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The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

December 05, 2017 04:36AM
DNA: This was something floating around in my head one morning and I happened to have a day off and wrote the guts of it. It's just a short bit of fun - it has been quite a few years since I've attempted writing fanfic and my first modern. I hope you enjoy!

Blurb: Elizabeth Bennet, sports model, steps in for her sister Jane in a wedding photoshoot, with William Darcy and their support team of Charlotte, Fitzy, Catherine and Lydia. Photos by Billy Collins and nobody's sure why Caroline Bingley is there at all!

The Assembly

Chapter One

“Please Liz! You have to help us out! You are already in New York for your ‘Meryton Mud Sports’ shoot!” Charlotte Lucas whined over the phone.

Elizabeth Bennet, Liz to Charlotte, Lizzy Bee to her fans, sighed. “Jane does the weddings usually, why do they want me?”

Charlotte forced a smile on her face, it wasn’t a complete lie. “They want someone different - fresh, vibrant! You’re “groom” will be William Darcy!!”

Elizabeth wasn’t convinced. William Darcy was a draw card though. Everyone knew William Darcy from Pemberley Publishing. Not many people could claim to own a vast publishing empire AND be a famous model. Tall, dark, handsome, rich! Elizabeth could hear her mother dropping dead in shock right now. Not that Charlotte would let Francine Bennet know until after the shoot. Charlotte was smart like that.

“It’s Central Park honey! You’re in New York! William Darcy! Two day photo shoot! High profile for ‘Longbourn Ladies’. Something different for ‘Lizzy Bee’!”

Elizabeth still wasn’t convinced. She didn’t usually do wedding shoots. Jane Bennet, her older sister was willowy and winsome. Jane was ethereal and angelic. Jane was much more well known! Why would ‘The Assembly’ take a gamble on a lesser known model for their next edition? Especially when paired with the gorgeous William Darcy! Elizabeth was a sports model! The messier the sport (or photo shoot) the better!

“I’ve accepted on Longbourn’s behalf already and Jane isn’t available so you have to do it.” Charlotte had switched from fiend to manager. “Unless you want me to call Jane back from her week away with Charles?”

“You just had to throw that in didn’t you!” Elizabeth knew when she was beaten. There was no way she was spoiling Jane’s special week away with Charles Bingley. They had been an item for months, ever since they met on, ironically, a wedding shoot for ‘Netherfield Nuptials’ magazine. The magazine had sold out. Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley made a gorgeous fake couple, and then they made a fantastic real couple. This was their first official week away by themselves and Lizzy was not going to spoil it for her beloved sister. Not when Jane had finally found a gorgeous guy that was nice and unpretentious. How hard was that in the modelling scene?! Charles was also part owner, with his sister Caroline, of ‘Netherfield Nuptials’.

“Fantastic! I’ll get Mary to organise the travel arrangements. She will extend your ticket by two days, actually I’ll make it three so you can spend a day shopping as a reward! You will be staying in a hotel off Central Park for the three nights for this shoot so I’ll let Catherine and Lydia know they need to move your luggage between the two hotels. Sound good Liz?”

Elizabeth could hear that Charlotte was grinning. “Sounds good Charlotte” Liz grumbled, but just a little. She couldn’t help feel a little excitement however. She did love dressing up (she was a model after all)! And in a variety of wedding gowns! It would be a pleasant change from her usual sporty (think sweaty and dirty) photo shoots. It would also be outside which would be lovely after being cooped up in the Chelsea Piers Sports Complex.

The two friends disconnected the phone call and Lizzy nodded her head to the photographer to show she was ready for another sprint down the running track. A crew member sprayed her with water for an extra sweaty look. Time to get her head back into what she was doing!

Lizzy loved what she did. She could combine her love of adventure and sports with modelling. If she had a choice, Lizzy wasn’t sure if she would have gone into modelling, but there was no choice with a mother like Francine Bennet. Francine had been a fairly well known model in her day and as she aged (quite gracefully) and became a mother of five, decided that she would partner with her brother Paul Gardiner and create a modelling agency. ‘Longbourn Ladies’ was created and carefully managed by Gardiner. Some cynics might claim that it was just a ploy to leverage off her children’s beauty and remain in the business but they would also have to admit that with a daughter like Jane, and to a lesser extent, Elizabeth, it was an inspired idea. From a young age, thrust into the limelight, Jane had a poise and presence that naturally suited modelling. Using her knowledge and contacts within the modelling world, Francine had carved out a nice career for Jane.

Elizabeth was another matter. Where Jane would sit or stand still and pose for hours, Lizzy had lots of energy to use up. She could not be kept still. Luckily for mother and daughter, the solution came via a suggestion of Madeline Gardiner - wife to Paul - who suggested sports modelling. Lizzy loved it, and professionally was known as Lizzy Bee. Although she was not ashamed of her connections, some distance from her mother’s and even Jane’s career was appreciated. She also loved the playfulness of the pseudonym and thought it suited her sporting career. She was good at it and quickly got enough gigs to make Francine happy enough with it.

