Chapter Twenty-Two

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Matt didn't show up for school on Friday.

It was an odd feeling for Zoe, not having known before the first bell rang and not being able to tell people why he wasn't there. All these years that they had been neighbours, she had been the first to know—whether he was sick, or just skipping classes for the hell of it. But now they lived an entire town apart and she was as clueless as everybody else.

She sent him two texts in the morning, asking where he was and whether he was all right, but when she checked her phone after her first class she still hadn't received a response.

It wasn't until lunch, where she was listening to Nate and Paris bicker over whether the correct term in Australia was biscuit or cookie, that she received a response—not from Matt, but from the elder Maguire. And in the form of several messages.

Zoeee, you have probably noticed that Matt is off sick today. There must be a bug going around, because our other two staffers have it, too.

I hate to ask, but is there any possible way that you could work the night shift this evening? I know I said to take all the time you need, but there isn't anybody else.

But please don't feel pressured. If you're not feeling up to it yet, I can always close the shop for the night. It might make people spend more time with their families! ;)

Zoe didn't even need to think about it. A week spent doing nothing more than going to school and then heading straight home afterward was driving her a little stir crazy, and she brightened at getting the chance to see people who weren't angels. Or in the case of her classmates, gossiping geese.

She wrote back to Luke to let him know that she would see him at three-thirty sharp, and asked him to pass on her best wishes to Matt. She hoped that he was feeling better soon; she would text him in the morning to see if he was still up for their movie marathon weekend.

Paris wasn't at all affected by her decision. His evening was going to be spent with his father, who worked as a home-visiting doctor around the town. Paris had known from the age of seven that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up too, and had long been tagging along with his father at work.

It was a part of his training, he told her with a wink. Training of the decidedly non-angelic kind.

Zoe hadn't expected Nate to be happy when she told him that she was going to be heading back to work for the evening, and she wasn't wrong. He had been taunting her all week with the threat of another self-defence lesson on Friday night. But then, he should have known that she would try to get out of it.

She had not expected the excuse that he would use against her, though.

"You can't go to work," he had said when she told him. "It might not be safe."

Zoe raised an eyebrow at him. "Not safe? I've been working at the Regal for two and a half years already, Nate. The only thing not safe about that place are the lemon tarts. They're the sourest things you'll ever taste, I swear."

Nate heaved a sigh as Paris snickered from behind him. "That isn't what I mean, Halsman, and you know it."

"You mean Lucifer."

"Yes," Nate said, "I mean Lucifer. You know, the asshole who might be trying to kill you? Probably burned your house down. Maybe even twice. Sends you dreams full of lies...?"

Zoe pulled a carrot stick from her lunchbox and popped it into her mouth. She would never admit it to her father, but Celia's packed lunches were a far cry better than anything he had ever tried to pack for her. She did miss his smiley faces drawn onto her oranges, though.

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