Unearthly Page 70

“What?”

He laughs. “Church. Why doesn’t your family go to church?”

Another thing I usually love about Tucker: He’s unflinchingly honest, forthright to a fault. I gaze up at the stars.

“I don’t know. My mom took us every Sunday when we were kids, but not since we got older.”

He rolls over to look at me.

“But you know that there’s a God. I mean, you’re part angel. You have proof, right?”

What proof do I really have? Wings. The speech thing. Glory. All powered by God, or so I’ve been told. God seems like the most likely explanation.

“Well, there’s the glory thing,” I say. “How we connect with God. But I don’t know a lot about that. I’ve only felt it that one time.”

“What was it like?”

“It was good. I can’t really describe it. It was like I could feel everything you felt, your heart beating, your blood moving through your veins, your breath, like we were the same person, and we felt this incredible . . . joy. Didn’t you feel it, too?”

“I don’t think so,” he admits, glancing away. “I was just so crazy happy to be kissing you. And then you were glowing. And then you were shining so bright I couldn’t look at you.”

“Sorry.”

“I’m not,” he says. “I’m glad it happened. Because then I got to know who you really are.”

“Oh yeah? Who am I?”

“A really, really spiritual, spoiled California chick.”

“Shut up.”

“It’s cool, though. My girlfriend is an angel.”

“I’m not an angel. I don’t live in heaven or play a golden harp or have heart-to-heart conversations with the Almighty.”

“You don’t? You don’t have a big Christmas dinner with God?”

“No,” I say, giggling. “We have our own traditions, but we don’t actually get to hang out with God. My mom says that every angel-blood meets God eventually, though, after our purpose on earth is fulfilled. Face-to-face. I can’t really imagine it, but that’s what she says.”

“Yeah, but that’s the same for everybody, isn’t it? Humans too?”

“What?”

“We all supposedly get to meet God. When we die.”

I stare at him. I’ve never thought of it like that before. I assumed the meeting was like a kind of debriefing about our purpose. The idea has always terrified me.

“Right,” I say slowly. “We all get to meet God someday.”

“So maybe I should keep going to church.”

“Church couldn’t hurt.”

I stroke his cheek, totally loving the hint of stubble under my hand. I want to say something profound, something about how grateful I am that he can accept me for who I am, wings and everything, but I know that would sound cheesy beyond words. Then I’m thinking about church. Mom and Jeffrey and me in church when I was little, sitting in the pews, singing and praying with everybody else. Falling under the colored light of the stained-glass angels.

We’re bumping along a dirt road in Bluebell and I’m trying to behave myself, keep a Bible’s worth of space between us so that we will actually end up fishing, unlike last time. But then he reaches over to shift, and when he’s done he puts his hand on my knee and I instantly get all quivery.

“Ruffian.” I grab the offending hand and trap it in mine. His thumb strokes over the top of my knuckles, sending my heart into overdrive.

“Sometimes you say the weirdest things, I swear,” he says.

“It’s from having a mom who’s over a hundred years old. And the language thing,” I explain. “I understand every word I hear. Gives me an awesome vocabulary.”

“Awesome,” he teases.

“Exemplary, as a matter of fact. Hey, have you talked to your sister lately?”

“Yeah, a couple nights ago,” he says.

“Did you tell her about us?”

He frowns. “Am I not supposed to?”

I smile. “You can tell her. But I think she already knows. I talked to her yesterday and she was acting all funny.”

“So you didn’t tell her.”

“No, I thought that might be weird like, guess what, I’m dating your brother. I thought it’d be better coming from you.”

“I told her,” he admits. “I can’t really keep secrets from Wendy. I’ve tried. Doesn’t work.”

“But—” I hesitate. “You didn’t tell her about—y’know.”

He gives me a fake clueless look and says, “What? Is there something about you I should know?”

“Just call me angel of the morning,” I sing.

He laughs. “Of course I didn’t tell her. I wouldn’t know how to tell her something like that.” Then he adds quietly, “But it will be hard, when she gets back.”

I look out the window. The truck whizzes past lodgepole pines on both sides of the road, aspens here and there that are beginning to turn colors. It’s hot, even by Wyoming standards. The air smells dry and dusty.

Then everything starts to look very familiar. Like the worst case of déjà vu ever.

My hand tightens in Tucker’s.

“Stop the truck,” I gasp.

“What?”

“Just stop!”

Tucker hits the brakes, sending a cloud of dust around us. Before the truck has even stopped moving I scramble out. When the dust settles I’m standing in the middle of the road turning in a slow circle.

Then I walk in a daze toward the side of the road, brushing past the shadow of a big silver pickup in my mind’s eye. I turn, one foot leading the other, and move off into the forest. I faintly hear Tucker calling me, but I keep walking. I don’t know if I could stop even if I tried. I push on through the trees. Once I stumble, slipping to one knee on the needle-strewn ground, but even then I keep going, deeper into the forest, not even bothering to brush myself off.

And then I stop.

It’s all here. The little clearing. The ridge.

The air’s full of smoke. The sky a golden orange. Christian wearing his black fleece jacket, his hands tucked up into his pockets, hips slightly shifted to the side. He’s standing very still, looking up at the top of the ridge.

Oh God, I think. I can see the flames. I step toward him. Everything’s so dry. I lick my lips, glance down at my hands, which are shaking. It’s like I’m leaving my whole life behind in this moment. I’m so sad I could cry.

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