Chapter 30b

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Dietrich walked to his desk and slid open the middle drawer. He pulled out his sister’s chain. 

Wordlessly, he fastened it around my neck. 

“This is the last time I’m giving this to you,” he finally said. 

That gave me a moment’s pause. But I hid it quickly. The chain had belonged to a beloved sister. To him, it was priceless. I couldn’t expect him to loan it to me all the time. “I understand.”

His fingers brushed my neck, sending sweet shivers down my shoulders and spine. “No, I don’t think you do. This is the last time…because I’m not taking it back. I want you to keep it.”

I couldn’t speak. I could barely think. Nobody had ever…Oh my god. Other than Thea’s declaration of sisterhood, I didn’t have a single person in the world that acknowledged me as family. No heirlooms, no evidence at all that I had a history. That I came from somewhere. That I belonged to anyone. 

My fingers fluttered up to touch the chain. Trembling, I traced the cool metal until my hand brushed his. He took my fingers and held them to his lips and then cradled them against his cheek. 

Tears blurred my vision. I shouldn’t accept such a gift. Shouldn’t let him do it. It was his dearest possession. He shouldn’t have offered it to me. 

“Don’t say no,” he whispered. Such naked vulnerability in his eyes. 

Such hope. 

And I realized—he had no one, either. Not really. The one piece of family he had left had rejected him, at least for now. 

Gently, I pulled his head down and kissed his beautiful lips. Thank you.

His fingers curled lightly to cup my head. He deepened the kiss. Then his arms slipped around me, and we held each other as tightly as we could.

Come back to me, Gia. Promise.

“I promise,” I said, the words thick in my throat. “Even if I have to haunt the theater to do it. We need a new theater ghost anyway. I’ll camp out here in one of your chairs and read all your books.”

I wasn’t sure how he’d take my dark humor. But he just rubbed my back and pressed a kiss against my hair.

“Tidy my desk while you’re at it. I’m awful at paperwork.”

I smiled against his suit coat. “Ghostly office clerk—will work for books.”

He drew back, his eyes fierce. “Better idea. Skip the ‘ghostly’ part entirely.”

“An excellent plan,” I whispered. 

One more searing, achingly sweet kiss. Then he stepped back and held out his hand. I took it, and he led me downstairs, not letting go until we reached the corridor with the dressing rooms. 

At the far end of that hall was the stage entrance to the theater. Raymond and Thea were waiting for us. We’d barely reached them when Nadine exited her dressing room and headed toward us.

“Claire, darling.” She held out her hands to me. “Are you ready to go?”

I clasped them in greeting. “As soon as Mistress Davies is here.”

Her face was pale. She hadn’t put on her stage makeup yet, but I wondered if even that would be able to hide the circles under her eyes. She greeted my trio of friends, then turned back to me. “Thank you for agreeing to stay the night with Mistress Davies.”

I smiled grimly. “I promised I wouldn’t be anywhere near you tonight.” 

“You’re a good girl.” She looked like she’d start crying any moment.

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