Excerpt: Flight of Fancy

There was a sound beside her, a soft step, and she looked up, startled.  

Simon sat down beside her, his violet eyes concerned.  “Amelia, are you okay?”

“Oh, lord,” she whispered.  She stood up quickly, rubbed the tears out of her eyes.  “I’m fine, Simon.  What—what are you doing out here?”

He stood up more slowly, still watching her.  “I was just—thinking.  What happened, Lia?”

“I, um—”  She took a deep breath.  “I had a date, Simon.”  He was silent, and she looked at him, but saw no change on his face.  Naturally, what would he care if she’d run off to Vegas and got married?  “Anyway, it didn’t go very well,” she said with a strange laugh, “and I’m just—”

“You really liked him.”

She blinked at him.  “Oh, no.  I mean—”  She frowned.  “I wanted to.  But I couldn’t.”  She waved her hand toward the direction in which George had disappeared.  “He was a tenyan.”

A hint of a smile came across Simon’s face, but he still didn’t take his eyes off of her.  “Did he do something to hurt you, Amelia?”

“No, he—”  She laughed.  “I think I set a personal best speed record for getting out of a car when a guy wants to kiss me, though.”  Her laughter suddenly twisted up in her throat and died a strange-sounding death.  “I guess,” she said, looking down from the house to the city below, “I really need to set my standards lower.  Not as low as him, though.  Something tells me that man is going to find a way to be extremely rich someday.  One way or another.”  

She looked back at Simon and he was looking away, and that was when Amelia realized, just as if a cold rain shower had suddenly appeared to drench her on some sort of unlucky cue, that her evening could, in fact, get worse.  Oh, canam.  “Dan called, didn’t he?”  It was not really a question.  “About Santa Gloria.”

He frowned, obviously not very happy she’d read him so well.  True, she couldn’t do it as easily as she once could, but sometimes it was enough.  “We don’t have to talk right now,” he said.

“Oh, no,” she breathed.  “Simon, please, just tell me.  I don’t want to—”

He took pity on her immediately.  “Lia, it’s okay.  It’s okay.”  He tried a small smile, it didn’t really go well.  “You were right, there was a cover-up.”

But you were obviously not right in any way that counts.  Oh, Amy.  How could you have believed so?  “But?” she asked him, her nerves clinking like ice in a glass.

His voice was soft and gentle, she could hear how hard he was trying to make it all go away.  Always the hero.  But he can’t save you from yourself.  She listened to the story, how perfect and logical it was.  And still for a moment, there was one part of Amelia’s mind that refused to give, that protested in a hoarse and dying voice.  Will set you up, Amy!  He saw you as a threat, he led you to call Santa Gloria, and he had people ready with this false story, so perfectly timed…

But it didn’t last.  She wouldn’t let it.  “Okay,” she said, and her voice was calm and strong.  But inside she was falling, tumbling down once again into the great chasm that had cut itself into her mind over the past two years.  At the bottom, the view was familiar, the blankness around her mind a silent comfort.  Each time she fell down here it got easier to forget she’d ever tried to climb out.  Easier to just sit and know it was no use to try again, to welcome the riskless calm, the acceptance of haven fallen.

Simon, bless his heart, looked so concerned beside her, violet eyes so dark, but she put her hand up, cold and stern.  “I’m glad Will is trustworthy,” she said.  “You and he will make a good team.”

She could see him calculating, trying to guess how to phrase yet something else.  “Oh, just tell me,” she snapped, irritated with Simon, who’d done absolutely nothing wrong.  

For god’s sake, Amy.

“Dan also said the compound drug would probably be impossible,” he answered in a quiet voice.

“Yes, it would.”

“But he’s no chemist, Amelia.  You are.”

This surprised her.  “But—”  That’s right, he still thinks you are.

It seemed that he could see how hard she was struggling, because he whispered, “Give us time, Lia, we’ll find your proof.  Will is talking about investigating Smith’s warehouse already.”

Give us time.  “So Will—he knows they shot at you.”

“Yes.”

“What—what are you going to do about your accent when you talk to him?”

“British.”

“In extended conversations.”

That mild smile.  “Don’t think I can do it?”  His accent was perfect.

She nodded absently.  “I wonder what they’ll do with that, you being a British cop.  They’ll probably decide that the stones from our house were brought over from England with a Ghost attached.  Would explain why there never has been a “Simon” in the Woodland P.D.  I always did think that was a big hole in the theory, you know.  Didn’t you?”

He kept smiling, but he asked, “What are you not saying?”

“Nothing,” she answered quickly, drowning out her mind’s voice with real words.  “I know you will be safer with a partner on the force.” But Will didn’t think you were invincible, damn it!  That matters!  It terrifies me.  But she said, “Just be careful.”

“I will be,” he answered, and here he did put his hand on hers, just for a second, and it made all her insides clang together.  “You know I’m thankful that you watch out for me.”

Amelia tried very hard to make herself feel open and accepting toward the idea of Will Clark, tried to imagine herself reaching out a hand to him, welcoming him.  It felt like a grasping the blade of a knife, sharp pain like a heat against her hand.  A moment later, Amelia realized that she was cutting her fingernails into her palm.  There were two tiny half-moons of blood pressed into her skin.  She folded her fingers back over them, and put a smile on her face for Simon, she had to.  It wasn’t fair to drag him into the sad state that had once been Amelia’s logical mind.  “Simon, thank you,” she said softly.  “You’ve been so kind about my making a mistake.  But I’m glad that I was wrong.  Will Clark is a hero.  It’s only natural for the two of you to work together.”

“So you’re okay with this?”

