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But when I get to the foyer, I see that I’m already too late. Seb’s helmet and robe are hanging up on the hat stand by the door, and Seb and Isabel?
Are nowhere in sight.
Chapter 20
I try Isabel’s phone, but there’s no answer. And then I pull up my Facebook app and start messaging her.
Still nothing.
In fact, I almost think she’s purposely ignoring me, which is very much not okay and a sacred violation of our friendship, which I plan on informing her of as soon as I freaking find her.
Which, I realize, means finding Seb.
The palace is a confusing warren of halls and rooms, smaller than Sherbourne Castle, plus there’s the added issue of parts of it being open to tourists and other parts private and for family only.
I know I’m technically “family” now, but I still feel funny creeping the halls of the palace, ducking in rooms, looking for Seb and my best friend. My best friend, whose rights to that title might be stripped if she doesn’t turn up soon.
It’s actually kind of a relief when I run into Spiffy—or Dons (I still have trouble telling them apart)—on one of the staircases.
“Hey . . . you!” I say, trying to seem normal and not at all freaked out. Spiffy-or-Dons stops, grinning at me, hands in his pockets. He’s dressed like a banker in his forties—polo shirt, khakis, shiny shoes—rather than a teenage boy, and I wonder if Miles is the only one of them who ever manages to look semi-normal.
“Lady Daze,” Spiffy-or-Dons says, and, great, apparently I have a nickname, too. How does anyone know who people are talking about around here? “Getting the lay of the land?”
“Kind of,” I reply, resting my hand on the banister. “You haven’t seen Seb, have you? Possibly with a girl?”
It’s the strangest thing, but I can actually see Spiffy-or-Dons shut down. Like a door closing in his face or something.
“Can’t say I have,” he replies, and I know he’s lying.
I press harder. “It’s just my friend Isabel might be with him, and we had plans for tonight. With her parents.”
That part is a lie—Isa’s parents are still in London, coming up tomorrow afternoon—but I’m hoping that invoking parental authority will rattle him a bit.
Doesn’t work.
He shakes his head again and gives me the fakest apologetic look I’ve ever seen. “Maybe she went back to the hotel,” he suggests.
I smile at him. Or grit my teeth, more likely. “Maybe,” I say, but I am pretty sure that’s not the case. Where could Seb have taken her?
And then I realize who might know.
And who would have a vested interest in preventing any scandal involving Seb.
“Is Miles around?” I ask.
Spiffy-or-Dons grins. “Thought something might be afoot there,” he says, then literally nudges me in the ribs with his elbow and winks.
I shake my head. “Ew, no.”
Spiffy—it is Spiffy, I’m pretty sure now—rocks back on his heels, face falling. “Ew?” he echoes. “Monters is really the least ew of all of us, I feel.”
I smile in spite of myself at that but reach out and grab his forearm. “Spiffy. Focus. Where is Miles?”
It turns out Miles has a flat—his own, which is crazy to me—not far from the palace, and within a few minutes, I’m in the back of one of the palace’s fleet of cars, heading for the part of Edinburgh called “New Town.” The fact that it was built in the eighteenth century is apparently enough to make it “new” around here.
“Should I wait here, miss?” the driver asks, and I nod, barely thinking about how weird it is to have a driver, to have him waiting for me.
I guess you get used to those things pretty quickly.
Miles’s door is painted deep blue, and there’s no buzzer, so I just knock, hoping he’ll be home and that he might know where Seb has taken Isa.
And sure enough, after just a few seconds, I hear footsteps coming, and then Miles is there, back in his regular uniform of jeans and a T-shirt, clearly puzzled to find me on his doorstep.
“I need a list of every den of iniquity in the city of Edinburgh,” I blurt out.
Miles stares at me for a moment before blinking owlishly. “I . . . don’t have a list like that?” He thinks for a second, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck. “Although I really wish I did now.”
I roll my eyes, and he ushers me in. It’s unsurprisingly adult and stuffy. Heavy leather furniture, lots of wood, books. There are two pairs of shoes lined up just inside the front door, and as I look at them, I realize they both have cedar shoe trees inside them.
Shoe trees. What teenage boy even knows what those are, much less uses them?
But then I remember I’m here on a mission, and I don’t have time to marvel at how Miles might be a time traveler from 1812. Instead, I follow him into the living room and, as quickly as I can, tell him about what happened back at the bookstore, then the palace. By the time I’m done, Miles has his arms folded over his chest, his brow creased. “Okay, so your friend is visiting from America, and her boyfriend just chucked her.”
“If ‘chucked’ means ‘dumped,’ then yes, that’s what happened,” I say, leaning on the arm of his couch, and dear god. How did they even make leather that soft? I refrain from stroking the couch while Miles turns to walk back toward the bar separating the living room from the kitchen. “And now your friend is out with Seb—where, by your own admission, she wants to be—and you want us to go . . . rescue her?” He picks up a bottle of water, twisting off the cap and frowning at me. “From what exactly?”
I throw my hands up. “From Seb, obviously. Isn’t that your whole deal?”
He’s still looking at me, fiddling with the water bottle.
“What?” I ask.
“I’m just not clear on why she needs rescuing if she’s with Seb by choice. Look, he can be a complete tosser, I know.” He blows out a long breath. “Trust me, I know. But . . . Seb doesn’t exactly have to kidnap women. Young ladies who choose to spend an evening with him do so quite willingly.”
I stare at him. “Okay, what?”
“What?” he replies, but his eyes slide away from mine.
“Don’t what my what,” I tell him, crossing one foot in front of the other. “I what-ed first, and you know what I was what-ing about.”
Miles does that pressed-lips thing again, and when he doesn’t answer, I go on. “You freaked the freak out about me with Seb, but now that I tell you my friend is off with him, you’re all, ‘Oh, no big, that’s just Seb’?” I stare him down. “That’s what I’m what-ing.”
Miles waves his hands, one still wrapped around his bottle of water. “It was different,” he says, and I tilt my head.
“Because it was me,” I say. “Because . . . of Ellie? Of me personally?”
“Because of a lot of things,” he says, but then, before I can get to the bottom of that, he adds, “The point is, I don’t understand why your friend needs rescuing unless you think Seb kidnapped her, which would be a bit much, even for him.”
Frustrated, I shake my head. “No, she totally went with him willingly, it’s not that, it’s just . . . she’s not making good choices, and as her friend, it’s my job to save her from those bad choices if I can.” I fix Miles with a look. “Something tells me you of all people can understand that.”