Negative Zero (Book 1)

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Chapter 11: Curtains

Chapter Eleven Curtains

I woke up to the loud ringing of my cell phone. After the time with Hayden thus far, I’d completely forgotten about the outside world and the fact that there were living people in it. I jumped out of bed and scrambled through the pockets of my coat that was lying on the floor. I finally found the phone in one of the inside pockets and checked the screen flashing the battery warning along with the caller ID. It was Joel.

“Omigod, Hayden! Wake up! Wake up!” I ran into the other bedroom and shoved the sleeping angel. My hands were batting through the air. I saw his eyes flip open widely as he sat up in the bed with bullet speed.

“Evika, what’s wrong?!” He was looking at me, darting out of bed and standing there in only a pair of flannel pajama pants. Holy angel. He is so hot.

“It’s Joel!” I waved the phone in his face frantically. “Shit! What do I say?”

He stopped in his tracks and blew out a heavy breath. “For cryin’ out loud, Evika. I thought something was wrong, and it’s just a damn phone call?”

“Hayden, I need to talk to him. He’s my best friend!” I was angry that he didn’t see this as the emergency that I perceived it.

He went back to the bed to lie down again. The phone was still ringing loudly.

“Hayden, help me!” I yelled at him.

“Well, you obviously can’t tell him the whole truth, Evika. It’s too dangerous, and it’s against the rules. You’ll have to get creative.”

“Oh, for cripe’s sake, you jerkball! That’s why I need you!” I kept yelling over the obnoxious ringing of the phone. “How do I explain all of this stuff to him? I am moving to Georgia, I have a new friend, I quit my job, and I have lots of money now out of the blue. I don’t wanna lie to him, but I don’t want him to have to know the truth and constantly worry either.”

The phone went silent after my long-winded explanation. Putting his hands behind his head, Hayden looked at me blankly.

“Just great,” I threw my hands into the air. “Hayden, I really need to figure out how to keep Joel in my life. He’s my best friend and he’ll want to know what’s been going on, and he’ll especially demand to know where you came from. How is this going to work? And don’t tell me that I have to avoid him, ’cause I won’t do it!” I glared at him.

Hayden looked at me intensely. “Okay, first of all, I never, ever told you that you would have to avoid Joel. In fact, we’ve never even had this conversation yet. Second, you are a master at analogies. You don’t have to lie...technically. You can just come up with something relative to what is really going on.”

“Like what?” I said, exasperatedly.

“Like comparing it to a reality he would understand. Me, for instance. I could be your new roommate that you finally interviewed and accepted.” He winked at me.

I rolled my eyes, knowing he was gloating that he knew an inconceivable amount of information about me.

“And as for moving, think of a job that might make you relocate.” Hayden continued, “It’s perfect timing that I’m your new roommate and all of a sudden you have a new job. Maybe I helped you find one, something like that. It’s not really that far from the truth if you think about it.”

I pondered for a moment and tried to think of how I could explain my new “job” without sounding conspicuous. Then it dawned on me.

“Like the government!”

Hayden smiled. “See? I knew you’d get those wheels turning.”

“The Guardian Council is like the government, and I just happened to land a job that requires me to move to a certain location in order to train or whatever. I could be vague about it and say I help people or the world for the better. Like CIA...something of that nature. They pay well, and the only reason I landed the job was because you were the one who helped me get it, and we now work for the same agency.” This was all believable, of course, if Joel bought the idea that the government would even hire me for anything to begin with.

“Okay, good idea,” Hayden chuckled. “Putting some brownie points in there for me will make this a lot easier on us.”

I started to smile as I looked at him. After Joel met Hayden – whenever that would be – he would take one look at him and that would be all the “brownie points” he’d need to be okay with Hayden as my new roommate. I giggled as the ideas came flooding.

I checked my phone and saw that it was completely dead. “Dammit.”

Hayden grabbed his jacket at the foot of the bed and pulled a cell phone from the inner pocket. “Here,” he said, “use mine.”

I cocked an eyebrow and took the phone. “You have a cell phone?”

“Yeah,” he said smugly, “and I also charge it.”

I wrinkled my nose at his comment.

I dialed his number and waited through the long gap in rings until he finally picked up.

