Passion, p.14
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       Passion, p.14
 

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 14

 

  He wanted to stand there, admiring her forever, but then he remembered himself. He strode toward her and grabbed her by the arm.

  This has gone on long enough. Even as he spoke, Daniel felt overcome by the delicious feel of her skin against his hand. The last time hed touched her was the night he thought hed lost her to the Outcasts. Do you have any idea what a scare you gave me? Youre not safe here on your own, he said.

  Luce didnt start arguing with Daniel, as hed expected. Instead, she screamed and slapped him smartly across the face.

  Because she wasnt Luce. She was Lucinda.

  And, what was worse, they hadnt even met yet in this lifetime. She must have just come back from London with her family. She and Daniel must have been about to meet at the Constances summer solstice party.

  He could see all of that now as the shock registered on Lucindas face.

  What day is this? he asked desperately.

  She would think he was insane. Across the room, he had been too love-struck to note the difference between the girl hed already lost and the girl he had to save.

  Im sorry, he whispered. This was exactly why he was so terrible as an Anachronism. He got completely lost in the smallest of things. One touch of her skin. One look into her deep hazel eyes. One whiff of the scented powder along her hairline. One shared breath in the cramped space of this tiny shop.

  Lucinda winced as she looked at his cheek. In the mirror, it was bright red where shed slapped him. Her eyes traveled to meet his--and his heart felt like it was caving in. Her pink lips parted and her head cocked slightly to the right. She was looking at him like a woman deep in love.

  No.

  There was a way it was supposed to happen. A way it had to happen. They were not supposed to meet until the party. As much as Daniel cursed their fate, he would not disrupt the lives shed lived before. They were what kept her coming back to him.

  He tried to look as uninterested and scowly as possible. Crossing his arms over his chest, shifting his weight to create more space between them, keeping his eyes everywhere but where they wanted to be. On her.

  Im sorry, Lucinda said, pressing her hands over her heart. I dont know what came over me. Ive never done anything like that. . . .

  Daniel wasnt going to argue with her now, though shed slapped him so many times over the years that Arriane kept a tally in a little spiral notebook marked Youre Fresh.

  My mistake, he said quickly. I--I thought you were someone else. Hed already interfered with the past too much, first with Lucia in Milan, and now here. He began to back away.

  Wait. She reached for him. Her eyes were lovely hazel orbs of light pulling him back. I feel almost as if we do know one another, though I cant quite remember--

  I dont think so, Im afraid.

  Hed made it to the door by then, and was parting the curtain on the window to see if Cam was still outside. He was.

  Cams back was to the shop, and he was making animated gestures, telling some fabricated story in which he was surely the hero. He could turn around at the slightest provocation. Then Daniel would be caught.

  Please, sir--stop. Lucinda hurried toward Daniel. Who are you? I think I know you. Please. Wait.

  Hed have to take his chances on the street. He could not stay here with Lucinda. Not when she was acting like this. Not when she was falling in love with the wrong version of himself. Hed lived this life before, and this was not how it had happened. So he had to flee.

  It killed Daniel to ignore her, to go away from Lucinda when everything in his soul was telling him to turn around and fly right back to the sound of her voice, to the embrace of her arms and the warmth of her lips, to the spellbinding power of her love.

  He yanked the shop door open and fled down the street, running at the sunset, running for all he was worth. He did not care at all what it looked like to anyone else in town. He was running out the fire in his wings.

  Chapter Seven

  SOLSTICE

  HELSTON, ENGLAND JUNE 21, 1854

  Luces hands were scalded and splotchy and tender to the bone. Since shed arrived at the Constances estate in Helston three days before, shed done little more than wash an endless pile of dishes. She worked from sunrise to sunset, scrubbing plates and bowls and gravy boats and whole armies of silverware, until, at the end of the day, her new boss, Miss McGovern, laid out supper for the kitchen staff: a sad platter of cold meat, dry hunks of cheese, and a few hard rolls. Each night, after dinner, Luce would fall into a dreamless, timeless sleep on the attic cot she shared with Henrietta, her fellow kitchen maid, a bucktoothed, straw-haired, bosomy girl whod come to Helston from Penzance.

  The sheer amount of work was astonishing.

  How could one household dirty enough dishes to keep two girls working twelve hours straight? But the bins of food-caked plates kept arriving, and Miss McGovern kept her beady eyes fixed on Luces washbasin. By Wednesday, everyone at the estate was buzzing about the solstice party that evening, but to Luce, it only meant more dishes. She stared down at the tin tub of scuzzy water, full of loathing.

  This is not what I had in mind, she muttered to Bill, who was hovering, always, on the rim of the cupboard next to her washtub. She still wasnt used to being the only one in the kitchen who could see him. It made her nervous every time he hovered over other members of the staff, making dirty jokes that only Luce could hear and no one--besides Bill--ever laughed at.

  You children of the millennium have absolutely no work ethic, he said. Keep your voice down, by the way.

  Luce unclenched her jaw. If scrubbing this disgusting soup tureen had anything to do with understanding my past, my work ethic would make your head spin. But this is pointless. She waved a cast iron skillet in Bills face. Its handle was slick with pork grease. Not to mention nauseating.

