Thank you all so much for reading MOGUL, the last full-length book in The Knickerbocker Club series. I hope you all enjoyed Calvin and Lily’s story!
I should note, if you haven’t read MOGUL yet, you should stop right here! Read MOGUL first…otherwise it’s cheating. And heads up! This is NSFW at the end.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New York City
The knock startled him, though he should have expected it.
“Enter,” Calvin called, pulling on his cuffs.
Ted Harper, Calvin’s friend and business partner, stuck his head into the room. “How are you faring, Cabot?”
Calvin blew out a breath and rolled his shoulders. “Like I wish it was already over.”
“The fellows want to know if we may come in.”
So they could laugh at his misery, no doubt. Each one of his business partners were happily married men, their wedding days behind them. “Only if someone brought booze.”
Harper pushed open the door, a bottle of what Calvin prayed was Kentucky bourbon in his hand. “That we did. Never fear.”
Emmett Cavanaugh’s larger-than-life frame was right behind. “We’ve all been there, Cabot. It’ll get better as soon as the vows are over.”
The last person through the door was William Sloane, impeccably dressed, his hands in his pockets and a smirk on his face. He shut the door, closing them all in. “Though I cannot see what you’re nervous about. You’ve married her once already.”
“I’m not nervous,” Calvin said. It was true. Numerous emotions tangled up inside him, mostly impatience and irritability. The money and energy being wasted on this lavish affair was obscene. Especially when, as Sloane pointed out, Calvin and Lily had been married once already. Instead, Lily had insisted on filling this church with nearly every damn person in Manhattan.
Calvin had begged for a small ceremony in front of a judge. He’d been outvoted. Rather, Lily had caught him at his most vulnerable—when they were in bed together—and cajoled him into agreeing to her plan.
Harper thrust a cut-glass tumbler into his palm. “Drink that. It’ll help.”
Calvin threw the liquid back, the smooth burn rushing to his stomach. He held up the empty glass. “Another.”
Smirking, Harper refilled the tumbler as Cavanaugh dropped onto a sofa, the furniture groaning under the weight. Sloane settled into an armchair, and Harper and Calvin followed suit. The bourbon was passed and the mood soon lightened. Though they were not the best of friends, Calvin was grateful for this group of men, men who’d always backed him up.
Sloane grimaced after a swallow. “Jesus, this stuff is terrible. I cannot see how you drink it, Harper.”
“Because I’m a farm boy at heart,” Harper said, tipping his glass at Sloane. “And I just purchased the distillery.”
“Mister Silver Spoon only drinks the finest French wine,” Cavanaugh said with a roll of his eyes. “Here I thought your wife had loosened you up, Sloane.”
Ava had indeed worked wonders on Sloane; they had all witnessed it. He was a different man these days, more thoughtful and down-to-earth. Happier.
Sloane crossed his legs and smoothed his bespoke gray morning trousers. “I haven’t strangled you yet, Cavanaugh, so I think we can all safely assume that to be true. Now, Cabot. Why the jitters?”
“Right. Newspaper man like you, I think you’d be eating up the attention,” Harper added. “Think of the papers you’ll sell.”
“Lily said my reporters would be treated just as the rest. No special favors or privileges. She wanted to keep them out of the reception altogether but I insisted.” One of the few arguments he’d won during the wedding planning.
“I thought for sure the two of you would elope again,” Cavanaugh said.
“I wanted to. Believe me, we had quite the row over it.” Which had led to a long, feverish time between the sheets. God, what a night that had been. Calvin’s cock had been imprinted with the memory.
“I understand her desire for a big wedding.” Sloane stroked his chin, thoughtful. “Last time you ran away and married only to have it explode in your faces. Doing it the right way feels like a statement to the world that you’re both committed, no matter what.”
Calvin finished the liquor, grimacing. “I see you’ve been speaking with my fiancée about it. That is precisely her reasoning.”
Sloane grinned. “I have not spoken with her but I am the smartest person in the room, so…”
“Oh, Christ,” Cavanaugh mumbled.
Harper shook his head, saying to Cavanaugh, “He does that merely to irritate you. I do not know why you even respond.”
“Boys, if we could focus, here. I am about to get married,” Calvin reminded them. “I cannot have two of my groomsmen arguing up there.”
