Let the Sky Fall
by Shannon Messenger
A broken past and a divided future can’t stop the electric connection of two teens in this “fast-paced, fantasy-romance” (VOYA) novel.
Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.
Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.
When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And as the storm bears down on them, she starts to realize the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.
I’m lucky to be alive.
At least, that’s what everybody keeps telling me.
The reporter from the local newspaper even had the nerve to call it a miracle. I was “Vane Weston: The Miracle Child.” Like the police finding me unconscious in a pile of rubble was part of some grand universal plan.
“Family Survives Tornado”—now, that would’ve been a miracle. But trust me, there’s nothing “miraculous” about being orphaned at seven years old.
It’s not that I’m not grateful to be alive. I am. I get that I shouldn’t have survived. But that’s the worst part about being “The Miracle Child.”
The same inescapable question, plaguing me for the last ten years of my life.
How could I get sucked in by a category-five tornado—nature’s equivalent of a giant blender—get carried over four miles before the massive funnel spit me back out, and only have a few cuts and bruises to show for it? How was that possible, when my parents’ bodies were found almost unrecognizable?
The police don’t know.
Scientists don’t know.
So they all turn to me for the answer.
But I have no freaking idea.
I can’t remember it. That day. My past. Anything.
Well, I can’t remember anything useful.
I remember fear.
I remember wind.
And then… a giant, blank space. Like all my memories were knocked out of my head when I hit the ground.
One isolated memory—and I’m not even sure if it is a memory, or if it’s some strange hallucination my traumatized brain cooked up.
A face, watching me through the chaos of the storm.
A girl. Dark hair. Darker eyes. A single tear streaks down her cheek. Then a chilly breeze whisks her away.
She’s haunted my dreams ever since.
It was my fault.
I knew the rules.
I knew how dangerous it was to call the wind.
But I couldn’t let Gavin die.
Back then, guarding the Westons consumed every second of my family’s lives. Constant worry. Constant running. Constantly looking over our shoulders for the coming storm. We’d holed up in two tiny houses in the middle of nowhere. Waiting. Watching. Holding our breath. The fear hung over us thicker than the clouds.
I survived the hardest days by seeking shelter in the sprawling cottonwood trees at the edge of the property. Balanced high in their branches, with the breeze sliding across my skin, I could let the world fall away and open my mind to the whispers of the wind.
To my heritage.
I never spoke to the wind. Just listened and learned.
But the songs of the wind weren’t enough to fill the lonely days.
So I turned to the birds.
Gavin’s nest was hidden in the thin limbs at the top of the tallest tree, tucked safely out of reach of predators. But I was a wispy thing, and my nimble legs had no problem scaling the fragile trunk to reach it. Inside were three balls of fluff. Goshawks—proud and noble, even with their downy gray feathers and open beaks, waiting for their mother to return.
I’d never fully connected with a bird on my own before. I always needed my mother’s guidance to make them understand me, respond to me, trust me. But she was too busy with the Westons. And Gavin was different.
He never screamed or flinched the way his siblings did when I came to inspect the nest. He just watched me with his wide, unblinking eyes, and I knew he was daring me to reach out and grab him. I visited him every day after that, as soon as his mother left to hunt.
I’d been counting down the days until his first flight, torn between excitement and dread. Longing to witness the moment he drank in the freedom of riding the wind, but crushed by the idea of losing my only company. My only friend.
Brave Gavin was the first to leap.
My heart stood still as he propelled himself out of the nest, his red-orange eyes staring at the horizon. Focused. Determined.
For one second his wings caught the draft, and he screeched in triumph from the rush of flight. Then a gust of wind knocked him off balance and sent him crashing toward the ground.
I’d love to say that I didn’t think. That instinct took over, clouding out all reason. But I knew the risk.
Our eyes met as he fell, and I chose to save him.
I called the wind—the first time I’d ever done so—wrapping a swift gust around Gavin’s tiny body and floating him to my waiting hands. He nuzzled against my fingers, like he knew. He knew I’d saved him.
