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Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER SIX

I'm so dead. Wincing to the surrounding garden, Rishta yawned slightly. Having arrived from Venice just this morning, she had been exhausted – and had attempting going to school. Well, that had been a disaster. Obviously jet lag and caffeine had joined together in an unholy matrimony and had caused her pandemonium – she had attacked several people. Just, several random people who never did anything… well, maybe the first guy: he was pointing a gun at Jem. And well, the second guy had nearly run her over, then had gone chasing Adriel… so she did have a good excuse. Maybe. And she had skipped the first day of school… deep in her heart, she had known this would happen. Rishta would come home, get insomnia, try to go to school, and end up going home before there was a first period class. Of course, attacking random strangers hadn't been on her list. It could be thought of as a special bonus.

After sleeping for a good two hours, Rishta had decided she wanted to go for a walk, and go buy herself a proper breakfast. The air would do her good, and give her a time to think. It had been so long since she had really done that, just walk and think. There was always something on her mind, whether it be school, friends, or that Void. It was the Void that was the worst thing though, because if she was alone, it would eat her away for days and days, until someone (usually dear Jem) would come and pull her out. God, she hated those feelings. That feeling of not belonging, and being a stranger to the world. Being… so out of place. So alone. Rishta didn't like being alone, and only had to deal with it when necessary.

Now… do I want to get coffee, or some real break- With a sickening thud, Rishta was thrown from her feet as another figure was also, and landing on her tush with a soft 'ow.' Her hands panged, and that's when she realized that she had scraped them. Fun fun. This day was going great. Now, not only had she missed school, her hands were bleeding, her tush hurt, and to make it worse – she had brought someone down with her. Shaking her head a bit, she vaguely looked at the poor soul, still trying to organize herself and the world. “Oh no… I'm so sorry about that… I wasn't looking…” It must have been a comical sight, two disoriented people on their tushes in the park, each wondering what the hell had hit them.

Lucca's ever going wandering took him to that park, again. He had seen it from above a few days ago – Lucca had a knack for gardens and things that grow, even if it could seem a contradiction from some scholars' points of view. The day was grey and cold. Lucca pulled his collar around his ears, ignoring the looks occasional women tossed on his astounding beauty as he wandered down the trails, deeper under the trees. He stopped in a crossroads and searched his pockets for his cigarette case. A pair of insistent eyes made him look around, spotting a 5 year old child staring at him. Lucca stared back with a slight frown. The child in her age and innocence could still be able to see a different, sublime form to him and the shimmer of gold where his wings would be supposed to be. Despite whatever she could see, from Lucca emanated a perpetual air of charm and poison, despite he hid his 'presence' with expertise. The kid was obviously perplexed – was he good or evil, according to her childhood notions?

“You are weird”, the child said. Lucca's frown went deeper.

“Would you like to become an orphan?”, he softly asked. The child opened her eyes wide and ran away without questioning the threat. Lucca coolly turned back to his search. He took out an elegant, gold cigarette case and opened it, then placed a cigarette between his lips. Then suddenly he was hit; Lucca unceremoniously landed on his butt, the cigarette case clicking on the paved trail. No one knocks Him off his feet! Lucca glared at the confused… woman. His expert eyes noticed something else, however. Lucca's eyes flashed in a mix of rage and hatred, then suddenly turned back to an indifferent expression.

“How rude you are, signorina”. Lucca cast her a censoring look, then picked up his cigarette case, tucked it in his jacket inside pocket and taking out a lighter proceeded to nonchalantly light up his cigarette before getting up.

I feel another migraine coming on… it's so typical… me and my clumsy feet… Shaking her head one more time, Rishta opened her eyes and faced the man she had knocked down. Oh… my… god… Blinking once, she looked at him again. Not only was this man utterly gorgeous, he had a sort of refined air… and a mystery that could probably make girls swoon. I had better keep my wits about… he feels… strange… Casting the stranger an astounded look, Rishta tried to calm her poor, wrecked nerves down before they reacted to his rudeness and smacked him right around the head. He had a lot of nerve… after she had apologized! What did he want her to do? Beg for forgiveness? Honestly… anyone with that much of an ego DESERVED to be run into!

Tossing her hair back, she gave him a dark look. She had changed from earlier, and instead of being swathed in black, she wore dark blue jeans and a short-sleeved red fitted tee, which had some Italian phrasing on it. She had bought it two days ago, and now she prayed it did say “Believer of Fate” because if it had some sort of profanity, this Italian model was going to start making a scene. And a scene she didn't want. Giving him a light glare, Rishta stood and answered him delicately, waiting for him to snap at her. He looked like the type to eat little kids.

