Home > A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(10)

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(10)
Author: Megan Shepherd

FIVE

THAT NIGHT, I DREAMED I was in the professor’s house on Dumbarton Street, in the cellar where we’d kept the Beast locked away. I descended the stairs slowly, listening for the tap-tap-tap of claws on the stone floor. When I faced the barred cellar door, though, no yellow eyes met mine. Tropical warmth and the smell of the sea came instead. I was back on Father’s island, ankle deep in the surf, watching the volcano’s plume ascend into a cloudless sky.

“You’re engaged to him,” a voice said from behind me. “Yet you know so little about him.”

The Beast emerged from the palms. I’d only ever seen the Beast at night, or cast in shadows. In sunlight he looked more like Edward. Just an ordinary young man—except for his golden yellow eyes.

“Montgomery and I grew up together,” I said. “I know him better than anyone.”

“And yet he’s keeping secrets from you.” The Beast stopped a few feet away from me, smelling both sweet and bitter, like the blood-soaked plumeria flowers he’d left for me in London. “I warned you about his secrets once. You like to pretend that you didn’t hear, and yet here I am in your head, a voice you can’t escape.”

My head suddenly ached with splitting pain.

“Do you remember what I said?” he asked.

I pressed a hand to my temple.

Ask Montgomery about your father’s laboratory files on the island, he had said. About the ones you didn’t see.

MY EYES SHOT OPEN as I jerked upright. The smell of the professor’s root cellar hung around me like fog. I tried to stand but the memory choked me until I realized it was only the bedspread tangled around my limbs.

Scotland, I reminded myself. I’m in Scotland, not on the island.

I climbed out of bed and threw open the window for fresh night air. The rain had stopped, but the smell of bogs was heavy. No matter how many deep breaths I took, I couldn’t rid myself of that terrible dream.

I looked toward the door to Montgomery’s room. My fingers drifted to the thin silver ring on my finger, glinting in the candlelight.

My future husband.

Had I been wrong to disregard the Beast’s warning about him?

My stomach churned with worry. I didn’t want to return to an empty bed, frightening dreams, and thoughts of a fiancé who might be keeping secrets. I decided to find Edward’s room and verify with my own eyes that the Beast hadn’t returned.

I threw on an old dressing gown I found in the armoire. It was lacy and long, softly feminine yet old-fashioned. I took the candelabra and opened my door silently.

The hallway was quiet. Everyone else was sleeping soundly. I pressed the electric light button on the wall but nothing happened—the electricity must have gone off in the storm. I peered through the first keyhole I came to, at a room smaller than my own and considerably cozier. To my surprise, the bed was empty. The occupant curled on the warm hearth stones instead, his big hairy arms tucked under his heavy head, snoring softly. Balthazar. Sharkey slept in his arms, feet twitching as he chased dream-rabbits. Balthazar must have snuck down to the barn to get him. The sweet scene warmed me as if I was curled by the hearth with them.

A floorboard squeaked down the hall, and I jerked upright, but it was nothing—just the manor settling. I shivered anyway as I peeked in the next keyhole. A half dozen candles burned on the table as though the room’s occupant feared the dark. A soft murmur came and the figure rolled over, flashing dark curls and a pale face not so different from my own.

Lucy.

There was only one guest bedroom left, so it had to belong to Edward. I peered through the keyhole. A candle on the side table flickered there, too. Edward lay still as a corpse on the bed, not even a blink or a flicker of breath to tell me he was alive. The chains wrapped around his arms and chest glinted in the candlelight.

I shuddered. The servants must think us mad to chain a young man we claimed was a friend, but if they knew the truth, they’d be even more fearful of us. I took out the key to his room, ready to open it.

Suddenly a face blocked the keyhole. A shriek ripped through me as I stumbled backward. An eye looked back from the other side of the keyhole. It was milky white, the pupil completely devoid of color.

It blinked.

I screamed.

MONTGOMERY WAS FIRST INTO the hallway. He spotted me and rushed to my side.

“What’s happened?” he asked, all tension from our fight put aside.

Another door slammed, then another, and footsteps sounded above our heads. I tried to steady my breath.

“A face,” I breathed. “There’s someone in Edward’s room.”

Uncertainty creased his forehead. He crossed to Edward’s door and rattled the knob. “Still locked. Only you and Valentina have a key.”

Lucy’s door opened across the hall. Her sleep-dazed face peeked through the crack. “Juliet? I thought I heard a scream.”

Mrs. McKenna appeared at the top of the stairs with Valentina right behind her, both in their loose-fitting sleep shirts. “Was that you who screamed, Miss Moreau?” Mrs. McKenna asked.

“I saw someone in Edward’s room. Blast it, I’m going in.”

I turned the key in the lock and opened the door. We all pressed inside. Edward lay on the bed, unconscious, with sweat dripping down his brow. My heart pounded as I searched the tall curtains. Montgomery threw open the armoire, and Lucy knelt to look under the bed. They both came up empty-handed.

Had it been only my imagination?

Mrs. McKenna watched me keenly. “This person you saw,” she said, throwing Valentina a wary glance. “Can you describe him or her?”

“I don’t know if was a man or a woman. I only saw the person’s eye looking at me through the keyhole. It was completely white, as though the iris had been drained of color.”

Mrs. McKenna shared another look with Valentina, this one substantially less mysterious. I felt as though I was missing something between these two.

“Do you know the person?” Montgomery asked.

“Oh, aye, we know him.” Mrs. McKenna’s mouth quirked with either annoyance or amusement, I couldn’t tell. She walked over to a fading oil painting in a gilded frame that stood as tall as her. To my surprise she swung it open on groaning hinges, reaching quickly into what must have been an alcove or tunnel behind the painting, and grabbed something that scrambled there.

I heard a tussle as the thing tried to get away, but then gave up with a curt little sigh and let the housekeeper pull it out.

No one was more shocked than I when her hand reemerged clutching a small child by his shirt collar’s high nape. He was a tiny thing, five years old perhaps, with a shock of dark hair and a scowl that rivaled even the old bartender from the inn on the main road. A live white rat perched on his shoulder—a tamed pet. Lucy made a face of disgust.

 

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