A/N: I was totally going to update this like a week ago but it just didn't happen. Anyway, more secrets are revealed (at least one) so I hope this is satisfactory. This is a very important chapter for plot development. Even though Chuck is only seem briefly, its very important anyway.
Summary: "He wouldn't have taken an interest in you." "If you think I am so intelligent, than don't doubt the fact that I am knowledgeable about your brother. He just wants a young wife." "As much as I agree with you, I wasn't talking about Jack."
Disclaimer: None is mine, save for the twist.
Jack departed from Italy last week and after a seemingly productive honeymoon with the new Mrs. Bass, is still abroad. Blair Bass is returning with her chaperon within the fortnight. Jack's absence can be accounted for but, unusually, he is not accompanying his wife back to the estate. I will surveil him by request as per usual.
As the carriage knocked across the cobblestone street on London, Blair found that rest still evaded her. She closed her eyes as her dutiful maid sat silently by her side but she was still plagued by the nightmares. She could only be thankful that her new husband was still away on business.
But as the carriage neared its destination of the esteemed Bass Estate, worry still plagued her thoughts. Because even though she was without her threatening husband, she was heading towards something even more dangerous.
A dangerous love.
Blair's eyes snapped out of her reverie and attempts for rest at the tentative sound of her maid's voice.
"We are here."
Blair sighed as she was helped down from the carriage to see the now familiar estate that was officially her home.
"I'll just bring in your luggage then, will I, Mrs. Bass?" the coachman asked.
"Thank you," Blair said distantly, walking hesitantly up the stairs.
"You going to get dressed now?" Dorota asked pointedly as Blair walked past the quarters she now had to share with her new husband. Except she wasn't walking towards those quarters. She knew the right thing to do now was attempt to get some sleep before her nightmare of her married life came back with jarring reality.
"I think not," Blair said decisively, walking down the hallway. She knew it was a terrible idea. Her and his quarters were on opposite ends of the estate. And yet she had the undeniable urge to explore as she walked around.
She should have known her instincts were bad as she left Dorota behind. She was sure her logic was sound until she actually did find herself on the opposite side of the estate.
Where she really didn't belong.
And where she was finding herself realizing what she could have gone her entire life without seeing.
Blair's stomach churned as his dark eyes found hers. The blonde scullery maid was beneath him and to say the least, she wasn't that surprised. She obviously felt Chuck stop and little Jenny Humphrey's wide blue eyes turned up in surprise.
Blair's insides were doused with chill but these were one of the times where her uncrackable facade was due gladly to her mother's training. Blair cast them both a cold smirk.
"Don't stop on my account," she said coolly. Jenny pried herself away from the compromising position and stumbled for her clothes. Blair simply rolled her eyes, determined to free herself of the situation.
Blair turned to see Chuck's dark eyes scowling at the maid as she fled. They flicked back up to Blair's and he matched her cruel smirk for cruel smirk.
"Were you expecting an explanation?" he sneered.
"I am already aware of your propensity for making horrid decisions," Blair remarked indifferently. "But if the Black Plague comes back out of remission, I know who I will recommend for quarantine."
His eyes grew perceptibly darker as he approached her with his dangerous grace.
"What did you think, Mrs. Bass?" he asked threateningly. "That I would just wait while my uncle pleasures himself with you?"
"Hardly," Blair laughed coldly. "I would never give you that courtesy."
Without leaving him time for a reply, she turned on her heel, still in her traveling garb, leaving him alone in the hallway where she was sure he was hoping she would find him. She clenched her eyes shut, willing her natural instinct to stop them burning with her tears.
She hadn't been looking where she was going. Feeling herself collide, Blair's eyes snapped open to see her very recent niece.
"Blair," Serena said, embracing her warmly after their accidental collision. "I am so pleased that you have returned. You have no idea how miserable this place has been without you."
"I can only assume," Blair said, giving her a false smile and willing herself not to think of the very miserable thing that she had just encountered.