  Luce knew her frustration didnt have anything to do with the dishes. She probably sounded like a brat. But shed barely been above ground since shed started working here. She hadnt seen Helston Daniel once since that first glimpse in the garden, and she had no idea where her past self was. She was lonely and listless and depressed in a way she hadnt been since those awful early days at Sword & Cross, before shed had Daniel, before shed had anyone she could truly count on.

  Shed abandoned Daniel, Miles and Shelby, Arriane and Gabbe, Callie, and her parents--all for what? To be a scullery maid? No, to unravel this curse, something she didnt even know whether she was capable of doing. So Bill thought she was being whiny. She couldnt help it. She was inches away from a breakdown.

  I hate this job. I hate this place. I hate this stupid solstice party and this stupid pheasant souffl?--

  Lucinda will be at the party tonight, Bill said suddenly. His voice was infuriatingly calm. She happens to adore the Constances pheasant souffl?. He flitted up to sit cross-legged on the countertop, his head twisting a creepy 360 degrees around his neck to make sure the two of them were alone.

  Lucinda will be there? Luce dropped the skillet and her scrub brush into the sudsy tub. Im going to talk to her. Im getting out of this kitchen, and Im going to talk to her.

  Bill nodded, as if this had been the plan all along. Just remember your position. If a future version of yourself had popped up at some boarding school party of yours and told you--

  I would have wanted to know, Luce said. Whatever it was, I would have insisted on knowing everything. I would have died to know.

  Mmm-hmm. Well. Bill shrugged. Lucinda wont. I can guarantee you that.

  Thats impossible. Luce shook her head. Shes . . . me. Nope. Shes a version of you who has been reared by completely different parents in a very different world. You share a soul, but shes nothing like you. Youll see. He gave her a cryptic grin. Just proceed with caution. Bills eyes shot toward the door at the front of the large kitchen, which swung open abruptly. Look lively, Luce!

  He plunked his feet into the washtub and let out a raspy, contented sigh just as Miss McGovern entered,
pulling Henrietta by the elbow. The head maid was listing the courses for the evening meal.

  After the stewed prunes. . . , she droned.

  On the other side of the kitchen, Luce whispered to Bill. Were not finished with this conversation.

  His stony feet splashed suds onto her apron. May I advise you to stop talking to your invisible friends while youre working? People are going to think youre crazy.

  Im beginning to wonder about that myself. Luce sighed and stood straight, knowing that was all she was going to get out of Bill, at least until the others had left.

  Ill expect you and Myrtle to be in tip-top shape this evening, Miss McGovern said loudly to Henrietta, sending a quick glare back at Luce.

  Myrtle. The name Bill had made up on her letters of reference.

  Yes, miss, Luce said flatly.

  Yes, miss! There was no sarcasm in Henriettas reply. Luce liked Henrietta well enough, if she overlooked how badly the girl needed a bath.

  Once Miss McGovern had bustled out of the kitchen and the two girls were alone, Henrietta hopped up on the table next to Luce, swinging her black boots to and fro. She had no idea that Bill was sitting right beside her, mimicking her movements.

  Fancy a plum? Henrietta asked, pulling two ruby-colored spheres from her apron pocket and holding one out to Luce.

  What Luce liked most about the girl was that she never did a drop of work unless the boss was in the room. They each took a bite, grinning as the sweet juice trickled from the sides of their mouths.

  Thought I heard you talking to someone else in here before, Henrietta said. She raised an eyebrow. Have you got yourself a fellow, Myrtle? Oh, please dont say its Harry from the stables! Hes a rotter, he is.

  Just then, the kitchen door swung open again, making both girls jump, drop their fruit, and pretend to scrub the nearest dish.

  Luce was expecting Miss McGovern, but she froze when she saw two girls in beautiful matching white silk dressing gowns, squealing with laughter as they tore through the filthy kitchen.

  One of them was Arriane.

  The other--it took Luce a moment to place her--was Annabelle. The hot-pink-headed girl Luce had met for just a moment at Parents Day, all the way back at Sword & Cross. Shed introduced herself as Arrianes sister.

  Some sister.

  Henrietta kept her eyes down, as if this game of tag through the kitchen were a normal occurrence, as if she might get in trouble if she even pretended to see the two girls--who certainly didnt see either Luce or Henrietta. It was like the servants blended in with the filthy pots and pans.

  Or else Arriane and Annabelle were just laughing too hard. As they squeezed past the pastry- making table, Arriane grabbed a fistful of flour from the marble slab and tossed it in Annabelles face. For half a second, Annabelle looked furious; then she started laughing even harder, grabbing a fistful herself and casting it at Arriane.

  They were gasping for air by the time they barreled through the back door, out to the small garden, which led to the big garden, where the sun actually shone and where Daniel might be and where Luce was dying to follow.

  Luce couldnt have pinned down what she was feeling if shed tried--shock or embarrassment, wonder or frustration?

  All of it must have shown on her face, because Henrietta eyed her knowingly and leaned in to whisper, That lot arrived last night. Someones cousins from London, in town for the party. She walked over to the pastry table. They nearly wrecked the strawberry pie with their antics. Oh, it must be lovely, being rich. Maybe in our next lives, hey, Myrtle?

 
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