Four point seven miles to go.
I peered through the windshield at the towering evergreens and intimidating rock formations. How could anyone possibly live around here? There were no houses in sight. The only signs of life were roadkill so…okay, no signs of life then. Even the radio station had given up. At least my phone was—
The screen was still telling me to turn right in four point seven miles. Sayonara signal.
“This day gets more perfect by the minute.” It started off on the wrong foot when the battery in my alarm clock chose today to die after I’d struggled through another night of insomnia. Then I couldn’t find a matching pair of trouser socks thanks to the hungry sock monster that apparently lived in the tumble dryer in the basement of my apartment building. So now I was the proud wearer of one navy blue sock and one black sock. Close enough that the client wouldn’t notice…probably because she’d be too busy berating me for my tardiness. Without a phone signal, I couldn’t even call to let her know. I hoped she was the forgiving type. I didn’t have much information beyond her name, phone number, and address since this was to be our first time meeting.
I watched intently for signs of a right turn. Any sign. Eventually, I came upon a dirt road.
“I guess this is it.” It was only wide enough for one car. “Let’s hope I don’t run into a bus.” Literally.
The road became increasingly bumpy and I worried for my car. It was a green Volvo—okay, more specifically it was a 1988 beat-up green Volvo that I inherited from my grandmother after she died. My own parents died when I was young, so I was raised by my father’s parents. Grandpa died first and then Gran died three years ago, leaving me all alone.
“This can’t possibly be the right road,” I said.
Although the setting was beautiful, there was no sign of civilization. A shimmering lake came into view on my right. With looming boulders and majestic trees, it was incredibly scenic.
Except for the guy standing on the edge of the cliff, ready to jump.
“Don’t do it,” I shouted, not that he could hear me. Under the circumstances, was it wrong to notice how incredibly gorgeous he was?
I began beeping the horn. He looked at me in surprise. I guess he counted on complete solitude for his suicide mission. There was no sign of another vehicle. I wondered how he managed to get here. Or up there. That clifftop was high enough to make my palms sweaty.
He turned his attention back to the lake and stood erect, poised for action. I couldn’t tear my gaze away. I set the parking brake, released the clutch, and threw open my car door. I raced toward the water’s edge. Waving my arms frantically, I hoped to catch his attention. To stop him from making a huge mistake.
“Don’t jump,” I shrieked, running the length of the dock that led to the middle of the lake.
His white wings spread out behind him.
He swooped down from the cliff and headed straight for me. Holy Flying Hot Guy. Was he angry that I interrupted his plans? Was he going to hurt me?
I froze in place. It was only then that I heard the sound of my car’s motor coming closer.
I whipped around to see my Volvo behind me, crushing the wooden planks as it hurtled toward me. Damn parking brake! There was only one way to avoid being crushed. I closed my eyes, held my nose, and jumped off the edge of the dock. Either way, I was about to die.
I kept waiting to hit the water, but it didn’t happen. I heard a loud splash and opened my eyes in time to see my beloved Volvo nosedive into the lake.
It was then I noticed the strong arms around me and the small fact that I was airborne.
I was airborne.
The winged man whisked me safely to the cliff’s edge, where he’d stood only moments ago, just in time to watch the lake swallow the back end of my car.
I stared into the winged man’s beautiful face, uncertain what to say.
“Are you my guardian angel?” I asked. And, if so, where in the hell have you been for the past twenty-five years? Wait, could I say ‘hell’ to my guardian angel?
“Absolutely not,” he said gruffly. He released me and my legs turned to jelly, forcing him to grab me again so I didn’t fall off the cliff.
“Well, I guess I’m yours,” I said, still shaking.
He looked at me askance. “How do you figure that?”
“Um, hello?” I pointed to the water far below. “You were about to end it all.”
He displayed his wings again. “If I was going to end it all, I don’t think jumping from a great height would be the logical choice for me.”
When I reached out to touch the feathers, he smacked my hand away.
“They can’t be real,” I murmured. “This has to be an elaborate joke.”
“You’re telling me,” he said. “This is my safe place. No one ever bothers me here.”
“Shouldn’t your safe place be a little higher up?” I queried, pointing skyward.
“A story for another time,” he said. “How can you even see me?”
“The cliff isn’t that high,” I replied.
He eyed me suspiciously. “Did you know you had the Sight?”
“Well, I’ve been using my eyes since birth so…yes?”
He groaned. “Not sight. The Sight. The Third Eye. Piercing the Veil.” He poked the spot on my forehead between my eyes. “It’s a particular human gift that allows them to see through supernatural glamours and such. Ring any bells?”
I shook my head. Being this close to him on a clifftop was making me nervous.
“If you just drop me back on the shore of the lake, I’ll see what I can do about my car.” Never mind that my phone and handbag were in the bottom of the lake, along with my car.
He pressed his lips together. “Can’t do it, I’m afraid.”
