he leans forward and taps a finger on the dark lines on the map. “My point, Tarzan, is that this”—he jabs the same spot a couple of times—“is a cliff, and a damn high one.”
“No shit.” Like the diplomatic professional I am, I decide to ignore the Tarzan dig for the moment while my blush dissipates. I take a bite of the quinoa-veggie casserole on my plate. Despite the fact that the mixture looks like something you’d dig out of a compost heap, it’s delicious.
The expression in Sebastian’s creepy light eyes tells me he thinks my proposed route is insane.
I smile sweetly at him. “We’re allowed to carry whatever gear we want. I brought everything we need. We’ll rappel down.”
His lips press together into a tense line. I wonder if he has ever rappelled before.
Full disclosure: I personally have never rappelled off a cliff in the middle of a race before. But I knew this was a mountainous island, and my colleague Sabrina and I have been practicing off the roof of the giraffe barn at the zoo.
He taps the map again with his index finger. “That’s a river at the bottom.”
“No shit again. That’s why my line goes west there—to account for the float downstream. You can swim, can’t you?”
He ignores my question and asks, “How long do you plan to carry the extra gear?”
“It’s only about four pounds each. We’ll carry it as long as we need it.” We both know that every pound could slow us down, but once you leave anything behind, you can’t go back and get it. An endurance race is sort of like a video game that way.
“They said to avoid the water.”
He’s talking about the vid we all had to watch yesterday about the potential dangers on Verde Island. I was so busy fighting jet lag that I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I remember a mention of a lone female tiger, which—being me—I thought was terribly sad. Oh, and a remark about pythons. “They said it was best to avoid swamps. This is a river.”
He licks his lips and takes a sip of his own smoothie before saying, “We could die.”
I lock eyes with him. His are not solid green. Little burnt orange and gold flecks accent his irises. In my imagination, I see other eyes, the scorching black-coffee irises of Shadow’s jealous glare, and the bottomless amber wells of my friend Bailey.
I have to get that mil for him. I can’t bear to think of any other outcome.
“We could win,” I tell Sebastian.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish