Crescendo in Patch's POV
Author: Elena Hathaway

Chapter 2
Chapter 2

I STARED AT HIM, TRYING NOT TO CONVEY THE SUDDEN PANIC I could feel starting to take over my mind.  Was this about…Nora?  How I felt about her?  Did they know?

I cleared my throat, attempting a bravado.  “What about?”

The angel gazed at me icily for another long, weighted moment, and I was about to ask my question again, when he sucked in a deep breath and held out an arm toward me.

“Come.  Let us walk.”

Gritting my teeth, I nodded.  It would lead him further away from Angel.  We were already pretty far away, but even if we were all the way across the world it wouldn’t be far enough.  It wasn’t that I doubted his pure motives—well, yes I did, but that’s beside the point—it was that I didn’t want the archangels anywhere near her because they could take her away from me.  Or worse, they could realize the truth about her.  The truth that I wasn’t even sure was the truth yet.  Right now it was only a hunch.  But it was a very good hunch.  It also explained a lot of the recent activity I’d been picking up when guarding Angel.

Someone was planning to kill her.  Again.  Poor girl.  I only wanted what was best for her—I only wanted her to be happy.  However, that seemed to only come with a steep price.

I had been sensing it for a while.  At first, it had merely been an undercurrent, and I’d thought it’d just been an old rival at school getting pissed off at Angel for whatever reason.  Now, though, I knew it was something more sinister.  I hadn’t said anything to her because I didn’t want to scare her.  She was happy now, content.  I didn’t want to ruin that.

I took a step forward, avoiding the archangel’s outstretched hand.  His mouth flattened out into a thin, unhappy line at that, but I didn’t really care about that.  I walked next to him, just far enough away that it was obvious I wasn’t comfortable or happy to be here.

At long last, the archangel spoke.  “Jev—”

“It’s Patch,” I corrected in an even voice.  “Call me Patch.  That’s what I’m known as here.”

The archangel’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but he lifted his shoulders in a shrug.  “Very well, then.  Patch.  I come here because we have another job for you.”  He paused, letting his words sink in, waiting for a reaction.  “A different assignment.”  He was watching for an upset response.  He was expecting me to protest.  Maybe they didn’t know then, but they definitely suspected.

I chose my next words very carefully.  “Is it far away?  Or is it local?”

The archangel, sensing the double meaning in my words, a double meaning I hadn’t meant to let seep through, said, “Local.  You will also remain Nora Grey’s guardian angel.”  His eyes appraised me, my tight stance, as if coiled for an attack.  “You suspect a threat to her?”

I rolled my shoulders.  I was on thin ice here.  One wrong step it would crack, and everything would sink to the bottom, everything I had worked for, everything I had.  Angel.  “It’s nothing serious.  There’s been no evidence.”

“But you believe there is a threat.  You feel it?”

I chewed my bottom lip.  “Perhaps.”

“In that case, you will proceed as you have been with Nora, but we need you to keep a close eye on your new assignment as well.  There is danger present for her as well.”

I stiffened.  “Her?”  The archangel raised his eyes to mine, startled.  “My new assignment is a her?”

“Yes.”

Holding back a groan of exasperation was difficult.  “Who is it, may I ask?”

“Of course.  I believe you are familiar with Marcie Millar?”

At that, I froze, my entire being tensing up.  “What?”

His eyebrows rose.  “Is that going to a problem…Patch?”

Why was it that every time I had an encounter with an archangel, I wanted to punch them in the face?  And why was it that every time, a predicament always arose?  My new assignment was Marcie Millar?  The very girl who I’d wanted to beat up earlier tonight because she’d hurt Nora’s feelings.  The very girl whom Nora seemed to hate more than anyone in the world.  Dabria might be an exception, but Dabria wasn’t in Nora’s life—at all.  I’d made absolutely sure of that.

I swallowed down the retort I wanted to spit at him.  “No.  Not at all.”

“Do you need the location of her dwelling?”

I shook my head.  “No.  I know where she lives.”  Coldwater wasn’t that big of a town, and it seemed everyone knew who Marcie was, so why wouldn’t they know where she lived?  “What exactly is the danger about her that has you so worried?”

The archangel stopped walking.  “You will sense it, as you do with Nora.  It will come to you, and you will protect Marcie accordingly, just as you do for Nora.”  He paused, giving me a hard stare.  “Do you understand, Je—”

“Patch,” I ground out.

He sighed.  “Do you understand, Patch?”

I eased my hands out of the fists they had balled into, taking a deep breath.  “Yes.  I understand.”

“Very good.”  The archangel raised his eyes to the sky.  The air about him returned to an unhappy one.  For a little bit in there, he had relaxed—or as much as any of the angels ever did around me.  Now he had tensed again, ready to deliver more bad news, I guessed.

I was wrong.  It was a question.

“Patch.  Some of the higher up archangels worry.”

He regarded me with a deadpan expression.  It was one I wore quite often as well.  I never realized how annoying that could be until it was turned onto me.  It explained some of Nora’s irritation with me at times.

“Worry about what?” I pressed.

“Your true motives.”

I tensed.  I’d been concerned that our conversation would turn to this.  I was good at lying—to humans.  To archangels?  Now, that was a bit tougher.

“What about them?  Why do they worry?”

“We all know why you fell, Patch.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that you have a certain history for...coveting.”

“And?  People change.  The past doesn’t, but people do.”  I had said almost the exact same thing to Angel the night I had first kissed her, the night everything with Dabria and Chauncey had gone down.  To this day, I still had mixed feelings about that night.  On the one hand, I had finally gained her complete, undying trust, and on the other, she had died.  I didn’t like to be reminded of the agony I’d felt upon seeing her dead body before me.  Yet that had also been the night when we’d gotten together.  So…yeah, mixed feelings.  Big time.

