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An Even Path: Post 10

November 19, 2017 11:49PM
An Even Path: Post 10



---

Though Will and Jenna Fairfax met as strangers, they reached the main courtyard as friends. He learned that she was a dancer with the British Opera Ballet, just like Elizabeth, and that she had yet to be given any significant work as a soloist. There was, however, discussion of her being an alternate for Sleeping Beauty or Don Quixote.

"Which do you want more?" Will questioned.

"Don Quixote," Jenna answered unthinking, and then shook her head as if to contradict herself. "I shouldn't say that. My ex is going to be in Don Quixote. Dancing with him would bring nothing but complications." She shrugged. "What I should say is that I'd be grateful for either."

“A political answer.”

“Are you familiar with those in your line of work?”

A quick smile flashed across his mouth. “Very.”

He shifted his gaze from Jenna. Frederick's car was rolling from the courtyard, down the driveway.

"Excuse me for a minute, Jenna."

Will jogged to the car. He stuck out one hand, slowing Fred's car down before he could drive past him. He bent down as Fred rolled down his window. "Is the party over, Fred?"

"It is for me," Fred answered, his hands gripping the wheel. He looked miserable. Louisa Musgrove was passed out in the passenger seat.

Will winced. "The date with Louisa was that bad?"

Fred shook his head. "Louisa was never a problem. Or, more accurate, the problem was that it wasn't Louisa I wanted. It was Anne."

"Anne Elliot."

"Is there any other Anne? She's long since over me, Will. " Frederick spoke the words with a wince. "Meanwhile, I acted like an idiot, manhandled the poor girl, and got a kiss out of the experience that'll probably keep me sleepless for the next ten years. I'm officially done for the night. I'll see you back at the flat."

"Right," Will agreed grimly, watching his friend drive off.

Anne Elliot. Will sighed, worried for his friend. He'd seen the effects of Anne the first time around, all those years ago. Round two looked to be no better.

As they reached the courtyard, it seemed Frederick and Louisa weren't the only ones on their way out.

"I need to go," Elizabeth was saying to a tall, handsome blond man as she pulled on her coat. This wasn't the Russian. It was Frank Churchill. Jealousy stabbed at him. "Emma and Anne are already waiting in the car. My friend needs me, Frank. She's upset. I had fun tonight, but I'll see you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow," Frank said in agreement. It was only when he glanced at the pair approaching that his expression changed. He'd taken an immediate dislike to Will Darcy. Now here was Jenna, draped in the handsome barrister's coat. That smug, rich playboy, thought Frank. Anger bubbled in him. He looked from Jenna to Elizabeth.

"Don't forget me before then, okay?" Frank said to Elizabeth.

With grace that only a star principal could achieve, he hooked his fingers around the belt of Elizabeth's coat and pulled her into a quick, firm kiss.

If only, Frank thought, it could burn out his simmering jealousy at the sight of Jenna with that cold-blooded barrister.

Elizabeth barely let the kiss linger before she pushed back, breaking it off.

"Frank, please.” Elizabeth frowned. What she wanted to say was, you had no right.... What she said instead was, "that was an impulsive act. It's no way to end our night--"

Frank wasn't even looking at her. He was looking at the couple walking towards them. Finally, she looked, too.

Will Darcy and Jenna Fairfax.

Elizabeth's mouth flattened. She wouldn't agree to go with him on a moonlit walk in the gardens so he'd taken Jenna instead, was that it? Was he one of those men? A man who had a fetish for dancers?

Any dancer will do for you, Will, is that it?

It didn't help that he'd chosen Jenna. Beautiful Jenna. Jenna was sweet, consistently calm, endlessly agreeable, impossible to dislike. Elizabeth was amiable with all of the opera house dancers. She worked with Jenna every day. She and sweet Jenna Fairfax should have become close friends by now.

They weren't friends. Instead an awkward, albeit pleasant, reserve existed between the two women. All of their attempts at conversation petered out. Elizabeth could never pin down why.

Seeing Jenna wearing Will's coat certainly wasn't helping inspire new bonds of friendship. She wondered why she hadn't thought of Will and Jenna as a potential pair before. She reckoned Jenna would appeal to him. In temperament, they seemed a natural match.

