Negative Zero (Book 1)

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Chapter 12: Two Angels and a Girl

Chapter Twelve Two Angels and a Girl

I was almost ready by the time we had to leave, but, as usual, I kept finding things to slow me down. If it wasn’t my hair bothering me, it was a hang-nail. If it wasn’t indecision about my bra, it was a knot in my shoelace.

“Evika, I like to be on time!” Hayden yelled from the living room. “You’re killin’ me here!”

Frustrated, I grunted as I drew on a small amount of black eyeliner. “Hold your wings, Angel-man. I’m coming!”

I took one last look at myself in the mirror. My hair was up in cute, little twists in the front, still wet from my shower. I wore my gray Marilyn Monroe t-shirt with an open, white, button-up over it with my favorite jeans and black boots. I ran out to the living room, grabbed my army jacket and phone, and presented myself.

“Okay,” I said to Hayden, “I’m ready.”

Pulling on his leather, Hayden shook his head and laughed. “You have no concept of time, do you?”

I lowered my brow and pursed my lips. “Whatever.”

“Better put that on,” Hayden pointed to my jacket. “We’re taking my ride.”

I rolled my eyes at his pride and shimmied my jacket on as we bounced out the door. I couldn’t hide the excitement within me. I couldn’t wait to meet Luka. I guess that was why I took so long to get ready. Even though I’m sure Luka had already seen me time and time again throughout my life, this was my official, first impression to him. I had this feeling that I would just know who he was in a crowd. Of course, if he was anywhere nearly as beautiful as Hayden, he wouldn’t be hard to spot, but I assumed that all the angels were beautiful in their own way. Luka would be no exception, and I just knew it.

Hayden had me sit behind him on the Harley this time. The engine was loud, but I felt like my thoughts were even louder and was almost embarrassed that I had them. I was secretly fantasizing about Hayden’s bare chest, something of which I’d gotten to see quite thoroughly earlier in the day, I might add, all the way to the restaurant as I pressed my face against his back and locked my arms around him. I made a conscious effort not to let my hands roam the places they were roaming in my head.

We pulled into the parking lot of Lockwood Grille and made our way in. Hayden looked at the time on his cell. “You’re lucky I’m a speeder,” he said to me before turning to the hostess. “Hi ma’am, we were meeting someone here. Do you know if a gentleman by the name of Luka has arrived yet?” The hostess checked the reservation list.

I scoped the busy restaurant, and my eyes were drawn to the corner of the far end of the room where I saw a guy sitting alone, reading the menu. He had light brown hair and a very young-looking face, much like a teenager; maybe nineteen or twenty years of age. I observed his cream-colored sweater and something shiny around his neck. I could hardly see from the distance, but it looked like it was tucked under the collar of his sweater. I tugged Hayden’s arm without moving my eyes away from the stranger.

Hayden focused his eyes on the object of my stare. “Oh,” he said, “there he is.”

The hostess smiled as she grabbed two menus. “Right this way.”

Hayden placed his hand on the small of my back as we walked over to the table. Luka looked up and stood immediately to greet us, his sky-blue eyes widening.

“Well, well, well.” Luka’s smile grew. “If it isn’t the new Soldier and her G.A.”

It was all I needed from him before I involuntarily flitted over to him and threw my arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. Something drew me to him, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

Luka hugged me back with just as much force and laughed. “Wow! Now that’s a greeting if I’ve ever had one.”

I let him go and smiled. “Hi, Luka.” I took in his height. He was only slightly taller than Hayden. His complexion was paler, and his eyes were as blue as the clear sky.

Luka held out his hand to me, and we shook. “Pleased to officially meet you, Evika.” He turned to Hayden who was taking my jacket and placing it over the chair. “And you, well, I always see you around,” he laughed.

“Hey, Luka.” Hayden chuckled. “Short time, no see.”

“You’re tellin’ me. I’m surprised I’m not sick of you yet after all these years,” Luka jeered. We all laughed. “Hope you’re both hungry. I ordered the sampler platter for an appetizer.”

“Oh, I’m starving.” I grabbed my stomach and sat down in the chair as Hayden scooted me in.

