Chapter 11 Part 2
I will teach you how to love me, in the greatness I will lead you
And I spend most of my life deep down inside myself
I've dreamt about the possibility of someone else
Who could see the things I've seen and still wait with me
Black Mermaid, Esthero
Darcy studied the other two occupants as they waited for Elizabeth to return from breaking the news to her parents that she had a change to her travel plans. Malcolm was roughly wiping at his nails with remover muttering things he'd like to do to Peter and Max with power tools. Phillip had refilled his coffee mug but was pensively staring into the dark liquid, the machinery of his mind working behind troubled eyes. The three so very different men with only two things in common: their collective concern for Elizabeth and their hatred of her ex-fiancée.
The Good Dr. Peter Hancock. Darcy's jaw tightened. He had been voracious for every morsel of information about the man. He'd been jealous. Envious. Countless hours had been spent devoted to the torturous imaginings of the perfect life the doctor and Elizabeth had shared. And, now ever since meeting with Nancy that afternoon and learning what he had, he might never forgive himself. How had he missed the signs she was scared of the man?
Because, Elizabeth had hidden it so well behind secrecy. He had mistakenly assigned her unwillingness to talk about her failed engagement to having an unrequited love for the surgeon. After all that she had gone through, she still was strong enough to come to New York alone. No friends. No money. No job. Completely oblivious to the threat that maniac posed to her safety. The helpless feeling from the night of the fire settled over him again; his heart seizing at the idea of something happening to her.
"Oh, I never liked Max! I told you I didn't when he came here that first time. I knew there was something off about him. But, no, you just had to hire him. Just think anyone of us could have been killed in our sleep! We could have been slaughtered right here under our own roof! Just because you felt sorry for him and let him sleep on the couch in our office."
"A few days ago, Max told us that his landlord was evicting him so we were letting him stay with us." Phillip took Malcolm's hand in his, shaking his head. "Now, though, I wonder if that was even true. If he wasn't trying to figure out a way to spy on Elizabeth for this lunatic. I was just trying to help out an employee who was down on their luck get back on his feet, you know?"
"Look, there was no way you two could have known about Max, or Peter, for that matter." He and Phillip were more alike than he had at first realized, Darcy mused. "But we know now and we will be able to keep Elizabeth safe. One member of her security detail is already on the premises downstairs and after the holidays, Bolton will be back in the states." At their confused looks, he continued, "He's retired special forces and he's someone I trust. I'd planned on him being here when her CD was released and she started her promotional appearances, but this new information has obviously sped up the timeline." Darcy sighed. "Until he returns to New York, Elizabeth is going to be spending Thanksgiving in Connecticut with me and my family so I can make sure that she stays safe."
"You know I can't do that, Will." Elizabeth had just returned from her depressing call to her family and was shocked by his solution to the problem at hand. Just hours earlier, Darcy was threatening to dismantle The Hole and preventing her from singing in her own shower, and now he was planning on whisking her away to Connecticut all because he was scared for her. "Well, I have seriously done it this time. My sister Mary is praying for me, while Kitty and Lydia think I'm taking on airs since I'm on the radio. My dad is suspicious and my mom said I have to come home for Christmas or else she is going to bring the family here. God, help us all if that happens! I don't think New York can withstand the entire Bennet family!"
"I'll speak with Gloria to see if we can arrange for you to go home for a few days around Christmas." Being a recipient of his pity was so much worse than his anger. It reminded her of how he had always helped her navigate any difficulties she encountered since she met him. "But, in return, you have to promise me two things. One, you will do whatever your security team needs you to do to remain safe at all times. And, two, you will pack up your stuff and come with me. You will stay with me and Georgie through Thanksgiving."
"I can't do that to you and Georgie! I can't intrude on your holiday."
"Connecticut will be the safest place for you to be while we figure out the best way to deal with Max and Peter."
"Lizzy, he is right. So many people come in and out of here all the time. And, I am sure that Max has told Peter that you are staying here." Phillip stood next to Darcy. Her eyes drifted to Malcolm, hoping in vain for support, but he clearly was in agreement with the others.
"Okay. You win." She was not strong enough to fight all three of them at once. She sat down heavily at the table, pulling the bandana out of her hair feeling strangely defeated. "What's going to happen to them, Will?"
"Richard has made some overtures in the District Attorney's office about the attack on Milton and the fire to see if there is something that can be done." She folded the bandana in her hands in a neat square still shocked at Peter's depravity and Max's complicitness. "I've already got a call into Paul to find another bassist for Monday if you still want to record Wrecked. If you don't feel up to it, we can simply put it on the next album as you suggested. However, Collide will be removed. I can't allow it to be part of your CD."
With everything that had happened, she had forgotten all about the duet. Now that he mentioned it, she didn't want the song on her CD either – it would taint what was suppose to be an accomplishment.
"Look, even if I allow The Hole House to go on tour with you," He squatted in front of her, his voice honeyed and warm. "You know that Max cannot be with them. Richard has already started the process of terminating his employment. I can't let that man near you."
"The funny thing is he had no plans on going on tour." She shrugged. "Max told me he wasn't going on tour because he'd done something I'd never forgive. He said he betrayed me. I guess I know now what that meant."
"When did he say that?" Darcy demanded, "Why didn't you tell me when it happened?"
"I did try to tell you. I tried to call you the night he said it, but you didn't answer. I figured you went to bed and I didn't want to wake you. Then, when we did talk the next morning, I couldn't tell you. I couldn't spoil your trip."
