ALSO BY LAUREN KATE FALLEN This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright (c) 2010 by Tinderbox Books, LLC and Lauren Kate All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc. , New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc. WWW. RANDOMHOUSE. COM/TEENS WWW. FALLENBOOKS. COM Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request. eISBN: 978-0-375-89717-7 Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read. v3. 1 FOR ELIZABETH, IRDY, ANNE, AND VIC. I HAVE BEEN SO LUCKY TO HAVE YOU. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First, inexpressible thanks to my readers for all the effusive and generous support.
Because of you, I may just have to keep writing forever. To Wendy Loggia, whose belief in this series was a great gift, and who knows just how to make it more like what it always wanted to be. To Beverly Horowitz for the sharpest pep talk I’ve ever received, and the dessert you stuffed into my purse. To Krista Vitola, whose good-news emails have made so many of my days. To Angela Carlino and the design team, for the jacket that could launch a thousand ships.
To my traveling partner Noreen Marchisi, Roshan Nozari, and the rest of the tremendous marketing team at Random House. Y are magicians. To Michael ou Stearns and Ted Malawer, tireless geniuses. Y wit and our encouragement make you almost too much fun to work with. To my friends, who keep me sane and inspired. To my family in Texas, Arkansas, Baltimore, and Florida for so much exuberance and love. And to Jason, for every single day. Contents Cover Other Books by this Author Title Page Copyright Dedication Acknowledgments
Epigraph Prologue – Neutral Waters Chapter 1 – Eighteen Days Chapter 2 – Seventeen Days Chapter 3 – Sixteen Days Chapter 4 – Fifteen Days Chapter 5 – Fourteen Days Chapter 6 – Thirteen Days Chapter 7 – Twelve Days Chapter 8 – Eleven Days Chapter 9 – Ten Days Chapter 10 – Nine Days Chapter 11 – Eight Days Chapter 12 – Seven Days Chapter 13 – Six Days Chapter 14 – Five Days Chapter 15 – Four Days Chapter 16 – Three Days Chapter 17 – Two Days Chapter 18 – Thanksgiving Chapter 19 – The Truce is Broken Epilogue – Pandemonium About the Author For, if I imp my wing on thine Affliction shall advance the flight in me. -GEORGE HERBERT, Easter Wings PROLOGUE NEUTRAL WATERS Daniel stared out at the bay. His eyes were as gray as the thick fog enveloping the Sausalito shoreline, as the choppy water lapping the pebble beach beneath his feet. There was no violet to his eyes now at all; he could feel it. She was too far away. He braced himself against the biting gale off the water. But even as he tugged his thick black pea coat closer, he knew it was no use. Hunting always left him cold. Only one thing could warm him today, and she was out of reach. He missed the way the crown of her head made the perfect resting spot for his lips.
He imagined filling the circle of his arms with her body, leaning down to kiss her neck. But it was a good thing Luce couldn’t be here now. What she’d see would horrify her. Behind him, the bleat of sea lions flopping in heaps along the south shore of Angel Island sounded the way he felt: jaggedly lonely, with no one around to hear. No one except Cam. He was crouched in front of Daniel, tying a rusty anchor around the bulging, wet figure at their feet. Even engaged in something so sinister, Cam looked good. His green eyes had a sparkle and his black hair was cut short.
It was the truce; it always brought a brighter glow to the angels’ cheeks, a shinier sheen to their hair, an even sharper cut to their flawless muscled bodies. Truce days were to angels what beach vacations were to humans. So even though Daniel ached inside each time he was forced to end a human life, to anyone else he looked like a guy coming back from a week in Hawaii: relaxed, rested, tan. Tightening one of his intricate knots, Cam said, “Typical Daniel. Always stepping aside and leaving me to do the dirty work. ” “What are you talking about? I’m the one who finished him. Daniel looked down at the dead man, at the wiry gray hair matted to his pasty forehead, at his gnarled hands and cheap rubber galoshes, at the dark red tear across his chest. It made Daniel feel cold all over again. If the killing weren’t necessary to ensure Luce’s safety, to save her, Daniel would never raise another weapon. Never fight another fight. And something about killing this man did not feel quite right. In fact, Daniel had a vague, troubling sense that something was profoundly wrong. “Finishing them is the fun part. ” Cam looped the rope around the man’s chest and tightened it under his arms. The dirty work is seeing them off to sea. ” Daniel still gripped the bloodied tree branch in his hand. Cam had snickered at the choice, but it never mattered to Daniel what he used. He could kill with anything. “Hurry up,” he growled, sickened by the obvious pleasure Cam took in human bloodshed. “Y ou’re wasting time. The tide’s going out. ” “And unless we do this my way, high tide tomorrow will wash Slayer here right back ashore. Y ou’re too impulsive, Daniel, always were. Do you ever think more than one step ahead? ” Daniel crossed his arms and looked back out at the white crests of the waves.
A tourist catamaran from the San Francisco pier was gliding toward them. Once, the vision of that boat might have brought back a flood of memories. A thousand happy trips he’d taken with Luce across a thousand lifetimes’ seas. But now–now that she could die and not come back, in this lifetime when everything was different and there would be no more reincarnations-Daniel was always too aware of how blank her memory was. This was the last shot. For both of them. For everyone, really. So it was Luce’s memory, not Daniel’s, that mattered, and so many shocking truths would have to be gently brought to the surface if she was going to survive.
The thought of what she had to learn made his whole body tense up. If Cam thought Daniel wasn’t thinking of the next step, he was wrong. “Y know there’s only one reason I’m still here,” ou Daniel said. “We need to talk about her. ” Cam laughed. “I was. ” With a grunt, he hoisted the sopping corpse up over his shoulder. The dead man’s navy suit bunched up around the lines of rope Cam had tied. The heavy anchor rested on his bloody chest. “This one’s a little gristly, isn’t he? ” Cam asked. “I’m almost insulted that the Elders didn’t send a more challenging hit man. Then–as if he were an Olympic shot-putter–Cam bent his knees, spun around three times to wind up, and launched the dead man out across the water, a hundred feet clear into the air. For a few long seconds, the corpse sailed over the bay. Then the weight of the anchor dragged it down … down … down. It splashed grandly into the deep aquamarine water. And instantly sank out of sight. Cam wiped his hands. “I think I’ve just set a record. ” They were alike in so many ways. But Cam was something worse, a demon, and that made him capable of despicable acts with no remorse.
