Passion, p.10
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       Passion, p.10

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 10

 

  Right now, both of Daniels old roommates were far gone in morphine-induced afternoon naps.

  In the middle of the room was the bed where he had lain after that bullet found his neck near the Piave River front. It was a stupid attack; they had walked right into it. But Daniel had only enlisted in the war because Lucia was a nurse, so it was just as well. He rubbed at the place where hed been hit. He could feel the pain almost as if it had happened yesterday.

  If Daniel had stuck around long enough to let the wound heal, the doctors would have been amazed by the absence of a scar. Today, his neck was smooth and flawless, as if he had never been shot.

  Over the years, Daniel had been beaten, battered, flung over balconies, shot in the neck and the gut and the leg, tortured over hot coals, and dragged through a dozen city streets. But a close study of every inch of his skin would reveal only two small scars: two fine white lines above his shoulder blades where his wings unfurled.

  All of the fallen angels acquired these scars when they took their human bodies. In a way, the scars were all any of them had to show for themselves.

  Most of the others reveled in their immunity to scarring. Well, except for Arriane, but the scar on her neck was another story. But Cam and even Roland would pick the most gruesome fights with just about anyone on Earth. Of course, they never lost to mortals, but they seemed to like getting a little bit shattered on the way. In a couple of days, they knew theyd look flawless again.

  For Daniel, an existence without scars was just another indication that his destiny was out of his hands. Nothing he did ever made a dent. The weight of his own futility was crushing--especially when it came to Luce.

  And he suddenly remembered seeing her here, back in 1918. Luce. And he remembered fleeing the hospital.

  That was the one thing that could leave a scar on Daniel--on his soul.

  Hed been confused by seeing her back then, just as he was confused now. At the time, hed thought there was no way that the mortal Lucinda should be able to do this--to run pell-mell through time, visiting her old selves. No way she should be alive at all. Now, of course, Daniel knew that something had changed with the life of Lucinda Price, but what was it? It started with her lack of covenant with Heaven, but there was more--

  Why couldnt he figure it out? He knew the rules and parameters of the curse as well as he knew anything, so how could the answer elude him--

  Luce. She must have worked the change into her own past herself. The realization made his heart flutter. It must have happened during this very flight of hers through the Announcers. Of course, she must have shifted something to make all of this possible. But when? Where? How? Daniel could not interfere with any of it.

  He had to find her, just as hed always promised he would. But he also had to make sure she managed to do whatever it was she had to do, worked whatever change into her past she needed to work so that Lucinda Price--his Luce--could happen.

  Maybe if he could catch up with her, he could help. He could steer her toward the moment when she changed the rules of the game for all of them. Hed just missed her in Moscow, but he would find her in this life. He just had to figure out why she had landed here. There was always a reason, something held inside, in deep folds of her memory--

  Oh.

  His wings burned and he felt ashamed. This life in Italy had been a dark and ugly death for her. One of the worst. He would never stop blaming himself for the horrible way she had passed out of this life.

  But that was years after where Daniel stood today. This was the hospital where theyd first met, when Lucia was so young and lovely, innocent and saucy in the same breath. Here she had loved him instantly and completely. Though she was too young for Daniel to show he loved her back, he had never discouraged her affection. She used to slip her hand inside his when they strolled under the orange trees on the Piazza della Repubblica, but when he squeezed her hand, she would blush. It always made him laugh, the way she could be so bold, then suddenly turn shy. She used to tell him that she wanted to marry him someday.

  Youre back!

  Daniel spun around. He hadnt heard the door behind him opening. Lucia jumped when she saw him. She was beaming, showing a perfect row of tiny white teeth. Her beauty took his breath away.

  What did she mean, he was back? Ah, this was when hed hidden from Luce, frightened of killing her by accident. He was not allowed to reveal anything to her; she had to discover the details for herself. Were he even to hint broadly, she would simply combust. Had he stayed, she might have grilled him and perhaps forced the truth out of him. . . . He didnt dare.

  So his earlier self had run away. He must be in Bologna by now.

  Are you feeling all right? Lucia asked, walking toward him. You really should lie back down. Your neck--she reached out to touch the place where hed been shot over ninety years ago. Her eyes widened and she drew back her hand. She shook her head. I thought--I could have sworn--

  She began to fan her face with the stack of files she was holding. Daniel took her hand and led her to sit on the edge of the bed with him. Please, he said, can you tell me, was there a girl here--

  A girl just like you.

  Doria? Lucia asked. Your . . . friend? With pretty short hair and the funny shoes?

  Yes. Daniel exhaled. Can you show me where she is? Its very urgent.

  Lucia shook her head. She couldnt stop staring at his neck.

  How long have I been here? he asked.

  You just arrived last night, she said. You dont remember?

  Things are fuzzy, Daniel lied. I must have taken a knock to the head.

  You were very badly wounded. She nodded. Nurse Fiero didnt think you were going to make it until morning when the doctors came--

  No. He remembered. She didnt.

  But then you did, and we were all so glad. I think Doria stayed with you all night. Do you remember that?

