She remembered exactly how it had started. They had entered the main lobby from a walk at the same time, she happy and warm in only jeans and a sweater, he grumbling about the cold weather, despite his coat and scarf. She had admired the expensive-looking dress coat, but found it rather amusing, given that their Florida resort was 50-ish already, at only ten in the morning. He had caught her gaze and turned, smiling.
"You don't think this is freezing?" he asked incredulously.
"I spent the last winter in Wisconsin, and the winter before in Maine. No. This is quite warm, actually." she answered.
He finished unbuttoning his coat and untied his scarf. "I am from southern California, so this is very cold. Are you headed toward the coffee shop?"
She ducked her head, "Yes. But not because I'm cold, I just need caffeine."
They had enjoyed their Friday morning coffee. This was an extended weekend conference for writers, editors and publishers, and the first session was not until after lunch, leaving them time to become acquainted with the very luxurious resort that housed their hotel, conference center, and multiple restaurants, a gift shop, and a coffee shop. They had discussed everything but themselves. Shakespeare, Keats, and Wordsworth, to the latest books on the New York bestseller's list. It went from a serious discussion to a mild flirtation before their coffees were half gone. They had departed for lunch reluctantly, only to end up again in the same restaurant. They shared a table, both having come to the conference on their own, as opposed to the many publishing companies that had sent large groups, who talked loudly, laughing and criticizing. They had been tucked in a quiet corner, and ate their lunch almost shyly, their discussion turning to their mutual love for traveling. They did not purposefully seek one another out, but over the rest of the day, they bumped into each other several more times, almost as if it were fate.
Saturday morning, both migrated to the coffee shop at the exact same time as the previous morning, and again sipped their coffees together, this time discussing politics and history. The mystery of their acquaintance was so entrancing to both that even after that, the fifth meeting, they still had not exchanged names. Something in the ability to freely state their opinions, and even their heart, without strings attached, kept them silent on the subject of personal details.
They parted ways for the morning clinics, only to meet again at lunch, and dinner.
Sunday night was the climax of conference, with a masquerade. She went as Elizabeth Bennett, in a silvery Regency style ball gown, with her hair twisted up in silver combs, and a beaded silver mask that outlined her eyes and shaded her cheeks. She danced a dance with a Zorro, and Sherlock Holmes, and a Robin Hood, before meeting him again, dressed, to her great delight, as Mr. Darcy. He recognized her, even behind the mask, and bowed long and low.
"Miss Elizabeth, may I have this dance?" he asked in perfectly serious courtesy.
She ducked her head and blushed, then curtseyed, "With pleasure, Mr. Darcy."
Neither danced with anyone else the entire night, and they parted after the unmasking with a gentle kiss and whispered good nights, addressed almost teasingly to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, the only names they knew each other by.
Monday morning they were officially released, and though both stopped at the coffee shop for a coffee before they left, neither saw each other, and both left with a small sense of dissatisfaction.
In the coming days and weeks, that grew into misery. Their times of talking had made both wonder if they had truly found their soul mate, but without even a name, they had returned to their daily lives, knowing that there was no other recourse.
"Fine, Evie, I will come." she said tiredly.
"Good! My boss is in a funk, and you are a grump, but maybe I can cheer you up, at least."
"Great." she said, "I'll land at 11:00, and meet you at your office and we can go to lunch."
"Perfect!" Evie chirped. "Please don't forget to pack your smile!" She said cheerily before hanging up.
She hung up her phone sadly. She was a grump and she knew it. Her latest book had not gone beyond outline stage. She could hardly bear to write a romance. She told herself that it was nothing, that what she had shared with her Mr. Darcy was simply a short flirtation, two lonely adults that had enjoyed each other's company, but she still longed for it. Maybe a visit to California would help.
Maybe it would not, she realized as she stepped out of the airport. This was the state where HE lived. Maybe she would see him. It seemed very likely, she realized sarcastically, given that there were 38 million people living in the state.She shoved those depressing thoughts out of her head, and picked up her rental car, determined to be cheerful for her friends sake. She flipped on the radio as she headed toward the office building where her friend worked. Maybe something peppy would keep her from being grumpy. Instead, the song on the radio was something about a lost love, and made her click it off in frustration.
She arrived at the building, a publishing company,, and made her way up to the top floor where her friend worked. Evie greeted her cheerfully and directed her to a chair.
"I'll be just a couple of minutes. My lunch break is in three minutes, but given the way my boss has been acting lately, if I were to leave early, I might not have a job when I got back." Evie turned back to her computer. Her normally bubbly friend sank into the chair, then jumped to the window, gazing sullenly at the sidewalk down below, almost as if searching for someone. Evie shook her head and picked up the papers fresh from the printer.
Her boss entered her slightly open door. "Can you get these......Elizabeth?"
Evie gaped. Her friend had swung around at his entry, and stood with an absolutely awestruck look on her face. He took another step into the room, and she smiled.
Evie blinked, looking back and forth. Her friend's name was certainly not Elizabeth, but that was obviously not bothering her.
"Coffee, maybe?" He asked, "Then lunch."
"Iced coffee," she told him smilingly, "It is too warm for hot."
He offered her his arm, and they exited without a backward glance.
Evie turned off her computer and grabbed her purse. She was obviously going to have to find her own lunch.