Jenna was a blonde, blue eyed, docile beauty. Plus, she was the picture of good health. She was everything that Elizabeth wasn't. The thought that Will could quickly trade her for Jenna stirred a new hurt inside of her. The pain cut so deep, she was briefly rendered breathless. I was right not to trust him.

"It seems Mr. Churchill has a habit of impulsive behavior," Will spoke up, viewing Elizabeth and Frank.

Elizabeth stormed down the steps."This was a private conversation, Will. I really don't think Frank's impulses are any of your business.”

His hand touched her arm. It was a soft gesture. It nearly made tears sting in her eyes. She'd experienced a dance with Will that left her feeling as if her mind, her body, her heart had been upended. She'd witnessed Anne's tears after the kiss with Fred. She'd endured the stress of the ballet's administrative staff, and the financiers. She'd been blindsided by that kiss from Frank. She'd expanded the energy required to charm and flirt all night with all those people. And now here was Will, clouding her mind and her heart again. Mercy, I'm so....tired.

Will was also blocking her way to the car.

"It becomes my business when I'm concerned about a friend getting hurt," Will said bluntly. The image of her kissing Frank had clobbered into him. It also loosened his tongue in the most dangerous way possible.

"Getting hurt?" Elizabeth repeated blankly, tightening her coat. "First of all, you know nothing about Frank--"

"I've reviewed his legal mess," Will countered sharply, "I know plenty about him."

"Secondly," Elizabeth continued, "I'm a grown woman. I can look after myself. I don't need anyone doing it for me, least of all you. You're not my brother, Will Darcy. You're my friend. You want to be worrying about someone? Worry about Anne. One kiss from Fred and she's crying her eyes out."

"Anne? Anne's the one I should be worried about right now? A man who puts his life on the line for his profession, a man who's like a brother to me, who only wanted some peace and quiet during his leave, is suddenly dealing with heartbreak all over again.”

“Whatever Frederick is feeling, that's not Anne's fault.”

“It's not about fault. We both know that she doesn't love him. I mentioned to you that she should stay away from him."

"Doesn't love him?! Anne doesn't love him, does she? Mercy, you're a daft, stubborn mule. I told you to leave them well enough alone."

"And that worked so well."

"Get out of my way, Darcy.” Elizabeth seethed. “Go back inside with bonny Jenna Fairfax and tell her how to lead her life if that's what she's so keen to hear. I'm going home."

Brushing past him, she did exactly that









Chapter 13







Will Darcy's keys dropped on the kitchen counter in time with the glass in Fred's hands.

Frederick always said he would choose a clear head over a pint. He didn't like the confusion that came with drinking too much, the loss of control, the hangover that followed. He didn't like the fact that it dampened his reflexes, honed to sharpness after years in the military special forces.

Over the course of their friendship, Will could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen Frederick Wentworth drunk. The last time when he'd been twenty, 'too stupid in love to know better'--Fred's own words--and fresh off a break-up. Anne Elliot. Or, to quote him again, 'the only Anne.'

Darcy shrugged off his jacket and swung it over the kitchen chair.

"I see you opened the liquor cabinet."

Fred looked up, just now noticing his presence. His tie was off, his sleeves were rolled up. His car keys were safely tucked away. He was half way through the bottle of scotch on the table and he seemed intent on seeing what happened when he got to the bottom.

"Yeah, well..." Fred sat up a little straighter, looking Will in the eyes. "I dropped Louisa off. Made sure she got back to her flat safe. Her flatmate was there to take care of her. A pretty little redhead. Henrietta, she said. I don't know. And maybe it was Heidi...but Heidi smiled at me on my way out. That little smile women have when you walk by sometimes? You know how they are..."

"Smiling?" Darcy repeated blankly. Perhaps this story would make more sense if he, too, had been half a bottle in.

"Right. Smiling. It's cute. She was cute. And Louisa was cute. But you know what really digs at me? As nice as it was, Darce, it wasn't nice enough. And you know why?"

