Chapter 30a

741 64 9

Over the next five days, each moment became more precious as the seconds and minutes flowed together, an ever-quickening stream of time. 

Ten hours training Nadine to use my gadgets, the inner satisfaction of knowing she’d never need to. 

Sixteen seconds—our record for quickest shift. I lost track of the number of times my friends pressed around  me, their magic lifting me up and making my own magic strong. 

Five nights spent rehearsing. 

Twenty-five hours—about how much sleep we got over those five nights.

Seventy-eight minutes to figure out how to kidnap Nadine. Another hour and a half to convince Lucy to help us—not including the carriage ride between her house and the theater.

Six hours and thirty-seven minutes. That’s how long I had stayed shifted the night we decided to stop counting. I didn’t lose the shift that night—I chose when to return to my own form.

Fifty-seven minutes—the entire amount of time the police graciously gave to Dietrich to coordinate their plans with his. Plans that were supposed to keep an apprentice from being murdered. They didn’t know that the real Nadine was expecting to perform that evening—she had to keep it secret or else the Theatrical Guild would have put a quick stop to the whole thing. Just as well, since we had no intention of letting her anywhere near the stage that night. 

A nanosecond. The length of time for Dietrich to win my heart over and over again. Stolen kisses, a steamed glance, the flash of a smile, or brush of his hand against mine. Fleeting moments—all the time we had.

Eternity. How long I wished it could all last.

I had told Raymond I couldn’t deal with romance until after the performance, but the closer Monday came, the deeper the truth grew in my heart that there might not be an “after” for me. It seemed unfair that Raymond had lost before he’d really had much chance to compete. And it wasn’t that I didn’t have feelings for him—the way I felt about him was deep and sweet and beautiful. 

But there was fire between Dietrich and me, a knowledge that our time was brief. Either I would be murdered by the Peacock on Monday night, or I would survive—and we would have to face the reality that a vicimorph and presul could never be together. 

As it was, I was more than a little concerned that our magic would bond before the performance. There was just too much that no one knew about comagica bonds, and nobody thought it was a good idea to waste valuable presuls or vicimorphs in trying to experiment. 

After a long tech week, Sunday evening was the final dress rehearsal. I sat next to Dietrich as he partnered with Nadine and gave me some final coaching on how to best emulate her. After the dress rehearsal, the four of us did our own final run-through. Dietrich said I was as ready as I could be. He sent Thea and Raymond away and gave me a kiss so hot, I was surprised the fire curtain high above the stage didn’t drop down on us. 

I wish we had stayed that night in each other’s arms. I don’t know if I could have made love with him, but I wish we had tried. Instead, we did the responsible thing and said goodnight. We needed sleep if we were to face a murderer the next day. 

Monday dawned, and Dietrich and I remained unbonded magically. It seemed like such an ordinary day. I met Nadine for breakfast. We talked about how Delphine was doing, and I made arrangements with her later that day to access her costumes so that I could sew in some of the devices I had created. She didn’t know I was also planning to shorten the hems by a half inch to account for the necessary difference in height between her and my pseudo-Nadine persona. Since she was a living person, I couldn’t duplicate her exactly when I shape-shifted. The half-an-inch difference in height was only one of several subtle differences we’d created in order to allow our magic to work.

Chains of Silver (Alchemy Empire Book 1)Read this story for FREE!