Twist of Fate
by Jane and Octavia
It wasn’t that Buffy hated Willow, she was her sister after all. Two years difference, Buffy had always been the baby of the family, and because of that she usually got her way, except when her dear old sister needed something or objected to her wants. Willow was, in her mind more of a bother then anything. A waste of space and money. Once Willow left, all her parent’s attention, as well as their money, would be spent of her, solely her. And that was what she indented on doing, making Willow disappear.
It was that time of
the year where spring came into blossom and marriages were made. They had
entered the beginning of her second season, Willow entering her fourth.
She had overheard the many conversations she and her father, Rupert, had.
Willow needed to find a husband, not because of the money situation, but
because it was
time for her to build a home of her own. He had already given her all the liberties any woman could have dreamed of , even the choice of her own suitor, but still she refused to marry, the past had thought her to be wary of marriage, something that her parents knew all to well.
But now Buffy would
find her a suitable man and have her married by tonight, tonight during
the large ball at her parents home. It was time to put her plan into action.
* * * * * * * * *
Willow yawned as the third hour of the ball came. She was seated with her dear friend, Drucilla, reminiscing on how it had all been different a year ago.
“How is Joyce?” Drucilla asked.
“Miserable. Her husband is sparsely at home.”
“He is with her...isn’t he?”
“I believe so. I did not have the heart to tell her I saw Owen at the games last week. I saw him with the widow Jenny. They looked too friendly with each other.”
“You would think he would at least have the decency to make it a private matter with that...that hussy.”
“Drucilla,” Willow said a bit surprised by her comment.
“It is true, why not say what she is. After her husband died, all she has done is offer her ‘friendship’ to anything male. I am sure her husband is rolling around in his grave at this very moment.”
Willow nodded, knowing what her dear friend was saying was truth.
“And does your father still insist you marry?”
“Yes. I have even tried to speak to mama, but she supports him.”
“At least you have a choice, Willow. My mother insists I marry a suitor of her liking and that I am not sure I can. They are all old enough to be my father, if not dull as a board. I must find one that is of her standard.”
“Which would be?”
“Simply put - rich. Rich and with a title, perhaps even older then she.”
Willow cringed, that was horrible.
“I fear I may end up as Joyce, miserable and unhappy if I do what my mother asks,” Drucilla ended.
“You are not alone my friend. I almost fell in that trap by my own doing. I’m just happy I realized it before I made a grave mistake. Joyce was in love with him, and now that she carries his child, he can care less. It breaks my heart to visit her.”
“What are we to do my friend?” she asked.
“I for one will fight my father. I will not marry, not this season or ever.”
* * * * * * * * *
Buffy smiled as she saw her sister walk up the stairs to her room, retiring from the party as early as she usually did. She took a letter from her small pouch and stepped away from the group of men that had surrounded her most of the night. She asked one of her messenger to deliver a message to the man that had just stepped onto the terrace, Duke Xander, her most persistent and annoying suitor. She handed him the note with a smile, then turned to leave, never seeing the Duke re-enter and another man step outside.
The messenger left and stepped out onto the terrace, following the instructions the Lady had given him.
“Excuse me, sir?”
The tall, handsome stranger turned around a bit surprised.
“The Lord Harrington has asked for your immediate attendance in a private room regarding a very important business deal. He has asked you follow the directions in this letter and to be as discreet as possible.”
“Yes. He asked me to stress that it a very important business deal which he wishes you to be a part of.”
Angel was intrigued to say the least. As much as he hated attending balls, his good friend William always seemed to be able to drag him to them. He couldn’t wait until he returned to his estate in the country. He took the invitation and ventured out to see what deal was in the mix.
* * * * * * * *
It was Willow’s shriek that alerted her father and the rest of the gentlemen who were with him to her room. By the time they made it to the end of the corridor, they were confronted by Angelus Beroke of Montegue exiting his beloved daughter’s bedroom. The men behind remained silent as the scene before them unfolded. The marquee opened the door to find his daughter putting her robe on. He looked at the Duke, then closed the door. He turned to excuse himself, then looked back at the Duke with a menacing look.
Angel followed remaining silent, not wishing to add more to the confusion at hand.
All voices began to mutter as they disappeared behind close doors, not daring to question what would happen next.
* * * * * * * *
“You will marry my daughter sir.”
“It was a mistake. I received a letter from Lord Harrington requesting my presence. I followed the directions in the note, that was all. Once I saw who was there, I left,” Angel repeated once more, losing patience.
“That is quite odd Sir, since Lord Harrington is in France as we speak.”
“That is what I was told by a messenger who handed me the note. Here,” Angel retorted as he handed him the note.
Rupert took it and immediately recognized the handwriting. It was now a matter of defending his daughter’s reputation.
“This proves nothing my Lord. There is no Lord Harrington present. You entered my daughter’s bedroom and were seen exited by half of London’s elite. You will marry her, there is no other way,” he yelled.
“I shall not. I ‘ve done nothing wrong. If this was a plan by her to get married or a mistake....”
“Do not blame this on her. This is not her fault. I will not have you talk badly about her or to treat her in such a matter. You will marry her or you shall face the consequences.”
“Are you threatening me?” Angel asked angered.
“Take it as you like. I am sure you would never want to ruin your sister’s future. Isn’t your brother-in-law trying for a seat in Parliament?”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Just try me. I would do anything for my daughter, know that now. And I would keep that in mind even after you are married sir, because if you ever think about getting even with her for this, I shall have your head.”