I brought him home and showed my father, never telling him how Gavin came to be mine. I had plenty of chances. My mother asked lots of questions. All I had to do was tell the truth.
If I had, my father would still be alive.
Instead, I kept quiet—until one of Raiden’s Stormers found us the next evening and swirled the three most powerful winds into an unstoppable funnel.
Then it was too late.
For three months during winter it doesn’t totally suck to live in the Coachella Valley. Then the heat comes and half the population hops into their fancy cars or private jets and escapes to their second, third, or fourth homes, leaving behind a bunch of old people, a few crazies, and the rest of us—trapped outside the country clubs in the “non-rich” areas.
My family’s one and only house is unfortunately stuck in the middle of an unruly date grove in Bermuda Dunes, California, a.k.a. the hottest freaking place on the planet. Today it’s 109°F. The kind of day where the locals sit around and talk about the nice “break in the heat,” because two days ago it was 126°F. I can’t feel the difference. But I’m not a local.
I moved to California just after my eighth birthday, when my adoption became final. So to this Nebraska native—even after nine years living here—pretty much anything over 100°F feels like sticking my body inside an oven. People keep telling me I’ll get used to it, but I swear every year it gets worse, like the sun’s melting me from the inside out and I’ll eventually be nothing more than a Vane puddle on the ground.
On hot summer days like today, I do everything in my power to avoid leaving the dark cave I call a bedroom. Which is the main reason I refuse to let Isaac drag me out tonight for another one of his disastrous fix-ups.
There’s another reason I don’t like to date—but I’m trying not to think about her.
“Come on, man,” Isaac whines. It’s the third time he’s called me in twenty minutes. “I promise it won’t be like last time.”
By “last time” he means when he hooked me up with Stacey Perkins. Apparently she’s a vegan—which is cool. Her choice. But nobody told me that until after I brought her to Outback Steakhouse. Then she asked the waitress if they had any “cruelty free” items on their menu.
Things only went downhill from there. Especially when I still ordered a steak. There are few things worse than an irritated vegan.
“Not interested,” I tell him, pulling my blinds closed and flopping on my bed. I spread out my arms so I can get maximum fan exposure. The breeze feels better than AC, better than jumping headfirst into a swimming pool. Almost like my body craves the rushing air.
“Come on, Hannah is Shelby’s cousin and they’ve been joined at the hip since she got to town. It’s been three weeks. I’m going out of my mind.”
“Pawn her off on someone else. I’m not getting stuck on another crappy blind date just so you can make out with your girlfriend.”
“You know I’d do the same for you—if you ever had a girlfriend.”
“Don’t go there.”
“But, I mean, dude—you’re seventeen and you’ve never even kissed a girl. What is up with that?”
I don’t say anything because he’s right. I have no problem asking girls out—or even getting them to say yes when I do. But I officially have the worst luck with girls. If I don’t screw things up on my own, something always happens. Drinks spill on their clothes. Birds poop in their hair. I swear I’m cursed.
“Come on, Vane—don’t make me beg,” Isaac finally says.
I want to hang up on him. The last thing I need is another dating humiliation. But he’s my best friend.
So I throw on a slightly less wrinkled T-shirt, run water through my short, dark brown hair, and an hour later I’m stuck with Hannah from Canada, who didn’t even crack a smile when I pointed out the rhyme. She’s also complained about the heat at least ten quadrillion times. And we’re only fifteen minutes into the date.
“Cheesecake Factory or Yard House?” I ask, pointing to the massive restaurants overlooking the shallow, man-made river we’re walking along.
Tourist traps like The River are pretty much the only things open this time of year—though I’ll never understand why any tourist gets excited about a fake river and some chain restaurants. Especially when it’s too hot for any sane person to be outside. My T-shirt is stuck to my back like the sweat formed a vacuum, and all we’ve done is walk from the parking lot to the mall. Not even the tiniest breeze to help cool us off.
