Today's Reading

He didn't just mean fortunate, I knew. In the exclusive, highly secretive circles of the paranormal community, luck meant something very specific: a breed of extraordinary abilities possessed by a tiny fraction of the population. A tiny fraction of the general population, that is; around here, it seemed like every other person was gifted. After all, who better to handle cases involving luck than those who were lucky themselves? Even so..."I don't see how extraordinary eyesight or an exceptional mind for numbers is a great advantage at jujitsu."

"So the martial arts are not your forte. You have other gifts, Rose."

"Yes, I'm told that I fall brilliantly."

He smiled. "Mark my words, you will be one of the Agency's most valuable assets. Sharpe has great faith in you."

"Mr. Sharpe?" I hadn't seen the head of the special branch since he'd agreed to hire me back in January. As far as I knew, he'd been in Chicago ever since, doing whatever it is lucky, high-ranking Pinkertons do. "Why should he have faith in me?"

"Because I do."

I glanced up, meeting his gaze at last. Those eyes...pale blue and flecked with green, full of warmth and intelligence and curiosity and all the things I loved about Thomas Wiltshire...they always threatened to undo me. "I'm grateful," I murmured, distracted by a brief but vivid fantasy of showing him just how grateful.

"No gratitude necessary. We are partners, are we not? Now, we'd better get on if we're to make the city by sunset. Jackson won't thank us for being late."

I groaned inwardly. Another weekend chasing shades all over New York. We'd been at it since January—Thomas and I, along with Mr. Jackson, a senior agent and powerful necromancer—and I'd had about enough. A year ago, the very idea of hunting roaming spirits of the dead would have sent a shiver of dread down my spine. But after so many months, the task threatened to become as monotonous as scrubbing floors. A higher risk of death, certainly, but even that had lost much of its bite. I guess there are only so many times you can worry about the touch of a dead person stopping your heart before the thrill wears off.

Thomas saw it all in my expression. "I know, I've grown weary of it as well. But we're nearly through, and just think of all we've achieved. How many spirits we've helped to find peace, not to mention how many of the living we've kept from harm. Every time we restore one of those spirits to the otherworld—"

"I know. I'm just tired, that's all. Do I have time for a bath?" The thought of sinking into that warm, scented water brought a pang to my aching muscles.

Thomas reached instinctively for his Patek Philippe, only to remember that he was still wearing his jujitsu whites. "Blast. My watch is upstairs. But if we leave in an hour or so, we should have plenty of time."

"That'll do," I said, and started up the staircase.

We parted ways on the landing, Thomas turning left for the men's quarters while I headed right for the women's—which I very nearly had to myself, there being only four women in the special branch. One of those four passed me in the corridor, and her gaze was not friendly.

"Was it you who left the windows open last night?" Viola Fox asked, without so much as a how-do-you-do. I guess she figured that since she was an instructor and I a mere novice, she didn't owe me even the basic pleasantries.

"I-It was, yes, ma'am. My room is right above the kitchens, you see, and—"

"I fairly froze to death. It is October, you know."

"I'm sorry," I said instinctively, though I really wasn't. Why should I make any effort to please this woman when she could barely trouble herself to be civil? Whatever I'd done to offend her, she seemed intent on holding it against me forever more, even if that meant inventing silly complaints like open windows.

"Do try to consider others next time, Miss Gallagher," she said, and swept past.

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