Someone slowly traced their fingertips down my spine, leaving trails of burning fire in their wake. I woke up in sheer panic, my heart fluttering wildly, while I was tangled in my sheets next to Shane.
He gave me a mischievous grin and a steaming cup of coffee. “Hey, I got you some coffee.”
Without hesitation, I grabbed the coffee. I held the cup up to my lips, with the bitter aroma pleasantly filling the air, and I took a sip. Shane knew how to make my coffee? “Thanks. Did you make this or did Lea?”
His eyebrows burrowed together and his face darkened. He stood up and yanked off his shirt, the same one he’d worn last night, and threw it in my hamper. “Don’t worry, Grace, they’re still sleeping. No one will think we had sex, and if anyone asks, I’ll make sure everyone knows you don’t want me,” he snapped, as he rummaged through a bag near the door. Did he actually have a bag of clothes here in my freaking room, as if he was moving in? He pulled out another tee shirt and held it in his hands, standing there waiting for me to reply. His muscles were taut and tense. He really is too sexy for his own good.
I sipped my coffee and placed the cup on my nightstand. I started wrapping the sheets around me to get up, but then figured that it really didn’t matter if he saw me in my sleeping attire, since he had practically seen me in it every day. “I didn’t ask that to see if Lea or Conner thought we slept together. I was just wondering if you or Lea made the coffee, exactly like I asked.” I stood up from the bed and stretched my arms over my head.
His lips parted. His eyes dilated, following my every movement. His expression tightened and his body stiffened more with tension. He charged toward me, eyes blazing with anger? Fear? Longing? Hate? “Right, sure. Well, why not, let’s talk about shit that doesn’t matter. Lea is sleeping and I made the freaking coffee! What is it, too strong for you? And let me just put this out in the open, so that I don’t get accused of playing games or whatever the hell your warped mind thinks I do. I am so freaking glad I didn’t sleep with you, Grace, because you and me would be horrible. The sex would suck and I wouldn’t have to look at you and pretend you were more than a hole to stick my dick in for the next six weeks!” Contrary, to his words, his expression flooded with hurt and he turned away from me, grabbing my robe off the closet door and then throwing it at me.
Catching the robe, I walked passed him and dropped it at his feet. When I got in front of him, I looked him deadpan in the eyes. “Thanks for the heads up on how sex would have been with you. But, honestly Shane, I just wanted to know if you actually had gone out of your way to know the exact way I take my coffee, because that just would have been...sweet.”
I spun on the heels of my feet, grabbed an armful of clothes from my dresser drawers and grabbed the doorknob.
“Go screw yourself, Shane.” I turned the doorknob and stood in the doorway. “Consider your duty to babysit me done, since you stayed here last night to protect me and I still ended up hurt.” I walked out of my room, closing the door softly behind me, more confused than ever. I didn’t understand why Shane had said what he did, but whatever the reason, it was over and I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of this existence.
I changed into my running clothes in the bathroom and finally got the chance to wash the makeup from the night before off my face. When I shut the faucet off, I heard the sounds of hushed voices in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but put my ear close to the wall and listen. Well, I am only human.
“...is driving me crazy, I can’t take the shit I said back. She’s fucking killing me.”
I opened the door, not wanting to hear anymore, it didn’t matter if he wanted to take back anything he said, he wasn’t important.
I rushed through the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator.
“Where are you going?” Lea asked.
“For a run,” I said.
“Alone?” she asked looking from me to Shane.
“Lea. This is New York City. Eight million people live here, I won’t be alone,” I said walking out the front door.
I ran. I ran and then ran some more. I didn’t stop. I lost count how many times I circled the park. I lost track of time, as I just ran looking for Gabriel.
When the sky had been dark for a while and my body could take no more, I sat down on an empty bench. I knew I had a show to do with the band at ten. The thought swam distantly around in the back of my head. I held my head in my hands and the tears finally broke free.
A warm hand touched my shoulder and a sublime feeling crashed through my body. Gabriel.
