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Chapter 27

There are times when you can do things without thinking at all and there are times when you can do things with so many thoughts swirling around in your head that none of the important things get done.

I think eating carrots was one of my ‘too many thoughts’ moments.

“Hey, Callie,” Marlee said, waving her hand in front of my face.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, blinking.

“You stopped eating,” She said, as though that were the only thing important that had happened. I suppose, to the right person, it would be.

No one really cares about you staring into space in the middle of a conversation, right?

I bit into the last part of my carrot, “No, I didn’t,” I protested half-heartedly.

Marlee rolled her eyes and leaned against the wall. “So, what’re you up to today?” She asked.

I hesitated, “Nothing much.”

Marlee raised an eyebrow, “You’re going to have to give me more than that.”

“Why?” I asked her, amused. The fact that she said I had to was hilarious for some reason.

“Because I want to come with you,” She said seriously.

It took an amazing amount of control not to choke on my carrot.

“I’m sorry,” I wheezed, “What?”

Marlee looked at me steadily. “You weren’t expecting that,” She observed.

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Was it that obvious?” I asked sarcastically.

Marlee blinked, but only because it’s the natural reflex. You know, keeping your eyes wet and all that. “Nah, just the irregular breathing. You have a habit of catching your breath at odd times.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, “You don’t say? Why were you watching me?”

Marlee grinned, “One, you’re a girl, so obviously I looked and two, you’re an interesting girl that sleeps right next to me. I don’t think that needs more explanation.”

I closed my eyes as the inevitable pained expression crossed my face. “Can I just tell you that you can’t come?” I asked.

“Nope,” She replied cheerfully.

I looked at her, “I’m going to lose you. You can’t tail me. Even Devin failed.”

“What makes you think Devin is the best tail?” Marlee asked, but her eyes flashed with uncertainty.

I smiled without amusement, “I’ll ignore that little spark in your eyes. Say, what do you think of the royals?”

Marlee frowned, her eyes only darkening slightly. “I don’t know much other than that they’re selfish and it’s their fault we’re all in poverty right now.”

“Hmm,” I said pleasantly, “There’s hope for you yet.”

She bristled, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I tilted my head and shot her a lazy smirk. “Exactly what I said, darling.” I turned to the wall and jumped, pulling myself up. I ignored how my arms shook in the process. “If you want to join me, learn more about the royals.” I turned to leave before looking over my shoulder. “Oh, and tell Devin that I’ll be back and that if he comes looking for me, I’ll slap him silly.”

Laughing to myself, I took off towards the castle.

Marlee cursed violently behind me, but I knew that she’d pause before jumping up the wall. Most people would. I’m surprised Devin even tried, much less made it.

My feet landed on the sidewalk, my boots gently clicking even though I tried to soften it. I didn’t care as much as I would’ve had the place been quiet, but repeatedly clacking shoes got annoying after a while. Eventually, I’d have to find new shoes, but I wasn’t pressing my luck.

I turned towards the castle and approached but Kallen walked towards me.

“You’re here again,” He observed, looking more than slightly cross.

“I am,” I raised an eyebrow. “And you care... why, exactly?” The innocent smile I’d put on made him more annoyed like I’d known it would.

“Because you’re messing with Cole’s head,” Kallen hissed, bending down towards me.

I looked up at him, “Forgive me, but are you insinuating that I’ve done something other than speak with him because you’re sorely mistaken.”

Kallen’s face flushed, “I’m not insinuating. You did do something.” He took a step back, “And I’m going to find out what.”

I didn’t let his threat get to me, even though my stomach flipped. “Have fun with that,” I replied easily, “I highly doubt you’ll find anything. I’m sure whoever decided to employ you will be more than happy to see you using your working hours on useless detective work because of some hunch you have.”

Kallen turned a shade darker, “I have time for myself,” He argued, then realized that I had purposefully gotten a rise out of him. Somehow, he managed to darken another shade. “You little...”

“I am little,” I agreed, “I’ve also got business. Goodbye.” I even fluttered my fingers at him as I walked off.

Behind me, he spluttered, but since I neared the gate, he didn’t dare confront me again. I grinned to myself, satisfied with my work.

I didn’t dwell on the little bit of guilt that settled in my stomach. Some sort of conscience has developed in me over the past few days and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. I felt guilty over everything I used to feel powerful over and I was beginning to get more than a little annoyed with whatever it was.

“Guard,” I said commandingly, already exasperated.

The guard peeked out from behind the station, looking half asleep like he’d just woken up. “What?” He asked irritably.

I looked at him for a minute, raising an eyebrow. After a moment, I sighed. ”Come on. Do I have to explain my business again?” I felt my voice squeezing into a whine. “Cole said he was going to tell you this time.”

The guard’s eyes bugged out and he cursed under his breath. “What exactly was Cole supposed to tell me, Miss?” He asked hesitantly as though he thought he’d forgotten.

I could work this in my favor.

I popped out my hip and pouted, “We had a meeting but obviously he forgot again. He promised, though.” I narrowed my eyes at him, acting confused. “Are you sure he didn’t tell you?”

I saw the guard swallow, “I’m sure, Miss,” He said, putting on an overly bright smile. “But I’m sure he forgot as you said. Here,” He pushed open the door and motioned for me to enter. His body shook with nerves. “I’m sure he’ll remember if you give him a good scolding.”

I almost laughed the guard was so dumb. Maybe they just didn’t have any sort of good security around here.

“Thank you,” I said sweetly as I smiled at him. “I’ll make sure Cole knows what you did for me.”

The guard paled. “Oh, no, that’s not necessary, Miss,” He chattered fearfully.

I narrowed my eyes at me, “You’d better tell the rest of the guards that you were all ordered to let me in whenever I come or I will tell him. After all, when someone fails you too many times, you take things into your own hands and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, now would we?” The glimmer of a smile that crossed my face was dangerous in the kind of feral behavior that my upbringing had developed in me.

I pulled my shoulders back and walked confidently in, grinning broadly.

Cole was going to be so happy.

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