Against All Odds by dusty273
1. Chapter 1. Introductions by dusty273
2. Chapter 2. Double or Nothing by dusty273
3. Chapter 3. Marriage is the Death of Hope by dusty273
4. Chapter 4. Between a Rock and a Hard Place by dusty273
5. Chapter 5. A Walk to Remember by dusty273
6. Chapter 6. Sense and Sensibility by dusty273
7. Chapter 7. Tender Loving Care by dusty273
8. Chapter 8. Turnabout is Fair Play by dusty273
9. Chapter 9. The Truth Shall Set You Free by dusty273
10. Chapter 10. A Midsummer Night's Dream by dusty273
11. Chapter 11. All's Fair in Love and War by dusty273
12. Chapter 12. Trials and Tribulations by dusty273
13. Chapter 13. Bitter Sweetness by dusty273
14. Chapter 14. In Flagrante Delicto by dusty273
15. Chapter 15. The Air You Breathe Into Me by dusty273
16. Chapter 16. Truths and Revelations by dusty273
17. Chapter 17. Playing with Fire by dusty273
18. Chapter 18. Sweet Surrender by dusty273
19. Chapter 19. The Morning After by dusty273
20. Chapter 20. The Courage to Love by dusty273
21. Chapter 21. Playing in the Garden of Eden by dusty273
22. Chapter 22. A Taste of Temptation by dusty273
23. Chapter 23. In the Aftermath of Temptation by dusty273
24. Chapter 24. Of Misunderstandings, Proposals and Other Affairs by dusty273
Chapter 1. Introductions by dusty273
I’ve been dreaming of writing a story like this one for a long time and the Art-A-Thon provided me with a reason to write it. And then my oh so wise IBE convinced me to write a very detailed outline which provided me with the final push, I fell in love with the idea, with the characters and so far it’s coming along nicely. (I think at least) So now I know this story will be somewhere around 12 chapters, which is not too bad I guess. Also, no worries over AOI going on hiatus because I’m writing this one, that story is my priority and next chapter is about 2/3rds perhaps of being done, it’s just that RL has been not too kind this last week and I haven’t had much time to write. This is a work of fantasy, set in London, England, 1810 and while I might use a few places which existed in that era, the majority of names, titles and places are not based in real historic references. So I beg your leniency in that aspect.
Warnings: Buffy/Other, nothing graphic (more like mentions really) I simply couldn’t stomach writing it. *shudders* This Spike is the ‘want, take, have’ type of man, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. While I can’t promise there won’t be angst, you should know by now I don’t like to drag it endlessly so it will be resolved fairly quick.
Beta: The lovely IBE stepped to the plate to correct all my boo-boos and make sure I don’t mangle the English language that much. ;) Mil gracias, cariño! You wouldn’t believe how grateful I am to have a little sister as wonderful as you! *smooches* And a special thank you to OKDeanna and Tammy for the read through and assuring me the story wasn’t as awful as I imagined.A huge, enormous thank you to the lovely jamies_lady who stepped in to save me from several historical mistakes I had made and has been so kind as to offer her expertise in the period, so it doesn't happen again. Thank you, darling! .
There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties or you alter yourself meeting them. - Phyllis Bottome
Chapter 1. Introductions
London, England, 1810
How could one be as close to heaven you could practically touch it, savor it and at the same time feel like you’re teetering on the very edge of a bottomless pit of despair? Because that’s exactly how Buffy Summers felt right now.
She was going to marry Angel O’Connor, the man she loved with all heart. Granted no one else but them knew about it, but still... she was determined her dreams would finally come to fruition. Who cared if her family never approved of the match or her choice of groom? Somehow, she would adapt to being the wife of a middle-class Irish businessman. As long as they were together, she simply didn’t care or need for anything else.
If it had been up to her, she would have dragged Angel to church as soon as he proposed and married him then and there. He was opposed to it, though. He wanted to do the honorable thing, he said, do things right. When he returned from his native Ireland in one month, he would ask for her hand in marriage from her parents. It didn’t matter how many times she told him it wasn’t the best idea, he was unmovable. She was a lady and as such she should be treated, he responded. Damn him!
She knew her father would never accept him and her darling mother always did whatever he thought was best.
Hank Summers took great pride in their heritage, their social status, their wealth. To even think of marrying his only daughter to anyone so below their station would be tantamount to a debacle of momentous proportions.
She sighed, wishing not for the first time Angel was less of a gentleman than he’d been so far. Even with as secret as their whole relationship was, he never did more than press chaste kisses on her hands and cheeks. She’d tried to… persuade him into kissing her in a different way—in the way she desired to be kissed—many times. He had always kept his distance though, respecting her, loving her, cherishing her, placing her on a pedestal when she wanted anything but that. She longed for him to be more daring, impetuous, impulsive. She wanted him to sweep her off her feet, to be as passionate about things as she was. Perhaps after they married…
Many things could happen in one month and with any luck, by then he’d forget all about talking to her family about their relationship and decided to elope with her instead.
The next day, in the morning
The Duke of Aurelius sighed tiredly as he settled comfortably in his own carriage with his personal assistant and friend, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce sitting in front of him. After two months of taking care of his country estates and a week in a traveling coach, he was grateful to be back in London.
Uninterestedly, he observed the people walking in the streets, the other carriages they passed by while half-listening to his aide as he gave him a detailed account of his affairs in the city.
“Spike, could you at least pretend you’re listening to me?” Wesley asked, noticing his friend’s distraction.
“I don’t see what is so urgent it can’t wait until tomorrow, Wes,” he replied, not even turning to look at him. “You’re as competent as they come… more if that were even possible and you know it.”
“That has nothing to do with the fact you need to kn—”
It was then that Spike saw the most glorious creature he’d ever laid eyes upon leaving the Letter Office building. “Who is she?” he interrupted his aide’s rambling, pointing to a girl with honey-brown hair tumbling down her back.
“Hmmm,” Wesley peeked out the window. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before.”
Spike thumped on the carriage’s ceiling with his cane, signaling the driver to stop and didn’t even acknowledge his friend’s disbelieving look before practically jumping from the coach out onto the street, hurrying after the woman before she disappeared from his sight.
Wesley shook his head at the driver from the door, giving him a signal to follow the Duke while he wondered what on earth had possessed him to do such a thing. He was used to his friend’s impatience, to his wit, even to his mercurial mood swings, but this was new.
Women were usually the ones who pursued William James Edward Withers the Third—or Spike as his closest friends called him—not the other way around. The man was as rich as Croesus and one of the most, if not the most, eligible bachelor in England, so it was no surprise women swooned over him. What was surprising is that he was actually going after a girl he hadn’t even been introduced to, dressed in travel clothes no less when he always took great pride in his personal presentation. What was this about?
Buffy quickened her pace when she realized how late it already was. She hadn’t imagined the trip to the Letter Office would take her as long as it had and if she wasn’t back at her house by the time supper was served… she didn’t even want to think what her father might do. And like it or not, he would be right. After all, a respectable young lady shouldn’t be walking around un-chaperoned, not that she could help herself from doing so.
She’d made escaping from her late grandfather’s estate into an art form and with its immense size, it wasn’t that difficult to convince her dear mother she’d just lost track of time wandering in one of the gardens, while she really had been in one of the nearby parks either secretly meeting with Angel or enjoying the freedom of being in her own little world reading a book while basking under the sun’s rays.
And while she suspected her mother had an inkling of her outings, her father seemed oblivious to everything that went on in the family home and that’s the way she wanted to keep it. Thank God the house isn’t that far away, she thought as she hurried.
From across the street Spike observed her, fascinated. Look at me, he pleaded silently. Look at me now. Almost as if she’d heard him she threw a cursory glance in his direction before she continued on her way.
He was drawn to her like a lodestone and couldn’t resist practically running the length of the block then crossing the street while thinking of a way to force an introduction.
Buffy felt an odd tingling on the back of her neck. It was strange, as if someone were watching her. She dared a sideways glance to the other side of the street to find a blond man on the other side of the street that seemed to be staring right at her.
Shaking her head, certain she was only imagining things; she continued on her way letting out a surprised gasp when a few seconds after, she bumped into something, or rather into someone.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Miss,” he said, grabbing her by her shoulders to straighten her as she swayed slightly on her feet before losing himself in the emerald green of her eyes. “I was distracted and… Are you alright?”
She frowned slightly as her eyes settled on the man in front of her, looking at him before craning her neck to look back at the place where she’d seen him before. How did he get from there to here so fast?
“Miss?” he pressed, releasing her from his grasp before taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips. Why wasn’t she saying anything? Perhaps… yes, that might it. “I apologize, where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced my—”
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked him, pulling her hand away as if burned.
“I was merely tryin’ to…”
“Run me over? Yes, I can see that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I was already running late and now, because of you,” she said, her tone accusatory. “I’m going to be even later.”
“I could drive you wherever you wish to go.” He pointed at his carriage which was just pulling up by their side.
She glared at him as if he’d offended her somehow and he wondered what the hell he’d done wrong now. Spike wasn’t used to ladies cutting him off right from the start, if anything it was usually the other way around. And God help him if that didn’t make her all the more attractive to him. She was definitely not like the rest.
“Of course not, who do you think I am?”
Any other time she might have been flattered by the man’s attention, but there was something about him she didn’t like. Be it the way he looked at her, talked or touched her, she wasn’t certain. He was so… so… intense.
“Bloody hell, woman! I was only offerin’—”
“You can stop right there. Because whatever you’re offering, I’m definitely not buying. Then again, if you wish to make your offer to my husband, perhaps he…”
“You’re married…” But of course she had to be. Just his luck. His eyes dropped to her left hand then and noticed the absence of a ring. “And where, may I ask, is your weddin’ ring, then?”
“I-I… don’t have to answer that,” she replied. Damn him! Just when she’d found the perfect excuse he had to go and ruin it.
“There’s no husband, is there?” he smirked.
“Alright, there’s no husband… yet. However, I’m betrothed and by the end of the month my fiancé and I will be married.” Well, she hoped at least, if everything went as Angel had planned.
“And my question stands, where’s your ring then, Miss…?”
“That’s not of your business!” She moved to pass by him and he grabbed her arm. “Let. Me. Go.” she growled, trying to free herself from him. God if he wasn’t the most infuriating man she’d ever had the disgrace of meeting.
“At least tell me your name?” he all but begged. “Tha’s all I’m askin’ for then I’ll let you go. I give you my word.”
If looks could kill he’d be six feet under, and if it was any other woman but her, he’d already have given up and went away as she so obviously wanted. However, the more she refused his attentions, the more he wanted her. And what the Duke of Aurelius wanted, he got… no matter the price.
She was not married yet, perhaps she was not even betrothed, so all he had to do was find out who her family was and he’d be set.
“A name, love, please?”
It was the please that did it. Well, that and knowing if she didn’t leave now, she’d truly be in more trouble with her father than she ever wanted to be. She exhaled a long, suffering sigh before telling him, “Buffy Summers. Now would you release my arm?”
“Of course, and my offer still stands.” She frowned, unsure what he meant while she rubbed her arm. It wasn’t that he’d hurt her, it just… tingled, due to some strange motive she didn’t want to analyze. “Drive you to… wherever you’re goin’. Perhaps you’ll allow me to introduce myself no—”
“I’d truly prefer not to. Excuse me.” She nodded at him and with her head held high, finally managed to get away from him. His eyes bore into her back, she could feel it, and she tried not to shiver, fighting the urge to run away from him as fast as she could.
Buffy Summers, he smiled to himself as he watched the little firebrand leave. Well, odd as her name might be, it fitted her and it was a start. There couldn’t be that many American families living in England who had a daughter named Buffy.
“Do you want us to follow her?” Wesley asked, startling him out of his trance.
“Yes, I want to know where she lives and after that, I want you to find out everythin’ you can about her family.”
“Do you at least have a name for me, or do I have to find that out myself, too?” He’d been privy of the little exchange, noticing the girl hadn’t seemed to be all that impressed with Spike.
“I have a name… Buffy Summers,” Spike said reverently. “She’s an American, too.”
“American, huh? It seems they might have better taste in men than our English ladies.”
“Ha, bloody ha,” the Duke replied humorlessly. “She’ll be mine, Wes, make no mistake about that. Before this month is over, she’ll be my wife.”
Chapter End Notes:
So here we go again, like, dislike? I’d love to know what you thought of the start of this story if you are inclined to let me know.
And again, I promise there’ll be more AOI soon, with any luck over the weekend, sorry for the delay.
Chapter 2. Double or Nothing by dusty273
I’m floored by the reception this story got, thank you so very much for that! I do hope you enjoy the rest of it as well.
I know many of you are waiting for AoI, sorry for that. I’m dealing with some RL troubles that have been preventing me from finishing the chapter. It’s not lack of time; it’s mostly that with the things I’m dealing with, a romantic perfect night is not precisely what tickles my muse’s fancy at the moment. I beg your patience, hopefully things will improve soon and I’ll get back to AoI.
Many thanks to IBE and OKDeanna for the edits and being their lovely selves, you can’t begin to imagine how much your friendship and encouragement means to me. *smooches* And a very special thank you to jamies_lady for having offered to pre-read the chapters to make sure they’re historically accurate. She’s an expert in the period and has infected me with her passion for it as well, so don’t be surprised if the story turns out longer than I thought initially. ;) Gorgeous banner by drkdevin.
Men of action are favored by the Goddess of luck. George S. Clarkson
Chapter 2. Double or Nothing
Later that same day
Finding out everything he needed to know of one Buffy Summers and her family had proved to be easier than either he or Wes had anticipated. And while at any other time her father was exactly the kind of person Spike avoided at all costs, he was now a means to an end that would be dealt with accordingly.
“Is everythin’ ready for tonight?” Spike questioned Wes, who was sitting on a nearby chair while the Duke finished getting ready.
“If you mean has Mr. Summers been invited to White’s, the answer is yes and has already accepted as well. Archibald made sure of that. Are you certain you want to do this?” he asked. Of course he already knew the answer, same as he knew how pointless it was to question his friend about it as well. When the Duke of Aurelius had his mind set on something, nothing short of divine intervention stopped him from obtaining it.
He observed Spike trying to tie up his cravat just right for what had to be at least the fifth time this evening, before the blond man threw the now crumpled linen cloth to the growing pile on the table nearby the mirror with an impatient huff and took another from the dozen or so his valet had at the ready to start all over again with the process. This could take hours, Wes thought, smiling inwardly at his friend’s antics. Perhaps enough time for him to make Spike see reason.
Spike tilted his head in front of the mirror, completely concentrated on his task while his fingers twisted the cloth, finally managing to fashion it to perfection. There, he grinned, observing himself critically in the mirror before cocking an eyebrow in his friend’s direction. “You do know who you’re talkin’ to, don’ you? I don’ do anythin’ if ’m not certain I want it. And I want her, make no mistake about that.”
“Yes, because she didn’t fall at your feet like most other ladies do. Are you sure she’s worth it? She’s not even titled. Yes, I do know her grandfather was the Earl of Clarence and her mother inherited some of his properties, but judging by what we found out of her father, they’re far from being the type of family you’re expected to marry into.”
“I don’ bloody care what anybody thinks, Wes. Never have, never will. I’ve made a decision and nothing will make me change my mind.”
“And what if the little dove doesn’t want to marry you, what then? She didn’t seem too inclined to even meet you.”
“Tha’s irrelevant.” Spike shrugged into the coat his valet helped him in. “You know I don’ need her consent to marry her as long as I have her father’s.”
“How can you say it’s irrelevant? And what if she was telling the truth and she’s betrothed, what are you going to do then?”
“Wes, you worry too much. Even if she were betrothed, it’s hasn’ been announced yet and you know as do I, anyone in this bloody town, hell in the country, would prefer me as their son-in-law over anybody else other than the Royal family.”
And even that was a stretch. But Wesley couldn’t stop being concerned over the situation.
“And you don’t worry enough. Forcing a woman to accept your proposal is not a good way to start a marriage.”
“There are worse ways to start a life together. And as you’ve told me—repeatedly I might add—I need a heir for my title, for my fortune. And to get that, I need a wife. I’ve merely chosen one who suits me,” Spike said resolutely. “I’ve a good feelin’ about tonight, Wes. ‘M pretty sure luck will smile upon me.”
“Thought you didn’t believe in luck?”
“It all depends, my friend. What is luck anyway? It’s not only chance, it is also creatin’ the opportunity, recognizin’ it when it is there, and takin’ it when it comes. And tha’s exactly what I’m goin’ to do. You just wait and see.”
Wesley rolled his eyes heavenwards and sighed, knowing he’d get scant help from above anyway.
Lady Luck did seem to be on Spike’s side tonight, in more ways than one.
Not like I should be surprised, Wesley thought as he observed the scene unfolding before his eyes. He almost pitied the fool man who’d thought he would be the first to beat the Duke of Aurelius playing Faro or any other chance game.
He could understand the appeal, especially for a man addicted to gambling. But not only was Hank Summers a compulsive gambler, he was also too stupid to recognize a ruse when it was practically hitting him in the face.
The rest of their party had folded as soon as they realized what the Duke was up to. Not surprising either, they knew better than to mess with one of the most powerful Lords of the Realm and one of the best damned players they’d ever known.
Yes, Lady Luck was smiling upon one of her favorite sons.
Spike had been playing badly on purpose, losing what he considered pocket change, biding his time, steadily rising the stakes as he waited for the right moment to pounce.
Hank Summers smiled broadly when he won yet again, arranging the bills in front of him. “Seems luck is on my side tonight, Duke,” he said to the man playing against him. He was sure tonight would be a great night for him; had felt it in his bones. And it was better than he expected, good enough for him to pay most of his gambling debts off. Which was providential, many of his creditors were starting to get quite insistent and there were only so many excuses he could give them. Perhaps it was time to retire now when he was winning?
“It seems that way, yes, my friend.” Spike had known the kind of man Hank was, could practically see the wheels turning inside his head, felt his ambivalence over continuing riding his lucky streak or withdraw while he was ahead and decided to tip the balance in his favor. “You are not goin’ to stop now, are you? You have to give me the opportunity to catch up with you. It’d be only fair, wouldn’ it?” he asked Wes and the rest of the men which were following the encounter with interest.
Murmurs of encouragement were heard and Hank was torn. Yet he couldn’t in good faith refuse the Duke of Aurelius petition, now could he? Then again, it’d been a while since he won this big; he might as well take advantage of it while it lasted. Who was he to deny the man if he wanted to lose some more money? Just one more game and he’d retire.
“All right, just one more game, though,” Hank conceded.
“One more turn is all it takes.” The Duke grinned, a wicked gleam in his eyes. The older man’s over-confidence and ambition would be his ruin and Spike’s gain.
One more turn became several, and before Hank realized it, he’d lost everything he’d won before and more, so much more. He had nothing else to bet and still he thought one more game would change things, would be all he needed to start winning all over again.
“You have to give me one more chance, Your Grace. I gave it to you when you asked me before. It’s only fair.” The man was sweating profusely, his hands shaking, waiting with bated breath for the Duke’s answer. One more game is all it took, he said before and the older man knew from experience it was true.
“Hmmm, ‘m uncertain,” Spike replied, his hand caressing his chin as he pondered. “Do you have anythin’ of value you could bet?”
The older man wracked his mind searching for something, anything. “Oh, my family’s estate! That should be more than enough, shouldn’t it?”
“The Clarence estate? Hmmm, no, I don’ think that’d be enough, there’s a lot of money at stake here. Don’ you agree, Wes?” Spike asked his assistant.
“I agree, Your Grace, there are over thirty thousand pounds at stake here. Perhaps Mr. Summers has another valuable asset he hasn’t thought of?” Wesley responded. He didn’t think this was a good idea, but going against Spike’s wishes was unthinkable, so he turned towards Hank. “A daughter at marriageable age or…” he trailed off, hoping that’d be more than enough of a hint.
“A daughter? You’d want my daughter?” Why? The older man refrained from asking as he blinked. Well, well, well… he hadn’t expected that but perhaps the little brat would bring him some revenue after all. A calculating gleam in his eye, he added, “In what capacity?”
“Why, my intentions are entirely honorable, Mr. Summers. I need a heir and your daughter, while not titled, would suit me just fine.”
“Do you know her?” he asked, how did the Duke know of his daughter otherwise?
“Of course not. How would I?” Spike lied smoothly, appearing slightly offended. “However, I make a point of knowing everything about everyone I play against.”
Fair enough. “So… if you win, you’ll marry her?” The Duke nodded and Hank couldn’t believe his good fortune. This was a win-win situation for him. If he won, he’d have enough money to pay his creditors and more, and if he lost, he’d get rid of his good-for-nothing daughter and become family with one of the most influential Lords in England. Even if he lost the estate, the Duke would have to provide a place fitting for them to live. Perfect, just perfect!
“Of course, after all, she’s the granddaughter of the late Earl of Clarence; I couldn’ very well offer her carte blanche, now could I?”
Hank didn’t even have the grace to act offended if that was the only reason why the Duke was offering marriage, but… he simply couldn’t bring himself to care. Not when he was offering him the solution to all his troubles in one swipe.
“In addition, she’s young enough to be trained to be a perfect Duchess and wife for me.”
“She certainly is. Have no worries, my friend, my Elizabeth is well used to having a man dictate her behavior, so you’ll have no problem training her,” Hank laughed, winking at his interlocutor before asking, “However, what if she’s not to your liking when you meet her?” He wished he could take back the words as soon as he said them. What did he care if the Duke liked Elizabeth or not? This was business and nothing else.
“Is she not… hmmm, graceful enough?” Spike raised his eyebrow inquisitively.
“Oh, I’m certain you wouldn’t be able to find a more beautiful bride in all England if you tried, Your Grace,” Hank gushed, he wasn’t about to lose a great deal because of his big mouth.
That was a bit of an overstatement, although Spike had to accept that even if he’d met more beautiful women than Buffy before, none of them could hold a candle to her. There was something about her that attracted him like no one else had before. Be it her fire or his stubbornness—as Wes had hinted more than once, he simply couldn’t stay away and was determined to have her. If the price was this, so be it, he’d pay it gladly.
“Alright then, I think we have a deal.” The Duke extended his right hand to Hank who gladly shook it back. “Double or nothin’ to seven.”
“Double or nothing to… five.” Hank held his breath while waiting for the dealer to pull a card from the Faro box and left it facing down on the table. If it were a five or a seven the turn would be over and the one who bet on it would be the loser.
He dared a look to the Duke and noticed neither Spike’s posture nor his expression revealed anything. Figures, what for him was a huge sum for the man had to be practically nothing.
Then the dealer turned the card.
A five, Wes sighed dejectedly. He’d prayed for a seven, even when he’d known in his heart this would be the outcome, as certain as he was that even if her father had been ready to sacrifice her, Miss Buffy Summers would be none too happy to find herself betrothed to Spike.
It wasn’t that his friend was a bad man by any means; on the contrary, he was kind, loving and considerate with those he considered worthy. But he was so used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it that Wesley had wished, if only for a second, Spike learned what defeat tasted like.
Wouldn’t be anytime soon, though. Or perhaps, one could hope, Miss Buffy Summers would be the one who inadvertently taught him that lesson.
The saying: ‘What is luck? It is not only chance, it is also creating the opportunity, recognizing it when it is there, and taking it when it comes,’ which I used for Spike’s part is by Natasha Josefowitz. Not mine, just borrowing because it was just perfect for him to say imho. ;)
Still with me? *bats eyelashes* I’d love to know what you thought of the chapter if you’re inclined to tell me. Thanks for reading and I hope to have more soon.
Chapter 3. Marriage is the Death of Hope by dusty273
Again, many thanks for the reviews for the latest chapter. I’m ecstatic you’re enjoying this story. And also for the wishes, prayers and thoughts concerning my dad’s health. Thank God the results of the biopsy came back clean and while we’re not out of the woods yet, I’ve faith everything will turn alright in the end.
A thousand thanks to my lovely IBE, for being there for me always, but especially this past week, *glomps* for the edits, for the encouragement and the little surprise you’ll find at the end of this chapter. ;) Thank you as well to jamies_lady, I don’t think I can thank you enough for all the help with this chapter and the whole story. And thanks to OKDeanna and Tammy for the read-through and Sotia for being her very sweet self. *snuggles* I’m truly grateful for having friends like you.
What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can't move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won't be troubling you much longer. ~Douglas Adams
Chapter 3. Marriage is the Death of Hope
The next day
Buffy sighed contentedly as she worked on her newest embroidery project in the terrace of her room. A monogrammed pillowcase with Angel and her initials intertwined in a lovely cross-stitch pattern.
Angel. It’d been a week since she saw him last and she missed him so much already. The time until he returned couldn’t come fast enough for her. She couldn’t wait for the day when she left this house for good either.
She loved her mother dearly, but her father… her father was another story altogether, she shuddered. She’d been in luck the day before, getting back from the Letter Office before him. If not, had she come home and found him already in the house, she dreaded thinking of what might have happened then.
And it would’ve been all his fault. Damn him and his bluer than blue eyes and his insistence of not letting her go until she gave him her name!
Who did he think he was, anyway? Or rather, who did he think she was? Yes, she accepted she was quite independent and rebellious at times, and perhaps she shouldn’t have been walking about the city without the footman, but that couldn’t be helped that day with him having to deliver an urgent message for her father and anyway, that didn’t mean she would climb into a stranger’s carriage just because he asked, now did it?
He must have thought she was easy prey because he found her alone. Well, she wouldn’t give him another chance to do so. Although she hated the idea of not being able to go on her morning walks to the park, the notion of possibly running into him again was even more daunting. There was something about him, something that affected her on a level she didn’t want to contemplate.
She was torn from her musings—and not a moment too soon—by a knock on the door, and after putting the pillow inside the basket where she kept all her needlepoint threads, she called out, “Come in.”
Buffy sighed in relief when she noticed it was Willow and not someone else. The maid was almost the same age as her, having worked in her house since she was a little girl, and had come with them when they moved to London. She was the one who accompanied her in her outings. The redhead didn’t stay with her the entire time though, allowing Buffy some private moments during which she met Angel. Buffy wasn’t sure if Willow knew of Angel, but she hadn’t told her about him either. She didn’t trust anyone enough with that secret to share it… yet.
“Good morning, Miss Elizabeth.” The girl did a small curtsy and Buffy rolled her eyes.
“How many times have I told you to call me Buffy, Willow, and please stop with that curtsying nonsense? At least when we’re alone.”
“Well, many, but old habits die hard, I imagine.” The redhead smiled before her expression turned to one of concern. “I was surprised when Mrs. Travis told us in the kitchen you were in your room. Are you not feeling alright, Buffy?”
“I’m alright, don’t worry. I just didn’t feel like going out today.” Or ever again, she added to herself.
“Oh, I thought perhaps it might be nerves due to all the preparations.”
“Preparations?” Her heart did a summersault inside her chest before it started a mad gallop. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like Willow’s answer to her question.
“You don’t know?” Willow paled, biting her lower lip. Now she’d truly messed up.
“Know what, Willow?” The other girl’s demeanor was making her all kinds of nervous.
“It seems the Duke of Aurelius is coming to dinner tonight,” Willow started, unsure if she should tell her friend the rest.
“The Duke of Aurelius? Never heard of him. And I still don’t see what that has to do with me.” Buffy frowned, confused over why a Duke coming to eat at their house would bother her friend so much. True, they didn’t get that many visitors, but still…
“God, Buffy, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“What? Willow, tell me please, you’re making me worry.” A million possibilities were running through her head now at her friend’s reticence to speak clearly.
“Well, it seems your betrothal will be announced tonight at dinner and a wedding date will be settled.”
“My betrothal?” She blinked. Had she entered some alternate reality where her parents were actually agreeing to her marriage with Angel, but how could they when… Oh God, no! She couldn’t have meant… Oh God, oh God, oh God!
She barely made it to the chamber pot, heaving until there was nothing left in her stomach. Once she finished, she leaned back and gladly accepted the damp cloth Willow had at the ready for her.
“Are you alright, Buffy?” she asked solicitously, helping the girl to the bed, wincing slightly as she berated herself, Dumb question, Willow, of course she’s not alright.
Buffy didn’t even listen to her. She was shocked out of her mind. This couldn’t be happening to her; it had to be a nightmare. A very, very bad nightmare.
Perhaps Willow heard wrong or well, she hadn’t really said who they were marrying her off to. Yes, that was it, she was jumping to conclusions.
“Willow, please tell me, who are they planning to marry me to?” She took the girl’s hand in hers and made her sit next to her in the bed.
“Why, but the Duke of Aurelius, of course,” Willow answered. “You’re a very lucky girl, Buffy. He’s one of the most eligible bachelors in the country, one of the richest, too.”
“Which means he’s very probably a wrinkly old man.” Buffy shuddered, remembering the few friends of her grandfather she’d met at his memorial service and wracking her mind trying to put a face to the Duke. “How could he do this to me?”
“My father, that’s who!” What was she going to do now? Escape? But where could she go, she didn’t have money of her own, she wouldn’t make it that far and she couldn’t in good faith ask Willow to lend her money when she wasn’t sure she would be able to give it back.
As if that wasn’t enough, her only friend was looking at her as if she were insane. Which she probably would be if she had to marry the damned Duke! God, why did Angel have to go when she needed him the most? She sighed dejectedly.
Willow couldn’t understand what was wrong with Buffy. The Duke of Aurelius was very far from being a wrinkly old man as her friend had put it. Very, very far. And she might have said that, but the other girl looked so miserable at the moment, she couldn’t bring herself to say anything else. She’d done more than enough damage already.
“Perhaps,” Buffy started, an idea starting to form in her head. “I can convince the Duke I’m not the kind of bride he’s looking for? Make myself look so hideous he’d run away scared? It could work, couldn’t it? He doesn’t know me, after all.”
“I hate to tell you this, but… you couldn’t look hideous if you tried and what do you think your parents will say when you appear like that?”
Damn! She’d forgotten about them. Still, there are other ways, she grinned evilly to herself. And not even the beating her conduct might earn her would dissuade her. Not this time. She was determined to make the Duke of Aurelius back down from marrying her.
“I will find a way, Willow, mark my words. I will find a way.”
That’s exactly what I’m afraid of, the redhead thought, getting up from the bed to clean the chamber pot and continue with her chores.
“You sent the announcement to the paper?” Spike asked Wesley, revising the contracts his solicitor had drawn up for the betrothal.
“I did,” Wes sighed. “However, it could still be stopped. You know once it appears published, there’s no going back, Spike.”
“Who said ’m backin’ out?”
“If you heard me out, perhaps…” He was interrupted when a soft voice was heard from the door,
“Really, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, you should know by now my brother is the stubbornest man alive.”
“Stubbornest?” Spike chuckled; walking up to her and leaning to kiss her cheeks. “Is that even a word, darlin’?”
“If it isn’t it should be, it fits you so perfectly. Don’t you think so as well, Wesley?” she added, looking at the other man in the room.
Wesley blushed a little at being addressed by the object of his affections and so informally at that, it’d been years since she called him by his given name. It did sound wonderful coming from her mouth, though, he sighed dreamily. “Y-you are right, of co-course, La-lady Winifred,” he stuttered under Spike’s amused stare.
Love, it turns even the most literate men into blabberin’ fools. Spike shook his head, vowing he would never be one of those. “And to what do we owe the pleasure of your company, sweetheart?”
“Well, I was visiting with the Marchioness Di Mera and lo and behold she lets me know my dear brother is getting married at the end of the month. Imagine my surprise—which I managed to mask, thank the heavens—especially since the man in question had neglected to tell me, his only sister and only living relative by the way, about this.”
“I apologize, pet. I just… It’s all been so fast, her father and I reached the agreement only last night and Wes and I have been busy finalizin’ the details today. There simply has been no time.”
“Hmmmph, you forget I know you, William. If you truly had wanted to tell me, you would’ve found a way. But enough of that…” She waved her hand dismissively. “What I truly want to know is when am I meeting the girl responsible for the miracle of making my younger brother give his bachelorhood up?”
“Miracle? Don’t you think you’re bein’ a tad dramatic?” Spike raised his eyebrow inquisitively.
“No, I’m not. Now tell me,” she pressed.
Wesley, who had been busy staring at the lovely Lady Winifred, finally intervened, “To-tonight. Spi—I mean William,” he amended at the Duke’s pointed look. “A-and I are invited to dinner at the Clarence townhouse.”
“Oooh, that’s perfect. I don’t have anything planned for tonight, so I’ll join you then.” She clapped her hands enthusiastically, her smile never wavering, not even when Spike tried to dissuade her.
“Fred, dear, we couldn’t impose on the Summers like that.” He didn’t care about the soddin’ Summers, except for their daughter, of course. Didn’t mean he wouldn’t do everything within his power to stop his sister from coming with him, though.
“And you think that’s going to stop me? This is one of the most important moments of your life and you want to deprive me from the pleasure of being there with you, for you?” Her lower lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears.
“You forget I also know you, pet. And ’m not fallin’ for the crocodile tears act again.”
“But William… you can’t expect me not to go.” She pouted.
“I said no and that’s final!” Spike said resolutely.
“But Mother…” Buffy whined while she tried to plead her case.
“Elizabeth, darling, I’m so very sorry, but you should know by now that when your father makes a decision, there are not many things which will prevent it from coming to fruition.”
“I don’t even know the man, for all I know he’s old enough to be my grandfather. How could he do this to me?”
“Now, now, child.” She patted her daughter’s hand softly, trying to offer her some measure of comfort. Not an easy task when she had her own reservations over the marriage. “Remember, the older the husband the younger the widow… and then again, you don’t know if he is. Perhaps he’s a young handsome man. Don’t do this to yourself. You’ll see everything will be alright.”
“You say that because you weren’t forced to marry a man you didn’t even know.”
“Oh, but I did, sweetheart,” Joyce clarified. “I met your father the same day we married.”
“Great! And just see how well that turned out.” Buffy refrained from the urge to roll her eyes. She was well aware her mother was not at fault here, but God couldn’t she at least try to talk with her father?
“Please, darling, you have to be aware as women we have little say in our futures. Your father decided this is the best course for your life and well, there’s not much we can do about it. You should be thankful you are to marry a man as rich as the Duke of Aurelius, though. I’m certain he’ll keep you in lavish splendor.”
“What about love, Mother? I want to be loved and love in return. I want to be someone’s whole life.”
Joyce smiled wistfully. “Oh honey, you’re so young. Love can develop with time, too. It’s not always the all-encompassing emotion books and poems talk about, but a serene, placid feeling which sprouts from living together, from co-existing with the other, it’s friendship, it’s being there for one another.”
“If you say so,” Buffy replied. There was nothing she could do right now, talking with her father would be an exercise in futility and who knew how he might react to that. Tonight would be soon enough for her to start her campaign to make the Duke desist from marrying her.
“I say so, sweetheart. Now go and get ready, we expect you downstairs at eight o’clock sharp.”
Joyce Summers sighed miserably as soon as her daughter left the room. She wished there was a way she could prevent this marriage from taking place. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the Duke, how could she when she hadn’t even met him? It was the fact her darling daughter was being forced into marriage just like she’d been.
A long time ago, in what seemed to be another lifetime, she’d known a love like that. All-consuming, intense. And while she’d been forced to give it up, she had hoped her Elizabeth would have more luck than she. Then again, she didn’t know what the future might hold; it could very well be that the Duke of Aurelius was the perfect man for her daughter. Stranger things had happened.
Bloody buggerin’ hell! He should’ve known Fred would end up convincing him that she join them. She always did. As if he needed the added complication of worrying over what his sister might say or do, not that anythin’ will change my mind or stop this from happenin’, he thought as they followed the butler to the drawing room where the Summers were already waiting for them. And it wasn’t like Fred was there to create any troubles, really, she just wanted to meet her future sister-in-law or so she claimed.
As soon as he crossed through the door, his eyes were immediately drawn to her, to Buffy. He noticed her surprise when she recognized him, in the way her eyes widened, in the pallor of her skin, in how one of her hands stole to grab the back of a nearby chair as if to steady herself.
“His Grace, the Duke of Aurelius, Lady Winifred Williamson and Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce,” the butler announced, before extending his hand to allow them into the main salon where Buffy and her parents were waiting for her.
Buffy’s eyes widened as they settled on the man leading the party into the room, her breath catching in her throat and for a second, she felt as if she were about to faint. Oh God, no, please, this can’t be happening to me.
I was having a very bad day while I was writing this chapter, at home sick and worried even sicker for my dad’s health when my lovely hermanita came to save me from myself with her wit and wonderful sense of humor. I had sent her the first part of this chapter up to the part before Buffy learns her betrothal was going to be announced that night and after I returned from having lunch, she told me she had added some stuff in to the chapter, which is not new, so I thanked her and started reading. She reeled me in, hook, line and sinker! Needless to say after reading this bit, I just couldn’t breathe for a good while, too busy laughing to bother with that little detail or the fact she’d tricked me. After much begging, (well, maybe not that much *lol*, but there was a bit, I swear *winks*) she allowed me to share it with you, I’m sure you’ll all love it as much I do. So without further ado, I leave you with IBE’s version of Buffy’s reaction to the news they were marrying her off to the Duke of Aurelius (aka her translation of the scene from Old English to Modern Day American English ghetto-style titled “Buffy from the hood”) *lmao*
Oh God, oh fuck, oh shit! What the fuck is wrong with these motherfuckers?
She had to formulate a plan to bust outta this joint and fast. Maybe if she went to the po-po and cried child abuse, they’d come and take her good for nothing gambling, drunken bastard of a father away. And if not, she could always go to court, divorce herself from her parents and become emancipated. God Damnit, she forgot they weren’t in America anymore and to top it all off…. wrong fucking century. Bloody-fuckin’-British.
Ewwwwwww, married to some perv of a Duke who was probably in his late sixties? “Mmmmphlp,” she began gagging when thinking, old man balls, wrinkly raison, more foreskin than dick, cradle robbing, Viagra poppin’ addict. “Mmmphlp-blahhrghhaaaghhh.” Great, now she’d gone and thrown up on poor Willow. Green skin soooooooo did NOT go with her red hair.
That’s it, she was tying some sheets together, heaving it out her window and climbing her way to freedom. Oh, but not before grabbing a couple extra pair of her self-embroidered thong bloomers. Nope, not going without those. They’ll be all the rage in New York. She would have said 'watch out Versace' but the dude hadn't been born yet.
Willow was still busy cleaning up the vomit, hmmm, milk really does resemble cottage cheese when it comes back up, when Buffy slung a red and white polka dot sack over her shoulder, her body halfway out the window. “Willow? Do be a dear and tell my parents I hitched a ride back to NY to become some pimp daddy’s bottom bitch, will you? Oh, and be sure to inform the Duke from me personally that he can take his withered, sagging, leathery ole ass back home and fuck himself.” But then she had second thoughts. “Now that I think about it, never mind. I’ll tell him myself,” she chirped and disappeared from view.
Buffy was gonna give the Duke the 411 herself, you better believe that for rizzelll, right after she slapped him around a bit. When she got through with him, she’d make him HER bitch. Kidnap his lily white ass, make him work the streets so she could buy herself some gold teeth and a cherry red drop-top. Yeah, that’s right… Ho better have my money, shoooooooooot. Bust a cap in that wrinkly ass.
She wasn't going to play Buffy the home-maker, she was to become the chosen one of her decade......... Buffy... the Ho-maker.
Remember, laughter is good for the soul. ;)
Chapter 4. Between a Rock and a Hard Place by dusty273
Many thanks for the reviews. I truly appreciate the time you take to leave them, you wouldn’t believe how much it means to me that you’re enjoying this story. And again thank you for the wishes regarding my dad. He has another biopsy scheduled for tomorrow (or by the time I finish posting this, today ;)), this time to gather a sample from his column and a kidney tac and with God’s favor, we’ll get the same results as with the other biopsy.
Mil gracias to my little sister IBE, without whom I would be truly lost, no matter how much she tries to downplay all she does for me. You’re too wonderful for words, cariño! *smooches* A huge boatload of thanks to the lovely jamies_lady as well, whose help is truly invaluable. I’m learning so much from you, darling. *hugs* And again, thank you to OKDeanna and Sotia, just for being their lovely selves. ;)
When things are bad, we take comfort in the thought that they could always be worse. And when they are, we find hope in the thought that things are so bad that they have to get better. ~Malcolm Forbes
Chapter 4. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Spike was struck speechless for a few seconds. He’d thought her beautiful the day before, but today… today she glowed. The pristine white mull dress with silver tinsel embroidery brought out her eyes and made them shine like the emeralds his mother used whenever she’d hosted a party at the Aurelius town house. An angel fallen down from the heavens she was, what with the small white flowers entwined in the glorious mass of honey brown curls, arranged artfully in a lovely up-hairdo, her blonde and red natural highlights glimmering under the soft glow of the room’s lighting. Simply gorgeous.
Fred and Wes exchanged amused glances when they saw how enthralled Spike appeared by the young girl. Perhaps this wasn’t as bad an idea as they both had feared.
Buffy could barely give credit to her eyes. The man from yesterday—the man who’d stopped her on the street, the uncouth villain who’d tried to make her climb into his carriage, the man she hadn’t been able to forget despite trying so hard to… the nerve of him!—stood right in her home’s drawing room. Good Lord, he couldn’t be the Duke of Aurelius, could he? That’d be… so not good.
Joyce sighed in relief when their guests crossed the threshold. While she tried to downplay her daughter’s worries earlier today knowing there was little they could do against whatever her husband had decided, she couldn’t stop giving thanks to the heavens it didn’t seem to be as bad as it could have been.
The two men who entered the room were young and handsome, each in their own right, one blond, and the other brunette, each dressed in immaculate evening wear. And Lady Winifred could only be described as beautifully regal. Perhaps the dinner party would be better than she expected. At least their guests weren’t the type of people her husband usually got along with, thank heavens. The question might be how on earth had Hank Summers managed to convince one of the most powerful Dukes in the Realm of marrying their daughter and she intended to find out, perhaps not tonight, but she would.
A small smile played on Joyce’s lips when she noticed the blond man’s reaction to her daughter, certain now he had to be the Duke of Aurelius. His demeanor, the way he held himself, the aura of power that enveloped him made that pretty obvious. And Elizabeth seemed affected as well, perhaps not in the same way, but she had to see the reality of the Duke was so much better than the old wrinkly version she had imagined. Hmmm, promising, very promising.
After the butler announced their arrival she was about to greet them as befitted the lady of the house when Hank rudely crossed in front of her, pushing Buffy before him.
“Good evening, Duke, may I introduce you to my Elizabeth, as you can see, she’s just as beautiful as I told you.”
Buffy blushed profusely at that, lowering her head in both embarrassment and anger at being… well, sold in this way. And to him of all men! God she feared any minute now her father would ask her to open her mouth and show she had all her teeth.
Spike saw the furious gleam in her eyes just before she lowered her head. Whether her rage was directed at him or her father, or perhaps both of them was anybody’s guess. But it reminded him of the reason why he wanted her. Her fire, his need to have it for himself and convert it from anger to passion. Perhaps not the best reason to marry, but in his mind it was as good as any.
Then again perhaps it is much worse, Fred thought as Mr. Summers addressed William with total disregard for Lady Joyce, who to her credit appeared completely unfazed by this. Must be used to it by now, too. She frowned when she also noticed the way Mr. Summers manhandled his daughter, unbeknownst he was being watched by her. Oh my, this is definitely much worse than I ever imagined. She would have to talk with her brother about this and the sooner the better.
Hank Summers’ grip on Buffy’s arm tightened—hard enough to leave a bruise—to remind her of her modals. Still not willing to meet the Duke’s intense stare, she curtsied then started when he took one of her gloved hands in his and raised it to his lips. “Very beautiful indeed,” he answered, kissing her knuckles, lingering a little longer than deemed appropriate.
Buffy blinked before her cheeks stained a deep crimson, surprised by the strong reaction his kiss and words elicited in her, his hot breath scorching through her thin lace glove. She shook her head to clear it, shivering before snatching her hand away. He must be the devil himself to make her feel this way, he had to be.
She retired her hand from his as if burned, her eyes fixing him with an icy glare, which had him chuckling inwardly. Oh yes, he would enjoy taming her… very much!
With difficulty he tore his eyes away from the lovely Miss Summers and walked past her and her father to stand in front of the lady of the house.
“Your Grace,” Joyce said as she curtsied. “It’s truly an honor you could join us tonight.”
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Joyce.” He took her hand and kissed it—much in the same fashion he’d done with her daughter. “And please call me William,” he added with a soft grin. “After all, we’re goin’ to be family, aren’ we?” After she nodded her agreement, he offered her his arm and brought her to meet the rest of his party. “May I introduce my sister, Lady Winifred Williamson and my personal assistant, Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce?”
“Good evening, Lady Joyce, I hope you will forgive me for intruding your dinner party without being invited, but I’m certain you’ll understand I couldn’t very well leave my dear brother alone on such a momentous occasion as this,” Fred explained.
“But of course I understand, Lady Winifred, and you’re welcome into our home at any time, as are you and your assistant, your Grace… I mean, William,” she amended with a smile at his pointed look. She liked the man who would surely become her son-in-law, especially since he’d left Hank with his hand extended in lieu of greeting her. He certainly had impeccable manners.
They sat and made small chat for a few minutes, talking about mutual acquaintances and the weather. In the meantime, Buffy’s thoughts traveled inside her head at a dizzying speed, the majority of them regarding the blond man she was supposed to marry.
It felt surreal, almost as if she were in a living nightmare, one she had no hopes of waking up from. One day she was happy and missing the man she loved, the next, she met a stranger in the street and before she knew it, she was being promised to marry him without being able to speak against it. Oh, it wasn’t that she didn’t try, she did. Had the lashes on her back to prove it, too. She should’ve known better than to speak to her father.
She simply couldn’t understand why the Duke wanted to marry her. He wasn’t… well, all that bad looking and if he was the most eligible bachelor in the city, as Willow had claimed, there must be a lot of ladies vying for his attention. Why would he choose her then? It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t like she was the heiress of a huge fortune, quite the opposite in fact and she doubted she would bring that much of a dowry—if any—into the marriage. And how had he come to know her father? She didn’t like the Duke of Aurelius and never would, but he didn’t seem like the type of man her father usually associated with. She was well and truly confused.
Spike observed Buffy from his seat. He wasn’t sure what it was that attracted him so much to her, but it was undeniable, irresistible. And while yes, he was painfully aware she wasn’t all that happy to marry him, he knew he could change her mind. He was nothing if not persistent.
All too soon the butler came to announce dinner was ready and Joyce arranged for William to escort her, Hank to escort Lady Winifred and Mr. Wyndham-Pryce to escort Elizabeth to the dining room, before Hank interrupted her.
“Nonsense, the Duke will escort Elizabeth and that’s that,” he declared, waving his hand off. “I’m sure Mr. Wyndham-Pryce won’t mind escorting you.”
Everyone else looked at each other, unsure of what to do until Joyce shrugged nonchalantly, “Of course, dear, as you wish.” She put her hand on Wesley’s arm and preceded everyone out of the room. Joyce knew better than to contest her husband’s authority, be it in public or in private, no matter how much of a faux pas he’d made.
With a pleased smirk no doubt due to his wife’s acquiescence to his wishes, he offered his arm to Lady Winifred, who had no other choice but to place her hand over it, barely able to repress her shudder of revulsion. She truly didn’t like Mr. Summers… at all.
Fred stole a sideways glance at her brother and noticed the way William’s jaw clenched and the flash of irritation which clouded his eyes at the odious man’s actions before he turned to look at the young woman who stood behind them. His tension disappeared as if by magic and she couldn’t stop the smile that came to her lips then. If only the lovely Elizabeth didn’t have such an ox for a father, she truly wouldn’t be happier by her brother’s choice of bride. If only, she sighed.
Spike was incensed by Hank’s behavior, but not surprised. He knew the man was capable of that and more, but he wished he’d actually been in the position to do something about it and not allow him to treat Lady Joyce in such a poor way. His annoyance vanished though when he twisted on his heel and set his sights on the adorable Miss Buffy, who was currently biting her lower lip, her eyes throwing daggers at her father’s retreating back.
