Richard Fitzwilliam started at Elizabeth’s form of address. “You know Darcy? This is remarkable!” He smiled. “Most women can’t stand him since the break up. They run away in hordes; it’s kind of funny.”
Darcy stared at Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth looked between the men. Glancing over at Hayworth, she could see that he was trying not to laugh.
“Where’s the firm’s brightest?” the author finally asked Elizabeth.
“I thought I’d send him my notes and any papers after the meeting,” she explained. She tried not to think of one of the publishing company’s lawyers, William Collins, who fancied himself in love with her.
“Ah,” he said knowingly.
“Sorry?” Fitzwilliam asked.
“William Collins, one of our lawyers,” Elizabeth explained to the two executives.
“He’s in love with her and follows her around with roses and stars in his eyes, Fitz,” Hayworth cut in with a knowing look. “It’s like a horror movie, really.”
At Elizabeth’s questioning look at the nickname, Hayworth cut in, “Fitz and I go way back.”
“Yes,” Fitzwilliam agreed. “It looks like we’re all friends.”
Unfortunately, however, there was so much tension in the room that you could cut it with an Anglo-Saxon hatchet. Darcy kept on staring at her like he had at dinner the night before. Finally, he asked, “How’s your daughter?” He was silently kicking himself in the teeth. He couldn’t believe he had gotten himself in this situation. Here was the one woman in all of New York that he couldn’t stop thinking about and had promised himself that he would stay away from, and he was unwittingly in a meeting with her about buying the rights to one of her publishing company’s children’s books.
She looked up hesitantly and a small smile played on her lips. “She’s fine, thank you. She was asking about you this morning, actually.”
He smiled slightly. “I like how she can’t pronounce my name.”
“I think that’s your vanity speaking,” Elizabeth quipped. “What man wouldn’t want to be called a prince?”
“You let him meet your ‘little girl’?” Hayworth asked incredulously.
“Alexander –” Elizabeth warned.
He turned to her. “Has Hell frozen over?”
“I met her yesterday,” Darcy said belatedly.
Hayworth looked as if he had been hit in the head with a baseball bat. He looked at Richard Fitzwilliam. “Am I dreaming?”
“I don’t think so, old man.”
“But you,” he was turned to Elizabeth again, “never let anyone meet her. Hell, I’ve dedicated books to her and I’ve never even seen the kid.”
Darcy could feel the tension and tried to get a handle on the situation. “Jane Bennet was kind enough to extend an invitation to myself and her friend to see her yesterday, and Miss Bennet and Mabel were already planning on attending. It was nothing out of the ordinary.”
Elizabeth took a drink from her coffee not wanting to be in this conversation.
Hayworth relaxed momentarily. “Oh, I get it. You’re one of a Jane’s.”
At this comment, Elizabeth couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Richard asked.
“Sorry,” she apologized, “I just find it difficult to imagine Darcy as one of Jane’s devoted followers.”
“I’d say it was the other way around in Charles’ case,” Darcy replied coolly.
Elizabeth looked up at him, shocked. Before she could set him straight, however, Hayworth asked, “Are you two secretly engaged, then, or something? That’s the only other explanation that makes sense.”
Elizabeth tried not to choke on her coffee and three very shocked eyes rested on the children’s author. This is going to be a horrible day, Elizabeth decided as she tried to breathe.
At Elizabeth’s lack of denial, he instantly began to color. “You are, aren’t you?” he persisted, jealousy in his voice. She had long suspected that he had a thing for her – their usual banter went far beyond that of friends. But he had always respected her and her privacy. He had never made any advances and so she had let Hayworth think whatever he wanted to think as long as it didn’t affect her. Now it was only too clear. How stupid could she be? “Why else would you let a man meet your kid?”
“Why don’t we,” Richard Fitzwilliam cut in quickly, “resume this meeting in fifteen minutes?”
“Good idea,” Elizabeth said as she jumped up from her chair and avoided Alexander who was trying to grasp her arm. “Please help yourself to coffee,” and she quickly made her escape to her office.
