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CHAPTER 14. IDLE HANDS

It rained all day on Tuesday. Pitch-black clouds rolled in from the west and churned over the campus, doing nothing to help clear Luce's mind. The downpour came in uneven wavesdrizzling, then pouring, then hailingbefore it tapered off to start all over again. The students hadn't even been allowed to go outside during breaks, and by the end of her calculus class, Luce was going stir-crazy.

She realized this when her notes began to veer away from the mean value theorem and started looking more like this:

September 15: Introductory flip-off from D

September 16: Statue toppling, hand on head to protect me (alternately: just him groping for a way out); D's immediate exit

September 17: Potential misreading of D's head bob as suggestion that I attend Cam's party. Disturbing discovery of D & G's relationship (mistake?)

Spelled out like that, it was the beginning of a pretty embarrassing catalog. He was just so hot and cold. It was possible he felt the same way about herthough, if pressed, Luce would insist that any weirdness on her part was only in response to utter weirdness on his part.

No. This was precisely the kind of circular argument she did not want to engage in. Luce didn't want to play any games. She just wanted to be with him. Only, she had no idea why. Or how to go about it. Or really, what being with him would even mean. All she knew was that, despite everything, he was the one she thought about. The one she cared about.

She'd thought if she could track every time they'd connected and every time he'd pulled away, she might be able to find some reason behind Daniel's erratic behavior. But her list so far was only making her depressed. She crumpled the page into a ball.

When the bell finally rang to dismiss them for the day, Luce hurried out of the classroom. Usually she waited to walk with either Arriane or Penn, dreading the moment they parted ways, because then Luce would be alone with her thoughts. But today, for a change, she didn't feel like seeing anyone. She was looking forward to some Luce time. She had only one sure idea about how to take her mind off Daniel: a long, hard, solitary swim.

While the other students started trucking back toward their dorm rooms, Luce pulled up the hood of her black sweater and darted into the rain, eager to get to the natatorium.

As she bounded down the steps of Augustine, she plowed straight into something tall and black. Cam. When she jostled him, a tower of books teetered in his arms, then tumbled to the wet pavement with a series of thuds. He'd had his own black hood pulled over his head and his earbuds blaring in his ears. He probably hadn't seen her coming, either. They'd both been in their own worlds.

"Are you okay?" he asked, putting a hand on her back.

"I'm fine," Luce said. She'd barely stumbled. It was Cam's books that had taken the spill.

"Well, now that we've knocked over one another's books, isn't the next step for our hands to accidentally touch while we're picking them up?"

Luce laughed. When she handed him one of the books, he held on to her hand and squeezed it. The rain had soaked his dark hair, and big drops gathered in his long, thick eyelashes. He looked really good.

"How do you say 'embarrassed' in French?" he asked.

"Um g^en'e," Luce started to say, feeling suddenly a little g^en'ee herself. Cam was still holding on to her hand. "Wait, aren't you the one who got an A on the French quiz yesterday?"

"You noticed?" he asked. His voice sounded strange.

"Cam," she said, "is everything okay?"

He leaned toward her and brushed a drop of water she'd felt running down the bridge of her nose. The single touch of his forefinger made her shiver, and suddenly she couldn't help thinking about how wonderful and warm it might feel if he folded her into his arms the way he'd done at Todd's memorial.

"I've been thinking about you," he said. "Wanting to see you. I waited for you at the memorial, but someone told me you left."

Luce got the feeling he knew whom she'd left with. And that he wanted her to know he knew.

"I'm sorry," she said, having to shout to be heard over a clap of thunder. By now they were both soaked from the streaming downpour.

"Come on, let's get out of this rain." Cam tugged her back toward the covered entrance to Augustine.

Luce looked over his shoulder toward the gym and wanted to be there, not here or anywhere else with Cam. At least, not right now. Her head was brimming with too many confusing impulses, and she needed time and space awayfrom everyoneto sort them out.

"I can't," she said.

"How about later? How about tonight?"

"Sure, later, okay."

He beamed. "I'll come by your room."

