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Lady in the Lake

- Laura Lippman

In the animal kingdom, the male performs for the woman, woos her with his beautiful feathers or flowing mane, is always trying to out-strut the other men. Why do humans do it the other way? It doesn’t make sense. Men need us more than we need them.

The Last Graduate

- Naomi Novik

Mum would only warn me off something bad, not something painful. So obviously Orion was the most brilliant maleficer ever, concealing his vile plans by saving the lives of everyone over and over just so he could, I don't know, kill them himself later on? Or maybe Mum worried that he was so annoying that he'd drive me to become the most brilliant maleficer ever, which was probably more plausible, since that's supposedly my doom anyway.

I suppose I should have felt sorry for her, but I'd rather be sorry for someone who never had luck at all than for someone whose extreme luck ran out unexpectedly. Mum would tell me I could be sorry for both of them, to which I'd say she could be sorry for both of them, but I had a more limited supply of sympathy and had to ration it.

Aadhya silently went and dug a leftover half of a granola bar out of a small warded stash box on her desk. Liu tried to refuse it, but Aad said, "Oh my God, eat the freaking granola bar," and then Liu's face crumpled and she got up and put her arms out towards us. It took me a few moments longer than Aadhya - three years of near-total social ostracization leaves you badly equipped for this sort of thing - but they both kept a space open until I lurched in to join the hug, our arms around each other, and it was the miracle all over again, the miracle I still couldn't quite believe in: I wasn't alone anymore. They were saving me, and I was going to save them. It felt more like magic than magic. As though it could make everything all right. As if the whole world had become a different place.

But it hadn't. I was still in the Scholomance, and all the miracles in here come with price tags.

"To be fair, you're the only person I've ever met who'd come up with the idea of being wildly rude and hostile to the guy who saved your life twenty times," Aadhya said.

I glared at her. "Thirteen times! And I've saved his life at least twice."

"Catch up already, girl," she said, unrepentantly.

To cap it off, Orion didn't congratulate me exactly, but he said, "I'm glad you and Chloe have become friends," in an alarmingly hopeful way that was very clearly only one unfortunate literature assignment away from turning into come live with me and be my love, optionally etched onto metal with little hearts around it.

"And you actually like Orion, who is kind of creepy -"

"He's not!"

"Excuse you, he totally is," Aadhya said. "Half the time he can't recognize me unless I'm with you. He pretends to when I say hi to him in shop, but every time his brain goes into this panicky loop like who is she oh no I'm supposed to know her oh no I'm failing at human. And it's not just me, he does it to everyone. He could probably tell you every last mal he's killed in the entire time he's been at school, but us human beings all get filed under the generic category of future potential rescue. I don't know why he can see you, I think it's because you're some crazy super-maleficer in waiting. Creepy."

I glared at her indignantly, but she just huffed and added, "And you have a hard time accepting that anyone has a right to exist if they won't jump across three lab tables to save the life of a total stranger, so you guys are totally perfect for each other. But sorry to break it to you, you both still need to eat and sleep somewhere and, even worse, occasionally interact with other humans."

We all agreed we had the right to get out any way we could, within the one narrow limit of actually killing each other - and even that could be handwaved off as long as you did it unobtrusively enough. It was understood that you only promised to help other people because they'd help you back, and it was understood that your promises stopped counting when you got close enough to the gates, and nobody would ever blame you for going through as soon as you could, even if everyone else on your team died. Nobody would ever expect you to turn back and nobody would promise to do it.

There wasn't actually very much of the gossip to be had, because oddly enough constantly being on the verge of malnourishment, exhaustion, and mortal terror isn't really conducive to romance, but we extracted all the entertainment we could from the couples that managed to have the energy - most of which involved at least one enclaver, unsurprisingly.

"Somebody always gets lucky, right?" she said. "Why not me? Why shouldn't I be the only one who wins the lottery? I told myself that, but I didn't believe it, because it was too lucky. I knew I had to do something to deserve it. Like I knew you'd had to do something to deserve that book you got. And I hadn't. So first I kept waiting for you to ditch me, and then I kept waiting to have to do something, but I didn't. And I'm telling you about Udaya because, in my head, at some point, I think I decided, okay, it was like a trade. I didn't get to have my sister, so I got you."

