Crescendo in Patch's POV
Author: Elena Hathaway

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

I stormed back into the Z, found Marcie, and took a seat at a poker table in the opposite corner from Scott Parnell, who, it seemed, had entered the room just before I had.

I waited a moment, and Nora appeared through the door I had just burst through, looking around and spotting Scott at a pool table surrounded by other guys, all about three times her size.  She flaunted over to him as if it didn’t matter one bit, and leaned against the table.

“We’re just about to start a game,” Scott said.  “Fifty dollars and you’re in.  Grab a cue.”

Nora made a face, but Scott didn’t notice.  No one did but me.  It was one of her faces that wasn’t really a face, and if you didn’t know her as well as I did, you wouldn’t have noticed it.

Instead of answering Scott, she turned and did a sweep of the room, spotting me.  She glanced away quickly, but her eyes were still on me.  She knew I was watching her.  She had to.  She knew me well enough to know that I always stayed aware of my surroundings, especially if she was in them.

She misused her knowledge.

Putting on a dazzling smile, she turned back to Scott.  “I’d love to,” she said.  I gritted my teeth.  She was hanging out with that scum and had basically attempted to cut me out of her life.  She valued that filth above me?  Or was she just playing a game, trying to fight fire with fire?  She thought I was interested in Marcie and shoving it in her face, so she was attempting to do the same with Scott.  God, if only she knew.  If only I could tell her.  Everything could have been fixed, the way it used to be, if the goddamn archangels had just let me tell her the truth.

Nora headed over to the rack of cues, and as soon as she was out of the way, a short man with wire glasses and a sweater vest walked up to Scott.  Nora looked confused at the sight of him.  I knew he worked for a man called Dew, who handled a lot of the gambling and betting at the Z.  I also knew that the Nephil owed him quite a hunk of cash.

“How much?” the short man asked Scott.

“Fifty,” Scott answered with a touch of annoyance.  “Same as always.”

“The game has a hundred minimum.”

“Since when?”

“Let me rephrase.  For you it has a hundred minimum.”

Scott went red in the face, reached for his drink, and threw it back.  He dug his wallet out of his back pocket and shoved a wad of cash in the man’s front pocket.

“There’s fifty,” Scott said angrily.  “I’ll pay the other half after the game.  Now get your bad breath out of my face so I can concentrate.”

The short man tapped a pencil on his bottom lip, contemplating.  “You’re going to have to settle your account with Dew first.  He’s getting impatient.  He’s been generous with you, and you haven’t returned the favor.”

“Tell him I’ll have the money by the end of the night.”

“That line wore its welcome a week ago.”

Scott loomed closer over the short man, attempting to be threatening.  “I’m not the only guy here who owes Dew a little.”

“But you’re the one he’s worried won’t pay him back,” the short man replied.  He pulled out Scott’s money and let it fall to the floor.  “Like I said, Dew is getting restless.” He gave Scott a meaningful raise of his eyebrows and walked off.

As soon as he was gone, Nora rushed up to Scott again.  “How much do you owe Dew?”

Scott glared at her and didn’t answer.

She pushed right on.  “What’s the competition like?” she asked quietly.  With all the noise in the Z, I had to strain to catch her words.  I was barely paying attention to my game, or Marcie talking my other ear off.  If I didn’t have to protect her, I might have been tempted to shoot her.

Nora glanced at the other players around the pool table, and swallowed.  Her eyes darted over to me again, her heartbeat relaxing a little.  She was still counting on me to keep her safe.  Even after everything she had said to me.  She was right, of course, but still, for her to assume it?  A little annoying.

Scott snorted.  “These guys are amateurs.  I could beat them on my worst day.  My real competition is in there.”  He nodded at the corridor where all the big shots played.  I had always avoided them, knowing they got pissed when I won too much.

“That’s where the big money plays?” Angel guessed.

“Back there, I could make in one game what I make in fifteen out here.”

Shit.  That was bait right there.  Instead of pretending not to watch her, I snapped my gaze to Angel, seeing her notice it but pretend not to.  She reached into her back pocket and took out the money I’d given her, taking a step closer to Scott.  “You need a hundred total for the next game, right? Here’s…fifty,” she said, counting out the two twenties and ten I’d given her.  I felt my face redden, my fist clench in anger.  I turned back to my own game, but kept an eye and ear over with Angel and Scott.

She was trying to prove a point to me, and was once again playing with fire.  But this time, she was getting a bit too close.

Scott looked between her and the money in her hand.  “Is this a joke?” he asked incredulously.

“If you win, we’ll split the profit.”

Scott considered this, staring at the money greedily.  I almost saw the gears click together in Angel’s head as she realized what I had already figured out while Scott had been talking to Dew’s henchman.  To the Nephil, gambling was an addiction.  He needed the money.

