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CHAPTER 10. WHERE THERE'S SMOKE

"What are you waiting for?" Penn asked barely a second after Daniel had left with Roland. "Let's go." She tugged on Luce's hand.

"Go where?" Luce asked. Her heart was still pounding from the conversation with Danieland from the view of him leaving. The shape his sculpted shoulders cut out in the hall seemed to be bigger than Daniel himself.

Penn rapped lightly on the side of Luce's head. "Hello? The library, like I said in my note" She took in Luce's blank expression. "You didn't get either one of my notes?" She slapped her leg, frustrated. "But I handed them to Todd to pass to Cam to pass to you."

"Pony Express." Cam wedged his way in front of Penn and presented Luce with two folded scraps of paper held between his index and middle finger.

"Give me a break. Did your horse die of exhaustion on the road?" Penn huffed, snagging the notes. "I gave you those like an hour ago. What took so long? You didn't read them"

"Of course not." Cam pressed a hand to his broad chest, offended. He wore a thick black ring on his middle finger. "If you remember, Luce got in trouble for passing notes with Molly"

"I was not passing notes with Molly"

"Regardless," Cam said, lifting the notes back out of Penn's hand and delivering them, finally, to Luce. "I was only looking out for your best interests. Waiting for the right opportunity."

"Well, thank you." Luce tucked the notes into her pocket and gave Penn a what-are-ya-gonna-do shrug.

"Speaking of waiting for the right time," he said, "I was out the other day and saw this." He produced a small red velvet jewelry box and held it open for Luce to see.

Penn nudged around Luce's shoulder so she could get a look.

Inside, a thin gold chain held a small circular pendant with a carved line down its middle and a small serpent's head at the tip.

Luce looked up at him. Was he making fun of her?

He touched the pendant. "I thought, after the other day I wanted to help you face your fear," he said, sounding almost nervous, afraid that she might not accept. Should she accept? "Only kidding. I just liked it. It's unique, it reminded me of you."

It was unique. And very beautiful, and it made Luce feel strangely unworthy.

"You went shopping?" she found herself asking, because it was easier to discuss how Cam had left campus than it would have been to ask Why me? "I thought the point of reform school is that we're all stuck here."

Cam lifted his chin slightly and smiled with his eyes. "There are ways," he said quietly. "I'll show you sometime. I could show youtonight?"

"Cam, honey," a voice said behind him. It was Gabbe, tapping his shoulder. A thin section at the front of her hair was French-braided and pinned behind her ear, like a perfect little headband. Luce stared at it jealously.

"I need your help setting up," Gabbe purred.

Luce looked around and realized they were the only four people left in the classroom.

"Having a little party in my room later," Gabbe said, pressing her chin into Cam's shoulder to address Luce and Penn. "Y'all are coming, right?"

Gabbe, whose mouth always looked sticky with lip gloss, and whose blond hair never failed to swoosh right in the second a guy started talking to Luce. Even though Daniel had said there was nothing going on between them, Luce knew she was never going to be friends with this girl.

Then again, you didn't have to like someone to go to her party, especially when certain other people you did like would probably be there

Or should she take Cam up on his offer? Was he really suggesting they sneak out? Only yesterday, a rumor had flown around the classroom when Jules and Phillip, the tongue-pierced couple, didn't show up for Miss Sophia's class. Apparently, they'd tried to leave campus in the middle of the night, a secret tryst gone wrongand now they were in some type of solitary confinement whose location even Penn didn't know about.

The weirdest part was, Miss Sophiawho usually had no tolerance for whisperinghadn't shut the madly gossiping students up during her lesson. It was almost like the faculty wanted the students to imagine the worst possible punishment for breaking any of their dictatorial rules.

Luce swallowed, looking up at Cam. He offered his elbow, ignoring Gabbe and Penn entirely. "How about it, kid?" he asked, sounding so charmingly classic Hollywood that Luce forgot all about what had happened to Jules and Phillip.

"Sorry." Penn butted in, answering for both of them and steering Luce away by the elbow. "But we have other plans."

