Fall From Grace

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Chapter 10

Shane thundered into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him, “I’m taking a shower! Do not leave this building without me!”

“Make sure you scrub yourself real well, Shane! That perfume you were wearing when you came here last night stinks!” I screamed, as I slammed my bedroom door. Now he was going to be Mr. Chivalry and pretend to care about me? Was he trying to prove something? Who did he think he was? And who in the world was going to protect me from him? AND, what gives him the right to shower in my apartment? Oh, this is the perfect time to start doing my laundry with really hot water!

Grabbing my laundry basket, I raced to the basement and started our archaic washing machine. When I did, I could hear Shane screaming from the shower above me. If he was really going to stay here for a while, he better get used to taking ice cold showers!

Overhead, I could hear him stomping through the apartment looking for me. Hearing the stairs creak under his weight, I turned to the door as he smashed it open. He strode across the tiny washroom, stopping a little more than an inch from me. His hair and skin were soaking wet; drops of water streamed down his skin.

“You really need to do your laundry right now? What? Are you mad at me for wanting to stay here? Ticked off because I might actually care if you are okay? What? Will it ruin your high expectations of me?” He cupped my face in both his hands, his breath quickening as he searched my face. “Or, maybe Grace, you want me here every freaking bit as much I want to be here and that scares the shit out of you?”

My eyes looked down. His towel was loosely wrapped around his waist. God, please don’t let that thing fall off! My eyes rose slowly over the beautiful muscles of his stomach and chest; over the vibrant colors of his tattoos right to his blue eyes.

I tore my face away from his hands. “Nothing about you scares me, Shane. I just don’t want you getting the wrong idea about us.”

“I know, I know. There is no us. I’m not talking about staying here to...” Realization crossed his face. “Grace, you really think so little of me to think that I want to stay here so I could try to...” He stepped back shaking his head. Turning around, he walked up the stairs and continued with his icy shower.

I opened a folding chair and sat watching the machine vibrating, knowing he was right. I did want him here. Guilt overwhelmed my senses. How many years had I made it through whole lifetimes of other people, never feeling anything for another man the way I did for him. Now, I’m here with the Shane, the most commitment phobic person I had ever met and he’s the one that peaks my interest? There was no way that I could break the vows I made to myself to find him, on someone as flimsy and shallow as Shane Maxton. I don’t care how absolutely delicious he looked right out of an ice cold shower!

At three o’clock, Shane came down to the laundry room with a plate of food a hot cup of coffee for me. “I thought you’d be starving by now.”

I smiled. “More bored out of my skull than hungry, but thank you.” Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and a banana. I dug in hungrily.

He chuckled to himself shaking his head, “You know, Grace, you don’t have to stay down here. I promise you I will not bite,” he smirked. “Well, unless you ask me to.”

“Shut up,” I smirked back at him. “I’m sorry about before,” I said in-between chews. I knew it was impolite, but I was really hungry and I just wanted to apologize fast so we could forget about everything. “I guess I’m just a little freaked out by the whole Carl Sumpton thing.”

Shrugging as if it was no big deal, he asked seriously, “Do you remember him at the hospice?”

“Not at all,” I said, swallowing my last bite. “He did look familiar, but not from anywhere I could pinpoint.” Shaking my head, I threw my hands up. “There were so many people there. I used to play my guitar for Jake every night, well, up until the last few days. There was always a different crowd of people surrounding the door listening. But if he was comatose, he shouldn’t have known anything about me. I barely left Jake’s room, let alone walk into other patient’s rooms.”

“Maybe he thought your playing stinks,” he said taking my empty plate.

“Probably. I mean, I am almost as horrible as you!”

My statement was punctuated by the sound of the dryer’s buzzer. Cracking up, I walked over to pull out and fold my last load of laundry.

When I lifted the last handful of clothes onto the small wooden table, I blanched, noticing Shane was holding up my bra and panties. I lunged for them, trying to snatch them out of his hands. He just held them up higher, making me stand on my tiptoes, jumping for them.

“Hey, Grace. Maybe getting an eyeful of your lingerie woke up our friend Carl from his coma. These are pretty intense undergarments, I know I’ll be thinking about them later tonight!” he teased.

I shoved him in the gut, not hard, but hard enough to make him bend over and hand back my belongings.

“You are a jerk, Shane Maxton.”

“Thanks, that’s like the nicest thing you’ve called me so far.”

After I was finished, Shane helped me carry my clothes upstairs. We both passed the front window and peeked out to see if a police car was parked anywhere on the street. It was. Smack dab in front of my door step. Yeah, that’s not going to scare the neighbors.

Stretching himself across my bed, he watched me put my clothes away. Legs crossed at the ankles and hands under his head. I crossed my arms laughing at him.

He tilted his head toward my guitar, “Will you play something for me?”

I paused in thought, looking at him. I didn’t want him to look at me with those intense eyes again. I ended the thought as soon as I had it. I would have to play in front of him later, next to him on stage, so I should get used to it now.

