I have to say I'm a little jealous of them... How silly, right?
It all started here in the book's homepage... *sweet love*
Well... As both Amazon and Smashwords make some of it available, I'll post here too. Here you go, after months and years and frustration and love...
Jane nodded pressing her lips in a thin line, eyes downcast.
Reynalda frowned and played with a match box over the kitchen table.
It was in a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rio, a week after Elizabeth arrived from Europe, that she united the two strong women to come clean and hopefully gather allies.
‘What do you have to say?’ Elizabeth told them about the love that bonded her to Darcy, the double divorce and his proposal of marriage. ‘I love him and will turn my life around because I believe in what we have, but without your support, it’ll be a lot more difficult.’ She bit the inside of her cheek and got up to refill her coffee mug. ‘Reynalda, what would tempt you to come with us to England?’ She deadpanned, her heart beating a little faster.
‘Me?’ Reynalda asked surprised yet relieved. She considered her life if the Wickhams – minus Mr. Wickham – left her behind. ‘I don’t speak English!’
‘You can start classes tomorrow.’ Elizabeth shrugged.
‘Me in a classroom?’ Reynalda chuckled.
‘We can hire someone to come here, if you’d like. A private tutor.’ Elizabeth said.
‘It’s always more effective.’ Jane piped in. ‘To learn a language one on one.’
Elizabeth chuckled. ‘Effective would be someone to teach her English in bed, as that romance we read!’ She said and the three women laughed. It was not unusual for them to exchange sugary romance books whenever they found an interesting one.
In spite of the humor, Reynalda was genuinely concerned about the idea of moving abroad. ‘Do the kids know?’
Elizabeth shook her head, lips in a thin line. ‘I’m feeding them little bits here and there. With George’s upcoming Haiti shift, they are already a little shaken.’ She sipped her coffee. ‘So?...’ She pressed her personal nanny. ‘Pemberley, Fitz’s place, it’s a farm… Mmmm… Not exactly a farm but a big, big house with a farm attached to it, a few minutes from Manchester.’ Elizabeth explained the best way she could. ‘It’ll be a big change for us all. Another language, different culture, a smaller city… Manchester is pretty big but not like Rio. And they have winter there, I mean, snow…’
‘Oh! How lovely!’ Reynalda’s eyes lightened.
‘I love snow…’ Jane sighed. ‘Only saw it once, remember Beebe, our Christmas in Manhattan?...’
Elizabeth smiled. ‘Snow may be beautiful, but it’s freaking cold when it comes… You can have your own house, a cottage, and host a love interest!...’ She winked.
‘What?’ Reynalda laughed, her big earrings bouncing. ‘Men are way too white there!’
‘Ooh, but British men are so charming!’ Jane cooed. ‘Delroy Lindo, Sean Connery, Colin Firth, Seal...’
‘Who am I to say but I think Englishmen are to swoon for!’ Elizabeth said and they giggled.
‘Really, a house of my own?’ Reynalda asked.
‘A cottage, really. Pemberley has a small villa of small houses near the front gates, close to the big house but far enough to be independent. They were once rented to tenants, now they are mostly vacated to host harvest fairs or whatever.’ Elizabeth shrugged. ‘Fitz said it’s a nice setting for horse shows. You can have your kids and grandkids over… Garden, garage, a porch or a gazebo. Maybe ride to the house on golf carts or a bike. Whatever you want, I’m sure Fitz won’t mind.’
‘That sounds lovely to me…’ Jane whispered.
Reynalda nodded. ‘To me as well.’
Silence fell on Elizabeth’s kitchen again.
‘He invited us all to spend a month at Pemberley.’ She said as one drops a bomb. When the other two looked directly at her, she continued. ‘My next module of classes is in July, the kids will be in vacations… Let’s go?’
‘I think you should go.’ Jane said valiantly, encouraging her sister to follow her heart even though she cowered from doing so.
‘You too, Jane. And Juju, of course.’ Elizabeth touched her arm over the table.
Jane’s eyes widened. ‘Why?’
‘Because you’re my family, because he likes Julia, because you’re his cousin’s girlfriend. Do you need any other reason?’ Elizabeth counted on her fingers.
‘I’m not-’ Jane started to protest.
‘Sister, stop running from life. Give the guy a chance.’ Elizabeth pressed.
