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Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

October 06, 2017 03:59AM
Author's Note: Thank you to anyone who's left your thoughts/feedback. I've so enjoyed reading what you think! Hope you like this! A thank you to Lily who helped correct my Italian so that it's grammatically correct! I'm also posting this story on a 2nd site. If you'd like the address for that, just email me at beeninehundred@gmail.com

Chapter 7


Their reservation was for 8:00. Friday night traffic in downtown London would be, inevitably, a nightmare. This was the height of the tourist season, two days before Christmas. Will and Elizabeth had planned ahead. They'd booked a babysitter hours earlier than they'd needed one. This would free them up to shower, dress, and prepare for the evening.

The babysitter was late. Really, really late.

Then Bennet lost "blankey." This caused the three-year-old's small body to be wracked with the most heart-wrenching sobs that Elizabeth had ever heard.

The search for blankey commenced. Halfway through this disaster, Nicholas wandered into the kitchen and tipped over a whole bottle of cola. The whole bottle. Goodbye beautifully clean kitchen, thought Elizabeth. Hello, cola covered wading pool.

Will found blankey. Then Elizabeth's mother called. Then the pizza arrived. Then Elizabeth tried mopping up the floor while getting her mother off the phone. Will, holding a hiccuping, red-cheeked three year old in one arm, hustled to the door to push money into the delivery boy's hands and also tried to snag Nicholas before he could attempt to wander out the door.

It was only after the delivery boy left that they realized the small pepperoni pizza they'd ordered for the boys had sardines on it. Will only had two hands. He planted Bennet on the counter top, and lifted four-year-old Nicholas in his arms. The trio played "pull the fish off the pizza."
The babysitter finally—finally—arrived. Two hours late.

Elizabeth and Will were now in the bathroom, sharing space, hurrying like two teens who were late for a school assembly. Will, newly emerged from the shower, was securing a towel around his waist. Elizabeth stood by the sink, finishing her makeup.

"And the sardines on the pizza," Elizabeth added with a laugh. "You know what Bennet said when he saw it? The wee boy said, it's grandda!"

Grinning, Will reached for a second towel, rubbing it over his wet hair. "He does realize your father just catches the fish, right? He knows he doesn't turn into one?"

"I wouldn't put it past my father. Da plants Bennet on his knee and tells him all manner of tales. It's my da's greatest joy." Elizabeth continued her careful strokes of eyeliner. "And my mum laughed when I told her about the mess we had this evening. A whole cola bottle spilled. The whole thing, Will. Not a drop left in the bottle, and a lake of soda spread across the floor."

"That's my fault." Will draped the second towel on the towel rack. He walked toward her. "I didn't secure the bottle well enough. Nick was still thirsty."

Elizabeth nodded. "We were helping Bennet. He thought he could pour it himself. After I saw the spill, our darling boy crouched down, his tongue hanging out like he's an Irish Setter, and he said to me, Mummy, I can still drink it this way!"

Will groaned. That explained why, in the midst of the crisis of Bennet's lost blankey, he'd heard Elizabeth blurt out, Nicholas Darcy, don't you dare! Will! Will? Come fetch Nicky, will you? I'd better find the mop.

"I've already sent a text to Georgie explaining that we'll be late for dinner," said Elizabeth. She capped her eyeliner, twisting it shut and returning it to her makeup bag. "She's at Margaret's flat preparing, so I've no idea if she's checking her phone."

"I still haven't seen this outfit of hers," Will murmured. "How much am I going to hate it?"

Her lashes lifted. A smile teased at the edge of her mouth. "A lot. Tye's not going to know what to think."

"He doesn't have to think. I've got plenty of thoughts ready for him."

At those words, she turned away from the counter, towards him. She let her hands touch him, fingers spreading out over his damp body, starting at his hard abdomen, sliding up to his sternum. "Easy, big boy. We have a whole night to get through."

That soft, slow touch of hers, Will knew, was one hell of a weapon. She could melt him into a mindless puddle of need with those hands.

He knew this tactic. He enjoyed this tactic. Grinning, he let her proceed. It gave him the time to admire her. She'd already showered and dried her hair. Her dark locks were pinned up for the evening. Her mouth was colored a tempting scarlet red. Mascara and eyeliner darkened her eyes. Small diamonds lent a subtle shine to her ears. She hadn't slipped into her dress yet; she wore leggings and an old t-shirt from Will's teenage years. The shirt was now snug at her chest, and tight around her six-months-pregnant belly.

The mixture of his t-shirt, and her blood red mouth made her look wanton and playful.

Will, he thought to himself, you lucky dog, you.

"You know," Will drawled, looking her up and down, "I'm starting to wish you were the one wearing the towel right now..."

"I don't know, Will, I think your outfit has its benefits."

He matched her with a grin of his own, touched the delicate tip of her chin, and did what he wanted. He kissed his wife.

It was a soft kiss, starting at the cherry red curve of her lips, slipping into her mouth. He tilted her head, enjoying the pleased catch of her breath as he tasted her.

He heard her hum. She answered him, tiptoeing, letting her tongue tease back. She rubbed the hair on his upper chest, the harsher, low edge of his scar, the line of his rib cage. He let his body push gently against hers, forgetting that they had two children and a babysitter outside, forgetting everything but the pressure of her curves against him.

"Will," she drew back with a whimper. The warm breath that slipped out of her was half mirth, half need. "Mo chroi...we have to leave soon."

"I know." His words were thick. "I'd like to repeat my assessment about the towel."

A beautiful smile spread across her face. "Later. I owe you half the world for finding Bennet's blanket."

He kissed her softly. "I'd say we owe each other," he whispered.

"I agree." She lifted her head. That was all she needed to draw his willing lips to hers again.

There was a rumble of assent from him. They needed to be somewhere. His hands had a will of their own, though. His mouth teased and tasted.