The younger girls were a bit more problematic however. Mary Bennet did not have the modelling gene. She was fair of feature and had a nice figure, but every photo she posed for had her blinking. Or holding up her hands, or scowling or some other sort of unflattering pose. She just could not model! Again the Gardiners came to the rescue and suggested that Mary could take a business course and learn to run the office and eventually take over the management side. Mary was forever grateful.

That left Catherine and Lydia - the two youngest. They were both very keen on modelling and showed some promise, but unfortunately around the same time that they were starting to generate interest, the Francine Fiasco occurred. Francine Bennet was high strung. She was a moderately successful model and mother of five daughters. Some of the stress was natural and understandable. However the modelling world wasn’t known for its understanding and when Francine had a meltdown during fashion week in Paris, where Lydia and Catherine were invited to model for a teenage line, it did not go down well. Catherine and Lydia hadn’t picked up a job since. Again the Gardiners soothed a distraught Francine and suggested that since the girls couldn’t work (temporarily they assured Fran) in front of the camera, they could get valuable experience behind the camera. Thus Francine sent them both off to do a hair and makeup course and that’s how Elizabeth got stranded with her two youngest sisters wherever she went. Catherine was a good hair stylist and Lydia’s makeup was good. However, Elizabeth often had to keep them on task and confiscate their mobiles; Catherine could be consumed for hours playing Crossy Road or crunching candies, and Lydia could talk. Incessantly.

Oh well, they will love the hairstyles and makeup for a bridal shoot! thought Lizzy as she posed for the tenth time in front of a basketball hoop. Three more hours of this, then bed and tomorrow… wedding!

William Darcy, strong, confident, gorgeous and rich, was fuming. He had been groomed to within an inch of his life and was not coping in the heat of Central Park in NYC. Not today. Not after listening to his sister crying this morning and refusing to come to the photoshoot with him. Not after spending the early hours of this morning combing New York’s night life to find her drunk with some man who had convinced her to do an impromptu photoshoot. In varying degrees of naked. Georgiana Darcy had been roughly pulled off the couch, the camera and all evidence destroyed. After shoving her in the waiting car, he had gone back to find the man and exercise some of his best right hooks. But the man, George Wickham (of all people!), had slunk off. Now Darcy stood pacing. In the heat, in a three piece tuxedo. His make up artist had removed all evidence of blood shot eyes and dark circles from lack of sleep, but even Fitzy’s skill couldn’t remove the frown and irritation oozing from him.

Sigh Fitzy struggled to hide a smile at his thought, knowing that him actually sighing would only irritate his boss, and cousin, further.

“Come on Darce, it’s usual for a bride to be late, eh?” Trying to provoke a laugh out of the annoyed man didn’t work.

“If this were a real wedding and not a professional job, perhaps it could be excused” Darcy started. “And if I were a happy and expectant groom, I’m sure I could wait forever for my bride.” he was warming to his topic now. “Who is this Elizabeth Bennet anyway? I’ve never heard of her from my contacts. I thought Lucy Catherine was getting a known professional for this shoot? It’s like my Aunt to try to find an up and coming star and I believe she has vague ties to the agency, but I thought we were getting Jane Bennet!”

Richard Fitzwilliam, Fitzy, winced as he saw Charlotte Lucas scowl in Darcy’s direction. Charlotte seemed very professional and polite. She was calling Elizabeth’s mobile, again, and starting to show her own annoyance (and desperation). Still not connecting, Charlotte grimaced and again offered her apologies for her model’s tardiness.

“You see, she was supposed to finish up her shoot yesterday but someone very high up in the magazine’s structure, or the parent company, or something, wanted extra photos and they tried to do it late last night but the lighting wasn’t correct, so…” she petered off with a small smile.

“Hmph” Darcy wasn’t placated. “Why did you double book her? I can’t believe there has been this mix up. We are going to shoot during the hottest part of the day and I am needed elsewhere!”

He checked his contract sheet. “‘Longbourn Ladies’ hmm more like ‘Longbourn Losers’”

The sound of a cleared throat made everyone turn around. The sound of Lydia snickering and Catherine gasping was clearly heard. Charlotte, Fitzy and Darcy all stared in disbelief at the woman in front of them.

“So sorry I’m late Charlotte, everyone.” Lizzy explained, “I cleaned up as best as I could in one of the park loos, and had hoped to stop by the hotel to change, but there wasn’t any time. I thought you’d appreciate me turning up more than being spotless.”

“Spotless? There’s hardly a part of you that doesn’t have spots of mud all over it!” Caroline Bingley screeched.

Everyone turned to look at her. William Darcy still didn’t understand exactly why she was here. It wasn’t her magazine ‘Netherfield Nuptials’ doing the photo shoot- rather it was his Aunt’s Lucy Catherine De Bourgh for ‘The Assembly’. She had mumbled something vague about helping out or scouting out opportunities when he had questioned her earlier. He wasn’t sure if he could force her to leave anyway, especially since he had half promised Charles he’d look after his sister whilst he was away. Why a thirty year old woman needed looking after, he wasn’t sure.

Lizzy laughed “Most of the mud is on my clothes! I’m sure my dynamic duo (referring to Catherine and Lydia) can get me sorted out in no time.”

Her audience was still gaping at her, causing her to feel defensive.

