"You disobeyed your orders."
The voice of his leader made Jeremy cringe with fear. He had sinned, badly.
"I confess to you my sins, and beg for your forgiveness," Jeremy said in a calm voice.
The angelic warrior, Raphael, peered into Jeremy's eyes. Jeremy stood confidently but bowed his head in shame. How long had he been an angelic warrior? Hundreds of years. How many missions had he completed? Millions. He had never made a mistake.
"Tobiah," Raphael said softly, using Jeremy's angelic name. "As much as I love you brother, I do not see sorrow in your eyes. And I do not feel any in your heart."
Jeremy flinched at the statement. He knew what he had done was wrong and yet….he was having trouble finding shame in his sins. If he had the chance to go back to earth, he knew he would make the same mistake. Again and again and again.
"What is to become of me?" Jeremy asked in a worried voice.
Raphael's strong hands settled atop Jeremy's shoulders and he felt a wave of peace move through his soul.
"You have a choice, Tobiah. One that will change the course of your existence. I have been elected by the archangels to explain to you your options. And when I am finished, I will give you a moment of peace to make your decision."
Jeremy nodded his head in understanding.
"Option one is to stay an angelic warrior. However, if that is your decision, you will be stripped of your title and rank and will have to work your way back up to my second-in-command."
Raphael paused a moment and searched Jeremy's face for a reaction. The tips of his golden wings slid across the billowy clouded floor. Jeremy had always been in awe of Raphael's wings. They were as majestic as the very Heaven that made them, and their golden shimmer could be spotted from hundreds of miles away.
"Option two is to resign from your warrior duties altogether. This would leave you in the heavenly realm as a greeting angel for all who enter Heaven's gates."
Jeremy absorbed Raphael's words, a sinking feeling forming in the pit of his stomach. He should be relieved that his punishment was not greater after failing to complete his task. But still he wasn't happy with his choices. Truth be told, the only thing he wanted was to go back down to earth and see Stella one more time.
He hadn't even had a chance to tell her good-bye. After his night with her, he was summoned back to Heaven by his leader - a summon which could neither be denied nor put off. Jeremy had gathered his things and had allowed Raphael to bring him back to Heaven, body and soul.
He was told to stay away from Stella. She was a temptation to him, a temptation that consumed his mind every minute of every hour of every day. And Jeremy did his best to obey. But when he felt the tug of Stella against his mind, he had to check up on her.
And what did he see?
Stella wrapped in the arms of another man. Of Evan. Of Jeremy's soon-to-be brother as part of the angelic warriors. Jeremy tried to let it go. But the feelings of jealousy coursed through him like the eye of a storm.
Why were his feelings so strong for her? And were they even for her? Or was the devil playing tricks on his mind? After all, Stella did have a demon inside her. Perhaps she used it against him.
But that just didn't seem like something she would do. She was good, and kind, and sweet, and beautiful…
"-And there is one final option," Raphael said, captivating Jeremy's attention once again. "You may fall."
Jeremy couldn't hide the shock and surprise on his face. A fallen angel was an unthinkable punishment, one that every angel feared. And yet it was an option for him to consider. Because of Stella.
"Would I ever be able to get back into Heaven?" Jeremy asked hesitantly.
Raphael gave him a pointed look, sheer wonderment in his eyes. Raphael was an angel who knew him soul deep. He always knew what Jeremy would do or say ten steps before he did it. But now Raphael was looking at him as if they were meeting for the very first time.
"As you know Jeremy, when an angel falls, it's usually not by choice. It is a punishment. In your case, however, it is a sacrament of the Lord, to sacrifice one of his angels to allow you time on earth. Therefore, -"
"-a sacrifice will be needed to get me back into Heaven," Jeremy finished for him. "What kind of a sacrifice?"
But Jeremy didn't have to wait for an answer to know what kind of sacrifice was needed. He knew what he had to do. The only question was - was he willing to do it all for a chance to be with Stella? .........
Stella listened to Todd's dream, mouth agape and eyes wide.
"And that's when I woke up. Stella I've been dreaming about this angel the whole time. It's consuming my mind. I can't eat, I can't sleep, it's like I'm in a walking dream, mentally connected with this man, who I now know is named Jeremy. And he's real. Isn't he?"