“I'm sorry sir, I assure you it was an accident. Allow me to help you up.” Rishta offered him her hand, trying hard not to comment on the cigarette. She didn't like the smell of smoke, and she prayed it wouldn't get all over her and her nice new shirt. But, according to her recent run of luck – it should. This, was a great morning. All she needed, was an encounter with a devil.

Lucca arched an eyebrow and looked at the woman from head to toes as she remarked her apologies. Lucca's lip curled slightly in amusement at her proposal. “I don't need any help”, he murmured. There was a strange, hidden significance to his voice upon this words. Lucca calmly rose to his feet, but he took her hand, placing a kiss on it. “You should watch your step”, he said with a smirk before dusting himself and continuing down the trail.

He could've had the manners to let me help him up… Rishta felt a bit indignant as he stood up on his own, his face looking somewhat amused at her offer of assistance. He had a beautiful face, that one did not want to look away from, but to Rishta, there was something cold and sinister in it. But… was there a bitterness in his eyes? Like someone who hates something so much, yet can't do a thing against it… What am I saying? Her thoughts were interrupted as he took her hand, even though he had stood, and kissed it. His lips felt warm against her skin, and her face soon felt the same way, as he walked away with his “you should watch your step” warning. She was almost relieved to have him go, he made her feel uncomfortable – too exposed. She didn't like the feeling at all. Blinking, she saw something in the grass, where he had been sitting. Kneeling down for a second, she picked up a… wallet. I guess it must have fell from his pocket when I waltzed right into him… Turning she saw him walk away. Typical… I get to look like a nuisance… Stepping up to him quickly, she tapped him on the shoulder, and waited for his attention… …And those impossible bronze eyes.

Lucca sensed her coming after his footsteps even before she tapped on his shoulder. He did not desire to stay around this girl for he had perceived she bore a Heavenly Seal and more importantly, he had a strong notion about what may lay beneath it. He wanted to remain anonymous, to remain nameless. However… she was there, tapping on his shoulder. Lucca stopped and looked at her over his shoulder before slowly turning to face her. He had not quite made out her face, only her eyes. Now the face and the eyes were before him again; she had a special charm of his own but at the same time she seemed to be a lone orchid clinging to a tree that hasn't noticed her in a the dark gloom of a wild jungle. “Signorina…?” He arched an eyebrow, noticing the motto on her shirt. “Angels walk the Earth”, it said in Italian; Lucca gave a subtle snort.

“Gli Angeli camminano la terra”, he murmured, his bronze gaze fixed on her face. “Very… appropriate.”

Rishta found herself taking a deep breath when he turned to look at her, although it was inaudible. Those bronze eyes… such a color had to be impossible! Those eyes, along with his amazing good looks, made her want to stand there and look at him nonstop. It was an impossible beauty, an impossible perfection that none could hope to achieve! The only way she could cling to that hope, was by convincing herself that that eye color wasn’t real, and that he was wearing colored contacts. I hope they are colored contacts…

“Signorina…?”

And he’s Italian… Blinking once, she used her pathetic Italian translation skills, and realized that he had said angels walk on earth. Now, was that a compliment, or the saying on her shirt? She had forgotten… maybe she had bought the wrong one, and it had a different saying or something. “Uh, thank you.” Rishta looked at him cautiously for a minute. He still gave off those creepy vibes, but there was something else hidden in them. Her curiosity was begging for a chance to be allowed to find out, but she didn’t want to agitate this stranger any more than necessary. “Oh, I found this.” Holding out her hand, she displayed the wallet that had fallen on the ground. After all, she would’ve hated to seem like some annoying fan girl instead of a girl with a mission. She wasn’t like that, not now, not ever. And especially not for the guy with the impossible bronze eyes.

Lucca's gaze slid from her face to her hand. She was presenting his wallet to him. Lucca's fingers brushed against hers as he picked up the leather wallet; he placed it into his pocket. “Thank you, signorina”, he murmured. “I see you are not so rude”. A mischievous smile lightened up his gaze briefly; his eyes shimmered with inner gold fire and again his face was serene, yet the strange melancholy in the depths of his eyes persisted. Lucca looked at her. This girl was calling for his attention and yet she could be something to stay away from, he suddenly felt like knowing her name and learn about her piece of history. A caprice, maybe; he did not care. He was used to live for himself. “You've saved my life”, he said with a small yet charming smile. “I would've been lost and totally broke in a strange city, if it were not for your kindness. May I know your name?”