"Daddy?" A small knock pattered at the lower base of the bathroom door. It was four-year-old Nicholas. "Mummy...I...I...have to go pee pee."

The kiss broke. Her cheeks were flushed. Will took a hard breath.

"Alright, buddy," he choked out. "Give me a minute. I'll help you."

Will's eyes shut. He was marshaling himself, steadying his body, regaining control.

They could hear a small skip of feet on the floor as the boy meandered in a circle. "Daddy...I have to do both..."

Elizabeth giggled softly, burying her head against his chest. Her arms stayed wrapped around him. "Perfect timing," she whispered. "Your third child's starting to move, too."

"Yeah?" Will said softly. His hands cupped her abdomen. Immediately, he felt it: a ripple and shift beneath her skin, from center to left. His dark eyes met her green ones. He loved feeling their child move in her. The spark of joy in his eyes was undeniable. "What does that feel like to you?"

"A little like a listing tide," she whispered. "A little like a sleepy bunny stretching."

Will let himself kiss her again, gently. "We'll finish this later tonight," he murmured.

"Yes. After we return home and make sure the kids are settled..." She offered one last kiss, brushing her lips to his. Her hands reached for his waist, re-securing his towel. "Let's let our darling boy in. Thanks be, he's wanting to use the potty."

Elizabeth was the one who pulled open the door. There stood pint sized Nicholas, small and adorable in his dinosaur pajamas. The pajamas matched a new acquisition: a pair of tiny, square, blue plastic eyeglasses for the child. Not willing to travel without his favorite teddy bear, he carried a snow white stuffed animal in his left hand.

Nicholas been through the babysitter routine before. He already sensed the impending separation. His big blue eyes were anxious.

This sight prompted her to bend, carefully, at the knees, not at the waist.

"Elizabeth..." said Will. She could hear the frown in his voice. He'd grown cautious whenever she attempted to bend.

"I'll go slow, Will, I promise," she said, holding her arms out. She wanted to hug her child properly.

"Mummy!"

The boy darted to her, clinging as best he could despite the barrier of her round stomach."Nicky, you're being such a good boy. Thank you for finding us when you needed us. Can I have a kiss?"

Nicholas nodded. His small lips sought out her cheek. In return, she smiled and kissed him over and over until the boy was left giggling. Soon, she felt Will's broad hand rest on her shoulder.

"I'll take over from here," he murmured to her. She nodded, rocking back on her heels.

"We're going to miss you tonight, sweetheart," Will spoke to Nicholas, "do you know that?" Will bent at the waist, drawing the child up into his arms in one long, powerful scoop. Nicholas giggled. He bounced the boy with his left arm, using his right hand to help Elizabeth stand again.

"Easy, Lizzie," he said softly.

"I'm alright," she whispered. Her hands pressed against her lower back. This baby sat higher on her torso than Bennet had. Sometimes it left her breathless. Will's gaze was watchful, and sharply focused on her. "I'm okay, Will. I promise."

She could tell from the look on his face that he didn't fully believe her. Still, his attention turned back to Nicholas. "You're going to get to watch...which movie is it again?"

"Tiger and Piggy!" Nicholas said with a delighted smile.

"Right," Will confirmed. Despite his distraction, the child's enthusiasm had him grinning. He kissed the boy's cheek, then gently bounced Nicholas again. "Tiger, Piggy and the Honey Tree. Who else is in this one? Is Goosey in this one?"

"Uh huh," said Nicholas, cuddling against his father. "Goosey, and um...Piggy and...um...Lucy's in it too, and Snowbear. Snowbear's the best one. Piggy's good, too."

"I see Snowbear came along with you." Will's brown gaze shifted to the bear in the boy's arms. "Why don't we let your mother rest for a bit and get dressed. We men can handle our business in here."

"Oh, I see," Elizabeth teased, "riding off into the sunset, leaving your woman to tend to the hearth fire?"

Will offered her a crooked grin, one that turned Elizabeth's knees weak. "That fire lights itself, sweetheart. All you have to do is look at it."

She laughed as she left him, drawing the door shut behind her.

Down the hallway, she caught sight of Mrs. Smith chasing after Bennet. The three year old was racing for Elizabeth. He wore footed, teddy bear pajamas. Beneath that, the toddler's night time pull-ups crinkled as he ran.

"Here's my Bennet." It was so hard for Elizabeth to resist the temptation to bend to greet her children. She knew Will wouldn't want her to. Instead she smiled at her youngest son, reaching her hand out to grasp Bennet's small fingers. "How are you, my love? Did you like the pizza?"

"Uh huh." Bennet nodded. "I had lots."

She could see that. Pizza sauce colored his sweet little chin. She wet her thumb, wiped his chin clean.

"Mrs. Darcy," said the babysitter, "I should apologize."

"Oh?" She started tickling under Bennet's chin. Giggles pealed out of the boy.

"I know I was late," Mrs Smith said, knotting her fingers together, "and your evening hasn't...gone as planned."

"Not as planned, no," Elizabeth confirmed, smoothing out Bennet's brown locks. The boy's lovely green eyes looked up at her. She thought about Will, and about his love for her, and the life they'd built together. Even on night's when nothing went according to plan, they were still endlessly blessed. "It's been even better."



**


"You have a reservation?"

"Something like that." The back of Tye's neck felt tight. He rubbed it with tense fingers. "Bertram. I'm meeting a family here."

Georgiana had said Friday, hadn't she? 8:00 PM? He could barely believe he'd managed to drag himself out of the Palais concert hall, tug on a suit jacket, and arrive on time at Gare du Nord. He'd taken the 6:00 PM train. The watch on his wrist still read the wrong time. He knew he was late—how late was the bigger question. He'd gained an hour between Paris and London, though somewhere in the course of the journey, the train had been delayed.

