The Unmapped Sea

The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood Read Free Book Online

Book: The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maryrose Wood
threatened to knock what she had planned to say about learning the difference between gulls and terns right out of her head. “If I may inquire—what sort of business . . . ?”
    He snorted. “Baby business! That’s what sort of business. Do you know, I’m going to be a father before long?”
    â€œI did know that, sir.” Her heart sank. Surely Lord Fredrick was not also in need of a lesson about how babies are born? Hesitantly she added, “My sincere congratulations to you and Lady Ashton.”
    Too restless to sit, he paced the length of the study. “Congratulations, ha! I wish I felt that way. You’ve never been a father, I take it? No, of course not. Believe me, it’s quite an odd feeling. And the baby’s not even here yet.” The servants still told the story of how Lord Fredrick had reacted when he learned that his wifewas expecting. “Expecting what?” he had exclaimed, dumbfounded. “A baby? Nonsense. Surely there’s been some mistake.” He prowled the halls for hours, one floor after another. Then he locked himself in his study until cigar smoke drifted like fog through the crack beneath the door.
    Whether he had since warmed up to the idea of fatherhood no one knew, but since emerging from his study that day, he had been kinder to and more patient with Lady Constance than he had ever been before. One might even say he doted on her, in his fashion. He spent far less time at his gentlemen’s club, and was more willing to endure his wife’s meandering streams of conversation, although he still had little to say in answer but “Harrumph!” “Blast!” and “Imagine that!” Luckily, Lady Constance was more of a talker than a listener and rarely paused for breath, so Lord Fredrick’s conversational skills were more than sufficient.
    He perched on the arm of his chair. “A baby, a baby, a baby. Blast! A man gets married, and this is what happens. I suppose I was a fool to think it could be avoided forever.” He sprang up and gestured with his unlit cigar. “I’ve made my peace with howling during the full moons—but no child of mine ought to go through it.” He stopped and fixed her with his blurrygaze. “I won’t have it. I simply will not. Miss Lumley, you’ve got to do something.”
    â€œMe?” Penelope was amazed.
    â€œYes, you. Who else? You and the wolf children and Old Timothy are the only ones who know about my howling fits. And Mother, too, of course, but she’s still traipsing around Europe, playing croquet and waiting for my dead father to turn up again. Highly unlikely, I’d say! Poor fellow, what a way to go. Drowned in a tar pit, and while on holiday, too. Gooey, gooey, gooey.” He lost himself in the sad memory for a brief interlude, then shook it off. “It’s plain as day, Miss Lumley. You’re an educated person, and you’ve experience with wolfy matters. No, don’t object! I know my affliction and the children’s canine carrying-on are not the same thing. I’m not sure I believe in curses, mind you . . . but it seems there’s a curse out there that believes in Ashtons.”
    If only she could tell Lord Fredrick about Pudge’s diary, and Madame Ionesco’s warning, and all of it! But he was Edward Ashton’s son, after all, and Edward Ashton was no friend to her or the Incorrigible children. To end the curse on his family had become his obsession, so much so that he had faked his own death and lived in disguise under the name of Judge Quinzy,to better conceal his actions. Whatever danger the children were in, Edward Ashton was the source of it. Of that she was certain.
    â€œSo it would appear, my lord,” she ventured. “Perhaps if we knew more about this curse—the exact wording of it, for example?”
    â€œThe who and the why of it don’t matter. Putting an end to it does.

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