The Angel Wears Prada
by Cheryl Dragon
eBook ISBN: CHRDRG0000001
A fallen angel who adores the finer things in the human world is also looking for a Valentine’s date. Lonal longed for romance and human sexuality so much that he fell to earth to experience love. He just can’t find it. Sex and lust are easy to enjoy, but he wants a soul mate. It’s a good thing Lonal has a few tricks up his wings!
Life on Earth could be mundane at times and insanely stressful at others. Lonal had missed heaven many times, but so far he hadn’t actually wanted to go back. He was determined to experience more.
“I went with the earth tones that Mr. Orchard requested but with a little twist.” Lonal nervously showed his boss the spacious, high-rise Manhattan apartment he’d decorated. It was Lonal’s big shot on his own.
“A metallic twist?” Dick Jamison sneered.
“Well, he wanted something fun and hip for an escape and to entertain when he’s in New York on business. Nothing obnoxious or loud, just earth tones. That’s hard to make fun.” Lonal had listened intently to every word hot and flirty Orchard had said. Tall and powerful, the man made it easy to focus on him.
His client was the total opposite of his boss from hell. In the year and a half since Lonal had fallen from heaven, he’d found a job doing something he loved for a man he hated. Dick was short, bald, and loved to torture his new designers. Things could be worse, but the real reason he’d fallen was still just a dream. Love remained elusive.
The door of the large loft apartment opened and Orchard walked in—half an hour early. The witch was attractive and assimilated to the human world. As much as Lonal had tried to date human men, he’d found it hard to explain his powers and even harder to stop using them. His odds would be better with someone from the paranormal subculture, which in New York, was plentiful.
“Olive is over, Lonal,” Dick said but snapped his mouth shut when he turned and saw the client.
Orchard held up a hand and walked around the entire apartment in silence. He stopped in front of Lonal and smiled.
“Of course, if you like olive, Mr. Orchard then that’s what you get. You wanted it designed custom, and we aim to please.” Dick shot a glare at Lonal.
Even when he did well, Lonal would get the blame for anything that displeased his ogre of a boss.
Being a fallen angel wasn’t all he’d hoped, but Lonal wasn’t ready to give up yet. He loved making rooms and places look good. Life was hard enough, high-priced or low; homes could be comfortable and pleasant…a sanctuary.
“Am I anywhere close to your vision, Mr. Orchard?” Lonal asked.
“I like it all. Dick, you can leave.” Orchard waved his hand.
“But…” Dick turned bright red.
“I’m pleased. Send your bill to my office. This is my apartment, please leave your key and go.” Orchard nodded to the door.
Dick didn’t utter a word and followed Orchard’s instructions, but Lonal knew he’d never hear the end of this incident later. Interior design firms weren’t exactly begging for new hires with a fake history and little practical experience.
The job market was tight, and fallen angels didn’t get a divine salary. He could fly when needed, project immense power to protect or heal people, and kept his immortality, but he had to pay his own way.
He had done all of this to find the type of love only humans enjoyed. The lust, the passion, the heartbreak, and the happy connection with a soul mate had nearly driven Lonal mad with envy. He wanted that with someone. As an angel, he’d become obsessed with granting love and repairing it, but never having it had consumed him.
“That boss of yours is evil. Even for a human,” Orchard laughed.
Lonal smiled. “He is, but I have to pay the bills, and he’s well connected. Do you really like the work?”
Orchard looked Lonal up and down then nodded. “It’s perfect. I’ll make sure Dick knows just how pleased I am. He just annoys me so much with his obvious sucking up. I wouldn’t have dealt with him except that he knows about the paranormal subculture.”
“Same here. He keeps my secret so he can’t be completely bad. Thank you for the opportunity. I’ve got pictures of my work. Now I can look around for another position with this design credit. Or maybe do some work on my own someday.” Lonal wanted to ask the witch out, but he felt a barrier. It must’ve shown.
“What is it?” Orchard asked.
Grinning, Lonal ignored the urge to scratch his back. The wings wanted to come out and whisk him away. “I was wondering, now that the business side of things is done, if you’d like to grab a drink some time?”
“Having trouble making friends outside of heaven?” he chuckled.
Lonal’s heart sank. He was always attracted to men who laughed at him and thought he was an adorable little angel but somehow asexual. That image of cupid and cherubs had really taken hold in most human societies and rubbed off on other paranormals. Angels weren’t so innocent.
“Actually I am having trouble networking well, but…” Lonal shrugged it off.
