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RAPTURE

A FALLEN NOVEL
Iauren kate
Dedication
For Jason÷
Wit hout your love, not hing is possible.
AcknowIedgments
lt is a wonderful t hing t o find one's acknowledgment s growing wit h every book. l am grat eful t o
Michael St earns and Ted Malawer for believing in me, for indulging me, for making me work so
hard. To Wendy Loggia, Beverly Horowit z, Krist a Vit ola, and t he excellent t eam at Delacort e
Press÷you have made Fallen soar from st art t o finish. To Angela Carlino, Bar-bara Perris, Chip
Gibson, Judit h Haut , Noreen Herit s (l already miss you!), Roshan Nosari, and Dominique Cimina
for how expert ly you've t urned my st ory int o a book.
To Sandra Van Mook and my friends in Holland; t o Ga-briella Ambrosini and Beat rice Masini in
lt aly; t o Shirley Ng and t he crew at MPH in Kuala Lumpur; t o Rino Balat bat , Karla, Chad, t he
wonderful Ramos family, and my superb Filipino fans; t o Dorot hy Tonkin, Just in Ract liffe, and
t he brilliant group at Random House Aust ralia; t o Rebecca Simp-son in New Zealand; t o Ana
Lima and Cecilia Brandi and Record for a beaut iful t ime in Brazil; t o Lauren Kat e Bennet t and
t he lovely girls at RHUK; t o Amy Fisher and lris Barazani for inspirat ion in Jerusalem. What a
wonderful year l had wit h you all÷cheers t o more!
To my readers, who show me t he bright est side of life every single day. Thank you.
To my family, for your pat ience and t rust and sense of humor. To my friends, who coax me out
of my writ ing cave.
And, always, t o Jason, who braves t he cave when l can't be coaxed. l'm lucky t o have all of you
in my life.
A// other th|ngs to the|r destruct|on draw, On/y our /ove hath no decay. . . .
÷John Donne, "The Ann|versary"
PROLOGUE
FALLING
First t here was silence÷
ln t he space bet ween Heaven and t he Fall, deep in t he unknowable dist ance, t here was a
moment when t he glorious hum of Heaven disappeared and was replaced by a silence so
profound t hat Daniel's soul st rained t o make out any noise.
Then came t he feeling of falling÷a drop even his wings couldn't prevent , as if t he Throne had
at t ached moons t o t hem. They hardly beat , and when t hey did, it made no impact on his fall.
Where was he going? There was not hing before him and not hing behind. Not hing up and
not hing down.
Only t hick darkness, and t he blurry out line of what was left of Daniel's soul.
ln t he absence of sound, his imaginat ion t ook over. lt filled his head wit h somet hing beyond
sound, somet hing inescapable: t he haunt ing words of Lucinda's curse.
She w|// d|e . . . She w|// never pass out ol ado/escence÷w|// d|e aga|n and aga|n and aga|n at
prec|se/y the moment when she remembers your choice.
¥ou w|// never tru/y be together.
lt was Lucifer's foul imprecat ion, his embit t ered ad-dendum t o t he Throne's sent ence passed
in t he Heavenly Meadow. Now deat h was coming for his love. Could Daniel st op it ? Would he
even recognize it ?
For what did an angel know of deat h? Daniel had wit nessed it come peacefully t o some of t he
new mort al breed called human, but deat h did not concern angels.
Deat h and adolescence: t he t wo absolut es in Lucifer's Curse. Neit her meant a t hing t o Daniel.
All he knew was t hat being separat ed from Lucinda was not a punishment he could endure.
They had t o be t oget her.
"luc|ndal¨ he shout ed.
His soul should have warmed at t he very t hought of her, but t here was only aching absence,
an abundance of what was not .
He should have been able t o sense his bret hren around him÷all t hose who'd chosen wrongly
or t oo lat e; who'd made no choice at all and been cast out for t heir indecision. He knew t hat he
wasn't tru/y alone; so many of t hem had plummet ed when t he cloudsoil beneat h t hem opened
up ont o t he void.
But he could neit her see nor sense anyone else.
Before t his moment , he had never been alone. Now he felt like t he last angel in all t he worlds.
Don't th|nk /|ke that. ¥ou'// /ose yourse/l.
He t ried t o hold on . . . Lucinda, t he Roll Call, Lucinda, t he cho|ce . . . but as he fell, it grew harder
t o remember. What , for inst ance, were t he last words he'd heard spoken by t he Throne÷
The Gates ol Heaven . . .
The Gates ol Heaven are . . .
He could not remember what came next , could only dimly recall how t he great light had
flickered, and t he harshest cold had swept over t he Meadow, and t he t rees in t he Orchard had
t umbled int o one anot her, causing waves of furious dist urbance t hat were felt t hroughout t he
cosmos, t sunamis of cloudsoil t hat blinded t he angels and crushed t heir glory. There had been
somet hing else, somet hing just before t he oblit erat ion of t he Meadow, somet hing like a÷
Tw|nn|ng.
A bold bright angel had soared up during t he Roll Call÷said he was Daniel come back from t he
fut ure.
There was a sadness in his eyes t hat had looked so . . .
o/d. Had t his angel÷t his version of Daniel's soul÷
suffered deeply?
Had Lucinda?
A vast rage rose in Daniel. He would find Lucifer, t he angel who lived at t he dead end of all
ideas. Daniel did not fear t he t rait or who had been t he Morning St ar.
Wherever, whenever t hey reached t he end of t his oblivion, Daniel would t ake his revenge. But
first he would find Lucinda, for wit hout her, not hing mat t ered. Wit hout her love, not hing was
possible.
Theirs was a love t hat made it inconceivable t o choose Lucifer or t he Throne. The only side he
could ever choose was hers. So now Daniel would pay for t hat choice, but he did not yet
underst and t he shape his punishment would t ake. Only t hat she was gone from t he place she
belonged: at his side.
The pain of separat ion from his soul mat e coursed t hrough Daniel suddenly, sharp and brut al.
He moaned wordlessly, his mind clouded over, and suddenly, fright -eningly, he couldn't
remember why.
He t umbled onward, down t hrough denser black-ness.
He could no longer see or feel or recall how he had ended up here, nowhere, hurt ling t hrough
not hing-ness÷t oward where? For how long?
His memory sput t ered and faded. lt was harder and harder t o recall t hose words spoken by t he
angel in t he whit e meadow who had looked so much like . . .
Who had t he angel resembled? And what had he said t hat was so import ant ?
Daniel did not know, did not know anyt hing anymore.
Only t hat he was t umbling t hrough an endless void.
He was filled wit h an urge t o find somet hing . . . someone.
An urge t o feel whole again . . .
But t here was only darkness inside darkness÷
Silence drowning out his t hought s÷
A not hing t hat was everyt hing.
Daniel fell.
ONE
THE BOOK OF WATCHERS
"Good morning."
A warm hand brushed Luce's face and t ucked a st rand of hair behind her ear.
Rolling ont o her side, she yawned and opened her eyes. She had been sleeping deeply,
dreaming about Daniel.
"Oh," she gasped, feeling her cheek. There he was.
Daniel was sit t ing next t o her. He wore a black sweat er and t he same red scarf t hat had been
knot t ed around his neck t he first t ime she'd seen him at Sword & Cross. He looked bet t er t han
a dream.
His weight made t he edge of t he cot sag a lit t le and Luce drew up her legs t o snuggle closer t o
him.
"You're not a dream," she said.
Daniel's eyes were blearier t han she was used t o, but t hey st ill glowed t he bright est violet as
t hey gazed at her face, st udying her feat ures as if seeing her anew. He leaned down and
pressed his lips t o hers.
Luce folded int o him, wrapping her arms around t he back of his neck, happy t o kiss him back.
She didn't care about her unbrushed t eet h, about her bed head. She didn't care about
anyt hing ot her t han his kiss. They were t oget her now and neit her of t hem could st op grinning.
Then it all came rushing back:
Razor claws and dull red eyes. Choking st ench of deat h and rot . Darkness everywhere, so
complet e in it s doom it made light and love and everyt hing good in t he world feel t ired and
broken and dead.
That Lucifer had once been somet hing else t o her÷
Bill, t he ornery st one gargoyle she'd mist aken for a friend, was act ually Lucifer himself÷
seemed impossible.
She'd let him get t oo close, and now, because she had not done as he wished÷choosing not
t o kill her soul in ancient Egypt ÷he had decided t o wipe t he slat e clean.
To bend t ime and erase everyt hing since t he Fall.
Every life, every love, every moment t hat every mort al and angelic soul had ever experienced
would be balled up and discarded at Lucifer's reckless whim, like t he universe was a board
game and he was a whining child giving up when he began t o lose. But what he want ed t o win,
Luce had no idea.
Her skin felt hot as she remembered his wrat h. He'd wanted her t o see it , t o t remble in his hand
when he t ook her back t o t he t ime of t he Fall. He'd want ed t o show her it was personal for him.
Then he'd t hrown her aside, cast ing an Announcer like a net t o capt ure all t he angels who'd
fallen from Heaven.
Just as Daniel caught her in t hat st arry noplace, Lucifer blinked out of exist ence and incit ed t he
Fall t o begin again. He was t here now wit h t he falling angels, including t he past version of
himself. Like t he rest of t hem, Lucifer would fall in powerless isolat ion÷wit h his bret hren but
apart , t oget her but alone. Millennia ago, it had t aken t he angels nine mort al days t o fall from
Heaven down t o Eart h. Since Lucifer's second Fall would follow t he same t raject ory, Luce,
Daniel, and t he ot hers had just nine days t o st op him.
lf t hey didn't , once Lucifer and his Announcer full of angels fell t o Eart h, t here would be a hiccup
in t ime t hat would reverberat e backward all t he way t o t he original Fall, and everyt hing would
st art anew. As t hough t he seven t housand years bet ween t hen and now had never happened.
As t hough Luce hadn't at last begun t o underst and t he curse, t o underst and where she fit int o
all t his, t o learn who she was and what she could be.
The hist ory and t he fut ure of t he world were in jeopardy÷unless Luce, seven angels, and t wo
Nephilim could st op Lucifer. They had nine days and no idea where t o st art .
Luce had been so t ired t he night before t hat she didn't remember lying down on t his cot ,
drawing t his t hin blue blanket around her shoulders. There were cobwebs in t he raft ers of t he
small cabin, a folding t able st rewn wit h half-drunk mugs of hot chocolat e t hat Gabbe had made
for everyone t he previous night . But it all seemed like a dream t o Luce. Her flight down from t he
Announcer t o t his t iny island off Tybee, t his safe zone for t he angels, had been obscured by
blinding fat igue.
She'd fallen asleep while t he ot hers had st ill been t alking, let t ing Daniel's voice lull her int o a
dream. Now t he cabin was quiet , and in t he window behind Daniel's silhouet t e, t he sky was t he
gray of almost sunrise.
She reached up t o t ouch his cheek. He t urned his head and kissed t he inside of her palm. Luce
squeezed her eyes t o st op from crying. Why, aft er all t hey'd been t hrough, did Luce and Daniel
have t o beat t he devil before t hey were free t o love?
"Daniel." Roland's voice came from t he doorway of t he cabin. His hands were t ucked inside his
peacoat pocket s, and a gray wool ski cap crowned his dreads. He gave Luce a weary smile. "lt 's
t ime."
"Time for what ?" Luce propped herself up on her elbows. "We're leaving? Already? l want ed t o
say goodbye t o my parent s. They're probably panicked."
"l t hought l'd t ake you by t heir house now," Daniel said, "t o say goodbye."
"But how am l going t o explain disappearing aft er Thanksgiving dinner?"
She remembered Daniel's words from t he night before: Though it felt like t hey'd been inside
t he Announcers for an et ernit y, in real t ime only a few hours had passed.
St ill, t o Harry and Doreen Price, a few hours of a missing daught er was et ernit y.
Daniel and Roland shared a glance. "We t ook care of it ," Roland said, handing Daniel a set of
car keys.
"You t ook care of it how?" Luce asked. "My dad once called t he police when l was a half an
hour lat e from school÷"
"Don't worry, kid," Roland said. "We've got you covered. You just need t o make a quick
cost ume change." He point ed t oward a backpack on t he rocking chair by t he door. "Gabbe
brought over your t hings."
"Um, t hanks," she said, confused. Where was Gabbe?
Where were t he rest of t hem? The cabin had been packed t he night before, posit ively cozy
wit h t he glow of angel wings and t he smell of hot chocolat e and cinnamon. The memory of
t hat coziness, coupled wit h t he promise of saying goodbye t o her parent s wit hout knowing
where she was going, made t his morning feel empt y.
The wood floor was rough against her bare feet .
Looking down, she realized she was st ill wearing t he narrow whit e shift dress she'd had on in
Egypt , in t he last life she had visit ed t hrough t he Announcers. Bill had made her wear it .
No, not Bill. luc|ler. He'd leered approvingly as she t ucked t he st arshot int o her waist band,
cont emplat ing t he advice he'd given her on how t o kill her soul.
Never, never, never. Luce had t oo much t o live for.
lnside t he old green backpack she used t o t ake t o summer camp, Luce found her favorit e pair
of pajamas÷
t he red-and-whit e-st riped flannel set ÷neat ly folded, wit h t he mat ching whit e slippers
underneat h. "But it 's morning," Luce said. "What do l need pajamas for?" Again Daniel and
Roland shared a glance, and t his t ime, t hey were t rying not t o laugh.
"Just t rust us," Roland said.
Aft er she was dressed, Luce followed Daniel out of t he cabin, let t ing his broad shoulders buffet
t he wind as t hey walked down t he pebbly shore t o t he wat er.
The t iny island off of Tybee was about a mile from t he Savannah coast line. Across t hat st ret ch
of sea, Roland had promised t hat a car was wait ing.
Daniel's wings were concealed, but he must have sensed her eyeing t he place where t hey
unfurled from his shoulders. "When everyt hing is in order, we'll fly wherever we have t o go t o
st op Lucifer. Unt il t hen it 's bet t er t o st ay low t o t he ground."
"Okay," Luce said.
"Race you t o t he ot her side?"
Her breat h frost ed t he air. "You know l'd beat you."
"True." He slipped an arm around her waist , warm-ing her. "Maybe we'd bet t er t ake t he boat ,
t hen. Prot ect my famous pride."
She wat ched him unmoor a small met al rowboat from a boat slip. The soft light on t he wat er
made her t hink back t o t he day t hey'd raced across t he secret lake at Sword & Cross. His skin
had glist ened as t hey had pulled t hemselves up t o t he flat rock in t he cent er t o cat ch t heir
breat h, t hen had lain on t he sun-warmed st one, let t ing t he day's heat dry t heir bodies. She'd
barely known Daniel t hen÷she hadn't known he was an angel÷and already she'd been
dangerously in love wit h him.
"We used t o swim t oget her in my lifet ime in Tahit i, didn't we?" she asked, surprised t o
remember anot her t ime she'd seen Daniel's hair glist en wit h wat er.
Daniel st ared at her and she knew how much it meant t o him finally t o be able t o share some
of his memories of t heir past . He looked so moved t hat Luce t hought he might cry.
lnst ead he kissed her forehead t enderly and said,
"You beat me all t hose t imes, t oo, Lulu." They didn't t alk much as Daniel rowed. lt was enough
for Luce just t o wat ch t he way his muscles st rained and flexed each t ime he dragged back,
hearing t he oars dip int o and out of t he cold wat er, breat hing in t he brine of t he ocean. The
sun was rising over her shoulders, warm-ing t he back of her neck, but as t hey approached t he
mainland, she saw somet hing t hat sent a shiver down her spine.
She recognized t he whit e l993 Taurus immediat ely.
"What 's wrong?" Daniel not iced Luce's post ure st iffen as t he rowboat t ouched t he shore. "Oh.
That ." He sounded unconcerned as he hopped out of t he boat and held out a hand t o Luce.
The ground was mulchy and rich-smelling. lt reminded Luce of her childhood, running t hrough
Georgia forest s in t he fall, luxuriat ing in t he ant icipat ion of mischief and advent ure.
"lt 's not what you t hink," Daniel said. "When Sophia fled Sword & Cross, aft er"÷Luce wait ed,
wincing, hoping Daniel wouldn't say alter she murdered Penn÷"aft er we found out who she
really was, t he angels confiscat ed her car." His face hardened. "She owes us t hat much, and
more."
Luce t hought of Penn's whit e face, t he life draining from it . "Where is Sophia now?"
Daniel shook his head. "l don't know. Unfort unat ely, we'll probably soon find out . l have a feeling
she'll worm her way int o our plans." He drew t he keys from his pocket , insert ed one int o t he
passenger door.
"But t hat 's not what you should be worried about right now."
Luce looked at him as she sank ont o t he gray clot h seat . "So what should l be worried about
right now?" Daniel t urned t he key, and t he car shuddered slowly t o life. The last t ime she'd sat
in t his seat , she'd been worried about being alone wit h him. lt was t he first night t hey'd ever
kissed÷as far as she'd known t hen, anyway.
Luce was st abbing t he seat belt int o it s buckle when she felt Daniel's fingers over hers.
"Remember," he said soft ly, reaching over t o buckle her seat belt , let t ing his hands linger over
hers. "There's a t rick." He kissed her cheek, t hen put t he car in reverse and peeled out of t he
wet woods ont o a narrow t wo-lane blackt op. They were t he only ones on t he road.
"Daniel?" Luce asked again. "What else should l be worried about ?"
He glanced at Luce's pajamas. "How good are you at playing sick?"
The whit e Taurus idled in t he alley behind her parent s' house as Luce crept past t he t hree
azalea t rees beside her bedroom window. ln t he summer, t here would be t omat o vines
creeping out of t he black soil, but in wint er, t he side yard looked barren and dreary and not very
much like home. She couldn't remember t he last t ime she'd st ood out here. She'd sneaked out
of t hree different boarding schools before, but never out of her own parent s' house. Now she
was sneaking |n and she didn't know how her window worked. Luce looked around at her
sleepy neighborhood, at t he morning paper sit t ing in it s dewy plast ic bag at t he edge of her
parent s' lawn, at t he old, net less basket ball hoop in t he Johnsons' driveway across t he st reet .
Not hing had changed since she'd been gone. Not hing had changed except Luce. lf Bill
succeeded, would t his neighborhood vanish, t oo?
She gave one last wave t o Daniel, wat ching from t he car, t ook a deep breat h, and used her
t humbs t o pry t he lower panel from t he cracking blue paint of t he sill.
lt slid right up. Someone inside had already popped out t he screen. Luce paused, st unned as
t he whit e muslin curt ains part ed and t he half-blond, half-black head of her onet ime enemy
Molly Zane filled t he open space.
"'Sup, Meat loaf."
Luce brist led at t he nickname she'd earned on her first day of Sword & Cross. Th|s was what
Daniel and Roland meant when t hey said t hey'd t aken care of t hings at home?
"What are you doing here, Molly?"
"Come on. l won't bit e." Molly ext ended a hand.
Her nails were chipped emerald green.
She sank her hand int o Molly's, ducked, and sidled, one leg at a t ime, t hrough t he window.
Her bedroom looked small and out dat ed, like a t ime capsule of some long-ago Luce. There was
t he framed post er of t he Eiffel Tower on t he back of her door. There was her bullet in board of
swim t eam ribbons from Thunder bolt Element ary. And t here, under t he green-and-yellow
Hawaiian-print duvet , was her best friend, Callie.
Callie scrambled from under t he covers, dashed around t he bed, and flung herself int o Luce's
arms.
"They kept t elling me you were going t o be okay, but in t hat lying, we're-also-complet ely-
t errified-we're-just -not -going-t o-explain-a-word-t o-you kind of way. Do you even realize how
t horoughly spooky t hat was? lt was like you physically dropped off t he face of t he Eart h÷"
Luce hugged her back t ight ly. As far as Callie knew, Luce had been gone only since t he night
before.
"Okay, you t wo," Molly growled, pulling Luce away from Callie, "you can OMG your faces off
lat er. l didn't lie in your bed in t hat cheap polyest er wig all night enact ing Luce-wit h-st omach-flu
so you guys could blow our cover now." She rolled her eyes. "Amat eurs."
"Hold on. You did what ?" Luce asked.
"Aft er you . . . disappeared," Callie said breat hlessly,
"we knew we could never explain it t o your parent s. l mean, l could barely fat hom it aft er seeing
it wit h my own eyes. When Gabbe fixed up t he backyard, l t old your parent s you felt sick and
had gone t o bed, and Molly pret ended t o be you and÷"
"Lucky l found t his in your closet ." Molly t wirled a short wavy black wig around one finger.
"Halloween remnant ?"
"Wonder Woman." Luce winced, regret t ing her middle school Halloween cost ume, and not for
t he first t ime.
"Well, it worked."
lt was st range t o see Molly÷who'd once sided wit h Lucifer÷helping her. But even Molly, like
Cam and Roland, didn't want t o fall again. So here t hey were, a t eam, st range bedfellows.
"You covered for me? l don't know what t o say.
Thank you."
"What ever." Molly jerked her head at Callie, anyt hing t o deflect Luce's grat it ude. "She was t he
real silver-t ongued devil. Thank her." She st uck one leg out t he open window and t urned t o call
back, "Think you guys can handle it from here? l have a Waffle House summit meet ing t o
at t end."
Luce gave Molly t he t humbs-up and flopped down on her bed.
"Oh, Luce," Callie whispered. "When you left , your whole backyard was covered in t his gray
dust. And t hat blond girl, Gabbe, swept her hand once and made it d|sappear. Then we said
you were sick, t hat everyone else had gone home, and we just st art ed doing t he dishes wit h
your parent s. And at first l t hought t hat Molly girl was a lit t le bit t errible, but she's act ually kind
of cool." Her eyes narrowed. "But where d|d you go? What happened t o you? You really scared
me, Luce."
"l don't even know where t o st art ," Luce said.
There was a knock, followed by t he familiar creak of her bedroom door opening.
Luce's mot her st ood in t he hallway, her sleep-wild hair t amed by a yellow banana clip, her face
bare of makeup and pret t y. She was holding a wicker t ray wit h t wo glasses of orange juice, t wo
plat es of but t ered t oast , and a box of Alka-Selt zer. "Looks like someone's feeling bet t er." Luce
wait ed for her mom t o put t he t ray down on t he night st and; t hen she wrapped her arms
around her mot her's waist and buried her face in her pink t erry clot h bat hrobe. Tears st ung her
eyes. She sniffed.
"My lit t le girl," her mom said, feeling Luce's forehead and cheeks t o check for fever. Even
t hough she hadn't used t hat soft sweet voice on Luce in ages, it felt so good t o hear.
"l love you, Mom."
"Don't t ell me she's t oo sick for Black Friday." Luce's fat her appeared in t he doorway, holding a
green plast ic wat ering can. He was smiling, but behind his rimless glasses, Mr. Price's eyes
looked concerned.
"l am feeling bet t er," Luce said. "But ÷"
"Oh, Harry," Luce's mom said. "You know we only had her for t he day. She has t o be back at
school." She t urned t o Luce. "Daniel called a lit t le while ago, honey.
He said he can pick you up and t ake you back t o Sword & Cross. l said t hat of course your
fat her and l would be happy t o, but ÷"
"No," Luce said quickly, remembering t he plan Daniel had det ailed in t he car. "Even if l can't go,
you guys should st ill do your Black Friday shopping. lt 's a Price family t radit ion."
They agreed t hat Luce would ride wit h Daniel and her parent s would t ake Callie t o t he airport .
While t he girls at e, Luce's parent s sat on t he edge of t he bed and t alked about Thanksgiving
("Gabbe polished all t he china÷what an angel"). By t he t ime t hey moved on t o t he Black
Friday deals t hey were on t he hunt for ("All your fat her ever want s is t ools"), Luce realized t hat
she hadn't said anyt hing except for inane conversat ion fillers like "Uh-huh" and "Oh really?"
When her parent s finally st ood up t o t ake t heir plat es int o t he kit chen, and Callie st art ed t o
pack, Luce went int o t he bat hroom and shut t he door.
She was alone for t he first t ime in what seemed like a million ages. She sat down on t he vanit y
st ool and looked in t he mirror.
She was herself, but different . Sure, Lucinda Price looked back at her. But also . . .
There were Layla in t he fullness of her lips, Lulu in t he t hick waves of her hair, Lu Xin in t he
int ensit y of her hazel eyes, Lucia in t he t winkle in her eyes. She was not alone. Maybe she
never would be alone again. There, in t he mirror, was every incarnat ion of Lucinda st aring back
at her and wondering, What |s to become ol us?
What about our h|story, and our /ove?
She t ook a shower and put on clean jeans, her black riding boot s, and a long whit e sweat er.
She sat down on Callie's suit case while her friend st ruggled t o zip it up.
The silence bet ween t hem was brut al.
"You're my best friend, Callie," Luce finally said.
"l'm going t hrough somet hing l don't underst and. But t hat t hing isn't you. l'm sorry l don't know
how t o be more specific, but l've missed you. So much." Callie's shoulders t ensed. "You used t o
t ell me everyt hing." But t he look t hat passed bet ween t hem suggest ed bot h girls knew t hat
wasn't possible anymore.
A car door slammed out front .
Through t he open blinds Luce wat ched Daniel make his way up her parent s' pat h. And even
t hough it had been less t han an hour since he had dropped her off, Luce felt her heart pick up
and her cheeks flush at t he sight of him. He walked slowly, as if he were float ing, his red scarf
t railing behind him in t he wind. Even Callie st ared.
Luce's parent s gat hered in t he foyer wit h t hem. She hugged each one of t hem for a long t ime
÷Dad first , t hen Mom, t hen Callie, who squeezed her hard and whispered quickly, "What l saw
last night ÷you, st epping int o t hat . . . t hat shadow÷was beaut iful. l just want you t o know
t hat ."
Luce felt her eyes burn again. She squeezed Callie back and whispered, "Thank you."
Then she walked down t he pat h and int o Daniel's arms and what ever came along wit h t hem.
"There you are, you lovebirds you, doin' t hat t hing t hat lovebirds do," Arriane sang, bobbing her
head out from behind a long bookcase. She was sit t ing cross-legged on a wooden library chair,
juggling a few Hacky Sacks. She wore overalls, combat boot s, and her dark hair plait ed int o t iny
pigt ails.
Luce was not overjoyed t o be back at t he Sword & Cross Library. lt had been renovat ed since
t he fire t hat had dest royed it , but it st ill smelled like somet hing big and ugly had burned t here.
The facult y had explained away t he fire as a freak accident , but someone had been killed÷
Todd, a quiet st udent who Luce had barely known unt il t he night he died÷and Luce knew
t here was somet hing darker lurking beneat h t he surface of t he st ory. She blamed herself. lt
reminded her t oo much of Trevor, a boy she'd once had a crush on, who had died in anot her
inexplicable fire.
Now, as she and Daniel rounded t he corner of a bookshelf t o t he library's st udy area, Luce saw
t hat Arriane was not alone. All of t hem were t here: Gabbe, Roland, Cam, Molly, Annabelle÷t he
leggy angel wit h t he hot -pink hair÷even Miles and Shelby, who waved excit edly and looked
decidedly different from t he ot her angels, but also different from mort al t eens.
Miles and Shelby were÷were t hey holding hands?
But when she looked again, t heir hands disappeared under t he t able t hey were all sit t ing at .
Miles t ugged his baseball cap lower. Shelby cleared her t hroat and hunched over a book.
"Your book," Luce said t o Daniel as soon as she spot t ed t he t hick spine wit h t he brown
crumbling glue near t he bot t om. The faded cover read The Watchers. Myth |n Med|eva/ Furope
by Dan|e/ Gr|gor|.
Her hand reached aut omat ically for t he pale gray cover. She closed her eyes, because it
reminded her of Penn, who'd found t he book on Luce's last night as a st udent at Sword &
Cross, and because t he phot ograph past ed inside t he front cover of t he book was t he first
t hing t hat had convinced her t hat what Daniel t old her about t heir hist ory might be possible.
lt was a phot ograph t aken from anot her life, one in Helst on, England. And even t hough it
shouldn't have been possible, t here was no doubt about it : The young woman in t he
phot ograph was her.
"Where did you find it ?" Luce asked.
Her voice must have given somet hing away, because Shelby said, "What is so major about t his
dust y old t hing, anyway?"
"lt 's precious. Our only key now," Gabbe said. "Sophia t ried t o burn it once."
"Sophia?" Luce's hand shot t o her heart . "Miss Sophia t ried÷t he fire in t he library? That was
her?" The ot hers nodded. "She killed Todd," Luce said numbly.
So it hadn't been Luce's fault . Anot her life t o lay at Sophia's feet . lt didn't make Luce feel any
bet t er.
"And she almost died of shock t he night you showed it t o her," Roland said. "We were all
shocked, especially when you lived t o t alk about it ."
"We t alked about Daniel kissing me," Luce remembered, blushing. "And t he fact t hat l survived
it . Was t hat what surprised Miss Sophia?"
"Part of it ," Roland said. "But t here's plent y more in t hat book t hat Sophia wouldn't have
want ed you t o know about ."
"Not much of an educat or, was she?" Cam said, giving Luce a smirk t hat said, long t|me, no
see.
"What wouldn't she have want ed me t o know?" All t he angels t urned t o look at Daniel.
"Last night we t old you t hat none of t he angels remember where we landed when we fell,"
Daniel said.
"Yeah, about t hat . . . How's it possible?" Shelby said. "You'd t hink t hat kind of t hing would
leave an impression on t he old memorizer."
Cam's face reddened. "You t ry falling for nine days t hrough mult iple dimensions and t rillions of
miles, landing on your face, breaking your wings, rolling around concussed for who knows how
long, wandering t he desert for decades looking for any clue as t o who or what or where you are
÷and t hen t alk t o me about t he old memorizer."
"Okay, you've got acknowledgment issues," Shelby said, put t ing on her shrink voice. "lf l were
going t o di-agnose you÷"
"Well, at least you remember t here was a desert involved," Miles said diplomat ically, making
Shelby laugh.
Daniel t urned t o Luce. "l wrot e t his book aft er l lost you in Tibet . . . but before l'd met you in
Prussia. l know you visit ed t hat life in Tibet because l followed you t here, so maybe you can
see how losing you t he way l did made me t urn t o years of research and st udy t o find a way
out of t his curse."
Luce looked away. Her deat h in Tibet had made Daniel run st raight off a cliff. She feared it s
happening again.
"Cam is right ," Daniel said. "None of us recall where we landed. We wandered t he desert unt il it
was no longer desert ; we wandered t he plains and t he valleys and t he seas unt il t hey t urned
t o desert again. lt wasn't unt il we slowly found one anot her and began t o piece t oget her t he
st ory t hat we remembered we'd once ever been angels at all.
"But t here were relics creat ed aft er our Fall, physical records of our hist ory t hat mankind found
and kept as t reasures, gift s÷t hey t hink÷from a god t hey don't underst and. For a long t ime
t hree of t he relics were buried in a t emple in Jerusalem, but during t he Crusades, t hey were
st olen, spirit ed away t o various places. None of us knew where.
"When l did my research several hundred years ago, l focused on t he medieval era, t urning t o
as many resources as l could in a kind of t heological scavenger hunt for t he relics," Daniel
cont inued. "The gist of it is t hat if t hese t hree art ifact s can be collect ed and gat hered t oget her
at Mount Sinai÷"
"Why Mount Sinai?" Shelby asked.
"The channels bet ween t he Throne and t he Eart h are closest t here," Gabbe explained wit h a
flip of her hair.
"That 's where Moses received t he Ten Commandment s; t hat 's where t he angels ent er when
t hey're delivering messages from t he Throne."
"Think of it as God's local dive," Arriane added, sending a Hacky Sack t oo high int o t he air and
int o an overhead lamp.
"But before you ask," Cam said, making it a point t o single out Shelby wit h his eyes, "Mount
Sinai is not t he original sit e of t he Fall."
"That would be way t oo easy," Annabelle said.
"lf t he relics are all gat hered at Mount Sinai," Daniel went on, "t hen, in t heory, we'll be able t o
decipher t he locat ion of t he Fall."
"ln t heory." Cam sneered. "Must l be t he one t o say t here is some quest ion regarding t he
validit y of Daniel's research÷"
Daniel clenched his jaw. "You have a bet t er idea?"
"Don't you t hink"÷Cam raised his voice÷"t hat your t heory put s rat her a lot of weight on t he
idea t hat t hese relics are anyt hing more t han rumor? Who knows if t hey can do what t hey're
supposed t o do?" Luce st udied t he group of angels and demons÷her only allies on t his quest
t o save her and Daniel . . . and t he world. "So t hat unknown locat ion is where we have t o be
nine days from now."
"lewer t han nine days from now," Daniel said. "Nine days from now will be t oo lat e. Lucifer÷
and t he host of angels cast out of Heaven÷will have arrived."
"But if we can beat Lucifer t o t he sit e of t he Fall," Luce said, "t hen what ?"
Daniel shook his head. "We don't really know. l never t old anyone about t his book because,
Cam's right , l didn't know what it would add up t o. l didn't even know Gabbe had it published
unt il years lat er, and by t hen, l'd lost int erest in t he research. You had died anot her t ime, and
wit hout you being t here t o play your part ÷"
"My part ?" Luce asked.
"Which we don't really yet underst and÷" Gabbe elbowed Daniel, cut t ing him off. "What he
means is all will be revealed in t he fullness of t ime." Molly smacked her forehead. "Really? 'All
will be revealed'? ls t hat all you guys know? ls t hat what you're going on?"
"That and your import ance," Cam said, t urning t o Luce. "You're t he chess piece t hat t he forces
of good and evil and everyt hing in bet ween are fight ing over here."
"What ?" Luce whispered.
"Shut up." Daniel fixed his at t ent ion on Luce. "Don't list en t o him."
Cam snort ed, but no one acknowledged it . lt just sat in t he room like an uninvit ed guest . The
angels and demons were silent . No one was going t o leak anyt hing else about Luce's role in
st opping t he Fall.
"So all of t his informat ion, t his scavenger hunt ," she said, "it 's in t hat book?"
"More or less," Daniel said. "l just have t o spend some t ime wit h t he t ext and refresh my
memory. Hope-fully t hen l'll know where we need t o begin." The ot hers moved away t o give
Daniel space at t he t able. Luce felt Miles's hand brush t he back of her arm.
They'd barely spoken since she'd come back t hrough t he Announcer.
"Can l t alk t o you?" Miles asked very quiet ly. "Luce?" The look on his face÷it was st rained
about somet hing÷made Luce t hink of t hose last few moment s in her parent s' backyard when
Miles had t hrown her reflect ion.
They'd never really t alked about t he kiss t hey'd shared on t he roof out side her Shoreline dorm
room.
Surely Miles knew it had been a mist ake÷but why did Luce feel like she was leading him on
every t ime she was nice t o him?
"Luce." lt was Gabbe, appearing at Miles' side. "l t hought l'd ment ion"÷she glanced at Miles
÷"if you want ed t o go visit Penn for a moment , now would be t he t ime."
"Good idea." Luce nodded. "Thanks." She glanced apologet ically at Miles but he just t ugged his
baseball cap over his eyes and t urned t o whisper somet hing t o Shelby.
"Ahem." Shelby coughed indignant ly. She was st anding behind Daniel, t rying t o read t he book
over his shoulder. "What about me and Miles?"
"You're going back t o Shoreline," Gabbe said, sounding more like Luce's t eachers at Shoreline
t han Luce had ever not iced before. "We need you t o alert St even and Francesca. We may
need t heir help÷and your help, t oo.
Tell t hem"÷she t ook a deep breat h÷"t ell t hem it 's happening. That an endgame has been
init iat ed, t hough not as we'd expect ed. Tell t hem everyt hing. They will know what t o do."
"Fine," Shelby said, scowling. "You're t he boss."
"Yodelayhee-hooooo." Arriane cupped her palms around her mout h. "lf, uh, Luce want s t o get
out , someone's gonna have t o help her down from t he window." She drummed her fingers on
t he t able, looking sheepish.
"l made a library book barricade near t he ent rance in case any of t he Sword & Cross-eyeds felt
inclined t o disrupt us."
"Dibs." Cam already had his arm slipped t hrough t he crook of Luce's elbow. She st art ed t o
argue, but none of t he ot her angels seemed t o t hink it was a bad idea. Daniel didn't even
not ice.
Near t he back exit , Shelby and Miles bot h mout hed, Be carelu/, t o Luce wit h varying degrees of
fierceness.
Cam walked her t o t he window, radiat ing warmt h wit h his smile. He slid t he glass pane up and
t oget her t hey looked out at t he campus where t hey'd met , where t hey'd grown close, where
he'd t ricked her int o kissing him. They weren't all bad memories. . . .
He hopped t hrough t he window first , landing smoot hly on t he ledge, and he held out a hand for
hers.
"Milady."
His grip was st rong and it made her feel t iny and weight less as Cam drift ed down from t he
ledge, t wo st ories in t wo seconds. His wings were concealed, but he st ill moved as gracefully as
if he were flying. They landed soft ly on t he dewy grass.
"l t ake it you don't want my company," he said. "At t he cemet ery÷not , you know, in general."
"Right . No, t hanks."
He looked away and reached int o his pocket , pulled out a t iny silver bell. lt looked ancient , wit h
Hebrew writ ing on it . He handed it t o her. "Just ring when you want a lift back up."
"Cam," Luce said. "What is my role in all of t his?" Cam reached out t o t ouch her cheek, t hen
seemed t o t hink bet t er of it . His hand hovered in t he air. "Daniel's right . lt isn't our place t o t ell
you." He didn't wait for her response÷just bent his knees and soared off t he ground. He didn't
even look back.
Luce st ared at t he campus for a moment , let t ing t he familiar Sword & Cross humidit y st ick t o
her skin. She couldn't t ell whet her t he dismal school wit h it s huge, harsh neo-Got hic buildings
and sad, defeat ed landscaping looked different or t he same.
She st rolled t hrough t he campus, t hrough t he flat st ill grass of t he commons, past t he
depressing dormit ory, t o t he wrought iron gat e of t he cemet ery. There she paused, feeling
goose bumps rise on her arms.
The cemet ery st ill looked and smelled like a sinkhole in t he middle of t he campus. The dust
from t he angels'
bat t le had cleared. lt was st ill early enough t hat most of t he st udent s were asleep, and
anyway, none of t hem were likely t o be prowling t he cemet ery, unless t hey were serving
det ent ion. She let herself in t hrough t he gat e and ambled downward t hrough t he leaning
headst ones and t he muddy graves.
ln t he far east corner lay Penn's final rest ing place.
Luce sat down at t he foot of her friend's plot . She didn't have flowers and she didn't know any
prayers, so she lay her hands on t he cold, wet grass, closed her eyes, and sent her own kind of
message t o Penn, worrying t hat it might never reach her.
Luce got back t o t he library window feeling irrit able.
She didn't need Cam or his exot ic bell. She could get up t he ledge by herself.
lt was easy enough t o scale t he lowest port ion of t he sloped roof, and from t here she could
climb up a few levels, unt il she was close t o t he long narrow ledge beneat h t he library windows.
lt was about t wo feet wide.
As she crept along it , Cam's and Daniel's bickering voices waft ed t o her.
"What if one of us were t o be int ercept ed?" Cam's voice was high and pleading. "You know we
are st ronger unit ed, Daniel."
"lf we don't make it t here in t ime, our st rengt h won't mat t er. We'll be erased. "
She could pict ure t hem on t he ot her side of t he wall.
Cam wit h fist s clenched and green eyes flashing; Daniel st olid and immovable, his arms crossed
over his chest .
"l don't t rust you not t o act on your own behalf." Cam's t one was harsh. "Your weakness for
her is st ronger t han your word."
"There's not hing t o discuss." Daniel didn't change his pit ch. "Split t ing up is our only opt ion."
The ot hers were quiet , probably t hinking t he same t hing Luce was. Cam and Daniel behaved
far t oo much like brot hers for anyone else t o dare come bet ween t hem.
She reached t he window and saw t hat t he t wo angels were facing each ot her. Her hands
gripped t he windowsill. She felt a small swell of pride÷which she would never confess÷at
having made it back int o t he library wit hout help. Probably none of t he angels would even
not ice. She sighed and slid one leg inside. That was when t he window began t o shudder.
The glass pane rat t led, and t he sill vibrat ed in her hands wit h such force she was almost
knocked off t he ledge. She held on t ight er, feeling vibrat ions inside her, as if her heart and her
soul were t rembling, t oo.
"Eart hquake," she whispered. Her foot skimmed t he back of t he ledge just as her grip on t he
windowsill loosened.
"Lucinda!"
Daniel rushed t o t he window. His hands found t heir way around hers. Cam was t here, t oo, one
hand on t he base of Luce's shoulders, anot her on t he back of her head. The bookshelves
rippled and t he light s in t he library flickered as t he t wo angels pulled her t hrough t he rocking
window just before t he pane slipped from t he window's casing and shat t ered int o a t housand
shards of glass.
She looked t o Daniel for a clue. He was st ill gripping her wrist s, but his eyes t raveled past her,
out side. He was wat ching t he sky, which had t urned angry and gray.
Worse t han all t hat was t he lingering vibrat ion |ns|de Luce t hat made her feel as if she'd been
elect rocut ed.
The quaking felt like an et ernit y, but it last ed for five, maybe t en seconds÷enough t ime for
Luce, Cam, and Daniel t o fall t o t he dust y wooden floor of t he library wit h a t hud.
Then t he t rembling st opped and t he world grew deat hly quiet .
"What t he hell?" Arriane picked herself up off t he ground. "Did we st ep t hrough t o California
wit hout my knowledge? No one t old me t here were fault lines in Georgia!"
Cam pulled a long shard of glass from his forearm.
Luce gasped as bright red blood t railed down his elbow, but his face showed no signs t hat he
was in pain. "That wasn't an eart hquake. That was a seismic shift in t ime."
"A what?" Luce asked.
"The first of many." Daniel looked out t he jagged window, wat ching a whit e cumulus cloud roll
across t he now blue sky. "The closer Lucifer get s, t he st ronger t hey'll become." He glanced at
Cam, who nodded.
"Tickt ock, people," Cam said. "Time is running out .
We need t o fly."
TWO
PARTING WAYS
Gabbe st epped forward. "Cam's right . l've heard t he Scale speak of t hese shift s." She was
t ugging on t he sleeves of her pale yellow cashmere cardigan as if she would never get warm.
"They're called t imequakes.
They are ripples in our realit y."
"And t he closer he get s," Roland added, ever under-st at edly wise, "t he closer we are t o t he
t erminus of his Fall, and more frequent and t he more severe t he t imequakes will become. Time
is falt ering in preparat ion for rewrit ing it self."
"Like t he way your comput er freezes up more and more frequent ly before t he hard drive
crashes and erases your t went y-page t erm paper?" Miles said. Everyone looked at him in
befuddlement . "What ?" he said. "Angels and demons don't do homework?"
Luce sank int o one of t he wooden chairs at an empt y t able. She felt hollow, as if t he t imequake
had shaken loose somet hing significant inside her and she'd lost it for good. The angels'
bickering voices crisscrossed in her mind but didn't spell out anyt hing useful. They had t o st op
Lucifer, and she could see t hat none of t hem knew exact ly how t o do it .
"Venice. Vienna. And Avalon." Daniel's clear voice broke t hrough t he noise. He sat down next
t o Luce and draped an arm around t he back of her chair. His fingert ips brushed her shoulder.
When he held out The Book ol the Watchers so all of t hem could see, t he ot hers quiet ed.
Everybody focused.
Daniel point ed t o a dense paragraph of t ext . Luce hadn't realized unt il t hen t hat t he book was
writ t en in Lat in. She recognized a few words from t he years of Lat in class she'd t aken at Dover.
Daniel had underlined and circled several words and made some not es in t he margins, but t ime
and wear had made t he pages almost illegible.
Arriane hovered over him. "That 's some serious chicken scrat ch."
Daniel didn't seem det erred. As he jot t ed new not es, his handwrit ing was dark and elegant ,
and it gave Luce a warm, familiar feeling when she realized she'd seen it before. She basked in
every reminder of how long and deep her and Daniel's love affair had been, even if t he reminder
was somet hing small, like t he cursive script t hat flowed along for cent uries, spelling out Daniel
as hers.
"A record of t hose early days aft er t he Fall was creat ed by t he Heavenly host , by t he unallied
angels who'd been cast out of Heaven," he said slowly. "But it 's a complet ely scat t ered
hist ory."
"A hist ory?" Miles repeat ed. "So we just find some books and read t hem and t hey, like, t ell us
where t o go?"
"lt 's not t hat simple," Daniel said. "There weren't books in any sense t hat would mean anyt hing
t o you now; t hese were t he beginning days. So our hist ory and our st ories were recorded via
ot her means." Arriane smiled. "This is where it 's going t o get t ricky, isn't it ?"
"The st ory was bound up in relics÷many relics, over millennia. But t here are t hree especially
t hat seem relevant t o our search, t hree t hat may hold t he answer as t o where t he angels fell
t o Eart h.
"We don't know what t hese relics are, but we know where t hey were last ment ioned: Venice,
Vienna, and Avalon. They were in t hese t hree locat ions as of t he t ime of t he research and
writ ing of t his book. But t hat was a while ago, and even t hen, it was anyone's guess whet her
t he it ems÷what ever t hey are÷were st ill t here."
"So t his may end up as a divine wild-goose chase," Cam said wit h a sigh. "Excellent . We'll
squander our t ime searching for myst ery it ems t hat may or may not t ell us what we need t o
know in places where t hey may or may not have rest ed for cent uries." Daniel shrugged. "ln
short , yes."
"Three relics. Nine days." Annabelle's eyes flut t ered up. "That 's not a lot of t ime."
"Daniel was right ." Gabbe's gaze flashed back and fort h bet ween t he angels. "We need t o split
up." This was what Cam and Daniel had been arguing about before t he room st art ed quaking.
Whet her t hey'd have a bet t er chance of finding all t he relics in t ime if t hey split up.
Gabbe wait ed for Cam's reluct ant nod before she said, "Then it 's set t led. Daniel and Luce÷
you t ake t he first cit y." She looked down at Daniel's not es, t hen gave Luce a brave smile.
"Venice. You head t o Venice and find t he first relic."
"But what is t he first relic? Do we even know?" Luce leaned over t he book and saw a drawing
sket ched in pen in t he margin.
Daniel st udied it now, t oo, shaking his head slight ly at t he image he'd drawn hundreds of years
ago. lt looked almost like a serving t ray, t he kind her mom was always looking for at ant ique
shops. "This was what l was able t o glean from my st udy of t he pseudepigrapha÷t he
dismissed script ural writ ings of t he early church." lt was egg-shaped wit h a glass bot t om, which
Daniel cleverly had depict ed by sket ching t he ground on t he ot her side of t he clear base. The
t ray, or what ever t he relic was, had what looked like small chipped handles on eit her side.
Daniel had even drawn a scale below it , and according t o his sket ch, t he art ifact was big÷
about eight y by one hundred cent imet ers.
"l barely remember drawing t his." Daniel sounded disappoint ed in himself. "l don't know what it
is any more t han you do."
"l'm sure t hat once you get t here, you'll be able t o figure it out ," Gabbe said, t rying hard t o be
encouraging.
"We will," Luce said. "l'm sure we will." Gabbe blinked, smiled, and went on. "Roland, Annabelle,
and Arriane÷you t hree will go t o Vienna. That leaves÷" Her mout h t wit ched as she realized
what she was about t o say, but she put on a brave face anyway.
"Molly, Cam, and l will t ake Avalon."
Cam rolled back his shoulders and let out his as-t oundingly golden wings wit h a great rush,
slamming int o Molly's face wit h his right wing t ip and sending her lunging back five feet .
"Do t hat again and l will wreck you," Molly spat , glaring at a carpet burn on her elbow. "ln fact
÷" She st art ed t o go for Cam wit h her fist raised but Gabbe in-t ervened.
She wrenched Cam and Molly apart wit h a put -upon sigh. "Speaking of wrecking, l would really
rat her not have t o wreck t he next one of you who provokes t he ot her"÷she smiled sweet ly at
her t wo demon companions÷"but l will. This is going t o be a very long nine days."
"Let 's hope it 's long," Daniel mut t ered under his breat h.
Luce t urned t o him. The Venice in her mind was out of a guidebook: post card pict ures of boat s
jost ling down canals, sunset s over t all cat hedral spires, and dark-haired girls licking gelat o.
That wasn't t he t rip t hey were about t o t ake. Not wit h t he end of t he world reaching out for
t hem wit h razor claws.
"And once we find all t hree of t he relics?" Luce said.
"We'll meet at Mount Sinai," Daniel said, "unit e t he relics÷"
"And say a lit t le prayer t hat t hey shed any light what -soever on where we landed when we
fell," Cam mut t ered darkly, rubbing his forehead. "At which point , all t hat 's left is somehow
coaxing t he psychopat hic hell-hound holding our ent ire exist ence in his jaw t hat he should just
abandon his silly scheme for universal dominat ion. What could be simpler? l t hink we have
every reason t o feel opt imist ic."
Daniel glanced out t he open window. The sun was passing over t he dormit ory now; Luce had
t o squint t o look out side. "We need t o leave as soon as possible."
"Okay," Luce said. "l have t o go home, t hen, pack, get my passport . . . ." Her mind whirled in a
hundred direct ions as she st art ed making a ment al t o-do list . Her parent s would be at t he mall
for at least anot her couple of hours, enough t ime for her t o dash in and get her t hings
t oget her. . . .
"Oh, cut e." Annabelle laughed, flit t ing over t o t hem, her feet inches off t he ground. Her wings
were muscular and dark silver like a t hundercloud, prot ruding t hrough t he invisible slit s in her
hot -pink T-shirt . "Sorry t o but t in but . . . you've never t raveled wit h an angel before, have you?"
Sure she had. The feeling of Daniel's wings soaring her body t hrough t he air was as nat ural as
anyt hing.
Maybe her flight s had been brief, but t hey'd been unfor-get t able. They were when Luce felt
closest t o him: his arms t hreaded around her waist , his heart beat ing close t o hers, his whit e
wings prot ect ing t hem, making Luce feel uncondit ionally and impossibly loved.
She had flown wit h Daniel dozens of t imes in dreams, but only t hree t imes in her waking hours:
once over t he hidden lake behind Sword & Cross, anot her t ime along t he coast at Shoreline,
and down from t he clouds t o t he cabin just t he previous night .
"l guess we've never flown t hat far t oget her," she said at last .
"Just get t ing t o first base seems t o be a problem for you t wo," Cam couldn't resist saying.
Daniel ignored him. "Under normal circumst ances, l t hink you'd enjoy t he t rip." His expression
t urned st ormy. "But we don't have room for normal for t he next nine days."
Luce felt his hands on t he back of her shoulders, gat hering her hair and lift ing it off her neck. He
kissed her along t he neckline of her sweat er as he wrapped his arms around her waist . Luce
closed her eyes. She knew what was coming next . The most beaut iful sound t here was÷t hat
elegant whoosh of t he love of her life let t ing out his driven-snow-whit e wings.
The world on t he ot her side of Luce's eyelids darkened slight ly under t he shadow of his wings,
and warmt h welled in her heart . When she opened her eyes, t here t hey were, as magnificent
as ever. She leaned back a lit t le, cozying int o t he wall of Daniel's chest as he pivot ed t oward
t he window.
"This is only a t emporary separat ion," Daniel announced t o t he ot hers. "Good luck and
wingspeed." Wit h each long beat of Daniel's wings t hey gained a t housand feet . The air, once
cool and t hick wit h Georgia humidit y, t urned cold and brit t le in Luce's lungs as t hey climbed.
Wind t ore at her ears. Her eyes began t o t ear.
The ground below grew dist ant , and t he world t hat it cont ained blended and shrank int o a
st aggering canvas of green. Sword & Cross was t he size of a t humbprint .
Then it was gone.
A first glimpse of t he ocean made Luce dizzy, delight ed as t hey flew away from t he sun,
t oward t he darkness on t he horizon.
Flying wit h Daniel was more t hrilling, more int ense t han her memory could ever do just ice t o.
And yet somet hing had shift ed: Luce had t he hang of it by now. She felt at ease, in sync wit h
Daniel, relaxed int o t he shape of his arms. Her legs were crossed light ly at t he ankles, t he t oes
of her boot s kissing t he t oes of his. Their bodies swayed in unison, responding t o t he mot ion of
his wings, which arched over t heir heads and blocked out t he sun, t hen t hrot t led backward t o
complet e anot her might y st roke.
They passed t he cloud line and vanished int o t he mist . There was not hing all around t hem but
wispy whit e and t he nebulous caress of moist ure. Anot her beat of wings. Anot her surge int o
t he sky. Luce didn't pause t o wonder how she would breat he up here at t he limit s of t he
at mosphere. She was wit h Daniel. She was fine. They were off t o save t he world.
Soon Daniel leveled off, flying less like a rocket and more like an unfat homably powerful bird.
They did not slow÷if anyt hing, t heir velocit y increased÷but wit h t heir bodies parallel t o t he
ground, t he wind's roar smoot hed, and t he world seemed bright whit e and st art lingly quiet , as
peaceful as if it had just come int o exist ence and no one had yet experiment ed wit h sound.
"Are you all right ?" His voice cocooned her, making her feel as if anyt hing in t he world t hat
wasn't all right could be made so by love's concern.
She t ilt ed her head t o t he left t o look at him. His face was calm, lips soft ly smiling. His eyes
poured out a violet light so rich it alone could have kept her aloft .
"You're freezing," he murmured int o her ear, st rok-ing her fingers t o warm t hem up, sending
licks of heat t hrough Luce's body.
"Bet t er now," she said.
They broke t hrough t he blanket of clouds: lt was like t hat moment on an airplane when t he
view out t he blurry oval window goes from monochrome gray t o an infinit e palat e of color. The
difference was t hat t he window and t he plane had fallen away, leaving not hing bet ween her
skin and t he seashell pinks of evening-reaching clouds in t he east , t he garish indigo of high-
alt it ude sky.
The cloudscape present ed it self, foreign and arrest -ing. As ever, it found Luce unprepared.
This was anot her world she and Daniel alone inhabit ed, a high world, t he t ips of t he t allest
minaret s of love.
What mort al hadn't dreamed of t his? How many t imes had Luce yearned t o be on t he ot her
side of an airplane window? To meander t hrough t he st range, pale gold of a sun-kissed rain
cloud underfoot ? Now she was here and overcome wit h t he beaut y of a dist ant world she
could feel on her skin.
But Luce and Daniel could not st op. They could not st op once for t he next nine days÷or
everyt hing would st op.
"How long will it t ake t o get t o Venice?" she asked.
"lt shouldn't be t oo much longer," Daniel almost whispered int o her ear.
"You sound like a pilot who's been in a holding pat t ern for an hour, t elling his passengers 'just
anot her t en minut es' for t he fift h t ime," Luce t eased.
When Daniel didn't respond, she looked up at him.
He was frowning in confusion. The met aphor was lost on him.
"You've never been on a plane," she said. "Why should you when you can do t his?" She
gest ured at his gorgeous beat ing wings. "All t he wait ing and t axiing would probably drive you
crazy."
"l'd like t o go on a plane wit h you. Maybe we'll t ake a t rip t o t he Bahamas. People fly t here,
right ?"
"Yes." Luce swallowed. "Let 's." She couldn't help t hinking how many impossible t hings had t o
happen in precisely t he right way for t he t wo of t hem t o be able t o t ravel like a normal couple. lt
was t oo hard t o t hink about t he fut ure right now, when so much was at st ake.
The fut ure was as blurry and dist ant as t he ground below÷and Luce hoped it would be as
beaut iful.
"How long will it really t ake?"
"Four, maybe five hours at t his speed."
"But won't you need t o rest ? Refuel?" Luce shrugged, st ill embarrassingly unsure of how
Daniel's body worked.
"Won't your arms get t ired?"
He chuckled.
"What ?"
"l just flew in from Heaven, and boy, are my arms t ired." Daniel squeezed her waist , t easing.
"The idea of my arms ever t iring of holding you is absurd." As if t o prove it , Daniel arched his
back, drawing his wings high above his shoulders and beat ing t hem once, light ly. As t heir
bodies swept elegant ly upward, skirt ing a cloud, he released one arm from around her waist ,
illust rat ing t hat he could hold her deft ly wit h a single hand. His free arm curved forward and
Daniel brushed his fingers across her lips, wait ing for her kiss. When she delivered it , he
ret urned t he arm around her waist and swept his ot her hand free, banking t o t he left
dramat ically. She kissed t hat hand, t oo. Then Daniel's shoulders flexed around hers, hugging
t hem in an embrace t ight enough t hat he could release bot h arms from around her waist , and
somehow, st ill, she st ayed aloft . The feeling was so delicious, so joyful and unbounded, t hat
Luce began t o laugh. He made a great loop in t he air. Her hair splashed all over her face. She
was not afraid. She was flying.
She t ook Daniel's hands as t hey found t heir way around her waist again. "lt 's kinda like we
were made do t his," she said.
"Yes. Kinda."
He flew on, never flagging. They shot t hrough clouds and open air, t hrough brief, beaut iful
rainst orms, drying off in t he wind an inst ant lat er. They passed t ransat lant ic planes at such
t remendous speeds t hat Luce imagined t he passengers inside not not icing anyt hing but a
brilliant , unexpect ed flash of silver and perhaps a gent le nudge of t urbulence, making lit t le
waves run t hrough t heir drinks.
The clouds t hinned as t hey soared over t he ocean.
Luce could smell t he briny weight of it s dept hs all t he way up here, and it smelled like an ocean
from anot her planet , not chalky like Shoreline, and not brackish like home. Daniel's wings t hrew
a glorious shadow on it s hammered surface below t hat was somehow comfort ing, t hough it
was hard t o believe t hat she was a part of t he vision she saw in t he roiling sea.
"Luce?" Daniel asked.
"Yes?"
"What was it like t o be around your parent s t his morning?"
Her eyes t raced t he out line of a lonely pair of islands in t he dark wat ery plain below. She
wondered dist ant ly where t hey were, how far away from home.
"Hard," she admit t ed. "l guess l felt t he way you must have felt a million t imes. At a dist ance
from someone l love because l can't be honest wit h t hem."
"l was afraid of t hat ."
"ln some ways, it 's easier t o be around you and t he ot her angels t han it is t o be around my own
parent s and my own best friend."
Daniel t hought for a moment . "l don't want t hat for you. lt shouldn't have t o be like t hat . All l
ever want ed was t o love you."
"Me t oo. That 's all l want ." But even as she said it , looking out across t he faded east ern sky,
Luce couldn't st op replaying t hose last minut es at home, wishing she'd done t hings different ly.
She should have hugged her dad a lit t le t ight er. She should have list ened, really list ened, t o her
mom's advice as she walked out t he door. She should have spent more t ime asking her best
friend about her life back at Dover. She shouldn't have been so selfish or so rushed. Now every
second t ook her fart her away from Thunderbolt and her parent s and Callie, and every second
Luce grappled wit h t he growing feeling t hat she might not see any of t hem again.
Wit h all her heart Luce believed in what she and Daniel and t he ot her angels were doing. But
t his was not t he first t ime she'd abandoned t he people she cared about for Daniel. She
t hought about t he funeral she'd wit nessed in Prussia, t he dark wool coat s and damp red eyes
of her loved ones, bleary wit h grief at her early, sudden deat h. She t hought about her beaut iful
mot her in medieval England, where she'd spent Valent ine's Day; her sist er, Helen; and her good
friends Laura and Elea-nor. That was t he one life she'd visit ed where she hadn't experienced
her own deat h, but she'd seen enough t o know t hat t here were good people who would be
shat t ered by Lucinda's inevit able demise. lt made her st omach cramp t o imagine. And t hen
Luce t hought of Lucia, t he girl she'd been in lt aly, who'd lost her family in t he war, who didn't
have anyone but Daniel, whose life÷however short it was÷had been wort hwhile because of
his love.
When she pressed deeper int o his chest , Daniel slid his hands up t he sleeves of her sweat er
and ran his fingers in circles around her arms, as if he were drawing lit t le halos on her skin. "Tell
me t he best part of all your lives."
She want ed t o say when l lound you, every t|me. But it wasn't as simple as t hat . lt was hard
even t o t hink of t hem discret ely. Her past lives began t o swirl t oget her and hiccup like t he
panels of a kaleidoscope. There was t hat beaut iful moment in Tahit i when Lulu had t at t ooed
Daniel's chest . And t he way t hey'd abandoned a bat t le in ancient China because t heir love
was more import ant t han fight ing any war. She could have list ed a dozen sexy st olen
moment s, a dozen gorgeous, bit t ersweet kisses.
Luce knew t hose weren't t he best part s.
The best part was now. That was what she would t ake wit h her from her journeys t hrough t he
ages: He was wort h everyt hing t o her and she was wort h everyt hing t o him. The only way t o
experience t hat deep level of t heir love was t o ent er each new moment t oget her, as if t ime
were made of clouds. And if it came down t o it t hese next nine days, Luce knew t hat she and
Daniel would risk everyt hing for t heir love.
"lt 's been an educat ion," she finally said. "The first t ime l st epped t hrough on my own, l was
already det ermined t o break t he curse. But l was overwhelmed and confused, unt il l st art ed t o
realize t hat every life l visit ed, l learned somet hing import ant about myself."
"Like what ?" They were so high t hat t he suggest ion of t he Eart h's curve was visible at t he
edge of t he darkening sky.
"l learned t hat just kissing you didn't kill me, t hat it had more t o do wit h what l was aware of in
t he moment , how much of myself and my hist ory l could t ake in." She felt Daniel nod behind
her. "That has always been t he great est enigma t o me."
"l learned t hat my past selves weren't always very nice people, but you loved t he soul inside of
t hem anyway. And from your example, l learned how t o recognize your soul. You have . . . a
specific glow, a bright ness, and even when you st opped looking like your physical self, l could
st ep int o a new lifet ime and recognize you. l would see your soul almost overlying what ever
face you wore in each life. You would be your foreign Egypt ian self and t he Daniel l craved and
loved."
Daniel t urned his head t o kiss her t emple. "You probably don't realize t his, but t he power t o
recognize my soul has always been in you."
"No, l couldn't ÷l didn't used t o be able t o÷"
"You did, you just didn't know it . You t hought you were crazy. You saw t he Announcers and
called t hem shadows. You t hought t hey were haunt ing you all your life. And when you first met
me at Sword & Cross, or maybe when you first realized you cared for me, you probably saw
somet hing else you couldn't explain, somet hing you t ried t o deny?"
Luce clamped her eyes shut , remembering. "You used t o leave a violet haze in t he air when
you passed by. But l'd blink and it would be gone."
Daniel smiled. "l didn't know t hat ."
"What do you mean? You just said÷"
"l imagined you saw someth|ng, but l didn't know what it was. What ever at t ract ion you
recognized in me, in my soul, it would manifest different ly depending on how you needed t o
see it ." He smiled at her. "That 's how your soul is in collaborat ion wit h mine. A violet glow is
nice. l'm glad t hat 's what it was."
"What does my soul look like t o you?"
"l couldn't reduce it t o words if l t ried, but it s beaut y is unsurpassed."
That was a good way of describing t his flight across t he world wit h Daniel. The st ars t winkled
in vast galaxies all around t hem. The moon was huge and dense wit h crat ers, half shrouded by
pale gray cloud. Luce was warm and safe in t he arms of t he angel she loved, a luxury she'd
missed so much on her quest t hrough t he Announcers. She sighed and closed her eyes÷
And saw B|//.
The vision was aggressive, invading her mind, t hough it was not t he vile, seet hing beast Bill
had become when she last saw him. He was just Bill, her flint y gargoyle, holding her hand t o fly
her down from t he ship-wrecked mast where she'd st epped t hrough in Tahit i.
Why t hat memory found her in Daniel's arms, she didn't know. But she could st ill feel t he shape
of his small st one hand in hers. She remembered how his st rengt h and grace had ast onished
her. She remembered feeling safe wit h him.
Now her skin crawled and she writ hed against Daniel uncomfort ably.
"What is it ?"
"Bill." The word t ast ed sour.
"Lucifer."
"l know he's Lucifer. l know t hat . But for a while t here, he was somet hing else t o me. Somehow l
t hought of him as a friend. lt haunt s me, how close l let him get .
l'm ashamed."
"Don't be." Daniel hugged her close. "There's a reason he was called t he Morning St ar. Lucifer
was beaut|lu/. Some say he was t he most beaut iful." Luce t hought she det ect ed a hint of
jealousy in Daniel's t one. "He was t he most beloved, t oo, not just by t he Throne, but by many
of t he angels. Think of t he sway he holds over mort als. That power flows from t he same
source." His voice wobbled, t hen grew very t ight . "You shouldn't be ashamed of falling for him,
Luce÷" Daniel broke off suddenly, t hough it sounded like he had more t o say.
"Things were get t ing t ense bet ween us," she admit t ed, "but l never imagined t hat he could
t urn int o such a monst er."
"There is no darkness as dark as a great light cor-rupt ed. Look." Daniel shift ed t he angle of his
wings and t hey flew back in a wide arc, spinning around t he out side of a t owering cloud. One
side was golden pink, lit by t he last ray of evening sun. The ot her side, Luce not iced as t hey
circled, was dark and pregnant wit h rain. "Bright and dark rolled up t oget her, bot h necessary for
t his t o be what it is. lt is like t hat for Lucifer."
"And Cam, t oo?" Luce asked as Daniel complet ed t he circle t o resume t heir flight over t he
ocean.
"l know you don't t rust him, but you can. l do. Cam's darkness is legendary, but it is only a sliver
of his personalit y."
"But t hen why would he side wit h Lucifer? Why would any of t he angels?"
"Cam didn't ," Daniel said. "Not at first , anyway. lt was a very unst able t ime. Unprecedent ed.
Unimaginable.
At t he t ime of t he Fall, t here were some angels who sided wit h Lucifer right away, but t here
were ot hers, like Cam, who were cast out by t he Throne for not choosing quickly enough. The
rest of hist ory has been a slow choosing of sides, wit h angels ret urning t o t he fold of Heaven or
t he ranks of Hell unt il t here are only a few unallied fallen left ."
"That 's where we are now?" Luce asked, even t hough she knew t hat Daniel didn't like t o t alk
about how he st ill had not chosen a side.
"You used t o really like Cam," Daniel said, sliding t he subject away from himself. "For a handful
of lifet imes on Eart h t he t hree of us were very close. lt was only much lat er, aft er Cam had
suffered a broken heart , t hat he crossed over t o Lucifer's side."
"What ? Who was she?"
"None of us like t o t alk about her. You must never let on t hat you know," Daniel said. "l
resent ed his choice, but l can't say l didn't underst and it . lf l ever t ruly lost you, l don't know
what l would do. My whole world would dim."
"That isn't going t o happen," Luce said t oo quickly.
She knew t his lifet ime was her last chance. lf she died now, she would not come back.
She had a t housand quest ions, about t he woman Cam had lost , about t he st range quake in
Daniel's voice when he t alked about Lucifer's appeal, about where she'd been when he was
falling. But her eyelids felt heavy, her body slack wit h fat igue.
