fallen angels — chapter 3.25: evangeline

finale chapter of generation three! warning: coarse language. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog, not reader, for the best quality. please check you have read chapter 3.24: fawn already. the timing of the first part is weird — it occurs soon after cherry and cinna’s last conversation, rewinding two years from the end of 3.24. 


cinna

The first day at Luc’s house is a bright, balmy blue — the way Californian summers tend to be. I’ve been here before, once. Cherry led the way through long dry grass that rustled in the wind, happily chatting despite the fact she was visiting her ex’s house. She and Luc are on weirdly good terms. Me? I’d rather jump off a cliff than talk to my exes again. Having a boyfriend never ended well. They were always too pushy, too immature, too invasive. High school boys are fucking gross. Anyway. When I thread my way through the gently swaying pampas, all my worthy possessions from Sunset Valley slung from my shoulder, Luc’s waiting for me. His expression is as calm and cloudless as the sky.

The house is the nicest I’ve ever been in. It’s small, but with these tall beautiful windows that let sunlight cascade into the rooms. Quiet and minimal. The absence of colour is soothing. When the tide rises, sleepy waves come and go just below the sundeck — when the wind rushes, sand gathers against the glass and sneaks in through the door. To be honest the only reason I actually agreed to stay here is because I like the house. Cherry was saying something ridiculous like I think you two might really get along, with that thoughtful head tilt she always does. Yeah… no. I never get along with anyone, not least a man. Luc’s no exception, even if he’s hot as hell- I mean, even if he did catch my eye with how quiet he is, and rare intelligence many guys seem to sadly lack, and that violent black aura. Oh, yeah. I suppose I should explain this stupid supernatural ability I have.

I can see ghosts. Spirits are no problem — they’re just ephemeral imprints of souls that shimmer at the corner of my eye. They’re usually friendly to talk to and back in high school some even used to help me with my homework. The issue is what haunts people. Ghosts of the past. Cherry’s husband has this fading blueness of grief. Cherry herself has the burned-out fire of forgotten anger and bitterness. And Luc, midnight black of pain, guilt, exhaustion, loneliness. From the deepness of the colour and the way he wears it under his sleeves, clearly he’s still working through it. Mom always tells me that the sight is a gift, and I would make a great psychologist. Well, I don’t like people, so this gift fucking sucks. I hate being in crowds, because the countless regrets and secrets are searing to look at. I paint to let that all go. I’m just lucky that my personal therapy is popular with galleries and art collectors.

Once I dump my bags in my new bedroom, I face Luc with folded arms. “Let’s set down some rules of living together.” He slips a hand into his pocket in response, real casual, his gaze unwavering. “Alright, shoot.” “One, don’t touch me. I need my personal space. Two, don’t even dare to hit on me.” A simple nod. “Three, don’t walk around naked. Please. I don’t want to be blinded.” “What?” Luc gives me a weird look. “I’ve heard guys do that sometimes. In their houses.” “Uh… sure.” He’s trying not to laugh, I can tell from the twitching of his lips. “Anything you want to say?” I hastily decide to change the topic, because my imagination is wandering somewhere unwanted. Luc doesn’t seem to notice my blush and straightens the edge of his blazer thoughtfully. “Pull your own weight. Respect my privacy and I’ll respect yours.” The stare he fixes me with is suddenly intense. It confuses me until I notice the edges of him darkening. Something from the past nudging at his mind. “Okay, got it,” I say, and he smiles at me with relief barely veiled by that easy confidence. “Great.”

***

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fallen angels — chapter 3.23: amaya

warning: coarse language. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog, not reader, for the best quality. chapter song is when you come home — mree


one & a half years later

Seven o’ clock tells her time with the summer sunlight, softly dappled by eucalyptus and palm trees. I can read it with my eyes closed, even half-asleep, for the light falls through the wooden shutters and across the linen I am tucked in, easing me awake slowly, along with the new day.  Everything is quiet. Here, the rhythmic breathing of the earth is not forced into a jagged step of a broken city machine; here, I can awake to nothing but the trees stirring the peach-tinted air and pale swifts flitting in the clear sky and the sleepy hum of bees making honey. And Gabriel. As the haze of a dreaming night slowly fades away, I feel him — his arm draped over my waist, his steady breath tickling my skin. His fingertips drift across my ribs and down to my belly, light as a feather. He is awake. “Good morning.” Gabriel brushes his lips along my neck, sweet and lazy. I smile up at him sleepily. “Hi.” “My turn to make breakfast,” Gabriel yawns, and I watch him slip out from the sheets, slip on a cotton shirt and pair of jeans. I have half the mind to call him back, to stretch out this moment I have grown to crave every morning in California.

