I have been working on this story for a few years and it is almost complete - somehow Chapter 11s always get me stuck. I have finally decided to make it public for comments at my dear Fibby's suggestion. I am still working on The Jane Plan, but thought I would also post a modern story in tandem with the regency one. I hope you enjoy!

Sian - Thanks for all of your help, it is much appreciated!

Girl on Fire

Chapter 1: Stop Looking In Mirrors

"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."

Tennessee Williams

Standing under the bright lights, the crowd greeted Elizabeth like a long lost friend. Their acceptance electrified her, never failed to transform her. On stage, she wasn't some overweight, frumpy woman who was too old to be chasing an unlikely dream. No, here, in front of her fans, she was someone interesting, desirable and talented. Smiling warmly at the gathered patrons, her gaze naturally fell to the tables nearest to the stage and her hand froze adjusting her microphone.

For one hopeful moment she thought her mind must be playing tricks on her. It could not be him. This could not be happening. What was he doing here?

His unforgettable blue gaze met hers and she felt her smile falter. Of course, hewas sitting front and center. As if he owned the place. Directly in her line of sight. Elizabeth threw back her shoulders. She would not be cowed by his presence. She would not let him have the satisfaction of having such power over her. She was a professional. She was going to do what she was paid to do. Entertain.

Winking at one of the regulars, Elizabeth launched into a playful song about getting even with a two-timing ex. With each perfectly nailed note, she felt her determination surge. No, William Darcy's presence would not intimidate her. Not today. Not ever again. After she finished her first number, she grinned at the enthusiastic whistles and catcalls.

Oh, yes, she was on fire tonight.


Elizabeth leaned against the closed door of her dressing room. Her earlier bravery had exhausted her. In hindsight, the only thing she regretted about her performance was that she'd been enjoying herself far too much to dare a look in his direction. She hadn't wanted his reaction to sour such a great performance.

Mentally shaking herself from letting her thoughts drift to him when she should be celebrating another successful night, she took a seat at the dressing table in the small room. Elizabeth began to remove the heavy stage makeup from her face with deliberate motions. She reminded herself that he was only one man. Not everyone shared his opinion. Just look at the audience tonight. They had loved her.

Besides, it wasn't as if Darcy was there to see her. Elizabeth knew she'd been forgotten the minute she left the café. She'd just been one of a long line of performers not good enough to garner his good opinion.

Sliding off heels that pinched her toes, she wondered which one of the other acts he must have come to see. There was the new blonde girl, Rebyka. In her early twenties, she styled herself after Miley Cyrus down to the short hair and nose ring – definitely more new Miley and less old Miley, but she, unfortunately, didn't have anywhere near Hannah Montana's chops. It was a blessing if she made it through one song in tune.

Or, maybe, he'd heard about The Black Checkers who went on the stage right after her. They were an R&B group whose arrangements were strongly reminiscent of 112, and they already had songs played on the air locally. They were Elizabeth's favorite group out of all the other performers. If a group were to get an offer, she hoped it was them. The four brothers were all handsome young African American males who did not have any image problems to worry about whatsoever.

At least, not her sort of image problems.

Stop thinking about him, she ordered herself. Stop letting him get to you!

Easier said than done.

Chewing on her lip, Elizabeth glanced down at herself. What had Darcy actually said that night they met that wasn't true?She was 5'6" and weighed close to 150 lbs – well, she would if she lost those pesky fifteen pounds. She was closing in on thirty, so she was a little older than those traditionally trying to break into the business. She probably wasn't very talented. Only Jane had ever really believed she was.


She was only here because of her. She'd been made to promise Jane on her deathbed that she would go to New York and try to break into the music industry. Elizabeth could not refuse the request. But then, truthfully, she'd never been able to refuse Jane anything.