Daniel was crippled by remorse. And right now, he was further crippled by love. “You take human death too lightly,” Daniel said. “This guy deserved it,” Cam said. “Y really don’t see ou the sport in all of this? ” That was when Daniel got in his face and spat, “She is not a game to me. ” “And that is exactly why you will lose. ” Daniel grabbed Cam by the collar of his steel-gray trench coat. He considered tossing him into the water the same way he’d just tossed the predator. A cloud drifted past the sun, its shadow darkening their faces. “Easy,” Cam said, prying Daniel’s hands away. Y ou have plenty of enemies, Daniel, but right now I’m not one of them. Remember the truce. ” “Some truce,” Daniel said. “Eighteen days of others trying to kill her. ” “Eighteen days of you and me picking them off,” Cam corrected. It was angelic tradition for a truce to last eighteen days. In Heaven, eighteen was the luckiest, most divine number: a life-affirming tally of two sevens (the archangels and the cardinal virtues), balanced with the warning of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. In some mortal languages, eighteen had come to mean life itself–though in this case, for Luce, it could just as easily mean death.
Cam was right. As the news of her mortality trickled down the celestial tiers, the ranks of her enemies would double and redouble each day. Miss Sophia and her cohorts, the Twenty-four Elders of Zhsmaelin, were still after Luce. Daniel had glimpsed the Elders in the shadows cast by the Announcers just that morning. He had glimpsed something else, too–another darkness, a deeper cunning, one he hadn’t recognized at first. A shaft of sunlight punctured the clouds, and something gleamed in the corner of Daniel’s vision. He turned and knelt down to find a single arrow planted in the wet sand.
It was slimmer than a normal arrow, a dull silver color, laced with swirling etched designs. It was warm to the touch. Daniel’s breath caught in his throat. It had been eons since he’d seen a starshot. His fingers quaked as he gently drew it from the sand, careful to avoid its deadly blunt end. Now Daniel knew where that other darkness had come from in this morning’s Announcers. The news was even grimmer than he’d feared. He turned to Cam, the featherlight arrow balanced in his hands. “He wasn’t acting alone. ” Cam stiffened at the sight of the arrow. He moved toward it almost reverently, reaching out to touch it the same way Daniel had. Such a valuable weapon to leave behind. The Outcast must have been in a great hurry to get away. ” The Outcasts: a sect of spineless, waffling angels, shunned by both Heaven and Hell. Their one great strength was the reclusive angel Azazel, the only remaining starsmith, who still knew the art of producing starshots. When loosed from its silver bow, a starshot could do little more than bruise a mortal. But to angels and demons, it was the deadliest weapon of all. Everyone wanted them, but none were willing to associate with Outcasts, so bartering for starshots was always done clandestinely, via messenger.
Which meant the guy Daniel had killed was no hit man sent by the Elders. He was merely a barterer. The Outcast, the real enemy, had spirited away–probably at the first sight of Daniel and Cam. Daniel shivered. This was not good news. “We killed the wrong guy. ” “What ‘wrong’? ” Cam brushed him off. “Isn’t the world better off with one less predator? Isn’t Luce? ” He stared at Daniel, then at the sea. “The only problem is–” “The Outcasts. ” Cam nodded. “So now they want her too. ” Daniel could feel the tips of his wings bristling under his cashmere sweater and heavy coat, a burning itch that made him flinch.
He stood still, with his eyes closed and his arms at his sides, straining to subdue himself before his wings burst forth like the violently unfurling sails of a ship and carried him up and off this island and over the bay and away. Straight toward her. He closed his eyes and tried to picture Luce. He’d had to tear himself away from that cabin, from her peaceful sleep on the tiny island east of Tybee. It would be evening there by now. Would she be awake? Would she be hungry? The battle at Sword & Cross, the revelations, and the death of her friend–it had taken quite a toll on Luce.
The angels expected her to sleep all day and through the night. But by tomorrow morning, they would need to have a plan in place. This was the first time Daniel had ever proposed a truce. To set the boundaries, make the rules, and draw up a system of consequences if either side transgressed–it was a huge responsibility to shoulder with Cam. Of course he would do it, he would do anything for her … he just wanted to make sure he did it right. “We have to hide her somewhere safe,” he said. “There’s a school up north, near Fort Bragg–” “The Shoreline School. ” Cam nodded. “My side has looked into it as well.
She’ll be happy there. And educated in a way that won’t endanger her. And, most importantly, she’ll be shielded. ” Gabbe had already explained to Daniel the type of camouflage Shoreline could provide. Soon enough, word would spread that Luce was hidden away there, but for a time at least, within the school’s perimeter, she would be nearly invisible. Inside, Francesca, the angel closest to Gabbe, would look after Luce. Outside, Daniel and Cam would hunt down and kill anyone who dared draw near the school’s boundaries. Who would have told Cam about Shoreline? Daniel didn’t like the idea of their side knowing more than his.
He was already cursing himself for not visiting the school before they made this choice, but it had been hard enough to leave Luce when he did. “She can start as early as tomorrow. Assuming”-Cam’s eyes ran over Daniel’s face–“assuming you say yes. ” Daniel pressed a hand to the breast pocket of his shirt, where he kept a recent photograph. Luce on the lake at Sword & Cross. Wet hair shining. A rare grin on her face. Usually, by the time he had a chance to get a picture of her in one lifetime, he had lost her again. This time, she was still here. “Come on, Daniel,” Cam was saying. “We both know what she needs.
We enroll her–and then let her be. We can do nothing to hasten this part but leave her alone. ” “I can’t leave her alone that long. ” Daniel had tossed out the words too quickly. He looked down at the arrow in his hands, feeling ill. He wanted to fling it into the ocean, but he couldn’t. “So. ” Cam squinted. “You haven’t told her. ” Daniel froze. “I can’t tell her anything. We could lose her. ” “You could lose her,” Cam sneered. “Y know what I mean. ” Daniel stiffened. “It’s too risky ou to assume she could take it all in without … ” He closed his eyes to banish the image of the agonizing red-hot blaze.
But it was always burning at the back of his mind, threatening to spread like wildfire. If he told her the truth and killed her, this time she would really be gone. And it would be his fault. Daniel couldn’t do anything–he could not exist–without her. His wings burned at the thought. Better to shelter her just a little longer. “How convenient for you,” Cam muttered. “I just hope she isn’t disappointed. ” Daniel ignored him. “Do you really believe she’ll be able to learn at this school? ” “I do,” Cam answered slowly. “Assuming we agree she’ll have no external distractions. That means no Daniel, and no Cam.