Around a year ago, Gabriel and I managed to buy this little cottage in a quiet nook of the coast. One hour from downtown Los Angeles, fifteen minutes from Malibu. The cottage was in shambles, tucked away in a field of wild grass and dandelions, but there lay the sun-drenched peace I had been searching for. Fixing the pieces of the house back together was exhausting — something I took charge of while Gabriel opened his own Muay Thai business in Santa Monica — and it was just recently that life slowed down enough for us to breathe, but the effort has proven its worth a thousand times over. I breathe in the air now as I wander onto the deck. The scent is summer blooming in my garden, ripe nectarines and cherries and pea greens, salted by the sea. Proof of the new life Gabriel and I have built together. I cannot quite explain how it feels like, to be with Gabriel. Nothing like the intoxicating pressure and burning intensity of Luc, but perhaps it feels like this: floating in the cool, calm sea that laps at the beach in front of the cottage, watching the clouds drift above. Easy and natural and knowing I am home.

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fallen angels — chapter 3.22: ash

warning: coarse language. i recommend reading on my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


Sunset Valley. I never quite understood the name, all the golden pleasantry that each letter spelled out. The sunsets are beautiful here, my grandmother Fern liked to tell me; she is a writer, able to draw beauty and worlds undiscovered just from the sun that sinks every evening, into slumber and the sea beyond her tiny studio, much like the effortless way she dips her fountain pen into ink. To me, the valley was only ever a trap that I yearned desperately to escape from. That was two years ago. Now, as the hills unfurl to reveal the picturesque town, I understand. I roll down the window and breathe in the sweet, sunlit air. I missed this. The blue sky, the sea clear and still as glass, the houses tucked in between woods dappled with gold. None of the grey coldness I had learned to weather in Bridgeport.

Gabriel taps out a subtle rhythm on the steering wheel, letting my gaze wander in peace as we wind through the town. I catch glimpses of my house time to time. A pale wink in the midst of the russet trees; perched on the crown of the valley, a house everyone in the town knows. Everyone including the person who burned down my house in revenge for something in Mom’s past. The return to where I was scarred tastes bittersweet. When Gabriel brings the car to a smooth halt in front of the house, I can’t help but feel sick, knotting my hands in my sweater anxiously. “Do you want me to come with you?” Gabriel asks me gently. I shake my head, trying to pull myself together. “No, it’s okay.” “I’ll be waiting at the beach. Just give me a call later.” After a wavering moment, he reaches over and squeezes my arm, a silent and comforting good luck

The house looks the same as I remember it. The blue forget-me-nots frothing at the edges, the painted wooden walls that glow in the rising sun. The ivy has crawled a little further, and when I near the porch I spot a tiny pair of rainboots, but the walk to the front door feels just like past school afternoons. I touch my fingertips against the cold metal of the door. All the years I tried to forget when I ran away to Bridgeport are locked behind this. Before I can really think about it, though, or even knock, the door flies open and I find myself enveloped in Cinna’s jasmine-scented embrace. She draws back quickly, but I just catch the smile — a sliver of sunlight that is hidden behind clouds before long. Cinna has never been one for affection, even as a small child, so that tells me she is happy to see me. “I’m not doing that again,” She says pointedly. “I missed you too,” I tease, and she rolls her violet eyes. Over her shoulder, I spot Cara, and my nerves pinch again. The last time I spoke to my sister was in a screaming argument. I nervously analyse her expression, but there is no malice there, even though she cannot meet my eyes. The always-present anger that screwed up her face is gone, melted away to a reserved softness. “Welcome back,” Cara says in a quiet voice.

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fallen angels — chapter 3.21: cinder

warning: coarse language. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog for the best quality. 