Without another moment wasted, Scott swiped the money and jogged over to the short man in the sweater vest, whose pencil was furiously but meticulously scribbling numbers and balances for the other players.  Angel glanced at me, but this time I appeared to be focused on my poker game, not letting one emotion slip.  Marcie, thankfully, had taken a bathroom break, giving my ear a rest.

The man in the sweater vest counted up Scott’s money, then smiled tightly at the Nephil.

Scott returned to Nora, chalking his pool stick.  “You know what they say about good luck.  Got to kiss my cue.”  He stuck it up to her face.

Angel took a step back, making a face.  “I’m not kissing your cue.”

Scott flapped his arms idiotically and made chicken noises.  I rolled my eyes.  Just as Angel glanced my way again, Marcie returned, sauntering up behind me and crossing her arms around my neck.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the wounded look on Angel’s face.  Though loathe to admit it, I felt a little smug about that.  She’d been going around throwing knives in my back and twisting them cruelly, so this was my retaliation.  No, I didn’t have the slightest interest in Marcie.  But Nora had been pissing me off with her brazen behavior, and I wanted to show her that two could play at that game.

“Hey, baby,” Marcie crooned in my ear, and my opponent chuckled.

A man in a red muscle tee walked in through the door.  I glanced at him, about to write him off, then did a double take.  Near his collarbone, there was a familiar mark. 

A brand mark.

All of a sudden, the guy in a red muscle shirt stomped over and swiped Scott’s cue ball and hurled it across the room where it connected with a mirror hanging on the far wall, shattering into a million pieces.

Marcie shrieked and got to her feet, but by then the entire room had fallen silent as the man pulled out a gun.  My stomach dropped through my feet as I realized he was pointing it at Scott.  Angel was mere feet away from both of them.

Without waiting a moment, I shot to my feet and ran outside, checking the perimeter.  Thankfully, Red Tee seemed to be alone.  I hurried back inside just as Scott spoke again.

“If you take that money, I’ll kill you.”  There was a calm, deadly kind of fury in Scott’s voice, the kind I myself had master over the years.

The gunman’s smile grew.  “Is that so?”

“Nobody in here is going to let you leave with our money,” Scott said.  “Do yourself a favor and put the gun down.”

Another murmur of agreement swept the room.

The gunman didn’t seem the least bit worried, as he lazily scratched the back of his neck with his gun.  “No.”  Switching the gun to aim at Scott, he order, “Get on the table.”

“Get lost.”

“Get on the table!”

The guy was now two-handing the gun, aiming at Scott’s chest.  Very slowly, Scott raised his hands level with his shoulders and scooted backward onto the pool table.  “You won’t leave her alive.  You’re outnumbered thirty to one.”

The gunman strode to Scott in three steps, his finger poised on the trigger.  The room was dead silent.  Beside me, Marcie was trembling with fear.  Across the room, Angel was staring blankly, very obviously frightened but trying hard to be brave.  Then confusion crawled into her expression as she looked between Scott and the gunman.

No, Angel, I don’t think he knows he’s Nephilim. I didn’t think this to her, seeing as she had probably come to this conclusion on her own.  That, and her mind wasn’t very open to me right now.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Scott said, his voice still cool, but now holding an ounce of panic.

Angel had switched her gaze to Marcie, who was still quivering, but also staring with bewildered fascination at the scene unfolding.  Angel had a smug look on her face, as if thinking that Marcie had learned her lesson and would stay home from then on.  The smug look melted away though, when the guy in the red tee shoved Scott with the gun, and he flew back on the tabletop.  Out of surprise and fear, Scott fumbled for his pool stick, but the gunman snatched it.  Without pausing, he jumped up on the table and held the pool stick pointed down at Scott’s face.  He drilled the stick into the table’s surface an inch from Scott’s ear.  The pool stick proceeded through the table, until twelve inches of it was visible beneath.

I figured.

“You’re crazy, man,” Scott said.

“Get him!” a cry went up, and chaos broke out.

“Get out,” I barked at Marcie.  “I’ll be right back.”

With that, I fought through the crowd to Angel, who had just slipped through the exit.  I grabbed the waistband of her jeans and hauled her upright out of the crouch she’d been in.

“Take the Jeep,” I ordered, shoving the keys in her hand.  I paused.  “What are you waiting for?”

Her eyes teared up, but she blinked them away.  “Quit acting like I’m a huge inconvenience!  I never asked for your help!”

“I told you not to come tonight.  You wouldn’t be an inconvenience if you’d listened.  This isn’t your world—it’s mine.  You’re so bent on proving you can handle it that you’re going to do something stupid and getting yourself killed.”

She furiously opened her mouth.

“That guy in the red shirt is Nephilim,” I said, cutting off any entrance to the conversation.  “The branding mark means he’s deep with the blood society I told you about earlier.  He’s sworn allegiance to them.”

“Branding mark?”

“Near his collarbone.”

Angel paled, but said nothing, her eyes darting to the window by the door, widening at the mayhem within.

“Get out of here,” I said, pushing her in the direction of the street.

She turned back.  “Where are you going?”

