Chapter 22

By the time William arrived at the reception, the room was buzzing with conversation. Waiters circulated with trays of hors d’oeuvres and pastries. Bars set up at both ends of the room were surrounded. Amid all the activity, his arrival went unnoticed at first. But soon he was spotted, and applause spread through the room. He moved among the guests, shaking an occasional hand and smiling as much as he could manage.

He located his grandmother holding court with a circle of her friends. His sister Georgiana stood beside Rose, her gaze directed at the floor.

Rose greeted him when he approached. “There you are. Everyone has been looking for you.”

William kissed her cheek, absorbing her mild reproof. “I’m sorry, Gran. I needed to rest for a few minutes.” He drew Georgiana close to him, draping his arm across her shoulders.

“You were wonderful, Will.” Georgiana smiled up at him.

“Thanks, Georgie. How are you holding up?”

“Okay, I guess. How much longer do I have to stay?”

“Just hang on till the speeches are over, okay? Then Allen can take you home.” William wished he could go with her.

“About the speeches,” Rose interjected. “Sonya needs to know when you want to do that. The Juilliard people said it was up to us.”

“Then we might as well get it over with. I assume all the guests are here by now.”

“Very well. Georgiana, please find Sonya and tell her to get things ready. And in the meantime, William can circulate among the guests.”

William took the hint and excused himself. Soon he was surrounded by a crowd of people anxious to meet him. Fortunately, they had so much to say that he needed to do little but shake hands, listen—or at least pretend to listen—and nod on occasion.

A few minutes later, he saw Sonya attempting to catch his eye. He detached himself from some well-wishers and joined her. “Time for the speech?” he asked.

“They’re setting up the microphone.”

William and Sonya crossed the room to the makeshift stage area. “Where’s Richard?” he asked.

She snickered. “Propositioning some attractive single woman, no doubt.” She scanned the crowd. “Sure enough, there he is. With not just one woman, but two.”

William looked in the direction she indicated, located his cousin, and nearly had the wind knocked out of him when he recognized the younger of the two women with whom Richard was gaily conversing.

“What are you gaping at?”

“Elizabeth,” William replied, speaking as quietly as he could and barely moving his lips.

Sonya matched his conspiratorial tone. “Elizabeth who?”

“Elizabeth, from San Francisco.”

“Seriously? She’s here?’

“She’s the dark-haired one in the black dress, talking to Richard.”

“Wow.” Sonya craned her neck for a better look. “She flew out here for the recital?”

“She lives in New York.” William stepped forward, intending to go to Elizabeth’s side, but Sonya grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“Not now. After the speech.”

As fond as William was of Richard, there was no denying that his cousin was an inveterate womanizer. Richard genuinely liked the company of women, but he didn’t get emotionally involved with his partners. He typically sought out women who were similarly inclined, but regardless of that, Richard would find Elizabeth irresistible; any man would. William was desperate to rush to her side and protect her, but he could only stand and watch Richard operate.

“When are they going to get that damned microphone working?” he hissed. He gritted his teeth as Richard touched Elizabeth’s arm in an intimate gesture. He can’t have her. I couldn’t bear it. I ….

The words that formed in his mind shocked him, but he was unable to deny their profound truth. I love her. God help me, but I do.

At that moment, Sonya tapped the microphone to get the guests’ attention. Elizabeth turned toward the podium, and their eyes met. He braced himself for the cold disdain he would certainly see there. But instead she smiled—a tentative smile, but a smile all the same—and suddenly he couldn’t breathe. He had no idea what her smile signified, he was determined to find out at his first opportunity.

Sonya nudged him, and he noted that the audience was watching him expectantly. He stepped to the microphone, his eyes locked on Elizabeth.

“Um … yes, good evening. On behalf of the Darcy Arts Trust, I’d like to thank you. For being here tonight. We …. ” His brain had shut down, leaving his mouth to struggle onward alone. “We … appreciate your support, and … we thank you. This is … important work.”

He paused for a deep breath and continued, feeling calmer. “I can tell you from personal experience that a skilled teacher can have a tremendous impact on a young person’s artistic development. The scholarships funded with your support will offer talented young musicians access to some of the finest teachers in the world.”

Elizabeth’s smile grew brighter, and he felt his concentration fading again. It was time for a quick finish. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening. Thank you again for your support.”

