Standard Disclaimer: I do not own GW and never will. I do, however, own this story's plot.
Lord Heero Yuy watched as the gentlemen opposite him threw down his cards in disgust and walked away from the table. Heero allowed himself a small smile and looked to see if any other gentleman was willing to sit down at his table for cards. He was having an uncommonly good night at his club, White's, and had already made a good return on his investment of a rouleaus of coins worth £50.
Heero was dressed in the height of regency fashion, his neck cloth tied in an elegant knot and his dark silk jacket was self trimmed in velvet and cut high so that his cream waistcoat peeped out below it. Heero had also been inspired by Brummel himself and wore the latest rage - trousers tucked neatly into gleaming leather boots. Heero's hair was tousled and hung down almost to his brilliant blue eyes, but again that was the fashion and most people in the room adhered to this look. What set Heero apart from others was his icy demeanour. He did not smile at the people he shared the table with and his attitude was one of boredom.
"Well done Yuy!" his cousin Mr Duo Maxwell congratulated him from the chair where he had been relaxing watching the play of cards "If you are finished with your gambling do you suppose that we should continue on to Almack's."
Duo was an American and was the one obvious person who was not following the current fashion for hair. His impressively long chestnut locks where held back in a braid that hung down his back. He had refrained from cutting his hair for years, but Heero did not know the reason why. Duo was from a family that could only be described as newly rich. When they resided in England their fortune had been low, so Duo's father had taken the chance and emigrated to America. Once there, the Maxwell fortune had been achieved by judicious investment in cattle.
Duo had always been a wild child and his parents despaired of him ever becoming a gentleman. Finally they decided that he should tour Europe and enjoy a season in London, they hoped that some European sophistication would rub off on their only son. Duo was now on the last part of his tour, having been around Europe visiting all the sights that young gentlemen should see. He was due to travel back to America, but having had such a wonderful time in the company of his stoic cousin had decided to extend his stay.
Whilst in London Mr Maxwell had discovered Almack's where you could attend a ball once you had paid your annual subscription of ten guineas. Also attending the balls were a variety of young eligible ladies in London for the season and Mr Maxwell had it in mind to add to his personal wealth by finding a young lady who had a considerable fortune for him to manage. And there appeared to be no end of ladies who were attracted to the rakish Mr Maxwell and who would be willing to be carried away by him to the wilds of America.
Mr Yuy, however, was in no such mood to attend such a frivolous outing. He disliked the balls of the London season where he felt that he was the quarry for all the Mamas of single daughters to hunt. Heero was determined to remain a bachelor for as long as he could. He had no need to add to his fortune, it being more than sufficient for any need he might imagine. His father had been Lord Odin Lowe Yuy and his mother had had a sizeable fortune in her own right. His parents had died of typhus when Heero had been an infant and he had no clear recollection of them. After their death Heero had been raised by a series of strict governess' employed by his guardian Doctor Jay, an academic who had been a close friend of his father. Heero had had an elder sister, but she had died whilst Heero had been serving his country as a commissioned officer in the war against Napoleon. He now had no immediate family left to him.
Doctor Jay had recognised Heero's talents, both as a scholar and as a tactician. It had been the Doctor who had organised a commission for Heero as soon as he was of an age. Heero had shown great courage and gallantry as a commissioned officer and at the Battle of Leipzig had been able to demonstrate his ability as a brilliant tactician. As a reward the King had awarded him with the estate of Furzy Hill which granted him an additional living of £3000 per year.
This night, however, Mr Maxwell was determined to have his way. He all but dragged his unwilling cousin from the table, through the gaming hall, past the famous White's bay window and out the front entrance all the time extolling the virtues of Almack's and the wonderfully fine young ladies that could be found there. However, neither Duo nor Heero would make it to the establishment that night as they were intercepted before making it to their carriage by a young man who was determined to talk to Heero. Duo sighed in impatience, but soon became very interested in what the young man had to say.
"Lord Yuy!" the young man called out softly, looking around to make sure that he did not gain anyone else's attention. "Lord Yuy, please sir. May I have a moment of your time."
Heero's eyes narrowed as he looked at the young man. There was something very familiar about the lad, his silk jacket was loose on his frame, his hat was partially obscuring his face, not quite hiding blonde hair that was tied in a bow at the back of his head and tucked in his jacket. The young man was short, almost petite. Almost feminine. Heero blinked as he realised just who this person was. This was a woman, not a man. A woman with past form for pretending to be a man so she could attend exclusive clubs and betting rooms.
Heero nodded to her and said in a voice only loud enough for her and Duo to catch "Miss Catalonia".
Duo's attention was immediately on the girl, or rather her trouser encased legs. Dorothy smiled and raised her head so that her face was now in full view. Her face was so distinctive Heero wondered how he did not immediately recognise her.
"Ah, you remember me Lord Heero." She said in deep sultry voice.