“Blame the egotistical, arrogant man who demanded, demanded I had to promote the next Tough Mudder challenge for the gym despite that not being what I signed up for, and the photographer hadn’t planned on it. I tried to get through it last night, but by midnight we called it wraps- it just wasn’t working.” She turned to her model counterpart to offer him an apologetic smile, but wasn’t too pleased by his horrified expression.

Of course, she thought it was due to her unprofessionalism and being a ‘Longbourn Loser’ and quickly made up her mind to dislike him. Beautiful male specimen that he was in his damn spotless tuxedo.

Of course, she was wrong. William Darcy, owner of Pemberley Publishing, which owned, amongst other magazines and newspapers, ‘Meryton Mud Sports’ and had insisted that the latest edition had to cover the Tough Mudder competition and not just have a few glossy pages for the Chelsea Piers Sports Complex- it was after all- a magazine about sports with an emphasis on sweaty and dirty. The way you get when you play real sport Darcy thought.

The fact that he knew they had managed to get Lizzy Bee, of whom he was a big secret fan, meant that he was extra keen to have her showcase all that the gym offered.

Lizzy - Elizabeth! And ‘Bee’ for Bennet! Duh Darcy!! Next time read the articles!

Darcy was even more uncomfortable now. He realised that the woman who would be his “bride” for the next two days was the same model he had been secretly following all year. He also realised she had overheard his rude comment and he had caused the delay in the first place. His tuxedo suddenly didn’t feel right and his bow tie was just too damn tight. Was the sun extra hot all of a sudden?

Fitzy took a sneaky photo with his camera of ‘Lizzy Bee’.

Flashes started going off as Billy Collins, the photographer enthusiastically started taking some photos. “Lucy Catherine De Bourgh has imparted that it is essential that a photographer always takes candid shots throughout the photoshoot and is always looking for right moments, with right lighting and right angles and right…”

“Right!” Charlotte interrupted, already irritated by the exuberance of the photographer and his worship of Lucy Catherine. Who the bloody hell includes her middle name when Lucy De Bourgh is already a mouthful? Charlotte wondered for the umpteenth time. Liz was finally here though, so she motioned to Catherine and Lydia to take Lizzy away and get her cleaned up as quickly as they could in one of the pop-up changing tent.

The photoshoot team was made up of two very busy individuals and a wardrobe assistant, as Collins refused to help set up anything but his cameras. They started positioning the lights and reflector stands to help boost the natural light in the park. Collins was busy barking out orders and looking through his camera to determine the right framing and focus. Charlotte was helping the wardrobe assistant by carrying the accessories and shoes for the first dress. Caroline was busy chatting to William and making him even more irritated.

“Did you see all that mud William? You’d be blind if you didn’t! Can you imagine any other elite model acting that way?” Caroline was pestering him.

“Of course.” William responded as dryly as he could. He also couldn’t imagine any other model looking that good splattered in mud. “Lizzy Bee” he whispered, sighing a little.

“Did you say something?” Caroline looked at William sharply. When she heard that William Darcy had consented to pose for a bridal magazine, something she had been trying to accomplish for years, she thought this would pave the way for him to star in her magazine. She would be more than happy to wine and dine him. For as long as it took!

“Did you notice the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed?” Darcy turned to his cousin. “So lacking in pretension!”

“Her eyes?” Caroline hmphed. “The next thing you’ll say is that Collins won’t be able to capture her expression!”

Darcy glared at her and opened his mouth to say something but Fitzy was there first.

“Caro, why don’t you get William an iced water?” Fitzy smirked at the woman.

Caroline glared back. She hated being called Caro. She hated Richard ‘Fitzy’ Fitzwilliam even more. The man was an expert at ensuring William was never left alone. She wasn’t even sure why a man was doing a woman’s job anyway and why he insisted on that stupid nickname. I’d become a makeup artist or a hair stylist for William Darcy she purred, walking off in her stilettos to find the closest cart vendor. Only for William would she lower herself to purchasing something from a cart vendor!

“Why would you willingly wear stilettos in a park Darce I ask you? Every step sinking a little further into the grass...”

Both men smirked at each other. William loved having his cousin as his stylist. He completed his hair and makeup with no nonsense, all the while talking nothing but nonsense! Fitzy touched up a few places, although William Darcy was already impeccable, and related an amusing story. William had tersely related what happened last night to Richard over breakfast so Richard was trying to be extra nonsense-y. He looked over to the tent, absently explaining to Richard that he felt a little bad for Elizabeth cos it was he who ultimately caused the delay. Richard laughed heartily at the coincidence and was very happy for his cousin, whom he knew had a thing for Lizzy Bee. He had seen William’s collection of sports magazines.

William looked over, again, to the screen where the women had been for a while now. The tent flap was folded back and he sucked in his breath.

“Oh ok, that is why women wear stilettos” Richard smirked behind him.

Gone were the mud-splattered lycra, the purposeful mascara run and the sports shoes. Elizabeth Bennet was glowing in a diamond white, close fitting, strapless creation that hugged in all the right places and showed off her toned arms. Richard could see Darcy was a lost man. So he did what any caring cousin would do, he took another photo with his phone! Darcy would thank him later.

The photoshoot started off well. Kinda. No one could disparage the beauty of the models, nor how their outfits were perfect for the setting and couple. Caroline was heard to complain about Elizabeth’s hair whilst on the phone to her sister (“her hair Louisa!”) but no one really took any notice of her. Caroline was worried about how much attention William was paying to his counterpart.

“That’s right William” Collins encouraged “Look into her eyes that way.”

Darcy was happy to comply.

“Excellent. You are a natural William! Lucy Catherine was right about how well you model. Not that there was ever any doubt that any of Lucy Catherine’s opinions, or indeed her family, would be anything but perfect!” He barely paused between subjects “Now look at her as if she was the only one in the room! Her eyes sparkling up to you, her cheeks flushed. She is a bride after all! Your bride!”

Collins really got into his photoshoots. He was a very vocal photographer. Artistic Director he thought of himself. Lucy Catherine would be so pleased he was sure. He had never seen a groom in a bridal shoot look quite so enamoured.

Of course, William Darcy had never done a bridal shoot before. He always tried to stay away from those and preferred business and corporate modelling. It was more like the world he knew anyway and was a lot more comfortable in a professional suit. His Aunt had all but forced him to do this shoot for her. She really needed him. For Anne! Bloody Aunt Lucy Catherine He wasn’t very sure what the connection was between this and his cousin Anne anyway. It was just like Lucy Catherine to claim some obscurity to distract from what she was trying to get, and then usually get her way!

It was around this time, when Collins was photographing (and directing) his model couple on romance that Caroline lost it. She photo bombed a few shots and even tried to accidentally spray some water into Elizabeth’s ‘fine eyes’. Collins yelled. Charlotte smirked. Richard picked Caroline up and removed her, threatening a lawsuit against ‘Netherfield Nuptials’ if she didn’t go away for the rest of the day. Caroline stomped off. As much as you can in stilettos in grass.

Elizabeth was a professional. That’s what she kept telling herself. It was hard not to swoon when William gorgeous Darcy was staring into your eyes as if you were the most beautiful woman in the world. With William Darcy gazing admiringly at her, Lizzy felt like the most beautiful woman in the world. Possibly the only woman in the world!

But it is all for show, Lizzy Bee!. Lizzy was quickly understanding why she much preferred sports modelling. She could move around, she could get sweaty and dirty, she didn’t need constant touching up to look immaculate. She didn’t have to pretend to be in love with her colleague!

Longbourn Loser… Longbourn Loser she chanted in her head to help her keep her focus. I’m a professional. I can give as good as I get! So she flashed a brilliant, adoring smile at Darcy. That’s when he almost dropped her, mid dip.

It was the kind of moment when the spectators all unconsciously start and reach out as if they could catch her and stop her from falling.

William did recover, he was smooth like that, and she only almost fell, she didn’t really fall. He hadn’t been expecting the way he felt when Elizabeth, sports model Lizzy, covered in mud earlier Lizzy, had smiled like that. At him! He wasn’t sure if his heart stopped beating for a moment, or he started blacking out. She felt so good in his arms. It felt so good when she automatically reached for him to catch herself- to have her hands on him! Bliss!

That was the photo for the front cover Billy Collins was sure. He was a genius! This couple was magic. He was magic! That tender concerned look from Darcy, and the surprised delight from Elizabeth, as they dipped in newly wedded bliss. Darcy’s lips hovering close to Elizabeth’s long neck. It didn’t matter that Lizzy’s look wasn’t surprised delight. But that’s what translated in the photo as she was in the transition from dazzling smile to horror at being dropped.

After that, acting the besotted groom was a lot easier for Darcy. Elizabeth was struggling with her role of gushing bride however. But she was a professional, and as she changed into the fourth dress for the day, started counting down the hours until sunset. Surely they weren’t going to do romantic dusk shots. Were they?

They didn’t.

The rest of the day went relatively smoothly and Collins continued to leverage off the chemistry of the models and was very happy to call it a wrap before sunset. By this stage, Elizabeth was very tired. She had started her very early day traipsing around in mud and then spent the mid-morning rushing through the city (she ran half the way instead of trying to get through traffic in a taxi!) to get to her next shoot as close to time as she could manage. She was also confused but mostly annoyed with William Darcy. He was very unfriendly when first meeting him and throughout the day he didn’t say much to her. Or anyone! Even during the few breaks they had between scenes and dresses, he had stalked off to talk on his mobile and he would always come back angry and upset. His looks were very warm during the photoshoot however, although that was what they were paid to look like! She wasn’t really sure what to make of him.

Finally out of her latest dress and into cool tailored shorts and a thin blouse, she decided to try one last overture. Smiling at Richard as she walked past and nodding to the other crew members, she saw Darcy’s broad back. He was on the phone again.

“... not sure why. I thought it was Jane Bennet, she’s a great wedding model, I’ve never seen Lizzy Bee do bridal. Usually she is covered in mud, well she started the day off that way!” She heard him say into the phone. There was something different in how he said “Lizzy Bee” that stopped her from tapping his shoulder to get his attention. She took a step back.

