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Half the kids at the party had already gotten out, and everyone was crowded around either Miles or Roland, watching the last kids standing. And what had she been thinking? Whether you two really do it on the clouds? It takes energy to look back even a few days, but to look back millennia? It was quick, and where it went the day blackened and the room fell into darkness. They looked a little rough, but it was obvious how much in love they were.
Looking around, she accidentally caught the eyes of a couple of students. A pretty girl with olive skin, a polka-dot dress, and a green scarf tied in her glossy black hair. A sandy-haired guy with broad shoulders tackling an enormous stack of pancakes. But … neither one of these kids glared at her. The biggest surprise about Shoreline was not the crystal sunshine or the cushy breakfast terrace or the buckets-of-money aura hovering over everyone. It was that the students here were smiling.
Well, most of them were smiling. When Shelby and Luce reached an unoccupied table, Shelby picked up a small placard and flung it to the ground. Luce leaned sideways to see the word RESERVED written on it just as a kid their age in a full-on black-tie waiter suit approached them with a silver tray. Gotta slave to get by. She picked up the San Francisco Chronicle from the middle of the table and unfolded the front page with a yawn. It was right around then that Luce had had enough.
She was tall, with an imperious bearing, and was put together with a style that came across as effortless. Her lips were glossy pink. She wore a cool fitted black sheath dress with a blue belt and matching peep-toe stilettos. It was the kind of outfit that would make anyone feel dowdy by comparison. And maybe not worn her mud-crusted Converses. Luce just cleared her throat.
Most of our gifted students just ease right in. Or just lean on Shelby. Her laugh was a gruff, gravelly thing, the kind of chortle Luce would have expected from an old man, a lifetime smoker, not a teenage yoga enthusiast. Luce could feel her face pinching up into a scowl. She belonged with real people, people with soul instead of squash rackets, who knew what life was like. She belonged with Daniel.
She still had no idea what she was doing here, other than hiding out very temporarily while Daniel took care of his … war. After that, he was going to take her back home. Or something. Enjoy breakfast!
When she was gone, Shelby took a big slurp of her coffee and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Part of her wanted to find another table. There were happy buzzes of conversation going on all around her. But she was confused by what Francesca had said. Why pitch Shelby as some great roommate when it was clear the girl was a total hater?
She raised one giant eyebrow. So what if I have a few questions? She folded and set down the paper and 25 leaned back in her chair. Every semester, they wage a campaign. And every semester, Francesca has to make up some bunk unpassable test to keep him out. That means anything with angel in its DNA. Mortals, immortals, transeternals. We try not to discriminate. Would you want to be called a nephil? It sounds like a bag you carry your shame in.
No, thanks. She just seemed kind of coarse and cranky. Do you go on to angel college after this? A lot of kids take a year off and do Nephilim Corps. You get to travel, have a fling with a foreigner, et cetera. The girl whose big-shot boyfriend pulled some strings. Was that … the truth? Just leave me out of it, okay?
Maybe she and Shelby needed to rewind again. Suddenly, the girl with the green scarf was standing before her, grinning and nudging another girl forward. Luce glanced past them, but Shelby was already far away—and probably not worth catching up to. Up close, the green-scarf girl looked kind of like a young Salma Hayek, with full lips and an even fuller chest. The other girl, with her pale coloring, hazel eyes, and short black hair, looked kind of like Luce.
She had very small white teeth and was using them to hold a couple of sequin-tipped bobby pins while she twisted a few dark tendrils into little knots. Ohmigod, what was Cam like? I saw him once at this death metal concert … of course, I was too nervous to introduce myself. This is Jasmine. This was new. We always say how you and Daniel are, like, the greatest love story. Okay, does it make you want him even more? I bet it does!
She glanced around the busy terrace, wondering whether anyone could overhear them. Speaking of burning up, her cheeks must be beet red right now.
An iron bell rang from the roof of the mess hall to signal the end of breakfast, and Luce was glad to see that everyone else had other things to focus on.
Like getting to class. It sounds so totally romantic and awesome. Luce had never been on the receiving end of one of those giggles before. Not what you want to hear. This was maddening. Luce was fiercely embarrassed. And, okay, a little excited. And absolutely unsure whether any of it was true. One thing was sure: Luce was suddenly kind of … famous. But it felt strange. Like she was one of those unnamed bimbos next to the It-boy movie star in a paparazzi photo.
All the time! She had to keep reminding herself: This was only temporary. Temporary, but still stunningly beautiful. The three of them walked along the hydrangea path, which curved around the mess hall. The waves rolled toward the small stretch of tawny beach at the foot of the cliff almost as casually as the Shoreline student body rolled toward class.
An impressive two-story A-frame cabin stood alone at the end of the path. It had been built in the middle of a shady pocket of redwoods, so its steep, triangular roof and 28 the vast open lawn in front of it were covered with a blanket of fallen needles. There was a nice grassy patch with some picnic tables, but the main attraction was the cabin itself: More than half of it looked like it was made of glass, all wide, tinted windows and open sliding doors.
