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There was a crack in that calm mask—a flash. Etta’s eyes read it as anger, but instinct registered something worse: a painful kind of shock, as if she’d knocked him off the ferry and into the cold river.

“You—” he began, his gaze shifting up to the sky, a small, pained smile on his face. Etta couldn’t look away, not at Sophia, who was calling her name, not at the sails cutting through the blooming dark. He let out a quiet laugh, sounding almost dismayed, his hands pressed hard against his sides. “There are times, Miss Spencer, you defeat me utterly.”

Before she could process those words, he’d moved to the front of the ferry, to assist the other men in securing it. And when it came time to disembark, only Sophia was waiting for her.

“Was he bothering you? Thank God he’ll be gone soon enough,” she said, loud enough for all of the city to hear.

“No!” Etta said quickly. “Not at all.”

Still, Sophia eyed Nicholas as he strode in front of them, blowing past a cluster of women with bright eyes and rouged cheeks. They were nearly spilling out of their low-cut dresses.

“Looking for a place to sleep, love?” one asked, trailing after him. “’Ope the fire didn’t get your pretty house. I’ve got a spot that’s warm—”

“I’m spoken for,” he said, gently removing her hand from his shoulder. “Have a nice night, ladies.”

Spoken for? Etta watched his back, the stretch and bunch of the muscles as he moved.

Sophia then let out a strangled gasp and swore a blue streak as she stepped directly into a pile of fresh horse droppings. Etta’s stomach actually cringed at the way the smell tangled with the smoke. “Of all the rotten luck!”

It was nearly pitch-black by the time Nicholas found Ironwood’s carriage in the chaos of the fire refugees—they were staying, in Sophia’s words, at a “mean little tavern” called the Dove outside of the city proper—outside what Etta knew in her time was the financial district. Cyrus Ironwood had thrown enough money around to convince the proprietor to let his family’s rooms in the attic for three nights, while they and their servants slept in the cellar.

“Why not just buy a real house in the city?” Etta said, thinking of Nicholas’s story. Clearly, the family could afford it.

“Grandfather is making inquiries about available property,” Sophia explained, her voice strained. “He’s decided to subject us to this era for the foreseeable future, so he’ll need more permanent accommodations. For now, he requires us at the Dove, so that is where we’ll go.”

“Not looking forward to all that ‘rustic’ living?” Etta asked, arching a brow.

Their path ran along what the driver had called the Old Post Road. Etta had recognized the names of streets when they were in the thick of this version of Manhattan—Wall Street, Broad Way. But once they were past the commons—a green park crowded with fire refugees, their rescued possessions, and all the soldiers trying to keep them in line—the city turned to farmland.




Etta shook her head in amazement.

“I know,” Sophia murmured dreamily. “It tempts one to buy up a few parcels and hold on to them for a few centuries.”

In the city—her city—you got used to moving in the shadows of giant buildings during the day, and sacrificing your view of the stars to light pollution. But out here, the sky was naked, untouched, revealing all of its thousands of glittering lights; there was nothing to see beyond occasional houses, some small, some grand. Etta heard the bleating of sheep and whinnying of horses, the quiet bubbling of what sounded like streams. She missed the rapid pulse of life at home; the way the heat rose off the cement, the sunlight’s reflection in endless glass windows, the crowds; the constant drone of traffic, alarms, trains.

This will be over soon, she reminded herself.


The tension that wrapped around her stomach spread through her veins like spiderwebs, too sticky to dislodge completely. Etta tried to picture what this “Grandfather” would look like, what he would think of her, but she’d only had Sophia’s and Nicholas’s descriptions to go on; together they had painted a rather vivid image in her mind of a man with a bloody sword, guided by a shriveled lump of ash and ice for a heart, in possession of actual fangs and claws.

Breathe, she thought a bit desperately, breathe. What else could she do? Whatever information she might squeeze out of him would only help her to get away, to figure out how to get back to Alice.

The Dove Tavern was farther uptown than she’d expected. She spent most of the ride trying to use the position of the East River to figure out where they were on the island—toward the east, but still close to the center—maybe what she knew as Lexington, or Third Avenue?

“What is that?” she asked, leaning forward to get a better look at the constellation of small campfires on the ground up ahead.

Nicholas leaned closer to see, his warm arm pressing against hers. “The Royal Artillery Park, if I had to guess.”

The guess was a good one. As they drew closer, the torches and lanterns in the camp blazed; the evidence of war gleamed. Beyond the impressive row of cannons were lines of wagons, carts, stables, white tents. What plain buildings Etta saw were flanked by the few trees that hadn’t been hacked to pieces for firewood and stacked nearby.

The Dove stood directly across from the park, hugging the dirt road. The candles in its windows warmed its plain wooden face, and it looked more like a large colonial house to Etta’s eyes than a tavern. A two-story house, in fact, not including the attic, and one that seemed to lean ever so slightly to the right. Someone had tried to add a bit of charm with red paint on the shutters. A wooden sign hung over the street, swaying as Sophia passed it. In the dark, the soaring bird carved onto it looked more like a crow than a dove.