Til Death Do Us Part

By: Amanda Quick

1



“I’VE GOT TO get rid of her, Birch.” Nestor Kettering reached for the brandy bottle and refilled his glass. “I can’t abide the sight of my wife. You have no idea what it’s like living with her in the same house.”

Dolan Birch shifted a little in his chair and stretched out his legs toward the fire. “You are not the first man to marry for money and find himself dissatisfied with the bargain. Most husbands in your situation would find a way to coexist. It is quite common for couples in Society to lead separate lives.”

Nestor contemplated the fire. Dolan had invited him for a late-night brandy following another evening of cards at their club. The result was that they were now sitting together in the small but quite elegant library of Dolan’s town house. Anything to avoid going back to Number Five Lark Street, Nestor thought.

They had considered stopping at a brothel but Nestor had not felt any great enthusiasm for the notion. The truth was, he did not like brothels. He worried that the women carried disease. Furthermore, it was no secret that the prostitutes frequently stole their clients’ watches, tiepins, and money.

He preferred his women to be respectable, virginal, and, above all, devoid of close family connections. The last thing he wanted was to be confronted by an irate father or brother. He chose his mistresses from London’s spinster class—innocent, well-bred women who were grateful for a gentleman’s attentions.

Thanks to Dolan Birch, for the past year he’d had access to a steady supply of young, attractive governesses who met his criteria. He lost interest once the conquest had been made, but that was not a problem. The women were easy to discard. No one cared what happened to them.

Dolan’s town house was not nearly as large as his own mansion, Nestor reflected, but it was a good deal more comfortable because there was no wife hanging about. Dolan had inherited the house upon the death of his wife, a wealthy widow. The woman had expired in her sleep soon after the wedding—and shortly after she had redrafted her will leaving the house and her handsome fortune to her new husband.

Some men had all the luck, Nestor thought.

“I do not know how much longer I can abide Anna’s presence,” he said. He swallowed more brandy and lowered the glass. “I swear, she drifts through the house like some faded ghost. She actually believes in spirits, you know. Attends a séance at least once a week, regular as clockwork. She seeks out a new medium every month or so.”

“Who is she trying to contact?”

“Her father.” Nestor grimaced. “The bastard who trapped me with the terms of his will.”

“Why does she want to contact him?”

“I have no idea and I don’t give a bloody damn.” Nestor set the brandy glass down hard on the table. “I thought it would be so easy back at the beginning. A beautiful bride and a fortune to go with her.”

Dolan contemplated the fire. “There is always a catch.”

“So I have discovered.”

“Your wife is quite beautiful. Most men would say that you are extremely fortunate to have such a woman in your bed.”

“Bah. Anna bears a striking resemblance to a corpse in bed. Cold as hell. I haven’t been with her since I cut short the honeymoon.”

“The chaste ones sometimes are quite cold. One must seduce them.”

Nestor snorted. “Anna was no virgin when I married her. Another reason why her father was so eager to marry her off, I suppose.”

Dolan set his glass aside and propped his elbows on the arms of his chair. He put his fingertips together. “There’s an old saying to the effect that if you marry for money, you will earn every penny.”

“I cannot escape her. If she dies, the money goes to distant relatives in Canada, and believe me, they will be waiting to pounce on the inheritance.”

“Some in your position would have her committed to an asylum,” Dolan mused. “If she is declared insane, she will lose control of her fortune.”

Nestor groaned. “Unfortunately, her father considered that possibility. If I have her committed, the result is the same as if she dies—the money goes to Canada.”

“Have you considered renting or buying a house in the country and sending her there to live?”

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