Cam looked at Penn like he was trying to figure out where she'd come from all of a sudden. He had a way of making Luce feel like a better, cooler version of herself. And she had a way of crossing his path right after Daniel had made her feel exactly the opposite. But Gabbe was still hovering beside him, and Penn's tug was growing stronger, so finally Luce just waved the hand still clutching Cam's gift. "Um, maybe next time! Thanks for the necklace!"

Leaving Cam and Gabbe confused in the classroom behind them, Penn and Luce booked it out of Augustine. It felt creepy to be alone in the dark building so late, and Luce could tell from the hurried slap of Penn's sandals on the stairs in front of her that she felt it, too.

Outside, it was windy. An owl crooned in its palmetto tree. When they passed under the oaks alongside the building, straggly tendrils of Spanish moss brushed them like tangled strands of hair.

"Maybe next time?" Penn mimicked Luce's voice. "What was that about?"

"Nothing I don't know." Luce wanted to change the subject. "You make us sound very posh, Penn," she said, laughing as they trudged along the commons. "Other plans I thought you had fun at the party last week."

"If you'd ever get around to reading my recent correspondence, you'd see why we have more important things on our plate."

Luce emptied her pockets, rediscovered the five uneaten M&M's, and shared them with Penn, who expressed a very Penn-like sentiment that she hoped they had come from a sanitary place, but ate them anyway.

Luce unfolded the first of Penn's notes, which looked like a photocopied page from one of the files in the underground archive:

Gabrielle Givens

Cameron Briel

Lucinda Price

Todd Hammond

Previous locations:

All in the Northeast, except for T. Hammond

(Orlando, Florida)

Arriane Alter

Daniel Grigori

Mary Margaret Zane

Previous locations:

Los Angeles, California

Lucinda's group was noted as arriving at Sword & Cross on September 15 of this year. The second group had arrived March 15, three years earlier.

"Who's Mary Margaret Zane?" Luce asked, pointing.

"Only the very virtuous Molly," Penn said.

Molly's name was Mary Margaret? "No wonder she's so pissed off at the world," Luce said. "So where'd you get all this?"

"I dug it out from one of the boxes Miss Sophia brought down the other day," Penn said. "That's Miss Sophia's handwriting."

Luce looked up at her. "What does it mean? Why would she need to record this? I thought they had all our arrival dates separately in our files."

"They do. I can't figure it out, either," Penn said. "And I mean, even though you showed up at the same time as those other kids, it's not like you have anything in common with them."

"I couldn't have less in common with them," Luce said, envisioning the coy look Gabbe always had glued to her face.

Penn scratched her chin. "But when Arriane, Molly, and Daniel showed up, they already knew each other. I think they came from the same halfway house in L.A."

Somewhere there was a key to Daniel's story. There had to be more to him than a halfway house in California. But thinking back to his reactionthat washed-out horror that Luce might take an interest in knowing anything about himwell, it made her feel like everything she and Penn were doing was futile and immature.

"What's the point of all of this?" Luce asked, suddenly annoyed.

"Why Miss Sophia would be collating all that information I can't figure out. Though Miss Sophia arrived at Sword & Cross the same day as Arriane, Daniel, and Molly" Penn trailed off. "Who knows? Maybe it doesn't mean anything. There's just so little mention of Daniel in the archives, I figured I'd show you everything I came up with. Hence exhibit B."

She pointed toward the second note in Luce's hand.

Luce sighed. Part of her wanted to quit the search and stop feeling embarrassed about Daniel. The pushier part of her still yearned to get to know him better which, strangely, was far easier to do when he wasn't technically present to give her new reasons to feel embarrassed.

She looked down at the note, a photocopy of an old-fashioned card from a library catalog.

Grigori, D. The Watchers: Myth in Medieval

Europe. Seraphim Press, Rome, 1755.

Call no: R999.318 GRI

"Sounds like one of Daniel's ancestors was a scholar," Penn said, reading over Luce's shoulder.

"This must have been what he meant," Luce said under her breath. She looked at Penn. "He told me studying religion was in his family. This must be what he meant."

