I do not like my father, but I know he will keep John safe. John is his heir you see, my father had no son. If John cannot be with me, he is safer with him.”
Edward downed his drink. Another nail in the coffin then, the man would not easily let his heir go…
… “Give me time to think and we will work out how to respond, but I refuse to let him keep John.” Her eyes opening wider, the pale blue caught the light from the window as she took a steadying breath. Her fingers closed over his then and drew them down.
“You will never cease to amaze me, Edward. I don’t understand you sometimes. How can you not continue to blame me for this? I am the spurned daughter of the Duke of Pembroke, and you are not daunted by it?” Reaching up onto her toes she kissed his lips briefly, then, with a silly burst of fearful laughter and a shake of her head, she added, “If you can find a way to get John back you shall not simply be my hero, I shall bid to the church to have you sainted. And do you know what the most surprising thing is? I really think perhaps you can.”
“I am known for my determination, Ellen. Perhaps I should have warned you of that.”
Edward unwound his fingers from hers, interrupting her speech, stood and walked over to Casper to take his drink, then he turned to her, his gaze fixed and intent.
She knew that stubborn look, it meant he would not be shifted from whatever notion he’d set into his head.
“Julie is right,” he began, holding Ellen’s gaze. “That is the answer—if you want John back. We cannot fight the man with lawyers, but if your family recognize you again your father would look too much the fool to deny you. You should meet your sister and write to the others. They are all married now, none under his control, and all of them to influential men. If together they stood against your father I would like to see him fight against that. He’d look ridiculous if he did.
“We are going to London. That is what we will do, Ellen. Brazen it out and make the man squirm. We shan’t go after him. We shall force him to come to us.”
Ellen shook her head. “I can’t do it, Edward. I could not face them now.”
With that Edward set down his glass, walked to where she sat and squatted down onto his haunches. His hands rested on her forearms. “Do you want John back?” When he spoke one eyebrow lifted, visibly adding emphasis to his point.
Ellen didn’t hesitate. “You know I do.” But this would take more courage than she had.
“Then what choice do you have?” His touch slipped from her arms and he rose. Her eyes followed his movement. “Make them face you. Make your father face what he’s done.”
“And what if he makes it public?” she whispered.
“Then it is him that is shamed not you,” Edward answered.
Ellen took a breath and her eyes turned to the coffee Julie passed her, aware that they all studied her.
She had been the center of attention before. She’d learnt to shut out the scorn, but if it came from people she loved. Could she do it? Could she do it for John? For John the answer could only ever be, yes, she had to try. With Edward, her rock, she could try.
A while later Ellen stood in one of Lord and Lady Forth’s guest bedchambers, dressed in a borrowed nightgown, leaning against the windowsill.
John was somewhere beneath the stars she saw, thinking of her as she thought of him, wondering if she would come for him, waiting. She knew it. Her fingertips touching the window pane, she looked out across the sweeping lawns into the distance as Edward blew out the candle. Darkness absorbed the room, but as it did it made the gardens clearer when her eyes adjusted.
She heard Edward moving behind her, barefoot, the floorboards creaking with his footfalls as he neared her. His fingers slipped about each side of her waist and splayed over her stomach, and his lips brushed her neck.
“Do you think we can really get John back?” she whispered, her breath dewing on the glass. “What if they do not accept me?”
“We can only try, Ellen.” His deep voice filled the air, the resonating sound sending a shiver through her body, and his hands swept lower, drawing her back against him stirring her desire. “If they do not accept you then we will simply find an opportunity to take John and leave the country.”
Her head tipped back to his shoulder and she sighed into the air, longing to escape thought and heartache.
“I want him back.”
“I know sweetheart, I do too. We’ll get him back, whichever way. I promise.”
Her fingers still on his arm she pulled him back. “Edward, I cannot do this.”
He turned back again and covered her fingers on his arm with his hand in a gesture of reassurance. “Ellen, you can. What is worse, never seeing John again, or telling a few white lies?
Edward smiled in reassurance. It was Ellen this put on a precipice not him, he was well aware of that. He did not like it, but if they wanted John she had to be brazen. It was the only way. And yes, he did think it would work, it could hardly not, with Pembroke’s status…
He gripped her shoulders, gave her a light shake and then kissed her on the bridge of the nose. “I know my little shrinking violet, but you shall suffer it none the less, for John.”
“For John, yes,” she sighed.