At last, Daniel returned to her lips, kissing her with such intensity - sucking her bottom lip, then edging his soft tongue just past her teeth. She opened her mouth wider, desperate to let more of him in, finally unafraid to show how much she yearned for him. To match the force of his kisses with her own.
She had sand in her mouth and between her toes, the briny wind raising goose bumps on her skin, and the sweetest, spellbound feeling spilling from her heart.
She could, at that moment, have died for him.
He pulled away and stared down at her, as if he wanted her to say something. She smiled up at him and pecked him softly on the lips, letting hers linger on his. She knew no words, no better way to communicate what she was feeling, what she wanted.
"You're still here," he whispered.
"They couldn't drag me away." She laughed.
Daniel took a step back, and with a dark look at her, his smile was gone. He began pacing in front of her, rubbing his forehead with his hand.
"What's wrong?" she asked lightly, pulling his sleeve so he'd come back in for another kiss. He ran his fingers over her face, through her hair, around her neck. Like he was making sure she wasn't a dream.
Was this her first real kiss? She didn't think she was supposed to count Trevor, so technically it was. And everything felt so right, like she had been destined for Daniel, and he for her, He smelled .,. beautiful. His mouth tasted sweet and rich. He was tall and strong andSlipping from her embrace.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
His knees bent and he sank a few inches, leaning up against the wooden railing and looking at the sky. He looked like he was in pain.
"You said nothing could drag you away," he said in a hushed voice. "But they will. Maybe they're just running late."
"They? Who?" Luce asked, looking around at the deserted beach. "Cam? I think we lost him."
"No." Daniel started walking away down the boardwalk. He was shivering. "It's impossible."
"It will come," he whispered.
"You're scaring me." Luce followed behind, trying to keep up. Because suddenly, even though she didn't want to, she had a feeling she knew what he meant. Not Cam, but something else, some other threat, Luce's mind felt foggy. His words knocked on her.
HANGING IN THE BALANCE
Luce stood at the crossroads between the cemetery on the north side of campus and the path to the lake on the south. It was early evening and the construction workers had gone home. Light sifted down through the branches of the oaks behind the gym, casting dappled shadows on the lawn that led to the lake.
Tempting Luce toward it. She wasn't sure which way to go. She held two letters in her hands.
The first, from Cam, was the apology she had expected, and a plea for her to meet him after school to talk it out. The second, from Daniel, said nothing other than "Meet me at the lake." She couldn't wait to. Her lips still tingled from their kiss last night. She couldn't get the thought of his fingers in her hair, or his lips on her neck, out of her mind.
Other parts of the night were hazier, like what had happened after she sat down next to Daniel on the beach. Compared to the way his hands had ravished her body not ten minutes earlier, Daniel had seemed almost terrified to touch her.
Nothing could shake him from his daze. He kept murmuring the same thing over and over - 'Something must have happened. Something changed" - and staring at her with pain in his eyes, as if she held the answer, as if she had any idea what his words meant. At last, she'd fallen asleep leaning on his shoulder, looking out at the ethereal sea.
When she woke up hours later, he was carrying her up the stairs back to her dorm room. She was startled to realize she'd slept through the whole ride back to school - and even more startled by the strange glow in the hallway. It was back. Daniel's light. Which she didn't even know if he could see.
Everything around them was bathed in that soft violet light. The white bumper-stickered doorways of the other students had taken on a neon hue. The dull linoleum tiles seemed to glow. The windowpane looking out on the cemetery cast a violet shine on the first hint of dull yellow morning light outside. All of it directly under the gaze of the reds.
"We're so busted," she whispered, nervous and still half asleep.
"I'm not worried about the reds," Daniel said calmly, following her eyes to the cameras. At first his words were soothing, but then she started to wonder about something uneasy in his tone: If Daniel wasn't worried about the reds, he was worried about something else.
When he laid her down in her bed, he kissed her lightly on the forehead, then took a deep breath. "Don't disappear on me," he said.
"No chance of that."
"I'm serious." He closed his eyes for a long time. "Get some rest now - but find me in the morning before class. I want to talk to you. Promise?"
She squeezed his hand to pull him to her for one last kiss. She held his face between her palms and melted into him. Every time her eyes flickered open, his were watching her. And she loved it.
At last, he backed away, and stood in the doorway gazing at her, his eyes still doing as much to make her heart race as his lips had done a moment before. When he slinked back into the hallway and closed the door behind him, Luce drifted off into the deepest sleep.
She'd slept through her morning classes and had awoken in the early afternoon feeling reborn and alive.
Not caring at all that she had no excuse for missing school. Only worried that she'd slept through meeting Daniel. She would find him as soon as she could, and he would understand.