"I thought he was an orphan"

"Don't ask," Luce said, waving her off. "Touchy subject with him." She ran her finger over the book's title. "What's a watcher?"

"Only one way to find out," Penn said. "Though we may live to regret it. 'Cause this sounds like possibly the most boring book ever. Still," she added, dusting her knuckles on her shirt, "I took the liberty of checking the catalog. The book should be in the stacks. You can thank me later."

"You're good." Luce grinned. She was eager to get up to the library. If someone in Daniel's family had written a book, it couldn't possibly be boring. Or not to Luce, anyway. But then she looked down at the other thing still in her hand. The velvet jewelry box from Cam.

"What do you think this means?" she asked Penn as they started walking up the mosaic-tiled stairs to the library.

Penn shrugged. "Your feelings on snakes are"

"Hatred, agony, extreme paranoia, and disgust," Luce listed.

"Maybe it's like okay, I used to be scared of cactus. Couldn't go near 'emdon't laugh, have you ever pricked yourself on one of those things? They stay in your skin for days. Anyway, one year, for my birthday, my dad bought me like eleven cactus plants. At first I wanted to chuck them at him. But then, you know, I got used to them. I stopped flipping out anytime I was near one. In the end, it totally worked."

"So you're saying Cam's gift," Luce said, "is actually really sweet."

"I guess," Penn said. "But if I'd known he had the hots for you, I would not have trusted him with our private correspondence. Sorry about that."

"He does not have the hots for me," Luce started to say, fingering the gold chain inside the box, imagining how it would look on her skin. She hadn't told Penn anything about her picnic with Cam becausewell, she didn't really know why. It had to do with Daniel, and how Luce still couldn't figure out where she stoodor wanted to standwith either of them.

"Ha." Penn cackled. "Which means you kinda like him! Cheating on Daniel. I can't keep up with you and your men."

"As if anything is going on with either of them," Luce said glumly. "Do you think Cam read the notes?"

"If he did, and he still gave you that necklace," Penn said, "then he's really into you."

They stepped inside the library, and the heavy double doors thudded behind them. The sound echoed through the room. Miss Sophia looked up from the mounds of paper covering her lamplit desk.

"Oh, hello, girls," she said, beaming so broadly that Luce felt guilty all over again for zoning out during her lecture. "I hope you enjoyed my brief review session!" she practically sang.

"Very much." Luce nodded, though there had been nothing brief about it. "We came here to review a few more things before the exam."

"That's right," Penn chimed in. "You inspired us."

"How wonderful!" Miss Sophia rustled through her paperwork. "I've got a further reading list somewhere. I'd be happy to make you a copy."

"Great," Penn lied, giving Luce a small push toward the stacks. "We'll let you know if we need it!"

Beyond Miss Sophia's desk, the library was quiet. Luce and Penn eyed the call numbers as they passed shelf after shelf toward the books on religion. The energy-saving lights had motion detectors and were supposed to turn on as they crossed each aisle, but only about half of them worked. Luce realized that Penn was still holding on to her arm, then realized she didn't want her to let go.

The girls came to the usually crowded study section, where only one table lamp burned. Everyone else must have been at Gabbe's party. Everyone except for Todd. He had his feet kicked up on the chair across from him and seemed to be reading a coffee-table-sized world atlas. When the girls walked by him, he looked up with a wan expression that was either very lonely or slightly annoyed at being disturbed.

"You guys are here late," he said flatly.

"So are you," Penn retorted, sticking out her tongue dramatically.

When they'd put a few shelves between them and Todd, Luce raised an eyebrow at Penn. "What was that?"

"What?" Penn sulked. "He flirts with me." She crossed her arms over her chest and blew a brown curlicue of hair out of her eyes. "As if."

"Are you in fourth grade?" Luce teased.

Penn stuck her pointer finger up at Luce with an intensity that would have made Luce jump if she hadn't been giggling so much. "Do you know anyone else who would delve into Daniel Grigori's family history with you? Didn't think so. Leave me alone."

