The Duke's Perfect Wife

Page 5

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But perhaps this would be better. If he inserted her into his life now, she'd grow so used to being there that when he put his hand out for her, she'd take it and not say no.
He could find some nominal employment for her, let her track down who had these photographs-she was not wrong that they might help his opposition make a fool of him-while he slowly closed his fist about her. So slowly that she'd not know he had her in his grasp until too late.
Eleanor would be with him, at his side, as she was now, smiling her red-lipped smile. Every day, and every night.
Every night.
"Hart?" Eleanor waved a hand in front of his face. "Woolgathering, are you?"
Hart snapped his focus back to her, on the kissable curve of her mouth, the little smile that had once made him determined to have her. In all ways.
Eleanor tucked the photograph into her pocket. "Now, as to salary, it needn't be large. Something to get us by, that's all. And accommodations for myself and my father while we're in London. Small rooms will be fine-we are used to scratching for ourselves, as long as the neighborhood is not too seedy. Father will walk anywhere alone, and I do not want street toughs bothering him. He'd end up trying to explain to his assailants how knives like the one with which they are trying to stab him first came to be made, and finish with a lecture on the best methods of tempering steel."
Eleanor went on, ignoring him. "If you do not wish to admit to engaging me for looking into who sent the photograph-and I can see why you'd need to be secretive-you can tell people that you've engaged me to do something else. Typing your letters, perhaps. I did learn to use a typing machine. The postmistress in the village was given one. She offered to teach spinster ladies how to type so that they might be able to find a job in a city instead of waiting in vain for a man to take notice of them and marry them. I, of course, could not move to a city without Father, who will never leave Glenarden for more than a few weeks at a time, but I learned the skill anyway, not knowing when it might become useful. Which it has. And anyway, you must give me a post so that I can earn the money to take us back to Aberdeen."
Hart heard his voice fill the room, but sometimes the only way to stop her flow was to boom over it.
She blinked. "What?"
One curl dropped from beneath her hat and snaked down her shoulder, a red gold streak on her serge bodice.
Hart drew a breath. "Give a man a moment to think."
"Yes, I know I can run on. Father never minds. And I am a bit nervous, I must say. I was once betrothed to you, and now here we are, face-to-face, like old friends."
Dear God. "We are not friends."
"I know that. I said like old friends. One old friend asking another for a job. I've come here in desperation."
She might say that, but her smile, her open look, spoke of eagerness and determination.
Once upon a ti