“Shall we, Miss Buffy Summers?” he asked, touching her arm lightly, chuckling when she jumped slightly backwards, her beautiful emerald eyes wide as they settled dazedly on him.
She’d almost forgotten about him.
So intent had she been on her righteous anger against her father, she almost forgot she’d been left alone with the cause of all her problems, other than her father that was.
Knowing no good would come of rebelling against her father’s wishes… for the moment at least, she placed her hand on his arm and followed the rest of their party, trying her best to ignore the unsettling way he kept staring at her. Damn him to hellfire!
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place, she sighed miserably. Buffy knew she shouldn’t have been surprised to find herself seated with her father to her right and the Duke to her left at the dining table. Especially knowing her father, he’d made his intentions quite obvious.
Etiquette demanded she talked with either of them and while the prospect of engaging in conversation with the Duke was nerve-racking, it was still better than the alternative. Then again, perhaps she could pretend to be too interested in her food to talk?
Not too difficult considering her mother had truly outdone herself with the menu. It consisted on almond soup, followed by broiled salmon with caper sauce, boiled French beans, roast lamb with mint sauce and for dessert, iced oranges and a selection of jellies and creams. And maybe if she weren’t afraid she’d end up vomiting all over the Duke’s immaculate attire—and wasn’t that an enticing idea?—she might have done it justice.
She is too bloody adorable, Spike thought as each and every one of his attempts to talk to the girl by his side were met with frozen silence. While at any other time he might have been annoyed by her chilly demeanor, this time he couldn’t help but think how much more alluring it made her to him. He’d never been one to back down from a challenge, be it by racing his curricle, boxing at Jackson’s Saloon or shooting at Manton’s. A mischievous smirk graced his face when the thought of thawing the ice surrounding this maiden’s heart until she was truly his. It would be a challenge he’d meet with glee.
Buffy had steadily moved her chair closer to the Duke, not because she wanted or desired his nearness, but in an effort to evade her father from either hiss at her not to ignore the Duke or pinch her arm to make her behave. She jumped slightly when a voice suddenly purred in her ear,
“Why, love, didn’ know you cared, otherwise I would’ve offered you to sit in my lap.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, reveling in the becoming flush that covered her cheeks, in the way her eyes flamed with anger. Like green fire they were, burning him, setting his insides ablaze.
“I’m not your love,” she gritted from between clenched teeth, moving her chair back to its original position. She might have added a haughty ‘I’m not your anything’ but they were interrupted by the butler who’d brought a calling card to her father.
Buffy couldn’t have been happier when after paling slightly, her father made his excuses and left the room. At least she didn’t need to worry over him mauling her poor arm.
They finished dinner in silence, even if Buffy could feel the intense indigo gaze following her every movement at least the Duke didn’t try talking to her any more. She wondered if maybe he’d finally given up and observed him from the corner of her eye, only to see the amused grin that tugged at his lips when he noticed. Dammit!
Hank returned to the dining room just in time for the ladies to retire to the drawing room and leave the gentlemen to their port.
A frown marred his features, none too pleased after having to deal with a most insistent creditor. He had to promise to visit him tomorrow or else… He wasn’t sure what the ‘else’ entailed, but was quite certain he wouldn’t like to find out. Now where would he get the hundred guineas the man asked for, that was another question. Perhaps he should ask the Duke to lend him the money, after all they were about to become family, weren’t they?
“The betrothal contract will be up for signing tomorrow at noon,” Wesley informed Mr. Summers. “And the announcement should appear in the paper tomorrow as well.”
“But we haven’t reached an agreement yet,” Hank said, knowing this was the perfect time to negotiate.
“Considerin’ I won your daughter’s hand in marriage and the Clarence estate fair and square, I think you’ll find my offer quite reasonable, Mr. Summers.” And if he didn’t, well, that wasn’t his problem. “Once the weddin’ ceremony is finalized Mr. Wyndham-Pryce will see to it your gamblin’ debts are paid in full up to that date. In addition to that, I’ll pay for Miss Summers trousseau and settle one of my estates to her name.”
“What about my estate, will you return the deed to me, too?”
“What and have you gamble it all over again at the first opportunity?” Spike smirked and shook his head. “No, Mr. Summers, the estate will remain in my property.”
“Hmph, you drive a hard bargain, Duke,” Hank said, caressing his jaw, knowing he was cornered. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for a little ‘leniency’ on some of the man’s rules, though. After all, he’d already offered to cover all of his gambling debts, a few days earlier couldn’t hurt. “But how about you settle some of my debts before the wedding, as a sign of good faith?”
“One debt and tha’s all. At least until your daughter and I are married.” And after that, you’re on your own, old man.
“Alright, alright, it’s not like I have any other choice but to accept, do I?” Hank grumbled. And he truly didn’t. The Duke had all the winning cards in his hand, but at least now he’d be able to pay Mr. Sharpe off tomorrow.
“No, you don’. Now, how about we join the ladies, gentlemen?” Spike replied, already walking toward the door, quite pleased with the outcome of this meeting.
In the meantime, in the drawing room…
“Oh Miss Summers, these are just divine,” Fred gushed over Buffy’s paintings and some of her cross-stitch projects. Lady Joyce having left them alone while she went to freshen up before the gentlemen joined them again.
Buffy smiled, her cheeks blushing with pleasure at the flattering remark, especially because of the sincerity behind it. “You may call me Elizabeth if you desire, Lady Winifred.” She liked the older woman, almost as much as she despised her brother.
“Then you have to call me Winifred or Fred, like William does. After all, we’re going to be sisters, aren’t we?” Fred asked, a beaming smile gracing her features.
“Unfortunately,” Buffy replied, the very picture of despair.
“Elizabeth,” Fred started, taking one of her new friend’s hands in hers. “I realize this mustn’t be easy for you, but I promise you… my brother is a good man.”
So good he’s forcing me to marry against my will? she wanted to shout. Not like she could though. Not unless she was willing to endure the beating her father would subject her to if she actually did. So she only smiled sadly and said meekly, “If you say so.”
Just then her mother returned to the room and a little while later, her father, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce and the vile Duke rejoined them as well. The blond man looked like the cat that ate the canary, so very pleased with himself. And why wouldn’t he be? He was not the one being forced to relinquish the love of his life for what could only be a passing caprice, now was he? Damned the man and the day their paths crossed!
“Elizabeth,” her father’s voice pulled her from her musings. “I was telling the Duke how beautiful our garden looks under the moonlight.” She blinked at that. He couldn’t be about to say what she thought he would, would he? “How about you give him a little tour through it?”
Then again, it seemed he could.
If you’re inclined on letting me know what you thought of the chapter, I’d love to know.
Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll have another update next week. In the meantime, believe it or not I finally finished chapter 21 of AoI, or at least I think I did, the wonderful IBE will be the judge of that when she reads it tomorrow. ;) But if it isn’t too awful, I might be posting it on Wednesday. *crosses fingers*
PS. Before I go I have a few suggestions reading-wise: The Road to Redemption by Sandara; Constant Craving and Awaken to Danger by OKDeanna and Dark Sail on the Horizon by jamies_lady. You can find them all in this site and I’m very sure you won’t be disappointed with any of them.
Chapter 5. A Walk to Remember by dusty273
Thank you very much for the reviews, it makes me very happy to know you’re enjoying this story.
Mil gracias to the lovely IBE, the best sister a girl could ask for and without whom I’d be truly lost *smooches* love you, cariño; to jamies_lady, for all her help and expertise and OKDeanna, for the read-through and being such a sweet friend. *huggles*
(1) Canto V, The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
(2) Act V, Macbeth, William Shakespeare
(3) La Vida es Sueño (Life is a Dream), Pedro Calderón De la Barca
(4) Nuestro = Ours
Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. ~Napoleon Hill
Chapter 5. A Walk to Remember
It was official. Someone up there hated her.
Even the weather conspired against her tonight. The climate had been mildly cold at night, befitting for April, but today of all days it was warm enough that she didn’t need a wrap. Add to that the way her father had practically thrown her into the Duke’s arms forcing her to join him on a moonlit walk through the garden and, she was more than half-convinced she’d truly died and ended up in Dante’s inferno. But even if she had, she knew there was no possibility of ever getting out of it, of climbing her way up to Paradiso.
Not if her father had anything to do with it.
She should be giving thanks for small mercies that at least they were alone now and there was no one who might either glare at her or pinch her or even beat her if she didn’t behave as was expected of a proper lady. That had to count for something.
Buffy was well aware of what was coming. Of what would happen. And she was torn. Torn between the overwhelming need of getting it over with, the even more daunting prospect of having to say yes when the Duke proposed and the desire to say to hell with everything and escape from a fate worse than death.
Overly dramatic? Yes, perhaps she was, not like she could help herself, though. Why oh why hadn’t Angel said yes when she proposed eloping to Gretna Green? Everything would be so much better if he had. It was his fault she was in this predicament now.
And while she’d come to accept her fate, after all there was nothing she could do against her father’s wishes—at least for the time being—no one said she had to make it easy on the dreaded man who walked by her side. With a little luck, perhaps he’d even change his mind and decide not to marry her? It was worth a shot at the very least.
The garden was truly gorgeous at night, its path illuminated by the moon and several lanterns strategically positioned to create a very romantic ambiance and although Spike was fully aware there was nothing romantic about the way he won this girl’s hand in marriage, it didn’t mean he couldn’t make the most of it. If nothing else, it provided him with the perfect opportunity to get to know the woman who would become his wife a little better without any interruptions.
He threw her a sideways glance and smiled when noticing she seemed to be discussing something with herself. She had yet to acknowledge his presence, but he didn’t mind, enjoying the chance to observe her like this. She enchanted him, she truly did. From the first moment he saw her, from the moment their eyes locked across the street. She had something, a certain je ne sais quoi which drew him to her, drove him to want to possess her… in every way possible.
He was rather impatient to ‘seal the deal’ so to speak, though. They couldn’t remain outside for too long, not even if her father had been exceedingly accommodating about the whole issue. He respected Lady Joyce too much to do that. Not to mention Fred would surely kill him if he did. And while he’d never admit it to her, his sister could be quite scary when she wanted.
He cleared his throat. “Miss Summers?”
She rolled her eyes when she heard him. Everything had been going… well, not too bad until he spoke. She’d been able to tune him out and concentrate on how much she loved walking in the garden, being one with nature. Perhaps if she ignored him he would go away like the pest he was? She could only hope.
“Miss Buffy?” Spike tried again to no avail. She didn’t even look at him, gave him no indication to show that she actually heard him at all while still appearing engrossed by the starry sky above. “The stars shine beautifully tonight, do you not agree, pet?”
She sighed wistfully, her eyes trained on the firmament. “The stars are quite lovely. ‘Tis a pity there's no one here to share the sight of them with me,” she said, sitting on a nearby fountain’s ledge while she played with the water.
“What ever do you mean?” He frowned in confusion. Was the chit insane? “I’m here and you’re sharin’ it with me.”
She smiled inwardly at his words, she was already getting to him and she knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up. “Hmmmm, whatever is that noise?”
“What noise?” He sat by her side and she promptly stood up, continuing down the path.
“Oh, perhaps it’s a cricket…”
Crickets? He blinked as he followed her down the trail. Sure, they could hear some crickets tonight, but as to have it qualify as noise…
“…or maybe it’s a cockroach. The vile things can be quite loud upon occasion.”
Confounded as he’d been, he would’ve missed her meaning entirely if she hadn’t glanced meaningfully towards him when she said the word ‘cockroach’, but fleeting as it was he saw the mischief dancing in her eyes and it amused him to no end that he’d been had by the saucy minx. He had to give it to her, she was good. He started laughing uproariously. Life certainly wouldn’t be dull with her by his side.
Whatever she might have thought his reaction would be it definitely wasn’t the one she got. She wanted to stomp her foot and pout at the injustice of it. She had ignored him, all but insulted him and what did he do? Laugh! What on earth was wrong with him?
Perhaps it was time to change tactics. Ignoring him certainly hadn’t worked, but maybe… Oh yes! Her mother always insisted on her not showing how well-read she was. ‘Men don’t care for smart women, Elizabeth,’ she’d said, over and over and over, always afraid her only daughter would be accused of being a ‘blue stocking’. Not like Buffy would’ve minded being one, not really.
A blue stocking stood for all she wished she could be. They were intellectual, moral and cultural female icons and her own governess while growing up in America had been one. Darling Miss Henderson had noticed Buffy’s love for books, her natural talent for languages and the arts and had provided her with all the tools she needed to excel in those subjects; going so far as to convince her father to allow his daughter to go to the local rectory to receive classes from the vicar. Of course, her father thought he was teaching her music while in reality the man taught her not only that, but Greek, Latin, Spanish, French and Italian as well.
For the sake of her mother, Buffy learned to curb her enthusiasm when it came to defending her point of view on issues she believed in or her choices in reading or even showing how intelligent she truly was, knowing that would only cause them both problems with her father. She’d done it with Angel as well, scared that her mother could be right and men really didn’t care for bright women.
She had no qualms of being herself with the Duke of Aurelius though, au contraire, she hoped it would be enough for him to call the wedding off. A Corinthian like him would never tolerate a Blue Stocking for wife.
“I love poetry,” she began, sitting on a stone bench.
She was talking to him now? It seemed she was. Not quite sure what brought this on; he decided not to interrupt her and instead raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Poetry is true art in itself, so expressive and profound at times, like the narrative poem which describes Dante's imaginary journey. Who midway on his journey through life, realizes he has taken the wrong path. But with the help of Virgil and then Beatrice, he begins his religious pilgrimage to find God. Not too easy a task since to reach his goal, he has to go through every circle of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise first.” So there, that should send him running for the hills or whatever rock he crawled up from.
He immediately recognized ‘The Divine Comedy’ and regarded her in a completely new light, as if his eyes had suddenly opened to 'see' the real woman before him for the first time. Beautiful, spirited, fiery and smart? Be still my heart. He was beyond impressed. He didn’t know many women—if any—nor men who would indulge in that type of work just for the sake of reading them. And not only had she clearly read it, but thoroughly understood and even loved it judging from the serene expression on her lovely face. A mere woman yes, but a woman after his own heart.
“O thou that comest to the woeful inn, beware how thou enterest, and to whom thou trustest thyself; let not the amplitude of the entrance deceive thee,(1)” the Duke recited and it was Buffy’s turn to gape at him in mute surprise. Not that him quoting Dante Alighieri changed in any way how she felt about him and this whole marriage issue, though.
Time to up the ante.
“Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!” she said, hoping to throw him off.
“All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,(2)” he replied, delighted at her outraged gasp. He was having so much fun with this game of hers.
Argh! Damned man, she gritted her teeth and the worst of it? He seemed to be enjoying this a little too much. Time to bring out the heavy artillery! “¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí. -- ¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión, una sombra, una ficción, y el mayor bien es pequeño; que toda la vida es sueño y los sueños, sueños son.(3)” There was no way he’d know that one. No way in hell!
“What is life? A frenzy. -- What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a fiction, and the greatest good is small; all that life is, is a dream and dreams, dreams are,” he translated, before adding in perfect Spanish, “Algo más, amor? O podemos continuar con lo nuestro?” (Anything else, love? Or can we continue with our business?)
“There’s no ‘nuestro’(4) and stop calling me love,” she all but growled. She was sure he was just doing this to be contrary. Why couldn’t he be like every other man and be put off by her intelligence instead of thoroughly amused?
“Oh, but there is, sweetlin’. There’s the little matter of our marriage. I could propose in any language you want. You just say which.” He knelt in front of her, taking her hand in his, his indigo gaze holding her captive. “And if I don’t call you love, what should I call you then? Goldilocks, sweetheart, cariño, gatita, mon cherie, chaton…”
Thank heavens she was wearing gloves or he would have seen the goose bumps which traveled up her arm at his every touch… at every one of his endearments. It was… unsettling, disgusting, she decided, a shiver running the length of her back at the way his eyes hungrily devoured her.
“How about you don’t call me anything?” She pulled her hand away from his. “Better yet why don’t you leave and forget all about me?”
“Now, now, kitten, where’s the fun in that?”
“If it’s fun you want, let me inform you, you chose the wrong woman.”
“Oh, love, I truly doubt that. And just so you see how serious I am about this… would you do me the honor of becomin’ my wife, Miss Buffy Summers?”
“I want you to know that while I’m being forced to say yes, you will never have my true consent.”
“Fair ‘nough, but let me warn you, sweetheart. ’M a very persistent man and I can assure you, there’ll come a day when you’ll be singin’ a very different tune.”
“I advise you not to hold your breath because that will never happen. Ever!” She leveled him with an icy glare before she stood up from the bench and walked off in a huff.
So kitten wants to play, huh? Spike smirked devilishly as he watched her go further into the garden, a delicious idea crossing his mind. She might run, but she couldn’t hide, not from him. “Let’s see how you like dealin’ with the Big Bad, love,” he muttered to himself before following her.
Buffy sighed in relief when a few minutes went by and the Duke still hadn’t caught up with her. Perhaps he’d seen the light, decided this matrimony was an exercise in futility and left? One could only pray that was true.
Only then did she allow herself to try and calm her frayed nerves as she traveled through her beloved garden, touching the flowers, deeply inhaling their scent all the while trying to forget about the odious man she was being forced to marry. The more she got to know him, the less she liked him. Even if a tiny, very minuscule part of her had to admit, he’d impressed her with his responses. That didn’t matter though, not when everything about him disturbed her, the way he looked at her, how he seemed to be gazing right into her soul, how he talked to her… He made her feel uneasy, on edge, as if she were skating on thin ice. He was just too… intense for her liking.
And entirely too dangerous for her peace of mind.
She hadn’t noticed him yet, not that he expected her to. Spike was an expert hunter and knew time and patience were just as essential as stealth to catch his prey. And she was precisely that right now, his prey. She trailed down the path calmly, not even imagining what, or rather who, stalked her from afar, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
Buffy heard a small noise coming from behind her and turned around to see what it was, frowning when she didn’t notice anything that could have caused it. Hmmm, strange, she shook her head, berating herself for being overly paranoid about something which was obviously nothing at all. She spun on her heel to continue her stroll and crashed into something, or rather someone who most certainly wasn’t there a second ago.
She let out a surprised yelp and immediately jumped backwards, losing her footing when one of her slippers slid over a muddy patch. She would have fallen too, if it hadn’t been for the Duke’s quick reflexes when he grabbed her arms and pulled her towards him.
Buffy panted her relief, her eyes closed and heart beating so hard she thought for a second it might escape from her chest as she leaned into him. Until her mind started working once again and then she couldn’t shove him hard enough to get him away from her.
Spike couldn’t believe how good it felt to have her enfolded in his embrace, albeit not precisely of her own free will, but he decided to take things in stride as they came and not worry over such trivial details. Her petite frame fitted perfectly against his, her soft curves molding against his hard planes as if she were created for him. The three weeks until they were married, until she would truly be his would feel eternal for him. The sublime warmth and feel of her body pressed to his was over all too soon when she suddenly pushed him away, leaving him feeling almost… bereft.
“Leavin’ so soon, pet?” he asked advancing towards her whenever she took a step back until he cornered her against an oak tree, his hand raising to caress her cheek, fingers trailing softly down her throat and collarbone to play with the lacy border of her dress. “And here I thought we could use this chance to become better… acquainted.”
She hated herself for the small shivers that wracked her body at his actions, convinced it had to be fear that elicited them and not something else. Then she saw him lower his face towards her as if in slow motion and could barely move, could barely think as the blue swirling depths held her captive under their spell.
His hands came back up to cradle her face, his lips brushing hers, once, twice, before his tongue came out to lightly tease the seam of her mouth, coaxing her to allow him entrance.
He’d meant to take what he wanted—by force if need be—but on the last moment a wave of tenderness for the girl in his arms swept him, making him treat her like she was made of the finest porcelain instead. Just as softly, just as gently. He bestowed caresses as delicate as rose petals upon her, allowing her to get used to his touch, to his kisses.
Spike could sense this was her first kiss and didn’t want to rush it, rush her; her innocence showing in the way she reacted to him, but at the same time he could also feel the underlying fire that had been ever present in each one of their encounters and wanted nothing more than to fan it, to make it grow into a conflagration that would burn them both to ashes.
His patience was rewarded when she sighed softly and his tongue finally entered the wet recesses of her mouth to savor her sweetness. All thoughts of schooling his ardor in favor of her innocence were promptly forgotten as the first taste of her exploded on his taste buds, though. His tongue engaged hers in a passionate dance, his hands coursing down her luscious curves, molding her body to his, pressing her harder against the tree trunk. She was addicting; her flavor completely intoxicating, inflaming him to the point of madness.
She hesitated for only a second before following his lead, matching him step by step. She felt as if she were drowning, like she couldn’t breathe. She’d dreamt about being kissed, many, many times; but never in a million years did she imagine a kiss would feel like this… a thunderstorm of all-encompassing sensations that kept driving her to previously unknown heights.
She came back to her senses when she felt his hands coasting the underside of her breasts and pushed against his chest until she was finally free of him, panting as she tried to catch her breath while staring at him defiantly, all the while wiping her mouth of his kisses.
“What do you think you’re doing?! You have no right—”
“No right?” he smirked; a decidedly predatory gleam in his eyes as he neared her once again, leaning to purr in her ear, “Tha’s where you’re wrong, love. I have every right, you’re my fiancée and will be my wife in three weeks or have you forgotten about that?”
She wished she could forget about that, just as much as she wished she could forget about the kisses he just forced on her or her unwanted reaction to them. He was Satan incarnated, he had to be to make her feel like that.
“Argh! You’re impossible,” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air and starting to walk back to the house, his laughter following her.
He loved the fire in her eyes, in her. Even if that fire was burning in anger at the moment, it held more than a touch of passion. Passion for him, for his kisses. He felt her response to them, to him. She might deny it all she wanted, but he felt it and he would feel it again… soon, very soon.
As he walked behind her, Spike was determined to find a way to prompt more of these private encounters. He might have to wait until they were married to truly have her like he wanted, but that didn’t mean there weren’t ways to make her more… pliant to his wishes in the meantime.
He would seduce her with words, with actions. He was a master at that. She’d have no chance against him. None at all and when the time came, it would make her surrender all the sweeter.
So? Like, dislike? Was it what you imagined or not? I’d love to know if you’re inclined to tell me. *bats eyelashes*
I received the most fantastic news on Tuesday, btw and I have to share it with you. My dad’s column biopsy came back clean! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, I’m very sure it made all the difference.
Hope you have a wonderful week!
PS. I updated AoI with Chapter 21 last week in case anyone missed it. /self-pimping. ;)
Chapter 6. Sense and Sensibility by dusty273
I’m so very sorry for the lack of updates but my muse was on strike. Just after I finished AoI, she decided to take a lengthy vacation and if it hadn’t been for my lovely IBE who gave her a swift kick in the rear to get her going, I don’t know how much longer it would’ve taken me. Thank you to all of you who keep reading and reviewing, it really makes my day whenever I read your very kind words. Muchísimas gracias a mi hermanita IBE, who literally saved me last night when I was at my wits end and about to kill my muse for not letting me work in this story. *besos* And to the wonderful Vara, who keeps providing me with delicious information about the era so this story is as historically accurate as it can be and OkDeanna for sharing the poem which opens this chapter. *huggles*
A little note: ‘tabbies’ are ‘catty women’.
Hope is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all— ~ Emily Dickinson
Chapter 6. Sense and Sensibility
Buffy had hoped to escape from him—from everything that happened in the garden—but the Duke caught up with her just before she went into the house. Not like she was surprised; not with the way her evening had unfolded so far.
She didn’t have any other choice but to allow him to escort her into the drawing room, though; even if her whole being rebelled at the idea of being so close to him, of having to touch any part of him ever again. She was appalled by his behavior, but even more so, she was appalled with her own. She couldn’t understand what happened, why she had reacted the way she did to his kisses. It wasn’t only that it’d been completely inappropriate, it was that she actually responded to him, felt something stir deep within her as she did so. How could that be when she was in love with Angel? When she despised everything the Duke represented, everything he was?
It had to be the surprise of it all, she resolved, the novelty. She’d never been kissed before and that’s why her traitorous body responded as it did. It didn’t mean a thing, and had absolutely nothing at all to do with the odious man himself.
When they joined the others in the drawing room, her father already had the champagne at the ready to ‘celebrate’ his darling daughter’s upcoming nuptials. Buffy sorely wished to run and scream and escape from this farce. If only she could without disgracing her mother, she most certainly would. She didn’t care about her own reputation or her father’s. Her mother deserved so much better than that though, if only for what she had to endure at her husband’s hands. That was the only reason Buffy would go through with this wedding… if she couldn’t find a way to… ‘convince’ the damned Duke to call it off beforehand that is.
Her plan to dissuade him with her intelligence had backfired, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t come up with something else that could potentially change his plans to marry her. He might have won tonight’s battle, but she was determined to win the war. And if everything failed and she was indeed forced to marry him, she was determined never to give herself fully to him. As her husband, he might have certain rights over her body, but her heart, her soul, her love, those would never be his.
Bypassing the sofa her father intended her to occupy with her betrothed, she went and sat next to her mother, ignoring the glowering glare Hank sent her. She knew she would pay for that later, but right now she chose not to care.
Spike observed Miss Summers sip on her champagne while appearing completely lost in her own thoughts. Yes, he was supremely pleased with himself at his choice of bride. She was all passion and fire even when she acted aloof with him and he loved the challenge she represented. He would make her crave him, yearn for him like he’d yearned for her ever since seeing her on the street… and even more now that he’d sampled the honeyed nectar of her mouth, the sweetness of her submission to his kisses. Her response, brief as it had been, gave him hope she wasn’t as indifferent to him as she tried to appear and he would prey on that.
He wasn’t sure what it was exactly about her that was making him act as he did. Yes, he was used to doing whatever he pleased, whenever he pleased. Yes, he wasn’t accustomed to ladies not falling at his feet when he looked their way. Still, that didn’t explain why he’d gone to such lengths to marry Miss Buffy Summers, just having to put up with a father-in-law like Hank Summers would’ve sent him running in the other direction, never mind the idea—which would’ve been preposterous two days ago—of marrying a woman he knew nothing about.
Perhaps he was being stubborn as Wes had told him. Perhaps he was being rash as his sister had hinted at. And yet he couldn’t bring himself to care enough to stop the preparations, the wedding.
Something had happened between them in the garden, of this Fred was sure. It wasn’t too difficult to imagine what, with the heated looks her brother was throwing the lovely Miss Elizabeth and the way the girl avoided to meet his stare, and not by accident. Fred loved William dearly, but he really could learn a thing or two about patience from his aide.
Then again, Wesley could learn a thing or two from her brother about taking what he wanted without caring for the consequences, she thought while stealing a glance at the handsome brunette man to her right. Perhaps that’s the reason why the two men were such good friends; they were the two sides of the same coin. Completely different in so many ways and still, so alike in others it was scary.
The dinner had been a success so far, no thanks to her husband, though. It was nothing short of a miracle his Grace hadn’t decided to just up and leave after the fiasco before dinner. Not that Joyce wasn’t grateful he hadn’t. He was a gentleman through and through, well educated, charming, very handsome and one of the most eligible and pursued bachelors in the realm to boot. She couldn’t have wished a better husband for her Elizabeth, even if she didn’t seem too content with the match.
Her daughter was a very lucky girl, even if she might not realize it at the moment, and she would be the envy of all the ladies of marriageable age when the news of the wedding was learned.
Hank seethed inside, his anger against Elizabeth and her behavior towards her fiancée escalating with each passing moment. He’d kill her if she ruined this for him, and would feel absolutely no remorse over doing it either. He’d been saddled with her and his poor excuse for a wife for too long already anyway. Still, not everything was lost; the Duke hadn’t seemed offended by her disdainful action, instead looking amused.
He was curious over the motives the blond man could have to marry so below his station and his haste to do so, but as long as it took the girl out of his hands and seeing as it would benefit him greatly in monetary terms, well… he simply didn’t care. However, he would have to make sure his darling ‘daughter’ understood the consequences of her actions tonight in a way she would never want to repeat them… at least not until the wedding was finalized. Then she’d be another man’s problem and with any luck, he would never have to bother with her again.
“Alright, so it’s settled then, the marriage will be celebrated in three weeks time,” Hank announced, eager to seal the deal before the Duke had the chance to back down.
Three weeks? Buffy’s eyes widened when she heard the confirmation to what the Duke had told her in the garden. It was inconceivable, not only was she being forced to marry a man she would never love, but they were doing it with a quickness that would surely rouse the ton’s rumor mill. Just what she needed, she rolled her eyes inwardly.
“Alright then,” Spike stood up and walked towards Joyce, who followed suit. “Lady Joyce, thank you for your hospitality.” He took her hand in his and kissed it, before doing the same with Buffy, his lips lingering on her hand for a fraction longer than necessary as he gazed deeply into her eyes. He chuckled when she pulled her hand away as if burned. “Until we meet again, Miss Elizabeth.”
Buffy exhaled a relieved sigh when their guests finally left and she managed to escape to her room without having to face her father, who had locked himself in his study room. With any luck, he would get drunk and forget all about what happened during dinner, although she wouldn’t hold her breath over it.
And sure enough, just a few minutes later, one of the maids came to tell her he was waiting for her.
“We need to talk,” Fred said to Spike as soon as they got to the Aurelius’ townhouse. “Alone,” she added with a meaningful look to Wesley.
“Certainly, pet,” he complied with a nod. “Good night, Wes, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, William, Lady Fred.” Wesley bowed to them and with a last, longing look to the chestnut haired woman, went to his room.
“When are you going to put the man out of his misery?” Spike asked her as soon as they were out of hearing range.
“I don’t understand what you mean, little brother.”
“Like hell you don’.”
“It’s not that simple, William, and you know it.” She sighed miserably, sitting on one of the chairs before the fireplace.
“What I know is that you two would be perfect for the other.”
“And you don’t think I realize that?” she asked, a haunted look shadowing her eyes. “I’ve been in love with him ever since we met and if it were up to me, we would have married the day after I became a widow.”
“It’s been almost 4 years, sweetheart.”
“And a lot more years will pass before that man accepts that his love is all I want, if ever. He has the absurd notion he’s beneath me and as such can’t aspire to marry me. He’s almost as stubborn as you are, no wonder you’re such good friends.”
“’M not stubborn.”
“Oh yes, you are, dear. And you’re also impulsive, reckless, daring; too much for your own good at times. How else would you explain the rush to marry the lovely Miss Summers? If you were so intent on marrying her, couldn’t you give her a little more time to get… used to you beforehand? Really, three weeks is not enough—-”
“It’s more than enough time and tha’s final,” he interrupted her.
“You know the tabbies will be counting the months till your first child is born after such a hasty wedding,” she pointed out.
“Let them, I don’ care.”
“I don’t understand you. I truly don’t. Yes, she’s beautiful and I’m sure she has a lot of fine points in her favor, but have you thought this through? I mean, really, Lady Joyce is wonderful, but her husband,” she shivered, unable to hide her disgust. “He’s another matter altogether. Are you certain you want to be related to him, even if only by marriage?”
“I don’ care about him, either.”
“Don’t give me that. I saw you when he treated Lady Joyce so despicably before dinner. You were as mortified as I was, if not more.”
“That doesn’ change anything. I’m marrying his daughter, not him.”
“And why are you marrying his daughter? You never told me.”
“I did. I told you before, repeatedly I might add, I needed a wife and decided she would do perfectly.”
She gave him a look that clearly stated she didn’t believe that reason. “And we both know that’s not the only reason, don’t we, William? So why don’t you tell me the real reason you chose her.”
He sighed knowing his sister would never let this go until he relented, but the truth was… he didn’t even know what made him choose her. He could’ve had his pick out of any of the ladies of marriageable age, all with better lineage and wealthier than Buffy Summers, some of them were even more beautiful than her and yet none of them could compare to her. It didn’t make any sense at all, but at the same time, it made perfect sense.
“I… well, I simply do. I don’ know how to explain it. I saw her and knew I had to marry her… whatever the price. There’s somethin’ about her that calls to me and it’s not just because of her looks, it’s her fire, her spirit.”
Fred tilted her head to regard him; William was in deeper than he thought. She never heard him talk about a woman like that before and knew then she would do everything in her power to help him. And who knew, perhaps they could actually help each other. An idea started forming in her mind. Oh yes, if her brother agreed, neither the lovely Miss Elizabeth nor Wesley would know what hit them.
“If you’re certain this is truly what you want, I think there’s a way we could help each other, if you’re inclined to listen to my proposal that is.”
Intrigued, Spike quirked an eyebrow before nodding. Knowing his sister like he did, he was certain he would never regret agreeing to whatever she proposed.
Buffy’s footsteps slowed the closer she came to her father’s study. She dreaded what would happen when she went through that door, the punishment her father would lash out at her for misbehaving with the vile man he had betrothed her to. And still… still she couldn’t bring herself to regret her actions. In fact, she’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if she could; perhaps not exactly in the same way since that obviously didn’t work, but she could come up with new ways to make the Duke rescind the betrothal contract. It didn’t matter what she had to endure because of it. It would be worth it.
She knocked on the door and waited until she heard the harsh ‘Come in’ before inhaling deeply, steeling herself for what was coming.
“Close the door, Elizabeth,” her father said, a decidedly evil gleam in his cold eyes.
And hard as she tried, she couldn’t hide the shudder that went through her at the sight of the riding crop her father held in his hands.
So? Like, dislike? Was it what you imagined or not? I’d love to know if you’re inclined to tell me. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you have a wonderful week!
Chapter 7. Tender Loving Care by dusty273
I almost can’t believe I finished another chapter and a scene from a latter chapter in one week. Guess being sickly is good for the muse, even if it’s not good for me. ;)
Thank you again for your support and lovely words for the last chapter. I love reading what you like or not like or think about the chapter, it does help me a lot at the time of writing. As always mil gracias to my lovely sister, Tina, who takes the time to correct all my silly mistakes and to listen to my muse’s crazy ideas and encourage her (and me) to actually make them a reality. Thanks as well to my awesome friend, Vara, who keeps me in the straight and narrow concerning historical accuracy, even if with this chapter I took a little more creative license than usually. ;)
The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best of hearts. ~ Henry Fielding
Chapter 7. Tender Loving Care
The pain Buffy was going through was excruciating; the lashes on her back burned even several hours after her father had made them. She even had foregone her nightdress the night before and slept on her stomach because the mere thought of anything touching the very tender skin of her back had been hell.
Bathing hadn’t been all that great for her, either. Willow tried to be as careful as she could, but the simplest contact was agonizing for Buffy and that made dressing for the day quite the challenge too, even the lighter and silkier of her morning dresses and the flimsiest of her shifts felt like sandpaper rubbing against her flesh. Never mind that having to wear a corset, even tied as loosely as it was, would make it very difficult for her to make it through the day without fainting from the intolerable ache.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened. Oh no, far from it, but it’d never been this bad. And it all was the damned Duke of Aurelius’ fault. If only he had stayed out of her life, if only he hadn’t seen her that first day and if only he weren’t so intent on marrying her she wouldn’t be in this position right now.
She knew that wasn’t exactly true or fair, her father didn’t need much of an excuse to use his riding crop on her, but she wasn’t feeling particularly inclined to be fair at the moment.
Willow had been horrified by the lashes and tended to them as best she could, which wasn’t much with the limited resources at her disposal. She was completely baffled that Buffy’s father could do something like that to his daughter, which was one of the reasons she was so glad her friend would be marrying the Duke of Aurelius as soon as she would.
From the other maids at the house, she’d learned of the man’s generosity and good heart and from what little she’d seen of him last night, he was very handsome as well. Add to that, that her friend wouldn’t have to suffer at her father’s hands ever again and it was a dream come true.
Not that Buffy seemed all too happy with the match. But in the redhead’s opinion, she could do a whole lot worse.
Fred and Spike hadn’t gone to bed until the wee hours of the morning, planning and plotting, plotting and planning until they were happy and confident they would win Buffy’s affection and in Wes’ case, convince him that Fred and he belonged together.
Going to the theatre, the opera, picnics and parties were all perfect opportunities to spend time with each other. Fred and Wes would play chaperone so the vile tongues wouldn’t start talking while Spike wooed his bride-to-be in a much friendlier environment. Of course, that didn’t mean the four of them would spend all their time together, which was the whole point anyway.
And that wasn’t all, Spike had revealed to Fred he’d been thinking of asking Wes to be his partner in a new horse breeding business he wanted to start. It was only fair, in his opinion, the man had been working with him for years and while he was paid handsomely, it wasn’t nearly as much as he could earn in this new venture. They made a formidable team and he had no doubt the business would flourish in no time. He was convinced it wouldn’t be too long until Wes was asking him for his sister’s hand and he would more than delighted to leave her in his very capable hands.
So now, as per his sister’s instructions, here he was again at the Summers’ household, waiting to be received by Lady Joyce and her lovely daughter in the drawing room. What he hadn’t counted on was the presence of the man of the house as well. The last thing he wanted was to spend any more time with Hank Summers than he absolutely had to.
He tried to pay attention to the conversation, even though his eyes kept straying towards his betrothed. She looked as beautiful as ever, but there were dark shadows under her eyes and she was very quiet today, her eyes lowered to the floor as she sat meekly at her mother’s side, only participating when directly asked about something or other.
Odd, very odd. He was determined to find out what could have brought about this change in her, so he asked Lady Joyce completely out of the blue, “Will you allow me a few moments in private with Miss Elizabeth?”
“B-but that’s hardly prop—” she began, before her husband interrupted her.
“Of course, Duke. You could go to the garden again. No one would dare disturb you there.” He gave the younger man a winsome smile that was met with a frown.
The manner in which Hank kept treating Lady Joyce in Spike’s presence, and of course, the fact that the man kept addressing him as ‘Duke’ irked him to no end. He wished the three weeks that still had to go by until the wedding went by quickly; otherwise he wouldn’t be held accountable for his actions against the despicable man.
And perhaps after the wedding he could somehow convince the older man of the convenience of allowing Lady Joyce to visit with them for an indefinite amount of time. God knew she deserved better than the good for nothing of a husband and with any luck, she would eventually decide to remain with them. He didn’t think Hank Summers would complain about that as long as he gained something from the deal. It’s the least he could do for the woman who would be his mother-in-law.
Buffy kept her eyes on the floor so her father wouldn’t see the hate burning deeply in them before taking her betrothed’s proffered arm. Her back was still very tender after last night’s whipping and the last thing she wanted was a repeat performance after the Duke left. So for now she would behave as was expected of her, at least while in the presence of others. When they were alone though, all bets were off.
As soon as they were out of sight, she retrieved her hand from the Spike’s arm and walked away from him and he treaded after her, unable to stay away for too long. It was sort of pathetic the way he kept trying to find excuses to see her. But he couldn’t bring himself to care. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, Fred would probably say while laughing heartily at him. However, if his sister’s plan worked, it would all be worth it. And he just knew it would work, he would make sure it did.
They walked in silence for a little while until he saw the bench at the side of the fountain and placed a hand on the small of her back to lead her there. She winced and recoiled from his touch and for a second, he thought it was just a matter of her being difficult, so he did it again and it was then that he noticed the grimace of pain that crossed her features. What the hell?
“Wha’s the matter, love?” he asked, solicitously helping her sit on the bench. “Are you hurt?”
“N-no, of course not. It’s nothing.” She moved as far away from him as she could while still remaining on the bench.
He didn’t believe her for an instant and resolutely turned her back to him and began unbuttoning the row of tiny pearls that held her dress together.
“What on Earth do you think you’re doing?” Outraged by his actions, but hardly in the position to do anything about it, she grasped the top of her dress so it wouldn’t fall off her chest.
“You don’ want to tell me wha’s wron’, love. So I need to see for myself then.”
“You don’t have any right to do this!”
“Oh, but I do and you know it.”
“We’re still not married…”
“That hardly matters now.” Spike couldn’t stop the growl that tore at this throat when his eyes settled on the angry red welts marring the golden expanse of her back, visible over her chemise and corset. He just knew Hank Summers was responsible for this and his ire against him escalated with each new—and old—mark he uncovered.
What the man had done to his betrothed was unforgivable and he hardly could wait for the moment in which he would confront him. He would make sure this would never happen again… ever. Now wasn’t the time for that, though. Now was the time to tend to Miss Buffy’s wounds, make sure she didn’t hurt as much as he imagined she was hurting at the moment.
His hands shook slightly as he tried to peel her chemise away from her flesh as carefully as he possibly could, trying not to cause her unnecessary pain. Not an easy task considering some of the welts were very deep and oozed a sticky clear liquid that had glued them to the cloth. This wouldn’t do. There had to be an easier way to cure her and he would find it.
“I’ll be right back, love. Don’t move an inch.”
Spike practically ran the length of the garden to go to the front of the house where his curricle was waiting for him.
His tiger, Oz, was chatting with a pretty redhead when he reached them and both of them leaped apart when they noticed him there. Oz straightened on his post and bowed while the girl blushed under Spike’s amused stare and curtsied.
“G-good m-morning, milord.”
“Do you work here?” Spike asked.
“Y-yes, mi-milord,” she stammered. “I-I’m M-miss Summers personal maid.”
“Just the person I need then.” He grinned at her, bypassing Oz to pull a small box—which contained a medical kit—from under the tiger’s seat and rummaged through its contents before deciding to just take the whole thing with him. It wasn’t unusual that he hurt himself every once in a while with the type of sports he liked to practice, so he always kept several things at the ready.
He took the maid by the arm and guided them towards the garden without sparing a second glance to Oz, who by now was more than used to his Master’s mercurial moods. “Do you think you could get me some warm water, linens and a place where I won’t be bothered while I tend to your lady?”
Tend to her lady? Uh-oh, that meant he must have somehow discovered Buffy’s injuries. Did he know who inflicted them, too? And if he did, what was he going to do about it? Oh, how she wished she could ask him all these questions. “Cer-certainly, milord, you could use the morning room if you want. It should be empty at the moment and it has an entrance from the garden, so you don’t have to enter through the house.”
“Sounds perfect. Does Miss Summers know the way to it?”
“Alright then, get me the things I asked for and we’ll meet you there shortly.” The redhead nodded and curtsied once again, ready to leave when he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Willow, Sir. Willow Rosenberg.”
“Miss Rosenberg, I don’ think I have to tell you to be careful no one notices what all of this is for, do I?”
“Of course not, milord,” she said.
He threw her a grateful smile then disappeared into the garden.
Willow watched him for a while before shaking her head and running off to the kitchen to do his bidding.
Buffy hadn’t moved an inch from the moment he’d left. Not because he’d ordered it, but because she couldn’t seem to reconcile the man who had turned her life into a living hell to this stranger she’d spend the last few minutes with. He’d been so… caring, so tender when he inspected her back it brought tears to her eyes and stirred something in her chest she didn’t care to analyze.
Of course that didn’t change the fact he was forcing her to marry him or how she felt about him. No, it didn’t change a thing, she resolved. It never would. And yet, no one had ever treated her like that before and it felt… good.
No, not good, she shook her head to dispel the silly notion. It was highly improper; he had her half undressed in the garden waiting for him. If anyone were to see her, them… oh God, she dreaded to think of the consequences and it would all be his fault. Then again, it would be sort of her fault too if she stayed, wouldn’t it? She was just thinking it might be for the best to brave her father’s wrath and flee when she saw him come back carrying a small box with him. Just her luck, wasn’t it? She sighed dejectedly; it seemed that ever since she met the odious man, her luck had disappeared altogether.
He approached her and without uttering a single word, he sat by her side, carefully buttoned her dress, helped her up and finally pulled her towards the house.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Buffy asked, digging her heels into the ground, for all the good it did her. She rolled her eyes when the motion actually aided him in moving her forward instead of detaining them. Damn slippers!
“’M takin’ care of my betrothed, what do you think ‘m doin’?” He smirked and raised an eyebrow at her inquisitively. “Now hurry and lead us to the mornin’ room through the garden so I can do just that, or do you want everyone seein’ us?”
“I-wait a minute, why would I take you there?”
He stopped, looking upwards as if begging patience from the heavens before addressing her, “Because ‘m takin’ care of you. Didn’ you hear me the first time I told you?”
“Because I take care of those who are mine.”
“I’m not yours.”
“Not yet, but you’ll be… soon. Now lead me to the bloody room or do you want me to go into the house and ask your father where it is?” He knew it was unfair to threaten her with talking to Hank Summers, especially when he saw the shudder that wracked her tiny frame at the mention of the man, but if it got her to move, well, what else could he do?
The man was truly insufferable! Half-afraid he’d actually do that, she threw him a scathing look and started walking towards the room.
When they entered through the French doors, Buffy was more than relieved to find Willow inside, although her relief was short lived because the abhorrent man asked her maid to help her out of her clothes, only leaving her shift on.
“Oh no! That’s where I draw the line. I came here under protest, but you can’t expect me to be dressed only in my chemise in front of you!”
“’M not expectin’ anythin’, love. `M tellin’ you how it’s goin’ to be and you’ll do well in doin’ exactly that. Now I’ll wait outside while Miss Rosenberg helps you undress.”
“The nerve of the man! Can you believe him, Willow?” Buffy exploded as soon as he left the room, crossing her arms under her breasts. “Who does he think he is?”
Your fiancé? Willow could have responded, but decided not to at her friend’s obvious distress. “Well, I guess he can’t tend to the lashes if you keep your dress on, Buffy. It does make sense. And I’ll be here with you, so it’s not completely improper.”
“Not completely is not enough.” She exhaled a heavy sigh. “I imagine I don’t have any other choice, but you have to promise to stay with me at all times.”
“I promise, Buffy. Now let me help you out of that dress.”
Spike entered the room a little while after, smirking when he noticed little Miss Buffy Summers had taken precautions so she wouldn’t be too exposed to him, or so she thought. She was lying on her stomach over the settee—which was covered by a thick blanket—to prevent him from getting even the tiniest glimpse of her lovely breasts. But he was pretty sure she never imagined that by doing that, she unwittingly gave him an impressive view of the curve of her delectable arse through the thin material of her chemise.
A rustling noise to the side brought his attention to her maid who was settling a basin and the linen cloths on a nearby table as he neared her. “Thank you, Miss Rosenberg, that’d be all,” he dismissed her with a curt wave.
“What?” Buffy almost rose from the sofa before remembering she was wearing nothing more than a very flimsy shift. “You can’t do that.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, my dear, I can and I will. Miss Rosenberg can stay outside by the door and alert us of any possible interruptions.”
Willow looked from one blond to the other before lowering her head and curtsying, leaving a very unhappy Buffy behind.
“You-you… Neanderthal! How dare you? Isn’t it enough you’re forcing me to marry you, do you need to ruin my reputation as well?”
“Have I told you how beautiful you look when you’re angry? Your eyes shine like the brightest emeralds and your cheeks flush like ripe apples. So full of fire and passion,” he said almost dreamily.
She blinked, confused by the compliments before remembering she was supposed to be furious with him. “Argh! You’re just, just impossible. Can’t you respond to an insult as you should?”
“What? You would prefer me to continue with what your father obviously began?” he asked, his voice soft but serious. “Because it was him, wasn’t it?”
“I… yes, it was him.” There was no point in denying it, who else would it be after all? And well, perhaps knowing what kind of man her father was would dissuade him from marrying her? One could only hope.
Spike’s rage threatened to spiral out of control once more at the thought of Hank Summers hurting this lovely creature in any way and vowed once again he would put an end to that as soon as possible.
Now wasn’t the time, however. He took a deep, cleansing breath and searched through the box he’d brought until he found the items he needed, placing them neatly on the table before washing his hands in the basin.
Kneeling by her side, he caressed her cheek, looking deeply into her eyes. “I know I haven’ made things too easy for you, and I accept you have motives to distrust me since we don’ really know each other. But right now my only intention is to lessen your pain, not to ruin your reputation. Can you find it in your heart to place just a little bit of trust in me?”
She was surprised by the sincerity she heard in his voice, saw in his eyes and she wasn’t ready to completely trust him or knew if she ever would be, however he wasn’t asking for that now, was he? A little bit of trust he said. Could she? And more importantly, should she?
“I… all right.” She sighed heavily, hoping she wouldn’t regret this.