“I’m sorry. You meant an actual date?” Orchard shook his head. “Fallen angels are rare, and it’s bad luck to tamper with them. At least that’s the superstition. The truth is, I like you but I’m already involved.”
“Right, I should’ve known. Thanks anyway. Sorry I made it awkward.” Lonal wasn’t good at picking up men. He got hit on plenty, but, other than sexual gratification, he’d struck out on love. None of the intense emotion he’d really longed for had turned up in his life on Earth. While watching humans live their lives, he’d seen so much passion and deep love that it seemed common.
Orchard pulled a card out of his wallet. “Relax, it’s hard to connect with people in this city, especially if you’re sort of a misfit. I suggest you check out this place. They’ll match you with someone appropriate. The other person will be genuinely looking too.”
Lonal took the plain white card and read it:
Where Love Finds You
2323 Lovers Lane, New York
“Thanks. I’m not sure this is how it’s supposed to happen. What I saw from above was a lot of head-over-heels love out of the blue.” Lonal stared at the card.
“Romantics. That isn’t as common as it might look.” Orchard shook his head. “Try it. What do you have to lose?”
Lonal’s attempt to find a date for Valentine’s Day had thus far failed. The name cupid on the card could be a sign. “Okay, thanks. I’ve been getting a little discouraged.”
“You’re in a unique situation, but you must believe that the right guy is out there. That place understands paranormal. No judgment. Trust me. Now back to the professional side of our relationship.” Orchard handed Lonal an envelope.
“What’s this?” Lonal opened it and found a bunch one hundred dollar bills.
“Consider it a tip. You did everything I asked, and I’m pretty sure Dick isn’t going to give you a commission if this is your first solo gig. If you need a reference for a new job, feel free to list me. Don’t let that jerk push you around forever.” Orchard patted Lonal on the shoulder.
“Thanks.” Lonal knew exactly what he’d do with that money. He’d been eying a designer leather jacket and saving up for it. He lived very simply, but a little confidence couldn’t hurt.
“No problem. Now get out of here. My man is coming over to see this.” Orchard slipped off his suit jacket and glanced in the direction of the bed.
“I understand. Have a great Valentine’s Day.” Lonal grabbed his things, set his key to the apartment on the coffee table, and left quickly. Love nest or work retreat, it wasn’t Lonal’s business. He had some retail therapy to do before he faced the boss from hell again, and as Lonal hit the street, the snow began to fall in a chilly blanket. Some people would say Dick was exactly what a fallen angel deserved on Earth, but Lonal believed he would find someone better.
Two hours later, Lonal returned to his tiny apartment and unwrapped the leather jacket. The smell and soft feel eased his longing for love. Fashion, like good decorating, fed the soul. It let people express themselves without talking. Clothing and furniture spoke volumes to people who were listening.
He slid the coat on and stood in front of his three-way mirror. He wasn’t a narcissist, but he wanted to make sure he looked good for clients and for potential true loves. Every time he left the house. He didn’t have to be perfectly ironed or shaved, sometime a little casual scruff felt right. But he did want to project a certain confidence.
The client today had been right. New York could be harsh, impersonal, and downright cruel. Dick had called twice while Lonal was shopping and harped on little things. Even though the client was thrilled, Dick had to rain on the parade.
Humans liked to do that. Lonal had observed a lot in the gay bars of New York. Some humans loved to triumph over others. If someone else failed, it counted as a friend’s triumph? It made no sense to Lonal, even after his time on Earth and ages of watching from above.
He slid off the jacket and hung it up. The store promised it was treated to be weather-proof, but he hadn’t worn it home in the constant snow fall. Then he felt the tingle.
Heaven periodically tried to call him home. He missed the content and ease of life in the clouds. He missed the supreme powers to help people. This daily struggle to survive was work. Still, how could he grant true love and watch people enjoy the bliss or endure heartbreak when he had no idea what it felt like?
He pulled the card for Cupid Inc. out of his wallet and stared at it for a moment. If he didn’t take every chance, he’d regret it. He needed to go there tomorrow and see what they had to offer.
The option to return to his old life was always there, and he could give up the job and the fashion, but not until he understood love better. If it ended badly, he’d likely ascend back. Secretly, he prayed for true love worth staying for.
* * * *
It was a slow night at Dante’s restaurant in the heart of Manhattan. The sudden snow dump kept lots of people at home for dinner. Not one to waste time, Kaden used the lull to experiment on new sauces.