Hannah wipes a bead of sweat off her brow and turns to me. “I don’t really like cheesecake, so maybe the other one, eh?”
I bite my lip. They do serve food besides cheesecake—but I’m not in the mood to argue. “Yard House it is.”
The AC blasts us as we enter the crowded restaurant, and Hannah releases a sigh at the same time I do.
The tension between us evaporates. Whoever invented air conditioning should win the Nobel Prize. I bet they could bring peace to the Middle East if they gave everyone an AC unit and let them cool the freak down once in a while. I should e-mail the UN the suggestion.
The hostess leads us to a booth big enough to seat six people.
Not that any other table would be more romantic. Between the loud music, sports games, and the guys at the bar drinking beer by the half yard and cheering for their teams, it isn’t much of a date spot. Which is exactly why I suggested it. Maybe if I don’t treat tonight like a date, I won’t run into any problems this time.
“Looks like you’ve got some fans,” Hannah says, pointing to three girls sitting a few tables away. All three blush and start whispering when I look at them.
Hannah smiles, flashing straight, white teeth. Her dentist must be proud. “Isaac said you were modest. Now I see what he was going on about.”
“Is that what he went on aboot?” I ask, mimicking her pronunciation.
“Ah, I was wondering when we were going to get to the accent jabs.”
“Hey, I think I’ve shown tremendous restraint. I let at least three or four ‘ehs’ pass without comment.”
She tosses a sugar packet at my head.
I tell Canadian jokes until the waiter takes our order, relieved when Hannah orders a cheeseburger. I hate girls who refuse to eat around guys, like they’re afraid we’ll think they’re fat because we actually see them putting food in their mouths.
Hannah isn’t like that. She’s confident. She isn’t the prettiest girl in the room, but she’s cute. Peachy skin, pink lips, and a mass of wavy blond hair. I’m sure more than a few guys would gladly trade places with me right now.
The problem is, I have a “type.”
Isaac says I’m too picky, but he doesn’t get it. Honestly, I don’t understand it either. I just automatically compare every girl I meet to someone else. It’s dumb and crazy,
but I can’t help it. But as we eat our burgers and drink sodas packed with more ice than soda—desert style, I explain to Hannah—I’m stunned to realize I’m enjoying myself. I like Hannah’s laugh as much as her smile, and the way she brushes her hair behind her ears when she blushes.
And then, I see her.
Leaning against the bar in the center of the restaurant, with only a sliver of her face pointed in my direction. I have to blink to make sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me.
They aren’t. Her hair is twisted into a tight, intricate braid, but it’s definitely her.
She turns another inch my way and our eyes meet. My heart pounds so loudly it drowns out everything else. It’s just me, and her.
Locked in a stare.
Her eyes narrow and she shakes her head—like she’s trying to tell me something. But I have no idea what it is.
“Vane?” Hannah asks, and I jump so hard I nearly fall out of the booth. “You okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
She laughs, but I don’t smile. She isn’t that far off the mark.
Hannah follows my gaze, frowning. “Do you . . . know her?”
So Hannah can see her too.
“Excuse me,” I say, on my feet before she can say anything else.
The hostess is leading a large party past our table, blocking my path to the bar, and it takes every ounce of my self-control not to shove them out of my way. I rush forward as soon as the aisle clears, but the girl’s gone.
I race for the door, ignoring Hannah as she calls after me, ignoring the way everyone stares at me, ignoring the blast of heat as I burst through the doors. And I find . . . nothing.
No sign of anyone anywhere—and certainly no gorgeous, dark haired girl in a jacket. Just a face full of scorching desert wind and an empty courtyard.
My hands curl into fists.
She was there.
But how is that possible?
And how did she get away so fast?
I squeeze the bridge of my nose, trying to sort through the ten million things racing through my mind. I still haven’t made any sense of them when I hear quiet footsteps approach behind me.
“I had to pay the check so they wouldn’t think we’re skipping out—that’s what took me so long.” Hannah won’t meet my eyes. “I wasn’t even sure if you’d be out here.”
