Fall From Grace

By ChristineZolendz All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Chapter 5

The force of the front door smashing into the wall, causing the entire apartment to shake, jarred me from my sleep. I peered over at the window, dusk was settling. The neon red numbers on my clock said it was only four in the afternoon. Ugh! I just wanted to sleep until next week!

I listened at the door, wanting to make sure I wouldn’t be walking out into a private spat between Lea and Conner. When I heard Shane’s voice, I rolled my eyes. I laughed to myself. Well, it can’t be anything serious then.

Still in my comfortable flannel pajamas, I walked into the living room. The whole band was there, bickering between each other, while Lea and Conner tried to make sense of what was going on. Alex the other guitarist and keyboardist of the band sat in the middle of all the commotion with both arms in casts.

Everyone stopped and looked at me when I came in. “Are you seriously wearing teddy bear pajamas?” Alex asked me. He raised one eyebrow, “That is incredibly adorable and sexy.”

I couldn’t help but smile and I lifted up my slippers to amuse him further. I pointed to them, “Complete with my comfy teddy bear slippers. What in the world is going on in here? Why are both your arms in casts?”

Brayden threw his hands into the air. “This loser spent the morning in the hospital after getting his ass kicked last night!”

I took a closer look at poor Alex’s face. His bottom lip was red and swollen, there was a cut above his left eye, and reddish-purplish bruises were forming over both his cheeks and across his nose. Ouch.

“Holy Crap!” I yelled. “What the hell happened?”

“Seems that one of the bimbos from last night had a boyfriend. That said boyfriend introduced himself to Alex by way of his fists and a baseball bat,” Lea said, handing out bottles of water and bowls of chips to everyone. When did she become the model hostess?

“A baseball bat?” I asked.

Alex’s cheeks turned redder. “Yeah. The dude jumped out on me from the closet with the bat. I threw my hands up to block it and he broke both of my arms.”

“Please tell me the boyfriend looks worse,” I pleaded.

Ethan’s deep laugh echoed throughout the room. He really was the biggest guy I had ever seen here, maybe 6’ 7” and his voice matched. His pin straight long hair was so blond it was almost white. He reminded me of the guys in those hair bands from the 90s. “I think maybe Alex hit him with some splatters of blood, but that’s about it!”

Everyone laughed, even Alex. Well, no, not everyone. Not Shane. Shane stood leaning against the front door with his arms and legs crossed. He had an angry expression on his face. “Yeah, well, that’s all really funny, but who is going to play rhythm guitar this weekend, or next? Or, how about the week after that? Who the hell are we going to find who can play as good as Alex, and play his keyboard, sing, and learn all the fucking songs before Friday night?”

Once again, Shane’s voice silenced a room. This time, it wasn’t with the sounds of his singing, but with the anger, he had for a friend. Jackass!

Lea gave me a sideways glance.

I grimaced at her, warning her to keep me out of the situation.

Conner motioned for Shane to calm down. Impressively, he took control of the whole situation. “Listen, it’s only Sunday. We have until Friday night. You know that there are shit loads of guitar players in New York City that have your CDs, knowing your music by heart. Let’s ask around, make some flyers and have a small audition on, let’s say, Thursday. You guys can pick the best player. You definitely won’t find anyone who can play the piano and the guitar like Alex, but just don’t do the songs that call for both. Alex, how long do you have to have the casts on?”

“Six weeks or so,” he answered.

“Okay, so it’s only for a few weeks. Just think of the exposure it’ll get you with having auditions. If that’s not good for you guys, then cancel the next six weekends. Take a break,” Conner offered in all his level headedness.

Shane grumbled in the corner like a child. The rest of the band considered what Conner had said.

“We can always get Tucker to do it. It’s been a while, but I bet he remembers how to play,” Ethan said.

I followed Lea into the kitchen when she went to get more water. “Okay, number one, why the hell are you serving them like that? Are you now studying for a career in waitressing? And number two, isn’t this like a personal band thing, why are they here talking about this? Don’t they have like an entire apartment building they live in? And number three, Tucker can play the guitar?”

She offered me a goofy grin. “They always come to Conner for advice. He’s the smartest one in the bunch.”

“A raisin would be the smartest one in that bunch, Lea,” I cut her off with a laugh. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I couldn’t pass that up, continue please.”

“They have all known each other from high school. They were all in the high school band together in ninth grade. Conner used to play with them too. And they always end up coming here. Conner’s here a lot. It makes me crazy, if I know they are having weird band orgy parties there and Conner is with them.”

