Out of Reservations



Well, here’s another installment of the saga that is OoR. Thanks for your never-ending patience! It is most appreciated. Thanks to the gaggle of Georgia Girls that poked and prodded this last week! This one (or at least the timeliness of it) is for you! (all mistakes are mine)

*Chapter Sixty-Nine*

Liz made a thorough inspection of Will’s bedroom and quickly formed the opinion that the penthouse was colder and less homey than a doctor’s exam room. Well, it’s pretty obvious no one has actually ever lived here! This room looks like it came straight out of a catalog or something.

Opening the closet, she found Will’s clothes all on identical hangers spaced the precise same distance apart. A little anal-retentive, are we? Wow. He must have freaked out at the untidiness in my closet. She couldn’t help herself. As Liz began to unpack, she interspersed her clothes with his, making sure to mess up the neat order everything had been in.

Will didn’t have many things in the bureau. The few things there were had been stored very orderly in the top drawer. Okay… maybe it’s not anal-retentiveness. Perhaps he’s OCD? Liz unfolded a few pairs of Will’s boxers and unpaired a few socks, just to see what his reaction would be. Once she felt Will’s things were sufficiently disturbed, she placed her own belongings in the second and third drawers.

With her clothes tucked away, she searched for anything that might be the least bit personal. There didn’t seem to be anything at all. The knickknacks that sat about the room didn’t seem to be mementos; instead they appeared to be objects d’art strategically placed to give every appearance of sophistication and elegance. Nothing seemed right. Feeling frustrated, Liz threw her bags on the floor of the closet and shut the door. With a sigh she left the bedroom to go explore the rest of the place.

The living area was another sterile showplace. Angular, modern furniture in black leather and silver metal dominated the space. Everything screamed modern masculinity and looked perfect. This left Liz feeling even more like she didn’t belong there. No longer keen on exploring anymore, Liz grabbed her things and headed towards the door. Then she noticed another hallway.

Down the hall, there was a guest bath and two additional bedrooms. The first bedroom was painted a pale pink which made Liz smile. This must be Georgiana’s room. The white four-poster bed was adorned with pink and white Laura Ashley-style bedding. Pillows of all sorts- fluffy, overstuffed, tufted- were strewn everywhere, creating a very inviting haven. This room stood apart… everything was soft, everything was feminine.

Atop the bureau, Liz found what she’d unknowingly been looking for. She came closer to examine the many framed photographs that stood sentry in the vacant room. There was a photo of a young couple that was easily identifiable as Will’s parents. George Darcy had been a handsome man, but Liz thought her Will was even more so. Anne Darcy had been a stunning beauty, and it appeared that many of Will’s finer features had come from her. Will’s warm, expressive eyes were a near-copy of his mother’s, as was the dimple he sported when he smiled. As she studied the photo, she realized something. These people were virtual strangers to Georgiana. She had never really known either of her parents, and the thought made Liz sad.

Another picture caught her eye. A very young Will was holding an infant Georgiana at the front of some church on what was obviously her christening day. Will looked gangly in his suit, like he’d not grown into his own skin yet and Georgie was dressed in an ornate, white satin gown. Behind Will stood a man and woman that she took to be his aunt and uncle that he had told her about. Something about them seemed familiar, but she assumed it was because she was looking for a family resemblance to Will. At least he had someone to help bolster him a little bit in those days. Look at him, he’s scarcely more than a boy himself in this picture and he was already essentially a dad. The smile on Will’s face as he held his sister evidenced the immense love and pride he felt for his baby sister and seeing it made the space in Liz’s heart where she often though about her own future ache. Having seen that photo, it was very easy to picture Will holding a child that was their own. What is wrong with me? A month ago, having a baby was the last thing in the world I was thinking of and now… now I can’t believe I’m having these thoughts. Liz said aloud, “Quit being such a girl!”

She was about to take a closer look at the rest of the family photos when her cell phone rang. Seeing it was Denny, she immediately answered. Denny was up for a little shopping too, and so they agreed to meet at the Columbus Circle Shops. Feeling a little guilty for having invaded her sister-to-be’s personal space, she closed the door before heading out for the day.

 

 

On the way to Columbus Circle, Liz wondered if Denny would be hard to find in the crowd. She needn’t have worried. When the cab let Liz out, Denny was hopping up and down waving his arms furiously to get her attention. She waved her acknowledgement and headed over. Denny greeted her with a bear hug that included being lifted from the ground and spun around in circles.

“Denny!” She squealed, “You’re making a spectacle! Put me down!”

He ignored her protests and continued to spin her. “Nope! Not until I get at least five years of hugs in. I have to make up for lost time, you know.”

“Okay, okay,” she said, now feeling queasy from the motion. “Just so you know, if you don’t put me down I can’t be held responsible if I throw up all over your beautiful cashmere coat.”

Denny set her down immediately. He grabbed both her hands, took a long look at her and stomped his foot in excitement. “Lord almighty, girl, look at you! My little Lizard was done that whole changing-chameleon thing and turned into a gorgeous princess.”

She scoffed at the compliment. “I am so not a princess. What I am is freezing. Can we go inside now, or are you not done embarrassing me on the street in front of all the world?”

He threaded her arm through his and they entered the mall. “Oh, honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

They worked their way through the shops, Denny was just starting his Christmas shopping while Liz added a few things here and there to hers. There was no awkwardness. They had always been the sort of friends who picked up immediately where they had left off, with no need for apologies or explanations for time spent apart. Denny shopped for some of his staff and Liz picked out a small token for her grandparents. It was wonderful to discuss her family with someone who understood their dynamic from personal experience. They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company right up until lunchtime.

“Where should we go?” Liz asked. “I’m starving.”

“Well, my darling pet, what are you in the mood for? Shall we dine at Masa? Or perhaps Per Se? No,” he snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it! We’ll gorge ourselves at Landmarc. A little French sounds divine right about now, doesn’t it?”

“We can’t eat there, Denny. You need reservations eons in advance for most of those places. Can’t we just go to Panera or something?”

Denny smiled indulgently, like she was a simpleton that had missed some obvious point. He was driving her nuts with his silence. Finally, she said, “What? Quit giving me that idiotic look of yours.”

“My darling Lizard, there are a few advantages to being me. One is that I get to dine most anywhere, most anytime that I please. And right now, I think I want some heavy French food. Unless you’d prefer some Kobe beef, because then we can totally go to Masa. It’s your call, lady. What shall it be?”

“Crud monkey, those all sound really good. Three days ago I could’ve eaten a whole cow, but today I think French sounds a little better. I’ll pay like crazy for indulging in such rich food, but why not? I mean, it’s not like I eat it every day.”

“Exactly my thoughts, Liz.” Denny scrolled though the directory in his cell until found the number for Landmarc. He called ahead for a table for two under the name Denny Fields. Liz giggled at the way he threw his name around. It was truly amusing.

“Come on then!” He grabbed her hand and started leading the way out of the mall. “Let’s go get us a table. I am dying for some girl talk!”

When they arrived at Landmarc, they were shown to a quiet table for two. Liz smiled when it was obvious that everyone seemed to know who Denny was and gave him top-drawer service. Once they ordered and everyone quit hovering about, Liz decided her dear friend needed a bit of teasing. “Quite the celebrity now, aren’t we, Denny?”

He had the good sense to blush a little. “Oh, it’s not so bad. They like it when I dine here and am spotted. It makes for a nice blurb in the columns and they get the free pub that they wanted and I always get a table whenever I want one. What’s so bad about that?”

“Nothing I guess. Don’t you miss your privacy?”

“Nah. I only show them what I want to show them. Everyone says, ‘oooh, look at Denny, he’s so flamboyant, so out there’ but that’s not the real me. The real me doesn’t sell eighty-two million in accessories like the public me does.” He dramatically placed the back of his hand against his forehead and sighed. “The things we do for fame.”

Liz laughed. “You are such a phony!”

He threw up his hands in defeat. “Guilty!” He shook his head and got serious for a moment. “But really, who wants to buy shoes from a gay man that would rather be home drinking a beer and watching the Bears play than be out clubbing all night, sipping martinis? I’ll tell you who: no one. Playing to people’s assumptions isn’t all bad. I’ve rather learned to enjoy it, for the most part.”

“All I have to say is better you than me! Is this the girl talk you wanted to have, or is there something else you wanted to say?”

“You always have been able to cut to the chase. I miss that, that directness, about you. No, to be honest there was something else. I think I might have finally met someone special.”

Liz enthused, “That’s great!” When Denny remained quiet, she asked, “Okay… tell me the problem.”

 

 

While Liz and Denny were dining on the finest French cuisine on the Upper West Side, Will and Henry were in one of Axiom’s small conference rooms eating Chinese take-out. Actually, in truth Will was eating and Henry was picking away at his rice one kernel at a time.

Will had begun to think of his long-time assistant as somewhat of a friend and it wasn’t like Henry to be so sullen and quiet. He watched as Henry poked his General Tso chicken, moving it around the plate but not eating and decided that enough was enough. “Alright, Reynolds, quit playing about with your food and tell me what your bloody problem is.”

Henry dropped his chopsticks on the plate and regarded Will with what could only be termed as astonishment. “What problem, Sir? There’s no problem.”

“Reynolds, you’ve been with me for… what? Eight, nine years?”

“Twelve,” Henry corrected. “I started while you were still at uni.”

“Really, that long? Fine, for twelve years you’ve worked for me and in that time I don’t recall ever seeing you looking quite so miserable as you have this morning. And, mind you, I have seen you hung-over.”

“It’s nothing, really. Just a wee bit of a personal problem that I let get away from me more than I ought have.”

“Is it anything I might be able to help with? Truly, Reynolds, you look like hell.”

“No, there’s really nothing for it. I wasn’t thinking ahead…”

All sorts of scenarios started to play in Will’s mind of the trouble Henry may have gotten into. “You’ve seemed a bit off for a few days now. Would it help to talk it over?” Where the hell did that come from? Liz is rubbing off on me more than I had imagined. She’d no doubt find this amusing.

Henry was playing with his napkin while he thought over Will’s unexpected offer. “Perhaps it would.”

Will checked his watch. “We have twenty minutes or so before we need to be back. We have time enough now to make a start if you like.”

Henry looked at Will with wonder. “Who are you, and what have you done with William Darcy?”

Before Will could make an answer, he continued, “Truly, I thank you for listening. I don’t know that it’ll help, but I just feel like such a stupid git.”

“Why? What happened?”

“It all began that first night here in the city…”

 

 

Back at Landmarc, Liz was amazed by Denny’s story. “And he just bolted? Without leaving you any way to get in contact with him? What on earth is his problem?”

“I think he must be either married or completely locked in the closet. One minute we’re practically making out on the dance floor like a couple of stupid teenagers and the next he flees out the door like he’s freaking Cinderella at midnight. I have no idea what I did wrong, Liz. I’d really like to know because I swear to you I’ve never really just connected with another guy like that. There was a spark there… I know there was!” Denny took another sip of his wine and sighed. “I just really felt like this could have been something special. Why didn’t he feel it too?”

Liz patted his hand as she shook her head. “I don’t know, sweetie. If he doesn’t get that you’re the fabulous man you are, then he doesn’t deserve you.”

Denny managed a small smile. “I am pretty fabulous, aren’t I?”

“You are The Denny Fields.”

His smile grew bigger. “I am. And if he’s Cinderella in this little drama, then by default that makes me the prince, right?”

Glad her friend was feeling better, she smiled with him. “A prince among common men.”

“Damn right! Now, if only I could figure out what it was I said that sent him scampering off into the night, I might stop making myself crazy.”

Will was trying hard to get to the bottom of Henry’s problem. “So let me get this straight, you met someone, had a wonderful time, they offered to come see you when we return to Boston and this scared you why?”

“Because I’m not ready for that, for a relationship. I have too much going on right now and nothing changes the fact that I don’t live in Boston, I live in London.”

It took considerable patience for Will not to smack Henry in the back of the head for his stupidity. “Reynolds, I mean no offense, but I really must ask: do you consider yourself a simpleton?”

“No, I am most certainly not a simpleton,” he replied in the same haughty tone he often heard Will use. “Why do you ask?”

“I ask because only a man without the brains God gave him would willingly walk away from a chance at true happiness. These things can come about when you least expect them. I’m certainly no expert, but for proof I can only offer the example of me and Elisabeth. It would have been so easy for her to dismiss me as not worth her time when we first met. I was in a foul mood and anything but charming, but she reached out because she saw something beyond my bad temper and decided to risk it, to take a chance. I think you’re a fool if you walk away without seeing if something can come from this, but that’s only my opinion.”

Henry thought over everything Will said. “You make an excellent argument, but there are still a few matters that I don’t think I could get around.”

“For example?”

“Well, for one thing, I don’t think my mum would approve.”

Cynthia Reynolds had, as a young woman, worked for the Darcys and Will knew her fairly well. “Poor excuse. Your mum is a saint and has never disliked anyone in her entire life. I’m sure she’d adore any girl you brought home. Try again.”

Henry, more than anything, was wishing he’d never opened his mouth in the first place. “We come from very different backgrounds.”

“So? I don’t see why that should matter.”

“It just won’t work. That’s really all there is to know. I thank you for listening to me, but I honestly don’t believe there’s any way around the obstacles in this case. In fact, if you don’t have immediate need me once the merger is complete, I would much prefer to just go home.”

“Now you’re just talking complete rubbish, Reynolds. If you refuse to try, I won’t say another word about the matter. As for going home, we have some more work to get through, but I think we can manage to get you to London by next weekend. Would that do?”

Henry began to panic, though he worked very hard not to show it. There would be no way around it. Soon his whole world would crash down around him and maybe it would be better for everyone if he quit now, saving himself and those he cared for a whole lot of unease and embarrassment. Swallowing the lump of fear in his throat, he said, “I suppose so, if you really have need of me, Sir.”

Will tried to encourage him out of his morose mood. “I do. You’re indispensible.”

Henry Reynolds was desperately wishing that he had been a little less reliable when he accepted the compliment and said, “Thank you, Sir. I have always tried to do my best.”

“And for that, it is my turn to thank you. I know I am not the easiest man to work for, but I have always appreciated your loyalty and the way you seem to always know what I need without even asking. I couldn’t ask for a better right-hand man, Reynolds.”

Henry was greatly affected by the freely offered and sincere praise. He closed his eyes for a moment as he mentally cursed himself for having considered, however fleeting the thought had been, leaving Will’s employ. No matter how tough it would be, he would damn the consequences, man-up and face whatever hell would come his way.

Maybe then he would be worthy enough for the chance at happiness he’d walked away from.

 

 

“So,” Liz asked as she dug a fork into her crème brulee, “now that we’ve absolved you of any wrong-doing in the matter and we’re giving your Cinderella the benefit of the doubt, care to dish? What was he like? Why him?”

“Why him? Oh, I don’t know… it just is. He’s fairly average-looking, I suppose, but there’s something about him that really appeals to me. He seems so shy and unsure, but I think it only makes him even cuter. His face is kind and, I swear, that man has the absolute bluest of blue eyes that I have ever seen! I could just spend days and days just looking into them.”

“Sounds pretty nice so far… but how on earth, if your wonder-man is so shy, did you end up playing kissy-face on the dance floor in a public place?”

“Darling, Vlada’s is hardly public. To keep my persona from becoming non-grata, I must put in appearances around town… it doesn’t matter that I’d rather be home on the couch in a Snuggie.”

Liz interrupted, horrified by his confession. “A Snuggie? Oh, Denny, how could you?”

He waved away her disapproval. “They’re wonderfully kitsch. Almost,” he winked at her,everyone I know has one. Anyways, Vlada isn’t like Gym’s or one of those other ‘see and be seen with a boy-toy’ places. And, despite what I said before, we were hardly making a spectacle. I mean, really, Hell’s Kitchen is a whole different scene than Chelsea. The first night, we found a corner and just started talking about nothing… but it all seemed so important. Does that make any sense?”

“It does. You connected.”

“We did. We so connected. He’s got the most amazing accent… oh, I forgot to say! He’s English, just like your man Darcy. He’s oh-so adorable and when he laughs, it curls my toes!”

“Well, if that doesn’t beat all! Dennis Fields, commander of all things fashionable and world-renown man-eater is smitten. Look at you, when you talk about your mystery man you’re practically purring!” Liz laughed. “You are such a smitten kitten!”

Denny grew testy. “I am not a man-eater. You know better than most people that shouldn’t believe everything you read.”

“I didn’t say you were. I was only stating that you are known for being one. There is a difference, you know.”

“Quit it with the semantics already. If I wanted badgering, I’d call Helen.”

Liz grinned. Through their younger days, Denny had always managed to keep Liz on her toes and it was fun to have it the other way for once. “And how is your mom these days?”

“Just as bitchy as ever.” He affected a saccharine-sweet voice to imitate his mother. “‘Denny, when am I going to get grandchildren? You know, just because you’re gay there’s no reason you can’t adopt. Denny, when are you going to find a nice man and settle down?’ Ugh! The harassment never ends.”

“Well, at least your mom loves you and wants only the best for you. My parental people find me nothing more than an inconvenient way to get money. My father doesn’t love me, despite what he says. If he did, he wouldn’t let that shrew he married treat me that way.”

“It’s okay, Liz. You can call her a bitch. If ever anyone ever in the history of the world deserved the name, it’s Fran Bennet! In fact, if I weren’t such a gentleman, there are much worse things I would call her.”

Liz laughed so hard she had to put her coffee down, lest she spill it. “You win. I’ll say it. Francis Bennet is a bitch.”

Perfect!” Denny exclaimed.

“Still, my swearing doesn’t change anything.”

“But you do feel better, right?”

“Yeah,” she giggled, “I suppose I do.”

“Then my work here, dearest, is done.”

Denny spoke a little more about his would-be paramour, including how everything was going so well until he mentioned that he would be leaving the next week to visit his oldest friend Elisabeth in Boston. He asked if she thought it was possible that his Cinderella saw no future because he was leaving so soon or if she thought he was spooked by something else. Liz honestly had no answers and told him so. She felt truly sorry for the pain her friend suffered and secretly thought the man in question was a coward.

Once the luncheon bill was paid, the pair walked to Whole Foods where Denny helped Liz shop for the makings of a romantic dinner. “I’d offer to help you cook it, Lizard dearest, but you know I’ve always made the worst Susie Homemaker. If it couldn’t be made in the Easy-Bake oven, it wasn’t happening.”

“Somehow half-baked flat iron steaks and mostly raw potatoes cooked with a light bulb don’t sound very appealing. I think I’m good to go it alone. Thanks anyways.”

“Picky, picky! And they say I’m a diva.” They exited the store, carrying Liz’s purchases and hailed a cab.

When they pulled up in front of Will’s building, Denny remarked, “Swanky digs. I can’t wait ‘til next week when I see yours.”

Liz hugged her friend. “It’ll be fun. I can’t wait to introduce you to Will.”

Denny started to worry a little. “Does he know about me? That I’m ‘light of loafers’. I don’t want to cause any trouble in paradise.”

“Stop being ridiculous. Yes, he knows all about our oh-so-sordid past and, if anything, he was relieved that you’re gay. Anyways, if it was an issue for him, I would have to re-think everything. But, it isn’t, so I don’t… and all is well.”

“In that case, I can’t wait to meet your tall, dark and handsome.” He kissed her cheek good-bye. “Ta, darling. Let me know how dinner went, and good luck with dear grandpapa!”

“Thanks, Denny, I need all the luck I can get.”

“With your knight-in-shining-business-suit standing by your side? I somehow seriously doubt it. You’ll do just fine, darling, you are the strongest woman I’ve ever known. If I didn’t mention it earlier, I love you. You’ve always been so dear to me and I’m so glad I ran into that crazy woman! Who knows how long it would have been before we made contact again?”

Liz laughed and it felt good. Catching up with Denny lightened her spirit and his affirmations that she was strong enough to face the Gardiners meant more than she could say. “Yes, thank God for Carrie Bingley.”

They said their farewells and Denny climbed back in the cab and drove away, leaving Liz to get ready for the evening ahead. Once Liz let herself back into the penthouse, she immediately set to work preparing the potatoes and setting the steaks up in a marinade. After she put the rest of the groceries away, Liz headed to the master suite to get ready to meet her long-absent grandfather.

 

At three-forty-five, Liz stepped into the atrium of the Axiom building. Taking a deep breath, she checked in at the desk to get her visitor’s pass and then headed up to the fifty-sixth floor main conference room. The receptionist appeared to be expecting her and showed Liz to the waiting area and offered to get her a cup of coffee. Liz thanked the young woman but declined, stating that her nerves were already ramped up enough without the benefit of caffeine. After the receptionist left, Liz continued to mentally prepare for her meeting by remembering that Alton and Elsbeth Gardiner had raised her own wonderful mother and therefore couldn’t be entirely the uncaring people she’d always believed them to be.

When Will came out to check to see if Liz had arrived, he found her seated on a small couch playing with the hem of her skirt. Not wanting to startle her, he cleared his throat to catch her attention. When her eyes met his, she felt safe and instantly relaxed. He held out his hand, she stood and took it, giving it a squeeze that meant she was ready to do this awful thing.

“You look wonderful, Love,” he said before kissing her cheek hello.  “In fact, you look so amazing that I wonder why you dread wearing them so.”

“Because I hate them almost as much as you do. Suits are like business armor. They say ‘take me seriously’. See?” She motioned to her navy blue, well-tailored outfit and added, “I’m dressed for battle.”

He smiled and began to lead her down the hall to where her family was waiting. “I highly doubt there will be any bloodshed, Love. Your grandmother arrived just a short while ago… and I have to say that I like her very well.”

She was surprised, especially given his skeptical attitude about her grandfather. “High praise, indeed! Is there anyone else in there?”

“Not where we’re going, but if you like, we can look in on Reynolds and I could quickly introduce you to Max.”

“I’d like that.”

They knocked on a door which was opened by Henry Reynolds. The darkened areas under his eyes made it obvious he was having trouble sleeping. Liz was about to ask what was wrong with her new friend, but Will had just brought Max over to meet her.

Max had always been a man that Will had looked up to and it greatly pleased him to introduce him to the woman he loved. “Elisabeth Gardiner, this is my head of North American operations, Max Townley. Max Townley, this is my fiancée, Dr. Elisabeth Gardiner.”

Max offered his hand to Liz, who looked at it and shook her head no. Before either Max or Will could say anything, Liz threw her arms around Max and said, “Handshakes are for strangers, family deserves a hug.”

“Am I family, then?” Max asked, as he returned the hug.

Liz smiled. Her first impression of Max was that he was a kind, intelligent man. “Will thinks very highly of you, and I know that you’ve been like a father to him through the years and so, yes, you are family.”

Max liked Liz instantly. He sensed that her outgoing demeanor would be the perfect companion to Will’s reserved manner. “Thank you, that’s very sweet of you. I’ve known Will most of his life and I have to tell you, I have never seen the boy happier than when he talks about you.”

Will reddened. “Yes, well, that’s enough about that. I’d appreciate it if the two of you wouldn’t discuss me as though I weren’t in the room.”

“We weren’t,” Liz said. She took his hand and stood b his side. “I just thought I’d express a little appreciation for someone who’d helped you when, from what I understand, you needed it most.”

Max gently punched Henry’s arm. “This guy was there all along, too. Reynolds helped Will make the transition from school to work and has kept our boy on task ever since.”

Liz looked at Henry with new eyes. She knew that he’d been with Will for quite a while, but hadn’t realized it had been that long. She let go of Will’s hand so she could embrace Henry, who looked very much like he needed a hug anyways. “Thank you, Henry, for taking such good care of Will.”

Despite his great discomfort, he accepted Liz’s hug along with her thanks. “It was no trouble,” he lied. William Darcy had been a very difficult man to work for; he was tireless and exacting, requiring the same sort of perfection from his people. Henry had worked many nights, weekends and holidays over the years, all without complaining or ever receiving thanks. People showing him concern, like Will had done over lunch and Liz was doing now, disconcerted him.

Max patted Will’s shoulder and reminded him there was still a task that needed to be done. “You’re stalling, Will. We’ll have lots to time for socializing later, if that’s what you want, but I think for now you have another set of introductions to make.”

Will nodded and said, “You’re right.” Turning to Liz, he asked, “Are you ready, Love?”

She gripped his hand tightly. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

Addressing Max, Will said, “If anything should arise, ring me. Other than an emergency, I’m done for the weekend. Thanks, Max, for all your help this week.”

Max shook Will’s hand. “It’s always great to work with you, son.” Embracing Liz, he said, “Dr. Gardiner, it was a pleasure.”

Liz smiled warmly. “It was very good to meet you, too. I look forward to getting to know you better. Maybe next time we’re in New York we can get together.”

“I’d like that. I can’t wait to go home and tell my wife I met the woman who stole Darcy’s heart. I’ll see you guys later. Good luck, Elisabeth, and Will?”

“Yes?” asked Will, impatient.

“She’s a keeper,” Max said as he waved good-bye and left.

Will nodded his agreement. He then turned to Henry, saying, “Reynolds, you’re free until Monday. If you’d like to go back to Boston, just call Wentworth and he’ll take you.”

“I just might do that, Sir. I know you have plans for the weekend and I think I’d like to explore Boston a little on my own. Perhaps even have some famous Boston tea.”

Liz laughed. “Sounds like fun. Make sure you take a tour. They’re pretty cheesy, but really informative.”

Henry nodded. “I’ll make sure to do just that.”

“We must be off. Have a good weekend, Reynolds. See you Monday.”

Henry nodded again, waved good-bye and left.

Once they were alone, Liz expressed her concern for Henry. “Will he be alright, Will? Henry looks whipped, like he’s ready to fall over tired or something.”

“I hope so. He hasn’t been himself these last few days, but I cannot get out of him what the problem is.”

Liz didn’t bother to hide her surprise. “You? You actually asked what was wrong?”

“I did, indeed. You needn’t act so surprised. What can I say? You are a good influence on me.”

“I’m very pleased. Now, can we get this whole meeting my grandpa and grandma thing done? I have plans for us this evening and they don’t include anyone but us.”

He pulled her into an embrace and said, “Hmm, sounds promising.”

“Do we need a signal?” Liz was trying hard to keep her nerves calm. “What if I want to leave or something?”

“Then we leave.” Will kissed her forehead affectionately. “You do not owe these people any explanations for your actions. If you are at anytime uncomfortable, if they upset you or such, just say the word, or give me a look, something… and we’ll leave. Alton well knows that the only thing I care about here is you, and he also knows that I’d do anything to protect you- even from him, should the need arise.”

Liz simply nodded, afraid that if she spoke, she’d talk herself out of meeting this man she knew she needed to face. They left the conference room and as they crossed the hall, Liz refused to use Will as a shield and was the first to enter the room that held her grandparents. How can I go on with my life if I run away from these people like a coward? I can do this… and Will’s by my side. How can anything bad happen if he’s with me?

“Elisa,” said Alton, “I can’t tell you how happy we are that you decided to join us.” He walked towards her and opened his arms, hoping she would accept a hug. “May I?”

Liz shook her head from side to side, but offered her hand as a consolation. “I think it may be a little soon to be all touchy-feely, don’t you?”

Though disappointed she declined an embrace, Alton was pleased to see his granddaughter had a firm handshake; he had expected no less. “I’ve waited twenty-one years to see you, my dear Elisa. I can wait a little more.”

From the corner came a soft call. “Elisa?” Liz turned and saw a tiny woman, so slight it was no wonder she hadn’t noticed her at first glance. Will snapped his head at Liz’s audible gasp upon seeing the woman who appeared to be an exact image of what he supposed Liz would look like at age seventy. He was ready to move, to intervene on her behalf, but then Liz quietly said, “Grandma?” and he knew it wouldn’t be necessary.

“Elisa, how are you my sweet child?” Elsbeth Gardiner rose from her chair and opened her arms, the same as Alton had. The difference was that this time Liz accepted. Embracing her frail grandmother, Liz fought to keep from crying. Elsbeth patted her granddaughter and continued speaking. “I see your young man takes mighty good care of you, but I want to know more. Have you been happy? Have you been content? We’ve been watching from the outside for so long, won’t you please let us in?”

Elsbeth had stepped over the line. Carefully stepping back so as not to hurt her grandmother, Liz said, “And just why was it that you had to watch from the outside? Why didn’t you make contact sooner? I understand it was likely impossible when I was little, but I’ve been, more or less, independent since I was sixteen.” Without waiting for an answer, she rounded on Alton. Wagging her finger at her grandfather, the anger she’d felt at having been abandoned so long ago came forth in a rush. “But you already knew that, didn’t you? Had your little spies checking up on me for years, so I hear. What made you such a coward? Surely, with your network of people you should have been able to at least send me a note on my birthday, a card at Christmas? But you didn’t, did you? You couldn’t be bothered with the trivial things about my life.”

Alton remained quiet while Liz paused in her rant. Will nodded to her, silently asking if she wanted to leave. She shook her head and smiled. She tugged at his sleeve, causing him to bend a little so she could whisper in his ear. “I love you, Sweetheart, but I need to know, to hear from him why. I don’t imagine we’ll be here much longer.” Will kissed her cheek and whispered back, “I’m ready whenever you are, Love. I still say you owe these people nothing… save maybe giving them a chance to explain their actions. I am here for you, Elisabeth, remember that.”

Having the reassurance that Will would always faithfully be there for her gave her the strength she needed to continue her confrontation.  Turning her attention back to her grandfather, she made her accusation. “I know you hate my father, but it sure felt like you hated me, too.”

Alton was shamed by her words and tried to explain, “Elisa…”

“No! Do not call me that. I am not Elisa anymore. I haven’t been the happy little girl that everyone called Elisa for so long… calling me Elisa now would be a lie. I am not Elisa anymore and never will be again. My name is Liz, thank you.”

Properly cowed by her outburst, Alton cautiously asked, “May I call you Elisabeth?”

Liz wanted to keep the name Elisabeth reserved just for Will’s use. “Did you not hear me? No, you may not call me Elisabeth. Damn it, I said my name is Liz!”

Will was surprised by her use of language. It was something Liz simply did not normally do. Just as he was about to intervene, Liz placed her hand on his arm as a warning to remain quiet and let her handle her relatives.

Before Liz could continue, Elsbeth spoke to her husband. “Alton, my dear, I think it would be best if you listened to our granddaughter. You forget she’s had more than her fair share of pushy people always trying to tell her what to do.”

Liz’s head snapped in Elsbeth’s direction. Pleased by unexpected support from her grandmother, she was still a long way from trusting either grandparent. Still, the politeness ingrained from an early age ruled and Liz expressed her gratitude. “Thank you, Mrs. Gardiner. I really have had enough of bullying, in all its forms.”  She asked Alton, “Did you have an answer for me? In case you’ve forgotten, the question was: why are you such a coward?”

Alton swayed on his feet. “El…” He quickly corrected himself. “Liz, I, I…” The color drained from his face and he collapsed to the floor.

Liz cried out “No!” before kneeling beside her grandfather. Will immediately picked up a phone to dial 911 while Liz leaned in so she could check for signs of life. Liz tried to keep her focus on her grandfather, who seemed to have a faint pulse and was breathing shallow. Looking up to her waiting grandmother, Liz shared the good news. “He’s alive, thank God. He’s unresponsive, but he’s alive!”

Elsbeth began to shake, and Will helped to steady her. “He’s had some heart issues before… but he said he was better now. He was perfectly healthy.”

Liz, still kneeling beside her grandfather, looked at his corpulent, unconscious form and seriously doubted he was the picture of health her grandmother thought him to be. Staring at her grandfather, she saw the similarities of features that Will had mentioned. Then it struck her. “What about diabetes? Does he have sugar issues?”

Her grandmother nodded. “I believe he does take a sugar pill every morning. Why? Do you think maybe that’s important?”

Liz gaped at the woman for a moment in disbelief. Could anyone really be this clueless? “Will, can you toss me my bag? I think it’s on the chair by the door.”

Will crossed the room in two strides and grabbed her purse. In a flash, he was on the floor next to her. “Here, Love. What do you need me to do?”

“Right now? Nothing. I’m going to check his sugar. Genetically, I got my diabetic gene from somewhere and my money is that it was dear, old grandpa.”

Will watched with a mixture of fascination and revulsion as Liz wiped Alton’s finger with an alcohol pad and then pricked his finger with a lancet. He winced on Alton’s behalf, since the man seemed to be out cold.

Liz worked her grandfather’s finger until she had a large enough drop of blood to test. She readied a test strip and tested his sugar. A moment later, her meter confirmed her suspicion. “He’s totally crashed out.” Liz held up the meter so Will and Elsbeth could see it. “See?”

Elsbeth began to sob and Will absently handed her a handkerchief, then asked, “What can I do? What do you need?”

Liz never took her eyes off Alton as she gave instructions to Will. “In the bottom of my bag there should be a little white tube of blue gel icing. See if you can find it.”

Will found the tube and handed it to Liz. She unscrewed the cap, but was unable to use it just yet. “Crud monkey! I forgot, I need scissors or something to get this open. Will, can you find something? I may have some clippers or something in my bag.”

“I’ve got it,” Will assured her. There was a credenza at the end of the room fitted out with both refreshments and office supplies. He grabbed a pair of scissors and handed them over to Liz. She sniped off the end of the tube, opened her Alton’s mouth, and squeezed the sugar concoction under his tongue and in the sides of his cheeks. She closed his mouth and sat back to wait.

“Sorry, Grandma,” Liz apologized, “but without knowing anything about his condition aside from his immediate glucose level, this is the best I can do.”

Elsbeth was hardly composed enough to say anything, but nodded and waved Will’s handkerchief in response.

While all was quiet, Will asked, “Why is it blue?”

Liz opened his mouth to see if the icing had dissolved yet. She pointed to the small traces of blue that were sticking to his teeth. “That makes it easier to see if it’s being ingested. See? It’s almost all gone. I’m going to put in a little more and hopefully, he’ll start to snap out of it soon.” She squirted a bit more under his tongue, explaining, “Since this is not a solid, you put it under here and on the sides to keep from choking the person. It dissolves quickly enough. Hard candies and juice are fine if you’re still conscious, but they can be dangerous if you’re out like this.”

Will felt ill. There was still so much he didn’t know or understand about her condition. Would he ever have to perform a similar rescue for Liz? Would he keep calm enough to remember what to do? All of a sudden it felt overwhelming and he began to wonder if he was up to the task.

Alton’s eyes were beginning to flutter open, a signal of returning to consciousness, when the paramedics arrived. Liz explained what she had done and it was decided, in light of the extreme low sugar and prior heart condition, they would take him to the hospital for tests and observation. One of the paramedics went back for a gurney while the other was getting personal information from Elsbeth. When the gurney arrived, the paramedics somehow managed to ease a board under Alton’s rotund form and lift him onto the bed. Once they had him securely strapped up, Liz, Will and Elsbeth followed them downstairs to the ambulance.

Will inquired what hospital they were taking him to while Liz helped settle her grandmother into the back of the vehicle. Elsbeth finally had enough presence of mind to speak. “Thank you, Elisa, for saving his life. I don’t know how to thank you.”

Liz bristled at being called Elisa, but decided this was not the time for corrections. “It’s nothing, really. You take it easy and listen carefully to everything the doctors say. I imagine there needs to be some changes made in his life and he’s going to need your help to make them happen. Can you do that? Can you help him?”

Elsbeth’s eyes went wide. “Does this mean that you aren’t coming with us, Elisa? We need you!”

Will put his arm around Liz’s shoulder, lending her some of his strength. After taking a deep breath, Liz shook her head. “No, we’re not coming just now. He’ll be tired and there’ll be lots of tests and stuff. We’ll just be in the way. We’ll check on you both later… tomorrow morning, maybe.”

Will gave the old woman a reassuring smile. “We’ll visit tomorrow, Mrs. Gardiner. We promise.”

Elsbeth patted Will’s cheek. “You’re a good boy. You take good care of my granddaughter, you hear?”

Touched by her motherly gesture, Will nodded. “I will.”

Liz felt awkward and was uncertain what to do. She felt guilty about not wanting to follow them to the hospital. In an effort to assuage her guilt, she willingly gave her grandmother a hug goodbye. “You take care of him, okay?”

Elsbeth eagerly returned the hug with a strength that was surprising for one so small. “I will. I love you, Elisa.”

The paramedics had Alton secure in the back of the rig and explained it was time to go. Liz was glad for the interruption, for it would be a lie to have said anything other than “goodbye” to her grandmother. It was too early for anything more.

Standing in the cold on the sidewalk in front of the Axiom building, Liz and Will watched the ambulance take the Gardiners away. Will made a call and ordered the car while Liz snuggled into his arms. He held her close and expressed how proud he was of her, saying, “You, my love, are truly amazing. Is there nothing you are not capable of?”

The adrenaline rush she had felt from her anger and her heroics was starting to fade, leaving her slightly lightheaded. “What do you mean?”

“Beautiful, brilliant, bold and brave, that’s my Elisabeth. You, in all likelihood, just saved that man’s life. Love, you are a true heroine.”

Liz shook off the accolade. “I’m nothing special.”

Will kissed her forehead. “Ah-ah-ah,” he warned, “no you don’t. You are not allowed to disparage the woman I love. I say she’s all of those things and so much more and since you’ve told me- more than once, I might add- that I am never wrong, you must take me at my word. It is futile to resist.”

She smiled brightly at that. “Thank you, William.” Liz rewarded him with a kiss of her own. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Now, since we’re scheduled to visit Alton tomorrow, I am wondering what we ought to do with the rest of today? Might you have any suggestions, Love?”

She grinned. “Oh, I don’t have suggestions… tonight I have demands.”

Will laughed. “Hmm. So you know, Love, I rarely give in to demands and am regarded as a tough negotiator.”

The car had arrived. Will opened the door for her and as she got in, she turned as said, “Ah, but you haven’t heard my terms yet. I bet you’ll be plenty satisfied by my proposal.”

She had caught him completely off guard and he blushed hotly. Will closed the car door, grateful for the brisk winter air that helped cool him down. As he entered the car on the other side, all he could think was how grateful he was to call the most magnificent woman in all the world his own.

I know, I know… there was no Drew yet. I’m such a tease! How’d you like Denny? What think you of poor Henry? The Gardiners? Feel free to leave a comment and yell at me if you like. Thanks, as always, for reading!

~Home~

~Previous Chapter~

~more coming soon!

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.

Advertisements

Sorry for the massive delays… life gets byond my control. Sometimes I need some extreme motivation. My DH has given me a deadline to get OoR finished. I’m posting this tonight for Lucy Parker’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Lucy! Thanks for reading OoR and for your encouraging comments.

*Chapter Sixty-Eight*

 

Since Liz seemed to have lost her powers of speech, Will decided to break the silence. He stepped inside, set the bag on the counter and said, “I was just in the neighborhood…”

Overjoyed that he’d flown in all the way from New York, Liz couldn’t stop grinning. “And decided to take up pizza delivery? I guess you weren’t kidding when you said Pemberley was in trouble.”

