She dashed down the hallway. I climbed the stairs two at a time, tripping over my skirt, and threw open the door to Edward’s room. It was a small room, with a single rope bed and old wooden dresser. Inside, a hulking man inclined over where Edward lay. To anyone else the giant would have looked a monster with his misshapen shoulders and hairy face, but to me he was like family.
“Balthazar,” I said. “Is it true? Is he lucid?”
“I can’t rightly say, miss.” His big fingers knit together in hesitation. “He’s delirious now, that’s for certain. If he had a moment of clarity, I didn’t see it.”
I sat on the bed next to Edward, reaching out to touch his sweat-soaked forehead. “Edward,” I whispered. “Can you hear me?”
There had been a time when Edward cared for me deeply, and I hoped that the sound of my voice might reach through his delirium. But his only response was to jerk his head away as though my touch burned him. Thick metal chains twisted around his torso and locked his hands together—a safeguard. Edward and the Beast had been a step away from melding completely in those last moments in London, and now that we’d counterbalanced the poison we weren’t certain who—or rather what—we’d find when the fever broke. Would one half overpower the other completely? Or would they meld into a sort of hybrid personality? Either way, Montgomery had insisted on leaving the chains securely fastened, and I hadn’t argued. After all, I wasn’t convinced it was truly Edward who had been in love with me as much as it had been the Beast. Though perhaps obsessed was the better word. To a deadly degree.
“Then you didn’t see him sit up and speak?” I asked.
Balthazar’s lips folded in indecision. He’d developed a sweet protective instinct for Lucy, but he also wasn’t one to lie. “No, miss,” he admitted. “I was just outside the door. I think Miss Lucy . . . she might have wanted it badly enough to imagine it.”
Bitter disappointment twisted my heart. Of course. We all wanted Edward back so badly that it was easy to hope for miracles. This was the boy who had come back to the island to protect me, who’d understood both my dark and light sides. The only other person who had ever stood in my leaky London attic with a mangy dog and threadbare quilt and wanted nothing more out of life.
My hand hovered a few inches above Edward’s shoulder. His eyes were closed, his face still as death. I felt his pulse; it was raging fast. The idea of him calmly sitting up and speaking seemed impossible. I didn’t blame Lucy for imagining it, though—only moments ago I’d been nearly desperate enough to believe the words of a fortune-teller.
Lucy stumbled through the doorway with Montgomery behind her, medical bag in hand. He sank to his knees and checked Edward’s vital signs with the well-practiced skill of a surgeon.
“Well?” Lucy asked anxiously.
Montgomery set down his stethoscope. He wiped a hand over his face, but not before I saw the flicker of sadness there. The two men had once been at odds, but that had changed since Edward sacrificed himself for us. Breaking the code in Father’s journals had revealed that Edward had been made with Montgomery’s own blood. Now he was the closest thing Montgomery had to a brother, in spirit and in flesh. “He’s still deep in the fever. His temperature is high, but it hasn’t broken.”
“He sat up,” Lucy insisted. “He looked right at me, and it was Edward, I swear. It wasn’t that monster.”
The rest of us stood awkwardly, none of us willing to tell her what we were all thinking—that stress and sleepless nights were making her imagine things.
“I know you care for him,” I said softly. “We all do. But we need to be prepared for any eventuality. The Beast was incredibly strong. The chances of Edward overpowering him aren’t high.”
Lucy dragged a hand through her dark curls. Her eyes were bleary with exhaustion and just a touch of madness. “I swear, Juliet. I saw it. I saw him.”
I touched her shoulder gently as Montgomery packed away his medical bag. “Come to bed, Lucy. You need rest. Let Montgomery watch over Edward for a while.”
She started to object again, but broke into a frustrated sob, and I led her across the hall to the room we shared. We climbed onto the straw mattress that made my skin itch even through the layers of my dress. Through the thin walls, I heard Montgomery pacing in the room next to ours, exchanging low words with Balthazar as they discussed how much longer Edward could survive the fever. My body was heavy with worry and sleep, and with the lingering words of the fortune-teller.
I pulled the blanket tighter as the wind whistled outside. Lucy fell asleep quickly, exhausted. I watched the faint light play on her face as she slept through nightmares. The blanket had slipped from around her shoulders, replaced by a mantle of gooseflesh. I tucked it around her neck. In that space between awake and asleep, fears turned over in my head.
Would we wake to find a cadaver wrapped in chains? Or would the Beast win, and Edward be lost to us forever?
The thoughts worked my insides the way a baker kneaded tough bread. Father had won in life; now he was winning in death, too. He’d created Edward and now he was the arbiter of his destruction. I sank deeper into sleep, anger and worry tangling with the uneasy feeling from my meeting with the fortune-teller. Mind reading was impossible, I knew that. But then again, many things I had once thought impossible were real—split personalities, talking animals, even the possibility of bringing back the dead.
My mind turned back to the conversation I’d had with Elizabeth in the carriage from London before she left us at Derby. I had whispered to her, low and secretive: But that’s not the end, is it? Death, I mean. She had looked at me fearfully as she understood that I had pieced together her dark family history, which she and the professor had only alluded to. Their ancestry from Switzerland, fleeing persecution, changing their name.
What was their name? I had pressed.
Frankenstein, she’d admitted at last.
MY EYES SHOT OPEN, searching the darkness for a sense of place. A scratchy mattress below me. A single window, filled with fog. I’d slept and dreamed of impossible things.
In that carriage ride leaving London, Elizabeth had revealed that her family was descended from Victor Frankenstein, the brilliant doctor of century-old legends, but she’d insisted that his science had been forgotten and his journals lost. There was no way to replicate his procedures to bring the dead back to life.
I let out a breath I didn’t even know I’d been holding and climbed out of bed, still wearing my wrinkled lavender dress. I twisted the knob silently and slipped into the hall to look for Montgomery.