Chapter 24a

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I woke the next morning determined to set everything to right. The last three days since the Airship party had been nothing but one disaster after another—mostly because of me. I didn’t consider myself a particularly disastrous kind of girl, so it was high time to get back to how things should be—with me cleverly solving problems instead of creating them. 

Raymond avoided me at breakfast. Thea knew immediately something was wrong, but I told her it was a misunderstanding and that I’d clear it up as soon as I had a chance. Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue how to fix that particular problem. I wasn’t sure it was fixable. There was every possibility that I’d lost my best friend. And if I lost him, I’d probably lose Thea too. She’d warned me not to hurt him. 

I should have taken her warning more seriously. A chap like Raymond should never be hurt by anyone, especially not by a friend. 

Somehow, I would find a way to make it right.  

After breakfast, I sought out Dietrich before he left the Guild member dining room. Raymond walked past us, glaring. My heart clenched, but there was nothing I could do about it at the moment. 

“Good morning, Presul Wolff.” I tried to keep my tone impersonal and respectful. 

His eyes blazed for an instant, then he schooled his expression and gave me a reserved nod. “Good morning, Miss Mellor. What can I do for you?”

In spite of my attack of conscience, I had a few ideas. I reined in a smirk and tried not to pay attention to the sparkle in his eyes. No flirting now—this was serious. “I need you to ask Master Fenrey to let me out of my classes until…you know. If I’m to redo all my devices, I need extra time.”

“Of course. Good idea.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “We both need to visit the healer as well. After that, why don’t I also ask for one of the tech studios to be assigned for your exclusive use for the next two weeks? They could rekey the lock and give you the key so you wouldn’t have to worry anything happening again.”

“That would be amazing! Thank you.” 

His eyes glowed. “It’s my pleasure.” 

“And I would like to know—” I lowered my voice. “—when Delphine returns, please.”

“Yes. I will send for you myself.”

Our visit to the healer was quick, and it was a relief to have the remaining ache removed from my leg. Dietrich clearly felt better as well. I followed him around for the next hour and a half as he spoke with Master Fenrey and arranged for a tech studio to be turned over to me. I strode at his side, and it was hard to miss the envious glances I received from other apprentices we passed in the halls. They could tell I was on important business, and I’d been singled out by our steam-engine presul. I didn’t blame them for being jealous. My smug enjoyment dimmed somewhat when my thoughts turned to exactly how important this mission was. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring me some satisfaction to be needed on something so critical.

Our conversation was limited and impersonal. We never touched. But a restrained warmth flowed between us like an underground river. Sometimes he would catch my eye and give me a small smile that made my heart constrict with its beauty.

Maybe it was wrong, but I couldn’t entirely regret choosing him.

He helped me move my equipment and supplies into the tech studio that would be mine for the next two weeks. Then he placed the new key in my hand and closed my fingers around it.

“Let me know if you need anything else.” He gave me a steamy grin and lifted my hand to his lips to place a kiss on the inside of my wrist. 

A hot shiver raced to the pit of my stomach. I brushed my thumb against his lips. “I’m sure I’ll need lots of other things.” I tried to sound flirty, worldly, but it came out as a sort of cracked whisper. 

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