“How could he do this to me?” Jane sobbed, heedless of the furtive glances from onlookers or that she was dripping tears into her coffee. At the moment she had eyes only for the handsome Calvin Klein-esque blond across from her. She usually maintained an appropriate distance from her fans, but after Charles had walked away from their relationship—“We need a break. Please don’t call me. My security people have orders to keep you away from me, and I wouldn’t want things to get ugly” were his last words to her—Jane found it soothing to be in the presence of the stunning model who wanted nothing more than to smile adoringly at her. After all, she reasoned, that was what she deserved.
“He’s a bastard,” Calvin responded, archly moving his arm so that he could pull her into a half embrace, trying to imagine that she was curvier, shorter, blonder. The couple—the man a bleached blond with an expensive faux tan that almost looked real, and his companion a stunning woman with nearly black hair and a figure any anorexic debutante would covet—sat on a couch in a secluded corner in Starbucks. “Any man fool enough to walk away from you doesn’t deserve you, gorgeous,” he smiled down at her. “He must be blind, Or possessed.”
She blinked her eyes a few times and tried to smile up at him. He was just what she needed, a pretty man who would boost her ego and not walk all over her. He wouldn’t put her in her place, claiming that she only wanted his fame. Of course, he was no Charles Bingley, a voice in the back of her head prompted. He wasn’t famous, would be more of a hanger-on than someone who would boost her own importance in the world, but he could be good for her in the short term. Plus, who was she to pass up a boyfriend who wore nothing but underwear in the top fashion magazines? With such good looks and charm he could go on to a successful career in television in acting, if he played his cards right. He would not be long-term, just a needed momentary distraction unless his prospects changed. Then anything could happen.
“So, why exactly did this dunce break up with you?” the model asked smoothly as he looked down at her.
She stiffened slightly. “It was Elizabeth, my sister, she just – couldn’t let me happy.”
“What’s her problem?” her boyfriend mused.
“Well, she does have a four year old, and now is dating Darcy-darce, Charles’s best friend. I think she was trying to impress Darcy in some special, twisted, overprotective way. She told Charles I was after his fame and his money, but really I could easily accuse her of the same thing.”
The model shivered. “Fitzwilliam Darcy?” he questioned, trying to sound casual.
Jane looked up at him. “Yeah, the one who owns the media companies, including the movie studio, that produces a lot of Charles’s pictures.”
“Sounds like quite the bastard,” Calvin said noncommittally. At her expression, he elaborated, “He’s got tons of money and just wants to hang out with people with either fame or money. Bastard.”
Jane was surprised and momentarily took her mind off herself. “You know Darcy?” she asked.
“Yes,” the model replied with unexpected curtness. After a moment he took a breath, “I saw him, in fact, at that performance when I met you. He was with this blonde. Couldn’t take his eyes off of her.”
“That would be Lizzy,” Jane groaned. “Just because she had a crush on CB in high school she had to go and be selfish and have both Charles and Darcy to a certain extent. I should have known she was a bad egg when she dropped off the face of the planet at the beginning of college. Getting pregnant wasn’t a reason at all.” Somewhere in the back of her mind Jane knew that what she was saying made no sense, but angry people are often not wise.
“She got pregnant at college?”
“Yeah, she went to W–. First week out, she went to some frat party and got date raped. Then she went and kept Mabel Elizabeth.”
The model glanced nervously about the interior of the New York Starbucks and then focused back on the beautiful brunette in his arms. Brunettes weren’t usually his type, especially not skinny ones. Part of him wondered if she ever ate. Another part of him thought perhaps she did and then vomited it up. You could never be sure with these minor celebrities. He wondered, briefly, what it did to her vocal chords. Then again, another part of him didn’t really care; she could do whatever she wanted to her body as long as he could get what he wanted out of her.
Calvin had made a point to meet her, playing the stammering fan, a few days after the performance he had seen where he had discretely followed the curvy blonde and Darcy down to Jane’s dressing room. Good looks, he had learned over the years, could get him in almost anywhere as long as he pretended he belonged. And that blonde bombshell looked so familiar.
“Interesting name,” he mused, neglecting to say that he had heard the name before.