The delay gave Tye plenty of time to think. He thought about the tuba player in the orchestra who consistently struggled with intonation, and the violinist who rushed her entrance in the fourth movement allegro, and all the many other dozens of corrections he'd wanted to make before his premiere tomorrow.

The maitre d' was still paging through his reservation book.

"Bertram." The maitre d' frowned. "I'm sorry, I don't see..."

"Hm?" Tye was tired. It took him ten long beats before he realized that he'd given this guy the wrong name. "Sorry, it's under Darcy. Georgiana Darcy. Or maybe her brother,Will."

"Darcy, ah! Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. They've been seated for some time. Come, I'll bring you to their table."

This was a pricy place. The tables were draped in cream linen table clothes. The utensils were true silver. The waiters wore tuxedo jackets and fitted white gloves. Tye was fairly indifferent to fine dining—the consequence, perhaps, of having done so much of it in his early life. One couldn't grow up as the son of the Earl of Mansfield and not grow familiar with aperitif menus and parfait spoons.

Still, he could appreciate a place like this. He was an artist who admired other artists, and there was an art to good food, wherever it came from. The food at the neighboring tables looked better than good; it looked great. The whole space smelled like Italian basil, ripe plum tomatoes, and bread pulled hot from a piping stone oven.

The ceilings were low. So was the lamplight. Tables were tucked at the edge of the room, overlooking a view of a garden grove, or positioned close to a low burning fireplace.

The Darcys sat at one small table. Will was sporting a three-piece suit. Elizabeth had donned a white dress. Its neckline draped across her collarbone; the waistline sat high on her abdomen. A round bump extended past her ribcage.

Elizabeth Darcy was very pregnant.

Will had his arm around her. Her head was tilted towards him. Tye watched, momentarily caught up in the sight of Elizabeth resting her head against Will's shoulder. There was a hint of fatigue around her eyes. It caused a furrow between Will's brows. Will whispered something to her, tracing the edge of her jaw. Whatever he said, it summoned a soft smile from her.

What that man really wants, Tye thought, approaching the pair cautiously, is an evening all alone with his wife.

Elizabeth noticed Tye first. She stood, keeping her hand on her lower back, testing her balance as she moved around the table. Will stood with her. He looked like he would've preferred that she remained seated.

Noting caution in the normally graceful woman's movements, Tye couldn't say he blamed Will. Still, she looked determined to greet Tye properly. She met him with a hug.

"Tye," she greeted him. "It was grand of you to come."

"Nice of you to have me."

Will approached with an expression that Tye could only characterize as somber. The men shook hands. Will's cool, level gaze studied him.

"How was the trip?" Elizabeth questioned.

"The Eurostar?" said Tye. "Not bad. A little late. Elizabeth, you look--"

She gave him a playful smile. "Huge for six months?"

"No, uh, I was going to say beautiful."

"Oh." Elizabeth laughed. "Well, thank you. You and Will agree on something." Her merry gaze shifted to her husband. "My husband was just telling me that."

"It's easy determination to make." Will's serious gaze touched on his wife before squaring back on Tye. "Why were you late?"

This was going to be one long, painful night. Between protecting his pregnant wife and his younger sister, Will looked ready to roast Tye over an open fire pit.

Tye ran a nervous hand up the back of his neck. "The train was delayed. Power surge on a track north of Paris."

"We're all running late tonight," Elizabeth said. "Will and I had trouble getting our boys settled. Georgiana sent me a text earlier. There was an accident on Shaftesbury Avenue--"

"Accident?" Tye's flare of panic was instantaneous. Immediately, he reached for his back pocket, snagging his phone. Why the hell were they just standing around if she'd been in an accident? "Georgiana, was she--is she--"

"She's fine." Elizabeth said quickly. Her hand touched his arm. Sympathy lingered in her eyes. "She wasn't in the accident. Her cab's just stuck in heavy traffic. I expect she'll be here soon, though. Why don't we have a seat and look at the menu while we wait?"

Tye forced himself to sit. She was fine. Georgiana was fine. The thought of her in an accident left his heart thrumming like a jackhammer. He reached blindly for his menu.

"--often?"

Tye looked up. Elizabeth had just said something. From the look on Will's face, Tye presumed an answer was expected of him. "Sorry?"

"Do you go out to eat in Paris very often?" she said lightly.

"Not really, no." Tye chewed his lower lip. Usually, his dinners came out of a carton or a box.

"No intentions to return to Canada?" Will asked.

"It's--" Tye cleared his throat, "not something I've planned on, no. I've got an apartment in Paris, at least for now."

"So your life's still subject to change." Will's fingers thrummed against the edge of the linen-draped table. "This place you live in, it's a rental?"

Elizabeth tipped her menu down. "Will..."

"Curiosity," Will said crisply. "That's all it is. Tye, let's talk about your contract with the Palais. You started that post last February. That means you're coming up on your one year mark. It's probable that they've inserted an additional clause securing you for their spring season. Spring is when most orchestras turn a profit. Moreover, the Palais is subsidized by the French government. Their government's fiscal year mirrors their calendar year. January to December. They would've budgeted for the coming calendar months in advance. That means they've probably already started contract negotiations with you."

"Will...darling..." Elizabeth set her menu down completely, "our guest probably feels like he's wandered into a job interview." She squeezed Will's hand, offering a friendly smile to Tye. "We won't keep questioning you about your CV, Tye, we promise."

Tye tugged at his collar. Forget interviews. Tye felt like he was standing before a magistrate.

"How's your family? How's Lydia?" Elizabeth questioned carefully. "I haven't seen her in years."

Tye hesitated. His family had never warmed to Lydia. She tested even Edmund's saintly patience. His mother and father had reconciled after a brief divorce, if one could call their odd arrangement reconciliation. His mom couldn't stand the sight of Lydia.

