"I'm serious this time Alek," said Deryn, her voice was barely a whisper. "This is the man. He's a barking spy, I can feel it." She had been staring at the man for minutes, her body tense as if ready to strike.

Alek rolled his eyes, "Yes Deryn and how many times must I tell you to start looking for concrete evidence before you accuse someone of a crime they might not even know about." Deryn shrugged, her eyes stayed fixed on the man with the mustache. His eyes were scanning the headline that read "World renowned boffin, Dr. Nora Darwin Barlow discovers a new and dangerous Darwinist beast".

It had been a pleasant afternoon so far, just the two of them, since Bovril decided to stay in Alek's bedroom watching the "Perils of Pauline". It seemed as though the beast was growing rather fond of dramas and cliff-hangers. Deryn had been laughing with Alek, as he told some old Clanker jokes that Klopp used to share with him, until the man had stepped into the tea shop.

Alek outstretched his hand and placed it on Deryn's shoulder. This seemed to have an immediate effect on her, for she turned her attention away from stranger.

He kneeled down in front of her and took her hand, "Listen, Deryn…I…well, I have been meaning to ask you for some time but…well, there comes a time in a man's life…I mean…what I mean to say is…" Alek sighed, exasperated by his lack of words. What he really meant to say was, "Deryn Sharp, will you do me the honour of being my wife?", or perhaps "Deryn, will you marry me?" But the words seemed to have completely left his mind once he tried to actually say them in front of her.
Alek reached into his pocket and felt the small box that contained a single gold ring. It took three years working for the Zoological Society of London for Alek to gather and save enough money to buy Deryn's wedding ring. He was 18 now, and so was Deryn, which meant that this was the appropriate time to ask for her hand in marriage.

Deryn smiled, her bright blue eyes twinkling with pleasure, probably at the sight of Alek fumbling like a complete dummkopf. "Yes your princeliness? What do you mean to say? You know we can't look like this in public."

"Yes, of course Mr. Sharp." Alek said, taking a deep breath. Before he could fully compose himself and try his attempt once more, Deryn briskly stood up, knocking her cup of tea, which spilled its contents all over the table. "Dr. Barlow!" she exclaimed, her eyes focused on a figure that has just entered the room, and judging by her look, it seemed as though she was just as surprised at seeing the lady boffin as he was. Alek stood up, brushing off some crumbs from his suit.

Dr. Barlow was dressed in a formal evening gown, her usual bowler hat perched on her head while her loris was perched on her shoulder. "Good afternoon Mr. Sharp and Mr. Hohenberg. I see you two are quite busy but do you mind if I take you aside for a moment? We have some very urgent matters to discuss. And I'd rather not wait for too long." She lowered her voice into a soft whisper, "I have an appointment with the head of the Zoological Association of America."

Deryn looked at Alek, and then nodded. "Of course ma'am, but I suppose it would be best if we discussed this somewhere private." Deryn glanced at the man with the mustache and Dr. Barlow seemed to have understood what she meant. "Ah yes, of course. We should be more careful with whom we let our conversations drift to."

Alek shook his head disbelievingly, "Do not tell me you actually believe that this man is a spy…he is merely a stranger." He whispered to both Dr. Barlow and Deryn.

The doctor smiled, "Yes, but you are forgetting Mr. Hohenberg that this stranger has ears, ears that may be able to hear our words quite clearly. We must take all precautions, for the matter I am about to discuss with you and Mr. Sharp is both important and deadly. Come now, we mustn't waste any time." She whispered her voice barely audible.

Deryn took Alek's hand and squeezed it, "Don't worry your princeliness," she whispered, as Dr. Barlow led them to a private room with glass doors, "There'll be plenty of time to tell me what you meant to say."

Alek sighed as he ran his fingers through his reddish brown hair, "Of course." He said but he doubted the words that had come out of his mouth. With the way things were going, will he ever be able to tell Deryn? His heart affirmed that he would, yet his mind disagreed. He shook his head, only time would tell. But right now, time was silent, and unwilling to speak.