Page 44 of Tripping on a Halo

He smiled at the thought, then realized the truth of the matter—the surefire way to get her to go would be because it was dangerous. If she really thought that she had some unique ability to ward off danger, she would feel obligated to go.

It was like holding a secret weapon. Would using it be evil? Probably. Manipulative? Yes. Was having her there worth it?

He rolled the tennis ball through his fingers and slowly warmed to the idea.

25

Out of every hobby imaginable, scrapbooking is one of the safest. The scissors are the most dangerous part of it. Get over-enthusiastic with your cutting, and you might nip off part of a finger. The glue is another danger zone, but you have to be intentionally reckless to sniff yourself to death.

I sat at the dining room table, dangerous glue bottle in hand, and carefully laid down a white line for the border, which I planned to highlight using a glittery silver rope. On the radio, Sam Cooke crooned. I really loved Sam Cooke, but talk about an unromantic way to die. Shot by a hotel manager after attempting to rape a girl. Or, if you believed the theories, set up by a prostitute, robbed, and then shot by a hotel manager. Either way, had the man been at home with his sweet little wife? He wouldn’t have died. I pressed a heart to the construction paper, holding it in place while it dried.

I rolled my bare feet along Mr. Oinks’ belly and listened to him snore.

It was very boring, not having Declan Moss to protect. My worry still ran through my head, but without knowing where he was, and what he was doing… I didn’t have much to worry about. I felt hopeless, being so far away from him. I closed my eyes, a dull headache still lingering, despite the 800 mg of Ibuprofen I’d taken. What if my head went haywire right here? What would I do? I had no idea where Declan was. The best I could do would be to get in my car, head in the direction of his office, and likely die of an aneurysm on the way.

If Ansley were here, she’d tell me that I was an idiot. She’d point out, if I did have this hypothetical power of danger prediction, that it wasn’t necessarily confined to Declan. Maybe I could protect anyone in sudden danger. Then again, I’d only gotten the piercing pain and nausea spells three times. Once, the day of the plane crash. And then three weeks ago, right before Declan stepped in front of that truck. And then a small episode at the bar, during the fight.

Three instances. All with Declan. My head still hurt just from the memory of it. I rubbed my forehead, nursing my current headache and wondered if there were lingering side effects of this condition.

Beside me, my phone sat, silent. I could call him. He’d left his business card on my bedside table, his cell phone circled in one of Paige’s red magic markers. In a normal situation, I would have called him already. Thanked him for his return of my heels, and apologized for bringing the men over without having a middle-of-the-day, fully awake, conversation about it.

But… there was the slight issue of our sex. Lots and lots of thrusting. Kissing. Bodies rubbing. Moaning. I crossed my legs together to try and satisfy the ache of desire that bloomed at the memory. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been so…. I paused, half of the silver cord put into place, and tried to find the right adjective. Carnal? Ravenous? Jenna Jamesony? Let’s face it. If I’d had a cowboy hat handy, I would have been whooping and waving that thing in the air, a bridle quickly fashioned out of my bra straps.

I’d been an embarrassment to guardian angels everywhere. How could I ever attempt to have a serious conversation with him about his personal safety when he knew what I tasted like? Oh God. I dropped my head down on the page without thinking, my forehead landing smack in the middle of a dab of glitter paint.

Even if I pushed the guardian angel stuff aside and just focused on bare womanhood, there was a precedent set. Mom hadn’t taught me much, short of the atomic weight of Mercury, but she had ingrained a few rules in me from the time I could talk.

Chewing gum in public is tacky. She once elbowed me so hard that I fell over, to point out a Mercedes-driving blonde with a mouthful of Big Red. Tacky was a word she liked to use a lot. Miracle Whip was also tacky. And ripped jeans. And convertibles. And hoop earrings and scrunchies.

Always pass the salt with the pepper. I once skipped this rule at Sonny’s BBQ, and mom threw the salt shaker at my wrist. It was a heavy glass one, the sort that pairs with a pepper grinder, and left a swollen black bruise for a week. That was around the time that Ansley and I started to realize Mom was a little off her rocker.

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