Passion, p.3
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       Passion, p.3
 

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 3

 

  Yes, Luschka called to the others. She looked at Daniel. Lets go with them. No. His voice was curt. Nervous. Luce knew that tone all too well.

  Well be safer off the street. Isnt this why we agreed to meet here?

  Daniel turned to look back behind them, his eyes sweeping right past the place where Luce was hiding. When the sky lit up with another round of golden-red explosions, Luschka screamed and buried her face in Daniels chest. So Luce was the only one who saw his expression.

  Something was weighing on him. Something greater than fear of the bombs.

  Oh no.

  Daniil! A boy near the building was still holding open the door to the shelter. Luschka! Daniil!

  Everyone else was already inside.

  That was when Daniil spun Luschka around, pulled her ear close to his lips. In her shadowy hiding place, Luce ached to know what he was whispering. If he was saying any of the things Daniel ever told her when she was upset or overwhelmed. She wanted to run to them, to pull Luschka away--but she couldnt. Something deep inside her would not budge.

  She fixed on Luschkas expression as if her whole life depended on it.

  Maybe it did.

  Luschka nodded as Daniil spoke, and her face changed from terrified to calm, almost peaceful. She closed her eyes. She nodded one more time. Then she tipped back her head, and a smile spread slowly across her lips.

  A smile?

  But why? How? It was almost like she knew what was about to happen.

  Daniil held her in his arms and dipped her low. He leaned in for another kiss, pressing his lips firmly against hers, running his hands through her hair, then down her sides, across every inch of her.

  It was so passionate that Luce blushed, so intimate she couldnt breathe, so gorgeous that she couldnt tear her eyes away. Not for a second.

  Not even when Luschka screamed.

  And burst into a column of searing white flame.

  The cyclone of flames was otherworldly, fluid and almost elegant in a ghastly way, like a long silk scarf twisting around her pale body. It engulfed Luschka, flowed out of her and all around her, lighting up the spectacle of her burning limbs flailing, and flailing--and then not flailing anymore. Daniil didnt let go, not when the fire singed his clothes, not when he had to support the full weight of her slack, unconscious body, not when the flames burned away her flesh with an ugly, acrid hiss, not when her skin began to char and blacken.

  Only when the blaze fizzled out--so fast, in the end, like the snuffing of a single candle--and there was nothing left to hold on to, nothing left but ashes, did Daniil drop his arms to his sides.

  In all of Luces wildest daydreams about going back and revisiting her past lives, shed never once imagined this: her own death. The reality was more horrible than her darkest nightmares could ever have concocted. She stood in the cold snow, paralyzed by the vision, her body bereft of the capacity to move.

  Daniil staggered back from the charred mass on the snow and began to weep. The tears streaming down his cheeks made clean tracks through the black soot that was all that was left of her. His face contorted. His hands shook. They looked bare and big and empty to Luce, as if--even though the thought made her oddly jealous--his hands belonged around Luschkas waist, in her hair, cupping her cheeks. What on earth did you do with your hands when the one thing they wanted to hold was suddenly, gruesomely gone? A whole girl, an entire life--gone.

  The pain on his face took hold of Luces heart and squeezed, wringing her out completely. On top of all the pain and confusion she felt, seeing his agony was worse.

  This was how he felt every life.

  Every death.

  Over and over and over again.

  Luce had been wrong to imagine that Daniel was selfish. It wasnt that he didnt care. It was that he cared so much, it wrecked him. She still hated it, but she suddenly understood his bitterness, his reservations about everything. Miles might very well love her, but his love was nothing like Daniels.

  It never could be.

  Daniel! she cried, and left the shadows, racing toward him.

  She wanted to return all the kisses and embraces shed just witnessed him giving to her past self. She knew it was wrong, that everything was wrong.

  Daniils eyes widened. A look of abject horror crossed his face.

  What is this? he said slowly. Accusingly. As if he hadnt just let his Luschka die. As if Luces being there was worse than watching Luschka die. He raised his hand, painted black with ash, and pointed at her. Whats going on?

  It was agony to have him look at her this way. She stopped in her tracks and blinked a tear away.

  Answer him, someone said, a voice from the shadows. How did you get here?

  Luce would have recognized the haughty voice anywhere. She didnt need to see Cam step out of the doorway of the bomb shelter.

  With a soft snap and rumble like an enormous flag being unfurled, he extended his great wings. They stretched out behind him, making him even more magnificent and intimidating than usual. Luce couldnt keep herself from staring. They cast a gold-hued glow on the dark street.

  Luce squinted, trying to make sense of the scene in front of her. There were more of them, more figures lurking in the shadows. Now they all stepped forward.

  Gabbe. Roland. Molly. Arriane.

  All of them were there. All with their wings arched tightly forward. A shimmering sea of gold and silver, blindingly bright on the dark street. They looked tense. Their wing tips quivered, as if ready to spring into battle.

  For once, Luce didnt feel intimidated by the glory of their wings or the weight of their gazes. She felt disgusted.

  Do you all watch it every time? she asked.

  Luschka, Gabbe said in an even voice. Just tell us whats going on.

  And then Daniil was there, gripping her shoulders. Shaking her.

  Luschka!

  Im not Luschka! Luce shouted, breaking away from him and backing up a half dozen steps.

