"Shut the 'eff up!" Connie shrieks. "You kissed him!?"
My face falls into my hands, mortified. I try to hide from all the prying eyes around us and curse myself for picking the restaurant with the smallest menus imaginable. Her question hangs stagnant in the room and the silence afterward echoes through my ears.
I focus my attention on my iced tea, refusing to respond to her until the chatter has picked up again. My glass begins to condensate, little dribbles of water running along the sides of the smooth glass and melting into the paper tablecloth below it.
I pick at the remainder of my roll and throw a piece in my mouth. It feels like cement as it rolls along my tongue and against my teeth.
Our waiter returns to the table, placing a colorful and exotic looking martini in front of me.
"I- uh - I didn't order a drink," I begin to say.
"Compliments of the gentleman at the bar," the waiter interjects.
"For me?" I ask, feeling completely caught off guard.
The waiter gives a slight bow in confirmation. Like the busy-body she is, Connie cranes her neck to the side to get a look at the men sitting at the bar.
"Which one?" she asks the waiter.
"I don't know, miss."
The waiter seems bored with the conversation. His face remains impassive as he transfers the empty tray from his hand to the crevice under his arm.
"O-kay. Well there's like fifteen guys at the bar and none of them are looking over here. Can you find out which one sent it?" Connie presses.
"No, miss. The gentleman has requested that his anonymity remain as such."
"AaaaHAH! So you do know who sent it?"
The waiter glances at me, his eyebrow rising ever so slightly as if to ask, 'Really? This is the company you keep?' He completely ignores Connie's question and pulls the notepad out from his pocket. Connie and I order but as soon as the waiter leaves, her attention returns to the mystery man from the bar.
"I never know what to expect when I'm with you, Stella," Connie sarcastically mutters under her breath. "You're always a bundle of fun."
"No, I mean it's always good fun. But c'mon Stella. You're like a dude magnet. If it's not Evan, it's Jeremy. And if it's not Jeremy, it's some random guy at the bar buying you a drink."
Connie looks me up and down, her eyes unabashedly staring at my every curve.
"If I weren't your friend I'd hate you for having such a good figure, ya know."
She shrugs with a pout and shoots me a jealous look. I don't know why but the whole thing is so comical I can't stop the laughter from bubbling up my throat. Connie gapes at me, bristling that I'm not taking this seriously.
"Connie you always seem to have the right words to say to cheer me up," I say wiping at the corners of my eyes.
I push the martini towards her and nod my head. "Please, have a martini on me."
She seems pacified by the gesture and I realize that through this 'free drink' fiasco, she has been completely sidetracked from my kiss with Jeremy. Thank goodness. With her attention diverted, I glance over my shoulder and study the men at the bar. None stick out to me. I'm about to turn back around when I see one of them glance in my direction.
He's sitting at the far end of the bar looking quite comfortable in his surroundings. He's nursing a beer and I peek at his attire to see he's formally dressed in a pin-striped gray suit. He nods his head to the bartender and is immediately served another beer. I look at his face from the side, hoping it will spark some kind of recognition.
His face is very rugged, his eyes sunken in and dark. His nose is pointed and angular, his jaw line appearing to have been carved from stone. He's not someone I would pick out of a crowd, but I wouldn't say he's unattractive either.
His left foot bounces up and down against the leg of the bar stool. After many years studying psychology, I know that a body movement such as this is commonly referred to as a 'nervous tick.'
In other words, he knows I'm watching him.
I feel like I should thank him for his kind gesture, but then I remember how he wanted his identity to be kept secret. But why? Most men buy women a drink with the intent that she will come over and thank him for it. Kind gratitude will lead to conversation, conversation will lead to flirtation and flirtation will lead to -
"Oh God, Stella," Connie says through staggered breath. "Help m-me."
Her whole body convulses against the table. Her face has paled and her lips are rapidly turning to a light shade of blue. Drool starts spewing from her mouth and her eyes gloss over before rolling to the back of her head. Her body crashes to the ground and I call 9-1-1, shouting to the restaurant for someone to bring me a towel and water.
The paramedics arrive in no time and she is whisked away on a gurney. Her shaking has completely subsided and now her body is still - looking helpless, sick and utterly weak. Gavin calls my cell, telling me he will pick me up at the restaurant and take us both to the hospital. He is just minutes away.