William strode immediately to Elizabeth’s side, marshaling every ounce of strength he possessed. He was pleased to note that he, and not Richard, had her attention now. “Hello, Elizabeth,” he said, interrupting Richard in mid-story.

Elizabeth acknowledged William’s greeting with an awkward smile and a little nod. “Hi, William.”

Richard frowned. “You two know each other?”

The woman standing beside Elizabeth extended her hand. “Mr. Darcy, I’m Laura Church. I’m a professor of music education at NYU. We’ve met before but I’m sure you wouldn’t remember.”

William smiled and shook Laura’s hand. “Hello, Dr. Church. It’s a pleasure.”

“The recital was wonderful.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I assume you’re one of Elizabeth’s professors?”

“She’s my thesis advisor,” Elizabeth said. “She’s been a great help to me.”

“She’s an excellent student,” Laura answered.

“I’m sure she is,” William replied. “Elizabeth, when will you finish your degree?”

“I defend my thesis on Monday. I hope it’ll go well.”

“She’s ready,” Laura said, “but she won’t stop working on it. I barely managed to drag her here tonight.”

“Listen to your advisor.” Richard took a step closer to Elizabeth. “Sounds like you need to stop gilding the lily and have a little fun.”

“I understand,” William said, giving Elizabeth a reassuring smile that covered his urge to wring Richard’s neck. “You want to do your best. It’s worth the extra effort.”

Elizabeth nodded emphatically. “Exactly.”

“Don’t take Will’s advice, or you’ll never have any fun at all.” Richard had adopted the superior air that always set William’s teeth on edge. “Even when he already plays something perfectly, he’ll keep practicing it for hours and hours. He’s compulsive about it.”

“Which is exactly why he’s such an incredible musician,” Elizabeth retorted. “And why people all over the world admire him so much.”

William nearly gasped at her warm defense of him. It couldn’t be happening. Yet there was no mistaking the warmth radiating from her smile or the softness in her eyes.

She was even more lovely than in his many tortured dreams. He wanted to bury his hands in the curls falling loose around her shoulders. He ached to taste her soft lips, to feel them open under his. But above all, he was desperate to win her forgiveness.

Richard cleared his throat. “Sorry to break up the party, but I was about to ask these ladies if they’d like to go somewhere for a quiet drink. I’d invite you along, Will, but of course you’re the man of the hour so you have to stay.”

William noted Richard’s smirk, and lifted his chin in response. “Did Richard explain that he’s my cousin?”

“No, he didn’t,” Laura answered.

Richard snickered. “When I’m lucky enough to talk to a couple of beautiful ladies, I have far better things to discuss than you, Will.”

“I’m sure you do, Richie,” William said with a smug grin. Richard hated that nickname.

“Well, old man, I know you need to circulate and greet your legions of adoring fans, so we’ll say goodnight. Ladies, shall we go?”

William took petulant satisfaction in the peevish tone that had crept into Richard’s voice. “I’m sorry to interfere with your plans,” he said, “but I had hoped that Elizabeth might be willing to stay for a while.” He turned to her. “I have something I’d like to discuss with you, if you don’t mind.” His eyes implored her to consent.

It felt as though his heart stopped beating when she hesitated, but then she nodded. “Yes, I’ll stay.”

Years of experience concealing his feelings helped him to hide the relief that washed over him. “Wonderful,” he replied. “That gives me something to look forward to. But Richard is right; I need to make the rounds before people start to leave. I hate to ask, but would you mind waiting until things quiet down?”

“No, it’s fine. Take your time.”

“Thank you, Elizabeth. I’ll be back soon. Dr. Church, it was a pleasure to meet you; thank you for coming tonight. Richie, I’ll see you later.” William tossed a smug glance at Richard and strode away.


Elizabeth was astonished and nervous in approximately equal parts. He had been polite and friendly, with none of the awkward reserve he usually showed in public. And he had sought her out, despite her disdainful treatment of him at their last meeting.

From the moment he had arrived at the reception, she had been constantly aware of, and unnerved by, his presence. She had forced herself to focus on Richard’s flirtatious banter until the moment when William’s eyes had locked on hers from across the room as he prepared to give his speech. She had expected disdain; the warmth and earnest supplication she saw instead had stunned her.

“Earth to Elizabeth! Anybody home?”

Elizabeth winced at the sight of Laura’s knowing grin. “Sorry. I was just thinking about … my thesis.”

