The Isle of the Lost (Page 23)

Only, who’s going to break the news to my dad?

Jay watched as his father returned to stacking the coins in neat piles. Counting coins gave him peace in some way his son would never understand. Jafar was whistling, and looked up when he saw Jay staring at him.

“Remember the Golden Rule?” his father purred as he caressed the money with his hands.

“Totally. ’Night, Dad,” Jay said, heading to the worn carpet underneath the shelves in the back, where he slept. Whoever has the most gold makes the rules. It’s what his father believed, and while Jay had never seen any gold in his life, he’d been taught to believe it too.

He just wasn’t sure that he believed there was any gold to find. Not on the Isle of the Lost. Still, as he curled up on the hard bit of carpeted floor that was his bed, he tried to imagine what it would feel like to find it.

The Big Score.

He fell asleep dreaming of his father bursting with pride in a pair of pajamas made of gold.

Cruella was going to kill him if she ever found out he’d thrown a party while she was away. People on the island kept telling him Cruella had mellowed with age, that she was rounder and less shouty, but they didn’t have to live with her.

Cruella De Vil’s son knew his mother better than anyone.

If his mother had any idea that he’d let a bunch of people come over…and even worse, let anyone even come near her fur closet—let alone inside it—let alone be tackled in a pile of full-length grade-A–pelt coats—well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be a puppy she would be trying to skin.

But thankfully his mother was still at the Spa and hadn’t returned unexpectedly as she was wont to do sometimes, if only to keep her son and Jasper and Horace on their minion-y toes.

Carlos stumbled out of bed and found a few bleary-eyed guests wandering around Hell Hall, smelling like last night’s spicy cider. “You’re probably looking for the bathroom. This way. No problem!” He shoved them out the front door before they could realize what was happening. As he did, Harry and Jace, the two young, second-generation De Vil minions who had helped him decorate for the party, stumbled out of the ballroom with crepe paper in their hair.

“’Morning,” said Carlos, his voice still froggy with sleep. “Why are you wearing the party?”

“I told him not to get me tangled up in his stupid streamers,” Harry said, still surly.

“You told me? You were the one playing tag all night, dragging half the decorations around after you.”

“I was entertaining guests.”

“Then why was no one playing with you?”

As usual, there was no hope of real conversation with either of them. Carlos gave up.

His cousin Diego De Vil gave him a thumbs-up from the couch. “Great party. Total howler!” The rest of the band was packing up their gear.

“Thanks, I think.” Carlos wrinkled his nose. The gloomy morning light made everything look sadder and more sordid. Even the chandelier’s candles had burnt down to stubs, and someone had broken the rope swing so that it swayed gently, brushing the floor.

“We’d better get out of here so you can clean up.” Diego grinned. “Or did your mom say to leave it for her to do when she got home?” He burst out laughing.

“Very funny.” Carlos ignored his cousin, pushing his way through the swinging door that led to the kitchen. He was hungry, his head hurt, and he hadn’t slept well—dreaming anxiously of keeping the party a secret from his mother, but also of the dazzling light that had emanated from his machine and hit the dome.

Did that really happen?

For a moment there, Carlos thought he had felt something in the air. Something wild and electric and thrumming with energy. Magic? Could it be?

He wondered if he could make the machine do it again.

After breakfast.

He poked his head into the kitchen, which looked like a party bomb had exploded. Every counter and surface was sticky and littered with cups, bowls, bits of popcorn and chips, rotten deviled eggs, uneaten devil dogs, and empty bottles of cider. His feet stuck and unstuck with every step on the floor, ripping up and down with a noise that was part Velcro, part pseudopod. He took a broom and began to sweep and clean, just enough so that he could get to the fridge and the shelves.

“Hey, uh, can I just…” Carlos said, pushing a snoring Clay Clayton away from the kitchen counter to grab his breakfast. Clay was the son of the Great Hunter who’d almost captured Tarzan’s gorilla troop (almost being the operative word: like every villain on the Isle, each one’s evil schemes had ultimately ended in failure).

Carlos filled a bowl with some congealed, lumpy oatmeal and grabbed a spoon just as the Gastons stuck their heads inside.

“Hey, man! What’ve you got there? Breakfast? Don’t mind if we do.” The burly brothers high-fived him as they stole his cold porridge from under his nose on their way out the door. Being the Gastons, they were the last to leave and the first to steal all the food, as usual.

“I guess I wasn’t hungry anyway,” Carlos said out loud, although only he was listening. “We should get busy and clean this place up before my mom gets home.”

He sighed and picked up the broom.

There was way too much to clean. But he was Carlos De Vil, boy genius, wasn’t he? Surely he could figure out a way to make this task easier? Yes, he would. He just had to put his mind to it. He would take care of the cleanup later. First, he had to go to school.

Back at her own castle, Evie hadn’t been able to sleep any better than Carlos had. Perhaps her dreams weren’t plagued by Cruella De Vil or the cracking dome, but they were tormented by endless mazes of dark rooms and snapping traps—and she had woken up in a full sweat just as one was about to clamp down on her leg with its steel jaws again.

I can’t go back to school, she thought. Not after last night.

The thought of having to face Mal again made her stomach queasy.

Besides, what was wrong with staying home? Home was, well, home. Wasn’t it? So maybe it wasn’t nice here, but it was safe. Relatively. Cozy. In a not-exactly-traditionally-cozy way.

Or not.

Okay, so it was cold and musty and basically a cave. Or a prison, as she had come to think of it during her years of castle-schooling. And today, like most days of her life, Evie could hear her mother talking to herself in her imaginary Magic Mirror voice again.

But at least at home there were no traps and no purple-haired wicked fairies angling for revenge. There were no confusing frenemies, if she and Mal were even that.

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