6 MONTHS LATER

I am not sure how Lilith does it. Just a graceful flick of her hands, and her makeup is perfect. I have been sitting here for one damn hour, the late afternoon sunlight warming my back. Who knew how frustrating a light pat of powder, lip gloss, and eyeliner could be? My blind eye didn’t help either, and I’m glad Luc didn’t walk in while I was squinting ridiculously, trying not to stab my eye with the pencil, my nose almost touching the mirror. I am happy with the result, though, and I think my best friend will appreciate the effort.

Luc taps lightly on the door now, and lets himself in after I reply. Handsome, of course, in a pressed shirt and vest, green eyes gold when they meet mine. “Are you finally ready?” In the mirror, I catch the teasing quirk of his lips. “Hey, unlike you, I can’t just chuck on a nice shirt and trousers, be done in five minutes and look incredible. Eyeliner is hard.” Luc laughs at that, resting his hands on my shoulders and studying both of our reflections. His gaze flits down to the neckline of my dress, and while he raises an eyebrow, he doesn’t say anything. I confess that it is revealing — but Lilith gifted the custom design for my twentieth birthday, so I figure today is the best day to wear it. “You didn’t cover up your scar.” Luc smiles, brushing his thumb across my cheek, and I smile back. He remembers that summer night, over a year ago, just before Lilith took me clubbing for the first and last time. I must say that it is embarrassing to remember, how I kept worrying about my scar when the most offputting thing about me was my bitter attitude; how I fretted over Luc minding when there were scars slicing across his own cheek and a million more hidden behind frayed sleeves and locked lips. 

I tip my head up to look at my boyfriend. “I don’t think I need to.” “Yeah. You look fucking amazing.” “Thank you,” I laugh, and take his hand, letting him pull me up and wrap his arms around my waist. Luc’s good today, all smiles and steady touch, but there is a weariness in his gaze that I think will never fade away. There are still days when the light in his eyes dims. He is healing, though. Slowly. And that makes my own tiredness worth it. “Feels weird, doesn’t it?” Luc wonders, and I nod, leaning into his warmth. “Mm, this makes Lilith and Raphael seem so old.” “Don’t let them hear you say that,” he replies, amused. I am quiet for a moment, enjoying the honeyed fall air tickle my skin. Everything does feel a little surreal. A lot has changed in the past half year, at least with Lilith and Raphael. “Come on.” Luc leans down to playfully kiss my neck, and I yelp in happy surprise. “We have a wedding to attend.”

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fallen angels — chapter 3.20: ember

warning: coarse language, themes of violence. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog for the best quality. 


***

***

3 MONTHS LATER

The curtains are pulled open, a simple habit I have settled into the past couple months.  Open to the stars and still water, the way Luc has opened up to me. A whisper of spring has warmed the air — with the window open, we like to curl up together on the quilt, watching the moon sail across the sky just like the boats far below. Sometimes his fingers lace with mine, or my cheek rests on his shoulder; our touches as light as the cool, salty air that drifts into the room. Remarkable, just how far the simple act of listening can go. Each night, after my patient poking, Luc gives me a short thread of his family’s past. Just a tiny bit — he keeps on saying something about not wanting to depress me — but over many nights he slowly lightens, a weight being eased off his shoulders, and I can knit together a story that pricks at my heart. The way Luc speaks about their life seems nonchalant, like this kind of suffering is normal for Bridgeport; for me, however, growing up in a comfortable lifestyle no matter how lonely, all of the violence and cruelty is shocking to hear. I understand now. Almost everything.

The door opens and closes quietly behind me. “Hey.” I feel Luc’s weight on the bed, a tender brush of his hand against my spine, and when I twist around to greet him, he gives me a faded echo of a smile. He is wearing short sleeves again, for the cuts on his arms have long become just another of the faint scars over his body. “Hi,” I say softly, and hold out the pot plant that was resting in my lap — a little succulent in a tin cup, which I stumbled upon today at a roadside florist. Luc knits his brows in confusion, a subtle movement that catches my attention, like always. “What’s this for?” “I just thought you might like it.” I tuck my hands around my crossed ankles, blinking at him expectantly. There it is — that surprise and wary quiet, one that I noticed always follows me saying or doing something even remotely kind for him. “Thank you. This is really nice.” Luc finally smiles at me, that sort of smile I want to clasp against my chest before it flutters away.