“Hello?” I heard his voice.

“Jo Jo! It’s me!”

“Evika!? Is that you?”

“Yeah, Joel, it’s me. God, I miss you so much. I’m so happy your phone’s back on!”

There was silence for a good five seconds before I heard sniffling.

“Oh, Ev,” he whimpered quietly, “I’ve been so worried about you,” he sniffled again. “I got your email today when I went to the library and had my parents pay my phone bill to get this damn thing turned back on because I just wanted to hear your voice again to know you were okay.” He was bawling.

“Jo Jo, don’t cry,” I comforted him. “I’m okay now. Everything is going to be okay. I promise. There’s been a lot of changes, but everything is going to be okay.” I counted the amount of times I said “okay” and just rolled my eyes. Jeez.

Joel took a deep breath and let it out exaggeratedly. “Evika, I almost lost my mind these past few months, making myself sick. When I came to see you....I....I just lost it. I didn’t even want to come back here. I wished I could have just stayed there with you. I knew I never should have moved out here. This whole thing was a mistake.”

I looked over at Hayden, who was half-listening to the conversation while making the bed. I finally broke down and relented to my tears. I walked out of the room and into the hall. I let my back slide against the wall and dropped to the floor.

“Joel,” I cried, “don’t say that. You can’t hang around just for me. I’m so sorry I missed you when you came here. If I would have woken up just a little sooner, you would have still been here.”

We were both crying and sniffling into the phone. My chest was aching, and my head hurt so badly. Joel was the closest thing I had to knowing myself in the real world, and I missed him. I felt that I’d gotten cheated out of so much time while I was in the coma.

“Evika,” I could hear his voice regaining composure, “I know you only fell, but what were you thinking that night? The roof, Evika? The roof!” The scolding began. “Oh God, and the drinking, for crying out loud, Evika Jade. What the hell is wrong with you? This depression and drunken idiocy is getting way out of hand. Do I need to come home?”

“No, Jo Jo,” I assured him as I wiped my tears away with my sleeve, “actually, I have some news to tell you, and I think you might be pretty happy.”

“Girl, happy news would be great because I’m dying here not knowing what is going on with you, and who’s phone are you calling from, anyway?” Joel displayed concern in his voice.

I saw Hayden’s shadow form on the hallway floor and felt him standing in the doorway. I took a deep breath.

“That is a huge part of what I have to tell you. It’s my new roommate’s phone.”

I heard Joel suck in air. I knew he was shocked. “Really? You finally picked someone? But you just got out of the hospital. What’s her name?”

“Uh, well, she is kind of a guy. His name is Hayden.”

“Oh!” Joel exclaimed and then brought his voice to a whisper. “Wait, is he gay?” I laughed loudly as I knew that was going to be his first question.

I turned to my left, still laughing, and looked up at Hayden, who was leaning against the door frame with folded arms and a smile. The sun was shining in the room, illuminating his right side. His eyes looked so warm and sincere, his expression so patient. I quickly glanced at his naked torso and forced myself to blink and turn away.

“Nope. I’m pretty sure he’s on my team, Jo Jo,” I finally answered.

“Oh, Ev-bear...really?” I heard the disappointment in his voice. “This is a recipe for disaster, I tell you. I can feel it.”

“Jo, relax. He came with credentials, and besides, he’s kind of a friend of the family I just found out about,” I explained. “He got me back on my feet and got me into a really, really good job.”

“Hmm.” Joel sounded skeptical. “What kind of job?”

Here we go. I started to panic, looking around for some sort of answer that would ignite my creative spin on the whole story. I felt a light tap on my shoulder and turned to see Hayden in a pair of black Oakleys and holding his pointer finger and thumb up in this dorky pose. Then it hit me.

“Well, it’s a government job. I go for training, and we’ll be working for a small government agency. Hayden already works for the agency and he kind of recruited me while he’s stationed here.”

“Evika,” Joel wasn’t buying my story at all, “I smell fish-water. Which agency of the government is this?”

I thought for a moment and blurted it out. “It’s called the S.P.A.”

“ Spa? And that stands for...?”

“Seekers Protection Agency.”

“Never heard of that one, Evika,” he said in a drilling tone.

