I miss these people... Do you?
As always, if you haven't already, read the story's front page before diving in. Tks.
After the life-changing weekend with Darcy, Elizabeth felt unhinged. More lost than before, unsure of what to do. The following week’s classes were a total waste since her mind was filled with her handsome friend, lover and now betrothed – if a married woman could have such a commitment.
She was deeply in love with Darcy, their bond getting stronger every day and it was impossible to pinpoint the moment she let herself get so involved. He gave her constant proof of feeling the same way about her, even by making plans to turn his life around to live by her side.
Her children, her job, her family – it all looped in her mind destroying her peace and the doubt gnawed at her fragile heart.
That Thursday, once again fidgeting with the divorce lawyer’s card, Elizabeth decided to take action and called Ana Gardiner. An impatient Elizabeth chatted for a while until her restlessness made her cut short her friend’s pleasantries and ask to meet her son. Delighted, Gardiner invited Elizabeth for tea before she went home that same week promising Weston was going to be there.
Her cheeks on fire, Elizabeth added: ‘His boss can’t know ‘bout this.’
‘He’ll be visiting his mother. His hot-shot boss has no business in my house, Bennett.’ Gardiner said sensing her old friend was in trouble. ‘But you want more than meet my baby, right?’
Elizabeth bit the inside of her cheek considering how could she answer. ‘May I not compromise myself, friend?’
When Weston Gardiner arrived from Manchester at his mother’s that Friday evening, Elizabeth was already there waiting for him. They exchanged greetings and she marveled at her friend’s grown son who looked like a boy with his smooth chin and skinny body, he thanked her for the push on his career and she pounced immediately.
‘Weston, I need to read the files Fitz has on me and my husband.’ Elizabeth said looking intently at the ginger boy seated across from her on Gardiner’s small dining table, a steaming tea cup in front of each of them.
He raised his brows and his face lost all color.
‘Files?’ Gardiner asked surprised. ‘What are these files?’
‘I know you collect info on us, Weston.’ Elizabeth reached across the table and squeezed the boy’s hand. ‘Please, don’t tell Fitz I asked you to let me read it.’
‘Mrs. Wickham, I…’ He stuttered.
‘What are you talking about, Bennett?’ Gardiner asked.
‘Call me Lizzy or Elizabeth.’ She kept eyes intent on the boy’s face. ‘But I need to know what is in these files.’
Neither Elizabeth nor Weston answered for a few minutes while he considered how he would dodge this potentially job-losing situation.
‘Weston!’ Gardiner insisted.
‘Our security department is very cautious, Mum. We gather information on people connected to our business as a precaution, that’s all.’ He said. ‘Lizzy, I can’t. I signed a secrecy contract and Mr. Darcy is very strict about it.’ He shook his head. “Especially on what concerns you.”
Elizabeth lowered her head and pressed her wrists to her eyes, elbows on the table.
‘I don’t understand much of what is happening, but Weston can’t break this contract for a whim, Lizzy. What’s the matter?’ Gardiner, who had always been a direct person, outright asked.
Elizabeth wouldn’t share Darcy’s proposal with Jane before she made up her mind, much less with an old friend with whom she had lost contact for a long time. She raised her head, arranged her hair behind her ear and sipped her tea. ‘You know my husband, Gardiner… I need to know the secrets he has been keeping from me before I make a very serious decision.’ She hoped it would be enough for them to fill in the blanks.
‘He, who?’ Weston asked.
Gardiner nodded frowning. ‘Good point, baby. George or Mr. Darcy?’
‘Both.’ Elizabeth answered. ‘I’m blind and I hate it.’
‘You know, Weston’s father is a man I loved deeply for a long time. I let him take my best years and I don’t regret because he gave me my beloved son.’ Gardiner said. ‘But if I knew his secrets before I fell for him, I would have been more careful.’
Weston looked at his mother with a blank expression thinking why would she mention his father. Did Elizabeth mention any relationship with Mr. Darcy? He, who worked directly under the man, still had doubts about it.
‘That’s the case, isn’t it?’ Gardiner asked sharing a conspiratorial look with her friend.
Elizabeth nodded. ‘High stakes, friend. I need ammunition.’
‘Weston, how can you help?’ Gardiner asked and suddenly the small thin ginger young man had two strong women pressing him to betray his boss.
He shook his head. ‘This is disloyalty to Mr. Darcy, Mum…’
‘I’ve got your back.’ Elizabeth said. ‘Fitz offered me these files once, but I don’t want to ask him for it now. I don’t believe he would show me the entire contents and I need to know what he does. If he finds out, I’ll defend you.’
Weston still shook his head.
‘I’ll say I forced you.’ She said and Weston would have chuckled if her phone hadn’t ringed and his boss’ face hadn’t lighted on her screen. The device was over the table and anyone could see Darcy’s relaxed face in an obviously intimate atmosphere, smiling lovingly at the person taking the photo. Elizabeth cut the call and texted a short line.
‘If I’m not mistaken, Lizzy doesn’t bluff.’ Gardiner smiled wickedly. ‘If she says she controls the big boss, she’s being completely honest.’
Elizabeth snorted. ‘Control is a bit too much, but I do have some influence on him.’ Her phone beeped with a short text and she nodded to it.
He would discuss it his mother in private, but after Elizabeth put on a good word; he had been rescued from a lousy position. After he spied on her, he got another promotion and a raise… he believed Elizabeth’s friendship with the boss was very particular. ‘If you are monitored, it’s done directly by the security boss and there’s no way I’ll ever hack into his files. The only record on you is your personal security team’s schedule.’ He said and Elizabeth’s brows rose to her hairline. ‘I’ll try to print the files on your husband Tuesday or Wednesday when the office is not so crowded, and post by private mail.’ He said. ‘I won’t promise anything though.’
Elizabeth was very surprised. “Personal security? Wow.” She bit the inside of her mouth and nodded vigorously. ‘Great. You can send it to an e-mail I have that I rarely use. Or I can open a new one.’
‘No.’ Weston shook his head. ‘Nothing that can be traced back to me or my IP.’
‘And from now on he’ll speak a language I can’t understand.’ Gardiner sighed and stood. ‘How about some sponge cake, Lizzy?’
‘Can’t.’ She said drinking her tea and getting up. ‘Have plans for the night.’ She pointed at her phone. ‘Weston, I thank you with all my heart.’ Elizabeth rounded the table and hugged the boy’s shoulders with one arm, her perfume invading his nose and he faintly remembered his boss smelling like that once. ‘Let me know when I can repay you the favor.’
‘I believe this is me paying you, Lizzy.’ He chuckled feeling he had just agreed to put his ass on the line.
So... This story's release is close, that's why I cut the chapters short... Check the book's page for info.
There was a giveaway going on with stuff from my first book in Portuguese - a version of '45 days in Europe with Mr Darcy'. Lovely sister blog thing...
And I'll be on Brazilian International Book Fair with three of my books. Yay!