Home > Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2)(6)

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2)(6)
Author: Megan Shepherd

Lucy glanced rather disdainfully at a bucket of mangled daisies with broken stems. “Good lord. It looks as though someone pruned those flowers with a butter knife.”

“It isn’t about the sharpness of the blade,” I said. “It’s about the hand that holds it.”

“Well, if you ask me, that hand isn’t anything special either. Must we come here every week? What do I care for flowers, unless a young man is giving them to me?”

I smiled. “And which dashing young man would that be? You seem to have quite a few these days.”

Her powdered cheeks grew pink as she brushed by a display of orchids, absently knocking their petals to the floor. “Papa prefers John Newcastle, of course, and I know he’s handsome and a self-made man and all that, but he’s so boring. And then there’s Henry, and my goodness, I simply can’t abide him. He’s from Finland, you know, which might as well be the end of the earth. He hadn’t even seen an automobile until one practically ran him over in Wickham Park.”

As I watched her carelessly knock over an entire plant, I said, “For a boy you keep claiming to be indifferent to, you certainly seem to dwell on him.”

She gasped with indignation and rattled on more about her other suitors, but I only half listened. I’d heard all this before, time and time again, different young men depending on the week. I nodded absently while I stooped to clean up the flowers she’d knocked over.

“Really, Juliet,” Lucy said in exasperation. “You must remember you’re not a maid anymore.”

She was right. I was wealthy now, back in good social standing. Seeing Sir Danvers and remembering my mother’s fall from grace had made me relive that shame all over again. At the far end of the aisle, Sir Danvers and his mistress admired some orchids. He tapped the cane on the steel grates at his feet, sending vibrations all the way to where we stood. I had the sudden urge to stride over, snatch the cane from his hand, and slam the silver tip into his shin. For a man his age, it wouldn’t take much force to shatter the bone.

My hands itched for that cane. More tittering laugher came behind me, cruel and high-pitched, and I imagined the flower show ladies whispering among themselves.

. . . violent tendencies . . .

. . . well, with a father like hers . . .

Itch, itch, itch. But I forced myself to turn away. The professor wanted to prove I could be a respectable young lady despite who my father had been. The only problem was, being respectable wasn’t nearly as second nature as I had thought it would be.

I turned my back on them, facing the frost-covered wall of the greenhouse, beyond which I could make out the shadowy shapes of falling snow. As I watched, a black police carriage pulled up outside. My breath froze. Ever since Scotland Yard officers had arrested me in response to Dr. Hasting’s accusations, I’d been jumpy around policemen.

All that is behind you, I reassured myself.

But the carriage stopped, and a handsome officer perhaps ten years my senior climbed out, and through the glass panes dripping with condensation, he looked directly at me.

I TURNED TOWARD THE sprays of ferns, Sir Danvers forgotten, thoughts racing. If this was Father’s island, I could disappear into those vines with silent steps I’d learned from his beast-men. But large as the greenhouse was, the police would find me in minutes.

Lucy gave me a strange look, dabbing at her brow again. “Whatever’s the matter with you?”

“The police are here,” I whispered. I jerked my chin toward the door at the far end of the palm court, where amid the trickle of water from the fountains, the groan of the heavy iron door sounded. I should get away from Lucy. It would only humiliate her to have her friend arrested so publicly.

I started for the door to intercept him, but Lucy grabbed my arm. “The police? Oh, don’t tell me you’re still afraid of the police. That was ages ago, and everything was sorted out. And look at you; you’d look like royalty if you’d just stop slouching so much. Only criminals slouch.”

My heart pounded harder as the officer appeared through the vines that draped from the catwalk above. He was a tall man with a sweep of chestnut hair that matched Lucy’s, and he walked with the confidence of the upper classes. Not a beat patrol officer, then. They’d sent someone important for me—how thoughtful. He was dressed in a fine dark suit with an old-fashioned copper bulletproof breastplate beneath his cravat, and a pistol at his hip.

My muscles twitched, urging me to flee, but Lucy’s arm still held me.

“Oh, him?” She sighed. “You’ve nothing to worry about. He’s not here for you. Papa must have sent him to collect me.”

I looked between the officer and Lucy, still not understanding. “What do you mean?”

“That’s John Newcastle, the suitor Papa’s so fond of,” she said. “I was just telling you about him. Don’t tell me you weren’t listening. Really, Juliet.”

I stared at her. “You didn’t say he was a police officer!”

“He isn’t a police officer,” she said, fluffing her hair where the humidity had made it go flat. “He’s an inspector. Scotland Yard’s top inspector.” Her voice dropped to a mutter. “He’s rather fond of telling me how important he is, not to mention handsome. He’d marry himself, I do believe, if he could.”

“Lucy—” I started, but Inspector Newcastle reached us then and gave us a dashing smile, his eyes only darting to me in a perfunctory manner before settling on Lucy. I wished he’d taken no notice of me at all.

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