That has to be the cardinal rule. ” Not see her for eighteen days? Daniel couldn’t fathom it. More than that, he couldn’t fathom Luce’s ever agreeing to it. They had only just found each other in this lifetime and finally had a chance to be together. But, as usual, explaining the details could kill her. She couldn’t hear about her past lives from the mouths of angels. Luce didn’t know it yet, but very soon, she would be on her own to figure out … everything. The buried truth–specifically what Luce would think of it–terrified Daniel. But Luce’s uncovering it by herself was the only way to break free rom this horrible cycle. This was why her experience at Shoreline would be crucial. For eighteen days, Daniel could kill as many Outcasts as came his way. But when the truce was over, everything would be in Luce’s hands again. Luce’s hands alone. The sun was setting over Mount Tamalpais and the evening fog was rolling in. “Let me take her to Shoreline,” Daniel said. It would be his last chance to see her. Cam looked at him strangely, wondering whether to concede. A second time, Daniel had to physically force his aching wings back into his skin. “Fine,” Cam said at last. In exchange for the starshot. ” Daniel handed over the weapon, and Cam slipped it inside his coat. “Take her as far as the school and then find me. Don’t screw up; I’ll be watching. ” “And then? ” “You and I have hunting to do. ” Daniel nodded and unfurled his wings, feeling the deep pleasure of their release all through his body. He stood for a moment, gathering energy, sensing the wind’s rough resistance. Time to flee this cursed, ugly scene, to let his wings carry him back to a place where he could be his true self. Back to Luce. And back to the lie he would have to live a little while longer. The truce begins at midnight tomorrow,” Daniel called, kicking back a great spray of sand on the beach as he lifted off and soared across the sky. ONE EIGHTEEN DAYS Luce planned on keeping her eyes closed all six hours of the cross-country flight from Georgia out to California, right up until the moment when the wheels of the plane touched down in San Francisco. Half asleep, she found it so much easier to pretend she was already reunited with Daniel. It felt like a lifetime since she’d seen him, though it had really only been a few days. Ever since they’d said goodbye at Sword & Cross on Friday morning, Luce’s whole body had felt groggy.
The absence of his voice, his warmth, the touch of his wings: it had sunk into her bones, like a strange illness. An arm brushed against hers, and Luce opened her eyes. She was face to face with a wide-eyed, brown-haired guy a few years older than her. “Sorry,” they both said at the same time, each retreating a few inches on either side of the plane’s armrest. Out the window, the view was startling. The plane was making its descent into San Francisco, and Luce had never seen anything like it before. As they traced the south side of the bay, a winding blue tributary seemed to cut through the earth on its way to the sea.
The stream divided a vibrant green field on one side from a swirl of something bright red and white on the other. She pressed her forehead to the double plastic pane and tried to get a better view. “What is that? ” she wondered aloud. “Salt,” the guy answered, pointing. He leaned in closer. “They mine it out of the Pacific. ” The answer was so simple, so … human. Almost a surprise after the time she’d spent with Daniel and the other–she was still unpracticed at using the terms literally-angels and demons. She looked out across the midnightblue water, which seemed to stretch forever west.
Sunover-water had always meant morning to Atlantic coastraised Luce. But out here, it was almost night. “Y ou’re not from around here, are you? ” her seatmate asked. Luce shook her head but held her tongue. She kept staring out the window. Before she’d left Georgia this morning, Mr. Cole had coached her about keeping a low profile. The other teachers had been told that Luce’s parents had requested a transfer. It was a lie. As far as Luce’s parents, Callie, and anyone else knew, she was still enrolled at Sword & Cross. A few weeks before, this would have infuriated her.
But the things that had happened in those final days at Sword & Cross had left Luce a person who took the world more seriously. She had glimpsed a snapshot of another life–one of so many she’d shared with Daniel before. She’d discovered a love more important to her than anything she’d ever thought possible. And then she’d seen all of that threatened by a crazy, dagger-wielding old woman whom she’d thought she could trust. There were more out there like Miss Sophia, that Luce knew. But no one had told her how to recognize them. Miss Sophia had seemed normal, up until the end. Could the others look as innocent as … his brown-haired guy sitting next to her? Luce swallowed, folded her hands on her lap, and tried to think about Daniel. Daniel was taking her someplace safe. Luce pictured him waiting for her in one of those gray plastic airport chairs, elbows on knees, his blond head tucked between his shoulders. Rocking back and forth in his black Converse sneakers. Standing up every few minutes to pace around the baggage carousel. There was a jolt as the plane touched down. Suddenly she was nervous. Would he be as happy to see her as she was to see him? She focused on the brown and beige pattern on the cloth seat in front of her.
Her neck felt stiff from the long flight and her clothes had a stale, stuffy airline smell. The navy-blue-suited ground crew outside the window seemed to be taking an abnormally long time to direct the plane to its Jetway. Her knees bobbed with impatience. “I take it you’re staying in California for a while? ” The guy next to her offered a lazy smile that only made Luce more anxious to get up. “Why would you say that? ” she asked quickly. “What would make you think that? ” He blinked. “With that huge red duffel bag and all. ” Luce inched away from him. She hadn’t even noticed this guy until two minutes ago when he’d jarred her awake.
How did he know about her luggage? “Hey, nothing creepy. ” He shot her a strange look. “I was just standing behind you in line when you checked in. ” Luce smiled awkwardly. “I have a boyfriend” streamed from her mouth. Instantly, her cheeks reddened. The guy coughed. “Got it. ” Luce grimaced. She didn’t know why she’d said that. She didn’t want to be rude, but the seat belt light went off and all she wanted to do was barrel past this guy and right off the plane. He must have had the same idea, because he edged backward in the aisle and swept his hand forward. As politely as she could, Luce pushed past and bounded toward the exit.
Only to get caught in a bottleneck of agonizing slowness on the Jetway. Silently cursing all the casual Californians shuffling in front of her, Luce stood on her toes and shifted from foot to foot. By the time she stepped into the terminal, she’d driven herself half insane with impatience. Finally, she could move. She wove expertly through the crowd and forgot all about the guy she’d just met on the plane. She forgot to feel nervous that she’d never been to California in her life–never been further west than Branson, Missouri, that time when her parents dragged her to see Yakov Smirnoff doing standup.
And for the first time in days, she even briefly forgot the horrible things she’d seen at Sword & Cross. She was headed toward the only thing in the world that had the power to make her feel better. The only thing that could make her feel that all the anguish she’d been through–all the shadows, that unreal battle in the cemetery, and worst of all, the heartbreak of Penn’s death-might be worth surviving. There he was. Sitting exactly as she’d imagined he would, on the last in a block of sad gray chairs, next to an automatic sliding door that kept opening and closing behind him. For a second, Luce stood still and just enjoyed the view.
Daniel was wearing flip-flops and dark jeans she’d never seen before, and a stretched-out red T-shirt that was ripped near the front pocket. He looked the same, yet somehow different. More rested than he had when they’d said goodbye the other day. And was it just that she’d missed him so much, or was his skin even more radiant than she remembered? He looked up and finally saw her. His smile practically gleamed. She took off running toward him. Within a second, his arms were around her, her face buried in his chest, and Luce let out the longest, deepest breath. Her mouth found his and they sank into a kiss.
She went slack and happy in his arms. She hadn’t realized it until now, but a part of her had wondered whether she’d ever see him again, whether the whole thing might have been a dream. The love she felt, the love that Daniel reciprocated, all still felt so surreal. Still caught up in his kiss, Luce lightly pinched his bicep. Not a dream. For the first time in she didn’t even know how long, she felt like she was home. “You’re here,” he whispered into her ear. “You’re here. ” “We’re both here. ” They laughed, still kissing, eating up every bit of the sweet awkwardness at seeing each other again.
