Read Love's Long Shadow Online

Authors: Ciara Knight

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction

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“He left?” He lunged forward, strong fingers wrapped around her arm. An image of a dark figure enveloped in a pale-purple light flashed like a shock to her memory. Softness caressed her skin sending tremors down her arms and legs. Pure joy erupted deep in her core and snapped from nerve to nerve throughout her entire body. Her arms and legs turned weightless and she thought she’d touched Heaven. She gasped and clung to him, never willing to trap her soul in her heavy body again.

He let go and shuffled away, his gaze downcast. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…”

Sammy clung to the rumbles of euphoria that remained. The sweetest taste, reminiscent of fresh picked strawberries, coated her tongue. And the perfumed scent of honeysuckle, her favorite smell on earth, lingered. Did she remember something from Heaven? She only had the vaguest of memories, barely a recollection of life before she fell. If so, she longed to connect to him again for one more moment of bliss.

Glass shattered in the distance drawing both their attentions back to the party.

“Go home. You shouldn’t be here,” he said in a harsh whisper.

He strode past her and sauntered onto the beach where the party raged on. An air of confidence exuded from him in spite of his puny frame, even his deep voice contradicted his appearance. There was something about him. Warmth deep in her belly remained and spread outward as she watched him from the tree line.

He couldn’t be one of them. The anxiety that eroded her soul when she watched the others didn’t exist when she looked at him. In fact, a little light fluttered deep inside that made her long to talk to him more.

He joined the group but sat off to the side on a small box. She stood there for a while watching. Some of the guys pulled girls into their trucks, but he remained alone until he stared straight at her for a moment. A shiver raced down her skin to her toes.

He stood up and walked around the other side of the trucks then disappeared out of sight.

She waited a few moments but he didn’t reappear. The party died down and the bugs continued to pester her so she gave up and headed home.

The world had grown dark under the canopy with only the light of the moon to guide her way back to the main road. She stopped to get her directions straight but it wasn’t easy with such little light. If the trees weren’t so thick overhead, and she’d mastered maneuvering through tight spaces, she’d fly home. Grounded for now, her hair stood at attention on the back of her neck and she stayed alert. Each wrong turn fed her anxiety until she found the small path that led to her own private beach area.

The porch light cast a golden hue on their front walk as if to invite her in, but instead she walked down the beach and plopped down on the sand. She stretched out her legs and leaned back on her elbows, her face tilted toward the shining moon. The ocean breeze kept the bugs away and she finally had a moment of peace.

She missed Alex. Was he somewhere out there over the ocean, or had he returned to the north where they had fallen to Earth that first day? She sighed and wished she remembered more. Perhaps if she regained her memory there would be a way to atone for what she had done.

Maybe if she helped others, like Alex, she would show she was worthy to return to Heaven.

A phone shrilled from inside the house. A moment later the front screen squeaked open. “Sammy!” Grace’s voice carried down to her from the house.

“Coming!” She pushed up and brushed the sand from her clothes and wondered who would call her on the house phone. Grace was the only one left on Earth with a corded phone in her house.

She rushed up the dunes to the front walk. Her feet thudded against the pavers and wood steps. She hurried to the kitchen for the phone, letting the screen door slam behind her, only to discover the phone on the hook.

The kitchen still had the cinnamon and apple scent from dessert and the dishes were done and tucked neatly away, but there was no sign of Grace.

She walked out to the parlor, but Grace wasn’t sitting in her favorite gold tufted chair with her knitting, or on the long sage couch sleeping. “Grace?”

“Up here, dear.”

Sammy bolted up the stairs to find Grace stuffing a pillow into a dark-blue sham. “What are you doing?”

Grace gave her a wry smile. “Decorating a more permanent room for Alexander.”

Excitement welled up and nearly exploded with the mention of his return. “Why? He’s gone to fight evil in some distant place.”

“For now, but he’ll return.”

Did she dare hope? Grace was wise and experienced but she didn’t foresee the future. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. What’s wrong? You look troubled.”

Sammy sighed. Grace had a gift of redirecting conversation in a way that made it plain she didn’t plan to say another word on the subject. “I’m fine.”

Grace patted the bed. “Sit down, child. What’s bothering you?”

With another sigh, Sammy sat. “I met someone while I was out walking.” She froze, waiting for the reprimand Alex often gave.

“Who?”

“I-I didn’t get his name.” Heat burned her cheeks.

Grace smiled reassuringly. “Well, I’ve met most of the people around Kemp.”

“He was small and young, yet strong in a way.”

The memory of his deep voice and commanding presence made the corners of her mouth rise and she fought to suppress the smile.

“Brown hair and eyes a little darker than yours?”

“Yes.” Her heart soared at the connection. She cleared her throat and shifted on the bed. This had to be some sort of strange human reaction.

“Boon. He’s a local.”

“I-is he a…demon?” She held her breath, waiting for the inevitable truth.

Grace patted the top of her hand. “What do you think, dear?”

She hated the way Grace always answered with a question, never a straight response. “Alex warned me to stay away from demons, and there were a ton of them on the beach. Boon hangs with the group, yet appears to be an outsider.” She stood and walked over to the floor-to-ceiling window. The flames from the bonfire glowed beyond the trees. She sucked in a long breath and sighed at the memory of his touch. Was it a human reaction to stimulus or a warning from Heaven to stay away?