He surprised her by pulling her in to him, just for the briefest moment, and kissing her gently on the forehead. Luce felt instantly soothed, almost like she'd been given a shot of something. And before she had a chance to feel anything more, he'd released her and was walking quickly back toward the dorm.

Luce shook her head and splashed slowly toward the gym. Clearly she had more to sort out than just Daniel.

There was a chance it might be good, fun even, to spend some time with Cam later tonight. If the rain let up, he'd probably take her to some secret part of the campus and be all charismatic and gorgeous in that unnervingly still manner of his. He'd make her feel special. Luce smiled.

Since she'd last set foot in Our Lady of Fitness (as Arriane had christened the gym), the school's maintenance staff had begun to fight the kudzu. They had stripped the green blanket away from much of the building's facade, but they were only half finished, and green vines dangled like tentacles across the doors. Luce had to duck under a few long tendrils just so she could get inside.

The gym was empty, and pin-drop quiet compared to the thunderstorm outside. Most of the lights were off. She hadn't asked if she was allowed to use the gym after hours, but the door was unlocked, and, well, no one was there to stop her.

In the dim hallway, she passed the old Latin scrolls in the glass cases, and the miniature marble reproduction of the pieta. She paused in front of the door to the weight room, where she'd happened upon Daniel jumping rope. Sigh. That'd be a great addition to her catalog:

September 18: D accuses me of stalking him.

Followed two days later by:

September 20: Penn convinces me to really begin stalking him. I consent,

Ugh. She was in a black hole of self-loathing. And yet she couldn't stop herself. In the middle of the hallway, she froze. All at once she understood why this whole day she'd felt even more consumed by Daniel than usual, and also even mere conflicted about Cam. She'd dreamed about them both last night.

She'd been wandering through a dusty fog, someone holding her hand. She'd turned, thinking it would be Daniel. But while the lips she pressed against were comforting and tender, they weren't his. They were Cam's. He gave her innumerable soft kisses, and every time Luce peeked at him, his stormy green eyes were open, too, boring into her, questioning her about something she couldn't answer.

Then Cam was gone, and the fog was gone, and Luce was wrapped tightly in Daniel's arms, right where she wanted to be. He dipped her low and kissed her fiercely, as if he were angry, and each time his lips left hers, even just for half a second, the most parching thirst ran through her, making her cry out. This time, she knew they were wings, and she let them wrap around her body like a blanket. She wanted to touch them, to fold them around her and Daniel completely, but soon the brush of velvet was receding, folding back on itself. He stopped kissing her, watched her face, waited for a reaction. She didn't understand the strange hot fear growing in the pit of her stomach. But there it was, making her uncomfortably warm, then blisteringly hotuntil she could stand it no longer. That was when she jolted awake: In the dream's last moment, Luce herself had seared and splintered-then had been obliterated into ash.

She'd woken up soaked with sweather hair, her pillow, her pajamas all wet and suddenly making her so, so cold. She'd lain there shivering and alone until the morning's first light.

Luce rubbed her rain-soaked sleeves to warm up. Of course. The dream had left her with a fire in her heart and a chill in her bones she'd been unable to reconcile all day. Which was why she'd come here for a swim, to try to work it out of her system.

This time, her black Speedo actually fit, and she'd remembered to bring a pair of goggles. She pushed open the door to the pool and stood under the high-dive platform alone, breathing in the humid air with its dull tang of chlorine. Without the distraction of the other students, or the trill of Coach Diante's whistle, Luce could feel the presence of something else in the church. Something almost holy. Maybe it was only that the natatorium was such a gorgeous room, even with the rain pelting in through the cracked stained-glass windows. Even with none of the candles lit in the red side altars. Luce tried to imagine what the place had looked like before the pool had replaced the pews, and she smiled, she liked the idea of swimming under all those praying heads.

She lowered her goggles and leaped in. The water was warm, much warmer than the rain outside, and the crash of thunder outside sounded harmless and far away when she ducked her head underwater.

She pushed off and began a slow warm-up crawl stroke.

Her body quickly loosened up, and a few laps later, Luce increased her speed and began the butterfly. She could feel the burn in her limbs, and she pushed through it. This was exactly the feeling she was after. Totally in the zone.

