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Love's Adagio Chapter 8: Part 1

January 10, 2018 03:37AM
Author's note: I am also posting a 2nd version of this story at another austen site. If you'd like to get the address for that, just email me at beeninehundred@gmail.com



Chapter 8 Part 1



Christmas came early to the Darcy's London flat. Evergreen garlands with cheerful red bows draped the windows. A pair of stately Nutcracker dolls—Elizabeth's collection—kept company with a cluster of lightly scented Christmas candles. On one bookshelf was a Nativity set. The small figures, carved from Irish ash, were near enough for the children to admire, but far enough to prevent any sheep or wise men from wandering off. A Norway spruce tree, adorned with twinkling lights and an assortment of colored ornaments, brightened one corner of the living room.

The boys were sprawled out on the living room floor. Will had spread out a play blanket. It was a downy, dark blue fabric with a maze of rail and road patterns printed into the soft weave.

Nicholas was old enough to find entertainment in the patterns. He zigzagged his palm sized trucks down the blanket's winding roads. Three-year-old Bennet, currently playacting as a pint sized King Kong, was just using the soft mat to whirl, twirl, and roll over his small village of toy cars.

Will sat between the boys. Parenthood had taught him the art of multitasking. He was splitting his attention between traversing railways with Nicholas, tickling Bennet, and casting watchful glances to his wife.

Elizabeth, at the present moment, was sound asleep on the couch.

They'd had a busy morning with the children---a pancake breakfast, a trip to the opera house for face painting, a stop by their favorite bake shop. They'd viewed the Covent Garden Christmas tree, a spectacular tower of sparkles and red balls, and walked down the piazza to hear carols sung at Saint Paul's. Elizabeth adored Christmas. She was eager to show the joys of the season to their sons.

She seemed to forget her own waning stamina. After lunch, he asked her to rest. She'd taken her time obliging him, wrapping a few more presents before finally relenting, stretching onto the couch. He'd found the tartan blanket and an extra pillow. As he tucked the tartan around her, she'd teased,

"I'll manage little sleep, you know. Not with our dear boys--"

"I'll handle the boys."

"They're lively from cinnamon, sugar, and the promise of Father Christmas."

"I'll handle them," he repeated.

He predicted she'd be dozing in half an hour

She was sound asleep in half that time. Fifteen minutes. That's all it took.

His gaze kept shifting back to her.

She'd worn a forest green dress. A color fit for Christmas, she'd called it. Beautiful, thought Will. It was high waisted, with long sleeves and a hem that brushed her ankles. Pregnancy kept a blush in her cheeks, and drew a deeper rose shade to her lips. She slept on her side. Her hair was loose, spreading past her shoulder, trailing down the couch cushion. Her right hand guarded her round abdomen. The other hand clutched her pillow. Her curves rose and fell as she slept.

There were nights recently when she'd dozed off early and he'd spent his time alternating between reading a book to keep him busy and simply watching her sleep. He loved looking at her. She enchanted him.

"Sleeping beauty," Georgiana said, entering the living room.

Will nodded. "She did too much today. She told me earlier that her back hurts. And her ankles are swollen."

"Swollen?" Worry clouded Georgiana's eyes. "Is she---if she needs a doctor, Will, I'll--"

"No. The swelling is minor. Normal. We've both checked it. She monitors her symptoms closely throughout the day, Georgie. So do I."

"I know. I just feel...well, so protective of her whenever she's pregnant. I can only imagine how you feel."

He said nothing. What he felt was indescribable. All of his love for her, and all of his love for their child, bound up together. The word protective was a vast understatement.

Georgiana moved past the couch, settling next to him. She picked up one of Nicholas's plastic cars, zooming it towards the boy. "If you need me while I'm away, please call me."

He stretched one arm behind him, snagging Bennet who was now making small puffing sounds while he attempted to climb atop Will's shoulder.

"Daddy," Bennet giggled, wiggling when Will drew him onto his lap and started tickling him.

"Use your nap time voice, buddy," Will whispered to his son, kissing Bennet's cheek. "Mummy's asleep."

