"I love it," she whispered, touching the chain.
"I know Cam gave you that gold necklace, too," Daniel said.
Luce hadn't thought about that since Cam had forced it onto her at the bar. She couldn't believe that was only yesterday. The thought of wearing it made her feel sick. She didn't even know where the necklace was - and she didn't want to.
"He put it on me," she said, feeling guilty. "I didn't - "
"I know," Daniel said. "Whatever happened between you and Cam, it wasn't your fault. Somehow he held on to a lot of his angelic charm when he fell. It's very deceptive."
"I hope I never see him again." She shuddered.
"I'm afraid you might. And there are more like Cam out there. You'll just have to trust your gut," Daniel said. "I don't know how long it will take to catch you up on everything that's happened in our past. But in the meantime, if you feel an instinct, even about something you think you don't know, you should trust it.
You'll probably be right."
"So trust myself even when I can't trust those around me?" she asked, feeling like this was part of what Daniel meant.
"I'll try to be there to help you, and I'll send word as much as I can when I'm away," Daniel said. "Luce, you possess your past lives' memories ... even if you can't unlock them yet. If something feels wrong to you, stay away."
"Where are you going?"
Daniel looked up at the sky. "To find Cam," he said. "We have a few more things to take care of."
The moroseness in his voice made Luce nervous. She thought back to the thick felt of dust Cam had left in the cemetery.
"But you'll come back to me," she said, "after that? Do you promise?"
"I - I can't live without you, Luce. I love you. It matters not just to me, but ..." He hesitated, then shook his head, "Don't worry about any of that now. Only know that I will come for you."
Slowly, reluctantly, the two of them stood up. The sun had just peeked over the trees, and it shimmered in tiny star-shaped shards on the choppy water. There was only a short distance to swim from here to the muddy bank that would lead them to the plane. Luce wished it were miles away. She could have swum with Daniel until nightfall. And every sunrise and sunset after that.
They hopped back into the water and started swimming. Luce made sure to tuck the locket inside her tank top. If trusting her instincts was important, her instincts told her never to part with this necklace.
She watched, awestruck all over again, as Daniel began his slow, elegant stroke. This time, in the moonlight, she knew the iridescent wings she saw outlined in drops of water were not figments of her imagination. They were real.
She brought up the rear, cutting through the water with stroke after stroke. Too soon, her fingers touched the shore. She hated that she could hear the hum of the plane's engine further up in the clearing. They'd reached the place where they would have to part, and Daniel practically had to drag her out of the water.
She'd gone from feeling damp and happy to being dripping wet and freezing. They walked toward the plane, his hand on her back.
To Luce's surprise, Mr. Cole was holding out a large white towel when he hopped down from the cockpit.
"A little angel told me you might need this," he said, unfolding it for Luce, who took it gratefully.
"Who you calling little?" Arriane popped up from behind a tree, followed by Gabbe, who brought forward the Watchers book.
"We came to say ban voyage," Gabbe said, handing the book to Luce. "Take this," she said lightly, but her smile looked more like a frown.
"Give her the good stuff," Arriane said, nudging Gabbe.
Gabbe pulled a thermos out of her backpack, handing it to Luce. She lifted off the top. It was hot chocolate, and it smelled incredible. Luce nestled the book and the thermos in her towel-dried arms, feeling suddenly rich with possessions. But she knew as soon as she got on that plane that she'd feel empty and alone. She pressed against Daniel's shoulder, taking advantage of his nearness while she still could.
Gabbe's eyes were clear and strong. "We'll see you soon, okay?"
But Arriane's eyes darted away, as if she didn't want to look at Luce. "Don't do anything stupid, like turning into a pile of ash." She shuffled her feet. "We need you." "You need me?" Luce asked. She'd needed Arriane to show her the ropes at Sword & Cross. She'd needed Gabbe that day in the infirmary.
But why would they need her? Both girls only answered with somber smiles before retreating into the forest. Luce turned to Daniel, trying to forget that Mr. Cole was still standing a few feet away. "I'll give you two a moment alone," Mr. Cole said, taking the hint. "Luce, from the time I start the engine up, it's three minutes to takeoff. I'll meet you in the cockpit."
Daniel swept her up and pressed his forehead to hers. As their lips connected, Luce tried to hold on to every part of this moment. She would need the memory the way she needed air.
Because what if, when Daniel left her, the whole thing started to feel like just another dream? A partially nightmarish dream, but a dream nonetheless. How could it be that she felt what she thought she felt for someone who wasn't even human?
"This is it," Daniel said. "Be careful. Let Mr. Cole guide you until I come." A shrill whistle from the plane - Mr. Cole telling them to wrap it up. "Try to remember what I said."
"Which part?" Luce asked, slightly panicked.
"As much as you can - but mostly, that I love you."
Luce sniffed. Her voice would break if she tried to say a thing. It was time to go.