She could barely breathe. She felt overwhelmed. Alexander was a dear friend and she knew that he had a reason to be angry. She had let Mabel near Charles and his friend and even had gone to dinner with a near stranger, inviting him into her home as her little girl slept. But despite her dislike of him, she felt strangely safe in his presence. She couldn’t explain it. She knew that he didn’t mean her – and more especially Mabel – any harm.
She kicked off her heels and went to her mini fridge where she took out a bottle of water. She only had five minutes left. Perhaps she could hand this meeting off to someone else? Taking a swig of water, she grabbed the folder and ran across the room to Arthur’s office. Fortunately he was sitting at his desk. “Arthur,” she said as she looked in on him. “Can you do me a favor?”
He was buried in paper work and looked up at her, smiling. “Depends.”
“Could you take a meeting for me with Hayworth and Grendel Films?”
He looked confused. “Why?”
“Hayworth just accused me of being secretly engaged to the vice president of Grendel Films, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Arthur looked amused. A man with two children in his forties, he took pleasure in the sillier things in life.
“This sounds good.” He took up his jacket and followed her to the second conference room, smiling because Elizabeth had forgotten to put her shoes back on. “And are you secretly engaged to this Darcy?”
They were now standing outside of the door. “No.”
“Excellent. The plot thickens.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Is he hot?” he asked, looking at her askance.
Elizabeth stopped dead and stared at him.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to get an answer, Arthur jogged to the conference room, opened the door and took quick stock of the two businessmen, who both looked oddly back at him. “Okay, which one is he?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does.” Arthur made it sound like it was obvious. Rolling his eyes, he grabbed her arm. “Introduce me quickly and then we can chat for the next,” he glanced at his watch. “How long do we have?”
“Three minutes,” she groaned.
Pushing her slightly ahead of him, she and Arthur entered the room. Fitzwilliam looked slightly amused at the stunned expression on her face. Darcy looked down and saw that she was no longer wearing shoes. This strangely aroused him and he shifted behind a chair to hide the evidence of his attraction.
“Arthur, may I present Richard Fitzwilliam,” she indicated the less handsome of the two men to him, “and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Grendel Films? Mr. Fitzwilliam, Mr. Darcy, my colleague, Arthur Jones.” She turned to her friend who had a smirk on his face. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. “I believe you already know Alex Hayworth.”
The editor shook Fitzwilliam and Darcy’s hands and nodded to the author. “Would you excuse us for a moment before the meeting commences?”
“Of course,” Fitzwilliam responded.
Hayworth was still fuming in his chair.
Once they were outside of the conference room, Arthur looked at her appraisingly. “So, tell me one good reason why you aren’t secretly engaged to Darcy.”
“I barely know him and he’s an arrogant bastard, for lack of a better description.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Unless the rumors are true and you’re not into men, and I think we both know that’s a lie, that man is extraordinarily good looking. And into you, by the way.”
She started and then stood frozen.
“Hmm, I see how the land lies.” He paused. “I think I better get in there. I intend to hear all about it over lunch in the rec room,” he said opening up the door.
“Don’t worry, Arthur, I’ll tell you if that’s what it takes to get me out of that meeting.” She smiled appreciatively at him.
He squeezed her arm gently and then walked onto the battlefield.
Darcy woke with a start less than twenty-four hours later, breathing heavily and covered in a thin sweat. Groaning, he reached over to the empty bed next to him and sighed. He hadn’t held a woman in his arms in five years and yet he had been dreaming that Elizabeth, this impertinent nobody, had been there beside him.
He shifted as he attempted to cool his aroused body, but with little success. His dream had been so real, so passionate, her gorgeous breasts hanging over his face as she slid up and down his hard member, making glorious love to him although it was only a dream.
“I’m here,” she had whispered in his ear, as she caused him to climax. Capturing his lips, she had kissed him achingly until he could not longer control his body’s urgings and spent himself inside her beautiful body.
“I love you,” the phantom had murmured, “I have always loved you.”
Over a week passed and Elizabeth couldn’t get Darcy and his horrible moodiness out of her head. She had watched him and Fitzwilliam walk out of the meeting on Monday, the latter bowing in her direction. Well, at least she knew why Darcy was mysteriously in the City if he worked in California. He was here for this deal and now he would leave and Charles would hopefully stay. Jane was happier than Elizabeth had ever seen her.
