Christel’s safe house had been dimmed to a deepening shade by the occurring night, and even the shadows under the lantern seemed to flicker with resistance. Christel was alone at the main table, he was slouched over piles of plans, and his light hair drooped heavily over his face. He was tired and his eyes ached, but nothing in the world could stop him from going over this plan one last time.
Despite all his determination, however, Christel found that he was more distracted from his work than usual. His mind seemed to drift like a boat on a river, sailing through all kinds of forks and streams, and always finding itself at the same place. Hazel Kisani.
There was a feint and gentle knock that came from the doorway behind him. As he turned around, Hazel lightly stepped into the room, and she smiled her bright complete smile as the lantern flames reflected from her rosy cheeks.
When she spoke her voice was soft, almost as quiet as the room around them. “Am I interrupting anything?”
Christel glanced at her and smiled. “No, not at all.”
She moved over and sat in the chair beside him. “I’ve been thinking about the heist,” she said. “You know, it’s funny, in a few days I’m going to have more gold than I can even think to do anything with, and I’ll be all alone, but that’s okay. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted anyway, gold. I like the colour of it.”
After that they were silent for a moment. Christel didn’t quite know what to say. He had an idea of what he wanted to say, however he still didn’t know how to say it. He found himself feeling eager. Hazel looked at him with eyes that shimmered as if they were waiting for something. She pursed her lips and her face took on an exasperated expression. She sat up straight in her chair. “Oh, Christel, I want you to come home with me, to Eden, I mean.”
Christel felt the butterflies again. “To Eden?” This was all he managed to say.
Hazel continued. “You see, I don’t want to be alone. Not anymore. I just want…” Her voice trailed off in silence as if it had been taken away by some non-existent gust of wind.
Christel couldn’t remember anything being said after that, however he did remember being immaculately aware of Hazel’s lips, and they were soft and sweet as he drew her nearer and nearer, until at last they were about to touch…
Christel opened his eyes slowly and they darted idly around his makeshift bedroom as he remembered just exactly where he was. The very first thing that he found as he turned his head was Devin, glancing briefly at his fog watch.
“You were dreaming about her, weren’t you?” Devin stuffed the watch back in his pocket.
“Shut up,” Christel replied as he rolled over in his blankets.
“Don’t deny it,” Devin continued, “I heard you moaning.”
“I dreamt that I was swimming in a sea of gold, and oh, how wonderful it felt. What time is it? We really ought to get a window in this place.”
“It’s ten o’clock.”
“So late?” Christel sat up. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You were having such a good time, I didn’t want to ruin it. Tell me, are you serious about her?”
“It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Oh? Just like Carley was nothing to worry about?”
Christel gave Devin a confronting glance. “Don’t bring her up.”
“You loved her as well, didn’t you? Carley, that is.”
Christel was silent for a moment. “My mission was also important.”
“And look what happened to her. I cared about her as well, you know.”
Christel stood up, quickly dressed himself, and made for the door. “I don’t have time for this.”
Devin stopped him before he could leave the room. “You can’t have both, Christel. Either Hazel or the gold, but you can’t keep them both. You may try, but she’ll only get hurt… again.”
Christel pushed past Devin and went into the main room. He did try, however there was no denying the undisputable truth within Devin’s words. I can’t have both. Which one do I choose? Hazel or the gold?
The rest of the day progressed on schedule and was surprisingly casual as Christel put on his suit and made his hair all nice. He glanced proudly at his reflection through the mirror on the wall. His blonde hair was combed nicely over to the side of his head and the rest fell over his ears and down the length of his neck. His suit jacket and pants were a matching silvery black colour, and both his buttoned shirt and bow-tie were as white as snow. He wore a pale grey vest over his shirt and under his jacket, the golden chain of his new pocket watch reached across it, and he finished with a golden-yellow handkerchief folded nicely into his breast pocket.
