Passion, p.28
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       Passion, p.28

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 28


  I mean, your deaths arent meaningless, exactly. . . .

  But when I died inside Lys, I felt everything--she believed that burning up freed her. She was happy because marrying that king would have meant her life was a lie. And Daniel could save her by killing her.

  Oh, honey, is that what you think? That your deaths are an out for bad marriages or something?

  She squeezed her eyes shut against the sting of sudden tears. It has to be something like that. It has to be. Otherwise its just pointless.

  Its not pointless, Bill said. You do die for a reason. Just not so simple a reason. You cant expect to understand it all at once.

  She grunted in frustration and banged her fist against the side of the wardrobe.

  I can see what youre all jacked up about, Bill said finally. You went three-D and you think you unlocked the secret of your universe. But its not always that neat and easy. Expect chaos. Embrace chaos. You should still try to learn as much as you can from every life you visit. Maybe in the end, itll all add up to something. Maybe youll end up with Daniel . . . or maybe youll decide theres more to life than--

  A rustling startled them. Luce peeked around the wardrobe door.

  A man, around fifty, with a salt-and-pepper goatee and a small potbelly, stood just behind an actor in a dress. They were whispering. When the girl turned her head a little, the stage lights lit up her profile. Luce froze at the sight: a delicate nose and small lips made up with pink powder. A dark brown wig with just a few strands of long black hair showing underneath. A gorgeous golden gown.

  It was Lucinda, fully costumed as Anne Boleyn and about to go onstage.

  Luce edged out of the wardrobe. She felt nervous and tongue-tied but also oddly empowered: If what Bill had told her was true, there wasnt a lot of time left.

  Bill? she whispered. I need you to do that thing where you press Pause so I can--

  "Shhhh!" Bills hiss had a finality that said Luce was on her own. She would just have to wait until this man left so she could get Lucinda alone.

  Unexpectedly, Lucinda moved toward the wardrobe where Luce was hiding. Lucinda reached inside. Her hand moved toward the golden cloak right next to Luces shoulder. Luce held her breath, reached up, clasped her fingers with Lucindas.

  Lucinda gasped and threw the door wide, staring deep into Luces eyes, teetering on the edge of some inexplicable understanding. The floor beneath them seemed to tilt. Luce grew dizzy, closing her eyes and feeling as if her soul had dropped out of her body. She saw herself from the outside: her strange dress that Bill had altered on the fly, the raw fear in her eyes. The hand in hers was soft, so soft she could barely feel it.

  She blinked and Lucinda blinked and then Luce didnt feel any hand at all. When she looked down, her hand was empty. Shed become the girl shed been holding on to. Quickly, she grabbed the cloak and settled it over her shoulders.

  The only other person in the tiring-room was the man whod been whispering to Lucinda. Luce knew then that he was William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare. She knew him. They were, the three of them--Lucinda, Daniel, and Shakespeare--friends. There had been a summer afternoon when Daniel had taken Lucinda to visit Shakespeare at his home in Stratford. Toward sunset, theyd sat in the library, and while Daniel worked on his sketches at the window, Will had asked her question after question--all the while taking furious notes--about when shed first met Daniel, how she felt about him, whether she thought she could one day fall in love.

  Aside from Daniel, Shakespeare was the only one who knew the secret of Lucindas identity--her gender--and the love the players shared offstage. In exchange for his discretion, Lucinda was keeping the secret that Shakespeare was present that night at the Globe. Everyone else in the company assumed that he was in Stratford, that hed handed over the reins of the theater to Master Fletcher. Instead, Will appeared incognito to see the plays opening night.

  When she returned to his side, Shakespeare gazed deep into Lucindas eyes. Youve changed.

  I--no, Im still--she felt the soft brocade around her shoulders. Yes, I found the cloak.

  The cloak, is it? He smiled at her, winked. It suits you.

  Then Shakespeare put his hand on Lucindas shoulder, the way he always did when he was giving directorial instructions: Hear this: Everyone here already knows your story. Theyll see you in this scene, and you wont say or do very much. But Anne Boleyn is a rising star in the court. Every one of them has a stake in your destiny. He swallowed. As well: Dont forget to hit the mark at the end of your line. You need to be downstage left for the start of the dance.

  Luce could feel her lines in the play run across her mind. The words would be there when she needed them, when she stepped onstage in front of all these people. She was ready.

  The audience roared and applauded again. A rush of actors exited the stage and filled the space around her. Shakespeare had already slipped away. She could see Daniel on the opposite wing of the stage. He towered over the other actors, regal and impossibly gorgeous.

  It was her cue to walk onstage. This was the start of the party scene at Lord Wolseys estate, where the king--Daniel--would perform an elaborate masque before taking Anne Boleyns hand for the first time. They were supposed to dance and fall heavily in love. It was supposed to be the very beginning of a romance that changed everything.

  The beginning.

  But for Daniel, it wasnt the beginning at all.

  For Lucinda, however, and for the character she was playing--it was love at first sight. Laying eyes on Daniel had felt like the first real thing ever to happen to Lucinda, just as it had felt for Luce at Sword & Cross. Her whole world had suddenly meant something in a way it never had before.

