"Come come my dear. How long will you uphold this farce?" Ivan Darrell spoke in a bored fashion.

"This is NOT a farce, my lord."

"Just marry me already, and let's get on with our lives." He blew out a puff of cigar smoke as he waited for her reply.

"I shall be mistress to none. But-…"

"Someone else's master?" Ivan finished up for her, having heard this line spoken to him only four times since his first proposal to her. "You can't be serious Victoria. I don't know where you adopted such an utterly absurd idea. But once you become my wife. I'll have none of that." He seemed to be quite sure of himself that Victoria Arthur's hand be his.

"Oh! You are impossible." She tucked an errant strand of curls behind her ear that loosened from the simple chignon at the nape of her neck.

Victoria swore long ago that she'll not marry or become anyone's mistress but only someone else's master. After seeing the failed marriages of all three of her aunts as well as her parents', she was ready to quit before anything ever began. It broke her heart at an early age of eight years to learn that a man could not be faithful to his word or his wife. The mistresses that flittered about her home disgusted her to no end. The Victorian villa and acres of land that stretched across fair England was her home by right. She was an only child. Her mother had become a ghost of a woman from her father's lack of attentions and constant misguided lechery. I shall never let a man steal himself into my soul and win my heart, then later have it discarded, Victoria thought.

Now at age eighteen, her beliefs were even stronger than before, but alas her looks were her own undoing. She was a raven haired beauty with the most innocent shade of turquoise set eyes, a perfect straight nose, and semi-lush lips of a true lady. She has a slim waist, made even more narrow by the corset she loathed to wear, creamy white skin, and petite by nature. The young gentlemen that flocked to her side as soon as she set foot outside of her home were nothing but pests to her. Victoria was determined to play them all for fools, and have them begging at her mercy once she gave them a taste of her feminine wiles. Especially Lord Ivan Darrell.

His slightly waved midnight black hair and pale silver-grey eyes were dangerous to behold. Ivan was a menace at her side, a thorn to be plucked. He was never one for submission, always had to be dominant. She despised him more than all the others. He was the one that would never listen to her whims or fall at her feet like a good puppy should. He refused to wait for his turn at balls, and dragged her on the dance floors against her will. She hated that he was so rude and brash, and completely…rugged. She fought whatever tiny spark of attraction she held for him. This Victoria was going to win.

"I've taken the liberty to discuss my marriage proposal to your father." Panic assailed poor Victoria. Her father no doubt consented. After all, Ivan was a rich man of the trade. He owned more than three properties from London to Paris, to wherever else. "And naturally he has agreed without so much as a fuss. I dare say he sounded as if he were happy to finally be rid of you." A sneer adorned those mocking lips of his. A slight tremor ran up from the base of her spine. She was upset. Upset and frightened that her fate was not hers to control.

"I shall never marry you." The calm that supplied her voice belied the boiling rage within.

"You have little choice, dearest Vikky." And he was probably correct.

"Don't call me that, you loathsome pig." A smile tilted the corners of her lips as she tempted his cool. "I shall die before I'll ever marry you."

"You test my patience, Victoria." Good. She was happy his cheeks took on a slightly pink shade and his left hand gripped the arm of his chair with unusual strength. She was hoping he'd be so upset that he'd call off the wedding. There was nothing wrong with hoping. "You will marry me, end of story." He sounded so damn sure that she wanted to smack the certainty from his mind.


"I shall not leave here before I get the answer I deserve."

"Then I fear you shall have to become fast friends with the parlor chair." She mocked him without fail. Let him suffer she thought. "Besides, what does it matter what I think? My father has obviously decided my fate for me." Distaste struck a bitter chord in her tone.

"I know what your father said. But I will not have an unwilling wife come to my bed." Was he giving her an option she thought?

"Is that so? Well then you must needs look else where, my lord." She was hoping to end the conversation at that. But she knew better.

"So your answer is still a no?" He lifted his eyes to her standing form, both tempting yet annoying to his sight. "Very well then."

"You mean you'll let me go? You won't come after my hand?" Hope tinted her inquisitions.

"I shall bestow upon you three months time. And in that time I will court you most assuredly. If your heart is still not mine after my efforts, then prepare for a loveless marriage in which you yourself will have caused."

"I see that in the end, the result shall be the same. I will have to marry you without question." She said bitterly. Her face a crest-fallen mask. "I thought you said that you won't have an unwilling wife come to your bed."

"Yes, I did. But Vikky, you do tug on my heart strings unerringly. I will have you willing or no. But at least I shall try to win your favor before I must take it by force." She hated him. Hated him with a passion.

"I hate you." Disgust gleamed in her irises.

"Yes, but before long, you'll be too much in love with me to hate me." The teasing lightness was back in his voice.

"Before long, I'll see you dead!" She ground out under her breath.

"Is that a threat darling?"

"It's a promise, you churlish dolt!"

"Now there's no need for name-calling." He sounded as if he were soothing a child.

"You fiend! Bloody brute! You beast! Rake! Wastrel!" She piled one insult upon the other in hurried spats.

"Now Vikky…" Ivan sounded exasperated if not a little irked by her open-ended behavior.

"Hound! Letch! You no good-…!" She never got to finish her thought before he bolted straight out of his chair to stand before her gripping her upper arms in an iron vice. He started to rudely shake her without avail. Victoria uttered some unintelligible wincing sounds and was heated to the core. "You take your hands off me! You…you…!" The deadly gleam in his silver depths alerted her to a halt. She was still upset, but now bordered on scared.

"Have you quite finished, Victoria?" A thread of venom found his its way into his otherwise dulcet tones.

"I…I'm not finished." A shiver ran up her spine just by his close proximity. "And- and I'm not afraid you either. So acting like some barbarian with me will win you no points on my obedience scale." There, she finished with quiet dignity.

"You should be." He enunciated in clipped tones. Victoria was still looking up at him with fire in her eyes and a stiff line to her lips. Damn her for being his siren he thought hotly. Just looking at her disheveled state made him want to take her into his arms and kiss her with fevered passion.

"What?" She said distractedly as she saw the dark heat in his eyes. "Stop looking at me in that way. It sets my skin a-crawl." She wanted to rub her suddenly chilled arms. That must have been the breaking point, because Ivan no longer held the reins to his own simmering temper. He crushed his lips onto her soft surprised ones with a force that near stopped Victoria's breath. At first, shock held her suspended in a frozen stance. Then, as knowledge of what he was doing permeated her fogged up mind, she started to push at his wide set shoulders and hard chest with all the strength she could muster. When that didn't work, Victoria dug her heels into the vulnerability of his soft leather- clad toes and kept grounding until he let go of her with a yelp.

"Hell and damnation woman!" The pain helped him think a little. But it didn't help him from cursing out loud in front of a lady.

"Exactly what I was thinking. I hope you roast in the flames of hell and damned for eternity!" She said without thinking. "And if you ever lay a hand- or lips on me again, I'll see to it that your foot's not the only thing that gets trampled upon!" She was upset. So mad that anger clouded her vision and made her see red.

Ivan just looked at her with a steely gaze and murdered her with his eyes. Before he had the urge to put a hand to her backside or worse, he decided it best to cool his head. So without so much as a backward glance he headed straight for the door. But before stepping fully outside the premises of the villa he turned about his head and said, "I shall come for you at nine on the morrow'. Horse back riding. I trust you ride?" Without waiting for a reply, he sauntered off leaving a terribly enraged and red hot Victoria still standing in the parlor center.