“Lea, have they ever had weird band orgy parties where they live?” I asked.

“No, but they might. Grace, I really like Conner and I don’t want him to lose interest in me and end up with some random...”

“I got it. I’m not complaining that Conner is here. He’s awesome, Lea, he is. And don’t you dare volunteer me for anything to do with playing my guitar for them! I saw that face you made!”

She made a pouty face at me. “They may be jerks sometimes, but they are really great guys, even Shane.”

“Even Shane what?” Shane’s voice cut in.

Lea and I jumped at the sound of his voice. Lea composed herself quicker than I did. “We were just wondering what we could do to help, that’s all? Um, how long were you standing there?”

His face gave nothing away. “Long enough to know that we are jerks, but really great guys, even me.” He glanced at me.

Lea chuckled, “Yep, that’s how I feel about you guys in a nutshell. So what can I do to help?”

He tilted his head. “Do you have markers and paper, so we can make some posters and put them up in all the local bars.”

Lea jumped to it. She flew through the apartment gathering supplies for her little art project.

We ordered pizza and we all sat around and colored flyers for the auditions. We looked like a group of five year olds on a play date. When I mentioned that out loud, all hell broke loose.

Alex’s face scrunched up and he shouted, “Brayden picks his nose and eats it!”

Almost choking on a bite of pizza, Brayden shouted, “Alex has got the cooties!”

“So we look like five years old, huh?” Ethan asked coming up behind me. He grabbed me in a gentle headlock and gave me noogies on my head.

I screamed and ran for my water bottle, and poured it all over Ethan’s head. “Oh no,” I teased. “Ethan just wet himself!”

Conner opened his water bottle up next and poured it all down the front of Lea’s shirt. She screamed and tackled him, and poured the contents of her water bottle down the front of his pants.

Brayden climbed onto the coffee table and mooned everyone.

Shane just sat, watching the antics with a mischievous grin on his face. He held a full water bottle in his hand, cap off, eyes blazing at me. Oh, crap!

Our eyes locked and he sprang at me like a cougar on its prey. I tried to get out of the way, but I slammed into the now disabled Alex, who was chanting for Shane to get me. Thank God, his open water bottle flew out of his hands in the opposite direction of me. I bounced off Alex and landed sprawled out over Shane. I held my arms out over him, trying not to touch his body. Without a moment of hesitation, he flipped me over onto my back and while laughing, he pinned me down. Alex kicked over a closed water bottle to him and he fumbled for it. Grabbing it with his right hand, he brought it up to his mouth and tried to open it with his teeth.

I bucked hard underneath him, but he was so solid, I couldn’t move him. He bent down, with his face hovering next to mine, and whispered, “She is a mortal danger to all men. She is beautiful without knowing it, and possesses charms that she’s not even aware of. She is like a trap set by nature - a sweet perfumed rose in whose petals Cupid lurks in ambush! Anyone who has seen her smile has known perfection. She instills grace in every common thing and divinity in every careless gesture. Venus in her shell was never so lovely, and Diana in the forest never so graceful as you.” He lifted his head slightly and his eyes looked deep into mine.

“Cyrano De Bergerac, Shane? For a self-serving man-whore, you know way too many romantic quotes,” I whispered back. How in the world would someone like Shane know a quote like that?

I tried to move again, electricity shooting up through my body. Oh my! I grabbed the only thing I could, my slice of pizza, and smashed it in his face laughing.

He rolled off me laughing just as hard. “Oh shit, she got me good!”

For good measure, I threw a slice at Alex, catching him right in the middle of his forehead, where it stuck. Everyone was howling with laughter.

That is, until Lea screamed, “Who the hell is going to get the cheese off the ceiling?”

It took us an hour to clean up the mess that took us five minutes to make. We definitely acted like five year olds. However, we all laughed and we had a plan to help with the situation they were in. When there was no more cheese to be found on the furniture, we split into pairs to post up the pizza stained flyers.

Shane held the stack of flyers in his hands and gave out the orders as if he was elected president. “Conner and Lea, you guys hit the Bowery Ballroom and the bars around there. Brayden and Ethan, you guys hit the Highline and wherever else you can think of on the West Side. Alex, you go home. Both your arms are broken and you look like an idiot. Grace and I will hit the East side.”

He looked over at me and smiled, “Ready?”

I tried to hide my horror of being stuck with him. I don’t think I did a great job. “Uh...yeah...sure.”

