Please, don’t die of shock! Yes, it’s another chapter! McBeta says I ought to give a slight warning there is some squiffy off-stage behavior by one (gee, I wonder who?) of the Bennet sisters. Next chapter sees Wickham & New York & some trouble for ODC. Thanks to McBeta and the cheer squad of awesome JAFF ladies (and gents!) who have gently reminded me I’ve left ODC hanging for far too long. Thanks for your patience and encouraging notes and comments. They mean more than I can say. Thanks.

 

*Chapter Sixty-One*

 

If Henry Reynolds noticed anything amiss about his boss over breakfast, such as the poorly hidden red bruise upon his neck, he wisely said nothing. As he hungrily ate one of the omelets that Liz had graciously prepared for them, Henry could not help but notice how happy the couple who sat across from him appeared. While Liz had appeared to be everything lovely yesterday, today she simply radiated unmistakable joy and the change of demeanor in his employer was even more dramatic. Having worked for Darcy for a number of years, Henry could honestly say that he was only aware of William Darcy ever having expressed two expressions: a dour, all-business look and one of such severe displeasure that you prayed would never be directed at you. Henry found the changes this holiday had brought about to be astonishing, to say the least.

Will had whispered something in Liz’s ear which Henry noticed caused her to blush and giggle. Feeling as though he was interloping, Henry made to stand and remove himself to the living room when his movement caught Liz’s attention.

Sitting up straight, Liz directed her full attention to her guest and implored, “Please, Henry, forgive us. We’ve been abominably rude this morning.” She elbowed Will and said, “Don’t you agree, Sweetheart?”

“What?” Will rubbed his side. Liz really has the boniest elbows! “That hurt!”

Liz nudged him, much gentler this time, and repeated herself. “I asked if you agree with me that we’ve been terribly rude in ignoring poor Henry this morning.”

Will had honestly been so focused on Liz, it honestly hadn’t registered that Reynolds was sitting right in front of him. “We have. Sorry. You will, of course, forgive us, won’t you?”

The last thing Henry wished was to make them uncomfortable or feel that they need censure their actions around him. “Of course, Mr. Darcy. Think nothing of it.” He then smiled and added, “Pretend as if I am not even here.”   

Will laughed. “I think, since that is precisely what we just apologized for, I believe we’ve already proven how adept we are at that very thing.”

Will’s levity seemed to change the dynamic of the table and soon all three were now engrossed in conversation. Liz would soon leave and be gone most of the day while the gentlemen would stay back and work on their latest acquisition. Henry and Will volunteered for kitchen clean-up so that Liz wouldn’t be late for class. Once Liz left and the morning dishes were taken care of, Henry and Will sat down to tackle the sticking points of the Axiom deal.

“The problem is that it’s not publicly known who this largest shareholder of theirs is,” explained Henry. “And no one we’ve sent to investigate the matter has been able to turn anything up either. This, if you don’t mind me saying so, is the biggest problem with this whole thing. We already are assured of at least half the votes going our way, but this unknown… this unknown could be anybody!”

Will was nowhere near concerned as Henry. “There has to be some record of the shareholder, somewhere.”

 “But that is precisely the problem- there isn’t! It could be Mafia, or even worse! We’ve checked the records, I’ve looked through them personally and every vote attributed to these stocks has been made anonymously through a proxy. This is the problem with privately held companies, we cannot tell who is privately holding them!”

Will began to understand his assistant’s frustration. “And, of course, the proxy is likely from a law firm or some such and cannot speak because of client privileges. Do I have the right of it?”

“Exactly so!”

“Damn.” Will closed his eyes for a moment to visualize their options. “Have legal look into writing a clause into the prospectus that would release us from any legal liabilities of the shareholders.”

“Is that even possible?” Henry questioned.

Darcy, in frustration, spoke harshly. “How the hell should I know? I said we should have legal look into it. I’m not a bloody lawyer now, am I?”

Henry shook his head while biting his tongue to keep from smiling. This was the man whom he’d worked for all these years. It was somewhat of a relief to know William Darcy hadn’t gone entirely soft.

Across the river, Liz was in her office preparing for her first class when her cell rang. Smiling, she answered, “How’s my favorite sister named Catherine?”

“Hilarious. No, really. You should give up the whole physics thing and get a Comedy Central special.”

“Glad you enjoyed it. Now, really, how are you?”

“We’re not even home yet! At this rate, I’m beginning to wonder if Daddy ever intends to get us home.”

