Unearthly Page 69

“Holy crap.” He takes a step back.

“I know.”

“This isn’t a joke. This isn’t some head game or magic trick. You really have wings.”

“Yeah.” I walk toward him slowly, not wanting to spook him, then turn my back to him again so that he can see them completely. He lifts a hand like he’s going to touch the feathers. My heart feels like it will stop, waiting. No one else has ever handled my wings, and I wonder what it will feel like, to have him touching me there. But then he pulls his hand back.

“Can you fly?” he asks in a strangled voice.

“Yes. But mostly I’m a normal girl.” I know he won’t believe that. I wonder if he’ll ever treat me like a normal girl again. That’s part of what I love about being with Tucker. He makes me feel normal, not in a plain Jane, nondescript way, but like I’m enough, just being me, without all the angel stuff. I almost start to cry thinking I’m going to lose that.

“And what else? What else can you do?”

“Not much, really. I’m only a quarter angel. I don’t even know all that the half angels can do. I can speak any language. I guess that comes in handy for the angels when they’re delivering messages.”

“That’s how you understood the Korean lady at Canyon. And how you talked to the grizzly bear?”

“Yes.”

I glance down at my feet. I’m too afraid to see his face and know that it’s all over. The kiss was three days ago, but it somehow feels like another person’s life. Another girl, standing in the barn, kissing Tucker for the first time. Another girl he loves. Not me. Not little pathetic me humiliating myself by starting to cry.

“I’m sorry,” I choke out.

He’s quiet. Tears drip off my chin. He lets out a slow, shaky breath.

“Don’t cry,” he says. “That’s not fair.”

I laugh and sob at the same time.

“It’s okay,” he whispers. His fingers brush at the tears on my cheeks. “Don’t cry.”

Then he puts his arms around me, wings and all. I curl my arms around his neck and bury my face in his chest and breathe in the smell of the river on him. Somewhere in the woods a crow caws. A blackbird answers. And then we’re kissing and everything goes away but Tucker.

“Okay, wait,” he says after a minute, pulling back. I blink up at him in a daze. Please, please, I think, don’t let this be the part where you change your mind.

“Is it okay to kiss you?” he asks.

“What?”

“I won’t get struck by lightning?”

I laugh. Then I lean in and brush my lips lightly against his. His hands on my waist tighten.

“No lightning,” I say.

He smiles. I run my finger along the length of his dimple. He lifts a strand of my hair (which has popped free from my ponytail) and inspects it in the sunlight.

“Not red,” I say with a shrug.

“I always felt like there was something off about your hair.”

“So you thought you’d torture me by calling me Carrots?”

“I still thought I’d never seen anyone as beautiful as you.” He drops his head and rubs the back of his neck, embarrassed. He’s blushing.

“You’re a real Romeo,” I say, blushing, too, trying to cover it by teasing him, but then he puts his arms around me again and runs his hands over my wings. His touch is light, careful, but it sends a wave of pleasure straight to the pit of my stomach so strong that my knees get weak and wobbly. I lean into him and press my cheek to his shoulder, working to keep the air going in and out of my lungs as he strokes slowly up and down the length of my wings.

“So you’re an angel, that’s all,” he murmurs.

I kiss his shoulder. “Part angel.”

“Say something in the angel language.”

“What should I say?”

“Something simple,” he says. “Something true.”

“I love you,” I whisper automatically, shocking myself yet again. The words in Angelic are like murmurs of wind and stars, a low, clear music. His arms tighten around me. I gaze up into his face.

“What did you say?” he asks, but his eyes tell me he heard me loud and clear.

“Oh, you know. I just kinda like you.”

“Huh.” He kisses the corner of my mouth and pushes a strand of hair away from my face. “I really, really like you, too.”

So I’m in love. That crazy, forget to eat, float around in a daze, talk on the phone all night and bounce out of bed every morning hoping to see him kind of love. The days of summer fly past, and every day I find something else I love about him.

It feels like no one else knows him the way I do. I know that he doesn’t really dig country music, but it’s part of the whole Western scene so he tolerates it. He admits that he inwardly cringes every time he hears the twang of a steel guitar. I think it’s hilarious whenever we hear it, knowing that. He loves Cheetos. He believes one of the greatest tragedies in this world is the way the land keeps getting eaten up, all the wild spaces filled with condos and dude ranches. He both loves and hates the Lazy Dog, for that reason. His recurring fantasy is to go back in time and ride the range in those days before fences, out in the heat with the little dogies, driving them across the land like a real cowboy.

He’s good to people, respectful. He doesn’t cuss. He’s kind. Thoughtful. He likes to pick me wildflowers, which I weave into garlands for my hair so I can smell them all day long. He doesn’t make a big deal about me being different. In fact, he hardly ever brings up the whole angel-blood thing, although sometimes I see him looking at me with a kind of curiosity in his eyes.

I love how he sometimes gets embarrassed by the mushy stuff between us and then his voice gets all gruff and he tickles me or kisses me to shut us both up. Boy, do we ever kiss. We make out like champions.

Tucker never takes it too far, though I sometimes want him to. He’ll kiss me, kiss me, kiss me until my head swims and my body goes light and heavy at the same time, kiss me until I start tugging at our clothes, wanting as much contact as I can get. Then he groans, grabs my wrists, and moves away from me, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths for a minute.

I think he seriously believes that deflowering an angel could mean an eternity in fiery hell.

“What about church?” he asks me one night after he pulls away, gasping for breath. It’s the first week of August. We’re lying on a blanket in the bed of his pickup truck, a riot of bright stars over our heads. He kisses the back of my hand and then twines my fingers with his. For a second I forget the question.

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