Page 67

    It was suc...imple, wistful statement, and yet, for some reason, it brought hot tears to Sophronia's normally dry eyes. "I rather did like him."

    Dimity whispered, fully sympathetic, having had her heart broken b...ingleproops only recently, "Did you write him poetry?"

    "No, luckily...id not."

    "Well, then, less to recover from."

    "Good point."

    "Don't worry, we will find you someone." Dimity was ever the optimist. "Possibly not as handsome."

    Sophronia said, to lighten the mood, "I wonder if Monique ha...rother?"

    "Oh, really, Sophronia. Be serious. You must have something you want i...eau?"

    Sophronia thought of Felix's blue eyes and lazy ways. And then of Soap's dark, cheerful gaze and jocularity. She thought that she wanted Soap's gentle personality and Felix's focused attention. She wanted Felix's breezy, relaxed approach to high society and Soap's easy infiltration of the lower orders. She wanted humor, and kind hands, and sweet smiles, and genuine longing looks. She wanted that expression she had caught between Captain Niall and Sidheag. She wanted trust. I'm going to spend most of my life pretending to be other people, hiding and skulking in shadows...ant someone who will remind me of wh...m. Once I've figured that out.

    What she said was "I wan...an who stays out of my way."

    "Oh my, well then," said Dimity with utter confidence, "you should marry my brother. You are still engaged...elieve."

    That caused both of them to laugh uproariously. The very idea of Pillover marrying anyone, let alone Sophronia! It took the...hile to calm sufficiently to sleep after that. They would keep giggling. Things were always funnier when one was lying down.

    SESSION 14: DIRIGIBLES VERSUS TRAINS

    Soap wa...ilent figure sitting in the doorway of the cab as Sophronia approached, two hours later. He was smoking his awful cob pipe and staring into the moonlit night.

    "My turn," she said. "How's everything been?"

    "Quiet a...ry boiler." Soap knocked out his pipe; he knew she disliked the habit.

    "Bumbersnoot?"

    "Sleeping it off."

    "Monique?" They turned to look at the blonde's slumbering form.

    "That one. Why'd we not dump her from the train when we had the chance?"

    "There's still time."

    Soap snorted. He jumped down from the cab. The crunch of his landing on the railway stones was awfully loud.

    "Beautiful moon," he said as it appeared from between rain clouds. "Don't see much of it down in engineering on the airship."

    "Hope any local werewolves are locked away." Sophronia was thinking of Captain Niall and the dewan. Where were the two werewolves holed up while they battled moon-madness? She fervently hoped it was secure and silver coated. She'd encountered Captain Niall moon-mad once, and lost her best petticoat to salivating jaws. The dewan was stronger, bigger, and angrier; she could only imagine what he'd be like. More would be lost than undergarments.

    "Must be tough, bein...erewolf. Never to see full moon."

    "Better than bein...ampire, never to see the sun, miss," replied the sootie, his ton...arning.

    Sophronia then did something quite daring. She wasn't sure why. Perhaps she was emboldened by the quiet stillness. Perhaps it was the freedom inherent in her masculine garb. But she shifted close to Soap, side by side and companionable, staring at the moon. She was terribly tempted to put her head on his shoulder. It was exactly the correct height.

    "So long as you are doing it for all the right reasons...an't talk you out of it," she said, realizing she could no more change Soap's desires than she could Felix's allegiance.

    "But you aren't going to help me make it happen, are you, miss?"

    "No, I'm not." Sophronia's face burned and she knew he was looking at her. In the silvery light her blush wouldn't show, thank heavens. She wanted to run from the inevitable conversation, from any confession of forbidden affection, from the mere possibility that she might have to break Soap's heart.

    "You don't agree with Miss Sidheag, yet you are helping her."

    He ha...oint, so Sophronia held her tongue. She couldn't articulate why she felt differently about Soap, more proprietary. But she did.

    "You could talk me out of it, Sophronia." He said her name carefully, cautiously, experimenting with the sound of it on his tongue. She was always "miss" to him. She was always his superior. Was he practicing fo...uture when they might be equals? Without werewolf status he'd never be able to call her that, not in public, not in the social world she was training to inhabit, not even as friends.

    Which was why she couldn't talk him out of it, not really. Sophronia wasn't going to make promises she couldn't keep, not to Soap.

    She replied using his real name, saying only, "Perhap...ould, Phineas. But it's not my place to do so. Any more than with Sidheag. You have as muc...ight as she to your own choices, even i...hink you both foolish."

    She hoisted herself into the cab of the train without looking at him, remembering how warm and gentle his lips were against her own, and how the muscles in his arms felt wrapped about her. I'm fickle, she thought. An...on't deserve to be tinkering with anyone's heart.

    ...
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