Jacob pulled into the gas station just as Heather’s Subaru was making its way to the entrance. The women waved at him and Jeraine as they continued out of the gas station and back onto the highway.
So far, the trip had been uneventful. The babies and toddlers had played with each other for a while. They’d stopped once to change a couple of diapers, but the children fell asleep around Dillon Lake. They were now sound asleep. Jacob pulled the large SUV to the pumps to fill up and got out.
By agreement, Jeraine hopped out of the passenger seat and headed into the small gas station store. Jacob put the nozzle into the gas tank and went to look inside.
The children were still asleep.
Honey’s van pulled in to the pump next to his. M.J. got out to pump the gas. Honey swung easily out of the driver’s seat into her wheelchair. She rolled into the gas station.
“How’s it going?” M.J. asked gesturing to the children.
“So far so good,” Jacob said.
“Drug ’em?” M.J. asked.
Jacob shook his head.
“Just tired, I think,” Jacob said. “We’ve had a lot going on. I think they’re catching up on sleep.”
“You are a lucky man,” M.J. said. “We heard from Maggie from the girlfriends’ car. She wants to switch at the next stop.”
“Mostly, I think, she misses Jackie and Mack,” M.J. said. “With Rachel Ann, they’re kind of a team.”
“Mack’s with Tink in Aden’s SUV,” Jacob said. “Jackie’s with Valerie.”
He nodded his head and Mike pulled into the gas station. As Mike moved to the pump across from M.J., Aden pulled into the gas station. Jacob pointed to Aden, and Aden rolled his eyes. They could hear the teens and tweens arguing as Aden drove to a pump away from the babies. The moment Aden’s SUV stopped moving, the noisy children swarmed out of the car and into the store.
The adults gaped at them. Jacob checked the babies.
They were still sleeping.
Jacob’s gas nozzle popped indicating that his tank was full. He got the receipt and put the nozzle back onto the gas pump. When he got in the SUV, he saw Jeraine trailing two young girls as he came out of the gas station store. Jacob caught his eye and pointed to the girls. Jeraine spun around to greet his fans. Jacob waited while Jeraine spoke with the girls. Jacob parked in a parking spot in front of the store. In a few minutes, Jeraine pointed to the SUV and got in the passenger seat.
The babies and toddlers were still asleep.
Jacob got out of the SUV and went inside. He used the restroom and came out. He was on snack detail so he picked up a couple bags of chips and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They had coolers full of sandwiches, breast milk, and healthy snacks for the kids. This was for himself and Jeraine.
“Hey, you were just here,” the man behind the counter said. “What’d you do with that beautiful guy?”
“What beautiful guy?” Jacob asked.
“The last time you were here, you were with this guy who looked like a model,” the man behind the counter said. “Hey, I’m not gay, but that man was too good looking for this store.”
Blane and Nelson must have come through the store ahead of them. Jacob grinned.
Nelson paid for the food, and they returned to the SUV. Blane got into the driver’s seat.
“Before we go,” Nelson said. He leaned over and kissed Blane’s lip. When Blane didn’t push him away, Nelson smiled. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Blane asked.
“For making me tell you all of this,” Nelson said. “You were right. I need to tell it. I need to make it into my story and not just something that happened.”
“It seems like it is your story,” Blane said.
“Yeah,” Nelson said. “I do feel better. You were right.”
Nelson filled their cups with the soda and opened the bags of chips. He gave Blane a water bottle, and Blane drank it down.
“Ready?” Blane asked.
“To go?” Nelson asked. “Sure.”
“To tell me what this is about,” Blane said.
“Oh, I thought I was doing that,” Nelson said.
“I’ve heard a lot about an ancient order,” Blane said. “After hearing about it, I can’t imagine why there are so many gay people in your family when the order made up of men who spurned the company of women to live in each other’s company.”
“Funny, eh?” Nelson asked. “Did you look it up?”
“You stopped talking at the ‘live like Christ’ part,” Blane said. “I wondered what that was so I looked it up before I went in.”
“What?” Blane asked.
“You were paying attention,” Nelson said.
Blane groaned and imploringly looked at the ceiling of the car. Nelson laughed.
“Come on,” Nelson said. “You drive; I’ll talk.”
Blane started the car. They got back on the I-70 near Grand Junction and headed out across the Utah desert.
“So …” Blane said, glancing at Nelson.
Nelson was sound asleep. His head was against the head rest. His eyes were closed and his breathing deep. Blane groaned. He raised his hand to shake Nelson awake, but then thought better of it.
Nelson was exhausted. He looked almost angelic in his sleep. Blane grinned at the beautiful man.
Blane took out his wireless headset and connected it to his phone. He, Jacob, and Aden were listening to Homer’s Odyssey for this trip. He hadn’t started. He turned on the audiobook program and started the book.
Traveling with a sleeping angel at his side, Blane listened to the ancient story as he moved on the I-70 across the gorgeous Utah desert.
“So Andre?” Blane asked to encourage Nelson to speak.
Nelson swallowed hard, nodded, and began to tell his story.
“Andre is Bernard’s Uncle,” Nelson said. “Well, technically step-uncle. They were nearly the same age, so they grew up together.”
“So a founder of the Templars is the Uncle of a powerful servant of Rome,” Blane said. “They are childhood friends and playmates.”
“Exactly,” Nelson said with a grin. “That’s right.”
“What did I say?” Blane asked.
