Page 25 of Tripping on a Halo

“I was there that day. My sister lives in your neighborhood, and we were holding a Celebration of Life for my mom.” She tilted her head back, her gaze on the night sky, and he could sense the pain radiating off her, still raw and unhealed. “I had a headache and went for a walk, just to get away from everyone. And then I saw you.” She turned her head to meet his gaze. “And I felt something. Not like hearts and romance,” she hurried to finish as if my confusion needed instant remedying. “It was more like this alarm inside my head. It was so intense that I thought I was having a panic attack. With the grief and the stress over my mom…” The door to the bar opened, a group spilling out, and Declan stiffened, praying Nate wasn’t among them. They turned left, stumbling away, and she watched them go, then returned her attention to him. “But the feeling, the alarm, it seemed tied to you somehow.”

He turned to face her, readjusting his position against the brick, and tucked his hands in the pockets of his jeans to keep himself from reaching for her. He tried to follow her disjointed explanation of events. “I don’t get it. What does this internal alarm have to do with anything? You think you knew the plane was going to crash?”

“Sort of.” She frowned. “I… it was more that something was going to happen to you. The plane crash just happened to be what was going to happen to you.”

“But I was fine.”

“You were fine because that dog attacked you.” She clearly enunciated the words as if they meant something. “The dog that I let out.”

She looked at him expectantly, as if she’d just revealed something big and he should be easily connecting these dots.

He stayed silent, working through them, and then sort of figured out what she was saying. “So, you let out the dog. Because you thought something was going to happen to me. And you’re saying that, if you hadn’t let out the dog, that the plane would have hit me?”

“Yes.”

“And what does that have to do with you stalking me?”

She sighed, and he felt a combination of stupidity and arousal, which made a lethal combination.

17

He didn’t get it. Go figure that I was tasked with protecting some eye candy who turned out to be dumb as a bag of rocks. I cleared my throat, frustrated by his blank stare. “LOOK.” I clapped my hands in the air between us, a trick I’d seen Ansley use to get Paige and Caleb’s attention. He blinked, which I took as a good sign. “I’m your guardian angel, okay? I let out the dog, he stopped you from moving forward and into the plane’s trajectory.” I moved two fingers along an imaginary path and used my other hand as the plane, letting it swoop down and … I made the explosion sound with my mouth and did a complicated sparkly hand motion that Caleb would have understood perfectly. Declan squinted at me.

“Got it?” I raised my eyebrows.

“You think you’re my guardian angel?” he asked slowly.

“Yep.” I nodded, irritated that it was such a ridiculous title. I swear, if it had a title like “Protector of Life”, it’d be taken seriously. It was around this point in the story where I lost Ansley. Granted, her response was a little different. She had started shaking with laughter before making a fake call to a mental institution, but I preferred that to this, his silent appraisal, which gave me absolutely no clue of what he was thinking.

“Huh.” He pushed off the wall and stood, and I had the distinct impression that he was about to turn and madly sprint away, his hands jack-knifing, slick sole shoes peppering along the asphalt. “So… you’ve been following me around to let out more dogs?”

“In a hypothetical sense. I don’t expect any more planes to crash down on you, but I do think you are coming in contact with danger, and I think I can anticipate and hopefully stop something bad from occurring to you.” Maybe he wasn’t about to run. Maybe he understood what I was saying and wouldn’t think I was crazy. Maybe this would be a successful interchange between two adults without words like ‘psychopath’ or ‘crazy lady’ being thrown into the mix.

“And how’s protecting me been working out for you?” The corner of his mouth twitched and he definitely wasn’t running. He seemed amused by the idea, which I could work with. Amused people didn’t call the police. Amused people could be protected. He raised one brow as if it had been a serious question, and I considered the inquiry.

“Not great,” I admitted. “I—”

“Shit, there you are.” His friend approached from the left, his hand rubbing over the back of his head.

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