"You know, you might want to close the door before this goes any further."
Henry and Jane break apart guiltily and stand like a couple of recalcitrant teenagers caught in the act. Jane's best friend Molly glowers in the open doorway, arms folded and an incredulous look on her face.
Jane gives an embarrassed chuckle "Oh my God, Molly, you gave me a fright. I, er, didn't realise the door was still open." She inches closer to Henry and he reaches out and takes her hand, giving her fingers a brief squeeze in support.
"Obviously." Molly raises an eyebrow in question and nods towards Henry.
"Sorry. Molly, this is Henry. Henry, this is my best friend Molly. I'd completely forgotten she was coming over."
"No kidding." Molly harrumphs
"Molly. It's a pleasure to meet you." Under normal circumstances he would reach to shake her hand but he has no wish to release Jane and break their newly formed and tenuous bond, Jane herself however moves to embrace Molly in a warm hug and Henry feels irrationally bereft at her defection.
"It's so good to see you, I've got so much to tell you. Shall we have some tea?" She smiles at them both and moves towards the kitchen.
"Sorry Henry, can you give us a minute?" Without waiting for a reply Molly grabs Jane's hand and drags her off into the bedroom closing the door firmly behind them.
"Of course." Henry says to the now empty room. He closes the front door and stands uncomfortably for a few moments. "I'll um make the tea then. Right."
He pours the boiled water into the pot and tries to pretend he can't hear every word that is being said in the bedroom "Jane, what the hell is going on?! Have you completely lost your mind? What are you thinking bringing this guy back with you? This trip was supposed to get rid of all of …..this!" Molly waves a hand around the bedroom, noticing suddenly that the room has been emptied of its Regency paraphernalia and Darcy memorabilia. "Wow you actually did it." she shakes her head "Never mind. Spill right now!"
"Molly, please, it isn't what you think." Jane sits down on the bed and puts her fingers to her lips, she can still feel Henry's kiss, feel his hands roaming over her body. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to steady herself. Henry only arrived a few minutes before Molly and Jane hasn't had time to get her own head around things never mind trying to explain it to somebody else. "It's…..complicated."
"Was he one of the actors? He was wasn't he?"
"Well yes and no…he's not an actor. He was just doing it as a favour, his Aunt runs the place, he was just helping her out."
"Oh please, I can't believe you're falling for this crap Jane, it was a fantasy and he's stringing it out in the hope of God knows what. He probably thinks you're loaded! "
Henry has heard enough. He has risked everything coming here, taken a chance and leaped into the unknown because he knew, was certain, that this was meant to be. Damned if he was going to allow this woman, no matter how well-meaning her intentions, to undo the small victory he has at last won. Damned if he will! He moves towards the bedroom and is about to knock and politely advise them that he can hear every word when he hears Jane speak.
"Molly, stop. You don't know him." She holds up a hand as Molly opens her mouth to interrupt "Don't. I know what you think, it's what I thought too, before I left. That the feelings weren't real, it was all part of the story, the fantasy. But he isn't an actor and I didn't bring him back with me. He followed me, he came half way around the world to give me back my sketchbook and ask for a chance to make me happy." Jane's breath catches in her throat as what he has actually done begins to sink in. She looks, teary eyed, at Molly, and almost in a whisper "He said I was his fantasy."
"Oh Jane….." Molly sits down next to her on the bed and pulls her into a tight hug. "Honey.."
"Molly please, I promise I will tell you everything , every humiliating, excruciating detail, if you'll just give him a chance? He really is…..wonderful." Henry closes his eyes and rests his forehead silently against the door in relief.
He knocks softly. "Jane? I've made some tea. Also, I think I should mention that your walls are perhaps not quite as sound proof as you might have thought." Molly groans and Jane giggles.
"Come on Molly," she tugs her friend up and opens the door "It's time to meet my Mr Nobley.
Henry stood back as the door opened "Tea ladies?" his gaze finds Jane's and he smileds shyly while inside his heart soars, she thought he was wonderful.