After her sister's funeral, Elizabeth hads returned home with the rest of her stunned family and began making travel plans. She had to do something when there was no longer anything left for her to do. Later, she had recognized a part of her was afraid if she didn't attend to the vow promptly, she would either succumb to her own grief or that of her family. She shut her eyes remembering the way her father had looked at her when she said goodbye to him at the Greyhound Station. Traveling alone, she had succumbed to her grief on the bus and cried the entire way to the Big Apple.

The sun was shining when she finally arrived in New York. She exited the bus feeling lighter, reborn. Hopeful. Within days, she found her small studio apartment and then spent the next two frustrating months looking for a job. Just when she'd almost exhausted her meager savings and given into her father's insistent pleading to return home, Elizabeth's luck changed.

Here at The Hole.

Glancing around the shabby interior of her dressing room, Elizabeth thought the name was perfect. The establishment was one cavernous, dark room with a bar along the right side, mismatched tables and chair scattered to the left. The stage was center, and the three small dressing rooms were located in the basement two squat flights of stairs below. Above the bar was a cramped one bedroom apartment where the owners lived. It was gritty and real and sad and happy all at once. She'd never found a place so utterly perfect before in her life.

Now, after three months, she could not imagine her life without this home away from home.

Her extended musical family included the co-owners, the artistic and fabulous Malcolm DuRone and his serious bowtie-wearing partner, Phillip Masters and the house band, aptly named The Hole House. The band was comprised of a collection of interesting personalities. Max, the bassist who started a few weeks after she had, hailed from Alabama and looked a little like a grungy Keith Urban (pre-Nicole Kidman). Tara, a former pre-school teacher, easily in her forties who was amazing on the guitar. Doty, the best female drummer she had ever heard play who had a fondness of wearing her hair in pigtails and strongly looked like the lead singer of No Doubt. Rounding out the group, Ricky was a genius who could play every other instrument and could freestyle bee box better than a human should be able.

Since Malcolm and Phillip were eclectic in their taste of music, the result was that one never quite knew what sort of groups were going to appear each night at The Hole. Grunge, jazz, classical, country, hip-hop – all were embraced. It was a melting pot of musical genres. People from every walk of life came in to hear and appreciate the music.

One introduction had ultimately led to her fateful meeting with Darcy. A month earlier after her set, she'd been stopped by a willowy, blonde woman named Georgie as she exited the stage. The woman wanted to buy her a drink. Not all together an uncommon request but one she commonly refused. But, there had been something about the girl. Thinking about it now, it had to have been the similarity between Georgie and Jane that had made her uncharacteristically accept.

Over a drink, Elizabeth learned that Georgie was a senior at NYU studying music theory. The girl had initially stopped in to catch one of the grunge bands that were slated for the middle of the lineup. Typical of most college bands, they'd broken up before they could even play their first set. Each performer at The Hole had to add an extra song to their own set to cover for the unexpected vacancy in the lineup. Elizabeth should not have even been on stage at that time that night - it was fate that placed her there.

Georgie had raved, "Once I heard you sing, I forgot all about being disappointed that Broken Teeth wasn't playing tonight. You're wonderful. Really talented." Who wouldn't want to hear such compliments? Such flattery? "Where are you from? From your accent, you're not a native New Yorker? "

"No, I'm from Ohio."

"Ohio?" The young girl said it as if it were a foreign land. "What made you come here?"

Normally, she would not share her story with a stranger, but Elizabeth felt an affinity for the girl. Perhaps, it was because she reminded her so much of Jane. They had the same build, coloring and soft blue, guileless eyes. Over the next drink, the story of her sister poured forth.

Her new friend's eyes filled with compassion. "That's terrible."

"It was. It is." Elizabeth agreed, toying with her drink. "I'm giving myself one year to make it."

"And what happens when the year is up?"

"I honestly don't know." She shrugged, unconcerned. That was a decision months away. "I guess I'll go home. Return to my old life richer for the experiences and the friends I've made along the way. Either way. What an experience, right?"

"Look, I never do this. Believe me, I don't." Georgie pulled a pen from her purse and wrote a number on her napkin. "I know someone who works at Darcy Records. This is his private line. Tell Maggie, his secretary, that Georgie gave you the number. She'll put you through to him right away. The rest will be up to you."

After assuring Georgie she'd call, her new friend returned to her group. Elizabeth had half believed the whole thing had been a practical joke. Either the singer in Broken Teeth had put Georgie up to it (as pay back for a practical joke involving hot sauce in his toothpaste which Lizzy was still denying any involvement) or it was some sort of sorority initiation prank. However, that slip of paper had been a symbol of hope in a time when she had seriously needed it. Elizabeth had spent days looking at it. What if it were real? What if there really was a Will? It all sounded fantastical to her.

Clearly fed up with the back and forth - 'what ifs' - she and Max were tossing about, Malcolm had taken action. He snatched the napkin from her hand and raced to the phone behind the bar. By the time she had caught up with him, he had placed the call, confirmed that this was indeed someone named Will's number and the woman who answered pointedly asked if there was a message. He had handed the receiver to Elizabeth. Panicked, she'd hung up the phone and then felt too foolish to call back.

Days later, while she was debating if she should call again, Georgie reappeared at the club, dragging a man with her. And, what a man. Elizabeth thought he looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't imagine a time or place that she would've encountered such a man or that she could've forgotten such a meeting. He was, for the lack of a better word, sensational.

She liked the way he filled out his expensive business suit, which was tailor-made to fit his impressive physique. The expression on his face made him looked as though he had just walked out of a board-room after a hostile takeover and had left no survivors. He exuded power, confidence. Georgie was definitely a very lucky woman.

Elizabeth watched as the pair settled at a table near the stage. Unable to resist, she gravitated to them. Georgie noticed her, launched herself forward and linked their arms as if they were best friends, enthusiastically turning to introduce Elizabeth to her companion.

"Lizzy, I'd like to introduce you to my brother, Will."

Brother. Not boyfriend. Even better.

"Will, this is the woman I've been telling you about all night. This is Lizzy Bennet."

Politely, Georgie's brother rose. It seemed impossible, but he improved upon closer examination. Standing well over six feet tall, jet black curls crowned his head, and the beginnings of a five o'clock shadow darkened his firm, squared chin. A perfect Greek nose jutted over sensual lips. However, as impressive as his other attributes were, it was his eyes that arrested her. They were a vivid indigo sea of blue. As she stared, Elizabeth felt like she was drowning in them.

He nodded perfunctorily at her before those eyes swept over her face quickly. Folding himself back into his seat, he opened his jacket and turned his head as if seeking something or someone worthy of his interest. Dismissed, Elizabeth felt she had been judged and found to be not worth the effort. It smarted to be so thoroughly rejected by such a man.

"Will's had a long day at work." Georgie gave her a tepid smile, apologizing, "I sort of sprung this on him last minute."

"I do hope you enjoy your night with us." His eyes drifted back to her and she got the distinct impression he rather doubted it. Trying to find a subject of common ground, she said, "Your sister said you work at Darcy Records. What do you do for them?"

At this question, he looked up at sharply, scowling. "What?"

A boisterous laugh escaped Georgie before she covered her mouth with a perfectly manicured hand, "Oh, Lizzy, I forgot you haven't been in New York long. Will's last name," the blonde corrected herself, "our last name is Darcy. Will's the owner of Darcy Records."

William Darcy! Elizabeth's cheeks burned from recognition. She felt every bit the complete and utter idiot. Belatedly, she knew why he'd looked so familiar to her. William Darcy was one of the youngest and most influential music executives in the world. Dear God, if he was William Darcy, that meant that her new friend was Georgiana Darcy who appeared on best dressed lists in People and In Style, a woman her younger sisters had envied and had wanted to dress like since their early teens. She looked to the young blonde in shock.