“Thank you, pet.” He kissed her brow and sat on his haunches to pick up a linen cloth, wetting it in the warm water before passing it very softly over her shift to make it easier for him to take it off without her hurting too much. Once damp enough, he began peeling it away slowly, carefully until he was done. He couldn’t apply the liniment while she stayed in her chemise though.
“Uhmm, love, would you mind… uhmm, lowerin’ the upper part of your shift? I swear I won’t peek; I’ll even go out of the room if you want while you do so. I just need some room to cure the lashes that are lower in your back.”
She froze for an instant, turning her head to look at him. He seemed almost bashful as he met her stare and that made her decision easier. “It’s alright, you can stay, just… turn around so I can do it, uhm, please?” she added, after all he was doing her a favor, wasn’t he?
She let him know when he could turn and his breath hitched in his throat when he saw the full extent of the damage Hank had exacted. He’d gotten glimpses of it in the garden, but to be faced with the reality of what she must have endured through the years made him feel guilty. While he wasn’t responsible for the man’s actions before meeting Miss Buffy, he had the feeling this last time had been in great measure his fault.
With utmost care, he applied the ointment to each of the welts, wincing when she winced and hissing whenever she hissed in pain. “Easy, love, it would hurt but a second and afterwards you’ll feel the difference. I promise you.” He deposited a soft, reassuring kiss on her shoulder and continued applying the medicine.
He had to be a magician, Buffy decided. A wizard. How else could it be possible that the unbearable pain was already attenuating under his expert touch and the liquid ointment? It stung when the liniment first touched her skin, but after a little while it started soothing the burn until the pain became bearable.
Spike sighed as he finished curing the last of her injuries, regretting that he had to put an end to this tentative truce they’d made but knowing they couldn’t very well stay in this room for much longer.
“Alright, love, all done.” He smiled warmly into her eyes. “I’ll call Miss Rosenberg in so she can bandage them for you and help you dress, okay?”
He stood up and was surprised when Buffy grabbed his hand in hers. “Thank you, your Grace. I feel better already.”
“William,” he said. “Call me William?”
“Thank you… William.”
She smiled sweetly at him and he felt his chest constrict. He’d thought her beautiful when she was angry, but now… now that she was giving him a glimpse into what he could have if he won her heart, she was a goddess. His goddess.
Hope you enjoyed reading, I wanted to show you (and Buffy) a different side of Spike. He can’t be all bad, can he? *giggles* Next chapter will feature Spike confronting Hank and Spike and Fred’s plan is set in motion.
Like, dislike? I’d love to know if you’re inclined to tell me. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you have a great week!
Chapter 8. Turnabout is Fair Play by dusty273
A thousand thanks for all the reviews for the last chapter. I’m so very happy you enjoyed the tender side of Spike and now I hope you’re ready for him confronting Hank. ;)
As always, un millón de gracias a mi hermanita IBE, for being there for me for everything and her invaluable help with this story. *smooches* Love you, cariño! And to Vara (jamies_lady), whose expertise in the period truly amazes me. I just adore all your suggestions, honey. And thank you to drkdevin who personalized the banner for me! And a huge thank you to Sotia for saving my life and resizing the banner for me, it seems that now it works.
Thank you as well to the kind person(s) who nominated this story for the Whole Lotta History Award at the Cradle of Humanity Awards, you made my week!
What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel
Chapter 8. Turnabout is Fair Play
Buffy joined the duke—no, William, she reminded herself—outside in the garden as soon as Willow finished helping her dress. Her opinion of him had changed marginally in the span of little less than an hour. The way he reacted to seeing her hurt, the way he tended to her, so caring and tender and… She’d felt the anger rolling off him in waves and yet… and yet, he’d been so gentle with her.
Yes, it was true he was imposing this marriage on her, but perhaps, only perhaps, he wasn’t as bad as she had thought he was? His sister had implied as much, same as Willow did when they were alone just now. Her friend had been very impressed by how respectful the Duke of Aurelius was with her and by how highly his tiger talked of him.
And she had to admit, albeit reluctantly and only to herself, he’d behaved like a true gentleman the whole time they were in the morning room. She almost cried in outrage when he’d asked her to lower her shift, sure it was just a ploy, but she knew if he’d asked in any other way than how he did, looking so very uncomfortable and embarrassed with his request, she would’ve fought him tooth and nail. But he didn’t, and somehow that one gesture had shifted the way she looked at him.
Spike was on cloud nine when he offered his arm to his betrothed and she not only took it, but smiled at him again in the same fashion she’d done a little while ago when she thanked him. Mayhap this could be a new beginning for them, a new start in which he had a chance in hell with this lovely creature. He just needed to be patient as Fred had told him and while patience was not a virtue he possessed, he knew for her, for Miss Buffy he could learn or die with the intent.
“What was it that you wished to speak with me privately about?” she asked him, when they were almost nearing the entrance to the house.
“Oh, that. I was commissioned to invite you to the theatre tonight.”
“Commissioned?” She raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “By whom?”
“My sister, of course.”
“Uhm, I have to ask my father for permission.” And she really, really didn’t want to, although she was quite certain he would give his consent in a heartbeat.
“I will ask him, if I have your consent to do so, Miss Buffy.”
He was asking for her consent now? She blinked in confusion. That she hadn’t expected. So far he’d done pretty much whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, to hell with what she wanted. Who was this man?
“My sister and Wes, Mister Wyndham-Pryce, will join us of course,” he pressed, seeing her confusion and misunderstanding the reason for it.
She shook her head and for a second he feared she would say no, until she spoke.
“All right, if my father allows to it, I’ll gladly join all of you tonight.” It was the least she could do after the way William cared for her, wasn’t it? And of course, it didn’t hurt that she’d been dying to go to the theatre ever since they moved to London and this was the perfect chance to do so.
He exhaled the breath he hadn’t noticed he’d been holding at her acquiescence and smiled charmingly at her. “Right then, shall we join your parents, Miss Buffy?”
She nodded, but before they entered the room she halted him by placing her other hand over his arm. “You may call me Buffy or Elizabeth if you want,” she offered with a shy smile before she went inside.
He stayed rooted to the spot for an instant before he followed her, a pleased smile tugging at his lips. Dare he hope she was softening towards him? Oh how he wished that were true.
As soon as he crossed the drawing room’s threshold, however, his smile gave way to a fierce scowl when his eyes settled on his future father-in-law and especially on what he was holding in his hands. A riding crop, one Hank Summers kept playing with, turning around in his hands in what were he anyone else, would seem like a relatively innocent action.
Spike knew better, though.
And if he’d had any doubts, Buffy’s reaction to seeing it, the way her face paled and her emerald eyes widened in fear when they rested on the whip would have been more than enough confirmation.
Just like that, the rage he’d managed to keep in check while tending to her, flared inside him once again in an all-encompassing blaze that threatened to destroy everything in its path. All his thoughts centering in on making the despicable man pay for what he did to her.
It had been embarrassingly easy to convince Hank to retire to his study room to ‘talk’. Not that he’d had any doubts it would be. The man was so hell bent to get on his good graces that he didn’t even notice the tone Spike used with him was anything but friendly. Buffy did though, and she’d been surprised by it; he could see it in her eyes as her gaze followed them out of the room and it only made him all the more determined to make sure her father never laid a hand on her again.
Hank had barely finished closing the door behind him when he found himself pinned against it, a snarling duke in his face with a menacing gleam tingeing his blue eyes while crushing his windpipe with his own riding crop. It all happened so fast, he never even noticed the younger man taking it off his hands. Fear like he’d never felt before grappled his insides while he fought for his every breath.
“I want you to listen to me and listen well, because `m only sayin’ this once…” he said in a threatening whisper, his pressure on the man’s throat subsiding just before the older man fainted. Spike reveled in the naked fear drawn in Hank Summers’ face, his cowering posture, the way he gulped trying to fill his lungs with air, but above all, in the pleasure of using against him the same torture device he used to hurt his own daughter with. Turnabout is fair play, he thought, and using the crop meant he wouldn’t get his hands dirty by actually touching the scum that was his future father-in-law. “Things are goin’ to change ‘round here. For one, you’ll be leavin’ this house for good today and won’t be returnin’ until I say so…” Which will be never if it were up to me, he added to himself, however he owed it to Lady Joyce to allow her to make that decision for herself.
“From today forth, Lady Joyce and Miss Summers will be my responsibility and you won’t be permitted any contact with either of them under any circumstances, unless they decide otherwise. And one last thing, if you even dream of hurtin’ my fiancée in any way, I swear I’ll hunt you down to the very ends of the Earth if I need to and when I do,” he smirked devilishly, pressing the cane against the man’s throat again until his eyes nearly bulged, “—and you can be certain I will, you’ll discover the real meanin’ of torture. I can assure you that when ‘m through with you, what you did to Miss Summers—what you’ve done to her all these years—will look like child’s play. You’ll be beggin’ me to put an end to your miserable existence.” And with that, he released Hank who immediately crumpled at his feet.
“Y-you c-can’t do t-that,” Hank stuttered. “Y-you can’t throw m-me out of my own house. Y-you can’t forbid me to talk to my wife and daughter.”
“Oh, but that’s the beauty of it, Mister Summers,” Spike replied, contempt for the man tinting his voice. “I can and I will. We both know I have enough power and influence to ruin you in any way I choose. I can get away with this and much more, if need be. And believe me when I say I will stop at nothing to ensure Lady Joyce and your daughter’s safety.
“You have an hour to leave. I’ll be waitin’ in the drawin’ room and when you get there, you’ll invent some excuse about a sudden trip.” He waved his hand dismissively at the older man. “I’ll leave the details up to you.”
How magnanimous of you, Hank thought sarcastically while his temper rose, but he knew he couldn’t do anything about this, not for the moment at least. The blasted duke was right, he could ruin him in any way he chose and he couldn’t do anything to prevent it. “But the wedding, I-I have to be there… it’s expected of me.”
“We’ll see about that when the time comes.” With any luck, he’d be able to come up with a plausible way to excuse the man’s lack of presence at the ceremony. “Do we have an understandin’?”
Hank nodded and lowered his face, knowing he was defeated… for now. He waited for the nobleman to exit the room then got to his feet, walked towards his desk and threw everything on it to the floor with an angry sweep of his arm.
The duke hadn’t raised his voice during his tirade, not even once, but somehow that only made the not so veiled threat even more intimidating. There was no doubt he was deadly serious about this issue. And from what he’d learned of the younger man so far, he was not someone you crossed without paying the consequences.
It was all Elizabeth’s fault. She must have gone crying to the man. But it didn’t matter, he would make sure they all paid for what was happening to him. He just had to wait for the right moment.
Spike breathed in deeply once he left the room, trying to rein in the fury still coursing through his veins before joining the ladies in the drawing room. Easier said than done, he thought as his hands tightened around the crop. It had been supremely satisfactory to reduce Hank Summers to a quivering mess, but that didn’t erase what the bloody pillock did to Buffy nor did it assuage his own guilt over being responsible for the lashes that marred the soft skin of her back because he forced her into this marriage.
Buffy raised her gaze as William stepped resolutely into the drawing room. He was clutching her father’s crop in his grip and after he locked his intense blue eyes with hers, he raised the cane chest level with both hands then swiftly brought it down over his knee, breaking it in two with a loud snap before throwing it to the side.
She jumped a little, taken aback by the action, her breath hitching in her throat as he stalked towards her. His expression had been grim, so very dark when he entered the room that she couldn’t stop from wondering what could have happened between him and her father, but it wasn’t like that anymore. His features softened the nearer he came to her, until he reached her side, kneeling and grabbing her hand in his before bringing it to his mouth and placing a reverent kiss on top of it.
“You will never know that kind of fear again as my wife, I promise you that. No one will ever harm you. I’ll make sure of it.”
Her heart fluttered inside her chest when she realized how serious he was when making that vow to her. It was obvious in his gaze, his voice, his countenance. And for a moment, they got lost in each other’s eyes, everything around them disappearing but the two of them until a cough from the doorway startled them out of their trance.
Joyce was shocked over Lord William’s behavior to say the least, but not displeased. Something grave had happened between her husband and him. What, she wasn’t certain of… yet, but she would find out. It was clear it was something regarding her daughter and the riding crop the duke had disposed of. If what she knew of Hank’s character was anything to go by, she could imagine what he must have done to anger the duke. And not for the first time, she cursed her late father for forcing her into marrying Hank Summers so many years ago, all to avoid a scandal.
She was startled out of her thoughts when someone cleared their throat and took her eyes away from the couple to set them on her husband, who was looking a little worse for wear.
Spike frowned at the interruption, getting up from the floor and helping Buffy rise from her seat so they could face her father together. It warmed his heart when she not only held onto his hand, but moved closer to him as if seeking his protection.
“Something has happened and I have to leave town for a few days,” Hank started. “I shall be back in time for the wedding.” He didn’t even wait for their response, leaving the room at once. The less he said the better and if his plan worked, things would get back on track for him in no time. The duke thought he had gotten rid of him for good, but there were things the conceited Englishman had no idea of, and when he found out, it would be too late for him to do anything about it but to comply with his demands.
Well, that was a mite anticlimactic, wasn’t it? Spike mused. He could feel Lady Joyce and Buffy’s curious stares on him and shrugged before asking, “So, do you ladies have any plans for the rest of the day?”
“We’d thought of visiting an Emporium and the silk merchants to buy the fabrics for Elizabeth’s wedding dress, b-but…” Joyce lowered her gaze ashamed of having to tell Lord William that they wouldn’t be going after all since she wasn’t sure how they’d be paying for it with her husband gone, or rather about to go God knew where.
“Ah, so it concerns me as well then, since I’ll be the one payin’ for my betrothed’s trousseau.” He threw them a charming smile. “Perhaps you’ll do me the honor of allowin’ me to drive you there in my curricle and escort you wherever you wish to go, Lady Joyce?”
She glanced towards her daughter, who responded with an almost imperceptible nod. “Oh, alright then. We’ll be happy to count on with the company of such an illustrious escort, Lord William. Just give us fifteen minutes to get ready, if that is alright with you?”
“Of course, milady, take as long as you need. In the meantime, if perhaps you could spare one of your footmen, I’ll send word to my townhouse for them to prepare a luncheon for us.” When it seemed like Lady Joyce would object to that, he added, “I insist. Since I’ll be monopolizin’ your attention for the day, it’s the least I can do.”
When he put it like that, how could she deny his request? “That’s so thoughtful of you, thank you, Your Grace,” the older woman said, smiling at him before leaving the room.
Buffy slowly retrieved her hand from his, walking a few paces after her mother before turning back to him. “I can’t imagine what you did or said to my father to make him leave that way or why you did it, William. And honestly, I don’t care. However, I need you to know I’ve never felt safer in his presence than when you were by my side or seen my mother as happy as you just made her, and for that— and everything you’ve done for me today—I thank you.”
He was floored by her words, by the sincerity behind them, swallowing hard past the lump in his throat while his eyes followed her out of the room.
Buffy sat in front of her vanity, waiting for Willow to finish dressing her hair and pinning her hat on while she slid her hands into her kid gloves. She felt… confused, befuddled. Everything that’d happened lately had turned her world upside down and she didn’t know what to think anymore.
She’d been so sure the duke was a vile, odious man. After all, how could he be otherwise when he was forcing her into this marriage? But there was more to him than the virtual stranger who had accosted her on the street and then imposed his kisses and caresses on her.
That didn’t alter the fact she was in love with Angel, or that she would still do everything in her power to stop this wedding. Nothing would change her mind about that. William might be a good man, but she didn’t love him, couldn’t love him when her heart belonged to another. It didn’t matter that his indigo gaze haunted her dreams… that was just a byproduct of the situation they found themselves in and nothing more, she rationalized.
She grabbed her reticule and with a last glance at herself in the mirror and a thank you to Willow for her help, she went downstairs to meet her mother and the duke.
Buffy was exhausted. She never imagined a trousseau could consist of so many things. First order of business had been fabrics. Velvets, lace, muslin and silks in all imaginable shades had been laid out for their inspection. Her mother and William had chosen between the hundreds of colors the ones they thought would suit her best. She had to admit he had good taste, even if she doubted she’d live long enough to use all the dresses they were planning on having made for her.
Then it was on to choosing hats, kid and lace gloves, shoes and the dozen pairs of silk stockings he insisted she just had to have.
There were chairs laid out in every store so His Grace could wait in comfort for them, but instead, he’d stayed right by their side, offering his opinion and being adamant on buying everything Buffy showed even a remote interest in.
Shopping with the duke had been a novel experience for Buffy. Whenever they entered a store, the owner hurried to their side solicitously offering their aid in whatever Buffy might need, while William smiled and made all the arrangements for the bills to be sent to his ‘man’, saying they would be settled immediately.
By the time they made it to the Aurelius’ townhouse for luncheon, she was ravenous and wondering if she’d survive the rest of the afternoon without succumbing to fatigue, especially at the rate her mother and William were going. They both seemed to have boundless amounts of energy and she got tired just watching them.
After lunch, they visited the modiste William insisted on. “Only the very best for my bride,” he said while leading them into the stylish shop. And Buffy almost swooned before remembering she had no intention of becoming his bride.
Once inside they were received by the modiste herself, who measured, pinned and showed Buffy different styles of dresses she could choose from until she was dizzy from it all. So it was quite a relief when her mother decided they’d done enough shopping for the day, even if she had to accept that she had fun… most of the time.
William had been the perfect gentleman and great company, carrying their packages, opening and closing doors for them all while keeping her mother and her entertained with interesting, and oftentimes amusing, anecdotes.
Being seen with the duke had done wonders for her self-esteem as well, since all the ladies who’d snubbed her at the few soirées she’d attended since they’d been in London, were now busy throwing daggers at her with their eyes. Especially Miss Cecily Addams. If looks could kill, she’d be six feet under right now.
And even if she was well aware of the fact she didn’t want to marry him, wouldn’t marry him if she had her way, her treacherous heart still skipped a beat and she blushed profusely when William leaned in to whisper in her ear that none of them could ever hold a candle to her.
Joyce hadn’t missed the calculating gleam in her husband’s eyes after he announced his sudden trip… and it filled her with dread. She knew what he was capable of and wouldn’t put it past him to reveal Elizabeth’s true origin if he thought he could capitalize on it. And she could not, would not allow for that to happen.
These years had been hell on earth for her and her daughter. Both of them had endured unspeakable torments at the hands of Hank Summers. However, things seemed to be looking up for them now that the duke came into their lives. Having the freedom of living without fear for as long as her husband’s ‘trip’ lasted was a gift she wouldn’t take for granted.
She only hoped that once the duke learned of her secret, he would be as understanding and supportive as he’d been so far. One thing she was sure of, she had to tell him before Hank got the chance to do it himself. And what better time than when they returned to the house?
As soon as they came back from their shopping trip, Joyce sent Elizabeth up to her room to rest since she would be going out to the theatre with Lord William and his sister. This also provided her with the perfect opportunity to talk to the duke in private.
And now here she was, sitting across from the Duke of Aurelius in the drawing room, trying to muster the courage to tell him everything she’d kept secret for the last eighteen years. She hoped upon hope she wasn’t wrong in her assessment of his character and that he wouldn’t judge them—or at the very least Elizabeth—for things that were completely beyond her control.
Chapter End Notes:
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what you thought of the confrontation and the rest of the chapter, if you’re inclined to tell me. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you have a great week!
Chapter 9. The Truth Shall Set You Free by dusty273
I truly hadn’t thought of the ending of Chapter 8 as a cliffhanger, at least not until some of you mentioned it. But since muse actually behaved for once, at least a little better than she’s been behaving lately, I give you chapter 9. It’s shorter than the rest, but it will solve some of your questions… I hope. ;)
As always thank you to those of you who take the time to review and let me know how I’m doing with this story. Your kind words are fuel to the muse. Un millón de gracias to my lovely IBE for all her help and to Vara as well, for taking the time to pre-beta every chapter to make sure I don’t mess up too much. ;)
Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn't mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Incredibly hard. It is painful to admit our sins and entrust ourselves to God's care. ~ Erwin W. Lutzer
Chapter 9. The Truth Shall Set You Free
“Lord William, I need to tell you something…” She inhaled deeply, trying to gather all of her inner strength for this little tête a tête. “…Something that might change your opinion of me and my daughter. But first I need your promise that you’ll hear me out and not interrupt, otherwise I’ll probably lose my nerve,” Joyce pleaded.
“But ‘f course, Lady Joyce, you have my word.” He was very curious over what she could possibly reveal that had her so nervous. She said it was something concerning her and Buffy, but what could it be? Did it have anything to do with what her husband did to their daughter?
“It all began a little more than eighteen years ago. I was around the same age Buffy is now and met someone… someone who swept me off my feet and made me realize love was more than something you read about.” She saw the duke raise an inquisitive eyebrow and promptly added, “If you’re wondering, this man wasn’t Hank Summers, I hadn’t met him until later.”
Spike’s thoughts were running at breakneck speed inside his head as he assimilated her words. She couldn’t mean what he was thinking, could she? But then that would actually make sense. It would explain why a highborn woman, the Earl of Clarence’s daughter, would marry a right bastard like Hank Summers, why her family would allow or even encourage the match.
“His name was Rupert Giles. He was a wonderful, well educated, caring gentleman whose only flaw, if you could call it that, was being the oldest son of a vicar and therefore not someone my father would ever consider worthy of marrying off his only daughter to. Which is ironic when you consider who he ended up making me wed.”
She laughed humorlessly and rolled her eyes in a way that reminded him so much of Buffy, that he couldn’t stop himself from chuckling. He’d known there was a reason he liked her mother so much. There was no doubt who his fiancée had inherited her fiery spirit from.
“Long story short, Rupert and I ran away together and got married in Gretna Green. Then we headed to the Scottish highlands where his family lived, only my father caught up with us before we could get there a-and…” she choked on her words as the pain of those days came rushing back to crush her heart, a few tears escaping her eyes. So lost in her own grief that she started when the duke patted her hand with his, offering her a crisp linen handkerchief emblazoned with the House of Aurelius coat of arms. She raised her eyes to his and the compassion, understanding and dare she say… respect she saw swirling in the blue depths along with his next words made her even more certain that she’d made the right choice by deciding to tell him the truth about Elizabeth.
“There’s no need for you to continue with this if it pains you so, Lady Joyce. I promise you there’s nothin’ you could say that would ever make me change the high opinion I have of you and your daughter.”
“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, Your Grace, er, Lord William,” she amended quickly. “And that’s precisely why I need to continue.” She took another deep breath, the way she twisted the handkerchief in her hands her only outward sign of distress other than the unshed tears in her eyes. “My father had Rupert captured on account of sequestering me and then sent him to Newgate to await trial. He never made it that far, though. There was a revolt in the prison and he was… he was k-killed in it. My father wouldn’t allow me to see him one last time, even though I begged him on my knees to let me claim my husband’s body so I could give him a Christian sepulture. Then he had the gall to say it was for the best that Rupert had died. It wasn’t of course, at least not for me. After that, I simply lost the will to live, content to wither away and wait for death to claim me until I discovered I was enceinte…”
The duke gasped, but other than that gave no other external sign of his surprise, for which she was thankful for.
Only Spike wasn’t surprised, not really. Relieved that Hank Summer’s blood didn’t course through Buffy’s veins? Yes, most definitely. But not surprised. As soon as Lady Joyce started telling him her story, he could imagine something like this happening. He was horrified by what the Earl of Clarence did to his own daughter, though. And if the man were alive today, he’d love to have a word or two with him, preferably alone and in a dark alley where he could show him exactly what he thought of him.
The fact that he didn’t allow Lady Joyce to see her husband’s body bothered him immensely. There was something about the fact that didn’t add up and he had the distinct feeling there was more to the story than what she knew. But with her father dead, it would be more difficult to inquire about Rupert Giles fate. More difficult, but not impossible. If the man had been sent to Newgate then there had to be a registry with his name in it and what happened to him. If there was anything to discover, Wes and he could do just that. At the very least, perhaps they could find out where Buffy’s father was buried so they could pay their respects to him, if he had indeed died as her father had stated.
“Of course, it would’ve been a scandal of monumental proportions if I were to give birth out of wedlock, so as soon as my father found out about the baby, he made sure to find me a suitable husband.”
Hank Summers suitable? he thought while shaking his head in disbelief, that miserable excuse for a human being was anything but that.
“And he found it in Hank Summers, who had only recently moved to England. My father only cared for maintaining his good name, you see, so a man who was willing to marry his daughter and take her back to America the same day suited him perfectly. He paid him handsomely for the favor, too. Not that any kind of money was ever enough for Hank. Not with his gambling habits.”
Spike lowered his head sheepishly when he heard that, feeling embarrassed of having preyed on the man’s very habit in order to gain Buffy’s hand in marriage. Perhaps if he’d known… but then how could he have?
“He has made our lives a living nightmare from the start and while I might have deserved it, Elizabeth doesn’t, she’s nothing but an innocent bystander. I’m not certain of what transpired between you and Hank today, but I know his ‘sudden trip’ is your doing and I’m afraid he might try to use what I just divulged to blackmail you or gain the upper hand somehow, and I would hate for that to happen.”
“Lady Joyce, no one deserves that kind of treatment. Not you and certainly not Miss Summers. Before today I had planned on askin’ Mister Summers to allow you to visit your daughter and I once we were married, in the hopes of makin’ it an indefinite arrangement.”
“And what changed that?” she asked.
“It didn’t change, I just… The thing is, milady, when we went out to the garden, I noticed Miss Summers was in pain and when I asked her about it, she had no other choice but tellin’ me what your husband did to her. I can be very convincin’ when I want,” he added, seeing the dubious look Lady Joyce threw him. It was close enough to the truth anyway, and telling his fiancée’s mother how he really discovered the lashes was completely out of the question… at least if he still wanted her to be on his side. Betrothal contract or not, being in his future’s mother-in-law’s good graces could go a long way in winning her daughter’s heart. “You have to understand I had to do somethin’ about this, make sure he’s not in the position to harm either of you again. If it were up to me, neither of you would ever have to deal with him again. However that’s not my decision to make. When he returns from his trip, you’ll be the one to decide if you want to accept him back or not and I’ll stand by whatever you think is best for you and your daughter.”
Joyce wasn’t so sure if the duke was telling her the truth about how he discovered what her husband had done to Elizabeth. She knew her daughter was terrified of her stepfather and would do nothing to further encourage his wrath. But maybe now that she was betrothed to Lord William and spending time with him, she saw what a good man he was and trusted him enough to reveal what Hank had done to her. True, they hadn’t known each other for long, but sometimes it took only a moment to know, she mused remembering how it had been for her and Rupert. If that were the case then she was thrilled for Elizabeth, but her happiness took a backseat to how stunned she felt over the duke giving her the choice to decide what she wanted to do concerning the safety of her family.
“You would really do that?” Dumb question, Joyce, the man is obviously serious about this. And still, after all she'd lived through these long years, who could blame her for finding his kindness difficult to believe?
“’F course I would. You just say the word and I’ll abide by it."”
“I-I would like to discuss this with Elizabeth if that’s alright with you.”
“That’s perfectly understandable, Lady Joyce. Is she aware of what you just told me?” Spike asked.
“No, she isn’t and I’d prefer it if she never found out, unless absolutely necessary.”
“I promise she won’t learn it from me.” He glanced at the grandfather clock to his right and was surprised by how late it was already. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave. Will you please let Miss Summers know I’ll come calling for her at seven thirty sharp?”
“Certainly, Lord William. Before you leave though, I want to thank you for listening to me.”
“I should be the one thankin’ you for placin’ your trust in me, Lady Joyce, not the other way ‘round,” he said, before kissing her hand and exiting the room.
After the duke left, Joyce felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, a weight she’d been carrying for the last eighteen years. In her head there was no question over what she wanted to do and she knew Elizabeth would likely agree with her. To have a reprieve from the hellish life her daughter and she had endured at Hank Summers’ hands was a gift, one they couldn’t in good faith refuse. One they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for her future son-in-law.
And while there were some questions that remained unanswered, like how the duke had met her husband and the reason why he wanted to marry Elizabeth, those seemed almost insignificant in light of everything that happened today.
“He did what?!” Lady Winifred asked, her hands on her hips and chocolate brown eyes blazing with rage.
She was truly magnificent when she was angry, Wes thought dreamily, especially when he wasn’t the object of her wrath. Because when he was, which wasn’t that often thank the heavens, he knew from experience it was much better to make a hasty retreat and wait a day or two until she’d calmed down enough.
“Exactly what you heard, pet,” Spike replied. He’d told Wes and Fred the same abridged version he gave Lady Joyce. After all, he knew his sister and was well aware of what she’d say if she discovered how it was that he really found out about Buffy’s injuries. Not that he was afraid of her or anything, but it was best to stay out of the line of fire.
“And what did you do? I hope you wiped the floor with him at the very least?”
“I did somethin’ better than that, my dearest sister.”
She raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow, compelling him to elaborate.
“I used the same ridin’ crop he used with Miss Summers to choke him before orderin’ him out of his house. Then I broke the bloody instrument in two and made sure Bu-Miss Summers knew she had nothing to fear from now on.”
Wes and Fred exchanged a sideways glance and a barely there grin at William’s near unnoticeable slip. So he was already thinking of her as other than just Miss Summers? Oh, things seemed to be developing quite nicely between the engaged couple and she couldn’t be happier for him. If what her brother was telling them were true, Miss Elizabeth’s opinion of him must have improved quite a bit since the night before. To trust a virtual stranger with something such as this, well… it wasn’t an easy thing to do. And not only that, but she’d also accepted their invitation to the theatre? Promising, very promising.
“That’s not all, though.”
“It’s not? Did you do anything else then to the vile cockroach?” Fred perked.
The last word brought a fond smile to Spike’s face as he remembered his fiancée referring to him as exactly that the night before, before he shook his head to get back to the issue at hand.
“No, not exactly. But I most assuredly will if the blasted man tries to do something against Lady Joyce or Miss Summers. It’s something Lady Joyce told me in confidence, but I trust you both with my life and I know whatever I say won’t be repeated elsewhere.”
“Turns out she was briefly married to a man named Rupert Giles about eighteen years ago. He wasn’t titled so her father would’ve never accepted the match. That didn’t matter to them though, and they ran away together and got married in Gretna Green.” He didn’t miss the naked longing in his sister’s gaze as she set it on Wes for a second before looking back at him. Noticing that he’d seen everything, she blushed slightly then smiled when he mouthed ‘soon’ at her. “The earl had him captured and it seems he was killed in a revolt.”
“Seems?” Wes interjected, snapping out of his reverie.
“Yes, she never saw the body, her father forbade her to set foot in the prison. It was shortly afterwards that she discovered she was with child. As you might have already guessed, to avoid scandal the Earl of Clarence forced his daughter to marry Hank Summers.”
“Uhm, why does that sound familiar to me?” Wes said, a teasing smile tugging at his lips.
“Oh, shush you,” Fred chastised him. “Miss Summers could do a lot worse than William.”
“Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be forced, now would it?”
“And how do you know it wouldn’t be? If it hadn’t been for my brother, Mister Summers wouldn’t have hesitated selling the poor girl to the highest bidder. You must realize that. At least William is willing to do right by her, make her happy.”
“But he isn’t her real father, he can’t force her.”
“Argh, you can’t be that naïve, can you, Wesley? For all intents and purposes, Hank Summers is her father. He has the right to do whatever he wants with her.” Fred shuddered. “Although I have to admit I’m quite relieved Miss Summers is not related to him by blood.”
“You and me both, sweetheart,” Spike replied. “You and me both.”
“Alright then, so what do you need me to do?” Wes questioned. He wasn’t going to win this argument, so it was best not to even try.
“Do you think you could gain access to Newgate’s registry books and see if you can find anything on Rupert Giles?”
“Yes, I certainly can. Might take me a while, but at least I have a year in which to begin looking. Could be worse.” Wesley shrugged nonchalantly, but inside he was jumping up and down excitedly. He’d always loved researching.
“And remember, not a word of this to anyone, least of all to Miss Summers.”
Chapter End Notes:
So, as you see, many of you were at least very close to what Joyce's secret was, but there's a little more to it as Spike imagines. *hint hint* Next chapter will feature the start of Spike's wooing of his bride-to-be. I'm not sure yet if I'll have time to post again this week, but I'll try my best to post before next Tuesday.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what you thought of the chapter, if you’re inclined to tell me, of course. *bats eyelashes* Hope you have a great week! Hugs, Mari
Chapter 10. A Midsummer Night's Dream by dusty273
First of all, I’m very sorry for the delay on posting this chapter and responding to reviews, I will finish with those ASAP I promise. Writer’s block and RL issues kept getting in the way, but I hope you’ll forgive me since I bring you a longer chapter? *bats eyelashes*Some of you have inquired about Angel and when is he going to come back into the picture. I can just say it will be soon, around the time of the wedding date. Well, maybe not too soon, since I still have 3 weeks worth of engagement to go through before that. ;) As always, many thanks to those of you who take the time to review, I just love knowing what you enjoyed (or not) of each chapter. A million thanks (which are never enough) to my lovely Tina, who always knows exactly what to do to help my muse get over her dreaded blocks. Love you, boo! And to Vara, Annie and Deanna for all their valued help with this chapter.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. ~ William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Act i. Sc. 1.
Chapter 10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“So, what’s this business you wanted to talk to me about,” Wes asked sitting on a chair in Spike’s room while he waited for the duke to finish getting ready for their outing to the theatre.
If nothing else, it was very amusing to witness Spike’s ritual of dressing, to see him try to curb his impatience so every minute detail of his attire would appear perfect. Not too easy a task considering how little patience he showed regarding every other aspect of his life.
“Well, I’ve been thinkin’ of startin’ a horse breedin’ business. You know, expand my horizons a little.” Spike shrugged nonchalantly. “But I need a partner who’s just as versed about horses as I am.”
“So, you want me to help you find this partner then?”
“Not exactly. I want you to be my partner.”
Wes froze for an instant, disbelief at what he’d just heard clearly etched in his features before his jaw tightened. He stood up, tugging down at his waistcoat as he walked towards the door. “I don’t need your charity.”
Spike bit the inside of his cheek to keep his rising anger in check. Bloody hell but the man could be stubborn. He should have known he might react like this, though. “It’s a bloody wonder you don’ choke on all that pride, mate.”
“I’ll have you know this is not my pride talking, it’s a matter of self-respect. You of all men should understand—”
“Understand? Understand what? That I made you an offer to be my partner and you’re threw it back at me?” The duke passed a hand over his face, sighing heavily as he tried to hang on to the very fine thread restraining his temper. “How long have we known each other, Wes?
“Twenty years, give or take.” He shrugged.
“Twenty years. And when have I ever treated you like anythin’ other than my own brother? Huh? Because that’s what you’re to me, there’s absolutely no one else I trust as much as I trust you. This isn’t takin’ pity on you or anythin’ of the sort, this is ‘bout business, plain and simple. You know about horses, perhaps even more than I do and we both know tha’s sayin’ a lot. And you have contacts which will be invaluable to actually make this work. There’s no one else I can think of that I would like to embark on this venture with.”
Wesley gaped at Spike. He seemed more than sincere and he wondered if he’d gotten it wrong. Most surely he did, too. The Duke of Aurelius wouldn’t go through all this trouble if he didn’t mean it, that much he was certain of. He was cornered, too. After that speech even Spike’s valet—who usually remained impassive and unobtrusive during their lengthy talks—was looking at Wes as if he were insane for not accepting from the very first moment. And he probably was.
“I don’t have the money needed for this kind of… venture and you know that.”
“Who said anythin’ ‘bout money?”
“Well, to my knowledge you need money to start a business.”
“Not always, my friend, not always. You remember I was visitin’ my country estates for two months until a week ago, don’ you?”
“Yes, how could I forget?”
“Well, what you don’ know is that while I was in Wales I won a lot of prized thoroughbred mares, foals and even two stallions from Lord Carlisle in a Faro game, alon’ with the estate where they’re housed in the Vale of York.”
Wes chuckled, shaking his head amusedly. He should’ve known. Lady Luck always followed Spike no matter where he went. And in this case, he couldn’t pity Lord Carlisle for his loss, the man was a first rate pillock and deserved anything that happened to him. But he also knew he was a first class horse breeder as well, so this was a good thing. It was widely known that some of his mares were direct descendants of Diomed and King Fergus, names which were synonymous with quality and excellence, and any foal they produced was guaranteed to sell very well due precisely to that.
“And if that weren’t enough…” Spike paused, noticing the way Wes’ face lit up with barely disguised excitement. Oh yes, he had him right where he wanted him now. “Most of the mares are already impregnated and some will even start foaling over the next few days, so we can, and should, start our business quite soon.
“This is where you enter, my friend, if you were to accept becoming my partner that is. You know I hardly have time to keep up with my current affairs, much less now that I’ll be marrying soon. So, actually you’ll be doing me a favor by accepting. As I told you before, there’s no one else I could trust with this and you’ll have to agree with me that it would be a pity not to pursue this venture, especially with all the advantages I just mentioned. Of course, you will also be in charge of hiring a trainer and a head stableman and any other staff you consider necessary.”
“There’s the slight problem that I wouldn’t be able to keep being your aide if I accept and I wouldn’t want to leave you alone to handle your other dealings. As you mentioned before, you can hardly keep up with them all as it is.”
“While I admire your loyalty, I much prefer having you as my partner than my secretary. I’m sure we can find someone else, perhaps not as good as you, but good enough to make do while you train him.”
Wesley’s mind traveled at a dizzying speed, weighing the pros and cons of accepting the duke’s offer. The pros clearly outweighing any cons he could come up with. And annoying as he could be, Spike was usually right about these things, if one didn’t count his stubbornness regarding Miss Summers that was. And perhaps, just perhaps, if—when—this business was as successful as his friend predicted, he’d feel worthy of pursuing and hopefully winning the love of Lady Winifred. That, more than anything else, made up his mind for him.
“Alright then, I guess you have a partner, if you’ll have me.” He extended his hand to the duke.
Finally, Spike thought with a big smile in his face, shaking his friend’s hand to seal their deal. And with any luck he’d have a brother-in-law pretty soon as well.
William was rendered speechless at the vision he encountered when he came to pick Buffy up. Not only was she already waiting for him in the foyer, but somehow she was even more breathtaking than she had been just a few hours before.
Her gorgeous green eyes shone brightly and her cheeks were flushed with barely disguised anticipation—a fact he found thoroughly refreshing—and coupled with the pink and silver dress only seemed to enhance the golden hue of her lustrous skin and made her look every inch the goddess she was. He simply couldn’t wait to enter Covent Garden with her on his arm. He would be the envy of every man inside.
Buffy was positively buzzing with excitement. Going to the theatre was one of her dreams come true and she could hardly wait. That was the only reason her heart had skipped a beat and her breath caught in her throat when she saw the Duke of Aurelius, she decided. It had nothing to do with the fact he looked quite dashing tonight or that he kept watching her like she was the most precious of creatures he’d ever laid eyes on, making her feel as if she were an angel fallen from the skies. No, it had nothing at all to do with that.
He took her shawl off the butler’s hands to help her with it himself. His hands shaking slightly as he wrapped it around her, lowering his lips to caress her shoulder blades with them in a kiss so light, so tender he wasn’t certain she felt it until he heard her sharp intake of breath and saw the goose bumps that covered her flesh from his actions.
“Are you feelin’ better, love? Because if not we could always go to the theatre tomorrow,” he asked, basking in the opportunity of being this close to her without her moving away from him like she had in the past.
“Oh n-no, that won’t be n-necessary,” she stammered. She wasn’t sure if he’d actually kissed her or just grazed her skin with his fingers, but his touch had shaken her to her core. How was it possible that he could be so caring, so gentle with her when in reality, he was forcing her into this marriage? And why did it affect her like this, that he treated her like she were made of the finest porcelain? She shook her head to clear it from her muddled thoughts. “I-I feel better already.”
“You sure, sweetheart?” He turned her around to gaze into her eyes. “I wouldn’t want you to overexert yourself.”
His obvious concern for her health warmed her inside. “Of course I am. I’m unsure what that liniment you used is made of, but the pain in my back has lessened exponentially.” And surprisingly, it really had. Willow had tended to her lashes before helping her dress and commented on how much better they looked already. And they felt better too, to the point that even wearing her corset was again tolerable… or at least as much as the damned contraption could be anyway.
“Alright, shall we go then, milady?” He offered his arm to her and she took it with a smile that stole his breath away.
“We shall, kind sir.”
Buffy was so enthralled by her first view of the theatre’s magnificent entrance that she froze on the top step of the carriage trying to commit every detail to memory. It wasn’t until the duke exerted a little pressure on her elbow to aid her down that she snapped out of her stupor. With a bashful smile, she allowed him to lead her towards the portico which was supported by four large Doric columns, reminding her of the drawings she’d seen of the Temple of Minerva in the Athens’ Acropolis.
That wasn’t what impressed her the most, however. What made her gasp with pure awe were the basso-relievos in the spaces between the portico and the projections, depicting characters, poets and writers from both ancient and modern drama, flanked on each side by the statues of Tragedy and Comedy. All the figures were marked by their classical attributes, their dramatic distinctions and they were so well done, so realistic it appeared as if they would come to life at any moment.
Spike reveled in her awe, of her wonderment over every single facet of the theatre. It had been a long time since he was able to share it with someone that didn’t take it for granted.
“Glorious, isn’ it?” William whispered in her ear and she jumped a little at his nearness.
It was difficult for her to breathe, to think or even talk with him so close to her and she didn’t want to contemplate why, so she only nodded.
“And the inside is just as amazin’.”
And it truly was. More than she could’ve ever envisioned.
From the imposing grand staircase gracing the vestibule to the ante-room with porphyry pilasters and a statue of Shakespeare upon a pedestal, to the box-lobby decorated in the same luxurious fashion as the rest of the theatre. It was obvious no expenses were spared for its construction. It was a true work of art and she could scarcely believe she was here walking through the spacious rooms and corridors towards the duke’s private box.
Buffy knew it was real, though, for her dreams could never have imagined in such exquisite detail everything she was seeing… and she had William to thank for that.
The theater’s interior had been constructed in an almost circle-like manner. Designed in a way that no matter where you sat, you were guaranteed a wonderful view of the stage. The panels were grey with wreaths of honeysuckles engraved in gold and the plush seats were of a light blue color, all complemented by the patent lamps and elegant chandeliers.
She barely noticed when William took her shawl off before leading her to the edge of the box and helping her sit, absorbed as she was in observing the stage from their vantage point. It was immense, larger than she could have possibly anticipated. Everything surrounding it, over or under it blended magically together in her mind, turning the theatre into a mystical place where dreams and fantasies came true; where—at least for a little while—she could escape from the hell her life had become in the last few days.
That wasn’t fair though, and she knew it. She’d experienced little to no happiness before or even after moving to London, which had been the reason she’d tried to escape through her books, her art, even… No, no, what she felt for Angel had nothing to do with that… at all. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t be herself with him now, once they were married that would change.
If you ever marry him, which is sounding less and less likely as time goes by, a little voice resounded inside her head. And why is it that you can be yourself with the duke, hateful as you might think he is, and not with the man you want to spend the rest of your life with? Shouldn’t it be the exact opposite?
Buffy frowned, shaking her head to dispel the silly notions—because that was precisely what they were, silly. She only refrained from being herself with Angel on the off chance her mother was actually right about men not liking smart women and that was precisely why she had been herself with the—well not exactly odious man anymore, but while she liked the duke marginally better now, that didn’t mean she wanted to marry him either. And if she kept this up, her night would be ruined by none other than herself. She rolled her eyes inwardly and sighed before setting her eyes again on the stage where the function seemed about to begin. And as it did, she became lost in it, forgetting all about Angel and the duke for the time being.
And she managed just fine to do that for a little while as the play was very entertaining and gorgeously executed… until the sensation of William’s intense stare on her was too difficult to ignore. Oh, she tried to, she really did, but it became increasingly hard not to turn towards him and inquire as to why he was focusing on her instead of the performance like he should be.
Spike had no idea what the program for tonight was about and frankly, he could care less. He was too… preoccupied, gazing admiringly at his fiancée’s profile, the way her nose would scrunch up adorably, how her lips curved in a dreamy smile or a happy grin every once in a while in response to whatever the actors on stage were doing.
He didn’t want to ponder why it was that all of the sudden, making her happy had turned into something as vital to him as breathing. It just was. And as he accepted that fact without question, a decidedly cross looking Buffy suddenly turned on him, her eyes appearing none too happy at all.
“What?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably under her icy glare.
“What?! Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like what, love?” He raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her. This could be fun.
“L-like, like, the way you are looking at me!” she said in a hushed whisper, twisting her head slightly to the left to see if Lady Winifred and Wes were privy of their conversation and exhaling a relieved sigh when she noticed they seemed engrossed in the play.
“You can’ rightly expect me not to, sweetheart. Not with you bein’ the most lovely woman gracin’ the theatre tonight. Any man would be distracted with such beauty as yours.” And probably are, the wankers, he thought, scanning the theater and as he suspected, several patrons were watching them or rather her, Buffy, and not the actors on the stage.
She rolled her eyes at him, even if her heart did a small summersault in her chest at his gallant words. “Well, stop. Please?” she added as an afterthought.
“But I don’ want to,” he pouted and she just about melted at his gesture, an amused smile tugging at her lips. Who would have thought of the great Duke of Aurelius resorting to pouting like a four year old?
“You should smile more often, love.”
“I don’t have many reasons to smile, milord.” She lowered her gaze, blushing at the way his eyes caressed her face. It made her feel, made her feel… God, was it hot in here?
“Well then, we’ll have to find a way to remedy that, won’ we?” he said, putting his index finger under her chin and bringing her eyes up to meet his, before winking at her. “Now go back to watchin’ your play, you’re missin’ out on a great performance.”
Her eyes narrowed at him and she was about to remind him exactly what had interrupted her before when she caught the teasing twinkle in his azure gaze and just shook her head, unable to stop smiling as she turned back to the front again.
He could have commented on that smile, but decided not to, especially when he threw a glance at his sister and she beamed at him. Perhaps he was doing something right for a change.
The interval came all too quickly for Buffy’s liking. She was enjoying herself immensely even if she felt William staring at her at times, but after what he’d said, it hadn’t bothered her nearly as much as before.
Spike and Fred shared an amused look at how predictable their so-called friends were, coming in hordes to greet them and be the first to meet the woman who had managed what some considered an impossible feat, marrying the elusive Duke of Aurelius and on such short notice, too.
Buffy was slightly dizzy from trying to remember all their names and finally managed to escape while sipping on the glass of champagne that’d almost magically appeared in her hand. She breathed in deeply as she found herself in the near deserted corridor, reveling in the blissful solitude when suddenly a brunette woman cornered her.
“I don’t know how you did it, but I can assure you, you won’t take William away from me,” the woman spat venomously at her.
Huh? Was she speaking of her William? No, not mine, she amended quickly. The insane lady could have him for all she cared. “Excuse me, Miss, but I think you are mistaking me for someone else.” Buffy tried to move past the woman, but she clutched at her arm, her long fingernails digging painfully into her flesh.
“There’s no mistake. Before you came into the picture, William was about to announce his marriage to me.”
“Let me go,” Buffy said between clenched teeth, trying to free her arm. Good Lord, like she’d believe the duke would even think of marrying someone like this woman? Sure, it wasn’t like she knew William all that well, but he didn’t seem to be the kind of man to string a girl along and then marry another.
Her patience was thinning and she was this close to causing a scandal that would ensure neither of them married the duke—and wouldn’t that be the solution to all her problems?—when someone coughed to make his presence known to the two of them.
“Is there a problem, Miss Summers?”
Buffy had never been happier to see Mr. Wynham-Pryce in her life, especially since the evil woman immediately let go of her arm. “Well, the… lady won’t let me go back to the box.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem any longer, would it, Miss Addams?” The woman scoffed and turned to leave with an offended huff, but Wesley’s voice stopped her. “Before you go, and just so we’re clear, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The reason His Grace chose to marry Miss Summers is because she’s nothing like you or the vultures you associate with. She’s a lady as she so clearly demonstrated by not stooping to your level, and the next time you cross paths with her, you’d do well to remember your place. And there’s one last thing you should know… if you try to alienate her or spread lies about her, as I know you like to do… Well, let’s just say I’ll be more than happy to ruin you and whatever reputation you still have left.”
