“I’ll clean this up.” Max informs me evenly. Like clearing up a couple of dead daemons was just another day on the job. I shake my head at him still incredulous about the events that just took place. I open my mouth to ask him what the hell just happened but my jaw throbs in protest. I instinctively reach my hand up to touch the tender spot. I’m lucky my neck didn’t snap.
Max’s eyes change into a deep oceanic blue as his fingers reach up to caress the tender spot on my cheek. He shakes his head as a disgusted look finds his face. I feel his warm rough calloused finger tips and sparks of electricity shoot into my tender cheek at the contact. I take a step out of his reach and look at him pleadingly. I want him to tell me what happened. I need to know who he is.
His eyes close down as all emotion escapes from his face. He gestures towards the door of the lounge indicating for me to lead out. I close my eyes in defeat. Really what’s one more deception in my life? I turn to storm out of the room but a strong hand grabs the crook of my elbow and turns me back around. He takes a deep breath as his face fills with frustration. He shakes his head seeming torn about something.
I shake my head at him. “I need to get back to work.” I surrender feebly. His face falls in defeat and his eyes search the floor. I move away towards the door before I stop and turn my head back over my shoulder. “Thank you.” I whisper gratefully. His eyes lock with mine as I try to convey the weight of those words. He’d stopped that daemon from killing me tonight.
I could’ve been standing before Lucifer right now preparing for an eternity of unimaginable tortures. Instead I’m walking away from the one who stopped that fate. For now, at least. I hurry down the stairs back to the bar to distract myself. He had literally fought a daemon to protect me, and even put himself between Kane and me. How could he risk his life like that for someone he barely knows? As if he heard my thoughts he appears in front of me before moving behind the bar to stand beside me.
He stands too close for my comfort as his fingers gently caress the length of my arm until he reaches the leather cuff on my wrist. Deftly his fingers remove the lighter from the cuff. His breathing is heavy as he stands so close. He reaches around behind me and grabs a bottle of high proof liquor from the shelf. I raise an eyebrow at him curiously as he grabs a garbage bag and a dust pan and brush as well.
He looks up towards the V.I.P room as if to remind me that there are bodies up there and I shake myself back to reality instead of the fantasy of his body so close to mine. He smiles a reassuring smile at me before heading back up towards the room. I take a deep breath to steady myself as I start mixing drinks again.
What the heck is wrong with me? How can I be so attracted to someone who is obviously dangerous? I just can’t help the strange sensation whenever he’s near. I’d like to think my instincts are pretty good at detecting true evil by now. While I definitely sense he’s dangerous, I don’t get the sense of evil from him. Dark and troubled, definitely. Socially awkward, absolutely. Stubborn and infuriating, all the time, but not evil.
I successfully manage to distract myself from exactly how he’s dealing with the bodies in the lounge until I see him reemerge carrying a black garbage bag. It’s not bulky enough to have body parts in it and I study it curiously as he makes his way towards the bar. I watch him lean over and tuck the dustpan and shovel back under the bar. I look back to the bag in his hand that looks like someone just emptied a vacuum cleaner bag into it.
He doesn’t look at me again as he makes his way to the industrial bins out in the side alley. I crouch down to examine the dustpan and notice it covered in gray dust. I freeze as I realize that it’s ash. The smell invades my senses and I jump back up in horror. Of course fire destroys daemon bodies, I saw what it did to his face.
Maximus doesn’t even look at me when he reenters the club. He just moves to take his post by the club entrance. Justin looks annoyed at how long he’s been missing and I see a heated exchange before Justin signals for a break. I nod in response as I get back to making drinks. I try to focus on my task, desperately trying to erase the night from my mind.
My imagination is running wild with questions and theories about Maximus. Before I know it I catch sight of Vladik on the balcony signaling for the salvation show. I let out a frustrated breath. We really should get someone else to do this. I signal the bar tenders and make my way into the crawl space behind the bar.
