Thank you all so much for reading MAGNATE, the first full-length book in The Knickerbocker Club series. I hope you all enjoyed Lizzie and Emmett’s story!
This scene takes place not long after the end of the published book. I was curious as to how Lizzie and Emmett would balance their careers with their marriage. After all, not many married men had this problem in those days.
I should note, if you haven’t read MAGNATE yet, you should stop right here! Read MAGNATE first…otherwise it’s cheating.
A large rough hand swept over Lizzie’s thigh, a wall of heat suddenly behind her. “Are you awake?” His voice was soft and low as if he might let her continue to sleep if she preferred. For all his bluster and bark, her husband was, deep down, a caring, thoughtful man.
Just one of the many surprises Lizzie had discovered about Emmett Cavanaugh since they reconciled on the train.
Most had been pleasant surprises, like his need to touch her constantly in private. Nothing intrusive, but he constantly took her elbow, put a hand to her back, or stroked the side of her throat—a small show of affection to keep them connected. She loved this generous, doting side of him, so at odds with his public persona. Privately, he was sweet and tender, a natural caregiver.
Nevertheless, he could also be possessive and demanding. Lizzie had a mind of her own, a career of her own, which he’d known when he married her. He had no one to blame but himself; after all, he’d financed her brokerage firm in the first place. However, he did prefer to get his way in all things.
His fingers turned bold, slipping between her legs, and she held her breath, waiting. “I know you’re awake. You can stop pretending.”
A small smile curved her lips. “I’m not pretending. I’m anticipating. There’s a difference.”
The calloused pad of his finger brushed over her folds, tracing and testing the wetness there. They’d only been back from Chicago for five days, and it seemed they could not get enough of each other. Perhaps it was the babe, or that he insisted they always sleep naked. Perhaps it was having no more secrets between them. Whatever the reason, their lovemaking had been both frequent and intense since their return.
She shifted and let her leg fall open, allowing him better access, and her arm wound around his neck. Lips nibbled her shoulder, the scratch of his morning whiskers causing a shiver to race through her. His erection pressed into her backside, and she rubbed against him, seeking, grinding his shaft between them. His resulting growl thrilled her.
And still, he teased. Never committing to one spot long enough to give her any lasting pleasure. He clearly wanted slow while she needed him now. Needed him filling her fast and deep, as only he could.
He smiled into her throat. “Emmett please, what?”
Oh, that was his aim this morning, to have her begging for him, mindless with desire to the point where she spewed improper demands from her lips. Her husband loved to hear her be forthright with her pleasure. In fact, nothing caused him to lose control faster.
So she told him in explicit detail what to do with his hands, with his tongue. He rewarded her by taking direction and adding some moves of his own. After she’d come twice, words were impossible, even when he finally slipped inside her and pumped his hips until a third orgasm followed. He soon shouted, his muscles quivering as he poured himself into her.
He flopped down onto the feather bed, his chest heaving with exertion. Lizzie pushed her damp and tangled hair out of her face just as Emmett dragged her to his side. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, his hand caressing her spine.
“No.” She threw an arm over him. “Of course not. And you can stop worrying. Even your brother said you cannot hurt the baby when we are intimate.”
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “I know, but perhaps as you grow bigger we should—”
“Should, what?” Lizzie pulled back to find his eyes clouded with concern. “Wrap me in cotton and set me in the attic until the baby’s born? Emmett, women have been giving birth for thousands of years. I will be fine.”
He didn’t say anything, the lines on his forehead deepening, and she knew what had him worried. Her own mother had died in childbirth when Lizzie was a young girl, a tragedy that resulted in the loss of Caroline Sloane and the baby she’d carried.
Lizzie cupped her husband’s cheek and held his gaze to impart as much confidence as she could muster. “Brendan assures me there’s nothing to be concerned over. It is not hereditary.”
Emmett swallowed, his thick throat working, and then he rolled to face her, bringing his forehead to rest on hers. She closed her eyes and breathed in his familiar scent: soap, leather, and cigar. “I cannot lose you,” he whispered in a raw, aching voice so unlike his normally confident and brash tone. “I won’t survive it, Elizabeth.”
