Passion, p.44
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       Passion, p.44

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
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Page 44

 

  No! Lucifer cried. Heaven is not the only party wronged!

  "Quiet!" The Thrones voice grew louder as he spoke. He sounded tired, and pained, and less certain than Daniel had ever imagined possible. If one day her soul comes into being without the weight of sacrament having chosen a side for her, then she shall be free to grow and choose for herself, to reenact this moment. To escape the ordained punishment. And in so doing, to put the final test to this love that you claim supersedes the rights of Heaven and family; her choice then will be your redemption or the final seal on your punishment. That is all that can be done.

  Daniel bowed down, and his past self bowed down beside him.

  I cannot abide this! Lucifer bellowed. They must never! Never--

  It is done, the Voice thundered, as if he had reached his capacity for mercy. I will not tolerate those who would argue with me on this or any other matter. Begone, all of those who have chosen ill or not chosen at all. The Gates of Heaven are closed to you!

  Something flickered. The brightest light of all suddenly went out. Heaven grew dark and deadly cold.

  The angels gasped and shivered, huddling closer together.

  Then: silence.

  No one moved and no one spoke.

  What happened next was unimaginable, even to Daniel, who had already witnessed the whole thing once before.

  The sky beneath them shuddered and the white lake brimmed over, sending a fiery surge of steamy white water flooding over everything. The Orchard of Knowledge and the Grove of Life fell into each other, and all of Heaven shook as they shuddered to their deaths.

  A silver lightning bolt cracked forth from the Throne and struck the west end of the Meadow. The cloudsoil boiled into blackness, and a pit of the darkest despair opened up like a sinkhole right under Lucifer. With all his impotent rage, he and the angels closest to him--vanished.

  As for the angels who had yet to choose, they, too, lost their purchase on Heavens plains and slid into the abyss. Gabbe was one of them; Arriane and Cam, too, as well as the others dearest to his heart--collateral damage from Daniels choice. Even his past self, eyes wide, was swept toward the black hole in Heaven and vanished within.

  Once again, Daniel could do nothing to stop it from happening.

  He knew that a nine-day fugue of tumbling ever downward stood between the fallen and the moment they would reach Earth. Nine days he couldnt afford to spend not finding her. He plunged toward the abyss.

  At the edge of nothingness, Daniel looked down and saw a spot of brightness, farther away than the farthest thing imaginable. It was not an angel, but a beast with vast black wings darker than the night. And it was flying toward him, moving upward. How?

  Daniel had just seen Lucifer at the Judgment up above. Hed fallen first and should be far below. Still, it could be no one else. Daniels vision focused sharply and his wings burned from shoot to tip when he realized that the beast was carrying someone tucked under his wing.

  "Lucinda!" he shouted, but the beast had already dropped her.

  His whole world stopped.

  Daniel did not see where Lucifer went after that because he was ping across the sky toward Luce. The burning of her soul was so bright and so familiar. He shot forward, his wings clasped close to his body so that he fell faster than seemed possible, so fast that the world around him blurred. He reached out and--

  She landed in his arms.

  Immediately, his wings pulled forward, making a protective shield around her. She seemed startled at first, as if shed just awakened from a terrible dream, and gazed deeply into his eyes, letting out all the air in her lungs. She touched his cheek, ran her fingers across the tingling ridges of his wings.

  At last. He breathed into her, finding her lips.

  You found me, she whispered.

  Always.

  Just below them, the mass of fallen angels lit up the sky like a thousand brilliant stars. They all seemed drawn together by the pull of some unseen force, clinging to one another during the long plunge from Heaven. It was tragic and awe-inspiring. For a moment, they all seemed to hum and burn with a beautiful perfection. As he and Luce watched, a bolt of black lightning darted across the sky and seemed to encircle the bright mass of the falling.

  Then everything but Luce and Daniel grew absolutely dark. As if all of the angels, all at once, had tumbled through a pocket in the sky.

  Epilogue

  NO MORE BUT THIS

  SAVANNAH, GEORGIA NOVEMBER 27, 2009

  It was the last Announcer Luce wanted to step through for a very long time. When Daniel stretched open the shadow cast by the inexplicable brightening of the stars in that strange, neverwhere sky, Luce did not look back. She held fast to his hand, overcome with relief. She was with Daniel now. Wherever they went would be home.

  Wait, he said before she plunged inside the shadow.

  What is it?

  His lips traced her collarbone. She arched her back and grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him closer. Their teeth clicked and his tongue found hers and as long as she could stay there like that, she didnt need to breathe.

  They left the distant past locked in the kiss--one so long awaited and so passionate it made everything else around Luce go fuzzy. It was a kiss most people dreamed of all their lives. Here was the soul Luce had been searching for ever since she left him in her parents backyard. And they were still together when Daniel swooped them out of the Announcer under the peaceful drifting of a silver cloud.

  More, she said when at last he pulled away. They were so high up, Luce could see little of the ground below. A swath of moonlit ocean. Tiny white waves crashing against a darkened shore.

