That familiar ache that began just behind the eyes woke Scarlett just after 3 a.m. She called it “The Ache of Inspiration,” and it always happened at the most inopportune times. Once she had lost a boyfriend because she’d been overcome by the muses in the middle of a moment of passion. She still laughed, thinking of the look on his face when she’d suddenly left the room and began painting, completely naked. But what no one understood was that it wasn’t her choice. Once that spark of inspiration hit, she had no choice but to answer its call. It was a demanding lover that did not wait, and it did not matter if she were sleeping, taking a bath or standing in line at the grocery store.
Scarlett rose from the bed and stumbled around, still weary from the Halcion and sleep. As she groped around in the dark for the light switch, she kicked something that crackled like old newspaper. The shopping bag full of clothes Raze had bought for her. It hadn’t been there before. She assumed it was still down in the studio space. He must have set it down in her room earlier when she’d been pretending to sleep. She grabbed it up and began rifling through, looking for something to wear. She pulled on a pair of snug fitting jeans that sat low on her hips, but all of the shirts she’d purchased weren’t exactly painting attire. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a large wardrobe that sat in the corner. She opened it up to find a large television and stereo system on the top shelf where one might have once hung clothes. There were three deep drawers below the shelf and Scarlett opened each one, looking for anything that might be of use. She finally got lucky, finding an old sweatshirt folded neatly in the bottom drawer. As soon as she pulled it over her head, she could tell it belonged to Raze. It swallowed her small frame. She could smell him all over it and her stomach fluttered. With a sigh of frustration, she gathered her hair into a low ponytail and tied it behind her head.
Opening the door slowly, Scarlett slipped out of the room and sneaked down the hall toward the stairs. She peered at Raze’s room as she passed and could see a soft light coming from under the door, as if from a television set that had been left on in the dark. She bit her lip and tiptoed past, praying that the floor wouldn’t creak. She didn’t know how she was going to face him in the morning and it wasn’t something that she could work out right now. Now she had work to do.
Scarlett breathed a sigh of relief as she made it down the stairs soundlessly. She’d just stop in the kitchen and make herself a cup of coffee, but when she came around the corner, she saw that Geoffrey was standing at the counter. The old man was in his pajamas and moved slowly around the room, making a pot of coffee. She started to derail and go on out the door, but it was too late. “Miss Munro,” he called. “What are you doing up?”
“Good morning, Geoffrey… or… well, it’s not quite morning yet.” She smiled and joined him in the kitchen. “I might ask you the same question.”
“The old don’t sleep much, young lady,” he said, pouring water into the back of the coffeepot. “But you’re far too young for such maladies.” He turned, giving a knowing smile and setting a cup down in front of her. “The coffee will be done in just a minute. Sit.”
Scarlett obeyed and watched him for a few more minutes as he flitted around the kitchen, gathering sugar bowls and cream. He seemed to be pretty spry for his age. He was obviously at least in his seventies, yet he moved like a man with boundless energy. “So Geoffrey… how long have you been with Raze?”
“Quite some time, Miss. He’s been quite good to me over the years.” He came over to the counter and poured Scarlett a cup. “Cream and sugar?”
“Yes, please,” she replied. She prepared her coffee, watching the cream swirl around in the dark liquid. “He seems like a nice man.”
“Of course. Raze has always been the compassionate sort.”
“So you’ve known him for a long time?” she asked.
“In a manner of speaking.” He seemed to hesitate a moment, as if he were planning each word very carefully. Scarlett could tell that he was hiding something, though what it might be she couldn’t imagine. Constantine was like some kind of billionaire boy scout. At least, according to everything she’d read about him. She smiled behind her coffee cup as she took a sip. Perhaps there were some skeletons in his closet.
“How old is he?”
Geoffrey chuckled. “Much older than you think.”
“Oh he can’t possibly be more than thirty-five or forty at the outside.”
The older man smirked, but did not respond. “I’m afraid Mr. Constantine is somewhat of an enigma to us all. I only know what I have observed of him. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, he doesn’t confide much.”
“No kidding,” she grumbled.
“Just because a man doesn’t say a thing, doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.”
“I just wish I understood him a bit more.” Scarlett sighed, resting her chin on her hands as she leaned against the counter. “I mean, I’ve been here for a couple of days now and I still don’t know what he wants with me. The paintings, of course, but there seems to be something more.”
“Raze has always felt a need to seek out those with no hope and help them find it. He loves your melancholy, though he wishes to take it away. Your art speaks to him in a way he’s never known. He understands you, Miss Munro. Though you may not know it just yet.”
“But why? No one has ever understood me or even wanted to try,” she said. “And I learned a long time ago not to open myself up. Baring your weaknesses and fears to the world only makes them vulnerable to exploitation.”
“You think Mr. Constantine means to exploit you?”
“No, I don’t. That’s what’s so frightening. You see, everyone in my life, as long as I can remember, has wanted something from me. Sex, money, adoration… but I can’t figure out what it is that he wants from me. Whatever it is… I’m terrified I won’t be able to deliver.”
“Perhaps there is nothing. Perhaps it is he that wants to give to you.” Geoffrey smiled and topped off her cup of coffee. “There you are. Now… off you go. I can sense the urgency of inspiration radiating off of you.”
Scarlett returned his smile. Though she did feel her muses shouting in her head, she wished for a moment that she could stay here with Geoffrey. He made her feel comforted like an old grandfather or favorite uncle. “Yes, I suppose I’d better get started before I fall asleep again.” She stood up and went toward the door. “Thanks again for the coffee.” Geoffrey nodded and waved goodbye, leaving her to puzzle over his words.
As soon as she was gone, Gabriel shed the image of the old man in seconds. The gray hair and wrinkled skin dissipated like smoke and she stretched, glad to be rid of such a meager form. Strangely, she could see why Azrael was so taken with this human. She had a fire that was quite unexpected for one in her position. Gabriel wished she could hate her. Scarlett had cost her the only love she would ever know. Angels weren’t supposed to fall in love with humans. It just wasn’t done, but Azrael had fallen in love with Scarlett’s soul to such a degree that it had become an obsession. Thousands of human years passed and he followed her through lifetime after lifetime. Gabriel’s heart ached when she thought of it. The letting go. The realization of the fact that he could never love her as he loved this flawed, pathetic human.