"You're certain Elizabeth is well enough for me to leave?" Georgiana asked.

"I'm not expecting any problems, sweetheart. We visited three of her doctors last week. Her rheumatologist, her nephrologist, her obstetrician. Everything checks out."

"Good." She released a nervous breath. "That's wonderful, wonderful news."

"Yes. It's the only thing I needed for Christmas."

The truth of that brought a soft smile to her face. "I've already called for a cab to St. Pancras. It should be here within the hour. I promise I'll call you when I arrive in Paris."

"I still question the necessity of you staying with Bertram," Will answered in a low tone. "We have an apartment in Paris. It's safe. It's available. It's--"

"It's not what I want for this trip, Will," she whispered.

"The Paris apartment has everything. A concierge, security officers, catering, room service, a view of the Eiffel Tower--"

"Will, I'm not going to Paris for the catering and the concierge. I'm going to see Tye. If I'm there to be with him, I want to be with him. I'm twenty-one. I'm not a child. Unless you don't trust me---"

Nicholas was crawling onto Georgiana's lap. Her hands looped around the small boy's waist; she pressed a kiss to his fair hair. Bennet, eager to gain Georgie's attention, wiggled away from Will, over toward Georgiana.

He looked down at his boys, and then back up to Georgiana. This wasn't the right venue to discuss this. Not with the children here.

His sister. His precious Georgie. She was so lovely. So beautiful. So good. He couldn't shelter her forever; he knew that. He didn't know what had happened between her and Tye after they'd left Ciao Claretta, but given the perpetually dreamy look on her face, he was starting to hazard a few guesses.

"Tye and I have been friends for years," she continued in a whisper. "We're both adults. I don't understand your concern."

On the couch, Elizabeth was stirring. She rolled onto her back, wincing from the slight ache the movement offered. Her own stillness left the baby restless. Their newest child was fluttering inside her.

"Will?" she said groggily. "What time is it?"

"Lizzie," Georgiana cried out, "oh, I'm sorry we woke you. Will and I have stopped fussing at each other, I promise. Please don't wake up."

"It wasn't you." Elizabeth used her palms to push herself into a sitting position. "The baby's saying hello."

"Elizabeth, don't get up yet--" Will stretched his long legs over a sky blue train set until he reached her. "Not by yourself."

"Alright. I'll wait." Elizabeth paused, breathless as she readied herself to push upward. "My feet are chilly. I'd like to fetch some socks, and maybe a cup of tea..."

"I can get you both," said Will.

"No, love." She shook her head. "I'd like to stand, even for a minute."

"Fine. I'll help you."

She took the strength in his hands, let her body sway against his. She'd noticed a dull ache in her ribs whenever she stood or sat. Will was as sharp as a falcon when it came to noticing pain in her. Because of this, and because she saw no sense in worrying him, she masked her wince with a breathless smile.

"Mercy, if I'm this unsteady now, a ghrá, imagine me by month nine."

"The baby's growing. Your center of gravity keeps changing."

"That's the science of it, surely," she confirmed while they moved past the couch and down the corridor.

She'd heard her grandmother's tale that a baby borrowed all her mother's grace in preparation for the birth. An old wives tale. Sometimes it was hard for Elizabeth not to feel like there was truth in it, though. Coordination had always lived with her her like a second skin. She'd been born with it, she'd cultivated it, she'd mastered it. It was her own sixth sense. By the start of the third trimester with Bennet, she'd barely moved around their flat without fumbling.

They reached the bedroom. Elizabeth retrieved her socks.

"How's your back?" Will questioned.

"No worse than if I'd spent my morning dancing."

"Any dizziness?"

"Not really." She settled elbows first onto the edge of their king sized bed. She couldn't lean forward, not without enduring pressure on her lungs. Instead she pushed herself onto her back, drawing her knee up until her fingers could touch her foot and her foot could reach her sock.

"Good thing you're flexible." Amusement colored Will's voice at the sight of her contortionist efforts. He settled on the bed next to her. "If you want help with this, I have two hands."

"I'm very familiar with both of those hands." Elizabeth laughed. "I can manage socks."