That this strong mountain of a man could ever crumble seemed impossible, but she understood his fears. If something ever happened to him she would feel the exact same. “I will be fine, but I need you to love me. Don’t pull away because you feel I am too fragile. I’m not fragile.”
“No, I don’t suppose you are,” he said with a small chuckle before kissing her sweetly.
When they broke apart, she sat up and eased off the bed. Once on her feet, she slipped her arms into her silk wrapper.
“Where are you going?”
“Downtown. Today is Monday, after all.” Her office was near the exchange, and trading would begin in a short while.
Emmett levered off the mattress, his brows lowering. “Don’t go to your office. Stay here with me. We can go swimming and then have lunch together.”
“I must. There are a hundred things waiting for me, especially after that newspaper feature.” Her secretary had been in touch while Lizzie had been traveling, and the number of inquiries and interest in Lizzie’s firm had exploded recently.
“But I want you near. There’s no reason for you to go all the way down to your office. Work tomorrow instead.”
His near-pout would be adorable if this weren’t such an important issue. She tied her wrapper tighter and tried to keep her voice calm. “You’ve had me to yourself for nearly three weeks. Now I need to get to work.”
“You don’t need to work, Elizabeth. It’s not as if we need the money—”
Anger blazed in her chest, a white-hot poker behind her sternum, and she spun on her heel and marched to her dressing room. Lips pressed tightly, she jerked on the bell pull to ring for her maid.
Emmett strolled in, tying his own dressing gown closed. She ignored him and continued vigorously brushing her hair, working out her frustration on the long strands.
“Why did you walk out?”
Was he serious? “You’re a smart man. I’m confident you’ll figure it out.”
“This is about your office. About working today.”
“Not just today, Emmett. This is about working every day. I want to do this, not just as a silly hobby. I need you to support me in this.”
“I do support you; I’ve done nothing but support you. However, I do not think it’s unreasonable to ask for you to spend time with me instead of going downtown.”
Unreasonable, no. Unrealistic, perhaps. “Tell me, were you planning on working today?”
“Of course. I’m certain Colin is cataloging the most pressing disasters requiring my attention as we speak.”
“So, you plan to work, while I twiddle my thumbs awaiting whatever scraps of free time you can throw me?”
The edges of his mouth turned down, the picture of an unhappy husband. “I do not treat you like a dog, Elizabeth.”
“No, but you also do not treat me as an equal. You think your work is important and mine is…trivial.” She placed her brush on the glass dresser top and took a deep breath. “What you’ve forgotten is that several people have given me their money and savings to invest for them. While you might not need the money I provide, they certainly do.”
“Those people—your clients—do not care that you are carrying my child and running hurdy-gurdy through the streets of Gotham. I, however, care a great deal.”
The baby. She should have known he would bring this discussion around to the topic of their offspring once again. Part of her couldn’t fault him for worrying; even excluding her mother’s death, Emmett had lost his own mother after Brendan’s accident, then Claire and Katie’s mother had died a few years later. Mothers did not survive long in his experience.
But Lizzie was neither of those women. She had no plans on leaving or dying, and Emmett needed to stop treating her as if she were a fragile creature, or one too weak to know her own mind. Furthermore, he needed to respect her choices, even the ones that took her away from him a few hours every day.
“If I weren’t expecting, would you have still asked me to stay home?”
He threw up his hands, his head falling back so he could curse at the ceiling. “Jesus, I have no idea. Yes? No?” He found her gaze and held it. “What difference would that make? You are expecting.”
“True, but I suspect our child is an excuse. I do not think you realize how important my brokerage firm is to me.”
“That’s ridiculous. The firm was important enough for you to seek me out against your brother’s wishes. How could I possibly forget? I am merely asking you to put me and our family before your firm.”
Lizzie ground her teeth together. Was he suggesting she didn’t prioritize him? That their family would suffer because of her attention on the company? That she couldn’t be a mother, a wife, and a stockbroker all at one time? She had to make him see reason. “What about East Coast Steel? Do I come before your company?”
“They are hardly the same. I have thousands of employees—not to mention this family—who depend on East Coast. I have no choice but to get out of bed every day and keep the business thriving. You have one secretary and a handful of clients, most of whom you’re friends with or related to. I think they would understand if you decided to take one day off.”
She gasped, so outraged that it literally stole her breath. This condescension and pigheadedness were absolutely horrendous. Untenable. He honestly did not understand why this was so important to her. This realization made her both sad and furious. Hadn’t he listened to her at all these past few weeks?
A quick knock on the door sounded and then her maid, Pauline, entered. Her eyes took in the tense scene before her and she shrank back. “Oh, excuse me, madam. Would you like me to return later?”
“No,” Lizzie told her, never taking her eyes off her stubborn husband. “Mr. Cavanaugh was just leaving and I need to get downtown.”
Emmett tapped his fingers on his desk. He should be reviewing the shipping agreement in front of him, as the steel in Pittsburgh wouldn’t sail itself to Florida, but his brain was stuck upstairs in Elizabeth’s sitting room. What the hell had happened this morning?
He’d merely wanted more time together. How could that have angered her? Yes, he could have prettied up his request, he supposed, but if she required pretty words… Well, she’d married the wrong man for that. A knot had settled in his stomach since she’d stormed out of the mansion two hours ago. She will return. He blew out a long breath, trying to relieve his anxiety. It didn’t help.
“Do you need your reading glasses?” Colin asked from across the room.
Emmett realized he’d been staring at the same sheet of paper for ages. His head shot up and he pinned his secretary with a look. “I don’t have reading glasses.” A lie. He had glasses in his desk drawer for late nights, but he’d be damned if he’d pull them out at eleven o’clock in the morning.
“Of course,” Colin said, blinking innocently behind his round spectacles. “Perhaps you’d like to try mine, then?”
“There’s nothing wrong with my damn eyes. And why aren’t you working? I don’t need you to hover today.”
“I am working, and I desperately need you to sign that agreement you’re currently frowning over. Would you like me to read—”
“No,” Emmett snapped. “Christ, Colin. I’m not a fucking invalid. Have you read the agreement?”
Colin nodded. “Yes. It’s standard and they agreed to your upfront stipulations. Your lawyers have all signed as well.”
“Fine.” Emmett snatched his pen from the holder on his desk, flipped to the last page, and scrawled his signature on the appropriate line. He tossed the document to the edge of his desk. “There. Now, where is that—”
The door flew open and Brendan, Emmett’s brother, came into the office, leaning heavily on the cane in one hand. “Good morning, brother. Colin. How is everyone this fine day?”
“Run for your life,” Colin said, sotto voce in Brendan’s direction.
Emmett glowered but Brendan just laughed. “Oh, it’s like that, is it? Well, I’ll brave the beast in his lair, if he can spare the time.”
“You two are a goddamned riot. Colin, take a walk. I need a few minutes with my brother.”
Colin hurried out and Emmett leaned back in his chair. “You are in an excellent mood. Could it have something to do with the fact that you were out all night? That’s the third time since I returned from Chicago. Who is she?”
Brendan dropped into a chair and rested his cane against Emmett’s desk. Eyes twinkling, he said, “A gentleman never tells. You know that.”
“Since I’m not a gentleman, I couldn’t say. Is it serious?”
“Em, I love you dearly but I refuse to tell you. I do not need you playing overprotective and sometimes judgmental big brother until it’s absolutely necessary. Now, I’d much rather talk about your love life. Was that my sister-in-law leaving in a huff as I returned this morning?”
“Why is it fine to meddle in my life, but I cannot meddle in yours?”
Brendan choked on a laugh, the bastard. “Are you serious? All you do is meddle in my life. As well as Katie and Claire’s. And I only meddle because I love you and Lizzie dearly. So tell me what happened.”
“I asked her to stay home today.”
Brendan mulled that over, his gaze searching Emmett’s face as if gathering clues. “I don’t understand,” he said at last. “That hardly seems a reason for a lover’s quarrel.”
“Exactly. The whole thing was blown out of proportion.”
“That does not sound like Lizzie. She’s calmer than you. More even-keeled. A much pleasanter person, actually.”
“Fuck you,” Emmett returned, though every word was true. Elizabeth was the best of women and he thanked his luck each day that they were married.
