Passion, p.13
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       Passion, p.13

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 13


  Luce groaned. And I just go in and pretend like I work here?

  No. Bill rolled his flinty eyes. Go up and introduce yourself to the lady of the house, Mrs. Constance. Tell her your last placement moved to the Continent and youre looking for new employment. Shes an evil old harridan and a stickler for references. Lucky for you, Im one step ahead of her. Youll find yours inside your apron pocket.

  Luce slipped her hand inside the pocket of her white linen apron and pulled out a thick envelope. The back was stamped shut with a red wax seal; when she turned it over, she read Mrs. Melville Constance, scrawled in black ink. Youre kind of a know-it-all, arent you?

  Thank you. Bill bowed graciously; then, when he realized Luce had already started toward the house, he flew ahead, beating his wings so rapidly they became two stone-colored blurs on either side of his body.

  By then they had passed the silver birches and were crossing the manicured lawn. Luce was about to start up the pebble path to the house, but hung back when she noticed figures in the gazebo. A man and a woman, walking toward the house. Toward Luce.

  Get down, she whispered. She wasnt ready to be seen by anyone in Helston, especially not with Bill buzzing around her like some oversized insect.

  You get down, he said. Just because I made an invisibility exception for your benefit doesnt mean just any mere mortal can see me. Im perfectly discreet where I am. Matter of fact, the only eyes I have to be watchful about are--Whoa, hey. Bills stone eyebrows shot up suddenly, making a heavy dragging noise. Im out, he said, ducking down behind the tomato vines. Angels, Luce filled in. They must be the only other souls who could see Bill in this form. She guessed this because she could finally make out the man and woman, the ones whod prompted Bill to take cover. Gaping through the thick, prickly leaves of the tomato vine, Luce couldnt tear her eyes away from them.

  Away from Daniel, really.

  The rest of the garden grew very still. The birds evening songs quieted, and all she could hear were two pairs of feet walking slowly up the gravel path. The last rays of the sun all seemed to fall upon Daniel, throwing a halo of gold around him. His head was tipped toward the woman and he was nodding as he walked. The woman who was not Luce.

  She was older than Lucinda could have been--in her twenties, most likely, and very beautiful, with dark, silken curls under a broad straw hat. Her long muslin dress was the color of a dandelion and looked like it must have been very expensive.

  Have you come to like our little hamlet much at all, Mr. Grigori? the woman was saying. Her voice was high and bright and full of natural confidence.

  Perhaps too much, Margaret. Luces stomach tied up in a jealous knot as she watched Daniel smile at the woman. Its hard to believe its been a week since I arrived in Helston. I could stay on longer even than Id planned. He paused. Everyone here has been very kind.

  Margaret blushed, and Luce seethed. Even Margarets blushing was lovely. We only hope that will come through in your work, she said. Mothers thrilled, of course, to have an artist staying with us. Everyone is.

  Luce crawled along after them as they walked. Past the vegetable garden, she crouched down behind the overgrown rosebushes, planting her hands on the ground and leaning forward to keep the couple in earshot.

  Then Luce gasped. Shed pricked her thumb on a thorn. It was bleeding.

  She sucked on the wound and shook her hand, trying not to get blood on her apron, but by the time the bleeding had stopped, she realized shed missed part of the conversation. Margaret was looking up at Daniel expectantly.

  I asked you if youll be at the solstice festivities later this week. Her tone was a bit pleading. Mother always makes a big to-do.

  Daniel murmured something like yes, he wouldnt miss it, but he was clearly distracted. He kept looking away from the woman. His eyes darted around the lawn, as if he sensed Luce behind the roses.

  When his gaze swept over the bushes where she crouched, they flashed the most intense shade of violet.

  Chapter Six


  JUNE 18, 1854

  By the time Daniel got to Helston, he was angry.

  He recognized the setting at once, as soon as the Announcer ejected him alone onto the shingle banks of the Loe. The lake was still, reflecting big tufts of pink cloud in the evening sky. Startled by his sudden appearance, a pair of kingfishers took off across the field of clover and came to rest in a crooked moorland tree beside the main road. The road led, he knew, into the small town where hed spent a summer with Lucinda.

  Standing again on this rich green earth touched a soft place inside him. As much as he worked to close every door to their past, as much as he strove to move beyond each one of her heartbreaking deaths--some mattered more than others. He was surprised at how clearly he still recalled their time in the South of England.

  But Daniel wasnt here on holiday. He wasnt here to fall in love with the beautiful copper traders daughter. He was here to stop a reckless girl from getting so lost in the dark moments of her past that it killed her. He was here to help her undo their curse, once and for all.

  He started the long walk toward town.

  It was a warm and lazy summer evening in Helston. Out on the streets, ladies in bonnets and lace- trimmed gowns spoke in low, polite voices to the linen-suited men whose arms they held. Couples paused in front of shop windows. They lingered to speak with their neighbors. They stopped on street corners and took ten minutes to say goodbye.

  Everything about these people, from their attire to the pace of their strolling, was so infuriatingly slow. Daniel could not have felt more at odds with the passersby on the street.

  His wings, hidden beneath his coat, burned with his impatience as he waded through the people. There was one fail-safe place where he knew he could find Lucinda--she visited the gazebo in his patrons back garden most evenings just after dusk. But where he might find Luce--the one hopping in and out of Announcers, the one he needed to find--that, there was no way of knowing.

