To Thine Own Self: Black Love, Meet Cute

During my life, I have certainly read my share of LGBTQ novels. Unfortunately, many of those I have read have portrayed African American pastors as villains and antagonists, including in the romance genre. However, I remain ever inspired by Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there is a story you want to read, and it hasn’t been written, then you must be the one to write it.” That being said, in the upcoming novel of my Christopher Family Novel series, To Thine Own Self, a Black pastor is both a main character and a protagonist.

For those of you who have followed my series, the characters of Rev. Darrell Edwards and Cesare Morelli-Montgomery have been introduced in previous books. In this my second male/male romance novel, Darrell is a widower and Cesare is an adoption attorney. Will Darrell find a second chance at love? Will Cesare have the family he’s always wanted? In the following excerpt, I give you a peek at their story, and how these brothas meet:

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October 8, 2012. This day was a long time coming for his clients.

Cesare locked his Lincoln MKZ in the parking ramp and walked over to the Hennepin County Family Justice Center on South Fourth Street and Marquette Avenue to meet them. An African American couple married for three years and together for nine, Tyson and Oliver Gordon-Banks had travelled a long road to the adoption of four-year old Martice and two-year-old Jayla. Sibling groups were hard to place in the world of adoption, and the older the children, the harder it was. These were the days Cesare lived for – a successful bonding of children with adoptive parents and the finalization hearing that would make them a forever family.

In addition to their respective parents, Tyson and Oliver asked their pastor to be there in support and to bless their new family. This day couldn’t get any better, Cesare thought. Having that kind of support was priceless. With all the paperwork properly filed, copies of the petition and finalization awaiting the judge’s signature, a smile lit up Cesare’s features. He took the clarity of the fall morning, with temperatures already climbing into the 40s, as a positive sign.

After passing through security in the 1950s-era building, his steps were as confident and polished as his suit when he approached the elevator, his curls slicked back into a ponytail. More often than not, people were here due to some kind of trouble, even repeat trouble. A few grim faces on the passengers during the elevator ride to his floor bore evidence. Leaving the elevator briskly, Cesare checked in with the court clerk before he reached the family.

At a finalization hearing, nervous anticipation was both expected and normal. Martice was seated between Tyson and the Gordons, coloring in a coloring book. Jayla was entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Banks with a toy cell phone. In the tradition of little Black girls everywhere, her hair was neatly braided and oiled. Not surprisingly, both were dressed in their Sunday best.

“Hi, everyone,” Cesare greeted them. “We’re second on the docket. While we’re in there, I’ll ask you a few questions, the judge will ask you a few questions, the decree is finalized, and then we take pictures.” He focused on the adoptive parents. “You’ve waited a long time for Martice and Jayla to be yours. And very soon, they will be.”

 “Amen to our new grandbabies,” Mrs. Gordon declared to the assent of all.

“Now, you said your pastor would be here? They’re going to be calling us in soon.”

“Pastor Marie was called out of town, but Pastor Darrell is on his way. He should be here any minute now.” Oliver gave Jayla her favorite stuffed bear to occupy her and ensure her sitting still.

At that moment, Tyson looked down the hall. “Hey, here he comes now.”

Cesare’s heart nearly stopped. Striding toward the group, dressed in a conservative blue suit, topcoat, and clerical collar was the hottest brotha he had ever seen, and he had certainly seen his share. Where has this man been? His stature alone would guarantee standing out wherever he went. Was there some statute somewhere against a man looking that good? And a man of the cloth, no less? Cesare hoped he could maintain his professional composure even as the building temperature rose.

 “Pastor Darrell, I’d like you to meet Cesare Morelli-Montgomery, our attorney,” Tyson said. “Cesare, this is our associate pastor at Light of the World, Reverend Darrell Edwards.”

At 6’4”, Cesare rarely looked up at someone. Up close, Pastor Darrell had three inches on him, and his broad shoulders and mature muscular frame carried it so well. The hints of grey in his dark brown, short-cropped, natural hair and his well-trimmed beard coupled with his demeanor told Cesare the brotha was older, probably late 30s or early 40s. Khadijah might be right; maybe my picker has been off.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Cesare.” Pastor Darrell extended his hand with a pleasant smile. “Tyson and Oliver have kept the faith that this day would come to pass. I thank you for being part of the process.”