"How was the honeymoon?" Serena asked cautiously, knowing it was a subject that would cause great discomfort. Blair just embraced Serena again, hoping her tears wouldn't show. And she wasn't even thinking of that whore of a maid.
"I am so sorry," Serena said comfortingly, reading her best friend's mind. "Though I do have to say I am pleased that we are officially related, though the manner in which we are is not the most pleasant.
"Many things about this situation are not pleasant," Blair replied.
"Than I am to assume you have already come into contact with my brother?"
"Which one?" Blair asked darkly.
Serena had her answer.
"You know I worry," Serena said. "I know my brother can be... alluring. But it is not worth enraging your husband."
"Believe me," Blair said, "I have no intention to consort with your oh so charming brother." Serena smiled in relief but if they knew anything, it was that their world was never that simple.
"That's not all," Blair said, looking around to be sure there were no interlopers on the conversation.
"Is something the matter?" Serena asked.
"He knows, Serena," Blair said quietly. "Jack knows."
"He knows..." Serena prompted.
"He knows everything," Blair said. "About everything."
"Did he do something to you?" Serena asked frightfully.
"Only a slight scare," Blair said. "But I fear that will not be all if he finds my intentions doubtful."
"You needn't worry," Serena promised. "His brother will never allow it."
"How so?" Blair asked.
"He is very fond of you," Serena answered. "You must know that. That is why he requests your presence in his study."
"His study," Blair repeated, a sense of foreboding overcoming her.
"I wouldn't worry," Serena said. "Like I said. He is quite fond of you. Quite more than he is of his own flesh and blood. Go see him."
Blair knew there was no choice in the matter. Her path had been set.
Blair raised her fist to the door to knock, feeling apprehension fill her at her intimidating brother-in-law. Because she knew this wasn't just a cordial visit. This meant something.
His cold voice echoed out of the chamber and Blair turned the knob. His cold eyes chilled her at the realization of how much they looked like his brother's as he looked at her. She closed the door behind her.
"Blair," he smiled as much as Bart Bass could. "How was Italy?"
Blair swallowed taking striding steps towards his desk to take a seat in front of him. "Bearable."
"Interesting," Bart said. "That sounds..."
"As though I know I am not here for social pleasantries," Blair said coldly, her nerves on end.
"Of course," Bart said, smiling slightly. "I actually requested your presence here for a reason."
"I am sure my presence in your household is being monitored," Blair said. "Is by behavior not adequate?"
"Though you could not be more right," Bart said. "I actually asked you here for a different reason."
"And that would be?" Blair asked.
"I need your assistance."
Blair found herself blinking stupidly at the man before responding.
"Excuse my confusion," Blair cleared her throat, "but what could it possibly be that you need my assistance with?"
"Despite the fact that your mother bartered your way into this family like livestock, I know that you are not just an ordinary débutante."
Blair knew well enough not to comment.
"Otherwise he wouldn't have taken an interest in you."
"If you think I am so intelligent, than don't doubt the fact that I am knowledgeable about your brother," Blair said dryly. "He just wants a young wife."
"As much as I agree with you," Bart said. "I wasn't talking about Jack."
Silence stretched between them and they both knew exactly who he was talking about.
"What is it that you need me for, sir?" she asked after a moment.
"I think it would be entirely proper for you to address me by my first name," Bart diverged. "You are technically my sister-in-law now."
"So it would seem," Blair replied.
"I have asked you here because I thought you should be aware of a few things," Bart said. "The first of which is, I am having your husband under surveillance."
"That would seem a smart option," Blair said.
"Since you are so well versed in this information," Bart continued, "then you must also be aware that my dear brother is scheming to steal my million dollar corporation away from who it truly belongs to. And since you are his wife, I could very well consider you an accessory if I so choose."
"Is that a threat?" Blair asked darkly.
"Not at all," Bart said. "It's an opportunity."
"For what?" Blair asked.
"You have an opportunity to do the right thing."
"That is always a hard choice to make," Blair smirked slightly.