Angel wouldn’t refuse. Damn William for inviting him here, damn the marquee for blackmailing him, damn the girl who would be his bride.
“I shall keep it in mind.”
“Good then, follow me.”
Angel followed Rupurt out the door, down the hall to another room where he saw his bride-to-be close in tears.
“Papa, what is happening? Why have all my things been packed up? Why have you requested that I be dressed?”
“Willow, you are to be married.”
Willow looked at him terrified. For a brief moment Angel felt sorry for her, then remembered she was the reason he was in this situation.
“No, papa, please. This can’t be so. It was a mistake. Nothing happened. He came into my room, heard me scream then left....”
“Half of London saw him leave your room. This is how it must be. You are to marry him.”
“But I do not even know his name...I do not know who he is....Why are you doing this to me?.....Why are you not protesting to this?” she asked as tears fell down her face, turning to look at Angel for a moment.
“The Duke has agreed to marry you to avoid any damage to your reputation....”
“I do not care about my reputation......I do not wish to marry a complete stranger...please papa, there has to be another way...what if I leave...”
“Enough, Willow. You will marry him tonight and leave with your new husband. That is how it must be.”
“Papa, please no....”
“Not another word it that understood.”
With that said in an hour’s time the couple was married. Angel made sure the coachman took all of Willow’s belonging with them. Before she left, a teary eyed Willow hugged her mother, then her father, hearing his small whisper.
“My dear daughter. I would never make you do something I did not think was good. Give yourselves an opportunity. Our doors shall always be open to you.”
Willow hugged him tighter, then left, joining her new husband in the carriage.
“Was this the right thing to do?” Darla asked her husband.
“I would never harm our daughter my love. Trust me?”
“You know I do,” she replied then kissed him gently.
The couple entered their house, hoping that time would help the newlyweds.
* * * * * * * * *
The ride to the Duke’s house was silent. Willow had stopped crying, refusing to be seen in that way by her new husband. She dreaded what she believed may come next, a wedding night. They both stared out opposite windows, never exchanging a word between them since ‘I do’. Now as the coach came to a halt, Willow tried to hide her fears of what was to come.
Angel exited first, giving his butler and maid instructions. Willow stepped out minutes later, helped out by the coachman. Odd enough, it was the butler who showed her into the house and not her husband. She was greeted by the few servants that were still awake and was escorted to her new bedroom. To her surprise, it looked like a guest room. Before she would question the butler, he left, closing the door behind him. She remained standing, not able to believe what was happening to her. She nearly jumped out her skin when she heard the door open once more. To her relief, it was a woman.
“Countess, My name is Amy and will help you in all that is needed. My Lord has just informed me that he has just wed and has asked me to come and welcome you to his home.”
“Thank you,” she replied a bit shaky.
“Now, let us have you changed. I am sure you are tired and must be sleepy.”
Amy helped her changed, then bid her a goodnight, not sure what the night ahead would bring. She hope her sleep would deter any other thoughts from her husband. She closed her eyes, tears falling down her cheek, wishing the morning would come soon.
“Father, where is Willow?” Buffy asked, trying to hide her apparent joy.
Rupert Giles greeted his daughter with a fierce look, a look that made Buffy scared. She looked across the table to find her mother greet her with a similar look.
“You should know.”
“No, papa, I do not. I went by her room this morning and found it empty.”
“Do not play coy with me. You know what you did.”
“I did what....?”
“Do not lie to us Buffy or your punishment shall be far worse.”
“Punishment for what? I have done nothing.”
“Nothing? Is that what you call humiliating your sister in front of the ton of London?” her mother asked, pushing away the plate of food aside, her appetite gone.
“I did none such thing to Willow, she is my sister...”
“She is Buffy and because of that it makes it harder for us to understand why...how you could do such a thing. I never thought you would be capable of such a thing.”
Buffy began to panic, fearing they knew what she had done. But how, how would they know?
“Where is Willow?”
“You know quite where she is, but in case you do not, she was married last night,” Darla informed her.
“Married?” she asked, trying to sound surprised.
“As you planed it.”
“I would never do....”
“Hold your tongue. Did you honestly believe you could plan this without us knowing? Perhaps this will jog your memory.”
Giles threw the small note on the table in front of her. Buffy didn’t bother picking it up, knowing what it was. Her eyes remained glued to note, not daring to look up at her mother or father.
“You don’t wish to see it? I didn’t think you would since you were the one that wrote it. I’m not sure what you wished to gain from this Buffy, and to be frank I am afraid to ask why you would do such a thing to your own sister. I am disgusted with you to say the least.”
“What will you do to me?” Buffy murmured, fearing the worse.
“I am implicating the same deadline on a husband as Willow was given. You are to choose your husband before the end of the season or I shall have to arrange one for you.”
“But papa, that is not fair, Willow had far more....”
“Do you wish for me to move that date to tomorrow.....”
“Then I advise you to start considering some of your proposals,” he advised.
“That is not fair...”
“We are handing you the same fate you handed your sister, you should be grateful we are at least still offering your choice. That can also change if you like,” her mother told her.
Buffy remained quite, not wishing to anger then more and in turn give her a worse punishment.
“Leave now. I shall have Gertrude send your breakfast to your room,” Darla said a bit saddened and disappointed.
“I am sorry.”
With that said, Buffy left the dining hall and rushed up he stairs to her room.
Darla looked over at her husband and took his hand in hers.
“What would have possessed her to do such a thing?” she asked him in disbelief.
“I do not know, my love. But life has a way of making you pay for your bad doings, I just hope it is not too cruel to Buffy.”