"Rest ," Daniel cooed in her ear. "l'll wake you up when we're landing in Venice."
lt was all t he permission she needed t o let herself drift off. She closed her eyes against t he
phosphorescent waves crashing t housands of feet below and flew int o a world of dreams
where n|ne days had no significance, where she could dip and soar and linger in t he glory of t he
clouds, where she could fly freely, int o infinit y, wit hout t he slight est chance of falling.
THREE
THE SUNKEN SANCTUARY
Daniel had been knocking on t he weat hered wooden door in t he middle of t he night for what
felt t o Luce like half an hour. The t hree-st ory Venet ian t ownhouse belonged t o a colleague, a
professor, and Daniel was cert ain t his man would let t hem crash, because t hey had been great
friends 'years ago,' which, wit h Daniel, could encompass quit e a span of t ime.
"He must be a heavy sleeper." Luce yawned, half lulled back int o sleep herself by t he st eady
pounding of Daniel's fist s. Eit her t hat , she t hought blearily, or t he professor was sit t ing in some
bohemian all-night café, sipping wine over a book crammed wit h incomprehen-sible t erms.
lt was t hree in t he morning÷t heir t ouchdown amid t he silvery web of Venice's canals had been
accompanied by t he chiming of a clock t ower somewhere in t he darkened dist ance of t he cit y
÷and Luce was overcome wit h fat igue. She leaned miserably against t he cold t in mail-box,
causing it t o wobble loose from one of t he nails holding it upright . This sent t he whole box
slant ing, making Luce st umble backward and nearly hurt le int o t he murky black-green canal,
whose wat er lapped over t he lip of t he mossy st oop like an inky t ongue.
The whole ext erior of t he house seemed t o be rot t ing in layers: from t he paint ed blue wood
peeling off t he windowsills in slimy sheet s, t o red bricks crawling wit h dark green mold, t o t he
damp cement of t he st oop, which crumbled under t heir feet . For a moment , Luce t hought she
could act ually feel t he cit y sinking.
"He's got t o be here," Daniel mut t ered, st ill pounding.
When t hey'd landed on t he canal-side ledge usually accessed only by gondola, Daniel had
promised Luce a bed inside, a hot drink, a reprise from t he damp and bracing wind t hey'd been
flying t hrough for hours.
At last , t he slow shuffling of feet t humping down st airs inside perked a shivering Luce t o
at t ent ion. Daniel exhaled and closed his eyes, relieved, as t he brass knob t urned. Hinges
moaned as t he door swung open.
"Who t he devil÷" The older lt alian man's wiry t uft s of whit e hair st ood out at all angles from his
head. He had sensat ionally bushy whit e eyebrows, and a must ache t o mat ch, and t hick whit e
chest hair prot ruding from t he V-neck of his dark gray robe.
Luce wat ched Daniel blink in surprise, as if he was second-guessing t heir address. Then t he old
man's pale brown eyes lit up. He lurched forward, pulling Daniel int o a t ight embrace.
"l was beginning t o wonder if you were going t o visit before l kicked t he inevit able bucket ," t he
man whispered hoarsely. His eyes t raveled t o Luce, and he smiled as if t hey hadn't woken him,
as if he'd been expect ing t hem for mont hs. "Aft er all t hese years, you finally brought over
Lucinda. What a t reat ."
His name was Professor Mazot t a. He and Daniel had st udied hist ory t oget her at t he Universit y
of Bologna in t he t hirt ies. He was not appalled or bewildered by Daniel's lack of aging: Mazot t a
underst ood what Daniel was.
He seemed t o feel only joy at being reunit ed wit h an old friend, a joy t hat was augment ed by
t he int roduct ion t o t he love of t hat friend's life.
He escort ed t hem int o his office, which was also a st udy of varying degrees of decay. His
bookshelves dipped at t he cent ers; his desk was piled wit h yellowing paper; t he rug was worn
t o t hreads and splashed wit h coffee st ains. Mazot t a set immediat ely t o making each of t hem a
cup of dense hot chocolat e÷an old man's old bad habit , he rasped t o Luce wit h a nudge. But
Daniel barely t ook a sip before t hrust ing his book int o Mazot t a's hands and opening it t o t he
descript ion of t he first relic.
Mazot t a slipped on t hin wire-framed glasses and squint ed at t he page, mumbling t o himself in
lt alian. He st ood up, walked t o t he bookshelf, scrat ched his head, t urned back t o t he desk,
paced t he office, sipped his chocolat e, t hen ret urned t o t he bookshelf t o pull out a fat leat her-
bound t ome. Luce st ifled a yawn. Her eyelids felt like t hey were working hard t o hold up
somet hing heavy. She was t rying not t o drift , pinching t he inside of her palm t o keep herself
awake. But Daniel's and Professor Mazot t a's voices met each ot her like dist ant clouds of fog
as t hey argued over t he impossibilit y of everyt hing t he ot her was saying.
"lt 's absolut ely not a windowpane from t he church of Saint lgnat ius." Mazot t a wrung his hands.
"Those are slight ly hexagonal, and t his illust rat ion is resoundingly oblong."
"What are we doing here?" Daniel suddenly shout ed, rat t ling an amat eur paint ing of a blue
sailboat on t he wall. "We clearly need t o be at t he library at Bologna. Do you st ill have keys t o
get in? ln your office you must have had÷"
"l became emerit us t hirt een years ago, Daniel. And we're not t raveling t wo hundred kilomet ers
in t he middle of t he night t o look at . . ." He paused. "Look at Lucinda, she's sleeping st anding
up, like a horse!" Luce grimaced groggily. She was afraid t o st art down t he pat h of a dream for
fear she might meet Bill. He had a t endency t o t urn up when she closed her eyes t hese days.
She want ed t o st ay awake, t o st ay away from him, t o be a part of t he conversat ion about t he
relic she and Daniel would need t o find t he next day. But sleep was insist ent and would not be
denied.
Seconds or hours lat er, Daniel's arms lift ed her from t he ground and carried her up a dark and
narrow flight of st airs.
"l'm sorry, Luce," she t hought he said. She was t oo deep asleep t o respond. "l should have let
you rest sooner. l'm just so scared," he whispered. "Scared we're going t o run out of t ime."
Luce blinked and shift ed backward, surprised t o find herself in a bed, furt her surprised by t he
single whit e peony in a short glass vase drooping ont o t he pillow next t o her head.
She plucked t he flower from it s vase and t wirled it in her palm, causing drops of wat er t o bead
on t he brocaded rose duvet . The bed creaked as she propped t he pillow up against t he brass
headboard t o look around t he room.
For a moment , she felt disorient ed by finding herself in an unfamiliar place, dreamed memories
of t raveling t hrough t he Announcers slowly fading as she fully awoke.
She no longer had Bill t o give her clues about where she'd ended up. He was only t here in her
dreams, and t he previous night he'd been Lucifer, a monst er, laughing at t he idea t hat she and
Daniel could change or st op a t hing.
A whit e envelope was propped against t he vase on t he night st and.
Dan|e/.
She remembered only a single soft sweet kiss and his arms pulling away as he'd t ucked her
int o bed t he previous night and shut t he door.
Where had he gone aft er t hat ?
She ripped open t he envelope and slid out t he st iff whit e card it held. On t he card were t hree
words: On the ba/cony.
Smiling, Luce t hrew back t he covers and heaved her legs over t he side of t he bed. She padded
across t he giant woven rug, t he whit e peony scissored bet ween her fingers. The windows in
t he bedroom were t all and narrow and rose nearly t went y feet t o t he cat hedral ceiling. Behind
one of t he rich brown curt ains was a glass door leading out t o a t errace. She t urned t he met al
lat ch and st epped out side, expect ing t o find Daniel and sink int o his arms.
But t he crescent -moon-shaped t errace was empt y.
Just a short st one railing and a one-st ory drop t o t he green wat ers of t he canal, and a small
glass-t opped t able wit h a red canvas folding chair beside it . The morning was beaut iful. The air
smelled murky but crisp. On t he river shiny narrow black gondolas glided past one anot her as
elegant ly as swans. A pair of speckled t hrushes chirped from a clot hesline one floor up, and on
t he ot her side of t he canal was a row of cramped past el apart -ment s. lt was charming, sure,
t he Venice of most people's dreams, but Luce wasn't here t o be a t ourist . She and Daniel were
here t o save t heir hist ory, and t he world's.
And t he clock was t icking. And Daniel was gone.
Then she not iced a second whit e envelope on t he balcony t able, propped up against a t iny
whit e t o-go cup and a small paper bag. Again, she t ore open t he card, and again found only
t hree words:
P/ease wa|t here.
"Annoying yet romant ic," she said aloud. She sat down on t he folding chair and peered inside
t he paper bag. A handful of t iny jam-filled donut s dust ed wit h cinnamon and sugar sent up an
int oxicat ing scent .
The bag was warm in her hands, flecked wit h lit t le bit s of oil seeping t hrough. Luce popped one
int o her mout h and t ook a sip from t he t iny whit e cup, which cont ained t he richest , most
delight ful espresso Luce had ever t ast ed.
"Enjoying t he bombolini?" Daniel called from below.
Luce shot t o her feet and leaned over t he railing t o find him st anding at t he back of a gondola
paint ed wit h images of angels. He wore a flat st raw hat bound wit h a t hick red ribbon, and used
a broad wooden paddle t o st eer t he boat slowly t oward her.
Her heart surged t he way it did each t ime she first saw Daniel in anot her life. But he was here.
He was hers.
This was happening now.
"Dip t hem in t he espresso, t hen t ell me what it 's like t o be in Heaven," Daniel said, smiling up at
her.
"How do l get down t o you?" she called.
He point ed t o t he narrowest spiral st aircase Luce had ever seen, just t o t he right of t he railing.
She grabbed t he coffee and bag of donut s, slipped t he peony st em behind her ear, and made
for t he st eps.
She could feel Daniel's eyes on her as she climbed over t he railing and slinked down t he st airs.
Every t ime she made a full rot at ion on t he st aircase, she caught a t easing flash of his violet
eyes. By t he t ime she made it t o t he bot t om, he had ext ended his hand t o help her ont o t he
boat .
There was t he elect ricit y she'd been yearning for since she awoke. The spark t hat passed
bet ween t hem every t ime t hey t ouched. Daniel wrapped his arms around her waist and drew
her in so t hat t here wasn't any space bet ween t heir bodies. He kissed her, long and deep, unt il
she was dizzy.
"Now t hat 's t he way t o st art a morning." Daniel's fingers t raced t he pet als of t he peony behind
her ear.
A slight weight suddenly t ugged at her neck and when she reached up, her hands found a fine
chain, which her fingers t raced down t o a silver locket . She held it out and looked at t he red
rose engraved on it s face.
Her locket ! lt was t he one Daniel had given t o her on her last night at Sword & Cross. She had
kept it t ucked in t he front cover of The Book ol the Watchers during t he short t ime she'd spent
alone in t he cabin, but everyt hing about t hose days was blurry. The next t hing she
remembered was Mr. Cole rushing her t o t he airport t o cat ch her flight t o California. She hadn't
remembered t he locket or t he book unt il she'd arrived at Shoreline, and by t hen she was
cert ain she'd lost t hem.
Daniel must have slipped it around her neck when she was sleeping. Her eyes t eared again,
t his t ime wit h happiness. "Where did you÷"
"Open it ." Daniel smiled.
The last t ime she'd held t he locket , t he image of a former Luce and Daniel had baffled her.
Daniel said he'd t ell her when t he phot ograph had been t aken t he next t ime he saw her. That
hadn't happened. Their st olen t ime t oget her in California had been most ly st ressful and t oo
brief, filled wit h silly argument s she couldn't imagine having wit h Daniel anymore.
Luce was glad t o have wait ed, because when she opened t he locket t his t ime and saw t he t iny
phot ograph behind it s glass plat e÷Daniel in a bowt ie and Luce wit h coiffed short hair÷she
inst ant ly recognized what it was.
"Lucia," she whispered. lt was t he young nurse Luce had encount ered when she st epped
t hrough int o World War l Milan. The girl had been much younger when Luce met her, sweet and
a lit t le sassy, but so genuine Luce had admired her right away.
She smiled now, remembering t he way Lucia kept st aring at Luce's short er modern haircut , and
t he way Lucia joked t hat all t he soldiers had a crush on Luce. She remembered most ly t hat if
Luce had st ayed at t he lt alian hospit al a lit t le longer and if t he circumst ances had been . . . well,
ent irely different , t he t wo of t hem could have been great friends.
She looked up at Daniel, beaming, but her expression quickly darkened. He was st aring at her
as if he'd been punched.
"What 's wrong?" She let go of t he locket and st epped int o him, wrapping her arms around his
neck.
He shook his head, st unned. "l'm just not used t o being able t o share t his wit h you. The look on
your face when you recognized t hat pict ure? lt 's t he most beaut iful t hing l've ever seen."
Luce blushed and smiled and felt speechless and want ed t o cry all at once. She underst ood
Daniel complet ely.
"l'm sorry l left you alone like t hat ," he said. "l had t o go and check somet hing in one of
Mazot t a's books in Bologna. l figured you'd need every bit of rest you could get , and you looked
so beaut iful asleep, l couldn't bear t o wake you up."
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Luce asked.
"Possibly. Mazot t a gave me a clue about one of t he piazzas here in t own. He's most ly an art
hist orian, but he knows his divinit y bet t er t han any mort al l've ever met ." Luce slid down t o t he
gondola's low red velvet bench, which was like a love seat , wit h a padded black leat her cushion
and a high, sculpt ed back.
Daniel sank t he oar int o t he wat er and t he boat slid forward. The wat er was a bright past el
green, and as t hey glided, Luce could see t he whole cit y reflect ed in t he glassy wobble of it s
surface.
"The good news," Daniel said, looking down at her from under t he brim of his hat , "is t hat
Mazot t a t hinks he knows where t he art ifact is locat ed. l kept him up bickering unt il sunrise, but
we finally mat ched my sket ch t o an int erest ing old phot ograph."
"And?"
"As it t urns out "÷Daniel flicked his wrist and t he gondola curved gracefully around a t ight
corner, t hen dipped under t he low slant of a foot bridge÷"t he serving t ray is a halo."
" A ha/o? l t hought only angels on greet ing cards had halos." She cocked her head at Daniel.
"Do you have a halo?"
Daniel smiled as if he found t he quest ion charming.
"Not in t he golden-ring fashion, l don't t hink. As far as we can t ell, halos are represent at ions of
our light , in a way t hat mort als can comprehend. The violet light you saw around me at Sword
& Cross, for example. l'm guessing Gabbe never t old you st ories about posing for da Vinci?"
"She did what?" Luce almost choked on her bombolini.
"He didn't know she was an angel, of course, but according t o her, Leonardo t alked about t he
light t hat seemed t o radiat e from wit hin her. That 's why he paint ed her wit h a halo circling her
head."
"Whoa." Luce shook her head, ast onished, as t hey glided past a pair of lovers in mat ching felt
fedoras kissing in a balcony corner.
"lt 's not just him. Art ist s have been depict ing angels t hat way since we first fell t o Eart h."
"And t he halo we need t o find t oday?"
"Anot her art ist 's depict ion." Daniel's face grew somber. The brass of a scrat chy jazz record
drift ed out an open window and seemed t o fill t he space around t he gondola, scoring Daniel's
narrat ion. "This one is a sculpt ure of an angel, and much older, from t he pre-classical era. So
old, t he art ist 's ident it y is unknown. lt 's from Anat olia and, like t he rest of t hese art ifact s, was
st olen during t he Second Crusade."
"So we just go find t he sculpt ure in a church or museum or what ever, lift t he halo off t he
angel's head, and sprint t o Mount Sinai?" Luce asked.
Daniel's eyes darkened for a split second. "For now, yes, t hat 's t he plan."
"That sounds t oo simple," Luce said, not ing t he int ri-cacies of t he buildings around her÷t he
high onion-domed windows in one, t he verdant herb garden creeping out t he window of
anot her. Everyt hing seemed t o be sinking int o t he bright green wat er wit h a kind of serene
surrender.
Daniel st ared past her, t he sunlit wat er reflect ing in his eyes. "We'll see how simple it is." He
squint ed at a wooden sign fart her down t he block, t hen st eered t hem out of t he cent er of t he
canal. The gondola rocked as Daniel guided it t o a st op against a brick wall crawling wit h vines.
He grabbed hold of one of t he mooring poles and knot t ing t he gondola's rope around it . The
boat groaned and st rained against it s bindings.
"This is t he address Mazot t a gave me." Daniel gest ured at an ancient curved st one bridge
t hat spanned bet ween romant ic and decrepit . "We'll head up t hese st airs and head t o t he
palazzo. lt shouldn't be far." He hopped out of t he gondola and ont o t he sidewalk, holding out
his hand for Luce. She followed his lead, and t oget her t hey crossed t he bridge, hand in hand.
As t hey walked past bakery st and aft er bakery st and and vendors selling VENlCE T-shirt s,
Luce couldn't help looking around at all t he ot her happy couples: Everyone here seemed t o be
kissing, laughing. She t ugged t he peony out from behind her ear and slipped it inside her purse.
She and Daniel were on a mission, not a honeymoon, and t here would never be anot her
romant ic encount er if t hey failed.
Their pace quickened as t hey t urned left ont o a narrow st reet , t hen right int o a broad open
piazza.
Daniel st opped abrupt ly.
"lt is supposed t o be here. ln t he square." He looked down at t he address, shaking his head in
weary disbelief.
"What 's wrong?"
"The address Mazot t a gave me is that church. He didn't t ell me t hat ." He point ed at t he t all,
spired Fran-ciscan building, wit h it s t riangle of st ained-glass roseat e windows. lt was a
massive, commanding chapel wit h a pale orange ext erior and bright whit e t rim around it s
windows and it s large dome. "The sculpt ure÷t he halo÷must be inside."
"Okay." Luce t ook a st ep t oward t he church, giving Daniel a bewildered shrug. "Let 's go in and
check it out ." Daniel shift ed his weight . His face suddenly looked pale. "l can't , Luce."
"Why not ?"
Daniel's body had st iffened wit h a palpable nervous-ness. His arms seemed nailed t o his sides
and his jaw was clenched so t ight ly it could have been wired. She wasn't used t o Daniel's being
anyt hing ot her t han confident .
This was st range behavior.
"Then you don't know?" he asked.
Luce shook her head and Daniel sighed.
"l t hought maybe at Shoreline, t hey might have t aught you . . . t he t hing is, act ually, if a fallen
angel ent ers a sanct uary of God, t he st ruct ure and all t hose inside it burst int o flames."
He finished his sent ence quickly, just as a group of plaid-skirt ed German schoolgirls on a t our
passed t hem in t he piazza, filing t oward t he ent rance of t he church.
Luce wat ched as a few of t hem t urned t o look at Daniel, whispering and giggling t o each ot her,
smoot hing t heir braids in case he happened t o glance t heir way.
He fixed on Luce. He st ill seemed nervous. "lt 's one of t he many lesser-known det ails of our
punishment . lf a fallen angel desires t o reent er t he jurisdict ion of t he grace of God, we must
approach t he Throne direct ly.
There are no short cut s."
"You're saying you've never set foot in a church? Not once in t he t housands of years you've
been here?" Daniel shook his head. "Or a t emple, or a synagogue, or a mosque. Never. The
closest l've come is t he nat at o-rium at Sword & Cross. When it was desanct ified and
repurposed as a gym, t he t aboo was lift ed." He closed his eyes. "Arriane did once, very early on
before she'd reallied herself wit h Heaven. She didn't know any bet t er.
The way she describes it ÷"
"ls t hat where she got t he scars on her neck?" Luce t ouched her own neck inst inct ively,
t hinking back t o her first hour at Sword & Cross: Arriane handing over a st olen Swiss Army
knife, demanding t hat Luce give her a haircut . She hadn't been able t o t ake her eyes off t he
angel's st range marbled scars.
"No." Daniel looked away, uncomfort able. "That was somet hing else."
A group of t ourist s were posing wit h t heir guide in front of t he ent rance. ln t he t ime t hey had
been t alking, t en people had drift ed int o and out of t he church wit hout seeming t o appreciat e
t he building's beaut y or it s import ÷and yet Daniel, Arriane, and a whole legion of angels could
never st ep inside.
But Luce could.
"l'll go. l know what t he halo looks like from your sket ch. lf it 's in t here, l'll find it and÷"
"You can ent er, it 's t rue." Daniel nodded curt ly.
"There is no ot her way."
"No problem." Luce t ried nonchalance.
"l'll wait right here." Daniel looked reluct ant and relieved at t he same t ime. He squeezed her
hand and sat down on t he raised rim of a fount ain in t he cent er of t he square and explained
what t he halo should look like and how t o remove it . "But be careful! lt 's more t han a t housand
years old and delicat e!" Behind him, a cherub spat out an unending st ream of wat er. "lf you
have any t rou-ble, Luce, if anyt hing looks even remot ely suspicious, run back out here and find
me."
The church was dark and cool, a cross-shaped st ruct ure wit h low raft ers and t he heavy scent
of incense cloaking t he air. Luce picked up an English pamphlet from t he ent ryway, t hen
realized she didn't know what t he name of t he sculpt ure was. Annoyed wit h herself for not
asking÷Daniel would have known÷she walked up t he narrow nave, past row aft er row of
empt y pews, her eyes t racing t he st ained-glass St at ions of t he Cross lining t he high windows.
Though t he piazza out side had been bust ling wit h people, t he church was relat ively quiet .
Luce was conscious of t he sound of her riding boot s on t he marble floor as she passed a
st at ue of t he Madonna in one of t he small gat ed chapels lining eit her side of t he church. The
st at ue's flat marble eyes seemed impossibly big, her fingers impossibly long and t hin, pressed
t oget her in prayer.
Luce did not see t he halo anywhere.
At t he end of t he nave she st ood in t he cent er of t he church, under t he great dome, which let
t he t empered glow of morning sunlight brush t hrough it s t owering windows. A man in a long
gray robe kneeled before an alt ar. His pale face and whit e hands÷cupped t o his heart ÷were
t he only part s of his body exposed. He was chant ing in Lat in under his breat h. D|es |rae, d|es
|//a.
Luce recognized t he words from her Lat in class at Dover but couldn't remember what t hey
meant .
As she approached, t he man's chant broke off and he lift ed his head, as if her presence had
disrupt ed his prayer. His skin was as pale as any she'd ever seen, his t hin lips almost colorless
as t hey frowned at her. She looked away and t urned left int o t he t ransept , which formed t he
cross shape of t he church, in an effort t o give t he man his space÷
And found herself before a formidable angel.
lt was a st at ue, sculpt ed from smoot h pale pink marble, ut t erly different from t he angels Luce
had come t o know so well. There was none of t he fierce vit alit y she found in Cam, none of t he
infinit e complexit ies she adored in Daniel. This was a st at ue creat ed by t he st olidly fait hful for
t he st olidly fait hful. To Luce, t he angel seemed empt y. He was looking up, t oward Heaven, and
his sculpt ed body shone t hrough t he soft ripples of fabric draped across his chest and waist .
His face, t ilt ed skyward, t en feet above Luce's own, had been chiseled delicat ely, by someone
wit h a pract iced t ouch, from t he ridge of his nose t o t he t iny t uft s of hair curled above his ear.
His hands gest ured t oward t he sky, as if asking forgiveness from someone above for a long-
ago-commit t ed sin.
"Buon g|orno.¨ A sudden voice made Luce jump. She hadn't seen t he priest appear in t he
heavy floor-lengt h black robe, had not seen t he rect ory at t he edge of t he t ransept , from
whose carved mahogany door t he priest had just emerged.
He had a waxy nose and large earlobes and was t all enough t o t ower over her, which made her
uneasy. She forced a smile and t ook a st ep away. How was she going t o st eal a relic from a
public place like t his? Why hadn't she t hought about t hat before in t he piazza? She couldn't
even speak÷
Then she remembered: She cou/d speak lt alian. She had learned it ÷more or less÷inst ant ly
when she'd st epped t hrough t he Announcer int o t he front lines of war near t he Piave River.
"This is a beaut iful sculpt ure," she said t o t he priest .
Her lt alian wasn't perfect ÷she spoke more like she used t o be fluent years ago but had lost
her confidence.
St ill, her accent was good enough, and t he priest seemed t o underst and. "lndeed it is."
"The art ist 's work wit h t he . . . chisel," she said,
spreading her arms wide as t hough she were crit ically regarding t he work, "it is like he freed t he
angel from t he st one." Drawing her wide eyes back t o t he sculpt ure, t rying t o look as innocent
as possible, Luce t ook a spin around t he angel. Sure enough, a golden glass-filled halo capped
his head. Only it wasn't chipped in t he places Daniel's sket ch had suggest ed. Maybe it had
been rest ored.
The priest nodded sagely and said, "No angel was ever free aft er t he sin of t he Fall. The able
eye can see t hat , as well."
Daniel had t old her t he t rick t o releasing t he halo from t he angel's head: t o grasp t he halo like a
st eering wheel and give it t wo firm but gent le count erclockwise t urns. "Because it 's made of
glass and gold, it had t o be added t o t he sculpt ure lat er. So a base is carved int o t he st one,
and a mat ching hole fashioned int o t he halo. Just t wo st rong÷but careful!÷t wist s." That
would loosen it from it s base.
She glanced up at t he vast st at ue t owering over her and t he priest 's heads.
Right .
The priest came t o st and beside Luce. "This is Raphael, t he Healer."
Luce didn't know any angels named Raphael. She wondered if he was real or a church
invent ion. "l, um, read in a guidebook t hat it dat es back t o before t he classical era." She eyed
t he t hin beam of marble connect ing t he halo t o t he angel's head. "Wasn't t his sculpt ure
brought t o t he church during t he Crusades?" The priest swept his arms over his chest , and t he
long loose sleeves of his robe bunched up at t he elbow. "You are t hinking of t he original. lt sat
just sout h of Dorso-duro in t he Chiesa dei Piccolos Miracolis on t he lsland of t he Seals, and
disappeared wit h t he church and t he island when bot h, as we know, sank int o t he sea
cent uries ago."
"No." Luce swallowed hard. "l didn't know t hat ." His round brown eyes fixed on hers. "You must
be new t o Venice," he said. "Event ually, everyt hing here crumbles int o t he sea. lt isn't so bad,
really. How else would we become so skilled at reproduct ions?" He glanced up at t he angel, ran
his long brown fingers across t he marble plint h. "This one was creat ed on commission for only
fift y t housand lire. lsn't it remarkable?" lt wasn't remarkable; it was awful. The real halo had
sunk int o t he sea? They would never find it now; t hey would never learn t he t rue locat ion of
t he Fall; t hey would never be able t o st op Lucifer from dest roying t hem. They'd only just begun
t his journey and already it seemed t hat all was lost .
Luce st umbled backward, barely finding t he breat h t o t hank t he priest . Feeling heavy and
unbalanced, she nearly t ripped over t he pale supplicant , who scowled at her as she walked
quickly t o t he door.
As soon as she crossed t he t hreshold, she broke int o a run. Daniel caught her by t he elbow at
t he fount ain.
"What happened?"
Her face must have given everyt hing away. She relayed t he st ory t o him, growing more
despondent wit h each word. By t he t ime she got t o t he way t he priest had bragged about t he
bargain reproduct ion, a t ear was sliding down her cheek.
"You're sure he called t he cat hedral la Chiesa dei Miracolis Piccolos?" Daniel said, spinning
around t o look across t he piazza. "On t he lsland of t he Seals?"
"l'm sure, Daniel, it 's gone. lt 's buried under t he ocean÷"
"And we are going t o find it ."
"What ? How?"
He had already grabbed her by t he hand and, wit h one sideways glance back t hrough t he
doors of t he church, st art ed t o jog across t he square.
"Daniel÷"
"You know how t o swim."
"That isn't funny."
"No, it isn't ." He st opped running and t urned t o look at her, held her chin in his palm. Her heart
was racing but his eyes on hers made everyt hing slow down.
"lt 's not ideal, but if t his is t he only way t o get t he art ifact , it 's t he way we're going t o get t he
art ifact . Not hing can st op us. You know t hat . Not hing can be allowed t o st op us."
Moment s lat er, t hey were back in t he gondola, Daniel rowing t hem out t o sea÷powering t hem
like an en-gine wit h each st roke of his oar. They sped past every ot her gondola in t he canal,
making hairpin t urns around low bridges and t he jut t ing corners of buildings, splashing wat er on
alarmed faces in neighboring gondolas.
"l know t his island," Daniel said, not even winded.
"lt used t o lie halfway bet ween Saint Mark's and La Giudecca. But t here's nowhere t o dock t he
boat nearby.
We'll have t o leave t he gondola. We'll have t o jump ship and swim."
Luce glanced over t he side of t he gondola int o t he cloudy green wat er moving fast below her.
Lack of swim-suit . Hypot hermia. lt alian Loch Ness monst ers in unseen dept hs of sludge. The
gondola bench was freezing under her and t he wat er smelled like mud laced wit h sewage.
All t his flashed t hrough Luce's mind, but when she locked on Daniel's eyes, it quiet ed her fear.
He needed her. She was at his side, no quest ions asked.
"Okay."
When t hey reached t he open channel where t he canals empt ied out int o space bet ween t he
islands' edges, it was t ourist chaos: The wat er t eemed wit h vaporet t i shut -t ling t ourist s
hauling roller bags t oward hot els; mot or-boat s chart ered by rich, elegant t ravelers; and bright
aerodynamic kayaks carrying American backpackers wearing wraparound sunglasses.
Gondolas and barges and police boat s all crisscrossed t he wat er at high speeds, barely
avoiding one anot her.
Daniel maneuvered effort lessly, point ing int o t he dist ance. "See t he t owers?"
Luce st ared out over t he mult icolored boat s. The horizon was a faint line where t he blue-gray
of t he sky t ouched t he darker blue-gray of t he wat er. "No."
"Focus, Luce."
Aft er a few moment s, t wo small greenish t owers÷fart her away t han she imagined she could
ever see wit hout a t elescope÷came int o view. "Oh. There."
"That 's all t hat remains of t he church." Daniel's paddling speed increased as t he number of
boat s around t hem decreased. The wat er grew choppier, deepened t o a dark evergreen color,
began t o smell more like t he sea t han t he oddly appealing filt h of Venice. Luce's hair whipped in
t he wind, which felt colder t he fart her from land t hey got . "We'll have t o hope t hat our halo has
not been pilfered by excavat ion t eams of scuba divers."
Aft er Luce had climbed back int o t he gondola, Daniel had asked her t o wait for him for just a
moment . He'd disappeared down a narrow alley and reappeared what seemed like seconds
lat er wit h a small pink plast ic bag.
When he t ossed it t o her now, Luce pulled out a pair of goggles. They looked st upidly
expensive and not very funct ional: mauve and black wit h fashionable angel wings at t he edges
of t he lenses. She couldn't remember t he last t ime she'd swum wit h goggles, but as she looked
out at t he black-shadowed wat er, Luce was glad t o have t hem t o t ug down over her eyes.
"Goggles but no bat hing suit ?" she asked.
Daniel blushed. "l guess t hat was st upid. But l was in a hurry, only t hinking about what you
would need t o get t he halo." He drove t he paddle back int o t he wat er, pro-pelling t hem more
quickly t han a speedboat . "You can swim in your underwear, right ?"
Now Luce blushed. Under normal circumst ances, t he quest ion might have seemed t hrilling,
somet hing t hey bot h would have giggled at . Not t hese nine days. She nodded. Eight days now.
Daniel was deadly serious. Luce just swallowed hard and said, "Of course." The pair of green-
gray spires grew larger, more det ailed, and t hen t hey were upon t hem. They were t all and
conical, made of rust ed slat s of copper. They looked like t hey had once been capped by small
t eardrop-shaped copper flags, sculpt ed t o look like t hey were rippling in t he wind, but one flag
was pocked wit h weat hered holes, and t he ot her had broken off complet ely from it s pole.
ln t he open wat er, t he spires' prot rusion was bizarre, suggest ing a cavernous cat hedral of t he
deep. Luce wondered how long ago t he church had sunk, how deep it sat below.
The t hought of diving down t here in ridiculous goggles and mom-bought underwear made her
shudder.
"This church must be huge," she said. She meant l don't th|nk l can do th|s. l can't breathe
underwater. How are we go|ng to l|nd one sma// ha/o sunk |n the m|dd/e ol the sea?
"l can t ake you down as far as t he chapel it self, but only t hat far. So long as you hold on t o my
hand." Daniel ext ended a warm hand t o help Luce st and up in t he gondola. "Breat hing will not
be a problem. But t he church will st ill be sanct ified, which means l'll need you t o find t he halo
and bring it out t o me."
Daniel yanked his T-shirt off over his head, dropping it t o t he bench of t he gondola. He st epped
out of his pant s quickly, perfect ly balanced in t he boat , t hen kicked off his t ennis shoes. Luce
wat ched, feeling somet hing st ir inside her unt il she realized she was supposed t o be st rip-ping
down, t oo. She kicked off her boot s, t ugged off her socks, st epped out of her jeans as
modest ly as she could.
Daniel held her hand t o help her balance; he was wat ching her but not t he way she would have
expect ed. He was worried about her, t he goose bumps rising on her skin. He rubbed her arms
when she slipped off her sweat er and st ood freezing in her sensible underwear in t he gondola
in t he middle of t he Venet ian lagoon.
Again she shivered, cold and fear and indecipherable mass inside her. But her voice sounded
brave when she t ugged t he goggles, which pinched, down over her eyes and said, "Okay, let 's
swim."
They held hands, just like t hey had t he last t ime t hey'd swum t oget her at Sword & Cross. As
t heir feet lift ed off t he varnished floor of t he gondola, Daniel's hand t ugged her upward, higher
t han she ever could have jumped herself÷and t hen t hey dove.
Her body broke t he surface of t he sea, which wasn't as cold as she'd expect ed. ln fact , t he
closer she swam beside Daniel, t he warmer t he wake around t hem grew.
He was glowing.
Of course he was. She hadn't want ed t o voice her fears about how dark and impassible t he
church would be underwat er, and now she realized, as ever, t hat Daniel was always looking out
for her. Daniel would light her way t o t he halo wit h t he same shimmery incandescence Luce
had seen in many of t he past lives she'd visit ed. His glow played off t he murky wat er, folding
Luce inside it , as lovely and surprising as a rainbow arching boldly in a black night sky.
They swam down, holding hands, bat hed in violet light . The wat er was silky, silent as an empt y
t omb.
Wit hin a dozen feet , t he sea became darker, but Daniel's light st ill illuminat ed t he ocean for
several feet around t hem. A dozen feet more and t he façade of t he church came int o view.
lt was beaut iful. The ocean had preserved it , and t he glow of Daniel's glory cast a haunt ing
violet sheen on it s quiet old st ones. The pair of spires above t he surface punct uat ed a flat roof
lined wit h st one sculpt ures of saint s. There were panels of half-decayed mosaics depict ing
Jesus wit h some of t he apost les. Everyt hing was t hick wit h moss and crawling wit h sea life:
t iny silver fish flit t ing int o and out of alcoves, sea anemones jut t ing out from t he depict ions of
miracles, eels slipping out of crannies where ancient Venet ian bodies used t o be. Daniel st ayed
beside her, following her whim, light ing her way.
She swam around t he right side of t he church, peering t hrough bust ed st ained-glass windows,
always eyeing t he dist ance back up t o t he surface, t o air.
At about t he point t hat she'd expect ed, Luce's lungs began t o st rain. But she wasn't ready t o
go up yet . They'd only just made it down t o where t hey could see what looked like t he alt ar.
She grit t ed her t eet h and bore t he burn a lit t le longer.
Holding his hand, she peeked inside one of t he windows near t he church's t ransept . Her head
and shoulders vent ured in and Daniel flat t ened as much as he could against t he wall of t he
church t o light t he inside for her.
She saw not hing but rot t ing pews, a st one alt ar split in t wo. The rest was shadowed, and
Daniel couldn't get any closer t o give her more light . She felt a t ensing in her lungs and she
panicked÷but t hen, somehow, it released, and she felt as if she had a luxurious expanse of
t ime before t he t ension and panic would ret urn. lt was as if t here were breat hing t hresholds,
and Luce could pass t hrough a few of t hem before t hings would get really dire. Daniel wat ched
her, nodding, as if he underst ood t hat she could go on a lit t le longer.
She swam past one more former window, and somet hing golden gleamed in a sunken corner of
t he church.
Daniel saw it , t oo. He swam t o her side, careful not t o press inside t he church. He t ook her
hand and point ed at it . Only t he t ip of t he halo was visible. The st at ue it self looked as if it had
sunk t hrough a collapsed port ion of t he floor. Luce swam closer, clot t ing t he air before her wit h
bubbles, unsure how t o wrest it free. She couldn't wait any longer. Her lungs blazed. She gave
Daniel t he sign t o go up.
He shook his head.
When she flinched in surprise, he pulled her fully out side t he church and t ook her in his arms.
He kissed her deeply, and it felt so good, but ÷
But no, he wasn't just kissing her. He was breat hing air int o her lungs. She gasped in his kisses,
felt t he pure air flow int o her, sust aining her lungs just when t hey felt like t hey would burst . lt
was as if he had an endless supply and Luce was greedy for as much as she could get .
Their hands searched each ot her's almost naked bodies, as filled wit h passion as if t hey were
kissing purely for pleasure. Luce didn't want t o st op. But t hey only had eight days. When at last
she nodded t hat she was sat i-at ed, Daniel grinned and pulled away.
They ret urned t o t he t iny opening where t he window used t o be. Daniel swam t o it and
st opped, direct ing his body t o face t he opening so his glow would shine in t o light her way. She
squirmed slowly t hrough t he window, feeling inst ant ly cold and senselessly claust rophobic
inside t he church. That was st range, because t he cat hedral was huge: lt s ceilings were a
hundred feet high, and Luce had t he place all t o herself.
Maybe t hat was t he problem. On t he ot her side of t he window Daniel seemed t oo far away. At
least she could see t he angel up ahead÷and Daniel's glow just out side. She swam t oward t he
golden halo, gripped it in her hands. She remembered Daniel's inst ruct ions, and she t urned t he
halo as if she were st eering a Grey-hound bus.
lt didn't budge.
Luce gripped t he slick halo harder. She rocked it back and fort h, put t ing all t he st rengt h she
had int o it .
Ever so slowly, t he halo creaked and shift ed a cent imet er t o t he left . She st rained again t o
make it budge, sending out bubbles of exasperat ion. Just as she began t o feel exhaust ed, t he
halo loosened, t urned. Daniel's face filled wit h pride as he wat ched her and she wat ched him,
t heir gazes int ert wined. She was barely even t hinking about her breat h as she st rained t o
unscrew t he halo.
lt came off in her hands. She yelped wit h delight and admired it s impressive heft . But when she
looked up at Daniel, he wasn't looking at her anymore. He was gazing upward, far in t he
dist ance.
A second lat er, he was gone.
FOUR
BARGAINING BLIND
Alone in t he darkness, Luce t readed wat er.
Where was he?
She swam closer t o t he crat er in t he floorboards where t he angel had sunk t hrough÷where,
only seconds before, Daniel's glow had been wit h her, light ing her way.
Up. lt was t he only opt ion.
The pressure in her lungs built rapidly and spread t hrough t he rest of her body, t hrumming
inside her head.
The surface was far away, and by now t he air Daniel had breat hed int o her was gone. She
could not see her hand before her face. She could not t hink. She could not panic.
Luce t hrashed away from t he rot t ed floorboards, somersault ing in t he wat er t o face where she
t hought t he basement window she'd used t o ent er t he cat hedral should be. Her t rembling
hands probed t he barnacled basement walls, groping for t he narrow opening she had t o fit
back t hrough.
There.
Her fingers reached out side t he ruin and felt t he warmer wat er beyond. ln t he darkness, t he
passage seemed even smaller and more impossible t o pass t hrough t han it had when Daniel
had been t here, glowing, light ing her way. But it was t he only way out .
had been t here, glowing, light ing her way. But it was t he only way out .
Wit h t he halo t ucked awkwardly under her chin, Luce t hrust herself forward, jamming her
elbows against t he ext erior of t he building t o pull her body t hrough.
First her shoulders, t hen her waist , t hen÷
Pain ripped t hrough her hip.
Her left foot was st uck, snagged against somet hing she couldn't reach or see. Tears st ung her
eyes and she cried out in frust rat ion. She wat ched t he bubbles from her mout h float up÷up
where she needed t o be÷carrying wit h t hem more energy and oxygen t han she had left in her.
Wit h half her body t hrough t he window and half her body wedged wit hin, Luce st ruggled, st iff
wit h t error. lf only Daniel were here . . .
But Daniel wasn't here.
Holding t he halo wit h one hand, she snaked t he ot her back t hrough t he t ight window, sliding it
down against her body, t rying t o reach her foot . Her fingers met somet hing cold and rubbery
and unrecognizable. A piece of it came off in her hands, t hen crumbled int o not hing. She
squirmed in disgust as she t ried t o wrench her foot free from t he grip of what ever it was. Her
vision was st art ing t o cloud and her fingernails snagged and t ore and her ankle grew raw from
all her st raining t o get free÷t hen suddenly she was loose.
Her leg jerked forward and her knee st ruck t he crumbling wall sharply enough t hat she knew
she'd cut it , but no mat t er: She furiously shimmied t he rest of her body t hrough t he window.
She had t he halo. She was free.
But t here was no way she had enough air in her lungs t o make it t o t he surface. Her body was
shaking badly, her legs barely responding t o commands t o sw|m, and a haze of black-red spot s
swarmed before her eyes.
She felt dull, like she was swimming t hrough wet cement .
Then somet hing amazing happened: The dark wat ers around her grew bright wit h a shimmery
glow, and she was enveloped in warmt h and light like summer dawn.
A hand appeared, ext ended t oward her.
Dan|e/. She slipped t he fingers of one hand inside his st rong broad palm, hugging t he halo
close t o her chest wit h t he ot her hand.
Luce closed her eyes as she flew wit h Daniel upward, in underwat er sky.
A second seemed t o pass and t hey broke t hrough t he surface int o blindingly bright sunlight .
lnst inct ively, Luce gulped for t he biggest lungful of air she could t ake in, st art ling herself wit h
t he raw groan her t hroat made, one hand around her neck t o guide t he air down, t he ot her
ripping off her goggles.
But ÷it was weird. Her body didn't seem t o need as much air as her mind t old her it did. She felt
dizzy, st ruck dumb by t he sudden shocking sunlight , but st rangely, she wasn't on t he verge of
blacking out . Had she not been down t here as long as she t hought she had? Was she
suddenly t hat much bet t er at holding her breat h? Luce let a surge of at hlet ic pride
complement her relief at having survived.
Daniel's hands found hers underwat er. "Are you all right ?"
"What happened t o you?" she cried. "l almost ÷"
"Luce," he warned. "Shhh."
His fingers t raced over hers and wordlessly relieved her of t he halo. She didn't realize how
heavy t hat t hing was unt il she was free of it . But why was Daniel act ing so st rangely, slipping
t he halo away from her so st ealt hily, as if he had somet hing t o hide?
All she had t o do was follow his dark violet gaze.
When Daniel had swum her swift ly t o t he surface, t hey had broken t hrough in a different place
t han t hey'd ent ered. Where before, Luce realized, t hey'd seen t he sunken cat hedral from t he
front ÷just t he t win green-gray spires rising from t heir sunken t owers÷now t hey were almost
precisely above t he cent er of t he church, where t he nave would once have been.
Now t hey were flanked by t wo longs rows of flying but t resses, which would once have held up
t he now-crumbling st one walls of t he long nave of t he church.
The arched but t resses were black wit h moss and weren't nearly as t all as t he spires of t he
façade. Their slant ed st one t ops broke t hrough t he surface of t he wat er÷which made t hem
perfect benches for t he group of t went y-odd Out cast s present ly surrounding Luce and Daniel.
When Luce recognized t hem÷a field of t an t rench coat s, pale skin, dead eyes÷she st ifled a
gasp.
"Hello," one said.
lt wasn't Phil, t he smarmy Out cast who'd posed as Shelby's boyfriend, t hen led a bat t le against
t he angels in Luce's parent s' backyard. She didn't see his face among t he Out cast s, just a
t roop of blank and list less creat ures she didn't recognize and didn't care t o get t o know.
Fallen angels who couldn't make up t heir minds, t he Out cast s were in some ways t he opposit e
of Daniel, who refused t o t ake any side but Luce's. Shunned by Heaven for t heir indecisiveness,
st ruck blind by Hell t o everyt hing but t he dimmest glow of souls, t he Out cast s made a
sickening assembly. They were st aring at Luce t he way t hey had t he last t ime, t hrough
ghast ly, vacant eyes t hat could not see her body yet sensed somet hing in her soul t hat said
she was "t he price."
Luce felt exposed, t rapped. The Out cast s' leers made t he wat er colder. Daniel swam nearer,
and she felt t he brush of somet hing smoot h against her back. He had unfurled his wings in t he
wat er.
"You would be ill-advised t o at t empt escape," an Out cast behind Luce droned, as if sensing
t he st irring of Daniel's wings under t he wat er. "One glance behind you should convince you of
our superior numbers, and it only t akes one of t hese." He part ed his t rench coat t o reveal a
sheat h of silver st arshot s.
The Out cast s had t hem surrounded, perched on t he st one remains of a sunken Venet ian
island. They looked haught y, seedy, wit h t heir t rench coat s knot t ed at t heir waist s, concealing
t heir dirt y, t oilet paper÷t hin wings.
Luce remembered from t he bat t le in her parent s' backyard t hat t he female Out cast s were just
as callous and remorseless as t he males. That had been only a few days earlier, but it felt like
years had passed.
"But if you'd prefer t o t est us . . ." Lazily, t he Out cast nocked an arrow, and Daniel could not
complet ely mask his shudder.
"Silence." One of t he Out cast s rose t o st and on t he but t ress. He was not wearing a t rench
coat , but a long gray robe, and Luce gasped when he reached up t o pull back t he hood and
exposed his pallid face. He was t he pale chant ing man from t he cat hedral. He'd been wat ching
her t he whole t ime, hearing everyt hing she said t o t he priest . He must have followed her here.
His colorless lips curled int o a smile.
"So," he growled. "She has found her halo."
"This is no business of yours," Daniel shout ed, but Luce could hear t he desperat ion in his voice.
She st ill didn't know why, but t he Out cast s were int ent on making Luce t heir business. They
believed she held some sway over t heir redempt ion, t heir ret urn t o Heaven, but t heir logic
eluded her now just as much as it had in her parent s' backyard.
"Do not insult us wit h your lies," t he robed Out cast boomed. "We know what you seek, and you
know our mission is t o st op you."
"You're not t hinking clearly," Daniel said. "You're not seeing t his for what it is. Even you cannot
want ÷"
"Lucifer t o rewrit e hist ory?" The Out cast 's whit e eyes bore int o t he space bet ween him and
Luce. "Oh yes, in fact , we would like t hat very much."
"How can you say t hat ? Everyt hing÷t he world, our very selves as we know t hem now÷will be
annihilat ed.
The ent ire universe, all consciousness, gone."
"Do you really t hink our lives t hese last six t housand years are somet hing wort h preserving?"
The leader's eyes narrowed. "Bet t er t o wipe us out . Bet t er t o erase t his blind exist ence before
we begin t o fade. Next t ime . . ." Again he t rained his sight less eyes in Luce's direct ion. She
wat ched t hem swivel in t heir socket s, zeroing in on her soul. And it burned. "Next t ime we will
not incur Heaven's wrat h in such a senseless way.
We will be welcomed back by t he Throne. We will play our cards more wisely." His blind gaze
lingered on Luce's soul. He smiled. "Next t ime we will have . . .help."
"You'll have not hing, just as you do now. St ep aside, Out cast . This war is bigger t han you." The
robed Out cast fingered a st arshot and smiled. "lt would be so very easy t o kill you now."
"A host of angels is already fight ing for Lucinda. We will st op Lucifer, and when we do and t here
is t ime t o deal wit h pet t iness like yourselves, t he Out cast s will regret t his moment , along wit h
everyt hing you've done since t he Fall."
"ln t he next go-'round, t he Out cast s will make t he girl our focus from t he beginning. We will
charm her, as you have done. We will make her believe every word we say, as you have done.
We have st udied your ways. We know what t o do."
"Fools!" Daniel shout ed. "You t hink you'll be any smart er or more valiant next t ime? You t hink
you'll remember t his moment , t his conversat ion, t his brilliant plan at all? You'll do not hing but
make t he same mist akes you made t his t ime. We all will. Only Lucifer will remember his previous
errors. And his pursuit s serve only his base desires. Surely you recall what his soul looks like,"
Daniel said point edly, "even if you see not hing else."
The Out cast s rose on t heir rot t ing perches.
"l remember," Luce heard an Out cast behind her say faint ly.
"Lucifer was t he bright est angel of all," anot her called, full of nost algia. "So beaut iful, it blinded
us." They were sensit ive, Luce realized, about t heir defor-mit y.
"Cease your equivocat ion!" A louder voice called over t hem. The robed Out cast , t his scene's
leader. "The Out cast s will see again in t he next go-'round. Vision will lead t o wisdom, and
wisdom back t hrough t he Gat es of Heaven. We will be at t ract ive t o t he Price. She will guide
us."
Luce shivered against Daniel.
"Maybe we can a// get a second chance at redempt ion." Daniel appealed t o t hem. "lf we are
able t o st op Lucifer . . . t here's no reason your kind could not also÷"
"No!" The robed Out cast lunged from his but t ress at Daniel, his dreary, beat -up wings
spreading wide wit h a crackle like a snapping t wig.
Daniel's wings loosened around her waist and t he halo was t hrust back int o her hands as he
rose out of t he wat er in self-defense. The robed leader was no mat ch for Daniel, who shot up
and t hrew a right cross.
The Out cast flew backward t went y feet , skimming t he wat er like a st one. He right ed himself
and ret urned t o his perch on t he but t ress. Wit h a wave of his pale hand, he cued t he rest of his
group t o rise in a circle in t he air.
"You know who she is!" Daniel shout ed. "You know what t his means for all of us. For once in
your exist ence, do somet hing brave inst ead of craven."
"How?" t he Out cast challenged him. Wat er st reamed from t he hem of his robes.
Daniel was breat hing hard, eyeing Luce and t he golden halo gleaming t hrough t he wat er. His
violet eyes looked panicked for a moment ÷and t hen he did t he last t hing Luce would ever
have expect ed.
He looked t he robed Out cast deep in his dead whit e eyes, ext ended his hand palm up, and
said, "Join us." The Out cast laughed darkly for a long t ime.
Daniel did not flinch.
"The Out cast s work for no one but t hemselves."
"You've made t hat clear. No one is asking you t o indent ure yourselves. But do not work against
t he only cause t hat is right . Seize t his chance t o save everyone, including yourselves. Join us in
t he fight against Lucifer."
"lt is a t rick!" one of t he Out cast girls shout ed.
"He seeks t o deceive you in order t o gain his freedom."
"Take t he girl!"
Luce gazed in horror at t he robed Out cast hovering over her. He drew nearer, his eyes
widening hungrily, his whit e hands t rembling as t hey reached for her. Closer.
Closer. She screamed÷
But no one heard it , because at t hat moment , t he world r|pp/ed. The air and light and every
part icle in t he at mosphere seemed t o double and split , t hen folded in on t hemselves wit h a
crack of t hunder.
lt was happening again.
Through t he t hicket of t an t rench coat s and dirt y wings, t he sky had t urned a dim and smoggy
gray, like it had been t he last t ime in t he Sword & Cross library, when everyt hing had begun t o
t remble. Anot her t imequake. luc|ler draw|ng near.
A t remendous wave crashed over her head. Luce flailed, grasping t ight t o t he halo, paddling
frant ically t o keep her head above wat er.
She saw Daniel's face as a great creaking sounded on t heir left . His whit e wings were soaring
t oward her, but not quickly enough.
The last t hing Luce saw before her head dipped under t he wat er seemed t o happen in slow
mot ion: The green-gray church spire bowed over in t he wat er, t ipping down ever so gent ly
t oward her head. lt s shadow grew large unt il wit h a t hud it jerked her down int o darkness.
Luce woke up undulat ing on a wave: She was on a wat er bed.
Red lace ret icella curt ains were drawn over t he windows. Gray light slipping t hrough gaps in
t he int ricat e lace suggest ed it was dusk. Luce's head ached and her ankle t hrobbed. She rolled
over in t he black silk sheet s÷
and came face t o face wit h a sleepy-eyed girl wit h a huge mop of blond hair.
The girl moaned and bat t ed heavily shadowed silver eyelids, st ret ching a slack fist over her
head. "Oh," she said, sounding much less surprised t o wake next t o Luce t han Luce felt waking
next t o her. "How lat e did we st ay out last night ?" she slurred in lt alian. "That part y was crazy.
"
Luce lunged backward and fell out of t he bed, sinking int o a plush whit e rug. The room was a
cavern, cold and st ale-smelling, wit h dark gray wallpaper and a king-sized sleigh bed on a huge
area rug in t he cent er.
She had no idea where she was, how she'd got t en t here, whose bat hrobe she was wearing,
who t his girl was, or what part y t he girl t hought Luce had been at t he night before. Had she
somehow fallen int o an Announcer? There was a zebra-print foot st ool by t he bed The clot hes
she'd left in t he gondola were folded neat ly on it ÷t he whit e sweat er she'd put on t wo days
earlier at her parent s' house, her worn-in jeans, her riding boot s leaning against each ot her t o
t he side. The silver locket wit h t he carved-rose face÷she'd t ucked it inside her boot just
before she and Daniel dove int o t he wat er÷was rest ing in a spun glass t ray on t he night t able.
She slipped it back over her head and fumbled int o her jeans. The girl in t he bed had fallen
back asleep, a black silk pillow st uffed over her face, her t angled blond hair spilling out from
under it . Luce peeked around t he high headboard, finding t wo empt y leat her recliners facing a
blazing fireplace on t he far wall, and a flat -screen TV mount ed over it .
Where was Daniel?
She was zipping up her second boot when she heard a voice t hrough t he cracked French
doors opposit e t he bed.
"You will not regret t his, Daniel."
Before he could respond, Luce's hand was on t he doorknob÷and on t he ot her side she found
him, seat ed on a zebra-print love seat in t he living room, facing Phil t he Out cast .
At t he sight of her in t he doorway, Daniel rose t o his feet . Phil rose, t oo, st anding st iffly beside
his chair. Daniel's hands swept across Luce's face, brushing her forehead, which Luce realized
was t ender and bruised.
"How are you feeling?"
"The halo÷"
"We have t he halo." Daniel gest ured at t he enormous gold-edged glass disk rest ing on t he
large wooden dining t able in t he adjacent room. There was an Out cast seat ed at t he t able
spooning yogurt int o his mout h, anot her leaning in t he doorway wit h his arms crossed over his
chest . Bot h of t hem were facing Luce, but it was impossible t o t ell whet her t hey knew t hey
were doing it . She felt on edge around t hem, felt a chill in t he air, but t rust ed Daniel's calm
demeanor.
"What happened t o t he Out cast you were fight ing?" Luce asked, looking for t he pale creat ure
in t he robe.
"Don't worry about him. lt 's you l'm worried about ." He spoke t o her as t enderly as if t hey'd
been alone.
She remembered t he church spire t ilt ing t oward her as t he cat hedral collapsed underwat er.
She remembered Daniel's wings cast ing a shadow over everyt hing as t hey dipped t oward her.
"You t ook a bad knock on t he head. The Out cast s helped me get you out of t he wat er and
brought us here so you could rest ."
"How long was l asleep?" Luce asked. lt was night -fall. "How much t ime do we have left ÷"
"Seven days, Luce," Daniel said quiet ly. She could hear how keenly he, t oo, felt t he t ime slipping
away from t hem.
"Well, we shouldn't wast e any more t ime here." She glanced at Phil, who was t opping off his
and Daniel's glasses from a bot t le of somet hing red called Campari.
"You do not like my apart ment , Lucinda Price?" Phil said, pret ending t o look around t he
post modernist living room for t he first t ime. The walls were dot t ed wit h Jackson Pollock ÷
esque paint ings, but it was Phil Luce couldn't st op st aring at . His skin was past ier t han she
remembered, wit h heavy purple circles around his vacant eyes. She grew cold every t ime she
remembered his t at t ered wings holding her likeness in t he air above her parent s' backyard,
ready t o fly her someplace dark and far away.
"l can't see any of it very well, of course, but l was t old it would be decorat ed in a way t hat
young ladies would find appealing. Who knew l would develop such a t ast e for mort al flesh
aft er my t ime wit h your Nephilim friend Shelby? Did you meet my friend, in t he bedroom?
She's a sweet girl; t hey're all so sweet ."
"We should go." Luce t ugged on Daniel's shirt bossily.
The ot her Out cast s in t he room rose t o at t ent ion.
"Are you sure you cannot st ay for a drink?" Phil asked, moving t o fill a t hird glass wit h t he
cherry-red liquid, which he couldn't help spilling. Daniel put his hand over t he rim, pouring
inst ead from a bot t le of sparkling grapefruit soda.
"Sit down, Luce," Daniel said, handing her t he glass.
"We're not quit e ready t o leave."
When t he t wo of t hem sat , t he ot her t wo Out cast s followed t heir example. "Your boyfriend is
very reason-able," Phil said, kicking his muddy combat boot s ont o t he marble coffee t able. "We
have agreed t hat t he Out cast s will join you in your effort s t o st op t he Morning St ar."
Luce leaned int o Daniel. "Can we t alk a/one?"
"Yes, of course," Phil answered for him, rising st iffly again and nodding t o t he ot her Out cast s.
"Let us all t ake a moment ." Forming a line behind Phil, t he ot hers disappeared behind a
swinging wooden door int o t he apart ment 's kit chen.
As soon as t hey were alone, Daniel rest ed his hands on her knees. "Look, l know t hey're not
your favorit e÷"
"Daniel, t hey t ried t o kidnap me."
"Yes, l know, but t hat was when t hey t hought "÷
Daniel paused and st roked her hair, working out a t angle wit h his fingers÷"t hey t hought t hat
present ing you t o t he Throne would at one for t heir earlier bet rayal. But now t he game has
changed ut t erly, part ly because of what Lucifer did÷and part ly because you've come furt her in
breaking t he curse t han t he Out cast s ant icipat ed."
"What ?" Luce st art ed. "You t hink l'm close t o breaking t he curse?"
"Let 's just say you've never been t his close before," Daniel said, and somet hing soared inside
Luce t hat she didn't underst and. "Wit h t he Out cast s' help fight ing off our enemies, you can
focus on what you need t o do."
"The Out cast s' help? But t hey just ambushed us."
"Phil and l have t alked t hings over. We have an underst anding. List en, Luce"÷Daniel t ook her
arm and whispered, t hough t hey were t he only ones in t he room÷"t he Out cast s are less of a
t hreat wit h us t han against us. They're unpleasant but t hey're also incapable of lying. We will
always know where we st and wit h t hem."
"Why do we have t o st and wit h t hem at all?" Luce leaned back hard against t he zebra-print
pillow behind her.
"They are armed, Luce. Bet t er-equipped and wit h more warriors t han any ot her fact ion we will
face. The t ime may come when we need t heir st arshot s and t heir manpower. You don't have
t o be best friends, but t hey are excellent bodyguards and rut hless when it comes t o t heir
enemies." He leaned back, his gaze set t ling out t he window, as if somet hing unpleasant had
just flown by.
"And since t hey're going t o have a horse in t his race re-gardless, it might as well be us."
"What if t hey st ill t hink l'm t he price or what ever?" Daniel gave her a soft , unexpect ed smile.
"l'm cert ain t hey st ill t hink t hat . Many do. But only you get t o decide how you will fulfill your role
in t his old st ory. What we st art ed when we first kissed at Sword & Cross? That awakening in
you was only t he first st ep.
All t hose lessons you learned during your t ime in t he Announcers have armed you. The
Out cast s can't t ake t hat away from you. No one can. And besides"÷he grinned÷"no one can
t ouch you when l am at your side."
"Daniel?" She t ook a sip of t he grapefruit soda, felt it fizz down her t hroat . "How will l fulfill my
role in t his old st ory?"
"l have no idea," he said, "but l can't wait t o find out ."
"Neit her can l."
The kit chen door swung open and a pale, almost pret t y girl's face appeared in t he doorway,
her blond hair swept back in a severe ponyt ail. "The Out cast s grow t ired of wait ing," she sang
robot ically.
Daniel looked at Luce, who forced a nod.
"You can send t hem in." Daniel gest ured at t he girl.
They filed in swift ly, mechanically, assuming t heir former posit ions except for Phil, who drew
nearer t o Luce. The yogurt eat er's spoon knocked clumsily against t he side of his empt y plast ic
cont ainer.
"So he has convinced you, t oo?" Phil asked, perching on t he arm of t he love seat .
"lf Daniel t rust s you, l÷"
"As l t hought ," he said. "When t he Out cast s st ake t heir allegiance t hese days, we are fiercely
loyal. We underst and what is at st ake when we make t hese kinds of . . . choices." He
emphasized t he last word, nodding unnervingly at Luce. "The choice t o ally yourself wit h a side
is very import ant , don't you t hink, Lucinda Price?"
"What is he t alking about , Daniel?" Luce asked, t hough she suspect ed she knew.
"Everyone's fascinat ion t hese days," Daniel said t iredly. "The near balance bet ween Heaven
and Hell."
"Aft er all t hese millennia, it is nearly complet e!" Phil sank back int o t he love seat opposit e Luce
and Daniel. He was more animat ed t han Luce had ever seen him before. "Wit h almost every
angel allied wit h one side, dark or light , t here is just one who has not chosen"÷
One angel who had not chosen.
A flash of memory: st epping t hrough an Announcer t o Las Vegas wit h Shelby and Miles. They'd
gone t o meet her past -life sist er, Vera, and ended up at an lHOP wit h Arriane, who said t hat
t here was going t o be a reckoning.
Soon. And in t he end, when all t he ot her angels' souls had been account ed for, everyt hing
would come down t o one essent ial angel's choosing a side.
Luce was cert ain t hat t he undecided angel was Daniel.
He looked annoyed, wait ing for Phil t o finish t alking.
"And, of course, t here are st ill t he Out cast s."
"What do you mean?" Luce said. "The Out cast s haven't chosen a side? l always assumed you
were on Lucifer's."
"That is only because you do not like us," Phil said, complet ely deadpan. "No, t he Out cast s do
not get t o choose." He t urned his head as if t o look out t he window and sighed. "Can you
imagine how t hat feels÷"
"You're preaching t o t he wrong crowd, Phil," Daniel int errupt ed.
"We should count, " Phil said, suddenly pleading wit h Daniel. "All we ask is t hat we mat t er in t he
cosmic balance."
"You don't get t o choose," Luce repeat ed, underst anding. "ls t hat your punishment for
indecision?" The Out cast nodded st iffly. "And t he result is t hat our exist ences mean not hing in
t he cosmic balance. Our deat hs, t oo, mean not hing." Phil lowered his head.
"You know t his isn't up t o me," Daniel said. "And it cert ainly isn't up t o Luce. We're wast ing t ime
÷"
"Do not be so dismissive, Daniel Grigori," Phil said.
"We all have our goals. Whet her or not you admit it , you need us t o accomplish yours. We could
have joined wit h t he Elders of Zhsmaelim. The one called Miss Sophia Bliss st ill has her sight s
t rained on you. She is misguided, of course, but who knows÷she might succeed where you will
fail?"
"Then why didn't you join t hem?" Luce asked sharply, coming t o Daniel's defense. "You had no
problem working wit h Sophia last t ime when you kidnapped my friend Dawn."
"That was a mist ake. At t hat t ime we did not know t he Elders had murdered t he ot her girl."
"Penn." Luce's voice cracked.
Phil's pale face pinched. "Unforgivable. The Out cast s would never harm an innocent . Much less
one wit h so fine a charact er, so refined a mind."
Luce looked at Daniel, want ing t o convey t hat perhaps she'd been t oo quick t o judge t he
Out cast s, but Daniel was scowling at Phil.
"And yet , you met wit h Miss Sophia yest erday," he said.
The Out cast shook his head.
"Cam showed me t he golden invit at ion," Daniel pressed. "You met wit h her at t he mort al racing
t rack called Churchill Downs t o discuss going aft er Luce."
"Wrong." Phil rose t o his feet . He was as t all as Daniel, but sickly and frail. "We met wit h Lucifer
yest erday.
One does not t urn down an invit at ion from t he Morning St ar. Miss Sophia and her cronies were
t here, l suppose.
The Out cast s sensed t heir muddy souls, but we are not working wit h t hem."
"Wait ," Luce said, "you met wit h Lucifer yesterday?" That meant Friday, t he day t hat Luce and
t he ot hers were at Sword & Cross discussing how t o find t he relics so t hey could st op Lucifer
from erasing t he past . "But we were already back from t he Announcers. Lucifer would already
have been wit hin t he Fall."
"Not necessarily." Daniel explained, "Even t hough t his meet ing t ook place aft er you ret urned
from t he Announcers, it st ill t ook place in luc|ler's past . When he went aft er you in t he guise of
t hat gargoyle, his set t ing-off point was half a day lat er, and hundreds of miles away from your
set t ing-off point .
The logic made Luce's brain hurt a lit t le, but she was clear on one t hing: She dist rust ed Phil.
She t urned t o him. "So you knew all along t hat Lucifer was planning t o erase t he past . Were
you going t o help him, as you've now pledged t o help us?"
"We met wit h him because we are obliged t o come when he calls us. Everyone is, except t he
Throne, and"÷
he paused, a t hin smile spreading across his lips÷"well, l don't know any life force who could
resist Lucifer's call." He t ilt ed his head at Luce. "Could you?"
"Enough," Daniel said.
"Besides," Phil said, "he did not want our help. The Morning St ar shut us out . He said"÷he
closed his eyes and, for a moment , looked like a normal t eenaged boy, almost cut e÷"he said
he couldn't leave anyt hing else t o chance, t hat it was t ime t o t ake mat t ers int o his own hands.
The meet ing adjourned abrupt ly."
"That must have been t he moment Lucifer went aft er you in t he Announcers," Daniel said t o
Luce. She felt queasy, remembering how Bill had found her in t he t unnel, so vulnerable, so
alone. All t hose moment s she'd been glad t o have him at her side, helping her on her quest .
He'd almost seemed t o like being wit h her, t oo, for a while.
Phil's blank eyes fixed on her, as if examining a shift in her soul. Could he sense how flust ered
she became whenever she t hought about all t he t ime she'd spent alone wit h Bill? Could Daniel
sense it ?
Phil was not exact ly smiling at her, but he did not look as lifeless as usual. "The Out cast s will
prot ect you.
We know t hat your enemies are numerous." He looked at Daniel. "The Scale is also on t he
move." Luce glanced at Daniel. "The Scale?"
"They work for Heaven. They're a nuisance, not a t hreat ."
Phil lowered his head again. "The Out cast s believe t he Scale may have . . . come unhinged
from Heaven."
