Against All Odds by Dusty273

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Buffy Summers is a vibrant, passionate young girl in love for the first time in her life with Angel O’Connor, to whom she’s secretly engaged. When he has to go back to his native Ireland to take care of his business, fate intervenes and she meets the very daring and impulsive Duke of Aurelius, Spike. From the moment he lays eyes upon her, he decides he wants her for himself and sets upon making it happen. Will Spike get what he wants, and if so, at what price? Written for the Spuffy_fantasy (LJ) Art-A-Thon. For the gorgeous banner made by drkdevin (Number 9).

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Chapter 10. A Midsummer Night's Dream

Chapter Notes: 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 am.”

“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.”

tbc


A/N: 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!

Hugs,

Mari

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