“Right,” Laura drawled, her eyes appraising Elizabeth. But without further comment, she turned to Richard and made a remark about the Yankees’ season so far; they had found a shared interest in baseball.

Elizabeth tried to listen to the conversation, but she couldn’t stop herself from following William’s progress around the room. She became aware that Laura and Richard had fallen silent, and was embarrassed to find them looking at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

“Richard was just asking how you met William. I’m curious, too.”

“We met a few weeks ago in San Francisco. My sister was engaged to William’s friend, Charles Bingley, and William and I were in the wedding party.”

Richard shook his head. “A shame about the wedding being called off.”

“Wasn’t that sad?” Laura said. “I couldn’t believe it when Elizabeth told me about it.”

“Yeah, Will said it was a mess,” Richard said. “Elizabeth, I take it you’re originally from the Bay Area?”

“I was born and raised in Cupertino.”

“I lived in Berkeley, and later in the city, until I was thirteen.” He smiled. “I’d love to get together some time and compare notes. Since you’re stuck here waiting for the old man and can’t go for a drink, how about meeting me tomorrow for dinner?”

“Thank you, but I need tomorrow night to prepare for my thesis defense. I appreciate the invitation, though.”

“Some other time?”


Richard was handsome and charming, but Elizabeth couldn’t seem to focus on him. Her eyes darted restlessly around the room until she saw William standing with a large group of obviously smitten females. As she watched, his eyes drifted away from the group and rested on her. Their gazes locked, and time seemed to stop. She finally forced herself to turn back to Richard, who was staring across the room at William.

“Well, I suppose I’d better circulate, too,” Richard said, “or my grandmother will come over here and drag me away. I hope to see you both again.”

As soon as he was out of earshot, Laura fixed a sardonic eye on Elizabeth. “I can’t believe you let me babble on and on about William Darcy, and you never even mentioned that you two have something going on.”

“We don’t!”

“Oh, right. When he was here talking to us, the sparks flying between the two of you were singeing me.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Elizabeth said, hesitating. “I won’t deny that I find William attractive, but so does every other woman in the room.”

“He doesn’t look at the rest of us the way he looks at you. And you’re no better. Even right this second, you’re looking past me and trying to find him.”

Elizabeth winced. She had discovered that William’s height made him easy to spot as he moved around the room, but she hadn’t realized that she’d been so obvious about it.

“I need to get going,” Laura said. “I promised the babysitter I’d be home by twelve thirty, and I’m going to be late as it is. But I assume you’re staying to talk to William, despite the fact that there’s nothing going on between you.”

“Honestly, there isn’t. I wouldn’t even say that we’re friends.”

“Nevertheless, I expect a full report on Monday. Feel free to add a slide with the key points into your PowerPoint presentation.”

Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. “I doubt I’ll have anything to report. Thanks so much for inviting me to come with you tonight, Laura. I had a great time.”


Some time later, Elizabeth sat at a table in the corner, sipping champagne. She had been on her own since Laura’s departure, watching as William was besieged by a constant stream of admirers. He had directed frequent warm glances at her, and she sensed that he was reassuring himself that she hadn’t changed her mind and departed.

He had been born to wear white tie and tails; the long coat accentuated his broad shoulders and elongated frame, and the formal ensemble made him look regal. His hair had been neatly styled at the beginning of the evening, but now a few rebellious curls had fallen onto his forehead. Elizabeth thought the hint of informality made him even more attractive.

However, the subject of the canceled wedding, when it came up in conversation with Richard and Laura, had been a timely reminder of William’s worst transgression. The things he had said about her career no longer bothered her—in fact, she had laughed about it with friends—but she still resented his low opinion of Jane. Then again, both Jane and Charlotte had pointed out that she and William, with their opposite loyalties, had been destined to clash on the subject of the broken engagement. He barely knew Jane, and he would have been angry with her for breaking his friend’s heart. He was wrong about Jane, of course, but Elizabeth had harbored unkind thoughts of her own about Charles over the past few weeks that William would no doubt resent if he heard them.

At last the crowd was thinning, and William made his way toward her table. She greeted him with a smile. “This has been a busy evening for you,” she said. “Please, sit down.”

With a nod, he sank into the empty chair. “I’m sorry to have kept you here for so long by yourself, but I knew we wouldn’t have a chance to talk quietly until things calmed down, and I need to talk to you. Thank you for waiting.”

“It’s okay. I wanted to talk to you, too.”