"What ?" Daniel suddenly sounded winded.
"There is a rot among t hem, t he kind t hat spreads quickly. Did you say you had friends in
Vienna?"
"Arriane," Luce gasped. "And Gabbe and Roland. Are t hey in danger?"
"We have friends in Vienna," Daniel said. "ln Avalon as well."
"The Scale is spreading t hrough Vienna." When Luce spun around t o face Daniel, he was
unfurling his wings. They burst fort h, light ing up t he room wit h t heir glory. Phil didn't seem t o
not ice or care as he t ook a sip of t he red liqueur. The ot her Out cast s' empt y gazes bore int o
Daniel's wings wit h memorized envy.
The french doors t o t he bedroom opened and t he hungover lt alian girl Luce had shared t he
bed wit h spilled from t hem, st umbling barefoot int o t he room. She glanced over at Daniel,
rubbed her eyes. "Wow, groovy dream!" she mumbled in lt alian before disappearing int o t he
bat hroom.
"Enough t alking," Daniel said. "lf your army is as st rong as you say it is, spare a t hird of your
force t o drive t oward Vienna and prot ect t he t hree fallen angels you find t here. Send anot her
t hird t o Avalon, where you will find Cam and t wo more fallen."
When Phil nodded, t wo Out cast s in t he living room unfurled t heir own drab wings and dart ed
out t he open window like enormous flies.
"The remaining t hird of our force falls under my jurisdict ion. We will accompany you t o t he
Mount . Let us t ake t o t he air now and l will gat her t he ot hers on our way."
"Yes," Daniel said quickly. "Ready, Luce?"
"Let 's go." She drew her back against Daniel's shoulders so he could wrap her in his arms, leap
t hrough t he window, and soar int o t he dark sky over Venice.
FIVE
A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP
They t ouched down in high mount ain desert just before dawn. Light banded t he sky near t he
east ern horizon, haunt ing pinks and golds dust ed wit h ocher clouds, healing t he purple bruise
of night .
Daniel set Luce down on a flat rock plat eau, t oo dry and unforgiving t o support even t he
t oughest desert scrub. The barren mount ainscape st ret ched out infinit ely around t hem,
dropping st eeply int o darkened valleys here, rising int o peaks of colossal t awny boulders
rest ing at impossible angles t here. lt was cold and windy, and t he air was so dry it hurt t o
swallow. There was scarcely room for Luce and Daniel and t he five Out cast s who'd t raveled
wit h t hem t o st and on t he rock plat eau.
Fine sand whipped t hrough Luce's hair as Daniel pulled his wings back in t o his sides. "Here we
are." He sounded almost reverent .
"Where?" Luce pulled t he neck of her whit e sweat er higher t o cover her ears from t he wind.
"Mount Sinai."
She sucked in a dry, sandy breat h, pivot ing t o get a panoramic view as fine golden light
lengt hened over t he sandst one mount ains in t he east . "This is where God gave Moses t he
Ten Commandment s?"
"No." Daniel point ed over her shoulder, where a line of doll-sized backpackers were ascending
more forgiving t errain a few hundred feet t o t he sout h. Their voices carried across t he cold, t hin
desert air. Their soft peals of laught er echoed eerily from t he silent mount ain summit s. A blue
plast ic wat er bot t le t ilt ed int o t he sky over someone's head. "That is where Moses received t he
Ten Commandment s." He spread his arms and looked at t he small circle of rock where t hey
were st anding. "This is where some of t he angels st ood and wat ched it happen.
Gabbe, Arriane, Roland, Cam"÷he point ed t o one area on t he rock, t hen anot her, where each
of t he angels had st ood÷"a few more."
"What about you?"
He faced her, t aking t hree small st eps forward so t hat t heir t orsos were t ouching, t he t ips of
t heir feet overlapped. "Right "÷he kissed her÷"here."
"What was it like?"
Daniel looked away. "lt was t he first official covenant wit h man. Before t hen, covenant s had
t aken place only bet ween God and t he angels. Some of t he angels felt bet rayed, t hat it
disrupt ed t he nat ural order of t hings.
Ot hers t hought we'd brought it on ourselves, t hat it was a nat ural progression."
The violet in his eyes blazed a lit t le bright er for a moment . "The ot hers must be on t heir way."
He t urned t o face t he Out cast s, whose dark silhouet t es were out lined by t he growing light in
t he east . "Will you st and guard unt il t hey arrive?"
Phil bowed. The ot her four Out cast s st ood behind him, t he frayed edges of t heir soiled wings
undulat ing in t he wind.
Daniel drew his left wing across himself and, shielding his body from view, reached inside it wit h
his right hand like a magician reaching int o his cape.
"Daniel?" she asked, st epping closer t o him. "What 's wrong?"
Teet h bared, Daniel shook his head at her. Then he flinched and cried out in pain, which Luce
had never wit nessed before. Her body t ensed.
"Daniel?"
When he relaxed and ext ended his wing again, he held somet hing whit e and shimmering in his
hand.
"l should have done t his sooner," he said.
lt looked like a st rip of fabric, as smoot h as silk but st iffer. lt was a foot long and several inches
wide, and it quivered in t he cold breeze. Luce st ared at it . Was t hat a st rip of w|ng t hat Daniel
had t orn from himself? She cried out in horror and reached for it wit hout t hinking.
lt was a feat her!
To look at Daniel's wings, t o be wrapped up in t hem, was t o forget t hey were made up of
individual feat hers.
Luce had always assumed t hat t heir composit ion was myst erious and ot herworldly, t he st uff of
God's dreams.
But t hen, t his was unlike any feat her Luce had seen before: broad, densely plumed, alive wit h
t he same power t hat coursed t hrough Daniel.
Bet ween her fingers, it was t he soft est yet st rongest t hing Luce had ever t ouched, and t he
most beaut iful÷unt il her eyes flew t o t he flow of blood from t he spot where Daniel had
plucked t he feat her.
"Why did you do t hat ?" she asked.
Daniel handed t he feat her t o Phil, who t ucked it int o t he lapel of his t rench coat wit hout
hesit at ion.
"lt is a pennon," Daniel said, glancing at t he bloody port ion of his wing wit hout concern. "lf by
chance t he ot hers arrive alone, t hey will know t he Out cast s are friends." His eyes followed her
own, which were wide wit h worry, t o t he bloody region of his wing. "Don't worry about me. l'll
heal. Come on÷"
"Where are we going?" Luce asked.
"The sun's about t o rise," Daniel said, t aking a small leat her sat chel from Phil. "And l figure you
must be st arving."
Luce hadn't realized it , but she was.
"l t hought we could st eal a moment before anyone else shows up."
There was a sheer, narrow pat h from t he plat eau t hat led t o a small ledge down from where
t hey'd landed.
They picked t heir way down t he jagged mount ain, hand in hand, and when it was t oo st eep for
walking, Daniel coast ed, always flying very low t o t he ground, his wings t ucked close t o his
sides.
"Don't want t o alarm t he hikers," he explained.
"Most places on Eart h, people aren't willing t o let t hemselves see miracles, angels. lf t hey cat ch
a glimpse of us flying by, t hey convince t hemselves t heir eyes were playing t ricks on t hem. But
in a place like t his÷"
"People can see miracles," Luce finished for him.
"They want t o."
"Right . And seeing leads t o wonder."
"And wonder leads t o÷"
"Trouble." Daniel laughed a lit t le.
Luce couldn't help grinning, enjoying t hat at least for a lit t le while, Daniel was her miracle alone.
They sat down next t o each ot her on t he small flat st ret ch in t he middle of t he heart of
nowhere, shielded from t he wind by a granit e boulder and out of sight of everyone but a pale
brown part ridge picking it s way along t he scabby rocks. The view when Luce looked past t he
boulder was life-alt ering: a ring of mount ains, t his peak in shadow, t his one draped in light , all of
t hem growing bright er wit h each second t hat passed as t he sun crest ed over t he pink horizon.
Daniel unzipped t he sat chel and peered inside. He shook his head, laughing.
"What 's funny? What 's in t here?" Luce asked.
"Before we left Venice, l asked Phil t o pack a few t hings from his cupboard. Leave it t o a blind
Out cast t o prepare a nut rit ious meal." He pulled out a canist er of paprika-flavored Pringles, a
red bag of Malt esers, a handful of blue-foil-wrapped Baci chocolat es, a pack of Day-gum,
several small bot t les of diet soda, and a few sleeves of powdered-espresso packet s.
Luce burst out laughing.
"Will t his hold you over?" he asked.
Luce snuggled up t o him and crunched a few malt balls, wat ching t he east ern sky grow pink,
t hen gold, t hen baby blue as t he sun crest ed t he peaks and valleys in t he dist ance. The light
cast st range shadows in t he crevices of t he mount ain. At first she assumed at least some of
t hem were Announcers, but t hen realized no÷t hey were simply shadows spun from shift ing
light .
Luce realized it had been days since she'd seen an Announcer.
St range. For weeks, mont hs, t hey'd been appearing before her more and more frequent ly, unt il
she could barely shift her gaze wit hout seeing one wobbling darkly in a corner, beckoning her.
Now t hey seemed t o have disappeared.
"Daniel, what happened t o t he Announcers?" He leaned back against t he ledge and exhaled
deeply before saying, "They are wit h Lucifer and t he host of Heaven. They, t oo, are part of t he
Fall."
"What ?"
"This has never happened before. The Announcers belong t o hist ory. They are t he shadows of
significant event s. They were generat ed by t he Fall and so when Lucifer set t his game int o
mot ion, t hey were drawn back t here."
Luce t ried t o pict ure it : a million t rembling shadows surrounding a great dark orb, t heir t endrils
licking t he surface of oblivion like sunspot s.
"That 's why we had t o fly here inst ead of st epping t hrough," she said.
He nodded and bit int o a Pringle, more out of habit of being around mort als t han a need t o
consume food.
"The shadows disappeared wit hin moment s of our ret urn from t he past . This moment we are
in right now÷t hese nine days since Lucifer's gambit ÷t his is a limbo t ime. lt 's come unmoored
from t he rest of hist ory, and if we fail, it will cease t o be ent irely."
"Where exact ly is t hat ? l mean, t he Fall."
"Anot her dimension, no place t hat l could describe.
We were closer t o it where l caught you, aft er you separat ed from Lucifer, but we were st ill very
far away."
"l never t hought l'd say t his, but "÷she wat ched t he st illness of t he everyday shadows on t he
mount ain÷"l miss t hem. The Announcers were my link t o my past ." Daniel t ook her hand and
looked deep int o her eyes.
"The past is import ant for all t he informat ion and wisdom it holds. But you can get lost in it .
You've got t o learn t o keep t he knowledge of t he past wit h you as you pursue t he present ."
"But now t hat t hey're gone÷"
"Now t hat t hey're gone, you can do it on your own." She shook her head. "How?"
"Let 's see," he said. "Do you see t hat river near t he horizon?" He point ed at t he barest whisper
of blue snak-ing t hrough t he flat plain on t he desert floor. lt was about as far away as Luce's
eyes could see.
"Yes, l t hink l see it ."
"l've lived near here at several different st ret ches across t ime, but once, when l lived here a few
hundred years ago, l had a camel l named Oded. He was just about t he laziest creat ure ever t o
walk t he Eart h. He would pass out when l was in t he middle of feeding him, and making it t o t he
closest Bedouin camp for t ea was a minor miracle. But when l first met you in t hat lifet ime÷"
"Oded broke int o a run," Luce said wit hout t hinking.
"l screamed because l t hought he was going t o t rample me. You said you'd never seen him
move like t hat ."
"Yeah, well," Daniel said. "He liked you." They paused and looked at each ot her, and Daniel
st art ed laughing when Luce's jaw dropped. "l did it !" she cried out . "lt was just t here, in my
memory, a part of me. Like it happened yest erday. lt came t o me wit hout t hinking!"
lt was miraculous. All t hose memories from all t hose lives t hat had been lost each t ime Lucinda
died in Daniel's arms were somehow finding t heir way back t o her, t he way Luce always found
her way back t o Daniel.
No. She was finding her way t o t hem.
lt was like a gat e had been left open aft er Luce's quest t hrough t he Announcers. Those
memories st ayed wit h her, from Moscow t o Helst on t o Egypt . Now more were becoming
available.
She had a sudden, keen sense of who she was÷and she wasn't just Luce Price from
Thunderbolt , Georgia.
She was every girl she'd ever been, an amalgamat ion of experience, mist akes, achievement s,
and, above all, love.
She was Lucinda.
"Quick," she said t o Daniel. "Can we do anot her?"
"Okay, how about anot her desert life? You were living in t he Serenget i when l found you. Tall
and gangly and t he fast est runner in your village. l was passing t hrough one day, on my way t o
visit Roland, and l st opped for t he night at t he closest spring. All t he ot her men were very
dist rust ful of me, but ÷"
"But my fat her paid you t hree zebra skins for t he knife you had in your sat chel!"
Daniel grinned. "He drove a hard bargain."
"This is amazing," she said, nearly breat hless. How much more did she have in her t hat she
didn't know about ? How far back could she go? She pivot ed t o face him, drawing her knees
against her chest , and leaning in so t hat t heir foreheads were almost t ouching. "Can you
remember everyt hing about our past s?"
Daniel's eyes soft ened at t he corners. "Somet imes t he order of t hings get s mixed up in my
head. l'll admit , l don't remember long st ret ches of t ime l've spent alone, but l can remember
every first glimpse of your face, every kiss of your lips, every memory l've ever made wit h you."
Luce didn't wait for Daniel t o lean forward and kiss her. lnst ead, she pressed her lips t o his,
relishing his moan of surprised pleasure, want ing t o clean any pain he'd ever felt at losing her.
Kissing Daniel was somewhere bet ween exhilarat -ingly new and unmist akably familiar, like a
childhood memory t hat felt dreamlike unt il phot ographic evidence was found in an old box in
t he at t ic. Luce felt as if a hangar full of monument al phot ographs had been discovered, and all
t hose buried moment s had been released from t heir capt ivit y int o t he recesses of her soul.
She was kissing him now, but st rangely she was kissing him then. She could almost t ouch t he
hist ory of t heir love, t ast e it s essence on her t ongue. Her lips t raced not just Daniel's, but
anot her kiss t hey'd shared, an older kiss, a kiss like t his one, wit h her mout h just t here and his
arms around her waist like t hat . He slipped his t ongue against her t eet h, and t hat recalled a
handful of ot her kisses, t oo, every one of t hem int oxicat ing. When he passed his hand across
her back, she felt a hundred shivers like t his one. And when her eyes flut t ered open and shut ,
t he sight of him t hrough her t angled lashes seemed a t housand kisses deep.
"Daniel." The flat voice of an Out cast ended Luce's reverie. The pale boy st ood over t hem,
looking down from t he high rock t hey'd been leaning against . Through his gray almost
t ranslucent wings, Luce saw a cloud passing in t he sky.
"What is it , Vincent ?" Daniel said, drawing t o his feet . He must have known t he Out cast s'
names from t heir t ime t oget her in Heaven before t he Fall.
"Forgive me for t he int errupt ion," t he Out cast said, lacking t he social grace t o look away from
Luce's burning cheeks. At least he couldn't really see t hem.
She st ood quickly, st raight ening her sweat er, pressing a cold hand t o her hot skin.
"Have t he ot hers arrived?" Daniel called up.
The Out cast st ood mot ionless above him. "Not exact ly."
Daniel's right hand slid around Luce's waist . Wit h one soft throosh of his wings, he scaled t he
fift y feet of vert ical rock t he way a mort al might t ake a single st ep up a flight of st airs. Her
st omach lurched downward wit h t he t hrill of t heir soar up.
Set t ing Luce down first on t he rocky plat eau, Daniel t urned and saw t he five Out cast s who'd
accompanied t hem huddled around a sixt h figure. Daniel flinched, his wings jerking backward in
shock, when he saw t he sixt h Out cast .
The boy was small, wit h a slender build and big feet .
His head was freshly shaven. He seemed like he could have been about fourt een if t he
Out cast s aged in mort al years. Someone had beat en him. Badly.
His face was scraped as if he'd been t hrown repeat -edly against a brick wall. His lip was
bleeding so pro-fusely t hat shiny blood coat ed his t eet h. At first Luce didn't recognize it as
blood, because t he Out cast 's blood wasn't red. lt was pale gray. His blood was t he color of
ashes.
He was whimpering, whispering somet hing Luce couldn't underst and as he lay prone on t he
rock and let t he ot hers t end t o him.
They t ried t o lift him t o remove his dirt y t rench coat , which was slashed in several places and
missing one of it s sleeves. But t he Out cast cried out so violent ly t hat even Philrelent ed, laying
t he boy back down.
"His wings are broken," Phil said, and Luce realized t hat , yes, t he grimy wings were splayed out
unnat urally behind his back. "l don't know how he made it back." Daniel knelt before t he
Out cast , shielding t he sun from t he boy's face. "What happened, Daedalus?" He rest ed a hand
on t he Out cast 's shoulder, which seemed t o soot he t he boy.
"lt 's a t rap," Daedalus sput t ered hoarsely, spit t ing ashen blood on his t rench coat lapel.
"What is?" Vincent asked.
"Set by whom?" Daniel asked.
"Scale. Want t he relic. Wait ing in Vienna÷for your friends. Large army."
"Army? They're openly fight ing angels now?" Daniel shook his head in disbelief. "But t hey can't
have st arshot s."
Daedalus's whit e eyes bulged in pain. "Can't kill us.
Only t ort ure÷"
"You fought t he Scale?" Daniel seemed alarmed and impressed. Luce st ill didn't underst and
what t he Scale was. She envisioned t hem vaguely as dark ext ensions of Heaven t hrust ing
downward int o t he world. "What happened?"
"Tried t o fight . Out numbered."
"What about t he ot hers, Daedalus?" Phil's voice st ill sounded emot ionless, but for t he first t ime
Luce could hear somet hing like compassion st irring underneat h.
"Franz and Arda"÷t he boy spoke as if t he words t hemselves caused him pain÷"on t heir way
here."
"And Calpurnia?" Phil asked.
Daedalus closed his eyes and shook his head as gent ly as he could.
"Did t hey get t o t he angels?" Daniel asked. "Arriane, Roland, Annabelle? Are t hey safe?"
The Out cast 's eyelids flickered, t hen shut . Luce had never felt so far away from her friends. lf
anyt hing happened t o Arriane, t o Roland, t o any of t he angels . . .
Phil wedged in next t o Daniel, close t o t he injured boy's head. Daniel inched back t o give Phil
room. Slowly, Phil drew a long dull silver st arshot from t he inside of his t rench coat .
"No!" Luce shout ed, quickly covering her mout h.
"You can't ÷"
"Do not worry, Lucinda Price," Phil said wit hout looking back at her. He reached inside t he black
leat her sat chel, which Daniel had brought back up from t he ledge, and pulled out a small glass
bot t le of diet soda.
Using his t eet h, he popped t he bot t le t op. lt rolled in a long arc before t ipping off t he surface of
t he rock. Then, very slowly, Phil insert ed t he st arshot int o t he bot t le's narrow neck.
lt sizzled and hissed as it slid int o t he soda. Phil grimaced as t he bot t le smoked and st eamed
in his hands. A sickly sweet scent waft ed from it and Luce's eyes widened as t he fizzy brown
liquid, your basic diet soda, began t o swirl and change t o a bright iridescent silver color.
Phil wit hdrew t he st arshot from t he bot t le. He dragged t he st arshot carefully across his lips, as
if t o clean it , t hen t ucked it back inside his coat . His lips glowed silver for an inst ant , unt il he
licked t hem clean.
He nodded at one of t he ot her Out cast s, a girl whose slick blond ponyt ail reached halfway
down her back. Aut omat ically, she reached behind Daedalus's head t o lift it a few inches off
t he rock. Carefully, using one hand t o part t he boy's bleeding lips, Phil poured t he silver liquid
down his t hroat .
His face cont ort ed as he sput t ered and coughed, but t hen everyt hing about Daedalus
smoot hed out . He began t o drink, t hen t o gulp t he liquid down, slurping when he reached t he
bot t om of t he bot t le.
"What is t hat ?" Luce asked.
"There is a chemical compound in t he drink," Daniel explained, "a dull poison mort als call
aspart ame and believe t hat t heir scient ist s invent ed. But it is an old, Heavenly subst ance÷a
venom, which, when mixed wit h an ant idot e cont ained in t he alloys of t he st arshot , react s t o
produce a healing pot ion for angels. For light ailment s such as t hese."
"He will need t o rest now," t he blond girl said. "But he will wake refreshed."
"You will forgive us if we have t o leave," Daniel said, rising t o his feet . His whit e wings dragged
along t he rocky surface unt il he st raight ened his shoulders and held t hem aloft . He reached for
Luce's hand.
"Go t o your friends," Phil said. "Vincent , Olianna, Sanders, and Emmet will accompany you. l will
join you wit h t he ot hers when Daedalus is back on his wings." The four Out cast s st epped
forward, bowing t heir heads before Luce and Daniel as if await ing a command.
"We will fly t he east ern rout e," Daniel inst ruct ed.
"Nort h over t he Black Sea, t hen west when we pass Mol-dova. The wind st ream is calmer
t here."
"What about Gabbe and Molly and Cam?" Luce asked.
Daniel looked at Phil, who looked up from t he sleeping Out cast boy. "One of us will st and
wat ch here. lf your friends arrive, t he Out cast s will send word."
"You have t he pennon?" Daniel asked.
Phil pivot ed t o show t he abundant whit e feat her t ucked int o t he but t onhole of his lapel. lt
glowed and pulsed in t he wind, it s radiance sharply cont rast ing t he Out cast 's deat hly pale
skin."l hope you have cause t o use it ." Daniel's words fright ened Luce, because t hey meant he
t hought t he angels in Avalon were in as much danger as t he ones in Vienna.
"They need us, Daniel," she said. "Let 's go." Daniel gave her a warm, grat eful look. Then,
wit hout hesit at ion, he swept her up int o his arms. Wit h t he halo t ucked under t heir int erlaced
fingers, Daniel bent his knees and sprang int o t he sky.
SIX
FOUND WANTING
lt was drizzling in Vienna.
Curt ains of mist cloaked t he cit y, making it possible for Daniel and t he Out cast s t o alight
unseen on t he eaves of a vast building before night had complet ely fallen.
Luce saw t he splendid copper dome first , glowing sea green against t he fog. Daniel set her
down before it on a slant ed sect ion of t he copper roof, puddled wit h rain-wat er, enclosed by a
short marble balust rade.
"Where are we?" she asked, eyeing t he dome adorned wit h gold brocaded t assels, it s oval
windows et ched wit h floral designs t oo high for mort al eyes t o see, unless t hey were in t he
arms of an angel.
"Hofburg Palace." Daniel st epped over a st one rain gut t er and st ood at t he edge of t he roof.
His wings brushed t he whit e marble railing, making it look drab.
"Home of Viennese emperors, t hen kings, now presi-dent s."
"ls t his where Arriane and t he ot hers are?"
"l doubt it ," Daniel said. "But it 's a pleasant place t o get our bearings before we look for t hem."
A mazelike net work of annexes ext ended beyond t he dome t o form t he rest of t he palace.
Some of t hem squared off around shady court yards t en st ories below; ot hers st ret ched long
and formidably st raight , fart her t han t he fog would allow Luce's eyes t o see. Different port ions
of t he copper roofs shone different shades of green÷t his one acid, t hat one almost t eal÷as if
sect ions of t he building had been added over a long period of t ime, as if t hey'd rust ed during
sect ions of t he building had been added over a long period of t ime, as if t hey'd rust ed during
different eras' rain.
The Out cast s spread out around t he dome, leaning up against t he squat chimneys darkened
wit h soot t hat punct uat ed t he palace roof, st anding before t he flagpole t hat rose from t he
cent er bearing t he red-and-whit e-banded Aust rian flag. Luce st ood at Daniel's side, finding
herself bet ween him and a marble st at ue. lt depict ed a warrior wearing a knight 's helmet and
gripping a t all golden spear. They followed t he st at ue's gaze out at t he cit y. Everyt hing smelled
like wood smoke and rain.
Beneat h t he mist and fog, Vienna glit t ered wit h t he t winkle of a million Christ mas light s. lt
t eemed wit h st range cars and fast -walking pedest rians as accust omed t o cit y life as Luce was
not . Mount ains st ood in t he dist ance and t he Danube slung it s st rong arm around t he out skirt s
of t he t own. Gazing down wit h Daniel, Luce felt as if she'd been here before. She couldn't be
sure when, but t he ever-more-frequent sensat ion of déjà vu swelled inside her.
She focused on t he faint bust le coming from a t ent ed row of Christ mas st alls in t he circle
below t he palace, t he way t he candles flickered in t heir red and green globed glass lant erns,
t he way t he children chased one anot her, pulling wooden dogs on wheels. Then it happened:
She remembered wit h a wave of sat isfact ion t hat Daniel had once bought her crimson velvet
hair ribbons right down t here. The memory was simple, joyful, and hers.
Lucifer couldn't have it . He could not t ake it ÷or any ot her memory÷away. Not from Luce, not
from t he brilliant , surprising, imperfect world sprawling out below her.
Her body brist led wit h det erminat ion t o defeat him, and wit h t he rage from knowing t hat
because of what he was doing, because she had reject ed his wishes, all t his might disappear.
"What is it ?" Daniel laid a hand on her shoulder.
Luce didn't want t o say. She didn't want Daniel t o know t hat every t ime she t hought of Lucifer
she felt disgust ed wit h herself.
The wind surged around t hem, part ing t he mist t hat lay over t he cit y t o reveal an ambling
Ferris wheel on t he ot her side of t he river. People t wirled in it s circle as if t he world would never
end, as if t he wheel would spin forever.
"Are you cold?" Daniel draped his whit e wing around her. The supernat ural weight of it felt
somehow over-bearing, reminding her t hat her short comings as a mort al÷and Daniel's
concern for t hem÷were slowing t hem down.
The t rut h was Luce was freezing, and hungry, and t ired, but she didn't want Daniel t o coddle
her. They had import ant t hings t o do.
"l'm fine."
"Luce, if you're t ired or afraid÷"
"l said l'm fine, Daniel," she snapped. She didn't mean t o and felt sorry immediat ely.
Through t he blurring fog, she could make out horse-drawn carriages cart ing t ourist s and t he
hazy out lines of people t racing out t heir lives. Just like Luce was st ruggling t o do.
"Have l complained t oo much since we left Sword & Cross?" she asked.
"No, you've been amazing÷"
"l'm not going t o die or faint just because it 's cold and rainy."
"l know t hat ." Daniel's direct ness surprised her. "l should have known you knew it , t oo.
Generally, mort als are limit ed by t heir bodily needs and funct ions÷food, sleep, warmt h, shelt er,
oxygen, nagging fear of mort alit y, and so on. Because of t hat , most people wouldn't be
prepared t o make t his journey."
"l've come a long way, Daniel. l want t o be here. l wouldn't have let you go wit hout me. lt was a
mut ual agreement ."
"Good, t hen list en t o me: lt is wit hin your power t o release yourself of mort al bonds. To be free
of t hem."
"What ? l don't need t o worry about t he cold?"
"Nope."
"Right ." She st uffed icy hands int o t he pocket s of her jeans. "And apple st rudel?"
"Mind over mat t er."
A reluct ant smile found her face. "Well, we've already est ablished t hat you can breat he for me."
"Don't underest imat e yourself." Daniel smiled back briefly. "This has t o do more wit h you t han
me. Try it : Tell yourself t hat you are not cold, not hungry, not t ired."
"All right ." Luce sighed. "l am not . . ." She'd st art ed t o mumble, disbelieving, but t hen she
caught Daniel's eye. Daniel, who believed she could do t hings she never t hought she was
capable of, who believed t hat her will meant t he difference bet ween having t he halo and
let t ing it slip away. She was holding it in her hands. Proof.
Now he was t elling her she had mort al needs only because she t hought she did. She decided
t o give t his crazy idea a t ry. She st raight ened her shoulders. She project ed t he words int o t he
mist y dusk. "l, Lucinda Price, am not cold, not hungry, not t ired." The wind blew, and t he clock
t ower in t he dist ance st ruck five÷and somet hing lift ed off her so t hat she didn't feel deplet ed
anymore. She felt rest ed, equipped for what ever t he night called for, det ermined t o succeed.
"Nice t ouch, Lucinda Price," Daniel said. "Five senses t ranscended at five o'clock."
She reached for his wing, wrapped herself in it , let it s warmt h spread t hrough her. This t ime, t he
weight of his wing welcomed her int o a powerful new dimension. "l can do t his."
Daniel's lips brushed t he t op of her head. "l know." When Luce t urned from Daniel, she was
surprised t o find t he Out cast s were no longer hovering, no longer st aring at her t hrough dead
eyes.
They were gone.
"They've left t o seek t he Scale," Daniel explained.
"Daedalus gave us clues of t heir whereabout s, but l'll need a bet t er idea of where and how t he
ot hers are being held so l can dist ract t he Scale long enough for t he Out cast s t o rescue t hem."
He sat down on t he ledge, his legs st raddling a gold-paint ed st at ue of an eagle over-looking
t he cit y. Luce sank t o his side.
"lt shouldn't t ake long, depending on how far away t hey are. Then maybe half an hour t o go
t hrough t he Scale prot ocol"÷he t ilt ed his head, calculat ing÷"unless t hey decide t o convene a
t ribunal, which happened t he last t ime t hey harassed me. l'll find a way t o get out of it t onight ,
post pone it t o some ot her dat e l won't keep." He t ook her hand, refocused. "l should be back
here by seven at t he lat est . That 's t wo hours from now." Luce's hair was wet from t he mist , but
she followed Daniel's advice and t old herself it didn't affect her, and just like t hat , she no longer
not iced it . "Are you worried about t he ot hers?"
"The Scale won't hurt t hem."
"Then why did t hey hurt Daedalus?"
She pict ured Arriane wit h bloat ed purple eyes, Roland wit h broken, bloody t eet h. She didn't
want t o see t hem looking anyt hing like Daedalus.
"Oh," Daniel said. "The Scale can be fearsome. They relish causing pain, and t hey may cause
our friends some t emporary discomfort . But t hey won't hurt t hem in any permanent way. They
don't kill. That 's not t heir st yle."
"What is t heir st yle, t hen?" Luce crossed her legs under her on t he hard damp surface of t he
roof. "You st ill haven't t old me who t hey are or what we're up against ."
"The Scale came int o being aft er t he Fall. They're a small group of . . . lesser angels. They were
t he first t o be asked in t he Roll Call which side t hey would st and by, and t hey chose t he
Throne."
"There was a roll call?" Luce asked, not sure she'd heard correct ly. lt sounded more like
homeroom t han Heaven.
"Aft er t he schism in Heaven, all of us were made t o choose sides. So, st art ing wit h t he angels
wit h t he small-est dominions, each of us was t o be called upon t o make an oat h of fealt y t o
t he Throne." He st ared at t he mist , and it was as t hough he could see it all again. "lt t ook ages
t o call out t he angels' names, st art ing at t he lowest ranked and working up. lt probably t ook as
long t o say our names as it did for Rome t o rise and fall. But t hey didn't make it all t he way
t hrough t he Roll Call before÷" Daniel t ook a ragged breat h.
"Before what ?"
"Before somet hing happened t o make t he Throne lose fait h in it s host of angels . . ." By now
Luce realized t hat when Daniel's voice t railed off like t hat , it wasn't because he didn't t rust her
or because she wouldn't underst and, but because despit e all t he t hings she'd seen and
learned, it st ill might be t oo soon for her t o know t he t rut h. So she didn't ask÷t hough she was
desperat e t o÷what had made t he Throne abandon t he Roll Call when it s highest angels had
not yet chosen sides. She let Daniel speak again when he was ready.
"Heaven cast out everyone who had not sided wit h it . Remember how l t old you a few angels
never got t o choose? They were among t he last in t he Roll Call, t he highest . Aft er t he Fall,
Heaven was bereft of most of it s Archangels." He closed his eyes. "The Scale, who had lucked
int o seeming loyal, st epped int o t he breach."
"So because t he Scale swore fealt y t o Heaven first ÷" Luce said.
"They felt t hey had a superior amount of honor," Daniel said, finishing her t hought . "Since t hen,
t hey have self-right eously claimed t o serve Heaven by act ing as celest ial parole officers. But
t he posit ion is self-invent ed, not ordained. Wit h t he Archangels gone aft er t he Fall, t he Scale
t ook advant age of a vacuum of power. They carved out a role for t hemselves, and t hey
convinced t he Throne of t heir import ance."
"They lobbied God?"
"More or less. They pledged t o rest ore t he fallen t o Heaven, t o gat her back t hose angels who
had st rayed, t o ret urn t hem t o t he fold. They spent a handful of millennia urging us t o recommit
ourselves t o t he 'right ' side, but somewhere along t he way, t hey gave up t rying t o change our
point s of view. Now t hey most ly just t ry t o prevent us from accomplishing anyt hing." His st eely
gaze looked enraged and it made Luce wonder what could be so bad in Heaven t hat it kept
Daniel in self-exile. Wasn't t he peace of Heaven prefer-able t o where he was now, wit h
everyone wait ing for him t o choose?
Daniel laughed bit t erly. "But t he angels wort h t heir wings who have ret urned t o Heaven don't
need t he Scale t o get t here. Ask Gabbe, ask Arriane. The Scale is a joke.
St ill, t hey've had one or t wo successes."
"But not you?" she asked. "You haven't chosen one side or t he ot her. And so t hey're aft er you,
aren't t hey?" A crowded red t ram wound around t he paved circle below, t hen forked up a
narrow st reet .
"They've been aft er me for years," Daniel said, "plant ing lies, manufact uring scandals."
"And yet you haven't declared for t he Throne. Why haven't you?"
"l've t old you. lt 's not as simple as t hat ," he said.
"But you're clearly not going t o side wit h Lucifer."
"Right , but . . . l can't explain t housands of years'
wort h of argument in t he space of a few minut es. lt is complicat ed by fact ors beyond my
cont rol." He looked away again, out over t he cit y, t hen down at his hands.
"And it 's an insult t o be asked t o choose, an insult for your creat or t o demand t hat you reduce
t he vast ness of your love t o t he t iny, pet t y confines of a gest ure during a Roll Call." He sighed.
"l don't know. Maybe l'm t oo sincere."
"No÷" Luce st art ed.
"Anyway, t he Scale. They're Heavenly bureaucrat s. l t hink of t hem as high school principals.
Pushing papers and punishing minor t ransgressions of rules no one cares about or believes in,
all in t he name of 'moralit y.'" Again Luce st ared out at t he cit y, which was drawing a dark coat
around it s shoulders. She t hought of t he sour-breat hed vice-principal at Dover, whose name
she couldn't remember, who never had any int erest in her side of any st ory, who had signed
her expulsion papers aft er t he fire t hat killed Trevor. "l've been burned by people like t hat ."
"We all have. They're st icklers for frivolous rules of t heir own invent ion, which t hey deem
right eous. None of us like t hem, but unfort unat ely t he Throne has given t hem t he power t o
monit or us, t o det ain us wit hout cause, t o convict us of crimes by a jury of t heir choosing."
Luce shuddered again, t his t ime not because of t he cold. "And you t hink t hey have Arriane and
Roland and Annabelle? Why? Why hold t hem?"
Daniel sighed. "l know t hey have Arriane and Roland and Annabelle. Their hat red blinds t hem
t o t he fact t hat delaying us helps Lucifer." He swallowed hard. "What l fear most is t hat t hey
also have t he relic." ln t he dist ance, four pairs of t at t ered wings mat erial-ized in t he fog.
Out cast s. As t hey neared t he palace roof, Luce and Daniel rose t o greet t hem.
The Out cast s landed next t o Luce, t heir wings crackling like paper umbrellas as t hey drew
t hem t o t heir sides. Their faces bet rayed no emot ion; not hing in t heir demeanor suggest ed
t hat t heir t rip had been suc-cessful.
"Well?" Daniel asked.
"The Scale has t aken cont rol of a place down t he river," Vincent announced, point ing in t he
direct ion of t he Ferris wheel. "The neglect ed wing of a museum. lt is under renovat ion, covered
in scaffolding, so t hey st ake it out unnot iced. lt is not equipped wit h alarms."
"You're cert ain t hey're Scale?" Daniel asked quickly.
One of t he Out cast s nodded. "We perceived t heir brands, t heir gold insignias÷t he st ar wit h
seven point s for t he seven holy virt ues paint ed on t heir necks."
"What about Roland and Arriane and Annabelle?" Luce asked.
"They are wit h t he Scale. Their wings are bound," Vincent said.
Luce t urned away, bit ing down on her lower lip.
How awful it must be for an angel t o have her wings rest rained. She couldn't bear t o t hink of
Arriane wit hout t he freedom t o flut t er her iridescent wings. She couldn't imagine any
subst ance st rong enough t o cont ain t he power of Roland's marbled wings.
"Well, if we know where t hey are, let 's go rescue t hem already," she said.
"And t he relic?" Daniel said lowly t o Vincent .
Luce gaped at him. "Daniel, our friends are in danger."
"Do t hey have it ?" Daniel pressed. He glanced at Luce, put his hand around her waist .
"Fveryth|ng is in danger. We will save Arriane and t he ot hers, but we have t o find t hat relic,
t oo."
"We do not know about t he relic." Vincent shook his head. "The warehouse is heavily guarded,
Daniel Grigori. They await your arrival."
Daniel faced t he cit y, his violet eyes cast ing along t he river as if seeking out t he warehouse.
His wings pulsed.
"They won't be wait ing long."
"No!" Luce pleaded. "You'll be walking int o a t rap.
What if t hey t ake you host age, t he way t hey've t aken t he ot hers?"
"The ot hers must have crossed t hem in some way. As long as l follow t heir prot ocol, appeal t o
t heir vanit y, t he Scale will not imprison me," he said. "l'll go alone." He glanced at t he Out cast s
and added, "Unarmed."
"But t he Out cast s are charged wit h guarding you," Vincent said in his even, monot one voice.
"We will follow at a dist ance and÷"
"No." Daniel lift ed a hand t o st op Vincent . "You will t ake t he warehouse roof. Did you sense
Scale t here?" Vincent nodded. "A few. The majorit y are near t he main ent rance."
"Good." Daniel nodded. "l'll use t heir own procedure against t hem. Once l reach t he front doors,
t he Scale will wast e t ime ident ifying me, checking me for cont raband, anyt hing t hey can make
appear illegal.
While l dist ract t hem near t he ent rance, t he Out cast s will force your way t hrough t he
warehouse roof and free Roland, Arriane, and Annabelle. And if you face a member of t he Scale
up t here÷"
ln unison, t he Out cast s held open t heir t rench coat s t o reveal sheat hs of dull silver st arshot s
and compact mat ching bows.
"You cannot kill t hem," Daniel warned.
"Please, Daniel Grigori," Vincent pleaded. "We are all bet t er off wit hout t hem."
"They are called Scale not only because of t heir small-minded obsession wit h rules. They also
provide an essent ial count erbalance t o Lucifer's forces. You are quick enough t o elude t heir
cloaks. We only need t o delay t hem, and for t hat a t hreat will suffice."
"But t hey only seek t o delay you, " Vincent count ered. "All of t his delaying will lead t o oblivion."
Luce was about t o ask where t his plan left her when Daniel drew her int o his arms. "l need you
t o st ay here and guard t he relic." They looked at t he halo, rest ing against t he base of t he
warrior st at ue. lt was beaded wit h rain. "Please don't argue. We can't let t he Scale near t he
relic. You and it will be safest here. Olianna will st ay t o prot ect you."
Luce glanced at t he Out cast girl, who st ared back empt ily, her eyes a dept hless gray. "Okay, l'll
st ay here."
"Let us hope t he second relic is st ill at large," he said, arching back his wings. "Once t he ot hers
have been freed, we can make a plan t o find it t oget her." Luce clenched her fist s, closed her
eyes, and kissed Daniel, holding him t ight for one last moment .
He was gone a second lat er, his regal wings growing smaller as he soared int o t he night , t he
t hree Out cast s flying alongside him. Soon t hey all seemed lit t le more t han flecks of dust in t he
clouds.
Olianna hadn't moved. She st ood like a t rench-coat ed version of any of t he ot her st at ues on
t he roof. She faced Luce wit h her hands clasped t oget her over her chest , t he blond hair along
her forehead pulled back so t ight int o it s ponyt ail it looked like it would snap. When she
reached inside her t rench coat , a harsh scent of sawdust waft ed out . When she pulled out and
nocked a silver st arshot , Luce scrambled a few st eps back.
"Do not be afraid, Lucinda Price," Olianna said. "l only want t o be prepared t o defend you in
case an enemy approaches."
Luce t ried not t o imagine what enemies t he blond girl envisioned. She lowered herself t o t he
roof again and shelt ered herself from t he wind behind t he warrior st at ue wit h t he golden spear,
more out of habit t han need. She adjust ed her body so t hat she could st ill see t he t all brown
brick clock t ower wit h t he golden face. Five-t hirt y. She was marking t he minut es unt il Daniel
and t he ot her Out cast s came back.
"Do you want t o sit down?" she asked Olianna, who lurked direct ly behind Luce wit h her arrow
at t he ready.
"l prefer t o st and guard÷"
"Yeah, l don't guess you can really s|t guard," Luce mumbled. "Ha-ha."
A siren wailed from below, a police car speeding t hrough a roundabout . When it passed and
t he air grew quiet again, Luce didn't know how t o fill t he silence.
She st ared at t he clock, squint ing as if it would help her see t hrough t he fog. Had Daniel
reached t he warehouse by now? What would Arriane, Roland, and Annabelle do when t hey
saw t he Out cast s? Luce realized Daniel hadn't given anyone but Phil a pennon of his wing.
How would t he angels know t o t rust t he Out cast s?
Her shoulders were hunched up around her ears, and her whole body st iffened wit h t he sense
of fut ile frust rat ion. Why was she sit t ing here, wait ing, cracking st upid jokes? She should have
had an act ive role in t his. Aft er all, it wasn't Luce t he Scale want ed. She should be helping
rescue her friends or finding t he relic inst ead of sit t ing here like a dist ressed damsel, wait ing for
her knight t o ret urn.
"Do you remember me, Lucinda Price?" t he Out cast asked so quiet ly Luce almost didn't hear.
"Why do t he Out cast s call us by our full names all of a sudden?" She t urned around t o find t he
girl's head t ilt ed down at her, her bow and arrow list ing against her shoulder.
"lt is a sign of respect , Lucinda Price. We are your allies now. You and Daniel Grigori. Do you
remember me?"
Luce t hought for a second. "Were you one of t he Out cast s fight ing t he angels in my parent s'
backyard?"
"No."
"l'm sorry." Luce shrugged. "l don't remember everyt hing about my past . Have we already met ?"
The Out cast lift ed her head just a bit . "We knew one anot her before."
"When?"
The girl shrugged, her shoulders rising delicat ely, and Luce suddenly realized she was pret t y.
"Just before. lt is hard t o explain."
"What isn't ?" Luce swiveled back around, not in t he mood t o decode anot her crypt ic
conversat ion. She st uffed her freezing hands inside t he sleeves of her whit e sweat er and
wat ched t he t raffic moving up and down t he slick roads, t he t iny cars wedged int o slant ed
spaces on crooked alleys, people in long dark coat s marching over illuminat ed bridges, carrying
groceries home t o t heir families.
Luce felt painfully lonely. Was her family t hinking of her? Did t hey pict ure her in t he cramped
dorm room she'd slept in at Sword & Cross? Was Callie back at Dover by now? Would she be
huddled in t he cold window seat of her room, let t ing her dark red fingernails dry, chat t ing on t he
phone about her weird Thanksgiving t rip t o see some friend who wasn't Luce?
A dark cloud drift ed past t he clock, rendering it visible as it st ruck six. Daniel had been gone an
hour t hat felt like a year. Luce wat ched t he church bells ringing, wat ched t he hands of t he
great old clock, and she let her memory drift back t o her lives spent before t he invent ion of
linear t ime, when t ime meant seasons, t he plant ing and t he harvest .
Aft er t he sixt h gong of t he clock came anot her÷
closer, and Luce spun around just in t ime t o see Olianna slump forward t o her knees. She fell
and landed heavily in Luce's arms. Luce t urned t he ragged angel over and t ouched t he
Out cast 's face.
Olianna was unconscious. The sound Luce had heard was t he Out cast being hit in t he head.
Behind Luce st ood an enormous black-cloaked figure. His face was craggy wit h wrinkles and
looked impossibly old, layers of skin drooping under his dull blue eyes and below his prot ruding
chin, beneat h a mout hful of crooked black-and-yellow t eet h. ln his huge right hand was t he
flagpole he must have used as a weapon.
The Aust rian flag hung limply from t he end of t he pole, flut t ered soft ly against t he surface of
t he roof.
Luce shot t o her feet , feeling her fist s rise even as she wondered what good t hey'd be against
t his enormous fiend.
His wings were a very pale blue, just a shade away from whit e. Even t hough his body t owered
over her, his wings were small and dense, spanning only a lit t le fart her t han his arms could
reach.
Somet hing small and golden was pinned t o t he front of t he man's cloak: a feat her÷a marbled
gold-black feat her. Luce knew whose wings it had come from. But why would Roland have
given t his creat ure a pennon from his wings?
He wouldn't have. This feat her was bent and severed and missing some of it s mat t er near t he
quill. lt s point was maroon wit h blood, and inst ead of st anding upright like t he brilliant plume
Daniel had given t o Phil, t his feat her seemed t o have wit hered and faded when it was
at t ached t o t he gruesome angel's black cloak.
A t rick.
"Who are you?" Luce asked, falling t o her knees.
"What do you want ?"
"Show some respect ." The angel's t hroat convulsed as if he meant t o bark, but his voice came
out warbled and faint and old.
"Earn my respect ," Luce said. "And l'll give it t o you."
He gave her half an evil smirk and dropped his head low. Then he pulled down t he cloak t o
expose t he back of his neck. Luce blinked in t he dim light . His neck bore a paint ed brand, which
shimmered gold in t he glow of st reet light s mingled wit h t he moon. She count ed seven point s
on t he st ar.
He was one of t he Scale.
"Recognize me now?"
"ls t his how t he Throne's enforcers work? Bludgeon-ing innocent angels?"
"No Out cast is innocent . Nor is anyone else, for t hat mat t er, unt il t hey are proven t o be so."
"You've proven yourself innocent of any honor, st riking a girl from behind."
"lnsolence." He wrinkled his nose at her. "Won't get you far wit h me."
"That 's exact ly where l want t o be." Luce's eyes dart ed t o Olianna, t o her pale hand and t he
st arshot clenched in it s grip.
"But it 's not where you will st ay," t he Scale said halt ingly, as if having t o force himself t o commit
t o t heir il-logical bant er.
Luce snat ched at t he st arshot as t he Scale lurched for her. But t he angel was much fast er and
st ronger t han he looked. He wrest ed t he st arshot from her hands, knocked her ont o her back
against t he st one roof wit h one st rong slap across t he face. He held t he arrow t ip of t he
st arshot up close t o Luce's heart .
They can't k|// morta/s. They can't k|// morta/s, she kept repeat ing in her head. But Luce
remembered Bill's bargain wit h her: She had one immort al part of her t hat cou/d be killed. Her
soul. And she would not part wit h t hat , not aft er everyt hing she'd been t hrough, not when t he
end was so near.
She raised her leg, preparing t o kick him like she'd seen in kung fu movies, when suddenly he
pit ched t he arrow and it s bow st raight over t he edge of t he roof.
Luce jerked her head t o t he side, her cheek pressing against t he cold st one, and wat ched t he
weapon t wirl in t he air on it s way int o t he t winkling Christ mas light s of t he Vienna st reet s.
The Scale angel rubbed his hands on his cloak. "Filt hy t hings." Then he grabbed Luce roughly
by t he shoulders and yanked her t o her feet .
He kicked t he Out cast aside÷Olianna moaned but did not st ir÷and t here, under her t hin,
t rench-coat ed body, was t he golden halo.
"Thought l might find t his here," t he Scale angel said, snat ching it up and t hrust ing it under t he
folds of his cloak.
"No!" She plunged her hands int o t he dark place where she'd seen t he halo disappear, but t he
angel slapped her a second t ime across t he face, sending her backward, her hair swinging over
t he edge of t he roof.
She clut ched her face. Her nose was bleeding.
"You are more dangerous t han t hey t hink," he croaked. "We were t old you were a whiner, not
courageous. l'd bet t er bind you up before we fly." The angel quickly slipped off his cloak and
dropped it over her head like a curt ain, blinding Luce for a long, horrible moment . Then t he
Vienna night ÷and t he angel÷were visible again. Luce not iced t hat beneat h t he cloak he'd
been wearing, t he Scale wore anot her, precisely like t he one he'd removed and fast ened
around Luce. He bent down, and wit h t he pull of a st ring, Luce's cloak const rict ed around her
like a st rait jacket . When she kicked, convulsed, she felt t he cloak become t ight er.
She let out a scream. "Daniel!"
"He won't hear you," t he angel chuckled mirt hlessly as he st uffed her under one arm and
moved t oward t he edge of t he roof. "He wouldn't hear you if you screamed forever."
SEVEN
KNOT ANGELS
The cloak was paralyzing.
The more Luce moved, t he more it const rict ed around her. lt s rough fabric was secured wit h a
st range rope t hat pinched her skin and held her body rigidly.
When Luce writ hed against it , t he rope responded, cinching t ight er around her shoulders,
squeezing her ribs unt il she could barely breat he.
The Scale angel held Luce under his bony arm as he scraped t hrough t he night sky. Wit h her
face buried in t he fet id waist of t he regenerat ed cloak t he angel wore, she could see not hing,
could only feel wind whipping across t he surface of her miserable mildewed cocoon. All she
could hear was wind-howl, punct uat ed by t he beat ing of st iff wings.
Where was he t aking her? How would she get word t o Daniel? They did not have t ime for t his!
Aft er a while t he wind st opped, but t he Scale angel didn't land.
He and Luce hovered in t he air.
Then t he angel let out a roar. "Trespasser!" he bellowed.
Luce felt t he t wo of t hem dropping, but she could see only t he darkness of t he folds of her
capt or's cloak, which muffled her cries of t error÷unt il t he sound of breaking glass halt ed even
t hose.
Thin, razor-like shards sliced t hrough her const rict ing cloak, t hrough t he fabric of her jeans. Her
legs st ung like t hey'd been cut in a t housand places.
When t he Scale angel's feet slammed int o a landing, Luce shuddered wit h t he impact . He
dropped her roughly, and she landed on her hip bone and shoulder.
She rolled a couple of feet , t hen st opped. She saw t hat she was near a long wooden
workman's t able piled high wit h fragment s of faded clot h and porcelain.
She squirmed under it s t emporary shelt er, almost suc-cessful at prevent ing her cloak from
const rict ing more t ight ly around her. lt had begun t o close around her t rachea.
But at least now she could see.
She was in a cold, cavernous room. The floor beneat h her was a lacquered mosaic made of
t riangular gray and red t iles. The walls were a gleaming must ard-colored marble, as were t he
t hick square pillars in t he cent er of t he room. She briefly st udied a long row of frost ed skylight s
t hat spanned t he vast ceiling fort y feet above. The roof was pocked by open crat ers of broken
glass, revealing dark gray vist as of cloudy night on t he ot her side. That must have been where
she and t he angel crashed t hrough.
And t his must be t he museum wing t he Scale had overt aken, t he one Vincent had t old Daniel
about on t he copper roof. That meant Daniel must be just out side÷and Arriane and Annabelle
and Roland should be somewhere inside! Her heart soared, t hen sank.
Their wings were bound, t he Out cast s had said. Were t hey in t he same shape she was in? She
hat ed t hat she had made it here and couldn't even help t hem, hat ed t hat she had t o move t o
save t hem but t hat moving put her life in peril. There was perhaps not hing worse t han not
being able t o move.
The Scale angel's muddy black boot s appeared before her. Luce peered up at his t owering
figure. He bent down, smelling like rot t ing mot hballs, his dull eyes leer-ing. His black-gloved
hand reached for her÷
Then t he Scale angel's hand fell limply÷as if he had been knocked out . He lunged forward,
crashing heavily int o t he workman's t able, pushing it back, exposing Luce. The severed
sculpt ure head t hat had apparent ly st ruck t he Scale rolled eerily t o rest on t he floor near
Luce's face, seeming t o st are int o Luce's eyes.
As Luce rolled back under t he t able, more blue wings blurred in her peripheral vision. More
Scale. Four of t hem flew in t awdry format ion t oward a recessed alcove about halfway up t he
wall . . . where Luce now saw Emmet st anding, brandishing a long, silver saw.
Emmet must have t hrown t he head t hat had saved her from t he Scale! He was t he t respasser
whose ent rance t hrough t he ceiling had enraged her kidnapper. Luce had never t hought she'd
be so happy t o see an Out cast .
Emmet was surrounded by sculpt ures on plat forms and pedest als, some shrouded, some
scaffolded, one newly beheaded÷and by four impossibly old Scale angels, hovering closer t o
him in t he air, cloaks ext ended, like shabby vampires. These st iff black cloaks seemed t o be
t heir only weapon, t heir only t ool, and Luce knew well it was a brut al one. Her pained breat hing
was evidence of t hat .
She suppressed a gasp as Emmet pulled a st arshot from an unseen quiver in his t rench coat
and held it out in front of him. Daniel had made t he Out cast s promise not t o kill t he Scale!
The Scale backed slowly away from Emmet in t he air, hissing, "Vile! Vile!" so loudly t hat it
caused Luce's capt or t o st ir on t he t able above her. Then t he Out cast did somet hing t hat
amazed everybody in t he room. He aimed t he st arshot at himself. Luce had seen Daniel sui-
cidal in Tibet , so she knew somet hing about t hat emot ion's desperat e at mosphere, t he
defeat ed body language t hat accompanied a gest ure so ext reme. But Emmet seemed as
confident and defiant as ever as he looked from one leat hery Scale face t o anot her.
The Scale became emboldened by Emmet 's st range behavior. They hovered ever closer,
blocking t he t hin Out cast from Luce's view wit h t he slow int ensit y of vul-t ures approaching a
carcass on a desert highway. Where were t he ot her Out cast s? Where was Phil? Had t he Scale
already done away wit h t hem?
What sounded like t hick and heavy fabric being t orn echoed loudly t hrough t he room. The
Scale hovered mot ionlessly, t heir broad, overlapping cloaks like t he gaping mout h of an
Announcer t hat led somewhere t errible and sad. Then a slicing sound cut t hrough t he air,
followed by anot her t earing sound÷and t hen t he four Scale angels spun like rag dolls t oward
Luce, t heir jaws slack, t heir eyes open, t heir cloaks mut ilat ed and ripped open t o expose black
heart s and black lungs t wit ching spast i-cally, st reaming pale blue blood.
Daniel had t old t he Out cast s t hey could not use t heir st arshot s t o k|// t he Scale, but he had
not said t he Out cast s could not hurt t hem.
The four Scale angels fell in a clump t o t he floor like puppet s whose st rings had been snipped.
Luce looked up from where t hey lay, st ruggling t o breat he, t o t he alcove, where Emmet was
wiping black Scale blood from t he flet chings of his st arshot . Luce had never heard of anyone
using t he but t end of a st arshot as a weapon÷and apparent ly neit her had t he Scale.
"ls Lucinda here?" Luce heard Phil call out . She looked up t o see his face glowing t hrough a
crat er in t he roof.
"Here!" Luce shout ed up t o him, unable t o keep herself from lunging as she did so, causing her
cloak t o cinch even more t ight ly around her t hroat . When she grimaced sharply, t he cloak
t ight ened a lit t le more.
A huge leg drooped over t he edge of t he t able, it s black boot swinging int o Luce's face, st riking
her flush on t he nose, bringing t ears of pain t o her eyes. Her capt or was awake! This
realizat ion, coupled wit h t he sudden pain t hat half blinded her, caused Luce t o push back more
deeply under t he t able's shelt er. When she did so, her cloak closed all t he way around her
t hroat , pinching her t rachea complet ely shut . She panicked, gasped uselessly for air, writ hing
now t hat it didn't mat t er if t he cloak const rict ed anymore÷
Then she remembered how she'd discovered in Venice t hat she could hold her breat h for
longer t han she'd t hought possible. And Daniel had just t old her she could will herself t o
overcome t hat limit at ion anyt ime she want ed. So she did it ; she just did it ; she willed herself t o
st ay alive.
But t hat didn't st op her capt or from knocking t he shelt ering workman's t able aside, sending
pot t ery and t he severed limbs of ancient sculpt ures flying.
"You look . . . uncomfort able." He grinned, revealing blood-slick t eet h, and ext ended a black-
gloved hand t oward t he hem of Luce's cloak.
But t he Scale angel froze when a st arshot flet ching burst t hrough t he place where, only a
moment before, his right eye had been. Blue blood jet t ed from t he empt ied socket , down ont o
Luce's cloak. He cried out , st aggered wildly around t he room, arms flailing, t he backward
st arshot prot ruding from his wizened face.
Pale hands appeared before her, t hen t he sleeves of a rat t y t an t rench coat , followed by a
shaven blond head.
Phil's face bet rayed no feeling as he dropped t o his knees t o face her.
"There you are, Lucinda Price." He gripped t he collar of t he binding black cloak and lift ed Luce
up. "l had ret urned t o t he palace t o check on you." He set her at op a nearby t able. She
immediat ely fell over, not able t o hold herself upright . Emmet right ed her wit h as lit t le emot ion
as his colleague had.
At last she could afford t o t ake a longer view. ln front of her, t hree shallow st airs led down t o
an expansive main chamber. ln it s cent er, a red velvet rope sect ioned off a t owering st at ue of a
lion. lt was reared up on t wo feet , t eet h bared t oward t he sky mid-roar. lt s mane was chipped
and yellowed.
Blue-gray wings coat ed t he floor of t he rest orat ion wing, reminding Luce of a locust -covered
parking lot she'd seen one summer aft er a Georgia rainst orm. The Scale weren't dead÷t hey
had not vanished int o st arshot dust ÷but so many of t hem were unconscious t he Out cast s
could barely t read wit hout crunching t heir wings.
Phil and Emmet had been busy, incapacit at ing at least fift y of t he Scale. Their short blue wings
t wit ched occa-sionally, but t heir bodies did not move.
All six Out cast s÷Phil, Vincent , Emmet , Sanders, t he ot her Out cast girl, whose name Luce did
not know, even Daedalus wit h his bandaged face÷were st ill on t heir feet , brushing pieces of
t issue and bone from t heir blue-splat t ered t rench coat s.
The blond girl, t he one who'd helped nurse Daedalus back t o healt h, grabbed a barely
breat hing female Scale angel by t he hair. The old hag's moldy blue wings t rembled as t he blond
Out cast bat t ered t he Scale's head against a marble pillar. She shrieked t he first four or five
t imes her head st ruck t he st one. Then t he shrieks pet ered out and her bulged eyes rolled back
in her head.
Phil st ruggled wit h t he black st rait jacket fast ened around Luce. His quick fingers made up for
his lack of sight . An unconscious Scale angel fell from somewhere above her, his bat t ered
cheek coming t o rest bet ween her neck and shoulder. She felt hot blood t rickle ont o her neck.
She squeezed her eyes shut and shuddered.
Phil kicked t he angel off t he t able, sending him int o Luce's one-eyed capt or, who st ill st aggered
clumsily around t he room, groaning, "Why me? l do everyt hing right ."
"He has t he halo÷" Luce st art ed.
But Phil's at t ent ion jerked back t o t he sickly mass of Scale angel wings, where a port ly Scale
wit h hair like a monk had risen and now advanced on Daedalus from behind. A coarse black
cloak hung over t he Out cast 's head, ready t o drop.
"l will be right back, Lucinda Price." Phil left Luce in her binds on t he t able and nocked a
st arshot in his bow.
ln an inst ant , he had shoved himself bet ween Daedalus and t he Scale angel.
"Drop t he cloak, Zaban." Phil looked as fierce as he had when he'd first appeared in Luce's
parent s' backyard. Luce was surprised t o realize t hey knew each ot her by name, but of course,
t hey must have once all lived in Heaven t oget her. That was hard t o imagine now.
Zaban had wat ery blue eyes and bluish lips. He looked almost gleeful at finding t he st arshot
point ed at him. He slung t he cloak over his shoulder and t urned t o face Phil, freeing Daedalus
t o pick up a spindly Scale angel by t he feet . He swung t he old angel around in a circle t hree
t imes, t hen sent him crashing t hrough t he east ern window, out int o a t ower of scaffolding
below.
"Threat ening t o shoot me, are you, Phillip?" Zaban's eyes were on t he st arshot . "You want t o
t ip t he balance t oward Lucifer? Why doesn't t hat surprise me?" Phil brist led. "You don't mat t er
enough for your deat h t o t ip t he balance."
"At least we count for someth|ng. All t oget her, our lives make a difference in t he balance.
Just ice always makes a difference. You Out cast s"÷he smiled in mock pit y÷"st and for
not hing. That is what makes you wort h-less."
That was enough for Phil. There was somet hing about t his Scale he couldn't endure. Wit h a
grunt he loosed t he arrow t oward Zaban's heart .
"l st and opposed t o you," he mut t ered, and wait ed for t he blue-winged geezer t o vanish.
Luce wait ed for t he vanishing, t oo. She'd seen it happen before. But t he arrow glanced off
Zaban's cloak and clat t ered t o t he floor.
"How did you÷?" Phil asked.
Zaban laughed and pulled somet hing out from a hidden breast pocket in his cloak. Luce leaned
forward, eager t o see how Zaban had prot ect ed himself. But she leaned t oo far and slid off t he
t able. She landed on t he floor on her face.
No one not iced. They were st aring at t he small book Zaban produced from his cloak. Propping
herself up slight ly, Luce saw it was bound in leat her, t he same shade of blue as Scale angel
wings. lt was bound wit h a knot t ed golden cord. lt looked like a Bible, t he kind Civil War soldiers
used t o st uff in t heir breast pocket s in hopes t he books would prot ect t heir heart s.
This book had done just t hat .
Luce squint ed t o read it s t it le, squirming a few inches closer on t he floor. She was st ill t oo far
away.
ln a single movement , Phil ret rieved his st arshot and swat t ed t he book out of Zaban's hand. By
a st roke of luck, it landed a few feet away from Luce. She wriggled again, knowing she couldn't
pick it up, not t he way t he cloak was binding her. St ill, she had t o know what it s pages
cont ained. lt seemed familiar, as if she'd seen it long, long before. She read t he golden let t ers
on it s spine.
A Pecord ol the la//en.
Now Zaban ran for it , st opping short of Luce, who lay exposed in t he cent er of t he floor. He
glared at her and pocket ed t he book.
"No, no," he said. "¥ou don't get t o look at t his. You don't get t o see all t hat 's been
accomplished by Scale wings. Nor what 's left t o do t o achieve t he ult imat e harmonious
balance. Not when you've spent all t his t ime t oo busy t o t ake not e of us, t o t ake not e of
just ice, selfishly falling in and out of love."
Though Luce hat ed t he Scale, if t here was a record of t he fallen, she burned t o know whose
names were on t hose pages, t o see where Daniel's name was t allied now.
This was what t he fallen kept t alking about . A single angel who would t ip t he scale.
But before Zaban could hurt le any more crit icism at Luce, a pair of brilliant whit e wings filled her
vision÷
an angel descending t hrough t he largest hole in t he skylight .
Daniel t ouched down in front of her and eyed t he cloak imprisoning her. He st udied her
const rict ed neck.
His muscles st rained t hrough his T-shirt as he t ried t o t ear t he cloak away.
Out of t he corner of her eye, she saw Phil lift a small pickax from a nearby t able and slice it
across Zaban's chest . The Scale angel swerved, t rying t o spin out of range. The blade
connect ed wit h his arm. The blow was so powerful it severed Zaban's hand at t he wrist .
Sickened, Luce wat ched t he pale slack fist t hump t o t he floor.
Aside from t he blue blood st reaming, it could have belonged t o one of t he ravaged st at ues.
"Tie t hat on wit h one of your knot s," Phil t aunt ed as Zaban fumbled aft er his missing
appendage among t he bat t ered, unconscious bodies of his sect .
"ls it hurt ing you?" Daniel t ore at t he knot s binding Luce.
"No." She willed it t o be t rue. lt almost was.
When brut e force didn't work, Daniel t ried approaching t he cloak more st rat egically. "l had t he
loose end just a moment ago," he mut t ered. "Now it 's riddled up inside t he cloak." His fingers
inched across her body, feeling close and far away.
Luce wished t hat her hands, over any ot her part of her body, were free so she could t ouch
Daniel right now, soot he his anxiet y. She t rust ed him t o free her. She t rust ed him t o do
anyt hing.
What could she do t o help him? She closed her eyes and drift ed back t o t he lifet ime in Tahit i.
Daniel had been a sailor. He had t aught her dozens of knot s in t heir quiet aft ernoons on t he
beach. She remembered now: t he alpine but t erfly, which made a st raight loop in t he middle of a
rope wit h t wo lobed wings on eit her side, good for carrying ext ra weight on a line. Or t he lover's
knot , which looked simple, heart -shaped, but could only be unt ied using four hands at once;
each one had t o loop a st rand t hrough a different port ion of t he heart 's core.
The cloak was so t ight Luce could not move a muscle. His fingers t rolled t he collar, t ight ening it
furt her.
Daniel cursed at how it pinched her neck.
"l can't ," he finally cried out . "The Scale st rait jacket is comprised of infinit e knot s. Only one of
t hem can unbind it . Who did t his t o you?"
Luce jerked her head t oward t he blue-winged angel howling t o himself, st aggering in a corner
by a marble faun. The st arshot flet ching st ill prot ruded from his eye.
She want ed t o t ell Daniel how her capt or had t aken out Olianna wit h a flagpole, t hen bound
her up and brought her here.
But she could not even speak. The cloak was t oo t ight .
By t hen, Phil had t he whining angel in his grasp, gripped by t he collar of his blood-wet cloak. He
slapped t he Scale t hree t imes before t he Scale ceased his self-pit ying moans and pulled back
his blue wings in alarm.
Luce saw t hat a t hick ring of dried blue blood had formed around t he place where t he st arshot
flet ching prot ruded from his socket .
"Unbind her, Barach," Daniel ordered, recognizing Luce's capt or immediat ely, making Luce
wonder how well t hey knew each ot her.
"Not likely." Barach leaned away and spat a st ream of blue blood and a couple of sharp and
t iny t eet h out ont o t he floor.
ln a flash, Phil had a st arshot t rained bet ween t he angel's eyes. "Daniel Grigori inst ruct ed you
t o unbind her. You will oblige."
Barach flinched, eyeing t he st arshot wit h disdain.
"Vile. Vile!"
A dark shadow fell over Phil's body.
Hazily, Luce processed t he sight of anot her Scale angel, t he craggy old hag wit h moldy blue
wings. She must have roused aft er she'd been knocked out . Now she came at Phil wit h t he
same pickax he'd used on Zaban÷
But t hen t he Scale angel vanished int o dust .
