TAMING FIRE: WEEK 3
Emile’s cell phone read three in the morning and he’d barely made a dent in the list of chores Botus had given him. He had no idea how he’d manage to get it all done by the time he had to go to class or sleep anywhere in between. As Botus had mentioned, everyone had a price, but was his worth all of this? As he carried a heaping basket of laundry through the kitchen, he pondered how exactly his new life was going to work. What would he do with his earnings if he didn’t have time to spend them? When would he sleep or study? How would he make it to class everyday on time? What was up with that Xavier guy? Why the hell had Lim been so vaguely persistent in his warnings? What were these people hiding?
In his own world, he opened the door to the basement. He finally stopped, realizing his toes were teetering at the top of the darkened staircase. The smell of must and mildew filled his nose. He took a step back. He regretted changing into his mesh shorts and a t-shirt now. The temperature change wafting in from downstairs made him shiver.
“Get a grip,” he whispered. “It’s just an old house.”
“What’s the matter, Emile?”
He jumped, knocking the basket out of his hands. The entire load clattered down the stairs, disappearing into the black void. He gripped the doorframe, shooting a fearful glance over his shoulder. Mosey leaned against the kitchen counter, smiling cruelly.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I frighten you?” Her eyes stilled with a joy that only a cold-blooded killer could manage.
Emile put a hand over his racing heart, easing away from the stairs. “Actually, yeah you did. You scared the shit out of me.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t the thought of going into the basement that had you on edge?”
“Nope, pretty sure it was you.”
“Hmm, well, sorry again.” She brought a glass of water to her lips, looking over the edge with a rapacious stare.
His hand clutched the cross hanging over his chest. The way she looked at him was wild, plotting, and most of all, alarming. But whether it was in his head or not, his fear thawed and his palm warmed with comfort. And like a switch had been flipped in Mosey, she set down her glass and wiped her mouth hastily.
“I’ll leave you to it then.” She flipped her long brown hair over her shoulder and sauntered off. She didn’t look back once.
“Crazy bitch,” Emile muttered, letting go of his shirt. He wiped a hand over his face, collecting himself. The towel clinging to the first step of the stairs reminded him of his duties and he snagged it with one hand, checking the kitchen one last time for any lingering weirdoes. He found the silver box protruding from the unfinished concrete wall inside the door, and flicked the light on. A string of old Christmas lights zigzagged over horizontal timber beams, leading him down the stairs. He began picking up the towels lying haphazard over the steps, grateful to reach the bottom, where the laundry basket sat overturned. A few minutes later, he stood in front of a side by side washer dryer combo, frowning at all of the complicated settings. He’d managed to put the clothes and the soap in, but that was as far as he’d gotten. Something rumbled to life a few feet away. A click signaled a haunting vibration of the vents above. His eyes lingered on the dark end of the large basement. He knew someone was watching him. But no one was there. Maybe the place was haunted. He believed in spirits. He’d had too many small things happen after his grandmother’s death not to. The scent of perfume would surround him sometimes, mainly when he was sad. Then there were times he swore he’d see her out of the corner of his eye. A light would go on with no explanation. He knew they were little things, but there was always a surety in his gut that it was her.
But the feeling he had right now told him to run and never look back. This wasn’t his grandmother. It was something else, something evil.
The washing machine dinged on. The small screen with the settings blinked, all the buttons lighting up over and over. He gasped and backed away. He hadn’t touched a thing. His breath smoked in the air, curling out of his mouth in a chilling wisp. Emile rubbed his arms, continuing to back away from the dark end of the basement. His heel knocked over a paint can. He tripped over himself out of fear. His butt hit the concrete hard, landing in a damp spot right next to the stairs. The room temp dropped significantly, causing his teeth to chatter. Something moved in the dark.
The Christmas lights flickered overhead, shorting out one by one. “No,” he whispered, trying to get to his feet before he was engulfed in complete darkness.