“It’s nice to have options,” Will answered with a hint of a smile before he kissed her.

“Mmn, so it is.” Liz, afraid to let go, held on to him tightly. “You really are here… right now, in the flesh?”

He leaned in and kissed her again, leaving her in no doubt that he was really there, flesh and all. “I missed you, Love. And you did say to come home…”

Lessening her hold on Will, she wiped a happy tear from her eye. “I did. I’m so happy you’re here!”

“Me too.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Congratulations, Elisabeth. I knew you could do it.”

“Now that you’re here, it finally all seems real.” Suddenly self-conscious, she said, “That sounds silly, right?”

“Not at all. I like knowing that you need me. It’s only fair, since you’ve become so completely necessary to me that I can’t seem to string any coherent thoughts together without you nearby.” He then grinned and added, “Why should I be the only one to suffer?”

She laughed. “Oh? So it’s a misery loves company thing? That explains so much.”

“It does,” Will agreed. “Now, seeing that we have a limited amount of time here, I suggest we eat and then…”

Liz tried to prompt Will’s unfinished thought. “And then?”

Will blushed, embarrassed by his presumption. “And then I thought we might turn in, but you weren’t feeling well before and I don’t know if you’re still unwell…” His eyes searched hers, as if trying to gauge her health. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. That’s not why I came to see you tonight. I’m here because I missed you and wanted to spend time with you, all the rest doesn’t matter.”

“I love you, Will. I beg your pardon, but the rest does matter! I think eating and taking you to bed sounds wonderful.” She began pulling plates and glasses down from the cabinets so they could eat dinner. Will, in an effort to be helpful, gathered together silverware and napkins and joined her at the kitchen table.

As they sat down, a much happier Will said, “All I could think about today was how good it would be to come home to you. What have you done to me?”

She understood. “Nothing more than what you’ve done to me! I never would, in a million years, have imagined that I was the sort of girl who could suddenly stop caring about everything except what her man was doing… yet that’s exactly what’s happened to me! All I could think of the entire time you were gone was whether you were doing alright, eating enough, dressed warmly enough… I have to tell you, it’s kind of frightening!”

“If it helps, everything I did while I was gone I asked myself if it was something of which you’d approve. I very much like that, by the way.”

“What do you like?”

“That I’m ‘your man’.” He reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I like that you worry about me, and want to take care of me. God knows that I feel the same about you. I know I’ve said this before, Love, but we’re quite a pair, are we not?”

“Yes, yes we are,” Liz grinned, basking in Will’s open affection. She noticed he seemed very hungry by the way he was devouring his share of dinner. He was eating so quickly that Liz wondered if he even really tasted his meal and asked, “How’s your food?”

“It’s very good. I think this pizza is perfectly fine.” He took another bite and, after a moment’s thought, added, “I think you may be a bit of a pizza snob.”

Liz laughed. “I freely admit it.”

They shared good conversation as they finished up their dinner. Afterwards they cleared the table; then stood in the hallway awkwardly, as though neither had the first clue what to do.

“Well…” Will finally broke the silence. “Perhaps I ought to clean up a bit. It was a long day, what with the travelling and all.”

Liz considered what he said. “I bet you have a lot of tension from all your negotiations, don’t you?”

Will rubbed his shoulder. “Now that you mention it, I suppose I do.” Remembering their past treatments for tension, he grinned and asked, “What might one do for such a problem?”

Liz stood behind Will and reached up to knead his neck and shoulders. “Oh, I think we can come up with something to relax you. I think we need to start with a long, hot, steamy shower.” She eased his suit jacket off and continued to work his tightened muscles. “If that’s agreeable to you?”

Will groaned and answered. “That depends.”

“On what?”

“On you! I’m only going to find a shower agreeable if you join me.”

Liz smiled, took his hand and led him down the hall where she helped Will have the most agreeable shower of his life.

That evening, as they lay exhausted in bed, Will had an idea. “We didn’t have plans for this weekend, did we?”

“No, none that I know of. Denny is coming Monday afternoon sometime, but we’re free this weekend. Why? What are you thinking?”

“Just that maybe you might want to come along with me in the morning. To New York. If you’d like to, that is.”

“I’d love that! Are you sure I wouldn’t distract you or anything?”

“Love, you are the biggest distraction in the world! However, I think having you near would be better than having you so far away. Besides, I have something that I need to tell you.” He wasn’t sure what to say, and said the only thing he could think of. “I met someone in New York.”

Liz immediately tensed in his arms and he instantly realized he’d chosen the wrong way to begin. “Bloody hell, I’m bollocks at this.” He kissed her cheek and tried again. “Liz, I met your grandfather. Seems he’s the chief shareholder of Axiom and he’s very keen on meeting you. I told him I would tell you everything when I saw you, and, so, now I am. Alton Gardiner said he’d like nothing more in this world than another chance to be your grandfather, but I want you to know that I’ve made him no promises to that end. If you want to meet him and his wife, that’s well and good… but if you want to tell him to go to hell, that’s fine too. I’ll support whatever decision you make.”

Turning so she could prop herself on her elbow, Liz asked hopefully, “Maybe it’s a different Alton Gardiner?”

Amused by her denial, Will tried to make light of the situation. “Certainly. There must be a hundred Alton Gardiners married to Elsbeths that had daughters named Elise who, in turn, had daughters name Elisabeth.”

“Smart aleck,” she quipped as she poked him in the ribs. Will could see her mind racing and he wondered how long it would take her to ask what he knew was coming. “So what happened? Did you ask if he was my grandpa? Does he look like me? Or, I guess I want to know, do I look like him? I mean, it’s not like I really care all that much anyways. I’m just a little curious.”

He smiled at her eagerness. “Of course. I heard Alton’s name and wondered if, indeed, he was one and the same. He had looked familiar somehow before we were introduced, and so yes, one can tell you two are related. However, I decided it was none of my affair and that I would tell you what I’d learned and leave it to you to decide what needs, if anything, be done. Alton, it seems, had other plans. He addressed me after the conference yesterday and he knew who I was.”

Liz interrupted, “Of course he did! His company had asked for this meeting, didn’t they?”

“Love, that’s not what I meant. Yes, he knew I was William Darcy, head of Pemberley; but he also knew I was William Darcy, fiancé of Elisabeth Gardiner.”

She turned pale and sat upright. “But… how could he know that? JJ, Bil and Henry are really the only ones who know! I mean, aside from my father… and he surely wouldn’t tell the Gardiners. Will, tell me… what has he been doing? Has he been spying on me? I need to know, Will!”

Will also sat up, putting a comforting arm around her shoulder in order to pull her close. “He has people, so he says. I have no idea how many, or just how closely they’re watching you, but your man Hill? He’s also on Alton’s payroll.”

“How can that be? What about client confidentiality and all that? He can’t spy on me to my grandpa, can he?”

“I don’t know. I would hope not, but that’s no guarantee that it hasn’t happened. If you don’t mind, I’d like to have my people take a look through your affairs and make sure there are no entanglements that you’re unaware of. As to how he knew about us, I have no idea… he wouldn’t say. What I do know is that he’s had a hand in your investments and has made sure that your money grew and that he tried to make things easier for you.”

She began to panic. “What? How?”

“Remember how you told me that you were surprised by getting that summer internship at the planetarium when you were young? Seems he had a hand in recommending you and his word did the trick.”

Liz felt sick. “What else? What else did he fix?” Her mind whirled at the implications. “Did he help with school? This is terrible…”

“No, he swears he didn’t alter anything that wasn’t already going to happen. He claims he just eased the way for some things. Like making sure your apartments were secure and in good neighborhoods and such. I imagine that was where having your solicitor on his payroll came in handy.”

“I don’t know if I want to meet him… he spied on me! Why? If he wanted to be a part of my life so badly, why didn’t he just come forward instead of stalking me? He’s no better than Thorpe!”

“I don’t believe I would go that far. His excuses for why he never came forward seemed weak, but he swears that if he could have, he and your grandmother would have been a part of your life all along.”

“What were his excuses? Oh! Never mind. I don’t really care… well, you know that’s not entirely true, I shouldn’t care, but I do. What do you think I should do? Should I meet him? If I meet him, would you come with me?”

He kissed her brow. “If I were you, I think I would meet him. Just to let him have his say, for the record, and then go from there. However, whatever you wish to do, or not, is fine by me. And should you choose to meet him, of course I’ll go with you. Liz, I love you. You never have to deal with any of them alone again.”

His words had reassured her and she kissed his cheek in return. “Thank you, Will. You always just know what to say.”

The laugh that erupted from Will was so strong, it shook the bed. “Hardly! I cock things up so often, it amazes me that you haven’t yet thrown me over. I was telling Max, he’s the head of operations here in the States, that the only flaw I can find in you is that you love me.”

Will’s diversion worked. She decided not to think on her estranged family any more for the time being. Liz pinned him down and began to kiss him. “Flaw? Oh, so that’s what we’re calling it now? Well, if the way that I love you is flawed, as you say, then the only thing left is for me to practice some more. After all, they do say that practice makes perfect.”

They practiced some more until they each agreed they were quite proficient.

 

 

In the morning, Liz packed her bag to accompany Will to New York. She primarily chose casual clothes, but made certain to add a dress that would be appropriate for the promised evening out on the town. As she zipped her bag, Liz spoke to Will, “You know, I suppose I really should meet my grandpa, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not like he can really do anything to hurt me. He doesn’t have that kind of power over me. Will you… would you do me a favor and call him for me?”

Will had been sitting in the corner on the ottoman, watching in wonder as Liz had been scurrying about between the loo, her closet and the bed where her suitcase was open. Hearing the uncertainty in her voice, he rose and crossed the room to take her in his arms. “Of course I will. If you like, I’ll make arrangements to meet with him tomorrow. When would you like to see him?”

“In the morning, after all your dealings with him are complete. I think that would be best. You’ll go with me, right?”

“Absolutely.” Indicating the leftover piles of clothes on the bed, he added, “I’ll leave you to this while I go and ring him to set up a time and ring Wentworth to let him know we’ll be off shortly.”

 

Secluded in the backseat of Will’s chauffeured car, Liz began to feel the excitement of being whisked off for a romantic weekend away in the city. Will was reviewing notes for his morning meeting, hoping that he would finish what he termed “the Axiom nonsense” early because he promised he had a few surprises in store. Sitting across from him to give him space to work, Liz stared at Will with open admiration. He’s got to be the most thoughtful man on the planet. He’s always surprising me, doing whatever he can to help me, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him. Maybe I can come up with a surprise or two for him…

Having the distinct feeling he was being watched, Will looked up from his papers to find Liz brilliantly smiling at him. “What a beautiful sight you are. Might I ask what has caused such a grin?”

“I was just thinking about something JJ told me once.”

Curious about the sparkle in her eye, he asked, “Well? What did she say?”

She shook her head and teased, “That’s for me to know, and you to find out.”

He laughed. “My, Dr. Gardiner, what a very mature response! I suppose next you’ll be sticking your tongue out at me?”

“No,” she tried to say seriously. When she failed at trying to appear serious, she laughed, stuck out her tongue and said, “Yes!”

Will put his papers back in the folder and set it aside. “Oh? Is that so?”

Liz ignored his question and instead directed his attention to their location. They were turning onto the road the hanger was on. “Did you see, Sweetheart? We’re here already.”

“So we are,” he acknowledged. Still curious about what set her in such a playful mood, he moved across the car to sit beside her. “I’ll let you play your little game, Liz.” Will kissed her cheek and gently warned her, “But you need to remember to play fair.”

Liz flew out of the car the moment they stopped, calling over her shoulder, “I think this game is definitely in your favor!”

Will watched as she ran to the plane, greeted Wentworth and took the steps as quickly as possible. Wondering what the hurry was, he quickly gave directions to the driver and after conferring for a moment with his captain, he followed Liz. When he arrived in the main cabin, she wasn’t there. He knocked on the forward door and called, “Elisabeth?” There was no answer. He then noticed her coat had been tossed haphazardly in one of the chairs. Will picked it up before it fell to the floor and called again, “Liz?” Then he spied a boot, then another, followed by her socks trailing towards the aft of the cabin. Next he found her sweater and jeans. On the handle to the stateroom was the t-shirt she’d been wearing.

With one armful of Liz’s clothing, Will used his free hand to knock on the door. Liz’s voice sang out, “Who is it?”

Torn between frustration and amusement, Will answered, “Who the bloody hell do you think it is?”

Liz quipped, “Pizza delivery guy?”

“What? A bloody delivery boy? What are you…” Will suddenly stopped. He dropped her clothes in the nearest chair and went to the cabin where he explained to Wentworth that they were to be in no way disturbed until they reached LaGuardia. Returning to the still-closed stateroom door, Will picked up her clothes once more and knocked again. He was ready this time when Liz asked, “Who is it?”

“I have a special delivery here for Miss Gardiner.”

Instead of opening the door like he thought she would, Liz said, “Come on in, I’ve been expecting you.”

Will carefully balanced his load so he could open the door. When he did, he was treated to the sight of Liz comfortably reclined across the double bed in a very pretty lace camisole with matching panties. Will took a deep breath, tossed Liz her clothes and said, “Laundry delivery for Miss Gardiner.”

Surprised by the clothing assault, Liz sat up and pretended to pout. “Hey! Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for.”

Knocking the clothes off the bed and then pressing Liz into the mattress, Will passionately kissed her senseless. When he allowed her a moment to recover, he asked, “Is this more like what you had in mind?”

Barely coherent, Liz nodded, “Uh-huh. But, here you are again, overdressed!” She started to tug at his tie and unbutton his shirt. “These need to come off, pronto!”

Shrugging off his jacket, he let it and the rest of his clothing join hers on the floor. “I think you were right, Love.”

Liz paused her attention to his neck to ask, “Right about what?”

“This game is most definitely in my favor.”

“So it is. Though I feel like we’re cheating a bit.”

He stopped nuzzling her neck to ask, “Cheating? You’re not making any sense, Love. Explain what you mean.”

“Well, it’s about what JJ told me.”

“Sorry, Love, I don’t follow.”

“Charlie wrote this book a while ago called Atlantic Panic where this guy- a real lothario type- gets falsely accused of being a terrorist on a trans-Atlantic flight and then helps take down the actual terrorists, but not before he and his blonde bombshell seatmate join the mile high club.”

“Still not following.”

“That’s because I didn’t get there yet! Have patience! So, my dear Bil likes to do research on his books whenever possible. Back when JJ was still modeling for Carrie, Charlie accompanied her home from Paris on a flight and they, well… let’s just say they’re now members of that particular club. It seems JJ and Charlie had argued over whether such a thing was even possible in such a tiny spot. Apparently, turns out it is.”

“Bloody hell! That’s so much more than I ever wished to know about my friend and your sister.” He buried his head in his pillow. “Wait, you said you felt like we were cheating. I still don’t understand. Cheating on what?”

Liz waved her hand around the stateroom. “I’m pretty sure most inductees into the mile high club don’t have their own flying bedrooms to do it in.” She leaned in close to whisper in his ear. “So, William, the big question is: are you game?”

Just then, they felt the plane begin to move on the tarmac. Will pulled her into his arms and smiled. “With you, my dearest Elisabeth, I’m game for anything.”

Some forty minutes later they touched down at Logan. Only when the plane stopped moving did Captain Wentworth’s voice come over the intercom. “Mr. Darcy, Miss Gardiner, welcome to New York. I trust you found your flight… satisfactory.”

Will had just finished with his tie. “I’m going to bloody kill him, that smart arse!”

Liz smoothed down his lapels and kissed his nose. “You’ll do no such thing and you know it. He’s a good man. It’s not like I left a lot of doubt about what I was up to… plus, you seem to forget this is your private plane! You can do whatever you like in it, including me.”

He pulled her onto his lap and asked. “What happened to the demure girl I met a few weeks ago?”

“Demure? You must be confusing me with some other girl. I’m the girl who dropped her towel because she wanted you so badly. Demented, maybe. But demure? I don’t think so.”

“Ah, yes,” he remembered it all too well. “That was the first of many delightful surprises you’ve given me, my dear, sweet Elisabeth.”

“What on earth are we going to tell our children about how we met?”

Will helped her slip her sweater back on. “The truth?”

“Right. Great example for the next generation… sex immediately and figure out the rest later.”

“Liz, I meant that we fell in love during a snowstorm. I swear to you, I think I loved you from the first. Besides, it wasn’t immediately… I mean, technically, it was the next day, and then only after I had actually met your family and had told you I loved you. See, Love? We weren’t completely rash.”

“Just mostly,” she laughed. “I have never been so impetuous like I have been with you. All the things I always hoped I could be, but never dared, I am with you.”

He was about to protest, say that she was perfect just as she was, but the look of love reflected in her eyes brought him up short. In an instant, he understood; in fact, he felt the same way. Taking her hand, he brushed a kiss across her knuckles and said, “I love you, Liz.”

 

In no time, they were in the car on the way to the apartment and it was Liz’s turn to be amused by Will’s smile. Finally her curiosity won and she inquired, “What is the ever-so-serious William Darcy grinning about?”

“I was thinking about what you said earlier. I like myself better when I’m with you. I don’t have to be concerned with what sort of impression I make, or whether I’m living up to my press, I don’t need to isolate myself away from everything… I can just be who I am. Thank you for that. It’s rather an exhilarating feeling.”

Liz could only imagine what the media would think if they knew what the “real” William Darcy was like. “Are you so very different with your sister?”

“Yes and no. I’ve been the only father figure she’s ever really known. For so long, I was making it up as I went and probably went a little overboard with being protective.”

“Rightly so!” Liz interjected, thinking of the near disaster she’d faced with Wickham.

“That may be, but it still doesn’t change that I am not Georgie’s father. For these last few months, we’ve struck a new balance that’s been more brother-sister than father-daughter and I think she’s all the happier for it. It was hard at first, but not having to be infallible all of the time has been a tremendous relief.”

Liz couldn’t resist. “What? You’re not infallible?”

Will laughed. “Hardly. But I must beg your silence on this matter, as it wouldn’t do for that fact to become widely known.”

Pleased he was able to make light of himself, Liz agreed to his request. “I promise… you have my allegiance. Heaven forbid it should get out that the great and powerful Mr. Darcy has a chink in his armor.”

“Several chinks, actually,” he corrected. “My sister and you.”

Touched, she rewarded him with a kiss for such a sweet answer.

They arrived at Will’s building and Liz took note of the place. Though both condos were housed in exclusive buildings, she couldn’t help but notice that the cold and austere interior of Will’s building was in stark contrast to the warm environment of her own. Will nodded to the doorman and they were, in turn, acknowledged when the man brushed the tip of his hat. As they rode up to his penthouse, Liz forced herself to remember that this was New York and Will was rarely here. Of course he wouldn’t have a friendly relationship with his doorman. She smiled as she thought about Guillermo.

Will had noticed Liz being unusually quiet. He was about to ask if anything was wrong when she smiled. Liz fascinated him and had since the moment she called out his boorish behavior in Chicago. Will loved watching her, the expression of her eyes and the way she looked at him as though he was her favorite thing in the world. The smile she wore now was lovely and the look on her face was wistful, as if she was remembering something. Curious about her thoughts, he asked, “What are you thinking about, Love?”

“Oh, I was just thinking about Guillermo and how he seems to be a pretty unusual character for a doorman.”

“I think he’s terrific, if a little scary. I believe you’ll appreciate Edward, the main doorman in London. He’s been there for nearly thirty years. While he’s nowhere near as loquacious as your Guillermo, Edward is a pleasant enough fellow. I highly suspect you’ll like the staff at Pemberley. Most have them have been with my family for ages. Mrs. Evans, who is a wonder, has been there since I was a boy and she will love you almost as much as I do.”

