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Home > A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(11)

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(11)
Author: Megan Shepherd

When Mrs. McKenna turned him toward the light, I saw his eyes. One was a deep brown, the other milky white.

“Is this your trespasser, miss?”

“Y . . . yes,” I stammered.

Mrs. McKenna let go of the boy’s shirt. “This is Master Hensley. He’s been missing since breakfast. He often disappears; he always comes back sooner or later, when he’s hungry. I should have thought to look in the walls.”

“Master Hensley?”

“Aye, Mistress Elizabeth’s son.” Mrs. McKenna gave me a strange look. “Didn’t she mention him?”

Something curled my blood. I’d spent a month in London with Elizabeth, sharing all our secrets, practically becoming family, and not once had she mentioned having a son.

Why not?

The housekeeper gave him a firm pat on the back in the direction of Valentina. “To bed with you, child. Leave our guests alone, else they’ll think the house haunted.”

Valentina held out her hand, ungloved now that she was just in her dressing gown. Her hand was surprisingly small and white beneath her long sleeve, not at all the same complexion as the rest of her body. I wondered if the pigment in her skin had been bleached in some chemical accident. That would certainly explain why she wore gloves most of the time, when she hardly acted like a puritan.

The little boy sauntered off with her into the hallway. He barely seemed like a child in those stiff clothes, with that scowling face, more like a little man made to live in a too-small body. From his scuffed shoes and the dirt under his nails, it seemed likely he was given to such frequent disappearances.

“I apologize for the disturbance,” Mrs. McKenna said, closing the painting. “It’s an old house, filled with these tunnels. Mad Lord Ballentyne is rumored to have built them to confuse spirits that might be wandering the halls, though I think it’s more likely it was to hide his distillery from the British authorities. No one uses the passages now, except Hensley. They’re quite dangerous. Loose nails and uneven bricks and a few traps Lord Ballentyne set in case he was being pursued. Tomorrow I’ll have Carlyle seal this painting with some nails, so you won’t need to worry about anyone intruding upon your friend’s slumber.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“As to the electricity, the girls will try their best to repair it tomorrow. Until then, you’ll find more candles in your closets. Let’s hope for no more disturbances this time, eh?”

I gave an uneasy nod. “Indeed.”

The servants returned to their rooms, and after a few minutes Montgomery did as well, leaving Lucy and me alone with Edward. She sank onto the bed next to him, brushing an errant strand of hair from his brow.

“He’s burning up,” she muttered. “All the excitement must have him worried.” Her hand dropped to the chain across his chest, toying with the lock almost as if she didn’t realize what she was doing, but I did—she wanted those chains off him so he could sit up and be his old self. But I wasn’t certain he was his old self, not anymore.

“Lucy,” I said softly, “he’s delirious. He doesn’t even know we’re here.”

She gave me an exasperated look. “I’m the one who’s been taking care of him since we left London, and I know his moods best. I swear he woke up in the traveler’s inn on the way here, no matter what you say. . . .”

I’d stopped listening to her, shocked by what was happening on the bed. Before my very eyes, Edward blinked. For a moment I thought I’d imagined it. But then his eyes opened.

My lips parted in shock.

“Juliet, what’s the matter?” she asked, and then followed my gaze to the bed and gasped.

Edward blinked again, wincing in pain, lucid for the first time since he’d taken the poison. “Lucy,” his voice rasped.

“Edward!” She threw herself against him, running her hands through his sweat-soaked hair. “I knew you were better!”

I covered my mouth with my hand, hanging back by the door as though afraid to believe it. “Edward? Is it you?”

“Juliet.” He winced in pain. “Listen to me, both of you—” He coughed, the chains rattling, and he collapsed back on the bed, overtaken with the fever again. He looked so much like the skeletal castaway we’d found on the Curitiba that my heart started thumping painfully hard. Back then, he’d been just a step away from death. He looked even closer now.

“Edward, can you hear me?” Lucy said. “You’ve been delirious for days. Montgomery gave you something to help with the poison.”

I clamped a hand on her shoulder, holding her back. “Be careful, Lucy. We don’t know if it’s the Beast or Edward.”

“Of course it’s Edward!”

His eyelids fluttered and I pulled Lucy back further, despite the chains and her insistence. “Listen to me,” he rasped, barely audible. “I can’t fight him off any longer. This might be the last you hear from me.”

Lucy and I both gaped at him. She shook her head. “You’re recovering,” she pleaded. “You’ll be fine.”

His eyes shifted to her. “Lucy, don’t think I haven’t been aware of everything you’ve done for me, taking care of me all this time and believing in me. Your strength gave me strength, and it was enough to keep fighting him. But even so, I can’t fight forever.” He swallowed, though his throat seemed bone dry. “There was a moment, a flash, when he and I were truly one. I could see all his memories because they were my memories too. I know everything he knows, all his secrets—and there were many. The Beast was doing his own research. His own experiments.”

His eyes shifted to mine. The tenderness in them was gone. If he still bore any love for me, it was hidden under his desperation. He needed me as a scientist now, not a former lover.

“What do you mean?” I asked, daring a step closer.

“The Beast had stolen research from the King’s Men that I never knew about. He discovered his own origin. When your father created me, he made a mistake. He used a portion of the brain from a diseased jackal. It was infected with a strain of rabies that combined with the malaria in Montgomery’s blood to form a hybrid disease located here. . . .” He jerked his hand toward his head, as far as the chains would let him. “At the top of the spine. It’s called the reptile brain because it controls impulse and instinct. If it’s damaged, it can manifest in split personalities. It’s him, Juliet. The Beast. If you could somehow cut it out, replace it, or drain it of the ill humors, you’d cure me of him. The Beast knew it all along. He tried to hide the knowledge from the both of us.”

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