"Well let me tell you that you will be compelled to do this one," Bart said. "I am quite aware of your detestation for my brother."
"I doubt I am unique in that respect," she replied.
"Of course," Bart said. "But you are unique in the fact that you and you alone are the only other one who has access to his accounts."
It then dawned on her what she was really called here for.
"I am just his wife," Blair said slowly. "What makes you think that I am apt for a task that you are insinuating?"
"Because like I said before," Bart replied. "I know that you are no common débutante. You have captured the true affection of one Bass and I know you can do it."
Blair ignored the blatant comment. "What is it that you think I can do?"
"I am aware of certain talents you possess," Bart said. "Talents for manipulation and deception. It is something every good socialite needs. But you take it to the next level."
"I would be flattered if I didn't take offense to that socialite comment," she replied dryly.
"Of course," he said. "My apologies. But Jack will not anticipate your deception."
"Why would you think that?" Blair asked.
"Because he has already threatened you and wouldn't dream that you would dare defy him at this stage."
Bart laughed shortly. "I told you I had you under surveillance."
"And I am so thrilled that you have. But what is in it for me?" she asked. "You cannot possibly think that I would just do this out of the goodness of my heart."
"You mean besides ridding yourself of an abusive husband that you will no longer have the burden of bearing his children?" Bart asked. "I can do you one better."
"If I no longer have a husband, then I am left without funds," Blair answered calculatingly. "While Jack is horrid and repugnant, I do have security."
"Is that what your mother told you?" Bart asked. Blair hesitated.
"There is something else that you need to be aware of," Bart said. "I can't have you digging some truths on about me to get the upper hand."
"What is it?" Blair asked, more intrigued than anything.
"Originally, you were not intended for my brother."
Blair could hear it coming and it almost seemed impossible.
"You were intended for my son."
"Eric?" Blair asked, simply because it was not something that she could believe.
"No," Bart answered curtly.
"Could you possibly illuminate why, then, I was sold to your brother?" Blair snapped. Not because of him, the man that plagued her thoughts with desire. But because truly, anyone would have been better than Jack Bass.
"You are an intelligent woman," Bart said. "And I am sure that you know who had the ultimate veto power."
And Blair made the decision right then and there.
"Alright," she said decisively. "I will help you in your endeavor to eliminate your brother. Though I don't understand why you cannot just hand him over to the proper authorities."
"I know in my gut when I am being deceived," Bart said. "I do not have proof but I know my brother. He is blood and I know even though there is no evidence to it. But the simple fact is that when I catch him, I have no intention of handing him over to the authorities."
"I accept your proposition," Blair said. "On one condition. I don't do anything when there isn't anything in it for me. And though being rid of my repulsive husband is something that would please me greatly, I want something else."
"And?" Bart pressed.
"I think you know," Blair said. "My mother is to be ostracized. I assume that your offer entails that I will not be thrown onto the street once this scheme has ended with me victorious. She is the reason that I am chained to a man that I despise. I don't want her allowed here again."
"Completely understandable," Bart agreed. "And you are right. I do not plan and letting you fend for yourself. I have something else in mind for you."
"Another scheme?" Blair inquired.
"Your marriage will be in shambles," Bart said. "No proper suitor will want the dowager wife of a scoundrel. So yes, I do have something else in mind for you."
"And that would be?"
"I cannot give you an annulment since the marriage has been consummated," Bart said pointedly. Blair stared at him. "Jack would not let you have come home until it was. But I can do something else for you."
"I thought you weren't handing him over to the authorities," Blair replied.
"I am not quite sure what I shall do with him," Bart said. "But in the mean time, I do have a plan for you. I am sure Serena would love to hold a place here for you. But every young woman needs a marriage."
"And what do you suggest," Blair asked, "if no suitable suitor will have me?"
"I intend you for the original groom," Bart said.
"And how would that be possible?"
"You are already married to a Bass," Bart said. "Hiding behind another will not be difficult."
"And how is that possible?" Blair asked.