By then, they had reached the far back corner of the library, where all the 999 books were arranged along a single pewter-colored bookshelf. Penn crouched down and traced the books' spines with her finger. Luce felt a tremor, like someone was running a finger along her neck. She craned her head around and saw a wisp of gray. Not black, like the shadows usually were, but lighter, thinner. Just as unwelcome.

She watched, wide-eyed, as the shadow stretched out in a long, curling strand directly over Penn's head. It came down slowly, like a threaded needle, and Luce didn't want to think about what might happen if it touched her friend. The other day at the gym had been the first time the shadows had touched herand she still felt violated, almost dirty from it. She didn't know what else they could do.

Nervous, unsteady, Luce stretched her arm out like a baseball bat. She took a deep breath and swung forward. She bristled at the icy contact as she knocked the shadow awayand clocked Penn upside the head.

Penn pressed her hands against her skull and looked back at Luce in shock. "What is wrong with you?"

Luce sank down next to her and smoothed the top of Penn's hair. "I'm so sorry. There was I thought I saw a bee land on your head. I panicked. I didn't want it to sting you."

She could feel how utterly, utterly lame this excuse was and waited for her friend to tell her she was crazywhat would a bee be doing in a library? She waited for Penn to walk out.

But Penn's round face softened. She took Luce's hand in both of hers and shook it. "Bees terrify me, too," she said. "I'm deathly allergic. You basically just saved my life."

It was like they were having a huge bonding momentonly they weren't, because Luce was wholly consumed by the shadows. If only there were a way to push them from her mind, to shrug the shadow thing off, without shrugging off Penn.

Luce had a strong, uneasy feeling about this light gray shadow. The uniformity of the shadows had never been comforting, but these latest variations were a new level of disconcerting. Did it mean more kinds of shadows were finding their way to her? Or was she just getting better at distinguishing them? And what about that weird moment during Miss Sophia's lecture, when she'd actually pinched a shadow back before it could enter her pocket? She'd done it without thinking, and had had no reason to expect that her two fingers would be any match for a shadow, but they had beenshe glanced around the stacksat least temporarily.

She wondered whether she had set some kind of precedent for interacting with the shadows. Except that to call what she'd done to the shadow hovering over Penn's head "interacting" even Luce knew that was a euphemism. A cold, sick feeling grew in her gut when she realized that what she'd started doing to the shadows was more like fighting them off.

"It's the strangest thing." Penn spoke up from the floor. "It should be right here between The Dictionary of Angels and this god-awful Billy Graham fire-and-brimstone thing." She looked up at Luce. "But it's gone."

"I thought you said"

"I did. The computer had it listed as on the shelves when I looked this afternoon, but we can't get online this late to check again."

"Go ask Todd-o out there," Luce suggested. "Maybe he's using it as a cover for his Playboys."

"Gross." Penn whacked her on the thigh.

Luce knew she'd only made the joke to try to downplay her disappointment. It was just so frustrating. She couldn't find out anything about Daniel without running up against a wall. She didn't know what she'd find inside the pages of his great-great-whatever's book, but at least it would tell her something more about Daniel. Which had to be better than nothing.

"Stay here," Penn said, standing up. "I'm going to go ask Miss Sophia if anyone's checked it out today."

Luce watched her traipse back up the long aisle toward the front desk. She laughed when Penn sped up to pass the area where Todd was sitting.

Alone in the back corner, Luce fingered some of the other books on the shelves. She did a quick mental run-through of the student body at Sword & Cross, but she couldn't think of any likely candidates for checking out an old religious book. Maybe Miss Sophia had used it as reference for her review session earlier. Luce wondered what it must have been like for Daniel to sit there, listening to the librarian talk about things that had probably been dinner-table topics of conversation when he was growing up. Luce wanted to know what his childhood had been like. What had happened to his family? Had his upbringing at the orphanage been religious? Or was his childhood anything like hers, in which the only things pursued religiously were good grades and academic honors? She wanted to know whether Daniel had ever read this book by his ancestor and what he'd thought about it, and if he liked writing himself. She wanted to know what he was doing right now at Gabbe's party and when his birthday was and what size shoe he wore and whether he ever wasted a single second of his time wondering about her.

