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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


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CHAPTER 8. A DIVE TOO DEEP

When Luce answered the knock on her door Saturday morning, Penn tumbled into her arms.

"You'd think it would dawn on me someday that doors open in," she apologized, straightening her glasses. "Must remember to stop leaning on peepholes. Nice digs, by the way," she added, looking around. She crossed to the window over Luce's bed. "Not a bad view, minus the bars and all."

Luce stood behind her, looking out at the cemetery and, in plain view, the live oak tree where she'd had the picnic with Cam. And, invisible from here but clear in her head, the place she'd been pinned under that statue with Daniel. The avenging angel that had mysteriously disappeared after the accident.

Remembering Daniel's worried eyes when he whispered her name that day, the near touch of their noses, the way she'd felt his fingertips on her neckall of it made her feel hot.

And pathetic. She sighed and turned away from the window, realizing Penn had moved on, too.

She was picking things up off Luce's desk, giving each of Luce's possessions careful scrutiny. The Statue of Liberty paperweight her dad had brought back from a conference at NYU, the picture of her mom with a hilariously bad perm when she was around Luce's age, the eponymous Lucinda Williams CD Callie had given her as a going-away present before Luce had ever heard the name Sword & Cross.

"Where are your books?" she asked Penn, wanting to detour around a trip down memory lane. "You said you were coming over to study."

By then, Penn had begun to riffle through her wardrobe. Luce watched as she quickly lost interest in the variations of dress code-style black T-shirts and sweaters. When Penn moved toward her dresser drawers, Luce stepped forward to intercept.

"Okay, that's enough. Snoop," she said. "Isn't there research we should be doing on family trees?"

"Speaking of snooping." Penn's eyes twinkled. "Yes, there is research we should be doing. But not the kind you're thinking."

Luce stared at her blankly. "Huh?"

"Look." Penn put her hand on Luce's shoulder. "If you really want to know about Daniel Grigori"

"Shhh!" Luce hissed, jumping to close her door. She stuck her head into the hall and scanned the scene. The coast looked clearbut that didn't mean anything. People at this school had a suspicious way of appearing out of nowhere. Cam in particular. And Luce would die if heor anyonefound out how enamored of Daniel she was. Or, at this point, anyone but Penn.

Satisfied, Luce closed and locked the door and turned back to her friend. Penn was sitting cross-legged at the edge of Luce's bed. She looked amused.

Luce locked her hands behind her back and dug her toe into the circular red rug near her door. "What makes you think I want to know anything about him?"

"Give me a break," Penn said, laughing. "A, it's totally obvious that you stare at Daniel Grigori all the time."

"Shhh!" Luce said again.

"B," Penn said, not dropping her voice, "I watched you stalk him online for an entire class the other day. Sue mebut you were being totally shameless. And C, don't get all paranoid. You think I blab to anyone at this school besides you?"

Penn did have a point.

"I'm only saying," she continued, "assuming hypothetically you did want to know more about a certain unnamed person, you could conceivably bark up a more fruitful tree." Penn shrugged one shoulder. "You know, if you had help."

"I'm listening," Luce said, sinking down on the bed. Her Internet search the other day had only amounted to typing, then deleting, then retyping Daniel's name into the search field.

"I was hoping you'd say that," Penn said. "I didn't bring books with me today because I'm giving you" she widened her eyes goofily"a guided tour of the highly off-limits underground lair of Sword & Cross office records!"

Luce grimaced. "I don't know. Prying into Daniel's files? I'm not sure I need another reason to feel like a crazy stalker girl."

"Ha." Penn snickered. "And yes, you did just say that out loud. Come on, Luce. It'll be fun. Besides, what else are you going to do on a perfectly sunny Saturday morning?"

It was a nice dayprecisely the kind of nice that made you feel lonely if you didn't have anything fun and outdoorsy planned. In the middle of the night, Luce had felt a cool front brush through her open window, and when she'd awoken this morning, the heat and humidity had all but disappeared.