As if summoned by magic, her friend, Daisy, appeared at the table. Elizabeth's favorite waitress, she wore bright lipstick, laughed a lot and loudly, wore tight daisy dukes and favored tank tops promoting her favorite bands. Tonight, the white tank top bore the face of Kurt Cobain. She'd offered Elizabeth a tight smile before looking directly at Darcy and literally freezing in shock. The man was certainly not their normal clientele.

Daisy recovered and leaned over Darcy practically making Kurt's lips touch his while asking him suggestively if there was anything she could do for him. His reaction did not disappoint. He scooted back in his chair. Once at a safe distance, he ordered a scotch, looked in Elizabeth's direction and changed it to a double scotch, and then for his sister, added a soda.

Seeing Georgie pout, she teased sympathetically, "Being a younger sister sometimes is a trial."

"Oh, do you have an over-protective older brother too?" Georgie almost appeared embarrassed.

"No. An over-protective older sister." Only, that was not true. Not anymore. The pain that stabbed her chest stole made her gasp. How was it possible that she still kept forgetting? Forgetting she was gone!

"Lizzy, are you alright?" Georgie's voice sounded distant, but soothing, just like Jane's. Another wave of loss threatened to swallow her. How she hated these weak moments that sprung up without any warning. Distantly, she heard her friend apply to her brother for assistance.

"Perhaps, you need to sit down." Darcy sounded as if he hoped she would decline.

"Maybe a glass of wine?" Georgie offered, trying to waive down Daisy.

"No, I'm fine. I have to go on soon." Elizabeth took another deep breath, willing the darkness at her periphery to stay back. Keep it at bay. "I'll be alright. It will pass."

Daisy returned to the table, delivered the drinks and asked Darcy if there was anything else she could do for him. Anything, at all, she stressed leaning forward again.

"No." Mr. Politeness stated. "The drink's all I want."

Elizabeth felt a flash of anger towards him, anger that helped her regain her equilibrium. Daisy was a harmless flirt, and there was no need to be rude to her. When their eyes collided over his drink, she saw his were cold, flat and emotionless. He didn't care one iota about some inconsequential waitress' hurt feelings, anymore than he cared about some bar singer's big chance. He was here tonight under protest.

From the stage, Phillip introduced Elizabeth and several fans in the room shouted her name appreciatively. Despite being nervous to have someone with Darcy's credentials in attendance, Elizabeth felt she performed well. That belief was reinforced when, as soon as she left the stage, Georgie came to her dressing room and insisted they should go to the little café around the corner from the club where they could talk. Darcy, who they met back at the table, immediately seconded the suggestion of leaving for a quieter environment.

While not as effervescent as his sister, Darcy was also no longer silent when they were seated at the café. In fact, he dominated most of the conversation. He asked her questions about her singing experience, her musical influences and her contractual obligations with The Hole, as if he were mentally going through a checklist for a job applicant. Keeping up with his rapidly fired inquires gave her unbelievable hope.

After nearly a half hour, Darcy gave up his inquisition, letting his sister carry the rest of their conversation. But, he stared at her. Boldly. While she was no stranger to the appreciation of men, she'd never been so affected by one. It was clear he was an avid appreciator of woman. and she found his focused attention arousing. Even Peter hadn't elicited this kind of response, and she'd agreed to marry him. Elizabeth had never felt quite this way before. Flustered by a man simply glancing in her direction.

Disturbed by the feeling he provoked in her, she turned her attention to her newest biggest fan. Georgie had heaped praise on her and told her quite unnecessarily about her brother's knack to produce stars. To the younger girl, it was clear nothing could be simpler than the paring of such gifted individuals. Darcy was a legend in the industry, a modern day Midas whose company consistently churned out platinum album after platinum album. If he deemed it so, people would dance, fall in love, and find comfort in her words all over the world. Her dream was tantalizingly within her grasp if only he wanted it for her.