He chuckled, grabbed my coat and handed it to me. “Don’t worry, I won’t try anything, unless you’ve change your mind.”

I shot him a look.

He put his hands up in the air as if a surrender. “Yeah, Grace I got it. You’ll never have sex with me. Right. I know. Maybe I’ll make up a few tee-shirts so there’ll be no confusion for anyone who thinks my dysfunctional ass can’t just innocently flirt.”

I put my coat on, stuck my tongue at him and walked out the door with everyone. Could he even be capable of flirting innocently?

Shane followed me down the steps and we walked down the block in silence until we got to the corner. “Thank you for helping.”

I looked up to him to see his expression, but there was none. No hidden meaning. Just a thank you. “No problem. Conner and his friends are very special to Lea, and I’d do anything for her.” I looked ahead again. “Besides, it’s just handing out a few flyers. I’m not playing a guitar for him, just helping you guys find someone who can.”

“Yeah, that would be a hoot. Watching those delicate little hands of yours playing Alex’s heavy riffs, now that would be hysterical to see.”

I glanced up at him, but made no attempt to tell him I could play. I walked right over my pride and kept my mouth shut.

Taking Alex’s place would cause people to ask questions about my past, and I just needed to move forward to find what I was looking for. Lea’s friends were nice enough, but not worth me baring my soul in front of everyone.

We walked through the East side, hitting all the bars that held live bands. He regaled me with stories of all the guys when they were in high school, but never talked about himself. Before I knew it, we were sitting in a quiet corner in Boozer’s, sipping beers and snacking on cheese fries with Alex who never went home, just straight to the bar. The waitress had given him a straw for his beer, so he wouldn’t hurt himself any further. Not long after we arrived, Conner and Lea showed up. Brayden and Ethan strolled in last, followed by Tucker, who was feverishly trying to explain to the both of them that he couldn’t play guitar for them on Friday, because he had a date with the hottest girl of his dreams. When he saw me, his cheeks turned deep red. He obviously hadn’t known I would be there to hear that.

“Hey, Tucker,” I nodded.

Tucker’s eyes brightened when I said hello. He smiled broadly. “Hey, Grace.” He moved through everyone, pushed Shane’s chair over, with him still sitting on it and pulled up a chair next me. “Hey, Shane, you don’t mind right?”

Shane shrugged Tucker off, but for a fleeting second, I saw a tightness settle around his ice blue eyes.

Tucker’s expression was full of elation at the sight of me. A brief thought flew through my mind. Could Tucker be the one I was looking for? Maybe I needed to give him a chance; maybe I had missed something?

“Wow, Tucker. What are you, like 12?” Alex teased.

Tucker smiled bashfully at me. “Dude, I just want to sit next to the prettiest girl in the bar, that’s all.”

I smiled up at him. He couldn’t be the one I was looking for, could he? Give him a chance. Give him a chance.

Alex laughed at him. “Tuck, you think she looks pretty now? God, you should have seen her in her little pink teddy bear pajamas before. It made me start thinking of very indecent things,” Alex whistled and gave me a wink.

Tucker looked down at me and raised one eyebrow. “Hmmm. Damn, I miss all the good stuff.”

“Oh yeah,” Alex continued. “She looked all sweet and innocent. I just wanted to corrupt her.”

Lea softly chuckled, watching Alex flirt with me. “Corrupt her? What were you thinking of doing? Show her the smallest penis in the world? Make her dislike men forever?”

Shane choked on his beer laughing. “Yeah, dude. One night with you and she’ll run screaming to a convent.”

Alex laughed along with Shane, “Ahh. You’re probably right. But, sorry Grace, watching you in those little pink pajamas, put pictures in my mind of how freaky I’d get with you.”

Everyone laughed.

As always, Lea took it a step further. “So, Alex, what kind of freaky things go on in your place? Hmm? What’s the freakiest thing you’ve ever done?” I think she asked the question to embarrass him, but it didn’t work well. His face reddened, his eyes widened, and a huge smile broke out on his face. This was going to be a horrible conversation!

“I love bondage. I’d love to spank you, Lea,” he said to embarrass her right back. “But what I’d really love is to know what freaky things you get up to, Lea,” Alex replied politely. “And you too, Grace.” Somehow, I knew this line of questioning was going to turn to us.

I laughed and gave him a wink.

Conner threw a handful of cheese fries at Alex. “Leave my girl’s freakiness outta your thoughts!” He laughed.

