Rapture, p.2

Rapture, page 2

 part  #4 of  Fallen Series



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Page 2


  Never, never, never. Luce had too much to live for.

  Inside the old green backpack she used to take to summer camp, Luce found her favorite pair of pajamas—

  the red-and-white-striped flannel set—neatly folded, with the matching white slippers underneath. “But it’s morning,” Luce said. “What do I need pajamas for?” Again Daniel and Roland shared a glance, and this time, they were trying not to laugh.

  “Just trust us,” Roland said.

  After she was dressed, Luce followed Daniel out of the cabin, letting his broad shoulders buffet the wind as they walked down the pebbly shore to the water.

  The tiny island off of Tybee was about a mile from the Savannah coastline. Across that stretch of sea, Roland had promised that a car was waiting.

  Daniel’s wings were concealed, but he must have sensed her eyeing the place where they unfurled from his shoulders. “When everything is in order, we’ll fly wherever we have to go to stop Lucifer. Until then it’s better to stay low to the ground. ”

  “Okay,” Luce said.

  “Race you to the other side?”

  Her breath frosted the air. “You know I’d beat you. ”

  “True. ” He slipped an arm around her waist, warm-ing her. “Maybe we’d better take the boat, then. Protect my famous pride. ”

  She watched him unmoor a small metal rowboat from a boat slip. The soft light on the water made her think back to the day they’d raced across the secret lake at Sword & Cross. His skin had glistened as they had pulled themselves up to the flat rock in the center to catch their breath, then had lain on the sun-warmed stone, letting the day’s heat dry their bodies. She’d barely known Daniel then—she hadn’t known he was an angel—and already she’d been dangerously in love with him.

  “We used to swim together in my lifetime in Tahiti, didn’t we?” she asked, surprised to remember another time she’d seen Daniel’s hair glisten with water.

  Daniel stared at her and she knew how much it meant to him finally to be able to share some of his memories of their past. He looked so moved that Luce thought he might cry.

  Instead he kissed her forehead tenderly and said,

  “You beat me all those times, too, Lulu. ” They didn’t talk much as Daniel rowed. It was enough for Luce just to watch the way his muscles strained and flexed each time he dragged back, hearing the oars dip into and out of the cold water, breathing in the brine of the ocean. The sun was rising over her shoulders, warm-ing the back of her neck, but as they approached the mainland, she saw something that sent a shiver down her spine.

  She recognized the white 1993 Taurus immediately.

  “What’s wrong?” Daniel noticed Luce’s posture stiffen as the rowboat touched the shore. “Oh. That. ” He sounded unconcerned as he hopped out of the boat and held out a hand to Luce. The ground was mulchy and rich-smelling. It reminded Luce of her childhood, running through Georgia forests in the fall, luxuriating in the anticipation of mischief and adventure.

  “It’s not what you think,” Daniel said. “When Sophia fled Sword & Cross, after”—Luce waited, wincing, hoping Daniel wouldn’t say after she murdered Penn—“after we found out who she really was, the angels confiscated her car. ” His face hardened. “She owes us that much, and more. ”

  Luce thought of Penn’s white face, the life draining from it. “Where is Sophia now?”

  Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know. Unfortunately, we’ll probably soon find out. I have a feeling she’ll worm her way into our plans. ” He drew the keys from his pocket, inserted one into the passenger door.

  “But that’s not what you should be worried about right now. ”

  Luce looked at him as she sank onto the gray cloth seat. “So what should I be worried about right now?” Daniel turned the key, and the car shuddered slowly to life. The last time she’d sat in this seat, she’d been worried about being alone with him. It was the first night they’d ever kissed—as far as she’d known then, anyway.

  Luce was stabbing the seat belt into its buckle when she felt Daniel’s fingers over hers. “Remember,” he said softly, reaching over to buckle her seat belt, letting his hands linger over hers. “There’s a trick. ” He kissed her cheek, then put the car in reverse and peeled out of the wet woods onto a narrow two-lane blacktop. They were the only ones on the road.

  “Daniel?” Luce asked again. “What else should I be worried about?”

  He glanced at Luce’s pajamas. “How good are you at playing sick?”

  The white Taurus idled in the alley behind her parents’ house as Luce crept past the three azalea trees beside her bedroom window. In the summer, there would be tomato vines creeping out of the black soil, but in winter, the side yard looked barren and dreary and not very much like home. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d stood out here. She’d sneaked out of three different boarding schools before, but never out of her own parents’ house. Now she was sneaking in and she didn’t know how her window worked. Luce looked around at her sleepy neighborhood, at the morning paper sitting in its dewy plastic bag at the edge of her parents’ lawn, at the old, netless basketball hoop in the Johnsons’ driveway across the street. Nothing had changed since she’d been gone. Nothing had changed except Luce. If Bill succeeded, would this neighborhood vanish, too?

  She gave one last wave to Daniel, watching from the car, took a deep breath, and used her thumbs to pry the lower panel from the cracking blue paint of the sill.