One strand remained lit at the bottom of the steps. The figure in the dark rushed towards him. He opened his mouth to scream, but his voice failed him. His limbs locked up. His heart beat so fast he wasn’t sure it was working at all. Backed against the wall, Emile could only watch as the corpse from before stepped into what little light he had. Horns curled back from its face. Fangs snapped open, charming a slimy black tongue from the depths of its throat. Worms slithered out the gaping sockets where its eyes should have been.
He choked on his breath, trying to find words to save himself. All he could do was clutch at his chest and pray. Inches from his face, he could smell the corpse’s breath—a pungent mix of decay and smoke. He wanted to vomit. He wanted to cry. He wanted to wake up from this nightmare.
Slit-like nostrils took in his scent. “Delicious,” it hissed. “So very good.”
Emile was going to pass out. His body couldn’t take anymore. He didn’t want to be conscious when his body was devoured, but he couldn’t seem to fade out. Long nails teased the hem of his shirt, raking a painful line over the exposed skin of his belly. The creature seemed satisfied at the smell of blood, curling its tongue around the red droplet wetting its nail. Its tongue whipped back into its mouth, growling with pleasure.
And then his saving grace came as the creature put its other hand to his chest. Molten red cracks appeared in its fingers, spreading down its hand and then forearm. The creature crowed in agony, yanking the offended hand away. A warm burn spread through Emile’s body, centering around the cross he wore. He took the seconds he had, as the creature whipped around screaming, to free himself of his trance and run up the stairs. He tripped, bringing his knee to the edge of a step, but was too scared to tend to the pain. He had to keep going.
The light of the doorway symbolized freedom. He pushed off the last step, flying over the kitchen floor into a roll. He scampered over the tile, staring at the basement door. It slammed shut of its own accord, leaving him shaking against the kitchen cabinets. He folded his arms over his knees, huddling into a ball.
Tears streamed down his face. His breathing was the only sound he could hear. He was truly frozen now, frozen in fear. He wasn’t sure he could recover from this. He wasn’t ready for anything else. He almost died on the spot as Xavier came running into the kitchen.
“What the fuck is all that banging?” He swung open the basement door, not noticing Emile at first.
“No!” Emile finally screamed.
Xavier turned, looking down at him. He slowly shut the basement door. “What the hell?”
“Keep it shut.” Emile scooted over. Xavier took a step closer. “Don’t ever open that door again.”
“Emile, right?” Xavier kept coming for him, only stopping when he was a feet away. “Uh, what happened?”
“Don’t touch me. I-I want to go home. It’s down there, waiting for me.”
“Ah shit. Not again.” Xavier closed his eyes and rubbed his face. “Emile, listen to me. There’s nothing in the basement and everything is going to be okay.”
“No way, it’s down there. I saw it!” Emile jumped to his feet, avoiding Xavier’s hands. “You people are fucked. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? You’re trying to make me look crazy!”
Xavier ground his teeth, trapping his hateful words of annoyance in his mouth, and swallowing them back. That would only lead to more problems. “Emile, I need you to calm down.”
“Calm down? Are you out of your mind? That thing had fangs and fucking horns! I will not calm down.” He turned, bolting down the hall to the living room.
“Fuck! Botus!” Xavier yelled to the ceiling. Loud boots stomped down the hall above. Thankful for some help, he went to find Emile before he did something stupid.
Botus met him at the door, just as Emile yanked on the handle. The older demon put a hand to the back of Emile’s head. Xavier watched as their new housekeeper sighed and slumped to the ground in a deep sleep. Botus turned his red eyes on Xavier, angrier than a hungry hellhound.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Mosey was in the basement again, looking for a little snack it seems.”
Botus snarled. His skin morphed, calling his scales to the surface. “Deumos, you are in such deep shit!” He clomped off, leaving Xavier to look after Emile.
He crouched to the ground, noticing the rare cross peeking out of Emile’s shirt. “No,” he countered, softly. “We’re the ones in deep shit.”