“Yes I realise that now!” he continued “I forgot Charles was taking her away. I’m not sure I approve of relationships between models where there is such disparate renown. She’s not world famous like Charles...”

Elizabeth didn’t stay to hear more. She stomped off muttering about arrogant, egotistical men and how two of them had ruined her day.

If she had stayed, she would have heard the rest of the conversation.

“... although she appears genuine to me and although I’m concerned, it is Charles’ life.” He took a breath as the person on the other end said something angrily, he looked away shamed. “I don’t mean to sound like Caroline! That’s not what I meant at all. I just worry about him - he always falls ‘in love’ with whoever has been paired as his ‘bride’.”

There was more angry talking.

“Yes Rachael, you’re right” he apologised “he has resisted every single model since Jane.”

Rachael Reynolds, his manager, was mollified and asked how his day went.

William sighed heavily into the mobile. “Elizabeth Bennet was wonderful. Lizzy Bee...”

Richard and Rachael, in different countries, smiled.

Chapter Two

The next morning was cloudy. Elizabeth had gone to bed early- being tired and angry. She woke up early- and was energised and angry. She did her morning strength training routine which took care of some energy but wasn’t sure what to do about the angry. She may have stabbed the asparagus on her breakfast plate a bit too hard, she may have completed an extra set of push-ups once she returned to her room after breakfast. She may have winked flirtatiously at a food cart vendor who didn’t look like a stuck-up, arrogant prick whilst Darcy was looking.

They were outside The Met, today’s first shoot location. They had assembled on Fifth and East 79th, which wasn’t too far from the hotel that Elizabeth had found out last night that they were all staying at. As they walked up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Darcy had found it natural to want to walk with Elizabeth. Most of the cart vendors were used to seeing film sets and photoshoots. It was New York City after all! Most of them were quite bored and were busy playing on their phones. One young, cute, vendor was watching with interest however. He noticed Elizabeth first and his look was very appreciative. Then he saw Darcy, just as Darcy looked at who Elizabeth was winking to. He went white, Darcy saw red.

“Stop pushing me!” Elizabeth exclaimed as she found Darcy holding her arm and moving her along quicker.

Wickham recovered and smirked. And noticed Lydia trailing behind everyone, chatting away on her phone.

Darcy didn’t offer an explanation to Elizabeth and, as soon as they got to the designated spot, left her spluttering in anger. Richard ran after Darcy, gesturing wildly. Charlotte looked concerned, and came over to soothe Lizzy and get her to stand still enough to get dressed and made up. Whatever Fitzy said, calmed Darcy enough to have him come back and be dressed in a very traditional English morning suit, complete with tails and top hat.

Collins was soon set up and directing the “bridal couple” to new heights of wedded bliss. He was in his element- this was another day where the weather was good for lighting, even though it was cloudy. His models again had sparks flying and he fully intended to capture each and every one. He was sure Lucy Catherine De Bourgh would be so impressed by how well he captured her nephew in particular. That tender look here, his dashing smile there. The readership of ‘The Assembly’ would be swooning for sure! And it was all due to Billy Collins, photographer extraordinaire!

Charlotte was amused at Billy, at besotted Darcy, at Fitzy’s little jokes and even by how flappable the unflappable Elizabeth Bennet was. Charlotte knew Liz was out of her comfort zone. She even had an inkling that Liz wasn’t too happy with William Darcy due to some disjointed mutterings she’d overheard. But they looked good together. They really did. And Charlotte had never seen any man keep up with Elizabeth Bennet’s barbs. She was impressed. And glad too as Elizabeth didn’t tire of sending barbs his way, especially commenting on how world famous Darcy was and how condescending he was to do a shoot with someone of so little renown.

Caroline Bingley was back on set making irritating comments. She had spent yesterday afternoon researching ‘Longbourn Ladies’ and Elizabeth Bennet, or Lizzy Bee as she discovered. She had already done the same for Jane Bennet, whom she had tried to convince her brother to drop. In particular, she made some cutting references to Catherine and Lydia and linked it with the Francine Fiasco of a few years ago.

Catherine and Lydia shot daggers at her. Elizabeth rolled her eyes.

“Did you know that these two assistants are our dear Liz’s sisters AND budding models?”

Darcy merely raised his eyebrows.

“Everyone these days thinks they can be a model. Put on some designer clothes and strut along.” she started “But it’s more than just the way you walk. You’ve got to hold your head just so, have something more in the tone of voice. Be pleasant and take instruction.”

“I always thought to be a good model you’ve got to be able to stand perfectly poised and coiffed all day” Darcy joked, trying to shut Caroline up.

Lizzy, to whom standing around all day was very hard, took it as a dig against herself. “Surely a mannequin can do just as well, why bother paying models?”

“For the brightness in their eyes.” Darcy smiled at her, catching her off guard. Caroline seethed in the background.

Collins called them to order and they spent the next few hours posing individually and together in front of the imposing museum. When she wasn’t posing, Lizzy waved back to friendly onlookers. Darcy scowled. Finally he told Caroline off after one too many references to Longbourn and Francine and conniving aspiring models. She slunk back to her hotel to plan for another day.