He smirked, "I'm Bart Bass."
She should have known.
"We have an accord," Blair smiled.
"There is one stipulation that I have," Bart warned her after they shook hands like a proper business deal.
"And what is that?" Blair asked suspiciously.
"You are not to involve my son in any of this planning."
"Then maybe you did not make it clear as to who my future husband would be," Blair said.
"You know what Bass you will be married to after this ugliness has passed," Bart said. "But I shall inform him when the time comes. For now, he shall not be involved."
"I think you underestimate him," Blair said admittedly.
"It is not that at all," Bart said. "He is my son and I understand him completely. So much that I know he is capable of such a deception himself. But I also know that at the moment, his judgment is clouded. "
"Is it?" Blair asked softly.
"Though he might not see it or understand it yet, this is important," Bart said. "I love my son and I will not have him caught in the middle of it. Because if there is anyone Jack would be suspicious of, it would be Charles."
"Because Chuck is meant to inherit it," Blair said. "And not Jack."
"That," Bart said pointedly, "among other things."
Blair didn't let herself consider the other things that Jack was suspicious of Chuck of.
"I need your word that you will not violate this stipulation," Bart said.
"You have my word," Blair vowed. "I will not tell your son of our plans."
"Until the time is right," Bart said. "I know my son better than anyone and when the opportune moment arises, he will be privy to the information that we are."
"I understand," Blair said. He was staring at her with strength that was disconcerting and she knew he was waiting for something else. Even though she wasn't quite sure what that was.
"Was there something else, my lord?" she asked uncertainly.
"I want you to understand exactly what I mean when I say there will be no involving my son in any of this."
"I promise that I won't tell him of our plans," Blair said.
"That's not the only promise I want from you," he answered. "When I say I don't want you to involved my son in this I mean I don't want you involved with him. At all."
"I..." Blair stuttered incoherently. This was something that she was not comfortable her brother-in-law discovering. It was tawdry and quite plainly, unethical. Not that she had the strongest moral compass, but if society were to find out, she would surely be ruined.
She just wished she felt that way in her heart.
"You are aware that your husband is under my very watchful eye," Bart said. "Why should it be any different from you?"
"I never meant..." Blair said in a rare display of ineloquent nature. "It just happened once... I-"
"I do not begrudge you this, my lady," he said. "I know how he can get when he has something in his sights. But you cannot condone it any longer. You must realize how Jack would react if he-"
"I understand," she said quickly and Bart's eyes darkened.
"I apologize for anything he might of done to you while you were away," he said steadily. "That is why I cannot allow you to see my son anymore. Jack is possessive and slippery-"
"And he would endanger Chuck's life if he knew," she said quietly. "I understand."
"Good," Bart said, obviously some relief having been bestowed upon him at this turn of events. "That also means you cannot let him proposition you. I understand that he can be quite persuasive."
Blair allotted herself an unladylike snort. "I highly doubt he would come back for more. He's had his fill of me."
She hadn't meant to reveal so much of herself to Bart. She didn't want him to know even the slightest hurt she felt at the truth.
"Actually," Bart said awkwardly, "I am under quite the opposite impression. This is why it is crucial that you do not allow him to be alone with you."
Blair's eyes narrowed.
"What are you suggesting?"
"Just make sure he is aware that whatever may have transpired between the two of you is in the past."
"Would he think any different?" Blair asked suspiciously.
"I am doing this for my son," Bart said. "Though I know he is under the impression that I only hold disdain for him, I would not be able to bear the loss."
"I understand," Blair said. "I just don't-"
"Do you agree to this stipulation or not?" Bart asked.
"I told you before," she said. "I agree. And I stick to my agreements."
"Especially when there is something in it for you," Bart replied. Blair shifted uncomfortably. She didn't like how he seemed to know so much about her.
"Among many reasons," Blair said astutely, pleased that her powers of fluency had returned.
"And the stipulation," Bart reminded her.
"I will do as you request of me," she answered.
She just had to.