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 8. Turnabout is Fair Play

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.

tbc

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!

Hugs,

Mari

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