“Ok, so spill,” Connie says taking a seat next to me.
I lean back in my chair, observing the sky and taking deliberately slow sips of my apple cinnamon wine. The night is so clear. The stars twinkle back at me, unmoving and breathtaking.
“Your boat is beautiful,” I murmur to Connie. “And what a view.”
Connie looks up at the sky and then back at me. She adjusts her denim jacket and settles into a more comfortable position in her chair.
“I really hope you’re not talking about the weather to get out of boy talk,” Connie says as she downs the rest of her beer.
She reaches over to her six pack and cracks open another one. She throws me a grin and lifts the can in my direction. “Bottoms up!”
I watch as Connie guzzles down almost an entire beer. She wipes at her mouth with her sleeve, effectively removing all of the beer foam from around her mouth. I take another sip of my wine.
“So, word on the street is you and Evan are official. True or false?”
Connie bounces up and down in her seat and squeals like a little girl. “Ohhhhh, Stella I’m so happy for you! But I mean, it was so obvious. He’s been practically glued to your side for the past three hours.”
Connie composes her excitement and gives me a devious smile. “You gonna let him get it in tonight?”
I raise a brow. “Let him do what?”
Connie tips her head back and laughs, her beer slipping out of her hand and dropping onto the deck floor. She scoops it back up and downs the remainder of it. She sets the empty beer can next to the first and reaches for another.
“Oh Stella you crack me up. All I’m asking is if you’re gonna let him sleep with you. You know, as in sex?”
The image of Evan in my bed, naked and wanting me makes my face flush with desire. I haven’t had sex in years. I idly wonder how much it has changed. Of course the thought has crossed my mind a time or two……or ten. But what would Jeremy do if he found out? How could I get away with it now that he was living with me?
“No. I just … I just don’t see it in the cards for tonight.”
Connie nods her head. Her eyes are full of understanding. “Because of Jeremy, right?”
I know she is staring at me so I do my best not to react to her question.
“I just think it’d be weird to have him over with the expectation of sex when Jeremy is sleeping in the next room.”
Connie takes a long drag of her beer and lets out a loud belch. I shake my head and suppress a giggle. I just never know what to expect from this girl. I like her company though. I wouldn’t mind spending more time with her, especially on the weekends. But if I don’t have a boyfriend, I’ll just end up being the third wheel, I remind myself with a pout.
“He likes you, you know,” Connie says matter-of-factly.
I let out a bitter laugh and take the last big gulp of my wine. It burns as it travels down my throat and instinctively my eyes start to water.
“No Connie. Jeremy is – well, he’s just a friend. Trust me, I’m the last person on earth he’d want to date.”
Connie is staring at me, unblinking. She opens her mouth to say something more but shuts it again when we hear Evan and Gavin barge through the boat deck doors.
“There’s my lady,” Evan bellows, grabbing a patio chair and dragging it next to me.
He plops his body down and gives me a wink. Connie’s focus diverts to Gavin while she lists off all the things she needs to do before work on Monday. Evan seizes the opportunity and sneaks his hand over to me, gently caressing my bare arm. The mix of his rough fingers and soft touch sends tingles down my spine. Connie’s question unexpectedly pops into my head and I can’t stop wondering what it would be like to share my bed with Evan for the night.
I gaze into his bright green eyes and see a hint of lust lurking behind them. I lick my lips and his eyes follow the action. His breath hitches and his fingers begin to travel up my arm, across my shoulder, and all the way down to the small of my back.
Evan leans forward to whisper something to me, his short facial hair tickling my ear. “I can’t seem to keep my hands off you, Stella.”
I shiver at his closeness and my body breaks out in goose bumps. God, I want him. Evan rubs my back softly, nuzzling his nose against my ear.
“Will you stay with me tonight?” he whispers, his voice husky and seductive.
Even his voice is tempting. I can hear the want and desire with every syllable that leaves his lips. I look into his eyes and happily note they are bright and lit with passion. I take a deep breath to try and clear my head. I am becoming intoxicated – both with alcohol and unadulterated desire.
“She will not be staying with you tonight.”
The masculine voice breaks whatever hold Evan has on me and I turn to see Jeremy standing just a foot away from us. His eyes are dark and he is staring at me with ruthless anger. Connie swivels her head around to see my face.
“Ahhh, well, I think it’s about time Connie and I start straightening up inside,” Gavin interjects hesitantly.
“But, but – I have to stay here and help Stella!” Connie protests with an audible slur.
Gavin hoists her up and starts moving her towards the door. Connie cranes her head back, her eyes wide with question.
“Ok b-but, Stella if you need anything I’ll be right in here, ok?” Connie says.
Her feet wobble unsteadily and Gavin ushers her through the door. He looks behind and gives me a nod, his eyes giving me a signal that I can’t quite decipher. The door closes behind them and Evan whips his head to Jeremy.
