Unearthly Page 47

“So, you said your uncle took you camping? Was your campsite close to here?” I ask.

He looks confused. “Uh, it was in Teton. An out-of-the-way kind of place.”

“So you didn’t drive there?”

“No, we hiked.” He’s still thrown by my choice in topic.

“I just ask because I want to get into camping this summer. I want to try hiking, too. Sleeping under the stars. We never did that in California.”

“You’ve moved to the right place then,” he says. “There are entire books written about the awesome places to camp here.”

I wonder if we’ll be together at one of these campsites when the forest fire starts.

We dance closely through the final chorus, then the song ends, and we step back from each other a little awkwardly.

“You know what I’m suddenly craving?” I say to break the silence. “Punch.”

We make our way over to the refreshments table and pile a few Greek olives, crackers, and a little bit of Feta cheese on tiny plastic plates. I don’t get a lot because I’m not sure what it would do to my breath. We find an empty table and sit. I spot Angela gyrating around in a dance with a tall, blond boy I’ve seen in the hall a few times. Tyler something, I think she said his name was. The bloodred dress that her mother sewed for her looks fantastic. She’s lined her golden eyes with heavy black that tips up in the corners like an ancient Egyptian’s. If this dance is about Mythic Love, then she’s a goddess, all right. Only she’s the kind of goddess who demands blood sacrifices. She catches my eye and gives me a quick thumbs-up, then dances suggestively around the boy while he simply stands there bobbing in time to the music.

“You’re friends with Angela?” asks Christian.

“Yeah.”

“She’s kind of intense.”

“You’re not the first person to tell me that,” I say, laughing because he has no idea how crazy intense Angela can be. He hasn’t heard her discussing the mind-reading abilities of the Intangere. “I think people get intimidated by how smart she is. Like people get intimidated by you—” I stop myself.

“What? You think people are intimidated by me? Why?”

“Because you’re so . . . perfect and popular and good at everything you try.”

“Perfect,” he scoffs, and he has the grace to look genuinely embarrassed.

“It’s annoying, actually.”

He laughs. Then he reaches across the table and grabs my hand, making all my nerves light up.

“Believe me, I’m not perfect,” he says.

From that point on things go really well. Christian’s a model date. He’s charming, attentive, thoughtful. Not to mention hotness personified. For a while I forget all about my purpose. I just dance. I let that magnetic feeling of being near him fill me up until everything else falls away. I’m literally having the time of my life.

Until Kay shows up. Of course she’s gorgeous in this lavender lace gown that hugs her shoulders and accentuates her tiny waist. Her dark hair is pinned up, curls cascading down to brush the back of her neck. Something in her hair catches the light and sparkles. She has one elbow-length-white-satin-glove-covered arm curled around her date’s waist as she walks in, laughing up into his face like she’s having a marvelous time. She doesn’t even look in our direction. She pulls her date onto the dance floor as the next slow song begins to play.

Christian draws me closer. Our bodies come together. My head fits perfectly against the curve of his shoulder. I can’t help but close my eyes and breathe him in. And suddenly I’m having the vision again, the strongest I’ve ever had it.

I walk down a dirt road through the forest. Christian’s truck is parked at the road’s edge. I smell smoke; my head feels clouded with it. I start to move away from the road, deeper into the trees. I’m not worried. I know exactly where to find him. My feet take me there without me even having to direct them. When I see him, standing there with his back to me in his black fleece jacket, his hands in his pockets, I’m filled with that familiar grief. The intensity of the sadness makes it hard to breathe. I’m so fragile in that moment, like I could be shattered into a million pieces.

“Christian,” I call.

He turns. He looks at me with a mix of sorrow and relief.

“It’s you,” he says. He starts to walk toward me. Behind him, the fire crests the hill. It’s raging toward us, but I don’t feel afraid. Christian and I walk toward each other until we’re standing face-to-face.

“It’s me,” I answer. “I’m here.” I reach out and take his hand, which feels easy, like I’ve been with him all my life. He lifts his other hand to touch my cheek. His skin’s so hot it’s like a burn, but I don’t pull away. For a moment we stay like that, standing still as if time has stopped, as if the fire isn’t coming for us. And then we’re suddenly in each other’s arms, holding each other tightly, our bodies pressing together like we’re becoming one person, and the ground is falling away beneath us.

I’m back at the dance, gasping for breath. I look up into Christian’s wide green eyes. We’ve stopped dancing and are standing in the middle of the dance floor staring at each other. My heart feels about to beat out of my chest. A wave of dizziness crashes over me, and I sway, my knees suddenly wobbly. Christian’s arms steady me.

“You okay?” He glances around quickly to see if people are watching us. They are. Over his shoulder I see Kay, who looks at me with open hatred in her eyes.

“I need some air.” I break free and run toward the door onto the balcony, bursting out into the cool night. Leaning against the wall, I close my eyes and try to calm my racing heart.

“Clara?”

I open my eyes. Christian’s standing in front of me, looking as shaken as I am, his face pale in the lamplight.

“I’m okay,” I say, smiling to prove it. “It just got a little stuffy in there.”

“I should get you something to drink,” he says, but he doesn’t go anywhere.

“I’m okay.” I feel stupid. Then a flash of anger. I didn’t ask for any of this. So I will fly away with Christian in my arms. And then what? Gorgeous Christian Prescott will go off to save the world, and my part will be done. I’ll have completed—and served—my purpose.

It’s like I’m a prop in someone else’s life.

Prev Next