I KNEW I WAS in trouble when I saw the menacing shadow lurking in a corner of my dark bedroom. An invisible fist twisted my heart until it felt like it would explode. Unseen hands gripped my mind, paralyzing me with fear.

The shadow emerged, and I saw a grotesque face with hollowed-out eyes and skeletal features framed by a black cloak. I sensed a fire of hate in its crimson eyes as they flashed at me. I knew it intended to kill me. But I couldn’t move. I was pinned to my bed.

Its rage enveloped me as it choked me with its bony fingers. My head swam as I gasped for oxygen. Was this the end?

My eyes rolled back in my head. As I attempted to draw one final breath, I saw a flash of light. I was sure my spirit had departed from my body.

But as I gave in to inevitable death, the brilliant light lingered. When I focused on it, I recognized him. The one who was sent to fight for me. The one who had promised to battle beside me.

That’s when I realized that I was not in this alone. And that the struggle was far from over.

This is not a love story. No. This is war.

Chapter 1

MY BREATH BECAME shallow as I left the school gym after volleyball practice, wondering if I’d see him again.

Would Mr. Super-Hot be waiting for me? He’d been in the parking lot for two days now, leaning against his shiny red Camaro with tinted windows and chrome wheels. As I walked toward my rusty brown Honda, he stared right at me. Part of me hoped he was a new transfer student who didn’t know I was probably the only seventeen-year-old girl in our class who’d never had a boyfriend. Part of me wondered if he was a stalker. At least I wasn’t alone in the parking lot. Other students were with me.

I looked away, acting like I hadn’t noticed him. But I had my ignition key poking out from between my fingers like a small blade just in case.

Yesterday I saw him again. Same time, same place. Same hot-looking guy standing next to his red Camaro, staring at me. I dared to take a few glances at him. His eyes followed me all the way to my vehicle. I felt both nervous and excited.

Today, as I rounded the corner of the gym, there he was, looking my way again as if he knew I’d be in this exact spot at this very moment.

This was getting bizarre. A little bit frightening, yet at the same time thrilling.

I hurried to my car and jammed the key into the lock. As soon as I felt the click, I jerked the door open, tossed my gym bag and purse onto the front passenger seat, and started the engine. Stretching the seat belt across my shoulder gave me a slight sense of security, but that feeling left when I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Hot Guy get in his car.

My tires screeched a little on the blacktop as I sped toward the exit, my blonde ponytail banging off the headrest as the car bounced over the speed bumps. I was probably overreacting. Most likely he was harmless. But I’d seen too many movies about girls being abducted and heard too many warnings from my parents about strangers.

Hoping to lose him, I raced along several side streets, making numerous right and left turns, hardly slowing down for stop signs, constantly checking the rearview mirror for any trace of that red Camaro.

When I finally figured I’d evaded him—or he’d given up chasing me or maybe never started in the first place—I realized I had no idea where I was.

Dense forest surrounded me, with thick greenery on both sides. The sun, already dipping close to the horizon, barely made it through the mass of huge, gnarly trees with overlapping leaves.

The paved road turned to crunchy gravel. Just then I noticed the yellow low-fuel light on my gas gauge. How long had that been on?

Sweat tickled my upper lip.

The engine sputtered and coughed. I wrestled the steering wheel to get my Honda to the side of the road.

I had to call my dad. Hopefully he’d be able to find me. I tried to recall the last street sign I’d seen. Was it Old Johnson Road? Something like that.

I grabbed the cell phone out of my purse. No battery bars. Stupid technology! I tossed the phone back into my purse. Now what?

The ticking of the car’s engine as it cooled felt like the second hand of a clock counting down to my demise. Sweat drenched my forehead and armpits.

God, what should I do?

Seeing no alternative but to try to find a main road, I opened the door, gathered my gym bag and purse, and got out of the car. I looked up the road ahead of me, wondering where it led.