I unbuckled my case, pulled out my guitar and nudged him to move over on my bed. Well, it was my bed. He rolled over on his side and propped his head up with his hand to listen to me. I twisted my body around to face him, fingering some strings.

“What are you in the mood for?”

“Surprise me.”

I didn’t close my eyes this time, just watched as the fingers I’d come to know as my own, played. I started with the theme song to Sesame Street, which landed me a pillow to the side of the head. Giggling, I drifted into a rendition of You’re so Vain by Carly Simon to Lost Cause from Beck, stopping after (I Hate) Everything About You by Ugly Kid Joe.

“Nice, Grace. What was that a montage of how I feel about Shane songs?”

I smiled wide. “Gee, am I that easy to read?” I teased.

“Play something that means something to you,” he whispered.

So I did. I let my fingers go. I let my voice soar; rough and edgy. Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin. Wouldn’t Shane get a blast out of knowing I used to practice with her before she became big?

I matched her voice, her tone, her essence and through the whole song, I never looked away from his eyes. It was intense and electrifying. I felt more sensual and erotic than I had ever felt in this skin.

“You are simply the most amazingly talented person I’ve ever met,” he whispered.

“Eh. I bet you haven’t met too many people then.”

* * * * *

Lea and Conner arrived back at the apartment within five minutes of each other. Both of them came barreling into the apartment, demanding to know why there was a police car parked in front of it.

After Shane told them about our visit with the detectives, Lea became very upset, crying and hugging me. Then she spent a good twenty minutes locking all the windows, pulling up the ladders to the fire escapes and looking under all the furniture.

Conner agreed that he and Shane should stay with us. He also thought that Ethan should too, since he had some sort of martial arts training. However, Shane was completely against it. He wasn’t drunk anymore, yet he was still against Ethan being with me?

“Well, I hate to say it, but Tucker had a really great idea last night,” Conner said, wiping Lea’s tears away with his hands. Oh, he’s a keeper!

“That drunken fool had a lot of ideas last night, most had to do with Grace and him on the pool table, so which idea are you taking about, Con?”

Shane glanced at me and made a tight smile.

“We should definitely go up to his winter place for a few days to get away from here,” Conner explained.

Lea shook her head and cried harder. “I can’t take off of work next week. My boss is going on vacation and needs me to hold down the fort while she’s away.”

Shane was staring at me. “Tucker invited you to his winter house?”

I scrunched my face into a frown, “Yeah, Tucker thinks I will fall in love with him because of his house, his money, his jaguar, and his expensive bottles of champagne.”

“And what do you think?” Shane asked me.

“I don’t think about Tucker at all.”

I loved the way he smiled back at me.

The guys sat for the next hour trying to formulate a plan to keep us safe. Lea cried and whined, and then cried again. She was terrified. I eyed Conner. He caught the hint and ran over to Lea, who was by then in hysterics, soothing her with kisses and soft whispers.

I grabbed Shane’s hand and pulled him into the kitchen. “Leave them alone for a minute. She needs to calm down and he really seems to do it better than me lately.”

“Are you okay with everything? I didn’t know the right stuff to say to you before. I just tried to take your mind off it, but are you scared?”

“No. I’m not scared of Carl Sumpton hurting me. I’m scared of him hurting Lea, Conner, or even you.”

His mouth curved into a concerned smile. He lifted my hands and held them wrists up, between us. I raised my eyebrow at him. “You’re not scared of much, are you?” He rubbed the scars on my wrist again. “One day, I hope we become close enough friends that you’ll tell me about these.”

“That would be real close, Shane. I think you’re missing that get close to a women chromosome in your DNA,” I laughed. “I have to take a shower and get ready for the show tonight. Why don’t you call ahead and let those bouncer friends of yours know about Carl and let’s take the picture of him too?” I said, walking away.

I jumped into the bathroom ready to transform myself into Rock Goddess of Mad World. I was insanely excited and all the thoughts of Carl Sumpton and his secret whereabouts washed away from me the more I thought about going on stage. I showered with the most scalding hot water I could stand, relaxing every muscle in my body. I wrapped myself in a towel and bolted through the hallway to my room, hoping I wouldn’t be seen. I dried my hair and added a streak of temporary purple hair dye to it for a little funky feel. I polished my nails a deep purple to match the streak in my hair. While I was sliding a denim mini-skirt over my hips Lea knocked on the door and came in with a black bag.

A little time alone with The One and she’d forgotten all about the scary monster, she looked content and relaxed. Oh, I envied her.

“Wow. Your hair looks hot! And, I’m glad you’re not fully dressed, because I brought you a little surprise today on my lunch hour,” she beamed.

“Oh no, should I be afraid?” I giggled.

Lea tossed herself and the bag on the bed and gave me a naughty smile. “Before you open this bag, you have to promise that you will wear what I have in there! You cannot say no, because right now, I’m so freaked out about this stalker of yours that I want you to cancel the show. So any little thing you say might set me off crying.”

