Crescendo in Patch's POV
Author: Elena Hathaway

Chapter 12
Chapter 11

“Patch, baby, you’re going to be my date,” Marcie announced.

I rolled my eyes.  I’d been trying really hard to do that less, and had to nearly bite my tongue off to keep in all the things I wanted to say to her, but sometimes I had to let a little eye-roll out so I wouldn’t explode.

“You’re the hostess.”

“So?”

“So when you’re hosting a party, you normally don’t have a date.”

She waved her hand dismissively.  “That is so not true.  I’ve had dates for all the parties I’ve thrown.”

So that’s how she gets so many guys to sleep with her.  She throws parties and gets them unbelievably drunk so they don’t realize what a horrible thing they’re doing.  It all made more sense now.

“The party’s tomorrow, right?” I asked casually.  We were at her house, sitting at her kitchen table.  Her parents had gone out of town last night.  I really didn’t enjoy being here, but she had called me and told me to come over.  Not asked, told.  I was trying to send a message to the archangels, I had to remind myself over and over every time I wanted to bash the girl’s head in when she made some snippy remark about Angel, which was more often than you’d think, seeing as she “just wanted fun.”  Marcie would continually comment about how she was hotter, thinner, smarter, and more fun than Nora, and every time, I would tune out as best I could, but it wasn’t like the girl made it easy.

“Yes it is.  Oh!  Did I forget to tell you?  Damn, I did.  Oh well.  I invited Nora to the party too,” Marcie said, her lip curling as she looked at me sideways, testing my reaction.

Inside, I felt my heart light on fire, but outside, I didn’t merely shrugged.  “Okay.”

“That doesn’t bother you?  After, you know…”

I had to physically hold myself back from slamming my head on the table repeatedly, not that it would do any good.  But maybe it would freak Marcie out enough that she’d tell me to go away and never come back.  That’d be nice.

“Hellooooooooo?  Anyone there?  Patchy?”  Marcie was waving her hand in front of my face.

I made a face.  “Don’t call me that.”

“Did you hear what I said?”

“No.”

She looked irritated.  I didn’t care.  “I said if it’ll bother you to have your trashy ex here than I can just tell her not to come.”

“‘Trashy’?”

Marcie shrugged.  “What?  It’s true.”

I sighed.  “Look, I honestly couldn’t care less.  Now are we done here?  I have things to do today.”

“But not tomorrow!” Marcie sang, giggling, even as I got to my feet and grabbed my jacket from the back of the chair I’d been sitting in.  “Be here by seven tomorrow night!  I’ll need you to help set up!” she called after me as I headed toward the door.  I waved a hand to gesture that I’d heard, and practically flew out the door. 

I climbed into my Jeep and dragged my hands down my face before pinching the bridge of my nose, trying to breathe steadily.  “Marcie Millar, you are a fucking whore,” I muttered as I threw the Jeep into reverse.  “Just had to get that out of my system.”

 

Back in my studio, I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, hating the situation I was in with Angel.  Hating the archangels and their control over everything I did, their control over my relationship with the girl I loved.  It shouldn’t be that way.

I’d heard stories over the years, when I’d been an archangel myself, of angels splintering off—going rogue, and never having to deal with heaven’s rules ever again.  That was, before the avenging angels caught up with them and chained them in hell. 

But still…the possibility of it…of being with Angel freely, telling her how much I loved her…the temptation was so inviting, so enticing.  If I took Angel and we ran, it would be at least a few weeks before they caught me.

Was I willing to risk being chained in hell for eternity just for a few weeks of happiness with the love of my life?

The answer—absolutely and unequivocally yes.

 

 

The following night, when Marcie had said ‘help’ set up, she’d actually meant ‘set up the whole party.’  It wasn’t a problem, but man, this girl was bossy.  And I’d never worked well with doing what I was told.

So after I’d moved the same table around the same room twelve times, I finally dropped it in the last place she’d told me to put it and raised my eyebrows at her.

“Marcie. Seriously?”

She rolled her eyes.  “Fine.  Go get the punch bowl and put it there.”

“Punch bowl?” I repeated.  “I’d think a keg would be more your style.”

At that, she laughed.  “It is.  There’ll be a keg too, and the punch will be spiked.”

“And to think I underestimated you for even a second.”

“Silly you.”

I set up the punch bowl, the keg, and the music station thing, and by the time Marcie had had me set up the disco ball—which was a bit much—it was half past nine.

“When are people gonna start getting here?”

“Probably around ten.”

“You’ll probably want to start setting up the punch and music then,” I hinted.

She raised her eyebrows at me, and I sighed again.  She was sitting at the music table, scrolling through the songs on her iPod that she’d plugged into two big speakers.

