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 14. In Flagrante Delicto

Chapter Notes: 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

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 the night 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.

tbc


A/N: 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!

Mari

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