Read RAZIEL Chapter One in full.
With nervous fingers, Gloria washed the muted mauve of the lipstick over her lips and pressed them together as she looked into the bathroom mirror. It was strange to see her face awash with so much make up; subtle was what she usually went for. Tonight she’d even used liquid eyeliner which was no easy task when you weren’t used to it and couldn’t get a grip on your damn nerves. She scrutinized everything as her reflection stared back. Mostly, she felt like a clown. Maybe she shouldn’t have gone so heavy with the eyeshadow and liner. And no matter how much she messed with it, her hair was refusing to play along. Perhaps she should have put a toner on it; made the brown a little more interesting. Then there was her outfit, or lack thereof. Everything felt alien. She couldn’t even remember the last time her legs had seen air.
Smoothing her tight dress down, Glo wondered if it was all a little over the top. The snug-fitting, mulberry box dress stopped a couple inches above her knees, not overly short, but to Gloria it might as well be to the top of her thighs for how exposed she felt. It had been a long time since she’d worn anything but skinny jeans and casual T-shirts.
Comfort clothes. That’s what she was most happy wearing.
It’s a date, Glo. Not a trip to the mall with Katie. It would be downright rude to show up to the restaurant in your sweats now wouldn’t it? Suck it up.
Taking her own advice she took one last look at her appearance. Her hair was half fastened and curled in shabby loops that were pinned under at the top of her head while the rest hung down in curls. Glo fluffed the sides and took a deep breath for courage. Just a date, she told herself, willing her heeled feet to move through her apartment to retrieve her purse and jacket from the coat rack by the front door.
Twenty minutes later, the cab pulled up kerbside in front of the restaurant. As she fumbled inside her wallet for a little more change to tip the driver, her stomach swirled with a sudden onslaught of nerves, but she was determined to get out of the car regardless of how tempting it was to tell the driver to keep going. With her fingers curled around the car door handle, Glo hesitated as she looked out at the small glass frontage of the restaurant. To anyone else, Angelina’s looked warm and cozy inside with the soft, ambient lighting and the inviting glow of candlelight from the center of the tables. The windows either side of the main entrance were awash with dripping fairy lights that continued around the awning outside. To her though, it was nothing but a harsh reminder of how out of touch she was with life beyond her apartment and the diner she worked at for most of the week.
Glo had never really had much of a social life; now it was practically dead and buried since finding out she was a Nephilim. And dating? Yeah, all thoughts of having the conversation with any prospective husbands had swiftly steered her away from that simple right of passage:
“So tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Sure. Well to start with I’m half human, half angel.”
After almost choking on his chimichanga, future husband calls for server with a shaky hand. “Check please.”
But she’d said yes to Zack.
Eventually, after the cab had left Glo standing on the sidewalk, she glanced down the street towards the place where she’d much rather be right then. Glo had purposely suggested the little Italian only two blocks down from Arnold’s, the diner where she worked. Arn had said to give him a discreet text if the night was going wayward and he’d be sure to rescue her. She didn’t dare think on how he planned to do that. Hopefully, once she stopped acting like a skittish child on their first day of school, there wouldn’t be any need for a rescue mission. Katie, on the other hand, wanted all the juicy details the minute Glo got home. “That’s assuming you do go on home,” her friend had said when she’d called earlier with more unwelcome dating advice.
Unusual for the time of year, there was a bitter cold snap in the air which made her shiver and wish she’d grabbed a larger coat than her waist-length leather jacket. Nonetheless, Glo stayed routed to the spot for another minute until she had a stern word with herself. Unlinking her tense hands from in front of her, she smoothed down the skirt part of her dress and held her chin up.
After all, there was no real reason for her to feel so nervous. Zack had been coming to the diner every couple of days for the past three months and he’d been nothing but pleasant. Glo had actually started to look forward to his company for the hour or so that he sat at the counter while he ate after work. They’d talk whenever she was free, and had struck up an unlikely friendship. Apart from the dress, the extra makeup, and the fact that she would be the one to be waited on for a change—and by candlelight, no less—tonight really wouldn’t be all that different. At least, that’s what she was going with as she entered Angelina’s.
Warmth and the aroma of Italian spices and coffee hit her immediately as she approached the host at the stand, a comforting balm stroking over her nerves and helping to settle them a little. A few minutes later and she was following the petite woman towards the table-for-two near the back of the restaurant. Glo suspected Zack had requested the quieter part on purpose. Ordinarily, with the place pretty empty, they would have been seated towards the front to make it look busier.
The nerves came back tenfold the moment she saw him.
He stood, greeting her with a warm, friendly smile as he smoothed down the black tie he wore over a dark-gray shirt. Zack was easily four or five inches taller than Gloria. His brown hair had been cut a little shorter since she’d last seen him a few days ago—the day he’d asked to take her out—and his brown eyes looked almost black in the low light of the restaurant.