If she could just talk to Daniel. Really talk, without him interrupting or telling her to transfer schools or ducking out before she could get to her point. That might help. It also might require tying him up and taping his mouth shut just so he'd listen to her.

But what would she even say? All she had to go on was this feeling she got around him, which, if she thought about it, had nothing to do with any of their inter actions.

What if she could get him back to the lake? He was the one who'd implied it had become their place. This time, she could lead him there, and she'd be super-careful not to bring up anything that seemed to freak him out-It wasn't working.

Crap. She was doing it again. She was supposed to be swimming. Just swimming. She'd swim until she was too tired to think about anything else, especially Daniel. She'd swim until

"Luce!"

Until she was interrupted. By Penn, who was standing at the side of the pool.

"What are you doing here?" Luce asked, spitting water.

"What are you doing here?" Penn returned. "Since when do you exercise willingly? I don't like this new side of you."

"How did you find me?" Luce didn't realize until she'd said it that her words might have sounded rude, like she was trying to avoid Penn.

"Cam told me," Penn said. "We had a whole conversation. It was weird. He wanted to know if you were all right."

"That is weird," Luce agreed.

"No," Penn said, "what was weird was that he approached me and we had a whole conversation. Mr. Popularity and me. Need I spell out my surprise any further? Thing is, he was actually really nice."

"Well, he is nice." Luce pulled her goggles off her head.

"To you," Penn said. "He's so nice to you that he snuck out of school to buy you that necklacewhich you never wear."

"I wore it once," Luce said. Which was true. Five nights before, after the second time Daniel left her stranded at the lake, alone with his path lit up in the forest. She hadn't been able to shake the image of it and hadn't been able to sleep. So she'd tried on the necklace. She'd fallen asleep clutching it near her collarbone, and woken up with it hot in her hand.

Penn was waving three fingers at Luce, as if to say, Hello? And your point is?

"My point is," Luce said finally, "I'm not so superficial that all I'm looking for is a guy who buys me things."

"Not so superficial, eh?" Penn asked. "Then I dare you to make a non-superficial list of why you're so into Daniel. Which means no He's got the loveliest little gray eyes or Ooh, the way his muscles ripple in the sunlight."

Luce had to crack up at Penn's high falsetto and the way she held her hands clasped to her heart. "He just gets me," she said, avoiding Penn's eyes. "I can't explain it."

"He gets that you deserve to be ignored?" Penn shook her head.

Luce had never told Penn about the times she'd spent alone with Daniel, the times when she'd seen a flash that he cared about her, too. So Penn couldn't really understand her feelings. And they were far too private and too complicated to explain.

Penn crouched down in front of Luce. "Look, the reason I came to find you in the first place was to drag you to the library for a Daniel-related mission."

"You found the book?"

"Not exactly," Penn said, extending a hand to help Luce out of the pool. "Mr. Grigori's masterpiece is still mysteriously missing, but I kind of sort of maybe hacked Miss Sophia's subscribers-only literary search engine, and a couple of things turned up. I thought you might find them interesting."

"Thanks," Luce said, hoisting herself out with Penn's help. "I'll try not to be too annoyingly gushy over Daniel."

"Whatever," Penn said. "Just hurry up and dry off. We're in a brief no-rain window outside and I don't have an umbrella."

** *

Mostly dry and back in her school uniform, Luce followed Penn to the library. Part of the front portion had been blocked off by yellow police tape, so the girls had to slip through the narrow space between the card catalog and the reference section. It still smelled like a bonfire, and now, thanks to the sprinklers and the rain, possessed an added mildewy quality.

Luce took her first look at where Miss Sophia's desk had sat, now a charred, nearly perfect circle on the old tile floor in the library's center. Everything in a fifteen-foot radius had been removed. Everything beyond that was strangely undamaged.

The librarian wasn't at her station, but a folding card table had been set up for her next to the burned spot. The table was depressingly bare, save for a new lamp, a pencil jar, and a gray pad of sticky notes.