Still, Tye sympathized with her. It wasn't easy being part of the Bertram family.

"It's tough being a single parent," Tye said at last. "Lydia does her best with it. She moved into a cottage on the Mansfield Park property some years ago. It seems like a good fit for her and Lynnie."

"I just hope she's happy," said Elizabeth.

"Lynnie's sweet enough to make everyone happy," Tye confirmed. "Even her parents."

"Will!" Georgiana called out cheerfully. "Lizzie, oh, I'm sorry I'm late! Tye, you're here already, too. I expected you'd arrive before me. I had the worst time trying to get here."

"Georgiana," Elizabeth's laugh was gentle, "don't rush, sweetheart, we won't start our meal without you, will we Tye?"

"Never." Tye set his water glass down, ran a hand down his tie, and stood to greet her properly.

He nearly fell over when he saw her.

She wore delicate high heels, and a black wool coat. She walks like a woman. he realized. It felt like an idiotic thought, but he couldn't help thinking it nonetheless. He watched her move in those high heels, and he noted the natural rhythm the shoes gave her. It lent a graceful, confident sway to her walk. A womanly walk.

"Tye," she said breathlessly. "Goodness, you're very smart in that suit. And you're wearing a tie. You're looking wonderful."

She'd shielded herself from the December cold with a black woolen coat. Her curls were pinned up, with a few delicate brown tendrils falling from her chignon to frame her face. She'd made her eyes smoky with eye shadow. She smiled as she approached him. He found his chest tightening. Had she grown even more beautiful since he'd seen her last, or had he simply grown more susceptible to it?

"I'm sorry I'm so late," she said, reaching for Tye's arm.

"Doesn't matter," Tye murmured, leaning down to kiss her cheek softly. "As long as you're safe."

Kissing her cheek felt natural to him. Instinctive. It was as if he'd done it a thousand times—as if he'd always greeted her that way. He barely realized what he'd done until he pulled back.

There was no time to wonder what her brother thought of this. She unbuttoned her coat, slipping it off her shoulders.

It wasn't easy to unbalance a man like Tye. Mariah said, to quote his sister directly, you're too damned jaded. You barely look at anyone anymore. .

He'd looked at Georgiana Darcy in the past year, often more than he wanted to. That dress, though. Bloody hell thought Tye.

It was gold. And short. And it clung to her like melted gold bullion.

He couldn't keep himself from looking. Ogling. She'd always had just a hint of gold in her complexion. This meant she looked incredible in gold. The dress was sleeveless, and tailored to skim every curve she had. The bodice nipped her waist. The skirt was short. The front of the dress had a sweetheart neckline, dipping at her breasts, hinting at more than it revealed. It was a dangerous kind of allurement, subtle, playful, tempting a man's eyes to linger longer than he ought to while he tried to make out what was fabric and what was skin.

How long had he been standing here with his mouth agape?

"My dress is new." Georgiana spun. Her fingers skimmed down the fabric. When she paused to look at him again, shyness showed in her beautiful amber brown eyes. "It's a little extravagant but...well, this is a party. It seemed the night for extravagance."

He loved that shy look in her eyes. Feeling welled up in him. Affection. Desire. The two emotions were weaving together until he could barely tell the two thoughts apart. What's happening to me? "It's--you're---"

"That's a beautiful dress, Georgiana," Elizabeth said.

"What little there is of it," Will added dryly.

"Well, I wanted it to be special," said Georgiana. She looked to Tye again, waiting for his assessment.

Tye cleared his tight throat. He resisted the temptation to loosen his tie. "Your, uh, brother and sister-in-law were telling me how great the food is. How about we sit and take a look at the menu?"

"Oh." Her pretty cheeks were turning pink. She nodded. "Yes, sure. Let's...eat."

They settled at the table, Elizabeth and Will at one side, Georgiana and Tye opposite them.

He tried to resist the temptation to let his hand rest on the back of her chair. He tried not to notice every time she crossed her legs, or rocked back, squared her shoulders, tilted her neck. The last time he'd been this aware of anyone's body was the morning they'd woken up in bed together. He needed to think about something else. Anything else. Her eyes, he told himself sternly. Think of her eyes. She had beautiful eyes. Warm eyes. They made him think of her mind, and all of her many gifts.

He chose to make her mind his focus. They broached the safest topic first: her coursework at Cambridge. An old mentor of his was serving as her adviser.

"His sessions are so difficult," she said, reaching for a bread stick.

"Leopold's always tough on his best students," Tye remarked. "That said, if he's ever unfair to you---"

"No, no. The pressure's all mine."

"If that ever changes, call me. I'm serious, Georgie. I'd travel to Cambridge and give him hell on your behalf."

A small smile appeared on her lips. "I know you would."

"This man—Leopold---was a teacher of yours, Tye?" asked Elizabeth.

"Years ago," Tye confirmed. "Back when he taught at Bardwell."

"Tye was, oh, I think—twelve years old?" Georgiana announced with a laugh.

"I was twelve-and-a-half," Tye defended with a grin. "That half year counts for plenty."

"If I say that I'm twenty-one-and-a-half," said Georgiana, crossing her legs again as she angled her body towards his, "would you consider me more adult than a simple twenty-one-year-old?"

"Georgiana," he said, brushing a stray brown curl from her eyes, "I'm smart enough not to argue with any woman about her age. Even you."

At last, he glanced at Will and Elizabeth. Will was watching him with a cool frown. A smile edged at the corner of Elizabeth's mouth.

He'd managed not to stare at Georgiana's dress. That smile of hers distracted him, though. And her hair--
A server approached. Like the rest of the waitstaff, his uniform included a black-tailed coat, and white gloves. The slender man was the picture of decorum, pouring water into each goblet, calmly listing the evening's specials.

