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Ebb and Flow
Chapter Eleven

Darkness.
I had a dream, which was not all dream.
The bright sun was extinguished , and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went - and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this, their desolation...

George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Absolut Trouble: Absolut Citron, Grand Marnier, Orange Juice, Grenadine. Shake with ice and strain into an old fashioned glass.

The Miami Convention Center was stifling despite all air conditioners working at full capacity. A massive crush of bodies moved in all directions; talking, gesticulating, examining booths and displays. The smell of power and money hung heavy in the air. An annual event, the Southern Plastics Conference brought together, under one roof, all the major players in the industry. It was an important opportunity to network and gage the competition. Pemberley's presentation area was impressive, befitting its stature, and took up an entire corner of the hall. William's tall suited form was evident from afar. Aquiline profile in deep concentration, his broad shoulders were bent toward a shorter man by his side. Fred Wentworth, vice-president of marketing, was filling him in on a new development in Indonesia.

"Darcy, I'm afraid you'll have to travel with our team there next week..."

Despite his apparent attention to Fred's words, William's mind was engaged elsewhere. Images of Elizabeth invariably intruded into his thoughts; Elizabeth dancing in his arms, standing in the fountain, lying nymph-like on the grass, sprawled on his bed...

Finally, excusing himself, he found the nearest exit and walked out onto an outdoor terrace. The air was hot and humid, but brought a welcome change to the staleness inside the crowded hall. Bracing his arms on the balcony, he took deep gulps of air, filling his lungs, willing his mind to clear and refocus on the business issues at hand.

A dark form approached toward him, panther-like, followed by a familiar mocking tone.

"Deserting the Pemberley troops Darcy?"

William's shoulders stiffened - his breathing increased in tempo, he willed himself not to look up.

"Wickham..." he answered icily.

"Basking in the glow of victory?..."

William chose to ignore his question - looking down at the balustrade - every muscle taut and tense with the effort for self-control.

"And I'm not referring to the court trial Darcy. No counsel, I'm referring to our sweet Elizabeth."

William's head shot up - and he turned to Wickham - with a look of pure sheer hatred, mixed with incredulousness.

'What did you say?"

"You heard me...OUR Elizabeth... Why... I just had lunch with her... God she glowed today... Don't you just love what ocean air does to a woman's skin?"

William was speechless. Fuelled by his decided advantage, Wickham pressed on and pounced on his prey.

"You know, it warms the cockles of my heart ; you and I... having shared the same woman... Mind you ...I had the great pleasure of being there first...God... was she ever sweet, and so innocent under all that sophistication... A few words of advice Darcy... She may seem a little cool and reserved at first... but once you warm her up... she likes it rough and hard... See you around counsel."

William stood frozen on the spot, unable to utter a single word, jaw muscles twitching spasmodically, ragged breaths escaping painfully from his heaving chest.How could she! She was his beautiful and lovely Elizabeth; his goddess in the garden, his love! How could this enchanting, intelligent woman give herself to that bastard? He felt himself spiraling down into a helpless, hopeless abyss; despair, hurt and anger coalescing into an ugly fusion of shattered pride, vindictive possessiveness, and broken dreams. The image of Wickham ravishing her body brought a sudden intense urge of nausea - it welled up, crested, assaulted his senses, and leaning over the balcony, made him violently and excruciatingly ill.

~ * ~

"Lizzie, surely you are mistaken, It can't all be true..." Jane reassured her soothingly, stroking her sister's hair - while Elizabeth lay like a limp rag doll on her bed.

"George must be exaggerating Lizzie. You know how he can spin his tales... Look, you need to talk to William, get his side of the story, weigh all the facts... you're good at that honey..."

Through the pounding haze of her headache, and a curtain of bitter tears, Elizabeth registered her sister's words. Of course she needed the facts. Yet, wallowing in her misery , she could not think logically. Wickham's description of William's character, his tale of calculated seduction - rang with truth in her mind. She had been swept off her feet, blinded by the trappings of wealth and luxury - only to find out she was one of many; a trophy to conquer and gloat over. And the man was possibly capable of terrible and evil doings... Never in her life had she felt so disempowered. And it was this feeling which began fuelling an anger, a resentment, so deep that it shook her out of her self pity and moved her toward a clear resolution. Finally, spent and exhausted, she fell asleep; Jane tracing a calming pattern on her back, concerned and confused over the sudden turn of events. p>

~ * ~

She stood on the circular drive, awaiting his arrival. She looked fragile and subdued; dark glasses masking swollen lids, her simple shorts and t-shirt lending her a child-like air. He saw her in the distance, and his heart lurched painfully, the bitter taste of bile rising in his throat. Control yourself man.

She stepped into the car without saying a word and slammed the door. They drove away in complete silence - bodies tense and rigid, both looking straight ahead, but seeing little. William drove eastward toward Crandon Park and the beach. He halted the car with a screech and sat , mum, his hands griping the wheel with tensed knuckles. The air of a vicious and silent ferocity hung between them. She could feel it, she could sense it, but she was powerless to break through it.

"Why?...Just tell me why!... Elizabeth."

"Because I'm human... I'm a woman... I 'm entitled to make mistakes William."

"But why him?" he begged for an answer, his voice cracking.

"Stop! What right have you to ask all the questions? How about you, William? What about your reputation with other women? Why so many?"

He was taken aback. No one had ever dared question his previous lifestyle. In the past year, he had been virtually celibate - but she did not know that. His past had been his to live, as any man would have. How dare she attack him this way?

"Did you think , William, that you could woo me, seduce me, build a little fantasy world - and cage me in it - without consequence to my past and for that matter, to my future?" She could feel her fury boiling over.

"There's a hell of a lot that I don't know about you! And yet you dare to question my relationship with George Wickham! What about your past, Wlliam ? The accident in Gstaad, your high-flying life style, the lawsuit, what about your sister!"

"Leave Georgie out of this, Elizabeth." His voice was suddenly cold and threatening.

"Yes, let's leave out all the unpleasant factors! Let's pretend you're the lord of the manor and I'm one of your possessions, ready to grant every wish! Better yet, chain me to that manor, punish me for any past mistakes until I become an empty vessel for your pleasure, devoid of any freedom and dignity! You don't own me William Darcy, nobody does and nobody ever will!"

'So that is what you think of me? That I am some manipulative, controlling Machiavellian tyrant?"