Brendan merely laughed, taking no offense. “You know I’m right. There must be more to this. Tell me precisely what you said.”
Emmett sighed but did as asked. Perhaps his brother could help Emmett make sense of what had occurred. “She said I don’t take her investment firm seriously, that she could not just laze about all day waiting for me to finish working.”
“Now we are getting somewhere. Allow me to guess: You told her she doesn’t need to work.”
“I might have. But it’s true—she doesn’t.”
“Oh, God. Emmett, how many times have I explained to you that some of us like to work, whether we need to or not?”
“While I’ve never understood it, I’ve respected your choice. Hell, you’re out saving lives each day. But Elizabeth can miss one opportunity to move other people’s money around. There will be others.”
“What happens when you ask her to stay home tomorrow? Or the day after?”
“I didn’t ask anything of the sort. I’m not asking her to stay home indefinitely. Just today.” I wanted her near, where I could hear her laugh and smell her perfume. Where I could drag her off to a deserted room this afternoon and slip my hands under her skirts.
Brendan didn’t bother hiding the smirk from his face. “You’re besotted. Never thought it would happen, but I am enjoying your discomfort as you muddle your way through this marriage.”
“Get out, Brendan.” He reached for the stack of papers Colin had organized earlier in order of importance. “I have work to do.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll stop.” His brother actually appeared contrite, so Emmett decided to give Brendan another chance. “Listen, Em. Lizzie’s had any number of people try to stop her from running this investment firm. You are supposed to understand, to support her in anything she wants to do. Not prevent her from succeeding.”
“How does asking her to stay home for one goddamned day prevent her from succeeding? I’ve done nothing but support her and this investment firm. I’m bankrolling the entire thing!”
“Which, if you ask me, might be part of why she is eager to get to work. Lizzie wants to make a go of this to prove she can, to prove she can pay back your investment. It adds pressure on her to succeed.”
“She never needs to pay me back, and all I wanted was to keep her close for a little while longer.”
Brendan said nothing for a moment and scratched his cheek thoughtfully. “Is this about the baby?”
Emmett clenched his jaw and considered lying. Unfortunately, his brother would know. “Perhaps. I admit to being nervous, both about her overtaxing herself and what could happen when she walks out of the front door. But I won’t stop her from living her life.”
“As if you could,” Brendan muttered then grew serious. “Em, most women I see downtown work in the household right up until the baby’s birth. Most are up within a day or two after, going back to their routines. It may not be ideal, but their health does not suffer, nor does the baby’s.”
Emmett’s breath seized in his lungs. “I do not want her working that soon after giving birth.”
Brendan held up a hand. “I’m not saying she will. What I mean is that, biologically, women were designed to do this. There’s so much we don’t know about childbirth, but women have been carrying on capably for thousands of years. Let Lizzie determine what she can and cannot handle.”
“I’ve had this conversation with her—just this morning, in fact. I agreed not to worry or, as she said, wrap her in cotton for the last few months of her pregnancy.”
“Ha! I adore your wife. Too bad she met the surly Cavanaugh brother first.”
“I’ll show you surly. Perhaps we need a boxing ring in the house.”
Brendan grinned and pointed to his knee. “Bad leg, remember? Now that we’ve discussed the baby yet again, there’s only one issue remaining. What will you do to prove to Lizzie that you respect her dream of running an investment firm?”
By the time Lizzie’s carriage rolled up Fifth Avenue, the light had long faded, leaving behind a city bathed in the yellow glow of electric lamps. Lizzie sighed and placed a hand on her corset-covered abdomen. “Your daddy is a fool sometimes, little one,” she whispered.
Weariness weighed her down, both from the earlier argument with Emmett and the busy day. Four new clients today, plus another newspaper interview and tens of messages to return. Despite the hectic pace, however, she’d loved every minute. The numbers, the predictions, the rush of seeing the stocks climb… She did not want to give that up.
She’d been so sure that Emmett understood her. That she’d married the one man capable of supporting her endeavor, who wouldn’t be humiliated or ashamed of his wife’s brokerage firm. How could she have misjudged him so severely? Turned out he preferred her to stay home, knitting or embroidering, while he went out to conquer the world.