Rishta blinked as he stared at her face, then down to her hand, to where his wallet lay. As he reclaimed it, his fingers brushed hers, and once again she felt that rush of warmth. It was a sort of chilling warmth, something that reminded her of a sin. This man was so strange. It made her feel… sort of uncomfortable. “You're welcome… I couldn't just leave it there.” Choosing to ignore the impish smile that had been on his face for the barest of minutes, Rishta couldn't help but keep on staring into his eyes. They had been bronze before, but now they flared with an inner golden light, a sort of shine that only gold had. It wasn't just golden light to her, it was gold. There wasn't a substitute for that color. Unless he was wearing contacts. Then it would explain everything. Her thoughts were interrupted as he put on a charming smile, and asked for her name, saying something about her saving him. She only could assume he meant it figuratively, then again, he could have meant it literally, especially if he was new to the city.

“I'm Rishta, and I doubt I saved your life… someone else would've found your wallet. Anyways, may I have your name?” After all, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. She didn't want a stalker on her hands. Even if he looked like an Italian prince.

Lucca bit his lip in a brief, mischievous smile. He shrugged his shoulders with elegant grace. “I am Lucca Marzari”, he said, looking at her. “Doesn't Rishta have a last name?” He tilted his head, his gaze fixed on her. “I don't blame you to keep it secret. I don't look like one to be trusted…” Lucca tossed the stomp of his cigarette on the paved trail, gazing around.

Rishta blinked once, in slight confusion, as Lucca smiled. It was a secretive, unnerving smile. When he shrugged, she found himself looking – no, staring. He was a work of art in man form. It was hard NOT to stare. His stare, and voice, were unnerving. “It's not that… it's just that I didn't know if you wanted it or not. It is a lot of information when you think about it. Some people just rather know the first name only…” Biting her lip, she gave a sort of shaky smile. “It's Farishta. Rishta Anu Farishta.” Glancing around for a moment, she decided to make polite conversation. “So, where are you from? What part of Italy?”

“I come form the Eternal City”, Lucca replied with a half smile. “I am from Rome. Your name speaks about Destiny, Rishta Anu Farishta… Do you believe in such things?” Bronze eyes shimmered. “Some think there are things they are meant to do, no matter what's their desire. What do you think about that?” Lucca tilted his head and a skeptical smile slid on his lips, yet it was strangely warm. “Or is your name simply a name someone imposed to you?”

“My name was never imposed on me… I guess you can say that I sort of came with it.” Yeps, he is really going to understand that… Rishta sarcastically thought to herself. However, what she said was true, she did come with a name, and her adoptive parents never chose it. Being found on their doorstep, her name was in the letter they had received. During her life, many had commented about how odd it was, that this child should come from nowhere into their lives, and it was simply a coincidence that she had the same exact name as the Lady that had once resided in the home the Smith's owned. It certainly was something. Legends had grown around the house that was under the Smith's care, now under Rishta's. No one had entered that house since 1860, some said. Others claimed it was since 1854, when something strange happened in the city of London. The Lady Rishta had been a recluse, just living there for a bit over a year, and all of a sudden strangers had been allowed in her home, and for the first time she had opened her house to them! The Lady was well known for refusing invitations and offers ranging from dinner to marriage. Then, only a few days after the strangers' arrival, she moved away, and the house was locked, nothing touched. No one dared to enter that place anymore. Children found it haunted and adults were scared of it. Such was their paranoia that they never had anyone tear it down, or even go on the property. That fear, and the fact that the land didn't belong to the government had kept them away for years. In fact, they had never mentioned it to the family. Didn't want to tempt them with the prospect that the land they kept safe was worth big bucks, since it had the purest lake in London, and remains from the Middle Ages that archeologists wanted to study. It was a gold mine.

But this Lucca reminded her of mysterious places like Angel Manor. Asking her about destiny, and what she thought about it. Maybe that's the way all Romans were… but if so, why did she miss it when she went there? He certainly was smart – and good looking, if not a bit egotistical. And chauvinistic. Then again, most men were like that. At least, most men she knew. “And I believe in destiny… I mean, I believe that man has a free will, but there are always certain obligations one must complete before their passing… otherwise they won't be at rest.” This man really must be intelligent… I had no idea my name meant Destiny, it's sort of cool when you think about it… and he has the most amazing looks… Allison would die if she saw him… Returning his smile, Rishta tried to come back to Earth. “What do you believe Mr. Marzari?”

