Read The Dollar Prince's Wife Online
Authors: Paula Marshall
âOh, come,' the Prince told her comfortably, for he liked those around him to be happy, âyou're getting the gel off your hands, my dear, and if she's marrying your dollar
prince, so much to the good. Some of the loot is bound to stick to your and Rainey's fingers.'
Delivered in his pronounced German accent, this had set Violet laughing, and agreeing with him. She had passed on to him her
about Dinah's future husband being a dollar prince by comparison with all the American dollar princesses whose families had bought their way into British society. Forever after he was known as that as well as Apollo.
Cobie knew of his new nickname and was amused by it. Everything amused him, Dinah thought, she being singularly unamused herself. Between rushed fittings for an elaborate wedding dress, white satin with lace inserts, and so many flounces that she felt like a Christmas tree being displayed out of season, the provision of a coronet of lilies of the valley, an elaborate bridal bouquet, and a small trousseau to take with her to Paris, she hardly knew where she was. Particularly since everything she was being laced into was far more suited to Violet's lush face and figure, rather than Dinah's slender and modest one.
âDon't buy too much,' Cobie told her quietly one afternoon when they were taking tea together at Kenilworth House. Violet was acting as a chaperon, and Susanna Winthrop was there to support all three of them.
Not that Cobie needed much supporting, and now he was telling her that she was going to Paris, the couture capital of the world, and he would see that she had a new wardrobe fit for a near-billionaire's wife.
Dinah began to rebel. âI don't want to be a clotheshorse,' she wailed at him.
âNor shall you be, my dear,' he told her equably. âBut I should like to see you dressed in something more stylish than your present wear, or the wedding dress which Violet
is inflicting on you. It would suit her, I have no doubt, but it won't suit you. Imagine the fuss, though, if I suggested to her what you ought to wear.'
âAnd what ought I to wear?' asked Dinah, teasing him a little, for she had found that she could do that and he didn't seem to mind.
âWait and see,' was all he said. âIt will enliven our life after the wedding. Try not to mind all this too much, I don't.'
âYou've had more practice,' Dinah moaned gently.
His left eyebrow rose. âI have?' he murmured, amused. âI can't recall being married before. Refresh my memory. Because if so, we'd better cancel everything. Bigamy carries a prison sentence.'
Dinah slapped at him, caught Susanna's surprised expression, and blushed. âYou know perfectly well what I mean,' she told him crossly. âYou've lived in the public eye for years, and know exactly what to do. I don't.'
âBut you soon will,' he whispered to her, leaning forward confidentially as though they were a real pair of lovers. âHave another macaroon, you need to gain at least a stone in weight. You don't eat enough.'
She shook her head, saying primly, âNo, I'm not hungry.' She knew that she had become painfully thin during the last year, particularly during the recent weeks of Violet's dominance and that she ought to eat more, but the thought of food was often nauseating.
âOh, but I insist,' he said gaily, and as though she were a bird he was feeding, he lifted the macaroon towards her mouth, saying, âPretty please, Dinah. Your future lord and master commands.'
His expression was so sillily loving that she began to laugh, so he took the opportunity provided by her open
mouth to move the macaroon still nearer it. To stop his folly, and for no other reasonâor so she told herselfâ Dinah allowed him to pop it into her mouth.
She could see Violet's stunned and angry expression and, moved by some emotion which she could hardly understand, she made a noise indicative of pleasure.
âMore, please,' she murmured, and leaned forward for him to do it again. He obliged her, his blue eyes were wicked.
âI see what it is,' he told her gravely. âYou have grown too weak to feed yourself. We must remedy that.' This time it was a petit four which she took from his fingers.
Violet could stand no more of this.
âReally, Cobie,' she said angrily. âI wouldn't have believed that you would be so childish as to encourage Dinah to behave badly.' The moment that the words were out, she regretted them.
Neither Cobie nor Dinah responded. Dinah was beginning to feel a wild sense of the freedom which Cobie had promised her when he had proposed.