Ten feet behind her, Vincent st ood wit h an empt y bow in hand. He nodded at Phil, t hen t urned
back t o scour t he carpet of blue wings for movement .
Daniel t urned t o Phil and mut t ered, "We need t o be careful about how many we t ake out . The
Scale do mat t er in t he balance. A lit t le."
"Unfort unat e," Phil said, st range envy in his voice.
"We will keep t he killing t o a minimum, Daniel Grigori.
But we would prefer t o kill all of t hem." He raised his voice for Barach's ears. "Welcome t o t he
realm of sight lessness. The Out cast s are more powerful t han you t hink. l would kill you wit hout
a second t hought , wit hout a first one, even. However, l will ask again: Unbind her."
Barach st ood a long moment , as if weighing his op-t ions, blinking his one remaining wrinkled old
eyelid.
"Unbind her! She cannot breat he!" Daniel roared.
Barach growled and approached Luce. His age-spot t ed hands worked out a series of knot s
t hat neit her Phil nor Daniel had been able t o find. Luce felt no relief in her neck, t hough. Not
unt il he began t o whisper somet hing, very low, under his rancid breat h.
Lack of oxygen had made her feel faint , but t he words t unneled int o her foggy mind. They were
an ancient form of Hebrew. Luce didn't know how she knew t he language, but she did.
"And Heaven wept to see the s|ns ol Her ch|/dren.¨ The words were almost unint elligible. Daniel
and Phil had not even heard t hem. Luce couldn't be sure she'd heard t hem right ÷but t hen,
t hey were familiar.
Where had she heard t hem before?
The memory came t o her fast er t han she would have liked: a different member of t he Scale,
sweeping Luce in a different body int o an older cloak t han t his one. lt had happened a very
long t ime ago. She'd been t hrough all t his before, bound up and t hen released.
ln t hat lifet ime, Luce had got t en her hands on somet hing she wasn't supposed t o see. A book,
t ied up wit h a complicat ed knot .
A Pecord ol the la//en.
What was she doing wit h it ? What did she want t o see?
The same t hing she want ed t o see now. The names of t he angels who had yet t o choose. But
she hadn't been permit t ed t o read t he book t hen, eit her.
Long before, Luce had held t he book in her hands, and wit hout knowing how, she had nearly
unt ied it s knot . Then came t he moment when t he Scale caught her and bound her in t he cloak.
She had wat ched his blue wings shudder wit h int ensit y as t he angel t ied and ret ied t he book.
Making sure her impure fingers hadn't damaged it , he had said. She heard him whisper t hose
words÷t he same st range words÷just before he shed a t ear over t he book.
The gold t hread had unraveled like magic.
She looked up at t he craggy old angel now and wat ched a silvery t ear slide from his eye down
t he maze of his cheek. He looked t ruly moved, but in a pat roniz-ing sort of way, like he pit ied
t he fat e of her soul. The t ear landed on t he cloak, and t he knot s myst eriously un-knot t ed.
She gasped for air. Daniel yanked t he cloak t he rest of t he way off her. She swung her arms
around him.
Freedom.
She was st ill embracing Daniel when Barach leaned in close t o her ear. "You'll never succeed."
"Silence, fiend," Daniel commanded.
But Luce want ed t o know what Barach meant . "Why not ?"
"You are not t he one!" Barach said.
"Silence!" Daniel shout ed.
"Never, never, never. Not in a million years," t he angel chant ed, rubbing his sandpaper cheek
against Luce's÷right before Phil loosed t he arrow int o his heart .
EIGHT
HOW HEAVEN WEPT
Somet hing t hudded at t heir feet .
"The halo!" Luce gasped.
Daniel swooped down and snat ched t he golden relic from t he ground. He marveled at it ,
shaking his head.
Somehow it had remained when t he Scale angel and his st range, regenerat ing clot hes had
disappeared.
"l am sorry for t aking his life, Daniel Grigori," Phil said. "But l could not t olerat e Barach's lies any
longer."
"lt was beginning t o grat e on me, t oo," Daniel said.
"Just be careful wit h t he ot hers."
"Take t his," Phil said, sliding t he black sat chel off his shoulder and handing it t o Daniel.
"Conceal it from t he Scale. They are hungry for it ." When Daniel opened t he sat chel, Luce saw
his book, The Book ol the Watchers, t ucked inside.
Phil zipped it up and left t he bag wit h Daniel. "l will now ret urn t o st and guard. The wounded
Scale could rouse at any moment ."
"You've done well against t he Scale," Daniel said, sounding impressed. "But ÷"
"We know," Phil said. "There will be more. Did you encount er many out side t he museum?"
"Their numbers are legion," Daniel said.
"lf you would let us use t he st arshot s freely, we could secure your escape÷"
"No. l don't want t o dist urb balance t o t hat ext ent .
No more killing unless in absolut e self-defense. We'll just have t o hurry and get out of here
before t he Scale rein-forcement s arrive. Go now, guard t he windows and t he doors. l will be
wit h you in a moment ." Phil nodded, t urned, and was gone, wading among t he carpet of blue
wings.
As soon as t hey were alone, Daniel's hands searched Luce's body. "Are you hurt ?"
She looked down at herself, rubbed her neck. She was bleeding. The skylight 's glass had sliced
t hrough her jeans in a few places, but none of t he wounds looked fat al. Following Daniel's
earlier advice, she t old herself, lt doesn't hurt you. The st inging eased.
"l'm fine," she said quickly. "What happened t o you?"
"Precisely what we want ed t o happen. l held off t he majorit y of t he Scale while t he Out cast s
found t his way in." He closed his eyes. "Only l never meant for you t o get hurt . l'm sorry, Luce, l
shouldn't have left you÷"
"l'm fine, Daniel, and t he halo is safe. What about t he ot her angels? How many more Scale are
t here?"
"Daniel Grigori!" Phil's shout rang out across t he loft y room.
Luce and Daniel crossed t he wing quickly, st epping over blue Scale wings t o t he arched
t hreshold of t he room. Then Luce st opped short .
A man in a navy blue uniform lay facedown on t he t ile floor. Red blood pooled around his head
÷red mort al blood.
"l÷l killed him," Daedalus st ammered, holding a heavy iron helmet in his hand and looking
scared. The visor of t he helmet was slick wit h blood. "He rushed in t hrough t he doorway and l
t hought he was Scale. l t hought l would just knock him out . But he was a mort al man."
A mop and bucket on wheels lay t ipped over behind t he body. They had killed a janit or. Unt il
t hen, in some ways, t he fight against t he Scale hadn't seemed real. lt was brut al and
senseless, and yes, t wo Scale members had been killed÷but it had been separat e from t he
mort al world. Luce felt sick wat ching t he blood seep int o t he grooves of t he t ile floor, but she
couldn't t ear her eyes away.
Daniel rubbed his jaw. "You made a mist ake, Daedalus. You did well t o guard t he door from
int ruders. The next one who comes in will be Scale." He scanned t he room. "Where are t he
fallen angels?"
"What about him?" Luce st ared at t he dead man on t he floor. His shoes were freshly shined.
He wore a t hin gold wedding band. "He was just a janit or coming in t o see about t he noise.
Now he's dead. " Daniel t ook Luce by t he shoulders and pressed his forehead t o hers. His
breat h came short and hot . "His soul has sped t o peace and joy. And many more will be lost if
we don't find our friends, get t he relic, and get out of here." He squeezed her shoulders, t hen
released her t oo quickly. She choked back a cry for t he dead man, swallowed hard, and t urned
t o look at Phil.
"Where are t hey?"
Phil point ed a pale finger skyward.
Dangling from a t hick crossbeam near t he shat t ered skylight were t hree black burlap pods.
One of t hem bulged and swayed, like somet hing t rying t o be born.
"Arriane!" Luce shout ed.
The same sack bulged again, more violent ly t his t ime.
"You will never free t hem in t ime," a voice warbled from t he ground. A Scale member wit h a fish
face rose up on his elbows. "More Scale are on t he way. We will bind you all in t he Cloaks of t he
Just and handle Lucifer ourselves÷"
A bronze shield t hrown like a Frisbee by Phil nicked off a piece of t he Scale's scalp, sent him
back int o t he pile of blue wings.
Phil t urned t o Daniel. "lf you do need Scale assist ance t o unbind your friends, we'll have more
luck while t heir force is small."
Daniel's eyes burned violet as he flew around t he wing, moving from one scaffolded rest orat ion
st at ion t o anot her, t hen t o a wide marble t able t hat looked like one of t he museum rest orers'
workst at ions. lt was st acked wit h paperwork and t ools÷most ly useless aft er t hat night ÷
which Daniel dug t hrough wit h int ense scrut iny, flinging aside an empt y wat er bot t le, a st ack of
plast ic binders, a faded pict ure in a frame. Finally, his hands seized a long, heavy-dut y scalpel.
"Take t his," he t old Luce, sliding Phil's heavy sat chel across her shoulder. She held it close at
her side and held her breat h as Daniel arched back his wings and lift ed off t he ground.
She wat ched him rise effort lessly, magically, and wondered how it was t hat his wings could
make everyt hing in t he dim museum glow. When Daniel finally reached t he ceiling, he drew t he
scalpel cleanly along t he raft er, slicing t hrough t he rope from which each of t he t hree black
pods hung. They slipped int o his arms wit hout a sound, and Daniel's wings beat once as he
carried t he whole mass easily back t o t he floor.
Daniel laid t he black pods side by side on a bare st ret ch of floor. Hurrying over t o him, Luce
could see each of t he t hree angels' faces poking out of t he t op.
Their bodies were bound up in t he same t ype of rigid black cloak t hat had kept Luce
breat hlessly const rict ed.
But t he angels had also been gagged wit h a st rip of black burlap clot h. Even as she wat ched,
t he gags seemed t o slit her t hrough t he mout hs of her friends. Arriane writ hed and st rained and
grew redder in t he face and looked so furious Luce t hought she would explode.
Phil glanced at t he st ruggling black forms. He lift ed one up under t he arms. The Scale angel
blinked, in a daze. "Would you like t he Out cast s t o select a Scale vol-unt eer t o help you unbind
your friends, Daniel Grigori?"
"We will never reveal t he secret s of our knot s!" t he Scale angel came t o enough t o hiss. "We
would rat her die."
"We would rat her you die, t oo," Vincent said, approaching t heir circle wit h a st arshot in eit her
hand, drawing one t o t he t hroat of t he Scale angel who had spoken.
"Vincent , hold your fire," Phil inst ruct ed.
Daniel was already kneeling over t he first black cloak÷Roland's÷working his fingers over t he
invisible knot s. "l can't find t he ends."
"Perhaps a st arshot would slice it ," Phil suggest ed, holding out a silver arrow. "Like a Gordian
knot ."
"That won't work. The knot s are blessed wit h an oc-cult charm. We may need t he Scale."
"Wait !" Luce dropped t o her knees next t o Roland.
He lay st ill, but his eyes t old Luce everyt hing about how powerless he felt . Not hing should
rest rict a soul like Roland's. Through t his cloak she could see none of t he class and elegance
t hat made t he fallen angel who he was÷
whet her he was out -fencing all t he Nephilim at Shoreline, spinning records at a Sword & Cross
part y, or st epping t hrough Announcers more deft ly t han anyone she knew. That t he Scale had
done t his t o her friend in-furiat ed Luce t o t he point of t ears.
Tears.
That was it .
The Hebrew words came back t o her. Her t raveling had given her a gift for languages. She
closed her eyes and, in her memory, wat ched t he golden t hread fall off t he book. She
remembered Barach's chapped lips self-right eously mout hing t he words÷
And Luce said t hem now t o Roland, not knowing what t hey meant , only hoping t hey could help.
"And Heaven wept t o see t he sins of Her children." Roland's eyes widened. The knot s slit hered
loose.
The cloak dropped t o his sides and t he gag in his mout h slid off, t oo.
He gasped for air, rolled t o his knees, st ood up and shot out his golden wings wit h st unning
force. The first t hing he did was clap Luce on t he shoulder.
"Thank you, Lucinda. l owe you a solid for a solid t housand years."
Roland was back÷but blood pooled from t he place Barach had ripped t hat false pennon from
his wings.
Daniel reached for Luce's hand, pulling her t oward t he ot her t wo bound angels. He had
wat ched and learned from Luce. He went t o work on Annabelle, while Luce knelt before
Arriane. Arriane could not st ay st ill. The cloak was cinched so t ight ly around her t hat Luce
almost cringed t o look at her.
Their eyes locked. Arriane made a noise t hat Luce t ook t o mean she was glad t o see Luce's
face. Luce's eyes wat ered as she remembered her first day at Sword & Cross, when she'd
seen Arriane endure elect roshock t herapy. The ult ra-cool angel had seemed so fragile t hen,
and t hough Luce had barely known t he girl, she'd felt an urge t o prot ect Arriane, t hey way you
did wit h old friends. That urge had only st rengt hened over t ime.
A hot t ear slipped down her cheek and landed in t he cent er of Arriane's chest . Luce whispered
t he Aramaic words, hearing Daniel whisper t hem t o Annabelle at t he same t ime. She glanced
at him. His cheeks were wet .
All at once t he knot s loosened, t hen unraveled complet ely. The angels were free by Luce's and
Daniel's hands÷and heart s.
A gust was generat ed by t he release of Arriane's awe-some iridescent wings, followed by a
gent ler breeze from Annabelle's lust rous silver ones. The room was almost silent in t he
moment s before bot h girls' gags came off.
Arriane also had a piece of duct t ape over her mout h; she'd probably been t he reason t he
ot hers had been gagged in t he first place. Daniel grabbed a corner of t he t ape and ripped it off
quickly wit h a cr|cccck.
"Hot damn! lt 's good t o be free!" Arriane shout ed, dabbing t he swollen red square of skin
around her mout h wit h her fingers. "Three cheers for t he knot mast er, Lucinda!" Her voice had
it s sparkle, but her eyes were dot t ed wit h t ears. She not iced Luce not ice, and wiped t hem
quickly away.
She paced around t he wing-st rewn floor, making different t aunt ing faces at each of t he
unconscious Scale, lunging like she was about t o hit t hem. Her denim overalls were t orn almost
t o shreds, her hair was wild and greasy, and she had a bruise t he shape of Aust ralia on her left
cheekbone. The bot t om t ips of her iridescent wings were bent and dragging on t he lit t ered
floor.
"Arriane," Luce whispered. "You're hurt ."
"Aw shucks, kid, don't worry 'bout me." Arriane offered a lopsided grin. "l'm feeling spright ly
enough t o kick some scaly old Scale ass!" She looked around t he room. "'Cept it looks like t he
Out cast s beat me t o it ." Annabelle rose more slowly t han Arriane, spreading, t hen flexing her
muscular silver wings, st ret ching her long limbs like a ballerina. But when she looked up at Luce
and Arriane, she smiled and cocked her head. "There must be somet hing we can do t o pay
t hem back."
Arriane's wings flut t ered and she lift ed a few feet off t he ground, flying around t he museum
wing in great circles, scanning t he wreckage. "l'll t hink of somet hing÷"
"Arriane," Roland warned, looking up from a whispered conversat ion he'd been having wit h
Daniel.
"Whaa?" Arriane pout ed. "You never let me have any fun anymore, Ro."
"We don't have t ime for fun," Daniel t old her.
"These fossils t ort ured us for hours," Annabelle called from t he t op of t he lion's head. "We
might as well ret urn t he favor."
"No," Roland said. "Enough priceless damage has been done. We should spend our energy
finding t he second relic."
"At least let us make sure t hey st ay down while we do t hat ," Annabelle said.
Roland looked at Daniel, who nodded.
Wit h a smile, Annabelle flit t ed t o a t able against t he back wall of t he warehouse. She t urned on
a faucet , humming t o herself. She poured what Luce assumed must be plast er of Paris or some
ot her cast ing agent int o a bucket and st art ed adding wat er.
"Arriane," she said wit h bravado. "A hand, please."
"Yes, ma'am." Arriane t ook t he first bucket from Annabelle and flew over t he semiconscious
Scale, smiling sweet ly. Slowly, she began t o pour t he wet slurry over t heir heads. lt slopped
down t heir sides and gat hered in a pool bet ween t heir bodies. A few of t hem st ruggled against
t he t hickening mixt ure, which was hardening quickly int o a kind of art ificial quicksand. Luce
recognized t he genius of t he plan. ln a few moment s, when it dried, t hey would be st uck in t heir
sprawled posit ions in rocklike plast er.
"This is not wise!" one of t he Scale burbled t hrough t he wet plast er.
"We're making you monument s t o Just ice!" Annabelle shout ed.
"You know, l t hink l prefer t he Scale when t hey're plast ered." Arriane laughed, bet raying more
t han a t inge of vengeful glee.
The girls kept pouring, bucket aft er bucket , a full bucket over t he t hreat ening angels' heads,
unt il t heir voices did not carry anymore, unt il t he Out cast s had no need t o st and over t he Scale
wit h t heir st arshot s.
Daniel and Roland st ood apart from t he group, arguing in hushed voices. Luce st ared at
Arriane's purple bruise, at t he blood on Roland's wings, at t he gash in Annabelle's shoulder.
Then she had an idea.
She reached inside t he sat chel and pulled out t hree small bot t les of diet soda and a handful of
st arshot s in t heir silver sheat h. She t wist ed off t he caps.
Quickly, she dipped a st arshot int o each one, holding t he bot t les as t hey boiled and st eamed,
let t ing t he brown liquid inside t urn t o silver. Finally, she rose from t he corner where she'd been
crouched, and was pleased t o find a Chinese porcelain t ray t hat had somehow survived t he
bat t le.
"Here, everyone," she said.
Daniel and Roland st opped t alking.
Arriane st opped dousing t he Scale wit h wet plast er.
Annabelle alight ed on t he lion st at ue's mane again.
None of t hem said anyt hing, but all of t hem looked impressed as t hey claimed t heir bot t les,
clinked each ot her's in celebrat ion, and drank.
Unlike t he Out cast Daedalus, t he angels didn't have t o close t heir eyes and go t o sleep aft er
t hey'd downed t he t ransformed soda. Maybe because t hey weren't as badly beat en, or maybe
because t his higher form of angel had a higher t olerance. Nonet heless, t he drink calmed t hem.
As a final gest ure, Roland clapped his hands, ignit ing a powerful flame bet ween t hem. He t hrew
waves of heat t oward t he plast ered Scale, glazing t heir plast er coat ing, making it harder t o
escape t han t heir cloaks.
When he was finished, Roland, Arriane, Annabelle, and Luce sat down on one of t he t all t ables
facing Daniel.
Daniel reached for t he sat chel and unzipped it t o show t he ot hers t he halo.
Arriane gasped in awe and reached out t o t ouch it .
"You found it ." Annabelle winked at Luce. "Proper!"
"What about t he second relic?" Daniel asked. "Did you get it ? Did t he Scale t ake it from you?"
Annabelle shook her head. "We never found it ."
"We sure fooled t hem," Arriane said, narrowing her eyes in t he direct ion of t he Scale. "They
t hought t hey could beat it out of us."
"Your book is t oo vague, Daniel," Roland said. "We came t o Vienna looking for a list ."
"The desiderat um," Daniel said. "l know."
"But t hat was a// we knew. ln t he hours bet ween our arrival and our capt ure by t he Scale, we
went t o seven different cit y archives and found not hing. lt was foolish.
We at t ract ed t oo much at t ent ion."
"lt 's my fault ," Daniel mut t ered. "l should have uncovered more when l wrot e t hat book
cent uries ago. l was t oo impulsive and impat ient in t hat era. Now l can't recall what led me t o
t he desiderat um, or precisely what it says."
Roland shrugged. "lt might not have mat t ered anyway. The cit y was a minefield by t he t ime we
arrived. lf we'd had t he desiderat um, t hey would have only t aken it away. They would have
dest royed it , t he way t hey've caused t he dest ruct ion of t his art ."
"Most of t hese pieces were forgeries anyway," Daniel said, making Luce feel a lit t le less guilt y
about what t hey'd done t o t he museum. "And for now t he Out cast s can handle t he Scale. The
rest of us must hurry t o find t he desiderat um. You say you went inside t he Hofburg Library?"
Roland nodded.
"What about t he universit y library?"
"Um, yeah," Annabelle said, "and we probably shouldn't show our faces t here anyt ime soon.
Arriane dest royed several very valuable parchment scrolls in t heir Special Collect ions÷"
"Hey," Arriane snapped, indignant . "l glued t hem back t oget her!"
A t hunder of foot falls sounded in t he hallway and all heads shot t oward t he open archway. At
least t went y more Scale were at t empt ing t o fly int o t he room, but t he Out cast s held t hem at
t he doorway wit h t heir st arshot s.
One of t hem spot t ed t he halo in Daniel's hand and gasped. "They have st olen t he first relic."
"And t hey are working t oget her! Angels and demons and"÷narrowed eyes fell on Luce
÷"t hose who do not know t heir place, all working t oget her for an impure cause. The Throne
does not endorse t his. You will never find t he desiderat a!"
"Des|derata,¨ Luce said, faint ly recalling a long boring lesson in her Lat in class at Dover. "That 's
. . . singular." She spun around t o face Daniel. "You said des|deratum a moment ago. That 's
plural."
"Desired t hing," Daniel whispered. His violet eyes began t o pulse, and soon his ent ire being
seemed t o be glowing÷a smile of recognit ion spread across his face.
"lt 's just one t hing. That 's right ."
Then t he deep gong of a church t ower clock sounded somewhere in t he dist ance.
lt was midnight .
Lucifer was anot her day closer. Six days t o go.
"Daniel Grigori," Phil shout ed over t he bells, "we cannot hold t hem forever. You and your angels
must go."
"We're leaving," Daniel called back. "Thank you." He faced t he angels. "We will visit every library,
every archive in t his cit y unt il÷"
Roland looked doubt ful. "There must be hundreds of libraries in Vienna."
"And maybe let 's t ry not t o be so dest ruct ive in t hem?" Annabelle suggest ed, t ilt ing her head
at Arriane.
"Mort als care about t heir past s, t oo." Yes, Luce t hought , mort als cared very much about t heir
past s. Memories of her past lives were coming t o her more frequent ly. She couldn't st op or
slow t hem. As t he angels readied t heir wings t o fly, Luce st ood st ill, de-bilit at ed by t he most
int ense flashback.
Crimson hair ribbons. Daniel and t he Christ mas market . A slushy rainst orm and she hadn't had
a coat . The last t ime she'd been in Vienna . . . t here had been more t o t hat st ory . . . somet hing
else . . . a doorbell÷
"Daniel." Luce gripped his shoulder. "What about t he library you t ook me t o? Remember?" She
closed her eyes. She wasn't t hinking so much as feeling t hrough a memory buried shallowly in
her brain. "We came t o Vienna for t he weekend . . . l don't remember when, but we went t o see
Mozart conduct The Mag|c l/ute . . . at t he Theat er an der Wien? You want ed t o see t his
friend of yours who worked at some old library, his name was÷"
She broke off, because when she opened her eyes, t he ot hers were st aring at her, incredulous.
No one, least of all Luce, had expect ed her t o be t he one t o remember where t hey would find
t he desiderat a.
Daniel recovered first . He flashed her a funny smile Luce knew was full of pride. But Arriane,
Roland, and Annabelle cont inued t o gape at her as if t hey'd suddenly learned she spoke
Chinese. Which, come t o t hink of it , she did.
Arriane wiggled a finger around inside her ear. "Do l need t o ease up on t he psychedelics, or did
LP just recall one of her past lives unprompt ed at t he most crucial junct ure ever?"
"You're a genius," Daniel said, leaning forward and kissing her deeply.
Luce blushed and leaned in t o ext end t he kiss a lit t le longer, but t hen heard a cough.
"Seriously, you t wo," Annabelle said. "There will be t ime enough for snogs if we pull t his off."
"l'd say 'get a room' but l'm afraid we'd never see you again," Arriane added, which caused
t hem all t o laugh.
When Luce opened her eyes, Daniel had spread his wings wide. The t ips brushed away broken
bit s of plast er and blocked t he Scale angels from view. Slung over his shoulder was t he black
leat her sat chel wit h t he halo.
The Out cast s gat hered t he scat t ered st arshot s back int o t heir silver sheat hs. "Wingspeed,
Daniel Grigori."
"To you as well." Daniel nodded at Phil. He spun Luce around so her back was pressed t o his
chest and his arms fit snugly around her waist . They clasped hands over her heart .
"The Foundat ion Library," Daniel said t o t he ot her angels. "Follow me, l know exact ly where it
is."
NINE
THE DESIDERATA
Fog engulfed t he angels. They flew back over t he river, four pairs of wings making a
t remendous throosh each t ime t hey beat . They st ayed low enough t o t he ground t hat t he
mut ed orange glow of sodium lamppost s looked like airport runway light s. But t his flight did not
land.
Daniel was t ense. Luce could feel it running all t hrough his body: in bot h his arms around her
waist , in his shoulders aligned wit h hers, even in t he manner his broad wings beat above t hem.
She knew how he felt ; she was as anxious t o get t o t he Foundat ion Library as Daniel's grip
suggest ed he was.
Only a few landmarks cut t hrough t he fog. There was t he t owering spire of t he massive Got hic
church, and t here t he darkened Ferris wheel, it s empt y red cabins swaying in t he night . There
was t he green copper dome of t he palace where t hey'd landed when t hey first arrived in
Vienna.
But wait ÷t hey'd passed t he palace already. Maybe half an hour earlier. Luce had t ried t o look
for Olianna, who t he Scale angel had knocked unconscious. She hadn't seen her on t he roof
t hen, and she didn't see her now.
Why were t hey circling? Were t hey lost ?
"Daniel?"
He didn't answer.
Church bells rang in t he dist ance. lt was t heir fourt h ringing since Luce, Daniel, and t he ot hers
had t aken off t hrough t he shat t ered skylight at t he museum. They'd been flying for a long t ime.
Could it really be t hree o'clock in t he morning?
"Where |s it ?" Daniel mut t ered under his breat h, banking t o t he left , following t he groove of t he
river, t hen breaking from it t o t race a broad avenue lined wit h darkened depart ment st ores.
river, t hen breaking from it t o t race a broad avenue lined wit h darkened depart ment st ores.
Luce had seen t his st reet already, t oo. They were flying in circles.
"l t hought you said you knew exact ly where it was!"
Arriane dipped out of t he format ion t hey'd been flying in÷Daniel and Luce at t he front , wit h
Roland, Arriane, and Annabelle forming a t ight t riangle behind t hem÷
and swooped down about t en feet below Daniel and Luce, close enough t o t alk. Her hair was
wild and frizzy and her iridescent wings flickered in and out of t he fog.
"l do know where it is," Daniel said. "At least , l know where it was. "
"You've got an circuit ous sense of direct ion, Daniel."
"Arriane." Roland used t he warning t one he reserved for t hose t oo frequent occasions when
Arriane went t oo far. "Let him concent rat e."
"Yeah yeah yeah." Arriane rolled her eyes. "Bet t er ret urn t o 'format ion.'" Arriane beat her wings
t he way some girls bat t ed t heir eyelashes, flashed a peace sign wit h her fingers, and fell back.
"Okay, so where was t he library?" Luce asked.
Daniel sighed, drew in his wings slight ly, and dropped fift y feet st raight down. Cold wind blast ed
Luce in t he face. Her st omach surged up as t hey plummet ed, t hen set t led when Daniel
st opped abrupt ly, as if he'd landed on an invisible t ight rope, over a resident ial st reet .
lt was quiet and empt y and dark, just t wo long st ret ches of st one t ownhouses spanning eit her
side. Shut -t ers were drawn for t he night . Tiny cars rest ed in narrow angled spaces on t he
st reet . Young urban oak t rees punct uat ed t he cobbled sidewalk t hat ran along t he small well-
maint ained front yards.
The ot her angels hovered on eit her side of Daniel and Luce, about t went y feet above st reet
level.
"This is where it was," Daniel said. "lt was here. Six blocks from t he river, just west of
Türkenschanzpark. l swear it was. None of t his"÷he waved his hand at t he st ret ch of
indist inguishable st one t ownhouses below÷
"was here."
Annabelle frowned and hugged her knees t o her chest , her silver wings beat ing soft ly t o keep
her aloft .
Her crossed ankles revealed hot -pink st riped socks peeking out from her jeans. "Do you t hink it
was dest royed?"
"lf it was," Daniel said, "l have no idea how t o recover it ."
"We're screwed," Arriane said, kicking a cloud in frust rat ion. She glared at it s wispy t endrils,
which ambled east ward, unaffect ed. "That 's never as sat isfying as l t hink it 's going t o be."
"Maybe we go t o Avalon," Roland suggest ed. "See if Cam's group has had any more luck."
"We need all t hree relics," Daniel said.
Luce pivot ed slight ly in Daniel's arms t o face him.
"lt 's just a hit ch. Think about what we had t o go t hrough in Venice. But we got t he halo. We'll
get t he desiderat a, t oo. That 's all t hat mat t ers. When was t he last t ime any of us were at t his
library, t wo hundred years ago? Of course t hings are going t o change. lt doesn't mean we give
up. We'll just have t o . . . just have t o÷" Everyone was looking at her. But Luce didn't know
what t o do. She only knew t hat t hey couldn't give up.
"The kid's right ," Arriane said. "We don't give up.
We÷"
Arriane broke off when her wings began t o rat t le.
Then Annabelle yelped. Her body t ossed in t he air as her wings shuddered, t oo. Daniel's hands
shook against Luce as t he foggy night sky morphed int o t hat peculiar gray÷t he color of a
rainst orm on t he horizon÷t hat Luce now recognized as t he color of a t imequake.
luc|ler.
She could almost hear t he hiss of his voice, feel his breat h against her neck.
Luce's t eet h chat t ered, but she felt it deeper, t oo, in her core, raw and t urbulent , as if
everyt hing inside her were being wound up like a chain.
The buildings below shimmered. Lamppost s doubled. The very at oms of t he air seemed t o
fract ure. Luce wondered what t he quake was doing t o t he t ownspeople below, dreaming in
t heir beds. Could t hey feel t his? lf not , she envied t hem.
She t ried t o call Daniel's name but t he sound of her voice was warped, as if she were
underwat er. She closed her eyes but t hat made her feel nauseat ed. She opened t hem and
t ried t o focus on t he solid whit e buildings, quaking in t heir foundat ions unt il t hey became
abst ract blurs of whit e.
Then Luce saw t hat one st ruct ure st ayed st ill, as if it were invulnerable t o t he fluct uat ions of
t he cosmos. lt was a small brown building, a house, in t he cent er of t he shuddering whit e
st reet .
lt hadn't been t here a second before. lt appeared as t hough t hrough a wat erfall and was visible
only for a moment , before it doubled and shimmered and disappeared back int o t he expansive
row of modern, monochrome t ownhouses.
But for a moment , t he house had been t here, one fixed t hing in all-consuming chaos, bot h
apart from and a part of t he Viennese st reet .
The t imequake shuddered t o a st op and t he world around Luce and t he angels st illed. lt was
never quiet er t han in t hose moment s right aft er a quake in t ime.
"Did you see t hat ?" Roland shout ed, gleeful.
Annabelle shook out her wings, smoot hing t he t ips wit h her fingers. "l'm st ill recovering from
t hat lat est violat ion. l hate t hose t hings."
"Me t oo." Luce shuddered. "l saw somet hing, Roland. A brown house. Was t hat it ? The
Foundat ion Library?"
"Yes." Daniel flew in a t ight circle over t he place where Luce had seen t he house, zeroing in.
"Maybe t hose boot y-quakes are good for somet hing," Arriane said.
"Where did t he house go?" Luce asked.
"lt 's st ill t here. lt 's just not here," Daniel said.
"l've heard legends about t hese t hings." Roland ran fingers t hrough his t hick gold-black dreads.
"But l never really t hought t hey were possible."
"What t hings?" Luce squint ed t o t ry t o see t he brown building again. But t he row of modern
t ownhouses st ayed put . The only movement on t he st reet was bare t ree branches leaning in
t he wind.
"lt 's called a Pat ina," Daniel said. "lt 's a way of bending realit y around a unit of t ime and space
÷"
"lt 's a rearrangement of realit y in order t o secret somet hing away," Roland added, flying t o
Daniel's side and peering down as if he could st ill see t he house.
"So while t his st reet exist s in a cont inuous line t hrough one realit y"÷Annabelle waved at t he
t ownhouses÷"beneat h it lays anot her, independent realm, where t his road leads t o our
Foundat ion Library."
"Pat inas are t he boundary bet ween realit ies," Arriane said, t humbs t ucked int o her overall
suspenders. "A laser light show only spec|a/ folks can see."
"You guys seem t o know a lot about t hese t hings," Luce said.
"Yeah," Arriane scoffed, looking as if she'd like t o kick anot her cloud. "'Cept how t o get t hrough
one."
Daniel nodded. "Very few ent it ies are powerful enough t o creat e Pat inas, and t hose t hat can
guard t hem closely. The library is here. But Arriane's right . We'll need t o figure out t he way in."
"l heard you need an Announcer t o get t hrough one," Arriane said.
"Cosmic legend." Annabelle shook her head. "Every Pat ina is different . Access is ent irely up t o
t he creat or.
They program t he code."
"l once heard Cam t ell a st ory at a part y about how he accessed a Pat ina," Roland said. "Or
was t hat a st ory about a part y t hat he t hrew in a Pat ina?"
"Luce!" Daniel said suddenly, making all of t hem st art le in midair. "lt 's you. lt was always you."
Luce shrugged. "Always me what ?"
"You're t he one who always rang t he bell. You're t he one who had ent ry t o t he library. You just
need t o ring t he bell."
Luce looked at t he empt y st reet , t he fog t int ing everyt hing around t hem brown. "What are you
t alking about ? What bell?"
"Close your eyes," Daniel said. "Remember it . Pass int o t he past and find t he bellpull÷"
Luce was already t here, back at t he library t he last t ime she'd been in Vienna wit h Daniel. Her
feet were firmly on t he ground. lt was raining and her hair splayed all across her face. Her
crimson hair ribbons were soaked, but she didn't care. She was looking for somet hing.
There was a short pat h up t he court yard, t hen a dark alcove out side t he library. lt had been
cold out side, and a fire blazed wit hin. There, in t he must y corner near t he door, was a woven
cord embroidered wit h whit e peonies hanging from a subst ant ial silver bell.
She reached int o t he air and pulled.
The angels gasped. Luce opened her eyes.
There, in t he cent er of t he nort h side of t he st reet , t he row of cont emporary t ownhouses was
int errupt ed at it s midpoint by a single small brown house. A curl of smoke rose from it s
chimney. The only light ÷aside from t he angels' wings÷was t he dim yellow glow of a lamp on
t he sill of t he house's front window.
The angels landed soft ly on t he empt y st reet and Daniel's grip around Luce soft ened. He
kissed her hand.
"You remembered. Well done."
The brown house was only one st ory high, and t he surrounding t ownhouses had t hree levels,
so you could see behind t he house t o parallel st reet s, more modern whit e st one t ownhouses.
The house was an anomaly: Luce st udied it s t hat ched roof, t he gabled gat e at t he edge of a
weed-ridden lawn, t he arched wooden asym-met rical front door, all of which made t he house
look as if it belonged in t he Middle Ages.
Luce t ook a st ep t oward t he house and found herself on a sidewalk. Her eyes fell on t he large
bronze placard pressed int o t he packed-mud walls. lt was a hist orical marker, which read in big
carved let t ers THE FOUNDATlON
LlBRARY, EXT. l233.
Luce looked around at t he ot herwise mundane st reet .
There were recycling bins filled wit h plast ic wat er bot t les, t iny European cars parallel parked so
closely t hat t heir bumpers were t ouching, shallow pot holes in t he road. "So we're on a real
st reet in Vienna÷"
"Exact ly," Daniel said. "lf it were dayt ime, you would see t he neighbors, but t hey wouldn't see
you."
"Are Pat inas common?" Luce asked. "Was t here one over t he cabin l slept in on t he island back
in Georgia?"
"They are highly uncommon. Precious, really." Daniel shook his head. "That cabin was just t he
most se-cluded safe haven we could find on such short not ice."
"A poor man's Pat ina," Arriane said.
"l.e., Mr. Cole's summerhouse," Roland added. Mr. Cole was a t eacher at Sword & Cross. He
was mort al, but he'd been a friend t o t he angels since t hey'd arrived at t he school, and was
covering for Luce now t hat she'd left . lt was t hanks t o Mr. Cole t hat her parent s weren't more
worried t han usual about her.
"How are t hey made?" Luce asked.
Daniel shook his head. "No one knows t hat except t he Pat ina's art ist . And t here are very few
of t hose. You remember my friend Dr. Ot t o?"
She nodded. The doct or's name had been on t he t ip of her t ongue.
"He lived here for several hundred years÷and even he didn't know how t his Pat ina got here."
Daniel st udied t he building. "l don't know who t he librarian is now."
"Let 's go," Roland said. "lf t he desiderat um is here, we need t o find it and get out of Vienna
before t he Scale regroup and t rack us down."
before t he Scale regroup and t rack us down."
He slid open t he lat ch on t he gat e and held it aside for t he ot hers t o pass. The pebble pat h
leading t o t he brown house was overgrown wit h wild purple freesia and t angled whit e orchids
filling t he air wit h t heir sweet scent .
The group reached t he heavy wooden door wit h it s arched t op and flat iron knocker, and Luce
grabbed Daniel's hand. Annabelle rapped on t he door.
No answer.
Then Luce looked up and saw a bellpull, woven wit h t he same st it ches as t he one she'd rung in
t he air. She glanced at Daniel. He nodded.
She pulled and t he door creaked slowly open, as if t he house it self had been expect ing t hem.
They peered int o a candlelit hallway so long Luce couldn't see where it ended. The int erior was
far bigger t han it s ext erior suggest ed; it s ceilings were low and curved, like a rail-road t unnel
t hrough a mount ain. Everyt hing was made of a lovely soft -pink brick.
The ot her angels deferred t o Daniel and Luce, t he only t wo who had been t here before. Daniel
crossed t he t hreshold int o t he hallway first , holding Luce's hand.
"Hello?" he called out .
Candlelight flickered on t he bricks as t he ot her angels ent ered and Roland shut t he door
behind t hem. As t hey walked, Luce was conscious of how quiet t he hallway was, of t he
echoing t humps t heir shoes made on t he smoot h st one floor.
She paused at t he first open doorway on t he left side of t he hall as a memory flooded her mind.
"Here," she said, point ing inside t he room. lt was dark but for t he yellow glow of a lamp on t he
windowsill, t he same light t hey'd seen from t he out side of t he house. "Wasn't t his Dr. Ot t o's
office?"
lt was t oo dark t o see clearly, but Luce remembered a fire blazing cheerily in a heart h on t he far
side of t he room. ln her memory t he fireplace had been bordered by a dozen bookshelves
crammed wit h t he leat her spines of Dr. Ot t o's library. Hadn't her past self propped her wool-
st ockinged feet on t he foot rest near t he fire and read Book lV of Gu//|ver's Trave/s? And
hadn't t he doct or's freely flowing cider made t he whole room smell like apples, cloves, and
cinnamon?
"You're right ." Daniel t ook a glowing candelabra from it s brick alcove in t he hallway and held it
inside t o give t he room more light . But t he grat e over t he fireplace was shut , as was t he
ant ique wooden secret ary in t he corner, and even in t he warm candlelight , t he air seemed cold
and st ale. The shelves were sagging and dist ressed by t he weight of t he books, which were
covered wit h a mist of dust . The window, which had once looked out on a busy resident ial
st reet , had it s dark green shades drawn, giving t he room a bleak sense of abandonment .
"No wonder he hasn't answered any of my let t ers," Daniel said. "lt looks as if t he doct or has
moved on." Luce moved t oward t he bookshelves and dragged her finger across a dust y spine.
"Do you t hink one of t hese books might cont ain t he desired t hing we're looking for?" Luce
asked, pulling one from t he shelf: Canzon|ere by Pet rarch, t ypeset in Got hic font . "l'm sure Dr.
Ot t o wouldn't mind us t aking a look around if it could help us find t he desi÷"
She st opped speaking. She'd heard somet hing÷t he soft croon of a woman's voice.
The angels eyed one anot her as anot her sound reached t hem in t he dark library. Now, in
addit ion t o t he haunt ing song, came t he clopping sound of shoes and t he jangle of a cart being
wheeled. Daniel moved t o t he open doorway and Luce followed, caut iously peering int o t he
hallway.
A dark shadow st ret ched t oward t hem. Candles flickered in t he pink st one alcoves of t he
curved, t unnellike hallway, dist ort ing t he shadow, making it s arms look wrait hlike and impossibly
long.
The shadow's owner, a t hin woman in a gray pencil skirt , a must ard-colored cardigan, and very
high black heels, walked t oward t hem, pushing a fancy silver t ea t ray on wheels. Her fiery red
hair was pulled up in a chignon. Elegant golden hoops glit t ered in her ears.
Somet hing about t he way she walked, t he way she carried herself, seemed familiar.
As t he woman crooned her wordless melody, she lift ed her head slight ly, cast ing her profile in
shadow against t he wall. The curve of t he nose, t he upward swoop of t he chin, t he short jut of
t he brow bone÷all gave Luce t he feeling of déjà vu. She searched her past for ot her lives
where she might have known t his woman.
Suddenly, t he blood drained from Luce's face. All t he hair dye in t he world couldn't fool her.
The woman pushing t he t ea cart was Miss Sophia Bliss.
Before she knew it , Luce had her hands around a cold brass fire poker rest ing in a st and by t he
library door. She raised it like a weapon, jaw clenched and heart hammering, and barreled int o
t he hallway.
"Luce!" Daniel called.
"Dee?" Arriane shout ed.
"Yes, dear?" t he woman said, a second before she not iced Luce charging at her. She jumped
just as Daniel's arm engulfed Luce, holding back her lunge.
"What are you doing?" Daniel whispered.
"She's÷she's÷" Luce st ruggled against Daniel, feeling his grasp burn her waist . This woman
had murdered Penn. She'd t ried t o kill Luce. Why didn't anyone else want t o kill her?
Arriane and Annabelle ran t o Miss Sophia and t ackled her in a double hug.
Luce blinked.
Annabelle kissed t he woman's pale cheeks. "l haven't seen you since t he Peasant s' Revolt in
Not t ingham . . .
when was t hat , t he l380s?"
"Surely it hasn't been t hat long," t he woman said polit ely, her voice lilt ing t he same kindly-
librarian way it had early on at Sword & Cross, when she t ricked Luce int o liking her. "Lovely
t ime."
"l haven't seen you in a while, eit her," Luce said hot ly. She jerked away from Daniel and raised
t he fire poker again, wishing it were somet hing more deadly.
"Not since you murdered my friend÷"
"Oh dear." The woman did not flinch. She wat ched Luce coming at her and t apped a slender
finger t o her lips. "There must be some confusion."
Roland st epped forward, separat ing Luce from Miss Sophia. "lt 's just t hat you look like
someone else." His calm hand on her shoulder made Luce pause.
"What do you mean?" t he woman said.
"Oh, of course!" Daniel gave Luce a sad smile. "You t hought she was÷we should have t old
you t hat t ranset ernals oft en look alike."
"You mean, she's not Miss Sophia?"
"Sophia Bliss?" The woman looked as if she'd just bit t en int o somet hing sour. "That bit ch is st ill
around? l was sure someone would have put her out of her misery by now." She wrinkled her
t iny nose and shrugged at Luce. "She is my sist er, so l can only display a small per-cent age of
t he rage l have accumulat ed over t he years t oward t hat disgust ing bag."
Luce laughed nervously. The fire poker slipped from her hand and clat t ered t o t he floor. She
st udied t he older woman, finding similarit ies t o Miss Sophia÷a face t hat seemed old and
young at t he same t ime÷and differences. Compared t o Sophia's black eyes, t his woman's
small eyes looked almost golden, emphasized by t he mat ching yellow shade of her cardigan.
The scene wit h t he fire poker had embarrassed Luce.
She leaned back against t he curved brick wall and sank t o t he ground, feeling empt y, unsure
whet her she was relieved not t o have t o face Miss Sophia again. "l'm sorry."
"Don't worry, dear," t he woman said bright ly. "The day l encount er Sophia again, l'll grab t he
nearest heavy object and bludgeon her myself."
Arriane flung out a hand t o help Luce up, pulling her so hard her feet shot off t he ground.
"Dee's an old friend.
And a first -class part y animal, might l add. Got t he me-t abolism of a donkey. She almost
brought t he Crusades t o a grinding halt t he night she seduced Saladin."
"Oh, nonsense!" Dee said, flapping a hand dismissively.
"She's t he best st oryt eller, t oo," Annabelle added.
"Or she was before she dropped off t he face of t he eart h.
Where've you been hiding, woman?"
The woman drew a deep breat h and her golden eyes dampened. "Act ually, l fell in love."
"Oh, Dee!" Annabelle crooned, clasping t he woman's hand. "How wonderful."
"Ot t o Z. Ot t o." The woman sniffed. "May he rest . . ."
"Dr. Ot t o," Daniel said, st epping out of t he doorway.
"You knew Dr. Ot t o?"
"Backwards and forwards." The myst erious lady sniffed.
"Oops, my manners!" Arriane said. "We must do int roduct ions. Daniel, Roland, l don't t hink
you've ever officially met our friend Dee÷"
"What a pleasure. l am Paulina Serenit y Bisenger." The woman smiled, dabbed her damp eyes
wit h a lace handkerchief, and ext ended a hand t o bot h Daniel and Roland.
"Ms. Bisenger," Roland said, "may l ask why t he girls call you Dee?"
"Just an old nickname, love," t he woman said, offer-ing t he kind of crypt ic smile t hat was
Roland's specialt y.
When she t urned t o Luce, her golden eyes lit up.
"Ah, Lucinda." lnst ead of holding out her hand, Dee opened her arms for a hug, but Luce felt
funny about accept ing it . "l apologize for t he unfort unat e resemblance t hat gave you such a
fright . l must say t hat my sist er looks like me; l do not look like her. But you and l have known
each ot her so well over many lifet imes, so very many years, l forget t hat you might not
remember. lt was t o me t hat you ent rust ed your darkest secret s÷your love of Daniel, your
fears for your fut ure, your confusing feelings about Cam." Luce flushed, but t he woman didn't
not ice. "And it was t o you t hat l ent rust ed t he very reasons for my exist ence, as well as t he
key t o everyt hing you seek. You were t he one innocent l knew l could always rely upon t o do
what needed t o be done."
"l÷l'm sorry l don't remember," Luce st ammered, and she was. "Are you an angel?"
"Transet ernal, dear."
"They're t echnically mort als," Daniel explained,
"but t hey can live for hundreds, even t housands of years.
They have long worked closely wit h angels."
"lt all st art ed wit h Great -Granddaddy Met huselah," Dee said proudly. "He invent ed prayer. He
did!"
"How did he do t hat ?" Luce asked.
"Well, in t he old days, when mort als want ed somet hing, t hey just w|shed for it in a scat t ershot
manner.
Granddaddy was t he first t o appeal t o God direct ly, and÷here's t he genius part ÷he asked for
a message confirming t hat he had been heard. God responded wit h an angel, and t he
messenger angel was born. lt was Gabbe, l t hink, who carved out t he airspace bet ween
Heaven and Eart h so mort al prayers could flow more freely. Granddaddy loved Gabbe, he loved
t he angels, and he t aught all his kin t o love t hem, t oo. Oh, but t hat was many years ago."
"Why do t ranset ernals live so long?" Luce asked.
"Because we are enlight ened. For our family hist ory wit h messenger angels, and t he fact t hat
we are able t o receive an angel's glory wit hout being overcome as many mort als are, we were
rewarded wit h an ext ended life span. We liaise bet ween angels and ot her mort als, so t hat t he
world can always feel a sense of angelic guardian-ship. We can be killed at any t ime, of course,
but short of assassinat ions and freak accident s, a t ranset ernal will live on unt il t he end of days.
The t went y-four of us who remain are t he last surviving descendant s of Met huselah.
We used t o be exemplary people, but l'm ashamed t o say we are in decline. You've heard of
Elders of Zhsmaelim?"
The ment ion of Miss Sophia's evil clan sent a chill t hrough Luce's body.
"All t ranset ernals," Dee said. "The Elders began nobly. There was a t ime when l was involved
wit h t hem myself. Of course, t he good ones all defect ed"÷she glanced at Luce and frowned
÷"not long aft er your friend Penn was murdered. Sophia has always had a cruel st reak. Now
it 's become ambit ious." She paused, t aking out a whit e handkerchief t o polish a corner of t he
silver t ea cart . "Such dark t hings t o speak of on our reunion.
There is a bright spot , t hough: You remembered how t o t ravel t hrough my Pat ina." Dee
beamed at Luce. "Exemplary work."
"¥ou made t hat Pat ina?" Arriane asked. "l had no idea you could do t hat !"
Dee raised an eyebrow, t he faint est smile on her lips.
"A woman can't reveal a// her secret s, lest she be t aken advant age of. Can she, girls?" She
paused. "Well, now t hat we're all friends again, what brings you t o t he Foundat ion? l was just
about t o sit down for my predawn jasmine t ea. You really must join me, l always make t oo
much."
She st epped aside t o reveal t he silver t ray packed wit h a t all silver t eapot , china plat es of t iny
crust less cucumber sandwiches, fluffy scones wit h golden raisins, and a cryst al bowl brimming
wit h clot t ed cream and cherries. Luce's st omach flopped at t he sight of t he food.
"So you've been expect ing us," Annabelle said, count ing t he t eacups wit h her finger.
Dee smiled, t urned around, and t ook up wheeling t he cart down t he hallway again. Luce and
t he angels jogged t o keep up as Dee's heels clicked along, forking right int o a large room made
of t he same pink brick.
There were a bright fire in t he corner, a polished oak dining t able t hat could have seat ed sixt y,
and a huge chandelier made of a pet rified t ree t runk and decorat ed wit h hundreds of sparkling
cryst al candlest icks.
The t able was already set wit h fine china for far more guest s t han t hey had in t heir part y. Dee
set about filling t he t eacups wit h st eaming amber-colored t ea. "Very casual here, just t ake a
seat wherever you like." Aft er a few purposeful looks from Daniel, Arriane finally st epped
forward and t ouched Dee÷who was scooping a mound of cream int o a goblet and t opping it
wit h fruit ÷light ly on t he back.
"Act ually, Dee, we can't st ay for t ea. We're in a bit of a hurry. See÷"
Daniel st epped forward. "Has t he news reached you about Lucifer? He is at t empt ing t o erase
t he past by carrying t he host of angels forward from t he t ime of t he Fall t o t he present ."
"That would explain t he shuddering," Dee murmured, filling anot her t eacup.
"You can feel t he t imequakes, t oo?" Luce asked.
Dee nodded. "But most mort als can't , in case you were wondering."
"We've come because we need t o t rack down t he original locat ion of t he Fall," Daniel said, "t he
place where Lucifer and t he host of Heaven will appear. We have t o st op him."
Dee looked st rangely undet erred from her t ea service, cont inuing t o divvy up t he cucumber
sandwiches.
The angels wait ed for her t o respond. A log in t he fire splint ered, cracked, and t umbled from
t he grat e.
"And all because a boy loved a girl," she said at last .
"Quit e dist urbing. Really brings out t he worst in all t he old enemies, doesn't it ? Scale coming
unhinged, Elders killing innocent s. So much unpleasant ness. As if all you fallen angels didn't
have enough bot her t o wit h. l say, you must be awfully t ired." She gave Luce a reassuring smile
and gest ured again for t hem t o sit down.
Roland pulled out t he chair at t he head of t he t able for Dee and sat down in t he seat t o her
left . "Maybe you can help us." He mot ioned for t he ot hers t o join him.
Annabelle and Arriane sat beside him, and Luce and Daniel sat across t he t able. Luce slid her
hand over Daniel's, t wining her fingers around his.
Dee passed t he final cups of t ea around t he t able.
Aft er a clat t ering of china and spoons st irring sugar int o t ea, Luce cleared her t hroat . "We're
going t o st op Lucifer, Dee."
"l should hope so."
Daniel grasped Luce's fingers. "Right now we're searching for t hree object s t hat t ell t he early
hist ory of t he fallen. When brought t oget her, t hey should reveal t he original locat ion of t he
Fall."
Dee sipped her t ea. "Clever boy. Had any luck?" Daniel produced t he leat her sat chel and
unzipped it t o reveal t he gold-and-glass halo. An et ernit y had passed since Luce dove int o t he
sunken church t o pry it from t he st at ue's head.
Dee's forehead wrinkled. "Yes, l remember t hat . The angel Semihazah creat ed it , didn't he?
Even in prehis-t ory, he had a bit ing aest het ic. No writ t en t ext s for him t o sat irize, so he made
t his as a sort of comment ary on t he silly ways mort al art ist s t ry t o capt ure angelic glow.
Amusing, isn't it ? lmagine bearing a hideous . . .
basket ball hoop on your head. Two point s and all of t hat ."
"Dee." Arriane reached int o t he sat chel and pulled out Daniel's book, t hen t humbed t hrough it
unt il she found t he not at ion in t he margin about t he desiderat um. "We came t o Vienna t o find
t his"÷she point ed÷"t he desired t hing. But we're running out of t ime and we don't know what
it is or where t o find it ."
"How splendid. You've come t o t he right place."
"l knew it !" Arriane crowed. She leaned back int o her chair and slapped Annabelle, who was
polit ely nib-bling at a scone, on t he back. "As soon as l saw you, l knew we'd be okay. You have
t he desiderat um, don't you?"
"No, dear" Dee shook her head.
"Then . . . what ?" Daniel asked.
" l am t he desiderat um." She beamed. "l've been wait ing such a long t ime t o be called int o
service."
TEN
STARSHOT IN THE DUST
"¥ou're t he desiderat um?" Luce's cucumber sandwich fell from her fingers and bounced off her
t eacup, leaving a glob of mayonnaise on t he lace-embroidered t able-clot h.
Dee beamed at t hem. There was an almost impish gleam in her golden eyes t hat made her
look more like a t eenager t han a woman many hundreds of years old. As she pinned a shiny
st rand of red hair back int o her chignon and poured everyone more t ea, it was hard t o fat hom
t hat t his elegant , vibrant creat ure was also, in fact , an art ifact .
"That 's how you got t he nickname Dee, isn't it ?" Luce asked.
"Yes." Dee looked pleased. She winked at Roland.
"Then you know where t he sit e of t he Fall is?" The quest ion brought everyone t o at t ent ion.
Annabelle sat st raight er, elongat ing her long neck. Arriane did t he opposit e, slumping lower in
her chair, elbows on t he t able, chin rest ing on clasped hands. Roland leaned forward, t ucking
his dreads behind one shoulder. Daniel clenched Luce's hand. Was Dee t he answer t o every
quest ion t hey had?
She shook her head.
"l can help you discover where t he Fall t ook place." Dee set her t eacup down in it s saucer. "The
answer is wit hin me, but l am unable t o express it in any way t hat l or you can underst and. Not
unt il all of t he pieces are in place."
"What do you mean, 'in place'?" Luce asked. "How will we know when t hat happens?"
Dee walked over t o t he fireplace and used a poker t o ret urn t he fallen log t o it s place inside.
"You will know.
We will all know."
"But you at least know where t he t hird art ifact is?" Roland passed around a plat e of sliced
lemons aft er dropping one int o his t ea.
"lndeed l do."
"Our friends," Roland said, "Cam, Gabbe, and Molly have gone t o Avalon t o search for it . lf you
could help t hem locat e÷"
"You know as well as l t hat t he angels must locat e each art ifact on t heir own, Sir Sparks."
"l t hought you'd say t hat ." He leaned back in his chair, eyeing Dee. "Please, call me Roland."
"And l t hought you'd ask. Roland." She smiled. "l'm glad you did. lt makes me feel as if you t rust
me t o help you defeat Lucifer." She t ilt ed her head at Luce. "Trust is import ant , don't you t hink,
Lucinda?"
Luce looked around t he t able at t he fallen angels she'd first met at Sword & Cross, epochs
earlier. "l do." She had once had a very different kind of conversat ion wit h Miss Sophia, who had
described t rust as a careless pursuit , a good way to get onese/l k|//ed. lt was eerie how much
t he t wo resembled each ot her in body, while t he words produced by t heir dissimilar souls
differed so complet ely.
Dee reached for t he halo in t he cent er of t he t able.
"May l?"
Daniel handed over t he piece, which Luce knew from personal experience was very heavy. ln
Dee's hands, it seemed t o weigh not hing.
Her slender arms were barely long enough t o wrap around it s gold circumference, but Dee
cradled t he halo like a child. Her reflect ion peered back dimly in t he glass.
"Anot her reunion," she said soft ly, t o herself. When Dee looked up, Luce couldn't t ell whet her
she was cont ent or sad. "lt will be wonderful when t he t hird art ifact is in your possession."
"From your mout h t o God's ears," Arriane said, pouring somet hing from a fat silver flask int o her
t ea.
"That 's great -granddaddy's rout e!" Dee said wit h a smile.
Everyone laughed, a lit t le nervously.
"Speaking of t he t hird art ifact "÷Dee looked down at a t hin gold wat ch buried among her
t angle of pearl bracelet s÷"did someone ment ion you all were rat her in a hurry t o move on?"
There was a clamor of t eacups jost ling back int o t heir saucers, chairs being pushed back, and
wings whooshing open around t he t able. Suddenly, t he massive dining hall seemed smaller and
bright er and Luce felt t he familiar t ingle run t hrough her body when she saw Daniel's broad
wings unfurled.
Dee caught her eye. "Lovely, isn't it ?" lnst ead of blushing at being caught st aring at Daniel,
Luce just smiled, for Dee was on t heir side. "Every t ime."
"Where t o, Cap'n?" Arriane asked Daniel, t ucking scones int o t he pocket s of her overalls.
"Back t o Mount Sinai, right ?" Luce said. "lsn't t hat where we agreed Cam and t he ot hers are
supposed t o meet us?"
Daniel glanced t oward t he door. His forehead wrinkled in agit at ion. "Act ually, l didn't want t o
ment ion t his unt il we'd found t he second art ifact , but . . ."
"Come on, Grigori," Roland said. "Let 's have it ."
"Before we left t he warehouse," Daniel said, "Phil t old me t hat he received a message from one
of t he Out cast s who he'd sent t o Avignon. Cam's group was int ercept ed÷"
"Scale?" Dee asked. "St ill harboring fant asies of t heir import ance in t he cosmic balance?"
"We can't be sure," Daniel said, "t hough it does seem likely. We will set a course for t he Pont
Saint Bénézet in Avignon." He glanced at Annabelle, whose face t urned a shade of scarlet .
"What ?" she cried. "Why t here?"
"My marginalia in The Book ol the Watchers suggest it is t he approximat e locat ion of t he t hird
art ifact .
lt should have been Cam, Gabbe, and Molly's first st op."
Annabelle looked away and didn't say anyt hing else.
The mood t urned serious as t he group filed out of t he dining room. Luce felt t ense wit h worry
for Cam and Molly, imagining t hem bound up in black Scale cloaks like Arriane and Annabelle.
Angel wings rust led along t he narrow brick walls as t hey walked back down t he endless
hallway. When t hey reached t he curved wooden doorway leading back out side, Dee swung
open an iron circle covering t he peephole and peered out .
"Hmmm." She let t he peephole swing shut .
"What is it ?" Luce asked, but by t hen, Dee had already opened up t he door and was gest uring
for everyone t o leave t he peculiar brown house, whose soul was so much richer t han it s
ext erior suggest ed.
Luce went first and st ood on t he porch÷which was really just a heap of frost -kissed st raw÷t o
wait for t he ot hers. The angels poured out of t he doorway one at a t ime÷Daniel arching his
whit e wings back as he exit ed chest out , Annabelle t ucking her t hick silver wings fast t o her
sides, Roland bundling his golden marble wings around t he front of his body like an invincible
shield, and Arriane plowing t hrough recklessly, cursing an unnot iced candle by t he doorway
t hat singed a t ip of wing.
Aft erward, all t he angels st ood t oget her on t he lawn and flexed t heir wings, glad t o be out in
t he crisp air again.
Luce not iced t he darkness. She was cert ain t hat when t hey'd ent ered t he Foundat ion, t he sun
had not been far from rising. The church bells had chimed once more, announcing four o'clock,
and t he sky had been grasping for t he precious gold of dawn.
Had t hey been inside wit h Dee for just an hour? Why was t he sky now a dark, dead-of-night
blue?
Light s were on in t he whit e st one t ownhouses. People passed behind t he windows, frying
eggs, pouring cups of coffee. Men wit h briefcases and women wit h smart suit s walked out t heir
front doors and, wit hout ever once glancing at t he congregat ion of angels in t he middle of t he
st reet , got int o cars and drove away, t oward what Luce assumed was work.
She remembered Daniel had explained t hat Viennese people could not see t hem when t hey
were inside t he Pat ina. They didn't see t he brown house at all. Luce wat ched a woman in a
black t erry clot h bat hrobe and a plast ic rain bonnet walk groggily t oward t hem wit h her small
furry dog. Her propert y bordered t he overgrown pebble pat h t hat led t o t he front door of t he
Foundat ion.
The woman and her dog st epped ont o t he pat h.
And disappeared.
Luce gasped, but t hen Daniel point ed behind her, t o t he ot her side of t he Foundat ion's lawn.
She spun around.
Fort y feet away, where t he pebble pat h ended, and t he modern sidewalk picked up once again,
t he woman and her dog reappeared. The dog yapped hyst erically, but t he woman walked on
as if not hing had dist urbed her morning rout ine.
lt was st range, Luce realized, t hat t he angels' whole mission was t o keep her life t hat way. So
t hat not hing happened t o erase t his woman's world, so t hat she never even not iced how much
danger she'd been in.
But while t he people on t he st reet might not have not iced Luce or t he angels, t hey cert ainly
did not ice t he sky. The woman wit h t he dog kept glancing up at it worriedly, and most of t he
people leaving t heir houses wore slickers and carried umbrellas.
"ls it going t o rain?" Luce had flown t hrough pocket s of rain wit h Daniel, warm showers t hat left
t hem refreshed and exhilarat ed . . . but t his sky was ominous, nearly black.
"No," Dee said. "lt isn't going t o rain. That 's t he Scale."
"What ?" Luce's head shot up. She squint ed at t he sky, horrified when it shift ed and pit ched.
St orm clouds didn't move like t hat .
"The sky is dark wit h t heir wings." Arriane shuddered. "And t heir cloaks."
No.
Luce st ared at t he sky unt il it began t o make sense.
Wit h a feeling akin t o vert igo, she made out an undulat ing mass of blue-gray wings. They were
smeared across t he sky, t hick as a coat of paint , blocking out t he rising sun. The beat s of t he
short brut ish wings buzzed like a swarm of hornet s. Her heart clenched as she t ried t o count
t hem. lt was impossible. How many hundreds hovered in t he mult it ude above?
"We're under siege," Daniel said.
"They're so close," Luce said, flinching as t he sky roiled. "Can t hey see us?"
"Not exact ly, but t hey know we're here," Dee said nonchalant ly as a small group of Scale
swooped lower, low enough for t hem t o see t heir shriveled, bloodt hirst y faces. Cold eyes t rolled
t he space where Luce and t he ot hers gat hered, but when it came t o t he Pat ina, Scale seemed
t o be about as blind as t he Out cast s.
"My Pat ina surrounds us, t he way a t ea cozy surrounds a pot , forming a prot ect ive barrier. The
Scale can't see or t ravel t hrough it ." She managed a smile at Luce. "lt only answers t o t he
ringing of a cert ain kind of soul, one innocent of it s own pot ent ial." Daniel's wings pulsed beside
her. "They're gat hering more bret hren all t he t ime. We need some way t o get out of here, and
we need t o hurry."
"l do not int end t o be bound in one of t heir broke-neck burkas," Dee said. "No one t akes me in
my own house!"
"l like t he way she t alks," Annabelle said sideways t o Luce.
"Follow me!" Dee shout ed, breaking int o a run along a gat ed alley. They jogged behind her
t hrough an unexpect ed pumpkin pat ch, around an ornat e and dilapi-dat ed gazebo int o an
expansive and lushly green backyard.
Roland's chin t ilt ed t oward t he sky. lt was darker now, denser wit h wings.
"What 's t he plan?"
"Well, for st art ers"÷Dee wandered over t o st and under a mot t led oak t ree in t he cent er of t he
garden÷"t he library must be dest royed."
Luce gasped. "Why?"
"Simple mechanics. This Pat ina has always encompassed t he library, so wit h t he library it must
st ay. ln order t o move past t he Scale, we'll have t o open t he Pat ina, t hereby exposing t he
Foundat ion, and l do not int end t o leave it for t heir indiscriminat ing wings t o root t hrough." Her
hand pat t ed Luce's st ricken face. "Don't worry, dear, l've already donat ed t he valuable volumes
in t he collect ion÷t o t he Vat ican, most ly, t hough some went t o t he Hunt ingt on, and t o a lit t le
unsuspect ing t own in Ar-kansas. No one will miss t his place. l'm t he last librarian here, and
frankly, l don't plan t o ret urn aft er t his mission."
"l st ill don't underst and how we get past t hem." Daniel's gaze st ayed fixed on t he swirling blue-
black sky.
"l will have t o produce a second Pat ina, surrounding only our bodies, guarant eeing us safe
passage. Then l will open t his one and let t he Scale flow in."
"l t hink l'm smelling what you're cooking," Arriane said, climbing up a branch like a monkey t o sit
nest led in t he oak t ree.
"The Foundat ion will be sacrificed"÷Dee frowned÷
"but at least t he Scale will make nice kindling."
"Hold on, how does t he library get sacrificed?" Roland crossed his arms over his chest and
looked down at Dee.
"l was hoping you could help wit h t hat , Roland," Dee said, eyes t winkling. "You're rat her good at
st art ing fires, aren't you?"
Roland raised his eyebrows, but Dee had already t urned around. Facing t he t ree t runk, she
reached for a knot in it s bark, pulled it like a secret doorknob, and opened t he t runk t o a
hollowed chamber. lnside, t he wood was polished, t he chamber about t he size of a small locker.
Dee's arm dipped in and pulled out a long golden key.
"That 's how you open t he Pat ina?" Luce asked, surprised t hat it required so physical a key.
"Well, t his is how l unlock it so t hat it can be manipulat ed for our needs."
"When you open it , if t here's a fire," Luce said, remembering t he way t he woman walking her
dog blinked out of exist ence for a moment while she crossed t he Foundat ion's front lawn,
"what will happen t o t he houses, t o t he people on t he st reet ?"
"Funny t hing about t he Pat ina," Dee said, kneeling down and root ing around in t he garden for
somet hing.
"The way it sit s on t he border bet ween realit ies past and present , we can be here, and not
here, in t he present , and also elsewhere. lt 's a place where everyt hing we imagine about t ime
and space comes t oget her mat erially." She lift ed up t he fronds of an oversized fern, t hen dug
in t he dirt wit h her hands. "No mort als out side will be affect ed, but if t he Scale are as ravenous
as we all know t hey are, as soon as l open t his Pat ina, t hey'll swoop right t owards us. For one
t ense moment , t hey will join us in t he elsewhere realit y when t he Foundat ion Library st ood on
t his st reet ."
