When Joe Connor is hired to protect Kyla Keating, he thinks his boss is insane. Why would Samantha "Gram" Allen hire him to watch and protect a woman she doesn't even know? Gram doesn't even want to know Kyla. She only wants to know two things. Is someone else watching, and does Joe see anything unusual? Joe has no idea how unusual things are about to become. Kyla is the subject of a prophecy, a woman with fantastic powers, an unknown quest, and a ghost guide. She also has a personal army of bodyguards and enemies who will kill her, none of which she is aware of. It is Joe's destiny to love and protect her, but when he has to kidnap her to keep her from being killed, will he ever win back her trust so he can do his job?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title has a "to be continued" ending and is completed in Prophecy: Rapture.
Joe Connor ducked to the right, his shoulder brushing the rough brick storefront. His smile widened as he caught sight of the telltale flash of auburn three doors up. He surged forward as she slowed, taking chances as he read in Kyla's actions that she was close to her destination. Kyla slid left between two businessmen, and Joe lost track of her for one heart-stopping moment. As always, her way of neatly avoiding the crush allowed her moments of near invisibility in the rush of taller pedestrians.
She reappeared, her slim figure outlined in the streetlights as she prepared for a dash across the busy street. Joe slid in behind her, daring to inch into her personal space. Kyla shivered and smoothed her hair, so close Joe could have raised his hand and allowed one of her curls to brush around his finger. He didn't, and she didn't look back at him. Kyla never did. It had taken him more than a month to learn that about her.
Joe wasn't worried about Kyla seeing him, and tonight was a night to take chances. A loner, with few friends and little time for family, Kyla didn't fit into the pattern of city life. For any other stunning redhead, a night out like this would be commonplace, but this was Kyla. She didn't typically go out this late. It had only taken him a week to learn that.
Joe startled and blended into the group of people behind Kyla as she led the way across the street. Her stride was purposeful now, and Joe gave her an extra few yards lead on him. He'd seen that walk before, just before the quiet, introspective young woman had unloaded her anger on the one boyfriend Joe had seen her with in his two months on the job.
When Gram first approached him for this job, Joe thought she was crazy, but the money was right, and he couldn't argue with that. He smoothed the bristling hair at the back of his neck. Gram was easily the most intimidating employer he'd ever had. The elderly woman could never be mistaken for feeble, even in her age and infirmity. She had resources that boggled him and a foreknowledge that was downright spooky at times. That was what really bothered him about Gram. She made him uneasy.
The job was simple. Keep as close an eye on Kyla Keating as possible, twenty-four-seven. Kyla was a woman Gram couldn't even claim to know except by reputation, yet Gram was paying a lot of money to make sure Joe kept on her tail.
Joe's needs were all met as part of the job. He was provided with an apartment near hers, money for expenses: meals if she ate at a restaurant, movies if she went there, an all-zone bus pass every month, and a car, in case someone else drove her somewhere. The small apartment he occupied was across an alley from the rear of hers, but the entertainment center wasn't just for amusement. It was wired to Kyla radio, as Joe liked to call it. For two months, he had gotten to know Kyla in a way he was sure few had.
Kyla seemed oblivious to how unique she was, to how she stood out in a crowd. Joe had learned her favorite foods, her favorite songs, and her favorite pastimes. He'd caught glimpses of her drawings and heard her recite her own poetry as she wrote it.
Some nights, Joe watched Kyla move around her apartment using the binoculars. Some nights, he laid back and listened to the sound of her voice. He wondered if she could fall for a security guy with a few semesters of college under his belt. Joe sighed. Kyla was definitely out of his league.
At any rate, while Joe was having a completely meaningless relationship with a dream, Gram wasn't interested in any of it. It had confused him at first, but Gram had explained that she only needed to know two things. Was there anyone else watching Kyla, and did he see anything unusual?
"Unusual how?" Joe had asked her.
