Once Upon a Tower

Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James Read Free Book Online

Book: Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eloisa James
agreed that they found each other tolerable.
    He signed the letter with his full title: Gowan Stoughton of Craigievar, Duke of Kinross, Chief of Clan MacAulay.
    And then he took out the wax that he almost never used and sealed the letter with his ducal signet.
    It was impressive.
    Ducal.
    Good .

Six
    E die’s father and stepmother had apparently patched things up, but only to the extent that meals were cool rather than frosty.
    “He still won’t bed me,” Layla confided over luncheon, a few days later. The earl had been expected to join them, but had not appeared.
    Edie sighed. She disliked monitoring her father’s marital folly, but whom else could poor Layla confide in? “The same problem? He thinks that you’re shagging Gryphus in your spare moments?”
    “He says he believes me about Gryphus. But as you will have noticed, that fact doesn’t lead him to sleep at home.”
    Just then Willikins entered, bearing a small silver tray in his gloved hand. “Oh good,” Layla said. “I expect it’s an invitation to General Rutland’s revue. Mrs. Blossom said that she would invite me to join her box.”
    “A letter for Lady Edith,” the butler said, heading around the table to deliver it. “A groom will return for your response on the morrow.”
    Edie took the letter. Sure enough, it was a missive fit for a duke, written on thick paper that smelled like sovereigns and sealed with a fat blob of red wax.
    “Is that from Kinross?” Layla asked. She put down her fork. “I suppose it’s acceptable for a betrothed couple to correspond, but my mother would have . . .”
    She kept talking while Edie ripped open the letter and read it.
    And then read it once more. “Husband your bed” seemed clear enough, though the man had delusions of grandeur. Ninety years old? She snorted. Look at her father, and he was only forty or thereabouts.
    Kinross’s answer to her point about a mistress was precisely what any woman would want to hear. But “pig’s gut”? How would that prevent conception?
    It was the fifth and final paragraph that she read over and over. Her future spouse did have a sense of humor. She appreciated his sarcasm. In fact, it gave her a startlingly different view of her impending marriage.
    “What does he have to say?” Layla asked. Her head was propped on her hand. “I have a terrible headache, and I’m not capable of reading, so just tell me.”
    “He’s boasting that we’ll dance in the sheets until we’re ninety.”
    “He can’t be as stickish as he appeared, then. In fact, he sounds perfect. As unlike your father as can be.”
    Edie folded the letter and put it to the side. It wasn’t precisely a declaration of love, but since it was the first letter from her future spouse, she meant to keep it. And to answer it. “Do you suppose that perhaps you and Father could have a rational conversation to determine the points of discord in your marriage, with consideration how to avoid them from here on out?”
    Layla raised her head just enough to squint at her and then dropped it again. “You sounded just as priggish as your father when you said that.”
    “Really?” It wasn’t a pleasant thought. “I’m sorry.”
    “Talking doesn’t work for us. We communicate on a more intimate level. Which means we don’t communicate at all, these days.”
    “On that front, do you have any idea what the ‘bawdy hand of the dial’ might signify?”
    “Absolutely not. Your father would be unhappy to think that your fiancé has written you a coarse letter. Kinross didn’t allude to anything improper, did he?”
    Edie grinned. “Are you saying that I shouldn’t tell Father that the duke is promising that the said dial is always set to the prick of noon?”
    Layla picked up her head again. “He wrote the word prick ? He wrote it down? In black and white? The prick of noon ?”
    “He did.” Edie opened her letter and read it again. She was starting to like it more and more. If only she hadn’t had

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