“Of course, you haven’t, Jo Jo. It’s because it’s like that movie, Men In Black. You’re not really supposed to know they exist, and that’s why I have to be careful about what I tell Secret Service stuff.”

“Evika, how in the world did you fall into something like this and what are you going to have to do at this SPA, anyway?”

“Well, I kind of help people, Joel, people who need a refuge, you could say,” I explained.

“Like illegal aliens or something?” Joel sounded a little more convinced now.

“Sort of,” I said before thinking a bit more. “Almost like Witness Protection where people are in trouble with above-the-law people. You know me and people, kind of my specialty, I guess. I get incentives too!” I tried to sound excited for his sake.

“This better be good,” Joel said. I could just see him folding his arms and leaning back in the chair giving me that look of his.

“I get a new car, and I get to move into a new house in Georgia.”

What?” I heard the shock in his voice. “Evika, Georgia? You’re kidding me, right?”

“It was either that or Hawaii.” I shot Hayden a look. “And, well, you know me and planes.”

“Yeah, I know,” his voice sounded skeptical again. “But why do I feel this is happening a little too fast, Ev? Why do I feel like there is something wrong with this? My gut is telling me something here.”

I sighed and thought about what I would say to him if this were any normal situation that I was trying to convince him to accept. “Because, Jo Jo,” I closed my eyes and smiled into the phone, “you love me more than I deserve, and you care about me and don’t want me doing anything stupid, which you’ve witnessed plenty of in my past up until now. But, I promise you, my life is different since I came home from the hospital. I’m not going to be some lost girl trying to find her calling in life anymore. This huge change has come along, and I have to ride the wave for now to see where it takes me.” I was hoping it would be enough to convince him.

Joel was quiet for a few seconds and then sighed deeply into the phone. “I don’t really like the idea that you have to keep all of this secret stuff, Evika, but as long as I know where you are, that you are okay and we can stay in contact from here on out and see each other and talk to each other without this whole thing getting in the way, then I’ll bite my tongue. If this is what you really want, then I’m here for you no matter what. But you have to promise me that this isn’t some act of subterfuge because I swear, girl, it will end in a nasty cat-fight. Do you hear me?” I could hear the playfulness in his voice toward the end and a wave of relief set in.

“I hear you, Jo Jo. No worries. I swear it. Cross my heart.” I was proud of the direction the conversation had taken.

“And how old is this Hayden guy, anyway?” Joel inquired. I could tell he was becoming a little more open to the concept now, and I was glad we were off the subject of the “new job.”

“Oh,” I bit my bottom lip and looked up at Hayden again, “his age?” Hayden smirked at me and held up both his hands, one with two fingers and the other with the full five. “He’s twenty-five,” I told Joel as Hayden nodded in satisfaction.

“Ev, are you sure this guy is a safe choice? You don’t see any sort of problem with just moving in with him?”

“Jo Jo, I feel completely safe with him. I promise. He’s really helped me out since I’ve been home,” I assured him. “Besides, here at the apartment and even when we move to Georgia, he’ll be in his own room. Not in mine.”

“Yeah, for now,” Joel jeered.

“Joel!” My face flushed as I thought about what he implied. I laughed nervously, then I recalled something I once said and realized it was the proper time to bring it up. “Okay, do you remember that time we were talking about how people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Joel answered me.

“Well, I told you that you can know someone for twenty years, and just one day can make you realize you’ve been wrong about them and you didn’t know them at all. Then you can know someone for twenty minutes and know them instantly and feel like you’ve already known them for twenty years. That is how I will explain Hayden to you. He’s like a twenty-minute person.” It was funny how easily the analogies came to me; how easy it was to explain how I felt about Hayden.

Joel sighed, and I waited through the long pause for his answer. “You’re really going to pull out the twenty-twenty card on this guy, huh?”

I smiled. “Yes, I’m pulling out the twenty-twenty card.” It was quiet for a moment.

“You better be right, Ev-bear, because I love you with all my heart, and I can’t bear to see you hurt. I am thousands of miles away from you, and I swear I’d never forgive myself.”