Christel met with Hazel on the way out into the workshop. Her silver-white dress looked as magnificent as ever, just as herself looked as beautiful as ever. Her hair had already been done up with little flowers of orange, green, pink, and blue. She carried her rose mask in her hands. “You look handsome,” she said, as she noticed Christel in a suit for the first time.
“And you’re as beautiful as the stars,” he replied, causing Hazel to blush. He may have blushed as well, he wasn’t sure. He decided to change the subject. “Devin!” he roared.
“Right here!” Devin emerged from the other room.
“Is the carriage ready?”
“It should be here any minute now. I shall accompany you on the way and see that your escape runs smoothly.”771Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡs8ciyNwwrF
Just as he said it, two black horses and a standard old wagon-cart pulled up outside the workshop. All three of them stepped into the carriage that would ultimately be their mode of escape. Christel glanced at Devin across his seat. “I have absolute faith in you.”
The night crept towards them as they travelled through the emptying streets and towards the treasury. The Piae Tovuus stood alone on the very edge of the city, an isolated palace surrounded by a field of the greenest grass that Christel had ever seen. The last rays of the falling sun painted the face of the palace with a loud shade of orange. The white stone roof and marble pillars that towered out the front shone with a particular liveliness that Christel liked – it reminded him of the gold.
The rest of the front of the building was decorated with an extrusive garden full of hedges and flowers of all shapes and sizes. In the centre of the garden was a massive stone water fountain that, when caught by the orange blaze of the setting sun, looked as though it trickled whiskey into the air.
Between the fountain and the steps that led into the building was a thoroughfare where carriages, wagons and chariots paused briefly to let an array of brightly dressed people to make their way inside.
Hazel’s face had adapted a gorgeous expression of awe, she was like a child in a candy shop, and that made Christel smile. They passed the second hedge closest to the house, and that was Christel’s cue. As the people were drawn into those massive doors like moths to a light, Christel slipped from his carriage and faded away to the side of the house. He found the fuse box and attached Devin’s little ‘device’, setting the timer for exactly forty-five minutes. That should be enough time.
Using the crowd to hide his suspicion, he walked under the light of the emerging stars. He found Hazel standing tall and lovely at the top of the stairs, he went to her and she placed her arm around his. When they walked through the glowing doors, it was like strolling into an explosion of golden music, flowing dresses and polite conversations.
In the centre of it all was the dance floor, and people were already swaying in flamboyant circles to the rhythm of the orchestra. To the side was a collection of violins, cellos, flutes, a piano, and kinds of other instruments. Stout waiters in red suits floated around with silver trays topped with drinks and bites to eat. All the rest was just a blinding array of exquisite dresses and masquerade masks.
Christel spotted Mrs Lynn – the woman of the hour – almost immediately. She was drowned in violet purple from top to bottom, and wore a light silky dress with long sleeves that reminded Christel of rain in the evenings sometimes. Her purple mask sprung off her face, bedazzled with sparkling diamonds and flared with springy purple feathers.
Mrs Lynn appeared to be having an elegant conversation with a man who Christel realised to be Garn Pallerii. So you’re the man who murdered Carley. It’ll be a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Garn was dressed in a red suit with black underneath, and a silvery red mask covered only his eyes. The man reminded Christel of a demon, sprung up from hell.
He recognised the rest of the crowd as either politicians or revered businessmen and their wives, many of whom he had stolen from in the past. There was one person who Christel found was a bit odd. The man was slim and he wore a suit very similar to Christel’s own, with a black shirt and black bow-tie. His mask was as black and plain as his hair, and his hair was the same nightly colour of his jacket.
Christel could see in his low stance and alert eyes that the man did not belong in this crowd. If it weren’t for the man’s skin, Christel might have mistaken him for somebody’s shadow. There was a woman with him as well. She was short and wore a flowing green dress that sparkled like the Taegan Valley in the morning. Her two toned hair was tied up above her head and her green mask seemed to draw the colour out of her eyes. Together the couple seemed all right. He wasn’t too sure about the man though. Christel didn’t really care why they were here – he only hoped that they didn’t alter his plan.