“Sorry we are a few minutes late,” Hayden said as he took his seat. “Miss Bear-hug over here tends to dilly-dally.”

I growled. “Only because I’m not as perfect as you when I wake up in the morning, Angel-man.” I stuck out my tongue at him.

“Aww, how cute,” Luka teased. “You guys are bantering. I see sparks already. Anyway, Hayden, thirty seconds to the minute, and you dub yourself late.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hayden waved his hand at Luka. “We all know I’m punctual.”

The bubbly waitress came over and laid coasters down. “Welcome to Lockwood Grille. My name is Quinn, and I’ll be taking care of you today.” She then rattled off the specials so fast, but I just wanted to order some liquid first. “May I get you all something to drink?” she asked.

Luka bowed his head to me. “Ladies first.” He smiled.

“Hi Quinn. If you have it, I’ll take a Guinn-ow!” I felt a hand squeeze my knee tightly. I looked over at Hayden, who stared at me with narrowed eyes. I sighed. “I’ll just take an ice water, please,” I said unenthusiastically. She nodded.

“A Coke, please,” Hayden requested.

“Certainly. And would you like a refill on your water, sir?” she asked Luka.

“That would be great, Quinn,” he answered her kindly.

“Coming right out,” she walked away.

Luka leaned into the table and raised an eyebrow. “Now, what was that all about?”

Hayden breathed in, but just before he started to talk, I cut him off.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I grumbled. “Just a little agreement I had to make in order to get my Mustang and new house.”

Luka raised an eyebrow. “Agreement, huh?”

Hayden shook his head at me and chuckled. “Jeez, Ev, you make it sound like I made you drown puppies or something.”

“Wait a minute,” Luka chimed in, “is he making you quit drinking?” he asked me as he tried containing his laughter.

“Yes.” I nodded. “Well, he calls it curbing. And this is on top of other stipulations unbeknownst to me. I have yet to hear those.”

Luka turned to Hayden and laughed. “Aw, Hayden, let the poor girl have a beer for crying out loud. She just found out she’s got to save a bunch of dead people, and you’re denying her a cold one?”

Hayden rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah,” he guffawed. “I’m the bad guy here.”

Luka leaned into me. “You know, he may act all tough on the outside, but he’s really a big softy. He really can be fun, I promise.”

I burst out laughing.

“Thanks, Luka,” Hayden said jokingly. “I’m happy you can give her a few pointers about me since I’m sure I’ve made quite an impression already.”

“I’m sure you have,” Luka teased as our waitress walked up with our drinks. “Hey there, Quinn. Would you mind bringing out two tall Black Stouts for myself and the young lady?”

“Sure thing,” she said with a smile. I was waiting for her to I.D. me, and especially Luka, but the question never came up. I figured the omission was due to Luka’s convivial personality. I was sure he, and Hayden for that matter, could be quite persuasive if they wanted to be.

“And no worries about my friend here,” he patted Hayden on the shoulder. “He’s fine with his Coke.”

I held my stomach, laughing uncontrollably as Hayden sighed without any retort, as if used to Luka’s antics. Though, he had trouble hiding his smirk.

Luka looked at Hayden and plastered on a cheesy grin. “See? Evika meets me, I make her laugh. All you seem to do is piss her off.”

Shaking his head, Hayden cracked the smile he couldn’t hide any longer. “And to think, I was going to wait until next week for this little introduction.”

“Well, I find you quite charming, Luka.” I smiled.

“Don’t we all?” Hayden teased.

Our beers came out along with the sampler platter, and we three placed our dinner orders. After the waitress walked away again, I decided that I could ask the question I was dying to ask as soon as I’d met Luka.

“So, Luka, what color are yours?” I asked him. I heard Hayden almost choke on a swig of his drink.

“My what?” Luka looked confused.

Hayden bellowed a laugh. “Are you asking him about his wings?”

“Of course,” I answered. “What else would I be talking about?”

They both gave me adoring looks.

“Off-white,” Luka said with a smile. “So mine wouldn’t be as shocking to you as this guy’s.” He nodded to Hayden.

“Ah yes,” Hayden recalled, “that moment is forever memorable.”

