The Lost Saint Page 46

When we pulled into the parking lot of the school, I saw Gabriel waiting for us by the front doors. I knew I could fool Claire about the damage to my shirt, but I figured Gabriel would be a harder audience—besides, he could probably smell the Gelal and Akh stench that clung to my hair—so I made a beeline for Dad’s Corolla in the parish parking lot.

I pulled from my backpack my set of house keys, which also happened to have a spare to the Corolla on the ring. Hopefully, Dad wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it to get home. I even called and left a message on his cell phone, telling him I was doing so. He could always take the parish’s truck if he didn’t feel like walking.

I parked in the driveway and ran into the house. Mom called my name from the kitchen—followed by the wafting goodness of her pork tenderloin in Marsala sauce—but I pretended not to hear her and dashed up to the bathroom. I pulled off my nasty shirt, wrapped it in the towel I’d used to clean up with at the old man’s house, and shoved the bundle deep inside the bathroom trash can. I pulled off the rest of my clothes and stepped into the shower.

I lathered and rinsed my hair three times before I felt like the noxious scents from the afternoon had been washed away. But what were impossible to scrub out were the memories of the day that clung to me now—wiping down a crime scene, watching a demon die right in front of me, the expression on the face of that bodiless head, and Talbot finding that dead old man. I scrubbed and scrubbed. I sat in the shower with my knees pulled up to my chest and let the scalding water rain down on me. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t rinse those images out of my mind.

My life had changed in the last few hours.

I’d changed.

I felt like a different person, and part of me longed for Daniel’s arms, strong and true, to wrap me in his warm embrace. I wanted to hear him tell me that it was okay for me to be different now. That he still loved me no matter what.

When the water turned cold, I got out and changed into fresh clothes. My plan was to hide in my room for the rest of the night. I still buzzed so much from what had happened this afternoon I worried that if I spent too much time with anyone, they’d be able to tell I was hiding something. They’d be able to see the changes in me. I was just about to start in on homework at my desk when Charity knocked on my door.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Dinner,” she said, and gave me a weird look from the doorway.

“I’ll just get some leftovers later.” I turned away and gazed down at my book. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“No … Mom says everyone has to come. It’s a family dinner. Mom cooked, and we’ve got company.”

“Really?” Regular family dinner had been a Divine family ritual for the first seventeen years of my life, but now I could hardly remember the last time we’d all sat at the same table together—let alone had company. I guess I should have put two and two together when I smelled good things coming from the kitchen.

“Daniel’s here.”

“Ooh.” I loved that just the mention of his name could make my heart skip a beat.

“And that cute new religion teacher at your school. Pastor Saint Moon.”

“Oh.” My voice had a very different inflection this time. Gabriel was the last person I wanted to see at the moment. “I really do have a lot of homework. Can you tell Mom that I can’t—”

“Yeah, right. Mom’s full-on Martha Stewart-ing it down there. She made a four-course meal and pulled out the good china. I wouldn’t mess with her if I were you.”

“Great,” I mumbled.

Mom shouted our names from downstairs. Charity jumped like a frightened cat and yelled, “Coming!”

I got up from my desk and checked my reflection in my full-length mirror, just to reassure myself that there wasn’t any physical evidence left of what I’d done with Talbot this afternoon. Charity still stood in my doorway, so I pretended I was checking my makeup—but then I remembered I wasn’t wearing any.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah.”

I followed Charity down the stairs. Daniel and Gabriel sat at the dining room table with Dad and Baby James. Mom gave us a what-took-you-so-long look as she set a salad bowl on the table.

Gabriel stood up as Charity and I approached, and he bowed his head to me as I sat. I wondered if that had something to do with all of that Divine One stuff he’d been talking about, or if it was just another of his old-fashioned mannerisms. Then Gabriel turned and bowed to Charity.

She totally giggled and blushed.

I totally rolled my eyes.

And Daniel totally snorted.

Charity had no idea just how too old Gabriel Saint Moon was for her to have a crush on him.

I sat next to Daniel. “Hey,” he said, and squeezed my hand. The edge of the bandage on his arm was all frayed—probably because he kept picking at it.

“Hey,” I said back, trying to sound as normal as possible. Because that was what Daniel wanted: normal. Not different, like how I felt now. I smiled casually, or at least I tried to make it seem as casual and natural as I could, but then I worried I was overdoing it. I couldn’t look Daniel in the eye, either. What if he could see right through my act? I dropped the awkward smile and turned my attention to Baby James, who attempted to pull a Houdini act with the straps of his booster chair. After I wrestled James back into his seat, Dad blessed the food and Mom dished up salad for everyone.

“This all looks excellent,” Gabriel said as Mom handed him back his plate. “I haven’t eaten like this since the last time I was in France.”

Mom smiled. “Why, thank you, Pastor Saint Moon. We’re actually having Italian tonight. Part of my family originates from Rome.” She then launched into our more-than-diverse heritage as Gabriel nodded along and asked questions about her family. Listening to Mom engage in a real conversation almost made me like Gabriel for a moment. Almost made me relax.

That is, until Dad turned the conversation in the opposite direction. “So, Gabriel, how is the senior community-service project coming along? I was afraid it would get cancelled altogether when Mr. Shumway quit.”

“Quite well,” Gabriel said with an ancient smile. “Don’t you agree, Daniel?”

Daniel had his cell phone out. “Yeah, I guess.” He checked the screen of his phone and then put it on his lap. “We’re hoping to have the store up and running again by Halloween. Katie had a great idea to host a holiday street festival outside the store as part of a grand reopening. Games, trunk-or-treating, concessions, fund-raising raffle.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies