They met for the first time during a boring party, as couples have from time immemorial.
This particular meeting, however, was perhaps less conventional than most, involving as it did Willoughby bursting into Sophia’s uncle’s library and collapsing against the door, only to gradually realise that he had interrupted a clinch of passion in the shadow of one of the bookcases.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, attempting a courtly tip of his hat, only to remember that it had been knocked off in the flight from an over-zealous creditor possessed of the gall to beard his debtor in the incongruous surroundings of a glittering society gathering.
“Who are you?” Sophia asked bluntly, putting a reassuring hand on Jane’s arm. This fellow was clearly not a respected member of society. He would not be believed if he dared to tell a wild story of an heiress and her companion locked in a wild, sinful, Hellsfire-damned kiss.
Willoughby laughed. “I mean you no harm.” He regarded them with interest. “Do that again.”
In later days, society’s tongues would wag, as they pondered with incomprehension the pretty puzzle of the beautiful heiress and her penniless scalawag of a husband. He was forever getting caught in other women’s beds, and money flowed through his fingers like water. What had Sophia seen in him?
Sophia and Jane, however, knew that he was funny, interesting, and willing – nay, eager – to do anything they liked in the bedroom (or, alternatively, to take himself elsewhere while they joyed in themselves). His outside adventures did not inconvenience them, and the bulk of Sophia’s money was safely tied up beyond his temptation. He made them laugh, and he did not make them cry.
And the three of them lived cheerfully ever after.