Hearing Will speak so warmly about his staff and other servants who attend him reassured her, though she couldn’t explain why she had even been worried in the first place. Over and over again, Will had proven that the sum of his worth had nothing to do with his wealth. She was curious about this woman who Will obviously held in high esteem. “Tell me about Mrs. Evans.”

“She’s in charge of everything at Pemberley and, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without her all these years. I made a lot of mistakes when I was first learning to take over the estate and she was there to gently prod me, all the while encouraging me. She helped me hire the steward, whom I’d be lost without, and she keeps everything very homey for me and Georgie. I can’t even begin to explain what a Godsend she was when Georgie became a teenager. I was ready for Bedlam, but she helped smooth things out between us and I just know that you will love her as well as I do.”

Liz was only half-joking when she said, “This is very high praise, indeed! Should I be jealous?”

The door opened to Darcy’s suite and he motioned for her to exit. He picked up her suitcase and said, “Give me a moment to put this away for you and I’ll be right back to answer you.”

Wondering why he side-stepped her question, she took a seat on the very modern-looking leather sofa to await his return. He was gone only a minute. Will sat on the coffee table so he could directly face her. “Now, I believe the question was if you should be jealous of Mrs. Evans?” The disbelief on his face made her feel ridiculous. “Are you serious, Love? Evelyn- yes, her name is Evelyn Evans- is at least sixty, and very likely more. Her age aside, she’s been nothing but motherly to me for most all my life. What I find worrisome is that I can’t recall anything I have done in the time we’ve been together that might cause you to be jealous, even a little, like this.”

Feeling every bit a fool, Liz blushed with embarrassment as she admitted the truth. “Because you haven’t. I know I’m being absurd… but there are moments when I still can’t believe that you want to be with me. I worry- and yes, I know it’s totally irrational- that I’m going to lose you or that you’re going to change your mind about me.”

Will raised his head, closing his eyes as he pictured strangling the Bennets for the all the years they spent making Elisabeth listen to absurd lies about how unworthy she was of ever being loved like she deserved. When his mind was satisfied with his imaginary revenge, he took a deep breath and looked into the eyes of the woman he’d grown to love beyond anything he’d ever believed was possible. “Love, it seems I’ve been remiss if you don’t yet have a full understanding that I could never, not even remotely, change my mind about you. I don’t just want you, I need you. You are necessary to me; like food, water, or oxygen. Without you, I would simply cease to be.”

She wiped a tear and Will groaned. “Good God, Liz, I hadn’t meant to make you cry. I’m sorry I’m such a bloody idiot and seem to always say the wrong thing.”

Her eyes widened in surprise at his apology, then took his hand and squeezed reassuringly. “Will, these are the good kind of tears and you’re no more an idiot than I am.”

“Still… I didn’t intend to bring you to tears. I only wish for you to be happy.”

Liz rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I take it back. You are an idiot. But, you’re my idiot, and I love you very much.” She tugged on his hand to pull him over to sit beside her on the couch. She gently cupped his cheek and tried to explain what she was feeling. “Sometimes I will cry. Weirdly, you’ll find that most of the time when I cry, I cry because I’m supremely happy. Seems being supremely happy makes me emotional and I cry. There might be, no… there will be times when I get sad. I might get angry. I might get quiet, I might get loud… I might do or say a lot of things. What you need to remember is that above all, no matter what is going on in our lives, I love you. We, you and me, are going to argue and fight and make up and be happy and sad and take everything that life offers us and deal with things as they come… and we’re going to get through anything thrown at us because we’ll be together. I love you, Fitzwilliam George Darcy and I know that we are meant to be. I get that and I promise that I will do my best to not freak out anymore.”

His hand reached up and to catch hers. He then placed their joined hands over his heart. “I love you, and I now understand.” She looked relieved and he couldn’t resist teasing her just a little. “I understand that sometimes you will ramble on incoherently.”

She used the position of her hand on his chest to give him a small shove. “Well, we can’t all number and prioritize things in our brains before we speak. I’m not a Franklin planner for crying out loud.”

Will kissed her cheek and chuckled as he replied, “And that is something for which I am highly thankful.”

Before Liz could make another quick-witted reply, Will’s mobile rang. “It’s Reynolds,” he said by way of apology for needing to answer it. “Morning, Reynolds.”

Liz spoke loud enough to be heard. “Hello, Henry! I’ll see you later.”

“Meet me downstairs in ten, Reynolds.” Will switched off his mobile. “Reynolds gives his warmest salutations. Sadly, it is time for me to go.” He stood up and grabbed his briefcase.  “I must be off now to Axiom. Will you be okay on your own today?”

“Sure. I need to get settled in here. After that, I have a few stops to make before lunch with Denny. What time do you think we’ll meet with my grandfather?”

“If all goes today as planned, then I suspect sometime around four, if it suits you.”

“Four is fine. Have a good meeting, Sweetheart.”

“You have a good day as well, Love.”

They kissed goodbye and then Liz watched as Will walked out the door.

~Home~

~Previous Chapter~

~Next Chapter~

This is still pretty raw. Any glaring errors fall squarely on my shoulders. Next chapter begins a series of confrontations. mwah!ha!ha!

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.


*Chapter Sixty-Seven*

Liz had just pulled back into her parking space in her building’s garage when her cell phone rang. Putting her Escape in park, she pulled out her cell from her purse and answered, “Hey, JJ.”

Jane Bingley fired without taking a breath, “Bethy, don’t you ‘hey, JJ’ me! How was it? Did you do well? Of course you did! So, do we get to call you doctor yet?”

“Technically, no. I have not yet been ‘made’ a doctor, but yes, I did very well and I’m getting my doctorate!”

Jane squealed, “Oh, Beth! Congratulations! I am so happy for you! I expect you and that handsome man of yours will go out and celebrate tonight.” There were times, though not very often, that Jane sounded like her mother and this was one of them. Liz smiled and, knowing her step-sister wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, decided to keep this observation to herself.

“I wish.” Liz tried to keep the whine from her voice. “Will’s still in New York. Our celebration will just have to wait until tomorrow night.”

“Well, Friday’s a better night to go out anyways,” Jane offered, positive as always.

“That’s true,” Liz admitted. “Hey, did I tell you who’s coming to visit next week?”

“No. Have you been holding the good gossip from me? And I thought we were friends more than sisters.”

“Oh, please!” Liz laughed. “Save the pathetic whining for someone it might work on like your husband. I, as you well know, am quite immune to your ploys. Now, do you want to hear or not?”

“Of course. Things are so quiet here now with everyone gone. We miss you guys… I’m so sorry our visit didn’t quite go off as we planned.”

“Ah, but it did! Didn’t you and Bil intend for me and Will to fall madly in love? Mission accomplished. The rest is inconsequential. Except for the hunting… I’m still pretty ticked about that.”

“Yes, you two did work out rather well, didn’t you? And you already know Charlie’s sorry.” Jane was pleased that her dearest sister had finally found true love. However, there was still information that had not yet been shared and Jane intended to find out what it was. “So, this visitor? Who is it?”

“Visitor? That’s right, we got side-tracked. Carrie’s little luncheon a few weeks ago with Denny reminded him there were some of us who knew him before he was rich, famous and fabulous. We had a long talk the other day and he’s coming up to Boston for a few days next week.”

“How fun! I bet you guys will have a blast with your reunion. How long has it been?”

“I don’t know, at least seven years anyways. Too long. He’s such a doll and I can’t wait to introduce him to Will.”

Jane laughed. “Do you think they’ll get along alright?”

“They’d better!” was Liz’s reply.

Liz then asked how Jane was feeling and how the baby was doing. Jane gushed as she told how the baby was much more active now and enjoyed telling her sister how Charlie had actually cried when he first felt the baby move. “He tries to act like he’s all manly-man, but he’s actually just a big ball of goo… at least when it comes to the baby.”

“Oh, I don’t know… he’s pretty gooey about you, too. That’s great that Charlie’s excited about his impending fatherhood. I know I can’t wait to be an aunt.”

“And Fitz? What does he think about becoming an uncle?”

“Honestly? We haven’t really discussed it a whole lot. But I’m sure he’s definitely good with it, especially since I know that in the next few years he’d like to become a father.”

“Whoa!” Jane couldn’t hide her surprise. “If I ever had any doubts that you guys weren’t really serious, they’re gone now. You guys really had the kids talk?”

“We’ve touched on it… and he’s ready anytime I am. The ball, so to speak, is firmly in my court. He knows that I’m just starting out with my career and he completely expects me to take a few years to get situated before we go and change everything by having a baby.”

For someone who had a loving, caring man who was letting her make all the decisions, Liz didn’t sound as thrilled as Jane thought she would be. “And how do you feel about that?”

“Will is so wonderful and has been nothing but considerate of my feelings when we discuss the future.”

Jane sighed. Liz never could keep anything secret from her. “Right, and yet I’m sensing a ‘but’ in there. So, Will is rainbows and unicorns and super-sensitive… But…”

But… I’m wondering if it’s really weird that I don’t think I want to wait a few years? I mean, what’s wrong with me, JJ?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you at all, Beth! It’s perfectly normal to start having thoughts about the future when you finally find who you want to spend it with. It’s not like babies were on your brain and went out to find a man… you found a man and then started to think about having children. If you don’t want to wait a few years that’s fine… but Elisabeth, there’s no rush either. You’re plenty young, and Will’s hardly old. The only thing you really need to be concerned about, as far as I know, is your diabetes.”

“You’re right. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m a little bit hormonal or something myself today. God, I miss Will.” She sighed. “How can someone I didn’t even know a month ago have become the most important person in my life so fast? I sound so clingy and pathetic, don’t I?”

“No, you sound like a woman in love,” Jane reassured her. She then giggled to add, “And maybe just a touch pathetic.”

“Gee, thanks.” Liz then caught the time on her car display. “Wow. I’ve been sitting here in my car yakking with you for way too long. I love you JJ, but I ought to get upstairs and eat or Will’s gonna kill me for letting my sugar drop.”

Jane was touched. “He really does look out for you, doesn’t he?”

Liz stated simply, “He loves me.”

“Yes, he sure seems to, and so do me and Charlie. Now go on, go get something to eat and call Will before he climbs the wall worrying about you!”

“Thanks, JJ. Should you talk to the Bennets, you could let them know it went well, you know, only if they care enough to ask. I’ll be sure to tell CC myself.”

“They do love you, Beth. They really do, even if you don’t believe it.”

“I don’t, but thanks anyways. I’m in a good mood, so I’m not going to discuss them with you right now. What I am going to do is really hang up and get going now. I’ll talk to you and Bil later, okay?”

They bid each other one final good-bye and hung up. Liz gathered the last of her folders from school and made her way into the building. There she was greeted by her doorman Guillermo, who was very happy to see her.

The big man came out from around his monitor station to greet her with a fatherly hug. “Miss Gardiner! How’d your big day go? I betcha knocked them stiffs over there dead with your smarts. You’re one heck of a lady, Miss- or is that doctor now? Gardiner. Brains and beauty… you got ‘em both, ma’am, in spades.”

Liz returned the hug and said, “Thank you, Guillermo! You say the absolute sweetest things. It went very well today and, for now, I’m still just plain old Elisabeth Gardiner.” She leaned in to whisper, “But I’ll be Dr. Gardiner very soon.”

“I’m so proud of you, Miss Gardiner! You gotta celebrate this momentous achievement of yours… where’s that fella of yours been at? He oughta be here at a time like ‘dis. I ain’t seen that other funny fella either, nows I think about it.”

“Funny fellow?” When Liz realized what he meant, she laughed. “Oh, you mean Henry? He’s not funny, he’s just British.”

I say he’s funny, but if you say he ain’t, then I’m not gonna argue the matter. So, the question is: where are they?”

“They’re in New York for a business venture. They should both be back tomorrow afternoon sometime. And while I’m thinking about it, I’m to have another guest arrive next week.”

“I’m glad you got friends that are close ta you. It’s too bad yer family gives you such trouble. Just don’t understand what’s their problem.”

“That makes two of us, because I don’t get it either. Anyways, my old friend from Illinois, Denny Fields, is coming to stay with me for a few days next week. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

Guillermo gave it a moment before he answered honestly, “Can’t say that I have.”

Liza grinned, “Well, I guarantee McKenna has, ask her when you talk to her next. She’ll tell you all about Dennis.”

It had taken a second or two before Guillermo understood Denny was not an odd nickname for Danielle, but was short for Dennis, a man’s name. “So this Denny character is another guy? You’ll have ta pardon me for sayin’ so, but it ain’t right… you havin’ three guys up in your place, with you bein’ a single lady and all.”

His concern, misplaced as it was, touched her. “Now Guillermo, I’m a big girl and I promise you I’ll be just fine. Will’s my fiancé, Henry’s his business associate and Denny is my oldest friend in the world. If it’s my safety you are concerned about, you really needn’t worry.” She tried to think of a way to put it so he would understand. “My friend Denny… he’s a fashion designer. He creates high fashion shoes and accessories.”

“Ah, so he not only makes the loafers, but he wears them extra-light ones. I get ya now. If that’s the case, I won’t worry ‘bout it then… though you may wanna keep an eye on that fella of yours, since from what McKenna tells me, he’s quite the looker.”

“I’m pretty sure Will’s got nothing to worry about either. Thanks, Guillermo, for looking out for me.”

“No problem, Miss Gardiner. Just doin’ my duty, and in your case, it’s nothing but pleasure.”

She gave him another hug before going upstairs to check her sugar and grab a quick bite before calling Will.

 

Will glanced at his watch and wondered for the millionth time if this day was ever going to end. The morning had nearly degenerated into a shouting match between the senior executives of both companies. Axiom was positive they were going to be sold off and disbanded, losing all their company benefits and whatever seniority they possessed. Nothing anyone from Pemberley said seemed to reassure them otherwise and nothing was getting accomplished. Lunch had been a miserable affair. Max had a mountain of concerns that he needed to address with Will. So, because of Max, Will had been unable to speak with Alton to let him know his decision. Then there was Henry. He’d excused himself from lunch, stating he had a prior engagement- something that Will found very hard to believe. If something good didn’t happen soon, his head was going to explode.

Just when Will was about to invent an excuse to leave the meeting for a few minutes, his mobile rang. With a wry smile, Will made his now legitimate excuse and left the conference room to speak to Liz. “Hello, Love. How did it go?”

She could no longer hold in her excitement. Liz bubbled with tangible energy. “Hello, Sweetheart, it went very well! I’m really going to be a doctor!”

Her excitement was catching. “Congratulations, that’s fantastic! I knew you would do it. I love you, Liz.”

“Thanks, Will. I love you, too! I talked to JJ earlier… she and Bil send their love as well.”

“How’s Jane faring these days?”

“She’s doing well. The baby’s pretty active now from what she says. She even said Charlie cried the first time he felt the baby move. JJ also asked if you’d like being an uncle.”

“I’m not surprised about Chip. He’s always wanted kids. I like the idea of being part of a pair with you- Uncle Will and Aunt Liz. Aunt and Uncle Darcy. Sounds pretty good to me. My Cousin John’s kids call me Uncle Will… I’m sure they’ll love having a new aunt to dote on them.”

“How many kids does your cousin have again? I forget.”

“John and Michelle have three- for now. There’s Michael, at six, he’s the oldest. There’s Sarah- two years younger than Mikey and then there’s Roger, who’s merely ten months younger than Sarah. They are such dear children, I’m sure that in no time you’ll love them as much as I do.”

“I’m sure I will. I look forward to meeting all your family, Will. Now, I’ve told you about my day- and before you ask, I ate and my sugar is just fine- it’s your turn to tell me how your day is going.”

“First, you are a lifesaver. Had you not rang me just now, I was about to resort to creating some kind of diversion to escape before I caused someone bodily harm.”

Liz sympathized, “Meeting’s that bad, huh?”

“You have no idea, Love. Second, I don’t know how to articulate to these people in any plainer terms what we’re offering them. It seems that nearly the whole lot of them would rather go down with the ship than take a chance on us rescuing them. Seems they’re afraid we’ll dismantle the whole company, despite our track record to the contrary. These people are terrified of their own shadows at this point, and can’t see a good thing standing right in front of them. Honestly, I have no idea what else I can do. If they can’t come to a decision by lunch tomorrow, I’m taking our offer off the table and flying home to you. Axiom be damned.”

“Home to me, I like the sound of that.”

“Me, too. Third, I’m having the damndest time focusing because someone was making suggestive comments to me this morning and that’s all I’ve been able to think about all day. It’s a good thing we’re already well-off, Love, because I can’t seem to think straight anymore. I fear Pemberley may be in grave danger.”

Liz laughed, which was exactly what Will needed to hear right then. “Nice. Blaming me for your shortcomings, Mr. Darcy? Tsk-tsk. I thought better of you than that. You make me sound quite fatal!”

“No, Love, not fatal. You are necessary… like the air I breathe. The problem, as I see it, is that at present you are frankly too bloody far away from me. Now that you are such a part of me, I can’t be without you. I hope that doesn’t sound too pathetic, but even if it does, it’s the truth.”

“We are quite a pair, my dear William. I said nearly the same thing, down to calling myself pathetic, to JJ not even an hour ago. I’ve never put much stock in that whole idea of someone being your other half… to me, it just seemed like so much nonsense. But now, now I get it and I think it makes sense. What do you think?”

“I agree. Not only are you my other half, you’re my better, make that superior, half. What time can we talk online tonight? This is nice, but if I can’t be there with you, I’d like to still see you.”

“I assume they’re going to try to wine and dine you again tonight?”

“It seems likely… especially since nothing seems to be going right.”

“Then let’s make it a date for nine. If you aren’t back by then, just call me.”

“Better yet, you can ring me. I may need the excuse… one of the shareholders is particularly difficult to dodge.”

“I can do that. I love you, Will… you’ll get this all straightened out, I know it.”

“Thank you for the vote of confidence. Some people just refuse to see what’s best… I can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do.”

“That may be so, but I believe in you.”

“I can’t tell you how much that means to me, except to say that I love you. And I miss you.”

“I miss you, too… if we’re really lucky, perhaps you’ll be home in less than twenty-four hours. Now, go get ‘em, Tiger!”

It was Will’s turn to laugh. “Wait. Isn’t that what Mary Jane always says to Peter Parker?”

“Yep. You’re my superhero, William Darcy. Now, go make this thing happen so you can come home happy.”

“Regardless if it happens or not, coming home to you will always make me happy.”

After another minute or two, they were finally able to say good-bye only because they had a definite appointment for later that evening. Fortified by Liz’s belief in his ability to make things happen, Will walked confidently back into the meeting, demanded everyone’s full attention, then stated for the umpteenth time what Pemberley could do for Axiom. Whether it was his take-charge attitude or just the fact that they’d heard the proposal a million times already, the Axiom people finally were willing to listen. By five, they were half-way through negotiations. They agreed to finish the deal in the morning and all parties walked away feeling much better than the day before.

As Will, Max and Henry were readying to leave, Alton Gardiner asked Will for a moment of his time. Not wanting to be waylaid two nights in a row, he told Max and Henry he’d be there momentarily. When they were left alone in the conference room, Will asked, “Out with it Gardiner, what do you want?”

Alton leaned his large frame on the table to ease his weight off his feet. “Succinct and to the point, I like that. Have you decided what you’re going to tell Elisa?”

“Her name is Liz, or Elisabeth– it is never Elisa. And I intend to tell her everything just as soon as I get back to Boston and we can sit down to discuss matters.”

“I would like, more than anything, a place in my granddaughter’s life and would move heaven and earth to make that happen.”