“Ha! Like a lesser employee such as yourself can do anything to me. I will tell William about this and he’ll…”
“And he’ll what, Miss Addams?”
Buffy almost laughed aloud at the way the woman paled, her eyes widening in fear when she recognized the voice behind her. Almost, because the duke was quite terrifying when he looked the way he did now, and she didn’t want to bring any attention back on herself. Was this what he’d been like when he’d ‘talked’ to her father before? Because if it was, she definitely didn’t blame him for retreating instead of fighting William.
“I-I,” the woman choked, turning around slowly to face the duke.
“Firs’ of all, I don’ recall ever givin’ you permission to call me by my given name, Miss Addams,” Spike said in a tone of voice full of contempt. He hadn’t witnessed the encounter, mostly just Wes’ intervention but that was more than enough to get the gist of it. And when he’d noticed the nail scores on his fiancée’s arm, all he saw was red. “Did I?”
“No, Your Grace,” she said meekly, lowering her eyes.
Buffy rolled her eyes, as if she needed any more confirmation that the girl’s claims were lies.
“And you should know that Mr. Wyndham-Pryce is not a lesser employee, he’s my friend and my partner in business. But in any case,” he continued without giving her the chance to interject. “If you ever try to harass my fiancée in any way, I will be the one ruining you and your family. You know I have the means to do it and don’t think for a second I wouldn’t.”
His whole demeanor changed as he turned his back on the girl to offer Buffy his arm, which she took in a daze. The transformation in him so swift she wasn’t sure it actually took place.
“The second part of the function is about to start, Miss Summers, shall we?”
Cecily was flabbergasted by the duke’s dismissal; frozen for a few seconds before she remembered where she was and promptly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed what took place. She exhaled a relieved sigh when she noticed the hallway was empty.
It was that wretched Miss Summers fault, of course. No two ways about it. The Duke of Aurelius was a gentleman and she must have somehow extracted a marriage proposal out of him. After all, who knew what practices the American girl indulged in?
She wouldn’t give up this easily, though. She would make sure everyone discovered who Miss Summers was and when they did, well, her loss would be Cecily’s gain.
One way or the other, William would be hers.
Buffy wasn’t sure how she ended up in this position. But inappropriate as it was, there was nothing she could do about it for the moment.
The rest of their evening had been uneventful. The second act just as beautifully put on stage as the first had been and then they’d had supper in a nearby restaurant, where the duke had thoughtfully reserved a private salon.
The problem occurred when, shortly after finishing her meal, Lady Winifred complained of having a terrible migraine and insisted on Mr. Wyndham-Pryce accompanying her back to her house, leaving her alone with William to return home… un-chaperoned.
So now she found herself in a closed carriage on the opposite seat facing William, trying her best not to imagine what might happen if anyone were to see them. And of course, being alone with him in such an enclosed space, feeling those piercing blue depths follow her every movement was almost more than a girl could withstand.
She had every intention of bolting out of the carriage when they made it to her house. But of course, the man wouldn’t have anything of the sort, somehow convincing her to join him on another walk in her garden.
And really, how could she refuse him after the way he’d defended her this evening? Not only from her father, but from that harpy, Miss Addams. She couldn’t in good faith deny his request, could she?
She was surprised to find every lantern on their path lit, which was quite an odd occurrence. She commented on this with William and he just shrugged, while lowering his head in that bashful way she found… strangely endearing.
“Well, I told Lady Joyce I would take care of everythin’ in this house for the time bein’ and this is just part of it.”
Spike was in heaven, or as close to it one could be while still on earth. Buffy was here with him, walking through her garden, of her own free will at that—acting so very differently from the night before. Hell, even from this morning. And while he had promised Fred he would be patient, try not to overwhelm the girl, well, he was only a man. A man that couldn’t let a golden opportunity like this go to waste, now could he?
“I want to thank you for this marvelous night, William. Covent Garden was just as amazing as you said it would be.” Buffy sighed dreamily, sitting on the bench near the fountain.
“’M delighted you enjoyed it, love. It’s one of my favorite places and I just knew you would appreciate it as it should be.”
She smiled teasingly. “Yes, I can imagine, so that’s why you didn’t take your eyes off me during most of the function?”
“Well, sweetheart, you truly couldn’ expect me to concentrate on somethin’ I’ve seen several times when I had you there with me, could you?”
She shook her head at him, trying to look stern but failing admirably. “You’re incorrigible.”
“And proud of it, too.” He puffed his chest out, making her giggle at his smug smirk.
“It’s a pity Lady Winifred was unwell, I trust she’ll be better soon?”
“Oh yes, don’ you worry about her, she’ll be right as rain in no time at all.”
“Really?” That was surprising, when her mother got migraines they usually lasted for days.
“I promise, she wouldn’ miss our picnic tomorrow for anythin’.”
“Hmmm, well, alright, but only if you’re completely sure.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you for what you did today, with my father I mean. Just knowing he’s not here hovering over us, well, it’s more than we ever expected.”
“Well, actually, there’s somethin’ you could do to repay me,” he said cryptically.
She blinked in confusion. “You don’t say… How?”
“With a kiss.”
“A kiss?” Oh no, anything but that. She could still feel the effects from the last one.
“Yes, a kiss, freely given and then we’ll be even.”
“Freely given as in how?”
“Well, simple, you have to initiate it.”
He almost groaned aloud when her teeth bit on her bottom lip as she pondered his suggestion, wishing it was his own doing that. Soon, he promised himself. Soon. One way or the other.
Initiate it? Was he insane? Although perhaps that would give her control over how the kiss would go. He hadn’t said it had to be on the lips, so maybe she could get away with giving it on his cheek? One could hope.
“Ah, well, alright,” she said, already leaning towards him to kiss his cheek.
The one thing she hadn’t taken into consideration was that William had anticipated her movement and turned ever so slightly so her lips would land on his instead. He swallowed her outraged gasp when his tongue plundered her mouth, his hands capturing hers when they came to pound at her chest.
Anger coursed through her veins as she fought against him. This was her own fault, she allowed herself to forget he was the man who was forcing her to marry him, who’d imposed himself on her the day before and this was the result of that.
Slowly but surely her anger gave way to another sensation, just as powerful, just as overwhelming and when she least expected it, she found herself responding to his kisses passionately. Becoming intoxicated from his flavor, his scent.
He brought her hands to his shoulders where they crept around his neck of their own volition, coasting his down her back to circle her waist to pull her into his lap.
Her lungs felt like they were on fire and yet she couldn’t bring herself to stop. And just when she thought she would faint, his mouth left hers to travel a moist path down her jaw, her throat, nibbling at her pulse point while she panted, melting in his arms in a way that later would surely shame her, but for now felt… right.
His lips returned to hers and he was elated when instead of retreating, of fighting him again, she submitted, her tongue entangling with his in a heated dance.
He pulled away from her slightly after a few moments, reveling in the way she whimpered at the loss of his lips, waiting until she opened slightly dazed eyes to poise them on his.
“See how good we are together, love? And it will only get better if you… All I ask is that you give me the chance to win your heart.”
Chapter End Notes:
Now do you want to know how will Buffy respond to that? *evil grin*
And sorry for the small cliffhanger but I simply couldn’t resist.
I’d love to know what you thought of the chapter if you’re inclined to tell me and I know I said at the beginning of this story that it would be around 12 chapters long, but it seems I’m truly unable to write a short story. *sighs* Hope you don’t mind too much?
Have a great week!
Chapter 11. All's Fair in Love and War by dusty273
I’m very sorry for the delay in posting, lots of things going on in RL and keeping me otherwise occupied and when I have time to write, muse refuses to cooperate. *sighs* However, since the lovely dampersandspoons requested an update so nicely, well, here it is. Hope you enjoy!
Against All Odds was nominated for Best Romance, Best Angst and Best WIP at Round 5 of the Spark & Burn Awards! Thank you very much to whoever nominated this story. *hugs*
And as always, thank you very much to all of you who read and review. You wouldn’t believe how happy it makes me to know you’re enjoying this story.
Mil gracias to my wonderful friend, OkDeanna, for stepping in and betaing this chapter for me, and not only that, but also providing me with very helpful suggestions while writing the chapter. Love you, sweetie! And thank you to Vara for all her help and pre-reading the chapters for me to make sure I keep in line with Regency customs and keep the story as accurately historic as it can possibly be. *snuggles*
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. ~ Robert Frost
Chapter 11. All’s Fair in Love and War
“Don’t think I didn’t notice what you and William did,” Wes said completely out of the blue, startling her out of her musings.
Fred furrowed her brow and tilted her head to the side as she regarded him, completely puzzled by his comment. “Huh? What on earth are you talking about, Wesley?”
“I’m talking about the two town carriages oh so conveniently waiting for us outside the hotel. I’m talking about you faking a migraine to leave Miss Summers and William alone.”
“Is that so, and what makes you so certain I’m faking a migraine, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?” She raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow at him in a manner so reminiscent of her brother it would’ve been scary if he hadn’t seen it before tonight.
“Well, you don’t look particularly—”
“Particularly what… ill?” she interrupted him. “I’ll have you know I’ve been suffering headaches for a long time and gotten quite proficient at not showing any discomfort. And about the two carriages? Not that I owe you an explanation, or anything for that matter, but William noticed I was feeling poorly during the intermission and was kind enough to send a footman to the house so they would have the other carriage waiting for me after supper, since I didn’t want to ruin our outing.”
She turned her head away from him without waiting for his answer, looking outside the carriage while sighing miserably, bringing her hands up to massage her temples which had begun to pound with a vengeance. However true—or not—his allegations were, the headache she’d claimed having was very real, and turning worse by the second.
Good Lord, why did Wes have to be such a difficult man? Couldn’t he be gallant enough to at least give her the benefit of the doubt before throwing his accusations to her face? It wasn’t like she’d ever given him motives for those.
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye to gauge his reaction to her words and immediately wished she hadn’t. Aside from his obvious perplexity over her explanation, his face was devoid of any other emotion. And his lack of response to being alone in the carriage with her hurt her deeply; humiliation washing over her in brittle waves of disappointment.
Wes observed her intently, mulling over her reply, more than a little confused at her disenchanted expression as she looked outside the window of the carriage. Could it be that he’d been wrong all along? Most probably, it wasn’t like he hadn’t been mistaken several times just today. And it seemed that wasn’t all he’d been wrong about, he mused as he saw her rub her forehead, guilt consuming him at the thought of having worsen her condition. “Lady Winifred, I…”
“Please, Wesley. I don’t want to hear another word. I think you’ve said enough for tonight.” She gave thanks to whoever was listening when the carriage stopped in front of the Aurelius townhouse just as she was saying the last words and practically jumped out of the coach, hastily climbing towards the front door, which opened just as she reached the top step.
Wesley stayed inside the carriage for a few seconds, stunned by Lady Winifred’s words, by the pain he’d seen in her eyes—the pain he’d caused her, at least in part—just before she bolted. He had to apologize to her, make amends. Do whatever was needed to put a smile on her lovely face again, and the sooner he did that, the better.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
“See how good we can be, love? And it could be better, if you only give me the chance to win your heart.”
Buffy looked at William dazedly, blinking as her mind tried to wrap around his words. For a second as she lost herself in the intense sapphire depths of his irises, she almost said yes, that she’d give him anything he asked of her; before she remembered that she didn’t want to marry him, that he was forcing this on her.
She shook her head, opening her mouth to tell him exactly what he could do with his offer while trying to climb down from his lap—and how exactly had she gotten there?—when his arms banded around her torso, pinning her in place.
He wasn’t about to give her the chance to tell him no, to crush his hopes with her refusal. He… wanted her too much to allow that. Wanted her more than he’d ever wanted anyone else in his life. And was willing to do just about anything to convince her how perfect they were for each other, too. All’s fair in love and war, after all. And he would have her love at the end of this war; he was certain of it. She already responded so beautifully to his advances. He just had to make her see, make her realize…
Without giving himself time to think about it, he seized her mouth with his, swallowing her rejection, her every objection, his sole intention to turn them all into sweet surrender instead.
His fingers threaded through her silky hair, taking out the pins holding it up and throwing them haphazardly to the ground, her glorious mane tumbling into his waiting hands at the same time his tongue caressed her lips, once, twice, silently pleading her to part them for him, to let him in.
William did strange things to her, to her body; things which equally scared and thrilled her. Whenever he kissed her, touched her like he was doing right now, she felt her control slipping through her fingers. She’d never felt anything like this, never felt the need to give in to someone—to him—and do whatever he asked of her.
She could barely think when he was this close to her, the sensations coursing through her body too new, too all-encompassing. She tried to fight against it, against this, though. Tried to protest when he started to undo her hair, fight the shivers trailing up and down her spine when he slid his hands into it, pulling her closer to him, the tip of his tongue teasing the seam of her lips. She tried… and failed; her treacherous mouth opening under his with a tremulous sigh.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Fred was seething as she paced the length of the drawing room, her migraine only adding to her anger. Insufferable, unbearable man! She was going through all this just so they could be together. She knew he loved her, had known for years even if he’d never had the courage to tell her. And she’d all but told him she corresponded to his feelings. However, his pride ran deeper than his love for her and that wouldn’t do.
She wanted, needed, desired to be his in every way possible, but she also wanted to come first for him. To know that nothing else mattered to him. Not her social status, not her money, nothing at all.
Was that too much to ask for?
Wes observed her from the room’s entrance, completely enthralled by how beautiful she looked even as obviously enraged as she was right now. She was truly magnificent.
“What do you think you are doing here?”
“I-I…” he stammered, startled out of his reverie by her cutting words, before clearing his suddenly dry throat. “I j-just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“I don’t need your pity, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce,” she said haughtily, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling with ire.
He was surprised by her tone, she’d never spoken to him like that before and he’d be damned if it didn’t smart more than he had thought it would, even if he was well aware he deserved her contempt.
“It’s not pity, Lady Winifred. It is concern,” he replied softly, taking a step towards her.
“You don’t need to be concerned about me.”
“I can’t stop worrying over your well being, I-I… care too much about you not to.” Her heart skipped a beat at his admission, hope flaring inside her chest, before his next words nipped it at the bud, “You and William are the only family I have.”
For a second she’d thought he would say something else, which, to be honest, was only wishful thinking on her part. He’d never given her any indication he thought differently of her, had he? No matter what William or she thought his real feelings were, he’d never admit to them.
And therein lay the problem.
She sighed disconsolately. Why did she think this plan of theirs would be a good idea? It was torture, plain and simple, and she couldn’t stay here with him any longer. She only wished William wasn’t having as much trouble with Miss Elizabeth as she was with Wesley.
“Where are you going?” he asked her when instead of answering him, she went around him and neared the door.
“Not that I have to answer that, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, but if you really need to know, I’m heading upstairs to my chambers.” With a curt nod, she tried to leave the room, but he grabbed her arm before she could cross through the door.
“But… I thought we were talking.”
Knowing if she had to stay and listen to him telling her how much he cared for her because she was his ‘family’ one more time, she’d either end up yelling at him or crying her eyes out—and neither of those were an option she wanted to contemplate, let alone go through—she took a deep breath, freeing her arm from his grasp and glaring icily at him before replying, “And now we’re done. Good night, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce.”
And for the second time that night she left him hanging there, just watching her as she walked away from him. It hadn’t escaped his notice that she hadn’t called him by his given name, and that meant she was still angry with him.
As if her icy demeanor hadn’t clued him into that.
He’d done something to earn her wrath. What, he wasn’t sure of, but he would do anything to make things right with her again. Anything.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Spike groaned at the first tentative touch of her tongue against his, his manhood stirring inside his breeches as her soft hands coasted up his chest to circle his neck. He cupped her jaw then, tilting his head to plunder her mouth at another angle, deeper, more passionately, reveling in every little throaty moan, in every breathy sigh his actions elicited.
With difficulty and before he got too carried away, he pulled away from the temptation of her lips, both of his hands cradling her face and holding her just a hairsbreadth away from his mouth, his fingers caressing her cheeks as he gazed adoringly at her. He waited until she opened her emerald green eyes and focused them on his, before whispering fervently, “Say yes; say you’ll give me a chance, love.”
“I-I, oh God.” She closed her eyes, unable to hold his intense stare, swallowing past the lump in her throat as she tried to clear her head. How could he expect her to answer when he was so close to her, when she could barely remember what it was he’d asked of her?
“Say yes, my sweet Buffy,” William pressed, his lips brushing against hers softly.
“I… y-yes, yes,” she replied breathlessly, uncaring of what she was agreeing to as long as he kept on kissing her.
Her quivering answer resounded in his head, in his heart, in his whole body as he drank in her sweet acquiescence, getting drunk on it, in her taste. His kisses turned ravenous, his caresses more ardent as he lost himself in her.
Buffy’s heart fluttered erratically inside her chest, her blood burning a fiery path through her body, every place where he touched her tingling in the most delicious way.
A moan rasped her throat when his mouth began kissing a scorching path down her throat; the sound so foreign, so unlike anything she’d ever heard before coming from her, that it sobered her completely as the reality of what they were doing— what she’d allowed to happen—came crashing down on her.
This wasn’t right, no matter how good it felt. She had to stop it, them… now.
Pushing him away with all her might, she untangled herself from the strong grip he had on her, climbing down from his lap as if burned and putting some distance between them.
She brought her fingers up to touch her swollen mouth, still feeling the imprint of his there, branding her, smoldering her, making her long for something she’d never longed for before. Her eyes were wide with fear as she set them on his, all the while trying to make sense of the way she’d behaved, how this had happened, why she couldn’t say no to him.
William opened his mouth to speak, slowly standing up from the bench and she knew she couldn’t listen to him, nor stay there a second longer, if he touched or kissed her again, she might do something she’d regret later, something she’d surely regret later. She took a step back, then two, before turning around and running back to the house.
For a few seconds, Spike was too taken aback by her hasty escape to do anything but stay rooted to the spot while his eyes followed her until she disappeared into the house. His mind a jumbled mess of thoughts, the predominant one being that she said yes.
She said yes! True, he didn’t exactly give her a choice in the matter, but still… she agreed to give him a chance to win her and had returned his kisses sweetly, passionately. However badly this had started and yes, he knew that was his fault alone, now he had high hopes she would eventually come around and perhaps some day soon care about him as much as he cared for her.
He just had to be patient, or as patient as he could be when around her.
He’d seen the fear swirling in the emerald depths and was aware he had to take things slower than he had so far, which was easier said than done. Especially since fear had not been the only emotion present in her lovely eyes, there had been something else, something that ran deeper and made his blood boil in his veins.
It was there for him to see, to feel, to savor in her shy yet ardent responses to his passion. A small fire that grew with each caress, each kiss they shared. A fire he vowed to tend to, make it blaze into a raging inferno that would end up consuming them both in its flames.
Soon, very soon.
Chapter End Notes:
Yes, I’m very aware it was a very short chapter, sorry for that, I’ll try to make the next one longer. Try being the keyword here, since muse has been quite difficult lately.
As most of you know, my darling sister IBE is going through some rough times right now, so I beg you to keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.
Hope you all have a lovely week!
Chapter 12. Trials and Tribulations by dusty273
Many thanks to all of you who keep on reading and reviewing, you truly make my days brighter with your very kind words. A special thank you to Carrie (darkrivertempest) for reading and reviewing every single chapter yesterday and for pre-reading chapter 12 today and given me some very good input and suggestions.
A million thanks to my lovely IBE for taking the time from her busy schedule to edit this chapter for me; I’ve missed you more than words can say, sweetie! Love you tons, amor! And to Vara, as always, for pre-betaing the chapter, she didn’t see the last part though, so if there are any historical inaccuracies there, I beg your leniency and I promise to correct as soon as I can. And to OkDeanna for reading the first part of the chapter and assuring me it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it was.
A little note, it recently came to my attention there’s a similar use for brunet and brunette as there is for blond/blonde: “Terms that came into English from French to designate hair color, such as the pairs blonde/blond and brunette/brunet, are sometimes treated in English as in French: the gender-marked form of the adjective or noun, ending in -e or -te, is used when referring to a female, and the non-gender-marked form is used when referring to a male.” (The American Heritage Book of English Usage.) I make this note in case you think I’m misspelling when I start using brunet. ;)
Covetousness like jealousy, when it has taken root, never leaves a person, but with their life. Cowardice is the dread of what will happen. ~ Epictetus
Chapter 12. Trials and Tribulations
Buffy was completely out of breath when she entered her bedroom, her heart galloping madly inside her chest as she reclined on the door. Which was no surprise, really, since she’d ran all the way from the garden until reaching her chambers as if the hellhounds were after her intent on hunting and bringing her back to the devil’s lair with them.
And perhaps it would be better if they were the ones hunting her and not William. Because that’s exactly how she felt right now, like she was being hunted by him. And the worst part was the rather disturbing realization that as long as he kept kissing her like he had just a moment ago, she truly didn’t mind being captured by him.
How could that be? What did that make her? She’d been so certain she was in love with Angel, and yet… could she really be when she responded like that to the Duke of Aurelius if that were still true?
She shook her head, trying to dispel the silly notions. Of course she loved Angel. Her behavior tonight was nothing more than… than a by-product of the duke’s timely intervention with her father and the awful Miss Addams, of the way he’d behaved all day with her and her mother, of the attention he’d lavished upon her at the theatre. The moon, the champagne, the play, his insistence, everything had conspired to lower her defenses and make her act like she had.
Yes, that was it, nothing more than that, she rationalized. Tomorrow would be another day and she’d be back to… well, perhaps hating was too strong a word considering all the duke had done for her and her mother; however, going back to not exactly liking the man who was forcing her to marry him, forcing these feelings out of her against her will, making her doubt herself and her love for Angel worked quite well for her.
Her newfound resolution came crumbling down around her though, when she walked towards the washstand in the left corner of her room and focused on the image reflected in the small mirror on top of it.
Was that truly her?
She brought one hand up to trace her fingertips over her features, trying to reconcile the view which usually greeted her with this… sultry-looking stranger she found now.
Her pupils were dilated and her irises gleamed around them like emeralds, the contrast between the two so startling it made her eyes appear larger and brighter than usual. Her hair appeared somewhat shinier as well as it framed her face in wild disarray, the light blonde and red streaks reflecting the candlelight and making them stand out against the darker shade blonde of the rest of her hair. Her cheeks were flushed and slightly hot to the touch. Her lips looked fuller, smoother and she couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through her when she caressed them, recalling how William had cradled her face in his hands before claiming her mouth in a kiss that stole her breath as well as her senses.
Oh God, no, no, NO. This wouldn’t do, this wouldn’t do at all.
She grabbed the water jug, her hands shaking as she filled the basin almost to the brim, washing her face briskly while she tried to cleanse away his kisses, his touch, every memory of him that kept creeping into her thoughts against her better judgment.
Not that it did her much good or any at all. No matter how raw she scrubbed her flesh, his passion was too deeply imprinted beneath her skin to disappear just like that.
She sighed in defeat, her shoulders hunching forward as she gripped the sides of the basin, while trying in vain to come to terms with all she was feeling or, more accurately, trying to repress and hoping it would go away on its own. After all, this could all very well be a nightmare and when she woke up tomorrow morning everything she had lived the past three days would be nothing more than a very bad memory. One could hope at least.
There was a knock on the door just then and she started, taking a step back from the washstand; her hand flying to her chest as if to stop her heart from escaping at the mere thought of who the person on the other side of the door could be. Although, it couldn’t be… he wouldn’t dare, now would he?
“W-who i-is it?” she asked, her voice quivering under the force of her jumbled emotions.
“It’s Sarah, Miss Elizabeth.”
Buffy sagged with relief when she heard that, bidding the maid entrance to her room; truly grateful it wasn’t William or even Willow, because as much as she loved her friend, the last thing she needed right now was to listen to her friend sing her praises of the Duke of Aurelius when she was trying to forget about him.
It wasn’t long before she was ready for bed. Sarah made quick work of her dress and corset, helping her into her nightgown and brushing all the tangles from her hair, all the while remaining blissfully quiet.
Once alone, though, she wished the maid were still there to distract her from her rebellious thoughts. She tossed and turned in her bed for a long time, unable to escape the feelings still coursing through her body, until she fell in a fitful sleep filled with haunting images of a blond man with piercing blue eyes who kept invading her dreams.
“Were you waitin’ for me, Wes?” Spike asked as soon as he entered his study, frowning at the disconcerted look on his friend’s face. “Is somethin’ amiss? Is Fred alright?”
“Yes, I mean… no… to tell you the truth I-I don’t rightly know anymore.” The dark haired man sighed heavily throwing his hands up in the air before he stood up and began pacing the length of the room. “I-I think I may have said something to anger Lady Winifred and now she… she won’t talk to me.”
Spike blinked. Fred angry at Wes? And not only that, but angry enough not to talk to him? Tha’s a first. His sister had always had a soft spot for his new business partner. What could he have done to her that warranted that reaction?
He raised his scarred eyebrow inquiringly at his friend. “Angry? What exactly did you say to her?”
“Nothing.” He sighed again at the duke’s pointed look. “Well, I might have insinuated you two had planned that she faked a headache to leave you and Miss Summers alone.”
“I see,” Spike said, a scowl marring his features.
No wonder Fred was furious. They’d provided Wes with a perfect chance to profess his feelings to her and what had he done? Ruined it, of course, prideful, dense git that he was.
“No, you don’t see. I hadn’t realized she was truly sick or that you had sent for another carriage during the intermission and now she thinks who knows what about me,” he sulked. “And if that wasn’t enough, it was even worse after I told her I cared about her, because you two are my only family.”
Spike shook his head disbelievingly, dense? Nah, thickheaded, obtuse, insensitive prick was more like it. How could he not see, not realize how much his words must have hurt Fred?
He took a deep breath, his nostrils flaring, his hands clenching and unclenching as he tried to hold on to his temper. He knew it wasn’t his place to say anything, though, no matter how much he wished he could knock some sense into Wes right now. His sister would never forgive him if he meddled in her affairs.
Still, even if she didn’t forgive him, he had to intervene. It was expected of him. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce was too headstrong for his own good and at this rate his darling sister would be an old maid before the damned man actually made a move.
He neared the small table to the right of his desk and served two tumblers of whisky from the decanter, offering one to Wes then motioning for him to sit.
He sat directly in front of the brunet man, staring intently at him, waiting until the older man took a hearty swig of his drink before asking him point blank, “What exactly are your feelin’s for my sister, mate?”
Wes, who’d been at mid-swallow then, sputtered out the whisky he still had in his mouth, the rest of it burning his throat then his lungs where it ended, making him cough as he tried to gather his bearings, completely taken aback by the unexpected question.
Spike smirked evilly, enjoying the effect his query had on his friend. Perfect timin’ that. Oh yes, he still had it.
“I-I… I d-don’t know w-what you mean,” Wesley stammered, patting his chest to try and ease some of his discomfort. Still coughing, he took his handkerchief out of his coat’s pocket to dry his mouth and hands, winning himself some time while trying to understand why the duke had asked him precisely that.
Spike couldn’t know, now could he? There was no way anyone knew when he’d never said a word, was there?
“It’s a simple ‘nough question, wouldn’ you say?” Spike shrugged nonchalantly, putting his tumbler on the table in front of him before reclining in his chair. He pulled his ornate snuff box out of his pocket, took a pinch of tobacco between his thumb and index fingers and then brought it to his nostrils to inhale deeply.
Whoever saw the Duke of Aurelius now might think he was the very picture of calm and repose.
Whoever thought that would be very wrong, though.
He was anything but calm. He was alert, on edge, shrewdly observing every outward sign of nervousness Wes exhibited. Waiting as he lulled his friend into a sense of false security, biding his time to pounce on him when he least expected it.
“Right. Simple.” Wesley was cornered and he knew it. Then again, perhaps he could give Spike the same response he gave Lady Winifred. It was the truth anyway, even if his feelings for the chestnut haired beauty ran a great deal deeper than those he had for any member of his family. “Well, I told you, you and Lady Winifred are my only family.”
“So… you sayin’ she’s like a sister to you?”
“Y-yes, ex-exactly that.”
The blond man smiled inwardly. The answer might have been a mite more convincing if Wes’ voice had been less shaky or if he’d somehow managed to suppress the blush that covered his face and ears.
“W-why,” he croaked, pausing to clear his throat, before continuing in a more confident tone, “Why do you want to know?”
“Nothin’ in particular, my friend.” Spike shrugged. “Or, well…”
“Well, what?” Wes was truly intrigued now; the duke wasn’t a man who spoke in circles… at least not with him. He was always straightforward when it came to his thoughts and resolute at that.
“Do you remember my friend Alasdair Chandler, the Earl of Harlich?”
“Yes,” Wesley gritted through clenched teeth, trying not to show any outward sign of how much he disliked the man.
Of course his dislike had a lot to do with the fact the Earl was tall, dark, handsome, titled and almost as wealthy as the Duke of Aurelius, and had been one of the men vying for Lady Winifred’s attentions when she came out during her first season. Needless to say, Wes couldn’t stand him.
But of course his opinion didn’t count when it came to a childhood friend of both the duke and his sister, now did it?
He frowned. What did this have to do with Spike asking him about his feelings for Lady Winifred? Unless… no, Spike couldn’t possibly be thinking of marrying Lady Winifred to the Earl, could he?
“I saw him while I was in Wales and we thought this might be a perfect time for him and Fred to meet again. After all, it’s been years since she became a widow and I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life alone.” Spike had to bite back a smirk when he noticed how disturbed Wes seemed by the prospect, if his fidgeting body language was anything to go by, and decided rubbing a little salt in the wound wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it might even help matters more. “Naturally if you’d been interested in her, I would’ve preferred you as my brother-in–law and given you both my blessin’, but… since you assured me you only think of her as a sister, then he’s the next best choice and ’m quite certain Fred will agree with me. She’s always had a soft spot for him. So, what do you think, my friend?”
Jealousy flared inside Wesley, his fingers tightening around the glass he still held in his hand until his knuckles turn white, so much so that the tumbler broke under the pressure, a few shards embedding themselves into his palm.
Spike almost pitied the poor sod then, he was the image of misery as he nursed his injured hand. Almost. If it weren’t that he’d brought it upon himself, he might have felt a little less inclined to laugh at his friend’s predicament. As it was, it was only by sheer force of will he managed not to and appear somewhat concerned instead.
“Chris’, mate, you alright?” Spike shook his head in fake disbelief while handing Wes his own handkerchief and then pulling on the bell cord to call for a footman. “It seems they don’ make glass as resistant as they used to, do they?”
“I-I… I don’t know what happened,” Wes said flustered, his pallor a sickly grey at seeing the blood on his hand.
“Sure you don’, pal.” The duke patted him on the arm condescendingly, standing up as soon as he heard the soft knock on the door. “Come in,” he called, barely sparing the footman a sideways glance. “Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had a little mishap and is in need of medical aid; fetch Mr. Jenkins and tell him he’s to stay with him until you come back with Doctor Matthews,” he ordered before serving another tumbler of whisky to his friend and then advancing towards the door.
“Wh-where are you going?” Wes asked puzzled, he hadn’t expected Spike to leave him alone.
“Well, I don’ see how ’m needed here. Mr. Jenkins will take good care of you until the good doctor comes.” At Wes’ frown, he clarified, “I have to check on my sister, ’m sure you understand, don’ you?”
Without waiting for an answer the blond man left the room, leaving Wes to wonder where a night which had started so nicely had taken such a turn for the worst.
“What took you so long?” Fred asked Spike as soon as he entered her quarters.
“Sorry, pet, didn’ mean to keep you waitin’.” He neared her, kissing her cheek, before sitting right by her side on the sofa. “But I had a very interestin’ conversation with our good friend Wesley downstairs. He was awfully confused over your behavior, you know?” He cocked an eyebrow at her, smirking when her cheeks turned crimson and her eyes shone with renewed anger. “And then he had a little accident with a glass.”
“He did?” She tried to appear disinterested, but she knew she wouldn’t fool William.
“Yes, it seems the news of the Earl of Harlich’s arrival didn’t sit all that well with him,” he said with a sneer.
“Alasdair is coming to London?” Fred questioned, excited at the prospect of seeing their dear friend again, momentarily forgetting about Wesley’s plight - which after what he did, was nothing more than divine justice in her opinion.
“Oh yes, he’ll be arriving at the end of the week and will stay for the rest of the season.”
“That’s wonderful news! Where will he stay? Is he coming alone?”
I hope you still consider it wonderful news after I tell you what I did, sis, he thought. “Ahem, well, he’ll stay here of course and yes, he’s coming alone. But that’s not all.”
“It’s not?” Now she was curious and why did William looked so nervous all of the sudden?
“I might have, inadvertently of course, told Wes he was coming back for you.”
“For me?” Fred blinked, unsure what William meant by that.
“Yes,” he responded.
“Why do you think?” He raised an eyebrow at her.
“If I had an inkling of what you’re talking about I wouldn’t be asking, now would I?” she pouted, crossing her arms beneath her breasts.
“Alright, alright. I implied he had the intention of… well, courting you,” he said the last words in a rush, shrugging sheepishly while waiting for his sister’s explosion.
“I know I didn’t just hear you saying Alasdair’s coming here to court me, did I?”
“No, you heard me say I told Wes he’s comin’ here to court you. There’s a difference, you see?”
“I’m starting to. And that’s what caused the accident?” Her brother waas a genius when it came to manipulating things, she should have remembered that.
“Interesting. He said he only saw me as family, you know?” she said, sadness dripping in her voice.
“Yes, the dimwitted sod told me that as well. Right before I told him I would’ve preferred him to be my brother-in-law but would have to settle for second best, since I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life alone.” He brought his hand up to caress her cheek. “And I really don’t, sweetheart. You deserve to have some happiness in your life.”
"And you do, too. So, dear brother, now tell me how the rest of your evening went with Miss Elizabeth..."
Chapter End Notes:
So, like, dislike? Want to know what will happen next when Wes and Buffy are faced with Fred and Spike? *giggles*
Next in line to write is chapter 3 of Into the Night, so I beg you to have a little patience while I try to juggle all my WIPs. I promise I’ll do my best to get better with the updates.
Have a wonderful rest of the week!
Chapter 13. Bitter Sweetness by dusty273
AAO won a lovely Runner Up banner for the Whole Lotta History Award at Round 1 in the Cradle of Humanity Awards! And I have all of you who voted for this story to thank that for. *squishes all of you*
I know I promised an update of Into the Night and that it’s been a while since I updated AAO, too, but the last few weeks I’ve been struggling with words and a very reticent muse and boy if it didn’t frustrate the hell out of me. *sighs* So I beg your patience and your understanding for the time being.
As always, many thanks to those of you who read and review, I promise I’ll finish answering to them as soon as I can. Un millón de gracias to IBE and OkDeanna for editing this chapter for me and to Vara for saving me from making atrocious historical mistakes.
This chapter is dedicated to my lovely friends Tina, Deanna, Carrie, Sotia, Vara, Beth, Annie and Lauriel, who in one way or the other were there for me through the ‘week from hell’. Thank you for your kind words, your encouragement and for not letting me quit when my frustration escalated to monstrous proportions. *snuggles*
Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration. ~ D. H. Lawrence
Chapter 13. Bitter Sweetness
Two days later, in the morning room
A couple of days went by without the duke visiting Buffy, and while a part of her was relieved, especially after their last encounter—because how on earth could she behave so inappropriately and ever face him again?—deep within she had to admit she’d grown accustomed to having him around and even if it pained her to think it, she’d sort of missed him.
Not that the fact he hadn’t visited her meant she’d been able to keep him out of her thoughts. How could she when he’d sent her flowers three times a day and not only that, but her favorite books—Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Shakespeare’s works and Calderón de la Barca’s La Vida es Sueño—as well?
Her fingers lightly touched the delicate letters carved on the cover of one of the leather-bound tomes; the thoughtfulness of his gifts warming her heart in ways she didn’t care to analyze for the time being.
Neither did she care to examine the reason why she was having so much trouble remembering Angel’s face. William’s bluer than blue eyes and handsome features haunted her dreams, her every waking thought. The sensations his lips and hands elicited inside her were still deeply imprinted in her mind, on her body.
She sighed, leaning back against the chair in front of her desk where she’d been trying to write a thank you letter for the duke. She closed her eyes as her index finger came up of its own volition to trace her lips, recalling how his mouth had felt as it moved over hers, tasting, savoring, devouring her.
Spike silently entered the morning room through the garden, having found Willow at the front door when he came to call upon his fiancée and she’d let him know Miss Summers was alone in there.
He knew he had no business sneaking into her house this way, but he couldn’t resist the chance to catch Miss Buffy completely unawares. He was conscious of the fact that since they were engaged he was allowed to be alone with her to an extent, but there was a certain appeal to doing things like this. Not to mention he couldn’t wait any longer to see her again and this way would be a lot faster.
Staying away these past two days had been hell on earth for him. However, he’d promised Fred he would give the lovely Miss Summers some time to come to terms with whatever was happening between them and she assured him that absence made the heart grow fonder. Which was exactly what he was hoping for; because he was most certainly aching to see her again.
He observed her from just outside the French doors, waiting for the right moment to make his presence known, watching the way she reverently touched one of the books he’d sent her right before she closed her eyes and reclined her head against the chair.
She looked every inch the goddess he knew she was with the sun casting its soft light over her small frame. She glowed, her dark blond hair tumbling down her back, pinned away of her beautiful face to allow him to bask in her radiance, in her beauty. His eyes were riveted to the movement of her slender finger as it slid across her lips, over and over, back and forth, wishing it was his finger, his tongue caressing her there instead. He was bewitched, completely spellbound, unable to move for a full minute… until he heard her whisper his name.
After hearing that, he couldn’t stay away any longer.
Wesley tried to talk to Lady Winifred several times after the night they went to the theatre, but to no avail. She was ignoring him on purpose. As soon as he entered a room she would get up and leave, refused to acknowledge him when he greeted her, barely even looked at him and he simply couldn’t stand it any longer.
He had to explain, make her see he hadn’t meant to offend her by verbalizing his suspicions and then beg her forgiveness for ever doubting her. If she ever gave him the opportunity to do so, that is.
Since Spike had left for the day, he’d taken his chances by waiting for her in the drawing room, had been there most of the morning and would remain all day if necessary until she made an appearance.
His breath caught up in his throat when she finally entered the room just as he was serving himself a whisky to settle his nerves, uncaring it wasn’t quite noon yet. His heart plummeting to the pit of his stomach, however, at the scathing glare she threw his way.
Fred had done her best not to pay any attention to Wesley and so far, it’d worked quite well. William did his part by keeping his new business partner busy and out of her way for the most part, but it seemed lady luck had abandoned her today when she found him sitting in the drawing room, no doubt waiting for her.
She groaned inwardly when she saw him there and just about turned on her heel to leave, but the pleading tone she heard in his voice when he spoke stopped her.
“Lady Winifred, please don’t go,” he rushed to say, relieved when she paused. “I-I wanted to talk to you.”
“Wanted or want, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce? Because, as you well know, I don’t have time for games,” she said icily.
“W-want, o-of course.” He repressed a shiver of fear that he might not be able to convince her to forgive him. She could be extremely intimidating when she wanted, much like her brother.
“So… what do you want to talk to me about then?”
“I-I…” He cleared his throat before continuing, “I need to beg your forgiveness for ever doubting you, Lady Winifred.” He gave her a shy smile, hoping that would be enough to get back on her good graces again.
“I see, and what was it that made you change your mind about that if I may inquire, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?”
“Wes,” he interjected.
“What?” She raised her eyebrow at him in question.
“Call me Wes or Wesley like you always have, please?” He didn’t care if he sounded like a downright ponce by asking her to call him by his given name. He only wanted, needed Lady Winifred to act the same way with him as she’d always had.
She sighed, torn between the need to forgive him and slap some sense into him. Couldn’t he see how much she cared for him? That knowing he didn’t care enough for her, that his pride was more important to him than loving her freely was slowly killing her inside? “Look, you can’t say what you said to me and then ask for forgiveness and expect it to all go away. I’m sorry, but I…”
“Is this a private party, or can an old friend interrupt?”
Spike neared Buffy as silently as he could, trying not to alert her to his presence until it was time, waiting until she lowered her hand from her face to deposit the softest of kisses on her lips.
Startled by the suddenness of the caress, Buffy opened her eyes and instantly blushed when she found the object of her latest daydream right there in front of her. He was staring at her in a way that could only be described as adoring, and which only served to deepen the blush she was certain stained her cheeks.
“Wi-William?” she asked, trying to get up from the chair, but unable when he kneeled by her side, took one of her hands in his and brought it to his lips.
“Good mornin’, my love.”
“I-I… g-good m-morning,” she stuttered, lowering her face shyly to hide it from his piercing gaze for all the good it did her since he placed a finger under her chin to level it with his. He smiled at her then, softly, sweetly and she couldn’t stop the timid grin that tugged at the corner of her lips.
“You don’ need to hide from me, sweetheart. I thought we’d reached an understanding the last time we saw each other, didn’ we?”
Understanding? She thought back to their last encounter, her cheeks suffusing with heat as she recalled the wanton way she’d behaved, trying again to hide from him.
“Ah-ah-ah, none of that. You promised you’d let me win your heart, don’ you remember?”
Like she could forget anything that happened that night? She’d only been replaying it in her mind over and over and over for the last two days. And the worst part was that she was afraid he’d somehow bewitched her. Because whenever he was with her—and even when he wasn’t—all she wanted to do was give in to the feelings he incited in her.
She could have said she didn’t recall promising anything, but she didn’t want to lie to him, not when he was looking at her like he was now. So she nodded, raising a trembling hand up to caress his cheek to tell him, “I-I… remember.”
He beamed at her, and her heart just about stopped beating in her chest for a second before resuming its mad gallop the next when he pounced on her, lifting her from the chair and into his strong arms, twirling with her around the room.
Buffy could only hang onto him and giggle at his boyish antics, feeling lighter, happier than she’d felt in a long time.
Her bubbling laughter was music to his ears, the way she clung to him a balsam to his soul. And for the first time since this all started, he dared to believe she might be starting to feel for him at least a speck of what he already felt for her.
Still laughing, they haphazardly fell onto the sofa with Buffy landing on his lap while he nuzzled her neck contentedly. He pulled back slightly to gaze into her emerald depths. Swirling within them he found trust, acceptance, and was that possibly longing? He hoped so.
“Did you like my gifts, love?” he asked, nodding towards the desk where they lay.
“Oh yes, I was just writing a thank you letter when you came.” She tried to move out of his embrace but he held fast, wouldn’t allow her with a sigh, she settled back in his arms. They were most comfortable anyway. “It was so thoughtful of you.”
“Well, now that ’m here, you can thank me in person,” He winked at her and was delighted at the way her cheeks flushed red once again. She was so adorable and he couldn’t get enough of her. “What do you think?”
She scrunched her nose at him. “I think you enjoy making me blush and that’s not very nice of you, milord,” she said, swatting at his chest with one of her hands and pouting.
He groaned, his indigo gaze zeroing in on that delectable protruding lip. “Oh pet, I can show you just how nice I can be to you given the proper… incentive.”
“Incentive?” She blinked, positively confused now, unsure what he meant by that.
“Oh yes, allow me to demonstrate,” he said, lowering his head to capture her bottom lip with his teeth, making her ‘eep’ before she melted into his arms and gave in to his demands.
“Is this a private party or can an old friend interrupt?”
“Alasdair!” Lady Winifred exclaimed happily when she turned towards the man at the door—too happily if you asked him, Wes thought as he gritted his teeth, his knuckles turning white as they tightened around the glass he was still holding. The muscles in his jaw ticked as he tried not to show how furious this interruption made him.
Not that he had much luck with that when the next thing the tall, elegant man by the door did was to swoop his ladylove into his arms in an embrace that lasted too long for his taste. Who did the man think he was anyway? Had he suddenly turned invisible that this rogue, they, would behave like that in front of him?
“When did you arrive? Are you staying for long?” she asked him as soon as he put her down again, daring a sideways glance towards Wesley and seeing he was livid. Oh yes, this will work wonderfully.
“Just got here and I’ll stay for as long as you want me to, dearest.” Alasdair winked at her conspiratorially, almost laughing at the other man’s obvious distress.
When Spike suggested he come to London when they recently met up in Wales, Alasdair Chandler hadn’t expected it would be for this. It had been merely for a much needed holiday. But after his old friend joined him for breakfast at his suite in the Pulteney hotel, the duke insisted he stay with Fred and he in the Aurelius townhouse.
He’d refused at first, not wanting to impose upon them, but when the duke told him all about a his plan to make Wesley Wyndham-Pryce pull his head out of his arse long enough to see what a wonderful woman he might lose if he kept allowing his pride to interfere, he’d accepted the offer immediately. Anything to help a friend in need. And if the icy reception he’d received from the other man was any indication of what was to come, he would have much fun while he was at it.
“Oh, then I hope you came prepared because you’re staying a long, long time.” She batted her eyelashes at him coquettishly, startling when she heard the sound of glass breaking in the background and turned towards it to find Wesley holding his bleeding hand.
Fred almost gave up the charade to go to his aid right then, especially when he directed his pained, pleading blue eyes towards her. Almost, but not quite. She remembered just in time she couldn’t give in yet, not until he forgot his pretense of caring about her only as a family member. If he ever did, that was. He was too stubborn and prideful for his own good and at the rate they were going, she hoped she wouldn’t be an old lady by the time he finally saw reason.
Wes was in shock, looking from his injured hand towards the woman he loved and back again. Good heavens, if he kept breaking glasses like this his hands would never heal, and why wasn’t Lady Winifred rushing to his aide? He wanted to pout like a little boy at the injustice of it when instead of doing just that, she walked straight past him and pulled the bell cord to call the butler, barely sparing a glance his way.
A linen handkerchief was pressed over his hand just then and he raised surprised eyes to find the Earl of Harlich’s amused gaze set upon him.
“It seems you have a certain… proclivity to accidents, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce,” he said, nodding towards Wes’ other hand which was still bandaged after his little incident two days earlier.
“I can assure you that I have no proclivity for that or anything else for that matter,” he gritted between clenched teeth. He hated the condescending tone the man used with him.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I fear,” Alasdair replied enigmatically, knowing he was getting on the brunet man’s nerves and enjoying himself immensely.
And what the hell did he mean by that? Wes asked himself, his eyes flashing with anger, barely able to restrain himself from punching the bloody git. Not that it would do him any good or help him get back on Lady Winifred’s good graces, but good Lord if it wouldn’t be satisfying to wipe the smirk off the other man’s face.
Just when he was contemplating if he could get away with claiming temporary insanity if he killed the man, the object of his affection came into view. And he just about gave into his prior impulse when she latched onto the earl’s arm, smiling sweetly at him while telling him, “Well, Mr. Jenkins will take care of Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, so in the meantime why don’t we get you settled in, Alasdair?”
“Are you sure he’ll be alright with just Mr. Jenkins, sweetness? He doesn’t look all that well.”
And he truly didn’t, Wes’ pallor had gone from deathly white to almost green as he watched Alasdair and Fred flirt with each other.
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she patted Wes’ hand condescendingly, a saccharin smile gracing her features. “Won’t you?”
What could he say to that? Say he wasn’t alright and accept he was a wimp in front of Alasdair Chandler? It was out of the question, yet it wasn’t like Lady Winifred had any intention of tending to his wounds anyway so it was of no use. “Of course, Lady Winifred, I’ll be right as rain.”
“See?” she beamed at her guest, leading him towards the door, telling him of all the plans she had for him now that he was in London.
Wes frowned as he watched her leave with the earl without a backwards glance at him, clenching his hand in a fist and cursing the pain that coursed through his arm when a shard of glass became more firmly embedded in his palm. But it was nothing compared to the pain as his heart shattered inside his chest at the thought he might have lost any chance he had with her.