She was also enjoying the luxury of lying flat on her back, even for a few stolen moments. She couldn't sleep this way during pregnancy. Still, it was the best way to stretch out her back, even if the position occasionally left her in a dizzy haze.

Will remembered this. She watched his long arms stretch for a cream pillow.

"I won't faint."

"Humor me," he said, sliding the feathery cushion gently under her neck. His left arm braced right side. His right arm brushed her left. She could smell the spice in his aftershave. "I'd ask you to stay in here to finish your nap, if I thought you'd agree to it."

"I was going to make an apple tart for the boys."

"We can make that later."

"And I need to call my mum and wish her a happy Christmas Eve..."

"That can wait," he answered definitively. "That's an hour on the phone, minimum. She'll ask for, what, a twenty minute update per kid?"

A playful laugh pealed out of her. "Next time she calls, I ought to pass the phone to you?"

"Now, wait--"

"And let you spend a whole hour-and-a-half enjoying my mother's gift for phone gab, shall I?"

"Hey, I love your mother, but--"

"Uh huh." Her smile was playful. "The barrister equivocates."

"I'm not a phone guy. Anything more than fifteen minutes on the phone with anyone who isn't you..."

"Well, as long as I'm your exception."

Will grinned down at her. "What else can I do to make you rest more today? I told you I'll handle the boys."

"I'll make you a deal, Will Darcy..." her fingers traced the sharp line of his chin, "I'll stay here and nap for a bit longer, if you let Georgie walk out the door without giving her another worried question."

His brow furrowed. "You heard that conversation?"

"I started waking at the end. I know you're not too fond of the idea that she'll spend time overnight with Tye."

He shook his head. "She's misinterpreting my concern. Or maybe I'm misstating it. It's not that I don't trust her, Lizzie..."

"I know."

"It's not that I don't think she's capable."

Her finger traced the edge of his ear. "You know that she is. She's lived at Cambridge on her own. She's had relationships."

"Yes." Once she'd entered university, he'd tried to block out that concept. His sister had always skirted the idea of bringing the men in her life to meet him. "Lizzie, she still seems so very young to me."

"She's not that young. I was that age when we first met," she reminded him, a smile toying at her lips. "Remember?"

"In my mind, you were a grown woman."

She laughed. "Believe me, I know. Will, I know you don't dislike Tye. The man has an incredible intellect. You appreciate that. Furthermore," her voice softened, "I know that your misgivings aren't centered around Tye's past addiction. He's been sober for years. You respect his sobriety."

"Yes." Will nodded. "It's taken enormous discipline from him. And sacrifice."

Pride glimmered in her eyes. "You're a fair man, Will. When my brothers asked why I traded the name Bennet to take up yours, I told them that I was as proud to be a Darcy as I was a Bennet. I told them I married a just and kind man."

He leaned down to kiss her. She was warm and soft. She smelled like vanilla, baby powder, and a touch of cinnamon. His mouth strayed to her neck. "If you're going to use my own name to soften me up--"

"A just man," she laughed, arching her neck, "and a canny one."

Will's caressing lips were sending a pulse of pleasure through her. The baby could feel Elizabeth's joy; it fluttering and swished inside her. The double distraction made her giggle.

His head lifted. "You think I should give up trying to convince Georgiana to stay at our apartment in Paris."

"I think it's a waste of words, Will. She'll be fine."

"My true concern," he murmured, stroking down to her round abdomen, "is that Bertram prefers the freedom of bachelorhood."

There was a gentle sway inside, and a ripple by her bellybutton. The baby was wiggling to the left. A dimple surfaced in Will's face.

"Baby's moving," he whispered.

"Mmhm. Our child likes the sound of your voice." She smiled. "You were saying? Bertram and bachelorhood?"

"He's lived as a bachelor for years. He goes where he wants, unencumbered. I just---I want assurances that he would be as devoted to Georgiana as she would be to him. I don't want her heart broken."