I smile when I see Gerry waiting for me on the catwalk. I slip into the silver gown as I hook on the carabiners to my belt underneath the dress. Gerry smiles as I turn around to have him help me fix the wings sitting awkwardly on my back. “Things got pretty hot in the V.I.P lounge tonight.” He whispers knowingly and I nod. Not sure if he’s talking about when I was in there or when Max cleaned up afterwards.
I gave up years ago trying to figure out how Gerry knew about everything that went on in this place—sometimes before it happened. “You’d be wise not to incur his wrath further McKenna. There are rumors of a power shift that may end very badly for you if successful.” Gerry warns me in a hushed voice. I turn to look at him seriously. I nod accepting this cryptic warning. Gerry hardly ever speaks but when he does it’s always random and foreboding.
I step over the rail as the music changes. I smile confidently at Gerry as he secures the rigging at the end of the catwalk. I smile out over the cheering crowd as I’m lowered from the ceiling. I start my usual routine of flying back and forth across the dancefloor spreading my grace to free the trapped souls.
A sudden chill goes through me as the air is sucked out of my lungs. I feel the snap of the cable on my left hip leaving me suspended by just the right side. I try to scream out for help but nothing comes out of my lips. The air in my lungs still frozen in place. I reach up to grab a hold to the reaming cable to try to secure myself.
My heart drops as I see the cable fraying just out of my reach. It’s going to break. I look up into the rafters desperately trying to call out for Gerry to haul me back up or lower me quickly. I look back down over the crowd cheering and raising their drinks happily. I lose a tear of pure terror as I see the drop that awaits me.
I try to breathe as I search desperately for help. The dark club offers no signs of help for me. I look up again at the fraying cable and try to reach for it unsuccessfully. The belt wrapped around my hips is digging in to a painful level. I watch in horror as I see the second last cord of the cable snap. Those people who tell you that your whole life flashes before your eyes just before you die are full of crap.
The only thing flashing before my eyes are burning flames licking out welcomingly. I’m not ready. My mind cries as I feel the cable start to lower in a hurry. It won’t be fast enough. I barely have the thought before the feeling of falling takes hold of my entire being. Time slowed as my very soul thought about just how far it had to fall. Silence fills my mind as I close my eyes.
I await the impact of the floor hoping I don’t hurt anyone else as it rushes to meet me. I relax my body and surrender completely to the impact, but it doesn’t come. Instead a steal like frame wraps around me intercepting my path. The frame encircles me protectively cradling my head against something hard and warm.
The crash is not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I thought for sure I was going to die. I should’ve broken my neck or at least my legs. I feel the ground beneath me tentatively and I’m surprised by the warm malleable feeling of it. Perhaps I did die and this is the afterlife. The darkness still surrounds me as does warmth.
Strange? I think to myself as I recognize the beacon of warmth emanating within me. Then I take better note of the steel cage I’m in. It has strong arms wrapped tightly around me bringing me against a chest rising and falling frantically. Two muscled thighs act as a seat as I’m righted. “Open your eyes.” Begs a pleading voice filled with concern.
I lay my head tighter against the warm chest and I know instinctively that it’s him. His body is wrapped around me like a cocoon and all I can hear is his erratic heartbeat thumping in his chest at the same pace as mine. We match. I feel a hand gently caress my face as pure relief floods my veins like a drug.
I pray to God that this isn’t a cruel trick as I flutter my eyes open hesitantly. I’m met with a piercing pair of deep blue eyes filled with fear and concern. It’s a heady combination and I’ve never seen anyone look at me like that before. He takes a deep breath as I tuck my head back to his chest. My arms wind around his torso as I squeeze myself to him for dear life.
There is a crowd milling around us but the music is still pumping and no one seems aware that anything happened besides the ones around us. The crowd clears as Justin makes his way over to us. He looks up at the broken cable then back down at us still sitting on the floor. He starts to loudly clear out the club. He signals for Mitch to kill the music and his eyes go wide with fear when he spots us on the floor.