“Sir, with all due respect, sometimes it’s simply too late for apologies. Whatever Liz decides, I’ll stand by her. As for you, I’m doing my best to save this company… not for you, but for the people who work here and because it’s the right thing to do. As for all your grandiose plans, Liz doesn’t need your help or your money and I would marry her even if she didn’t have one red cent to her name. You have no power over me, old man and I wouldn’t hold much stock in your having any power over Liz either.”

Before Alton could try to rationalize his actions again, Will had another thought. “And as for your boy Hill… his happily employed days are numbered. I’ll make sure Liz has all the legal counsel she needs without having her attorney be your lackey. Are we understood?”

Alton frowned. He didn’t understand why the boy couldn’t see that he only had Elisa’s best interests at heart, the same as Will did. “Yes, Darcy. I don’t think you left any room for misunderstanding.”

“Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m having dinner with my people this evening.”

Nodding that he understood he would be given no more time to persuade Will to his side, Alton nodded. The two left the room in silence. Max, Henry and Will stepped into one of the elevators and offered to hold it so Alton could ride down with them, but he declined, saying he had a few phone calls to make. Just before the elevator door shut, Will decided to be nice- an influence from Liz, no doubt- and he casually said to Alton, “Gardiner, Elisabeth finished her last exam today and is about to be awarded her doctorate. Just thought you might like to know.”

Then, the elevator door closed, leaving behind a speechless Alton Gardiner.

Henry had been listening and was thrilled with the news. “Miss Gardiner did it? Please send her my congratulations.”

“She did,” Will said proudly. “Thank you, I’ll be sure and tell her this evening.”

Max was intrigued. “Your fiancé is a doctor? What’s her specialty?”

Will smiled. He knew Max was expecting him to say orthopedics or oncology, something in the medical field. He took great satisfaction is saying, “Physics.”

Max, just as Will suspected, had not expected that. “Indeed? I’m impressed. She sounds too smart for you, Will.” He pointed to his temple, “Are you sure she’s all there?”

Will rolled his eyes as they exited the elevator. “Yes, her faculties are completely intact. She’s brilliant and the only flaw I can find is that she, for some inexplicable reason, loves me. As this character flaw works greatly in my favor, I’m willing to overlook it.”

Max laughed and clapped Will on the shoulder. “That’s my boy.”

Henry interrupted, “Did the two of you need me for anything this evening?”

Will wanted to say yes, especially if it meant keeping Henry out of trouble, but the fact was Henry was a grown man and needed to live his own life and make his own mistakes. “No, I don’t. Max?”

“I think we’re good. In fact, after the change this afternoon- excellent work there, Darcy- I thought I might just go home instead of sitting in on a war council. What say you boss?”

“An evening all to myself, free of Axiom? Sounds perfect.” Will shook Max’s hand. “Until tomorrow, then.”

Max waved good-bye and got into his waiting car.

Will turned to Henry, “Reynolds, can I drop you somewhere, or are you headed back to the flat?”

Henry shook his head. It was plain that Will had a pretty good idea how to use his free time. “I’m good, sir. You have a good night.” He laughed as he watched Will practically dive into the car. “Be sure to pass on my congratulations when you see Miss Gardiner!”

At first, Will was about to deny his plans, but then he realized Henry, having met Liz, would understand. “I will, Reynolds. See you at nine forty-five am, sharp.”

The moment he shut the door, he knocked on the partition and gave the driver his destination. Next, he punched a number on his mobile and the cheery voice of Captain Wentworth answered. “Yes, Mr. Darcy? What can I do for you this evening?”

“You can have my plane ready to leave for Boston in about a half-hour. I find myself free this evening and want to go home. I’ll need to be back tomorrow morning, preferably by eight, eight-thirty at the latest. Will any of that be a problem?”

Frederick had missed this kind of assignment for so long. There was an undeniable freedom in being able to fly here or there on a moment’s notice. “Absolutely not, sir. I look forward to seeing you shortly.”

Will made excellent time to the airport. With only the clothes on his back and his briefcase, Will boarded his Gulfstream where he was greeted by Frederick Wentworth. It was only when he sat down on the jet that Will began to wonder just how sound his plan was. “Tell me, Wentworth, am I completely barmy for flying to Boston just for the night?”

“Pardon my impertinence, sir, but isn’t your fiancé back in Boston?”

“She is.”

“Then no, sir, you’re not barmy at all. We are, all of us, fools in love. You’ll be her hero, sir.” The odd look on Will’s face caused him to stammer, “Not that you aren’t already her hero, sir.”

“What? No, Wentworth… you just reminded me of something that Liz said to me earlier, that’s all. How long until we’re airborne?”

“Just waiting to hear from the tower, sir. I don’t imagine it will be long until they clear us for flight. In fact, if you’ll strap in, I’ll head up front to await word for takeoff.”

Will agreed and within twenty minutes they were in the air. They touched down at Logan just before seven pm. He thanked Wentworth and assured him he was free until the morning. Wentworth informed Will there was a car waiting to take him wherever he wanted. He liked his people to take initiative and could see that the Captain would be a definite asset. “Wentworth, forget the trial period… the job’s yours is you want it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I’ll take it.”

“Excellent. I’ll have legal draw up a contract for you when we get to London. See you here at what time in the morning?”

“By seven to seven-fifteen if you wish to be back by eight or so. I’ve already posted flight plans, so we should have no issues in the morning. If that’s all, then allow me to bid you a good night, sir.”

Will nodded and said he’d be there. The moment he got in the car, he couldn’t wait any longer to call Liz. She answered on the first ring. “Hey, you. How’s your meeting going?”

“Dreadfully dull. Absolute bore.” It wasn’t a lie. Any time spent without her seemed dull and boring. “I’m on my own for a moment in a car, though.”

“Aw… poor William! You do know there are worse things than being chauffeured around?”

Will only chuckled in response.

“Have you had dinner yet, at least? Please tell me that you’ve at least eaten something.”

“Not yet, but I intend to in just a few minutes. Have you dined yet tonight?”

“Well, no… I had a late lunch and when I checked my sugar last, I was fine. I’m thinking about ordering a pizza.”

“Really?” An idea began to form in his mind. This would be much better than showing up with flowers. “And where would you order this pizza from?”

“Bostone’s over on Newbury. Why?”

“Just curious.” He rapped on the partition and when the driver lowered it, he repeated what Liz said. “So, going to Bostone’s over on Newbury. I take it its good.”

“It’s decent for Boston pizza. Don’t get me wrong… Bostone’s is good, but being a Chicago girl, I haven’t found anyone who gets deep dish right like we do.”

“Ah, I understand. And what were you thinking of getting? Maybe I’ll get some pizza for dinner, too. Isn’t New York supposed to be famous for its pizza as well?”

“Yeah, but their pizza is different. It’s all about the thin, gigantic slices. In fact, never ask for a piece of pizza in New York. It’s a slice. I wouldn’t want you to cause an international incident.”

“No,” he agreed with a chuckle, “we certainly wouldn’t want that.”

They debated what kinds of toppings were appropriate for pizza and whenever Will disagreed, Liz reminded him how much he’d enjoyed the spinach and feta pizza back in Chicago. After nearly fifteen minutes, Liz had concluded she was going to order an antipasto salad, the famous cheesy bread and the tomato basil traditional pizza, fully intending for there to be leftovers that she would eat for breakfast. Will’s car had just pulled up in front of the restaurant, so he gallantly offered to get off the line so she could place her order. They said their good-byes and Liz reminded him of their date for later, Will insisting that there was no way he could possibly forget.

Will stepped inside and caught one of the young men behind the counter’s attention. “Excuse me, my fiancé is likely placing an order at this very moment and I’d like to amend the order if possible.”

The young man had no idea what to say to such a request. “Uh, I don’t know if we can really do something like that. Our customers are really into their privacy.”

“I understand. Tell you what… if I can give you her exact order, her name and her address, would you allow it then? I’m home early from a business trip and would love to surprise her.”

“Yeah, that might be okay. If, and that’s a big if, you can do it.”

“Fine, her name is Liz Gardiner, she lives at 180 Beacon Street and she should have ordered cheesy bread, a salad- antipasto, I think- and a tomato basil pizza. Please, help me out here… I’ll make it worth your while if you do.”

The young man was impressed. Everything Will had said was exactly right. Now he wondered what was in it for him. “How?”

“A fifty for you, and another fifty for the driver that would have taken the order over. Is that fair?”

The young man grinned. He had no intention of telling the guy with more money than brains that he was the driver who would be up for that order. There was a lot he could do with an extra hundred. “Yeah, that’s fair.”

“Good. Can we change the pizza from the small to the large? And add one of those chicken parmigiana subs?”

“No problem. We’ll have this up for you within fifteen or so.” He cancelled Liz’s order and put in the new, expanded one. He gave the total and Will paid the bill, plus the hundred extra. When the order was ready, Will didn’t want the food to get cold and asked for one of the delivery bags.

The kid grinned, fully expecting another portrait of President Grant to join the other two already in his wallet. “Those cost extra. They ain’t free.”

“No, I suppose not. But since they’re not free, I believe that means they have a price. How much?”

The kid explained, “They cost us forty, but then we gots all the hassle of orderin’ in a new one.”

“Is fifty enough?”

“Perfect!” He then put Will’s order in a delivery hot-bag and wished his new “friend” the best of luck.

Will got back in the car and informed the driver that their final destination of the night would be 180 Beacon Street. They pulled up in front of Liz’s building in less than ten minutes. Will dismissed the driver for the night, but not before arranging a pick-up for the morning. Will, carrying his new hot-bag, used his key card to enter the building without being buzzed in.

As he approached the Doorman’s station, he greeted Guillermo with a friendly hello.

“Well, hello and good evening right back at ya, Mr. Darcy. Boy, is Miss Gardiner gonna be glad ta see you! I suppose she don’t know nothin’ ‘bout you comin’ home early, does she now?”

“No, she does not. I had to come… I’m sure you know it was a big day for her. We’ve got a lot to celebrate tonight. I’m hoping she’ll like her surprise.”

Guillermo’s estimation of Will rose considerably. “I’m sure she will. Ya know what? You’re a little bit of alright after all, Mr. Darcy. I’m here ‘til two this mornin’, should there be anything you or Miss Gardiner need.”

He thanked Guillermo and promised to bear that in mind. As he rode the elevator to Liz’s floor, Will decided to take the burly doorman’s sudden good opinion as a victory of sorts. He had somehow finally shown he was worthy of his Elisabeth. Now, if only he could do the same for the rest of her family, then all would be well. Setting aside thoughts of the Bennets for another day, he exited the elevator and made his way to Liz’s kitchen door, the one marked for deliveries. He could hear he call from within, “I’ll be there in just a second.”

She opened the door and, for a moment, thought her mind was playing tricks on her. Liz closed her eyes and shook her head, hoping to clear away her hallucination. However, when she opened them, a very real Will was standing in her doorway, holding pizza.

~home~

~previous chapter~

~next chapter~

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


*Chapter Sixty-Six*

Liz was exhausted. She’d been reviewing her notes, making certain she recalled each main point of he listed topics for her upcoming oral defense. She closed the files and vowed not to revisit them until after the exam. Her advisor, she hoped and prayed, was right. After being in school for the last twenty-one years, she either knew the material, or she didn’t. One night of cramming was not going to make a significant difference.

Hoping to kill time until Will called; she’d cleaned the kitchen, made a grocery list, done the dishes and baked muffins for the morning. She yawned and checked the time. It was almost eleven. Will should have been back long before now. She almost called him, but thought better of it. If he was still with the people from Axiom, he wouldn’t appreciate the interruption. Liz flipped through the channels on TV but found nothing to hold her interest. Liz, normally happy with solitude, was finding it completely unsatisfactory now. She missed Will, plain and simple, and would not be happy until he was back with her, where he belonged. With a groan, she threw the remote on the coffee table and said aloud, “Fitzwilliam Darcy, what have you done to me?”

I can be patient. Really, I know I can be. Desperate for distraction, Liz sat at the counter and thumbed through the catalogues that had come in the mail. As Liz flipped through an address label catalogue, she toyed with the idea of ordering some new labels. Dr. Elizabeth Gardiner. Dr. E. Gardiner. She turned the page to find the wedding themed labels and smiled. Mr. and Mrs. William Darcy. Or would that be Mr. and Dr. Darcy? Wait, I think it would be Mr. William and Dr. Elizabeth… that’s too long though. She sighed in frustration. Someone that knew better would help them figure it out later. The next catalogues all promised on their covers to be full of the perfect holiday presents for everyone on her list. She had found her distraction. “Christmas shopping! I can do some Christmas shopping!” Tossing the ads aside, she headed back to her office to shop online.

Liz wasn’t sure what to get Will, or his sister for that matter. She wanted their gifts to be really special, and would wait until something either caught her eye or she learned of something they wanted when she reached London. While ideas for Will would come later, she had lots of ideas for everyone else. She logged in to her Amazon account and within a half-hour, she had completed her shopping for Mimi and LiLi. Mimi was getting a new external hard drive and some other new computer toys and LiLi was getting those expensive new headphones that she had been begging for, along with some new iPod accessories. Though she had already delivered presents for the Bingleys, she couldn’t resist ordering something for JJ. Liz ordered her step-sister a mother’s pendant, and since Charlie had accidentally informed her they were having a daughter, she also ordered some decidedly feminine baby items. As for her father and his wife, she felt an obligation to get them something and purchased them an Omaha steak package, deciding that was enough.

A glance at the bottom corner of her screen informed her it was now well-past midnight. She was growing anxious- part of her was highly annoyed while another was worried. The feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach refused to be ignored. Where the hell is Will? Something’s happened, I know it! She was though waiting. I don’t care if he’s still meeting with the Axiom people, it’s really late and I just need to know he’s alright. He’ll understand, and if he doesn’t, then too bad! Just as she picked up her phone to call Will, it rang, startling her enough to cause her to drop it on the floor. Thankfully, since the carpet was soft and well-padded, no harm was done. She answered it on the third ring, just before it went to voicemail.

“Will! Thank God! Where are you?”

Will, at Alton’s request, had followed Liz’s grandfather back to the Gardiner’s Central Park West apartment to verify the truth of that man’s claims. From what he could tell, it seemed that Alton had been truthful in his claims and Will now had to decide what, if anything, he would do with the information. For the moment, all he was certain of was his headache and that Liz was going to kill him. “I’m just now leaving the Axiom people, Liz. Things were much more complicated that we realized. I’m so sorry, Love. I hadn’t realized it was so late.”

Liz cried, “It’s almost twelve-thirty in the morning!” She couldn’t stop herself from scolding him. “How did you not realize it was this late? Does that new watch of yours not work?”

That last question caused him to chuckle, even though it went against his better judgment.

His humor did nothing for hers, except to incite her anger. “Don’t you laugh at me, William! I’m here, worried sick over you… and you’re out there laughing and having a good time… did you even once consider me?”

He was grateful for the privacy of the elevator as he rode downstairs. “Stop right there! Elisabeth, everything that I am doing right now, I am doing with you as my first, and in this case, only, consideration. Do not think for one second there is anyplace I would rather be or that you have not been constant in my thoughts. When I get back to Boston, which should be Friday, I think, we will have a lot of things to discuss and some important decisions to make.”

Liz was confused. What could she possibly have to do with Will’s business? It didn’t make sense. “You want my input? What do you mean? I’ve told you, I don’t know anything, really, about business. My lawyer Hill takes care of all that for me.”

While going through Alton’s papers, Harold Hill was a name that Will became very familiar with. “I know, Liz; I remember you telling me that. I just think that maybe it’s time we had someone else look through your affairs.” Realizing that might sound like he didn’t trust her, he quickly added, “A third party opinion, just to be on the safe side.”

Hill had worked for Liz since she was eighteen. He had always made sure anything she ever needed was done at once and had done wonders with everything from restraining orders for Thorpe to setting up the fake scholarship for JJ. Hill had been the one dependable adult, albeit a well-paid one, in her turbulent life. “Do you think that’s really necessary?”

Will dissembled. “I don’t think it would hurt.”

“Well, then, I suppose I must bow to your superior knowledge in this. However, don’t think my agreement means you’re off the hook, mister! A really short phone call or even a text saying everything was okay would have been better than the silence I had this evening. Let me remind you, since you seem to have forgotten, that you were in the hospital recently and are supposed to be taking things easy. I’m pretty sure that means not staying out doing God
knows what ‘til all hours of the morning.”

Will exited the elevator. “Truly, Love, I lost track of time. And before you say it, a dozen watches wouldn’t help the matter. I promise to do a better job in the future of remembering to ring if I’m running late. However, from now on, if you ever wish to speak with me, please, just ring… there’s no need to wait on me.”

“But I didn’t want to interrupt your important meeting.”

Elisabeth,” he sighed as he stood on the curb waving to his car. “I love you. Soon, you are to be my wife, and me your husband. Nothing, I repeat nothing, is as important in this world to me as you. You are not an interruption! If anything, you would be my relief in an undoubtedly dreary day.”

Liz instantly felt horrible for having turned into a nagging shrew. She had never before in her life nagged anyone about anything and found she did not like it one bit. “I am so sorry, Sweetheart! I love you, too. Forgive me?”

The driver opened the door, and Will sank into the comfort and warmth of the car. “Of course.” Deciding the conversation had become much too serious, he added, “Besides, I thought this was all well-covered ground, Love. I am a thick-headed idiot that needs constant correction to keep me from being a bastard and so it is your job to keep me on the straight and narrow with constant phone calls reminding me how much you love me and how wonderful I
am.”

For his efforts, Will was rewarded with exactly what he wanted. Liz laughed. “Oh? I didn’t realize I’d forgotten to feed the ego today. I love you Will. Thank you for not freaking out that I turned into a nagging fishwife.”

“I will always be willing to overlook such flaws so long as you are willing to do the same for mine. I know very well that I can be overbearing sometimes.”

“I think I can live with that. I believe we have a bargain. What do you think?”

“I have you, Love, and that’s the best bargain in the entire world.”

They continued to ease their minds with gentle reassurances and tender words of affection until Liz could no longer stay awake. They made a date to Skype over breakfast and bid each other sweet dreams until then.

As Will readied for bed, he vowed that he would do whatever it took to make Liz happy. Bennets, Gardiners and the whole world be damned.

Will was startled awake by his mobile. “Bollocks,” he groused as he fumbled around his sheets looking for the irritating electronic. He found it amid the twisted bedding and was able to answer just ahead of it going to voicemail. The display alerted him it was Henry ringing and so he gruffly stated, “What?”

Henry replied, “Morning, sir. Did you have need of me this morning? To discuss Axiom, I mean.”

The line was quiet long enough for Henry to wonder if Will had fallen back to sleep. “Sir?”

“No… I’ll discuss Gardiner with you later. This morning I have some… personal business to take care of. The next few hours are yours, Reynolds. Just meet me downstairs by nine forty-five and we’ll ride over together.”

A very tired Henry replied, “Excellent, sir. If you’ll excuse me, I’m for bed then. Goodbye.”

The dial tone came before Will could muster a response. Concern for Henry would have to wait, for Will had a date to keep. He rose and stretched, then stood in a cold, bracing shower, one he hoped would prepare him for the long day ahead without his Elisabeth. As he dried off and dressed, his mind drifted to Liz. She’s probably getting dressed after a long, steamy shower… damn! This isn’t helping any. Maybe after we’re married for a while, this need to think of her all the time will lessen and I’ll be able to concentrate on something other than Liz. Images of the times they’d spent together- some playful, some romantic, some tense and some very domestic- flashed through his mind and he concluded that there could be much worse fates than always thinking of his Elisabeth.