Luce and Penn gave each other a that-sucks grimace before they continued to the computer stations at the back. When they passed the study section where they'd last seen Todd, Luce glanced over at her friend. Penn kept her face forward, but when Luce reached over and squeezed her hand, Penn squeezed back pretty hard.

They pulled two chairs up to one computer terminal, and Penn typed in her user name. Luce glanced around just to make sure no one else was nearby.

A red error box popped up on the screen.

Penn groaned.

"What?" Luce asked.

"After four, you need special permission to access the Web."

"That's why this place is always so empty at night."

Penn was rooting through her backpack. "Where did I put that encrypted password?" she mumbled.

"There's Miss Sophia," Luce said, flagging down the librarian, who was crossing the aisle in a black fitted blouse and bright green cropped pants. Her shimmery earrings dusted her shoulders, and she had a pencil poked into the side of her hair. "Over here," Luce whispered loudly.

Miss Sophia squinted at them. Her bifocals had slipped down her nose, and with a stack of books under each arm, she didn't have a free hand to push them up. "Who's that?" she called, walking over.

"Oh, Lucinda. Pennyweather," she said, sounding tired. "Hello."

"We were wondering if you could give us the password to use the computer," Luce asked, pointing at the error message on the screen.

"You're not doing social networking, are you? Those sites are the devil's work."

"No, no, this is serious research," Penn said. "You'd approve."

Miss Sophia leaned over the girls to unlock the computer. Fingers flying, she typed in the longest password Luce had ever seen. "You have twenty minutes," she said flatly, walking away.

"That should be enough," Penn whispered. "I found a critical essay on the Watchers, so until we track down the book, we can at least read up on what it's about."

Luce sensed someone standing behind her and turned around to see that Miss Sophia had returned. Luce jumped. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know why you scared me."

"No, I'm the one who's sorry," Miss Sophia said. Her smile practically made her eyes disappear. "It's just been so hard recently, since the fire. But there's no reason for me to take my sorrow out on two of my most promising students."

Neither Luce nor Penn really knew what to say. It was one thing to comfort each other after the fire. Reassuring the school librarian seemed a little bit out of their league.

"I've been trying to keep busy, but" Miss Sophia trailed off.

Penn glanced nervously at Luce. "Well, we might be able to use some help with our research, if, that is, you"

"I can help!" Miss Sophia tugged over a third chair. "I see you're looking into the Watchers," she said, reading over their shoulders. "The Grigoris were a very influential clan. And I just happen to know of a papal database. Let me see what I can pull up."

Luce nearly choked on the pencil she'd been chewing. "I'm sorry, did you say Grigoris?"

"Oh yes, historians have traced them back to the Middle Ages. They were" She paused, searching for the words. "A sort of research cluster, to put it in modern layperson's terms. They specialized in a certain type of fallen-angel folklore."

She reached between the girls again and Luce marveled as her fingers raced across the keyboard. The search engine struggled to keep up, pulling up article after article, primary source after primary source, all on the Grigoris. Daniel's family name was everywhere, filling up the screen. Luce felt a bit light-headed.

The image from her dream came back to her: unfurling wings, her body heating up until she smoldered into ash.

"There are different kinds of angels to specialize in?" Penn asked.

"Oh, sureit's a wide body of literature," Miss Sophia said while she typed. "There are those who became demons. And those who threw in with God. And there are even ones who consorted with mortal women." At last her fingers were still. "Very dangerous habit."

Penn said, "Are these Watcher dudes any relation to the Daniel Grigori here?"

Miss Sophia tapped her mauve lips. "Quite possible. I wondered that myself, but it is hardly our place to be digging into another student's business, wouldn't you agree?" Her pale face pinched into a frown as she looked down at her watch. "Well, I hope I've given you enough to get started on your project. I won't hog any more of your time." She pointed at a clock on the computer screen. "You've only got nine minutes left."

As she walked back toward the front of the library, Luce watched Miss Sophia's perfect posture. She could have balanced a book on her head. It did seem like it had cheered her up a little to help the girls with their research, but at the same time, Luce had no idea what to do with the information she'd just been given about Daniel.

Penn did. She'd already started scribbling furious notes.