But when Luce was least expecting it, her laugh turned into a sniffle. She was looking for a way to say how hard the last few days had been for her–without him, without anyone, half asleep and groggily aware that everything had changed-but in Daniel’s arms now, she failed to find the words. “I know,” he said. “Let’s get your bag and get out of here. ” Luce turned toward the baggage carousel and found her neighbor from the plane standing in front of her, the straps of her huge duffel gripped in his hands. “I saw this go by,” he said, a forced smile on his face, like he was hellbent on proving his good intentions. It’s yours, isn’t it? ” Before Luce had time to answer, Daniel relieved the guy of the unwieldy bag, using only one hand. “Thanks, man. I’ll take it from here,” he said, decisively enough to end the conversation. The guy watched as Daniel slid his other hand around Luce’s waist and steered her away. This was the first time since Sword & Cross that Luce had been able to see Daniel as the world did, her first chance to wonder whether other people could tell, just by looking, that there was something extraordinary about him. Then they were through the sliding glass doors and she took her first real breath of the West Coast.
The earlyNovember air felt fresh and brisk and somehow healthy, not soggy and chilled like the Savannah air this afternoon when her plane had taken off. The sky was a brilliant bright blue, no clouds on the horizon. Everything looked new-minted and clean–even the parking lot held row after row of recently washed cars. A line of mountains framed it all, tawny brown with scraggly dots of green trees, one hill rolling into the next. She was not in Georgia anymore. “I can’t decide whether to be surprised,” Daniel teased. “I let you out from under my wing for two days and another guy swoops in. ” Luce rolled her eyes. “Come on.
We barely spoke. Really, I slept the whole flight. ” She nudged him. “Dreaming of you. ” Daniel’s pursed lips turned into a smile and he gave the top of her head a kiss. She stood still, wanting more, not even realizing that Daniel had stopped in front of a car. And not just any car. A black Alfa Romeo. Luce’s jaw dropped when Daniel unlocked the passenger door. “Th-this … ,” she stammered. “This is … did you know this is my absolute dream car? ” “More than that,” Daniel laughed. “This used to be your car. ” He laughed when she practically jumped at his words. She was still getting used to the reincarnation part of their story.
It was so unfair. A whole car she had no memory of. Whole lives she couldn’t recall. She was desperate to know about them, almost like her former selves were siblings she’d been separated from at birth. She rested her hand on the windshield, searching for a wisp of something, for deja vu. Nothing. “It was a sweet sixteen present from your folks a couple of lifetimes ago. ” Daniel looked sideways, like he was trying to decide how much to say. Like he knew she was hungry for the details but might not be able to swallow too many at once. “I just bought it off this guy in Reno. He bought it after you, uh …
Well, after you … ” Spontaneously combusted, Luce thought, filling in the bitter truth that Daniel wouldn’t speak. That was the one thing about her past lives: The ending rarely changed. Except, it seemed, this time it could. This time they could hold hands, kiss, and … she didn’t know what else they could do. But she was dying to find out. She caught herself. They had to be careful. Seventeen years was not enough, and in this lifetime, Luce was adamant about sticking around to see what it was like to really be with Daniel. He cleared his throat and patted the gleaming black hood. Still drives like a champ. The only problem is … ” He looked at the convertible’s tiny trunk, then at Luce’s duffel bag, then back at the trunk. Y Luce had a terrible habit of overpacking, she’d be es, the first to admit. But for once, this wasn’t her fault. Arriane and Gabbe had packed her things from her dorm room at Sword & Cross, every black and nonblack piece of clothing she’d never had a chance to wear. She’d been too busy saying goodbye to Daniel, and to Penn, to pack. She winced, feeling guilty for being out here in California with Daniel, so far from where she’d left her friend buried.
It didn’t seem fair. Mr. Cole had kept assuring her that Miss Sophia would be dealt with for what she’d done to Penn, but when Luce had pressed him about what exactly that meant, he’d tugged at his mustache and clammed up. Daniel glanced suspiciously around the parking lot. He popped the trunk, Luce’s massive duffel bag in hand. It was an impossible fit, but then a soft sucking sound came from the back of the car and Luce’s bag began to shrink. A moment later, Daniel snapped the trunk shut. Luce blinked. “Do that again! ” Daniel didn’t laugh. He seemed nervous.
He slid into the driver’s seat and started the car without a word. It was a strange, new thing for Luce: seeing his face look so serene on the surface, but knowing him well enough to sense something deeper underneath. “What’s wrong? ” “Mr. Cole told you about keeping a low profile, didn’t he? ” She nodded. Daniel backed out of the spot, then wheeled around to the parking lot’s exit, slipping a credit card into the machine on their way out. “That was stupid. I should have thought–” “What’s the big deal? ” Luce tucked her dark hair behind her ears as the car began to pick up speed. Y ou think you’re going to attract Cam’s attention by stuffing a bag into a trunk? ” Daniel got a faraway look in his eyes and shook his head. “Not Cam. No. ” A moment later, he squeezed her knee. “Forget I said anything. I just–We both just have to be cautious. ” Luce heard him but was too overwhelmed to listen too closely. She loved watching Daniel expertly work the gearshift as they took the ramp onto the freeway and zipped through traffic; loved feeling the wind whipping through the car as they sped toward the towering San Francisco skyline; loved–most of all–just being with Daniel.
In San Francisco proper, the road turned much hillier. Every time they crested one peak and started careening down another, Luce caught a different glimpse of the city. It looked old and new at the same time: Mirror-windowed skyscrapers backed right up against restaurants and bars that looked a century old. Tiny cars lined the streets, parked at gravity-defying angles. Dogs and strollers everywhere. The sparkle of blue water all around the city’s edge. And the first candy-apple-red glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Her eyes darted around to keep up with all the sights.
And even though she had spent most of the past few days sleeping, she suddenly felt a wave of exhaustion. Daniel stretched his arm around her and guided her head toward his shoulder. “Little-known fact about angels: We make excellent pillows. ” Luce laughed, lifting her head to kiss his cheek. “I couldn’t possibly sleep,” she said, nuzzling his neck. On the Golden Gate Bridge, throngs of pedestrians, spandexed bicyclers, and joggers flanked the cars. Far below was the brilliant bay, dotted with white sailboats and the beginning notes of a violet sunset. “It’s been days since we’ve seen each other.
I want to catch up,” she said. “Tell me what you’ve been doing. Tell me everything. ” For an instant, she thought she saw Daniel’s hands tighten around the steering wheel. “If your goal is not to go to sleep,” he said, cracking a smile, “then I really shouldn’t delve into the minutiae of the eight-hour-long Council of the Angels meeting I was stuck in all day yesterday. See, the board met to discuss an amendment to proposition 362B, which details the sanctioned format for cherubic participation in the third circuit of–” “Okay, I get it. ” She swatted him. Daniel was joking, but it was a strange new kind of joke.
