There was an angel sprawled in every sense of the word, in the backseat of my blue Mustang convertible. I didn’t really know just how tall he was and neither did he, but due to his supernatural angelic stature, he was a good head taller than most ordinary men. He was also built like the heavenly bodyguard he was and all those shapely muscles, that broad chest, and those long sinewy legs of his didn’t leave much room in the backseat for me so I pretty much had to lay over him for both of us to fit. Luckily neither one of us minded too badly, making out the way we were.
The angel, whose name was Pershabael, was my guardian and my lover. He’d come to me awhile back when I’d strayed from the path he believed I ought to be on and set me back on it by the power of his love. I didn’t know he was my guardian angel then and even after he had revealed himself to me, it didn’t really hit home until I actually saw him for the first time a year later in his true form. I had thought he was a good-looking man before, but as an angel he was downright breathtaking. Of course, I was head over heels in love with him and that might have had something to do with it, but there really was no denying just how fine he was in either form.
I was entertaining the former right at the moment. He liked to show up now and then as a regular guy—or as regular as he could get—so we could go off and do things together like an ordinary couple. Tonight we had decided to take a drive out to the Carolina coast to watch the moonrise over the ocean, and to put it nicely, were feeling a little amorous being in such an isolated romantic setting the way we were.
His kisses were shorting out my thought processes and the way his hands were sliding around my body was making me lose awareness of the more inconsequential things around me that weren’t directly related to the arousing sensations I was experiencing. It was only right that I wanted to touch him back, but when I went to raise my arms to stroke his long amber-colored hair, I banged my left elbow hard enough on the car door to bring the more pleasant sensations to a screeching halt.
“Ow! Damnit!” I sat up to rub it, but couldn’t get my other arm from around Pershabael’s neck.
“Mya, don’t swear,” the angel whispered to me in that sultry Southern drawl of his and went to nibble on my neck some more.
“Well, that hurt!” I informed him, wiggling out of reach of those intoxicating lips of his.
Pershabael sat up now too. He took my arm and rubbed my elbow for me. “I bet. I heard it. But you still shouldn’t swear about it.”
I shifted around in his lap feeling immediately soothed. “I know. It’s a bad habit. I was just reacting to the pain.”
He looked at me with an amused expression. “Want me to kiss it for you?”
I sighed, exasperated. “No thanks. I don’t think you could reach it and I’m not a contortionist.” My doing-it-in-a-car fantasy was quickly losing its appeal. I had a nice soft king-sized four poster bed back home. Why was I squishing us up like this for the sake of moonlight?
Pershabael leaned back against the seat and cuddled me up against him. “It is a little cramped,” he lamented. “But it’s cozy too. We can just hold each other and listen to the waves. That’d be romantic.”
I grinned up at him. “I was past the romantic phase of the evening a good half hour ago. I was ready to get down to business with you, but it’s obviously not going to work out. Maybe if we were teenagers or something. Or teenaged-sized at least.”
“Maybe if you had a bigger car,” he teased and brushed his lips across my forehead.
“When I got this car I wasn’t exactly thinking about the logistics of comfortably hooking up with an angel in the back seat,” I said and placed my head on his chest. “It’s a good thing you didn’t grow more than you did.”
“I didn’t grow at all,” he told me in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. “I was always like this.”
I leaned back a little so I could look into his eyes. That aspect of him hadn’t occurred to me and the sudden insight regarding his creation was kind of startling. “Hmm. I hadn’t ever thought about that. I guess I just took it for granted that you grew up just like I did.”
He shook his head. “I’m spirit, Mya. I was created. Not born.”
Closing my eyes, I settled my cheek back on the soft cotton of his tee shirt again, grateful he wasn’t just spirit at the moment. I liked being able to see him, hear him, and touch him. The manifestation of his spirit was one hell of a sexy man.
I grinned, thinking. “I bet you would have been a beautiful baby. All those wild blonde curls and big blue eyes.” Just the idea was making me wistful. “And as a little boy, you would have been so adorable. All the little girls would be wanting to steal kisses from you. You would have made all the other little boys jealous.”