"I think maybe it's--"

"I'll tell you why. It's because the smile wasn't coming from the one person I wanted to be with tonight. And so I came back to our flat, and I tried to do the smart thing. I tried going to bed. I even thought about reading a book. Reading a book, Darce. Can you believe that? This was what I thought could distract me?" Fred pressed his hand to the table for emphasis. "I have thought and fantasized and dreamed about this woman for years. Years. I was on a mission a few years back, a drop out of an airplane. 14,000 feet up in the air, and for three minutes my drawstring wouldn't pull. I thought I was gonna end my life as a pancake. And her face was the first thing that came to mind in my free-fall. Anne Elliot. I kissed her tonight for the first time in years and I thought a book would distract me." He laughed and raised his glass, "It had better be one hell of a book..."

"Never again," Darcy reminded him with severe, brotherly caution, staring him down across the table. "That's what you told me. The weekend before you shipped off for the service, remember?"

"Unforgettable, that. The weekend the Elliot family ripped my heart to shreds. May all the wise members of Kellynch Hall live long, healthy, happy lives." Fred saluted him with a sloshing glass, Anne's words that evening echoing in his mind. "That's what we're all supposed to be. Happy."

"Fred, focus for a second. That weekend you said you were never going to let anyone break you down like this again. And that your answer was never going to be a bottle of tequila and a pounding hangover."

Frederick chuckled.

"Don't worry. I've matured, Darce. At twenty-eight, I'm an older, wiser idiot than I was the first time around. No more tequila for me." Fred pressed his palm into his forehead as the room began to spin. He spoke in a low voice. "A gentleman in Her Majesty's Service takes his scotch neat."

Will sighed. Fred drinking his sorrows away would only be worse if he were drinking alone. Will plopped down in the chair next to him and picked up a weighted glass tumbler. Will grabbed at the bottle, listening to the glass grate across the tabletop. The top came off with a quick flick of his wrist. Fred had already worked through half of it. If he could help Fred out with some of this, maybe the damage would be lessened.

Besides, after seeing Elizabeth kissing Frank Churchill, after the argument that had ensued, he could understand Fred's need to drink.

"Here's to a bad night all around," Will said, splashing liquor into his own glass.

"When I was driving off, you were on your way back to Mansfield Park with a woman. Blonde. You and George with your blondes," Fred pointed out. Correction, George's taste ran to one blonde exclusively. Darcy's taste had often run toward them generally, at least growing up, though none of them had left much of an imprint on his heart. "How's that going for you?"

"By blonde, you mean Jenna Fairfax." Will dropped ice into his glass.

"I don't think I meant Caroline Bingley," Fred pointed out.

"Jenna is a sweet girl. Pretty." The first sip burned down his throat. He took a sip and then another until all he saw at the bottom was ice. "Completely wrong for me."

"Why's that?"

"Because," Will said, filling the tumbler with more liquid amber and raising it in salute, "she's not a complicated brunette."

Complicated brunette, Fred thought, giving Will an appraising glance. Sounded familiar.

"I'll drink to that." Frederick raised his glass, downed its contents with a bitter swill, then filled again.


**


It was past 1:00 AM, but still Emma managed to get to Knightley's house before he did. Emma had pulled her picnic basket from the boot of her car and slipped into Knightley's Notting Hill home.

She had plenty of thoughts in her mind that didn't relate to Valentines, candy hearts, and sweet sentiments. She was thinking about Anne and Frederick. She was thinking about Tye's alcohol addiction, and the much older women he found solace with.

Between the two topics, Anne and Frederick's romance was the happier one. It would all be put to rights soon enough, Emma truly believed that. Yes, Fred had kissed Anne and said something rather crushing, this was true. But he had kissed her. Very passionately. If Knightley had kissed Emma like that in front of all those people, she would have turned tomato red. She also would have taken it as a strong indicator that the man loved her. As far as Emma was concerned, it was a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, she would try one last Valentine's Day maneuver.

Emma slipped through the dark house as comfortably as if it were her own; she knew the proportions of every room, the placement of all the furniture.

She settled in the living room, set her picnic basket down, then reached for the nearest light. It was only when she flipped the switch that she saw she was surrounded. Flowers. Hundreds of flowers, all native to the state of Texas, filled every inch of free space. Bouquets spilled out of vases on every table top, and crammed the edges of the room. It looked like Knightley had bought out a whole flower shop.