William pulled her closer to him, one of his hands cradling the back of her neck while he nibbled on her lower lip, teasing it lightly with his teeth and tongue over and over, driving her insane as she longed for him to kiss her properly. And he must have known what he doing to her, too—damn him to hellfire—because he chuckled lightly when she moaned but didn’t respond to her obvious invitation to deepen the kiss… if one could even call it that. As it was, if he didn't end her torment soon, she might be forced to take matters into her own hands and wasn’t that an idea worthy of being considered?
With a tremulous sigh, she brought a hand up to caress his jaw, his sharp cheekbone before pulling away to free her bottom lip from his hold only to lean back in to press her lips fully against his, her tongue brazenly peaking out to slide across the seam of his mouth.
He just about swallowed his own tongue at the boldness of her actions, never imagining she’d take the initiative like this. Not that he minded… at all. If anything, it made him want her even more than he already did, and he hadn’t thought that was physically possible.
Any thoughts of teasing her further went out of the proverbial window as soon as her tongue slid between his lips as he parted them and tentatively glided along his. He growled deep in his throat before claiming her mouth, his hand weaving into her tresses as he oh so very slowly lowered her until her back was pressed into the couch, with him hovering over her.
He was beyond elated with her response as she clung to him, kissing him back as if her life depended on it, her hands encircling his neck, her back arching against his chest.
Her lungs were on fire. Good heavens, her entire body was on fire as one of his hands coasted down the front of her dress, shivering when his fingers grazed the top of her breasts before continuing their southward path.
He was steel hard, nestled between her heavenly thighs, hips rocking gently against her as his mouth traveled down her jaw and the slender column of her throat, placing wet kisses across her collarbone, her little mewls of pleasure driving him out of his mind with lust. She felt so good in his arms, like she’d been made to be there, to be his.
“You’re so beautiful, Buffy, my Buffy,” he whispered ardently. “I can’ wait until you’re my wife, until you’re mine in every sense of the word.”
She held on breathlessly to him, unable to answer as she drowned in the sea of sensations he provoked inside her, completely lost to the wondrous feeling of him surrounding her, his masculine scent—sandalwood, tobacco and something that had to be purely him—making her swoon with the almost overpowering need for something she couldn’t quite understand.
His hand skimmed over her breast, down to her waist and back up again, his touch so light she couldn’t be certain it wasn’t a figment of her imagination, but it elicited a shiver and a small moan from her anyway as she hung onto him for dear life.
He was so very close to losing a lot more than just his mind when he heard a light tap on the window, then another a little harder, effectively bringing him back to earth and making him realize what he’d been about to do.
Buffy whimpered in protest when he stopped kissing her, her hands trying to pull him back down and bloody hell if that didn’t make him wish the two weeks still left until the wedding went by as fast as they could.
He finally managed to untangle himself from her arms, helping her sit upright before he stood up and passed a hand over his face as he tried to squash down his frustration, fixing himself as best as he could. With much difficulty, he walked towards the French doors where a very flushed Miss Rosenberg was waiting for him.
“I-I’m sorry to interrupt, milord, but La-lady Joyce a-asked for Miss Elizabeth a-and I figured it was best to l-let you know.”
“Thank you, Miss Rosenberg. Does she know I’m here?”
“N-no, of course not, Sir.”
“Where is she?”
“In the drawing room, your Grace.”
“Good. Could you tell her Miss Summers will join her momentarily then?”
“C-certainly, your Grace.” She curtsied at him and scurried to do his bidding.
He returned to the sofa and had to smile when he found Buffy still looking a little dazed over what transpired between them. Not that he could blame her.
Although this was hardly the place or the time to indulge in certain… ahem, activities, he couldn’t deny he was over the moon with the fact his fiancée responded so passionately to his advances, even instigated them this time.
She never looked more beautiful to him than she did now, the evidence of their passion clear for him to see as he took in her dilated pupils, flushed skin and lips swollen from his kisses.
Spike dropped to his haunches in front of Buffy and caressed her face lovingly, melting when she turned her head slightly and nuzzled his palm with her nose.
His heart swelled with tenderness at her gesture, at the fact that she wasn’t retreating from him like she’d done before, that she seemed so open to share this part of her, this moment with him, with no regrets.
Chapter End Notes:
I’d love to know what you thought of the chapter, if you are inclined to let me know. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you all have a wonderful week!
Chapter 14. In Flagrante Delicto by dusty273
Thank you all for the awesome reviews for the last chapter! I’m so very happy so many of you are enjoying the dual love stories. I promise I'll answer them as soon as I can. There’s no Fred/Wes in this chapter, though. Hope you don’t mind too much. ;)
A million thanks to my lovely sister, IBE, for being the most wonderful friend and beta a girl could ask for. I’d truly be lost without you, cariño. Love you tons! *hugglesquishes* To Carrie for pre-reading part of the chapter and assuring me it was alright; and to Deanna, just because. *smooches* Love you, girls!
And special thanks to Vara (jamies_lady) to whom I dedicate this chapter (even if she had her work cut out for her with it). The happiest of birthdays to you, honey, even if it’s a day early. I know it’s not much, but it’s given with the utmost respect and love. *snuggles*
In Flagrante Delicto (*): (Latin: "in the blazing [progressing] offence [misdeed]") or sometimes simply in flagrante (Latin: "while blazing [during]") is a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offence (compare corpus delicti). The colloquial "caught red-handed" or "caught in the act" are English equivalents.
Love is the only flower that grows and blossoms Without the aid of the seasons. ~ Kahlil Gibran
Chapter 14. In Flagrante Delicto (*)
Buffy smiled dreamily as she came out of the morning room and into the hallway. She had to practically shove William out through the French doors he’d come in so he would leave and she could go meet with her mother. Although his leaving was relative, she figured, since he was just going to the front door to call on her and her mother. He said he had a big surprise for her and she was very curious as to what it might be.
But first she needed to run up to her room and fix her hair a little. Her fiancé seemed to have an affinity for threading his fingers in her long tresses and this time had been no different. There was no way she wanted her mother to see her all mussed up and probably looking like she did a few nights before when she was watching her reflection in her mirror. She’d just die if Joyce suspected what they’d been up to.
She was about to start her ascent towards the second floor—happy that she’d evaded the older woman, at least for the time being—when the voice she’d been dreading to hear stopped her, “Elizabeth, darling, where have you been?”
Oh, bother! “Mother, I was about to come looking for you. I just have to pick up something I forgot in my room. I’ll join you in the drawing room in a few minutes,” she said, not fully turning to face the woman hoping by doing this she wouldn’t note her disheveled state.
Few things escaped Joyce’s notice though, especially when they concerned her beloved daughter. Elizabeth appeared flustered and more than a little tousled, plus her behavior was so completely foreign that it aroused her suspicions. Suspicions that were corroborated when only a few moments later the butler announced the Duke of Aurelius had came to call on them.
She threw a glance to gauge her daughter’s reaction to the announcement and if she had any lingering doubts, Elizabeth’s reaction promptly dispelled them. The girl blushed up to the roots of her hair, fidgeting under Joyce’s eagle eye stare and that was more than enough confirmation she was right and the duke had something to do with her daughter’s peculiar conduct.
Not that she minded, she liked the blond man who would become her son-in-law and there were worse things than him and her daughter being attracted to each other. A lot worse.
“Tell His Grace I’ll be there shortly, Mr. Parsons,” she said to the butler, waiting until he left to add to her daughter, “And you, young lady, we’ll have a nice, long conversation after your fiancé leaves.”
“Yes mother,” she replied meekly.
“Now hurry and go up pick whatever you need from your room, maybe ask one of the maids to help you with your coiffeur while you’re at it. I imagine it must have been awfully windy in the morning room judging from the state of your hair and the blush on your face.” She threw Buffy a knowing wink and chuckled when the girl gasped as she brought her hands up to cover her overheated cheeks then turned to escape up the stairs.
Feeling supremely pleased with herself, Joyce smiled widely before joining the duke in the drawing room.
“Good morning, Your Grace,” Joyce said as soon as she entered the room.
“I distinctly remember askin’ you to call me William, Lady Joyce,” he responded, winking at her before bringing her hand up to his lips, kissing it lightly.
“Forgive me, William, it’s a force of habit. I’ll try to keep it in mind for the future.” She blushed and smiled at him, motioning for him to sit. He was a charming young man with impeccable manners, was it really that much of a surprise that her daughter seemed to be discovering his obvious virtues?
She bit back a grin when she noticed he appeared slightly mussed as well. Oh yes, it seemed Elizabeth wasn’t as opposed to the idea of marrying the duke as she’d once been. “Now tell me, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”
“Well, a few things actually. I wanted to ask your permission to take your daughter out on a ride to Hyde Park this afternoon.”
“A-ha, I see. And what else?” She avoided giving an answer to the blond man on purpose. She enjoyed seeing the great Duke of Aurelius squirm just a little too much.
“What else?” he asked, fidgeting under the woman’s intense scrutiny, perplexed by the question and by Lady Joyce’s lack of answer to his petition.
“Yes, you did say a few things, did you not?” She barely managed to hide the smile that threatened to bloom on her lips. It’d been years since she’d had so much fun.
“Ah, yes, I did. You see, I have a horse runnin’ for the Golden Cup in the Royal Ascot and I was wonderin’ if perhaps you and Miss Summers would do me the honor of lettin’ me escort two beautiful ladies such as yourselves to the event.”
The man was good, she’d grant him that. She’d been to Royal Ascot once and never forgot the experience, and was certain Elizabeth would love going as well.
“I think that could be arranged.”
“And about my other request? The ride this afternoon?” he inquired, he’d really been looking forward to the chance to ride with his Buffy at his side, to show off his gorgeous fiancée.
“I’ll let Elizabeth decide about that.”
As if on cue, the girl in question entered the room, her cheeks suffusing with pink at the heated look William treated her with as he got up from the chair he occupied and walked towards her.
“Good mornin’, Miss Summers. You’re looking quite lovely today,” he greeted, trying to convey with his eyes all the things he couldn’t say to her, not in front of present company at least. Like an angel fallen from the skies she was. He had no idea why or how it was that she grew even more beautiful every time he saw her and frankly, he didn’t rightly care. All he cared about was her and nothing else.
He took her hand in his and kissed it in a similar fashion as he did with her mother, only this time he allowed his lips to linger, reveling at her sharp intake of breath, in the way her pulse quickened as he brushed his thumb over the smooth skin of her wrist. Both of them quickly forgetting where they were or that they weren’t alone as they got lost in each other’s eyes. The spell broke only after the sound of Lady Joyce clearing her throat finally penetrated through the fog that clouded their senses.
“G-good morning, Your Grace,” Buffy said shyly, dipping to curtsy before him. She dared giving her mother a sideways glance and found that surprisingly—to her at least—she looked more like the cat that ate the canary than put off by the display of affection William bestowed upon her.
With a wink, he led the girl to the sofa, helping her sit before doing the same by her side. He refused to release her hand even after she tugged on it, her face flaming as she felt the amused gaze of her mother following the exchange.
Spike looked pleadingly at Joyce, begging her without words to let him tell his fiancée of the surprises he had in store for her and she smiled acquiescing to his silent plea with a slight nod of her head.
“Miss Summers, I wish to request the honor of your company this afternoon for a ride.” He was certain she would say yes… or at least he hoped she would.
“A ride?” Buffy blinked, definitely not what she’d been expecting, not that she had any idea what he had planned until now. Of course it wasn’t that she minded, not in the slightest. She hadn’t had a chance to go riding since they moved to London and that was the one activity she’d missed the most.
“Yes, we’ll be goin’ to Hyde Park… if you agree that is.”
Hyde Park? Ooooh, wonderful! She turned pleadingly towards her mother, who simply smiled beatifically back at her. “It’s your decision, sweetheart.”
“I-I…” She almost said yes then and there. Almost. Until she remembered she had no horse of her own and therefore couldn’t go riding with the duke. Her cheeks flamed at the mortification of having to admit to that. “Much as I’d love to accept, Your Grace, I simply cannot.”
“Why not?” He’d been sure she was going to say yes, so it truly made no sense why she would say no to him when it was quite obvious she’d been pleased by the invitation, up until a few moments ago. Unless…
He just had to go and ask her that, hadn’t he? She pouted slightly, lowering her eyes to their linked hands so he wouldn’t be able to read in them how deeply shamed she was to having to explain this to him. “I… well,” she sighed heavily, trying to think of a less embarrassing reason than the real one to refuse his request.
“If you’re worried about not havin’ a horse, I really didn’ expect you to have one here. Actually I was hopin’ you’d agree to borrow my sister’s horse for the afternoon. She doesn’ ride it much these days and the poor animal needs to exercise, so you’ll actually be doin’ us a favor if you accept.”
She gasped in shock at his words, disbelief clearly etched in her features as she raised her eyes back to meet his, certain she’d find pity swirling amidst the indigo gaze. She didn’t, though. There was nothing of that sort there, only anticipation, eagerness and something else she didn’t dare to name… yet.
She swallowed past the lump in her throat. How had he known the real reason why she said no? And not only that, but had been kind enough to provide her with a solution through which her pride would remain intact. After all he’d done for her, she couldn’t in good faith crush his hopes, could she? And it wasn’t like she’d be doing him a favor, au contraire.
“Of course, Aurelius,” she said with a shy smile. “It’d be my pleasure to go riding with you.” And it really would be. Point of fact, it was rather… unsettling how much she enjoyed his company, how it warmed her inside when he smiled at her like he was now, like she’d done something wonderful, like she’d somehow managed to make him happier than he’d ever been.
“Perfect. And now that that’s settled, I have another invitation for you,” he paused for effect, loving the way her eyes widened when learning there were more surprises. “Only for this one I have already requested Lady Joyce to join us and she’s already consented to grace me with her company, so I hope I can count on yours as well.”
“And for what might it be?” She was well and truly curious now. He looked so eager, his eyes shining brightly with barely refrained excitement. It had to be something important to him, she just knew.
“Well, one of my horses is runnin’ the Golden Cup in the Royal Ascot for the first time this Friday and I would be delighted if you accepted to attend the race with my sister and me.”
Buffy was struck speechless by this last invitation. She’d almost been expecting an invitation to go driving or riding in Hyde Park during the fashionable hour on another day. After all, if one gave credence to the few comments she’d overheard at some of the very few soirees she’d attended, it was the place to see and be seen by all members of the Ton, where they socialized with their peers in a different environment. Not that she’d ever been there, but she was actually looking forward to it.
She had to admit, part of her enthusiasm had to do with the very real possibility they’d meet the odious Lady Addams there and that she was quite keen on demonstrating to her that she hadn’t accomplished anything with her venomous comments or actions from a few nights earlier. Well, nothing except bring William and her closer that was.
What she hadn’t anticipated was that he would also invite her and her mother to come with him to the Royal Ascot, which as a true horse aficionado, was like a dream come true for her. Just another one on the ever increasing list of dreams William kept making into sweet realities for her.
He was truly going out of his way to please her, to spend as much time with her as he possible could, to shower her with compliments and gifts, show her how much he cared for her in actions as well as with words. And if she were honest with herself, she was starting to care for him, too. How could she not when he was giving her all she’d ever wanted, all she’d ever wished for. He seemed like the kind of man that could—dare she hope—love her obove everything else, someone that could accept her just as she was with all her little quirks and peculiarities, someone who not only knew about them, but indulged and even encouraged them. And if their little tête-à-tête in the garden a few days earlier was anything to go by, he shared them with her, too.
He was so different from Angel and for the first time, that wasn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it just showed her how blinded she’d been by the idea of loving someone, even if she hadn’t truly been able to be herself with him.
However, the fact that William was like this now, didn’t mean he would remain that way once they were married. Hadn’t her mother told her some men changed after the wedding? Could it be that the duke was one of those men? That once she accepted him and his love, he’d end up treating her like her father treated her mother?
Spike’s bouncing enthusiasm ebbed the longer it took Buffy to respond. A small frown marred her forehead while she remained silent, her eyes lowered to her lap as she appeared completely deep in thought, and for a few seconds he was afraid she would say no to him, that she would refuse to go with him to the Royal Ascot. She wouldn’t though, would she? Not when she’d already agreed to let him win her heart, when she’d responded so beautifully to him. No, he was certain she was beginning to feel something for him and damn it all to hellfire if he wouldn’t make sure that budding emotion grew to be as strong and all-encompassing as what he already felt for her.
He lightly squeezed her hand and was only mildly relieved when her shimmering green depths focused on him again. She blinked as if coming out of a trance, her cheeks reddening adorably when he smiled at her, before her whole face illuminated with a smile of her own.
“So, what do you say, Miss Summers? Will you come with me to the race? I’m quite certain the odds will incline on Pegasus’ favor if you’re there to support him,” he said, trying to appear nonchalant, but he didn’t fool her.
“If Your Grace insists, I’ll be delighted to join you and your sister on Friday,” she answered primly.
“But of course I insist. It definitely wouldn’t be the same without you there, sweetheart.” He winked at her then, a slow smirk spreading across his lips at the way her hand trembled under his in reaction to his words.
Shivers ran up and down her spine in reaction to the term of endearment, to the silky caress of his voice as it washed over her, to the manner her body responded to his touch, to him.
“It’s settled then,” Joyce interjected, grinning widely when the engaged couple jumped slightly, shifting on the sofa to face her. They’d been so engrossed in each other, they must have forgotten all about her… until now, at least. Oh, to be that young again! she sighed, remembering how it’d been for her back when she’d still believed in fairytales, just before the world came crashing down on her.
If only… but no, that wasn’t possible, so there was no use in tormenting herself by wishing it were. With reminding herself of what could have been had her father not intervened by ending her Rupert’s life, almost ending hers in the process as well. Actually, if she hadn’t discovered shortly after his death that she was enceinte, she would gladly have taken her own life to join him in the afterlife, absolution be damned. Instead, she’d come to realize her husband was not fully gone from the earthly plane, that he still lived in the little baby growing inside her, tucked safely under her heart. With that knowledge came the responsibility of making certain the only thing of his she still had left lived, thrived and was as happy as she could be.
Not an easy task most of the time with all the things they had to endure at Hank Summers’ hands through the years. But not impossible, especially now that the Duke of Aurelius had taken upon himself the duty of procuring his fiancée with everything she might need, be it on a material or emotional level. And while she still wasn’t certain of how Hank managed to convince the duke of marrying her daughter or why it was a man like William knew her husband or became involved with him in the first place, that was secondary to the obvious gleam of delight shining in her daughter’s green eyes as he showered her with his attentions.
She would need to eventually ask William about it all, but for now that could wait. Same as the conversation she’d promised Elizabeth they would have. Tomorrow would be another day.
Chapter End Notes:
I really hope you enjoyed reading the chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. And of course if you want to tell me what you thought of it, well, you’ll make me and my muse very happy girls.
A huge, enormous thank you to the very kind person(s) who nominated The Art of Immortality for Best General Romance and Best General Saga and me for General Excellent Author for Round 15 at the Spuffy Awards. If you want to vote, be it for AOI, me or any of the wonderful authors/stories nominated, you can go here: http://spuffyawards.jaded-paradise.net/vote.php Please make sure you read the rules first.
Not sure which fic I’ll update next, because I have one chapter of Into the Night and one of Dare to Dance started, but I’m also excited about writing the ride in Hyde Park for AAO, so I guess we’ll see.
Hope you have a wonderful rest of the week!
Chapter 15. The Air You Breathe Into Me by dusty273
As always many, many thanks for your reviews. As you see, they do help the muse. *giggles* I have responded to all regarding chapter 14, I just need a little more time to respond to the ones before, so I beg your patience.
A little note regarding Im_bloody_English, she is going through a rough time and while she’s trying to get back into writing and recapturing her muse, she begs your patience and understanding and says she’ll come back as soon as she can. In the meantime, keep her in your thoughts and prayers are always welcome.
A million thanks to Tina, who as always worked her magic in this chapter despite not feeling completely up to par. To Beth, for the edits, her input and wonderful suggestions; but especially for the gorgeous banner she made for AAO and which I pasted at the end of the chapter. To Vara, for taking the time to educate me in the finer nuances of regency history, despite me being headstrong and not always minding her. And to Carrie, for reassuring me the chapter was alright as it stands. *smooches* Love you, girls!
I feel your presence
Like an illusion
And I wish I could fly
When I listen to your voice
And my fingers
Are filled with smoke, devoid of you
They are afraid
Because they need your love to live
(El Aire Que Me Das ~ Alan) Chapter 15. The Air You Breathe Into Me
Spike entered his study room with a spring in his step and a huge smile on his face, in an excellent mood after having such a wonderful visit with his fiancée and her mother. His good humor faltered, however, at the sight of Wes brooding in one of the chairs near the window, noticing that both of his hands were bandaged.
“What happened to you?” he asked, frowning at the sad, faraway look on his friend’s face.
“I’ve lost her,” Wesley groused, so completely absorbed in his misery he didn’t even think of his answer before giving it.
“Lost who? What are you talkin’ `bout, mate?” The duke sat on the chair opposite the brunet.
“Your… err, no one,” he quickly amended when he finally realized what he’d said and to whom, while tugging on his suddenly too tight cravat and hissing when his hands protested at the movement.
“No one, eh?” Spike raised his left eyebrow, chuckling inwardly at his friend’s obvious discomfort. “Very well then,” he sighed, putting his hands on his knees to push himself up to his feet.
“What? You’re leaving?” Wes asked, surprised the duke hadn’t tried to make him confess what was wrong with him.
“You don’ want to talk to me and I have better things to do than see you brood over somethin’ you’ve brought upon yourself.”
“I-I don’t know what you mean.”
“Sure you don’. Look, Wes, I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with this now. I have a pressin’ engagement I should be takin’ care of so I’ll just cut to the chase. If you think for a second you’re foolin’ me by sayin’ you don’ care for my sister as anythin’ more than ‘family’, well… you’re sadly mistaken. I know perfectly
well how you feel about her and as I told you before, I would’ve liked nothin’ more than you being my brother-in-law. However,” he saw the other man was about to protest and raised his hand to stop him. “However, I see now that while your feelin’s might run deeper than you care to admit, you’re too much of a bloody coward to give in to them.
“This is the last time `m talkin’ to you about this, so jus’ allow me to give you some advice. Snap the hell out of your jealous fit right now and make a decision before it’s too late. If you want to let pride rule your actions, well, be my guest. But if not, if you decide you truly love my sister, marry her before someone else comes along and snatches her right from under your nose. Which still might happen anyway,” he added as an afterthought, rubbing salt into the wound. “After all, there are no guarantees she’ll choose you anyway, are there? Not with the way you’ve been behavin’.”
“I-I… y-you—” the brunet sputtered, completely shaken up by the duke’s speech. He’d truly believed no one had noticed his feelings for Lady Winifred up until that moment. Seemed he was wrong.
“You, me, what now? Are you goin’ to deny it? Please, don’t bother. You and I both know `m right. Jus’ bloody accept you’re insanely jealous of Alasdair and that that’s why your poor hands keep paying the price,” he teased his friend with a wink. “`M jus’ puttin’ a stop to it before somethin’ worse happens to you.”
“She didn’t even care,” Wes said morosely, his head hanging in defeat.
“Don’ you think it is high time you called her by her given name at least when we’re alone? Lord knows she’s asked you a million times already. You’re the one puttin’ up walls between the two of you. `M not sayin’ she’s goin’ to fall right into your arms, but I suspect you have a good chance of winnin’ her heart if you get your head out of your arse long `nough to show her how deeply you care for her.”
“You really think so?”
Spike fought against rolling his eyes at his friend, instead simply sighing. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’ believe it to be true. You of all people should know `m not one to skirt ‘round an issue, I prefer a direct approach.”
“Like you’ve done with Miss Summers, you mean? I wonder if you’ve told her already how you won her hand in marriage,” Wes mused, a small twinkle of mischief shining in his blue-grey eyes.
“That is nothin’ of your concern,” he ground between clenched teeth.
“Thought you preferred a direct approach? Or is that just for me?”
“What she doesn’ know won’ hurt her.”
“You know that one might actually come and bite you
on the arse, Spike. Especially considering how things stand regarding Mr. Summers.”
“I know that,” Spike passed a hand over his face. “Believe me, `m all too aware of it. `Specially now when things are goin’ so well between Miss Buffy and I… `m scared out of my bloody mind that everythin’ will go to hell and she’ll go back to hatin’ my guts.”
Wes blinked at that last revelation. He’d be damned! The last thing he ever thought he’d see was the all powerful Duke of Aurelius on his knees for a woman. Of course Miss Summers was not just any woman and that was why the blond man had moved heaven and earth to marry her.
“What are you going to do then?”
“Deal with it when I have to. There’s no use in worryin' over it right now.” The duke stole a glance towards the clock on the mantle, noticing it was almost thirty minutes past two in the afternoon already and he still had to change before going to pick Buffy up for their ride in Hyde Park. “Come with me to my room, I need to change for my outin’ with my lovely fiancée this afternoon and while I do, you can tell me how the inquiries `bout the elusive Mr. Giles are goin’.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Wes said as they stepped out of the study room into the hallway. “What little I found in the Newgate’s registry points to him being alive when he was transported to the colonies and that’s the last anyone heard of him here in England. However, I also discovered where he’s from and have sent Mr. Collins to investigate the area. There’s a chance someone might have an idea of where he might be.”
“Well, keep me informed." He saw his sister about to descend the stairs and nudged his friend, while lowering his voice, "And it seems you might get your chance to get started on that other project we talked `bout.”.
“William, we missed you during lunch,” she said, kissing her brother on the cheek and refusing to even acknowledge Wesley’s presence. She was still angry with him. Why did he have to be so headstrong anyway? “Where have you been all morning?”
“I went to visit Miss Summers to invite her and Lady Joyce to go to Royal Ascot with us on Friday,” he grinned widely at her.
“And by your smile, I imagine she accepted?” Fred linked her arm through Spike’s as they walked towards the drawing room, the brunet man in tow, looking painfully aware that he’d been ignored yet again by the object of his affections.
“Of course and she also agreed to join me for a ride in Hyde Park this afternoon. I hope you don’ mind that I told her she could use Illyria.”
“But of course not, Illyria would love the exercise. It’s a pity I had already made plans for the afternoon myself; I would’ve loved to accompany you and Miss Summers.”
“Plans?” Wes couldn’t stop himself from interjecting against his better judgment.
“Plans?” Spike echoed when Fred didn’t even try responding to his friend.
“Alasdair and I are visiting the Countess of Shrewsbury.” She frowned when she saw William’s face fall, his disappointment evident for her to see. “Is something amiss?”
“Well, I wanted to ask you a favor, but I imagine it can wait,” the blond man sighed dejectedly.
“What is it?” she pressed, very curious as to what it could be that he wished to ask of her.
“It’s nothin', forget it,” he shook his head, but he didn't even try to hide his obvious sorrow at her answer. “At any rate, it can wait.”
“William, tell me, please?”
“The thing is… I wanted to gift Miss Summers with a horse of her own, a mare most probably, and I had planned on going to Mr. Thompson’s private stable in Hampshire this afternoon, but I forgot all about that when I asked her out.”
“No, I don’t think you do, Fred. I don’t have time to go tomorrow either. And it’s truly a pity since I was looking forward to giving it to her as a present on Friday.”
“So, you need me to go to Mr. Thompson’s and choose one, then?”
“If it wouldn't trouble you so much, I'd love you to. Of course, I’m not asking you to go on your own. Wes is an expert in the subject and I trust between the two of you, you’ll make a perfect selection.”
She narrowed her eyes at William when he mentioned Wesley, but refrained from commenting. What was her brother up to? Then he winked at her and she had to bite down a grin. She should have known, or imagined at least, that he would try to do something to throw them together without his partner’s knowledge.
Wes had to give it to Spike. Not only had he found a perfectly good opportunity for him to spend some quality time with Lady Winifred, and without the damned Earl of Harlich, or so he hoped, but he’d done it in such a way that it would be very difficult for her to refuse his plea.
She exhaled a long suffering sigh, before replying, “Oh well, I imagine I can ask Alasdair to present my excuses to the countess.” Not that Theresa would dare take offense on her breaking the engagement at such short notice, not with Fred’s brother being who he was. And truly, even mad as she still was at Wes or forced by the circumstances as they were, she could not wait to spend time with him.
“Perfect! I knew I could count on you, sweetheart,” Spike declared, standing from the chair he occupied and kissing her on the cheek. “Mr. Thompson should expect you to arrive a little after four, so if you want to get there on time, you should prepare to leave in a few minutes. Now if you’ll both excuse me, I have an appointment to keep myself.” And with that he left them on their own to go to his quarters.
With any luck his intervention would be enough to give Wes a push in the right direction and in case it wasn’t, the green-eyed monster that took over whenever Alasdair’s name was mentioned in regard to his sister might do the trick quite nicely. At least he got his partner to admit his feelings for Fred to him and that was definite improvement.
“Lady Winifred, I—” Wes started as soon as Spike left them alone, choking on his own words when the lady in question sent him a scathing glare. He swallowed past the lump in his throat and continued, “I-I’ll go order the carriage around. Is thirty minutes enough for you to be ready?”
“I can be ready in half that time, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce,” she replied haughtily.
He sighed and passed a hand over the back of his neck in a gesture that betrayed his tension. Perhaps it was as Spike had said and he was the one erecting walls between them, and if he were, well, shouldn’t it be he
who demolished them, too?
“Please, Wi-Winifred.” He saw her eyes widen in surprise and heard her sharp intake of breath at the use of her given name, so he pressed forward, “I just… I’m well aware what I accused you of was ludicrous and while I know you have every right to be angry at me, well, I simply can’t stand the thought of you being upset with me any more. So, please
, please, Winifred, can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
How could she not when he was being so earnest in his apology and when he’d finally called her by her given name? Not that she would let on the little fact that her heart had skipped a beat or that she’d forgive him anything if he kept looking at her like that. “I can be ready in half that time… Wesley,” she repeated with a small smile which was readily answered by one of his.
“Thank you.” My love
, he added to himself, hoping one day he might have the courage to say it out loud. “I will meet you in the foyer then in fifteen minutes.” And with a curt nod and a smile, he left to arrange their outing, thinking that if anything ever came out of this, he’d owe it to Spike and no one else.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
“You look very happy,” Willow said as she helped Buffy with her hat. And she really did, more than she’d ever seen the blonde girl look before.
“That’s because I am, Willow,” she sighed blissfully as she stood up from the vanity chair to inspect her reflection in the mirror.
Her grey and green velvet riding habit complimented her creamy complexion perfectly. Her hair was dressed in curls and ringlets under the matching grey and green velvet hat, a silver grey feather on the side, framing her face and making her emerald eyes shine even brighter. Silver gray gloves and black riding boots completed her outfit. She looked quite lovely if she said so herself and she could barely contain her sparkling excitement over going riding with William.
William. It was ridiculous how much she missed him what with them having been apart for only a couple of hours, she was well aware of that, but… she couldn’t stop herself. He’d somehow weaseled his way into her heart and displaced Angel in a way that made her realize what she’d felt for the brunet had been nothing more than a simple infatuation. Not that she was certain of what she felt for William… yet. She was attracted to him, yes; and she could scarcely go a few minutes without recalling his handsome face, his kisses, his caresses or how he’d turned her world upside down in just a few days.
“Well, I’m very happy for you,” Willow responded. She was fully aware she might be overstepping her boundaries by having this conversation with Buffy. Not that her friend had really set any restrictions between them, if anything she kept trying to get the maid to open up to her, show her they could be friends even if their stations in life were quite different. “Oz says he’s a very good man; always mindful and caring of his friends and servants.”
“I see, and who might this Oz be?” Buffy teased the redhead, whose face turned almost the same color as her hair.
“I-well, he’s His Grace’s tiger.”
“Ooh yes, he’s the one who came with us when Wil… I mean, when His Grace took us shopping.”
Willow’s smile widened at the faux-pas. Things were certainly good between the two of them if Buffy forgot herself so easily.
“I’m very happy for you, too, Willow. And you might be seeing more of Oz very soon,” the blonde girl said with a secretive smile.
The redhead blinked in confusion. “Really? Why?”
“Well, I suppose I could tell you that Aurelius suggested you could be my personal maid when we marry. It’s your decision, though. I wouldn’t dream of forcing you if you wish to remain here with my mother.”
It was the maid’s turn to forget herself as she threw her arms around Buffy, thanking her over and over for the chance and promising she would never regret it.
They were startled when they heard a knock on the door, Willow going to answer it while Buffy glanced at the clock on her vanity, realizing it was almost four already and it was more than likely William to pick her up, which was confirmed by the maid.
Her heart fluttered madly inside her chest and her breath quickened at the mere thought of spending the whole afternoon together with him, riding side by side with him, talking with him, getting to know him in a different environment, and perhaps… just perhaps feeling his arms around her and his mouth over hers as he stole a kiss from her.
And she could hardly wait, so with a last look at herself in the mirror and content with what she saw there, she blew a kiss to her friend and left the room.
Willow stayed behind, tidying up the room and then hanging up the blonde’s day dress, a huge smile on her face as she dreamt of how her own life would change when Buffy married the Duke of Aurelius.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
“Oh William, she’s so beautiful,” Buffy gushed as she caressed Illyria’s flank, then her neck and finally her nose, giggling when the mare gently nuzzled against her hand.
“Not nearly as beautiful as you are, my love,” he whispered in her ear—his lips caressing the outer shell so softly she almost thought she’d imagined it, until she noticed the devilish gleam in his baby blues—and she shivered, both because of his words and his nearness.
“I know you didn’t compare me to a horse just now, did you?” she asked him, with as serious a tone as she could manage considering the circumstances while frowning slightly.
He blinked at her words. She couldn’t believe he’d do that, could she? But her expression was so grave; what else could he think? “I… no, of course not, Buffy. I’d never… I-I,” he stuttered.
“Although to be honest there are worse things than being compared to a gorgeous and very noble creature such as Illyria,” she said, still caressing the horse’s mane while covering her mouth with her free hand, trying in vain to contain her bubbling giggles at how flustered he appeared to be.
Spike smirked, loving to see her like this. And if she wanted to play, he’d be more than happy to indulge her. He drew closer to her, putting his hand over the one of hers which was touching the mare, feeling her freeze as he linked their fingers, seeing her eyes widen and then dart nervously from him to Oz who appeared to be blissfully unaware of what was going on between his fiancée and him.
He noticed her little pink tongue peek out and wet her luscious bottom lip, making him groan and place his other hand on her waist, gripping it tightly while his senses reeled from her proximity, her scent, in the differences between the silky texture of her flesh and the soft velvet of her dress.
She could barely breathe as William lowered his head slowly towards her mouth, her eyelids dropping to cover her desire-filled green depths the closer his lips came to hers until they were only a hairsbreadth away, forgetting where she was, everything that wasn’t the two of them.
It was more than tempting to just take what they both obviously wanted without caring of the consequences. However, that was not what this was about, it was about teasing and making her yearn for him the same way he craved her, so he did what he had to, his lips steering off course iat the last possible moment to kiss her cheek instead of her lips.
“Ready to leave, love?” he asked, pride and love swelling within his chest at the way her eyes slowly fluttered open, almost as if she’d been waiting for him to continue with what he started. Her confusion over why he hadn’t swirling amidst her green orbs.
“I-I,” she blinked, shaking her head slightly to clear it. Why hadn’t he kissed her? It wasn’t like she resisted. “Y-yes, of course.”
William entwined his hands, lowering them to help her up on the horse. Still shaken and more than a little miffed, she looped her skirts over her arm and placed her dainty boot-clad foot in them, allowing him to lift her up and into the sidesaddle, the action bringing him very close to her.
Grabbing Illyria’s reins in one hand, he brushed her fingers with the other, weaving their hands together to bring them to his lips, kissing the back of hers before saying in a hushed whisper, “Later.”
She frowned at this, not sure of his meaning, then blushed up to the roots of her hair when he winked at her, giving a sideways glance towards Oz. Good Lord, how could she forget about him? What would he think of her, say of her wanton behavior? Oh God
. She swallowed hard past the lump of fear that settled in her throat.
“You’re adorable,” he chuckled when he noticed her fearful expression, laughing harder when she threw him a glowering glare. “Don’ worry your pretty li’l head over it, sweetheart. He won’ say a thing, I promise.”
“Are you sure?” she murmured, still concerned with the issue.
“`F course `m sure. Wouldn’ say it otherwise. Trust me on this, Buffy… please?”
Trust him… could she? Yes, she knew she could, felt it deep inside her. How had that happened? When? Probably around the time when he tended to her lashes, when he defended her against her father and then threw him out of their house. But, should she? Men could change in the blink of an eye, she knew that first hand. They could present one face to the world and then show another to their family, same as her father had done with them all her life. William was not her father, though, and she was well aware of that.
“Yes, William, I trust you,” she answered, her voice firm and her gaze soft as she caressed his hand with her thumb.
If he hadn’t been certain his heart was forever lost to hers before she said this, he would’ve been at that moment. He wanted to weep like a little boy at the knowledge that in just a few days he’d gained her trust, even if it was in something as small as this. It was a start and he was more thankful for it than he could ever convey with words.
He also felt guiltier than ever before for the way he’d won her hand in marriage and knew he would have to tell her. But not now. Later. When they were alone. For now, he would bask in her presence and pray that when he told her she wouldn’t take her trust away, breaking his heart into a million pieces in the process.
Chapter End Notes:
I know I promised a ride in Hyde Park and it’s coming in the next chapter; however, Fred and Wes were a little mad at me for not including them in the last chapter, so they kinda overtook this chapter. I hope it was of your liking and of course, if you want to let me know what you thought of it, I’d love to know. *bats eyelashes* Next in line, well, it’s a toss up between AAO and Dare to Dance. We’ll see which wins my muse’s attention, but so far I think AAO is in the lead. ;)
Have a wonderful week!
Chapter 16. Truths and Revelations by dusty273
Thank you to those of you who’ve taken the time to review. I’m behind in replying (again), but now that my daughters’ birthday is finally past me, I hope to finally have more time to answer to them. Please, don’t think I don’t appreciate them or you, because I do, more than you can’t imagine.
As always a million thanks to my lovely hermanita Tina, writing while chatting with you is one of most wonderful experiences. ;) Thanks for the suggestions, edits and just for being there for me. *besos* To Vara, for editing the first part of the chapter and saving me from committing several historical inaccuracies; and to Beth and Carrie for reading part of the chapter and reassuring me it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. *hugs n’ kisses* Love you, girls! Ooh, and the quote in this chapter was provided by my gorgeous friend, Carrie. Thank you, sweetie!
"He who listens to the truth is not less than he who utters the truth." ~ Kahlil Gibran Chapter 16. Truths and Revelations
Buffy hadn’t felt as carefree, happy or relaxed in years. Even if she couldn’t gallop as she would’ve liked, instead having to settle on a trot or a light canter at the most, she couldn’t deny she was having the time of her life. Illyria was a beautiful specimen, a dark true blue roan mare as William had explained to her when she’d commented on its exceptional color, and she was a dream to ride. She barely had to give the noble equine the slightest indication with the bridle for it to follow her lead. Which was providential; she refused to use the riding crop on a horse unless absolutely necessary.
She had to admit she was very impressed William didn’t deem its use indispensable, either. His control over his horse, Vendaval, was admirable. The purebred was almost an extension of its owner as they paraded through Hyde Park, both moving in perfect synchrony and she couldn’t stop herself from feeling proud at the envious glances she was the object of for being in such handsome and distinguished company.
While she’d heard of the Fashionable Hour in Hyde Park, she’d never expected it to be like this. There were hundreds—if not thousands—of the elite members of the most aristocratic families of the English society, la crème de la crème, the Ton, promenading up and down the avenue while showing off their wealth, clothes and carriages to their peers while flirting, chatting and catching up with the latest news. It was quite fascinating to her; they didn’t have anything remotely like this in America.
William and she had to make more than a few stops along the way to meet several of the duke’s acquaintances, some of which she’d met at the theater, although the majority she was being introduced here for the first time. There were so many that, after a short while, she gave up altogether on trying to remember their names. Which was just something else she found commendable about her fiancé, he knew each and every one of these people. Not only their names, but who they were, inquiring about their health and relatives. They seem to genuinely care for him, too, and were obviously very curious about the American woman who had ensnared one of their most eligible bachelors.
Not that she could blame them.
While she’d come to terms with marrying the Duke of Aurelius, she was intrigued as to why a man like him would want to marry someone like her when there were others who would be more… qualified to become his wife than she would ever be. She was not particularly beautiful, titled or rich; had actually flaunted her intelligence to him with the hope it would discourage him and had been more than surprised when instead of being put off by it, he’d shown her his intellect matched hers at the very least and that he was not ashamed by it.
Plus, the details of how they became betrothed were sketchy at best. How did her father convince the duke of marrying her? Or had it been William’s idea? What was the real extent of their association? What was the reason for the hasty wedding? She couldn’t spend the rest of her life wondering about her fiancé’s motives, when he would reveal his true nature or if the one he’d exhibited when they were alone was the real him. She had to find out, tonight if possible, ask him, give him a chance to explain himself, to tell her his reasons for wanting this marriage. She wanted to believe in him, in his words when he asked her to let him win her heart, but she couldn’t until he answered her questions, until he showed her he was the kind of man she could trust and give her love to.
Spike’s heart swelled with love for his future bride. Not only was she the most beautiful woman around, but she was gracious and courteous with everyone they met, even when some of them had been downright nosy. She’d answered some of their inquiries and skirted around the rest with a sweet smile, leaving their interlocutors content even if they didn’t get the response they wanted or hoped for; all the while throwing him sidelong glances and shy grins that made him wish they were anywhere but here.
He’d been truly lucky his father had died before he could force him to marry for the sake of the family, as he’d done with his poor sister. Bloody hell, just thinking of whom his father might’ve deemed suitable to be his wife made him shudder in disgust. Neither of the vapid women in their circle of so-called friends held a candle to his ladylove. From the moment he saw her across the street he’d known she was the one for him, and every moment spent by her side since then had cemented that knowledge.
He knew Wes was right; he had to tell Buffy about the circumstances that had led to their engagement… before she found out in some other way. He wouldn’t put it past Hank Summers to find the means to tell her just to spite him for the way he threw him out of his house. He couldn’t take the chance, there was so much more at stake now.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Cecily had been going to Hyde Park all week hoping she would see William again… to no avail. Whereas before he spent almost every afternoon riding there whenever he was in town, no one had seen him ever since he returned from the country the week before and that had to be that awful Summers girl fault. There was no doubt in her mind about it.
Before Elizabeth Summers entered the Duke of Aurelius’ life out of nowhere, Cecily Addams had believed it was just a matter of time until she
became his wife. All her friends and her family expected an announcement eventually. It didn’t matter that William had never singled her out, because he never singled anyone else out either. However, she knew better. She knew he would offer for her, because she was perfect for him in every way… until that evil witch intervened and with who knew which black arts she’d manage to snare not only William’s attention but obtain an engagement from him as well. A hasty one at that.
Despite the duke’s threat the night they met at the theatre, she just knew she had to do something to prevent this wedding from happening. She was certain he would thank her for it later, just as she knew after that he would finally do as he should and marry her
instead of the blonde who was so beneath their station.
Her heart started beating harder when she saw the duke riding down the avenue on his black Arabian stallion, looking as handsome and imposing as ever. She straightened in her seat, nervously arranging her curls as he came closer, a blush tingeing her cheeks and a smile forming on her lips… until she noticed who was riding by his side and then her expression promptly soured, the smile turning into a moue of disgust while a frown creased her forehead.
And that wasn’t the worst of it; the absolute worst being that he didn’t even acknowledge her as he passed by her, the odious Miss Summers did though. The triumphant smile plastered on her face was definitely for her benefit, but it wouldn’t be there for long, she would make sure of it.
“…couldn’t believe it when Archibald Turner told me about it,” Cordelia Chase was saying to the other occupants in her carriage. “But he swears he was at White’s when the deal was made.”
“Deal? What deal?” Cecily asked, turning towards her friend.
“Why, Cecily, haven’t you been listening to me?” She arched her brow, knowing perfectly well why the brunette hadn’t paid attention to her and wanting to tease her a little. There weren’t that many opportunities when she could put her on the spot. She didn’t particularly like Cecily Addams, but she’d learned early on that it wasn’t in her best interest to get on her bad side, especially not when one of her parents’ prospective suitors for her was the Addams’ heir. Not that she was all that eager to get into that family, but she knew better than to oppose to her father’s wishes.
“Just tell me, Cordelia,” she gritted in a no-nonsense tone.
The other girl rolled her eyes and sighed in defeat. “Well, it seems our dear Duke of Aurelius won Miss Summers’ hand in a game of Faro.”
“Really now?” Cecily smiled wickedly. That was exactly the sort of news she needed to hear about. She was quite certain Miss Summers knew nothing of this, since usually these kinds of dealings were kept under wraps. She doubted the blonde girl would be as arrogant if she found out she’d been gambled off in such a way. And perhaps, just perhaps, if she had any self-respect left after finding out about it, that would be enough to get rid of her for good. One could hope at least.
Cordelia felt a frisson of fear go through her at the manic grin that settled on Cecily’s face, sharing a concerned glance with Amy Collins and Harmony Kendall who’d joined them for their outing that afternoon. They all knew of the brunette’s obsession with becoming the Duchess of Aurelius and what she was capable of and it was only then that she realized the full extent of her mistake in telling her about the bet.
Oh God, what had she done? She paled and was suddenly nauseous at the mere thought of the lengths her ‘friend’ might go to obtain what she wanted. Cordy loved a good intrigue as much as the next person—and this, like it or not, was as good as they got—but she was aware now that if anything happened it would be her own fault. She had to do something, anything to prevent whatever Cecily was planning to come to fruition and it would have to be soon or who knew how catastrophic the results might be.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The trip to Hampshire was uneventful and while Lady Winifred had warmed up considerably to him since that morning, Wes knew he still had a long way to go before she fully forgave him. If she ever did, that was. For the time being, he knew he should count his blessings and be grateful that she was talking to him again. The silent treatment coupled with the insane jealousy that he felt whenever Alasdair Chandler was mentioned, just about did him in.
As Spike had told them, Mr. Thompson had quite a selection of purebred horses at the ready for their inspection. Arabians, Lusitanos and Andalusians, all with impressive backgrounds and pedigree, all beautiful animals in their own right, ranging from the deepest of blacks to the purest of whites, bay, chestnut, even blue and some that appeared pink or lilac due to the strange pigmentation of their coats.
While not an easy task, between the three of them and with the explicit instructions they’d been given by her brother, it didn’t take them too long to settle on a bay Andalusian mare. It was a truly gorgeous animal, its reddish brown coat lustrous and shiny, its lines proud, strong and elegant and its black mane and tail thick, long and flowing with each gracious movement it made. And if her future sister-in-law was anything like her, she had no doubts Miss Elizabeth would absolutely adore her brother’s gift.
After having tea with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson at their home and making Mr. Thompson promise he would deliver the horse to the stables at the duke’s country estate near Windsor the next day, they began the one-hour trip back to London.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
“Oh William, I had such fun today,” Buffy gushed as they walked through her garden after having supper with her mother.
She had changed into a lovely white lace gown with a blue satin under dress after they’d arrived at her house a little earlier and had her hair pinned up, a few stray curls artfully framing her pixie face. If Spike had his way, the up-do wouldn’t last up for long. He loved to see, to feel her silky golden tresses tumbling into his hands. Of course, that’d only happen if he still had the right to do so after he told her about the bet her father—no, not her father, thank the heavens for small mercies—and he made. And if she didn’t forgive him? What would he do then?
She frowned when he didn’t answer her, turning on her heel to find him a few paces behind her with such a somber expression etched on his handsome face that she couldn’t stop a shiver from running down her spine.
“Is something amiss?” she neared him, putting her hand on his arm and startling him out of his stupor.
“I-I,” he choked, closing his eyes as he tried to steel himself for what he had to say. He was afraid out of his bloody mind over how she would take this revelation. Afraid of the power she held over his, or rather their future.
He patted his vest until he felt the small object he’d hidden inside one of its pockets and sighed. He was taking a huge gamble here, hoping whatever they’d built in the last few days would be enough. Enough for her to hear him out, enough for her to accept his apology for the way he secured her hand in marriage, enough to still want to marry him after she learned what he did. But he was nothing if not a gambling man, and so far Lady Luck had always been on his side, hopefully that wouldn’t change in the most important bet of his life.