  The other two lives Luce had stumbled into made some sense to Daniel. In the grand scheme, they were . . . anomalies. Past moments when she had come close to unraveling the truth of their curse just before she died. But he couldnt figure out why her Announcer had brought her here.

  Helston had been a mostly peaceful time for them. In this life, their love had grown slowly, naturally. Even her death had been private, between just the two of them. Once, Gabbe had used the word respectable to describe Lucindas end in Helston. That death, at least, had been theirs alone to suffer.

  No, nothing made sense about the accident of her revisiting this life--which meant she could be anywhere in the hamlet.

  Why, Mr. Grigori, a trilling voice called out on the street. What a wonderful surprise to find you here in town.

  A blond woman in a long patterned blue dress stood before Daniel, taking him utterly by surprise. She held the hand of a pudgy, freckled eight-year-old boy, who looked miserable in a cream-colored jacket with a stain underneath the collar.

  At last it dawned on Daniel: Mrs. Holcombe and her talentless son Edward, whom hed given drawing lessons to for a few painful weeks while in Helston. Hello, Edward. Daniel leaned down to shake the little boys hand, then bowed to his mother. Mrs. Holcombe.

  Until that moment, Daniel had given little thought to his wardrobe as he moved through time. He didnt care what someone on the street thought of his modern gray slacks or whether the cut of his white oxford shirt looked odd compared to any other mans in town. But if he was going to run into people hed actually known nearly two hundred years ago wearing the clothes hed worn two days ago to Luces parents Thanksgiving, word might begin to travel around.

  Daniel didnt want to draw any attention to himself. Nothing could stand in the way of finding Luce. He would simply have to find something else to wear. Not that the Holcombes noticed. Luckily Daniel had returned to a time when hed been known as an eccentric artist.

  Edward, show Mr. Grigori what Mama just bought you, Mrs. Holcombe said, smoothing her sons unruly hair.

  The boy reluctantly produced a small paint kit from a satchel. Five glass pots of oil paint and a long red wooden-handled brush.

  Daniel made the requisite compliments--about how Edward was a very lucky little boy, one whose talent now had the proper tools--while trying not to be obvious about looking past the pair for the quickest way out of the conversation.

  Edwards such a gifted child, Mrs. Holcombe insisted, taking hold of Daniels arm. Trouble is, he finds your drawing lessons just a little less thrilling than a boy his age expects. Its why I thought a proper paint set might allow him to really come into his own. As an artiste. You understand, Mr. Grigori?

  Yes, yes, of course. Daniel cut her off. Give him whatever makes him want to paint. Brilliant plan--

  A coldness spread through him and froze his words in his throat.

  Cam had just exited from a pub across the street.

  For a moment, Daniel churned with anger. Hed been clear enough that he wanted no help from the others. His hands balled into fists, and he took a step toward Cam, but then--

  Of course. This was Cam from the Helston era. And by the looks of it, Cam was having the time of his life in his fancy striped tapered slacks and Victorian smoking cap. His black hair was long, cascading just past his shoulders. He leaned against the pubs door, joking with three other men.

  Cam slipped a gold-tipped cigar out of a square metal case. He hadnt seen Daniel yet. As soon as he did, he would quit laughing. From the beginning, Cam had traveled through the Announcers more than any of the fallen angels. He was an expert in ways Daniel never could be: That was a gift of those whod thrown in with Lucifer--they had a talent for traveling through the shadows of the past.

  One look at Daniel would tell this Victorian Cam that his rival was an Anachronism.

  A man out of time.

  Cam would realize that something big was going on. Then Daniel would never be able to shake him.

  Youre so very generous, Mr. Grigori. Mrs. Holcombe was still nattering, still had Daniel gripped by his shirtsleeve.

  Cams head began to swivel in his direction.

  Think nothing of it. The words rushed out of Daniel. Now, if youll excuse me--he pried her fingers loose--Ive just got to . . . buy some new clothes. He made a speedy bow and rushed through the door of the nearest shop.

  Mr. Grigori-- Mrs. Holcombe was practically shouting his name.

  Silently, Daniel cursed her, pretending he was out of earshot, which only made her call more loudly. But thats a dressmakers, Mr. Grigori! she shouted, cupping her hands over her mouth.

  Daniel was already inside. The glass door of the shop slammed behind him, the bell that was tied to the hinge ringing. He could hide here, at least for a few minutes, in the hopes that Cam hadnt seen him or heard Mrs. Holcombes shrill voice.

  The shop was quiet and smelled of lavender. Well-heeled shoes had worn down its wooden floors, and the shelves along the walls were stacked to the ceiling with bolts of colorful fabrics. Daniel lowered the lace curtain over the window so hed be less visible from the street. When he turned, he caught a glimpse in the mirror of another person in the shop.

  He swallowed a moan of surprised relief.

  Hed found her.

  Luce was trying on a long white muslin dress. Its high neck fastened with a yellow ribbon, bringing out the incredible hazel of her eyes. Her hair was tied back to one side, clipped with a beaded floral pin. She kept fidgeting with the way the sleeves fell on her shoulders as she stood, examining herself from as many angles as she could in the mirror. Daniel adored all of them.

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