There was a note on the table in Knightley's efficient, masculine script. It read: "If you can't get your Texan springtime in February, it can come to you. I love you."

How well did he know her? Emma let out a giggle, and then another, until her laughter turned to tears. She'd mentioned to Knightley some time ago that she'd grown sick of snow and ice, and that—as much as she loved England---she longed for spring, and sunshine, and picnics, and Texas flowers.

"The best of men," she repeated the phrase she'd used with Fred, then settled on the floor, spreading out the picnic blanket she'd brought along with her. At 1:15 she started cutting the cake in anticipation. At 1:30, she uncorked the champagne.

When 2:00 AM drifted past and he wasn't home yet, she couldn't help it. Even as she tried to will herself awake, her eyes were drifting shut.

At 2:30, after his last surgery finished late, George came home to a gorgeous blonde in a chocolate brown dress, dozing next to a picnic basket.

He hadn't the heart to wake her. Instead, he carried her up to the master bedroom. He slipped off her shoes and pulled a blanket over her, tucked her in. She could have his room, and welcome to it. He'd sleep in the guest room tonight and find her in the morning.

As moonlight streamed through the nearby window, he watched her chest rise and fall, listening to the quiet sound of her breathing. The sight of her held so much of what he wanted: a life with her here, in this house, in this bed, in this home.

"Marry me, Emma," he whispered as he stood.

Her response was the soft, quiet exhale of deep sleep. George's smile in response was wryly accepting. At least once, he'd asked the question burning in his heart.


**



It had been years since Will had been this drunk. Not since his first year at Oxford, at his first rowdy party, when he'd been brashly testing his own intake limits.

Stretched out on the couch, Will now remembered why he avoided the experience. His control was slipping.

Fred was in worse shape. The naval man was in a mumbling stupor at the kitchen table.

Will's eyes shut. He pressed his empty glass against his forehead. He was trying to block out the tantalizing memory of Elizabeth's body, and the way it felt when they danced together. How could so much fire exist in that delicate figure of hers? He'd never seen anyone that sexy. Now that he had the privilege of touching her, now that he'd felt her moving against him...

He groaned. Will ached for her. Another condition that alcohol exacerbated.

"Her father thinks I'm beneath her," Fred slurred.

It took him a full minute to realize Frederick meant Anne, not Elizabeth.

"That's his mistake," Will muttered wearily.

"I'm never going to let this go, am I?"

"Only you can know that, Fred."

"Are you sure you're drunk?"

"Judging from the way the room's tilting..." Will sat up slowly, "I'm going to have to answer that affirmatively."

"You always were an articulate drunk. Never shoulda come tonight."

"Maybe not." He forced himself to stand. "Come on, pal. You've had enough. Bar's closed. You should head to sleep."


**


Anne wiped off her streaked makeup upon arriving home. The woman pacing the room, arms folded, largely ignoring the tea that Elizabeth had set out for her comfort, was simple Anne Elliot again. Her face was sweeter, less intimidating than the woman in the makeup. But the look in her eyes was the same. She knew what she wanted. Once her shock and tears had passed, once she realized that she had a second chance with Frederick, she was finally feeling brave enough to say she wanted it. If only he would let her...

"I wasn't crying because Fred hurt me. I was crying because I never thought I'd see that look in Frederick's eyes again. I didn't think it was possible," she confessed, chewing on her thumbnail. She looked more agitated than Elizabeth had ever seen her. And perhaps more alive. She spun around, looking at Elizabeth with bright eyes. "I thought he'd blocked out every good memory of me, every kiss, every secret we'd ever shared. Oh, Lizzie, you should have heard the things he said! How could he have stayed away from London this long, avoiding me for all these years, if he still thought about me like that?"

Elizabeth stirred her tea. It wasn't often that she felt like the calmer of the pair. "Because he was afraid?"

"And I wasn't?" Anne questioned, a rare display of frustration for an otherwise controlled woman. She groaned into her fingers. "I know that I fell apart at Mansfield Park."

