The Temporary Wife
DISCLAIMER: The story is basically an adaptation of Mary Balogh's "The Temporary Wife", modernized and "SHIELD"-ized. Characters are either "SHIELD" or Balogh characters (some renamed), except for Mark Lockwood, Jerome Triplett, and Pastor Dan, which are mine. Plot and major plot events are Balogh's (except for a few). Opening quote is, of course, from Jane Austen.
SUMMARY: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Still, since it was rather gauche to advertise for a wife, Grant Ward advertised for a nanny instead. (AU - Mary Balogh's "The Temporary Wife")
- Thank you to all who have read and reviewed my previous stories!
- I'm not really a romance novel person; I prefer murder mysteries and things which blow up. "Read this one," I was told. So I read Mary Balogh's "The Temporary Wife" and rather liked the main character. A few months later I started watching "SHIELD" and went, "THAT'S WARD AND SIMMONS" - with a few small changes, of course. This is a modern "SHIELD" rewrite (remake?) of Mary Balogh's story. Major plotline and themes are hers, of course.
This is very, very AU. You are warned.
- Just wanted to give a fan cheer for Bear McCreary, composer for "SHIELD". Like many, I learned of him through "Battlestar Galactica", but he's done a lot, like "Walking Dead". I love his work on "SHIELD", especially on "FZZT". McCreary's "Day in the Life" is a great place to start :-) , then visit his website.
DAY IN THE LIFE: youtubeDOTcomSLASHwatch?v=52xxaVKoI-c
"Old sins have long shadows."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Grant Ward was very single (he'd dumped his last girlfriend two years ago) and was very much in possession of his own, self-made, gigantic fortune. In addition, although it was most certainly not necessary, this single man who had a good fortune was also possessed of good looks: tall, lean, with sharp cheekbones and a generally patrician face. Most certainly a man this good-looking and wealthy needed a wife.
As wittily sarcastic as the original adage was, Grant Ward was, actually, in need a wife - as soon as possible.
Still, since it was rather gauche to advertise for a wife, he advertised for a nanny instead.
He used his middle name and his legal surname - Douglas Ward - and not his public name of Grant Staunton (from his mother's maiden name of Staunton-Hand). He made no mention of who he was or of anything related to the job.
His friends, of course, mocked him endlessly. After incessant jokes about adopting children à la Brangelina and about baby mamas suing (he knows he doesn't have any out-of-wedlock children running about), it was Antoine Triplett who finally realized he was most certainly not bluffing and sought to engage him on a serious level.
"Grant, this is ridiculous."
"How is it ridiculous?"
"You advertised for a nanny and, as we've been hilariously reminding you for the last two days, you don't have children. You don't even have pets. You don't even have plants."
"What do you intend for this person to do all day?"
"It won't be all day every day. It will only be all day for two weeks or so."
Trip looked at him like he was drunk off his mind. "I have a bad feeling about this. What is it you need this poor woman to do all day for two weeks?"
"Be my wife."
Trip nearly choked on his food. "Be your wife." At Grant's raised eyebrow, he asked for confirmation: "You're getting married."
"I'm getting married."
"As in a ring."
"As in a ring, a contract, registration with the commonwealth of Massachusetts."
"Grant, you can't marry a woman you've advertised for on craigslist."
"I didn't advertise on craigslist." When Trip only gave him a look, Ward simply leaned back in his chair. "Why not?" He shrugged. "I'm not going to look for a wife in a bar, and I'm not going to go look for a wife at the posh parties we both detest attending - and don't protest, I know you hate them. I need somebody who's a dirt poor, quiet wallflower, but I want somebody with a little class - educated, understands manners."
"If you only need her for a few weeks, then why educated?"
"If I pick somebody too outrageous my father will know I'm trying to one up him."
"You are trying to one-up him."
"He has to buy that I actually want to marry this woman. He knows I would be bored by a loud, classless woman and will assume I'm going to dump her; that won't work. He has to hate her but believe I'm completely serious about keeping her."
Trip sighed, running his finger around the rim of the coffee mug. "And so who are you going to pick?"
"I intend to pick some shrinking violet. Poor. Ordinary. Prim. Prudish, hopefully. That last one would drive my father crazy."
Trip was staring at him with a half-twist on his lips, an expression of disbelieving horror in his eyes. "Surely you're joking."
"Why would I be?"
"Please tell me you have a reason for what you're doing," Trip pleaded.
Ward sighed. "My father ordered me home. Says now that I'm almost thirty years of age, it's well time for me to start taking over the family businesses. Quite frankly, he's in terrible health, and he wants me installed at the head of his empire and settled down with a wife and children. To push me in that direction, he's invited an 'old friend' to come - with his daughter."
