Passion, p.18
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       Passion, p.18

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 18


  Waiting out the sunset, he stood alone on the shore and let the water kiss his bare feet. He closed his eyes and spread his arms and allowed his wings to burst out from the scars on his shoulders. They billowed behind him, bobbing in the wind and giving him a weightlessness that provided some momentary peace. He could see how bright they were in their reflection on the water, how huge and fierce they made him look.

  Sometimes, when Daniel was at his most inconsolable, he refused to let his wings out. It was a punishment he could administer to himself. The deep relief, the palpable, incredible sense of freedom that unfurling his wings gave to his soul only felt false, like a drug. Tonight he allowed himself that rush.

  He bent his knees to the sand and kicked off into the air.

  A few feet above the surface of the water, he quickly rolled around so that his back was to the ocean, his wings spread beneath him like a magnificent shimmering raft.

  He skimmed the surface, stretching out his muscles with each long beat of his wings, sliding along the waves until the water changed from turquoise to icy blue. Then he plunged down under the surface. His wings were warm where the ocean was cool, creating a small wake of violet to encircle him.

  Daniel loved to swim. The chill of the water, the unpredictable beat of the current, the synchronicity of the ocean with the moon. It was one of a few earthly pleasures he truly understood. Most of all, he loved to swim with Lucinda.

  With every stroke of his wings, Daniel imagined Lucinda there with him, sliding gracefully through the water as she had so many times before, basking in the warm shimmery glow.

  When the moon was bright in the dark sky and Daniel was somewhere off the coast of Reykjavik, he shot out of the water. Straight up, beating his wings with a ferocity that shook off the cold.

  The wind whipped at his sides, drying him in seconds as he sailed higher and higher into the air. He burst through thick gray banks of clouds, then turned back and began to coast under starry Heavens expanse.

  His wings beat freely, deeply, strong with love and terror and thoughts of her, rippling the water underneath him so that it shimmered like diamonds. He picked up tremendous speed as he flew back over the Faroe Islands and across the Irish Sea. He sailed down along St. Georges Channel and, finally, back to Helston.

  How against his nature to watch the girl he loved show up just to die!

  But Daniel had to see beyond this moment and this pain. He had to look toward all the Lucindas who would come after this one sacrifice--and the one whom he pursued, the final Luce, who would end this cursed cycle.

  Lucindas death tonight was the only way the two of them could win, the only way theyd ever have a chance.

  By the time he reached the Constance estate, the house was dark and the air was hot and still.

  He tucked his wings up close to his body, slowing his descent along the south side of the property. There was the white roof of the gazebo, an aerial view of the gardens. There was the moonlit pebbled path she should have walked along just moments ago, sneaking out of her fathers house next door after everyone else was asleep. Her nightgown covered by a long black cloak, her modesty forgotten in her haste to find him. And there--the light in the parlor, the single candelabra that had drawn her to him. The curtains were parted slightly. Enough for Daniel to look in without risk of being seen.

  He reached the parlor window on the second floor of the great house and let his wings beat lightly, hovering outside like a spy.

  Was she even there? He inhaled slowly, let his wings fill with air, and pressed his face against the glass.

  Just Daniel sketching furiously on his pad in the corner. His past self looked exhausted and forlorn. He could remember the feeling exactly--watching the black tick of the clock on the wall, waiting every moment for her to burst through the door. Hed been so stunned when she sneaked up on him, silently, almost from behind the curtain.

  He was stunned anew when she did so now.

  Her beauty was beyond his most unrealistic expectations that night. Every night. Cheeks flushed with the love she felt but didnt understand. Her black hair falling from its long, lustrous braid. The wonderful sheerness of her nightgown, like gossamer floating over all that perfect skin.

  Just then his past self rose and spun around. When he saw the gorgeous sight before him, the pain was obvious on his face.

  If there had been something Daniel could have done to reach out and help his past self get through this, he would have done it. But all he could do was read his lips.

  What are you doing here?

  Luce drew closer and the color rose in her cheeks. The two of them moved together like magnets--pulled by a force greater than themselves one moment, then repelled with almost the same vigor the next.

  Daniel hovered outside, in pain.

  He couldnt watch. He had to watch.

  The way they reached for each other was tentative right up until the moment his skin connected with hers. Then they became instantly, hungrily passionate. They werent even kissing, just talking. When their lips were almost touching, their souls almost touching, a burning, pure, white-hot aura formed around them that neither was aware of.

  It was something Daniel had never witnessed from the outside.

  Was this what his Luce was after? Visual proof of how true their love was? For Daniel, their love was as much a part of him as his wings. But for Luce, it must be different. She didnt have access to the splendor of their love. Only its fiery end.

  Every moment would be an utter revelation.

  He laid his cheek against the glass, sighing. Inside, his past self was caving in, losing the resolve that had been a charade from the beginning, anyway. His bags were packed, but it was Lucinda who had to go.

  Now his past self took her in his arms; even through the window, Daniel could smell the rich, sweet scent of her skin. He envied himself, kissing her neck, running his hands across her back. His desire was so intense it could have shattered that window if he hadnt willed himself to hold back.

