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    "I'm not mad, princess. I'm poor, and so, migh...dd, are you. I've never been to Dover before, an...on't know what sort of transport is available or what it costs. But I'm willing to bet my life tha...an figure it out to our eventual satisfaction."

    My hands made fists in the thick stuff of my skirt, an...ould feel my ribs pressing against the leather corset with every breath. Being so near him made me angry and hungry and unsettled i...a...ouldn't place.

    "Besides," he added, grinning in the face of my fury, "it's not like you have any options."

    "You tread on my patience."

    He stepped dangerously close. "You're cute when you're angry...ik...irl with spirit."

    I too...eep breath, hampered by the corset...ouldn't let him know how much he affected me...ad to look down. "I'm no...irl, Casper." My voice was softer tha...eant it to be, softer than he'd heard it before. Whethe...as reminding him tha...as fully mature or tha...as o...ifferent species...idn't know. Being near him made me muddled, as i...as always half-drained.

    "So that's how it is," he said softly to himself. One hand crept up to touch my face, an...lapped it away, but gently.

    "I will do whatever it takes to get back to my people, including putting up with you."

    I stepped away, breathing out through my nose s...ouldn't take in any more of his scent, so slightly wrong and yet so right...eeded to get out of the cluttered shop, where every move one of us made brought the other closer in proximity. London was definitely no...afe town for me, even if my suitcase coffin had never reached the tasseinist's clever hands.

    "Good. Then get ready. Our bank leaves from the southern gate in two hours."

    He opened the box he'd dragged in...ady's traveling trunk...xpected to see gowns and boots and jewels, but instead, it was divided into two sections. One held clothes, papers, and books. The other side hel...rate of blood vials, each snuggled in its own little niche.

    "I traded my harpsichord for this," he said. Bu...ouldn't take my eyes off all the blood...as still hollow with hunger, the need for blood as annoying and constant a...air caught in my corset...icked my lips and reached out fo...ial.

    "Hey!"

    He grabbed my shoulders, an...issed and tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let go. His eyes clouded over, his teeth bared in fury, and his fingers dug into flesh that was still tender from my visit with Mr. Sweeting's claws. There wa...erocity in the lines of his body, in the growl of his musical voice, that made me see him as more tha...eal, as more than jus...uman. His eyes reminded me o...rozen lake, of the deep darkness trapped in ice, and being so near him made my breath catch in my throat. Bu...ad seen what happened to noble Bludwomen who used their humans for the needs of the flesh and grew too attached. Humiliation and heavy fines and, if they weren't careful and contrite, public disfigurement...ooked down. Would they accept me as queen, i...ell into such an entanglement?

    "Look at me, Ahnastasia. You're no...rincess now. And I'm not some lowly trash. I'm your only way out of here. The least you can do is acknowledge me when I'm telling you tha...old the last piece of my soul fo...ox of blood. For you."

    "I didn't ask for your soul,&rdquo...napped. "I'm nearly drained...eed more-"

    But his lips sealed over mine.

    I gasped into his mouth and pushed against his chest with my hands, bu...as still weak, and he was much stronger tha...ad imagined. His mouth was hot and spiced with wine, his lips soft but aggressive against mine. Fo...oment, the world stopped spinning, an...ouldn't breathe...ealized my hands weren't resisting him anymore; they were curled into his shirt.

    And then he shoved me roughly away.

    "You're not the only one with needs," he said raggedly. "You might not b...irl, but don't forget that I'...an."

    I pu...loved hand to my mouth, to the place where his cheek had rasped against mine. He had stolen my first kiss, the bastard. Just another reason to make him pay. His hands hung at his sides as his eyes searched mine for something he didn't seem to find...elt dizzy and weak, hungrier than ever.

    "The only thin...eed is blood.&rdquo...as surprised at how tiny my voice could be.

    "Keep telling yourself that. You kissed me back."

    "I didn't."

    Finally, his eyes released me, and the moment snapped lik...nagged thread...tepped back, my hands flying instinctively to smooth hair that was no longer there. He stepped away from me, too, his boot nudging his leather satchel. It clanked lightly, and my eyes were drawn to it.

    "I can smell when you're lying." He gave m...rooked smile. "An...aw what you did to my room. Don't ever touch my things again, or I'll put you right back in that suitcase wher...ound you."

    "The feather and the coin-&rdquo...tarted, but he cut me off wit...inger in my face.

    "Never speak of it again."

    The words fell, heavy as boulders, to the ground. For all his threats and promises, they were the darkest words he'd spoken yet. An...ound myself determined to discover what such an odd creature could hold so dear.