"I don't know what to think! I hardly know you - but right now - of one thing I am sure; I need space, I need respect and I need to get away from men like you! Goodbye."

She jumped out of the car, slamming the door shut behind her, and began walking toward the main road. He sat rooted in his seat. She hadn't given him a chance to explain! She had jumped to so many false conclusions! What had that bastard Wickham told her? He could not let her go this way!Gunning the engine, he tore down the road, slowing behind her . Seeing the car nearing, she broke out into a jog and ran toward the walkway lining the causeway, William's Mercedes trailing behind her.

"Elizabeth... please... let me explain...!"

His words were caught by the wind and drowned out by the engines of cars passing him by. She did not hear him. She did not want to hear him. And she kept on running.

Finally, he pulled over onto the shoulder, a mask of rage and pain covering his face.

And she kept on running, tears streaming down her face, gaining as much distance as she could between herself, and what William had given and then so cruelly torn away. Her figure slowly receded over the gentle curve of the bridge - until it disappeared from view completely.

Chapter Twelve - Part One

Birdy Num-Num: One part Malibu, One part pineapple juice, ice.

Dinner with Charles the night before had been fun - but this - now this was Jane's idea of a good time. They were roller blading , at break neck speed on paved walkways, snaking through the Key.Thank goodness I can keep up with her! Charles thought as they whizzed past exotic shrubbery, palm trees, and elevated bridge ways. The late afternoon sun beat down on Jane's glistening body and wove gold ribbons in her flying blond hair; an effect which cast a most pleasing spell on Charles. This woman is in constant motion! She rarely stops!

Last night he had discovered that she was a physical education teacher at a private girls' school in Oakville. Charles was familiar with the town; an upscale and charming enclave bordering Lake Ontario. Elizabeth and Jane shared a town house in its historic district. Jane spoke of her students with great enjoyment, she seemed to be truly dedicated to her profession; this was something Charles understood and prized. His respect for her had grown immensely last evening, as had his appreciation for her off-beat sense of humor. Beneath her sensual physique, lived a most naughty little girl, who appealed very much to the cheeky little boy in Charles. She tickled him pink, and pink had become his favorite color...

Despite their light hearted banter, both had managed to discuss Elizabeth and William. Elizabeth had left for Toronto that morning, and Jane was most worried about her younger sister. Rarely had she seen her in such low spirits, she seemed sullen and dulled. William was leaving on a sudden business trip to Indonesia on the following day and Charles was quite concerned; the old mask of haughty restraint and cynicism had resurfaced and replaced his earlier overt happiness.

Jane had confided in Charles the extent of Wickham's accusations; Charles in turn, had been shocked. He had no knowledge of the near fatal accident in Gstaad. However, he was able to enlighten Jane on the true nature of William's adventures with women. Yes, William had played the field with great gusto and energy for many years - but had settled down in the past year. Charles was convinced that he had acquired a new maturity and appreciation for the opposite sex , he was ready for a meaningful relationship. As to Wickham, Charles was aware of a rift between the two - but had assumed it related to the Pemberley and Meryton lawsuit. On hearing this, Jane explained her family's tie to Meryton. Both marveled at the coincidence of such an event, and pondered the complications which might follow. Jane was relieved to hear Charles' defense of his friend. She had yet to meet William - part of her wanted to inflict great pain to his person for hurting Lizzie - yet another side hoped the two would reach some understanding.

Satisfied with the turn of the conversation, Jane had then decided to focus her attention exclusively on Charles. Her attraction toward him had been growing daily. He was caring, congenial and warm- yet there was a strength beneath all this - a nurturing, compassionate, pillar-like quality - and Jane liked that very much. At the conclusion of last evening they had kissed; and it had been scrumptious, lovely and sweet, yes, she liked him very much indeed.

They staggered back up to the condo - sweaty, hot, tired but also exhilarated.

"Let's go for a swim Charles - we need to cool off..."

Charles' body felt like a mass of jelly - he was utterly exhausted - but damn it, there was no way he would let her see that!

"Sure! Sounds great!"

She trotted off to the master bathroom while Charles changed into a bathing suit he'd packed in his knapsack. He heard the sound of running water... She must be taking a shower... Minutes trickled by...still no Jane. Finally, tired of waiting, Charles knocked tentatively on the door.

"Jane... will you be long?"

"Just a wee bit longer...why don't you come in..."

Pleasantly surprised at her suggestion, Charles edged in through the door. He was greeted by a most agreeable and tempting vision. There was Jane, submerged in a sunken tub, hair piled atop her head, one leg suggestively peeking out of a mountain of bubbles and bobbing beside her, a yellow rubber ducky.

"I thought you'd never knock Charles..." she smiled up at him wickedly.

"So... You've changed your mind... about the swim... that is..." he babbled nervously.

"A woman's allowed to change her mind, honey..."

"Uuumm... right ... yes... of course..."

"Dr. Bingley, I seem to have a sore ankle, right here..." she wiggled her toes.

"Jane... I'm a pediatrician..."

"And I ...sweetie... am a child at heart..."

The invitation was loud and clear - Charles could not resist. Jane's leg became the focus of his undivided attentions, followed by an arm, followed by... until unable to restrain himself any longer he joined her in the sunken tub.

"Jane, this duck has got to go."

"Sweetheart, where I go, ducky follows... she's harmless." Jane replied petulantly.

And so ducky remained, a most avid witness to the delightful proceedings.

The combination of Jane's luscious body, bubbles, and warm silky water, whipped Charles into a veritable frenzy. Achy muscles forgotten - he proceeded to kiss, stroke, tickle and titillate every inch of her supple body until she begged for more. This is one game you will not beat me at, my sweet...And slowly, expertly, and with great tenderness, he joined his body with hers. His fervor grew , and rose, until it unleashed a passion of such intensity and athletic prowess that Jane was completely taken by storm. They peaked and soared with wanton abandon, passion washing over them again and again; creating such tidal waves that a veritable pool of water collected around the tub, rubber ducky and all...

"Charles - we've flooded the bathroom."

"Isn't that a shame... we'll clean up later." He answered while nibbling on her ear.

He gathered her up in his arms, and carried her drenched body to the bed. They tangled amidst the sheets and reprised their earlier under water exertion - both noting with satisfaction that it held as much pleasure on dry land.

Chapter Twelve - Part Two

For see, it is I, it is I. And I return
So altered, so adopted, to the house
Of my own life. There all the doors stand open
Perpetually, and the rooms ring with sweet voices...