  Luce could not believe how many people were crowded into the Globe. They were practically on top of the actors, pressed so close to the stage in the pit that at least twenty spectators had their elbows propped up on the stage itself. She could smell them. She could hear them breathing.

  And yet, somehow, Luce felt calm, even energized--as if instead of panicking under all this attention, Lucinda was coming to life.

  It was a party scene. Luce was surrounded by Anne Boleyns ladies-in-waiting; she almost laughed at how comical her ladies looked around her. These teen boys Adams apples bobbed obviously under the glare of the stage lanterns. Sweat formed rings under the arms of their padded dresses. Across the stage, Daniel and his court stood watching her unabashedly, his love plain on his face. She played her part effortlessly, sneaking just enough admiring glances at Daniel to pique both his and the audiences interest. She even improvised a move--pulling her hair away from her long, pale neck--that gave a foreboding hint of what everyone knew awaited the real Anne Boleyn.

  Two players drew close, flanking Luce. They were the noblemen of the play, Lord Sands and Lord Wolsey.

  "Ladies, you are not merry. Gentleman, whose fault is this?" Lord Wolseys voice boomed. He was the host of the party--and the villain--and the actor playing him had incredible stage presence.

  Then he turned and swept his gaze around to look at Luce. She froze.

  Lord Wolsey was being played by Cam.

  There was no space for Luce to shout, curse, or flee. She was a professional actor now, so she stayed collected, and turned to Wolseys companion, Lord Sands, who delivered his lines with a laugh.

  "The red wine first must rise in their fair cheeks, my lord," he said.

  When it was Lucindas turn to deliver her line, her body trembled, and she sneaked a peek at Daniel. His violet eyes smoothed over the roughness she felt. He believed in her.

  "You are a merry gamester, my lord Sands," Luce felt herself say loudly, in a perfectly pitched teasing tone.

  Then Daniel stepped forward and a trumpet sounded, followed by a drum. The dance was beginning. He took her hand. When he spoke, he spoke to her, not to the audience, as the other players did.

  "The fairest hand I ever touched," Daniel said. "O Beauty, till n
ow I never knew thee. " As if the lines had been written for the two of them.

  They began to dance, and Daniel locked eyes with her the whole time. His eyes were crystal clear and violet, and the way they never strayed from hers chipped away at Luces heart. She knew hed loved her always, but until this moment, dancing with him on the stage in front of all these people, she had never really thought about what it meant.

  It meant that when she saw him for the first time in every life, Daniel was already in love with her. Every time. And always had been. And every time, she had to fall in love with him from scratch. He could never pressure her or push her into loving him. He had to win her anew each time.

  Daniels love for her was one long, uninterrupted stream. It was the purest form of love there was, purer even than the love Luce returned. His love flowed without breaking, without stopping. Whereas Luces love was wiped clean with every death, Daniels grew over time, across all eternity. How powerfully strong must it be by now? Hundreds of lifetimes of love stacked one on top of the other? It was almost too massive for Luce to comprehend.

  He loved her that much, and yet in every lifetime, over and over again, he had to wait for her to catch up.

  All this time, they had been dancing with the rest of the troupe, bounding in and out of the wings at breaks in the music, coming back onstage for more gallantry, for longer sets with more ornate steps, until the whole company was dancing.

  At the close of the scene, even though it wasnt in the script, even though Cam was standing right there watching, Luce held fast to Daniels hand and pulled him to her, up against the potted orange trees. He looked at her like she was crazy and tried to tug her to the mark dictated by her stage directions. What are you doing? he murmured.

  He had doubted her before, backstage when shed tried to speak freely about her feelings. She had to make him believe her. Especially if Lucinda died tonight, understanding the depth of her love would mean everything to him. It would help him to carry on, to keep loving her for hundreds more years, through all the pain and hardship shed witnessed, right up to the present.

  Luce knew that it wasnt in the script, but she couldnt stop herself: She grabbed Daniel and she kissed him.

  She expected him to stop her, but instead he swooped her into his arms and kissed her back. Hard and passionately, responding with such intensity that she felt the way she did when they were flying, though she knew her feet were planted on the ground.

  For a moment, the audience was silent. Then they began to holler and jeer. Someone threw a shoe at Daniel, but he ignored it. His kisses told Luce that he believed her, that he understood the depth of her love, but she wanted to be absolutely sure.

  I will always love you, Daniel. Only, that didnt seem quite right--or not quite enough. She had to make him understand, and damn the consequences--if she changed history, so be it. Ill always choose you. Yes, that was the word. Every single lifetime, Ill choose you. Just as you have always chosen me. Forever.

  His lips parted. Did he believe her? Did he already know? It was a choice, a long-standing, deep- seated choice that reached beyond anything else Luce was capable of. Something powerful was behind it. Something beautiful and--

  Shadows began to swirl in the rigging overhead. Heat quaked through her body, making her convulse, desperate for the fiery release she knew was coming.

  Daniels eyes flashed with pain. No, he whispered. Please dont go yet.

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