“Oh, lands! Look at the dirt beneath her fingers.”
“And those gashes must be infected. See how black they are?”
“Ladies, ladies, give her some room! She’s coming to.”
Something cold touched Carissa’s cheek, and she startled. She peeled her eyelids back, and immediately regretted it as the glare from the evening sun stung her eyes.
The nightwoman she’d met earlier leaned over her, holding a bowl of broth. “Have some of this, dearie. It will help.”
She thought about rejecting the offer only until she caught a whiff of the broth. The smell made her stomach tighten with hunger, and she took a few spoonfuls. The fog was clearing from her head—and surprisingly, the pain vanished from her body—and she glanced around.
Where was she? Had she been taken to a nighthouse? Would they demand pay for this, indebting her to them and forcing her to work as a nightwoman?
No. No one could force her to be a night woman ever again. Elon wouldn’t allow it.
When the woman held another spoonful up to Carissa’s mouth, she shook her head. “How much do I owe you for this?”
Her lips creased in a smile. “Nothing at all, dearie.”
“No!” A nightwoman appeared over her shoulder, sporting exotic red hair. She reminded Carissa of Avril. A light sprinkling of freckles winged out from the nose to her cheekbones, and her eyes were a captivatingly bright blue. “Our condition is that you go to the dance tonight with us. Everyone has been wondering who the new mystery girl is—and how she obtained so many blackened scars. If you accompany us, the other women will be immensely jealous.”
The blond nightwoman swatted her shoulder. “Leave her be. She’s exhausted, seriously injured, and in no condition to go to a dance.”
A third nightwoman appeared on Carissa’s other side, her hair so pale it was nearly white. “But Dove, think what fun we’d have! And what fun she’d have! All the men would want to dance with her.”
The first nightwoman, Dove, arched her finely plucked eyebrows. “I doubt she’d enjoy our type of dancing, Renata. She’s married.”
There was a collective gasp as both women leaned closer.
“Married?” asked the redhead.
The white-haired woman fixed wide eyes on Carissa. “To whom?”