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Authors: Paula Marshall

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She nodded, mutely, holding the glass carefully so that nothing was spilled from it.

‘Very well. It is to us, and to our marriage.'

He sat on the bed again, and picked up his glass to clink it against her own.

‘To us, tonight,' he said.

‘Tonight?' she echoed, and shivered again.

Cobie usually read her correctly, but not this time. He thought that her shiver was one of fear only, when instead it was of fear mixed with expectancy. He closed his eyes, opened them again, and put his glass down. He took hers from her: she must have drunk the champagne as he had done, in one prodigious swallow, almost without thinking. Their hands touched and she shivered again.

He put a gentle arm around her, and gave her a brotherly hug, saying to her, in an almost conversational voice, ‘Your bitch of a sister frightened you, didn't she?'

Fascinated, Dinah nodded, mute again. She remembered the stream of spite from Violet's lips on the night before her wedding, designed to turn her against the man whom Violet coveted, but whom her despised little sister had won.

‘She told you I was a tiger in bed, didn't she?'

This time Dinah felt that she must speak, ‘Yes, she did… How did you know?'

‘I'm a mind reader,' he said lightly, cursing Violet for making his task more difficult. ‘She said that you wouldn't satisfy me?'

How did he know such things? Could he read minds?
More than once since their marriage, he had told her when he had thought that people were lying to them, and so far, he had always been correct in his judgments.

‘Yes,' she managed through stiff lips.

‘I shan't be a tiger with you, Dinah. You do believe me, I hope.'

He put up his hand, his beautiful hand, turned her face towards him and kissed her on the lips, a light kiss, a brotherly kiss.

‘I shall try to be as gentle as you would wish me to be, but…loving…Dinah, is often not a gentle thing, you understand me?'

He gave her another kiss, then, when she opened her mouth to answer him, a much less brotherly kiss.

Cobie could feel her heart beating. It was like holding a frightened bird in his hands, the bird throbbing at his touch, fearful, wanting its freedom. He was using his voice to quieten the bird.

Now he turned her fully into his arms. She stiffened for a moment, but she didn't resist him. He put his hands into her hair, and kissed her, more strongly this time, forcing her lips apart gently. One hand trailed down her neck, and to Dinah his touch was like fire running down her body, causing it to tremble and shake.

She was on her back now, and he was half above her. His voice said lazily in her ear, ‘We're wearing too many clothes, Dinah, but we can't send for our servants to remove them, can we? What do you propose we do?'

And then, his voice loving her, and teasing her, he whispered, ‘You do know, you do understand what we are finally going to do tonight?'

She whispered into his ear, ‘Yes. Violet told me,' and she shivered again.

‘But not why,' he said, a trifle grimly, but his blue eyes were soft. ‘We are meant to enjoy ourselves, Dinah, and from our enjoyment there may come a new life. There might be no new life if enjoyment were missing. You understand me?'

Yes, she understood him, But she couldn't imagine doing what Violet had told her of with anyone, let alone the man who was holding her so closely. And yet…and yet…strange things were happening to her, for she suddenly wanted to touch
him
.

‘Shall I…shall I undress for you?' she asked him shyly.

Her husband thought, wryly, that she was saying it as though she were asking, ‘Do you wish to tie me to the rack?'

‘Don't you think that's my privilege?' he told her gently. ‘And, in return, you might do the same for me.'

Dinah closed her eyes.

‘If you like,' she told him meekly, a lamb preparing herself for the slaughter.

‘Oh, I do like,' he smiled, and rose from the bed, to free her, but only for a moment.

‘Stand up, Dinah, my love, and face me. A husband likes to enjoy his wife in every way possible.'

She did his bidding without demur, and then, with as much, if not more, dexterity than Pearson or Hortense, he slowly stripped her of her ballroom finery.

Only Pearson and Hortense did not caress her with lips and mouth while they did so. Nor did they brush their hands across her body, stroking every part of it, even her secret parts, so that it began to vibrate and sing with such pleasure that suddenly she was barely able to stand, but sighed and sagged against him.

She was naked, except for the jewels around her neck
and wrists and on her hands, and, hanging unresisting against him, she felt his clever hands continue their work. Suddenly he laughed, deep in his throat, and swung her around to face the long mirror, and stood behind her, still caressing her.