"A little," Elizabeth confirmed gently. After Frederick had left, Anne had been crying so hard that her breaths had become gasps, choked with emotion. It was a relief to see her steady and ready to take action.

"It was shock. Eight years of wishing for something only to see it brought to fruition in a matter of seconds. I didn't know how else to react." Her soft voice turned to a sigh. "All this time, I've held onto my love for him. Sometimes it felt foolish and immature, like I was a child who wouldn't let go of a stuffed animal. Before I went to bed every night, I would pray for him. I prayed, Elizabeth, like I have prayed for no one else in my whole life. I really did want him happy. I meant that. He kissed me as if he'd never stopped loving me at all, and then he left as if he thinks I don't care for him at all. As if only his heart is capable of constancy in love? I don't know what I'm supposed to do next."

Elizabeth, who'd been quietly and patiently listening to all of this, set her cup down and pushed off her seat.

"You tell him." She reached across the table, grabbing Anne's keys.

"Now? It's so late. What if he's sleeping?" Even now, ever generous, Anne had his well being at heart. "I don't want to bother him."

"The way I see it, you've waited eight years. Just remember, Anne, so has he. That's long enough." She tossed the car keys to Anne. "Might as well tell him how you feel properly. Give him something to wake up for."

Given the time of night, traffic in downtown London was sparse. The trip passed quickly.

"Darcy lives here?" Anne couldn't help the awe in her voice as they pulled up to the building.

"Not bad, is it?" They pushed through lobby's glass doors. Not wanting to intrude in Anne's moment with Frederick, Elizabeth settled in an overstuffed chair. "It's okay, Anne. I'll wait here. Just go up and tell him the truth.”

The truth. As simple as that, Anne thought as she stepped into the lift and pressed the appropriate button. Frederick would be there, hopefully not sleeping, and she would just go up to him and say...and say...

She had no idea what to say. All she knew was that she loved him and after eight years she wanted to tell him that as soon as possible or else she was afraid she would burst with it. They had already waited too long.

When she arrived at a flat with a polished placard that read Darcy and knocked on the door, she wasn't as nervous as she'd expected to be. She was excited. Will answered the door. His jacket and tie were gone. His hands hung loose in his pockets.

The scent of scotch hit her like a wall.

"Is Frederick here?" She straightened her spine. She had spoken freely and comfortably with Will once. She could do it again. "I need to talk to him."

"He's here," Darcy answered. She smelled scotch on his breath. The only hint of it in his body was the looseness of his movements and the slight delay in his speech. "He can't see you right now."

"Will, please." Decorum got the best of her. She couldn't demand the way Elizabeth or even Emma in a blacker mood could. She would simply insist politely. "We were close years ago, when you and George were at Eton. I grew to trust you. I thought we were friends. I know it's late, but---but it's very important. "

"We were friends," he agreed. "And I like to consider myself loyal. I would have done anything you needed, Anne, anything at all. You've broken Frederick's heart twice. I don't know how to help you. Goodnight, Anne. Go get some sleep."

He moved to shut the door.

"Will, stop," she said, pressing her arm to block the door. "I still love him."

It was the first time she'd said those words in so long. Years. The thrill of it made her feel breathless and eager and a little dizzy. Perhaps it was best to practice this on Will first.

She loves him? thought Will. Those eyes were big and dark, pleading and sincere. It reminded him fleetingly of his little sister. Even Will, who could be as cold as his detractors insisted he was, would have trouble refusing her. Will remembered Elizabeth's words at the party. If she really did love him, truly and sincerely, what kind of friend would Will be if he stood in their way? Even if it was with the aim of protecting his friend?

His hand slid down the door. He pulled the door open again, assessing her with a hard look. She didn't wilt.

"Anne," he began again, this time more kindly, "I can't let you talk to him now, not even if I wanted to. He polished off half a bottle of scotch before I got here."

Hearing that, those big eyes grew wider, if that was possible, and somehow more delicate. He didn't envy Frederick facing that in an argument. That gentle, delicate look would be almost impossible to argue with. Nothing at all, he thought, like Elizabeth's willful fire.

"Frederick never gets drunk," she insisted softly.