"Eight and a half minutes," she informed Luce, handing her a pen and a piece of paper. "There's way too much here to make sense of in eight and a half minutes. Start writing."

Luce sighed and did as she was told. It was a boringly designed academic Web page with a thin blue border framing a plain beige background. At the top, a header in a severe blocky font read: THE GRIGORI CLAN.

Just reading the name, Luce felt her skin warm.

Penn tapped the monitor with her pen, snapping Luce's attention back to her task.

The Grigoris do not sleep. Seemed possible; Daniel always did look tired. They are generally silent. Check. Sometimes talking to him was like pulling teeth. In an eighth-century decree

The screen went black. Their time was up.

"How much did you get?" Penn asked.

Luce held up her sheet of paper. Pathetic. What she had was something she didn't even remember doodling: the feathered edges of wings.

Penn gave her a sideways glance. "Yes, I can see you're going to be an excellent research assistant," she said, but she was laughing. "Maybe later we can theorize a game of MASH." She held up her own much more copious notes. "It's okay, I've got enough to lead us to a few other sources."

Luce stuffed the paper into her pocket right next to the crumpled master list she'd started of all her interactions with Daniel. She was beginning to turn into her father, who didn't like to be anywhere too far away from his paper shredder. She bent down to look for a recycling bin and spotted a pair of legs walking down the aisle toward them.

The gait was as familiar as her own. She sat back upor attempted to sit back upand smacked her head on the underside of the computer table.

"Ow," she moaned, rubbing the spot where she'd hit her head in the library fire.

Daniel stood still a few feet away. His expression said that the last thing in the world he'd wanted to do right now was run into her. At least he'd shown up after the computer had logged them off. He didn't need to think she was stalking him any more actively than he already did.

But Daniel seemed to be looking through her; his violet-gray eyes were fixed over her shoulder, on somethingor someone else.

Penn tapped Luce on the shoulder, then jerked her thumb toward the person standing behind her. Cam was leaning over Luce's chair and grinning at her. A bolt of lightning outside sent Luce practically jumping into Penn's arms.

"Just a storm," Cam said, cocking his head. "It'll blow over soon. Shame, because you look pretty cute when you're scared."

Cam reached forward. He started at her shoulder, then traced the edge of her arm with his fingers all the way down to her hand. Her eyes fluttered, it felt so good, and when she opened them, there was a small ruby velvet box in her hand. Cam flipped it open, just for a second, and Luce saw a flash of gold.

"Open it later," he said. "When you're alone."

"Cam"

"I went by your room."

"Can we" Luce looked over at Penn, who was blatantly staring at them with a front-row moviegoer's captivation.

Finally snapping out of her trance, Penn waved her hands. "You want me to leave. I get it."

"No, stay," Cam said, sounding sweeter than Luce expected. He turned to Luce. "I'll go. But lateryou promise?"

"Sure." She felt herself blush.

Cam took her hand and pushed it and the box down inside the front left pocket of her jeans. It was a tight fit, and it made her shiver to feel his fingers spread out on her hips. Then he winked and turned on his heel.

Before she'd even had a chance to catch her breath, he'd doubled back. "One last thing," he said, gliding his arm behind her head and stepping close to her.

Her head tilted back and his tilted forward, and his mouth was on hers. His lips were as plush as they'd seemed all the times Luce had stared at them.

It wasn't deep, just a peck, but Luce felt like it was much more. She couldn't breathe for the shock and the thrill and the public viewing potential of this very long, very unexpected

"What theI"

Cam's head had spun away, and then he was hunched over, clutching his jaw.

Daniel was standing behind him, rubbing his wrist. "Keep your hands off her."

"Didn't hear you," Cam said, drawing himself up slowly.

Oh. My. God. They were fighting. In the library. Over her.

Then, in one clean movement, Cam lunged toward Luce. She screamed as his arms began to close around her.

But Daniel's hands were quicker. He swatted Cam away hard, and shoved him against the computer table. Cam grunted as Daniel grabbed a fistful of his hair and pinned his head down flat.

"I said keep your filthy hands off her, you evil piece of shit."