“Oh, shut up!” I laughed grabbing the bag. “You know that I won’t let anything happen to you or me.” I stopped talking the minute I pulled the tiny garments out of the bag. There was a black lacy see-through bra with matching underwear. Well, it was more like a piece of dental floss than underwear. I held it up to her, “What is this supposed to cover, really?”

Another wicked grin is all she offered me.

The last piece I unfolded was deep purple, and it was the most perfect top ever made in existence. The neckline daringly plunged to show more cleavage than I’d ever seen on one of Shane’s ladies. The back was almost bare and it just provided a thin lacy piece of material across the back to cover the strap of the bra perfectly. The material was silky and soft and I hugged my best friend as tightly as I could. “This is the most insane shirt I’d ever seen.” Yanking off the clothes I had on, I pulled on the new sexy undergarments and slipped the luxurious shirt on. It fit perfectly.

When I looked at myself in the mirror, I gasped loudly. “This is lethal. This outfit is going to cause a riot. Lea, don’t you think this is too much?” I frowned at my reflection; a part of me really, really wanted to wear this outfit, but another part was terrified.

“You look like a Rock Queen! It’s perfect. Besides, I think my outfit it even worse than yours!” She dashed out of my room, came back with another bag, and started undressing and throwing clothes everywhere.

I stood in front of the mirror spinning around to get the full view. My shoulders were bare and the way my hair cascaded down in shiny black waves, I felt almost naked. But, I think the worst of all of my thoughts at that moment was the excited idea of what Shane would think when he saw me. I needed to stop these alien thoughts when I was around Shane. I needed to focus on finding him and not worry about meaningless urges I had for Shane. Besides, it’s just this body’s hormones that were acting up, nothing more.

All thought flew out of my head when I turned to see Lea’s outfit. I looked like a nun compared to her. A deep red skin tight, shorter than short dress. It looked like it was made out of spandex and had huge openings to show off her waist. The color was brilliant, and the red accented her sandy blonde hair making her look like a vixen. Conner was going to be shocked.

We applied our make-up, giggling as if we were thirteen and up to trouble, and oddly that’s exactly how I felt. Lea did my eye shadow, because she was always better at it than I was. She made them look smoky and sensual; my light grey irises looked like they could glow in the dark.

Holding hands, Lea and I walked out into the living room. All I heard was Conner curse and start demanding that Lea take the dress off, but when I looked at Shane, all the commotion seemed to get lower and fade away.

He had been leaning against the far wall and then pulled himself away, standing at attention when I walked in. His eyes greedily examined every inch of my bare skin. He lingered on my eyes and lips the longest, which I did not expect. He slowly walked over to me and gently reached for my hand. He entwined his fingers in mine, lifted my hand over my head, and twirled me around slowly.

“I have never seen anyone more exquisite in my entire life, Grace. You seem to have this knack of making me completely...breathless.” He seemed shocked at himself for saying the words. He spun me around again, brushing the hair off my shoulders, his gaze sending shivers along my neck. His breathing stopped, caught somewhere in his lungs. Lightly touching the skin on my shoulder, he inhaled deeply, “You have another tattoo,” he exhaled in a whisper. I felt him trace the lines with his fingers. My most special piece of artwork, my broken angel’s wings. The very reason behind why I needed to step away from Shane’s warm touch.

The corners of my mouth quirked upward. “I bet that’s your signature line to try to pick up women, huh?” I stepped away; keeping the smile on my face, but inside I was dying. How could it be that every time he touched this body and I pulled away, it ached all over? I shook my head free from my thoughts and placed my hand on the back of my shoulder. “They are my angel wings. To remind me and to honor what I’ve lost.”

Shane flinched and drew his hands back when I said the words. He tucked his head down and looked away, “Your family,” he murmured.

I didn’t correct his assumption. I tucked my lips between my teeth and clamped down tight. What would I tell him anyway? Gee, Shane, I was born thousands of years ago when the world was first created, in what people today call biblical times. When a small band of angels called the Watchers were placed on Earth to watch and protect the humans. Yeah, sure, that would go over well.

Should I tell him also that these angels, even though it was against their laws, took human women to be their wives? Each wife bore the angel’s children; the Nephilim. These creatures, part angel-part human, grew to be giants in our world. Giants of pure evil. They wreaked havoc on the Earth, tearing humans apart, and eating their flesh.

Should I tell him that I was one of the girls who fell in love with one of the angels and I was the only one who didn’t have a child? That we never got further than a kiss? The Watchers were exiled from the earth, thrown into the Abyss until Judgment Day. The punishment I was given was this existence. A lost soul searching for my angel on earth, forever banned from heaven.

Yeah, sure, and the next thing I’d see is the view from the back of the silly bus as they hauled me off to the funny farm. I could never tell someone like Shane my secrets.

The next few hours flew by as if someone had pressed the fast forward button on my remote control of life. We met up with the rest of the band at the bar; it was more packed than I’d seen it the first time I stepped foot in it. Conner was absolutely right when he said the auditions for a new band member would get them a lot of publicity. Everywhere you turned in the bar, people were talking about who would take Alex’s place. Alex sat in a booth as if his was royalty; his fans coming up to him, paying their respects.

