A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…
‘Who would you say my friends are in Dinbratten?’
Matthew was momentarily stumped by the apparent change of subject and it took him a second or two to dredge up a name. ‘Um. George, I suppose? Or Albie at the pub?’
‘I’m a trooper,’ Parks said, as though that fact had been somehow forgotten. ‘My presence tends to make people uncomfortable. Like they’re immediately looking for what the trouble or the danger is as soon as I walk in a room. I think I make them feel a bit guilty, even if they’ve never done a bad thing in their whole life. And I can’t help thinking,’ his voice dropped slightly, ‘that men in your line of work must have it something similar.’
For a moment, Matthew couldn’t think what to say in response. He’d never before encountered such an attempt at solidarity. ‘I think I understand you, Sergeant,’ he said evenly. He glanced down at the bottle in his hand and smiled. ‘Though I must say, I’ve never had anyone offer me a gift of, well, sex before.’
‘Eh.’ Parks took the bottle back. ‘People see the cassock and the collar and they forget there’s a man underneath ’em, I s’pose.’
‘But not you?’
At the question, Parks paused with the bottle partway to his mouth and gave Matthew a penetrating look. ‘I see ya.’
On the receiving end of that look, Matthew felt a little hot under the aforementioned collar and realised belatedly that he had managed to get slightly tipsy. He cleared his throat. ‘It’s Sunday tomorrow…’
‘Don’t be offended if half the town are too hungover to turn up.’
Matthew smiled at that. His face was still feeling warm. ‘I think I’ll be bidding you goodnight now, Sergeant.’
Parks crossed his arms over his chest, liquor bottle nestled in the crook of his left elbow. ‘You called me Jonah earlier.’
Had he? Yes, Matthew remembered, he had. ‘You still call me Father,’ he pointed out.
‘So I do.’ One side of Parks’ mouth pulled up in his quirky grin. When it didn’t seem likely that he was going to say anything else, Matthew took a shuffling step back toward the door.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘goodnight, then.’
‘Goodnight,’ Parks returned. ‘Matthew.’
Matthew fumbled the doorknob and took his leave.
By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.