Posted on 2010-05-27
Elizabeth Bennet entered the elevator, turned to press the button to the floor she was traveling to and then stood waiting for the doors to close. Just as they started their slide, she heard a male voice calling, "Wait! Hold the elevator!"
Reacting quickly, she stuck her finger onto the appropriate button and the doors quickly parted again. Breathing quickly, a tall, dark-haired man leapt into the elevator car, pressed a button for a floor several higher than the one Elizabeth had selected and proceeded to stare at the screen of his iPhone. The elevator doors shut successfully this time and began its journey upwards.
Elizabeth peeked at the man out of the corner of her eye. He was tall; she had ascertained that the moment he jumped into the elevator. He was also handsome. His hair was just slightly wavy and a little bit messy. He had a straight nose and a strong jaw and, well, the rest of him looked quite nice, too. He was wearing a grey suit that looked expensive and had a laptop case slung over his shoulder. She judged he was early to mid-30s. She couldn't help but notice that there was no ring on his left hand; it was the one closest to her and the one holding up his phone, so it wasn't as though she had actively sought out this bit of information. Whatever he was reading on his phone was obviously engrossing because he was certainly doing a marvellous job ignoring her presence and the fact that she had rendered him a service.
She glanced up and saw that they had just past the 10th floor. "You're welcome," she said.
The sound made the man, whose name was William Darcy, turn to his companion. She stood, staring at the spot over the doors, tracking their progress. For a second he wasn't even sure if she had spoken. He looked at her for the first time and had to admit he was favourably impressed and wondered how he had managed to miss the fact that he was sharing the elevator with a beautiful woman. She was of perhaps average height, or a little taller, with lovely, wavy chestnut brown hair falling to just past her shoulders. Her eyebrows were ever so slightly arched (which he took as evidence that she had indeed spoken) and a tiny upturn graced the corner of her mouth. Her skin looked soft and warm and the suit she wore – a navy blue skirt and jacket set – made her look both professional and alluring. She held a brown briefcase in front of her, both hands on its handle.
He felt the elevator slow and stop. The doors started to open and the unknown woman prepared herself to step off. Still he said nothing, although his eyes remained fixed on her as she walked away and the doors slid shut again.
An hour or so later, Elizabeth was trying to find her way to room 1813. She held a stack of papers in her arms and was in a state of nervous anticipation. She had greatly looked forward to meeting this particular publisher. Well, she was due to meet with the owner of Pemberley House – what was his name again? It wasn't meeting him that was exciting, per se, but rather the thought that Pemberley House, whose reputation in the publishing world was legendary, was really interested in her novel. She had heard a lot of excellent things about the owner as well and about how his company treated its authors. Beyond the world of publishing, Pemberley House was known for its social and environmental work. It used innovative publishing processes to reduce the environmental impact. They also were very active supporters of literacy programmes, especially targeting communities and countries that were most in need. Even if she couldn't remember his name – something with a D, she thought – she was very favourably impressed with him already.
She was nearing a corner and trying to decide if she was supposed to turn right or left when a hard, large object knocked into her, making her papers fly to the floor and almost causing her to fall on her bottom in a most undignified manner. As it was, she stumbled until she hit the wall, and was able to use one hand to steady herself.
"Oh for crying…" said a stern deep voice. His attention was pulled away from the screen of his mobile, saw the mess of papers on the ground and then turned to see what had hit him.
"Wha..?!" cried Elizabeth. Her eyes flew to her papers, now scattered on the ground and then up to see what had hit her.
Elizabeth and William stared at each other in silence for a long moment, both waiting for the other to apologise.
"Ow," Elizabeth finally said when it was apparent the man was not going to say anything.
"Are you hurt?" he asked earnestly. It was her. Again!
"Not particularly, but I thought one of us should say something," Elizabeth answered. She knelt down to start picking up her papers.
William joined her. He didn't look at the papers, but rather focused his attention on the woman from the elevator. Her eyes were a lovely deep shade of blue and her skin looked even softer up close. When they caught his own he inhaled deeply as though suddenly hit in the chest by a very solid basketball that had been tossed directly at him by a professional player.