Tucker walked in with his head held high. His Gucci suit was still on with his tie undone and the first two buttons open. He brought an entourage of people from work, escorting them all right to me and introduced me to each one. There was red headed Jimmy, who spoke with an Irish accent. There was also Cameron, who upon meeting me said, “Your girl has a great ass, Tucker.” Lastly, there was Bradley, who elbowed Tucker and called him the luckiest guy in the world.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Shane grimacing. His foot started tapping wildly against the chair he sat in and he had his eyebrows pulled together. When Tucker placed his unwanted hand on the small of my back and began moving it quickly downwards, Shane jumped out of his chair. Pushing himself between Tucker and me, he grabbed my waist and pulled me forward, “Okay. Almost time to go onstage, so let’s have a band meeting before we do this!”

Ethan and Brayden looked at him with raised eyebrows. Ethan chuckled and shook his head. Brayden froze in surprise, “Huh, why?”

“Just shut up and let’s go!” Shane snapped.

“You guys go ahead; I’ll be there in a few minutes. I think I need to talk to Tucker alone,” I said. Shane’s eyes widened and his lips pursed, and all I wanted to do was laugh at how beautiful he looked even when he was angry. “Go ahead, Shane. I’ll be right there.”

Tucker stepped forward and pulled me away from Shane, “Yeah, Shane. Give us a few. She’ll still be able to play when I’m done with her, I promise. She just might not be able to walk straight,” he laughed.

My face burned. Lea stepped closer to me, knowing exactly how hard I wanted to hit Tucker in the face. I stopped myself before I could pull my fist back. He was not going to ruin this night for me. I grabbed him tight around his forearm, digging my nails in. I didn’t stop, even when I heard him groan in pain.

I yanked him with me.

“Whoa, she definitely wants me right now!” Tucker disgustingly called to his friends.

Shane stalked off to the stage, followed by Ethan and Brayden.

I stopped only a few feet away, making sure we were still in view of everyone. I balled my fists tight and grabbed his suit jacket. I dragged his face a few inches above mine. His breath smelled like whiskey. “You are the most conceited, self-centered ass that I have ever met! Don’t you ever put your hands on me again, and do not talk to me about how you want to sleep with me, because it ain’t happening. Now, Tucker, I had enough class not to smack the skin off your face in front of all your friends over there, but if you disrespect me one more time, I will not stop myself from hitting you. Got it?”

His shoulders slouched down. “I really like you. You’re so beautiful.”

Feeling guilty, I let go of him. “Tucker, when you drink, you have a nasty habit of making people feel like they aren’t worth much. I’m more than someone who is just beautiful and you haven’t even tried to get to know me. I’m sorry, Tucker, you’re a nice guy when you’re not drinking, but I gave you a chance and I didn’t like how you treated me.” I walked away.

I got to the stage and looked back. Tucker was already talking to a group of other girls. Yes, I was just a pretty little bauble to look at.

Shane was plugging our guitars in when I climbed up. His eyes quickly scanned over me. “I guess Tucker’s pretty fast, huh?” he sneered.

If Shane were any other person, I would have said he was acting jealous, but this was Shane, and he’d never had feelings for anyone. I watched his expression. His forehead was scrunched together and his lips were tight. Four full shot glasses were on the amp next to him. He knocked back one and slammed it down empty, next to the others, glaring at me.

I shoved him lightly against the wall of the stage, behind the tall speakers, where no one could see. I left my hand on his chest were I had pushed him. His heart raced below my fingertips.

He looked down at my hand and slowly raised his eyes to mine, his hands reached out softly to keep me at a distance.

“Are you angry with me or Tucker, Shane?”

He shook his head and said nothing, but the hands that were keeping us apart were losing their pressure. “Did you fuck him?” His heart sped up. Was he afraid of my answer?

I bit my lower lip and smiled. “Yeah, right in the hallway to the bathroom. I just let him have me against the wall.”

His heart stopped, and then it started wildly drumming under my hands. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. This can’t be right. He can’t care about me.

He pushed against my hand, eyes desperate to get away from me. I almost let him pass, but I slammed my arms into his and pushed my lips to his ears.

“Is that what you think of me? Is that what you need to hear? That I’m like all the other girls? Tell me, Shane,” I whispered, pulling my head back.

We stood inches apart, breathing each other in. My whole body was on fire.

Glancing down at my lips, he gave me a small smile. His hand traced the contours of my jaw and down my neck; I shivered under his touch.

“No. I want you to tell me why you have a pair of broken angel wings on your shoulder. I want you to tell me why you cut your wrists and I want to know why and how you play and sing the way you do, but most of all I want you to tell me what I need to do to be a good enough man for you.”