“You’re welcome, Pastor Darrell. And it’s good to meet you.” Cesare accepted his hand, sensing the heat surging through his body with the contact. His legal skill at reading people swore something in Darrell’s eyes responded to their clasped hands, but now was not the time to explore it.

After greetings were exchanged all around, Pastor Darrell took an available seat. “I’m happy and honored to be a part of this special day. To me, family is everything. I don’t know what I’d do without my kids.”

“Really?” Cesare did his level best to conceal his surprise.

“Yes. I have three.”

Just what I need right now, being attracted to a married straight dude. Cesare groaned inwardly. This is a recipe for disaster. They are so much more trouble than they’re worth.

“I imagine they can be a handful sometimes. I know my nephews are.”

“Sometimes,” Pastor Darrell acknowledged, “but they have been a comfort to me since my wife died, and with God’s help, I’ve been able to be strong for them.”

What? Wait a minute. This man has gone through something painful. He’s a widower. How can I be so selfish? “I’m sorry, Pastor Darrell. Losing someone you love is never easy.”

“No, it isn’t. All I can do is remember her life, be there for my kids, and go on. But thank you for your concern, Cesare.”

“Any time.” Cesare broke their eye contact when he looked off in the direction of the courtroom doors. “Looks like it’s time. Come on, everybody.”

Compared to the time-consuming process of getting to that point, the finalization hearing itself was short. The joyful group pictures taken at the end, on the other hand, were well worth it. Tyson and Oliver insisted that he and Pastor Darrell be part of the photos; caught up in the moment, they were more than happy to oblige.

Once outside the courtroom, after Pastor Darrell said a prayer of blessing over the new family, Oliver turned to him. “Now, to celebrate this momentous day in our lives, Pastor Darrell, we’d love to treat you to brunch. Unless you have an appointment.”

“No, Oliver. I’d be happy to.”

“That means you too, Cesare.” Tyson beamed.

“Thank you. I’d love to.”

All though brunch, Darrell had a hard time keeping his eyes off Cesare. Feelings he hadn’t experienced in nearly a year surfaced. Judging by the ease of the interactions he observed with the family, Cesare was clearly someone who cared about others, especially children from the way they smiled and engaged with him about their favorite cartoons and toys. His commitment to creating families touched something in Darrell’s spirit. And then there were the dimples that came out whenever Cesare smiled.

“This has been a beautiful celebration. Oliver, Tyson, you already know that being a parent is the toughest job there is, but it’s also the most rewarding.” Darrell faced the newly minted grandparents. “And God has blessed your children with four grandparents who will be an active part of your village.”

“Thank you, Pastor Darrell,” Oliver said after hugs were exchanged. “We’ll see you on Sunday. And we’ll make sure Pastor Marie and First Lady Charmaine get copies of the pictures.”

While the family boarded the elevator to take them to the street level of the Nicollet Mall, Pastor Darrell turned to Cesare. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Cesare, and I appreciate all you’ve done for Oliver and Tyson. You have been a blessing to so many families, making such a wonderful difference in their lives.” He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card, carefully choosing his words. “I hope we meet again.”

Cesare accepted the card, placing it in his wallet before he took out one of his own business cards and handed it to Pastor Darrell. There was no mistaking the current between their clasped hands this time nor the slight darkening in Cesare’s eyes. A strange fluttering touched the pastor’s heart.

Cesare beamed. “Likewise, Pastor Darrell. I look forward to it.”

“Please. Just call me Darrell.”

“All right…Darrell.” Cesare gave him a friendly smile and walked away. Watching him go, Darrell contemplated the warmth that spread through his body from the confident way that brotha walked.

Darrell did his best to control his breathing, thankful that the topcoat he wore hid the massive erection straining at his slacks while he walked. He could still feel it throbbing with need as he navigated the streets of downtown Minneapolis. Other than Kenisha, had he ever had such a powerful response to someone the way he had to Cesare? He was hard pressed for an answer. All he knew was that if the opportunity to kiss that drop-dead-gorgeous man in close quarters ever presented itself, he would find some way to take it. Without a doubt, Brotha Cesare had lips that deserved, begged, to be kissed.

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Representation matters. Believe in dreams and never give up.

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