To sum it up, any sort of warmth between Cole and I had been evaporated by the Kallen guy. He didn’t talk to me as we walked and I didn’t try to get him to. First of all, it would seem desperate. Second of all, I had other ways of getting the information I wanted. I just had to try to figure out a way to get around the fact that Cole had seen through all my previous attempts.
Unfortunately, it was harder than it sounded.
The stone walls lined the whole building, which honestly looked like a castle the more we walked. It didn’t end. A person could get lost in there. Every hall looked exactly the same as the last and the only way you could tell them apart was by wandering them repeatedly. I prided myself on my quick memorization, but this was a daunting task even for me.
Finally, Cole turned down a hall before pausing and pushing me against the wall. This time, I didn’t go for it.
I ducked out of his hold and managed to shove Cole up against the wall instead, only then figuring out that he was heavier than he looked. I hadn’t been prepared to lean my full weight against him just to get him to move. All I could do was keep all signs of my surprise and slight nervousness off my face. The last thing I needed him to know was that he could squash me without a second thought.
Cole scowled at me, not even looking scared. “Seriously?”
I smiled at him, the saccharine sweetness making him look repulsed. “Of course. I wouldn’t let you pin me to a wall for the second time in such a short amount of time. A girl’s got some pride to preserve.”
Cole’s lip curled up in what could only be described as a condescending sneer. “Well, if you let me go, I’ll just address the life-saving fact that I was going to tell you before.”
My eyes narrowed suspiciously. “A ‘life-saving fact?’ I don’t think so,” I loosened my hold just so that he could relax before I pushed him against the wall harder, putting my face close to his to whisper in his ear. After only seconds, my feet hurt from pressing against the hard floor with such force. They weren’t accustomed to anything heavier than my slight body. “You’ve got a meeting with your parents that you’ll be late to in a few seconds, but I don’t suppose you care about that.”
He blanched, obviously without meaning to. “A few seconds?” He struggled against my hold, panic flickering in his gaze. I gritted my teeth as I held him.
“Listen to me,” I hissed, my voice clawing its way out of my throat and stealing the volume of my repressed growl with it.
Cole stilled for a moment, his gaze landing on me. He looked considerably less stern than before. Now he just looked desperate. “Only if you let me go.”
I let him go. “I’m my own person and I don’t need your help. If you want to tell me something, say it. Don’t try to corner me, don’t try to use me, and don’t try to bring me down unless you want everything around you to fall.”
I could do it, too. After a little bit of gathering information, I could bluff my way out of almost any conversation.
“Fine,” He gritted out, then he ran down the hall to meet his parents.
I smiled to myself as I walked in the same direction, using my cloak to blend into the shadows again. I knew ways to get around, even if I didn’t know exactly what the layout of this place was. As I looked around, I noticed more of the little recessions in the wall that I had seen earlier by the entrance. I ducked into one, carefully skirting from one to another as I trailed Cole.
Finally, he entered a large room. Mutely, he bowed his head and stood before his parents. The only thing that made it feel less like a castle was the fact that his parents were both standing.
“You’re late,” His father said flatly, disgust lining his features.
Did his expression ever change or was he just disgusted with the world at large?
Cole didn’t reply, just bowed his head further.
“Well, now that you’re here. How did it go?” His mother said disinterestedly. She wasn’t that good of a liar. Her eyelid twitched slightly and for a moment, I saw affection shine out of her eyes.
“Good,” Cole replied simply, only barely raising his head. He still didn’t meet their eyes or dare look close to their faces. Now he was looking closer to their shoes than the ground right below him.
His father harrumphed. “Do better,” He turned to walk away before his wife stopped him with a hand on his arm. She turned her stern gaze from Cole to her husband as she said something softly. Luckily for her, Cole’s father didn’t seem to be an observant man. At the very least, he didn’t see through her obvious façade.
Whatever it was that she said, the room was specifically made to make sounds not carry. The thick carpeting was making everything sound like whispers from where I stood outside the doorway. The only thing that wasn’t dulled was their hard expressions that they each were determined to wear.
“You’ll have one day home before going off to bring papers to Lord Revenal.” Cole’s father said finally, turning back.
I couldn’t resist making a face at the name, but I leaned in closer to try to hear what the papers were for.
“Am I to deliver them to Lord Revenal himself or his servants, Father?” Cole asked, his voice even and disinterested. His eyes didn’t even glimmer, unlike his mother’s.
His father’s eyes darkened threateningly. “You’d better deliver them to the Lord himself. Unopened might I add.”
Cole bowed, his face still unmoving. “Yes, sir.”
His father walked away, but his mother still stood there.