Threading his arms under Emile’s limp body, he hoisted the larger man into his arms, and began the trek upstairs. Even supernatural, he was out of breath by the time he reached the attic door. Emile weighed a lot more than he looked, and truthfully, he’d wanted to take his time. Emile had put his arms around him. Emile smelled like a fresh bar of soap, all natural and clean. Emile snuggled into his chest. Xavier had never…he’d never felt…fuck.
Cradling Emile’s head, Xavier bent and opened the door to the attic. Just as he turned the light on, Botus came up the stairs, dragging Mosey after him by the hair. Her human face was battered, bloody, and there were bite marks all over her neck and arms. She reached for Xavier, but Botus kicked her in the side.
“You will find no savior there. You lied to me, Deumos. Never lie to a liar.” He yanked on her leg, shooting Xavier a shadowy look, before dragging her into his room.
Xavier cringed. Mosey’s pure, gut wrenching scream echoed through the walls. He never wanted to be on the receiving end of Botus’s anger, never ever.
He took the first couple of steps up and found himself staring down at Emile’s sleeping face. With every passing step, his grip on the human tightened. His stomach twisted. He was suddenly possessed, filled with a protective hum that snarled at the thought of Mosey touching Emile again. Xavier was also frightened. He’d never in his life felt the need to protect anyone, especially a human. They were for fun, for his entertainment, not to cradle and cuddle or whisper words or comfort to. Finally reaching the attic, Xavier walked over to the rickety bed in the corner. It was hardly fit to sleep on. The mattress caved in. The springs underneath were giving way. One leg had been propped up with a book. The bed would have to be replaced. He growled. Emile would not sleep here after tonight.
“What?” Xavier whispered. “What the fuck am I thinking?” He bent down, dropping Emile onto the bed. He had to get out of here before the sweet scent of humanity choked him to death. His sudden feelings towards Emile were merely a side effect of his mother’s punishment and nothing more. As he made to stand, Emile’s grip tightened around his neck. “Let go, human.”
“That’s not a good enough reason to assault me.” Xavier wiggled, trying not to hurt Emile, but he wouldn’t let go. “I won’t do this with you. I’ve got enough problems.”
Emile pouted in his demon-induced sleep, pulling Xavier back to him. He made a pathetic little noise.
“No way,” Xavier growled, now fighting Emile for freedom. The cross around the human’s neck slid towards his arm, scaring him shitless. “Stop, Emile. Chill out!”
The cross touched his arm, sending him into panic mode. A cross, especially a disciple’s cross blessed thousands of years ago, was lethal to any demon. He braced himself for the pain and his imminent death, but…nothing happened; nothing, but a toe curling warmth, which spread over Emile’s body, transferring to Xavier.
“I’m not…” Xavier relaxed, staring at Emile in awe. “I’m not burning.”
“Mm.” Emile snuggled into the bed, taking Xavier with him. His larger body curled around the half demon, sliding his leg between Xavier’s open thighs.
“This isn’t supposed to happen.” Xavier dipped his head, eyes rolling back into his head at the saccharine smell of Emile’s skin. “You’re just a housekeeper,” he whispered. “How do you have a disciple’s cross? Who are you, Emile?”
Emile nuzzled his face in Xavier’s neck, exhaling loudly. He melted back into his comatose state. His arms were soft under Xavier’s hands. The human’s thick, warm thigh sparked interest between Xavier’s legs. But most of all, the heat coursing through Emile’s body drew Xavier in. The temperature was unnatural, heavenly, and seductive. It wasn’t anything Xavier had ever felt before. Part of him knew the feeling, deep down in his angelic core. But the other half, his malevolent counterpart, fought the need to be intimate. His demonic heritage begged to take the human in his sleep and fill him over and over, to break the syrupy bond forming between them and cut through it with a hefty dose of twisted lust and raging force.
Yet, as it stood, the option was closed to Xavier. He knew what would happen should he act on his darker cravings. For some reason, unbeknownst to him, he wanted to lie with Emile just like this. He wanted to listen to his breathing and feel his weight on his chest. He wanted to close his eyes and give over to his exhaustion with Emile in his arms. Like he’d been drugged, his lids drifted shut and his hold on Emile tightened. He spread his legs a little wider, welcoming Emile closer. He willed the light off with his mind, and fell into a deep, deep sleep.