By lunchtime, Lizzy was glad to get a break from standing still and from her silent co-worker. She decided to go for a walk with Catherine and Lydia and as they passed the food carts lined up, noticed the cute young one was waving them over.

He smiled at them as they approached and gave them a pretzel each.

“On the house, for three gorgeous ladies” he grinned.

Laughing, the Bennets thanked him. Catherine and Lydia moved on, but he held Lizzy back.

“I’m sure you can take care of yourself, honey, but watch out for Dour Darcy” he lowered his voice.

“Do you know…?” Lizzy began

“I don’t have much time, but I should warn you he takes what he wants and doesn’t care about anyone else. I used to work at Pemberley Publishing with his dad (gee I loved that man), but he fired and blacklisted me in the industry. The other night he spotted me in a cafe and was still so angry and jealous, that he punched me!” Wickham lifted his shirt up enough for Lizzy to see an ugly bruise and a decent six pack. Fleeing that club and smashing into the pole was Darcy’s fault, even if he didn’t land the blow.

“Did you…?”

“No, I’ll not stoop to his level. I loved his father and the company. Karma will get him. I just didn’t want to see you fall for his smarmy behaviour and be left with nothing but a broken heart.”

“Don’t worry Mr…”

“George Wickham” he half bowed and Liz giggled.

“Don’t worry George. He hasn’t made a great impression. I can’t see swooning for him in my future!”

Lydia called out for her so she smiled apologetically and thanked him for the free pretzel.

“My card if you ever want to reach me.” Wickham handed her his details “I’m trying to get into photography these days. Taking photos of you would be a fantastic opportunity for an aspiring artist like me!” He winked.

Lizzy waved goodbye and caught up to her sisters.

After the lunch break, the party moved to Belvedere Castle. Collins thought the location, with it’s views over the pond would be perfect. The cloudy day had become stormy and Charlotte and Fitzy got prepared with umbrellas and blankets in case the weather turned rainy.

“Come Darcy, you going to talk to me today?” Elizabeth said as they waited for the right lighting on top of the castle.

“What do you want me to talk about?” Darcy was puzzled

“I suppose that’s enough for now.” Lizzy flipped her hair (“Stop it!” Catherine scolded, rushing up to re-style the hair)

“What?” Darcy responded, puzzled.

“Maybe next water break, you should comment on how many cart vendors are lined up outside The Met.”

“You seem to take an eager interest in one of the cart vendors” Darcy huffed.

“He seemed cute enough. Too cute for a cart vendor. Must’ve fallen on hard times...” Lizzy touched her lips (“Liz! No!” Lydia whined, touching up the lipstick)

Catherine and Lydia and everyone else departed the top of the castle. Collins was wanting complete solitude for the couple.

Darcy growled.

“Hard times indeed!” Darcy scoffed

“You know him!” It wasn’t a question.

“Do you?” Darcy moved closer, dangerously. Lightning lit up the sky far away and slight rumbling of thunder could be heard.

“I met him today.” Lizzy tried to remain nonchalant. Buying a pretzel, a dry one at that, was hardly a relationship. She just wanted to get Darcy riled up. Angry. Like he made her.

And it was working.

“I met him again recently as well, although I’ve known of him for a lot longer.” Darcy was very close now. You would think spending hours pretending to be blissful newlyweds would have made her immune to his closeness.

“He’s bad news.”

“That’s what he said about you!”

Anger was taking over Darcy. The memory of his little sister half naked, whilst George crappy Wickham was leering and taking suggestive photos in a dimly lit, stale alcohol smelling room, sent him over the edge.

She was standing against a parapet. One hand rested near her head as he leaned into Elizabeth. The other hand lower, clenched, trying to express his anger, inched towards Elizabeth’s waist.

Elizabeth’s veil, thrown back, was tugging in the wind. Miraculously her hair wasn’t falling in her face, so she could clearly see the raw emotion in Darcy’s eyes. Lots of anger for sure, but also pain and hurt and something else. Something strange that ignited when his eyes travelled to her lips. Lips that were already so close to his face. Doubt, disbelief, something else blossomed in Elizabeth’s mind.

Collins couldn’t believe it. Sparks were indeed flying between the couple. It was the best shot in his life! With the lightning crashing over head, he was furiously taking as many photos as he could, juggling with focus and exposure.

Up on the castle, Darcy’s anger was melting away. He was drowning in her eyes. When she took a gulp of air and licked her lips, he couldn’t stop himself. His face was descending, his lips lightly brushing hers.

“Kiss! Yes!” Collins yelled from below “That’s the money shot! I am soo good!”

Elizabeth broke away, startled. Pushing Darcy away, her brain was in overdrive whilst her body was a puddle. They had been talking about something. Someone. Important? She stood there, against dark storm clouds, lightning crashing and thunder booming, very closely now, gasping for air.

Darcy wasn’t any better. He wasn’t sure what had happened. That fool Collins and his bloody “coaching” of the shot. That almost kiss had nothing to do with the imbecile and everything to do with his feelings for Elizabeth. Feelings that he couldn’t repress.

It started raining. The crew scrambled below protecting lights and cameras and equipment. Charlotte and Fitzy helped cover the dresses, shoes and other garments and then grabbed the umbrellas and blankets and ran to the castle, knowing it would take be tough going up the tiny spiral staircases to get to the top, especially if it was wet.