Elizabeth rather liked the look of his hazel eyes, too, but would have liked him better if he had apologised for almost knocking her on her bottom. Although if he kept looking at her that way, she might be persuaded to overlook a little rudeness.
"I didn't see you," he said when he regained the ability to speak.
"Hard to if you're always staring at a screen," Elizabeth replied, her eyes indicating the iPhone that was still cradled in his hand.
"Oh yes," he said looking at it a little bit guiltily. "My sister," he explained. "She's happy. I'm…happy." His voice trailed off as he stared at her; he shoved his phone in his jacket pocket and picked up the last of her papers and handed them to her as they both stood.
"Do you ever say 'thank you' or 'sorry' or any of those other niceties?" Elizabeth asked. William might have been offended, but she was rather beautiful and her eyes were laughing and it was obvious she was trying not to smile.
He blushed slightly, despite her obvious good humour, and quickly said. "Thank you for holding the elevator and I'm sorry I crashed into you." He stopped and then quickly added, "Are you sure I caused the crash? What were you doing?" Maybe he wasn't entirely to blame. For some reason it was important to him that she didn't think he was a rude idiot, barrelling down corridors crashing into people.
"I was trying to find a meeting room," she said, but was interrupted before she could finish her statement.
"Meeting! Oh damn, I'm going to be late!" he said. He brushed past her and resumed his quick trek down the corridor.
Elizabeth quirked an eyebrow and sighed. She really had to get to her meeting as well and continued to look for room 1813 which had been to the right of the crash corner she discovered after going left and having to double back. She still made it in good time. She was greeted by an administrative assistant whose name she never learned (she was too busy thinking of the tall man at first and then embarrassed to realise she had been too preoccupied to ask) and who offered her a beverage and told her that Mr Darcy would be along soon, she was sure. He was in the building and would find his way to her.
Darcy, that's right, Elizabeth thought. The owner's name is Darcy. I still can't believe the owner wanted to meet with me! She sat, sipping her coffee, feeling quite proud of herself. She had received a lot of interest for her novel – the first she had completed – and she couldn't help but be gratified. It had been a labour of love from start to finish.
The door opened and she turned to stand and welcome, she assumed, Mr Darcy. As he was the owner of a large publishing house, and noted for being quite the businessman, she assumed he was at least in his 50s.
To her amazement, it was the man from the elevator and the corridor. This could not be William Darcy.
To his amazement, the woman from the elevator and the corridor was sitting in the room in which he expected to meet E.A. Bennet, the author of the most brilliant first novel he had ever read. The influences were obviously a delicious combination of Gaskell and Austen, with just a hint of Dickens'-style social commentary thrown in, but set in a modern era. The protagonists were flawed, but lovable and so beautifully drawn that he was certain readers would fall in love with both of them, regardless of their gender. He could visualise the rave reviews and the bidding war for the movie rights.
This wasn't why he wanted the book for Pemberley House though (although he was an excellent businessman and the potential profits were certainly welcomed); no, what he was really excited about was being able to nurture the talent this author showed, to allow her the time to fully develop her craft. He wasn't sure what he had expected to find, but he did assume, based on the maturity of the writing, that E.A. Bennet was at least in her 40s. He couldn't wait to meet her, to talk to her; he expected, although he knew little about her, that she would be insightful, caring, well-read; well, generally a very interesting person to know. This could not be E.A. Bennet.
They stood and stared at each other for a moment.
"I…I'm sorry," William said. He stepped back and looked at the room number. Yes, it was 1813, the room he was supposed to be in. He looked at her again, staring as though she must have the answer to the question he had not asked. He was beginning to think the fates were tossing her in his path and he, increasingly, felt like thanking them most heartily.
"Hello again," she said. She looked past his shoulder – oh so broad – to see if Mr Darcy was coming. Their meeting was supposed to start five minutes ago. She wasn't at all adverse to this man's company while she waited though; perhaps they might even exchange names this time.
"Uh…" William said continuing to look at her. "Who are you?" he asked in a rush.
"I beg your pardon?" she replied.
"Listen, I'm supposed to be in a meeting and clearly I have the wrong room, although it is what I have written down. We keep bumping into each other and I'd really like to know your name."
"Elizabeth," she said.