Edwin Muir.

Moonlight: 2 ounces Apple Brandy, juice of one lemon, 1 tsp. powdered sugar. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into an old fashioned glass over ice cubes and serve.

As the plane touched down, a grey light filtered in, trailing along muted colors, and a chill seeped steadily into the cabin.

"Welcome to Toronto - temperature today is four degrees Celsius - mixed snow and rain, changing to freezing rain this evening."

Aah - the early Canadian spring, and home. Collecting her minimal luggage, driving on the 401, past the concrete jungles of suburbia , Elizabeth felt a familiar tension return to her body; work, responsibilities, her family and - William. Finally she arrived at her townhouse.

Oakville was an affluent lakeside town, filled with character and historical architecture . Elizabeth and Jane's town home was tucked away in the heritage central core. Many of the homes were restored dwellings of original settlers, dating back two hundred years. Their town home sported a plaque; John Charles, Mariner - and indeed had belonged to a modestly affluent sea captain, one hundred and fifty years ago .It stood two stories tall, washed in warm beige stucco and accented by a wrought iron balcony. The entrance was punctuated by two black urns, filled at this time of the year with coniferous greens. Overall, the effect was charming without being cloying, an artful blend of history and comfort.

Opening the door, Elizabeth was greeted by her cat, Mr. Collins. A somewhat obese, bumbling Maine Coon - he had a tendency to drool and stumble into walls. She was fond of Mr. Collins and he, in turn, worshipped her.

"I must back down on your portions Mr. Collins..." she mumbled to herself.

Moving through the living room, she switched on the gas fireplace and padded into the kitchen. The townhouse was filled with carefully chosen flea market antiques, mixed with comfortable upholstered furnishings. Most first time visitors were astounded at the sheer number of books scattered throughout. An avid reader and collector, books were her passion. This was her private world, welcoming and warm, a haven for her and her sister. Climbing up the stairs, she threw a look into her bedroom; her feather bed and duvet beckoned. Reluctantly , she dragged herself into the shower and staggered back onto her welcoming nest - falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

She awoke - Sunday morning - and reached over - William... Slowly, her focus shifted back to reality - William was thousands of miles away and she was here , alone. Mr. Collins, jumped on the bed with a loud thud, and proceeded to lick her face noisily , a most annoying habit, but one which forced her mind back to mundane tasks. She fed the cat and retrieved her calls. It wasn't until the coffee grinder whirred away - that she allowed her pain to surface - a stream of hot , angry tears, and a deep, visceral sadness washed over her, racking her body with sobs.

Driving to her parents' that evening - her pain became replaced by an all encompassing melancholia.

The Bennet home was situated on the lake shore , it managed to look old and distinguished ; French Country architecture mixed with modern amenities. The Bennets had experienced humble beginnings - but due to Meryton's success, had acquired moderate wealth. They were comfortable and financially stable. Fanny Bennet - relished Meryton's success. It had given her a new lease on life. A devotee of all matters superficial, she thrived on acquiring material possessions - volume and status were the key, style and taste were secondary. In her search for the perfect sofa, the latest lamp, the newest designer look, she was matched by her youngest daughter, Lydia. Continual beautification of their environment and person was the prime objective in their life, followed by acceptance within the elite Oakville social circle. Fanny had very little understanding or patience for her two eldest daughters - as far as she was concerned their careers were an obstacle to the real business of living - and she rarely forgot to remind them of this fact.

Tom Bennet was a direct contrast to his wife; intelligent, driven and hardworking, he was married to his business. Material success held little appeal to him , instead, he relished the game of business, seduced by its power and intrinsic challenge. He allowed Fanny free reign at home, while maintaining strict control over his company. Their marriage was based on each one being inexorably needy; Fanny required Tom's financial security for her material passions, and Tom needed Fanny to run his home and personal life. Though neither party was particularly enchanted by the arrangement - it worked - albeit in an awkward, and misunderstood fashion.

As Lizzie walked through the door, she was greeted by the comforting smell of home and a familiar clatter of voices.

"Lizzie - you're back - nice tan honey, but you really must do something about your hair - Raoul tells me short curls are the rage now - he's dying to get his hands on that mane of yours..."

"Hello, mom." She kissed her lightly on the cheek.

Tom Bennet approached his favorite daughter and gave her a warm hug. "Welcome back Lizzie, did you have a good rest?"

"Uhuumm..." she answered, unable to look her father in the eyes.

"Where are the girls, dad?'

"Oh. Kitty and Mary are at a concert in Toronto. Lydia's here and we're expecting a dinner guest..." Before he could complete his words, Lydia bounced into the room; a bevy of flying blond curls, curves in all the right places, accentuated by tight fitting jeans and a belly baring white peasant top. Lydia was all of twenty but seemed permanently ensconced in an adolescent phase.

"Guess who's coming to dinner Lizzie!!"

"Who?"

"George!"

"George who?"

"George Wickham, silly! Dad had to speak to him about some business things so Mummy invited him over earlier - ooohhh- he's so gorgeous!!"

Lizzie froze in her steps - George, here, tonight? Her father occasionally invited business associates home, but this was highly irregular - she wondered what strings George had pulled to garner the invitation. It can't get any worse than this, I might as well face him.

The doorbell rang.

And there stood George, incredibly fine-looking, leaning against the doorway, holding a bouquet of roses. He presented the flowers with a flourish to Fanny.

"Mrs. Bennet... beautiful flowers for a beautiful hostess..."

Fanny blushed and twittered; she adored compliments of any kind, and was not immune to his considerable charm.

"Lydia... ravishing as always... oh, hello Elizabeth, I wasn't expecting you here, this evening."

Like hell you weren't!

"Good evening George." She replied curtly, locking her eyes onto his, sending him a warning message.

Dinner proceeded at a pleasant pace, George focusing his attention on Lydia and Mrs. Bennet. Tom Bennet rarely partook in light discussion - unless it related to business. The remainder of the time he spent in bemused befuddlement over his wife's and daughters' antics.

"The Southern Conference was a success, Wickham?" he finally enquired.

"Indeed Tom, we hooked in two new major customers, and I happened to run into Darcy..."

Elizabeth's fork clattered loudly onto her dinner plate.

"William Darcy - that fellow from Pemberley?"

"The same."