"We can't shelter her from heartbreak, Will. She and Tye deserve time alone to see how they feel about each other. She's old enough to watch out for herself. She'll explain what's going on between them when she's ready to. Let's not push her, okay? How many months did we live under the same roof without breathing a word of it to my family?"

"We needed each other. You were sick," he murmured, kissing her again. "And I was so in love with you that I couldn't bear being parted from you."

"Good answer." She smiled. Her fingers traced jaw. "Will, I think the best Christmas present we can offer Georgiana is to let her go to Paris and see what happens. Let her seek out happiness, my love, as we've found ours. "


**



"Plus à droit," said Albert. "Non, non. C'est trop, ça. Encore moins. Non, non, non---plus à droit, Bertram. Un peu plus...plus...à droit..."

One more utterance of à droit from Albert, and Tye was going to say something surly.

"It's fine," Tye huffed, planting the tree down by the window.

His arms ached. The bark had roughed up his palms. He smelled like a pine-scented plugin, the type that Fay loved cramming into wall sockets back home.

I smell like Christmas, Tye realized ruefully.

That tree weighed seventy pounds, which wasn't a problem until he realized how long the journey was from Carrefour, halfway across the Left Bank, up to his apartment building at Rue Cherche Midi. Without a taxi.

Arriving at the apartment had presented a new challenge. He'd had to hoist the tree up multiple narrow flights of stairs, pausing at floor three to draw air into his lungs, then onward until he'd reached his sixth floor apartment.

Albert, a thinly built architect who lived across the hall, had heard the clatter in the hallway and arrived to offer aid.

Aid, by Albert's definition, meant Albert lazing on the couch, watching Tye's labor from afar.

"Thanks for the help," Tye said dryly.

"You need it," Albert announced in swift, fluid French. "In truth, mon ami, you know nothing of where and how to decorate a room." The architect stood, framing the tree with his hands. "Against the casement window, near the fireplace. Yes. I have decided this is an excellent place to put it. The tree is not perfect, but this placement is superb. It balances the room and catches the light."

Tye shrugged. That tree, wedged in its wood log tree stand, was staying put regardless. Its looked good enough to him. Not perfect. The fir tree's limbs were plumper and greener at the base, and spindlier toward the top. The tip of the tree was crooked. But he'd hauled it here himself.

Seeing it planted at the edge of the living room infused him with a bewildering sense of accomplishment.

He'd never done this before. A tree. Lights. Decorations. Not even in Canada when he'd had a whole forest of pines beyond his front porch. Usually he taped one of Lynnie's Christmas drawings to a window above his desk and called that his Christmas decoration. That was it.

Now that he had the tree, he didn't know what to do with it. Buying a tree at Christmas, putting one up, worst of all, decorating it, these were all actions that touched on bigger concepts. Family. Tradition. Putting down roots. Turning a house into a home. Was it Tye's imagination, or was this room getting hot? He started tugging at the collar of his cable knit sweater.

"Now you have the tree," Albert announced in English, "you must decorate it, non?"

Tye winced. He'd sooner write a fugue than decorate a fir tree. Albert had bought a packet of tree lights, plus a box of gold and white glass baubles.

"I've said it before, Bertie," said Tye in French, pushing up his sleeves, "I don't---decorate."

"Bah. You can try," answered Albert. "Look at me and my English. I try."

"Your English is a lot better," Tye confirmed.

"And you finally have bought a couch," said Albert in English. "Slow but steady progress, ouai?"

Tye rubbed his brow, laughing tiredly. "Sure."

The couch sat near a marble topped fireplace. There was a coffee table, too, though that had come with the apartment. Most of the furniture had been here upon arrival. He'd never bothered to buy any sort of rug, despite Albert's reminder that he needed one. The wooden floors stayed clean, he could claim credit for that, at least.

This space had been a reception room once—a salon, the French called it—which meant the room had high ceilings and long windows that faced the boulevard. A piano sat at the opposite end of the room. It was a parlor grand, with a soundboard made of sensitive spruce and a shining black frame. Light traced the edge of the frame, skimming the raised lid.

This was the last of the day's sun. The sky had darkened to an indigo band. Amber flared at tips of the Left Bank rooftops.

The room would grow cold at sunset. The temperature never bothered Tye. It might bother Georgie.

"Firewood," Tye murmured in French. "I ought to bring in a few more logs."

"I trust you hear the irony of this when there is a tree sitting one yard away. The tree is enormous. You must do more than look at it. It is here. You should decorate it. You brought the tree, and--"

"Not for me," Tye answered, again in French, pushing up his sleeves, "for her."

Pas pour moi. Pour elle. This was the French phrase that Georgiana Darcy heard when she walked into the room.

"A tree?" The sight of it drew a joyful sigh from Georgiana. "Oh, it's beautiful, Tye. And so big. I had no idea you'd buy a tree for Christmas. Do you get one every year?"

Tye turned.

She looks incredible, he thought.

She looked like she'd been chauffeured here from a nearby country manor. Her coat was wool, with a cowl neck hood and a line of buttons. She had black lambskin gloves. She wore trousers. Loafers adorned her feet. In her hand was a butterscotch brown, Italian leather overnight bag.

He'd been around aristocrats all of his life, but even he had never seen anyone as naturally genteel as Georgiana Darcy. It hummed in the air around her. She was the picture of a very young, very gracious, well-heeled, prettily polite heiress.

She's everything a Viscount is expected to aim for. Not what I predicted wanting, Tye thought. But he did want her. Fire stirred deep within him the moment he saw her. He felt it with every brush she gave to her coat, every dainty tug she made on her lambskin gloves.

Georgiana approached him with a bashful smile.

"The door was open," she said, tucking her gloves into her coat pockets.

"Et bien, le cadeau," Albert announced, approval sparkling in his eyes. "Une jolie femme. You speak French, mademoiselle?"

"Um...just a little. Schoolgirl French. I know phrases because of music, but truly I'm only fluent in English and Italian."

"Vous me brisez le coeur." Albert took her hand. "But I think this would be not so difficult to learn? Not if you speak Italian, non?"

Tye suspected a charm offensive was what most men offered to a woman as beautiful as Georgiana. Albert's charm was simple French bienvenue, lacking intent or an offering. Georgiana could see it. Her shoulders relaxed; her smile warmed. Tye approached the pair.

"Needless to say, Albert isn't used to seeing a beautiful woman in my apartment." Tye's fingers brushed over Georgiana's. Gently, he took her hand into his. "Albert Duvalier, this is Georgiana Darcy."

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Albert," Georgiana answered.

"Et vous. Quel plaisir. So polite. You have been here to visit him before? I think not."

"No," said Georgiana, "never."

Tye heard them exchange further pleasantries. His fingers were dancing across the center of her palm. Touching her felt like skimming a rose petal.

Georgiana's gaze sought Tye's. Desire for him was warming her brown eyes. It hit him like an electric current, leaping into his skin.

"Bertie," Tye heard himself say, "you know the phrase three's a crowd?"

"Tye!" Georgiana laughed.

"This is okay, mademoiselle," said Albert, grinning. "I will come back later when the air is not so thick with unsaid sentiments. Do not forget to make him decorate his tree."

"I'll try," she said faintly.

They both heard the door shut behind Albert.

She bit the edge of her lip. She could see an echo of her own anticipation in his dark eyes.

"Tye," she whispered again, "do I sound terribly foolish and young if I say that I've been counting down the hours until I arrived?"

"Not to me." He was surprised by the roughness in his voice. Then his head lowered, and his mouth was on hers.

If their first kiss was a prelude, this was a rhapsody. Energizing. Spontaneous. She was already learning that Tye's musical gifts for momentum and beat also found spectacular application in other areas. He found the pace in her eager, youthful energy. Their lips moved together, fed, teased, offered. Tye tasted her again and again. The more he kissed her, the more they wanted each other.

It was Georgiana's soft moan that knocked some sense into him. It was dangerous, he knew, how much he liked that sound. He drew back.

"You should---you ought to take off your coat," he said breathlessly. He'd wanted, at various points while kissing her, to peal that coat off her with his own two hands. He didn't trust himself to touch a single button.

