FALLEN

Excerpt 1

 

My Calculus homework lay directly next to me; the edges of the paper tickling my forearm, taunting me. I was torn. Homework should have been my first priority, especially since what I was about to do would very likely be a complete waste of time anyways. 


There was no possible way I could conjure someone to my bedroom. It was an irrational expectation. Eran was human, flesh and blood, incapable of knowing my unspoken desires. I was going to end up exhausted from my attempt, embarrassed at myself for trying, and feeling rejected by Eran – all this and he wouldn’t even know I was trying to reach him! The idea was so ludicrous I almost gave up before I started. Despite how crazy it seemed, I still laid there debating whether to take the sane approach and delve into the mountain of homework that awaited me or choose the alternative and follow my curious desire.


I groaned, knowing that eventually my longing to see Eran would win; so I finally gave in. 


Five minutes, no longer.


I wiggled deeper into the fluff of covers and got comfortable. I was going to need uninterrupted concentration to pull this off, the kind that’s very difficult to achieve after a long, trying, tiring day. Still, the thought of seeing Eran again helped me overcome my anxiety.


Memories of him flashed through my subconscious. His beautiful, scintillating face was so clearly defined in my mind, I felt like I could easily sketch him. The presence of his conceit was undeniable, always there, barely submerged beneath the surface…annoying me. As these memories broke apart and dissipated, I wanted to reach out and keep him with me.


I could not understand why he had such a strong pull, so much command, over my emotions. It wasn’t fair, even if it kept me intrigued. There was something about Eran that I could not figure out. Eran…who did not live in my neighborhood or attend my school…had the uncanny ability to suddenly appear whenever I needed him.


As ridiculous as it made me feel to admit, none of this made any sense. This is precisely why I was calling him here.


The real question, however, was…how? How did one summon somebody to their bedroom?


Think, I told myself.


Eran appeared only when I was in trouble, or more precisely, when I was about to be in trouble. What plagued my mind was how he knew. There was the possibility that he followed me, but I discarded that thought almost immediately. I was observant enough that I would have seen him. It could have been dumb luck, but that seemed out of the question. Too improbable. Regardless, being in trouble seemed to be the key. So I concentrated on how best to create trouble for myself. This would be difficult, especially in the comfort and safety of my own bedroom.


Think…think… 


I remained motionless for several minutes, trying desperately to come up with something, anything, that would put me in danger, but short of burning the house down, I came up blank. 


I was sure my five-minute time limit had passed long ago, so despite my disappointment, I resigned myself to the failure, opened my eyes, and sat up in a huff. 


And there he was.


Eran stood directly in front of me - at the foot of my bed - smirking. 


“I was beginning to think you weren’t going to sit up again,” he divulged in his captivating accent.


We were inches away without a single part of our bodies touching, invisible currents of excitement charged between us. If he was breathing, I didn’t notice, but my breath was trapped in my lungs for a punctuated minute, as we continued staring at each other, silently, hesitantly. 


I recognized that my head was beginning to swim from lack of oxygen, which he must have noticed too. 


“Inhale, Magdalene,” he coaxed, softly.


I finally allowed my lungs to open, enjoying the cool, refreshing feeling as they filled up. Still, our eyes were locked, and I nearly shook with the thrill of having him so close. Surprisingly, I was able to contain it.


He watched me curiously, unmoving, as I collected myself.


“How-how did you get in here?” I asked, finally able to formulate words.


“Weren’t you interested in seeing me?” he responded, sounding only slightly troubled.


I was uncomfortable with the fact that he called me out, but denying it would do no good. It was obvious to me now – though I had no idea how I achieved it – that he had come because of me.


“How did you get in here?” I repeated, feeling stupid.


“You have a trellis up the side of your house.”


“I do?”


He nodded. 


“Oh.”


“You don’t look like you’re in mortal danger so did you need something else specifically?” He lifted his eyebrows, insinuating.


I hesitated, uncertain of wanting to go through with the line of questioning I brainstormed. But I knew, now was the time to ask, or I may never have another chance. Given Eran’s unpredictability, there was no telling when he would show back up.


“How did you know I wanted to speak with you?” I demanded, quietly. 


“Ah, that…” He took a step back, leaning against the dresser Rufus gave me so I’d stop hogging the bathroom. His hands curled around its edges, allowing his muscles to expand across his shoulders and chest, straining against the thin, black sweater he was wearing. I was momentarily distracted.