"Well, as much as I hate to admit it, he did an excellent job for Pemberley. Fine legal mind, ruthless though, wouldn't you say? It's behind us now, we won't tread on their turf again in the same manner ... it's time we moved on to more pertinent matters, why don't we discuss the Indonesian account in my study - over coffee - ladies - please excuse us.

Lizzie felt the tension ebbing away from her body, and let out an audible sigh.

"Lizzie- you're awfully quiet tonight," Fanny began in a familiar tone.

"I'm still tired from the trip, mother," Elizabeth replied with exasperation, sensing the upcoming battle.

"I just don't understand why you work so hard, surely those silly patients could see you less often, why don't you work part-time, we hardly ever see you...and as for your social life... why it's practically nonexistent, how will you ever find a husband..."

'Mom," Lydia interrupted " doesn't Wickham have the most dreamy blue eyes... and the way those pants hug his..."

"I agree Lydia, the cut of his pants is very fine - Hugo Boss or Armani?"

"It's not the cut of his pants I was referring to Mother."

"Lydia! Control yourself!" Elizabeth chided "He might over hear you."

"Ooohh - proper Dr. Bennet..." Lydia teased in a mocking tone.

If only you knew... thought Elizabeth.

Suddenly, feeling exhausted , she bid her mom and sister goodbye and left the Bennet home, thankful that Wickham had not ruined the entire evening.

Driving down Lakeshore Avenue, lined by the barren trees of the early Canadian spring, her thoughts turned to Wickham, again. His presence in her family home left her feeling violated; he had trespassed into their inner sanctum and had done so with his usual oily charm. How could she have been so easily misled and deceived by his words? Her judgment of William had been swift and cruel, and certainly not based on clear facts. Wickham had managed to play with her rawest nerves; he had attacked her self esteem, so much so , that she had believed William to be a false fantasy,one she did not deserve, one she should never have. Resolutely, she made a promise to herself; I will not let that bastard influence me from now on...

She parked her car. Rather than going home, a pull was drawing her toward the lake. It was dark. The earth was just beginning to defrost from the long Canadian winter. Her street meandered down to the lake and ended in a small park. A few benches were scattered here and there. It was a favorite thinking spot of Elizabeth's. Tonight, despite the shimmer of moonlight on lapping waves, it failed to bring her any solace. God, how she missed him... Far away from the sultry heat and sunshine, the events of the past few days took on an entirely different cast. She had been a willing partner in William's game of seduction... no, it wasn't a game at all, it had been real, as real as the feel of his lips, his breath, his body pulsating within her. Why had she become so angry? Had she mistaken him for another Wickham, just because he'd had other women? Did she resent all these women he had wooed and won over? Who was being possessive here? Deep down, she knew that Wickham's recounting of the events in Gstaad was flawed and filled with untruths. What had really happened? How could she ever find out? The questions swirled around in her mind as the echo of her footsteps reverberated on the pavement. She looked about her, inhaling the fresh night air and suddenly... she was stunned into stillness.

A few hundred feet away , on the deserted moonlit street, stood a tall, dark form; it slowly began moving toward her, long sure strides, a black overcoat swinging with each step.

It was him.

A gripping constriction seized her throat. She could not breathe, she could not speak and she could not move. She was paralyzed. He kept approaching, moving toward her, his form nearing, long black overcoat batting behind him in the night wind. Until he was so near, she could see the billowing clouds of his breaths. But it was the heavy lidded look of his eyes, the sadness, the desperation, and naked plea, which finally unlocked her voice.

"William... what are you doing here... I thought you were in Indonesia."

"I couldn't leave...without saying goodbye."

"Oh. How did you find me?..."

"Jane."

"I see."

He reached out, and tentatively stroked his thumb over the contour of her cheek. His touch was exhilarating; reigniting a new life within her dulled and frozen self.

Sensing everything in slow motion - she circled her arms around his strong warm neck. He drew her in, caressing her hair with exquisite gentleness. Breaths intermingling, cheeks converging in the softest touch, nuzzling , eyelashes flitting, until his mouth brushed back and forth over her lips. Breathtakingly insistent, he began exploring every contour of her lips, as if he had all the time in the world to discover and savour her sweetness. Resistance crumbling, and caught in an irresistible trance, she traced the line between his lips with her tongue - and plunged in - meeting him in a primal deliberate tangle. An exotic, erotic kiss - laden with heavy meaning.

"Elizabeth..."

"Mmmm..."

"We have to talk.'

"I don't want to...just yet."

He laughed softly, a low deep throated chuckle. "Neither do I... but we must."

Disentangling themselves from the embrace, they walked hand in hand down the street. William's heart soaring at the realization that she wanted him with a desperation that matched his. Elizabeth, suffused with a warm and elated sensation, one which she had mistakenly relinquished earlier. Each marveling at how much crisper the air felt, how much brighter the lit up windows looked: in fact, every tree, every dwelling, appeared hauntingly outlined, shining, as if backlit by the moonlight.

Chapter Thirteen.

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot:
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with the thickest fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Christina Rossetti

Passion Mimosa: Chilled Passion Fruit juice, Champagne and one strawberry.

He stood outside the dimly lit home, soaking in every detail of its weathered surface, its delicate tracings of iron filigree , willing his mind to imprint a precise replica, one he could revisit tenderly in the future.

"John Charles, Mariner... so this is where you live...you know... it speaks."

"It speaks, William?"

"Why, yes, old homes tell tales, Elizabeth"

"What tales is this home telling you?"

"I hear - a reverence for the water... comfort... sorrow... warmth... laughter.. and tears."

She weighed his words carefully in her mind; marveling at this glimpse into his sensitive, poetic soul. She wondered wistfully how easily that soul was veiled by his power, his pride, his arrogance. Such a dichotomy - embodied in one person; herein lay the enigma, the challenge.

Fumbling for her keys, she felt her hands tremble. The keys dropped with a metallic clang on the porch steps. Sensing her agitation, he stooped and picked them up.

"Here... let me... is this the one?"

She nodded her head ruefully. As William opened the door, the pair was greeted by a disapproving Mr. Collins.

"William, meet my cat, Mr. Collins, he's a bit possessive."

Mr. Collins sized William up; deciding he was no match for his great height and strength, he threw his mistress a disdainful look and scampered into the kitchen - retreating under the table.

And so they remained; enveloped in their coats, facing one another in the hallway. His imposing presence seemed to fill and dwarf her familiar surroundings. She was struck by his masculine beauty; seeming so out of place in her home, her world. He looked graceful and elegant, possessing an aristocratic polish, with a steely presence lurking beneath it all. He smelled of wind , rain, and that woodsy scent reminiscent of the Keys. She felt her temperature rising steadily - her skin burning with a need to touch his virile masculinity.