Jane snorted. “Lizzy named her after the child’s paternal grandmother. That’s about the only thing she remembers about the whole night, except that the father had ‘fine eyes.’ She’s a hopeless romantic, although she won’t let a man within a ten mile radius of her and Mae – except Darcy. In all these years, he’s the notable exception.”
She paused and downed the rest of her fat free mocha. “Then again, I’m sure she’s just using him. I bet she’s been after CB all along. Or maybe he’s her back-up.”
Intriguing, the model thought. Very intriguing.
Elizabeth stood in front of a door at the Hilton, staring at the keycard Richard had given her. She wasn’t quite sure this was the best idea. She was being stupid, she reasoned. Before she had always known the right step to take. She could breathe and know that she was acting rationally. This was anything but rational, she concluded. But she had to talk to him, at least to give back that damn check. And it would be better in person than over the phone.
She knocked once and received no answer. Knocking again, she waited a full minute (she obsessively timed it on her watch) before taking a deep breath and using the key. After all, Richard had said Darcy sometimes got lost in his work and may not hear the bell, she reasoned. “I usually just go in. It’ll be fine.”
The door swung open quietly and she saw an inviting penthouse suite. The lights were on and a few belongings were strewn about, including a shoe. Who left one shoe out? What had he done with the other?
“Darcy?” she called as she hesitantly walked into the apartment. When she heard no one, she took another tentative step into the room, letting the door click behind her. She stood, just looking at his personal space. Apart from the one shoe, the room was entirely bare even though she knew he had been living in it for weeks. Nothing marked it as his own, and the thought of him alone, homeless, a wanderer even, tugged slightly at her already confused heart.
The lights, fortunately, were on which was a good sign. She had been afraid that she might have to wait for him to return. Oh, why didn’t I just call him? she thought to herself, nerves wracking her body, an entirely new sensation. Not even when she had gone on those two dates in college with “nice” guys did she feel anything to this amount of apprehension.
Turning, she saw two doors and headed toward one, following the sound of rushing water toward the large bathroom. The door was slightly ajar, and she peeked in to see steam enveloping the room.
“Darcy?” she called again, but no one answered. She gently opened the door and saw a large shower in the corner of the room, its glass entirely transparent with bright florescent lights beating down on it. Although the steam fogged the vision slightly, the shower was evidently occupied.
Oh no, she thought. This was just too much. She wanted to talk to Darcy, not spy on him in the shower, with the water streaking over his broad shoulders and forming rivulets in his curly hair.
Don’t look at his ass, she told herself as she tried to keep her eyes from moving below his waist. Whatever you do, don’t look there.
She blushed despite herself. Why did her few impulsive actions in her life always end up with him naked? This just proved her stupidity.
The fates were too kind. She mentally shook herself. Cruel. The fates were too cruel.
“Darcy,” she called, her voice slightly strangled. The steam was clearly getting to her. She couldn’t take another second in this room without him acknowledging her. It was now or never. Elizabeth just knew she wouldn’t get the nerve to do this a second time.
Quickly, she stepped to the side and grabbed a towel before yanking the door of the shower open. All she could think of was covering his gorgeous chest from her view for fear of what she might do otherwise. Before she could call his name again, however, she lost her footing, having neglected the placement of her heels while trying to keep her eyes, once again, above that gorgeously tight waist. She cried out in alarm, finding herself falling in an enclosed space with a very naked and surprised Fitzwilliam Darcy staring at her.
“Elizabeth!” he called out as she found herself wrapped in his strong and yet rather wet arms, before she could crash to the floor of the shower.
“Damn heels,” she muttered as she looked away from the concerned expression in his eyes. This, clearly, was a mistake, since she was now looking at his thighs.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, astonished.
“Isn’t it obvious?” She looked at him, then, his blue eyes piercing through the steam of the shower.
He grinned at her and she saw where Mabel got her dimples. “You’ve walked into my shower. No, it’s not obvious why you did not just wait outside. But I’m glad to see you.”
Elizabeth blushed. Don’t look at his calves, she repeated in her mind, this inner dialogue becoming a cruel mantra. Don’t check out his calves. “Do you mind turning off the water? I’m getting a bit wet,” she said hastily, trying to divert her attention elsewhere.
Now, however, she could only think of the fact that he was naked and wet and she was barely clothed and wet. She groaned internally.