Like something Frank Lloyd Wright could have designed. Several students lounged on a huge second-story deck that faced the ocean, and several more kids were mounting the twin staircases that wound up from the path.
It looked more like a vacation home than a school building. He had a thin face, stylish rectangular glasses, and a thick head of wavy salt-and-pepper hair.
He looked at Luce long enough to make her veer toward nervousness, but the smile stayed on his face. She is shameless. And you call them by their first names? Who teaches what? Frankie and Steven teach it jointly. Part of the deal here, sort of yin and yang. You know, so none of the students get … swayed. Everyone else was starting to amble through the sliding glass doors. They just sort of … live in sin. Come on, we gotta go.
It was broad and had three shallow risers, with desks on them, that led down to a couple of long tables. Most of the light came in through skylights. The natural lighting and high ceilings made the room seem even bigger than it was. An ocean breeze blew in through the open doors and kept the air comfortable and fresh. She wondered if Daniel was thinking about her. Did he miss her the way she 29 missed him? Luce chose a desk close to the windows, between Jasmine and a cute boy-next-door kind of guy who was wearing cutoffs, a Dodgers cap, and a navy sweatshirt.
A few girls stood clustered near the door to the bathroom. One of them had curly hair and boxy purple glasses. But when the girl turned toward Luce, her face was a little squarer and her clothes were a little tighter and her laugh was a little louder and Luce almost felt like her heart was wilting.
It never would be, ever again. Luce could feel the other kids glancing at her—some of them outright stared. There were two dry-erase white boards behind the tables. Two bookshelves on either side. Two trash cans. Two desk lamps. Two laptops, one on each table.
And the two teachers, Steven and Francesca, huddled near the front of the room, whispering. Francesca sat on top of one, with one leg tucked beneath her and one of her high heels skimming the wood floor.
Steven leaned against the other table, opened a heavy maroon leather portfolio, and rested his pen between his lips. But none of that happened. And most of the kids were still sneaking glances at her. Steven smiled, showing a flash of brilliant white teeth. They were actually turning in their seats to focus on her. She could feel her heart race and her palms grow damp.
She shrank in her seat, wishing she were just a normal kid at a normal school back home in normal Thunderbolt, Georgia. But there was where her anxious, tumbling mind always came to a full stop: How to be normal and still have Daniel? Who was so very far from normal. It was impossible. So here she was, sucking it up. So Luce had just gotten her out of a presentation. That had to be worth something in roommate points. Luce expected the chorus of groans that those words usually evoked from a classroom of teens.
But these kids all seemed so agreeable and well-adjusted. They were actually just going to go with the flow. Lines had been drawn on the page, dividing it into twenty boxes. Each box contained a phrase. The object was to go around the room and match a different student with each phrase. Mostly, she was relieved; there were definitely more embarrassing icebreakers out there. She thought back to the nervous waiter who had brought her and Shelby their breakfast.
Maybe Luce would be more comfortable among the scholarship kids. She could levitate?
Trying not to show that she was feeling more and more inadequate, Luce searched the page for something, anything she knew anything about. Has experience summoning the Announcers. The shadows. Both Jasmine and Dawn looked up at her, a little awed but not disbelieving, before moving on to fill in the rest of their sheets.
She had three boxes left when Shelby tugged the paper out of her hands. Luce stared at the paper, thinking about all her own past lives and how frustratingly off-limits they were to her. She had underestimated Shelby. But her roommate was already gone. He was a good half foot taller than Luce, with a bright, friendly smile, a splash of freckles on his nose, and clear blue eyes. Something about him, even the way he was chewing on his pen, looked … sturdy.
He tossed his head from side to side and wrote his name in the box. Miles Fisher. Freaked my dad out for about ten seconds, but then it faded. It was just so hard to process all these hints that other people here knew more about her than she knew about herself. My powers are embarrassingly low-grade. Miles rolled his eyes good-naturedly. She your roommate? Music to her mortal ears. Alone for the first time all morning, she looked down at the sheet of paper in her hand, unsure how to feel about the other kids at Shoreline.
Too far away. She pressed a finger to her lips, remembering his last kiss. The incredible embrace of his wings. She felt so cold without him, even in the California sunshine.
But she was here because of him, accepted into this class of angels or whatever they were—complete with her bizarre new reputation—all thanks to him. In a weird way, it felt good to be connected to Daniel so inextricably.
Until he came for her, it was all she had to hold on to. He was wearing a vintage yellow T-shirt with a Sunkist logo on it, a baseball cap pulled down just above his blue eyes, flip-flops, and frayed jeans. Feeling inspired by the very relaxed dress code at Shoreline, Luce had swapped out her standard black getup.
She was wearing a red sundress with a short white cardigan, which felt kind of like the first day of sunshine after a long stretch of rain. She dropped a spoonful of sugar into her cup and laughed. Maybe my roommate, who I think snuck in just before sunrise this morning and was gone again before I woke up. Anonymous freak, I got used to. As he dabbed the side of his mouth with his napkin, Luce half-marveled, half-chuckled at his occasionally impeccable table manners. When she feels like it.
