Chapter 15

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The ride to Lucy Davies’ house was a quiet one. I was never totally comfortable with the confines of a carriage. Being shut into one full of presul magic—even that of a delicious-looking presul—put me on edge. I think Dietrich sensed it. He sat as far away from me as he could and watched out the window without speaking the entire trip. It was too bad—I had heard from other girls the sort of lovely adventures one could have with a fellow in an enclosed carriage.

Lucy Davies lived in a tall, narrow row house made of brick in a comfortable, but clearly working-class, neighborhood only a few miles from the Airship Club. When the carriage pulled up in front, Dietrich helped me down. I felt his eyes on me, checking to make sure I wasn’t too unsettled from the ride. I tried to reassure him with a cheerful smile. 

The walk was not well-lit, but the moon was nearly full. We climbed the three steps to the front stoop, and Dietrich rang the bell. A maid answered the door, and soon a friendly-looking woman of about forty appeared in the entry. She had soft, dark blond hair put up in a simple bun, and she wore a leather work apron over a beige muslin gown.  

“Dietrich!” She held out her arms to hug him. She was tall—almost Thea’s height.

He embraced her tightly. “Good evening, Auntie Lu.” 

She pulled back and surveyed him. “My goodness, you look deliciously sinful.” 

“Lu!” he protested, his face reddening. “You are absolutely not allowed to look at me like that.” Laughter brightened his words.

She put her hands on her hips, and gave him a wicked little grin. “I’m old enough to have earned the right to look at you any way I want.” Then her face fell. “Unless you really dislike it.”

He laughed even harder. I’d never seen him so light-hearted. He put his arm around her shoulder and tucked her against him. “No, no. If you’re going to play the cougar, auntie, you have to own it. No wavering.” 

She peeked over at me. “Oh, you brought a guest.” She gave him a calculating stare. “A female guest.”

“Your powers of observation are sharp as ever, I see.”

She made a face at him, then held out her hand to me. “I’m Lucy Davies. Welcome.”

Davies. The healer who adopted Dietrich’s sister. I shook her hand. “Claire Mellor, Mrs. Davies. I’m one of Dietrich’s apprentices at the theater.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Let’s not stand on formality. I’m unmarried. And any friend of Dietrich may call me Auntie Lu.”

I grinned. “Then you must call me Minx, as everyone else does.”

She scanned my outfit. “You two came from a party?”

“The Season Opener at the Airship Club,” Dietrich said.

“Sounds very posh. This must be quite the come-down.” 

Dietrich snorted. “Nonsense. I’d choose a visit with you over a noisy, crowded party any day.”

She glanced at the ceiling, shaking her head. But a happy shade of pink tinted her cheeks. “Be that as it may, I assume you’re not here for midnight tea.”

“We needed some help with something, if you have a few minutes.”

“Let me finish up with one more family. It’s been pretty quiet tonight. You’re lucky. If it were a Friday, I’d be running ragged until two in the morning.”

I gave Dietrich a puzzled look, but he didn’t notice. Lucy showed us into her parlor, only it was arranged more like a reception room with an odd assortment of chairs lining the walls. She bustled into a room beyond that which should have been a library or drawing room. I heard voices from within and guessed it much be where that family she’d mentioned was waiting for her.

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