No, absolutely not. Lizzie was not that wife, not that type of woman.
Most ladies were thrilled to shop all day. Perhaps take a stroll in the park, and lunch with friends at a café. Lizzie did not think less of them for it; those were the women she’d known all her life. But was it so wrong, so inconceivable, for a woman to do more?
Indeed, Emmett would need to accept Lizzie’s determination to succeed on Wall Street, whether he liked it or not.
The wheels slowed as the mansion loomed ahead. Large and daunting, the structure reminded her of its owner. When they stopped, Kelly jumped down and opened her door. “Thank you, Kelly.”
“You’re welcome, ma’am.” He tipped his hat, then leaned in. “Give ‘im hell, missus.”
She smothered a smile. Though Kelly was her husband’s oldest and most trusted friend, he made no secret of his unwavering support for Lizzie. “We shall see. I’m tired tonight. I think I need a bath and then my bed.”
The front door opened. She expected to see Graham, their butler, but found her husband instead. So much for waiting to speak with him. Stomach fluttering, Lizzie started up the walk, ready to put this confrontation behind her so she could find her bed.
Apprehension lurked in his brown eyes, his posture rigid. He’s nervous. Her heart started to soften, which was unthinkable considering her mood a few moments ago, so she straightened her spine and marched forward. Let him be nervous. He’d hurt her terribly this morning.
“Good evening.” He stepped back to allow her room. “I trust you had a nice day.”
“Yes, I did, thank you.” She reached to unpin her small hat. “I would have been here sooner but another newspaper reporter wished to speak with me.”
A genuine smile erupted on his face. “Elizabeth, that is wonderful.”
She concentrated on removing her gloves. Was his enthusiasm forced? A few hours ago, he hadn’t taken her company seriously. Had he experienced an epiphany in the last nine hours?
“They plan to run the article two days from now. So let’s hope it attracts new clients. Now, I really need supper and a bath. If you’ll excuse me—”
“Wait!” He put a gentle hand on her arm. “Please, do not retire just yet. I have something I need to show you.”
“Can it wait? My feet are killing me.”
“No, but I promise it won’t take long. Please?” He paused, searching her face, his expression tentative and worried, and her heart flipped over. How could she deny this man, one she loved so desperately?
“Fine, but quickly. I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast.”
“Graham!” Emmett bellowed, and Lizzie cringed, covering her ears.
Like an apparition, Graham appeared from the shadows. “Yes, sir?”
“Have supper brought upstairs for Mrs. Cavanaugh. And have her maid draw a bath. She’ll be along shortly.”
Graham nodded and disappeared to relay the master’s wishes. “Thank you,” she told her husband. “Now, what did you want me to see?”
“Close your eyes.”
“Emmett, I’m not in the mood for games.” Besides exhausted, she was hungry, irritated, and heartsick. She did not feel up to shenanigans this evening. “Please just explain and be done with it?”
“No. Close your eyes. I can outlast you, considering I’m well-rested and fed.” Sighing dramatically, she did as he asked. His hand covered hers and he began tugging her into the house.
The mansion had an endless supply of rooms. On the first floor, two small reception rooms flanked the front door, each with a larger formal salon attached to it. A long picture gallery ran behind the main stairs, with the dining room on one side and a billiard room on the other. Behind the picture gallery stood Emmett’s office and a massive library. She could sense they were headed toward the picture gallery.
“Are you peeking?”
“No,” she answered honestly. “I’m too tired.”
Her feet shuffled along next to his confident strides, his large hand never letting go of hers. She loved his hands, with his long fingers and calloused, toughened skin. The veins that protruded under the golden skin on the top side. A working man’s hands. So unlike the men of her set, who wore gloves to keep their hands soft and pristine.
And what those hands could do to her body…
She tripped over her feet and Emmett grabbed her shoulders to keep her from falling. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Keep going.” Keep going before I forget my anger and pull you down to the gallery floor.
Another minute later, he opened a door. Carpet snagged under her shoes, but she wasn’t sure where they were. His office? It smelled of fresh paint and lavender.
