Bittersweet seraphim, p.27
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       Bittersweet Seraphim, p.27

           Debra Anastasia
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  “You love me anyway.” Jack slipped a hand under her shirt.

  She let him grope for a while before pushing him away. “Let me concentrate.”

  “This is a shitty idea. Just putting that out there. Again.” He lit up a cigarette.

  Emma hit her window so it would open a crack. He knew what was coming and tried to take evasive action. She’d thrown quite a few of his smokes out the window.

  “You don’t quit that soon and I’m withholding sex.”

  Jack took one long drag and tossed it out the passenger window.

  “Great! That’s horrible too. Now you’ve probably lit up some squirrel’s tail,” she protested. “The whole forest will burn down Bambi-style thanks to you.”

  “You’re too addicted to give up the sex.”

  Even on four wheels, Jack preferred to drive, and she saw him tense up as she approached the stoplight.

  “I prefer you alive to anything else,” she said. The interior of the car went from playful to serious. Mortality sobered them both. They’d talked about it every day since they remembered who they were. Emma wasn’t scared to die, but she definitely wasn’t ready.

  She’d moved in with Jack because she didn’t have a choice. Her brain almost convulsed with the loss when he wasn’t in the room. Her family had taken to him despite his sudden appearance, which was good because they were now inseparable. Jack stopped by on the weekends to help her dad with the lawn or sit and talk with her mother.

  She smiled at him. He was amazing. And he also thought going to check in with the half-breeds was a poor choice. She wasn’t sure if his concerns were about jealousy or being afraid they might become a snack, but he’d been very vocal about his dislike of this trip. But when she’d remembered the location of the Parishes’ house, she’d told him she was going with or without him. She wanted to go, needed to go. Jason’s soul was still her job, in her mind.

  When she pulled into the driveway, the place looked the same. Only the cars out front were different. A ridiculous Ferrari glistened in front of the modest house. She prayed as she opened her door. Please, God, let them have found peace.

  “Last time I saw a car like that, it was Violent’s ride,” Jack commented as he got out of the car. “This may be more of a reunion than you’ve anticipated.”

  Emma took his hand, for once ignoring the fact that he’d lit a cigarette. The door opened before they knocked.

  “Emma? Jack? How? What?” Seriana threw her arms around Emma, who squeezed her back, hard.

  Looking past Seriana, Emma saw Jason round the corner of the hallway. He stopped and his mouth dropped open.

  “You’re alive? You’re alive?” Jason pulled Emma into a hug as Seriana hugged a fairly angry-looking Jack.

  She patted Jason and kissed his cheek.

  “I don’t understand. You’re human?” Jason held her an arm’s length away.

  “Yeah, Jack and I found each other, and then we remembered who we are. I’m so glad you guys are still here. Your mom? Kate? Dean? How’s everyone?”

  Seriana and Jason pulled Emma into the living room. She smiled at all the familiar furnishings and Dean’s countless books.

  Dean appeared next, and after he was thoroughly hugged, Emma was reacquainted with Nero and Violent, as well as an intense man named Mine who couldn’t take his eyes off Seriana.

  It was a nice, if slightly confusing, reunion. The half-breeds and minions all looked exactly the same, young and beautiful as ever, but Emma knew the time must have worn on them. These past decades, she’d been a human in her head, unaware of all that had come before. But they’d had to pick up the pieces and move on.

  Rebecca fussed over everyone, insisting on sending Dean and Seriana out for the makings of an impromptu grill party, despite Emma’s protests. “Really, Rebecca. Don’t go to all this trouble. Jack and I are the only humans here.”

  Jack did his best to be surly, but he was clearly happy to see Nero and Violent. The minions and former Devil immediately began to talk shop. Emma smiled at them over a glass of wine, and Jason came closer, pulling Kate behind him.

  “So, you’re alive,” he began. “With…him. I guess if that’s the price you have to pay to be with us again, it’ll do.”

  Kate touched her stomach and looked worried. Rebecca called for Jason to help her prepare the chips and dip. Emma patted his arm as he excused himself.