He was actually being open about being an angel, which she loved–or at least she would love it, once she’d had a little more time to process it. Luce still felt like her heart and brain were both struggling to catch up to the changes in her life. But they were back together for good now, so everything was infinitely easier. There was nothing to hold back from one another anymore. She pulled on his arm. “At least tell me where we’re going. ” Daniel flinched, and Luce felt a knot of cold unfold inside her chest. She moved to put her hand on his, but he pulled away to downshift. “A school in Fort Bragg called Shoreline.
Classes start tomorrow. ” “We’re enrolling at another school? ” she asked. “Why? ” It sounded so permanent. This was supposed to be a provisional trip. Her parents didn’t even know she’d left the state of Georgia. “Y ou’ll like Shoreline. It’s very progressive, and a lot better than Sword and Cross. I think you’ll be able to … develop there. And no harm will come to you. The school has a special, protective quality. A camouflage-like shield. ” “I don’t get it. Why do I need a protective shield? I thought coming out here, away from Miss Sophia, was enough. ” “It’s not just Miss Sophia,” Daniel said quietly. “There are others. ” “Who?
Y can protect me from Cam, or Molly, or ou whoever. ” Luce laughed, but the cold feeling in her chest was spreading to her gut. “It’s not Cam or Molly, either. Luce, I can’t talk about it. ” “Will we know anyone else there? Any other angels? ” “There are some angels there. No one you know, but I’m sure you’ll get along. There’s one more thing. ” His voice was flat as he stared straight ahead. “I won’t be enrolling. ” His eyes didn’t once veer off the road. “Just you. It’s only for a little while. ” “How little? ” “A few … weeks. ” Had Luce been the one behind the wheel, this was when she would have slammed on the brakes. “A few weeks? “If I could be with you, I would. ” Daniel’s voice was so flat, so steady, that it made Luce even more upset. “Y ou saw what just happened with your duffel bag and the trunk. That was like my shooting up a flare into the sky to let everyone know where we are. To alert anyone who is looking for me–and by me, I mean you. I am too easy to find, too easy for others to track down. And that bit with your bag? That is nothing compared to the things I do every day that would draw the attention of … ” He shook his head sharply. “I won’t put you in danger, Luce, I won’t. ” “Then don’t. ” Daniel’s face looked pained. “It’s complicated. “And let me guess: You can’t explain. ” “I wish I could. ” Luce drew her knees to her chest, leaned away from him and against the passenger-side door, feeling somehow claustrophobic under the big blue California sky. For half an hour, the two of them rode in silence. In and out of patches of fog, up and down the rocky, arid terrain. They passed signs for Sonoma, and as the car cruised through lush green vineyards, Daniel spoke. “It’s three more hours to Fort Bragg. Y going to stay mad at me the whole ou time? ” Luce ignored him. She thought of and refused to give voice to hundreds of questions, frustrations, accusations, nd–ultimately–apologies for acting like such a spoiled brat. At the turnoff for the Anderson Valley, Daniel forked west and tried again to hold her hand. “Maybe you’ll forgive me in time to enjoy our last few minutes together? ” She wanted to. She really wanted to not be fighting with Daniel right now. But the fresh mention of there being such a thing as a “last few minutes together,” of his leaving her alone for reasons she couldn’t understand and that he always refused to explain–it made Luce nervous, then terrified, then frustrated all over again.
In the roiling sea of new state, new school, new dangers everywhere, Daniel was the only rock she had to hold on to. And he was about to leave her? Hadn’t she been through enough? Hadn’t they both been through enough? It was only after they’d passed through the redwoods and come out into a starry, royal-blue evening that Daniel said something that broke through to her. They’d just passed a sign that read WELCOME TO MENDOCINO, and Luce was looking west. A full moon shone down on a cluster of buildings: a lighthouse, several copper water towers, and rows of well-preserved old wooden houses.
Somewhere out beyond all that was the ocean she could hear but couldn’t see. Daniel pointed east, into a dark, dense forest of redwood and maple trees. “See that trailer park up ahead? ” She never would have if he hadn’t pointed it out, but now Luce squinted to see a narrow driveway, where a limecaked wooden placard read in whitewashed letters MENDOCINO MOBILE HOMES. “You used to live right there. ” “What? ” Luce sucked in her breath so quickly, she started to cough. The park looked sad and lonesome, a dull line of low-ceilinged cookie-cutter boxes set along a cheap gravel road. That’s awful. ” “Y lived there before it was a trailer park,” Daniel ou said, easing the car to a stop by the side of the road. “Before there were mobile homes. Y our father in that lifetime brought your family out from Illinois during the gold rush. ” He seemed to look inward somewhere, and sadly shook his head. “Used to be a really nice place. ” Luce watched a bald man with a potbelly tug a mangy orange dog on a leash. The man was wearing a white undershirt and flannel boxers. Luce couldn’t picture herself there at all. Y it was so clear to Daniel. Y had a two-room et ou cabin and your mother was a terrible cook, so the whole place always smelled like cabbage. Y had these blue ou gingham curtains that I used to part so I could climb through your window at night after your parents were asleep. ” The car idled. Luce closed her eyes and tried to fight back her stupid tears. Hearing their history from Daniel made it feel both possible and impossible. Hearing it also made her feel extremely guilty. He’d stuck with her for so long, over so many lifetimes. She’d forgotten how well he knew her. Better even than she knew herself. Would Daniel know what she was thinking now?
Luce wondered whether, in some ways, it was easier to be her and to never have remembered Daniel than it was for him to go through this time and time again. If he said he had to leave for a few weeks and couldn’t explain why … she would have to trust him. “What was it like when you first met me? ” she asked. Daniel smiled. “I chopped wood in exchange for meals back then. One night around dinnertime I was walking past your house. Y mother had the cabbage going, and it our stank so badly I almost skipped your house. But then I saw you through the window. Y were sewing. I couldn’t take ou my eyes off your hands. Luce looked at her hands, her pale, tapered fingers and small, square palms. She wondered if they’d always looked the same. Daniel reached for them across the console. “They’re just as soft now as they were then. ” Luce shook her head. She loved the story, wanted to hear a thousand more just like it, but that wasn’t what she’d meant. “I want to know about the first time you met me,” she said. “The very first time. What was that like? ” After a long pause, he finally said, “It’s getting late. They’re expecting you at Shoreline before midnight. ” He stepped on the gas, taking a quick left into downtown Mendocino.
In the side mirror, Luce watched the mobile home park grow smaller, darker, until it disappeared completely. But then, a few seconds later, Daniel parked the car in front of an empty all-night diner with yellow walls and floor-to-ceiling front windows. The block was full of quirky, quaint buildings that reminded Luce of a less stuffy version of the New England coastline near her old New Hampshire prep school, Dover. The street was paved with uneven cobblestones that glowed yellow in the light from the streetlamps overhead. At its end, the road seemed to drop straight into the ocean. A coldness sneaked up on her.