“Well, I think I’m handling all of this quite nicely, if I may say so, myself.” I gave Hayden a loving glare.

“I’ll attest to that, my dear,” Luka held up his beer. “Kudos to you.” We clanked our glasses together. The silver necklace hiding under Luka’s sweater neckline taunted my curiosity as we started munching on the appetizers.

“Luka, what’s on your necklace?”

His eyes widened as he dropped his mozzarella stick to wipe his hands. “Crap. I wore this thing so I’d remember and I completely forgot until you said something.”

I looked at him curiously as he pulled the chain from his neck and draped it over his hand. He held the pendent in his palm and handed it over to me.

“This is yours now,” he said solemnly.

I reached over and took the chain from him, admiring the silver pendent that replicated my birth mark; the same mark my father possessed. My mouth opened as I gazed at it.

“It was your father’s. Jack designed it, but never got a chance to see the finished product. I’ve held onto it until I had the chance to give it to you. Today was just as perfect as any, so I want you to keep this.”

I smiled as I admired the silver in my palm. “It’s the negative zero,” I said quietly. “Just like our birthmark.”

Luka nodded. “Elliott was in the process of making it when Jack, well, before his Final Death. It wasn’t finished yet.”

My eyes flickered between Luka and Hayden. “Elliott?” I asked as I placed the necklace around my neck.

“Yeah,” Hayden answered. “He’s kind of the angel-techie of the House of Council.”

“Techie?” I tried to comprehend. “Like the Geek Squad at Best Buy?”

Both Luka and Hayden laughed heartily.

“You could say that,” Luka humored me. “He’ll be the one that you meet with soon to design your own castors.”

“I don’t use my father’s?” I inquired.

Hayden turned to Luka. “We haven’t gotten that far into the job description yet.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. There is still a lot of explaining that Hayden has as far as that goes,” Luka said to me, “but no, you won’t use your father’s castors. Each new Soldier of Light must eventually design his or her own, and Elliott is your angel. You think it; he builds it.”

“Wow,” I said in disbelief, “you guys really have your own community set up, don’t you?”

Luka chuckled. “Seems that way, doesn’t it? We were all created for a reason, and we all have our own personalities and talents.”

“Hmm.” I smiled wryly. “Like little quirks?” I looked over at Hayden.

Hayden gave me a boyish simper. “I have quirks?”

I mirrored his expression. “Oh yeah, and I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t even discovered yet. Can’t wait,” I said in a sardonic tone.

“Wow.” Luka laughed. “Pretty facetious, isn’t she?”

“You have no idea.” Hayden chuckled.

“So, what about me?” I asked. “My dad had a talent after his First Death. He was able to determine outcomes before they happened, foresee things. Don’t I get some sort of ability like that?”

“It was rather easy for Jack to notice his gift since he could receive visions,” Luka explained. “Most likely, your ability will bloom soon. You just have to discover it.”

“But what could it be? I don’t feel any different. The only thing I know is that I heal ten times quicker than I did before, but Hayden said that’s normal for anyone who has Crossed.”

“Evika,” Hayden chimed in, “whenever your gift, talent, ability or whatever you want to call it presents itself, it will have a purpose. You’re blessed with something useful and meaningful. We’ll have plenty of time to discover that as time goes by.”

I sighed. “I just wish it was something cool like my dad’s.” I looked at Hayden questioningly. “It didn’t seem to take you very long to figure out your little gift with me.”

Hayden grinned.

“Oh, you mean the new quirk?” Luka laughed.

“You knew about it?” I asked him.

“He told me all about it.”

“Nice.” I slouched. “Well, that’s embarrassing.”

“Nonsense,” Luka assured me. “It’s how you two fit so well with each other, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your father was an excellent man, and he could hit his boiling point quite fast.” Luka laughed. “It’s safe to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I felt the blood rush to my face and was relieved when our food came to interrupt our conversation. I started digging in as if I hadn’t eaten for a week.

“So, Luka,” Hayden taunted, “since we’re on the subject of talents, why don’t you share one of yours with Evika?”

“Eh, mine aren’t that fun.” Luka chortled.

