Leading up to the release of the 3rd book in
“Mama!” John’s urgent cry came from beyond the corner of the house and instantly the joy on Ellen’s face shattered. Edward saw it. Blood drained from her face, her smile fell and fear flooded her eyes.
Without even registering his enquiry her fingers pulled from his and she turned away, catching up her skirt and breaking into a run. The sharp strikes of her new half-boots on the gravel rang with desperate urgency.
He followed and rounded the corner of the house a moment behind her nearly colliding with them both in the archway at the entrance to the courtyard. Ellen was standing rigid, one hand still holding the skirt of her new pale lemon walking dress and moss green pelisse. While John was gripping her about the waist with both arms, clinging on for dear life, as though someone sought to drag him loose.
Edward’s gaze reached beyond them to see what they were staring at.
A large black enclosed carriage stood within the courtyard. It was a grand vehicle and glowing with fresh polish, its lines traced with gold leaf, and on the door was a painted embossed coat of arms he didn’t recognise.
“Ellen. John,” he demanded, passing them and beckoning them on with his hand. They would certainly not find out who’d arrived by standing in the driveway gawking.
He heard them follow, their footsteps ringing on the cobble of the courtyard.
When Edward traversed the steps up to the front door, in a quick light jog, Davis opened it, his manner at its most toplofty, “Lord Edward, the Duke of Pembroke is in the best drawing-room. I did say you were not at home, my Lord, but he insisted upon waiting.”
“Did he say what his call is regarding?” Edward asked quietly, his heart already hammering. Pembroke? Ghost like memories returned in a mist, of Ellen looking at his wife. The Duke?
“No, my Lord.”
Taking a deep breath, Edward straightened his coat and collar before turning to Ellen. She stood just inside the door. “Take John up to wash, I will see to this.”
She looked in shock. No, not shock, it was terror, and she was not looking at Edward but past him. John’s hand dropping from hers, the boy visibly dressed himself in armour, changing from a child to a young man, his chin lifting, steeling himself. Edward had seen Ellen do the same often enough to know.
Turning, Edward followed their gazes to the drawing-room door across the hall. Pembroke stood there, his pale austere look fixed on John. For a man most probably in his fifties, Pembroke still held a dominant, slender figure which defied the shading of gray in the dark hair about his temples. He was dressed completely in black, apart from his white cravat and the white embroidery on his waistcoat. His bearing and physical presence filled even the open space of the hall. The man had a menacingly powerful aura reaching from him.
“John!” Pembroke clipped out the single word as a command, and by what appeared to be an instinctive or inbred response the boy went to him.
“Your Grace,” John acknowledged, crossing to the man’s side, his voice grave, weighted with the sound of resignation.
No! Ominous realisation tolled in Edward’s thoughts. Pembroke? The Duke? He remembered the speculation he’d refused to contemplate in White’s little more than a fortnight ago. She would not have done this to me? Lied to me?
“Please, don’t take him from me?” Ellen rushed forward, passing Edward, as if she would throw herself physically on the man’s mercy.