He stepped back and ran his fingers through his hair. Hell, thought Tye. He didn't know what do with himself other than remind himself not to touch her.

He'd seen everything, done everything. When he was with Georgiana, though, he felt like he'd never even touched a woman before. Need pumped through him; everything felt new. Even his own body. His own thoughts.

"You've had a long trip," he said, reminding himself. It had been a long time since he'd played host to any woman who wasn't his own sister. "Are you thirsty? I have—water?"

"Yes. Um, water would be lovely, thank you," Georgiana confirmed. "Actually, I should go back downstairs. I still have to pay the taxi driver. He's parked at the curb. And there are a few more things I need to bring up."

Things. Tye nodded. Experience with his sisters taught him that "things" could mean a spare handbag, or six steamer trunks. "Guest bedroom's down the corridor to the left. I'll help with your bags."

"No, no. The taxi driver is hugely accommodating. He told me he'd be happy to bring up my bags, and I'm equally happy to pay for his assistance. Will always makes sure I never want for money. I'll just meet you in the kitchen."

She flashed him another genteel, drawing room smile. And then she was gone.



**

She could tell from the raise of his eyebrows that he wasn't expecting what she brought up. Half a dozen paper bags, each stuffed with groceries. They were deposited onto his kitchen counter.

"Well," she said, reaching into her wallet for a generous number of euro to tip the taxi driver, "there was this open air market right near Gare du Nord. It was barely ten minutes away, and---"

His brow furrowed; he mentally mapped the geography. "Marche bastille?"

"That might have been it. And anyway, the train was a bit early, and I've never cooked for you, and I thought, this being Christmas Eve, since you said you didn't have plans..." She slipped the bills into the taxi driver's hand. "Thank you so much for waiting for me, and for bringing those bags up. It was helpful."

When the driver left, she finally slipped off her coat, glancing at Tye. "I do hope you don't mind. If we don't eat here, I can store it in your fridge, and you can cook the food another day. You oughtn't wait too long on the chicken, though. Did you have plans for dinner?"

He shook his head, dazed. She was already unpacking the food, finding hideaway spaces in his fridge and his cupboards. He still wasn't used to having a beautiful woman settling in his apartment, much less having her stock his empty refrigerator. Much less having that beautiful woman be Georgiana Darcy. His plans had been vague; a Parisian friend was a cook at the very expensive Henri Cinq hotel. He'd toyed with the notion of taking her there. Another night, he decided. Or another trip. He liked the idea of a quiet meal, just the two of them.

"I'm not much of a cook, Georgie."

"I will cook tonight," Georgiana announced, shutting the refrigerator door. She smiled playfully. "You can just—stand there, look beautiful, and take direction?"

He winced. "You're the beauty in the room, Georgie. Direction, however, I can manage."

"Well, it's a silly phrase. I'm joking. I do find you incredibly handsome, though, Tye. You were a beautiful boy when I first met you, and you've grown into a gorgeous man." She was brave enough to maintain eye contact while she said it—no easy feat on her end. The confession brought a shy smile to her lips. "Goodness, it feels so strange saying that to your face. I've run out of reasons not to say it, though."

She left the kitchen, and left his head spinning. When she slipped down the hallway, pursuing the corridor that lead towards the bedrooms, he let out a low whistle.

**

She knew from her first walk-through that she loved his apartment. She loved the building's classical facade, and its steep chateau roof. She loved the winding stairwells with their worn stone treads. She loved the creaking wooden floorboards and the tall, narrow windows which stretched up to the high ceilings.

She even loved the apartment's empty spaces. That meant there was room for other thoughts. Other ideas. She imagined vases of lilies on the fireplace mantle, and pleated French drapery on the windows. The small kitchen looked close to empty, but incredibly clean. He'd have plenty of room for pots and pans.

She didn't even realize where her mind was going until she was more than halfway through the daydream. A life wherever he was. A daily role in his life. Careful, Georgie, she told herself. Don't get the cart before the horse.