“Go out with me!” Darcy stated, the wind and rain getting heavier. It wasn’t a question.

“What?” Elizabeth was shocked.

“You know we have chemistry. Sure, I wouldn’t normally date models, and I know my Aunt Lucy Catherine won’t be happy, but look at what just almost happened.” He moved closer to her, “What could still happen” he suggested. He tried to draw her into his arms, partially to keep her warm and give her shelter. Mostly to have her in his arms.

“Of course you wouldn’t date models, especially lesser known models like me! Worried I might use the relationship to increase my standing?!” Lizzy retorted, angry at herself for being so affected by him. “I’m not world famous like Charles, or even as famous as my sister Jane.” She would NOT cry and ruin the mascara.

“No, you’re not, but I..” Darcy wasn’t allowed to finish.

“You are an arrogant prick!” Lizzy lashed out. “Thinking you can take whatever you want. Thinking you can win an argument by” she lowered her voice “kissing me” she hissed. “George Wickham said you’d take whatever you want. Well not me! After the way you treated me yesterday, what you said about Jane and Wickham, you’re the last person I’d ever go out with!”

“Bloody budding photographer Wickham?” Darcy exploded “Get-girls-drunk-and-expose-them on camera Wickham?!”

Elizabeth looked shocked.

“Darce!” Richard shouted. He had heard the last part and didn’t want Darcy blabbing all about Georgiana where there was an audience. “Let’s get you dry!” He half dragged Darcy back down the pokey stairs.

Lizzy was shivering and soaked. Charlotte tsked and wrapped the blanket around her. As they tried to go down the stairs to get inside, there was a commotion. Darcy was halfway down and Collins was trying to come up. Collins slipped and instead of getting up to let everyone come down into the shelter, he started expounding on how great the photos would look and how happy Lucy Catherine De Bourgh would be. Meanwhile Lizzy was getting more wet and miserable. Charlotte ended up yelling down that Liz was freezing and she needed to take her back to the hotel for a warm bath.

Hearing this, Darcy pushed Collins all the way down and hurried everyone along. Once down the bottom, he hailed a nearby pedicab and all but pushed Charlotte and Elizabeth in.

Later that afternoon after everyone had a warm bath, Charlotte saw Darcy hovering outside Elizabeth’s door, wincing every time he heard a sneeze.

“I just wanted to make sure she is ok?” Darcy looked miserable.

“I know. I’ll go and check and let you know ok?” Charlotte smiled “Has Collins told you that we need to shoot the rest of the afternoon tomorrow? It’s a good thing I already arranged for Elizabeth to stay an extra night. Although it was supposed to be for shopping and relaxing!”

“If you give me the details, I’d be happy to get my manager to arrange a delayed flight and an extended stay?” Darcy offered.

“Oh, that’s very kind but not necessary.”

“But what if she gets very sick? Surely you don’t want to jeopardise her health?”

“You drive a hard bargain Mr. Darcy” Charlotte laughed, bemused.

“William. I hear my Aunt has made you an offer?” Charlotte looked up in surprise.

“Yes” she said hesitantly. “It’s a good opportunity and I would like to stretch myself. But.” she hesitated, seeing the genuine interest in his eyes, “I don’t know how Longbourn would cope without me. Francine won’t be able to take over and the Gardiners are very capable of the management and finance side of the business, but not the actual agent side. I worry mostly about Jane and Liz.”

Darcy nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they had other opportunities outside of Longbourn.”

Charlotte gave him a calculating look. “To make it to the next level, they really need to sign up with a bigger agency. It’s partially why I thought Lucy Catherine’s offer was compelling - I might be able to coordinate a better fit with new contacts.”

From behind the door, Elizabeth sneezed again.

“Lots to think about! Let me know if I can help with Elizabeth. I’m just across the corridor.” Darcy nodded and slowly moved away, lingering.

“Will do!” Charlotte said cheerfully and entered Elizabeth’s room.


“Charlotte! I feel terrible.” Liz moaned.

Charlotte nodded again to William as she closed the door. He looked terrible as well.

“Let’s have a look at you dear”. Charlotte checked Lizzy’s temperature and looked her over.

“No fever and apart from the sneeze and redness around your nose, you look fine.” Charlotte declared cheerfully.

“Hmph” was all Lizzy could say before throwing herself into the nearby sofa. “I don’t suppose Collins got enough shots in the last two days and we won’t need to extend?” Lizzy asked hopefully.

Charlotte shook her head. Liz sighed.

“I don’t think I can…”

“Of course you can! It’s just a chill and Lydia and Catherine can do wonders to make you look better if a good night’s rest doesn’t cure it!”

“But William…”

“Yes? It seemed like things were getting a bit heated before the storm broke!” Charlotte beamed. “He’s so lovely, and very worried about you. He’s been hovering outside your door, very concerned.”

“What?!” Lizzy exclaimed “Tell him to go away! I can’t face him after...”

“The kiss?” Charlotte prompted.

“The almost kiss. It wasn’t a real one.”

“It looked steamy enough” Charlotte sighed dreamily. She had the photos to prove it too!