"Spoil my trip?"
"You were on your way to Cabo with a special friend." She soldiered on knowing how jealous she sounded. "Max just showed up at my apartment a few minutes before you called the night you called me before your trip. He left a few minutes after when I pulled a knife on him." Darcy's eyes grew large and his face turned red. "I called you right back after he left because he had creeped me out. I was so scared, in fact, that when you didn't answer that night, I almost took a cab to your place. Wouldn't you have been thrilled with me showing up on your doorstep uninvited in the middle of the night?"
Was she kidding? Thrilled didn't begin to cover what his reaction would've been. He'd been so desperate for her after they had almost kissed at the studio after recording Stronger. Hearing Max's voice through the phone line had literally shattered him. Knowing that he had frightened her, knowing his connection to Peter, Darcy was sick. How easily something could have happened to her! How much danger she had been in even prior to the fire!
A door shut firmly and a glance of the kitchen confirmed for Darcy that the fellas had quietly left them alone. Elizabeth must have realized it as well. As if the chair beneath her had caught fire, she popped up and put the table between them.
"Can I get you something to drink, Will?" She went to the cupboards and pulled down a glass. Then, turned to the refrigerator searching its interior. "Your choices are pretty limited. Milk or water. Though, I guess I could get you a Scotch or a beer from the bar if you'd rather have that."
"I'm not thirsty, Elizabeth."
She shut the door but stayed by the kitchen counter as far away as the room would permit. He wanted to close the void between them, but he remained apart from her. "I still think it is better if I just get a hotel room somewhere and just hide out by myself. I can't ruin your holiday, too."
"How do you expect me to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family if I'm concerned for your safety the entire time?" He could not believe she was being so stubborn about this. "You don't know me at all if you think I'm going to leave here without you. That I am not going to do everything in my power to keep you safe."
"I don't know, Will." She was obsessed with the floor tiles. "You seemed to shut me out of your life rather easily these last few weeks."
"Easily?" Nothing about their separation had been easy. It had been the longest weeks of his life.He could parade witnesses before her that would testify to the private hell he'd endured. "What did you expect me to do? How did you expect me to react after what you said to me at my penthouse?"
She straightened, defensive. "You really don't want me to get started on all the things I've heard you say about me. Do you?"
Would their first meeting ever stop being thrown up in his face? "Please do." Exhaustion from the past few weeks wrecked his resolve. Before he was aware of even standing, he had latched his hands on her hips, drawing her close to him. "Every word you can remember, Elizabeth. Start with the night at subway station when I begged you to stay with me all the way up to the morning, I made you breakfast."
She wouldn't look at him and he pressed his forehead to hers. "Is it you don't remember what I said? Or that you don't want to remember?"
"I could've been anyone, Will." Her silver eyes flared to life. "You just spent a week in Cabo with your good friend. Your bed wasn't even cold yet when you put me in it. You had another woman lined up for that very evening. I don't even know why what I said upset you."
She was clearly uncomfortable with his physical proximity and he let her put some space between them. "The good friend I took to Cabo was just that, a good friend. Charles Bingley." The shocked look that crossed her face frustrated him. She'd rather leap from one illogical scenario to another to avoid seeing the truth. "While there is nothing wrong with being gay, I assure you I don't like men. I'm interested in only women."
"Oh." She blushed, deeply, breaking free of his touch. She busied herself with the few dishes in the sink before turning back to him. "I don't want to be one of those women you entertain yourself with for a few weeks and then forget about."
"Elizabeth, I could never forget you any more than I could – "
"Stop it, Will! Just quit, okay?" She cut him off again rubbing her forehead. "Can't we just go back to what we had? I don't want to ruin everything over a fight over some stupid, meaningless fling."
Stupid, meaningless fling. Darcy swallowed his own hurt and sought clarity. "And, what exactly is it that you think we had, Elizabeth?"
"This. Our music. Us." She indicated the space between them with her hand. He couldn't help but be moved by her unwitting admission. He had his answer. She felt it too. The poetry that sprung up between them. Their inexplicable connection. "I didn't say it right that morning. I just didn't want to exchange something so precious for something so cheap and fleeting."
In the space of seconds, she had described the greatest night of his life – the night they had spent together – as a stupid, meaningless, cheap fling. The morning after he had told her that he had made love with her, but it was as if she was refusing to believe it. And, Darcy had a sudden epiphany. In all those months when he had tried in vain to not fall in love with her, he had only been successful at one thing. And, that was concealing the fact from her.
She was chewing on her lower lip, nervous at his prolonged silence. "Will?"
"You're right, Elizabeth." Good God, she really did not know how he felt about her. Now was not the time for her to accept the confessions of his heart. "What we have is too important to ruin by having a superficial and meaningless fling."
"Then, you forgive me? We can go back to what we had?" He did not trust himself to speak and he nodded. He wanted what they had back too. Tearful, she brightened and flung herself at him wrapping her arms around him tightly. "Thank you, Will. I thought you'd never forgive me and I can't imagine my life without you in it."
Darcy enjoyed the feel of her in his arms for a moment before he extricated himself. He had to make arrangements to make and he had to get her away from The Hole as soon as possible. "You have an hour to get packed or I'm coming back up here to help you. And, I know you don't want that, right?"
"No, I don't." She giggled, happily.