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Chapter 18

I tried to stay calm, I swear I did, but let’s be honest, if you’re in a new, dark place, it’s a little hard to not go insane.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked Cole again. He’d had a hold on my arm since we’d been shut in here and he kept pulling me in the wrong direction down the hall.

“You’ll see,” He replied the same way he had the other five times I’d asked.

Hysteria grew in my chest and I struggled to tamp it down this time. “So even though I’m the one supposed to benefit from this, I still don’t get to know where I’m going?” I managed.

“It would ruin the thrill of the surprise,” Cole replied easily. In fact, his ease was alarming.

Leave it to him to be infuriating, I suppose. I’m not entirely surprised seeing as though he’s a boy, he’s a prince, and he doesn’t exactly have a lot of reasons to tell me his deepest darkest secrets.

Although, one would think a simple destination would be an easy answer. Apparently not to Cole.

“So, rather than make life easier, we have to make it harder because surprises are more fun than predictability?” I somehow managed to get a verbal eye-roll in there.

“Yep,” Cole said, still not explaining.

I turned my groan into a sigh before it could be mistaken as aggression. “You know, this really doesn’t make me like you any more than I already did,” I noted.

“Really? Darn,” Cole still didn’t care, which was frustrating as all get out.

I was about to say something else, but light lit up the tunnel that was still ahead of us and I blinked.

“Just a bit further,” Cole said reassuringly, which was also a little annoying because he certainly hadn’t been doing that the whole time. Although, I don’t know if I could have taken it if he was reassuring me the whole time we’d been in the dark. If I’d been able to see a bit better, I may have attacked him, but in the state of black that was most of the tunnel, I just as well might’ve hit the wall in my attempt at flinging myself at him.

So maybe it was one of those pros and cons moments.

Cole kept pulling me forward and we slowly made our way towards the light. Before my eyes, it bled into a blur until I couldn’t see anything but white.

“We’re here!” Cole exclaimed triumphantly.

I still couldn’t see anything.

“Wow, here is very interesting,” I drawled, making a show of looking around. “It’s nice and white and...” My eyes adjusted to the light change and the white faded to show the colors around me.

My original comment had been snarky, but it was actually truer than I had known it would be. I hadn’t realized that the tunnel had changed in elevation, but I also hadn’t noticed most of the corners that Cole dragged me around. As I looked back at where we’d come from, I saw a dark tunnel surrounded by pale grass and long, dry weeds. It wasn’t beautiful per se, but it was prettier than a continuous stone tunnel with the occasional fleck of mica.

I turned back around to see Cole smirking at me. “Told you,” he said.

I couldn’t resist sticking my tongue out at him. “You didn’t tell me anything other than excuses and the non-descript ‘we’re here,’” I pointed out in exasperation. Despite it all, a slow smile crept over my face.

“Minor detail,” Cole brushed off my comment, his lips twitching up at the corners.

I laughed, shaking my head. “Useless boy,” I grinned.

Cole chuckled, “I don’t dare touch that one.”

I cast him an amused look, “Good call.”

I walked forward a bit and looked down over everything. It felt different, being on such a high part of the mountain. I looked down over the land around me and noted all the drying grass and the various animals scattered here and there.

“Where are we?” I asked finally, still admiring the scenery. In the distance, I could make out mountains topped with bright snow.

“Wouldn’t you want to know?” Cole smirked, walking up next to me.

Without so much as a glance over at him, I reached over my hand and smacked his arm.

Cole laughed, “Sorry. This is Yellow. You found Mitch’s tunnel first.”

Now I really did look over at him. A broad grin stretched across my face. “I can use that to piss him off more, can’t I?”

Cole raised an eyebrow at me. “Depends on your nerve,” He replied.

I made my best innocent face, “I don’t have any nerve. I’d just do it.”

Cole laughed, shaking his head and glancing down at his wrist. He pulled back his shirt sleeve to reveal a watch. I couldn’t help an eyebrow raise because it felt like such an un-Cole-like thing to do.

“We have around half an hour to look around,” He said, looking over at me in question.

I couldn’t stop the broad grin from stretching across my face once again even as I noted that I had to stop opening myself up to these near strangers. Just then, though, I didn’t care.

“Yes,” I said eagerly. I looked back down the hill, judging the slope. “Hope you’re ready to be the follower this time,” I said before walking forward and letting gravity propel me down the hill. I scrambled to keep my legs under me, but it was easier than I’d thought it would be.

“Hey!” Cole called after me.

I looked back up the hill, expecting him to be following me. Instead, he was still at the top, looking down at me. Even from that distance, I could make out his surprise.

“Are you afraid of this hill?” I asked, grinning as I gestured to the hill I’d just run down. To some, it would probably look more like a mountainside.

“No,” Cole called back, still examining the slope. He still didn’t move. “Okay, yes.”

I couldn’t help the laugh that burst from my lips, but after a moment I stifled it. “You’ll be fine,” I told him, forcing confidence into my tone. In all honesty, I didn’t know his skills when it came to running down a hill.

Cole looked like he was going to pass out. “You know,” he said, “Black doesn’t really have hills like this.”

Hmm, I hadn’t noticed.

“Cole,” I said sternly, craning my neck to look up at him, “You will be fine. Either you take a deep breath and do this or I’m going exploring alone.”

“You can’t do that,” Cole said.

I know he couldn’t see my skeptical look from there, but it washed over my face anyway. “Who is going to stop me?” I asked him, already knowing the answer.

Cole shook his head, his lips moving. Whatever words came out of his mouth, I didn’t hear them. For a moment, we both just looked at each other, trying to see who would make the first move. Finally, Cole made a move to come down the hill.

Let me tell you, it’s painful watching a person stumble down a hill while trying not to fall over and roll head over heels for the rest of the journey.

“Well, that was fun to watch,” I said conversationally once Cole got to the bottom.

He straightened and glared at me, his breathing coming in gasps. “Yes, ha, ha, ha. So fun.”

I watched his face for another moment before bursting out in laughter. “Sorry, it was really bad.”

“Yours didn’t look comfortable, either,” Cole said.

I shrugged, “It didn’t need to be comfortable. I got to where I needed to go.”

Cole rolled his eyes, “Let’s just hurry up. I’m not looking forward to coming back in twenty minutes.”

I perked up, “Twenty minutes? Let’s go.” I grabbed his arm and began working to drag him. The initial tug unbalanced him and caused him to stumble after me.

“I regret this already,” Cole groaned, but he didn’t make a move to resist me.

I grinned to myself, my face feeling like it was splitting in half.

Time for a quick adventure.

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