It's hard for me to look at Todd's pained face. I selfishly want to know more, crave to know if Jeremy will make the choice to come back to me.
Oh God, please let him come back to me.
"Damnit Stella, is he real!?" Todd shouts to me.
"Y-yes Todd. He's real. He's very real…"
Todd looks crazy as he bounces his leg up and down against the floor, staring at me with his anxious eyes. "What's wrong with me doc?"
"Listen to me Todd, there is nothing wrong with you. Nothing. There are people that have souls that are so light and so open, that your mind allows you to see other spirits, other beings, outside of yourself. Through your dreams you see their pain, their pleasure, their lives."
"How do you know that's all it is?"
"I've read about it before, Todd. Back in school. And I'll be honest, it's something I've never believed in or even have come across until you. But I truly believe that's all it is and it's nothing to be afraid of."
Todd nods his head numbly and mutters something under his breath that I can't quite catch.
"Jeremy said in the dream that the devil was trying to push him towards you. You're not bad though…right Stella?"
My heart clenches at Todd's question and the blood rushes to my cheeks making them flush with red. Am I bad? It's a question I have faced time and time again. And after all this time, I think I have come to a firm decision.
"No Todd, I'm not."
"I didn't think so. I trust you Stella. I'm on your side."
On my side?
Todd glances down at his watch and gasps as he realizes the time. He hurries out of his seat and nervously scratches at the back of his neck.
"I have to go Stella. I - I - I have stuff to do. I'll be back again for the next appointment."
I reach out to stop Todd from leaving but he brushes right by me, opening up the door and rushing down the hallway. I stare after him and feel like my brain is going to explode. Nothing is making sense and I feel like I'm missing a big piece to the puzzle.
My stomach clenches and I wipe my clammy hands down the length of my thigh. What does it all mean?
Grace rounds the corner to my office and plops a stack of mail on my desk.
"I saw Todd running down the hallway," she says with a smirk. "Making progress with him, huh?"
Her playful question is filled with sarcasm. I gather my notes and stuff them into Todd's folder.
"I am, actually."
Grace shakes her head and leans against the edge of my desk. She crosses her feet at the ankles and gives her chin a thoughtful tap.
"He's an odd character. I made absolutely zero progress with him in the few weeks I had him."
A prickling sensation runs down the back of my spine at Grace's admittance. Something doesn't add up.
"So Todd was your client before I took over?"
Grace nods her head. I frown as I digest the information. Grace has been with this practice for quite some time. She knows every single mental disorder and illness and all the 'classic symptoms' for each.
She knows just as well as I do that Todd has chronic OCD. With a case like that, the psychiatrist should never cut ties with a client without solid grounds. Clients with OCD get attached quickly to people and like their routines.
I can't imagine something went so wrong that Grace would sign off on Todd and give him to me as a new client. So why did she do it?
Normally I wouldn't ask such a thing, but there's a feeling in the pit of my stomach that's telling me I should. I look Grace straight in the eyes.
"Why did you sign off on Todd and give him to me? Did something happen?"
Grace's face ignites into all different shades of pink. Her eyes dart away from me, to the floor, and then back to me again. She shifts uncomfortably in her position and bites her lip with hesitation.
There is an uneasy silence between us but I refuse to back down.
"Well, I just wanted to make sure everything was 'legal.'"
"Legal? How do you mean?"
Grace moves away from my desk and starts fiddling with her fingers.
"I just, well, you know how we're not supposed to date clients that we see?"
Oh please don't tell me she slept with Todd…
"Well, you're really not supposed to date or see any of their family members either…" Grace pauses and then rushes out, "But when he showed interest in me, I just had to take a chance Stella. I had to. And I know that's not the most ethic thing in the world, but I just didn't want to pass up a chance with a great guy."
I pinch the bridge of my nose and hold up my hand for her to slow down.
"Wait, wait wait - hold it. So you're telling me you stopped treating Todd so you could date who now?"
Grace raises her brow and then rolls her eyes as if I'm the stupidest girl in the world.
"Richard, duh. Where have you been?"
I try to take a deep breath but my brain is starting to spin out of control.
"Richard. And Todd. They're… related?" I ask in a choppy voice, my blood running cold by the second.
"Well yea Stella. They're brothers."