*Chapter Fifty-One*

 

“So Liz… what’s the plan now?”

“You mean for tonight?” Will nodded. “Usually when I travel to Chicago, I stay at the Elysian, but I think tonight I’d like to stay a little closer to Michigan Ave.”

“So long as you’ll be with me, we could sleep in a cardboard box.”

“I’m pretty sure Dr. Knightley would have my head if he heard you even joking about such a thing! Let’s not do hypothermia take two, alright?”

“Yes Love, I’ve got it. No joking. But really Liz… anywhere you wish to stay is fine by me. Listening to the way that you talk about it, you must really love Chicago.”

“I do. I love Chicago. I like New York and all, and Boston is nice enough… but Chicago? Chicago’s my home. It’s got all the things a big city needs while still being Midwestern and friendly. And they don’t call it Sweet Home Chicago for nothing.”

He loved hearing her get excited about the city. “What’s your favorite thing about it?”

“Oh no, I could never choose just one! There’s too much. There’s Adler on a clear night, Grant Park during the summer festivals, goofing around on the Hancock Tower, listening to live blues, people watching on the Pier or walking the River. You’ve been to Chicago before, haven’t you?”

“A few times. I usually fly in and then get picked up and taken to my hotel, usually the Intercontinental, and then I generally don’t leave. We have meetings there or in the hotel restaurant and then I fly home.”

That has to change! You wanted to know my plan? Good, because here it is- we’re going to stay at the Omni and as soon as we unpack, I’m taking you out for a true Chicago night out.”

“The Omni? As in ‘Guests of the Oprah Winfrey show stay at the magnificent all-suite Omni Hotel’?”

She laughed. “You really don’t like her, do you?”

“Not especially. Isn’t there anywhere else?”

“I’d suggest The Drake, but with my luck you’d start quoting Seinfeld or something.”

Will continued to amaze her by saying, “The Drake? No, I love the Drake!”

“Just how much American TV did you watch, anyways?”

“Probably equal to the British that you did. Besides, didn’t everyone watch Seinfeld?”

“True enough. So we’re settled on The Drake then?”

Will replied, “It matters not to me.”

“Good. We’ll have dinner and I know a great place to take you to hear some music. Wait- does smoke bother you?”

“I don’t enjoy it, but I’m not allergic or anything. Why?”

“Because all the best places are really smoky, that’s why. Okay, so music and then back to the hotel. In the morning, we’ll spend a little time getting you some new clothes. What you have with you is woefully inadequate. Between North Face, Eddie Bauer and Neiman’s, I’m sure we can get you a warmer coat and some sweaters and boots.”

He questioned her. “Shopping? I thought we needed to keep going.”

“We do. But that doesn’t change the fact that you aren’t really prepared for winter here, does it?”

Will shrugged. “I guess not.”

“Besides, it’ll be painless, I promise.”

“I hope so. I detest shopping.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.”

Will began to describe all the hours he’d spent being dragged about by his sister while she tried on every article of clothing in London. He found it really hard to fathom the passion that some people, his sister in particular, had for clothing.

“I just don’t understand. When Georgie says that she’ll die if she doesn’t get the new Burberry coat, what am I supposed to think? First, is there something deficient in her character that she has such an obsessive need for a new trench that she’ll expire should she not get said trench? Second, there’s nothing stopping her from just buying the bloody thing anyways! Why does she have to bring me along?”

Liz stopped his rant with her laughter.

“I don’t think it’s funny, what’s humorous about forcing me to go to the shops?”

“Oh Sweetheart, it’s not merely funny, it’s hilarious! You sound more like her father than her brother, which is only right I suppose. Your sister is still, no matter what you might like to think, just an average teenage girl. I’m sure she likes being with you and having your attention. Plus, girls, yes even me to some extent, get excited about shopping.”

“Right,” answered a disbelieving Will.

“No, it’s what we do. The difference lays in where and what we shop for. I was always ready for a trip to Radio Shack, where JJ much preferred Marshall Field’s. I think, my dear William, that you’ve lived as a single father for far too long.”

“I won’t disagree with you, mostly because you’re not wrong. I think if I’m going to be a father, it ought to be the old-fashioned way.”

“I’m not wrong? Crud monkey! Would it kill you, seriously, to just say that I’m right?”

Will defended himself. “I did. Just maybe not in an entirely direct manner.”

“Hmm. It’s still nice to actually hear it Will!”

“You were right Love.”

“See? Was that so hard?”

“No, it really wasn’t. I’m sorry I’m so difficult sometimes.”

“It’s no big deal. I think you have a hard time admitting when others are right because that inherently implies that you might be wrong.”

“In my defense, I am right a good deal of the time. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment. For so long I had to prove myself, to my board, to my professors and my family… I always had to be right because there were so many people waiting for me to be wrong. My father expected perfection and that’s what I’ve striven for. Whether I’ve achieved it or not really isn’t for me to say.”

“You know what Will? I don’t think I’m a big fan of your father either. He might never have been purposefully cruel to you, but boy! He sure did a number on you! I think that no one can be perfect. We’re all flawed, aren’t we? But it’s that we want to be better, we want to be more than we are and that drive, that determination and how we set about to make it happen is as close to perfection as we can get. And by my calculations, that makes you pretty damn perfect.”

“George Darcy was a good man. He just didn’t know what to do when my mum died. He just… he simply quit. Everything, really. When I was young, before my mum was sick, he was a great father. I think he would have liked you. My father always admired ambition.”

“Which is why you’ve always worked so hard to be successful.”   

“Damn,” Will said as he wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, “how do you do that? Being married to you will be like having free therapy!”

“Will, it’s really not hard to see that you’re trying to be everything he thought you should be. But I’ve got news for you- you are so much more! Granted, I’m an outsider in all this and I can only go by what you’ve told me, but he left you! He abandoned you, in a way that only the very rich can, so he could go off and feel sorry for himself. In my book, when he did that he gave up any rights he had to expect any consideration for his thoughts or feelings- especially since he didn’t think twice about yours! And look at you! You’ve accomplished so much! It would have been so easy for you to just give your sister away to your Aunt and Uncle, but you didn’t. You could have chosen to walk away from your company, but your family legacy obviously means more to you than it did to your father! You, my dear and perfect William, need to stop giving any concern to what your father might have thought! I think that time has borne out that you are the better man! He was unable or unwilling to man-up when things were tough, and he shirked his responsibilities off to you! I’m sorry, I know you claim he was a wonderful father once upon a time, but I can only go by the evidence left behind. I love you William. You are a wonderful man. I think you need to stop chasing the approval of a dead man.”

Will looked at Liz in amazement. “How is it that you are able to do that? I’d really like to know.”

“Do what Will?”

“Say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. What would I do without you Elisabeth?”

“Hopefully, you’ll never need to find out. All I said was the truth as I see it. You’re an extraordinary man and I’m just thankful that we found each other.”

“I’ll second that.”

She grinned. “Are you seconding that you’re extraordinary or that I should be thankful?”

He laughed. “No, no. Now you are willfully choosing to misunderstand me! Even though you’ve accused me- several times now I might add- of having a large ego, I would never boast that I was anything special in such a manner! And you bloody well know, or ought to anyhow, that I am incredibly thankful to have found you. To say that I am in agreement that you should be grateful is absurd! Clearly, you are getting the short end of the stick in this relationship for having to suffer with me and my bastardly tendencies.”

“Okay, I admit it! I was teasing you. I cannot promise you that I won’t use such tactics in the future to distract you from such maudlin thoughts. This thing that you do where you constantly beat yourself up…  it needs to stop right now. I know that when we started it was funny to joke about your alleged bastardly tendencies, but in all seriousness, you really have to cut it out. I think we both know all too well what a true bastard is and that’s just not you.”

“You’re right, of course. And see? I even said it plainly for you. I will try my best to remember to not come down on myself if you’ll also make the same promise. Your father and that insane wife of his have also wrecked a bit of havoc with you, Love, and it pains me to see it. You are brilliant and witty and caring and loving as well as astoundingly beautiful, no matter what your spiteful father or lunatic step-mum thinks.”

“Well then, as we’re in perfect agreement that I’m right,” she teased, “I say that we put a halt to anymore serious topics for the rest of the day. We’re nearly to Chicago and you, my good sir, have a very important decision to make.”

“How serious can it be?” Will asked. “You just this minute said we were through with serious subjects!”

 Liz laughed. “Oh, it may not a life-changing sort of serious, or require a gut-wrenching, soul-searching answer, but it is a very serious business.”

Still chuckling from the tone she’d used, Will said, “Then keep me in suspense no longer! What is this all-important decision?”

Liz grinned. “Pizza at Uno’s or dogs at Portillo’s?”

Will laughed, the replied, “This is the all-important, extremely serious business?”

 “Do not underestimate the power of actual, and by the way, original Chicago deep-dish or an authentic Maxwell Street Polish! This is very serious business.”

“I’m afraid I must bow to your superior knowledge in this, as most things, Love. I trust you and I leave this in your hands.”

Liz hadn’t thought it would be that easy. “No preferences then?”

“None at all.”

“If I threw burgers or barbecue in, would that make a difference?”

“No. This is your town and I trust you.”

Liz slowed down and stopped to pay another toll. When they were through the gate, she said, “I don’t recall anyone ever saying those words to me before.”

“What? This is your town?”

She rolled her eyes. “No, you goofball! I don’t ever recall anyone ever saying that they trusted me before. And you said it twice. Huh.”

“First, I do trust you. Implicitly. Second, I find that difficult to believe. I’m sure at least Jane would have said such at some point, right? Third, I believe you declared a moratorium on serious speech.”

First,” Liz said in such a way that mimicked Will, “I did, you’re right. Second, Jane, being older, spent too much of her time when we were young getting me out of trouble. I guarantee I’d remember if she’d have said she trusted me. She spent too much time grounded because of our, okay my, shenanigans. Third, I love how you always enumerate things when you have more than one thing to say. It’s very CEO, Mr. Darcy.”

“First…” The word came so naturally that it took him a moment to realize he’d said it. “Damn. That’s truly something I do often?”

Liz nodded.

“Bollocks. I’m more like my father than I realized. But, as you said, no more of that tonight. Now I forgot what I was going to say. Liz, it seems you’ve discovered another one of my little secrets.”

“And what is it I’ve discovered?”

Will admitted, “That unless I list the things I say as I’ve thought them out in my head, I’m lost.”

 “I think it’s endearing.”

Feeling somewhat placated, he asked, “Then it’s not so bad?”

“Not at all. It was only an observation Sweetheart, not a criticism. I think it speaks of who you are. You know what you wish to say and you say it in an orderly fashion. I like that you don’t rattle away like other men do.”

“High praise indeed. At least you called me ‘Sweetheart’ again. I was afraid I’d been demoted to ‘goofball’.”

“Never! Well, except for maybe those instances when you act like one.”

They were both quiet for a minute or two. Liz was looking at the exits and mentally calculating how much further they had to go while Will was thinking on what she’d said.

She’d provoked him all afternoon and he decided it was his turn to tease back. “Elisabeth?”

Liz, wholly engrossed in watching the signs, didn’t respond.

Will tried again, this time a bit louder. “Elisabeth!”

 “Oh! Sorry. Yes, Will?”

In a grim tone, Will stated, “I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said and I think there might be a problem.”

Concern evident in her voice, Liz asked, “A problem? With what, Sweetheart?”

“Well, you’ve said I’m too serious and that I need to lighten up more, but then other times you accuse me of not being serious enough and now you’ve called me a goofball. It’s a bit confusing, you see? Which is it that you wish me to be?”

Liz recognized the truth in what he said and was instantly regretful that she’d been so flippant. “Oh Will! I’m so sorry, I only meant to tease you and…”

She stopped speaking when she was interrupted by Will’s hearty belly laughs.

“You! Oh, you’re good, I’ll give you that! I thought you were serious!”

“I was. At least about teasing you back. Besides, how could I have spent all this time with you and not learn at least a little about how to tease?”

“So now the student has become the master? Is that it? Very well then. As for being a goofball… I think you’ve now proven my point. I think being both suits you. Sort of like a yin-and-yang thing. You need the goofiness to balance out the seriousness. You always had it in you; it just needed to be brought out to its full potential.”

“So is my metamorphosis complete then, oh wise one?”

“No, not complete. But I do think you’re well on your way. We’re all works-in-progress, aren’t we?”

“I like that. Very pithy. It sounds like something that would be on a wall in a shrink’s office or something.”

Liz agreed. “It was. In mine.”

“Love, I’m sorry. I didn’t know… I didn’t mean to be so insensitive.”

“You’re not. I was in therapy from the time I was six until sixteen. At that point, my problems were all considered ‘normal’. I think what’s sad is that in America it’s unusual to come from a so-called normal, healthy family. Dysfunction is the new norm. But, we’ve tabled heavy topics for now and that’s good because in about two minutes we’ll be on West Ohio Street and then I’m not going to say another word until we get to the hotel.”

He was surprised by her abruptness. “Okay.”

They exited on Ohio and made a turn on Michigan Avenue. It was a brief distance to the hotel, but the congestion on the streets makes for frantic driving all year long. When they pulled into the drive of the hotel, Liz finally released her white-knuckled grip on the wheel. Turning to Will, she said brightly, “Alright, we can talk again.”

Filled with sudden understanding, Will said, “Oh, I must admit I’m relieved. I thought you were upset with me before.”

“What would I be upset about? Therapy? There’s no shame in getting help if you need it. Some things are just too much for one person to handle. No, driving downtown is usually a mess. Today was actually not too bad. In summer, everything is at such a perfect stand-still! Once we park the car, we’re not touching it until we leave.”

“Your city, your rules.”

Pleased he caught on so fast, she grinned and said, “Exactly.”

The valet finally came and Liz turned over the keys. A bellhop was summoned and he made quick work of unloading the trunk. When Liz said she was going to get them a room, Will said it was his turn.

Liz turned down his offer. “Thank you, but no, that’s not necessary. I am perfectly capable of getting a room for us.”

“I have no doubt whatsoever in your abilities Elisabeth. Not only do I trust you,” he paused to kiss her cheek, “I have tremendous faith in you as well. You have already done so much for me. Shall I enumerate them all for you? First, you picked me up in your car. Second, when I asked earlier, you flatly refused to let me pay for the petrol. Third, you arranged for our room the last time. Fourth, you nursed me when I was ill. Fifth, you bought lunch. And these are just some of the highlights. You’ve done so much more than that. Please Elisabeth, let me do this?”

“Alright. When you put it like that, I sound quite saintly.”

Happy she’d agreed, he said, “That would be because I believe you are. Remember, I’ve met your family.”

Will was not at all surprised when she gently swatted him on his arm. He feigned injury, “Ouch!”

Shaking her head, she laughed. “Oh right! I’m pretty sure you’ll get over it. Now, are we getting a room, or not?”

“Oh, most definitely. In fact,” he pulled her close to whisper, “I’m quite certain that we need to get to a room as quickly as possible.”

Having her suspicions, Liz sought to confirm them. “And why would that be, William?”

They began to walk towards the front desk. “I think I have great need of some bed rest. Doctor’s orders and all that. I admit I make a horrid patient and I believe I’ll need my nurse to help keep me in bed.”

“Any suggestions on how such a task might be accomplished?”

He winked. “I might have a few.”

She was still blushing when they reached the desk. Will thought it was only fair that he’d been able to discompose her, especially since she seemed to be a master at doing the same to him. Will handed over his passport and ID, explaining that they’d like a suite for the night. The desk clerk asked what level of suite they preferred and when Will asked for the best, the clerk sputtered and remarked that he’d return in a moment.

Moments later, a woman came forward and introduced herself as the manager on duty. She described the inventory of available suites and when it became obvious that money would be no issue, Will and Liz found themselves booked into the Princess Diana suite.

The manager showed them to the room personally. On the way, she described the history of the hotel; beginning with the vision that the Drake Brothers had in 1920, and ending with a list of dignitaries and royalty that had stayed there. She smiled directly at will when she informed him that even his own Queen Elizabeth hadonce been a guest.

Finally, they reached the suite. The manager assured them their luggage would be up momentarily and with that, she bid Will and Liz a good stay. Alone at last, they quickly shed their coats and kicked off their shoes.

Will held open his arms, and Liz stepped into his embrace. “I want so much to just pick you up and take you in there.” He pointed to the bedroom. “However, since it seems that people are forever interrupting us, I think we’d best wait a few minutes.”

She ran her fingers down his back, sending shivers up his spine. “In the meantime, I think we can find a thing or two to do.”

He let his hands begin to roam in answer to hers. “Possibly even three or four.”

They had just began to explore a few options when, as if on cue, there was a knock on the door.

Still panting, Liz managed to grumble, “Figures!”

Will, looking only slightly more presentable than Liz, headed towards the door while Liz bee-lined for the bedroom.

After the bellhop brought in the luggage, Will generously tipped the young man and proceeded to put out the ‘do not disturb’ sign before locking the door.

“Elisabeth!” Will called out on his way to join her. “We’re alone at last!”

*Chapter Fifty-Two*

 

Will was startled from a most pleasant dream by an obnoxious sound. Refusing to open his eyes, he buried deeper into the pillow hoping to drift back to sleep. However, Will had no such luck as the obnoxious sound continued.

He nudged Liz before deciding to hide underneath his pillow. “Elisabeth! Your bloody mobile is ringing! Please, for the love of all things holy, make it stop!”

“Mmm. Will? What time is it?” asked a still-sleepy Liz.

Will growled, “Time to answer the damned mobile!”

Sitting up, Liz said, “My, aren’t we testy?”

In answer, Will pulled the covers up over the pillow and grumbled.

Liz poked Will’s side. “You continue to hibernate there, grumpy bear. I’m going to call Catherine back.”

Will reached out and grabbed Liz’s arm to pull her towards him. Liz giggled and uncovered his head to find him grinning at her.

“Bear am I? Love, did no one ever warn you not to disturb a sleeping bear?”

“Yes they did. But I believe that only applies to the dangerous ones.” She snuggled closer to Will. “I think you’re rather cuddly.”

Cuddly? You make me sound like Winnie-the-Pooh or something!” He rolled on his back and crossed his arms. “Cuddly! Ha!”

Liz laughed again as she climbed out of bed. “I think maybe my Pooh-bear is grumpy because he has a rumbly in his tummy. I’m going to call my sister back and then we’re going out. I’ll let you hibernate for exactly ten more minutes.”

“Grr,” was all Will replied before retreating back under the covers.

Liz smiled to herself as she grabbed a robe and made her way to the other room, taking care to shut the door behind her. Hitting talk to redial, it was only a moment before Catherine cheerily answered.

“Beth! Oh, my bad… Liz! How are you? How’s Will? Is he feeling any better? He’ll be okay, right? Are you still in Wisconsin?”

“Catherine!” Liz laughed. “One thing at a time. Take a deep breath! Now, which did you want to know first?”

“I don’t know. I guess how are you? Sorry that Daddy’s such a jerk about Will.”

“That, Catherine, is an understatement! I’m fine though. You actually woke us up from a nap.”

“Yeah right. Like you really expect me to believe that you were actually in the same bed with that sex-god and you slept! You’re hilarious Liz!”

“You, dear sister, are seventeen years old and I’m not going to have this particular conversation with you over the phone! But, honestly, just now we were sleeping.”

Catherine giggled. “Uh-huh. You were sleeping because you were exhausted I bet! I guess that answers my question about how your Will is, doesn’t it?”

Catherine!” Liz admonished. “I am ten years older than you, and Will is my fiancé. What we do, or do not do for that matter, is none of your concern!”

“Yes ma’am!”

“That’s better. Completely insincere, but better. Now, I’m assuming you called me for something specific?”

“Can’t I just be calling because you’re my favorite sister that lives in Boston?”

“I’m your only sister that lives in Boston. Spit it out already. What do you need?”

