Passion, p.22
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       Passion, p.22

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 22

 

  Chapter Ten

  THE DEPTHS

  LHASA, TIBET APRIL 30, 1740

  Daniel hit the ground running.

  Wind ripped across his body. The sun felt close against his skin. He was running and running and had no idea where he was. Hed burst from the Announcer without knowing, and though it felt right in almost every way, something nagged at his memory. Something was wrong.

  His wings.

  They were absent. No--they were still there, of course, but he felt no urge to let them out, no burning itch for flight. Instead of the familiar yearning to soar into the sky, the pull he felt was down.

  A memory was rising to the surface of his mind. He was nearing something painful, the edge of something dangerous. His eyes focused on the space in front of him-- And saw nothing but thin air.

  He threw himself backward, arms flailing as his feet skidded along the rock. He hit the ground on his backside and came to a stop just before he plunged off an unfathomable cliff.

  He caught his breath, then rolled his body carefully around so he could peer over the edge.

  Below him: an abyss so eerily familiar. He got to his hands and knees and studied the vast darkness below. Was he down there still? Had the Announcer ejected him here before or after it had happened?

  That was why his wings hadnt burst forth. Theyd remembered this lifes agony and stayed put.

  Tibet. Where just his words had killed her. That lifes Lucinda had been raised to be so chaste, she wouldnt even touch him. Though hed ached for the feel of her skin on his, Daniel had respected her wishes. Secretly, he had hoped that her refusal might be a way to outsmart their curse at last. But hed been a fool again. Of course, touch wasnt the trigger. The punishment ran far deeper than that.

  And now he was back here, in the place where her death had driven him into a despair so overwhelming that hed tried to put an end to his pain.

  As if that were possible.

  The whole way down, hed known he would fail. Suicide was a mortal luxury not afforded to angels.

  His body trembled at the memory. It wasnt just the agony of all his shattered bones, or the way the fall had left his body black and blue. No, it was what came afterward. Hed lain there for weeks, his body wedged in the dark emptiness between two vast boulders. Occasionally hed come to, but his mind was so awash in misery that he wasnt able to think about Lucinda. He wasnt able to think about anything at all.

  Which had been the point.

  But as was the way of angels, his body healed itself faster and more completely than his soul ever could.

  His bones knit back together. His wounds sealed in neat scars and, over time, disappeared completely. His pulverized organs grew healthy. All too soon his heart was full again and strong and beating.

  It was Gabbe whod found him after more than a month, whod helped him crawl out from the crevasse, whod put splints on his wings and carried him away from this place. Shed made him vow to never do it again. Shed made him vow to always maintain hope.

  And now here he was again. He got to his feet and, once more, teetered at the edge.

  No, please. Oh God, dont! I just couldnt bear it if you jumped.

  It wasnt Gabbe speaking to him now on the mountain. This voice dripped with sarcasm. Daniel knew who it belonged to before he even spun around.

  Cam lounged against a wall of tall black boulders. Over the colorless earth, hed spread out an enormous prayer tapestry woven with rich strands of burgundy and ochre thread. He dangled a charred yaks leg in his hand and bit off a huge hunk of stringy meat.

  Oh, what the hell? Cam shrugged, chewing. Go ahead and jump. Any last words you want me to pass along to Luce?

  Where is she? Daniel started toward him, his hands balling into fists. Was the Cam reclining before him of this time period? Or was he an Anachronism, come back in time just as Daniel had?

  Cam flung the yak bone off the cliff and stood up, wiping his greasy hands on his jeans. Anachronism, Daniel decided.

  You just missed her. Again. What took you so long? Cam held out a small tin platter brimming with food. Dumpling? Theyre pine.

  Daniel knocked the plate to the ground. Why didnt you stop her? He had been to Tahiti, to Prussia, and now here to Tibet in less time that it would take a mortal to cross a street. Always he felt as if he were hot on Luces trail. And always she was just beyond reach. How did she continue to outpace him?

  You said you didnt need my help.

  But you saw her? Daniel demanded.

  Cam nodded.

  Did she see you?

  Cam shook his head.

  Good. Daniel scanned the bare mountaintop, trying to imagine Luce there. He cast a quick eye around, looking for traces of her. But there was nothing. Gray dirt, black rock, the cut of the wind, no life up here at all--it all seemed to him the loneliest place on earth.

  What happened? he said, grilling Cam. What did she do?

  Cam walked a casual circle around Daniel. She, unlike the object of her affection, has an impeccable sense of timing. She arrived at just the right moment to see her own magnificent death--it is a good one, this time, looks quite grand against this stark landscape. Even you must be able to admit that. No?

  Daniel jerked his gaze away.

  Anyway, where was I? Hmm, her own magnificent death, already said that . . . Ah yes! She stayed just long enough to watch you throw yourself over the edge of the cliff and forget to use your wings.

  Daniel hung his head.

  That didnt go over very well.

  Daniels hand snapped out and caught Cam by the throat. You expect me to believe you just watched? You didnt talk to her? Didnt find out where she was going next? Didnt try to stop her?

  Cam grunted and twisted out of Daniels grip. I was nowhere near her. By the time I reached this spot, she was gone. Again: You said you didnt need my help.

  I dont. Stay out of this. Ill handle it myself.