    Sinc...ad no belongings to pack and no preparations to make...pent the next bit of time scratching Tommy Pain's belly and studying my sister's ring in the bright lights of Reve's mirror. Any Bludman could tell it wasn't paste; the dark diamond oozed power and rarity lik...ine perfume. And Mr. Sweeting had been right about the topaz stones-they were colder than ice. But they weren't the seat of the ring's power and magic, other than the magic of inheritin...atriarchy that was currently in thrall t...onster.

    A monster called Ravenna.

    She had come to our country a...raveling mystic. With her ink-black curls and dusky skin and huge, almond-shaped eyes, she had seeme...armless curiosity. From the villages of the Pinkies to the back doors of the Blud Barons to the gates of the Ice Palace she had gone, winning over everyone she met with charm, cleverness, an...ow, sweet voice like winter wine.

    The first tim...aw her...as bu...up, dancing through the gates of the Sugar Snow Festival. Children were allowed to enjoy the festivities and performers and treats on the palace grounds in the evening, but we were always herded back into the castle to lie in bed long before moonrise, ears straining to hear the first waltz of the Sugar Snow Ball. Later, after all the children were asleep, the adults dance...ance so beautiful and mysterious that no one ever spoke of it. But it was twilight when Ravenna found me there by the palace wall a...alloped around my nursemaid among the wagons of the caravan.

    "Tell your fortune, ice princess,&rdquo...ow voice had murmured from behind the indigo silk o...tar-strewn tent.

    "Go ahead, little beauty," my maid had said. "See what the famous Ravenna can tell you of your future greatness."

    Ravenna had been bu...apdog then and harmless. She had smiled at me, teeth bright against her honey-colored skin.

    "Give me your hand," she had said, an...till remembered how my temper had flared, that this common foreigner would dare demand anything of me.

    "You can't make me,&rdquo...ad answered, my pert little nose in the air.

    And she had laughe...augh like icicles chiming in the wind and said, "Then there is your fortune, princess."

    I had stomped and shrieked and wailed and threatened, but after that, she had utterly refused to take my palm and tell me of my future.

    My maid had comforted me and given m...one of bloody snow to suck on, saying, "The wildest things refuse to be tamed, sweet one."

    Now, years later, after all I'd seen...ondered which of us she had meant.

    "Bonne chance, chérie," Reve called out the door after us, the black cat twining around her legs. "If you succeed, remember where to find the greatest costumer in the world, eh?"

    I waved royally until Keen slapped my hand. "You're not i...arade. Tone it down."

    Whe...et ou...arning hiss, Casper stepped between us. "She's right. You've got to pretend you're nobody." And that's whe...as given the bags to carry and the trunk to pull...as so furious at being treated lik...ervant that my palpable rage probably scared off more potential attackers than Casper's walking cane and Keen's blade.

    The walk to London's southern gate was dark and dirty. The streets were mostly empty at night, aside from some Pinkies and Bludmen too dull with drink to note the danger all around. Singing and shouting carried on the heavy air, surging out from under the doors of orange-lit bars and inns. Bludrats hissed from every shadow, and sometimes screams would ring out, followed by the sound of rending flesh.

    We stuck to larger roads lit by an endless string of gas lamps. Most trouble avoided us, although Casper did have to clu...crawny old Bludman who staggered out fro...ark alley, hands outstretched, muttering, "Oh, middlings. Dark and deep, dark and deep." He fell to the ground, bleeding from the temple and mumbling to himself wit...oothless mouth...ad never seen anything more pathetic.

    After that, Casper hummed forcefully to himself, the same tune he'd been playing when he'd found me, the one about "Hey, Jude." The song was becoming familiar to me, an...aught myself humming along once and quickly covered it up wit...ough.

    As we walked farther and farther downhill, an ominous form loomed over us. Of course...ad heard of the huge walls the Pinkies erected around their cities in Sangland, but it was another thing entirely to find myself dwarfed by the ugly, imposing structure of brick and barbed wire. These fortifications had been designed to keep the monsters out-the bludstags, the bludbunnies, the wolves that were always crying with hunger. And they kept the soft, edible creatures safe inside-the cows and chickens and pigs, not to mention the Pinkies themselves.

    But it was hideous and unnatural, blotting out the stars like that, even if the sky was garbled with smoke and pollution from the factories and machinery. The celebrated city of London had shown me nothing but fear, repulsiveness, starvation, and horror, an...ould not be sorry to leave it.

    ...
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