I’ve been writing away on this story steadily for a few weeks now. It planted itself in my brain last fall. That is often the way of the writer, it seems. We are happily typing along on one story and then when we step away another grabs our attention while we are out shopping, watching the kids practice their favorite hobby, or best of all when sleep won’t come or we’re in the shower without a handy pencil and paper. The muse strikes at the oddest moments. Let our minds wander and there’s a whole story waiting to pat the seat next to it and reveal all to us. Do remember this is a rough draft and your comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated, thank you!
I hope you enjoy reading the following chapters as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Lizzy finished with her furry patients promptly at noon and washed up. She finger combed her unruly hair before poking her head into her father’s office.
“Want to come have lunch with Jane?” she asked as she applied lip balm, a curious habit she’d begun in her teen years.
“No thanks, daughter dearest. I want to have these figures committed to memory before dinner tonight,” he answered as he tapped a finger to his forehead.
Lizzy sighed and turned to leave. She stopped and pivoted around. “Daddy, at least eat a sandwich, please? Mother sent some over an hour ago.” He glanced up and saluted her before returning to his task.
She gave him the look her mother used when she was not being charitable and continued down the hallway. Her father’s behavior was beginning to become worrisome. She had never seen him so focused on daily reports, monthly invoices, and their inventory turn-around averages. Those were the duties that fell to Ellis, their business manager.
Lizzy stepped out into the sunlight happy to see the rain had stopped while she was busy indoors. She didn’t mind the rain all that much except for the number it did on her hair. On cue, a few curls broke loose and she pushed out her bottom lip to blow them out of her eyes.
She saw the bright candy-apple red sports car at the stop sign across the street and turned her head away. If she remembered correctly, Will Darcy owned a similar car. She lowered her sunglasses and continued her stride to the cafe. Jane was sitting outside smiling her usual mega watt smile, apparently happy to see her.
“Lizzy! Come sit, I’m starving!” Jane called as the sports car pulled alongside Lizzy on the street. She ignored the roar of the engine and kept her stride even. “I’ll never understand how you can scarf down a double cheeseburger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake and still look like a cover girl!”
Jane laughed and shook her head, her blonde hair catching the sun’s rays. If Lizzy did not know her she would certainly dislike her on looks alone. But Jane was a sweet soul, a real do-gooder, the kind of person that everyone truly loved.
“There’s nothing wrong with your figure, Lizzy. I think that man revving his engine is trying to gain your attention.”
Jane giggled as she nodded at the man and waved. Lizzy sank into her seat mortified by her sister’s actions. “Jane! Don’t encourage him! Stop this instant!”
“Oh, Lizzy, you’re too beautiful to spend all your time smooching puppies and cuddling kittens. A warm-blooded man can be a bit of fun. Especially when he’s desirous of your company.” Jane flipped her hair like a teenager and batted her long eyelashes at her sister.
“Oh do tell! How many wealthy, handsome bachelors have you refused now – two, three? That’s two more than my sad track record,” Lizzy scoffed. Jane waved for their waiter, instantly gaining the man’s attention and the sisters ordered the most decadent burgers on the menu.
“I am famished!” Lizzy admitted realizing the coffee she had before work had long since served its purpose. “I tried to get daddy to come along but he’s obsessing over the clinic. Apparently there’s a business dinner I’m supposed to attend this evening. Something about making sure the clinic is well in hand before he retires.”
Jane glanced away, fidgeting with the small diamond necklace her last paramour had given her on a whim. “Wait a minute!” Lizzy said, her eyes narrowing, “what do you know that I don’t?”
“Lizzy, it’s nothing really. Daddy wants to be certain the clinic isn’t a burden when he retires. There are the two of you during the week and you’re the one to take calls on the weekend. I think he worries the clinic is your life. He could be right.”
Jane met Liza’s stare this time, unflinching.
“Well, he has a point. So what if I love my work? We do have two assistants and I’m not neglecting children or a husband. And my personal life is fine, I think.”
Jane started to disagree but closed her mouth instead. She was in no position to point out Lizzy’s single status since she quite enjoyed her own. But she was free to walk away from the nonprofit when the time came. Lizzy would never dream of leaving the clinic.
Lizzy stopped playing with her straw and looked up at her sister. “You’re right. The clinic is my life and everyone around me is dating the most fabulous men or jetting off on fabulous holidays.”