Without even looking at him, without even a hesitation, with all the innocence of a child, I threw myself into his arms. I felt him smile. Calmness washed over my body.
“I don’t understand what’s going on, Gabriel,” I sniffled.
“The fallen ones do not want you and Shamsiel ever to be reunited.” Gabriel’s always-stoic face gave the smallest impression of sadness. “I’m sorry, Grace. I had no idea he had escaped. I won’t ever let anything hurt you.” His beautiful hands cupped my jaw in a human way that made me want to jump and run. This was Gabriel, though. He was one of the archangels. He had no human emotions, no lust, and no needs.
I let him hold me until I thought I could face this existence again. I didn’t ask him anymore questions, because I knew he wouldn’t give me answers. I didn’t want to tell him about Shane and the feelings that he stirred in me. I didn’t want to beg for him to tell me where Shamsiel was, because I knew he’d never tell me. He kissed my forehead softly when I said goodbye.
I walked home and without talking with anyone, I jumped in the shower and got ready for the gig at Boozer’s. I expected there to be news about finding Carl Sumpton’s body in the women’s bathroom last night, but Lea and Conner didn’t mention anything to me.
Lea knocked on my door as I was getting dressed. My clothes were hanging over every surface of my bedroom, flung to their spots by anger. I wore an old pair of jeans and a huge black sweater. “There is no way I’m letting you out of this room looking like the Frump Queen. What’s going on with you?”
I shook my head and collapsed onto my bed. I wasn’t about to get into any serious conversation with her about my visit with a fallen angel who was trying to kill me, or an archangel who I hoped was trying to help me, or how I just wanted Shane to be a monogamous-liking guy who could make me forget everything. “I have nothing to wear.”
She picked through the piles of my clothes and handed me the perfect outfit, of course. “I’m talking about you and Shane, Grace. What’s going on?”
I gave her the most disgusted look that I could muster up. “Nothing. Abso-freaking-lutely nothing.”
She walked right up to my face. “Really? Because, Grace, since your accident, when you woke up swearing off all boys unless they come packing wings, I’ve never seen anyone sway your resolve but Shane. You let him stay in your bed last night, after kissing him. You didn’t kick him out.”
“I tried to, but he wouldn’t leave.” I clenched my teeth. He told her we kissed?
“Yeah, well explain it to me then how when you and him are on stage in front of a crowd of hundreds of people it feels like we are all invading your privacy. The way you both look at each other is unreal, Grace.” She sat down next to me and placed her hands on mine. “Did you feel anything when you kissed him?”
“Lea, this body blurs all the edges of reality for me. Of course, it wanted him. But for what? One single night? So the next day he could pick up some other chick at the bar and I’ll have to watch? Besides, the last thing he said to me is that we’d be horrible together, sex would be lousy and I’d just be another hole to stick his dick in for the next six weeks.”
“That’s what he said?”
“His exact words.”
Her mouth fell open, “He said he was really mean to you, and that he...”
“Stop, Lea. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter,” I said getting up. “Come on and make me look like a rock star.”
We did our makeup in silence. I didn’t have anything more to say about Shane, the subject was closed. I needed a way out of here. I needed a way to find what I was looking for without being in Grace’s life. Grace was supposed to die in the car accident ten years ago, so she shouldn’t be here any longer. And my soul should not be in a body that was consumed with a hunger for some idiot who could kiss me so passionately that I could forget who I really was.
It was snowing again when we walked to the bar; big giant chunks of feathery ice. Conner looked up at the sky, “Looks like the angels are having another pillow fight.” The old expression warmed my heart.
The bar was packed again; I’d say five times the amount of people than the night before. For the first time that day, I felt a smile creep across my face.
Again, I waited for someone to mention finding a dead body in the bathroom the night before, but no one did. Maybe he wasn’t truly dead yet.
Ethan waved us over to a table filled with everyone. Ethan sat next to a beautiful red headed girl named Vicki. Brayden had a shorthaired girl on his lap and Alex was with Cara. Tucker was also there and smiled a curt hello to me. Shane was nowhere to be found. I figured he was in the back room catching up on his sexual escapades. Jealously burned through my body. No way is this good.
