Chapter Notes: A huge thank you to Evilawyer for betaing this chapter for me; your suggestions were very helpful to me. 🙂
Sorry there’s no Spike in this chapter, but I had to get this out of the way first and the chapter was running very long as it was.
In this chapter: Buffy and María have a conversation. We find out of some of the after effects of Tegua’s treatment. Angel and Riley reach an agreement. And a little Aimée and Angel interaction before the wedding.
Buffy’s house, at the kitchen
“And you are sure no one was there?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I knocked on the front door several times, hard enough to wake the dead I might add, so either Mr. Giles wasn’t there or he’s dead.” María snickered.
Buffy rolled her eyes at her nanny. “I don’t think that’s funny.” María just threw her a pointed look and Buffy caved, smiling at her while shaking her head. “All right, all right, it is a little bit funny. But that’s beside the point.”
“Oh, phooey, that’s just because you’re worried about contacting your William before we leave for Campo Real, otherwise you’d be laughing right along with me.” María smiled condescendingly. “After all, it’s not like I wish Mr. Giles was dead, mi niña, I was just trying to lift up your spirits a bit.”
“I know, nana, but what am I going to do now? I don’t have the slightest idea of where William lives and if he comes back while we’re in Campo Real he won’t know where to look for me.”
“Well, last time he seemed to have no trouble finding you, now did he?” María laughed heartily when Buffy blushed profusely at her nana’s not so veiled reference to finding them together in her bedroom. “Don’t you worry, cariño, I’m quite sure he will come here first, so you can leave the letter for him on your vanity before we go and he’ll find it.”
“And what if someone else finds it first?”
“Your mother ordered that we are all going to Campo Real with you. So the house will be closed and no one, except William of course, will find the letter.”
“If you say so,” Buffy replied, not entirely convinced that María’s idea would work. There were so many things that could go wrong, what if her mother decided that some of the staff should stay behind and they found the letter and gave it to her mother. Or what if William, finding the house closed, didn’t enter her room? She sighed heavily. She was well aware this was one of those things she couldn’t control and therefore she should try not to worry about it. She picked up the letter that María had left on the kitchen counter and put it inside her apron pocket. Just at that moment, Aimée came into the kitchen limping.
María and Buffy shared a curious look and then glanced back at the red headed girl, who seemed to have frozen at the kitchen entrance. Aimée had been acting very strangely during the past three months. She’d been almost…polite to everyone at the house and hadn’t even tried to taunt her with her hurtful remarks about Angel and the fact that he’d chosen her over Elizabeth, not that they still hurt her anymore after she’d fallen in love with William, but still, it was weird. But then again, Aimée had said she loved Angel since they were children; maybe knowing that the man that she loved loved her in return had changed her?
“What happened to you?” Buffy asked, curious to know why her sister could be limping.
“I-I…fell from the stairs and twisted my ankle,” Aimée improvised after a shaky start. “Is Teresa around? I need her help with something.”
“Your mother sent her to the market, niña Aimée. If you want I can help you.”
“Err, no, that won’t be necessary, María. Just send Teresa to my room as soon as she comes back, please?”
“Do you want me to help you up the stairs, Aimée?” Buffy asked, worried by the off white pallor of her sister’s face and the sweat beads that had formed over her lip and her forehead. She didn’t look like she was faking; maybe the fall had been harder than she’d thought at first.
“No, no, I can manage on my own.”
“Are you sure? You don’t look too good. Maybe we should call the doctor?” Buffy said, turning towards María to see what she thought.
Aimée paled even more, if that was even possible. “NO!” she screamed, afraid of what the doctor might tell her mother and her sister, lowering her voice when she noticed the odd looks her abrupt answer had caused. “No, there’s no need for that. I just need to rest for a while. If it makes you feel better, Elizabeth, you can help me get to my room, all right?”
Buffy glanced at her nana, who just shrugged. “All right, let’s go then. I’ll be back in a while to help you with lunch, María,” she said, before putting an arm around her sister and helping her walk to her room.
* ~ * ~ *
“So, Aimée has a sister then?” Riley said, wondering why Aimée never mentioned her in any of their talks in Boston.
“Yes, she does. Elizabeth is a very beautiful woman and my mother wanted us to marry, but I met Aimée and you know the rest.”