  It slid right up. Someone inside had already popped out the screen. Luce paused, stunned as the white muslin curtains parted and the half-blond, half-black head of her onetime enemy Molly Zane filled the open space.

  “’Sup, Meatloaf. ”

  Luce bristled at the nickname she’d earned on her first day of Sword & Cross. This was what Daniel and Roland meant when they said they’d taken care of things at home?

  “What are you doing here, Molly?”

  “Come on. I won’t bite. ” Molly extended a hand.

  Her nails were chipped emerald green.

  She sank her hand into Molly’s, ducked, and sidled, one leg at a time, through the window.

  Her bedroom looked small and outdated, like a time capsule of some long-ago Luce. There was the framed poster of the Eiffel Tower on the back of her door. There was her bulletin board of swim team ribbons from Thunder bolt Elementary. And there, under the green-and-yellow Hawaiian-print duvet, was her best friend, Callie.

  Callie scrambled from under the covers, dashed around the bed, and flung herself into Luce’s arms.

  “They kept telling me you were going to be okay, but in that lying, we’re-also-completely-terrified-we’re-just-not-going-to-explain-a-word-to-you kind of way. Do you even realize how thoroughly spooky that was? It was like you physically dropped off the face of the Earth—”

  Luce hugged her back tightly. As far as Callie knew, Luce had been gone only since the night before.

  “Okay, you two,” Molly growled, pulling Luce away from Callie, “you can OMG your faces off later. I didn’t lie in your bed in that cheap polyester wig all night enacting Luce-with-stomach-flu so you guys could blow our cover now. ” She rolled her eyes. “Amateurs. ”

  “Hold on. You did what?” Luce asked.

  “After you . . . disappeared,” Callie said breathlessly,

  “we knew we could never explain it to your parents. I mean, I could barely fathom it after seeing it with my own eyes. When Gabbe fixed up the backyard, I told your parents you felt sick and had gone to bed, and Molly pretended to be you and—”

  “Lucky I found this in your closet. ” Molly twirled a short wavy black wig around one finger. “Halloween remnant?”

  “Wonder Woman. ” Luce winced, regretting her middle school Halloween costume, and not for the first time.

  “Well, it worked. ”

  It was strange to see Molly—who’d once sided with Lucifer—helping her. But even Molly, like Cam and
Roland, didn’t want to fall again. So here they were, a team, strange bedfellows.

  “You covered for me? I don’t know what to say.

  Thank you. ”

  “Whatever. ” Molly jerked her head at Callie, anything to deflect Luce’s gratitude. “She was the real silver-tongued devil. Thank her. ” She stuck one leg out the open window and turned to call back, “Think you guys can handle it from here? I have a Waffle House summit meeting to attend. ”

  Luce gave Molly the thumbs-up and flopped down on her bed.

  “Oh, Luce,” Callie whispered. “When you left, your whole backyard was covered in this gray dust. And that blond girl, Gabbe, swept her hand once and made it disappear. Then we said you were sick, that everyone else had gone home, and we just started doing the dishes with your parents. And at first I thought that Molly girl was a little bit terrible, but she’s actually kind of cool. ” Her eyes narrowed. “But where did you go? What happened to you? You really scared me, Luce. ”

  “I don’t even know where to start,” Luce said.

  There was a knock, followed by the familiar creak of her bedroom door opening.

  Luce’s mother stood in the hallway, her sleep-wild hair tamed by a yellow banana clip, her face bare of makeup and pretty. She was holding a wicker tray with two glasses of orange juice, two plates of buttered toast, and a box of Alka-Seltzer. “Looks like someone’s feeling better. ” Luce waited for her mom to put the tray down on the nightstand; then she wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and buried her face in her pink terry cloth bathrobe. Tears stung her eyes. She sniffed.

  “My little girl,” her mom said, feeling Luce’s forehead and cheeks to check for fever. Even though she hadn’t used that soft sweet voice on Luce in ages, it felt so good to hear.

  “I love you, Mom. ”

  “Don’t tell me she’s too sick for Black Friday. ” Luce’s father appeared in the doorway, holding a green plastic watering can. He was smiling, but behind his rimless glasses, Mr. Price’s eyes looked concerned.

  “I am feeling better,” Luce said. “But—”

  “Oh, Harry,” Luce’s mom said. “You know we only had her for the day. She has to be back at school. ” She turned to Luce. “Daniel called a little while ago, honey.

  He said he can pick you up and take you back to Sword & Cross. I said that of course your father and I would be happy to, but—”

  “No,” Luce said quickly, remembering the plan Daniel had detailed in the car. “Even if I can’t go, you guys should still do your Black Friday shopping. It’s a Price family tradition. ”

  They agreed that Luce would ride with Daniel and her parents would take Callie to the airport. While the girls ate, Luce’s parents sat on the edge of the bed and talked about Thanksgiving (“Gabbe polished all the china—what an angel”). By the time they moved on to the Black Friday deals they were on the hunt for (“All your father ever wants is tools”), Luce realized that she hadn’t said anything except for inane conversation fillers like “Uh-huh” and “Oh really?”

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