I felt more than heard him chuckle. “Well, I don’t know about that,” he said, his voice soft and sounding as wistful as I felt. “There’s only one little girl I would have let steal kisses from me. I would have probably stolen some kisses from her as well.”
My eyes popped open. I imagined a secret childhood crush of his: some pretty little doe-eyed girl with freckles and red hair maybe. “Oh yeah? And just who might that be?”
He laughed again. Probably because I sounded so unreasonably indignant at the notion. “You, silly!”
“Oh…oh that’s all right then.” I settled down against him again, my mind off and running now. “I guess I never really thought about how you’ve never gotten to experience childhood stuff like going to school, trick-or-treating, prom night, or even having a birthday party. That’s kind of sad in a way.”
He smiled. “I have so. I’ve experienced all those things through you. I went to school. I even studied art with you at Flagler College. When you were little and went trick-or-treating with your daddy, I went along too. I tagged along to all those high school dances and trips to the malls. I’ve seen every movie you have and watched every one of your favorite T.V. shows with you. Every time your birthday comes around, it’s like I have one too.”
Intrigued, I pushed myself off him and faced him once more. “You’ve lived my life with me, haven’t you? You know everything I do. You’ve experienced all that I have.” I paused to consider such a thing. “But you don’t have your own birthday to celebrate.”
I could tell he didn’t understand what I was getting at. He gave me that curious puppy dog head tilt of his. I smiled to reassure him.
“You know, you ought to have a birthday of your own. We’ll make tomorrow your birthday. A day to celebrate you.” And just like that, I made it official.
“That’s real sweet of you, but I’m fine with celebrating yours.”
I shook my head. I was already getting into the idea. “No! Listen, it would be fun. It would be a little something I could do for you to let you know how special you are to me. I could decorate the rectory with balloons and streamers. Maybe a banner that says ‘Happy Birthday, Percy!’ over the mantle.”
The angel peered back at me like I was crazy. “Keep in mind I’m not turning five.”
The more I thought about it though, the more I liked it. “I could buy you presents and wrap them up with ribbons. We could have a party with cake and ice cream and fruit punch in one of those big glass bowls for everybody to help themselves with.”
“Mya, for goodness sake! I don’t want you to go to all that trouble for me! I forbid you to buy me presents.”
I laughed. “Ooo! Forbid? Listen to you.”
Pershabael grinned. “I figured you'd get a kick out of that. But really, Mya, I don’t need anything and I already have everything I could possibly want. It’s not that I don’t appreciate….” His voice trailed off as something clearly occurred to him. “Cake?”
I smiled ear to ear now, knowing I had him hooked. Pershabael had quite the sweet tooth and loved to indulge himself in my homemade baked goods. He could down an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting.
“Oh absolutely!” I gushed. “You have to have a birthday cake! With butter cream frosting and candy sprinkles. I’ll even put little candles on it and everything. There are all kinds of cakes you can choose too. Just tell me what kind you would like and I’ll bake it for you.” I leaned forward and dropped a delighted kiss on his lips. “Just nothing real fancy, because I’m not a professional decorator or anything like that.”
The angel seemed fascinated with all the wondrous possibilities now. “Well, what’s a good birthday one?”
I had to stop and think. “Any kind of cake is good. You can’t go wrong no matter what kind you pick. Chocolate with chocolate fudge frosting was always my favorite, but you might like marble, or white, or yellow. There’s cherry even, or carrot. Pineapple Upside Down cake. Pound cakes and Bunt cakes.” I thought of one that made me laugh. “Oh wait, I’ve got it! Angel Food.”
“Ha ha ha,” Pershabael commented dryly. For a moment he looked flustered, and then he fixed his eyes on me and smiled. “Oh, I don’t know. Surprise me. Like you said, any kind will be good, especially if you bake it for me, and isn’t that what birthdays are all about? Surprises?” He dipped his head to kiss me.
“Presents and a party too!”
He frowned at that. “No presents. You bake a cake for me and that will be enough of a birthday present right there.”
I was kind of disappointed he didn’t want some lavish celebration, but then knowing Pershabael, I shouldn’t have been. It was fun to give him things though. He was always so gracious—even for small things like guitar picks and scented shampoos. I tried again. “No presents?”
