Chapter 29a

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The next day was another Sunday, only eight days before opening night. Dietrich approached me after the church service, as I was leaving the theater chapel with Raymond, Thea, and several other friends. 

He bowed politely to the other apprentices and then stepped between them and me. “Miss Mellor, may I speak with you?” 

“Of course.” 

Herded off by Raymond and Thea, the others glanced back at us with curious—and envious—expressions. 

“I need your help,” he said, when they were out of earshot. “It’s not as if either of us should be taking on any more trouble, but this is important.”

A golden heat lit my heart. Dietrich needed me. “Whatever it is, I’d be glad to do it.”

Surprise sparked in his eyes, followed by a sort of private amusement. Suddenly, a hot flush spread through me. “Whatever” could mean a lot of things, especially to a chap who couldn’t stop caressing me with his eyes when he thought I wasn’t looking.

But all he said was, “Let’s discuss it in my office.”

By the time we reached his office and he had offered me one of the carved wingback chairs, he was his usual somber self. He tugged the other wingback to face me more directly, and sat on the edge of it, leaning his elbows on his knees. 

His eyes were shadowed, full of concern. “I shouldn’t even ask this of you, not on top of everything else. But there isn’t anyone else who can do this.”

“I told you, I’m willing. No matter what.”

“We need to help Delphine.”

I still hadn’t spoken to her since my attempt to talk with her the day after she returned from Lucy Davies’ house. She had come out of seclusion a few days ago, and Master Fenrey had instructed those of us who knew the real story to tell everyone else she’d been ill and was still recovering. Her eyes looked as dead as her magic. I’d seen her at mealtimes and in church this morning, avoiding the stares and questions. 

So alone. 

Bennet Mason had tried to sit next to her at lunch, but she had said something vicious to him and then moved to an empty table in the corner, leaving him looking hurt and confused. Millicent Walsh and the rest of her group had stayed at their table, whispering and sneaking peeks at her.

It was impossible not to feel sorry for her. “What kind of help?”

“She told Dame Fairchild the final payment on her loan is due on Tuesday. If she doesn’t pay it, they’ll go after her brothers and sisters.”

Those underfed, ragged, ill little wretches—in the hands of the goons that attacked and raped their older sister. Just the thought of it made me want to hit something. “I’m in. What’s your plan?”

The approval in his eyes warmed me. “I’ve got the money.”

“It wasn’t a small amount! How do you have enough?” 

I gasped and put my hand over my mouth. How utterly rude to comment about money. 

He didn’t look upset. “I had some savings, and Dame Fairchild and Master Fenrey contributed as well. Master Fenrey also found a safer home for the children, where no one can harass them, and they can get the care they need.”

It must be amazing to have an income large enough to allow for savings and acts of charity. I certainly had never experienced it. But I would—soon. In less than a year, I’d be a Guild member and make money of my own. 

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