“Cross my heart, honest. You have nothing to worry about, and neither do I,” I assured Joel. Then I saw Hayden’s hand in front of me, palm up. I turned to see that he was gesturing for me to hand him the phone. Seriously?

“Uh, Joel, do you wanna talk to him?”

“Oh, by all means, Evika,” Joel said with an exasperated tone. “Put the boy on the phone.”

I pulled the phone from my ear and covered the mouthpiece as I handed the phone over to Hayden. “Are you sure about this?” I whispered.

Hayden grinned and winked at me, whispering back. “It’s in the bag.”

He took the phone, went into the bedroom and, to my surprise, shut the door, leaving me out in the hallway. ​What? Are you kidding me? I stood there looking at the white door and started huffing. I knew Hayden wasn’t going to ruin anything I’d just talked about with Joel. If anything, he would solidify everything and probably win Joel over in a heartbeat, but I couldn’t believe that he would just shut me out of the room like that. I’d gotten somewhat used to the fact that he was already marking his territory on me and my belongings...but to just go off into my best friend’s old room and talk to him on the phone and shut me out of the room? The audacity!

I folded my arms tightly and stomped out to the living room. I wasn’t about to barge in on him while he was on the phone and start our bantering. It wouldn’t make a good impression on Joel and, of course, Hayden knew that. Ugh!

I paced the room until I caught sight of myself in the small mirror hanging under one of my art pieces. I walked up to my reflection and glanced at the bandage on my neck. I was curious to see what I’d find, so I pulled away some of the tape and lifted the gauze. I saw that my wound wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been the day before when I bathed. The cuts were almost gone and only left evidence of a long, pink, puffy slice in the skin. It was like I was healing ten times faster than normal. Deciding I didn’t need it anymore, I pulled the bandage off completely.

“My first battle scar,” I muttered to myself as I sat down on the couch, folding my arms again.

I gave a lot of thought to the fast rate at which I healed; all the broken bones, the scrapes, and bruising, not to mention all the head damage that fall would have caused. Briefly, I wondered again, if I really was going crazy, and all of this chaos was a figment of my imagination. For all I knew, I was still in the hospital in the same coma I thought I was out of.

But I knew better. Nothing felt more real than when I met Hayden and inhaled his intoxicating scent of fallen rain. Nothing felt more real than when he touched me or smiled at me, or gazed at me with those emerald eyes of his. Nothing felt more real than being so close to his lips and secretly wanting to kiss them. Indeed, it was all real.

I lay down, taking up the entire couch with my body while staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t stand it. Even when he infuriated me, I couldn’t look past the euphoric feelings I had when I was with him. The thirst I had for him was untamed and uncontrollable, and I hated that lack of control; it wasn’t me. Now, more than ever, I needed to be in control or I was going to lose myself completely.

I thought about what Hayden and Joel were talking about, the very two men in my life that knew me the most, conversing together for the first time. It was unnerving to sit there and wait, but finally the bedroom door opened, and Hayden came walking out still talking on his cell and sporting a smug grin. I glared at him.

“Sure, Joel!.........Not a problem.........Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll get the address to you as soon as we have one. You have my word.” Hayden was by the couch and ready to hand me the phone, “All right, buddy. We’ll talk to you soon. I’ll hand ya back over to Ev..............Later.” Hayden handed me the cell. Reluctantly, I grabbed it from his hand.

I covered the mouthpiece and whispered to Hayden, “I can’t believe you.”

Hayden raised a brow and gave me a cocky smile. “You’ll thank me later,” he whispered as he turned to walk back down the hall.

I couldn’t help it, just like I couldn’t help my mouth sometimes. I raised my hand and flicked him off as he walked away, thrashing my hand through the air violently, knowing he wouldn’t see it, and then I heard, “I saw that.” Hayden glanced nonchalantly over his shoulder. Ugh! I took a deep breath before getting back to Joel.

“Hey, Jo Jo, everything okay?” I anxiously asked into the phone.

“Is everything okay? Holy crudpuppies, Evika! Hayden is adorable!” Joel exclaimed.

Of course, I thought. “Uh, okay. So I guess you two hit it off?”

“Oh, to say the least! Ev-bear, you’re lucky you got to him first.”

I chuckled at his comment. “Hmm. So he must have charmed you, huh?”