Jane laughed at this and patted her sister’s hand. “No, they aren’t, Lizzy. Char is the only friend you have who is engaged to a fabulous man and I’m the only person you know who jets off anywhere and I don’t go on holidays, I assure you.”
Lizzy sighed. “I’ll be there tonight but I have to go by Bingley’s place first and walk Augie. I promised Char.”
Jane smiled and then realized an important fact.
“Doesn’t Will Darcy live near there? Wonder if he walks his own dogs?” Jane laughed and ducked as a french fry sailed past her head.
“Don’t play with your food young lady!” she said in her best impersonation of their mother.
* * * The lush, tree-lined street wound continually upwards before her. Lizzy shifted gears and enjoyed the scenery. She and Jane used to joyride through this part of town dreaming about which house would be theirs. Jane’s last boyfriend lived farther up the hill than Charles Bingley. Sister dear had come close to their teen dreams.
Netherfield Park, the oldest neighborhood in Meryton, was home to the town’s wealthiest denizens. The homes were much more refined and traditional than the numerous upscale modern buildings that had sprung up on the other side of town. She sighed at the workout Augie would surely provide up and down these hills. Why had she promised to do this for Char for two whole weeks?
Maybe she could find a neighbor kid and pay them some crazy amount of money? She laughed out loud at the idea. Not in this neighborhood! She pulled into the Bingley driveway and stopped to enjoy the landscaping in front. Lizzy envied Char at times like this.
She heard Augie barking his cute little head off inside the house and made sure her laces were tight. She was almost to the front door when it flew open and the chocolate bundle of slobbering joy nearly knocked her flat. “Augie, you sweet doggie!” she cried as she wrestled him happily. She clipped on a leash and stood to dust off her jeans. He made a dive for her shoes but since they were only tennies he lost interest as quickly as he’d sniffed them. She waved as the housekeeper quickly closed the door.
“Char, I hope you know you owe me BIG TIME!” she said as she was pulled hastily towards the street. Augie needed to smell, taste, and pee on everything in sight. After the first fifteen minutes Lizzy’s eyes glazed over. Yes, she was a veterinarian but labs never paid her much attention when she tried to help them work out their rambunctious natures.
She was turning the corner when another dog became entangled with Augie. She might have known this was coming.
“Augie!” she called trying to plant her feet and hold steady on the leash. She looked up to find she was face to face with none other than Will Darcy.
“Imagine meeting you here, Miss Bennett.”
She glanced at him momentarily as she tried to untangle the two dogs.
“Could you give me hand?” she asked testily as she got between the two dogs. Mr. Darcy bent down to pick up a darling little Bichon Friese.
“Such a sweet little dog you have there,” Lizzy said as she smiled at him. “Not a very masculine choice, but,” she stopped to analyze the situation, “she, yes she, is beautiful.”
Mr. Darcy began to speak when Augie jumped on Lizzy’s back knocking her into him, their lips inches apart.
She froze from sheer embarrassment. She struggled to keep Augie by her side as he tried to wiggle out of her grasp. Mr. Darcy looked into her bright green eyes and smiled.
“You still have the nicest smile.”
“Thanks, I think,” she said as she backed away, afraid if she didn’t she might kiss him without regret. He stared at her as he stood with the little dog in his arms.
“What’s her name?” Lizzy asked, trying to fill the awkward silence.
Mr. Darcy snuggled the dog and kissed the top of her head. “Her name is Lola and she belongs to my sister.”
“The perfect name for such a sweet, pampered girl!” Lizzy cooed to the dog as she let the pooch smell her free hand. Augie jumped up again vying for her attention and so she turned to him.
“Yes, Augie, you are such a sweet boy! Yes you are.” She guided him to a sitting position and managed to untangle his leash.
“You have a way with animals, Miss Bennet.”
She gazed at him her eyes wandering the planes of his handsome face. She checked an impulse to move closer to him. He held out a hand and she stared for a moment.
“I guess choosing to be a veterinarian was the right call, then.”
She took his hand and was struck by the size and warmth of it. How had she forgotten the feel of his hands? Hmmm, she thought, a man with big hands handles things with care. She almost laughed out loud but caught herself just in time. No need to get giddy over the man’s hands Lizzy, she chided herself.
What she would not get over was that meeting last summer on the Bingley yacht. Darcy arrived with a leggy blonde who made Lizzy the butt of all her jokes. He’d been too busy with Charles and mingling with the crowd to notice the mean girl he’d brought along and dumped in her lap.