For some reason having both sides present gives students here the most freedom to develop. But develop into what? It could only apply to the kids who were Nephilim. Not Luce, who was the lone full human in her class of almost-angels, waiting until her angel felt like swooping back in to save her. Whether you two really do it on the clouds? Everyone else, that is.
I try not to, um, speculate. As much as it sucked, Luce understood why Daniel and Mr. Cole had forbidden her to reach out to Callie or her parents. But Daniel and Mr. Cole were the ones who had enrolled her at Shoreline. Especially since he already knew some version of the truth. But basically, Daniel is an important angel. I guess he was kind of a big deal before the Fall.
She felt nervous. The surreal battle in the cemetery. At the end, she felt lighter. Feels really good to say it aloud. And Nephilim like you. For the first time, she noticed a clear line dividing the tables of the Nephilim kids from the rest of the student body. The Nephilim claimed all the tables on the west side, closest to the water. There were fewer of them, no more than twenty, but they took up a lot more tables, sometimes with just one kid at a table that could have seated six, while the rest of the kids had to cram into the remaining east-side tables.
Take Shelby, for example, who sat alone, battling the fierce wind over the paper she was trying to read. Luce had met some of the other non-gifted kids yesterday. After lunch, classes were held in the main building, a much less architecturally impressive structure where more traditional subjects were taught.
Biology, geometry, European history. Some of those students seemed nice, but Luce felt an unspoken distance—all because she was on the gifted track—that thwarted the possibility of a conversation. But seriously, do you think anyone over there could have handled what you did, and lived to tell about it? Her death had been so senseless. None of it was fair. Francesca and Steven are big on teaching us about the present and the future, but not really the past.
Something to do with empowering us. But the early stuff you were talking about? None of the lessons here ever really go into that. You want to do this again sometime? He was friendly and had the kind of sense of humor that put Luce instantly at ease. The battle that was coming. If even the Nephilim were preparing for it, where did that leave Luce? Steven and Francesca had a way of dressing in complementary colors that made them look better outfitted for a photo shoot than a lecture.
It had a loose bow around her neck and matched, almost exactly, the orange tie that Steven wore with his ivory oxford shirt and navy blazer. They were stunning to look at, and Luce was drawn to them, but not exactly in the couples-crush way Dawn had predicted the day before. Watching her teachers from her desk between Miles and Jasmine, Luce felt drawn to Francesca and Steven for reasons closer to her heart: They reminded her of her relationship with Daniel. Of course that had something to do with their powers as fallen angels, but it must also have had to do with the unique way they connected.
Most of the students had taken their seats. Dawn and Jasmine were going on to Luce about joining the steering committee so she could help them plan all these amazing social events.
Luce had never been a big extracurricular girl. She was adding her name to the roster when Steven stepped forward, tossed his blazer on the table behind him, and wordlessly spread his arms out at his sides. As if summoned, a shard of deep black shadow seemed to part from the shadows of one of the redwoods right outside the window. It peeled itself off the grass, then took substance and whipped into the room through the open window. It was quick, and where it went the day blackened and the room fell into darkness.
In fact, most of the students inched back nervously in their desks as Steven begin to twirl the shadow. He just reached his hands in and began wrenching faster and faster, seeming to wrestle with something. Soon the shadow was spinning around in front of him so quickly it went blurry, like the spokes of a turning wheel. Steven manipulated the shadow, arms straining, from a messy, amorphous shape into a tight, black sphere, no bigger than a grapefruit.
In her heels, she was nearly as tall as Steven. And, Luce imagined, she was just as skilled at dealing with the shadows. But do you really know what they are? Do you know what they can do? She was still too new to Shoreline to feel comfortable calling out the answer, but none of the other students seemed to know. Slowly she raised her hand.
Francesca cocked her head. But harmless? Her tone betrayed nothing about whether Luce was right or wrong, which made Luce feel embarrassed.
The shadow bulged and stretched out like a balloon being blown up. It made a thick glugging sound as its blackness distorted, showing colors more vivid than anything Luce had seen before. Deep chartreuse, glittering gold, marbleized swaths of pink and purple. A whole swirling world of color glowing brighter and more distinct behind a disappearing mesh of shadow.
Steven and Francesca were still tugging, stepping backward slowly until the shadow was about the size and shape of a large projector screen. Then they stopped. There could be no preparation for this. The tangle of colors separated, settled finally into a canvas of distinct shapes.
They were looking at a city. An ancient stone-walled city … on fire. Overcrowded and polluted, consumed by angry flames. People cornered by the flames, their mouths dark emptinesses, raising their arms to the skies. And everywhere a shower of bright sparks and burning bits of fire, a rain of deadly light landing everywhere and igniting everything it touched. Luce could practically smell the rot and doom coming through the shadow screen. Other students around her were ducking their heads, as if they were trying to block out 37 some wail, some screaming that to Luce was indistinguishable.