“What’s your problem man?” Evan asks, standing up from his chair and coming face to face with Jeremy.
Jeremy looks between the two of us, a multitude of emotions sweeping across his face. Evan’s body is so tense I can see a vein in his neck protruding and pulsating with anger. I set my wine glass aside and stand as well. I move between the two of them and turn my focus to Evan.
“Evan, it’s not what you think, I promise,” I say.
My mind is fuzzy again and I try to sober it up by taking deep breaths of fresh air. It doesn’t work. I place my hands against Evan’s chest and turn his face so that his focus is on me. When his eyes meet mine they soften and his chest begins to deflate.
“Please, can I have a word with Jeremy?” I ask Evan.
Evan shoots Jeremy a nasty glare and then looks back at me and nods. He brings his arms up and takes my face in his hands, pulling his lips to mine. His lips are so soft and gentle as he kisses me. Only when Jeremy gives out a low growl in his throat does Evan pull away completely. He tells me he’ll give us five minutes and gives my hand a reassuring squeeze.
Jeremy and I both watch Evan leave and as soon as he clears the door, Jeremy gives me a piercing scowl.
“I’m growing tired of this,” he says.
I search his eyes in disbelief. Normally they are so light that I can practically see right through them. But right now they’re as dark as the ocean. A muscle ticks just below his jaw.
“Jeremy, I don’t know what you want me to say. I like Evan, a lot. As long as I promise not to have sex with him….what’s the harm?”
Just then the wind picks up and dances through my hair. A few tendrils fall out of place and brush across my face. I tuck them back behind my ear and cross my arms across my chest. Jeremy is still staring at me. He must be thinking about my proposition so I decide to try harder.
“Listen, Evan’s feelings for me won’t last. Without a physical connection involved, our relationship will eventually evolve into a friendship. And that’s best case scenario. But Jeremy - I am crazy about the guy. And I don’t think I need to remind you that you murdered the only remaining man in my life prior to Evan…”
Guilt flashes across Jeremy’s face and he lowers his eyes to the ground. I lower my voice and take a confident step in his direction.
“Jeremy, please. You can stay here the entire time Evan is in my life. I won’t make him ‘impure.’ I’ll keep my hands to myself. I just can’t be all alone again. Please, let me keep him.”
My voice tapers off when a large burst of tears lodges in my throat. I can’t lose another person in my life. I’ve outlived everyone I’ve cared about and have suffered through the grieving process more times than I can count. I know Evan will be no different in the long run. One day he’ll be gone and I’ll have to accept it. But not now. Not today, especially with Stephan’s death occurring only a few short weeks ago.
I reach my hand to his and squeeze it lightly. I try to ignore the shot of electricity that shoots through my hand when my skin touches his. I wonder if he feels it too. Jeremy looks at me and I see shadowed pain behind his eyes.
“Ok Stella. I will agree to your deal. I will continue to live at your house while Evan is in your life. But in return, you may not taint his purity. Or as you so delicately put it, no sex. If you do, the deal is void and I will be taking matters into my own hands.”
I drop his hand and frown. “And what do you mean exactly by ‘taking matters into your own hands’?”
Jeremy extends his hand out to me and waits a beat for me to shake it. His face is so serious and a rumble of fear courses through me.
“W-what happens if I break the deal?” I ask timidly.
“Your human soul will wither away to nothing. And as for your demon? It will take control of your body. You will be cast down to Hell just like you were thousands of years ago. But without your soul you will be bound to Hell forever. Do you understand what I’m saying, Stella?”
I nod my head and whimper. I know only too well what he’s saying. The only ‘break’ I was given the first time I was cast down to Hell was that my demon was strong enough to come to earth. Without my human soul, my demon won’t ever be able to escape Hell again. The place I hate so very much will become my reality. For eternity.
“Do you accept the terms?” Jeremy asks.
His hand is still extended toward me but his face is blank of all emotion. I swallow down a mouthful of saliva and smack my dry lips together.
“So let me get this straight. You’re going to stay living with me and as long as I don’t have sex with my boyfriend – er, Evan – I can keep him in my life for as long as I want?”
Jeremy nods. “Correct. But if you break our agreement, you will be damned to Hell. And this time Stella, you won’t have the earth above you to hide from your misery.”
More fear bubbles up inside of me. I shudder at the thought of an eternity of Hell.
“And when Evan is out of my life – whenever that may be - you’ll leave me alone and never bother me again. Right?”
Jeremy gives me a saddened expression and the blank look on his face falters for a brief moment. He wipes it away a second later and his hard, unforgiving expression is back.
I give him a nervous look before extending my own hand and clasping it with his. A pulse of energy forms between us and I can feel the unbinding contract attach to my soul. The agreement is a part of me now, just as it is a part of him.
Neither of us can break it without consequences.
Neither of us can go back.
The deal has been done.
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