“I hope to see you again soon, Miss Bennet, but I fear I must be going. I have a meeting this evening.”
He turned and set Lola down continuing with their walk. Lizzy watched them go and then gave in to Augie straining against his leash.
Half an hour later she was dripping sweat and smelled of dog from head to toe. She turned and led Augie back to the Bingley house and wrestled him indoors. She made sure he was fed and watered and then let him out to the back yard so she might search Char’s closet in peace. She wasn’t going to resist the many beautiful things she knew to be hanging there.
As fortune would have it, Char’s closet stood open. She must have hurriedly packed for her glamorous trip and forgot to close it. Luckily, Augie had not been permitted in the room by the maid as Char’s shoes remained intact.
Lizzy felt not an ounce of remorse as she ran hot water into the huge jetted tub in the adjacent bathroom. She glanced around and sighed. Her bathroom at home would fit into this one at least three times over. Oh well, she could soak and pretend to be the lady of the house for at least a half hour!
Thirty minutes. Not as bad as her customary late arrival but her mother would not be pleased. Lizzy frowned as she pulled up the gravel drive to find a little red sports car parked in her usual spot. It looked a lot like the one she and Jane had seen earlier at lunch.
She stepped gingerly from her car making sure one kitten-heeled foot was on firm ground before swinging her other leg out. She had chosen a form-fitting plum colored chemise that flattered her curvaceous figure. She smiled as she thought of how long her legs looked in Char’s mirror earlier. She just might keep the dress, and the strappy sandals, as payment for her expertise with Augie.
Her hair was a messy updo, the curls already loose at the back of her neck from the mild humidity of the evening. She refused to wear more than lip gloss on her face in this heat. While she wished to look entirely feminine, she did not do make-up more than was absolutely necessary. Luckily, her peaches and cream complexion made that an easy choice.
Mr. Bennet stood on the front porch with a tall man. The shadows of the evening made it difficult to see clearly and so she walked confidently up to Will Darcy before she realized it was him. She decided to continue with her bravado and took his offered hand with a bit too much force, swaying on her kitten heels as she fought to keep her equilibrium.
Darcy smiled, the crease of his dimples making his strong jawline even more evident. Blasted man! Lizzy put a hand against his shoulder to steady herself and he slipped an arm about her waist, leaning closer. “You don’t smell like you’ve been drinking so it must be my cologne that has you reeling.”
Mr. Bennet coughed to cover his laughter.
Lizzy stepped back ruefully. The arm about her waist had gone to her head. She shot her father a withering glance before turning back to Darcy. “Is that your cologne? I thought it smelled a bit like bug spray. Daddy has a habit of spraying it about to keep pests away.”
“Lizzy, this is Will Darcy…” her father began the introductions but Lizzy stopped him. “We’ve met. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are old friends.”
Mr. Bennet smiled. “Perhaps that will make our business dealings easier. Lizzy’s best friend is engaged to Mr. Bingley.”
Mr. Darcy nodded. “I find Miss Lucas to be quite charming, in her way. I was sorry to miss their engagement party this past weekend.”
Lizzy smiled coldly. “I did wonder what happened when Char mentioned you were invited. She seems to think you are quite the catch.”
Mr. Darcy’s eyes twinkled with merriment. “She has been eager to introduce me to a friend of hers. I wonder if you might know the woman. Charlotte tells me she is a charming beauty with a terrible habit of working long hours.”
Lizzy’s smile slowly faded and she shifted her feet so that she was standing closer to her father. She wondered why he didn’t mention the clinic when they spoke earlier. Surely he might have put two and two together?
Mrs. Bennet came to the door, her voice carrying out into the yard. “I see our Lizzy has decided to attend. Mr. Darcy, please do come in. Mr. Bennet and his favorite daughter would keep you on the porch all evening, I fear.”
Mr. Darcy took Mrs. Bennet’s arm and followed her inside. Lizzy glanced to her father. He shrugged his shoulders as if he had no hand in the matchmaking plots of his wife.
Mrs. Bennet embarrassed Lizzy with her praise of Mr. Darcy’s handsome face and strong physique as the two of them entered the dining room.
Lizzy tapped a toe and crossed her arms, staring at her father. “You knew our guest this evening was Mr. Darcy, did you not?”