"What do you wish of my Miss Catalonia?" Heero asked impatient to get away, but curious to see what Dorothy wanted.
" I have a wager for you Lord Yuy. One that I am sure you will find very much to your interest. A man of your obvious appeal should have no trouble in winning the wager that I propose" Dorothy reached up with her small hand encased in a white kid glove and caressed Heero's cheek.
"Lady, you obviously do not know my cousin." Duo grinned finally pulling his eyes away from the girl's legs.
"Sir, you are mistaken." Dorothy laughed and her eyes narrowed never leaving Heero's face. "Lord Yuy and I know each other very well."
Heero reached up with his own gloved hand and pulled Dorothy's hand away from his face. "Too well." Was his only comment.
"If you are not man enough for my wager then please tell me now." Dorothy stopped smiling. "I am sure I will find someone else to compete against my cousin." She turned to leave but Heero grabbed her arm restraining her. "Ah, I see I have your attention now." Dorothy smirked making no effort to free herself from Heero's grip.
"I presume you are referring to Treize Kushrinada." Heero said, his eyes deadly cold. Dorothy winced slightly as he tightened his grip on her arm, but then she smiled sweetly up at him.
"Lord Heero, my you are strong." She drawled. Dorothy silently stared back at him until he released his grip. She lowered her arm without rubbing the bruise that she was sure would be forming. "Yes, I am referring to my esteemed cousin Sir Treize Kushrinada. He has informed me that he is in pursuit of a young heiress. This lady has an interesting background, but her recent inheritance is great and includes lands that border my cousin's. Although Treize has not yet made the lady's acquaintance, his is determined to make what is hers his."
"And the challenge is?" Duo asked watching the lady closely, always keen to hear about a wager.
"That Lord Yuy makes the conquest of the lady's heart first for a wager of £500." Dorothy smiled then addressed Duo. "Perhaps sir you would like to bet on this if Lord Yuy consents. Who would you back? I can assure you that my cousin is a man of many charms, whilst Lord Yuy has never really endeared himself to the fairer sex."
Duo smile faded and his eyes narrowed. There was something oddly disturbing about this strange girl and he felt a sudden urge to be away from her. He looked at Heero and was startled at the grim expression that Heero wore. Duo could tell that Heero was considering options. Deciding that Heero needed more time to make a decision, Duo pressed the strange lady for more details. "Who is this heiress?" he asked.
Dorothy looked back at Heero. "She is the sister of an acquaintance of yours, one Millardo Peacecraft the Marquis of Zechs. Duo shook his head, unfamiliar with the name.
"We met whilst serving our commissions with the Imperial Calvary in Spain He was my senior officer." Heero finally said. "However Miss Catalona is mistaken. He has no sister."
Dorothy smiled slyly. "Did I not say that this lady comes from an interesting background? The lady is indeed Zech's younger sister. Their parents were married prior to both their conceptions but the mother was catholic and so the marriage was not recognised as legal under Protestant law. The father was of a most important family and it was insisted that he enter into marriage with another lady of Royal connection from abroad.
"Zech's natural mother died soon after this second marriage had taken place and his father arranged that his son be given a commission with the army and that the daughter be placed under the care of his first wife's sister and her husband, a Reverend and Mrs Darlian. Soon after they took on the care of his infant niece he and his wife travelled to China to a mission there. They are only returning now due to Mrs Darlian's ill health."
"That explains the connection, but where has the wealth come from? If the children were treated as illegitimate they should have no call on the properties of their father?" Duo was intrigued with the story.
"Of course, you are quite correct." Dorothy nodded "Zech's excelled in his commission and came to the attention of the King. Zech's father was also a very close friend of the King and His Royal Highness had sympathy for his friend's situation. After all it is rumoured that the king himself was first married to Catholic. Zech's father had no children by his second marriage so that on his death his title and associated lands returned to the crown. However, he had many properties and incomes that were not entailed and these he divided between his children. The King could not give the old title to Zech's, but could award a new title on the basis of such gallant bravery shown at battle. And thus the new title of Marquise of Zechs was created.
"The lady's name is Relena Darlian. She has no knowledge that she is a Peacecraft or that she is wealthy in her own right. When her family arrives from China the Minister is taking them to a small living which is attached to Zech's estate. She will be told then who she is.
"So, now you know all the players Yuy, will you take my wager?" Dorothy held out her hand, her distinctive eyebrows raised in question. Heero did not hesitate and shook her hand immediately.
"You know that even without the bet I would do my utmost to ruin any plans that Kushrinada had." Heero commented, then strode off towards his waiting carriage. Duo put his hand out and shook Dorothy's hand grinning.
"I will take odds on this as well, and I shall back Heero." He said, "I presume that I will see you anon." He too strode quickly to the carriage.
"Of course you would take my challenge, dear Heero." Dorothy murmured to herself. "This battle will be beautiful." She turned and re-entered the gaming hall and a predatory smile on her face.