“I wonder how Willow is?” she asked a loud, missing her daughter already.
“I wish I knew.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Willow was not sure how to feel as she awoke alone in her room. She never felt anyone come in, nor did the room look as if it had had a visitor. She pulled the covers tighter around her as the door to her room opened.
“Good Morning Countess. I do hope you slept well.”
“I did...thank you.”
“I’m glad. Now let us get you changed,” Amy replied with a smile.
Half an hour later, Willow walked down to the dining room and was surprised to see a single serving of dishware. Amy came in with her food.
“Will the Duke not come to eat?”
“He left early this morning as he usually does.”
“Do you know where he has gone?”
“Must likely to the Armonte Grounds.”
“He is a man of horses.”
“Oh yes, even competes in races at times.”
“Is there anything more you would like?”
“No...no thank you.”
Willow ate quickly, not wanting to stay any longer then it was needed to be. Once she was done with breakfast she quickly asked the butler for a coach and left, not sure where to go.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“You sly bastard. You got married and didn’t invite me?”
“I wouldn’t quite say that. Because of you I had to get married.”
“Exactly how is sounds. If you hadn’t dragged me to that party, this never would have happened.”
“I received a note asking me to join Lord Harrington for a private business meeting in a private room. Instead of finding him, I find the Marquis daughter. As I quickly left I was caught exiting by no other then her father and half of London’s most important men. Needless to say I was threatened into marrying her.”
“As I said. He would not hesitate in telling the world about Robert.”
“Damn. I never thought he could do such a thing. You kept that affair rather quiet.”
“Yes, I did. I have no idea how he could have known.”
“Might have been bluffing.”
“He does not strike me as a man who would and I did not wish to find out.”
“Never would I have imagined you married.”
“Nor I, but I will not be for long.”
William looked at his friend a bit confused.
“What is it you mean?”
“As soon as her father’s anger has subsided I will ask for an annulment.”
“But how, didn’t you...”
“No William, nor do I plan to.”
“Then last night...”
“She sleeps in her own room as do I.”
“Have you ever thought...,” William began.
“No, not the least. Once everything is annulled I shall leave London and return to the estate in Crestington.”
“This woman I must
meet. The woman who finally captured your bacherlorhood.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Willow went to the only place she knew where she could be confronted. As soon as the door closed she ran to her friend, tears falling as hard as they had the night before.
“Willow, Willow what happened? Mother told me this morning that you were married. It is in all the papers.”
“Dru is it horrible. Simply horrible. Papa made me marry him.”
“The Duke, but why?”
She retold her the events and how her father had been stern in his decision that she marry.
“I never thought he would do it. Make me marry against my wishes.”
“Oh Willow, my dear friend. I am so sorry.”
“What I’m I to do?”
“You can do nothing.”
“I know and I hate this.”
“How does he treat you?”
“He has not even spoken to me. We slept apart last night. It seems as though that is how it will be. My items are there, but his are not.”
“Then you both have not...”
“No, nor do I plan to.”
“But he is your husband...”
“Yes, but I am still in control of my body, no one else.”
Willow remained talking to her for the rest of the afternoon and part of the evening, returning home rather late. She was greeted at the door, not by the butler, Ethan, put by her husband.
Once she stepped inside the questioning began.
“Where have you been?” he asked as he closed the door.
“I was at a friends house, my Lord,” she replied.
“It would have been nice if you would have told someone. I’ve been here for the past two hours not knowing where my own wife is,” he said angered.
“And what about you, my Lord. I awake to find that you are not in your own house, do not know where you are, yet you expect me to give you a full report as to where I am,” she retorted.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her into the study with him, closing the door behind him.
“You are my wife until
this silly charade with your father is over and we can get an annulment,
but as long as you live in this house you shall
tell me where it is you are and at what time you shall be back.”
“I never asked to come
here, my lord. I never wanted to get married. It was you who entered my
bedroom, it was you who did not protest
against this marriage, it was you who brought me to this house,” she replied as tears began to fall down her face.
“You must be mistaken countess, but this is all your fault. If you had never written that note, then this never would have happened. Believe me, I never wished to be married to you or any of your kind.”
“Nor would I have ever wanted to marry such a brute!” Willow replied hurt deeper by his comment, making her tears fall harder.
This wasn’t what Angel wanted, he never wanted to see her cry, but his pride took a defensive stance. But before he could reply, Ethan interrupted them.
“Forgive me, Sir, but you have guests.”
Willow turned around and wiped her tears not wanting to be seen in such a manner.
“Who is it?” he asked, trying not to sound so angry.
“It is the Lady Darla Countienes and Lady Buffy Countienes. They are in the parlor waiting to see you and the countess.”
Willow looked surprised, then petrified.
“She cannot see me like this,” she thought aloud and left the room. Angel asked Ethan for them to give them a moment and then he could join them. Angel pounded his fist on the table, then took a deep breath and went to greet his guests.
Angel entered, surprised to see Willow already seated with her mother, remarkable refreshed. He sat down, not sure just what Willow had began to talk to them about.
Buffy stared at the
handsome man that entered the room to join them. This was not the man that
Buffy had sent to her room. This was a man
that she had never seen before in her life, a man that sparked her interest immensely. The large house was enough to have impressed her, but now seeing her across him, she took a notice as how handsome and mysterious he looked.
“My daughter is here to apologize to you and Willow.”
Angel looked at her surprised then at Willow who had the same look on her face.
“I do not know what you mean your grace...”
“You see, it was my daughter who wrote that letter you received. It was she who tricked you into Willow’s room.”