The next face that Christel laid eyes upon was perhaps the last face he had ever expected to see at a place such as this. The man wore a simple black suit and a red bow-tie, and his grey-white mask somewhat resembled a wolf. His brown hair had grown longer than what Christel remembered, and his shoulders were wider. Samuel Ford, what on earth are you doing here?
Hazel seemed to notice the slight tension on Christel’s body. “What is it?” he asked.
“Oh dear,” he responded tightly. “That’s Samuel Ford, an old friend of mine.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sam was the leading investigator on the Ariana case. We were… well, very close, but he shouldn’t be a problem if we just keep our distance, besides, I doubt he’ll make a scene in front of all these people.” Christel turned his attention back to Mrs Lynn. “There’s Maryanne,” he pointed with his head, “over by the stairs.”
“I see her.”
“In her pocket, by her hip on the left side of her dress, that’s where her book is. Do you see it?”
Hazel squinted a little. “It’s… it’s hard to see.”
“Do you trust me?” he asked suddenly.
Hazel shrugged, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“That’s good enough. When Maryanne begins to dance, I’m going to ask you to join me on the floor, and then you’re going to steal the book.”
Hazel’s eyes were really bright when she wore that dress. “Okay,” she agreed, “but what do we do while she’s not dancing?”
Christel glanced around curiously, and took a drink from the tray of a passing waiter. He sniffed its fragrance, “hmm, absinthe.”
“Should you really be drinking?”
Christel stopped before the liquor touched his lips. “We have forty minutes to get the book, might as well enjoy ourselves.” He raised the drink to his lips again but someone from behind backed into him and the liquid swished onto the floor.
“Oh, pardon me,” said a stout voice as the man turned around, “it seems this atmosphere has gotten to me already.” He seemed to be a man of at least thirty, and he was really quite plain. “I don’t believe I’ve made your acquaintance. My name is Simon Blackwell.” He offered a think white-gloved hand.
Christel shook it firmly. “Pierce Kuriso,” he used his fake name, “and this is my wife Haley.”
“You are both from Eden?” Simon asked.
“That’s right, my wife and I are gold merchants, among other rarities.”
“Ah, an interesting trade, I must say. No doubt you heard of the robbery at Mrs Lynn’s estate, rumour has it they left everything behind save for her priceless Benezian necklace. She would have worn it tonight, had it not been stolen.”
Is he implying that he knows I was responsible for that robbery?
Christel did not alter his smile. “I’m afraid Benezian does not appeal to me as much. Isn’t that right, dear?” he turned to Hazel.
“Oh, that’s right, gold is all that Pierce really likes, he loves the way it shines and sparkles.”
“Do you like diamonds?” Simon asked, “I hear there’s a promising mine out deep into the Morroak Desert. I bet business will really thrive once the military has cleared away most of the djann.”
Christel knew the place – it was a sanctuary that belonged to the Djann, very sacred and precious to them. “I know the place,” he said lightly.
“Oh, you don’t do business with the djann, do you? There’s something wrong with a man who’d strike a deal with anything a horrid as one of those.”
Suddenly Christel didn’t want to talk with this man anymore. He felt the sudden desire to take Hazel’s hand. Unfortunately for him, Mrs Lynn was still chatting away with some of her guests. Christel turned to Simon briefly, “I do business with whoever has the most gold,” he said brashly. “Please excuse me.”
Christel wrapped his hand around Hazel’s. She seemed to jump at first but then she relaxed. Her hand was warm and soft, and it felt as comforting as the handle of his sword. He met her eyes with his own. “Would you like to dance?”
Hazel didn’t reply, but she followed him to the floor with half an expression of confusion and half of alarm. They swayed gently to the sweet flow of violins, only taking small steps as they moved. Christel finally felt at peace, and when she stared up at him he was drawn helplessly into to the beautiful radiance of her eyes, the rosy pink blushing of her cheeks under her mask, the sweet aroma of her perfume, and the tender warmth of her skin under his hands. But as they shuffled around the floor Hazel’s expression changed to something uncomfortable.
