For Angelo

By: Marian Tee

Oh, if Nellie could hear me now, Lane thought absently as she scrutinized the men’s faces. The thought made her smile and wince at the same time. Nellie would probably threaten to hit her on the head for being so foolishly romantic.

Moments passed, and hope started to fade. She turned away, thinking that maybe tomorrow would be better—

And that was when she heard it again, this time so, so close it was almost like he was right behind her—

Wait, what if he was right behind her?

Lane whirled around so fast she lost her balance, and she fell flat on her butt with a tiny cry.

A shadow fell over her world, and then she found herself staring straight into a pair of silvery gray eyes.

Almost like a fallen angel, she thought dazedly, dropping from the sky.

“Are you okay?” His voice was faintly accented. Italian, she guessed dizzily as she took the hand offered to her. It was warm and electrifying, and the shock of it had Lane stiffening.

“Just static electricity,” the stranger said easily as he released her hand.

No, Lane thought, even more dazed now. It wasn’t. But she was too much in awe to argue. On her feet, she found him even taller than he appeared initially. Slowly, her gaze met his eyes again, and this time Lane took the rest of him in. This time, it finally dawned on her just how beautiful the man before her was.

Words like ‘handsome’ and ‘good-looking’ wouldn’t cut it.

He was beautiful.

It was the only way to describe him.

It was also one thing she was not.

She suddenly remembered how she looked. Hair twisted up in a careless bun, her old pair of eyeglasses perched on her too-small nose, her face without a touch of makeup.

She also remembered what she had been and what she was supposed to be doing. She was in the middle of inventory for deliveries, and she was dressed for it, too, a faded apron over her shirt and jeans.

“You’re good?”

She nodded dumbly.

I’m good.

And I’m infatuated.

Lane didn’t care if the thought made her foolish and insane.

All she knew was that this beautiful stranger made her blood sing like no other man had ever done.

She had the biggest crush on this fallen angel of hers, and that was that.

She remembered Laura telling her stories about how she had fallen in love with Lane’s father. She remembered asking her mother, when she was a little older and wiser, how Laura could still cherish the memory even when her father had proven to be anything but prince-like. And she remembered how Laura had blinked at her like she shouldn’t have asked the question at all.

“Just because we didn’t end up together doesn’t mean we weren’t really in love. We were the ones who made mistakes, but love…” And Laura’s smile had been of undimmed hope and dreams. “Choosing to love is always the gloriously right thing to do.”

Lane looked back at her fallen angel.

His concerned gaze made her heart skip a beat, and his voice was like the most darkly seductive melody as he murmured, “If you’re sure you’re okay…”

“I think I hurt my ankle,” she blurted out. God forgive me. “M-maybe you can check on me later?” She could feel a blush stealing over her cheeks at how unnaturally forward she was being. “I’m out in an hour.” Lane’s words had the stranger raising a brow, but even as her cheeks turned redder, she just couldn’t make herself take the words back.

“I see.” The stranger’s lips curved in the sexiest little smile, and his silvery gray eyes settled on her contemplatively.

His sudden scrutiny was unnerving, but Lane forced herself to meet his gaze. She had nothing to hide. She was just crushing on him, and now she was, well, flirting outrageously with him. Other girls did it all the time. So it wasn’t bad…right?

“You’re…different,” the stranger murmured.

“In a good way…right?” Lane clarified worriedly.

His smile widened, but he didn’t say anything.

Her heart slammed hard against her chest. Gosh, oh gosh. It was just a smile, but she felt hot all over.

When he took a step back from her, Lane caught her breath, the pain of the increased distance surprising her.

“I’m keeping you, aren’t I?”

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