Chapter 13

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It was a game I hadn't played in a while, one I'd promised I wouldn't play again. I waited until Noah left for his flight, until it was so dark I couldn't see the clouds against the sky. I grabbed my long overcoat and flew north, flew to the city.

I came down in a dark alley, one I used to use a lot. It had no windows facing it and the only doors were to businesses that shut after dark. The second I landed, I pulled my black coat around me, and suddenly I could have been anyone. I wasn't Noah's brother, or Keira's friend, or an orphan or a vet. I was just another guy out on a Friday night.

I strode straight across the road to a club so exclusive it didn't even have a sign, yet people still cued for hours to get in. Skipping the line, I walked up to the bouncer and shook his hand. His eyes widened in recognition.

"Hey, man, haven't seen you in a while. Enjoy."

He opened the rope for me with one hand, while stealthily pocketing my fifty with the other. The line behind me began to clamour with shouts of, "No fair!" and "What the?" but in a moment the padded leather door closed behind me and all I could hear was the sound of bass.

The cloak room girl called from behind her window, "Take your coat, sir?"

"Not on your life," I spoke under my breath and keep moving.

Beyond a second door, a whole other world waited for me: artificial smoke, laser lights, alcohol, constantly moving anonymous bodies. I found a dark corner at the bar, ordered a beer and waited.

Over the next few hours, I was approached by giggling, scantily-clad girls, some barely old enough to drink, asking if I wanted to dance. A smoking hot brunette with killer legs sat next to me and just stared for a while, invitation in her eyes. There were a lot of choice that night, but I was looking for something in particular.

Finally I found what I was looking for: a slender blonde with long limbs. She came in with friends and as they approached the bar, I met her eyes. She smiled at me from behind her fall of hair and I sent a drink her way. When she finished it, I led her to the dance floor where we moved in time, our bodies close and hot. After a while, she grabbed my hand and pulled me outside into the night. All of this and we didn't speak a word.

We tumbled into a taxi, pouncing on each other. Her teeth clashed with mine during our hot, desperate kisses, while our hands groped like a pair of tangled octopuses. We practically ran up the stairs to her darkened apartment and as soon as we were inside, we fell on each other again. I had no intention of taking off my coat, but she began to fumble for her own clothes as we moved together towards the bedroom.

Then she turned on a light and it all fell apart. Under the harsh brightness, I saw that her hair had dark roots and her eyes were the wrong colour. Her nose was too small, her cheeks round instead of sculpted, her skin nearly orange under a layer of fake tan. She was still good looking, but she wasn't who I wanted her to be.

"I'm sorry," I said to the girl without a name. "I'm not meant to be here." I pushed out her door and into the night. I ran until my legs scalded and my lungs wheezed and then I took off, not caring who saw, not caring about anything anymore.

When I landed, the house was dark and quiet. The only thing I wanted to do was fall into bed and forget the night, forget myself. But of course, she was there. Each night since she and Noah had gotten together, she sat waiting for him like a lonely puppy and each night I would have to see her and remind myself that she didn't wait for me.

"Hey, Leigh," she spoke, her voice low and lyrical. "Long night?"

"I haven't seen Noah," I answered her question before she could ask it.

She made a face. "He's already turned in. I just couldn't sleep. Did... did you ever feel like you're just so messed up?"

The girl without a name's face came back to me, the thought of her making me cringe. "Yeah. Yeah I do." I looked at Keira carefully. "So why do you feel messed up?"

"I don't know," she said. "I mean... everything is suddenly so... intense. I'm broken for starters, it's killing me that I can't fly, and then I find out I'm part of this huge history, a race I didn't even know existed, and there are people who hunt us and then there's Noah..." She trailed off and I held my breath, hoping for more. "I want things to be easy. But it feels like there's so much that he's holding back and I don't know why." She put her head in her hands, her silky hair falling forward and covering her face.

The whole situation sucked. All I wanted to do was tell her yes, my brother is a big, high-maintenance Bible thumper, dump him quick. But instinctively, I wanted to make her feel better and even with my terrible evening behind me, I chose the high road.

"Your wing will be fine," I told her. "I'll rewrap it tomorrow and you should be back in the air soon. And, yeah, Pop gave you a lot to take in, but we're here, and we're a family now."

She smiled at me and I smiled back, the first time we'd made real eye contact since our breakfast, which seemed like eons ago.

"As for Noah... I can't exactly help you there. Noah will never be easy. You just have to decide if that's really something you want."

Keira sighed deeply. "I don't think I can just walk away."

I felt a hot pain shoot across my chest. "I guess you have your answer then. Come see me in the morning for your wing. Good night, Keira."

She stood and before I could stop her, wrapped her arms and wing around me in a hug. "Thank you," she breathed in my ear.

I didn't trust myself to speak, to even look at her. I closed my eyes, squeezed her back, breathed her in. We stood like that for a long moment, long enough for me to pretend that she held me because I was the one who made her whole.

Finally I had to let her go. I tore away to bed before my heart could be damaged any more than I had already allowed.

Is now a good time to mention that this book was written as part of a series?  I realised halfway through writing Feathers that I couldn't fit everything in - Keira's family, Leigh and Noah's lives, and the looming threat of capture - it was more than a one-book dealio.

So if you're enjoying the read so far - great news!  These characters will be around for pages and pages to come :)  Expect a few cliff-hangers, new love interests, more action, and so many secrets.

Please votie mcvote-face before you move on - I love my readers for their support of my work, and for your interaction with the stories I write.  Tell me, have you ever had a desperate, hopeless, never-to-be-requited crush on someone, so strong you thought your very soul might tear in half?  Let me know in the comments, and I'll see you again soon xxoo Kate

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