Lizzie stared at the bouquet in her hands and muttered something under her breath. She had reluctantly joined the crowd of bachelorettes, determined to sidestep and let the bouquet sail past her. Apparently her instinct to defend her face from being smashed by roses outweighed her instinct to defend herself against her mother's scheming.
She looked at the bachelors gathering for the garter toss and wondered which one she would be stuck with. She recognized some from high school, but others must be the groom's friends. Bing Lee was one of them. He and Jane had been practically inseparable all evening, and Lizzie wouldn't mind dancing with him and getting to know him a little.
Darcy joined the group too, looking tall, dark, handsome, and seriously displeased. He'd stood against the wall all night. She'd caught his eyes on her a couple times, frowning, but mostly he seemed glued to his phone. He stood now like some kind of statue, comically out of place in his bowtie and newsie hat, while the others jostled and wolf-whistled as the garter was removed. Then the groom tossed it…directly at Darcy.
Right. This was going to go so well.
She forced a smile as they met in the middle of the dance floor. "Hi, I'm Lizzie."
"Darcy," he said tersely. His sudden scowl made her wonder whether he thought his name as ridiculous as she did.
The music started, and Darcy listened for a couple measures, then started a slow sway. It was weird being the only couple on the dance floor at the moment, with everyone watching them. Perhaps a little conversation would help.
"Do you like it here in town?"
"Not especially." He seemed distracted, maybe because the DJ had put on a love song that was popular but that had an irregular rhythm that was nearly impossible to dance to. Or maybe he really was that rude.
"I am glad of an opportunity to speak with you, though."
She angled her head backward to look at him. She'd get a crick in her neck if she did this for long, but those intensely blue eyes, that strong jaw and thick, dark hair were worth a little discomfort. Was he flirting with her? His words sounded flirtatious in a hilariously old-fashioned way, but his expression was impassive.
"Yes. Are you familiar with the phrase 'the internet is forever'?"
"I searched my friend's name on YouTube yesterday, looking for a speech he gave at graduation a few years ago. I was…surprised…to find a video whose title made him sound like a pimp."
Several seconds passed before it hit her. Bing Lee and His 500 Teenage Prostitutes. Of course. What on earth had possessed her to post a video with that title?
"I--oh my gosh, that's not what…I didn't mean it that way!"
"You do?" An arch of his left eyebrow was his only response. He was not about to help her out of her predicament, it seemed. "Did you…watch the video?"
"Certainly. All of them, in fact."
He knew everything then, her mother's obsession with Bing, every embarrassing thing she and Lydia had said about him and his friend, and...mancake.
Lizzie's face was suddenly so hot she thought it might spontaneously combust. "I am so sorry! I shouldn't have said all those stupid things about Bing before meeting him, or…gosh, I even made fun of your name."
"Worse things have been said about me, I assure you." He looked away over her head as he spoke, and even in her mortification she thought he must have some particular words in mind.
"I'll delete the video right away, as soon as I get home. Maybe I should just stop vlogging." It's not like she knew what she was doing anyway. Her shoulders slumped as she thought of asking Dr. Gardiner about a different thesis project.
"That is your decision, of course, but I don't think that is necessary." She looked up at him in surprise, and he continued. "I did not intend to chastise you, Lizzie, but rather to recommend circumspection." Circumspection? How many four-syllable words did the guy know, anyway?
"As your videos gain in viewership, you and whoever you choose to discuss or portray on camera will--"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You said, 'As my videos gain in viewership.'"
"Yes. Do you expect otherwise?"
The question was blunt and logical and completely unexpected. "I don't know. I mean, I just talk about my mundane life. Why would people be interested in that?"
His brow lowered, making him look angry, but his words were anything but. "You have posted only four videos so far, and each already has several thousand views. You are engaging and, I suspect, have a talent for storytelling. There is no reason to think your viewership will not increase."
Lizzie was speechless. Lizzie was never speechless. It was one of the nicest compliments she'd ever received, and it came from a man she had insulted and who, according to the 2.5 WPF club, owned a media empire.
Finally, her brain decided to unfreeze. "Thank you."
And that was apparently all he had to say. The dance floor was full by now, and he stared off over her right shoulder with what was probably perfect dancing posture but also made him look really uncomfortable. He had been surprisingly kind about her videos. The least she could do was try to be pleasant for the rest of the dance.
"Can you hear them?"
Darcy looked back down at her. "Can I hear whom?"
"The crickets in the next county. Your attention kinda wandered there for a bit." She smiled so he would know she wasn't criticizing him.
"My apologies," he said stiffly. "I don't converse easily with strangers."
"Strangers don't stay strangers once you start talking to them."
He looked unconvinced but shrugged. "What do you wish me to say?"
"Oh, something about the size of the room, maybe, or the number of people dancing."
"Too small and too many," he said promptly.
Lizzie laughed at his decisive tone and saw the corner of his mouth twitch. He wouldn't let himself smile, but at least he had a sense of humor. "That line is definitely getting quoted in costume theater."
"The part of my videos when we dress up."
"I see." His face was expressionless again, and she wondered if he was angry that she planned to imitate him. She wouldn't, if he asked her not to, but despite the awkwardness of this dance, it was the most entertaining thing that had happened since her last video.
"I am going to be a pageboy hat and bowtie, aren't I?"
So she did have his permission. She grinned. "Yep."
The song ended then, and Lizzie was actually a little disappointed. Darcy walked off the dance floor with her. She made sure they headed the opposite direction from her mother, who already had a triumphant look on her face.
"Thank you for the dance, Lizzie Bennet," Darcy said as they reached the wall.
"My pleasure." She meant it.
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