Passion, p.33
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       Passion, p.33

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 33

 

  I saw him.

  Who, Daniel? Yeah, I saw him, too. He was the guy who dropped the ax when it was his turn to do the chopping. Big mistake. Huge.

  No, I really saw him. As he truly is. Her voice shook. He was so beautiful.

  Oh, that. Bill tossed his head, annoyed.

  I recognized him. I think Ive seen him before.

  Doubt it. Bill coughed. That was the first and last time youll be able to see him like that. You saw him, and then you died. Thats what happens when mortal flesh looks upon an angels unbridled glory. Instant death. Burned away by the angels beauty.

  No, it wasnt like that.

  You saw what happened to everyone else. Poof. Gone. Bill plopped down beside her and patted her knee. Why do you think the Mayans started doing sacrifices by fire after that? A neighboring tribe discovered the charred remains and had to explain it somehow.

  Yes, they burst into flames right away. But I lasted longer--

  A couple of extra seconds? When you were turned away? Congratulations.

  Youre wrong. And I know Ive seen that before.

  Youve seen his wings before, maybe. But Daniel shedding his human guise and showing you his true form as an angel? Kills you every time.

  No. Luce shook her head. Youre saying he can never show me who he really is?

  Bill shrugged. Not without vaporizing you and everyone around you. Why do you think Daniels so cautious about kissing you all the time? His glory shines pretty damn bright when you two get hot and heavy.

  Luce felt like she could barely hold herself up. Thats why I sometimes die when we kiss?

  How bout a round of applause for the girl, folks? Bill said snarkily.

  But what about all those other times, when I die before we kiss, before--

  Before you even have a chance to see how toxic your relationship might become?

  Shut up.

  Honestly, how many times do you have to see the same story line before you realize nothing is ever going to change? Something has changed, Luce said. Thats why Im on this journey, thats why Im still alive. If I could just see him again--all of him--I know I could handle it.

  You dont get it. Bills voice was rising. Youre talking about this whole thing in very mortal terms. As he grew more agitated, spit flew from his lips. This is the big time, and you clearly cannot handle it.

  Why are you so angry all of a sudden?

  Because! Because. He paced the ledge, gnashing his teeth. Listen to me: Daniel slipped up this once, he showed himself, but he never does that again. Never. He learned his lesson. Now youve learned one, too: Mortal flesh cannot gaze upon an angels true form without dying.

  Luce turned away from him, growing angrier herself. Maybe Daniel changed after this lifetime in Chich?n Itz?, maybe hed become more cautious in the future. But what about the past?

  She approached the limit of the ledge inside the Announcer, looking up into the vast, gaping blackness that tunneled above into her dark unknown.

  Bill hovered over her, circling her head as if he were trying to get inside it. I know what youre thinking, and youre only going to end up disappointed. He drew close to her ear and whispered. Or worse.

  There was nothing he could say to stop her. If there was an earlier Daniel who still dropped his guard, then Luce was going to find him.

  Chapter Sixteen

  BEST MAN

  JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 27 NISSAN 2760

  Daniel was not entirely himself.

  He was still cloven to the body he had joined with on the dark fjords of Greenland. He tried to slow down as he left the Announcer, but his momentum was too great. Heavily off-balance, he spun out of the darkness and rolled across rocky earth until his head slammed into something hard. Then he was still.

  Cleaving with his past self had been a vast mistake.

  The simplest way to split apart two entwined incarnations of a soul was to kill the body. Freed from the cage of the flesh, the soul sorted itself out. But killing himself wasnt really an option for Daniel. Unless . . .

  The starshot.

  In Greenland, he had snatched it from where it lay nestled in the snow at the edge of the angels fire. Gabbe had brought it along as symbolic protection, but she would never have expected Daniel to cleave and steal it.

  Had he really thought he could just drag the dull silver tip across his chest and split apart his soul, casting his past self back into time? Stupid.

  No. He was too likely to slip up, to fail, and then instead of splitting his soul, he might accidentally kill it. Soulless, Daniels earthly guise, this dull body, would wander the earth in perpetuity, searching for its soul but settling for the next best thing: Luce. It would haunt her until the day she died, and maybe after that.

  What Daniel needed was a partner. What he needed was impossible.

  He grunted and rolled over onto his back, squinting into the bright sun directly overhead.

  See? a voice above him said. I told you we were in the right place.

  I dont see why this--another voice, a boys this time--is proof of us doing anything right.

  Oh, come on, Miles. Dont let your beef with Daniel keep us from finding Luce. He obviously knows where she is.

  The voices drew closer. Daniel opened his eyes in a squint and saw an arm slice the light of the sun, extending toward him.

  Hey there. Need a hand?

  Shelby. Luces Nephilim friend from Shoreline.

  And Miles. The one shed kissed.

  What are you two doing here? Daniel sat up sharply, rejecting Shelbys offered hand. He rubbed his forehead and glanced behind him--the thing hed collided with was the gray trunk of an olive tree.

  What do you think were doing here? Were looking for Luce. Shelby gaped down at Daniel and wrinkled her nose. Whats wrong with you?