Luce shook her head. This train of thought was heading straight for Pity City, and she wanted to get off. She pulled the first book off the shelfthe very unfascinating cloth-covered Dictionary of Angelsand decided to distract herself by reading until Penn came back.

She'd gotten as far as the fallen angel Abbadon, who regretted siding with Satan and constantly bemoaned his bad decisionyawnwhen a blaring noise rang out over her head. Luce looked up to see the red flash of the fire alarm.

"Alert. Alert," a monotone robotic voice announced over a loudspeaker. "The fire alarm has been activated. Evacuate the building."

Luce slid the book back on the shelf and pulled herself to her feet. They'd done this kind of thing at Dover all the time. After a while, it had reached the point where not even the teachers had heeded the monthly fire drills, so the fire department started really setting off the alarm just to get people to respond. Luce could totally see the administrators at Sword & Cross pulling a similar stunt. But when she started walking toward the exit, she was surprised to find herself coughing. There was actual smoke inside the library.

"Penn?" she called out, hearing her voice echo in her ears. She knew she'd be drowned out by the piercing shriek of the alarm.

The acrid smell of the smoke dropped her instantly back into the blaze that night with Trevor. Images and sounds flooded her mind, things she'd stuffed so deep inside her memory they might as well have been obliterated. Until now.

The shocking whites of Trevor's eyes against the orange glow. The individual tendrils of flame as the fire spread through each one of his fingers. The shrill, unending scream that rang in her head like a siren long after Trevor had given up. And the whole time, she'd stood there watching, she couldn't stop watching, frozen in that bath of heat. She hadn't been able to move. She hadn't been able to do a thing to help him. So he'd died.

She felt a hand grip her left wrist and spun around, expecting to see Penn. It was Todd. The whites of his own eyes were huge, and he was coughing, too.

"We have to get out of here," he said, breathing fast. "I think there's an exit toward the back."

"What about Penn, and Miss Sophia?" Luce asked. She was feeling weak and dizzy. She rubbed her eyes. "They were over there." When she pointed up the aisle toward the entrance, she could see how much thicker the smoke was in that direction.

Todd looked doubtful for a second, but then he nodded. "Okay," he said, keeping hold of her wrist as they crouched down and sprinted toward the front doors of the library. They took a right when one aisle looked particularly thick with smoke, then found themselves facing a wall of books without a clue which way to run. Both of them stopped to gasp. The smoke that only a moment earlier had hovered just above their heads now pressed low against their shoulders.

Even ducking below it, they were choking. And they couldn't see as much as a few feet in front of them. Making sure to keep a hold on Todd, Luce spun around in a circle, suddenly unsure which direction they'd come from. She reached out and felt the hot metal shelf of one of the stacks. She couldn't even make out the letters on the spines. Were they in the D section or the O's?

There were no clues to guide them toward Penn and Miss Sophia, and no clues to guide them to the exit, either. Luce felt a surge of panic course through her, making it even more difficult to breathe.

"They must have already gone out the front doors!" Todd shouted, sounding only half convinced. "We have to turn back!"

Luce bit her lip. If anything happened to Penn

She could barely see Todd, who was standing right in front of her. He was right, but which way was back? Luce nodded mutely, and felt his hand tugging hers.

For a long time, she moved without knowing where they were going, but as they ran, the smoke lifted, little by little, until, eventually, she saw the red glow of an emergency exit sign. Luce breathed a sigh of relief as Todd fumbled for the door handle and finally pushed it open.

They were in a hallway Luce had never seen before. Todd slammed the door shut behind them. They gasped and filled their lungs with clean air. It tasted so good. Luce wanted to sink her teeth into it, to drink a gallon of it, bathe herself in it. She and Todd both coughed the smoke out of their lungs until they started laughing, an uneasy, only half-relieved laugh. They laughed until she was crying. But even when Luce finished crying and coughing, her eyes continued to tear.

How could she breathe in this air when she didn't even know what had happened to Penn? If Penn hadn't made it outif she was collapsed somewhere insidethen Luce had failed someone she cared about again. Only this time it would be so much worse.