Was that Dinah Grant in the mirror? Was she that wanton maenad, her hair around her shoulders, a man's hands on, and in, her body. They produced suddenly such a sensation of mindless pleasure that she cried his name aloud, closing her eyes, when the ecstasy took her.

‘Open your eyes, Dinah!' he commanded, and she did so—to see his face behind hers in the mirror, pleasure at her pleasure on it.

During, and after, the mindless ecstasy he supported her, for her legs were like water—which he must have known, for he held her so tightly, so lovingly—saying, and his own breathing was short, ‘There, that was nothing to be frightened of, Dinah, was it?—and it was only a foretaste. Now we must share our pleasure. But first,
you
must strip and love
me.
'

All conscious thought had flown, and Dinah's fear had flown with it. Her inward trembling stopped at last, the rapid beat of her heart slowed, until she was able to strip him in exchange for him having stripped her. She unbuttoned his shirt, removed it, unbuttoned his elegant black trousers and helped him to remove them, until he stood naked before her—they were Adam and Eve together before the Fall.

Dinah shivered and panted again at the sight of him. He was more beautiful stripped than clothed, and she understood Violet's rage at losing him. She was still a little fearful of him, and of his masculinity which, in all the nude male statues she had seen, had been cunningly hidden from
sight. Nothing had prepared her for the sight of a roused man.

Cobie saw her reaction, leaned towards her and, taking her in his arms, so that they stood, entwined, a pair of lovers before the mirror, said in her ear, ‘You enjoyed the pleasure I gave you just now, Dinah?'

‘You know I did,' she whispered back.

‘Do you also understand that, as I pleasured you, I might like to be pleasured
by
you?' and he took her hand and slipped it between them, so that he lay stiff and erect in it.

Dinah gasped at the sensation, for what she held was as smooth and warm as velvet, and instinctively her own hand moved to pleasure him after the fashion in which he had pleasured her, a moment before.

He said hoarsely, ‘Yes! Stroke me, Dinah, as I stroked you, ah…' and when she did so, tentatively at first, and then more strongly, he sighed and sobbed exactly as she had done, until she felt the ecstasy take
him
. So now it was
he
who was shuddering, his face in her neck, and it was her name he was calling, and she was holding
him
in the final ecstasy.

After a moment he said, still panting, ‘You see what you do to me, Dinah. For all my strength, I am helpless before you.'

‘As I was to you,' she agreed, her own breathing short again, for his ecstasy had roused her once more.

He nodded, mute, as she had been, and then, a moment later, he lifted her on to the bed, to lie beside him. For the first time, she moved towards him, turning to put her arms around him, to feel him warm against her.

The desire to touch him,
there
, to kiss him, was so strong that she found her wanton hands were now at work about his body. He laughed his soundless laugh again, and rolled
her beneath him, saying, ‘Impatient nymph that you are, your satyr needs a little time to recover. But some gentle loving will revive him, I think.'

Revived he was and, before long, Dinah was calling his name and begging him to do she knew not what, ‘Oh, please, Cobie, please.'

With joy in his heart that his young wife had not allowed her fear of him—and of loving—to destroy her, but after experiencing their separate joys was looking to him to provide them with a mutual one, he finally made her his. At last the two became one, and Dinah discovered the pleasure that follows and transcends pain.

‘Not tigers,' he whispered, after their mutual ecstasy had ended, ‘but cubs, playing together. Making love's not a battlefield, Dinah, it's a playground of happiness, of shared joy.'

So why, after laughing with him in their final transports, was she crying? she asked him a little later. Her tears were salt on his tongue, and he was licking them away.

‘Strong emotions, Dinah, resemble one another strongly. Tears and laughter are never far apart.'

Well, that was true enough, she thought, wondering why she had ever been frightened of him. She was a little awed by his ability, not only to overcome her fear, but to lead her into realms of sensation she had never thought to experience.

He had told her that he did not, could not, love anyone. Yet what he had done for her surely had love in it for, novice though she was, Dinah was already beginning to understand that he had subsumed his own pleasure in hers in order to ensure that she should be gently initiated into true womanhood.

Before they finally fell asleep she caressed him. In doing
so, Dinah consciously registered what she had barely noticed during their love play: that his back was horribly and brutally scarred. She could feel the welts and ridges beneath her fingers. She said nothing, but when he rose from the bed to slip on a dressing gown with his back to her, she saw it fully for the first time, and the sight horrified her.