  "Nothing. " Daniel tried to stand up, but he was so dizzy he quickly lay down again. Cleaving-- especially dragging his past body into another life--had made him sick. He fought his past from inside, slamming up against the edges, bruising his soul on bones and skin. He knew the Nephilim could sense that something unmentionable had happened to him. Go home, trespassers. Whose Announcer did you use to get here? Do you know how much trouble you could get yourselves in?

  All of a sudden, something silver gleamed under his nose.

  Take us to Luce. Miles was pointing a starshot at Daniels neck. The brim of his baseball cap hid his eyes, but his mouth was screwed in a nervous grimace.

  Daniel was dumbstruck. You--you have a starshot.

  Miles! Shelby whispered fiercely. "What are you doing with that thing?"

  The dull tip of the arrow quaked. Miles was clearly nervous. You left it in the yard after the Outcasts left, he said to Daniel. Cam grabbed one, and in the chaos, no one noticed when I picked up this one. You took off after Luce. And we took off after you. He turned to Shelby. I thought we might need it. Self-defense.

  Dont you dare kill him, Shelby said to Miles. Youre an idiot.

  No, Daniel said, very slowly sitting up. Its okay.

  His mind was spinning. What were the odds? He had only seen this done once before. Daniel was no expert at cleaving. But his past writhed inside him--he couldnt go on like this. There was only one solution. Miles was holding it in his hands.

  But how could he get the boy to attack him without explaining everything? And could he trust the Nephilim?

  Daniel edged backward until his shoulders were against the tree trunk. He slid up it, holding both empty hands wide, showing Miles there was nothing to be afraid of. You took fencing?

  What? Miles looked bewildered.

  At Shoreline. Did you take a fencing class or not?

  We all did. It was kind of pointless and I wasnt all that good, but--

  That was all Daniel needed to hear. "En garde!" he shouted, drawing out his concealed starshot like a sword.

  Miless eyes grew wide. In an instant hed raised his arrow as well.

>   Oh, crap, Shelby said, scurrying out of the way. You guys, seriously. Stop!

  The starshots were shorter than fencing foils but a few inches longer than normal arrows. They were featherlight but as hard as diamonds, and if Daniel and Miles were very, very careful, the two of them might make it out of this alive. Somehow, with Miless help, Daniel might cleave free of his past.

  He sliced through the air with his starshot, advancing a few steps toward the Nephilim.

  Miles responded, fighting off Daniels blow, his arrow glancing hard toward the right. When the starshots clashed, they did not make the tinny clanks that fencing foils made. They made a deep, echoing whooomp that reverberated off the mountains and shook the ground under their feet.

  Your fencing lesson wasnt pointless, Daniel said as his arrow crisscrossed with Miless in the air. It was to prepare for a moment like this.

  A moment--Miles grunted as he lunged forward, sweeping his starshot up until it slid against Daniels in the air--like what?

  Their arms strained. The starshots made a frozen X in the air.

  I need you to release me from an earlier incarnation that Ive cloven to my soul, Daniel said simply.

  What the. . . , Shelby murmured from the sidelines.

  Confusion flashed across Miless face, and his arm faltered. His blade fell away, and his starshot clattered to the ground. He gasped and fumbled for it, looking back at Daniel, terrified.

  Im not coming after you, Daniel said. I need you to come after me. He managed a competitive smirk. Come on. You know you want to. Youve wanted to for a long time.

  Miles charged, holding the starshot like an arrow instead of a sword. Daniel was ready for him, dipping to one side just in time and spinning around to clash his starshot against Miless.

  They were locked in each others grip: Daniel with his starshot pointing past Miless shoulder, using his strength to hold the Nephilim boy back, and Miles with his starshot inches away from Daniels heart.

  Are you going to help me? Daniel demanded.

  Whats in it for us? Miles asked.

  Daniel had to think about this for a moment. Luces happiness, he said at last.

  Miles didnt say yes. But he didnt say no.

  Now--Daniels voice faltered as he gave the instructions--very carefully, drag your blade in a straight line down the center of my chest. Do not pierce the skin or you will kill me.

  Miles was sweating. His face was white. He glanced over at Shelby.

  Do it, Miles, she whispered.

  The starshot trembled. Everything was in this boys hands. The blunt end of the starshot touched Daniels skin and traveled down.

  Omigod. Shelbys lips curled up in horror. Hes molting. Daniel could feel it, like a layer of skin was lifting off his bones. His past selfs body was slowly cleaving from his own. The venom of separation coursed through him, threading deep into the fibers of his wings. The pain was so raw it was nauseating, roiling deep inside him with great tidal swells. His vision clouded; ringing filled his ears. The starshot in his hand tumbled to the ground. Then, all at once, he felt a great shove and a sharp, cold breath of air. There was a long grunt and two thuds, and then--

  His vision cleared. The ringing ceased. He felt lightness, simplicity.

  Free.

  Miles lay on the ground below him, chest heaving. The starshot in Daniels hand had disappeared. Daniel spun around to find a specter of his past self standing behind him, his skin gray and his body wraithlike, his eyes and teeth coal-black, the starshot grasped in his hand. His profile wobbled in the hot wind, like the picture on a shorted-out television.

  Im sorry, Daniel said, reaching forward and clutching his past self at the base of his wings. When Daniel lifted the shadow of himself off the ground, his body felt scant and insufficient. His fingers found the graying portal of the Announcer through which both Daniels had traveled just before it fell apart. Your day will come, he said.

 
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