The bed creaked from behind. “You’re making an assumption that everyone around demons are evil. That’s stereotyping.” Grace patted Sammy’s head sending cool threads of peace down her neck to her fingertips. She welcomed it and imagined the hint of comfort was a sampling of what she had left behind in Heaven.

“Alex said—”

“Even people with the best intentions sometimes give poor advice.”

The cool tingles disappeared along with the hand. Sammy reached out but then paused. She’d been sheltered since she arrived. It was time to accept her fate that she fell from Heaven and had to face life on Earth. “How do you do that? Calm me, I mean.”

Grace straightened the lamp and tucked the comforter in at the end of the bed. “My gift from Heaven. I can soothe people.”

“Do I have a gift?” Sammy’s pulse quickened. To receive a gift had to shed light on what purpose she had here on Earth.

“Certainly and in time you’ll remember what and how to use it.”

“Maybe I’ll be able to sense demons from far away so I can protect people.”

“Perhaps.” Grace nodded with a knowing smile. “How did you feel around Boon? Did you sense danger?”

“No. I sensed something familiar, pure. Will I ever remember more about Heaven than my trial?” Sammy wrapped her arms around her midsection. Her body shuddered at the one distinct memory of being sentenced to banishment.

Grace’s hand returned to reassure her but Sammy moved away.

“I-I don’t know how we would’ve survived if you hadn’t found us.” She choked back tears. The two of them were alone, lost in a menagerie of emotions and trapped in a box of skin.


Shh
, my child. All is well now.”

Her body relaxed in what felt like a cocoon of soft feathers gently brushing the nightmares away. Apparently, Grace didn’t have to touch someone to comfort them. “Can you calm humans too?”

“I can reassure anything with a soul that welcomes my touch.”

Did she dare ask the question weighing on her mind? Yes, she had to know. “Grace?”

“Yes?”

“Should I see Boon again? There’s something about him. I’m drawn to him in some way. I can’t explain it. Unless what Alex says is true.” Her stomach tightened. “If so, that would mean Boon is manipulating me.”

“Sammy, you are too strong to be manipulated that easily. You should be cautious of the others. But I think if you connected with Boon you should investigate. One word of caution.”

Her heart raced. “What’s that?”

“Make sure your body can handle the truth.”

Chapter Two

The next morning Sammy bound down the stairs, sliding her hand along the smooth lacquered banister. The smell of toast greeted her at the bottom step. Bacon sizzled in a pan, the aroma so intense she tasted the salty, heavy flavor.

Grace usually had a scrumptious breakfast waiting for them when they woke. One of the great pleasures of being human she discovered was to indulge in food that melted in your mouth and made your belly full and cozy, but today she’d pass on it.

“Bye, Grace. Headed out for awhile. Be back soon.” She didn’t wait for a response. She pulled her bathing suit string around her neck tight and tugged her shorts down on her hips. Her feet barely touched the sand before her wings prodded to get out. While it had only been twelve hours since she flew last it took a minute until they exploded in a painful, yet freeing, cracking of bone and tendon. With a new sense of freedom she took to the clouds.

This was her chance. She’d find out what went on beyond her small stretch of beach. Even better, she was determined to find out who, or what, Boon was.

She dove into the shadow of the trees and landed in the dark soft sand. Her wings retracted with protest. They longed to be free for hours not confined beneath skin again.

The sun barely peaked over the clouds yet her legs were slick from the heat and humidity. She ignored the muscle cramps in her back and strolled along a narrow path, listening for any signs of the demons she’d seen yesterday. Her insides churned at their lingering foul odor, a mix of garbage and rotten fruit.

“You shouldn’t fly during the day. There could be hunters.” Boon’s voice echoed through the trees.

Sammy’s knees wobbled under her. She searched the trees and spotted him seated on a large oak branch twenty feet in the air eating something.

He jumped, landing with a thud sending a tremor through the ground and tossed a peanut shell to the side.

“Hunters?”

“Yes, humans who believe fallen angels and demons are an abomination.”

The tone of his voice frightened her. “What do they—"

Boon didn’t need to say a word. His furrowed brow and tight lips spoke loud enough. Whoever these hunters were they sounded more dangerous than demons. She clutched her churning stomach with the realization. “Oh, I see.”


Here.
” Boon offered a peanut. “I remember the nausea the first few months here. The salt will help.” He dropped a few into her hand and showed her how to pop them open.

How long had he been on Earth? What was he before? She’d hoped he would say something like ‘landed’ or ‘risen’ to give her a clue of which direction he came from, Heaven or Hell, but he was cautious with his words.

“No, like this.” His hands brushed her fingers and she swore he gasped.

She yearned to experience the connection with him from the day before, but shook it off and refocused. Some sort of energy oozed into her pores. Not the same kind of soothing calm Grace gave, but a more exciting hum filling her with energy. Maybe a demonic force designed to draw her to him?

He took a long breath, shuddered and squeezed tight, snapping the shell open.

“You want to ask me something. Don’t you?”

Sammy glanced at his big brown eyes and her heart melted. Not from the eyes, but something behind them, a glimmer of some sort. He couldn’t be a demon.

“I…I—”

“Wanted to know if I’m a hideous monster from the underworld waiting for an opportunity to rip your soul out of that
body
and send it to Hell.”

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