“Evika, charmed is not the word. I’m completely dazzled.”

What a surprise. I guess it was a good thing. I shouldn’t have held my irritation over the fact that Joel was really okay with all of these sudden changes, and the fact that Hayden won Joel over in just a simple talk over the phone.

“I’m glad that you approve, Jo Jo. That makes me feel so much better and it takes a lot of the pressure off of me after having made this decision without you around.”

“I officially approve, and I can’t wait to meet him someday.” I could hear Joel’s smile through the phone.

I sighed. “Well, I can’t wait to see you again, Joel. I miss you so much it hurts.”

“Girl, you’re tellin’ me. Don’t worry. We’ll figure something out soon when I get a break from school and you’re settled into the new place. Oh! And you still have to meet Evan!”

“Really? You guys are still going strong after all I’ve put you through?” I tried to laugh, but I knew Evan must be a special kind of person to handle Joel and how crazy he probably was being so far away and going nuts over what had happened to me.

“Sure are...actually he kept me sane through the whole thing. He’s really something.”

“He’s already got my vote, Jo. That says a lot about someone.”

Joel sighed. “I’m just glad this part of the drama is all over. We can go back to a...somewhat-normalcy again.” It was funny how Joel just knew things weren’t going to be completely as they were. He seemed to pick up on those things rather quickly and was very insightful, just one of the things I loved about him. “Oh, and don’t be doing anything reckless and stupid again either, or I’m holding your Hayden personally responsible. And such a shame that would be because he sounds like a really yummy piece of---”

“Joel!” I cut him off. “I promise you, I’m okay. No more stunts.”

We sighed simultaneously.

“I believe you, Ev-bear...and I love you all the way from Paris.”

I chuckled. “I love you back, Jo Jo, all the way from Cleveland.”

“Never goodbye,” Joel started.

“Just see ya later,” I finished for him.

I ended the call and headed back to the bedroom to give Hayden his phone. He was in the room, having already taken a shower, dressed in jeans and a gray t-shirt with a pair of black wings on the breast. Funny. Har. Har.

“Here’s your phone back,” I said as I placed it on the nightstand.

Hayden looked up at me as he rustled his fingers through his wet hair. “Thanks.”

I looked at him for a moment and shook my head. “So, what was that all about?” I demanded.

He shrugged as he finished tying his boots. “I’m entitled to privacy once in a while, aren’t I?”

My bottom jaw dropped. “With my best friend? I can’t believe you shut the door on me when I let you be a part of my entire conversation. You’re unbelievable, you know that?”

Hayden laughed. “Like I said before, Evika,” he gave me his cheesy smile, “you’ll thank me later.”

“Ugh! What does that even mean?

“You’ll see,” he said to me.

“You exhaust me.” I threw my hands into the air and fell backwards onto the bed.

“Apparently,” he jeered.

I sat up stiffly and glared. “No, I really mean it,” I said sharply. “You exhaust me. I can’t keep up with you at all!” Hayden smirked at me. I could tell he felt proud. “Ugh!” I stood and waved my hands around animatedly. “And then you do these expressions that look like you know something that I don’t know, which is true, because every time I turn around, there’s something you do that just makes my head spin!”

“You’re not a fan of mystery, are you?” he asked playfully.

I huffed as I felt my blood heating. “Jeez, you’re relentless!”

He looked at me curiously. “What exactly is your problem?”

I glowered. “Are you kidding me?”

“No, I’m not kidding. What is it that is pissing you off so much that you are in here yelling at me about me?”

“Hayden, it’s like you keep the curtains closed over all these things, and you purposely tease me by only opening one at a time...and I don’t even know how many there are! And on top of that, I have to twist the truth to my best friend about this whole new life I’m going to be leading, sweating bullets all the while. My life has been turned upside down, as if it wasn’t already before you showed up!” I started pacing. “And then you get on the phone, close the door on me, and come waltzing out after becoming all buddy-buddy with Joel in a matter of minutes!”

“So, that’s your issue?” Hayden chuckled. “You’re mad at me for befriending Joel?” He walked closer to me.

I threw my head back and grunted. “It’s everything, Hayden! Why is this so hard to communicate to you?”