Blinking back at me, the angel turned his head. “Well…maybe just one.” He kissed me again, sliding his warm full lips over mine with a provocative sensuality.
I kind of had an idea what he had in mind now. “My body?” I murmured against his mouth as I smoothed my hand over the span of his chest. To my dismay, he actually chuckled.
“I was going to say ‘your heart’,” he informed me and nuzzled my cheek.
I sighed. “Percy, you’re hopelessly romantic,” I said to chastise him, but it didn’t sound that way as breathless as I was. “You already have my heart and you know it.”
Pershabael kissed a line across my brow. “You serve up your sweet body to me along with your heart and that will be the perfect present.”
Now I smiled and kissed him back deeper. That was good to know. “Sweeter than cake?”
“Mmmm,” he replied as if that rich frosting was already melting in his mouth. “I’ll let you know.”
I peered over at the clock on the nightstand next to our bed. It was a little past midnight now. I couldn’t believe I was still awake, but I couldn’t seem to turn my brain off. I kept thinking about tomorrow and everything I wanted and needed to do for Pershabael’s birthday.
In a way, I wished now I hadn’t declared tomorrow his birthday. By doing so, I hadn’t given myself very much time to organize the kind of celebration he deserved. Next week would have been better. Granted, I wasn’t throwing him a grand gala or lavishing him with gifts, but I still wanted to make the day special for him and I still had shopping to do for it.
Sighing, I snuggled closer to the slumbering angel and pulled his arm around me tighter, squeezing his hand as I did. He mumbled something unintelligible to me in return and squeezed my hand back. It seemed he fell back asleep a moment later. I could hear the slow, steady rhythm of his breath against my ear and feel the relaxed weight of his body spooning mine.
Closing my eyes, I smiled with true bliss and concentrated on the comforting sense of security and peace I always felt in his arms. I needed to get to sleep if I was going to be any good tomorrow. After all, I had a cake to bake.
Something occurred to me just then which made my eyes fly open once more. With a squeak of excitement, I shifted around to face Pershabael and shook him awake.
He cracked one bright blue eye open and regarded me rather warily through it. “What darlin’? What’s wrong?”
I smiled at him and kissed him hard. That seemed to wake him up a little more. His hand moved to cradle the back of my head and he emitted a little moan into my mouth.
I eased away from him with another contented sigh. “I just realized! It’s after midnight! It’s your birthday! I want to be the first to wish you happy birthday.”
“Birthday?” he repeated as if he didn’t really know what I was talking about. Then he cracked a smile. “Oh yeah. You’re going to bake me a cake today.”
I slipped my arms around his neck and hugged him. “I swear you’re more excited about that cake than anything.” It was cute though.
“I can’t help it,” he half-apologized. “I’ve never had a birthday cake before.” He gathered me up against him and hugged me back. “Thanks for the birthday wishes. You were the first too.”
I knew he was kind of teasing me, but that was all right too. Feeling pleased and satisfied, I closed my eyes again and reviewed the different kinds of cakes there were, trying to decide, until I finally drifted off to sleep.
Downing the last of my coffee, I went over my grocery list one more time before stuffing it in my purse. I picked up my car keys and bent to drop a quick kiss on Pershabael’s cheek as he sat at the kitchen table sipping mint tea and reading the news.
“I’ll be back in an hour or so,” I told him and turned towards the door.
“Wait!” the angel said, snagging my arm in his hand to keep me from escaping. He set the newspaper aside. “Where are you off to?”
I took a deep breath. “Percy, I have to get to the store. I need to pick up a few things.”
He blinked up at me as if he didn’t understand. “Well, can’t I come along?”
Being my guardian angel, I knew he was more or less hard-wired to want to be with me every second of every minute of the day, but today, I had to do this on my own.
I gaped back at him. “No! I’m going shopping for your birthday. You can’t come with me. It’ll ruin the surprise!” It was going to be hard enough surprising him since he always knew my whereabouts, what I was feeling, and in most cases, what I was thinking.
Now he was pouting. “I suppose.” He released me and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest.
It was hard not giving into him, but I was determined. I realized I was going to have to give him something to do while I was gone.