Tucker pulled over a chair for me.
I must have given him a curious look, because he felt like he had to explain himself.
“Yes, I’m an asshole. I have so much to apologize for.” He patted the seat of the chair and handed me a beer.
I sat down, placing my guitar between Tucker and me, just to make sure he wouldn’t be able to touch me.
Tucker offered small talk after his apology, but I didn’t respond too often.
Everyone else chatted, but I heard nothing. I searched around the bar for Shane, and then wanted to hurl myself off a building for doing it. The more I thought about him with someone else the antsier my body felt. As the minutes passed, it got worse. I jumped up and lugged my guitar and myself into the bathroom. Lea was too busy in some sort of heated discussion with one of the other girls to notice.
I half expected to see Carl sitting on one of the toilets, but the room was empty. “Azazel?” I whispered. No one answered. If he knew how to get me out of this hellish punishment, then maybe I needed another talk with him, just for informational purposes.
I washed my hands and put on some more lipstick, and then made my way back through the crowds. I glanced over to the stage and saw Shane sitting by himself in the back, just out of view. I didn’t know if he was alone, but I jumped onto the stage anyway.
He sat on a metal folding chair with his legs up on another chair, playing his guitar. He lifted his head only slightly when he noticed me, but he didn’t stop playing.
“Hey,” I said. “What’s doing?” I brazenly pushed his legs off the second chair and sat down.
His expression was guarded. “Oh, are you talking to me? I thought we hated each other.” His lips curled down, his sadness peeking through.
I wanted to kiss those lips desperately. Shit! This is getting worse! I smiled at him. I didn’t even mean to, it just burst from my lips. My cheeks burned.
“Stop smiling, Grace.” He leaned forward, a smile appearing on his face that matched mine. “A smile like that can give a man hope.”
But I couldn’t stop smiling and neither could he. We sat there smiling, staring into each other’s eyes, until Ethan walked up to us and cleared his throat. “What is with the two of you?”
My eyes snapped from his and I couldn’t quite catch my breath. This is too dangerous. I needed to find Azazel before I give myself, body and soul to Shane. I shivered; I needed to end my time here. It’s not like me to want someone or to need someone, especially when I knew it would only be for a few hours.
The crowd screamed for us to play, and when we emerged from the back of the stage, the sound was deafening. Shane struck a chord and that silenced the audience. The rest of us took his lead and the crowd roared back to life.
The music was intense and electrifying. It pulsated along the walls and through the stage rocking me to my core. I played as if it was the last time I’d ever hold my guitar.
After the set, we all jumped off the stage. Sweaty and on fire, we ran to the bar to try to quench the flames.
Laughing and singing our last song, Ryan lined up shot glasses of Kamikaze shooters for us, fruity and sweet. I gulped one back and slammed in on the bar.
Someone leaned against the bar next to me, “May I buy you a drink?”
I lifted my head to the voice.
“Hi, I’m Steve,” he said, and then pointed to my empty glass, “May I buy you a drink.”
I smiled politely at him, “Thank you, but the band has a running tab at the bar, so there’s no need to.”
Ryan slid over another Kamikaze shooter to me and the irony of name of the drink and my life made me giggle.
Steve smiled down at me with sexy green eyes. “You were amazing up there,” he said to me, nodding to the stage. “I’m sure you hear this all the time, but you are incredibly sexy and your eyes...I’ve never seen a more beautiful color.”
Before I could thank him, Shane stepped between us. “Hey, excuse me, um, Steve was it? Yeah, well Grace and I have band things to take care of, so goodbye.” Shane stood there glaring down at him until he backed away. “Walk the fuck away from her right now; she’s not up for grabs, Steve.”
Steve held my gaze, “She’s not up for grabs? Calm down, jackass. I just wanted to buy this beautiful woman a drink.”
Shane stepped in closer to Steve, blocking my view of him. “Just walk away, dude.”
