My dreams are filled with haunting images; killing, blood, vengeance, rape, and terror. I eventually kick myself awake and feel a sticky sheet of sweat slicked against my body. I clap my hands to turn on my bedroom light and kick my feet off the bed. I go to my bedroom window and unclasp the lock. A cool breeze kisses my face in greeting and I take a deep breath to calm my wavering nerves.
I can't say that I'm not used to nightmares. A good majority life has been a nightmare, after all. But last night they were worse than they've ever been before. And deep down I know why. It's been almost a month since I last visited Hell. My minions are missing me, wondering where I've gone, where Stephan has gone….
My stomach tightens in the realization that I am gradually being pulled to Hell. I hate going there, but after a while, I am always drawn back down. It must be the demon in me because right now, the pull is worse than ever before.
I mindlessly bite my lip and sit on my window sill, thinking of ways to push back (or entirely avoid) my next trip to Hell. My minions will want to know where Stephan has been. But if I tell them he was killed they'll never stop seeking retribution for his death.
My door creaks open from the far side of my room, and when I look up I see the heels of feet leaving my bedroom. Jeremy was in my room?
I clear my throat and lean over to the side. "Ah…. Jeremy?" I call out tentatively.
I see Jeremy's golden blonde curls bouncing as he walks back into my room. Oh Heaven have mercy… Jeremy stands before me with nothing more than a low riding pair of white boxers to cover his skin. I gulp down a nervous mouthful of saliva and stare bashfully at his lean and muscular torso.
"W-w-what were you doing in here?" I stammer finally.
Jeremy shrugs and gazes at me from across the room. His blue eyes are nearly translucent in the moonlight and from this far away, it's easy to see that he's much more than a mere human.
"I heard you crying," Jeremy says, his voice divulging the degree of concern his face fails to show. "I came in to see if you were OK. You were thrashing around in your bed and when I got closer to you, I knew it was your demon who was taunting you in your sleep. So I said a prayer for you. That's when you started to wake up and I decided it was best if I left. I'm sorry if I disturbed your slumber."
I can feel the last remnants of sweat absorbing into my tank top. I glance at the clock and see that it's only a quarter past three. The blankets and pillows on my bed are all askew, visual proof of my troubled sleep.
"You didn't disturb me," I say, forcing myself to focus on Jeremy's face. "But - I am glad you're here. I wanted to let you know I spoke with Evan tonight, just before I went to bed. He'll be joining us for dinner tomorrow."
I look away as I finish the sentence, not wanting to see his reaction. I don't know why I'm still intimidated of him. But I am. And the last thing I need right now is for Jeremy to pick a fight with me. As it is, I'm having a hard time keeping my demon tethered down. All it will take is a few offensive words from Jeremy's end and my demon will be on the loose.
A few beats of silence travel through the room and my body is tense with anticipation. I can hear Jeremy walking toward me, his scent growing stronger with every step he takes. He still smells of heaven - wildflowers, daises, grass and nature. But he smells less of heaven now than he did the first time I met him. The scent that makes him stand apart from others -mint - is the stronger scent I smell. It's as if the longer he's on earth, the less he smells of heaven and the more he smells like the human version of himself.
"Stella, I don't want him coming over here," Jeremy says.
His voice is calm and soft. I think he can tell I'm at my wits end, because under different circumstances, he'd be talking down to me like a child. Just the thought of him scolding me, yelling at me and making me feel unworthy of another man's affection gets my heart beating into a wild frenzy. My demon squawks and gets her daggers out, all of them pointed at the angel's heart. My eyes begin to swirl, their beautiful brown transforming to a sparkly, eerie black.
No, no, no. Please don't do this now. Not in front of the angel, I plead to my demon. Even after all this time, I still have to stoop to begging and pleading to get my way with her.
I sneak a look at Jeremy and see he is staring back at me, wonder and worry streaking across his face.
"Please understand Stella, I'm not here to hurt you. I'm only here to fulfill my duty. I don't pick my assignments, they're given to me. You can have any other guy Stella. Any. Just not Evan," Jeremy says and lowers his eyes in sadness.
It's the first time the angel has seemed semi-remorseful for the pain he's caused me. But what Jeremy doesn't understand is that without Evan, I have no one. It's hard for me to find people who understand me, who appreciate the human side I have to offer. Evan is special, so understanding and so kind. Well of course he is. He's a soon-to-be angelic warrior for Christ's sake. And that's why I can't have him. I'm just not good enough.
I move away from the window sill and slip my body back into bed feeling exhausted and defeated. "I'm done arguing about his for the night," I say to Jeremy.
Hot tears prick the corners of my eyes and begin to cascade down my cheeks. I don't know why I'm being so emotional. I've been living long enough that I should be able to hold onto my tears until I am left alone. And yet the tears continue to fall, their steady stream like that of a leaky faucet.
Jeremy walks over to my bed, kneeling down on the carpeted floor and leaning his body closer to mine. My stomach flutters when his warm breath treks over my face. I look up to see he is only mere inches away from me. What the hell is he doing?
"You're crying Stella," Jeremy whispers, his voice filled with bewilderment. "Did I cause your sadness?"
"You should spit in that bastard's eye," my demon barks at me. Yes, I really should. He killed my husband and is now preventing me from being with the man that has made me happier than I've been in decades.
All I really want him to do is climb in bed with me, to hold me and stroke my hair until I fall asleep.
"No, you're fine," my unsteady voice responds. "But like I said, I'm not arguing about this tonight. Evan is coming tomorrow whether you like it or not. Got it?"
Jeremy gives me a faint smile and his cheeks redden to a deep shade of scarlet. He reaches out tentatively, bringing his hand up and lightly stroking his knuckles down my cheek. My tears immediately absorb into his soft, warm skin. The touch is so sensual and so soft that I become frozen in place. I'm too scared to move, too scared to breath. Jeremy looks at me with his deep blue eyes, his gaze searching for something I can't quite possibly fathom.
With a clear of his throat, Jeremy moves his hand back to his side and pushes his body away from my bed. He shuffles his feet across the floor and pauses just before he leaves my room.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Stella," Jeremy says, flicking off my light switch. "Please know that you cannot continue to see Evan. But I will allow it just this once. I….I look forward to meeting him."
And then he closes my door, leaving no room for a response or a rebuttal from my end. My stomach is in knots and my brain feels muddled with everything that has happened in the last twenty-four hours. I am completely drained. And confused. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, refusing to acknowledge that I just got my way (for the first time!) against the angel, refusing to acknowledge that he tried to console me when I cried, and - worst of all - refusing to acknowledge that somewhere deep inside me…I think I liked it.