"You wanted to talk, William," she ventured, voice trembling.

"Not just yet..." he whispered hoarsely.

And with unwavering determination, he moved toward her - pinning her to the wall - and began a glorious assault of her lips, her neck - devouring her with tender violence.

His body drove into hers; his probing hardness and proud heat grinding relentlessly into her hips. Finally, impatiently, he rode her dress above her hips, discarded her undergarments and swiftly releasing himself from any restrictions - met her arching body with one... deep...plunging ...thrust.

Lifted up against the wall by the force of his passion, Elizabeth, her body ravenous, met each of his thrusts... again and again... pressing into his hard and unyielding contours. Wrapped around him, lost in incoherent yearnings, she felt herself winding tighter and tighter, notch by exquisite notch, until a low scream tore from her throat, and she fractured into a thousand scattered elements.

William, spinning in a sensual whirlpool, lost in their pagan rhythm, peaked into a final deep thrust, and exploded in complete surrender - pouring himself, shuddering, into her warmth. The moment stretched - slowly faded - and together they gently tumbled back to reality.

She stood supported by the wall, wrapped in her coat, dress askew, the slow warm trickle of William's passion running down her thigh.

"Why?" she whispered.

He understood her question - it was the same one he'd been asking himself. Why did this explosion of passion happen every time he touched her? Why could this woman make him lose his mind?

He looked into her upturned face, eyes dark with fervor.

"I don't know."

"Come here," he demanded huskily. It was his tone, more than his actual words - which propelled Elizabeth back into his arms. His mouth swooped down and captured hers, in a kiss of insatiated hunger. A shudder shook his powerful frame, and almost sent him to his knees. He clasped her tightly - not willing to let go, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He stared up above her head - and with damp eyes - spoke to her.

"Elizabeth... I don't know why this happens... but I do know that you are the most incredible woman I have ever met, and I couldn't bear leaving you without telling you... that I care the world for you... I need you... in my life... I wish I could take a piece of you away with me."

"When do you leave?"

"Tomorrow at noon."

"Oh. Will you stay the night... please?"

He smiled - a sweet , gentle smile, two small dimples appearing by his chin .

"I thought you'd never ask."

~ * ~

Jane let herself in quietly. God, how she hated those early-morning flights. It was only eight a.m. but felt as if she had been up for hours. You have been up for hours, silly. She knew Elizabeth was due back at work sometime this morning, and she was scheduled at school by noon. Doesn't give me much time to unpack... She opened the door and stopped in her tracks; strewn on the floor were various pieces of clothing - and a large black overcoat with Mr. Collins sitting atop it. What happened? Her heart started beating in fear - God I hope Lizzie is o.k. She followed the trail of clothing upstairs...up to Lizzie's room. Finally, arriving at her door, she stopped. Heart in her throat, she edged the door open.

Tangled amidst white sheets, lay a most perfect pair of male buttocks; all muscular lines, with that sexy side hollow only athletes possessed. A pair of well-built legs was carelessly slung over her sister's body, brown curls tangled with black ones on the pillow. Oh My God! He was actually here... and it had been quite the reunion...She tiptoed back out of the room - shaken by the sight of such an intimate glimpse into her sister's private life. She marched downstairs and began making breakfast. The sound of stirrings - soft laughter, voices and a shower running could be overheard through the floor boards. Reaching up to get another mug, she sensed someone behind her.

"Rise and shine Lizzie!" She greeted the presence in the kitchen.

Turning around, she was shocked by the sight of William, a white towel wrapped around his previously exposed bounty.

"William!"

"Jane!" he exclaimed, just as surprised.

"So I see you had no trouble following my directions..." she babbled, flustered and blushing.

"No, I thank you... I don't know what I would have done without you.." he responded, an amused grin on his face.

"Glad I could be of assistance. Look, while she's up there, I want to make one thing clear; if you ever dare to hurt her again - I'm going to beat you to a pulp - o.k.?... Now that we have that out of the way - how do you take your coffee?"

"Black."

"I should have guessed..." she muttered, giving him a wide grin.

"How long are you here for?"

"Two more hours."

"Ouch! I'll have to glue Lizzie back together after you leave... listen... let me leave the two of you to have breakfast on your own... I need to unpack...it's all here... oh... and be sure to say goodbye to me before you leave."

"Jane..."

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

Elizabeth came down, wrapped in a sage green fluffy robe, carrying a white terry bathrobe for William. She looked radiant.

"Here... you'll catch a chill."

"Good morning beautiful..." He came over and enveloped her in his arms...

"Good morning, gorgeous hunk of a man ...slept well ?"

"Like a baby ... once you let me fall asleep that is..."

She raised her eyebrow, "Now that, Mr. Darcy, is an absolute lie... if I recall, it began in the hallway...and then on the stairs, the landing...."

He sopped her tirade with a swift, deep kiss " Let's not quibble over details..."

"I thought you were a detail kind of man..." she teased.

"Only where your details are concerned." And he proceeded to show her precisely which details held his fascination... Finally, breakfast over, she turned to him with a catch in her voice.

"Do you really have to be gone for an entire six weeks?"

"I'm afraid so..."

"How can I reach you William?"

"It'll be tricky - we'll be on the move inland a fair bit, and I won't always have my cell phone operating or my computer. The best way would be to leave a message with Anne, my assistant at Pemberley. I'll be checking in with her periodically. Why so sad?"

'You know why... I just can't bear the thought of ..."

"Shhh... I know... It's just for a little while."

As William's form receded down the street, Elizabeth stood framed by the door; teary eyed, her lips tingling and swollen from his lingering goodbye kisses. Jane stood framed by an upstairs window , hoping with all her heart that everything would be right from now on. Only Mr. Collins appeared truly content; enjoying his breakfast, slurping at his milk, satisfied that the tall, dark stranger was finally gone from his domain.

~ * ~

That evening, the two sisters relaxed in front of the television; snuggled in their pajamas, popcorn bowls overflowing.

"So... did he tell you about Gstaad, Lizzie?" Jane enquired.

"He wasn't ready to talk about it yet. It was too painful... but apparently George had fabricated his version of the story."

"Aren't you curious?"

"I don't want to push him Jane... I know he'll tell me when and if he's ready. But he did talk about Georgie. He seems truly devoted to her, they're very close."

