Passion (Fallen #3)


by Lauren Kate

Prologue

UNDER FIRE

MOSCOW OCTOBER 15, 1941

Lucinda!

The voices reached her in the murky darkness.

Come back!

Wait!

She ignored them, pressing further. Echoes of her name bounced off the shadowy walls of the Announcer, sending licks of heat rippling across her skin. Was that Daniel's voice or Cam's? Arriane's or Gabbe's? Was it Roland pleading that she come back now, or was that Miles?

The calls grew harder to discern, until Luce couldn't tell them apart at all: good or evil. Enemy or friend. They should have been easier to separate, but nothing was easy anymore. Everything that had once been black and white now blended into gray.

Of course, both sides agreed on one thing: Everyone wanted to pull her out of the Announcer. For her protection, they would claim.

No, thanks.

Not now.

Not after they'd wrecked her parents' backyard, made it into another one of their dusty battlefields. She couldn't think about her parents' faces without wanting to turn back--not like she'd even know how to turn back inside an Announcer, anyway. Besides, it was too late. Cam had tried to kill her. Or what he thought was her. And Miles had saved her, but even that wasn't simple. He'd only been able to throw her reflection because he cared about her too much.

And Daniel? Did he care enough? She couldn't tell.

In the end, when the Outcast had approached her, Daniel and the others had stared at Luce like she was the one who owed them something.

You are our entrance into Heaven, the Outcast had told her. The price. What had that meant? Until a couple of weeks ago she hadn't even known the Outcasts existed. And yet, they wanted something from her--badly enough to battle Daniel for it. It must have had to do with the curse, the one that kept Luce reincarnated lifetime after lifetime. But what did they think Luce could do?

Was the answer buried somewhere here?

Her stomach lurched as she tumbled senselessly through the cold shadow, deep inside the chasm of the dark Announcer.

Luce--

The voices began to fade and grow dimmer. Soon they were barely whispers. Almost like they had given up. Until--

They started to grow louder again. Louder and clearer.

Luce--

No. She clamped her eyes shut to try to block them out.

Lucinda--

Lucy--

Lucia--

Luschka--

She was cold and she was tired and she didn't want to hear them. For once, she wanted to be left alone.

Luschka! Luschka! Luschka!

Her feet hit something with a thwump.

Something very, very cold.

She was standing on solid ground. She knew she wasn't tumbling anymore, though she couldn't see anything in front of her except for the blanket of blackness. Then she looked down at her Converse sneakers.

And gulped.

They were planted in a blanket of snow that reached midway up her calves. The dank coolness that she was used to--the shadowy tunnel she'd been traveling through, out of her backyard, into the past--was giving way to something else. Something blustery and absolutely frigid.

The first time Luce had stepped through an Announcer--from her Shoreline dorm room to Las Vegas--she'd been with her friends Shelby and Miles. At the end of the passage they'd met a barrier: a dark, shadowy curtain between them and the city. Because Miles was the only one who'd read the texts on stepping through, he'd started swiping the Announcer with a circular motion until the murky black shadow flaked away. Luce hadn't known until now that he'd been troubleshooting.

This time, there was no barrier. Maybe because she was traveling alone, through an Announcer summoned of her own fierce will. But the way out was so easy. Almost too easy. The veil of blackness simply parted.

A blast of cold tore into her, making her knees lock with the chill. Her ribs stiffened and her eyes teared in the sharp, sudden wind.

Where was she?

Luce already regretted her panicked jump through time. Yes, she needed an escape, and yes, she wanted to trace her past, to save her former selves from all the pain, to understand what kind of love she'd had with Daniel all those other times. To feel it instead of being told about it. To understand--and then fix--whatever curse had been inflicted on Daniel and her.

But not like this. Frozen, alone, and completely unprepared for wherever, whenever she was.

She could see a snowy street in front of her, a steel-gray sky above white buildings. She could hear something rumbling in the distance. But she didn't want to think about what any of it meant.

Wait, she whispered to the Announcer.

The shadow drifted hazily a foot or so beyond her fingertips. She tried to grasp it, but the Announcer eluded her, flicking farther away. She leaped for it, and caught a tiny damp piece of it between her fingers-- But then, in an instant, the Announcer shattered into soft black fragments on the snow. They faded, then were gone.