She used to spend these golden early-fall days tearing up the neighborhood bike path with her friends. That was before she started avoiding the woodsy trail because of the shadows none of the other girls ever saw. Before her friends sat her down one day during recess and said their parents didn't want them inviting her over anymore, in case she had an incident.

Truth was, Luce had been a little panicked about how she'd spend this first weekend at Sword & Cross. No classes, no terrorizing physical fitness tests, no social events on the docket. Just forty-eight endless hours of free time. An eternity. She'd had a queasy homesick feeling all morninguntil Penn showed up.

"Okay." Luce tried not to laugh when she said, "Take me to your secret lair."

Penn practically skipped as she led Luce across the trampled grass of the commons to the main lobby near the school's entrance. "You don't know how long I've been waiting for a partner in crime to bring down here with me."

Luce smiled, glad Penn was more focused on having a friend to explore with than she was on, well, this thing Luce had for Daniel.

At the edge of the commons, they passed a few kids lazing around on the bleachers in the clear late-morning sun. It was strange to see color on campus, on these students with whom Luce so closely identified the color black. But there was Roland in a pair of lime-green soccer shorts, dribbling a ball between his feet. And Gabbe in her purple gingham button-down shirt. Jules and Phillipthe tongue-ringed couplewere drawing on the knees of each other's faded jeans. Todd Hammond sat apart from the rest of the kids on the bleachers, reading a comic book in a camouflage T-shirt. Even Luce's own gray tank top and shorts felt more vibrant than anything she'd worn all week.

Coach Diante and the Albatross were on lawn duty and had set up two plastic lawn chairs and a sagging umbrella at the edge of the commons. Aside from when they ashed their cigarettes on the lawn, they could have been asleep behind their dark sunglasses. They looked utterly bored, as imprisoned by their jobs as the charges they were monitoring.

There were a lot of people out on the commons, but as she followed closely behind Penn, she was glad to see there wasn't anyone near the main lobby at all. No one had said anything to Luce about trespassing in restricted areas, or even which areas were restricted, but she was sure Randy would find an appropriate punishment.

"What about the reds?" Luce asked, remembering the omnipresent cameras.

"I just stuck some dead batteries in a few of them on my way over to your room," Penn said, in the same nonchalant tone of voice someone else might use to say "I just filled the car up with gas."

Penn took a sweeping glance around before she led Luce to the main building's back entrance and down three steep steps to an olive-colored door not visible from ground level.

"Is this basement from the Civil War era, too?" Luce asked. It looked like an entrance to the kind of place where you could stash some POWs.

Penn gave the damp air a long, dramatic sniff. "Does the malodorous rot answer your question? This here is some antebellum mildew." She grinned at Luce. "Most students would keel over for the chance to inhale such storied air."

Luce tried not to breathe through her nose as Penn produced a hardware store's worth of keys held together on a giant lanyard. "My life would be so much easier if they got around to making a skeleton key for this place," she said, sifting through the assortment and finally pulling forward a thin silver key.

When the key turned in the lock, Luce felt an unexpected shiver of excitement. Penn was rightthis was way better than mapping out her family tree.

They walked a short distance through a warm, damp corridor whose ceiling was only a few inches higher than their heads. The stale air smelled like something had died there, and Luce was almost glad the room was too dark to clearly see the floor. Just when she was beginning to feel claustrophobic, Penn produced another key that opened a small but much more modern door. They ducked through, then were able to stand up on the other side.

Inside, the records office reeked of mildew, but the air felt much cooler and drier. It was pitch-black except for the pale red glow of the EXIT sign over their heads.

Luce could make out Penn's sturdy silhouette, her hands groping in the air. "Where's that string?" she muttered. "There."

With a gentle tug, Penn turned on a naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling on a linked metal chain. The room was still dim, but now Luce could see that the cement walls were also painted olive green and lined with heavy metal shelves and filing cabinets. Dozens of cardboard filing boxes had been stuffed onto the shelves, and the aisles between the cabinets seemed to stretch out forever. Everything was coated with a thick felt of dust.

