Chapter 69

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I sprint after Cupid down the tunnel; my heart is pounding hard against my chest.

The screech of the walls against the stone floor fills my ears. The smooth metal is so close to me now that my sides ram against it as I stumble forwards. My leg muscles are screaming with the effort and my breathing is hard and fast.

We're getting closer to the window at the end – but it's still a good fifty metres away. It gets narrower as the walls on either side get closer.

Panic fills me.

I'm not sure I can make it.

Cupid is ahead, his strong legs propelling him forwards.

Twenty metres to go.

He glances over his shoulder as he reaches the end of the tunnel. The walls are now almost touching me.

"Lila" he shouts.

I'm almost there.

With a spurt of strength I thrust myself forwards. I can hardly breathe – the air is close and I have a stitch in my side.

Five metres to go.

The tunnel walls are almost closed in on Cupid's broad frame. With a screaming effort he twists his shoulder around and grabs my arm so hard that I feel a harsh jolt in my shoulder.

He pulls me forward and together we burst forwards through the end of the corridor, our sides scraping against the narrow edges as it clamps shut behind us. For a moment we find ourselves falling through the air.

Then pain spurts through my body as we hit the floor hard, a crumpled heap of arms and legs on the ground.

Cupid groans as I disentangle myself from his body. He rolls onto his back then pushes himself up so he's leaning on his elbows. He finds me with his eyes as I kneel on the floor beside him, trying to catch my breath.

"Pandora's box" he says, rolling his eyes "Of course. I should have guessed there would be some claustrophobic element to her Sim. Are you OK?"

I nod, glancing down at my body; the agent's suit I'm wearing is covered with a thick layer of dust and rubble. I brush down my arms then I look around us.

We're in a small, square room. Dark shadows flicker about the space, created by flamed torches. They make the eerie carvings in the stone walls seem like they're moving. I try to make them out in the dim light; there's a strange, horned goat like creature on one side and what looks like a human heart carved into the other.

Across the room is a metal door. In ancient calligraphy I notice the letter L imprinted into its surface. Around the frame the numbers one to seven are repeated in flourished carvings.

What do they mean?

I remember Cupid saying something earlier about Pandora keeping sins in her box.

Seven sins?

As I'm surveying the space, a metallic gleam catches my eye and I look upwards to see the closed tunnel by the ceiling that we just fell from. I feel a wave of relief – if we were just seconds slower we would have been crushed.

I turn back to Cupid who is still casually propped up by his elbows on the ground. I wonder why he hasn't got up yet. His gaze catches mine and he holds it.

I notice the cotton shirt beneath his leather jacket is damp with sweat, and clings to his body.

Even though I know we should move on through the L marked door – I feel strangely unable to move as I kneel beside Cupid. I can feel heat radiating from him.

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