Some Like It Scandalous – Maya Rodale

Miss Daisy Swan was not pretty. In the unlikely event that there was any doubt, her peers—fellow children of Manhattan’s four hundred finest families—took it upon themselves to point out that hers was not a face that would launch one ship, let alone a thousand. Her nose was a trifle too large, her eyes a smidge too close together, and her mouth unfashionable. At present she was a gawky, ungainly girl of thirteen, with all the despair, yearning, and awkwardness that came with it. Yet Daisy harbored hope that one day she would become a woman who made the world look twice at her—in a good way—and want to know more. While the other children in her social set played a rambunctious game of tag in the park, Daisy took a seat under the shade of a tree and did her best not to draw attention to herself. She had procured a copy of Wells’s Principles and Applications of Chemistry, which lay open upon her lap, and which she was currently pretending to read. In fact, she was eavesdropping on the nearby cluster of governesses and thinking her peers were fools to be running around rather than getting this crash course on the trials and tribulations of womanhood. Their conversation included what to do about rakes and mashers who accosted one on the streets (a swift jab of a hat pin did the trick) and there were skin problems to solve, gripes about one’s time of the month, fashions to discuss, and debates about whether or not to rent one of those new apartments downtown. Oh, and the gossip! Who was handsy, who was having an illicit affair, who drank too much or worse. Daisy barely knew about being a girl, but she was learning all about being a woman. She spared a glance for her fellow children running around in the blazing sun, ruining their complexions, and playing silly games when this was where the real action and drama was, even if it was only secondhand. Among them was Theodore Prescott the Third. He possessed a kind of beauty that made her heartsick. All those luscious golden curls wasted on a boy.

Her hair couldn’t decide if it was blond or brown but it had definitely made no attempt to do anything other than hang there, despite the best efforts of her maid, Sally. Daisy was outrageously jealous of Theodore’s hair. He probably didn’t even brush it. He probably didn’t even try to look so good. His eyes were large, dark pools of ocean blue and fringed by impossibly dark lashes with just a hint of curl. His mouth was almost cherubic. His beauty was almost feminine and it was definitely wasted on a boy, who had no need to be pretty like a woman did. Daisy already knew that a woman’s currency was her beauty and it didn’t matter what a man looked like. So when she looked at Theodore Prescott the Third, she seethed with jealousy. Daisy straightened when she saw that Theodore was coming her way.

She froze, book still open in her lap, as those blue eyes fixed on her. Her brain and her gut started sounding alarm bells. He smacked her arm. “Tag. You’re IT.” “I’ve always wanted to be the it girl,” she replied. It was a rather witty, cheeky retort, she thought. One that wouldn’t sail over his head if he was smarter. He wasn’t smarter. “Now you have to chase me.

” Chasing meant running and running meant sweating and panting and sunburn and all sorts of unappealing physical things that she would be teased about. “I’d rather not,” she demurred. “What are you doing that’s more important?” “Reading. Eavesdropping. Not making a spectacle of myself.” They were having a whole entire conversation now—a stunning and unexpected turn of events. It did not escape the notice of the other girls, who closed ranks and surged closer as if to protect their golden boy from the gawky bluestocking he was speaking with. “Besides, I think you have enough girls chasing after you already,” she said. Enough was apparently not a concept that appealed to Theodore Prescott the Horrid. No, he wanted all the girls hankering after him.

He leaned forward. Wells’s Principles and Applications of Chemistry was wrenched cruelly from her hands by someone who could have no possible interest in it. “Hey!” Daisy lunged for it. Theo tossed it to his friends, two vile, spoiled boys named Daniel and Patrick, whose fathers reaped fortunes from coal and oil. They laughed, tossing the book back and forth between them, shouting, “Keep away from Daisy!” Keep away from Daisy! Keep away from Daisy! It was the stuff of nightmares, that chant. They were perilously close to the duck pond, leaping from logs to rocks and back to the muddy shore. If they dropped it, she would have to buy another. She’d already had a row with her mother about whether it was appropriate reading for a young lady. As the awful boys laughed with malicious glee while tossing her book between them, Daisy confirmed with one thousand percent certainty that she despised Theo, his friends, and all her classmates, who were cheering at this new “game.” And then it happened.

Daisy didn’t know how exactly—it was all a blur. One minute she spied an opportunity to grab her book, one second later she reached for it, and all of a sudden she was falling backward. Arms flailing. Lungs seizing. Heart stopping. She landed with a splash in the duck pond, among the reeds and bright green duckweed floating on the surface. She was soaking wet and covered in pond scum. Beside her, a duck quacked. And then, to her everlasting mortification, so did her classmates. Quack! Quack! Quack! Keep away from Daisy! Quack! Quack! Quack! Honestly, she couldn’t decide what hurt more, the laughter or the feigned quacking or the sharp rock she’d landed on.

One voice rang out above the others: “Ugly Duck Daisy!” It was Theodore Prescott the Horrid, smirking as he destroyed her life with three little words. Keep away from Daisy! Ugly Duck Daisy! Quack! Quack! Quack! It was then that Daisy decided hers would be a different path going forward. She would cut ties with her peers as soon as possible, for theirs was not a society she tremendously enjoyed and why should she run herself ragged, seeking their approval when all they’d do is quack at her? She would never put herself on the marriage mart, subjecting herself to the appraisal and consideration of mean and petty men like these and the women who sought their favor. If that meant she would be alone, a spinster, so be it. No one would be able to hurt her. And who knew what she might accomplish when free from petty and pretty distractions? And Daisy knew with utter certainty that she would hate Theodore Prescott the Third with every breath in her body until her dying day. Starting today. Chapter One Twelve years later New York City, 1895 854 Fifth Avenue At the age of twenty-five, Miss Daisy Swan was still not pretty. Her nose was still a trifle too large, her eyes a smidge too close together, and her mouth inspired no man to raptures. Despite the secret, fervent prayers of her teenage self, she had not transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful Swan like her mother and sisters.

Perhaps on a good day, in the right light, and at a certain angle, she might be considered handsome. Few young women wished to be considered handsome, at best, on a good day. When one was handsome at best, and unmarried at the age of twenty-five, one anticipated spinsterhood. Daisy was quite looking forward to it: she would soon complete her studies at the recently established Barnard College and, free from the expectation of marriage, would be able to pursue a life of independence. Then her life would really begin. This was all she’d ever wanted, ever since she’d been thirteen. “Daisy, we need to talk,” her mother said. “Hmm.” They were in the parlor of their town house on Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park. Daisy was happily reading a chapter on Advanced Topics in Inorganic Chemistry while idly sipping unsweetened tea.

“Daisy,” her mother persisted. “We need to talk about your future.” “I have one year left of my studies. And then I shall discuss my future. That is what we agreed upon.” Daisy had hoped to delay discussions of marriage until she was so firmly on the shelf that no one would have hope of her making a match. She would then take her degree from college and . do something with it. She had ideas about creating and selling products for women that would make them look and feel beautiful. Daisy just wasn’t quite sure how to go about it yet.

She thought she had more time to figure it out. But she had underestimated her mother, Mrs. Evelina Swan, who clearly had other ideas. Worse yet: she harbored ambitions. “Yes, darling. But . hmmm.” Daisy was aware of her mother doing that thing she did: pursing her lips and giving the faintest hum that a more foolish or hopeful person would interpret as agreement. Daisy knew better. “Mother, you are making a sound that indicates you no longer wish to be bound by our agreement.

I’m fervently hoping that’s not the case.” “You’re always so blunt, darling. It’s hardly attractive.” Her mother set down her tea. Daisy looked up from her book. “I hardly see the point in making myself attractive. Especially when I am alone in the privacy of home with my mother, who is supposed to love me unconditionally.” “You know I do, Daisy.” Her mother did love her, even if she was nothing like her sisters. Rose, Camilla, and Lily were golden-haired, blue-eyed replicas of their mother.

The four of them thrived on gorgeous gowns, small talk at parties, and champagne. They lived and breathed for soirees, nights at the opera, romantic intrigues, shopping the Ladies’ Mile. Her sisters, of course, had all married well. One had even snared an English Viscount. That just left Daisy. The ugly Swan sister. The one named after a weed. “What do you wish to discuss, Mother?” “Theodore Prescott.” “The second or the third?” It was a distinction of the utmost importance. Theodore Prescott the Second was one of Manhattan’s most celebrated millionaire tycoons.