I stepped back immediately, not expecting any of what he said. I grabbed one of the remaining shots and gulped it down, loving the burn. “Shane...” My mouth opened to say the words, but I couldn’t form a complete thought. “I don’t want to be just another one of your girls. I have other...things, too many things in my life.” Why couldn’t I just tell him I was with someone else? Because that would be a lie, I was alone, searching for someone else. “I really just need a friend right now.”

“Hey!” Ethan’s voice called from behind us. “You guys about ready?” he asked, coming over to stand next to us. Brayden followed. They took the last two shots and drank them. “Next time, we do them together,” Ethan said holding up the glass. “That will be how we start each show with Grace.”

I laughed. “Sounds good to me. Shall we amaze them?” I said, looking out into the crowd.

Shane smiled down at me. “Grace, trust me, they were amazed just by you walking in.”

I shook my head giggling and I walked to pick up my guitar, but not before I overhead Ethan say, “Shane, you break that girl’s heart and I swear I’ll rip yours out. She’s off limits.”

“Dude, I don’t know what the hell is happening to me, but trust me, right now we’re just friends,” was his reply.

The manager of the bar, Kelvin, was standing in front of us at the microphone as we walked out. His voiced echoed, “...new guitarist we’ve all been dying to see, and gentlemen, if any of your clothes make it up here, I’ll personally kick your sorry asses outta here! Here’s Mad World!”

The crowd roared when we were all visible. I ducked my head and laughed as a hot pink lacy bra sailed onto the stage. I plucked it off the floor and flung it at Shane, “I believe this is for you?” I teased into my mic. Howls erupted and Shane wore his sexy woman-eating smile. He tucked the bra into his jeans pocket, letting it hang down his leg.

“Hey, everybody!” Shane addressed the crowd. “I’d like to introduce you to the gorgeous Grace Taylor on guitar!” I never heard so many catcalls in my life.

Shane’s perfect lips stretched across his face and when he nodded to me, something danced behind his eyes. I locked eyes with him. Tilting my head, I took the cue and my hands started flying all over my guitar. The crowd detonated into shrieks and screams. Shane joined in and our harmony made us both breathless. We played as one, staring at each other, neither one of us looking away. The crowd was somewhere in the distance, but we were in a place all our own. If we weren’t careful, the fire in our eyes would cause an inferno, so I laughed and looked away. We matched each other’s intensity. It overwhelmed my body and made me ache; this friendship would kill me. Right at that very minute, I wanted to die a thousand deaths for it. Truth be told, I hadn’t felt this alive in years. My fingers pulsated along the strings and then my voice burst out in song, alongside Shane. It was more intoxicating than any drink or drug. It burned through my veins and blazed into my heart, giving it a reason to beat. Rapture enveloped my body and soul.

We performed all the Mad World songs we practiced until Shane put his hand on the small of my back and whispered into his mic, “Let’s introduce them to Janis.”

Something in the tone of his whisper made my knees weak. I could almost picture Janis by my side with her haunting laugh. Come on, she called to me.

I slid up against him, our backs touching and his body quivered in tune with mine. Leaning my head against his shoulder, my hair washing over him, our eyes latched on to each other’s. Changing her words, I sung to him.

Oh, Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on!

Don’t I make you feel, Shane, like you are the only man,

And don’t I give you nearly everything that I possibly can?

Baby, you know I do!

All the time I tell myself that I, well I think I’ve had enough of you, Shane,

But I’m gonna show you that a woman like me can be tough.

I want you to come on, and just take it,

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby,

I watched as my words showered over his body; he sang back to me, eyes blazing.

The set ended in a riot of noise and applause. Shane bounced off the stage, but instead of emerging himself in an army of girls, he turned and reached both his hands out for me jump down. Without a second of hesitation or a thought in my head, I dove into his arms. His strong arms caught me, cradling me like a baby and kissed me on the cheek. The lines of friendship completely blurred out of focus as I scanned his flawless face. What am I doing? Is one night worth it? Not in any lifetime.

“That was...intense. I think I need a drink,” I breathed.

“Yeah, well, I need another ice cold shower. Tequila?” he asked.

I glided out of his embrace and nodded vigorously. I gave him a little friendly jab in the arm, “I’m sure in a few minutes any one of these girls will cure you of your need for a cold shower,” I teased. I needed him to walk away and go find some meaningless one-night stand so I could remember what kind of man Shane really was.

He didn’t respond to my statement, only tightened his smile and escorted me through the screaming crowd to the bar. Lea was the first to meet us there and she hugged me tightly, lifting me off the ground. “Oh. My. God! You guys rocked!” She held me closer and whispered in my ear, “Was that as hot as it looked?”

I leaned my head back, bit my lip and nodded a yes. We fell over each other giggling.

Conner grabbed me up next in a bear hug. He reminded me so much of Jacob. “Thanks for helping my friends out.”

Then after that, everyone just started hugging everyone. Brayden hugged me awkwardly around the neck like I had a contagious disease, Ethan hugged me and swung me around like a five year old, and Alex desperately tried to grab me by the waist with his casts. I playfully shoved him in the chest, telling him I was afraid he’d hurt himself by hugging me and he placed a kiss on my cheek. “Thanks for taking my place, Grace. I can’t wait to take these things off and play beside you!” he said holding up his casts.

