“Oh, I think we have much to discuss,” Eleanor contradicted him. “It’s just as well Eden has gone. I would rather she didn’t hear what I have to say to you.”
The man scowled. “Do you have the decency at least to say it in private, whatever it is?” He waved at the waiter again, signed for the drinks and without asking Eleanor to follow, rose and strode across the lobby of the hotel to the elevator.
Eleanor followed until she found herself in a large suite of rooms on the top floor.
Henry Barrett walked to a table now and took up one of many bottles, pouring himself another glass of whiskey. “Drink?” he offered Eleanor.
“Cigar,” she told him.
He frowned, but took one from the humidor on the table and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She sat herself in a chair by the room’s small fire.
“You’ve got no proof, even if I agreed with you—and I am not saying that I do,” Henry argued.
“Proof?” Eleanor narrowed her eyes for a moment. “I do, but you aren’t going to like it,” she said frankly.
“Do you think I like any of this?” Henry huffed and finished the whiskey in his glass.
“Your wife was never with another man in her life, after she left you.”
The man frowned. “What nonsense. She didn’t leave me for a celibate friendship with a stable boy.”
“No,” Eleanor agreed. She pulled long on the cigar, blowing back the smoke slowly as she tapped the ash into a tray by her elbow. She looked into his eyes as she continued unblinkingly, “but that stable boy was a woman.”
At this, he rose from his chair and gripped its back so hard that his knuckles went white. “God damn it, Eleanor, what rot you talk!” he snapped.
“I said you wouldn’t like it. But that does not mean it isn’t true,” she told him. “I’ve met Mr. Smith. And I swear to the truth what I have told you.” Now she rose and walked to the table with the bottles. “May I?” She didn’t wait for his answer as she poured herself a glass of his brandy.
“How much are you worth, Henry? Twelve million? Fifteen? If she sued your nephew for it she wouldn’t win of course. But no one who can read—or talk—between Philadelphia and Rome would miss the story of how your pretty little wife ran off with another woman. It’s bad enough, isn’t it, that they all think she killed herself? How much worse would the truth be?”
“No one would ever believe it.”
“No one?” Eleanor returned to her chair and sipped her brandy slowly.
“What do you want Eleanor?” Mr. Barrett finally asked.
“How much is your reputation worth?” Eleanor boldly returned. “Surely fifty thousand wouldn’t be a hardship.”
“Fifty thousand?” Mr. Barrett gave Eleanor an incredulous look. “Who do you think you are, woman?”
Eleanor said nothing, but returned Henry’s gaze without flinching. Finally, the man skulked to a desk, opened a drawer and drew out a checkbook. But as he reached for a pen, Eleanor stopped him.
“She has a sister,” she said simply.
“What? You see? Her sister surely isn’t mine! It’s all a lie!” He threw the pen angrily on the desk.
“They’re twins,” Eleanor returned. “Her name is Myrna—for the stable boy’s mother, as I understand.”
He scowled again, but took up the pen, and in a trembling hand wrote in the checkbook. He tore away the draft and all but threw it at Eleanor. “Go, now, Miss Stephens,” he told her evenly. “I never want to see you or this girl—or her sister, if she really has one—again.”
“Thank you, Henry, I’ll do my best to see to it,” Eleanor said with a smile. And she placed the check in her breast pocket and showed herself out.