  She was horrified. How they could live with themselves? How they could all just sit back and watch her die?

  It was all too much. She wasnt ready to see this.

  Why are you looking at me like that? Daniil asked. Shes not who you think she is, Daniil, Gabbe said. Luschkas dead. This is . . . this is--

  "What is she?" Daniil asked. How is she standing here? When--

  Look at her clothes. Shes clearly--

  Shut up, Cam, she might not be, Arriane said, but she looked fearful, too, that Luce might be whatever Cam was about to say she was. Another shrieking from the air, and then a blast of artillery shells raining down on the buildings across the street, deafening Luce, igniting a wooden warehouse. The angels had no concern for the war going on around them, only for her. There were twenty feet now between Luce and the angels, and they looked as wary of her as she felt of them. None of them drew closer.

  In the light from the smoldering building, Daniils shadow was thrown far ahead of his body. She focused on summoning it to her. Would it work? Her eyes narrowed, and every muscle in her body tensed. She was still so clumsy at this, never knowing what it took to get the shadow into her hands.

  When the dark lines began to quiver, she pounced. She gripped the shadow with both hands and started twirling the dark mass into a ball, just as shed seen her teachers, Steven and Francesca, do on one of her first days at Shoreline. Just-summoned Announcers were always messy and amorphous. They needed first to be spun into a distinct contour. Only then could they be pulled and stretched into a larger flat surface. Then the Announcer would transform: into a screen through which to glimpse the past--or into a portal through which to step.

  This Announcer was sticky, but she soon pulled it apart, guided it into shape. She reached inside and opened the portal.

  She couldnt stay here any longer. She had a mission now: to find herself alive in another time and learn what price the Outcasts had referred to, and eventually, to trace the origin o
f the curse between Daniel and her.

  Then to break it.

  The others gasped as she manipulated the Announcer.

  When did you learn how to do that? Daniil whispered.

  Luce shook her head. Her explanation would only baffle Daniil.

  Lucinda! The last thing she heard was his voice calling out her true name.

  Strange, shed been looking right at his stricken face but hadnt seen his lips move. Her mind was playing tricks.

  Lucinda! he shouted once more, his voice rising in panic, just before Luce dove headfirst into the beckoning darkness.

  Chapter One

  UNDER FIRE

  MOSCOW OCTOBER 15, 1941

  Lucinda!

  The voices reached her in the murky darkness.

  Come back!

  Wait!

  She ignored them, pressing further. Echoes of her name bounced off the shadowy walls of the Announcer, sending licks of heat rippling across her skin. Was that Daniels voice or Cams? Arrianes or Gabbes? Was it Roland pleading that she come back now, or was that Miles?

  The calls grew harder to discern, until Luce couldnt tell them apart at all: good or evil. Enemy or friend. They should have been easier to separate, but nothing was easy anymore. Everything that had once been black and white now blended into gray.

  Of course, both sides agreed on one thing: Everyone wanted to pull her out of the Announcer. For her protection, they would claim.

  No, thanks.

  Not now.

  Not after theyd wrecked her parents backyard, made it into another one of their dusty battlefields. She couldnt think about her parents faces without wanting to turn back--not like shed even know how to turn back inside an Announcer, anyway. Besides, it was too late. Cam had tried to kill her. Or what he thought was her. And Miles had saved her, but even that wasnt simple. Hed only been able to throw her reflection because he cared about her too much.

  And Daniel? Did he care enough? She couldnt tell.

  In the end, when the Outcast had approached her, Daniel and the others had stared at Luce like she was the one who owed them something.

  You are our entrance into Heaven, the Outcast had told her. The price. What had that meant? Until a couple of weeks ago she hadnt even known the Outcasts existed. And yet, they wanted something from her--badly enough to battle Daniel for it. It must have had to do with the curse, the one that kept Luce reincarnated lifetime after lifetime. But what did they think Luce could do?

  Was the answer buried somewhere here?

  Her stomach lurched as she tumbled senselessly through the cold shadow, deep inside the chasm of the dark Announcer.

  Luce--

  The voices began to fade and grow dimmer. Soon they were barely whispers. Almost like they had given up. Until--

  They started to grow louder again. Louder and clearer.

  Luce--

  No. She clamped her eyes shut to try to block them out.

  Lucinda--

  Lucy--

  Lucia--

  Luschka--

  She was cold and she was tired and she didnt want to hear them. For once, she wanted to be left alone.

  Luschka! Luschka! Luschka!

  Her feet hit something with a thwump.

  Something very, very cold.

  She was standing on solid ground. She knew she wasnt tumbling anymore, though she couldnt see anything in front of her except for the blanket of blackness. Then she looked down at her Converse sneakers.

  And gulped.

  They were planted in a blanket of snow that reached midway up her calves. The dank coolness that she was used to--the shadowy tunnel shed been traveling through, out of her backyard, into the past--was giving way to something else. Something blustery and absolutely frigid.

  The first time Luce had stepped through an Announcer--from her Shoreline dorm room to Las Vegas--shed been with her friends Shelby and Miles. At the end of the passage theyd met a barrier: a dark, shadowy curtain between them and the city. Because Miles was the only one whod read the texts on stepping through, hed started swiping the Announcer with a circular motion until the murky black shadow flaked away. Luce hadnt known until now that hed been troubleshooting.

 
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