To Andrea’s disappointment, her nice, quiet evening of lovemaking with Winston turned into him and Dean screaming at a shaken group of teenagers and chaperones and helping Vivian formulate a plausible lie to feed the parents. Sadie’s tears and threats saved Isaac from a career ending bullocking from her brothers. However, if Isaac thought he was off the hook, he was fooling himself. Winston and Dean had plans for him.

In the end, the teens’ night of lechery resulted in an impromptu slumber party in the lodge and Andrea, in bed alone, and horny as hell. Maybe it was for the best. Only hours before then she’d been ready to rip Winston’s head off. Going from that point to matrimonial bliss was a leap even the most diehard romantics would’ve found difficult to stomach. Their steely personalities were too alike to rush into happily ever after and neither was silly enough to believe true love happened after a single kiss. They needed what their previous relationships lacked: the bond of friendship. And with only one whole day left in the house, the probability of their friendship deepening anymore than it had was very low. So, maybe leaving on a good note was what the hand of fate had in mind. Maybe friends were all they were meant to be.

The cloud of tension which hung over the breakfast table the next morning went unnoticed by the Lockwoods and Mitchams. The Venetian masquerade ball, the last formal gathering, marking the end of the house party was on everyone’s lips. The tradition’s origin was lost to history yet the class bound set kept the flame burning. Everyone complained about the fuss and hours spent donning the hard bone corsets, heavily embroidered gowns and feathered mask—but this didn’t stop them from scouring the streets of Venice for the best trappings money could buy. To hell with comfort and breathing! Style and winning the best costume award mattered most; and this year it was war.

Two years running, Vivian and Stanley had walked away with the honor of best dressed, however, Vivian, still in mourning, was bypassing the competition. It was every man for himself and God for them all! Dressers hurried about the house carrying gowns and tuxedos worth more than the average mortgage. Hairstylist and makeup artist readied their stations. The guest personal caterers ran helter skelter with the kitchen staff; normally clashing over some minor detail which neither gave two shits about but were nonetheless bound by tradition to duke it out as loudly and violently as possible. Florists filled every square inch of the house with fresh arrangements in every brilliant color nature had to offer. Even the florists took it upon themselves to brawl with the army of pyrotechnics in charge of lighting the sea of candles for the evening’s bacchanalia. In the middle of the madness were the maids and footmen who spent most of the morning running errands for Hunter and being shouted at by Isaac. For those unlucky souls who lacked the good sense to stay the hell out of everyone’s way, they were reduced to tears in the time-honored weeping posts: the pantry, the servants’ hallway, and coat closet.

This took place before Vivian finished her morning coffee.

Winston, Dean, Andrea, Bart, and Sadie looked as if they’d been hit by a truck and hustled to the breakfast table for the sake of appearance. On the other hand, Rebecca, who’d been spared the commotion of the previous night, was bright eyed and bushy tailed—though she took care to ignore Dean’s glances. She was cold towards him but didn’t know why. Maybe it was hurt or disappointment; she couldn’t put her finger on why she didn’t want his company—she simply didn’t want him to touch her.

Rhonda sensed there was strife between Rebecca and Dean and tried to lessen on the tension with friendly conversation. Just as the ice began to melt, Rebecca’s dresser summoned her for a final fitting. Rebecca excused herself. Dean and Bart left shortly thereafter followed by everyone else, leaving Winston and Andrea alone.

“We’ve caused a stir.” Winston drew Andrea’s attention to the guests whispering behind their napkins. “What do you think we should do?” he reached for her hand, she quickly pulled it out of his reach.

“Are you crazy!?” she hissed through her teeth playfully but dead serious. “They’re already gossiping.”

“You’re learning fast.” Winston’s coy smile mirrored Andrea’s. “It’s all a game until someone makes the society pages.”

“I want you to know how sorry I am for causing all of this.” Her eyes rolled the expanse of the dining hall.

“I’m a big boy. I can take it.” He lied. Vivian’s spin doctors were hard at work. “Can I ask you a question? What made you leave your room that night—the night I found you down by the river?”

Andrea thought for a moment, and then decided to tell him the truth. “Come to my room in twenty minutes and I’ll show you.” She grabbed a croissant from Winston’s plate and swaggered from the hall.

Winston set his watch.


Dean stood at the library window, rubbing the pressure point between his eyes, the weight of the world on his shoulders. His father was dead. His mother was overwhelmed. Sadie was rebelling. And Winston, for whom familial responsibility was something to be endured, showed no sign of settling down. The life of a jet setting playboy was old. It was time to grow up and do what was expected of him, at least outwardly. His disastrous relationship with Rhonda proved he had the capacity to love someone, to feel passionately for them. Consequently it also proved that he didn’t care for love. For him, love was uncertainty and delusion cloaked in our best intensions. The road to hell is littered with the best of intensions…ie the road to hell is marriage stifled by the pretense of love between spouses. Love could take a flying leapt. Cold, hard facts were more to his liking and so was Rebecca.

