Leading up to the release of the 3rd book in
“Mama?” John dared to speak up, in a desperate whisper, and for that he received his own rebuke.
“What have I told you? You have no mother, John. Your mother is dead.”
Edward saw the plea in John’s wide eyes as he looked at Ellen, his lower lip quivering before it was caught between his teeth.
“We are going home,” Pembroke growled, his gaze visibly warning Ellen to stay back. “Get in the carriage, John.”
The boy didn’t move, braving defiance, despite his obvious fear, he just looked at his mother.
Still standing before Pembroke, her arms limp at her sides, Ellen appeared lost, bowled over by this force which she clearly had no capacity to fight. “John, I’m sorry, I…”
Edward moved and blocked the doorway, as the Duke of Pembroke took hold of John’s arm and drew him past Ellen, as though she did not even exist.
“You are not taking the boy.” Edward’s words halted the Duke’s stride and astonishment crossed his expression. It seemed Pembroke was unaccustomed to refusal.
“Who are you to order me, Marlow? You have no say in this.” The arrogant dismissing look the man gave Edward would have made most men quake in their boots, but Edward was not most men.
Edward felt the muscle in his jaw contract, his teeth clenching as he restrained the surge of anger, while his right hand tightened to a fist he itched to thrust into the bastard’s condescending face. But he would not be bear baited into blows which would make him the one at fault and play straight into Pembroke’s hands. Instead, squaring his shoulders, he met the Duke’s imposing stare, defiantly, and refused to be set aside. Schooling his voice to a deliberate, calm, clear depth, bitter with contempt, Edward answered, “You are in my home, and handling my wife’s son. I have every right.” His voice echoed about the hall. “Let the boy go. It is you who have no right here, Your Grace.” Edward used the title with disgust.
The Duke’s gaze narrowed on him, a silver-blue even paler than Ellen’s, the contrast made starker by the winged dark brows which lined them. Edward knew he was being measured and there was an odd light of some other thought at the back of the monster’s damningly hard gaze as Pembroke spoke. “What sort of man are you, to take a whore to wife? You’ll have nothing from me. Do you understand? You have taken on the wrong man, Marlow. I can crush you if I choose. You stole the boy. I have come to fetch him back. The child is mine. I have the legal right here, I…”
The sudden thrusting lance of pain in Edward’s chest must have shown on his face, for the man stopped talking as his mouth twisted to a sneer. Then he finished, “I see, she never mentioned that. Get out of my way, Marlow. This has nothing to do with you.”
Edward’s eyes left their clash with the Duke’s, flicking down to John.
Head down, eyes to the floor, John stood motionless in the Duke’s grip.
Edward looked at Ellen, accusation burning inside him.
“Is this true?” She was standing to one side, observing his bewilderment with a look of regret which spoke the answer, but he would have the words from her mouth. Damn her, why had she not armoured him against this? Why didn’t she tell me?
“Ellen, is this true?” he snapped at her.
Taking on the qualities of a hunting wolf circling its prey, the Duke glared at her, before turning back to Edward. “Step aside.”
What choice did he have? “This will not be the end of it,” Edward said as the Duke came forward.
“Come near the boy again and I’ll destroy you.”
Edward ignored him and pressed a reassuring hand on John’s shoulder as he passed. In return John gave him a forlorn look. Edward saw that John had known Pembroke would come.
John’s gaze turned to Ellen.
She moved, as though pulled in their wake by a magnetic force, walking past Edward.
She’d known it too.
“John!” At Ellen’s call, Edward turned to watch them in the courtyard. Ellen’s reservation had dissolved, she’d rushed forward and tried to take John but Pembroke pushed her away and signalled one of his footmen to hold her back.
Edward moved quickly, striding out to where the pitiful scene was unfolding. When he reached Ellen he pushed the Duke’s man aside, holding her about the waist himself while she writhed and tugged for freedom, crying out to John as Pembroke climbed up into the carriage after the boy.
The footman shut the door and her fight drained as quickly as it had come. On a sob she pushed Edward’s arm away and straightened, silent suddenly and apparently resigned. But belying the tears rolling down her cheeks, Edward saw her meet the bastard’s condemning gaze with a look that refused to be downtrodden.
The carriage drew into motion, lurching forward and Pembroke’s footmen caught the grips at the rear, hopping up onto the footplates as it pulled away. Ellen was watching, standing motionless, as the black shiny beast of a vehicle turned to pass beneath the arch of the raised portcullis. She followed then, slowly at first, lifting her hand when Edward glimpsed John at the other window looking back, as though she thought she could still touch John if she tried. Then as the carriage swept out of the confinement of the courtyard, the driver’s long whip flicked up in an outward lick at the two pairs of jet black horses’ backs and the carriage pulled into a quicker pace. The strike-strike pattern of the animals trot on the gravel filling the air, the coachman called them on.
Ellen began to run, her pace increasing with that of the carriage as she clutched at her skirt to draw it from her feet, running out on to the drive behind it.
“John! I love you! I love you! Don’t forget!” she called in a desperate voice as the carriage’s distance from her expanded, broadening by the second.
With the carriage pulling ahead steadily, Edward doubted John heard her.