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Home > A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(2)

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3)(2)
Author: Megan Shepherd

Footsteps approached, and a man sank into the seat that Montgomery had vacated. I jerked out of my calculations, frowning. He wore the same gaudy green tunic as the rest of the carnival troupe, but I hadn’t seen him earlier. I certainly would have remembered if I had. His skin and hair were coffee dark, marking him as a foreigner from Africa or the Americas. I narrowed my eyes.

“I already told your leader that you won’t get any stories out of me,” I said.

“It isn’t a story I want.” His voice was deep and raspy, with traces of a faraway accent. “It’s you, pretty girl.”

I raised my eyebrow, ready to fulfill Montgomery’s fears and dump the soup in the man’s lap, but he only set a deck of fortune-telling cards on the table.

“Or rather, it’s your fortune.”

I rolled my eyes. I suppose to him I must look the perfect gullible victim: a young girl dressed in wealthy clothes far from home. “I think you meant it’s my coins you want, but I’m sorry to say I don’t believe in fortune-telling. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” I started to stand.

His mouth quirked in a smile. He flipped over the top card. I tried not to look at the symbol it displayed, but my curiosity won.

The Fool. It depicted a man on a journey, bag slung over one shoulder with a dog following at his heels.

I paused. The dog looked a bit like my little black mutt, Sharkey, and I was on a journey, though logic told me it wouldn’t be difficult to infer that a girl at a traveler’s inn was on a voyage. “Why did you choose that card?”

“I didn’t choose it. It chose you.”

I rolled my eyes again. “Does anyone actually fall for such dramatics? They certainly don’t work on me.” I turned to go. I should check on Edward and relieve Lucy and Balthazar of their watch. It would be a long day of travel tomorrow, and we’d all need our sleep.

“You claim not to believe in fortunes,” the man said, hand hovering over the next card. “Yet you are intrigued, are you not? Come, pretty girl. One more card.” Though I knew it was a trick, my feet didn’t move. I jerked my head toward the deck begrudgingly.

“Go ahead, then. One more.”

He flipped the card. The Emperor, an arrogant-looking man with white hair and a foppish crown. “Your thoughts are consumed with a man,” the fortune-teller said. “A lover? A brother?” He studied me. “No, a father.”

I sank back into the chair, every sense alert. The fire crackled while the carnival folk whispered among themselves. I could feel my own heart beating. I knew it was nonsense, but suddenly I was very curious to know what else the fortune-teller might say.

Amusement flickered over his features. “Ask me the question that is on your mind. Then you can judge for yourself if fortunes are real.”

I swallowed, glancing around the room almost guiltily. I didn’t believe any of it, of course. Science had long ago disproved fortune-telling. And yet I slid a coin across the table, dropped my voice, and tried to pretend I wasn’t desperate to know what he would say. “Yes, it’s about my father. I want to know . . .”

But I couldn’t continue. Memories of Father were a hand around my throat, silencing me. The fortune-teller’s gold-flecked eyes met mine, and the rest of the room dimmed. “He has some hold over you, does he not? A hold you wish broken, but it isn’t that easy. A child can never escape her father.”

His words struck too close to my heart, and I swallowed and looked away. “I can. He’s dead.”

The fortune-teller didn’t blink. “Death, in these cases, doesn’t matter.”

For a moment, his words held me in a rapt silence. I thought of my father: his affection for science, his ability to focus so completely on the task at hand, his ambiguous morality, his madness. All traits I’d seen glimmers of in myself. I pictured myself at his age: a gray-haired scientist, brilliant and terrible, just like him.

One of the carnival folk let out a shrill laugh by the fireplace, and I blinked. The room came back into focus, along with my logic.

“I know how this works,” I said a little too fast. “You aren’t psychic at all. You’re just good at reading people’s appearances and mannerisms. You know it’s highly likely that a girl my age would have a problem with some sort of man, so you throw out the obvious possibilities and gauge my reaction. Then you let me form my own conclusions. You’ve nothing to tell me except generalities that could apply to anyone.”

I stood, rather satisfied with myself. I couldn’t deny, however, that there was a tiny part of me that had almost wanted to believe. In a world of science, a little magic would have been welcome.

“Keep the coin,” I said more softly, and turned to go.

“‘Silver and gold are not the only coin,’” he said softly. “‘Virtue too passes current all over the world.’”

A shiver ran through me. Instantly I was a little girl again, sitting in my father’s lap as he read heavy volumes from his library. Euripides, I remembered, in the worn leather binding. I had tried to sound out the words when I’d been just learning to read, but Father had grown impatient and finished the phrase for me.

“Silver and gold are not the only coin,” he had read. “Virtue too passes current all over the world.”

It had been one of Father’s favorite sayings.

I clenched my jaw. “Why did you use that phrase, in particular?”

My question was interrupted by frantic footsteps on the stairs. The barmaid and the carnival folk all turned as Lucy came stumbling breathlessly down the steps. Ever since we’d left London, a glassy dullness had settled over her eyes. She’d learned her father was a terrible man, financing my father’s criminal research and plotting with the King’s Club to bring his science to fruition. On top of it all, she’d found out the boy she loved was a monster. When he poisoned himself, she’d been inconsolable.

Her eyes locked to mine, dullness in them replaced by a wildness that made my heart beat faster.

“Juliet,” she said. “Come quickly. It’s Edward—the fever is breaking.”

TWO

I PULLED LUCY INTO the stairwell, out of earshot.

“He sat up,” she breathed. “He looked straight at me and said my name. I saw it.”

Edward had been delirious for three straight days, mumbling nonsense and thrashing in his chains. The promise—and danger—of him returning to health shot through me like a jolt of electricity. “Fetch Montgomery. He’s in the stable. Hurry.”

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