He moved for the front door but Lizzy managed to step in front of him in spite of those kitten heels that were anything but cute to walk in. Char loved the devilish things, judging by the sheer number of them in her closet.
“Lizzy, I thought you might have reservations about the meeting and if I said Mr. Darcy was involved you wouldn’t come. I know you say you don’t care for him but your mouth should inform the rest of your body of that fact.”
Lizzy started to speak a number of times but could not deny the words her father spoke. If it were so obvious to him Mr. Darcy must have picked up on it as well. She turned slowly and removed the awful shoes before going inside to face the evening’s festivities.
The dinner table was stunning. Her mother had put their best on display and Lizzy felt a little embarrassed at the effort. Her younger sisters must be out, at least Kitty and Lydia, for the house was much too quiet.
Her mother, having possibly read her mind, began her fussing immediately and the quiet was broken just that soon.
“Come here Lizzy! What has happened to your shoes? This is an important dinner for your father. Please, at least keep your feet under the table.”
Lizzy sat, biting her lip, hopeful that she might keep her mother from having one of her customary anxiety attacks.
Mr. Darcy came around the table and sat beside her. Oh well, he would, wouldn’t he! She made certain no parts of their anatomy might touch during dinner by scooting her chair over ever so slightly. Her mother shot her a look and she grudgingly moved her chair back an inch. Mr. Darcy had a good chuckle out of the show.
“Miss Bennet, Lizzy, if I may,” he stopped, looking to her for approval and causing her to stare into his eyes. The desire she saw there made her blush and she cleared her throat. “You may call me Lizzy, everyone does.”
“Lizzy, are you aware of why your father and I are meeting here tonight?” He moved his arm to the back of her chair. His cologne, which was quite enticing and not at all like bug spray, filled her personal space and she felt a strong attraction to him. If she could have put her feet in his lap she would have.
She found herself irritated at her weakness and put that thought away before she might act upon it. Trying to remember his question proved more difficult by the second but she gave it her best try. “I believe it has something to do with the clinic and my father’s retirement?”
“Yes, yes, it does. Your father would like for the clinic to remain solvent and operable with you at the helm but that would require you to work many long hours.” Mr. Darcy watched her face for any reaction.
“Well, of course, the clinic has a robust clientele and we rarely have open appointments. I believe I could manage it on my own. Maybe hire another vet after father has retired.” Lizzy knew dinner was about to be served and wondered where her parents had gone.
“Yes, you would need to hire staff and I have just the person to be of a great help to you.”
Lizzy turned her head to meet his gaze once more, but this time she was all business, no flirting. “And who might that be, Mr. Darcy?
“My sister Georgiana has finished her degree at Auburn. When your father contacted me with his concerns I thought what better solution than my sister joining the business, so to speak. Georgiana is wonderful with animals and quite a lovely young lady.”
Lizzy scoffed at his words. “While I am certain that your sister is a lovely young lady, as you put it, I would need an experienced veterinarian. Training a newly minted graduate would be more work for me in the long run, I fear.” Satisfied that she had put the matter to rest, Lizzy rose from the table and left Mr. Darcy alone in the dining room.
What could her father be thinking? Certainly not about her feelings on the matter! She hurried into the kitchen and found her parents. Aunt Phillips glanced gratefully in her direction. Of course her mother would have prevailed upon the best cook in the family tonight.
“Daddy! Mr. Darcy has informed me of the plan for the clinic and I must say I’m baffled and a bit more than disappointed.”
Mr. Bennet took Mrs. Bennet by the arm and hurried for the kitchen door. “Come along Lizzy, dinner is served,” Mrs. Bennet said as they passed.
“Daddy!” Lizzy called, her voice booming through the open doorway. She shook her head in frustration and grabbed the wine glass offered by her aunt. “Your father means well, child.”
“That may be so but dealing with Mr. Darcy will not end well.” She downed the glass of wine and reluctantly left the kitchen. How had she fallen for this dinner meeting? Jane would have come up with a last minute flight as an excuse and their parents would have assured her that her work came first.
An idea flickered in Lizzy’s head and she plotted to escape before her father had her agreeing to his scheme. She would pretend to have received a text from a worried client and leave dinner early! Happily she joined her parents and Mr. Darcy in the dining room. She decided to at least get the first round of dinner in before making her excuses.
