The Isle of the Lost (Page 14)

“So why don’t you dance, again?”

Because I don’t have time to dance when I have evil schemes to hatch, Mal wanted to say. One that will make my mother proud of me, finally.

She turned up her nose. “I don’t have to have a reason.”

“You don’t. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have one.”

He caught her by surprise, because he was right.

Because she did have a reason, a very good reason to stay clear of any kind of activity that might hint at or lead to romance. Her missing father. Otherwise known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-in-Maleficent’s-Presence.

So Anthony had her there. Mal had to give him that. But instead, she glared at him. Then she glared at him again, for good measure. “Maybe I just like to be alone.” Because maybe I’m so tired of my mother looking at me like I’m weak, just because I came from her own moment of weakness.

Because maybe I need to show her that I’m strong enough and evil enough to prove to her that I’m not like my weak, human father.

That I can be just like her.

Maybe I don’t want to dance because I don’t want to have anything human about me.

“That can’t be it.” Anthony said, picking lint off his jacket. His voice was uncommonly low and pleasant, which once again brought back to Mal’s mind the handsome prince by the enchanted lake. Except that Anthony wasn’t quite as handsome as the boy in her dream had been, not that she thought that boy handsome, mind you. Not that she thought about him at all. “Nobody likes to be alone.”

“Well, I do,” she insisted. It was true.

“And besides, everybody wants to dance with a lord,” he said smugly.

“Nope, not me!”

“Fine, have it your way,” Anthony said, finally backing away, his head held high. In a hot second, he had already asked Harriet Hook to dance, and she’d accepted with a delighted shriek.

Mal exhaled. Phew. Boys. Dreams. Princes. It was all too much for one day.

“Mal. Mal. Earth to Mal?” Jay waved a hand in front of her face. “You okay?”

Mal nodded but didn’t answer. For a moment she had been lost in the memory of that awful dream again. Except that this time it didn’t seem so much a dream as a premonition? That one day she might just find herself in Auradon? But how could that be?

Jay frowned, holding out a cup of cider. “Here. It’s like you’ve powered down, or something.”

Mal realized that she hadn’t moved from the front hall. She’d been standing there, stupidly frozen, ever since Anthony had left her side. That was three songs ago, and the Bad Apples were playing their current hit, “Call Me Never.”

She perked up, not because of the cider or the catchy song but because, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Evie through the floor-to-ceiling window in the foyer. She was coming down the road in a brand-new rickshaw, her pretty V-braid gleaming in the moonlight. She thinks she is so special. Well, I’ll show her, Mal thought. Her eyes wandered over the room and rested upon a familiar-looking door.

It was the door that led to Cruella De Vil’s storage closet. Mal only knew it was there because she and Carlos had once accidentally come across it when they were working on a skit about evil family trees in sixth grade, and Mal had been bored and had decided to go poking around Hell Hall. Cruella’s closet was not for the faint of heart.

Mal would never forget that day. It was the kind of closet that would get the best of anyone. Especially a princess who was making her way up the steps to the front door and would appear at any moment now.

“Jay,” she said, motioning to the front door. “Let me know when Evie arrives.”

“Huh? What? Why?”

“You’ll see,” she told him.

“All part of the evil scheme, huh?” he said, happy to do her bidding. Jay was always up for a good prank.

But Carlos went white-faced when he saw where Mal was heading. “Don’t—” he shouted. He shook off his sheet, almost tripping over the fabric in an attempt to get to the door before Mal could open it all the way.

It slammed shut. Just in time.

But Mal crossed her arms. She wasn’t backing down from this one. It was just too perfect. She glanced out the window again. Princess-Oh-So-Fashionably-Late was at the front door now.

Mal raised her voice. “New game! Seven Minutes in Heaven! And you’ve never played Seven Minutes if you haven’t played it in a De Vil closet.”

The words were barely out of Mal’s mouth before most of the evil step-granddaughters practically trampled her to get to the door. They loved playing Seven Minutes and were enthusiastically wondering with whom they would end up inside. A few of them puckered their lips and powdered their noses while fluttering their eyelashes at Jay, who was stationed by the front door like a sentry.

“Who wants to go first?” Mal asked.

“Me! Me! Me!” yelped the step-granddaughters.

“She does,” Jay called, holding a very recognizable blue cape.

“I do? What do I want to do?” asked the cape’s owner.

Mal smiled.

Evie had arrived.

“Evie, sweetie! So glad you could make it!” Mal said, throwing her arms theatrically around the girl and giving her a giant and fake embrace. “We’re playing Seven Minutes in Heaven! Want to play?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” said Evie, looking around the party nervously.

“It’ll be a scream,” said Mal. “Come on, you want to be my friend, don’t you?”

Evie stared at Mal. “You want me to be your friend?”

“Sure—why not?” Mal led her to the closet door and opened it.

“But doesn’t a boy go in here with me?” Evie asked as Mal shoved her inside the storage room. For someone castle-schooled, Evie sure knew her kissing games.

“Did I say Seven Minutes in Heaven? No, you’re playing Seven Minutes in Hell!” Mal cackled; she couldn’t help it. This was going to be so much fun.

The crowd around the hallway had scattered in fear after it was clear Mal had no interest in having other people join the game—or Evie—inside the locked room.

But Carlos remained standing, his face as white as the tips of his hair. “Mal, what are you doing?”

“Playing a dirty trick—what does it look like I’m doing?”

“You can’t leave her in there! Remember what happened to us?” he asked, motioning angrily to his leg, which had two distinct white scars on the calf.

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