For I Have Sinned

Book #4 of The James Bay Novel Series

Available now!

Father Greg, a Catholic priest and recovering alcoholic, took a vow of obedience at his ordination —but thirty years later, that Roman collar chafes his neck. His love for God is not in doubt … but the same can’t be said for his faith in the church. After a young interracial couple moves to his small rural Midwestern parish, Father Greg finds himself waging a fierce battle fighting parishioners’ prejudices. When an attractive widow from the parish joins hands with him to befriend the young couple, the problems only grow —and so do the rumors about a romance. Caught up in a war with church leaders and his own guilty conscience, Father Greg is trapped. He’s good at standing up for others, but now he needs to learn how to stand up for himself. It’s the only way he’ll become the man he was always meant to be —with or without the Roman collar.

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A thoughtful and quietly compelling novel about one priest’s moral dilemma. Paterka is gifted at portraying her characters as people like those we meet in everyday life.” ~ Eileen Goudge, NY Times bestselling author

“This book, reminiscent of The Thorn Birds, gave me a wonderful glimpse into one man’s crisis of faith… great story with vivid characters.” ~ Melanie Atkins, author of SKELETON BAYOU

“A very moving story of forbidden love and a man’s awakening to his true being. A story of one man’s impact on many people through his love.” (Amazon Reader Review)

“Kathleen Irene Paterka is a brave and brilliant writer. The writing is powerful and authentic, and I felt for all of the characters and their individual journeys. I will read anything by Paterka; she is an author to watch. Highly recommended!” – Samantha Stroh Bailey, author of FINDING LUCAS



I have no business meddling in Lila’s love life. She’s a grown woman and can make up her own mind about who she chooses to date. Still, this gnawing feeling in my stomach won’t let go. Very few women bring out the protective urge in me: my mother, Gina… and Lila. But Mom is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. And as for Gina, she’d probably tell me the same thing. I know I’m overly solicitous, but she’s vulnerable and pregnant. I don’t want to see her get hurt.

But Lila is another matter completely. I didn’t expect to feel like this. It’s not that I’m suspicious of Jim. He’s a good man, respected in the community, with the financial ability to provide for a woman’s needs. Any woman would be flattered by the attention.

Would Lila?

He would treat her with respect. She deserves nothing less.

So why don’t I feel happy and joyous for her? This feeling inside me is anything but joyful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s ugly. It smacks of resentment.

I’ve got no business being resentful. I am a priest.

“Jim is a good man,” I assure her. “I’ve never heard the slightest hint of scandal about him. He’s got a good reputation in the community. He’s active in the church.”

We stare at each other a long moment.

“But…,” she finally prompts.

I hesitate. Somehow, she’s learned to read me well. Too well.

“It’s nothing, really, just a feeling I have.” I blow out a deep sigh. “He’s a fine man. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“But…,” she eggs me on.

“Well, maybe he’s a little…”

“Arrogant?” Her eyes twinkle, and a dimple plays peekaboo in her cheek. “A little too pompous for his own good?”

I grin. Just when I thought I’d lost her, we’re back on the same wavelength.

“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of stodgy,” I say. “But now that you mention it, pompous works.”

“He may be a judge, but he’s no different than anyone else.” Lila flashes me a sideways smile. “We all have our character defects.”

She’s talking recovery, and thank God for it. I need to keep my feet on the ground and my mind firmly rooted in the right neighborhood. I’ve got no business allowing my thoughts to wander down streets where they don’t belong.

“I suppose if Jim were to ask, I would go out with him. Though it’s not as if I’m waiting or hoping that he does,” she adds. “Lucy and Max only invited him because they think I’m lonely.”

Lila, lonely? The thought never occurred to me. I lean against the counter, watching as she moves easily around the kitchen. It’s her comfort zone. “Is he someone you find interesting?”

“Don’t tell me you’re in on this, too?” She eyes me with a skeptical smile. “Has Lucy been consulting with you about my love life?”

Too bad she hasn’t. At least then I could have set her straight. Lucy’s capable and clever, but she has absolutely no clue about the type of men who belong in her mother’s life.

“I’m sure she has your best interests at heart,” I say. “Why shouldn’t you be involved with someone? You’re far too young to spend the rest of your life alone.” I force a smile to my face. “Lucy and Max love you. They have every right to be worried about you. You live alone. You must get lonely.”

“Not nearly as lonely as they think.” She closes the dishwasher, then wags her finger at me. “And don’t go giving me some quick little pep talk about how I shouldn’t feel this way. You live alone, Greg, just like I do. You know what it’s like. Don’t you get lonely, too?”

Her question washes over me like a storm surge carrying the wreckage of broken branches and pent-up grief. How do I admit the truth? Do I dare?

I’m only human. Of course, I’m lonely. When am I not?

But never so lonely as I am this very moment, standing next to Lila in her kitchen.

We stare at each other a long moment. Does she have any clue how pretty she looks? How delicious she smells? How I wish things were different?

How, if the church didn’t demand celibacy of its priests, I would be tempted to take her in my arms and…

I drag in a deep breath. There’s no changing church law. It is what it is. And though I don’t give a damn about myself, I refuse to subject Lila to the rumor mill.

“I’m sorry,” she says abruptly. “I had no right to ask you that.”

“Don’t be sorry.” I shrug off her question with a casual smile. If I dare admit the truth, I could bring everything crashing down upon our heads in a heartbeat. I doubt either of us is prepared for that. “Priests don’t get lonely. We don’t have time.”

“Really?” She searches my face. “Funny, but I don’t believe you.”

God help me. I am only a man, and every instinct inside seems to whisper that she’s leaving it up to me. And if she continues looking at me with those eyes, I am going to cave.

Mere inches separate us. One touch is all it would take and she would be in my arms. One word from me and she would give up everything. The slightest movement and my lips would be on hers, our breath mingling, her mouth warm and inviting. I would be kissing her, and I would want it to never end.

“You never did answer Lucy’s question,” she says softly. “What do you think? Should priests be allowed to marry?”

My hearts pauses, skips a beat, and restarts. Is she serious? I swallow, trying to find some spit. “If memory serves correct, you didn’t answer, either.”

“What I think doesn’t matter,” she whispers. “I’m not the one the church would come after.”

Suddenly I realize how much I want it to happen. How close it is to happening. I’ve got no business being alone with her. I’ve taken sacred vows.

I need to move away, right now.

Because if I don’t, there will be hell to pay.

For both of us.



BUY: Amazon