“Where are you going on your honeymoon?” Sloane asked, changing the subject.
Calvin blinked, then noticed how the men were all staring at him expectantly. A stone settled in his stomach. “Honeymoon? We were married once already…so I thought… She never…”
Cavanaugh winced, while Harper pulled on his collar. Sloane cleared his throat. All three avoided Calvin’s gaze.
“Oh, shit.” Calvin dropped his head and rubbed his eyes with his fingers. “She is going to expect a honeymoon, isn’t she?”
“Well, perhaps not,” Harper hedged.
“Of course she is expecting a fucking honeymoon,” Cavanaugh snapped. “She’s a woman. Getting married. I don’t care if it’s for the first or fiftieth time. She will expect there to be romance and hearts and flowers. And a damn honeymoon.”
He sat up a bit straighter. “No, not Lily. She’s practical. She doesn’t need fancy trips or expensive jewels. She is grounded. Like me. She won’t care about a honeymoon.”
All three men seated around him started laughing—not a light chuckle, but a belly laugh. Sloane even wiped tears out of the corner of one eye. “You are done for, Cabot.”
Cavanaugh nudged Harper with his elbow. “Grounded. Throwing a wedding for six hundred people and she’s grounded. Practical.” He started laughing again. “Oh, God. I am so glad I agreed to be a groomsman. At least this way, I got to see you one last time before your new wife kills you.”
Irritation broke out along Calvin’s skin like hives. He shifted in his chair. These men didn’t know Lily, not like Calvin did. They assumed she was a society princess because of her wealthy upbringing. But Lily wasn’t that way. She was level-headed and reasonable. The other half of his soul.
Harper was the first to sober. “Cabot, it’s not too late. You could, I don’t know, board a boat for Paris tonight.”
A knock sounded just before Hugo, Calvin’s best friend and best man, entered. He shut the door and strode over to the sitting area, nodding at all the other men. Frowning at the now full glass of bourbon in Calvin’s hand, he said, “You sure that’s wise? If she smells that on your breath, there will be hell to pay.”
Christ, Calvin hoped so. He was counting on it.
“Hugo, do you believe Lily expects a honeymoon?”
Hugo’s eyes rounded, his jaw dropping. “You mean, you didn’t think to ask her? I assumed the two of you had agreed not to take a trip.”
Guilt wormed its way through Calvin’s gut. “She never brought it up. I…”
“It’s the groom who plans these things, Cabot,” Sloane said. “The. Groom.”
“That’s you, genius,” Cavanaugh put in sardonically.
Calvin looked up helplessly at Hugo. What should I do? Panic had him breathing hard, his heart pumping as if he’d finished a race. He lifted the tumbler to his mouth, ready to drain it, when Hugo ripped it from his grip.
“No more of this,” Hugo said, handing the glass to Sloane. “And I’ll take care of your honeymoon. I’ll arrange everything. Just go out there and get married, Cabot.”
Lily was surprisingly nervous. You’ve married him once already. Calm down. But that hadn’t lasted and here she was, pledging her troth to him again.
“Stop fidgeting,” her brother whispered. They were standing in the narthex, waiting the signal to begin down the aisle. Hundreds of New Yorkers were gathered inside the church, from the most important members of society, politicians, actors, to friends and family members. Bridesmaids were lined up ahead of them, each in a beautiful pale pink silk gown Lily had designed.
She’d overseen every detail of this wedding and reception, needing it to be perfect. Nothing could go wrong. Not this time. This wedding would be witnessed by everyone, sanctioned in a church, and celebrated by the entire city. A certain recipe for a happily-ever-after.
Cora drew closer, adjusting the sixty-foot train of Lily’s dress. “Cousin, you are breathtaking today.”
“Thank you.” Lily attempted a smile but Cora, being Cora, saw right through it.
“You look petrified.” Her cousin exchanged a look with Tom, Lily’s brother. “What is wrong?”
“I just…” Lily shook her gloved hands, trying to shake out her nerves. “I am worried we’ll end up apart again. Failing.”
“Lily,” Cora said, her face softening. “That man loves you to pieces. And I know how you feel about him. There is no chance you’ll fail this time.”
Tom placed a comforting hand on Lily’s shoulder. “Besides, our father is dead. He was the only reason it failed in the first place.”