  “How long have you known you’re pregnant?” Emma asked gently once he’d gone. She just knew—the way the woman held her body, the fear in her eyes.

  “I’ve only just told Jason. Did he tell you?” Kate assessed Emma again.

  “No. I can just tell. Some sort of holdover from angelhood maybe? For a while I was a labor and delivery angel before I was promoted to seraph.” Emma took a sip of her wine. Behind Kate, she could make out the silhouette of Jason whispering the good news to Rebecca. There was a certain look to a woman when she found out she was going to be a grandmother. It was beautiful, and Rebecca had it. She refocused on Kate.

  “Not sure how many angels will be at this birth.” Kate rubbed her arms with obvious alarm.

  “First, congratulations,” Emma told her. “Second, there will be an angel. There always is. It’s such a moment, the meeting of parent and child. It must be witnessed.” Emma wanted to drag the nervous mother-to-be to a room and comfort her until she smiled with her blessed news. She left out the part about how God himself comes down to Earth for any child who doesn’t live through labor. Now wasn’t the time for that information. Kate was scared enough.

  “Okay, Emma, not to be rude? But none of this is your business. I really don’t want advice from my man’s ex-girlfriend.” She looked around for an out.

  Shocked, Emma shut her mouth and in the same instant felt Jack’s hand on her lower back. He never missed a trick.

  “Kate? What’s up?” he said by way of greeting.

  Rebecca burst out of the kitchen, crying and sighing. She looked longingly at Kate’s belly.

  “You told her? Jason!” Kate was ticked, but Rebecca immediately wrapped her arms around her.

  Emma stepped back so the family could have a moment, and Seriana, Mine, and Dean came through the front door holding grocery bags, clearly puzzled at the emotion in the room.

  Jack and Emma watched as the family expanded. He spoke close to her ear. “What was that about? She was angry with you?”

  Emma nodded and stupidly wanted to cry. It had been a crazy assumption. She was human now. She had no right to try to be an angel. “I left him for you. I forget that, I guess.”

  “Something’s up. Kate’s a sweet girl. She’d never hold that against you.” Jack left Emma to sidle up to Kate.

  Trying to find something to do, Emma gathered the grocery bags from the floor where the uncle- and aunt-to-be had dropped them. Seriana broke away to help.

  “I can’t believe we’re going to have a little one running around. So cool.” Seriana kept hugging Emma and leaned over to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear.

  “I’m so happy you’re okay,” Emma said. “All these years I didn’t know to be worried, and now it’s crashed in on me all at once.” Emma stilled Seriana’s busy hands and held them. “Tell me about Mine.”

  “Oh, I don’t even know where to start with that one.” She shook her head and smiled.

  “Well, then tell me how it ends. Are you happy?” Emma wrinkled her nose.

  “So, so happy. He gets me and loves me. I’m crazy about him.” Seriana did a little wiggly dance.

  “And Jason? How has he done?”

  “He had a time for a while. Kate and he had, you know, pure Lucifer running through them, and they had to…I guess…detoxify? They’re better, though. I bet the baby will settle things for them. Maybe a wedding? Wouldn’t that be amazing?”

  Emma’s mouth dropped open. She knew damn well what Kate was afraid of now. Rebecca and Dean came into the kitchen to pour some drinks to toast with.

  Emma scurri
ed into the living room. “Jack? I need you outside.”

  “Done.” He stopped mid-conversation with Nero and followed as she left the house in a hurry.

  She turned toward him on the front lawn. “Jason and Kate both got juiced from Lucifer. Can this affect their baby? I bet that’s why Kate’s off her rocker. I would be too.”

  His face flooded with regret. “I don’t know. Honestly? Lucy rarely made appearances, and the whole kissy face thing was a new one to me. I mean, I’m fine.”

  “You kissed Lucifer?” Despite her worry, Emma couldn’t help but smile a little.

  “Don’t even. No. You will not taunt me with this.” Jack looked murderous.

  “Oh, yes I will. A lot. Often.” Emma leaned in close and kissed him. “Seriously. Let’s think about this. I’m coming up with a vague reference about Lucifer being unable to procreate. Am I making that up?”