Unlike Violet, when she had first seen it, she didn't question him, and again, unlike Violet, she knew, intuitively, because she had never seen such a thing before, that he had been cruelly and brutally beaten. His explanation to Violet that he had been dragged for some distance on his back by a mustang which he had failed to control would not have deceived Dinah.

Her own heart was full of love for him, because of the consideration with which he had just treated her, so different from anything which Violet had suggested might be her fate. How could anyone have been so cruel to him, he who had been so kind to her?

Dinah was sure that, kind though he was, he had been telling the truth when he had said that he did not love her, and she wondered all over again why he had virtually bought her from Rainey. She could only be grateful to him, not only for rescuing her from Violet and penury, but for making her his true wife in such a tender and apparently loving manner.

‘Remember this, Dinah,' she told herself, when she too, fell asleep, ‘appearances often deceive'—and did not know why she said it.

Chapter Ten

W
alker was meeting one of his informers in a small pub off the Strand. His man was a member of the demi-monde, who called himself Captain Legge. He was someone who was accepted in male society, who was present at little all-masculine dinners, and was welcome in men's clubs, but who was never invited to such important thrashes as the Hertfords.

Despite that, he knew all the gossip that ran around Mayfair and Belgravia, and some that didn't, but which was often more important. A few weeks ago Walker had asked him to discover what he could about Mr Jacobus Grant, the American financier. There would be a little something for him, Walker said, if he came up trumps.

He was already drinking when Walker arrived, and said, jovially, ‘There you are, Will. A noggin for you, eh?'

Walker didn't refuse. He accepted his pint and drank some of it down before saying, ‘Well?'

‘Very well. What's it worth?'

Walker named a sum. His informant laughed scornfully. ‘More'n that. I want at least a tenner.'

‘A tenner! You're joking. Scotland Yard ain't made of money.'

‘That's the price, chum. I've his life story for you. You're not the only one interested in him and his past. Several people are after knowing all about Mr Cobie Grant, and his goings on, and are prepared to pay me well. But if you don't want to know…' and he made to get up and go.

‘Oh, very well. I'll give you your tenner. But you'd better make sure that what you tell me is worth it.'

‘Your Mr Grant is a strange sort of cove altogether. He was supposed to have been adopted by Jack Dilhorne, the big man at Dilhorne and Rutherfurds, in the States, up there with the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. Gossip says, though, that he was Dilhorne's bastard by his wife Marietta Hope, born some little time before they were married. Her father was Senator
Jacobus
Hope—get it?—which seems to bear that out. Also he's the image of Jack Dilhorne, and Jack's brother here, Sir Alan Dilhorne of Temple Hatton, late Cabinet minister, but he's never been acknowledged.'

‘Dilhorne,' muttered Walker, thinking of Mr Dilley and Mr Horne, and a man who had laughed in his face and as much as admitted that he was a bastard. ‘Go on, this is interesting.'

‘He was brought up as a rich man's son. He did well at Yale as a scholar and an athlete. He became a mining engineer, and rumour says that there was a plum job in the firm waiting for him when he graduated. Except that, suddenly, without warning, he threw everything up, went to Arizona Territory and got himself a little post at a tinpot mine in a place called Bratt's Crossing.

‘After being there for six months he left quite suddenly and disappeared for over eighteen months before turning up in New York with a small fortune which he made into
a big one on Wall Street—he wouldn't touch his foster-father's money, I'm told. He became one of Wall Street's biggest pirates.'

‘Where'd he get his money from?' asked Walker, interested in this dime-novel adventure.

‘Who knows? My informant says that recently a Pinkerton's man was sent to the Territory, but Bratt's Crossing has been a ghost town for years and there was little to be discovered about what happened ten years ago. It seems that about a year or so after Grant left the mine was blown up in a fracas among thieves. The local rancher, named Blenkiron, who ran it for Southwest Associates, and who had earlier employed Grant, was killed in a shoot-out by two ruffians. His hired gunman, Greer, a noted villain, was wounded in it, but had left the district and couldn't be found.

‘With the rancher dead, and the mine useless, there was no reason for anyone to live there. The editor of the local paper was a woman, and she was tracked down, quite by chance. She had married the man who had kept the store at Bratt's Crossing and now owned Blenkiron's ranch. They both said that they had no idea where Grant had gone when he left Bratt's Crossing. He never came back, they said.