There was nothing but clean silence as they watched more and more people die. Not one but two cities were burning. She knew what they were looking at: Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities in the Bible, two cities destroyed by God. Then, like turning off a light switch, Steven and Francesca snapped their fingers and the image disappeared. The remnants of the shadow shattered into a small black cloud of ash that settled eventually on the floor of the classroom.
Around Luce, the other students all seemed to be catching their breath. How had it done that? It was starting to congeal again, the pieces of dark pooling together, slowly returning to a more familiar shadow shape. Its services complete, the Announcer inched sluggishly along the floorboards, then slid right out of the classroom, like the shadow cast by a closing door. He and Francesca shared a worried look as they glanced around the room. Dawn was whimpering at her desk. How you can change things for the better, however each of you decide to define that.
We like to look forward, instead of backward.
Even I sometimes lapse into propaganda. They can hold very valuable information. In a way, they are shadows—but shadows of the past, of long-ago and not-so-long-ago events. But someday, maybe, it will be a possibility. He gave her a wide-eyed smile, as if he were relieved to hear this. Her voice had the effect of aloe on a sunburn. Shadow-glimpsing is not done without great cost. It takes energy to look back even a few days, but to look back millennia?
Well, you can feel the effects yourselves. They looked dazed, exhausted. When she stood up, her own knees were a little wobbly, but somehow she felt less shaken than the others seemed to be. She tightened her cardigan around her shoulders and followed Miles out of the classroom.
She was. Feel like I need a nap. I am so conking out right now. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had been horrifying. They took the shortcut back to the dorm, around the north side of the mess hall and into the shade of the redwoods. It was strange seeing the campus so empty, with all the other kids at Shoreline still in class in the main building.
One by one, the Nephilim peeled off the path and headed straight to bed. Except for Luce. Instead, she felt strangely energized.
She wished, again, that Daniel were there. In front of Luce were the stairs leading up to her dorm room. Behind her, the redwood forest. She went into the woods. Her watch said 11 a. Goose bumps rose on her bare legs as she pressed deeper into the shady forest. She was about to enter uncharted territory. Forbidden territory. She was going to summon an Announcer. The very first time was when she pinched one during class to keep it from sneaking into her pocket.
Poor Penn. If she had known how to manipulate it then, the way Francesca and Steven had manipulated the one today—could she have stopped what happened? She closed her eyes. Saw Penn, slumped against the wall, her chest aproned with blood.
Her fallen friend. Looking back on that night was too painful, and it never got Luce anywhere. All she could do now was look ahead. A slinking, black, familiar shape lurking alongside the true shadow of a low redwood branch a mere ten yards in front of her. She took a step toward it, and the Announcer shrank back. Trying not to make any sudden moves, Luce pressed on, closer, closer, willing the shadow not to slip away.
The shadow twitched under its tree branch but stayed put. Heart racing, Luce tried to calm herself down.
Yes, it was dark in this forest; and yes, not a soul knew where she was; and okay, sure, there was a chance no one would miss her for a good while if anything happened—but there was no reason to panic. So why did she feel gripped by a gnawing fear? It was time to make a move. She could either stand here frozen forever, or she could chicken out and go sulking back to the dorm, or— Her arm shot out, no longer shaking, and took hold of the thing.
She dragged it up and clutched it tightly to her chest, surprised by its heft, by how cold and damp it was. Like a wet towel. Her arms were shaking. What did she do with it now? The image of those burning cities flashed into her mind.
Luce wondered whether she could stand to see this message on her own. If she could even figure out how to unlock its secrets. How did these things work?
All Francesca and Steven had done was pull. To her surprise, the Announcer was pliant, almost like putty, and took whatever shape her hands suggested. Grimacing, she tried to manipulate it into a square. At first it was easy, but the shadow seemed to grow stiffer the more she tried to stretch it out. And every time she repositioned her hands to pull on another part, the rest would recoil into a cold, lumpy black mass.
Soon she was out of breath and using her arm to wipe the sweat off her brow. She did not want to give up. But when the shadow started to vibrate, Luce screamed and dropped it to the ground. Instantly, it darted off into the trees. Only after it was gone did Luce realize: It was the cell phone in her backpack. Cole had given her his old phone before he put her on the plane to California. So that when Luce talked to them, she could lie consistently.
No one besides Mr. Cole even had her number. And now the phone had cost Luce her first real progress with a shadow. She pulled it out and opened the text Mr. Cole had just sent: Call your parents. They think you got an A- on a history test I just gave. And a second one, a minute later: Is everything okay? Was Arriane still there, and if so, who was she sailing paper airplanes to during class?
Had Molly found someone else to make her enemy now that Luce was gone? Or had both of them moved on since Luce and Daniel had left? Luce sighed. She hated not telling her parents the truth, hated not being able to tell them how far away she felt, and how alone. But a phone call? Every false word she said—A- on a made-up history test, tryouts for some bogus swim team—would only make her feel that much more homesick.
Cole must be out of his mind, telling her to call them and lie. But if she told her parents the truth—the real truth—they would think she was out of her mind.
She could email them. It would buy her a few days before she had to call. She would email them tonight. She stepped out of the forest, onto the path, and gasped. It was night. She looked back at the lush, shaded woods.
