The Doctors Mason
Henrietta clutched the piece of paper to her chest. Such a little thing, but it was going to change her world. No more pretending. No more pats on the head.
Blowing out the breath she'd been holding since she exited the steam carriage, she pushed open the heavy door in front of her. The hinges groaned like they hadn't seen use in years. Odd. Her father worked here every day. "Father?" she called into the depths of the lab.
The only answer was the ghost of her own voice echoing back at her. When her attempts to ignite the gaslamps failed, she stepped into the gloom. Where was he? She'd already checked the hospital. She rested a hand on the nearest bench and narrowed her eyes at the apparatus before her. In the darkness, she couldn't tell, but it looked as if it had been abandoned mid-experiment, the fluids inside congealing.
She shook her head. Preposterous. Her father was merely taking a much needed day off. Uncommon to be sure, but not unheard of.
Squaring her shoulders, she returned to the street, shutting the door tight behind her. A steam carriage pulled up almost as soon as she raised her hand to hail it. She climbed inside and gave her address to the driver as he closed the door. As the carriage lurched away, she gripped the door, only letting go once they were rolling smoothly along the road. And now the fingers of her glove were coated with dust. Wonderful. The one day she tried to present herself as pristinely as possible and a filthy carriage door did her in.
She plucked the fingers of the gloves until she was able to pull them off. If she'd carried a bag, she would have tucked them inside, but there was nothing for it. She'd just have to carry them along with her precious slip of paper. Surely he wouldn't notice the gloves. He noticed so little about her these days. But all that would change now. She sucked in a breath so full and deep it made her shudder with anticipation.
The driver let her out in front of the big house she shared with her father. Not so long ago, her mother had lived here too. A painful lump formed in Henrietta's throat as she remembered her mother's long and painful battle. Her death had been tragic in many ways, but it had also been a blessing in that she'd finally been free from the agony. If she'd only known how her husband would change after her passing, Louisa Mason might have held on longer. Might have lived forever, in fact. But that was a child's dream. Henrietta lived with both feet firmly planted on the ground of reality.
The front door swung open at her approach, their maid grinning as she swept Henrietta inside. "Welcome home, Miss Mason, or is it--"
"Until I speak to my father, nothing has changed. Is he in the study?"
"Understood, miss. But no, your father hasn't been home since early this morning."
Strange. He hadn't been at the lab or the hospital. Where could he be? "Thank you. I'll wait for him there. Please let him know when he returns home."
"Of course, miss."
Henrietta crossed the foyer, her books clicking on the marble tiles as she rounded the staircase and stepped into her father's study. Old lab equipment and books on all matter of science lined the mahogany cases along the wall, framing the massive desk in the middle of the room. Sucking in the scent of books and knowledge, Henrietta settled into the armchair near the window and waited.
A noise startled her awake, and the sun that had shone bright in the sky outside had disappeared, replaced by its pale reflection on the surface of the moon. She blinked. Her father hadn't come for her?
Suddenly the door swept open and he hurried in, gaslamps sputtering to life. "What is so important you spent all evening in here?"
No hello. No how are you. Only admonishment veiled in concern--lightly veiled at that. Henrietta stood, smoothing her skirt, and picked up the sheet of paper from the table next to her.
When she held it out to her father, he didn't spare it a glance. "Child, go to bed. This isn't anything that can't wait for morning. I've been at my laboratory all day and I'm exhausted."
What? "Firstly, Father, I'm not a child. I haven't been for some time, but this piece of paper you dismissed places me as your equal."
"Impossible." Now he snatched the medical license from her fingers, brows knitting together as he read it.
"Not impossible. I told you I wanted to be a doctor. Now I am. I did what everyone said couldn't be done. You didn't need a son, Daddy, I can be just like you." But as he continued to frown, his other words nagged at her. "And why did you say you were at the lab? I stopped there. It was dark and empty."
His eyes shot to her for a second before returning to her license. "I have a new laboratory I'm working from much of the time. That's not your concern. As for this--" He waved her license. "--the timing couldn't be more ideal. I've recently secured another trading ship and they have need of a medical officer. It will be the perfect place for you to hone your skills." He looked up at her at last, blue eyes so like her own glowing in the light of the gaslamps.
"A trading dirigible? But, Father, I--"
"I'll hear no more of it. If you want your own practice some day, you need experience. This is the perfect answer. Good night, child, and congratulations." He handed her license over to Henrietta's limp fingers and strode to the door. As he left, he doused the lights, cloaking her in darkness and the despair of a daughter who could never be what her father wanted...could never be a son.
Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father's duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. While in the city, she can't resist the lure of a charity gala but winds up regretting the whole experience. Well, everything except a heart-racing dance with a certain U.S. Marshal.
His career and vengeance on the line, Carson Alexander must prove a connection between Senator Mason and the mafia. He lucked out happening across Mason's strikingly beautiful daughter, only to have her slip through his fingers. On a desperate hunt to track her down, he never expects his search to take him into the brutal Badlands.
With a mechanically enhanced enforcer after them, only Carson knows the extent of the danger they face. He'll have to win over Henrietta's trust, and her heart, before it's too late...
If you aren’t going to be able to see her next week at the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention—or even if you are—you can also find Seleste around the internet: