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The Never King: Chapter 5

WINNIE

I can’t remember the last time I had a meal cooked from scratch.

My mother has never been a cook and certainly never had the ambition to learn how.

One of my babysitters took me to a diner once and let me order pancakes and it was the first time I’d ever had them and when I told her that, she didn’t believe me.

“How can you never have had pancakes?” she asked, forgetting that I had a mad mother and that if I needed something, I had to do it myself.

I devoured the entire plate of food and paid dearly for it that afternoon.

Bash’s pancakes are fluffy in the center, crispy on the edges. The syrup is sweet and the cloudberries—I thought my mom was making them up, but they’re so good. Like strawberries with a citrus tang to them.

I take another bite while the girl, Cherry, sits next to me. “Are there any pancakes left?” she asks.

“No,” Bash answers.

Cherry’s expression turns to immediate disappointment. She’s freckled with auburn hair and big eyes that are a touch too close together. There’s something about her that reminds me of a bubble on the verge of popping.

But I’m glad to see another woman here.

Mom only ever talked about Pan.

And she certainly never talked about the Lost Boys.

I don’t think Cherry is a force to be reckoned with, but she’s clearly desperate to be liked. I can use that to my advantage in a place like this.

“You can have some of mine.” I slide my plate toward her.

“Really?” She looks like she doesn’t believe me.

“Of course. I don’t need them all.”

“I beg to differ,” Bash says. There’s a hardness to his face now. “You’re just skin and bones,” he adds.

I swallow and tuck the folds of my sweater in around my body as if I can hide it and all of its imperfections.

He’s not wrong. When you’re poor and your mother is insane, your fridge is always lacking and your stomach always empty. You get used to it, though. The constant gnawing of hunger. Some days starving is the most real thing I feel.

“If I eat that entire plate,” I tell him, “I’ll be sick.”

Kas gets up. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” he says to his twin.

Bash’s gaze lingers on me before he finally leaves the room following in his brother’s wake.

I woke up chained to a bed—are they not worried I’ll try to run? Vane made it clear that it was a very bad idea.

But what comes after this?

What are they looking for?

“So,” I say, turning to Cherry. She’s devoured half the stack of pancakes and slows once my attention is on her. “Tell me what I need to know about this place. About those boys.”

She winces. “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”

“Why not?”

She swallows hard, bites her lip again. “It’s…complicated.”

“Did they take you too?” I ask.

“No.” She shakes her head as if to prove the point. “I came of my own free will.” There’s pride in that statement.

“From where?”

“The other side of the island.”

If she chose to come here, maybe they aren’t as bad as I thought.

Maybe it’s just Pan I have to worry about.

Well…and maybe Vane.

“Do you know what they’re looking for?”

She slides the plate back to me. Her expression has sobered, the light dimming from her eyes. “The Lost Boys are older than they look. And Pan is much, much older. Older than me. Whatever happened, it was before my time.”

“But what does that mean? What happened?”

The twins come back into the room. Bash snaps his fingers at Cherry and she quickly scurries away.

“Finish up, Darling,” Kas says.

“Why?”

There’s a double door on the far end of the kitchen with a balcony beyond it and the ocean beyond that. Bash goes to it and looks out.

The sun is setting. There are no clocks here so I have no idea what time it is. Sunset at home is around eight p.m. but for some reason, it feels later here. Maybe it’s the tropical air.

“Because Pan will be up soon,” Bash says to the door. “And he’ll want to see you.”

A shiver rolls down my spine.

I get a flash of the myth in my mind, the dark stranger that came to my house last night and stole me away, just like my mom said he would.

The guilt comes back. I never believed her.

I should have.


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