‘They thought he might have found a job with another mine in the Southwest, but the only one being exploited at the time was at San Miguel in New Mexico. When the agent went there to enquire about him, no one had ever heard of Grant, and didn't recognise him from the tintype they were shown.

‘The agent says he thought that the Bratt's Crossing woman, Jane Jackson, was lying, that she knew more than she said, but she stuck to her story. Funny thing, the mine at San Miguel was blown up in yet another quarrel among
thieves shortly before the one at Bratt's Crossing, but it wasn't permanently damaged.

‘Whatever the truth of it all, when Grant reappeared again, it was to descend on New York and begin to make his reputation. Not just for making money—he's a devil with the women, they say. His first major killing on Wall Street came when he took over Southwest Mining, and had the president sent to prison for fraud. The mine at San Miguel, which is still being worked, was owned by Southwest—Grant owns it now.

‘What was he doing during the eighteen months or so he was missing? Was it all a coincidence that two mines were blown up when he was in the Southwest, and that he took over Southwest after he made his pile—or wasn't it?'

‘Perhaps,' Walker said. ‘This may be very interesting. But it's of no use to me. Is he honest?'

Captain Legge gave a hollow laugh. ‘Honest! Makes a mysterious fortune in the Southwest, God knows where or how, becomes a tiger in the world of finance by sailing close to the wind, turns himself into a multi-millionaire, richer than his supposed father—with whom he has little to do—what do you think?'

‘I think,' Walker said, ‘that he looks as though butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, and I always distrust gents who look like that. And your man thinks he had something to do with San Miguel?'

‘Sure of it, but he can't prove a thing. There were a lot of young hoodlums running around the Territory making fortunes for themselves, and some of them managed to hang on to their money. But I've met Grant several times, here in London, and he'd stick out like a sore thumb in a frontier town, that's for sure.'

Walker thought of dirty Mr Dilley/Horne, who melted
into the crowd in a London pub, and who garrotted innocent policemen in alleys, and who seemed to possess a dozen different voices.

Suppose that he had disguised himself before he went to San Miguel? By some means turned himself into the sort of grimy ruffian who terrorised decent people in the Territory? Would anyone ever have believed that such a villain could be clean-cut, civilised Mr Jacobus Grant? And why would rich young Jacobus Grant want to do such a thing, anyway?

‘Nearly ten years ago, all this,' said Captain Legge cheerfully, ‘and now, after making Lady Kenilworth his mistress, he's married into the aristocracy, and the Prince of Wales calls him friend. What makes you think he's up to his games here?'

‘Things,' said Walker darkly, ‘things.' He could believe anything of Mr Dilley, with his magic tricks. Anything at all. Even becoming a kind of Billy the Kid might not be beyond him, weird though that might seem.

 

Dinah Grant knew nothing of her husband's magic tricks. The day after the Hertfords' reception she had said to him at breakfast, her tone as impersonal as his was sometimes, ‘Why did you marry me, Cobie? I'm sure that it wasn't because you loved me.'

If he was taken by surprise he did not show it.

He said slowly, ‘I married you, Dinah, for a variety of reasons, not all of them creditable. I meant what I told you before we were married. That I thought you would make me a good wife and a mother for my children. In time, you will be both, in the fullest sense, I hope. Be sure that you will always have my respect, even if I cannot pretend to
offer you love. I believe that, unlike most women, you would not wish me to lie to you about that.'

Dinah nodded, mutely. She had expected nothing else from him. Had he really meant it when he had told her before their marriage that he didn't think that he could ever love anyone? She thought that he might have said it to soften the blow of his not loving her, but it seemed that he had been telling her the truth.

‘It must be hard for you,' she said, ‘to know that of yourself. To be unable to love.'

‘Better so,' he replied. Was there a trace of bitterness in his tone? ‘I would rather that you didn't love me, Dinah. The women who have been foolish enough to love me in the past have usually paid a hard price for doing so.'

The memory of Belita, who had died because of him, was strong in him. The lost look which Dinah had worn when he had first met her, and which had brought Belita's memory back to him so sharply, had gone. But there was also Jane to remember, and Susanna, and Susanna's desperate behaviour since he had been compelled to reject her recently. How much better it would have been if she had never met and loved Cobie Grant!