“Oh,” Nelson said with a chuckle. “I thought … never mind. So Rome was actually a world power — a country with the pope as the leader of this world power. Bernard of Clairvaux was an abbot and Benedictine. My father says that he had tremendous charisma and quickly grew to being very powerful in the church. He had the ear of the pope.”
“His younger uncle was in Jerusalem saving rich pilgrims,” Blane said.
“Exactly,” Nelson said. “This is kind of important. Bernard believed that anyone could be saved by Christ with the intercession of the Virgin Mother. He believed that the Holy should live like Christ. That was a big change in the entire philosophy of Christianity or at that time the religion-state. The pope was swayed by Bernard and thus all of Christianity changed. Today, these ideas are taught as Christianity, but before Bernard? They did not exist in the cannon.”
“It seems kind of convenient,” Blane said.
“Oh?” Nelson asked.
“Well sure,” Blane said. “Bernard and his brother…”
“Uncle,” Nelson said.
“Right,” Blane said. “Bernard and his uncle, or possibly just the uncle, are in the business of protecting wealthy people on their way to the Holy Land. So you change the entire religion to say that any person can become saved if they have intercession of the Virgin Mary. You have Andre to facilitate the intersession, and his Uncle to pocket the proceeds.”
“I never connected those two things,” Nelson said. “Huh. I’m sure you’re right. Of course, people flocked to Bernard. He put through the idea that the Templars must live like Christ …”
“Or what they decided Christ lived like,” Blane said, wryly.
“Well exactly,” Nelson said. “And that’s why I am such a secret.”
“What does that mean?” Blane asked.
“Do you mind if we stop?” Nelson asked. “There’s a gas station up ahead. I just need to pee.”
“Sure,” Blane said. “We should fill up before the desert. But you have to promise — you’ll finish this, right?”
“I will,” Nelson said. “No secrets.”
“No secrets,” Blane said. “Do I need to guard you?”
“No,” Nelson said with a laugh. “No one knows that I am here. If they find out?”
Nelson shook his head.
“Maybe,” Nelson said.
Blane scowled, but pulled off the highway. They pulled into a gas station. Blane filled the tank of the SUV, and Nelson went inside. When the gas tank was full, Blane drove the SUV to the park in a spot front of the small gas station store. He went inside and used the restroom. When he came out, Nelson was buying Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and more soda for both of them. Laughing, Blane grabbed some bags of chips and tossed them onto the counter.
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“You are sincerely the most annoying man,” Blane said.
“How so?” Nelson said.
“Who was your mother?” Blane asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Nelson said. “I was just thinking about her. She died when I was ten months old. I’ve never seen even a picture of her. She is … was …”
“Why no pictures?” Blane asked.
“I thought it was because my father was cruel,” Nelson said. “He told me yesterday that he was protecting me. If anyone knew that she was my mother …”
“Goes back to …” Blane started.
“Yes, who was my mother?” Nelson asked. He turned to look at Blane. “What do you know about the Knights Templar?”
“Nothing,” Blane said. “Uh, they are French? Indiana Jones? Three Musketeers?”
“Le Trois Mousquetaires was set in the 1600s,” Nelson said. “You’re five hundred years too late.”
“What do you know about them, Nelson?” Blane asked in a mock interviewer voice.
“A lot,” Nelson said. He nodded. “Basically, after the First Crusade, a lot of European Christians were traveling from Europe to the ‘Holy Land,’ Jerusalem basically. We have this idea that they traveled on horseback from Europe.”
“Suffering for their pilgrimage,” Blane said.
“Exactly,” Nelson said. “Mostly, they traveled on boats. They landed at Jaffa, just south of modern day Tel Aviv. These tours for mostly wealthy people but a few poor pilgrims came along. It was … uh … for lack of better words, stylish, to go to Jerusalum.
“The first years, it was a safe journey. But soon it became dangerous for Christian travelers,” Nelson said. “At first, the Knights Templar were there to protect these travelers. They took up residence in the King’s home at the Temple of the Mount. The Temple of the Mount was built on Temple of Solomon. Thus the name ‘The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’ shortened to the ‘Order of Solomon’s Temple.’ That’s their actual name.”
“Well, ours but I’m not really …” Nelson looked at Blane and saw that Blane was scowling. “No really, my father kept me away from all of this. I only know the stories.”
“And have had the training,” Blane said.
“Whatever,” Nelson said. “You asked about my father.”
“Yes, do continue,” Blane said.
“The Templars needed weapons so they went to my father’s family,” Nelson said. “As I said, they’d been making weapons since … a long time, so it was no brainer to make the family the weapons masters.”
“What did your father’s family get for their work?” Blane asked.
“Commissions, certainly,” Nelson said.
“This is zealot work,” Blane pressed.
“Sure,” Nelson said. “They found a way to fight for Christ, to be soldiers for Christ. But for me? For my father? It’s just family stuff.”
“One of the founders of the order was a man named ‘Andre de Montbard,’” Nelson said. “It’s a little complicated but he was born in 1097 and Bernard of Clairvaux, you know Saint Bernard, was born in 1090”
“Okay?” Blane asked.
“You don’t recognize the name ‘Saint Bernard’?” Nelson asked.
“No,” Blane said. “Should I?”
“If you knew anything about the Templars you would,” Nelson said.
“What do I need to know?” Blane laughed. “I have you!”
Nelson grinned. He reached over and took Blane’s hand. They smiled at each other.
“So Andre?” Blane asked to encourage Nelson to speak.
Nelson swallowed hard, nodded, and continued his story.