“So when she found out that you were marrying her sister, she decided to join the convent?” Angel nodded. “What a waste! Well, a waste as long as she is as beautiful as her sister, of course,” Riley commented.
Angel chuckled. “She is very beautiful, my friend. The man who marries her will be very lucky.”
“Lucky? How so?”
“According to my mother she’s an exemplary girl, pious and charitable; all in all what a well born lady should be,” Angel explained, noticing the glimmer of interest that had lit his best friend’s eyes and deciding to sweeten the deal. Riley would be a good husband for Elizabeth. “And of course, now that she’ll become my sister-in-law, I’ll provide her with a very generous dowry.”
“Well, if you think she’d agree, you have a candidate for her hand right here,” Riley said. Things were definitely looking up for him; a beautiful wife, a very generous dowry and becoming family with Angel De Alcazar were all very good things in his book. Of course, he didn’t think the girl would be half as beautiful as her sister or as doña Darla De Alcazar, but beggars can’t be choosers. And even if the girl wasn’t good looking at all, it didn’t really matter to him. All that mattered was that all his problems were going to be solved soon.
“I was counting on that, my friend.” Angel patted Riley’s back, proud of his matchmaking abilities.
* ~ * ~ *
Aimée lay on her side on her bed, trying to keep her thighs as far apart as she could. She’d imagined that the treatment might leave her sore, after all Tegua had warned her that it was a very concentrated dosage, but it was worse than that. She felt feverish and weak, and that was without counting the way her skin was burning down there. It almost felt like she’d been scrubbed raw and the pain of it was almost too much to bear. The curandera had practically laughed in her face when she begged her for a remedy; but when she’d seen how difficult it was for the girl to even try to walk, she’d gave her a god-awful smelling cream and told her to alternate using the cream with cornstarch to alleviate the scalding that the water had left.
She’d made an effort to dress back up in her regular clothes when she’d returned from Tegua’s home and went down to the kitchen to look for Teresa, thinking the maid might prove useful for once and provide her with something for the pain; only to find that she wasn’t there and having to suffer her sister and María’s third degree and then accept her sister’s help to go back to her room. Hadn’t she suffered enough humiliation at Tegua’s hands that she still had to be subjected to her sister’s pity? Apparently not, since nothing was worse than being forced to accept her sister’s faked kindness towards her. Because she knew it was faked. How could it be otherwise after Angel had chosen her?
Oh, God! Just to think that in one week she’d be his wife. Was the hell she’d gone through these three months worth being Mistress of Campo Real? Hopefully yes, everything would be worth it once she was Angel’s wife and the owner of half of Galveston. And hopefully, too, by then she’d be cured from this horrible scalding, or else their wedding night would be hell on earth for her.
“Who is it?” Aimée called when she heard a knock on the door, praying that it was Teresa and not her sister or María, or even worse, her mother. She definitely wasn’t up for inane chatting with her mother at the moment.
“It’s Teresa, niña Aimée,” she heard, exhaling a relieved sigh as she bid the maid to enter the room. At long last she was there. “Oh, Dios, niña, what happened to you?”
“Tegua’s last treatment didn’t sit too well with me. I’ll need some cornstarch and if you’d be so kind to find me something for the pain, I’d be in debt with you forever.”
“In debt with me? As much as to make me your lady-in-waiting when you marry don Angel?” Teresa asked, knowing that if this didn’t work, she could still use blackmail to get what she wanted. After all, she knew most of niña Aimée’s secrets and she was willing to keep them to herself as long as she could gain something off it.
Laboriously, Aimée pulled up her head to glare at the maid. How dare Teresa try to force her into accepting her as her lady-in-waiting? But then she remembered all the things Teresa knew and even if it would be very difficult that anyone would give full credit to the maid if she revealed anything she knew, it could be enough to plant the seed of doubt in anyone listening to her. So, defeated by the circumstances, she nodded her acceptance. “All right, you can be my new lady-in-waiting, I’ll tell my mother before we leave for Campo Real tomorrow. I hope you are aware that if you try to betray me, I’ll make you pay dearly, Teresa.”