“Oh, stop being modest.” Hayden turned to me. “Luka, here, is a nature-harmon.”

“Which means....?” I asked.

“Well, for one, he can put animals at peace. If there were a rabid dog outside, and it was going after you, Luka could tame it on the spot.”

I turned to Luka and smiled. “So you and Hayden kind of share the same gift? Hmm.” I thought for a moment. “Only, in our case, I’m the animal.” I pursed my lips after I said that thought out loud.

They both laughed at me.

“Just a little ability I discovered many years ago. It’s sort of pointless.”

I smiled at him. “I think it’s neat.”

“Since we have you in the spotlight, Luka,” Hayden started, “maybe Evika would like to hear about who you had before Jack.”

Luka laughed. “Oh, that’s right. You’re a lover of horror, right?”

I nodded. “Heck yeah. Love horror movies. Why?”

Luka smirked at Hayden and then at me. “Does Robert England sound familiar?”

I dropped my fork and sucked air. “No. Way.” I was astonished. “You were the Guardian of the guy who played Freddy Krueger? You’re joking.”

Luka held up his hand. “Angel’s honor. I swear it.”

“Omigod, that is the coolest thing ever!” I squealed.

“After Lavinia passed away, the Council felt I’d be the best fit for your father so they pulled me from Robert. He has a new Guardian now.

“So, who do you have now?” I was curious.

“Luka is on trial,” Hayden chimed in again. “Guardians can take trial periods if they’d like to experience human life. A vacation, if you will.”

I laughed. “Nice. How long does that last?”

“Well,” Luka started, “we can take up to a year, but I’ve only been on trial for about two months. Kind of a good breather after so many consecutive lives. I was assigned to a few more after your father and then I put in for my trial period. I couldn’t have hit at a better time, I’m here having dinner with you guys. Otherwise, it would have been a bit difficult to arrange something without having to leave my human unattended this long.”

It was funny how the whole thing sounded like an employment arrangement. Luka had to “put in” for his trial period. It was humorous. All the things I was learning about these mythical beings were just layer after layer of new information, and most everything I’d ever thought before was out the window entirely.

“Where do you live, though? Around here?”

“No, I live at the House of Council with the head Guardians.”

“In Los Angeles? But where are you staying while you’re in town?”

Luka and Hayden laughed lightly at my expense, but again, they did so in an adoring manner.

“Evika,” Hayden explained, “Luka doesn’t have to keep up the human pretenses like I have to do for you. He can travel the way angels normally travel.

“Which is?” I inquired.

Luka smirked. “Now you see me. Now you don’t.”

I mirrored his grin. “Like magic.”

“Precisely.”

I shook my head in amazement and gazed at both angels before me while new questions started popping up, dying for answers. “Who are the head Guardians there? Is there a lead angel?”

“Costello is the ancient one. The first of our kind,” Luka explained. The others on the Guardian Council are Jericho, Ezra, Greer, Claudia, Elka, Simon, Kai, and Reesa. Come to think of it, they will be inducting Elliott in a few weeks.”

I giggled. “The angel-techie?”

Luka smiled. “Yes, him.”

“This whole thing is so surreal. I’m not sure I even know how to react anymore.” I sighed, taking another bite of food.

Luka grinned. “I think you are taking this all magnificently well, Evika. I know for a fact that your father would be proud of you. And, of course, both Hayden and myself.” He winked at me.

Hayden gave me an assuring smile. “Yeah, you’re not as big of a pain in my ass as I thought you’d be,” he jeered, “so I am proud.”

I rolled my eyes. “Gee, thanks,” I said sarcastically, but I couldn’t hide my smile.

Honestly, I really thought I was being a pain in his ass up till then. I was always a pain in the ass to change or something that called for me to alter my lifestyle. I never liked anything forced on me. I also thought about later on, when this destiny kicked in full-throttle and on a whole new level – when it consumed my life. Would any of them still be proud?

“So,” Luka pushed his empty plate away slightly, “how about some dessert?”

I laughed at his question, for I had just finished my plate. “Boy, Luka, are we in sync today or what?”

“So we are,” he said with a glance at my plate. “They have a mean apple crisp here. You get what you want, of course, but I’m telling you, it’s to die for.”

