Passion, p.34
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       Passion, p.34

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 34


  Then he pitched his past self back into the Announcer.

  He watched the void fading in the hot sun. The body made a drawn-out whistling sound as it tumbled into time, as if it were falling off a cliff. The Announcer split into infinitesimal traces, and was gone.

  What the hell just happened? Shelby asked, helping Miles to his feet.

  The Nephilim was ghostly white, gaping down at his hands, flipping them over and examining them as if hed never seen them before.

  Daniel turned to Miles. Thank you.

  The Nephilim boys blue eyes looked eager and terrified at the same time, as if he wanted to pump every detail out of Daniel about what had just happened but didnt want to show his excitement. Shelby was speechless, which was an unprecedented event.

  Daniel had despised Miles until then. Hed been annoyed by Shelby, whod practically led the Outcasts straight toward Luce. But at that moment, under the olive tree, he could see why Luce had befriended both of them. And he was glad.

  A horn whined in the distance. Miles and Shelby jumped.

  It was a shofar, a sacred rams horn that made a long, nasal note--often used to announce religious services and festivals. Until then Daniel hadnt looked around enough to realize where they were.

  The three of them stood under the mottled shade of the olive tree at the crest of a low hill. In front of them, the hill sloped down to a wide, flat valley, tawny with the tall native grasses that had never been cut by man. In the middle of the valley was a narrow strip of green, where wildflowers grew alongside a narrow river.

  Just east of the riverbed, a small group of tents stood clustered together, facing a larger square structure made of white stones, with a latticed wooden roof. The blast of the shofar must have come from that temple.

  A line of women in colorful cloaks that fell to their ankles moved in and out of the temple. They carried clay jugs and bronze trays of food, as if in preparation for a feast. Oh, Daniel said aloud, feeling a profound melancholy settle over him.

  Oh what? Shelby asked.

  Daniel gripped the hood of Shelbys camouflage sweatshirt. If youre looking for Luce here, you wont find her. Shes dead. She died a month ago.

  Miles nearly choked.

  You mean the Luce from this lifetime, Shelby said. Not our Luce. Right?

  Our Luce--my Luce--isnt here, either. She never knew this place existed, so her Announcers wouldnt bring her here. Yours wouldnt have, either.

  Shelby and Miles shared a glance. You say youre looking for Luce, Shelby said, but if you know she isnt here, why are you still hanging around?

  Daniel stared past them, at the valley below. Unfinished business.

  Who is that? Miles asked, pointing at a woman in a long white dress. She was tall and willowy, with red hair that shimmered in the sunlight. Her dress was cut low, showing off a lot of golden skin. She was singing something soft and lovely, a tease of a song they could barely hear.

  Thats Lilith, Daniel said slowly. Shes supposed to be married today.

  Miles took a few steps along a path leading down from the olive tree toward the valley where the temple stood, about a hundred feet below them, as if to get a better look.

  Miles, wait! Shelby scrambled after him. This isnt like when we were in Vegas. This is some freaking . . . other time or whatever. You cant just see a hot girl and go strolling in like you own the place. She turned to look at Daniel for help.

  Stay low, Daniel instructed them. Keep under the grass line. And stop when I say stop.

  Carefully, they wound down the path, stopping at last near the bank of the river, downstream from the temple. All the tents in the small community had been strewn with garlands of marigolds and cassis flowers. They were in earshot of the voices of Lilith and the girls who were helping prepare her for the wedding. The girls laughed and joined in Liliths song as they braided her long red hair into a wreath around her head.

  Shelby turned to Miles. Doesnt she look kind of like Lilith from our class at Shoreline?

  "No," Miles said instantly. He studied the bride for a moment. Okay, maybe a little bit. Weird.

  Luce probably never mentioned her, Shelby explained to Daniel. Shes a total bitch from Hell.

  It makes sense, Daniel said. Your Lilith might come from the same long line of evil women. Theyre all descendants of the original mother Lilith. She was Adams first wife.

  Adam had more than one wife? Shelby gaped. What about Eve?

  Before Eve.

  Pre-Eve? No way.

  Daniel nodded. They werent married very long when Lilith left him. It broke his heart. He waited for her a long time, but eventually, he met Eve. And Lilith never forgave Adam for getting over her. She spent the rest of her days wandering the earth and cursing the family Adam had with Eve. And her descendants--sometimes they start out all right, but eventually, well, the apple never really falls far from the tree.

  Thats messed up, Miles said, despite seeming hypnotized by Liliths beauty.

  Youre telling me that Lilith Clout, the girl who set my hair on fire in ninth grade, could be literally a bitch from Hell? That all my voodoo toward her might have been justified? I guess so. Daniel shrugged.

  Ive never felt so vindicated. Shelby laughed. Why wasnt this in any of our angelology books at Shoreline?

  Shhh. Miles pointed toward the temple. Lilith had left her maidens to complete the decorations for the wedding--strewing yellow and white poppies near the entrance to the temple, weaving ribbons and small chimes made of silver into the low branches of the oak trees--and walked away from them, west, toward the river, toward where Daniel, Shelby, and Miles were hiding.

  She carried a bouquet of white lilies. When she reached the riverbank, she plucked a few petals and scattered them over the water, still singing softly under her breath. Then she turned to walk north along the bank, toward a huge old carob tree with branches that drooped into the river.