On the other side of town, Bee waved his hand at the double glass doors of the 24-hour bail bond office. He sneered at the slut behind the desk. Had she been human, Bee would have pulled her across the desk and took her right there. But as it was, she was most definitely demon and disgustingly disfigured beneath her big chested, peroxide blonde, human smokescreen. Her beastly tongue tainted her disguise, slithering out of her mouth to wipe across her lips as he walked past.
“Hello, Bee.” She wiggled her fingers.
“Whore,” he spat.
“Whatever you’d like,” she called after him. Her grotesque cackle haunted him down the hall.
A human family sat outside his father’s office doors. Maybe forty, the female of the trio, looked up at him. Her red rimmed eyes were magnified behind a pair of coke bottle glasses and her mousy hair was a matted mess. She looked like every other mother who’d come here to help her child escape the clutches of the justice system. Handing over their mortgages as collateral for their bastard children or zapping their life savings dry, if only to have their child home for a few weeks before a judge declared their criminal kin a disgrace and locked them up for years, or possibly life.
This woman was no exception. She even had two younger children with her, one on each side. Two children that would no doubt fall into the same path as their older sibling and eventually drive their mother to the bottle or worse… They only looked innocent now, but as soon as they reached an age of opinion and decision, Bee’s kind would be right there waiting for them. He grinned at her and she looked away, putting an arm around each child to hold them closer. He smelled her fear, her despair, and anxiety. Her emotions called to him like a vintage brandy, where he could almost taste the honeyed liquor on his tongue.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to toy with the pitiful little family. He had things to do, such as inform the king of hell that a certain archangel had triggered a chain of events that would surely end her. He’d mentored Xavier since he’d been set free as a child in the world. Xavier was his family, and as ruthless as Bee was, it would take something awful to cast his protégé out. Which led him here, to seek his father’s advice, and put a stop to Elsanah’s meddling once and for all.
He stopped outside the door, tugged down his jacket and smoothed a hand over his hair. Ready for business, he opened the door and grumbled at the sight before him. While his father was menacing at times, he could be a little…immature for the most part. Lucifer sat with his feet propped up on a massive mahogany desk, a smartphone in one hand and a remote in the other. His flamboyant, orange silk, tuxedo jacket reflected in the light. A pair of glasses faded from black to translucent over his eyes, lifting a bit as he laughed outright.
“You will never believe what’s trending today on Twitter.” Lucifer flipped the station over to a music video channel and turned his head.
“I thought you said you’d given up on social media, that is was going to hell on its own without your help.” Bee closed the door and took a seat.
“Yes, that was before. Now I’ve discovered the brilliance of it all. These Justin Beiber fans are extremists, dare I say communists disguised as pre-teen females? It’s all very riveting. Just listen to this. At JustinsBabyMama has launched a full-fledged attack on the One Directioners, over a little male named Niall. Apparently he has seductive powers over the female population. Do you think he’s one of ours? I’ll admit I’ve never heard the name, but it could very well be he’s in cahoots with us. We should look into this. If he hasn’t been touched by a demon yet, I would very much like to strike while the iron’s hot. It’s never a bad idea to have such accessible sources within the media. Why, just look at that smoldering temptress from Barbados we contracted a few years back.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, what is her name? You know? The one who struts around naked half the time? We signed her boyfriend not too long ago, the abusive one?”
“Rihanna?” Bee groaned. “Father, I haven’t come here to listen to your newfound love for pop culture and tiny pre-teen hornets. We have important matters to discuss.”
“That’s it! Rihanna,” he purred. “I should like to make her one of my wives one day, after her contract is fulfilled.” Lucifer grinned, daydreaming of the wicked things he would do to her.
“You don’t even play with the wives you have.” Bee rolled his eyes.
