The next morning, Tessa went about her usual routine. The only difference was that when she was approaching the section of her run where she’d pass Aziraphale, the angel stepped out, blocking her path. “Is everything alright Azira?” Tessa asked, taking out her earbuds. He’d never stopped her before. Well…there was that one time when she first started six months ago but apart from that, he never stopped her again.
“No, not exactly”, Aziraphale replied “I want to talk to you…well warn you about Crowley”.
“You mean Anthony?” Tessa asked.
“Y-yes him”, the angel confirmed “he’s not what he seems. He’ll tempt you into doing thing you wouldn’t normally do. For your own safety, you need to stay away from him”.
“Azira…its really sweet that you’re concerned but Anthony is just another customer”, Tessa assured him “I’m pretty sure that once I’ve helped his other plants, I wont see him again”. She put her earbuds back into her ears and ran off. Aziraphale watched her disappearing form and sighed.
“That went well”, he muttered to himself, rather disheartened that she didn’t believe him. He couldn’t give up! He just couldn’t! Aziraphale slipped inside his shop. He needed tea, lots of it if he was going to figure out how to keep Tessa safe from Crowley.
As Tessa walked up to her shop, Veronica was standing there, impatiently. “What time do you call this?” she demanded.
“Uh…half an hour before I open?” Tessa said digging her keys out of her bag.
“Don’t get smart with me young lady!” Veronica snapped “I’ve been waiting here for ages!”
“My shop opens at 9”, Tessa stated unlocking the door and stepping inside “you are fully aware of this so if you want to turn up early, that is not my fault”. Veronica gaped at her like a fish as the blonde busied herself around the little building, getting it ready.
“How much of my order did you get done?” Veronica decided to ask instead of having a go at her.
“The main table centrepiece”, Tessa answered.
“That’s it?!” the older woman exclaimed, her voice rising “that’s not good enough”.
“I was busy”, Tessa informed her, tweaking a display “I had other customers to deal with”.
“Well, from now on you’ll be focusing on my order and mine alone”, Veronica ordered “unless you want that rent of yours to go sky high”.
Tessa’s hands shook with anger but she took a deep breath to reign it in. She turned to the woman “I’m not going to forgo my other customers for you”, she calmly said “but I’ll put in some extra hours in the evening to focus on your order”.
It wasn’t what Veronica wanted to hear, however it was a comprise she could accept…for the moment. “Very well”, she said “I’ll be checking in tomorrow and you’d better make more progress” and with that she swept out of the shop.
“Bitch”, Tessa grumbled and continued setting up. She did her best to put on a friendly face for the people who stopped by. They didn’t deserve her foul mood. In between helping them, she carried on with Veronica’s order. She was so focused in trying to get as much of it done, that before she knew it, it was almost 6.
The young woman stepped out from behind the counter to lock up the store when the world suddenly tilted and she fell to the floor. That was were Crowley found her, minutes later. “Tessa!” he exclaimed rushing over to her, taking care to put his plant down first. He’d meant to come over sooner but he had some things to take care of beforehand. “What happened?” he asked, easing her into a sitting postion.
“Went to go lock the door…the world went spinny and down I went”, Tessa explained “it could be because I haven’t eaten yet”.
“Well, then lets get you some food”, Crowley said helping her up “there’s a table for two Ritz”.
“One: I’d never be let into the Ritz, least of all looking like this” Tessa gestured to herself, tendrils of blonde hair falling out of the bun on her head and glitter spotted on her clothes “Two: I have this big order for Mrs Blake that needs finishing for by next week. And she’s gonna be checking up on me in the morning and…”
“Screw her”, Crowley cut in, rather bluntly “don’t risk your wellbeing because you’re trying to please some uppity woman. And I’ll be there tomorrow to set her straight if she starts on you”.
“Please don’t Anthony”, Tessa said “it’ll just make things worse”.
“Ok, I won’t”, Crowley said though he had no intention of keeping his word “now, the Ritz awaits”.
“I still don’t think a fancy restaurant is such a good idea”, Tessa said flicking the lights off and locking the door, the demon staying close in case she seemed like she was going to fall down again.
“Where would you like to go instead?” Crowley asked.
“Mmm…I’m seriously craving a pizza. How about Pizza Hut?” Tessa suggested.
“Sure”, Crowley agreed. Not his first choice but if that’s where she wanted to go, then that’s where he’ll take her.
Tessa settled back in the front seat of Crowley’s Bentley very warm and full from all that pizza she ate. All that food was making her very sleepy too. “Thanks for dinner Anthony”, she murmured, resting her head against the window.
“You’re welcome”, Crowley said and started up the car. He’d learnt a little about the young florist during dinner, including how she’d always had a love for not just flowers and plants but nature in general. He was also pleased to discover that she liked to listen to Queen too.