“That may be.  However, some of your recent…actions might say differently.”

My brow furrowed.  “Meaning?”

“Your…‘relationship’ with Nora.”

I stiffened again.  “It’s the best way I can guard her—”

“But some of the other things?”

I glared at him.  “What, have you and the rest of the archangels been watching us?  Is that what you do when you’re bored?  Tune in to the peep show?”  Every moment with Angel took on an extra meaning, and I hated that.  Had the archangels been watching all of it?  “That’s sick, you know.  Sick.”

“Do not be ridiculous.  We do not need to entertain ourselves with such vulgar things.”

I really wanted to punch him.  “Vulgar?” I repeated, trying hard to keep the anger out of my voice.

“Do not give me that look, Patch.  We are not…what is the phrase the children use these days?  Peeping Toms?”  He raised an eyebrow.  “We have merely noticed quite a bit of affection being exchanged.”

“We, we, we,” I muttered.  “Do you always talk in the plural?”

He said nothing, folding his arms unhappily.

“What’s wrong with friendliness?  You want me to make Nora think I hate her, so she never wants to see me again?  So I’m reduced to, basically, a stalker?”

“Of course not. We—”  I made a face at the ‘we’ again, and he rephrased, more out of annoyance at me than anything else.  “I heard her declare her love for you, Patch.  Are things getting too friendly?”

“No.”

“See that it doesn’t.”

Gritting my teeth, I nodded once.  I was hating this more every minute.  Why did things have to turn so ugly?  Was it impossible to be happy for more than two months?

“Are we done here?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.  The archangel didn’t answer for a moment, staring up at the sky again.  It was annoying when he did that.

“I believe that is all I was told to discuss with you.”

Which meant that there was more, but he wasn’t at liberty to say it.  Right.  I knew what that was like, thinking back to when I had been with Nora in the parking garage at the library after her short spat with none other than my new assignment.  She had asked something about the truth, and I hadn’t been able to give it to her.  However, that brief encounter had led to our first date, so I thought back on it with fondness.

“Do not forget your duties, Patch.  Do not let short-lived frivolities get in the way of why you are here.”  He stared into my eyes, trying to get me to confess something I wasn't going to.

“You are not to speak to Nora about any and all other assignments,” he said next, the final nail in my coffin.  “It is of no concern to her.  Is that clear?”

When he said that, echoing when he asked if I understood before, he made me feel five years old.  I didn’t like being talked down to.  Setting my jaw, I spat, “Crystal.”

He nodded once.

And then he was gone.

 

 

*     *     *

Angel would be furious with me if I started hanging around Marcie Millar.  That much I knew for sure.  And I couldn’t tell her why.  What was I going to do?  I was already walking on paper-thin ice with the archangels.  They were already looking for any excuse to send me to hell.  I couldn’t give them one.  I couldn’t let them take me away from her.  I wouldn’t.

I couldn’t face Angel now.  I wanted to go to her, take her in my arms, hear her sweet voice, feel the slight, beautiful pressure of her lips against mine.  I wanted to be with her right now, but I couldn’t.  Not when I was about two minutes away from punching a hole through something.  I also couldn’t face Rixon.  All he would say was ‘I told you so’ and I didn’t want the thing I punched a hole through to be my best friend.

Where could I go?

I found myself at my new assignment’s house.  I stood on the street, looking at the swanky place.  It was a few notches up from my own.  Marcie’s bedroom was most likely upstairs—weren’t they always upstairs?  I stared at what I knew to be her window, watching the silhouette moving behind a curtain.  My new assignment, I thought bitterly.

From what Angel had told me about her, Marcie Millar was a stuck up, spoiled, manipulative little brat.  I was not looking forward to guarding that for who knew how long.  Who knew?  Maybe I’d end up killing her myself before anything else could.

The curtains flickered, and I made myself disappear, taking flight and perching in a tree some five miles away. 

I was in a predicament.  That was an understatement.  The second Angel found out about me being anywhere near Marcie of my own free will—with a loose definition of ‘free will’ here—she would be hurt, to say the least.  I knew their history.  I knew she had limits, and that that would be crossing them.  But what could I do?  I couldn’t turn down a direct order from the archangels.  I would just have to explain it to Angel the best I could.  What else was there for me to do? 

It seemed every choice led to a one-way ticket to hell.  If I turned down the archangels, they’d send me to hell.  If I obeyed them but told Nora about it, they’d send me to hell.  If I continued being as open and affectionate as I wanted to be with her, they’d send me to hell.

And she said she loved me.

She had expected me to say it back.  Hell, I expected me to say it back.  I’d wanted to, so, so badly.  I’d wanted to tell her I loved her, say it over and over again until she knew without a doubt that it was true.  I loved her so much it hurt.  I thought back to the first time I had realized it, my true affections for her.  It had been the night when I had come so close to stealing a kiss, also when I had come close to killing her, twice. 

Thinking about that now, it was a mystery to me how I ever could have wanted Angel dead.  It was like wishing myself dead.  In my defense, I hadn’t known her then.  I hadn’t known how wonderful and amazing and perfect she was.  When I had become aware of that, it had turned harder.  I was grateful every day that I had gotten to know her before I’d gone in for the kill.  If I hadn’t…things would be different, to say the least.

I would be human, but I would also be alone. Alone. Without Angel.  She would be dead.  I knew all too well how having her life snuffed out had felt for me.  Hell couldn’t be much worse than that.

 

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