Unearthly Page 71

“Christian,” I croak out.

He turns. I don’t know how to read his expression.

“It’s you,” he says.

“It’s me . . . I’m . . .”

He crosses toward me. I keep walking to him. In another minute we both stop, arm’s length away from each other, and stare. I feel like I’m on drugs or something. I want to touch him so badly it feels like pain not to. I reach out. His hand wraps around mine. His skin’s so hot, feverish. I close my eyes for a second against the wave of sensation. Recognition blasts through me.

We belong together.

I open my eyes. He steps closer. His gaze brushes across my face like a touch. He looks at my lips, then my eyes, then my lips again. He lifts a hand to touch my cheek. I’m crying, I realize, tears slipping down my cheeks.

“It’s really you,” he whispers. Then his arms are around me and the fire rushes at us, moving swiftly over the ground like a monster stalking us, clouds of thick, white smoke curling from its nostrils, crackling and roaring its warning. I press my body into Christian’s and summon my wings, grab at the air with all my strength, and push us skyward.

Only I don’t fly. I sink to the ground on the forest floor, my hands clutching at empty air, because Christian isn’t there. And then everything goes black.

I become vaguely aware of being carried. I know without even having to open my eyes that it’s Tucker carrying me. I’d be able to identify his sun-and-man smell anywhere. My head’s lolling back across his arm, my arms dangling.

I’ve had the vision. Again. If vision is even the right word for it now. I’ve done so much more than see it. I’ve been there.

And apparently I fainted. Again.

I try to sit up a little, regain the use of my arms and legs, but the minute I move I start coughing. As if I inhaled some smoke. Tucker immediately stops walking.

“Oh thank God,” he says. “You’re okay.”

I don’t know if I’d go that far. Okay seems like the last thing that I am. I cough and cough and my lungs finally clear and I look up into Tucker’s crazy worried eyes and try to smile. And promptly cough some more.

“I’m fine,” I say. Hack, hack, hack.

“Hold on. We’re almost there.”

He starts walking again and in a couple minutes we’re back at the truck. He opens the back, grabs that big familiar blanket, and spreads it out, all with one hand as he holds me with the other. He lays me gently down into the bed of his truck. Then he climbs in beside me.

“Thanks,” I rasp. “You’re my hero.” Understatement. The coughing, at least, has stopped.

“What happened?”

I stare up at the sky, the big, fluffy clouds slowly lumbering over us. A tiny shiver passes through me. Tucker notices.

“You can tell me.”

“I know.”

I look at him. His sweet blue eyes are filled with so much love and concern it makes a lump rise in my throat.

“Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”

“No, I just passed out.”

He waits. I take a deep breath.

“I had a vision,” I tell him.

Then the story comes tumbling out.

“Where are we?” I ask when I’m done. We’re both sitting up now, Tucker leaning back against the cab trying to process it all. I can’t tell if he’s mad about the Christian aspect of the whole thing or relieved that my obsession with Christian Prescott was for a good reason. He hasn’t said anything for an entire ten minutes.

“What are you thinking?” I ask when I can’t stand it anymore.

“I think it’s amazing.”

That word again.

“It’s like a sacred duty you have to do.”

“Right.”

Of course the version I told Tucker doesn’t include those pesky little details about the hand-holding and the cheek touching, the way we both, Christian and I, were totally into each other in all kinds of ways at that moment. I don’t know what to think about that stuff myself.

“So where are we?” I ask again.

“We’re good, I think. Don’t you?”

“No, I mean, where are we? Literally?”

“Oh. We’re out on Fox Creek Road.”

Fox Creek Road. Such a simple, unassuming name for this place where destiny’s going to go down. Now I know the where. And the who, and the what.

All I have to figure out is the when.

And the why.

Chapter 18

My Purpose-Driven Life

I’m sitting in a boat with Tucker, smack in the middle of Jackson Lake, when Angela finally calls me back.

“Okay, what’s up?” she asks. I hear bells ringing in the background. “Has the fire happened yet?”

“No.”

“Did you finally get some action with Christian?”

“No!” I stammer, completely flustered. “He’s—I’m not—He’s not in town.” I glance at Tucker. He raises his eyebrows and mouths, “Who’s that?” I shake my head slightly.

“So what’s the big emergency?” she asks impatiently.

“I sent that email weeks ago. You only now got it?”

“I haven’t had an internet connection for a while,” she says a bit defensively. “I’ve been kind of off the beaten path. So everything’s okay now? Crisis averted?”

“Yes,” I say, still looking at Tucker. He smiles. “Everything’s fine.”

“So what happened?”

“Do you want me to take us in?” Tucker asks. I shake my head again and smile to show him that everything is, like I said, completely fine.

“Can I call you back later?” I ask Angela.

“No, you can’t call me back later! Who was that?”

“Tucker,” I answer with forced lightness. He moves across the boat and slides into the seat next to me, grinning wickedly the whole time in a way that makes my breath catch and my heart accelerate.

“Tucker Avery,” she says.

“Yes.”

“And Wendy’s there, too?”

“No, Wendy’s still in Montana.”

Tucker lifts my free hand in his and starts to kiss my knuckles one by one. I shiver and try to pull my hand away, but he doesn’t let go.

“So just Tucker,” Angela says.

“Right.” I stifle a laugh as Tucker nips one of my fingers.

“What are you doing with Tucker Avery?”

“Fishing.” We’ve spent the afternoon turning in slow circles on the lake, kissing, splashing each other, eating grapes and pretzels and turkey sandwiches, kissing some more, snuggling, tickling, laughing, oh yeah, some kissing, but in there somewhere was definitely fishing. I distinctly remember a fishing pole in my hands at some point during the day.

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