As he finished buttoning his cuffs, he stole a glance in the mirror to check that everything appeared alright. He studied his face. Liz had said she liked his face, even called him handsome, but nothing he saw seemed worthy to him of her admiration. His nose was too long and straight. Liz had called it patrician, but Will had always believed patrician was just code for over-bred and stuck-up.  What does she see in me? My eyes are just plain brown, my chin is, well, my jaw is too big and my damn hair just does whatever it wants. Then he remembered. She said my eyes are kind and my jaw is strong. He smiled as he recalled his recent beard and how Liz had called him her big, strong lumberjack. That’s right, you stupid, bloody idiot! She likes your smile, too! Truly, it doesn’t matter that I don’t see anything remarkable in the mirror… Liz does and that’s more than enough for me.

Will booted up his computer and made a cup of coffee as he waited for seven-thirty to come. Sitting down at the table in the kitchen, he sipped and was still trying to decide what, if anything, he should say about Alton Gardiner. Nothing’s certain yet… and I’d hate to unduly cause her pain… but we did say we would always be honest with each other… well, it’s not as thought I was never intending to tell her, just maybe not yet. He was still debating the matter when the welcome ring of an incoming call sounded from his laptop. Setting aside all thoughts of troublesome relations, he eagerly clicked talk.

As the video of Elisabeth popped up on the screen, Will was nearly caught speechless. She appeared the very picture of a professional businesswoman, albeit a business woman suffering from a bundle of nerves. “Good morning, Love. You look beautiful this morning.”

She appeared somewhat relieved. “Really? Thank you, Sweetheart. I wasn’t sure about the suit. I have a black one that would probably be okay…”

“Elisabeth, you look stunning just as you are. There’s no need to change, the grey is fine. You have nothing to worry about, Love. I’m sure you will do great today and when it’s over you’ll laugh about how nervous you are now. You need to relax, Love. They already know how brilliant you are… today you just get to prove it to them once and for all.”

She touched a tissue to the corner of her eye to prevent a tear from falling. “I love you, Will. Thank you for believing in me.” She giggled. “I guess it’s a good thing I went with the waterproof mascara this morning, huh? I am just so anxious and can’t wait to get this done! I just wish you were here with me this morning…”

“So do I, my love, so do I. Now tell me, aside from your nerves about your exam, how are you feeling? Are you feeling better, Love?”

She nodded and smiled. “I am, thank you. Have I told you yet this morning that I love you very much?”

He grinned at the opportunity to tease her out of her anxiety. “Hmm, let me think… have you told me you love me this morning? No, I don’t think so. Not yet anyhow.”

She shook her head and laughed. “Well… it seems I’m a bad fiancée then. So I can get back in your good graces, I will remind you that I love you more than I thought it was ever possible to love someone and I’ll even throw in that you are unbelievably handsome, too. If I didn’t know better, I’d be terrified of you in that suit! Now I know why they call them power suits.”

Will was surprised. This suit was just like every other in his wardrobe. “Truly?”

“When I first met you, you were pretty hot wearing only khakis and an oxford… but wow! That suit just screams virility and power… at least it does on you.”

Will reddened with her compliment, then shook it off and asked, “Wait, did you say you thought I was hot? When was this and why is this the first I’m hearing about it?”

“No!” Liz laughed. “No feeding the ego this morning! I promise, I’ll feed the ego plenty when you get home tomorrow!”

They teased and encouraged each other until it was nearly time for Liz to leave. Her stomach was in knots and she hadn’t eaten much for breakfast. Will made her promise to keep an especially close eye on her sugar because he had learned that emotions could affect her glucose and without food it would be even more affected. She promised that the moment her exam was over, she would eat plenty. Liz also noted that Will wasn’t having anything but coffee and
chided him for it. He explained that he never ate much before a big acquisition and Liz didn’t let him get away with that flimsy excuse anymore than he had let her. She made him swear that he and Henry would eat well.

“Speaking of Reynolds…” Will mused. “He sounded a little odd this morning.”

“Odd how?” Elizabeth asked with concern.

“I don’t know if odd was the right word. He sounded, well, I guess I would say really exhausted.”

“Did he go out with you and the Axiom people last night? After what happened when we took him out before, maybe that’s it.”

“If he did go out on the town, it wasn’t with me. Maybe the allure of the Big Apple was just too much for Reynolds.”

Liz laughed. “Seduced by the bright lights in the big city?”

“Something like that.”

“You should have a talk to him at lunch. Find out what’s going on with him. Show him you’re concerned for his well-being.”

Will found that idea ludicrous and had no qualms letting her know that. “Elisabeth, just what is it you think men talk of when we’re alone? I’m hardly about to ask my assistant to spill out the details of his personal life to me over sandwiches! After all, his private life should be just that: private!”

“Fine, I suppose you’re right. But will you at least promise to ask him if there’s anything wrong? If Henry’s acting odd enough for you to have noticed, then something really might be wrong.”

“I think there’s an insult somewhere in there, but since what you say is undoubtedly true, I think I can ignore it this time. Since you are definitely the wiser of us, and can therefore be assumed to know what is best, I promise to ask Reynolds if anything is amiss. However, if he says no, that’s the end of it… I refuse to meddle! Ask anything of me but that.”

Liz raised her eyebrow and gave him that mischievous look he’d come to adore. “Anything?”

Wrinkling his brow, he pretended to change his mind. “Perhaps I misspoke…”

She wagged a finger at the camera, and Will wished he were there in person. “Not so fast, Mr. Darcy. It was my understanding that you could be taken at your word. Is this not true?”

“I am nothing if not a man of my word.”

“Excellent! Just what I hoped to hear. Since that’s the case, I believe I may have to start a list of the things I would like to ask of you…”

Will groaned. “You, Love, are making it very difficult for me to concentrate. How am I to think of assets and strategic takeovers when you are tempting me so? Just what sort of things will be on this list?”

She taunted him, “That is for me to know and you to find out!”

“You, madam, do not play fair!”

Liz laughed. “I never claimed to!”

They kept talking and teasing each other until the alarm on Will’s watch alerted him it was time to head downstairs. “See?” He pointed to the new Cartier watch. “This bloody thing is finally worth something.”

Remembering the wonderful evening he bought it, Liz grinned. “You are the very best of men and I love you. Go on, have a great day and slay the evil dragons like the good knight that you are.”

“Thank you, Love. You also have a wonderful day. Knock them dead with your brilliance and show them there’s nothing that you can’t do.”

They each then said goodbye and logged off so Liz could leave for her last exam at MIT. Will put his laptop in his bag, put the bag on his shoulder and made his way to the lobby of the building where he found a bleary-eyed Henry waiting for him. One look at Henry was all it took for Will to know that something was indeed wrong.

Henry nodded to his boss. “Good morning, sir. I trust Miss Bennet is well?”

“She is remarkably so, thank you for asking and good morning to you, too.” Will shook his head. “Or is it? Pardon me for saying so, Reynolds, but you look like hell. Was it just a rough night, or is there something wrong?”

Henry was horrified. He knew he hadn’t looked his best this morning, but surely he didn’t look that bad, did he? “I’m fine, sir. After dinner last night, I went to a club that was recommended by a friend of mine and I was out much later than I had intended. It was very unprofessional of me… and I promise that I won’t do it again.”

“No, Reynolds, your life is your own. You need not make me any promises of that sort.” Will took another look at the man who had been his right hand for so long. It was shocking just how little he knew about Reynolds.

Once they were in the car, Will asked, “So, did you at least have fun last night?”

Henry blushed until he was the same shade of maroon as the tie he wore. “Yes, I must confess I did.”

Will smiled. This he could do. He could do guy talk. “Did you meet anyone?”

Henry’s eyes went wide and he wondered if there was a stamp on his forehead or something that said ‘ask me about last night’. Realizing that his boss wasn’t trying to be intrusive, but simply being polite, he answered, “I met several very nice people.”

Sensing that Henry didn’t wish to talk about his night, Will let the subject drop. As Will reviewed his files on the way to the Axiom building, Henry did his best not to think about the pair of stunning blue eyes in the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. The siren he’d met last night would provide no small amount of torture for Henry. Attachments made on holiday never worked out, and certainly not with the parties living on different continents! No, Henry would just remember his brief encounter last night as nothing more than a wonderful dream.

~home~

~previous chapter~

~next chapter~

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


I hope everyone is enjoying the start of their summer! Sorry it’s been too long. There are a million reasons why this is late but I am trying  to be positive and so I beg your pardon for my tardiness and thank you that you still care! That said, here we go:

*Chapter Sixty-Five*

Instantly, every single thing Liz had said about her grandparents came flooding back to Will. They had blamed Liz for both Elise Bennet’s death and for the loss of their grandson Daniel. They had been unkind to Liz as far back as she could remember. They had dropped all contact with her and caused his Elisabeth unimaginable pain when she was already suffering terribly from such a tragic loss. Anger began to seethe within Will, drawing both Max and Henry’s attention.

Will internally counted to ten. He then turned to Max, saying, “We cannot do business here. I’m not going to… bloody hell!” He shot a look of contempt at Alton and stated, “This is done and I’m leaving.” He then turned to Henry and gave the order, “Call Wentworth, have him ready the plane. I expect to be gone within the hour.”

Alton Gardiner reached out and caught Will’s arm in an attempt to prevent him from leaving. Will rounded on the man and commanded, “You will unhand me at once and you will not come near, or ever even try to contact my family again.”

Realizing that if he enraged the man any further, he would never be able to have a civil conversation with him, Alton Gardiner released Will’s arm and said, “Elisabeth is part of my family, too.”

Not wishing to have this conversation at all, but definitely not in front of Max or Henry, Will clenched his jaw and said, “Reynolds, have Wentworth on stand-by. Max, we’ll speak later. It seems I have some family business to tend to.”

Max, due to their long-standing relationship, rarely addressed Will formally but did so now as a sign of respect. “Yes, Mr. Darcy. I’m available at your leisure. Come, Henry, fine dining awaits us.”

Will dismissed them with a barely perceptible nod, as he did not wish to take his eyes off yet another man who had so badly hurt the woman he loved.

The conference room was now emptied but for the two of them. Alton moved to shut the door to give them privacy for what was sure to be, at the very least, an awkward conversation.

Will waited for the elder man to begin, but he did not. Several silent passed by until Will could stand it no longer and gave in. “You wished to say something?”

Alton nodded and said, “I do,” followed by more silence.

Will was growing furious. “Then say it and have done!”

Alton returned Will’s intense glare. “Fine. I love my granddaughter very much.”

Obviously,” scoffed Will with no small amount of derision. “That would, of course, explain why she hasn’t seen you in over twenty years and why you blamed Liz- who was only a mere child for God’s sake! for her mum’s death.”

Alton was surprised. “She shared that with you?”

Will was insulted. “We are to be married, Mr. Gardiner, we are hardly strangers.” Though, really, we’ve only been together two weeks. I suppose that it would be difficult for others to understand…

“I guess that’s true. My Elisa has grown into a beautiful, young woman and her grandmother and I are very proud of all that she’s become, despite Thomas and that woman’s influence.”

Alton had finally said something that didn’t make Will immediately want to punch him. As much as Will did not like the total lack of concern her maternal relatives had shown, he liked the paternal care she’d been under even less.

“That is very true.” Will was interested to hear what the man had to say about his long absence. “If you knew things were so terrible, why did you not intervene? Surely there must have been something that could have been done.”

“We were devastated by the loss of our daughter, and the boy, too. We handled things badly, I can admit that now.” He leaned against the conference table to take some of the weight off his feet. “At Thanksgiving, you, I believe, met Tom Bennet?” When Will nodded, he continued, “A more unreasonable, bull-headed jackass of a man there never was. I have no idea what my Elise ever saw in him. Tom turned her against us. He did not want us around and convinced her that we hated him. While that was eventually true, we honestly gave him a fair shake when Elise swore she would have no other but him.”

“Elisabeth said that you disapproved of his blue-collar upbringing and his profession.”

“So we did. There’s no crime in wanting the best for your children. You will, no doubt, feel the same someday. It’s true, we did wish for Elise to marry better than Tom, but, above all else, we just wanted our darling girl to be happy and she claimed the only one in the world who would make her so was Thomas Bennet.”

“The money… the house in Kenilworth… Liz said you and your wife were jealous that those things were left to her mother and not you.”

“Mr. Darcy, you seem to me to be an intelligent man, and the research I’ve done backs that up as well. My granddaughter was but six years old when her mother died.” Alton made his appeal, “How many details do you remember from when you were six?”

“Admittedly, I do not remember much from that age, but sir, something you likely do not realize is that Elisabeth is most definitely not like most people. She has excellent recall and her attention to detail is mind-boggling. She has recounted to me conversations where she overheard blame being placed on her for your daughter’s cancer. Can you honestly tell me that never happened?”

“Impossible. She can’t remember that. Elisa couldn’t have been more than two at the time.”

“Sir, it’s one of her earliest memories. I’m sorry for your…” Will could hardly get the word out, “pain, but I cannot and will not allow anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to cause any more pain or discomfort to my wife. Elisabeth may be your granddaughter, but you gave up all claims when you left her helpless and friendless in her father’s care. She is my family now, not yours. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but we are through here. I can’t do business with you… either personal or professional. Good day, sir.” Will took up his briefcase and made for the door.”

“Please, Mr. Darcy. I understand that this must be difficult for you, that this puts you in an uncomfortable position but I would beg you, sir, to hear me out and determine for yourself whether my requests are unreasonable or not.”

Will found his feet had stopped moving against his will. “I will listen to all you have to say, but not now and not here. Are you free later this evening?”

“I am at our disposal, Mr. Darcy.”

“Fine.” Will fished a card out of his coat pocket and handed it to Alton. “Ring me after eight.”

“Eight it is then,” Alton agreed as he studied Will’s business card. “Oh, I have one more thing, Mr. Darcy.”

“Yes?”

“If you wouldn’t mind, I don’t want Elisa to know that we’ve met. At least not yet.”

“Why? I owe you nothing and she owes you even less. I will not keep secrets from her. She deserves nothing less than the truth, now and always.”

“So she does. Look, I’m not asking you do anything unscrupulous; just delay informing her about my being here. Really, what can be gained from unduly upsetting her? Let us work this out between us, and then you may tell Elisa anything you wish.”

“You have my word that I will not say anything to Liz for now, but I promise you nothing further than that.” Will then opened the door, nodded and said, “Until later,” and left Alton Gardiner behind as fast as his feet would allow.

Liz had felt so horrible that the moment she had come home from school she took a long, hot shower and put on some clothes that would make her feel more comfortable. She had just begun to dig into her delivery order of Fondness of Two from Hsin Hsin when Will called.

Liz perked up and answered brightly, “Hello, Sweetheart, how was your day?”

“You beat me; for I was about to ask you the same. How was school today, Love?”

“School was fine. Just finishing things up for the semester and all the usual stuff that goes with it. It’s so strange that I won’t be there next semester. I’m going to start packing things up in my office tomorrow. But, that’s enough about me… don’t think I didn’t notice that you tried to avoid my question. Now, how was your day? Did you ride in on your white steed, make your deal and save the poor impoverished company from the invading hordes?”

Despite the uneasiness he felt, Will had to laugh at the picture she painted of him. “It is so very good to hear your voice, Elisabeth. It was a long and rather tedious day. Things have become more complicated than we had planned for and I’m no longer certain that we are going to be able to help this company as we thought.”

“Oh, no!” Liz’s sympathy was gladly accepted by Will. “Well, Sweetheart, if anyone can help, I know it’s you. You are such a good man, Will, and I am proud of you for even trying when it sounds like a lot of other companies would just wait until this one fails and then pick them apart like vultures.”

“That’s exactly what will happen…” Will thought aloud, “and I need to put a halt to that. I just don’t see how I can right now.”

Liz confidently assured him, “Smart man that you are, you’ll figure out a way. I know it!”

Her love and faith in him both bolstered his confidence and made him acutely aware of his own failings. “I don’t deserve you. You are much too good to me.”

“Nonsense! I love you and there is to be no more talk of who does or doesn’t deserve who. We just both happen to be exceptionally fortunate people for having found each other. Seriously, Will, we’ve both dwelt much too much on the past and all of the misery found there. I like thinking about the future, our future, much better, don’t you?”

“I love you, Liz. I like my future much better now that I know that you have a place in it. Are you feeling better than last night, Love? I had Henry install that thing on my computer today. I must admit that only the thought of seeing you kept me sane today.”

“I am feeling better, thanks. Though I still feel like a truck-”

Will interrupted with, “Lorry.”

Truck,” Liz insisted, “hit me, my headache is gone.”

They exchanged user ID’s and within a few minutes they were chatting face-to-face.

When Will recognized what Liz was wearing, he briefly wondered if video-chat was such a good idea after all. “Is that my shirt?”

Liz glanced down and picked a bit of rice off Will’s Oxford t-shirt. “Yeah. I was missing you and when I changed after my shower, I saw this and just had to wear it. Is that okay?”

He laughed. “Oh, it’s definitely more than okay. Love, you can wear my shirts anytime you wish. In fact, the image of your wearing my shirt is just the thing I’m going to need to get me through these negotiations.”

“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to be a distraction.”

“Love, you are the very best sort of distraction. Besides, everything I do now, I do with you in mind. Liz, my dearest, darling Elisabeth, you are my future.” Thoughts of his confrontation with her grandfather intruded and he did his best to brush them aside. “And so I must plan well and make only the very best decisions.”

“And I have no doubt that you will! Now, did you eat dinner yet? Because I don’t want to be rude, but I’ve put off eating my dinner for too long and it smells so good that I can’t wait anymore.”

Will waved his hands and said, “Go on, please don’t wait for me. What are you having there? Is that Chinese?”

“Yes, and I love this place! This is a dish that they have that’s got this garlicky-beef coupled with this amazing white-wine, white-meat chicken and it is unbelievably delicious.”

“That does sound tasty. I’ll figure out something after I speak with one of the Axiom shareholders at eight.”

Liz set her chopsticks down. “Sweetheart, it’s nearly eight now. Will you be up later? Did you want to talk after your meeting?”

“I’d like nothing better. Finish up and enjoy your meal. I’ll call you as soon as I’m able, Love.”

“Then I’ll just say ‘see you later’ instead of ‘good-bye’.”

He smiled and said, “I love you, Liz.”

She returned his smile with one of her own. Liz bless him a kiss before saying, “I love you too, Will,” and then disconnected.

Will changed his clothes while he waited for Alton Gardiner to contact him. He knew Liz was right, he needed to eat and a dinner meeting would serve his purposes well enough. When Will reached behind to put his wallet into the back pocket of his jeans, he discovered something was already there. He pulled out a stiff 3”x5” note-card that had been folded in half. There was a heart drawn on it, making Will’s own heart jump. She sent me a love-note! Happy with this discovery, Will unfolded the card and read:

Will- Know that I miss you more than I can say and love you more than I thought possible. –Liz

 As his finger traced over the note, which written on gridded card-stock with thick, permanent marker, Will thought it was the sweetest gift he’d ever received. He was about to tear through the rest of his belongings to see if Liz had included any more notes when his mobile rang. “Bollocks,” he cursed as he reached for his accursed phone. Taking a breath to calm himself rather than tear the man’s head off, he answered curtly, “Darcy.”

Alton spoke carefully, “Mr. Darcy, this is Alton Gardiner. Are you free to speak now, sir, or did you care to meet in person?”

“As my original dinner plans were scotched by our impromptu meeting, shall we meet in a restaurant somewhere close by? I am not too terribly familiar with the area, and will defer to your preference.”