âI will be good if he's good,' she said like a naughty child. âI do believe I'm feeling hungry. Are those butterfly cream cakes, Cobie? They used to be my favourite.'
He immediately picked one up from the plate and began unpeeling it from its paper. Cream clung to his fingers. He held them out to her, and said, wondering how she would respond, âLick me clean, please, my love, and then I'll give you the rest.'
What wild spirit moved her Dinah never knew. Out came a small pink tongue which scooped up the cream from his hand, and then, when Cobie broke the cake in half to offer her a portion, she said, âMmm, nice!' Whether it was the cream, or his fingers which she meant, she wasn't sure.
She was only sure that Violet's jealous expression, and Susanna's astonished one, were giving her a sense of power which she had never felt before.
âAnd now we must behave ourselves,' she told him severely, âor Violet will fetch the cane out to make sure we do!'
It was the only light incident of the whole pre-wedding period. The wedding was as sober and dull as a wedding could be, and if Cobie looked particularly splendid, Dinah, in her unsuitable wedding dress, looked quite the reverse and was aware of it. Only Violet was happy that she had succeeded in making the bride look even more dowdy than usual.
The small reception was depressing, too. Everyone made speeches, including the groom, who was behaving so properly that Dinah thought that there must be something wrong with him. The Prince of Wales had sent her, by Violet, a pretty brooch, which was duly pinned to her dress by the groom with a great deal of ceremony. There was rather a lot of champagne, so Dinah drank rather a lot of itâfor after the wedding would comeâwhat?
Her mother, who had come out of retirement for the ceremony, murmured to her, âWhat a catch, my darling! I told you you would do well, butâ¦' and she had shaken her head. âHe's
, in every way, isn't he? Such looksâand so rich!'
Which only went to show, Dinah thought, that her mother was a good deal more intelligent than Violet or Rainey if she could see how dangerous he was. She would be sure to ask Faa what he thought of her husband the next time she saw himâ
was not allowed to be at the wedding, of course.
Sir Alan Dilhorne was there, murmuring what a pity it
was that Jack and Marietta could not be present, but, knowing Cobie, he thought that there were probably sound reasons why the marriage had to take place at such short notice.
They were going to the groom's grand new home in Park Lane for the night, and then were due to set out for Paris on the boat-train the following morning. Everyone cheered them when they were driven from Kenilworth House at the end of the afternoon. Before they left Rainey shook hands with his new brother-in-law and made sober noises about the Freville family gaining a benefactor as well as a relative.
Somehow Cobie managed to look suitably modest, a feat no one but himself quite appreciated. Rainey was taking the view of most of society, except perhaps Sir Ratcliffe Heneage, who had not been invited to the wedding, that Jacobus Grant had had an access of enormous good luck at poker, to make up for all the bad luck which he had experienced since he had landed in England.
The real truth was beyond most people's understanding. Hendrick Van Deusen, who had given the bride a beautiful rope of pearls and a calf-bound edition of Gibbon's
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
, was perhaps the only person besides Dinah's fatherâand perhaps, Sir Alan Dilhorneâwho knew what tricks the groom had employed to win his bride.
Not that the bride was worrying about anything but the wedding night, so that when they were at last alone, the butler having retired, and they were ready to go upstairs to the bridal bed, the groom's words to the bride came as a great shock.
He looked at her white face, her poor thin body, and saw how she was shivering, flinching away from his touch. He
had made no real decision about how he would treat her when they were at last married, but now that they were he said gently, âDinah, my dear, look at me.'
She turned her ashen face towards him. âCobie?' and her voice was questioning.
âMy dear, I don't think that you are ready yet for me to make you truly my wife, are you?'
Dinah caught her lower lip with her teeth, dropped her head, and muttered, âI don't know. But I am your wife, aren't I?'
He put an arm around her and pulled her down to sit by him on the sofa. âYes, that is true, and I truly want you to be my wife in every way. But I also want you to be happy when I make you so, and I honestly don't think that tonight is the time. You are tired, and unsure of yourself. You don't know me very well, and I think that when you do, we shall know when the time has come, and then we can truly be man and wife. But not yet.