“Sheesh! You make me sound like LiLi! Did you read my letter?”

Liz had completely forgotten all about it! “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t. Charlie only handed it to me as we were walking out of the hospital and then we went to JJ’s and we’ve been on the move ever since.”

“And here I thought you were the responsible one! Fine. Here’s what I need- remember how you were supposed to talk to me about colleges, but never got around to it?”

Ashamed that she’d let her sister down, Liz said, “Yes.”

“Well, I have some interviews scheduled in December and again in January and I was really hoping that I could come and stay with you. Pretty please? You know that Mom isn’t cool at all with me even looking in New England, but if I stay with you, maybe Daddy will talk her into it.”

“Catherine, our father has never been able to persuade Fran into anything that she didn’t already think was a fab idea. But, if having my permission to stay in my condo helps your cause, then fine. Call or email me when you know the exact dates your coming and I’ll make the arrangements.”

“You really mean it Lizzy? I can stay? You are the best! Absolutely the bomb!”

“Lizzy? Where on earth did that come from?”

“I don’t know. It just came out. Why? Do you hate that too?”

“No. I’ve been called many things over the years, but I don’t think anyone’s ever called me that! No, I guess I don’t mind.”

“Cool. I’ve been thinking about it and Catherine is really kinda fancy-sounding, isn’t it? What do you think about Cathy?”

“I think they’re both lovely names. Go by whichever you prefer.”

“Would you call me Cathy?”

“I’d be glad to.”

“I love you Lizzy!”

“I love you too, Cathy.”

“I’ll make sure I get you my schedule. I’ll do it as soon as we get home.”

“Where are you guys now?”

“Somewhere in Missouri. It’s more like it should be state of Misery. Mimi’s being such a bitch and LiLi won’t stop whining about everything. Mom is driving me crazy by telling me I have to make LiLi happy. Like that’s even possible! I think Daddy is going to make us sight-see on the way home. He’s saying we won’t get there ‘til Saturday! A whole week in the Excursion with them! Are you sure I can’t come now?”

“I’m sorry Cathy, but as you’ve already so aptly pointed out, I already am entertaining a guest. Plus, Will’s assistant is coming in mid-week to stay with us. Besides, it’ll be time for you to fly out to Boston before you even know it.”

“I sure hope so!”

“Tell you what, when I get home, I’ll go ahead and mail you a key. Would that help?”

“Yes! Wait, no! Why would I need a key?”

“In case I’m gone when you get here.”

“You mean that you would trust me to stay in your condo on my own?”

“I think so. Why? Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”

“No! No reason! I promise I’ll be so neat that you’ll never even know I was there! Wow! Staying on my own! You’re not just my favorite sister in Boston- you’re my favorite sister anywhere!”

Liz giggled. “Are we longing for some alone time?”

“Yes! LiLi keeps complaining that I’m squashing her, but if she’d move her dumb ass over a bit, we’d both have more than enough room! It’s so bad that I’m in the parking lot here at the Steak ‘n Shake, freezing to death, just so I can have a moment of peace and talk to you.”

“I’m sorry Cathy! I love you, and I’ll say a prayer that you survive your road trip. Sorry you don’t have better company to spend it with.”

Catherine teased Liz. “I suppose that’s your brainy way of telling me that Will’s good company?”

“He’s the best. Will you like having him for a brother?”

“Depends. Does he have any younger cute friends or relatives?”

Liz laughed. “I don’t think so! He comes from a small family. There’s a few older cousins and his younger sister and Charlie.”

“And now you.”

“Yep. And now me! How great is it to be me?”

“I wouldn’t know because I’m too busy stuck being me!”

“True enough. Anyways… I need to go and rouse the sleeping bear from his den now, so I’m going to let you go.”

“Fine. I see how it is. Abandon me to our crazy family while you go make out with your super-hot boyfriend.”

“That’s exactly what I intend to do! I’ll talk to you soon! Love you!”

“Love you too Lizzy! Bye-bye.”

“Bye.”

As Liz hung up, she was amazed by how proud she felt about her sister. Catherine may actually grow up to be something after all.

She was still thinking about her family when she entered the bedroom only to find Will wasn’t in bed after all. “Will?” Liz went to the door of the bathroom. “Are you in there?”

He answered, “Be out in a moment Love.”

“Good,” she said as she began to rifle through her things to choose an outfit to wear.

Liz had finally decided on jeans and her favorite button-down blouse when Will surprised her from behind with a kiss on her cheek. “How’s Catherine?”

“She’s well.” Liz turned around to find Will had already showered and was fully dressed. “My family, no surprise, is driving her insane. She’s coming to Boston later next month for some school interviews and campus visits. Why are you dressed already?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but did you not have a plan for this evening?”

“Yes, I did.”

He grabbed his coat, which confused Liz, and said, “Well, you’d best get ready then. I’ll await you in the lobby.”

 “Wait! What are you doing? Aren’t you going to wait for me?”

He gave a cryptic smile. “Yes, I am. Downstairs.”

“Okay. You’re behaving strangely Will; are you sure I don’t need to call a doctor?”

He held her shoulders and kissed the top of her head before heading to the door. “Never better. You’ll just have to trust me. Hurry up, Love, I’ll be waiting for you in the lobby.”

Will then opened the door and left.

Bewildered, Liz grabbed her clothes and headed off to the bathroom in order to clean up. Though I wonder why I’m even bothering! He left! She turned on the shower. He just left me here with no explanation! How dare he! Hurry up? Who does he think he is? Liz stepped in the stall and let the hot water pour over her. Wait! He also asked you to trust him… he wouldn’t have said that for no reason. I can trust Will, can’t I? Yes, I can. I better! I fully intend to marry the man! He must have a good reason to have left. Trust… I can do this. I’ll trust Will just as he trusts me. He’s not going to let me down. At least not intentionally! No, he wouldn’t do that. I have faith that my William would never do that. Faith and trust.  She finished rinsing her hair and was ready to get out. Toweling off, she continued to ponder just how much of her life she’d handed over to someone who was but a stranger only five days ago. What truly astonished her was that she was no longer afraid of the prospect.

Liz quickly finished getting ready and after grabbing her hat and coat, headed to the lobby to meet Will.

When her elevator opened, Will was there waiting with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. “I have no idea what your favorites are, but I took a guess that roses weren’t amongst them.”

Liz, flowers now in hand, took in their scent and smiled. “They’re not! How did you know?”  

“They just don’t seem like you. Roses are too groomed, too prissy a flower for you. Hopefully, something in here strikes your fancy.”

“William! This is the most exquisite bouquet I’ve ever seen! How did you do this?”

He grinned. “It seems that staying in the suite we’re in has it’s advantages. I called the desk and told them I needed some flowers for my fiancée. They put me in touch with a man named George and when I explained that I had proposed very badly and I only had one shot to make it up to the best woman alive, he met me here and voila! I have flowers for you.”

“You are the sweetest man ever! I can’t believe you did this! Thank you, Will.” She glanced from her bouquet to the centerpiece in the lobby. “Wait, did you say his name was George?”

“Yes. Why?”

“And he met you here?”

“Well, no actually. I met him just outside where the flower shop is.”

Liz was nearly bouncing up and down with excitement. “Will! Not only did you sweetly buy me flowers, but you bought me famous flowers! My boyfriend bought me flowers from Mangel’s! Thank you, Sweetheart!”

 “I take it from your enthusiasm that I’ve done well?”

“George Mangel is the flower designer of the Drake and half of Chicago! See over there?” Liz pointed out the exquisite flower arrangement that was the main focal point of the lobby. “That’s his handiwork. He’s an artist.”

“I’m glad you approve. I was afraid you might be angry that I left without you.”

“Initially, I was miffed. Then I remembered you asked me to trust you and how could I not?”

“Indeed. I’m very glad to hear you liked it. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve taken another liberty while we’re here.”

“Oh my, I’m afraid to ask. But, I have faith and trust in you and so long as your liberties don’t interfere with my agenda, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“I believe it will all be for the best.”

“Last chance… Portillo’s or Uno’s?”

“No Love, it’s your choice.”

“Portillo’s it is then.”

“Very well. Do not be angry, but I hired a car.”

“A car? Why would I be angry?”

“I thought it might seem a little presumptuous of me.”

“Will, we have to get from point A to point B, right?”

“Of course.”

“Then what better way than in an already warmed up car? Plus, as an added bonus, no crazy cab driver stories!”

“Are the stories ever entertaining?”

“Rarely.”

“Then it’s no great loss!”

Hand in hand, they exited the hotel where a black Lincoln awaited them. They entered and Liz gave their destination and they sat back and enjoyed the short ride. Liz pointed out all the sights. “Look Will! There’s the Hancock Tower. Did you know they filmed Poltergeist II there?” She did this for the six blocks they travelled on Michigan Avenue and continued when they turned on Huron. Will was pleased by watching how her face light up with delight as she pointed out some of her favorite places. They arrived at the busy touristy area where Portillo’s, Hard Rock Chicago, Ed DeBevic’s and many other ‘destination’ restaurants were.

As Will held the door open for Liz, he was greeted with the tantalizing smells of grilled meats and all the fixings. “So, this is the famous Portillo’s?”

“Uh-huh. Is there anything you will not eat? Mustard? Onions? Chili?”

“No. I generally have a strong constitution. I’m putting myself in your very capable hands. You can order for me.”

“Are you very hungry, plain hungry or not very?”

“Quite hungry, which I believe equates with your very.”

“Excellent. Then I know precisely what to get you. You can go and grab us a table.”

Will nodded. He smiled that for the second time in one day he was eating at a restaurant where ‘grabbing a table’ was the order of the day. Will looked around and chose a table near the brick wall. From here, he could appreciate the 1920’s gangland Chicago theme better.

When Liz arrived with their tray, Will remarked, “I can’t believe there were so many gangsters and they all just walked around like they were ordinary citizens.”

Liz began to divvy up the food between them. “The mob was very good to Chicago. Except for the random violence and killings of course.”

“Of course.”

“But really, they spent a great deal of cash and kept the economy going. Some people speculate that it was the mob that helped bring America out of the depression.”

“Yes, and some people also speculate that man never really reached the moon and that the world is actually flat.”

“Very true. I imagine you were amazing at debates in school, weren’t you?”

“I wasn’t too bad with my persuasive arguments. You probably were too. I can just see you taking the opposing view just to prove you could do it.”

Liz blushed. “Am I so easy to read? It’s true. I used to argue just as you say.”

“No wonder we’re so good at seeing each other’s viewpoints.”

“No wonder neither of us likes to admit when we’re wrong!”

“So long as we can keep resolving our issues so amicably, I don’t foresee any problems we can’t handle. Do you?”

“Not really. I like this. What we have.”

“I do too. How have I only known you four days? Have I not known you my whole life?”

“I know. I feel that way too.”

They sat smiling at each other until Will’s stomach reminded them why they were there.

“Now what is this here that I’m to eat?”

“This,” Liz grinned as she handed him a tray, “is a char-grilled Maxwell Street Polish. This,” she said as she handed over another, “is an Italian Beef. Here we have fries with cheese to share and lots of peppers and tamales.”

Will looked at the food and wondered aloud, “Are you trying to kill me?”

She patted his hand to reassure him. “No Sweetheart, I love you. Trust me. There will be something here that you enjoy.”

Picking up the Italian Beef, he shrugged and said, “If you say so.”

Liz watched as just how good the sandwich was registered on Will’s face. “This is amazing!” he mumbled between bites. She nodded to remind him she already knew that and began to eat her own food.

Will was now willing to try everything and he did just that. Not even bothering with a fork, Will began to eat sweet peppers with his fingers. “You might be surprised by this, but I usually don’t care for peppers. These are just so good! How do you suppose these are better than all the other ones I’ve tried?”

“I have no idea. Try the fries too, they’re delicious.”

After they were stuffed for the second time that day, Will thanked Liz for introducing him to the gastronomical delights of Portillo’s. Liz said she was honored to do so. Will asked if it was okay if they made a quick stop before they went on to their next destination. When Liz said it would be no problem, Will handed the driver a slip of paper.

They were headed north on Michigan again. “Might I ask where we’re going?”

“You might.”

Liz turned to look out the window, but Will was positive she muttered ‘insufferable’ under her breath.

When they reached the Hancock Tower, the car stopped. Realizing this was the location that Will had chosen, she exclaimed, “Are we really going to the observatory?”

“If you like.”

“I promise Will, you’ll enjoy the view.”

Watching her eyes dance with happiness, he agreed. “I know I will.”

As they made their way to the ticket desk, Liz was disappointed when she saw a sign that said the deck was closed for a private party. “Oh no Will, I suppose I’ll have to show you the skyline some other visit.”

Playing the optimist, Will said, “Let’s just go and check. Perhaps the private party is breaking up soon?”

“Alright.”

When they reached the counter, Will stepped forward and handed the young lady his ID. Handing the card back to Will, she said, “Right this was, Mr. Darcy.”

It wasn’t until they were shown into the elevator and there was absolutely no one else around that Liz understood what was happening. “I feel like such an idiot! We’re the private party, aren’t we?”

Will answered, “Semi-private Liz, only semi-private.”

When they arrived on the deck, a security guard greeted them, “Right this way Mr. Darcy.”

Obediently, they followed. The guard led them to the center area which is normally used for audio guide rentals and tourist photos. Liz could hardly believe it when there were a number of well-dressed salespeople standing behind a dazzling array of bright blue and deep red jewelry boxes. Upon seeing the selection of rings, Liz began to have a small panic attack. Feeling like she couldn’t breathe, she walked towards one of the carpeted platforms where she could sit and bend over with her head between her knees. When Will sat next to her, she held up a hand and said, “I’ll be with you momentarily.”

He rubbed her back and assured her they had all the time they could ever want. At last, Liz was recovered enough to sit upright. Embarrassed, she said, “I always thought if ever someone were to steal my breath away, that it would somehow be more romantic than that. I’m so sorry Sweetheart.”

Will smiled at her as he made the move from sitting beside her to kneeling in front of her. Taking her hand, he began, “My Love, my dearest, sweetest Elisabeth. I know that I didn’t really ask properly the other night, but I fully intend to do so now. Elisabeth Gardiner, will you do me the greatest of honours and please agree to make me the happiest of men by agreeing to marry me and be my wife?”

*Chapter Fifty-Three*

 

Liz knew he’d already asked once before, and that he’d just asked again, but she still couldn’t believe her ears. “Are you sure you really want to marry me?”

He took her trembling hands in his steady ones. “Elisabeth, I’ve never been more certain of anything in the entirety of my life. I love you so very much. Please? Say yes and make me a happy man?”

She began nodding and said, “Yes William! I love you too, more than I can say and I would love to marry you!”

He stood up and took her in his arms. This did not go unnoticed by the other people in the observatory who began to loudly applaud for the happy couple.

Will guided Liz towards the ring display. “Now, let’s go and make this official, shall we?”

Still in a state of amazement, Liz asked, “How on earth did you do all of this? I’ve been with you all day!”

“I will tell you all later.” He gestured to the rings. “For now, it’s your turn to make a very important decision.”

Still beaming, Liz grinned. “I’ve already made the most important one, thank you.”

“Very pretty. However, you need a ring and look! We happen to have some conveniently right here.”

Liz laughed and said, “Truly astounding!”

They took some time and listened to the salespeople detail the specifics of each ring. Liz was torn between a lovely Cartier solitaire and a more traditional Tiffany round brilliant. When Will was asked his opinion of the subject, he stated that diamonds were women’s, not men’s, best friends and by that authority he refused to state a preference.

Seeing that the bride was having trouble deciding, the young man from Tiffany’s began to extol the virtues of the classic ring in question. Not to be outdone, the more mature woman from Cartier gave her more artfully designed ring many accolades too. Finally, Liz decided on the little blue box and once they had Liz properly sized, they arranged for matching wedding bands for them both.

Knowing in advance that only one company would sell an engagement ring, Will had arranged for both to also bring a selection of watches along. His watch had been battered rather badly over the last five days and while it would not be the same as selling a bridal set, it would hopefully make up for a little of the trouble he’d put them through.

Once the purchases were made, Will then asked if Liz would show him her beloved city. They walked around the Observatory and Will had to admit the view was remarkable.

As they looked out onto Lake Michigan, Will wrapped his arms around Liz and said, “It is a beautiful city. I can see why you’re so fond of it.”

Liz relaxed into his arms. “I’m sure I’ll feel that way about London soon enough. Especially if you have an impressive view to show me.”  

“That I do. Remember when you accused Pemberley’s CEO of having an entire floor to himself?”

“Yes, I remember. I’m so embarrassed by what I said then!”

“That’s not necessary. All I meant to say is that my office is in the tallest building in the UK and my westward view is simply marvelous. I cannot wait to share it with you, my very lovely fiancée.”

“I’d like that very much.”

They continued to wander the floor and used to viewers to see further than the naked eye would allow. Liz showed Will the Chicago timeline on the wall and excitedly told Will some of the city’s history. She pointed out the Chicago River and told how years ago they had to reverse the flow so it wouldn’t empty into the lake but was redirected to flow towards Missouri.

“If you take a tour on the riverboats, they always spew that urban legend nonsense about a cholera outbreak, but that didn’t happen… ninety-thousand people didn’t die in 1885. Anyways, they reversed the whole river in 1900 or so. Quite a feat back then, don’t you think?”

Will nodded his agreement, but added, “In 1900, I suppose that was a pretty great feat for the Midwest. However, London has had to deal with sewage issues and even real cholera outbreaks for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s amazing to me how new everything here is.”

Liz began to ask questions about Will’s homes in London and in Derbyshire and he took great pride in describing them, especially Pemberley, to her. “Wait until you see the ponds with all their frogs and whatnot. I’ll even buy you a new aquarium should you wish it.”

They carried on in this jovial fashion as they headed back down to street level. Once they were back in the car, Liz asked, “Will there be any other detours this evening Mr. Darcy?”

“No, I think I’ve usurped our date enough for tonight. The rest is up to you Love.”

Liz gave the directions to the driver and then sat back in her seat and sighed. “The hired car was an excellent notion this evening Will. Thank you for thinking of it.”

Will grinned. “It’s the damndest thing… you see, it’s actually fairly easy to hire one on days that aren’t national holidays.”

“I’m glad you can joke about it now. You were ready to explode when I first saw you.”

“I was at that,” he agreed. “It seems that you have a remarkable way of defusing me.”

“Admit it though, what would have happened had you been actually given a car that day? We wouldn’t have met until JJ’s and I know I’m stubborn enough that I would’ve disliked you just based on principle.”

“I like to think that my charm would have warmed you to me somewhat.”

She looked doubtfully at him and shook her head. “Probably not. And you would’ve resented the hell out of Charlie’s attempts to match-make. I think this worked out best for everyone, don’t you?”

“You’ll not hear me complain.”

They hadn’t travelled very far when the car stopped and Liz proclaimed, “We’re here!”

“And where is here Love?”

“Ghirardelli’s, of course!”

“Oh, of course. How silly of me not to have known.”

“Yes it is! Now, you have another important decision to make.”

“Elisabeth! Please be serious.”

“I am! What kind of sundae would you like?”

Liz asked him to order her a Butterscotch Hot Fudge Sundae while she went to check her sugar. Will took a moment to look over the overwhelming menu and when he felt confident in his choice, placed the order.

‘Grabbing a table’ for the third time that day, Will realized that living life with a little less formality had some distinct advantages. Liz joined him shortly and before long, their order had arrived. Liz smiled to see that he’d ordered a few drinks and there was also a bag with some treats to take with them as well.

Liz instantly recognized their famous drinking chocolate, but was unsure what the other cup held. “What do we have here Sweetheart?”

“Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa. It sounded too good to pass up.”

“I am being so bad tonight!” Liz dug into her ice cream. “I’ll have to be a very good girl tomorrow… beginning immediately after lunch that is!”