“Sure you can. Just spread those wings of yours and fly me over.”
His expression clouded over. “No, I can’t. The dock’s been destroyed thanks to your monster on wheels and the boundary is in the middle of the lake. If you’d been any closer to the shore, I wouldn’t have been able to help you.” He tapped his finger on his chin. “I suppose I could drop you gently into the middle of the lake and you can swim back to shore.” He considered me for a moment. “You held your nose when you jumped.”
“Sure you did.”
“Okay, fine. I’m not the best swimmer.” Truth be told, I couldn’t swim at all and was deathly afraid of the water. Not like I had many occasions to learn when I was growing up. My grandparents didn’t take trips to the beach and we didn’t know anyone with a pool.
“That presents a problem then.”
“Why does it matter about the dock? Just drop me on the other side of the lake.” And I’ll forget this whole thing ever happened with copious amounts of alcohol.
“I told you. The boundary’s in the middle of the lake.”
My brow creased. “The boundary for where?”
“For the town where I live. Spellbound.”
“Your town is called Spellbound?” I’d never heard of a town with that name, certainly not in Pennsylvania.
“Don’t give me that look. I didn’t name it.” He held up a finger. “I know. I’ll take you to the forest border. It’s not ideal because you’ll need to walk further, but it’s better than nothing.”
I tried to wrap my head around what he was saying. “The forest border?”
“You know what a forest is, don’t you?” he said, and then seemed distracted by something on the ground in front of me. “Do you know your socks don’t match?”
I glanced down at my feet. How could he possibly tell? My shoes covered most of the mismatched material. “It’s the style.”
“Not in any century I’ve ever lived in.”
I started to laugh. “This has to be the most elaborate hoax anyone has ever played on me.” I patted him on the shoulder, searching for the invisible wires. “Good job, Michael. Seriously, you’re a pro.”
“Aren’t all angels named Michael?”
He stuck out his hand. “Daniel. Nice to meet you.”
“Emma,” I said, and shook his hand. “Emma Hart.”
“Hold on tight, Emma, and I’ll take you over to the forest border.”
I folded my arms. “Not until you tell me how you’re able to fly, Peter Pan.” I wasn’t a fan of heights.
“I would think telling you I’m an angel would be explanation enough.”
“You’re talking to someone who would rather take a three-day train journey than ride inside a flying metal death tube.”
His mouth quirked. “Do you mean an airplane?”
“Ever run into one of those?” I pointed skyward.
“I see them fly overhead all the time,” he replied. “They appear perfectly safe.” He motioned for me to move closer. “Come on. The sooner I get you to the forest border, the sooner you can get help with your car.”
I looped my arms around his neck and squeezed my eyes shut. The wind swelled around us and I felt my stomach drop when we were airborne again. My heart thundered in my chest. I couldn’t bear to look. I was still fairly convinced I was dreaming. Maybe when I opened my eyes, I’d be back in bed with a working alarm clock, about to hit the snooze button for the sixth time.
“We’re here,” Daniel said.
I popped one eye open and looked around. We did, indeed, seem to be in the forest.
“Where’s the town?” I asked.
He jerked a thumb behind him. “I took you as close to the border as I can get.”
“How far do you suppose I’ll need to walk?” I asked. I didn’t love the idea of traipsing through the forest alone. This whole area was desolate and I had no way of contacting anyone.
“No clue.” He patted me on the back. “Good luck, though.”
I took a hesitant step forward and turned back. “Are you really an angel?”
He nodded grimly. “Trust me. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
“Well, thanks for saving me when I thought I was saving you. I appreciate it.”
A genuine smile formed on his lips and that simple gesture changed his entire face. He was already incredibly handsome, but the smile transformed him into someone swoonworthy. “And thanks for wanting to save me. It was…unexpected.”
I continued to stand there staring at him, lost in those aquamarine eyes. They were the color of every exotic sea I’d never visited. I was so mesmerized that I couldn’t even name one. Wait, the Mediterranean. There.
Daniel gestured to the gap between two white birch trees. “There you go. Your exit strategy awaits.”
I nodded mutely and forced myself toward the gap. No one would believe my story. My internet article would end up with a thousand hateful comments about damning my soul to hell, along with a couple of Russian women wanting to date me.
I gave one last glance over my shoulder before I stepped between the trees. Daniel was watching me, a wistful expression etched in his handsome features.
I took one last step and—
“Ouch!” I stopped and rubbed my nose. It felt like I’d walked bang into a tree except there wasn’t anything in front of me.
I stepped forward again, only to hit an invisible wall. I turned and looked helplessly at Daniel.
“Is there some kind of invisible force field?”
His brow furrowed. “You can’t get out?”
I pressed my hands against the invisible barrier. It was like putting my palms against cold steel. “Apparently not.”
“Uh oh,” Daniel said.
I whirled around. “Uh oh? What does that mean?”
He gave me a sheepish look. “I think you’d better come with me.”