“He… he asked me out!” Lizzy blurted. Charlotte nodded to encourage more. “But I said no.”

“Why?!” Charlotte exclaimed

“I’m so confused. A guy warned me against Darcy, and from what I heard him say on the phone on the first day, I know he just wants a fling!”

“What did he say? What guy?” Charlotte asked

“The food cart guy. He gave me all this history about Darcy and how he used people.”

“A man who sells food from a cart told you about Darcy.” It sounded stupid when Charlotte said it like that.

“He used to work with Darcy!” Lizzy defended.

Charlotte shook her head. “What did you overhear Darcy say?”

“He was telling the other person how he didn’t approve of Jane and Charles. He didn’t think I was a good model. Was Jane supposed to do this shoot?!” Lizzy demanded.

“Yes.” Charlotte admitted. “Lucy Catherine De Bourgh wanted Jane to do the shoot because she liked Jane in her previous work and thought Jane was unknown enough that she wanted to take all the credit for “finding” her. Of course when Jane agreed to go away with Charles, and then Lucy Catherine moved the shoot forward a week to accommodate William’s schedule, she couldn’t. So I offered you instead.”

“I’m surprised she agreed to it!”

“Well... Collins had heard of you and said he liked what he saw and he sent the first few shots to Lucy Catherine to make sure she approved. Obviously she must’ve given the thumbs up.”

“He’s arrogant!” Lizzy could be stubborn at times.

“William Darcy?” Charlotte confirmed, “sure he’s arrogant and proud and why wouldn’t he be? He’s a successful businessman and also a consummate professional when it comes to modelling. He’s much sought after and only does one or two shoots a year- usually in the corporate world.” Charlotte sat down and gently patted Lizzy’s hand. “It didn’t seem like arrogance at the top of the castle from my vantage point.”

Lizzy sighed. The feeling of his lips was fleeting and so soft. The concern in his eyes and the gentle press of his hand when he placed her in the pedicab. These things confused her greatly. Which William Darcy was real?

“You don’t just demand that someone goes out with you!”

“No, that’s true. He probably just assumed you’d be weak in the knees and nod breathlessly.” Charlotte laughed and Lizzy joined in.

“It was a close call!” Elizabeth admitted, blushing hotly.

Charlotte reached into her bag and passed a large envelope over to Liz. “Here’s some preliminary shots of the photoshoot. You two look amazing and I hate to say it, but Collins was able to capture it beautifully.”

Lizzy took the envelope and toyed with the opening.

“You don’t have to look now- just have a think and a cry if you need to- and then take a look. Even William Darcy isn’t good enough to fake the emotion I see in the photos.”

Lizzy sighed. Charlotte took a deep breath.

“I have also been offered a position with Lucy Catherine De Bourgh. She wants to bring me on to oversee and coordinate the majority of her photoshoots for ‘The Assembly’.” It came out in a rush. Charlotte told Liz of the amazing opportunity and how it could benefit everyone and especially why she thought it was a good move for Elizabeth and Jane to look further afield for agencies. Liz was concerned and didn’t understand why Charlotte wanted to leave ‘Longbourn Ladies’. But Charlotte persisted and answered all her questions and Lizzy finally conceded that it did sound like a good move if that’s what Charlotte really wanted.

“But you will have to work with Collins! All the time!” Lizzy finally laughed at the end of the conversation.

Charlotte grimaced. “True. But he is a good photographer. Hopefully I can keep him busy on assignments, preferably outside locations, so I can sit in my office and he can run around taking photos and we will barely see each other for more than once or twice a month!”

They both laughed. Charlotte wished Liz a good night and gave her a hug as there was a knock at the door.

Elizabeth looked surprised and then worried so Charlotte got up to open it.

“Fitzy!” Charlotte exclaimed. Lizzy relaxed. “Come on in- I’m on my way out! Just make sure she has an early night!” Charlotte warned in her manager’s voice. She closed the door softly behind her.

“Richard!” Lizzy smiled up and offered a seat opposite her.

“Good to see you don’t look too worse for wear Liz!” Richard smiled. “It’s a bit more than a social call I’m afraid. William sent me.”

“Oh.” Lizzy said quietly, dropping her eyes to study her manicure.

“William is being a bit cowardly and didn’t want to upset you, but he’s told me the gist of what happened today. I also know all about George Wickham- things you don’t know.”

“Charlotte kind of made me realise I was being naive trusting someone on such a short acquaintance”

“Perhaps” Richard conceded, “But just in case, let’s have a little chat. Did you know Darcy’s sister is staying in the room next to him?”

Lizzy shook her head, surprised at the direction of the conversation.

“Well then, George Wickham was the son of a very good family friend and trusted employee of William’s father….”

The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

Michelle AnnDecember 05, 2017 04:36AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

Amy A-NWDecember 28, 2017 02:55AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

Lucy J.December 06, 2017 03:22AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

LucieDecember 06, 2017 01:26AM

Excellent! grinning smiley nfm

KarenteaDecember 05, 2017 06:32PM

Re: The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

MichaDecember 05, 2017 10:21AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 1 & 2

RoxdawnDecember 05, 2017 09:57PM


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