I had a horrible gargled noise stuffed up in my throat, because I couldn't ask her to stop. I couldn't want her to stop, even if I had my hands pressed over my mouth, and there were tears building along the ledge of my fingers.

Aadhya just kept talking. "I knew that was bullshit, but it made me feel better about not doing anything. So all these months, I've been letting that sit in my head, and that was stupid of me, because if you're who I get instead of my sister - I can't just leave you behind and still be a person." She looked up then, and it turned out she was also crying, tears trickling down her face and just starting to drip off her chin, even though her voice didn't sound any different. "I'm not leaving you behind."

I really wanted to be blubbering like a child, but instead I had to pull myself together and stop her. "I don't want that! I'm not asking you or anyone else to stay behind with me."

"Right, obviously." Aadhya swiped her sleeve across her face and sucked in a snuffle. "You'd rather run away and wallow in angst than ask for help or anything else extremely horrible like that."

Either way, it was just as well. I came in here and I've survived in here being sensible all the time, trying to always do the cleverest thing I could manage, to see all the clear and sharp-edged dangers from every angle, so I could just barely squeeze past them without losing too much blood. I could never afford to look past survival, especially not for anything as insanely expensive and useless as happiness, and I don't believe in it anyway. I'm too good at being hard, I've got so good at it, and I wasn't going to go soft all of a sudden now. I wasn't going to make Mum's choice, wasn't going to do something stupid because of a boy who'd come and sat shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the library, the two of us alone in a pool of light in the reaching dark all around - a boy who. improbably thought I was just grand and who made my stomach fold itself over into squares when he was near me.

The Last of August

- Brittany Cavallaro

I tended to spend too much time with my favorite things, loved them too hard until I wore them down. After a while, they became more like a shorthand for who I was and less like things I actually enjoyed.

The Last Legacy

- Adrienne Young

In Nimsmire, I’d always felt like a roughly cut jewel set into a shining brooch. My edges were too sharp. My anger too swift. Sariah had done her best to make me into one of the girls from prominent merchant families who would be matched like shoes to a handsome frock, but I’d never fit seamlessly among them. I’d never wanted to.

In that way, Bastian was more than my destiny. It was my chance at freedom from charades and displays and diplomatic marriages.

Back where you belong. Henrik’s voice crept through my mind.

I’d never belonged anywhere. Not in Nimsmire. Not with Sariah. But there was a faint, whispering voice that had found me as I crossed the threshold of the house tucked back in the dismal, forgotten alley of Lower Vale. It had snaked its way through me, echoing that single, terrifying word that Murrow had spoken.


There was no decorum about these people. No apparent order. They were smartly dressed and groomed, but something about them had the look of feral creatures who’d been tamed. The only thing that seemed clear was Henrik’s leadership over the rest of them.

I wasn’t a fool. I’d known when I got off that ship at the docks that joining the Roths wouldn’t be as simple as taking my mother’s chair at the table. I’d counted on the fact that to them, family was everything. It was the net that would catch me if I made a mistake or if I fell from grace. But there was a clear line drawn between those who belonged and those who didn’t. It would take more than blood to cross it.

I bit down on my bottom lip painfully. He had never said my name. I was sure he hadn’t, because I’d never felt that bloom in my chest before. He was horrible and callous and cruel. But there was something else about Ezra that felt like a sinking stone in water. One that never hit bottom.

I looked like a Roth, it was true. But the thing that made my boots feel glued to the floorboards was that I looked like … I looked like myself. Maybe for the first time ever.

There would be no more gowns for dinners and jewels to catch the eyes of men. There would be no more rouged cheeks and bashful smiles. I was tired of pretending.

The Last Story of Mina Lee

- Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The message had always been that women without men lacked shape, women without men were always waiting for them to appear like images in a darkroom bath.

Sadness crept up from her chest into her face. She wondered how many women had been trapped—in terrible marriages, terrible jobs, unbearable circumstances—simply because the world hadn’t been designed to allow them to thrive on their own. Their decisions would always be scrutinized by the levels at which they were able to sacrifice themselves, their bodies, their pleasures and desires. A woman who imagined her own way out would always be ostracized for her own strength.