Will followed suit and began to devour his own dish. “I’m nearly afraid to ask. What do you have planned for lunch?”

“Why Uno’s of course! You cannot leave Chicago without having some deep dish. I swear, I haven’t eaten this many carbs in eons. But then, the holidays are always good for that. When we get to my place you’ll be shocked I think. There’s no junk food anywhere.”

“So long as you can promise me that you’re taking proper care with your insulin and such, I won’t criticize you. Indulgence every once in a while is a good thing, I think. Speaking of which, this is beyond words. You have to try this.”

They then proceeded to share their desserts while Liz explained about how she needs to keep an eye on the types of foods she eats. She outlined how proteins and carbohydrates each affect her blood sugar and how the differing types of insulin work.

Will’s head was swimming with new information. “I think I understand the basic concept, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. Please bear with me when I ask you questions that will no doubt annoy you.”

“Isn’t that something I already do?”

“Cheeky!”

She grinned. “Yes I am. You’d do well to remember that! Now, unless your intent is to lick the glass, I’d say you’re done.”

“It was delicious. Thank you for bringing me here.”

“In return, I’ll expect the full William Darcy London tour.”

“There’s a fair deal.” Will helped Liz with her coat. “Now where are you taking me next?”

“To see some live blues. Unless you have any objections?”

“None at all. I’ve never tried so many new things all at once before. I’m finding quite a heady experience.”

“Well then, I think we’d best continue on then!”

For their final excursion of the evening, Liz had them drive to Buddy Guy’s Legends where they were treated to some excellent live, local music. Will actually had a good time, which surprised him as he usually was uncomfortable whenever he’d been to any clubs in the past. He chalked it up to the soothing effect Liz had on him and the fact that he hadn’t been required to dance.

While the club was open until two, it had been a long day and so by twelve they were ready to go. After climbing into the back of the already-warm car, Will and Liz cuddled together in the back and just watched the cityscape pass outside their window. All the stores were decked out in their finest Christmas displays and the trees lining the streets glistened with twinkling lights. Will, seeing the delight in Liz’s expression, asked the driver to take the scenic route back to the hotel. Liz, excited by the prospect, asked the driver to head along Lakeshore Drive.

Liz explained about the wave breaks out in the water and told Will of the history of Navy Pier and how the Navy trained submariners within the safety of Lake Michigan. Will asked if there were still subs around. Liz informed him that the United States had a treaty with Canada to not have functioning submarines in the Great Lakes.

Reminiscing, Liz said, “When I was a kid, there was a real American World War II sub here at the Pier. It was really cool. They used it for training exercises for years and years after the war, when this was still a training facility. Anyways, the brilliant Mayor at the time decided that the city wasn’t getting enough profit from letting this historic, National Landmark sit in such prime real estate and the Navy said ‘Ha! We’re the Navy!’ and towed it clear across Lake Michigan. The USS Silversides is docked in Muskegon now. And now the city only has a German U-Boat inside the Museum of Science and Industry.”

“So why didn’t they just sail it across?”

“Oh, because of the Treaty. The propellers, or I guess they call them screws, were taken out so they don’t cause an international incident or anything.”

“Yes. Because the most obvious weapon of attack the US has is a sixty-year-old sub.”

“Exactly! Hey, did you ever see the movie Destination Tokyo with Clark Gable?”

“I believe so. Is that the one where they perform an emergency surgery in the galley or something like it?”

“Yes it is. Excellent memory you’ve got there, Sweetheart. Anyways, that really happened and that’s actually the sub it happened on.”

“How on earth do you know that?”

“When I was a Girl Scout, my Troop spent the night in the aft torpedo room. It was really pretty nifty.”

“You were a Girl Scout? Did you sell biscuits and what-not door-to-door?”

“Yes, I sold Girl Scout cookies. Biscuits are served with dinner or something you give to a dog!”

“Alas, discovered another British-ism then, have we?”

“I suppose we have.”

“Life will never be dull with you, Love.”

She gave him a kiss and said, “Funny, I was just thinking the same thing.”

*Chapter Fifty-Four*

 

After taking in all the sights of Lakeshore Drive, the tired, weary and extremely happy couple made it back to their room. Will and Liz had every intention of further celebrating their engagement, but found that the exertions of the day had finally taken their toll on Will.

Will flopped on the bed. “I am sorry Love…” he apologized, “but I cannot keep my eyes open. I’m so sorry.”

Liz yawned. “Please, no apologies are necessary Sweetheart! I’m tired too and I’ve not really been doing my job making sure you rest! In fact, I’ve been a lousy nurse today.”

He lifted his head up to say, “Never! You’ve looked after all my interests remarkably well, Love.”

Liz began to change her clothes. “Yes, well, while I’ve looked after those interests, you still need lots of rest! Really… you were still in the hospital this morning and two days ago I was fearing for your life! I think it’s bedtime for Bonzo and there will not be any arguments!”

Will propped himself up on his elbows. “Bonzo?”

Liz was now in her pajamas and began to help Will with his shoes. “Yes, Bonzo. My mom, when she’d tuck me in at night, used to always say that it was bedtime for Bonzo. Haven’t you ever seen that movie?”

Will never knew what to expect next. “With Ronald Reagan and a monkey?”

“Yes.”

He pretended to be hurt. “Am I supposed to be the monkey?”

Liz laughed. “No, not unless you decide to not cooperate and get ready for bed.”

“I’m all yours.”

“And for that, I’m very grateful! Now… it’s time to go to bed.”

After that, Will wordlessly submitted as she helped him get ready for bed. Once they were both ready, they climbed under the covers and were asleep in moments, each dreaming of how much brighter the future had become.

Liz woke first. Taking in her surroundings, she smiled as she recalled all the wonderful events of the day before. She turned towards Will and sighed. I am the luckiest woman alive. I am going to marry this wonderful, amazing man who loves me! He’s done so much for me… Now what can I do for him? I know! I think that while he’s getting outfitted, maybe I will too.

Thinking through what needed to be accomplished that morning, she formulated a plan. Giving a still- sleeping Will a quick kiss, she quietly left the bed to check her sugar and get ready for the morning.

Will had been having the loveliest dream. He and Liz had been picnicking by the lake at Pemberley and had moved on to more private pursuits. Things in the dream had been progressing along very nicely and then Will felt it. Liz kissed me! Maybe dreams do really come true… wait! Where’d she go? Maybe I dreamed that too. Unfortunately for Will, he was unable to get back to his dream picnic and after several minutes of trying to chase sleep, decided it would be best to just get up.

After rubbing the sleep from his eyes and stretching, Will went in search of Liz. Seeing that the other rooms were empty, he surmised her to be most likely in the shower. Deciding that he needed to atone for both not sharing hers yesterday and for being so tired last night, he made ready to join her but his mobile rang. Wishing more than anything to just ignore it, he knew he couldn’t because it was Georgie.

Glancing one last time at the bathroom door, Will sighed as he answered his call. “Yes Georgie?”

“What? No ‘hello, how are you’? I must be interrupting something very important then!”

“Georgiana! This is not a conversation I am going to have with you, young lady! If you must know, I’m rather tired and just woke up, thank you.”

“Just woke up? So you two had a late night then? Way to go Wills!”

“Georgiana! What are they teaching you in that school of yours?”

Georgie laughed. “Seriously Wills, pull that stick out of your bum and just, for once, try to have some fun! I am teasing you, William!”

“Oh. Right.”

“Now, where are you and what do you need me to do to help you? I had the most bizarre call from Reynolds. What did you do to the poor man? I swear Wills, he sounded positively terrified for you! You didn’t announce your engagement to him yet, did you?”

“Slow down Georgie! First, we’re in Chicago. Elisabeth grew up here and has taken delight in showing me some of her favorite things here. Second, I need you to pack me a few bags. I think a handful of suits and some jeans and shirts should suffice. I trust you to match everything up well and keep me from appearing too foolish. Liz intends to take me out to the shops this morning and get me a proper winter kit. Third, as for Reynolds, I informed him he needs to join me in Boston for an extended period of time and to bring any year-end business that I need to attend. He’s never been to the US that I’m aware of and I can’t say whether he finds the idea appealing. I promise that I’ll make it up to him if it wasn’t. Fourth, no! I did not inform my assistant of my engagement over the phone. I didn’t wish to cause the man to have an aneurism! You, dear sister, are the only person in all of England that knows our happy news and, for now, shall we please keep it that way?”

“I suppose if I must. The things I do for you… wait! Did you say that Liz is taking you shopping? And you’re going without being threatened? Wow… there must really be something to this love-stuff after all!”

“Georgie, there is, but you, dear girl, have many, many years before you need to worry about it.”

“Yes, yes, I know. Just don’t forget to buy me something too while you’re at it.”

His patience nearing an end, Will brusquely said, “I wouldn’t dream of it. Now, don’t you have a class that you need to get to or something? It is Monday, is it not?”

“Yes Wills, I’m on break and then I have maths.”

Will could hear the water and knew Liz wouldn’t be much longer. “Good then. Off you go.”

A smug Georgie said, “Wait! You’re trying to get rid of me, aren’t you? I did interrupt something! I knew it!”

That did it. Will nearly yelled, “No, you didn’t interrupt anything… but you’re doing a bloody marvelous job of preventing it! May I go now please?”

“Yes Wills! I love you. And send my love to Liz, too.”

“I will. I love you too, Georgie. Now get to class!”

Georgie laughed and said, “Bye Wills!”

“Bye Georgie,” Will replied and then ended the call. He ran to the bathroom just in time to see Liz emerging from the shower.

Will, frustrated that he’d missed it again, said, “Damn!”

Liz frowned. “Good morning to you too sunshine!”

He opened his arms and she stepped into them. Hugging her tightly, he explained, “Sorry Love, I’d so looked forward to joining you this morning but I was waylaid by a call from Georgie. She sends her love to you, by the way.”

“Aw, she’s so sweet. But why are you up? I thought I was quieter than that when I got up.”

“You were quiet as a mouse. However, I knew the exact moment you left me. I find that I really don’t like it when you leave me like that. Would that there was a way that we could just exist in bed!”

“What? Have a bed-in and be like John and Yoko? I can see it now- The Ballad of Will and Liz. I don’t think so!”

“Never mention Yoko please. Blasted woman killed the Beatles.”

“Agreed.”

“Excellent. However, we seem to have a problem here. You’re bathed and I’m not.”

“Will, you’re pretty adorable when you’re petulant.” Will smiled but frowned when Liz continued, “No sex right now. You need to go get ready and we actually need to get moving this morning. We have a lot to do and if we get caught up here, it won’t get done. Now, are you very hungry or only a bit hungry this morning?”

He groaned, “Why must you choose now to be reasonable?”

Pulling away from him, she began to get dressed. “Because I love you, I will choose to ignore your implication that I am unreasonable. Now, go and get ready. And you didn’t answer my question about your appetite!”

“Elisabeth, I think you are well aware of what I’m hungry for this morning and it’s not bloody eggs and toast!”

“Temper!” Liz giggled, “Besides, I only said not right now… not never again! That would punish me too, you know! The faster we get our errands done, the quicker we can come back here and take advantage of each other and this exquisite room.”

“Well, I hope you’re wearing your trainers because if that’s the case, I intend to go very fast indeed!”

Trainers? You mean tennis shoes, right?”

Will protested, “No one ever plays tennis in them!”

“Yeah, well, people don’t really train in them either, do they?”

Defiantly, Will said, “I do.”

Liz stuck her tongue out at Will and replied, “And I play tennis, so there!”

“Yes, so we’re both fit and healthy. Can we go now?”

Liz pointed to the bathroom and Will headed in to brush his teeth and clean up a little. After a quick change into jeans and an oxford, he passed muster and they headed to the lobby.

“Now, continental breakfast or shall we grab something more substantial?” asked Liz.

“I’m not terribly hungry and with what you’ve told me about that pizza we’re having for lunch, I’d say a light breakkie is in order. That is, unless you need more Liz?”

“No, I’m fine. Let’s just grab some juice and Danish from here and then we’ll head out.”

 Each had their share of pastry, fruit and juice. Then they prepared to face the winter winds that left little doubt why Chicago is called the Windy City. Liz attempted to wrap Will’s scarf around his neck like a balaclava, but sadly the cashmere garment was woefully inadequate to its purpose.

“Blast. I should have engaged a driver for us again. It’s cold as bloody hell out here!” Will complained less than three feet from the door.

They held hands and began to walk briskly down Michigan Avenue. “I’ve never understood that phrase.”

“What? Bloody hell? I thought we’d covered that already.”

“No, cold as hell. It was my understanding that hell was pretty hot.”

“That’s my logical Liz. Taking all the fun out of being grumpy.”

“Being grumpy is fun? Perhaps I should try it more often.”

Will began to apologize, “No, I didn’t mean…”

Liz touched his arm and shot him a grin. “I know very well that you didn’t mean anything by it. But you’ve got to admit that cold as hell is an odd saying. Such a dichotomy! It’s like saying government intelligence… it just doesn’t add up!”

“I suppose it’s true. I’ve just never given it much thought. That’s odd.”

They walked quietly for a minute or two. Liz was enjoying the sights and the sounds of her beloved city when Will interrupted the silence by asking, “How much further must we go?

Must we go? Well, aren’t we Mr. Impatient? It’s just up ahead in the Hancock Tower. See?”

Will shook his head in disbelief and whined, “But we were here last night!”

“Yes, we were. And it was magical and romantic and everything lovely and wonderful. However, you need a warmer coat and some boots and, yes, the store just happens to be in the same building we were in last night.”

Will muttered, “Had I only known…”

“Only known what? What would you have done? Have them re-open the store for you? Oh my God! You don’t like Oprah, but yet you act like her! Wow. That’s hilarious! Are you really that spoiled William that you can’t just go into a store like a normal person?”

Not liking her comparison at all, Will frowned and crossed his arms in an act of defiance. “It’s different.”

Trying her best to not laugh at his childish behavior, Liz asked, “How? How is it different?”

“It just is.”

“Oh. Thank you. That certainly cleared it up for me.” Liz then regarded the man she’d already promised to spend her life with and, just for a moment, wondered if she’d made a mistake. “We’re going to the store and I swear that unless Carrie happens to be there, and she won’t because God is not that cruel, you won’t be mobbed, recognized or in any way, shape or form be harassed! Now, can we just go and do this please?”

Will stopped and held Liz’s arm to halt her progress. When she turned to see what he was about, he said, “I’m sorry Elisabeth. I didn’t realize that I sounded like such a prat. I wasn’t exaggerating about how much I loathe going to the shops and, at home anyways, I cannot seem to even go to the chemist without it ending up in the news. I can’t begin to explain how precious these last few days of living anonymously have meant to me. I’m afraid I didn’t give much thought ahead to when I return to London. Are you sure Elisabeth? Would you be willing or able to live under a microscope? I promise that I’ll do my best to keep our lives as quiet as possible, but unfortunately, a good deal of that remains out of my hands.”

She hadn’t even considered why he hated to be out. Liz had just thought it was a combination of pride and arrogance that was a by-product of being born to great position and wealth. Feeling shame that she’d assigned the worst possible motives to his comments and for completely misunderstanding him, she offered her own apology to Will. “No Will, I’m sorry. I know you don’t like going out like this and I remember that you said things were difficult privacy-wise at home. I didn’t think it through… I didn’t think how uncomfortable situations like this might make you. I’m sorry Will, I’m sorry that I jumped to conclusions again.”

Will opened his arms. “Come here.”

Stepping into his embrace, she held fast to Will as he did the same with her. Will was relieved that she seemed to forgive him. “No more misunderstandings. We, neither one of us, are mind readers. I think we seem to work best when we are frank and open with each other. I’d much rather weather any storm with you than go through a sunny day alone.”  

They began to walk again. Liz squeezed his hand and said, “Me too. I think the reward of being with you will be worth whatever it costs.”

Will wished, more than anything, for that to be true. “I hope so, but we’ll have to wait and see. Once we get you to England, perhaps my life will frighten you too much.”

Liz protested, “I am no coward!”

“I know that. Love, you are, beyond a doubt, the most courageous woman I know. I just hope that it’s not too much for you.”

Trying to sound confident, Liz said, “It won’t be.” She then had a thought which she shared with Will, “Besides, who knows? Maybe William Darcy, old married man, will cease to be so newsworthy.”

Doing his best to keep his sarcasm in check, Will said, “Yes, because the British press is well-known for giving up so easily.”

“Well, stranger things have happened.”

Will wrinkled his brow and challenged her, “Name one.”

They arrived at the Hancock Tower Plaza just in time for Liz to say, “We made it to the store without you turning into a popsicle!”

Elisabeth really does always try and put the brightest spin on things. She’s amazing. I can hardly believe my luck… that this wonderful woman is really, truly mine. “It’s a miracle.”

“It’s amazing, Sweetheart, how miracles come about when you have faith.”

They headed into the store and Will was outfitted with enough warm gear to climb Everest. Liz picked up a few new items as well. Will’s fears had proved baseless as they shopped in total peace with only the store salespeople attending them. Once Will had put on his new hat, gloves, scarf, boots, fleece and coat, they walked back outside.

Instantly, Will could tell the difference. “Remind me never to doubt your infinite wisdom again, Love. I can’t believe how much better I feel.”

She tugged at the collar of his jacket. “This was what you should have had on the other day. I still am furious at my father, and even Charlie for that matter, for dragging you out in the weather so unprepared. They knew better! You should have too, but there’s no excuse at all for them because they both know how frigid it can get!”

How could he not love this woman? “You know what I’ve forgotten that there’s no excuse for?”

“I have no idea.”

He kissed her and said, “I haven’t told you, at least in the last half-hour that I love you. I do, I love you Elisabeth and I am so very glad that you’ve found a way to love me too.”

“I think I’ve actually found several…” Liz teased. “Seriously though Will, I love you too.”

“Excellent! Now, let’s go see a man about a ring…”

Since Tiffany’s was less than two blocks away, they braved the cold and walked the short distance. Liz’s ring was flawless and once Will put it on her finger, she was loathe to cover it up with her glove. However, the cold proved to be too much and once they were outside, Liz saw reason and put her glove back on. Will tucked away their wedding bands into his pocket and once again they were off.

“Are you alright?” Liz asked after they walked another block. “If you’d rather grab a taxi, that would be fine with me. It’s not much farther to Nordstrom’s, but I don’t want to set back your recovery and I’m not sure that this much fresh air and exercise is good for you.”

“You’re very sweet to worry so about me, but I’m quite fine right now. I promise that if I feel tired or grow cold, you’ll be the first to know.”

With assurances that Will was fine, they headed towards Water Tower Place. “I know I said I hate Macy’s, but it’s the closest department store. Now, I need you to get some jeans and a few sweaters and whatever else you think you might need.”

“I think I might need a plane.”

“A plane?”

“Yes. They’re going to charge me a fortune to haul all this back to London! I think it might be more cost efficient to just buy a plane and have done with it.”

“Just like that?”

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. My father never had a corporate jet… but then, he never travelled as much as I do. Or even as much as we will. Surely you’ll wish to come and see your sisters? It would be easier without the lines and checking bags or itineraries to do so, right? And they can even come and visit as well.”

“I can see that. So, you’ll just buy a plane then?”

“I think so. I’ll have Reynolds look into it for me when he gets here. It would be easier for the return home, that’s certain.”

“Well then… since obviously you’ve got this all figured out, I’m going to leave you to the men’s department while I dodge across the street for a moment. I’ll be so quick you won’t even know that I’ve gone.”

He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I always know when you’ve gone. I promise to, what did you say? Oh yes, suck it up, and purchase plenty of clothes. I suppose I ought to buy some more baggage then too, shouldn’t I?”

“Probably. Now, behave yourself and I promise to reward you well.”

“I look forward to that.”

