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A cryin’ pity that would have been, Chase grumbled, jabbing his spoon into the stew. Nicholas cleared his throat.

It felt like a betrayal to her anger at the Ironwoods to give the yes that was in her heart, even with the way he’d couched the question. I don’t know. Let’s see how we do, and then I’ll answer that.Let’s see if I can find the astrolabe and my mother, and set my life straight again.

Nicholas slung the leather bag over his other shoulder, letting it slap against his hip as they navigated the maze of debris. He stopped suddenly, craning his neck around. Etta followed his gaze to where gold letters gleamed high above the entrance archway. The contrast between them and the battered ruins of the structure made the hair rise on the back of her arms.She knew this place—she’d been here once, years ago, for a performance. Alice had walked her through the long enclosed shopping center with all of its glittering stores. They’d found Christmas presents for Rose.I think I know where we are, she said. Roughly.

Rough was a good way to describe what they saw as they stepped out of the ruined arcade and onto the street. She’d known to expect destruction—she’d seen pictures, heard Alice and Oskar describe it with a raw pain that lingered decades later. What Etta hadn’t expected was that so many Londoners would be out and about in suits, dresses, and heels, carefully picking their way through the piles of debris that had blown out of storefronts, deftly avoiding the craters that had collapsed in whole sections, the surface of the street torn away to reveal the pipes beneath.Clouds passed over the sun, spotting the ground with shadows. Etta watched Nicholas as they made their way down a succession of connecting streets, heading east. He was drifting to the left, pulling away, until her hand slipped off his sleeve. The nausea and wooziness from the traveler’s sickness had passed, but she felt disoriented all over again, in a very different way. Though Nicholas stayed only a step ahead of her, she felt the distance build between them until she felt suddenly alone.

Every now and then Nicholas caught sight of something new—a bicycle, a window display, a police officer in uniform, a traffic light—and it would drag his attention away. Etta could tell he didn’t want to have to ask her to explain—there was some part of him that was enjoying the process of figuring it out himself—but he was curious.

Have you been here before? she asked finally. Here-here?The fight in my limbs faded. Not from accepting the inevitable, but because I literally had nothing left. I couldn’t win. I’d never been able to win. All I could do was stop and accept.

Finally accept that Tasmin was dead and Pimlico would be, too.The moment I ceased thrashing, Darryl laughed. Finally realised you can’t stop this, huh, pretty whore?

My eyes narrowed as he yanked on my tongue, pulling it further from my lips.He smirked. How about one word for your master? One little word…