The League of Gentlewomen Witches

- India Holton

An Irish pirate in London. Charlotte could only imagine the unbridled poetry he was leaving in his wake.

The Wisteria Society, leaders of the pirate community, considered witchcraft déclassé, and Alex tended to agree with them, although he preferred devious, destructive, and other alliterative words he could not think up just at that moment. Although the Wicken League employed the same magical incantation as pirates, they chose to do so subtly. Alex found this suspicious. What kind of person preferred to trifle with minor things -pumpkins, people, bicycles - when they could fly actual buildings? And why do it secretly, when infamy was possible?

"Charlotte Pettifer." She held out a gloved hand and Cecilia shook it. For the merest moment, their grips shifted in what may have been called, by uncharitable observers, a wrestle for dominance, although the pleasant expression on both faces did not waver. As they lowered their hands again, they smiled at each other with ladylike sweetness.

Guns have been cocked less terrifyingly.

Somewhere at the back of her mind, Jane Austen's heroines were shouting, waving volumes of Mansfield Park, and trying to remind her of the fate awaiting unchaste women. But they were drowned out by the echoing memory of Alex calling her strong, fierce, gorgeous, brave.

How could one prepare a correct response to the unexpected? Charlotte knew that over the past two days she had behaved so unlike Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliot as to be almost authentically herself, and that was far too risky to be considered a good thing.

They gazed at each other, grinning rather foolishly.


Turning, they found Bixby shaking his head with exasperation. "I beg your pardon," he said without the least hint of apology in his voice, "but is this a romance or is it an adventure? For I will remind you, we are missing the ongoing action."

"That's my girl," Ned murmured with a smile.

"Actually, that was my girl," said a new voice. The pirates glanced around to see Tom arriving. In his arms was an iron ball, its chain still attached to his ankle. Ned smacked him cheerfully on the shoulder, making him wince.

Alex turned back to watch the popcorn stall close in on Armitage House, Charlotte riding its roof with perfectly calm balance. "Does anyone else get the feeling," he said, "that in fact we're their boys?"

Lessons in Chemistry

- Bonnie Garmus

Within six months, Elizabeth's show was a rising star. Within a year, an institution. And within two years, it had proven its uncanny power not only to unite parents with their children, but citizens with their country. It is not an exaggeration to say that when Elizabeth Zott finished cooking, an entire nation sat down to eat.

Other than chemistry, rowing was the only thing Calvin had true passion for. In fact, rowing is why Calvin applied to Harvard in the first place: to row for Harvard was, in 1945, to row for the best. Or actually second best. University of Washington was the best, but University of Washington was in Seattle and Seattle had a reputation for rain. Calvin hated rain. Therefore, he looked further afield to the other Cambridge, the one in England, thus exposing one of the biggest myths about scientists: that they're any good at research.

The first day Calvin rowed on the Cam, it rained. The second day it rained. Third day: same. "Does it rain like this all the time?" Calvin complained as he and his teammates hoisted the heavy wooden boat to their shoulders and lumbered out to the dock. "Oh never," they reassured him, "Cambridge is usually quite balmy." And then they looked at one another as if to confirm what they had already long suspected: Americans were idiots.

The lab tech closed his eyes. "Listen," he said, slowly reopening them as if to dramatize her stupidity. "I've been here a lot longer than you and I know things. You know what Calvin Evans is famous for, don't you? Besides chemistry?"

"Yes. Having an excess of equipment."

"No," he said. "He's famous for holding a grudge. A grudge!"

"Really?" she said taking interest.

Elizabeth Zott held grudges too. Except her grudges were mainly reserved for a patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent. Less inventive. A society that believed men went to work and did important things - discovered planets, developed products, created laws - and women stayed at home and raised children. She didn't want children - she knew this about herself - but she also knew that plenty of other women did want children and a career. And what was wrong with that? Nothing. It was exactly what men got.

"Look," she said pointedly, as she brushed a strand of hair off her face. "I hope you won't think I'm jumping to conclusions, but I've had trouble in the past and I want to be clear: I'm not dating you. This is work, nothing more. I am not interested in a relationship of any kind."

"Nor am I," he insisted. "This is work. That's it."

