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“This is necessary,” she told herself. “You can’t build the real thing without constructing a working model first.”

Right. That sounded like a plausible excuse. Anyway, the hull of the ship hid the telltale flash of the vibrant energy source.

With the engine purring like a kitten fat on milk, the model floated higher. Kali flicked another lever. The rudder turned, and the ship changed direction, veering away from the wall and out over her collection of disassembled boilers, half-built projects, and crates of brass, steel, and iron parts. It lofted toward the back corner of the building, skimming beneath ceiling beams decorated with cobwebs and owl pellets. The ex-fur-storage warehouse wasn’t posh, but at least the rent was cheap.

The shop door creaked open, and nippy spring air swirled in, smelling of wood smoke, melting snow, and yeast from the brewery next door.

“Tarnation,” Kali cursed under her breath.

She turned, hoping it was Cedar. It was not.

When she identified the well-dressed man who stepped through the doorway, her hand clenched the control box so tightly she nearly broke one of the levers.

The clean-shaven man wore a tailored black suit, a green silk vest, and a creamy button-down shirt with fancy stitching about the collar. A sleek, beaver-fur top hat perched above a mane of thick blond hair that fell straight to his shoulders. His clear green eyes and easy smile could dazzle a lady...until that lady wised up and realized he was a con man. A con man who could make love to a woman and promise to help her escape the frozen North, all the while scheming to get at her most prized possession.

Kali forced her grip on the control box to loosen so she could turn off the engine. No need to flaunt that prized possession.

“Sebastian,” she growled through clenched teeth. “How’d you get in? I locked that door.”

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