How long had she been in there with the shadow? She glanced at her watch. It was half past eight. And her afternoon classes.
And dinner. She was tired, cold, and hungry. After three wrong turns in the mazelike dorm, Luce finally found her door. Silently hoping that Shelby would be wherever it was she disappeared to at night, Luce slipped her huge, old-fashioned key into the lock and turned the knob. The lights were off, but a fire was burning in the hearth. Shelby was seated cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, meditating. When Luce came in, one eye popped open, looking highly annoyed at the sight before it.
She closed her evil eye and went back to meditating, and the room was tranquil. Dear Mom and Dad, I miss you guys so much. Just wanted to drop you a line. Her chest constricted as she strained to keep her fingers from typing: As far as I know, no one else has died this week. Still doing fine in all my classes, she made herself write instead. Might even try out for the swim team! Luce looked out the window at the clear, starry sky.
She had to sign off fast. Wonder when this rainy weather will let up.
Love, Luce She copied the message into a new email to Callie, changed a few choice words, moved her mouse over the Send button, closed her eyes, double-clicked, and hung her head.
She was a horrible fake of a daughter, a liar of a friend. And what had she been thinking? These were the blandest, most red-flag-worthy emails ever written.
They were only going to freak people out.
Her stomach growled. A second time, more loudly. Shelby cleared her throat. Luce spun around in her chair to face the girl, only to find her in downward dog. Luce could feel the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. No need for the waterworks. Luce wanted to open up to someone, and Shelby was, well, there.
Only child raised by a single mom. Daddy issues? A pain in the ass to live with because I hate to share?
Almost certainly. Enlighten me. Hell, once I even shaved it after this jerk really broke my heart. From her position on the bed, Luce could see her reflection.
She put down the bowl of pasta and stood up to move closer. She had chopped her hair off after Trevor, but that was different. Most of it had been singed, anyway. Penn, her family, the life she used to have before things got so complicated. What would Daniel think? She turned around to face Shelby. Luce wet her hands in the sink and tugged her short bleached waves. Stepping out into the world this morning, Luce had been overcome by nerves.
Of course, Dawn and Jasmine had flocked to her side right after humanities, eager to touch her hair, asking Luce who her inspiration had been. Jasmine squinted at Luce. You two look … well, looked so much alike.
You practically could have been sisters. They had similar coloring: But Dawn was smaller than she was. She wore bright colors six days a week. And she was way more chipper than Luce could ever be. The bathroom door swung open and a wholesome-looking brunette in jeans and a yellow sweater entered.
Luce recognized her from European history class. Amy Something. She leaned against the sink next to Luce and began to fidget with her eyebrows. All 44 that bottle of peroxide had done last night was make Luce look as phony on the outside as she already felt on the inside.
And Daniel. Luce suddenly felt so transparently fake; even a stranger could see through her. But how? There was so little she actually had control over at the moment. Her whole world was in the hands of Mr. Cole and Daniel. And they were both far away. She had hoped that maybe the students would have a chance to experiment with the shadows on their own today. None of that had happened. In fact, class today had felt like a big step back. It was frustrating and regressive.
So now, instead of heading back to the dorm, Luce found herself jogging behind the mess hall, down the trail to the edge of the bluff, and up the wooden stairs of the Nephilim lodge. The building was remarkably different without the other students to warm it up. Dim and drafty and almost abandoned-feeling. Every noise Luce made seemed to carry, echoing off the sloping wooden beams. She could see a lamp on the landing one floor up and smell the rich aroma of brewing coffee. It might seem insignificant to someone as skilled as Francesca.
Or it might seem like a violation of her instructions to the class today. Part of Luce just wanted to feel her teacher out, to see whether she might be someone Luce could turn to when, on days like today, she started to feel as if she might fall apart.
She reached the top of the stairs and found herself at the head of a long, open hallway. On her left, beyond the wooden banister, she looked down at the dark, empty classroom on the second story. On her right was a row of heavy wooden doors with stained-glass transoms over them.
Only one of the doors was ajar, the third one from the right, with light emanating from the pretty stained-glass scene in the transom. She thought she heard a male voice inside. We got unlucky.
From a purely statistical standpoint, the odds of an Announcer bearing bad news were far too great. You saw what it did to those kids. Luce inched a little closer along the Persian rug in the hall. We came up with a beautiful curriculum. I know that as well as you. Our students outperform every other Nephilim program in the world.
You did all that. You have a right to feel a sense of pride. But things are different now. Luce thought it sounded familiar.
But who was it? The truce between our sides is the only timeline that matters anymore. A pause, then what sounded like a drawer sliding open, then a gasp. Luce would have killed to be on the other side of the wall, to see what they could see. A sigh. Daniel will know.
What do you suggest we do in the meantime? The office was silent. If I were you? Step things up around here. Tighten their supervision and do everything you can to get all of them ready. But then, what would the Nephilim need to get ready for? The sound of heavy chair legs scraping along the floor made Luce jump back.
