The Isle of the Lost (Page 13)

There would be no unplugging this party like one of his rebuilt stereos, not once it had begun, especially not the sort of party Mal seemed to have in mind.

“Hey, Carlos,” she drawled. “Am I late?”

“Not at all,” said Carlos. “Come in.”

“Excited to see me?” Mal asked with a smile.

He nodded yes. Except that Carlos wasn’t excited.

He was terrified.

Somewhere, deep down, he even wanted his mommy.

“Toad’s-blood shots!” declared Mal, leaping into the room as if she were just another guest. “For everyone!”

And just like that, the party began again, as quickly as it had stopped. It was like the entire room exhaled in one relieved breath. Mal isn’t mad. Mal isn’t banning us from the streets. Mal isn’t renaming us Slop.

Not yet.

Mal could see their relief on their faces, and she didn’t blame them. They were right. The way she’d been feeling lately, it was certainly something to celebrate.

So the crowd cheered, and toad’s-blood shots splashed across the room by the cupful, and Mal, in a show of generous sportsmanship, chugged a slimy cup right along with the rest.

She circled the party¸ pilfering a wallet from one of the Gastons, stopping to share a mean giggle with Ginny Gothel about the dress Harriet Hook was wearing, ducking under an overenthusiastic pirate swinging from the chandelier, taking a bite out of someone else’s devil dog and grabbing a mouthful of dry popcorn. She walked into the hallway and bumped into Jay, who was out of breath after winning the latest dance-off.

“Having fun?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Where’d Carlos go?”

Jay laughed and pointed toward a pair of black shoes poking out from behind a sheet covering the biggest of the bookcases. “Hiding from his own party. Typical.”

Mal knew how Carlos felt, though she’d never admit it. Truly, she’d rather be almost anywhere on the whole Isle than at this party. Like her mother, she hated the sights and sounds of revelry. Fun made her uncomfortable. Laughter? Gave her hives. But a vendetta was a vendetta, and she had more planned for this evening than just Deep, Dark, Secret or Death-Defying Dare.

“Come on,” said Jay. “They’re playing pin the tail on the minion over there, and Jace has like, ten tails. Let’s see if we can make it a dozen.”

“Maybe in a minute. Where’s Princess Blueberry?” Mal asked. “I did a whole loop of this party, and I didn’t see her anywhere.”

“You mean Evie? She’s not here yet. Nobody seems to know if she’s coming or not.” Jay shrugged. “Castle kids.”

“She has to come. She’s the whole point. She’s the only reason I’m even having this stupid party.” Mal hated when her evil schemes didn’t go exactly as planned. This was the first step in Operation Take Down Evie, Or Else, and it had to work. She sighed, staring at the door. Pretending to be having fun at a party when you hated parties was the most tiresome thing in the world.

Mal had to agree with her mother on that one.

“What are you two doing?” asked Anthony Tremaine, Lady Tremaine’s sixteen-year-old grandson, a tall, elegant boy with dark hair swept off a haughty forehead. His clothes were as worn and ragged as everyone else’s on the Isle, but somehow he always looked as if he was wearing custom tailoring. His dark leather coat was cut perfectly, his jeans the right dark wash. Maybe it was because Anthony had noble blood, and would probably have lived in Auradon except for his grandmother’s being, you know, evil and banished. At one point he’d tried to get everyone on the Isle to call him Lord Tremaine, but the villain kids had all just laughed in his face.

“Just talking,” said Mal.

“Evil plotting,” said Jay.

They looked at each other.

Something about Anthony’s handsome face brought to Mal’s mind another handsome boy—the prince from her dream. He’d said he was her friend. His smile was kind and his voice gentle. Mal shuddered.

“Do you want something?” Mal asked Anthony coolly.

“Yes. To dance.” Anthony looked at her expectantly.

She looked at him, confused. “Wait—with me?” Nobody had ever asked her before. But she’d never really been to a party before either.

“Well, I didn’t mean him,” Anthony said, looking awkwardly at Jay. “No offense, man.”

“None taken.” Jay grinned broadly, knowing how uncomfortable this made Mal. He found it hilarious. “You two kids go have fun out there. Anthony, make sure you pick a slow song,” he said, as he slid away. “I have a step-granddaughter waiting for me.”

Mal could feel her cheeks turning pink, which was embarrassing, because she wasn’t afraid of anything, least of all dancing with snotty Anthony Tremaine.

So why are you blushing? she thought.

“I’m not really a dancer,” she said lamely.

“I can show you,” he said with a smooth smile.

Mal bristled. “I mean, I don’t dance with anyone. Ever.”

“Why not?”

Why not, indeed?

Mal thought about it. Her mind flashed back to earlier that evening. She’d been getting ready for the party, trying to choose between violet-hued holey or mauve patchwork jeans, when her mother had made a rare appearance at her door.

“Where on this dreadful island could you possibly be going?” Maleficent asked.

“To a party,” Mal said.

Maleficent let out an exasperated sigh. “Mal, what have I told you about parties?”

“I’m not going to have fun, Mother. I’m going so I can make someone miserable.” She almost wanted to share Operation Evie Scheme right then, but thought better of it. She would tell her mother once she had completed it successfully, lest she disappoint her once more. Maleficent never failed to remind Mal that sometimes it just didn’t seem like Mal was evil enough to be her daughter. At your age I cursing entire kingdoms was a familiar phrase Mal had grown up hearing.

“So you’re off to make someone miserable?” her mother cooed.

“Wretched, really!” enthused Mal.

A slow smile formed on Maleficent’s thin red lips. She crossed the room and stood in front of Mal, reaching out to trace a long nail along Mal’s cheek. “That’s a nasty little girl,” she said. Mal swore she saw a glimmer of pride flicker in her mother’s cold, emerald-green eyes.

Mal snapped back to reality as the band finished a punk rock number with clashing cymbals and a drum roll. Anthony Tremaine was still staring at her.


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