“How long do I get to keep these?” I peered over my shoulder at my wings, rising and falling as they gently lowered me to the ground. ”That’s so much better than having a driver’s license.”
“Speak for yourself,” Lucky grumbled, his own wings sputtering as his paws pedaled above the stone bridge, his tail tucked to his rear.
“Do dog wings not work as well?” I stifled a laugh as he flopped onto his front paws, his furry chin crashing in the ground. His rear followed soon after, his wings shimmering in a blur of feathers and wind.
“Dog wings work fine. Old wings don’t work fine. Gabriel’s only been an angel 100 years, which is why he can get around a lot easier than a 500-year-old like me. And since your wings are made of his feathers”–
“You’re 500?” I blurted out. ”Whoa!”
“Angel years, not dog years.” Lucky sighed as his wings whirred, his paws rising off the pavement. He bobbed a few inches off the bridge, a growl rumbling in his stomach. ”Gabriel, would you”–
Without a word, Gabriel plucked a feather off his wings. Lucky crashed to the ground, a sprawled mass of fur. ”Thanks,” the muffled reply came.
There was no humor in Gabriel’s eyes when he turned towards me. ”Ariella, is this the creek you saw her at?”
“It’s further down, where we used to play when we were kids. That’s where I…” I trailed off, widening my eyes. ”You saved me then too, didn’t you? How many times have you saved me?”
“I’m your guardian angel,” Gabriel replied shortly. ”It’s what we do.”
“But I’ve had a lot of accidents.” I shivered as the sun dipped below the trees. ”How many times”–
“We need to hurry.” The ice blue orbs melted, his hard lips smoothing as a soft sigh escaped them. ”I’m sorry,” he said. ”But once it goes dark, I won’t be as strong. And Samantha will be stronger.”
“That’s the woman’s name?” I rubbed my goosebump-pricked arms. ”How do you know her?”
“We’ve long been acquainted.” Every word chipped from his lips like a brick of ice. Lucky snorted. ”You can say that again.”
I raised an eyebrow. ”I sense a story.”
“A story we have no time for telling.” Gabriel cut off Lucky, snapping his fingers. ”We need you to feel them out, figure out where they’re hiding. Like you did before.”
Helplessness clawed at me as I shook my head. ”But I don’t know how I did that. I thought you did it.”
“My job is to protect you from them, not seek them out. You might say that I’m blind to them, unless they’re near you.” Gabriel shrugged.
“So then why are you helping me find them?” I asked.
“Because as an Old Soul, you have a destiny, a path you were made to walk on. All humans do, but their path is defined by free will. Yours is defined by servitude. And that means saving certain people.”
“And I don’t have a choice on whether I save them?” I shuddered. My toes curled into my boots, numb and hard.
“You do. But I know you. And you don’t want to know what happens if you don’t.” Gabriel’s eyes softened and he stepped forward, cupping my chin in his hand. ”I hate it when you look like that.”
My breath stuck in my throat. ”Like what?”
“Like you just lost your dog.”
“I’m right here,” Lucky cracked. We both ignored him.
“Gabriel, I can’t do this.” My voice cracked, my bravado shattering around me without the familiar comfort of my mother’s Christmas trees and displays. ”I’m just a girl, a normal girl. I can’t save Delaney from that–that thing! I can’t save my mother. I couldn’t even save Lucky from getting hit by a car.” I shook my head. ”I couldn’t save you.”
“But you tried.” He lifted my chin, his thumb trailing down my cheek. ”Do you know how rare it is for people to care about other people? You don’t just care about other people, it’s all you care about. You’re always trying to save everyone but yourself.”
My lips cracked, drawing apart. ”I guess it’s good I have you.”
Two dimples etched in porcelain cheeks. “So you’re not mad at me anymore?”
I blinked. ”For lying to me? Nah, I guess I understand your reasoning. Top secret angel code and all that.”
“No for…” He sucked in his breath, pain blazing in his cerulean eyes. ”For saying…for not saying…”
“Oh, don’t lie to the girl even more Gabriel.” I started to whirl around as Gabriel grabbed my arm, yanking me behind him. The woman from my mother’s shop stood inches away from us, her core of her eyes blazing red. Lucky growled and she laughed, flames licking her neck as her hair smoldered around her. ”Take it from me, honey, all men lie. They’ll say anything to get you in bed, isn’t that right?”
“Don’t.” Gabriel’s wings flared up, a shield of blazing light.
“Well, darling, you know it’s true.” A sinister sneer slithered across her blood-red lips. ”After all, you told me enough sweet nothings back when we were young.”
“That was before you went to him,” Gabriel spat. ”More than one hundred years ago.”
“What can I say?” Samantha shrugged. ”I was bored. It’s no fun being good all the time.” She licked her lips. ”I could show you what you’re missing out on. I’m a lot better than I used to be.” Her red eyes bored into mine, her mocking laugh ringing in my ears. I clutched Gabriel’s wing, my fingers clutching onto his feathers.
“Gabriel, what is she talking about?”
“What, you think you’re the first girl Gabriel’s ever loved? The first Old Soul to steal his heart?” Samantha cackled. ”Get real, honey. I stole his heart a long time ago. Would you like to see it?” She grasped the edges of her button-down shirt, ripping it open. Gabriel howled, a trumpet of fury and rage. Lucky snarled, rushing toward her. All I could do was stare. A single feather, glowing and pulsing with light, hung on a silver chain around her neck.
The same feathers on my back.
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! A new recipe tomorrow for our furry friends!
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