Rhennan Ward was no one special. Or so she thought. Soon after her eighteenth birthday she finds out different. Rhennan is next in line to be Oracle, the one chosen by the Creator to guard the secret of Heaven – The Tree of Life.
When her grandmother, the current Oracle, gives her a pendant for her eighteenth birthday, strange things start happening, and Rhen sees things she shouldn’t. Coming into her powers before her time, Rhen believes she’s going crazy.
Ever since certain Angels fell from Heaven, they have been searching for the Tree of Life. The Tree holds the Truth of the Heavenly Throne, and they are determined to take it from the Creator.
The Guardians, half Angel and half human, were created to protect the Oracle and her family. Nephilim are the product of humans and demons, and it is their job to help the Fallen Angels get closer to the Oracle and discover the Truth. As Rhen finds out, good isn’t always dictated by the blood in your veins.
Maddox Bell, the new guy at school, makes Rhen forget about her ex-boyfriend, the one who broke her heart. As they become closer, things get stranger. When Rhen makes one wrong decision, her life and that of her family, is changed forever.
Read ahead for a snippet from Chapter 1…
Have you ever had a possum walk across your grave? You know that feeling that starts at your nape and snakes its way down your spine while the hair on your arms stands on end? Your whole body shivers while you look around for the boogeyman, but you can’t see anything. I was sitting in first period when it happened to me.
It didn’t take long to figure out the cause. Our classroom door opened, and in walked the most beautiful man I had ever seen. And when I say man, I mean this guy had to be a substitute teacher or someone’s older brother, because there was no way he was young enough to be a student. Long black hair brushed his shoulders which were encased in a well-worn leather jacket. Faded jeans led to a pair of black moto boots. His most striking feature, from the quick perusal I had given him, was his eyes. They were a deep sapphire. I know this because I sat close to the front of the room.
And he was staring straight at me.
That might not have been so odd if I were Brittany or Kinsley, the prettiest girls in our class. But I wasn’t. I was plain Rhennan Ward. For whatever reason, none of the other kids were paying any attention to him. I turned my head toward my best friend. Surely Jenna would be staring at him too. She wasn’t. What the heck was going on? Was I the only one who could see how gorgeous this man was? When I turned back around, Mr. Blue Eyes was headed toward me. I lowered my chin to my chest and averted my gaze until he stopped and took the only vacant seat in the classroom, which happened to be right next to mine. Great.
“Class, I would like for you to welcome Maddox Bell. He comes to us from…” Mrs. Bain looked back down at the piece of paper she was holding and frowned. “Anyway, say hello to Maddox.”
Maddox. Of course he would have a cool name. Not Bill or Ted, but I had no doubt this guy had plenty of excellent adventures. His name matched his swagger, and I still didn’t believe he wasn’t older than the rest of us. Half the class muttered hello while the other half continued to ignore the new guy the way they usually did.
Maddox Bell wasn’t just another guy. Something about him was different. My skin was still itching from the way he had looked right at me. Maybe he was an undercover cop. It’s not like our school was exempt from kids selling drugs or teens running away. Northfield was your average public high school. But that wouldn’t explain why he had singled me out. I was pretty boring for the most part. No boyfriend. Highest grade point average out of over three hundred seniors. My social life consisted of going for coffee drinks after school with my best friend and hanging out with my little sister. See? Boring.
I wanted so badly to turn and stare at him to make sure I hadn’t been wrong about his looks or his age. Maybe he was so good-looking the others couldn’t look his way, like he was an Angel or something. Now you’re being ridiculous. My thoughts had been off-kilter lately, so thinking Maddox Bell was an Angel wasn’t out of the norm.
“Rhennan, if you would share your book with Mr. Bell until we can find him one, I would appreciate it,” Mrs. Bain announced. Maddox didn’t hesitate to scoot his desk closer to mine, sliding his arm along the back of my chair and leaning toward me. How did he know I was Rhennan? I turned my head to ask him that, but the words died in my throat. Either I was going crazy, or the pupils of his eyes were slitted like a snake’s. He blinked, and they were back to the same deep blue that had pierced me moments before. Yep. Going crazy.