"No," Will agreed. "He doesn't. But he was upset tonight. He's already in his bedroom sleeping it off. I don't expect he'll wake up before lunch. If you want to return here tomorrow and talk to him, I promise I won't try to stop you."

**

The lure of sleep called to Elizabeth while she waited in the warm, silent lobby. She found herself fighting the temptation to nod off in one soft, large armchair. When she saw Anne walking back after a brief absence, she forced herself to stand.

"What happened?"

"Will said Fred's not available. He won't be able available to talk until lunch at the earliest. I'll return then.”

That sentence woke her up abruptly. Her gaze narrowed. "Will said what?"

"He said Fred's not available. It was difficult to get him to listen to me at first, but I really think I made him understand. It's okay, Lizzie. It's late. I'll come back tomorrow."

Elizabeth moved past her. "That arrogant, egotistical--"

"Who, Fred?"

"No, not Fred. Never Fred. Fred's a saint." Elizabeth punched the lift button. "Will Darcy. Who else? You can stay here if you want or come up with me. I'm going to talk to Darcy."

"Lizzie, you don't understand--"

"I understand plenty," Elizabeth countered as the lift swung open. "I should have gone up there with you. I can't believe he would keep you two apart, even now. Said we could be friends, did he? Said we didn't always have to agree, that we'd probably have our arguments. He was certainly right about the latter. I tell you, Anne, I'm going to give him a proper mouthful."

"Elizabeth, wait! Fred can't see me because he's--" Too late. The doors closed. Elizabeth was on her way up. Anne sighed. "Drunk."

**

Unlike Anne, Elizabeth really didn't care if Will Darcy was on his way to bed. Eight years, this couple waited to be together. Eight years and he had the arrogance, the audacity, to keep them apart? Blood boiling, she rapped on the door.

It was Will himself who opened it. Stark surprise drew across his face. For a man with such sharp focus, his gaze looked unusually foggy. Slowly, he rubbed at his jaw. It was a slow gesture, as if he were testing his own senses to verify that he was still awake. He looked down her, then up again, a full, languid look. It brought heat into her cheeks.

"Elizabeth.”

The name was soft. Tender, even. The sound of it unbalanced her.

Anger flooded quickly back. She remembered their argument in the courtyard. She remembered the way he'd sent Anne away.

"I'm not here for a social visit," she announced to him coolly.

“Ah. You're angry.”

“Yes, Darcy, I am.”

"Back to that, are we?" One powerful hand hung on the door frame. "I thought it was Will."

"Will, if you please." With a simmering gaze, she opened her mouth to say something blistering, then stopped short. "You smell like Scotch."

"And you smell like lavender." He let his hand drop from the doorway and took a step closer, leveling her with a look that was dark and electric. It made her think of a night storm sweeping low over the sky. "What's your point?"

This was the dangerous Will. Volatile. Powerful.

"Arrogant," she muttered an addition to that list.

"As charged," Will confirmed casually. Leaving the door open, he turned his back on her and walked into the room.

“Are you drunk?”

“Yes.” The answer was short. “Very.”

"Why won't you let Anne see Frederick?" Elizabeth demanded, following him inside.

"He's not in a position to see her."

"It's important, Will."

"He's drunk, Elizabeth."

"You would know," she shot back. A bottle of Scotch was claiming the kitchen counter top. It looked smooth and heavy and entirely empty. If they'd shared it, it was a wonder they both weren't on the floor. "I just came up here because---because Anne's my friend. And I want her to get what she needs."

"And what is that?"

"A fair shot with Fred," she supplied readily.

In a gesture that was downright laconic, Will placed two glasses into the sink and turned to her. "And what do you need?"

How could a man this drunk walk with such a decisive stride? Four long strides and he met her at the door. Elizabeth stepped back. The door bumped behind her. "Excuse me?"

One of his broad hands rested against the door.

"What do you need, Elizabeth?" His dark eyes sparked. "Is it Frank Churchill?"

"What does Frank have to do with this?" Elizabeth folded her arms.

"Nothing. Everything. What I'm talking about, Elizabeth, is you. And me. And a fair shot," he spoke with the deliberate strength of a man weighed down by what he'd imbibed. It didn't lessen the intensity of his gaze. "I want you to have dinner with me."