Angel looked at Willow, who’s eyes were filled with tears once more.
“Buffy.....how would you...?” her crack voice asked.
Buffy looked at her sister then back at Angel.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen...I never thought this could happen...” she tried to explain.
“What did you think would happen?” Willow asked curious, knowing her sister meant to get her married.
“It wasn’t even supposed to be him....” she blurted out.
Darla looked at her daughter harshly, now knowing this part of her plan.
“Do tell, Buffy, who had you intended on giving that letter to?”
Buffy looked at the hands on her lap, then muttered the name of the man she had wished her sister to marry.
Willow was appalled by the answer and stood up.
“How would you?” she asked.
Buffy refused to meet her gaze or her mother’s, but seemed to be able to meet Angel’s with no problem.
Angel remained seated, still in shock, more over after he heard the name of the man Buffy had intended for her sister. Though he had never met the man he had heard of Xander LaGrant, the slimy, obnoxious, greedy business man that half of London despised. He awoke from his thoughts as he heard Buffy make a comment of interest.
“They can get an annualment..if they haven’t..”
“Hold you tongue. No such thing shall happen, your father would never allow it. They can make it work, just as your father and I did.”
Willow could take no more and left the room, heading directly to her bedroom.
“Buffy go and wait for me outside.”
“Leave us,” she instructed her.
She left reluctantly, looking at Angel once more and smiling.
“I now know how my mother felt when I left her to leave with Rupert. I had been betrothed to him since my birth and did finally met him on our wedding day. I know that you did not want this marriage, nor did Willow, but in time and if you truly try, then perhaps you can be as happy as my husband and I became and still are. It takes time, but it can be done.”
Angel looked at her and nodded, wanting to set her mind at ease.
“I do hope you try my advice. I am sure both of you can be happy.”
Angel escorted her out to her coach. She promised to visit soon, letting him take care of Willow. Angel re-entered the house, not quite sure what to do. He went up to his room, stopping outside his wife’s door. He knocked softly, his voice soft, but firm, loud enough for her to hear him.
“I am sorry, countess.......Goodnight.”
Angel walked to his
room, regretting all the words he had directed to her early that night.
She was not to blame, nor he. Fate had planed it and
all he could do was wait and see what it had in store for him.
Angel never knew how much those words had meant to Willow as she clutched the pillow in her arms that night. They had somehow managed to mend some of the hurt and damage that this nightmare had created. She remained in her room for the rest of the night and day.
The next two weeks passed by uneventful. Angel and Willow began leaving notes to each other letting each other know where they were. By coincidence, they had found each other at the same table for dinner on two occasions.
Everything seemed fine, both even able to say an occasional “hello” or “goodnight” whenever needed. As much as it was “pleasant” in the house, Willow was miserable.
She felt alone and betrayed. She had a husband who did not want her nor loved her. The only servant she felt an inclination to was Amy. She did not visit her parents, their decision to wed her off was much too painful for her to see them just yet, not to mention Buffy. Her only comfort was her dear friend, Drucilla and even that became limited, with her mother trying to set her up in outings for marriage prospects.
It was on one of those occasions that Willow was left alone to shop for a dress for her parents anniversary ball. Hidden amongst the numerous dresses was were she heard the first rumor about her.
“I still cannot believe that Duke Beroxe of Montegue married her.”
“After such trickery on her part.”
“You can only imagine how many gentlemen left her room,” Lady Sutherfield commented.
“Truly a waste. I’m sure my Ingrid would have made him a much better wife.”
“He was much too a gentlemen to marry her, I think,” Lady Gardon concluded.
As they turned the corner they bumped into a teary eyed redhead.
“We were not aware you were here Countess.....,” Lady Sutherfield explained as she looked over at her companion worried.
“I see.... well I am present Lady Sutherfield and in such, heard all the lies...”
“They are not lies, my child, but the facts of your un-lady like conduct...”
“That may be your opinion Lady Gardon.....”
“Oh, but you are quite wrong Countess, you see it is the entire society who knows your husband is ashamed to be seen with you, by the simple fact that you are a......whore.”
Willow’s temper snapped
and did the only thing she could...... she punched her. Lady Gardon
never knew what hit her as she fell to the floor with her packages. Lady
Sutherfield struggled a moment with Willow, scratching her on the cheek
for her friend who was on the floor. Willow in defense punched her as well,
Lady Sutherfield joining her friend on the floor. Willow dashed out of
the store, but not before making sure the
two lady’s heard her.
“I am no whore.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Willow opened the door to her house, her tears blurring her way to the staircase.
“Madame, what is wrong?” Amy asked.
Willow did not reply, moving past her and ran up the steps. Amy tried to catch up to her, but saw as she entered her room and closed the door, hearing the lock.
How could this happen?
Why were they saying such horrible things about her? This wasn’t her doing,
this wasn’t her fault. She had never wanted anything like this -never.
She fell onto her bed and cried as she replayed the scene in the shop in
her head. What had she done in her
life to deserve this? She clutched her pillow against her body, feeling more alone then ever.
* * * * * * * * * *
Angel walked into his house ten minutes after Willow’s arrival. He placed his gloves on the entrance table beside the door and was greeted by two worried faces.
“Is something wrong?”
“My Lord, it is about your wife,” Ethan replied.
“What about her? Is she here? Did something happened to her?”
“We don’t know, my Lord. She came in crying and headed directly to her room.”
Not waiting for any further explanation, he turned and rushed up the stairs - two at a time. He found her door and began knocking. When he received no answer he turned the knob, but found it locked.