  Why would she do that? Daniel said sharply, startling Lucia.

  But of course Luce had stayed with him. Daniel would have done the same thing.

  At his side, Lucia sniffed. Hed upset her, when it was really himself he had to be angry with. He put an arm around her shoulder, feeling almost dizzy. How easy it was to fall in love with every moment of her existence! He made himself lean back to focus.

  Do you know where she is now?

  She went away. Lucia chewed on her lip nervously. After you left, she was upset, and she took off somewhere. But I dont know where.

  So she had run away again already. What a fool Daniel was, plodding through time while Luce was racing. He had to catch her, though; maybe he could help steer her toward that moment when she could make all the difference. Then he would never leave her side, never let any harm come to her, only be with her and love her always.

  He leaped up from the bed. He was at the door when the young girls hand tugged him back.

  Where are you going?

  I have to go.

  After her?

  Yes.

  But you should stay a little longer. Her palm was damp inside his. The doctors, they all said you need some rest, she said softly. I dont know whats come over me. I just cant bear it if you go. Daniel felt horrible. He pressed her small hand to his heart. Well meet again.

  No. She shook her head. My father said that, and my brother, and then they went to the war and they died. I dont have anyone left. Please dont go.

  He couldnt bear to. But if he ever wanted to find her again, leaving now was his only chance.

  When the war is over, you and I will meet again. Youll go to Florence one summer, and when youre ready, you will find me at the Boboli Gardens--

  Ill do what?

  Right behind the Pitti Palace, at the end of Spiders Lane, where the hydrangeas bloom. Look for me.

  You must be feverish. This is crazy!

  He nodded. He knew it was. He loathed that there was no alternative to setting this beautiful, sweet girl on such an ugly cours
e. She had to go to the gardens then, just as Daniel had to go after Lucinda now.

  I will be there, waiting for you. Trust in that.

  When he kissed her forehead, her shoulders began to shake with quiet sobs. Against every instinct, Daniel turned away, darting off to find an Announcer that could take him back.

  Chapter Five

  OFF THE STRAIGHT PATH

  HELSTON, ENGLAND JUNE 18, 1854

  Luce rocketed into the Announcer like a car speeding out of control.

  She bounced and jostled against its shadowy sides, feeling as if shed been thrown down a garbage chute. She didnt know where she was going or what she would find once she arrived, only that this Announcer seemed narrower and less pliable than the last one, and was filled by a wet, whipping wind that drove her ever deeper into the dark tunnel.

  Her throat was dry and her body was weary from not having slept in the hospital. With every turn, she felt more lost and unsure.

  What was she doing in this Announcer?

  She closed her eyes and tried to fill her mind with thoughts of Daniel: the strong grasp of his hands, the burning intensity of his eyes, the way his whole face changed when she entered a room. The soft comfort of being wrapped in his wings, soaring high, the world and its worries far away.

  How foolish she had been to run! That night in her backyard, stepping through the Announcer had seemed like the right thing to do--the only thing to do. But why? Why had she done it? What stupid idea had made that seem like a smart move? And now she was far away from Daniel, from everyone she cared about, from anyone at all. And it was all her fault. Youre an idiot! she cried into the dark.

  Hey, now, a voice called out. It was raspy and blunt and seemed to come from right beside her. No need to be insulting!

  Luce went rigid. There couldnt be anyone inside the utter darkness of her Announcer. Right? She must be hearing things. She pushed forward, faster.

  Slow down, will ya?

  She caught her breath. Whoever it was didnt sound garbled or distant, like someone was speaking through the shadow. No, someone was in here. With her.

  Hello? she called, swallowing hard.

  No answer.

  The whipping wind in the Announcer grew louder, howling in her ears. She stumbled forward in the dark, more and more afraid, until at last the noise of the air blowing past died out and was replaced by another sound--a staticky roar. Something like waves crashing in the distance.

  No, the sound was too steady to be waves, Luce thought. A waterfall.

  I said slow down.

  Luce flinched. The voice was back. Inches from her ear--and keeping pace with her as she ran. This time, it sounded annoyed.

  Youre not going to learn anything if you keep zipping around like that.

  Who are you? What do you want? she shouted. "Oof!"

  Her cheek collided with something cold and hard. The rush of a waterfall filled her ears, close enough that she could feel cool drops of spray on her skin. Where am I?

  Youre here. Youre . . . on Pause. Ever heard of stopping to smell the peonies?

  You mean roses. Luce felt around in the darkness, taking in a pungent mineral smell that wasnt unpleasant or unfamiliar, just confusing. She realized then that she hadnt yet stepped out of the Announcer and back into the middle of a life, which could only mean--

  She was still inside.

  It was very dark, but her eyes began to adjust. The Announcer had taken on the form of some sort of small cave. There was a wall behind her made of the same cool stone as the floor, with a depression cut into it where a stream of water trickled down. The waterfall she heard was somewhere above.

  And below her? Ten feet or so of stone ledge--and then nothing. Beyond that was blackness.

 
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