“Interesting point of view”, Lucca replied with a small, dangerous smile. “I believe everyone should have the right to shape their own destiny. Could someone be bound to be miserable just because someone has to be? Why should some be slaves and others rulers even if none of them means to? I refuse to accept imposed obligations. I believe in the power of the Will. No one has the right to tell me who to serve or who to rule over, if I don't see them fit”. Bronze eyes shimmered, but their inner fire seemed to dim after he spoke. “So… you came with your name?”, he softly said. “It's curious how some wonders are delivered at our doorstep.”

“I guess you're much more of a free spirit then I am.” Rishta gave a small smile, his dangerous one unnerving her just a bit. It was amazing how he went through faces… and how they changed your own emotions. One minute, he could charm you, the next – utterly terrify you. It was like he was manipulating how you felt, just by manipulating the muscles on his face. It was… strangely amazing. Blinking a bit at his accuracy, Rishta began laughing, like cool rain on the water. It was amazing at how accurate his phrasing was, and very nerve-wracking. Smiling at him, she decided to enlighten him with her past. “You surprise me, Mr. Marzari – I didn't expect you to be so… accurate with your phrasing. Though I doubt being called a wonder is true, I was indeed delivered to a doorstep.”

A small yet warm smile slowly curled Lucca's lip as Rishta laughed. “I see…”, he murmured. “Yes, I am full of surprises, Miss Farishta. Why wouldn't you be a wonder? A wonder delivered at the right door…” Lucca ran his fingers through his hair to put it out of his eyes as the breeze blew upon them, his fingers contrasting against his silky blue-black hair. “What business brings you to London?”, he asked, still smiling. “If I may ask”.

Giving a small shrug, Rishta ceased her laughing, still holding that calm happiness on her face. Mr. Marzari was certainly an interesting character, and a charming one at that. With those bronze eyes… they seemed to pull you in, and drown you in their golden depths. Such a color… and with his complexion and bluish black hair… he was so gorgeous. There really was no other word. “Hot” wasn't good enough, “pretty” didn't cut it… “beautiful” seemed so dim… it was scary. Such a beauty couldn't be real. Not that she was falling for him. Noooo way. She had no problem in admitting someone elses' beauty, and didn't need to be head over heels in order to do so. He was gorgeous. Fact, not opinion. Straightening herself a bit, Rishta gave a charming smile. Nothing brought her here, but then again – how would he know? If he just came into town, and was knocked on his tush by her… The thought still brought along a mental cringe. “Well, I just came back home from a trip to Venice. I live here, at Smith Manor. What about you? What brings you to my 'Eternal City'?”

“The wind brought me to your city”, Lucca replied with a small, charming smile with a mysterious touch to it. “The wind… and the lights in the dark”. He took mental note of the name of her lodgings, maybe just out of his old trained habit to collect data… which could have a future use. “Venice is a nice city, if you like water and history”, he casually said with a charming smile. “I have businesses there… but I've not been there in years”.

Wow… he's a poet as well… I'm so lucky! “Well, I hope the wind will keep you here for awhile Mr. Marzari. London needs more charming people.” Might as well tell the truth… Nodding, Rishta once again smiled. “Venice is beautiful, but I think Rome was my favorite. I went there a few years ago. What sort of businesses do you have in Venice?”

A small yet charming smile curled Lucca's lip at the compliment. He nodded once in acknowledgement, with natural elegance. “I might stay for a while”, he slowly said. His eyes shimmered. “There's always something new in places like this… Everything converges in large population centers at one point or another”. His voice seemed to carry a particular significance. “I have an antique dealer's shop in Venice, in Rome… and other places. Antiques hold a way to capture the past and look back into others' universes… Have you ever felt you somehow belong in other time? Some people do. It's good business for me”. Lucca smiled. “What are your interests, Miss Rishta Anu Farishta? You have the particular air of an analytic mind… Do you follow studies?”

Tossing her dark hair behind her, Rishta smiled back at him and nodded. It was very hard not to smile back when he smiled at you. It had a charm to it, a sort of… foreign elegance. Which was expected, since he came from Italy. The Eternal City… a place of history and majesty. And really beautiful guys. Nodding, Rishta's smile broadened. So, he was planning to stay awhile… surely he wouldn't mind spending some time with an interested person like her? He was everything Rishta liked to speak with: charming, intelligent, wise, and very handsome. Not to mention he had an elegance that very few could master. Yeps, he was indeed a great guy to know.