“William?” she asked when the grave look on his face changed to one of nervousness. And frankly, it was making her
nervous, as well as scared. What could have him in such a state? Perhaps he was having second thoughts about marrying her. And why did that thought make her feel like crying when she should be jumping for joy? He hadn’t given her any indication in that sense, but seeing him like this… she couldn’t help her insecurities from earlier in the afternoon to arise.
It was so unlike him, so unlike the confident, completely sure of himself man she’d come to… to what? Care about? Care seemed too tepid an emotion for all he elicited in her, though for the moment that was all she felt truly comfortable accepting to feel for him, even if only to herself.
The apprehension he heard in her voice was what finally gave him the strength he needed to proceed. It wouldn’t do either of them any good if he kept delaying this. So after taking a deep, long breath, he finally opened his eyes and fixed them on hers.
“I have to tell you somethin’, love… somethin’ that—” he looked around them until he found a stone bench. “Le’s sit there for a moment.”
Her stomach was in knots as she followed him, a feeling of dread enveloping her. She sat primly on the bench, her hands folded in her lap as she tried not to give in to the despair that threatened to engulf her.
“I have to tell you somethin’, but I need you to promise me…” he paused, swallowing hard. “I need you to promise me you’ll hear me out, that you’ll let me explain.”
“Explain? Explain what?”
“Jus’ promise me, Buffy? Please?” he all but begged her, grabbing one of her hands in his. Needing to touch her, to feel her, to fool himself into thinking everything would be all right after all, at least for the time being.
She looked at him doubtfully and he sighed, resigned. Time to up the ante. Double or nothing worked for him before, perhaps it’d work for him now, too.
“I know it’s a lot to take up on faith alone, but if you listen to me without interruptin’… I’ll give you a choice when I finish and I swear I’ll abide by your decision, no matter what it is. You have my word on it,” he avowed.
Now she was well and truly curious and didn’t they say curiosity killed the cat? She just hoped trusting William wouldn’t end up being her downfall. “Alright, I’ll listen to whatever you have to say.”
“Firs’ of all let me say that I know we didn’ start off on the right foot and that `m to blame for that. I-I, from the first moment I saw you across the street the day we met, I couldn’ think of anythin’ else but you. Still can’, to tell you the truth.” He let out a self-deprecating chuckle. “It wasn’ that you are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, or that you didn’ make it easy on me. That only made me more determined to see you again, to find out more about you, to discover anything that could be discovered about you.
“And so I commissioned Wes to investigate everythin’ about you, your family, your antecedents, anythin’ that might be helpful to me to get to you. And I found a way, perhaps not the most brilliant, but in my head it was foolproof. I arranged a meeting with your father at White’s, knowing perfectly well the kind of man he was and `m ashamed to say, set him up in a way where he’d be cornered to give me my heart’s desire… you.”
She didn’t know what to say, what to think as his words spiraled inside her head while she tried to grasp their meaning. He had been the one who instigated their engagement, sought her father out to obtain her hand in marriage. It simply didn’t make sense.
“`F course, I didn’ take into account that once I saw you `gain, once I began to really know you, I would fall for you like I’ve never fallen for anyone else before. You’re everythin’ I’ve ever wished for in a woman, in a wife. You’re all that and more, so much more. All I’ve ever wanted, but never dreamt I could have. Which makes what I have to say even harder…” he said, feeling her tense at his words.
“I-I did somethin’ `m not proud of, somethin’ that could make you hate me but that you need to know, regardless of what it would make you feel concernin’ me,” he continued, lowering his head and settling his eyes on their linked hands. He could feel her pulse jumping on her wrist where his thumb was caressing her, while he tried to come to terms with the very real possibility of her throwing his love back in his face once she knew what he did.
Her heart was beating so hard inside her chest it was making her feel slightly dizzy. Not that it could be helped, not with the way he was behaving. It had to be bad for him to react that way.
“I wanted you no matter the cost, so I made a bet with your father, offered him a deal he couldn’ refuse… with you as the prize if I was victorious,” his voice cracked a little when he said that and he winced, imagining how much she must be hating him now.
She blinked as she processed this new piece of information. Her father had actually bet her in a game of luck as if she were nothing more than a possession to him, which truth be told, didn’t come as much of a surprise. What she hadn’t expected was that William wanted to marry her so badly he’d done something like this. She truly couldn’t understand the reason why.
“`M aware I messed up, that what I did was ludicrous, that I probably ruined any chance I might have of you ever reciprocatin’ my feelings, but you deserved to know that I did it because from the moment I saw you, I knew you were the one for me. I swear I only did what I did because I was certain you were it for me. And I still am,” he said in earnest, getting on one knee in front of her and taking the ring out of his vest’s pocket. “`M givin’ you a choice, love. The choice I should’ve given you from the start.”
Buffy gaped from his blue eyes to the gorgeous emerald and diamond ring in his hand and back, tears prickling the back of her eyes, all kinds of overwhelming emotions running through her.
“I love you, Elizabeth, and if you can find it in your heart to ever forgive me for what I did, for forcin’ you into an engagement with me against your will, I promise you I’ll make sure you never regret it. I’ll devote my life to making you happy. If you can’, well, then we’ll call the weddin’ off and you’ll never have to see me again. Whatever you decide, however, you have my promise for as long as you live, I’ll make sure your mother and you are well taken care of. It’s the least I can do after gettin’ rid of your father the way I did.”
Any lingering doubts she still had about her feelings for the man currently laying his heart at her feet for her to either pick it up or stomp on it, vanished into thin air. The sincerity in his tone, his words, the love, fear, hope and despair swirling amidst the piercing sapphire gaze as he waited for an answer made the decision easy for her. Easier than she ever imagined it might be. She knew how hard it must have been for him to give her this alternative, this way out. He was a prideful man, a man used to getting all he wanted and yet, he was giving her the chance to say no to him.
She wouldn’t, though, she couldn’t say no to him. Not when he was giving her the greatest gift she could ever wish for, a man who loved her above everything else and a man she could love with all she had in return.
She pulled her hand away from his and he cringed, closing his eyes so he didn’t have to see how she walked away from him and out of his life forever. Not that he could blame her after what he revealed to her.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked out of the blue, and something in her tone made him raise his eyes to hers, his breath catching in his throat at what he found. There was no hate in the gorgeous green depths that had him captured in their light; they were filled with trust, a hint of mischief and was that… some kind of affection? Perhaps it was only wishful thinking on his part, but even if he tried to squash the hope that blossomed inside of him that she might return his feelings even if in just a small measure, he simply couldn’t. Not when she looked at him like she cared for him.
“Huh?” he inquired dumbly, still unable to get past the notion she was still there with him, talking to him.
“Thought the ring came with a question?” She raised a perfectly trimmed eyebrow at him, a smile tickling the corners of her lips. The awe in the azure gaze tugged at her heartstrings and she couldn’t stop herself from bringing her hand up to caress his handsome face.
“Depends,” he replied, nuzzling her hand with his nose before planting a kiss on her palm, slowly gaining some of his confidence back.
“On your answer.”
“But I can’t give you my answer if I haven’t heard the question, now can I?” she teased him.
“You know what I want to ask.”
“Perhaps, but I would still love to hear it,” she batted her eyelashes at him.
“Aren’ you… angry at me because of what I told you?” He should’ve quit while he was ahead, but they needed to talk about this now.
“I won’t say I’m ecstatic that you and my father bet me in a game of… whatever were you playing?”
“Faro,” he said, sheepishly lowering his head again.
“On a game of Faro; however…” she sighed, putting a finger under his chin until their eyes were level again. “However, it’s obvious the reasons you both did it were abysmally different and you came clean to me about it and that… that means the world to me. That means that you’re the kind of man I can give my heart to.”
“Buffy?” He didn’t want to sound so needy, hated it matter of fact, but if she was telling him what he thought, he didn’t care.
“Now are you going to ask me or not?” she pouted.
“Well, if you insist…” he said with a wink before grabbing her left hand and bringing it to his lips, kissing the finger where his ring would be placed before putting it on the tip of her finger. He inhaled deeply, his blue eyes clouding with emotion as he gazed up at her lovely face. “I love you more than life itself; more than I ever thought possible to love anyone. I can’t imagine my life without you in it. So please, love, please, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Her eyes misted while she nodded her acquiescence to his proposal and he slipped the ring onto her finger. She smiled through her tears, throwing her arms around him and kissing his face repeatedly, a whispered, “Yes, yes, of course I will,” all she managed to say before he captured her mouth in a searing kiss.
Chapter End Notes:
Approve, disapprove? Want more? *giggles* I’d love to know if you want to let me know. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you have an awesome week!
Chapter 17. Playing with Fire by dusty273
First of all, thank you so very much to all of you who took the time to review, knowing you’re enjoying the story (even with Angel looming on the horizon) makes me very happy. I know I’ve been stringing you with the idea of him returning, but the thing is that this story took a life of its own and has changed so much from the original idea, that I haven’t been able to bring him into the story in a plausible way. Soon, though, just have to take care of a few details first. ;) Also, I answered all reviews for chapter 16, finally, and I’ll be getting to the ones from before as soon as I can.
Second, this chapter is dedicated to my awesome sister and beta extraordinaire, Tina, because she said she was in the mood for… hmm, what’s coming in the chapter. I was at a crossroad, and she twisted my arm to go the way I finally did and well, I can’t say no to her, now can I? ;)
And last but not least, thank you to Vara, Carrie and Beth, all who in one way or the other helped me with this chapter. Love you, girls!
The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes. ~ Henri Frederic AmielChapter 17. Playing with Fire
“What do you mean we’re stranded here?” Wes inquired.
“Exactly that, sir,” the coachman replied. “The rim is broken and by the time I get to the nearest town to fetch the local wheelwright and come back, it’ll be too dark to fix it. That is if I even find one in that poor excuse of a town we passed by about two miles ago.”
Wes cast a shaky hand over his face as he tried to rein in his growing fear and desperation. If he’d been alone, he could have cared less over this happening. Well, not as much at least. But the fact remained that he wasn’t, and it was anyone’s guess as to what or who they might encounter if they stayed here much longer.
“The way I see it, we have two options,” Fred stated matter-of-factly. “We could take one of the horses and ride back to the small town we just went past, hire a carriage and return to London, or stay the night at the inn I saw there.”
“Win—Lady Winifred,” he amended, remembering they weren’t alone at the last moment. “There’s a slight problem with those suggestions of yours.”
“Oh, really?” She raised an eyebrow at him, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. “And what might the problem be, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?”
“First of all, neither of the horses is saddled, nor are you dressed in appropriate clothes to go riding and even if you were, there’s no telling if we’d find a carriage for hire there. Plus, it’s almost dusk and we’d never make it back to London before it is completely dark. That’s without taking into account that we might find footpads or highway men along the way and I’m not about to expose you to any danger,” he replied.
“First of all,” she half-mocked his words. “I’m perfectly aware of how I’m dressed so I wasn’t suggesting I ride one of the horses, not that I couldn’t if it’s absolutely necessary, but rather that you
rode us both on one horse back to the inn. And if it’s not possible to return to London tonight, I’m quite sure we can stay at the inn and return home early tomorrow morning.”
His eyes glazed and he felt his manhood stir in his breeches at the thought of having her in his arms, her back pressed to his front even if only for the two miles or so until they reached the damned inn and had to mentally slap himself to continue. “That’s out of the question. The inn you saw probably doesn’t even qualify as one and it most assuredly is not an appropriate place for a lady of your social status, not to mention you’re un-chaperoned.”
“Oh, please. Enough.” She rolled her eyes at him. “And stop with the appropriateness of it all. I’m perfectly aware of how inappropriate it is without you reminding me, but I don’t see you offering any solutions or am I mistaken?”
The worst part of it all was that she was right; there were no other viable alternatives to their plight, at least none that came to mind. Returning to London this late on a moonless night and not knowing the roads well was madness. Spike would have his head and probably something else he valued just as much if he risked his sister in such a way; not that he thought staying with her at the inn would be that much better for him in the end, but at least they’d be relatively safe.
Knowing he was defeated, Wes heaved a long, suffering sigh, nodding before extending his right hand towards the front of the carriage with a flourish. “Alright, milady, shall we go then?”
“Thought you’d never ask,” Fred responded with a beaming smile, walking with him towards one of the horses that the coachman had already unhitched from the vehicle.
Wesley mounted the equine, and with a little help from the coachman and the footman, they managed to lift Lady Winifred onto the animal’s back without ruining her dress. They set off en route to the inn with the footman following them on the other horse which kept a bit of distance from the pair while the coachman stayed behind with the broken carriage.
*~*~*~*~*~*In the meantime, in Buffy's garden...Her eyes misted while she nodded her acquiescence to his proposal and he slipped the ring onto her finger. She smiled through her tears, throwing her arms around him and kissing his face repeatedly, a whispered, “Yes, yes, of course I will,” all she managed to say before he captured her mouth in a searing kiss.
Buffy’s words echoed inside Spike’s head as he plundered her mouth with his tongue, swallowing her capitulation, her acceptance, anything and everything she was willing to give him.
Needing to feel all of her against him, he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and without breaking the kiss, raised them both to a standing position, slowly leading them towards a nearby oak tree against which he pressed her, molding his hard body to her soft curves.
She was thankful for the support William and the tree trunk at her back provided her, otherwise she probably would’ve crumpled to the ground by now. The sensations coursing through her body were heightened by the knowledge that he loved her. And not only that, but loved her enough to tell her the truth of their engagement, going as far as to offer freeing her from a betrothal that at one time she’d seen as nothing less than hell on earth. To give her the opportunity to decide for herself what she wanted for her future. To tell her he would step aside and abide to her decision, no matter how much it would affect him.
One of his hands came up to cup her cheek and jaw, tilting her head back a little, while the other raked into her hair. Meticulously, he pulled off each pin that held it up and threw them down carelessly, moaning into her mouth as her golden mane tumbled down her back and he could finally relish in the silky feel of it as it caressed his fingertips.
Her arms twined around his shoulders, hanging on to him for dear life as she surrendered to the sinful promise of his mouth as it traveled down her neck, worshiping her flesh with moist kisses and little nips that turned her knees to jelly while she panted, biting her bottom lip trying to repress the mewls that came unbidden.
The small noises that she made, however muffled, were driving him crazy and he doubled his attentions to her jugular, making her shiver and arch into him when he grazed it with his teeth. He lavished it with his tongue, biting it lightly and was promptly rewarded by a low moan.
“Tell me again,” he demanded, his lips skimming up to kiss behind her ear, his fingers coasting down her throat slowly, reveling in the way her pulse thumped wildly against them. He then lowered his hand to play with the satiny border of her dress, dipping slightly beneath the fabric, the satin feeling rough to the touch in contrast to the silky smoothness of her skin.
“T-tell you w-what?” she asked breathlessly, unsure of what he wanted her to say.
“That you’ll marry me; that you… care for me, even if only a little bit.” He pulled a little away from her, cocking his head to the side in the way that she loved as he waited for her answer.
“I will, I do,” she replied in a resolute tone as she gazed adoringly into his bluer than blue eyes which held hers in awe. Marrying someone else was completely out of the question for her. She didn’t know why or cared how, but he had taken residence inside her heart, her soul, every inch of her. Her feelings for him grew with each second that passed, with each kiss they shared, with every little bit more of himself that he allowed her to see. She didn’t just
care for him, but at the same time was afraid to put a label on it right now. She was still trying to come to terms with the realization that whatever she felt for William was a thousand, no, at least a million times more powerful than anything she’d ever felt for Angel.
He half-expected her to skirt around the issue, to deny her words from earlier and was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t. She’d told him she cared for him, perhaps not in as many words, but she had. The way her emerald green depths softened when she looked at him, how she responded to him, so passionately, so sweetly gave him hope that one day she might reciprocate his feelings and for now, that was all he wanted, all he needed.
Irresistibly drawn to her, he kissed her again and again, devouring her mouth with his, tasting her, savoring her, committing this moment to memory so he could remember it until the last of his days.
This was torture. Plain and simple torture; there was no doubt in Wes’ mind about it. And why would there be when the object of his affections was currently nestled between his thighs, half-turned towards him. His arms were wrapped around her torso to hold the bridle, brushing them against the underside of her breasts every once in a while, no matter how much he attempted not to.
He tried his best to keep his eyes from straying down to the impressive view of her décolletage that he had in his position. Tried and failed miserably as they treacherously wandered to assess her… attributes time and time again.
Fred reveled in the wondrous sensation of being surrounded by Wesley’s masculine scent, by his strong arms. It didn’t matter that she had to somewhat force the situation, not if this was the end result. Or that they weren’t truly alone, or even that knowing him, he wouldn’t take advantage of the situation.
Or perhaps with a little encouragement he just might, she thought when she felt his hardened length pushing against her derriere. It was obvious that her nearness affected him on a physical level, so perhaps she could focus on that. Focus on driving him up the proverbial wall, on making his control shatter and break into a million pieces.
He made an effort to concentrate on anything but the woman in his arms. On anything that would prevent him from making a fool of himself. But everything went to hellfire when Winifred twisted her upper body slightly towards his, burrowing further against his body as she fell into slumber. That wasn’t too bad, it even felt… nice that she trusted him enough to fall asleep in his arms.
The truly torturous part began when he felt her fingers ghosting up and down his chest. He’d braved a look at her face, sure she was awake and privy of what she was doing to him only to find her lashes covering those gorgeous brown eyes of hers, her face devoid of any expression, her breaths even and steady and he simply couldn’t bring himself to wake her, to put a stop to her actions.
He wished the trip to the inn would last longer and at the same time, he wanted it to be over with. The beautiful woman in his arms, the sweet torment of having her warm, luscious body pressed against his in a way he’d only dreamt about until then, and the small hand on his chest unconsciously driving him insane with lust were wreaking havoc on his control. He had to struggle to remind himself the reasons why he couldn’t just take what, or rather who
, he wanted.
Spike’s fingers continued teasing the edge of her bodice, his lips once again straying away from hers and down the slender column of her throat to taste the other delights her body had to offer him.
He was drunk off her ardent responses to his caress, in how her tiny hands tunneled inside his hair as she pressed herself against him. Her moans no longer hushed as she allowed him to sweep her away in a whirlwind of love and desire, and it only inflamed him further, making him forget about everything that wasn’t her.
His touch set her ablaze, every nerve in her body sensitized, thrumming with her need for him as she tried to get closer. Buffy fell into the spell he was weaving around her, forgetting about propriety, about decorum as his fingers grazed the underside of her breast at the same time he peppered moist kisses on her collarbone.
He yanked her dress down to reveal more of her creamy mounds to his eyes, his mouth watering at the sight of her rosy buds temptingly peeking beneath her chemise. Unable to help himself, he lowered his lips to capture a tender nipple between them, groaning at his first taste of her scrumptious breast, suckling and nibbling on it, his shaft hardening inside his pants as she squirmed and arched towards him.
The emotions he was eliciting in her were like nothing she’d ever experienced before. She could feel every tug, every pull of his mouth all the way to her womb, converging, tightening, coiling deep inside her and making her want for something she couldn’t quite understand, but wanting it all the same.
He dared to look at her face and a shiver of pure, undiluted yearning ran through him at the sight of her heavy-lidded eyes fixed on him, her cheeks flushed with her passion, her lips bee-stung by his kisses, her hair in wild disarray framing her pixie features.
“William,” she murmured breathily, her voice husky with her need and he kissed his way upwards to savor his name on her mouth, losing himself in the moment.
He bent his knees slightly, one of his hands teasing her nipple into an impudent little spike while lowering the other to the hem of her dress, the under-dress and petticoats to slowly, sensuously drag them up. The feel of her silk stockings beneath his fingertips as he moved them up and down her calf—bringing it up to wrap around his thigh— was almost enough to make him come.
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered against her lips. “So warm, so… mine.”
.” Yes, she was his. Was there any doubt when she could barely remember her own name whenever he kissed her? When everything
ceased to exist except the two of them?
He stopped kissing her, his forehead resting against hers as he gazed deeply into her eyes. “Tell me, Buffy, tell me you’re mine.” He wanted, needed
to hear the words tumbling from her lips.
Wes was quite thankful when they finally arrived at their destiny. There was only so much he could endure without his tightly-reined control snapping, after all. As it was, he felt he was on the verge of doing something that could be considered monumentally stupid, like kissing Winifred. Not that he thought his advances would be welcome, but he was getting to a point where he didn’t care as much over a tiny detail like that one.
Perhaps he should take a page off Spike’s book and just take what he wanted without caring about the possible consequences.
Fred was having a hard time keeping her breathing even, the feel of his hard muscles flexing beneath her fingertips, his heart beating wildly inside his chest, his manhood pressing against her were all making her feel dizzy with need. She was well aware she was playing with fire, but for once, she wanted nothing more than to be burned.
He stopped the horse in front of the inn and looked down at her slumbering face. He didn’t want to wake her, but it wasn’t as if he could do anything about it. It was providential when he saw her eyelashes flutter and then open, her eyes slowly focusing on him while she yawned then blushed prettily as she noticed her surroundings.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Wesley. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you. What must you think of me now?”
“Er, n-nothing. I don’t think anything, i-it just happened. I-I… truly didn’t mind, Winifred. I swear.” Of course he didn’t mind. If anything he just wished it’d lasted longer, even if the ride had turned somewhat painful with as hard as he was currently.
She smiled sweetly at him. “If you’re sure, I’ll have to thank you then. You have a pair of very comfortable arms,” she batted her lashes at him. A little flirting wouldn’t hurt her case, not with him being so flustered.
“Th-thank me?” He blinked, a thousand ways in which he’d love her to thank him came unbidden to his mind, further arousing his lust. So much so, he knew he had to get inside the damned establishment before he did something he might regret later.
Then she did something that he didn’t expect… “Yes,” she leant forward, placing a kiss on his cheek, a kiss so light that he almost thought he’d imagined it.
“Now, are you going to ask the inn-keeper for rooms or are we going to spend the night here?” she added teasingly, ecstatic at the slightly glazed look in his eyes. Promising, very promising.
“O-of course,” he shook his head to clear it, dismounting from the horse before extending his hands towards Winifred, who immediately slid into them, placing her hands on his shoulders for leverage and making him grab her by the waist. The momentum brought their bodies flush and he had to restrain himself not to kiss her breathless as he peered into her upturned face. It would be so easy.
However, Spike would have his balls if he tried to do anything to sully his sister’s reputation, wouldn’t he? He thought back to the conversation they’d had earlier that afternoon and while the duke had encouraged him to act upon his feelings for Winifred, he had the feeling he hadn’t meant for him to do it in the way he was wishing he could.
He took a step backwards, away from the temptation of her mouth, clearing his throat. “Right then, shall we then?”
“We shall, kind sir,” she beamed at him, taking his arm as they stepped inside the inn.
Buffy was drowning in the deep blue depths, in the myriad of feelings she saw swirling amidst them. She felt as if she were on the edge of a precipice, his mouth and hands bringing her closer and closer to the border of something momentous. What? She wasn’t certain, but it scared her at the same time that it made her long, yearn, crave for whatever it was.
“I-I… yes, yes, yours,” she avowed, shaking like a leaf. Her blood rushed like molten lava inside her veins as he claimed her mouth once again and she was lost, adrift in an ocean of never-ending passion.
His hand skimmed higher along her leg, grazing the naked flesh of her thigh where the silk stocking ended, moaning huskily as he began rocking his hips against her.
She was too far gone to protest when his hand brushed against her soft folds. Her body clamored for something only he could give her as she clung to his biceps, digging her fingernails in his coat.
Unhurriedly at first, he trailed his fingers up and down her slit, rubbing her clit softly then gradually picked up his pace, faster, harder, gauging her reactions to his ministrations, relishing in every shudder and quiver that wracked her tiny frame, every pant, moan and gasp that escaped from her mouth as he awoke her body to pleasure.
Spike was well aware he shouldn’t be doing this, but he couldn’t stop, not now. She was so wet, so hot, felt so good, her essence dripping onto his digits, scorching him as he strived to bring them both to completion.
His index finger circled her opening, entering her cautiously, ever mindful of her innocence. In and out; feeling her heavenly walls spasm around it as his thumb pressed against her engorged nubbin, his mouth slanting over hers, drinking in every mewl, every sigh. He was close, so bloody close, his balls tightening as he tried to stave his climax off.
She lost herself in him, in the sinful things William was doing to her. She felt as if she couldn’t catch her breath, as if her whole body was on fire. She couldn’t think, didn’t care if this was right or wrong as long as he didn’t stop. Oh please, please, don’t let him stop.
Every nerve in her body, every muscle, every single cell was attuned to him, her every thought focused on his kisses, on his caresses, in the way he groaned when she writhed against his hand.
Her snug channel constricted, her tight, velvety walls fluttering and contracting around his finger, drenching his hand with her honey as she arched, crying his name out and that was enough to make him lose any and all semblance of control as he ground his shaft against her one last time before following her into sweet oblivion.
Chapter End Notes:
Hmmm, so… *shuffles feet* I’m well aware things sort of got out of hand there, hope you didn’t mind the… err, slightly smutty interlude? *bites nails*
Chapter 18. Sweet Surrender by dusty273
Sorry for the having taken so long to update again. Life in Casa de Mari hasn't been all that idyllic lately, what with my mother and my daughters taking turns to get sickly. Thankfully, they're on the mend by now and I finally managed to finish this chapter.
That said, I want to thank everyone that reviewed the latest chapter, I'm ecstatic you didn't mind the smutty interlude and that you're enjoying the Wes/Fred pairing almost as much as Spike/Buffy. This chapter is focused on Wes and Fred for the most part, but there's a bit of Spuffy thrown in for good measure. Hope you like it!
A million thanks to Tina for editing this chapter for me, for letting me bounce my ideas with you, for being there for me while I write or whenever I need an encouraging word. Love you, sweetie! To Vara, for taking the time to read and make wonderful suggestions so I can keep this story within realistic historic bounds. And to Beth and Carrie, who read part of the chapter when I started writing it, for your helpful advice and for being your lovely selves. This chapter is for Beth, who wanted more AAO and who is so awesome, I just can't say no to her. Love you, cariño!
“Love conquers all; let us surrender to Love.” ~ Virgil Chapter 18. Sweet Surrender
The warm feeling that had settled inside Fred after their ride changed quickly into trepidation when they went through the inn’s front door. It was a far cry from the kind of places she was used to, but at least it seemed fairly clean. The only problem being that there was only one available bedroom and Wesley would either have to sleep in the common room or in the barn, and with the establishment’s obviously drunk patrons throwing lascivious looks her way, the thought was less than comforting. As it was, returning to the carriage and spending the night there or braving the dark roads to go back to London seemed much more appealing to her than staying in this dreadful place.
She got closer to Wesley, hiding behind him when one of the men neared her, clinging tightly to his arm and thankfully the brunet man sensed her apprehension and placed his arm protectively around her, before addressing the inn-keeper, “My wife will take the room, Mr. Sheppard. I trust there is someone who could stay the night with her?”
“Sure there is. Lynette here,” he motioned to the blonde girl standing behind the counter, “is otherwise…ahem, engaged for the night,” he said with a conspiratorial wink at Wes, his meaning obvious even to her, “but my wife,” he pointed to a woman slightly hidden in the dark, “can stay with her and aid her in anything she might need.”
Fred blanched when the woman stepped into the light, revealing a very bad skin condition and her less than clean aspect. She was no bigot but surely Wesley wasn’t thinking of leaving her alone with that woman? Just the thought of her helping her out of her clothes, of being in the same room with her…she shuddered in disgust.
Wes was having similar thoughts when he took notice of the woman’s pitiful looks and nearly gagged himself. There was absolutely no way a delicate, sophisticated lady like Winifred would allow the inn-keeper’s wife near her and he really couldn’t blame her. Lynette was only marginally better but the duties she clearly performed along with being a barmaid, made her just about as bad a choice. In addition, he’d seen the way the men in the room were eyeing his lady and he knew there was absolutely no way he could leave her alone there. It didn’t matter if he had to sleep on the floor or if he was digging his own grave with his assumptions.
“There’s no need for that, I’ve decided to spend the night with my wife,” he declared and felt Fred sag with what he hoped was relief by his side.
“Alright then, suit yourselves.” Mr. Sheppard shrugged, nonplused by the situation. He didn’t care what they did as long as they paid him what he requested. “Lynette, take the gentleman and his wife to the free room in the second floor. For an additional fee, she could set up for you a truckle bed there if you wanted.”
“That’d be perfect. Thank you,” Wesley replied with a curt nod, only moderately relieved to be provided with a bed instead of the floor, before nudging his ladylove and following the plump blonde woman upstairs.
Slowly, the lustful haze which pervaded during their encounter lifted. When Buffy finally realized how wantonly she’d responded to William, it left her feeling overwhelmed by what she just experienced and very ashamed of her behavior. She brought her hands up to her cheeks, her skin burning under her fingers as her eyes filled with tears. Oh God, what must he think of her now?
Spike came back to his senses when he heard Buffy sniffling. Afraid he’d hurt her in some way, he pulled his hand out from under her skirt, wincing when she whimpered pitifully.
Fighting the urge to lick her spendings off his fingers, he cleaned them on his breeches—after all, they were all but ruined now—and sighed before placing a finger under her chin, his heart plummeting to the floor when he noticed how hard she was crying.
“What’s wrong, love? Please tell me I didn’t hurt you,” he pleaded, cupping her face between his hands while he kissed her tears away. “`M a fool. A bad, rude man. I don’ deserve you. `M sorry, sweetheart, I shouldn’ have…” He paused when she looked back at him with a frown marring her lovely face. “What?”
“Y-you’re not m-mad at m-me?”
“Mad at you?” He cocked his head to the right. “Mad for
you, most assuredly, but at
you? Whatever for?”
“For this, I shouldn’t have be-behaved like this. A-a lady doesn’t act like this.”
“I don’ care about how other ladies behave, but you have absolutely nothin’ to be ashamed of.” He looked deeply into her eyes and continued, “I love that you respond so fervently whenever I kiss you, I love knowin’ that you can lose yourself in me as I lose myself in you. I don’ want a wife who is merely an adornment in my house, Buffy, I want a wife who can be my equal, with whom I can talk about everythin’ and anythin’ or just sit in companionable silence, someone I can love and who perhaps someday will love me back, someone who understands me, someone who can be as passionate as you are over everythin’ you do, over everythin’ you care about. So no, I don’ mind that you behave like you do with me, I want you to want me as I want you, unfettered and uninhibitedly.”
She blinked, her mind trying to wrap around all that William said, one thing standing out the most. “Y-you still want to marry me?” she dared to ask, fragile hope flitting through her eyes. After her shocking behavior she’d been afraid he would retire his wedding offer, but his next words belied that notion.
“Oh, sweetheart,” he chuckled at her naïveté. As if he’d be fool enough not to marry her now that he’d confirmed just how perfect she was for him, how perfect they could be together. “Of course I still want to marry you and even more after this. In fact, if I thought I could get away with it, I’d whisk you away and marry you at Gretna Green before dawn. However, you deserve more than that, you deserve a wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral with our families and friends as witnesses, so `m willin’ to wait these two weeks we still have left before you’re truly mine, even if the waiting will probably be the death of me.”
She sagged on her feet, instinctively hanging onto his strong biceps for support, as relief coursed through her. He wanted to marry her! Even after what just happened, he still wanted her to become his bride. Wanted her in ways she’d always wished she’d be desired. Impulsively, daringly, recklessly, completely. Her world spun madly off its axis as she gravitated towards him. There was nothing else, no one
else but him and suddenly all that mattered was telling him that, to give him something after he’d given her so much. Leaning forward, their lips just a hairsbreadth apart, she said softly, yet firmly, “I can hardly wait either.”
Fred sighed miserably as she observed the shadows play on the opposite wall to the bed. The small candle Lynette left for them was the only source of illumination in the room and it barely provided enough light for her to make out Wesley's form laying on a truckle bed nearby.
That had to be uncomfortable, she thought, watching him all curled up in the small bed. She had offered to share her bed with him but, as she had predicted, he said it wouldn't be proper since they weren't married. His response was not surprising; far from it. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce was nothing if not the perfect gentleman; too damned proper to be anything but
that, no matter how much she wished he weren't.
Not that she was all that comfortable herself. The bed wasn't too bad, a bit lumpy but tolerable; having to sleep in her clothes was hell on earth, though. She tossed on the bed for what had to be the hundredth time that night as she tried to find a position where her corset would allow her to, at the very least, breathe. She’d thought of asking Wesley for help to take it off, but after the way he reacted to her previous offer she’d decided that it simply wasn’t worth it and resolved to sleep fully dressed. Of course, she’d forgotten how impossible that might prove to be since the damned contraption must have been invented by someone who hated women with a passion and no matter how slowly or carefully she turned around it got embedded on her ribs making it impossible to even think
Wes was trying his best to keep his thoughts from straying towards the brunette goddess who was in the room with him to no avail. Just knowing she was so close was wreaking havoc on his self-control.
The day had been surreal and he kept replaying it over and over in his head. His conversation with Spike, the realization that his feelings weren't as well hidden as he surmised and the knowledge that his friend favored a match between his sister and him were more than enough to rattle him to the bone. Spending time with Lady Winifred away from everything and being back in her good graces was more than he'd expected after the last couple of days. And now here they were, alone in the middle of nowhere, so close and yet so far away...heaven and hell all rolled up in one delightful little package.
He listened to Winifred move restlessly on the bed, pained sighs and muttered words that he suspected might be curses escaping from her lips every few seconds. Something was bothering her, but he wasn’t certain if he should ask her about it or just ignore it. When he heard a muffled sniffle, though, the decision was taken out of his hands. There was no way he could remain aloof if she was crying. He had to do something, anything so she would smile again.
He got up from his cot and neared her, his heart breaking when he saw her with her face hidden in the pillow to muffle the sounds she was making. He hesitated for just an instant before putting his hand on her shoulder, retrieving it promptly when he felt her tense underneath his fingertips and then called her name softly, “Winifred? Is something wrong?”
“N-nothing,” she responded without turning towards him.
He sighed, raising his eyes heavenwards while pleading for patience, before pressing her, “You’re crying, that’s hardly nothing. Tell me…please?”
She threw him a sideways glance and his breath hitched in his throat at how beautiful she looked even with her lashes wet with her tears and her nose slightly red from her crying.
“I doubt I will when it’s something causing you distress.”
“Mayhap you won’t think the same when I tell you what the problem is.”
“Of course I will.”
She straightened with some difficulty and sat on the bed, her cheeks tingeing crimson and he wondered what it could be that she was having so much trouble telling him. Whatever he thought, though, it definitely wasn’t what she said next.
“M-my…corset, I can’t sleep on it. It hurts no matter which position I’m in.”
It was his turn to blush then, scratching the back of his head as he thought of how to solve this dilemma of hers. “Oh, right, of course. Perhaps you can…take it off?”
“I can’t,” she pouted and he had to restrain himself not to kiss her pout away. If only he had the right to do it.
He cleared his throat. “Erm, excuse me for asking, but why not?”
“The stays are on my back and I can’t reach them.”
“I c-could call the maid back to help you?” he provided solicitously.
“And let the inn-keeper and his…guests realize you’re not really my husband? No, thank you very much. I prefer to spend a sleepless night to that.” She shuddered visibly and he felt like a sodding git for even suggesting it.
“Maybe I can help you then?”
“You?” Her brown eyes widened in what he supposed was surprise by his offer.
“Well, it’s either that or neither of us will be getting any sleep tonight,” he teased her, trying to make light of the situation they were in. She seemed so vulnerable at the moment that it tugged at his heartstrings and he needed to make it better for her, no matter what. If it meant helping her out of her corset, then so be it, propriety be damned…even if only for tonight.
She looked at him as if he'd suddenly sprouted a second head and he couldn't help blushing again under the weight of her stare, sure it wouldn't be long now until she slapped him for daring to suggest something as outrageous as that to her. He was completely baffled when instead she answered, “I think you're right, Wesley. It would make no sense at all not to accept such a generous offer.”
Then again, she'd always been a sensible woman and she had
to know he hadn't meant to disrespect her with his suggestion, only to help her.
“Right then, how should we…uhm, go about this?” he asked her, truly at a loss over how to proceed.
She stood up from the bed and presented her back to him, watching him from over her shoulder with a small, nervous smile. “You could start by unbuttoning the top of my dress.”
“Uh, yes, I suppose I could.” He swallowed hard, standing up behind her, the movement making him press his chest to her back. He inhaled deeply, her scent filling his nostrils and making him slightly dizzy with need, his hands clenching and unclenching as he fought the desire to turn Winifred around and kiss her senseless, a muscle in his jaw ticking as he tried to curb his body's very unwarranted reaction to her nearness.
His hands were shaking as he started to unbutton the row of tiny pearls, his fingers grazing the soft skin of her back as he uncovered it to his eyes. Her sharp intake of breath was music to his ears and the tiny goose bumps that erupted on her flesh were a balsam to his soul. The knowledge that his actions seemingly affected her just as much as they affected him, emboldened him, his movements turning more confident with each passing second.
Fred felt slightly lightheaded from the sensations his light touch provoked inside her, from the faint whiff of his cologne, from knowing it was him
who was here with her and not just a figment of her overactive imagination. She never dared believe Wesley would be so bold as to suggest something like this—no matter how hard she wanted to believe that someday he would give in to the feelings she was certain he had for her—or that his hesitant touches would make her weak with longing and desire.
Little shivers ran up and down her spine as his fingers danced softly, tentatively over the bare flesh of her back, then her chemise and corset as he worked on the buttons of her dress. She felt his breath caress her overheated skin as he leaned forward, and she closed her eyes, sighing in yearning when he slid the short sleeves of her dress down her arms.
He was beyond caring how appropriate or inappropriate this might be as her gown slipped down her body and fell to the floor, leaving her clad in just her undergarments. Beyond caring about any
thing that wasn't them when she sighed as he trailed his hands down to span her diminutive waist, pulling her flush to him and the evidence of his desire. Her soft pants, the way she leaned against him, her arm worming upwards and curling around his neck when he hid his face in her hair, nuzzling it as his fingers worked on her corset stays, just about did him in. He'd wanted her for so long, too long, and having her like this, so pliant and warm and there…Oh dear Lord!
She turned around in his arms, needing to see him, make certain this wasn't a dream, that this was indeed happening and almost fainted at what she found. This was a different Wesley than the one she was used to, his hair was mussed, his glasses askew, his eyes wild and his skin flushed. He was looking at her with undiluted lust, his body tense with unrestrained desire. He wasn't reserved any longer, the mask had fallen from his face leaving a man yearning for a woman, yearning for her
His lips came crashing down upon hers, unwilling to lose any more time, unwilling to lose Winifred because of his damned pride and reservations. It was high time he showed her how he felt about her, how much he loved and wanted her. Her, not her money or her titles. Her, the woman who'd stolen his heart from the first time he saw her. Her, the woman who was responding oh so passionately to his kisses, stopping only to take his eyeglasses off and throw them to the side carelessly, before twining her arms around his throat and opening her mouth under his as his hands made quick work of the rest of the stays of her corset, practically tearing it off her body when the laces tangled and refused to give in.
Twin murmurs of approval left their mouths as his fingers charted over the flimsy cotton fabric of her chemise, pulling her impossibly closer, before twisting them around and lowering her slowly to the bed.
She never imagined she could feel so much from just a kiss. Although she doubted anyone would consider this just a simple kiss. He was devouring her, claiming her, her blood turned to molten lava and her toes curled as pleasure like she'd never experienced before coursed through her.
He drew back for a second, panting, his blue eyes almost black with lust as they settled on hers, searching and finding what they were looking for as he dove in for her neck, licking and nipping a moist path down to her collarbone, down, down to the edge of her chemise, lowering it with his hands and his chin, revealing her creamy white mounds to him for the first time.
“You're so beautiful, so sweet,” he babbled between kisses; so mine,
he added to himself in his mind. And she was, if only for tonight, she was his.
She bit back a moan when his stubble rasped the tender skin of her breasts, the sensation so foreign and yet so amazing making her arch her back to press her chest closer to his mouth. When she teased him before they got to the inn she never imagined it would lead to this, or that something so simple as helping her out of her corset would make his self-restraint snap, but she wasn't sorry for it, not when it was giving her this wonderful moment with the man she loved. The only man she'd ever loved. The man who was making her body sing as it came alive to desire for the first time in her life. During her thankfully very brief marriage, it had been nothing else but a duty, one she hated and had to endure until her husband died. This, however, was like nothing she'd ever experienced, like it was her first time all over again, the culmination of all her dreams and hopes, the culmination of her love.
Wes thought he'd died and gone to heaven as he feasted on the succulent rosebuds that tipped her perfect mounds, the way they hardened and puckered into delicious little pebbles as he tongued, suckled or fingered them; the small sounds that rasped her throat as he settled between her thighs, his hard manhood thrusting against her center; the sensation of her silk stockings as one of his hands wandered underneath her petticoats, coasting over her calf, up, up, until his fingers caressed the inside of her thigh. It was more than he could've ever imagined, more than he could've ever dreamed. He could care less about the repercussions this might bring upon them, she was all he could think about and the way she felt in his arms, how sweetly she'd surrendered to his passion. Her pleasure was his ultimate goal, his only
“Oh, God,” she whimpered, lost in a haze of lust as his fingertips whispered caresses over her leg in slow concentric circles, climbing agonizingly slow towards her Venus mound while she dug her nails in his shoulders when his digits dove into her soft curls, clinging tightly to him as his index finger slipped between her slick folds. White hot desire converged on her womb, tightening, coiling, furling as Wes played her body expertly. “Wesley, don't stop. Wanted this, you,
for so long,” she confessed.
His mouth returned to hers to savor his name on her lips, savor the sweetness of her admission, savor and swallow her every moan, mewl and ragged breath while her essence coated and drenched his fingers, burning him with her moist heat as he delved them in and out of her tight passage, his thumb circling and pressing on her clit. He hadn’t planned on letting this go as far as it had… Hell! He hadn’t planned on any of this happening, but now that it was he couldn’t bring himself to stop. Perhaps if she had responded in another way, if her luscious body didn’t arch into his as if seeking more of his warmth, if her hands rested idly on her side instead of threading into his hair or trailing up and down his back and arms as she pressed herself to him, if her walls didn’t flutter and quiver around his digits the closer she was to her climax, he might have been able to stop. As it was, it was a bloody miracle he’d kept enough of his control not to tear what was left of her garments and had his way with her, but he couldn't, not yet, not until he yielded all he had in his heart to her.
“I've loved you for so long, forever, from the first time I saw you. It's always been you, it'll always be you, Winifred,” he said in earnest, looking deeply into her chocolate brown eyes. “I know I'm beneath you, that I'm not what you deserve,” he paused, closing his eyes to stave off the wave of pain that the knowledge of not being enough for her caused him, opening them swiftly when he felt her tiny hand caress his cheek.
“You're not beneath me. You're the only man I've ever loved, the only one I want by my side.” She inched forward and kissed his cheeks, his mouth, murmuring, “Please, Wes, I need you, I ache for you, make love to me, please,” over and over and over again as she tugged on his cravat, unbuttoning his waistcoat and pulling his shirt out of his trousers and pushing both down his arms, making him relinquish his hold on her while he divested of his clothes quickly.
For as fast as he removed his clothes, barely giving her a glimpse of him in all his naked glory, he took his sweet time taking hers off. First he took one dainty foot in his hands, bringing it to his shoulder and depositing small kisses on its arch, then her calf and thigh as he skimmed his fingers along them, before rolling her silk stocking slowly down and off her leg, throwing it to the floor over his clothes and putting her leg down over the bed and repeating the same action with her other leg. By the time he'd taken them off, she was squirming, craving his touch, needing him to just take her, right there, right then.
“Please what, sweetheart?”
She scowled at him when she saw the smirk teasing his lips, but promptly forgot about it when he put one knee on the bed and pulled on her petticoats, dragging them down her legs and leaving her dressed only in her chemise, and then joining her on the bed, laying by her side. Still too far away.
It was killing him to take things this slowly, but he wanted her to be as desperate for him as he was for her. But when she said ‘please’
again, her voice laced with longing and her gaze smoldering with passion, he couldn't contain himself any longer. His mouth came crashing down upon hers, their breath mingling as their tongues danced, his hands everywhere at once as he hauled her chemise down her body, committing every inch of her to his tactile memory.
She threw her head backwards, panting harshly as his fingers trailed over her slick entrance. Bringing her hand down, she grabbed his wrist and stopped his movements. “Please, I need you
. I want to be yours completely.”
He wanted to weep, to kneel and thank the heavens for this miracle, but instead he nodded, winking at her. “Whatever my lady wants.”
Holding himself on one arm so he wouldn't crush her, Wes positioned his cock with the other against her slit, moving it along her folds to coat it with her juices, then slid the crown past her vaginal lips, hissing as her wet heat enveloped him inch by agonizing inch until he was seated as deeply inside her as possible. She was so tight, so wet, so perfect for him in every way. Sweat beads formed on his forehead and over his upper lip as he gave her time to adjust to having him inside her, gave himself time to control his urge to move, to come.
Fred brought her legs up to wrap them high around his waist, her hands cradling the sides of his face as they exchanged heated kisses, tipping her pelvis upwards as her feet pushed him down until he began thrusting in and out of her pussy, faster, harder, her walls quivering and squeezing his hardened length, imprisoning and releasing him time and time again.
He pistoned his hips at a different angle each time, grounding against her sensitized nubbin with the base of his cock every time out, smiling proudly against her mouth when she cried his name hoarsely as he found that elusive spot deep within her. Knowing he wouldn't last much longer and wanting her there with him, he brought his hand down to rub her clit then pinched it softly until she fell apart around him. Her essence baptized him, burned him, rendered him hers as he pierced into her passage once, twice before coming right behind her, toppling over the precipice and following her into oblivion.
Chapter End Notes:
I would love to know what you thought of the newest developments, if you're inclined to let me know. *bats eyelashes*
Hope you all have a great week!
Chapter 19. The Morning After by dusty273
I'm very, very sorry for the huge gaps between updates, I just hope I haven't lost all of you. RL hasn't been treating me too kindly lately and my muse decided to leave me when I need her the most. *sighs*
Thank you very much to those of you who read and reviewed the last chapter! I'm chuffed to bits (and very surprised) the majority of you are enjoying the Wes/Fred storyline just about as much as the Spuffy, I'm loving writing both pairings. Un millón de gracias to Tina for taking the time to cheer me on when my muse wasn't playing nice with me; to Beth for her very helpful suggestions and making my muse finish the damn chapter already *giggles* and to Vara, for her time and invaluable historical expertise. Love you, girls!
Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil GibranChapter 19. The Morning After
Buffy woke up feeling deliciously refreshed and happier than she’d ever felt before. The nightmares which had previously plagued her sleep were now replaced by wonderful dreams where she relived every single moment she'd spent with William, every kiss they'd shared, every caress they'd exchanged, the way he made her body tingle all over wherever he touched her.
The Duke of Aurelius was so different from the man she'd thought he was at first.
He'd seemed arrogant, conceited, condescending and haughty. Someone who didn't care who he hurt to get what he wanted. Someone who flaunted his position and money and expected others to bend to his will just because of who he was. Perhaps there was still some of that in him, but that wasn't all.
He was compassionate and had gone to great lengths to reassure both her mother and her that he'd take care of them no matter what. Whatever his dealings with her father might have been, the moment he realized how Hank Summers treated her, he'd made sure the older man knew without a doubt his behavior was unacceptable and saw to it that he was removed from their presence, at least for the time being. He'd lovingly taken care of the lashes on her back, of her fears, of her reservations and showed her a part of him she was quite certain he didn't show many others.
She was sure William was as vulnerable—if not more—as she was over what was happening between them. He'd laid his heart out for her to either crush or pick up and proud as he was, he offered her a way out of the marriage if that was what she truly wanted. And while just a few days ago she would've jumped at the chance, today the idea of living the rest of her life without him made her physically ill.
For as sure as she'd been that she was in love with Angel, he'd never made her feel like she would just die if he didn't touch her, if he didn't kiss her, if he didn't look at her.