He yawned. “I’m sorry. It’s not the company. This has been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping well.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve had some things on my mind. It’s warm in here. Do you mind if I take off my coat and tie?”

“Of course not.”

He shrugged off his tailcoat, untied his white bow tie, and unfastened the top two buttons of his wing-collar shirt. “I wouldn’t ordinarily do this in public, and my grandmother may have my head if she sees me like this. But as late as it is, I think it’ll be all right.”

Their eyes met for a moment in silence, and then both spoke at once.

“Elizabeth, I—”


They stopped, and she burst into nervous laughter. “Go ahead,” she said.

“No, ladies first.”

“All right. William, I owe you an apology.”

“For what?”

“For the things I said to you that day we walked to City Hall Park. I was out of line.”

“I disagree. I deserved every word you said.” He fidgeted absently with one of his cufflinks. “You were right about me. I was terribly rude to you—to everyone—in San Francisco. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right,” she answered gently.

“No, it’s not. I was patronizing and arrogant and … everything you said about me. I know I don’t deserve it, but if someday you might be able to forgive me—”

“You’re forgiven.”

He raised his eyes to hers, his gaze intense, and for a moment he didn’t speak. Then he murmured, “Thank you,” his voice thick with emotion.

“And you’re not the only one who behaved badly. Granted, I had some legitimate grievances, but I was itching for a fight that day. I kept intentionally provoking you till I had an excuse to say all those things. I was trying to hurt your feelings, and you didn’t deserve that. I’m very sorry.”

“Apology accepted,” he said quietly, “but you don’t owe me one.” They were silent, both looking across the room, and then he spoke again. “I know this is my third time asking, but could we make one more fresh start?”

She nodded. “I’d like that.”

They sat in silence, looking into each other’s eyes, until Elizabeth grew uncomfortable under his intense gaze. She searched for a safe topic of conversation. “Was that your sister I saw you with earlier? The girl with the light brown hair, in the blue dress?”

“Yes, that was Georgiana.”

“Does she like music?”

“She plays piano and viola, both of them quite well.”

“How old is she?”


“Are the two of you close?”

He nodded. “Our parents died when she was just a baby, so in a way, I’ve been both brother and father to her.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?”

He grimaced. “I’m not looking forward to that.”

Elizabeth laughed at his horrified expression. “I think you’d better get ready for it.”

“You and Richard seemed to be getting along well,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “I hope I didn’t interfere with any plans you might have had—I believe he said something about going out for a drink?”

“I wasn’t planning to go anyway.”

“Oh?” He sat forward, resting an arm on the table.

“No. He’s charming, but … I like men with more depth.”

“Richard has plenty of depth. He’s brilliant, and he loves to argue philosophy and politics. But people don’t see that till they get to know him better.”

“Sounds like you’re saying I should have accepted his invitation.”

“No! No, I didn’t mean that. I ….” William sighed. His eyes downcast, he began to play with his cufflink again.

Elizabeth had intended her remark as a tease, but he seemed to have taken her seriously. She decided that a change of subject might relieve his discomfort. “I noticed that you didn’t play a jazz encore tonight.”

“Georgie asked me to play the Black Key Etude. I had intended to play a second encore as well, and it was going to be a jazz piece, but I was tired enough by then that I doubted I could do it justice.”

“The Black Key Etude was fantastic, but I was looking forward to some jazz.”

William rose to his feet. “Then come with me.”

Elizabeth stood up, looking at him quizzically. He led her across the room and seated himself at the grand piano in the corner. “I thought you were too tired to play any more,” she remarked.

“I seem to be catching my second wind.”

The remaining guests moved closer to watch the impromptu performance, and Elizabeth felt awkward standing so close to the center of attention. “I’m going to go stand with the others.”

“No, please, stay. You can be my page turner.”

“For the invisible sheet music you’re using?”

He grinned. “That’s right. And I expect you to pay close attention so you turn the pages at exactly the right time.”

“I’ll do my best, sir,” she promised with mock gravity. “The only thing is, you’d do better with an invisible page turner for the invisible pages. It’s silly for me to be standing here on display.”

He shifted the padded bench slightly in her direction. “Have a seat,” he said. “It’ll be tight, but we can both fit.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t. I’d be in your way.”

“No, you won’t. Please, sit with me.”

Elizabeth hesitated, but when William fixed his eyes on her in mute invitation, she perched on the edge of the bench.

“Are you ready?” he asked. “I don’t want you to miss the first page turn.”