Liz wasn’t surprised. Her father was nothing if not stubborn. “Where are you?”

“Some backwater hell-hole in New Mexico. This place doesn’t even have a Mickey D’s! What American town doesn’t have a Mickey D’s?”

“Or un-American for that matter. Even China has McDonald’s. Did you call for some other reason besides to complain?”

“Not really. I escaped while Daddy is checking the oil on the truck to call you. You and JJ are the only sane ones in this family. Mimi won’t shut the hell up about how superior she is and LiLi is even more obnoxious than ever. She’s been, like, way worse than normal. Last night, at the hotel, she Googled Will and I can only tell you that our sister is the most disgusting girl in the universe to be forced to share a room with.”

Liz sighed. “Do I even want to know why you’re telling me this?”

“Probably not.”

“But you’re going to tell me anyways, aren’t you?”

“Just so you know what you’re up against. LiLi is, like, such a ho! There are, like, a zillion pics on Google of that sex-god you’re with. She looked him up and… well, let’s just say that she was more than enjoying the sight of him. It was totally gross and she wasn’t even quiet about it.”

“Eww! Thank you for that lovely mental image. Why did I need to know that?”

“Duh! Because, like I already said,” Cathy spoke to Liz as though she were a dim-witted child, “there are, like, a zillion pics on Google of that sex-god you’re with. If a moron like LiLi is getting off on your man, I imagine there are lots more girls doing it too! Seriously, I wouldn’t want the pressure. I love you, Liz, but you’re batting way out of your league! There are fan sites devoted to your fiancé! It’s really creepy.”

William’s plea to not Google him suddenly came back to her in a flash. She decided to be stoic for her sister and deal with the rest when she got home. “What’s that matter to me? I’ve got the real man, not the fantasy.”

“So you’re cool, then?”

Liz thought about it and laughed. “No, I’m not cool by any means. If fact, I’m kinda furious, but, honestly, it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it. So long as Carrie quits stalking Will, I’m a happy camper.”

“Good. So, is that offer to stay at your place while I interview still good?”

“Yes, of course it is. I love you, Cathy, and getting as far away as possible from the circus is the best thing in the world for you.”

“Love you, too! I’ll call you with my schedule as soon as I confirm my interviews.”

“I’ll go ahead and send you a key.”

“You’re my favorite elder paternally-related sister.”

“I’m your only elder paternally-related sister.”

Cathy giggled. In the background, Liz could hear her father calling out for her sister. “Well, Daddy’s yelling for me, so I gotta go. I love you, Liz!”

“Love you, too. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye!”

The computer at her desk seemed to taunt her. Liz pushed aside the strong urge to Google those photos of Will. She was certain she would not like what she found and knew there was still had a long day ahead of her. With all the resolve Liz could muster, she ignored the internet, gathered up her notes and made her way to her first class of the day. 

After a long day of teaching and working with her advisor, she headed home. Tonight, instead of finding her beloved and Henry playing games, they were pouring over various papers and contracts laid out over their workspace. Liz had come in quietly and hadn’t been noticed by them, so she took this opportune moment to observe Will at work. His face was studious and his whole manner was different. Will seemed very natural and it was something of a revelation to see her fiancé in his element. She listened to him enumerate to Henry the plan for the trip to New York. I can just see it now! We’ll have children and instead of just saying ‘no’, he’ll say no and then count off at least three reasons why the answer is ‘no’. God, I love this man!

Liz, still lost in her musings, hadn’t noticed that it had gone quiet or that Will had quietly stepped behind her. She nearly jumped out of her skin when he reached his arms around her waist and planted a kiss just below her ear.

“Are you trying to frighten me to death?” Liz asked after turning to lightly smack his chest.

He sheepishly grinned. “I should hope you know that would be the last thing in the world I would wish. Are my kisses so very frightening then?”

Liz opened her arms and they embraced. “Not at all. I think you’re well-aware that I find your kisses wholly opposite of frightening.”

“Is that a fact, Love?”

“Undeniably.”

In response for her answer, she was then granted one of those kisses.

When Will’s stomach began to grumble, Liz noticed Henry was nowhere in sight. “Where’s your shadow?”

“Henry? He buggered off to his room when I came over to you. He said call him if we need his help getting dinner ready.”

Will’s stomach growled again, causing Liz to giggle. “I believe someone’s a little hungry. Come on, I think we can manage without him.”   