“Willow? Willow, open the door.”
After receiving no answer he turned to Ethan.
“Bring me the master keys.”
Ethan quickly left as Angel continued pounding on the door, hoping nothing wrong had happened.
“Willow, open the door. It’s Angel, I want to speak to you. Please open the door.”
After again no response, he turned to Amy who was fidgeting next to him.
“Do you know what happened? Did she tell you anything?”
“No, she came in crying and went pass me. Her face was red, milord.”
“Was she hurt?” he asked worried.
“I do not know, she ran up the stairs before I could ask.”
“Ethan!” he yelled as the turned his attention back to the door, his hand once again pounding against it.
“Willow, please unlock the door.”
Ethan arrived a moment later, giving the keys to Angel. Without hesitating he opened the door and stepped inside, finding his wife on her bed crying. He rushed over to her, scared something had happened. He carefully sat on the bed not wanting to frighten her. His large hand dared to stroke her silky hair.
“Willow, what’s wrong? What happened?” he asked her softly.
Willow did not want to respond, nor did she want to let him see her cry. Without getting a reply, Angel began to lift her up into a sitting position. And what he saw scared him as nothing had before. He found a bruise of some kind on her left cheek. Her gown had been pulled at, torn on one side.
“Willow, what happened? Were you attacked, God, please tell me, Willow,” he asked urgently.
She finally looked up at him, ashamed of what she had done.
“Willow, please,” Angel pleaded, dreading the worse.
“I was... I was not attacked,” she replied wiping away her tears with her hand.
Angel’s fingertips softly touched the bruise on her face and frowned as she winced back a bit in pain.
“Then what did happen? Who did this to you?” his voice soft and caring, something Willow had never heard before.
At his gentle touch and voice, she looked up and was taken back by what she saw concern.
“I was.... It was... Lady Sutherfield.”
“She did this it you?” he asked surprised.
“After you what?”
She showed him her hand that had some swelling on it.
“After I punched Lady Gardon.”
Angel looked into her watery green eyes and saw the shame, worry, regret, and a hint of fire in them.
“Amy, please bring me the medical canteen as well as some ice.”
“Yes, sir, I shall be right back.”
Angel turned his attention back to his wife as his other hand took her bruised one.
“It must have been a nice left hook,” he pointed out. “Now tell me why did you punch her.”
Willow looked away from him, not wanting to repeat the words she feared her husband shared about her.
“You can tell me,” he assured her as he lightly caressed her bruised hand.
“I can not.”’
Before Angel could reply, Amy returned with the needed supplies. He took the materials from her hands, surprising her.
“I shall take care of the Countess. Thank you.”
Amy understood and left, closing the door behind her. Angel placed the cloth with ice on her hand, moving it to lie on his thigh.
“Willow, please look at me,” he asked softly.
She complied with tears falling down her cheeks. As carefully as possible, Angel wiped them away and looked into her glistering eyes, not sure he had ever seen such a pair as beautiful as hers.
“What ever happened, what ever caused this... I shall understand,” he told her truthfully as he began to clean off her wound.
Willow knew she had to tell him. He would find out sooner or later and it was best he found it out by her, instead of by rumors.
“I was shopping for a dress... I overheard Lady Sutherfield and Lady Gardon talking by accident...” she began, tears once again filling her eyes.
Angel gently wiped one of her tears away as he encouraged her to continue.
“What did they say?”
“They told me how generous of a man you were... for marrying me.... how Ingrid would have made you a much better wife then I for you..... of how many men must have come out of my bedroom door...... of what a whore I am...”
Tears fell harder as her heart fell deeper into the despair and misery it was already in. Her chin lowered as she turned her head to the side, not wanting to face her husband.
“Willow, you are not...”
“Of how you are ashamed to be seen with me, because that is what you think as well...” she interrupted him.
Angel softly placed his hand under her chin and pulled it up carefully and looked into her watery green eyes.
“I do not think you a whore, Willow, far from, nor am I ashamed to be seen with you. It just never occurred to me that you would like to be seen with me.”
“My Lord, you only need to ask,” Willow replied with sincerity.
Angel smiled, not realizing just how Willow was also affected by this union.
“Then will you join me tomorrow at The Armonte?” he asked.
“I would be honored.”
Willow smiled for the first time in days. Angel joined her, never quite seeing just how lovely her face looked when she did.
“We should tend to your wound,” Angel said as he felt the water begin to drip down his hand.
Willow closed her eyes, letting him tend to the scratches on her right cheek.
“They deserved to be punched. I’m glad you did.”
Willow opened her eyes, relief clearly written in her eyes.
“These should heal quickly.”
“But I fear there’s will not,” she replied, making them both smile.
Willow awoke earlier then usual. Perhaps it was the excitement of going out to The Almonte or the nerves about going out in public for the first time with her husband that her up in a roar. But she was awake, and for the first time in three weeks, she was happy. She was happy to see Amy up as well and employed her help in getting ready.
Willow wasn’t much for getting prepared when she went out, but she decided to take care this morning. Taking the time she needed to prepare herself as best she knew how.
Nerves getting the
better of her, she decided to take a look around the house. She hadn’t
seen much of it, her absence from it quite frequent. She walked downstairs,
finding the library first, past the waiting room. To her sweet surprise,
the room was large and cozy, but held the authority that her husband exuburated.
She skimmed though the volumes of books in the cases on the walls around
her, quite impressed by
the selection. She climbed up the imposed steps and reached for the book that caught her attention. But being much too petite, she stretched up as far as she could. That was until her hero came in.
