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Home > The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)(12)

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)(12)
Author: Megan Shepherd

That grin meant Montgomery was lying.

I stood so fast the teapot rattled. I pushed my chair back, looking for my bag. I realized I wasn’t ready to learn the truth. And Montgomery . . . I hadn’t felt such intense and confusing emotions in so long that I didn’t know what to do but run.

“I need to go. I was supposed to work tonight.”

He stood, surprised. “Stay. It’s been so long—”

“It was good to see you,” I said, stumbling toward the door. I’d forgotten the time. Mrs. Bell had asked me to help clean the operating theater before a lecture Monday morning. She’d be furious I wasn’t there.

Balthasar poked his head out from the other room, giving me a quizzical look. The parrot pecked against the bars of its cage. “I’m sorry about trying to break in,” I said.

“Miss Moreau, please. Wait.”

I was out of the room before he could finish. I hurried down the stairs, into the dining hall, where the proprietor was mopping the floors. She looked up, but I didn’t stop until I was outside.

THE STREETS WERE EMPTY. Saint Paul’s church bells tolled as I made my way along Cannon Street. My head was as foggy as the night. Eight, nine, ten tolls. Ten o’clock. Blast. Mrs. Bell would skin me alive. I picked up my skirts—my Sunday best, which would take too long to change out of—and ran through the back alleys to my boardinghouse. Annie gave me a quizzical look as I threw open the door and grabbed my basket of cleaning supplies, but I couldn’t waste time on an explanation.

I ran back out into the night, down the Strand toward King’s College. Mrs. Bell and Mary would probably still be there, seething that I was late. I tried to ignore the other thoughts clouding my mind: My father was alive but hadn’t contacted me. Montgomery was back, and yet he’d soon return to my father, as though our roles as servant and child were reversed.

At last I made it to the entrance of the medical building and dashed up the granite steps, tugging on the front door. Locked. I set down my basket and gathered a few bits of broken stone from the street and tossed them at the high first-floor windows, praying Mary would hear me. Mrs. Bell would give me an earful for being late, but it was better than not showing at all. My aim wasn’t good, especially since my bare hands were cold and trembling, but a light went on in one of the windows.

“Thank God,” I said, cupping my freezing nose. I picked up my basket of cleaning supplies. I’d help them finish and then scramble home to my warm bed, where I could bury my thoughts in a downy quilt. I’d find a way to get a message to Lucy about my father being alive. She’d know what to do.

The door jerked open. I hurried inside but stopped when I saw the face lit by candlelight.

“Dr. Hastings—” I said. He closed the door, plunging us into darkness lit only by the glowing flame. When he slammed the door behind me, the sound echoed through the empty hallway.

“Juliet. It’s quite late.”

“I’m to help Mrs. Bell,” I stuttered, holding up my basket. His eyes were on my Sunday dress. No coat, no gloves. I must have looked suspiciously out of place on a cold night. I swallowed. “I’ll just go find them—”

I started down the hall, but he laid a hand on my shoulder. “They’ve already left. They finished not ten minutes ago.” His fingers tightened. “It’s only me in the building tonight.”

My stomach clenched. “Then I suppose I’m not needed. I’m sorry for disturbing you.” I twisted toward the doorway, but he blocked it.

“You’re freezing,” he said, clutching my bare hands. “What a silly girl, without a coat on a night like this. Come to my office. I have a fire going.”

“Thank you. But I should get home.”

His parchment-like skin grazed my palm, so unlike the strong feel of Montgomery’s touch. I tried to slip my hand away, but he didn’t let go. I jerked my arm, but his grip only tightened. He smiled. Anger and fear spread throughout my body like an infection.

“Now, now,” he said, with a sickening smirk. “What sort of mischief have you been up to, out alone late at night in your finest dress?” He licked his lips, his eyes glowing in the candlelight. “You’ve been with a man, haven’t you? I can smell his cologne. It would be a shame for Mrs. Bell to find out. She’d have to dismiss you, of course. King’s College has a reputation to uphold.”

The threat raised the hair on my arms. My body started to tremble with a feverish anger that seeped from my bones, tangling in my veins, urging me to lash out at him. My hand tightened on the basket handle as I fought to stay calm. “It’s no business of yours who I’ve been with. If it was a man, you can be sure he wasn’t a balding, dried-out old git.”

He smirked. “A dried-out old git, am I? You’re a pretty one, but you’ll have to cool that temper if you want to keep your job. Now come to my office and do as you’re told, and there’ll be a sixpence in it for you as well.”

A bilious mix of fear and disgust rose in my throat, but my lips felt sewn together. I had to get out of there, quickly. He was twice my weight. If I tried to run, he’d be on me in an instant.

His spindly fingers pried the basket from my hand and set it on the entry table. My thoughts beat in time with my frantic pulse, trying to devise a solution. He reached for my waist, but I stepped backward.

The thin line of his mouth tightened. “I’m losing patience with these games of yours. I’m going to have you tonight, and you might as well be a good girl and you’ll get something out of it.” Wax dripped from the half-forgotten candle in his hand onto the floor. I’d have to clean that hardening wax before this night was out. My fear started to harden, too. My eyes caught the blade of the mortar scraper in the basket, and all sorts of ideas came to mind of what I’d like to do with that sharp point. I might be cleaning up splashes of his blood, too, unless he left me alone.

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