“Mr. Darcy, I believe your solution to the issues facing the clinic is one we might like to try before we buy, so to speak. A new doctor of veterinary medicine is an asset, to be sure, but we need to see how she gets along with Lizzy,” Mr. Bennet said and smiled as dinner arrived, sparing a glance for his daughter.
Lizzy returned his smile knowing that she could easily dispatch Georgiana Darcy when the time came. It was evident her father and Mr. Darcy had come to an agreement without her and this was their way of attempting to placate her.
“Daddy, now that you put it that way, I might agree to this solution but I wonder at Mr. Darcy’s stake in the outcome.” She glanced across the table her eyes taken by his charming smile. She did not trust the man. He was too handsome by far and her attraction to him was confounding. If the man appealed to her so completely there was bound to be heartache to go around.
“Mr. Bennet, if I may speak to your daughter’s concerns?” Mr Darcy turned his gaze to Lizzy once more.
“My stake, as you put it, is seeing my sister settled doing what she loves best. I ran the financials for the clinic and found it to be a thriving business for this area. I then had my team assess your customer satisfaction rates and the credentials held by you and your father. Needless to say, I was greatly impressed.”
Lizzy stared at his lips as he spoke and found her heart beating a bit quickly for having had only one glass of wine. It must be his physical presence combined with her lack of male companionship.
“Lizzy? Have you heard a word I’ve said?” Mr. Darcy asked, a satisfied smile appearing as he watched her stare at his face.
“Why yes, I have. You find our clinic satisfactory for your needs and would be grateful to have your sister in our employ. Does that cover it?”
“That begins to cover my interests, yes. However I hope to play a greater role as we go along.”
Lizzy sighed. She hoped he would play a greater role in her bedroom and not in her business since the deal was apparently all but done.
She was unhappy about it but she could play ball with the big boys. But she also meant to muddy the waters with Mr. Darcy so as to satisfy her libido and perhaps sour him on keeping a close, personal interest in the clinic. He watched the wheels turning in her head and shifted uncomfortably in his seat as she licked her lips.
She quite forgot her plan to lie about a client in need when her phone buzzed in her bag. The lovely jeweled clutch was Char’s favorite and it matched the dress and shoes perfectly. The continuing buzz demanded she leave the room.
“Excuse me, this might be important.” She rose from the table and managed to exit gracefully. She checked the screen to find it was Char calling. She debated on answering and decided to text instead.
Sorry. Dinner with the folks and Mr. Darcy.
Char immediately replied. Mr. Darcy?!
Lizzy sighed. She should have left that part out. She moved on to the topic she was certain Char wished to discuss.
Augie is fine. Can I call tomorrow?
Char replied. Oh, thank you love. Of course. Go enjoy your company.
She returned to the dining room to find Kitty and Lydia flirting shamelessly with Mr. Darcy. Was she so annoyingly teen when she was a teenager?
“Ladies, Mr. Darcy is our guest.”
The girls glanced at Lizzy and smiled their patented smiles at full power in her direction. Everyone in the Bennet family fell for the act except Lizzy and they knew it.
“We’ll be going as soon as you hand over the keys to the Range, dearest Lizzy,” Lydia said as Kitty dove for her clutch.
She almost denied them but Mr. Darcy broke into the sibling fray. “I hoped we might take a drive after dinner, Lizzy.”
She smiled at him, her body tingling at the idea of being alone with him.
“In that case, you two may borrow my car but you must be back before your curfew with not a scratch on it and not on empty either.”
The girls hugged her tightly and left the dining room as they had entered, happy and totally self-absorbed.
Lizzy finished dinner with news that Georgiana would arrive home in the next week. Mr. Bennet nodded and sought to offer his daughter an olive branch. “She may start when Lizzy finds time to shadow her, Mr. Darcy. I am sure you would rather get her settled her in Meryton before her first day at the clinic.”
Mr. Darcy nodded and the party moved to the living room. Lizzy was eager to leave and Mr. Darcy sensed her energy from across the room. She dangled the sexy kitten heels from one finger and moved to hug her mother. “I must go put these away!”
Lizzy left them for a moment but returned with a pair of hiking boots. She tugged them on and addressed her father.
“I won’t be in tomorrow, if you recall, and I may be late getting home,” she glanced at Mr. Darcy, her eyes softer since dinner. He thought he saw a flicker of interest before she turned away.
“Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, it has been a pleasure to dine with your family this evening. I’m pleased we’ve reached an agreement satisfactory to all parties involved. I’ll return your daughter home safely, and Mr. Bennet if you require further discussion please do ring my office.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet walked the young people out to the porch and waved as they pulled from the drive. “She’s taken with him, Mr. Bennet!” Mrs. Bennet declared.
He nodded, putting his arm around his wife. “So she is, Mrs. Bennet.” Rose Francine Gardiner Bennet embraced her beloved husband and kissed him deeply.
“Like mother, like daughter!” He teased as she led him back inside closing the door behind them.
Darcy glanced at Lizzy as he drove through the winding streets of Meryton. “You’ll enjoy working with Georgiana. She’s a natural with animals.”
Lizzy sighed and stretched her long legs, enjoying the luxury of his sporty little automobile. There was much more room than she expected.
She turned and gazed at his profile. The strong line of his jaw distracted her as did his hands upon the steering wheel. She recalled the heat that had enveloped her body when he held her against him during an old football game all those years ago.
“Darcy, let’s not pretend this business deal is something I’m happy about. For my father’s sake, I’ll give your sister the benefit of the doubt.”
His smile tightened and Lizzy sighed.
“I don’t want to fight a battle I can’t win,” she said softly and turned her head to gaze out the passenger window.
Mr. Darcy slowed the car and pulled into the empty parking lot of a small lake. The sound of crickets served as the perfect soundtrack and Lizzy noted the fullness of the moon above.
She dearly loved Lake Mistake. She recalled summer nights spent with her sisters catching fireflies and later gossiping with Jane about John Lucas, their high school quarterback dreamboat crush.
Darcy parked and turned to face her, his eyes causing her heart to wish for things she might never have.
Lizzy opened her door and stepped out, eager to move about before she allowed herself a taste of his gorgeous lips. He followed her lead wishing he might make peace with the lovely lady before the night was over.
“Do you know this place, Miss Bennet? There was a lovely expression on your face a moment ago when you realized where we were.”
Lizzy smiled. Here she was in an intimate setting with a handsome man and he wanted to know about the things that made her happy. She could do much worse.
“I do. Please call me Lizzy. “Miss Bennet” reminds me of the fact that I am quickly becoming an old maid. My mother does that often enough on her own.”
He stepped closer his arm out like a gentleman of old and she took it, charmed by the gesture. Perhaps she might pretend he was interested in her and forget that it was purely business between them. She stared into his eyes and stifled a laugh at her own silly notion.
Mr. Darcy walked slowly allowing Lizzy to lead the way. He inhaled the soft hint of lavender when she turned her head. The lovely scent signaled an acute need in his brain. Once upon a time she’d melted in his arms and if he had any say in the matter she would again.
“How did you decide to become a veterinarian?” he asked, deciding to leave the topic of his sister for another time. Business was the last thing he wished to pursue with her arm tucked sweetly into his own.
Lizzy kicked a rock with the toe of her boot and shrugged her shoulders. “I always wanted to be just like my father. He’s so patient and kind, the opposite of mother.”
She paused and smiled in the darkness as she allowed Mr. Darcy inside her head.
“I remember once there was this kitten Jane found under our front porch. The poor thing was the runt of the litter and so tiny. I took him upstairs in a towel and fed him from my fingertips. Jane was so worried!”
Mr. Darcy watched her speak and the movement of her full lips caused him much distraction.
“But he was fine. Just a little scrap of a kitten. Daddy found us and returned the kitten to his mother. He decided to take me under his wing at that point. He was worried I might start my own clinic in our bedroom.”
Mr. Darcy chuckled. Georgie had done much the same when she was younger. “So there is a tender heart beating there,” he whispered as his eyes met hers.
Lizzy dropped his arm and stepped away.
“Please, call me Darcy. Mister is too formal on your lips.”
She caught her breath as his gorgeous green eyes lingered on her face. “Darcy,” she said, her words escaping as a whisper causing the blush on her cheeks to brighten.
She took his hand and hurried down the path. He followed, complicit in the magic between them. Lizzy stopped suddenly and stood shoulder to shoulder with him, nodding at the sight before them.
The moon shone brightly on the lake, its reflection a perfect disc in the dark waters below. Lizzy sighed and removed her boots. Darcy watched with amused interest.