Tye noted no one at the table was ordering alcohol. Elizabeth couldn't, for obvious reasons. Tye wouldn't. Will and Georgiana also abstained, both choosing to do so without comment. Tye's own family wasn't that sensitive. Or that subtle.

They placed their orders. One would think the man hadn't bothered to notice the stupendous-looking brunette in the short gold dress. It was only when the waiter took her order and earned a smile from her that Tye noted the helpless blend of hope and awe in the man's eyes.

An outfit like hers deserves some awe. And maybe a warning label, he thought.

Will was watching him again. Tye felt his neck redden. It was like the man could sense every inappropriate thought Tye was tempted to have about his darling little sister.

"So, uh..." Tye cleared his throat, trying to think of something else. Anything else. "Elizabeth, congratulations on your new kid." Maybe not the prettiest way to phrase it, but he was a composer, not a poet. He reached for a bread stick. "How do you feel?"

"Good. Strong." Elizabeth's hands folded protectively over her round abdomen. "Once I passed the first three months, everything's progressed smoothly."

"They still don't know if it's a boy or a girl," Georgiana spoke up.

"My choice," Elizabeth confirmed happily. "Every pregnancy, I visit a dozen doctors. I get a hundred tests. They check every inch of me a thousand times, over and over again for months--"

"Rightly so," Will rumbled. The man's hand slid over her back, lingering there. The gesture was habitual; so was her response. She leaned against him.

"I know. But waiting to learn if it's a boy or a girl, it's just..." Elizabeth glanced up at Will, "it leaves a touch of fun and mystery. despite the blood pressure checks, and the endless lab work."

"I'm happy to wait, Elizabeth," Will whispered. "You know that."

She nodded.

Tye watched the pair. A look, a gesture, a touch. For one brief moment, it was as if the rest of the world had melted away from Will and Elizabeth. So much love existed between the couple.

"My mum," Elizabeth said, drawing her attention back to her guests, "and my gran, too, are both convinced they know what the baby is."

The comment sparked a laugh in Will. It was the first time he'd heard the man laugh all night. "With different conclusions, for opposite reasons."

"Mum's sure it's a boy," Elizabeth continued. "She said I'm carrying too high for a girl, and that my skin's stayed unspoiled, and I've no real cravings. But Mamó, that's my gran, says it's surely a girl."

Mamó. The phrase sounded friendly. He'd never known either of his grandmothers. If he'd ever had, he thought he'd want one called Mamó."What makes her think that?"

"Oh, that's her nature. She thinks she has the wisdom of King Solomon. She asked if I drank Irish whiskey before falling pregnant this time, or had any cake."

A quick smile flashed across Will's face. "Or some mixture of the two."

"Right. Irish whiskey cake. Even more potent." Elizabeth laughed. "She said I ought to steer clear of graveyards and all manner of knotted handkerchiefs. And you should hear her go on and on about newborn babes, and fairy mischief.."

Tye, too, was left grinning. He could see why Georgiana was so fond of Will's Irish wife. An hour with this woman could have him wistful for Ireland's small seaside villages and rolling green hills—and he'd never even been to Ireland.

Their meals arrived. Tye had the bistecca fiorentina, a tender, flavorful steak. Elizabeth and Will both ordered the arista alla fiorentina. Georgiana tried the tagliatelle al tartufo, which she kindly offered to share with him. Over and over, until the end of the meal, she kept offering.

Finally, when she was down to her last bite, Tye relented with a grin. He set down his water glass. "Alright, Georgie. Convince me."

"Oh, I will," Georgiana said. "I've been waiting all night to try."

She lifted her own fork to his mouth. It tasted like everything he loved about Italy--rich Parmesan, creamy butter, homemade pasta, earthy pepper.

His gaze met hers. There was warmth in her, rich intelligence, playfulness, and still just a little shyness.

"Not bad, is it?" she whispered, drawing the fork away.

"It's---" Tye could barely think around her tonight. "Georgie, it's incredible."

"Oh, it is my favorite fam-ily!" A woman was nearing the table. She had a thicket of silver-gray hair and a dress the color of a dusky rose."Elisabetta, Fitzwilliam! Elisabetta, I see you are having another baby? This is il secondo bambino?"

"Three," said Will, taking Elizabeth's hand. "It's our third child."

"When they are bigger, you bring them here to eat. And Georgiana, bella, you have dressed so beautifully for me. Or is it because of your fidanzato here?"

"Claretta," Georgiana set her fork down. "Non è il mio fidanzato. Lui è un amico."

Claretta's gaze shifted to Tye. "Un amico?"

Across the table, Elizabeth laughed. "Oh, dear."

"Deja vu, right?" Will murmured, grinning at her. "Careful, Claretta."

"But I cannot believe it." Claretta repeated. "Solo un amico?"

"Madam," Tye looked chagrined, "my Italian—"

"He doesn't speak Italian, Claretta," Georgiana said quickly.

That wasn't entirely true. Tye knew a little Italian. He was certainly fluent in their musical terminology. As translation skills rated, though, he'd call himself a basic Italian conversationalist.

"Questo vestito?" Claretta insisted, "per un amico? Is that what you tell me?"

That sentence, he understood. This dress, for a friend? Tye offered a tired laugh. It was too late for things to get lost in translation. How was he supposed to answer that? He'd been wondering it for most of the night.

Georgiana was still blushing. "Claretta, this is Tye Bertram. Tye, this is Claretta. She's the restaurant owner, and an old friend of our family."

"Claretta," said Elizabeth, "Tye is a wonderfully talented musician."

"Suena il pianoforte, come la nostra cara Georgiana?"

"I play the piano." Tye nodded. "I'm partial to violin, but--"

Claretta's eyes narrowed, then widened. "Ti-ber-ius Bertram! Il compositore!"

The woman's thoughts rushed forth in a flurry of swift, excited Italian. It wasn't long before he lost the thread of her words.