"He can't force you to marry her." Trip shrugged. "And it's not like you need his money. In the nine years since you left home, you've survived. In seven short years you've become a multimillionaire. You don't need to follow your father's dictums. You could just ignore him instead of doing this."
"Yes, I could. Or I could simply come home and refuse to marry. But my whole life has been about what a proper Ward does and doesn't do, and proper Wards marry women who will bring political, social, or financial status to the family. Marrying a nanny will, if it hasn't already, drive home that he doesn't control me."
"But he already does control you," Trip pointed out sagely. "The mere fact that you're marrying just to spite him shows you're still letting him mess with your head. Doing the exact opposite of an order doesn't make you free, Grant."
The millionaire pursed his lips, then glared, his only concession to the point. The other man didn't rub it in; he just raised an eyebrow. "And Grant," Trip continued, "marriage is a commitment - physical, spiritual, individual, social. It's not just a legal contract. If you marry the dullest woman you can find, you will be unhappy. For life."
"She won't disrupt my life at all," Grant replied. "After these two weeks with my father, I'll pay her a pension to go off and live by herself; I'll never see her. She's a nanny, and she'll never have to work again in her life if she doesn't want to do so. Pretty cushy."
The other man shook his head disapprovingly. "You can't exile your wife, Grant."
Grant looked at his old friend, amused. "Trip, as you are well aware, very few people seem to take their vows seriously, especially the section about 'death do us part'."
"It doesn't mean you shouldn't try, you know." He paused. "Your father's going to know you did it to spite him the minute you divorce her."
"I don't intend to divorce her."
Trip blinked. "Then what was all that about sending her off to live by herself?"
"We'll live apart, but we'll remain married. It's the perfect excuse for me. I'm tired of this endless round of purposeless dating. If I got married, I wouldn't have to put up with people introducing me and trying to set me up on dates."
"Grant!" Trip was exasperated. "What if you have children? You can't separate your children from their mother."
"There will be no children. I've got one-hundred-percent-effective birth control."
"There's no such thing as one-hundred-percent-effective proof birth control."
"She can't get pregnant if I don't have sex with her. You forget that I don't actually want a wife-wife, just a 'piss-off-my-father' wife. If I don't have to speak to this woman at all I'll be delighted."
"What if she wants to get married to somebody else?"
"It's just ten years married to me. My father will be dead by then. She's being well-paid enough to last that long."
When Trip just sighed and shook his head disapprovingly, but said nothing, Grant knew the conversation was at an end.
His father's order-disguised-as-a-request showed he never really acknowledged Grant's independence. He thought his son would just come home. And as much as the younger Ward hated to admit it, his own rapid rise in the financial world of Boston wouldn't put his father off completely: the Ward patriarch no doubt liked the fact that his eldest son was honing his financial skills.
This marriage would send the message Grant had been wanting to send for the last decade: that his future was not for his father to decide.
Grant waited for replies to his advertisement, and they came quickly: email, phone calls, even some by the snail mail. Some applications he rejected completely - too young or too old. (Though picking an older woman might really irritate his father. Still, he'd occasionally been linked in tabloids to older women, and his father might not take the marriage seriously if he thought it was a fling.)
He interviewed a few candidates before discovering his ordinary, prim mouse in the fourth. Jemma Fitzsimmons had mousy brown hair that hung flatly around her head and looked dull under the lights in the room - not that there was much light, since she chose to stand in a shadowed part of the room. He almost missed seeing her entirely when he first met her. It struck him that she'd deliberately chosen to do that - to become the hidden nanny in the background, the one who would never try to seduce the father or to cause other trouble in the family. It was a calculated move to make a point.
"Yes, sir." Her voice was so soft he almost didn't hear it. She didn't raise her eyes from the floor. She was tiny, most likely barely five-foot-four, and her height (or lack of it) was accentuated by the worn, black ballet flats she wore. Grant noted that there was actually a hole in one of them, which she had artfully disguised by carefully trimming the loose threads and then putting a piece of black cloth on the inside of the shoe where the hole was. Her black shirt was no longer very black, faded and threadbare from endless number of washings, and the dull gray of her pants was already worn and lighter in color near the knees.
She was perfect. His father would be horrified.
"Please." He waved at a nearby chair.
She silently sat down, and he was both surprised and delighted to see her still sitting up straight, but with an ease of somebody who was used to sitting as such. She folded her hands into her lap and looked ahead, but not directly at him. She was perfect.
And this is how Grant Ward found his wife.