“You might get hurt,” the unfamiliar voice spoke, surprising her. “Let me get that for you.”
Willow stepped down, smoothing down her dress.
“Thank you... but..”
“You must be the Countess,” he said with a smile.
“Yes.... I’m Countess Willow Countines...” she replied then blushed as she realized her mistake. “I mean Countess Willow Beroxe of Montegue.”
“A very beautiful countess,” he added with a dashing smile as he took her hand and raised it to his lips.
“Thank you... but I still do not know your name kind sir.”
“William de la Gray at your service,” he replied as he placed a kiss on her hand and lowered his head.
“A pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Countess. I’ve heard much about you.”
“Please, do not believe everything you hear......”
“I do not. But in this case, I must say so for a lovelier woman as you I have not met as yet.”
Willow blushed, never becoming accustomed to flattery.
“You are much too kind, Sir. If you’ll excuse me, I shall see if Angel is up...”
“I can wait, that’s not a problem. Amy was kind enough to see to that, I believe.”
“Then if you’d like to take a seat.....”
“Only if you’ll join me.”
Willow smiled and took her seat. William looked at the book in hand, then handed it to her.
“Poetry of the “other side”, William teased.
“Quite so... but Ireland is beautiful. I can understand how many poets are inspired to write such beautiful poetry there.”
“Have you been there?”
“Last year. My father sent me for a month for my birthday,” she replied with a smile.
“You like the country?”
“Very much. It’s so peaceful.”
“Angel loves it as well. He has an estate in Ireland and Wales. But he spends most of his time in Crestington.”
“Yes, he comes to London for.....”
“I thought I heard your rustic voice,” Angel interrupted.
They both stood as he entered, Willow hoping he found himself as pleased as his friend.
“Good morning, Willow.”
“Good morning my Lord.”
“I see you’ve met my beautiful wife,” he told William with a large smile.
“I have. She is as pleasant as she is beautiful. We were talking about you actually.”
“Nothing that would embarrass you too much. Didn’t get to the part were you used to wrestle down pigs,” William teased.
Willow couldn’t help but laugh at the comment.
“Perhaps we should leave,” Angel suggested as he pushed William a bit out of the study and gently took Willow’s hand in his.
Willow simple smiled and nodded, her nerves once again getting the best of her to speak.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Angel looked at Willow across the coach who seemed to be in deep thought. She did occasionally smile or laugh at a comment or two that William said or he himself did, but she was not with them. She stared out the window, silent and in deep thought. He wasn’t sure quite what to make out of it, only wishing what he knew what she was thinking. The ride wasn’t long and as soon as they arrived, Angel privately asked William to wait for them outside.
Right on cue, William excused himself. But before Willow could follow, Angel stopped her, taking her hand and sitting next to her.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I am well. Why do you ask?”
“You seemed.... nothing. It seems to be healing well,” he said as he caressed her cheek with his fingers.
“I believe so.”
“Willow, do you not want to be here?” he asked her, not sure why she was being so.... rigid with him.... nothing like last night.
“It is not that..... I want to be here, I’m just not sure what to expect.”
“If it worries you so..”
“I worry for you more. I am use to talk, not as grave as this... but you....”
“I’ve never cared what other people say..”
“Then you have nothing to worry . Come on. Let’s get us a spot, before they are all filled.”
They left, joining William at the entrance, standing alone, completely bored.
“It was about time,” he muttered to Angel.
His reply was a simple hit in the ribs with his elbow. They entered the hall, walking through the stares they received. They ignored them as best they could and walked out into the court. Both gentlemen escorted Willow to a table with a good view of the horse range.
“Looks like it might rain,” Willow said as they took their seats.
“Looks like Lady Gardon eyes is, um.. blacker then usual,” William commented.
Angel looked over, as Willow looked down at her hands.
“I’ll be right back. Will you stay with Willow?” Angel asked.
Willow looked at him confused.
Willow looked on as Angel made his way to Lady Gardon’s table a bit horrified.
“Nice right hook,” William commented as he looked at Lady Gardon once more.
Willow looked at him pale.
“How did you...?”
“Word travels fast. But I do believe they both deserved it,” he simple answered.
Willow gave him a small smile and turned her attention back to her husband.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Pardon me, Lady Gardon. My name is Angelus Beroxe of Montegue...”
“Ah yes, Count Beroxe. Please take a seat.... my daughter has been meaning to meet you and...”
“My apologies, but I cannot stay for long. I do not wish to keep my wife waiting.”
“Oh.. you here with...”
“The countess, my wife. I see you have already met her. I’m sure she left quite an..impression on you...”
Lady Gardon touched her eye, not aware it was so visible.
“I just wanted to come by and inform you and Lady Sutherfield that such lies of my wife and accusations will not be permitted. You see, Lady Gardon, I very much protect and take care of those I hold dear, one of which is my wife. I can assure you that if any of your words are repeated or even hinted at again.... you will not only deal with my wife’s actions but my own.”
The large middle aged woman would only huff a bit, taken by complete surprise by his words.
“I shall be more cautious,” she replied, knowing just how much power this man had.
“Then I thank you for your time and understanding. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Please give my regards to Ingrid.”
That was enough to spark Lady Gardon’s interest again.
“She should not be long...”
“I’m sure she will not. I am sure Ingrid will make a pleasant wife, but not as wonderful as mine. Good day.”
“Good day,” she muttered, trying to cover up her embarrassment.
Angel left, rejoining his wife and friend.
“How did it go?” William asked amused.