Reynalda huffed. ‘This girl is more skittish than Shoyu.’ The singleton mentioned meowed lazily and moved out of his hiding by the stove to sashay across the kitchen with his tale high.
Elizabeth pulled a face and studied her sister’s expression. ‘I don’t know, Reynalda. This cat has a death wish and Jane… Cowardice cripples her.’ She reached the cordless phone and offered it to Jane. ‘Call Graham, say you’ll go to Pemberley with us and would like to visit him. Or invite him over… Man up, girl!’
Jane smiled with a painful expression and took the phone.
‘I’m not sure…’ Reynalda and Elizabeth said together and they laughed.
‘You’re bullying me.’ Jane complained.
‘Good bullying is encouragement.’ Reynalda patted the blushing Jane’s hand.
When Jane got up and walked to the balcony to make the call, the children’s TV still blaring their movie, Elizabeth moved to sit beside Reynalda. ‘What about you?’ She asked. ‘Pay check in pounds for taking care of us as you do here, a house full of minions, no more house cleaning, cooking only when you feel like it…’ She smiled mischievously.
‘Have you taken over the house enough to dictate it’s functioning already?’ Reynalda chuckled.
Elizabeth shook her head. ‘You know I hate housekeeping… I was hoping you’d do it for me.’ She smiled. ‘I only visited the place once and it seemed to run itself, actually. Lots of maids, drivers, gardeners…’
‘And how would I fit?’ Reynalda defied her, her heart squeezing.
Elizabeth thought for a while and got the batphone from her purse beside her chair. Darcy picked up on the third ring.
“My lady?” He answered smiling.
“Fitz, how would Reynalda fit at Pemberley?” She asked without wasting time with sweet nothings. They had already talked sweet nothings for almost an hour that morning.
Darcy blinked trying to put his mind where she wanted it to be. “Graham is on the phone with Jane.” He stalled.
“Mission completed, general.” She answered sarcastically.
He chuckled and took a deep breath. “Let me talk to Reynalda.”
“Why?” Elizabeth frowned.
“She’ll be working for me; I want to talk business with her.” Darcy explained.
“No way! Reynalda is mine!” She protested. ‘He wants you to work for him! What an evil-eye!’ Elizabeth spoke in Portuguese with Reynalda and the woman chuckled.
“No!” Darcy said. “You are mine. The kids, Reynalda and the pets are my bonus agreement.”
“Be serious, Fitz.” Elizabeth blushed.
“Tell her we’ll discuss terms when she arrives here for your vacations but I can double her salary and give her business class tickets to visit Rio three times a year.” He proposed.
“She wants her own cottage.” Elizabeth negotiated.
“From the village by the gate where the security team work?” Darcy shrugged. “I thought she would be living in the house with us.”
“She’d rather have her own place.”
“I don’t see any problem with that.”
“And you don’t know how much she makes…” Elizabeth pouted.
“You once told me it was a good salary. Whatever it is, I can double.” He said calmly.
“I didn’t ask you to pay her.” Elizabeth said and translated to Reynalda what he proposed. She fanned her face and closed her eyes. “I can afford her salary. Living in England will make my grant’s budget a lot more manageable. And I can rent this apartment.”
“We’ll keep the apartment for when we visit Rio. The kids are already used to it and they’ll visit their father when he returns from Haiti.” Darcy answered. “What about you take care of her retirement plan in Brazil and I take care of her salary?” He tried again. This was very important: if the housekeeper was happy to move, she would help rebuild the kids’ home and give his woman peace of mind to enjoy him.
She told the bold bald woman Darcy’s idea and she smiled. “King, from the smile on her face, I think you just got another maid!” Elizabeth chuckled.
“Maid?” He asked relieved. “Tell her I need someone to run Pemberley.”
After that afternoon, it was common to meet Graham coming from the bakery or carrying groceries on their street in Rio, a satisfied smile on his face and a babbling toddler walking beside him.
By the third time he came to Rio, he took over the task of picking up the kids from school. Not only Julia who was always delighted to see him at the school’s gate waiting for her, but Thomas and Cassandra as well.
Graham was the one who drove Elizabeth and Cassandra to the hospital when the child sprained her wrist enjoying the roller skates Darcy sent for her birthday. Also he was the first one to sign her very pink cast and smile with her in a (injured) thumbs up selfie Elizabeth sent Darcy.
And it was around that time that Jane started wondering about life in England.
