Passion, p.19
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       Passion, p.19

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 19

 

  Dont you at least want a hand? Shed been holding her breath and trying not to look down as her foot slid off the wooden peg a third time. Finally, she swallowed dryly and reached out to take the cold, rough claw Bill extended to her.

  As she took Bills hand, he pulled her forward, then off the mast entirely. She yelped as the wet wind battered her face, sending the skirt of her dress billowing around her waist. She shut her eyes and waited to plunge through the rotten decking below.

  Only she didnt.

  She heard a throosh and felt her body catch in the air. She opened her eyes. Bills stubby wings had ballooned out and caught the wind. He was supporting her weight with just one hand, carrying her slowly to shore. It was miraculous how nimble he was, how light. Luce was surprised to find herself relaxing--somehow the sensation of flying was natural to her by now.

  Daniel. As the air encircled her, the ache to be with him overtook her. To hear his voice and taste his lips--Luce could think of nothing else. What she wouldnt have given to be in his arms just then!

  The Daniel shed encountered in Helston, however happy hed been to see her, had not really known her. Not the way her Daniel did. Where was he right now?

  Feeling better? Bill asked.

  Why are we here? Luce asked as they soared over the water. It was so clear she could see inky shadows moving underwater--giant schools of fish, swimming easily, following the shoreline.

  See that palm tree? Bill pointed forward with his free claw. The tallest one, third from the break in the sandbar?

  Luce nodded, squinting.

  Thats where your father in this life built his hut. Nicest shack on the beach! Bill coughed. Actually, its the only shack on the beach. The Brits havent even discovered this side of the island yet. So when your pops is off fishing, you and Daniel have the place mostly to yourselves.

  Daniel and I . . . lived here . . . together?

  Hand in hand, Luce and Bill touched down on the shore with the soft elegance of two dancers in a pas de deux. Luce was grateful--and a little shocked--at how smoothly hed been able to get her down from the mast of the ship, but as soon as she was firmly on the ground, she withdrew her hand from his grimy claw and wiped it on her apron.

  It was starkly beautiful here. The crystal waters washed against the strange and lovely black-sand beaches. Groves of citrus and palm trees leaned over the coast, heavy with bright-orange fruit. Past the trees, low mountains rose up from the mists of the rain forest. Waterfalls cut into their sides. The wind down here wasnt as fierce; better still, it was thick with the scent of hibiscus. It was hard to imagine getting to spend a vacation here, let alone an entire life.

  You lived here. Bill started walking along the curved shoreline, leaving little claw prints in the dark sand. Your dad, and all ten of the other natives who lived within canoeing distance, called you--well, it sounded like Lulu.

  Luce had been walking quickly to keep pace, balling up the layered skirts of her Helston servants clothing to keep them from dragging in the sand. She stopped and made a face.

  What? Bill said. I think its cute, Lulu. Lulululululu.

  Stop it.

  Anyway, Daniel was a kind of rogue explorer. That boat back there? Your ace boyfriend stole it from George the Thirds private slip. He glanced back at the shipwreck. But itll take Captain Bligh and his mutinous crew another couple of years to track Daniel down here, and by then . . . you know.

  Luce swallowed. Daniel would probably be long gone by then, because Lucinda would be long dead.

  Theyd reached a gap in the line of palm trees. A brackish river flowed in swirls between the ocean and a small inland freshwater pond. Luce edged along a few flat stones to cross the water. She was sweating through her petticoats and thought about stripping out of her stifling dress and ping straight into the ocean.

  How much time do I have with Lulu? she asked. Before it happens?

  Bill held up his hands. I thought all you wanted to see was proof that the love you share with Daniel is true.

  I do.

  For that, you wont need more than ten minutes.

  They came upon a short orchid-lined path, which curved onto another pristine beach. A small thatch-roofed hut rose on stilts near the edge of the light-blue water. Behind the hut, a palm tree shuddered.

  Bill perched above her shoulder, hovering in the air. Check her out. His stone claw pointed toward the palm.

  Luce watched in awe as a pair of feet emerged from the fronds high on the quaking tree trunk. Then a girl wearing little more than a woven skirt and an enormous floral lei tossed four shaggy brown coconuts to the beach before scampering down the knobby trunk to the ground.

  Her hair was long and loose, catching in its dark strands diamonds of light from the sun. Luce knew the exact feel of it, the way it would tickle her arms as it swayed in waves past her waist. The sun had turned Lulus skin a deep golden brown--darker than Luce had ever been, even when she spent a whole summer at her grandmothers beach house in Biloxi--and her face and arms were etched with dark geometric tattoos. She existed somewhere between utterly unrecognizable and absolutely Luce.

  Wow, Luce whispered as Bill yanked her behind the shelter of a shrubby, purple-flowered tree. Hey--Ow! What are you doing?

  Escorting you to a safer vantage. Bill dragged her up again into the air, until they were rising through the canopy of leaves. Once they cleared the trees, he flew her to a high, sturdy branch and plunked her down, and she could see the whole beach.

  Lulu!

  The voice sank though Luces skin and straight into her heart. Daniels voice. He was calling to her. He wanted her. Needed her. Luce moved toward the sound. She hadnt even noticed that shed started to rise from her seat on the high branch, as if she could just walk off the treetop and fly to him--until Bill gripped her elbow.