“But they’re boring.” Lucifer let his feet drop off the desk, pouting as he scooted closer. “They’re all so submissive now. None of them speak or cry or scream any longer. I desire the fear, the newly acquired female that causes me to chase her, and bend her to my will.” His fingers clenched his phone and his eyes burned like a raging hearth. “Soon. Very soon.”
“Will you snap out of it?” Bee stood and paced. “Use your desires constructively. For what I’m about to tell you will surely put your head in the game.”
“Oh, what is it? You’re no fun.” Lucifer put his phone down and clapped his hands once, turning off the television. He leaned back in his seat, folding his hands against his chest. “All right, you have my full attention, spoilsport.”
Bee paused, meeting his father’s stare. “Elsanah has made a move against us.”
“And what’s new? It’s part of our tale, Bee. You really need to get it through your head we can’t kill them or lure them to our side. And why are you coming to me with this? You are my son, perfectly capable of spitting back without bothering me over your petty squabbles with the pretty ones.”
“You don’t understand, father. Elsanah has evoked the Creator’s wrath within Xavier, punishing him for using his demonic half on the humans. He is useless to us, as it stands.”
Lucifer sat stock still. His eyes burned ruby red. “Did she now?” His voice no longer held a jovial tone. “Has Bael been informed of his son’s condition?”
“I don’t believe so. Earth still stands.” Bee gave his father a fang filled smile.
Smoke curled from between Lucifer’s lips. His eyes narrowed. His fingernails elongated into sharp points, which he stabbed into his desk. “Then it seems you know where to start. I didn’t raise a weakling who needs his father’s permission for destruction. This was a direct hit to your authority as prince, and it is your war to tend to. My kingdom is yours to play with.”
His father’s last words excited him. Full use of any demon he needed? Jackpot. Bee bowed. “Thank you, father.”
Eyes blinking back to blue, Lucifer waved a dismissing hand at Bee. “Get out and send in…” He looked at his computer screen. “Mrs. Fairway. Yet another pathetic human who’ll forget to read the fine print in her desperation.”
“Soul stealer,” Bee teased.
“And let’s hope one day you’ll be smart enough to earn the title.” Lucifer smiled, dryly. “Now get out.”
Bee huffed, turning on his heel. He entered the hallway, stopping before the Fairway brood. “He’ll see you now.”
“Oh, thank you,” the mother murmured, hustling her children from their seats. “I thought he’d forgotten we were here.
Bee almost growled. “He never forgets.”
Mrs. Fairway gasped sharply and ushered her children into the office.
Emile rushed around his room, trying to find his cell phone, which was beeping his morning alarm. He found it hidden in his shoe of all places and gasped at the time. He had ten minutes to get dressed and race to the bus stop. How had he slept through the first two alarms? What he didn’t have was time to wonder about it. He sniffed a few things in his bag and decided he didn’t give a shit on what he wore. Two minutes later, he was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, running down the stairs with his backpack.
He stopped at the door, realizing he didn’t brush his teeth, but glancing at his phone, he didn’t have the time. He’d grab some gum out of the machine on campus, he decided, and raced outside. Lumbering over the grass, he finally reached the drive and stopped dead. Standing outside the fancy sports car from last night was Xavier. He leaned against the door, casually puffing on a cigarette.
“Where’s the fire?”
“I-I have to get to class.” Emile swallowed, half hard at the sight. He scanned Xavier, from the white and black of his designer styled hair and the mismatched color of his eyes to the toes of his clunky motorcycle boots.
“And Botus did inform you you’d have transportation, didn’t he?”
“I guess. I didn’t think—”
Xavier exhaled smoke to the side. “Of course you didn’t.” A prick of pain lit up his spine, and he winced.
“Excuse me?” Emile held onto his backpack with one hand, his eyes darkening. “Listen, you little prick.”
Xavier pressed his key fob, starting the engine as he walked to the driver’s side. “Get in, Emile.”
“You’re going to take me to school?” Emile’s frown deepened.
Xavier took a deep breath and shot Emile an unpleasant smile. “Yes.”