"What about that reputation of his?" Jane pressed on, intent on grilling her sister.

"Well he was very upfront about it, he answered all my questions - he's changed in the past year - there's no one else. Alright, enough about me, what about you and Charles?"

Jane's face lit up at her sister's question. "Well... he's arriving for a conference in two weeks, and if you don't mind - I'll stay with him in Toronto."

"Jane!"

"Lizzie - after what I witnessed this morning - you have nothing on me ,baby!" She laughed, throwing a handful of popcorn in her direction - happy to see Elizabeth's sparkle and spirit finally return.

Chapter Fourteen

Dear rose without a thorn
Thy bud's the babe unborn
First streak of a new moon...

Robert Browning

Hot Milk Punch: Two ounces Whiskey, one cup of milk, one whole egg, one tea spoon sugar syrup, pinch of nutmeg. Heat all ingredients, except spice, in saucepan, when piping hot - pour into mug and top with nutmeg.

Weeks went by...Jane and Elizabeth settled into their work routines; the normalcy of life filtered in and established itself with a familiar grip. However, Elizabeth felt anything but her old self. A constant tension permeated her days; thoughts of William, images of William, intruded at a disconcerting rate. She knew so little of him, yet had experienced so much at his hands. They had shared such intimate moments, yet these were not grounded by intimate words or thoughts.

William was beginning to interfere with work; she found herself listening intently to patients' experiences of love and relationships, with a curiosity which went past mere clinical interest. As the days progressed, a most distressing sensitivity and vulnerability punctuated her emotions; several times she had to leave a meeting and cry in the ladies' room., This was so unlike her. Most puzzling, was a new craving for liver, prepared in any way. It had been something she had despised as a child and developed a severe aversion to, after her pathology rotation in medical school. Is this what falling in love did to women?...

On a sunny Monday morning, three weeks following William's departure, a seminal event occurred; she sat up in her office, and realized with shock that her period was late. How could that be? Her menses always began on the same day of the week, three days after stopping her birth control pill. Horrified, she checked her purse and realized two tablets were left over. She'd forgotten to take them in Key West and at Vizcaya and had not doubled up the next day... Could she be pregnant? A mental image of rumpled bed sheets flashed through her mind - Oh..My..God... her mind splintering in a thousand directions, she dialed her gynecologist with shaking fingers.

"Madeline, I'm so sorry to disturb you... but I've got a quick question..." She explained her predicament to her colleague. Dr. Gardiner and her were good friends; Madeline had been a mentor to Elizabeth during her career, and they were distant relations through her father's side. She was blunt and to the point.

"Elizabeth, even one missed pill of the lower estrogen tablets can result in ovulation - now two pills, increases that chance significantly. It's rare , but I've seen it happen. Come in for a check up, we'll do some blood work, it's probably too early for an ultrasound."

Unable to focus, Elizabeth rebooked her patients for the rest of the day and spent the afternoon at Dr. Gardiner's clinic. The blood work returned - rapidly - and a most puzzled Dr. Gardiner gently broke the news to her bewildered friend.

"Lizzie, honey, why don't you go home and rest. I'll drop by tonight and see how you're doing. We can talk then...is Jane around?"

" No... she's in Toronto this week, staying with a...friend." Charles was arriving this evening and Jane would be gone all week. Elizabeth didn't wish to burden her with the news just yet.

Sitting at home, curled on her couch, Elizabeth's mind whirred in divergent directions, at its central fulcrum - however - was one single thought - I'm carrying William's baby... This was so unlike what she had envisioned; over the years she'd built up an intricate fantasy of how and when she would bring a new life into the world. She felt a terrible sense of loss, as if a sacred natural order had been violated. She hardly knew the man of this unborn child, she only knew that he held a magnetic, powerful attraction for her. But what of all the elements in a loving trusting relationship? There were so many unknown variables , and she hated the unknown. It terrified her. She thrived on security. Since meeting him, her world had begun changing, leaning, tilting - and now it had been turned upside down.

Madeline arrived after the dinner hour, carrying a large box of Krispy Kreme donuts.

"Look, if we're going to do this right tonight - talk I mean - we need all the help we can get - and don't shake your head - I know all about your sweet tooth... Oh. Lizzie... come here... let me give you a hug."

She enfolded her into her ample bosom, and absorbed her soft sobs, wishing she could take away her pain - soothe her - comfort her.

They sat down in the cozy kitchen and Elizabeth poured out her entire story - no detail was spared. It was as if she needed to purge herself of the pain, the confusion , and hearing her own voice enabled her to do so. Finally, at the end of her tale, she sat silent, strangely empty , her heart a little lighter. Madeline had not said one word throughout Elizabeth's outpouring. She listened, incredulous, studying the younger woman, noting every inflection and gesture, committing them to memory.

Taking off her glasses, she wiped the lenses and carefully replaced them on her face.

"Wow... I'm speechless."

Treading with great care, she proceeded carefully.

"You just described one of the most mind-blowing and toe curling romantic escapades I have ever heard . Most women only dream of such adventures in their lives. He sounds... incredibly complex ...Lizzie... yet...my intuition tells me he truly loves you... he flew here after all... he must be crazy over you... he told you so .. right?... the real issue is... do you love him?"

"I don't know... I think so... I'm not sure."

Madeline reached over and touched her hand - a warm, comforting grasp.

"Lizzie, I know you're scared, I can feel it... this is a new, terrifying experience... but you have to talk to him... analyze all the options... then make a mutual,mature decision."

"What decision Madeline?" Elizabeth enquired, confused.

'Whether you'll proceed with the pregnancy, what type of relationship the two of you will have, where you will live and work... honey... it's all a bit much isn't it?"

Through a curtain of tears, she nodded her head. "'I haven't thought that far yet..."

"Look, you're tired, get a good night's sleep - cancel tomorrow's clinic - and take some time for yourself to think all this through. You know how to reach me... take care Lizzie - we love you very much."

~ * ~

The next morning a message was left on William's voce mail at work. "William, it's Elizabeth Bennet - please give me a call, it's important."

~ * ~

That evening, the doorbell rang, and Elizabeth was greeted by the concerned and smiling face of Richard Fitzwilliam.

Fitz, as everyone called him at the clinic, was a gentle giant of a man; tall, slim, and wiry - with a crop of sandy hair and warm hazel eyes behind wire frame glasses. An expert in the treatment of adolescent mood disorders, he and Elizabeth had a deep respect and affection for one another.