She had to ignore her reflexive fear of the dark. Daniel had explained about the shadows–that they were nothing to be afraid of, merely messengers. Which should have been reassuring, except for the hard-to-ignore fact that it meant there were bigger things to be afraid of. “Why won’t you tell me? ” She couldn’t help herself. She didn’t know why it felt so important to ask. If she was going to trust Daniel when he said he had to abandon her after longing all her life for this reunion–well, maybe she just wanted to understand the origins of that trust. To know when and how it had all begun. “Do you know what my last name means? he said, surprising her. Luce bit her lip, trying to think back to the research she and Penn had done. “I remember Miss Sophia saying something about Watchers. But I don’t know what it means, or if I’m even supposed to believe her. ” Her fingers went to her neck, to the place where Miss Sophia’s knife had lain. “She was right. The Grigoris are a clan. They’re a clan named after me, actually. Because they watch and learn from what happened when … back when I was still welcome in Heaven. And back when you were … well, this all happened a very long time ago, Luce. It’s hard for me to remember most of it. ” “Where?
Where was I? ” she pressed. “I remember Miss Sophia saying something about the Grigoris consorting with mortal women. Is that what happened? Did you …? ” He looked over at her. Something changed on his face, and in the dim moonlight, Luce couldn’t tell what it meant. It was almost like he was relieved that she had guessed it, so he didn’t have to be the one to spell it out. “The very first time I saw you,” Daniel continued, “it wasn’t any different than any other time I’ve seen you since. The world was newer, but you were just the same. It was–” “Love at first sight. ” That part she knew. He nodded. “Just like always.
The only difference was, in the beginning, you were off-limits to me. I was being punished, and I’d fallen for you at the worst possible time. Things were very violent in Heaven. Because of who … I am … I was expected to stay away from you. Y were a ou distraction. The focus was supposed to be on winning the war. It’s the same war that’s still going on. ” He sighed. “And if you haven’t noticed, I’m still very distracted. ” “So you were a very high angel,” Luce murmured. “Sure. ” Daniel looked miserable, pausing and then seeming, when he spoke again, to bite out the words: “It was a fall from one of the highest perches. Of course. Daniel would have to be important in Heaven in order to have caused such a big rift. In order for his love of a mortal girl to be so off-limits. “You gave it all up? For me? ” He touched his forehead to hers. “I wouldn’t change a thing. ” “But I was nothing,” Luce said. She felt heavy, like she was dragging. Dragging him down. “Y had to give up so ou much! ” She felt sick to her stomach. “And now you’re damned forever. ” Turning off the car, Daniel gave her a sad smile. “It might not be forever. ” “What do you mean? ” “Come on,” he said, hopping out of the car and coming around to open her door. Let’s take a walk. ” They ambled to the end of the street, which didn’t dead-end after all, but led to a steep, rocky staircase going down to the water. The air was cool and moist with sea spray. Just to the left of the steps, a trail led away. Daniel took her hand and moved to the cliff’s edge. “Where are we going? ” Luce asked. Daniel smiled at her, straightening his shoulders, and unfurled his wings. Slowly, they extended up and out from his shoulders, unfolding with an almost inaudible series of soft snaps and creaks. Fully flexed, they made a gentle, feathery fwump like a duvet being flung over a bed.
For the first time, Luce noticed the back of Daniel’s tshirt. There were two tiny, otherwise invisible slits, which parted now to let his wings slip through. Did all of Daniel’s clothes have these angelic alterations? Or did he have certain, special things he wore when he knew he planned on flying? Either way, his wings never failed to leave Luce speechless. They were enormous, rising three times taller than Daniel, and curved up into the sky and to either side like broad white sails. Their broad expanse caught the light of the stars and reflected it more intensely, so that they glowed with an iridescent shimmer.
Near his body they darkened, shading into a rich earthy cream color where they met his shoulder muscles. But along their tapered edges, they grew thin and glowed, becoming almost translucent at the tips. Luce stared at them, rapt, trying to remember the line of every glorious feather, to hold all of it inside her for when he went away. He shone so bright, the sun could have borrowed light from him. The smile in his violet eyes told her how good it felt for him to let his wings out. As good as Luce felt when she was wrapped up in them. “Fly with me,” he whispered. “What? ” “I’m not going to see you for a little while.
I have to give you something to remember me by. ” Luce kissed him before he could say anything else, lacing her fingers around his neck, holding him as tightly as she could, hoping to give him something to remember her by, too. With her back pressed to his chest, and his head over her shoulder, Daniel traced a line of kisses down her neck. She held her breath, waiting. Then he bent his legs and gracefully pushed off the edge of the cliff. They were flying. Away from the rocky ledge of the coastline, over the crashing silver waves below, arcing across the sky as if they were soaring for the moon.
Daniel’s embrace shielded her from every rough gust of wind, every brush of ocean chill. The night was absolutely quiet. As if they were the only two people left in the world. “This is Heaven, isn’t it? ” she asked. Daniel laughed. “I wish it were. Maybe one day soon. ” When they had flown out far enough that they couldn’t see land on either side of them, Daniel banked gently north, and they swooped in a wide arc past the city of Mendocino, which glowed warmly on the horizon. They were far above the tallest building in town and moving incredibly fast. But Luce had never felt safer or more in love in her life.
And then, all too soon, they were descending, gradually nearing a different cliff’s edge. The sounds of the ocean grew louder again. A dark single-lane road wound off the main highway. When their feet touched down lightly on a cool patch of thick grass, Luce sighed. “Where are we? ” she asked, though of course she already knew. The Shoreline School. She could see a large building in the distance, but from here it looked completely dark, merely a shape on the horizon. Daniel held her pressed to him, as if they were still in the air. She craned her head around to look at his expression. His eyes were damp. The ones who damned me are still watching, Luce. They have been for millennia. And they don’t want us to be together. They will do anything they can to stop us. That’s why it isn’t safe for me to stay here. ” She nodded, her eyes stinging. “But why am I here? ” “Because I will do everything in my power to keep you safe, and this is the best place for you now. I love you, Luce. More than anything. I’ll be back to you as soon as I can. ” She wanted to protest, but stopped herself. He’d given up everything for her. When he let her out of his embrace, he opened his palm and a small red shape inside it began to grow. Her duffel bag.
He’d taken it from the back of the car without her even knowing, carried it all the way here inside his hand. In just a few seconds, it had filled out entirely, back to its full size. If she hadn’t been so heartbroken about what it meant for him to hand it over to her, Luce would have loved the trick. A single light went on inside the building. A silhouette appeared in the doorway. “It’s not for long. As soon as things are safer, I’ll come for you. ” His hot hand clasped her wrist and before she knew it, Luce was caught up in his embrace, drawn to his lips. She let everything else fall away, let her heart brim over.