"That's it."

And then they gathered their cups and saucers and went off in opposite directions, each desperately hoping the other didn't mean it.

"Big plans for the weekend?" he finally ventured.

"Yes." she lied.

"Enjoy," he snapped. Then he turned and walked away.

She watched him for a moment, then got in her car and closed her eyes. Calvin wasn't stupid. He read Science Journal. He must have known what she was implying when she mentioned bombykol, the pheromone released by female silkworms to attract male mates. Worms, he'd said almost cruelly. What a jerk. And what a fool she'd been - so blatantly broaching the subject of love in a parking lot, only to get rejected.

You're not interested, she'd said.

Not at all, he'd replied.

She opened her eyes and shoved the key in the ignition. He probably assumed she was only after more lab equipment anyway. Because in a man's mind, why else would a woman mention bombykol on a Friday evening in an empty parking lot when the soft breeze was coming out of the west carrying the scent of her extremely expensive shampoo directly into his nasal cavity unless it was all part of a plot to get more beakers? She couldn't think of another reason. Except for the real one. She was falling in love with him.

Just then there was a sharp rap to her left. She looked up to find Calvin motioning for her to roll down her window.

"I'm not after your damn lab equipment!" she barked as she lowered the pane that separated them.

"And I'm not the problem," he snapped as he bent down to face her straight on.

Elizabeth looked back at him, fuming. How dare he?

Calvin looked back at her. How dare she?

And then that feeling came over her again, the one she had every time she was with him, but this time she acted on it, reaching out with both hands to draw his face to hers, their first kiss cementing a permanent bond that even chemistry could not explain.

"One thing I've learned, Calvin: people will always yearn for a simple solution to their complicated problems. It's a lot easier to have faith in something you can't see, can't touch, can't explain, and can't change, rather than to have faith in something you actually can." She sighed. "One's self, I mean."

"Elizabeth," he implored, as he raked his fingers through his hair. "Please understand. I want us to be a family - a real family. It's important to me, maybe because I lost my family - I don't know. What I do know is that ever since I met you, I've felt there should be three of us. You, me, and a ... a ..."

Elizabeth's eyes grew wide in horror. "Calvin," she said in alarm, "I thought we agreed about that, too."

"Well. We've never really talked about it."

"No, we have," she pressed. "We definitely have."

"Just that once," he said, "and it wasn't really a talk. Not really."

"I don't know how you can say that," she said, panicked. "We absolutely agreed: no children. I can't believe you're talking like this. What's happened to you?"

"Right, but I was thinking we could-"

"I was clear"

"I know," he interrupted, "but I was thinking-"

"You can't just change your mind on this one."

"For Pete's sake, Elizabeth," he said, getting mad. "If you'd just let me finish-"

"Go ahead," she snapped. "Finish!"

He looked at her, frustrated.

"I was only thinking that we could get a dog."

Relief flooded her face. "A dog?" she said. "A dog!"

Elizabeth wasn't one for church, but there was something holy about Harriet Sloane. She was like a practical priest, someone to whom one could confess things - fears, hopes, mistakes - and expect in return, not a simpleton's recipe for prayers and beads, or a psychologist's standard "And how does that make you feel?" runaround, but actual wisdom. How to get on with the business at hand. How to survive.

"I'm a chemist. Not a woman chemist. A chemist. A damn good one!"

"Well, I'm a personnel expert! An almost-psychologist," Frask shouted.


"Shut up."

"No really," Zott said. "Almost?"

"I didn't have a chance to finish, okay? What about you? Why aren't you a PhD, Zott?" Frask shot back.

Elizabeth hardened, and without meaning to, revealed a fact about herself that she'd never told anyone other than a police officer. "Because I was sexually violated by my thesis advisor, then kicked out of the doctoral program," she shouted. "You?"

Frask looked back, shocked. "Same," she said limply.

"Anyway," she continued. "I'm sorry that Mudford has implied you're anything other than a loving father. I very much doubt she's read the Kinsey Reports."

"The Kinsey-"

"Because if she had, she'd actually understand that you and I are the opposite of sexual deviants. You and I are-"

"Normal parents?" he rushed.

"Loving role models."


