Gia, the fair-haired Ligeia, sat on a chair, watching Penn and Bastian with bemused interest. Penn stood nearby, her hand to her chest as she smiled and stared up at him. Her eyes seemed to sparkle, and there was a lightness in them that Thea had never seen before.
When she came into the room, Bastian had his back to her. She was surprised to see that he wasn’t wearing a wig. The sirens themselves rarely wore the powdered wigs, finding them itchy and unnecessary, but most other people of standing insisted upon them.
“And the farmer kept insisting that I pay for the chicken,” Bastian was saying, and Penn laughed again. “But after all that, there wasn’t a chance that I would pay a single denier for it.”
Gia giggled but without the same fervor as Penn, who was apparently so interested in Bastian’s story that she didn’t notice her sisters entering the room. In fact, she didn’t see them until they had walked over and were almost standing directly behind Bastian.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Bastian, my sisters have arrived,” Penn said as she pulled her eyes from him and motioned to Aggie and Thea. “You recall Aggie and Thea, don’t you? Though they went by Aglaope and Thelxiepeia back then.”
He turned around, finally looked back at them. The second she saw him, it all came back to Thea.
Hundreds of years ago, she’d seen him perform. It had been in a great stadium, and Thea had been seated near the back with her sisters. Penn had seemed bored, too busy flirting with the gentleman in front of her to pay attention to the man onstage.
But Thea had been unable to take her eyes off him. The songs he played were the most beautiful she’d ever heard, and she spent most of her days listening to Gia sing—Gia, whose voice and song were so lovely and powerful she could enchant any living creature into doing her bidding.
After his performance, it had been Thea who insisted they speak to him. She’d dragged her sisters through the crowds until they finally found him. They spoke only a few words, mostly because Thea was too tongue-tied to find the right words, and then he’d walked away, leaving with his wife.
That memory had almost escaped her until she met his blue eyes, and then it all came flooding back. Somehow, he seemed even more handsome than she remembered him. Dark black hair, broad shoulders, and a smile so amazing, it took all the air from her lungs.
While Bastian greeted Aggie, Thea did her best to keep her composure. She smiled politely to keep her mouth from hanging agape.
“Thea,” Bastian said when he turned to her. He took her hand, and she desperately hoped that he couldn’t tell she was trembling. He bent down, kissing her hand as she did a small curtsy, and she had to remind herself to breathe.
“I believe I do recall you,” Bastian said, once he’d let go of her and stood back up. He smiled crookedly, creating a small dimple in his smooth skin. “You enjoyed my performance.”
“Bastian, everybody enjoyed your performance,” Penn said with a light laugh.
“That is true,” he admitted and turned back to her.
“I’m sure dinner is ready by now,” Penn said. “Shall we go down?” She wrapped her arm around his, so he’d escort her to the dining hall.
Thea lagged a few moments behind, preferring to walk with Aggie and Gia. She didn’t know exactly what was going on, but one thing she knew for certain—she had a very big problem.
After rehearsal, they’d had their first rough fittings. The play was set during the Italian Renaissance, so the costumes were elegant and elaborate, especially since the director, Tom, required perfection and authenticity.
Gemma had gone down into the dressing rooms, where the costume maker had her try on a muslin gown for fit and structure. Once she’d had it on and measurements had been double-checked, she’d been allowed to change back into her street clothes and go home, but she lingered behind.
Throughout the theater’s restoration, the dressing rooms had mostly remained untouched. They were small brick boxes shoved in the basement. They’d been painted white to brighten them up, but the paint was chipped and peeling.
The hallway outside the dressing rooms wasn’t much better. It hadn’t been painted at all, and the ceiling had exposed pipes and ventilation. All four of the dressing rooms had stars on the doors, painted with names of famous movie stars, like MARILYN and ERROL, for ambience.
But that wasn’t what had Gemma meandering in the hall. She’d been the last one to have a fitting, so she was alone in the basement, admiring the photographs that lined the walls. All of them were black-and-white eight-by-tens and they had been taken either during the Paramount original heyday or shortly after it had reopened.
The one that Gemma had stopped in front of was of her mother. It had been taken years ago, before either Gemma or Harper had been born, maybe even before Nathalie had married Brian.
Nathalie was standing just to the side of the stage, holding a bouquet of roses. She wasn’t looking at the camera; rather, she was staring at something just to the right of her. Her long hair was pushed to one side, and she had a crooked smile that somehow looked beautiful.
Based on her outfit, Gemma guessed that Nathalie had been playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. It had been a simple blue dress that ended up torn by the end of the play, but Nathalie had really loved her performance in it, so she’d kept the dress for years.
“There you are,” Kirby said, and Gemma glanced over to see him walking down the hall toward her. “I’ve been waiting upstairs for you to come up, but you never did.”
“I got a little sidetracked,” Gemma said, and she pointed to the photograph in front of her. “That’s my mom.”
It took a few seconds for Kirby to pull his gaze away from her and look over at the picture. When he finally did, he nodded his approval.
“She’s pretty,” he said, but Gemma hadn’t expected a different answer. Her mother was tall and elegant, with beautiful eyes and a serene smile.
“She was a very talented actress, too,” Gemma said.
“Like, professionally?” Kirby asked. “Was she on television or movies?”
“No, she was an accountant.” Gemma laughed at the juxtaposition. “But in another life, she would’ve been a model or an actress. She decided to have kids and get married instead.”
“That sucks,” Kirby said, and Gemma shot him a glare. He immediately looked down, his blue eyes wounded and apologetic.
“That does not suck,” Gemma corrected him before turning back to the picture. “She loved my dad, and she loved my sister and me. She chose to be with us because we made her happier.”