“Certainly, Mr. Darcy. How about Ulysses’? It’s my understanding that it’s a decent replica of an English pub. Would that suit?”

“Sounds fine to me,” he lied. Will would rather be a million other places besides dining with Liz’s grandfather. “Eight-thirty then?”

“Will you have trouble finding it?”

“I’m sure my service will manage.” Will just wanted this to be over. “Until then.”

“Excellent, then. Good-bye.”

Will, feeling no compulsion to be agreeable to this man, switched off his phone without saying good-bye. He rang his car service and a car was downstairs within minutes. It was less than a mile to Ulysses’, but the weather outside was miserable and Will knew Liz would kill him if he took any risks with his health. As he watched the city lights go by, he wondered if Liz would ever stop being so overly protective when it came to his safety. Will hoped not. It was nice to have someone who cared enough, who loved him enough to worry about him. It was one of the many things he loved about Elisabeth.

Ulysses’ was unusually crowded for a Wednesday night. There was a new band playing that had packed the place by word-of-mouth. When Will finally was able to push through the crowd of Wall Street hipsters, he was anxious to find Alton and have this business quickly done so he could get back to Liz.

One of the advantages to being tall is the ability to see over heads in a crowd. It was only a moment before Will was able to locate Alton. Elisabeth’s grandfather had not taken particularly good care of his health or appearance over the years, making it easy for Will to spot the heavy-set man who was wiping his sweat-drenched brow with his handkerchief. Will was able to arrive at Alton’s side, undetected and giving him the added pleasure of startling the man who had completely upended all his plans for New York.

“Mr. Darcy,” said Alton, who was clutching his chest. “I didn’t see you come in.”

Will decided to be blunt, for he had no desire to play games with this man. He ignored Alton’s comment and, instead of offering a greeting, got right to the point. “How did you know that Elisabeth and I are together?”

Alton, recovered from being thrown off-balance, took a sip of his Scotch and said, “My man told me.”

“Your man?” This enraged Will. “You have Elisabeth spied on?”

Alton corrected him. “Looked after.”

“I don’t give a bloody damn about semantics! The material point is that you are spying on your granddaughter!”

“No, Elisa is free to live her life as she sees fit. We just keep tabs on her through our people.”

“Stalk her with your spies, more like. You are a rotten son-of-a-bitch, truly. How exactly are you any better than Bennet? I’m curious because I am having a difficult time seeing any difference right now.”

“He does things for selfish reasons… I do things for Elisa’s benefit.”

Will was glad they were in a crowded public place, or else he might have given in to his desire to punch Alton. “That’s the same rationale he uses.”

Alton had no idea how to get around Will’s anger. “You are just going to have to trust me on this. I have Elisa’s best interests at heart and my people tell me you’re a good guy. All I want is for my Elisa to be happy. Can you promise me that you can make her happy?”

“No. I cannot promise that she’ll always be happy, but I can promise that I’ll always do my very best to make her so.” Will had so many questions; he hardly knew where to begin. “You say you have her best interests at heart. If that’s the case, why do you watch her from a distance? Why haven’t you contacted her before now? Or ever tried to be a part of her life? I’m having a hard time with your claim that you care about her when all the evidence says otherwise.”

Alton spent the next hour explaining how he and his wife had made many mistakes that they greatly regretted. He told of the fights with his daughter when she had informed them she was going to marry Bennet and how they tried to keep in touch, but all contact with them had been one-sided. Bennet’s hold on their daughter was something that no one seemed to understand. Their brilliant, clever daughter had married a controlling man and since he felt inferior in both birth and circumstance to his in-laws, he persuaded his wife to have little to do with them. When Elisabeth was born, they were granted very little access to their one and only grandchild. When she was stricken with cancer, they tried to support Elise, but were not welcomed. Will could see that Alton was pained by these memories, but as he had yet to hear why they remained distant from Liz even now, he would not yet offer any sympathy.

Will continued to listen as he was told the story of how they discovered Liz’s diabetes and how the new lifestyle adjustment had been difficult for Bennet to deal with. It was then that he wanted and pressed his wife for more children. He wanted a son, a son that wouldn’t be imperfect like Elisabeth. Bennet’s resentments began to grow against everyone. He was angry that his sickly daughter was more intelligent than him, he was furious that his wife was unable to easily conceive a son and he was livid that his in-laws tried to offer support, thus undermining his position as head of the household.

Elise Bennet did eventually conceive again, after several years of fertility treatments and against the better judgments of her oncologists. Elise was thrilled to do this for her husband. She was giving him the son he so wanted and Elisabeth would get a little brother to spoil. Plans were made for Daniel and all was well until the accident that changed everything. Tom Bennet cut off all contact with the Gardiners and quickly remarried, stating that it was all in Elisabeth’s best interests. Anytime they Gardiners tried to make contact, they were rebuffed. When Alton filed a petition for visitation, Bennet had some lawyers he knew that owed him favors take care of it. After a few years, they stopped trying to make direct contact and kept watch through private investigators. As Elisabeth grew up, they watched from a distance, but the important thing was they still watched. Alton did admit that his network was not always fool-proof. They hadn’t found out about Johnny Thorpe’s stalking until it was too late. Alton appeared to be a very distraught man when he spoke about how terrifying it must have been for his dear Elisa to be terrorized like that.

Will was sick of listening to this. “Then why the hell didn’t you do something about it?”

“We were scared. We had made such a mess of things before… Instead we tried to make the way easier for Elisa.”

“Easier how?”

Another forty-five minutes later, Will understood. He didn’t like it, but he understood.

 ~home~

~previous chapter~

~next chapter~

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


*Chapter Sixty-Four*

 

Liz was suffering from a most debilitating headache. The students in her last intro-physics class had asked questions incessantly and seemed to be as clueless as when the semester had just begun. Have I failed these kids, or are they just as clueless as I suspect them to be? She sat down at the desk in her office and began grading papers. After several hours of reviewing papers, Liz was pleased to see that at least some of what she’d taught had sunk in as the grades weren’t as awful as she’d initially feared them to be. When she was finished and about to head home for some take-out, her advisor persuaded her to go out for a celebratory dinner.

Liz was glad she’d listened and gone out. Over the meal, her advisor, who had always given Liz sound advice, reminded her not to be so worried about presenting her defense. Vari Talwar, with her quick wit and sunny disposition, had become one of Liz’s favorite people and a good friend as well as her trusted guide through school. For a few hours Liz was able to set aside her anxiety about what would come after the security of school out in the real world while she laughed as Vari regaled her with stories from her childhood in India. Vari assured her it was not as impossible as it seemed to be a successful woman in a male-dominated field. After a meal filled with encouragement about her future and the things she hoped to accomplish, Liz felt a little better as she headed home to her empty apartment.

Sadly, the good mood she’d felt over dinner didn’t last. When she walked into the entryway, Guillermo greeted her and tried to coax a smile from Liz, but she just couldn’t manage one. She made small talk with him and found out that Guillermo’s daughter McKenna was expecting again. Liz offered her congratulations and tried to be happy, but with the conversation about starting a family of her own fresh in her mind, she could only dwell on how lonely she felt without Will. As she rode the elevator to her floor, Liz tried to snap out of her funk. Quit acting like a love-sick girly-girl. I’ve been independent my whole life… am I really going to let Will’s brief absence make me this pathetic? For crying out loud, he only left this morning! I really need to snap out of this.

Liz entered her condo as she had done countless times before. When she’d bought it, it had been such a thrill to have a place that was finally her own space where she could be completely independent. In her home, she needed to be no one’s daughter, sister, roommate, advisor or anyone at all besides Liz Gardiner. The last several days had changed all that. As Liz walked down the hall, the quiet which she had so valued before now seemed oppressive. How odd, Will is hardly an ebullient man… how is it that this place feels quiet as a graveyard without him?

She poured a glass of orange juice and sat at the counter to sort the day’s mail. Amidst the usual bills, catalogs and pizza coupons, there were a few early Christmas cards, the first of the season. She threw out the junk, gave a cursory glance to her bills, and was slightly cheered by the holiday cards. Feeling lonely and restless, Liz decided the best thing would be to just call it an early night and head to bed. Not even bothering to change, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over her head. It’ll all be better tomorrow.

Liz was just beginning to drift off when Will finally called. Liz was still somewhat drowsy when she answered. “Hey, Sweetheart! How are you?”

“Hello, Love. How am I? I’m better now that I hear your voice, which, by the way, sounds sleepy.” A moment passed and the timber of Will’s voice changed. “Are you, perchance, already in bed?”

“I am. And I think I need to lodge a complaint with you.”

Will began his own preparations for bed. “Whatever for?”

“You’ve made it impossible for me to sleep here alone. I miss you.” Liz, thinking it best not to sound too needy or maudlin, decided to change the subject and brightly asked, “So, how was your flight in your new toy anyways?”

“It would have been delightful had I gone with a less grumpy companion. How was school?”

“Long. I am glad to be home and even more glad that it’s almost over. I have a headache and feel awful and I’m crabby and I miss you and I have no idea how I’m going to do any of this without you.”

Will tried to sooth her. “Liz…”

She cut him off. “You know, I was always an independent sort of girl before you upended my life. How did you manage to do that?”

He could hear that Liz was trying not to cry when she spoke, and he wished more than anything he could be there to put his arms around her and offer comfort. “If it is as you say, and I have somehow made you need me, then it’s only fair because you have become essential to me. I love you, Elisabeth. I want to tell you how much I love you, to explain even a fraction of what you mean to me, but words, as usual, seem to fail me. Much like the air I breathe, I cannot live without you.”

Liz sniffled. Her tears were falling freely now, but they were happy ones. “Oh Will, words seem to have come through for you just now. That was beautiful, truly beautiful. I love you, William, and I need you, too.”

Will beamed with the pride that comes from knowing a good woman loved him. “We are quite a pair, are we not, Love?”

“We are indeed,” she agreed. “Hey, did Henry manage to recover from last night?”

“I suppose so. We finished at the office early and I haven’t seen him since. Before I forget, I saw my cousin today.”

“You did?” Liz was surprised and pleased for him. “Where?”

“He was in my flat.” Will then paused, searching for the right word to describe his cousin. “Andy is such an interesting character.”

Liz grew alarmed. “He was in your apartment? Is that normal? What did he want?”

“Seems he’s been using my flat regularly whenever he’s in town. He’d had no idea that I’d be there today.”

“And that makes it alright?”

Sensing her agitation, he sighed, “I suppose not. Love, I get the impression this bother you more than it does me. Is this because of that Thorpe fellow?”

Yes!” she cried. “And after having been a victim of stalking yourself, I would have thought that you would be more upset by this too!” Liz tried, unsuccessfully, to stem the sarcasm from her voice when she added, “I guess it wasn’t clear enough during the time we spent with my delightful family that I have problems with family crossing appropriate boundary lines. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had near enough of presumptive people. You know what? Maybe we can drum up even more relatives between us who can then take advantage of us whenever the hell they feel like it.”

Will’s first reaction was to snap back at this snarky attack. He ignored that inclination and went with his second one which was to calm down and remember that she was admittedly over-emotional and not feeling well besides. Who knew dealing with my high-strung sister would eventually help me with my normally even-keeled wife? Well, my almost-wife, anyways. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. When I speak with Andy next, I’ll make sure he knows that in the future, he needs to adhere to the normal dictates of good behavior like everyone else needs must.”

Liz felt wretched that she had put him on the defensive. “I’m sorry. I know I flew off the handle a little. Forgive me?”

He said honestly, “There’s nothing to forgive, Love. Soon we will be married and while I hope we would open our home to family and friends, you are correct that we have to be careful so that they don’t overstay their welcome.”

Some family, well, at least some of mine, I cannot ever imagine extending any sort of welcome to.”  

“Elisabeth, I will always support you in whatever decisions you make as regards your father and his wife. If you never wish to see them again, so be it. My only concern is your happiness and I will not have you sacrifice it because of them.”

She knew he meant every word he said. He would always protect her and do whatever was in his power to ensure their felicity. It was beyond wonderful to have the unconditional love and support of such a worthy man. “Have I mentioned that I miss you?”

“I miss you more.”

“I really want to see you, Will. If I didn’t look and feel like I’ve been run over by a truck today, I’d beg to Skype with you. As it is, I’d like to not frighten you away with my ghastly appearance tonight.”

Skype?” Will had heard the term before but had no idea what it was or what it meant.

Liz laughed and, though it was at his expense, he was happy to hear it. “My darling, technologically-challenged William, Skype is a way to video conference. You must have video conferenced at least once for Pemberley?”

“Well, yes. Of course I have done. But Reynolds always has that set up before I arrive and I honestly never gave how it happened a moment’s thought. I have to say I love the idea of seeing you before I get back to Boston. So, how exactly would we do this Skype thing?”

“Either I could talk you through setting up your account or, even better, you could ask Henry very nicely to set one up for you. Then tomorrow night you can tell me all about your business triumph face-to-face.”

“I would like that, not as much as actually having you here with me, but I would like that very much. I need to see your smile and that look you give me when you think I’m completely barmy.”

She giggled. “Because you are completely barmy.”  

“Only when it comes to you, Love. Now, if I recall rightly, you were in bed when I rang. Is that still true?” He hoped it was.

Snuggling against her pillow, she softly said, “Yes.”

“Excellent. Quite by coincidence, or perhaps not, I’m also in bed now.”

Liz drew a mental picture of Will in bed and she grew warm. “Are you now? Is your bed much too large like mine?”

Regretfully he said, “Only because you are not here.”

Feeling bold, she asked, “And if I was?”

Will told her just exactly what he would do if that were the case. They spoke long into the night, taking turns expressing their love and focusing on their future. Liz and Will were so wrapped up in each other that all thoughts of meddlesome families were set aside to deal with another time.  

The next morning, on their way to the Axiom offices, Henry assured a yawning Will that nothing was easier than installing Skype on his laptop.

Henry, emboldened by his recent exposure to the more human side of his boss, ventured a tease. “I’m sure it will come in very handy when speaking to Miss Darcy and helping her with her homework.”

Will was having trouble staying awake. “My sister?” That wasn’t why he had asked for this new application and by the amused look on his assistant’s face, Henry knew it too. “Yes. Georgie is having difficulty with her maths. It’s imperative that I can conference with her tonight. So then, you’ll have that taken care of by this afternoon?”

With a grin, Henry answered, “By lunch, sir.”

Will ignored Henry’s mirth and nodded. “Thank you.”

Still amazed by the changes in Will, Henry happily answered, “It’s no problem, sir. Now… about Axiom’s senior management?”

They reviewed some specific points until they arrived. The morning coffee having at last kicked in, Will was more alert and found he was impressed with the Axiom offices. They weren’t overly decorated or uselessly fine. They remind me of Pemberley. Will and Henry were escorted to the conference room by an extremely nervous junior executive. No doubt this young man assumes his job is forfeit. Let’s hope their senior execs understand what’s at stake and are reasonable.

Will was led to one end of the long conference table and Henry took the seat at his right hand. The rest of Will’s team arrived and sat to his left. At the other end was Augustan Philips, the CEO Will recognized from his research. Seated to Mr. Philip’s right was a man that Will did not know, but somehow seemed familiar. Others began to filter in and Will was growing impatient. Hopefully they won’t take too long before they make their introductions and I can figure out where I know that man from. Once everyone arrived and was seated, Mr. Philips stood and directed everyone’s attention to the pull-down screen.

A short film on the heritage and accomplishment’s of Axiom played. When that was finished, the year-to-date financial statements were distributed and gone over. The Axiom CFO then stated why they were seeking this aid instead of a complete dissolution of the company. Questions were raised and discussed until it was time to break for lunch.

During lunch at Moran’s, Will sat and watched as Henry installed Skype and updated a number of other programs. Henry then proceeded to give a reluctant Will a tutorial on how to use them. When Will had run out of patience, which hadn’t taken long, he barked at Henry, “Holy hell! I’m not three for heaven’s sake! I think I can manage on my own to click the big green button that says ‘talk’.”

Henry bit down on the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at Will’s tantrum. “Undoubtedly, sir.”

Will ignored Henry’s patronizing tone and thanked him for his help. They finished their meal and walked the two blocks back to the Axiom offices with Will repeatedly reminding Henry to watch where he was going. “But, sir, this is New York City! Have you ever seen anything like it?”

Long inured to the sights of the city, Will almost replied that the question was obviously stupid but then he remembered Elisabeth. Liz, even when she’s seen something a zillion times, always manages to find something new and interesting to see or learn. God knows between the two of us, she has the better outlook on things. Maybe I need to look twice at what’s around me rather than ignoring everything because it’s simpler to do so. Liz wouldn’t snap Reynold’s head off… Taking a good look around, Will noted his surroundings for the first time and was amazed. He’d been so focused on the deal and his hurry to get back to Liz that he hadn’t taken the time to notice that he was in the only city, to his mind, which could possibly rival London. They were standing in the heart of the financial district and the street positively thrummed with energy. How did I not notice this before?

Will shook his head and smiled for the first time that day. “No, Reynolds, nothing quite like it.”   

When they reconvened after the break, Mr. Philips apologized for having been remiss with the introductions earlier. “You see, it’s not every day that one contemplates selling their company. I know that you will forgive this old man for having overlooked one of the niceties.”

Will nodded and replied, “I understand completely. It is a stressful time for all of you, I’m sure.”

Mr. Philips then began naming his staff, beginning with the woman seated on his left. He continued until he reached the familiar-looking man seated to his right. “And lastly, this is our principle shareholder. He does not have a formal position within Axiom, per se, but it is very much his company as much as it is mine. Mr. Darcy, this is Alton Gardiner.”

Will’s head spun for a moment. Gardiner? Bollocks! No, it can’t be. There’s got to be another explanation why this man seems familiar and has the same name as Liz’s mum’s family. The world can’t be that small, I don’t give a damn what Disney says. Henry kicked Will under the table and Will was grateful to be brought back into the moment. With his business-like cool façade back in place, Will said, “Excellent. It’s a pleasure to put faces to the names that we’ve been reading about. Please allow me now to do the same. I’m William Darcy.” He indicated Henry and continued, “This is Henry Reynolds.”

Once Will had introduced his US team, it was his turn to play Pemberley’s PR video. Next came Pemberley’s financial report and a brief summary by Max Townley, Pemberley’s US CFO, on what Pemberley proposed to do for Axiom. More Q & A followed and then, with all the preliminaries out of the way, it was time to call it a day. Both companies agreed to meet the next day, prepared to do business.

As they gathered their belongings, Max whispered to Will under his breath, “I don’t think these negotiations will take long, sir. I smell desperation here.”

Will smiled. Max had worked for Pemberley all his life and Will trusted him implicitly. When Will took over the company from his father, Max had been one of his strongest supporters. He could still recall the first time he met Max Townley. Will, only nineteen at the time, had flown over on a break from school to meet with the US executives to go over items that his father had left in disarray before his death. When Max found Will seated at his father’s desk looking completely overwhelmed, he encouraged Will when everyone else seemed to wish the orphaned teenager away. “William,” Max had said, “you are not your father, thank God, and no one expects you to be. The best advice I can give you is to be your own man. You are young yet, and you have way more responsibilities on those shoulders of yours than most men twice your age. Use this time to figure out who you want to be and then be it. Your uncle John and I, we’ve got your back.” Through the years, Max had proven that time and time again.

Will quietly asked, “You really think they’re desperate?”

“Oh, yeah. This won’t go ‘til Friday, we’ll be done tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Max,” Will said, relieved by the elder man’s assurances. “Are you busy now?”

Max shook his head. “Not at all. The wife’s at her sisters this week. Dinner?”