He did not want love to complicate the friendship which was growing up between him and his young wife. He almost told her so, but decided that she was being brave enough in surviving marriage to him at all, without his being as brutally honest as that. Like Marietta, his mother, he had wondered how Dinah would cope with him.

Well, was apparently the answer!

 

Dinah thought so too a week after she had really become his wife. She was being serenaded. It was four o'clock in the afternoon, and she and Cobie were in bed—or, rather,
were on top of his bed. They had spent the morning and the early afternoon at the Zoo.

‘What, never been there?' he had exclaimed in mock horror. He had immediately ordered the carriage, and they had enjoyed a few happy hours walking round and admiring the animals, about which he seemed to know everything important. This didn't surprise Dinah: his apparently encyclopaedic knowledge had lost its power to amaze her.

After that they had been driven to a restaurant and had taken lunch on a terrace overlooking the Thames. He had ordered wine, and drank more of it than she had ever seen him do before. He had insisted that she drink her share, too.

She had never felt so foolishly happy as she did when she was being driven across London, back to Park Lane in the open landau, her parasol up, and her husband opposite to her, saying in a low voice, ‘What shall we do now, Dinah? It's a day to celebrate. I know, let's…'

He raised his eyebrows at her and left the sentence unfinished, so that she began to giggle helplessly.

‘Read a book of sermons,' he finished, looking severe. ‘I think that I may have one in my room.'

He leaned back, looking particularly innocent, an expression which she was coming to know. It meant that Mr Jacobus Grant was contemplating, or doing, something exceedingly naughty.

Oddly enough, she had seen it on his face when they had walked through the Zoo that morning. They had turned a corner sharply, and had almost knocked over a large lugubrious-looking man, who had started back from them, looking embarrassed.

‘Oh, I
do
beg your pardon,' Cobie had exclaimed, all polite embarrassment,
that look
on his face. ‘We didn't see
you coming, did we, my dear? Pray do accept our apologies for any inconvenience we may have inadvertently caused you. A lovely day, is it not? You are interested in the animals, too?' he finished brightly.

The man had seemed more distressed by the encounter than they were. ‘Not at all,' he had stammered, and shuffled his big feet. ‘I mean…'

‘I can particularly recommend the lions to you,' Cobie had gone on gaily. ‘It will be feeding time for them soon, I understand. Not Christians—or criminals—of course. Those distressing little habits ended some time ago, thank goodness. Don't let us detain you.'

They had turned yet another corner after they left the man, who was still dithering, and some impulse made Dinah look back. He had not moved from where they had collided with him, but was watching them walk away, a bemused expression on his face.

Yet another impulse which she didn't understand—she seemed to have a lot of them when she was out with her husband—made her ask, ‘Did that man know you, Cobie? He gave you the oddest look.'

‘What man, my dear?' he had asked her, turning his bright blue eyes on her. ‘Oh, that man,' he said, following her gaze. ‘No, I don't think that you could say that he knows me,' which was, Dinah thought afterwards, an odd way of answering her. It was yet another of his two-edged remarks which no amount of puzzling could explain.

He wasn't being two-edged on the bed. He was completely, gloriously, straightforwardly naked after a happy hour spent pleasuring Lady Dinah Grant, who, a Japanese kimono carelessly wrapped about her, was listening to him while he played, not the guitar, nor the piano, but a banjo.

She was leaning against the bed-head, he was facing her
at the bottom, tickling her toes with his, and was singing what he told her was a song from the American South called ‘The Devil Take the Blue-tail Fly'.

The voice which he was using to sing it was deep and throaty, not at all like his usual pleasant baritone, and she was lying there feeling deliciously sinful, aching a little, for it had been a rather more vigorous session than usual. She had the notion that slowly, slowly, he was initiating her into the wilder shores of passion and, if so, she didn't mind a bit, not she.

‘Where did you learn that?' she asked him sleepily.

‘At the Yale Glee Club. It was my star turn there.'

It would be a star turn anywhere, she thought, closing her eyes, and letting languor overtake her.
He
would be a star turn anywhere.

‘Is there anything you can't do?' she asked him, opening her eyes after he had finished the song in a flurry of major chords.

He nodded his head, and said smartly, ‘Have a baby.'

She prodded him, hard, with her toes. ‘Not that, silly.' She had taken to teasing him lately, and he seemed to like it.

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