However, Thanksgiving was quickly approaching which absolutely terrified Elizabeth. From what Jane told her, the entire Bennet clan was descending on the city. This could only mean one thing: Elizabeth was going to have to go into hiding. After bribing Jane with doing her laundry for a month, she had finally managed to extract a promise that her older sister would not let any of their relatives near the apartment except for one preliminary viewing. She couldn’t help, though, but be filled with a sense of dread.
The day for their arrival finally came and Elizabeth, at a loss for what to do, decided to take Mabel to the park in the hopes that the cool air would help release some of her tension. As they approached Mabel’s favorite playground, Elizabeth couldn’t help but be surprised when she saw Darcy and his associate Richard Fitzwilliam walking in their direction. She looked quickly around for a means of escape but before she could, Mabel let out a happy squeal of “Prince Fitz!”
Elizabeth quickly looked up at the two men and couldn’t help but laugh at the expressions on their faces. Mabel tugged on her arm and soon she found herself walking toward them despite herself. As soon as they reached the two men, the child released her mother’s hand and wrapped her small arms around Darcy’s leg.
Both Darcy and Fitzwilliam looked quite shocked.
“Well, Darcy, I guess that’s what you get for resembling Disney’s Prince Charming,” she said cynically as she looked at him, “although your hair’s curlier.”
Richard Fitzwilliam laughed heartily at her and smiled. Darcy looked somewhat stunned. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Bennet,” he added as he looked down at Mabel.
“Likewise,” she smiled hesitantly.
“We were quite surprised last week when you didn’t return to the meeting,” Darcy cut in, his tone accusing, as he tore his gaze away from the happy little girl attached to him.
“I thought it best to diffuse the situation,” she explained, glaring at him. “Arthur was just as capable and Hayworth never lets anything drop.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Fitzwilliam laughed. “He was like that back in high school.”
“He also has quite the imagination,” she looked pointedly at Darcy, trying to tell him in a single glance that she had no intention of becoming remotely intimate with him. As if he would ever want that, she thought somewhat miserably before mentally chastising herself. He stared back at her.
“I guess that’s what makes him a good children’s author,” he quipped.
“So, what brings you ladies out on such a cold day?” Fitzwilliam inquired after a long pause.
Elizabeth tore her gaze away from Darcy. “My family just arrived for Thanksgiving and I’m hiding.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Don’t you think they’d want to see their granddaughter?” Fitzwilliam asked innocently.
“Mommy,” Mabel interjected. “Can I go play on the swing set?”
“May I go play on the swing set.”
“May I?” she asked sweetly.
“As long as I can see you,” she responded and the child ran off happily, her mother’s gaze never leaving her form.
“Would you care to sit down, Miss Bennet?” Darcy’s cool voice asked.
She nodded briefly and they all headed to an empty bench closer to the playground. Elizabeth barely noticed when Darcy took a seat directly next to her with Richard on his other side.
“So, are your relatives all that dreadful?” Fitzwilliam pressed, and Elizabeth glanced at him.
“No, not really. Mother’s been trying to marry me and Jane off since we were seventeen, but apart from that …” She stopped.
“Ah,” Fitzwilliam knowingly. “Sounds like Aunt Catherine and Darcy here.”
She looked at the two men curiously.
“She wants him to marry our distant cousin, Anne. She’s an absolute fright. Greasy hair, baggy sweatshirts. It’s horrible. Of course, Caroline Bingley’s all over him all the time, which is equally disturbing.”
“How lovely.” Her tone was dry and insincere.
“So is that why you’re hiding?” he asked again.
She smiled faintly. If only it were that simple…
“Drop it, Richard,” Darcy hissed at him. When his friend finally lapsed into silence, Darcy asked, “how long do you have to hide?”
“Hopefully no longer than two hours. I’m waiting for a phone call from Jane. I’m not sure if I can trust her, however. She’d probably engineer for us to show up just as my parents and sisters were leaving.”
“You’ll freeze to death if you stay out here that long,” Darcy stated.
“We’ll probably get some lunch later.”
“What an excellent idea,” Fitzwilliam said enthusiastically. “Darcy and I were on are way to lunch. Why don’t you join us?”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to refuse, but before she could say anything, he continued. “I won’t take no for an answer. We have to meet Caroline and trust me, you won’t want to miss that.”