“Just what I was thinking. Would you mind if Reynolds joins us?”

“Henry? Good man there. The place downstairs is fantastic. Are we three, then?”

“Unless you need to add someone?”

“No,” Max began to search his phone for a number, “three is good. I can’t wait to hear this news you’ve got to tell me, my boy.”

Will’s jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

Max only smiled as he held up a finger to stay Will while he arranged for a table. When he hung up, he clasped his boss on the shoulder and chuckled, “I know you, my boy, and you have a secret that you’re about bursting at the seams to spill to someone. When Philips was droning on and on earlier, you didn’t even seem to mind. Since normally in these situations you look like you’re being slowly tortured, I knew something was up. So, is there some big secret?”

Will was amazed that he’d been so easily read. He grinned and said, “Yes, there is, actually. I am soon to be married.”

Max was happy for Will. “That’s excellent news! So, who is this girl that’s captured the heart of the great William Darcy?”

Before Will could reply, Alton Gardiner joined them and said sternly, “He’s marrying my granddaughter.”

 

~home~

~previous chapter~

~next chapter~


This chapter is for Miss Pat. Happy birthday in heaven to you, my friend!

*Chapter Sixty-Three*

 

At four, Liz’s alarm sounded as usual. Will was already awake, eagerly anticipating Liz getting up so they could say a proper farewell before he and Henry needed to leave for New York. Liz got up without much fuss and, after taking her insulin, quickly rejoined Will in bed.

“Good morning, Sweetheart,” Liz said as she snuggled against his chest.

Will kissed her forehead. “It is a good morning, Love. Everything alright?”

Liz wrapped her arms around him, planted several kisses along his collarbone and neck and said, “Perfect.”

He brought her up so her lips met his. After several passionate kisses, he rolled them both so they were on their sides. Propped on his right elbow, he used his left hand to brush wayward strands of hair from her face. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to be professional for the next few days without you beside me. You’ve spoiled me, Elisabeth Gardiner, absolutely spoiled me!”

Liz gloried in his attention. “It’s only fair as you’ve ruined me forever for sleeping alone. These next days are going to be much too long. Are you sure you have to go? How much richer do you need to be?”

Will chuckled. “It’s not only about the money, Liz. If it was, I’d say to hell with it and cancel everything! We need to go because this company is in some financial trouble and a lot of jobs will be lost if we aren’t there to help them out of the bind they’re in. I remember not so long ago you were railing against “corporate fat-cats” who sold their businesses short. Well, that’s not at all what we do or what we’re about. If we can save the jobs while trimming the expenditures, then that’s what we’ll do.”

“So, you’re the corporate version of a knight in shining armor?”

“I suppose you could say that, but, truthfully, I only care about being your knight in shining armor.”

Liz pushed him over so he was flat on his back. “And so you are! What do you suppose I can favor my knight with to show him he has my heart and my allegiance?”

Will pulled her closer. “Being the brilliant woman you are… I’m certain you can think of at least one or two things that would please me.”

And so she did.

Later as they were getting ready before breakfast, Liz shyly confessed that it was likely a good thing they’d be separated for the next few days. “I’m due for my monthly imposition. Because I always feel like crud, I’ll likely just come home from school, grab some granola and yogurt, curl up with a book and go to bed. I won’t be much fun, so your trip being right now is probably for the best.”

Will shook his head in disbelief. He took her by the hand and set her down in her favorite chair and when she was comfortable, he began. “Elisabeth, have you really so little faith in me? If you are not feeling well, I would wish to be here to see to your comfort. This… this imposition, as you call it, is likely to be a regular feature of life for many years to come and I will not have you shoving me out the door every month because of it. I love you and for more than just what we share in the bedroom and I’m more than a little concerned, and frankly a bit hurt, that you might feel otherwise.”

She reached out for his hand and he came forward to take it. “William, that’s not at all what I was trying to say. I know we have more than just sex, great though it is, going for the two of us. You’ve become so important to me in such a short time that sometimes I get a little freaked out. Everything is changing so fast that my brain just can’t seem to keep it all processed fast enough. You’re right, of course, but you already knew that, didn’t you? This will be a regular thing to deal with, and I’m so glad that you didn’t freak out on me about it.”

“I do have a sixteen-year-old sister, remember? I’ve served as Georgie’s parent as well as her brother for most of her life. She was twelve when she was first imposed upon, and it was left to me to help sort everything. I am rather good at getting craved-for goodies from the market and I’m sure that if you have backache I could help there, too.”

“You, my dearest William, are too good to be true. I’m sorry I was cranky and gave you the wrong impression. Is it too early to chalk it up to hormones?”

“Probably.” He softly chuckled and sat beside her, embracing her in his arms. “I have a few ideas about your hormones.”

“Oh, really? Perhaps you’d care to share?”

Will flashed a smug grin. “I could just keep you barefoot and pregnant for the next ten or twelve years.” 

 He was not in the least surprised when he found himself shoved out of the chair. “Or not.”

“Or not, indeed! William Darcy, I know you are not serious!”

He dared to come close enough to kiss the top of her head. “No, I am not. But this is as good a time as any to discuss having a family, is it not?”

She patted the chair, an indication that it was safe once more. “I suppose it is. How many children were you thinking?”

“I have not given it too much thought, to be honest. Until I met you, I could never truly picture having a family of my own. The only thing I know for certain is that I would like to have more than one. I, for the most part, grew up an only child and would not want that for our own offspring. What were you thinking, Love?”

“More than one, but definitely less than five. I think two or three would be perfect. How does that sound?”

“Brilliant.” Will hated to do it, but since they were on the subject, it needed to be asked. “And when would you want to start this family of ours? You are just about to embark on a career you’ve worked really hard for. How long did you wish to wait?”

Liz was thrilled by his response, but she wanted to be sure he really meant it. “You aren’t going to push me to begin right away? I mean, you are older than I am and everything. Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”

“Elisabeth, I am turning thirty-two, not fifty-two! There is plenty of time. But since you’re asking questions, I have one. Isn’t getting pregnant while diabetic dangerous?”

“It wouldn’t be as easy as someone with normal kidneys, but if I’m being closely monitored, there shouldn’t be any reason why I can’t have a normal pregnancy. Speaking of all these hormones and family planning… I should make an appointment this week to see the doctor.”

“What for? Is something wrong?”

“No, but I should see about getting some birth control. It would help with my impositions and be a whole lot easier than remembering to keep a stock of condoms.”

They continued to discuss their visions of the future without any further misunderstandings until Will’s grumbling stomach could no longer be ignored. Since Liz was to make breakfast for the three of them, it fell to Will to wake Henry. Armed with a glass of water and aspirin, he knocked as softly as he could on the guest bedroom door. “Good morning, Reynolds. Time to get up.”

Since there was no response, Will knocked louder. “Reynolds, Liz is making breakfast. It’s time to get up.”

There were still no signs of life from within. “Damn it, Reynolds. Do I really have to come in there?”

When no answer came forth, Will resigned himself to his fate. “This is your last chance, Reynolds. I am coming in.” Will entered the room and was unable to stifle a laugh at the picture his assistant presented. Somehow, Henry had slid off the bed during the night and had become twisted in his comforter. His upper body was actually underneath the bed. Will set the water and medicine down, next he took hold of Henry’s ankles and managed to pull him from under the bed. Even the jerking motion of being dragged across the floor wasn’t enough to rouse Henry from his slumber.

“Bloody hell, how drunk were you?” he asked the unresponsive Henry. Gently, Will poked Henry’s side with his foot. “Come on, stop being such a git. Breakfast is nearly ready and we need to get going soon.” Will tried again, this time a little less gently, no response from Henry except the line of drool coming from his mouth. “Holy hell, this is worse than trying to wake Chip back in our school days.” Deciding he’s wasted enough time attempting to wake the dead, Will grabbed the glass of water and poured it on Henry’s face. That did the trick.

Henry sputtered and thrashed about, trying to free his arms from the blanket so he could wipe his face. He was surprised to find he was on the floor, but he was surprised even greater still that Will was standing above him, not looking one bit guilty that he’s been responsible for such a rude awakening.

Will failed in his attempt not to enjoy this. “Decided at last to join the living, have we Reynolds?”

Henry was still trying to piece together how he’d come to be on the floor and was a little slow in his response. “You seem to have left me little choice in the matter, sir.”

“No, I did not. I did, however, try other means first. How is your head this morning? I have some aspirin here, but I’m afraid I’m fresh out of water to take them with.”

Henry gathered his knees up and rested his head and arms on them. “You, sir, are a cruel man in the morning. My head is killing me and if you wouldn’t mind, I think there’s a heavy statuette on the chest over there that you could use to just do me in and put me out of my misery.”

“There’s no cause for that or anything so dire. Come,” Will offered his hand to help Henry stand, “breakfast awaits us. Some aspirin, some food, and lots of water are all you need to feel better.”

Henry, still dressed in his clothes from the night before, asked, “Is there a possibility of more sleep, sir?”

Will assured him there would be plenty of time for that later. They joined Liz in the kitchen and it was all Henry could do to keep the smell of eggs and bacon from making him further nauseous. He ate breakfast; six pieces of dry toast, two cups of black coffee, three aspirin and four glasses of water for breakfast.

Henry’s head was lying on the table when Liz stood behind him and ruffled his hair. “Poor Henry. Will, Sweetheart, do you think we can find somebody for Henry?”

Henry’s eyes opened wide.

Will set the newspaper he’d been reading down. “Somebody to love? Certainly, Love. If a bit of matchmaking will make you happy, then why not?”

Henry managed to lift his head from the table. “Please, God, no. No matchmaking, no somebody to love, no anything, I beg of you both. I’m quite fine on my own, thank you anyways.”

As Liz cleared away the dishes, she made to tease him. “You have such a lovely singing voice, Henry.”

Furrowing his brow, Henry said seriously, “I don’t sing.”

Will wondered if he sounded this absurd when he protested about snoring. “You do, Reynolds, and don’t listen to Liz. She’s being too kind for you sing appallingly.”

“I recollect that Wickham hit the floor several times last night, but not much else. You will forgive me my ignorance of last night’s events; I pray you will both take mercy on me and just have done with all the mockery at once rather than string it out to torture me.”

Will nodded. “Very well, consider the matter closed. Perhaps cleaning up and making ready to leave might just be the thing you need to finish clearing out your head?”

Henry agreed. “Capital idea, sir.”

“Oh, and Reynolds? A hangover is no excuse. Please cease all the “sir” nonsense.”

Henry, still suffering mightily from a headache, merely waved his hand as he left the breakfast table.

Liz turned on the dishwasher. “I am worried about him, Will. It’s obvious he still isn’t feeling well, please be nice to him today.”

“Of course I will. I will always be kind to your favorite minions. Are you sure that you won’t be late for school?”

“No, I’ve got plenty of time. This morning is my own. When you get back, I’ll have already done my oral and, hopefully, with a little luck, I’ll be ready to receive my doctorate. It’s a busy week for both of us, and maybe not having you around to distract me is a good thing.”

Will wrapped his arms around her waist. “Are you implying, madam, that I am a distraction?”

“Oh, yes! A very large, very handsome, super sexy distraction that I am very grateful to call my own. But since I need to focus this week on my work, it’s probably a good thing you’ll be in New York.”

“Where I need to focus on saving a company from fiscal disaster. This will be a good test for us, I think.”

Liz grinned. “I always tested well.”

“I will try not to die of shock from that revelation. I, however, did not test well… or at least easily.”

They finished cleaning up the kitchen and waited for Henry in the living room. Once he was finally dressed and ready, Liz took them to Logan where she was introduced to Captain Wentworth. The Captain assured Liz he would take very good care of her fiancé and there would be nothing at all to worry about. Henry and Wentworth disappeared into the place to give Will and Liz some privacy to say good-bye.

“Why is this so hard?” she asked. “It’s not as if you’re going away forever.”

“I don’t know, Love. This is difficult for me as well. We’ll be back in a few days and after that I see no good reason why we should ever be parted again.”

“I love you, William Darcy. Remember that.”

“I love you, Elisabeth Gardiner. Remember that.”

They kissed and comforted each other until they heard a clearing of Wentworth’s throat signaling that it was time to take off. Liz sat in her car and watched the plane fly into the morning sky. Only when she lost sight of the plane on the horizon did she leave for school.

Henry had been asleep since the moment he had buckled into his seat on the plane. Will had wanted to review notes with his trusted assistant, but he didn’t have the heart to disturb the poor man. Instead, he watched out the window as the land passed in a blur beneath them. As the landscape below mesmerized him, Will contemplated the strange turns which had taken in such a short period of time. As someone who had been deliberate and careful about planning the direction of his life, Will was remarkably casual about how quickly and easily he’d given up controlling every minor detail. It’s amazing what the love of a good woman can do!

They arrived in New York and had a car transport them to the US base for Pemberley. Will checked in and made certain everything was in order. He and Henry met with the senior staff and were brought up to speed on the various projects that were going on in the office. After several hours of this, Will noticed Henry could barely hold his head up. Will explained they’d be back very early the next morning as he and Henry left for the apartments he kept in the building across the street.

Henry was very glad when Will handed him a card-key and told him nothing more was expected of him until the next morning. As Henry opened his door and tossed his bag inside, he nodded to Will and said, “Thank you, sir, and good night!”

Will didn’t have the heart to point out that it was only two in the afternoon.

When Will opened the door to the penthouse that was his whenever he stayed in New York, he was greatly disturbed to find that someone else was already there. There was a pair of large, brown loafers in the front hall and a briefcase was sitting on the hall table.

Will called out, “Hello? Unless you make yourself known right now, I will call security and have you removed!”

A laughing voice answered back. “And why on earth would you do something like that to your favorite cousin?”

Will relaxed enough to tease his cousin. “John? Is that you?”

Andrew Williams greeted his cousin with a great bear hug. “You ass! I’m your favorite cousin.”

They moved to the living room and made themselves comfortable. “No, my preferred cousin is the one who actually remembers I exist. How the hell have you been? It’s been an age and a half since anyone’s laid eyes on you!”

“I know. We’ll talk about that in a little while. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Aside from this is my flat? The better question is what are you doing here?”

“I had asked Reynolds if I could use it since I was in town on some business.”

“When was this?”

“One week a year ago. But I kind of decided to keep the key and I really only stay here when I’m in the city. God knows I try to save all the money I can on my poor instructor’s salary. But Fitz, if my being here is going to cause you any trouble, I could go. I’d hate to be the one to get in the way of any big romantic plans you might have.”

“No romantic plans at all. This is a working trip. In fact, Reynolds is next door. What about you, Andy? I’m not going to find any unmentionables strewn about the place, am I?”

“Sadly, no. It’s been way longer than I’d like to admit since I’ve had any access to lady’s unmentionables. How about you? You seem in a remarkably good mood and you haven’t even threatened to kill me for being here. You must be getting some.”

“See? This vulgarity of yours is precisely why John, for the moment at least, is my favourite cousin.”

Andy smacked Will on the back and laughed. “Ah! But you didn’t deny it! So spill already… who is she? When do we get to meet her? Does she have a sister?”

“Bloody hell, there are moments that I really hate you, you do realize that?”

“You love me and you know it. Now, it’s kiss and tell time! Details, man!”

Will shook his head at the immaturity of his cousin. “Grow up, Andy.”

“My life is so boring in comparison to yours. Excuse me if I wish to live vicariously through my jet-setting playboy cousin.”

A jet-setting playboy is the one thing in the world Will had no wish to be. Highly annoyed by his cousin’s inquisition, he determined that he would not say one word about Elisabeth. She was too precious to him to allow her to become an object of Andy’s jocularity. He would need to speak to Reynolds about keeping mum on the subject.

“I cannot help that your own life is dull, Andy. You said that you had a problem you wished to speak of?”

“I’ve been lonely lately and I’ve been thinking about the things that I’ve fucked up in my life. I’m thinking you were right when you told me to grow up.”

“What’s brought on this round of self-reflection? Did something happen at the Academy?”

“Nah, I love being an instructor. I received a call last week from out of the blue. You remember that girl I was going to marry? Well, it seems she’s taken up with some guy her father can’t stand and, since he’s always had a soft spot for me, he called me. I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what might have been with her.”

Will frowned. He had never actually met the girl, but he distinctly remembered the mess his cousin had been in after the break-up and had no wish to see him go through such hell again. “Sometimes the past is better left there. That girl was selfish and tore you apart. Why would you want to even consider going through all that again?”

“Maybe it’s my military training or something, but I feel like I gave up too easily. I should have been able to conquer whatever troubles we had. Her father swears that I’m the right man for her and I believe he may be right. What do you think? Should I try again? Give her another chance?”

“Didn’t you say she’s with some other bloke? You would really be that guy, the one to break up a happy relationship?”

“Her father says the guy is a tool and there’s no way she’s happy. He swears she’s just rebelling against him for some reason or other. The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right. Lisa belongs to me.”

“You mean with you.”

“No, I meant what I said. She’s mine. Or she soon will be when she realizes that I’m the only one who could ever give her what she really needs.”

Will wondered when his cousin had become such a prick. “Your mother would smack you if she’d have ever heard you speak about a woman like that. What the hell happened to you, Andy? You sound positively Neanderthal.”

“Not at all. We should have been together all along. She just needs to see that she was wrong about me and then everything will be fine.”

“Well,” said Will, trying to think of something to say, “I suppose I should wish you luck, then. When do you plan to try to sweep her off her feet again?”

“I’m thinking there’s no time like the present. It’s the holidays and that always makes people feel sentimental and all that shit, so I think now is the time. In fact, you could really help me out.”

Will was ready to promise almost anything to get Andy out of there. He would need to have a long talk with John about Andy’s mental health. “What can I do for you?”

“Could you loan me some money? And by loan, I mean give, because we both know I’ll never have enough to really pay you back. I just need some travelling funds and a bit of seed money to start my new campaign to get Lisa back. Please, Fitz? Otherwise I’ll just have to call John and he’s even worse to deal with than you.”

“If there was a compliment of some sort in there, I must have missed it.” Will didn’t want to enable Andy to pursue this foolishness, but he also didn’t want to spend a week with him either. “Alright, I suppose I could spare some cash. How much were you thinking you might need?”

Andy grinned. “You’re the best, Fitz! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Ten large would really fit the bill. Christmas is coming, and though I’m sure I’m enough to fill all of her needs, I’m sure the little lady would love to get some bling in her stocking.”

Feeling ill at the thought of his cousin going after a girl who was clearly disturbed and mercenary, Will soothed his mind with thoughts of Elisabeth and how different she was than any other woman in the world. When he felt calm again, he agreed to his cousin’s request. “It’s early enough. Come on, we’ll stop by the bank and get your ten grand this afternoon. Were you staying the night, or did you want to head off on your quest right away?”

Andy shook his head. “I think I’ll head out tonight. Since you’re being so generous, I will let you buy me dinner before I leave.”

Will simply nodded.

The cousins went out and took care of Andy’s finances and then had an early dinner. Andy regaled his cousin with stories from the Academy and some of the stupid things different cadets had done. The entire time Will listened to him, he was stunned by the changes that had occurred to his cousin’s personality. There was a harsh edge, almost a cruelty, which had not been there before. Will was very glad Andy was not staying any longer than necessary.

 After Andy had packed and left, Will walked around the flat cleaning up after his cousin. There was something nagging at him, like there was something he felt he was missing or not seeing. He wracked his brain, but came up with nothing. He would think on it later tonight. Or better yet, I’ll go over this Andy business with Liz, she’ll help me see whatever it is that I’m missing.

~Home~

~Previous Chapter~

~more coming soon~

 

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.

Next Page »