It was hard sometimes, though, not to daydream. She'd always been prone to daydreams. Mostly, she decided, she envied him the ability to decide the look and layout of his own surroundings. Even if the decision was inaction, he'd chosen it. She'd lived in family homes, and boarding schools, and university owned flats, but she longed for the freedom of a place like this.

The floorboards creaked on her walk down the hall. There was a small library, an inheritance from the chateau and all the generations living here before him. Although the building had traded hands and been divided and redivided, the room lined with bookshelves had stayed. Many of the book spines looked to be from the 18th and 19th century. There was a writing desk at the center. There were reference books on it, and folios, reams of sheet music, and paper collated into stacks. She saw his violin case and a music stand.

A stack of sheet music written by Tye Bertram was temptation itself for Georgiana. She tapped her fingers against the door frame and forced herself to move on. If he wanted to show her, he would.

Or maybe, one day when he was busy doing something else, she could catch a little peek.

The guest bedroom was down the corridor and to the left. The apartment wasn't that large; she was running out of rooms to look in. There were only two here at the end. She should've looked left first.

She sometimes ruefully regretted her natural streak of curiosity, but she couldn't squash it completely. She looked right instead.

Tye's master bedroom. The door was open. She was surprised by how stark it was. Perhaps she shouldn't have been, given the functional state of the apartment overall. The walls were white. There were stacks of books on the bedside table. She saw more sheet music there, and a pen. The windows offered a view of the tree lined street below. The bed was a classically French, cherry wood frame with a tall, Louis XV headboard and a low, scrolling foot board. A souvenir, she supposed, from the building's chateau past.

The longer she looked at his bed, the deeper her blush turned, which prompted her to finally turn away from it.

Tye was standing a foot away. His hands hung in his pockets. He nodded toward the bedroom.

"It came with the furniture. I didn't mind. Mansfield Park's full of antiques. It got me used to sleeping in an antique bed."

"Mmm. Pemberley's a bit like that. Antique-y." Antique-y? Her mind chided her. Georgiana, honestly, is that even a word? "That is, it's less so now that Will and Lizzie have the children. But there are still plenty of antique...beds. And also clocks and tables and chairs and things, and..."

Please stop talking, she told herself.

"Right," Tye said. If he noticed her nerves, he wouldn't tease her about it. There was kindness in his dark eyes. His head tilted to the left. "Your antique bed's the one across the hall."

"Yes." She nodded. "Wonderful. Great."

**


The menu was broiled lobster, scallops with a white truffle sauce, asparagus, foie gras on toast. She'd perused the marché stands carefully, seeking the most festive option with the fewest ingredients. The scallops would be pan seared. The lobster needed little preparation.

Tye returned to the kitchen with nonchalant smile and a casual nod to the ingredients she was sorting on the counter. He reminded her that he'd had no expectation of her cooking for him, but if she wished to cook, he'd help with both hands.

"Consider me a humble assistant to the konzertmeister," he announced, pushing up his sleeves. She'd already made swift work of his kitchen, finding the cutting board, a sauce pan, a tray fit for broiling. "Wow, Georgie, where did you find this stuff?"

"It just took some digging." She placed two raw lobster tails at the center of a cooking tray. Breton lobsters. They had ink blue speckle shells and fanning tails. She picked up one knife, prepared to slice through their shell center. "Turns out you even have a paring knife."

"What's a pairing knife?"

Georgiana laughed. Her fingers were fumbling. She'd never cooked lobster before. She was already realizing she'd underestimated the strength of its armor. It had a tough, tight shell, with prickly edges and hard grooves. She re-positioned the knife. Her elbow twisted. "Do you really never cook?"

"I, uh, can boil an egg when the time calls for it." He frowned, watching her struggle. "Darlin', let me help you."

The endearment produced a giddy thrill in her. He took the knife. Tye was both taller and stronger than her. With a little pressure and a lowering of his hand, the lobster shell split. He swiftly split the second.

"Good," said Georgiana. "Now we pull the shell apart and put on the seasoning." Her arm brushed against his as she reached for the small dish of melted butter. She could feel his gaze on her. "You mentioned...boiled eggs?"