Rishta blinked once at him, face looking purely stunned. How did he know…? It must have been a lucky guess – no one except Jem Jem knows about the Void… and that feeling… of being born in the wrong era… Wait, no.. he's a businessman, it must be something in his nature… Reaching into her pocket, Rishta pulled out a small index card, and offered it to Lucca. It was snow white, with gold handwriting (which, in fact, was real gold) and perfectly elegant. On it was inscribed her name, address, house number, e-mail, and cell phone number. Around the edges were little moons and stars, engraved with silver instead of gold. “Here, just in case you want to get in touch with me.” Blushing slightly, Rishta smiled in embarrassment. “I don't know about analytical.. but I'm interested in art, history, and psychology. I take Medieval History and Psychology at the local college here… what about you?”

Lucca looked at the card, then accepted it. He sensed he had hit the right spot; he had broken through the first ward. She wanted them to be able to keep in touch. It was a sort of victory but also a risky step to take, for she bore a Heavenly Seal. Lucca did not wish to be found, to be uncovered… but his fingers closed round the card. He'd see her again. What a name she's got… and she seems familiar, somehow… Lucca smiled with a nod. “I'm honored… and I'd like to correspond”, he murmured as he pulled out a small gold card-holder case. He opened it, slid Rishta's card inside and pulled out a card of his own. It was white, made of papyrus, with sharp golden embedded script. Lucca Marzari, Art Appraisal and Antiques. Rome, Venice, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Calcuta, El Cairo, Berlin. The card held no more direction than a cell phone number and an email. Lucca presented the card to Rishta.

“Medieval History and Psychology… Interesting choice”, he said. “I'm specialized in Art and History… but I have other interests. To learn and to teach is my distraction, whenever possible. Medieval history and Psychology… Now I have a clue on what other things could keep your interest”, he said with a charming smile.

“I'm honored… and I'd like to correspond” Rishta smiled as she accepted his card, slipping it into her pocket. She had taken a look at it, and was deeply impressed. This guy worked all over the world! Just doing antiques… he had seriously have some money. Then again… so do a lot of people nowadays.. always striving to be the best… Rishta smiled at him, and his 'deduction'. They had so much in common… both of them loved art and the past… maybe they were related! The thought struck her suddenly and she blinked. She wasn't sure if that would be such a good idea. “What sort of 'other things' did you have in mind, Mr. Marzari?”

Lucca smiled softly. “I don't have an office in London”, he said, “but I have contacts. I might participate in a Medieval art exhibit with some artifacts – an exhibit organized by one of my clients. If you'd like… and the exhibit is scheduled soon, maybe it could interest you. This, if you are interested. I have not confirmed my participation, but if you are interested in the exhibit, I'll send my confirmation email to the exhibit manager”. Lucca shrugged his shoulders with natural elegance. “This sort of other things, miss Farishta”, he said with a faintly mischievous smile. “To please you… and to know you better. As I mentioned, I like to learn”.

Smiling happily, Rishta nodded enthusiastically. “That would be so awesome! I'd love to go! I haven't seen a good Medieval Art exhibit in years…” He's perfect.. literally! Awwing slight, Rishta gave a smile. “You certainly have a way with words. I'd like to get to know you better too.” Glancing down for a moment, she saw her watch face. That can't be the time…. “I'm sorry Mr. Marzari, but it seems that I've run out of time, I'm late for an appointment.. it was nice meeting you! Call me sometime!” Waving, Rishta turned and ran off down the trail, not waiting for his 'goodbye'. She had the premonition that they would be meeting once again. Let me not be so clumsy next time…

Lucca watched her go smiling to himself. Her dark brown hair had golden reflections in the sunlight as she ran and disappeared in the next turn of the trail. Lucca turned and took the opposite way, flicking his hair out of his eyes as the wind blew from the skies. The sun had gone past its zenith and was running its course down. Lucca made a mental note to send that email to his contact in the British Museum. But again, he was once more immerse in his solitude. The Londoner night was not far away – Lucca took a long thoughtful walk, immerse in his memories till the night began.

By BroodingDarkness

Before the birth of man there were the angels. The purpose of the Angelic Host was to keep the balance and guide man through it’s evolution… but many did not agree. This stand became known as The Fall and those that apposed the Host were known as the Fallen.

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