“I never knew you were such a tease.”

“There are a great many things you don’t know about me.”

He began to play a gentle rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me.”1 She watched, mesmerized, as his long, slender fingers moved confidently over the keyboard with an intoxicating combination of strength and softness. His face was a study in blissful concentration; he seemed to be living in another world, unaware of his audience or even of Elizabeth’s presence at his side. But when he had to lean toward her to reach some particularly low notes, his body brushed against hers and his eyes met hers in a private smile before he looked back at the keyboard.

His wavy hair looked thick but soft, and Elizabeth wanted to feel its texture. She felt the warmth of his body radiating through his crisp white shirt when he leaned against her. The top few buttons of the shirt were open, and she had an inexplicable urge to run a finger along the smooth skin of his neck. Completely unnerved by her visceral response to his nearness, she took a deep breath and tried to compose herself, only to feel the fluttering in her stomach intensify when she inhaled the faint scent of a spicy cologne.

When the song ended the guests applauded, but William ignored them as he fixed his soul-searching gaze on Elizabeth.

“That was beautiful. Thank you,” she whispered, trying to catch her breath.

William, who was already sitting close to her, leaned closer still, his eyes focused on her lips. Did he intend to kiss her? She pressed her palm to his chest, exerting gentle pressure to keep him from coming any closer. “William, no,” she murmured.

The spell broken, he looked around him in dismay. “I’m sorry,” he said, barely above a whisper. He rose to his feet abruptly. “When I play, sometimes I forget where I am. But I never meant to—”

“That was a lovely piece, William, though I wish you had played it earlier, while more of the guests were still here.” An elderly woman, one Elizabeth had noticed speaking to William a few times that evening, approached.

Elizabeth stood up and William made the introductions. “Gran, this is Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth, this is my grandmother, Rose Darcy.”

“Good evening, Ms. Bennet,” Rose said. She was tall and slender, and carried herself with regal posture. Her gray satin gown complemented her perfectly coiffed silver-white hair.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Darcy.” Elizabeth accepted Rose’s extended hand. It was cool and dry, her grip firm. Her ice-blue eyes were not precisely unfriendly, but neither were they warm. Elizabeth sensed that she had been judged and found wanting.

“How do you know my grandson, Ms. Bennet?”

“We met in San Francisco,” she said. “My sister was engaged to Charles Bingley.”

“I was sorry to hear that the wedding was cancelled. But I understand that some problems arose at the last minute.”

“Yes, well, no need to go into that now,” William said quickly. Elizabeth saw him dart an anxious glance in her direction, and she coughed to cover an involuntary giggle. He must have been afraid that she would start ranting about Jane and Charles.

“William, the party seems to be wrapping up, and I’m rather tired. I need to have a word with Sonya—she’s in the kitchen talking to the caterers—but then I’d like to go. I’ll be back in a moment.”

When she was gone, William sighed. “I wish it weren’t so late,” he said.

“I know,” Elizabeth replied. “I’d better be going, too.”

“How are you getting home?”

“The same way I got here, on the subway.”

William grimaced. “I can’t let you take the subway, especially not alone at this hour of the night.”

“I’ve taken the subway alone at night lots of times. I’ll be fine.”

“Not tonight. It’s my fault you’re out so late, because I asked you to stay.”

“What if I promise to take a taxi instead of the subway?” As she made the suggestion, Elizabeth wondered if she had enough money for cab fare.

“I have a better idea,” he replied. “Our driver is outside waiting for us. We need to stop by the house first to drop Gran off—it’s close by—but after that he could drive you home.”

“Your grandmother won’t mind?”

“Of course not.”

“Well, then, yes, thank you. That would be nice.”

Rose approached them. “Are you ready to go, William? Good night, Ms. Bennet; it was a pleasure meeting you.”

“Elizabeth is coming with us, Gran. After we stop by the townhouse, Allen will drive her home.”

“I see.” Rose’s eyes swept from William to Elizabeth, her expression guarded. “Then shall we be on our way?”


Ten minutes later, the car pulled up in front of the Darcy townhouse on East Sixty-Seventh Street. Elizabeth couldn’t make out many details of the house in the darkness, but it appeared to be a prime example of the elegant limestone buildings found in this part of the city. Allen stepped out of the car and opened Rose’s door. William exited the car as well.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, and Elizabeth watched him escort his grandmother into the house.