Liz and Will made dinner together, each amazed by how easily they had fallen into a domestic routine. It was reassuring to know that they could share more together than just passion. When dinner was ready, they ate every bit of the potato-chip tuna casserole and Henry, feeling more at home now, offered to do the dishes since he was more familiar with the kitchen and where everything went.

That evening, Liz drove them around town, pointing out things that they might spend some time later seeing. She informed them that they were also close to Plymouth, taunting them about wanting to see the scene of the crime.

Will quipped, “Very funny, Love. Treasonous colonists, the lot of you.”

Liz shot back, “Tyrannical imperialists, the lot of you.”

Henry, from the backseat, asked, “Do you two ever give it a rest?”

The answer was a resounding, unified, “No!”

They toured the city for a short while longer and then returned to Liz’s building where she was happy to introduce her newest guest to her favorite doorman.

Guillermo Kelly greeted Liz with a huge smile and a warm greeting. “Good evening to you Miss Gardiner. You, too, Mr. Darcy. Now, Miss Gardiner, how’s that paper of yours comin’?”

Darcy only nodded his greeting but Liz grinned at her doorman. “Guillermo, good evening to you as well! My paper is coming along very well. I present my defense next week and, with a little bit of luck, I’ll receive my doctorate.”

“Aw, no! A great lady like you doesn’t need any luck, Miss Gardiner.” He then eyed Henry and said, “Is this that other guy you was telling me about?”

Liz had forgotten about Henry again. She was more than a little appalled by how easy it had become for her to do so. She wondered if it was the result of Darcy rubbing off on her, her absentmindedness with the end of school or that he was simply just forgettable. No matter the reason, she decided to make a more concerted effort to show Henry he was appreciated and not forgotten. “Yes, Guillermo, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Henry Reynolds. Henry will be staying with us for some time.”

Guillermo sized Henry up in a way that left him feeling that he’d been found wanting. “Pleasure’s all mine.”

Henry swallowed hard. The doorman reminded him of a disapproving father judging his daughter’s date. All he could manage to say was, “Thank you.”

 Liz gently swatted Guillermo’s arm. “Now cut that out! What is it with you ex-cops acting all tough all the time? Play nice with Henry and William or…” She thought over a suitable punishment and continued, “Or I’ll rat you out to McKenna.”

He tried to gauge if she was serious in her threat. Guillermo didn’t think so, but he wasn’t entirely sure. “Nah, you wouldn’t go do that, or would you?”

Liz leaned in and placed a kiss on his cheek. “You know I would in a heartbeat. Besides, I owe McKenna a call anyway.”

“Seems I owes you boys an apology on account of what might have been some, ah, less than polite behavior. You boys need anything, anything at all whilst you’re ‘ere… I’m your guy.”

 Will spoke for both he and Henry. “Thank you. We appreciate the obvious care you take in watching out for Miss Gardiner.” Will silently added, and that’s my job now!

They said good-night and on the way upstairs Liz explained more about her over-protective doorman. Guillermo Kelly was a burly hulk of a man. A retired cop, he’d originally intended to while away his retirement years travelling around the country with his wife. All their lives had been spent in sacrifice for their family. The Kelly kids were all finally grown now, with families and kids of their own. Kathleen Kelly had been wrapping up her final year of teaching, greatly anticipating retirement when she began having severe migraines. When the pain refused to lessen, even with medication, the neurologist ordered some tests which found several brain tumors. Guillermo spent the final six months of his wife’s life seeing to her every comfort. After losing his wife, he lost all desire to travel but found he needed to do something with his time. 

It was Guillermo’s eldest daughter McKenna that suggested being a doorman. When she’d been searching the want-ads for a secretarial position for herself, she had come across the ad which appeared to meet all her dearest father’s needs. All of the Kelly children had watched helplessly as their father sank further and further into depression as he mourned their mother. Once McKenna and her brothers cajoled their dad into taking the position, they saw an almost immediate change in him. He now had a reason to get up in the morning and go out to face the world. He began to view the residents in the building as an extended family of sorts. Being forced to have lots of daily contact had helped Guillermo’s grief to slowly lessen over the last four years. He grew to love his job and couldn’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be each day.