The sound of tires on gravel made me whirl around. I squinted at the headlights coming my way.

Had God sent someone to rescue me? Or was this the part of the suspense movie where the girl alone in the woods is attacked, chopped up in little pieces, and buried somewhere in the mud?

Jumping back in the car, I threw my things on the passenger seat and snapped the locks on both doors. God, please let it be someone who can help me—at least let me use their cell phone to call somebody!

In the rearview mirror I watched the car pull to a stop behind mine. When the headlights turned off, I saw the bright red hood of a Camaro.

The door opened and closed. The driver got out and ambled toward me.

My good-looking stalker rapped on the glass. “Having trouble, ma’am?” The muffled voice sounded friendly and polite. But then, weren’t all serial killers friendly and polite at first?

“Um . . . I . . . I think I’m out of gas.”

He made a spinning motion with one finger, pointing at the window, and cupped his ear with the other hand. Apparently he couldn’t understand what I was saying. Did I dare open the window? Maybe just a crack. But a crack was all it took to slip in a gun. Or tear gas. Or flesh-eating acid.

I definitely had to stop watching those movies.

He reached for the door handle. Taking that move as a threat, I jerked toward the passenger seat. He backed away, his hands up and palms out.

His features were so perfect he could have been a model in a magazine. His wavy blond hair and light complexion reminded me of an ivory statue I’d seen in an art gallery once. Surely someone this gorgeous couldn’t be all bad.

I hit the button for the window and opened it an inch. “I ran out of gas.” I felt embarrassed but also a little excited that this great-looking guy had come to my rescue. I marveled at his perfect timing yet panicked a bit at how uncanny it was that he had found me.

“I can run home and get some gas out of the garage. I live just down the road, on Sullivan Street. It’ll only take about fifteen minutes to get there and back.”

I recognized the address. It was in one of the super-classy neighborhoods nestled in the rolling hills of Maryland horse country. Still, I didn’t dare get out of the car. “That sounds great. Thanks.”

“Are you going to be OK?”

“I’ll be “ne.”

“I’m Mike.” He looked directly into my eyes, causing knots to form in my stomach.

“Olivia,” I said, averting my gaze from his.

When I didn’t roll down the window any more, Mike returned to his car and took off down the road.

I felt foolish for being so cautious. I should have gotten out of the car to thank him instead of treating him like a creep who was going to attack me at the side of the road. But how could I know for sure?

For what seemed like an eternity, I waited to spot his headlights coming over the hill. I opened the window farther to let in more air. The familiar sound of chirping cicadas made me feel as if I had some company out here in the middle of nowhere.

With nothing to do but wait, my mind rehearsed what I would say when Mike returned. Each scenario made me groan at how horrible I was at striking up conversations with guys.

I tapped my index finger on the steering wheel. If he didn’t come back, I’d have to find a pay phone, call my dad, and ask him to come get me. He’d be irritated that I ran out of gas again. How many times had he told me to keep a close eye on the gauge? And to keep my cell phone’s battery fully charged in case of emergency?

Headlights came over the hill in front of me.

I waited until the car pulled in behind mine, then I gathered my wits and got out, shutting the door.

As Mike approached carrying a red plastic container, I said, “I feel ridiculous for hiding in my car when you pulled up earlier.” I stuffed my hands into my jacket pockets and peered up at his face. His kaleidoscope-like blue eyes were almost translucent.

“No problem, ma’am. I’m not offended.” His soothing voice matched his genteel words. I almost giggled at him calling me ma’am.

As he emptied the contents of the container into my gas tank, I tried to think of something to say. Nothing intelligent came to mind.

“How far do you live from here?” he asked.

“Just a few miles.”

“This should get you home then.”

“Can I pay you for the gas?”

“No. I’m glad to help.”

I don’t want you to leave, said the voice in my head, which had turned strangely bold all of a sudden.

