He knew this would be difficult but it was something he felt he should do. He picked up his phone, calculating the two-hour time difference between Chicago and California.
She answered without a greeting. “You saw.”
“Yes.” He knew how to wait. There was a long pause.
“Do you expect me to apologize? I did what I thought was in the best interests of my brother!”
Darcy frowned. “Do you think that justifies manipulating me, lying to Bing, and more importantly, breaking up two people who loved each other?”
“You said it yourself. If Bing’s feelings were that strong, he wouldn’t have let himself be parted from her.”
“I was wrong,” Darcy stated emphatically. “I was thinking of myself and that I would never leave the woman I loved that easily. But Bing is not me. He has a different way of handling his relationships. He trusted us. He trusted you and me to be looking out for him and to do everything in our power to support him. We failed him, Caroline. In the worst way possible.”
“He’s bounced back from other relationships before.” He could hear the tears in Caroline’s voice as she struggled not to cry.
“Not this one. He really loves Jane and instead of allowing him to run his own life, we interfered and almost ruined it for him. And you set up a phony scenario that made Bing and I believe a total lie.”
There was silence for a few minutes. When Caroline spoke again, her voice was more hesitant than he had ever heard it. “Do you think he’ll ever forgive me?”
“We’re talking about Bing. You’re his sister. Of course he’ll forgive you.”
“Will you?” Caroline’s voice was so quiet he had to strain to hear.
“I don’t know,” Darcy struggled to be honest. It would be hard to forgive her for duping him into leading his best friend astray. That mistake had cost Bing and Jane months of agony and threatened Darcy’s friendship with Bing. Caroline knew better than most how difficult it was to regain Darcy’s good opinion once it had been lost. Plus Darcy’s interference with Bing and Jane’s relationship had badly damaged his chance to be with Lizzie, the woman he loved to distraction. Only for Lizzie, who he sensed would want him to forgive Caroline, was he able to say, “I’ll try.”
Caroline seemed to follow the train of his thoughts. “I don’t get what you see in her. After the Gibson wedding, you didn’t think much of her reputed looks. You said she was about as much of a beauty as her mother was a wit. Her mother and little sister are tactless and inappropriate. She’s admitted she’ll be paying off her student loans for years. You thought she wasn’t right for you from the beginning.” He could hear a note of desperation in the slightly disjointed sentences that poured out from her.
“That was before I knew her,” Darcy’s voice was curt. “Since then, I think she is the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I’ve ever known. Her family is supportive and caring and Lizzie loves them. That’s what matters. And I don’t care how long it takes her to pay off her loans. All I care about is her.”
“Then why aren’t you with her already?” Caroline snapped.
“That’s entirely up to Lizzie. If she wants me, I’ll be waiting.”
There was silence for a few minutes. Finally, Caroline spoke with a resigned tone, although with a trace of bitterness still evident. “You need to watch her recent videos more carefully. I think she does want you.” Caroline hung up. Darcy’s hand shook as he set down his phone.
Lizzie spun around after entering the foyer in Netherfield and pinned William to the door. “Thank you for the lovely one-week anniversary dinner,” she whispered in his ear. “Would you like me to provide the… dessert?” William felt her hands inching their way up his chest to his shoulders.
William just managed to swallow a groan before she was kissing him and all rational thoughts fled. “Lizzie,” he gasped as she pulled on his tie. “I think you take an inordinate delight in driving me crazy.”
“That’s one thing that hasn’t changed in our relationship. We’ve always driven each other a little crazy. Now it’s just--better.” She pulled his tie from his neck and started working on the buttons of his shirt. “I’ve been patient all through dinner, waiting to ravish you.”
He laughed and bending down, scooped Lizzie up, carrying her quickly up to his room. It wasn’t easy climbing the stairs without losing his breath while carrying his beautiful girlfriend who was running her fingers down his bare chest and pressing her lips to his jaw. Once there, he placed Lizzie on his bed and lay next to her. “I love you,” he murmured looking into her eyes before kissing her again deeply while his hands roamed down her body. He told her at least once every day. After months of trying to stifle his feelings, he felt privileged to be able to say it. Lizzie had not yet told him that she loved him, but William felt she did. He felt it in her touch, the way she looked at him with her expressive eyes, and the way she treated him with a mixture of sweetness, loving consideration and affectionate teasing. He had waited so many months to be with Lizzie. He didn’t mind being patient again. Still, he yearned to hear her say it.