After the last two bitter years, it was almost painful to be so close to having something unexpectedly wonderful come true. Elizabeth tried to reign in her hope, but as the evening progressed it kept bubbling up within her. It was like trying to block out sunlight with a butterfly net. She wanted this. She wanted to be successful. Wanted to be a star!

She had excused herself to visit the ladies and upon her return overheard, "Don't pull that face because I don't agree with your assessment of her, Georgie. You know it won't work on me." Even though she wanted to round the corner, she was more interested in what Darcy honestly had to say about her. "I'm sorry. She's far too old, she's pretty run-of-the-mill in the looks department, and she'd definitely need to work closely with a dietician. She needs to lose a good deal of weight. She's not even that talented. Nothing about her screams marketability."

"You're crazy. She's beautiful!" Elizabeth heard her champion huff.

"This is really my fault, Georgie. I've been pushing you to become more interested in our family business, but you really have no experience in assessing talent. Besides her being a nice woman with a sad story, what does she have that would hook an audience?"

"There's something inexplicable about her, Will. It's in her voice and her presence on stage. Her songs. People react to her. Love her. I'm surprised you didn't notice it yourself. You - "

"I'm gonna have to pass. The risk and monetary expenditures to make her performance ready wouldn't be recovered. Let's not argue about this, Georgie. At the end of the day, I wouldn't make money on her."

Elizabeth heard another sigh. "If you pass on her, you'll regret it."

"I assure you I will live quite comfortably with my regret." He paused. "Look, I have a full day tomorrow and we need to wrap this up. I need to leave soon."

"Not before she comes back, Will. Please, for me. It would be unbelievably rude of you."

It was Georgie's defense of her that ultimately gave Elizabeth the strength to paste a smile on her face and regain enough composure to return to the table as if nothing was wrong at all. She was determined to not make a scene that would embarrass the young woman.

After a polite fifteen minutes, Elizabeth thanked them both for the drink and gathered her purse and jacket.

"You sure you won't join us for another?" Darcy asked, leaning forward, "After all, the night is still young." She nearly ground her wisdom teeth wondering if he was making a crack about her age. Hadn't he just said he wanted to wrap things up? She declined his offer coolly.

Obviously, Georgie had not given up because she began to needle her brother to setup a time for her to come in and sing for him. Rather than waste more of her time, Elizabeth said she'd have to consult her calendar to see when she'd be available. Her reluctance to commit had clearly shocked him.

A smile lingered on his lips. She got the distinct impression he had decided it would be fun to toy with her. "Go ahead and check your calendar, Ms. Bennet." He extended his card to her. She took it without any sort of fanfare. "I look forward to hearing from you, Elizabeth."

What was the point of calling him? She'd already heard his assessment and never cared to hear it again. The call would be an exercise in futility. Without looking at it, she placed his card in her clutch, and when she got home that evening, took great pleasure in shredding it into tiny pieces and feeding them to her wastebasket.

Elizabeth had worked hard to put the whole depressing situation behind her, until his reappearance tonight had ruined her recovery. Looking in the mirror first one way, and then the other, she conceded she wasn't much to look at. Jane had been the beauty of the family. Compared to her sister, she knew she was just rather average looking. Her thick, longer than shoulder-length brown hair curled of its own volition and often in the opposite direction than the one she wished. She thought, perhaps, her eyes were her best feature, more grey than blue. Peter had called them smoky. Her nose was a small scoop, her mouth was perhaps too generous, and her figure was definitely more Beyonce than Taylor Swift. Yes, she was nearing thirty, but hadn't William heard? Thirty was the new twenty.

After applying moisturizer to her face, she picked up her brush and began attacking her hair with vengeful strokes and decided she was going to accept Malcolm and Phillip's offer to have a nightcap when the bar closed. After seeing him, Elizabeth definitely needed a drink. A generous one. In retrospect, she was grateful that she hadn't shared the entire story with her fellas of the meeting with the Darcys. When they asked her, she'd simply shrugged, stating that she wasn't what the label was looking for.