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fallen angels — chapter 3.19: inferno

warning: coarse language, mild sexual references, and themes of death, violence, + self harm. i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


The winter is strangely tender tonight, coaxing the city back into glittering life under a intoxicating sheen of rain. Date night, for Luc and I, when we are free to explore the heart of Bridgeport together, shimmering with neon and breathless laughter and wicked smoke of a city in feverish half-sleep. Not my scene, I suppose, but there is a temptation in wandering through the dizzying lights, walking the edge of losing myself in the drunken tide that pulls so many others under, just anchored by the weight of Luc’s hand. It must be almost midnight when we leave the cinema — a romantic comedy this time — and stumble happily into a late night diner, sliding into an empty booth. Cracked linoleum, burger grease, an echo of a time gone. The diner itself is quiet, save for the crackling of popcorn and neon signs, the latter of which douses the place in red and blue.

I hum over the menu before ordering a strawberry milkshake and fries, while Luc asks for a glass of water. “Don’t you want any food? You didn’t eat anything for dinner.” I tip my head at him curiously, but Luc just raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you noticed.” “Or lunch. Are you okay?” “I’m fine, Cherry. Just not hungry.” He shrugs, a careless jerk of his shoulders. The order arrives before long, and I smile at the cherry and pocky sticks on the milkshake. “Look, it’s a cat!” I turn the glass towards my boyfriend, who doesn’t respond. His gaze is turned away from me, watching the rain drip down the glass. Spacing out again. I can tell he is pulling at his sleeves, steadily fraying the hems; an odd habit that has been confusing me for the past couple weeks. “Luc.” “Hm? Oh, cute.” He gives me a faint smile. I have learned to predict Luc’s tempers over time, like the tides, but this is new. Not his sharp-tongued arrogance, or mellow kindness, but something else entirely, a quiet that barely flickers with life.

Ever since Ebony had stumbled across us — if a woman like her could stumble — under the fairy-light trees, Luc has been different. His presence not quite here. As if… he is pulling away from me, slowly, subtly. This thought flits anxiously around my head, and no matter how many times I try to reassure myself, that he still kisses me with that same love, I can’t help but worry. For myself, yes, but mostly for him; now, as I nibble on fries, Luc doesn’t spark the flow of conversation that used to be so easy for us. There are shadows underneath his eyes. “You look exhausted,” I point out in concern. “I told you I’m fine,” Luc suddenly snaps, and I blink in surprise, the rough edge of his words startling when I have gotten used to his soft-spoken sweetness. The last time he spoke to me this harshly feels like ages ago, but I can remember the cigarette and tense muscles and me sleepily thinking something was wrong. Regret flashes across Luc’s face a moment later. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I say quietly. “No, it’s not. Sorry. I’ve been so out of it.” He takes my hand after that, his thumb softly tracing my knuckles, and focuses his attention back on me with a smile. The rain has eased to a whisper once I finish the fries, with the begrudging help of Luc, and we finally begin our walk back home. This district is a sort of artsy gathering of shops which come alive at night, tattoo parlours and music stores and stranger things, casting a electrifying cocktail of colours. I think the tattoo shop Raphael works is along this lane, and I smile to myself, suspecting where the inspiration for his dyed hair comes from. I almost don’t notice the familiar tall figure sweeping past me. “Oh, James! Hi…” I trail off when Lilith’s boyfriend passes by me in silence, just with the swish of his black coat. Perhaps he didn’t notice.

***

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small hiatus.

Just a quick note to say that I won’t be posting anything until around November 12 (so like a month… not a long break for my story haha), and I may not be commenting on your stories as well. I’m going to be very busy with end of year portfolios and exams, you know the drill lmao. Here’s a random picture for now. This is Kiara, the last toddler I made (in 2016, hence the low af quality) — I lost her file but she makes me excited for the time I can begin to create the Gen 4 kids!

fallen angels — chapter 3.18: burn

warning: this chapter includes coarse language, mild sexual references, themes of domestic abuse, self harm + suicide. please do not continue reading if these topics may trigger or offend you. disclaimer, these topics may not be written in an entirely realistic light, but i do try to write them fairly accurately. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