“Open your eyes.”
She lifted her lids—and gasped. Her eyes couldn’t take it all in. Was this the library? Shifting, she turned in a slow circle to now see an office. A very familiar office. “Emmett, I don’t understand. It looks exactly like…”
“Like your office on Beaver Street? It should. I had it copied down to the paint color and the rugs.”
“But what happened to the library? The books and bookcases?”
He slipped his hands into his trouser pockets. “I had them removed. The books are stacked in one of the unused bedrooms upstairs. You may put the library wherever you wish. I wanted to give you your own office, and selfishly I wanted you near me.”
Even the furniture was remarkably similar. Stock ticker, telephone. Telegraph with pencils and paper. Her secretary’s desk was almost the same, positioned to the right of Lizzie’s, just as they had arranged it downtown.
The transformation was staggering. He’d given her not only an office but her exact office. Here in the house. Next to his. Did this mean he didn’t want her traveling to Beaver Street any longer?
“All the electric is live. We tested the equipment earlier. The paint’s still a bit wet, though. It’ll be dry tomorrow.”
“How did you accomplish this all in one day?”
“There were between twenty-five and thirty workmen in here today. Everyone received bonuses if the work was completed before you arrived home.”
The sweetness of the gesture overwhelmed her. Leave it to her husband to move mountains in a few short hours. But what did this all mean?
“I am…shocked. I cannot believe you did this for me.”
“Of course,” he said quickly. “I want you to have the best, Elizabeth. You deserve to have whatever you need. If there’s anything you want to change—”
“No, it’s perfect. Thank you.”
A dark brown brow lifted. “However…?”
He could read her so well. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say with this gesture. Am I supposed to close up my office on Beaver Street? Because being closer to the exchange means I get stock changes that much more quickly.”
“I am aware of that. But the telephone will serve you well here. You’ll get the numbers just as quickly by using it.” The lines on his forehead deepened. “I’m not trying to force you out of Beaver Street. You can use that office for as long as you like. In giving you your own space in the house, it’s my hope that you’ll feel comfortable working here every now and again.”
“But not every day?”
He frowned and locked gazes with her. “Not every day. I know you prefer to be close to the exchange. Some days, though, it would be nice if you prefer to be close to me.”
The tenderness and vulnerability in his voice tore her heart in two. He’d gone to all this effort, giving her a working space of her own. An office where she could oversee her interests, interests she’d worried he hadn’t respected a few hours ago. It was incredibly sweet, and she was touched both by the gesture and the sentiment.
Stepping forward, she wrapped her arms around his middle and rested her cheek on his silk vest. He immediately enveloped her in his arms, holding her tight to his chest. He kissed the top of her head and said into her hair, “I apologize for this morning. I never meant to imply that I want you to stop working or that I’m embarrassed over your company. Quite the opposite, in fact. I couldn’t be more proud, Elizabeth.”
Her insides melted, a rush of affection and warmth flooding her, and she sagged into him. “I…” She found herself at a loss for words, as often happened when this formidable man revealed his heart to her. She squeezed him tighter. “Thank you,” she finally said. “I love the office, and I love you for making this happen.”
He tipped her chin up with his fingers and lowered his head so their faces were close. “Never think I do not love you for who you are or that I want to change you into someone else. I married a feisty stockbroker from Washington Square. You are unlike any other woman in New York—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“The same goes for you, husband. I married a former hooligan from Five Points who now runs one of the world’s biggest empires. I wouldn’t have you any other way.” She kissed the divot in his chin. “Except perhaps naked.”
His brows shot up. “Is that so? I thought you were tired.”
She shook her head and hooked a finger into his waistband, pulling him toward the door. “Not that tired. Come take a bath with me.”
He grinned and started following her. “If I say yes, will you work from here tomorrow?”
“Emmett,” she groaned. “You are relentless.”
“Hooligans do not acquire empires by giving up, my dear wife.” Bending, he scooped her up and began carrying her into the hallway. “They take what they want and damn the consequences.”
She dragged her nose along his jaw, breathing in his scent. “Well, my former hooligan is allowed to take me upstairs and ravish me. Conversations about tomorrow will have to wait.”