Shane leaned across the table and crossed his arms. “Okay, Lea’s off limits, because she’s Conner’s girl. I’d like to hear about Grace, though.”

Tucker pushed Shane so hard that he almost shoved him off his chair. “Real nice, ass!”

I glared at Shane, who gave me an innocent look.

With the most serious expression I could make, I joked, “Some of my close friends have called me Black Widow, because after I sleep with someone, I kill them.”

Shane looked at me evenly, matching my serious expression, “I have no doubt in my mind that you have had that effect on men, since I feel like I’ve died every time you’ve smiled at me.”

I looked away and tried to gather up my composure. The way Shane just said what he did had made me feel uncomfortable. It felt more than some guy just trying to get in my pants. I grabbed a few of the empty bottles off the table, walked toward the trash, and tossed them in. I walked up to the bar and ordered something a little harder than beer; I wanted my insides to burn.

“May I have a shot of Jack, please?” I threw a few twenties on the bar. I figured I’d stay at the bar for a few minutes. It felt safer to do a couple of shots than try to figure out why Shane was trying to make me feel uncomfortable. Or, why it was getting me uncomfortable. How many times have I smiled at him?

“Hey, you okay?” Tucker’s voice materialized beside me. He placed his hand on the small of my back and motioned for the bartender to pour two more shots. “Shane just says things to see how people react to them.”

I picked up my second shot and he clinked his glass with mine. “Shane doesn’t bother me.”

He nodded and smiled down at me, “Well, that’s good. He just hardly ever meets a girl that doesn’t think he’s a rock star. He’s a good guy, he just knows that there are a lot of women who want to be with him because of what he does, not who he is. He’s not used to beautiful girls not paying attention to him.”

I desperately wanted to change the subject. Why would I want to talk about Shane? Why did everyone around him feel the need to justify the things he does or says to me? “Talking about rock stars, I heard that you play the guitar.” I smiled.

Both his eyebrows raised in a questioning look. “I don’t play often anymore. Where did you hear that?”

“Tonight. When the guys were freaking out about what they were going to do about Alex not being able to play. One of the things they said was that maybe you’d help them out, since you used to play with them.” I signaled the bartender for another round.

He sighed, “Yeah, but I told them that Friday was out because I have a date. I don’t want to cancel on you, Grace.”

“Oh. Well, we could make it another night if you’d like to help them.”

Tucker searched my face, I didn’t know what he was looking for, but his eyes lingered on my lips the longest. “I would still have to audition for the jerks on Thursday.”

I downed another shot. Numb. I just wanted to be numb. Give Tucker a chance. I wish Jacob were here, so I could have someone to tell about what Gabriel told me. “I wouldn’t mind going out another time, Tucker, really.”

“Would you like to go out another night this week? How about Wednesday? I could pick you up at like six?”

“That sounds great, Tucker,” I lied.

He brought his hand up to my face and caressed my cheek with his hand. “You are so beautiful.”

I grabbed another shot and welcomed the numbness. I turned around to walk back and join everyone at the table. Shane was watching me, looking forlorn and sad. My heart sank. I don’t care, I don’t care, I won’t care.

“Hey, Tucker,” I said pulling him back. “I think I’m going to go on home.” I didn’t want to be near Shane. I didn’t want to ever see such sadness on a beautiful face. And I didn’t like feeling that it had something to do with me and I wanted to comfort him.

“Sure, Grace. I’ll go get your coat and I’ll take you home. Are you okay?”

My eyes still held Shane’s. “Yeah, Tucker. You know, I was just thinking about how I’d like to be somewhere else with you and not have an audience.” I took my eyes off Shane’s and looked up at Tucker smiling. I needed to give him a chance.

His eyes widened slightly and I swear he licked his lips. “That…that sounds like the best idea I have ever heard. I’ll be right back.” He ran to get our jackets and I started for the door. I have to give him a chance.

Tucker walked me towards his apartment building, but instead of taking me inside, he walked me up to a little red Jaguar XKR. He opened the passenger door and motioned for me to get in.

“Your car? You okay to drive?” I asked as I sighed in relief. I wanted to give Tucker a chance, but the thought of going back to his apartment scared the hell out of me. So I jumped into the car, going for a ride somewhere would be perfect.

“I’m absolutely fine. I thought we could go for a drive,” he replied.

The interior of the car smelled like leather and a little too much cologne. I coughed, and my eyes stung.

“Wow, Tucker. This is a really nice car. I take it the lawyer racket pays well?” I joked.

