Passion, p.9
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       Passion, p.9

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 9

 

  Luce sank down at the side of his bed, careful not to wake him. Maybe he hadnt always been so closed off and hard to reach. Shed just seen him in their Moscow life whispering something to her at the critical moment before she died. Maybe if she could just talk to him in this life, hed treat her differently than the Daniel she knew did. He might not hide so much from her. He might help her understand. Might tell her the truth, for a change.

  Then she could go back to the present and there wouldnt have to be any more secrets. It was all she really wanted: for the two of them to love each other openly. And for her not to die.

  She reached out and touched his cheek. She loved his cheek. He was beat-up and injured and probably concussed, but his cheek was warm and smooth and, mostly, it was Daniels. He was as gorgeous as ever. His face was so peaceful in his sleep that Luce could have stared at him from every angle for hours without ever getting bored. He was perfect to her. His perfect lips were just the same. When she touched them with her finger, they were so soft she had to lean down for a kiss. He didnt stir. She traced his jawline with her lips, kissed down the side of his neck that wasnt bruised and across his collarbone. At the top of his right shoulder, her lips paused over a small white scar.

  It would have been almost indiscernible to anyone else, but Luce knew that this was the place from which Daniels wings extended. She kissed the scar tissue. It was so hard to see him lying helpless on that hospital bed when she knew what he was capable of. With his wings wrapped around her, Luce always lost track of everything else. What she wouldnt give to see them unfurl now, into the vast white splendor that seemed to steal all the light from a room! She laid her head on his shoulder, the scar hot against her skin.

  Her head shot up. She hadnt realized shed drifted off until the stretcher wheeling squeakily down the uneven wood floor in the hallway startled her awake.

  What time was it? Sunlight streamed through the window onto the white sheets on the beds. She rotated her shoulder, trying to loosen a crick. Daniel was still asleep.

  The scar above his shoulder looked whiter in the morning light. Luce wanted to see the other side, the matching scar, but it was wrapped in gauze. At least, the wound seemed to have stopped bleeding.

  The door opened and Luce jerked up.

  Lucia was standing in the doorway, holding three covered trays stacked in her arms. Oh! Youre here. She sounded surprised. So theyve already had breakfast, then?

  Luce blushed and shook her head. I--uh--

  Ah. Lucias eyes lit up. I know that look. Youve got it bad for someone. She put the breakfast trays on a cart and came to stand at Luces side. Dont worry, I wont tell--so long as I approve. She tilted her head to look at Daniel, and stared at him hard for a long time. She didnt move or breathe.

  Sensing the girls eyes widening at the sight of Daniel for the first time, Luce didnt know what to feel. Empathy. Envy. Grief. All of it was there.

  Hes heavenly. Lucia sounded as if she might cry. Whats his name?

  His name is Daniel.

  Daniel, the younger girl repeated, making the word sound holy as it left her lips. Someday, Ill meet a man like that. Someday, Ill drive all of them crazy. Just like you do, Doria.

  What do you mean? Luce asked.

  Theres that other soldier, two doors down? Lucia addressed Luce without ever taking her eyes off Daniel. You know, Giovanni?

  Luce shook her head. She didnt.

  The one whos about to go in for surgery--he keeps asking about you.

  Giovanni. The boy whod been shot in the stomach. Hes okay?

  Sure. Lucia smiled. I wont tell him you have a boyfriend. She winked at Luce and pointed down at the breakfast trays. Ill let you do the meals, she said on her way out. Find me later? I want to hear everything about you and Daniel. The whole story, all right?

  Sure, Luce lied, her heart sinking a little.

  Alone with Daniel again, Luce was nervous. In her parents backyard, after the battle with the Outcasts, Daniel had seemed so horrified when he saw her step through the Announcer. In Moscow, too. Who knew what this Daniel would do when he opened his eyes and found out where shed come from?

  If he ever opened his eyes. She leaned down over his bed again. He had to open his eyes, didnt he? Angels couldnt die. Logically, she thought it was impossible, but what if--what if by coming back in time shed messed something up? Shed seen the Back to the Future movies and shed once passed a test in science class on quantum physics. What she was doing here was probably messing up the space-time continuum. And Steven Filmore, the demon who cotaught humanities at Shoreline, had said something about altering time.

  She didnt really know what any of that meant, but she did know it could be very bad. Like erase- your-whole-existence bad. Or maybe kill-your-angel-boyfriend bad.

  That was when Luce panicked. Grabbing hold of Daniels shoulders, she began to shake. Lightly, gently--hed been through a war, after all. But enough to let him know that she needed a sign. Right now.

  Daniel, she whispered. Daniel?

  There. His eyelids began to flutter. She let out her breath. His eyes opened slowly, like they had last night. And like last night, when they registered the girl in front of them, they bulged. His lips parted. Youre . . . old.

  Luce blushed. I am not, she said, laughing. No one had ever called her old before.

  Yes, you are. Youre really old. He looked almost disappointed. He rubbed his forehead. I mean--How long have I been--?

  Then she remembered: Lucia was several years younger. But Daniel hadnt even met Lucia yet. How would he have known how old she was?

  Dont worry about that, she said. I need to tell you something, Daniel. Im--Im not who you think I am. I mean, I am, I guess, I always am, but this time, I came from . . . uh . . .