  Jack lit up a cigarette, and after exhaling he shook his head. “I wasn’t exactly hitting the history books back in the day.”

  “How can we help them?” Emma slid under his arm so she could put her hand over his heart.

  “Not sure we can. Their problems might be their own.” Jack tapped the drug so the ashes fell, glowed, and extinguished.

  Emma went in for a kiss and snagged the butt at the same time. She dropped it and stomped it out as he tried to get her to stop.

  “We’re going to go through all our money if you keep wasting shit.” Jack hugged her to his chest.

  They stood looking into the dark woods.

  “I refuse to do nothing. I have to figure out a way to ease her mind.”

  “How did I know you’d say that? Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” Jack held out his hand and led her back into the house.

  She loved him because he’d help her help them, even though he hadn’t wanted to be here in the first place.

  Chapter 45

  On the way home Jack drove, stealing glances at Emma, who sighed on occasion. At least they’d gotten out of the Parish house alive. Emma had assumed they’d still remember not to kill, but Jack had watched people’s convictions change enough to have a gun in his pocket.

  Emma broke the silence. “I guess it’ll be okay. God wouldn’t put life where it wasn’t meant to be.” She reached for his hand.

  He smiled at her, but disagreed in his head. Evil was out there, and it could thrive. When he pulled her car into his driveway, he was nervous again. Now wasn’t the best time for his question. She was thinking of everyone else.

  He kicked off his old motorcycle boots and followed her upstairs. She twisted her hair into a knot and pulled off her bra, throwing it off to the side. Jack rolled his eyes at her back. She hated wearing bras and pulled them off the second she could. He’d find her bras in the living room behind the couch or lying on the kitchen table next to the mail. He snagged the lingerie from the floor as they made their way to the bedroom. She was harping on one of her concerns for Jason and Kate, but he wasn’t listening. Folding his arms behind his head, he just watched her.

  As Emma tugged on her favorite pajamas, Jack had a flash of her falling from Lucifer’s arms again. His heart became pain. It must have shown on his face because she stopped lotioning up her arms and crawled onto the bed next to him.

  “What’s wrong?” She put a hand on his face.

  He leaned into her touch and turned his head to kiss her palm. “I watched Lucifer kill you. You fell from the sky, and when I caught you? There was nothing left but glitter.”

  “I’m so sorry.” She put her head on his chest and clenched his shirt, right above his aching heart. “I can’t even imagine.”

  “Here’s the thing, you keep wanting to do that to me again.”

  She pulled her head up, startled. “What? Never.”

  Shaking his head, he looked sadly at his angel. “With this whole Jason and Kate thing, you want to take that burden from them, get involved, visit them, see if Jason’s soul is in a good spot.”

  She watched him, swallowing. What he said rang true. It was who she was.

  “But I think you did your part. I think you get to say a prayer for them and live your fucking life for you. For us.” He touched her lips.

  The bedroom was quiet for a while, and Jack was scared. What if telling her this made her leave? Was being a version of an angel more important than being in his every day?

  “You’re right.” She rolled off of him and flopped on the bed. Absently she pulled out the knot in her hair.

  He was afraid to breathe, paralyzed by the hope that she’d just live with him, for the time they had.

  “You know, we were brought together, but I had to seek them out.” She watched their fan loop circles on the ceiling. “You are my gift, my prize for lives well lived. And I’m here trying to borrow a situation I surely can’t fix.”

  Exactly. He didn’t want to say it out loud. She had to see this on her own.

  “What should I do? I can’t ignore them now that I know where they are.” The light from the hallway lay on the bed with her, making two slices of illumination at her sides, almost like wings.

  “Really? I think a Christmas card and a few visits a year should suffice. Could you do that? It might keep me sane.” Jack flipped onto his stomach and hushed his opinionated mouth.

  “Yeah. I owe it to you, after all.” Her hand threaded into his hair, gently tugging.

  “Nope. It has to be for you, not me,” he said.

  Jack loved her lips, they were so pink. She fidgeted.