William did, though.
He made her feel loved, cherished, made her body sing with just a sideways glance, a ghost of a caress, the lightest of kisses. He made her feel alive for the first time in her life.
He loved her and she...she loved him back, she realized just then.
She struggled to sit on the bed, her eyes wide and wild as the realization of how truthful that statement was washed over her like a tidal wave.
She loved him, she truly did.
She looked down at the ring resting on the fourth finger of her left hand, the tangible reminder of his heartfelt proposal and her heart did a summersault inside her chest as she accepted without a doubt that she loved William with all her heart, mind, soul and body.
She wasn't idealizing him as she'd done with Angel. No, not at all. She was well aware of the blond man's virtues, but also of his flaws, and she loved him even more because of them. She loved him because he knew her, because he saw her as she was and accepted her as she now accepted him. She loved him because she could be herself with him. He didn't want a perfect ornament wife; he wanted an equal, someone with whom he could be himself. And she wanted to be that for him.
How had it happened? When? Did she even care? No, she didn't, and he wouldn't either, of that she was sure.
Buffy laid her head back on the pillow again, bringing her hand up to caress her cheek with the ring, smiling and closing her eyes as she imagined how William would react when she told him, how his face would light up, how his cerulean eyes would fill with awe and love.
She could hardly wait until she saw him a little later that day, when he and Lady Winifred would come to pick her and her mother up. They would go to his country estate, where they'd be spending the next few days while the Royal Ascot took place.
And just knowing they'd be far away from London, far away from the possibility of Hank Summers reappearing in their home and that she'd have the opportunity to spend most of her time with her fiancé made her feel unbelievably joyous yet deadly afraid at the same time. Afraid that she'd somehow lose William, that something could threaten this newfound happiness. She shook her head, breathing in deeply as she tried to dispel her worries. It would do her no good to focus on that, especially when she could spend time daydreaming of her love instead.
The minutes dragged by endlessly as Spike paced the length of his chamber, stealing a glance towards the mantle clock every once in a while and sighing his annoyance when time didn't advance as fast as he would have liked. He'd been up at the crack of dawn and already taken a bath, dressed for the day and read the newspaper. He was currently waiting for both his breakfast and Wes to inform him of Fred and his adventure in horse buying or anything else he might want to relate to him. For him to tell him something, anything, it didn’t matter what as long as it helped distract him from the urge to call on his fiancée so early. No matter how accommodating Lady Joyce had been so far, he didn’t think it would be in his best interest to come calling at seven in the morning.
He'd told Buffy he would pick them up at noon and now he wanted to kick himself for it. He knew he should have chosen an earlier time, the five hours remaining until he could gaze into her emerald depths and her upturned pixie face would be eternal. Perhaps he could send her a note to set an earlier time to leave?
He found it difficult to keep still this morning, even more so than usual, not that his night had been any better. He barely slept, fearful that if he did he would wake up to the realization that what transpired between Buffy and he had been nothing but a dream. A dream in which Miss Elizabeth Summers actually gave a damn about him. A dream in which her eyes softened with something akin to genuine affection whenever she looked at him. A dream in which she'd responded to his advances trustingly and passionately.
Only it wasn't a dream this time. Despite the way in which their relationship had started, his lovely fiancée was warming up to him, going as far as to put her trust in him, something he hadn't thought possible until last night.
Every kiss, every touch of her tiny hands burned a fiery path towards his heart, his very soul. He'd almost given up trying to find someone he could love so completely until he saw her that day on the street. And while he had to accept that her beauty was what drew him in first, it was her fire that ultimately made him fall for her so hard and fast.
A knock on the door snapped him out of his reverie and he walked to the anteroom to find the table already set for him, his valet at the ready on the side.
Spike raised an eyebrow when he noticed that only one place had been set on the small table and that Mr. Browning appeared somewhat nervous, his pallor appeared whiter than usual. The man was always imperturbable no matter what, so he was intrigued over what could have him in such a state.
“Isn't Mr. Wyndham-Pryce joining me?” he asked, and if possible, the question made the poor man even more sickeningly pale, increasing the duke's curiosity.
“I-I,” the valet stuttered, dreading the news he had to impart to his master. He knew there would be hell to pay when the Duke of Aurelius discovered that neither his beloved sister nor Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had returned from their outing the day before.
“Well?” Spike insisted, getting antsy at the other man's demeanor.
“A-hem, well, your Grace, the thing is, neither Mr. Wyndham-Pryce nor Lady Winifred returned from Hampshire last night.” He winced slightly; bracing himself for the explosion he was sure would follow.
“What do you mean they didn't return last night?” the duke asked in a deceptively soft tone, but Mr. Browning knew better than to believe he was as calm as his voice implied. He'd been in service at the Aurelius house since the duke was a small child and was well aware of his mercurial temper, especially when it was something concerning those he loved dearly.
“Exactly that, I fear. However, I have already sent a search party for them as soon as I noticed their absence.”
“And didn't you consider... telling me about this before now?” Spike inquired; a muscle in his jaw ticking as he tried to rein in his temper. It wouldn't do them any good if he let it loose, though, so he kept himself in check...for the time being at least.
Several scenarios of what might have happened to them ran through his head. He was afraid for his sister and his friend, afraid something grave could've befallen them, afraid he might've lost them both for sending them on that trip.
“I apologize, your Grace. It's my fault. I thought it might be best to hasten the search.”
The blond man shook his head and heaved a long sigh, trying to calm himself as best he could. “And of course, you were right, Mr. Browning. At what time did the men leave?”
“A little over an hour ago, your Grace.” The valet exhaled his relief at the duke's approval of his actions. He'd feared for his head for a moment there.
“Right then, keep me posted of anything you find out as soon as you do.” He dismissed the man with a small wave of his hand and just sat there, his head between his hands, breakfast forgotten on the table in lieu of his concern for his sister and best friend.
It passed his mind at one point to go look for them himself, but considering how long ago the search party had left, it made no sense. He just hoped it didn't take them long to find them, hopefully unharmed.
Suddenly feeling as if he couldn't breathe, as if the walls of his room were closing in on him, he escaped through the door in a huff, running down the stairs non-stop until he reached the garden, where he resumed his restless pacing, eyes trained on the road that led to the main entrance of the Aurelius townhouse.
Wes woke up with a start to find his ladylove cuddled into his side, her head nestled in the crook of his neck, and one of her legs between his. He moved his head backwards slightly, squinting to focus on her face. She was beautiful like this, in serene repose. His eyes committed to memory the image of her lips quirked upwards in a soft smile that lit her face even in slumber, of her closed eyelids hiding the lovely chocolate brown ponds he longed to drown in.
He raised a hand to her face, his fingers ghosting over her eyebrows, her lashes, her sleep-flushed cheeks, the bee-stung lips he wished to devour.
He almost couldn't believe Winifred was here with him, that she'd allowed him to be this close to her, in her body, in her heart. And she said she loved him! How did he get so lucky? He knew it wouldn't be easy, that they had many hurdles to jump before their happy ever after, but he was willing to move heaven and earth for her. Her love gave him the strength to fight against the world if need be.
And they had Spike's blessing. Or they hopefully would once he got past the fact of how things had drastically changed from one day to the next. If he didn't kill him first, ask questions later when he discovered Winifred and he spent the night together in this God forsaken inn, that was.
Fred didn't want to open her eyes, afraid of what she'd find when she did. Sure, Wesley was still there with her in bed, his warm, lithe body resting against hers, his heart beating steadily under her hand, his breath fanning over her face.
He'd told her he loved her, proved he did with his words and body and still...still she was fearful he would dismiss what happened between them and chalk it up to temporary insanity, reverting to his old ways when faced with his actions under the harsh and unforgiving light of day.
Then she felt his hand hovering over her features and she couldn't stop herself from stealing a glance at him through her thick lashes, unable to suppress a gasp from rasping her throat at the adoring way he was looking at her.
“Good morning, my love,” he whispered, placing a soft kiss on her lips and just like that, all her doubts melted like snow under the midday sun. “I was starting to think you were going to sleep the day away.”
“Mmmm, good morning.” She kissed him back, her cheeks staining red as she confessed, “I was just afraid to wake up and find last night had been a dream.”
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t. No dream could be as sweet as the reality of waking up with you in my arms.”
“That’s so sweet of you,” she said, raising her hand to caress his cheek, which he grabbed with his to bring back to his mouth.
“It’s the truth, sweetheart. And while there’s nothing I would love more than to remain here with you forever, I’m afraid we must head back to London before William sends the hellhounds after me for kidnapping his sister,” he responded, rising from the bed to gather their clothes, which were strewn all over the floor.
“Oh God, you’re right!” Fred sat up, pulling the sheet to cover her nudity. “I had forgotten all about him. Do you think they repaired the coach already?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I could find out while you dress.” Wes put on his pants then handed her clothes to her. “Unless you need some help with that?”
“Considering you killed my corset,” she started, raising an eyebrow as she retrieved the tattered remains of the contraption from where he’d left it on the bed, a smile tickling the seam of her lips. “I think I'll take my chances by dressing myself.”
“Pity that,” he jested with a wink, buttoning his shirt up and putting on his waistcoat.
He walked over to the mirror hanging next to the dresser, grimacing as he noticed how wrinkled his clothes were. He was also in desperate need of a shave and his hair was a mess that no amount of trying to comb it with his fingers would fix. He sighed, knowing there wasn’t much he could do about that now, so he just shrugged and grabbed his coat from the chair where he’d left it the night before.
“Do you want me to order you some breakfast when I go down?”
“No, that won’t be necessary. The sooner we get back to London the better.”
“I’ll be right back then,” he said, staring at her longingly as he passed through the door, closing it behind him while wishing he didn't have to leave her even if it was only for a few minutes.
Fred stared at the closed door for a moment before getting up to start dressing. It was odd this...familiarity between Wesley and her. Odd, but not unwelcome. Oh no, if anything, their morning after had gone much better than she'd expected.
They still had to talk about what would happen from here, but hopefully what transpired between them the night before meant he was willing to consider a future with her. In what capacity, though, she wondered, as a lover or a husband? That was the question, one she dreaded to know the answer to. She knew what she wanted, but would it be the same for him?
Chapter End Notes:
I know it was a short chapter, but hopefully it moves things along and sets it all up for what's coming. Hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you, if you feel inclined to tell me what you thought of the chapter.
I wish you a wonderful weekend!
Chapter 20. The Courage to Love by dusty273
First of all, many thanks to those of you that are sticking with this story despite the irregular updates. Your reviews and the fact you’re enjoying both love stories made me unbelievably happy. So happy I managed to finish another chapter relatively fast (at least compared to the last one *g*). I think my muse wants to focus on this story for the time being, so I hope you forgive me for the lack of updates in my other WIPs. I promise I’ll get to those as soon as muse let’s go of AAO.
A million thanks as always to Tina, for betaing this chapter for me and for being your very lovely self; to Beth, for her wonderful suggestions; to Vara, for her historical expertise and saving me from making horrendous mistakes; and to Deanna, for inspiring my muse into action—it’d been a while since I wrote like that—and for editing for me. *snuggles* Love you, girls!
Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible—it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment and offer you more joy than any material possession could. ~ Barbara De AngelisChapter 20. The Courage to Love
Spike strode down the steps towards the carriage as soon as it stopped in front of the townhouse, exhaling a relieved sigh when he peeked into the coach and saw his sister and best friend seemingly unharmed inside.
He didn't miss their crumpled clothes, or the fact they were sitting very close together. Neither did he miss the way his sister glowed or how Wes leaned forward to protect her when he practically tore open the door in his haste to get to them.
“Are you both all right?” He scanned his sister's features and body, searching for any hidden injuries before doing the same with his friend and finding none. “I was out of my mind with worry that something might have happened to you.”
Fred smiled, extending a hand towards him so he could help her out of the vehicle. “We're fine, William, I promise you. The rim broke when we were halfway back last afternoon from Mr. Thompson estate, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere. It was too late to get it repaired, so we decided to spend the night in a nearby inn that I'm not quite certain can really qualify as one.” She scrunched her nose at the reminder of it.
She cherished the time she’d spent with Wesley, loved how close they'd grown in the short hours they remained in their room, but aside from that, the experience had been one she was not looking forward to repeating in the future.
“I see,” the duke replied as they entered the house. “I imagine you want to take a bath and have some breakfast before leavin' for Berkshire at noon, so everythin' should be at the ready... if you're still goin' with Lady Joyce, Miss Summers and I after your ordeal, that is?” he added as an afterthought.
“Oh, but of course we are! Aren't we, Wesley?” She turned towards the brunet man for confirmation, laying a hand on his arm and Spike raised an eyebrow at the gesture. It was obvious they had settled their differences and if the way the brunet was looking at his sister was anything to go by, the trip had been far more exciting than they had let on so far.
“I wouldn't miss it for the world,” Wes responded with a smile.
“Perfect! Now if you excuse me, gentlemen, I'll be heading upstairs to my room and don't worry, little brother, I promise I'll be ready in time for us to leave at noon.”
The two men remained at the foot of the staircase until she disappeared down the long corridor that led to her room, one focused on her, the other focused on the man by his side.
There was something different about Wes, he appeared more... relaxed, more carefree, until he noticed Spike's eyes on him and he started to fidget under the force of the Duke of Aurelius’ stare.
“I-I,” he croaked, before clearing his throat, thankful he hadn't bothered with his cravat that morning, otherwise he would've been trying to loosen the knot by now. Spike was far too calm and Wes waited for the explosion he was certain would follow now that Winifred was out of hearing range.
Except the explosion never came and the blond man had a gleam in his eye that could almost be described as evil, or perhaps it was his overactive imagination. Spike couldn't know what transpired between him and his sister, could he?
Dread filled him and suddenly, he couldn't remove himself from Spike's presence fast enough. “I think I'll go get ready myself, if that's alright with you?”
“Sure it is.” He waited until Wes started to climb the stairs before adding, “And Wes? I expect you in my study in an hour. We have a lot to talk about.”
Even half-turned as he was, Spike noticed how his friend blanched at the thought of what their 'talk' would entail, before nodding curtly and making a hasty escape towards the room he occupied when he stayed in the townhouse.
Oh yes, this conversation would surely reveal very interesting information regarding his sister and best friend and with any luck, it would occupy most of the morning .
He glanced towards the grandfather clock to the right and sighed heavily when noticing it was only nine thirty. Two and a half hours yet until he saw Buffy again. He really should've set an earlier time to pick them up, he thought before walking to his study room to wait for whom he hoped would soon be his new brother-in-law. About bloody time, too !
“Elizabeth, can I ask you something?” Joyce inquired out of the blue. Her daughter and she had been going through their correspondence in companionable silence ever since breakfast while they waited for William to pick them up, and after reading Lady Sefton's invitation to Almack's, she just couldn't stand it any longer.
“Of course, Mother.” Buffy left her quill to the side and placed her hands on her lap, giving her mother her undivided attention.
“I think there's no easy way to go about this, but I need to be sure this is what you want.”
“If this is what I want? I'm not certain of what you mean.” And she really didn't. It wasn't as if she'd ever been asked before if anything was to her liking by her parents. Although maybe that wasn't fair, her mother was different from her father, and he was the one who generally made the decisions in their home.
“I, well, I just… I mean, if you weren't sure you want to... say marry the Duke of Aurelius, I could try to convince him otherwise. Perhaps he could be sway—” She paused when she saw Elizabeth's eyes widening in fear as she brought her left hand up to her chest and it was then she noticed a ring she hadn't seen before. “What is that?”
“M-my engagement r-ring,” Buffy stuttered, extending her hand so Joyce could see it. “Mother, please, tell me you haven't told anything of this sort to Wil-his Grace,” she pleaded, grabbing her mother’s hand and holding onto it for dear life.
“No, of course not. I thought to ask you first. When did he give you this, sweetheart?”
“Last night when he proposed to me.” She smiled at the older woman, who just blinked in confusion. “It was so romantic, Mother. He told me he loves me and that if I wanted to break off the engagement he would make sure we had nothing to worry about and I—” She stopped herself from admitting to her feelings for William, it just didn't seem right to tell anyone before she told him, not even her mother. “I really care for him... more than I thought possible, so I said yes.”
“He proposed... again? And you said yes?” Joyce repeated, shell-shocked by her daughter's admittance, this
she hadn't expected. Hoped for, most assuredly, but expected? Definitely not after the way it all started. “And you are certain you care for him?”
“Yes, yes and yes.” She nodded, beaming back before throwing her arms around her. “Oh, Mother, I'm so unbelievably happy.”
So happy it scared her, but she wouldn't focus on that now. Not when she had the next few days to look forward to.
“Well, if this is what you want, then it's also what I want. I'm very happy for you, darling.”
Joyce couldn't say she was surprised. She'd seen the change in her daughter, seen how her relationship with the Duke of Aurelius took a turn for the better, seen how much he cared for Elizabeth and prayed her daughter would learn to care for him as well in time. The expression on her face when she suggested putting an end to the engagement had been answer enough and her words after only confirmed that no matter how this came to be, it still might end with a happy ever after for the two of them.
Less than an hour later after he bid his leave, Wes knocked on the study's door, waiting until he heard Spike's rather dry, “Come in,” before turning the knob and entering the room.
He cleared his throat and wiped his sweaty hands on his pants before advancing towards the seat the blond man signaled with his hand.
“Would you like some whisky?” the duke inquired, nearing the small table that held a decanter and some glasses.
“Eh, well, it's a tad early for that, don't you think?”
Spike just raised his eyebrow. “So, what's your point ?”
“Right. It isn't like one glass would hurt.” He shrugged nonchalantly, his stomach in knots and gladly accepted the glass. God knew he'd need the liquid courage to get through this conversation .
“I see your wounds have healed nicely,” Spike said with a nod towards his friend's hands, which appeared in better shape than the day before.
“Oh yes, the cuts were quite shallow, thank the heavens. I don't even need to have them bandaged any longer.” Perhaps he'd overwrought himself for nothing, the blond man didn't seem to be in a hurry to ask him for any explanations regarding Winifred, and for that he was thankful. He started breathing a bit easier, relaxing as he brought the glass to his lips.
The Duke of Aurelius waited until Wes took a hefty swallow of his drink, before asking him point-blank, “So, tell me, Wes, what exactly are your intentions with my sister ?”
Spike was hard-pressed not to explode with laughter when his friend sputtered most of the whisky from his mouth, coughing and patting his chest as the alcohol burned a path to his lungs. Bloody waste of mighty fine liquor if you asked him , but it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“Went down the wrong way, I suppose?” he said with an evil smirk .
“I-I,” he paused for a second, trying to gather his bearings... and his nerve. He could do this. He had to do this. It wasn't like Spike was a stranger or that he opposed the idea of him with his sister. Quite the opposite, in fact. “I think you're enjoying teasing me a little too much,” he added with a frown.
“Well, of course I am. You're too bloody easy. Not that `m not deadly serious about this, though.” He threw him a pointed look as he drummed his fingers over the lavish oak desk, his good mood evaporating as he focused on the very serious issues he needed to discuss with his friend. “The truth of the matter is you spent the night with my sister at an inn. And while it's not my business if anythin' happened between the two of you or not, I have an obligation to look after Fred and I won' have her reputation sullied if this is known. So, `m still waitin' for your answer, mate. What are your intentions with my sister?”
Wes looked at the blond man sharply, suspicion gleaming in his blue-gray eyes. “I'm beginning to think you had something to do with our little 'accident', that you planned this so I would have to marry her,” he said, so lost in his own turmoil of emotions to notice the signs that Spike's temper was hanging on by a very fine thread .
Spike's nostrils flared and a muscle in his jaw ticked at his friend's accusation. He might've manipulated certain situations to his advantage upon occasion, but he'd never put anyone in peril because of his actions. That Wesley, of all people, could think him capable of doing that
to him and his sister angered him well beyond belief.
“And `m beginnin' to think you're more daft than `ve given you credit for, if you truly believe that rot. For as much as I want to have you as a brother-in-law, I would never resort to somethin' of that nature and you bloody well know it!” He pounded his fist on the furniture with such force, the glasses on it tinkled, the whisky sloshing inside them. “Now. Answer. The. Bloody. Question!” he all but growled .
The brunet sighed in defeat, hanging his head. Spike was right. After twenty years of friendship, he should've known there were things the Duke of Aurelius wouldn't do. He crossed a line and now he had to make amends and try to explain himself.
“I, well, I apologize for what I said to you,” he replied, ducking his head sheepishly. “You're right, I do know you wouldn't put your sister or me in danger... it's just, you have to admit the accident was a little too convenient.” He raised his hand to stop Spike when he seemed like he was about to interrupt him. “No, hear me out, please. I was just lashing out at you because... you know I love your sister and I only want what's best for her, don't you?” He waited a beat until Spike nodded. “The thing is, I'm not certain I'm the best for her, because, let's be honest here… what could I possibly give her? I have no title or riches to offer a lady like her.”
Daft? No, the man was a blubbering idiot ! Spike rolled his eyes at his friend, his anger abating somewhat at his explanation. He saw his point, but really, how dense could Wes be? His sister was wealthy in her own right and more than titles or anything else, she longed to have love, Wesley's love.
“You could give her yourself, your love, she doesn't need anything else other than that. And it's not like you don' have anythin' else to offer, we're partners for Christ’ sakes!”
“Because you felt pity for me!” Wes replied airily.
“And you're back to that already. Really, what does it take, Wes? Are you really goin' to let your glowerin' pride overrule everythin' else, our partnership, our friendship and most importantly, the chance of being happy with my sister? You know as well as I do I didn' have to offer you a part in this business, however—as `ve told you before—I have no time to devote to an enterprise of the caliber this could be. You're an expert in the field and that
's what `m countin' on to make the business flourish. `M startin' to doubt it will work, though.”
That deflated Wes' sails quite effectively. He'd been grasping at straws and he knew it. Trying to find an excuse to get out of a mess of his own making. He was sure that Winifred would be better off without him. But after last night, would she really? Not likely. She would be crushed if he took back all he said to her and if he did, she would never forgive him. And who could blame her?
Was he prepared to have her hate instead of her love? Was he prepared to see her flirt with Alasdair Chandler or any other man who might vie for her attention? To know he could have it all or lose it because of his own foolishness, of his pride?
The crippling pain he felt inside his chest at the thought of seeing her smiling at someone else, of her giving them what she so passionately gave to him, of her loving someone that wasn't him was more than enough answer for him. He couldn't. No matter what, he simply couldn't give her up.
“I... you're right, Spike.”Huh?
“Wha—I mean of course I am. And it’s high time you realized it.” He fought the urge to pout . He'd been ready to continue arguing his case for at least a while longer. That was a mite anticlimactic if you asked him, but if it got Wes to see the light so to speak, well, so be it.
“I know. Believe me I know.” He breathed in deeply as he prepared himself for what he had to ask next. “Would you do me the honor of having the hand of your sister in matrimony?”
“Only her hand?” Spike chuckled, raising an eyebrow. “I'll make you a deal, I'll gladly give all of her to you, bloody nuisance that she can be, if you promise you won' ever mention anythin' about me pityin' you in any way again. Deal?” he added, extending his right hand.
Wes laughed heartily, relief that things seemed back to normal with Spike coursing through him as he shook his hand, sealing the deal they just made. “You're impossible; but yes, you got yourself a deal.”
“Right then, so when are you goin' to ask her?”
“Perhaps while we're at Berkshire ? There'll be more time to build up my courage, just in case she says no.”
“She won't. I can guarantee you that and not because `m going to force her into this or anythin' of that sort. I think it won' come as a surprise to you to know she has deep, abidin' feelings for you. So, I have no doubts this will work out perfectly.”
“Hope you're right.”
“I know I am and you should, too. I trust you're well aware I expect the weddin' to take place as soon as possible, don' you?” Spike inquired, a hint of threat tingeing his voice.
“Err, yes, as soon as possible, I promise.”
“Good man. So now that that's finally
settled, tell me, did you find a suitable horse for my lady in Mr. Thompson stables?”
“Oh yes, we did. It's a beautiful specimen, too. I'm quite certain Miss Summers will love it. He promised to send it to your estate in Berkshire first thing this morning, so I'm sure it'll be there when we arrive.”
“Perfect! Speakin' of which,” he paused, glancing towards the clock for the thousandth time that morning and exhaled a relieved sigh when noticing it was finally a little past eleven and as such, an appropriate time to go to the Summers' household. “It's time go pick Lady Joyce and Miss Summers up. Would you please tell Fred we'll be leavin' immediately upon our return?”
Spike walked towards the door, but before going out, he turned back to his friend. “Wes?”
“It's `bout time you stopped being so headstrong regardin' my sister.” And with that, he left the room.
Wes snorted, taking another sip of his whisky. And wasn't that the truth! He'd lost so much time already but now, all he had to do was find the courage to propose to his ladylove and he'd be set... as long as she accepted, that is .
Oz made the run from his townhouse to Buffy's in record time and Spike couldn't be more grateful for it. Because the sooner he saw her, the sooner he could put to rest his doubts that last night had been nothing but a dream.
He took the stairs leading to the main entrance two by two, pleased when the butler opened the door before he had a chance to ring the bell.
“Good morning, your Grace.” He bowed to him.
“Good mornin'.” The duke gave him his hat and gloves. “Lady Joyce is expectin' me, I presume?”
“Yes, Sir, Lady Joyce is waiting for you in the drawing room.”
“And Miss Summers? Is she there, too?”
“No, I believe Miss Summers is in the morning room, your Grace. Would you like me to fetch her for you?”
“No, that's fine.” More than fine really, if he could convince Lady Joyce to allow him a few minutes alone with his fiancée that was.
He followed the butler to the drawing room and after being announced, advanced to greet his future mother-in-law who stood from the chair she occupied as soon as she saw him.
“Good mornin', Lady Joyce.” He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. “I hope `m not inopportune for arrivin' a little earlier than the time we set?”
“Of course not, William. We have everything at the ready if you wish to leave. I'll just call Elizabeth and—”
“Actually, Lady Joyce,” he interrupted her. “I arrived earlier than I should have and for that I apologize, but I wanted to talk with your daughter before we left, in private if possible.”
“Oh, certainly. You'll find her in the morning room.” She pulled a cord and the butler appeared a few moments later. “Mr. Roberts will lead you there, your Grace.”
“Thank you, Lady Joyce.”
He beamed at her then followed the man down a long corridor until they reached the door to what he presumed was the morning room, stopping the servant before he announced his presence.
“I'll announce myself, thank you, Mr. Roberts,” he said, waiting until the butler disappeared around the corner before entering the room, closing the door silently behind him.
She hadn't noticed him yet, engrossed as she was in reading one of the books he'd sent her, so he neared her carefully, trying his best to not alert her of his presence so he could observe her unimpeded .
He'd never tire of watching her. She was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking with her hair swept up and away from her face. He longed to take all the pins from it, to feel its weight in his hands, to bury his face in it and lose himself in its fragrance. His eyes followed the delicate column of her throat, her collarbone, the sea foam green of her dress that provided the perfect frame for her golden skin and he couldn't stop himself from coming closer, leaning down to place a soft kiss on the nape of her neck, startling her.
“Wha—” She swatted at her neck, swiftly turning around on the sofa to find William standing there. “William!” she exclaimed, her eyes shining with happiness as she threw her arms around his neck. “I didn't expect you until later today.”
“I know, sweetheart. I just couldn' wait any longer to see you. Had to make sure last night wasn' a dream.”
“Well, if it was, I think we both had the same one.” She blushed under his heated stare, lowering her head.
“Now, now, pet, none of that.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “Thought we’d gotten past that last night?”
He smirked when her eyes glazed with the memories of their passionate encounter. “Did you dream of me, my sweet Buffy?”
She nodded, hypnotized by the sapphire gaze that held hers captive.
“And what did I do to you?”
“I-you, er, kissed me.”
“Like this?” he asked, pressing the softest of kisses on her lips.
“N-not exactly,” she said breathlessly.
“Like this, then?” He traced her bottom lip with the tip of his tongue before retreating again.
“Ugh,” she pouted. “You're evil.”
“Well, yes, hadn' I told you I was before?” he asked with a wicked gleam in his eyes.
“No, I was under the delusion you were the kind of man I could love ,” she replied without thinking, her eyes widening when she realized what she'd blubbered out.
He blinked and swore his heart stopped for a second before resuming its mad gallop in his chest as he stared at her perplexed. She couldn't have told him what he thought she did, could she? “What?”
“Tell me, Buffy, please,” he begged.
“Tell you what?” she replied, shrugging nonchalantly. “I don't know what you mean .”
“And you say I'm evil!”
“You are, you admitted to it,” she said smugly.
“Can I be that, Buffy? The kind of man you could love?” Say yes, say yes
, he repeated in his head.
“Perhaps you already are.” She looked at him from beneath lowered lashes, her green eyes shining with an enticing blend of mischief and nervousness that took his breath away.
He swallowed hard, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. “Perhaps I already am... what, love?” He tilted his head, putting his finger under her chin to bring her eyes level with his. “The kind of man you could love or...” He couldn't bring himself to finish the question, fear and hope grappling his insides in a way he'd never known before.
“Or... perhaps you already are the man I love,” she said simply.
Chapter End Notes:
Liked? Disliked? Want more? If you’re inclined to let me know what you thought of the chapter, I’d love to know. *bats eyelashes*
Chapter 21. Playing in the Garden of Eden by dusty273
I'm very sorry that I haven't answered reviews for the last chapter, I'm very thankful for them and I promise to respond to all when I return from visiting my grandma at my dad's hometown. I'm also sorry for how late it took me to complete this chapter. December has been crazy busy at the office and at home, plus I can't even begin to count how many times I re-wrote the damn chapter until it finally was to my liking.
This chapter is a birthday present to Carrie (darkrivertempest), albeit a little late *blushes*. You're such a wonderful friend, honey; always encouraging, supportive and caring and I simply couldn't imagine my life without you at this point. I love you, sweetie!
A million thanks to Tina (IBE) for putting up with me and all the changes I made to this chapter. She actually threatened to spank me if I dared try to change a few of the things I wrote yesterday, and really, if she hadn't done that and then beta this very early this morning, I wouldn't have finished in time to post before leaving. *smooches* I love you, darling! Thanks as well to Vara, Beth and Carrie for reading the first part of the chapter and assuring me it was fine, as well. And last but not least, to Deanna, for the edits and just being there being her sweet self. *hugs you all*
Paradise was made for tender hearts; hell, for loveless hearts.
~ VoltaireChapter 21. Playing in the Garden of Eden “Or... perhaps you already are the man I love,” she said simply.
They both noticed what she'd said at about the same moment.
Spike blinked, trying to wrap his mind around her words. She couldn't have said what he thought she said, could she? “Wha—”
Buffy brought her hands to her mouth as if that would somehow cram the words back inside, her eyes wide as saucers and her cheeks flushed crimson with embarrassment as the need to escape nearly overwhelmed her with its intensity.
Yes, she'd wanted him to be the first to know, but not in quite this manner. She'd been teasing him, playing with words as she engaged in dalliance with him, but it had never been her intention to tell him of her feelings in such a blunt, unladylike way.
Only it wasn't just shame that made her wish to flee, was it?
No, it was also the underlying fear that when she actually told him of her feelings, he might change his mind and decide she wasn't worth the trouble after all, that he wouldn't want to marry her any longer. And no matter how much she'd wanted exactly
that only a few days ago, now, today, this moment that same thing would shatter her heart in a million pieces. And rather than expose herself to that, she preferred to run as far away as possible.
“I... uh, I mean...” Buffy stuttered breathlessly, not sure if she should try to explain or if it might be better to get away now before saying something else she’d come to regret later. “I-I... have t-to go.”
She barely had time to think of trying
to scramble from William before he grabbed her by her shoulders, pulling her towards him and seizing her lips in a passionate kiss that effectively stole what little was left of her breath away.
Spike wasn't about to let her leave after what she said, or take it back for that matter. He didn't care that she hadn't said she loved him... not really. But she'd said enough to make him believe she did, and her reaction when she realized what she said had only solidified that belief. And if he had any lingering doubts, her response to his kisses dispelled those quite nicely, too. He longed to hear her tell him those three words, but he could wait until she was ready. No matter how long it took.
His tongue tangled with hers, savoring the underlying sweetness her previous words left in her mouth, getting drunk in her impromptu admission as his hands coasted down her arms to encircle her waist. His fingers itched with the urge to travel upwards and bury inside her golden tresses, but he knew now was not the time for that. Later, though, he'd make sure to take every pin from her luscious hair and get his fill of it, get his fill of her, if that was at all possible.
His lips trailed moist, heated kisses along her jaw, down her throat, collarbone then back again to her lips, making her shiver and moan and pant as she tried to remember how to breathe while he whispered ardently against her overheated flesh. “Whatever it is you feel, love, I can wait `til you're ready to tell me... No matter how long it takes, no matter what happens, `m here and `m not goin' away, I promise...”
Buffy opened her eyes and set them on his, her chest heaving and her heart thundering as she tried to gauge the sincerity of his words. His gaze was honest and seemingly devoid of any artifice. The adoration shining deeply in the azure depths was so intense it made her shudder with, with... what was this that he made her feel with just one look, one word, one touch? “I-I...”
“Shh, kitten. Later, all right?” He cradled her face between his strong hands, caressing her cheekbones with his thumb before winking at her and letting her go. “Now, tell me, sweetheart, was that
the way you dreamt I kissed you last night?”
He delighted in the way her flesh tinged a deeper shade of red, in her sharp intake of breath and the mild shock that flashed in her eyes before she realized he was just trying to lighten the mood by continuing with their previous teasing.
“Well...” Buffy trailed a finger down his chest playfully to toy with the buttons of his waistcoat, looking at him through her eyelashes coquettishly and biting her bottom lip as she leaned forward, their mouths just a whisper away. “That's for me to know and for you to find out,” she said. Minx!
“And how do you propo—”
A knock on the door cut his question short and he sighed in annoyance at the untimely interruption, casting a hand over his face. With a glance that promised this conversation wasn't over yet, he walked to the door and opened it to find the butler on the other side.
“Excuse me, Your Grace,” the butler said with a bow. “Lady Summers sent me to let you know everything is at the ready and she's waiting for you and Miss Summers in the drawing room.”
“Of course. Shall we, Miss Summers?” Spike asked her when she joined him by the door, offering his arm to her.
“We shall, your Grace,” she responded.
Convincing Lady Joyce of the convenience of allowing her daughter to ride with Spike in his curricle had been surprisingly easy. Of course first he had to swear he'd drive carefully and that they would meet at an inn in Hampton for lunch and change horses.
The first was an easy promise to maintain, he drove carefully no matter the speed his horses gained, plus he knew the road like the palm of his hand. The second one, though, he never intended to keep. But really, if he'd told his future mother-in-law of his plans, he doubted she would've been as keen as to give her permission and he would have none of that.
It didn't take long for his curricle to advance the much slower ducal carriage by a very good margin. The weather, the lighter vehicle, the faster horses and his knowledge of the terrain all played in his favor and they made it to The Kings Arms Inn in less than two hours. Once there, they left Oz to wait for the rest of their party before continuing towards their destination.
Buffy threw him curious glances every once in a while, but other than that she seemed perfectly content with enjoying the gorgeous view of the English countryside this trip was providing her. And this suited him just fine, as he didn't want to spoil the surprise before it was time.
Buffy had been mildly disconcerted when they left William's tiger behind after changing horses at the inn where they were supposed to meet her mother and his sister, but decided against inquiring where they were heading. She was curious, yes, and very much so. Especially since her fiancé seemed to grow steadily more nervous the farther they drove away from the inn and towards wherever he was taking her.
She had no idea what to expect when they finally stopped and he helped her down the curricle; especially when he took off his hat and then raised his hand to untie her bonnet.
“What are you doing?” she asked him, taking a step back.
“You won’t need it where we’re goin’. Trust me... please?”
She sighed heavily and nodded, allowing him to do as he wished. After all, he would know better if she actually needed her hat or not, wouldn’t he?
William picked up a picnic basket from the back of the vehicle and led her through the trees until they reached a clearing and when she took the first glance at her surroundings, she was rendered speechless. Paradise.
This is what Eden must have looked like; there was no doubt of that in her mind. She was almost afraid to breathe, to speak, for it would break the peaceful atmosphere surrounding this magical place.
The most beautiful lake she'd ever seen sat right in the middle of the meadow, its mirrored surface barely disrupted by a light gust of wind and the few ducks swimming in it. Birds chirped from somewhere around them as she stood completely entranced by the view.
The sun warmed her skin as she lifted her head to greet its rays with her face, the fresh scent of earth, trees and mixed spring flora growing in the area permeating her nostrils as she became one with nature.
She jumped a little when William encircled her waist with his arms from behind, having forgotten about him for a moment, before leaning back to rest against his strong chest.
“Beautiful, isn' it?” he whispered in her ear and she nodded.
“Breathtaking,” she replied, in an equally soft tone.
“Not as much as you, though.”
Buffy turned in his arms to face him. “That, your Grace, is a lie and you know it,” she chided him, although her smile belied her words.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, love.” He waggled his eyebrows and she giggled.
Shaking her head, her smile only grew brighter when he smirked. “You're impossible.”
“And you'd do very well not to forget that. You can' win against me.”
“We'll see about that,” she responded mysteriously, before dropping the subject altogether and stepping out of his embrace. “Well, are you going to give me the grand tour or what?”
“Bossy chit,” he grumbled good-naturedly.
“And you'd do very well not to forget that
,” she threw his words back at him with a saucy wink, earning her a hearty laugh from him.
“Life's not goin' to be borin' with you, that's for sure, kitten.” He exhaled a heavy sigh, giving in to her... for now. “All right, where do you want to start? The imported Roman ruins, the path through the forest, the ponds, the waterfall?”
“Oooh, there's a waterfall?” she asked, her excitement clear in her eyes.
He chuckled at her childlike enthusiasm. “I suppose that's where we'll start then.”
They fell into step side by side and he sighed contentedly when she linked her arm through his. Placing his left hand over it, he laced their gloved fingers together as they walked through the park.
“Tell me about this place, please. What is it called? When did you find it? Has it always been like this?”
“Well, it's called Virginia Water Lake and it lies on the southern edge of Windsor Great Park. And believe it or not, that lake there and the waterfall are man-made.”
Her eyes widened in surprise and she actually stopped walking to turn and look at him. “Man-made? Really?” Who would have imagined her Eden wasn't as natural as it looked?
“Yes, the lake’s construction began in seventeen-forty-six by the Duke of Cumberland, who was the Ranger of the Park back then and was completed `round seventeen-eighty by Paul and Thomas Sandby, who added the artificial waterfall, the Meadow and Obelisk Ponds.”
“So it's relatively new then,” she commented, as they resumed strolling down the path that led to the cascade. “Is that why there's nobody else around?”
He shrugged. “Could be, yes.”
“I think I like the idea of having a place just for us.”
“You do?” He tilted his head to look into her upturned face.
“Yes. It's a piece of Heaven on Earth and there's no one else I'd like to share it with other than with you.”
“Well, that works great then, because I feel the same way and that's why I brought you here. I just knew you'd love it as much as I do.”
“I do, I truly do.” Almost as much as I love you,
she added to herself, berating herself for being such a coward and not telling him point blank of her feelings.
The waterfall was as enchanting as the lake, even if due to its design it was obviously artificial. Perhaps it wasn’t as impressively tall or as powerful as other falls Buffy had seen before in America, but it had a serene beauty that made it blend perfectly into its surroundings.
Water cascaded smoothly down the dark grey rocks, landing at the bottom in a hushed murmur instead of the deafening roar she was used to. Small droplets sprinkled over them the closer they got to the edge, refreshing their sun-warmed flesh.
They returned to the lake shortly after, where Spike took his coat and gloves off before extending a blanket on the grass and helping his ladylove to sit before taking their food out.
After they finished their lunch and while William picked everything up and brought the basket back to the curricle, Buffy laid on her back on the blanket, staring unseeingly up at the sky, a wistful look on her face.
She was certain her mother wouldn't be too happy when she learned of their escapade, but right now she chose not to worry about that. All that mattered was that even with the guilt slowly gnawing at her because of her cowardice that morning—especially when her fiancé had done so much to put her fears to rest—she'd had a fantastic time and didn't want it to end, to hell with the consequences. They'd have more than enough time to deal with those later anyway.
She heard a small noise to her left and when she turned her head, found the duke lying beside her. She'd been so lost in her thoughts, she hadn't heard his approach. And now he was there, looking at her with such intensity that her breath hitched in her throat.
“You're so lovely,” he said, unable to stop himself from lifting his hand to her face and tracing her delicate features with a finger. He found it hard to believe this angel was going to be his wife in less than two weeks.
“Am not,” she retorted, her cheeks tingeing crimson once again.
“You are to me. You're all I think about, all I dream about. I love you, Elizabeth.”
Spike claimed her lips in a passionate kiss then, not giving her a chance to respond. He didn't tell her because he wanted her to say the words back. He told her because that was what was in his heart and nothing else.
Buffy's hands wrapped around the duke’s neck, her gloved fingers threading through his hair, pulling him closer as she got lost in the amazing sensations his kisses aroused in her.
When he kissed her everything else vanished. She could care less that they were out in the open where anyone might see them. She could care less what they'd think of her. Their love defied social conventions and decorum. It was like being trapped in a storm in the middle of the ocean and she only could hang on tight to his strong shoulders and hope he would keep her afloat.
He was the kind of man she’d dreamt about. He pursued her unremittingly, relentlessly; tearing down the walls she’d erected to protect herself when she first learned of their betrothal. His love transcended social structures, uncaring of whom her father was or that she wasn’t precisely what others might consider a bride fit for the powerful Duke of Aurelius. He'd shown her a side of himself that she doubted many others knew and she'd been unable to do anything else but fall for him, the real him.
William loved her enough to be completely honest with her about how their engagement came to be; even when telling her the truth might mean losing her in the end. Who loved her enough to allow her to choose what she wanted to do with the rest of her life; even if it meant she might not decide on a future with him. Who taught her what real love was all about.
He loved her and every time he said those three words to her the need to say them back grew inside her. The realization of how lucky she truly was by having found love before marriage setting most of her fears to rest. Love matches were uncommon in their social circle and the men who were willing to lay their hearts on the line for their ladies, were even more uncommon.
Spike was in heaven when his ladylove’s mouth opened in a soft sigh, granting him entrance, her tiny hands tugging on his hair to bring him impossibly closer.
It was so bloody easy to lose himself in her, to get drunk in her flavor, in the sweetness of her response, in the soft curves that molded so perfectly against the hard planes of his body.
It was so simple to want more, to want every little part of her that his fiancée was willing to give him when he had her in his arms.
Without stopping their kiss, he hauled them up into a sitting position, relishing her little moan of protest when he pulled away from the temptation of her lips and lowered her arms from his neck.
Her heavy eyelids fluttered open with some difficulty and Buffy finally managed to focus on him, a shiver running down her spine at the intensity of his azure gaze. Her breathing became laborious when William's hands slowly slid up one of her arms, sensuously dragging her fine leather glove off on their way down before tossing it aside carelessly.
Her heart skipped a beat and she gasped when he brought her hand up to his mouth, giving her index finger a playful nibble with his sharp teeth. His hot breath tickled her skin when he turned her hand over to place a kiss on her palm, the tip of his tongue darting out to taste her skin before moving towards her wrist, his lips feather light against her pulse point in a gesture so intimate she had to bit down a whimper.
“Do you like when I kiss you like this, love?” he asked huskily, bringing her hand to rest over his heart.
“Uh-huh.” She could feel his heartbeat under her fingertips, strong and fast; his chest rising and falling swiftly each time he breathed. She could see a muscle in his jaw ticking as his nostrils flared slightly. Those were the only signs that he wasn’t as calm and collected as he appeared at first sight. And strangely, just knowing he was as affected by her nearness as she was by his, put her at ease.
Or at least, as at ease as she could be with his scent, his masculinity enveloping her, surrounding her, making her dizzy and long for him in ways she'd never envisioned before meeting him.
“Do you have any idea of what you do to me, love?” he inquired, making quick work of her other glove, bringing her hand to his torso to join the other.
“N-no.” She shook her head in negative, her eyes wide and her pupils dilated as they set on the indigo depths.
“No?” Spike tilted his head slightly to the right, leaning forward to steal a kiss from her luscious lips. “Mmmmmm, let me enlighten you then.”
He moved them to lie back on the blanket, keeping her hands pressed against his chest while he loomed over her. His fingers itched to bury in her hair, but he refrained, knowing if he did as he wished he might lose what little control he still held on to. Instead, he traced her lovely features, the arch of her eyebrows, the swell of her cheeks, her pink lips, all the while, basking in the soft look in her eyes, in the way she leaned into his touch. This was paradise and he’d finally found his Eve, no two ways about it.
“You drive me insane. Absolutely, completely. I’m a slave to your kisses, to your taste, to every little moan you make when I touch you. I love feeling you tremble in my arms, knowing that you long for my caresses as much as I long for yours. Because you do, don’t you, dove? Tell me.”
William's lips replaced the fingers on her sweet, warm face, whispering his love across her skin without words, making her feel cherished, loved and wanting nothing more than to reciprocate to him in any way she could. Words eluded her, though, too wrapped up in a haze of desire to remember how to speak at the moment.
One of her hands wound around his torso to pull him closer, arching her back when his mouth coasted down her neck, making her sigh and moan and pant as he nipped at her jugular.
“Tell me, sweetheart. I need you to tell me.”Oh God!
Was there any doubt she did when she could barely recall her own name? He bit her throat harder and her eyes rolled back on her head, giving a strangled yelp as she felt a rush of moisture coat the inside of her thighs.
“I-I do. God help me, I do,” she murmured tremulously, her hands pulling on his head until their lips where just a hairsbreadth away. “I do,” she repeated, pressing her mouth softly against his; wanting, needing, craving him and all he could make her feel with just one kiss, with just one touch.
Her tongue peeked out to timidly brush against the seam of his lips and all thoughts about restraint flew out the proverbial window as he captured her mouth in a heated kiss. He'd been surprised that she'd taken the initiative, but was far from being displeased. He was more than happy to devour the tiny mewls that rasped her throat, to plunder into the honeyed depths of her mouth, to get lost in the feel of her soft curves against his body.
And when her little hands slid down his back, up and down, down and up, he was certain he'd died and somehow ended up in Heaven. She'd never touched him like this, never moved wantonly against him like she was doing right now, and it made him harder than he'd ever been when the notion that she was as lost to their passion as he was entered his mind.
“I need to taste you, love. Will you let me, my sweet Buffy?” he asked, his mouth leaving hers to coast down her throat, her collarbone, the top of her creamy mounds. The need to sample the delights her flesh had to offer nearly overwhelming him as his hand slipped past the hem of her dress and petticoats to touch her silken legs.
“Yes, yes,” she whispered fervently. She had no idea what he was asking of her, nor did she care, as long as he continued what he was doing. William's lips and fingers were setting her ablaze, the sensations coursing and converging deep inside her and she wanted more of this, more of him.
Spike lowered the edge of her bodice, pulling down her chemise and corset as much as he could without undressing her. He was salivating at his first look of her lovely breasts under the daylight; a perfect handful they were, firm and supple to the touch. The dusty-rose nipples hardened under his ardent stare and he couldn't stop himself from taking one into his mouth, then the other; suckling and licking until she was squirming under him, her hands pulling him closer to her bosom.
“Do you like this, kitten? Do you like to feel my mouth on your sweet titties?” he inquired, nipping on her sensitized flesh and chuckling when she opened her mouth and let out a throaty moan.
Lord! Yes, yes, so good,” she babbled, drowning in the blue of his eyes when she finally managed to focus her desire-laden gaze on him.
She was so focused on the attentions he was bestowing upon her breasts that she never noticed his other hand hadn't remained idle, skimming along her calf and under her knee, bending it, opening her to him as he dragged her dress up to bunch around her waist. Not until his fingers grazed the curls that covered her most private of places, that is.
Spike just about lost it when he felt how wet she was for him already; releasing her nipple with an audible plop as he rested his head on her chest, panting and grating his teeth while fighting the urge to come then and there.
