again.
“They’re not dry, I’ll bet,” Caleb said sleepily.
“Not quite,” I said, keeping my voice low, though there was nobody else here to eavesdrop on us. I wasn’t used to being alone with Caleb. It seemed impossibly luxurious. Even better than a long shower.
If I’d thought he would be embarrassed to wake up in that bed with me, I’d thought wrong. He raised his arms up over his head, which made more of his fine chest visible, and smiled at me. “Happy to see you on your feet. Come here.” He patted the empty bed beside him.
Feeling self-conscious, I padded over there and perched on the edge.
Caleb sat up, and I put all my focus on keeping my eyes where they should be, and not letting them wander down his bare chest. Ever since we were fifteen, and he began to fill out, the ridges and valleys of his abs have fascinated me. I’ve had to be very disciplined with myself, or I’d always be staring at them.
He reached up and put a palm on my forehead. “Well, you just got out of the shower, which should heat you up. But I think…” he leaned in and pressed his lips to my forehead, the way my mother used to check for fever when I was small.
All my blood stopped circulating.
“Hmm,” he said, backing off a few inches. “You kicked it, didn’t you? The fever broke?”
But speaking now would have been impossible. Because I was just too aware of his body, and the way his pecs had brushed mine when he’d (sort of) kissed me. So a shrug was all I could manage.
“We have to wait for our clothes to dry. Yours were coated in dirt,” he said, grabbing his pillow and punching it against the headboard. He sat back. “Bring that knapsack over here, would you? I have a little food.”
I shot up and practically sprinted across the room, needing a little distance.
Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.
In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.
But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.
It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.
Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.
Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?
Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord's name in vain, and love against the kitchen counter. This book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone.
RESERVE YOUR COPY OF GOODBYE PARADISE
Her Ivy Years and Brooklyn Bruisers books are hockey romance novels. These two connected series began breaking hearts in 2014 with The Year We Fell Down. See http://www.sarinabowen.com for updates.
HIM and US are the bestselling, hockey LGBT novels co-written with Elle Kennedy. HIM is also a finalist for the Romance Writers of America's RITA® Award.
For lovers of angsty snowboarders, Sarina also writes the Gravity series, featuring snow sports heroes.
Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, six chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.