Home > The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)(11)

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)(11)
Author: Megan Shepherd

“And you’ve been there this whole time?” The teacup trembled in my palm.

“There is much you don’t know,” he said. “I was just a boy.”

“Well, you aren’t a boy anymore,” I snapped, even though I knew that wasn’t entirely true. He dressed like a man, but he was too stiff in his clothes, too uncomfortable. He was only pretending to be a gentleman, and making a fairly poor show of it. “You don’t have to keep working for him. You can come back to London—he can’t return or they’ll arrest him.”

Montgomery bristled, as though the idea of returning to London was like agreeing to be locked in a cage. He didn’t want to return, I realized. The city, with all its mechanization and soot and rigid society laws, had lost its hold on him.

But he said nothing. He only jerked his chin at the pocket watch and then at last said, “It’s not that simple. He’s been like a father to me.”

“He’s no father!” I curled my fingers into the armrests, suddenly angry that my father had left me behind and raised a servant boy instead. “Haven’t you heard? He’s a madman.”

His face tightened. “He’s your father, too, Miss Moreau.”

“Would a father abandon his wife and daughter? Mother died and I heard nothing. He left no money. I’m one step away from the streets.” The words poured out before I could stop them. They’d been buried such a long time.

“I’m sorry.” His throat constricted. “I wish the last few years had been easier for you. If I’d been here, maybe . . .”

Maybe Mother wouldn’t have died? Maybe I wouldn’t be living in poverty? Maybe . . . what? His eyes dropped to the pit of my elbow, hidden by my sleeve. I pressed my fingers against the sensitive place, protectively.

He nodded toward it, his voice lower. “You still give yourself the injections?”

I drew back, clutching my arm as though the skin had been stripped back, leaving the veins exposed and vulnerable. Montgomery knew things about me even Lucy didn’t know. Like my illness. I rubbed my inner elbow, thinking of the glass vials in the back of my closet at the lodging house. The ones in the stamped wooden box Annie kept asking me about. They held a treatment—a pancreatic extract—I injected into my arm once a day. If I kept to a rigid schedule, I rarely showed symptoms. The few times I’d missed a dose, I’d gotten feverish and weak. My eyes would play tricks on me, hallucinate things that weren’t there. Sometimes, in the evenings, the weakness would come anyway. Just thinking about it now made a cold sweat break out across my forehead.

Father had diagnosed the condition when I was a baby. A glycogen deficiency so rare it didn’t have a name. I would have died if he hadn’t discovered the cure. Now, I’d slip into a coma if I ever missed more than a few weeks’ treatment.

I hesitated. Speaking of my illness made me feel exposed. It was just one more thing linking me to my mad father. But this—this was new. Montgomery already knew everything about my illness. It was an unfamiliar and comforting thought to know I didn’t have to hide from him.

I nodded slightly.

He leaned forward with concern. “And you haven’t had any symptoms?” He reached out to take my wrist, but I jerked away. There was a limit to how much I’d share, even with Montgomery. “I study medicine,” he said. “Please. Let me see.”

I thought of the game those medical students had made up as an excuse to touch every bone in Lucy’s body. Montgomery had given me anatomy lessons, but not like that. He would have been as uncomfortable with that lurid game as I’d been. Cautiously, I laid my white palm in the cradle of his tanned hand. He rolled up my sleeve, then brushed a finger against the sensitive skin of my inner elbow. My breath caught. I was alone in a young man’s room, letting him touch me in places he shouldn’t even see. But he wasn’t just any young man—he was Montgomery. His touch sent my mind whirling. My body was already leaning forward, drawn toward his presence uncontrollably, before my thoughts could catch up.

“Good,” he muttered, and I came back to the present, blushing wildly. His finger still rested against my arm, rubbing absently, burning a hole in my skin. “Have you had trouble getting enough of the treatment?”

I took a deep breath. “No. Any chemist’s will make it if I give them the instructions and the raw supplies. Though they look at me oddly enough.”

He nodded. “I’m glad. I’ve worried.” Slowly he released my arm. I rolled the sleeve back down quickly, smoothing the cuff over my wrist.

The silence was heavy.

“When do you depart?” I asked quickly.

“Soon,” he said quickly, a though it couldn’t be soon enough. He sat back in his chair. “Day after tomorrow, maybe.”

I swallowed, trying to hide my disappointment. “Back to the island?”

“Yes. Balthasar has been working to arrange our return voyage. Not many ships want to take our cargo.”

“Cargo? The trunks and things?”

“That’s only part of it. The rest is . . . well, the doctor’s supplies.”

My curiosity piqued. Surgical tools? Specimens? But I shook the questions out of my head. I wanted my father’s truth, not his science.

“Does he ever speak of me?” I asked in a rush. I had to ask before he sailed away, forever.

Montgomery grinned, one second too late. “Yes. Of course.”

I didn’t smile back. I knew that grin, one side pulled back just slightly, jaw set harder than it should have been. Montgomery had given me that grin before, when our house cat had run away. He promised me all cats knew their way out of the city to the farms where mice grew fat as pigeons. But the cat hadn’t made it out of the city. Later I found out Father had drowned it for bringing fleas into the house.

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