Passion, p.27
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       Passion, p.27
 

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 27

 

  She must be here in this theater for a reason. Her soul had drawn her here; why?

  She pushed through the crowd, moving along the side of the amphitheater until she could see the stage. The wooden planks had been covered with a thick, hemplike matting made to look like rough grass. Two full-sized cannons stood like guards near either wing, and a row of potted orange trees lined the back wall. Not far from Luce, a rickety wooden ladder led to a curtained space: the tiring-room--she remembered from the acting class shed taken with Callie--where the actors got into their costumes and prepared for their scenes.

  Wait! Bill called as she hurried up the ladder.

  Behind the curtain, the room was small and cramped and dimly lit. Luce passed stacks of manuscripts and open wardrobes full of costumes, ogling a massive lions-head mask and rows of hanging gold and velvet cloaks. Then she froze: Several actors were standing around in various stages of undress--boys with half-buttoned gowns, men lacing up brown leather boots. Thankfully, the actors were busily powdering their faces and frantically rehearsing lines, so that the room was filled with short shouted-out fragments of the play.

  Before any of the actors could look up and see her, Bill flew to Luces side and pushed her into one of the wardrobes. Clothes closed around her.

  What are you doing? she asked.

  Let me remind you that youre an actor in a time when there are no actresses. Bill frowned. You dont belong back here as a woman. Not that that stopped you. Your past self took some pretty grand risks to get herself a role in All Is True.

  All Is True? Luce repeated. Shed been hoping she would at least recognize the title. No such luck. She peeked out of the wardrobe into the room.

  You know it as Henry the Eighth, Bill said, yanking her back by the collar. But pay attention: Would you like to venture a guess as to why your past self would lie and disguise herself to land a role--

  Daniel.

  Hed just come into the tiring-room. The door to the yard outside was still open behind him; the sun was at his back. Daniel walked alone, reading a handwritten script, hardly noticing the other players around him. He looked different than he had in any of her other lives. His blond hair was long and a bit wavy, gathered with a black band at the nape of his neck. He had a beard, neatly trimmed, just a bit darker in color than the hair on his head.

  Luce felt an urge to touch it. To caress his face and run her fingers through his hair and trace the back of his neck and touch every part of him. His white shirt gaped open, showing the clean line of muscles on his chest. His black pants were baggy, gathered into knee-high black boots.

  As he drew nearer, her heart began to pound. The roar of the crowd in the pit fell away. The stink of dried sweat from the costumes in the wardrobe disappeared. There was just the sound of her breathing and his footsteps moving toward her. She stepped out of the wardrobe. At the sight of her, Daniels thunderstorm-gray eyes glowed violet. He smiled in surprise.

  She couldnt hold it in any longer. She rushed toward him, forgetting Bill, forgetting the actors, forgetting the past self, who could be anywhere, steps away, the girl this Daniel really belonged to. She forgot everything but her need to be held by him.

  He slid his arms easily around her waist, guiding her quickly to the other side of the bulky wardrobe, where they were hidden from the other actors. Her hands found the back of his neck. A warm rush rippled through her. She closed her eyes and felt his lips come down on hers, featherlight--almost too light. She waited to feel the hunger in his kiss. She waited. And waited.

  Luce inched higher, arching her neck so that he would kiss her harder, more deeply. She needed his kiss to remind her why she was doing this, losing herself in the past and seeing herself dying again and again: because of him, because of the two of them together. Because of their love.

  Touching him again reminded her of Versailles. She wanted to thank him for saving her from marrying the king. And to beg him never to hurt himself again as hed done in Tibet. She wanted to ask what hed dreamed about when hed slept for days after shed died in Prussia. She wanted to hear what hed said to Luschka right before she died that awful night in Moscow. She wanted to pour out her love, and break down and cry, and let him know that every second of every lifetime shed been through, she had missed him with all her heart.

  But there was no way to communicate any of that to this Daniel. None of that had even happened yet to this Daniel. Besides, he took her for the Lucinda of this era, the girl who didnt know any of the things that Luce had come to know. There were no words to tell him.

  Her kiss was the only way she could show him that she understood.

  But Daniel wouldnt kiss her the way she wanted. The closer she pressed to him, the farther back he leaned.

  Finally he pushed her away completely. He held on only to her hands, as if the rest of her were dangerous.

  Lady. He kissed the very tips of her fingers, making her shiver. Would I be too bold to say your love makes you unmannerly?

  Unmannerly? Luce blushed.

  Daniel took her back into his arms, slowly, a bit nervously. Good Lucinda, you must not find yourself in this place dressed as you are. His eyes kept returning to her dress. What clothes are these? Where is your costume? He reached into a wardrobe and flicked through the clothes pegs.

  Quickly, Daniel began to unlace his boots, tossing them on the floor with two thuds. Luce tried not to gape when he dropped his trousers. He wore short gray pantaloons underneath that left very little to the imagination.

  Her cheeks burned as Daniel briskly unbuttoned his white shirt. He yanked it off, exposing the full beauty of his chest. Luce sucked in her breath. The only things missing were his unfurled wings. Daniel was so impeccably gorgeous--and he seemed to have no idea of the effect he was having on her by standing there in his underwear.

