Thanks so much for your interest in The Art of Worship! If you've reached this page, chances are that we've met, maybe at a conference, maybe in some other setting! If we hung out at the bar for a drink or three, you surely know more about me than you ever wanted to!
For those of you who reached this page without reaching me in person, I'm an author, an editor, and a blogger. I write across a variety of sub-genres and tropes, but there is one thing all my books have in common:
- Strong, independent heroines
- Evolved (often beta) heroes
- Plenty of steam
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“Reed, may I see you in my study?"
My father’s casual tone is displaced, as if he invites me into his study with regularity. Which he doesn’t.
"I thought that since your mother was out, we might have a talk, just the two of us."
As we walk silently toward the east wing of the house, I wonder what this could be about. I’m eighteen, a senior in high school. My grades are excellent. I never stay out past curfew or get in trouble. And if he ever found the small stash of pot I keep in my underwear drawer, I doubt he’d care.
But there are some things my father takes seriously—like anything that happens in his study. And I’m curious to know why he’s summoned me. It’s a distinguished space. The handcrafted wood shelves that stand from floor to ceiling hold first editions of classics and other rare books. The furniture has been passed down through generations, along with mementos from across the globe. A fire blazes brightly in a hearth nearly as tall as the two of us. An old phonograph playing Chopin crackles and whines.
Every time I’m here, I get the feeling that I am stepping into another century. I half expect the portraits of Whitney men that hang on the walls, to come alive. These men are more serious versions of my father and me—oceanic eyes stare down past haughty cheekbones. One day it will be my own son and great-grandson who stand in this room inspecting a portrait of me.
"Scotch?" he asks, closing the door needlessly before striding to his liquor trolley.
It places me on alert. He only likes us to drink together when he has something to get off his chest. The last time he called me in for a man-to-man was the night they gave me the Jeep. We'd gotten through a third of a bottle of Blue Label before he'd said his peace on the privilege of driving a car and the responsibilities that go along with it.
"Thank you," I accept, in a tone as cordial and controlled as his. For as much as I’m just a kid, I’ve been well-trained in the protocols of high-born men.
I take a seat on the leather chair that faces his direction just as he pulls out a well-aged Laphroaig. I study him, for clues, as he drops a single ice cube into each tumbler, pours us each two fingers of whiskey, and travels to join me in the chair opposite mine. He gives away nothing and, as usual, I don't know whether to resent his distance or to respect the hell out of his discipline. No teenage kid wants to admit to idolizing his dad, but in many ways, I do.
He settles in next to me, resting the bottle on the table in between us as he places one of the tumblers in my hand. I meet his eyes, and we raise our glasses in a silent toast, before turning our gazes to the fire. The whiskey tastes good and I make a mental note to raid his supply. The cheap stuff is fine for the flask I bring to school, but I wouldn't mind enjoying a nip or two of this in the privacy of my own room.
"You and Aubrey are close," he finally begins, after a few minutes.
Hmmm…he wants to talk about Aubrey. I don't give an answer because I can tell he doesn’t expect one.
"Your mother seems to think you two are—being intimate—with each other."
Brilliant—now they're speculating on my sex life.
I feel his eyes slide back to me. I keep my face neutral, my eyes on the fire.
"Yes, we're very close," I say calmly.
“But have you been intimate with one another?"
To anyone else, his voice would have sounded perfectly even, but I sense his slight annoyance. He doesn't like how good I’ve become at his subtle brand of insolence. The corner of my mouth quirks upwards in amusement as I look back over at him. I think about apples and trees and things that don’t fall far from one another.
“Are you referring to the special way a man and a woman hug when they love one another?”
Yes, it’s wicked of me, but he’s asking for it. He’s a doctor—can't he just come out and say S-E-X ?
"You underestimate me, Reed," he retorts evenly. "Even if you can't believe that I was your age once, at least give me credit for living closer to reality than the other parents in this town. Remember, I'm the one prescribing their kids birth control and helping them figure out what to do when they don't use it."
I want to tell him not to underestimate me, to give me credit for not being one of the incompetent brood I go to school with but I think the better of it. I distill my thoughts into a more diplomatic response.
"Don’t worry, Dad. I know that the pill is over 97% effective if taken as directed. I know that condoms and abstinence are the only ways to reduce the risk of STDs, and that condoms must be applied properly—with the tip pulled up flat and empty—in order for them to work."
See how I threw in that shit about abstinence? It never hurts to keep your parents guessing.
"I know you know those things. I know you'll take measures to protect you and Aubrey and I hope you know that if anything unexpected happens you can trust your mother and me enough to come to us for help."
And I know it’s true. My parents are decent people, and I’ve got it better than a lot of kids. They'd be pissed if I got Aubrey pregnant, but they wouldn't freak out, and I respect them for that.
Conceding, I say "I appreciate that…but, Dad…why are we here?"
He swirls his glass again, the remaining sliver of ice a mere shard floating in honey-colored liquid. I followed suit as he looks back toward the hearth, patiently waiting for him to reveal the purpose of our conversation.
“Have I ever told you how much your grandmother Eleanor disapproved of your mother?"
I shake my head and straighten in my seat a little. He almost never speaks of his parents, who were killed in a small plane crash years before I was born. I am surprised, and intrigued, that he speaks of them now and that any of it has to do with my mother. For years, I’ve been eager to know more about them.
"She wouldn't even give me her engagement ring to ask for your mother's hand. Even though Kate came from her own money, she came up with every excuse for why we shouldn't be together. She thought Kate was after our money, that she was pursuing other men simultaneously for their money, that she was sleeping with other men…she named every conceivable charge you could level against a woman trying to marry into a family like ours.”
“Why she believed this about your mother was a different story, a misunderstanding I’ll share with you at another time. But your grandfather, my father, never believed a word of it. He knew not only that your mother loved me, but that she was loyal, and would be a faithful wife. He knew I never had to worry about her straying from me because our love was real."
Preston turned back to look at me pointedly.
"He knew I could satisfy her every need."
He can't mean—
When my father raises a confirming eyebrow, I can only gape in mortification.
As he lets his subtext fully sink in, I am flushed with embarrassment.
"Son, you are here to receive a precious gift. It is one that my father bestowed upon me, and that his father bestowed upon him—one I will pass on to you now and expect that you give to your own sons when it is time."
What. The. Fuck?
"You are a Whitney, and were therefore born with certain natural—endowments—that predispose you to success with women. But, there is a beauty in sex which, if you could only grow to appreciate it—an art which, if you could only commit to learning it—will bring you and the women in your life such divine fulfillment as most mortals never know. It is the art of worship, Reed, and it has very little to do with sex."
His gazeis intense and I can barely breathe, let alone process my surprise that such a cache of Whitney family wisdom exists. My father is subtle most of the time, but when he isn't he can be quite intimidating. It doesn't help that he’s hit the nail on the head about my need for some, erm…guidance. The truth is, I’ve been consumed with worry about pleasing Aubrey.
"So, I’ll ask you again, son. Have you and Aubrey been intimate with one another?"
I shake my head in sheepish truth.
"But, you plan to be."
"Very good…" he smiles, polishing off the rest of his glass, "…then, there's still time."