He should not love her.
Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now (the longest she and her mom have remained anywhere) and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger.
Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans. . . .
Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?
"Have you ever had an empanada?" Claire asked Alec, as they finished retrieving their books and headed toward the library stairwell.
"Are we always going to play the 'Has Alec Eaten This?' game?" he asked quietly.
Claire worried that she'd offended him, until she saw a good-natured smile tug at his lips. "I'm just curious. I mean, after the pizza thing—I've never met anyone before who hadn't—"
"Let's put it this way," Alec interjected. "If it's fried, fattening, caffeinated, alcoholic, or high in sugar content, it's safe to assume that I rarely eat it—or have never tried it."
Claire stared at him. "Why?"
"Are your parents fitness freaks, or do they just hate you?" Erica said.
Alec stiffened visibly. "They just followed a healthy lifestyle, which I continue to embrace. But they . . . died when I was young."
Erica went red in the face. A silence fell.
"Way to go, Erica," Brian said, clapping. "That was awkward."
"I'm sorry." Claire felt terrible.
"Me too." Erica looked at her feet.
"Thanks, but . . . don't worry about it. It's okay."
All at once, Claire understood Alec's earlier comment about her mom. No wonder he's often so quiet and moody, she thought, her heart going out to him. It was bad enough to grow up without a father. But to have no parents at all? That was too awful to contemplate. She'd assumed Alec had moved here with his parents because of a job transfer or something. Who does he live with? she wondered. A grandparent? An aunt or uncle? She wasn't sure this was the right moment to ask.
They neared the bottom of the stairs, where the construction crew was still working atop a three-tiered scaffolding tower. Claire spied Neil standing just beyond it by the drop-off circle. He waved at them and shouted something Claire couldn't hear over the annoying beeping noise of a truck backing up.
The four of them passed underneath the scaffolding, heading toward the circle. They were halfway through the makeshift corridor when Claire heard the sudden, loud roar of an engine. To her horror, the truck was speeding backward toward them. Before she could think or move, the vehicle collided with the base of the scaffolding with a devastating crash.
The screech of tearing metal ripped through the air as the entire structure overhead began to collapse.
A huge wooden platform barreled down directly at them.
Claire screamed and ducked, a single thought popping into her mind: I'm going to die.
Frozen in terror, Claire fixed her gaze on the heavy wooden platform hurtling toward their heads, which was a split second away from crushing them all.
But it never did.
Somehow, impossibly, the platform seemed to hover for a fraction of a second in midair. Alec stood tall above her, one arm extended, fingers splayed, as if magically holding up the platform by sheer willpower. She heard screams and shouts from above as suddenly the whole board tilted to one side. In her peripheral vision she caught sight of three men landing safely on the pavement nearby.
Before Claire could blink, Alec's arms were wrapped around her and their friends and then they were airborne. They landed heavily and painfully on the concrete, out of harm's way, as the entire scaffolding tower smashed to the ground beside them in an explosion of dust, screeching metal, and splintering wood.
The thundering clatter echoed in Claire's ears as they all lay in a heap. Dust stung her eyes, but as she blinked it away her gaze briefly locked with Alec's. Then, just as suddenly as he'd tackled them, Alec was up on his feet and gone.
* * * * * * * * *
Below them, a million lights twinkled through the darkness. The only sounds were the wind in her ears and the drone of the city far below.
"It's beautiful," Claire said softly.
"In the past, I loved to watch the people down below. Now I like it even better, because I'm one of them."
"Let's make sure you keep it that way."
Alec drew her into his arms and held her close against his chest, his handsome face and dark blond hair bathed in moonlight. "That's my plan."
Claire's stomach fluttered at the look in his eyes, which were infused with emotion. Alec lowered his head and brought his lips close to hers. "Ready?" he murmured softly.
Claire nodded, her heart jumping. As she wrapped her arms around him, she closed her eyes, willing her mind to stay in the moment and reciting her mantra. But at the first touch of his mouth on hers, all thoughts fled like leaves on the wind. She became immersed in the exquisite joy that spread through her as his body pressed tightly against hers. It was wonderful. Magical. Effortless. Visionless. She felt as if she was floating.
I love you, she thought, her heart so full, she thought it might overflow or burst from her chest. If only she had the nerve to say the words aloud.
When Claire opened her eyes and met his gaze, she couldn't help but smile, which inadvertently interrupted the kiss. The breeze brushed through her hair, and she felt her skirt fluttering against her legs. How can that be? Claire wondered, with the part of her mind that could still think. How could the wind pass through the low wall beside them?
In her peripheral vision, she suddenly caught sight of something strange—the rooftop was several yards below them.
Claire gasped. Looking down, she discovered that they were hovering in the air in each other's arms.
"Oh my G—" she began.
"Shhh," Alec cautioned swiftly. "I'm concentrating. You wanted to fly, didn't you?"
Claire's heart pounded wildly as she reveled in Alec's protective embrace. She held on to him even more firmly, soaking in the twinkling lights of the city all around them as they slowly began to spin.
Letting all her fears go, Claire brought her lips back to his.
Syrie is a member of the Writer's Guild of America and a life member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America). She enjoys writing both novels and screenplays. Syrie says, "Many people can't wait for the weekend to arrive. It's the opposite for me. I truly love my jam-packed weekends, but from the time I turn off the computer on Friday evening to the moment I'm back in my chair on Monday morning, I'm anxious to get back to the characters I left in limbo, who are just waiting for me to continue their story."
Ryan M James is a writer, editor & director with a diverse range of creative and technical experience in both film and video games. By day, Ryan works as an editor for the games industry. Under cover of night, he conjures stories for print, screen, and web. With his production company, has co-written two screenplays, directed an independent feature, and created the machinima webseries A Clone Apart.