“Lizzy, surely you aren’t…”
She stepped behind the azaleas and moments later her dress flew his way. He caught the slinky garment and threw it over his shoulder. A bemused grin danced slowly across his face. So, she wanted to be the seductress.
He stepped closer to the flowering bush but jumped when she moved the branches. Lizzy laughed and rushed into the lake.
Darcy whistled his appreciation at her strong form cutting through the water. He could not recall an evening quite like this with a beautiful woman tempting him into a moonlit swim.
“Come in Darcy! Or can’t you swim?” she called as she stood.
He caught his breath at the sight of her. Her body was beautiful. Curvy with a hint of muscle. Lizzy Bennet did not survive on salads and the idea pleased him.
She crossed her arms in front of her body, shy at his apparent approval. He was darling standing there on the bank in his expensive suit with her dress over his shoulder. Lizzy laughed and splashed a wave of water his way but he was quick on his feet.
She dove in once more her plan to lure him forming as she swam strongly away.
Darcy peered across the stillness of the lake, expecting her to surface, his feet poised to move should she attempt another splash. He found himself becoming worried after several seconds passed without her reappearance.
He kicked off his shoes and stripped off his suit jacket, his tie joining the pile growing at his feet.
“Lizzy!” he called, his voice holding a tremor of fear.
By this time, his shirt and slacks were discarded and he rushed into the water with a growing fear clutching at his heart.
She surfaced a few feet from him and dove beneath the water once more. He remained still for but a moment before going after her. They surfaced together moments later and Lizzy couldn’t hide her amusement.
“Land sakes! The Will Darcy skinny dipping with Lizzy Bennet. There’s one for the Meryton Gazette!”
Darcy laughed and pulled her closer, brushing the wet hair from her forehead. “What do you think a kiss plastered on the front page would do for the readership?”
Lizzy’s eyes grew darker as she contemplated his question. “I know, the headline could read Big Mistake at Lake Mistake.”
Darcy pulled her closer, ignoring her attempts to maintain some distance.“We aren’t exactly naked and there’s been no mistake made as far as I can tell. Lake Mistake, hmmm?”
Lizzy laughed and placed a hand upon his chest. Her heart skipped a beat before she spoke again. “This is a man-made lake and there was a time it was allowed to become infested and overgrown, thus the Mistake part of its name.”
“Do you think it would be a mistake for me to kiss you now?” Darcy whispered, the bass of his voice reaching to the tips of her toes. Breathing deeply, she found herself drowning for real in the green depths of his eyes.
Lizzy considered his query for a moment. Would the kiss be a mistake or would the mistake be in not kissing this gorgeous man? Recalling her consternation during dinner, she felt a kiss was the least he could do to rectify the situation.
Lizzy moved her arms to circle his neck and bent her head just so. Darcy smiled and leaned in closer. Lizzy closed her eyes when his lips approached so when she felt a stinging slap on her forehead she was completely disoriented and not a little peeved.
“What was that?” she yelled and swatted at him.
“There was this huge mosquito on your forehead. I couldn’t let him bite you!”
Lizzy splashed away and made for the shore. How had she allowed him to get so close, so quickly? Yes, there was the undeniable fact of his unmistakable virility coupled with the unavoidable truth of her pitiful love life, but still.
And the business deal he’d made with her father! She had allowed his sexy smile and her willingness to jump into a lake cloud her judgment. She stomped around on the bank gathering her dress and boots.
“Take me home, Will Darcy!” she called as she slipped her feet inside the boots.
She turned in time to see him walking slowly from the water. His body was incredible. She felt her knees go weak and took a deep breath. She imagined her hands moving over his well muscled chest down to those rock hard abs.
“My home or yours?” he asked as he came to stand beside her.
Lizzy licked her lips nervously and he swept in at that moment and caught her lips in the sweetest kiss. He began to pull away, just breaking contact and Lizzy shook her head.
Not yet, Darcy, she thought as she closed the distance and stared into his eyes. Lizzy bit his bottom lip gently, teasing him, drawing out the pleasure of seduction.
Darcy moaned but remained still. She pressed her body against his and kissed him deeply thrilled with the way he reacted.
Um, hmmmm take me home Mr. Darcy, she thought as she held his handsome face in her hands.
The voice of Sheriff Billy Collins broke the silence of the night as he swept his flashlight in an arc around them.
Lizzy jumped away from Darcy trying to cover her wet undergarments with the woefully inadequate barrier of her arms and hands.