“Christel,” she said, the first word she had spoken since they started dancing, “I have a confession to make.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know how to dance.”
Christel held her hand more gently and tried to urge her along with a laugh. “Don’t worry, it’s easy. Just follow me. Pretend it’s a sword fight.”
Hazel giggled, “If it were a sword fight I’d win.”
Christel leaned back. “You would not. Can you see Mrs Lynn? Has she moved?”
“She hasn’t moved all night.”
Christel left his hand on her hip but reached into his pocket watch. “Dammit, we’re running out of time.”
“Do you have any bright ideas?”
Christel was silent for a moment – he seemed to be thinking about his steps and the sweet rhythm of the music, or a shadow that was hiding somewhere over Hazel’s bare shoulder.
“I got it,” he said, still thinking.
“There’s a man behind you dressed in black,” Christel spun them around so that Hazel was facing the right way, “do you see him?
“Yes. What about him?”
“I’ve noticed him ever since he arrived. He’s no friend of Mr Pallerii, and he’s no noble man either. Do you think he’d be willing to lend us a hand?”
“Would you really trust a man who you don’t even know?” Hazel responded. “What if he sells us out?”
“How do you know that?”
“He’s got that look.”
“My look, even your look sometimes. Can you see it? In his eyes, there’s a shadow hidden away in them.” Christel spun them around again so he could see the man. “I’m going to go talk to him.”
“Please don’t.”771Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡEJnbTXdtam
“Too late.” Christel let go of Hazel and brushed across the dance floor. The shadow man shared a corner with his lady on the outside of the event. They seemed too focused.
Christel walked right up to them. “You look like you could use a drink.”
The man looked bothered by Christel’s presence, but at least from this close Christel could get a good look at him, and decide if he could truly help. The first thing he spotted was a slight bulge in the man’s right sleeve where he probably concealed a weapon. There was another bulge in his jacket where a knife was being held.
“Tell me, do you always bring knifes to formal events, or just the special ones?” The man shot Christel a painstakingly sharp look, and Christel couldn’t help but smile.
“Who are you?” he asked viscously.
“Let’s just say you and I have a grudge against the same person. For someone so dull Mr Pallerii has a strange way of making friends.”
“I have nothing against Mr Pallerii.”
“Oh please, you brought a knife and what looks like a hidden gun to his party and you’ve been watching him like a blood-hound ever since you got here.”
The man let out a surrendering sigh. “Well, if we’ve established that we’re both here on foul intentions, may I ask why you’re here talking to me right now? No doubt you’re a con man or a thief, you reek of stolen money.”
Christel offered another one of his smiles. “I like you. May I ask your name?”
The man returned his smile. “No you may not. Now, why are you here?”
“I’d like you to dance with that beautiful lady over there.” Christel pointed subtly to Hazel, who he realised he had left standing alone like the bright moon against the clouds. “Get her close to Mrs Lynn on the dance floor, and that’s all.”
The man remained puzzled. “Why am I doing all this?”
Christel remained his smile and added a set of bright eyes. “Do you want to see Mr Pallerii burn to the ground?”
The man was still for a moment. “Alright,” he said, “I’ll play your game.”
Hazel felt surprisingly alone when Christel wasn’t with her. This may have been the first time in about a month that he’d left her side. She could see him in the distance speaking to a stranger who she didn’t trust, and now he was leading the man over to her.
Christel stopped rather awkwardly with this shadow-masked man by his side. “Haley, I’d like you to meet… um,”
“Arlandra Knight.” The man took her hand and kissed it, and Christel looked at him with a startled expression.
Christel then turned to her, “I’m going to go charm Mrs Lynn. You know what to do.”
Arlandra Knight, where do I know that name?
Arlandra took Hazel’s hand and again she was dancing to the sweet violins. She had thought that their dance would be clumsy, however Arlandra was surprisingly fluent. Together they fell into the spinning circle of people and she did her best not to slip over. She tried to ignore the man, and as they twirled around and around she maintained her focus on Christel. She had absolutely no idea how he had convinced Mrs Lynn to dance with him, however the old purple lady took his hand and slid feebly over to the floor. Mrs Lynn reminded Hazel of an old spider, ugly and powerful, and venomous.
Arlandra placed his hand on Hazel’s hip and she spun around and around. When she could, she tried to see what the man was thinking. Under his shadowy mask were two vibrant green eyes that were not expressionless, but rather concerned.
Suddenly, as Arlandra released her hip and slightly drew her away with the music, she caught a glimpse of Christel’s assuring eyes. She gathered a few words that Christel was saying to Mrs Lynn, but then in an instant he was gone.
“You are a surprisingly vibrant dancer,” Christel had said, with his wonderful fulfilling smile. Her hand was bony in his and her perfume was far too strong for his liking. She was like an old expensive crow, draped in purple and with puffy feathers reaching off her perilous eyes.
Mrs Lynn returned the gesture with a rich lady’s smile. “I’ve been to hundreds of balls in my years, dear boy, and I danced at every single one of them.”
Christel was hardly listening, but he did his best to look interested. Her voice alone almost put him to sleep, and he immediately desired another drink.
“Might you remind me,” she continued drearily, “what did you say was the name of the company under which you served?”
As the music drove them on, Christel searched for Hazel, who was fast approaching across the floor. Just a few more steps and he would be finished with this lady for good. “It’s a private company. I work best with my own hands. I do believe I sold you a gold statue of Merida just last year.”
Mrs Lynn’s face was blank, “I don’t recall.”
Fluently spinning around, Hazel and Arlandra were almost directly behind him now, and everything was running smoothly. Slowly the sweet watery violin music began to crescendo as the dance came to a climax. Christel caught Hazel’s eye and she bowed her head in agreement.
He took a long step forward, and with a hand under the small of Maryanne’s back he allowed her to gently lean backwards. He looked over to Arlandra and Hazel who were in the same position. Time slowed down, and Hazel’s sweet hands found the pocket in Maryanne’s dress and nimbly slipped the notebook from inside. Both couples pulled back and with one final beat the dance was over.
Hazel and Arlandra walked off and Christel led Maryanne back to where she was before. She seemed quite unimpressed so Christel just smiled through the vulgar dimness in her eyes. “Thank you Mrs Lynn, it was an honour.”
Mrs Lynn looked away mockingly, “huh!” It didn’t matter though, Christel had what he needed, and he could finally be done with that gruesome old woman. He paced rather pleasantly in Hazel’s direction, checking his golden watch as he did. Almost quarter-to-eight, we really have to get moving. Hazel was facing with her back to Maryanne, and she read through the notebook with a spark in her eye.
“Please tell me you have the combination.”
Hazel smiled brightly and showed him a page of the book. “Right here,” she pointed. The combination was a massive stream of numbers, one after the other.
“No wonder she had to write it down.” Christel glanced up at the two guards who were posted at the staircase that led to the upper rooms. “We have about three minutes to get past those guards.”
“Wait, what are you planning to do?” Christel became aware the Arlandra was still with them.
Christel thought for a moment. “Hmm… do you think you could do us one more favour?” There was that look in his eye, the look that always got what it wanted.
“What?” Arlandra asked.
“You and Hazel are going to walk past those two guards over there, Hazel is going to feint, and you are going to make sure they help her.”
Arlandra shrugged, “seems easy enough.”
“Excellent. Let’s go.”
They split up, Hazel and Arlandra walked side by side and Christel moved around to the other side of the stairs. The music was loud and there were people moving everywhere – hopefully he won’t get spotted. Christel watched and listened to Arlandra and Hazel, they were almost directly in front of the guards now.
Then Hazel began to sway; “oh…” she grimaced as she fell softly to the floor. Arlandra caught her and laid her down softly.
The two guards looked uncertain and everyone else was too busy to do anything. Christel was surprised by how well she had pulled it off, and as Arlandra turned his heads to the two guards, Christel was ready to move.
“Are you just going to stand there?” he said impatiently to the two guards. “Help her!”
The guards looked at each other and then stepped forward, leaving their posts. Christel was up the stairs faster than anyone could blink, and quieter than anyone could breathe. With Maryanne’s notebook in hand he left Hazel behind, and flicked open his pocket-watch – there was very little time now.
The upstairs area was disturbingly quiet. It was a series of hallways and rooms, with pale marble walls and a spongy red carpet. Christel could hear his own breathing. He stood close against the wall and peeked around a corner, in time to spot the pale yellow cloak of a guard disappear into one of the rooms. A window at the end of the hall spread a sheet blue light onto the wall – one that Christel immediately recognised it from his planning. The safe room was half way down the hall and to the left, but he had to deal with that guard first. He checked his watch again – ten seconds.
The yellow guard had returned into the hall and Christel stepped out. The guard managed an exasperated gasp before the lights went out and Christel’s watch ticked over seven forty-five. There was a surprised uproar of cries downstairs as all the power shut off. The guard drew his short sword and dashed over to the alarm button near the door, but with the power disabled the alarm didn’t work. The guard immediately swung his sword at Christel’s chest. The thief parried the blow and drove his fist into the guard’s belly before knocking him over the head with the hilt of his sword. The poor man collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
Christel took the guard by the shoulders and dragged him with an effort into the safe room – it wouldn’t help if someone else happened to stroll past and stumble upon a body. The safe room was furnished like all the other rooms, however there was a wall with a door about a meter in from where Christel stood. On the door of the wall were ten evenly placed squares with numbers on them. Christel had never seen a lock system so complex before. Under the light of the moon that seeped in through the windows, Christel punched in the long combination, and when he had finished there was a deep thud, and the door popped open.
At this moment, not a thing in the world could stop him. The inside of the safe was as magnificent as he’d imagined. Everything from shining gold bricks to stunning pieces of jewellery, gold coins, pearls laced into necklaces and bracelets, diamonds, emeralds, rubies – they were all his for the taking.
He took a slow pale step forward as the air rushed from his lungs and there it was, the feeling of being struck by lightning. It was… beautiful. Christel had won.
He shook himself out of the romance that he was in and reminded himself that it wasn’t over yet. Ably, he paced back out into the dark hall and over to the giant blue window. He found the latch and unhooked it so that the glass creaked open. The gap he had created was big enough for two people to fit side by side, and so he leaned out into the cool night, and look down until he spotted the shape of his carriage below. The getaway driver that Devin had hired was waiting patiently in the light of a lantern, and at the sight of Christel he quickly stood up. Christel took a long step backwards as a grapple hook was tossed into the room from below and then dragged across the floor until it caught onto the window. Attached to the bottom of the iron hook was a collection of coarsely woven bags, hopefully more than what they needed.
Christel grabbed the first bag and stormed back into the safe room. He piled as much of the treasure as he could fit into the bag. It wouldn’t be long before someone else came up here. Speaking of, he was expecting Hazel to have joined him by now. After feinting in front of the guards, she had asked if she could be taken somewhere quiet and they led her to a guest room upstairs. She should have joined him by now.
Either way, Christel knew that time was short and there was a lot of gold here, so he carried the first bag out, hooked it to the zip line, and sent it on its way to the carriage. He took the next bag and started to fill it up, starting with the small goods first – diamonds and jewels. He did this again and again to seven more bags, sending them on their way one after another, but all the while Hazel was glued to the front of his mind.
Where are you Hazel? He walked back in and took a handful of bracelets, stuffing them into another bag. If something has happened I can’t go back for you. I mustn’t go back for you. Suddenly there came an old memory of a sweet and tender face, one that would never be seen again. Please don’t do this to me, not again.
He had hooked the next bag up when the lights came flashing back on. A guard strolled heavily around the corner at the other end of the hall and stopped at the sight of Christel. His face sunk into a shimmer of alarm. Damn, Christel cursed.
