Hallowed Page 1

Author: Cynthia Hand

Series: Unearthly #2

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy


In the dream, there’s sorrow. I feel it over everything else, a terrible grief that chokes me, blurs my sight, weighs down my feet as I move through the tall grass. I walk among pine trees up a gentle slope. It’s not the hillside from my vision, not the forest fire, not anyplace I’ve seen before. This is something new. Overhead the sky is a pure, cloudless blue. Sun shining. Birds singing. A warm breeze stirring the trees.

A Black Wing must be nearby, really nearby, if the raging grief is any indication. I glance around. That’s when I see my brother walking beside me. He’s wearing a suit, black jacket and everything: dark gray button-down shirt, shiny shoes, a striped silver tie. He gazes straight ahead, his jaw set in determination or anger or something else I can’t identify.

“Jeffrey,” I murmur.

He doesn’t look at me. He says, “Let’s just get this over with.” I wish I knew what he meant.

Then someone takes my hand, and it’s familiar, the heat of his skin, the slender yet masculine fingers enfolding mine. Like a surgeon’s hand, I once thought. Christian’s. My breath catches. I shouldn’t let him hold my hand, not now, not after everything, but I don’t pull away. I look up the sleeve of his suit to his face, his serious green gold-flecked eyes. And for an instant the sorrow eases.

You can do this, he whispers in my mind.

Chapter 1

Looking for Midas

Bluebell’s not blue anymore. The fire has transformed Tucker’s 1978 Chevy LUV into a mix of black, gray, and rusty orange, the windows shattered by the heat, the tires missing, the interior a sickening blackened twist of metal and melted dashboard and upholstery. It’s hard to believe, looking at it now, that a few weeks ago one of my favorite things in the world was riding around in this old truck with the windows rolled down, letting my fingers trail through the air, sneaking glances over at Tucker just because I liked looking at him. This is where everything happened, pressed against Bluebell’s beat-up, musty seats. This is where I fell in love.

And now it’s all burned up.

Tucker’s staring at what’s left of Bluebell with grief in his stormy blue eyes, one hand resting on the scorched hood like he’s saying his final good-byes. I take his other hand. He hasn’t said a lot since we got here. We’ve spent the afternoon wandering through the burned part of the forest, searching for Midas, Tucker’s horse. Part of me thought this was a bad idea, coming out here again, looking, but when Tucker asked me to bring him here I said yes. I get it—he loved Midas, not only because he was a champion rodeo horse, but because Tucker had been there the night Midas was born, watched him take his first shaky steps, raised him and trained him and rode him on practically every horse trail in Teton County. He wants to know what happened to him. He wants closure.

I know the feeling.

At one point we came across the carcass of an elk, burned nearly to ash, which for an awful moment I thought was Midas until I saw the antlers, but that was all we found.

“I’m sorry, Tuck,” I say now. I know I couldn’t have saved Midas, no way I could have flown carrying Tucker and a full-grown horse out of the burning forest that day, but it still feels like my fault, somehow.

His hand tightens in mine. He turns and shows me a hint of dimple.

“Hey, don’t be sorry,” he says. I loop an arm around his neck as he pulls me closer. “I’m the one who should be sorry for dragging you out here today. It’s depressing. I feel like we should be celebrating or something. You saved my life, after all.” He smiles, a real smile this time, full of warmth and love and everything I could ask for. I tug his face down, finding all kinds of solace in the way his lips move over mine, the thump of his heart against my palm, the sheer steadiness and strength of this boy who stole my heart. For a minute I let myself get lost in him.

I failed at my purpose.

I try to push the thought away, but it lingers. Something twists inside me. A sharp gust of wind hits us, and the rain, which was drizzling on us before, starts to come down harder. It’s been raining for three solid days, ever since the fires. It’s cold, that kind of chilly damp that passes right through my coat. Fog rolls between the blackened trees.

Reminds me of hell, actually.

I pull away from Tucker, shivering.

God, I need therapy, I think.

Right. As if I can picture telling my story to a shrink, stretched out on a sofa talking about how I’m part angel, how all angel-bloods have this purpose we’re put on earth to fulfill, how on the day of my purpose I happened to bump into a fallen angel. Who literally took me to hell for about five minutes. Who tried to kill my mother. And how I fought him with a type of magical holy light. Then I had to fly off to save a boy from a forest fire, only I didn’t save him. I saved my boyfriend instead, but it turns out that the original boy didn’t need saving, anyway, because he’s part angel, too.

Yeah, somehow I have the feeling that my first visit to a therapist would end with me in a straitjacket getting comfy in my new padded cell.

“You okay?” Tucker asks quietly.

I haven’t told him about hell. Or the Black Wing. Because Mom says that when you know about Black Wings you’re more likely to draw their attention, however that works.

I haven’t told him about a lot of things.

“I’m fine. I’m just . . .” What? What am I? Hopelessly confused? Completely screwed up?

Eternally doomed?

I go with: “Cold.”

He hugs me, rubs his hands up and down my arms, trying to warm me. For a second I see that worried, slightly offended look he gets when he knows I’m not telling him the entire truth, but I stretch up and give him another kiss, a soft one, at the corner of his mouth.

“Let’s never break up again, okay?” I tell him. “I don’t think I could handle it.” His eyes soften. “It’s a deal. No more breaking up. Come on,” he says, taking my hand and leading me back to where my car is parked at the edge of the burned clearing. He opens my door for me, then runs around to the passenger side and gets in. He grins. “Let’s get the heck out of here.”

I love that he says heck.

I’ve totally had enough of hell.

It’s a different girl this year, sitting in the silver Prius in the parking lot of Jackson Hole High School on her first day of class. First off, this girl’s a blonde: long, wavy gold hair with subtle tints of red. She wears her hair in a tight ponytail at the base of her neck, and on top of that she’s crammed a gray fedora, which she hopes will come off as cool and vintage and will take some of the attention away from her hair. She looks sun-kissed—not tan exactly, but with a very definite glow. But it’s not the hair or the skin that I don’t quite recognize as my own when I peer into the rearview mirror. It’s the eyes. In those large blue-gray eyes is a brand-new knowledge of good and evil. I look older. Wiser. I hope that’s true.