“Yeah, well just don’t go and get yourself arrested again. What’s going on with that, anyway?”

His face turned red. “Yeah, I know I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t have gotten involved, but he roughs her up, Grace. You’re not supposed to hurt girls like that, you know.”

I nodded my head at him.

“My court date is in three months, they released me on my own recognizance. I’m sure everything will be fine. Tucker and his father are pretty slick lawyers. His dad spun a great story about me coming to her rescue. Which is sorta true, it was just a day or two after the jerk beat up Cara.”

Behind the bar, Ryan lined up the shot glasses and set out salt, lemons and limes. An onslaught of beautiful girls surrounded us, and our conversation ended when Alex noticed them. Tucker and his work buddies also walked over to take advantage of the crowd of ladies that was forming.

With the swarm of busty bimbos bombarding us, I felt claustrophobic. Lea seemed to feel it too and she yanked Conner and me out of the middle of the crush of bodies. She elbowed me hard in the ribs and pointed to the far end of the bar. Shane.

He stood alone, leaning his elbows back against the bar. A bottle of tequila stood beside him with a single shot glass. His hair was tousled, messy and incredibly sexy. His dark tee shirt was tight and a tad raised from the way he was leaning. A perfectly toned stomach peeked out. He looked like a Greek god. A Greek god whose eyes were glued on me.

A dark haired girl slithered up to him and brushed a piece of hair from his forehead, blocking his view of me. They spoke for a few seconds and I watched his head shake and the girl walked away. My guess was that she was ugly, but when she turned around to walk off, I saw that she wasn’t. Another girl followed in her wake, a platinum blonde this time. She also walked away with a rejected look on her face.

Lea gripped my arm and nodded towards Shane, “What do you think that’s about?”

I shrugged and looked to Conner for an answer.

Conner’s eyes squinted. “Maybe he realizes that he wouldn’t be allowed to take someone back to your apartment, since that’s where he says we’re staying until that nut is caught.” Now, that made sense.

Lea eyed me. “Nah, I don’t think that’s it at all. I think he’s got it bad for his new guitarist. Did you see them up there, Conner?”

“No way,” I said. “I like Conner’s explanation much more than yours. It’s much safer for everyone involved!”

The three of us walked over to him. He reached over the bar and pulled up three more shot glasses. He slid them over the bar to us and reached over the bar again for the salt shaker and a handful of limes on a napkin.

The four of us each salted the back of our hands, took a shot and popped a lime in our mouths. Lea pinched my waist and patted me on the shoulder. She pushed Conner away from us and started a private conversation with him in whispers. Giggling to each other, they walked off a bit down the bar to be more alone.

I knew exactly what she was up to; she wanted me to be alone with Shane. Nice best friend, throwing me to the sharks.

Shane poured me another shot and gently took hold of my hand. He stuck his pinky into my shot glass, slid his wet finger over the back of my hand, and then salted it. I watched his hands on mine. This is going to go from bad to holy crap in a minute. My eyes rose to meet his. I licked the back of my hand and tilted back my drink.

“I bet you make that taste like heaven,” he said.

I placed my glass back on the bar and looked down at it. I turned back to him, tilting my head up, our faces so close. “Shane, I watched you before. You didn’t have to say no to those girls because you think you have to stay with me tonight. You don’t have to stay over to babysit me instead of doing your usual thing.”

His face paled. “That’s what you think?” He turned around to face me; shifting his body closer to mine. He blinked back a sullen look.

My cheeks burned. “It’s what Conner said when he saw you standing here letting those girls walk away from you.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Is that what you think?”

“I didn’t think about it at all. I just don’t want you to do something you don’t really need or want to do.”

Shane leaned in closer, our cheeks brushed against each other. His breath tickled in my ear, “Funny thing is, Grace, needing and wanting is exactly what I am doing. And, just for the record, it is not those girls I need or want.”

Without saying another word to me, he delicately took my arm and sprinkled a small pinch of salt on the soft skin of my inner wrist. He raised my arm to his mouth and I watched him lightly press his tongue against my skin, skimming it across the surface. My breath caught. He downed his tequila and squeezed the lime into his mouth, smiling. Oh. My. God. “God, Grace. You do taste like heaven,” he whispered breathlessly.

I felt a delicious heat rise all over my body. “I think I should go home now. I’m...really...tired.” I whirled around and practically ran towards the bathroom. I had no idea where Conner and Lea had gone. They were probably headed home already. I just needed to splash cold water on my face.

“Then I’m going too,” he yelled after me.

I pushed through the crowds of people and ran into the back hallway. I headed for the women’s room, but hesitated when I touched the handle of the door. Dread crept over my body. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, eradicating all of the burning desperate hunger Shane’s touch invoked. Of course, I opened it and walked in anyway. I am in a bad horror movie.