The sunshine outside suddenly felt very far away. Even though Luce knew they were only a flight of stairs under the ground, it might as well have been a mile. She rubbed her bare arms. If she were a shadow, this basement was exactly where she'd be. There were no signs of them yet, but Luce knew that was never a good enough reason to feel safe.

Penn, unfazed by the gloom of the basement, dragged a step stool from the corner. "Wow," she said, pulling it behind her as she walked. "Something's different. The records used to be right here I guess they've been doing a little spring cleaning since the last time I meddled in here."

"How long ago was that?" Luce asked.

"About a week" Penn's voice trailed off as she disappeared into the darkness behind a tall file cabinet.

Luce couldn't imagine what Sword & Cross would possibly need with all of these boxes. She lifted one lid and pulled out a thick file labeled REMEDIAL MEASURES. She swallowed dryly. Maybe she was better off not knowing.

"It's alphabetical by student," Penn called. Her voice sounded muffled and far away. "E, F, G here we are, Grigori."

Luce followed the sound of rustling paperwork down a narrow aisle and soon found Penn with a box propped in her arms, struggling under its weight. Daniel's file was tucked under her chin.

"It's so thin," she said, lifting her chin slightly so Luce could take it. "Normally, they're so much more, um" She looked up at Luce and bit her lip. "Okay, now I sound like the crazy stalker girl. Let's just see what's inside."

There was only a single page in Daniel's file. A black-and-white scan of what must have been his student ID picture was pasted onto the upper right-hand corner. He was looking straight at the camera, at Luce, a faint smile on his lips. She couldn't help smiling back. He looked just the same as he had that night whenwell, she couldn't quite think of when. The image of his expression was so sharp in her mind, but she couldn't pin down where she would have seen it.

"God, doesn't he look exactly the same?" Penn interrupted Luce's thoughts. "And look at the date. This picture was taken three years ago when he first came to Sword & Cross."

That must have been what Luce had been thinking that Daniel looked the same then as he did now. But she felt like she'd been thinkingor been about to thinksomething different, only now she couldn't remember what it was.

"'Parents: unknown, " Penn read, with Luce leaning over her shoulder. "Guardian: Los Angeles County Orphanage. "

"Orphanage?" Luce asked, pressing her hand to her heart.

"That's all there is. Everything else listed here is his"

"Criminal history," Luce finished, reading along. "'Loitering on public beach after hours vandalism of a shopping cart jaywalking. "

Penn widened her eyes at Luce and swallowed a laugh. "Loverboy Grigori got arrested for jaywalking? Admit it, that's funny."

Luce didn't like picturing Daniel getting arrested for anything. She liked it even less that, according to Sword & Cross, his whole life added up to little more than a list of petty crimes. All these boxes of paperwork down here, and this was all there was on Daniel.

"There has to be more," she said.

Footsteps overhead. Luce's and Penn's eyes shot to the ceiling.

"The main office," Penn whispered, pulling a tissue from inside her sleeve to blow her nose. "It could be anyone. But no one's going to come down here, trust me."

A second later, a door deep within the room creaked open, and light from a hall illuminated a stairway. A clopping of shoes started down. Luce felt Penn's grip on the back of her shirt, pulling her against the wall behind a bookshelf. They waited, holding their breath and clutching Daniel's poached file in their hands. They were so, so busted.

Luce had her eyes closed, expecting the worst, when a haunting, melodious hum filled the room. Someone was singing.

"Doooo da da da dooo," a female voice crooned softly. Luce craned her neck between two boxes of files and could see a thin older woman with a small flashlight strapped to her forehead like a coal miner. Miss Sophia. She was carrying two large boxes, one stacked on top of the other so the only part of her that was visible was her glowing forehead. Her airy steps made it look as if the boxes were full of feathers instead of heavy files.