  A boy sat beneath it, staring into the current. His long legs were propped up close to his chest, with one arm draped over them. The other arm was skipping stones into the water. His green eyes sparkled against his tan skin. His jet-black hair was a little shaggy, and damp from a recent swim.

  Oh my god, thats-- Shelbys cry was cut off by Daniels hand clamping over her mouth.

  This was the moment hed been afraid of. Yes, its Cam, but its not the Cam you know. This is an earlier Cam. We are thousands of years in the past.

  Miles narrowed his eyes. But hes still evil.

  No, Daniel said. Hes not.

  Huh? Shelby asked.

  There was a time when we were all part of one family. Cam was my brother. He was not evil, not yet. Maybe not even now.

  Physically, the only difference between this Cam and the one Shelby and Miles knew was that his neck was bare of the sunburst tattoo hed gotten from Satan when hed thrown in his lot with Hell. Otherwise, Cam looked exactly as he did now.

  Except that this long-ago Cams face was stiff with worry. It was an expression Daniel hadnt seen on Cam in millennia. Probably not since this very moment.

  Lilith stopped behind Cam and wrapped her arms around his neck so that her hands rested just over his heart. Without turning or saying a word, Cam reached up and cupped her hands in his. Both of them closed their eyes, content.

  This seems really private, Shelby said. Should we be--I mean, I feel weird.

  Then leave, Daniel said slowly. Dont make a scene on your way out--

  Daniel broke off. Someone was walking toward Cam and Lilith.

  The young man was tall and tanned, dressed in a long white robe, and carrying a thick scroll of parchment. His blond head was down, but it was obviously Daniel.

  Im not leaving. Miless eyes locked on Daniels past self.

  Wait, I thought we just sent that guy back into the Announcers, Shelby said, confused.

  That was a later early version of myself, Daniel said.

  A later early versio
n of myself, he says! Shelby snorted. Exactly how many Daniels are there?

  He came from two thousand years in the future beyond the moment where we are right now, which is still one thousand years in the true past. That Daniel shouldnt have been here.

  Were three thousand years in the past right now? Miles asked.

  Yes, and you really shouldnt be. Daniel stared Miles down. But that past version of me--he pointed at the boy who had stopped next to Cam and Lilith--belongs here.

  Across the river, Lilith smiled. How are you, Dani?

  They watched as Dani knelt down next to the couple and unrolled the scroll of parchment. Daniel remembered: It was their marriage license. Hed inscribed the whole thing himself in Aramaic. He was supposed to perform the ceremony. Cam had asked him months before.

  Lilith and Cam read over the document. They were good together, Daniel remembered. She wrote songs for him and spent hours picking wildflowers, weaving them into his clothes. He gave all of himself to her. He listened to her dreams and made her laugh when she was sad. Both of them had their volatile sides, and when they argued, the whole tribe heard about it--but neither one of them was yet the dark thing they would become after they split up.

  This part right here, Lilith said, pointing to a line in the text. It says we will be married by the river. But you know I want to be married in the temple, Cam.

  Cam and Daniel shared a look. Cam reached for Liliths hand. My love. Ive already told you I cannot.

  Something hot rose in Liliths voice. You refuse to marry me under the eyes of God? In the only place where my family will approve of our union! Why?

  Whoa, Shelby whispered on the other side of the stream. I see whats happening. Cam cant get married in the temple . . . he cant even set foot in the temple, because--

  Miles began to whisper, too: If a fallen angel enters the sanctuary of God--

  The whole thing bursts into flames, Shelby finished.

  The Nephilim were right, of course, but Daniel was surprised by his own frustration. Cam loved Lilith, and Lilith loved Cam. They had a chance to make their love work, and as far as Daniel was concerned, to Hell with everything else. Why was Lilith so insistent on being married in the temple? Why couldnt Cam give her a good explanation for his refusal?

  I wont set foot in there. Cam pointed at the temple.

  Lilith was close to tears. Then you dont love me.

  I love you more than I ever thought possible, but it doesnt change a thing.

  Liliths thin body seemed to swell with rage. Could she sense that there was more to Cams refusal than merely some wish to deny her? Daniel didnt think so. She clenched her fists and let out a long, shrill scream.

  It seemed to shake the earth. Lilith grabbed Cams wrists and pinned him against the tree. He didnt even struggle.

  My grandmother never liked you. Her arms trembled as she held him down. She always said the most terrible things, and I always defended you. Now I see it. In your eyes and your soul. Her eyes bored into him. Say it.

  Say what? Cam asked, horrified.

  Youre a bad man. Youre a--I know what you are.

  It was clear that Lilith didnt know. She was grasping at the rumors that flew around the community--that he was evil, a wizard, a member of the occult. All she wanted was to hear the truth from Cam.

  Daniel knew that Cam could tell Lilith, but he wouldnt. He was afraid to.

  I am none of the bad things anyone says I am, Lilith, Cam said. It was the truth and Daniel knew it, but it sounded so much like a lie. Cam was on the brink of the worst decision he would ever make. This was it: the moment that broke Cams heart so that it rotted into something black.

  Lilith, Dani pleaded with her, pulling her hands away from Cams throat. He is not--

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