The only window in the bathroom was wide open, and a fine layer of snow covered the tiled floor. I scanned the room. I heard a soft movement in the one stall that was closed.

“Are you really stupid enough to believe, Gabriel? Do you really believe after thousands of years, all the lifetimes, he’ll get his little human prize?” a voice growled.

The door slowly swung open. My heart thudded to a stop.

Looking intensely at me was Carl Sumpton, or at least Carl Sumpton’s body staring at me though ancient blue eyes. His hands clung to the sides of the stall as if he needed the help to stand.

“No human has eyes the color of an angel, who are you?” I whispered.

“Shamsiel always did say you were a smart one,” he hissed. His body tried to step closer to me, but it only managed to slump back and fall against the toilet. Its flesh was transparent and bluish. The skin around its eyes was bruised and swollen; its cheeks were sunken in.

“It looks to me like that body is about to send your soul elsewhere, who are you? I’ve never heard of an angel who shared the same punishment as me.”

The body trembled, taking great pains to continue breathing life through it. “Azazel, child, and my punishment was far worse than yours, and I’ve grown too tired of the burning fires of hell,” it coughed. A fine trickle of deep red blood spilled from the corner of its mouth.

I lurched forward, grabbing his face in my hands, searching his eyes. Blood splattered on my arms. “A Grigori? One of the Watchers? That Azazel? Where is Shamsiel? I’ve been in hell here searching for him!”

“You will never find him. I won’t let him get what the rest of us can’t have. Do you really think, child, that we could possibly be forgiven? We have fallen, and there are no second chances. And I sure as hell won’t let him get what I can’t have, when his sin was no better than mine.”

“We did nothing wrong. Our only crime was in loving each other. You, the rest of you, you’re the ones that created the Nephilim! You’re the ones that tore the earth apart and helped bring chaos down. You taught the humans war! Shamsiel and I were children; all we did was fall in love. He never even touched me, but for one kiss!”

“Child,” he cooed. “He was thrown into the abyss with the rest of us. Do you really believe with a punishment of that magnitude he’d still want the love of a human?” he sneered. “Besides, do you think he knows you still exist here?”

I stepped back, wiping the blood from my hands on his shirt. “Why are you trying to kill me?”

The body convulsed. “You’re the only one,” it seethed. The body collapsed in on itself and stilled. I was the only one of what?

Someone in the hallway knocked on the door to come in. I stood above the dead body, confused and needing a hell of a lot more answers then what I was just given.

I didn’t want to be found in the bathroom with Carl Sumpton’s body, so I hoisted myself up to the open window and jumped into the alleyway below. Thank God, the bar was on the first floor or I would have broken a few bones. I ran through the darkness trying to carefully step in places where I’d leave no footprints in the snow. There seemed to be enough garbage and crap strewn throughout the alley to make that possible.

My mind ran in circles. Why in the world was Azazel around? Wasn’t he stuck in some supernatural prison somewhere? I was the only one of what? And really why was the freaking place on my arm that Shane licked still making me tingle and giddy like kid in a toy store? I needed to talk to Gabriel.

I ran to the apartment, praying in my mind that Gabriel would be there waiting.

I could hear Conner and Lea murmuring and giggling in the living room when I opened the front door. I locked the deadbolt behind me, which echoed a loud click throughout the apartment; silencing their sounds. I quickly walked through the hallway without stopping to speak to them.

“Gray?” Lea called out.

“Yep, just me. I’m beat. I’m calling it a night. Goodnight, guys!” I called back as I closed my door. My room was empty.

I leaned my forehead on the hard wood of the door. Tears stung at my eyes, but I blinked them back. I pressed my hands against the door and spread my fingers across the grain of the wood. I felt the coarse grooves, ran my fingers over the knotty uneven surface of it. My head spun. Shamsiel. Would I truly never see him again? Azazel? What would he get out of killing me, and how would he, when I’d only be thrown into another body? Gabriel? Could I trust him? He was one of the angels who helped to destroy the Nephilim and helped bind the fallen ones to their prisons. Last one? Am I the last of the human souls? I thought it was just me, I hadn’t known any of the others were punished along with me. I thought they were destroyed along with the Nephilim. Shane? Why did I keep thinking about him when he had nothing to do with any of this?

Someone started banging at the front door. Shane. Voices raised; footsteps thundered down the hallway.

I heard the floor boards creak on the other side of my door. I could hear his breath, “Grace...” Then something hard thumped against the door right above my head. I pictured Shane in the same position as me with our faces almost touching but for the inch of wood between us.

“Grace. Please let me in. I’m...sorry.”

I lifted my head and walked away. There was way too much...intensity, too much tension between us; this body was not capable of handling Shane. He’d probably eat me alive. Unfortunately, that sounded so very delicious to me.

I heard his foot kick the door and his body slide down to the floor. “I’m sleeping on the floor then. Right here.” His head thumped against my door again. “Oh. Man. This is so comfortable, Grace. Really. Very.” His sarcastic tone made the butterflies in my belly flip around again. There was no meanness to his voice. It was raspy and silky and somehow made all the crazy thoughts in my head blur and only focus on him.