Regaining my composure, I asked, “Are you going to answer me?”


“I wasn’t sure how.”


“The truth always helps,” I suggested.


“No…that’s not what I mean…” He seemed to struggle for the words to explain. “I’m…I’m not sure how I do it.”


It was clear he was as frustrated as me. I gave him time, glancing around my room and noting that I hadn’t picked up a single stitch of clothing in what looked to be a week. I made a movement to begin straightening up, and make my room presentable, when he began to speak.


“Typically, I don’t feel you. Most of the time there is…nothing. Then, something happens. It’s either a slow build up or…or an intensely quick response, but suddenly I’m overwhelmed with a feeling that I can only liken to the sensation of panic.”


Oddly, I was able to discern that he just uncannily described every instance of fear that I was beginning to sense these last few days. I nodded, asking him to go on, and waited.


His eyes dropped to the floor, flitting back and forth, as if they would reveal some understanding of what he experienced. 


“Then I have an uncontrollable need to find you, to protect you.” His eyes were usually so certain, but now, so confused, rising back up to meet mine. In a rush of words, making me think he was slightly embarrassed to announce them, he declared, “I can think of nothing else then until I see that you are safe.”


“But you came tonight…even though I wasn’t fearful, or in any danger.”


“Right, I did,” he said, still perplexed. “Tonight was different. I…I felt a…yearning. From you.”


The realization of his words spread through me like hot liquid, and now it was my eyes that dropped to the floor, avoiding his. I could feel the heat creep up over my cheeks and across my forehead. I had never been more mortified in all my life.


“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he assured me, though I detected humor beneath his words.


Yet, it was something to be ashamed of. He had no control over the feelings that pestered him when it pertained to dealing with me – he’d just made that clear - whereas I did have control. I had no excuse.


I realized he was waiting patiently for my reply, watching me with his intense blue-green eyes. 


“I have more questions,” I whispered, my head still down, wishing the flush would fade faster.


He stepped forward, tucking his finger under my chin and gently lifting it so I was forced to look up. A shock ran through my body when he touched me and intensified when our eyes met. “I don’t think any less of you for asking me to come here.” He exuded a tenderness that made his words unquestionably sincere.


I gave him an awkward smile, intended to be an unspoken thanks for pacifying my ego. He really could be chivalrous when he put forth the effort.


But then, he dropped his hand and stepped back against the dresser again, adding playfully, “It’s really not your fault. You can’t help yourself when it comes to me.”


I sneered at him, but still laughed. “Funny…” 


“Not really. I rather enjoy it.”


I couldn’t be certain whether he meant what he said or he was still teasing, but I decided it was safer to change the subject nonetheless. 


“I did call you here for a reason…”


“Yes, you said you have questions.” A smile played on his lips. “Shoot.”


I sat up on the foot of the bed before beginning. I needed to see his reactions, and that position gave me a better vantage point. Thankfully, my flushing was finally starting to diminish.


“You’re not from around here, are you?” I asked, starting with an easy one.


“I’m close enough.”


“Where?”


“Close enough.” There was no arrogant grin accompanying what appeared to be teasing banter. Instead, his face was firmly set, undeterred.


I sighed. “You agreed to answer my questions.”


“I did and I will. But you’ll need to allow me to do it on my own terms.”


“Is that the new agreement?”


“It is.”


I rolled my eyes. “Alright then…under the new agreement, will you explain to me why you only appear when I’m in danger?”


“Well…” He chuckled to himself. “The simplest answer is, you need saving.”


I sighed, frustrated at his perception, then muttered, “What I mean is, why don’t I ever see you any other time? You don’t live in this neighborhood, I’ve checked.”


His eyebrows rose. “You have?”


I ignored him. “I also noticed you don’t go to my school. So where are you when you’re not…here?”


“Busy, very busy.”


“Saving others?”


“Nope…” He shook his head back and forth slowly. “You demand too much of my time to allow for that.”


I groaned. “Thanks for the reminder.”


He moved, startling me; but seeing my reaction he stopped halfway to the bed. “May I?”


“Yes…” My heart began to pound harder, knowing his intention was to sit beside me, narrowing the space between us.


When I felt the weight of his body dip down, causing its own indention in the mattress, I thought my heart was going to explode through my rib cage. 


I was almost certain its heavy pounding was audible, when he asked, “You’re sure?”