  Cam chuckled and dropped back onto the tapestry rug, crossing his legs in front of him. Thing is, Daniel, he said, drawing a handful of dried goji berries to his lips. Even if I trusted that you could handle it yourself--which, based on your existing record, I dont--he wagged a finger--youre not alone in this. Everyones looking for her.

  What do you mean, everyone?

  When you took off after Luce the night we fought the Outcasts, do you think the rest of us just sat around and played canasta? Gabbe, Roland, Molly, Arriane, even those two idiot Nephilim kids--theyre all somewhere out there trying to find her.

  You let them do that?

  Im not anyones keeper, brother.

  Dont call me that, Daniel snapped. I cant believe this. How could they? This is my responsibility-- Free will. Cam shrugged. Its all the rage these days.

  Daniels wings burned against his back, useless. What could he do about half a dozen Anachronisms blundering about in the past? His fellow fallen angels would know how fragile the past was, would be careful. But Shelby and Miles? They were kids. Theyd be reckless. They wouldnt know any better. They could destroy it all for Luce. They could destroy Luce herself.

  No. Daniel wouldnt give any of them the chance to get to her before he did.

  And yet--Cam had done it.

  How can I trust that you didnt interfere? Daniel asked, trying not to show his desperation.

  Cam rolled his eyes. Because you know I know how dangerous interference is. Our end goals may be different, but we both need her to make it out of this alive.

  Listen to me, Cam. Everything is at stake here.

  Dont demean me. I know whats at stake. Youre not the only one whos already struggled for too long.

  Im--Im afraid, Daniel admitted. If she too deeply alters the past--

  It could change who she is when she returns to the present? Cam said. Yeah, Im scared, too.

  Daniel closed his eyes. It would mean that any chance she had of breaking free of this curse--

  Would be squa
ndered.

  Daniel eyed Cam. The two of them hadnt spoken to each other like this--like brothers--in ages. She was alone? Youre sure none of the others had gotten to her, either?

  For a moment, Cam gazed past Daniel, at a space on the mountaintop beyond them. It looked as empty as Daniel felt. Cams hesitation made the back of Daniels neck itch.

  None of the others had reached her, Cam said finally.

  Are you certain?

  Im the one who saw her here. Youre the one who never shows up on time. And besides, her being out here at all is no ones fault but yours.

  Thats not true. I didnt show her how to use the Announcers.

  Cam laughed bitterly. I dont mean the Announcers, you moron. I mean that she thinks this is just about the two of you. A stupid lovers quarrel.

  It is about the two of us. Daniels voice was strained. He would have liked to pick up the boulder behind Cams head and drop it over his skull.

  Liar. Cam leaped to his feet, hot fury flashing in his green eyes. Its far bigger, and you know it is. He rolled back his shoulders and unleashed his giant marbled wings. They filled the air with golden glory, blocking the sun for a moment. When they curved toward Daniel, he stepped back, repulsed. Youd better find her, before she--or someone else--steps in and rewrites our entire history. And makes you, me, all of this--Cam snapped his fingers--obsolete.

  Daniel snarled, unfurling his own silvery-white wings, feeling them extend out and out and out at his sides, shuddering as they pulsed near Cams. He felt warmer now, and capable of anything. Ill handle it-- he started to say.

  But Cam had already taken off, the kickback from his flight sending small tornadoes of dirt spiraling up from the ground. Daniel shielded his eyes from the sun and looked up as the golden wings beat across the sky, then, in an instant, were gone.

  Chapter Eleven

  COUP DE FOUDRE

  VERSAILLES, FRANCE FEBRUARY 14, 1723

  Splash.

  Luce came out of the Announcer underwater.

  She opened her eyes, but the warm, cloudy water stung so sharply that she promptly clamped them shut again. Her soggy clothes dragged her down, so she wrestled off the mink coat. As it sank beneath her, she kicked hard for the surface, desperate for air.

  It was only a few inches above her head.

  She gasped; then her feet found bottom and she stood. She wiped the water from her eyes. She was in a bathtub.

  Granted, it was the largest bathtub she had ever seen, as big as a small swimming pool. It was kidney-shaped and made of the smoothest white porcelain and sat alone in the middle of a giant room that looked like a gallery in a museum. The high ceilings were covered by enormous frescoed portraits of a dark-haired family who looked royal. A chain of golden roses framed each bust, and fleshy cherubs hovered between, playing trumpets toward the sky. Against each of the walls--which were papered in elaborate swirls of turquoise, pink, and gold--was an oversized, lavishly carved wooden armoire.

  Luce sank back into the tub. Where was she now? She used her hand to skim the surface, parting about five inches of frothy bubbles the consistency of Chantilly cream. A pillow-sized sponge bobbed up, and she realized she had not bathed since Helston. She was filthy. She used the sponge to scrub at her face, then set to work peeling off the rest of her clothes. She sloshed all the sopping garments over the side of the tub.

  That was when Bill floated slowly up out of the bathwater to hover a foot above the surface. The portion of the tub from which hed risen was dark and cloudy with gargoyle grit.

  Bill! she cried. Cant you tell I need a few minutes of privacy?

  He held a hand up to shield his eyes. You done thrashing around in here yet, Jaws? With his other hand, he wiped some bubbles from his bald head.

  You could have warned me that I was about to take a plunge underwater! Luce said.

 
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