No, that wasn’t entirely true. Their father had stirred the pot, but Calvin and Lily had allowed themselves to be torn apart. Calvin hadn’t confided in Lily, and Lily had let him walk away without chasing him down. They had both been at fault.
What guarantee was there that something similar wouldn’t happen again?
“I want to see him.”
Cora’s mouth dropped open. “What? But you said—”
“I know what I said.” She had decreed that the bride and groom would not see each other until she walked down the aisle. “I’ve changed my mind. I need to see him. Right now.”
“Right now?” Tom asked.
“Right now. Please, Tom?” Her brother stared, unmoving, indecision knitting his brows.
“You aren’t going to stop the wedding, are you?” Cora asked. “Because there are over six hundred people seated out there.”
That reminder did not help. At all.
Lily bent over, unable to breathe. “Oh, God. I need Calvin.”
Cora hurried away, a swish of silk skirts and flowers, while Tom rubbed his palm over Lily’s shoulder blades. “Breathe, Lily. Just breathe. It’ll all be fine.”
Possibly. All Lily could think of at this moment was the heartbreak of losing him. She had barely survived it the first time. It had hurt. Nearly broken her.
She would not survive it again.
Her heart thumping, Cora Hampton hurried into the church. She’d never seen Lily so pale and worried. Her strong cousin, weak with fear. Cora would do anything to ease Lily’s terror.
When she opened the heavy wooden doors, every head in the pews suddenly turned toward her.
“Where are you going?” hissed the church attendant who had helped organize the entire affair. “Wait!”
Cora did not stop, did not explain. She had only one person in her sights, and he was standing at the front of the church with the other groomsmen.
Good Lord, this aisle was certainly long. So many faces staring at her, all wondering what was happening. Speculative whispers broke out as she continued down the length of the carpet. Calvin took a step forward, concern knitting his brows. He met her at the bottom of the stairs.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” he asked quietly.
Leaning up, Cora whispered, “She wants to see you.” She felt Calvin’s body jerk in surprise, and she continued. “I think it’s nerves.”
He swallowed and nodded, his long legs eating up the distance as he strode to the rear of the church. Cora followed as quickly as her skirts would allow. Halfway down the aisle, she saw a familiar black-haired head at the end of the pew. John Drexel. Her stomach fluttered, the rush of seeing him filling her with anxiety and longing. She had adored him for so long. Unfortunately, he hardly knew she existed.
Drexel was one of the most handsome, most popular young men in New York. Both single and married women elbowed each other out of the way at parties to gain his attention. She would be shocked if he actually knew her name.
His head snapped up, his gaze locking with hers as she passed. Her breath caught at the intensity of that stare. He’s looking at me. Me, Cora Hampton.
Then his lips curved into a small smile—and Cora stumbled. Oh, no. Now I’ve gone and made a complete fool of myself. Before she could crumple to the carpet, strong hands steadied her. Glancing up, she found John Drexel a few inches away, his grip preventing her from falling. Cora’s mouth dried out. She’d never been this close to him. He’s touching me. John Drexel is touching me. Oh, sweet heaven.
“Are you all right, Miss Turner?” he asked quietly.
Miss…Turner? Embarrassment burned through her veins. He has no idea who I am. If only the floor would open up and swallow her up. Cause her to disappear.
There was only one thing left to do.
Lifting her chin, she looked him square in the eyes. “Perfectly fine, Mr. Stewart. Thank you.” Breaking free from his grip, she continued to the back of the church.
Concern had Calvin nearly running to the rear of the church. Wedding guests be damned. Lily would not ask for him, would not delay the wedding, unless something was truly amiss. Had she reconsidered? Decided he was not worth the trouble of marrying?
God knew he would not blame her.
Pulling open the heavy wooden doors, he rushed into the narthex. Bridesmaids swathed in pink were huddled off to the side. He recognized Lizzie Cavanaugh, Clara Harper, and Ava Sloane among them. Ava immediately pointed. “She’s back there, Cabot.”
He turned the corner and saw her huddled with her brother, Tom. She glanced up and he stood there, paralyzed at the sight of her in the long wedding gown. Lily. His Lily. Christ, she was beautiful. He needed to touch her. Reassure her. Because he was not leaving this building without reciting vows uniting them for eternity.