Steve shook his head laughing and held his hands in the air. He leaned past Shane and spoke directly to me. “Listen, my friends and I will be here for a while, so if you’d like to dance or something, come and find me.”
I watched Shane’s knuckles turn white as he balled his hands into fists. I slid off my barstool, smiled at Steve and placed my hand on Shane’s chest, softly holding him back. “Thank you, Steve, but I’m wiped from the show, so I’m calling it a night. I’m Grace by the way. It was nice to meet you and I’m glad you enjoyed the music.” I turned to face Shane letting Steve know that our conversation was over.
I kept my hand on Shane. “I am leaving now. Don’t ever do that again to me. Don’t ever stop someone from speaking to me. I’m not your property. I’m barely even your friend.”
His eyes bore into mine, “Do you want to go home with him?”
“What the hell is wrong with you, Shane? Are you serious right now? You’re the guy who has slept with almost every girl in this bar, and I can’t have someone buy me a drink?”
“You told him no thank you and he didn’t listen. And Grace, I haven’t slept with anyone since you walked into this bar that first Friday.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Liar. You’ve been here with girls, sucking their faces off right in front of me.”
“I haven’t slept with any of them, Grace.”
“Please don’t say anything else. Please don’t. I have to get out of here. I’m exhausted and I don’t have the energy to fight with you.”
“Then, I’m taking you home and I’m staying.”
I folded my arms across my chest, “Excuse me?” That’s what came out of my mouth, but my mind was high-fiving myself, trying to think of the sexiest thing I could wear to tease the hell out of him.
We grabbed our equipment and headed for the door without saying our goodbyes. I texted Lea when I got outside, because I didn’t want her to worry, and I knew she and Conner would come home when she read the message.
We walked through the snow in silence. The only sound in the streets was the sounds of our shoes crushing the snow beneath us.
When we reached the apartment, Shane went in first and searched all the rooms, while he made me stay in the front hallway. When he felt that Carl Sumpton was not hiding somewhere, we raided the refrigerator.
Shane settled on making pancakes, while I jumped in the shower to wash the night’s show off. When the hot water ran cold, I jumped out, wrapped myself in a towel, and walked out into the kitchen.
The spatula fell to the floor splattering pancake batter all over. Shane’s eyes widened, “Pancakes are almost ready,” he whispered.
“There should be more hot water in about five minutes, if you want to jump in the shower,” I said.
He turned the burners on the stove off and lifted his shirt over his head. My body hummed. Every single nerve ending trembled with want.
He gave me a crooked smile, “Why Grace? You think I’m dirty?” He walked towards me slowly.
“Oh, no, Shane, I’m betting on you being filthy,” I teased.
He moved closer until I could feel his sweet warm breath on my face. My body wanted to lurch forward into his arms and be over with it. Just one night with Shane, get it out of my system and then I’d leave. I’d leave and find Azazel and ask him to help me end my eternity.
The front door opened, spilling voices into the apartment. Shane’s expression turned desperate with longing. I turned away, walked into my room, closed the door, leaning against it and exhaling the breath that I’d been holding in. I couldn’t even begin to understand the hold that Shane had over me. It terrified me and it made me hate myself. I didn’t want to be the same as all those other girls and I was. I changed into a simple pair of jeans and tank top and made my way to where everyone seemed to be.
Lea had invited a few people from the bar and they were all hanging out eating Shane’s pancakes when I ventured in. Shane sat on the arm of the couch laughing with Ethan when I came in. His expression softened when he saw me, and my heart ached. How I wish that I could really be Grace and not know what heaven felt like.
Within a few minutes, Shane made his way towards me and placed his hand on the small of my back. I didn’t flinch, I didn’t move away, and I leaned into him. I wanted him to think that Grace would have loved him, because she would have. And I made up my mind that, in the morning I was leaving, and nothing would stop me.
“Are you okay?” he asked looking down into my eyes.
“I’m just tired. I think I’m going to call it a night.” I smiled up at him. “Goodbye Shane.” I felt his eyes follow me down the hallway, but his body never moved.