Chapter 17a

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Chapter 17 is pretty long, but it's one scene--so I've split it in two parts. Things are getting pretty intense! 

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I didn’t spend the day kissing Raymond. In fact, the idea turned my stomach because it reminded me of how awful I’d been to Nadine and Dietrich. Instead, I spent the day in the tech studio wallowing in my increasing sense of guilt and working on the defensive gadgets for Delphine. I finished modifying the pepper-spray container, and put the finishing touches on the boot spikes. I had just enough time to start the pheromone detector before at last emerging for supper.

There were whispers at supper. Some wide-eyed looks. Some muffled giggles whenever Delphine walked by. She acted as if she didn’t notice, but her face was pale.

At breakfast the next morning, there were outright stares and looks of disgust. A couple of apprentices moved to a different table when she sat down. One of them was Bennet Mason. Delphine tilted her nose in the air and laughed and talked with the friends who stayed.

By lunch, the boys were pinching her ass and chanting, 

“There once was a girl named Delphine

Whose tits were meant to be seen

The chaps came all day

For a slap-tickle, to pay

Until she was rich as the Queen.

When she ran from the dining room sobbing, I felt like I was going to vomit. But then I saw Dietrich, sitting with the other Guild members in the adjoining staff dining room. It hurt to look at him and know how Delphine had ruined things for us. She had spent the last three years being nasty to me. She deserved whatever she got.

Raymond watch her run from the room, his face like a thundercloud. “Those bastards,” he growled. 

I wanted to sink under the table. “It’ll blow over in a couple of days. These things always do.”

Thea didn’t say anything. She just kept looking at me, suspicion in her eyes. I was pretty sure she and Raymond had both figured out I started the rumors. Raymond hadn’t said anything about it. He hadn’t said much to me at all. 

I had a feeling I wouldn’t get a kiss from him right now even if I begged. 

He and Thea kept exchanging glances. It made me feel weird, like a misbehaving child about to get scolded. But still they didn’t say anything.

I worked in the tech studio all afternoon. Dietrich was rehearsing with Delphine. I was afraid she would tell him about the rumors. He would know instantly that I was the only person who could have started them. 

He would despise me.

I couldn’t bring myself to go to dinner at all. I wasn’t hungry, so I hid in the tech studio and kept working. I finished the final prototype. But I didn’t even feel like celebrating.

That evening, Thea walked with me to the main stage for a rehearsal of As You Like It. Even though the stage was under final construction for A Captain’s Courage, which had held its rehearsal earlier in the afternoon, our cast was doing a run-through of the As You Like It blocking Dietrich had given them the week before. 

With each step my feet felt heavier. I dreaded facing Delphine. 

Thea tugged my arm. “Come on, you can’t avoid her forever.”

“What are you talking about?”

She gave me an exasperated glare. “There are five people other than Delphine who knew she was sneaking out. And four of us kept our mouths shut. So don’t act like a cog with me. What I don’t understand is why you did it. She must have done something truly awful this time to push you over the edge.”

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