He repeated it softly.
"I'm waiting for someone," she said, looking behind him again. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing if Mr Darcy was further delayed…
"Ah, Mr Darcy," said another voice, that belonging to the same administrative assistant that Elizabeth had spoken with just a short time ago. "You've found her. Great! Can I get you a cup of coffee? Or something else?"
"Darcy?!" Elizabeth said her eyes flying to the handsome man.
"Found her?!" William cried his eyes flying to the lovely woman.
"Yes," the administrative assistant said. "Coffee? Or perhaps you would prefer tea?"
With his eyes still fixed on Elizabeth, he replied, "No, I'm fine."
"All right then; I'll leave you two to it!" She happily bustled off. If they were settled into their meeting, she might just be able to squeak in a quick peek at her favourite JAFF site to see if there were any updates.
"You're…?" William said looking heartily confused.
"You can't be…?" Elizabeth said looking somewhat shocked.
"I'm William Darcy," he said deciding it was time to clear up any misunderstandings. If she was E.A. Bennet…well, that would be very…interesting. If she wasn't, well, he had to find E.A. Bennet before she became upset by the delay, but before he could do that he wanted to know who this woman was and when he would have the privilege of bumping into her again.
"I'm Elizabeth Bennet," she said simply.
They stood and stared at each other again. It was a very odd feeling, they both thought. They didn't know each other, per se, but they felt like they must. They knew so much about each other, even if they hadn't met – Elizabeth from her knowledge of Pemberley House, William from her writing. In addition to the favourable impressions they had formed of the other in advance, the physical attraction was…wonderful.
"You're too young to be E.A. Bennet," William said a little stupidly.
"And you're too young to be William Darcy, owner of Pemberley House," Elizabeth countered.
"I inherited young," he said simply.
"I'm sorry," she said, assuming he could only have done so because someone close to him had died. "I started writing young."
"Wow," he said after a pause during which their eyes remained fixed on each other.
"Wow," Elizabeth agreed.
A noise down the corridor startled them out of their stare. They both cleared their throats. Elizabeth turned her attention to the table in front of her, fiddling with the pen she had waiting to write down comments or questions she might have. William stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.
"I…I…" he said.
"Thank you for your interest in my novel," Elizabeth said trying to sound professionally aloof. She was struggling a bit with her reaction to this man, which seemed to become stronger and stronger the longer she was in her presence. She really didn't want to talk about her book for once; she wanted to flirt with him. She wanted to know about him, all about him. She had come to this meeting, resolved to be professional and consider what was best for her and not be simply drawn in by the allure of an association with Pemberley House. But now…well, she had never reacted this way to meeting any man before. Forget Pemberley House, she was being drawn in by him.
"Of…of course," he said trying to match her tone. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, uh, well, I mean with my company." He had lost a great deal of interest in the business aspect of the meeting. He wanted to know about her more than her book at the moment. He had entered the building this morning with one goal and one goal only in mind: secure E.A. Bennet as a Pemberley House author. He rather thought he was working on a different goal at the moment. He was not used to reacting in such a manner to a woman and never had before. He found her attractive, certainly and once he had realised that she was E.A. Bennet, that she had penned those magnificent words and phrases, had crafted the characters and detailed the settings…well, he was smitten.
Both were feeling slightly overwhelmed and there was an obvious remedy: talk business. Doing so would at least buy them time to decide what to do about that other minor matter – the feeling of being bowled over by meeting the person that will become the most important part of your life.
And so they talked about her book. William told her what he, as a publisher, liked about it and what he, as a publisher, could do for her. He explained what his company offered to authors and what he would, in particular, offer to her as a new author and what he saw as the potential for her book. Elizabeth told him about the story of the story – how and why the book had come into existence and about what she was working on currently. She explained her desires as an author and what she hoped to receive from a publishing company.
Far, far too soon their allotted meeting time was up.
"So, um, that is about…it," William said with a great deal of hesitation. He had made his pitch and learned a few very interesting things about Elizabeth and her novel in return.
They stood staring at each other.
"Yes," Elizabeth said. She wasn't sure what else to say.
"Um, so," he added in a rush. "I thought, uh, you might think about what I said and then you might have some questions or concerns I could address. Perhaps over dinner."