She jogged toward the open door of the cockpit, feeling the hot blasts from the propellers almost knock her down. There was a three-step ladder, and Mr. Cole reached out his hand to help her up. He pressed a button and the ladder withdrew into the plane. The door closed.
She looked at the complicated dashboard. She'd never been in such a small plane. Never been in a cockpit at all. There were flashing lights and buttons everywhere. She looked at Mr. Cole.
"You know how to fly this thing?" she asked, wiping her eyes on the towel.
"U.S. Air Force, Fifty-ninth pision, at your service," he said, saluting her.
Luce awkwardly saluted back.
"My wife always tells people not to get me started on my flying days in Nam," he said, easing back on a wide silver gearshift. The plane shuddered into motion. "But we've got a long flight, and I've got a captivated audience."
"You mean a captive audience," she let slip out.
"Good one." Mr. Cole elbowed her side. "I'm kidding," he said, laughing heartily. "I wouldn't subject you to that." The way he turned to her when he laughed reminded her of the way her dad always did when they were watching a funny movie, and it made her feel a little better.
The wheels were rolling quickly now and the "runway" before them looked short. They would need to lift off pretty soon or they'd end up flying straight into the lake.
"I know what you're thinking," he shouted over the roar of the engine. "Don't worry, I do this all the time!"
And just before the muddy bank below ended, he pulled hard on the lever between them, and the nose of the plane tilted up toward the sky. The horizon dropped out of view for a moment and Luce's stomach lurched along with it. But a moment later, the plane's motion settled down, and the view before them flattened out to just trees and a clear, starlit sky. Below them was the twinkling lake. Every second, it grew more distant. They had taken off to the west, but the plane was making a circle, and soon Luce's window was filled with the forest she and Daniel had just flown through. She gazed into it, pressing her face to the window to look for him, and before the plane straightened out again, she thought she saw the smallest flash of violet. She gripped the locket around her neck and brought it to her lips.
Now the rest of campus was beneath them, and the foggy cemetery just beyond it. The place where Penn would soon be buried. The higher they went, the more Luce could see of the school where her biggest secret had come out - though so differently than she ever could have imagined it would.
"They really did a number on that place," Mr. Cole said, shaking his head.
Luce had no idea how much he knew about the events that had taken place last night. He seemed so normal, and yet he was taking all of this in stride.
"Where are we going?"
"A little island off the coast," he said, pointing out in the distance toward the sea, where the horizon faded into black. "It's not too far."
"Mr. Cole," she said, "you've met my parents."
"Will I be able to ... I'd like to speak with them."
"Of course. Well figure something out."
"They could never believe any of this."
"Can you?" he asked, giving her a wry smile as the plane rose higher, leveling itself in the air.
That was the thing. She had to believe it, all of it - from the first dark flicker of the shadows, to the moment when Daniel's lips found hers, to Penn lying dead on the marble altar of the chapel. It all had to be real.
How else could she hold out until she saw Daniel again? She gripped the locket around her neck, which held a lifetime of memories. Her memories, Daniel had reminded her, hers to unlock.
What they held, she didn't know, any more than she knew where Mr. Cole was taking her. But she'd felt like a part of something in the chapel this morning, standing next to Arriane and Gabbe and Daniel. Not lost and afraid and complacent ... but like she might matter, not just to Daniel - but to all of them.
She looked through the windshield. They would have passed the salt marshes by now, and the road she'd driven on to get to that awful bar to meet Cam, and the long stretch of sandy beach where she'd first kissed Daniel. They were out over the open sea, which - somewhere out there - held Luce's next destination.
No one had come right out and told her that there were more battles to be fought, but Luce felt the truth inside her, that they were at the start of something long and significant and hard.
And whether the battles were gruesome or redemptive or both, Luce didn't want to be a pawn any longer.
A strange feeling was working its way through her body - one steeped in all her past lives, all the love she'd felt for Daniel that had been extinguished too many times before.
TWO GREAT LIGHTS
Au night long he watched her sleeping fitfully on the narrow canvas cot. A single army-green lantern hanging from one of the low wooden beams in the log cabin illuminated her frame. Its soft glow highlighted her glossy black hair splayed out on the pillow, her cheeks smooth and rosy from her bath.
Every time the sea roared up against the desolate beach outside, she tossed onto one side. Her tank top hugged her body so that when the thin blanket bunched up around her, he could just make out that tiny dimple marking her soft left shoulder. He had kissed it so many times before.
By turns she sighed in her sleep, then breathed evenly, then moaned from someplace deep inside a dream.
But whether it was in pleasure or pain, he couldn't tell. Twice, she called out his name.
Daniel wanted to float down to her. To leave his perch atop the sandy old boxes of ammunition high in the raftered loft of the beachfront cabin. But she could not know he was there. She could not know he was anywhere nearby. Or what the next few days would bring for her.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com