When he opened his own restaurant, he’d be the head chef and in charge of everything. He wanted his menu perfected by then. Dante’s head chef had called off tonight so there was no one to criticize. The man claimed to be snowed in, and he’d dictated the menu as if Kaden was brainless.
The manager poked his head in the kitchen “We’re going to close early. Start cleaning up. Pack up anything made and enjoy, take it home. No one is coming out in this mess.”
Kaden tossed a couple extra pieces of chicken in the hot pan. They’d been marinating in his secret sauce so couldn’t be returned to the fridge. Dante’s guests wouldn’t get his creations. He used leftovers and extra experiments to feed the lower paid employees whenever he could.
McKenna walked in the back. “Need any help?”
He shook his head at the lovely old vampire. She was the one paranormal friend Kaden had at the restaurant who wasn’t suspicious or trying to stab him in the back. The restaurant catered to both humans and paranormal beings.
“No, I’m good. Want dinner?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “I’ve got plenty of blood at home.”
The tamed vampire drank butcher-shop blood, and he admired her control. Kaden understood her struggle better than most. Every day he chose to be good instead of evil. It sounded easier than it was.
“Then why are you lingering? Go home, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” He winked at her.
“What’s wrong, Kaden? You’re more depressed than usual.” She watched him dish out the cooked meet with rice and veggies into plastic containers.
He nodded to the bus boys and dishwashers. “Should be enough for all of you.”
They smiled at Kaden and mumbled thanks as they stashed away the perk and headed out the back into the snow.
“You’re too good to them,” McKenna said.
“They get paid crap and treated worse. A little food doesn’t hurt. It’s better for them than fast food junk.” Kaden tried to do something good for humans every day. He’d done so much damage before he’d never make up for it.
She put the one container left in a bag. “You need to eat, too. And you need some happiness. If all you do is work and beat yourself up about the past, you’ll backslide.”
Very few people knew he was an ex-demon. He managed to keep his powers under wraps with humans and let paranormal individuals believe he still had demon friends so they feared him a bit. The scores of demons Kaden had worked with for centuries, however, never forgot about Kaden. The pull was powerful. McKenna had sensed his power and restraint.
“You don’t backslide and drink human blood. You don’t attack.” Kaden pointed out.
She smiled. “But I don’t go around trying to repay the human race. I wish I could bring those people back to life, but I don’t relive my bad past every day or every hour. You can’t change what you did any more than I can. That guilt will ruin you, if you let it.”
“It’s not guilt, I don’t have a soul. How can I have guilt?” Kaden grabbed the bag. “I regret what I did. I made a lot of bad choices. I won’t keep hurting people, and, in my own little way, I try to help.”
“In order to keep making good choices, you need to be strong. You need someone in your life who supports you in the good things when you’re away from work. If you have no joy in life, you’ll go back to the demons. Power is intoxicating. You’re not human, you don’t have to make it fifty more years. You’re immortal.” McKenna had found a small group of vampires who’d given up attacking humans for various reasons. They were the closest thing to a group of friends. At least he could associate with some paranormal creatures. Those vamps almost understood him. Still, that didn’t give them a soul and they mostly didn’t seem to care. Kaden kept it to himself but part of him felt hollow at being good but soulless.
Yet he was still alone.
“You’re immortal, too. Plus, you didn’t want to be a vampire. That was done to you. I deserve to be punished.”
“Forever? I don’t agree. And I have a good boyfriend who encourages me in the right direction.” She pulled a card from her pocket. “One of the vamps gave me that. This Cupid Inc. apparently has a good record of matching up paranormal types. I want you to get a date for Valentine’s Day since you have it off. At least get laid. Sex with hot men is something you can enjoy now and forever without negative consequences.”
He picked up the card and sighed. “This looks like people who want love not a one-night stand.”
“I think you need both so whatever you get, take it. New York has plenty of hot men out there for you, but you never go after them.” She patted his hand. “Promise me you’ll go.”
He nodded. “I promise I’ll give it a try.”
“Good. Now I’m going to go home and enjoy the snow.” McKenna left as silently as she’d entered. None of the humans ever questioned why she refused to work before dusk, the perk of a paranormal tolerant workplace. He’d help her stay off human blood as much as he could. He didn’t have many friends, and he wanted to treat the ones he had right.
She was one of the few creatures like himself; they’d chosen to be good. McKenna, however, had had no choice about being turned into a vampire. She was attacked walking home from work in her early twenties. They’d turned her before she even knew vampires were real.
Unlike his friend, Kaden had no one to blame for his turning into a demon but himself. His soul hadn’t been stolen, he’d given up it up willingly.