This chapter is dedicated to Sergeant Wallaby here on Wattpad, for being such a great supporter of this book. Thanks, SW!
It's also got some STEAM in it, so get fans and smelling salts ready... *wink*
The next night was Monday, the night of the Season Opener party at the Airship Club. The theater hired a whole fleet of carriages to transport the eighth year apprentices and most of the Guild members to the city-wide party. It wasn’t just for fun, though. In a few months, all the final-year apprentices would be looking for jobs, so we needed to network with the other theaters. Nadine had assured me she would make certain I was hired by the Alchemy Empire Theater, but no one else had any such promise.
Thea and I arrived, looking our best—which was nothing compared to the stylishness of the Guild women. But I thought for apprentices, we looked pretty steamy. Thea had bought both our outfits on sale using the most recent guilt money her parents sent for neglecting her.
Her ensemble was a vivid blue taffeta fishtail skirt that molded to all her curves before draping in ruffles on the floor, with a black leather corset that gave her some killer cleavage and black elbow-length gloves.
I also had black opera gloves. But I wore a knee-length black and red striped bustle skirt and a matching ruffle shrug over a black satin corset. I liked it because it made me look like I actually had curves. But not even the corset could give me cleavage like Thea’s. I still couldn’t believe she didn’t see how gorgeous she was.
We exited the carriage in front of the Airship Club and were quickly surrounded by fellow apprentices that Thea had invited to hang out with us for the evening. The other girls cooed over our outfits, and we responded with squeals over theirs. The boys looked pretty fine as well in their frock coats, dress trousers, and brightly-colored vests. Thea and I both craned our necks looking for Raymond.
I would never have admitted it, but I was also looking for Dietrich.
“I found Raymond.” Thea clutched my arm, her voice humming with excitement. Parties were where she came alive.
I followed her gaze and saw Raymond leaning against the brick wall to the left of the Airship Club’s main entrance.
My heart stumbled when I saw him looking so elegant, so steamy. His frock coat was closely fitted, and in a dark color I thought might be a black-brown. It had an arching collar but no lapel, just military style hooks criss-crossing the front in antiqued brass. It contrasted darkly with his golden-red hair, swooped smoothly off his face. His trousers matched the jacket in color, and he had opted for a creamy white waistcoat, high collared shirt, and intricately wrapped and tied cravat.
When he saw us, he shoved away from the wall and tipped his top hat with a darkly-gloved hand. The other hand was hidden behind his back. “Good evening, ladies,” he said, sauntering toward us.
“Nice!” Thea said under her breath.
“Definitely,” I murmured back to her. Then to him, “Good evening, Mr. Carrew.”
We both curtseyed to him, and he bowed in return. From behind his back, he produced two long-stem pink roses. He gave one to each of us. “Not as beautiful as either of you, but pretty enough,” he said, nodding at the blooms.
“That’s so sweet, Raymond, thank you!” Thea brought the flower to her nose and breathed deeply.
I caught Raymond’s gaze and let my eyes express my thanks. I was suddenly tongue-tied, and my pulse quickened when he scanned my figure and then winked at me.
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