"And we'll fly out , enclosed in t he second Pat ina," Daniel guessed.
"Precisely," Dee said. "Then we have only t o close t his one around t hem. Just as t hey can't get
in now, t hey won't be able t o get out t hen. And while we soar on safely t o lovely, ancient
Avignon, t he library will go up in smoke, wit h t he Scale t rapped inside."
"lt 's brilliant ," Daniel said. "The Scale will st ill t echnically be alive, so our act ion won't t ip t he
Heavenly balance, but t hey'll be÷"
"Burn marks of t he past , sealed off, out of our way.
Right . Everybody on board?" Dee's face lit up. "Ah, there it is!"
As Luce and t he angels st ood over her, Dee brushed t he dirt off a collared hole t hat had been
buried in t he garden. She closed her eyes, held t he key close t o her heart , and whispered a
blessing:
"Light surround us, love enfold us, shelt er us, Pat ina, from t he evil t hat must come."
Carefully, she fit t he key int o t he lock. Her wrist shook wit h t he force required t o t urn t he key,
but finally, it creaked a quart er t urn t o t he right . Dee exhaled heavily and rose t o her feet ,
wiping her hands on her skirt .
"Here we go."
She raised her arms above her head and t hen, very slowly, very purposefully, brought t hem
down t oward her heart . Luce wait ed for t he eart h t o shift , for anyt hing t o happen, but for a
moment , not hing seemed t o have changed.
Then, as t he space around t hem grew pin-drop quiet , Luce heard an almost inaudible swishing
sound, like bare palms being rubbed t oget her. The air seemed t o slight ly warp, making
everyt hing÷t he brown house, t he row of Viennese t ownhouses surrounding it , even t he blue
wings of t he Scale above÷waver. Colors bent , melt ed. lt was like st anding inside t he cloudy
haze over flowing gaso-line.
As before, Luce could bot h see and not see t he Pat ina. lt s amorphous boundary was visible
one moment ÷
wit h t he iridescent t ransparency of a soap bubble÷t hen it disappeared. But she could lee/ it
molding around t he small space in t he garden where she and t he ot hers st ood, emanat ing
warmt h and t he feeling of being embraced by somet hing powerfully prot ect ive.
No one spoke, silenced by t he wonderment of Dee.
Luce st udied t he old woman, who was humming so int ensely she almost seemed t o buzz. Luce
was surprised when she sensed t he inner Pat ina was complet e. Somet hing t hat hadn't felt
whole a moment before now did.
Dee nodded, her hands at her heart as if in prayer. "We are in t he Pat ina wit hin t he Pat ina. We
are in t he heart of safet y and securit y. When l open t he out er rim t o t he Scale, t rust t hat
securit y and remain calm. No harm can come t o you."
She whispered t he words again÷ l|ght surround us, /ove enlo/d us, she/ter us, Pat|na, lrom the
ev|/ that must come÷and Luce found herself murmuring along. Daniel's voice chimed in, t oo.
Then t here was a hole, like a gust of cold air ent ering a warm room. They shuffled closer
t oget her, wings pressing up against each ot her, Luce in t he cent er. They wat ched t he shift ing
sky.
A savage shriek came from high above, and a t housand ot hers joined in. The Scale could see it
now.
They swarmed t oward t he hole.
The opening was most ly invisible t o Luce, but it must have been direct ly over t he chimney of
t he brown house.
That was where t he Scale headed, like winged ant s at -t acking a drop of fallen jam. They
t hudded t o t he roof, t o t he grass, t o t he eaves of t he house. Their cloaks rippled wit h t he
impact of rough landings. Their eyes t rolled t he propert y÷bot h sensing and not sensing Luce,
Dee, and t he angels.
Luce held her breat h, did not make a sound.
The Scale kept coming. Soon t he yard brist led wit h t heir st iff blue wings. They surrounded
Dee's inner Pat ina, cast ing glances hungry as wolves' direct ly at t he place where t he prey t hey
sought were hiding. But t he Scale could not see t he angels, t he girl, and t he t ranset ernal safe
inside.
"Where are t hey?" one of t hem snarled, his cloak t angling in a sea of blue wings as he pushed
t hrough t he crowd of his bret hren. "They're here somewhere."
"Prepare t o fly fast and hard t o Avignon," Dee whispered, st anding st iffly as a Scale angel wit h
a birt hmark splashed across his face leaned in near t he limit s of t heir Pat ina and sniffed like a
pig seeking slop.
Arriane's wings were t rembling and Luce knew she was t hinking of what t he Scale had done t o
her. Luce reached for her friend's hand.
"Roland, how about t hat might y conflagrat ion?" Daniel said t hrough pursed lips.
"You got it ." Roland int erlaced his fingers and furrowed his brow, t hen gave one hard glance at
t he brown house. There was a great blast , like a det onat ing bomb, and t he Foundat ion Library
exploded. Scale were sent shrieking int o t he Pat ina sky, t heir cloaks engulfed in fin-gerlike
flames.
Roland waved his hand, and t he hole where t he library had st ood became a volcano spewing
flames and lava rivers t hrough t he lawn. The oak t ree caught fire.
Flames spread t hrough it s branches as if t hey were mat ches in a box. Luce was sweat ing and
dizzy from t he heat searing t hrough t he Pat ina, but even as t he Scale were blown back by
repercussive shock waves, t he group inside Dee's small Pat ina did not burn.
Dee shout ed, "Let 's fly!" just as a t ornado of hot , flame-laden air swirled t hrough t he yard,
swallowing a hundred Scale and lift ing t hem int o it s blazing core, car-ouseling t hem across t he
lawn.
"Ready, Luce?" Daniel's arms wrapped around her just as Roland's wrapped t ight around Dee.
Smoke ricochet ed off t he walls on t he out side of t he Pat ina, but Luce was having a hard t ime
breat hing t hrough her sore, bruised neck.
Then Daniel had lift ed her off t he ground. They flew st raight up. Out of t he corners of her eyes,
Luce saw Roland's marbled wings on t he right , Annabelle and Arriane on t he left . All t he angels'
wings were beat ing so fast and hard t hat t hey wove a pure blinding bright ness, st raight up out
of t he fire and int o clear blue air.
But t he Pat ina was st ill open. The Scale who could st ill fly had some sense t hat t hey were
being t ricked, t rapped. They t ried t o rise out of t he blaze, but Roland sent anot her wave of
flame washing down ont o t hem, t hrust ing t hem back int o t he burning eart h, singeing off t heir
crinkled skin unt il t hey were skelet ons wit h wings.
"Just anot her moment . . ." Dee's fingert ips and st eady gaze manipulat ed t he boundaries of
t he Pat ina.
Luce st udied Dee, t hen t he mess of burning Scale. She imagined t he Pat ina cinching at t he t op
like a cloak around a neck, sealing t he Scale inside, choking t hem out .
"All done," Dee shout ed as Roland t ook her higher t hrough t he air.
Luce looked down, beneat h her and Daniel's feet , as t he ground sped away from t hem. She
saw t he ugly fire blink, t hen shiver, and t hen disappear, swallowed int o a smoking hidden
elsewhere. The st reet t hey left below was whit e, and modern, and full of people who had never
sensed anyt hing at all.
The ground was miles beneat h t hem when Luce st opped envisioning Scale wings cooking in
red flames.
There was no use looking back. She could only look ahead t oward t he next relic, t oward Cam,
Gabbe, and Molly, t oward Avignon.
Through gaps in t he t hin sheet s of clouds, t he t errain became rocky, dark gray, and
mount ainous. The wint er air grew colder, sharper, and t he ceaseless beat of angel wings
shat t ered t he quiet at t he edges of t he at mosphere.
About an hour int o t he flight , Roland's marbled wings came int o view a few feet below Luce
and Daniel.
He carried Dee t he same way Daniel carried Luce: shoulders lined up wit h hers, one arm
wrapped over her chest , t he ot her around her waist . Like Luce, Dee crossed her legs at t he
ankles, and her st ilet t o heels dangled precari-ously so high above t he ground. Roland's dark
muscles casing Dee's frail, older frame made t he pair look almost comical as t hey came int o
and out of focus, rippling t hrough t he clouds. But t he t hrilled sparkle in Dee's eyes made her
seem much younger t han she was. St rands of her red hair whipped across her cheek, and her
scent ÷cold cream and roses÷perfumed t he air t hrough which t hey flew.
"Well, l t hink t he coast is clear," Dee said.
Luce felt t he air around her warble. Her body t ensed in preparat ion for anot her t imequake. But
t his t ime, it wasn't Lucifer's encroaching Fall causing t he ripple. lt was Dee, wit hdrawing t he
second Pat ina. A hazy boundary moved closer t o Luce's skin, t hen passed t hrough her, making
her shiver wit h an unt raceable pleasure.
Then it ret ract ed unt il it was a t iny orb of light around Dee. She closed her eyes and, a moment
lat er, ab-sorbed t he Pat ina int o her skin. lt was most ly invisible÷
and was one of t he most beaut iful t hings Luce had ever seen.
Dee smiled and beckoned Luce nearer wit h a lit t le wave. The t wo angels carrying t hem t ilt ed
t heir wings upward so t hat t he ladies could t alk.
Dee cupped a hand over her mout h and called t o Luce over t he wind. "So t ell me, dear, how did
you t wo meet ?"
Luce felt Daniel's shoulder shudder behind her wit h a chuckle. lt was a normal quest ion t o ask
t wo people in a happy relat ionship; why did it make Luce miserable?
Because t he answer was needlessly complicat ed.
Because she didn't even know t he answer.
She pressed a hand t o t he locket at her neck. lt bobbed against her skin as Daniel's wings beat
anot her st rong beat . "Well, we went t o t he same school, and l . . ."
"Oh, Lucinda!" Dee was laughing. "l was t easing. l merely wondered whet her you had
uncovered t he st ory behind your or|g|na/ meet ing."
"No, Dee," Daniel said firmly. "She has not learned t hat yet ÷"
"l've asked, but he won't t ell me." Luce eyed t he ver-t iginous drop below, feeling as far away
from t he t rut h of t hat first meet ing as she was from t he t owns lining t he Adriat ic Sea over
which t hey were flying. "lt drives me crazy t hat l don't know."
"All in good t ime, dear," Dee said calmly, st aring st raight ahead at t he curved horizon. "l t ake it
you have at least t apped int o some of your earlier memories?" Luce nodded.
"Brilliant . l'll set t le for t he t ale of t he earliest romance you can recall. Go on, dear. Humor an old
lady.
lt 'll help us pass t he t ime t o Avignon, like Cant erbury pilgrims."
A memory flashed before Luce's eyes: t he cold, damp t omb she'd been locked in wit h Daniel in
Egypt , t he way his lips pressed against hers, t heir bodies against each ot her, as t hough t hey
were t he last t wo people in t he world . . .
But t hey hadn't been alone. Bill had been t here, t oo.
He'd been t here wait ing, wat ching, want ing her soul t o die inside a dank Egypt ian t omb.
Luce snapped her eyes open, ret urning t o t he present , where his red eyes could not find her.
"l'm t ired," she said.
"Rest ," Daniel said soft ly.
"No, l'm t ired of being punished simply because l love you, Daniel. l don't want anyt hing t o do
wit h Lucifer, wit h Scale and Out cast s and what ever ot her sides t here are. l'm not a pawn; l'm a
person. And l've had enough."
Daniel wrapped his hand over Luce's and squeezed.
Dee and Roland bot h looked as if t hey want ed t o reach out and do t he same.
"You've changed, dear," Dee said.
"Since when?"
"Since before. l've never heard you t alk like t hat .
Have you, Daniel?"
Daniel was quiet for a moment . Finally, over t he sounds of wind and t he flapping of t he angels'
wings against t hin air, he said, "No. But l'm glad she can now."
"And why not ? lt 's a t rans-dimensional t ragedy what you kids have been t hrough. But t his is a
girl wit h t enac-it y, a girl wit h muscles, a girl who once t old me she would never cut her hair,
even t hough she was cursed÷your words, dear÷by snarls and t angles, a magnet for briars,
because t hat hair was a part of her, indelibly t ied t o her soul."
Luce squint ed at t he old woman. "What are you t alking about ?"
Dee t ilt ed her head at Luce and pursed her plump lips.
Luce st ared at her hard, at her golden eyes and fine red hair, at t he delicat e way she hummed
as t hey flew.
And it hit her.
"l remember you!"
"Lovely," Dee said, "l remember you, t oo!"
"Didn't l live in a hut on an open plain?" Dee nodded.
"And we d|d t alk about my hair! l'd÷l'd run t hrough a pat ch of net t les diving aft er somet hing
on a hunt . . .
was it a fox?"
"You were quit e t he t omboy. Braver t han some of t he men on t he prairie, act ually."
"And you," Luce said, "you spent hours picking t hem out of my hair."
"l was your favorit e aunt ie, figurat ively speaking.
You used t o say t he devil cursed you wit h such t hick hair.
A t rifle dramat ic, but you were only sixt een÷and not far off from t he t rut h, as only sixt een-
year-olds can be."
"You said a curse is only a curse if l allowed myself t o be cursed by it . You said . . . l had it in my
power t o free myself of any curse÷t hat curses were preludes t o bless-ings. . . ."
Dee winked.
"Then you t old me t o cut it off. My hair."
"That 's right . But you wouldn't ."
"No." Luce closed her eyes as t he cool mist of a cloud washed over her, it s condensat ion
t ickling her skin. She was suddenly inexplicably sad. "l wouldn't . l wasn't ready t o."
"Well," Dee said. "l cert ainly like how you've st yled your hair since you've come t o your senses!"
"Look." Daniel point ed t o where t he cloud floor fell away like a cliff. "We're here."
They descended int o Avignon. The sky above t he t own was clear, no clouds t o int errupt t heir
view. The sun cast shadows of t he angels' wings ont o t he small medieval village of st one
buildings bordered by verdant past ures of farmland. Cows loafed below t hem. A t ract or
t hreaded t hrough land.
They banked left and flew over a horse st able, breat hing in t he dank st ench of hay and
manure. They swooped low over a cat hedral made from t he same t awny st one as most of t he
buildings in t he t own. Tourist s sipped coffees in a cheerful café. The t own glowed golden in t he
mid-day sun.
The st art led sense of arriving so quickly mingled wit h t he feeling of t ime slipping t hrough Luce's
fingers. They had been searching for t he relics for four and a half days.
Half t he t ime was up before Lucifer's Fall would be upon t hem.
"That 's where we're going." Daniel point ed t o a bridge on t he out skirt s t hat did not ext end fully
across t he shimmering river winding t hrough t he t own. lt was as if half t he bridge had crumbled
int o t he wat er. "Pont Saint Bénézet ."
"What happened t o it ?" Luce asked.
Daniel glanced over his shoulder. "Remember how quiet Annabelle got when l ment ioned we
were coming here? She inspired t he boy who built t hat bridge in t he Middle Ages in t he t ime
when t he popes lived here and not in Rome. He not iced her flying across t he Rhône one day
when she didn't t hink anyone could see her. He built t he bridge t o follow her t o t he ot her side."
"When did it collapse?"
"Slowly, over t ime, one arch would fall int o t he river.
Then anot her. Arriane says t he boy÷his name was Bénézet ÷had a vision for angels, but not
for archit ect ure.
Annabelle loved him. She st ayed in Avignon as his muse unt il he died. He never married, kept
apart from t he rest of Avignon societ y. The t own t hought he was crazy." Luce t ried not t o
compare her relat ionship wit h Daniel t o what Annabelle had had wit h Bénézet , but it was hard
not t o. What kind of a relat ionship could an angel and a mort al rea//y have? Once all t his was
over, if t hey beat Lucifer . . . t hen what ? Would she and Daniel go back t o Georgia and be like
any ot her couple, going out for ice cream on Fridays aft er a movie? Or would t he whole t own
t hink she was crazy, like Bénézet ?
Was it all just hopeless? What would become of t hem in t he end? Would t heir love vanish like a
medieval bridge's arches?
The idea of sharing a normal life wit h an angel was what was crazy. She sensed t hat every
moment Daniel l/ew her t hrough t he sky. And yet she loved him more each day.
They landed on t he bank of t he river under t he shade of a weeping willow t ree, sending a flock
of agit at ed ducks flapping int o t he wat er. ln broad daylight , t he angels folded in t heir wings.
Luce st ood behind Daniel t o wat ch t he int ricat e process as his ret ract ed int o his skin.
They drew in from t he cent er first , making a series of soft snaps as layers of muscle folded on
empyreal feat hers. Last came Daniel's t hin, nearly t ranslucent wing t ips, which glowed as t hey
disappeared inside his body, leaving no t race on his specially t ailored T-shirt .
They walked t o t he bridge, like any ot her t ourist s int erest ed in archit ect ure. Annabelle walked
much more st iffly t han normal, and Luce saw Arriane reach out and t ouch her hand. The sun
was bright and t he air smelled like lavender and river wat er. The bridge was made of big whit e
st ones, held up by long arches underneat h.
There was a small st one chapel wit h a single t ower at t ached t o one side near t he ent rance of
t he bridge. lt held a sign t hat read CHAPEL DE SAlNT NlCOLAS. Luce wondered where t he real
t ourist s were.
The chapel was coat ed wit h a fine, silvery dust .
They walked t he bridge silent ly, but Luce not iced t hat Annabelle wasn't t he only one upset .
Daniel and Roland were t rembling, keeping well clear of t he ent rance t o t he chapel, and Luce
remembered t hey were forbid-den t o ent er a sanct uary of God.
Dee ran her fingers over t he narrow brass railing wit h a heavy sigh. "We are t oo lat e."
"This isn't ÷" Luce t ouched t he dust . lt was insubst ant ial and light , wit h a hint of silver shimmer,
like t he dust t hat had covered her parent s' backyard. "You mean÷"
"Angels have died here." Roland's voice was monot one as he st ared int o t he river.
"B-but ," Luce st ammered, "we don't know whet her Gabbe and Cam and Molly even made it
here."
"This used t o be a beaut iful place," Annabelle said.
"Now t hey've marred it forever. Je m'excuse, Bénézet. "
That was when Arriane held up a quivering silver feat her. "Gabbe's pennon. lnt act , so it must
have been t aken by her own hand. Perhaps t o give t o an Out cast who didn't get it before . . ."
She looked away, holding t he feat her t o her chest .
"But l t hought t he Scale didn't kill angels," Luce said.
"They don't ." Daniel bent down and wiped away some of t he dust t hat was mounded like snow
at his feet .
Somet hing was buried underneat h it .
His fingers found a dust y silver st arshot . He wiped it on his shirt and Luce shivered each t ime
his fingers drew near t he deadly dull t ip. At last , he held it out for t he ot hers t o examine. lt was
branded wit h an ornat e let t er Z.
"The Elders," Arriane whispered.
"They are happy t o kill angels," Daniel said soft ly.
"ln fact , t here's not hing t hey'd rat her do." There was a sharp crack.
Luce whipped around, expect ing . . . she didn't know what . Scale? Elders?
Dee shook out her fist , rubbing red knuckles wit h her ot her hand. Then Luce saw: The wooden
door t o t he chapel was smashed in t he cent er. Dee must have punched it . No one else t hought
it was remarkable t hat such a t iny woman could cause so much damage.
"You all right t here, Dee?" Arriane called out .
"Sophia has no business here." Her voice quaked wit h rage. "What Lucifer is doing is beyond
t he compass of t he Elders' concern. And yet she could ruin everyt hing for you angels. l could kill
her."
"Promise?" Roland asked.
Daniel slipped t he st arshot int o t he sat chel and clasped it shut . "However t his bat t le ended, it
must have begun over t he t hird relic. Someone found it ."
"A war of resources," Dee said.
Luce flinched. "And someone died for it ."
"We don't know what happened, Luce," Daniel said.
"And we won't know unt il we st and before t he Elders.
We need t o t rack t hem down."
"How?" Roland asked.
"Maybe t hey went t o Sinai t o st ake us out ," Annabelle suggest ed.
Daniel shook his head and paced. "They don't know t o go t o Sinai÷unless t hey t ort ured t he
locat ion out of one of our angels." He st opped and looked away.
"No," Dee said, looking around t heir circle on t he bridge. "The Elders have t heir own agenda.
They're greedy. They want a larger st ake in all of t his. They want t o be remembered, like t heir
forefat hers. lf t hey die, t hey want t o go as mart yrs." She paused. "And what is t he most self-
indulgent locat ion t o st age your own mart yr-dom?"
The angels shift ed t heir weight . Daniel's wings brist led as he scanned t he pale pink east ern
sky. Annabelle ran her long nails t hrough her hair. Arriane hugged her arms around her chest
and st ared hard at t he ground, at a loss for sarcast ic words. Luce seemed t o be t he only one
who didn't know what Dee was t alking about . Finally, Roland's voice echoed ominously across
t he crumbling bridge:
"Golgot ha. Place of skulls."
ELEVEN
VIA DOLOROSA
As t he angels banked right over what looked like t he sout hern coast of France, Luce wat ched
t he dark waves roll below t hem, washing up along t he dist ant shore. She did some mat h in her
head:
At midnight , it would be Tuesday, December l. Five days had passed since she'd ret urned from
t he Announcers, which meant t hey were past t he midpoint of t he nine-day period t hat t he
angels fell t o Eart h. Lucifer and all t heir earlier selves were more t han halfway t hrough t he Fall.
They had t wo of t he t hree relics, but t hey didn't know what t he t hird was, didn't know how t o
read t hem once t hey got t hem all t oget her. Worse, in t he process of locat ing t he relics, t hey'd
gained more enemies. And it looked like t hey had lost t heir friends.
Dust from t he Pont Saint Bénézet was under Luce's fingernails. What if it was Cam? ln a
handful of days, Luce had gone from being wary about Cam's involve-ment in t heir mission t o
feeling despondent at t he t hought of losing him. Cam was fierce and dark and unpredict able
and int imidat ing and not t he guy t hat Luce was meant t o be wit h÷but t hat didn't mean she
didn't care about him, didn't care lor him in a cert ain way.
And Gabbe. The Sout hern beaut y who always knew t he right t hing t o say and do. From t he
moment Luce met Gabbe at Sword & Cross, t he angel had done not hing but look out for her.
Now Luce want ed t o look out for Gabbe.
Molly Zane had also gone t o Avignon wit h Cam and Gabbe. Luce had feared, t hen hat ed Molly
÷unt il t he ot her morning, when Luce had come in t hrough t he bedroom window at her parent s'
house t o find Molly covering for her in bed. lt was a solid favor. Even Callie liked spending t ime
wit h Molly. Had t he demon changed?
Had Luce?
The rhyt hmic beat s of Daniel's wings across t he st arry sky lulled Luce int o a deep st at e of
relaxat ion, but she did not want t o sleep. She want ed t o focus on what might greet t hem when
t hey arrived at Golgot ha, t o brace herself for what was coming.
"What 's on your mind?" Daniel asked. His voice was low and int imat e in t he frant ic wind t hey
were flying t hrough. Annabelle and Arriane flew in front of t hem and a lit t le bit below. Their
wings, dark silver and iridescent , spread wide over t he green boot of lt aly.
Luce t ouched t he silver locket around her neck. "l'm afraid."
Daniel squeezed her t ight . "You're so brave, Luce."
"l feel st ronger t han l ever have before, and l'm proud of all t he memories l can access on my
own, especially if t hey can help us st op Lucifer"÷she paused, glancing down at her dust y
fingernails÷"but l'm st ill afraid of what we're flying t owards now."
"l won't let Sophia get anywhere near you."
"lt 's not what she might do t o me, Daniel. lt 's what she may have already done t o people l care
about . That bridge, all t hat dust ÷"
"l hope as much as you do t hat Cam and Gabbe and Molly are unharmed." His wings gave one
great beat and Luce felt her body rise above a swollen rain cloud. "But angels can die, Lucinda."
"l know t hat , Daniel."
"Of course you do. And you know how dangerous t his is. Every angel who joins our st ruggle t o
st op Lucifer knows it , t oo. By joining us, t hey acknowledge t hat our mission is more import ant
t han any single angel's soul."
Luce closed her eyes. A s|ng/e ange/'s sou/.
There it was again. The idea she'd first heard Arriane speak about in t he Vegas lHOP. One
powerful angel t o t ip t he scales. One choice t o det ermine t he out come of a fight t hat had
last ed for millennia.
When she opened her eyes, t he moon was bat hed in soft whit e light , rising over t he dark
landscape below.
"The forces of Heaven and Hell," she began, "are t hey really in balance against each ot her right
now?" Daniel was quiet . She felt his chest rise against her and t hen fall. His wings beat a bit
more swift ly, but he didn't answer.
"You know?" Luce pressed on. "The same number of demons on one side and t he same
number of angels on t he ot her?"
Wind whipped against her.
Finally, Daniel said, "Yes, t hough it 's not t hat simple.
lt 's not a mat t er of a t housand here versus a t housand t here. Different players mat t er more
t han ot hers. The Out cast s carry no weight . You heard Phil lament ing t hat .
The Scale are almost negligible÷t hough you'd never know t hat from t he way t hey carry on
about t heir import ance." He paused. "One of t he Archangels? They are wort h a t housand
lesser angels."
"ls it st ill t rue t hat t here's one import ant angel who st ill has t o choose a side?"
A pause. "Yes, t hat is st ill t rue."
She'd already begged him t o choose once, on t he rooft op at Shoreline. They were in t he middle
of an argument and t he t ime hadn't been right . But t heir bond was st ronger now. Surely if he
knew how much she support ed him, t hat she'd st and by him and love him no mat t er what , it
would help him finally make up his mind.
"What if you just went ahead and . . . chose?"
"No÷"
"But , Daniel, you could st op t his! You could t ip t he scales, and no one else would have t o die,
and÷"
"l mean no, it 's not t hat easy." She heard him sigh and knew, even wit hout looking, t he precise
shade his eyes would be glowing now: a deep, wild lupine violet .
"lt 's not t hat easy anymore," he repeat ed.
"Why not ?"
"Because t his present no longer mat t ers. We're in a pocket of t ime t hat may cease t o exist . So
choosing now wouldn't mean a t hing, not unt il t his nine-day glit ch is fixed. We st ill have t o st op
him. Eit her Lucifer get s his way and erases t he past five or six millennia and we all begin again
÷"
"Or we succeed," Luce said aut omat ically.
"lf t hat happens," Daniel said, "we'll reassess how t he ranks are aligned."
Twent y feet below t hem, Arriane was flying in slow t rancelike loop-t he-loops, as if t o pass t he
t ime. Annabelle flew int o one of t he rain showers t hat t he angels usually avoided. She came
out on t he ot her side wit h her wings damp and her pink hair plast ered t o t he side of her face
wit hout even seeming t o not ice. Roland was somewhere behind t hem, probably deep in his
own t hought s as he carried Dee in his arms. Everyone seemed weary, dist ract ed.
"But when we succeed, couldn't you . . ."
"Choose Heaven?" Daniel said. "No. l made my choice a very long t ime ago, almost at t he
Beginning."
"But l t hought ÷"
"l chose you, Lucinda."
Luce swept her hand over Daniel's as t he t ar-dark sea beneat h t hem washed up ont o a swat h
of desert .
The landscape was far below, but it reminded her of t he t errain around Sinai: rocky cliffs
int errupt ed by t he green scrub of an occasional t ree. She didn't underst and why Daniel had t o
choose bet ween Heaven and love.
All she'd ever want ed was his love÷but at what price? Was t heir love wort h t he erasure of t he
world and all it s st ories? Could Daniel have prevent ed t his t hreat if he'd chosen Heaven long
before?
And would he have ret urned t here, where he belonged, had his love for Luce not led him
ast ray?
As if he were reading her mind, Daniel said, "We put our fait h in love."
Roland caught up t o t hem. His wings angled and his body pivot ed t o face Daniel and Luce. ln
his arms, Dee's red hair was flying and her cheeks were aglow. She gest ured for t he t wo of
t hem t o come close. Daniel's wings gave one full, graceful beat , and t hey shot t hrough a cloud
t o hover at Roland and Dee's side. Roland whist led and Arriane and Annabelle also doubled
back, closing an iridescent circle in t he dark sky.
"lt 's nearly four o'clock in t he morning in Jerusalem," Dee said. "That means we can expect t he
majorit y of mort als t o be asleep or ot herwise out of t he way for perhaps anot her hour. lf Sophia
has your friends, she's probably planning . . . well, we should hurry, dears."
"You know where t hey'll be?" Daniel asked.
Dee t hought for a moment . "Before l defect ed from t he Elders, t he plan was always t o
reconvene at t he Church of t he Holy Sepulchre. lt was built on t he slope of Golgot ha, in t he
Christ ian Quart er of t he Old Cit y."
The group glided t oward t he hallowed ground. They were a column of glowing wings. The clear
sky was navy, sprinkled wit h st ars, and t he whit e st ones of dist ant buildings below shone an
eerie acid blue.
Though t he land seemed nat urally dry, dust y, t he eart h was st udded wit h t hick palm t rees and
groves of olives.
They swooped over t he most expansive cemet ery Luce had ever seen, built on a gradual slope
facing t he Old Cit y of Jerusalem.
The cit y it self was dark and sleepy, t ucked in moonlight and surrounded by a t all st one
part it ion. The formidable Dome of t he Rock mosque sat high on a hill, it s golden dome gleaming
even in darkness. lt was at a dist ance from t he rest of t he crammed cit y, set off by long flight s
of st one st airs and t all gat es at every ent rance.
Beyond t he old walls, a few modern high-rise buildings cut out a dist ant skyline, but wit hin t he
Old Cit y, t he st ruct ures were much older, smaller, craft ing a maze of narrow cobbled alleys best
navigat ed by foot .
They alight ed on t he rampart s of a t all gat e marking t he ent rance t o t he cit y.
"This is t he New Gat e," Dee explained. "lt 's t he closest ent rance t o t he Christ ian Quart er,
where t he church is."
By t he t ime t hey filed down t he worn st airs from t he t op of t he gat e, t he angels had ret ract ed
t heir wings int o t heir shoulders. The cobbled st reet narrowed as Dee brandished a small red
plast ic flashlight and led t hem onward t oward t he church. Most of t he st one st orefront s had
been fit t ed wit h met al doors t hat slid up and down like t he door on Luce's parent s' garage. The
doors were all closed now, padlocked t o t he st reet t hrough which Luce walked next t o Daniel,
holding his hand and hoping for t he best .
The deeper int o t he cit y t hey went , t he more t he buildings seemed t o press in on eit her side of
t hem. They passed under t he st riped t ent ed awnings of empt y Arab market s, under long st one
arches and dim corridors. The air smelled like roast ed lamb, t hen incense, t hen laundry soap.
Azalea vines climbed t he walls, searching for wat er.
The neighborhood was silent but for t he angels' st eps and a coyot e yowling in t he hills. They
passed a shut -t ered Laundromat , it s sign post ed in Arabic, t hen a flower shop wit h Hebrew
st ickers plast ered across it s windows.
Everywhere Luce looked, narrow walkways forked off from t he st reet : t hrough an open wooden
gat e here, up a short flight of st airs t here. Dee seemed t o be count ing t he doorways t hey
passed, wagging her finger as t hey walked. At one point she snapped, ducked under a
weat hered wooden arch, t urned a corner, and disappeared. Luce and t he angels glanced at
each ot her quickly, t hen followed her: down several st eps, around a damp and darkened corner,
up a few more st eps, and suddenly, t hey were on t he roof of anot her building, looking down at
anot her cramped st reet .
"There it is." Dee nodded grimly.
The church t owered over everyt hing nearby. lt was built of pale, smoot h st ones and st ood
easily five st ories, t aller at it s pair of slender st eeples. At it s cent er, an enormous blue dome
looked like a blanket of midnight sky wrapped around a st one. Giant bricks formed large arches
along t he façade, marking places for massive wooden doors on t he first st ory and arched
st ained-glass windows higher up. A ladder leaned on a brick ledge out side a t hird-st ory
window, reaching up for not hing.
Port ions of t he church's façade were crumbling and black wit h age, while ot hers looked
recent ly rest ored.
On eit her side, t wo long st one arms branched forward from t he church, forming a border
around a flat cobbled plaza. Just behind t he church, a t all whit e minaret st abbed t he sky.
"Wow," Luce heard herself say as she and t he angels descended anot her surprising flight of
st airs t o ent er t he plaza.
The angels approached t he heavy double doors t hat t owered over t hem, fort y feet high at
least . They were paint ed green and flanked by t hree plain st one pillars on eit her side. Luce's
eye was drawn t o t he ornat e frieze bet ween t he doors and t he arches above t hem÷and
above t hat , t he gleaming golden cross punct uring t he sky. The building was quiet , somber,
alive wit h spirit ual elect ricit y.
"ln we go, t hen," Dee said.
"We can't go in t here," Roland said, moving away from t he church.
"Oh, yes," Dee said, "t he incendiary business. You t hink you can't go in because it 's a
sanct uary of God÷"
"lt 's the sanct uary of God," Roland said. "l don't want t o be t he guy who t akes t his place down."
"Only it isn't a sanct uary of God," Dee said simply.
"Quit e t he opposit e. This is t he place where Jesus suffered and died. Therefore it has never
been a sanct uary as far as t he Throne is concerned, and t hat 's t he only opinion t hat really
mat t ers. A sanct uary is a safe haven, a refuge from harm. Mort als st ep wit hin t hese walls t o
pray, in t heir infinit ely morbid way, but as far as your curse is concerned, you will not be
affect ed." Dee paused.
"Which is good, because Sophia and your friends are inside."
"How do you know?" Luce asked.
She heard foot st eps on st one on t he east side of t he court yard. Dee squint ed down t he
narrow st reet .
Daniel grabbed Luce's waist so swift ly she fell int o him. Turning a corner beneat h a st reet sign
t hat read VlA DOLOROSA, t wo elderly nuns st rained under t he weight of a large wooden
cross. They wore simple navy habit s, t hick sensible sandals, and beaded rosaries around t heir
necks.
Luce relaxed at t he sight of t he old believers, whose average age seemed t o be eight y-five.
She st art ed t o move t oward t he women, obeying an inst inct t o assist t he elderly wit h a heavy
load, but Daniel's grasp on Luce's waist did not loosen as t he nuns approached t he great doors
of t he church wit h excruciat ing slow-ness. lt seemed impossible t hat t he nuns would not have
seen t he group of angels t went y feet away÷t hey were t he only ot her souls in t he plaza÷but
t he st ruggling sist ers never so much as glanced in t he angels' direct ion.
"A lit t le early for t he Sist ers of t he St at ions of t he Cross t o be out , isn't it ?" Roland whispered
t o Daniel.
Dee st raight ened her skirt and pinned a rebellious st rand of hair behind her ear. "l had hoped it
wouldn't come t o t his, but we'll simply have t o kill t hem."
"What ?" Luce glanced at one of t he feeble, sun-weat hered women. Her gray eyes sat like
pebbles in t he deep folds of her face. "You want t o kill t hose nuns?" Dee frowned. "Those
aren't nuns, dear. They are Elders and t hey must be disposed of, or t hey will dispose of us."
"l'm disposed t o say t hey already look disposed of." Arriane shift ed her weight from side t o side.
"Apparent ly Jerusalem recycles."
Maybe Arriane's voice found t he nuns and st art led t hem, or maybe t hey were wait ing t o arrive
at precisely t he right locat ion, but at t hat moment , as t hey reached t he church doors, t hey
st opped and t urned so t hat t he long beam of t heir cross point ed across t he plaza, t oward t he
angels, like a cannon.
"Time she is a-wast ing, angels," Dee said t hrough t ight lips.
The pebble-eyed nun bared veiny gums at t he angels and fumbled wit h somet hing on t he
base of t he beam.
Daniel shoved t he sat chel int o Luce's hands, t hen posit ioned her behind Dee. The older
woman didn't cover Luce exact ly÷t he t op of her head came only as high as Luce's chin÷but
Luce got t he idea and ducked. The angels unleashed t heir wings wit h brut ish speed as t hey
fanned out on bot h sides÷Arriane and Annabelle veer-ing left , Roland and Daniel diving right .
The giant cross was not a pilgrim's penit ent ial bur-den. lt was an enormous crossbow, filled
wit h st arshot s meant t o kill everybody t here.
There was no t ime for t his t o regist er wit h Luce. One of t he nuns released t he first shot ; it
sizzled t hrough t he air, heading for Luce's face. The silver arrow grew larger in Luce's vision as
it swirled closer in t he air.
Then Dee jumped.
The t iny woman spread her arms open wide. The st arshot 's dull t ip collided wit h t he cent er of
her chest .
Dee grunt ed as t he arrow÷harmless t o mort als, Luce knew÷glanced off her t iny body and
clat t ered t o t he ground, leaving t he t ranset ernal sore but unharmed.
"Presidia, you fool," Dee shout ed at t he nun, dragging t he arrow backward wit h her high heel.
Luce leaned down t o pick it up and slipped it inside t he sat chel. "You know t hat won't hurt me!
Now you've annoyed my friends." She gest ured broadly at t he angels dart ing forward t o disarm
t he cost umed Elders.
"St and down, defect or!" Presidia replied. "We require t he girl! Surrender her and we will÷" But
Presidia never finished. Arriane was at t he Elder's back in a flash, brushing t he habit from her
head, t aking her whit e hair in each of t he angel's fist s.
"Because l respect my Elders," Arriane hissed t hrough her clenched jaw, "l feel l must prevent
t hem from embarrassing t hemselves." Then she lift ed off t he ground, st ill holding Presidia by
t he hair. The Elder kicked t he air as if pedaling an invisible bicycle. Arriane pivot ed and slammed
t he old woman's body int o t he cornice of t he church's façade wit h such force it left an
indent ion when she collapsed in a t wist ed heap, hands and legs st icking out at grisly angles.
The ot her incognit o Elder had dropped t he cannon-cross and was t rying t o escape, running
hard for an alley in t he opposit e corner of t he plaza. Annabelle t ook up t he cross and became a
javelin t hrower, rearing back like a t ight ening coil, springing t o release t he heavy wooden T.
The cross arced t hrough t he air and speared t he fleeing Elder in her sloping spine. She fell
forward and convulsed, impaled by t he replica of an ancient inst rument of execut ion.
The court yard fell quiet . lnst inct ively, everyone t urned t o look at Luce.
"She's okay!" Dee called, raising Luce's hand in t he air as if t he t wo of t hem had just won a
relay race.
"Daniel!" Luce point ed at a flash of whit e disappearing behind Daniel's back, int o t he church. As
t he double doors slowly shut , an elderly monk t hey hadn't not iced could be heard ascending
t he st aircase inside.
"Follow him," Dee shout ed, st epping over Presidia's mangled corpse.
Luce and Dee ran t o cat ch up t o t he ot hers. When t hey ent ered t he church, it was dark and
silent . Roland point ed t oward a flight of st one st eps in t he corner. They opened int o a small
st one archway, which led t o a longer st aircase. The space was t oo cramped for t he angels t o
spread t heir wings, so t hey picked t heir way up t he st eep st eps as quickly as t hey could.
"The Elder will lead us t o Sophia," Daniel whispered as t hey ducked under t he st one archway
t o t he darkened st aircase. "lf she has t he ot hers÷if she has t he relic÷" Dee laid a firm hand
on Daniel's arm. "She must not know of Luce's presence. You must prevent t he Elder from
reaching Sophia."
Daniel's eyes flickered back at Luce, t hen up t o Roland, who nodded swift ly, rocket ing up t he
st airs as if he had run t hrough old st one fort resses before.
Barely t wo minut es lat er, he was wait ing for t hem at t he t op of t he cramped st aircase. The
Elder lay dead on t he floor, lips blue, eyes glassy and wet . Behind Roland, an open doorway
curved sharply t o t he left . Someone on t hat landing was singing what sounded like a hymn.
Luce shivered.
Daniel mot ioned for t hem t o st ay back, peering past t he edge of t he curved st airway. From
where she st ood, pressed against a st one wall, Luce could see a small port ion of t he chapel
beyond t he landing. The walls were paint ed wit h elaborat e frescos, lit by dozens of small t in
lamps suspended by beaded chains from t he vault ed ceiling. There was a small room wit h a
mosaic of t he cruci-fixion spanning t he ent ire west ern wall. Beyond t his was a row of highly
decorat ed vault ed columns several feet wide, port ioning off a second, larger chapel t hat was
hard t o see from here. Bet ween t he t wo chapels, a large gilded shrine t o Mary was covered in
flower bouquet s and half-burned sacrament al candles.
Daniel cocked his head. A flash of red swished past one of t he columns.
A woman in a long scarlet robe.
She was bending over an alt ar made from a great marble slab adorned wit h a whit e lace sheet .
Somet hing lay on t hat alt ar, but Luce could not t ell what it was.
The woman was frail but at t ract ive, wit h short gray hair cut in a fashionable bob. Her robe was
cinched at t he waist wit h a colorful woven belt . She lit a candle at t he front of t he alt ar. The
flowing sleeves of her robe slipped up her arms as she genuflect ed, exposing wrist s adorned
wit h st acks and st acks of pearl bracelet s.
Miss Sophia.
Luce pushed off Daniel t o climb one st ep higher, desperat e for a bet t er view. The wide columns
ob-st ruct ed t he majorit y of t he chapel, but when Daniel helped her just a lit t le fart her up t he
st airs, she could see more. There were not one but t hree alt ars in t he room, not one but t hree
scarlet -robed women rit ually light ing candles all around t hem. Luce didn't recognize t wo of
t hem.
Sophia looked older, more t ired t han she had behind her librarian's desk. Luce wondered briefly
if it was because she had gone from surrounding herself wit h t eenagers t o running wit h beings
who hadn't been t eenagers in several hundred years. That night , Sophia's face was paint ed,
lips like blood. The robe she wore was dust y and dark wit h rings of sweat . Hers had been t he
chant ing voice. When she st art ed up again in a language t hat sounded like Lat in but wasn't ,
Luce's whole body clenched. She remembered it .
This was t he rit ual t hat Miss Sophia had performed on Luce t he last night she'd been at Sword
& Cross.
Miss Sophia had been just about t o murder her when Daniel came crashing t hrough t he ceiling.
"Pass me t he rope, Vivina," Miss Sophia said. They were so consumed by t heir dark rit ual t hat
t hey did not sense t he angels crouched along t he st airs out side t he chapel. "Gabrielle looks a
lit t le t oo comfy. l'd like t o bind her t hroat ."
Gabbe.
"There is no more," Vivina said. "l had t o double bind Cambriel here. He was squirming. Ooh, he
st ill is."
"Oh my God," Luce whispered. Cam and Gabbe were t here. She assumed t he presence of a
t hird robed lady meant Molly was t here, t oo.
"God has not hing t o do wit h t his," Dee said under her breat h. "And Sophia is t oo crazy t o know
it ."
"Why are t he fallen being so quiet ?" Luce whispered.
"Why don't t hey resist ?"
"They must not realize t hat t his place is not a sanct uary of God," Daniel said. "They must be in
shock÷
l know l would be÷and Sophia must be using it t o her advant age. She knows t hey're worried
t hat anyt hing t hey do or say might make t he church erupt int o flames."
"l know how t hey feel," Luce whispered. "We have t o st op her." She st art ed for t he door,
emboldened by t he fresh memory of Elders t hey'd dest royed out side, by t he power of t he
angels behind her, by Daniel's love, by t he knowledge of t he t wo relics t hey had already
discovered. But a hand clamped her shoulder, drawing her back int o t he corridor.
"All of you st ay here," Dee whispered, making eye cont act wit h each of t he angels t o ensure
t hey underst ood. "lf t hey see you, t hey will know Luce is wit h you.
Wait here." She point ed t o t he columns, t hick enough for t hree angels t o hide behind. "l know
how t o handle my sist er."
Wit hout anot her word, Dee st rode int o t he chapel, her heels slapping t he black-and-whit e t ile
floor.
"l'd say you've been given quit e enough rope, Sophia," Dee said.
"Who's t here?" Vivina yelped, st art led in mid-genuflect ion.
Dee crossed her arms over her chest as she walked around t he alt ars, clucking in mock
disapproval of t he Elders' work. "Very shoddy dressing. Leave it t o Sophia t o bring her B game
t o a sacrifice wit h cosmic and et ernal implicat ions."
Luce was desperat e t o st udy t he react ion on Miss Sophia's face, but Daniel held her back.
There were a scraping sound, a melodramat ic gasp, and a cruel soft cackle.
"Ah yes," Miss Sophia said. "My t ramp sist er ret urns, just in t ime t o wit ness my finest hour. This
will t rump your overrat ed piano recit al!"
"You're really very dumb."
"Because l don't have t he recommended brand of rope?" Sophia snort ed.
"Forget t he rope, dope," Dee said. "You're dumb in many dozens of ways, not t he least of
which is t hinking you might get away wit h t his."
"Do not condescend t o her!" hissed t he t hird Elder.
"There's really no ot her way t o approach her," Dee inst ant ly replied.
"Thank you, Lyrica, but l can handle Paulina," Sophia said wit hout looking away from Dee. "Or
what do you have people call you now? Pee?"
"You know very well it is Dee. You only wish you knew why."
"Ah yes, Dee. Biiiiiig difference. Well, let us enjoy our brief reunion as best we can."
"Let t hem go, Sophia."
"Let t hem go?" Sophia cackled. "But l want t hem dead." Her voice rose and Luce pict ured her
hand sweeping over t he angels bound upon t he alt ars. "l want her dead most of all!"
Luce couldn't even gasp. She knew whom t he librarian meant .
"lt won't st op Lucifer from erasing your exist ence." Dee's voice sounded almost sad.
"Well, you know what Daddy always used t o say:
'We're all Hell-bound, anyway.' Might as well t ry t o get what we want while we're on t his Eart h.
Where is she, Dee?" Sophia spat . "Where is t he mewling child Lucinda?"
"l wouldn't know." Dee's voice was smoot h. "But l have come t o keep you from finding out ."
Now Daniel let Luce press a lit t le closer t o t he first chapel's ent rance.
"l hat e you!" Sophia shout ed, pouncing on Dee. Roland t urned t o look at Daniel, asking wit h his
eyes if t hey should int erfere. Daniel seemed confident in t he desiderat a's abilit ies. He shook his
head once.
Sophia's assist ant Elders wat ched from t heir alt ars as t he t wo sist ers rolled across t he floor,
moving out of, t hen back int o Luce's view. Dee on t op, t hen Sophia, t hen Dee on t op again.
Dee's hands found Sophia's neck and squeezed. The old Sword & Cross librarian's face glowed
red as her hands st rained against Dee's chest and she st ruggled t o survive.
Slowly, Sophia worked her knee up unt il it pressed deeply int o her sist er's st omach t o push her
back. Dee's arms were fully ext ended, reaching t o keep t heir hold on Sophia's neck. She gazed
down on her sist er's rage-dist ort ed face, her eyes on fire wit h hat red.
"Your heart t urned black, Sophia," Dee said, her voice soft wit h somet hing like nost algia. "lt was
like a light went off. No one could t urn t he light back on. We could only t ry t o st op you from
running over us in t he dark." Then she released Sophia, allowed her t o draw a huge and
panicked breat h int o her lungs.
"You bet rayed me," Sophia gasped as Dee t ook her sist er's collar in her hands, closed her eyes,
and moved t o slam Sophia's skull against t he t iles of t he mosaic floor.
But inst ead t here came a long shriek as Dee was launched int o t he air. Sophia had kicked her
wit h a force Luce had forgot t en t he old woman possessed. She leaped t o her feet . She was
sweat ing and red in t he face, her hair whit e and wild, as she ran t o where Dee had come t o
rest several feet away. Luce rose on her t oes and winced when she saw Dee's eyes were
closed.
"Ha!" Sophia ret urned t o t he alt ars and reached beneat h t he one binding Cam. She pulled out
a sheat h of st arshot s.
Back in t he alcove Roland glanced at Daniel again.
This t ime Daniel nodded.
ln an inst ant , Arriane, Annabelle, and Roland flew from t heir hiding places int o t he room. Roland
drove t oward Miss Sophia, but at t he last inst ant , she ducked and deft ly avoided him. His wing
slapped her across t he face, but she had eluded his grasp.
ln t he face of angel wings, t he t wo ot her Elders cow-ered, shrinking in panicked fear. Annabelle
held t hem back while Arriane flicked open a Swiss Army knife from her pocket ÷t he pink one,
t he same one Luce had used t o cut t he girl's hair mont hs earlier÷and sawed at t he ropes
binding Gabbe t o t he alt ar.
"St op or l'll kill him!" Sophia shout ed at t he angels as she t ore out a fist ful of arrows and leaped
on Cam.
St raddling him, she raised t he silver shaft s above his head.
His dark hair was mat t ed and greasy. His hands were pale and t rembling. Miss Sophia st udied
t hese det ails wit h a smirk.
"l do so love t o see an angel d|e. " She cackled, holding t he st arshot s high. "And such an
arrogant one t o kill." She looked back down at Cam. "His deat h will be a beaut iful t hing t o
behold."
"Go ahead." Cam's voice came for t he first t ime, low and even. Luce nearly cried out when she
heard him mut t er: "l never asked for a happy ending." Luce had wat ched Sophia kill Penn wit h
her bare hands and no remorse. lt would not happen again. "Nol¨ Luce shout ed, st ruggling t o
break free from Daniel's grip and dragging him wit h her int o t he chapel.
Slowly Miss Sophia craned her body around t oward Luce and Daniel, clut ching her fist ful of
st arshot s. Her eyes gleamed silver and her t hin lips curled in a ghast ly smile as Luce t ugged
Daniel forward, pulling against his relent less grip.
"We have t o st op her, Daniel!"
"No, Luce, it 's t oo dangerous."
"Oh, t here you are, dear." Miss Sophia beamed. "And Daniel Grigori! How nice. l've been wait ing
for you." Then she winked and whipped t he st arshot s over her head in a dense clust er st raight
at Daniel and Luce.
TWELVE
UNHOLY WATER
lt happened in t he broken fract ion of a second: Roland t ackled Miss Sophia, knocking her t o
lt happened in t he broken fract ion of a second: Roland t ackled Miss Sophia, knocking her t o
t he ground. But he was half a heart beat t oo lat e.
Five silver st arshot s sailed silent ly across t he empt y space of t he chapel. The clust er of t hem
loosened as t hey flew, seeming t o hang in midair for a moment on t heir pat h t oward Luce and
Daniel.
Dan|e/.
Luce pressed herself back against Daniel's chest . He had t he opposit e inst inct : His arms pulled
t ight against her and dragged her down hard against t he floor.
Two great pairs of wings crossed t he space in front of Luce, erupt ing from left and right . One
was a radiant coppery gold, t he ot her t he purest silvery whit e. They filled t he air before her and
Daniel like enormous feat hered screens÷and t hen were gone in t he blink of an eye.
Somet hing whizzed by her left ear. She t urned and saw a single st arshot ricochet off t he gray
st one wall and clat t er t o t he floor. The ot her st arshot s were gone.
A fine iridescent grit set t led around Luce.
Squint ing t hrough t he mist of dust , she t ook in t he room: Daniel crouching beside her. A roused
Dee st ruggling at op a writ hing Miss Sophia. Annabelle st anding above t he ot her Elders, who
lay lifeless on t he floor. Arriane holding an empt y lengt h of rope and her Swiss Army knife in
t rembling hands. Cam, st ill bound on t he alt ar, st unned.
Gabbe and Molly, just freed from t heir alt ars by Arriane÷
Disappeared.
And Luce's and Daniel's bodies covered in a film of dust .
No.
"Gabbe . . . Molly÷" Luce got t o her knees. She held out her hands, examining t hem as if she'd
never seen hands before. Candlelight played off her skin, t urning t he dust a soft , shimmery
gold, t hen a bright glit t ering silver as she flipped her hands t o gaze at her palms.
"No no no no no no no no."
She looked back, locking eyes wit h Daniel. His face was ashen, his eyes burning wit h such a
concent rat ed violet it was hard t o hold t heir gaze.
That became harder st ill when her vision blurred wit h t ears.
"Why did t hey÷?"
For a moment , everyt hing was st ill.
Then an animal's roar rent t he room.
Cam forced his right leg free from t he ropes t hat bound it , ripping his ankle raw in t he process.
He st rained t o free his wrist s, bellowed as he t ore his right hand loose from his bonds,
shredding t he wing t hat had been pinned wit h t he iron post and dislocat ing his shoulder. His
arm swung in a gruesomely dist ended way from his shoulder, as if it had nearly been ripped off.
He leaped from t he alt ar ont o Sophia, pushing Dee aside. The force knocked all t hree of t hem
t o t he ground.
Cam landed on t op of Sophia, pinning her on her side, seeking t o crush her wit h his weight . She
let out a t ort ured howl, pulled her arms weakly before her face as Cam's hands reached for her
neck.
"St rangling is t he most int imat e way t o kill someone," Cam said, as if t eaching Violence l0l.
"Now let 's see t he beaut y of your deat h."
But Miss Sophia's st ruggle was ugly. Gargles and grunt s bubbled from her t hroat . Cam's fingers
t ight ened, slammed her head wit h brut al t humps against t he floor, again and again and again.
Blood began t o t rickle from t he old woman's mout h, darker t han her lipst ick.
Daniel's hand t ouched Luce's chin, t urned her t o face him. He gripped her shoulders. They
locked eyes again, searching for a way t o t une out Sophia's wet groans.
"Gabbe and Molly knew what t hey were doing," Daniel whispered.
"They knew t hey were going t o be killed?" Luce said.
Behind t hem, Sophia whimpered, sounding almost like she'd accept ed t hat t his was how she'd
die.
"They knew t hat st opping Lucifer is more import ant t han an individual life," Daniel said. "More
t han anyt hing else t hat has happened, let t his convince you of how urgent our t ask is here."
The silence around t hem was loud. No more bloody coughs came from Miss Sophia. Luce didn't
have t o look t o know what it meant .
An arm encircled her waist . A familiar mop of black hair rest ed on her shoulder. "Come on,"
Arriane said,
"let 's get you t wo cleaned up."
Daniel handed Luce over t o Arriane and Annabelle.
"You girls go ahead."
Luce followed t he angels numbly. They walked Luce t o t he back of t he chapel, opening several
closet s unt il t hey found what t hey were looking for: a small black lacquered door t hat opened
ont o a circular, windowless room.
Annabelle lit a candelabra on a t iled t able near t he door, t hen lit anot her one in a st one alcove.
The red-brick room was t he size of a large pant ry and had no furnit ure but a raised, eight -sided
bapt ismal bat h. lnside, t he bat h was made wit h green-and-blue mosaics; out side it was marble
carved wit h a wraparound frieze of angels descending t o Eart h.
Luce felt miserable and dead inside. Even t he bapt ismal pool seemed t o mock her. Here she
was÷t he girl whose cursed soul was somehow import ant , up for grabs because she'd never
been bapt ized as a child÷about t o wash away t he dust of t wo dead angels. Was saving Luce
and Daniel wort h t heir souls? How could it be? This
"bapt ism" broke Luce's already broken heart a lit t le more.
"Don't worry," Arriane said, reading her mind. "This won't count ."
Annabelle found a sink in t he corner of t he room, behind t he bapt ismal font . She poured bucket
aft er large wooden bucket of st eaming hot wat er int o t he t ub. Arriane st ood next t o Luce, not
looking at her, just holding her hand. When t he bat h was full and refract ing a deep blue-green
from t he t iles, Annabelle and Arriane hoist ed Luce above t he surface of t he wat er. She was st ill
wearing her sweat er and jeans. They hadn't t hought t o un-dress her, but t hen t hey not iced
her boot s.
"Whoops," Annabelle said soft ly, unzipping t hem one at a t ime and t ossing t hem aside. Arriane
lift ed t he silver locket over Luce's head and slipped it inside a boot . Their wings flut t ered as
t hey lift ed off t he ground t o lower Luce int o t he warm wat er.
Luce closed her eyes, slipped her head beneat h t he wat er, st ayed a while. lf she shed a t ear,
she wouldn't feel it if she st ayed submerged. She didn't want t o feel. lt was like Penn had died
all over again, fresh pain exposing old pain t hat st ill felt fresh t o Luce.
Aft er what seemed like a long t ime, she felt hands slip under her arms t o pull her up. The
surface of t he wat er was a film of gray dust . lt didn't shimmer anymore.
Luce didn't t ake her eyes off it unt il Annabelle st art ed t ugging her sweat er up over her head.
She felt it lift off her, followed by t he T-shirt she'd been wearing underneat h. She fumbled wit h
t he but t on on her jeans. How many days had she worn t hese clot hes? lt was st range t o be
free of t hem, like slipping off a layer of skin and looking at it on t he floor.
She ran a hand t hrough her wet hair t o wipe it from her face. She hadn't realized how grimy it
was. Then she sat on t he bench at t he back of t he t ub, leaned against t he side, and st art ed
shivering. Annabelle added more hot wat er t o t he pool, but it did not hing t o st op Luce's
t remors.
"lf l'd just st ayed out in t he hallway like Dee t old me t o÷"
"Then Cam would be dead," Arriane said. "Or someone else. Sophia and her clan were going t o
make dust one way or anot her t onight . The rest of us knew t hat going int o t his, but you didn't ."
She sighed. "So coming out and t rying t o save Cam? That t ook serious gut s, Luce."
"But Gabbe÷"
"Knew what she was doing."
"That 's what Daniel said. But why would she sacrifice herself t o save÷"
"Because she's gambling on Daniel and you and t he rest of us succeeding." Arriane rest ed her
chin on her arm on t he edge of t he t ub. She t railed a finger int o t he wat er, breaking up t he
dust . "But knowing t hat doesn't make it any easier. We all loved her very much."
"She can't really be gone."
"She |s gone. Gone from t he highest alt ar in creat ion."
"What ?" That wasn't what Luce meant . She meant t hat Gabbe was her friend.
Arriane's brow furrowed. "Gabbe was t he highest of t he Archangels÷you didn't know? Her
soul was wort h . . . l don't even know how many ot hers. lt was wort h a lot ."
Luce had never before considered how her friends were ranked in Heaven, but now she
t hought about t he t imes Gabbe had looked out for her, t aken care of her, brought her food or
clot hes or advice. She'd been Luce's kind, celest ial mot her. "What does her deat h mean?"
"Way back when, Lucifer was ranked first ," Annabelle said. Aft er a pause, she glanced at Luce,
regist ered her shock. "He was right t here, next t o all t he act ion.
Then he rebelled and Gabbe moved up."
"Though being ranked next t o t he Throne is a mixed blessing," Arriane murmured. "Ask your
buddy ol' pal Bill."
Luce want ed t o ask who came aft er Gabbe, but somet hing st opped her. Maybe it had once
been Daniel, but his place in Heaven was in jeopardy because he kept on choosing Luce.
"What about Molly?" Luce finally asked. "Does her deat h . . . cancel out Gabbe's? ln t erms of
t he balance bet ween Heaven and Hell?" She felt callous t alking about her friends as
commodit ies÷but she also knew, right now, t he answer mat t ered.
"Molly was import ant , t oo, t hough a lit t le lower in t he ranks," Annabelle said. "This was before
t he Fall, of course, when she sided wit h Lucifer's host . l know we're not supposed t o speak ill of
t he dust ed, but Molly really used t o bug me. So much negat ivit y."
Luce nodded guilt ily.
"But somet hing changed in her recent ly. lt 's like she woke up." She glanced at Luce. "To
answer your quest ion, t he balance bet ween Heaven and Hell can st ill be st ruck. We'll just have
t o see how t hings play out . A lot of t hings t hat mat t er now become irrelevant if Lucifer
succeeds."
Luce looked t oward Arriane, who'd disappeared behind t he door and sneezed t hree t imes in a
row. "Hello, mot hballs!" When she emerged, she was holding a whit e t owel and an oversized
checked bat hrobe. "lt 'll have t o do for now. We'll find you a change of clot hes before we leave
Jerusalem."
When Luce didn't move from t he t ub, Arriane clucked her t ongue like she was coaxing a horse
out of it s st able, and held t he t owel out for Luce t o st ep int o.
She st ood up, feeling like a kid as Arriane engulfed her in t he t owel and dried her off. The t owel
was t hin and coarse, but t he robe t hat followed was t hick and warm.
"We need t o skedaddle before t he t ourist cavalry arrives," said Arriane, gat hering Luce's boot s.
By t he t ime t hey left t he bapt ismal room and walked back int o t he chapel, t he sun had risen,
and it cast colorful rays of light t hrough t he st ained-glass depict ion of t he Ascension in t he
window.
Beneat h t he window lay t he bodies of Miss Sophia and t he t wo ot her Elders, bound t oget her.
When t he girls crossed t o t he front of t he larger chapel, Cam, Roland, and Daniel were sit t ing
on t he cent er alt ar, t alking soft ly. Cam was drinking t he last of t he st arshot colas from Phil's
black leat her sat chel. Luce could act ually see his bloody ankle scab over and t hen t he scab
begin t o flake away. He swallowed t he last drop and rot at ed his shoulder back int o it s socket
wit h a snap.
The boys looked up t o see Luce st anding bet ween Annabelle and Arriane. All t hree of t hem
hopped off t he alt ar, but Cam st epped t oward Luce first .
She st ood very st ill as he approached. Her heart was beat ing fast .
His skin was pale, making t he green of his eyes look like emeralds. There were sweat along his
hairline and a small scrat ch near his left eye. His wing t ips had st opped bleeding and had been
bandaged wit h some kind of fancy gauze.
He smiled at her. Took her hands. His were warm and alive and t here had been a moment
when Luce t hought she might never see him again, never see his eyes shine, never wat ch his
golden wings unfurl, never hear t he way his voice rose when he made a dark joke . . . and
t hough she loved Daniel more t han anyt hing else, more t han she ever t hought possible, Luce
could not bear t o lose Cam. That was what had sent her bounding int o t he room. "Thank you,"
he said.
Luce felt her lips quiver and her eyes burn. Before she knew what she was doing, she fell int o
Cam's arms, felt his hands wrap around her back. When his chin rest ed on t he t op of her head,
she began t o weep.
He let her cry. Held her close. He whispered, "You're so brave."
Then Cam's arms shift ed and his chest pulled light ly away. For a second, she felt cold and
exposed, but t hen anot her chest , anot her pair of arms replaced Cam's. And she knew wit hout
opening her eyes t hat it was Daniel.
No ot her body in t he universe fit hers so well.
"Mind if l cut in?" he asked soft ly.
"Daniel÷" She clenched her fist s and squeezed her arms around him, want ing t o squeeze
away t he pain.
"Shhh." He held her like t hat for what might have been hours, rocking her slight ly, cradling her in
his wings unt il her t ears had t apered off and t he weight in her heart had eased enough t hat
she could breat he wit hout sniffling.
"When an angel dies," she said against his shoulder,
"does she go t o Heaven?"
"No," he said. "There is not hing for an angel aft er deat h."
"How can t hat be?"
"The Throne never ant icipat ed t hat any angel would rebel, much less t hat t he fallen angel
Azazel would spend cent uries in a deep Greek cave over a fire, developing a weapon t o kill
angels."
Her chest shuddered again. "But ÷"
"Shhh," he whispered. "Grief can choke you. lt 's dangerous, somet hing else you have t o beat ."
She t ook a deep breat h and pulled back, enough t o see his face. Her eyes felt swollen and
exhaust ed, and Daniel's shirt was soaked wit h her t ears, like she'd bapt ized him wit h her
sorrow.
Beyond Daniel's shoulder, rest ing on t he alt ar where Gabbe had been bound, somet hing silver
gleamed. lt was an enormous goblet , as big around as a punch bowl, but oblong in shape and
made of hammered silver.
"ls t hat it ?" Was t his t he relic t hat had cost her friends t heir lives?
Cam walked over t o it , picked it up. "We uncovered it at t he base of t he Pont Saint Bénézet
right before t he Elders overt ook us." He shook his head. "l do hope t his spit t oon is wort h it ."
"Where's Dee?" Luce looked around for t he person most likely t o know t he significance of t he
relic.
"She's downst airs." Daniel explained, "The church opened t o t he public a lit t le while ago, so
Dee went down t o build a small Pat ina t o cloak t he corpses of t he Elders.
Now she's at t he base of t he st airs wit h a sign t hat says t his 'wing' is closed for
reconst ruct ion."
"And it worked?" Annabelle asked, impressed.
"No one's got t en past her yet . Religious t ourist s aren't foot ball hooligans," Cam smirked.
"St orm t he prayer pillows!"
"How can you joke right now?" Luce asked.
"How can l not ?" Cam count ered darkly. "Would you prefer l cried?"
A rap sounded at t he window on t he ot her side of t he chapel. The angels st iffened as Cam
went t o open t he pane next t o t he st ained glass. His jaw clenched. "Ready t he st arshot s!"
"Cam, wait !" Daniel cried. "Don't shoot ." Cam paused. A moment lat er, a boy in a t an t rench
coat slipped t hrough t he open window. As soon as he was on his feet , Phil raised his shaved
blond head and fixed his dead whit e eyes on Cam.
Cam snarled. "You're lost , Out cast ."
"They're wit h us now, Cam." Daniel point ed t o t he pennon from his own wing, t ucked int o Phil's
lapel.
Cam swallowed, crossed his arms over his chest .
"Apologies. l did not know t hat ." He cleared his t hroat , adding, "That explains why t he
Out cast s we saw on t he bridge in Avignon were fight ing t he Elders when we arrived. They
never had a chance t o explain before all of t hem were÷"
"Killed," Phil said. "Yes. The Out cast s sacrificed t hemselves for your cause."
"The universe is everyone's cause," Daniel said, and Phil gave a curt nod.
Luce hung her head. All t hat dust on t he bridge. lt hadn't occurred t o her t hat it could have
been Out cast s.
She'd been t oo worried about Gabbe and Molly and Cam.
"These last few days have dealt a heavy blow t o t he Out cast s," Phil said. His voice bet rayed a
shade of sorrow. "Many were capt ured in Vienna at t he hands of Scale. Many more fell t o
Elders in Avignon. Four of us remain. May l show t hem in?"
"Of course," Daniel said.
Phil held out a hand t oward t he window and t hree more t an t rench coat s slipped t hrough t he
open pane: a girl Luce didn't recognize, who Phil int roduced as Phresia; Vincent , one of t he
Out cast s who'd st ood guard for Luce and Daniel at Mount Sinai; and Olianna, t he pale girl from
t he palace rooft op in Vienna. Luce flashed her a smile she knew t he Out cast girl could not see.
But Luce hoped Olianna could sense it , because Luce was glad t o see her recovered. All t he
Out cast s looked like siblings, modest and at t ract ive, alarmingly pale.
Phil point ed at t he dead Elders under t he window. "lt looks as if you need some assist ance
wit h t he disposal of t hese corpses. May t he Out cast s t ake t hem off your hands?"
Daniel let out a surprised laugh. "Please."
"Just make sure you don't pay t his geriat ric roadkill any respect ," Cam added.
"Phresia." Phil nodded at t he girl, who dropped t o her knees before t he bodies, slung t hem over
her shoulders, unfurled her mud-brown wings, and shot t hrough t he window. Luce wat ched her
cross t he sky, carrying away t he last of Miss Sophia Luce would ever see.
"What 's in t he duffel bag?" Cam point ed t o t he navy blue canvas bag st rapped over Vincent 's
shoulders.
Phil mot ioned for Vincent t o drop t he duffel bag on t he cent er alt ar. lt landed wit h a heavy
thwump. "ln Venice, Daniel Grigori asked me whet her l had any food for Lucinda Price. l have
been regret t ing t hat all l had t o offer was cheap unhealt hful snacks, t he kind of foods my
lt alian model friends prefer. This t ime, l asked a mort al lsraeli girl what sort of t hings she liked t o
eat . She led me t o a somet hing called a falafel st and." Phil shrugged and his voice lilt ed in a
quest ion at t he end.
"Are you saying l'm looking at a solid brick of falafel?" Roland raised a doubt ful eyebrow at
Vincent 's bulging bag.
"Oh no," Vincent said. "The Out cast s also purchased hummus, pit a, pickles, a cont ainer of
somet hing called t abbouleh, cucumber salad, and fresh pomegranat e juice.
Are you hungry, Lucinda Price?"
lt was an absurd amount of delicious food. Somehow it felt wrong t o eat on t he alt ars, so t hey
spread out a smorgasbord on t he floor and everyone÷Out cast , angel, mort al÷t ucked in. The
mood was somber, but t he food was filling and hot and exact ly what all of t hem seemed t o
need. Luce showed Olianna and Vincent how t o make a falafel sandwich; Cam even asked Phil
t o pass him t he hummus. At some point , Arriane flew out t he window t o find Luce some new
clot hes. She ret urned wit h a faded pair of jeans, a whit e V-neck T-shirt , and a cool lsraeli army
flak jacket wit h a pat ch depict ing an orange-and-yellow flame.
"Had t o kiss a soldier for t his," she said, but her voice didn't have t he same showy light ness it
would have if she'd been performing for Gabbe and Molly, t oo.
When none of t hem could eat any more, Dee appeared in t he doorway. She greet ed t he
Out cast s polit ely and rest ed a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "Do you have t he relic, dear?"
Before Daniel could answer, Dee's eyes found t he goblet . She lift ed it and t wirled it in her
hands, examining it carefully from all sides. "The Silver Pennon," she whispered. "Hello, old
friend."
"l t ake it she knows what t o do wit h t hat t hing," Cam said.
"She knows," Luce answered.
Dee point ed t o a brass plat e t hat had been welded int o one of t he broad sides of t he goblet ,
and mut t ered somet hing under her breat h, as if she were reading. She ran her fingers across a
hammered image depict ed t here.
Luce inched forward for a bet t er look. The illust rat ion looked like angel wings in free fall.
At last , Dee looked up t o face t hem wit h a st range expression on her face. "Well, now it all
makes sense."
"What makes sense?" Luce asked.
"My life. My purpose. Where we need t o go. What we need t o do. lt 's t ime."
"Time for what ?" Luce asked. They'd gat hered all t he art ifact s now, but she didn't underst and
any bet t er what t hey had left t o do.
"Time for my final act , dear," Dee said warmly.
"Don't worry, l'll walk you t hrough it , st ep by st ep."
"To Mount Sinai?" Daniel rose from t he floor and helped Luce t o her feet .
"Close." Dee shut her eyes and t ook a deep breat h, as if t o draw t he memory from wit hin her
lungs. "There's a pair of t rees in t he mount ains about a mile above Saint Cat herine's
Monast ery. l'd like for us t o convene t here.
lt is called t he Qayom Ma/ak. "
"Qayom Ma/ak . . . Qayom Ma/ak,¨ Daniel repeat ed.
The word sounded like kayome ma/aka. "That 's in my book." He unzipped t he sat chel and
flipped t hrough some pages, mut t ering under his breat h. At last , he held it out for Dee t o see.
Luce st epped forward t o t ake a look. At t he bot t om of t he page, about a hundred pages in,
Daniel's finger point ed at a faded not e scribbled in a language Luce didn't recognize. Next t o
t he not e he had writ t en t he same group of let t ers t hree t imes: Q¥WM' Ml'K'. Q¥WM' Ml'K'.
Q¥WM' Ml'K'.
"Well done, Daniel." Dee smiled. "You knew it all along. Though Qayom Ma/ak is much easier for
modern t ongues t o pronounce t han÷" She made a st ring of complicat ed gut t ural noises Luce
couldn't have replicat ed.
"l never knew what it meant ," Daniel said.
Dee looked out t he open window, at t he holy cit y's aft ernoon sky. "Soon you will, my boy. Very
soon you will."
THIRTEEN
THE EXCAVATION
Throosh of wingbeat s overhead.
Tendrils of ambling cloud sliding over skin.
Luce was soaring across darkness, deep in t he drug-like t unnel of anot her flight . She was
weight less as t he wind.
A single st ar hung in t he cent er of a navy sky, miles above t he belt of rainbow light near t he
horizon.
Twinkling light s on darkened ground seemed impossibly far away. Luce was in anot her world,
ascending int o infinit y, lit up by t he glow of brilliant silver wings.
They beat again, t hrust ing forward, t hen back, carrying her higher . . . higher . . .
The world was quiet up here, like she had it all t o herself.
Higher . . . higher . . .
No mat t er how high, she was always canopied by t he warm silver winglight overhead.
She reached for Daniel, as if t o share t his peace, t o caress his hand where it always rest ed,
clasped around her waist .
Her hand met her own bare skin. His hand wasn't t here.
Dan|e/ wasn't t here.
There were only Luce's body, and a darkening horizon, and a single dist ant st ar.
She jolt ed from her sleep. Aloft , awake, she found Daniel's hands again÷one holding her waist ,
t he ot her higher, draped across her chest . Right where t hey always were.
lt was lat e aft ernoon÷not night t ime. She and Daniel and t he ot hers climbed a ladder of puffy
whit e clouds t hat obscurred t he st ars.
Just a dream.
A dream in which luce had been t he one flying. Everybody had t hese dreams. You were
supposed t o wake up just before you hit t he ground. But Luce, who flew in real life every day,
had awakened when she realized she was flying under her own power. Why hadn't she
looked up t hen, t o see what her wings looked like, t o see if t hey were glorious and proud?
She closed her eyes, want ing t o ret urn t o t hat simpler sky, where Lucifer wasn't t hundering
t oward t hem, where Gabbe and Molly weren't gone.
"l don't know if l can do t his," Daniel said.
Her eyes shot open, back t o realit y. Below, t he red granit e peaks of t he Sinai Peninsula were so
jagged t hey looked like t hey were made of shards of broken glass.
"What is it you can't do?" Luce asked. "Find t he locat ion of t he Fall? Dee's going t o help us,
Daniel. l t hink she knows exaclt y how t o find it ."
"Sure," he said, unconvinced. "Dee's great . We're lucky t o have her. But even if we find t he Fall
sit e, l don't know how we're going t o st op Lucifer. And if we can't "÷
his chest heaved against her back÷"l can't go t hrough anot her six t housand years of losing
you." Throughout her lives, Luce had seen Daniel brooding, frust rat ed, worried, passionat e,
brooding again, t ender, diffident , desperat ely sad. But she had never heard him sound
defeat ed. The dull surrender in his t one cut int o her, sudden and deep, t he way a st arshot
sliced t hrough angel flesh.
"You won't have t o do t hat ."
"l keep pict uring what we're looking at if Lucifer succeeds." He fell back slight ly from t he
format ion t hey were flying in÷Cam and Dee t aking t he lead, Arriane, Roland, and Annabelle
just behind, t he Out cast s fanned out around t hem all. "lt 's t oo much, Luce. This is why angels
choose sides, why people join t eams. lt cost s t oo much not t o; it weighs t oo heavily t o soldier
on alone." There was a t ime when Luce would have t urned inst inct ively inward, made insecure
by Daniel's doubt , as if it suggest ed a weakness in t heir relat ionship. But now she was armed
wit h t he lessons from t heir past . She knew, when Daniel was t oo t ired t o remember, t he mea-
sure of his love.
"l don't want t o go t hrough it all again. All t hat t ime wit hout you, always wait ing, my foolish
opt imism t hat someday it would be different ÷"
"Your opt imism was just ified! Look at me. Look at us! This |s different . l know it is, Daniel. l saw
us in Helst on and Tibet and Tahit i. We were in love, sure, but it was not hing like what we have
now." They'd dropped back fart her, out of earshot of t he ot hers. They were just Luce and
Daniel, t wo lovers t alking in t he sky. "l'm st ill here," she said. "l'm here because you believed in
us. You believed in me."
"l did÷l do believe in you."
"l believe in you, t oo." She heard a smile ent er her voice. "l always have."
They were not going t o fail.
They descended int o a dust st orm.
lt hung over t he desert like a vast comfort er, as if enormous hands had t ossed t he Sahara int o
t he air.
Wit hin t he t hick, t awny haze, t he angels and t heir surroundings merged int o indist inct ion:
ground was overlapped wit h whirling sand; horizon was erased by great pulsat ing sheet s of
brown. Everyt hing looked pixilat ed, bat hed in dust y st at ic, like whit e noise rust ed, a
foreshadowing of what would come if Lucifer got his way.
Sand filled Luce's nose and mout h. lt reached beneat h her clot hes and scrat ched her skin. lt
was far harsher t han t he velvet y dust left behind by Gabbe's and Molly's deat hs, a bleak
reminder of somet hing more beaut iful and worse.
Luce lost all sense of her surroundings. She had no idea how close t hey were t o landing unt il
her feet brushed t he invisible rocky ground. She sensed t hat t here were great rocks, maybe
mount ains, t o t heir left , but she couldn't see more t han a few feet in front of her. Only t he glow
of t he angels' wings, dulled by waves of sand and wind, signaled where t he ot hers were.
When Daniel released her on t he uneven rock, Luce t ugged her lsraeli army jacket up around
her ears t o block her face from t he st ing of t he sand. They had gat hered in a circle, t he angels'
wings generat ing a halo of light on a rocky pat h at t he foot hills of a mount ain: Phil and t he
ot her remaining t hree Out cast s, Arriane, Annbelle, Cam and Roland, Luce and Daniel, and Dee
st anding in t he cent er of t hem all, as calmly as a museum docent giving a t our.
"Don't worry, it 's oft en like t his in t he aft ernoon!" Dee shout ed over a wind so rough it t ossed
t he angels'
wings. She used her hand like a visor, placing it sideways on her brow. "This will all blow over
soon! Once we reach t he locat ion of t he Qayom Ma/ak, we will bring all t hree relics t oget her.
They will t ell us t he t rue st ory of t he Fall."
"Exact ly where |s t he Qayom Ma/ak?" Daniel shout ed.
"We're going t o have t o climb t hat mount ain." Dee point ed behind her at t he barely visible
promont ory whose foot hills had been t he angels' landing place. What lit t le Luce could see of
t he mount ain looked unfat homably sheer.
"You mean fly, right ?" Arriane clicked t he heels of her black sneakers t oget her. "Never been
much of a 'climber.'"
Dee shook her head. She reached for t he duffel bag Phil was holding, unzipped it , and pulled
out a pair of st urdy brown hiking boot s. "l'm glad t he rest of you are already wearing sensible
shoes." She kicked off her point y high heels, t ossed t hem int o t he bag, and began lacing up t he
boot s. "lt 's no picnic of a hike, but in t hese condit ions, t he pat h t o t he Qayom Ma/ak is really
best navigat ed by foot . You can use your wings for balance against t he winds."
"Why don't we wait out t he sand st orm?" Luce suggest ed, her eyes t earing in t he dust y wind.
"No, dear." Dee slipped t he black st rap of t he duffel bag back over Phil's narrow shoulder.
"There's no t ime.
lt must be now."
So t hey formed a line behind Dee, t rust ing her t o navigat e again. Daniel's hand found Luce's.
He st ill seemed morose aft er t heir conversat ion, but his grip on her hand never slackened.
"Well, so long, it 's been good t o know ya!" Arriane joked as t he ot hers began t o climb.
"lf you seek me, ask t he dust ," Cam said in reply.
Dee's rout e led t hem up int o t he mount ains, along a rocky pat h t hat grew narrow and st eeper.
lt was st rewn wit h jagged rocks Luce couldn't see unt il she'd t ripped on t hem. The sinking sun
looked like t he moon, it s light diminished and pale behind t he clogged curt ain of air.
She was coughing, gagging on dust , her t hroat st ill sore from t he bat t le in Vienna. She
zigzagged left and right , never seeing where she went , only sensing it was always vaguely up.
She focused on Dee's yellow cardigan, which rippled like a flag from t he old woman's lit t le body.
Always Luce held on t o Daniel's hand.
Here and t here t he dust st orm snagged around a boulder, creat ing a brief pocket of visibilit y. ln
one of t hose moment s, Luce spot t ed a pale green speck in t he dist ance. lt sat along a pat h
hundreds of feet above t hem and equally as far t o t he right from where t hey st ood.
That dash of mut ed color was t he only t hing breaking t he rhyt hm of t he barren sepia
landscape for miles. Luce st ared at it as if it were a mirage unt il Dee's hand brushed her
shoulder.
"That 's our dest inat ion, dear. Good t o keep your eyes on t he prize."
Then t he st orm wrest ed it self free from t he boulder's angles, dust swirled, and t he green speck
was gone. The world became a mass of grainy bullet s once again.
lmages of Bill seemed t o form in t he swirling sand: t he way he'd cackled at t heir first meet ing,
changing from an impost er Daniel t o a t oad; his inscrut able expression when she'd met
Shakespeare at t he Globe. The images helped Luce right herself when she st umbled on t he
pat h. She would not st op unt il she beat t he devil.
lmages of Gabbe and Molly drove Luce forward, t oo.
The flash of t heir wings in t wo great gold and silver arcs played out again before Luce's eyes.
¥ou're not t|red, she t old herself. ¥ou're not hungry.
At last t hey felt t heir way around a t all boulder shaped like an arrowhead, it s t ip point ed t o t he
sky. Dee gest ured for t hem t o huddle against t he up-mount ain face of t he arrowhead, and
t here, finally, t he wind died down.
Dusk had fallen. The mount ains wore a darkening silver dress. They st ood on a mesa about
t he size of Lu-ce's living room at home. Except for a small gap where t he pat h had dropped
t hem off, t he small round expanse was bordered on all sides by sheer, curving russet cliffs of
rock, forming a space t hat could have served as a nat ural amphit heat er. lt shielded t hem from
more t han merely wind: Even if t here hadn't been a sand st orm, most of t he mesa would have
been hidden by t he arrowhead boulder and t he high surrounding rocks.
Here, no one coming up t he pat h could see t hem.
Pursuing Scale would have t o luck int o flying direct ly over t hem. This enclosed st eppe was a
kind of sanct uary.
"l'd like t o say l'm on a nat ural high," Cam said.
"This hike would have ru|ned John Denver," Roland agreed.
Ghost s of rivers left winding veins int o t he dust -encrust ed ground. The craggy mout h of a cave
opened at t he base of t he rock wall t o t he left of t he arrowhead boulder.
On t he far side of t he mesa, slight ly t o t he right of where t hey st ood, a rockslide had come t o
rest against t he sheer curving wall of st one. The pile was made of boulders t hat varied in size
from small as a snowball t o bigger t han a refrigerat or. Lichen grew bet ween cracks in t he rocks,
seeming t o hold t he boulders t oget her on t he slope.
A pale-leafed olive t ree and a dwarf fig t ree st rained t o grow diagonally around t he boulders on
t he slope.
This must have been t he green speck Luce had seen at a dist ance from below. Dee had said it
was t heir dest inat ion, but Luce couldn't believe t hey'd climbed all t hat way t hrough t he long
expanse of writ hing dust .
Everybody's wings looked like t hey belonged t o Out cast s, brown and bat t ered, emit t ing t he
dullest glow. The act ual Out cast s' wings looked even more fragile t han normal, like cobwebs.
Dee used a wind-st ret ched sweat er sleeve t o wipe t he dust from her face. She ran red-nail-
polished fingers t hrough wild red hair. Somehow t he old lady st ill looked elegant . Luce didn't
want t o consider what she looked like.
"Never a dull moment !" Dee's voice t railed behind her as she disappeared int o t he cave.
They followed her inside, st opping a few feet in, where t he dusky light wit hered int o darkness.
Luce leaned against a cold reddish-brown sandst one wall next t o Daniel. His head nearly
skimmed t he low ceiling. All t he angels had t o t uck t heir wings down t o accommo-dat e t he
t ight ness of t he cave.
Luce heard a scraping sound, and t hen Dee's shadow st ret ched int o t he lit port ion at t he
ent rance of t he cave.
She pushed a large wooden chest t oward t hem wit h t he t oe of her hiking boot .
Cam and Roland rushed t o help her, t he mut ed amber glow of t heir dust y wings alt ering t he
darkness of t he space. Each lift ed a corner of t he chest and t hey carried it t o a nat ural alcove
in t he cave t hat Dee's gest ures indicat ed. At her approving nod, t hey set it down against t he
cave wall.
"Thank you, gent lemen." Dee ran her fingers along t he brass edge of t he t runk. "lt seems like
only yest erday l had t his cart ed up here. Though it must have been nearly t wo hundred years
ago." Her face furrowed int o a small frown of nost algia. "Oh, well, a person's life is but a day.
Gabbe helped me, t hough because of t he dust st orms, she never recalled t he exact locat ion.
That was an angel who knew t he value of advance preparat ion.
She knew t his day would come."
Dee slipped an elegant silver key from t he pocket of her cardigan and t wist ed it int o t he
chest 's lock. As t he old t hing creaked open, Luce edged forward, expect ing somet hing magical
÷or at least hist oric÷t o be revealed.
lnst ead, Dee t ossed out six st andard-issue army cant eens, t hree small bronze lant erns, a
heavy st ack of blanket s and t owels, and an armful of crowbars, pickaxes, and shovels.
"Drink up if you need t o. Lucinda first ." She dist ribut ed t he cant eens, which were filled wit h cold,
delicious wat er. Luce inhaled t he cont ent s of her cant een and wiped her mout h on t he back of
her hand. When she licked her lips, t hey were prickly wit h dry sand.
"That 's bet t er, isn't it ?" Dee smiled. She slid open a box of mat ches and lit a candle in each one
of t he lant erns. Light flickered off t he walls, generat ing dramat ic shadows as t he angels bent
over, pivot ed, brushed each ot her off.
Arriane and Annabelle scrubbed at t heir wings wit h t he dry t owels. Daniel, Roland, and Cam
preferred t o shake t he sand out of t heirs, beat ing t hem against t he rocks unt il t he soft sssss
sound of sand falling on t he st one floor faded. The Out cast s seemed cont ent t o st ay dirt y.
Soon t he cave was bright ly lit wit h an angelic glow, as if someone had st art ed a bonfire.
"What now?" Roland asked, pouring t he sand out of one of his leat her boot s.
Dee had moved t o t he mout h of t he cave, her back t o t he ot hers. She walked t o t he flat st one
expanse out side, t hen wait ed for t hem t o follow.
They gat hered in a small half circle, facing t he sloping pile of boulders and t he st ruggling olive
and fig t rees.
"We need t o go |ns|de, " Dee said.
"lnside where?" Luce t urned around t o look behind her. The cave t hey'd just walked out of was
t he only "inside" opt ion Luce could see. Out here, t here was only t he flat floor of t he mesa and
t he rockslide against t he cliff wall.
"Sanct uaries are built on t op of sanct uaries are built on t op of sanct uaries," Dee said. "The first
one on Eart h used t o st and right here under t his slope of fallen rock.
lnside it , t he final piece of t he fallens' early hist ory is encoded. This is t he Qayom Ma/ak. Aft er
t he first sanct uary was dest royed, several ot hers followed in it s place, but t he Qayom Ma/ak
always remained wit hin t hem."
"You mean t hat mort als have used t he Qayom Ma/ak, t oo?" Luce asked.
"Wit hout much t hought or underst anding. Over t he years it grew more and more
misunderst ood by each new group t o build t heir t emple here. For many, t his sit e has been
considered unlucky"÷she glanced at Arriane, who shift ed her weight ÷"but t hat is no one's
fault . lt was a long t ime ago. Tonight , we uneart h what once was lost ."
"You mean t he knowledge of our Fall?" Roland paced t he perimet er of t he slope of rocks.
"That 's what t he Qayom Ma/ak will t ell us?"
Dee smiled crypt ically. "The words are Aramaic.
They mean . . . well, it 's bet t er if you just see for yourselves."
Beside t hem, Arriane was chewing noisily on a st rand of her hair, her hands st uffed deep int o
t he pocket s of her overalls, her wings st iff and unmoving. She st ared at t he fig and olive t rees,
as if in a t rance.
Luce not iced now what was st range about t he t rees.
The reason t hey seemed t o grow diagonally out of t he st one was t hat t heir t runks lay buried
deep beneat h t he boulders.
"The t rees," she said.
"Yes, once t hey were fully exposed." Dee bent down t o caress t he wit hering green leaves of
t he lit t le fig t ree.
"As was t he Qayom Ma/ak. " She rose and pat t ed t he heap of boulders. "This whole mesa was
once much larger. A lovely, vibrant place at t imes, t hough t hat 's hard t o imagine now."
"What happened t o it ?" Luce asked. "How was t he sanct uary dest royed?"
"The most recent one was covered up by t his rockslide. That was about seven hundred years
ago, aft er a part icularly severe eart hquake. But even before t hat , t he list of calamit ies t o occur
here was unprecedent ed÷
flood, fire, murder, war, explosions." She paused, peering int o t he pile of boulders as if it were a
mass of cryst al balls. "St ill, t he only part t hat mat t ers endures. At least l hope it does. And
t hat 's why we need t o go inside." Cam ambled over t o one of t he larger boulders, leaned
against it wit h his arms crossed. "l excel at many t hings, Dee, not t he least of which is rock. But
passing through rock isn't one of my gift s." Dee clapped her hands. "That is precisely why l
packed t he shovels all t hose years ago. We'll have t o clear t he rocks aside," Dee said. "We
seek what lies wit hin."
"You're saying we're going t o excavat e t he Qayom Ma/ak?" Annabelle asked, bit ing pink
fingernails.
Dee t ouched a mossy pat ch at t he cent er of t he mound of boulders, spilled long before from
t he cliffs.
"l'd st art here if l were you!"
When t hey realized t hat Dee was serious about dis-mant ling t he t ower of boulders, Roland
dist ribut ed t he t ools Dee had flung out of t he wooden chest . They set t o work.
"As you clear, make sure you leave t his area free." Dee gest ured t o t he open space bet ween
t he rockslide and t he head of t he t rail t hat had brought t hem t here.
She marked off an area of about t en square feet . "We're going t o need it ."
Luce t ook a pickax and t apped it uncert ainly against t he rock.
"Do you know what it looks like?" she said t o Daniel, whose crowbar was wedged around a
rock behind t he fig t ree. "How will we recognize t he Qayom Ma/ak when we find it ?"
"There's no illust rat ion in my book for t his." Daniel split t he rock easily wit h a t ilt of his hand.
The muscles of his arms t rembled as he lift ed t he boulder halves, each t he size of a large
suit case. He t ossed t hem behind him, careful not t o let t hem land inside t he area Dee had
marked off. "We'll just have t o t rust t hat Dee remembers."
Luce st epped int o t he open space where t he boulder Daniel moved aside had been. The rest
of t he olive and fig t rees were now exposed, down t o t heir t runks. They had been nearly
flat t ened by t he t ons of fallen rock. Her gaze flew around t he gigant ic pile of rocks t hey'd have
t o clear. lt was easily t went y feet high. Could anyt hing have wit hst ood t he might of t his
landslide?
"Don't worry," Dee called out , as if reading Luce's mind. "lt 's in t here somewhere, t ucked away
as safely as your first memory of love."
The Out cast s had flown t o t he t op of t he slope. Phil showed t he ot hers where t o cast t he
boulders t hey'd already chipped away, and t hey slammed t hem back int o t he face of t he slope,
causing t he compounded rock t o fract ure and slide down t he sides.
"Hey! l see some really old yellow brick." Annabelle's wings flut t ered above t he rockslide's
highest point , where it edged up against t he mount ain's sheer, vert ical walls. She heaved away
some debris wit h her shovel. "l t hink it might be a wall of t he sanct uary."
"A wall, dear? Very good," Dee said. "There should be t hree more of t hem, t he way walls oft en
go. Keep digging." She was dist ract ed, pacing t he flat square of rock she'd marked off near t he
t railhead, not not icing t he progress of t he dig. She seemed t o be count ing somet hing. Her gaze
was fixed on t he mesa floor. Luce wat ched Dee for a few moment s and saw t hat t he old lady
was count ing her st eps, as if blocking a play.
She looked up, caught Luce's eye. "Come wit h me."
Luce glanced at Daniel, at his sweat -glist ening skin.
He was busy wit h a large, unwieldy boulder. She t urned and followed Dee int o t he mout h of t he
cave.
Dee's lant ern wobbled st robe-like int o t he dark recesses. The cave was infinit ely darker and
colder wit hout t he glow of angel wings. Dee rummaged for a few moment s in her chest .
"Where is t hat bloody broom?" Dee asked.
Luce crouched over Dee, holding up anot her lant ern t o help light her search. She reached int o
t he enormous t runk and her hands brushed t he rough st raw of a broom.
"Here."
"Wonderful. Always t he last place you look, especially when you can't see." Dee slung t he
broom over her shoulder. "l want t o show you somet hing while t he ot hers cont inue wit h t he
excavat ion."
They walked back out ont o t he mesa, int o t he echoing of met al st riking st one. Dee st opped at
t he edge of t he rockslide, facing t he space she'd asked t he angels t o leave clear. She began t o
drag t he broom in brisk st raight lines. Luce had t hought t he mesa was all made of t he same
flat red rock, but as Dee brushed and swept and brushed and swept , Luce not iced t here was a
shallow marble plat form underneat h. And a pat t ern was emerg-ing: Pale yellow st one
alt ernat ed wit h whit e rocks t o form an int ricat e, inlaid design.
Event ually Luce recognized a symbol: one long line of yellow st one, edged by whit e descending
diagonal lines of decreasing lengt h.
Luce crouched down t o run her fingers along t he st one. lt looked like an arrowhead, point ing
away from t he t op of t he mount ain, back down in t he direct ion from which t he angels had
arrived.
"This is t he Arrowhead Slab," Dee said. "Once everyt hing is ready, we will use it as a kind of
st age. Cam craft ed t he mosaic many years ago, t hough l doubt t hat he remembers. He's been
t hrough so much since t hen.
Heart break is it s own form of amnesia."
"You know about t he woman who broke Cam's heart ?" Luce whispered, remembering t hat
Daniel had t old her never t o ment ion it .
Dee frowned, nodded, and point ed t o t he yellow arrow in t he marble t iles. "What do you t hink
of t he design?"
"l t hink it 's beaut iful," Luce said.
"l do, t oo," Dee said. "l have a similar one t at t ooed over my heart ."
Smiling, Dee unbut t oned t he t op t wo but t ons of her cardigan t o reveal a yellow camisole. She
drew t he neckline down a couple of inches, exposing t he pale skin of her chest . At last , she
point ed t o a black t at t oo over her breast . lt was precisely t he same shape as t he lines in t he
st one on t he ground.
"What does it mean?" Luce asked.
Dee pat t ed t he skin beneat h t he t at t oo and pulled her camisole back up. "l can't wait t o t ell
you"÷she smiled, pivot ing t o face t he slope of rock behind t hem÷"but first t hings first . Look
how well t hey're doing!" The angels and Out cast s had cleared away a port ion of t he ext erior of
t he rockslide. The right angle of t wo old brick walls rose several feet out of t he debris. They
were badly damaged, unint ended windows smashed int o exist ence here and t here. The roof
was gone. Some of t he bricks were blackened by a long-forgot t en fire.
Ot hers looked moldy, as if recovering from a prehist oric flood. But t he rect angular shape of t he
former t emple was st art ing t o become clear.
"Dee," Roland called, waving t he woman over t o t he nort hern wall t o inspect his progress.
Luce ret urned t o Daniel's side. ln t he t ime she'd been wit h Dee, he'd cleared a heaping pile of
rock and st acked it neat ly t o t he right of t he slope. She felt bad t hat she was barely helping.
She picked up t he pickax again.
They worked for hours. lt was well aft er midnight by t he t ime t hey'd cleared half t he slope.
Dee's lant erns lit t he mesa, but Luce liked st aying close t o Daniel, using t he unique glow of his
wings t o see. Her jaw ached from t he t ension in her face. Her shoulders were sore and her eyes
st ung. But she didn't st op. She didn't complain.
She kept hacking. She t ook a swing at a square of pink st one exposed by a boulder Daniel had
just removed, expect ing her ax t o glance off solid rock. lnst ead, she sliced int o somet hing soft .
Luce dropped her ax and burrowed wit h her hands int o t his surprisingly claylike pat ch. She'd
reached a layer of sandst one so crumbly it fell apart wit h t he t ouch of a finger. She moved t he
lant ern closer t o get a bet t er look as she t ore away large chunks. Underneat h several inches of
clay she felt somet hing smoot h and hard. "l found somet hing!" The ot hers circled around as
Luce wiped her hands on her jeans and used her fingers t o brush clean a square t ile about t wo
feet in diamet er. Once, it must have been complet ely paint ed, but all t hat was visible now was
a t hin out line of a man wit h a halo orbit ing his head.
"ls t his it ?" she asked, excit ed.
Dee's shoulder brushed against Luce's. She t ouched t he t ile wit h her t humb. "l'm afraid not ,
dear. This is just a depict ion of our friend Jesus. We have t o go furt her back t han him."
"Furt her back?" Luce asked.
"All t he way inside." Dee knocked on t he t ile. "This is t he façade of t he most recent sanct uary,
a medieval monast ery for part icularly ant isocial monks. We must dig down t o t he original
st ruct ure, behind t his wall." She not iced Luce's hesit at ion. "Don't be afraid t o dest roy ancient
iconography," Dee said. "lt must be done t o get t o what 's rea//y old." She looked at t he sky, as
if searching for t he sun, but it had long sunk below t he flat drop of horizon behind t hem. The
st ars were out . "Oh dear. Time t icks on, doesn't it ? Keep going! You're doing fine!"
Finally, Phil st epped forward wit h his crowbar and bashed t hrough t he Jesus t ile. lt left a hole,
and t he space behind it was hollow and dark and smelled st range and musky and old.
The Out cast s leaped on t he bust ed t ile, widening t he crevice so t hey could dig deeper inside.
They were hard workers, efficient in t heir dest ruct ion. They found t hat wit hout a roof over t he
sanct uary, t he rockslide had filled t he int erior, as well. The Out cast s t ook t urns t earing t he wall
away and cast ing aside t he boulders flowing out from t he st ruct ure.
Arriane st ood away from t he group, in a darkened corner of t he enclosed plat eau, kicking a pile
of rocks as if t rying t o st art a lawn mower. Luce walked over t o her.
"Hey," Luce said. "You okay?"
Arriane looked up, t humbing t he st raps of her overalls. A crazy smile flashed across her face.
"Remember when we had det ent ion t oget her? They made us clean up t he cemet ery at Sword
& Cross? We got paired t oget her, scrubbing t hat angel?"
"Of course." Luce had been miserable t hat day÷
chewed out by Molly, anxious about and infat uat ed wit h Daniel, and, come t o t hink of it , unsure
whet her Arriane liked her or was simply t aking pit y on her.
"That was fun, wasn't it ?" Arriane's voice sounded dist ant . "l'm always going t o remember
t hat ."
"Arriane," Luce said, "t hat 's not what you're really t hinking about right now, is it ? What is it
about t his place t hat 's making you hide over here?"
Arriane st ood wit h her feet balanced on her shovel and swayed back and fort h. She wat ched
t he Out cast s and t he ot her angels uneart hing a t all int erior column from t he rocks.
Finally, Arriane closed her eyes and blurt ed out , "l'm t he reason t his sanct uary doesn't exist
anymore. l'm t he reason it 's bad luck."
"But ÷Dee said it wasn't anyone's fault . What happened?"
"Aft er t he Fall," she said, "l was get t ing my st rengt h back, looking for shelt er, for a way t o mend
my wings. l hadn't yet ret urned t o t he Throne. l didn't even know how t o do t hat . l didn't
remember what l was. l was alone and l saw t his place and l÷"
"You wandered int o t he sanct uary t hat used t o be here," Luce said, remembering what Daniel
had t old her about t he reason fallen angels didn't go near churches.
They had all been edgy at t he Church of t he Holy Sepulcher. They wouldn't go near t he chapel
on Pont Saint Benezet .
"l didn't know!" Arriane's chest shuddered when she inhaled.
"Of course you didn't ." Luce put her arm around Arriane's side. She was skin and bones and
wings. The angel rest ed her head on Luce's shoulder. "Did it blow up?" Arriane nodded. "The
way you do . . . no"÷she correct ed herself÷"t he way you used t o in your ot her lives.
Poof. The whole t hing up in flames. Only, t his wasn't ÷
sorry for saying t his÷like, all beaut ifully t ragic or romant ic. This was bleak and black and
abso/ute. Like a door slamming in my face. That 's when l knew t hat l was really kicked out of
Heaven." She t urned t o Luce, her wide blue eyes more innocent t han Luce could remember
seeing t hem. "l never meant t o leave. lt was an accident , a lot of us just got swept up in . . .
someone else's bat t le."
She shrugged and a corner of her mout h curved mis-chievously. "Maybe l got t oo used t o being
a reject .
Kinda suit s me, t hough, don't you t hink?" She made a pist ol wit h her fingers and fired it in
Cam's direct ion. "l guess l don't mind running around wit h t his pack of out -laws." Then Arriane's
face changed, any t race of whimsy disappearing. She gripped Luce by t he shoulders and
whispered, "That 's it ."
"What ?" Luce spun around.
The angels and t he Out cast s had cleared away several t ons of st one. They were now
st anding where t hepile of rocks had st ood. lt had t aken unt il just before dawn.
Around t hem rose t he inner sanct uary Dee had promised t hey would find. The old, elegant lady
was as good as her word.
Only t wo frail walls were left , forming a right angle, but t he gray t ile border on t he floor
suggest ed an original design t hat spanned roughly t went y square feet .
Large solid marble bricks made up t he bases of t he walls, where smaller crumbling sandst one
bricks had once held up a roof. Weat hered friezes decorat ed port ions of t he st ruct ure÷winged
creat ures so old and worn t hey almost blended back int o t he st one. An ancient fire had
scorched port ions of t he flared decorat ive cornices near t he t ops of t he walls.
The now complet ely uncovered fig and olive t rees marked t he barrier bet ween Dee's broom-
swept Arrowhead Slab and t he excavat ed sanct uary. The t wo missing walls left t he rest of t he
st ruct ure exposed t o Luce's imaginat ion, which pict ured ancient pilgrims kneeling t o pray here.
lt was clear where t hey would kneel: Four lonic marble columns wit h flut ed bases and scrolled
caps had been built around a raised plat form in t he cent er of t he t ile. And on t hat plat form
st ood a giant rect angular alt ar built of pale t an st one.
lt looked familiar, but unlike anyt hing Luce had ever seen before. lt was caked wit h dirt and
rocks and Luce could make out t he shadow of a decorat ion carved on t op: t wo st one angels
facing each ot her, each t he size of a large doll. They'd once been paint ed wit h gold, it seemed,
but now only flecks of t heir former sheen remained. The carved angels kneeled in prayer,
heads down, halo-free, wit h t heir beaut ifully det ailed wings arched forward so t hat t he t ips of
t hem were t ouching.
"Yes." Dee t ook a deep breat h. "That 's it . Qayom Ma/ak. lt means 't he Overseer of t he Angels.'
Or, as l like t o call it , 't he Angels' Aide.' lt holds a secret no soul has ever deciphered: t he key t o
where t he fallen fell t o Eart h.
Do you remember it , Arriane?"
"l t hink so." Arriane seemed nervous as she st epped t oward t he sculpt ure. When she reached
t he plat form, she st ood st ill for a long t ime before t he kneeling angels.
Then she kneeled herself. She t ouched t heir wing t ips, t he place where t he t wo angels
connect ed. She shivered.
"l only saw it for a second before÷"
"Yes," Dee said. "You were blast ed out of t he sanct uary. The force of t he explosion caused
t he first avalanche t hat buried t he Qayom Ma/ak, but t he fig and olive t rees remained exposed,
a beacon for t he ot her sanct uaries t hat were built in t he coming years. The Christ ians were
here, t he Greeks, t he Jews, t he Moors. Their sanct uaries fell, t oo, t o avalanche, fire, t o scandal
or fear, creat ing an impenet rable wall around t he Qayom Ma/ak. You needed me t o help you
find it again. And you couldn't find me unt il you rea//y needed me."
"What happens now?" Cam asked. "Don't t ell me we have t o pray."
Dee's eyes never left t he Qayom Ma/ak, even as she t ossed Cam t he t owel draped over her
shoulder. "Oh, it 's far worse, Cam. Now you've got t o clean. Polish t he angels, especially t heir
wings. Polish t hem unt il t hey shine. We are going t o need t he moonlight t o shine on t hem in
precisely t he right way."
FOURTEEN
AIR APPARENT
Boom.
lt sounded like t hunder, t he brewing of a dark t ornado. Luce jumped awake inside t he cave,
where she'd fallen asleep on Daniel's shoulder. She hadn't meant t o doze off, but Dee had
insist ed on rest ing before explain-ing t he purpose of t he Qayom Ma/ak. St irred from sleep now,
Luce had t he feeling t hat many precious hours had passed. She was sweat ing in her flannel
sleeping bag. The silver locket felt hot against her chest .
Daniel was lying very st ill, his eyes fixed on t he mout h of t he cave. The rumbling st opped.
Luce propped herself up on her elbows, not iced Dee across from her, asleep in t he fet al
posit ion, st irring slight ly, her red hair loose and messy. To Dee's left lay t he Out cast s' empt y
sleeping bags; t he st range creat ures st ood alert , huddled at t he back of t he small space, t heir
drab wings overlapping. To her right , Annabelle and Arriane were asleep, or at least rest ing,
t heir silver wings ent wined uninhibit edly, like sist ers.
The cave was calm. Luce must have dreamed t he rumbling. She was st ill t ired.
When she rolled over, nest ling her back int o Daniel's chest so t hat he was cradling her wit h his
right wing, her eyelids flut t ered shut . Then t hey flew open.
She was face t o face wit h Cam.
He was inches away, on his side, head propped on his hand, green eyes holding hers as if t hey
were bot h in a t rance. He opened his mout h as if t o say somet hing÷
BOOM.
The room t rembled like a leaf. For an inst ant , t he air seemed t o t ake on a st range
t ransparency. Cam's body shimmered, bot h t here and somehow not t here, his very exist ence
seeming t o flicker.
"Timequake," Daniel said.
"A big mot her," Cam agreed.
Luce sprang upright , gaping at her own body in t he sleeping bag, at Daniel's hand on her knee,
at Arriane, whose muffled voice called out , "l'wuzznt me," unt il Annabelle's wing slapped her
awake. All of t hem were l/|cker|ng before each ot her's eyes. Solidly present one moment , as
insubst ant ial as ghost s t he next .
The t imequake had jarred loose a dimension in which t hey weren't even there.
The cave around t hem shuddered. Sand sift ed down from t he walls. But unlike t hose of Luce
and her friends, t he physical propert ies of t he red rock remained fixed, as if t o prove t hat only
people÷souls÷were at risk of being erased.
"The Qayom Ma/akl¨ Phil said. "A rockslide would bury it again."
Luce wat ched, queasy, as t he Out cast 's pale wings flickered when he scrambled wildly t oward
t he mout h of t he cave.
"This is a seismic shift in realit y, Phillip, not an eart hquake," Dee called, st opping Phil. Her voice
sounded like someone was t urning her volume up and down. "l appreciat e your concern, but
we'll just have t o ride t his one out ."
And t hen t here was one last great boom, a long, t errible rumbling during which Luce couldn't
see any of t hem, and t hen t hey were back, solid, rea/ again. There was a sudden hush around
everyt hing, so absolut e t hat Luce heard her heart pounding in her chest .
"There, now," Dee said. "The worst of it is over."
"ls everyone okay?" Daniel asked.
"Yes, dear, we're fine," Dee said. "Though t hat was most unpleasant ." She rose and walked,
her voice t railing behind her. "At least it was one of t he last seismic shift s anyone ever has t o
experience." Sharing glances, t he ot hers followed her out side.
"What do you mean?" Luce asked. "ls Lucifer t hat close already?" Her brain scrambled t o count
sunrise, sunset , sunrise, sunset . They blurred t oget her, one long st ream of frenzy and panic
and wings across t he sky.
lt had been morning when Luce fell asleep. . . .
They st opped in front of t he Qayom Ma/ak. Luce st ood on t he Arrowhead Slab, facing t he t wo
angels in t he sculpt ure. Roland and Cam soared int o t he sky and hovered about fift y feet in
t he air. They gazed across t he horizon, dipped close t oget her t o speak quiet ly. Their enormous
wings blocked t he sun÷which Luce not iced sat t roublingly low on t he horizon.
"lt is now t he evening of t he sixt h day since Lucifer began his solit ary Fall," Dee said soft ly.
"We slept all day?" Luce asked, horrified. "We wast ed so much t ime÷"
"Not hing was wast ed," Dee said. "l have a very big night t onight . Come t o t hink of it , you do,
t oo. You'll soon be glad you had your rest ."
"Let 's get it on before anot her shift hit s, before we have t o fight off any Scale," Cam said as he
and Roland t ouched down on t he ground again. Their wings jost led light ly from t he force of
t heir landings.
"Cam is right . We don't have any t ime t o wast e." Daniel produced t he black sat chel, which
cont ained t he halo Luce had st olen from t he sunken church in Venice.
Then he slung over t he duffel bag, which bulged at t he cent er, where he'd zipped t he round
cup of t he Silver Pennon. He placed bot h bags, unzipped, before Dee, so t hat all t hree art ifact s
sat in a row.
Dee didn't move.
"Dee?" Daniel asked. "What do we have t o do?" Dee didn't answer.
Roland st epped forward, t ouching her back. "Cam and l saw signs of more Scale on t he
horizon. They don't know our locat ion yet , but t hey aren't far away. lt would be best if we
hurried."
Dee frowned. "l'm afraid t hat is impossible."
"But you said÷" Luce broke off as Dee st ared at her placidly. "The t at t oo. The symbol on t he
ground÷"
"l would be happy t o exp/a|n, " Dee said, "but t here will be no hurrying t he deed it self."
She glanced around t he circle of angels, Out cast s, and Luce. When she was sure she had all
t heir at t ent ion, she began. "As we know, t he early hist ory of t he fallen was never writ t en down.
Alt hough you may not remember very clearly"÷her gaze swept over t he angels
÷"you recorded your first days on Eart h in th|ngs. To t his day, t he essent ial element s of your
prehist oric lore are encoded in t he fabric of different art ifact s. Art ifact s t hat are, t o t he naked
eye, somet hing else alt oget her." Dee reached for t he halo and held it up t o t he sunlight . "You
see"÷she ran her finger along a series of cracks in t he glass t hat Luce hadn't not iced before
÷"t his glass halo is also a lens." She held it up for t hem t o look t hrough. Behind it , her face was
slight ly dist ort ed by t he convex curve of t he glass, making her golden eyes look huge.
She put t he halo down, moved t o t he duffel bag, and removed t he Silver Pennon. lt shone in
t he day's last rays of sunlight as she ran her hand soft ly across it s int erior.
"And t his goblet "÷she point ed t o t he illust rat ion hammered int o t he silver, t he wings Luce had
not iced in ÷
Jerusalem÷"bears a record of t he exodus from t he Fall sit e, t he first diaspora of angels. To
ret urn t o your first home on Eart h, you first must fill t his goblet ." She paused, st aring deeply
inside t he Silver Pennon. "When it is filled, we will empt y it on t he Slab's int ricat e t iled floor,
which cont ains imagery of how t he world once was."
"When t he goblet is filled?" Luce repeat ed. "Filled wit h what ?"
"First t hings first ." Dee walked t o t he edge of t he st one plat form and brushed away a bit of grit .
Then she bowed t o place t he goblet direct ly on t op of t he yellow symbol in t he st one. "l believe
t his goes here." Luce st ood rapt beside Daniel as t hey wat ched Dee pace slowly up and down
t he plat form. Finally, she picked up t he halo again and carried it t o t he Qayom Ma/ak. At some
point , she had changed out of her hiking boot s, back int o her st ilet t os, and her heels clicked on
t he marble. Her unkempt hair swished down t o her waist . She t ook a deep, luxurious breat h
and let it out .
Wit h bot h hands, she raised t he halo over her head, whispered a few words of prayer, and
t hen, very carefully, lowered t he halo direct ly int o t he circle of air carved out by t he sculpt ure of
t he praying angels' wing t ips. lt fit like a ring on a finger.
"l did not see t hat coming," Arriane mut t ered t o Luce.
Neit her had Luce÷alt hough she was cert ain t hat t he woman was engaged in somet hing
powerfully sacred.
When she spun around t o face Luce and t he angels, Dee looked as if she were going t o say
somet hing. lnst ead, she sank t o her knees and lay down on her back at t he foot of t he Qayom
Ma/ak. Daniel lurched t oward her, ready t o help, but she waved him away. The t oes of her
shoes rest ed on t he chest of t he Qayom Ma/ak; her slender arms st ret ched over her head so
t hat her fingert ips grazed t he Silver Pennon. Her body spanned t he dist ance precisely.
She closed her eyes and lay st ill for several minut es.
Just when Luce was beginning t o wonder whet her Dee had fallen asleep, Dee said, "lt 's a good
t hing l st opped growing t wo t housand years ago." She st ood up t hen, t aking a hand from
Roland, and dust ed herself off.
"Everyt hing is in order. When t he moon hit s right about t here." She point ed t oward t he east ern
sky, just above where t he rocks t apered off.
"The moon?" Cam gave Daniel a glance.
"Yes, t he moon. lt needs t o shine t hrough precisely here." Dee t apped t he cent er of t he halo's
glass, where a jagged crack became more visible t han it had been minut es earlier. "lf l know t he
moon, which l do÷aft er all t hese years, one does develop an int imat e relat ionship wit h one's
companions÷it should fall precisely where we need it t o at t he st roke of midnight t onight .
Fit t ing, really, since midnight is my favorit e t ime of day. The wit ching hour÷"
"What happens t hen?" Luce asked. "At midnight , when t he moon is where it needs t o be?"
Dee slowed her pace and cupped her hand t o Luce's cheek. "Everyt hing, dear."
"And what do we do in t he meant ime?" Daniel asked.
Dee reached int o her cardigan pocket and revealed a large gold pocket wat ch. "A few t hings
remain t o be done."
They followed Dee's inst ruct ions down t o t he small-est det ail. Each of t he art ifact s was swept ,
polished, dust ed by several pairs of hands. lt was well int o t he night before Luce was able t o
visualize what Dee had in mind for t he ceremony.
"Two more lant erns, please," Dee inst ruct ed. "That will make t hree, one for each of t he relics."
lt was st range t he way Dee referred t o t he relics as if she were not one of t hem. Even st ranger
was t he way she buzzed around t he enclosed plat eau, like a host ess preparing for a dinner
part y, making sure everyt hing was just right .
The quart et of Out cast s lit t he lant erns rit ualist ically, t heir shaven heads orbit ing t he expanse
of rock like planet s. The first light illuminat ed t he Qayom Ma/ak.
The second lant ern shone on t he Silver Pennon, which st ill sat where Dee had placed it , at op
t he golden arrow on t he Slab, at a dist ance of Dee's height exact ly÷a scant five feet ÷from
t he Qayom Ma/ak. Earlier, t he angels had arranged a half-moon arc of flat -t opped boulders like
benches on t he left and right sides of t he Slab so t hat it resembled a st age. This made t he
space look even more like an amphit heat er as Annabelle dust ed t he boulders like an usher
preparing seat s for an imminent audience.
"What will Dee do wit h all t his?" Luce whispered t o Daniel.
Daniel's violet eyes were heavy wit h somet hing he couldn't voice, and before Luce could beg
him t o t ry, Dee's hands found t heir way t o Luce's shoulders.
"Please don t hese robes. l find t hat ceremonial cost umes help t o maint ain focus on t he t ask at
hand. Daniel, l t hink t his should fit you." She pressed a heavy brown cloak int o his arms. "And
here's one for graceful Arriane." She passed it t o t he angel. "That leaves you, Luce.
There are smaller robes at t he bot t om of my chest over t here. Take my lant ern and help
yourself." Luce t ook t he lant ern and st art ed t o lead Daniel t oward t he cave where t hey had
slept t he night before, but Dee gripped Daniel's arm.
"A word?"
Daniel nodded for Luce t o go on alone, so she did, wondering what Dee didn't want t o say in
front of her.
She slipped t he lant ern's handle over her forearm, it s light swinging as she walked t oward t he
mout h of t he cave.
She eased open t he st iff lid of t he chest and reached inside. A long brown robe was t he only
t hing in it . She picked it up. lt was made of heavy wool, t hick as a peacoat and must y, like
t obacco. When Luce held it up against her body, it looked about t hree feet t oo long.
Now she was even more curious about why Dee had sent her away. She set t he lant ern on t he
ground and clumsily pulled t he robe over her head.
"Need some help?"
Cam had ent ered t he cave as quiet ly as a cloud.
St anding behind her, he gat hered a fold of t he cloak's mat erial and cinched it under t he
garment 's woven belt .
He knot t ed it in place so t hat t he hem ended at Luce's ankles perfect ly, as if t he cloak had
been made for her.
She t urned around t o face him. Lant ern light flickered on his face. He st ood very st ill, in t he way
t hat only Cam could.
Luce slid her t humb along t he belt he'd knot t ed.
"Thanks," she said, moving back t oward t he ent rance of t he cave.
"Luce, wait ÷"
She st opped. Cam looked down at t he t oe of his boot , kicking t he edge of t he chest . Luce
st ared at it , t oo. She was wondering how she hadn't heard him come int o t he cave, how t hey'd
ended up alone.
"You st ill don't believe l'm on your side."
"lt doesn't mat t er now, Cam." Her t hroat felt impossibly t ight .
"l|sten.¨ Cam t ook a st ep t oward her so t hat t here were only inches bet ween t hem. She
t hought he was going t o grab her, but he didn't . He didn't even t ry t o t ouch her; he just st ayed
very st ill and close. "Things used t o be different . Look at me." She did, nervously. "l may wear
Lucifer's gold on my wings now, but it wasn't always like t hat . You knew me before l went t hat
way, Lucinda, and you and l were friends."
"Well, like you said, t hings change."
Cam let out a frust rat ed groan. "lt is |mposs|b/e t o apologize t o a girl wit h such a convenient ly
select ive memory. Allow me t o vent ure a guess: As you awaken t o your t rue self, you're
unpacking all sort s of sumpt uous memories in which you and Daniel fell in love, and Daniel said
t his beaut iful phrase, and Daniel t urned and brooded t oward silken silhouet t es caressing t he
t ender t ips of st ars on t he horizon÷"
"Why shouldn't l? We belong t o each ot her. Daniel is my everyt hing. And you're÷"
"What does he say about me?" Cam's eyes narrowed.
Luce cracked her knuckles and t hought about t he way, early on at Sword & Cross, Daniel's
hand had swept over hers t o st op t he mindless habit . His t ouch had been familiar from t he
beginning.
"He says he t rust s you."
A pause followed t hat Luce refused t o fill. She want ed t o leave. What if Daniel looked over and
saw her in t his dim cave wit h Cam? They were arguing, but Daniel wouldn't be able t o t ell t hat
from a dist ance. What did t hey look like, she and Cam? When she looked up, his eyes were
clear, green, and profoundly sad.
"Do you t rust me?" he asked.
"Why does t his mat t er right now÷"
His eyes shot open, wild and excit ed. "Fveryth|ng matters r|ght now. This is t he showt ime for
which all ot her shows have been a warm-up. And in order for you t o do what you need t o do,
you can't see me as t he enemy. You have no idea what you've got t en int o."
"What are you t alking about ?"
"Luce." lt was Dee's voice. She and Daniel were st anding at t he mout h of t he cave. Dee was
t he only one smiling. "We're ready for you!"
"Me?"
"You."
Luce was suddenly fright ened. "What do l have t o do?"
"Why don't you come and see?"
Dee's hand was ext ended but Luce found it difficult t o move. She glanced at Cam but he was
looking at Daniel. Daniel was st ill looking at her, his eyes burning t he hungry way t hey did when
he was about t o sweep her int o his arms and kiss her deeply. But he didn't move and t hat
t urned t he t en feet of space bet ween t hem int o t wo t housand miles.
"Have l done somet hing wrong?" she asked.
"You're about t o do somet hing wonderful," Dee said, st ill holding out her hand. "Let us not
wast e t ime we do not have."
Luce t ook her hand and it felt so cold t hat it scared her. She st udied Dee, who looked paler,
more fragile, older t han she had at t he library in Vienna. But somehow, underneat h her
wit hered skin and prominent bones, somet hing st ill shone bright and effervescent from wit hin
her.
"Do l look all right , dear? You're st aring."
"Of course," Luce said. "lt 's just ÷"
"My soul? lt 's glowing, isn't it ?"
Luce nodded.
"Good."
Cam and Daniel did not speak as t hey brushed past each ot her: Cam st riding int o t he suddenly
windy wilderness out side, Daniel circling behind Luce t o carry t he lant ern.
"Dee?" Luce t urned t o t he woman, whose freezing hand she was t rying t o warm wit h her own.
"l don't want t o go out t here. l'm afraid and l don't know why."
"That is as it should be. But t his cup cannot pass you."
"Can someone please t ell me what is going on?"
"Yes," Dee said, giving Luce's hand a firm but support ive forward t ug. "Just as soon as we're
out side." As t hey rounded t he arrowhead-shaped boulder t hat part ly shielded t he ent rance t o
t he small cave, t he cold wind bore int o t hem unforgivingly. Luce st aggered back, shielding her
face from t he sudden spray of sand wit h her free hand. Dee and Daniel made her press on past
t he head of t he t rail t hey'd climbed t he night before, where t hey were most exposed t o t he
wind.
Luce found t hat t he peaks around t he rest of t he mesa formed barriers t o t he swirling, grit t y
gust s, allowing her t o hear and see again. Though she could hear t he daily dust st orm howl
beyond t he plat eau, everyt hing wit hin it s curved rock walls seemed suddenly t oo quiet and t oo
clear.
Two lant erns glowed on t he marble Slab÷one before t he Qayom Ma/ak, one behind t he Silver
Pennon. Bot h light s at t ract ed swirls of gnat s t hat bounced off t he small glass panes, st rangely
calming Luce. At least she was st ill in a world where light at t ract ed bugs. She was st ill in a
world she knew.
The lant ern illuminat ed t he t wo golden angels bowing t oward each ot her in prayer. lt s light
t ouched t he edges of t he heavy cracked glass halo, which Dee had ret urned t o it s right ful
place, cradled by t he angels' wings.
On t he cliffs t owering over t he plat eau, four Out cast s perched on ledges, each pale warrior
wat ching a different cardinal direct ion. The Out cast s' wings, t ucked t o t heir sides, were barely
visible, but t he edges of Daniel's lant ern light revealed t he st arshot s in each of t heir silver
bows, as if t hey expect ed t he Scale's arrival at any moment .
The four fallen angels Luce knew best occupied t he st one seat s around t he ceremonially
placed relics. Arriane and Annabelle sat on one side, backs st raight , t heir wings concealed. On
t he ot her side sat Cam and Roland÷wit h one empt y seat bet ween t hem.
Was it for Luce or Daniel?
"Good, everyone's here except t he moon." Dee looked up at t he east ern sky. "Five more
minut es. Daniel, will you t ake a seat ?"
Daniel handed Dee t he lant ern and walked across t he marble slab. He st ood before t he Qayom
Ma/ak. Luce want ed t o go t o him, but before she could even lean in his direct ion, Dee's grip
t ight ened around her hand.
"St ay wit h me, honey."
Daniel sat down bet ween Roland and Cam and t urned his expressionless gaze t o Luce.
"Allow me t o explain." Dee's calm, clear voice echoed off t he red-rock walls, and all t he angels
st raight ened in at t ent ion. "As l t old you earlier, we require t he moon t o make an appearance,
and now, in a moment , she will visit us above t his peak. She will grin down t hrough t he lens of
t he Halo. We are fort unat e t he sky is clear t onight , wit h not hing t o obscure t he shadows of her
lovely crat ers as t hey join wit h t he cracks in t he Halo's glass.
"Toget her, t hese element s will project t he out lines of cont inent s and lines of count ries, which,
in concert wit h t he carvings on t he Slab, will comprise t he Map of t he Simulacra Terra Prima.
Right here." She point ed t o an empt y space on t he marble st ep, where she'd lain t he night
before, measuring t he dist ance bet ween t he Qayom Ma/ak and t he Silver Pennon. "You will
see a represent at ion of t he way t he world was when you angels fell t o Eart h. Yes"÷she
inhaled÷"just anot her moment .
There."
The crown of t he moon rose above t he rocky crag t hat jut t ed out behind t he Qayom Ma/ak.
And even t hough t he moon was pale whit e and waning, at t he moment , it shone as brilliant ly
as dawn. The angels, t he Out cast s, Luce, and Dee st ood quiet ly for several minut es, wat ching
t he moon climb, wat ching it cast a lit t le light and t hen a lit t le more t hrough t he t ranslucent
surface of t he halo. The marble slab beyond it was blank, t hen clouded; t hen, all at once, t he
project ion was clear and focused and real. lt project ed lines, int ersect ions÷cont|nents÷
borders, lands, and seas.
lt looked half complet e. Some lines t railed off int o not hing; some boundaries never closed. But it
was clearly a map of t he Eart h, Luce t hought , as it would have looked when Daniel fell for her. lt
st irred somet hing in t he deepest recesses of her memory. lt looked familiar.
"Do you see t he yellow st one at t he cent er t here?" Dee asked.
Luce squint ed t o see a t ile of t he same slight ly darker yellow st one as t he one where t he
goblet had been placed.
"That is us, right here in t he middle of everyt hing."
"Like an arrow saying, 'You Are Here,'" Luce said.
"That 's right , dear." Dee t urned t o Luce. "And now, my Lucinda, have you figured out your role
in t his ceremony yet ?"
Luce squirmed. What did t hey want from her? This was t heir st ory, not hers. Aft er all t his
commot ion, she was just anot her girl, swept up in t he promise of love.
Daniel had found her on Eart h aft er his fall from grace; someone should ask him what was
going on. "l'm sorry.
l don't know."
"l'll give you a hint ," Dee said. "Do you see t he spot where angels fell marked on t his map?"
Luce sighed, eager t o get t o t he point . "No."
"lt was ordained many millennia ago t hat t his locat ion on t his map could only be revealed in
blood. The blood t hat courses t hrough our veins knows far more t han we do. Look closely. See
t he grooves along t he marble? They are t he lines t o close t he boundaries of t he angelico-
prelapsarian Eart h. They shall become clear once t he blood is shed and poured. The blood will
pool in one vit ally import ant place. The knowledge, my dear, is in t he blood."
"The sit e of t he Fall," one of t he angels said reverent ly, Arriane or Annabelle; Luce couldn't t ell.
"Somewhat like a t reasure map in an advent ure st ory, t he impact point ÷t hat 's t he sit e of t he
Fall÷will be marked wit h a five-point ed st ar of blood. Now . . ." Dee was t alking but Luce could
no longer hear what she was saying. So t his was what it was going t o t ake t o st op Lucifer. This
was what Cam meant she had t o do.
This was why Daniel wouldn't look at her. Her t hroat felt like it was st uffed wit h cot t on. When
she opened her mout h, her voice sounded like she was speaking underwat er. "You need"÷she
swallowed in pain÷"my blood." Dee choked on her laugh and pressed a cold hand t o Luce's
hot cheek. "Good heavens, no, child! You keep yours. l'm going t o give you mine."
"What ?"
"That 's right . As l am passing out of t his world, you will fill t he Silver Pennon wit h my blood. You
will pour it int o t his depression just east of t he golden arrow marker"÷she indicat ed a dent at
t he left of t he goblet , t hen fanned her hands out dramat ically t oward t he map÷"and wat ch it
follow t he grooves here and t here and here and t here unt il you find t he st ar. Then you will
know where t o meet Lucifer and t hwart his plan." Luce cracked her knuckles. How could Dee
speak about her own deat h so casually? "Why would you do t his?"
"Why, it 's what l was creat ed for. Angels were made t o adore and l have a purpose, t oo." Then,
from t he deep pocket of her brown cloak, Dee wit hdrew a long silver dagger.
"But t hat 's÷"
The dagger Miss Sophia had used t o kill Penn. The one she'd had in Jerusalem when she
bound up t he fallen angels.
"Yes. l picked t his up in Golgot ha," Dee said, admiring t he craft smanship of t he blade. lt shone
as if freshly sharpened. "Dark hist ory, t his knife. lt 's t ime it was put t o some good use, dear."
She held out t he knife, it s blade flat on her open palm, it s hilt point ing t oward Luce. "lt would
mean a lot t o me if you would be t he one t o spill my blood, dear. Not only because you are dear
t o me, but also because it must be you."
"Me?"
"Yes, you. You must kill me, Lucinda."
FIFTEEN
THE GIFT
"l can't !"
"You can," Dee said. "And you will. No one else can do it ."
"Why?"
Dee looked over her shoulder in Daniel's direct ion.
He was st ill seat ed, looking at Luce, but he didn't seem t o see her. None of t he angels rose t o
help her.
Dee spoke in a whisper. "lf you are, as you say you are, fully resolved t o break your curse÷"
"¥ou know l am.¨
"Then you must use my blood t o break it ." No. How could her curse be bound up in someone
else's blood? Dee had brought t hem up here t o t he Qayom Ma/ak t o reveal t he sit e of t he
angels' Fall. That was her role as t he desiderat um. lt didn't have anyt hing t o do wit h Luce's
curse.
Did it ?
Break the curse. Of course Luce want ed t o; it was all she want ed.
Could she break it , right here, right now? How would she live wit h herself if she killed Dee? Luce
looked t o t he old woman, who t ook her by t he hands.
"Don't you want t o know t he t rut h of your original life?"
"Of course l do. But why would killing you reveal my past ?"
"lt will reveal all kinds of t hings."
"l don't underst and."
"Oh dear." Dee sighed, looking past Luce at t he ot hers. "These angels have done well t o keep
you safe÷
but t hey have also prot ect ed you int o complacency. The t ime has come for you t o awaken,
Lucinda, and t o awaken, you must act. "
Luce t urned away. The look in Dee's golden eyes was t oo pleading, t oo int ense. "l've seen
enough deat h." A single angel rose in t he darkness from t he circle t hey'd formed around t he
Qayom Ma/ak. "lf she can't do it , she can't do it ."
"Shut up, Cam," Arriane said. "Sit down." Cam st epped forward, approaching Luce. His narrow
frame cast it s shadow across t he Slab. "We've t aken it t his far. You can't say we haven't given
it every kind of shot ." He t urned t o face t he ot hers. "But maybe she just can't . There is only so
much you can ask a person t o do.
She wouldn't be t he first filly anybody lost a fort une on.
So what if she happens t o be t he last ?" His t one did not mat ch his words, and neit her did his
eyes, which said wit h desperat e sincerit y, ¥ou can do th|s.
¥ou have to.
Luce weighed t he dagger in her hand. She'd seen it s blade slice t he life out of Penn. She had
felt it st ing her flesh when Sophia t ried t o murder her in t he chapel at Sword & Cross. The only
reason Luce wasn't dead now was t hat Daniel had crashed t hrough t he roseat e window t o
save her. The only reason she bore no scar was Gabbe's healing t ouch. They'd saved her life
for t his moment . So t hat she could t ake anot her.
Dee perceived how far away fear had carried Luce.
She mot ioned for Cam t o sit down. "Perhaps it would be bet t er, dear, if you didn't t hink of t his
as t aking my life.
You would be giving me t he great est gift , Lucinda. Can't you see t hat l'm ready t o move on?"
She pressed her lips t oget her in a smile. "l know it 's hard t o underst and, but t here comes a
t ime in a mort al body's journey when it seeks t o die in t he most advant ageous way it can. They
used t o call it a 'good deat h.' lt is t ime for me t o go, and if you give me t he gift of t his very good
deat h, l promise you won't regret it ."
Wit h t ears st inging her eyes, Luce looked past Dee.
"Dan÷"
"l can't help you, Luce." Daniel spoke before she'd even finished saying his name. "You must do
t his alone." Roland rose from his seat and examined t he map. He looked east at t he moon. "lf it
were done when it is done, t hen it would be well it were done quickly."
"There isn't much t ime," Dee int erpret ed, rest ing a frail hand on Luce's shoulder.
Luce's hands were shaking, sweat ing on t he heavy silver hilt of t he dagger, making it difficult t o
hold. Behind Dee she could see t he Slab wit h it s half-drawn map, and beyond t he map, t he
Qayom Ma/ak, in which t he glass halo was secured. The Silver Pennon sat at Dee's feet .
Luce had been t hrough a sacrifice before: in Chichén lt zá, when she'd cleaved t o her past self
lx Cuat . The rit ual made no sense t o Luce. Why did somet hing dear have t o die so ot her dear
t hings could live? Didn't who-ever made t hese rules t hink t hey deserved an explanat ion? lt
was like Abraham's being asked t o sacrifice lsaac.
Had God creat ed love t o make pain feel even worse?
"Will you do t his for me?" Dee asked.
Break the curse.
"Will you do it for yourself?"
Luce held t he knife bet ween her open palms. "What do l do?"
"l'll guide you t hrough it ." Dee's left hand closed around Luce's right , which closed around t he
dagger.
The hilt was slick from t he sweat on her palms.
Wit h her right hand free, Dee unbound her cloak and slipped it off, st anding before Luce in a
long whit e t unic.
Her upper chest was bare, revealing her arrowhead t at t oo.
Luce whimpered at t he sight of it .
"Please don't worry, dear. l'm a special breed, and t his moment has always been my dest iny.
One quick t hrust of t he blade int o my heart should release me." lt was what Luce needed t o
hear. The dagger t rembled as Dee guided it t oward t he t at t oo on her chest . The old woman
could st eady Luce only so much, t hough; Luce knew t hat soon she would have t o hold t he
blade alone.
"You're doing fine."
"Wait !" Luce cried as t he blade pricked Dee's flesh. A red dot of blood bloomed on her skin, just
above t he hem of t he t unic. "What will happen t o you when you die?"
Dee smiled so peacefully t hat Luce had no doubt it was for her benefit . "Why, dear, l shall slip
int o t he mas-t erpiece."
"You'll go t o Heaven, won't you?"
"Lucinda, let 's not t alk of÷"
"Please. l can't send you out of t his life unless l know what your next one will look like. Will l see
you again?