Penn squealed, picked up her pencil bag, and tiptoed over to the wall. Luce watched as she tossed her dingy yellow pencil bag once, twice, three times in the air. The fourth time, it went high enough to nail the small black camera screwed into the wall. The hit sent the camera's lens swerving far to the left, toward a very still stack of nonfiction books.

By then, Cam had thrown Daniel off and they were circling each other, their feet squeaking on the polished floor.

Daniel started ducking before Luce even realized Cam was winding up. But Daniel still didn't duck quickly enough. Cam landed what looked like a knockout punch just below Daniel's eye. Daniel wheeled back from the force of it, jostling Luce and Penn against the computer table. He turned and muttered a woozy apology before careening back around.

"Oh my God, stop!" Luce cried, just before he leaped at Cam's head.

Daniel tackled Cam, throwing a messy flurry of punches at his shoulders and the sides of his face.

"That feels good," Cam grunted, popping his neck from side to side like a boxer. Still hanging on, Daniel moved his hands around Cam's neck. And squeezed.

Cam responded by throwing Daniel back against a tall shelf of books. The impact boomed out into the library, louder than the thunder outside.

Daniel grunted and let go. He dropped to the floor with a thud.

"What else you got, Grigori?"

Luce reeled, thinking he might not get up. But Daniel pulled himself up quickly.

"I'll show you," he hissed. "Outside." He stepped toward Luce, then away. "You stay here."

Then both boys thumped out of the library, through the back exit Luce had used the night of the fire. She and Penn stood frozen to their spots. They stared at each other, jaws dropped.

"Come on," Penn said, dragging Luce over to a window that looked out on the commons. They pressed their faces to the glass, rubbing away the fog of their breath.

The rain was coming down in sheets. The field outside was dark, except for the light that came through the library windows. It was so muddy and slick, it was hard to see anything at all.

Then two figures sprinted out to the center of the commons. Both of them were soaked instantly. They argued for a moment, then started circling each other. Their fists were raised again.

Luce gripped the windowsill and watched as Cam made the first move, running at Daniel and slamming into him with his shoulder. Then a quick spinning kick to his ribs.

Daniel keeled over, clutching his side. Get up. Luce willed him to move. She felt like she had been kicked herself. Every time Cam went at Daniel, she felt it in her bones.

She couldn't stand to watch.

"Daniel stumbled for a second there," Penn announced after Luce had turned away. "But he shot right up and totally clocked Cam in the face. Nice!"

"You're enjoying this?" Luce asked, horrified.

"My dad and I used to watch UFC," Penn said. "Looks like both of these guys have had some serious mixed martial art training. Perfect cross, Daniel!" She groaned. "Aw, man."

"What?" Luce peered out again. "Is he hurt?"

"Relax," Penn said. "Someone's coming to break up the fight. Just when Daniel was bouncing back."

Penn was right. It looked like Mr. Cole jogging across the campus. When he got to where the guys were fighting, he stood still and watched them for a moment, almost hypnotized by the way they were going at it.

"Do something," Luce whispered, feeling sick.

Finally, Mr. Cole grabbed each boy by the scruff of his neck. The three of them struggled for a moment until finally Daniel pulled away. He shook out his right hand, then paced in a circle and spat a few times into the mud.

"Very attractive, Daniel," Luce said sarcastically. Except it was.

Now for a talking-to from Mr. Cole. He waved his hands madly at them and they stood with heads hung. Cam was first to be dismissed. He jogged off the field toward the dorm and disappeared.

Mr. Cole placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder. Luce was dying to know what they were talking about, whether Daniel would be punished. She wanted to go to him, but Penn blocked her.

"All that over a piece of jewelry. What did Cam give you, anyway?"

Mr. Cole walked off and Daniel was alone, standing in the light from an overhead lamppost, looking up at the rain.

"I don't know," Luce told Penn, leaving the window. "Whatever it is, I don't want it. Especially not after this." She walked back to the computer table and pulled the box from her pocket.

"If you won't, I will," Penn said. She cracked the box open, then looked up at Luce, confused.


CHAPTER 13. TOUCHED AT THE ROOTS | Fallen | CHAPTER 15. THE LIONS DEN