She knew she should not be caught eavesdropping on this conversation. Whatever it was about. For once, she was glad of the endless supply of mysterious alcoves in the Shoreline architecture. She ducked under a decorative wood-shingled cornice between two bookshelves and pressed herself into the recess of the wall. Luce held her breath and waited for the figure to descend the stairs. At first, she could see only his feet.
Brown European leather boots. Then a pair of dark-wash jeans came into view as he curved around the banister toward the second story of the lodge. A blue-and-white-striped button-down shirt. And finally, the distinctly recognizable mane of black-and-gold dreadlocks. Roland Sparks had turned up at Shoreline. Luce jumped out from her hidden perch. She might still be on nervous best behavior in front of Francesca and Steven, who were dauntingly gorgeous and powerful and mature … and her teachers.
Besides, he was the closest to Daniel she had been in days. She slunk down the interior steps as silently as she could, then burst through the lodge door to the deck. He stood where the path ended and the bluff dropped down to steep and craggy rocks.
He was standing so still, looking out at the water. Luce was surprised to feel butterflies in her stomach when, very slowly, he began to turn around. How stupid she must look to him. A hard edge for hard times. Seems like a pretty sweet place. Following her eyes, Roland switched the bag to his other shoulder and tightened the top flap with a knot. What are you doing here? Luce was going to ask about the others—Arriane and Gabbe.
Even Molly. But when she opened her mouth, what came out was very different from what she had expected. She picked it up and held it to the sun.
Luces heart constricted at the sight. She still agonized over her own lost hair, and all the other losses it symbolized. But Arriane just let a thin smile spread across her lips. She ran her fingers through the ponytail once, then dropped it into her bag. Awesome, she said.
Keep going. Arriane, Luce whispered before she could stop herself. Your neck. Its all Scarred? Arriane finished.
You can say it. The skin on Arrianes neck, from the back of her left ear all the way down to her collarbone, was jagged and. Luces mind went to Trevorto those awful pictures. Even her own parents wouldnt look at her after they saw them. She was having a hard time looking at Arriane now. Arriane grabbed Luces hand and pressed it to the skin. It was hot and cold at the same time. It was smooth and rough. Im not afraid of it, Arriane said. Are you? No, Luce said, though she wished Arriane would take her hand away so Luce could take hers away, too.
Her stomach churned as she wondered whether this was how Trevors skin would have felt. Are you afraid of who you really are, Luce? No, Luce said again quickly. It must be so obvious that she was lying. She closed her eyes. At the schools gates that morning, when her father had whispered the Price family motto in her ear Prices never crashit had felt possible, but already Luce felt so run down and exposed.
She tugged her hand away. So howd it happen? Remember how I didnt press you when you clammed up about what you did to get here? Arriane asked, raising her eyebrows. Arriane gestured to the scissors. Touch it up in the. Make me look real pretty. Make me look like you.
Even with the same exact cut, Arriane would still only look like a very undernourished version of Luce. That cell block over there is Augustine.
Its where we have our so-called Social events on Wednesday nights. And all of our classes, she said, pointing at a building the color of yellowed teeth, two buildings to the right of the dorm. It looked like it had been designed by the same sadist whod done Pauline. It was dismally square, dismally fortresslike, fortified by the same barbed wire and barred windows. An unnatural-looking gray mist cloaked the walls like moss, making it impossible to see whether anyone was over there.
Fair warning, Arriane continued. Youre going to hate the classes here. You wouldnt be human if you didnt. Whats so bad about them? Luce asked. Maybe Arriane just didnt like school in general. With her black nail polish, black eyeliner, and the black bag that only seemed big enough to hold her new Swiss Army knife, she didnt exactly look bookish. The classes here are soulless, Arriane said. Worse, theyll strip you of your soul. Of the eighty kids in this. She glanced up.
Unspoken for, anyway. That didnt sound promising, but Luce was hung up on another part of Arrianes answer. Wait, there are only eighty kids in this whole school? The summer before she went to Dover, Luce had pored over the thick Prospective Students handbook, memorizing all the statistics.
Arriane nodded, making Luce accidentally snip off a chunk of hair shed meant to leave. Hopefully Arriane wouldnt noticeor maybe shed just think it was edgy. Eight classes, ten kids a pop. You get to know everybodys crap pret-ty quickly, Arriane said. And vice versa. I guess so, Luce agreed, biting her lip. Arriane was joking, but Luce wondered whether shed be sitting here with that cool smirk in her pastel blue eyes if she knew the exact nature of Luces backstory.
The longer Luce could keep her past under wraps, the better off shed be. And youll want to steer clear of the hard cases. Hard cases? The kids with the wristband tracking devices, Arriane said. About a third of the student body. And theyre the ones who You dont want to mess with. Trust me. Well, whatd they do? As much as Luce wanted to keep her own story a secret, she didnt like the way Arriane was treating her like some sort of ingnue.
Whatever those kids had done couldnt be much worse than what everyone told her she had done. Or could it? After all, she knew next to nothing about these people and this place. The possibilities stirred up a cold gray fear in the pit of her stomach.
