Or, more likely, that kind of thing didn't happen to Gabbe.
But Luce's body got the better of her mind when she caught another glimpse of Daniel. His back was to her and he was standing in a corner picking out a jump rope from a tangled pile. She watched as he selected a thin navy rope with wooden handles, then moved to an open space in the center of the room. His golden skin was almost radiant, and every movement he made, whether he was rolling out his long neck in a stretch or bending over to scratch his sculpted knee, had Luce completely rapt. She stood pressed against the doorway, unaware that her teeth were chattering and her towel was soaked.
When he brought the rope behind his ankles just before he began to jump, Luce was slammed with a wave of dйjа
vu. It wasn't exactly that she felt like she'd seen Daniel jump rope before, but more that the stance he took seemed entirely familiar. He stood with his feet hip-width apart, unlocked his knees, and pressed his shoulders down as he filled his chest with air. Luce could almost have drawn it.
It was only when Daniel began twirling the rope that Luce snapped out of that trance ... and right into another. Never in her life had she seen anyone move like him. It was almost like Daniel was flying. The rope whipped up and over his tall frame so quickly that it disappeared, and his feet - his graceful, narrow feet - were they even touching the ground? He was moving so swiftly, even he must not have been counting.
A loud grunt and a thud on the other side of the weight room tore Luce's attention away. Todd was in a heap at the base of one of those knotted climbing ropes. She felt momentarily sorry for Todd, who was looking down at his blistered hands. Before she could look back at Daniel to see whether he'd even noticed, a cold black rush at the edge of her skin made Luce shiver. The shadow swept up on her slowly at first, icy, tenebrous, its limits indiscernible.
Then, suddenly rough, it crashed into her body and forced her back. The door to the weight room slammed in her face and Luce was alone in the hallway.
"Ow!" she cried, not because she was hurt exactly, but because she had never been touched by the shadows before.
She looked down at her bare arms, where it had felt almost like hands had gripped her, shoving her out of the gym.
That was impossible - she'd just been standing in a weird place; a draft must have shot through the gymnasium.
Uneasily, she approached the closed door and pressed her face up against the small glass rectangle.
Daniel was looking around, like he'd heard something. She felt certain he didn't know it was her: He wasn't scowling.
She thought about Roland's suggestion that she just ask Daniel what was up, but quickly dismissed the notion. It was impossible to ask anything of Daniel. She didn't want to bring out that scowl on his face.
Besides, any question she might pose would be useless. She'd already heard all she needed to hear last night. She'd have to be some kind of sadist to ask him to admit he was with Gabbe. She turned back toward the locker room when she realized she couldn't leave.
It must have slipped from her hands when she stumbled out of the room. She stood on tiptoes to look down through the small glass panel on the door. There it was, a bronze blunder on the padded blue mat. How had it gotten so far across the room, so close to where he was working out? Luce sighed and pushed the door back open, thinking if she had to go in, at least she'd make it quick.
Reaching for her key, she sneaked one last look at him. His pace was slowing, slowing, but his feet still barely touched the ground. And then, with one final light-as-air bounce, he came to a stop and turned around to face her.
For a moment, he said nothing. She could feel herself blush and really wished she wasn't wearing such a horrible bathing suit.
"Hi" was all she could think to say.
"Hi," he said back, in a much calmer tone of voice. Then, gesturing at her suit, said, "Did you win?"
Luce laughed a sad, self-effacing laugh and shook her head. "Far from it."
Daniel pursed his lips. "But you were always ..."
"I was always what?"
"I mean, you look like you might be a good swimmer." He shrugged. "That's all."
She stepped toward him. They were standing just a foot apart. Drops of water fell from her hair and pattered like rain on the gym mats. "That's not what you were going to say," she insisted. "You said I was always ..."
Daniel busied himself coiling the jump rope around his wrist. "Yeah, I didn't mean you you. I meant in general.
They're always supposed to let you win your first race here. Unspoken code of conduct for us old-timers."
"But Gabbe didn't win either," Luce said, crossing her arms over her chest. "And she's new. She didn't even get in the pool."
"She's not exactly new, just coming back after some time ... off." Daniel shrugged, giving away nothing of his feelings for Gabbe. His obvious attempt to look unconcerned made Luce even more jealous. She watched him finish looping the jump rope into a coil, the way his hands moved almost as quickly as his feet. And here she was so clumsy and lonely and cold and left out of everything by everyone. Her lip quivered.
"Oh, Lucinda," he whispered, sighing heavily.
Her whole body warmed at the sound. His voice was so intimate and familiar.
She wanted him to say her name again, but he had turned away. He hooked the jump rope over a peg on the wall. "I should go change before class." She rested a hand on his arm. "Wait."
He wrenched away as if he had been shocked - and Luce felt it, too, but it was the kind of shock that felt good.
