When Kaelynn walked back to the car, Gabriel was gone and Hayden looked incensed. She opened the driver’s door quietly. She slid onto the cool seat. Hayden was glaring out the window. He was probably mad because she ran off, she assumed. She fiddled with the key chain, her hair, and the covering on the steering wheel before finally asking,
“What’s wrong with you?”
Hayden turned toward her and shook his head. “Nothing.”
“Don’t lie,” Kaelynn sighed. “Are you mad because I walked off?”
“No, I’m fine. Believe me. If I were mad at you, you would know it. You wouldn’t have to ask.”
Kaelynn's shoulders relaxed in relief. She hadn’t even notice that they were tensed. She rolled them, then knotted her dark hair at the nape of her neck. Then she turned the key in the ignition.
“So where to?”
“Shut it off.”
“Shut off the car. You need to sleep, and since you won’t let me drive, we have to stay here.”
Kaelynn did as she was told. She understood where he was coming from. It made sense. She leaned her seat back, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. She wasn’t gonna argue wit him. He looked angry enough already.
“I’m sorry.” It was whispered, almost as if he hoped she wouldn’t hear.
Silence filled the car as they both drifted off to sleep.
Kaelynn was woken with a start. Hayden had covered her mouth and was staring at her withwide eyes. He shook his head and raised his free hand, pressing a finger to his lips. Kaelynn nodded and he removed his hand.
“Lucifer,” he whispered in answer to the question in her eyes.
She froze. “Where?” That one word was choked out. For all her bravado and mixed feelings in that room, she was terrified of him. She didn’t know if she could handle being tortured again. She started breathing quickly and shallowly, her chest rising and falling in small bursts. Hayden grabbed one of her hands and pinched the inside of her wrist, dragging her back to her senses.
“You need to turn the car on and get us out of here,” he ordered.
She reached to turn the key in the ignition, but they weren’t there. “Oh, God,” she whispered, closing her eyes tightly.
Hayden crouched down, pushing her legs out of the way. A few seconds later, the car purred to life. Kaelynn's eyes snapped open.
“How did you do that?”
“Hot-wired it. Now drive.”
Kaelynn peeled out of the rest area. The highway was packed. It was rush hour in Southern California. She had to slow down almost immediately. She glanced worriedly in her rear-view mirror. Every car she saw, which was a lot, sent a shiver of terror trickling up her spine. As soon as she saw a space up ahead, she ripped into it. Every second that passed felt like an hour. A pool of sweat collected on the back of her neck.
“Go!” Hayden yelled suddenly.
Ahead of them, the way had suddenly opened. Kaelynn pushed her foot down until the pedal wouldn’t go any further. The Ferrari lurched forward. The sudden burst of speed slammed them back into their seats. Kaelynn yelped, but didn’t take her foot off the gas. She feared Lucifer more than death. The funny part was, Lucifer wanted to kill her. What scared her the most, though, was how easily she knew he could get her to turn her back on herself- how easily he could break her and turn her into something she was not. She would rather die as herself, than to die as someone she wouldn’t recognize in the mirror.
She glided through traffic easily. Anybody outside of the car wouldn’t think that the river was a terrified sixteen-year-old girl. On the inside, though, Hayden watched Kaelynn drive. The look on his face was half-worried, half-terrified. He didn’t know what to do. Kaelynn was driving perfectly, but she looked terrible. Tears rolled down her face and she kept gasping, taking deep, quick breaths. Hayden didn’t know what he could do to make things better. On one hand, he wanted to pull her into his arms and hold her until she stopped crying, but on the other hand, he didn’t want to anger Gabriel- especially so soon after yelling at him. Plus, there was Kat to worry about. He decided to take a safer route.
“Kaelynn,” he said softly, trying not to startle her. She didn’t answer. It was as if he didn’t even register. She stared forward, her eyes glazed and wide, ignoring the tears tracking down her face and the sweat dripping into her eyes.
He reached over and touched her right arm gently. She jerked violently and almost collided with a bright red pickup. The driver of the truck honked angrily at the black car. Kaelynn swerved quickly, ending up in the ditch. Hayden quickly reached over and shut off the engine. He wanted to make sure the lights didn’t attract attention- mainly from Lucifer’s people. Kaelynn had her head on the steering wheel. Sobs wracked her body.
“Kaelynn.” He touched her arm again. “Kaelynn. Please.”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m... I’m just...” The words were muffled by the steering wheel. “I’m so tired of being scared.” She lifted her head and looked at him. Her face was blotchy and her eyes were red and swollen. “I don’t want to keep running. I just want it to be over.”