Liz left Will in the very capable hands of a salesman named Gene while she headed across the street to the Victoria’s Secret flagship store. Liz had told Will that she had plenty of lingerie, and that was true. However it was also true that her lingerie was presently in a chest of drawers in Boston where it would do her no good for the time being.

Liz had promised Will she wouldn’t be long, and she wasn’t. The moment she walked in the store, she found a sympathetic saleswoman who helped outfit her with just what she was looking for. They added a few more items and Liz was out the door on her way back to Will within minutes.

She spied Gene thumbing through a rack of Ralph Lauren shirts and asked, “Where might I find Mr. Darcy?”

“You’re back! That’s super! Mr. Darcy is trying on some new slacks and a shirt for size. I believe you’ll be pleased with what we’ve found so far. If you’ll come right this way, I’ll take you to him.”

She followed him and knew they were getting close when she heard a mumbled ‘bollocks’ come the dressing area.

“You promised to behave,” said Liz.

“You’re back! Thank God. How much more do I have to try on before we can go?”

Liz laughed. “Not much. Are you dressed? Can I see?”

 Slowly, Will opened the door. He was wearing a ridiculously bright, plaid and paisley button-down and very dark, over-dyed ornamented jeans. “I look absurd.”

She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing because it was true, he did look absurd. “Gene said the shirt was to gauge your size. It seems to fit well enough.”

“And the pants?”

“No, the jeans have to go! They’re awful.”

Gene then came in with an armful of much more tasteful shirts and some jeans that weren’t quite so on the cutting edge of fashion. “Here, Sir, I think these should be much more to your liking.”

“Yes, yes, that’ll do. Thank you, Gene.”

The clerk handed Will and Liz the garments and left to go scout some more. Will and Liz sorted quickly through the offerings and chose a few for Will to try on. It wasn’t much longer and Will was ready to go with his new wardrobe. Gene then helped them out with some new luggage and then arranged to have all their packages sent on to the hotel.

Outside, Liz hailed a cab and they headed to Chicago’s original deep-dish pizza institution Uno’s. Liz begged Will to trust her and she ordered a few personal pizzas for them to share. They chatted about the rest of their journey while they awaited their lunch.

When the food came, Will grimaced at the decidedly green dish and asked, “What is that?”

That is a Spinoccoli pizza my friend, and you will love it. It’s an Uno’s specialty. It’s got spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and feta, cheddar, mozzarella and Romano cheeses.”

“But I don’t care for spinach, broccoli or feta!”

“Most people don’t like at least one of those things, but trust me, everyone, okay- most everyone, loves this pizza. Take one bite and if you don’t like it, you can have all of the pepperoni one to yourself. Trust me on this, Will, take a chance! Or do I have to start reciting Green Eggs and Ham to you?”

Will chuckled and threw his hands up in defeat. “Please! Anything but that.” Taking up a fork, he cut himself off a tiny bite’s worth and closed his eyes before trying it.

Liz was all anticipation. She crossed her fingers that he’d enjoy it as much as she did. “Well, what do you think?”

Will laughed. “I think you may call me ‘Sam I am’ now. This is good Liz. I can’t believe I’m eating spinach! I would eat this anywhere!

“I told you so! Sometimes things that don’t sound like they should work together actually do. I think there’s a life lesson in there about just needing the right combination ingredients.”

They finished up their lunch and took a cab back to the hotel.

Will had not forgotten about his promised reward. “Love? How long before we must leave?”

“We should have probably left early this morning, actually. There’s still about a thousand miles, maybe not quite, to go. We need to do at least six hundred today and head out pretty early tomorrow.”

“Elisabeth, I already knew all that…” he stepped closer and stroked her cheek. “How long do we have right now?”

“More than enough time,” she promised.

Will pulled her close and leaned his forehead so it was resting upon hers to say, “There’s never enough time. At least when it comes to time spent with you.”

Liz smiled and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Will, who had been expecting, hoping, for more of a response than that, was disappointed and surprised even further when she stepped away and said, “Hold that thought!”

Unsure of what he should be doing and not wanting to presume too much, especially in light of her walking away, he decided to have a look about the room. Will thought it was properly opulent for a room named after the former princess, but still felt fairly comfortable. He flopped down on the sofa and picked up a Chicago travel guide to peruse. As Will turned the pages, he began to make a mental list of all the places he would like to see the next time they came back to Chicago.  

This set him upon a whole new train of thought. Next time I’m here with Liz… hopefully it will be summertime. I’d like to see the lake in nicer weather. I bet the breezes probably feel nice in July when it’s not zero degrees! She’s right about how Chicago feels. It’s not as rushed as New York or as self-important as Los Angeles. I wonder how she’ll fare in London… will she find it charming or off-putting? What the devil am I going to do about the press? I can’t expect her to hide forever… but she doesn’t really have any idea just how intrusive those bastards can be. I suppose that’s another thing I’ll have to cover with Reynolds when he arrives. I’m getting married… I’m really getting married and for once in my life I get to be happy and not worry about pleasing anybody else. Except Elisabeth… but that’s the great thing, isn’t it? Pleasing her… doing things for her… things that make her happy… that all makes her happy which in turn makes me happy. I’ve got to remember to send Chip something brilliant for being such a damned-bloody genius!

Will continued to turn pages, all the while imagining the two of them visiting the places in the photographs. He glanced at his new watch and began to wonder what was taking her so long. Have I done something to upset her? Is she angry with me? Have I been too presumptuous? Should I go and see what’s detaining her, or do I just need to wait and see?

Uncertainty was not a feeling that William Darcy was at all acquainted with. Indeed, since he was a young man everything that had happened in his life had done so because he had made it so. Will had been able, through both hard-work and determination, to manipulate and control to his liking and benefit so many aspects of his life; education, position, company prosperity, money and even his sister to a certain extent. Yet, uncertainty, that feeling of not being entirely in control, was fast becoming the norm in his relationship with Elisabeth. If only he knew what was keeping her, why she had only given him a peck on the cheek before essentially dismissing him, he’d feel much better.

Will had just tossed the magazine aside in favor of searching her out when she reappeared. Feeling remarkably foolish for his self-doubt; Will stood to greet the woman he knew would keep him on his toes for the rest of his life. He tried to think of something to say, but the vision that now stood before him had momentarily disabled his powers of speech. Several times he opened his mouth, but no words came to him.

When Liz had come to meet Will, her confidence was high. She had high hopes that he would be pleased to finally see her in something other than a tee and boxers. But then he was silent and wore an expression she didn’t recognize. Elisabeth had taken a risk, a gamble such as she had never done before. She had found out the hard way that bravado is a fine ideal until it’s time to back it up with action. Something about William brought out a strange, new boldness in Elisabeth that she had never known before. With him, she felt more comfortable than she’d ever been with anyone else, yet she was still fighting her natural inclination to question why such a wonderful man would want her. She knew that such thoughts were irrational and she loathed that Fran Bennet had such a profound effect on her self-esteem, but there it was.

She swallowed hard. Why won’t he say anything? This was a mistake… I made a terrible mistake! She turned to disappear again, but Will was too quick and caught her by the wrist.

“Just let me go Will!” Liz cried.

He did as he was asked, but finally found his voice and hoped it would be enough to halt her. “Please don’t leave!”

Liz made a study of her toes as she said, “I feel ridiculous.”

Will stepped closer, but still didn’t touch her. “You look beautiful.”

“No…”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Elisabeth, I’m sorry, but when I first saw you just now, you quite took my breath away. Do you have any idea how unbelievably sexy you are?”

Liz came near enough so she could rest the top of her head against his chest. “Now you’re just making stuff up.”

Will brought his arms around her in an embrace. “Like hell I am. I wanted you from almost the moment I saw you and you were bundled up in your winter coat and I had no idea what lay beneath! I wanted you when you were wearing plaid pyjama bottoms and a physics tee, and we won’t even mention how it’s a miracle that I remember to even breathe now that we’ve actually been together and you’ve promised to always be mine… but Liz? Now that I’ve seen you like this, I shudder to think what will happen to Pemberley!”

Liz had carefully listened to all he had said, but she needed to know, “What? What will happen to Pemberley?”

“I might as well sell the company now.  Because, Elisabeth, now that I’ve seen you like this, I’m certain that I will never have another clear or rational thought in my head that doesn’t bring me back to how you look right now, in this moment.”

Her confidence restored, Liz was finally able to smile again. “I told you I owned some proper lingerie!”

Will grinned. He was thrilled he’d been able to restore her good humour. “So you’ve been holding out on me then?”

Liz laughed. “Holding out? I don’t think that’s very accurate at all, do you Mr. Darcy?”

“No, Ms. Gardiner, I suppose it’s not. However, I think I’m almost as familiar with what’s in your bags as you are with the contents of mine. This,” he touched the lace and satin on the corset, “I would have definitely remembered.”

“You win. It’s new… it’s all new.” She made a face and laughed, “Seemed easier than scouting out a new Schrodinger shirt and we do have another night on the road…”

It was now Will’s turn to swallow hard. “There’s more?”

Liz grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the bedroom. “Perhaps.”

Will wondered if somehow his end was imminent and Liz was his last earthly reward. Thinking that might be the case, he followed her into the bedroom and said, “Then, may God have mercy upon my soul…”

 

*Chapter Fifty-Five*

 

William Darcy’s end was not imminent and while the time spent that early afternoon with Elisabeth had proven to be very rewarding, it was hardly to be the last. In fact, Will was awestruck by his exceptional good fortune. In bed beside Elisabeth, he couldn’t think of one single thing in the entire world that rivaled the sheer bliss of being with her.

Liz had stirred to find Will gazing at the ceiling. “Penny for your thoughts?”

He scooped her into his arms so she was now resting her head in the crook of his shoulder. “I was just thinking how very…I suppose blessed is the word for it. Right here, right now, I feel like together we’ll be… invincible. We can disagree, and even argue, but we talk, and we listen and in the end everything seems so right.”

“It seems right because I believe it is, Will. I know that we’re both far from perfect. But, and this is the important part, I am choosing to be with you. I choose you and all your good points and the not-so-good-points. I love you William… and I promise to love you with all that I am, for as long as I am.”

“Love, I believe you’re only partially correct there. I’m definitely far from perfect, but you, Liz, you are my idea of perfection.”

 She turned her head and kissed his neck. “Ha! But then, since we’ve already established your imperfections, this makes complete sense. You’re nuts!”

“Only about you, Liz,” Will said as he rolled them both over.

Liz giggled at his silliness, “Oh, please!”

He began to nuzzle her neck again. “Since you did say please…”

“William!” Liz feebly protested. “We really do… need… ah, need… to get… oh!”

Will knew he wasn’t playing fair, but hadn’t they decided they would forge their own rules? “Five minutes… that’s all I’m asking for. I promise I’ll behave the rest of the day if we can have five extra minutes right now.”

 Liz poked that particularly ticklish place on Will’s right side, causing him to yelp. She used his momentary distraction to roll them back over again. From her new vantage point, Liz nibbled his ear and whispered, “You’ve got ten.”

Since Will and Liz were each used to working under intense pressure and firm deadlines, they were well-prepared to use each and every one of those ten minutes to their fullest potential.

 When the allotted time was up, Will watched Liz leave their bed, despite his best efforts to keep her there longer.  “I won’t be long,” Liz promised as she gathered her clean clothes before heading into the shower.

Will got out of bed and followed her. “Are you sure I can’t come with you?”

Liz laughed. “You, Sir, not even fifteen minutes ago, promised to behave!”

Shaking his head, Will said, “Well, that was just sheer stupidity on my part.

“Probably,” she agreed.

Will began to rub her shoulders. “Please?”

Liz was nearly ready to give in when Will’s mobile rang. She picked up the phone and handed it to Will, “It’s Reynolds.” Liz kissed his cheek and reminded him, “Be nice.”

As he watched her walk away, Will sighed and answered his call. “Yes, Reynolds?”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Darcy. Sorry to disturb you, Sir, but I thought you’d like to know that I’ve readied the Axiom papers. It’s my understanding that their CFO is ready to move on this quickly and his assistant tells me that they would prefer to have this completed by the end of the fiscal year if at all possible. I can set up a tentative schedule of appointments in the New York office, if you think that might suit.”

Will hadn’t expected Axiom to be ready to move so fast. He’d anticipated a long and tedious series of meetings to come to terms. “I wonder what’s changed over there. Reynolds, have legal take another look at what’s going on at Axiom and see if there’s some new, sudden reason for their need to bail. Thank you for not waiting on this… go ahead and slot in times for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week, then call them back and offer them a choice. We keep the venue, but they can choose which day.”

“Very good, Mr. Darcy. I’ll get right on that. While I still have you on the line, was there anything else you wished me to accomplish here before I leave?”

“No, you’ve done an excellent job.”

“Thank you, Mr. Darcy.”

“You’re welcome Reynolds. It’ll be good to see you again.”

Reynolds was quiet for a moment while he considered what to say. “Thank you, Sir.”

“Very good. Just be sure and keep me posted about Axiom.”

“I will, Mr. Darcy.”

“Have a safe flight, Reynolds. Until Wednesday then.”

“Thank you, Sir. Until Wednesday.”

Will ended the call and began to gather some clothes for after his shower. Liz had already finished and was drying her hair when he came into the bathroom. 

Will stood behind her and looked at the reflection of the two of them. He watched as she ran her fingers through her hair one last time, making sure her hair was no longer damp. Fascinated, Will asked, “How do you do that?”

She liked watching him watch her, though she couldn’t explain why. “Do what?”

He leaned down and kissed her shoulder. “Manage to be so beautiful with very little effort.”

Liz smiled. “Truly, I think you must need your vision checked. I’m alright… but hardly beautiful.”

“No Love, you are most decidedly a beautiful woman. In fact, there’s no comparison.” Will combed his fingers though her hair and enjoyed listening to the sound she made as he did so. “You remind me of home.”

Liz knew that they really should be on the road by now, but the way he was playing with her hair just felt too good. She was intrigued by his comment and asked, “How’s that?”

“Home… Pemberley… is in the most beautiful part of the country. The land is still mostly as God made it because my forefathers had the good sense to not mess with perfection. So many of the neighboring estates set about to ‘improve’ upon nature and, somewhere along the way, the natural beauty of the landscape got lost. That is how you remind me of home- unspoiled perfection. There’s no falsity or artifice about you… you need no improvement, you need no adornment,” he held up her left hand so the light caused her engagement ring to sparkle, “except for this, of course.”

“Of course,” she was glad to have a symbol to show the world that she was loved by him. Liz turned and leaned into his embrace. “Thank you William.”

“For what, Love?”

 “For loving me.”

“Love, I could no more stop loving you than I could stop breathing. You are a vital and very necessary part of me now and truly, it is I who should be giving thanks to you for loving me.”

Elisabeth’s heart swelled with joy at hearing Will’s tender words of love and affection. Then she caught just a hint of a mischief in his smile and, returning his smile, she said, “Very pretty words William.”

In a move she anticipated, he pulled her close to kiss her, but she evaded him and grinned. “Ah, but Sweetheart, very pretty words do not equal sex when you very well know we really need to be on the road now.”

Frustrated, he cried, “Elisabeth!”

“I love you William, but whining isn’t going to change anything! The sooner we get a move on, the sooner we get to a room tonight. And I promise to more than make up for any neglect you might feel between now and then.”

Will, knowing he was bested, sighed, “It’s all your fault you know.”

 Liz scrunched her brow to ask, “What’s my fault?”

“That I’ve become insatiable. It had been donkey’s years and that was fine… then I met you and it’s as though I’ve become some sort of beast! I’m sorry Love, if I’m pressuring you, or if I get to be too much, just tell me to sod off for a while and I’ll understand.”

Liz had to laugh. “I can’t imagine that I’d ever tell you to sod off! Would it make you feel better if you knew that it was taking every last ounce of my own self-restraint to get us out of here?”

Will did feel a bit better. “Is that true?”

“Absolutely! You want truth? How’s this? I think that I’ve done it more with you in these last few days than I did the entire time I was with that other guy who I promised not to mention anymore.”

Will was surprised by her admission and asked, “Really?”

“Really. I never found sex all that great and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about… until now. Now I get it… and lots of it too, thank you very much! And, as you so eloquently put it earlier, it’s all your fault.”

He’d never been prouder. “Would you think me a rogue if I said I’m glad of it?”

She shook her head and smiled. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”

“I love you Liz.”

“Love you too, Will.”

Clapping his hands together, Will said, “Alright then, let’s get going! Are you going to lollygag around here all day or what?”

They then made quick work out of packing up their things. Will had a new set of Lander and Hawa luggage to fill and once that was accomplished, they performed a quick sweep of the room in case they had missed anything.

“We’re getting very good at this, aren’t we?” Liz remarked as she found Will’s phone cord.

“I believe we make a crack team.” Will agreed as he handed over a pair of her socks.

As she tucked away the dirty socks in the outside pocket of her Pullman, Liz mused, “I wonder how many things we’ve lost in rooms along the way.”

Will answered, “Sock heaven needs to be populated somehow.”

They called for a bellhop and made their way downstairs. Will settled their bill and once the valet brought the car around and the luggage was packed, they were on their way once more.

The sun was bright and as Will hadn’t any sunglasses to shade his eyes, he pulled his hat down over his eyes and was asleep before they were out of the city limits. Liz tuned the satellite radio into the Beatles station and sang along merrily as she drove down the freeway.

Barely an hour out, Will was roused from his sleep by the most foul of smells. “Crud monkey! What is that god-awful odor?”

Liz knew precisely what he was referring to, but chose to pretend otherwise. “Did you have a nice nap?”

Will, setting the seat back upright, had a look around to see if he could discover the origin of the foul stench. “It was lovely right up until something decided to die in my nose. Elisabeth, what is that smell?”

She bit her bottom lip to keep from giggling. “What smell? Can you describe it?”

Amazed that she was unaffected by it, he cried, “What smell? No, I can’t describe it except that it’s heinous! There’s something seriously wrong if you cannot smell that!”

Liz chuckled, “Calm down Will. Yes, there is an odor… no, it will not last. We’re driving through Gary, Indiana and you are experiencing one of the side effects of an agro-industrial town. Just look at the bright side…”

“What bright side?”

“That it’s winter. It’s much worse in the summer!”

“Holy hell! That must be torture! How do people live here?”

“It’s not too bad. There’s a lot of manufacturing here… and lots and lots of sulfur. Then you mix in lots of livestock, manure and chemicals and voila! You get Gary. Surely there are industrial towns in England that aren’t always fresh as a daisy?”

“Yes, there are a few. But I don’t ever recall being awoken by them!”

“See? Another new experience!”

They had a good laugh and then Will began to describe some Gary-like towns in Scotland, Wales and northern England. When Liz asked what the area around Pemberley was like, Will was forced to admit that Lambton, the town nearest, was highly agricultural and that, during certain times, the area did smell like sheep.

Stopping for gas near South Bend, Liz began to explain how Notre Dame, despite the excellent true story of Rudy Ruettiger, was a bane to college football. Liz then went on to explain how her Big Ten team was Northwestern and that although the New England Patriots were alright, she would always root for the Bears.

Liz and Will had shamelessly eaten their way through Jane’s goodies the day before, and so stocked up on more. In the station’s convenience store, Liz found a few things to purchase that she knew would make Will smile. Once they were safely back on the road, she handed him a pair of sunglasses.

Will examined them closely. “What are these?”

 “Seems I was right to not put much stock in a Cambridge education after all!” Liz began to sing, “When you wake up in the morning and the light is hurt your head, the first thing you do when you get up out of bed, is hit that streets a-runnin’ and try to beat the masses, and go get yourself some cheap sunglasses.

“Was that ZZ Top?”

“It was. I thought you might prefer not to squint for the next few days. When we get to Boston, we can get you a better pair.”