“Would you please get in the car?”
“Okay. Thanks, I guess.” Emile let his backpack slide off his shoulder and opened the door.
An awkward silence filled the tiny cab as they reversed into the street. Emile clung to his backpack, staring straight ahead. What could he say to Xavier? He supposed they would have to be friends, eventually. The guy was taking him to school. That was nice, Emile thought. His thoughts of small talk were dashed with a growl from Xavier. The car came to a screeching halt and Emile turned to see what the hell Xavier was staring at.
Parked on the curb in front of Raven House was Lim. He stood on the sidewalk holding two lattes, looking straight at their car. Worry was etched on his face. He quickly tried to approach their car.
“Hey, hold up, Xavier.” Emile undid his seatbelt.
“We don’t have the time,” Xavier hissed, and threw the car into drive.
“Xavier, wait!” Emile slammed against his seat, palming the window.
“You stay away from him, Emile.” Xavier’s hands shook. “He’s not good for you.”
Emile’s mouth hung open, watching Lim stare after them in the side mirror. His heart hurt a little. He’d actually been relieved to see Lim standing there. Just being near him for a second had been comforting. But Xavier seemed to think otherwise, almost scared of Lim, just like he had been last night. Who did he believe now? Who would he turn to? As Xavier glanced at him, something about those mismatched eyes made him feel safe, something familiar and warm.
“I’m sorry.” Xavier turned back to the road. “I shouldn’t have done that,” he lied.
Emile stayed silent.
“I just don’t like him, never have.”
“Why?” Emile shifted in his seat. “What’s going on between you guys and Lim? What aren’t you telling me?”
“That’s a very personal conversation.” Xavier gripped the wheel harder. He couldn’t give in to the urge calling him to touch Emile, to offer him security.
“And I’m just the housekeeper.” Emile nodded, sinking into his seat, eyes drifting out the window. “My being thrust into the middle of whatever’s going on doesn’t matter. And I should just shut up and do what I’m told, right? I don’t matter. Understood.”
“It’s not like that and you really wouldn’t understand if I told you.”
“Just like I don’t understand how your house is haunted, or that you guys are hiding something, or that all if this is too good to be true, and in the end I’m going to get hurt? My life has sucked so far. Why wouldn’t it continue to be fucked up? I understand just fine.”
“No.” Xavier’s voice softened and his hand crept from the wheel to Emile’s knee thigh. “You really don’t.”
Emile looked down at the hand on his leg, feeling the warmth return to the cross around his neck. “Then tell me. Please.”
Xavier stopped at a red light, turning to him. “I can’t. But I want you to know that it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because…I don’t want to see you hurt.” He grimaced at his own words, not because he didn’t mean them, but because he did.
Emile leaned in. “What are you hiding from me?”
Xavier licked his lips, feverish from head to toe. “I could ask the same thing of you.” His eyes flicked to the chain around Emile’s neck.
“Then ask.” Emile moved closer. “I won’t hide from anyone, not even you, a complete stranger.”
“I’m not a stranger. I’m your employer, and I wish I had the luxury of being open with you.” Xavier obeyed the pull towards Emile. “I really do.” Emile’s breath puffed against his lips. “I wish I knew what to make of you.”
“I think you already do. I think you felt it, too.” Emile tilted his head, opening his mouth a little.
“Fuck,” Xavier hissed and fisted his hand in Emile’s hair. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help this.” His lips barely brushed Emile’s when a driver honked their horn behind them.
Both men flicked their eyes to the green light. Xavier snapped back to his seat, punching the gas, thankful that he’d been spared his lust. He could have lost control. He could have started something he didn’t want. Or did he? Damn this curse! Damn his mother and all of her shimmering lackeys. Damn himself! He just wanted to fade away into nothing and find some kind of peace.
“I understand now.” Emile turned his body away, put off in the worst kind of way. “I’ll never be anything more than I am now, and the worst part is I accepted that a long time ago. I’ll always work my ass off. I’ll always be in the dark. I’ll always be on my own, and I’ll always be looked down on. So, I’m sorry about that, whatever this was. It won’t happen again. It was unprofessional.”
