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.“Very well,” she heard herself say calmly.It was rather like his gloves; there were some things a man needed to speak about when he was ready.A man like Edward didn’t give her a piece crafted by his own hands because he wanted to walk away and forget her.He did it because he wanted her to remember.Maybe he needed to leave for now.But deep down, he expected to come back when he’d sorted himself out.All she had to do was leave the door open.“I suppose I should send you a memento in return,” she said casually.“If you’ll give me your address, I’ll send you issues of the paper.”It was as obvious a falsehood as the one he’d delivered about the paperweight itself.He snorted.“Are you lying to me, Miss Marshall?”“Of course I am.” She smiled at him.“I thought it would put you at ease.”He laughed, that dark, appreciative laugh she’d come to adore.“Touché, my dear.”For a second, they stared at one another, her will matching his.“Just the paper, now,” he warned.“No letters.”It was a victory of a sort, that she’d made him tell that lie.He clearly knew it was a lie; he gave his head an annoyed shake.And then he rubbed a hand through his hair and looked away.“I own a metalworks in Toulouse,” he mumbled.“Why, Mr.Clark, that sounds surprisingly respectable.”He raised an eyebrow at her.“Don’t make too much of it.I’ve only had it a few years.And you’d best not ask how I got the money to start it.” He smiled tightly.“For that matter, don’t ask how I got the first references I needed so that business would start coming in.”“Does this metalworks have an address?”He wrinkled his nose at her.She smiled calmly in return while her heart raced.Then slowly, ever so slowly, he took a sheet of her paper and scrawled a few lines.“I won’t write back,” he told her.He was such a dreadful liar.Let him lie, if that’s what he needed for the moment.He didn’t take hold of her, didn’t even touch her.He simply stood and strode to the door.“You have my best wishes, Free.Now and always.”And then he turned and left.Chapter SixteenEDWARD HAD KNOWN WHEN he gave Free his address that he might as well have given up right then.The last thing he could withstand was a sustained correspondence.He managed to let the first of her letters pass without a reply.The second was harder.She told him about construction on a new home, about how her suit against his brother was prospering—well—and the public response to the revelations they’d jointly engineered at that soireé—even better.Her advertisers were returning, her subscribers were more loyal than ever, and her subscription numbers were up ten percent and still growing.Everything was looking up, she told him.Everything, she said, but one little thing.She didn’t specify what that was, but he didn’t need to ask.It took all his willpower to keep his silence.But then two weeks passed—two weeks in which her newspapers arrived without any personal notes at all.That circumstance should not have had him grumbling in complaint.Still, when he saw a scrap of paper attached to his paper one morning, he grabbed for it.Apologies for the silence, she wrote.I’ve been busy.See attached.He read through her piece.His heart beat faster as he read; his fists clenched on the paper.And when he reached the end of it, he didn’t just give up on the notion of chivalrously ignoring her; he grabbed for his own paper and scrawled a response.May 14, 1877Good God.Are you trying to stop my heart? Nothing from you for all that time—and then only one brief note.I had thought you’d given up doing investigative work personally.You understand that when you go into a very dangerous mine that you are putting yourself in danger?You could have died.You almost did.I won’t stand for—Edward stopped, and imagined himself saying that to Free in person.She’d make a rude noise—and all too well-deserved.He crossed that off, too, and stared at the paper a long while before trying again.Even if you think nothing of your own safety, think of—That wasn’t any better, to imply that she hadn’t thought about the consequences of her actions.He scratched that through.Tell me, do you imagine yourself invulnerable, or—He took a deep breath.It was almost as if he could hear her responding, taunting him.He scratched dark lines through this, too.After a long while, he wrote again.I have sat in one place crossing lines off this letter for far longer than I should.It’s almost as if you are sitting over my shoulder, offering your sarcastic thoughts in response to my most protective impulses.You’re obviously intelligent enough to understand the risks you’re taking, and you’ve decided they’re worthwhile.I know better than to argue with you on that score.So I will swallow all my other worries and end with this: I have sat with you at night and felt your fear.I do not know how you face it again and again.It is more than I could do.You bewilder me.EdwardIt would be foolish to send the letter.It sat on his desk for days while he argued with himself.Finally, he slipped it into the mails, and was even more annoyed when that did not feel like an act of weakness.It was a matter of days before he heard from her again.May 20, 1877Dear Edward,It was nothing.All in the name of reporting, really.It was rather fortuitous, in fact, that I experienced a cave-in.Under such circumstances, I could…Oh, very well.I can see you tapping your foot impatiently at me.I’m not fooling you, am I?I always write my articles so that I disappear.The words are about the hospitals and the inmates, the streets and the streetwalkers.If I reference myself at all, I talk about the false persona I invented to do the investigations.To everyone in the world, I can pretend that all those things happened to someone else.Everyone but you.I may give false names and false backgrounds, but the things I’ve reported have always happened to me.You may find it bewildering that I’m still willing to take it on.But to me, knowing that you know, that there’s one person who knows I’m not truly fearless…well, that makes it bearable.Just don’t tell my brother.Yours,FreeEdward thought a long while before responding.May 28, 1877As I don’t believe in sending letters filled with treacle-like sentiment, I feel as if I should…send you a puppy or something.Alas.I don’t know if puppies keep when sent through the mails—and I doubt they’d pass through customs these days.It’s too bad you aren’t a pirate, as you’d once planned [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]