“Percy, I really need you to clear the yard implements off the walls in the outbuilding and take the shop vac to all those spider webs out there for me.” It was all I could think of at the spur of the moment.
He looked aghast, sitting up and letting his arms slid from his chest. “What?!”
I bit my lower lip and tried to look desperate. “Please? It would really help me out.”
“But it’s my birthday!”
I fought not to grin. “C’mon. You know I can’t stand spiders. I don’t even like to walk in there now with all those webs everywhere.”
With a clear sigh of resignation, my angel rose to his feet. He shook his shaggy head. “Poor spiders never did a thing to you and here you want me to go and murder them all.” Now he cracked a smile. “Live and let live, Mya.”
I took hold of his waist and steered him towards the back door. “Yeah, but not in my storage outbuilding.”
He leaned over and stole a parting kiss. “Fine. Go get my cake,” he reminded just before slipping outside and closing the door behind him.
I stood where I was and put my hands on my hips. For the first time since I’d come up with this idea, I was worried. I hadn’t baked a cake in…years actually, and while the ready-made store mixes simplified the whole process a hundred times over, baking cakes could be tricky. As it was, the last one I baked fell and was horribly lopsided. Sometimes they came out dry. Sometimes they fell apart. If there was one thing I needed to do for Pershabael today, it was bake him a perfect cake. It was the one thing he was really and truly looking forward to. The pressure was on.
By the time I got home it was well after noon and I hadn’t accomplished a thing, but I didn’t want Pershabael to wind up spending most of his birthday alone, so I just came back home empty-handed. I hadn’t intended taking so long, but first, I couldn’t decide what kind of cake I wanted, and then I couldn’t decide what kind of frosting would go best with the different cakes. There was an insane array of choices, but none of them jumped out at me.
I wanted his cake to be special since he was so excited about it. A boxed short-cut version just didn’t feel right. In the end, I decided to just find a recipe in one of my cookbooks. To make matters worse, I killed a good part of another hour trying to pick out a birthday card. Talk about choices, and then of course, I had to read through each and every one to make sure I was choosing a card that said what I felt, but I couldn’t find one that fit. I gave up on that too considering the person I was thinking of buying a card for could read my mind and already knew what was in my heart. A pre-printed sentiment wasn’t going to cut it.
The only thing my absence had accomplished was making the angel happy to see me return. Apparently I had not only given him ample time to finish the chore I had assigned him, but I’d also given him enough time to shower and shave and change clothes.
As it was, he was waiting by the front door for me. His long hair was drying in shimmering waves around all those smooth chiseled lines of his face. His swarthy skin looked as warm and soft as it felt and was emitting that ethereal, angelic scent of misty rain he sometimes had about him. Top all that off with a threadbare black tee shirt that showed off his muscular torso to perfection and the most form-fitting jeans he owned--which he didn’t ever bother to fasten at the waist, and to say he was a sight for sore eyes would have been a gross understatement.
He greeted me with a welcoming smile before seizing me and kissing me like I had been gone for weeks instead of hours. For a few delicious moments, I forgot how fruitless my shopping trip had been and indulged myself in his lovely mouth. Of course, the instant he touched me, he knew something was wrong. He eased away from me and looked at me, his bright blue eyes dimming with concern.
“Something the matter?”
I sighed. “Um, no. What makes you say that?” I tried to sound nonchalant.
Pershabael pursed his lips and looked thoughtful. I knew he was sifting through my mind and tapping into my feelings for some evidence to back up his suspicions.
“Don’t lie to me, young lady,” he warned. “You’re upset. I can tell.”
Wrapping my arms around his waist, I stretched up to kiss him again. “It’s nothing, really. I just have to come up with a plan B.”
“B as in baking and B as in birthday cake.”
He grinned. “Is plan B bad then?” He put his arms around me and gave me a little hug.
I slumped against him. “Not necessarily, no, but it’s just that I couldn’t find anything at the store I thought was even remotely worthy of you, so now I’m going to have to find something I can bake you from scratch and the chances of that are slim to none. I just don’t have much faith in my ability to make you the kind of birthday cake you truly deserve.” I was getting more depressed by the moment, in spite of Pershabael’s cuddling.