She wiped her eyes and watched a puff of smoke curl out from underneath the crack at the base of the door. They weren't safe yet. There was another door at the end of the hallway. Through the glass panel in the door, Luce could see the wobble of a tree branch in the night. She exhaled. In a few moments, they'd be outside, away from these choking fumes.

If they were fast enough, they could go around to the front entrance and make sure Penn and Miss Sophia had made it out okay.

"Come on," Luce told Todd, who was folded over himself, wheezing. "We have to keep going."

He straightened up, but Lice could see he was really overcome. His face was red, his eyes were wild and wet. She practically had to drag him toward the door.

She was so focused on getting out that it took her too long to process the heavy, swishing noise that had fallen over them, drowning out the alarms.

She looked up into a maelstoem of shadows. A spectrum of shades of gray and deepest black. She should only be able to see as far as the ceiling overhead, but the shadows seemed somehow to extend beyond its limits. Into a strange and hidden sky. They were all tangled up in each other, and yet they were distinct.

Amid them was the lighter, grayish one she'd seen earlier. It was no longer shaped like a needle, but now looked almost like the flame of a match. It bobbed over them in the hallway. Had she really fended off that amorphous darkness when it threatened to graze Penn's head? The memory made her palms itch and her toes curl.

Todd started banging on the walls, as if the hallway were closing in on them. Luce knew they were nowhere near the door. She grabbed for his hand, but their sweaty palms slid off each other. She wrapped her fingers tight around his wrist. He was white as a ghost, crouched down near the floor, almost cowering. A terrified moan escaped his lips.

Because the smoke was now filling up the hallway?

Or because he could sense the shadows, too?

Impossible.

And yet his face was pinched and horrified. Much more so now that the shadows were overhead.

"Luce?" His voice shook.

Another horde of shadows rose up directly in their path. A deep black blanket of dark spread out across the walls and made it impossible for Luce to see the door. She looked at Toddcould he see it?

"Run!" she yelled.

Could he even run? His face was ashy and his eyelids drooped shut. He was on the verge of passing out. But then it suddenly seemed like he was carrying her.

Or something was carrying both of them.

"What the hell?" Todd cried out.

Their feet skimmed the floor for just a moment. It felt was like riding a wave in the ocean, a light crest that lifted her higher, filling her body with air. Luce didn't know where she was headed she couldn't even see the door, just a snart of inky shadows all around. Hovering but not touching her. She chould have been terrified, but she wasn't. Somehow she eas felt protected form the shadows, like something was shielding her something fluid but impenetrable. Something uncannily familiar. Something strong, but also gentle. Something

Almost too quickly, she and Todd were at the door. Her feet hit the floor again, and she shoved herself against the door's emergency exit bar.

Then she heaved. Choked. Gasped. Gagged.

Another alarm was clanging. But it sounded far away.

The wind whipped at her neck. They were outside! Standing on a small ledge. A flight of stairs led down to the commons, and even though everything in her head felt cloudy and filled with smoke, Luce thought she could hear voices somewhere nearby.

She turned back to try to figure out what had just happened. How had she and Todd made it through that thickest, blackest, impenetrable shadow? And what was the thing that had saved them? Luce felt its absence.

She almost wanted to go back and search for it.

But the hallway was dark, and her eyes were still watering, and she couldn't make out the twisting shadow shapes anymore. Maybe they were gone.

Then there was a jagged stroke of light, something that looked like a tree trunk with branchesno, like a torso with long, broad limbs. A pulsing, almost violet column of light hovering over them. It made Luce think, absurdly, of Daniel. She was seeing things. She took a deep breath and tried to blink the smoky tears from her eyes. But the light was still there. She sensed more than heard it call to her, calming her, a lullaby in the middle of a war zone.

So she didn't see the shadow coming.

It body-slammed into her and Todd, breaking their grip on each other and tossing Luce into the air.

She landed in a heap at the foot of the stairs. An agonized grunt escaped her lips.


CHAPTER 9. STATE OF INNOCENCE | Fallen | CHAPTER 11. RUDE AWAKENING