“Hey there, gorgeous.”
“Hello, pretty lady.”
“Just swiped right and we’re a match! Want to meet for coffee?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Never mind, Fitz. How are you?”
“Fine. What’s ‘swipe right’?” Darcy asked.
“It’s a joke from a dating app. Never mind.” She smiled at his outdated knowledge of technological crap.
“Why are you on a dating app, Elizabeth?” Darcy frowned; put down the notes he was taking on a contract and fired his Google search.
“For fun.” She smiled mischievously opening her car’s door. June in Rio had a persistent wind, especially by the sea where she was. She got in, hid her purse behind her seat, started the car and buckled up, still Darcy was mute. “I’m kidding, Fitz.” She shook her head.
“Come on…” She sighed. “I just want to invite you over. A month seems too long for me. I want you now.”
“I also want you now but it seems I have to join a debauchery network to match you.” He grumbled making her laugh. “I don’t want you in any dating site, Elizabeth.”
“I’m not, Love. A friend found George in one and we had a few good laughs over wine on the weekend.” She chuckled. “You know, I bet you’d get a million likes if you joined it… you look so damn hot.”
“Huh.” He answered hiding his smile even if she couldn’t see it.
“How is your divorce agreement going?” She asked bluntly.
“As good as it gets. We’ll have something more solid when you arrive.” He took note of the dating app to log on with a fake name and search Elizabeth to make sure she was not ‘getting likes’. The idea terrified him. “We won’t be hiding anymore.”
“Mmmm… I was hoping you could come spend a weekend with me. George is here and will take the kids.”
“I’d love to.” Darcy answered but he still needed to be cautious. “How’s Nanda’s wrist?”
“My ex-father-in-law says ‘she’ll live’… maybe she’ll take the cast off next week…”
Darcy never trusted Wickham’s mother’s husband and saying to a worried mother that her baby daughter ‘will live’ only made him hate the old wanker more. “My secretary will schedule an appointment with Negandi for her, as soon as you arrive next month.”
“Thanks, King. It’d be great.” Elizabeth sighed.
“And Mrs. Rey’s English classes?”
Silence stretched for a while as she drove.
“You sound despondent.”
“Yeah… I really need you.”
“Love, you’re killing me.” Darcy frowned. “What happened?”
“George just signed the parental consent for the kids to travel. I feel weird, though.” Elizabeth sighed.
“You met the wanker? Alone?” Darcy frowned.
“Yeah…” She nodded to her windshield, her phone balanced on her dashboard while Darcy’s voice filled her car. “Knightley called me saying George had agreed to sign it but wanted to talk to me.”
“Load the video call.”
Her phone blinked and Darcy’s dear slanted eyes and big forehead appeared. With one eye on the light traffic in front of her and one on his face, Elizabeth arranged the phone on the stand so he could see her.
“Are you driving?” He asked and she nodded smiling to him but looking ahead. “Park.”
“Ok.” She sighed. The long distance relationship was easy to cope with when they were in sin, but with their marriages officially dissolving, the distance seemed unbearable. “It’s good to see you.” She said parking beside a beach stand.
“I miss you.” He sighed and ruffled his hair. Whenever he missed his monthly appointment at his fancy barber, it seemed his hair grew faster. “Why were you alone with Wickham if I asked you to avoid it?”
“Lay off, Fitz.” She shook her head. “I’m a grown woman and I can take care of myself.” She raised her index finger to her phone so he would let her finish. “The lawyer arranged this meeting and George was in my life for almost twenty years. I’m no lady-in-despair.”
“We weren’t alone anyway.” She inspected her nails. “He’s got a girlfriend.”
Darcy raised his brows surprised; the swine’s gall had no limit. “He asked to meet so he could flaunt his girlfriend at you?”
Elizabeth slowly rolled her shoulders in a shrug. “I guess not. He was upset when she showed up at the café. We agreed to meet at his apartment’s lobby coffee house and she suddenly arrived in high heels and a skimpy dress.” She raised her eyebrows smiling. “She’s got big boobs… I mean, massive!”
He chuckled at her sense of humor.
“Fitz?...” She pressed her lips together and looked at her hands. “I feel weird.”
“Jealous?” He asked steeling himself for her answer.
She shook her head, hair dancing around her face. “Not exactly.” She raised her eyes to him. “You’re my friend, right?”