I walked to the window and pushed the curtain aside. The walkway below was pristine white and glistening. I clicked off my ceiling light and clicked on my bedside lamp. I rummaged through my drawers and found my tank top-boy shorts sleepwear. Pulling off my rock goddess outfit and pulling on my sleepwear, I wished I could wash my makeup off in the bathroom.

From out in the hallway I heard some rustling. Maybe he was leaving? A few bumps and curses. Laughing at the noise, I settled myself under my covers and closed my eyes.

Shane cleared his throat, kicked at my door again and the sound of my guitar filled the room. I sat straight up in my bed. Those beautiful caged butterflies were thrashing their delicate wings against my harsh dark insides. Every single thought of Azazel’s visit flew from my mind, each note embracing a thought and hiding it in the darkness.

Shane played a slow melody I had never heard before. Its beginning was low and wistful, transforming into a passionate yearning melody. His awe-inspiring voice hummed along with the tune, whispered words tickled against my ears.

I opened the door.

Shane stood in the hallway, eyes wide, devouring me with his stare. The music faded or stopped, I had no clue. I focused my eyes on my guitar, my divine instrument in his hands.

He pulled the strap over his head and carried the guitar into my room, closing the door behind him.

“Please, look at me, Grace.”

Sliding the guitar out of his hands, he leaned it against the wall. My eyes stayed on the instrument.

“Grace, please look at me.” He stepped closer to me, blocking me from staring at the guitar. So I stared blankly at his crotch, or where the guitar was located behind his crotch.

I couldn’t even say how he got so close to me. I hadn’t noticed his movements. I tried not to even notice him, but there he was so close that I felt the heat from his body. He touched my chin with his hand and I finally lifted my eyes to his.

“Grace...I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to...”

I suddenly felt the cool wall press up against my back. I hadn’t known I was backing away from him, but I leaned against it for moral support. And, just like he’d done twice before, he rested his forehead against mine.

“Tell me. Tell me, Grace, that you don’t feel this. Please. Tell me and I will walk right out of here.” He touched his lips to my jaw; his words were hot on my skin. My heart skidded in my chest. No reasonable thoughts came to my mind, only the warm sensation of his lips moving gently down my neck.

He pressed his body against mine, one hand slowly sliding down to my waist, tracing his fingertips along my skin.

“Talk to me, Grace, please,” he begged pulling back.

My body moved with him. I placed my hands on his chest and grasped his shirt in my fists.

His hand tightened on my waist and with his other, he twisted fingers through my hair. “Grace...One kiss, please. Let me taste you,” he pleaded, pushing his body harder against mine.

A small moan escaped from my lips. “Shane...” I stood on my tiptoes and brushed my lips past his. Both of us hesitated, breathing in each other.

“Say my name again,” he begged, as he slid his hand down my hips and pulled my leg up around him. My body ached, pounded, and spasmed; I was almost delirious.

“Shane,” I whispered, moving my lips over his mouth. He trembled.

He growled low, crashing his lips into mine. Every single inch of my body pulsed against his. His fingertips skated beneath the lace of my panties. I grabbed at him, sliding my hands through his hair. I dug my fingers into his shoulders, which only made him kiss me deeper and harder. I spun out of control.

He pulled his lips away, panting, as he stared into my eyes. His fingers slipped deeper under the lace. I stopped his hand before his fingers could press inside me.

“Shane. Stop. I can’t...” I felt the tears brimming in my eyes. It was killing me to tell him to stop.

He let my leg slowly slide down his hip from where he had placed it. His soft fingertips traveled up to my neck, until both his hands cupped my face, searching my eyes.

“Grace...I think,”

I stretched my fingers across his chest. “Please. Shane...don’t. This was a huge mistake.” Even though I pushed my hands against his chest, my body still arched towards his.

His eyes frantically searched mine. One foolish tear escaped down my cheek. I quickly turned my face, not wanting him to see anymore. Both his hands flew up to his hair, grasping at it. “Grace...please. You would never be a mistake to me.”

Turning my back on him, I walked to the window and pushed the curtain back. “Shane, drop it. I’m not one of your groupies that you just met at the bar, I wasn’t screaming for you and throwing my clothes at you, and I don’t give a crap how good you play or how sexy you look on stage, none of it will make me sleep with you. So just keep the normal line you feed to your skanks to yourself,” I snapped.

Grabbing me by the waist, Shane lifted me easily off the floor and tossed me on my bed. He dove on top of me, straddling me, pinning my arms above my head. Dear God, I wanted to scream, but it was so freaking erotic that every inch of my body screamed for his.

His face hovered over mine. “Shut. Up. Don’t. Just don’t say anything else.” He moved his body next to mine and gathered me into his arms. “Just sleep, Grace,” he whispered and he pressed closer to me, softly laying one single kiss on my angel’s wings.

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