I swallowed hard as I pushed my chemistry book over so it was half on my desk and half on his. After that, I kept my eyes down and off Maddox Bell. More than once his breath ghosted across my neck and cheek as he leaned closer, but I locked down the urge to face him. His scent alone – a mixture of leather and smoke – was doing crazy things to my brain. None of the other boys in our school smelled this good, not that I went around sniffing them. Then again, none of the other boys looked this good, and they sure didn’t make me see things that weren’t there.
For the last two weeks, ever since my eighteenth birthday, my life had gone from normal to anything but. Before the tenth, or BTT as I liked to call it, I was just a regular girl who made good grades and spent time with her little sister and her best friend. I didn’t dream at night, or if I did, I didn’t remember them. Now, not only was I having vivid dreams – most of which were nightmares – but I was remembering every little detail in Technicolor. During the day, I had started having flashes of someone or something in my peripheral vision, but when I turned to look, there was nothing there. I had the feeling of being followed. Watched.
I had read articles in various magazines about trusting your instincts. How your gut feeling was the universe’s way of cluing you in on what was happening around you. My instincts had been on high alert ever since my birthday. I wish my instincts would chill out, because they had me on edge, and I couldn’t afford that. Not with only three months left until I graduated.
It was a good thing I was a straight-A student, because I had no idea what Mrs. Bain said for the next forty-five minutes. Dizziness danced around me, and it took every ounce of willpower I had not to run from the room. When the bell rang, I grabbed my book and slammed it shut a little harder than necessary; but in my defense, my brain wasn’t functioning properly, and I blamed that on Maddox. Instead of going to my locker, I waited outside the classroom for Jenna, and as soon as she cleared the door, I grabbed her sleeve and pulled her farther down the hall. “Did you see him?” I gushed.
“That Maddox kid? Yeah, why?” she asked nonchalantly, like he wasn’t some kind of god in black leather.
I looked around to make sure nobody was listening, and said, “You’re kidding, right? There’s no way he’s eighteen.”
“Rhen, I know you’re still missing Kevin, but seriously? Maddox is cute, but he shouldn’t have you about to jump him in front of God and everyone.” Jenna pushed her black-rimmed glasses up on her nose, cocking her head to the side. If anyone knew how I felt about Kevin, it would be Jenna, but in this case, she would be wrong.
Kevin Harris had been my boyfriend from my freshman to junior years. Since he was a grade ahead of me, he decided we should break up after he graduated. The jerk wouldn’t commit to me for one more year until I could graduate too. It wasn’t like he had gone off to the big college in Lexington. He was still living with his parents so he could play baseball at Murphy State. While Kevin had never told me he loved me, I foolishly believed he did.
Jenna stared at someone over my shoulder, but I didn’t have to ask who she was looking at. The hair on my arms stood on end again, and that could only mean —
“Rhennan, Mrs. Bain said you could show me to my next class.” His voice was as velvety as Sam Elliot doing a truck commercial. The actor might be old enough to be my grandfather, but that deep drawl of his never failed to send shivers down my spine in a good way, unlike the shivers I got from the man behind me. I had yet to turn around, so Maddox held out his class schedule until it was in my line of sight, and I got a subtle whiff of cigarettes. Glancing at the paper, I rolled my eyes when I saw we had the next four classes together. A tattoo peeked out from underneath the sleeve of his jacket, and even though I didn’t get a good look at the symbol, it seemed familiar.
When I didn’t move, Jenna grabbed the schedule and looked it over. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Yep. And yep.” She stretched her arm around me, handing the schedule back to him, and being the traitor she was, said, “You’re in our next four classes. Come on. We’ll help you out. I’m Jenna, by the way.” She practically shoved me out of the way to get to Maddox. For thinking he wasn’t all that cute, she was sure anxious to get his attention. Then again, she’d gone without a boyfriend for the last four years, so maybe this was her big chance.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jenna.” Instead of shaking her hand, Maddox pulled it to his lips and kissed her knuckles. What teenager did that? When I finally looked up at him – and I had to look way up – Maddox’s eyes were on mine, and he winked. The douchebag actually winked at me while kissing my bestie’s hand. I rolled my eyes, not caring whether he caught me or not, and headed to my locker. We had to go upstairs for our next class, and if we didn’t hurry, we were going to be late.
© Andi Copeland 2017