Do you just go away like an angel?"
"Oh no, my deat h will be a secret life, like sleep," Dee said. "Bet t er t han sleep, act ually, because
for once l shall be able t o dream. ln life, t ranset ernals never dream.
l shall dream of Dr. Ot t o. lt 's been so long since l have seen my love, Lucinda. Surely you can
underst and?" Luce want ed t o weep. She underst ood. Of course she underst ood t hat much.
Trembling ever harder, she drew t he knife back over t he t at t oo on Dee's breast . The old
woman gave her hands t he soft est squeeze. "Bless you, child. Bless you abundant ly. Hurry up,
now." Dee looked anxiously at t he sky, blinking at t he moon. "ln you go." Luce grunt ed as she
plunged t he knife int o t he old woman's chest . The blade ground t hrough flesh and bone and
muscle÷and t hen it was inside her beaut iful heart , up t o t he hilt . Luce's and Dee's faces were
almost t ouching. The clouds t heir breat h made mingled in t he air.
Dee grit t ed her t eet h and gripped Luce's hand as she gave t he blade a sharp t wist t o t he left .
Her gold eyes widened, t hen froze in pain or shock. Luce want ed t o look away but couldn't . She
searched for t he scream inside her.
"Expel t he blade," Dee whispered. "Pour my blood int o t he Silver Pennon."
Wincing, Luce yanked t he dagger out . She felt somet hing deep inside Dee rip apart . The
wound was a yawn-ing black cavern. Blood st reamed t o it s surface. lt was t errifying t o see
Dee's gold eyes go cloudy. The lady fell in a heap on t he moonlit plat eau.
ln t he dist ance, t he shriek of a Scale rang out . All t he angels looked above.
"Luce, we need you t o move quickly," Daniel said, his forced calmness sparking more alarm in
her t han open panic would.
Luce st ill held t he dagger in her hands. lt was slick and red and dripping wit h t ranset ernal blood.
She t ossed it t o t he ground. lt landed wit h a t inny clank t hat made her furious because it
sounded like a t oy inst ead of t he might y weapon t hat had killed t wo souls Luce loved.
She wiped her bloody hands on her cloak. She gasped for air. She would have fallen t o her
knees if Daniel hadn't caught her.
"l'm sorry, Luce." He kissed her, his eyes beaming t heir old t enderness.
"For what ?"
"That l couldn't help you do it ."
"Why couldn't you?"
"You did what none of us could do. You did it on your own." Taking her by t he shoulders, Daniel
t urned Luce t oward t he sight she did not want t o see.
"No. Please, don't make me÷"
"Look," Daniel said.
Dee was sit t ing up, cradling t he Silver Pennon in her arms so t hat it s rim pressed against her
breast . Blood poured from her heart freely, surging wit h each powerful beat , as if it were not
blood but somet hing magical and st range from anot her world. Luce supposed it was. Dee's
eyes were closed but she was beaming, her face lift ed, lit up by t he moon. She didn't look like
she had ever been in any pain.
When t he goblet was filled, Luce st epped forward, bending down t o t ake it and place it back on
t he yellow arrow on t he Slab. When she wrest ed t he Silver Pennon from Dee, t he old woman
t ried t o st and. Her bloody hands pressed int o t he ground t o prop her up. Her knees t rembled as
she st ruggled t o one foot , t hen t he ot her.
She slouched forward, her body convulsing slight ly, as she t ook t he black cloak in her hands.
She was t rying t o drape it back over her shoulders, Luce realized, so t hat her wound would be
covered. Arriane st epped forward t o help her, but it didn't mat t er. Fresh blood flooded t hrough
t he cloak.
Dee's gold eyes were paler, her skin almost t ranslucent . Everyt hing about her seemed mut ed
and soft , as if she were already someplace else. A new sob rose in Lu-ce's chest as Dee t ook a
halt ing st ep t oward her.
"Dee!" Luce closed t he gap bet ween t hem, holding out her arms t o cat ch t he dying woman.
Her body felt like a shard of what she'd been before Luce had t aken t he dagger in her hands.
"Shhh," Dee cooed. "l only want ed t o t hank you, dear. And t o give you t his small part ing gift ."
She reached her hand inside her cloak. When she wit hdrew it , her t humb was dark wit h blood.
"The gift of self-knowledge.
You must remember how t o dream what you already know. Now it 's t ime for me t o sleep and
for you t o wake up."
Dee's eyes swept over Luce's face, and it seemed like she could see everyt hing t here was t o
see about her÷all her past and all her fut ure. Finally, she daubed t he cent er of Luce's forehead
wit h her bloody t humb.
"Enjoy it , dear."
Then she hit t he ground.
"Dee!" Luce lunged for her, but t he old woman was dead. "Nol¨
Behind Luce, Daniel clasped her shoulders wit h his hands, giving her all t he st rengt h he could. lt
wasn't enough. lt couldn't bring Dee back or change t he fact t hat Luce had killed her. Not hing
could.
Tears blurred Luce's eyes. Wind swept in from t he west and whist led off t he curving cliffs,
bringing wit h it anot her shriek of Scale. lt felt like every inch of t he world was in chaos, and
not hing would ever set t le down.
She reached up and t ouched t he bloody t humbprint on her forehead÷
Whit e light blazed around her. Her insides seared wit h heat . She st aggered, holding her arms
out in front of her and swaying as her body filled wit h . . .
Light .
"Luce?" Daniel's voice sounded far away.
Was she dying?
She felt suddenly galvanized, as if t he t humbprint on her forehead were an ignit ion swit ch and
Dee had launched her soul.
"ls t his anot her t imequake?" she asked, t hough t he sky was not gray but a brilliant whit e. So
bright she couldn't see Daniel or any of t he ot her angels around her on t he slab.
"No." Roland's voice. "lt 's her."
"lt 's you, Luce." Daniel's voice t rembled.
Her feet skimmed t he st one as her body rose in a splendor of weight lessness. For a moment ,
t he world hummed wit h incandescent harmony.
Now |t's t|me lor you to wake up.
The air before Luce seemed t o sput t er, t urning from whit e t o blurry gray. Then deep in t he
dist ance came t he vision of Bill's cackling face. His black wings spread wider t han t he sky, wider
t han a t housand galaxies, filling her mind, filling every crevice in t he universe, engulfing Luce
wit h infinit e fury.
Th|s t|me l w|// w|n.
His voice like shards of glass dragging across bare skin.
How close was he now?
Luce's feet slammed int o t he mesa floor. The light was gone.
She fell t o her knees, landing next t o Dee, who had come t o rest on her side, one arm slung out
t o cradle her head, her long red hair spilling out like blood. Her eyes were closed, her face
serene, so unlike t he face t hat had been haunt ing Luce for t he past week. She t ried t o st and,
but she felt clumsy.
Daniel dropped t o his knees at her side. Sit t ing next t o her on t he Slab, he t ook her in his arms.
The smell of his hair and t he t ouch of his hands soot hed her. He whispered, "l'm here, Luce, it 's
okay."
She didn't want t o t ell him she kept seeing Bill. She want ed t o go back t o t hat light . She
t ouched t he t humbprint on her forehead and not hing happened. Dee's blood was dry.
Daniel was st aring at her, lips t ight . He brushed t he hair out of her eyes and pressed his palm
t o her forehead. "You're burning up."
"l'm fine." She did feel feverish, but t here was no t ime t o worry about t hat . She st aggered t o
her feet and looked up at t he moon.
lt was direct ly overhead, in t he cent er of t he sky. This was t he moment Dee had t old t hem t o
wait for, t he moment her deat h would become wort hwhile.
"Luce. Daniel." Roland's voice. "You'd bet t er look at t his."
He held t he goblet at an angle and was t ipping t he last of Dee's blood int o t he depression at
t he base of t he map. When Luce and Daniel filed in next t o t he ot hers, t he blood had already
flowed int o most of t he marble's broken lines. Though Dee had said t hat t he Eart h was
different back at t he t ime of t he angels' Fall, t he map before t hem looked increasingly similar t o
a cont emporary map of t he Eart h.
Sout h America was nearer t o bumping against Africa.
The nort heast corner of Nort h America nudged more closely t o Europe, but most ly it was t he
same. There was t he slip of wat er where t he Gulf of Suez part ed mainland Egypt from t he
Sinai Peninsula, and in t he middle of t he peninsula was t he yellow st one marking t he plat eau
where t hey were right now. To t he nort h was t he Medi-t erranean, dimpled wit h a t housand t iny
islands÷and on t he ot her side of it s narrow belt , at t he point where Asia reached for Europe,
was a shallow pool of blood sharpening slowly int o a st ar.
Luce heard Daniel swallow at her side. The angels all looked st upefied as Dee's blood filled out
t he point s of t he st ar, indicat ing modern Turkey÷more specifically÷
"Troy," Daniel said finally, shaking his head in amaze-ment . "Who would have guessed . . ."
"There again," Roland said, his t one conveying a t ort ured hist ory wit h t he cit y.
"l always got t he sense t hat place was doomed." Arriane shivered. "But l÷"
"Never knew why," Annabelle finished.
"Cam?" Daniel said, and t he ot hers looked away from t he map t o eye t he demon.
"l'll go," Cam said quickly. "l'm fine."
"Then t hat 's it ," Daniel said as if he couldn't believe it . "Phillip," he called, looking upward.
Phil and his t hree Out cast s rose from t heir perches on t he cliff peaks overhead.
"Alert t he ot hers."
What others? Who e/se was /elt by now? Luce t hought .
"What will l t ell t hem?" Phil asked.
"Tell t hem we know t he sit e of t he Fall, t hat we're leaving now for Troy."
"No." Luce's voice halt ed t he Out cast s' movement .
"We can't leave yet . What about Dee?"
ln t he end, it was no surprise t hat Dee had t aken care of everyt hing, down t o t he det ails for her
memorial. Annabelle found t hem t ucked int o a slat on t he roof of t he creaky wooden t runk,
which, as Dee's let t er explained, flipped over t o form a cat afalque. The sun was low in t he sky
by t he t ime t hey began t o make her memorial. lt was t he end of t he sevent h day; Dee's let t er
assured t hem t his wouldn't be a wast e of t heir t ime.
Roland, Cam, and Daniel carried t he cat afalque t o t he cent er of t he marble plat form. They
covered t he map complet ely so t hat when t he Scale descended t here, t hey would see a
funeral, not t he sit e of t he angels' Fall.
Annabelle and Arriane carried Dee's body behind t he cat afalque. They laid her carefully on it s
cent er, so t hat her heart was direct ly above t he st ar of her blood. Luce remembered t hat Dee
had said t hat sanct uaries were built on t op of sanct uaries. Her body would form a sanct uary
for t he map it hid.
Cam draped Dee's cloak over her body, but he left her face exposed t o t he sky. ln her final
rest ing place, Dee, t heir desiderat um, looked small but might y. She looked at peace. Luce
want ed t o believe Dee was wandering t hrough dreams wit h Dr Ot t o.
"She want s Luce t o be t he one t o bless her," Annabelle read from t he let t er.
Daniel squeezed her hand, as if t o say, Are you okay?
Luce had never done anyt hing like t his before. She wait ed t o feel awkward, guilt y for speaking
at t he funeral for someone she had slain, but in t hose emot ions' place sat a sense of honor
and awe.
She st epped up t o t he cat afalque. She gave herself a few moment s t o gat her her t hought s.
"Dee was our desiderat um," she began. "But she was more t han one desired t hing."
She t ook a breat h and realized she wasn't blessing just Dee, but also Gabbe and Molly, whose
bodies were air÷and Penn, whose funeral she couldn't at t end. lt was all t oo much. Her vision
swirled and t he words vanished and all she knew was t hat Dee had smeared sacrificial blood
on Luce's forehead.
lt was Dee's gift t o Luce.
¥ou must remember how to dream what you a/ready know.
Blood t hrummed at her t emples. Her head and her heart were ablaze wit h heat , her hands icy
as she wove t hem t hrough Dee's.
"Somet hing's happening." Luce held her face in her hands, her hair spilling down around her.
She closed her eyes and found bright whit e light on t he backs of her eyelids.
"Luce÷"
When she opened her eyes, t he angels had flung off t heir cloaks and unfurled t heir wings. The
mesa flooded wit h light . A great mass of Scale shrieked somewhere just above her.
"What 's happening?" She shielded her eyes.
"We need t o hurry, Daniel," Roland shout ed from above. Had t he ot her angels already
alight ed? What was t he source of t he light ?
Daniel's arms wrapped around her waist . He held her t ight ly. lt felt good but she was st ill afraid.
"l'm here wit h you, Lucinda. l love you, no mat t er what ."
She knew t hat her feet were drift ing from t he ground, t hat her body was t aking flight . She
knew she was wit h Daniel. But she was barely aware of t heir t ransit t hrough t he burning sky,
barely aware of anyt hing beyond t he st range new pulsing in her soul.
SIXTEEN
APOCALYPSE
Somewhere along t he way it st art ed raining.
Raindrops pat t ered on Daniel's wings. Thunder rolled in t he sky before t hem. Light ning ripped
t hrough t he night . Luce had been sleeping, or in a heavy st at e of somet hing similar t o sleep,
because when t he st orm came, she st irred t o a dreamy half-awareness.
The headwind was brut al and incessant , flat t ening Luce against Daniel's body. The angels flew
t hrough it at a t remendous speed, every wingbeat t hrust ing t hem across whole cit ies,
mount ain ranges. They flew over clouds t hat looked like giant icebergs, passing t hem in t he
blink of an eye.
Luce didn't know where t hey were or how long t hey'd been t raveling. She didn't feel like asking.
lt was dark again. How much t ime remained? She couldn't remember. Count ing seemed
impossible, t hough Luce had once loved t o solve complex calculus proofs. She almost laughed
at t he t hought of sit t ing at a wooden desk in calculus, chewing on an eraser next t o t went y
mort al kids. Had t hat ever really happened t o her?
The t emperat ure dropped. The rain int ensified as t he angels flew int o a gale t hat st ret ched
fart her t han her eye could see. Now t he raindrops pelt ing Daniel's wings sounded like hail
hit t ing icy snow.
The weat her came sideways and upward. Luce's clot hes were drenched. She felt hot one
moment , frozen t he next . Daniel's hands, encircling her body, rubbed goose bumps from her
arms. She wat ched wat er st reaming off t he t oes of her black boot s t oward t he ground,
t housands of feet below.
Visions appeared in t he darkness t hrough t he st orm.
She saw Dee let t ing down red hair t hat swirled around her body. The old lady was whispering,
Break the curse.
Her hair became bloody t endrils, enclosing her like mummy wrap, t hen like a cat erpillar's cocoon
. . . unt il t he body became a massive column of t hick and dripping blood.
Through t he mist , a golden light grew bright er. Cam's wings sharpened in t he space bet ween
Luce's feet and t he speck of land she had been wat ching.
"ls t his it ?" Cam shout ed t hrough t he wind.
"l don't know," Daniel said.
"How w|// we know?"
"We just will."
"Daniel. The t ime÷"
"Don't rush me. We have t o get her t o t he right place."
"ls she asleep?"
"She's feverish. l don't know. Shhh."
A grunt of frust rat ion accompanied t he fading of Cam's glow back int o t he mist .
Luce's eyelids flickered. Was she asleep? The sky did seem t o be raining night mares. Now she
saw Miss Sophia, her black eyes gleaming in t he light reflect ed from t he raindrops. She raised
her dagger, and her pearl bracelet s rat t led as she brought t he knife int o Luce's heart .
Her words÷ Trust |s a care/ess pursu|t÷echoed again and again in Luce's mind unt il she
want ed t o scream.
Then t he vision of Miss Sophia flickered and swirled, darkening int o t he gargoyle who Luce had
t rust ed, so carelessly.
Lit t le Bill, who'd posed as a friend, all t he while hiding somet hing vast and t errifying. Maybe t hat
was what friendship was t o t he devil: love always t inged wit h evil.
The gargoyle's body was a husk for forces darkly powerful inside.
ln her vision, Bill bared rot t en black fangs and exhaled clouds of rust . He roared, but silent ly, a
silence t hat was worse t han anyt hing he ever could have said, because her imaginat ion filled
t he void. He consumed her plane of vision as Lucifer, as Evil, as t he End.
She snapped open her eyes. She clasped her hands over Daniel's arms around her as t hey flew
t hrough t he endless st orm.
¥ou're not alra|d, she vowed silent ly in t he rain. lt was t he hardest of t he t hings she'd had t o
convince herself of on t his journey.
When you lace h|m aga|n, you w|// not be alra|d.
"Guys," Arriane said, appearing on t he right side of Daniel's wings. "Look."
The clouds t hinned as t hey drove onward. Below t hem was a valley, a broad st ret ch of rocky
farmland t hat met a narrow st rait of sea on it s west side. A huge wooden horse st ood absurdly
in t he barren landscape, a monument t o a shadowed past . Luce could make out st ony ruins
near t he horse, a Roman t heat er, a cont emporary parking lot .
The angels flew on. The valley spread out below, dark but for a single light in t he dist ance: an
elect ric lamp t hat shone t hrough t he window of a t iny hut in t he cent er of t he slope.
"Fly t oward t he house," Daniel called t o t he ot hers.
Luce had been wat ching a line of goat s drift across t he sodden fields, gat hering in a grove of
apricot t rees.
Her st omach lurched as Daniel swooped suddenly down.
When t hey t ouched t he ground, Luce and t he angels were about a quart er of a mile from t he
whit e hut .
"Let 's go inside." Daniel t ook her hand. "They'll be wait ing for us."
Luce walked next t o Daniel t hrough t he rain, her dark hair splayed across her face, her
borrowed coat drenched wit h what felt like a t housand pounds of raindrops.
They were t rudging up a winding muddy pat h when a large drop of wat er clung t o Luce's
eyelashes and dripped inside her eye. When she rubbed it away and blinked, t he Eart h had
ut t erly changed.
An image flashed before her eyes, a long-forgot t en memory ret urning t o life:
The wet ground beneat h her feet had gone from green t o singed black in one place, ashen
gray in anot her.
The valley surrounding t hem was pocked wit h deep, smoking crat ers. Luce smelled carnage,
roast ed flesh and rot so t hick and sharp it burned her nost rils and clung t o t he roof of her
mout h. Crat ers sizzled, sounding like rat t lesnakes, as she walked past . Dust ÷angel dust ÷
was everywhere. lt float ed t hrough t he air, coat ed t he ground and rocks, fell like snowflakes on
her face.
Somet hing silver was in her peripheral vision. lt looked like broken pieces of a mirror, except
t hat it was phosphorescent ÷shimmering, almost alive. Luce dropped Daniel's hand, fell t o her
knees, and crawled along t he muddy ground t oward t he broken silver glass.
She didn't know why she did t his. She only knew she had t o t ouch it .
She reached for a large piece, groaning wit h t he effort . She had her hand firmly around it ÷
And t hen she blinked and came up wit h not hing but a fist ful of soft mud.
She looked up at Daniel, her eyes filled wit h t ears.
"What 's happening?"
He glanced at Arriane. "Get Luce inside." She felt her arms being lift ed. "You'll be okay, kiddo,"
Arriane said. "Promise."
The dark wood door of t he hut opened and a warm light poured out from wit hin. Peering out at
t he wet angels was t he calm, collect ed face of St even Filmore, Lu-ce's favorit e t eacher from
Shoreline.
"Glad you could make it ," Daniel said.
"Same t o you." St even's voice was st eady and professorial, just as Luce remembered.
Somehow it was reassuring.
"ls she all right ?" St even asked.
No. She was losing it .
"Yes." Daniel's confidence t ook Luce by surprise.
"What happened t o her neck?"
"We ran int o some Scale in Vienna."
Luce was hallucinat ing. She was not all right . Trembling, she met St even's eyes. They were
st eady, comfort ing.
¥ou are a// r|ght. ¥ou have to be. lor Dan|e/.
St even held open t he door and led t hem inside. The small hut had a dirt floor and st raw roof, a
heap of blanket s and rugs in one corner, a crude cooking st ove near t he fire, and a square of
four rocking chairs in t he cent er of t he room.
St anding in front of t he chairs was Francesca÷
St even's wife and t he ot her Nephilim t eacher at Shoreline. Phil and t he ot her t hree Out cast s
st ood alert along t he opposit e wall of t he hut . Annabelle, Roland, Arriane, Daniel, and Luce all
crammed int o t he firelit warmt h of t he house.
"What now, Daniel?" Francesca asked, all business.
"Not hing," Daniel said quickly. "Not hing yet ." Why not ? Here t hey were on t he fields of Troy,
near t he place where Lucifer was expect ed t o land. They'd raced here t o st op him. Why go
t hrough everyt hing t hey'd gone t hrough t his week just t o sit around a cabin and wait ?
"Daniel," Luce said. "l could use some explanat ion." But Daniel only looked t o St even.
"Please have a seat ." St even st eered Luce t o one of t he rocking chairs. She sank int o it , and
nodded t hanks when he handed her a met al cup of spicy Turkish apple t ea. He gest ured
around at t he hut . "lt isn't much, but it keeps t he rain and most of t he wind out , and you know
what t hey say÷"
"Locat ion, locat ion, locat ion," Roland finished, leaning on t he arm of t he rocking chair where
Arriane had curled up across from Luce.
Annabelle looked around at t he rain wailing on t he window, at t he cramped room. "So th|s is
t he Fall sit e? l mean, l can kind of feel it , but l don't know if t hat 's because l'm t rying so hard.
This is we|rd. " St even was polishing his glasses on his fisherman's sweat er. He slipped t hem
back ont o his nose, resuming his professorial t one. "The Fall sit e is very large, Annabelle. Think
of t he space required for one hundred and fift y million, eight hundred and t went y-seven
t housand, eight hundred and sixt y-one÷"
"You mean one hundred and fift y million, eight hundred and t went y-seven t housand, seven
hundred and lorty-s|x÷" Francesca int errupt ed.
"Of course, t here are discrepancies." St even always humored his beaut iful, combat ive wife.
"The point is many angels fell, so t he impact sit e is vast ." He glanced, very quickly, at Luce. "But
yes, you are sit t ing in a port ion of t he place where t he angels fell t o Eart h."
"We followed t he old broad's map," Cam said, poking at t he fire in t he st ove. lt had burned
down t o cin-ders, but his t ouch brought it roaring back t o life. "But l st ill wonder how we know
for sure t hat t his is it . There's not much t ime left . How do we know?" Because l'm see|ng
v|s|ons ol |t, Luce's mind suddenly screamed. Because somehow, l was there.
"l'm glad you asked." Francesca spread a scroll of parchment on t he floor bet ween t he rocking
chairs. "The Nephilim library at Shoreline has one map of t he Fall sit e. The map was drawn at
so close a range t hat unt il someone could det ermine a geographical locat ion, it could have
been anywhere."
"lt might as well have been an ant farm," St even added. "We've been await ing Daniel's signal
since Luce came back t hrough t he Announcers, t racking your progress, t rying t o st ay wit hin
reach for when you needed us."
"The Out cast s found us at our wint er home in Cairo just aft er midnight ." Francesca drew her
shoulders t oget her, as if warding off a shudder. "Luckily, t his one had your pennon or we might
have÷"
"His name is Phillip. The Out cast s are wit h us now," Daniel said.
lt was st range t hat Phil had posed as a st udent at Shoreline for mont hs and Francesca didn't
recognize him. Then again, t he snobbish angel t eacher paid at t ent ion only t o t he "gift ed"
st udent s at t he school.
"l'd hoped you would be able t o make it in t ime," Daniel said. "How were t hings at Shoreline
when you left ?"
"Not good," Francesca said. "Worse for you, l'm sure, but st ill, not good for us. The Scale came
t hrough Shoreline on Monday."
Daniel's jaw clenched. "No."
"Miles and Shelby," Luce gasped. "Are t hey okay?"
"Your friends are all fine. They couldn't find anyt hing t o charge us wit h÷"
"That 's right ," St even said proudly. "My wife runs a t ight ship. Above reproach."
"St ill," Francesca said. "The st udent s were very alarmed. Some of our biggest donors pulled
t heir children from t he school." She paused. "l hope t his is wort h it ."
Arriane shot t o her feet . "You bet your bangles it will be wort h it ."
Roland st ood up quickly and t ugged Arriane back t o her seat . St even t ook Francesca's arm
and pulled her over t o t he window. Soon everyone was whispering and Luce didn't have
enough st rengt h t o hear more t han Arriane's loud "l got her big donat ion right here." Out t he
window, t he slenderest band of russet light hugged t he mount ains. Luce st ared at it , her
st omach knot t ed, knowing it marked t he sunrise of t he eight h day, t he last full day before÷
Daniel's hand was on her shoulder, warm and st rong.
"How are you doing, t here?"
"l'm fine." She sat up st raight er, feigning alert ness.
"What do we need t o do next ?"
"Sleep."
She st raight ened her shoulders. "No, l'm not t ired.
The sun's rising, and Lucifer÷"
Daniel leaned over t he rocking chair and kissed her forehead. "lt will go bet t er if you're rest ed."
Francesca looked up from her conversat ion wit h St even. "Do you t hink t hat 's a good idea?"
"lf she's t ired, she needs t o sleep. A few hours won't hurt . We're already here."
"But l'm not t ired." She prot est ed, but it was obvious she was lying.
Francesca swallowed. "l guess you're right . lt 's eit her going t o happen or it 's not ."
"What does she mean?" Luce asked Daniel.
"Not hing," he said soft ly. Then, t urning t o Fran cesca, he said very quiet ly, "lt 's go|ng t o
happen." He lift ed Luce enough so he could slide int o t he rocking chair beside her. He wrapped
his arms around her waist . The last t hings she felt were his kiss on her t emple and his whisper
in her ear. "Let her have one last sleep."
"Are you ready?"
Luce st ood beside Daniel in a fallow plot of farmland out side t he whit e hut . Mist rose from t he
soil, and t he sky was t he sharp blue color of a heavy st orm's wake.
There was snow in t he hills t o t he east , but t he sloping plains of t he valley exuded springlike
warmt h. Flowers bloomed on t he fringes of t he field. But t erflies were everywhere, whit e and
pink and gold.
"Yes."
Luce had been awake only an inst ant when she felt Daniel's hand lift her from t he rocking chair
and out t he door of t he quiet hut . He must have held her in his arms all night .
"Wait ," she said. "Ready for what ?"
The ot hers were wat ching her, gat hered in a circle as if t hey had been wait ing, t he angels and
Out cast s all wit h t heir wings ext ended.
A cloud of st orks crossed t he sky, t heir black-t ipped wings spread wide as palm fronds. Their
flight darkened t he sun for a moment , cast ing shadows on t he angels'
wings, before t he birds moved on.
"Tell me who l am," Daniel said plainly.
He was t he only angel wit h his wings concealed inside his clot hes. He st epped away from her,
rolled back his shoulders, closed his eyes, and released his wings.
They unfurled swift ly, wit h supreme elegance, blooming out on eit her side of him and sending
back a gust of wind t hat swayed t he boughs of t he apricot t rees.
Daniel's wings t owered over his body, radiant and wondrous, making him look unfat homably
beaut iful. He shone like a sun÷not only his wings, his whole body÷
and even more t han t hat . What t he angels called t heir glory radiat ed from Daniel. Luce couldn't
t ake her eyes off him.
"You're an angel."
He opened his violet eyes.
"Tell me more."
"You're÷you're Daniel Grigori," Luce cont inued.
"You're t he angel who has loved me for t housands of years. You're t he boy l've loved back
from t he moment ÷
no, from every moment l first saw you." She wat ched t he sun play off t he whit eness of his
wings, yearned t o feel t hem wrap around her. "You are t he soul t hat fit s int o mine."
"Good," Daniel said. "Now, t ell me who you are."
"Well . . . l'm Lucinda Price. l'm t he girl you fall in love wit h."
There was a t ense st illness all around t hem. All t he angels seemed t o hold t heir breat h.
Daniel's violet eyes filled wit h t ears. He whispered:
"More."
"lsn't t hat enough?"
He shook his head.
"Daniel?"
"Lucinda."
The way he said her name÷so gravely÷made her st omach ache. What did he want from her?
She blinked, and it sounded like a t hunderbolt ÷and t hen t he Trojan plain went black like it had
t he night before. The eart h was marred by crooked fissures. Smoking crat ers st ood where t he
field had been. Dust and ash and deat h were everywhere. The t rees were on fire along t he
horizon, and a foul belch of rot rolled in on t he wind.
lt was as if her soul had hurled her millennia back in t ime. There was no snow in t he mount ains,
no t idy whit e hut before her, no circle of angels' worried faces.
But t here was Daniel.
His wings shone t hrough t he dust y air. His bare skin was perfect , dewy, pink. His eyes glowed
wit h t he same int oxicat ing violet , but he wasn't looking at her. He was looking at t he sky. He
didn't seem t o know t hat Luce was next t o him.
Before she could follow his gaze upward, t he world began t o swirl. The scent on t he air
changed from rot t o arid dust . She was back in Egypt , in t he dark t omb where she'd been
locked away and almost lost her soul. That scene played out before her eyes: t he st arshot
warm inside her dress, t he panic clear on her past face, t he kiss t hat brought her back÷and Bill
flit t ing around t he pha-raoh's sarcophagus, already forming his most ambit ious scheme. Her
ears rang wit h his craggy laught er.
And t hen t he laught er was gone. The vision of Egypt morphed int o anot her: A Lucinda from an
even more dist ant past lay prone in a field of high flowers. She wore a deerskin dress and held
a dandelion over her face, picking off t he pet als one by one. The last one wobbled in t he wind
and she t hought , He /oves me. The sun was blinding unt il somet hing crossed before it . Daniel's
face, his eyes brimming violet love, his blond hair sculpt ing a halo from t he rays of t he sun.
He smiled.
Then his face disappeared. A new vision, anot her life: t he heat of a bonfire on her skin, desire
burning in her chest . There were st range, loud music; people laughing; friends and family all
around. Luce saw herself wit h Daniel, dancing wildly around t he flames. She could feel t he
rhyt hms of t he movement s deep wit hin her, even as t he music faded and t he flames licking t he
sky shift ed from hot red t o silvery soft ness÷
A wat erfall. A long lush drop of icy wat er down a limest one cliff. Luce was underneat h it , part ing
a cloud of wat er lilies wit h her st rokes. Her long wet hair gat hered around her shoulders as she
rose above t he wat er, t hen dipped below. She came up on t he ot her side of t he wat erfall's
t orrent , in a humid st one lagoon. And t here was Daniel, wait ing as if he'd been wait ing for her
all his life.
He dove from a rock, splashing her when his body st ruck t he wat er. He swam t oward her,
drawing her t o him, one arm around her back and t he ot her cradled under her knees. She laced
her hands around his neck and let him kiss her. She closed her eyes÷
Boom.
The t hunderbolt again. Luce was back on t he smoking Trojan plain. But t his t ime, she was
t rapped in one of t he crat ers, her body pinned beneat h a boulder. She couldn't move her left
arm or leg. She st ruggled, crying out , seeing spot s of red and shards of somet hing t hat looked
like a broken mirror. Her head swirled wit h t he most int ense pain she had ever felt .
"Help!"
And t hen: Daniel hovering over her, his violet eyes roving her body in unblinking horror. "What
happened to you?¨
Luce didn't know t he answer÷didn't know where she was or how she had got t en t here. The
Lucinda of her memory didn't even recognize Daniel. But she did.
Suddenly, she realized t hat t his was t he very first t ime she and Daniel had met on Eart h. This
was t he moment she'd been begging for, t he moment Daniel would never t alk about .
Neit her recognized t he ot her. They were already, inst ant ly in love.
How could th|s be t he place of t heir first meet ing?
This plagued dark landscape reeked of filt h and deat h.
Her past self looked beat en, bloodied÷like she had been shat t ered int o a t housand pieces.
Like she had fallen from an unfat homable height .
Luce glanced at t he sky. Somet hing was t here÷a mass of infinit esimal sparks, as t hough
Heaven had been elect rocut ed and shock waves would ripple from it for t he rest of t ime.
Except t he sparks were drawing nearer. Dark forms limned wit h light t umbled from an infinit y
above. There must have been a million of t hem gat hered in a chaot ic, amorphous band across
t he sky, dark and light , suspended and falling simult aneously, as if beyond t he reach of gravit y.
Had Luce been up t here? She felt almost as if she had.
Then she realized somet hing: Those were the ange/s.
Th|s was the la//.
The memory of wit nessing t heir fall t o Eart h ago-nized Luce. lt was like wat ching all t he st ars
fall out of t he night sky.
The fart her t hey fell, t he looser t heir aimless format ion became. Single ent it ies became visible,
aut onomous.
She couldn't imagine any of her angels, her friends, ever looking like t his. More lost and out of
cont rol t han t he most dest it ut e mort al on t he worst day of his life. Was Arriane among t hem?
Was Cam?
Her gaze t raced one orb of light direct ly overhead. lt grew larger and bright er as it approached.
Daniel looked up, t oo. Luce realized he didn't recognize t he falling forms, eit her. His impact on
Eart h had shuddered t hrough him so t horoughly t hat it had erased his memory of who he was,
where he'd come from, how magnificent he used t o be. He wat ched t he sky wit h raw t error in
his eyes.
A smat t ering of falling angels were hundreds of feet above t heir heads one second . . . t hen
close enough t hat Luce could make out t he st range, dark bodies wit hin t heir vessels of light .
The bodies did not move but seemed undeniably alive.
Closer t hey fell, bearing down on Luce unt il she screamed÷and t he great mass of dark and
light crashed int o t he field beside her.
An explosion of fire and black smoke knocked Daniel out of Luce's sight . More were coming.
Over a million more were coming. They would pummel t he Eart h and every living t hing on it t o a
pulp. Luce ducked and shielded her eyes and opened her mout h t o scream again.
But t he sound t hat came out was no scream÷
Because t he memory had shift ed int o somet hing even furt her back. Furt her back t han t he
Fall?
Luce was no longer in t he field of smoking crat ers and met eoric angels.
She was st anding in a landscape of pure light . Any t error in her voice did not belong here, could
not have ex|sted in t his place, which she knew and did not know.
She had a sense of where she was, but it couldn't possibly be real.
St reaming from her soul was a st rong, rich chord of music so beaut iful t hat it t urned everyt hing
around her whit e. The crat er was gone. The Eart h was gone. Her body was÷
She didn't know. She couldn't see it . She couldn't see anyt hing but t his fant ast ic silver-t inged
whit e glow. The bright ness unfolded like a package unt il Luce could make out a vast whit e
meadow spread out before her. Splendid groves of whit e t rees lined eit her side of t he field.
ln t he dist ance was a rippling silver ledge. Luce sensed it was import ant . Then she saw t hat
t here were seven more of t hem, forming a grand arch in t he air around somet hing so bright
Luce couldn't st and t o look at it .
She focused on t he ledge, t he t hird one from t he left .
She could not wrest her gaze from it . Why?
Because . . . Her memory reeled back. . . . Because÷
This ledge belonged t o her.
Long before, she used t o sit here, next t o . . . who? lt seemed t o mat t er.
Her vision swirled and faded and t he silver ledge dis-solved. The remaining whit eness focused,
separat ing int o shapes, int o÷
Faces. Bodies. Wings. A backdrop of blue sky.
This was not a memory. She was back in t he present , her real and final life. Around her st ood
her t eachers Francesca and St even; her allies t he Out cast s; her friends Roland, Arriane,
Annabelle, and Cam. And her love, Daniel. She st ared at each one of t hem and she found t hem
so beaut iful. They were wat ching her wit h dumb joy on t heir faces. They were also crying.
The g|lt ol se/l-know/edge, Dee had t old her. ¥ou must remember how to dream what you
a/ready know.
All t his had been wit hin her t he whole t ime, in every inst ant of her every life. Yet only now did
Luce feel awake beyond her capacit y t o imagine what it meant t o be awake. A light wind blew
across her skin and she could lee/ t he dist ant sea carried on it from t he Medit er-ranean, t elling
her she was st ill in Troy. Her vision, t oo, was clearer t han it had ever been before. She saw
brilliant dot s of pigment making up t he wings of a passing golden but t erfly. She breat hed in t he
cold air, filling her lungs, smelling t he zinc in t he loamy soil t hat would make it fert ile in t he
spring.
"l was t here," she whispered. "l was in÷" Heaven.
But she couldn't say it . She knew t oo much t o deny it ÷and yet not enough t o speak t he
words. Daniel. He would help her.
Go on, his eyes were pleading.
Where did she begin? She t ouched t he locket wit h t he pict ure t aken when she and Daniel had
lived in Milan.
"When l visit ed my past life in Helst on," she began,
"l learned t hat our love ran deeper t han who we were in any single lifet ime÷"
"Yes," Daniel said. "Our love t ranscends everyt hing."
"And . . . when l visit ed Tibet , l learned t hat a single t ouch or kiss was not t he t rigger t o my
curse."
"Not t ouch." Roland's voice. He was smiling, st anding next t o Daniel wit h his hands clasped
behind his back. "Not t ouch but self-awareness. A level you weren't ready for÷unt il now."
"Yes." Luce t ouched her forehead. There was more, so much more. "Versailles." She began t o
speak more quickly. "l was condemned t o marry a man l didn't love.
And your kiss released me, and my deat h was glorious because we would always find each
ot her again. Forever."
"Toget her forever, what ever t he weat her," Arriane chimed in, swiping damp eyes on Roland's
shirt sleeve.
By now Luce's t hroat felt so t ight it was difficult t o speak. But it was no longer sore. "l didn't
realize unt il London t hat your curse was so much worse t han mine," she said t o Daniel. "What
you had t o go t hrough, losing me÷"
"lt never mat t ered," Annabelle murmured, her wings buzzing so much t hat her feet were inches
off t he ground.
"He would always wait for you."
"Chichén lt zá." Luce closed her eyes. "l learned t hat an angel's glory could be deadly t o
mort als."
"Yes," St even said. "But you're st ill here."
"Keep going, Luce." Francesca's voice was more encouraging t han it had ever been at
Shoreline.
"Ancient China." She paused. This one's significance was different from t he ot hers. "You
showed me t hat our love was more import ant t han any arbit rary war." No one spoke. Daniel
gave t he faint est nod.
And t hat was when Luce underst ood, not just who she was÷but what it all added up t o.
There was anot her lifet ime from her voyage t hrough t he Announcers t hat Luce felt she had t o
ment ion. She t ook a breat h.
Don't th|nk ol B|//, she t old herself. ¥ou are not alra|d.
"When l was locked in t he t omb in Egypt , l knew once and for all t hat l would always choose
your love." That was when t he angels dropped t o one knee, gazing up at her expect ant ly÷all
of t hem except Daniel.
His eyes glowed t he most pot ent shade of violet she had ever seen. He reached for her, but
before his hands met hers:
"Auugh!" Luce cried out as a sharp pain sliced t hrough her back. Her body convulsed wit h a
foreign, piercing sensat ion. Her eyes t eared. Her ears rang. She t hought she might be sick from
t he pain. But slowly, it localized, from an acut e agony all over her back, int o t wo small sect ions
at t he t ops of her shoulder blades.
Was she bleeding? She reached back, over her shoulder. The wound felt t ender and raw, and
also as if somet hing were being drawn out from wit hin her. lt didn't hurt , but it was bewildering.
Panicked, she whirled her head around but she could see not hing, could only hear t he sound of
skin sliding and being st ret ched, t he thrrrrrp t hat sounded like new muscles were being
generat ed.
Then came a sudden feeling of heaviness, as if weight s had been st rapped around her
shoulders.
And t hen÷in her peripheral vision, vast billowing whit eness on eit her side of her as a collect ive
gasp rose from t he angels' lips.
"Oh, Lucinda," Daniel whispered, his hand covering his mout h.
lt was t his easy: She spread her wings.
They were luminous, buoyant , impossibly light , made of t he finest , most reflect ive empyrean
mat t er. From t ip t o t ip, her wingspan was maybe t hirt y feet , but t hey felt vast , endless. She felt
no more pain. When her fingers curled around t he base of t hem behind her shoulders, t hey
were several inches t hick and plush. They were silver, yet not silver, like t he surface of a mirror.
They were inconceivable; t hey were inevit able.
They were her w|ngs.
They cont ained every ounce of st rengt h and empow-erment she had amassed over t he
millennia she had lived.
And at t he slight est whim of a t hought , her wings began t o beat .
Her first t hought : l can do anyth|ng now.
Wordlessly, she and Daniel reached for one anot her's hands. Their wing t ips arched forward in
a kind of kiss, like t he angels' wings on t he Qayom Ma/ak. They were crying and laughing, and
soon, t hey were kissing.
"So?" he asked.
She was st unned and amazed÷and happier t han she'd ever been before. lt couldn't possibly
be real, she t hought ÷unless she spoke t he t rut h aloud, wit h Daniel and t he rest of t he fallen
angels t here t o wit ness.
"l'm Lucinda," she said. "l'm your angel."
SEVENTEEN
THE INVENTION OF LOVE
Flying was like swimming, and Luce was good at bot h.
Her feet lift ed off t he ground. lt t ook no t hought or preparat ion. Her wings beat wit h sudden
int uit ion. Wind hummed against t he fibers of her wings, carrying her in t he gauzy pink sky. Aloft ,
she felt t he weight of her body, especially in her feet , but overpowering t hat was a new,
unimaginable buoyancy. She slid over low t iers of clouds, causing t he slight est disrupt ion, like a
breeze passing t hrough a chime.
She gazed from one wing t ip t o t he ot her, examining t heir silver-pearl lust er, in awe of all her
changes. lt was as if t he rest of her body deferred t o her wings now.
They responded at t he first inkling of desire, elegant st rokes t hat generat ed t remendous
velocit y. They flat t ened like an airfoil t o glide solely on moment um, t hen pulled back int o a
heart shape behind her shoulders as she swizzled st raight int o t he air.
Her l|rst l/|ght.
Except . . . it wasn't . What Luce knew now, as keenly as her wings knew how t o fly, was t hat
t here had been a monument al belore. Before Lucinda Price, before her soul had ever seen t he
curving Eart h. For all t he lives on Eart h she'd wit nessed in t he Announcers, all t he bodies she
had inhabit ed, Luce had barely scrat ched t he surface of who she was, who she had been.
There was a hist ory older t han hist ory during which she'd beat t hese wings.
She could see t he ot hers wat ching her from t he ground. Daniel's face shone wit h t ears. He had
known t his all along. He had wait ed for her. She want ed t o reach him, want ed him t o soar up
and fly wit h her÷but t hen, suddenly, she couldn't see him anymore.
The light gave way t o t ot al darkness . . .
Of anot her memory crashing t hrough.
She closed her eyes and surrendered t o it , let t ing it carry her back. Somehow she knew t hat
t his was t he earliest memory, t he moment at t he furt hest reaches of her soul. Lucinda had
been t here from t he beginning of t he beginning.
The Bible had left t his part out :
Before t here was light , t here were angels. One moment , darkness; t he next , t he warm feeling
of being coaxed out of inexist ence by a gent le, magnificent hand.
God creat ed t he Heavenly host of angels÷all t hree hundred and eight een million of t hem÷a
single, brilliant moment . Lucinda was t here, and Daniel, and Roland and Annabelle and Cam÷
and millions more, all perfect , all glorious, all designed t o adore t heir Creat or.
Their bodies were made of t he same subst ance t hat composed t he firmament of heaven.
They were not flesh and blood, but empyreal mat t er, t he st uff of light it self÷st rong,
indest ruct ible, beaut iful t o behold. Their shoulders, arms, and legs shimmered int o being,
foreshadowing t he shapes mort als would t ake upon t heir own creat ion.
The angels all discovered t heir wings simult aneously, each pair slight ly different , reflect ing t he
soul of it s pos-sessor.
As early as t he angels' genesis, Lucinda's wings were bright reflect ive silver, t he color of
st arlight . They had shone in t heir singular glory since t he dawn of t he dawn of t ime.
Creat ion occurred at t he speed of God's will, but it unfolded in Luce's memory like a st ory,
anot her of God's earliest creat ions, a by-product of t ime. One moment t here was not hing; t hen
Heaven was replet e wit h angels.
ln t hose days, Heaven was limit less, it s ground covered by cloudsoil, a soft whit e subst ance like
mist y cloud t hat covered t he angels' feet and wing t ips when t hey walked along t he ground.
There were endless t iers in Heaven, each level t eem-ing wit h alcoves and winding pat hs
fanning out in all direct ions under a honey-colored sky. The air was perfumed wit h nect ar
welling in delicat e whit e flowers springing up in delight ful groves. Their round blooms dot t ed all
of Heaven's nooks and crannies, looking somet hing like ancest ors of whit e peonies.
Orchards of silver t rees bore t he most delicious fruit s t hat had ever exist ed. The angels
feast ed and gave t hanks for t heir first and only home. Their voices joined t oget her in praise of
t heir Creat or, forming a blended sound t hat in humans' t hroat s would lat er be known as
harmony.
A meadow rolled int o exist ence, dividing t he orchard in t wo. And when everyt hing else in
Heaven was complet e, God placed a st unning Throne at t he head of t he meadow. lt pulsed
wit h divine light .
"Come before me," God commanded, set t ling int o t he deep seat wit h deserved sat isfact ion.
"Hencefort h you will know me as t he Throne."
The angels gat hered on t he plain of Heaven and approached t he Throne in gladness. They
flowed nat urally int o a single line, ranking t hemselves inst ant ly and forevermore. By t he t ime
t hey neared t he edge of t he meadow, Lucinda remembered t hat she could not clearly see t he
Throne. lt shone t oo bright ly for angels' eyes t o wit h-st and. She also remembered t hat she had
once been t he t hird angel in line÷t he t hird angel closest t o God.
One, t wo, t hree.
Her wings st ret ched and t hickened wit h t he honor.
ln t he air over t he Throne, eight ledges made of rippled silver hung in an arch, like a canopy
shelt ering t he Throne. God called t he first eight angels in t he line t o fill t hese seat s and
become t he Throne's Archangels. Lucinda t ook her place on t he t hird seat from t he left . lt fit
her body precisely, having been creat ed just for her. This was where she belonged. Adorat ion
poured from her soul, flowing ont o God.
lt was perfect .
lt did not last .
God had more plans for t he universe. Anot her memory filled Lucinda, causing her t o shiver.
God left t he angels.
All was joyful in t he Meadow, and t hen t he Throne became empt y. God walked past t he
t hresholds of Heaven, went away t o creat e t he st ars and t he Eart h and t he moon.
Man and woman hovered near t he brink of exist ence.
Heaven dimmed when God left it . Lucinda felt cold and useless. lt was t hen, she remembered,
t hat t he angels began t o see one anot her different ly, t o not ice t he varia-t ions in color among
t heir wings. Some began t o gossip t hat God had wearied of t hem and t heir harmonizing songs
of praise. Some said t hat humans would soon t ake t he angels' place.
Lucinda remembered reclining in her silver seat next t o t he Throne. She remembered not icing
how simple and dull it looked wit hout God's animat ing presence.
She t ried t o adore her Creat or from afar, but she couldn't replace her loneliness. Adorat ion in
God's presence was what she had been designed for and all she felt now was a hole. What
could she do?
She looked down from her chair and saw an angel roaming t he cloudsoil. He looked let hargic,
melancholy.
He seemed t o feel her gaze on him and looked up. When t heir eyes met , he smiled. She
remembered how beaut iful he'd been before God had gone away. . . .
They did not t hink. They reached for one anot her.
Their souls ent wined.
Dan|e/, Luce t hought . But she couldn't be sure. The Meadow had been dim and her memory
was foggy. . . .
Was t his t he moment of t heir first connect ion?
l/ash.
The Meadow was bright whit e again. Time had passed; God had ret urned. The Throne blazed
wit h sub-lime glory. Lucinda no longer sat upon her rippling silver chair beside t he Throne. She
was crammed int o t he Meadow wit h t he full host of angels, being asked t o choose somet hing.
The Roll Call. Lucinda had been t here, t oo. Of course she had. She felt hot and nervous
wit hout knowing why.
Her body flushed t he way it used t o when she was inside a past self and on t he brink of dying.
She could not st ill her t rembling wings.
She had chosen÷
Her st omach dropped. The air felt t hin. She was . . . falling. Luce blinked and saw t he sun
clipping t he mount ains and she knew t hat she was back in t he present , back in Troy. And
falling from t he sky, t went y feet . . . fort y.
Her arms flailed, as if she were a mere girl again, as if she couldn't fly.
She spread her wings, but it was t oo lat e.
She landed wit h a soft t hump in Daniel's arms. Her friends surrounded her on t he grassy plain.
Everyt hing was just as it had been before: flat -t opped cedar t rees around a muddy, fallow farm;
abandoned hut in t he middle of barren expanse; purple hills; but t erflies. Faces of fallen angels
wat ching over her, filled wit h concern.
"Are you all right ?" Daniel asked.
Her heart was st ill racing. Why couldn't she remember what had happened at t he Roll Call?
Maybe it wouldn't help t hem st op Lucifer, but Luce desperat ely want ed t o know.
"l came so close," she said. "l almost underst ood what happened."
Daniel set her soft ly on t he ground and kissed her.
"You will get t here, Luce. l know you will." lt was dusk on t he eight h day of t heir journey. As t he
sun slipped over t he Dardanelles, cast ing gold light on t he sloping fallow fields, Luce wished
t here was a way t o draw it backward.
What if one day wasn't enough t ime?
Luce hunched and unhunched her shoulders. She wasn't used t o t he weight of her wings, light
as rose pet als in t he sky, but heavy as lead curt ains when her feet were on t he ground.
When her wings first unfurled, t hey'd t orn t hrough her T-shirt and t he khaki army jacket . The
clot hes lay on t he grass in shreds, st range proof. Annabelle had quickly emerged from t he hut
wit h an ext ra T-shirt . lt was elect ric blue wit h a silk-screened image of Marlene Diet rich on t he
chest , subt le wing slit s t ailored int o t he back.
"lnst ead of t hinking of all t hat you don't yet remember," Francesca said, "recognize what you
have come t o know."
"Well." Luce paced t he meadow, feeling t he new sensat ion of her wings bobbing behind her. "l
know t hat t he curse prevent ed me from knowing my t rue nat ure as an angel, caused me t o die
whenever l began t o approach a memory of my past . That 's why none of you could t ell me who
l was."
"You had t o walk t hat lonesome valley by yourself," Cam said.
"And t he reason it t ook you unt il t his lifet ime was also part of your curse," Daniel said.
"This t ime l was raised wit hout one specific religion, wit hout a single set of rules det ermining
my dest iny, which allows me t o"÷Luce paused, t hinking back t o t he Roll Call÷"choose for
myself."
"Not everyone has t hat luxury." Phil spoke up from t he line of Out cast s.
"That 's why t he Out cast s want ed me?" she asked, knowing suddenly it was t rue. "But haven't
l already chosen Daniel? l couldn't remember before, but when Dee gave me her gift of
knowledge, it seemed like"÷she reached for Daniel÷"t he choice was always already t here
inside of me."
"You know who you are now, Luce," Daniel said.
"You know what mat t ers t o you. Not hing should be beyond your grasp."
Daniel's words seeped int o her. This was what she was now÷it was what she a/ways had
been.
Her gaze moved t o where t he Out cast s st ood at a dist ance from t he group. Luce didn't know
how much t hey could have seen of her t ransformat ion, whet her t heir blind eyes could perceive
a soul's met amorphosis.
She wat ched for a sign in Olianna, t he female Out cast who'd guarded Luce on t he rooft op in
Vienna. But as she st ared at Olianna, she realized Olianna had also . . . changed.
"l remember you," Luce said, walking closer t o t he t hin blond girl wit h t he cavernous whit e eyes.
She knew her, from Heaven. "Olianna, you were one of t he Twelve Angels of t he Zodiac. You
ruled over Leo." Olianna t ook a deep shuddering breat h and nodded.
"Yes."
"And you, Phresia. You were a Luminary." Luce closed her eyes, remembering. "Weren't you
one of t he Four who emanat ed from Divine Will? l remember your wings. They were"÷she
halt ed, feeling her expression darken at t he sight of t he drab brown wings t he girl bore now
÷"except ional."
Phresia st raight ened her slumped shoulders, raised her pale gaunt face. "No one has t ruly seen
me in ages." Vincent , t he youngest -looking of t he Out cast s, st epped forward. "And me,
Lucinda Price? Do you remember me?"
Luce reached out and t ouched t he boy's shoulder, remembering how deat hly sick he'd looked
aft er t he Scale had t ort ured him. Then she remembered somet hing deeper t han t hat . "You are
Vincent , Angel of t he Nort h Wind."
Vincent 's blind eyes clouded, as if his soul want ed t o cry but his body refused.
"Phil," Luce said, gazing finally at t he Out cast she'd feared so much when he came for her in
her parent s'
backyard. His lips were t aut and whit e, nervous. "One of Monday's Angels, weren't you?
lnst illed wit h t he Powers of t he Moon."
"Thank you, Lucinda Price." Phil bowed halt ingly, but graciously. "The Out cast s confess, we
were wrong t o t ry t o t ake you away from your soul mat e and your obligat ions. But we knew, as
you have just proven, t hat you alone could see us for who we used t o be. And t hat you alone
could rest ore us t o our glory."
"Yes," she said. "l can see you."
"The Out cast s can see you, t oo," Phil said. "You are radiant ."
"Yes, she is."
Daniel.
She t urned t o him. His blond hair and violet eyes, t he st rong cut of his shoulders, t he full lips
t hat had brought her back t o life a t housand t imes. They had loved each ot her even longer
t han Luce had realized. Their love had been st rong since t he early days of Heaven. Their
relat ionship spanned t he ent ire st ory of exist ence. She knew where she'd first met Daniel on
Eart h÷right here, on t he singed fields of Troy while t he angels were falling÷
but t here was an earlier st ory. A different beginning t o t heir love.
When? How had it happened?
She searched for t he answer in his eyes÷but she knew she wouldn't find it t here. She had t o
look back in her own soul. She closed her eyes.
The memories came easier now, as if her spreading wings had sent a web of fissures breaking
t hrough t he wall bet ween t he girl Lucinda and t he angel she had been before. What ever
separat ed her from her past was fragile now, as t hin and brit t le as an eggshell.
l/ash.
Back on t he Meadow, ast ride her silver ledge, aching for God t o ret urn. Luce was looking down
at t he fair-haired angel, t he one she'd already remembered reaching for. She remembered his
slow, sad st eps on t he cloudsoil. The crown of his head before he looked up.
Heaven was quiet t hen. Luce and t he angel were alone for a rare moment , away from t he
harmony of ot hers.
He t urned t o look up at Lucinda. He had a square face, wavy amber hair, and blue eyes t he
color of ice.
They crinkled when he smiled at her. She did not recognize him.
No, t hat wasn't it ÷she recognized him, knew him.
Long before, Lucinda had /oved t his angel.
But he wasn't Dan|e/.
Wit hout knowing why, Luce want ed t o spin away from t his memory, t o pret end she hadn't
seen it , t o blink back and be wit h Daniel on t he rocky plains of Troy. But her soul was welded t o
t he scene. She could not t urn away from t his angel who was not Daniel.
He reached for her. Their wings ent wined. He whispered in her ear:
"Our love is endless. There can be not hing else." No.
At last , she jolt ed from t he memory. Back at Troy.
Out of breat h. Her eyes must have bet rayed her. She felt wild and panicked.
"What did you see?" Annabelle whispered.
Luce's mout h opened but no words came.
l betrayed h|m. Whoever he was. There was someone belore Dan|e/, and l÷
"lt 's not over yet ." Finally, she found her voice. "The curse. Even t hough l know who l am and l
know t hat l choose Daniel, t here's somet hing else, isn't t here? Someone else. He's t he one
who cursed me." Daniel ran his fingers very light ly over t he shining border of her wings. She
shivered, because every t ouch against her wings burned wit h t he passion of a deep kiss and
ignit ed somet hing deep inside her. Finally she knew t he pleasure she brought t o him when she
let her hands glide over his. "You have come so very far, Lucinda. But t here is st ill a ways t o go.
Search your past . You already know what you are looking for. Find it ." She closed her eyes,
searching again t hrough millennia of fraught memories.
The Eart h drew away beneat h her feet . A maze of colors blurred around her, and her heart
hammered in her chest , and everyt hing went whit e.
Heaven again.
lt was bright wit h God's ret urn t o t he Throne. The sky shone t he color of an opal. The cloudsoil
was t hick t hat day, t uft s of whit e reaching nearly t o t he angels'
waist s. Those t owering whit e spires t o t he right were t rees in t he Grove of Life; t he silvery
blossoms in full bloom t o t he left would soon bear t he fruit s of t he Orchard of Knowledge. The
t rees were t aller now. They'd had t ime t o grow since Luce's last recollect ion.
She was back in t he Meadow, in t he cent er of a great , flickering congregat ion of light . The
angels in Heaven were gat hered before t he Throne, which was rest ored t o t he bright ness so
int ense Lucinda cringed t o look at it .
The silver ledge t hat had once been Lucifer's had now been moved t o t he far end of t he
Meadow. lt had been lowered t o an insult ing level by t he Throne. Bet ween Lucifer and t he
Throne t he rest of t he angels were unit ed in a single mass÷but soon, Lucinda realized, t hey
would be part it ioned off t o one side or t he ot her.
She was back at t he Roll Call. This t ime she would force herself t o remember how it went .
Every son and every daught er of Heaven would be asked t o choose a side. God or Lucifer.
Good or . . . no, he wasn't evil.
Evil didn't exist yet .
Crowded t oget her like t hat , every angel was st unning, dist inct but somehow indist inguishable
from t he next . There was Daniel, in t he cent er, t he purest glow she would ever know. ln her
memory, Lucinda was moving t oward him.
Moving from where?
Daniel's voice filled her ears: Search your past.
She hadn't looked at Lucifer yet . She didn't want t o.
look where you do not want to /ook.
When she t urned t o t he far end of t he Meadow, she saw t he light around Lucifer. lt was
splendid and ost en-t at ious, as if he sought t o compet e wit h everyt hing in t he Meadow÷t he
Orchard, t he Heavenly hum, t he Throne it self. Lucinda had t o focus hard t o see him clearly.
He was . . . lovely. Amber hair spilled down his shoulders in shiny waves. His body seemed
grander, defined by muscle no mort al would ever achieve. His cold blue eyes were mesmerizing.
Lucinda couldn't t ake her eyes off him. Then, bet ween bars of t he Heavenly hum, she heard it .
Though she didn't remember learning t he song, she knew t he words and would always know
t hem, t he way mort als carried nursery rhymes t hrough t heir lives.
Ol a// the pa|rs the Throne endorsed None rose to burn as br|ght
As luc|ler, the Morn|ng Star,
And luc|nda, h|s Fven|ng l|ght
The lines echoed in her head, drawing memory t o t hem, recollect ion raining down wit h every
word.
luc|nda, h|s Fven|ng l|ght?
Lucinda's soul crawled, sickened, t oward a realizat ion. Lucifer had writ t en t his song. lt was a
part of his design.
She was . . . had she been luc|ler's lover?
The moment she wondered whet her t hat horror was possible, Luce knew it was t he oldest ,
coldest t rut h. She had been wrong about everyt hing. Her first love had been Lucifer, and
Lucifer had been hers. Even t heir names were paired. Once, t hey had been soul mat es. She felt
t wist ed, foreign t o herself, as if she'd awakened t o realize she had killed someone in her sleep.
Across t he Meadow, Lucinda and Lucifer locked eyes at t he Roll Call. Hers widened in disbelief
as his crinkled up in an inscrut able smile.
l/ash.
A memory inside a memory. Luce t unneled even furt her t hrough t he darkness, t o t he place
where she most loat hed t o go.
Lucifer held her, his wings caressing hers, creat ing unment ionable pleasure, openly, t here on
her silver seat around t he empt y Throne.
Our /ove |s end/ess. There can be noth|ng e/se.
When he kissed her, Lucinda and Lucifer became t he first beings t o experiment wit h affect ion
beyond God.
The kisses had been st range and wonderful and Lucinda had want ed more, but she feared
what t he ot her angels would t hink of Lucifer's kisses on her. She worried t hat his kiss would
look like a brand on her lips. Most of all, she feared God would know when God ret urned and
resumed t he t it le of t he Throne.
"Say you adore me," Lucifer begged.
"Adorat ion is for God," Lucinda replied.
"lt doesn't have t o be," Lucifer whispered. "lmagine how st rong we'd be if we could openly
declare our love before t he Throne, you adoring me, me adoring you.
The Throne is only one÷unit ed in love, we could be great er."
"What 's t he difference bet ween love and adorat ion?" Lucinda asked.
"Love is t aking t he adorat ion you feel for God and giving it t o somebody act ually here. "
"But l don't want t o be great er t han God." Lucifer's face darkened at her words. He spun away
from her, rage t aking root in his soul. Lucinda sensed a st range change wit hin him, but it was so
foreign she didn't recognize it . She began t o fear him. He seemed t o fear not hing, except her
ever leaving him. He t aught her t he song about t he great ness of t heir union. He made her sing
it const ant ly, unt il Lucinda saw herself as Lucifer's Evening Light . He t old Lucinda t his was love.
Luce writ hed wit h t he pain of t he memory. lt went on and on like t hat wit h Lucifer. Wit h every
int eract ion, every caress of Lucinda's wings, he grew more possessive, more envious of her
adorat ion of t he Throne, t elling Lucinda t hat if she t ruly loved him, Lucifer would be enough.
There was one day she remembered during t hat dark period: She'd been weeping in t he
Meadow, up t o her neck in cloudsoil, want ing t o sink away from everyt hing.
An angel's shadow hovered over her.
"Leave me alone!" she had cried.
But t he wing t hat draped over hers did t he opposit e.
lt cradled her. The angel seemed t o know what she needed bet t er t han she knew herself.
Slowly, Lucinda lift ed her head. The angel's eyes were violet .
"Daniel." She knew him as t he sixt h Archangel, charged wit h wat ching over lost souls. "Why
have you come t o me?"
"Because l have been wat ching you." Daniel st ared and Luce knew t hat before t hen, no one
had ever seen an angel cry. Lucinda's t ears were t he first . "What is happening t o you?"
For a long t ime she searched for t he words. "l feel like l'm losing my light ."
The st ory poured out of her, and Daniel let it come.
No one had list ened t o Lucinda in a very long t ime.
When she finished, Daniel's eyes were wet wit h t ears.
"What you call love does not sound very beaut iful," he said slowly. "Think of t he way we adore
t he Throne.
That adorat ion makes us t he best versions of ourselves.
We feel encouraged t o go furt her wit h our inst inct s, not t o change ourselves for love. lf l were
yours and you were mine, l would want you t o be exact ly as you are. l would never eclipse you
wit h my desires." Lucinda t ook Daniel's warm, st rong hand. Maybe Lucifer had discovered love,
but t his angel seemed t o underst and how t o build it int o somet hing wonderful.
Suddenly, Lucinda was kissing Daniel, showing him how it was done, needing for t he first t ime
t o give her soul ent irely t o anot her. They held each ot her, Daniel's and Lucinda's souls glowing
bright er, t wo halves made bet t er as a whole.
l/ash.
Of course, Lucifer came back t o her. The rage wit hin him had swelled so much t hat he was
t wice as t all as her.
They used t o st and eye t o eye. "l can st and t he yoke no longer. Will you come before t he
Throne wit h me and declare your sole allegiance t o our love?"
"Lucifer, wait ÷" Lucinda want ed t o t ell him about Daniel, but he wouldn't have heard her
anyway.
"lt is a lie for me t o play adoring angel when l have you and require not hing more. Let us make
plans, Lucinda, you and l. Let us scheme for glory."
"How is t hat love?" she had cried. "You adore your dreams, your ambit ion. You t aught me how
t o love, but l cannot love a soul so dark it eat s up ot hers' light ." He did not believe her, or he
pret ended not t o hear her, because Lucifer soon challenged t he Throne t o gat her all t he souls
in t he Meadow for t he Roll Call.
He'd held Lucinda in his grip when he made t he challenge, but when he st art ed t o speak, he
was dist ract ed and she was able t o slip away. She walked int o t he Meadow, wandered among
bright souls. She saw t he one she'd been seeking all along.
Lucifer bellowed at t he angels:
"A line has been drawn in t he cloudsoil of t he Meadow. Now you are all free t o choose. l offer
you equalit y, an exist ence wit hout an aut horit y's arbit rary rankings."
Luce knew he meant t hat she was only free t o follow him. Lucifer might have t hought he loved
her, but what he loved was cont rolling her wit h a dark, dest ruct ive fascinat ion. lt was as if
Lucifer t hought Lucinda was an aspect of him.
She huddled next t o Daniel in t he Meadow, basking in t he warmt h of a burgeoning love t hat
was pure and sust aining, as Daniel's name rang out across t he Meadow.
He had been called. He rose above t he riot of angelic light and said wit h calm self-possession,
"Wit h respect , l will not do t his. l will not choose Lucifer's side, nor will l choose t he side of
Heaven."
A roar went up from t he vast camps of angels, from t hose who st ood beside t he Throne, from
Lucifer most of all. Lucinda had been st unned.
"lnst ead, l choose /ove, " Daniel went on. "l choose love and leave you t o your war. You're
wrong t o bring t his upon us," Daniel said t o Lucifer.
Then, t o t he Throne: "All t hat is good in Heaven and on Eart h is made of love. Maybe t hat
wasn't your plan when you creat ed t he universe÷maybe love was just one aspect of a
complicat ed and brut al world.
But love was t he best t hing you made, and it has become t he only t hing wort h saving. This war
is not just .
This war is not good. Love is t he only t hing wort h fight ing for."
The Meadow fell silent aft er Daniel's words. Most of t he angels looked dumbfounded, as if t hey
did not underst and what Daniel meant .
lt had not been Lucinda's t urn. The angels' names were called by t he celest ial secret aries
according t o t heir rank, and Lucinda was one of a handful of angels higher t han Daniel. lt didn't
mat t er. They were a t eam. She rose t o his side in t he Meadow.
"There should never have t o be a choice bet ween love and You," Lucinda declared t o t he
Throne. "Maybe one day You will find a way t o reconcile adorat ion and t he t rue love You have
made us capable of. But if forced t o choose, l must st and beside my love. l choose Daniel and
will choose him forevermore."
Then Luce remembered t he hardest t hing she'd ever had t o do. She t urned t o Lucifer, her first
love. Wit hout being honest wit h him, none of t his would count . "You showed me t he power of
love, and for t hat l will always be grat eful. But love ranks a dist ant t hird for you, far behind your
pride and rage. You have begun a fight you can never win."
"l am doing all of t his for you!" Lucifer shout ed.
lt was his first great lie, t he universe's first great lie.
Arm in arm wit h Daniel in t he cent er of t he Meadow, Lucinda had made t he only possible
choice. Her fear paled in comparison t o her love.
But she never could have ant icipat ed t he curse. Luce remembered now t hat t he punishment
had come from bot h sides. That was what had made t he curse so binding: Bot h t he Throne
and Lucifer÷out of jealousy or spit e or a loveless view of just ice÷had sealed Daniel and
Lucinda's fat e for many t housands of years.
ln t he silence of t he Meadow, a st range t hing happened: Another Daniel soared up next t o
Lucinda and Daniel. He was an Anachronism÷t he Daniel she had met at Shoreline, t he angel
Luce Price knew and loved.