Tom clapped Calvin on the shoulder as he passed, and then he and Lily were alone. Calvin closed the distance between them, reaching up to cradle her jaw in his hands. Tears shimmered in her eyes, which worried him. This woman never cried. “My lovely Lily. What is it?”
Instead of answering, something flashed in her brown depths. “Why do you smell like bourbon? Calvin, I cannot believe—”
Before this took a predictable turn, he cut her off. “It was Harper’s idea, I swear. Now tell me what is wrong. We have six hundred guests out there and ice sculptures melting at the reception.”
She exhaled and placed her hands over his. “How do we know, Calvin? How do we know this will not end the same way?”
Every muscle unwound, loosened. She was nervous, not backing out. This he could handle. “Because we are no longer foolish kids. We’ve grown up, sweetheart. We’re both older and wiser, and not about to let dishonesty tear us apart.”
“How can you be certain? We were so in love and then I lost you…”
“And we found each other again.” He pressed his lips to her forehead, drew in the sweet smell of oranges into his nostrils. “Lily, we will always find each other. No matter where you go, no matter how far I must travel, I will chase you. I never should have let you go in the first place, and it’s not a mistake I’ll repeat.”
“I cannot go through that once more. I…I could not bear it.”
“Neither could I. That is the difference. We both remember that pain, that loss of being torn apart. I barely survived it the first time. I shall not allow it to happen again.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his knuckles, locking his gaze with hers. “I am afraid you are stuck with me until I shuffle off this mortal coil.”
She swallowed and nodded, one lone tear breaking free from her bottom lashes. He kissed it away, then pressed his forehead to her temple. “I want to marry you, Lily. Today. Right now, in front of the entire city. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. Forever.”
He smiled, love for this woman nearly bursting out of his chest. “Fine? I pour my heart out and all you can say is ‘fine?’”
“I am trying not to cry,” she snapped. “They have covered my face in cosmetics and I should not like to appear an utter hag in the photos.”
“Yes, but you are my hag.” He kissed her cheek, then nuzzled his way to her mouth. Without regard for the paint on her lips he took her mouth and poured all of his heart and soul into the kiss. Using his lips, tongue, and teeth, he attempted to waylay her fears, reassure her, and show her exactly how he felt. Her tongue met his eagerly, boldly, and they continued to stand there, with all of high society waiting, and communicate without words.
A throat cleared behind them. “Cabot, we need to begin.”
Calvin barely heard the words. Lily had started making those little noises in her throat, the ones he truly loved. He planned on hearing them every day for the rest of his life.
“Cabot, seriously. Everyone is waiting.”
A hand landed on Calvin’s shoulder. He broke off from Lily’s mouth and glanced up. Tom Davies stood there. Impatient. Where were they?
Oh, shit. The wedding. With one last brief kiss to Lily’s lips, Calvin stepped back and adjusted his clothing. Lily appeared properly mussed and bemused, her chest heaving. He loved that look on her beautiful face, the one that said she had been properly kissed by her soon-to-be husband. “Lily, get out there and marry me—or else I am coming back here and carrying you up to that altar.”
She smiled, the effect like a ray of sunshine bursting through gray clouds. The hesitancy, the unease had disappeared and she was back to her bossy, take-charge self. “Hurry, Calvin. The sooner we get married, the sooner we may start our honeymoon.”
He nearly tripped at the words as he hurried to the front of the church. His words were a plea sent up to the heavens: Please, let Hugo have figured out my honeymoon.
A thick, bare leg slid between hers, rousing her from their “nap.” Lily sighed, happier than any woman ought to be. But they were here, married. Again.
“I know you are awake,” his deep voice said behind her. “I can tell by your breathing.”
“I am exhausted, is what I am. For a man in his thirties you are remarkably energetic. Even more so than the first time we were here.”
He had surprised her with his choice of honeymoon location. She had expected Paris or London. Rome. Some place far away from the pressures and reminders of Manhattan. Chicago, even, since he had a newspaper there. Yet they were back at Hotel Fauchère in the Poconos, the same place they’d spent their first honeymoon.
She had been so touched that she’d cried when they had arrived.