"What's she saying?" he murmured to Georgiana.

Georgiana leaned closer. "She says..." Georgiana paused, absorbing the words before offering her translation, "that her sister-in-law adores you. And she says that...you're her favorite composer. She loves the Adagio for Grace. She says..she wanted to hear you play in Venice ten years ago, but couldn't get tickets. The show was sold out."

Venice, ten years ago? Tye grimaced. He'd been sixteen at the time. He thought it was just as well that she'd missed it. He remembered that performance, the sold-out house, the pre-show press, the decade-older Italian soprano, the hotel room, the alcohol. He remembered he'd been desperately hung over by the time he'd reached the stage. He'd chosen not to use a conductor's baton that night because he couldn't lift it without revealing the tremors in his fingers.

Whatever look crossed his face, Georgiana noticed. She squeezed his hand. "She asks if you could go back to the kitchen and greet her sister-in-law. You don't have to if you're not up for it--"

Tye shook his head. "I'd be happy to." The chair squeaked against the floor as he pushed it back, standing.

"It's getting late," said Will, standing with him. "We have a babysitter with the children. We should head home soon."

"Ah." Tye's palms rubbed together. "If I don't see you before you go..."

"Right." Will reached out a hand, offering a firm handshake. "Make sure my sister gets home safely."

As Darcy commands went, this was the only one that Tye would readily agree with. "Right, I will."

"I'll also be handling the bill," Will continued. He reached for his winter wool coat, sliding it on."We'll have Claretta put it on our tab."

Something stirred Tye's eyes. It was a shot of pure masculine pride. "I'll cover the cost of Georgie's meal."

"She's my sister. We invited you." Will frowned. "There's no need..."

"Will," Elizabeth said softly.

"Sure there is," said Tye. A calm, cool tone had entered his voice. It was the same stubborn tone he'd use while arguing with the Palais's board of directors. "I haven't seen her in a year. I missed her birthday. The least I can do is buy her dinner."

"Due uomini che discutono per te," Claretta murmured to Georgiana. "Sei proprio cresciuta."

"Non capisco cos'hanno da discutere, Claretta." Georgiana chewed on her lower lip. "I can pay for my own meal."

"Lascia perdere il conto. None of you pay," Claretta announced firmly. "You all eat tonight as my guests. Fitzwilliam, you put your wallet away and kiss me goodbye instead. And you, Tiberius, you say hello to my sister-in-law. These things are payment enough."

"Unsurprising that a woman has the wisest solution." Elizabeth smiled, standing slowly. She moved around the table, offering Tye a kiss on the cheek. "It's always grand to see you, Tye. Thank you for coming all this way to have dinner with us."

"It was good to see you, too. Thanks for having me."

The pregnant woman reached out one dainty hand, grasping Will's fingers. If they were near one another, they were probably touching. Tye wondered, not for the first time, how a woman as effortlessly charming as Elizabeth had ended up with a guy like Will.

Claretta escorted Tye back to the kitchen. When she returned to the table, she had plenty of questions for the Darcy family.

"A sua sorella piacciono i musicisti?" said Claretta to Will.

"Le piace questo musicista, sì," Will confirmed, taking his wife's hand.

Georgiana's cheeks were growing warm. It felt odd hearing him say it aloud, although she'd been quite sure he knew.

"E ha buon gusto in fatto di uomini," said Claretta.

"Oh my gosh," groaned Georgiana.

Will shrugged. "È un adulta. Sceglie lei i suoi amici."

"Georgie, enjoy the rest of your evening with Tye," Elizabeth added lightly. "Tell him that the panna cotta here is wonderful."

"Thank you again, both of you," said Georgiana. "Goodnight."

As much as Georgiana had enjoyed Will and Elizabeth's company, excitement stirred in her when they left. To be alone again with Tye, privately, and to speak freely, and touch, and look, and simply with him; she'd been waiting months for it.

She wondered how Tye was faring in the kitchen. Tye wore his fame loosely. When they were outside the world of classical music it was easy to forget that a large portion of the population knew his name. His work had filtered into popular culture. His compositions were sampled occasionally for film and television. There were only a handful of classical musicians who were internationally recognized. Tye was foremost among them.

Tye returned with slow strides. His hands hung in his pockets.

"I heard a woman shriek when you went back there," Georgiana remarked as he settled in the chair beside her. "Was she very excited to meet you?"

Tye nodded.

She studied him. He had such a pensive, conflicted look in his eyes. He made music because it lived inside him. He couldn't bear not to create it. She knew that he appreciated his audience. It was adulation that made him uncomfortable. Georgiana wondered if the woman had cried while meeting him. She decided she'd spare him the burden of telling her. Her hand reached for his.

The touch pulled him out of his thoughts.

"I was sorry to leave you out here alone," he murmured. His thumb ran along the lines her fingers.

"It was only for a handful of minutes."

"Still, we get so few of them together." His gold lashes lifted, dark eyes meeting hers.

She nodded. In her own heart, she'd felt the same.

"Are you still hungry?" he questioned softly. "Dessert? Coffee?"

What she wanted most was for him to keep sitting beside her, holding her hand. She ended up ordering coffee and dessert in an effort to extend their evening. They split an apple tart with fragipane, and talked about their lives as the tea candles burned down. He draped his arm around the back of her chair. She let her body scoot closer to his. She breathed in the light scent of his aftershave. She listened to his throaty laugh when she recounted stories about Cambridge. The night was as close to perfect as it could possibly get.

When their coffee cups were empty, he nodded to one corner of the dining room. He leaned close to her. "I've been eying that upright piano in the corner since I got here," he whispered. His warm breath tickled her ear, and sent goosebumps down her skin "What do you say we take it for a test-drive?"

She couldn't hide the delight in her voice. "You'd play for me?"

He nodded. "If you'd like me to."