His was a legendary rags-to-riches story; after humble beginnings working in a factory, he eventually came to own the factory. And another and another until he forged his own massive fortune in iron and steel. It was said that Prescott Steel was single-handedly supporting the new, towering Manhattan skyline. With his impressive wealth, good looks, and brooding intensity, he was considered one of the more eligible bachelors of his day. His fortunes and status had been elevated when he married Miss Maribel Gold, the reigning beauty of her day. But tragedy soon struck when she died shortly after the birth of their son. Theodore Prescott the Second never remarried; instead, he threw himself into his work and doubled his fortune several times over. Widely respected, incredibly wealthy, and still one of the most handsome men in Manhattan—if one liked that distinguished, older-gentleman look, and many women did—he was still considered a catch and there was no small trail of broken hearts left in his wake. But his son, Theodore Prescott the Third, was a menace. He was the worst of the age: all excess and idleness and the enjoyment of inherited wealth.

Oh, he was a darling of Manhattan high society. A man that good-looking, that rich, so impeccably dressed and charming, would naturally be universally adored. Hostesses clamored to include him, and pretty young ladies aspired to be seated next to him at dinner. He and his friends—who Theo had dubbed the Rogues of Millionaire Row, and the press had adopted—used Manhattan as their playground and it seemed all they did was play. Nights at the theater, dalliances with opera singers, horse races in Saratoga, weekends yachting in Newport . The list of frivolities went on and on. The gossips found him endlessly fascinating. But to Daisy he was and would always be the boy who christened her Ugly Duck Daisy, a name that had plagued her ever since, and, as such, her mortal enemy. Meanwhile, up the street . 901 Fifth Avenue Theodore Prescott the Third thought that the less said about the Saratoga Scandal, the better.

But in this he held the minority opinion. It was all anyone who was anyone wanted to talk about, the newspapers especially. His father, certainly, would have something to say about it. Theo settled in for a lecture. But first his father fixed him with that legendary and nearly deadly stare. It had reduced seasoned businessmen into quivering, cowering messes who agreed to whatever demands he made. That stare, along with his father’s sharp intelligence and enormous appetite for risk, had built this sprawling wood-paneled library, this massive house, this fortune. One day Theo would inherit the library, the house, the fortune. But not The Stare. Whereas his father was tall, broad, and bearish, Theo was more like a lion: sleek, fair, and idle most of the time.

The father took a perverse pleasure in looming over others and used his size and stature to intimidate. The son preferred to flirt. The elder Prescott loved nothing more than visiting his factories; Theo found it all rather sooty. Though they were father and son, they were as alike as night and day. Much to the despair of his father. As Theo was well aware. “Theodore.” “Father.” “You’ve really done it this time. For the first time I don’t even know where to begin.

” “We could skip the conversation entirely,” Theo offered. “Or we could cut to the part of the conversation where I apologize, admit that what I did was wrong, and promise not to do it again. Or at least not get caught again.” He flashed that grin that usually got him out of trouble, but his father missed it as his eyes were closed and he seemed to be counting back from ten under his breath. Probably praying for the Lord to save him from his indolent son. “We could do that. But then I suspect we’d be back here in a month’s time. Best to have this conversation now. Before it’s too late.” “It was just a little mistake.

” “It was not a little mistake. It was a monstrously expensive mistake.” His father continued, “My expectations for you were always simple. Follow in my footsteps. But at your age I had already earned my first fortune. And you are . ” “The handsomest devil in Manhattan, last I checked,” Theo quipped, in an attempt to lighten the mood. It was heavy in here. “According to The New York World , ladies everywhere, and the mirror.” “You are vain, Theo.

You spend too much time on frivolous amusements. Your clothes, your friends, your ladies, your scandals. You have nothing to occupy you and you have no purpose.” This was not technically true. From a young age Theo understood that his one purpose was to follow in his father’s footsteps, and to ruthlessly devote himself to the steel business. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no interest in the making and selling of steel, wrangling with workers over wages, or enduring the dirt and noise of the factory. This was not a calling in life that he wished to answer. The problem was that he didn’t have an alternative. Theo knew what he liked: scintillating conversation, the thrill of seduction, beauty and style, and the finer things in life. He liked women.

As far as he was aware, there was no industry that wanted his eye for beauty, or his talent for talk. He had no idea how to take what he was good at and enjoyed and turn it into a business that would earn a fortune of his own and thus his father’s respect. In the meantime he went yachting in Newport. He consorted with actresses backstage on Broadway. He flirted his way from Fifth Avenue ballrooms to Bowery haunts and back again. “The situation in Saratoga has made it clear. If you are not beyond redemption already, this is my last chance to make a man out of you.”


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