His Lordship Possessed Page 28

“Every time you tried to cast a spell to release yourself, my power broke it.” I moved over and sat beside him. “Why, Harry? Why would Mum and Da do such a terrible thing to you?”

“I’m to blame for it, not them.” He shriveled down against the seat. “It was when I came to live in Toriana. I fear I was a little too eager to see Rachel. I hadn’t, you know, not since she was an infant. Without thinking I called on her, and, well, she took the news that I was her father, an Aramanthan, and a spy for the Crown rather poorly.”

I nodded. “Did she reject you?”

“She told me to get out and never darken their doorstep again.” He made a face. “Then, when I wouldn’t leave, your father tried to shoot me.”

“Go on.”

“I made several more attempts to speak to your mother. I even sent her the nightstone pendant as proof of my affection, but she still refused to see me.” He rasped a hand over his cheek. “I couldn’t accept the idea that my own daughter would reject me, Charm. I didn’t consider how much a stranger I was to her. And then there was you, my only grandchild.” Harry spread his hands. “Since Rachel wanted nothing to do with me, I began visiting you in your nursery at night. I hardly thought it would upset anyone.”

“Until Mum caught you at it,” I guessed.

“It terrified her to see me there, standing by your little bed,” he admitted. “She ordered me from the house and forbid me from having any more contact with her or you. I’m afraid by then I’d grown very fond of you, and I lost my temper with her. I told Rachel that if I wished to see you that I would, any time I wished, and there was nothing she or your father could do to stop me.”

I closed my eyes for a moment. “Oh, Harry.”

“Christopher, your father, already hated me because I couldn’t be explained by his science. When Rachel went to him and repeated my threats . . .” He made a helpless gesture. “I’d say that was when they decided to do something about me.”

I didn’t understand how such a powerful being could be so foolish. “Why didn’t you just leave us alone?”

“I didn’t mean to frighten your mother, so I intended to leave off, but I got into a spot of trouble while I was carrying out my duties for the Crown.” He ran a finger across his neck. “My host body was murdered.”

“The police came to our house that night to give Mum the news,” I recalled. “She and Da left me with the maid so they could go to the morgue and identify you.”

He nodded. “I was there in spirit, of course, waiting for nightfall so I could move on to another body. As soon as I saw Rachel come into the room with your father, I presumed she had forgiven me.” He heaved a sigh. “I didn’t realize how much they had meddled with the nightstone until the spell your mother cast dragged me into its confines. Once there, I discovered I had no means of communicating with you, Rachel, or anyone in the outside world.”

“And they knew my power would keep you trapped in it.” I felt more regret than anger now. “They made me your warden without ever telling me.”

“They thought it the right thing to do, I’m sure,” he chided. “Rachel had learned a little about the Aramanthan from Arthur Doyle. She must have known that once my host body died I would need another.”

I nodded. “So by putting you in the pendant, and having me keep you there all this time, they assured that you would never possess another mortal.”

“They saw to it that I would never possess you, gel,” he corrected. “That was your mother’s greatest fear.”

I hadn’t thought of that. “Did you ever want to possess me?”

“Take on the body of a young, impulsive female with no money, no connections, and no prospects in a ridiculously primitive, utterly repressed society under empirical occupation?” He shuddered. “I’d sooner inhabit a stray pup. At least I’d eat better.”

“Then you won’t mind if I pop you back into the genie bottle?” I asked sweetly as I reached for my pendant.

He looked hurt. “You wouldn’t. Not after all we’ve been through these past two weeks. That haven’t happened yet.” He made a disgusted sound. “This is why I hate time travel. Everything you say about time is wrong and right.”

“I suppose I could be persuaded to allow you your freedom.” I sat back and thought for a moment. “I have three conditions.”

“I’m not a genie,” he reminded me. “I can’t grant you three wishes, turn you into a princess, or any of that nonsense.”

“You can give me your word that you will not possess anyone permanently,” I said.

“Oh, not to worry.” He waved his hand. “I’ve grown accustomed to living in spirit form.”

“Promise me.”