Will pulled down the vanity mirror on the passenger’s side visor and had a look. The huge black frames seemed to cover up half his face. With his three-day beard, the glasses and hat, he wondered if his own sister would even recognize him. “No Liz, these are fine. I rather like them, actually.”

“I’m glad you like them. I did get something else for you though. Would you like it now?”

“You bought me another present? Elisabeth, that’s hardly necessary!”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a present,” she handed him a CD box.

Will laughed as he read the package. “‘Freight Train to Nowhere. A novel of suspense. Read by the author Charles Bingley’. Can we listen to it? Then I can finally claim to have ‘read’ one of his damned books.”

“That’s why I bought it. I think you’ll find it entertaining. It was one of Charlie’s earlier books.”

They popped in the audio-book and couldn’t help but laugh through the entire first chapter as they listened to Charlie read so dramatically. Will had to admit he was impressed with how quickly he was engrossed in the story. The hero, a young man who was falsely accused of his wealthy father’s murder, had dramatically escaped from police custody and was now hell-bent on proving that his step-mother was the culprit behind it all. Early in his journey, the hero meets a street-wise girl who aids him in his quest for justice.  

Will paused the book for a moment to ask, “How long is this book?”

“Nine and a half hours.”

“He does this for all of his books?”

“Yep, for each and every single one. He doesn’t trust others to get the right inflections when they read his works. He’s a bit of a prima-donna, really.”

“I can understand being protective of your work. But this is strange… it’s a bit like having Chip right here along with us.”

“I know. Weird, huh?”

They listened some more and Liz couldn’t help but note how similar the physical description of the hero, Jake McAllister, was to Will. She listened to the story and the previous mental image she had before of Jake was now replaced in her mind by Will.

Another seventy miles east, Liz stopped for a bathroom break and to stretch her legs. When she returned to the car, Will was surprised when she opened his door and ordered him out of the car.  He was thrilled that she trusted him enough to finally let him have a turn and drive. They took turns at the wheel and, without incident, made it through Indiana and Ohio.

It was not quite ten o’clock when they arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania to stop for dinner. They discussed how far they had come that day, and how much further they could realistically go. Liz had originally intended to cover six-hundred miles and they’d only made four-hundred and fifty. Will wanted to just go ahead and stop for the night, but Liz was determined to make it at least to Buffalo, if not Rochester. They finished up their meals and agreed to go only as far as Buffalo.

*Chapter Fifty-Six* 

 

The Millennium Hotel in Buffalo, New York was close to I-90 and so that was where they stayed. Liz made good on her promise to make Will feel loved and wanted. They slept soundly and were able to check out with a minimum amount of distractions in the morning. They finished listening to Charlie’s book just before noon. Deciding that was a fortuitous time to stop for lunch, they decided to pull off in Utica.

Liz had taken it upon herself to help Will overcome his fear of modern technology and was instructing him on how to find a restaurant using the GPS. After a brief discussion where they decided a heavier lunch and a light dinner would be the best thing, Liz and Will settled on a place called Aqua Vino. Liz ordered a salad of fresh fruit and mixed greens while Will selected the crab bisque with something called Chicken Reggies, which was reputed to be a local favorite. The food was plentiful, hearty and delicious; it wasn’t long before they had their fill and were anxious to be on the move again.

According to the Garmin, which Will highly doubted, there were still two hundred and sixty-seven miles to go. Barring any unforeseen misfortunes, they planned to arrive at Liz’s by six o’clock, seven at the latest. With an end to their travels in sight, and the enticement of sleeping in the same bed for more than one night, Will kept any complaints about travelling so long to himself. Liz could see that he was on his best behavior and greatly appreciated the effort he was making for her sake.

As they passed through different cities, Liz would tell Will any anecdotes she knew. Will learned that the town of Schenectady’s name was a derivative of a Mohawk word for ‘place behind the pine plains’. It was surprising to find out that Albany was not only the capital of New York, but also the longest continuously charted city in the United States. Chicopee was home to Duryea Motor Wagon Company and had the distinction of producing the first commercially built automobile. Will had actually known that, but what he didn’t know was that Charles Duryea and his brother Frank were originally in the bicycle business, much like those other American innovators, Orville and Wilbur Wright. 

Will, still in awe, asked, “How do you remember all of that?”

She tried to think of a plausible explanation, but knew being truthful was for the best. “Honestly, I have no idea. I wish I could say that it was a skill I honed or worked diligently to achieve, but it’s not. I just remember things… always have. Everyone can though… I’m not so special. It’s just a matter of what kinds of things you choose to recall. If I as you what was the first business transaction you conducted at Pemberley, I bet you’d remember.”

Will smiled as he recalled his first deal. “I do remember. I brokered a buyout of a steel mill and managed to keep the job redundancies to a minimum. Only three people were sacked, and they were all upper-management.”

“I bet you recall lots of details. There were others there, right?”

“Yes, our attorneys as well as theirs, their CFO was there too. He’s the one that signed the papers… his name was Baxter, I believe.”

“And how long ago was this?”

“I was still in school. This was between Cambridge and Oxford, so that puts this about ten years ago.”

“And what was Mr. Baxter wearing?”

He couldn’t believe she was asking such a random question. “What?”

“You heard me. What was Mr. Baxter wearing that day? You will remember it if you just take a moment to close your eyes and picture meeting him, and then maybe you had coffee or something while you made small talk. I’m sure you can tell me if he was wearing a pin-stripe suit with a red power tie or if he wore navy blue. Just try.”

It seemed ridiculous, but he would give it a go, for Liz. Will closed his eyes and thought back to that day. He had felt excited, yet queasy about having so many people’s lives in his hands. Then it hit him. He recalled every detail about that day. “Baxter was wearing tweed, actually. He looked absurd because his jacket hung on him and he looked more like a scarecrow than a CFO. I remember wondering if he’d borrowed it, as it fit so ill. He didn’t wear any tie at all.”

Liz rewarded him with a warm smile. “See? If something is important to you, or even memorable for some reason, you can usually recall the details, even years later. It’s just that what Mr. Baxter was wearing doesn’t make its way into casual conversation the way like knowing a bit of trivia about a town. Now, should we ever see this guy somewhere, you can impress everyone with what you remember then and I bet he’d just about die of surprise that you noticed such details.”

It astounded Will how just a little bit of praise and encouragement from Liz made him feel like he could do anything. “You constantly amaze me, do you know that?”

“How so?”

“The way you believe in me. No one else has ever done that like you do. There were some who would encourage me well enough, but it was always because they had some other reason behind it. Side by side with you, I don’t imagine there’s anything we couldn’t accomplish.”

“We do make a really good team, don’t we?”

“I certainly think so.”

Traffic was much heavier as they made their way closer to Boston.

Patience never being his strong suit, Will asked, “How much further, Love?”

Liz was growing anxious to be home as well and said, “Unless there’s some cataclysmic accident ahead, it shouldn’t be much more than an hour.”

Will began to ask her about her life at school and she told him of her classes and research projects. He greatly admired how she’d had the determination to continue on with her education. While Will had done quite well for himself in school, he had never been especially passionate about it like Liz seemed to be. To him, attending was only a means to an end. Liz was completely engrossed in detailing her thesis and Will found her enthusiasm contagious. He imagined that anything his Elisabeth set her mind to was certain to be a success if sheer passion and drive could make it so.

It wasn’t very long before they arrived at Elisabeth’s Back Bay area building. She informed the garage attendant that she would return her rental car in the morning and once the license plate had been written down, they proceeded to Liz’s assigned spaces.

Will noted the green Ford Escape she parked next to and asked, “Is this yours?”

“It is. Why?”

“Oh, no reason really. It just seems to be so you.”

“Thank you, I think. People around here drive like maniacs, so as much as I would like something smaller, I’d prefer to be safe. It’s a hybrid and gets decent gas mileage and all that too. Why? What do you drive?”

“I don’t really drive much in London. To be honest, I just climb into whatever car has been sent for me. At home though, I do have a 1952 Jaguar C-Type that I love.”

Liz wasn’t familiar with that model, but she could still imagine Will tearing down a country road in a classic car. “Convertible?”

When Will answered, “Of course,” she was able to complete her mental picture.

Opening up the trunk of the rental car, Liz said, “I’ll help you with your stuff. Most of mine can wait till the morning, since obviously I have plenty of clothes upstairs.”

 “That’s utter nonsense,” Will said. He pulled up the handle on Liz’s Pullman and began to stack some of the bags together. “We’ll get it all tonight, even if I must make a second trip to do so.”

Realizing it would be fruitless to argue, Liz gave up. “Alright, if you insist.”

He nodded. “I do. Now, where are we going?”

Waving him to follow, Liz called over her shoulder to Will, “Follow me, Sweetheart.”

Will grinned and answered, “Anywhere.”

They walked through the building lobby and Liz introduced the doorman to Will. “Guillermo, this is my fiancé. William Darcy, meet Guillermo Kelly, doorman extraordinaire. Will is going to be staying with me for a little while, probably for at least a few weeks before he goes back to London. Please make a note in the tenant log so there’s no trouble.”

“Sure thing Ms. Gardiner,” the burly man said as he gave Will a look of warning. “It’s my solemn duty to make sure there’s no trouble,” Guillermo pointedly said, “from anybody.”

Will grew uncomfortable under such scrutiny. He had a fleeting thought that this man could give Mr. Bennet lessons in intimidating stares.

Liz grinned and just before she gave the much older man a kiss on the cheek, she said, “You always do!”

The kiss Liz bestowed upon the doorman had instantly changed his entire demeanor. The man who appeared only a minute before to be menacing, now appeared grandfatherly. With a toothy smile he asked, “Ms. Gardiner, you sure this one’s alright? There’s bound to be some nice American boy for you rather than some crumpet-eater. I’m just sayin’.”

Will closed his eyes and silently counted down from ten.

Liz noted the end of her fiancé’s patience. “You know what Guillermo? I’m not even sure what a crumpet is, but I’ll bet it’s a delicious treat. Incidentally, tomorrow there will be another visitor coming to stay with us as well and I know that you’ll treat Mr. Reynolds with the same level of respect that you show all of the buildings guests, right?”

Guillermo noted his gentle chastisement and realized he needed to back off. “I hear a crumpet is an acquired taste, but then, lots of the really good things in life are like that, aren’t they?” With a touch of his hat, he nodded to Will and said, “It would be my pleasure to serve you during your stay with us Mr. Darcy. And if I may be so bold, I’d like to point out that with this little lady here as your fiancée, you are one lucky man! Just be sure to take good care of my girl here, she deserves someone special, she deserves the very best.”

Will nodded and was just about to say something when Liz spoke, “Thank you Guillermo. We’re going to head up now, but I assume we’ll see you tomorrow?”

With a shake of his head, Guillermo replied, “Not tomorrow, I’m havin’ lunch with McKenna.”

“In that case, please tell your daughter I said hello and I guess we’ll see you on Thursday.”

“You bet you will Ms. Gardiner.” Guillermo touched the brim of his hat and nodded to Will. “Good evening to you, Mr. Darcy.”

Will finally smiled. He sensed that this man was protective of Liz in the way that a father should be. It pleased him that at least one person in her life cared for her like she deserved without playing games. “Thank you, Guillermo. You have a good night as well.”

“Of course I will! I’ve got the best job in town. I work in this beautiful building, I get to take care of terrific people like Ms. Gardiner and these people actually pay me for it, like it’s some sorta hardship to do this!”

Liz laughed. “Don’t give too much credit to what he’s saying Will. Guillermo seems to have developed amnesia.”

Will was curious and about to inquire what she meant, but the doorman spoke first. “No such thing! I’m still fit as a fiddle,” he lightly rapped his knuckles against his skull, “and my mind is as sound as it ever was. Though that may not be sayin’ too much, if’n ya know what I mean.”

Listening to Guillermo and Liz’s small talk, Will’s thoughts began to wander. I’m so tired… are we ever going upstairs or is this man determined to natter on all evening? Bloody hell… he’s not even enunciating half of the letters! I thought Liz had been exaggerating the other day! I wonder if people have trouble understanding my speech? No, that’s impossible… I have many faults but speaking unintelligibly isn’t one of them. In his distraction, Will took in some of the details of the lobby. I like the architecture in here. The furnishings match well too. Seems a secure enough building… doorman, security, concierge… now if only we could wrap this up and head upstairs!

Will was about to begin counting the number of lights in the hanging chandeliers when Liz gently elbowed him. “Well Guillermo, I hope your lunch with McKenna brings the news you’re hoping for!”

“That makes two of us, Ms. Gardiner.” Turning to address Will, he continued, “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, sir. I trust that Ms. Gardiner here will show you around and make your stay here in Boston plenty memorable. If there’s anything that you find you need while staying here, please don’t hesitate to call down to us here or to the concierge and we’ll get you squared away Mr. Darcy.”

Will had only ever exchanged ‘good days’ and ‘good evenings’ with his own doorman and so was at a momentary loss for what to say. After an awkward pause, he extended his hand- which Guillermo took with uncertainty- and said, “Thank you, I’m sure my visit will be lovely. I’ll be certain to ring if I need anything. Have a good night.”

Liz smiled to herself at the picture before her. It was obvious that Will had been uncomfortable, but he had made an effort despite his natural reticence. “Good night Guillermo, have a good day off.”

Once they were alone in the elevator, Will couldn’t help himself. “So how many men besides me do you have wrapped around your finger?”

She looked at him to see if he was joking, but his tone had been even and his face was inscrutable. She wrinkled her brow and said, “I have no idea what you mean by that.”

Will flashed her a smile. “Of course you don’t. You have this way about you that seems to make people want to go out of their way and do nice things for you. Your doorman is just another in an endless parade of your minions. If you ever decided to take over the world, your legion of followers would certainly come in handy.”

Liz hadn’t expected that. Crossing her arms, she struck a defensive pose. “You are exaggerating, I’m sure.”

He took a cautious step towards her. “I don’t believe I am.”

Liz leaned back against the rail of the elevator car. “But… minions?”

Will took another step. “Definitely minions. Minions call up images of shrunken little men with warts, humps and gimpy legs saying ‘Yes Master’. Making your followers into minions is the only way I can keep from becoming completely jealous of all those other men who would willingly do your bidding.”

Liz giggled. “That’s awful! Did you really have to give them warts?”

Will took one final step and pulled her into his arms. “Absolutely! I’d have done worse, but they are devoted to you and so I took pity on them.”

She shook her head before laying it on his chest. “So, since you included yourself in those wrapped around my finger, does that make you one of my minions as well?”

He gave her a slight squeeze and kissed the top of her head. “I suppose it does. In fact, I believe that as far as the hierarchy of subservient beings goes, that would make me your head minion.”

“Really? Despite your lack of warts, bum leg and no hump?”

That made Will chuckle. “Are you going to hold my rugged good looks against me? How very unfair of you.”

Liz was about to defend herself when the elevator stopped at her floor. “Lucky for you, Mr. Darcy, that you were saved by the bell. Come on and follow me.”

Will smiled. “I thought we’d already established that I’d follow you anywhere. After all, isn’t that what a minion is for?”

She laughed and said, “Flatterer!”

They shuffled everything down the hall until they reached Liz’s door. Will leaned against the wall and sighed, “Thank God. I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever actually get here.”

Liz was digging through her purse. “Well then, cross your fingers and hope I can find my keys.”

Once Liz had fished out her keys and opened her door, she let out a sigh of relief. “Home, sweet home, at last! Welcome, Will, to my humble abode.”

Will was only a step behind her and had the advantage of height. It was readily apparent that while Liz’s home was tasteful, it could hardly be called humble. “Nice place you have here.”

“I like it. It’s a little bigger than what I need, but when I saw it, I fell in love with it.” She grabbed his hand and led him through the living room to the balcony. She opened the doorwall and stepped out onto the balcony, breathing deep to let the crisp winter air fill her lungs. “See? That’s the St. Charles River… and there’s the Esplanade… and across the river- that’s my school… isn’t it beautiful?”

He put his arm around her as he leaned on the railing. “Yes it is,” Will admitted. “Liz, by any chance is Cheers nearby?”

She let out a laugh. “Cheers? Really? I didn’t expect you to be a tourist-trap sort of guy.”

Will stood up straight and struck a defensive pose. “I’m not. Just curious.”

Liz was amused. “Well… since you’re so curious… the Bull and Finch is about three blocks from here towards the Common. If you really wish to go, we’ll go. Just don’t expect Woody or Sam to be there.”

“I know that.”

“Good. Did you also know that the bar doesn’t look anything like you imagine it will? Most people just get their picture taken and then leave. We can do that and then I’ll take you somewhere not so touristy.”

“But Love, you forget, I am a tourist.”  

“You’ve got me there.”

Liz was beginning to feel the cold and was mindful that Will still needed to limit his exposure to the elements. They headed back inside and she hung their coats in the hall closet and she began giving him a tour.

“So, obviously, this is the entry hall and you’ve seen the living room and balcony.  This,” she opened the door on the far side of the entry, “is where my office and spare bedroom is.” They headed right and entered a square room furnished with a large desk sitting dead in the center of the room. The room was very Spartan in its appearance and the shades of green and tan made Will feel right at home. “This is my workspace. Because there are a ridiculous amount of closets in here, I never really felt a need to add any other furniture in here.” Liz opened a few doors which hid neat shelves of books, CDs, DVDs and tidy boxes all labeled clearly. “I think your man ought to be able to work in here easily enough… if you need more room, we could set you both up downstairs.”

“Downstairs?”

“Yeah, I never really go down there… but now that I think of it, that might work out better because there’s a kitchenette right there in case you guys need to fuel up with caffeine and such.”

“I’m certain we’ll be able to manage adequately Liz. What have you to show me next?”

“A loo. Well, two loos really. This one is,” she flicked on a light, “for general usage.”

He nodded and then opened another door. “This is the spare bedroom. Do you think Reynolds will be okay in here?”

The room, and the private en-suite bath, sported white wainscoting and were done in various shades of deep blue with occasional accents of burgundy. “I think this will be a marvelous place for Reynolds to stay.”

“By the way, what is Reynolds first name anyways? If I’m having the man come and stay in my home, I’d like to know.”

He thought for a moment before answering. “I believe its Henry.”

Believe? Then you’re not certain? Just how long has he worked for you?”

“No, I’m pretty certain it’s Henry and he’s been with the company just as long as I have. He started there the summer I went to Paris for the company.”

Hearing him speak of Paris reminded Liz of other things and so she let the matter drop. “So then, if you think that Henry will do okay in here, then let’s move on to the kitchen and dining room. Follow me.”

He followed her back down the hall until they arrived in the dining room. There was a long table with chairs for ten, all perfectly in place as though in a showroom.

“I can’t recall the last time someone actually ate in here. Wait! Yes I can. I had Christmas here four years ago. Come with me.” They walked into the long galley kitchen. She stopped at a set of high-backed stools tucked under the counter. “This is where I usually eat. It’s just easier.”

“I understand. Unless Georgie is with me, when I’m in London I just usually eat take-away at my desk or in front of the telly.”

Liz imagined Will sitting in a tee and boxers eating cold Chinese right out of the carton. “Well, hopefully neither of us will have to eat lonely meals for one for too much longer.”

Will chuckled and put his arms around her. “I should say not! In fact, I think that having you around helps increase my appetite.”

She pretended to not understand him and squirmed out of his embrace. “Is that so? I suppose I did notice you do have a voracious appetite… are you hungry now?” Liz opened a cabinet and got down a box of Kudos. “I can get you a granola bar.”

“Elizabeth!” groaned Will.

Liz exchanged one box for another and innocently asked, “Pop Tart?”

“Pop Tart? Pop Tart? Alright then, that’s the last straw! No,” Will picked Liz up and put her over his shoulder, “I do not want a Pop Tart, nor a granola bar,” he started heading back down the hall, pausing for a moment at the entryway before heading towards the left, “or anything else you might have stocked away in your kitchen. What I’m hungry for, what I have an insatiable appetite for, is you!”