When it came to love and marriage, Rebecca was clear-sighted. Her sentiment was as steadfast as his. She neither wanted nor needed to marry. It was duty above all else.

“The clouds have cleared.” said Bert joining Dean at the window. He cut his eyes sideways at Dean’s emotionless face and drew a deep breath. He knew that expression. “How can I help?”

“Call my attorneys. You’ll act as a witness.”

“Entail or pre-nup?”

“Both.” Dean ruled, dryly. 


From Andrea’s sofa, Winston scanned her rejection letter while she paced up and down the suite nibbling her nails awaiting his reaction. He flipped the page over, expecting more. There was none. He gave her an unimpressed look.

“What?” Andrea nibbled faster. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Is this is? This is why you bolted out of the house?” Winston fanned the letter in the air. “This is nothing. I thought you were dying.”

“I may as well be dead.” Andrea took the letter from his hand. “I failed, Winston.”

“Big deal! You should be happy…” Andrea’s cross expression compelled him to expound. “You failed at being you—your own merit. Isn’t that better than succeeding at being someone else? Read the letter, Andrea. They’re telling you exactly why they overlooked you. Fix those areas and they’re asking you to reapply in a year. You weren’t accepted the first go round—so you’re not perfect.” He shrugged. “Shit happens.”

Andrea was silent, studying Winston.

Winston leaned forward, pinning his eyes on Andrea. “You’re been programmed all of your life, been told you’re the smartest, you’re your fathers’ daughter. You’ve grown up believing you’ve inherited his strength and intelligence. Your fathers’ shadow follows you everywhere. He’s a part of you, just as you are a part of him. So when you feel alone and ill-equipped to face a challenge, you fall back on him and that sickens you.”

“Yes, I do.”

“We all do, people like us. We have monstrously influential parents; finding and holding on to who we are is difficult especially with everyone watching.” He stood and went into the bedroom, where he kicked off his shoes and laid down, still exhausted from their sleepless night.

“If I’d told this to anyone else, they would have thought I was crazy.” Andrea drew the shades and joined Winston, spooning close to him.

“Perhaps they would. Then again, why should you care what anyone thinks of you? You are your own woman, and that’s what you must always be.”

“You weren’t saying that the other night.” Andrea turned her face slightly towards Winston. “You were concerned what people were whispering about in the house.”

“I’m not like you.” He kissed the side of her head. “I’m a Bellamy. We have an image to upkeep. The less attention I garner, the better.”

“Do you ever get lonely?”

“Incredibly lonely. No one to talk to aside from your family—no one really knows you. Of course it’s lonely.” Winston replied groggily, unable to keep his eyes open. “Get some sleep. They’ll be calling for us shortly.”

“I want you.” Andrea whispered when she heard Winston lightly snoring. 


“You want to marry Rebecca?” Emerson stared blankly at Dean. Trudy’s mouth hinged open and Bart sat one of the libraries beneath her, predicting an eventual collapse which was short in coming.

“Precisely.” Dean answered, taking a seat. “I want to marry her immediately.”

“Wait,” Trudy blinked wildly. “So you want to…what?!”

Dean sighed. “I want to marry Rebecca…at once.”

“You’ve just met. How can you be in love with her?”

“I’m not in love with her!” Dean laughed. “She’s a wonderful person, certainly, but I’m not in love.” Concern was etched on the Lockwood’s faces. Dean continued seriously. “Let’s put emotions aside and deal with cold hard facts, shall we? Rebecca is the Dauphine, the sole heir, lock stock and barrel. Everything that your family has worked for is in the hands of someone who knows little about the business of being in business. And to make matters worse, she didn’t want to marry, she has no strong family connection, and she’s uncomfortable in the company of people like us, people of quality.” Dean searched for less elitists’ term. “Rebecca will be walking into a world she isn’t prepared for and is incapable of navigating. To us, she will be concerned a bas bleu and that’s exactly how she will be treated.”

“Her advisors will guide her.” Trudy declared.

“They will guide her in business only. She’ll be their puppet. How many doors will they open? Who will see to her?”

Dean’s assumptions confirmed Emerson’s greatest fears. He’d long believed Rebecca would be lost when he passed and it worried him sick. Yes, he had connections, but what loyalty would they show to a young lady from a Canadian backwater? Emerson looked at Trudy’s grave face. She was resigned and gave her silent consent.

“Your family, and the Graydons” Trudy said. “Where are they on this?”

“Our family will be wherever Dean wants them to be.” Bart added. “Since Dean and Winston will act as co-executors, the family doesn’t have any say in the matter. And the Graydons will follow suit. What’s done is done.” Bart retrieved a document from Mr. Graydons’ desk and headed it to Emerson. “These are our terms. They’re quite generous.”

Emerson and Trudy read the document carefully. Dean and Bart waited patiently.

