The Wild Adventure of Jasper Renn
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When am I going to get to London again?
This might be the last time he saw her.
Panic grabbed him by the heart and squeezed hard. He didn’t think, he just let instinct take over. He ran through the hotel doors, looking around for her like a wild man. Then he saw her stepping into a lift all the way across the foyer. He rarely used his abilities where he might be seen, but tonight he didn’t care. In the space of a blink he was right behind her, following her into the small and otherwise empty lift.
She froze when she saw him. The gates were closed, and the lift jerked into motion.
He grabbed her and kissed her. They were still kissing when they exited the lift on her floor. They broke contact long enough to get into the room. Jasper hung the do-not-disturb sign.
And then he shut the door.
Cat woke up late the next morning.
Jasper had left sometime after four, claiming that he didn’t want people to see him leaving her room, because it might start rumors about her.
She had frowned at him and said, “I don’t give a rat’s arse about my reputation.” It wasn’t a complete lie.
He’d kissed her forehead. “I do.”
Something gave within the walls of her chest—like a sharp ping or the snap of a slingshot. While she and Sparrow had been loved by their parents very much, and even by the community, there were those who looked down on a marriage of mixed color. Looked down on the children that were a result of that marriage. From the time she started looking womanly, she’d had to protect herself against men who would use her or take advantage. And she could protect herself. Sparrow, too.
Maybe that was part of the reason she was so angry at her sister—for being duped into thinking that rich man was going to marry her. Sparrow should have known better. Their lives had taught them better. But then, her sister was something of a romantic and kept hoping a man would come along who didn’t care what color she was or wasn’t. Cat had always thought such a man didn’t exist.
So, she hadn’t protested his sneaking out, especially not after the kiss he gave her before leaving.
“Meet me downstairs at seven,” he’d murmured before he left.
Seven o’clock that evening wasn’t for many hours yet, so that left her with plenty of time to kill. She decided to spend it exploring the city a bit and doing a little shopping. She wasn’t the shopping type—mostly because dresses were useless in Five Points. But Five Points was being demolished, the people moving on, and she wasn’t going to be that Wildcat anymore. Well, she’d keep the name. It suited her more than Catherine ever had—Mary Catherine, at that. Sparrow’s real name was Mary Elizabeth. Their father had been a “good” Irish lad, and their mother had been happy to become Catholic, having a strong belief in God.
Religion was on a pick-and-choose basis for most of Five Points. Sin all week and repent on Sunday. Cat wasn’t much for church, but she knew where she was going when she died.
So, she went to a fancy shop that sold what was called prêt-à-porter clothing. Ready to wear. She didn’t have to be measured and wait weeks for the darn thing to be done. She found a pretty dress in her size and bought all the bits and pieces that went with it. It was terribly expensive, but it would be worth the look on Jasper’s face when he saw her in it.
She’d made it only two hours without thinking of him. And not even two, because she had started thinking about him—and the night before—shortly after leaving the hotel. But she’d made herself stop. She was not going to moon and pine over him. Not going to pin any hopes on him. She was going to collect Sparrow and go home to New York, where they’d have a nice house and Sparrow could have the life she deserved.
Someday Cat might even forget about Jasper altogether.
She had tea in a little shop not far from where she got the dress, and filled her belly with sandwiches and cakes that were so delicious. Then, she bought some chocolates and continued on to another shop that sold beautiful soaps and creams. She spent money there, as well, and at the cobbler’s. Her last stop was a jeweler’s. Nothing fancy, just some earrings and pins for her hair. And she had all of it sent to back to her hotel, where it would wait for her, rather than having to lug it about town. She walked around and saw the sites—purchased an umbrella—and then made her way back to the hotel around four o’clock.
The gown was hanging up when she entered the room. The rest of her purchases were set out on the bed, each wrapped as they had been at the shop. Such pretty things! She’d never, ever had anything so lovely before. She was almost afraid to wear any of it.
Cat ran a bath and used some of the oils she’d purchased in it. Jasmine. She loved the smell of jasmine. And her soap was a bergamot-and-jasmine blend that was almost delicious enough to eat. She scrubbed and soaked, washed her hair, then read a book while she ate chocolates right from the box. When the water went from warm to cool, she climbed out and toweled off. Then, wrapped up in two of the thick towels, she started to get ready for the evening.
She dried her hair with the special device attached to the bathroom wall. It drew warm air up from the boilers below the hotel. She used a low setting because her hair would end up looking like a tumbleweed if she didn’t. Once it was dry, she used a blend of oils on it, made from a recipe of her mother’s. Then she began dressing.