The Duke's Perfect Wife

Page 15

Eleanor hid her smile at the last statement and touched the paper. "A letter? But this is all numbers."
"I know."
Ian redipped his pen, bent his head, and went back to writing. Eleanor waited, hoping he'd finish, look up again, and explain, but he did not.
Curry cleared his throat. "Beggin' your pardon, your ladyship. When 'e's at it like that, you'll not get much more from 'im."
Ian didn't stop writing. "Shut it, Curry."
Curry chuckled. "Except for that."
Eleanor drew one of the finished pages to her. Ian had written the numbers in an even, careful hand, each two and five and six formed in an identical manner to all the other twos and fives and sixes, the rows marching in exactitude down the page.
"How will Beth know what the numbers mean?" Eleanor asked.
"Don't get the pages out of order," Ian said without looking up. "She has the key to decipher it at the other end."
Eleanor slid the paper back where she found it. "But why are you writing to her in code? No one will read these letters but you and Beth, surely."
Ian gave Eleanor a swift glance, his eyes a flash of gold. His lips twitched into one of his rare smiles, which vanished as he bent over the numbers again. "Beth likes it."
The smile, the look, tugged at Eleanor's heart. Even in the fleeting glance, she'd seen great love in Ian's eyes, his determination to finish this letter and send it to Beth so she could enjoy decoding it. A way to tell her sweet nothings that no one else could understand. Private thoughts, shared between husband and wife.
Eleanor thought back to the day she'd first met Ian, when Hart had taken her to the asylum to see him. She'd found there a scared, lonely boy, arms and legs too large for his body, Ian enraged and frustrated because he could not make the world understand him.
Hart had been amazed that Ian had actually talked to Eleanor, had even let her slide an arm around his shoulders-briefly. Unheard of, because Ian hated to be touched.
That terrified youth was a far cry from the quiet man who sat here composing letters for his wife's delight. This Ian could meet Eleanor's eyes, if only for a moment, could let Eleanor in on a secret and smile about it. The change in him, the deep well of happiness he'd tapped, made her heart swell.
She also remembered the time that she and Hart had worked out a secret code between themselves. Nothing as elaborate as Ian's number sequences, but a way for Hart to send Eleanor a message when he would be too busy to meet her that day. In whatever city they happened to be in, he'd leave a hothouse flower-usually a rose-lying in the corner of a garden where it would not be seen by the casual passerby. In London, it would be in Hyde Park at a certain crossing of paths, or in the garden in the middle of Grosvenor Square, under a tree nearest the center of it-Hart had made certain Eleanor had been given a key to the gardens very early in their courtship. In Edinburgh, he left them at their meeting spot in Holyrood Park.
Hart could have sent a note, of course, when he had to back out of an appointment with her, but he said he liked knowing she'd walk by their meeting spot and see the signal that he was thinking of her. Eleanor realized, of course, that he must have sent someone, an errand boy perhaps, to leave the rose for her, but it had never failed to melt her heart. She'd pick up the flower and take it home, keeping it to remind her of him until they met again.
The charmer, Eleanor thought. A way to disarm my anger whenever he had to put business first. The little flower with its hidden meaning had warmed her heart more than any apologetic note could have done, and he'd known that.
Even nowadays, the rare times she found herself in Edinburgh or London, she'd glance to that spot in Hyde Park or Holyrood, still looking for the sign. The pang when she did not see it always surprised her.
Eleanor sat for a time, letting the lump in her throat work out, while Ian went on writing, oblivious to her thoughts.
"I don't see your key," Eleanor said when she could speak again. "How do you know what numbers to write down?"
Ian shrugged. "I remember."
Curry chuckled again. "Don't look so amazed, your ladyship. 'E's got a mind like a gearbox, and 'e knows every click it makes. It's right frightening sometimes."
"I can hear you, Curry," Ian said, pen moving.
"Aye, and you know I don't tell lies about you. Best just ask 'im, yer ladyship. 'E'll be here awhile."
Eleanor yielded to Curry's wisdom. "The thing is, Ian, I want you to help me do something, and I don't want you to tell Hart. I must ask that you promise to keep it from him. Will you?"
Ian said nothing, his pen scratching in the stillness.
"I'll tell 'im to come ask you what you need," Curry said. "When 'e's come out of it."
Eleanor rose. "Thank you, Curry. But not a word to His Grace, please. Hart can be… well, you know how he can be."
Curry got himself to his feet and straightened his shirt. He cleared his throat. "A bit of advice, your ladyship," he said. "Begging your pardon, and your pardon too, your lordship." He turned his full gaze on Eleanor. "'Is Grace is a 'ard man, and 'e gets 'arder by the year. If 'e gets the prime minister– ship, the victory will make 'im like steel. I don't think anyone will soften 'im then, not even you, your ladyship."Source: www_Novel12_Com