  “You feel guilty because it’s a relief,” he said. He twisted her hand and placed a lingering kiss on her wrist. “They’ve been at this for over twenty years. We’re humans now. What the Hell are we going to be able to do if they have a demon baby? Can we help? Can you breastfeed it fire? Who the Hell knows what Kate’s going to pop out. You and me. That’s it.”

  “But to just write them off? I don’t know.” Emma let her hand fall from his lips and touch his leather necklaces.

  “I’m not saying write them off. I’m saying we should do what we can. Which is nothing.” He held his breath again. This was asking her so, so much. He knew it.

  She sighed like she was getting ready for a painful procedure. “Okay. Fine. I’m not going to try to fix it, or get involved. I’ll pray, and we can stay friendly, but I’ll live this life for you, for me. For us.” Her smile was genuine.

  “Really?” He raised an eyebrow at her.

  Emma’s voice was soft, but she answered with conviction. “Really.”

  “Well, hot damn. Did not expect that.” Jack covered her quickly, hugging and kissing her as if they had forever.

  A small bark from outside woke them, partially clothed and tangled together, as the sun slanted into the bedroom. They looked suspiciously at each other, then went to look. Jack popped open the window, and Emma gasped at the small puppy squeak-barking at their window.

  Emma slapped Jack’s bicep. “Don’t just stand there! Go get me that pile of cute!”

  Jack shook his head. “No way, baby. It’s someone’s. They’ll be around to get it.”

  It took a few more barks from the puppy and a few more moments of silence from Emma before Jack sighed in exasperation. “Fine, damn it.”

  Even he had to smile when he came back into the room. “You’ll never guess what this little bastard’s name is. He’s got a collar and everything.”

  She shook her head as she took the correct guess. “Smoosh?”

  Jack nodded as he passed the little puppy to her. Their dragon had come, sent by God to be part of their family in this life. Emma smiled. Jack pulled another puppy from behind his back. Smoke looked just like his brother. The puppies’ timing was perfect because it confirmed the meaning of her dream the night before. She had to share.

  She watched Jack for a few moments. He was clearly losing the battle to avoid falling in love with Smoosh, who nipped at his fingers relentlessly. She tucked her hair behind her ears.

o, last night I had a dream, and I believe it was a message.”

  “From my dick saying how much it loves you?” Jack flipped Smoosh onto his back to rub his belly.

  “Well, that and from Claudette. Your old angel flame? She was laying out the plans for Kate and Jason’s baby. She told me the child would become a great peacemaker. I really wish…” Emma trailed off. She’d made a promise and didn’t want to go back on it.

  “You could go deliver the news?” Jack picked up her foot and rubbed it in a way she particularly loved.

  Emma waited him out.

  “Why don’t you send Kate and Jason a nice, old-fashioned letter? I’m sure that would fulfill your angel requirements as a messenger without getting tits-deep in their drama.”

  The puppy began play-fighting Jack’s hand. He growled back at him, then leaned in to find her lips.

  His mouth took away her cares, the running lists of things that needed to be done, the lingering doubt that she should be living differently—all of it faded until she could only feel him. His lips, his relentless hands. This go around would be for their love, she promised as she lost herself in his skillful touch. And when they were both exhausted, naked, and spent, she thanked him.

  “I know if I’d decided to stay all up in Jason’s business you’d have supported me.”

  He was having a cigarette. She ran her hand through the smoke.

  “Darlin’, I’d follow you off a cliff riding a horse with its tail on fire.” His face glowed orange as he inhaled again.

  “I know.” She hadn’t asked him yet, but it was far beyond time. “How did you die, after I did?”

  “Let’s not.” He shifted uncomfortably.

  “You have the burden of knowing how I died.” She pulled a blanket off the floor and covered herself, suddenly chilled. She covered his bottom half as well.

  He glanced at her and gave her the smile she loved by way of a thank you. “Doesn’t mean you deserve the same knowledge.” Jack stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray he must have rescued from the trash.

  “Did you have anyone else?” She bit her lip.

  He tsked at her and gave her a look of disbelief. “Of course not. You really want to know?”

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