“Oh, don’t you fret,” he whispered in my ear and dropped a quick kiss on my forehead. “I know how much you love me, Mya, and I love you just the same. You may think your offering of cake is unworthy of me, but in truth, because you’re offering it to me with all that love you have for me, that cake will be more than worthy. You may not have faith in yourself, but I have faith in you. Your cake will be perfect and I know I’ll enjoy every crumb of it.”
I peered up at him with nothing short of complete adoration. “You’re such a good person.” I already felt better.
He smiled. “You want some help? I can do the prep work for you. I know how you hate all that measuring.”
“No thanks,” I told him. “I appreciate it, but if this cake is going to be from me, I need to just bite the bullet and measure the ingredients myself.” I gave him a little squeeze. “You’re welcome to keep me company through all that bullet biting if you like.”
“I like,” he agreed and followed me into the kitchen. He took a seat at the table and watched me as I pulled a couple of my cookbooks off the shelf. I carried them over to the table and then pushed one his way.
“Here. Pick out a recipe.”
The angel accepted the cookbook and thumbed through it, looking intent. I sat down opposite him and opened the old Betty Crocker cookbook my daddy had gotten for me when I was in middle school. I found the section for cakes and read through some. I spied one right away that looked good, but I was missing a key ingredient. I flipped through a couple more pages until I saw a recipe for a basic yellow cake, but it since I hadn’t bought any frosting, I would have to make some and that frosting called for 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and I didn’t have any. I looked for another frosting I could use. Some of the frostings looked harder to make than some of the cakes.
“What’s penuche?” I asked, half to Percy, half to myself.
Pershabael looked up from the cookbook he was reading and shrugged. “If you don’t know, I certainly don’t.”
I sighed and gestured his way. “Aren’t you finding any recipes that sound good?”
He smiled. “They all sound good.”
“Well, read me one.”
For a moment he looked like I had put him on the spot, but then he licked his lips and focused his attention back on the cookbook.
“Four cups cubed chicken or turkey, one can, 4 ounces, of mushrooms, drained, one can of water chestnuts—“
“What? That’s not a cake recipe! What is that?” I tried to look at the page he was reading from. Apparently, he was looking at poultry recipes.
He offered me an apologetic look. “It’s a chicken-almond casserole. It sounds real good.”
I sat back with a heavy sigh, fixing my eyes on him to let him know he was not helping. “You’re supposed to be looking for a cake.”
Pershabael closed the cookbook. “Sorry. I got distracted.” He leaned forward and propped his head up in his hands on the table. “Can’t you find any?”
I made a face. “Yes, but the ones I like won’t work. I’m missing different things I need in order to make them.” I gave him a contrite look of my own. “I guess I really didn’t plan this whole birthday thing out too well. Looks like I can’t even bake you a cake.”
Pershabael got up and moseyed over to where I sat. He leaned down and put his arms around me. “Aw, darlin’. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. I love that you want to do this for me as much as you do, but I don’t like that it’s causing you the trouble it is. I don’t need a cake. Really I don’t. It would have been a nice treat, but I really already have everything I could possibly want.” He pressed a soft kiss on my brow. “Right here.”
My heart just kind of melted at the absolute sincerity in his words. Taking a deep breath, I knew that more or less sealed it for me. Now I felt bad. Real bad. Sure this whole cake thing had become a big bother, but wasn’t he so worth it? I could stand to be a little inconvenienced and troubled for his sake, for crying out loud.
I pushed him back and shot to my feet. Tossing aside my cookbook, I grabbed for my purse and headed for the door.
“Now where are you going?” the angel asked, his eyes wide.
“Pershabael, you say stuff like that and I just want to kick myself!” I stated. “All you wanted me to do for you today was bake you a cake and I’m blowing this whole thing way out of proportion, making a big issue of every last thing like doing this one small thing for you is a big imposition. Well, even if it were, you’re still worth it so I’m going back to the store and I’m getting you a cake. You are gonna have a cake for your birthday. I swear it!”
The angel grinned, his eyes twinkling with amusement now. “Don’t swear,” he murmured and blew me a kiss as I hurried out the door.
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