Mitch announces the closure and the crowd starts to move towards the rubbernecking to see the mangled angel on the floor of the club. I try not to hyperventilate, but fail. Someone announces that the ambulance is here but I look at them like they’re crazy. Nina looks at me sympathetically. I shake my head at her and she understands immediately that I despise hospitals.
“She looks fine.” Nina reassures everyone. I see Gerry behind her looking downright distraught.
“But he’s not.” Someone says loudly as the staff gather around us. In that instant all my relief and fear is replaced by concern as I look at Maximus. He tries to smile at me but hisses in pain. I feel myself being pulled from his grasp by someone until he fires up. “Don’t touch her.” He bellows. I tuck myself back against him and he growls at the others to force them back. I feel him get to his knees with me cradled against his chest like a child.
I let his warmth fill me up trying to send the same euphoric feeling into him. I open my eyes at the sensation of the cool breeze on my skin to find I’m outside. Still cradled in his lap Max lets his body slide slowly down the brick wall until he’s seated on the ground. I’m reminded of my concern when I hear a sharp gasp from his lips. My eyes start to scan him wildly as I find the crimson trail running down his face from the top of his head.
“You’re hurt.” I breathe out desperately. He just looks at me.
“I couldn’t let you fall.” He whispers solemnly. Something about his words strike deep into my core as I feel his arms around my back. I look over my shoulder trying to escape the deep penetrating gaze of my own personal hero. I see the single battered broken wing remaining on my back and I begin to sob. “I lost my wings.” I cry incoherently as I start to tremble from the shock of the entire night.
His eyes fill with a deep blue as they seem haunted by a painful memory. I want nothing more than for him to feel nothing but the happiness and gratitude I feel to still be here, and in his arms. I try to convey my emotions through my eyes as my body wracks with violent tremors. He inhales sharply at the sight in my eyes before he pulls me tighter against him rubbing my back soothingly in warm circles.
I focus on the movement and the rise and fall of his chest against me. I close my eyes as my head falls against his shoulder. I take in long deep breaths of the cool night air as I try to calm myself down. I’m not sure exactly when the blackness swallowed me but I woke with a start in my own bed. I looked around the room confused then I found Nina sitting in the small armoire by the bureau.
“Hey there sleeping beauty.” She coos gently before making her way over to sit on the edge of the bed. She picks up the water bottle beside my bed and a couple of pills. “Here take these, I’ll bet your head is thumping.” She whispers coaxingly. I nod painfully slow as I realize that it is. I swallow the pills and a few mouthfuls of the cool water that feels like a mountain stream running down my throat.
“What happened?” I croak out still trying to figure out how I got home.
“You passed out from the shock.” She explains gently. “I’ll tell you something else, that bouncer is worth every penny Vladik’s paying him. I don’t care how weird he is.”
I nod in agreement and offer a small smile. “Was he okay?” I ask hoarsely before I take another mouthful of water. Nina shrugs nonchalantly.
“He cracked his skull a little and broke a couple of ribs, and apparently sprained his ankle. The paramedics called him a tough son of a bitch for carrying you out to your car so Justin and I could bring you home.” I feel a small pang of disappointment that I’m not waking up to see his face instead of Nina’s. She seems to read my thoughts. “He didn’t want to let you go. Vladik basically had to restrain him, then he whispered something to him and he finally let you go. I wonder what Vladik said?” She asks rhetorically.
“I’m the real savior here anyway.” She adds proudly. “I convinced them not to take you to the hospital.” I reach out and grasp her hand tightly.
“Thank you.” She just nods at me. “I think I’ll be fine now if you want to go.” She smiles brightly at me.
“Are you sure?” She asks hopefully. I just nod at her and smile reassuringly as I turn to look out at the sky starting to light with the morning hope of a new day. “Good because I met this total hottie and he’s meeting me for breakfast. Vladik said not to come to work tonight. So we’ll see you on Wednesday night if you’re up to it.” I just nod sleepily at her before she leaves me alone to sink into a black hole of despair.