Because my demon is still feeding off her trip to Hell, she gives my mind a glimpse of peace, allowing me to catch up on some much-needed sleep. When I finally pull my eyes open and look at the clock, it's already well past noon. My soft and supple bed molds to my every movement, a gentle caress in response to my resting needs.
I take my time getting ready for the day, enjoying a long shower and spending over an hour in my closet looking through my new clothes. I decide on a full-length, strapless summer dress. Its colors are beautiful- a vibrant mix of gold, orange and red. Its silky thin material hugs my curves delicately and I look in the mirror, fully satisfied with my choice for today. I select a matching pair of gold sandals and pad out of my bedroom.
Jeremy is waiting for me in the kitchen, an empty bowl of cereal in his hands, and a distant look etched onto his face. He has on khaki shorts and a solid blue polo, a wonderful choice in bringing out his smoldering blue eyes.
"That shirt looks good on you," I say with a half-hearted smile. "And good morning - er, afternoon. Did you sleep well?"
I walk over to my coffee maker and start inserting a packet of rich, dark Sumatra. I pull out a handful of grapes from the fridge and start popping them in my mouth one by one. My stomach grumbles in appreciation.
"I did not," Jeremy responds cooly. "You left with Evan at eleven at night and I didn't hear you come in until close to five o'clock this morning."
I turn to face him slowly and cock my hand on my hip.
"Don't get all high and mighty with me angel. I was with Evan for less than an hour. The rest of the night I was elsewhere."
Jeremy raises his eyebrows to me, thoroughly unconvinced. I try to change tactics.
"So, I told Gavin that we'd join him and Connie on their boat for dinner and drinks tonight. Is that cool?"
Jeremy sighs and sits back in his chair. I look at his face, noticing the dark, puffy bags now residing under his eyes. The man must have not slept more than twenty minutes last night. I feel a twinge of guilt thinking I'm responsible for this, but I wipe it away. He was probably up all night worrying that I was going to molest Evan or something ridiculous like that.
"Just the four of us?" Jeremy asks.
"Evan too," I whisper under my breath.
Jeremy runs his hands through his hair and down the back of his neck. I can see he is trying to keep his frustration under control.
"Stella, I- I just don't know what you're expecting me to say. You know you're not supposed to be seeing him anymore. You can't taint him. He needs to be untouched by a demon before he is asked to be an angelic warrior."
I grab my cup of coffee and take a seat across from him. The steam transcends from the coffee's surface, floating and dispersing into the air above. Its rich and sultry scent sneaks into my nose and warms my body without me even taking the first sip.
"What'd you think of Evan?" I ask, avoiding Jeremy's comment completely. "I mean after all, you're doing all this work for his well being in the long run."
"He has love in his heart and confidence in his soul. He is everything I thought he would be."
Jeremy's response is sullen, his voice tired and on the edge of irritation. I know he must miss his home in the clouds. I can't imagine it's very easy for him leaving heaven, having to adjust to the world once again after all these years. Yea and all I've done is made it worse for him.
I bite my lip and study him from across the table. From this angle he looks nothing more than a harmless human. His eyes are still bright but filled with irritation and a lack of sleep. His face is not shaven, little tufts of hair blooming under his lips and along his jaw line. In a word, he looks miserable. And even though our ending goals are on polar ends of the spectrum, he nonetheless is a guest in my house. And as his host I need to step it up in the hospitality depmartment.
I take a few sips of my coffee and then walk it over to the sink.
"Well, dinner isn't until tonight. We still have time to cancel I suppose. But hey, I have an idea," I say, smiling broadly from across the room. "Let's say you and I get out of the house. We can go have a nice lunch - I know a great little place - and I can show you around town. Maybe even show you where I work?"
Jeremy looks at me, his eyes brightening with every second that passes. The corners of his mouth turn up into a smile.
"Sounds good," he confirms. And then he pauses before getting up from his kitchen seat. "It'll be just the two of us, right?"