  Oh, draw it out, he willed his past self. Make it last a little longer. One more kiss. One more sweet touch before the room quakes and the Announcers begin to tremble in their shadows.

  The glass warmed against his cheek. It was happening. He wanted to close his eyes but could not. Lucinda writhed in his past selfs arms. Her face contorted with pain. She looked up, and her eyes widened at the sight of the shadows dancing on the ceiling. The half-born realization of something was already too much for her.

  She screamed.

  And erupted into a glowing tower of flames.

  Inside the room, Daniels earlier self was blown back against the wall. He fell and lay huddled, like nothing more than the outline of a man. He buried his face in the carpet and shook.

  Outside, Daniel watched with an awe hed never managed before as the fire climbed the air and the walls. It hissed like a sauce simmering in a pan--and then it vanished, leaving no trace of her.

  Miraculous. Every single inch of Daniels body was tingling. If it hadnt wrecked his past self so completely, he might have found the spectacle of Lucindas death almost beautiful.

  His old self slowly got to his feet. His mouth gaped open and his wings burst out of his black dress coat, taking up most of the room. He raised his fists toward the sky and bellowed.

  Outside, Daniel couldnt take it anymore. He rammed his wing through the window, sending shards of glass out into the night. Then he barreled through the jagged hole.

  What are you doing here? his past self gasped, cheeks streaming with tears. With both pairs of wings fully extended, there almost wasnt room for them in the enormous parlor. They rolled back their shoulders as much as possible to draw away from each other. Both knew the danger of touching.

  I was watching, Daniel said.

  You--what? You come back to watch? His past self flung out his arms and his wings. Is this what you wanted to see? The depths of his misery were achingl
y plain.

  This needed to happen, Daniel.

  Dont feed me those lies. Dont you dare. Have you gone back to taking advice from Cam again?

  No! Daniel almost shouted at his past self. Listen: There is a time, not so very far from now, when we will have a chance to change this game. Something has shifted, and things are different. When we have an opportunity to stop doing this over and over. When Lucinda at last might--

  Break the cycle? his past self whispered.

  Yes. Daniel was beginning to feel light-headed. There was one too many of them in the room. It was time for him to go. It will take some time, he instructed, turning back when he reached the window. But maintain hope.

  Then Daniel slipped through the broken window. His words--maintain hope--echoed in his mind as he took off across the sky, deep into the shadows of the night.

  Chapter Nine



  Luce found herself balanced on a splintery wooden beam.

  It creaked as it tilted slightly to the left, then creaked again as it eased very slowly to the right. The rocking was steady and ceaseless, as if the beam were attached to a very short pendulum.

  A hot wind sent her hair lashing across her face and blew her servants bonnet off her head. The beam beneath her swayed again, and her feet slipped. She fell against the beam and barely managed to hug it to herself before she went tumbling down--

  Where was she? In front of her was the endless blue of open sky. A darker blue at what must have been the horizon. She looked down.

  She was incredibly high up.

  A waterlogged pole stretched a hundred feet beneath her, ending in a wooden deck. Oh. It was a mast. Luce was sitting on the top yard of a very large sailboat.

  A very large shipwrecked sailboat, just off the coast of a black-shored island.

  The bow had been smashed violently against a cluster of razor-sharp lava rocks that had left it a pulverized mess. The mainsail was shredded: tattered pieces of tawny canvas flapping loosely in the wind. The air smelled like the morning after a great storm, but this ship was so weathered, it looked like it had been there for years.

  Every time the waves rushed up the black-sand shores, water sprayed dozens of feet up from the crevices in the rocks. The waves made the wreck--and the beam Luce clutched--sway so roughly she felt she might be sick.

  How was she going to get down? How was she going to get to shore?

  Aha! Look whos landed like a bird on a perch. Bills voice broke over the crashing waves. He appeared at the far tip of the ships rotting yard, walking with his arms extended from his sides as if he were on a balance beam.

  Where are we? Luce was too nervous to make any sudden movements.

  Bill sucked in a big lungful of air. Cant you taste it? The north coast of Tahiti! He plopped down next to Luce, kicked out his stubby legs, stretched his short gray arms up, and clasped his hands behind his head. Isnt it paradise?

  I think Im going to throw up.

  Nonsense. You just have to find your sea legs.

  How did we get-- Luce glanced around again for an Announcer. She didnt see a single shadow, just the endless blank blue of empty skies.

  I took care of the logistics for you. Think of me as your travel agent, and of yourself as on vacation!

  Were not on vacation, Bill.

  Were not? I thought we were taking the Grand Tour of Love. He rubbed his forehead, and flinty flakes showered from his scalp. Did I misunderstand?

  Where are Lucinda and Daniel?

  Hang on. He hovered in the air in front of Luce. Dont you want a little history?

  Luce ignored him and scooted over toward the mast. She stretched an unsteady foot to the highest of the pegs that spiked out from the masts sides.

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