He looked up at the ceiling of the cab as he pressed his hand over his heart. “On my honor, I promise not to possess any host body permanently.” He winked at me. “Temporary’s more fun anyhow.”

“Second,” I continued, “you go into business with me as my partner.”

“Business? Work?” He recoiled. “What for?”

“Because you have nothing better to do,” I reminded him. “If you get bored, you can teach me everything you know about magic and mind powers.”

“You’ll never live long enough for that.” He saw my face and sighed. “All right, I’ll be your business partner.” He squinted at me. “What’s the third condition?”

“Tell me your name, Harry.” As he started to reply, I raised a hand. “Your true name, the one you were born to.”

“You’ll not believe me.” When I said nothing, he muttered something vile under his breath. “I haven’t used that for ages, Charm. Hundreds of ages.”

“Then back in the pendant you go.” I saw the panic in his eyes and added, “If you want me to trust you, Grandfather, then I deserve equal consideration. Tell me your name.”

And so he did.

When the cab reached the docks I was alone again. To avoid being trapped again in the nightstone, Harry had to put some distance between us before I touched the pendant.

“He’ll never change, you know,” he said before he left me. “Dredmore will always be a cold, selfish, dark-hearted bastard.”

“Yes.” I felt an odd quietude settle over me. “I expect he will.”

I was not surprised to find Lucien Dredmore standing in the exact same spot as I’d left him in the future, at the very end of the pier. It was like George suddenly appearing outside my office building; as if time had rearranged a few things to fill some gaps no one could see.

I stopped beside him to look out at the cold, dark ocean. The wind brought with it a cutting edge, promising snow. “Did you have any trouble dealing with the Tillers?”

“Hardly. They know my reputation.” He took the kerchief-wrapped stone out of his greatcoat and regarded it. “I have some knowledge of the warlord Zarath, and how many armies he commanded during the Aramanthan wars. His power to control had almost no limits. He is one of the greatest mages of all time.”

“He was.” I took the kerchief from him and heaved it into the waves. It sank out of sight. “Now he’s just another rock sitting on the bottom of the bay.”

He blinked. “That won’t kill him, Charmian.”

“He’s immortal,” I said, nodding. “Nothing can. But no one else saw, so only you and I know he’s there.” I glanced up at his stern face. “I’ve no reason to dive in after a rock, and you can’t swim. Isn’t that nearly as good as dead?”

A rusty sound came from his throat, and it took a moment before I recognized it as a chuckle. “Yes, I believe it is.” He faced me. “Are you ready to tell me about the future?”

I wasn’t going to enjoy this as much as chucking that Aramanthan jackass in the drink, I thought, wrapping my arms round my waist. “What do you want to know?”

He took off his greatcoat and draped it over my shoulders. “Why did I confide the most private details of my personal history to you?”

“I can’t say.” I tried not to breathe in the delicious scent he’d left on the wool. “You weren’t yourself at the time.”

Dredmore pulled up the collar so it shielded my ears against the wind. “What made you stop despising me?”

“I met him.” I nodded toward the water. “By comparison, you are a saint.”

Dredmore tipped up my chin with his hand so I had to look into his eyes. “Why did you save my life, Charmian?”

“You’re not dead,” I countered. “Do you want me to promise not do it again?”

“I want to know”—he bent his head and touched his lips to mine—“why you’re not slapping me, or threatening to push me off a cliff, stab me in the heart, or lock me in my carriage and set it alight. Why you looked so terrified when I came out of Morehaven this morning, and then in the next moment, so relieved. I want to know what changed things between us, Charmian, and how.”

I had to tell him something, but the future that we’d shared no longer existed. It didn’t matter what we’d done; all that mattered was what we would do now . . . and then I knew exactly what to say.

“I had a dream, a few days from now,” I lied. “I was buying peaches at the market, and I stumbled over a curb and twisted my ankle. You helped me up and offered to take me home. After that we became great friends.” I felt him go very still. “That never happened, of course, but when I woke from the dream, all I could think was how much I wished it had. That you and I had become friends instead of enemies.” I smiled. “It was all downhill from there.”

He didn’t say anything for a long time, and then he nodded slowly. “We could try to be friends.”

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