“Of course…”


The nearest parts of our bodies were inches away again, and I could feel the heat radiating from him.

Although, when I glanced up, he didn’t appear flushed at all. He was calm and collected. “Look, I’m not certain how to explain this but…I will do anything…anything to keep you safe. It’s not a burden. You’re not taking anything away from me. This is my willful choosing.”


“But why? I don’t understand. You barely know me,” I asked, bewildered by his declaration. “We just met a few days ago, and I’ve only seen you three times before tonight.”


He dipped his head, displaying a bemused, secretive grin. There was something he wanted to explain, something to confess, but he held back. Instead, he seemed to choose a different response. “You are more important than you give yourself credit for, Magdalene.”


“How could you possibly believe that? There’s no reason to…”


“You’re important to me.”


Hearing those words made my heart flutter and my head snap up, facing him for the first time since he’d sat down. He was already staring down at me. “I am?” I whispered.


He smiled softly. “More than you know.”


I felt a grin slowly invade my face. 


The tension was quickly growing between us. We were captured in each other’s eyes, unable and unwilling to break away. I clasped my hands in my lap, steadily working them, trying to expel the strain of having him so close and yet so untouchable. He, too, seemed to be struggling. His jaw was clenched tight, and his breathing was short and shallow.


Suddenly, his body stiffened and he blurted out, “Your questions… Do you have more?”


I was startled by the blunt ending to our intense moment. Feeling the flush return to my cheeks, I wondered if I had just imagined it all. No…I decided. I saw the unmistakable craving in his eyes. 


I was confused. Why did he abruptly end our moment? Stumbling over my response, I answered “I…yes…I do…actually.”


He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, but I couldn’t be sure. “How did you move so fast when the snake came out of my bag?”


“Would you rather I let the snake attack you?”


“That’s not what I mean…”


After quietly pausing, he admitted, “I know what you mean.”


“Then will you answer me?”


“Yes, but before I do, I’d like you to answer one question for me.” 


“Sure,” I replied, hesitantly. Now I felt the scrutiny that Eran must be feeling.


“What else have you noticed about me?”


I shrugged. “You’re impenetrable, you move extremely fast, and…” I let my voice trail off, surveying everything I had noticed.


“Yes,” he pressed.


“No one else seems to see you but me.”


He allowed his gaze to lower, but he didn’t answer. So I went on.


“You appear and then vanish like a ghost. You aren’t injured from venomous snake bites. You aren’t killed by wayward, incredibly sharp arrows.” Then, I reiterated, “I am the only one who can see you… How is any of this possible?”


“You do pay attention,” he said, sounding almost regretful, though I didn’t understand why.


“Yes, now will you tell me how you are capable of all that?”


He paused, still looking at me, as he collected his thoughts. The muscles throughout his body visibly flexed, tensing as he prepared his answer. “I have certain…gifts…that not many others can claim…gifts of speed, healing, and regeneration, to name a few.”


He paused, waiting for my reaction.


“Don’t worry so much,” I said, teasingly. “I’m not going to run screaming for the door.”


We quietly laughed together for a brief moment.  When I felt like he was comfortable again, I asked my next question. 


“So, where did you get these gifts? Did your parents take some sort of special drug?”


“Not exactly. I can’t answer that, as much as I know you’d like me to. Just suffice, Magdalene, to know that without these gifts, you wouldn’t be here right now.”


“I realize that.”


“That’s good. It’ll make my job easier the next time.”


I rolled my eyes. His assumption that there would be a next time was arguable, but I knew bringing up that point would be futile. “So what are your other gifts? You hinted that there are more.”


“Oh…I can control mechanical things. Your motorcycle…for instance…the first time you saw me. Remember, you were about to collide with me in the middle of the street and thought you were losing control, but really, I took over…turning it for you before the Mustang could make contact.”


“Really?” I was intrigued. “So why did I end up in the hedge? Hmm?”


He grinned at me. “Now that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been counter-steering.”


“How was I supposed to know you were trying to handle the bike for me? I just wanted to avoid crashing.”


He threw back his head and released a laugh that was quiet, but full of passion. Finally subsiding, he spoke again in a hushed tone. “It’s also how I got through your balcony doors tonight. I can pick locks, without even having to touch them.”


“Really? That must come in handy…,” I mused.


“It does.” He beamed mischievously at me. “But I don’t want to startle you. I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t sensed that you wanted to speak to me.” 


