“You can do this, Claudia. Trust yourself.”

But I didn’t. I couldn’t see any auras at all. It was all darkness ahead.

I moved the flashlight around, trying to see anything else, and then I realized I was an idiot. I couldn’t see anything past the beam of light.

I clicked it off. Once the glare was gone, I could see a faint glow somewhere ahead. “To the right.” I clicked the flashlight back on, and Lucas hit the lever for the right tunnel.

“Good work.”

I breathed out a sigh. “Thanks.”

The next hour was more of the same. We moved from tunnel to tunnel, taking twists and turns. Then our cart started picking up speed as we went down a hill.

We hit a bump and gained some air. My feet landed on the cart floor with a jarring thud. “Slow it down. You’re going too fast.”

“I know,” Lucas said.

A dip was coming up ahead of us—at least I hoped it was a dip. The closer we got, it looked like it was more drop-off than dip. I couldn’t see any tracks beyond it.

Oh my God. The tracks were ending. We were going to fall. And who knew how far down we’d fall. It could be miles.

We could die.

I grabbed Lucas’ arm. “Lucas.”

“I see it.”

“See what? The tracks freaking disappear!” My fingers dug into his skin. “Lucas! Stop the car. Now. Right now. We’re going too fast and that dip is way too sharp. We’ll fly off the track.”

“I know. The brake is broken, and we’re going too fast to jump.”

A cold sweat broke out across my brow. “You didn’t check the brake?” Why hadn’t I thought to check the brake?

“No. I didn’t check the brake.”

We sped closer and I finally got a good look. The dark spot ahead was a giant cave. The tracks ended over the yawning hole. “Oh my God. We’re going to die.” I griped him tighter, bracing for whatever impact we were headed for.

Gobble screeched and dug his nails into my shoulder. Then he let go, flitting off. Leaving us both to our fate.

I huddled down in the bottom of the cart, hoping for something to hold on to, but there was nothing.

“Hold on to me.” Lucas threw his body over mine, as we fell down. I wrapped my arms and legs around him as I screamed so loud my throat ached. And then I screamed some more.

It felt like we fell forever before we hit the ground. Somehow Lucas timed it, exchanging our positions so I landed on top of him. He grunted as we hit the bottom of the cave, but he didn’t make another noise.

Our breaths still came fast as the cart slowed down. But we were alive.

I pulled back enough to see Lucas’ face. “Are you okay?” I asked as I cupped his cheek in my hand.

Lucas leaned into my touch. “I’ve survived much worse,” he said as he wrapped my braid around his hand, and then raised his mouth to meet mine.

At first, the kiss was a soft brush of lips, but it slowly turned into more. My body heated, and I tightened my arms around him. He felt safe. Good. And I wanted more. His tongue touched mine, and I moaned, unable to stop myself. And not caring in the least. He growled, and twisted my braid tighter, as he devoured me. I ran my hand under the back of his shirt, and his muscles tightened. I wanted to be closer, but—

Gobble’s tiny hand swatted my cheek. “Stop messing about and look around.”

I pulled away from Lucas, completely out of breath. I’d only been kissed once before and it didn’t count. Not really. Daniel and I had been bored and I wanted to know what it was like.

The thing about growing up with everyone on the compound was that they all started to feel like family.

But Lucas, he was an unknown. Someone new. And it wasn’t just the newness that was affecting me. It was everything about him. Even with all the reasons I had to pull away, I couldn’t stop my feelings from growing.

I stared at him, not knowing what to do or say as he quietly watched me. And then I started laughing.

I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the ridiculousness of the situation. I’d thought I was going to die. Then I was kissing the hottest guy I’d ever seen. The guy I wanted more than anything, who was slowly becoming everything to me. It was absurd, but I would’ve kept kissing him if not for the creepy little Tinkerbell hitting me.

Yes. Absurd was the right word. My life had taken a turn for the completely absurd.

Using the lip of the cart, I slowly hoisted myself up and Lucas followed suit. I started to climb out, but he stopped me, grabbing my hand. He moved his other hand to my cheek and slid his thumb along my skin.