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Okay, so, where there's a demon, there has to be an angel. Skipping ahead to chapter 3, this is where Frannie meets the angel Gabriel at a party. (Though, she doesn't know he's an angel.)
This scene needs a little set up. Frannie's ex-boyfriend is a cute dreadlocked kid that we meet in chapter 2 named Reefer. Another kid, Jackson, has been chasing her around since she made out with him in the closet at the last party when she was afraid she might cave and go back to Reefer. So, here we go...
Jackson is hovering. And I’m pretty sure from the way he’s looking at me that he’s already got me undressed in his pathetic imagination. I’ve spent the last half hour circling between the group and the bonfire that’s just crackling to life, trying to stay out of his reach. I reposition to the outside of the cluster and see Jackson circling the other way to intercept me.
Where is Reefer when I need him?
I kick myself mentally, lean against the porch rail hanging my head in defeat, and wait for the inevitable hand on my ass.
So the voice, smooth as music, scares the snot out of me. “Looks like you could use someone to run interference.”
I look up into these incredible sky-blue eyes and, if Heaven had a face, I swear this would be it. His tight white T-shirt shows off his tan and some pretty serious muscle definition. He’s leaning on the rail next to me like he’s been here all along—like he belongs in this godforsaken place rather than on a beach in San Diego with a surfboard under his arm.
“What?” It’s all I can manage.
He smiles and rakes a hand through chin-length platinum waves that seem to change from gold to red and back with the flicker of the flames. “Was I misreading the situation?” he says with a tip of his head toward Jackson.
I roll my eyes. “No, but I can take care of myself, thanks.” I push off the rail and head back over to the group.
Angel Boy doesn’t follow me. He just leans back and watches as Jackson resumes his stalk. After another lap of the circle I head back to the rail and slouch into it next to Angel Boy. I glare at the ground. “Don’t think this means I needed you to rescue me.”
He chuckles and I turn my glare on him. “You know what? Just forget it.” I push away from the porch rail, but something intense courses through me like a thousand tiny bolts of lightning when his hand touches my shoulder, stopping me dead in my tracks.
“Sorry, I really wasn’t laughing at you,” he says with a chuckle in his voice. “I was laughing at him.” He looks me over and a shiver races down my spine. “He never stood a chance.”
“Whatever,” I say, leaning back into the rail. Truth is, I came back as much to ogle Angel Boy as I did to get away from Jackson.
“I’m Gabe,” he says, turning to face me.
I’m staring at him. Oh, God. Stop! I shift my gaze to his chest, which turns out to be no less stareworthy. “Frannie.”
He glances at the beer cup in my hand and shrugs away from the rail.
And that’s when I hear Taylor’s “Oh. My. God.” I look over and the whole group is staring at us. Marty has managed to sidle up and slip his arm around Taylor’s waist, but she shifts away.
And we’re not the only ones to notice Gabe, because I see Angelique and her posse making their way over from the bonfire. She makes a beeline for Gabe as he lifts the lid on the ice chest next to the keg and she leans over it, pretending to inspect the contents of the cooler. What she’s really doing is pushing her double Ds right up in Gabe’s face. I look for Adam Martin—senior-class stud and Angelique’s boyfriend—but he’s nowhere in sight.
“Something else to drink? Water, soda?” Gabe says, staring at me.
And, mmm…those eyes. I feel my heart flutter for an instant, fighting to hold onto its normal rhythm. “I have a beer, thanks,” I say, but as I speak, I feel the cup being lifted from my hand.
“And I’ll just top it off for you.” Luc’s hot breath on the back of my neck sends a shiver through me, and my fluttering heart stops. I turn and his face is just an inch from mine. The silk wisps of his tousled mop brush my forehead and I breathe him in: cinnamon…mmm.
Taylor’s all but losing it. “Holy shit! Where’d you come from?”
Luc straightens up and refills my cup. “I’ve been around,” he says, gesturing to the crowd at the bonfire. But I was just there—and he wasn’t.