His expression seems pained, making me wonder if he is uncomfortable in spending time with just me. Of course, the other alternative is for me to invite Evan along. But I don't think that'd go over all too well either. I sigh and give him a light pat on the shoulder.
"Yes, Jeremy. Just us."
My day with Jeremy goes by in a blur. And believe it or not, it was a blast. As soon as we were out of the house and driving into town, his bad mood seemed to evaporate. I told him about the world, all that had changed since the last time he was here. I told him stories of my past, some of them making him laugh, while others leading us both into more serious conversations. But what surprised me most of all was that Evan's name wasn't mentioned a single time - by either of us. It was like Jeremy and I were old friends catching up, getting lost in the sunny day and enjoying each other's company.
Jeremy and I are just finishing our meal at a nice little Italian restaurant called 'La Belle,' when I hear my phone vibrating in the empty seat next to me. I grab for it and see its Evan calling.
"Hello?" I say, answering the phone.
"Stella! Hi sweetie, it's Evan!"
Jeremy looks up from his plate of buttery noodles, a dark shadow of anger unraveling down his face. His eyes stare at my phone and then after a brief moment, come fluttering back to me.
I thought I had made him happy today. But now seeing his face, I wonder what went wrong. Evan's voice triggered his reaction. Was he reminded that I shouldn't be talking to him and that he has a job to do? Or perhaps….is he jealous?
"Hi Evan," I say, forcing my eyes on anywhere but Jeremy.
"Are you home? I just got a call from Gavin and he said they'll be heading to your house in the next twenty minutes or so."
I check my watch as we're talking, surprised that it's already going on eight o'clock. I spent almost seven straight hours with Jeremy and it felt like mere minutes.
"No, no we're not home yet Evan. We'll start heading there now and we'll see you in a bit, ok?"
"Ok, Stella sounds good. I can't wait to see you!"
I smile, tickled pink that my boyfriend is excited to see me.
"You too, Evan. Bye now."
I hang up the phone and start reaching for my purse so I can pay the bill. Jeremy is frozen in his chair, his fork still in his hand, motionless.
"Well, I guess we better get going," I say. "We won't have much time to freshen up before we leave again."
I leave the table to pay the bill, bringing back with me a box for Jeremy's leftover food. I scoop the contents from his plate into the Styrofoam box and close it with a snap. When I hand it back to him, he is staring at me as if expecting for me to say something more.
"You ready?" I ask tentatively.
In response, Jeremy unexpectedly gets up from his chair, moving so close to my face I think he's going to kiss me. But when I look into his eyes, I see he is searching my face, studying my every feature in great measure. He brings his hand up to my face and gently strokes the curve of my cheek with the back of his fingers.
It reminds me of just two nights ago, when Jeremy knelt beside my bed and brushed away my tears.
"Stella," Jeremy whispers, his lips just a breath away from mine. "Why are you doing this to me?"
My phone begins to vibrate in my hand, and Jeremy stops touching my face, his eyes snapping back to normal as if coming out of a trance. He grabs his to-go box and heads for the door. I open my phone and see Evan is calling me again.
I press the talk button and press the phone to my ear. My emotions are running rampant through my body and I curse the timing of Evan's phone call. Jeremy asked me why I was doing this to him….but doing what?
"Hello, Evan," I say into the phone.
"Hey, sorry to call again but I was just wondering if you needed me to bring anything for tonight. Like wine or beer or something?"
I pinch the bridge of my nose, grab my keys off the table and start walking to my car. Why am I all of a sudden so irritated with Evan? He's not doing anything wrong. And yet I feel like he ruined my moment with Jeremy. My moment? What the hell am I saying?
Did I even want a moment with Jeremy? Because if I did that would mean I had feelings for him. Which I most certainly DO NOT.
I sigh in frustration. My internal argument is getting me nowhere.
"No Evan, but thank you. I think I've got it covered."
"Ok great, see you in a bit!"
"Alright, bye," I finish and hang up the phone feeling more confused than ever before.