“Marcie’s still inside.  I’ll get a ride with her.”

“What about me?  You’re my guardian angel.”

My eyes sliced into hers.  “Not anymore, Angel.”




I told Marcie to drop me off at Nora’s house.

“What?  Why?  She’s—”

“I told her to take my Jeep, so she has it.  I need to get it back.  That’s all,” I lied.

“Oh.  Well okay then.  Probably figured she couldn’t take care of herself?  Ha, got that right,” Marcie laughed airily.  I had to hold back an eye-roll.

She dropped me off at the farmhouse, and drove away, calling back that she’d call me tomorrow.  I waved a hand to signal I’d heard, and when she was gone I allowed myself that eye-roll.  If I killed her, I wondered if I’d be sent to hell?  I waited on the porch, leaning on the support beam.

Nora pulled up in my Jeep a few minutes later.  She didn’t get out right away, instead just sitting there.  As I watched in silence, she broke into sobs, crying her heart out.  I felt my own heart tear, break a little more.  I had caused those tears.  I  was the cause of her hurt.  She had hurt me, and maybe that upset her, but knowing that I had hurt her broke me.

After a while, she looked up and saw me.  She hastily dried her eyes and sat up, her eyes on me.  I walked down the driveway and opened the driver’s side door.

“You okay?”

She nodded stiffly.

“Why did the Nephil in the red shirt want money?” she asked, climbing sideways into the passenger’s seat.  I waited a beat, trying not to think on the gesture, and climbed behind the wheel, closing us into the Jeep together.  Two nights ago it would have made things intimate as hell, and we would have ended up making out in the backseat for who knew how long.  Now it just felt tense, filled with memories and hurt.

“He was fund-raising for the Nephilim blood society.  I wish I had a better idea of what they’re planning.  If they need money, it’s most likely for resources.  Either that, or to buy off fallen angels.  But how, who, and why, I don’t know.”  I shook my head.  “I need someone on the inside.  For the first time, being an angel puts me at a disadvantage.  They’re not going to let me within a mile of the operation.”

She spoke up, “You said Scott and the Nephil in the red shirt are both part of the blood society, but they didn’t seem to know each other.  Are you sure Scott’s involved?”

“He’s involved.”

“Then how could they not know each other?”

“My best guess right now is that whoever’s running the society is separating the individual members to keep them in the dark.  Without solidarity, the chances of a coup are low.  More than that, if they don’t know how strong they are, the Nephilim can’t leak that information to the enemy.  Fallen angels can’t get information if the society members themselves know nothing.”

“And Marcie?” she hedged, trying to seem neutral.

“She likes poker,” I said noncommittally.  I put the Jeep in reverse.  “I should be going.  You going to be okay tonight?  Is your mom gone?”  She ought to have as much protection as possible, with me off the job now.

Angel turned in her seat to face me.  “Marcie had her arms around you.”

“Marcie’s sense of personal space is nonexistent.”

“So you’re an expert on Marcie now?”

“What’s going on between the two of you?  What I saw didn’t look like business.”  Her voice was tight, thick, like she was holding back more tears.  But my sympathy was gone now that she was back at the game.

“I was in the middle of a game when she game up behind me.  It’s not the first time a girl has done that, and it probably won’t be the last.”

“You could have pushed her away.”

I sighed.  “She had her arms around me one moment, and the next moment the Nephil threw the cue ball.  I wasn’t thinking about Marcie.  I ran outside to check the perimeter in case he wasn’t alone.”

“You went back for her.”

I went back for you, too.  “I wasn’t going to leave her there.”

Angel sat back in her seat, thinking.  Why did everything have to have a double meaning, with her?

“I had a dream about Marcie’s dad last night.”

Not news to me, but if she knew I knew, she’d be suspicious, so I put on my best surprised face.

“You dreamed about Marcie’s dad?”

“I think I was in England.  A long time ago.  Marcie’s dad was being chased through a forest.  He couldn’t get away, because his cape got tangled in the trees.  He kept saying a fallen angel was trying to possess him.”

I pretended to ponder this, but Angel didn’t move, staring up at her house.  “Need me to walk through?” I suggested, glancing at my watch.

“I’m hesitating because I don’t want to get wet.  Besides, you have somewhere else to be.”  She pushed open the door and swung one leg out.  “That, and our relationship is over.  You don’t owe me any favors.”

Our eyes locked.  She’d said this to hurt me, but I wasn’t about to let her know she’d been successful.  She got out of the car and slammed the door, hurrying to her porch.  I waited until she was inside, hearing the click of the deadbolt, carrying way more finality than it should have.

Our relationship was over.  It didn’t seem possible.  We  had gone through hell together, to be together.  I loved her more than anything in this world and the next.

She could have died tonight.

And I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, because she’d fired me as her guardian angel.

I would have had to sit and watch as the love of my life’s own life was sapped out.  I would have had to sit and watch as she died, all over again.

I couldn’t handle that, not again.

Not again.


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