Passion, p.25
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       Passion, p.25

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 25

 

  Then she ran.

  Through the ballroom, past the splendid dancing couples and the orchestra, whirring from one pastel-yellow room into another decorated all in deep chartreuse. She ran past gasping ladies and grunting gentlemen, over hardwood floors and thick, opulent Persian rugs, until the lights grew dimmer and the partygoers thinned out, and at last she found the mullioned doors that led outside. She thrust them open, gasping in her corset to draw the fresh air of freedom into her lungs. She strode onto an enormous balcony made of brilliant white marble that wrapped around the entire second story of the palace.

  The night was bright with stars; all Luce wanted to do was to be in Daniels arms and flying up toward those stars. If only he were by her side to take her far from all of this--

  What are you doing out here?

  She spun around. Hed come for her. He stood across the balcony in simple servants clothes, looking confused and alarmed and tragically, hopelessly in love.

  Daniel. She dashed toward him. He moved toward her, too, his violet eyes lighting up; he threw open his arms, beaming. When they finally connected and Luce was wrapped up in his arms, she thought she might explode from happiness.

  But she didnt.

  She just stayed there, her head buried against his wonderful, broad chest. She was home. His arms were wrapped around her back, resting on her waist, and he pulled her as close to him as possible. She felt him breathe, and smelled the husky scent of straw on his neck. Luce kissed just below his left ear, then underneath his jaw. Soft, gentle kisses until she reached his lips, which parted against her own. Then the kisses became longer, filled with a love that seemed to pour out from the very depths of her soul.

  After a moment, Luce broke away and stared into Daniels eyes. Ive missed you so much.

  Daniel chuckled. Ive missed you, too, these past . . . three hours. Are--are you all right?

  Luce ran her fingers through Daniels silky blond hair. I just needed to get some air, to find you. She squeezed him tightly.

  Daniel narrowed his eyes. I dont think we should be out here, Lys. They must be expecting you back in the receiving room.

  I dont care. I wont go back in there. And I would never marry that pig. I will never marry anyone but you.

  Shhh. Daniel winced, stroking her cheek. Someone might hear you. Theyve cut off heads for less than that.

  Someone already did hear you, a voice called from the open doorway. The Duc de Bourbon stood with his arms crossed over his chest, smirking at the sight of Lys in the arms of a common servant. I believe the king should hear of this. And then he was gone, disappearing inside the palace.

  Luces heart raced, driven by Lyss fear and her own: Had she altered history? Was Lyss life supposed to proceed differently?

  But Luce couldnt know, could she? That was what Roland had told her: Whatever changes she made in time, they would immediately be part of what had happened. Yet Luce was still here, so if shed changed history by ditching the king--well, it didnt seem to matter to Lucinda Price in the twenty-first century.

  When she spoke to Daniel, her voice was steady. I dont care if that vile duke kills me. Id sooner die than give you up.

  A wave of heat swept over her, causing her to sway where she stood. Oh, she said, clasping a hand to her head. She recognized it distantly, like something shed seen a thousand times before but had never paid attention to.

  Lys, he whispered. Do you know whats coming?

  Yes, she whispered.

  And you know that Ill be with you until the end? Daniels eyes bored into her, full of tenderness and worry. He wasnt lying to her. Hed never lied to her. He never would. She knew that now, could see it. He revealed just enough to keep her alive a few moments longer, to suggest everything Luce was already beginning to learn on her own.

  Yes. She closed her eyes. But theres so much I still dont understand. I dont know how to stop this from happening. I dont know how to break this curse.

  Daniel smiled, but there were tears brimming in his eyes.

  Luce wasnt afraid. She felt free. Freer than shed ever felt before.

  A strange, deep understanding was unfurling in her memory. Something becoming visible in the fog of her head. One kiss from Daniel would open a door, releasing her from a loveless marriage to a bratty child, from the cage of this body. This body wasnt who she really was. It was just a shell, part of a punishment. And so this bodys death wasnt a tragedy at all--it was simply the end of a chapter. A beautiful, necessary release.

  Footsteps sounded on the stairs behind them. The duke returning with his men. Daniel gripped her shoulders.

  Lys, listen to me--

  Kiss me, she begged. Daniels face changed, as if he needed to hear nothing else. He lifted her off the ground and crushed her against his chest. Tingling heat coursed through her body as she kissed him harder and deeper, letting herself go completely. She arched her back and tilted her head toward the sky and kissed him until she was dizzy with bliss. Until dark traces of shadows swirled and blackened the stars overhead. An obsidian symphony. But behind it: There was light. For the first time, Luce could feel the light shining through.

  It was absolutely glorious.

  It was time for her to go.

  Get out while the gettings good, Bill had warned her. While she was still alive.

  But she couldnt leave yet. Not while everything was so warm and lovely. Not with Daniel still kissing her, wild with passion. She opened her eyes and the colors of his hair and his face and the night itself burned brighter and more beautiful, lit up by an intense radiance.

  That radiance was coming from deep inside Luce herself.

  With every kiss, her whole body edged closer to the light. This was the only true way back to Daniel. Out of one mundane life and into another. Luce would happily die a thousand times just as long as she could be with him again on the other side. Stay with me, Daniel pleaded even as she felt herself incandesce.