  Precisely why I had to drag your popaa ass up here. Hes not talking to you. Hes talking to her.

  Oh. Luce sank back down heavily. Right.

  On the black sand, the girl with the coconuts, Lulu, was running. And down the beach, sprinting toward her, was Daniel.

  He was shirtless, gorgeously tanned and muscular, wearing only cropped navy-blue trousers that were fraying at the edges. His skin glittered with seawater, fresh from a dip in the ocean. His bare feet kicked up sand. Luce envied the water, envied the sand. Envied everything that got to touch Daniel when she was stuck up in this tree. She envied her past self the most.

  Running toward Lulu, Daniel looked happier and more natural than Luce could ever remember seeing him. It made her want to cry.

  They reached each other. Lulu threw her arms around him, and he swept her up, twirling her in the air. He set her back on her feet and showered her with kisses, kissing her fingertips and her forearms, all the way up to her shoulders, her neck, her mouth.

  Bill reclined against Luces shoulder. Wake me up when they get to the good stuff, he said, yawning.

  Pervert! She wanted to slug him, but she didnt want to touch him.

  I mean the tattooing, gutter-brain. Im into tats, okay?

  When Luce looked back at the couple on the beach, Lulu was leading Daniel to a woven mat that was spread on the sand not far from the hut. Daniel pulled a short machete from the belt of his trousers and hacked at one of the coconuts. After a few slashes, he split off the top and handed the rest of it to Lulu. She drank deeply, milk dripping from the corners of her mouth. Daniel kissed them clean.

  Theres no tattooing, theyre just-- Luce broke off when her past self disappeared into the hut. Lulu reappeared a moment later carrying a small parcel bound in palm leaves. She unwrapped a tool that looked like a wooden comb. The bristles gleamed in the sun, as if they were needle-sharp. Daniel lay back on the mat, watching as Lulu dipped the comb into a large shallow seashell filled with a black powder.

  Lulu gave him a quick kiss and then began.

  Starting at his breastbone, she pressed the comb into his skin. She
worked quickly, pressing hard and fast, and each time she moved the comb she left a smear of black pigment tattooed on his skin. Luce could begin to make out a design: a small checkerboard-patterned breastplate. It was going to span his entire chest. Luces only trip to a tattoo parlor had been once in New Hampshire with Callie, who wanted a tiny pink heart on her hip. It had taken less than a minute and Callie had bellowed the whole time. Here, though, Daniel lay silently, never making a sound, never moving his eyes off Lulu. It took a long while, and Luce felt sweat trickle down the small of her back as she watched.

  Eh? How bout that? Bill nudged her. Did I promise to show you love or did I promise to show you love?

  Sure, they seem like theyre in love. Luce shrugged. But--

  But what? Do you have any idea how painful that is? Look at that guy. He makes getting inked look like being caressed by a soft breeze.

  Luce squirmed on the branch. Is that the lesson here? Pain equals love?

  You tell me, Bill said. It may surprise you to hear this, but the ladies arent exactly banging down Bills door.

  I mean, if I tattooed Daniels name on my body would that mean I loved him more than I already do?

  Its a symbol, Luce. Bill let out a raspy sigh. Youre being too literal. Think about it this way: Daniel is the first good-looking boy Lulu has ever seen. Until he washed ashore a few months ago, this girls whole world was her father and a few fat natives.

  Shes Miranda, Luce said, remembering the love story from The Tempest, which shed read in her tenth-grade Shakespeare seminar. How very civilized of you! Bill pursed his lips with approval. They are like Ferdinand and Miranda: The handsome foreigner shipwrecks on her shores--

  So, of course it was love at first sight for Lulu, Luce murmured. This was what she was afraid of: the same thoughtless, automatic love that had bothered her in Helston.

  Right, Bill said. She didnt have a choice but to fall for him. But whats interesting here is Daniel. You see, he didnt have to teach her to craft a woven sail, or gain her fathers trust by producing a seasons worth of fish to cure, or exhibit C--Bill pointed at the lovers on the beach--agree to tattoo his whole body according to her local custom. It would have been enough if Daniel had just shown up. Lulu would have loved him anyway.

  Hes doing it because-- Luce thought aloud. Because he wants to earn her love. Because otherwise, he would just be taking advantage of their curse. Because no matter what kind of cycle theyre bound to, his love for her is . . . true.

  So then why wasnt Luce entirely convinced?

  On the beach, Daniel sat up. He took hold of Lulu by the shoulders and began kissing her tenderly. His chest bled from the tattooing, but neither of them seemed to notice. Their lips barely parted, their eyes never left each other.

  I want to leave now, Luce said suddenly to Bill.

  Really? Bill blinked, standing up on the tree branch as if shed startled him.

  Yes, really. Ive gotten what I came here for and Im ready to move on. Right now. She tried to stand, too, but the branch swayed under her weight.

  Um, okay. Bill took her arm to steady her. Where to?

  I dont know, but lets hurry. The sun was sinking in the sky behind them, lengthening the lovers shadows on the sand. Please. I want to hold on to one good memory. I dont want to see her die.

  Bills face was pinched up and confused, but he didnt say anything.

  Luce couldnt wait any longer. She closed her eyes and let her desire call to an Announcer. When she opened her eyes again, she could see a quiver in the shadow of a nearby passion fruit tree. She concentrated, summoning it with all her might until the Announcer began to tremble.

 
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