"I was worried about you - so I thought I'd pay a house call, Elizabeth."

She couldn't help laughing - he held out a bunch of white roses tied with twine.

"Your favorite flowers, to cheer you up!"

'You are a sweet man Fitz, come in. So the word has spread at the clinic that I need cheering up?"

"Lizzie, you so rarely take time off for illness - I just wanted to be sure you were all right."

He observed her closely. Wearing flannel pajamas and wrapped in her green robe, she appeared pale and vulnerable. God she was beautiful...

"Come in - I just made myself some hot milk, would you like some? I could put some chocolate in it?" She waved him into the kitchen.

A lovely glow filled the room, Elizabeth had lit a few candles for herself, soft jazz wafted in the background. She smiled at him.

"Can you tell I'm cocooning and coddling myself, Fitz?"

Boy can I ever - he thought - feeling a familiar warmth encompass his body.

She curled up on a padded window seat strewn with pillows and pointed to the other side. "Come sit down..."

He leaned back on the velvety pillows and scrutinized her over the rim of his hot chocolate. His trained clinician's eye took in her defenseless appearance, the puffiness of her eyes, the aura of melancholy surrounding her. Something was quite wrong with her.

"Elizabeth... how are you... really?"

Here's another kind soul enquiring about my health. She had shared many things over the years with Fitz. He was her closest male friend; a non-threatening , reliable, warm presence in her life. She trusted him implicitly.

"I'm pregnant, Fitz."

He sputtered on the hot chocolate - almost spilling its entire contents. He knew she had not been seeing any one for months. There had been that brief ill-fated dalliance with Wickham at Meryton,but as far as he knew, it was all over.Fitz made it his business to keep a close eye on Elizabeth's love life - he was a good friend, after all - she often told him how invaluable his male perspective had been in the past.

"How can that be?" he muttered, in complete shock at the news.

Elizabeth smiled wryly, "Now Fitz, you've got a medical degree - figure it out..."

"No, what I meant was..."

Unable to look him in the eye, she whispered, "I met someone in Key Biscayne; it was very intense, very fast, I... I've never felt like that before Fitz... and we... well you know..."

'But aren't you supposed to be on the pill...?" his voice was rising, with indignation, hurt and so much more.

"Don't get angry... I am and I forgot to take it , twice."

He couldn't move. Elizabeth pregnant! This was so unlike his controlled, professional Elizabeth, so unlike the strong-willed yet careful woman he had gotten to know so well. He felt his blood stirring ... a slow seething indignancy rising within him.

Looking up at his disbelieving eyes, she saw reflections of all her other friends, relatives, peers; accusing and judging her behavior. She burst into sobs, nose running, sputtering.

I've got to be gentle with her...Offering her a Kleenex, he knelt beside her.

"Elizabeth, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you... this must be so hard for you."

Through her tears - she reached out and touched his cheek. "I know - you're a great friend - always have been..."

Suddenly she felt the warmth of his arms around her, accepting the comforting hug - she nestled in , letting the last of her tears wash away. He caressed her hair -God, she was lovely , so very fragile right now. Kissing the top of her head, he gently extricated himself from her grasp. He couldn't stay - it was too painful.

"Lizzie, you need to get some sleep."

She nodded her head and tucking the box of Kleenexes under her arm, she padded upstairs, childlike, forlorn.

"I'll clean up and let myself out."

Turning around, she gave him a sweet smile, "Thanks Fitz, you're the best."

Moving around her familiar kitchen, he felt himself spinning down into a bleak, dark, well. She was carrying some other man's child...

About to place the vase of roses on the table, he changed his mind and moved quietly upstairs. Treading softly - he peered into her room - she was already asleep, breaths flowing gently in a rhythmic cadence. He placed the flowers on her bedside table, marveling at her still beauty.

Inside, Fitz felt hollow and dull. He was in love with Elizabeth Bennet, had been for years. A soft spoken , reticent man, he had been waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, none had surfaced. And now, someone else had staked his claim; he was devastated, for in his heart, he knew he would always belong to her, and she... she was oblivious to it all.

William's voice mail messages were being picked up regularly by his assistant, Anne. On hearing Elizabeth Bennet's name, she immediately recognized the connection with Meryton Plastics. Assuming that Ms. Bennet was a Meryton employee ,she remebered that Pemberley had strict orders not to contact any Meryton employees directly - but through their legal counsel, George Wickham. She relayed the message to Wickham's secretary. In fact over the next few days she received several messages from Ms. Bennet and all were relayed directly to Wickham's office. On receiving the said messages Wickham chose to ignore them. Anne was very pleased that after a few days they stopped altogether. She had much more pressing matters which required her immediate attention.

Chapter Fifteen

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colors gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay,
To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Dangerous Liaisons: Tia Maria, Cointreau, Sweet and Sour. Shake with ice and strain into a sherry glass.

Jane stood at the back of the classroom, intently watching Charles holding the attention of twenty little girls. She had invited him as a guest speaker for her grade three-health class. He was patiently explaining the importance of regular checkups and why immunizations were a good idea. The various medical instruments he'd brought along with him fascinated the children. He let them play and discover the intricacies of stethoscopes, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes... Why, the man was a natural with kids. She loved his kind and gentle approach with the little ones - humorous, but respecting the dignity of each child. He looked up over the tops of their heads, and met her gaze. A look of mutual admiration and understanding passed between them - further cementing their budding relationship.

They had spent a blissful week together, both working hard during the day and meeting up in the evenings at his hotel, The Four Seasons. And what evenings they had experienced! Each one proved to be a joyous and blissful discovery. But it went beyond physical intimacy, they talked for hours on end, sharing childhood dreams and adult desires.

As each day progressed, their compatibility grew - Charles felt himself to be the luckiest of men - not only was she a sensual goddess, but underneath it all beat a heart of gold. Jane, for her part, adored his mix of boyishness and depth. He was full of enthusiasm and zeal but a silent strength was never far below the surface. The couple was smitten with one another. On his last day in Toronto, they began making tentative plans for a longer visit, one month away. Unbeknownst to Jane, Charles initiated the process of arranging a transfer from Montreal to Toronto; it was meant to be a surprise.

"William, how are you? Tired? How's the deal working out? Oh. Really? Meryton again? Do you expect any roadblocks? ... Speaking of Meryton - they've been pestering us recently - actually Wickham called this morning about the redirected messages - he wants to talk to you.... I don't blame you for feeling that way... listen... I'm losing the connection... Good luck next week... talk to you later..."