Penn gripped Luce's hand as they watched Miss Sophia place the file boxes on an empty shelf. She took out a pen to write down something in her notebook.

"Just a couple more," she said, then something under her breath that Luce couldn't hear. A second later, Miss Sophia was gliding back up the stairs, gone as quickly as she'd appeared. Her hum lingered for just a moment in her wake.

When the door clicked shut, Penn let out a huge gulp of air. "She said there were more. She'll probably come back."

"What do we do?" Luce asked.

"You sneak back up the stairs," Penn said, pointing. "Hang a left at the top and you'll be right back at the main office. If anyone sees you, you can say you were looking for a bathroom."

"What about you?"

"I'll put Daniel's file away and meet you by the bleachers. Miss Sophia won't get suspicious if she sees just me. I'm down here so much it's like a second dorm room."

Luce glanced at Daniel's file with a small pang of regret. She wasn't ready to leave yet. Right around the time she'd resigned herself to checking out Daniel's file, she'd also started thinking about Cam's. Daniel was so crypticand unfortunately, so was his file. Cam, on the other hand, seemed so open and easy to read that it made her curious. Luce wondered what else she might be able to find out about him that he might not otherwise share. But one look at Penn's face told Luce that they were short enough on time as it was.

"If there's more to find on Daniel, we'll find it," Penn assured her. "We'll keep looking." She gave Luce a little shove toward the door. "Now, go."

Luce moved quickly down the rank corridor, then pushed open the door to the stairs. The air at the base of the stairs was still humid, but she could feel it clear a little with each step she took. When she finally rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, she had to blink and rub her eyes to readjust to the bright sunlight flooding the hallway. She stumbled around the corner and through the whitewashed doors to the main lobby. There she froze.

Two black stiletto boots, crossed at the ankles, were propped up and sticking out of the phone booth, looking very Wicked Witch of the South. Luce was hurrying toward the front door, hoping not to be spotted, when she realized that the stiletto boots were attached to a pair of snakeskin leggings, which was attached to an unsmiling Molly. The tiny silver camera was resting in her hand. She raised her eyes to Luce, hung up the phone at her ear, and kicked her feet to the floor.

"Why do you look so guilty, Meat Loaf?" she asked, standing up with her hands on her hips. "Let me guess. You're still planning on ignoring my suggestion to stay away from Daniel."

This whole evil monster thing had to be an act. Molly had no way of knowing where Luce had just been. She didn't know anything about Luce. She had no cause to be so nasty. Since the first day of school, Luce had never done a thing to Mollyexcept try to stay away from her.

"Are you forgetting what a hellish disaster it was the last time you tried to force yourself on a guy who wasn't interested?" Molly's voice was as sharp as a knife. "What was his name again? Taylor? Truman?"

Trevor. How could Molly know about Trevor? This was it, her deepest, darkest secret. The one thing Luce wantedneeded to keep under wraps at Sword & Cross. Now, not only did Evil Incarnate know all about it, she felt no shame bringing it up, cruelly, cavalierlyin the middle of the school's main office.

Was it possible that Penn had been lying, that Luce wasn't the only person she shared her office secrets with? Was there any other logical explanation? Luce gripped her arms over her chest, feeling as sick and exposed and inexplicably guilty as she'd felt the night of the fire.

Molly cocked her head. "Finally," she said, sounding relieved. "Something got through to you." She turned her back on Luce and shoved open the front door. Then, just before she sauntered outside, she twisted her neck around and looked down her nose at Luce. "So don't do to dear old Daniel what you did to what's-his-name. Capiche?"

Luce started after her, but only got a few steps out the door before she realized she would probably crack if she tried to take on Molly now. The girl was just too vicious. Then, rubbing salt in Luce's wound, Gabbe trotted down from the bleachers to meet Molly in the middle of the field. They were far enough away that Luce couldn't make out their expressions when they both turned back to look at her. The ponytailed blond head craned toward the black pixie cutthe vilest tete-a-tete Luce had ever seen.

