A/N: This story is het :3

Betram loved his brother, he really did. But he positively hated the man’s wife, and she might think she was going to horn in on the men’s supper that night but she was sorely mistaken.

He strode through the house, desperate and annoyed–but then he reached the main hallway, and saw the woman he wanted to see just coming inside from her weekly trip to the library, here to meet his mother for tea. In a moment, drinking in the sight of her flushed from the sun and exertion, smiling at the butler as he assisted her, his irritation vanished. It simply could not compete with her; nothing could.

“Constance,” he greeted as she turned and saw him. As ever, he enjoyed the way her name felt on his tongue. Everyone else called her Connie, but he always liked her full name–even if at first he had done it to annoy her. Calling her by it felt like a treat, like something special, even if she had wrinkled her nose for a long time after they began to get along.

Taking her still-gloved hand, he kissed the back of it lightly, then dropped to one knee.

She lifted one delicate, pale brow, pink lips quirking in amusement. “Why do I feel this is not a proposal?”

He winced briefly, then resumed his smile., mustering all the charm he possessed even though it had never worked on her. “I need a favor.”

Laughing, she withdrew her hand and removed her gloves, then reached up to smooth back the pale gold curls which had come loose beneath the bonnet already discarded. “Go on with you, then.”

He captured her hand again and said pleadingly, “Mary is insisting upon joining us for dinner.” ‘Us’ being him, his brothers, his father, and Constance’s father. No other woman would be so insufferable as to insist she should and would be present, but no other woman was damnable Mary. “Get her away from us, or I shall be obliged to go to the hangman’s noose in the morning.”

“Oh, you musn’t do that, darling,” she said with mock severity. “Mama would throw fits at the very suggestion of my getting married in prison. La, think of what would become of my dress.”

“Which is why I humbly beg this favor of you,” Betram replied.

She nodded. “All right, I shall do it. However, you must promise me one thing.”

“Anything you ask.”

“When you do propose, vow you’ll not do it in this manner. I refuse to be proposed to in like fashion as being asked to contend with Mary,” and her loathing for Mary was just one more thing in a very long list he loved about her.

“As you wish,” Betram replied, grinning as he rose. “You do know I love you.”

She nodded, still acting with her mock severity. “Yes, though mama and I have tried to beat such unfashionable behavior out of you. She does despair of making you a proper gentlemen.” She held her chin in thought. “Alas for you, love will not prevent my having revenge upon you for this cruel favor.”

He groaned. “La, woman. What manner of evil do you plot to inflict upon my person?”

She grinned at him, then abruptly clasped her hands to her very becoming bosom and wailed in dramatic despair, precisely imitating the loathed Mary. “Oh, Mary, he says he loved but–there is no ring, yet, he says, and puts me off with promises that sound so golden in the morning, and so very black with the setting of the sun. Whatever shall I–”

“Stop, stop!” Betram said, laughing hard enough he was holding his side. “Do not do that to me, or I shall never again believe you love me. If that is your plan, allow me to present an alternative that might spare us both much pain.” Grasping her hand, he reached into his jacket and pulled out the ring he’d planned on giving her tomorrow, and slid it onto her finger. Sapphire and diamond, and made to his exact specifications, with an engraving that would get him one of her particularly pretty smiles–as well as a particularly pleasant show of appreciation, but that would be much later.

She blinked, then smiled, then shrugged dismissive fashion and put on an air of exaggerated boredom. “Well, darling, if you insist, I suppose I could drag her away to discuss our marriage. If you do feel it is best.”

“Oh, I do,” he said with a grin, and leaned down to kiss her when she indicated that he very much should.