Perhaps especially if it’s by a woman.

I have a reputation to uphold. One of stiffness and sobriety. It does not do for those around me to see what’s inside of my own mind. It’s enough that they can barely control themselves, there’s no telling what they would say if they knew I had my own demons inside that I struggle to control at times.

Slipping a fresh dress shirt on quickly, I slide a pre-tied tie around my neck. Feet into my dress shoes and I head out of the walk-in closet, making my way towards the kitchen.

I’ve already made James wait too long. I didn’t plan on being in bed so late in the morning, but after a wild night of passion with Meredith, five-thirty came way too early for me. Even if I was awake by five, I’d still need more time to enjoy her sleeping on my chest. It was a constriction, of choice.

One I can feel slowly wrapping around my throat as surely as a noose.

I’m one hand away from tipping off the gallows. I wonder when it snaps my neck if I’ll see God or Lucifer’s smiling face?

All these dark thoughts and it’s only six a.m. I need to get a move on if I’m to meet up with Father Coss. I have no doubt it will take Meredith her usual thirty-seven to forty minutes to get fully ready.

Opening the garage door for James, I walk through the dark room and stand there as the door rolls up.

“What the fuck, Spider? Can’t you afford electric?” James asks as he investigates the dark garage.

“Would you prefer I light up the place? I’m sure if someone was standing about five hundred yards from here with a rocket launcher we would be small enough targets,” I say as I point to the wall. “Put the boxes there.”

“Fuck me,” he growls as he hefts one of the clothes boxes from the back of a small SUV. “If there is some asshole out there with a rocket launcher, he isn’t going to wait to see our asses with a fucking garage light.”

“You may have a point,” I say as I walk to the back of the SUV to grab a box myself.

“Peter’s remains, or well what little they could find, are going to be interred at the same cemetery his grandmother was buried in. Father Coss will be doing the wake and service at Saint Michael’s,” James says as he passes me with the next box.

“Who’s arranging it all?”

“Me. I asked Lucifer for the job,” he says.

Hmmm, that’s interesting… and probably for the best. James knew Peter the best, so I’m not surprised. Though it’s odd, usually Lucifer handles things like this. He says it’s his job to take care of his men when they pass. He calls it passing away, as if dying to a bomb is an everyday occurrence.

“Do you need assistance with it?” I ask.

“No, I got it. Need to take on more responsibility, as Lucifer likes to remind me. Besides, I know how Peter would want to be taken care of.”

Nodding my head, I grab the second to last box and watch as James grabs the last. We both head back into the dark garage.

It’s starting to grow light out and I can see the sky lightening up slowly.

Setting our boxes down, I look to him. “I’ve got an appointment with Father Coss today. I’ll make sure all the fees are taken care of.”

“Thanks,” he says, then he looks at me with his head tilted sideways. He almost looks like a stupid dog showing confusion. “Why aren’t you wearing socks, Simon?”

Looking down at my feet, I suddenly feel the tight leather of my dress shoes surrounding my toes. Damn.

“Fuck off, James,” I hiss as I walk into the garage.

His loud laughter comes echoing through the dark recesses of the enclosed space. “You finally got some ass!”

He’s still fucking laughing as he gets into the black SUV and turns over the engine.

Damn. Shit. And fucking rats of hell.

There’s nothing to be done though. Pushing the button to close the garage door, I turn on the light. Time to start hauling in her belongings.

Collateral damage.

That’s what James will be if I find out he tells anyone what he saw.

Carrying a breakfast tray into the bedroom, I set it down gently on the nightstand beside Meredith. Reaching over to her shoulder, my hand hovers barely a hair’s breadth away from her.

This is it.

Last night could be considered a mistake of passion and lust. If I touch her bare, tanned shoulder, I’ll be the one that’s putting my head into the noose.

I’ll have no more excuses within myself or for her brother.

Her breathing stops suddenly, and I can tell she’s snapped awake. Her body fully tenses.

This is it.

Make the choice or have it taken from me.