She wondered why he hadn’t said goodbye before going inside, to save the trouble of coming back out. But everything about the short trip to the house had been peculiar. Rose had asked Elizabeth a surprising number of questions about her musical background and her family. William had said little, but Elizabeth had noted his restless demeanor and his anxious glances in her direction.

When he emerged from the house, Elizabeth opened her window, expecting him to say goodnight; however, instead he walked around the car and slid into the back seat beside her. “We’ll take Ms. Bennet home now, Allen. She’ll tell you where she lives.”

“Ms. Bennet and I took care of that while you were inside, sir.”

“But, William, you don’t need to come along,” she protested. “Earlier you were telling me how tired you are. Why don’t you stay home and get some rest?”

“I feel fine, and I’d like to escort you home. Let’s go.”

“Yes, sir.” Allen pulled the car smoothly away from the curb.

“I’m glad we were able to talk tonight,” she said quietly.

“So am I.” William paused. “Elizabeth, if Gran seemed cool or if her questions bothered you—”

“Don’t worry. I’ve come to expect that sort of thing whenever I meet a Darcy.”

She saw a look of deep distress come over his face as he digested her remark. She touched his arm in a reassuring gesture. “I’m sorry. I was just teasing. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I deserved it.”

Her heart warmed to him; he looked like a sad little boy with a guilty conscience. “Your grandmother’s probably just formal with strangers.”

“She’s protective of me.”

“And I’m somehow dangerous to you?”

He smiled, his eyebrows raised. “You might be surprised.”

Elizabeth was as perplexed by William as ever. Tonight she had again seen his sweet, beguiling side, and she was powerfully drawn to him; however, she had seen him behave this way before, only to be repelled soon afterward by his oversized ego. His apology had seemed sincere, but she found herself unable to trust this transformation. As she tried to think of something to say, she noticed that he was drumming his fingers absently on his leg, as though playing an imaginary keyboard.

“Oh—I haven’t told you how much I enjoyed the recital. You were wonderful.”

“Thank you. Did you have a good seat?”

“Excellent. Around the 10th row, left-center section.”

He nodded, raising his eyebrows. “That section has some of the most expensive seats. Most of the people who buy those are—”

“Wealthy people? Unlike me?”

“I’m doing it again, aren’t I? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to.”

“No, you’re absolutely right. I could never have afforded the ticket. Laura, my advisor, offered it to me when her husband couldn’t use it.”

They fell silent again, both staring out the car windows.

“I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve heard anything about the job in San Francisco,” William said.

“Not a word. I guess I didn’t get it, because they needed someone to teach in their summer program, and it starts soon.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too. It was a great chance to go home, and I’d like to be there for Jane right now. She’s strong and she doesn’t complain, but I know she misses Charles.”

“Do you have other prospects?”

“I had an interview at Hunter College yesterday, and they as much as told me that they intended to make me an offer. But I had my hopes set on the job in San Francisco.” Elizabeth sighed, shaking her head.

William didn’t respond, and her attention was distracted by the need to direct Allen the rest of the way. He stopped the car in front of her building and got out to open her door.

“It was good to see you again, William. Thank you so much for the ride home.”

“I’ll walk you to the door.”

“No, you don’t need to do that.”

The building was only a short trip up the sidewalk from where Allen had stopped, but William exited the car to join her. Elizabeth was both touched and amused by his gallantry. She thanked Allen for the ride, and then William accompanied her into the building and toward the elevator. When the elevator doors opened, she smiled at him and extended her hand, saying, “I’m fine from here, really. Thank you again.”

William took Elizabeth’s hand in both of his. “May I call you on Monday evening to find out how your presentation went?”

“I’d like that. I have to work Monday, though, so I won’t be home till late.”

“Then I’ll talk to you Monday night. Good night, Elizabeth,” William murmured, his deep voice caressing her name. His gaze dropped to her lips and he lowered his head to hers.

Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she was ready to kiss him, but she lacked the will to resist. She closed her eyes, expecting to feel the pressure of his mouth on hers, but instead his lips gently brushed her cheek, his breath soft and warm on her skin. He released her hand and turned to go.

As he opened the doors to exit the building, he looked back, an unreadable expression on his face, and then he was gone. She stepped onto the elevator, a bemused smile turning up the corners of her mouth.

Next chapter

1 “Someone to Watch Over Me,” performed by Dave Brubeck on One Alone. © 2000, Telarc. Hear on Youtube.