Snowcompartió una citael año pasado
Esmond stared at her. Then he pulled away and covered his eyes with his hand. “Stupid,” he groaned. “So stupid.”

“Well, I like that! How was I supposed to know?”

“Oh, great Sages, I didn’t mean you. I meant me.” He seized her cold hands and began chafing them. “No wonder I couldn’t get the tracking spell to work, because I kept waiting to try it until Eryx was out. Driving around the city. In his carriage.”

Isaveth mouthed a silent oh.

“I should have guessed ages ago. He’s always so fussy about letting anyone touch his car. . . . But you, Isaveth!” He twirled her around in a triumphant dance. “You’re not stupid, you’re brilliant. I could—”

He stopped, gazing into her uplifted face. “Yes?” asked Isaveth faintly.

Esmond stepped back, releasing her. “I couldn’t be more lucky to have a friend like you,” he said. “But there’s no way you can go back to the ball like that.”

He wasn’t wrong. Esmond’s light-charm cast only a faint glow around them, but even so the dirt that streaked Isaveth’s dress was plain to see. Her palms were black from clinging to the rafter, her mask gray with cobwebs and dust, and she didn’t need a mirror to know that her hair was a mess as well. Embarrassed, she ducked her head—but a gentle touch on her chin brought it up again.

“You’re still the prettiest girl I know,” said Esmond. “Wait here. I’ll fetch your coat.”
Snowcompartió una citael año pasado
“Do you still miss him?” asked Esmond abruptly, after they’d walked a while in silence. “Quiz, I mean.”

Isaveth stopped short. “Oh dear. Was it obvious?”

“A bit. The first few times we met in the bell tower, you kept looking at me like this.” He put on a wistful, slightly tragic expression, and Isaveth had to laugh.

“I did at first,” she admitted, “because you seemed so different here than you did when we first met. I didn’t know what to make of it, especially when I saw how you behaved with . . . well, everybody but me.”

“I thought that might be it. I’m surprised you didn’t say so before.” He turned to face her, apologetic and a little shy. “I did try to be friendly, when I first came. But people kept saying, ‘You’re so much like your brother!’ and gabbling about how wonderful Eryx was. So I decided the only solution was to act as unlike him as possible. It wasn’t until I became Quiz and met you that I could be myself again.”

Until Isaveth heard that, she’d scarcely realized how much the question had troubled her. Now she felt a soaring exhilaration, as though some long-cherished fantasy had turned out to be real after all. “Well, Quiz is a likeable fellow,” she said lightly. “I hope more people get to know him.”

“What about Esmond Lording? That’s my title now, at least until Civilla’s got an heir of her own. Do you think you could like him, too?”

“You’re the same person,” said Isaveth. “I’ve known that ever since you came to rescue me from the Paskins. I’m only sorry I didn’t trust you enough to believe it before.”

Esmond took her gloved hand in both of his. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you. If you say no, I promise I won’t ask again.” He raised his good eye to hers, searching. “May I?”

It had been so long since they’d played the game that for a moment Isaveth had no idea what he was asking—and then, with a fluttering lurch of her heart, she remembered. Only she couldn’t think of any clever retorts for some reason, and the way Esmond was looking at her made her realize it had never really been a joke at all.

The thought made her feel dizzy, like the first time he’d asked her. But back then Isaveth hadn’t been sure what she wanted, and she was now. She drew her hand out of the glove, leaving Esmond still holding it, and reached up to touch his face.

“Do you know,” she said softly as she rose on tiptoes to kiss him, “this time, I think you may.”
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