3½ YEARS AGO

LUC

The penthouse was oddly quiet when Luc hurried in, anxiously clutching a box of chocolates. The worry in his chest tightened as he carefully opened the lounge door, steeling himself for Ebony’s questions — to his shock, however, when he slipped into the room, his girlfriend turned around with a smile and leaped up to meet him. She threw her arms around his neck, crushing her lips against his, and a moment too late he reacted with a stiff embrace. “Why…” His question trailed off. Luc had meant to ask why are you so happy to see me? but he’d bit down on his tongue, not wanting to tear this surprising bloom of affection. Ebony’s hands ran down his shoulders, smooth as satin, and she wound her fingers around his wrist, taking the chocolate box from his grasp. “Come sit down with us, Luc.” She pulled him along and he followed without question, keeping his confusion to himself. He had a good look at the gathering in the lounge; Lilith and Raphael were sitting together on the knit ottoman, and Gabriel on the sofa, hands clasped and talking happily with his girlfriend, Maria, who had arrived at the penthouse a week ago.

Maria was hyperactive; after a couple days of fearful quiet and shyly sticking to Gabriel, she had opened up, like a flower in springtime. Lilith tucked the younger girl under her wing immediately, patiently explaining her cooking as Maria flitted excitedly around her. For a rich girl, she fell into the messy rhythm of the penthouse easily. A change of clothes helped — Lilith’s drab, unfussy style was quite the leap from the opulent silk and skirts of high society, but Maria liked the borrowed sweaters and leggings, delightfully commenting on how easy to move in they were. Other than her elaborately braided updo and her fine way of speaking, she looked right at home on the sofa, comfortably leaning against Gabriel. Every once in a while, the couple would bump shoulders and smile at each other, exchanging a silent message. They both turned to say hi when Ebony pulled Luc onto the sofa, and he awkwardly leaned against the squishy arm as his girlfriend slit open the chocolate box. “Would you like one?” Ebony sweetly offered the box to Maria, who brightened and picked a hazelnut praline. “Oh, thank you!” No one batted an eye at the kind gesture, but Luc drew in a shocked breath.

Ebony was full of secrets and surprises, and one of them was that she got along so well with his family. Lilith, for all her stern coldness and mistrust, befriended her quite easily; often, the two girls sat together and whispered and talked and laughed, with the recent inclusion of Maria. Gabriel seemed to like Ebony, too, and even Raphael was okay with her. It was not uncommon for Luc to arrive home from work, bones aching from exhaustion, and find his girlfriend in the midst of a lively conversation, her honey-gleam eyes warm and soft. Like always, Luc quietly sat on the edge of the conversation, the words flickering in and out of focus. He could barely hear what they were saying, and his gaze drifted away in a tide of weariness. He was tired, of dealing with Ebony’s venomous bite, of never being good enough. He was ashamed of that tempestuous, stormy night he had first met Ebony; the night she had first kissed him, tempting him into a shadowed bedroom, the thundering rain drowning out his poison-hazed thoughts on why he was letting a stranger unbuckle his belt, pull him onto the bed. He regretted offering the penthouse when she had complained about not having a place to stay. And now, Luc felt guilty — hearing how kindly she spoke, how everyone loved her, and he wondered if he had just been misreading how she acted towards him.

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fallen angels — chapter 3.17: sear

warning: coarse language and moderate sexual references (nothing major, you know me). i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. this super long chapter is dedicated to pi and all you hopeless romantics ❤ 


The Torres penthouse is full of secrets. One of them is a library, a hidden nook I stumbled across just a week ago. Perhaps it is more storage room than library, for there are just mismatched piles of books crowding the floor, gilded leather pressed — like dried flowers — by glossy volumes. It is quiet and peaceful; from the windows, I like watching October dance sleepily through the city, in a sweet dazed lull, picking out golden threads from the sun and weaving them into trees, gathering the season’s last apples and acorns. It is a hideaway to write music, for me to tuck my legs underneath me and hum, carefree, as my pen glides across the paper. Often, I discover myself inking the melody of fall instead; fiery, rustling leaves, maple and oak and chestnut.