In order to give him a real smile, Amelia thought about something else, about sitting on the roof with Simon, watching sunsets, about the way the dark would fall around them, but the light of him inside of her would never dim.  “Of course I am,” she lied.  

He looked away, so she couldn’t tell if he believed her or not.  Whatever he thought, it must have been obvious to him how uncomfortable she was.  

Amelia had to take pity on him.  “I’m tired, I think I’m going to go in to bed now.”  She stood up, and he immediately rose beside her.

“You’re really okay?” he asked.

Lord, don’t ask me again.  “I said that Will—”

“No.”  He cut her off.  “I mean about—”  His gaze flicked to the drive where moments ago Amelia’s dragon date had roared off in his car.  Amelia’s insides filled with an almost unpleasant kind of heat.  They’d had a serious talk about the dangers facing the man up there in the air by himself and he was concerned about—about George?  She must have really seemed damsel in distress.  Great job, Amy.

A nervous little laugh danced out of her mouth.  “It’s nothing, Simon.  Nothing happened.  He didn’t scare me out of the car, not really.  It was just that I couldn’t let my first kiss be with a man who thinks romance—well, he and I just don’t—we don’t belong on the same planet, I guess.  But he didn’t hurt me or anything.  It’s really not a big deal.”

She didn’t realize exactly what she’d said until Simon asked, in an odd voice, “Your first kiss?”

Amelia turned to him, and the pain in her stomach seemed made of pure disappointment.  How much worse could this honestly get?  She made herself look up into Simon’s bright eyes, such a handsome face, and she didn’t have to remind herself to think so.  Unfortunately.  And now she kind of needed to give him an explanation of something she wished she didn’t understand so well herself.  “Yeah.  I’m pathetic,” she whispered.  She felt the sharpness of tears again and tried to blink them back.  “I guess I was just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

Amelia rolled her eyes up to the sky.  “What do you think, Tolne?”  She pressed her mouth together for a moment.  “It’s just that I always imagined my first kiss,” she whispered to the sky, wondering what on earth was possessing her to tell it anything, “as being absolutely perfect.  Everything just right.  Like in those fairy tales, honestly.  Can you believe that?  And I just could never do it unless it felt like that.  Unless it was perfect.  Unless the man was—”

She kept silent until she felt the warmth of Simon’s hand slide against her arm, and she jumped a little.  He had come very close, and she let her eyes fall on him again.  “Was you,” she finished, because she couldn’t really see the point in stopping then.  Not that it would be a surprise to him.  Not that she herself had turned out the way she’d imagined either, fantastic genius crime fighter and partner to her best friend, in more ways than one—in every way.  Not that anything was ever so simple as it was in a little girl’s plans.  Her skin felt tingly and cool beneath the heat of him, and she almost leaned into his touch.

Simon’s eyes had become shadowed, hard for her to read.  When she’d been a child she’d never have believed that would become possible someday.  But it was, because he’d learned distance.  From her.

Simon raised his other hand gently to Amelia’s cheek and used his thumb to brush away a tear that had strayed there.  And then he leaned in and kissed her.

His lips against hers were very warm, and for a second, Amelia wasn’t even sure if she was really tracking what was going on, it seemed so unbelievable.  But she couldn’t think about it anymore as soon as his hand slid behind her head, bringing her mouth up against his at a better angle, and his other arm moved slowly across her waist, until suddenly, she was in his arms.

Amelia found her hands on his shoulders, clutching at his sleeves.  She didn’t breathe.  She just was.  She was with the man she loved more than peace or sense or life.  She almost felt like they were floating somewhere, and maybe they were.  Because this man could fly.

It wasn’t like a first kiss, not how she’d imagined it would be anyway, not a quick brushing of lips, some blushing maybe, more hand-holding than passion.  This—this was like a first possession of her by Simon, like the dim flare of a match somehow starting a forest fire.  Simon was slow and gentle, but he deepened the kiss, tasting her, overwhelming her.  Amelia realized her whole body was trembling in his embrace, shaking really, but he didn’t seem to mind.  Simon supported her weight in his arms, so strong, the hand behind her head pressing her mouth closer against his so that he could kiss her fully, deeply, almost endlessly.  Amelia knew her eyes were closed, but she saw night sky and stars and moonlight anyway.  

She tried to make herself realize that it was probably just that any touch of this man would fill her with passion, it was probably just that she had no idea what kissing was like, maybe this was just a normal kiss, maybe with any other man she would not be seeing stars.  But the only thing she could do now, caught up in Simon’s arms and probably not even her shoes touching the ground, was to kiss him back.

So she kissed him, not even caring that she didn’t know how to kiss, just welcoming him with everything in her, with the height of love that she felt for him, as much as she could compress into one moment, anyway.  She kissed him with the memories of their laughter that made her heart beat in the morning, the peace he gave her at twilight when he sat on the roof with her to watch the sunset.  The sparkle and crackle she felt at his touch, the calm and quiet she loved to see in his violet eyes.  

Simon caught his breath, and his hands tightened on her.  

Then abruptly, he released her.  Amelia leaned back, her mouth left open, trying to remember how to breathe after it had just been occupied with something so fantastic.  

She used the first breath she could get to cry out words.  “Oh, I am so sorry, Simon,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face now.  Her body still trembled, and was harshly cold without his touch, without the steady warmth of him stealing into her everywhere.  “I didn’t mean to—I didn’t mean to ask you to—God, I am so sorry.”  There was pain in his eyes, deep and real, and Amelia didn’t know what do to at all, she felt she could barely keep standing.  “I won’t,” she started, had to start again.  “I won’t ever do that again, Simon, I promise, I won’t ever act like that again.”

She turned and ran into the house.

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