Hayden belted out a deep laugh. “Evika,” his green eyes lightened as he tried to look at me and speak seriously, but he failed miserably, so I just got more ticked off. “You’re experiencing the normal feelings of your new role, and your rage is one of a kind, so please try to calm down.” He just couldn’t stop laughing.

“So that’s it?” I threw my hands in the air again. “I tell you how unfair my life is now, or rather, what’s left of it, and you laugh hysterically?” I was yelling at this point. “You know, I’m beginning to think this crap about you being an angel is a big load of sh---”

“Hold it!” In one, quick movement, his two fingers pressed against my lips firmly. Calm swept through me like a wave of warmth. I felt leveled again. It was something I’d felt a few times with him before, but I wasn’t aware of the control Hayden had over it. I stood in a stupor.

He kept his fingers to my lips for at least ten seconds as he studied my face. His eyes bore into mine as if he was concentrating. The rage tamed inside me from a boil to a simmer and then to almost nothing. We stood there in silence, staring at one another. What was that? What had just happened between us? I knew myself. I didn’t cool off that fast when I was angry.

Hayden looked at me with solemn eyes. The green in them sparkled like emeralds. “Never, in my entire existence, have I seen someone get so worked up and heated so quickly,” he said, almost as if he were fascinated rather than irritated. “This must be why I was made for you,” he said in amazement as he slowly claimed his hand back and kept his eyes on me. “Are you better now?” A genuine smile formed on his flawless face.

“I was fine before,” I said smugly. “What did you just do to me?” I demanded to know.

“I did what you should learn how to do. I controlled your anger for you.” He shrugged and walked out of the room.

Ugh! As if my life wasn’t weird enough already with having to save dead people and fight demonic creatures, I now had a so-called Guardian Angel who’d just discovered his talent of sedating me? Really? The more appropriate question was: how far could Hayden take that talent? Was I not going to be allowed to feel my normal emotions without his interference? I’m human! Emotions make you feel alive, especially my own, and he had the ability to do that little number on me?

All of these things made me think harder and made me even more frustrated as I watched him walk away. I followed him. He was an idiot if he thought that I would let him walk away without explanation. I stamped down the hall loud enough for him to know I was tagging along. I wanted to see his reaction. He deposited himself on the living room couch and turned on the television as if nothing had happened.

“Hey! I’m not done with this yet! What the hell did you just do to me?” I yelled.

Without turning to me, he lightly laughed while flipping through the channels. “Apparently, whatever I did didn’t last long.”

That was the moment I just felt like throwing the biggest hissy-fit of my life. I plopped myself on the couch next to him, narrowing my eyes as I stared at his emotionless expression toward the television.

“See? This is exactly what I’m talking about. The damn curtains! I’m not letting this go, Hayden,” I said, folding my arms. “You should know me well enough by now that I just don’t let things go. What just happened in there?”

He cocked his head and looked at me. “Do you have to know the answers to everything? Am I not allowed to keep some things to myself at all?” He chuckled.

“When it comes to my life, I feel that I have a right to know, especially when you’re messing with my body the way you just did. And yes, I’d like to think knowing the answers to everything keeps me up-to-date with the real world, considering I hardly live in it anymore. Will you please just tell me what’s going on?” I made a conscious effort to keep my arms folded.

He sighed. “Guess I’ll have to, but only if you promise not to go all angerball on me again.”

Angerball? He caught me by surprise. “Wh-what did you just say?”

“What? Angerball?”

“Yes, that. Where did you hear that?”

Hayden took on his solemn look. “I think you know.”

I stared into his eyes. “My mother...she used to call me her little angerball when I lost my temper. It was kind of a running joke between us, and it always used to make me laugh.”

His green eyes looked into mine, and I felt even more comfort. I wondered if he was calming me down again, but I had a hunch his talent only worked the strongest when he touched me. I felt drawn to him, and the fact that I could possibly lose myself in that sensation didn’t bother me at all. It was a new feeling that made my heart pound and my head float. Although I’d never let on, his knowing parts of my life kept me grounded.

“You really have been around for my whole life, haven’t you?” I asked in amazement.