The thick June air sticks in my throat, closing off my voice. The sun has set, but that only makes the temperature drop a few degrees.
I stand there, listening to the cicadas in the trees and searching for some way to explain—or apologize for—my behavior. “I’ll pay you back,” is the best I can do.
She turns toward the parking lot. “I guess we should probably go, eh?”
The silence buzzes with the things neither of us says.
Seriously, why does something always screw up my dates?
I still haven’t come up with a way to salvage the evening when we reach my faded white car. It isn’t much to look at, but it has a working AC, which was pretty much my only requirement. I open the door for Hannah, hoping it will prove I’m not a total psycho. She doesn’t seem impressed. Not that I blame her.
The drive back is torture. I’ve never noticed how many noises my car makes—but I’ve never had such a quiet passenger. I’ve also never noticed how many lights Highway 111 has. It’s the main road that connects all the desert cities together, so there’s a signal. At every.
Freaking. Block. And, of course, tonight they’re all red.
Thanks a lot, universe.
We’re about halfway home, just entering the string of “affordable cities” in the valley, when Hannah finally speaks.
“You gonna tell me what happened?”
I drag out a sigh, stalling for time. “I . . . thought I saw someone I knew.” It sounds lame even to me.
“Did you used to date her?”
Fortunately, I stop myself from saying that out loud. I can hear the hurt in Hannah’s voice.
But it’s nice to know that Hannah really did see her—even though I have no idea what that means.
I stare at the dark, empty road. “It’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not like . . .”
“Like what?” she asks when I don’t finish.
I take my eyes off the street long enough to look at her. “I would never chase after some hot girl when I’m with someone else—not that the girl’s hot. I mean, okay, she is—but . . . that isn’t why I cared.”
“Why did you care?”
I wish I knew.
“She’s just . . . someone from my past.”
It isn’t a lie, but it isn’t the truth, either. She isn’t just someone.
She’s the girl. The one I’ve been dreaming about since the day I woke up in that pile of rubble and found my whole world torn apart. The only clue to my past. The only thing I see when I close my eyes.
She’s aged in my dreams. Grown up along with me. Which is the most confusing part. What kind of dream does that? And what kind of dream girl walks into Yard House?
The dreams are insanely vivid, too. Every night it’s like she’s in my room, leaning over me, watching me with eyes so dark blue, they’re almost black. Her long, dark hair tickling my skin. Her lips whispering sounds I can’t understand as they float through my mind. But when I wake up, I’m alone. Nothing but silence, and a faint breeze swirling through the air even though my window’s locked tight.
It all sounds so crazy.
But I’m not crazy.
I don’t know how to explain it—but one of these days I’ll figure it out.
I turn down Shelby’s street, searching the row of single-story houses for the gray pueblo-style one Shelby’s parents own. The rounded architecture might look cool, if normal, flat-roofed houses didn’t surround it. La Quinta’s random like that, like no one could make up their minds what to build here.
Isaac’s beat-up truck is out front, so I switch my phone off. He won’t be happy with me when I drop Hannah off so early.
Hannah gathers her purse as I slow to a stop, but I don’t unlock her door. I can’t let the night end like this.
“I’m really sorry,” I say, realizing I never apologized. “I was actually having a nice time, before I ruined everything.”
“Me too.” She tucks her hair behind her ears.
She looks so shy. So vulnerable. So different from the girl haunting me.
Maybe Hannah will make her go away.
I have to get over my obsession before she ruins my life.
A couple of June bugs—dumbest bugs on the planet—knock into the windshield, shattering the silence between us. I come to a decision.
“Can I . . . maybe have a chance to redeem myself?” I ask, ignoring the voice in my head begging me to let it go.
A half smile spreads across her lips. “Maybe—but only if you promise no Canadian jokes.”
“Aw, come on, you have to give me at least one, eh?”