The guard slammed his hand over the alarm switch and an annoying bell started to trill throughout the building. Within seconds another five guards faced Christel at the end of the hall. I have no choice, if I don’t jump out that window now it’ll all be for nothing.
Christel impulsively drew his sword as the guards advanced, and then amazingly Hazel appeared out of the room to the left.
Christel took Hazel forcefully by the arm and she let out a terrified shriek as he held his blade against her throat. One of the guards raised his gun.
“Don’t do it!” Christel yelled. “One wrong move and I’ll open her throat!” He took a slow step backwards. “Now lay down your weapons and back away slowly.”
The guards looked at each other and then did as he said. Christel felt the slight embrace of Hazel’s hand against his thigh, reaching gently for the holster on his belt. “There’s a guard in the room to your left,” she whispered.
Christel took another slow step back, he could feel the presence of the guard sneaking up on him, and it was close now. Hazel made the first move. She drew the pistol suddenly and, spinning around like a dancer, she fired it blankly into the man’s knee. The other guards rushed for their weapons. A shot went off behind Christel as he turned and leapt for the window, placing a foot on the ledge and falling straight down.
He hit the carriage with a hard with a painful crunch, and the wind was knocked straight out of him. Hazel landed beside him, a little lighter than he did. The driver turned to both of them. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Just go!” Christel cried, wincing at the pain that shot through his left arm. The carriage sped off quickly away from the building.
Hazel sat up, sore as well from the fall, and looked at him with eyes that were tinged with concern but were as bright as the moon. “Are you okay?” she asked, tenderly.
Christel leaned back and closed his eyes, laughing in pain. “That is not how I imagined diving into a pile of gold would feel like.” He laughed, breathless, and Hazel let out her cute little chuckle as well.
Christel sighed with comfortable amusement and was quiet for a few moments. Then a sudden realization brushed over him and his eyes flew open. He looked down at the gold and opened one of the bags with a wide smile stretching across his face. “Hazel, we did it,” he cried, “we pulled it off.”
Hazel laughed and almost fell from the carriage, drunk with victory. “Look at all this gold!” she shouted. “It’s ours, Christel, all ours!”
Christel jumped up. This sensation of joy possessed his body like a wonderful demon. He had won. The pile of riches that lay beneath him was the proof he needed to say that he had avenged Carley, and at last Christel had served his purpose. His eyes glanced over Hazel’s beautiful expression and before he knew it he was kissing her on the lips. It only lasted a brief instance however Christel recognised all of it. Her lips were as warm and soft as the petals on a flower, and her embrace was welcoming and sincere. She jumped a little at first, and Christel could feel her confusion, but she did not pull away. When it was over they could not meet each other’s eyes, and Christel noticed Hazel had a shining lace of diamonds clenched in her fist. She was looking at them as if they knew her name. He took a breath as if to say something, but no words came out, so instead he hailed their driver. “How long till we reach the harbour?” He asked in a desperate attempt to change the subject.
“Round about ten minutes, I’d say.”
“Quicken your pace and get us there sooner, it won’t do us any good if we’re caught.”771Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡilex5fCzEx
The driver bowed his head, “as you command.”
The harbour was a dark and musky place, and the ocean that stretched forever onwards was even darker. The carriage approached a dock where a nimble little steamboat and a figure waited patiently. Christel jumped from the carriage and approached as the figure removed his cloak, revealing Devin’s narrow dusty face. “Please tell me that carriage is creaking because of all the gold you have there.”
“Oh, we have more than just gold,” Christel said, rich with joy. “Jewels, coins, diamonds, it’s all here.”
Devin mouth twisted into a naughty smile. “Christel my friend, you almost make this look too easy.”771Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡk33zp55Oxn
“You’d be surprised.” Christel offered to help Hazel down from the carriage, but she jumped down on her own.
Devin pointed his head towards the boat. “Annabelle has the boat ready to go when we are.”
“Oh good, I hope you brought drinks, Devin, I believe celebrations are in order.”
“I saved the best of your cellar for tonight.”
Christel smiled a bleak smile. He certainly did need a drink.ns 18.104.22.168da2