“The best you have.” He rested back on his chair, the phone resting on the stand he had ordered soon after their first video chat.
“We can still talk about anything, right?” She asked and he nodded. “Always will.” He nodded again. “Of course seeing George with another woman made me uncomfortable. I can tell he liked to see me in this position even though he was surprised she showed up. He seemed, I don’t know… maybe a little embarrassed; I know George, I can read his reactions… but it’s not that. It’s the situation, making an appointment to meet him. It’s so weird. We were a couple for so long and now we’re strangers. We have children, for Christ’s sake! My son has his face!” She bit the inside of her cheek to shut up. She was going to tell him that she believed Wickham was about to ask her out when the woman showed up and that was why he never meant for her to see him with someone else, but she chickened out. Elizabeth was less moved by him already having a girlfriend than for not putting up a fight to let her take the kids abroad for their whole vacations, neither sharing her worry on their daughter’s mild wrist injury. “Do you feel weird when you meet Anne?”
Darcy nodded. “For the last five years or so.”
“Come on, Fitz.” She sighed. “I’m serious.”
“Me too.” He pressed his lips together. “Wickham probably planned to make you distressed, Bart. And you fell for it.” Elizabeth frowned. “Is he aware you needed his permission to bring the children to me?” Darcy asked and she shrugged. “That’s it.”
“I guess I mentioned Europe.” She looked away trying to remember. “I probably did. But I didn’t say Pemberley.”
“No need, right?” Darcy clasped his hands over his stomach as he looked at her pretty face in his small screen.
“He wanted to talk about his Haiti schedule and how much time he’ll have with the kids before he goes. It’ll start in September, his year in the Peace Corps.”
“He has to agree to their moving before that.” Darcy picked up his phone to call Dr. Woodhouse and remind her of that deadline. “Did he mention anything?”
“Huh-huh.” She shook her head again. “I didn’t want to bring it up afraid he would pick up a fuss and deny me the consent to travel with them next month, but you know, I should have. Tramp dress was furious to see him talking to me and he signed everything so I would leave.”
“Elizabeth…” Darcy started but shut up and closed his eyes briefly. Her upset phone call did all kinds of things to him. He felt outraged for the disrespect she had suffered having to meet the wanker’s tramp date, his dumping her to be with the woman and the fact that she risked being harassed again. “I want to invite you to come with me to Switzerland.”
“Ooh! Switzerland!” She smiled charmingly. “Like a date?”
“Sure, it’ll be a pleasure to have you with me.” He pressed his lips in a tight smile. “I have business to attend and was planning on going next week, but I can postpone the trip to the last week of the month so you’d fly only once and we can meet the children at the airport.”
“I would love it!” She smiled. “But I can’t and you can’t either. Your agreement is not signed yet and I’d hate to jeopardize your freedom. I can’t let the kids make a twelve-hour’ flight alone, Rey has never flown in her life, much less traveled abroad, there’s passports, permits… I’m a big institution.”
He nodded. Of course he knew all of this but she seemed saddened and he craved to have her close.
“Do your secret accounts need attention?” She asked saucily.
He chuckled humorlessly. “They’re not secret if you know about them.”
“That’s so glamorous! Having secret accounts in Switzerland!...” She teased him. “I’m anxious to uncover your other secrets, King!”
He raised his brows but could see it was just teasing. The lioness was not there in her fine eyes. “Speaking of secrets, I’ll have a nice surprise for the children when they arrive.” He smiled.
Elizabeth had to smile back, even though his rare toothy childish smile was not her favorite. It contorted his face and he looked like a kid. She’d rather have him sexy. “What is it?”
He shook his head still smiling. “It won’t be a surprise if I tell you.”
“I’m not the kids…” She insisted.
He shook his head and was about to say something but averted his eyes to his left and frowned. Elizabeth heard his witchy secretary’s voice saying ‘Mrs. Darcy is here’ and she felt a funny twist in her chest. ‘Mrs. Darcy’… shouldn’t Mrs. Darcy’s post be vacant waiting for her to step up?
Darcy shook his head frowning even deeper. ‘There’s no ‘Mrs. Darcy’ anymore, Mrs. Clavis.’ He said. The woman apologized and he sap up suddenly. Before Elizabeth could make sure it was Anne by hearing her voice, Darcy took the phone from the stand, killed the video connection and she heard his hurried voice. “I’ll call you, Bart.”