  Daniels face contorted. Of course. You stepped through to get here.

  She nodded. I had to.

  Id forgotten, he whispered, confusing Luce even more. From how far away? No. Dont tell me. He waved her off, inching back in his bed as if she had some sort of disease. How is that even possible? There were no loopholes in the curse. You shouldnt be able to be here.

  Loopholes? Luce asked. What kind of loopholes? I need to know--

  I cant help you, he said, and coughed. You have to learn on your own. Those are the rules.

  Doria. A woman Luce had never seen was standing in the doorway. She was older, blond and severe, with a starched Red Cross cap pinned so that it sat at an angle on her head. At first, Luce didnt realize that the woman was addressing her. You are Doria, arent you? The new transfer?

  Yes, Luce said.

  Well need to do your paperwork this morning, the woman said curtly. I dont have any of your records. But first, youll do me a favor.

  Luce nodded. She could tell she was in trouble, but she had more important things to worry about than this woman and her paperwork.

  Private Bruno is going into surgery, the nurse said.

  Okay. Luce tried to focus on the nurse, but all she wanted was to go back to her conversation with Daniel. She had finally been getting somewhere, finally finding another piece in the puzzle of her lives!

  Private Giovanni Bruno? Hes requested that the on-duty nurse be taken off his surgery. He says hes sweet on the nurse who saved his life. His angel? The woman gave Luce a hard look. The girls tell me thats you.

  No, Luce said. Im not--

  Doesnt matter. Its what he believes. The nurse pointed toward the door. Lets go.

  Luce rose from Daniels bed. He was looking away from her, out the window. She sighed. I have to talk to you, she whispered, though he didnt meet her gaze. Ill be right back.

  The surgery wasnt as awful as it could have been. All Luce had to do was hold Giovannis small, soft hand and whisper things, pass a few instruments to the doctor and try not to look when he reached into the dark red mass of Giovannis exposed gut and extracted the bits of blood-sheathed shrapnel. If the doctor wondered about her
evident lack of experience, he didnt say anything. She wasnt gone more than an hour.

  Just long enough to come back to Daniels bed and find it empty.

  Lucia was changing the sheets. She rushed toward Luce, and Luce thought she was going to hug her. Instead she collapsed at her feet.

  What happened? Luce asked. Where did he go?

  I dont know. The girl began to weep. He left. He just left. I dont know where. She looked up at Luce, tears filling her hazel eyes. He said to tell you goodbye.

  He cant be gone, Luce said under her breath. They hadnt even had a chance to talk--

  Of course they hadnt. Daniel had known exactly what he was doing when he left. He didnt want to tell her the whole truth. He was hiding something. What were the rules hed mentioned? And what loophole?

  Lucias face was flushed. Her speech was broken up by hiccups. I know I shouldnt be crying, but I cant explain it. . . . I feel like someone has died.

  Luce recognized the feeling. They had that in common: When Daniel left, both girls were inconsolable. Luce balled up her fists, feeling angry and despondent. Dont be childish.

  Luce blinked, thinking at first that the girl was speaking to her, but then she realized Lucia was chiding herself. Luce straightened, holding her trembling shoulders high again, as if she were trying to recover the calm poise the nurses had shown.

  Lucia. Luce reached for the girl, moving to embrace her.

  But the girl inched away, turning from Luce to face Daniels empty bed. Im fine. She went back to stripping the sheets. The only thing we can control is the work we do. Nurse Fiero always says that. The rest is out of our hands.

  No. Lucia was wrong, but Luce couldnt see how to correct her. Luce didnt understand much, but she understood that--her life didnt have to be out of her hands. She could shape her own destiny. Somehow. She didnt have it all figured out yet, but she could feel a solution drawing nearer. How else would she have found herself here in the first place? How else would she have known now that it was time to move on?

  In the late-morning light, a shadow stretched out from the supply closet in the corner. It looked like one she could use, but she wasnt entirely confident of her abilities to summon. She focused on it for a moment and waited to see the place where it wobbled.

  There. She watched it twitch. Fighting the disgust she still felt, she grabbed hold of it.

  Across the room, Lucias focus was on bundling the bedsheets, on trying hard not to show that she was still crying.

  Luce worked fast, drawing the Announcer into a sphere, then working it out with her fingers more quickly than she ever had before.

  She held her breath, made a wish, and disappeared.

  Chapter Four

  TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS

  MILAN, ITALY MAY 25, 1918

  Daniel felt guarded and on edge as he pushed out of the Announcer.

  He was unpracticed at how to quickly make sense of the new time and place, not knowing exactly where he was or what he should do. Knowing that at least one version of Luce was bound to be nearby, bound to need him.

  The room was white. White sheets on the bed in front of him, white-framed window in the corner, bright white sunshine beating through the pane. For a moment, all was quiet. Then the chatter of memories rushed in.

  Milan.

  He was back in the hospital where she had been his nurse during the first of the mortal world wars. There, in the bed in the corner, was Traverti, his roommate from Salerno whod stepped on a land mine on his way to the canteen. Both of Travertis legs had been burned and broken, but he was so charming he had all the nurses sneaking him bottles of whiskey. Hed always had a joke for Daniel. And there, on the other side of the room, was Max Porter, the Brit with the burned face, who never made a peep until he screamed and fell to pieces when they took his bandage off.

 

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