“How much alcohol in the punch?”

“That’s my boy,” she grinned.  I had to remind myself the goal was not to make her hate me as I bit back a nasty comment about all the boys she’d most likely said that to before.  But then again, knowing her, she might just shrug and go back to scrolling through songs.

“Put as much in as possible without making it obvious.”

So staying away from the punch tonight, I mentally noted.  “And the sodas?”

“There’s like fifty bottles in the kitchen.  Don’t worry about that.  The punch is in the fridge, and the vodka is in the cabinet above the fridge.”

“Vodka?  Isn’t that a little…”

“A little what?”

“Expensive?  For a summer party?  Won’t your parents notice if it’s gone?”

“Pfft.  My dad will probably think my mom drank it, and my mom will probably think that too.  Like I said, don’t worry about it.  Just do it.”

I did, and half an hour later, Marcie’s living room was lit only by the disco ball, with music blaring way too loudly through the speakers, and her whole house was filled with gyrating bodies.

I moved from the kitchen to the kitchen entrance to the living room, leaning against the wall.  Some blonde came over and started talking to me, but I wasn’t paying any attention.

I invited Nora to the party too…

I did a slow sweep of the room, and almost immediately found Nora staring at me.  She didn’t seem to realize I’d seen her yet, but looked away before I made it obvious that I had.  She looked beautiful, as she always did.  The dim lighting brought out her eyes, and the disco lights lighted on her hair and face every now and then, making them shine even more than they normally did.  She smiled at some guy—it was her being-nice-fake smile, so I knew she was doing it just to send a message to me.

“You look great!” the guy yelled to her over the music, and I clenched my jaw angrily as she smiled again.

Deciding to take action, I excused myself from the blonde and found another girl by the soda bottles in the kitchen.  I convinced her to take a cup of Cherry Coke to Nora, and returned to my post in the kitchen entrance as she did.

“This is for you, compliments of the guy across the room,” the girl said to Angel.

She took it gingerly, and I heard Vee say, “Told you.”

A few more words were exchanged.  Nora thought the guy who’d hit on her a few minutes ago had given the drink to her.  I rolled my eyes and moved away from the kitchen entrance, making my way to the back door to get some air.

Ten minutes later, the weirdest—and greatest—thing happened.  I decided to call Angel to check up on her, make sure she was holding her own inside and didn’t need some horny jerk to be dragged out by the neck.  I was still outside, under what I assumed to be Marcie’s bedroom, as the window opened to a little piece of roof and was only a short drop to the ground after that.  Easy to sneak out.

The phone rang in my ear, and then I heard a familiar ringtone sound from above me.  Furrowing my brow, I looked up, and grinned.

“And here I thought they were called Peeping Toms.”

Nora was clinging to the slanted roof below Marcie’s window, looking like she was hanging on for dear life, and also like she was more than a little annoyed.

“Stop laughing,” she snapped, though I didn’t.  “Get me down.”

“Jump.”

“What?”

“I’ll catch you.”  Straight into my arms.

“Are you crazy?  Go inside and open the window.  Or get a ladder.”

“I don’t need a ladder,” I insisted.  “Jump.  I’m not going to drop you.”

“Oh, sure!  Like I believe that!”

Now that, actually, kind of hurt.  She honestly thought for one second that I’d ever let any physical harm come to her?

“You want my help or not?” I said, a little harshly.

“You call this help?” she hissed furiously.  “This isn’t help!”

I shrugged and spun the key chain around my finger, then started to walk away.  I trusted that Vee would get her down somehow.

“You’re such a jerk!  Get back here?”

“Jerk?” I repeated with a laugh.  “You’re the one spying in windows.”

“I wasn’t spying.  I was—I was—”

I glanced up at the window, and realization dawned on me.  I tilted my head back and laughed.  “You were searching Marcie’s bedroom.”

“No.”  She rolled her eyes, as if it was the most absurd thing she’d ever heard.

“What were you looking for?”

“Nothing.”  And yet, she reached into her back pocket and withdrew my ball cap, tossing it at me.  “And here’s your stupid hat back, by the way!”

“You went in for my hat?”

“A big waste, obviously!”

I fit the hat back onto my head, glad to have it back.  “Are you going to jump?”

Angel warily glanced down, gauging the distance.  Sidestepping an answer, she said, “Why did you call?”

“Lost sight of you inside.  I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

She looked like she was trying not to believe me.  “And the cherry Coke?”

“Peace offering.  You going to jump or what?”

She frowned, considering the possibilities.  Seeing no other alternative, she scooted slowly to the edge of the roof.  “If you drop me…” she said warningly.