I am alone in this library, spending quiet mornings in the embrace of sunlight. Lilith sometimes whisks through to say hi and dust off a recipe book; Luc pops in with coffee and kisses before he presses into the cold. So I am surprised when my boyfriend arrives today with Starbucks, despite being off work. “Morning.” He kisses my cheek, and carefully places a beautiful coffee cup beside my sketchbook. “Good morning. Ooh, thank you!” I perk up when he gives me waffles, coated in silky white chocolate. “You need to let me pay you back,” I say after nibbling at one, “I must owe you about one hundred by now.” Luc settles on the window seat, clasps his hands, and smiles gently. “You don’t owe me anything.” “Okay, Mr. Gentleman, but I have the money here.” I fish the notes out of my pocket, and my boyfriend tips his head. “I’m not going to take it. Don’t even bother trying.” At his calm reply, I huff and reach for the coffee; it is black with caramel syrup and cream, my favourite.

I notice that Luc’s gaze is drifting over the books. “Do you know who all these books belong to?” I ask curiously. “Some of them are Lilith’s, but most of them are mine.” “Really?” I blink up at him. “You sound so surprised.” Luc raises an eyebrow, and my cheeks redden. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t-” “It’s alright.” He gives me a small smile. “I know I act like a dumbass most of the time.” “No, you don’t. At least not anymore,” I remember, and both of us wince. “God, I was such a dick.” Luc groans. “Yep,” I agree with a laugh. The idea of Luc reading is rather odd, but then I remember something, and I fetch the black case that I discovered last morning. “So, I found these.” I open the little case and show him the glasses. “Are they also yours?” “Um… yeah.” Luc looks down at his hands. When I pop up, unfolding the slim frame, his gaze darts up and he shakes his head. “No.” “I want to see you with them on,” I beg, and he bats halfheartedly at me, leaning away. “No- Cherry, don’t-” He groans when I manage to slide the glasses onto his face. There is embarrassment in that pretty green gaze of his. “I look stupid.” “On the contrary, you look smart.” “That’s not what I meant,” Luc grumbles. “Well, I think you look adorable,” I smile. He ducks his head in reply, pulling off the glasses and cleaning them on his sweater, murmuring something about his eyes getting worse. For all his past arrogance, my boyfriend gets awfully flustered when I compliment him.

Once the glasses are tucked away, Luc pulls me onto the sofa, much to my indignation, and we tussle for a moment before he gathers me in his lap. He bends his head to kiss me gently — it always surprises me, how softly and sweetly he can kiss. No longer forceful and rough-lipped, no hard pressure behind his kisses. “You know, for the longest time, I thought you were the bad boy type,” I suddenly wonder, when he pulls away. “Mm?” Luc cocks an eyebrow, his fingers cheekily sliding under my waistband, and I feel my body warm up at his touch. “Let me continue,” I chide him, blushing furiously. He nods and his hand comes to rest on my hip instead. “I thought you were an asshole who learned to be nice,” I muse, “but now… I think you’re a nice person who is learning to be himself again.” There is a long silence. “Do you really think that?” Luc asks slowly. I poke him in the chest, teasing. “Yep, I think you’re a sweet fluffy marshmallow inside.” I smile up at him, knowing exactly what reaction he will give — a scrunched up nose, the adorable little sign that means he is embarrassed. He is silent after that, and so I snuggle into him, resting my head in the crook of his arm. This easy flow of wild-running conversations and quiet cuddling is a balance we both like. Luc is surprisingly content with just spending time together; he is happy to simply be in my presence. And to think I assumed that all he wanted to do was sleep with me.

My boyfriend has been waiting for me to get comfortable, with gentle hands and patient eyes. He stopped pushing that night he noticed my fear; instead, he spends hours finding the most sensitive, sweet spots on me that he can kiss, leaving tiny bruises for me to discover the next morning; and I explore the muscles in his back and torso, mapping out the scars that cross them, until I know every inch of his skin. And now, I am blissful, knowing I am safe in his arms. “Tonight,” I whisper. Confusion flickers in Luc’s eyes before clicking into understanding. “Are you sure?” He asks softly. I nod and when he kisses me, smoky with passion, I feel him smile against my lips. I am happy to stay in his embrace until I remember something and shoot up, bumping my forehead against Luc’s. “Sorry! What’s the time?” I glance around frantically and he laughs, sliding his phone out of his pocket. “11:35.” “Crap! I’m meeting up with my cousin at 12.” I lean down to kiss my boyfriend, lingering for a moment too brief. “Have fun.” Luc waves me off with that cute, lopsided grin, and when I leave, he is picking up a book.

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