Liz was amazed at herself. Instead of being offended by Will’s caveman-like behavior and demanding to be put down, she found it to be heady and intoxicating being carried off like that. And here I always believed myself to be for women’s rights… well, in this case I suppose I’m for the all for the right to be loved!

She managed to stop giggling enough to direct Will to her bedroom. Will found the light switch and turned on the lights.

“Now what?” Liz, still draped over Will’s shoulder, asked.

He set her down gently on the bed and, in a demonstration of just how hungry he was, kissed her and said, “Now this.”  Then both Liz and Will proceeded to feast until they were both very satisfied.

*Chapter Fifty-Seven*

 

It was around nine o’clock when Liz was awoken by a most peculiar sound. Will’s stomach was growling loud enough to be heard over his even louder snoring.

They were comfortably spooned in bed together, with Liz cradled in Will’s arms. She gently poked him with her elbow and said, “Sweetheart? Wake up.”

He tightened his hold on her and mumbled into her shoulder, “No.”

Liz poked him again and said with a bit more force, “William, wake up! You’re hungry and we should probably get something to eat.”

Refusing to cooperate, Will plainly stated, “Not hungry, not getting out of bed, not going anywhere. Go back to sleep, Elizabeth.”

Liz sighed and then pried herself out of Will’s arms. “Fine then, you can stay here if you like, but I’m getting up to grab something and check my sugar.”

It was only his concern for her that finally broke through his sleepy haze. “Why didn’t you say so? Just give me a minute or two and then we can go. I’m so sorry that I didn’t realize it was about that time.”

As she picked up the clothes which had been earlier strewn everywhere, she sorted them into his and hers piles. “Will, its fine… I’m fine. It’s just that you’re obviously pretty hungry and it’s been a long time since lunch and I really do need to check my sugar.”

Will grabbed his shirt and tugged it on. “What makes you say that I’m hungry? I’m fine.”

Liz tossed him his boxers. “You woke me up.”

“I beg to differ. I believe you’re the one who was jabbing me with a rather pointy elbow. Disturbed a rather wonderful dream too, I might add.”

 Liz conceded. “Very well, I did elbow you, but that was only after you woke me with your rumbling tummy. Crud monkey, you are just about the noisiest person there ever was to sleep with!”

Standing to put his jeans on, Will exclaimed, “Excuse me?”

“Oh, for the love of Pete! I come from a large-ish family, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I’ve bunked in with more than my fair share of sleep-talkers, snorers and other weird noise-makers, but you, my dear William, you are the loudest of them all! I was pretty certain nothing could ever be louder than when you snore, but you proved me wrong! Your stomach was growling so loudly, that I swear it vibrated the bed!”

He pushed down on the bed with both hands, considered what she’d said and grinned. “Hmm… vibrating bed you say?”

She threw one of the bolster pillows at him. “William! Be serious!”

Liz missed her target when Will ducked. She let out a groan of frustration.

Will rubbed his beard. “Me?” he questioned, “Have you ever known me to not be serious?”

Thinking back carefully, she had to admit he was unusually forthright. “I suppose not.”

“I,” he said innocently, “was just repeating what you said so I could be certain I understood you. You’re the one bringing up vibrating beds, not me!”

She crossed her arms and said, “Humph.”

Will laughed. “Did you actually just say the word humph?”

“Yes. I said humph! What’s wrong with the word humph?”

“You mean aside from the fact that you’re not one-hundred and twelve?”

“Yes, aside from that.”

“No one actually says the word humph!”

Liz sat down in the oversized black leather chair by the window. “I just did.”

Will took up a seat on the nearby ottoman. He decided the distance between them was too great, and so he dragged the hulking, over-stuffed square until it was directly in front of Liz. Will reached out his hand, Liz only hesitated a moment before she met his hand with her own. He turned their clasped hands over and her ring sparkled, a gentle, tangible reminder of their love. Feeling pretty silly, Will asked, “Why are we arguing?”

“We weren’t arguing. You were simply refusing to believe the truth.”

Will considered what she said. Georgie had once accused him of snoring, but he had just assumed she was teasing him in that way a younger sibling might. No one else had ever informed him of this flaw. “Hmm. Do I really snore so very loudly?”

“Yes, you really do. It’s actually a bit scary, Will. I have to kick or poke you to get you to stop. Sometimes I worry that you’ll stop breathing.”

“Is that why my shins have been sore each morning?”

Liz sheepishly apologized, “Sorry.”

“No, don’t ever apologize for looking out for my welfare. I’ve never had someone care for me so much. I think this is something that I will grow to like very much. Even if it means my shins should become permanently bruised.”

Perhaps it was a mistake to tease him so much. At this rate, he may forget how to be serious altogether! “Will?”

He saw the gleam in her eye, and knew all was forgiven. “Yes, Love?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Liz became very grateful that the kind woman at Jordan’s Furniture had talked her into the larger chair, for she and Will were now both quite cozy upon it. They were now snuggled together, Liz on Will’s lap, with her head leaned back against his collarbone. Will had not noticed much about the room before in his haste to be with Liz, but he took a moment to view the space which served as her sanctuary.

The sizable room had hardwood floors done with a light ash-grey finish. The white wainscoting ran halfway up the wall where it met midnight-black paint. Large white-framed and matted Ansel Adams prints kept the room from feeling overwhelmed by the inky color. Liz’s queen-sized sleigh bed was black, as well as the matching night stands and entertainment center. The black satin sheets were covered by a black and white plaid duvet set. Will was very pleased by what he saw.

After dwelling on how much he liked her taste, he said, “I like your room.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I must admit I do, very much so. While I couldn’t imagine your bedroom would be awash in fripperies or the like, I hadn’t expected it be quite like this.”

Will felt Liz chuckle, as she was still reclined against his chest. “You, sir, are very lucky that I understand that you don’t actually mean to give such off-handed compliments. I will happily overlook the implication that I might not have good taste and I will choose instead to focus on that you at least understood my character enough to know that I wouldn’t live in a flowery-pink nightmare.”

He sighed deeply as he understood just how inarticulate he could be. “Love, I am so sorry. I solemnly promise you that at some point I will learn to think through my thoughts before I speak them. See? This is what happens when I don’t ordinate my thoughts… Indulge me for a moment, and I shall endeavor to start over.”

“Will, that’s not really necessary…”

“Yes, I believe it is. First, you must allow me to tell you that I love you. That said, secondly, I will tell you how much I like it here. Your home is impeccable and decorated with exceptionally good taste. This bodes well, I think, as I cannot imagine changing a thing. And I hope that when you see my own, soon to be our, home that you feel as comfortable in the surroundings there as I do here. Third, I would like to restate the first point, that I love you and furthermore, I am very glad to be here now, with you.” He had punctuated each point with kisses along her neck.

“Mmm. If every time you put your foot in your mouth you apologize so sweetly, then I’ll promise to forgive you with all due expediency.”

He kissed her again. “You are too easy on me.”

She turned her head to kiss his scruffy cheek. “Probably. But this, as wonderful as it is, is not getting me or you fed any faster.” His stomach growled in response, which made Liz laugh. “See? Your tummy is positively vibrating!”

Knowing further arguments would be fruitless, especially since Liz was right, he grinned and threw up his hands in surrender. “You win. Now, let’s see what we can forage in your kitchen, shall we?”

“Unless you have a strong desire for some expired yogurt and granola, I fear that we’ll have to brave the elements and head out for a bite. I was working so much before I headed out last week, that there was no food in the house, and since I was leaving, it didn’t make much sense to stock up before I left. We’ll shop tomorrow, but for now, what might you like?”

“Elisabeth, I believe we’ve well-established what I like.” She poked him in the ribs, causing him to cough before he continued, “However, since one cannot live by love alone, I suppose we can grab whatever’s convenient.”

“Alright then, I know just the place!”

They readied themselves and headed out into the cold, winter night. Will was very glad that Liz convinced him to purchase warmer clothes.

“I had no idea it could be so bitter here,” Will remarked as he pulled his hat down further over his ears.

“The wind really is something tonight. We’re not going much further, I promise.”

Then he saw it. They had walked the two blocks over to the Bull & Finch after all.

“I thought you didn’t want to come here?” Will questioned.

“It’s not my favorite place, but its close and they serve decent enough food. And I know how much you wanted to see this place.”

Will and Liz descended down the stairs and into the bar. The blast of hot air that met them when they entered was very welcome. They took a table near the bar and Liz was amused by how excited Will was.

“I still can’t believe we’re here!”

“But it looks nothing like it did on TV.”

It mattered not to Will. “I don’t care. This menu is hilarious!”

Liz grinned. “I wonder what people would say if they only knew.”

“Knew what?”

“William Darcy, zillionaire and CEO, is just your average dork like the rest of us.”

Will wrinkled his brow. “I’d like to think I’m at least a bit above average.”

They laughed and carried on until their orders were taken. Will had a very good Irish stew, while Liz had some fish and chips. They ate dinner together as though they had been together forever. Liz was struck with a feeling of having been in this moment before.

Liz set her fork down and, seemingly out of the blue, asked, “Have you ever had déjà vu?”

He looked at her curiously. “No, I don’t believe so.”

“I think I just had one.” She tried to explain, since he didn’t seem to understand. “I get the feeling that we’ve done this before. I know that’s impossible, and that it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s such a strong feeling that I can’t ignore it. It’s like this, this moment with me and you, here in this place- which is somewhere I don’t even usually go, is meant to be, like I’ve seen it, or dreamed it before.”

Will was thoughtful for a moment before saying, “So, does that make me your dream man?”

Liz laughed. “Yeah, I suppose it does.”

That made him grin. “I’m very glad of it.”

They declined dessert, as it was getting late, and asked for the bill. While Liz waited to settle the bill, Will looked at souvenirs. Will was a good sport and bore up well under Liz’s teasing for having bought nearly one of everything.

“Good grief! What would happen if I actually took you somewhere like Disney World?”

“What can I say? I suppose I’m just a kid at heart.”

His boyish tone reminded her that so much of his young life had been forfeited in sacrifice for others. Liz could not tease him for finding joy in tokens that reminded him of happier times.

“I love that about you. Are you ready to go home?”

“Lead the way, Love, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”

Once they arrived back at Liz’s and stowed away Will’s new treasures, she finished giving him the tour of her home. They decided to settle in downstairs and watch a movie. Cuddling together on the sectional sofa, they flipped channels until an old black and white movie caught Liz’s attention.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is on!”

The on-screen display informed Will what the movie was, so he had no need to ask. “Quite a coincidence, isn’t it?”

Destination Tokyo was playing as the late-night movie.

After watching the appendectomy scene, Will pointed to the screen and teased Liz. “I thought you said Clark Gable was in this. That’s clearly not Clark Gable, that’s Cary Grant!”

Liz shrugged. “Oh please, give me a break! I never said I was perfect. I’m definitely not infallible. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even you.”

With a straight face, Will managed to answer, “Me? No, I do not make mistakes. Occasionally I take the long way round to the proper conclusion… but mistakes? Nope. Not I.”

“You, Sweetheart, are a very aggravating man. Have I told you that recently?”

“No, Love, you’ve not yet specifically called me aggravating, but I believe you’ve well made your point.”

“Good. Remember that. I think I’m going to call it a night. What time was your assistant due in?”

Will had to think about it before he recalled the time. “Reynolds should arrive about eleven.”

“Okay. Plenty of time in the morning to go to the store. Then we’ll head to Logan, get Henry, then take him to lunch and after we get him and you settled in here, I think I’ll head in to school for a few hours.”

“Is Logan far from here?”

She shook her head. “No, not at all. We’ll be there in plenty of time to get your guy.”

“I’m sure we will. Even with our luck, I don’t suppose there’s much that can go wrong in such a short distance.”

Even with our luck?” Liz repeated. “While not everything has gone as smoothly as one might’ve wished, I count myself a very lucky woman! Had we not had such a crazy series of events to live through, we probably wouldn’t be here now.”

Will frowned. “That’s a horrible notion. I don’t like that at all. I think that we would have met somehow or other, no matter what.”

While Liz like the idea of destiny, she wasn’t entirely certain of it as a reality. “I hope so.”

Will kissed her cheek and said confidently, “I know so. You were meant for me, as I was meant for you. It’s perfect, really, when you think about it.”

Her heart warmed with his absolute certainty that they were destined to be together. If one could have choose to have faith, was it really so different to believe in destiny? “Perfect, huh? Do you know what would be perfect right now?”

“I might, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.”

“Let’s head upstairs and go to bed.”

Will “That is my idea of perfection. And what’s more, it proves that great minds truly do think alike.”

Without another word, Elisabeth Gardiner and William Darcy retired for the evening hand in hand.

*Chapter Fifty-Eight*

 

William Darcy woke up alone.

There was nothing unusual about this. He had awoken alone for better than ninety-nine percent of his lifetime.

Except that he was now engaged and had thought that his lonely mornings would have ended with said engagement. Hoping that Liz had gone no further than the bathroom to check her sugar, he called out to her. “Elisabeth? Are you here?”

There was no answer.

His state of undress, coupled with the chill in the air and not knowing where his clothes had landed the night before, made getting out of bed very unappealing. Damn, where is she? I wonder what time it is. A glance at the alarm clock on the far nightstand informed him it was nine o’clock am.  Bollocks! How the hell did I sleep in so long? Even before he finished his thought, Will knew the answer and he smiled at the memory. Wait though, that explains why I slept in, but where’s Liz? She should still be tired too, shouldn’t she? Since I’m not going to get any answers by lying here, I guess there’s nothing for it but to get up.

Pulling the sheet over his shoulders like a cape, he gathered up his boxers and grabbed his t-shirt from off the floor. He peeked out the window and saw a fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight. No wonder it’s so frigid! Will threw the sheet back on the bed and headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth before searching for Liz. No need to frighten her with your horrid morning breath. Will ran his hand through his hair and studied his beard. He’d never before gone more than twenty-four hours without shaving before, and now he’d gone an entire five days. I suppose it doesn’t look so terrible, and Liz has said that she actually likes it. Looks like my face is gets a holiday, too. Will chuckled to himself, thinking what a coup it would be for some paparazzi to snap a picture of him looking like quite the rogue. I can see the headlines now- ‘Darcy’s a lumberjack, and he’s OK’. Then again, maybe not.

 Feeling more awake, he went in search of Liz. She wasn’t in her office, the kitchen, living room or anywhere downstairs. Will headed back to the bedroom, hoping he’d be able to reach her by mobile. Searching for his jeans on the floor, he found them, but not the mobile. Will used landline phone on one of the nightstands to call his number and then hunted down his errant phone. He retrieved it from underneath Liz’s side of the bed and sat down; thus causing a loud crinkling noise that couldn’t have been made by the covers.

Liz had left him a note.

He smiled as he studied her handwriting. It amused him that she wrote only slightly more legible than Chip did. Will slid into his jeans and then made himself comfortable in her chair as he sat down to read her brief letter.

My dearest William,

I tried, Sweetheart, really I did, to wake you up this morning, but you were having none of it! You really are a bear in the morning, did you know that? I ran out to the store, but I shouldn’t be gone long. I’m only picking up a few things for breakfast and for dinner tonight. I’ve decided to cook for you and Henry tonight. Now, if you want to get an idea of how rare an occurrence my stepping in the kitchen to use more than the microwave is, call JJ and Bil and they’ll no doubt laugh outright at the very notion! Rest assured, however, that there are at least a week’s worth of dinner-type meals that even I can pull off semi-credibly.

I’m picking up some sausage, eggs, bacon, cereal, yogurt and fruit for breakfast for the next few days. I did start some coffee before I left, so go on and help yourself! If there’s anything you can think of that you’d like, just give me a call!

I love that you are sleeping soundly in my bed. Have I mentioned that I love waking up next to you? Even more importantly, I love you!

See you soon, or more likely, I’ll come home and find you still asleep and this note will have been a waste of time. Either way, I’ll take this as another opportunity to say that I love you!

Love, Liz

Will quickly dialed Liz’s number. She picked up after only one ring and answered in a very chipper voice, “Good morning, Sweetheart! I trust you slept well?”

His unease at being left alone vanished upon hearing her cheery tone. “It would seem so. I don’t believe I am usually so difficult in the morning, am I?”

“No, but then again, we didn’t have anywhere special we needed to be this morning, and we did promise Dr. Knightley that you would get plenty of rest.”

“That we did. Among other things.”

“I think we’ve made good on our promise about keeping you well-exercised, don’t you?”

“Yes,” admitted Will. “How much longer until you come home?”

“I’m unpacking groceries in the kitchen now.”

“Why didn’t you say… Never mind! I’ll be right there.” He jammed his mobile in his pocket and ran to the kitchen.

Liz was bent over, putting some fruit in one of the lower bins of the refrigerator when Will snuck up to position himself where she couldn’t see him.

He took a moment to admire her from behind. “Ah, now this is a view that I never tire of.”

 Liz spun around, clutching her hand to her chest. “William! Don’t scare me like that!”

“Sorry, Love. The last thing in the world I would wish to do is frighten you.”

Liz shut the fridge and leaned against it. “I know that.”

Will smiled. “I should hope so. Now, what can I do to help? I’d have happily gone along, had you woken me.”

She laughed. “Oh, believe me, I tried.”

“You can’t have. At least, not very hard.”

“Oh, yes I did. You just have to trust me. You must have been very tired and exhausted… because, ah, you weren’t getting up for anything this morning.”

“What?” he said reflexively, before he even considered what she’d said. A moment later, he understood. “No! You don’t mean… there’s no way… you tried to…”

Liz blushed. “Arouse you from your slumber? Yes.”

“Oh God, Liz, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

He had learned that when Liz was nervous, uncertain of what to say, or even embarrassed, she would speak using her hands to distract from her discomposure. Her hands were flailing about greatly now. “You don’t have to say anything. Just trust me next time when I say that you weren’t getting up no matter what. I mean, it’s not your fault, it’s just that…”

Will reached out and, in an attempt to still them, took both of her hands in his own. When she had stopped chattering, he pulled her into his arms and held on to her tightly, knowing he’d been blessed with, perhaps, the most patient and understanding woman in the world. “I don’t know how you do it, Liz,” he whispered as he kissed the top of her head. “How do you put up with me?”

She squeezed him, answering, “I suppose it’s because your tender goodness outweighs your clueless badness.”

That made him chuckle. “So long as you understand that I truly am clueless when I say or do stupid things. I never mean to do so. I wouldn’t hurt you for the world. ”

“I know that, really I do. You don’t have a malicious bone in your body.” She wriggled out of his arms and turned to the boxes on the counter. Liz grabbed a box and hid it behind her back. She gave him a saucy smile and teased, “Besides,” she tossed the box at him, “I’m looking forward to seeing how you’re going to make this up to me!”

Will had somehow managed to catch the package and was now able to really look at what he held in his hands. He grinned at her. “Forty?”

She shook her head. “Nope. I wanted to make sure we’d not run out again.” Liz held up a second Lifestyles box. “Eighty.”

He laughed, “I promise you have my undivided attention, Love. How much time do we have before we need to leave?”

Liz looked at the clock. “Not enough.”

He stroked her arm. “I wager there is.”

“Mmm.” He was now rubbing her shoulders, and while she was very tempted to give in, she knew they shouldn’t. “There’s probably not. And anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

“Are you saying that you doubt my abilities, Elisabeth? Because I can prove to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can be both thorough and efficient.”

Efficient lovemaking?” Liz giggled. “Just what every girl dreams about!”

“Elisabeth! You bloody well know what exactly I meant. Now, while we still can, shall we take a few minutes and enjoy our privacy while we still have it?”

She gave him a teasing grin, “I still don’t think there’s enough time.”

Will’s eyes narrowed and he looked at her pointedly. “That sounds remarkably like a challenge.”