"Have dinner with you?" His gaze was unrelenting. The meaning of his words sunk in. She was about to point out that they'd already had dinner, here in this very flat, when she realized the difference. Dinner, he meant, as in romantically. Fine dining and roses and all of that. If he was into that sort of thing. Maybe Jenna would know. "I realize you're drunk, Will. I think it's making you confused. I'm not Jenna.”

"Jenna," he insisted with sudden force, "Isn't the issue. The issue is you and me."

"Is it an issue, or is it a problem?" she questioned with her own sudden heat.

"It's...consumption.” His head dipped lower. She could smell scotch on his breath. If he tried to kiss her, she thought it would taste like kissing a scotch bottle.

No, her mind corrected. There was so much warmth radiating from his body, she knew a kiss from him right now would taste like fire tinged with scotch.

He didn't try. There was a plea in his dark eyes. “I can't get the thought of you out of my head. I can't banish that pretty Irish voice of yours from my mind. And I know what everyone will say. I don't care. I don't care why it's a bad idea. I don't care about the world's opinion. It doesn't matter to me if you're an Irish waitress or a queen on the stage. It doesn't matter if your family doesn't have two pounds to rub together. What I want, Elizabeth, is for you to be with me. You haunt me, as no woman has haunted me."

Disbelief coursed through her, quickly followed by shock and outrage. Just a waitress who's family didn't have two pounds to rub together? The words burned.

"Jenna doesn't matter, does she?" she repeated, her green eyes glimmering, "but Frank, my family that you've never met, the world's opinion of me, all of that you get a say in? A date or two with the Irish girl, just enough to get me out of your system? Enough to talk me into bed with you and then push me out, is that the plan?”

“No.” The alcohol in him made the word heavy. “No. Never that. I would never do that to you.”

“Some men have a thing for women in pointe shoes and leotards. Are you that type of man? Some men--”

“Some men are bastards. I am not that type, despite your dismissive assessment of me,” Will countered coolly. “I had zero interest in ballet before you. You're what makes ballet interesting to me. You make everything interesting, Elizabeth Bennet. As for the subtext of your question--”

“I--” Frustration steamed through her. She let out a nervous, incredulous laugh. “I can't believe how articulate you are when you're drunk.”

“Well believe this: I am drunk. Too drunk. It doesn't render me wordless. It does make me honest. I think highly of you. I respect you. Because of that, I refuse to discuss my turn ons at three o'clock in the morning, specifically as they relate to you.”

Once again, she realized she'd only ever dealt with foolish boys before Will. None of her rare dates had ever admitted those thoughts to her. “I wasn't asking you to.”

“What I feel for you goes beyond sexual attraction.” His gaze stayed locked on her. “However, we're both adult enough to admit that chemistry exists between us. I think we both feel it.”

“You--you--”

“When we danced together, how did it make you feel?”

“It doesn't matter.”

“It matters to me,” he confessed with fierce passion, his hand pressing to his heart. The look on his face was leaving her body flush with heat. “Why did you leave after our dance ended?”

“Why did you retreat to Jenna Fairfax?” Elizabeth shot back.

“I didn't. Did you want Frank to kiss you?”

“He surprised me.” She bristled. “That's all it was.”

Something flared in his eyes. It looked like relief. “I wanted to ask you out a dozen times today.”

“If that's true, you're managing the task poorly. Ask Jenna to go out with you. Maybe she'll say yes.”

“You should see the look in your eyes when you mention the idea of me with Jenna,” he said. “Is it jealousy?”

“Jealousy!” She scoffed. “The ego in you! I realize you're drunk, and being 'just a waitress' I've heard plenty of men say plenty of stupid things when they've had a pint too many. But believe me, whether you're drunk or sober, I'll never go out with you.”

He drew back. She yanked the door open. For the second time that day, she left him standing alone.
SubjectAuthorPosted

An Even Path: Post 10

BernadetteENovember 19, 2017 11:49PM

Re: An Even Path: Post 10

Michelle AnnNovember 26, 2017 11:21AM

Re: An Even Path: Post 10

MichaNovember 21, 2017 03:09PM



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