Pulling out into the street, he turned and chuckled along with me. “You can definitely say that. Working for my father’s firm, I’ll be his partner within a year. So my future is pretty much set.” He threw in a hearty laugh, “I just started looking for houses on Long Island. I think I need to get a little break from living with the guys. Some of us have matured a tad more than others.”

I smiled at his pride, but inwardly frowned. Oh, Tucker life can change in an instant. “Wow, sounds like you have everything all set.”

“Yeah, only thing that I’ve been missing is the beautiful girl, but I think that changed recently.” He slowed his car to a stop, still watching me. I had no idea how he didn’t crash into something, and as horrible as the thought of having an accident was, at the moment it was more than welcoming. I looked out through the windshield and saw the amazing view of Manhattan’s skyline glowing against the dark sky. I hadn’t noticed where he drove me, but we were in some sort of scenic parking lot like teenagers.

Tucker turned on his audio system and Joe Cocker’s voice wafted through the speakers. “You are so beautiful to me.” Oh my God, I hated this song.

Before I could even ask him to change the song, even though I had a strong feeling his whole playlist would be cheesy love songs, he leaned across the seat and kissed me. I was completely taken off guard and I gasped. He pulled me closer to him and let out a soft moan. Give him a chance.

“You are so beautiful to me,” he sung the words into my lips. His tongue slipped into my mouth, while his hands deftly unzipped my jacket.

He leaned into me harder and I fell back against the window. His hot chapped lips traveled along my jaw, down my neck, lingering on my collarbone. I tried to push him away from me, but his kisses never stopped. His hands roamed all over me, lifting up my shirt, grabbing at me roughly with one hand, and ripping the button of my pants off with the other. The button went sailing through the car, smacking against his windshield. He tried to thrust his hand down the front of my pants. Worst moves ever.

Fast images flashed through my thoughts, someone smashing the car door open, screaming at Tucker to get off me; the one I’ve been looking for. I wish.

“Uh, Tucker. Whoa.” I whispered.

He sat back immediately. “Grace, I’m, I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I don’t know what came over me.” He reached out and lifted my chin to look in my eyes. “It’s just that you drive me crazy. You are so beautiful and I want to be with you.” He grabbed the back of his neck and rubbed it. “Grace, the way you were kissing me, I thought you wanted me too.”

I sat up and fixed my shirt. I watched as irritation settled around his eyes. “I’m sorry, Tucker. This is just going too fast, that’s all. I really am not the kind of girl who likes to get mauled over in a parked car,” I said.

“I’m sorry. I just really wanted to be with you. I wanted to be with you before one of the other guys got to you. You’ve seen Shane look at you,” he said flatly.

“Shane doesn’t want me. He just wants another hole he hasn’t stuck himself in yet. Tucker, do you really think it would be okay to have sex with me in a car? After knowing me for a whole…what…three days? Is that what you think of me?”

“Holy shit, Grace, no. No way. I’m so sorry.” He flicked his hand through his hair and looked away. “I just really like you a lot. Please, give me another chance. Let me still take you out to dinner on Wednesday, and I promise I won’t try anything.”

“No harm done. Well, maybe just to my jeans, but sure, I’ll still have dinner with you.” I tried to give him a smile.

“I just ruined my chances with you, didn’t I?” he whispered.

I turned my gaze from him and looked straight ahead at the expanse of the beautiful twinkling city laid out before me. How could I explain anything to him?

“Look, Tucker, I just haven’t been with anyone for a long time, that’s all. I’m rusty at this, and honestly, I kind of planned out my life without having any men involved in it,” I grimaced.

“What? Why?”

“Let’s just say, I once had my heart ripped from my soul. This isn’t easy for me,” I explained.

Tucker shook his head in understanding. “Sorry, Grace. I’ll be much better behaved next time,” he smiled. “I’ll take you home, okay?”

Just like that, he pulled his little red jaguar out onto the street and sped towards the city. To my surprise, he didn’t ask about my past or who broke my heart. I was thankful for the reprieve, but couldn’t stop myself from thinking that he was selfish not to ask. Tucker was all about himself. He would be on his best behavior from now on, until he got what he wanted from me, whether it was just to sleep with me or make me the trophy wife to live in the house he planned to buy on Long Island, I didn’t know. However, he was sneaky, and much more dangerous than someone like Shane, who would tell you straight out that what he wanted was nothing more than sex.

I’d go to dinner with him and that would be it, his chance was over. I should have known after that first gut wrenching kiss; he wasn’t the one I’d been searching for.

