The bidding part of the betrothal auction. Mattie is bored.
The endless parade of tuxedoed and uniformed men ran together into one smear of unremarkable humanity. Mattie’s brain began to identify the men with the strangest features and assemble them into one Quasimodo-esque visage, with protruding ears, a smashed nose, eyes too close together, reddened jowls, and a surprisingly wonderful personality. She’d have married Quasimodo and lived in the tower with him, enjoying their solitude and books and view of Paris, if only he were eligible—and real.
A familiar face stood out: Frederick. He caught her eye and smiled wordlessly: they weren’t supposed to speak during the bidding. It wasn’t called a silent auction for nothing.
He lifted his hand toward the box. A folded notice dropped from his slender fingers through the slit in the top.