I opened my arms.  She squeezed her eyes shut and shoved off the ledge.  Her heart skipped a beat as she fell through the air for a second, and then slid into my arms.  I wrapped them securely around her, anchoring her against me, closing my eyes for a moment and letting her warmth and scent wash over me, all addicting and toxic.  I  could feel her heart hammering against my chest, and tightened one arm around her, while I tucked a stray curl behind her ear.

“Do you want to go back to the party?” I murmured gently.

She shook her head no.

“I’ll drive you home.”  I used my chin to gesture to the Jeep, keeping my arms tight around her.

“I came with Vee,” Angel said evenly.  “I should catch a ride with her.”

“Vee’s not going to pick up Chinese take-out on the way home,” I tempted.

I could almost visibly see her guard slide.  “Just dinner,” she said, though even she sounded unsure.

I gave the Boy Scout salute, and grinned.  Angel stared at me, and I could tell she was deep in thought.

Just say yes…Dinner would mean coming inside her house, being all alone….getting another chance.

All of a sudden, she stiffened.

“Mmm?” I murmured, tightening my arms protectively around her.

She felt it too.  The archangels.  Their eyes were keen on us, watching our every move.  Do anything with her that you don’t do with Marcie, and we’ll know, they seemed to be saying with their silent watching.  Defiantly, I nuzzled my face into Angel’s neck, inhaling deeply, just barely letting my lips skim her skin.  She stiffened again, but not from my kiss.

“What is it, Angel?”

“Are we safe?”

“Does it matter?”  Did it, really?  I would protect her no matter what, and at this point, I didn’t care what happened to me.  I’d thought a lot more about what I’d thought about last night—about going rogue.

“I mean…the archangels,” she whispered.  “Aren’t they watching?”

“Yes.”

Immediately, she tried to step back, but I refused to let her, refused to  let her even move one inch farther away.  “I don’t care what they see.  I’m tired of the charade.”  I stopped nuzzling her neck reluctantly, and looked up at her.

She must have seen something in my eyes, because she struggled harder to pull away.  “Let go.”

“Don’t you want me?” I said seductively, smiling.

“That’s not the issue.”  Which meant she still did.  “I don’t want to be responsible for anything happening to you.  Let go.

I shook my head, and loosened my grip to caress her arms.  She took the opportunity to try to jerk away, but I caught her hands.

I could go rogue, I said to her mind, watched her twitch as she heard it.  I could walk away right now, and we could stop playing by the archangels’ rules.  It was something I’d fantasized about many, many times but never truly entertained the possibility of until now.

“What are you talking about?” she said, though her heart beat wildly, signaling that she knew exactly what I was talking about.

I’d live on the move, constantly hiding, hoping the archangels don’t find me.

“And if they did?”

I’d go to trial.  I’d be found guilty, but it would give us a few weeks alone, while they deliberated.

She looked stricken.  “And then?”

They’d send me to hell.  I paused, and then added with quiet conviction, I’m not afraid of hell.  I deserve what’s coming. I’ve lied, cheated, deceived.  I’ve hurt innocent people.  I’ve made more mistakes than I can remember.  One way or another, I’ve been paying for them most of my existence.  Hell won’t be any different.  My mouth quirked into a brief, wry smile.  But I’m sure the archangels have a few cards up their sleeves.  My smile faded, all joking aside, and I faced her with nothing but honesty.  Being with you never felt wrong.  It’s the one thing I did right.  You’re the one thing I did right.  I don’t care about the archangels.  Tell me what you want me to do.  Say the word.  I’ll do whatever you want.  We can leave right now.

It was scary, being this vulnerable, but I knew she’d make the right choice.  She always did.  Showing her all my love, I only hoped she saw it.

I could see as what I’d said sank in, and tears came to her eyes.  Her tears hurt me.  I ran my thumb under her eyes tenderly.  “Shh,” I murmured.  “It’s going to be okay.  I want you.  I can’t keep doing what I’m doing now, living halfway.”

“B-but they’ll send you to hell,” she stammered, her bottom lip quivering as more tears spilled out.

I caressed her hair back from her face.  “I’ve had a long time to come to terms with it.”

She stepped back, and this time I let her as she wiped away her tears, sniffling.

“I need one more favor,” she said in a small voice.  I nodded eagerly, waiting for her to tell me yes, that she wanted this, wanted me, that we could run right now.

“Tell Vee I walked home.  I need to be alone.”

I physically felt my heart shatter, my hopes, everything I’d told her, every ounce of love I’d poured out to her, shattered into a million tiny glass pieces.

“Angel?”

I reached for her hand, but she pulled free, and turned and walked away.

 

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