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The Wicked Lady

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Polly Shelby was happy. It felt odd and she really wasn't sure how to deal with the feeling. That foul bastard Chester Campbell was dead at her hands and he could never hurt her or her family again. It was one hugely positive change in the Shelby Family's fortunes and something that Polly had never bothered to raise at confession. How could she when she really did not repent of it? She had also made the fond acquaintance of a compelling new man – a painter of all things – at Royal Ascot and he was presently working towards erasing all memories of that unpleasant time in Campbell's office.

Grace's brief return to the country had caused a momentary problem for the family; Tommy had been captivated by the bitch. Polly, however, had told her the truth – if she had remained in Birmingham then Polly would find a reason to destroy her. At one point Grace had tried to convince Tommy that she was carrying his child but fortunately the ruse had not worked. Eventually she had realised that she was better off with her current husband and buggered off back to America.

With help from Lizzy, the assassination of Field Marshall Russell had gone almost without a hitch. That said Lizzie was due some serious compensation for the wounds she had taken on behalf of the family and Tommy had only survived the resulting fall out thanks to some behind the scenes maneuvering by a fat little bureaucrat in Whitehall by the name of Churchill. The Peaky Blinders were now sitting pretty and, thanks to their new found earnings on the race course, along with a few other less legitimate income streams, they were making money hand over fist.

Tommy had recently taken possession of a country estate by the name of Arrow House, following a default on a gambling debt by a young lordling, and Small Heath would soon be a distant memory for the whole family. In fact the move was due to take place within a few weeks. Polly had already visited the new estate and, if she was honest, she wasn't really convinced that it was right for them. The only room in which she had felt comfortable was the kitchen and that had been filled with servants who had been irritated by the presence of their 'betters' and who had awkwardly tried to crowd them out. It was probably the one black spot on the horizon – at least from her personal point of view.

And so she sat in a quietly contemplative state in the house on Watery Lane sipping liquor and avoiding any confrontation that could knock her contented mood.

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'I've been thinking', Tommy announced as he strode in to the kitchen.

'I thought I could smell burning', Polly retorted. 'Well go on then', she added impatiently when he gave no signs of continuing. 'Don't sit there like a pudding!' .

Snatching the bottle of whiskey from his aunt, he poured himself a generous measure. 'I think it's time I got wed.'

Whatever Polly had been expecting it wasn't that - and although she was relieved that he had finally acknowledge the potential issues resulting from his lack of a bride she was surprise that he had come to the conclusion by himself. She watched him steadily over the rim of her glass as he outlined his reasons. When he was finished she paused, considering.

'I agree that we've all benefited enormously from the alliance with the Lees.' she acknowleged. 'Thanks to them we can move our products easily and we have their soldiers on hand to back us when we need it.' She nodded to herself as if to underline the point. 'But that deal is already done. You might have options amongst the Italians, I suppose, but that would be a very hard sell given our history and I doubt that the Jews would consider it although it might be worth talking to Solomons. Honestly though, as far as I can see, your best option would be to marry either for wealth or for respectability.'

'I have money', Tommy said simply. 'But connections which can make the family respectable are harder to come by.'

'Respectability it is then', said Polly with a smile. 'Let's see what we can come up with.'