“Pun intended, Luka?” Hayden jeered.

Realization washed across Luka’s face. “Oh, sorry.” He looked at me sheepishly.

“I’m up for dessert, but not sure if I can finish a whole one.” My eyes rolled over to Hayden.

Hayden grunted. “Are you trying to get me to ruin my girlish figure?”

I shook my head and giggled. “Hayden, there is not an ounce of anything girlish about you.”

“Wow, was that a compliment?” Hayden asked playfully.

I thought for a moment before answering. “Indirectly, I guess it was.”

Hayden shrugged. “I’ll take it, then.”

We ordered two apple crisp desserts. Luka scarfed his down while Hayden and I shared one, but I doubt I had my full half before Hayden started digging into my side. Boys. Besides, I was already full from cleaning my entire plate of chicken pesto. There wasn’t a trace of food on the plate. One thing about me; I wasn’t afraid to eat when I was hungry.

“So, what’s on the agenda for tonight?” Luka asked us.

“That would be up to Miss Stormer.” Hayden turned to me. “Are you up for going out for a while?”

“Hell yeah. Let’s go out.”

Luka raised an eyebrow. “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in some gaming?”

I sucked air. “Dave and Busters?”

Luka laughed and turned to Hayden. “It’s like we share the same brain, she and I.”

Hayden rolled his eyes. “Ugh, let’s hope not,” he joked.

We drove out to Dave and Busters. Hayden was giving me unfavorable looks as we approached the bar, but I felt safe in ordering another beer once we got there since Luka did too. I wasn’t sure if Luka was trying to piss Hayden off or if he really just liked beer.

Luka was genuine, and I really felt a connection with him. I felt I could trust him and look up to him - like he was a big brother. It seemed to me he was fun-loving and carefree, but would talk some sense into me if I crossed a line. In a way, I guess Hayden had the same quality, but for some reason, I imagined I’d be more receptive of Luka. Maybe it was wrong of me to feel that way; I don’t know. Maybe it was just because Hayden was a tad bit abrasive when it came to my drinking habit and a different approach would have worked better, had he used one.

We bought D&B cards and filled them with credits for all the games. The irony that we flocked to “Evil Dead” was amusing. Two players stand with machine guns and shoot at zombies on the big screen. Blood splatters everywhere. It’s beyond cool. I played against Luka first and won. Then I beat Hayden by over nine-hundred points. I had a feeling that the both of them just let me win to make me feel adequate.

We bounced around to almost every game there and even managed to fit in two games of pool. That was interesting. I was a shark when it came to billiards and my confidence remained high until I found out Hayden was just as good as I was. Okay, he was way better. I let him break and he pocketed three solids. I was hoping it was just a lucky break, but I soon realized that he really knew what he was doing. I cocked an eyebrow at him.

Hayden shrugged. “I guarded a pool player once.”

“Of course you did.” I sighed. “Am I going to get to play in this round at all?”

“Once you get as good as me, you won’t ever have to ask that again,” Hayden teased.

“Maybe if I got to play I’d be able to get as good as you,” I retorted.

Luka laughed at our bantering. “The match between you two is impeccable.”

Hayden gave me a smug grin. I just rolled my eyes and showed him half a smile.

After pool, we finally wrapped things up. I was ready to head home anyway. Lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. I needed to get back onto a schedule, or I was going to really regret it.

We headed outside to the Harley. Luka and Hayden did a little handshake and punched each other in the shoulders. It was comical, how human they seemed. Typical boys, rather cute.

“See you around, Darkwing,” Luka said.

“Later, Charmin,” Hayden answered.

“Charmin?” I asked in shock. They both looked at me. “I mean, I get the Darkwing thing, but, Charmin?

Hayden laughed. “Hey, he’s lucky I stopped calling him Baby’s Breath. He hated that one.”

“You guys are seriously too close,” I joked.

“Hmm,” Luka turned to Hayden, “I never did thank you for changing the nick-name reference from a flower to a brand of toilet paper. So, thank you, friend.”

Hayden threw his head back and bellowed a laugh as he straddled the Harley.