He kept her hand in his as he stood.

Georgiana noted other patrons taking note of them as they crossed the room. They were men and women her parents' generation, the age her parents would've been if they'd lived.

She tucked the thought aside. It was bittersweet, and she didn't want sorrow tonight. Instead she considered the fact that all the couples they passed offered her a warm, knowing smile.

They think we're a couple, she realized, sitting beside Tye at the piano bench. Tye settled left of middle C. She was to his right. He started a casual warm up, fingers drifting lazily up the keyboard. He blended sounds together, one note melting into another.

"You haven't played the piano for me in years," she said.

"I suppose not." His voice was soft. The music was already stealing part of his focus. He started the first chords of a recent composition, a piano suite he'd been inspired to write this summer. "You don't need me teaching you, Georgiana. You haven't needed it for years."

"No," she confirmed. There was pride in her voice for her own accomplishment. Rapture was in her voice, too. His newest creation was beautiful. He was playing her a river of notes. The composition made her think of a cool stream winding through a gold and emerald grove. There was the harmony, rhythmic and cool. And the melody, sliding through it like sunlight in a forest.

The piece made her think of Pemberley. When he was finished, there were tears in her eyes. "Will you transcribe that for me?"

"I think I'm going to have to," he whispered, turning toward her. "You're crying..."

"Only because it's so beautiful."

"It's meant to be beautiful. The woman who inspired it is." He touched her cheek. "Even more in spirit than in form." As soulful as his eyes were, a hint of teasing showed at the edge of his mouth. "Although speaking of form, you in this dress, Georgie..."

She'd waited for years to have him look at her this way, without worry or restraint. She felt herself melting under his touch. She'd never need alcohol around him. She could get drunk from the look in his eyes.

"I wanted you to see me in it," she whispered, forcing herself to say the words. You have to push past your terror of telling him the truth to his face, Georgie, she told herself. Otherwise nothing will move forward between you. "I wanted you to look and look at me."

There was a tremor in her voice. He heard it. His lips brushed her forehead, warmed her temple, skimmed her cheek. He felt her shake. He was gentle, kissing her ear's tip, the edge of her hairline, the soft curl that brushed against her neck. The women in his past had smelled like high end perfume. She smelled like strawberry shampoo. The scent slipped into him like a fever. His blood was humming. He thumbed the center of her chin, entranced by her mouth, drawing his lips closer.

"I'm sorry--" a hurried voice interrupted them, "I feel silly interrupting, I normally wouldn't do this, but—I have to ask..."

The voice startled them both. Georgiana jerked back. Dazed, Tye glanced at the intruder.

Of all the bloody times to interrupt, thought Tye. He'd nearly kissed her, brazenly, publicly, in front of anyone and everyone who felt like watching them, including this fellow.

"Sorry to intrude," said the man, "seeing as you're with your girlfriend and all, only our meal is nearly over and, oh bother, I do feel like a heel for asking, but today's my anniversary. Me and my other half over there. I was wondering if you'd be able to play us a tune?"

The man held out a pound coin, planting it awkwardly at the edge of the piano top. "I don't see a tip jar. I'm not sure how long you're set to play."

This guy thought Tye was here as some for-hire piano man, hired to serenade couples. Tye laughed. Beside him, a wide smile stretched across Georgiana's face.

"What music does your spouse like?" she asked politely.

"Oh, um...something romantic?" the stranger said. "Something she can tap her feet to? Whatever suits."

The man shuffled away. Tye pushed a hand through his hair and shot her an amused grin. She laughed.

"Romantic, huh?" he said. "What do you think, blues? Or a little jazz?"

"Jazz would be nice," Georgiana agreed. Her right hand touched the keys "Some Glenn Miller." She started the first few notes of "In the Mood." "Is this too on-the-nose?"

Tye chuckled. "No, it's perfect. I'm always willing to take a trip down Tin Pan Alley."

He let her enjoy the melody while he took the harmony. They breezed through the song, filling the restaurant with a jazzy rhythm. When the song ended, the restaurant patrons started to applaud.

Claretta sauntered over with a smile. "You will come back again, vero? And you bring your Georgiana and her beautiful smile with her."


**

They took a cab home. It was stop-and-go traffic, typical of a late Friday in London. When the cab stopped at her building, Tye paid the fare and glanced over at her.

She was dozing quietly.

"Georgie," he whispered. Gently, he reached across, brushing the edge of her cheek. "Georgiana, sweetheart, we're here."

"Already?" she whispered.

He gave her a soft smile. "It's past 2:00."

"Too quick," she said quietly, "the whole night."

"Yeah, for me too." He touched a curl near her brow. "Let me walk you up."

The Darcy family's London home was an elegant apartment building, the Montgomery Victoria. It offered the amenities of a fine hotel: a concierge, laundry service, maids, doormen. The tenants here were the usual high-end assortment: politicians, aristocrats, diplomats, socialites.

The Darcy family owned the building. Tye knew Georgiana's family was rich. He took that knowledge in stride, with the casual acceptance that came from being born into an equal fortune. The Darcy name spanned corporations and industries. The Bertram shipping business, much as Tye tried to stay out of it, was also a billion dollar, cross-continental empire.

Tye's wariness wasn't because the building was posh. His wariness was because he was in the cross-hairs of the security guards. While he escorted Georgiana through the sleek lobby, he let his arm drape over her shoulder.

One security guard glared at him. The other guard pushed up his cap up and frowned.

Unfazed, Georgiana smiled sleepily at the pair. "Evening, Axle. Gunner."

"Miss Georgie." Gunner's beady eyes fixed on Tye. "Needin' one of us to ride up in the lift with you?"

"No thank you, Gunner. Tye's always allowed with me. He has a standing invitation."

They reached the safety of the lift. As the lift rose upwards, Tye let out a breath. "Nice guys."