“Yes,” he answered with a smile, “and I paid very close attention, too.” He turned toward me, placing his arm on the back of the couch and gently played with my pony tail. “Evika, I know this whole thing is hard on you, especially without her, but she would be so proud of you.”

The lump in my throat formed, and the tingle in my nose grew, warning me to shut my eyes tightly. “I want her back,” I whispered. My head sank, and as I let the tears form, I felt a darkness fall over me. “I would accept any fate I’m given as long as I could just have her back. Her death was a mistake, and I’ll never accept it.”

A brief thought shot through my mind, and part of me wished that she was one of the souls I had to save just so I could have her back again. Hayden pulled my head into his chest. I succumbed to his embrace and wrapped my arms around him.

“You know,” Hayden said, “life never really turns out how you think it should. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. I’ve seen it all, Evika, but I assure you, there is a rhyme and reason to all of it. You have to have faith in that.”

I’d felt such a desperation inside that made me cling to him, almost aching with a need for more of his attentiveness. I felt I could release all of my fears, my anger, and my problematic chaos I let become my world and let him take it away. The darkness subsided. The shadows dissipated. I just wanted to find myself again, and as I breathed him in, holding onto him, I knew Hayden was the one who would bring me back again.

The calm swept through my body as it did minutes before, kicking in like a mild dose of some sort of narcotic. I gasped as I realized the suddenness of it.

“Did you feel that?” Hayden whispered.

I took a deep breath and answered him calmly. “Yes.”

The angel chuckled. “These little tantrums of yours pull out the best in me.”

I felt peaceful and giddy, wondering if the feeling was the affects of Hayden’s touch or the fact that I was so close to him, holding him again. “So, is this some new ability you’ve just discovered?”

“I’ve been toying with it for a few days now, but yeah,” he answered me.

“How does it work anyway, this calming thing?” I tried to stay open-minded.

“Well, it’s not like when I take pain away. I pull that away from you. With calming you down, it works the opposite way; it’s like I give you something. Is that what it feels like?”

I nodded. “It feels like an antidote, a sedative you’re pumping through me, and it goes through my entire body. It’s like my nerves are all worked up, and when you did that thing, they fizzle out, back to normal.” I thought for a moment before continuing. “And sometimes I get this surge of energy when I touch you, but not all the time.”

“Hmm,” he gave me a smug look, “I knew I was good for you.”

I couldn’t help my eye roll at his comment. Then I sighed, feeling euphoric as my head lay against his chest, hearing his breathing and taking in the peace still within me. “I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, this talent of yours,” I muttered.

I felt Hayden’s laughter vibrate through his chest. “Okay, I’ll stop then,” he said as he started to maneuver away from me.

“No,” I grabbed his arm before he could pull away completely. “Can’t you just control it....without moving away from me?” I could have clubbed myself in the head for being so obvious.

Hayden smirked at me knowingly. “Yeah,” he pulled his arm around me once again, “I can control it as long as you’re done being mean.”

I guffawed. “I’m not mean, I’m just demanding, sometimes.”

He blew through his lips. “To put it mildly.” Hayden started flipping through the TV channels again. I smiled as I thought back at the conversation with Joel.

“So,” I started, “twenty-five, huh?”

“Well, personally, I think I could have gone for younger, but we don’t want Joel thinking I’m just some kid, you know?”

I chuckled at his egotism.

“Well, what about you?” he inquired. “SPA? That came out of nowhere.”

I twisted my face into an unfavorable expression. “Well, personally,” I mocked him, “I think I could have gone for S.O.L. You know, Soldiers of Light...but that acronym was already taken by ‘shit outta luck.’”

Hayden laughed and shook his head. “At least you manage to find the humor in all of this.” He checked the clock on the wall. “Hey, just so you know, we have somewhere to be at five o’clock. I have someone I need to introduce you to.”

“Oh, joy. A new curtain. Who am I meeting?”

He gave me his five-hundred watt smile. “My best friend, Luka.”

“My dad’s last Guardian?”

Hayden nodded.

I grinned at the thought of meeting Luka. I really wanted to meet him after hearing all about him, knowing that he was such a huge part of my father’s life and a link to my past. Parts of me felt missing, for obvious reasons, but I had a feeling that Luka would be a huge piece of the puzzle for me.

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