Not an easy feat that. Especially not when her honey dripping onto his digits as he slid them into her soft folds, coating them with her dew. Slippery wet she was and he reveled in the knowledge that he was the first—the only
—to arouse her body this way. He gave silent thanks his future wife was not like the repressed ladies others had been trying to set him up with for years. No, his fiancée was nothing like them. She was fiery, spirited, intelligent, passionate and he couldn't get enough of her. He craved her, loved her. Wanted everything she was willing to give him and even when she surrendered completely to him, he would still want more and he would have it... right the hell now.
She whimpered when his hot mouth relinquished its hold on her breast, her hands trying to bring him up when he started to pull away from her. “Don't go, don't leave me,” she pleaded, not wanting the magic he’d weaved to cease.
“Not goin' anywhere, love,” he said with a wink, his body sliding downwards until he reached his goal.
She tried to close her thighs and push her dress back down when she realized what he was doing, but he was faster than her, effectively impeding her actions.
“None of that, love,” he chastised her. “You said I could have my taste and that's exactly what `m goin' to do.”
She blinked dumbly as she tried to wrap her mind around his words. He couldn't mean he was going to taste her... there
, did he?
He took advantage of her obvious distraction to get acquainted with her delectable quim. She was soft and pink and swollen with her need, her nether lips glistening with her juices. His nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply, her musky scent driving him even madder with lust than he was already.
“Wait a sec—aaaaaaah,” she wailed when, without warning, he licked her quivering flesh from top to bottom.
Having him do something as incredibly intimate as this, rattled her to the core. It was shocking, unnerving, but at the same time it made her feel... Good heavens
, she wasn't certain what it was he made her feel by doing this. Every swipe of his tongue against her drove her closer to the edge, every nerve in her body sensitized, every muscle tightening as she gave in to the pleasurable sensations coursing through her.
Spike was drunk. Drunk in the tangy flavor exploding on his tongue; in the way her little hands tunneled into his hair, pushing him closer to her hot center as she writhed and moaned under him; hesitantly at first, then more confidently as her need escalated.
His hands spanned under her hips, tilting her pelvis upwards as he devoured her luscious cunny with gusto, his nose bumping her clit while he lapped at the juices flowing from her entrance.
“Christ, love, you're delicious,” he said, moaning against her pussy. “Can't get enough of you.”
Buffy was close, so damn close. She could feel it, practically taste it and then it happened, like a tidal wave enveloping her, pulling her under the water. She held on to William as best she could, trusting him to keep her afloat as she drowned in an ocean of pure bliss.
Chapter End Notes:
So... *shuffles feet* muse got carried away (again), believe me I know and I really hope you didn't mind; and of course, if you are inclined to tell me what you thought of the chapter, I'd love to know. *bats eyelashes*
I wish you all the happiest 2009, full of love, laughter and health.
Chapter 22. A Taste of Temptation by dusty273
Sorry for the delay in posting, a flakey muse and my hectic life have been conspiring against me. I think muse is willing to cooperate now, though. *crosses fingers*
Anyway, I want to thank those of you who are still with me with this story and especially those who take the time to review. Believe it or not, you’re what keeps me trying, even when it feels like the road is all up-hill. A million thanks to my lovely Tina, for spanking my muse when she’s being difficult, for making the time to listen and to help me in any way she can. Love you, sweetie! Thank you as well to Deanna and Vara, for the read-through and the very valuable suggestions. *hugs*
Last but not least, this chapter is dedicated to the lovely Sotia! Happy birthday, honey! Sorry I couldn’t post it in time, but better late than never. ;) *hugglesquishes*
There is no disguise which can hide love for long where it exists, or simulate it where it does not.
~ Francois de La RochefoucauldChapter 22. A Taste of Temptation
Buffy was close, so damn close. She could feel it, practically taste it and then it happened, like a tidal wave enveloping her, pulling her under the water. She held on to William as best she could, trusting him to keep her afloat as she drowned in an ocean of pure bliss.
Spike’s eyes never strayed from her face as he devoured every single drop of her essence; drinking in her passionate, uninhibited response to his ministrations. Her fingers wove into his curls as she pushed him even closer to her center, her hips instinctively moving against his mouth. Her kiss-swollen lips parted and allowed a throaty moan to fill the air as wave upon wave washed over her.
He’d managed to contain his own lust for her while he concentrated solely on her pleasure, but when she finally opened her eyes to pose them on his; her emerald green depths dark and heavy with desire, gleaming with the fire of the passion he’d arouse in her… he just about lost it.
It was only by sheer force of will that Spike didn’t follow her into sweet oblivion right then and there. He’d had his fair share of women in the past, but not one of them had ever affected him quite like this. Not even when he was a young, impressionable lad. Then again, none of them could even dream of holding a candle to his Buffy, now could they?
She tugged on his hair, pulling him out of his reverie and hauling him upwards with more force than he would’ve given her credit for, not even allowing him time to wipe his face of her juices before crashing her mouth against with his.
Buffy wasn’t sure what had gotten into her. She just knew she was suddenly ravenous for his kisses, not even caring that she could taste herself on his tongue, on his lips. On the contrary, the reminder of how he’d drove her to the ultimate heights of passion, only fanned her need for him and whatever else he wanted to teach her.
Aided in great measure by the fact her skirt and petticoats had ridden up to her waist, she managed to roll them and reverse their positions without breaking their kiss, straddling William’s slim hips. She gasped into his mouth when she felt something large and hard twitch against her womanhood and arched her body backwards, tentatively moving against him and mewling when a new rush of moisture coated the inside of her thighs.
She was killing him. His control on the verge of shattering in a million pieces as he felt her writhe over him, wet and hot and willing as she allowed instinct to take over. Her head thrown back in ecstasy, her hair in glorious disarray despite his best intentions, her face a study of wanton concentration as she rode his clothed cock.
Watching her like this, feeling her like this, just about as lost in lust as he was, it was heaven and hell all rolled into one.
He couldn’t give in to this, though, no matter how much he wanted to, otherwise he’d end up spilling his seed inside his pants. He wanted to give her what she wanted, let her discover how wonderful their lovemaking could be, but he was only human and there was only so much he could endure before just saying to hell with everything and make her his.
“Kitten, wait a sec—” he groaned, his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her hips to still her movements. His jaw twitched from the effort to hold onto the remnants of his self-control before he gave over to the impulse of sinking inside her soft core as deep and as hard as he possibly could.
“But I don’t want to wait,” she pouted and he had to close his eyes not to give in to the temptation of kissing that damnable pout off her face. Didn’t mean he couldn’t imagine it just fine, though.
“You don’t know what you’re askin’ for, sweetheart,” he said, gritting his teeth when she lowered herself over him, her breasts pressing against his chest enticingly, her mouth latching onto his earlobe. He had no bloody idea what changed to turn her this amorous with him and frankly, any other moment he wouldn’t have care, but good Lord, it seemed she was hell bent on making this as difficult as she could for him.
“Perhaps I do,” she replied boldly, her need too overwhelming to care much over propriety at the moment. She felt a surge of feminine pride rush through her when his sapphire eyes finally opened and he gaped at her in pure astonishment. Not that she could blame him; she was shocked at herself, too. However, he had unlocked a part of her that she never imagined existed, a part of her she only wanted to share with him.
Next thing she knew, he’d issued a low warning growl and rolled them until she was pinned under him. His eyes flashed dangerously as he hovered over her and a shiver ran through her, however she wasn’t afraid. Not too much, at least.
“If I believed for an instant that that
was true, love, I wouldn’t be tryin’ so bloody hard to do the right thing,” he snarled between clenched teeth.
She tilted her head, bringing her arms up to wrap around his neck, a playful smile drawing on her lips as she countered, “Oooooh, really now, and what would you do if it were?”
His nostrils flared and his indigo gaze darkened even more as he looked down at her. “Careful, love, you’re playin’ with fire.”
“Maybe I want to get burned,” she responded in kind, delighting in the way his pupils dilated at her words until only a small fringe of blue iris could be seen.
“You don’t kn—” he was stopped from completing that sentence when she pressed a finger on his lips.
“Perhaps you’re right and I don’t know what I’m asking for, William, but I want to learn and I want you
to be the one who teaches me.”
She couldn’t be saying what he thought she was saying, now could she? “T-teach you,” he stuttered, swallowing hard past the lump lodged on his throat, “w-what exactly?”
Buffy looked up at him, desire, trust and… dare he say love, swirling amidst her green eyes, her cheeks tingeing red as she responded, “How to please you, how to make you feel as good as you make me feel.”
There was no doubt in Wes’ mind that Spike was the luckiest bastard on Earth and not for the first time asked himself if the duke might have made a pact with the Lord of Darkness himself. No one was this lucky. Well, no one but the Duke of Aurelius, that is.
He’d known of his friend’s plan to sequester his lovely fiancée for the afternoon and was dreading the moment both Lady Joyce and Winifred would learn of the couple’s disappearance. Dreaded the accusing looks it’d garner him, well aware that this might put a damper on the recent developments in his own love life.
However, his friend’s good luck must have rubbed off on him somewhat, because Lady Joyce had complained of suffering a migraine about an hour into their journey and that forced them to bypass the inn altogether in favor of traveling directly to the Aurelius country estate in Berkshire so she could rest. Winifred had been so preoccupied over her guest’s wellbeing that she hadn’t objected when he offered to send one of the footmen to the inn where they were supposed to meet with William and Miss Summers to let them know of their change in plans. Neither of them had given any thought to the propriety—or complete lack thereof—of the situation and for that he was more than grateful.
So grateful he completely missed the curious looks Fred threw him every once in a while.
She knew better than to ask Wesley what had him so nervous, especially in front of Lady Joyce. Although she had a feeling it might have something to do with William. In fact, she was certain it had to do with her brother and whatever plans he’d made for the day with the other man’s cooperation.
Not that she was surprised. Not really. Those two were thick as thieves since they were children and while the brunet hadn’t been in favor of the duke’s engagement with Miss Elizabeth at first, he’d done everything in his power to help his friend in the serious business of wooing his future bride.
Knowing William, he’d probably planned some grand, romantic gesture to show his affection for the lovely Miss Summers. She smiled softly to herself; it was high time her brother found someone to whom he could bestow all that love he had inside. And if she wasn’t mistaken, the lady in question wasn’t completely indifferent to her brother’s charms, either.
Something had shifted in their relationship from that night in which they came to dine at the Summers’ townhouse. What? She had no idea, but there was something in the blonde girl’s eyes, in her demeanor whenever William was around. Something that made her eyes shine and her cheeks stain a becoming pink when he looked at her. It was quite obvious the pair were quite taken with each other and despite the stormy start of their relationship, it might very well end up being a love match after all.
Now if only she could stop worrying over whatever Mister Summers might be planning to do to retaliate against her brother. Fred had felt an instantaneous dislike for the blond man from the first moment she saw him; which quickly turned into loathing when she noticed how badly he treated his wife and daughter. No
, she hurried to amend, she’s not his daughter;
thank the Lord for small mercies. Just thinking of that despicable man being part of her family made her nauseous.
William was no fool, though. He knew better than to underestimate a man like Hank Summers. If he’d been capable of betting Miss Elizabeth’s hand in a game of Faro and to treat his wife and her so contemptibly in front of guests, he was capable of just about anything. And that’s what frightened her the most.
She sighed heavily; there was nothing she could do about that now, though. So it’d be best to concentrate on making this an unforgettable trip for Lady Joyce and Miss Elizabeth. God knew they deserved a little happiness after having to endure living with that ogre for so long.
*~*~*~*“How to please you, how to make you feel as good as you make me feel.”
Spike stared at her dumbly, his mind reeling with the implications of what she was asking of him. He could hardly give credit to his ears, her words both setting him ablaze and making him fear he might not be able to hold on to his control for much longer if she kept saying things like that.
He swallowed… hard, his cock hardening even further as she arched her body against his. “You don’t have to do this, sweetheart.”
“I know I don’t have to, I want
to, though. I-I,” she paused, closing her eyes and sighing deeply. When she opened them again, she lost herself in the deep indigo of his, what she read in them giving her the strength she needed to say what she had to. “I want to learn how to give you what you just gave to me. Please
, William? Let me make you feel like you made me feel?"
He shook his head, and for an instant, she thought he would deny her. “Why?” he finally asked. “Why do you want to do this?”
She could do this, could tell him… right? “Because…” she bit her bottom lip, her heart hammering against her chest so hard she thought it might break free. “I-I love you,” she whispered breathlessly.
“W-what?” He tried to squash the hope flaring through his body for fear he’d heard her wrong. He really tried, but it was of no use, especially with her looking at him like she was right now.
“I love you,” she repeated, a little more confidently this time. “I don’t know when it happened, but I do, I truly do. Please
, William, show me?” Bloody hell!
How could he say no to her when she asked him like that, when she was giving him what he desired the most… her love.
There was only so long he could resist before giving in to her and having her say she loved him was his breaking point. He’d been telling himself all day he could wait until she was ready, but actually have her tell him like this while begging him to teach her how to make him
feel as good as he made her feel? It was one hell of an ego-boost for one, and much more than he expected, and probably deserved, especially considering how their relationship started.
She wanted him to show her how to please him. He was aware of what she was asking, he just wasn’t sure she was. He didn’t want to scare her, but she seemed so eager to learn and he was only a man. A man completely head over heels in love with her and falling harder with each second he spent with her.
He’d grown so quiet after her confession, his eyes clouded, a slight frown marring his forehead and for a minute she was afraid she’d made a mistake by telling him of her feelings, that it might be too late, that he might not love her any more.
He must have sensed her despair somehow, because the next second, he smiled down at her and she felt as if she was drowning when he focused those bluer than blue eyes of his on her.
“Say it again,” he asked… and she was more than happy to comply.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, kitten. More than you can imagine.”
“I think I can imagine it just fine,” she said with a saucy wink, her arms tightening around his neck to press herself closer to him, while kissing his cheek and his jaw. “Now are you going to teach me or not, your Grace?”
“Well, what kind of gentleman would I be if I denied my lady a petition such as that one?”
“Until a moment ago you were doing just that,” she reminded him with a pout, before her tiny hands started pulling on his cravat to gain better access to his neck. “You were being bad with me.” Not as bad as you, though
, he thought, groaning as she nibbled and nipped her way down his throat. Her even, white teeth wrecking havoc with any good intention he had of taking this slow.Christ!
For someone who was asking him
to teach her
how to please him, she was doing one hell of a job all on her own.
He had to stop her; if they kept this up there was no way the rest of their party wouldn’t notice how they’d spent a great part of their excursion, but then she sucked on his jugular, his eyes rolling to the back of his head and he could care less if they learned what they’d been up to as long as she kept doing what she was doing right now.
Then again, if he didn’t put an end to this sweet torture, he had the suspicion things could get out of control… very fast.
William’s hands came up to cradle her cheeks, pulling her closer until their lips were but a breath away, a wolfish grin tugging on his. “Oh, I can be bad, very
bad with you, love,” he promised huskily, grinding his hips against her center and fanning the fire inside her. “And I promise you’ll love every second of it… later, after I’ve made you my wife.”
She blinked, her happiness ebbing as his words penetrated the thick haze of desire that surrounded her. “But… y-you promised,” she accused him, her bottom lip quivering slightly.
“And I intend to honor my promise, sweetheart. I just want to do right by you.” His hand caressed her cheek and she couldn’t help but nuzzle into it. “As much as I want you, things could get… out of hand and I don’t want that. You deserve to be worshipped properly, and I cannot give that to you here. Beautiful as this place is, I don’t want our first time to be rushed or out in broad daylight.” He gave her a mischievous grin that made her breath hitch in her throat. “Doesn’t mean I can’t teach you other things now though, does it?”
“O-other things?” she swallowed hard. “Like what?”
“Like this,” he said, rolling onto his side and bringing her with him until they were face to face. William grabbed her right hand and brought it to his mouth, turning it around to kiss her palm, his tongue peeking out to taste her skin.
Spike reveled in her sudden intake of breath, at the way her eyes zeroed in on his action, her pupils dilating as he moved his mouth down to her wrist to suck at her pulse point lightly.
He smirked at the slightly glazed look in her eyes, before bringing her hand down to his chest, placing it over his heart. “Can you feel how hard it beats, kitten?”
“It beats for you, because of you, of what you make me feel.”
Buffy felt more than a little dizzy and out of breath as he moved her hand lower, his muscles tight and firm under her palm. Down, down until he placed it over his clothed manhood, his hand over hers, entwining their fingers to show her how he liked to be stroked. Slowly at first, until she caught up with the rhythm and he allowed her to take over.
His erection hadn’t abated in the slightest during their previous exchange, not that he’d expected it to. Just being next to her, smelling her, touching her in any way was enough to drive him out of his bloody mind. But having her like this, her desire-laden eyes following the path their linked hands were taking while she chewed on her bottom lip, made him harden almost to the point of pain inside his breeches, his cock threatening to spill from the opening on the side. He was half-afraid he wouldn’t last long enough to savor how her little hand felt over his clothes, let alone on his bare, aching flesh.
Her hand moved tentatively at first over his length, becoming bolder when his breaths turned harsher. Alternating between slow, fast, soft, hard as she fondled his manhood, Buffy raised her eyes every few seconds to her fiancé’s handsome face, gauging his every reaction to her ministrations.
“Aah, that’s good, love, so bloody good,” he babbled, closing his eyes in rapture as his fingers threaded through her hair, hauling her close to kiss her lips passionately, moaning his pleasure into her mouth before his tongue tangled with hers.
It was… exhilarating to know that she could make William feel good, make him moan and pant and blather mindless praise to her and her pretty little hand. She never thought it would be just as thrilling to give pleasure as it was to be on the receiving end of it. It was a heady feeling that made her just about as faint as his fingers did when they curled around her breast, teasing her nipple into hardness and making her whimper as she felt his caresses all the way down to her center.
She wondered what it might do to him if she were to touch him like he’d touched her before, if she were brave enough to sneak her hand inside the opening of his trousers… and was surprised to feel her excitement coating the inside of her thighs at the mere thought.
Should she? Dare she? After all, it felt so wonderful when he’d done it to her, so surely it would be the same for him, right?
His ragged breath against her skin as his mouth roved down the slender column of her neck gave her the courage she needed to proceed. Slowly, she maneuvered her fingers towards the slit of his breeches, slipping them inside until her palm wrapped around his flesh.
Spike’s eyes shot wide open when he felt her hot little hand rubbing his prick and he nearly lost it. It took all his force of will not to pull away from her throat to look at her in true shock, but that would have spooked her and he’d just die if she stopped right now.
He’d thought of easing her slowly into doing it, having been perfectly content to feel her touching him over his pants and not wanting to frighten her by appearing overeager, even if he was just that. However, having her touch him without his prompting… Bloody hell, it was paradise! No two ways about it.
He wanted it to last, tried to keep himself from coming, but it was of no use. Her shy, inexperienced caresses affected him even more than those of a seasoned courtesan ever had and with a roar of her name he spilled his seed in her hand.
Buffy was completely engrossed on the texture of his flesh, how velvety smooth his manhood was on the outside and how firm it felt underneath, how he moaned when she sped up her movements or tightened her hold on his member that she was taken completely by surprise when spurts of thick, warm liquid hit her hand, unsure of what it might be.
Spike was still trying to catch his breath when his blonde goddess brought her hand out of his pants, staring at the pearly fluid coating it with an enticing blend of curiosity and confusion etched in her features. She turned her eyes to him and her face flamed as she caught him watching her, quickly bringing her fingers down to the blanket to clean off his secretions.
“I-I,” she stuttered, moving slightly backwards.
“Oh no, you don’t.” His arm shot out to stop her from escaping and pulled her into his embrace, his index finger raising her chin so she would look at him. “What you did to me… bloody hell, I’d never felt anythin’ like that. You made me forget myself, made me lose all semblance of control. And you know why?”
She shook her head no, not sure if she’d be able to speak even if she tried.
“`Cause it was you doin’ it.”
“I wouldn’t lie `bout that, sweetheart.” He kissed the tip of her nose sweetly and she just about melted at the gesture. “Now, though, I think it’s time to join our party, before they come searchin’ for us.”
Buffy’s eyes widened at that. Good Heavens, she’d forgotten all about them! “What are we, er, going to say to them?”
“Nothing?” she repeated. “But they will ask, and…”
“And nothin’, it’s none of their business.”
“I don’t think my mother will agree with that, William. No matter how much she likes you.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. You’ll see everythin’ will be fine.”
She truly doubted it, but it was no use to fight over this. There was no way she’d win against him. She only prayed he was right.
Chapter End Notes:
Like, dislike, still with me? I’d really love to know if you’re inclined to tell me.
Chapter 23. In the Aftermath of Temptation by dusty273
Many thanks for the awesome reviews for the last chapter, and again, I’m sorry for how long it’s taking me to update. Muse is a fickle girl that wants what she wants and I can’t do much to sway her.
A little while ago, I offered to write some drabbles in my journal and the lovely Caroline (jamalov29) requested: If you feel like it Mari, I would like a drabble in the Against all Odds verse. S/B it goes without saying .:-) Anything you want will please me. It also may be during their honeymoon (based on the belief that they shall get married sooner than later) :-) Turns out writing that this drabble was exactly what my muse needed to get her attention back to this story, so this chapter is for you, Caroline! Merci beaucoup, ma chère!
If you’re interested in reading the drabble I wrote for Caroline, you can find it at my journal: http://dusty273.livejournal.com/262297.html. Keep in mind it is set in the future, even if I don’t think it’s particularly spoilery.
A million thanks to Tina, Carrie and Deanna, for all their help, suggestions, edits and just for being the awesome friends that they are; and to Vara, especially, for pre-betaing the chapters and educating me in the finer nuances of the regency period. *hugs you all*
Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in. ~ William A. SundayChapter 23. In the Aftermath of Temptation
“What on Earth were you trying to achieve with this little stunt, William?” Winifred asked, barely waiting until he finished closing the door to his study.
“I have no idea what you mean, Sister,” he responded nonchalantly, sitting behind his desk as if he had no worries in the world, which only contributed to increase her anger.
“Like Hell you don’t!” She stomped her foot on the floor. She wasn’t prone to using that kind of language, but Good Lord, this time her brother deserved every bit of it!
“It’s none of your business,” Spike replied stubbornly.
“It’s none of my business, he says!” She laughed humorlessly, her hands on her hips, brown eyes flashing dangerously, and he couldn’t help the frisson of fear that went through him. His sister could be frightening when she wanted, not that he was about to cower in front of her, though.
brother, my only family, and Miss Summers is going to be my
sister-in-law, that’s more than enough to make it my
business,” she said sharply. “Especially when you kidnap the girl and bring her back looking all… all disheveled like that. Not to mention your own appearance.” She raised her index finger to prevent him from interrupting when he appeared to wish to do just that. “Did you even think what could have happened if anyone had seen you?”
Spike had barely opened his mouth to reply, when she was already responding for him. “But of course you didn’t! You only thought of what you
wanted, without caring of the consequences it could bring others. Of all the reckless, irresponsible, idiotic things you could do!” His sister neared him and slapped the back of his head as if he were a little child.
“Oi! That hurt!” he protested, scowling at her while rubbing the abused area.
“Good, it was meant to! Perhaps I can still knock some sense into you. You know as well as I do that if anyone had seen you and her alone, wherever it was you took her, even if you’d been found talking in a truly innocent matter, which, by the way, I sincerely doubt,” she scoffed, throwing him a truly contemptuous glare, “Miss Summers’ virtue would have been compromised beyond repair. I’m sure you’re well aware servants talk, and if your fiancée’s reputation is sullied by a scandal of this nature, it would never be restored. She’d be the talk of the ton’s tabbies for months, if not years, no matter if she ends up marrying you or not. Any of this ringing a bell in that thick skull of yours?”
“Now, wait a bloody minute—”
wait a bloody minute, William. I’m truly disappointed in you. You’re twenty-eight years old, for goodness sakes, a Duke at that. You should know better than to… well, do whatever it was you did.”
She didn’t give him the chance to respond, sending him a scathing glare which might have scared a lesser man than Spike before leaving the room in an angry huff, leaving him to sulk in his chair, feeling properly chastised but unapologetic. He refused to apologize for the wonderful day he spent with his fiancée. If he had the chance to do it all over again, there was no doubt in his mind that he would.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t been as careful as possible, considering the circumstances. He’d paid the park ranger handsomely to make sure they wouldn’t be disturbed, and had made certain he didn’t get more than a fleeting glimpse of Buffy, and he used secondary roads to ensure they wouldn’t be seen by anyone else that might recognize either of them. He wasn’t completely daft, or rash, despite Fred’s thoughts to the contrary.
At least Lady Joyce had remained blissfully unaware of their little disappearance, because if she had known, it would’ve put a damper on his future plans. Provided his darling sister didn’t decide to bring his future mother-in-law up to date on today’s events by then, that is.
Buffy sat in front of the vanity mirror in the spacious room she’d been assigned during their stay at the Aurelius’ country estate, while a maid helped her dress her hair so she could visit her mother before supper was served.
She had taken a bath and dressed in one of her new dresses, a lovely peach lace and silk creation that made her feel utterly feminine and beautiful, and much more confident than she felt at the moment. Considering she was still quite mortified after their awkward encounter with Lady Winifred in the foyer upon their arrival, she’d need all the self-assurance she could muster to make it through supper tonight.
William’s sister had been nothing but polite with her, informing her that her mother had retired to her quarters to rest and then asked the butler to escort her to her rooms. She’d sensed the anger simmering under her otherwise placid surface and had been more than happy that it didn’t seem directed at her. Not that she could blame Lady Winifred for the slightly chilly reception; they’d vanished for hours and even if Buffy couldn’t bring herself to regret spending the afternoon with her fiancé, she was well aware what they did could’ve brought dire consequences upon them, and her, in particular.
Of course, she knew it could’ve been even worse had Lady Winifred not sent Willow to wait for them along with a footman to let them know of the change of plans. And despite her embarrassment, she would thank her future sister-in-law later for her thoughtfulness. She was likewise grateful that the duke’s tiger had convinced the footman of waiting on the road and not at the inn, as were his orders. No one but the three of them had noticed that the affianced couple had been riding in the duke’s curricle all alone, therefore allowing them to retain a modicum of propriety in the highly improper situation when they arrived at the inn.
William had rented a room for her at the inn and while Willow had tried her best to help her look a bit more presentable, there was only so much the redhead could do about her tousled tresses and crumpled dress in the little time they had at their disposal.
All things considered though, Buffy knew it would’ve been worse if her mother had noticed the sorry state of her clothes and hair before she had a chance to wash off the grime of the road and the evidence of her wanton behavior.
As it was, she wasn’t certain if she’d get out of this unscathed; however, right now, she was more concerned over her mother’s health than any other possible repercussion. Buffy sighed, thanking the maid for her aid and after asking her for directions to her mother’s rooms, decided it best to just be done with it, and the sooner, the better.
“B-but… Spike, you can’t expect me to propose to your sister tonight!” Wes exclaimed. What had started as an amicable talk while he waited for the Duke of Aurelius to finish getting ready for supper, had taken a decisively unexpected turn for him. One he wasn’t certain how to avoid, or if he’d be able to in any way.
“Why not? Did you or did you not say that you would propose while we were here?” Spike asked calmly, a little too calmly for the brunet’s peace of mind.
“I-I, of course I did. And I will, but these things require careful planning, finding the right time and—”
“In other words, you’re backin’ off on your promise. I see,” the duke assessed icily, stepping away from the mirror after he’d fixed his cravat to perfection and throwing Wesley a look that made a foreboding chill run down his spine.
“Of course not,” he assured the blond man, trying to appease him. “I wouldn’t do that. I just need more time.”
“And jus’ how much more time do you need, mate
; if I may inquire, that is?” Spike asked, his tone dripping venom. “Perhaps you’d like to wait `til we know for sure if my sister is with child before askin’ her? `Cause if that’s what you’re thinkin’ I can tell you what her answer is goin’ to be. And I can assure you, hers will be the same as mine.”
He sighed heavily, conceding defeat. “You think after supper is a good time to ask her?”
The duke smirked in a truly devilish way. “Perfect! I knew you’d see things my way.”
Wes swallowed hard past the lump in his throat, knowing he’d been masterfully backed into a corner but at the same time seeing the truth behind his friend’s statement. The longer it took him to ask Winifred to marry him, the less his possibilities were of her accepting and that was all there was to it. Now if only he could get over his hopefully irrational fear of her rejecting him before that time.
Buffy heaved a sigh of relief after she left her mother’s room. Not only was she feeling better already, but she hadn’t seemed privy to her earlier disappearance. That had been her true concern once the haze of desire had lifted and now that it had been put to rest, she could breathe a little easier… at least until she had to confront Lady Winifred.
Turned out she needn’t worry over her either, as she discovered when she joined Lady Winifred, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce and William in the drawing room. The siblings seemed to have settled their differences and were conversing with ease. The atmosphere appeared cordial and less formal than any other time since it was just the four of them for supper.
William and his partner stood up from their seats immediately when she was announced and Lady Winifred offered her a warm smile, which in great measure helped diminish her anxiety on how she would act towards her.
However, once her eyes settled on her fiancé’s across the room, her nerves were once again on edge… only for a completely different reason than before. William looked so very handsome in the dark brown coat, beige waistcoat and crisp white of his shirt and cravat that it took her breath away. The memories of their time together that afternoon sent tingles rushing through her body, the warmth of her blush spreading on her face and to other parts of her at the intensity in which the indigo gaze regarded every minute detail of her as he advanced towards her. He made her feel precious, desired, cherished with just one glance. Made her feel like she was drowning in the endless sea of blue that were his eyes.
It took everything in him not to throw her over his shoulder and take her up to his quarters to finish what they started earlier. She was divine, a true goddess from the top of her blonde tresses, arranged in an up-do with a few curls softly framing her pixie face, to the peach-colored gown emphasizing the golden, silky perfection of her skin.
Fred threw a conspiring smile to Wesley when she noticed how besotted the couple were with each other, only to furrow her brow when noticing how distracted and nervous he appeared, not even once meeting her stare. And now that she thought about it, he’d barely contributed to the conversation so far, which was definitely not like him. Odd, very odd.
Wes, for his part, wasn’t certain he would make it through their meal without embarrassing himself. He couldn’t remember being this apprehensive or anxious about anything before ever; then again, he’d never proposed to a woman before. And not just any woman, either, but Winifred, the one he’d been in love with ever since meeting her. The thought of her rejecting his offer almost made him physically ill, his stomach in knots, palms sweaty and his pulse racing so fast, he was positive it might give out on him before he finally asked her.
Spike raised Buffy’s hand to his lips once he reached her, oblivious to the other two in the room as his mouth lingered on the soft flesh, reveling in the way her pupils dilated and the shiver that wracked her petite frame. “You look ravishing, my love,” he said in a hushed whisper.
She smiled at him, even as the blush in her cheeks darkened. “You look quite handsome yourself, Your Grace.”
“Stop monopolizing Miss Summers already, William,” Fred scolded him good-naturedly. “Haven’t you done enough of that for today?”
“Never,” he responded with a wink, offering his arm to Buffy and leading her to where his sister sat.
“Good evening, Lady Winifred.” The blonde girl curtsied slightly, her face flaming at the older woman’s amused stare.
“You may call me Winifred, or Fred if you prefer, Miss Summers,” she said, grabbing her hand and making her sit by her side.
“C-certainly, La— Winifred,” she amended at her future sister-in-law’s pointed look. “I hope you’ll call me Elizabeth, then?”
“Of course I will; after all, we’re going to be sisters in no time at all.” She smiled, softly inquiring, “I trust Lady Joyce is feeling better?”
“Oh yes, much better. She sent her apologies for not joining us for supper, but I thought it best if she rested tonight.”
“And I couldn’t agree more, my dear. So, tell me, are you excited to go to Ascot tomorrow?”
Supper was a lovely affair where both Winifred and William regaled Buffy with all kinds of delightful stories of the vacations they’d spent in the different country estates that belonged to their family and other visits they’d made to Ascot.
made up for Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s morose mood, Buffy thought. The brunet seemed anxious as he moved his food with his fork from one end to the other on his plate, completely lost in whatever problem he was mulling over as he muttered under his breath. She might have inquired if he was alright, but he barely acknowledged any of them, so she decided to just let it go.
Fred was trying to hide her growing concern for Wesley’s humor tonight. He’d seemed alright on the ride over, but now he appeared overly nervous and pale and she couldn’t help but wonder what might have happened to have him in such a discomfited state. Perhaps he was having doubts about the two of them already? Knowing him, it wouldn’t be all that far-fetched.
Wes wished the earth would open and swallow him whole, if only that’d mean he could get out of doing this. He couldn’t recall being this on edge over anything in his life. Not that he was surprised. Winifred was his whole life and the thought she might turn him down… good heavens, what would he do if she said no?
The only one who wasn’t worried over the brunet was Spike. He knew it’d been evil to push his friend like this, but what he’d said was the truth. If he waited any longer, his sister might think he’d been forced into this marriage and being as stubborn as the duke was, she would refuse his offer on principle alone. No matter if the principle was as warped as they come.
Not to mention he had plans for his lovely bride-to-be, plans that didn’t include Fred or Wes interrupting them.
*~*~*~*~*Back in London…
Hank had been drinking and gambling and then drinking some more, ending up in some obscure gaming hell on the outskirts of the city. Right now, though, he wished he’d be at least a little less inebriated so he could deal with the arrogant establishment’s keeper like he deserved.
“I’ve told you more than once already, we don’t give credit to anyone. Let alone to drunkards who barely have enough to pay the tab.”
“Y-you don’t know who you’re talking to,” he slurred haughtily, or as haughtily as he could in the state he was in. “I’m—”
“I don’t sodding care who you are. This is a business, not a charity. You don’t have anything to bet with, you don’t play and that’s that.”
“You wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss me if you knew,” the blond man groused.
Lindsey McDonald sighed heavily and was about to ask one of the men for their help to remove the bloody nuisance, when he saw his boss nod silently asking the keeper to approach him.
He left the blond man to brood and walked towards the table, which was partially hidden in the shadows. “When did you come back?”
“Couple of hours ago,” the other replied. “Do you know who that is?”
“Some gentleman fallen in disgrace, I warrant.”
“Close, but not exactly. What does he want?”
Lindsey shrugged. “What they always want… credit to keep on gambling.”
“Hmmm.” He caressed his chin as a plan began forming in his head. “Bring him to me.”
The brown-haired man blinked. “Are you sure?”
“Do I ever do something I’m not sure of?”
Lindsey shook his head no, knowing better than to object or question his boss any further and promptly went to collect the other man, who practically stumbled the whole way to the table.
“Sit with me, Mr. Summers,” the brunet said, offering the blond man a devilish smile. “You and I are going to have a little conversation that I’m quite certain would prove mutually beneficial.”
Hank blinked at the man speaking to him now, his intoxicated mind allowing him for little more than to comply with the man’s request. He was confused as to how this man knew his name and what might have changed, especially since the other man had seemed so adamant on dismissing him. He shrugged it off, uncaring of what had brought this on as long as it was indeed advantageous for him. At this point, he was willing to sell his soul to the devil, and just as the thought formed in his alcohol-impaired brain, he felt a shudder of fear run down his spine. He had the nagging suspicion that was precisely who he was speaking with right now.
The devil himself.
Chapter End Notes:
Now, who do you think this mysterious devil might be? Mwahahahaha!
Chapter 24. Of Misunderstandings, Proposals and Other Affairs by dusty273
See, this time it didn’t take me as long to update, less than two months. *winces* I know it’s still not ideal, but I’m really trying to keep my promise to update all my stories. This was just first in line.
Thank you to those of you still reading and especially those reviewing, your kind words really make my day brighter. And to Deanna, really, if this chapter is any good it’s because of her awesome suggestions and her support while I was trying to lure Wes into speaking to me. *hugs* Thank you so much, honey! And last but not least, to Carrie and Vara, for the read-through and saving me from making awful historical mistakes. I couldn’t do this without you. *snuggles*
Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it... that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. ~ Dale CarnegieChapter 24. Of Misunderstandings, Proposals and Other Affairs
It hadn’t taken Fred long to convince Elizabeth to join her in her quest for the answers that would explain Wesley’s behavior over supper.
Giggling conspiratorially they made their way to William’s study and she’d placed a finger to her lips and winked at the blonde before opening the door a sliver and listening in on the conversation taking place inside…
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
“Think it’s wise to be having any more?” Spike asked Wesley, arching a brow when the brunet raised his glass in a silent request for a refill.
They’d retired to his study room ten minutes ago for a drink after supper while the ladies freshened up and in that time his partner had already downed two tumblers of whisky. It was quite amusing at first, especially with the way Wes shuddered when the liquor burned his throat, but now he wasn’t too certain if it’d be in his friend’s—or even his—best interest to have another before they joined Fred and Buffy in the drawing room. His sister would castrate him with a blunt spoon if he allowed Wes to get drunker and botch his proposal to her up because of that.
“I’ll need all my courage to get through this, Spike, liquid or otherwise, and you know that. I barely made it through supper as it is,” the other man groused from the chair opposite to the duke.
Wes was the very picture of misery. His body was tense and his gestures anxious. His shoulders slumped forward in defeat, his pallor sickeningly grey and his features grim and dark, darker than Spike had seen on him. It certainly didn’t help his case that he kept dabbing at his brow every few seconds with his handkerchief, or wiping his hands on his trousers.
While Spike felt a tad guilty to see his friend like this, a bigger part of him was getting fed up by his partner’s reticence and nervousness. Yes, he knew proposing was a serious matter, but the brunet had to be aware that there was no way Fred was going to reject him. After all, he’d told Wes as much just that morning and he’d thought he’d convinced him.
There was no doubt in his mind that if he hadn’t given Wes a friendly nudge in the right direction, it would’ve taken him forever to propose and there was absolutely no bloody way he could allow that. Not with his sister’s reputation on the line.
Fred might be older than him—and quite scary when she wanted, but he was still the head of the family and he had to look after her. If he had to be a little cunning and manipulative to warrant her happiness, well then, he would be that and much more.
“That’s more `n `nough, pal,” Spike said with a harsh glare in his friend’s direction, getting up from his chair and nearing Wes menacingly. “Whoever looked at you now would imagine you were just sentenced to a lifetime in Newgate and not about to propose to the woman you’ve been in love with for years. A woman, I might add, who’s gone through hoops and loops to prove to you she doesn’t care if you’re a prince or a pauper. So just be a man `bout this whole deal and drop the poor me act, before I make you drop it. `nough is `nough already.”
“I agree with William,” Fred interjected in a steady tone she was quite proud of, opening the door further and standing tall when both men turned toward her, their shock at seeing her there written in their stricken features. “Enough is enough already.”
“Winifred!” Wesley got up from the chair immediately, even paler than he’d been during supper, one hand extended in supplication as he wracked his brain for something to say, any
thing that would make this better. “I can exp—”
“You don’t need to explain anything to me, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce,” she stated haughtily. “I understand perfectly. You don’t need to worry over how this
woman might respond to your proposal, because I can tell you now, there’s no way in hell she’ll ever accept it.” She twisted on her heel to leave, but not before pinning him with a scathing glare that chilled the blood in his veins.
Wes wasn’t certain how he’d managed to mess it all up so royally before even opening his mouth, but it was quite evident he had. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the place where his ladylove had disappeared, unable to move, to think, to do anything until Spike gave him a little shove forward.
“If you love her, I strongly suggest you go after her… now
That was all he needed to shake off from his stupor, nearly stumbling over his own feet in his haste to follow Winifred out of the room.
Spike shook his head as he watched Wes leave and sighed heavily before advancing towards his fiancée, who seemed thoroughly confused by what she just witnessed.
Buffy leaned against his chest as his arms wound around her waist from behind. “Shouldn’t we follow them?” she asked, her gaze still on the empty doorway.
“No, love, the last thing they need now is us there with them.”
“Are you certain? Your sister didn’t seem as if she would welcome anything Mr. Wyndham-Pryce has to say right now.”
“Perhaps; still, I think they need to hash this out on their own, kitten. No witnesses,” he said.
He truly hoped Wes was rattled enough by Fred’s words to actually get his head out of his arse for once and stop being so bloody pigheaded over this issue. Right this moment, though, he had other plans that didn’t include meddling in his sister’s love life.
“I know `f somethin’ that’ll take your mind off them,” he whispered in her ear, delighting in the shiver that wracked her tiny frame.
Buffy gasped at his words, her treacherous mind supplying her with enough thoughts of what he might do to her to leave her breathless and blushing. The sinful cadence of his voice and his body, so hard and firm against hers, were enough to send her pulse racing madly in her veins.
She had little doubt he could make her forget her own name if he so chose.
“Y-you do?” she asked shakily, her eyes closing in rapture when his fingers trailed sensuously down her neck to the lacy edge of her bodice, dipping slightly under the fabric to caress the skin underneath.
“Do you want to know what it is, love?”
Oh dear Lord, did she ever! Her knees wobbled under her and she was more than thankful one of his arms was still around her or she might have fallen in a rather disgraceful heap at his feet.
“Or perhaps I should just show you.”
He placed a kiss on the back of her neck, sliding his hand down to grab hers and she just about melted, breathlessly waiting for him to turn her around and claim her mouth with his.
It didn’t seem that was what he had in mind, however, because the next thing she knew, he was pulling on her hand and dragging her off through the French doors and into the night.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Fred ran out of the house as if the hell hounds were behind her. Her heart thundered in her chest and her lungs burned from the lack of oxygen and still she ran until she reached the farthest end of the sunroom.
Only then did she allow herself to stop, dropping on a stone bench as she fought to catch her breath and not to give in to the pain that threatened to consume her, a thousand thoughts swirling inside her head.
Bitter tears prickled the back of her eyes, but pride and mounting anger came in her defense. She wanted to curl up and cry, but she couldn’t right now. Not when there was still a chance—slim as it might be—that Wesley would find her. Not that she was ready to face him, because frankly she doubted she would ever be, but the sooner they got past this, the better.
She couldn’t say she was surprised by what happened. Not really. Same as she wasn’t surprised that for the brunet man the mere idea of marrying her would be the equivalent to a death sentence.
Neither did she blame William for how he spoke to his partner. He was protective to a fault of those he loved and while he hadn’t said anything to her about their overnight stay at the inn out of respect for her, she just knew Wesley hadn’t been so lucky. She didn’t blame Wesley, either. She should have known better than to think him professing his love for her would change things between them. If anything, it made it worse.
She should’ve known better than to listen behind closed doors. It’d never brought her anything good in the past and that obviously hadn’t changed in the present.
She’d thought him finally admitting he loved her meant that he wanted to make a life with her. That he’d finally gotten over his many qualms regarding their many differences, both social and economical… she couldn’t have been more wrong, it seemed.
Then again, Wesley had never promised her anything, had he? All her dreams of them sharing a life had been nothing more than wishful thinking on her part. And damn if that knowledge didn’t make it hurt even more.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Wes had never been happier that Spike insisted on having almost every square meter of the estate grounds illuminated as he’d been tonight. The lanterns scattered around the house, the garden, stables and the sunroom certainly made his search of the elusive Lady Winifred a whole of a lot easier than it might have been otherwise.
He’d searched inside the mansion first, which was why it nearly took him half an hour to finally find her in the solarium.
She didn’t even hear his approach, lost in her thoughts as she appeared to be and that gave him the chance to gather his bearings before making his presence known.
He was still afraid of the step he was about to take, but he was even more afraid of losing Winifred because of his ‘bloody insecurities’ as the duke had plaintively pointed out to him several times.
Thing was, neither Spike nor Winifred had ever done anything to foment his lack of confidence. They’d never treated him as anything other than a dear friend, not even during the time he was still the duke’s aide. The siblings were the only ones who’d given a damn about him, who always cared for and had taken him in after he became an orphan, and truly, their opinion should be the only one that mattered to him. Who cared what the rest of the ton might think of him marrying into the Withers family? He and, most importantly, they would know the truth.
He felt a pang of remorse at the frown currently marring Winifred’s delicate features, at the sadness that even the poor lighting in the solarium couldn’t hide from the inside of the chocolate depths. He put it there and now he had to make sure it left and never returned.
Trying to be as stealthy as possible, he neared her, making sure to block the only exit just in case she tried to evade him before he managed to explain himself to her.
He cleared his throat to alert her of his presence, and felt guiltier at her startled jump and the way she brought her hand to her agitated bosom, looking at him with wide, frightened eyes. Frightened until she focused them on him, that is, because once she recognized him they blazed with anger that almost had him turning around and making a very strategic escape.
“Good heavens, Wes! What are you trying to do, kill me?” she snapped, panting. The last thing she’d expected was for him to appear out of thin air and scare the hell out of her. Especially not when she wasn’t ready to speak to him… dammit!
“Sorry, I didn’t thi—” He raised his hands in surrender and she saw red.
“No, of course you didn’t.” She got up from the bench, advancing towards him until they were just a few inches apart. “You never think of how your actions or your words might hurt or affect others, do you?”
“Of course I do.”
“Of course I do, he says.” She scoffed, her index finger jabbing into his torso. “Did you think how your behavior would make me feel then, especially once I discovered the reasons behind it?”
“I-I can imagine,” he replied, and at least had the decency to seem ashamed, which made her fury slip… just a tad. “But you have to understand that…”
“What? That you don’t love me enough to want to marry me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Probably not, but you implied it,” she huffed airily.
“Actually, William implied it, not me. And neither of you gave me the bloody chance to explain!” he stated angrily, a muscle on his jaw ticking and his blue-grey eyes shining with both annoyance and barely contained irritation.
She could hardly believe this was the same Wesley she’d known since they were children. He was always so collected, so serene and poised; rarely—if ever—did he allow his temper to explode like this and the face of it now effectively silenced her.
“Are you going to listen to me or do I have to chain and gag you?” he said, eyeing her sternly. “Don’t think I won’t if I have to, Winifred.”
He looked and sounded so imposing, that at that moment, she didn’t doubt he would do it. She nodded meekly, feeling thoroughly chastised and more than a little intrigued and interested in exploring this new facet of his further. Not that she would ever confess to it out loud.
A sigh rolled off his shoulders and just like that, he was back to being the man she knew and loved. “I’ll admit to being nervous over proposing to you, but it’s not because I don’t love you or because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you. It’s just that I didn’t think I deserved you.” He placed a finger on her lips when she appeared about to interrupt him. “Ah, ah, ah, no interruptions.” He winked at her mischievously and she shivered. Where had this Wesley been hiding all her life?
“Hell, I know
I don’t deserve you,” he said. “However, I don’t care any longer. Social and economical conventions aren’t as important as I once thought and I don’t care what anyone else thinks as long as you know the truth.”
“T-the truth?” Her heart galloped madly inside her chest and she could hardly breathe. Could it be that after all this time he was finally ready to offer her what she’d wanted all along?
“That I can’t live without you, that while I can’t offer you much yet, I can give you what’s been yours since the first moment I saw you… my love, my life, myself, for as long as you want me.
“Would you marry me and make me the happiest man on earth by allowing me to make you happy, as well? Would you, my sweet?”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * Back in London…
“Everything set?” the man asked as soon as his partner, Ethan Rayne entered the room.
“Yes,” he replied succinctly, plopping on a chair opposite to the dark-haired man.
“Does he suspect anything?”
“Not a thing. Actually, it was like taking a toy from a baby.” He shook his head, an evil sneer curling his lips. “Poor sod is so desperate for money that he doesn’t care who he gets it from or what he has to do to get it.”
“Good, good.” A pleased smiled drew on the younger brunet’s face. Everything was falling into place perfectly. Better than he expected for certain.
“Are you sure the little filly is worth all this trouble?”
“Oh, she is worth it, more than you can imagine.”
Chapter End Notes:
Like, dislike? *bats eyelashes* I’d love to know if you’re inclined to letting me know.
Next in line to be updated: Bring Me To Life, Into the Night, Dirty Little Secrets and Corazón Salvaje. When I’m writing the last one I’ll make a poll again. This seems to be working for my muse… so far.
Amelia-Jane? I added CS to the list for you and I’ll post Dirty Little Secrets here as well, I’m just not posting it here because I have enough WIPs looming over my head and I want to have that one a little more advanced or even finished before posting it here.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.