Hayden saw her eyes overfill again and something broke inside him. He saw things, for the first time, through her eyes. She had been thrown into this mess without help from anybody but a worthless angel who was more worried about his girlfriend than protecting Kaelynn. Hayden knew he couldn’t completely blame Lucan, but a surge of dislike filled him. Kaelynn was suffering. She’d been tortured, ridiculed, ‘persuaded’ to do something she truly didn’t want to, and, worst of all, she’d had her wings torn from her body. With her being almost completely pure, that had to have been the most excruciating thing to ever happen to her, passing even Edison’s beatings. The whole time she’d been brave. Hayden had never seen her this vulnerable.
Hayden abandoned his ‘safer route’. He had an incredibly strong urge to protect her. All thoughts of Gabriel and Kat flew from his head. He took ahold of Kaelynn’s hand. She tried weakly to tug away, but he held on firmly.
“Come here,” he said gently.
He pulled her over onto his lap. When she was settled against his chest, he wrapped his arms around her, stroking her back and playing absentmindedly with a lock of her long, beautiful, dark hair. He pushed away any romantic feelings, focusing only on comforting. By the time she stopped shaking and was just laying there, the front of his shirt was soaked and the sky had started to darken in the east. Hayden didn’t speak. He knew from experience that it would be better to let her start when she felt ready to. After a while, she lifted her head. Her cheeks were pink and she quickly scooted back over into her own seat. She wiped her eyes.
“How come you’re so good at that?” she asked in a husky voice.
Hayden shrugged. “Practice.”
Kaelynn’s mouth dropped open.
“No!” Hayden said quickly. “Not like that.” He shook his head and laughed a little. “Before I fell I was a guardian angel.”
“A guardian angel? They’re real?”
This time, the laugh was genuine. “You believe in angels, fallen angels, God, and even the Devil, but you doubt the existence of guardian angels?”
Kaelynn’s blush deepened. “So? What do they do?”
“Pretty much the same things as in the stories. We get assigned a human and we watch over them. When they are children, they can see us, but as they get older, and the more they’re told we don’t really exist, the less they see. It’s like we just fade away, out of their memories. The thing is, we don’t just leave. We keep tabs on them. Always. It’s like a constant movie in your head. You see bits of what’s going on in their lives. The depressing part is, you see all of the bad things. When something really bad is going to happen, and it’s not their time for it, you go and help. Sometimes when they’re upset and you aren’t busy with somebody else, just your mere presence can comfort them.”
Kaelynn sighed. “That sounds like a nice job.”
“It was,” Hayden agreed.
Kaelynn frowned. “What did you do?”
Hayden was quiet for a moment. “To fall?”
“The same as you. Nothing.”
Kaelynn took a quick, sharp breath. She’d had no clue. “You went through the same thing that I did?”
He smiled a little bitterly. “Yeah, but of course it wasn’t as painful as it was to you.”
Kaelynn realized something. “You were a perfect angel, weren’t you?”
Hayden looked at her sharply. “You know that’s not possible.”
“No, I only know what everybody decides to tell me. It’s just like the whole, ‘let her choose’ thing, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, Lucan tells me I absolutely must not sin- you tell me it’s pretty much impossible not to sin. He tells me I don’t have to choose, I just have to be good- you tell me that I have to actually ‘choose’. It’s like you almost can’t lie. You always tell me the truth. So...” She shrugged.
“I have lied,” Hayden pointed out.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t a perfect angel. You’re fallen now. Besides, that explains why you aren’t one of the devil’s minions. He has no influence on you. At least, not enough for you to be forced to do everything he says.”
Hayden reached over and turned on the car’s engine. “We should go.” He studied her for a moment longer before shaking his head. “How’d you figure it out?”
Kaelynn pulled back onto the highway, startling a few of the evening commuters. They swerved a little and honked angrily at her. “I guess it was your face when you said getting my wings pulled probably hurt me more than yours did you. It was a lie.”
“How do you know that?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just do,” Kaelynn answered after a pause. “If Lucifer can’t control you, why were your wings pulled?”
“Because,” Hayden answered angrily. “He thinks if he can get me to really, truly, commit a sin, he’ll gain control of me. “Pure angels are very loyal.”
“How many are there?”
“Only about fifty.”
“Only?” That seemed sort of a lot to her- especially if they were as rare as she had been led to believe.
“Think of it like this. There is an angel for every human being, which is about seven billion. Then, you have to add in the angels from the other jobs.”
Kaelynn swerved around a minivan packed with soccer kids. “How many jobs are there?”
“A lot. There are messenger angels and angels of death. There are healing angels and-” His sentence didn’t get to be finished. A big blue Ford slammed into the side of Kaelynn’s car.
If she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt, Kaelynn would have been thrown onto Hayden. She was trapped, though. She couldn’t move her left arm and there was a cut on her head. The blood dripped into her eyes, partially blinding her. The sound of metal scraping across metal rang in her ears. She could hear Hayden calling her name. It sounded like he was far away. Kaelynn tried to open her eyes but it felt like something was holding them closed. There was a huge grating sound, Hayden was yelling, and suddenly, everything went silent.
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