"Dinner," Elizabeth repeated. Was he really asking her to dinner? Oh how she wanted to believe he was asking her to dinner and not simply trying to make a business deal with her.
"You might need more convincing that Pemberley House is right for you," he said, starting to feel a little more confident. The look of restrained anticipation on her face was invigorating. A small smile started to creep onto his face, matched by one on hers. They looked deeply into each other's eyes again.
"Convincing?" she asked.
"Yes. I rather hoped you might require some…convincing. And I could take you to dinner. To…convince you. Perhaps several dinners. If that is what it takes."
Elizabeth smiled at him and he smiled back at her.
"Unless you don't think business and pleasure mix," he added when a horrible thought struck him; what if she had some rule about not dating people she worked with? "In which case I'd like to rescind my offer on behalf of Pemberley House and ask you to go out with me."
"You're assuming I don't have someone waiting at home for me," she said.
"No wedding ring. I'm prepared to do battle with anyone else who may think they are the right man for you."
Elizabeth broke out into a wide grin. "That won't be necessary. Am I to assume there is no one…"
"No," he said quickly. "Absolutely not. I'm completely…free."
They smiled again.
"So am I," she said.
And so they had dinner. It lasted a very long time as there is actually quite a bit to talk about when you were trying to get to know someone you already knew well enough to know you were going to spend the rest of your life with them, yet didn't know much of practical use about. There was another dinner the next night and then the next night but one (William had family dinner he could not possibly get out of and didn't want to subject Elizabeth to his Aunt Catherine's domineering personality or his cousin Richard's flirtatious one just yet). After a week they had agreed on two things: Elizabeth would sign with Pemberley House and they were madly in love. The fact that they had not yet said it or even kissed was irrelevant; they both knew it and knew that the other knew it as well.
"Do you think," William said as they sat side by side on the sofa in his office, "that people will talk once they realise we are not only business associates, but also…personally involved?" The contract between E.A. Bennet and Pemberley House lay on the table in front of them.
"I suppose they will," Elizabeth said. She had not considered it at all. She also didn't particularly care. "Does that bother you?"
"Well…" he said and his tone made Elizabeth think he was plotting something rather than stating a serious concern, "there is the possibility that people will question just why it was I decided to sign you. You are a new author and all of that. Unknown."
Elizabeth smiled mischievously. "Do you mean they may think I used some sort of trick to get you to sign me? Used my feminine wiles, as it were?"
"Yes," William replied seriously, although it was clear he wasn't entirely so. "I thought…"
"Well, it might be unseemly for the company's newest author to be seen dating the company's president, don't you think?" He looked at her quirking one eyebrow.
"Hmm, you're right," she said, matching his not really serious-serious look. "Perhaps we should reconsider this. I should go back and look at those other offers, don't you think?"
"No," he said firmly. "I have thought of another way out of our dilemma."
"Oh? Do tell."
"Marry me," he said this time very serious. "No one could possibly think there was anything awry with me helping my wife's career along, could they?"
They looked deeply into each other's eyes and Elizabeth slowly began to smile. Really those people that wanted to gossip about them would regardless of their marital status, but who was she to argue with such a plan?
"If you think it is best," she said teasingly coy. "After all, you are the business expert."
William's face broke out into an enormous smile.
"But," she said, "before this deal is concluded, I have one demand."
"Kiss me," she whispered.
And he did. For a very long time. Very long. Afterwards he rushed her off to the Caribbean for a lovely, romantic elopement and a very happy honeymoon. They returned to shock their families; fortunately once they were over the initial surprise they were universally pleased for the couple. Elizabeth's book met with great success, as did her future novels. Pemberley House remained a forward-thinking, successful company and William continued to garner accolades for his business sense. Their private successes were overshadowed (in their minds at least) by their personal ones. They lived a long, happy life together, eventually sharing it with two little ones who grew into big ones and then provided them with other little ones to enjoy as they did what they promised they would on their wedding day – they grew old together. William never forgot to say please, thank you, sorry or any other such nicety and in return Elizabeth always held elevator (and other) doors open for him and led him safely along corridors when he was reading emails on his mobile.The End