It was several minutes later when he pulled up to her building. He reached over and gently shook the slumbering blonde awake. “Mmm?” Tessa mumbled sleepily, opening her eyes to look at him.
“We’re here”, Crowley said.
“Right”, Tessa said. She was about to open the car door when the demon opened it for her “thanks”.
“Do you want me to pick you up tomorrow?” Crowley asked as she stepped out of the car “you know, to take you work”.
“That’s very kind of you but I’d rather walk though I will definitely see you at my shop where your little plant will be right as rain”, Tessa replied “And you better be on your best behaviour. So no ticking off Mrs Blake”, she added in a stern tone.
“I make no promises”, the demon said.
“I suppose that’s the best I’m going to get”, Tessa said “goodnight Anthony”.
“Goodnight Tessa”, Crowley said.
“Tessa can I have a word?” Aziraphale asked as she blew past him the next morning.
“Later Azira!” the blonde called back. The angel sighed, disappointed that he couldn’t talk to her. Maybe he’ll swing by her shop later to attempt to have another conversation with her. As she ran past her shop, Veronica was standing there. The woman blocked her path, forcing the blonde to stop.
“Isn’t this a nice coincidence?” Veronica remarked.
“I guess”, Tessa said slowly.
“Since we’re both here now, do you think I could inspect your handy work?” Veronica asked.
“I don’t have the shop key on me right now”, Tessa said “but if you wanna wait here, I’ll be back in about an hour and I’ll show you then”. She tried to step around her but the older woman grabbed her arm.
“I want to see it NOW”, Veronica demanded, digging her nails into Tessa’s skin.
“I don’t have the key on me right now!” the blonde insisted.
“Good morning, Tessa”, Crowley greeted, suddenly appearing behind her. Veronica quickly released the younger woman. “How are you, love?” the demon asked, sliding an arm around Tessa’s waist, pressing a kiss to her temple.
“I’m fine”, she replied, rather surprised by the affection he was giving her.
“And you must be Veronica Blake”, Crowley said, turning his attention to the other female who, he was pleased to note, was looking rather uncomfortable “My girl here has told me all about you”.
“Oh?” Veronica asked “what did tell you?”
“She told me that you’re very demanding and have unrealistic expectations”, Crowley answered “now I suggest that you leave, right now”. Much to the relief of Tessa, Veronica left without saying a word.
“Thanks for the save”, she said, stepping away from the demon.
“You’re welcome”, Crowley said.
“I better get back to my place”, Tessa said “otherwise I’m gonna be late to open up”, she added nodding to the shop.
“Want some company?” Crowley offered.
“Only if you can keep up in those trousers of yours”, Tessa said and took off before he could respond. The demon ran after her. He could’ve easily fallen into step with her but he had a much better view hanging back.
“So this is your home”, Crowley remarked as Tessa let him into her flat.
“Yep”, Tessa said, dropping her keys into the little bowl by the door “I’m gonna go freshen up. Be back in a minute”. While she showered, Crowley poked around her little place. It was nice he supposed, not the kind of place he would live in but it definitely suited Tessa.
She wasn’t kidding when she told him that she always loved nature. There were flowers and plants dotted all over the place and they were all thriving. A couple of landscapes hung on the walls and a few photos as well. One particular photograph caught his eye. It was of Tessa in a white dress standing on a beach at sunset. With the light, her outfit and the way she was standing…she looked almost ethereal.
He then spotted another photograph, one that was turned around. Crowley picked it up and flipped it over to see a young man next to Tessa, both smiling at each other. “Ok Anthony I’m ready to…” Tessa trailed off when she saw Crowley holding the photograph. She walked over to him and snatched it out of his hands “you shouldn’t look through other people’s stuff”, she scolded before tossing it onto the sofa “now, we’re going to go to my shop so I can fix your plant and then you’re going to leave”.
She didn’t bother to wait for Crowley to say anything or to even apologise when she walked out. He glanced at the photograph wondering who that man was and why she had such as reaction to him looking at the picture.
“Tessa I’m sorry”, the demon said as they walked down the street “I shouldn’t have done that”.
“No, you shouldn’t have”, the blonde said, crossly “and I’m not talking to you about it cos its none of your damn business”. Crowley was disappointed but he understood. People were allowed to have secrets. Heck he had a really big one…he was a demon.
The moment Tessa got to the shop, she scooped up Crowley’s plant and disappeared into her back room. She came back a moment later. “Here”, she said pushing the plant at him “I suggest you don’t come back for a while”.
Crowley nodded “ok”, he agreed. Tessa watched him go before she crossed to the door, locked it and flipped the sign to closed. She sank to the floor, pressing her face against her legs and let out a scream, the sound being muffled by the denim.