Satisfied with the result of the vigorous brushing and the turn of her thoughts, Elizabeth pulled her hair back into a simple bun. Then, she began to gather her makeup. She hated clutter and the chore killed some time. They'd be closing soon and she decided to remain in her dressing room avoiding Mr. Darcy until they did. She began humming Baby Got Back, hung up her dress, zipped closed the garment bag and proceeded to pull on her after performance sweats. She was so immersed in her normal routine, the knock on her door confused her at first. There was still a half hour before the club closed and she could hear The Checkers winding their way through their set above her.

"Lizzy."At Malcolm's familiar voice, she exhaled the breath she was unconsciously holding. "Are you decent, girl?"

"Since when have you ever cared about decency?" Elizabeth swung the door open and felt her face freeze as she saw Malcolm was not alone. A fleeting feeling of hysteria flowed through her as the very man she was hiding from stood before her. His face was impassive, indicating neither joy nor frustration at seeing her again. A blank slate.

Did he even remember her?

"Sweetness, this man just had to see you." Malcolm was enjoying what he thought was a meeting between her and one of her admirers. "I told him that I normally don't bring men down into the dressing rooms to see you, even though loads have asked." Her friend's confidence in her appeal was comical and absolutely wasted on her current company. "But, honey, I knew you'd want me to make an exception for him." He looked Darcy up and down and mouthed to her, 'Cause, he is so fine." Malcolm waved the bright pink boa he insisted on wearing in the club, clearly enthused by her visitor's physique.

Fighting the urge to roll her eyes in exasperation, Elizabeth nodded a brief greeting at the statue before her.

Glancing curiously back and forth between them, Malcolm added, "Now, don't mind me, hot cakes, you just go on in and talk to our Lizzy. I'll give you some privacy."

Darcy strode quickly into the room, deftly avoiding what would have been a pat on the behind from Malcolm, who simply winked at her before pulling the door shut, granting them a private audience.

The dressing room was not large, but with his presence, the room seemed to shrink further in on itself. Not sure what to do with her unwanted guest, Elizabeth indicated with a wave of her hand that he could take a seat in the small armchair to the left of the dressing table. After warily eyeing the worn chair, and then the roses sent by one of her admirers, Darcy sat gingerly and draped the jacket he carried limply over his lap. Silence engulfed the room, and she retook her spot at the dressing table, unsure of what to do next.

"Would you care for a drink?" She finally asked, politeness winning out over annoyance.

"No." He seemed to be inventorying the cramped space. When his eyes lit upon the picture of Elizabeth and her sister, he searched her face, "Your sister?"

"Yes, that's Jane."

The photo had been taken on one of the last good days of her sister's life. Laughing at the camera, Jane was wearing one of those bright scarves she loved to wear. Her sister's head had once been covered in thick hair the color of spun gold before the chemo had taken it away. With her fingers, she traced the smiling face so dear to her. She felt the welling in her eyes and put the frame down before she burst into tears. She would not cry in front of such an unfeeling man.

"Georgiana told me about her. I'm sorry for your loss." His sympathy was both unexpected and confusing. Silence descended between them again. Looking as if he had come to a decision, he cleared his throat, "You never called me about the demo."

"No, I didn't." Elizabeth applied a touch of lip gloss and matted the excess with a tissue. "Look if it makes it easier, you can tell Georgie you asked, and I said thanks but no thanks."

"This isn't an offer to do a full album, you understand. I'll have you record one song and let you know. You understand that Darcy Records doesn't offer a record deal to virtual unknowns without – " He stopped mid-sentence, her words finally registering and cutting off what was probably a much practiced speech. "Excuse me. Did you just say 'thanks but no thanks'?"

She took her time to replace the lid to her gloss before turning to him. "I did."