“We were actually going to meet up with my college friend –” she protested. “And please don’t think that I was begging for an invitation,” she glanced at Darcy, fearful of what he might think of her.
“Bring her along, too. Do you have her number?”
“Y-Yes,” Elizabeth said.
“It’s settled then,” Darcy said, looking down at her. She couldn’t read the expression in his eyes but it made her shiver.
Elizabeth hesitantly drew out her cell phone. “Where are we meeting and when?”
“Darcy’s favorite: Serendipity,” Elizabeth glanced up at him as Fitzwilliam continued. “He only ever takes people there if it’s a ‘special occasion,’ which is never, so I thought I’d play a joke on Caroline by ‘suggesting’ it as the location.”
Darcy rolled his eyes and looked away, staring intently at Mabel.
“And,” Fitzwilliam added, “we were supposed to be there ten minutes ago.”
After rushing into a cab, the four of them reached Serendipity to find a very angry Caroline Bingley. Caroline, unlike her brother, was not good natured. She was vain, spoilt, and was convinced that she should marry Fitzwilliam Darcy (although no one knew why she had decided this). She had flown out to L.A. a few days before because she couldn’t bear to be without him, or so she had told her sister, when really she had been terrified that some broadway starlet would hook her claws into him just as some upstart had done with her brother.
Caroline was a model. Or at least she wanted to be. In reality she lived off of a trust fund and pretended she was important just because she had once drunkenly made out with George Clooney (or his look-alike). She was all that pretention and plastic surgery could buy.
Needless to say, she was startled when Darcy showed up not only with his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, who had not been invited for what Caroline believed was a cleverly arranged rendez-vous, but a blonde petite woman with a little girl in tow. A few minutes later another woman showed up and the conversation focused on everyone but her. What was even worse was that Darcy couldn’t take his eyes off of this chit of a girl who was so insensible that clearly she didn’t know how to use a condom and got pregnant when she was a teenager! Clearly she was trying to ensnare a husband, and a rich one at that, to make up for her past folly.
In desperation during dessert, Caroline finally asked Darcy, “How is your dear sister, Georgiana? I understand from Charles that she is has been offered a scholarship to Julliard,” she simpered, casting a look in Elizabeth’s direction.
“My sister is well, thank you,” he said, being roused from his thoughts. “And, yes, she has.”
“How I long to see her again!” Caroline declared to no one in particular. “She is so accomplished. I have never seen anything like it. Her performance on the piano is simply divine.”
“It is amazing to me,” said Richard, “how Georgie – and others, of course – can have the patience to become so proficient in music at such a young age.”
“You apply the term too liberally, Richard,” Caroline countered.
“Indeed,” Darcy agreed. “You think anyone who can play chopsticks is talented.”
“Well, it’s more than I can play, I assure you,” Richard countered.
“I must assume that you must comprehend a great deal in a person, then, to call them ‘accomplished,’ Darcy,” Elizabeth stated. She looked at Mabel who was intently eating her ice cream.
“Yes; I do.”
“Oh! Certainly,” Caroline agreed. “No one can be accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. They must have a thorough knowledge of music, art, acting, math and science, and the modern languages to deserve the word; and beside this, any woman in good society must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
“All of this a person must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this must be added something more substantial in the improvement of the mind by extensive reading.”
Elizabeth smiled at him.
“Isn’t this a bit much, Darcy? I rather wonder at you knowing many high school students – or even college graduates – with such varied ‘talents’ as you call them.”
“Are you so severe on humanity in general?”
“I never saw such a person,” she stated before returning to her brownie.
“How many languages do you know?” Caroline asked smugly. She hadn’t ordered a dessert and was glaring accusatively at Elizabeth’s curves.
“Languages or dialects?” she asked innocently.
“Well,” she began, “French, English, Classical Latin, seven dialects of Middle English which aren’t necessarily mutually intelligible, and Anglo-Saxon. I’ve also sung in Italian and German.” Elizabeth smiled sweetly at the stunned look on Caroline’s face, missing the calculating look on Darcy’s face.
“Oh,” she added. “Does it count that I sing Arabic pop songs?”