Without releasing her, Darcy moved one arm slowly until the water was completely turned off. Elizabeth looked up and saw that some foamy soap bubbles still lingered on his shoulder and couldn’t help but blush again. Here she was, incredibly damp and in a shower with a gorgeous Darcy. And he still had soapsuds on his skin. If she reached out, she could feel his taught muscles, sensuously trickling her fingers down his warm and inviting arm. She closed her eyes briefly, as if in pain.
All that really needed, she chastised herself silently, was to change her own attire to make this a harlequin romance come true.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
“Not at all.”
After a long moment, Elizabeth took a deep breath before easing herself away from him. She glanced up before quickly averting her gaze once again, shoving the towel at him. Slipping out of the cubicle, although this time standing on her own two feet, she removed her heels and grabbed another towel for herself.
Darcy couldn’t help but watch her, mesmerized. He knew he had never seen a more erotic sight than Elizabeth with damp hair, a white blouse clinging to her curves, and her black sheer stockings plastered to her calves. If only he could be greeted with such a heavenly sight every day for the rest of his life, he thought, saddened.
“How did you get into the penthouse?” he asked vacantly, not because he really wanted to know but because he was trying to move his eyes from her legs.
She glanced back at him and was surprised to see that he was using the towel to dry his hair instead of covering himself. Elizabeth quickly looked away again. Men, especially Darcy, should not look that edible to her.
“Your cousin, naturally.”
“Well, that was helpful of him to give you a keycard,” But for once, Darcy really did not mind his cousin’s tendency to interfere.
Elizabeth couldn’t answer. She was trying too hard to control her voice.
“I’m glad you came over. I’m glad for any opportunity to see you.”
Without realizing it, Elizabeth smiled in response to the warmth shining from his blue eyes, losing herself as she had done five years.
“I – I’m sorry that I opened the shower, but I was calling your name and you just didn’t hear me. It was all rather – unreal, actually,” she stammered.
He looked down and realized for the first time that he had not covered himself. He should be embarrassed, he knew, but instead he smiled even more broadly at her comment, a full, bright smile that actually reached into his eyes, making them even more brilliant than a few moments before. “I couldn’t come up with a better way for you to come upon me unawares,” he said. He shook his head briefly as if trying to dispel whatever pleasing thoughts were crossing his mind, before turning back to the real life woman standing before him. Darcy had dreamed so many times of how she might come to him again, of her own free will, but he had never dared hope that it would come true.
“Have you had lunch?” he asked, his thoughts shifting to her work attire. “Are you on your lunch break?”
Elizabeth laughed. Clearly he had forgotten that it was three in the afternoon. “I skipped it, to be honest. And I just kind of ran out of the office once I read your letter.”
He grinned at the thought of her rushing out the doors of her office building to come and see him. Naked. In his shower. While he was wet and covered in soapsuds. It was a fantasy come true, even though she herself had been clothed. But it had been worth it, no matter how fleeting the reality of the encounter. She had half-climbed in with him. Or perhaps she hadn’t. It was hard to tell with the suddenness of her fall. “Well,” Darcy teased, “as you’re playing truant, perhaps I could interest you in some lunch before you go pick up Mabel.”
She glanced up at him shyly and saw the uncertainty in his eyes.
“Alright,” she began. “Char’s picking her up on her way home from work, so perhaps we can have something at my place – that way I can get changed out of these wet things.” Her voice was quiet and purposefully steadfast.
“I couldn’t think of anything that would make me happier,” Darcy responded softly, wanting to run a hand through her damp hair to comfort her. He wouldn’t ruin it, though. Not this time. This time, he was determined, he would get it right.
“I know,” she responded, not meeting his gaze. “How long will it take you to get changed?” Elizabeth briefly let her eyes wander over his chest and muscular legs, both relieved and annoyed that he was now wearing at towel.
“Five minutes maximum,” Darcy responded smoothly, trying to hide the smile that was curling at the edges of his mouth. He liked the way she had looked at him, her face belying her shy admiration of his form.
She nodded and walked out of the bathroom, giving him privacy. Darcy couldn’t help but watch her go, sighing despite himself. “She’s back,” he spoke reverently, his deep voice tinged with elation. “My Elizabeth has come back.”