Darcy looked a little like someone had told him that gravity didn't exist. "You couldn't have signed with another label already."

"No," she shared a private smile with her reflection, "There doesn't seem to be much of a market for someone like me."

"Forgive me, but this doesn't make any sense." He stood up and paced as much as the small room allowed. He must have decided that she hadn't meant what she said because he continued. "I agree that perhaps one song wouldn't really be enough to fully showcase your talent." She swiveled to follow him going back and forth between the chair and the door. Was he joking or being deliberately mean? He sat back down, nodding to himself, "Two songs. Then, I'll decide if you have something. If I like what I hear, I'll arrange for you to come in to record a full album." She noted he was not talking to her. It was like he was having a conversation entirely with himself, and her acceptance was simply assumed. He looked around with evident disapproval. "Of course, if I like what I hear, you'll need to put in a lot of work. You'll stop singing here in this abysmal place immediately."

His insult to The Hole was the final straw.

Elizabeth desperately wishing she'd kept her dress on from her performance. It was hard to be confidently aloof in sweats and bare feet. She reached up undoing the bun in her hair, shaking her head so that her locks fell loose around her shoulders. That was better. Letting her hair down helped bolster her. Her gaze found his, and she said firmly, "I'm really not interested."

"You're not interested?" His voice sounded rusty as his hands were strangling his overcoat. His color was high and she briefly wondered if he suffered from high blood pressure. She was about to mention that he might want to have it checked, when he added, "If you think this tactic of playing hard to get is going to make me more likely to throw resources behind you, you are sadly mistaken. Some drastic changes will need to be made if I choose to spend my time on you." He gestured at her. "Maybe we could do four songs. Several that you did tonight were promising, but nothing more until we test the waters and I see if it is feasible to invest my resources in you."

"As I said before, Mr. Darcy, I'm not interested in your resources or in your offer." Elizabeth stood up. Ever mindful of her manners, she smiled sweetly as she opened the door for him. He was slow to his feet. "All things considered I'm sure you've made me a fair offer. More than fair. But, believe me when I tell you Mr. Darcy, we really would not suit artistically."

"Suit artistically?" His lips twisted into an angry smile. His laser like gaze cut across her dressing room before settling once more on her. "Coming here has been nothing but a complete waste of my time."

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

From the way his eyes flared, she knew he sensed her sarcasm. He slid on his coat and stomped past her, stopping suddenly in the narrow doorway without facing her. "If I leave, Ms. Bennet, I'll not be coming back. You have to know that you'll never get another offer like the one I just gave you."

"I assure you I will live quite comfortably with my regret." Elizabeth knew the instant the words were out of her mouth that she'd made a grave mistake. Intelligence quickly spread over his face when he turned to her.

"Eavesdropping is not an attractive quality." He seemed to blame her for his comments. Then, he shrugged into his coat, saying, "However, my statements are as accurate today as they were that night in the café. You are older than most acts coming into this business. You can tell that yourself - just look at all the other acts here! Your talent is raw, undisciplined. And, as far as your weight - " His gaze dropped over her before it locked with hers again. There was absolutely no spark of interest in their icy depths. She felt completely undesirable. "You could stand to lose a good deal. This is the music industry. Public opinion is both brutal and cruel. You'll need to develop a much thicker skin to survive this business. There is no room for your vanity."

"My vanity?" Her temper flared. Ice would have a better chance in hell than he had breathing if he remained. She warned him, "I think you've managed to insult me in every possible way, Mr. Darcy. So, if you are quite through, I think you should leave. You could not have offered me a recording contract in any possible way to make me want to sign with you."

Darcy turned but then stopped her from shutting the door with a well placed hand. If it had been anyone else, she would've thought he felt remorse over his comments. Once again, those devastating blue eyes searched hers. "Whatever you must think of me, I do wish you good luck in your future endeavors."

For the second time in her life, Elizabeth was grateful to see the fabulous backside of William Darcy.