Welcome to Monday, adventurers! Yeah, so this adventure is fictional, but at least it’s more thrilling than facing down the crazies in the mall parking lot, or a dead week at work while everyone else is on vacation (unless you’re in retail, and in that case, my sincere apologies), right? So last week, Dace is still dead, y’all weren’t able to break your father out of his coma, you got busted by your (maybe evil?) stepmother, and now you and Eli are on the run from the wizard cops. By a clear margin, you voted to test your novice wizard skills — not with the time-traveling Unknowable Spell, but with A.  Attempt an apparition spell to get you and Eli to another location, far away.

So, why don’t we see how that’s working out for you?

Chapter 15: Blow Me To Bermuda!

You raise your wand and take a deep breath, but Eli grabs your arm. “Tabs, NO,” he orders. “NO time travel.”

“How did you even — oh, right. Get OUT of my head, Eli.” With all the crazy, you’d let your mental defenses drop. Dammit, time travel would have been SO much cooler, you can’t help but think. “Fine. Let’s go. Any ideas?” You grab his hand, since disjunctive apparation is totally beyond your skill. “The school?”

“The cops probably already have it surrounded. No, we need to go someplace –“

Whatever he was about to say is drowned out by shouts and pounding footsteps as the MOAT (Magical Operations and Tactics) team closed in on your position. Shit. They were good. You close your eyes, hold your breath and squeeze Eli’s hand. Safe. Remote. Unexpected. The image of a whirling portal comes into your head, and you jump.

*  *  *

WHAM. You hit the ground hard, then there’s a horrible crunching sound and you’re falling again. The second WHAM is even whammier, flat into brittle, poky rock.

Shaking, you open your eyes. Head, hands, feet — all present and all seem to belong to you. You look at Eli in the dim red light, and although he slumps to the ground the moment you let go of his hand, he’s got all his parts, too. That you can see, anyway. That thought makes you blush.

“Um. Eli? Are you ok?” Apparating isn’t very pleasant if you’re not used to it, and it’s particularly hard on piggybackers, or those who can’t apparate and have to jump with a wizard. But Eli’s stopped shaking, and isn’t on the ground anymore, but leans against the rough stone wall. It looks like you’re in a cave.

“Tabs, where are we?” Eli asks.

“Um, I’m not sure? It smells funny, like rotten eggs or sulphur or something. And that light — where’s it coming from? It’s so hot. I thought Iceland was supposed to be cold!”

“Iceland?!” Eli squeaks. You have to try not to laugh — it’s so funny hearing such a high-pitched noise come from such a well-built manchild. “You brought us to ICELAND?”

“Um, hello, not much help over there. First of all, it’s remote and totally unexpected. You didn’t expect it, did you? Second, it was the first thing that popped into my head. Those crazy MOAT guys were almost on us, you know. If you have any better suggestions, be my guest.”

“Iceland’s brilliant, Tabs. What’s NOT brilliant is being inside a freaking volcano. We have to find our way to the surface, and fast.”

“No problem, I’ll just apparate us out,” you shoot back. Do you have to do ALL the thinking around here? You know there was something about volcanoes in that “Wizarding and the Natural World” seminar you took last January, but you can’t quite put your finger on it … Then it hits you. A VOLCANO. “Did you just say VOLCANO? We can’t apparate out of a volcano! Something about the way the igneous rock conducts magic and turns it back on itself. We must have apparated onto a weak spot of ground above the volcano and fallen in or something. We have to find a way to climb back out!”

You run down the tunnel, but only get a few yards before you skid to a stop inches from a chasm. Eli’s right behind you, and you both turn back to try the other direction, but no dice. That way ends in a sharp drop into a boiling magma pool. Eli scrabbles at the sheer rock face he was just leaning against, but it crumbles away under his touch.

“Tabs,” Eli turns to you. “I don’t think — I mean, it looks like –” he trails off.

“Trapped. I know. I’m — I’m sorry.” You choke back tears, your voice is ragged.

“I never meant for things to end up this way.” He sounds raspy, thanks to the fumes that are making you lightheaded. It’d be sexy if you weren’t trapped in a volatile Icelandic volcano.

“Me neither.” Suddenly, you’re filled with heat, and it’s not just from the thousand-plus-degree molten rock threatening to extinguish your life. You realize you’re holding onto Eli’s shirt, and he’s trembling. If there was ever an inappropriate time for kissing, now would be it. But then again, if we’re going to die anyway, maybe this is the best time for kissing. You pull him closer and touch your lips to his. He responds instantly, hungrily, and pulls you down on the ground. His hands fumble with the straps of your sundress, and you’re surprised to discover yours are already caressing his smooth chest underneath his shirt. Moaning slightly, you shift a little on the scratchy rock, and with your teeth, lightly graze that place where his neck meets his shoulders, muscular in contrast with the hollow above his collarbone. The spaghetti straps break in Eli’s hands, and he pulls away.

“Oh, Gods. Tabitha, wait. This is the worst time to be doing this.”

“No, Eli. Eli, please. I don’t want to die a virgin.” Tears sting your eyes, and you suddenly feel so overwhelmed. Your whole life isn’t exactly flashing before your eyes, but you can’t turn off the pictures of your father lying next to Dace — lifeless Dace — on the floor, of your not-mother’s cruel face twisted in glee, of Dace with another boy, of all those times you knew how tenuous your social position really was. Struggling to keep from begging, you look hard into Eli’s dark green eyes. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, but now it’s too late. Please. I love you.”

Eli doesn’t answer, at least not in words, but his eyes darken and he crushes your lips with his. The stubble starting on his face scratches your chin, but you don’t care. All you can think about is kissing him back, getting as close as you can. Suddenly even your thin clothes are too much space between your bodies, and you break away long enough to pull them off. You swallow a bitter laugh when you fleetingly wonder if Eli has a condom, then realize you don’t exactly need one now. His skin, usually the cool of granite or shady grass like most necromancers’ skin, is burning hot. So smooth against your own skin, and you can’t stop running your hands over him — down his strong back, feeling every little scar from Gainschwitz, and over his butt. Good lord, that towel earlier really was a crime against humanity. You wrap your legs around him, kissing his lips, his neck, his shoulders, and you’re dimly aware of a deep rumble. Eli pins your hands to the ground beside your head and you feel the stone beneath you shaking, but Eli’s body is pressing against yours and even though there’s pain, you can only think, “More.” He pulls his head back a little to look at your face, and then, it’s crazy but he smiles. Smiles a wide, wild, dimpled grin, and your heart flips and he whispers, “I love you, too.” You almost can’t hear it — the rumbling is getting louder and louder and you can’t tell if the heat blooming in your body is coming from the volcanic rocks or from inside you and …

An active volcano spewing lava

…then the rock under your back splits open and you both plunge, entwined, into the white-hot magma below.

Whoops! You’re dead! Luckily, you don’t have to be a wizard to turn back time in CYOA. Using a random number generator, you get to turn back to this chapter and choose again! Dace is aiming a killing spell, but you don’t know if it’s at your dad or at Eli. Last time you chose “C: Cast a stun spell at Dace. And hope it hits him before he finishes his killing curse,” so that one’s off the table. Choose wisely, adventurers!

This time, do you:

A. Cast a blocking spell to save your dad. And hope the curse wasn’t aimed at Eli.

B. Cast a blocking spell to save Eli. And hope the curse wasn’t aimed at your dad.

C. Wait just one second to see which direction Dace’s curse is headed, and fling yourself in its path. Maybe since you’re already dead you can stop a killing curse.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.