Page 67

The Governess Game Tessa Dare 2022/8/3 13:55:33

“I am duly chastened. Please continue.”

“Between the fear and the fondness, it keeps getting worse. One feeds the other. The very idea of seeing them hurt—not being able to help—scares the shite out of me.”

“I’m fairly certain that’s natural.”

“And it’s not only the accidents and illnesses. It’s everything. Rosamund’s ten. What do I do if she tells me she fancies a boy? Worse, what if a boy takes a fancy to her?” A fresh possibility struck him, and it was the most horrifying by far. “Good God, what the hell will I do the first time she gets her courses?”

“Don’t laugh. I’m being serious here. I don’t trust myself to be a competent guardian. How can I? If I were someone else, I wouldn’t trust me, either.”

“Well, I trust you to be an excellent guardian. That’s the honest truth. Because I love Rosamund and Daisy, too, and I couldn’t bear to leave them at summer’s end if I didn’t trust you completely. Does that help?”

It would help a great deal more if she wasn’t going to leave at summer’s end. Or if she wasn’t going to leave at all.

“Chase.” She clutched his arm, as if she’d suddenly recalled the reason they were lying in the grass in the middle of the square at midnight. “Has it been a quarter hour, do you think?”

He felt for his timepiece. “More than that.”

“Oh, no. I’ve lost track of the smudge.”

“The sky’s only so big. It can’t have gone far.”

“Shush.” She held her breath, studying the darkness overhead. “Oh. There it is. Chasing Altair now.” She rose to her feet, leaving him sitting befuddled and alone in the grass.

“Wait,” he called after her. She was halfway back to the house already. “Is that good or bad? What does Altair mean?”

“In Arabic, it means ‘flying eagle.’” She reached the front door, and turned to answer him. “In practical terms at the moment? It means I must go to the Royal Observatory, at once.”

From there, the race was on.

Chase scrambled to his feet and followed her into the house.

She turned to him. “Where do you think I could find a hackney at this time of night?”

“A hackney? Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll order the carriage. Go and change into something warmer, and I’ll meet you in front.”

“You’re coming with me?”

“I’m sure as hell not letting you go alone. All the way to Greenwich in the middle of the night?”

“What about the girls?”

“I’ll let Mrs. Greeley know we’ve gone out. She’ll watch them. We’ll be home before they wake tomorrow morning.” He took her by the shoulders. “Go upstairs. Fetch your boots and your wrap. Leave the rest to me.”

She nodded. “All right.”

“I’ll go down and tell the coachman we’re for Greenwich.”

“Wait,” she said decisively. The fog around her mind appeared to have lifted. “Tell him we’re going to Billingsgate docks.”

“Billingsgate docks?”

“Yes.” She drew a breath. “We must take a boat.”

“Are you mad? I’m not putting you on a boat. Not after what you told me about the shipwreck, and losing your father, and drifting about the ocean alone with no food and water for days.”

“I know what I told you, Chase. This is not the time to rattle through the horrid details. The roads are too dark at night to travel swiftly by carriage. Taking a boat is the fastest way. If we don’t arrive in Greenwich before the comet dips below the horizon, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to have it verified. If we wait, it might be raining or foggy. Some other observer might claim it first. I don’t want to take the risk.”

“Very well. If you’re certain.”

She nodded. “I think I can do it.” Her eyes briefly closed, and her hands clenched in fists. “No, I know I can do it. So long as you’re with me.”

Oh, I’ll be with you. Just you try to get away. “You’ll be safe, Alex. I’d say you have my word on it, but as little as that’s worth, it scarcely feels worth offering.” He stared solemnly into her eyes. “I’d part with my life before I let you go.”

I can do this, Alex told herself. I can, I can, I can.

It had been easier to believe that at the house. Now that she stood on the dock, it was proving more difficult to actually go through with the decision. The last time she’d stood on these docks, she’d fallen into the Thames, and her livelihood had slipped from her grasp.

But if that hadn’t happened, she wouldn’t be here with Chase tonight.

Chase joined her, having finished making arrangements with whichever boatman he’d roused from his sleep. “We’ll be under way in a trice. He’s just readying the skiff.”

“You hired a skiff?” She’d been expecting a wherry.

“There’s a breeze tonight. Sails are faster than oars.”

Yes, but oars felt a great deal safer.