“He’s here?” Following her gaze, Edward saw the Duke of Pembroke. He was, and from his vantage point, at the top of the stairs which descended into the ballroom, Pembroke had seen them first. His gaze met Edward’s across the room, hard and cold.
Lord, Edward hoped the man was not here to make trouble.
Ignoring the silent summons, Edward looked away, scanning the crush of guests for Richard. Both of them over average height he caught his brother-in-law’s eye.
Richard was at the edge of the dance floor, in mid-conversation, near the bottom of the stairs. At Edward’s nod Richard looked up and saw the Duke, then threw Edward back an answering nod, before visibly giving apologies and then moving to weave a path through the crush to where Pembroke stood.
Edward turned away and back to Ellen. He wouldn’t lead her like a lamb to the slaughter. Richard would divine whether it was wise or not to let them speak…
“Brace up, your father is on his way,” Edward whispered through the corner of his mouth.
Ellen glanced backwards, saw her father, and then set down the glass.
Her wide eyes spun back to Edward’s face declaring absolute panic, but then almost instantly he watched her overcome it, steeling herself for the meeting, her fear shifting to determination. He took her hand and held it tight, offering what courage he could…
…Her father stood in the center of the room, his hands clasped behind his back, his angular face fixed in an expression of distaste, his gaze following her. She faced him, with Edward behind her, while Richard stood near the door.
Refusing to shrink back before her father’s condescending stare she took two steps closer, unflinching, and felt Edward move too, his fingers gently resting at the curve of her waist.
“You have something to say to me, Father?”
She watched him hesitate and swallow.
“I owe you an apology.”
But she noted he could not quite bring himself to give one and say I am sorry.
“I accept I have not made the right decisions towards you, and now things are—as they are—you have left me with no choice but to allow you access to your son.”
It was as though the weight of years slipped from her shoulders. He was backing down. He had heard her the other day. He was using her name. “I do not want access to my son, I want my son.” Her voice was low and measured, brimful with righteous anger. “I want him to live with Edward and I. That is where he wishes to be. It is where he belongs.”
Her father’s eyes seemed to skim across her face.
“If that is what you wish,” he hesitated.
“It is.” Ellen held his gaze.
“Then you may collect him in two days’ time…
“He’s said we may have John.” Ellen turned to Edward and wrapped her arms about his neck. “I cannot believe it. I cannot. We will have John.” Edward picked her up off her feet and twirled her around, clearly jubilant…