Later, Lizzie put on his shirt and brought up water from the kitchen. They had worked up quite a thirst. She looked delectable in his shirt, William thought, as she handed him a glass of ice water.
“I’m going to miss you when you go back tomorrow morning,” Lizzie looked at him sadly. “This has been an amazing week.”
“I’ll miss you too.” William set down his glass and ran his hand down her cheek. “We can use Domino to talk every night.” The week had gone by so fast. He had been so nervous when he’d arrived on her birthday, unsure of her feelings and trying to tamp down the hope that had flooded him when he had heard her message.
Lizzie fidgeted with the buttons on his shirt that she was wearing. “What were you planning to say to me, when you came on my birthday? Did it depend on what I answered about why I called you?”
“I was hoping for an opening to tell you how I felt about you, but I was determined to find out your feelings.” William rubbed her arms and she looked up at him with a smile. “I would have told you regardless of what you answered.”
“I was so scared to call you. When you didn’t contact me, I thought that you didn’t want me to be in your life, that I had blown my last chance with you.”
“You had infinite chances with me, Lizzie. I would not have given up on you. If you had told me you were not interested in me, I would have left and kept my distance. But I would have kept hoping that someday you would change your mind and come to me.” He pulled her into his arms and rubbed her back.
“Were you…apprehensive when I first came to Pemberley?” Lizzie kept her face buried in his chest.
“I was thrilled you were coming to Pemberley, but determined to stay out of your way. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable as I did when we were both at Collins & Collins.” He shifted and she looked up at him. “After Gigi forced our first meeting, I was relieved. You didn’t seem to hate me anymore. I don’t know if you realize how much it mattered to me that you touched my arm.”
Lizzie giggled. “That was so awkward! You were so…nice. After what I said to you at Collins & Collins and in my videos, I felt I didn’t deserve any consideration from you. And yet you didn’t seem to hold that against me. I was trying to show you my feelings for you had changed when I touched you.”
“It didn’t take me long after that to want to try to be with you again. But I was nervous. I waited and watched you and tried to gauge your feelings by how you acted towards me.” He combed his fingers through her hair. “You seemed to like me on our sightseeing tour of San Francisco. However, after how badly I misjudged your feelings before, I was still cautious.”
“Oh I liked you before that.” Lizzie took his free hand and started running her fingers around his knuckles. “I think I really noticed it when we did costume theater together as ourselves. I was shocked at how I responded to the intense way you looked at me, as if you were just drinking me in. But I was also struggling with my feelings about your interference with Jane and Bing. The attraction between us really hit me then. It was so strong, it confused me. That’s partly why I ended our conversation so abruptly.”
“That confused me too. I felt we had a connection, but then I thought you were still upset with me. I wasn’t sure what I should do.” William kissed the top of her head. “Then, when you interviewed me—“
Lizzie laughed. “I’m pretty sure you did a much better job of interviewing me.”
“I finally believed you might care enough about me to try again. I wish I had asked you out sooner, so we could have had our first date before you had to leave.”
“Me too,” Lizzie sighed. “I thought about that for weeks once that website was taken down. I kept imagining what could have been. I don’t want you to know how many times I watched the Pemberley videos of us together.”
“Probably less than me.” William admitted. “Your videos were my lifeline for almost two months. I missed you. Pemberley felt empty without you there.” He didn’t tell her how often he had walked by her old office, how every spot in Pemberley he had been with her had felt haunted with her memory.
“Will you do something for me when you’ve gone back?” Lizzie curled into his chest and lifted her head to see his eyes. “Will you write me a letter?” At his look at surprise, she smiled self-consciously. “Your letter was a turning point for me. It opened my eyes to my misjudgments and eventually, helped me open up and really see you. I’ve re-read it so many times. I would love to have another letter from you, one that has nothing to do with a certain person who has hurt both of our sisters.”
William tightened his arms around Lizzie. “It will be my pleasure to write you a letter, Lizzie.”
Lizzie smiled and cuddled up against him for a long moment. “Speaking of pleasure,” Lizzie started to move her hands down along his chest. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting much sleep tonight, William Darcy.”
“My flight back tomorrow takes about 40 minutes,” he replied thickly. “That’s plenty of time for sleep.”
