“Hey, Angel! You got a live one there?” A man with tons of chunky silver rings on his fingers yelled over to our quiet corner.
“Fuck. Off. Saint,” Angel replied, swiping him the middle finger without even looking.
“Saint?” I asked, lips curling together. “And Angel.”
Angel winked. “And don’t forget Mercy. Must be destined, oui?”I smothered a smile, taking another long drink of my beer. “Well, I don’t think he’s a saint or you’re an angel. Not by the way those pretty ladies looked like they were competing for your company earlier.”
“You saw that?” Groaning, he rubbed a hand down his cheek. Then his face lit up from the inside. “So you were watching me just as much as I was watching you.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as he gloated.
Then I pressed my palm against his chest and lifted up to the toes of my boots to whisper against his jaw, “I was waiting to see if you’d get your eyes gouged out.”
He laughed loudly, tipping his head back so his gold curls shimmered.
I snickered, draining the rest of my beer.
“Buy you another?” His arm ringed around my waist.
And alarm bells went off.
I wrestled free, quickly checking the time on my watch.
“I have to go.” I slammed my bottle onto the nearest table.
“Didn’t mean to scare you off, Mercy.” Angel stepped in front of me as I waded to the door.
He held his hands raised in front of him.
I dodged around him, fleeing like I should have done an hour ago.
Running down the sidewalk, I tripped on the uneven pavement in my over-sized boots.
A strong arm banded around my waist, drawing me up and steadying me.
“Got you, beb.”
Puffs of breath pelted against my ear, and then Angel released me from his grasp.
He spun me gently around, his hair like a halo lit by the streetlight. “At least let me give you a ride. Where you headed?”
I shook my head. “I just need to go. Please.”
I got the feeling Angel L’Esperance didn’t chase just anyone. But I couldn’t let him get close to me. I didn’t want him knowing where I lived.
Shame and embarrassment bled into one big ball of regret.
His fingers came up to tenderly caress my cheek.
The first touch on my skin from a male that didn’t make me flinch or quake or want to crawl away in fear.
“Can I at least get a kiss?”
My heart leaped.
Angel didn’t pose a threat. How could he, with a name like that and sincerity shining in his clear blue eyes?
Even more, he’d easily tunneled beneath years of distrust and hurt . . . in mere minutes.
“Yes,” I whispered.
He closed his eyes. He hummed a deep rumbling sound. He bent his burnished head over mine, and seconds later the softest, most pleasurable sensation melted against my mouth. His tongue took a trip across the seam of my lips, sailing to a stop before he plucked my bottom lip between both of his.
When he drew back, I swore I could read dreams in his eyes.
It wasn’t a kiss. It was a promise. It tasted like hope.
Hope I couldn’t afford.
“How about your number, Miss Mercy?”
Hope became cinders in my mouth. “I don’t think so.”
Threading his fingers through his hair, he tousled the strands even more. “At least let me put my number in your phone.”
“I don’t have a cell phone.” Another thing I wasn’t allowed.
He frowned heavily at me before grasping my hand and squeezing it. “Wait here.”
He raced back to the bar, and I knew I should leave while I could.
But my lips tingled. I pressed my fingers against my mouth, remembering the firm warm pressure.
I wasn’t going to make it back to the Lair in time.
Half a minute later, Angel ran back to me. His grin didn’t make it to his eyes that time. He stuffed a napkin in my pocket.
“My number. Call me.”
He laughed curtly. “Whaddya mean why? I wanna see you again, Mercy.” Gathering my hands in his, he asked, “You sure I can’t give you a ride?”
“I have to go. I have to go now.”
“Okay.” He released me. “Okay.”
I turned away from him, pulling the napkin out to crush it in my hand. To hold it in my hand.
Dashing away tears that came from the deep hidden well within, I sprinted. I looked back once, and Angel still watched. He watched until I was out of sight.
I tried to keep my bearings. I hoped I got home before my kinfolk. Because something bad would happen if they found me missing.