Generally, the people who lived in the building were nice enough. The high rise was definitely considered upscale and, of course, there were some tenants who thought a lowly doorman was beneath their notice- but the majority of polite tenants outweighed the minority of snobbish ones. Of all the tenants he’d known over the years, his favorite was Elisabeth Gardiner and he had often told her so. Each day as he opened the door for her, he was greeted with a cheerful greeting and the most brilliant of smiles. Guillermo worried about her, alone all the time in the city, as if she were his own daughter. He had treated her like a member of his family and Liz, in turn, could do no less for him.

“So,” Liz’s tale had come to an end just as they arrived at her door, “you two will have to excuse Guillermo if he appears a little rough around the edges, but really and truly, he is a good man.”

Will turned to Henry and said, “See? What did I tell you? Minions. She continuously collects all sorts of people to serve as her servants and they all do it happily. You and I, we never stood a chance.”

Liz scoffed at Will’s persistence in this notion but before she could refute him, he kissed her cheek, then whispered, “You cannot deny it and you bloody well know it.”

Henry, feeling bold, chimed in, “I, for one, am happy to be one of your minions, Liz.”

They all shared a laugh and proceeded to wind down for the night.

Friday had gone much the same as Thursday had. Liz, on the advice of her advisor, turned in her final draft of her thesis and vowed not to fret any more over it. Will and Henry worked with legal to redraw their prospectus for the Axiom acquisition to address any unforeseen complications that might arise. In the end, they had five different proposals at the ready. 

Liz treated them both to dinner at No. 9 Park that evening and Will, though he enjoyed his meal immensely, was slightly disappointed. The food was exquisite and the atmosphere elegant, but he’d grown rather fond of casual dining and eating simple meals at home with Liz. Will was greatly surprised to find he preferred it. Perhaps when they got home to London and he could show her all his favorite haunts things would change, but he didn’t think so. The most important thing, the key ingredient for Will to truly enjoy his meal was that he broke bread with Liz. So long as she was there with him, he no longer cared where or on what he dined.

After dinner, Liz took them to walk around the Christmas trees, which were now lit, on Boston Common. There were over eighty lighted trees throughout the Common and Boston Garden and even Will had to admit it looked pretty impressive.

“I still prefer a Chicago Christmas,” Liz waved her hand towards the trees, “but Boston has its moments, too.” She then explained how there was a very special tree amongst the others and proceeded to lead them to it.

“This is the Halifax Christmas Tree,” she stated as if that alone was enough to impress them.

“Halifax? Nova Scotia?” Henry asked.

“Indeed. Back in December of 1917, there was a real disaster, an explosion, of a munitions ship- this was during the war- in Halifax Harbor. If I remember right, it was a French munitions ship that crashed into a Norwegian ship. Almost two-thousand people were killed and over nine-thousand were injured. The explosion even caused a twenty-foot tsunami wave which came through the harbor and tore into the city, causing even more damage and fire. Boston responded, very quickly and generously, to help out and, in gratitude, Halifax, well, Nova Scotia, really, sends a gigantic tree here every year. They’ve been doing it for years.” 

Henry watched her explain all this with a look of awe plastered on his face. Will noted this and smiled, informing Henry that there was nothing unusual at all about this. Will said with pride, “Henry, I’m certain within a month of living in London, Liz will know things about the history of the place that lifelong Londoners never even took the trouble to know. She’s bloody genius, my Liz”

Liz demurred, but continued explaining history and trivia about the different sights on their way home.

Saturday after breakfast, Henry announced he was going off on his own to explore and pleaded that Will and Liz need not worry about him, that he would be just fine on his own. Will let Henry go only after a few minute’s conference where he had his assistant help with reservations for something special for that evening.

Will felt awful about having to leave so soon for New York. Though he knew it was only a short distance and he wouldn’t be gone long, Will hated the idea of being apart from Liz for any length of time at all. In an attempt to make it up to her, he had made reservations at a restaurant he’s heard her mention to Henry and he had purchased tickets to the Nutcracker which was being performed at the Opera House.

Getting ready for dinner, Will was pleased with the additional clothing selections Georgie had sent. Taking his chances that she wasn’t out past her ten o’clock curfew, he rang his sister.

“Wills!” Georgie practically squealed. “Is this my long-lost brother who never calls anymore?”

 Have I really been neglecting her? Bollocks! “It is. I wished to thank you for having such excellent taste and putting up with your pain-in-the-arse brother with such angelic patience.”

“You’re welcome. How’s Reynolds getting on?”

“Fine. He blends in so well that sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s there.”