“Wow…okay. This party just got a whole hell of a lot cooler.” She looks from Luc to Gabe and back, then eases out of Marty’s grasp and meanders over to stand next to Luc. She looks at me with raised eyebrows. “So…are we sticking around?”
“Uh…well…” I look to Riley for backup. “I think we’re leaving?”
Riley is still staring at Gabe. “Not yet.”
Luc hands me my beer and glowers at Gabe, who’s moved closer. “Gabriel,” he says, his warm-honey voice suddenly cold enough to freeze hell.
“Hello, Lucifer.” And, though his smile doesn’t falter, Gabe’s musical voice just went flat.
“Wait…you know each other?” I stand between them, a little wobbly. The air around us seems charged with static electricity, making me tingle all over.
Gabe quirks a crooked smile and eyes Luc. “You could say that.”
“Unfortunately,” Luc adds. He’s sort of smiling, but under that calm demeanor he’s anything but calm. Even from a foot away, I can feel the tension in his body, coiled and ready to spring. His jaw clenches and his fists are balled at his side, dying to swing out at something—or someone. As I watch, I swear I see a tiny lick of red lightning flicker over the surface of his hand and disappear between his knuckles.
I just stand here, speechless, my whole body buzzing with the growing electric charge in the air, and try to figure out when I slipped into the Twilight Zone. ’Cause, as my gaze shifts between Luc and Gabe, what I know for sure is this can’t be real. And I start to wonder if maybe Jackson spiked my beer or something.
Angelique, realizing the attention isn’t on her, shoots me a glare before peeling off her jeans jacket to reveal a very low cut tank top. She wedges in front of me, between Luc and Gabe, and I’m actually relieved to be released from whatever that bizarre electric pull was. But immediately, Taylor shoulders her out of the way.
“Where’s Adam?” she asks Angelique in a slimy-sweet voice with a matching fake smile.
Angelique grinds her heel into Taylor’s foot. “Adam who?”
I start to feel a little dizzy and realize I’m not breathing. I back away from the group, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, trying to collect myself.
“So…” Luc’s voice, low in my ear, makes me jump. I open my eyes and feel my legs go soft. He quirks half a smile and twists a strand of hair out of my face, looping it behind my ear. “I was hoping you’d let me drive you home.”
It’s clear from my racing heart that leaving with Luc would be a mistake. I glance at Gabe, who’s still staring at me. A hot flush works its way up my neck into my face as I realize staying might be a bigger mistake.
I step up next to Riley. “Are you ready? Let’s go.” I sound completely desperate, which I guess I am.
She glances over at Trevor and smiles. “Sorry, Fee,” she says turning back to me with a shrug.
I feel Luc’s heat, too close behind me, but I don’t turn to look at him. “I’m ready,” he says.
Oh, God. Why can’t I breathe?
My eyes slide back to Gabe, which turns out to be a mistake ’cause he’s still staring at me, and those blue eyes are doing nothing to help the breathing situation.
I pull my eyes away and spin with my back to both him and Luc—and see Reefer and the band piling out of his black pickup.
I turn back to Luc, careful to avoid his eyes. Oxygen deprivation makes thinking a challenge, but I’m able to stammer out, “Um…okay. We can go, I guess…if you want.”
Riley is standing back from the catfight. I raise my voice slightly to be heard over the foray. “Riley.” She looks my way. “I’m going with Luc…’kay?”
The firelight flickers in her eyes as she smiles knowingly and nods.
I glance once more at Gabe, who holds my eyes with his and shoots me a glowing smile, and then I feel the tips of Luc’s fingers scorch through the shirt in the small of my back. I catch his cinnamon as he leans in from behind and whispers, “Let’s go.”
At his touch, a tingle starts low in my belly and works its way through me, growing in intensity till my whole body is humming—some parts more than others. I let him steer me and my Jell-O legs to his car.