I quickly gather my purse and jacket. My thoughts are in shambles, but from the corner of my eye I notice that damned martini still sitting there - half gone. I look at the bar and see all the guests have cleared out, including the man with the pin-striped gray suit. I don't know why but I lean my hand forward, dipping my first finger into the martini and touching it to my tongue.
Shit!!! I mentally scream as the acidic flavor numbs my taste buds. It's been poisoned.
I pace the confines of the hospital hallways, completely consumed in my thoughts.
The man who poisoned that drink was trying to kill me. But if he was trying to kill me with poison, he obviously doesn't know I'm immortal. If he doesn't know I'm immortal, then he hasn't been keeping tabs on me all too long. Right? Was the guy at the bar the one who sent me the email too? Is he the one who hired Evan? Who IS he?
The same thoughts tumble through my mind over and over again as my brain tries to grasp for a reasonable explanation. Somebody obviously wants me dead. Badly. The only questions I have to answer now are 'who is it' and 'why do they want me dead.'
I move past the waiting room and catch a glimpse of Gavin. His elbows are resting on his knees, his head in his hands. It looks like he's going to vomit. The nurse said she thought Connie would be alright. Thank God. I stop just short of the end of the hallway and lean against the wall, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.
I don't know why I feel guilty. After all, I'm not the one that poisoned the drink. But I was the one that offered it to Connie. And therefore I am partially at fault. I smack my head against the wall behind me until a pulsating throb resonates through my temples.
Evan's voice calls out from the other side of the hallway. My demon spats in his direction. She doesn't like to be duped, especially by a soon-to-be angelic warrior. I keep my eyes closed and pretend I don't hear him.
Before I know it his hands are around my shoulders, shaking me until my eyes pop open.
"What the hell do you want?" I snarl.
Evan backs away from me, fear in his eyes. I may have let my demon's voice shine through with that last question. Her voice is evil enough to scare anyone, including a full grown man who is supposed to be a saint.
"You bet your scrawny ass it is," my demon retorts.
I can feel my irises swirling into their most evil form of black. No, demon please. Not here, not now. My demon ignores my request and I can feel the tips of my wings pressing against the newly made flesh on my upper back, fighting for a way to be free.
"Evan, you need to move away from me."
My voice has taken on its double timbre. Evan steps away from me and holds his hands up in surrender. I try and think happy thoughts to get enough strength to put a muzzle on my demon.
The beautiful beach…
…the warm ocean breeze
my kick-ass new house….
….traveling the world
Spending time with Jeremy….
The last thought puts an ear-splitting grin on my face. I tackle my demon, throwing and pinning her against my mental wall. I look at Evan who is still staring at me in horror and my smile fades. I roll my shoulders back and move toward him, my walk confident and poised.
"I suggest you go and spend time with Gavin. He's in the waiting room," I say with a cold edge to my voice.
"Stella I - I miss you."
His expression is a mixture of fear and desperation. He feebly lifts his arm up to touch me but stops himself mid-way.
"Please, Stella. Let me come over tonight and explain myself. Please. I know you have questions. And you deserve all the answers. I swear under God that from this point on I'll give you nothing but my one hundred percent honesty."
I cross my arms over my chest and narrow my eyes on him. His hand recoils away from me completely.
"Please, Stella…" he whimpers and his voice trails off to nothing.
"Why? If you were paid to get to know me or date me or whatever the hell the deal was - you did it. You did your job. So why are you still hanging around?"
Evan huffs under this breath and he looks in both directions before moving in closer to me.
"Stella I promise you I will explain everything tonight. Please, just let me come over. If after you've heard everything you still want to get rid of me, then fine. I will leave you alone forever. But I can't just walk away from you without giving you my side of the story."
"Why!? Can't you see you've done enough damage?! Why can't you just leave me fuck alone Evan?! "
I'm screaming now, my hands up in the air and my face inching closer to his. It's taking everything inside me not to smack him right across the face. Evan looks up at me, his eyes drowning with grief. I can actually feel the pain, the regret, coming from his body. Don't you dare soften to him, Stella. He used you remember.
Evan glances around the room and leans in until he is just inches away from my face. His cheeks turn a deep shade of scarlet and he forces his eyes to mine.
"Because Stella," he whispers under his breath. "I'm in love with you."