Home > The Bride Goes Rogue (The Fifth Avenue Rebels #3)

The Bride Goes Rogue (The Fifth Avenue Rebels #3)
Author: Joanna Shupe


Chapter One



August, 1895


It was a fine day to ambush a fiancé.

Well, perhaps ambush was too strong a word, Katherine Delafield thought as she carefully descended from the hack to the street. She hadn’t contacted him beforehand or made an appointment with his secretary, but certainly he would make time for her. While Preston Clarke was a busy man, with his many properties, he and Katherine were betrothed.

Clutching her journal, she made her way toward the tall building bearing her fiancé’s name. They hadn’t seen each other since a brief introduction a year ago during the season. It wasn’t until after said introduction when her father informed her about the betrothal agreement between her and Preston. Years ago, when Henry Clarke and Lloyd Delafield were still business partners, they decided their only children would wed once they were of age.

This hadn’t come as much of a surprise, as Katherine always expected her father would choose her husband. That was how most marriages worked in their world. What had surprised her, however, was how much she was looking forward to being Preston’s wife.

She could still remember spying his tall and striking form across a ballroom, a giant warrior in a sea of bland and banal. With his windswept hair falling over his brow, he’d laughed at something one of his friends said, and she watched his smile transform his face from stern into breathtakingly handsome.

From then on she’d looked for mention of him everywhere. Followed the progress of his company. She even learned the names of his mistresses. At first, she hadn’t minded waiting on him to announce the betrothal. But Katherine was more than ready now, and Daddy was tired of fielding her questions about when and where this marriage would take place. He finally urged her to visit Preston and iron out all the details.

This was not a hardship. Details were among her favorite things.

Now inside the ornate lobby, she gave a polite nod to the elevator operator. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m here to see Mr. Clarke.”

“Ah, then you’re going to the top floor, miss.” He closed the iron door and started the lift. “Gets visitors all day long, Mr. Clarke does. None as pretty as you, though.”

“That’s very kind of you, thank you.” She supposed she would be seeing a lot of the building employees in the years to come. “What is your name, sir?”

“Reginald, miss.”

“Nice to meet you, Reginald. I am Miss Delafield. Soon to be Mrs. Clarke.”

His brows shot straight up. “Well, now! Congratulations. I wasn’t told he was getting married.”

“Oh, there’s been an understanding between our families for years. I’m here today to work out the details.”

“Then I wish you luck. He could use a little sunshine in his life, if you ask my opinion. Never seen a man scowl so much.”

Poor Preston. She sensed that he worked very hard. She would change all that once they were married and settled.

They stopped and she waved goodbye, then headed toward the office with Preston’s name on it. When she opened the door, a secretary looked up from behind her desk. There was a man sitting in one of the chairs in the anteroom, likely waiting for an appointment with Preston, and he stood politely at Katherine’s arrival.

“How may I help you, dear?” the secretary asked. “Are you lost?”

No doubt Katherine looked out of place here. She tried for a bright smile. “No, I’m here to see Mr. Clarke.”

The older woman blinked. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No, but he’ll want to see me.”

“Mr. Clarke has a full schedule today, miss. Perhaps we could put you down for next week?”

Oh, no. Next week would not do. She had decided they would do this today, so today it would be.

“Please tell him his fiancée is here.”

The secretary’s mouth dropped open. “I beg your pardon, but did you say . . . ?”

“Yes, fiancée. Miss Katherine Delafield.”


That was happening a lot today. “Yes. He will want to see me.”

“Oh, I have no doubt,” the secretary said, the edge of her mouth kicking up. “Would you care to wait? He’s just finishing up with a meeting. However, I should be able to slide you in before his next appointment.”

Katherine glanced at the man already waiting. “But wasn’t he here first?”

“Mr. Vance won’t mind letting you go in ahead of him. Will you, Mr. Vance?”

“Have I a choice?” Mr. Vance asked, frowning.

“No, not if you want to be seen at some point today.”

Mr. Vance huffed and went back to his reading. Katherine assumed the secretary knew best, so she nodded. “That would be lovely. Thank you, Mrs. . . . ?”

“Cohen, dear. It’s Mrs. Cohen.”

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cohen. By the way, I love your dress. That color is very becoming on you.”

Mrs. Cohen softened and gave her a wide smile. “Aren’t you the sweetest thing? Please, have a seat.”

Settling in the empty chair, Katherine placed her journal on her lap and tapped the cover with her fingers. Once this meeting was done, she had a hundred tasks awaiting her in regard to the wedding. Hopefully, she and Preston could come to an agreement on most of the bigger decisions today.

A loud conversation began drifting through the closed door. Katherine wasn’t typically an eavesdropper, but she could hardly prevent herself from overhearing it.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Clarke. I . . . I cannot lose my home. Where will we go?”

“That is not my problem,” another man, clearly Preston, snapped. “You gambled away all your money, took out a loan and used the deed as collateral. When you couldn’t pay the bank back, I bought the deed, fair and square. If you have an issue with any of that, take it up with Gotham First National Savings and Loan.”

“The bank told me to talk to you!”

“I am not running a charity, Mr. Harris. This is a business.”

A heavy feeling settled in Katherine’s stomach. Mrs. Cohen continued working, while the man in the chair next to her focused on a stack of papers, both seemingly unbothered by the conversation. Was this sort of thing a usual occurrence around here?

“My family has nowhere else to go,” Mr. Harris was saying. “Does that even matter to you?”

Katherine held her breath. Dear God. This was terrible. Did Preston not feel even a tiny bit of compassion for this man and his family?

She couldn’t hear her fiancé’s response, but the door quickly opened to reveal an older man in an ill-fitting brown suit. He shouted, “I hope all that money keeps you warm at night,” over his shoulder just before slamming the door shut and storming out.

Mrs. Cohen rose and nodded at Katherine. “I’ll see if he’s ready for you, Miss Delafield.”

Katherine tried to calm her racing heart and forget what she’d overheard. Preston had a reputation as a ruthless businessman, but perhaps she could soften those rough edges over time.

“Miss Delafield,” Mrs. Cohen said a minute later from the open office doorway. “Mr. Clarke will see you now.”

Katherine stood and smoothed her skirts, then bit her lips for color. Her friend Nellie claimed this made one’s smile appear brighter. Pushing her shoulders back, Katherine walked into Preston’s office.

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