For Angelo

By: Marian Tee



But Lane had only stubbornly shaken her head.

“He’s not like that—”

“You don’t even know his name, and you certainly can’t be sure all he’s told you isn’t bullshit—” He immediately knew he had said the wrong thing, remembering belatedly the way Lane disliked swearing.

But what about her fallen angel, he thought with ill-concealed resentment. The way she was so obviously crazy about him, he was willing to bet if that stupid jerk, whoever he was, started swearing, she would probably think it was sexy.

Still, the way Lane was looking at him with such disappointment was unbearable, and Josh was no match against it.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Lane knew Josh thought she was being a prude about swearing, but she also knew she could never explain the truth to him, knew that he would never understand how it had impacted her, having spent her childhood years in the seediest bars, hanging out with prostitutes and pimps.

Her stomach growled, and she bit her lip, hesitating.

Josh was looking at her incredulously. “Are you serious?”

“What?” she asked defensively.

“You’d rather starve than—” Lane’s glare made him think twice about finishing his sentence. “Go grab a quick bite. I’ll watch out for your—” His lip curled. “Fallen angel.”

“He won’t be easy to miss,” she told him seriously. “He’s tall, dark, handsome, and he really looks like a fallen angel.”

“Yeah, sure.” But then Lane gave him a quick hug, and it was hard to maintain his anger.

“Thanks, Josh.”

Her sweet smile did him in. Thank God he was poor as dirt or she would never be able to smile at him like that, Josh thought gratefully.

“If he comes, tell him I’m at Millie’s, okay?” Lane walked backwards towards the exit doors as she spoke.

“Yup.” Not.

When she left, he went back to stocking the shelves, a dreamy look on his face. He had made Lane Petersen smile. It was the best feeling ever, he thought.

Minutes passed, and there were no signs of Lane’s fallen angel. He started whistling. Angel, ha, he thought with a snort. Yeah right. A demon was more like it.

Behind him, Josh heard the store doors swish open, and he turned around to greet the next customer—

Shit.

Josh found himself staring at a man who could only be described as a—

Tall.

Dark.

Handsome.

Fallen angel.

Double shit, triple shit, all the shittiest things in the world could not compare to how Josh felt at that moment.

The stranger was an inch over six feet, and his Mediterranean heritage was very much evident in his dark eyes and olive-toned skin.

“Good evening.” His tone was faintly accented, but his English was polished, like someone who had learned the language in a private academy. “I’m looking for someone who possibly works here…” He described Lane’s features in a brief but concise manner.

“Sorry, no one like that works here.” The words were out before Josh could think of what he was doing.

The stranger’s eyebrow arched slightly. “Is that so?”

“Yup. So, if that’s all—” The stranger’s gaze suddenly narrowed, and it was as if he had sensed Josh’s words were nothing but a lie.

“Are you certain?”

The stranger’s silkily spoken question chafed, and Josh heard himself say defensively, “Well, if there was one like her, she’s my girlfriend, and you probably turned her head around only because you’re loaded.” His tone became savage. “It doesn’t mean she really likes you or anything,” he finished with a glare, but the stranger’s bland expression didn’t change.

“I see.”

Josh waited tensely for the stranger’s next move, ready to get into a fistfight if that was what things called for. He had been patient with Lane, dammit. He would not just stand by and let some fancy foreign dude—

“I am sorry for the unintentional intrusion.” The stranger inclined his head in an oddly old-fashioned gesture of apology.

“Uh…” The display of manners threw Josh off.

The stranger gave him a nod before turning away to leave.

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