Today's Reading

"That is more than apparent." The man smiled, then sobered, his gaze locking onto Graham's. "But you should know I am a greater force with which to be reckoned. While your former captain highly recommends your work and your character, enough so that he was able to save you from the disgrace of a dishonourable discharge, it seems even his good word was not enough to thwart your administrative dismissal from His Majesty's Navy."

Air whooshed from Graham's lungs. Blast! The man had done his due diligence as well. Fighting the urge to tuck tail and retreat into the public house, he planted his feet. "I own my past sins, yet in the future I vow that no matter how righteous, my anger shall never best me again."

"I commend you for such an indomitable resolution." Peckwood sniffed, his long nose wrinkling. "Yet intention never negates risk."

"No man can claim to be risk-free, and if he does, he lies. I am no saint, Mr. Peckwood. I am a surgeon, highly skilled and ambitious, two traits which will serve you and the practice well."

"Your candor is refreshing." Peckwood eyed him with a sharp gaze, and Graham got the distinct impression the fellow examined and diagnosed every fault he could find, from the crooked knot in his cravat to the scuff on his left shoe.

"But I am curious, Mr. Lambert. There is a plethora of other surgeons in this wide world of ours. Why such dogged resolve to add your name to the shingle above my door?"

A fair question, one that Graham had given weeks of research to before deciding whose fate to entwine with his own. "It is no secret you are a visionary." He shrugged. "Your work with Sir Humphry Davy on the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide is revolutionary. The article you wrote did not receive the recognition it should have, and I daresay if it had, even now the medical community would be pursuing a more humane way of conducting surgeries."

Peckwood's jaw dropped. "Are you an avid reader of obscurity, then?" "I am an avid reader, period."

A great chuckle rumbled in Peckwood's throat. "So serious, Mr. Lambert.

I wonder if your bedside manner is as grim."

"I am exemplary with patients, I assure you."

"Hmm," Peckwood drawled. "I suppose that will prove out."

'Will' prove? His heart faltered a beat. "Sir?"

For a long moment—one that could suck the soul right out of a body—Peckwood stared off into the night sky. As the man's silence prolonged, hoots and hollers rang from the public house. Tackle clinked and clanked on ships moored for the night. All the while, hope and trepidation rocked Graham's gut like contrary waves battering either side of a vessel.

"Well, Mr. Lambert," Peckwood said at length, "being that you come with the highest of praise from your captain and, I suspect, will continue to hound me should I refuse your proposition, I agree to a three-month probationary period, at which point either I shall take you on as a full partner or send you on your way and pocket your deposit. But know this..."

A different man looked out from Peckwood's eyes. Nay, a demon. One that crawled under Graham's skin and burned a trail down his spine.

"There is a reason I have never had a partner, for I am a particularly private man. My personal life and my current medical research at St. Peter's have no part in our agreement and are off- limits to your inquiry. Is that quite understood?

This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book THE TRANSFORMATION FACTOR by J. Frank Harrison III.

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