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 23. In the Aftermath of Temptation

Chapter Notes: 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. Sunday

 

“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.

“You’re my 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—”

“No, you 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.

It almost 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.

tbc

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