Perched on the balls of my feet, I wriggled my skirt farther down my thighs and mentally scolded myself for not dressing for this covert operation. “Can you hear anything?”
Squatted beside me, Aubrey blew a stray lock of hair—which had slipped free from her messy bun—out of her face. “Nothing over the flapping wings of my last shred of dignity fluttering away.”
“Stop complaining.” Brushing mulch from my palms, I peeked over the three-foot shrub in hopes of getting a glimpse of Matthew and Greta. Lurking around the castle made it easy to listen in on them undetected … until they wandered into the hedge maze. Our only logical plan—and I’m playing it fast and loose on the use of that word—was to follow them in and crouch out of sight. “As my best friend, you are required to love me and commit senseless acts alongside me in support of my lunacy. It was in the fine print of our friendship clause.”
Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, Aubrey tried to find a more comfortable way to maintain her hunkered posture. “I’m kneeling in foliage and lack the know-how to pick poison ivy out of a lineup of daisies. I think we need to take a second to appreciate the level of love actually happening here.”
“Shh!” I stabbed my finger to her lips to hush her, only to have her swat my hand away. “They’re coming this way! Go! Around that bend! Go-go-go-go!”
“Working the quads, and the bum,” Aubrey quietly coached herself, leading us in a duck-waddle to a more concealed spot. “You know, if they had one of those tall mazes like in The Shining we could stroll around at a leisurely pace. What we have here is a lack of proper shrubbery.”
“Talk less and shuffle faster!” I goaded in an urgent hiss, Mateo’s voice swelling behind me.
Exactly what he was saying couldn’t be deciphered over the crunches of twigs and bark under our hurried steps. Toddling around the corner, I slammed into Aubrey’s back when she came to an abrupt stop.
Rocking back and forth, she turned to face me, alarm stitching her eyebrows tight to her hairline. “It’s a dead-end!”
“What do you mean dead-end? Find a way out!”
“I don’t think you’re understanding the concept of a dead-end. There is no way out.”
Shoving my way around her, I wobbled on cramping legs to investigate for myself. I pressed my palms into the manicured greenery, ignoring the branches scratching against my skin in my desperate search for a hidden passage. “Why would they block the exit?”
“Because it’s a maze?” Aubrey offered, glancing over her shoulder at the lighthearted lilt of Greta’s laughter riding in on a breeze.
Spinning around as fast as I could totter, I grabbed her hand in both of mine and squeezed hard enough to make her wince. “They can’t find us here! I am not meeting the possible future Mrs. Greta Cruz Queen of the World after popping out of a bush like a friggin’ jack-in-the-box!”
Aubrey pressed her lips into a thin line, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle. “There’s a chance you’re overreacting.”
“Wh-what? I-I—” I stammered in full huff.
“Well said,” Aubrey replied with a sympathetic nod, keeping her tone calm and soothing. “If I may offer a counter point? These hedges are literally the height of a toddler. I could stand up, and find us a way out.”
“No!” Pulling her hand down to the ground, I rooted it there with me. “They can’t find us here! Please, don’t let them find us!”
“I think you’re confusing me with your other best friend that can harness the power of invisibility.”