Henry and Jane sit on the sofa and Molly in the armchair, "So Henry, tell me about yourself."
"Ah, well…..my name is Henry Nobley. I'm a history professor at Oxford, I'm 36 and unmarried." He takes a sip of tea "I've never worked at the park before, I was press ganged into helping my aunt who found herself short a gentleman and needed someone quickly who understood the era. Regency England is my particular area of expertise you see."
"Uh huh. Tell me something Henry, what kind of man drops everything to chase a virtual stranger half way around the world?"
"Molly!" Jane says sharply.
"No it's alright Jane, it's a fair question." He puts down his cup and clasps his hands together looking earnestly at Molly "I imagine such a man would be so desperately in love that nothing else mattered, not logic or reason. Such a man would be determined not to let his chance of happiness slip through his fingers a second time." His voice is soft and filled with emotion. He turns and smiles tenderly at Jane "She's not a stranger, I know her. I may not be aware of all the details of her life but I know her," He lifts Jane's hand and kisses her palm as he had before "and I'm completely mad about her."
Molly watches them gazing lovingly at each other and is 99% convinced he is on the level, she hoped so for Jane's sake, but she is still going to Google him when she gets home.
"Well OK then. I guess that's my cue to leave." She stands and heads for the door "Jane I'll call you later. Be careful" She whispers "Henry it has been…eventful meeting you, I'm sure I'll see you again."
"I hope so. Bye".
Jane leans back against the closed door "Well, that wasn't at all embarrassing."
"It wasn't so bad, she was just worried" said Henry "I did think she was going to try and decapitate me like poor old Colin over there at first however."
Jane bursts out laughing "I guess you're right, I would have turned into a Ninja and kicked her ass though if she had tried to cut off your head." Jane picks up the tea cups and places them in the sink, running the water to wash up. Henry slips off his jacket, hanging it by the door, and comes to stand beside her.
"Would you?" he says, leaning against the counter "You would have taken her down for me?"
Jane snorts "Only if she was trying to take off your head, she's pretty fierce, and very pregnant!" she gave him a towel " You dry."
Henry inclines his head to her "Certainly, anything for a lady, after all, I am rather wonderful."
Jane groans and puts her face in her hands, "I can't believe you heard that!" she shakes her head in embarrassment and Henry laughs. He pulls her hands away wiping bubbles from her face. "Jane, you have no idea how happy hearing those words made me." He leans forward and kisses her gently "I think you are wonderful too." He kisses her again more deeply and Jane sighs
"Henry I…..this is going so fast, I'm not, I mean I don't normally do…" she flapsher hands indicating the two of them.
"I understand, I don't normally do….this either. Call me old fashioned, but I don't believe in meaningless dalliance." He touches her face "Shall I woo you? "
"Woo me?" Henry raises her hand to his lips and kisses her fingers bowing his head slightly over them "I shall court you like a real gentleman. We can get to know each other properly without all of the tom foolery."
"That sounds….. wonderful, but just to clarify; will this old fashioned courtship allow touching?" she laces her fingers with his "Touching will definitely be allowed" he says earnestly.
"How about kissing?" Jane asks as she leans up towards him. "Oh yes, lots and lots of kissing." He says smiling. He lowers his lips to hers and they kiss until they were both breathless.
Jane leans back in his embrace "Henry, what happens next?"
"Well, I'm a little out of practice but I'm fairly sure it involves taking off all of our clothes and retreating to your bedroom." He laughs as she pushes against him slapping at his chest
"Henry! That's not what I meant and you know it!"
"Sorry, just couldn't help myself." He grins
"You're incorrigible!" with a final whack she ceases her struggles and laces her fingers together behind his head idly toying with the curling hair at his neck. "What are we going to do though? We live on different continents." Sighing, Henry places his forehead against hers "We will do whatever it takes Jane, but not today. We can worry about it tomorrow, today I just want to be happy and in love."
"OK." Jane nods "I think I can manage that."
"Good." He says giving her one final hard swift kiss. "Now Miss Heyes, can I take you to lunch? I'm starving."