Around two o'clock, when it finally occurred to her to eat something or maybe pop in on Miss Sophia's religion class, she grudgingly crawled out of bed. That was when she saw the two envelopes that had been slipped underneath her door, which set her back severely in her goal of leaving her room.
She had to tell Cam off first. If she went to the lake before the cemetery, she knew she'd never be able to make herself leave Daniel, If she went first to the cemetery, her desire to see Daniel again would make her bold enough to say to Cam the things she'd been too nervous to say before. Before everything had gotten so scary and out of control last night.
Pushing through her fears about seeing him, Luce started across the commons toward the cemetery. The early evening was warm, and the air was sticky with humidity. It was going to be one of those sweltering nights when the breeze from the distant sea never got strong enough to cool things down. There was no one out on campus, and the leaves on all the trees were still. Luce could have been the only thing at Sword & Cross that was actually on the move. Everyone else would be released from class, herded into the dining hall for dinner, and Penn - and possibly others - would be wondering about Luce by now.
Cam was leaning up against the lichen-speckled gates of the cemetery when she got there. His elbows rested on the carved vine-shaped iron posts, his shoulders hunched forward. He was kicking up a dandelion with the steel tip of his thick black boot. Luce couldn't remember seeing him look so internally consumed - most of the time Cam seemed to have a keen interest in the world around him.
But this time, he didn't even look up at her until she was directly in front of him. And when he did, his face was ashen. His hair was flat against his head and she was surprised to notice that he could have used a shave. His eyes rolled over her face, as if focusing on each of her features required effort. He looked wrecked, not beaten up from the fight, but simply as if he hadn't slept in a few days.
"You came." His voice was hoarse, but his words ended with a small smile.
Luce cracked her knuckles, thinking he wouldn't be smiling much longer. She nodded and held up his letter.
He reached for her hand, but she pulled her arm away, pretending she needed the hand to brush the hair from her eyes.
"I figured you'd be mad about last night," he said, pushing himself away from the gate. He took a few steps into the cemetery, then sat cross-legged on a short gray marble bench among the first row of graves.
He wiped the dirt and brittle leaves away, then patted the empty spot next to him.
"Mad?" she said.
"That's generally why people storm out of bars."
She sat down facing him, cross-legged too. From up here, she could see the top branches of the enormous old oak down in the center of the graveyard, where she and Cam had had their afternoon picnic what seemed like a very long time ago.
"I don't know," Luce said. "More like baffled. Confused, maybe. Disappointed." She shuddered at the memory of that seedy guy's eyes when he grabbed her, the sick flurry of Cam's fists, the deep black roof of shadow ... "Why did you take me there? You know what happened when Jules and Phillip snuck out."
"Jules and Phillip were morons whose every move was monitored by tracking wristbands. Of course they were going to get busted." Cam smiled darkly, but not at her. "We're nothing like them, Luce. Believe me. And besides, I wasn't trying to get in another fight." He rubbed his temples, and the skin around them bunched up, looking leathery and too thin. "I just couldn't stand the way that guy talked to you, touched you. You deserve to be handled with the utmost care." His green eyes widened. "I want to be the one to do it. The only one."
She tucked her hair behind her ears and took a deep breath. "Cam, you seem like a really great guy - "
"Oh no." He covered his face with his hand. "Not the let-him-down-easy speech. I hope you're not going to say we should be friends."
"You don't want to be my friend?"
"You know I want to be much more than your friend," he said, spitting out "friend" as if it were a dirty word. "It's Grigori, isn't it?"
She felt her stomach constrict. She guessed it wasn't too hard to figure it out, but she'd been so wrapped up in her own feelings, she'd barely had time to consider what Cam thought about the two of them.
"You don't really know either of us," Cam said, standing and stepping away, "but you're prepared to choose right now, huh?"
It was presumptuous of him to assume he was even still in the running. Especially after last night. That he could think there was some contest between him and Daniel. Then Cam crouched before her on the bench. His face was different - pleading, earnest - as he cupped her hands in his.
Luce was surprised to see him so wound up. "I'm sorry," she said, pulling back. "It just happened."
"Exactly! It just happened. What was it, let me guess - last night he looked at you some new romantic way. Luce, you're rushing into a decision before you even know what's at stake. There could be ... a lot at stake." He sighed at the confused look on her face. "I could make you happy."
"Daniel makes me happy."
"How can you say that? He won't even touch you."
Luce closed her eyes, remembering the tangle of their lips last night on the beach. Daniel's arms encircling her. The whole world had felt so right, so harmonious, so safe. But when she opened her eyes now, Daniel was nowhere to be seen.
It was only Cam.
She cleared her throat. "Yes, he will. He does."
Her cheeks felt warm, Luce pressed a cool hand to them, but Cam didn't notice. His hands curled into fists.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com