She laughs. Even though it sounds forced, I can tell things are on the mend. I’ll have to be on absolute perfect behavior, but if I can pull that off things might be okay. And it surprises me how much I want them to be okay.
I don’t want to be the crazy guy chasing a mystery girl. I want to be a normal guy who hangs out with his friends and has a summer fling with the cute girl from Canada.
So I get out of the car and walk her to the door, the sticky air smothering us as we stand under the porch light. Moths fly at our heads and crickets chirp in the bushes and our eyes meet. I have no idea what the look on my face says—but her expression seems to say,
I can’t agree more. It’s time to take control of my life.
My stomach does back flips as I step toward her, and I try to tell myself the sourness rising in my throat is nerves. I refuse to feel guilty for cheating on a girl I’ve never met. A girl I’m still not sure is real.
My hand cradles Hannah’s cheek, which is slightly cool from the car’s AC. She closes her eyes, and I close mine and lean in, hardly able to believe I’m finally doing this.
But in the split second before our lips touch, I hear a loud hiss, and a blast of arctic wind rushes between us.
Hannah staggers back as the fierce gust whips around her hair, tangling the blond waves. I try to reach for her, but the wind pushes and pulls at me with such force it feels like it’s trying to shove and drag me away. I lean into it, fighting to resist, but it sweeps against my legs, nearly knocking my feet out from under me. It’s like the wind has come alive—and only right here, around Hannah and me.
The palms in the yard next door don’t move.
Just when I think it can’t get any weirder, a familiar voice blows straight into my brain.
Go home, Vane.
I look around, trying to see through the darkness and the swirling sand to find where she’s hiding. But the street’s empty. Just me and Hannah—who’s still battling the crazy wind yanking her away from me.
“I’m going inside,” Hannah shouts, swiping sand out of her eyes.
“Okay,” I yell, watching helplessly as she turns away from me.
“I’ll call you.”
She doesn’t turn back. Doesn’t acknowledge me at all.
The wind sweeps my words away before they reach her. And then she’s gone.
I’ve sacrificed ten years of my life for this assignment.
Trained physically. Mentally. Emotionally.
I’ve given up food and sleep. Suffered hour after hour under the relentless weight of the desert sun. Lived in total isolation. Relegated myself to demeaning tasks like playing chaperone while the stubborn, ignorant boy rebels against everything that matters.
And now he may have gotten us both killed.
But it’s my fault as much as his.
Once again, I’ve called the wind too loudly. And once again I’ve given us away.
The Northerly wind was too far beyond my reach to command with a whisper. I had to shout. Which means my call is branded to the draft now—and it carries Vane’s trace as well. There’s no way the Stormers won’t check the cold wind coming from the warm valley.
And when they investigate, they’ll finally have their prize.
The world starts to spin and I suck in a breath.
I won’t let it happen again.
I can stall them. Confuse their search.
Then I’ll deal with Vane.
He drives away in his white smog machine, and my legs shake as I step from the shadows, scanning the street for the dark shape I know will be roosting on a roof nearby. I hold my left arm out and he swoops down, gripping the sleeve of my jacket with his talons. Gavin
knows not to screech. Our role is to be invisible.
It’s Vane’s fault we’re exposed. He’s lucky I went gentle on him.
He has no idea who he’s messing with. But he’ll soon find out.
I stroke the soft gray feathers around Gavin’s neck, trying to calm the panic seizing my chest, making it hurt to breathe. “Go home, boy,” I whisper. “I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
Gavin’s sharp, red-orange eyes lock with mine and I know he understands the command. Then he spreads his wings and, with a powerful flap, takes to the skies. I envy his easy flight. Mine requires significantly more effort.
I retreat to the shadows, my fingers searching the air for an existing breeze to hide my trail.
Nothing. I have to wait.
The sporadic stillness of this place is like a drain, drying up my energy, my options, and my sanity. If the air hadn’t turned stagnant earlier, I could’ve put a damper on Vane’s “date” sooner. I wouldn’t have been forced to walk among the groundlings to try to scare him off. I wouldn’t have had to let him see me. And I wouldn’t have had to call the Northerly to stop him from bonding to that girl.