"Kin," she finished.

It was that last word that cemented their odd, tell-all friendship, the kind that only arises when a wronged person meets someone who has been similarly wronged and discovers that while it may be the only thing they share, it is more than enough.

"It's more that I want you to be you," he said. "Not a scientist."

She tucked a few stray hairs behind her ears. "But I am a scientist," she argued. "It's who I am."

"That may be, Elizabeth Zott," he said, not knowing how true this would turn out to be. "But it's only a start."

Later that day, when the card was delivered to him for his own signature, he glanced at the well-wishes. Most were the standard Feel better!" but a few were a bit darker.

Fuck you, Lebensmal.

I wouldn't have called an ambulance.

Die already.

He recognized the handwriting on the last one - one of Phil's secretaries.

Even though he knew he couldn't possibly be the only one who'd hated the boss, he'd had no idea what a large club he belonged to. It was validating, sure, but also gut-wrenching. Because as a producer, he was part of Phil's management team, and that meant he was responsible for pushing Phil's agenda while ignoring those who ultimately paid the price for it. He reached for a pen and, for the fourth time that day, followed Elizabeth Zott's simple advice: do what was right.

MAY YOU NEVER RECOVER, he wrote in huge letters across the middle. Then he stuffed the card in an enormous envelope, put it in the out basket, and made a solemn promise. Things had to change. He would start with himself.

The Leviathan

- Rosie Andrews

Now, less than a hundred years after men and magic began to drift apart, we walk a new earth. We have become reasonable, and cleave to our certainties as once we cleaved to our king. Now, the buried stories are dismissed as old wives' tales, exaggerations, falsehoods. But still they bubble through the cracks, clinging on, refusing to go down into the dark.

But I was tired of it. All of it. Tired of men beating one another into the dirt as though they were slaughtering hogs. Tired of hearing bones shatter and seeing my fellows soil themselves, all because some men far from the battle believed God had a perfect foreknowledge of who was damned and who was saved, and some others didn't.

And there was more than one way to be free.

Ill-wishing. Imps in the shapes of polecats and ferrets. Familiars that wind themselves, in circles of ever-increasing tightness and intimacy, about unwitting female legs at night, or creep into their beds. Satan conspiring with widows and spinsters to murder livestock. Come now, do any of us truly believe these things? Does any sensible person credit that a man might be swept away in a storm raised by an angered lover, or stricken by an apoplexy at the behest of a woman he has disdained? I have to say, I did not. I believed in things I could touch: the fissured bark of sea-going oak, the comfort of a Welsh silver coin in my palm.

I did not know, then, that fear itself could take form, could become a tangible thing. That lesson lay ahead.

The Lies of the Ajungo

- Moses Ose Utomi

With nothing but his mama's blessing and the threadbare leather sandals on his feet, he left his home. There was no water in the City of Lies, true, but he would prove that there was a hero in the City of Lies.

At least one.

But Tutu had experienced all his fear as a child. Death, abandonment, failure, loneliness - he'd been forced to confront all of them by the age of thirteen, and all it had done was help him See more clearly. Now, there was no fear left in him.

Little Men

- Louisa May Alcott

Nat was very fond of Mrs. Bhaer, but found something even more attractive in the good professor, who took fatherly care of the shy feeble boy, who had barely escaped with his life from the rough sea on which his little boat had been tossing rudderless for twelve years. Some good angel must have been watching over him, for, though his body had suffered, his soul seemed to have taken little harm, and came ashore as innocent as a shipwrecked baby.

I'll be moderate, but do let me amuse myself. I get desperately tired of business sometimes, and nothing freshens me up like a good frolic with your boys. I like that Dan very much, Jo. He isn't demonstrative; but he has the eye of a hawk, and when you have tamed him a little he will do you credit."

"I'm so glad you think so. Thank you very much for your kindness to him, especially for this museum affair; it will keep him happy while he is lame, give me a chance to soften and smooth this poor, rough lad, and make him love us. What did inspire you with such a beautiful, helpful idea, Teddy?" asked Mrs. Bhaer, glancing back at the pleasant room, as she turned to leave it.