He tweaked her nipple. “I am in my late twenties, as you well know. And I’ll never tire of having you, Lily. Never.” His erection nudged her backside, as if to prove his point.
“You say that now. Wait until I have produced a child or two. Then you shall change your mind.”
His hands slid down to her stomach. He groaned and rolled his hips, thrusting against her and stealing her breath. “Christ, the idea of you carrying our child drives me insane. You aren’t yet, are you?”
They had never discussed children, but she could tell he was fond of the idea. “No, though not from a lack of effort on your part.”
Clever fingers parted her legs and teased the very heart of her, spreading wetness over the tiny bundle of nerves at the top of her sex. He rubbed in circles, heat spreading over her entire body, sparks erupting in each cell. “I want to come inside you,” he whispered in her ear. “Deep inside you. I want to fill up every part of you.”
Her lids grew heavy, sweeping down, as he continued to drive her out of her mind. Before he did, however, she had to tell him something. “Calvin, wait…”
“Hmm?” One finger penetrated her, stretching her entrance. “God, you are so wet. So hot. Give me your nails, sweetheart. Show me how much you want me.”
Without thinking, she brought her hand to his backside. Dug in her nails. Hard. He grunted and shoved his cock between them. “Fuck. I need you from behind this time. Up, Lily.”
Quickly he positioned her on her hands and knees, lined up, and drove home. She was primed, ready to take him, the slickness guiding his way, and they both moaned at the incredible feeling. He filled her in the best way, his body surrounding her inside and out. His hands cupped her breasts as he thrust in and out, the thick ridge of his penis gliding across her sensitive tissues.
It was much too soon when a coiling started in her belly, muscles clenching and drawing tighter. Calvin could tell, his pace increasing as he reached between them to tease her clitoris once more. “That’s it, beautiful. Hurry.”
She peaked, the orgasm rushing over her and scattering her in a million pieces. Calvin gasped, his hips beginning to stutter, and she could feel the hot release deep in her womb. He shuddered and clutched her hips, holding her still, as if he never wanted to let her go.
Which was more than fine with her.
She wriggled against him, and he trembled. “Sensitive,” he rasped and then slid out of her. He dropped to the mattress with a thud. “God damn, you wreck me.”
She placed her cheek on his damp chest, her fingers playing with the trail of dark hair leading down from his abdomen to his groin. “You did all the work that time, husband.”
He hummed. “I’ll never tire of hearing you call me that, Mrs. Cabot.”
“I love you.” She pressed a kiss to his shoulder.
“And I love you, my lovely Lily.” He tilted her chin with a finger so he could capture her mouth. After a long and intense kiss involving tongue, he pulled back. “You have made me incredibly happy.”
“Good, though I haven’t yet given you your wedding present.”
“Present? We were supposed to get each other presents?” Panic laced his words, his shoulders lifting off the bed, so she soothed him with her hand on his chest.
“No, we did not need to buy presents for each other. I wanted to give you something, however. Something you have been contemplating but haven’t bought, likely because of the price.” Her husband was notoriously frugal with money, his upbringing one of willful poverty thanks to missionary parents.
He stiffened. “What have you done, Lily?”
“I bought you a newspaper. The Boston Dispatch.”
His jaw worked a moment but no sound actually came out of his mouth. “I…I had no idea it was for sale.”
It hadn’t been. She had made the owner, a friend of the family, a ridiculously large offer. “It is a marvelous publication. Just needs your special touch to turn itself around.”
“Ah, I see. So when you said I had been contemplating buying it, you did not mean the Dispatch. You were talking about the San Francisco Digest, which I have been eyeing for some time now.”
“Let’s not split hairs. You were thinking of buying another paper. So I chose one for you.”
“One in Boston, to keep me closer to New York.”
Was she that transparent? “Oh, is it? I hadn’t even thought of that.”
He chuckled, his ribs expanding under her cheek. “You cannot fool me, wife.”
Lily propped her chin on his shoulder and looked at him through her lashes. “I like you closer to home. Especially when we start a family.”
Something primitive and territorial glittered in his gaze. “Which will be when, exactly?”
She raked her nails down his chest, her own primitive and territorial gesture. “I am hoping nine months from now.”
“Well then,” he growled, rolling her over onto her back. “We had better get started on that right away.”