We’d still be safe.
Of course, if he didn’t insist on breaking rules, we wouldn’t be in this mess either.
I hug myself, squeezing my shoulders to calm my trembling.
He’s never come that close before. Another second and . . .
My eyes blur as my mind flashes to the memory of him on the porch. His hand on her face. Leaning in. Their lips coming so close.
If I hadn’t stopped him—I can’t even think about the consequences.
An ache in my jaw warns me that I’m grinding my teeth. I force myself to relax. A guardian must be calm and clear-headed at all times—the Gale Force drilled that into me. Suppressing emotion is the key to our success. The only way to endure the life of sacrifice we’re sworn to.
Plus . . . it isn’t technically Vane’s fault. He doesn’t know about the ordinances he almost violated, or how big a commitment a single kiss is—though I’ve given him enough warnings over the years. He should’ve caught on.
But it’s pointless to dwell on things I can’t change. I know better than anyone that the past can’t be undone. Moving forward is the only option.
A wispy wind tickles my fingers. An Easterly—finally, a stroke of luck.
Soft, untraceable murmurs bend the draft to my will, wrapping it around me. When I’m completely entangled in the feathery breeze, I breathe one final command in the Easterly language and surrender to the force of its power.
The word sounds like a hiss, and the wind races away, pulling me along with it.
Riding a draft is the closest to freedom I ever come. Rushing higher and deeper into the sky brings clarity to my life. Meaning.
I can never fully control the wind. I can coax it, cajole it, ask it to obey—but it’s still a force of its own, free to do what it wills. The trick is to listen as it speaks and adjust as needed.
Most Windwalkers are twice my age before they reach my level of control. I can hear even the softest whisper of change or dissent, translate any turbulence or unease, and adjust. It was my father’s gift.
He passed it to me the day he returned to the sky.
Not a second goes by that I don’t wish I could give it back.
Dark peaks appear on the horizon and I whisper, “Dive.”
The gust drops low enough for my toes to skim the ground. My legs speed to a run, and once I have my bearings, I release my hold. The wind unravels, racing away as I screech to a halt, my feet firmly planted on the cool, rocky ground of the San Bernardino Mountains.
The air is so much purer up high—the gusts so much stronger.
I allow myself one minute to let the surging winds restore me. They ripple across my skin, filling me with strength and confidence that can only come from being in my natural element. Part of me could stand there all night, drinking it up.
But I have a job to do.
It feels wrong to command the wind at full volume—just like it felt wrong earlier. But that’s the point. One mistake to hide another.
Still, my voice shakes as I send Northerly squalls on all sides of the mountains and order them to surge through the desert basin.
Sandstorms streak across the empty dunes, leaving dusty footprints in their wake. Scattering my trace in every direction.
The Stormers won’t be able to pinpoint our location—but they’ll know we’re here. And they won’t leave until they find Vane, tearing the valley apart in the process.
The telltale flurry will reach the Stormers’ fortress by nightfall tomorrow, and it’ll take another day of swift flight for them to arrive in the region. I’ve bought us an extra day with the false trails they’ll have to rule out.
Which means we have three days. Then people will start to die.
Vane has to have his first breakthrough tonight. Three days will be enough to train him in the basics, and I’m at my peak strength, thanks to my years of sacrifice. We should be able to fight them off together.
But there’s only one way to be sure the breakthrough happens.
My mouth coats with bile at the thought.
I reach for another Easterly, focusing on the way the edge of my palm tingles as I call the swift gust and wrap it around me. The cool tendrils wash away my fears as they brush my skin.
“Return.” I say the word so softly, the wind’s roar washes it away.
It sweeps me in its force, carrying me gently down the mountain, across the parched, empty sand, to my house.
It isn’t much of a home, but I don’t have time to stay anyway. I have work to do.
Tonight will be a very long night.