“Emile, there was a green light…”
Why did he feel so rejected? God, it was almost as if he’d needed that kiss more than he could explain. “You can drop me off here. It’s not far.”
Xavier pulled up to the curb. “What time are you done?”
“Noon, and yes, I’ll be back to finish my stuff from last night after. Don’t worry.” Emile opened the door. “I’m a hard worker.”
“I don’t care about work, Emile. I wanted to know so I can pick you up.”
“Don’t bother. I have a bus pass.”
“Fuck the bus.” Xavier grabbed the front of Emile’s sweatshirt, pulling him closer. “I want to pick you up.” No matter how much control he had, he couldn’t stand the depression in Emile’s voice. Yes, he, the son of Bael, had succumbed to the needs of a human. He was in trouble now.
“Because this.” Xavier kissed him, hard, leaving little room for doubt in Emile’s head. It was fast, explosive, and done before Emile could remember where he was. The tingling grind of Xavier’s lips still lingered, even as he pulled away. “I’ll pick you up, right here, after your class.”
“Okay,” Emile murmured.
“Good.” Xavier looked away. “You’d better go. Don’t want to be late.”
Emile refused to touch his lips, even though he wanted to so badly. “See you later.”
“Right.” Xavier watched Emile get out of the car and walk across the campus lawn. He disappeared into the early morning crowd of human students, and only then did Xavier sigh heavily. “I am so fucked.” He checked his mirrors and pulled out into the street. He needed to take a drive to clear his head, but he was confident the attraction would remain, no matter how fast he drove.
In the lecture hall, Emile took his seat at the back, and pulled out his laptop. He liked to sit at the small desks by the doors, and stay hidden from the eyes of his peers. No one else sat up top, since it was a smaller group of students in a larger hall, and he could absorb the information in peace and quiet. That was what he’d hoped for, until a white cardboard cup slid across his desk and fit into his palm.
He looked up into Lim’s concerned face. “What are you doing here? And…how did you get here so fast?”
Lim took the seat next to him. “I wanted to check on you, see how things were going at Raven House. I was trying to offer you a ride to school this morning, but it seems I was little late.”
“No. I was the late one. I slept right through my alarm, which is weird. I never do that.” Emile took a sip of coffee, closing his eyes at the taste. “Thanks for this. I needed some caffeine.”
“No problem.” Lim didn’t touch his coffee, still staring at him.
Emile put his coffee down, and fumbled with his sweatshirt. His undershirt hitched up when he pulled his hoodie off, exposing his chest. “I’m fine, Lim. Really, I am.”
“No. You’re not.” Lim stared at his chest, almost in tears.
“What?” Emile looked down. His eyes went wide and his fingers skimmed over the dark red splotch forming under the cross hitting his chest. “What is this?”
“Heaven help me,” Lim whispered to himself. “I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for this, Emile. But I can’t help you unless you know. Up until now, helping you has been rather easy. You’re a strong soul. But this is beyond encouragement and a smile.”
“Up until now? I just met you a week ago.” Emile hid his chest, yanking down his shirt. He folded his arms, suddenly cold and scared.
Lim shook his head. “Not true, Emile. You’ve been my charge since the day you were born. I pushed you out of the way of that truck when you were in third grade. I sat with you, when you were in the hospital for pneumonia in sixth. I held you every night after your grandmother Rosalind passed away. I watched you get on your knees and pray for her soul. I was with you when your parents found out about that boy and kicked you out of their home. I made sure you found that twenty dollar bill when you had no money to buy food.” Lim laughed so quietly it was more of an exhale. Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. “I have been there since the beginning, and through this time, I will be there, too. For I am Erelim, the throne of the Creator, his sword, his truth, and I’m your guardian angel.”
Emile’s hand went to his chest, fingers digging around the base of his cross. Lim inclined his head. “And you, my dearest Emile, have been touched by a demon.”
TO BE CONTINUED…