As soon as the footsteps receded, his mother’s face softened a bit, revealing what she’d been trying to hide. “Son, you’ve got to try harder to appease him.”
Cole’s face hardened at the words. “I am trying,” He hissed angrily.
His mother’s face turned disapproving, the affection in her eyes dimming. “Don’t speak to me like that. You know that he wants what’s best for you.”
“According to him, what’s best for me is to spend the rest of my life on a ship running errands.” Cole wasn’t budging on his view of the subject.
Cole’s mother flinched before sighing. Her shoulders slumped in concession. “I’ll try to get him to change his mind, but...”
“You’ll fail again," Cole said knowingly, not even masking his disappointment. He shook his head and bowed insolently before turning to walk away. “Goodnight, Mother.”
His footsteps came towards me and I shrank into the shadows, deliberately slowing my breath as he passed. Checking to make sure he didn’t know I was here, I peeked back into the room at his mother.
Something slammed into me, making me gasp and hit the wall hard. For the second time that day, might I add.
“What are you doing?” Cole demanded harshly as he pinned me.
I growled as I felt for where his hands were. “Getting my information," I sneered. “Unless you thought I’d go and find a place to sleep for the night because it’s dark?” Let him see that I’m not a baby. It’s not like he hasn’t already at least suspected it.
Cole’s eyes wandered over me. His hold loosened slightly but he didn’t give me an opening. “You know, that might be an idea,” He kept his hold on my cloak, which unfortunately restricted nearly my whole body because it was still buttoned to the jumpsuit layer, but he pulled me away from the wall. “Let’s go.”
I resisted, struggling against both Cole himself and the fabric that made up my cloak. “Uh ha. No. You can’t possibly expect me to willingly go with you.”
“Expect you to? No, I don’t. From what I’ve seen, you’re the queen of stubbornness. Will I drag you if I have to? Yes. I recommend you cooperate.” Cole kept walking and his voice was even. I’d seen firsthand that there was an undercurrent of turbulent emotions.
I growled in frustration as I tried to reach the cloak’s buttons. Somehow, Cole had managed to grab the fabric just right and my arms didn’t quite reach. Stupid cloak.
Cole tugged me, making me trip forward and fall into him. I barely caught myself before my face hit his side. A small squeak escaped my mouth before I managed to stifle it.
Cole looked down at me, his eyes gleaming in the dim light. For a second, I almost thought I saw amusement. He sighed and pushed me back up, handling me slightly more carefully. “You can defend yourself, huh?”
I snarled, baring my teeth at him even though my brothers had said that it wasn’t ladylike. The part of me that had fended for myself for a short amount of time still clung to the slightly feral instincts it had relied on. “You just got lucky that I can’t reach my cloak buttons.”
“Your... what?” He seemed surprised.
I smiled in satisfaction at seeing a genuine expression before he could smother it. I cast a slightly condescending look at him. “My outfit is specially designed for... certain endeavors.” I wasn’t going to give information away that easily.
Cole sighed, a resigned look crossing his face. “And I don’t suppose they’re normal ones like going shopping or doing laundry?”
I bristled. ”Excuse me? That’s medieval!”
Cole rolled his eyes, a small smirk forming on his lips. “Not really, Adventure Girl. That’s just the way of things here.”
I couldn’t decide whether to snap at him for calling me ‘adventure girl’ or ask what he meant by ‘the way of things.’ By the time I had almost chosen, it was too late.
I tripped after him as he started to move again. At that point, it was all I could do to tell one wall from another and remember where we were going. The walls hadn’t changed anywhere. The evenly spaced lights on the wall, uniform carpeting over repetitive floor tiles, and stones that looked too perfect and uniform to be authentic - even though I knew that they were - kept going on no matter how many circles we walked in.
After a long walk, many turns, and too many walls that looked the same, Cole opened a door that led down. He pushed me in first and it was all I could do to stay on the first step. The steps were so narrow, there was barely enough room for my feet and in my current attached state, my coordination wasn’t the best.
When Cole shut the door behind us, all the light seemed to be sucked out of the stairwell. I cursed under my breath, having seen enough of my surroundings to know that it was practically a death trap if I were to try to get around on my own.
“I’m going to let you go since now you have nowhere to go.” Cole sounded quite proud of the fact.
I sighed, conceding defeat for a moment. I didn’t reply because he just wasn’t worth the effort. Although, as my cloak loosened around me, I was able to suck in a real breath. I had to admit, the guy had a good grip, that’s for sure.
Carefully, I toed around, trying to find the next step. When I found it, I slowly shifted my weight onto it, unabashedly clinging to Cole’s jacket so that if I almost fell, he’d either stop me or at least fall with me.
He wasn’t going to get out of this without me unscathed.