  Daniel laughed and drew her close again. He couldnt seem to stop smiling. His body felt so good against hers and his skin looked so spectacular under the light of the stars. The more they kissed, the more certain Luce was shed never get enough. There was little difference--and yet all the difference in the world--between the Daniels shed met when she visited her other lifetimes and the Daniel pressing his lips to hers now. Finally, Luce could return his kiss without doubting herself, or their love. She felt unbounded happiness. And to think, she had almost given this up.

  Reality began to set in. She had failed in her quest to break her and Daniels curse. She had been tricked, deceived . . . by Satan.

  Though she hated to stop kissing, Luce held Daniels warm face in her hands. She gazed into his violet eyes, trying to draw strength.

  Im sorry, she said. For running off like I did.

  Dont be, he said, slowly and with absolute sincerity. You had to go. It was preordained; it had to happen. He smiled again. We did what we needed to do, Lucinda.

  A jet of warmth shot through her, making her dizzy. I was starting to think Id never see you again.

  How many times have I told you that I will always find you? Then Daniel turned her around so that her back was pressed against his chest. He kissed the nape of her neck and looped his arms around her torso--their flying position--and they were off. Flying with Daniel was something Luce would never tire of. His white wings extended into the air, beating against the midnight sky as they moved with an unbelievable grace. Moisture from the clouds dotted her forehead and her nose while Daniels strong arms stayed wrapped around her, making her feel safer and more secure than shed felt in a long time.

  Look, Daniel said, extending his neck slightly. The moon.

  The orb seemed close enough and large enough for Luce to touch.

  They whipped through the air, barely making any noise at all. Luce took a deep breath and widened her eyes in surprise. She knew this air! It was the particular briny ocean breeze of coastal Georgia. She was . . . home. Tears stung her eyes as she thought about her mother and father and her dog, Andrew. How long had she been gone from them? What would it be like when she came back?

  Are we going to my house? she asked.

  Sleep first, Daniel said. Youve only been gon
e a few hours as far as your parents are concerned. Its nearly midnight there. Well swing by first thing in the morning, once youre rested.

  Daniel was right: She should rest now and see them in the morning. But if he wasnt taking her to her house, where were they going?

  They neared the tree line. The narrow tops of the pines wobbled in the wind, and the empty sandy shores sparkled as they flew over. They were drawing near a small island not far off the coast. Tybee. Shed been there a dozen times as a kid--

  And once, more recently . . . a small log cabin with a gabled roof and smoke coming out of its chimney. The red door with the pane of salt-stained glass. The window looking into the small loft. It looked familiar, but Luce was so tired and had been so many places recently that it wasnt until her feet touched down on the soft, silty ground that she recognized the cabin shed stayed at right after shed left Sword & Cross.

  After Daniel had first told her of their past lives together, after the ugly battle in the cemetery, after Miss Sophia had morphed into something evil and Penn had been killed and all the angels had told Luce that her life was suddenly in danger, she had slept here, alone, for three delirious days.

  We can rest here, Daniel said. Its a safe haven for the fallen. We have a few dozen of these places scattered around the world.

  She should have been thrilled by the prospect of a full nights rest--with Daniel at her side!--but something was nagging at her.

  I need to tell you something. She faced him on the path. An owl hooted from the pine tree and the water lapped along the shore, but otherwise the dark island was quiet.

  I know.

  You know?

  I saw. Daniels eyes went stormy gray. He tricked you, didnt he?

  Yes! Luce cried, burning with the shame of it.

  How long was he with you? Daniel fidgeted, almost as if he were trying to suppress jealousy.

  A long time. Luce winced. But it gets worse--hes planning something terrible.

  He is always planning something terrible, Daniel muttered.

  No, this was big. She stepped into Daniels arms and pressed her hands to his chest. He told me--he said he wanted to wipe the slate clean.

  Daniels grip tightened around her waist. He said what? I didnt understand everything. He said he was going back to the Fall to open up an Announcer and take all the angels with him from that moment straight into the present. He said he was going to--

  Wipe clean the time between. Wipe clean our existence, Daniel said hoarsely.

  Yes.

  "No. " He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the cabin. They could be spying on us. Sophia. The Outcasts. Anyone. Come inside where its safe. You must tell me everything he said, Luce, everything.

  Daniel practically ripped open the red wooden door of the cabin, bolting it behind them. An instant later, before they could do anything else, a pair of arms engulfed both Luce and Daniel in a giant hug.

  Youre safe. The voice broke with relief.

  Cam. Luce turned her head to see the demon dressed all in black, like the uniform theyd worn at Sword & Cross. His massive golden wings were pulled back behind his shoulders. They sent sparkles of light reflecting off the walls. His skin was pale and he looked gaunt; his eyes stood out like emeralds.

  Were back, Daniel said warily, clapping Cam on the shoulder. Im not sure I would say safe.

  Cams gaze swept carefully over Luce. Why was he here? Why did Daniel seem happy to see him?

  Daniel led Luce to the worn wicker rocking chair near the crackling hearth and gestured for her to sit. She collapsed into the chair, and he sat on the arm, resting his hand on her back.

 
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