Maybe she couldn’t remember her former lives, but when Daniel kissed her, she felt close to the past. And the future. The figure in the doorway was walking toward her, a woman in a short white dress. The kiss Luce had shared with Daniel, too sweet to be so brief, left her just as out of breath as their kisses always did. “Don’t go,” she whispered, her eyes closed. It was all happening too fast. She couldn’t give Daniel up. Not yet. She didn’t think she ever could. She felt the rush of air that meant he’d already taken off. Her heart went after him as she opened her eyes and saw the last trace of his wings disappear inside a cloud, nto the dark night. TWO SEVENTEEN DAYS Thwap. Luce winced and rubbed her face. Her nose stung. Thwap. Thwap. Now it was her cheekbones. Her eyelids drifted open and, almost immediately, she scrunched up her face in surprise. A stocky dishwater-blond girl with a grimly set mouth and major eyebrows was leaning over her. Her hair was piled messily on top of her head. She wore yoga pants and a ribbed camouflage tank top that matched her greenflecked hazel eyes. She held a Ping-Pong ball between her fingers, poised to pelt. Luce scrambled backward in her bedsheets and shielded her face.
Her heart already hurt from missing Daniel. She didn’t need any more pain. She looked down, still trying to get her bearings, and remembered the bed she had indiscriminately collapsed into the night before. The woman in white who had appeared in Daniel’s wake had introduced herself as Francesca, one of the teachers at Shoreline. Even in her stunned stupor, Luce could tell that the woman was beautiful. She was in her midthirties, with blond hair brushing her shoulders, round cheekbones, and large, soft features. Angel, Luce decided almost instantly. Francesca asked no questions on the way to Luce’s room.
She must have been expecting the late night dropoff, and she must have sensed Luce’s utter exhaustion. Now this stranger who’d pelted Luce back into consciousness looked ready to chuck another ball. “Good,” she said in a gravelly voice. “You’re awake. ” “Who are you? ” Luce asked sleepily. “Who are you, is more like it. Other than the stranger I wake to find squatting in my room. Other than the kid disrupting my morning mantra with her weirdly personal sleep-babbling. I’m Shelby. Enchantee. ” Not an angel, Luce surmised. Just a Californian girl with a strong sense of entitlement. Luce sat up in bed and looked around.
The room was a little cramped, but it was nicely appointed, with lightcolored hardwood floors; a working fireplace; a microwave; two deep, wide desks; and built-in bookshelves that doubled as a ladder to what Luce now realized was the top bunk. She could see a private bathroom through a sliding wooden door. And–she had to blink a few times to be certain–an ocean view out the window. Not bad for a girl who had spent the past month gazing out at a rank old cemetery in a room more appropriate for a hospital than a school. But then, at least that rank cemetery and that room had meant she was with Daniel.
She had barely begun getting comfortable at Sword & Cross. And now she was back to starting from scratch. “Francesca didn’t mention anything about me having a roommate. ” Luce knew instantly from the expression on Shelby’s face that this was the Wrong Thing to Say. So she took a quick glance at Shelby’s decor instead. Luce had never trusted her own interior design instincts, or maybe she’d never had the chance to indulge them. She hadn’t stuck around Sword & Cross long enough to do much decorating, but even before that, her room at Dover had been white-walled and bare.
Sterile chic, as Callie had once said. This room, on the other hand–there was something about it that was strangely … groovy. Varieties of potted plants she’d never seen before lined the windowsill; prayer flags were strung across the ceiling. A patchwork quilt in muted colors was sliding off the top bunk, half obstructing Luce’s view of an astrology calendar taped over the mirror. “What’d you think? They were going to clear out the dean’s quarters just because you’re Lucinda Price? ” “Um, no? ” Luce shook her head. “That’s not what I meant at all.
Wait, how did you know my name? ” “So you are Lucinda Price? ” The girl’s green-flecked eyes seemed to fix on Luce’s ratty gray pajamas. “Lucky me. ” Luce was speechless. “Sorry. ” Shelby exhaled and adjusted her tone, parking herself on the edge of Luce’s bed. “I’m an only child. Leon-that’s my therapist–he’s trying to get me to be less harsh when I first meet people. ” “Is it working? ” Luce was an only child too, but she wasn’t nasty to every stranger she came into contact with. “What I mean is … ” Shelby shifted uncomfortably. “I’m not used to sharing.
Can we”–she tossed her head-“rewind? ” “That’d be nice. ” “Okay. ” Shelby took a deep breath. “Frankie didn’t mention your having a roommate last night because then she would have had to either notice–or, if she had already noticed, disclose–that I wasn’t in bed when you arrived. I came in through that window”–she pointed–“around three. ” Out the window, Luce could see a wide ledge connecting to an angled portion of the roof. She pictured Shelby darting across a whole network of ledges on the roof to get back here in the middle of the night. Shelby made a show of yawning. See, when it comes to the Nephilim kids at Shoreline, the only thing the teachers are strict about is the pretense of discipline. Discipline itself doesn’t so much exist. Though, of course, Frankie’s not going to advertise that to the new girl. Especially not Lucinda Price. ” There it was again. That edge in Shelby’s voice when she said Luce’s name. Luce wanted to know what it meant. And where Shelby had been until three. And how she’d come in through the window in the dark without knocking over any of those plants. And who were the Nephilim kids? Luce had sudden vivid flashbacks to the mental jungle ym Arriane had taken her through when they’d first met. Her Shoreline roommate’s tough exterior was a lot like Arriane’s, and Luce remembered a similar how-will-I-everbe-friends-with-you feeling her first day at Sword & Cross. But though Arriane had seemed intimidating and even a little dangerous, there had been something charmingly off-kilter about her from the start. Luce’s new roommate, on the other hand, just seemed annoying. Shelby popped off the bed and lumbered into the bathroom to brush her teeth. After digging through her duffel bag to find her toothbrush, Luce followed her in and gestured sheepishly at the toothpaste. I forgot to pack mine. ” “No doubt the dazzle of your celebrity blinded you to the small necessities of life,” Shelby replied, but she picked up the tube and extended it toward Luce. They brushed in silence for about ten seconds until Luce couldn’t take it anymore. She spat out a mouthful of froth. “Shelby? ” With her head in the belly of the porcelain sink, Shelby spat and said, “What? ” Instead of asking any of the questions that had been running through her head a minute before, Luce surprised herself and asked, “What was I saying in my sleep? This morning was the first in at least a month of vivid, complicated, Daniel-ridden dreams on which Luce had woken up unable to remember a single thing from her sleep. Nothing. Not one brush of an angel wing. Not one kiss of his lips. She stared at Shelby’s gruff face in the mirror. Luce needed the girl to help jog her memory. She must have been dreaming about Daniel. If she hadn’t been … what could it mean? “Beats me,” Shelby said finally. “Y were all muffled ou and incoherent. Next time, try enunciating. ” She left the bathroom and slipped on a pair of orange flip-flops. “It’s breakfast time.