She balled her sweating fists together, imagining Molly spilling everything she knew about Trevor to Gabbe, who would immediately run off to relay the news to Daniel. At the thought of this, a sick ache spread from Luce's fingertips, up her arms, and into her chest. Daniel might have been caught jaywalking, but so what? It was nothing compared to what Luce was in here for.

"Heads up!" a voice called out. That had always been Luce's least favorite thing to hear. Sporting equipment of all sorts had a funny way of careening right at her. She winced, looking up directly into the sun. She couldn't see anything and didn't even have time to cover her face before she felt a smack against the side of her head and heard a loud thwunk ringing in her ears. Ouch.

Roland's soccer ball.

"Nice one!" Roland called out as the ball sailed directly back to him. Like she'd intended to do that. She rubbed her forehead and took a few wobbly steps.

A hand around her wrist. A spark of heat that made her gasp. She looked down to see tan fingers around her arm, then up into Daniel's deep gray eyes.

"You okay?" he asked.

When she nodded, he raised an eyebrow. "If you wanted to play soccer, you could have said so," he said. "I'd have been happy to explain some of the finer points of the game, like how most people use less delicate body parts of their body to return a kick."

He let go of her wrist, and Luce thought he was reaching toward her, to stroke the stinging side of her face. For a second, she hung there, holding her breath. Then her chest collapsed when Daniel's hand swept back to brush his own hair from his eyes.

That was when Luce realized Daniel was making fun of her.

And why shouldn't he? There was probably an imprint of a soccer ball on the side of her face.

Molly and Gabbe were still staringand now Danielwith their arms crossed over their chests.

"I think your girlfriend's getting jealous," Luce said, gesturing at the pair.

"Which one?" he asked.

"I didn't realize they were both your girlfriends."

"Neither one is my girlfriend," he said simply. "I don't have a girlfriend. I meant, which one did you think was my girlfriend?"

Luce was stunned. What about that whole whispered conversation with Gabbe? What about the way the girls were looking at them right now? Was Daniel lying?

He was looking at her funny. "Maybe you hit your head harder than I thought," he said. "Come on, let's take a walk, get you some air."

Luce tried to locate the snide joke in Daniel's latest suggestion. Was he saying she was an airhead who needed more air? No, that didn't even make sense. She glanced at him. How could he look so simply sincere? And just when she was getting so used to the Grigori brush-off.

"Where?" Luce asked cautiously. Because it would be too easy to feel gleeful right now about the fact that Daniel didn't have a girlfriend, about him wanting to go somewhere with her. There had to be a catch.

Daniel merely squinted at the girls across the field. "Someplace where we won't be watched."

Luce had told Penn she'd meet her at the bleachers, but there'd be time to explain later, and of course Penn would understand. Luce let Daniel lead her past the scrutinizing gaze of the girls and the little grove of half-rotted peach trees, around the back of the old church-gym. They were coming up on a forest of gorgeously twisted live oak trees, which Luce never would have guessed were tucked away there. Daniel looked back to make sure she was keeping up. She smiled as though following him were no big deal, but as she picked her way among the gnarled old roots, she couldn't help thinking about the shadows.

Now she was going into the bosky woods, the dark under the thick foliage pierced every so often by a small shaft of sunlight from above. The stench of rich, dank mud filled the air, and Luce suddenly knew there was water nearby.

If she were the kind of person who prayed, this would be when she would pray for the shadows to stay away, just for this sliver of time she had with Daniel, so he wouldn't have to see how crazy she sometimes got. But Luce had never prayed. Didn't know how. Instead, she just crossed her fingers.

"The forest opens right up here," Daniel said. They'd reached a clearing, and Luce gasped in wonder.

