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Authors: Paula Marshall

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BOOK: The Dollar Prince's Wife
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Her laugh was shrill. ‘Having turned me away, do you now presume to choose my companions for me, Cobie? I find Sir Ratcliffe an amusing and well-informed man. Do I see your wife looking for you? That is where your responsibilities lie now—not with me.'

There was nothing for it. He said, a little desperately, ‘If you must choose someone, Susanna, choose someone less unsavoury than Sir Ratcliffe Heneage…'

She gave him her shoulder. ‘I don't understand you, Cobie. The man is a Minister of the Crown, a friend of the Prince of Wales. He is connected with most of the great families in the land. He is charming and civilised. Can you say as much?'

Every word she threw at him now was designed to hurt. He had lost her. He bowed as though to a stranger.

‘I never thought that we should come to this, Susanna. I only wish you well. I shall not try to advise you again.'

‘I should hope not. Now, if you will forgive me, I see Sir Ratcliffe coming. After all you have said of him, I am sure you do not wish to meet him. Your wife may be looking every inch the woman you are making of her, but she must still need your support. Content yourself with that.'

She turned her back on him, and walked away. More than one pair of eyes had seen the exchange—and how it had ended. No one knew that something which had been part of Cobie's life for more years than he could remember had dropped dead on the floor of the Hertfords' ballroom.

Dinah had seen all that had passed from a distance. The sixth sense which she was acquiring through living with him told her that however calm and charming he was on the surface while he laughed and talked for the rest of the evening, her husband was deeply disturbed below it. Her new instincts, awoken by the Marquise's training, told her to say nothing.

She had no time to think further. The Prince and Princess of Wales had arrived, and the Royal command was that he wished Mr Grant to present his new bride to him. So there she was, curtsying, and having her small hand taken into the Prince's large one to lift her, while he said, ‘No need for that, my dear,' in his guttural voice—his German, they said, was better than his English.

She was not so overset that she didn't register what Cobie had already told her, that despite his easy manner he was no fool, and knew and understood men and women and what moved them. She knew, too, about Violet's liaison with him. Was the Prince about to understand her? What would she do if he took a fancy to her? What would Cobie say and do? She could not see him behaving like a complaisant husband, like Kenilworth for instance, happy to see his wife a royal favourite.

That she pleased the Prince was plain. He complimented Cobie on her, told him that he and his wife must visit them at Marlborough House, his London home.

‘See to it,' he said peremptorily to the grey man who was always at his shoulder. Envious glances followed the Grants when he finally released them.

‘Your success in society is now assured,' Cobie whispered in her ear, ‘for anyone of whom the Prince has approved—and he
approved of you—has a secure future, provided that they never breach protocol.

‘You are not going to breach protocol, are you, Lady Dinah? However, a word to the wise. Royal favour has its disadvantages as well as its advantages—you must expect jealousy from the many on whom he does not confer his special accolade. Success has two faces, and one of them is not pleasant.'

Dinah had known so little success in her life that she hardly needed warning against it. The evening passed like a dream. So many grand personages came up to speak to them, after the news of the Prince's favour to the Grants had become known, that she began to feel weary. Being a social success was even harder than she had thought it might be.

They were leaving at last, paying their farewells to Lord
and Lady Hertford, their hosts, walking down the grand staircase again. Now they were on the red carpet laid before the front door, beneath the canopy over it, put up so that they might reach their carriage untouched by the elements, and in as much comfort as possible.

Even at this early hour in the morning, there were a small number of spectators, standing respectfully back, watching them. She felt Cobie stiffen, then heard him laugh to himself when his eyes swept over them.

He handed her into their carriage, murmured, ‘Excuse me, my dear,' and walked over to a burly man, standing on the edge of the group, who, Dinah saw, tried to dodge back, out of the light.

In vain. She watched her husband put a hand on his shoulder, speak and press something into the man's hand before he returned to her. She looked at him questioningly. He shook his head, and said, with the double meaning strong in his voice, ‘Nothing, my dear. A
for a man who needs a little help to speed him on his way.'