“Let’s just say I put her in her place,” he replied as he sat down and looked at Willow who looked rather surprised.
“It seems the game is about to start,” William said as he looked on and saw the horses being taken out.
“Then you two should get going,” Willow told them with a smile.
They both stood up, thankful she had suggested it. They weren’t sure if she wanted to be left alone.
“By the look of the weather, I am sure we won’t be long,” Angel replied bent down and placed a kiss on her cheek.
Willow could only blush, not sure what the wifely thing to do was.
“We won’t be long.”
She nodded and saw
them leave, taking a deep breath. She looked around, not really knowing
much of the faces around her. She was never part of the ton. Now even less.
She was more of an outsider then before. She saw her husband mount and
did hope he did not take long. She did her best to ignore the countless
stares she received, but as much as she did not much care for their opinions,
she did value her parents. She hoped
once news came to them they could understand why she did what she did.
“You must be Angel’s wife.”
The voice awoke Willow from her thoughts and turned to see who had greeted her in such a manner.
“Jennifer Debuge,” Willow replied with slight narrowing in her eyes.
“Countess Willow Countines.”
“Countess Willow Beroxe of Montegue,” she corrected her with a coldness in her voice she did not know she could muster.
“Yes, well, I never thought I’d see the day I saw my Angelus marry.”
Willow remained looking at her coldly, not wanting to have this conversation with her.
“Not very talkative, but neither is Angel. He is more of a man of... actions and touch then words..... but you should know that.”
“Quite well,” she lied.
Jenny smiled, not sure if she was getting to her.
“If I may join you?” Jenny asked, knowing she would be quite amused with her.
“Actually, I am waiting for someone,” Willow quickly replied, wondering who she could name.
“And who you’d what be?” she asked casually.
Before Willow would panic someone replied.
“That would be I.”
Jenny turned to see one of the women she greatly disliked.
“If you would be so kind as to excuse us,” she told her as she took her seat in front of Willow with a smile.
Willow was thankful and relieved.
“Please do say hello to him for me. It has been a long time since I have seen him. I shall take my leave.”
“Please do,” the woman asked, showing her slight dislike of the woman.
Once she left with a smirk, Willow thanked her.
“Thank you so much.”
“I really do hate that woman.”
Willow looked at her a bit surprised.
“I am sorry, my manners. Run away from me at times. I am Lady Anya LeBlanc.”
“Countess Willow Beroxe of Montegue. A pleasure to meet you Lady Le Blac.”
“Anya, please. Not much for titles myself. I like it rather simple really.”
“I quite understand.”
“So, which of those handsome men on horseback is yours?” she asked frankly.
Willow pointed out her husband, adding a name to the face.
“Yes. Do you know him?”
“No, but my residence is about three miles from his estate. A small world, do you not think?”
“I am staring to think so. And yours?”
Anya pointed him out.
“Jesse Le Blac. Been his love slave for about a year now.”
Willow blushed, never knowing someone so frank before.
“Arranged or at first sight.”
“Well, both if you really think about it.”
“So I have heard.”
“I fear what you hear is not always true.”
“ ‘Tis true, so I do hope you will join Jesse and I for dinner this evening.”
“I shall try my best to attend..”
“Good. I like you Willow. You aren’t like the rest of the sobs here.”
“Now, if I could only find that girl.”
“A ghost who is staying in my house. I’ve seen her a handful of times since we’ve arrived. She likes to wander.”
“I hope you find her.”
“As I. I do hope you will be able to come tonight. Here, my card.”
Willow gladly accepted the card and thanked her once before she left. Willow was again left alone with her thoughts as she looked to find her husband’s familiar face.
* * * * * * * * *
“I never imagined you had it so good,” William commented to Angel as they waited for their turn to participate in the sport.
Angel turned back his attention to his friend, not aware he had been staring at his wife.
“Nothing... You do realize she is lovely.”
“Yes, I sort of noticed,” he replied as he rolled his eyes.
“And nice to speak to. I also found she is fond of books.”
“And loves Ireland. Went there last summer, actually. Spent a month in the country.”
“And how the devil do you know all this?” Angel asked a bit bothered.
“Spoke to her. Has a lovely voice too.”
Angel looked back at his wife who sat alone and content.
“You also don’t seem the only one who can’t stop staring at her.”
Angel turned to scan the field looking for the person William was talking about.
“The chaps been looking at her since we came out here.”
Angel eyes turned a bit dark as the gentlemen stared at her intently, then dismounted. He looked on as he saw the stranger head over to Willow.
William was surprised to see Willow stand and walk away from the gentleman, but was taken by the hand and stopped. She pulled away and headed to the garden, not waiting for the stranger as he followed her.
“Seems the chaps persistent,” William told Angel.
But he was already gone.
Willow grew tired of the maze in the garden and simple stopped.
“Can you please leave me alone?” she demanded of him as she turned to face him.
“All I want is to speak with you.”
“I do not. We said all there was to say two years ago.”
“I don’t think we did.”
“We did. You are married. I am married. There is nothing to be said. You made your indentions quite clear.”
“I was harsh and too proud..”
“I do not care.....”
“Please leave me alone....”
She turned and left, not waiting to hear his reply, once again losing herself in the maze, never bothering to hear his words.
“I will never be able
* * * * * * * * * *
Willow hugged herself as she hid beneath a tree as the rain began to fall. It was not the safest place, but it was the only shelter she had since she was lost. She had only visited Almonte three times and never ventured further then the court. Her first visit to the garden had proven to be a large mistake.
She turned around and smiled, relieved to see him.
Angel placed his jacket around her shoulders.