Oh, you know, Arriane drawled. Aided and abetted terrorist acts. Chopped up their parents and roasted them on a spit. She turned around to wink at Luce.
Shut up, Luce said. Im serious. Those psychos are under much tighter restrictions than the rest of the screwups here. We call them the shackled. Luce laughed at Arrianes dramatic tone. Your haircuts done, she said, running her hands through Arrianes hair to fluff it up a little. It actually looked really cool. Sweet, Arriane said. She turned to face Luce.
When she ran her fingers through her hair, the sleeves of her black sweater fell back on her forearms and Luce caught a glimpse of a black wristband, dotted with rows of silver studs, and, on the other wrist, another band that looked more. Arriane caught her looking and raised her eyebrows devilishly.
Told ya, she said. Total effing psychos. She grinned. Come on, Ill give you the rest of the tour. Luce didnt have much choice. She scrambled down the bleachers after Arriane, ducking when one of the turkey vultures swooped dangerously low.
Arriane, who didnt seem to notice, pointed at a lichen-swathed church at the far right of the commons. Over here, youll find our state-of-the-art gymnasium, she said, assuming a nasal tour guide tone of voice. Yes, yes, to the untrained eye it looks like a church. It used to be. A few years ago, some calisthenic-crazed shrink showed up ranting about overmedicated teens ruining society. He donated a shit-ton of money so theyd convert it into a gym. Now the powers that be think we can work out our frustrations in a more natural and productive way.
Luce groaned. She had always loathed gym class. Girl after my very own heart, Arriane commiserated. Coach Diante is ee-vil. As Luce jogged to keep up, she took in the rest of the grounds. The Dover quad had been so well kept, all manicured and dotted with evenly spaced, carefully pruned trees. Weeping willows dangled to the ground, kudzu grew along the walls in sheets, and every third step they took squished.
And it wasnt just the way the place looked. Every humid breath Luce took stuck in her lungs. Just breath-. Apparently the architects got in a huge standoff over how to retrofit the style of the old military academy buildings. The upshot is we ended up with half penitentiary, half medieval torture zone. And no gardener, Arriane said, kicking some slime off her combat boots. Oh, and theres the cemetery. Luce followed Arrianes pointing finger to the far left side of the quad, just past the dormitory.
An even thicker cloak of mist hung over the walled-off portion of land. It was bordered on three sides by a thick forest of oaks. She couldnt see into the cemetery, which seemed almost to sink below the surface of the ground, but she could smell the rot and hear the chorus of cicadas buzzing in the trees. For a second, she thought she saw the dark swish of the shadowsbut she blinked and they were gone. Thats a cemetery? This used to be a military academy, way back in the Civil War days.
So thats where they buried all their dead. Its creepy as all get-out. And lawd, Arriane said, piling on a fake southern accent, it stinks to high Heaven. Then she winked at Luce. We hang out there a lot.
Luce looked at Arriane to see if she was kidding. Arriane just shrugged. Okay, it was only once. And it was only after a really big pharmapalooza. Now, that was a word Luce recognized. Arriane laughed. I just saw a light go on up there. So somebody is home. Well, Luce, my dear, you may have gone to boarding school parties, but youve never seen a throw-down like reform school kids do it.
Whats the difference? Luce asked, trying to skirt the fact that shed never actually been to a big party at Dover. Youll see. Arriane paused and turned to Luce. Youll come over tonight and hang out, okay? She surprised Luce by taking her hand. But I thought you said I should stay away from the hard cases, Luce joked. Rule number twodont listen to me!
Arriane laughed, shaking her head. Im certifiably insane! She started jogging again and Luce trailed after her. Wait, what was rule number one? Keep up! As they came around the corner of the cinder-block classrooms, Arriane skidded to a halt.
Affect cool, she said. Cool, Luce repeated. All the other students seemed to be clustered around the kudzu-strangled trees outside Augustine. No one looked exactly happy to be hanging out, but no one looked ready to go inside yet, either. There hadnt been much of a dress code at Dover, so Luce wasnt used to the uniformity it gave a student body.
Then again, even though every kid here was wearing the same black jeans, black mock-turtleneck T-shirt, and black sweater tied over the shoulders or around the waist, there were still substantial differences in the way they pulled it off. A group of tattooed girls standing in a crossed-armed circle wore bangle bracelets up to their elbows.
The black bandanas in their hair reminded Luce of a film shed once seen about motorcycle-gang girls. Shed rented it because shed thought: What could be cooler than an all-girls motorcycle gang? Now Luces eyes locked with those of one of the girls across the lawn. The sideways squint of the girls darkly lined cat-eyes made Luce quickly shift the direction of her gaze.
A guy and a girl who were holding hands had sewn sequins in the shape of skulls and crossbones on the back of their black sweaters. Every few seconds, one of them would pull the other in for a kiss on the temple, on the earlobe, on the eye.
When they looped their arms around each other, Luce could see that each wore the blinking wristband tracking device. They looked a little rough, but it was obvious how much in love they were. Every time she saw their tongue rings flashing, Luce felt a lonely pinch inside her chest. Behind the lovers, a cluster of blond boys stood pressed against the wall.
