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Chapter 23

One of the things that I had the most mixed feelings about was how easy it was to get in and out of the castle but knowing who I could trust was by far more important. I could count on my fingers the people I had trusted back at home even with them having valid reasons for me to trust them. For some reason, I’d decided to trust Devin and Cole without any solid evidence that they’d been honest in the past. It was just too easy to lie to a stranger.

When I approached the warehouse after leaving the castle, I took a moment to look up at it. The giant, dilapidated structure was starting to look more and more like... home, as bad as it was.

I was starting to see that my self-preservation skills were rapidly going the drain. I was close to being overly concerned about it, but I kept pausing and some small part of me said, ′it makes sense.′

Why was I so dang confusing all of a sudden?

Frustration flowed through me, but I shook it away. I walked into the warehouse and heads turned towards me, various people looked between curious and careless. I forced a smile and walked past everyone.

For the umpteenth time that day, I remembered the carrots in my belt and moved my cloak to conceal them once again.

“Hey! Calypso!” A voice called from the other side of the warehouse.

I paused, looking for said person, “Yes?”

Russ came walking over with a bright smile on his face, “How was your exploring?”

I froze but forced myself to relax, “It was good.” I couldn’t help but be wary because though I didn’t expect Russ to be oblivious to everything I did, I certainly didn’t want him to know everything.

“Did you find something that wasn’t grey or black in this place?” Russ asked good-naturedly.

“Nope,” I replied, lying through my teeth. “What’s up with all the dark colors around here, though?”

“The Black royals thought it would reflect their color or whatever,” Russ replied, waving his hand around in carelessness.

Seriously, why was this guy the leader of this place?

“Right,” I said, totally not enlightened in any way. My best guess was that the king and queen had some reason behind their acts because Cole certainly wasn’t to blame for making the whole kingdom black.

“Anyway, did you happen to see any of the others while you were out?” Russ asked in interest, focused entirely on me.

“Uh...” I frantically searched for an answer in my head but ended up coming up dry.

“She saw me, of course,” Devin saved me as he walked past. He shot me a knowing smile over his shoulder.

“Everyone sees you, Dev,” Russ chided affectionately.

My gaze flitted between them, “Can I...” Can I what? Why didn’t I finish that in my head before I began it? Idiot.

“Sure,” Russ said, motioning for me to start moving. “I’ll see you later anyways.”

I blinked, “Okay?”

When he saw that I wasn’t moving, Russ shrugged and walked away. I still stood there, confused, as Devin walked back over.

“And that,” He began in amusement, “Is Russ.”

I glanced over at him, “Remind me why he’s your leader?”

“Confidential information,” He said seriously.

I gave him a look, “Is this because you know that I used to sell information to the highest bidder or because no one is really supposed to know?”

“Both, but mainly the second one,” Devin assured me.

He put his arm around me and I forced myself not to pull away. It felt so... weird to be touched like that. My family had been the exact opposite of touchy-feely. Maybe this group was different?

“Nice,” I said sarcastically, “Just for the record, he makes my head spin.”

Devin laughed. “Sounds about right,” He agreed. He looked back at me, a small smile on his face. “So, how was your exploring?” His face reminded me of Russ’s expression all over again and I stared.

Finally, Devin burst out laughing and I realized what had happened.

“You were purposely imitating Russ,” I said flatly before a slow smile spread across my face.

“Yep,” Devin grinned. “Your face was great, Lee.”

I blinked before remembering that it was the nickname I’d let him use. I rolled my eyes, reaching out to smack him. “I’m going to make you stand on top of a hill and tell everyone that only you can call me ‘Lee.’”

Devin seemed intrigued, “Okay.”

I didn’t realize that the joke was one that had been between Cole and me until he didn’t laugh. I was already getting people mixed up and there were only really two of them.

Life was going to get complicated.

“I did sorta mean that question, though,” Devin said.

“The city is boring,” I replied seriously, “It’s so dark.”

Devin smirked, “Yep, thank you royals.”

I looked at him curiously, “Russ said something about that, too, but he didn’t tell me why.”

Devin shrugged, “I wouldn’t say that I know for a fact, but I do have a hunch.”

I kept studying him, wondering if I should ask. Devin noticed and laughed again.

“Let’s go to our side of the room and I’ll tell you,” He said.

I tried to ignore how he said, ‘our side of the room.’ It wasn’t like we owned it together, it was just... almost flirty. And weird.

I shrugged and walked towards the corner with Devin trailing close behind me. When I got into the middle of the area, next to someone’s bedroll, I turned back to him, placing my hands on my hips. “Spill,” I ordered.

Devin grinned slowly, “Okay.” He raised an eyebrow at me before looking up. “I think it’s a brand of sorts. You know, like a ‘you’re mine’ kind of thing. The royals don’t actually care about the commoners, but they’re basically stating their claim over the whole kingdom by forcing everyone to use black and grey only.”

“Wait,” I blinked, “You literally aren’t allowed to use any colors?”

Devin scowled, “Yep.” The ‘p’ popped as it left his mouth.

“That’s...” I shook my head, “Wow.”

“They’re a big bunch of control freaks,” Devin confirmed, crossing his arms. “Eventually, someone will overthrow them.” He shook his head, “The day can’t come soon enough.”

My stomach flipped but I kept a straight face. “What would you do if someone tried to overthrow all the kingdoms, though?”

Devin tossed a grin my way, “Why, I’d join them of course.”

I blinked, a smile spreading over my face. “Of course,” I echoed.

Maybe I’d be able to use him at some point.

“Thanks for the info,” I grinned at him.

“I’m a flowing fount,” Devin joked.

I cringed, “Please don’t say anything like that again.”

“It was supposed to be a joke,” Devin said in confusion.

“I know,” I told him. “Don’t do it again.”

Devin laughed, mock saluting. “Yes, Princess.”

I made sure to keep my smile as I looked at him.

Princess, indeed.

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