“You look great,” Zack said with a welcoming smile, stepping forward and leaning in to kiss her cheek.
Glo felt her skin warm beneath his lips and awkwardly managed a response to his compliment. “Thank you. You look nice too.”
It sounded lame to her own ears, but what else could she say to return it? Besides, he did look nice. Smelled nice too of spiced cologne. She was only used to seeing him in his work clothes and had never gotten close enough to smell him before. From what he’d told her he was a quality engineer at a manufacturing company there in the city after being transferred from Pittsburgh. Glo had only ever seen him in his navy blue coveralls whenever he called in for dinner on his way home from work so it was a pleasant change to see him all dressed up. He looked even more handsome and she could tell from the fit of his shirt that he worked out.
After Zack ordered a bottle of wine and the waiter filled their glasses, Glo found herself suddenly searching for things to say. It was strange. At the diner they always had plenty to talk about, but the intimate setting seemed to have short-circuited her brain. It was like all the words were running away from her and her legs were in quicksand. The more she panicked about it, the deeper she sank. She took another sip of her wine to bide her some more time, but Zack thankfully broke the tense silence.
“It’s weird isn’t it?” he asked, leaning in a little and talking low. “Move a little ways down the street and sit us at a table together and the dynamic completely changes.”
Glo slowly put her glass down, not really knowing how to respond.
He laughed, his lingering smile revealing straight white teeth and a dimple in one of his cheeks. “Why do I feel so much more nervous with you here than at the diner?”
Relief had Glo laughing. It was like he’d read her mind. “Thank God I’m not the only one. It shouldn’t be any different, right? It ain’t like we’ve only just met.”
“Exactly.” Zack lifted his glass and paused right before he took a drink. “No harm in drinking for courage though, right?”
They both laughed and it broke the ice. Immediately they fell into a comfortable rhythm of easy conversation and laughter which lasted throughout their shared appetizer, through the entrees, and halfway through dessert.
Glo let out a groan as she placed her spoon down on the plate having failed to finish the last of her salted caramel cheesecake. “I couldn’t eat another thing.”
She looked up and saw Zack was staring at her, his eyes narrowed slightly in a look that made Glo’s heart respond with a sudden rush. Damn. Was she blushing? What the hell was with her? This is what happens when you avoid the dating game for so long: first bit of attention you receive from a guy and you go all school-girl giddy. She looked down and awkwardly pushed some left-over cheesecake around the plate with her fork.
“I’ve got to admit, right now you’re boosting my ego a little.” Glo looked up to see that same heated look in his eyes.
“I am?” she asked, unsure where he was going.
“Well this is the first time I’ve seen you blush. It looks good on you.” He leaned forward a little, reaching across the table and taking her free hand in his. Glo looked at where his thumb stroked over her knuckles and couldn’t help the intake of breath.
“I’m real glad you said yes to dinner with me, Glo.”
His dark stare was intense, and for a moment her words stuck in her throat as the panic began to return. This is too intimate. I really like him but. . . it’s our first date and he’s looking at me as though he wants to devour me. Then she shut her conscience right up.
To hell with it. Truth was, Glo liked that look.
She smiled back at him. “Me too. I’ve had a real nice time.”
“The night doesn’t have to end yet,” Zack said, still stroking the back of her hand as it sat upon his. “There’s a nice bar a few blocks away, Jack’s Lounge. You know it?”
“Yeah. I pass it when I’m—” She didn’t wan’t to say that she passed it every time she walked home because she didn’t want him to know she lived close. Her adopted father’s words popped into her mind. “Don’t let a man walk you home until you know him enough to trust him, Glo.” “I’m sensible, dad.”
And she wasn’t about to change that now. Not even for Zack who seemed a genuine guy.
“I’ve seen it through the car window on my way home. I’ve never been inside though.”
“Well let this be a night of firsts. Tell me you’ll allow me to take you there for a drink. I promise not to keep you out late.” He let go of Glo’s hand, taking out his wallet from his back pocket and put his credit card on top of the check before indicating for the server to come over.
A night of firsts. Glo couldn’t help wonder what other firsts might be on his mind. Although he didn’t seem pushy, there was only one other first she was willing to allow him and even that was only a maybe at this stage. Glo could see herself kissing Zack. But that all depended on how he expected the night to end.
“I’d like that,” she answered. And no sooner had the check been paid, Zack was holding up her jacket.
When they left the restaurant he held his arm out, crooked at the elbow, inviting her to loop hers through while smiling that rugged smile. She took his arm and as they took a slow stroll to Jack’s, talking and laughing like it was the most natural thing in the world, Glo realized that for the whole evening she hadn’t thought of a certain angel once. Surprisingly, she was warming to the whole dating thing. Maybe it was what she’d needed all along to get over her silly crush.
Perhaps it was finally time to let him go.
*RAZIEL - A Divine Hunter World Novel releases on 14th July*