squawks 05/18/17 04:16 am pj! I remember wishing one of your stories would be finished seriously about a decade ago. Amazing. I just tried an old password I used to use and amazingly got in too. Memories! pj 03/20/17 01:20 am 10 yrs later, i finally rem my username and password. Pari, you rock. Hope you are well. Rabbit_moon1 12/23/16 01:12 pm I donate every month. Please donate to keep this site up! AudryDaluz1 10/06/16 08:34 am Great post. Chrissel 08/31/16 03:45 pm And anyone else who loves this site, it's worth mentioning there's a nifty little "Donate" option just below the shout box here! ;) Chrissel 08/31/16 03:43 pm Just wanted to take a moment to thank Pari and all the mods for maintaining such a great site!
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.
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