“What’s she doing there? Did you invite her?”
“I don’t know and no.”
“Call me as soon as she leaves.”
“Talk to you soon.”
“What did she mean by ‘pollute the shades of Pemberley’?” Elizabeth asked shaking her head, impatient with Darcy’s ex-wife’s follies. “Let’s have all of them changed! How many windows have you got?”
“What?” Darcy stopped undressing and raised his head. Catching his image on his closet’s mirror, his shirt opened and barefoot, he was surprised to see how wearied he was.
“How many, King?” Elizabeth insisted. “We won’t want any dirty shades!”
He scratched his hair and chuckled. “I don’t think that’s what she meant, Lizzy.”
“Of course not, I’m trying to lighten your mood.” She smiled. “She meant you’re downgrading by choosing me over her.” He pressed his lips together. “She’s bitter.” Elizabeth sat on her bed and closed her eyes. “She’s pinning over you and will try anything to have you back.”
“It won’t work.” He hurried to reassure her.
“I hope not!” She chuckled. “King, do you think both our exes agreed to fuck up our day?”
“Ah, Lizzy, only you can find mirth in this.” Darcy shook his head. “She’s sickly, too thin, haunted eyes. Her mother must have been nagging her relentlessly.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I told her to find a hobby, perhaps a sport… I remembered you telling me about being in love with the idea of having a marriage and when I mentioned it to her, she had a breakdown. Bloody hell.” He grumbled.
“Yes, my Love.” He entered his bathroom intent on washing his face.
“Maybe you’re feeling too guilty for putting Anne through all this.” Elizabeth glared at her wall.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Darcy was instantly peaked.
“Whenever you meet her you’re all regrets and-”
“Don’t tell me you still doubt my intentions.” His voice hardened. “Now that we’re planning on gathering our children to announce our marriage.”
Elizabeth shook her head and pressed her fingers to her eyes. Her migraine was finally taking over after a day of vile threats.
“You’re not allowed to doubt me.” Darcy said and waited for her to speak.
Almost a whole minute passed while both tried to calm their hearts.
“I’m jealous.” She finally confessed. “You keep saying ‘the poor Anne, so sick, so subdued by her evil mother, so fragile, blah, blah, blah’… You loved her enough to marry her, she’s the mother of your daughters and at times it seems you’re regretting not making more effort to fix your marriage.”
“You know it’s not true.” Darcy sat on the closed toilet’s seat, still with his pants and opened shirt on.
“Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, it is always ready to make allowances, to trust, and to endure whatever comes." She recited.
“It’s impossible to argue with St. Paul.” He mumbled. If she was searching comfort in her Catholic prayers, she was indeed in turmoil and it frightened him.
“As it is competing with the ghost of a two decades’ marriage, Fitz.” She whined.
“You don’t have to.”
“Tell me that when you look at your lovely young ladies you don’t see her? Because I do see George in my kids.” Darcy had no answer, so he kept quiet. “I can’t help but feeling jealous, Fitz. She’s there close to you, you’re a good noble man and I do fear you’ll let duty guide you again.” She let her body fall down on the bed. With a silent meow, Shoyu climbed gracefully and lay under her free hand.
“Duty tied me to her nineteen years ago.” He said. “I should have attended your graduation and by now we would be celebrating a silly metal anniversary.” She chuckled. “Calm down, Lizzy. We´re only a month away now.” He spoke in his best loving voice giving her the chills. “This time no one will interrupt your visit to Pemberley.”
She whined but before she could say anything, Cassandra entered her room. ‘Mom, what are you doing?’ The toddler asked, her thin arm still in the pink cast and a long blond Princess’ plait trailing after her.
‘On the phone.’
‘Is it Fitz?’ The girl asked and the mother nodded pressing her lips together. ‘Can I speak to him, please?’
“Yes, put her through, Bart.” Darcy answered.
As Cassandra pestered him with an absurd amount of questions regarding the pool, the room she would be staying, complained about the cast not having more space to draw since it only covered her wrist and made Darcy promise Sarah would be there when she arrived; Elizabeth looked at her own face on the bathroom mirror silently weighing how the planets could easily destroy this unstable scheme of theirs.
stuck it out this far together
put our dreams through the shredder
let's toast because things got better
Halestorm - Here's to us
Halestorm - Here's to us
Long way ahead to HEA, huh?