Each of them wore his sweater,. And they all had on white oxford shirts underneath, the collars starched straight up. Their black pants hit the vamps of their polished dress shoes perfectly. Of all the students on the quad, these boys seemed to Luce to be the closest thing to Doverites. But a closer look quickly set them apart from boys she used to know. Boys like Trevor. Just standing in a group, these guys radiated a specific kind of toughness. It was right there in the look in their eyes.
It was hard to explain, but it suddenly struck Luce that just like her, everyone at this school had a past. Everyone here probably had secrets they wouldnt want to share. But she couldnt figure out whether this realization made her feel more or less isolated. Arriane noticed Luces eyes running over the rest of the kids.
We all do what we can to make it through the day, she said, shrugging. But in case you hadnt observed the low-hanging vultures, this place pretty much reeks of death. She took a seat on a bench under a weeping willow and patted the spot next to her for Luce. Luce wiped away a mound of wet, decaying leaves, but just before she sat down, she noticed another dress code violation. A very attractive dress code violation. He wore a bright red scarf around his neck. It was far from cold outside, but he had on a black leather motorcycle jacket over his black sweater, too.
Maybe it was. In fact, everything else so paled in comparison that, for one long moment, Luce forgot where she was. She took in his deep golden hair and matching tan. His high cheekbones, the dark sunglasses that covered his eyes, the soft shape of his lips.
In all the movies Luce had seen, and in all the books shed read, the love interest was mind-blowingly good-lookingexcept for that one little flaw. The chipped tooth, the charming cowlick, the beauty mark on his left cheek.
She knew whyif the hero was too unblemished, hed risk being unapproachable. But approachable or not, Luce had always had a weakness for the sublimely gorgeous.
Like this guy. He leaned up against the building with his arms crossed lightly over his chest. And for a split second, Luce saw a flashing image of herself folded into those arms. She shook her head, but the vision stayed so clear that she almost took off toward him.
That was crazy. Even at a school full of crazies, Luce was well aware that this instinct was insane. She didnt even know him. He was talking to a shorter kid with dreads and a toothy smile.
Both of them were laughing hard and genuinelyin a way that made Luce strangely jealous. She tried to think back and remember how long it had been since shed laughed, really laughed, like that.
Thats Daniel Grigori, Arriane said, leaning in and reading her mind. I can tell hes attracted somebodys attention. Understatement, Luce agreed, embarrassed when she realized how she must have looked to Arriane. Yeah, well, if you like that sort of thing. Whats not to like? Luce said, unable to stop the words from tumbling out. His friend there is Roland, Arriane said, nodding in the dreadlocked kids direction. Hes cool. The kind of guy who can get his hands on things, ya know?
Not really, Luce thought, biting her lip. What kinds of things? Arriane shrugged, using her poached Swiss Army knife to saw off a fraying strand from a rip in her black jeans. Just things. Ask-and-you-shall-receive kind of stuff. What about Daniel? Whats his story?
Oh, she doesnt give up. Arriane laughed, then cleared her throat. No one really knows, she said. He holds pretty tight to his mystery man persona. Could just be your typical reform school asshole. Im no stranger to assholes, Luce said, though as soon as the words came out, she wished she could take them back.
After what had happened to Trevor whatever had happenedshe was the last person who should be making character judgments. But more than that, the rare time she made even the smallest reference. She glanced again at Daniel. He took his glasses off and slid them inside his jacket, then turned to look at her. His gaze caught hers, and Luce watched as his eyes widened and then quickly narrowed in what looked like surprise. But noit was more than that. When Daniels eyes held hers, her breath caught in her throat.
She recognized him from somewhere. But she would have remembered meeting someone like him. She would have remembered feeling as absolutely shaken up as she did right now. She realized they were still locking eyes when Daniel flashed her a smile. A jet of warmth shot through her and she had to grip the bench for support. She felt her lips pull up in a smile back at him, but then he raised his hand in the air.
And flipped her off. Luce gasped and dropped her eyes. Arriane asked, oblivious to what had just gone down. Never mind, she said. We dont have time. I sense the bell. The bell rang as if on cue, and the whole student body started the slow shuffle into the building.
Arriane was tugging on Luces hand and spouting off directions about where to meet her next and when. But Luce was still reel-. Her momentary delirium over Daniel had vanished, and now the only thing she wanted to know was: What was that guys problem? Just before she ducked into her first class, she dared to glance back. His face was blank, but there was no mistaking ithe was watching her go.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc. Enjoy this chapter sampler from Fallen by Lauren Kate. There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.
He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move. Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce--and goes out of his way to make that very clear--she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret.
Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, Fallen is a page turning thriller and the ultimate love story.
Flag for inappropriate content. Related titles. Jump to Page. Search inside document. Sexy and fascinating and scary. I loved loved loved it! Mischa Kuczynski. Related Interests House Of Night. Random House Teens. Random House Kids. Shawn Lee. Orion Publishing Group.
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