Luka pulled me aside while Hayden started his engine. Grabbing my shoulders, he looked at me solemnly. “Evika, on a more serious note, I know that your world has been turned upside down without your having even asked for it, but I want you to know that, no matter what, your well-being is what we care about. If you ever feel like you are getting in over your head, we are all here by your side.”

Hayden revved the engine, and we both looked over at him to see him wagging his eyebrows at us and relishing at the sound of his Harley.

Luka sighed and turned to me again. “And I know Hayden can seem a bit harsh and....”

“Cocky?” I finished for him with confidence.

Luka rumbled with a laugh. “Well, I was going to say bold, but however you’d like to describe him, he sees you as his priority. Everything from here on out, you are the reason he exists now.” His face turned solemn again. “And I want you to know that if you ever need me, I’m here for you as well. You can always call to me, and I will hear. But to make things easier and a bit more normal for you,” he handed me a slip of paper that was perfectly folded into halves, “here is my cell number.”

I laughed as I took the folded paper; another angel with a cell phone. “I’ll plug you into my phone A.S.A.P.” I smiled as I stepped up to him, stood on my tiptoes and threw my arms around his neck. “Thanks, Luka.”

“My pleasure, Evigreen. I’m always here.”

I giggled. “Evigreen? You’ve already got one for me?”

He shrugged. “Sure do. It just came to me, and I figured you’d want to fit in with me and Darkwing.”

“Quite sweet of you,...Charmin.” I nudged him in his side.

Growing impatient, but still sporting a grin, Hayden revved the engine again. Luka and I both looked over at him and rolled our eyes, laughing.

“Well,” Luka started, “I will be seeing you soon. I’ll have to bring along a housewarming gift once you’re settled into a new place.” He winked.

“I can’t wait, Luka.” I kissed his cheek. “Have a safe...” I struggled for the right word, “flight?” I threw on my jacket and ran to Hayden, hopping behind him on the Harley.

“Helmet,” Hayden reminded me as he handed it over. I put it on and wrapped my arms around his waist as I watched Luka disappear into the tree line. During the ride, I thought about how close I felt to Luka, as if I knew him already. After thinking about the day’s events, I actually felt happy. I’d managed to talk with Joel and catch him up to speed on things as best as I could. I met my dad’s second Guardian and truly adored him, and I was holding onto the body of my own angel on the back of a motorcycle. I tried to only see the positive things that would make me smile, and I managed to do that without letting my mind wander like it had earlier.

After we got home, I was beat. I wanted nothing more than to slam my head into that pillow and drift off to La-la land. I darted to my room and slithered into my t-shirt and flannel bottoms. I still felt funny about wearing pajamas without my bra with Hayden around, so I figured I’d suffer as long as it took for me to feel comfortable; if I ever did. I took off the necklace, admiring it before laying it on my dresser and then walked to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. I ran into Hayden bending over in front of the refrigerator, wearing only his jeans. Sweet, baby Jesus, he is so hot.

“So, what’d you think?” he asked me as he poured a glass of milk.

“Of Luka? I adore him.” I beamed.

He grinned as he placed the cap on the milk jug. “I noticed.”

I shrugged. “Hard not to like him. He’s like the brother I never had.”

Hayden turned to me with a serious expression. “He really thinks highly of you, you know?”

I had no answer for him. I could only smile at him with just a bit of reluctance and sigh. I was unsure of what it was about me anyone could think highly of. “I’m gonna get some sleep.”

He nodded and smiled assuringly. Unable to help myself, I walked up to him, wrapped my arms around him and gave him the same fulfilling hug I’d given to Luka earlier that day. I then stood on my tip-toes and kissed his warm cheek. I saw a grin form on his face as I let go.

“Sleep tight, Angel-man,” I called behind me as I walked to my room.

“Evika?” his voice made me stop and turn, “I really am proud of you.” His sincere gaze at me held all the truth I needed to know he meant those words.

I returned the gaze into those emerald pools of his and gave him my winning smile. “I know you are.”

“Good night, Ev.”

“G’night,” I answered.

I laid down on my bed and just stared at the ceiling with a wide grin, ready to embrace the new day that was my tomorrow.

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