  She gulped, fanning herself. Is it hot in here?

  Put these on until I can fetch your costume, he said, tossing the clothes at her. Hurry, before someone sees you. He dashed to the wardrobe in the corner and rifled through it, pulling out a rich green-and-gold robe, another white shirt, and a pair of cropped green pants. He hurried into the new clothes--his costume, Luce guessed--as she picked up his discarded street clothes.

  Luce remembered that it had taken the servant girl in Versailles a half hour to squeeze her into this dress. There were strings and ties and laces in all sorts of private places. There was no way she was going to be able to get out of it with any sort of dignity.

  There was, um, a costume change. Luce gripped the black fabric of her skirt. I thought this would look nice for my character.

  Luce heard footsteps behind her, but before she could turn, Daniels hand pulled her deep into the wardrobe next to him. It was cramped and dark and wonderful to be so close. He pulled the door shut as far as it would go and stood before her, looking like a king with the green-and-gold robe wrapped around him.

  He raised an eyebrow. Where did you get this? Is our Anne Boleyn suddenly from Mars? He chuckled. I always thought she hailed from Wiltshire.

  Luces mind raced to catch up. She was playing Anne Boleyn? Shed never read this play, but Daniels costume suggested he was playing the king, Henry VIII.

  Mr. Shakespeare--ah, Will--thought it would look good--

  Oh, Will did? Daniel smirked, not believing her at all but seeming not to care. It was strange to feel that she could do or say almost anything and Daniel would still find it charming. Youre a little bit mad, arent you, Lucinda?

  I--well--

  He brushed her cheek with the back of his finger. I adore you.

  I adore you, too. The words tumbled from her mouth, feeling so real and so true after the last few stammering lies. It was like letting out a long-held breath. Ive been thinking, thinking a lot, and I wanted to tell you that--that--

  Yes?

  The truth is that what I feel for you is . . . deeper than adoration. She pressed her hands over his heart. I trust
you. I trust your love. I know now how strong it is, and how beautiful. Luce knew that she couldnt come right out and say what she really meant--she was supposed to be a different version of herself, and the other times, when Daniel had figured out who she was, where shed come from, hed clammed up immediately and told her to leave. But maybe if she chose her words carefully, Daniel would understand. It may seem like sometimes I--I forget what you mean to me and what I mean to you, but deep down . . . I know. I know because we are meant to be together. I love you, Daniel.

  Daniel looked shocked. You--you love me?

  Of course. Luce almost laughed at how obvious it was--but then she remembered: She had no idea which moment from her past shed walked into. Maybe in this lifetime theyd only exchanged coy glances.

  Daniels chest rose and fell violently and his lower lip began to quiver. I want you to come away with me, he said quickly. There was a desperate edge to his voice.

  Luce wanted to cry out Yes!, but something held her back. It was so easy to get lost in Daniel when his body was pressed so close to hers and she could feel the heat coming off his skin and the beating of his heart through his shirt. She felt she could tell him anything now--from how glorious it had felt to die in his arms in Versailles to how devastated she was now that she knew the scope of his suffering. But she held back: The girl he thought she was in this lifetime wouldnt talk about those things, wouldnt know about them. Neither would Daniel. So when she finally opened her mouth, her voice faltered.

  Daniel put a finger over her lips. Wait. Dont protest yet. Let me ask you properly. By and by, my love.

  He peeked out the cracked wardrobe door, toward the curtain. A cheer came from the stage. The audience roared with laughter and applause. Luce hadnt even realized the play had begun.

  Thats my entrance. Ill see you soon. He kissed her forehead, then dashed out and onto the stage.

  Luce wanted to run after him, but two figures came and stood just beyond the wardrobe door.

  The door squeaked open and Bill fluttered inside. Youre getting good at this, he said, flopping onto a sack of old wigs.

  Where have you been hiding?

  Who, me? Nowhere. What would I have to hide from? he asked. That little costume-change sham was a wee stroke of genius, he said, raising his tiny hand for a high five.

  It was always a bit of a buzz kill to be reminded that Bill was a fly on the wall during every interaction with Daniel.

  Youre really going to leave me hanging like this? Bill slowly withdrew his hand.

  Luce ignored him. Something felt heavy and raw in her chest. She kept hearing the desperation in Daniels voice when hed asked her to run away with him. What had that meant?

  Im dying tonight. Arent I, Bill?

  Well . . . Bill cast his eyes down. Yes.

  Luce swallowed hard. Wheres Lucinda? I need to get inside her again so I can understand this lifetime. She pushed at the wardrobe door, but Bill took hold of the sash on her gown and pulled her back.

  Look kid, going three-D cant be your go-to move. Think of it as a special-occasion skill. He pursed his lips. What is it you think youre going to learn here?

  What she needs to escape from, of course, Luce said. What is Daniel saving her from? Is she engaged to someone else? Living with a cruel uncle? Out of favor with the king?

  Uh-oh. Bill scratched the top of his head. It made a grating sound, like nails on a chalkboard. I must have made a pedagogical boo-boo somewhere. You think theres a reason for your death every time?

  Theres not? She could feel her face fall.

 
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