Constable Alf Alcott found watching Cobie Grant a time-consuming and tiring business. The man himself seemed tireless. He also knew that he was being watched, winking at Alcott on more than one occasion when he frantically tried to retreat into the shadows.

This evening he had followed him to a grand house, and stood outside waiting for him to come out again. He had complained to Inspector Walker, ‘What's the point of all this, sir? He's not doin' nothing but enjoy himself. There's better things for me to do than this, surely.'

‘Such as, Alcott, you lazy devil? If I want you to do this, then this is the best thing that you can do. No one else is
bitching about their work, you lazy so-and-so. Get on with it.'

His quarry had come out at last, his wife on his arm, his top hat on his head, his white silk scarf about his neck.
hadn't been standing in the street for all hours, not he.

Boredom and weariness had made Alcott careless, he knew. His man had seen him, had handed his wife into his carriage and had walked over to where he stood—no hope of escape.

‘Why, Constable Alcott—it
Constable Alcott, isn't it? I do believe that you could do with a good drink and a bite to eat. Here's a little something to help you on your way. I'm sure that they don't pay you properly at Scotland Yard for all the painful hours you spend in the cold.'

He pressed what the grateful Alcott later found was a golden sovereign into his hand. ‘Good luck to you, Alcott, in whatever enterprise you are at present involved,' and the sarky swine was waltzing back to his lady.

It was a waste of time watching him. Alcott dismally knew that his man would have no difficulty in losing him if he were really up to something.


He tried to tell Walker so the next morning. The Inspector was having none of it.

‘He's making monkeys of us, sir,' he said as respectfully as he could. Bates, standing just behind Walker where his superior could not see him, nodded his head in silent agreement.

‘He is, guv, look,' said Alcott a trifle desperately. ‘Look what he gave me last night. Tipped me, he did.' He pulled the sovereign from his pocket to show Walker. ‘Thinks we're a joke, he does.'

‘You're the joke,' Walker told him through stiff lips, ‘allowing yourself to be seen.'

‘Then put someone on him who he doesn't know. Maybe they'll have more luck.'

‘I haven't got anyone else, Alcott. Get back to your duties, and report to me what he's up to today.'

Grumbling beneath his breath, Alcott stamped out. The only consolation he had was the sovereign in his pocket.

‘Bribing Alcott, now, is he?'

Bates, listening to this, coughed, and said respectfully, ‘It ain't just Alcott, guv.'

Walker roared, ‘What the devil do you mean, Bates?'

‘Well, you know as how the missus is expecting. I got home two nights ago to find she'd had a parcel delivered. Mysterious, she said it was. Weren't no mystery to me when I read the note inside. A layette it was for the babby. Beautiful. Compliments of Mr Dilley, it said. I told her it was from a friend I had made. She said that he must be rich. A sempstress, my wife was, knows about such things. What's his game, sir? Tell me that.'

Walker couldn't tell Bates what Mr Dilley's game was, for he had no idea himself.


Seated opposite to Dinah on the drive home from the Hertfords' ball after baiting Alcott, Cobie watched her head droop, and her eyes close when tiredness finally claimed her.

In repose her face was already displaying the delicate beauty which he had thought he had seen latent in it at Moorings, and which, once he had made up his mind to marry her, he had decided that it was his duty to reveal to the world. Left to Violet and a wretched marriage he was sure that it would have died aborning, and with it would
also have been stifled her bright and lively mind. He had told her father that he would cherish her, and so he would.

A thought struck him. Was that love—to want to cherish someone, to care for them, to watch them blossom? Were love and lust connected? Did he lust after Dinah? The answer must be no; even if he were able to perform his marital duty by her he would neither love, nor lust after her, but he would simply do what every animal does for its mate—please her, and bless her with a child. He was sure that Dinah would think having a child would bless her.