"Anything that happens around her, to her, or that she does. Anything, no matter how irrelevant it seems, may be important," Gram had answered him.
Joe kept following Kyla, and he learned more about her every day. So far, he hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary. Of course, Joe had no idea what he was looking for either.
He dodged right without conscious realization that Kyla had made the same move, following her as she stepped into line at the Rex Theatre. Even with the single person between them in line and her voice low, Joe picked out which of the two movies she was seeing easily. He cringed at how he would have to fake his way through if he hadn't.
Ticket in hand, Joe strode inside. He passed on the concession stand just as Kyla had. His dinner had been a big one. He could afford to pass on popcorn and soda to secure a seat close to her.
Joe sucked in his breath as Kyla turned into her row, her gaze sliding along the crowd and passing over him like a warm touch. She hadn't noticed him. Kyla never noticed him. Joe reminded himself that he should be glad of that. His job was to watch and report. He couldn't do that if she knew he was there.
Joe sighed as he sank into his seat two rows back from her. As usual, he would miss most of the movie watching Kyla. Was it a good thing or bad that she liked such good movies?
* * *
Kyla's eyes were on the screen, but her mind was elsewhere. There was something behind her that she should see.
Most of her life, feelings like that had plagued her. She'd turn suddenly to see a flash of movement reflected in a mirror or a shadowy image fading away. She hated the cold, feathery, static-charged feeling it gave her.
At times, Kyla would turn to a voice over her shoulder, and there would actually be a person there. The person would stare back at her; annoyed, amused, kindly or startled, and her mother would drag her away.
"Don't stare, Kyla. It's rude." Her mother was always there, waiting to pounce on her. "What is wrong with you?" she'd hiss, accentuating every sibilant and seemingly adding a few that didn't exist. "Stop it."
Kyla knew what the problem was. The flashes of movement were phantoms, afterimages of things not there anymore. The people hadn't actually said what she'd heard them say. But, if she told someone that, they'd lock her up and hurt her. Was that something her mother told her, too? Kyla couldn't remember her saying it, but she had known it was true from a very young age.
As time went on, it simply became easier to ignore that nagging feeling, to avoid crowds, and to forget the dreams. It was better not to see what was over her shoulder. Kyla pushed away the feeling and tried to concentrate on what was on the screen.
* * *
Joe followed Kyla at a good distance. He knew she was headed home, but he had to follow her the whole way. Her apartment was on the south side of the city in a redbrick apartment building that housed four two-bedroom units. She had shared the unit with a roommate, while they were both in college, but when Sarah married and left the apartment, Kyla hadn't taken a new roommate. That made Joe's job easier. There was no one else in the apartment to confuse the bugs, to close window blinds, or to make Kyla ill at ease.
Kyla approached the last intersection. Even from here, Joe could tell she was nervous. Did she realize he was following her? He ducked into the shadows, just in case. Kyla reached the corner and turned suddenly. The street was empty except for a few cars. She looked right at him, and Joe reminded himself that she couldn't possibly see him in this light. Still, he held his breath, wondering at the changes in her. Kyla never looked back.
She turned away.
* * *
Kyla was sure there was someone behind her, but no one was there when she looked. The nervous energy grew stronger, until she felt she might jump out of her skin if it didn't stop.
Suddenly, an idea came to her. She wondered if she could still pull it off. After all, it had been ten years since she had tried it last.
Kyla moved to the switching box and looked around. If no one saw it, what was the harm in trying? What about your unseen stalker, if there is one?
Kyla decided there were worse things than ridicule in life. She ran her hand down the side of the box until she felt that old power surge coursing through her. She tapped the metal. Kyla knew it was unnecessary, but it helped her focus, so she did it anyway. Change.
She glanced up at the light. Well, it still worked. As soon as the light changed, Kyla launched across the street. She labored the near freezing air in and out, pausing after her four-lane dash to concentrate on the light again. Change. She smiled as the lights obeyed and turned to the front door. Whoever you are, try that on for size.