Laurie took both her hands in his, and answered, with a look that made her eyes fill with happy tears,

"Dear Jo! I have known what it is to be a motherless boy, and I never can forget how much you and yours have done for me all these years."

Dear me! If men and women would only trust, understand, and help one another as my children do, what a capital place the world would be!" and Mrs. Jo's eyes grew absent, as if she was looking at a new and charming state of society in which people lived as happily and innocently as her flock at Plumfield.

Little Women

- Louisa May Alcott

"Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said Meg, beginning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion. "You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn't matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady."

"I'm not! and if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China-aster! It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys' games and work and manners! I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman!"

Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight, and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!

Meg knew Sallie, and was at her ease very soon; but Jo, who didn't care much for girls or girlish gossip, stood about, with her back carefully against the wall, and felt as much out of place as a colt in a flower-garden. Half a dozen jovial lads were talking about skates in another part of the room, and she longed to go and join them, for skating was one of the joys of her life. She telegraphed her wish to Meg, but the eyebrows went up so alarmingly that she dared not stir.

"My first name is Theodore, but I don't like it, for the fellows called me Dora, so I made them say Laurie instead."

"I hate my name, too—so sentimental! I wish every one would say Jo, instead of Josephine. How did you make the boys stop calling you Dora?"

"I thrashed 'em."

"I can't thrash Aunt March, so I suppose I shall have to bear it"; and Jo resigned herself with a sigh.

Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid; what it was she had no idea, as yet, but left it for time to tell her; and, meanwhile, found her greatest affliction in the fact that she couldn't read, run, and ride as much as she liked.

"Right, Jo; better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands," said Mrs. March decidedly. "Don't be troubled, Meg; poverty seldom daunts a sincere lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls, but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things to time; make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls: mother is always ready to be your confidant, father to be your friend; and both of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives."

Jo's breath gave out here; and, wrapping her head in the paper, she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears; for to be independent, and earn the praise of those she loved were the dearest wishes of her heart, and this seemed to be the first step toward that happy end.

"Don't talk in that way; turn over a new leaf and begin again, Teddy, my son."

"I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copy-books; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end," he said dolefully.

"Go and eat your dinner; you'll feel better after it. Men always croak when they are hungry," and Jo whisked out at the front door after that.

The London Séance Society

- Sarah Penner

"That is the thing about you science-minded people," Vaudeline whispered, a sliver of frustration in her voice. "Everything must be so terribly simple. A hypothesis, either proven or disproven. Black-and-white." She fiddled with the door once more. "Might you allow a few shades of gray in your life? Might there be some things you couldn't classify on a taxonomy chart of emotions, if one even existed?"

She had no idea what she was asking - no idea how badly Lenna wanted to say, There are a thousand feelings I can't classify, all of them new since I meet you. Every one of them a shade of gray.

The Lonely Hearts Book Club

- Lucy Gilmore

It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd had a piece of my parents to ease the sting of my solitary state, but I didn't. No part of them - their arguments or affection, their concern or their curiosity - was mine to hold. They were too wrapped up in each other to care about me. It was touching, in a way, these two people who lived and breathed and fought together, who every day enacted their own broken version of a happy ending.

See, that was the thing they never told you about happily ever after. Sometimes, there was no happy. Other times, there was no forever. Only the after remained. I knew that better than anyone. The after was what I'd been living for the majority of my life, and it wasn't even close to the fairy-tale promise I was fed as a kid. Literature was full of lies like that.

It was funny, when you thought about it. From the outside, Sloane looked about twenty times more approachable than Greg. She was a soft, sweet doll of a human being who seemed to be folded up in bubble wrap. But the more time I spent under this roof, the more I realized how much she and Arthur had in common.

They weren't easy people, the two of them. They were educated and well read, smart in ways that I never would be, but neither one of them had gone near bubble wrap a day in their lives. Those two were wrapped up in razor wire. I was sure of it. And for all my good intentions, I'd never get close without cutting myself to shreds first.

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think," I quoted. It was pathetic for a fully grown man to struggle to say something that had been tripping off the tongues of little girls for over a century, but there was a reason Sloane had chosen Anne of Green Gables for our next book-club read. That girl had more wisdom than she knew.

So did Nigel. He nodded and finished it for me. "It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

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