Liz tried to look innocent, but she started to laugh and said, “Take it however you will,” just before she ran down the hall to her room.

He watched her run, appreciating how she nimbly moved with a grace he had never possessed. Will searched through a few cabinets until he found the glasses. He took two down, poured some water and, box tucked neatly under his arm, carried them down to her room.

Ten minutes later, Liz, still panting and breathing hard, had gulped down both glasses of water and was still thirsty. She turned to see Will, both hands resting behind his head, with the very smuggest of smug smiles upon his face. When he caught her glaring at him, Will asked, “What? What did I do now?”

She smacked his arm. “You were right, thorough and efficient… but, Will, how are you not worn out?  ”

He pulled beside him so her head was nestled in the crook of his shoulder. “I had an excellent night’s sleep and feel well-rested for the first time in days. You see, my fiancée is quite the insatiable woman and she’s been keeping me up late every night as her sex slave. I’ve only just this morning been able to replenish my energy stores.”

Liz kissed his scruffy cheek. “You’re totally ridiculous. Sex slave… bah! Who was insatiable last night? Oh, that’s right… that was you!”

He gently ticked her side. “I think we must share equal blame, Love, for I remember someone, not me mind you, saying ‘Oh please Will, one more time!’”

“Not fair!” Liz protested. “You cannot hold me accountable for things said in the throes of passion.”

“Very well then,” Will conceded. “How are we fixed for time?”

“Just enough to clean up and make it to Logan. If we take separate showers, that is.”

Will nudged her leg with his knee. “You know, it’s likely that with all the extra baggage Reynolds is bringing, he’ll be held up by security and customs.”

“All the more reason for us to be there for him when he’s released! The poor man will probably have his nerves shot by the time he’s through.”

He lightly ran his hand over her ribs. “So I cannot convince you to share my shower then?”

“William! No, I need a few minutes in the shower on my own, thank you. It would be awfully hard to shave with you in there distracting me as I’m sure you would.”

“I would, so I guess this time you’d best go on your own.”

Liz pretended offense. “Oh? May I? How exceedingly generous of you, sir. But really Will, give me five and then it’s all yours. Unless, of course, you want to head over to the guest bathroom.”

“Thank you, but I’ll wait. No sense in making the other loo untidy just before Reynolds gets here.”

She appreciated that and gathered up the clean clothes she was going to wear and headed for the master bath. Liz showered quickly, cleaned up and dried her hair while Will then took his. They were out the door in less than twenty minutes and on the way to Boston Logan International Airport.

Liz’s Escape was neat inside just as he’d imagined it would be. His own vehicles were always immaculate, but he knew not everyone was as fastidious as he. His cousin John’s estate wagon was a rolling nursery school, with crayons, toys and leftover bits of food and crumbs everywhere. Georgie’s roadster was always a mess, clothes in the backseat, books, folders and take-away bags in the front. He was pleased that Liz was neat and orderly. Every new aspect, each new piece of information he gleaned about her only seemed to reinforce his opinion that they would be very happy together.

Will was following her as she drove the Chrysler to the rental return at the airport. He smiled as he realized that he really would follow her anywhere, so long as they could be together. You really have got it bad! Alone in the car, he had too much time on his hands for inward contemplation. I was so damned lonely this morning. I’m never lonely!  Even though it had really only been for a few minutes that he was aware of, he was uncomfortable with how it made him feel. My God, what has she done to you?

Twenty minutes later, they’d turned into the King rental return lot. Will parked and waited as she settled the account. A porter verified that all was in good order and Will looked on in awe as Liz added yet another poor unsuspecting soul into her horde of minions. How does she do that? And why has she never been aware of the effect she has on people? It’s not just the men either… even women who would normally be catty aren’t so around Liz. Hell, she even had Carrie going out of her way to do things for her! Liz nodded to the porter and said something. Will assumed she wished the young man well. She made her way over to the Escape and climbed in.

Liz announced, “We’re all set. Now we just need to head over to short-term parking.”

“Since I was only following and have no idea where that is, shouldn’t you drive?”

Liz nodded her agreement. “If you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.”

They switched seats and headed towards the airport.

They were listening to the all-Christmas station and Liz was merrily singing along to Holly Jolly Christmas. When Will stopped singing, Liz became aware that he was staring at her intently. She stopped her singing to ask, “Yes, Sweetheart, did you need something?”

“I’m curious, what time exactly did you get up this morning?”

“Six-thirty. I guess sleeping in my own bed was pretty restorative, I felt great this morning and when you were still down for the count, I decided to head out for a run. I haven’t run in over a week and was itching to get out. Then I headed over to the market and then home to you.” She had smiled at that last part. “I like saying that… home to you.”

“I like that you think of me and home together as well, Love. I have something I’d like to say, but I’m not sure I can explain, but I’ll give it a shot. I have no idea how, or when it happened, but I can’t even begin to explain just how much that I need you. When I first was awake, I didn’t see your note, it had somehow gotten between the sheets. When I didn’t know where you’d gone, I felt such a dread in my heart. I missed you, sincerely and truly missed you. I’ve never ached like that before. I know you were only just gone to the shops, and not even very long for that matter, but I felt like a bit of me was missing. I know now, without hesitation or doubt, that I love you, and I need you and I always will.”

“That was beautiful, and I think you explained it pretty well. Will you think me completely awful if I admit that I’m glad you missed me? I had my own moment of clarity a few days ago when you were so sick. I knew then that I couldn’t picture my life without you… you cannot ever scare me like that again!”

“I’ll try,” Will agreed. He thought further on what she’d said and came to a realization. “By comparison, I sound rather shallow, do I not?”

“I think it was sweet. And… if I didn’t have to end up in the hospital with warming fluids and hypothermia for you to come to the same conclusion, then I’m good with that. There, now you may think me shallow if you like.”

Will was quick to answer with an emphatic, “Never!”

They arrived at the lot for Terminal E. Liz grabbed the ticket and tucked it safely in her visor. She found a spot, thankful that Logan set aside an allotment of spaces for hybrid cars.

As they crossed the covered walkway to the terminal, the two began comparing favorite Christmas songs and were amused by the stories that accompanied their favorites. Liz admitted she could recite by heart all three Snoopy and the Red Baron songs, her mother had played them over and over each Christmas and they would sing along while they decorated the tree. Will confessed that each time he heard ‘that damned bloody Christmas shoe song’ he wanted to hit something. His mother had passed away close to Christmas and hearing the little boy’s entreaty in the song touched a still-raw nerve with Will.

Once they finally reached the terminal, Will mused, “That didn’t take long at all to get here.”

She nodded. “Had it been any further away, there’s no way I’d have let you talk me back into bed.”

“And here I thought I was so highly persuasive.”

“You are and you well know it.” She touched his arm and teased, “Remember, we’re not feeding the ego.”

“How dare I forget!” he replied with good humor.

The flight was on time, at least according to the screen in the terminal. Now they only had to wait.

Will and Liz found one way to amuse themselves was to take turns making up stories about the people who were coming and going through the terminal. One man, dressed in black leather pants, heeled, studded boots, a black button-down shirt and a leather duster was most definitely a Russian hit-man, at least according to Will. Liz was positive that the very beautiful, but very liquor-laden woman who had just crossed in front of her was some sort of femme fatale songstress, on her way to some seedy piano bar where she would find her next intrigue. There was a short man, who reminded Will of Joe Pesci, who was ranting about a job that had been botched and how the boss wasn’t going to be happy. They both agreed he was definitely mafia.

They kept playing until a raised voice from somewhere behind Liz caught her attention. A man, well-dressed, was barking complaints loudly into his cell phone. “What do you mean you’ve lost my dinner reservation? Damn you! Do you not know who I am? You can kiss your job good-bye, mister!” A security guard came and asked the man to be quiet and offered him escort to the Massport Info Desk. The irate visitor, seeing how this could quickly escalate, went willingly.

Liz sighed. “You know, this game is only just that, a game. First impressions can’t really be believed. I used to think they could, but I learned a long time ago that you just can’t trust them.”

“I know that,” said Will with concern. Liz seemed altogether too serious at present. “What makes you bring this up now?”

“That man… he was arrogant and rude and so loud… he made an absolutely terrible first impression.”

Will couldn’t argue. “He was a complete arse. So?”

That was the exact same first impression you made on me. Second, third and even fourth impressions are much more telling.”

“Lucky then, that you always make an excellent first impression. One brilliant smile from you seems to set people’s worlds to right. I am so thankful that you decided to let me make a second impression.”

She grinned. “Okay, okay, you’re welcome. But really, don’t feed my ego either.”

He winked. “If you say so. Now, are we still playing, or are we not done being maudlin?”

“Very well. You went last, so it’s my turn. Oh, there’s one! See that man in the camel coat with the Burberry scarf?”

He not only saw the man, but recognized him well. Will remained quiet, only nodding in response sp she would continue her thoughts on Reynolds without knowing it was him.

“This is a man who is trying really hard. See how he’s frantically searching? He’s probably coming to meet the supposed love of his life that he met online in some internet chat room about Siamese cats. He’s shuffling around a lot of bags on that Smart Carte he’s got there, and he’s really hoping it works out with this girl, whom he’s not even met yet, or else he’ll have to move back into his parent’s basement. It’s a shame, really, because he is a pretty good-looking fellow, but I don’t think he realizes it. Poor guy is probably breaking some girl’s heart by chasing some Angelina Jolie-style home-wrecker. I bet there’s some girl back home pining away for this guy to wake up and notice her. But he won’t, because she’s not flashy or out there in the hunt like his internet girl. Tragic, if I do say so myself.”

“That is quite a scenario you’ve played out for this poor man. You’ve painted him a regular king of lonely hearts.”

“I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.”

“I’m so glad you no longer believe in first impressions then.” Will leaned in to kiss her cheek and then, first waving to catch the man’s attention, he called Reynolds over.

If Will found any humor in Liz’s embarrassment, he had the good grace to keep it to himself. When Reynolds had at last wound his way through the crowd, Will made the introductions. “Elisabeth Gardiner, this is Reynolds. Reynolds, this is my fiancée Liz Gardiner.”

“Ms. Gardiner, thank you for your hospitality. I understand that I am staying with you and Mr. Darcy?”

“Yes, that’s correct. And please, just Liz will do… Ms. Gardiner is unbearably formal, especially when you’re my houseguest!”

He spared a look to Will before he answered, “I don’t think I could.”

“No, I insist upon it! And how do you wish to be addressed? I believe I heard that your name is Henry…”

Henry Reynolds was astounded. He’d worked for Pemberley for years and not ever once had Darcy given any indication that he was even aware that he had a first name! Reynolds looked from Darcy to Liz and knew at once that things had changed somehow. “I will address you as Liz, if that is really what you prefer. You may call me whatever you feel more comfortable with.”

“Then Henry it will be! Now Henry,” Liz threaded her arm through his, leaving Will to the cart, “how was your flight? I hope you were able to rest a little. I’m sure that you’re famished!”

“The flight was as well as I expected it to be. I’ve never come such a distance before. I was terribly afraid I’d become ill. My sister gave me something to take before the flight, to help me sleep, so I was able to rest. And, to be honest, I must own that I am, indeed, quite famished.”

“Well, if you’re not opposed to Italian, then I know of a terrific place for lunch…” Liz went on to expound on the merits of one of her favorite restaurants.

Will observed with a smile as he watched his fiancée effortlessly charm his assistant. Another minion to add to your collection, Elisabeth. We all should be greatly relieved that you only use these powers for good. Ah, but Reynolds doesn’t appear to mind at all… in fact, I don’t believe in all the years I’ve known him that I’ve heard him say so much at once. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever just plainly asking the man how he was. I really am a bastard. No. Was a bastard. I’m a better man now. Does Liz make me a better man, or do I want to be a better man because of Liz? She’d laugh if she knew I was even thinking about such things. Liz’d no doubt try to soothe me by saying some nonsense that I was always a good man or some similar rot.

They were nearly to Liz’s SUV and Will thought it would be best to start paying attention again.

“Really? I should love to give that a try!” Will loved listening to Liz. She’d been asking Reynolds his opinion about where to eat in London. “I haven’t had sushi in ages, because the last time didn’t agree with me so well, but I’m willing to give it another go- especially as you swear by it. You’ll have to help me make a list of all the places that I ought to try!”

Something new had occurred to Will. I’m watching Liz give her undivided attention to another man and I don’t mind! It isn’t bothering me in the least. There was that porter earlier at the car hire and I didn’t mind then either. The waiter last night, that young doorman this morning… I get it now! I trust her! I know she loves me, she’s not going to leave me… and there’s no jealousy! Good God, I may just become a right, proper grown-up after all!

Will decided that just possibly, thanks to Liz, there might be hope for him yet. 

*Chapter Fifty-Nine*

 

Henry Reynolds knew he ought to stop staring at his boss, but he simply could not help himself. William Darcy was well-known to very proper in all things, including his appearance. However, the man that now sat across the table from him looked to be anything but!

Liz had noticed Henry making a study of Will and, taking pity on him, said aloud, “So Henry, do you think William’s new beard is sufficient enough for a disguise? He even has some large sunglasses, too.”

Henry felt terrible at having been caught gaping, but was relieved when Darcy, to his surprise, took the shades from his coat pocket, grinned and put them on. “There, Reynolds. What do you think now? Quite the costume, yes?”

“I don’t think even Miss Darcy would recognize you now, sir,” Henry truthfully replied.

“Excellent,” said Will. “I have to be honest. I think the beard is growing on me.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Of course it’s growing on you! Where else would you expect your beard grow?”

Then Henry Reynolds witnessed something that he never thought he’d live to see. William Darcy laughed, loudly, for all to hear. In public no less! With no apparent concern for who might see! It was, indeed, turning out to be a day of wonders.

Seeing that they had nearly scandalized poor Henry’s sensibilities, Liz apologized. “We’re sorry, Henry. Please, don’t pay us any mind at all! We’re just being a little silly. You see, it’s the first day where we didn’t have to rush off early somewhere or have a million miles to cover. I think the freedom’s gone to our heads.”

“I don’t mind at all,” Henry admitted. “I’m just a bit startled, and a lot pleased, to finally see Mr. Darcy happy.”

Will had put the sunglasses away, so Henry could see the look of sincerity in his eyes when he said, “Thank you. I am happy, Reynolds.”

 Through time spent with Liz, Will had learned some new conversational skills. Making small talk over lunch wasn’t such a trial as it normally would have been. Will, however, was quick to attribute that to Liz’s presence rather than his own merit. Liz was greatly enjoying watching Will come out of himself more and more each day. She knew he had always been a good man, but now perhaps the rest of the world might begin to see the man instead of the money.

Henry Reynolds was very glad that his heart was strong; for all the shocks he’d received that day might have done in someone who was faint of heart. When Darcy had first mentioned that he was preparing to be wed, Henry had thought it some sort of elaborate hoax. Darcy never even went put on dates, how could he be getting married? Henry had held his tongue, not giving voice to his initial thoughts that she might be mercenary or seeking tabloid-fame by attaching herself to such an illustrious man. Then Miss Darcy had rung him and he didn’t know what to think. Ms. Gardiner seemed to have Miss Darcy’s full approval and support, so there was little else he could do but resign himself to the notion that Darcy would marry this unknown, American girl. Never in all of Henry’s thirty-four years had he been so glad to have his opinions proved wrong! Liz Gardiner was as delightful a lady as one could imagine. While Henry would prefer his own future mate to possess a character similar to his own, he understood well enough that, for many people, opposites were the more attractive option. And from his short acquaintance with Liz, Henry sensed she was indeed Darcy’s perfect, yet very complimentary, opposite. Watching his boss and fiancée banter back and forth, Henry began to ponder if there really might be something to this whole settling-down business. Maybe there was even possibly someone out there waiting for him.

Once each member of the party had declared themselves stuffed beyond comfort, they headed out. Liz, hoping to help acclimate Will to his surroundings, gave him directions and had him drive. After only missing his turn once, Will had them back at Liz’s Back Bay condo in short order. Henry was given the nickel tour and after Liz explained there was no need to stand on ceremony, he was told to make himself feel quite at home.

Liz received a text message from her thesis advisor around two o’clock. “Will, Henry,” she said to get their attention. They had been watching The Dirty Dozen downstairs. “I need to head over to school for a bit. You two will be fine here on your own, right?”

“Certainly,” he nodded to Henry, “we’ll do fine.” Will accompanied Liz up the stairs. “There’s not a problem at school, is there?” Will asked.

“No, but my advisor knew I was back today and she’s got some notes on my dissertation and if we can go over them today, then I still have time for a final revision. I don’t think I’ll be too long, unless I get cornered by one of my TA’s.”

Will nodded that he understood and then questioned, “Were you still intending to dazzle us with your culinary skills, or are we dining out this evening?”

 “Oh, I’m definitely cooking. And I promise it will even probably be edible!”

Will kissed her cheek. “Looking forward to it, Love.”

“Good.” She then teased him. “Now, you boys play nice while I’m gone. And if you make any messes before I get home, clean them up because I don’t want to know about them.”

He chuckled. Reynolds seemed like the last person on earth to cause trouble. “Yes, mum.”

“See you later then. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Will stood in the hallway and watched her until she entered the elevator. She told me to play nice with Reynolds. How am I to do that? I didn’t really think through just how much time I’ll be spending with the man. I guess it’s time to get to know him… After all, he’s only worked for you for eons. With that thought in mind, he headed back downstairs to finish watching the movie.

Liz came home near six that evening to the sound of roaring laughter coming from downstairs. She had suspected they would get along very well together and was pleased to be proven right. Liz dropped off her folders on her desk and then stopped by the kitchen to pre-heat the oven before she headed down to investigate the cause of the men’s good humor.

She wasn’t even in the room yet and she heard them cheering each other on.

Henry called out, “That was so close! You should have had that… it’s criminal, I say!”

“No,” Will disagreed, “I’m just bollocks at this. I was far better at the other ones. Golf is definitely not my game. But now it’s your turn. Come on, Henry! You can do it!”

Laughter mixed with cries of frustration rang out just as Liz came into the room.

It was now Liz’s turn to laugh. “You boys went out and bought a video game?”

Will and Henry turned around and did their best to not look guilty. They were not successful.

Clearing his throat in an attempt to be serious, Will said, “We got to talking, and Reynolds here had remarked that he’d always been curious about the appeal of video games. I mentioned that I play them sometimes with my cousin’s kids, or even sometimes with Georgie, and that this system is so easy that anyone can use it, even right out of the box, but he didn’t believe me! So, of course, in order to save my honor, we had to go out and get one, to prove my point. Besides, Reynolds had said he’d been thinking of getting one… for his own nieces and nephews to have something to do when they come over.”

Liz attempted to be stern. “Henry? Did you have anything you wished to add to Will’s lengthy explanation?”

“No, Ms. Gardiner… sorry, Liz, I believe that Mr. Darcy summed it up rather well, I think.”

She smiled. “Good. In that case, just make sure you use the wrist straps and when you’re bowling, don’t let go of the remotes please. I really like my television the way it is. I’m glad you two had a productive day. At least I don’t have to worry about entertaining you while I fix dinner.”

The two grown men felt like scolded schoolboys. They nodded and agreed that they could well occupy their time while she was upstairs.

“Please, gentlemen, don’t let me spoil your fun. I’m just happy you were able to have such a productive afternoon.”

Henry had no way of knowing that Liz was teasing them. “We were quite productive!” cried Henry. “Mr. Darcy purchased a jet today!”

Liz wasn’t surprised. “Did he now? That is good news. Where is this plane of yours now?”

“Savannah, Georgia,” answered Henry.

Turning to Will, Liz asked, “You bought a Gulfstream?”

He knew he shouldn’t have been amazed that Liz would know that, but he was. “After looking at the fuel efficiency, speed and just plain comfort of a number of models, yes, we decided on a Gulfstream. Why do you ask?”