"Do you ever get the feeling ..." She raised her eyes to his. Up close, she could see how unusual they were. They seemed gray from far away, but up close there were violet flecks in them. She knew someone else with eyes like that...
"I could swear we've met before," she said. "Am I crazy?"
"Crazy? Isn't that why you're here?" he said, brushing her off.
"So am I." Daniel's face was blank. "And for the record" - he pointed up at a blinking device attached to the ceiling - "the reds do monitor for stalkers." "I'm not stalking you." She stiffened, very aware of the distance between their bodies. "Can you honestly say you have no idea what I'm talking about?" Daniel shrugged.
"I don't believe you," Luce insisted. "Look me in the eye and tell me I'm wrong. That I've never in my life seen you before this week."
"Now where are you going?" Cam asked, lowering his red plastic sunglasses.
He'd appeared outside the entrance of Augustine so suddenly that Luce almost plowed right into him. Or maybe he'd been there awhile and she just hadn't noticed in her haste to get to class. Either way, her heart started beating quickly and her palms began to sweat.
"Um, class?" Luce answered, because where did it look like she was going? Her arms were full, with her two hefty calculus books and her half-completed religion assignment.
This would have been a good time to apologize for leaving so suddenly last night. But she couldn't bring herself to do it. She was already so late. There hadn't been any hot water in the locker showers, so she'd had to trek all the way back to the dorm. Somehow, what had happened after the party didn't seem important anymore. She didn't want to draw any more attention to her leaving - especially not now, after Daniel had made her feel so pathetic. She also didn't want Cam to think she was being rude. She just wanted to steer past him and be by herself so she could move on from this morning's string of embarrassments.
Except - the longer Cam gazed at her, the less important it felt to leave. And the less Luce's pride stung over Daniel's dismissal. How could one look from Cam do all that?
With his clear, pale skin and jet-black hair, Cam was different from any guy she'd ever known, He exuded confidence, and not just because he knew everyone - and how to get everything - before Luce had even figured out where her classes were. Right then, standing outside the drab, gray school building, Cam looked like an arty black-and-white photograph, his red shades Techni colored in.
"Class, eh?" Cam yawned dramatically. He was blocking the entrance, and something about the amused way his mouth was set made Luce want to know what wild idea he had up his sleeve. There was a canvas bag slung over his shoulder, and a disposable espresso cup between his fingers. He pressed Stop on his iPod, but left the earbuds dangling around his neck. Part of her wanted to know what song he'd been listening to, and where he'd gotten that black-market espresso. The playful smile visible only in his green eyes dared her to ask.
Cam skimmed a sip off the top of his coffee. Holding up his index finger, he said, "Allow me to share my motto about Sword & Cross classes: Setter never than late."
Luce laughed, and then Cam pushed his sunglasses back up on his nose. The lenses were so dark, she couldn't see even a hint of his eyes.
"Besides." He smiled, flashing her a white arch of teeth. "It's just about lunchtime, and I've got a picnic."
Lunchtime? Luce hadn't even had breakfast yet. But her stomach was growling - and the idea of being reamed by Mr. Cole for missing all but the last twenty minutes of morning classes seemed less and less appealing the longer she stood next to Cam.
She nodded at the bag he was holding. "Did you pack enough for two?"
Steering Luce with a broad hand on the small of her back, Cam led her across the commons, past the library and the dismal dorm. At the metal gates to the cemetery, he stopped.
"I know this is a weird place for a picnic," he explained, "but it's the best spot I know to dip out of sight for a little while. On campus, anyway. Sometimes I just can't breathe in there." He gestured toward the building.
Luce could definitely relate to that. She felt both stifled and exposed almost all the time at this place. But Cam seemed like the last person who would share that new-student syndrome. He was so ... collected. After that party last night, and now the forbidden espresso in his hand, she would never have guessed he'd feel suffocated, too. Or that he'd pick her to share the feeling with.
Past his head, she could see the rest of the run-down campus. From here, there wasn't much of a difference between one side of the cemetery gates and the other.
Luce decided to go with it. "Just promise to save me if any statues topple over."
"No," Cam said with a seriousness that effectively erased her joke. "That won't happen again."
Her eyes fell on the spot where only days earlier, she and Daniel had come close to ending up in the cemetery themselves. But the marble angel that had toppled over them was gone, its pedestal bare.
"Come on," Cam said, tugging her along with him. They sidestepped overgrown patches of weeds, and Cam kept turning to help her over mounds of dirt burrowed out by who- knew- what.
At one point, Luce nearly lost her balance and grabbed on to one of the headstones to steady herself. It was a large, polished slab with one rough, unfinished side.
"I've always liked that one," Cam said, gesturing at the pinkish headstone under her fingers. Luce crossed around to the front of the plot to read the inscription.
"Joseph Miley,'" she read aloud. "1821 to 1865. Bravely served in the War of Northern Aggression. Survived three bullets and five horses felled from under him before meeting his final peace.'"
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