âOn the other hand, if what I have said has made you unhappyâ¦' and he left the rest of the sentence unspoken, but she knew quite well what he meant.
Dinah drew a great shuddering breath and said, âI don't think I'm ready. I hope that I will be soon.'
It was one of the harder decisions he had ever made for he was not sure that he was doing the right thing in delaying matters. He said gently, âI hope so, too, Dinah, for I not only want you to be my wife, but I think that you will make a good mother for my children.'
She looked shyly at him, âReally, Cobie, really?'
It was his turn to nod. âAnd now we must go to bed. We have an early train to catch, and Paris is waiting. I think that you are going to enjoy yourself there.'
Dinah wasn't sure whether she was pleased or sorry that Cobie and she were not going toâ¦she could hardly say it even to herself. What she did know was that she had felt a sense of relief when he had told her he was prepared to wait.
Paris, now, was quite another matter. From the moment that she saw it, brilliant beneath the early summer sun, she fell in love with it, and remained so for the rest of her life. She and Cobie had separate bedrooms in a big house he owned off the Faubourg Saint Germain, the most fashionable address in Paris, she was to discover. On the first morning they drove to a little eighteenth-century mansion set in a courtyard, behind iron gates.
Inside they went up a flight of stairs and a footman outside a pair of double doors threw them open and shouted their names into an exquisitely furnished drawing room where a woman in her late fifties, white-haired, came to meet them.
âThe Marquise de Cheverney,' Cobie told her. âBow, my dear, bow.'
She did so, rising to find a pair of shrewd grey eyes assessing her.
âMilady Grant,' the Marquise said to Dinah, and then to Cobie, who stood there watching them both, curiously tense, she noticed with some surprise. âBut she is charming, such promise. And clever, too, you say. But her clothesâatrocious!' and she threw her hands up in mock despair. âWe must remedy that,
Dinah wanted to say, I don't like my clothes, either. My sister Violet chose them, I didn't.
Cobie was speaking to them both. His tension had gone. âMadame la Marquise is to sponsor us in society,' he told
her. âAnd she will see that you are properly trained to be an ornament of it. Is that not so, Madame?'
The Marquise nodded. â
, mon ami.' She turned to Dinah. âIt is not just your clothes, you understand,' she said kindly. âIt is the hair, the way you walk, stand, talk. Everything must be just so. Oh, but we shall have some fun, you understand, but much hard work, too.'
Her English was good, but heavily accented, and Dinah wondered where Cobie had met her, they seemed to be old friends. Dinah made that observation to him later. He shrugged his shoulders, and said, âI met her the first time I came here, five years ago. We each did the other some service,' and then softly, âShe was never my mistress, Dinah. I would not do that to you,' and that was all that he would say.
After that the Marquise rang for coffee, and it came quickly: hot, strong and black. âWe cannot start too soon,' she was saying. âI understand that your time here is short, Monsieur Grant. No?'
âTrue,' Cobie said, âbut when I go I shall leave my wife with you for a few weeks. I want her education to be completed as soon as possible, you understand.'
The Marquise looked grave. âYou must not try to hurry things too much, my friend.'
âMy wife is a quick learner,' Cobie told her. âI wish her lessons to begin this very morning.'
Apparently beginning meant being driven to a dressmaker with a house in a side street where they were shown into a salon and where girls, brunettes like Dinah, walked about wearing beautiful clothes.
After about an hour, Cobie said, âThis house is too sophisticated, Madame la Marquise, something a little sim
pler; the simplicity of the very sophisticated is what we are aiming for.'
Are we? thought Dinah, amused. How is it he knows so much about women's clothes? Before she could ask him he was conferring with Madame, and it was decided that on the next day they would visit an even grander house where a special showing would be arranged for them. Meantime, the Marquise told them severely, Monsieur and Madame must restâ¦
Dinah did. Cobie didn't. He went out that night, doubtless explaining that his young English bride was exhausted, and came back, she thought, very late. How odd it all was. She had never visualised anything like this. Nor had she imagined what would happen in the morning.