"That doesn't happen often. This town's full of cafes. I usually stop at one for breakfast."

Her head lowered. She kept working.

He watched her work. Tye realized then and there that an adorable expression played across her face whenever her hands were sharply focused. Every movement she made was measured and tidy. He noticed she'd pinned her hair back with a silver barrette. She was wearing a turtleneck and those tailored trousers. Elegant. It covered every inch of her body, from her chin to her ankles, and it still managed to turn him on in new, distracting ways.

One small spiral curl twisted free, brushing her cheek. He licked his lips, telling himself not to distract her by brushing his thumb against that tiny, corkscrew tendril, or tucking it behind her ear, or tracing the line of her neck with a soft, legato stroke.

"And lunch?" she asked, reaching around him to set the oven to broil.

"Sorry?"

Her head lifted. "What do you usually do for lunch?"

"When I remember it, I'll grab soup or a panini at the Palais."

"And dinner is take-out. This is a balanced diet?" She teased, lifting the cooking tray. "Tye, could you open the oven?"

"Sure." Thankful she was finally giving him something to do with his hands, he turned, pulling the oven door down.

"How did you survive in Canada?" she asked.

"Lots of canned soup. Baked beans. Hot dogs."

She slid the lobster in; he tilted the oven door up. "I'm trying to picture you as a mountain man. You taught at that local college. I bet most of your students were infatuated with you."

"Georgie," he laughed, "I really don't think--"

"And I never thought it'd be this easy to make you blush." A smile drew across her elegant lips. "Tell me about life at Mansfield Park. Did your parents never cook?"

His laugh turned hollow. His parents entering a kitchen? There was a thought. "No. The estate employs a team of chefs. My parents, you see, they're not..."

Georgiana's lips pressed together. He watched her hip bump against the counter. Her gaze was gentle. Waiting. She wanted to hear about his parents.

"My mum, Georgie, she's not like most mums. I don't just mean financially. I mean she was rarely in a state for---for taking care of us. That's not her nature. And my father never toasted his own bread."

"Sounds lonely," she whispered.

"Yeah." The confirmation knocked the air out of him. "It was, usually."

Jules, Mariah, Edmund and Tye, they'd all made it through the best they could, but the odd upbringing had marked them all.

"What about you," he said at last. "Where'd you learn this?"

"Self taught, mostly. Rumor has it my mother loved to cook. I hear the stories from Will, and from some of my Fitzwilliam cousins. Will's an accomplished cook too, actually."

"What's accomplished, in your book?"

"Well, for one thing, he makes a marvelous grilled cheese sandwich. And he's good with an omelet, and spaghetti, and---food kids like, I guess. Unwrap that foie gras, would you? We ought to try some while we wait. It won't be as amazing as it could be since the bread isn't toasted yet, but half the fun of cooking is eating while you wait."

She reached for a new knife, and a flour dusted baguette.

"For all those years," she said, slicing into the baguette, "when other lads were staying out late or sleeping in, Will was waking early and making things for me like---honey flapjacks and black current squash."

"He raised you."

Georgiana nodded.

"Yes. I love him, Tye. I challenge him sometimes," she transferred a piece of foie gras onto the bread, "but---well, that's the Darcy blood in both of us. We're supremely confident that we know what's right. I can be argumentative."

"Nothing wrong with that," Tye said. "Most artists are."

Georgiana raised the hors d'oeuvre to his lips. "Tell me what you think."

One long arm looped around her shoulder. He drew her gently into him and took a bite. "I think it's pretty damn perfect, darling."

He didn't just mean the food. He meant this. Them. Together. She grinned. "I think so, too."
SubjectAuthorPosted

Love's Adagio Chapter 8: Part 1

BernadetteEJanuary 10, 2018 03:37AM

Re: Love's Adagio Chapter 8: Part 1

GretchenJanuary 12, 2018 04:42PM

Re: Love's Adagio Chapter 8: Part 1

TinaJanuary 11, 2018 11:46PM

Re: Love's Adagio Chapter 8: Part 1

KarenteaJanuary 11, 2018 08:32PM



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