Violet Kenilworth had children, but he had never seen her with them. They were brought out for her, once a day, for her to speak to them briefly, acknowledge that they were hers—and hand them back to their nurse, governess, or tutor.

No child of his would be so treated, he would make sure of that. Nor would he lie to them, as he had been lied to—which was why he was so honest with Dinah, for to deceive her would be to lay up trouble for the future…

He laughed soundlessly to himself, for was he not deceiving her over some of the most fundamental parts of his life? She knew nothing of what he was doing in the wider world outside, from his major financial exploits all the way down to his mildly criminal ones.

No matter…he leaned forward as she slipped sideways in her sleep and eased her into a more comfortable position. He had not even made her his wife, and here he was, dreaming of children!

They were home again, and she was still soundly asleep. He climbed out of the carriage, and then leaned into it to lift her tenderly out, to hold her against his heart, to carry her inside, followed by a sleepy footman, his valet hovering in the hall.

He shook his head at Giles to dismiss him, and made his way upstairs, Dinah still in his arms. She was half-awake now. She said, sleepily into his chest, ‘Cobie?' as though she were questioning him. He thought that she might be dreaming that she was a child again, being carried upstairs, perhaps by the father whom she loved, and who loved her.

Cobie passed the door of her room, and kicked open his own. Candles had been lit—he had so instructed before he had left. The new electric light was too glaring for what he had in mind. The room was full of shadows. For a moment he saw himself, another shadow, in a pier glass, holding Dinah to him, before he laid her on his bed.

She gave a little sigh, put her hand under her cheek, and turned confidingly towards him where he stood over her.

‘Goodnight,' she said sleepily. He wondered to whom she thought that she was speaking.

Cobie ripped off his tie and unbuttoned the constricting shirt at his throat before pulling off his tight black coat. There were times when he could hardly bear the conventional constraints of civilised urban wear and urban living, and tonight was one of them.

‘We should be alone, under the stars,' he said aloud, ‘away from everyone, and beneath a sky full of flaming banners, all of different colours, and there I would teach you the delights of love-making.'

Nostalgia for his lost life in the American Southwest filled him to such a degree that he could almost smell again the scents of the desert, see the mountains, deep mauve against a pale mauve sky…ribbons of varicoloured light beneath a rising moon…

And then he was sitting beside his child wife, the sounds of London life all about him, the Arizona desert far away. She had not heard him speak of what he had once known
so well: she was lost in her own dreams, in which, on so many nights, Cobie Grant, unrecognisable, a pistol in his left hand, visited her, and said, ‘Remember this, Dinah, appearances often deceive.'

He disappeared, and she was alone in a strange place unlike anywhere she had ever seen. She was lying on the ground, strange shapes all about her; deep mauve mountains were etched against a pale mauve sky in which the moon rode high. Banners of light, in all colours of the spectrum, waved beneath it, and someone was gently speaking her name…

She was lying, fully dressed, on a bed. But she was not on her own bed, she was on Cobie's and it was he who was speaking to her…in a candle-lit room, full of strange shapes….

For a moment she was disorientated, and then she remembered the Hertfords' reception, coming home, and… ‘I must have fallen asleep in the carriage,' she murmured, rising on one elbow and looking up at her husband who was sitting by her. ‘How did I get here?'

‘How do you think, Dinah?' he asked her, and his voice was soft and tender. He had taken off his black coat, and in his open-necked white shirt he looked more splendid than ever.

‘You carried me.'

She sat up, and rested her head against the elaborately carved bed-head. It had come from a palace in Florence, she knew. She should have been feeling worried that she was here, alone with him on his bed in the small hours, and half of her was afraid, and the other half was expectant. She shivered—but not with cold.

Cobie turned away from her, rose, and walked into the shadows. He came back carrying a champagne glass in each
hand. He handed her one of them, and put the other on the small table by his bed.

‘In a moment,' he told her, ‘we shall drink a toast.'

‘We shall?'

‘Yes. Do you want to hear it, Dinah?'

BOOK: The Dollar Prince's Wife
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