Emerson went pale as a ghost. “Your mother will have my head if I agree to this.”

“My mother will do no such thing.”

“What if Rebecca doesn’t want to marry you?” asked Trudy.

“Then you will make you see the benefits of doing so.” Dean said curtly. “I gain nothing by marrying her. You, on the other hand, reap the benefits of being connected by marriage to the co-executor of the Bellamy family; that alone will open doors for you.”

“Why are you doing this?” Emerson inquired.

“Because I can and in the long run it will benefit everyone.” Dean headed Emerson a pen. “Please sign.”

“Can we have sometime to consider….”

“No.” Emerson interrupted his wife and took the pen from Dean. He tapped the page a few times in thought, and then asked sincerely, “Will you take care of Rebecca? Will you look after her?”

Dean gave a faint yet truthful smile. “I will care for Rebecca as if she were my sister.”


“I’m asking you nicely, please move.” Dean said to the portly, bristle maid impeding his and Bart’s entrance into Rebecca’s room.

“I’m sorry, but I have my orders. Miss Lockwood doesn’t wish to be disturbed.”

Dean smiled charmingly. “I know you’re only doing your as you were told—bang up job, really—but I’m asking you really, really nicely for the millionth time, please step aside.”

The maid shook her head.

“Have it your way. Bart...” Dean turned around.

Bart closed his eyes and dusted the maid with pepper sprayed. She screamed bloody murder as they pushed her aside, and swept into the room.

Hearing the commotion, Rebecca came from the bedroom in her bathrobe. “Oh well that’s lovely.” She caught a glimpse of Bart putting away his spray.

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d be romantic.” Dean took her by the arm, and hurried her in to the next room, closing the door behind them. “I’m not sure what your problem is but we’re getting married so you’d better damn well get over it!”

Rebecca covered her mouth. “Wow, you really are mental, aren’t you?” She dropped her hand. “I mean…aside from the fact that I don’t want to get married, and I’m not in love with you, we’re not even speaking to each other! What on earth would make you…” she stumbled over her word. “Why would I… Dean, have you gone mad?”

“Not yet.” He gestured for her to sit. She sat. “Now listen closely and think about what I’m saying before you agree to marry me.…which you will.” He ignored her grimace. “We don’t love one another and neither one of us wants to marry and lose our freedom, and we’re independently wealthy. We’re a perfect match—well, not perfect. You lack social graces and connection and my family sets the standard.”

Rebecca shook her head slowly, clearly missing the point.

Dean knelt in first of her, clasped her hands, and spoke quietly. “What happened in the library, that feeling of inferiority was just a taste of what’s waiting for you once your uncle dies. You know it—he knows it—everyone knows it. I’m giving you an out. We’ll marry, live as husband and wife, but we’ll continue on as we are now…discreetly of course. What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine.”


“You’ll take my last name as will our children.” Dean leveled his eyes at her. “You have better sense than to have unprotected sex another man. Besides, I plan on keeping you very, very busy.” They smiled at one another as Dean carefully exposed her bare legs. “However, if paternity is in question and the baby is established as a bastard, then the child will be raised as a Bellamy but will not inherit a single penny from my estate. That’s your responsibility not mine.”

Rebecca weighed her options, cold and callously. She smiled inwardly, thinking of their lineage and the smug looks she’d get from her haters when she strolled down the aisle towards Dean. Oh the look she’d get from Maureen alone was well worth taking the leap! There was a certain excitement to it all and with Dean she’d never be bored or asked to do something she abhorred. But her freedom was most important.

“There’ll be family obligations, gatherings on both sides,” she observed.

“Outwardly, we’ll be the picture of happiness.”

“And I can come and go as I please? You won’t stop me? Or make me into a housewife?”

Dean laughed. “As long as you’re discreet, I don’t care what you do.” He was rather surprised she valued her independence over her money. Were she a money hungry gold-diggers, his scheme wouldn’t have worked. He’d chosen well, he patted himself on the back. “I don’t want to change you. I don’t expect you to love me and I don’t expect to fall in love with you.” He flashed that Bellamy smile. “I think we’ll find mutual respect is stronger than love. It certainly is more useful.”

“Does your mother approve?”

“She will. Your uncle and aunt have agreed. Your well being was their concern. I assured them that I’d treat you as a sister.”

“Oooh big promise! You insulated Sadie.”

“And I’ll do the same for you.”

“And what are you getting out of this?” Rebecca asked.

“I don’t have to sit through another lecture from my mother. That’s all the reason I need.”

Rebecca studied Dean closely. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” Dean nodded and she extended her left hand. “Where’s my ring?”

Dean beamed. “My jeweler can be here within the hour.”

“Make it a rock! I want everyone to see—I wanna rub it in Rosemund’s face.”

“Sweetie, you can have whatever you want! If we have to hire a midget to steady your hand as you walk, so be it. Just get my mother off my back!”