“Thank you, but I am sure you are cold.”
“I’m used to it. Crestington is much colder then this.”
“I should have brought a heavier coat.”
“I have an idea.”
Willow permitted him to turn her and placed his arms around her.
“Yes,” she simple replied as she felt her cheeks heat up.
“I have to admit, I never expected to find you so far out.”
“I fear I became lost.”
“I’m just glad you found some shelter from the rain,” he replied as his nose caught scent of vanilla in her hair.
“Should we head back?” she asked.
“I was thinking about waiting to see if the rain tapers off. It’s a long walk... we could talk a bit..”
“I would like that,” Willow replied with a smile.
And so, under the protection
of the tree the couple grew closer, staying far after the rain stopped
falling from the sky.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Angel,” he reminded her as they sat together in the coach.
“Angel, we were invited to dinner tonight.”
“Lord Jessie and Lady Anya Le Blac.”
“Would you like to attend?”
“She seemed rather
nice...” she replied with a smile.
* * * * * * * * * *
“You made it!”
Willow was immediately ungolfed in a hug. The couple remained speechless, not sure quite what to say.
“You’ll have to excuse my wife. She’s rather.... expressive,” the gentleman next to her said as he extended his hand to Angel.
“Jessie Le Blac and my wife Anya.”
“Pleasure to meet you.”
“Come in, come in!” Anya urged them as she pulled Willow in with her.
They settled in the parlor, getting to know each other. Angel and Jessie spoke of business while Willow and Anya simple spoke of life. It wasn’t long before dinner was ready and were called to the dinning area.
Willow and Angel took their seats happily, enjoying their time as the dishes were placed in front of them, one after each course.
“We must go shopping,”
Anya told her with excitement. “Will it be a grand ball?”
“One of the best. My mother loves holding them,” Willow replied.
“And what is it in honor of?” Jesse asked as he sipped his coffee.
“Their twenthth wedding anniversity,” Willow replied with a smile.
“Then it should be grand. We will go shopping for a new dress tomorrow.”
“My dear, who shop for a dress everyday,” her husband teased her as he took her hand and kissed it.
Willow would only look on at the lovely show of affection in a bit of sadness. Would there ever be a day in which she and her husband who’d show such love, would she want that?
“I have another idea. We should all go together. Willow and I shall prepare ourselves here and wait for our galant husbands to arrive and bring us gifts.”
Willow looked at Angel, not sure whether or not to reply with a yes.
“I see no problem, if Willow would like...” Angel replied as he looked at her with a smile.
“I’d love to Lady Anya, but I have a friend whom I promised would come with me...”
“Then bring her along, the more the merrier.”
“But she has no escort and...”
“Then we shall find her one. I am sure the Duke may be able to find one..”
“I may just have one in mind,” Angel replied with a half smile.
“Good then. We are set. I’m so excited.”
Willow could only smile.
For the first time ever, Willow was excited to attend a ball.
* * * * * * * * * *
Angel placed his gloves on the table and moved over to Willow, helping her remove her cloak.
Willow turned around
and thanked him.
“Well... it will be a long day tomorrow..” Angel replied as he headed to the stairs.
“Would you...” Willow began, losing her nerve.
“Would I what?” Angel asked as he turned around.
“Would you care for some... tea... or coffe....?” she asked fidgeting.
After a moment of thinking he replied.
“I would like that. Did you want to wake Amy?”
“No.. I can take care of it.”
Angel smiled and waited to follow her, but questioned her instead as he saw the confused look on her face.
“Is there something wrong?”
“I... I’ve never seen the kitchen... I don’t know where it is...” she replied blushing.
Angel chuckled and led the way. Once inside, both began to look for the necessary items to make some tea, both laughing a bit at how lost they both were.
“I really don’t come here much,” Angel tried to explain.
“This is my first time here,” Willow countered.
Once the tea was ready they both took a seat at the table, having found some cookies to munch on.
“I know the kitchen in Crestington much better.”
“Is it a large estate?”
“I think so. But the fields are larger then the house.”
“Have you lived there long?”
“Since birth. My mother loved the country. It is her estate. My father loved the city more, lived here most his life actually.”
“I’ve lived in London
most of my life. I usally spend the summer in our country estate. It is
much more peaceful there.”
“Your family or just you?”
“Where ever my father is, my mother is not much behind. He loves the city. Buffy, she hates the contry. The only times she goes is if she is forced.”
“You two don’t seem very close.”
Willow looked at him a moment before answering such a private question. <He is your husband> her mind reminded her.
“No, we never have been... Buffy and I have always been very different... and you my Lord, do you have any siblings.”
“A sister. Seven years younger.”
“And you parents?”
“My mother died at Betrice’s birth and my father died four years ago.”
Willow’s heart went out to him. She could never imagine her life without either of her parents and releshed the thought of any other person who had. Her hand sought his, offering him some comfort as she laid her hand on top of his.
Angel looked up and smiled as he saw the geniune concern in her eyes
They spoke a bit more, both learning a bit more about each other and enjoying themselves. An hour later, they decided to retire to their rooms for some much needed sleep. Angel walked her to her room, Willow not able to stop her quickened breathing and smiles as he stood over her as she opened the door.
“Good night, Angel.”
“Good night, Willow.”
And for a moment they reamained looking into each other eyes, not sure what to do.
“I should let you sleep,” Angel said, breaking the trance.
“May you rest,” Willow wished.
And with that he turned
and walked away and Willow entered her room, her back falling against the
closed door as it locked, her head filled with thoughts of what might had