Tucker purposely drove slowly. Making small talk. Weather, the band audition, and his law firm. When he finally pulled up to my apartment, he kissed me quickly goodnight on my cheek and apologized again.

Conner and Lea were curled up on the couch when I walked in. Shane and Ethan were sitting across from each other tossing a ball.

Shane straightened up when I walked in slamming the door behind me.

“Hey,” I nodded to the room.

Lea gave me a smile thick with implications, “Hey, yourself. Where did you and Tucker go?”

I paused in the doorway, taking off my coat. “He took me for a ride in his car.” I looked at Lea, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

She jumped up with concern in her eyes and followed me into my room. I closed the door behind her and leaned up against it.

“Okay, what’s going on?”

“I’m going out to dinner with Tucker on Wednesday night,” I began. Lea’s face burst into happy laughter and she clapped her hands together.

“Yea! I knew one of these hotties would...”

“Lea, I’m going to need you to help me figure out something to tell him to get him off my back,” I cut her off.

Her smile faded and anger replaced it, “What did he do?”

I burst out laughing. “Nothing to me. Well, he literally tried to rip my pants off me,” I showed her my busted jeans and she laughed along with me.

“Lea, I’m sorry. I know you wanted me to like him, so I tried to give him a chance. He was awful. He was like an octopus; his hands were all over me, telling me about how he thinks he found the perfect girl for his house in Long Island. I tried, but he’s not the one for me.”

Lea crossed her arms across her chest. “Nobody is the one for you, Grace. And what I want is to get you laid. I’m not asking you to get married to anyone.”

I cringed. “Well, the thought of Tucker kissing me again makes me want to wash my mouth out with rubbing alcohol. Thank you very much.”

“Ugh. That bad, huh?”

I nodded. “Not everyone is a Conner! Do you remember Harry McAllen in tenth grade? How we all dared you to kiss him at Traci’s party. And when you did, he vomited from drinking the wine coolers we snuck in right, into your...”

“OKAY! Okay,” she cut me off, waving her hands in front of her. “Don’t remind me of that! Okay, I understand. But, Grace I just think that you are wasting your life by waiting for something that isn’t...”

“Real?” I looked up at her. “He’s real Lea. He’s more real to me than you are standing right in front of me.”

She sighed. “Okay, Grace. I get the point.” She opened the door, and turned to look at me again, “But, can’t you just think of it as practice for when Mr. Wonderful shows up? Really Grace, what if he’s not the same person when you find him?”

My expression must have been bad, because she immediately apologized and ran to hug me. “I’m sorry, Grace, I just don’t want you to waste your life.” She walked out of my room not even able to look at me again and closing the door behind her.

I reached for the knob to go after her, but I stopped when I heard voices in the hallway. “Is she okay?” a mumbled voice asked.

“She’s better than anybody I know. She just wants to alone, literally,” Lea answered the voice. I couldn’t tell who she was speaking to, but really why would I care?

Lea couldn’t understand; why would she? How could she? All she knows is this. She can never comprehend what it is I have seen, felt, and have branded on my soul.

I needed to run to clear my head, thoughts of me leaving here for good were seeping into my skin. It would be so easy.

I changed into my sweats and laced up my sneakers. I walked through the house trying not to be noticed. The last thing that I needed was someone following me, but no one was around and whispers were coming from Lea’s room. Relief flooded through me, a lone run.

I dashed through the streets making my way into Central Park. I started on one of the loops, but I stopped when I saw a familiar figure sitting on one of the park benches. His white jacket reflected in the moonlight, making him look more angelic than was needed.

“Gabriel,” I greeted him. “I was just thinking about you.”

He patted the bench and motioned for me to sit down. When I sat down, he grabbed my hands. The warmth radiating off him was almost sublime.

“Hmm. I find myself thinking of you too. Why were you thinking of me?”

“I’m so tired, Gabriel.”

“I know. You’re on the right path, though.” Did he mean Tucker? He smiled rubbing his index finger along my knuckles. It was a strange gesture for him, he’d always gone out of his way not to touch me, and now every time he saw me, he made sure there was some sort of subtle physical contact before he left.

“Gabriel, I really need to...”

“I wish that I could do more,” he cut me off with a kiss to my forehead. “I wish I could do so much more for you.” Once again, he was gone, leaving me alone sitting on a cold park bench. I clasped my hands together and tried to hold onto the warmth that still lingered on my skin from Gabriel’s touch.

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