"l come here t o beg clemency," Daniel's t winning spoke. "lf we must be punished÷and, my
Mast er, l do not quest ion your decision÷please at least remember t hat one of t he great
feat ures of Your power is Your mercy, which is myst erious and large and humbles us all."
At t he t ime Lucinda had not underst ood t his÷but in Luce's memory, finally, everyt hing made
sense. He had given Luce t he gift of a loophole in t he curse, so t hat someday in t he dist ant
fut ure, she could liberat e t heir love.
The last t hing she remembered was clut ching Daniel t ight ly when t he cloudsoil boiled black.
The ground dropped out from under t hem and t he angels began t heir fugue, t heir Fall. Daniel
had slipped from her reach. Her body had fixed int o immobilit y. She lost him. She lost all
memory. She lost herself.
Unt il now.
When Luce opened her eyes, night had fallen. The air was so cool her arms were t rembling.
The ot hers huddled around her, so quiet ly she could hear cricket s whist ling in t he grass. She
didn't want t o look at anyone.
"lt was because of me," she said. "All t his t ime l t hought t hey were punishing you, Daniel, but
t he punishment was for me." She paused. "Am l t he reason Lucifer revolt ed?"
"No, Luce." Cam gave her a sad smile. "Maybe you were t he inspirat ion, but inspirat ion is an
excuse for doing somet hing you already want t o do. Lucifer was looking for an ent rance int o
evil. He would have found anot her way."
"But l bet rayed him."
"No," Daniel said. "He bet rayed you. He bet rayed all of us."
"Wit hout his rebellion, would we have fallen in love?"
Daniel smiled. "l like t o t hink we would have found a way. Now, finally, we have a chance t o put
all of t his behind us. We have a chance t o st op Lucifer, t o break t he curse and love each ot her
t he way we always want ed. We can make all t hese years of suffering wort hwhile."
"Look," St even said, point ing at t he sky.
The st ars were out in droves. One, far in t he dist ance, was part icularly bright . lt flickered, t hen
seemed t o go out alt oget her before ret urning even bright er t han before.
"That 's t hem, isn't it ?" she said. "The Fall?"
"Yes," Francesca said. "That 's it . lt looks just like t he old t ext s say it would."
"lt was just "÷Luce furrowed her brow, squint ing÷
"l can only see it when l÷"
"Concent rat e," Cam ordered.
"What 's happening t o it ?" Luce asked.
"lt is coming int o being in t his world," Daniel said.
"lt wasn't t he physical t ransit from Heaven t o Eart h t hat t ook nine days. lt was t he shift from a
Heavenly realm t o an Eart hly one. When we landed here, our bodies were . . . different . We
became different . That t ook t ime."
"Now t ime is t aking us," Roland said, looking at t he golden pocket wat ch t hat Dee must have
given him before she died.
"Then it is t ime for us t o go," Daniel said t o Luce.
"Up t here?"
"Yes, we must soar up t o meet t hem. We will fly right up t o t he limit s of t he Fall, and t hen you
÷"
"l have t o st op him?"
"Yes."
She closed her eyes, t hought back t o t he way Lucifer had looked at her in t he Meadow. He
looked like he want ed t o crush every speck of t enderness t here was. "l t hink l know how."
"l t old you she would say t hat !" Arriane whooped.
Daniel pulled her close. "Are you sure?" She kissed him, never surer. "l just got my wings back,
Daniel. l'm not going t o let Lucifer t ake t hem away."
So Luce and Daniel said goodbye t o t heir friends, reached for each ot her's hands, and t ook off
int o t he night . They flew upward forever, t hrough t he t hinnest out er skin of t he at mosphere,
t hrough a film of light at t he edge of space.
The moon became enormous, shone like a noont ime sun. They passed t hrough hazy clouded
galaxies and by ot her moons wit h ot her crat er-shadowed faces and st range planet s glowing
wit h red gas and st riped rings of light .
No amount of flying t ired Luce. She began t o underst and how Daniel could go for days wit hout
rest ; she was not hungry or t hirst y. She was not cold in t he frozen night .
At last , at t he edge of not hing, in t he darkest pocket of t he universe, t hey reached t he
perimet er. They saw t he black web of Lucifer's Announcer, wobbling bet ween dimensions.
lnside it was t he Fall.
Daniel hovered at her side, his wings brushing hers, t ransmit t ing st rengt h. "You will have t o
pass t hrough t he Announcer first . Don't get hung up t here. Move t hrough unt il you find him in
t he Fall."
"l have t o go in alone, don't l?"
"l would follow you t o t he ends of t he Eart h and beyond. But you're t he only one who can do
t his," Daniel said. He t ook her hand and kissed her fingers, her palm. He was shaking. "l'll be
here."
Their lips met one last t ime.
"l love you, Luce," Daniel said. "l will love you always, whet her or not Lucifer succeeds÷"
"No, don't say t hat ," Luce said. "He won't ÷"
"But if he does," Daniel cont inued, "l want you t o know t hat l would do it all again. l will choose
you every t ime."
A calmness came over Luce. She would not fail him.
She would not fail herself.
"l won't be long."
She squeezed his hand and t urned away and plunged t hrough darkness, int o Lucifer's
Announcer.
EIGHTEEN
CATCH A FALLING STAR
The darkness was t ot al.
Luce had only ever t raveled t hrough her own Announcers, which were cool and damp, even
peaceful.
The ent rance t o Lucifer's was st ale, hot , filled wit h acrid smoke÷and deafening. Phlegmy pleas
for mercy and jagged radiat ing sobs permeat ed it s inner wall.
Luce's wings brist led÷a sensat ion she'd never experienced÷as she realized t hat t he devil's
Announcers were out post s of Hell.
lt's just a passage, she t old herself. lt's /|ke any other Announcer, a porta/ to pass through to
another p/ace and t|me.
She pushed forward, gagging on smoke. The ground was spiked wit h somet hing she didn't
recognize unt il she st umbled t o her knees and felt t he excruciat ion of glass shards in t he
hands Daniel had just released.
Don't get hung up there, he had t old her. Move through unt|/ you l|nd h|m.
She t ook a deep breat h, right ed herself, remembered what she was. She spread her wings and
t he Announcer flooded wit h light . Now Luce could see how horrible it was÷every smoldering
surface covered by prot ruding shards of glass of different colors, semi-human forms dead or
dying in st icky pools on t he floor, and, worst of all, an overwhelming sense of loss.
Luce looked down at her bleeding hands, vicious lit t le t riangles of brown glass st icking out of
her palms. ln an inst ant t hey were healed. She grit t ed her t eet h and flew, her body penet rat ing
t he Announcer's inner wall, deep int o t he belly of Lucifer's st olen Fall.
lt was vast . That was t he first t hing. Vast enough t o be it s own universe, and eerily silent . The
Fall was so bright wit h t he light of falling angels t hat Luce could hardly see. Somehow, she
could feel t hem÷all around, her sist ers and her brot hers, more t han a hundred million of
Heaven's host , decorat ing t he sky like paint ings.
They hung suspended, frozen in space and t ime, each one ent ombed in a different orb of light .
That was how she'd fallen, t oo. She remembered it now, painfully. Those nine days had
cont ained nine hundred et ernit ies. And yet st ill as t he falling angels were, Luce saw now t hat
t hey were changing all t he t ime. Their forms t ook on a st range, inchoat e t ranslucence. Here
and t here light flashed on t he underside of a pair of wings. An arm hazily flickered int o being,
t hen became indist inct again. This was what Daniel meant about t he shift t hat occurred wit hin
t he Fall÷souls met amorphosing from t he way t hey had been in t he Heavenly realm t o t he way
t hey would be in t he Eart hly realm.
The angels were shedding t heir angelic purit y, ent ering t he incarnat ions t hey would wear on
Eart h.
Luce drew near t he nearest angel. She recognized him: Tzadkiel, t he angel of Divine Just ice,
her brot her and her friend. She had not seen his soul in ages. He didn't see her now, and he
couldn't have responded if he had.
The light wit hin him warbled, causing Tzadkiel's essence t o shimmer like a gem in muddy
wat er. lt coalesced int o a blurry face Luce didn't recognize. lt looked gro-t esque÷crudely
formed eyes, half-realized lips. lt wasn't him, but as soon as t he angels hit t he unforgiving soil
of Eart h, it would be.
The fart her she waded int o t he suspended sea of souls, t he heavier she felt . Luce recognized
all of t hem÷
Saraquel, Alat , Muriel, Chayo. She realized wit h horror t hat when her wings drew near enough,
she could hear each angel's falling t hought s.
Who w|// take care ol us? Whom w|// we adore?
l can't lee/ my w|ngs.
l m|ss my orchards. W|// there be orchards |n He//?
l am sorry. l am so sorry.
lt was t oo painful t o remain near any of t hem for longer t han a single t hought . Luce pushed on,
direct ion-less, overwhelmed, unt il a bright , familiar light at t ract ed her.
Gabbe.
Even in unformed t ransit ion, Gabbe was gorgeous.
Her whit e wings folded like rose pet als around her focusing feat ures; t he dark drape of her
eyelashes made her look peaceful and st eady.
Luce pressed up against Gabbe's silvery orb of light .
For a moment , she considered t hat t here might be a bright side t o Lucifer's Fall: Gabbe would
ret urn.
Then t he light wit hin Gabbe flickered and Luce heard t he falling angel t hink.
Move on. luc|nda. P/ease move on. Dream what you a/ready know.
Luce t hought of Daniel, wait ing on t he ot her side.
She t hought of Lu Xin, t he girl she'd been during t he ancient Shang dynast y in China. She had
killed a king, dressed in his general's clot hes, and readied herself for a war t hat wasn't hers t o
fight ÷all because of her love for Daniel.
Luce had recognized her soul inside Lu Xin from t he moment she saw her. She could find
herself here, t oo, even wit h bright souls shining all around her like cit y light s flung up in t he air.
She would find herself wit hin t he Fall.
That , she knew suddenly, was where she would find Lucifer.
She closed her eyes, beat her wings light ly, asked her soul t o guide her t o herself. She moved
t hrough millions, sliding over glowing t idal waves of angels. lt t ook a small et ernit y. For nine
days she and her friends had been racing t ime, t hinking only of how t o find t he Fall. Now t hat
t hey had found it , how long would it t ake Luce t o locat e t he soul she needed, t he needle in t his
hayst ack made of angels changing forms? How much t ime was left ?
Then, in a galaxy of frozen angels, Luce froze.
Someone was singing.
lt was a love song so beaut iful it made her wings quiver.
She came t o rest behind t he fixed whit e orb of a falling angel called Ezekiel, and list ened:
"My sea has found a shore . . . My burning has found a flame . . ."
Her soul swelled wit h a long-forgot t en memory. She peered around Ezekeel, t he Angel of t he
Clouds, t o see who was singing in t he clearing.
lt was a boy, cradling a girl in his arms, his serenading voice soft and sweet as honey.
The slow rocking of his arms was t he only mot ion in t he ent ire frozen Fall.
Then Luce realized t hat girl was not simply a girl. She was a half-formed orb of light
surrounding an angel in met amorphosis. She was t he soul t hat used t o be Lucinda.
The boy looked up, sensing a presence. He had a square face, wavy amber hair, and eyes t he
color of ice, radiant wit h dumb love.
But he was not a boy. He was an angel so devast at -ingly beaut iful t hat Luce's body clenched
wit h a loneliness she didn't want t o remember.
He was Lucifer.
This was how he used t o look in Heaven. But he was mobile, fully formed, unlike t he millions of
angels surrounding him÷which assured Luce he was t he demon of t he present , t he one who
had cast his Announcer around t he Fall t o incit e it s second link wit h Eart h. His own falling soul
could be anywhere in here, just as paralyzed as t he rest of t hem had been when t he Throne
cast t hem out of Heaven.
Luce had been right about her soul's leading her t o Lucifer. Aft er he set t his Fall in mot ion, he
must have dipped t hrough his own Announcer inside here.
And spent t he past nine days doing what ? Singing lul-labies and rocking back and fort h while
t he world hung in t he balance and armies of angels raced around t he world t o st op him?
Her wings burned. She knew t his was all he'd done, because she knew t hat he loved her, t hat
he st ill want ed her. Her bet rayal of Lucifer was what t his was all about .
"Who's t here?" he called.
Luce moved forward. She had not come here t o hide from him. Besides, he had already sensed
her soul's glow behind Ezekeel. She heard t he vexed recognit ion in his voice.
"Oh. lt 's you." He raised his arms slight ly, holding out Luce's falling self. "Have you met my love?
l t hink you'd find her"÷Lucifer looked above him, searching for a word÷"refreshing."
Luce edged closer, drawn equally t o t he radiant angel who had broken her heart and t he
st range, half-formed version of herself. This was t he angel who would become t he girl Luce
had been on Eart h. She wat ched her own face flicker int o being inside t he light in Lucifer's
arms.
Then it was gone.
She considered cleaving t o t his st range creat ure. She knew t hat she could do it : reach out and
t ake possession of her oldest body, feel her st omach drop as she joined wit h her past , blink
and find herself in Lucifer's arms, in falling Lucinda's mind, as she had done so many t imes
before.
But she didn't need t o do t hat anymore. Bill had t aught Luce how t o cleave before she had
known who she t ruly was, before she'd had access t o t he memories she did now. She didn't
have t o cleave t o her falling soul for help wit h what t o say t o Lucifer. Luce already knew t he
whole st ory.
She folded her hands in front of her. She t hought of Daniel on t he ot her side of t he Announcer.
"The love you feel is not ret urned, Lucifer." He offered Luce a bright , defiant smile. "Do you
have any idea how rare a moment like t his is?" Wit hout t hinking, Luce found herself drawing
nearer.
"The t wo of you, t oget her at once? The one who cannot leave me"÷he caressed t he
met amorphosing body in his arms and looked up÷"and t he one who doesn't know how t o st ay
away."
"She and l share t he same soul," Luce said. "And neit her one of us loves you anymore."
"And t hey say my heart has hardened!" Lucifer grimaced, all sweet ness gone. His voice
plunged downward t hrough t he regist ers, deeper t han anyt hing Luce had ever heard. "You
disappoint ed me in Egypt . You shouldn't have done t hat , and you shouldn't be here now. l
depos-it ed you in t he out er realm so t hat you could not int erfere."
His figure changed: t he yout hful, lovely face shriveled int o wrinkles t hat splint ered down his
body in long craggy seams. Might y wings burst from behind his shoulders. Claws shot from his
fingers, long and curled and yellow. Luce winced as t hey dug int o her falling half-formed body in
his grip.
His eyes glowed from icy blue t o red like molt en lead and he swelled t o t en t imes t he size he'd
been. Luce knew t his was because he was indulging t he rage he had sub-dued in order t o
appear as his lovely, former self. He seemed t o fill all empt y space, shrinking t he expanse of
suspended angels in an inst ant .
Luce flew up t o his eye level and sighed.
"You might as well st op t here," she said.
"Built up a t olerance, have you?"
Luce shook her head and ext ended her wings as wide as t hey would go. They st ret ched t o
lengt hs t hat st ill ast onished her.
"l know who l am, Lucifer. l know what l can do.
Neit her of us is const rained by mort al bounds. l could become horrific, t oo. But what 's t he
point ?" St eam rose off Lucifer's head as he st udied Luce's wings. "Your wings always were
breat ht aking," he said.
"But don't get used t o t hem. Time's almost up and t hen÷and t hen÷"
He was wat ching her face for fear or agit at ion. She knew how he worked, from where he drew
his energy and power. His grainy muscles flexed, and Luce wat ched t he light of her falling body
flicker, agit at ed but immobile, defenseless in his arms. lt was like wit nessing a loved one in
grave danger, but Luce would not reveal t hat it bot hered her.
"l am not afraid of you."
His grunt was a cloud of mucus and smoke. "You will be, as you have been before, as you really
are now. Fear is t he only way t o greet t he devil."
The swelling st opped. His eyes cooled back t o t heir st art ling ice blue. His muscles relaxed int o
t he sleek figure t hat had once made him t he most gorgeous among Heaven's host . There was
a shimmer t o his pale skin t hat Luce hadn't remembered unt il now.
He was more beaut iful even t han Daniel.
Luce let herself remember. She had /oved him. He had been her first t rue love. She had given
him her whole heart . And Lucifer had loved her, t oo.
When his gaze fell on her, t he ent ire hist ory of t heir relat ionship played across his handsome
face: t he fire of t heir early romance, his desperat e yearning t o possess her, t he anguish of love
he'd said had inspired his rebellion against t he Throne.
Her mind knew it was Great Deceiver's first great lie÷but her heart felt somet hing different , in
part because she knew Lucifer had come t o believe his lie. lt had a secret , spreading power, like
a flood nobody saw.
She couldn't help it : She soft ened. Lucifer's eyes bore t he same t enderness t hat Daniel's did
when he looked at her. She felt her eyes begin t o ret urn t his t enderness t o Lucifer.
He st|// loved her÷and every moment t hat he didn't have her hurt him deeply. That was why
he'd spent t he past nine days wit h a shadow of her soul, why he'd sought t o reset t he ent ire
universe t o have her back.
"Oh, Lucifer," she said. "l'm sorry."
"You see?" He laughed. "You are afraid of me. You're afraid of what l make you feel. You don't
want t o remember÷"
"No, it 's not ÷"
From a hidden sheat h behind his back, Lucifer produced a long silver st arshot . He rolled it
bet ween his fingers, humming a t une Luce recognized. She shivered.
lt was t he hymn he'd writ t en, pairing t he t wo of t hem t oget her. luc|nda, h|s Fven|ng l|ght.
She wat ched t he st arshot gleam. "What are you doing?"
"¥ou loved me. You were mine. Those of us who underst and et ernit y know what t rue love
means. Love never dies. That 's why l know t hat when we hit t he ground, when everyt hing
st art s over, you will make t he right choice. You will choose me inst ead of him, and we will rule
t oget her. We will be t oget her"÷he looked up at her÷"or else÷"
Then Lucifer came at her wit h t he st arshot .
"Yes!" Luce shout ed. "l loved you once!"
He froze, t he dull deadly weapon poised above her breast , her earlier soul dangling from t he
crook of his arm.
"But it was longer ago t han you recall," she said.
"You appreciat e et ernit y, but you don't appreciat e how in a moment et ernit y can change. l did
not love you when we fell."
"Lies." He lowered t he st arshot closer. "You've loved me more recent ly t han you t hink. Even
just last week, in your Announcers, t hinking you loved anot her÷we were wonderful t oget her.
Remember nest ing in t he passion fruit t ree in Tahit i? We had earlier moment s, t oo. l expect
you've been remembering t hose." He st epped away from her, st udied her react ion.
"l t aught you everyt hing you t hink you know about love! We were supposed t o rule t oget her.
You promised t o follow me. You deceived me. " His eyes pleaded wit h her, conflagrat ions of
pain and rage. "lmagine how lonely it was, in a Hell of my own making, st randed at t he alt ar, t he
great est fool of all t ime, enduring six t housand years of agony."
"St op," she whispered. "You have t o st op loving me.
Because l st opped loving you."
"Because of Dan|e/ Gr|gor|, who isn't a t ent h of t he angel l am, even at my worst ? lt 's
ridiculous! You know t hat l have always been more radiant , more t alent ed. You were t here
when l invent ed love. l made it out of not hing, out of mere . . . adorat|on!" Lucifer frowned as he
said t he word, as if it made him nauseat ed.
"And you don't even know t he half. Wit hout you, l went on t o invent evil, t he ot her end of t he
spect rum, t he necessary balance. l inspired Dant e! Milt on! You should see t he underworld. l
t ook t he Throne's ideas and improved t hem. You can do what ever you want !
You've missed out on everyth|ng. "
"l missed not hing."
"Oh, darling"÷he reached for her, his soft hand caressing her cheek÷"surely you can't believe
t hat . l could give you t he great est kingdom never known÷we work hard, t hen we part y. Even
t he Throne offered you t he benefit s of et ernal peace! And what have you chosen?
Daniel. What has t hat haircut ever done?" Luce brushed his hand away. "He has capt ured my
heart . He loves me for who l am, not what l can bring t o him."
He smirked. "You always were a sucker for acknowledgment . Baby, t hat 's your Achilles' heel."
She glanced at t he glowing, st ill souls around t hem, millions of t hem, st ret ching t housands of
miles int o t he dist ance, accident al eavesdroppers on t he t rut h about t he universe's first
romant ic love.
"l t hought t hat what l felt for you was right ," Luce said. "l loved you unt il it hurt me, unt il our love
was consumed by your pride and rage. The t hing you called /ove made me disappear. So l had
t o st op loving you." She paused. "Our adorat ion never diminished t he Throne, but your love
diminished me. l never meant t o hurt you. l only meant t o st op you from hurt ing me."
"Then st op hurt ing me!" he pleaded, st ret ching out arms t hat Luce remembered encircling her,
feeling like home. "You can learn t o love me again. lt is t he only way t o st op my pain. Choose
me now, again, for always."
"No," she said. "lt 's really over, Lucifer." She mot ioned t oward t he ot her angels falling around
t hem. "lt was over before any of t his even happened. l never promised t o rule wit h you out side
of Heaven. You project ed t hat dream ont o me, like l was anot her one of your blank slat es. You
will accomplish not hing by dropping th|s Lucinda t o Eart h. She will not ret urn your love."
"She might ." He gazed down at t he angel in his arms.
He t ried t o kiss her, but t he light surrounding Lucinda's falling self blocked his lips from t ouching
her skin.
"l am sorry for t he pain l caused you," Luce said. "l was . . . young. l got . . . swept up. l played
wit h fire. l shouldn't have. Please, Lucifer. Let us go."
"Oh." He nuzzled his face int o t he body in his arms.
"l ache."
"You will ache less if you accept t hat what we shared is in t he past . Things are not t he way
t hey were. lf you love me, you must find it in your soul t o let me go on as l must ."
Lucifer t ook a long look at Luce. His expression darkened, t hen t urned quizzical, as if he was
considering an idea. He looked away for a moment , blinked, and when he looked at Luce again,
she t hought he could see her as she t ruly was: t he angel who'd become a girl, who'd lived
t hrough millennia, who'd grown more and more cert ain of her dest iny, who had found her way
back t o becoming an angel once again. "You . . .deserve more," Lucifer whispered.
"More t han Daniel?" Luce shook her head. "l don't want anyt hing more t han him."
"l mean you deserve more t han all t his suffering. l'm not blind t o what you've been t hrough. l've
been wat ching. At t imes, your pain has caused me a kind of joy. l mean, you know me." Lucifer
smiled sadly. "But even my brand of joy is always edged wit h guilt . lf l could do away wit h guilt ,
you'd rea//y see somet hing big."
"Free me from my suffering. St op t he Fall, Lucifer. lt is wit hin your power."
He st aggered t oward her. His eyes filled wit h t ears.
The devil shook his head. "Tell me how a guy, wit h a decent job, loses a÷"
"ENOUGH!"
The voice brought everyt hing t o a halt . The orbit of t he sun, t he inner consciousness of t hree
hundred and eight een million angels, even t he velocit y of t he plummet ing Fall it self s|mp/y
stopped.
lt was t he voice t hat had creat ed t he universe: layered and rich, as if millions of versions of it
spoke in unison.
Fnough.
The Throne's command ripped t hrough Luce. lt consumed her. Light flooded her vision,
obscuring Lucifer, her falling self, t he whole world wit h bright ness. Her soul buzzed wit h
unspeakable elect ricit y as a weight fell from her, zipped int o t he dist ance.
The Fall.
lt was gone. Luce had been t hrust out of it wit h a single word and a jolt t hat made her feel
inside out . She was moving across a great void, t oward an unknown dest inat ion, fast er t han
t he speed of light mult iplied by t he speed of sound.
She was moving at Godspeed.
NINETEEN
LUCINDA'S PRICE
Not hing but whit e.
Luce sensed she and Lucifer had ret urned t o Troy, but she couldn't be sure. The world was t oo
bright , ivory on fire. lt blazed in t ot al silence.
At first t he light was everyt hing. lt was whit e-hot , blinding.
Then, slowly, it began t o fade.
The scene before Luce sharpened: The lessening light allowed t he field, t he slender cypress
t rees, t he goat s grazing on blond st raw, t he angels around her t o come int o focus. This light 's
brilliance seemed t o have a t ex-t ure, like feat hers brushing her skin. lt s power made her humble
and afraid.
lt faded furt her, seemed t o shrink, condensing as it drew in on it self. Everyt hing dimmed, lost it s
color as t he light pulled away. lt gat hered int o a brilliant sphere, a t iny glowing orb, bright est at
it s core, hovering t en feet from t he ground. lt pulsed and flickered as it s rays t ook shape. They
st ret ched, glit t ering like pulled sugar, int o a head, a t orso, legs, arms. Hands.
A nose.
A mout h.
Unt il t he light became a person.
A woman.
The Throne in human form.
Long before, Luce had been a favorit e of t he Throne÷she knew t hat now, knew it in t he fabric
of her soul÷yet Luce had never really known t he Throne at all. No being was capable of t hat
kind of knowledge.
lt was t he way of t hings, t he nat ure of divinit y. To describe her was t o reduce her. So here,
now, even t hough she looked very much like a queen in a flowing whit e robe, t he Throne was
st ill t he Throne÷which meant t hat she was everyth|ng. Luce couldn't st op st aring.
She was st aggeringly beaut iful, her hair spun silver and gold. Her eyes, blue like a cryst al ocean,
exuded t he power t o see everyt hing, everywhere. As t he Throne gazed across t he Trojan
plains, Luce t hought she recognized a flash of her own face in God's expression÷det ermined,
t he way Luce Price's jaw clenched when she'd made up her mind. She'd seen it in her reflect ion
a t housand t imes before.
And when God's face shift ed t o t ake in t he audience before her, her expression changed int o
somet hing else.
lt looked like Daniel's devot ion; it capt ured t hat part icular light in his eyes. Now, in t he slack,
open way she held her hands, Luce recognized her mot her's selflessness÷and now she saw
t he proud smile t hat belonged only t o Penn.
Except Luce saw now t hat it d|dn't belong t o Penn.
Every fleet ing t race of life found it s origin in t he force st anding before Luce. She could see how
t he whole world÷mort als and angels alike÷had been creat ed in t he Throne's mercurial image.
An ivory chair appeared at one edge of t he plain. The chair was made of an ot herworldly
subst ance Luce knew she had seen before: t he same mat erial as in t he silver st aff wit h t he
curled spiral t ip t hat t he Throne held in her left hand.
When t he Throne t ook her seat , Annabelle, Arriane, and Francesca rushed t o come before her,
falling on t heir knees in adorat ion. The Throne's smile shone down on t hem, cast ing rainbows
of light on t heir wings. The angels hummed t oget her in harmonious delight .
Arriane raised her glowing face, beat ing her wings t o rise t o address t he Throne. Her voice
burst out in glorious song. "Gabbe's gone."
"Yes," t he Throne hummed back, t hough of course t he Throne already knew t his. lt was a rit ual
of commis-erat ion rat her t han a sharing of informat ion. Luce remembered t hat t his was t he
purpose for which t he Throne creat ed speech and song; it was meant t o be anot her way of
feeling, anot her wing t o brush up against your friend's.
Then Arriane's and Annabelle's feet skimmed t he ground and t hey flut t ered up above t he
Throne. They hovered t here, facing Luce and t he rest of t heir friends, gazing adoringly at t heir
Creat or. Their format ion looked st range÷somehow incomplet e÷unt il Luce realized
somet hing:
The ledges.
Arriane and Annabelle were t aking t heir old places as Archangels. ln Heaven's Meadow, t he
rippled silver ledges had once formed an arch over t he head of t he Throne. They were back
where t hey belonged: Arriane just t o t he right of t he Throne's shoulders, and Annabelle only
inches off t he ground near t he Throne's right hand.
Bright gaps shone in t he space around t he Throne.
Luce remembered which ledge Cam used t o fly t o, which was Roland's, and which one
belonged t o Daniel. She caught flashes of Molly's place before t he Throne, and St even's, t oo÷
t hough t hey were not Archangels, but angels who adored happily from t he Meadow.
At last , she saw Lucifer's and her places, t heir mat ching silver ledges on t he Throne's left side.
Her wings t ingled. lt was all so clear.
The ot her fallen angels÷Roland, Cam, St even, Daniel, and Lucifer÷did not st ep forward t o
adore t he Throne. Luce felt t orn. Adoring t he Throne came nat urally; it was what Lucinda was
made for. But somehow she couldn't move. The Throne looked neit her disappoint ed nor
surprised.
"Where is t he Fall, Lucifer?" The voice made Luce want t o fall on her knees and pray.
"Only God can t ell," Lucifer growled. "lt doesn't mat t er. Perhaps l didn't want it aft er all." The
Throne t wirled her silver st aff in her hands, worrying a muddy recess int o t he soil where it s end
met t he eart h. A vine of silver whit e lilies sprang up, lashing in a spiral around t he st aff. The
Throne didn't seem t o not ice; she fixed her blue eyes on Lucifer unt il his blue eyes t wit ched up
t o lock wit h hers.
"l believe t he first t wo st at ement s," t he Throne said,
"and soon you will be convinced of t he last . My indul-gence has very famous limit s."
Lucifer st art ed t o speak, but t he Throne's gaze passed from him, and he kicked t he eart h in
frust rat ion. lt opened up beneat h him, lava bubbling and cooling on t he ground, a personal
volcano.
Wit h t he slight est gest ure of her hand, t he Throne brought t hem back t o at t ent ion. "We must
deal wit h t he curse of Lucinda and Daniel," she said.
Luce swallowed hard, feeling t error edge along her st omach.
But t he Throne's phosphorescent eyes were kind when she t ucked a silver-gold st rand of hair
behind her ear, leaned back in her t hrone, and surveyed t he gat hering before her. "As you
know, t he t ime has come for me t o again ask t hese t wo a quest ion."
Everyone quiet ed, even t he wind.
"Lucinda, we'll begin wit h you."
Luce nodded. The calmness of her wings juxt aposed her pounding heart . lt was a st rangely
mort al sensat ion, reminding her of being called before t he principal at school. She approached
t he Throne, head bowed.
"You have paid your debt of suffering over t hese past six-odd millennia÷"
"lt wasn't only suffering," Luce said. "There were difficult t imes, but "÷she looked around her at
t he friends she'd made, at Daniel, even at Lucifer÷"t here was a lot of beaut y, t oo."
The Throne gave Luce a curious smile. "You have also met t he condit ions of discovering your
nat ure wit hout help÷of being t rue t o yourself. Would you say t hat you have come t o know
your soul?"
"Yes," Luce said. "Deeply."
"You are now more fully Lucinda t han you ever have been. Any decision you make bears not
just t he knowledge you bring t o it as an angel, but also t he weight of seven t housand years of
life lessons in every st at e of human being."
"l am humbled by my responsibilit y," she said, using words t hat didn't sound anyt hing like Luce
Price, but , she realized, sounded everyt hing like Lucinda, her t rue soul.
"You may have heard it said t hat in t his lifet ime, your soul is 'up for grabs'?"
"Yes. l've heard t hat ."
"And you may have heard somet hing about a balance bet ween t he angels of Heaven and t he
forces of Lucifer?"
Luce nodded slowly.
"And so t he quest ion falls t o you once more: Will it be Heaven, or will it be Hell? You have
learned your lessons and are now four hundred lives t he wiser, so we ask you again: Where do
you wish t o spend et ernit y? lf it is t o be Heaven, allow me t o say t hat we will welcome you
home and see t hat t he t ransit ion is made easy." God cast her eyes on Lucifer, but Luce didn't
follow suit . "lf Hell is your choice, l hazard t o guess t hat Lucifer will accept you?"
Lucifer did not respond. Luce heard heavy shuffling behind her. She swiveled around t o see t he
backs of his wings t wist ed int o a knot .
lt had not been easy inside t he Fall t o t ell Lucifer she did not love him, would not choose him. lt
felt impossible t o say t he same t hing t o t he Throne. Luce st ood before t he power t hat creat ed
her and had never felt more like a child.
"Lucinda?" The Throne's st are bore down on her. "lt falls t o you t o t ip t he scale."
The conversat ion she'd had wit h Arriane in t he Vegas lHOP came back t o her again: ln the
end, |t was go|ng to come down to one powerlu/ ange/ choos|ng a s|de. When that happenned,
the sca/e wou/d l|na//y t|p.
"lt falls t o me?"
The Throne nodded as if Luce should have known t his all along. "The last t ime you refused t o
choose."
"No, t hat isn't t rue," Luce said. "l chose love! Just now, you asked whet her l knew my soul, and l
do. l must st ay t rue t o who l am and place love highest of all." Daniel reached for her hand. "We
chose love t hen and we will make t he same choice t oday."
"And if you curse us for it now," Luce said, "t he out come will be t he same. We found each ot her
over and over for seven t housand years. You are all wit nesses. We will do it again."
"Lucifer?" t he Throne asked. "What do you say t o t his?"
He looked at Luce wit h blazing eyes, his pain obvious t o everyone t here. "l say we will all regret
t his moment forever. lt is t he wrong choice, and a selfish one."
"There is always some regret when we accept t hat love has moved away from us." The even
voice came from t he Throne. "But l will t ake your response as a small display of mercy and
acquiescence, which offers t he universe some hope. Lucinda and Daniel have made t heir
choice clear and l hold us bot h t o our vows made at t he Roll Call. Their love is out of our hands.
So be it .
But it will come at a price." She shift ed her gaze back t o Luce and Daniel. "Are you prepared t o
pay t he ult imat e sacrifice for your love?"
Daniel shook his head. "lf l have Lucinda, and Lucinda has me, t here is no such t hing as
sacrifice." Lucifer cackled, soaring off his feet and hovering in t he air above Luce and Daniel.
"So, we could rob everyt hing from you÷your wings, your st rengt h, your |mmorta/|ty? And st ill
you'd choose your /ove?" From t he corner of her eye, Luce caught a glimpse of Arriane. Her
wings were folded behind her. Her hands were st uffed inside t he pocket s of her overalls. She
nodded smugly, lips pursed in sat isfact ion, as if t o say, He// yeah, they wou/d.
"Yes." Luce and Daniel spoke as one.
"Fine," t he Throne responded. "But underst and:
There is a price. You may have each ot her, but you may have not hing else. lf you choose love
once and for all, you must give up your angelic nat ures. You will be born again, made anew as
mort als."
Mort als?
Daniel, her angel, reborn as a mort al?
All t hese night s she'd lain wondering what would become of her and Daniel's love at t he end of
t hese nine days. Now t he Throne's decision reminded her of Bill's suggest ion t hat Luce kill her
reincarnat ing soul in Egypt .
Even t hen, she'd considered living out her mort al life and leaving Daniel t o his own. There
would be no more pain from anot her lost love. She'd almost been able t o do it . What st opped
her was t he t hought of losing Daniel. But t his t ime . . .
She could have him, really have him, for a long t ime.
Everyt hing would be different . He would be at her side.
"lf you accept "÷t he Throne's voice rose above Lucifer's raspy chort le÷"you won't remember
what you once were, and l cannot guarant ee t hat you will meet during your lifet ime on Eart h.
You will live and you will die, just as any ot her mort al in creat ion. The powers of Heaven t hat
have always drawn you t o each ot her will pull away. No angel will cross your pat h." She gave a
warning look t o t he angels, Luce and Daniel's friends.
"No friendly hand will appear in darkest night t o guide you. You will be t ruly on your own."
A soft sound escaped Daniel's lips. She t urned t o him and t ook his hand. So t hey would be
mort als, wandering t he Eart h in search of t heir ot her half, just like everyone else. lt sounded like
a beaut iful proposit ion.
From just behind t hem Cam said, "Mort alit y is t he most romant ic st ory ever t old. Just one
chance t o do everyt hing you should. Then, magically, you move on.." But Daniel looked
crest fallen.
"What is it ?" Luce whispered. "You don't want t o?"
"You only just got back your wings."
"Which is exact ly why l know l can be happy wit hout t hem. As long as l have you. You're t he
one who'd really be giving t hem up. Are you sure it 's what you want ?"
Daniel lowered his face t o hers, his lips close, soft .
"Always."
Tears welled in Luce's eyes as Daniel t urned back t o face t he Throne.
"We accept ."
Around t hem, t he glow of wings grew very bright , unt il t he whole field hummed wit h light . And
Luce felt t he ot her angels÷t heir dear and precious friends÷move from wild ant icipat ion int o
shock.
"Very well," t he Throne almost whispered, her expression inscrut able.
"Wait !" Luce shout ed. There was one more t hing.
"We÷we accept on one condit ion."
Daniel st irred beside her, wat ching Luce from t he corner of his eye, but he didn't int errupt .
"What is your condit ion?" t he Throne boomed, resoundingly unaccust omed t o negot iat ion.
"Take t he Out cast s back int o t he fold of Heaven," she said before her confidence failed. "They
have proven t hemselves wort hy. lf t here was room enough t o t ake me back int o your Meadow,
t here is room enough for t he Out cast s."
The Throne looked at t he Out cast s, who were silent and glowing dimly. "This is unort hodox
but , at it s core, a selfless request . You shall have it ." Slowly, she ext ended one of her arms.
"Out cast s, st ep forward if you would ent er Heaven once again."
The four Out cast s st rode t o st and before t he Throne, wit h more purpose t han Luce had ever
before seen t hem possess. Then, wit h a single nod, t he Throne rest ored t heir wings.
They lengt hened.
Thickened.
Their t at t ered brown color drained int o a brilliant whit e.
And t hen t he Out cast s smiled. Luce had never seen one smile before, and t hey were beaut iful.
At t he end of t heir met amorphosis, t he Out cast s' eyes bulged as t heir irises bloomed back int o
sight . They could see again.
Even Lucifer looked impressed. He mut t ered, "Only Lucinda could pull t hat off."
"lt is a miracle!" Olianna hugged her wings around her body t o admire t hem.
"That 's her job," Luce said.
The Out cast s ret urned t o t heir old posit ions of adorat ion around t he Throne.
"Yes." The Throne closed her eyes t o accept t heir adorat ion. "l believe t hat 's bet t er aft er all."
Finally, t he Throne raised her st aff in t he air and point ed it at Luce and Daniel. "lt is t ime t o say
goodbye."
"Already?" Luce didn't mean t o let t he word slip.
"Make your farewells."
The former Out cast s swept Luce wit h grat it ude and hugs, binding her and Daniel in t heir arms.
When t hey pulled away, Francesca and St even st ood before t hem, arms linked, gorgeous,
beaming.
"We always knew you could do it ." St even winked at Luce. "Didn't we, Francesca?"
Francesca nodded. "l was hard on you, but you proved yourself t o be one of t he most
impressive souls l have ever had t he pleasure of inst ruct ing. You are an enigma, Luce. Keep it
up."
St even shook Daniel's hand and Francesca kissed t heir cheeks before t hey backed away.
"Thank you," Luce said. "Take care of each ot her.
And t ake care of Shelby and Miles, t oo."
Then angels were all around t hem, t he old crew who'd formed at Sword & Cross and hundreds
of ot her places before t hat .
Arriane, Roland, Cam, and Annabelle. They'd saved Luce more t imes t han she could ever say.
"This is hard." Luce folded herself int o Roland's arms.
"Oh, come on. You already saved t he world." He laughed. "Now go save your relat ionship."
"Don't list en t o Dr. Phil!" Arriane squealed. "Don't ever leave us!" She was t rying t o laugh but it
wasn't working. Rebellious t ears st reamed down her face. She didn't wipe t hem away; she just
held on t ight t o Annabelle's hand. "Okay, fine, go!"
"We'll be t hinking of you," Annabelle said. "Always."
"l'll be t hinking of you, t oo." Luce had t o believe it was t rue. Ot herwise, if she was really going t o
forget a// th|s, she couldn't bear t o leave t hem.
But t he angels smiled sadly, knowing she had t o forget t hem.
That left Cam, who was st anding close t o Daniel, t heir arms clapped around each ot her's
shoulders. "You pulled it off, brot her."
"Course l did." Daniel played at being haught y, but it came off as love. "Thanks t o you."
Cam t ook Luce's hand. His eyes were bright green, t he first color t hat ever st ood out t o her in
t he grim, dreary world of Sword & Cross.
He t ilt ed his head and swallowed, considering his words carefully.
He drew her close, and for a moment , she t hought he was going t o kiss her. Her heart pounded
as his lips by-passed hers and came t o a st op, whispering in her ear:
"Don't let him flip you off next t ime."
"You know l won't ." She laughed.
"Ah, Daniel, a mere shadow of a t rue bad boy." He pressed a hand t o his heart and raised an
eyebrow at her.
"Make sure he t reat s you well. You deserve t he best of everyt hing t here is."
For once, she didn't want t o let go of his hand. "What will you do?"
"When you're ruined, t here's so much t o choose from. Everyt hing opens up." He looked past
her int o t he dist ant desert clouds. "l'll play my role. l know it well. l know goodbye."
He winked at Luce, nodded one final t ime at Daniel, t hen rolled back his shoulders, spread his
t remendous golden wings, and vanished int o t he roiling sky.
Everyone wat ched unt il Cam's wings were a fleck of far-off gold. When Luce lowered her eyes,
t hey fell on Lucifer. His skin had it s lovely shimmer, but his eyes were glacial. He said not hing,
and it seemed he would have held her in his gaze forever if she hadn't t urned away.
She had done all she could for him. His pain was not her problem anymore.
The voice boomed from t he Throne. "One more goodbye."
Toget her, Luce and Daniel t urned t o acknowledge t he Throne, but t he second t heir eyes fell
upon it , t he st at ely figure of t he woman blazed int o whit e-hot glory, and t hey had t o shield
t heir eyes.
The Throne was indiscernible again, a gat hering of light t oo brilliant t o be gazed upon by
angels.
"Hey, guys." Arriane sniffed. "l t hink she meant for you t wo t o say goodbye t o each ot her."
"Oh," Luce said, t urning t o Daniel, suddenly panicked. "Right now? We have t o÷"
He t ook her hand. His wings brushed hers. He kissed t he cent ers of her cheeks.
"l'm afraid," she whispered.
"What did l t ell you?"
She sift ed t hrough t he million exchanges she and Daniel had ever shared÷t he good, t he sad,
t he ugly. One rose above t he clouds of her mind.
She was shaking. "That you will always find me."
"Yes. Always. No mat t er what ."
"Daniel÷"
"l can't wait t o make you t he love of my mort al life."
"But you won't know me. You won't remember. Everyt hing will be different ."
He wiped away her t ear wit h his t humb. "And you t hink t hat will st op me?"
She closed her eyes. "l love you t oo much t o say goodbye."
"lt isn't goodbye." He gave her one last angelic kiss and embraced her so t ight ly she could hear
his st eady heart beat , overlapping her own. "lt 's unt il we meet again."
TWENTY
PERFECT STRANGERS
Sevent een Years Lat er
Luce clipped her dorm room key card bet ween her t eet h, craned her neck t o swipe it t hrough
t he lock, wait ed for t he small elect ric click, and opened t he door wit h her hip.
Her hands were full: Her collapsible yellow laundry basket was heaped wit h clot hes, most of
which had shrunk during t heir first dryer cycle away from home.
She dumped t he clot hes ont o her narrow bot t om bunk, amazed she'd found a way t o wear so
many different t hings in so short a span of t ime. The whole week of freshman orient at ion at
Emerald College had passed in a disconcert ing blur.
Nora, her new roommat e, t he first person out side Luce's family t o see her wearing her ret ainer
(but it was cool because Nora had one, t oo), was sit t ing in t he windowsill, paint ing her nails and
t alking on t he phone.
She was always paint ing her nails and t alking on t he phone. She had a whole bookshelf
devot ed t o nail polish bot t les and had already given Luce t wo pedicures in t he week t hey'd
known each ot her.
"l'm t elling you, Luce isn't like t hat ." Nora waved excit edly at Luce, who leaned against t he bed
frame, eavesdropping. "She's never even kissed a guy. Okay, once÷Lu, what was t hat shrimpy
kid's name, from summer camp, t he one you were t elling me about ÷"
"Jeremy?" Luce wrinkled her nose.
"Jeremy, but it was, like, t rut h or dare or somet hing.
Child's play. So yeah÷"
"Nora," Luce said. "ls t his really somet hing you need t o share wit h . . . who are you even t alking
t o?"
"Just Jordan and Hailey." She st ared at Luce. "We're on speaker. Wave!"
Nora point ed out t he window at t he dusky aut umn evening. Their dorm was a pret t y U-shaped
whit e brick building wit h a small court yard in t he middle where everyone hung out all t he t ime.
But t hat wasn't where Nora was point ing. Direct ly across from Luce and Nora's t hird-floor
window was anot her t hird-floor window.
The pane was up, t an legs dangled out , and t wo girls' arms appeared, waving.
"Hi, Luce!" one of t hem shout ed.
Jordan, t he spunky st rawberry blond from At lant a, and Hailey, pet it e and always giggling, wit h
t hick black hair t hat fell in dark cascades around her face. They seemed nice, but why were
t hey discussing all t he boys Luce had never kissed?
College was so weird.
Before Luce had driven t he ninet een hundred miles up t o Emerald College wit h her parent s a
week earlier, she could have named each t ime she'd been out side Texas÷once for a family
vacat ion t o Pikes Peak in Colo-rado, t wice for regional championship swim meet s in Tennessee
and Oklahoma (t he second year, she beat her own personal best in freest yle and t ook home a
blue ribbon for t he t eam), and t he yearly holiday visit s t o her grandparent s' house in Balt imore.
Moving t o Connect icut t o go t o college was a huge deal for Luce. Most of her friends from
Plano Senior High were going t o Texas schools. But Luce had always had t he feeling t hat
t here was somet hing wait ing for her way out in t he world, t hat she had t o leave home t o find it .
Her parent s support ed her÷especially when she got t hat part ial scholarship for her but t erfly
st roke. She'd packed her whole life int o one oversized red duffel bag and filled a few boxes
wit h sent iment al favorit es she couldn't part wit h: t he St at ue of Libert y paperweight her dad
had brought her back from New York; a pict ure of her mom wit h a bad haircut when she was
Luce's age; t he st uffed pug t hat reminded her of t he family dog, Mozart . The clot h along t he
bucket back seat s of her bat t ered Jeep was frayed, and it smelled like cherry Popsicles, and
t hat was comfort ing t o Luce. So was t he view of t he back of her parent s' heads as her fat her
drove t he speed limit for four long days up t he East Coast , st opping from t ime t o t ime t o read
hist orical markers and t ake a t our at a pret zel fact ory in nort hwest ern Delaware.
There had been one moment when Luce t hought about t urning back. They were already t wo
days' drive from home, somewhere in Georgia, and her dad's "short cut " from t heir mot el t o t he
highway t ook t hem out along t he coast , where t he road got pebbly and t he air st art ed t o st ink
from all t he skunk grass. They were barely a t hird of t he way up t o school and already Luce
missed t he house she'd grown up in. She missed her dog, t he kit chen where her mom made
yeast rolls, and t he way, in lat e summer, her fat her's rosebushes grew up around her
windowsill, filling her room wit h t heir soft scent and t he promise of fresh-cut bouquet s.
And t hat was when Luce and her parent s drove past a long winding driveway wit h a high,
foreboding gat e t hat looked elect rified, like a prison. A sign out side t he gat e read in bold black
let t ers SWORD & CROSS REFORM SCHOOL.
"That 's a lit t le ominous," her mot her chirped from t he front seat , looking up from her home-
remodeling magazine. "Glad you're not going t o school t here, Luce!"
"Yeah," she said, "me t oo." She t urned and wat ched out t he back window unt il t he gat es
disappeared int o t he winding woods. Then, before she knew it , t hey were crossing int o Sout h
Carolina, closer t o Connect icut and her new life at Emerald College wit h every revolut ion of t he
Jeep's new t ires.
Then she was t here, in her dorm room, and her parent s were all t he way back home in Texas.
Luce didn't want her mom t o worry, but t he t rut h was she was desperat ely homesick.
Nora was great ÷it wasn't t hat . They'd been friends since t he moment Luce walked int o t he
room and saw her new roommat e t acking up a post er of Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn
from Two lor the Poad. The bond cement ed when t he girls had t ried t o make popcorn in t he
seedy dorm kit chen at t wo in t he morning t he first night and succeeded only in set t ing off t he
fire alarm, sending everyone out side in t heir pajamas. The whole week of orient at ion, Nora had
gone out of her way t o include Luce in every one of her many plans. She'd gone t o a fancy prep
school before Emerald, so she walked int o college orient at ion already assimilat ed t o life inside
a dorm. lt didn't seem weird t o her t hat t here were boys living next door, t hat t he online
campus radio st at ion was t he on/y accept able way t o list en t o music, t hat you had t o swipe a
card t o do anyt hing around here, t hat class papers would have t o be a whopping four pages
long.
Nora had all t hese friends from Dover Prep, and she seemed t o make t welve more every day÷
like Jordan and Hailey, st ill dangling and waving t hrough t heir window.
Luce want ed t o keep up, but she had spent her whole life in a sleepy nook of Texas. Things
were slower t here, and now she realized t hat she liked it t hat way. She found herself pining for
t hings she'd always said she hat ed at home, like count ry music and gas st at ion fried chicken
on a st ick.
But she'd come t o school up here t o find herself, for her life t o finally begin. She kept having t o
t ell herself t hat .
"Jordan was just saying t heir next -door neighbor t hinks you're cut e." Nora gave Luce's wavy
waist -lengt h dark hair a t ug. "But he's a player, so l was making it clear t hat you, dear, are a
lady. You wanna go over t here in a few and pre-part y before t hat ot her part y l t old you about
t onight ?"
"Sure." Luce popped t he t op on t he Coke she'd bought at t he vending machine near t he
powder-det er-gent -st rewn laundry st at ions.
"l t hought you were bringing me a diet ?"
"l did." Luce reached int o her laundry basket for t he can she'd bought for Nora. "Sorry, l must
have left it downst airs. l'll run and get it . Be right back."
"Pas de prob,¨ Nora said, pract icing her French. "But hurry. Hailey says t here's a varsit y soccer
t eam infilt ra-t ion on t heir side of t he hall. Soccer boys equal good part ies. We should head over
t here soon. Got t a go," she said int o t he phone. "No, l'm wearing t he black shirt .
Luce is wearing yellow÷or, are you gonna change? Eit her way . . ."
Luce waved t o Nora t hat she'd be right back and ducked out of t he room. She t ook t he st airs
t wo at a t ime, winding down t he floors of t he dorm unt il she st ood on t he t at t ered maroon
carpet at t he ent rance t o t he basement , which everyone on campus called t he Pit , a t erm t hat
made Luce t hink of peaches.
At t he window leading out int o t he court yard, Luce paused. A car full of boys was st opped in
t he circular drive of t he dorm. As t hey climbed out , laughing and shoving each ot her, Luce saw
t hey all had Emerald Varsit y Soccer shirt s on. Luce recognized one of t hem. His name was Max
and he'd been in a couple of Luce's orient at ion sessions t hat week. He was seriously cut e÷
blond hair, big whit e smile, t ypical prep-school-boy look (which she recognized now aft er Nora
drew her a dia-gram t he ot her day at lunch). She'd never t alked t o Max, not even when t hey
were t eamed up wit h a few ot her kids on t he campus scavenger hunt . But maybe if he was
going t o be at t he part y t hat night . . .
All t he boys get t ing out of t hat car were really cut e, which for Luce equaled int imidat ing. She
didn't like t he t hought of being t he one shy girl in Jordan and Hailey's room upst airs.
But she did like t he t hought of being at t he part y.
What else was she supposed t o do? Hide in her dorm room because she was nervous? She
was obviously going t o go.
She jogged down t he final flight of st airs t o t he basement . lt was get t ing close t o sunset , so
t he laundry room had empt ied, giving it a lonely glow. Sunset was t he t ime you wore t he t hings
you'd washed and dried. There was just one girl in crazy t high-high st riped kneesocks,
savagely scrubbing a st ain from a t ie-dyed pair of jeans as if all her fut ure hopes and dreams
depended on t he st ain's removal. And a boy, sit t ing at op a loud and shaking dryer, t ossing a
coin in t he air and cat ching it in his palm.
"Heads or t ails?" he asked when she walked in. He had a square face, wavy amber hair, big
blue eyes, and a t iny gold chain around his neck.
"Heads." Luce shrugged and gave a lit t le laugh.
He flipped t he coin, caught it , and flipped it over int o his palm, and Luce saw t hat it wasn't a
quart er. lt was old, really old, a dust y golden color wit h faded writ ing in anot her language's
script . The boy raised an eyebrow at her. "You win. l don't know what you won yet , but t hat 's
probably up t o you."
She t wirled around, searching for t he diet soda she'd left down t here. Then she saw it about
an inch from t he boy's right knee. "This isn't yours, is it ?" she asked.
He didn't answer; he just st ared at her wit h icy blue eyes, which she saw now suggest ed a
profound sadness t hat didn't seem possible in someone his age.
"l left it down here earlier. lt 's for my friend. My roommat e. Nora," Luce said, reaching for t he can.
This boy was st range, int ense. She was blabbering. "l'll see you lat er."
"One more t ime?" he asked.
She t urned around in t he doorway. He meant t he coin game. "Oh. Heads."
He flipped. The coin seemed t o hover in t he air. He caught it wit hout looking, flipped it over, and
opened his palm. "You win again," he sang in a voice eerily iden-t ical t o t hat of Hank Williams, a
favorit e old singer of Luce's dad.
Back upst airs, Luce t ossed Nora t he Coke. "Have you met t he crazy coin-t oss guy in t he
laundry room?"
"Luce." Nora squint ed. "When l run out of underwear, l buy new underwear. l am hoping t o make
it t o Thanksgiving wit hout having t o do laundry. Are you ready? Soccer boys are wait ing,
hoping t o score. We are t heir goal, but we must remind t hem t hey can't use t heir hands."
She t ook Luce by t he elbow and st eered her out of t he room.
"Now, if you meet a boy named Max, l suggest avoid-ance. l went t o Dover wit h him, and l'm
posit ive he'll be on t he soccer t eam. He will seem cut e and very charming. But he has t he
biggest bit ch of a girlfriend back home. Well, she t hinks she's his girlfriend"÷Nora murmured
behind her hand÷"and she got reject ed from Emerald and is ferociously bit t er about it . She's
got spies everywhere."
"Got it ." Luce laughed, frowning inside. "St ay away from Max."
"What 's your t ype, anyway? l mean, l know you've moved on from gangly old Jeremy."
"Nora." Luce gave her a lit t le shove. "You are not allowed t o bring him up all t he t ime. That was
lat e-night roommat e privat e conversat ion. What happens in pajamas st ays in pajamas."
"You're t ot ally right ." Nora nodded, put t ing up her hands in surrender. "Some t hings are sacred.
l respect t hat . Okay. lf you had t o describe your dream kiss in five words or less . . ."
They were walking around t he second bend of t he U-shaped dorm. ln a moment , t hey would
t urn t he corner and approach t he end of t he hall, called t he Caboose, where Jordan and
Hailey's room was. Luce leaned against t he wall and sighed.
"l'm not embarrassed about having, you know, no experience," Luce said quiet ly÷t hese walls
were t hin.
"lt 's just , do you ever feel like noth|ng has happened t o you? Like you know you have a dest iny,
but all you've seen of life so far is unexcept ional? l want my life t o be different . l want t o feel
t hat it 's begun. l'm wait ing for that kiss. But somet imes l feel like l could wait forever and not hing
would ever change."
"l'm in a hurry, t oo." Nora's eyes had gone a lit t le fuzzy. "l know what you mean÷but you do
have at least a lit t le cont rol. Especially when you st ick wit h me. We can make t hings happen.
Our first semest er's barely even st art ed, kid."
Nora was eager t o get t o t he part y, and Luce want ed t o go; she really did. But she was t alking
about t hat inde-scribable t hing t hat was bigger t han having a good t ime at a part y. She was
t alking about a dest iny t hat Luce felt like she had as much cont rol over as t he out come of a
coin t oss÷somet hing t hat was and wasn't really in her hands.
"You okay?" Nora t ilt ed her head at Luce. A short auburn curl flopped down over her eye.
"Yeah." Luce nodded nonchalant ly. "l'm good."
They went t o t he part y÷which was just a bunch of open dorm room doors and freshmen
walking int o and out of t hem. Everyone had plast ic cups filled wit h t his super-sweet red punch
t hat seemed t o replenish it self aut omat ically. Jordan DJ'ed from her iPod, shout ing,
"Holla!" every now and t hen. The music was good. Her sweet next -door neighbor David
Franklin ordered pizza, which Hailey improved by adding fresh oregano from t he herb garden
she'd brought from home and inst alled in t he corner by t he window. These were good people,
and Luce was glad t o know t hem.
Luce met t went y st udent s in t hirt y minut es and most of t hem were boys who leaned in and
put t heir hands on t he small of her back when she int roduced herself, as if t hey couldn't hear
her ot herwise, as if t ouching made her voice clearer. She realized she was keeping an eye out
for t he coin-t oss guy from t he laundry room.
Three cups of punch and t wo slices of amazing t hin-crust pepperoni pizza lat er, Luce had
been officially int roduced t o and t hen spent t he next t en minut es t rying t o avoid Max. Nora
was right : He was good-looking, but way t oo flirt at ious for someone wit h a crazy girlfriend back
home. She and Nora and Jordan were crammed on Jordan's bed, whispering rat ings for all t he
boys t here in bet ween fit s of giggles, when Luce decided t hat she'd had a lit t le t oo much
myst ery punch. She left t he part y and slipped down t he st airs, seeking quiet air.
The night was cool and dry, not hing like Texas. This breeze refreshed her skin. There were a
few st ars out and a few kids in t he court yard, but no one Luce knew, so she felt free t o sit
down on one of t he st one benches bet ween t wo st out peony bushes. They were her favorit e
flowers.
She'd t aken it as a good omen when t he grounds around her dorm were blooming wit h t hem,
even at t he end of August . She fingered t he deeply lobed pet als of one of t he full whit e
blossoms and leaned forward t o breat he in it s soft nect ar.
"Hello."
She jumped. Wit h her nose buried in a flower, she hadn't seen him approach. Now a pair of
ragged Con-verse sneakers was st anding right in front of her. Her eyes t raveled up: faded
jeans, a black T-shirt , a t hin red scarf t ied loosely around his neck. Her heart picked up and she
didn't know why; she hadn't even seen his face÷short golden hair . . . obscenely soft -looking
lips . . . eyes so gorgeous t hat Luce sucked in her breat h.
"l'm sorry," he said. "l didn't mean t o scare you." What color were his eyes?
"That 's not why l gasped. l mean . . ." The flower fell from her hand, t hree pet als landing on t he
boy's shoes.
Say someth|ng.
He /oves me. He /oves me not. He /oves me.
Not thatl
lt was physically impossible t o say anyt hing. Not only was t his guy t he most incredible t hing
Luce had ever seen in all her life, he'd walked up t o her and int roduced himself. The way he
was looking at her made Luce feel as if she were t he only ot her person in t he court yard.
As if she were t he only ot her person on Eart h. And she was blowing it .
lnst inct ively, she reached up t o t ouch her necklace÷and found her neck was bare. That was
st range. She always wore t he silver locket her mot her had given her on her eight eent h
birt hday. lt was a family heirloom, cont aining an old pict ure of her grandmot her, looking very
much like Luce, t aken right around t he t ime she'd met t he man who would become her
grandfat her. Had she forgot t en t o put it on t hat morning?
The boy t ilt ed his head in a kind of smile.
Oh no. She'd been st aring at him t his whole t ime. He raised his hand as if t o give a lit t le wave.
But he didn't wave. His fingers hovered in t he air. And her heart st art ed pounding, because all
of a sudden, she had no idea what t his st ranger would do. He could do anyt hing.
A friendly gest ure was just one possibilit y. He could flip her off. She probably deserved t o be
flipped off for st aring at him like a crazy st alker. That was ridiculous. She was being ridiculous.
He waved, as if t o say, He//o |n there. "l'm Daniel." When he smiled, she saw t hat his eyes were
beaut ifully gray wit h just a hint of÷was t hat violet ? Oh God, she was going t o fall in love wit h a
guy wit h purple eyes.
What would Nora say?
"Luce," she finally managed. "Lucinda."
"Cool." He smiled again. "Like Lucinda Williams.
The singer."
"How did you know t hat ?" No one ever guessed Lucinda Williams. "My parent s met at a
Lucinda Williams concert in Aust in. Texas," she added. "Where l'm from."
"Fssence is my favorit e of her albums. l list ened t o it for half t he drive out here from California.
Texas, eh?
Big adjust ment coming t o Emerald?"
"Tot al cult ure shock." lt felt like t he most honest t hing she'd said all week.
"You get used t o it . l did aft er t wo years, anyway." He reached out and t ouched her shoulder
when he not iced her panicked expression. "l'm kidding. You look much more adapt able t han l
am. l'll see you next week and you'll be complet ely set t led in, wearing a sweat shirt wit h a big 'E'
on it ."
She was looking at his hand on her arm. But more t han t hat , she was experiencing a t housand
t iny explosions inside her, like t he finale of a fireworks show on t he Fourt h of July. He laughed
and t hen she laughed and she didn't know why.
"Do you"÷she couldn't believe she was about t o say t his t o a model-gorgeous upperclassman
from California÷"want t o sit down?"
"Yeah," he said inst ant ly, t hen glanced up at t he window where t he light s were on and t he
part y was happening. "You wouldn't happen t o know about a soccer part y going on
somewhere in t here?"
Luce point ed, slight ly crest fallen. "l was just t here.
lt 's right up t he st airs."
"No fun?"
"lt was fun," she said. "l just ÷"
"Thought you'd cat ch your breat h?"
She nodded.
"l was supposed t o meet a friend." Daniel shrugged, looking up at t he window, where Nora was
flirt ing wit h someone t hey couldn't see. "But maybe l already have." He squint ed at her and she
wondered, horrified, if she'd been t alking t o him wit h flower pollen dust ing her nose. Wouldn't
be t he first t ime.
"Are you t aking cell biology t his quart er?" he asked.
"No way. l barely got out of t here alive in high school." She looked at him, at his eyes, which
were most definit ely a shade of violet . They glowed when she said,
"Why do you ask?"
Daniel shook his head, as if he'd been t hinking somet hing t hat he didn't want t o say aloud.
"You just ÷you look so familiar. l could have sworn we'd met somewhere before."
EPILOGUE
THE STARS IN THEIR EYES
"l love t his part !" Arriane squealed.
Three angels and t wo Nephilim were sit t ing on t he forward edge of a low gray cloud above a
U-shaped dormit ory in cent ral Connect icut .
Roland grinned at her. "Don't t ell me you've seen t his one before?"
His marbled gold wings were ext ended and folded flat so t hat Miles and Shelby could sit on
t hem and st ay aloft , like a picnic blanket at a drive-t hrough in t he sky.
The Nephilim had not seen t he angels in more t han a dozen years. Though Roland, Arriane,
and Annabelle bore no physical signs of t his passage of t ime, t he Nephilim had aged. They
wore mat ching wedding bands, and t he sides of t heir eyes were creased wit h t he laugh lines
made by years of happy marriage. Under his very faded blue baseball cap, Miles's hair was
slight ly gray around t he t emples. His hand rest ed on Shelby's belly, which prot ruded wit h a
baby due t he following mont h.
She rubbed her head like she'd narrowly escaped a concussion. "But Luce doesn't eat
pepperoni. She's a vege-t arian!"
"That 's what you t ook away from t his scene?" Annabelle rolled her eyes. "Luce is different
now. She's t he same girl wit h different det ails. She doesn't see Announcers, and she hasn't
been t o every shrink on t he east ern seaboard. She's much more 'normal,' which bores her t o
t ears, but "÷Annabelle grinned÷"l t hink, in t he long run, she's going t o be really happy."
"Does t his popcorn t ast e burnt t o you?" Miles asked, chewing loudly.
"Don't eat t hat ," Roland said, plucking t he popcorn from Miles's palm. "Arriane got it out of t he
t rash aft er Luce set t he dorm room kit chen on fire." Miles began spit t ing frant ically, leaning over
t he edge of Roland's wings.
"lt was my way of connect ing wit h Luce." Arriane shrugged. "But here, if you must , have some
Milk Duds."
"ls it weird t hat we're wat ching t he t wo of t hem like a movie?" Shelby asked. "We should
imagine t hem like a novel, or a poem, or a song. Somet imes l feel oppressed by how reduct ive
t he filmic medium is."
"Hey. Roland didn't have t o fly you out here, Nephilim. So don't act smart , just wat ch. Look."
Arriane clapped. "He's t ot ally st aring at her hair. l bet he goes home and sket ches it t onight .
How cuuut e!"
"Arriane, you got way t oo good at being a t eenager," Roland said. "How long are we going t o
wat ch for? l mean, don't you t hink t hey've earned a lit t le privacy?"
"He's right ," Arriane said. "We have ot her t hings on our celest ial plat es. Like . . ." Her smirk faded
when she couldn't seem t o t hink of anyt hing.
"So do you guys see each ot her anymore?" Miles asked Arriane, Annabelle, and Roland. "Since
Roland's, you know . . ."
"Of course we see him." Annabelle smiled at Roland.
"Because we're st ill working on him. Even aft er all t hese years. The Throne invent ed
forgiveness, you know." Roland shook his head. "l don't t hink Heavenly redempt ion is in t he
cards for me anyt ime soon. Everyt hing's so wh|te up t here."
"You never know," Arriane chimed in. "We get t o being might y open-minded somet imes. Swing
by and say hello. Remember: lt 's because of t he Throne t hat Daniel and Luce are get t ing
t oget her right now." Roland grew serious, looking past t he scene below, int o t he dark and
dist ant clouds. "The balance bet ween Heaven and Hell was perfect last t ime l checked. You
don't need me t ipping t he scales."
"There's always at least t he hope of us all coming t oget her once again," Annabelle said. "Luce
and Daniel are an example of t hat ÷no punishment is et ernal. Maybe not even Lucifer's."
"Anyone heard from Cam?" Shelby asked. For a few moment s, t he clouds were quiet . Then
Shelby cleared her t hroat and t urned t o Miles. "Well, speaking of t hings t hat aren't et ernal÷our
babysit t er's shift is almost up.
She charged us overt ime last week, when t he Dodgers game went int o ext ra innings."
"Do you want a heads-up when Luce and Daniel have t heir first dat e?" Annabelle asked.
Miles point ed down t o Eart h. "Aren't we supposed t o leave t hem alone?"
"We'll be t here," Shelby said. "Don't list en t o him." To Miles, she said, "Don't t alk."
Roland wrapped t he Nephilim under each arm and prepared t o t ake flight .
Then t he angels, t he demon, and t he Nephilim flew off t o dist ant corners of t he sky, leaving a
moment 's brilliant flash of light behind t hem, as below, Luce and Daniel fell in love for t he first ÷
and t he last ÷t ime.

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