Today it was Cow Hollow. It was no longer in its sheath.

Those are taken, the man grunted out. Waiting fer company.

Don’t be ridiculous. The guardians and travelers assigned to watch passages aren’t just there to track comings and goings in and out of them, Sophia said, to his surprise. They ensure the passages remain stable and aren’t in danger of collapsing.Nicholas nodded. Julian had told him a passage became unstable—or collapsed—under two circumstances: with the death of a nearby traveler who was outside of their natural time, or, Ironwood believed, simply from overuse and age. As if they became worn-out and flimsy, like old fabric that had been turned too many times.

More passages than ever have been collapsing and closing altogether, Sophia said, her profile outlined by the rough sea below. That’s why I believed him, you know. That he wanted the astrolabe to examine newly discovered passages, for their destinations and stability. I’m not gullible. I didn’t believe everything he told me, and I didn’t want everything he wanted.Once the words were out, he saw her shoulders slump, as if relieved of the weight of them. He recalled his accusation in Prague, and wondered at how long she had let her temper simmer without exploding.I know, he wanted to say. No one who believed Ironwood so fully would have survived this long.

He tried to picture her then, in her native time, in that orphanage. Small, filthy, and hungry enough to risk being caught stealing. That, at least, he understood. A child faced with the raw desperation of survival had it imprinted on their soul. They were never able to shake the sense that one day, everything good in their life might again vanish—not fully.Maybe that’s the real reason he never made me heir. Her mouth twisted in a cruel little smile.

He didn’t make you heir because you’re a woman and he’s a bloody fool, Nicholas said. And because there was Julian, in all of his shining glory.

Sophia glanced up, brows raised ever so slightly as she let out a tsk. Speaking ill of the dead now, Carter?Just one? The question hung in her mind, quiet with devastation. In the grand scheme of everything that had happened, losing an earring was hardly the worst failure she’d endured, but it was another betrayal of trust, another way she had let her mother down.

She couldn’t add yet another notch to that tally by falling prey to this man’s lies. You keep it. I found it in some junky old thrift shop.Henry’s lips compressed at that, and, when he did speak, there was a new edge to the words. I realize you are out of your depth, and I am quite sympathetic to all that you’ve been through. But one thing I cannot tolerate is lying, and another is disrespecting your family. You did not find these earrings in a thrift store. I imagine they were a gift from your mother, as I know they were a cherished gift from her beloved uncle’s wife.

That didn’t prove anything. He and the others had talked about having many sources out there; he could have easily learned about Hasan that way.Even that his wife was the one who gave her the earrings?

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