William quickly strode out of the secure area of the airport. His flight had landed about 10 minutes early, and he was one of the first off the plane (one of the perks of first class) holding his carry-on luggage. He didn’t expect Lizzie to be here yet, but even before he could scan the people milling in the terminal, he saw a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye and a small warm body was launched into his arms. He bent down, wrapping his arms tightly around Lizzie and inhaling her scent on her neck. “Finally!” he heard Lizzie breathe, his sentiments exactly. He felt relief coursing through his body. It was Friday afternoon and he had left early Monday morning, but despite the nightly Domino sessions and frequent texts, the minutes had dragged by excruciatingly slow without her. His hands roamed further down her back and discovered warm skin. What was she wearing? He started to pull away but then decided that thought could wait as his mouth had a mind of its own and descended on hers. Desire spiraled through him, and the busy sounds of the airport receded as his senses were engulfed with the feel and taste of Lizzie. Her kisses were tantalizing, making him forget everything but her and his desperate need for her.
After an immeasurable amount of time, they pulled apart and smiled at each other. Lizzie’s eyes were bright with happiness and desire, and her wide smile lit up her beautiful face. “I’ve missed you,” she gently reached up and ran her hand down his jaw.
“Me too. So much.” William was still adjusting to how much his world had changed now that Lizzie and he were together. There had been so many months that he had loved her with no hope of being a part of her life that he had become used to a hollow emptiness permeating his days. That void was full now, and the buoyancy and happiness that had replaced the dull ache still surprised him each day. The reality of Lizzie was even better than the dream of Lizzie.
William grabbed Lizzie’s hand, picked up his bag that he hadn’t remembered dropping and finally had the time to look at Lizzie’s dress. She was watching him hesitantly, as if she was carefully waiting to determine his reaction. “Do you know why I wore this?” she asked and he recognized the concern in her voice.
William paused deep in thought. “You wanted to show we’ve come full circle? That so much has changed between us since that day last October when I first admitted I love you?”
Lizzie’s smile was blinding. “You always surprise me with how well you understand me. So much has especially changed with my feelings in the last several months, William. I’m thankful every day that you were willing to wait for me.”
William dropped his bag again and pulled Lizzie into his arms. “I’m not sure I had a choice. My heart has been yours for so long now.”
Lizzie blinked away the tears in her eyes and stretched up to hug him. “I will take good care of it. You’re all I want,” she said. She leaned back and grinned at him. “Now, we need to get out of this airport before I strip you of all those unnecessary clothes.”
William picked up his bag again and laced his hand with Lizzie’s. “Do we have time to drop off my bag at Netherfield before meeting Lydia and Charlotte?”
Lizzie’s eyes sparkled. “We have enough time to stop for a certain little welcome back celebration I planned to have with you at Netherfield.”
William raised an eyebrow at her. “Do we have enough time for a shower also? Just in case we get…sweaty.”
Lizzie laughed. “I think we can work that into our schedule.”
Hours later, William pulled Lizzie closer into his arms and kissed the top of her head. They had called it a night early after Ricky Collin’s interruption, and Lizzie and he had barely made it back to Netherfield before their passion had culminated into fervent lovemaking. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, despite their earlier celebration (and yes, they had needed a shower) before meeting Lydia and Charlotte to celebrate the end of Lizzie’s diaries. He had been struggling to keep his hands somewhat discretely on her back all evening in that handy cutout of her dress. Now he felt relaxed and satiated with the promise of an entire long weekend with Lizzie stretching before his return to San Francisco.
“You are going to miss the diaries,” he stated.
“Yes,” Lizzie turned, pressing closer against him. “They’ve been a big part of my life for the last year.”
“You’re not stopping in any way because of me, are you?” He did not want to cause an impediment to anything Lizzie loved doing.
“No, I meant what I said on my last video yesterday. It’s the right time to stop for me.” Lizzie’s hand circled patterns on his chest. She yawned. “I haven’t felt this relaxed since—“
“after our one-week anniversary last Sunday?” William finished for her.
“Exactly.” Lizzie turned and rolled on top of his chest. She looked into William’s eyes. “There is one more part to why I wore that dress tonight. I need to admit something to you.” William felt his heartbeat speed up as he stared into her eyes, hearing the echo of his words from that day last fall. “William Darcy, I’m in love with you.” Lizzie’s eyes were pools filled with the deepest love. The vulnerability inherent with the implicit trust of her opening her heart to him floored him. He felt a rush of emotions and a release of an inner coil of tension. “Oh, Lizzie,” he said her name with a heartfelt sigh in his voice. “I love you too.”