Torment (Fallen #2)


by Lauren Kate

Prologue

EIGHTEEN DAYS

Luce planned on keeping her eyes closed all six hours of the cross-country ight from Georgia out to California, right up until the moment when the wheels of the plane touched down in San Francisco. Half asleep, she found it so much easier to pretend she was already reunited with Daniel.

It felt like a lifetime since she'd seen him, though it had really only been a few days. Ever since they'd said goodbye at Sword & Cross on Friday morning, Luce's whole body had felt groggy. The absence of his voice, his warmth, the touch of his wings: it had sunk into her bones, like a strange illness.

An arm brushed against hers, and Luce opened her eyes. She was face to face with a wide-eyed, brown-haired guy a few years older than her.

"Sorry," they both said at the same time, each retreating a few inches on either side of the plane's armrest.

Out the window, the view was startling. The plane was making its descent into San Francisco, and Luce had never seen anything like it before. As they traced the south side of the bay, a winding blue tributary seemed to cut through the earth on its way to the sea. The stream pided a vibrant green eld on one side from a swirl of something bright red and white on the other. She pressed her forehead to the double plastic pane and tried to get a better view.

"What is that?" she wondered aloud.

"Salt," the guy answered, pointing. He leaned in closer. "They mine it out of the Paci c."

The answer was so simple, so ... human. Almost a surprise after the time she'd spent with Daniel and the other--she was still unpracticed at using the terms literally--angels and demons. She looked out across the midnight-blue water, which seemed to stretch forever west. Sun-over-water had always meant morning to Atlantic coast?raised Luce. But out here, it was almost night.

"You're not from around here, are you?" her seatmate asked.

Luce shook her head but held her tongue. She kept staring out the window. Before she'd left Georgia this morning, Mr. Cole had coached her about keeping a low pro le. The other teachers had been told that Luce's parents had requested a transfer. It was a lie. As far as Luce's parents, Callie, and anyone else knew, she was still enrolled at Sword & Cross.

A few weeks before, this would have infuriated her. But the things that had happened in those nal days at Sword & Cross had left Luce a person who took the world more seriously. She had glimpsed a snapshot of another life--one of so many she'd shared with Daniel before. She'd discovered a love more important to her than anything she'd ever thought possible. And then she'd seen all of that threatened by a crazy, dagger- wielding old woman whom she'd thought she could trust.

There were more out there like Miss Sophia, that Luce knew. But no one had told her how to recognize them. Miss Sophia had seemed normal, up until the end. Could the others look as innocent as ... this brown-haired guy sitting next to her? Luce swallowed, folded her hands on her lap, and tried to think about Daniel.

Daniel was taking her someplace safe.

Luce pictured him waiting for her in one of those gray plastic airport chairs, elbows on knees, his blond head tucked between his shoulders. Rocking back and forth in his black Converse sneakers. Standing up every few minutes to pace around the baggage carousel.

There was a jolt as the plane touched down. Suddenly she was nervous. Would he be as happy to see her as she was to see him?

She focused on the brown and beige pattern on the cloth seat in front of her. Her neck felt sti from the long ight and her clothes had a stale, stu y airline smell. The navy-blue-suited ground crew outside the window seemed to be taking an abnormally long time to direct the plane to its Jetway. Her knees bobbed with impatience.

"I take it you're staying in California for a while?" The guy next to her o ered a lazy smile that only made Luce more anxious to get up.

"Why would you say that?" she asked quickly. "What would make you think that?"

He blinked. "With that huge red du el bag and all."

Luce inched away from him. She hadn't even noticed this guy until two minutes ago when he'd jarred her awake. How did he know about her luggage?

"Hey, nothing creepy." He shot her a strange look. "I was just standing behind you in line when you checked in."

Luce smiled awkwardly. "I have a boyfriend" streamed from her mouth. Instantly, her cheeks reddened.

The guy coughed. "Got it."

Luce grimaced. She didn't know why she'd said that. She didn't want to be rude, but the seat belt light went o and all she wanted to do was barrel past this guy and right o the plane. He must have had the same idea, because he edged backward in the aisle and swept his hand forward. As politely as she could, Luce pushed past and bounded toward the exit.