Mike cast a knowing gaze at me, as if he’d heard my thoughts. Looking slightly flustered, he cleared his throat and returned to the task of filling my gas tank.

I twirled my long blonde hair as I watched him pull the nozzle of the red container out of the tank. “Thanks again.”

“My pleasure.” Crinkles formed at the sides of his eyes when he smiled. “Maybe I’ll see you around?”

“Maybe.” Since he’d been watching me from across the school parking lot for the past three days, seeing him again seemed pretty likely.

Strangers usually terrified me, but I felt as if I’d known Mike for years. Why did my fears suddenly subside?

“I should get home before my parents start to worry.”

Mike nodded and returned to his Camaro. Before getting in, he waved. I waved back, then got in my Honda and closed the door.

I turned the key and the engine started. When I glanced in the rearview mirror, Mike and his car were gone. I stretched around to look out the back window. There was nothing but the road and the shadows of trees.

How could he have disappeared so fast? I hadn’t heard his engine or seen his car pull out.

Goose bumps prickled my arms and rose all the way to my face.

I remembered something I’d heard in church last Sunday. The preacher had talked about people entertaining angels unaware, like when Abraham served dinner to some angels in the Bible. I wondered if I had just entertained an angel. I never thought that one might come to my rescue, perform some menial task, and then suddenly disappear. But I didn’t have a better explanation.

During the sermon I had prayed that God would somehow let me know if I had a guardian angel. It seemed like a good idea at the time. High school can be pretty difficult to navigate. I figured a girl could use someone to look after her. Had God actually answered my prayer?

I rolled my eyes. What a stupid idea. A guardian angel wouldn’t look like a hot guy, nor would he drive a red Camaro. My imagination always did get the best of me.

Arriving home, I parked the car in the garage and sat there a few minutes, waiting for my pulse to settle. Finally, I grabbed my books and headed into the house.

When I entered the kitchen I smelled meatloaf. Since I arrived an hour after dinner whenever I had volleyball practice after school, Mom usually put a plate of leftovers in the refrigerator for me. I wasn’t at all hungry, especially not for meatloaf, so I headed straight for my room.

“Hey, Goldilocks,” my dad hollered from the living room. “Can’t you even say hello?”

“You’re late,” Mom called out. She always worried when I didn’t get home on time. She’d lost her sister in an automobile crash when they were both in high school, so I understood the reason for her overprotectiveness. But it still grated on my nerves.

I went into the living room, where my mom’s favorite candle burned in its usual place on the mantel, filling the room with the aroma of sweet cinnamon spice. Dad sat in his wingbacked leather chair to the right of the fireplace, a hardback novel in one hand and his reading glasses in the other. Mom lowered the magazine she’d been reading and looked up at me.

“Everything all right?” Dad leaned forward in his recliner.

Mom tilted her head, her eyes squinting as if she were trying to figure out why I was late without my saying a word.

“I ran out of gas. But some nice man stopped and brought me some.” I left out the details that my rescuer was young and attractive.

Dad shut his book and sank back into his chair. “How many times have I told you to keep a close eye on the gas gauge?”

“I know, Dad. I’m sorry.”

One corner of my mom’s mouth twisted up in disapproval. “You could have called. Your father would have been—”

“Battery was dead.” I raised my cell phone with the blank screen. “And I know, I should always keep it charged. I’m going to go do that right now.” I nodded toward the stairs.

“I’m just glad you’re all right.” Dad put his glasses back on and opened his book to where he had left off.

Mom went back to her magazine. I took that as a clue that it was safe to escape.

“Night, guys.”

“Good night,” they said in unison without looking up from their reading.

I clamored up the stairs to my room. All I wanted was a warm shower to clear my thoughts. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Mike.

As the warm water rinsed the sweat off my body, I replayed the strange scene in my mind. I’d been too nervous to think about asking him what he’d been doing in the parking lot staring at me after practice for three days. Or how he found me on the side of the road.