Liz loved flying and everything about it. “Not the G650?”

Will had no idea. “Reynolds, what was the model of the one we ordered?”

Henry headed over to the table near the kitchenette. Liz saw there were laptops set up and the tabletop was littered with papers. Liz could see that they really had made an honest attempt at some work before deciding to play. Henry rifled through a stack of brochures until he found what he was looking for. “Yes, Mr. Darcy, you purchased the G650.”

Having previously discussed the possibility of buying an aircraft with Liz, Will wasn’t prepared for her reaction.

She laughed.

“May I inquire what you find so funny?” Will asked her.

“Sweetheart, you have just purchased the absolute finest civilian aircraft ever produced. It can fly at Mach .925! It’s the most incredible non-military plane out there. And, if you’d like to know what’s so funny…” she walked over to where Henry stood. Motioning to one of the laptops, she asked, “May I?”

“By all means…” said Henry as he stepped aside.

Liz typed an address in the browser and brought up a song using YouTube. Moments later, the song Like a G6 was blaring from the computer’s speakers and poor Henry wondered if his machine would survive the experience.

The music, much as Liz suspected, wasn’t to Will’s taste either. “Bloody Hell, Liz! What is that awful noise?” 

Liz turned off the song. “This is the group Far East Movement and this is their song Like a G6; an ode to the gangsta life and all the outrageous things that come with it. Including your new plane.”

Will was dumbfounded. “I bought a gangsta plane?”

“Hardly. But everyone has to have some aspirations in life, right? This group, for some inexplicable reason, is one of LiLi’s favorites. They had a song on some movie soundtrack she liked and she’s been following them ever since, torturing us all in the process.”

Looking very serious, Will asked, “So, do you think I should cancel the order then? I could by a Beechcraft instead.”

“No, that’s not necessary. You’ve bought, literally, the Rolls-Royce of planes. It has that really powerful Rolls BR725 engine, it can go seven-thousand nautical miles, and it’s just a beautiful craft. It’d be a shame to get rid of it because of some stupid song. Especially before you’ve even actually seen it!”

“So then,” he questioned, “aside from the association with that abysmal song your daft sister likes, I take it you approve?”

Liz grinned. “Who wouldn’t approve of such a plane?”

 “I couldn’t really say… will you think less of me if I admitted that I had no idea at all about the mechanics or aerodynamics of it all?”

“Not at all. Especially if you promise to in turn never make me try to understand the ins and outs of emerging markets and macro-economics, or whatever category what you do fits into.”

“Never, Love. However, if you can help me understand the basics of our new jet so I do not sound like a clueless prat, I’d much appreciate it.”

“I think I can manage that. If I can teach some of those disinterested freshmen enough to pass Physics 101, I’m pretty certain I can instruct a well-educated man such as yourself.”

Before Will could reply, Henry asked in confusion, “But I thought you taught at M.I.T.?”

Liz smiled and wondered how long it would take Henry to understand when she was teasing Will. “Yes, I do.”

“Oh. I had always thought that institution was where some of the best American minds attended.”

Will chuckled. “It is. Liz is brilliant and I’m sure her students are too. She was just chiding me for my attending such inferior institutions.”

Henry couldn’t bear it. “Sir! You attended both Cambridge and Oxford… two of the absolute finest and best-respected universities in all of Europe, if not the world!”

“Oh, Henry… I’m afraid that you’ll just have to learn to throw out as nonsense at least half of the things I say. I well know that our dear William is highly intelligent and is in no way undereducated. And please know that I had no intent to truly disparage your beloved British hallowed halls of academia, but Will and I have had some friendly teasing about our respective schools.”

“Oh, I see,” replied Henry, even though he saw no such thing. He was wondering if perhaps tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep, he might feel less lost when Darcy and Liz spoke.

Liz made a mental note to tease Will a bit less in front of Henry. She smiled at Will and said, “I’m pleased you went ahead and arranged for a plane. When did they say it would be ready?”

“It seems there was a lovely custom order that had to be cancelled just short of delivery and so we can take it next week. They are even helping us arrange for a proper pilot for while we remain here.”

Liz nodded. “Sounds good. Actually it sounds really good. It was my understanding that it can take quite a while to get one of these… maybe this was just meant to be.”

“I have been exceptionally fortunate on this trip to the States,” said a thoughtful Will, “and getting the jet is the least of my newfound blessings.”

Liz was touched. “You, William Darcy, are a good man.” She pulled his head down to bestow a kiss upon his cheek. Turning to Reynolds she said, “I’m sure you’re a good man too, Henry. Now I’m going to leave you two very good men to play with your Wii while I go fix supper. Now, before I go, is there anything that you absolutely refuse to eat, Henry?”

Henry shyly answered, “I’m not very fond of Brussels sprouts.”

“Few people are,” Liz said.

Will chimed in. “Less than few, I’d say.”

“So then, so long as I keep Brussels sprouts off the menu, we should be safe then?”

Henry had turned crimson, but managed to nod in agreement.

“Excellent. Dinner should be in about an hour or so,” Liz announced before heading back upstairs.

Once Liz left, Henry said, “Your fiancée is a lovely woman, sir.”

“Yes, she most certainly is. Elisabeth is definitely something special. Did you have a chance to look into those issues I requested?”

Henry nodded. “Actually, sir, I did. In my case upstairs I have some papers ready for you to review. Shall I go fetch them now?”

Will considered it for a moment, then said, “No, I think we’ve covered enough for today. We’ll have dinner and then I believe you ought to get some rest before jet-lag catches up to you.”

“I believe it already must have, sir.”

“Why? Are you tired already?”

“No, sir, not tired exactly…” Henry hesitated, “but I believe I’ve been seeing things.”

Will asked for clarification. “Such as?”

Henry decided to put it all out there. “Such as this sense of humor you’ve suddenly gotten. And then there’s the laughing. In all the years I’ve known you, I do not recall ever seeing you laugh, sir. For that matter, I’ve rarely even seen you smile. I’m sorry for my insolence, sir, but it’s been a most unusual day.”

“I suppose it has at that,” Will agreed. “As for this alleged insolence of yours…” Will sat back down on the couch and motioned for Henry to also take a seat, “see that it happens more often, would you?”

“What?” Henry was confused. “I am sorry, sir, but I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“No, I suppose not. And that’s entirely my fault.” Will scratched his beard to think. “At the very least, we’ll both be here for a few weeks, and I cannot very well spend that much time with you, or should I say have you spend that much time with me and still have you constantly referring to me as ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Darcy’ all of the time. I think we are long past the need for such formality, don’t you?”

Henry was shocked. “Sir, I am your assistant… a man who is merely in your employ… no, I do not think we are at all past the need for formalities!”

“Reynolds…” Darcy tried again, “Henry, while it remains true that you are my employee, it’s become clear to me that perhaps I haven’t always treated you well, or even tried to be civil. I know that there have been times when I rant and rave, or demanded impossible things from you and yet you’ve always managed to deliver whatever I’ve asked of you, without question or reprimand for my boorish behavior. I think that it’s high past time that I treat you with the respect that you deserve for being such an exemplary right-hand man. And that begins now.”

“I’m afraid I do not follow, sir. I thank you for the compliment, knowing that you have found my work to be acceptable is reward enough for me, Mr. Darcy.”

“Henry, my name is Will, and I know that you are well aware of that. As for this ‘sir’ business, honestly, I am sick to the teeth of it. Deference grows old Henry, did you know that?”

“I can only imagine, sir.”

“Please stop that. Please desist with calling me ‘sir’. If you will not call me by my given name, then by all means, call me ‘Darcy’, but  please, for the love of all things holy, please stop with the ‘sir’ and ‘Mr. Darcy’!”

Henry thoughtfully considered Darcy’s request and finally came up with a compromise he felt he could live with. “I believe I could grow used to calling you Darcy, sir, but only in private, or around Ms. Gardiner. I could never be so disrespectful in front of other employees or any of your associates. How would that appear, if I were to do so? Sir, I hope that this is acceptable to you, for I don’t know if I could do any better.”

“It is. A ‘sir’ once in a while is fine, so long as it’s not constant. Thank you, Henry, for attempting this. I can see that it will be difficult for you. But, as I’ve very recently learned, change can be good.”

“You are welcome,” Henry knew he had to try it sometime and so added, “Darcy.”

*Chapter Sixty*

 Dinner passed in much the same companionable manner that lunch had. Conversation was easy-going and plentiful. Liz took delight in comparing the version she knew of the American Revolution with Will and Henry’s. Of particular interest to her were the varying accounts of King George. Liz held fast that the Monarch had been a tyrant of the worst sort, while the men declared he was nothing of the kind. In the end, they agreed to disagree and Liz promised she would show them all the key historic areas of Boston while they were in town.

When dinner was finished, Will and Henry expressed their many thanks for a meal well done. Henry was clearing the table while Will stood at the sink, helping Liz with the dishes. “Love, you sold yourself short. You,” Will kissed her cheek, “are a marvelous cook. I’ve never had such… tasty chicken before.”

Liz smiled, “That was a very politic way of saying it was interesting. I never said I was a gourmand. I marinated some chicken and then grilled it. No big deal. Though now that I think about it, this will seem very fancy compared to what’s on the menu for tomorrow.”

Will finished drying the pan he’d been working on and then set the cloth over his shoulder. “Dare I ask?”

“How do you feel about cream of mushroom soup, tuna and potato chips?”

Will’s brow wrinkled as he tried to make out what one could possibly do with those three very different things. He then laughed. “For a moment, I thought you were serious.”

“Oh, I am. Tomorrow I’m making potato chip casserole. I promise, though it may sound strange, it’s delicious. And before you go and tell me that you don’t like tuna, or mushrooms, or even chips, I would like to remind you that you’ve liked everything that I’ve asked you to try so far.”

“That’s true enough.”

“Thank you. The casserole is one of the dishes that I remember my mom making when I was little. I promise that you’ll like it.”

“I’m sure I will.”

Reynolds came in with an armload of dishes. “Shall I set these in the sink then, or would you prefer me to load them in the dishwasher?”

“The sink would be fine.” Liz then remembered dessert. “Henry, could you pull the pie out of the refrigerator for me? Will, could you turn on the coffee?”

The trio enjoyed their coffee and sugar-free chocolate cream pie. Only after Will helped himself to a second piece did Liz inform him of the uniqueness of the dessert. “Really? I never would have guessed,” he claimed as he dug his fork in for another bite.

It had been a long day, especially for Reynolds, and so everyone agreed to turn in early.

As Will and Liz walked arm in arm to her room, Will yawned. Liz could not help but tease him, “So sorry to have kept you from your beauty sleep!”

“That’s not it at all.” He protested, “You see, I have this incredibly sexy fiancée…”

Liz grinned as she interrupted him by asking, “Should I be jealous?”

Will looked her up and down with a critical eye and said, quite seriously, “Oh, most definitely.”

He was not at all surprised when his jest was met with a smack on his arm. Liz mock-scolded him, “For a remark like that, I ought to not bother you and let you get plenty of sleep…”

“Elisabeth…” Will whined.

“…but then again…”

“Elisabeth!”

“…I know that I would sleep much better with a little before-bed exercise…”

“Elisabeth…”

“…which, of course I could get just as easily on my treadmill.”

Will moved quickly to step in front of her to block her path in the hope that she would no longer ignore him and would listen to what he wanted to say. Hands on her hips, Liz schooled her features into what Will would soon learn was her ‘teacher’ face. “Yes, Mr. Darcy? Did you wish to speak to me about something?”

God help me, if she thinks that fierce look of hers is in any way a deterrent…get a grip, man! One fantasy at a time! “Um, no, not particularly. I believe,” in one quick move he picked her up in his arms, “that the time for talking is long since past.”

Trying, unsuccessfully, not to giggle, Liz asked, “Whatever will then occupy our time?”

He kissed her nose and grinned. “You’re the smart one; I give you full leave to work it out.”

 “Hmm,” as he carried her down the hall, she tapped her chin and pretended she was contemplating grave matters, “I believe we can engage in some mathematical equations.”

They reached her room and he hiked her up higher on his shoulder so he could open the door. “Maths? We’re in your bedroom, I want you and I’m pretty sure you want me and all you can come up with is maths?” He dropped her unceremoniously on the bed.

Nonplussed by his actions, Liz sat up on the bed and patted the space next to her. “I was thinking more along the line of story problems. Let’s see, Liz and Will started with forty condoms, and they used two earlier in the day, and one was, uh, rendered unusable. Now, if there are thirty-five left in the morning, how many did Will and Liz use that night?”

Will laughed. “I was always bollocks at story problems. Might we divine the answer by practical application? I only say this because I believe there may be a problem with the equation… I think there were less than thirty-five left.”

Liz was, of course, never one to stand in the way of such a teachable moment. After they’d applied themselves, quite diligently, to the problem, they enjoyed a very good night’s rest. Much later the next morning, they would find Will was right. There were only thirty left.

Will was still exhausted when he found he was unexpectedly awake in the middle of the night. Liz was sleeping soundly, her head nestled in the crook of his shoulder. I cannot believe this… I really need to go back to sleep. Will was still contemplating how to shift Liz without waking her so he could use the loo when he was startled by the now-familiar strains of Go Northwestern Go. Will groaned, “Elisabeth…  your mobile is going off.”

Instead of waking, she snuggled closer. He tried again, “Liz, if you don’t get up, I cannot vouchsafe for your bloody mobile remaining in one piece after I throw it against the wall.”

“Mmm. It’s too nice here with you to get up.”

“Thank you, Love. But you need to get up. Now.”

“Crud monkey.” She gave a stretch and yawned, “My, but aren’t you bossy this morning, Mr. Darcy?”

“It seems one of us needs to be reasonable.” The dim light of her phone lit her face enough for Will to see she was not pleased by this statement. He explained, “The sooner you get up, the sooner you can come back to bed.”

She propped up her head with her elbow and questioned, “And, exactly, why would I want to do that?”

“Uhm, because, well, I thought that maybe, perhaps, we might…”

Liz loved it when he was tongue-tied; she was certain there were few things more adorable in the entire world. “I’m teasing you, William. If I get up and go take care of business, I can get back to bed and we can shag some more. Am I correct in assuming this is what you were trying to say?”

He smiled in relief that she had both understood him and was not upset. “I wouldn’t have said shag.” Liz gave him a doubtful look and he began to laugh. “Alright, perhaps I would have done,” he admitted. “It’s all your fault, you know that, don’t you?”

“This should be interesting. What’s my fault? Diabetes?”

“No, that’s not what I meant at all. Sometimes I think you misunderstand me on purpose, just to see me flustered.”

Liz scratched his beard and kissed his cheek. “I plead the fifth and choose to remain silent.”

“I knew it! You needn’t mistake my meaning when I speak to discompose me, Love. You do that all on your own, and quite well, too! But, once again, you’ve distracted me. What I meant to say was that I woke up a few minutes ahead of your alarm. If I wasn’t here this morning to make certain you heeded your schedule, what would have happened?”

“Well, if you weren’t here, which is too a horrible thought to entertain, I wouldn’t have been up quite so late. It’s all this late-night activity that is making getting up so early difficult.” Liz could see Will was about to apologize but stopped him by saying, “And I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love you, Will, and am so glad you are here.”

“Thank you. I cannot think of one other place I would rather be. I love you, too. Now go!”

Liz stole the sheet and ran to the bathroom, leaving Will behind to ponder how domestic his life was becoming.

When Liz was done with her medication, she was surprised when the bed was empty upon her return. Liz called out, “Will?”

“In here, Love,” came the muffled answer from her dressing room.

Will, standing there naked, was looking through drawers, but she couldn’t imagine why. “What on earth are you doing in my closet?”

Holding up a t-shirt that had compared airspeed velocities of laden and un-laden swallows, he complained, “I was told there was lingerie, I was promised lingerie; and yet, I have seen neither hide nor hair of such since we’ve arrived.”

Still wrapped in the bed sheet, Liz took the shirt from his hand and laid it back in the drawer where it belonged. With purpose, she turned to the tall lingerie chest and opened several drawers from Will to look though. With a wave of her hand and a roll of her eyes, she asked, “There, satisfied?”

Will pulled out a lovely satin and lace number. “You’ve been holding out on me!”

“Hardly,” she scoffed. “Had I actually been holding out on you, you might have seen some of this before now. If you prefer, however, that I should be wearing more clothes for bed…”

“No, no, not at all. Just good to know that it, in fact, exists. For future reference.”

“William?”

“Yes, Elisabeth?”

“Go back to bed.”

“Right.” As he turned, he was almost afraid to ask, “Are you coming?”

Liz shooed him from the room, “I’ll be right there, Sweetheart.”

Will crawled back into bed and waited. And waited. And waited. After several minutes he called after her, “Liz? Elisabeth?”

He was just about to see what was keeping her when she appeared and put to rest any fears that she had been holding out on Will. Liz was dressed in a racy black corset, tiny matching knickers, garters, some sheer black thigh-high stockings featuring a lacy pattern instead of a seam and a pair of very high scalloped black patent leather heels. Will was speechless.

Liz, pleased with the effect she had on him, teased, “Have I discomposed you again?”   

Will made to get up, but she wagged a finger at him, “No, stay,” and he obeyed. “So, snooping for lingerie, were you? Hopefully, this will meet with your exacting standards.”

As his brain had ceased to function, Will still had no voice but somehow managed to vigorously nod his approval.

She placed a kiss on Will’s cheek and was gone from the room before he had a chance to realize she wasn’t coming back to bed.

Will was dumbfounded. Where did she bloody well go? She can’t just go and leave me here like this! It’s too damn early to go anywhere! Damn… Will got up and searched for his boxers and grabbed his shirt, leaving it unbuttoned. He checked in the loo and her dressing room, finding both empty. So… stalking around the flat in the dark, horny as hell, it is then!

Will trekked though the hall to the empty living room, then into the similarly unoccupied kitchen. Damn. She wasn’t in the dining room or the front hall. Her office maybe? He shuffled towards her office and hoped the light shining from under the door was a good indication that she was inside. Will pushed the door open and his heart leapt at the picture before him. She remembered! I am the luckiest bastard on the planet!

Liz was writing some sort of equation on a white board behind her desk. She was wearing a lab coat and her hair was somehow held together in a tight twist by a pencil. How does she do that? His breath caught in his throat as he realized she was doing this for him. Please, please, please let her be wearing glasses…  

She heard his uneven breathing and smiled to herself before she turned around to give him a look of surprise. Liz tapped her watch and sternly said, “You’re late.”

Yes!! She’s wearing glasses! Giddy with excitement, Will faked being contrite as he replied, “Am I? Please, accept my apologies.”

Liz glared at him over the top of her glasses. She shook her head and took him to task. “We are falling desperately behind schedule here, and you show up late!”

He bowed his head and offered, “Again, I am sorry. What can I do to help?”

“Take a seat, if you would.”

“Happily.”

Liz finished her writing her equation and then, tapping the board with the dry-erase marker, asked, “You do, of course, know what this means, do you not?”

Will shook his head no. “I’m afraid not. Won’t you clarify it for me, Dr. Gardiner?”

Seriously having had no idea what to expect or how it would make her feel to play with Will in this manner, Liz was pleased to find it very intoxicating.

“This is, of course, is a motion equation.”

“Motion?”

“Yes, motion. Accelerated motion, in fact. Now, you must be at least somewhat familiar with how motion works. She began to read through and explain the equation and when she was finished, asked, “So are you ready to begin?”

“Pardon?”

Liz raised an eyebrow in question. “Are you not here to assist me in proving the effects that applying accelerated motion can help bring matter into an excited state?”

The only word Will heard was excited, and that was all he really needed to hear. He immediately rose from his seat, eager to participate in any experiments or demonstrations she felt necessary. Being a man of sense and education Will knew when to bow to her superior knowledge.

This was decidedly one of those times.
 

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 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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