“Hmm, that, or you’re too distracted by thoughts of shagging your fiancé, and you’re just using this blending nonsense as an excuse for being rude.”

“Georgiana Darcy! Watch your language, young lady!”

“I’m only telling the truth. It’s not like I said you were fu…”

He quickly cut her off. “Georgie! That’s enough! Remember my recently weakened physical state and please refrain from giving me a heart attack, if you would!”

“You’re no fun anymore, Wills!”

Just then, Elizabeth walked into the bedroom, fresh from the shower.

“Liz,” Will drew her attention, “Georgie says I’m no fun anymore. Would you mind telling her she’s mistaken?”

Taking the phone from his hand, she said, “Hello Georgie, how are you?”

“I’m fab. How’s Wills treating you? What are you doing tonight?”

“Your brother is the soul of discretion and hasn’t told me a thing. He has a scheme he’s cooked up and, based on my knowledge of his last grand scheme, I’m not going to complain. Will’s mouthing at me and making lots of hand gestures now and wants me to tell you that, yes, he is a lot of fun.”

“There’s a big difference between fun and sweet. He’s definitely sweet when he wants to be, but you need to make sure he does something fun. He acts way older than his age most of the time and it’s not like he’s really ancient or anything.”

Liz watched appreciatively as Will straightened his tie. “No, definitely not ancient. I need to finish getting ready for whatever Will has planned, so I’m going to give you back to him now, okay?”

“Okay. Liz?”

“Yeah, Georgie?”

“I’m glad Wills has you. He seems happier and I can’t wait to see the two of you together.”

“Thank you, Georgie. If I’m allowed to be a little selfish, then I’m glad Will has me, too.”

Georgie was giggling when she handed the phone back to Will and disappeared into her closet.

“I really like her. You seem to have done well picking me out a sister, Wills.”

Will chuckled. “Yes, because that was my main motivation in all this. Getting Georgiana a sister.”

“Yeah, whatever. The how and why doesn’t concern me. Just be happy.”

“I am.”

“And don’t do anything to screw this up. You think too much about things and start to make big deals out of stupid stuff. Don’t be William Darcy, CEO… be Wills, nice guy and brother to the most awesome Georgiana.”

“Making it all about you, are we now?”

“Because it is! Now spill it! What are your plans for tonight for sweeping her off her feet?”

“Dinner at a posh restaurant she likes and the ballet.”

“Sounds nice. Well done, Wills! I’m going to go off to Bedfordshire now, but please, don’t wait so long to ring next time or, so help me, I’ll fly there myself!”

“Completely unnecessary. I’ve bought a plane. I’ll have it Monday.”

“You’re too funny.” She yawned and used her tiredness as her reason to go. “I love you, Wills. Talk to you soon.”

“I love you, too, Georgie. I will call by Monday at the latest, I promise.”

They then said good-bye and hung up just in time for Will to witness Liz’s entrance to the room. She twirled around so that he could see the full effect of her dress she was wearing.

She needlessly asked, “Does this meet with your approval, then?” It was a silly question, for Will’s approval was clearly marked by the look of adoration on his face.

It took a moment for him to recover his wits. “You are stunningly beautiful, Love.”

“It’s only fair, since you are so devastatingly handsome.”

“Quite the mutual admiration society we have here. Are you ready, Love?”

“For anything.”

Will had hired a car. He didn’t want to spoil his plans by having Liz drive and he didn’t wish to get lost when they had tickets and reservations awaiting them. They had a lovely dinner at Scampo in the Liberty Hotel. Liz was impressed that he remembered her mentioning it. He then took the tickets out of his jacket and Liz’s surprise was complete. She enjoyed the ballet immensely. Since Liz was happy, Will was happy.

On the way home, she told him about when she was little, she remembered seeing the Nutcracker with her mother and how she hadn’t seen a live performance of it since. “Thank you for that. You are the most thoughtful man who ever lived.”

“No, please… do not make me out to be something I am not. I am simply a man in love who likes to do things for the woman who means everything to him.”

“How is it possible, I wonder? Every time I think I cannot possibly love you any more than I do, you say or do something and I realize I love you even more. William,” she leaned over to kiss him, “I love you so very much.”

They were home within five minutes and Henry Reynolds found he had to fend for himself all day Sunday, since Will and Liz never seemed to emerge, even once, from her room.

~home~

~previous chapter~

~next chapter~

 

Creative Commons License Out of Reservations by michchick aka Jennifer Hickling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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