Something had changed while she and Daniel had been walking through the forest, something more than just the mere distance from phlegm-colored Sword & Cross. Because when they came out of the trees and stood on this high red rock, it was like they were standing in the middle of a postcard, the kind that spun around a metal rack in a small-town drugstore, a dreamy image of an idyllic South that didn't exist anymore. Every color Luce's eyes fell on was brilliant, brighter than it had seemed just a moment before. From the crystal blue lake just below them to the dense emerald forest surrounding it. Two seagulls banked in the clear sky overhead. When she stood on her toes, she could see the beginnings of a tawny-colored salt marsh, one she knew gave way to the white foam of the ocean somewhere on the invisible horizon.

She glanced up at Daniel. He looked brilliant, too. His skin was golden in this light, his eyes almost like rain. The feel of them on her face was a heavy, remarkable thing.

"What do you think?" he asked. He seemed so much more relaxed now that they were away from everyone else.

"I've never seen anything so wonderful," she said, scanning the pristine surface of the lake, feeling the urge to dive in. About fifty feet out on the water was a large, flat, moss-covered rock. "What's that?"

"I'll show you," Daniel said, kicking off his shoes. Luce tried unsuccessfully not to stare when he tugged his T-shirt over his head, exposing his muscled torso. "Come on," he said, making her realize how rooted to the spot she must have looked. "You can swim in that," he added, pointing at her gray tank top and cutoffs. "I'll even let you win this time."

She laughed. "Versus what? All those times I let you win?"

Daniel started to nod, then stopped himself abruptly. "No. Since you lost at the pool the other day."

For a second, Luce had the urge to tell him why she'd lost. Maybe they could laugh about the whole Gabbe-being-his-girlfriend misunderstanding. But by then, Daniel's arms were over his head and he was in the air, arcing and then falling, diving into the lake with a perfect little splash.

It was one of the most beautiful things Luce had ever seen. He had a grace like none she'd ever witnessed before. Even the splash he'd made left a lovely ring in her ears.

She wanted to be down there with him.

She tugged off her shoes and left them under the magnolia tree next to Daniel's, then stood at the edge of the rock. The drop was about twenty feet, the kind of high dive that had always made Luce's heart skip a beat. In a good way.

A second later, his head popped up above the surface. He was grinning, treading water. "Don't make me change my mind about letting you win," he called.

Taking a deep breath, she aimed her fingers over Daniel's head and pushed off and up into a high swan dive. The fall lasted only a split second, but it was the most delicious feeling, sailing through the sunny air, down, down, down.

Splash. The water was shockingly cold at first, then ideal a second later. Luce surfaced to catch her breath, took one look at Daniel, and started in on her butterfly stroke.

She pushed herself so hard that she lost track of him. She knew she was showing off and hoped he was watching. She drew closer and closer until she slammed her hand down on the rockan instant before Daniel.

Both of them were panting as they hauled themselves up on the flat, sun-warmed surface. Its edges were slippery because of the moss, and Luce had a hard time finding her grip. Daniel had no problem scaling the rock, though. He reached back and gave her a hand, then pulled her up to where she could kick a leg over the side.

By the time she'd hoisted herself fully out of the water, he was lying on his back, almost dry. Only his shorts gave away any hint that he'd just been in the lake. On the other hand, Luce's wet clothes clung to her body, and her hair was dripping everywhere. Most guys would have seized the opportunity to ogle a dripping-wet girl, but Daniel lay back on the rock and closed his eyes, like he was giving her a moment to wring herself outeither out of kindness or a lack of interest.

Kindness, she decided, knowing she was being hopelessly romantic. But Daniel seemed so perceptive, he must have felt at least a little bit of what Luce felt. Not just the attraction, the need to be near him when everyone around her was telling her to stay away, but that very real sense that they knewreally kneweach other from somewhere.

Daniel snapped open his eyes and smiledthe same smile as in the picture in his file. A rush of deja vu engulfed her so completely that Luce had to lie down herself.

"What?" he asked, sounding nervous.

"Nothing."

"Luce."