The maid beamed, she hadn’t expected that her niña Aimée would accept so easily, but she wasn’t about to complain on her good luck. “Don’t worry, niña Aimée. You can count on my silence, as long as I’m your lady-in-waiting, of course,” Teresa said. “I’ll go to the kitchen and see if we have some cornstarch and maybe something for the pain.” She curtsied and left Aimée alone, dwelling on how much easier her life would have been if she hadn’t had the bad fortune of meeting William the Bloody.
* ~ * ~ *
Four days later, in Campo Real
Aimée was enjoying the sun while she sat on a bench in one of Campo Real’s gardens. It seemed that at last Tegua’s cream and the cornstarch were doing their work and it wasn’t as painful to sit or walk anymore. Thank God, it had been just in time since the wedding would be in two more days. Two more days and everything that she could see would be hers. She would finally have all she ever wanted—a handsome and very rich husband that adored the ground she walked on and could give her anything that she desired. Everyone would know which was the more worthy of the Summers’ sisters then.
Just then she saw Angel coming out of the house to join her in the garden.
“Good morning, sweetheart, I’m happy to see you’re feeling better,” he said, sitting by her side.
“Oh, yes, I do feel better. I think it must have been all the excitement with the wedding.” She smiled sweetly at him.
“I’m happy for that. I wanted to run something by you before talking to your mother and Elizabeth.”
“What is it, darling?” she asked, hoping it would be something related to their honeymoon trip or to where they would live after they got married.
“Hmm, well, Riley Finn has asked me for permission to court your sister.”
“What?” She’d known that Angel wanted to find a good husband for her sister, but she never expected him to find her a suitor so fast and a good one at that that, if what was said in Boston was anything to go by it. Riley was one of the most eligible bachelors in the city and her sister was going to marry him now? No, no, that was totally unacceptable.
“Yes, he says it’s been love at first sight for him. Do you think it’s appropriate to talk to your mother and your sister before our wedding?”
“No, of course it’s not appropriate. How can you even ask me that?” she said offended. “And I don’t think she will agree anyway, she has been talking of going back to the convent after the wedding, if you tell her anything of this you might force her to withdraw from her true calling and she’ll hate us forever.”
She paid attention to the different expressions on Angel’s face while he mulled over her words while she tried to imagine other ways to convince him to not marry her sister off to Riley Finn. And well, if Angel insisted with this travesty, she could always talk to Riley. He’d been one of her suitors in Boston and he’d surely believe a few well placed lies about her sister. She was willing to do anything to prevent Elizabeth from being happy.
“Anyway, I thought you’d come to tell me about our honeymoon trip.” She pouted, her eyes filling with tears. “But I see that my sister is more important to you than I am.”
“Of course not, my darling. I just wanted…” He stopped himself; it wouldn’t do to upset his future bride a few days before the wedding, would it? “You know what? You’re right, it was going to be a surprise, but I guess you deserve to know where we’ll be going in our honeymoon.”
“Really?” Aimée smiled, her tears forgotten when she saw that Angel had decided to stop talking about the mustia of her sister.
“Yes, really. We’re going to Europe for one month!” He basked in the radiant smile his fiancée bestowed on him. “The only problem is that we can’t leave until next week, since I have to give possession of his post to the new Administrator for the hacienda.”
“Oh, I don’t mind waiting, Angel. You’ve made me so happy.” She threw her arms around his neck, embracing him tightly, before remembering that she had to act like a proper lady. Pushing away from him, she blushed and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have…What will you think of me now?”
“Don’t worry, my love, I love that I could make you so happy that you forgot your shyness for a little while.” He smiled adoringly at her, pulling her back into his arms.
“I thought you liked my shyness,” she said demurely.
“Of course I do, sweetness, but I don’t mind if you take certain liberties with me,” he said before kissing her softly. “Did I frighten you?” he asked, when he saw her uncomfortable expression.
“A little,” she answered, feeling sick at being kissed by Angel. She couldn’t stop comparing William with the man who would be her husband. Angel couldn’t make her feel with a kiss what William could make her feel with just one look, and she was sure that wouldn’t change once they were intimate. Oh, God, she’d thought she was ready to face a loveless marriage, at least on her part, but was she really?
“When a man loves a woman, he does it without reservations, my love. And I love you so much; I can’t wait until you are my wife.”
Oh, God, what on earth had she gotten herself into?
Next chapter: Spike will return finally.