"Mmm." He still had his arm around her. She let her head rest on his chest. "They're a pair of puppies."

Tye snorted.

"They are, though. I've known them since I was a little girl. One's a former police officer from Whitechapel. The other used to be a prison guard. He's from Croydon," she murmured sleepily.

Tye thought those puppies sounded like Rottweilers. The lift pinged. The doors slid open.

"They were friendlier to me in the past," he said as he walked her down the hall.

"Well, we've never arrived here together at two o'clock in the morning," said Georgiana. They stopped at the door to the Darcy's apartment. "You have your arms around me. Under my coat, I'm wearing a very short dress..."

"Right. Looks like a date."

"Yes." Her amber eyes met his. Suddenly, she was looking less sleepy. She licked nervously at her lower lip. "Um...Tye, was it one? A date, I mean."

He let his palm curve over her cheek, her jaw, her neck. "I'm starting to think so," he whispered, stepping closer to her.

Get back to the lift, Bertram, he told himself. Leave the rottweiler security guards behind you. Catch a few hours of sleep before you head back to Paris.

He couldn't make himself do it. Instead, he studied her, trying to memorize every flicker of feeling in her. He saw nervousness, and desire. His gaze lowered, landing on her soft, parted lips. She wanted this. She was afraid of it, too.

And who the hell could blame her for that? thought Tye. It scared him, too.

Kiss her and you'll risk losing your best friend, he thought. You'll risk losing the woman you love.

He loved her. Intensely. He loved her in a way that terrified and overwhelmed him. When had that happened? How had it happened? He'd never understood love. He hadn't wanted to. He'd been willfully avoiding it. He hadn't realized he was in her thrall until tonight, when he was completely overtaken by it.

A lot of people would have opinions about them as a couple: the music world, their peers, her family, his family. He was in love with her, and even he thought this was a bad idea.

Was there any way to love her and keep her as far away from Mansfield Park as humanly possible? If so, he'd have to do his best to figure it out. A more prudent man would wait, talk things through with her, sketch out all the reasons they should or shouldn't act on their feelings.

He studied Georgiana's amber eyes. He looked at her lovely mouth. He remembered that he'd never been prudent. Cursing his own lack of self-restraint, he cupped her jaw and kissed her.

If this was his first and last time kissing her, he was going to make bloody sure that she enjoyed every part of it.

He kissed the center of her lower lip, the edge of her smile, the curve of her upper lip. Her mouth was lovely. Modestly sized. Perfect. It could be shy, or gentle, or coy, or playful. It was also very, very sweet. He felt his own restraint strain as he discovered how much he loved the taste of it. She shivered when he nudged her mouth open and stole her breath.

He tasted her. Blood was pumping through him like a bass drum. He could hear his own heartbeat, coming hard and swift. He kissed her again and again, hungrily. Suddenly, she became a firecracker in his arms, meeting his hunger with her own impatient appetite. He drew her hard against him. His hands moved down, against her back, behind her, seeking the graceful curve of her hip, the low point of her back. He could feel the strain inside her, the rise and fall of her chest, the push of her hips. A low, aching sound rolled out of him. He loved her.

The thought was still new enough that it forced his mouth from hers. She was trembling against him. Her beautiful amber eyes looked satiated, full of feeling. He'd stunned her. He'd stunned himself.

"I think I've waited my whole life for that kiss," Georgiana whispered.

"No kidding?" Tye barely knew what he was saying. He could hear the tightness his voice. Every fiber in his body felt charged.

"Uh huh." Georgiana nodded. "My whole life."

"The concept's still new to me, sweetheart. You'll have to give me time to catch up," Tye said hoarsely. "How'd we rate?"

Georgiana was still shaking. Nonetheless, she let out a soft, delighted laugh. "Earthquake," she whispered.

His hand ran up her back, discovering the path of her spine under her coat. Her body shivered against his. He was already learning how aware he could be of those small, subtle movements.

"Georgiana," he said, "your happiness...it means more to me than..."

"I know." She nodded. "I can feel that when I'm with you."

"What I feel for you....I've never felt this way about anyone. " His gaze turned hard, searching. "There are a thousand reasons why this shouldn't happen. If there's a heartbeat of uncertainty in you, you can tell me, Georgiana..."

"I'm not uncertain." Her arms held, tightening the press of her body against his. "Keep holding me, and you'll know plenty about my heartbeat."

"Georgie..." he murmured, chuckling despite it all, "a lot of people won't like this."

"We'll figure it out together." She nudged her head up, letting her lips brush timidly against his. "What are your plans for Christmas?"

He didn't know yet. He could barely think with her kissing him like that. The charge he gained from it was immediate. "A frozen dinner. A stop by Notre Dame." A humble smile broke across his face. "I'd love to steal you away for Christmas. I'm not making it sound very appealing."

"I'd love to be with you. Whatever you're doing, I could be there...."

Gently, she let her lips brush against his again. He tried not to moan. The women he'd kissed before her had been bold and blatant. She wasn't. Every shy gesture she offered was precious and foreign to him. Her sweet little kisses stirred fire in him.

"You should..." he tried to swallow; his words sounded brusque, "you should be with your family."

"I will be with them. And then I'll be with you. I'll come to Paris, if you'll have me."

Heat sparked in his eyes. She was going to ask him to kiss once more the way he had earlier, but his mouth captured hers and he was already doing it.

After tonight, there was no going back.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

BernadetteEOctober 06, 2017 03:59AM

Re: Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

KateBOctober 06, 2017 11:51PM

Re: Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

BernadetteEOctober 09, 2017 01:22AM

Re: Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

NickiOctober 06, 2017 06:23PM

Re: Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

KarenteaOctober 06, 2017 06:37AM

Re: Love's Adagio: Chapter 7

TinaOctober 06, 2017 05:54PM



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