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It perhaps spoke of Walter’s growing ease with the changes in his life that he was still awake and unphased when Miss Sciacca walked into his rooms unannounced, her black curls in disarray, at two in the morning, muttering curses under her breath.

“Miss Sciacca, always a pleasure.” He stood quickly, offering her the more comfortable of his shabby chairs.

“Mr. Thorne.” She settled in the chair with a sigh. “I apologize for the late hour, but I needed a rest before I made my way home.”

“You know you’re always welcome.” Walter checked the teapot, frowning at the tepidness of the drink. “Tea will just be a minute. What brings you out at this hour?”

Idioti,” was the flat reply. “Some smugglers lost control of the hellhounds they’d summoned to protect their warehouse. There wasn’t much left of them by the time I arrived, but at least I kept the hounds from getting out.”

“Good show.” Fresh cup of tea in hand, Walter turned back to his guest only to stop short. Miss Sciacca had her skirts hitched up and was examining a long scrape down her calf; Walter felt his face flushing and focused on the tired annoyance on her face rather than the exposed length of olive skin. “Ah, Miss Sciacca? Are you all right?”

She made a small noise and dropped her skirts back down. “It’s nothing. Thank you for asking, Mr. Thorne.”

Walter pressed the cup into her hands. “I, ah, I have bandages, if you…”

“You are a dear. Thank you.” She breathed in the steam from the tea, some tension melting from her body even as she fixed him with a fond look. “You don’t need to do all this, you know.”

“All what?”

A smile quirked her lips. “Dolce,” she murmured, then, at a normal volume, “the bandages, Mr. Thorne. And please, call me Clarissa.”

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September 2017

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