"I can't get it out of my head," she said, rolling over on her side to face him. She didn't feel steady enough to sit up yet. "This feeling that I know you. That I've known you for a while."

The water lapped against the rock, splashing on Luce's toes where they dangled over the edge. It was cold and spread goose bumps up her calves. Finally, Daniel spoke.

"Haven't we been through this already?" His tone had changed, like he was trying to laugh her off. He sounded like a Dover guy: self-satisfied, eternally bored, smug. "I'm flattered you feel like we have this connection, really. But you don't have to invent some forgotten history to get a guy to pay attention to you."

No. He thought she was lying about this weird feeling she couldn't shake as a way of coming on to him? She gritted her teeth, mortified.

"Why would I make this up?" she asked, squinting in the sunlight.

"You tell me," Daniel said. "No, actually, don't. It won't do any good." He sighed. "Look, I should have said this earlier when I started to see the signs."

Luce sat up. Her heart was racing. Daniel saw the signs, too.

"I know I brushed you off in the gym before," he said slowly, causing Luce to lean forward, as if she could draw out the words more quickly. "I should have just told you the truth."

Luce waited.

"I got burned by a girl." He swung a hand into the water, plucked out a lily pad, and crumbled it in his hands. "Someone I really loved, not too long ago. It's nothing personal, and I don't want to ignore you." He looked up at her and the sun filtered through a drop of water in his hair, making it gleam. "But I also don't want you to get your hopes up. I'm just not looking to get involved with anyone, not anytime soon."

Oh.

She looked away, out at the still, midnight-blue water where only minutes ago they'd been laughing and splashing around. The lake showed no signs of that fun anymore. Neither did Daniel's face.

Well, Luce had been burned, too. Maybe if she told him about Trevor and how horrible everything had been, Daniel would open up about his past. But then again, she already knew she couldn't stand hearing about his past with someone else. The thought of him with another girlshe pictured Gabbe, Molly, a montage of smiling faces, big eyes, long hair-was enough to make her feel nauseated.

His bad-breakup story should have justified everything. But it didn't. Daniel had been so strange to her from the start. Flipping her off one day, before they'd even been introduced, then protecting her from the statue in the cemetery the next. Now he'd brought her out here to the lakealone. He was all over the place.

Daniel's head was lowered but his eyes were staring up at her. "Not a good enough answer?" he asked, almost like he knew what she was thinking.

"I still feel like there's something you're not telling me," she said.

All of this couldn't be explained away by one bad heartbreak, Luce knew. She had experience in that department.

His back was to her and he was looking toward the path they'd taken to the lake. After a while, he laughed bitterly. "Of course there are things I'm not telling you. I barely know you. I'm not sure why you think I owe you anything." He got to his feet.

"Where are you going?"

"I've got to get back," he said.

"Don't go," she whispered, but he didn't seem to hear.

She watched, chest heaving, as Daniel dove into the water.

He came up far away and began swimming toward shore. He glanced back at her once, about midway, and gave her a definitive wave goodbye.

Then her heart swelled as he circled his arms over his head in a perfect butterfly stroke. As empty as she felt inside, she couldn't help admiring it. So clean, so effortless, it hardly looked like swimming at all.

In no time he had reached the shore, making the distance between them seem much shorter than it looked to Luce. He'd appeared so leisurely as he swam, but there was no way he could have reached the other side that quickly unless he'd really been tearing though the water.

How urgent was it for him to get away from her?

She watchedfeeling a confusing mix of deep embarrassment and even deeper temptationas Daniel hoisted himself back up onto the shore. A shaft of sunlight bit through the trees and framed his silhouette with a glowing radiance, and Luce had to squint at the sight before her eyes.

She wondered whether the soccer ball to her head had shaken up her vision. Or whether what she thought she was seeing was a mirage. A trick of the late-afternoon sunlight.

She stood up on the rock to get a better look.


CHAPTER 7. SHEDDING LIGHT | Fallen | CHAPTER 9. STATE OF INNOCENCE