You coming or what? ” Luce scurried out of the bathroom. “What do I wear? ” She was still in her pajamas. Francesca hadn’t said anything last night about a dress code. But then, she’d also failed to mention the roommate situation. Shelby shrugged. “What am I, the fashion police? Whatever takes the least amount of time. I’m hungry. ” Luce hustled into a pair of skinny jeans and a black wraparound sweater. She would have liked to spend a few more minutes on her first-day-of-school look, but she just grabbed her backpack and followed Shelby out the door. The dormitory hallway was different in the daylight.
Everywhere she looked were bright, oversized windows with ocean views, or built-in bookshelves crammed full of thick, colorful hardcover books. The floors, the walls, the recessed ceilings and steep, curving staircases were all made from the same maple wood used to build the furniture inside Luce’s room. It should have given the whole place a warm log cabin feel, except that the school’s layout was as intricate and bizarre as Sword & Cross’s dorm had been boring and straightforward. Every few steps, the hallway seemed to split off into small tributary hallways, with spiral staircases leading further into the dimly lit maze.
Two flights of stairs and what looked like one secret door later, Luce and Shelby stepped through a set of double-paned French windows and into the daylight. The sun was incredibly bright, but the air was cool enough that Luce was glad she’d worn a sweater. It smelled like the ocean, but not really like home. Less briny, more chalky than the East Coast shore. “Breakfast is served on the terrace. ” Shelby gestured at a broad green expanse of land. This lawn was bordered on three sides by thick blue hydrangea bushes, and on the fourth by the steep, straight drop into the sea.
It was hard for Luce to believe how very beautiful the school’s setting was. She couldn’t imagine being able to stay inside long enough to make it through a class. As they approached the terrace, Luce saw another building, a long, rectangular structure with wooden shingles and cheery yellow-trimmed windowpanes. A large handcarved sign hung over the entrance: “MESS HALL,” it read in quotes, like it was trying to be ironic. It was certainly the nicest mess Luce had ever seen. The terrace was filled with whitewashed iron lawn furniture and about a hundred of the most laid-back-looking students Luce had ever seen.
Most of them had their shoes kicked off, their feet propped up on the tables as they dined on elaborate breakfast dishes. Eggs Benedict, fruit-topped Belgian waffles, wedges of rich-looking, flaky spinachflecked quiche. Kids were reading the paper, gabbing on cell phones, playing croquet on the lawn. Luce knew from rich kids at Dover, but East Coast rich kids were pinched and snotty, not sun-kissed and carefree. The whole scene looked more like the first day of summer than a Tuesday in early November. It was all so pleasant, it was almost hard to begrudge the self-satisfied looks on these kids’ faces.
Almost. Luce tried to imagine Arriane here, what she would think of Shelby or this oceanside dining, how she probably wouldn’t know what to make fun of first. Luce wished she could turn to Arriane now. It would be good to be able to laugh. 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. Luce’s instinct was to turn her head away as soon as she made eye contact–always the safest bet at Sword & Cross. But … either 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-ofmoney 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. “Um, this table is re–” he began to say, his voice cracking inopportunely. Coffee, black,” Shelby said, then abruptly asked Luce, “What do you want? ” “Uh, same,” Luce said, uncomfortable at being waited on. “Maybe a little milk. ” “Scholarship kids. Gotta slave to get by. ” Shelby rolled her eyes at Luce as the waiter darted away to get their coffees. 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. “Hey. ” She shoved Shelby’s arm down so she could see her face behind the paper. Shelby’s heavy eyebrows rose in surprise. “I used to be a scholarship kid,” Luce told her. Not at my last school, but the school before that–” Shelby shrugged off Luce’s hand. “Should I be impressed by that part of your resume, too? ” Luce was just about to ask what it was Shelby had heard about her when she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. Francesca, the teacher who’d met Luce at the door last night, was smiling down at her. She was tall, with an imperious bearing, and was put together with a style that came across as effortless. Francesca’s soft blond hair was cleanly flipped to one side. 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. Luce wished she’d at least put on mascara. And maybe not worn her mud-crusted Converses. “Oh, good, you two connected. ” Francesca smiled. “I knew you’d become fast friends! ” Shelby was silent but rustled her paper. Luce just cleared her throat. “I think you’ll find Shoreline a very simple adjustment, Luce. It’s designed that way. Most of our gifted students just ease right in. ” Gifted? “Of course, you can come to me with any questions. Or just lean on Shelby. ” For the first time all morning, Shelby laughed.
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. The last thing she wanted was to “ease right in” to Shoreline. She didn’t belong with a lot of spoiled gifted kids on a cliff overlooking the ocean. 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 … ar. After that, he was going to take her back home. Or something. “Well, I’ll see you both in class. Enjoy breakfast! ” Francesca called over her shoulder as she glided away. “Try the quiche! ” She waved her hand, signaling to the waiter to bring each girl a plate. When she was gone, Shelby took a big slurp of her coffee and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Um, Shelby–” “Ever heard of eating in peace? ” Luce banged her coffee cup back into its saucer and waited impatiently for the nervous waiter to put down their quiches and disappear again. Part of her wanted to find another table.
There were happy buzzes of conversation going on all around her. And if she couldn’t join one of them, even sitting alone would be better than this. 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? Luce milled a bite of quiche around in her mouth, knowing she wouldn’t be able to eat until she spoke up. “Okay, I know I’m new here, and for some reason that annoys you. I guess you had a single room before me, I don’t know. ” Shelby lowered the paper just below her eyes. She raised one giant eyebrow. But I’m not that bad. So what if I have a few questions? Forgive me for not coming into school knowing what the hell the Nephermans are–” “Nephilim. ” “Whatever. I don’t care. I have no interest in making you my enemy–which means some of this,” Luce said, gesturing at the space between the two of them, “is coming from you. So what’s your problem, anyway? ” The side of Shelby’s mouth twitched. She folded and set down the paper and leaned back in her chair. “You should care about the Nephilim. We’re going to be your classmates. ” She flung out her hand, waving it at the terrace. Look out at the pretty, privileged student body of the Shoreline School. Half of these dopes you’ll never see again, except as the object of our practical jokes. ” “Our? ” “Y you’re in the ‘honors program’ with the Nephilim. es, But don’t worry; in case you’re not too bright”–Luce snorted–“the gifted track here is mostly a coverup, a place to stow away the Nephs without anyone getting too suspicious. In fact, the only person who’s ever gotten suspicious is Beaker Brady. ” “Who’s Beaker Brady? ” Luce asked, leaning in so she didn’t have to shout over the rough static of the waves crashing on the shore below. That grade-A nerdo two tables over. ” Shelby nodded at a chubby kid dressed in plaid who’d just spilled yogurt all over a massive textbook. “His parents loathe the fact that he’s never been accepted into t