Saturday, October 01, 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem by Willa Okati

Dona Nobis Pacem

by Willa Okati
Cover art: Zuri
ISBN: 978-1-60521-704-8
Genre(s): Wildest West
Theme(s): Gay and Lesbian
Length: Novel
Page Count: 120

Dona Nobis Pacem. God Grant Us Peace.
Voiceless Donnell and defrocked priest Nathan are outcasts and strangers at the turn of the century. Despite his handicap, Donnell has made a life for himself as a businessman and owner of a saloon. His heart goes out to those whom life has dealt an unhappy hand. When Nathan arrives in this former gold-rush town, horsewhipped and ill to the point of collapse, Donnell is the only one to offer help.
Barely ordained before being accused of unnatural desires, Nathan has been sent to travel a faux road to Damascus as penance. He did not expect to survive the trek, and longed for the peace he might find when his body gave up the fight.
He never expected to meet someone like Donnell. Despite his lack of voice, Donnell is the teacher Nathan has hungered for all his life, and the lover he never dared seek out. Triumphing over a lifetime's worth of threatened damnation will not be easy to overcome, but Donnell's not giving up. The passion they share is what both men have always craved, but never found. When they are discovered, standing together is the only thing will save them both.
Dona Nobis Pacem
Willa Okati
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2011 Willa Okati

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In a fit of optimism, some enterprising settler twenty-odd years ago had named this patch of land "Shady Grove." The name hadn't stuck longer than the first summer, arid heat scorching the life out of anything the daft fellow had tried to plant, and carrying away his wife and children.
After that, or so the story went, the settler had cursed his homestead with the new name of "Hell."
When gold was found not far west in a puny stream, the name changed yet again to "El Dorado." Though that lasted no longer than the rush of miners who picked, panned and mined away most of the precious metal.
When the gold was mostly gone and civilization caught up with the roughneck men who'd blazed through in search of riches, there came bankers, lawyers and doctors, along with their pretty wives and dainty daughters. Amongst themselves, they'd formed a quaint city council, elected a mayor, nominated a marshal, and rechristened this hole in the ground as "Nazareth."
Those whose tongues weren't corseted by the niceties observed in polite society still called the former boomtown "Hell."
As for Donnell, he called it home, and had since the day he was born, a silent infant who'd opened his mouth to wail, but made almost no sound, not then and rarely ever afterward. The best he could manage was a sort of scale of breathing -- a whistle, a shush, a sigh. He'd never spoken a proper word. At least his hearing was top-notch.
Music was Donnell's voice instead, tickled out through the ivories of the old upright piano he'd paid a considerable sum in gold dust to have shipped from Chicago. Within the safe haven of Treighton's saloon, Donnell had placed that piano facing the street, where he'd have a fine view through the mosquito netting over the window when he played.
He could arrange Treighton's however he wanted, no questions asked. Owner's rules and that owner would be him.
Music wasn't his only skill. He was a favored son of Lady Luck, and the cards danced to his tune. Those who thought a mute man was simple, and an easy cheat at faro, often found themselves losing big.
He'd given up the game after winning Treighton's, though. No sense in pushing his luck too far.
A man who'd call himself satisfied with his lot in life, Donnell caressed the piano keys, a jingling tune flowing smooth and sweet as quality whiskey under his mastery of the music. He let the corner of his mouth quirk upward with dry humor. Many were they who'd claimed the son of a whore, muteness aside, would never make anything of his life. They'd been wrong, too.
Did they accept his good fortune with grace? Hell, no. The "proper" folks of Nazareth scorned him still, and always would. Too good for the likes of him and his saloon.
Thank God for sinners, eh?
* * *
A sudden clamor rose from the dusty, uneven street outside, usually quiet and deadly dull during the morning hours while laborers and leftover miners toiled, polite society occupied themselves with polite works, and gamblers slept off their night's fun. Attention captured, Donnell peered through the mosquito netting over his window.
Soon enough, the source of the commotion came into view. Donnell raised one eyebrow, intrigued. A tall, lean man, far too thin for his height. He was dressed in the tattered remnants of a once-respectable shirt, now missing its collar and cuffs, and formerly sturdy denim trousers, with no hat on his head nor shoes on his feet nor a coat on his back. Bleached-out hair stringy from lack of washing and long enough to be caught up in a queue hung over his face and tangled across his eyes.
Donnell leaned forward, instantly captivated. He'd never seen the equal of those eyes, their color distinct even at this distance. Aqua blue, the shade of summer skies, dulled by hunger and pain, but no less remarkable.
In point of fact, were he to be cleaned up and provided with a few good healthy meals, Donnell guessed this young man would easily steal anyone's heart away. Not least of all his.
Not that anyone knew about his preferences. It was safer that way. He came in for scant questioning about his lack of female companionship, as most thought if his tongue didn't work then neither would his cock.
Donnell abandoned those thoughts and focused on the beautiful -- yes, beautiful -- young man instead, a far more pleasant diversion. He'd no stubble on his cheeks or chin, both badly sunburned. Young, then. Tall and gangly enough that at a guess Donnell would have put him in his late teens, no more than twenty, not so far Donnell's junior.
A man could make quite a lot of himself in twenty years plus change. He could raise himself a fine establishment like Donnell's, or he could end up staggering filthy and starving down a dusty, badlands street with children and bad-tempered dogs jeering him every barefooted step of the way.
Donnell frowned when the young man staggered, swaying alarmingly before righting himself. That didn't seem to be clumsiness, but rather weariness. Perhaps illness?
"Drunk," Bettina sniffed, peering past Donnell. She might work in a saloon, but she had no patience with men who behaved badly when they'd had too much of the grape and grain. She didn't scold like the holy men, no, she tore strips off their hides and nailed them to the wall, and they loved her for it.
Barely hearing her, Donnell continued to track the man's progress. Seeming to ignore the rabble jeering at him, he came to a stop and stood up as straight as he could, attempting to brush dust, mud and worse off his clothes, smoothing them down. He dragged his hair out of his face with hands that shook minutely and gazed up the length of the street still to go.
The quiet despair in his eyes struck a chord in Donnell's heart, reverberating with a sense of hollow misery. Here was a man who'd fallen as far as he could go, with a trail of heartbreak behind him that stretched out for as many miles as he'd walked.
Donnell sat back and drummed his fingers on his knees. Poor bastard.
Enough kind souls had helped Donnell in his day. He owed this poor fellow no less.

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