  She moaned. Tears streamed down her face. The softest smile parted her lips.

  What is it? Daniel asked. He would not stop kissing her. Lys?

  Its . . . so much love, she said, opening her eyes just as the fire bloomed through her chest. A great column of light exploded in the night, rocketing heat and flames high in the sky, knocking Daniel off his feet, knocking Luce clear out of Lyss death and into darkness, where she was ice-cold and could see nothing. A shuddering wave of vertigo overtook her.

  Then: the smallest flash of light.

  Bills face came into view, hovering over Luce with a worried look. She was lying prone on a flat surface. She touched the smooth stone beneath her, heard the water trickling nearby, sniffed at the cool musty air. Shed come out inside an Announcer.

  You scared me, Bill said. I didnt know . . . I mean, when she died, I didnt know how . . . didnt know whether maybe you might get stuck somehow. . . . But I wasnt sure. He shook his head as if to banish the thought.

  She tried to stand, but her legs were wobbly and everything about her felt incredibly cold. She sat cross-legged against the stone wall. She was back in the black gown with the emerald-green trim. The emerald-green slippers stood side by side in the corner. Bill must have slipped them off her feet and laid her down after shed . . . after Lys . . . Luce still could not believe it.

  I could see things, Bill. Things I never knew before.

  Like?

  Like she was happy when she died. I was happy. Ecstatic. The whole thing was just so beautiful. Her mind raced. Knowing hed be there for me on the other side, knowing that all I was doing was escaping something wrong and oppressive. That the beauty of our love endures death, endures everything. It was incredible.

  Incredibly dangerous, Bill said shortly. Lets not do that again, okay?

  Dont you get it? Ever since I left Daniel in the present, this is the best thing thats happened to me. And--

  But Bill had disappeared into the darkness again. She heard the trickle of the wat
erfall. A moment later, the sound of water boiling. When Bill reappeared, hed made tea. He carried the pot on a thin metal tray and handed Luce a steaming mug.

  Where did you get that? she asked.

  I said, lets not do that again, okay?

  But Luce was too wrapped up in her own thoughts to really hear him. This was the closest shed come to any kind of clarity. She would go 3-D--what had he called it? cleaving?--again. She would see her lives through to their ends, one after another until in one of those lives, she found out exactly why it happened.

  And then shed break this curse.

  Chapter Twelve

  THE PRISONER

  PARIS, FRANCE DECEMBER 1, 1723

  Daniel cursed.

  The Announcer had dumped him out onto a bed of damp, dirty straw. He rolled and sat up, his back against a frozen stone wall. Something from the ceiling was dripping cold, oily drops onto his forehead, but there wasnt enough light to see what it was.

  Opposite him was an open slot of a window, crudely cut into the stone and hardly wide enough to stick a fist through. It let in only a sliver of moonlight, but enough blustery night air to bring the temperature near freezing.

  He couldnt see the rats scampering in the cell, but he could feel their slimy bodies writhing through the moldy straw beneath his legs. He could feel their ragged teeth sawing into the leather of his shoes. He could hardly breathe for the stink of their waste. He kicked out and there was a squeal. Then he gathered his feet beneath him and rose onto his haunches.

  Youre late.

  The voice next to Daniel made him jump. He had carelessly assumed he was alone. The voice was a parched and raspy whisper, but somehow still familiar.

  Then came a scraping sound, like metal being dragged across stone. Daniel stiffened as a blacker piece of shadow detached itself from the darkness and leaned forward. The figure moved into the pale- gray light under the window, where at last the silhouette of a face grew dimly visible.

  His own face.

  Hed forgotten this cell, forgotten this punishment. So this was where hed ended up.

  In some ways, Daniels earlier self looked just as he did now: the same nose and mouth, the same distance between the same gray eyes. His hair was scruffier and stiff with grease, but it was the same pale gold it was now. And yet, prisoner Daniel looked so different. His face was horribly gaunt and pale, his forehead creased with filth. His body looked emaciated, and his skin was beaded with sweat.

  This was what her absence did to him. Yes, he wore the ball and chain of a prisoner--but the real jailer here was his own guilt.

  He remembered it all now. And he remembered the visitation of his future self, and a frustrating, bitter interview. Paris. The Bastille. Where hed been locked up by the Duc de Bourbons guards after Lys disappeared from the palace. There had been other jails, crueler living conditions, and worse food in Daniels existence, but the mercilessness of his own regret that year in the Bastille was one of the hardest trials hed ever overcome.

  Some, but not all of it, had to do with the injustice of being charged with her murder.

  But--

  If Daniel was already here, locked up in the Bastille, it meant that Lys was already dead. So Luce had already come . . . and gone.

  His past self was right. He was too late. Wait, he said to the prisoner in the darkness, drawing closer, but not so close that they risked touching. How did you know what Ive come back for?

  The scrape of the ball being dragged across the stone meant his past self had leaned back against the wall. Youre not the only one whos come through here looking for her.

  Daniels wings burned, sending heat licking down his shoulder blades. Cam.

 

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