“Thanks, but it really doesn’t bother me. I have nothing to hide.”


“I see,” he mumbled thoughtfully. “I wish I could say the same.”


The severity of his tone made me fall still, a reaction he must have sensed. Tension surged between us again; although, this time it was uncomfortable. 


“If you have nothing further…,” he said, standing suddenly. He was tight-lipped, not bothering to wait on a reply from me before heading toward the balcony.


“Wait!” Not wanting him to leave, I reached out and grabbed his arm. I was instantly reminded how hot he was to the touch when our skin made contact. It almost felt like a flame had solidified, and I was holding it. Without thinking, I jerked my hand back.


“Are you hurt?” he asked urgently, though I detected softness in his voice.


“No, I…I just don’t want you to leave.” I couldn’t believe my ego just allowed me to speak those words.


“I think it is best,” he said, turning to face the door. “I’ve told you all I can.”


“But…I still don’t understand who you are…,” I whispered. My voice sounded as if I was pleading.


He didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he turned back toward me, his expression slowly changing into longing. The look on his face made me feel ashamed to have asked and desperation came over me, reflecting my own needs. I wanted to help him answer, but I knew any sound I made would threaten the delicate balance he was clearly now fighting. In the end, he erred on the side of caution and chose not to tell me the truth. “You know my name…,” he stated finally.


“There’s more to you than a name,” I replied, almost sounding bitter. “Even if you won’t tell me, I see it. Whatever you are holding back…whatever your secrets are…you can share them with me; I won’t judge you.”


I saw a flicker of unease cross his face, I assumed in reaction to my insight.


I heard footsteps outside my door and realized someone was approaching. Despite Eran’s searing heat, I instantly grabbed his arm again; wanting to make sure he didn’t get away.


Sure enough, after a quick knock, Felix’s head popped through the narrowly opened door. 


“Ready for dessert?” he asked, gleaming like a kid who’d just been given a cookie.


He looked directly at me…not beyond, where I was still holding Eran’s arm.


I yawned as convincingly as possible – which proved to be a challenge since my heart was racing from the excitement of Eran being here and the trepidation surrounding our conversation. “I’m more tired than hungry, but thanks Felix.”


“Are you certain? Its rhubarb pie made with gluten-free, corn crust!”


“I’m sure. Thanks,” I said, waiting for Felix to close the door before turning back to Eran. 


I released Eran’s arm, snapping my hand away and shaking it vigorously; as if that would stop the pain surging through my fingers, reaching up my palm.


“How is it you are so hot all the time?” I asked, staring at my hand, amazed that once again no damage had been done. 


“Sorry about that,” he said, although he was grinning. “Sort of goes with the territory.”


I shook my head in exasperation. “Do you know how hard it is for me to have you stand here and still not be able to figure you out?”


He scoffed. “Do you have any idea how difficult you make this for me?”


“Make what difficult exactly?” 


“Being around you. You’re impossible to please, you know. You think I’m puzzling…you’re the enigma, Magdalene…you don’t want to be rescued even when it is painfully obvious you need it. You keep me busier than I’ve ever been…and that’s saying something! You have a desperate desire to help others, yet you never let anyone else close enough to help you.”


I was disturbed by his rant…especially because he seemed to know me so well in such a short amount of time. 


Silence filled the room as we stared at each other, his intense eyes boring into me. 


When I spoke, my voice was no higher than a whisper. “You know, even if I’m important to you, as you say…it still doesn’t seem as if you like me. I don’t understand why you’re trying to help me at all.”


He moved a step closer, his body heat hitting me like a tidal wave so forcefully that I had to steady myself against the bed. He must have thought this meant I was taking a step back because he froze in response, but when he spoke his voice was tender. 


“It will be much easier on you if you simply let me do what I need to do.”


“Well, it doesn’t look like I have much choice in the matter, does it?” I spoke lightly.


He laughed. “No, you don’t.”


I shook my head, truly mystified. Why wouldn’t he just tell me what he was holding back? Then I looked up and saw his smile and it became more difficult to breath. How could he be so handsome when I was so angry at him?


He headed for the balcony again, but just before he stepped out the door, he turned back.


“You’re wrong about me not liking you,” he said earnestly, and I felt my heart skip a beat. 


As if he heard it, he flashed a smug grin and disappeared over the railing.
 

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