If I saw him again tomorrow I would walk right up to him and ask him. At least I hoped I’d be brave enough to do that, and that I could say it without sounding ungrateful for his help.

I forced myself out of my stupor long enough to soap up and shampoo, then got out of the shower and dried off.

If I did manage to talk to him tomorrow, I’d also ask him how he disappeared so fast. After all, people don’t just vanish into thin air.

What if he really were an angel—maybe even the guardian angel I prayed God would somehow show me? Would he be offended that I questioned him coming to my rescue? Had he already told God about my lack of appreciation or my skepticism? Would lightning strike me dead while I slept?

After changing into clean shorts and a T-shirt, I collapsed into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. Lying there in the darkness I listened to the silence. I felt like a toddler wondering if the boogeyman might be under the bed.

God, I don’t know what happened tonight. Or who that guy was. Please help me understand and know how to respond. Thanks for sending someone to rescue me—whoever or whatever he was.

As my eyes fluttered closed as I drifted off to sleep, I felt someone brush the hair off my forehead. My dad hadn’t done that in years. It felt comforting.

A few moments later, peace fell over me.

As his charge finally fell asleep, Mike brushed his hand over Olivia’s hair as he’d done a thousand times before. This time she moved when he touched her. She felt his presence!

Oh, how he hoped she would open her spiritual eyes. Few humans did. But that prayer she prayed last Sunday in church had activated his duty to a level that was seldom allowed. As a result, he’d been able to appear to her in human form.

He didn’t want to scare her, so he’d chosen to look like an attractive young man—or at least what she perceived as attractive. He’d thought the red Camaro was a nice touch, but she still seemed afraid.

Mike recalled the day she was born. He’d pressed his forehead against the glass of the hospital ward alongside her father. They’d both beamed with pride, peering in at the little bundle wriggling in her tiny plastic bed.

Earlier that day her mother had prayed for angels to protect her. Mike was there before she even prayed. He’d been with her ever since—and would be with her till she took her final breath on Earth.

This girl had already been a challenge. During her childhood years he’d saved her from falling out of trees, drowning in a pond, and various other near tragedies caused by her curious nature and wild imagination.

The dangers she encountered changed slightly when she entered her teen years. Adolescent girls were complicated. He longed for her to get over this boy-crazy stage. If she knew what these young guys were thinking, she’d run away. But telling her that wasn’t part of Mike’s job description.

She stirred again. He wanted to jump into her dreams to talk to her, but it wasn’t time yet.

Olivia still had no idea how specifically God had answered her prayer to show her she had a guardian angel. Mike was always amazed at how humans asked for supernatural things yet were surprised when they happened. Most of the time when he appeared to humans, they passed out. He’d been given permission to be a little more subtle and creative this time.

Olivia was one of the best things that had ever happened to Mike. Oh, he’d guarded many souls over the ages, but this one was special. She reminded him of Queen Esther and Mary—women in history chosen to change their world.

New Wings Book Synopsis: Why is that when we pray for the supernatural we are surprised when it shows up? Seventeen-year-old Olivia Stanton always knew the Bible says guardian angels exist, but she assumed they only showed up when people were dying or needed to be saved from some kind of sudden disaster. Until she meets her own guardian angel, who appears to her in the form of a good-looking guy her age. As Olivia gets to know Mike, she learns how many misconceptions she had about the spiritual realm. She starts seeing angels on a regular basis—both good and evil ones. Mike tells her he needs to prepare her for the daunting spiritual battle that is about to overtake her small town, which could destroy her, her family, and her friends.

author photo

Donna Stanley lives in the beautiful Endless Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, Jonathan, and their teenage daughter, Olivia. She attended Philadelphia Biblical University, Moody Bible Institute, and Mansfield University, where she studied angelology, demonology, and the anthropology of religion. She was a youth leader for ten years and a pastor’s wife for sixteen years. She now serves as a young adult mentor and leader in her local church.