Anne de Bourgh hung up the phone with an audible sigh. She had been William's assistant for five years - and his cousin her entire lifetime. She knew him extremely well. He had sounded preoccupied... something was up. She smiled to herself. Sooner or later she would dig it out, she always did.

Wickham sat sprawled in his corner office. It was late, and everyone had left for the day. He enjoyed being on his own; it allowed him to fantasize about the day when Meryton would be his. Hell, he even sat in old Tom Bennet's chair from time to time. Once, the cleaning staff had almost caught him.

Leaning back on the black leather, he stretched his muscular legs before him. Why was Elizabeth desperately trying to contact William? Were things heating up between the two of them? The very thought of the pair together made his blood curdle. He pressed a button on his answering machine and replayed William's angry message, recorded earlier that day.

" ...Darcy here, I want to make something very clear to you. It's over; our friendship is over. I don't want anything further to do with you, personally or professionally. Please stop contacting me at Pemberley - or I will be forced to take further legal action. Whatever we had in the past is gone now. Do you understand? I don't ever wish to see you again. Goodbye." Click.

Now, what the hell was that all about? Why was Darcy calling him out of the blue and raking him over hot coals? Then, the realization hit him...Oh. It would be exquisite if... An ugly grin turned the corner of his lips.

There are evil thoughts, and there are evil deeds. At that moment, Wickham crossed the threshold form one to the other. If anyone had ever doubted his psychopathic tendencies, they would be proven wrong.

He quickly dialed Elizabeth's number, ascertaining that she wasn't home. Her answering machine clicked on. He pressed play, and let the message roll.... A grotesque smirk etched on his handsome features.

His gloating reverie was interrupted by an insistent knock. Dammit! He had all but forgotten about Lydia. Since Darcy had claimed Elizabeth, he had settled for her baby sister. The decision had proven to be both fruitful and captivating. He opened the door and was greeted by the tempting sight of a grinning Lydia, in a form fitting black leather dress. Pulling her in roughly, he locked the door.

Retracing his steps back to the desk, he coolly assessed her bountiful curves. She reeked of sex...

"Have you ever played "secretary" Lydia, my sweet...?"

"No... but I'm a quick study George..." She sidled up to the desk, perching on its edge, and seductively crossed, then uncrossed her legs, offering him a glimpse of bare lushness. Oh, this would be a most fascinating interlude...

"First lesson, Lydia... You must address me as Mr. Wickham..." and the etude began in earnest.

~ * ~

Fitz pounded again on the door - dammit why wouldn't she open it? He was worried, very worried. She had called in sick again today - and he had departed work early to ascertain that she was indeed safe. Finally, the door opened by a fraction, he edged himself in. The sight, which greeted him, took him by surprise; she was disheveled, eyelids red and swollen, trembling and barely able to stand. He walked in, and closing the short distance between them, enveloped her in a soft and tender hold. Stroking her back, gently reassuring, he murmured whispered endearments. She stilled. He picked her up and carried her lovingly to the nearest couch.

"Lizzie... what happened?"

"He called... it's over... he doesn't ever want to see me again... he called it a mere friendship... Fitz, I don't understand...where did I go wrong?... I feel awful... I just want to go to sleep and never wake up..."

The psychiatrist in him took over, "Lizzie, honey, did I hear you correctly? Are you suicidal?..."

She opened her eyes and looked at him, "No... you know me better than that..."

Overcome by intense anger, Fitz blurted out, "Who is this man - this monster, who did this to you. You haven't even told me his name."

"I don't want you to know his name, I just want to forget him..."

She stared vacantly ahead of her. He could not bear to see her this way; her spirit broken, fragmented, a mere shadow where a light had stood. A warning voice called out to him. Don't, she's not ready... it's too soon. But he silenced it, unable to halt his momentum.

"Lizzie... I care for you so much sweetheart...let me make it better...let me love you..."

Her eyes widened in surprise - before she could answer - her mouth was captured in a sweet, gentle, feather light kiss.

Confused, bewildered, and reduced to raw emotion, she accepted his kiss and returned it, craving the touch, the comfort of another man. She willed herself to ease the painful suffering, the degradation, she had experienced earlier this evening. How different this kiss felt compared to William's. She willed her mind to silence itself, instead, focusing on this kind devoted man, who had declared his love for her.

So persistent was Fitz in his efforts that evening, that as they continued to talk, to laugh, to cry, and to kiss, she slowly began closing the door on William's harsh and cruel words.

By the time Fitz left her home, she had built up a new wall, one of safety and protection. Picking up the pieces of her self-esteem and reassembling them into a new design, a wiser, older and stronger structure began emerging, a tower above the ruins of her grief.

He stood looking out the window, sipping a glass of scotch, his silk pajama bottoms outlining a sinewy silhouette. The nightlights of downtown Jakarta blinked in a reflective rhythm over his handsome features. This Indonesian situation was proving more complex than expected - the meetings were endless and taxing. His mind felt crowded, over filled.

As he had done on so many previous occasions, his thoughts retraced the secret path to that special compartment, Elizabeth...She had not called, and neither had he. Why? Their last meeting held such a dream-like quality. Was he afraid it had all been a fantasy? Did he need to enshrine it - not letting reality tarnish its beauty, dampen its colors, its mystique? You romantic fool... Wake up! You had no difficulty calling that bastard, Wickham. Another voice answered his accusation. But that was different, you have purged him from your life and she is just flowing in.

With great difficulty, he let the awareness trickle in; he was afraid. He had his limits, drawn up years ago. He could not bear rejection, of any kind. He had been abandoned once, by a woman he had worshipped, his mother. Her death had left an indelible imprint on his soul. He recognized the same fear with Elizabeth, he could taste it. Was that why he had intended it to be a seduction? He had not counted on falling in love...Oh. He knew how to use his sexuality, in that arena, he had never experienced rejection, and he was too skilled, a connoisseur.

They had barely talked, he had orchestrated it so...You fool, how long can that alone sustain a relationship! So, why don't you pick up the phone - and tell her you love her... Because I just can't... And so, the battle waged on within him - ebbing and flowing - a rhythmical duel between his fear and his logic. Finally, as on every previous occasion - avoidance won its bittersweet victory. He did not call.

Continue reading Ebb and Flow here


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