AN: Um, psych, when I said I would post soon, I meant, er, whenever I found the time to finish this chapter. Apologies to everyone for raising your hopes up, and I thank you again and again for sticking with the story despite my flightiness and unreliable posting schedule. One day, life will be less hectic and I will be able to adhere to some semblance of a schedule. In the meantime, here is a meatier chapter than usual. Enjoy!
P.S. There is a slight, slight possibility that this story will go from a T to M rating (you might find it evident by the end of this chapter. Yeah, get excited. Or actually, just read it and then come back to the author's note...alright, are you back now? Brilliant!). How do people feel about this? To be honest, I've never written anything remotely close to erotica, but let's be real, I'm a modern lady in the 21st century so I am somewhat familiar with the genre. I will heed the words of Isabel Allende when she said "Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken." So while I am very green, I will still try to keep it tasteful. BUT if much of your feedback is in the negative or wary category (which is completely understandable, as I've admitted to being a total novice), then I will definitely take it from there.
Again, thank you for reading!
New York City, New York
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Charles hissed from across the table.
Slumped very inelegantly – for a Darcy anyway – over his chair, Darcy groaned while shielding his face in his hands.
"This is not good," Darcy sighed.
"Darcy, my girlfriend's best friend – whose approval I've been trying to win all night –just stormed out after discovering that my best friend once publicly humiliated her! So yeah, I'd say that it's the opposite of good."
"God, I really have the worst luck."
"Did you really say all those things about her? To her face?"
"In my defense, I was having a really bad morning."
"What, did someone de-alphabetize your iTunes again?" Charles scoffed, knowing full well that he was the usual suspect who pulled small pranks to drive his control freak of a friend crazy.
"No. And it wasn't just any 'stupid' briefcase, it once belonged to my father. One of the very few personal affects he left behind for me in his will. Mom gave it to him early in their marriage when, you know. Before…" Darcy's voice drifted off while his mind floated into a personal place that held memories of a briefly happy childhood.
"Oh," Charles sobered, years of friendship making him used to Darcy's sudden spells of introversion. "Sorry, man."
"It's alright. Elizabeth couldn't have known. And she's right, it was just an accident. I lost my temper and I shouldn't have."
"You still need to apologize."
"How can I? She hates me!"
"Yeah, that's visibly evident," Charles laughed.
Charles was referring to the dried red stains on his regal friend's starched once-pristine-ivory-white shirt – remnants of the glass of wine that Lizzie threw in his face before racing out of the restaurant with Jane hot on her heels.
The two women, meanwhile, were outside on the sidewalk. The tall brunette was pacing and gesticulating wildly; the slim blonde was leaning against a parking meter while demonstrating a mastered Grace Kelly coolness.
"…certifiably insane lunatic delighting over the pain of others…"
Jane checked her watch.
"…stupid, pretentious suit and his stupid, pretentious kale…Oh look at me in my exquisitely tailored Armani and my healthy super foods…acting like he's so much better than everyone else… "
Jane picked at her nails.
"…of course he'd be caught hobnobbing with a disgraced Senator to further his company profit margins…just like those soulless One Percent…"
Jane was texting Charles.
"…even having the nerve to buy me a drink without asking! Like he's some cavalier, arrogant knight in shining armor…"
"Wait, what did you say?"
"…I'm never having a Pimm's again. I don't care if it's actually really delicious. It'll just taste like condescension…"
"Lizzie! Back up. You said he bought you a drink? When was this?"
Lizzie stopped in the middle of her rampage and faced Jane.
"It was just right before you arrived at the restaurant with Charles. We were both at the bar and I wanted a stout, but they didn't have any and out of nowhere, he strolled up all sleuth-like and mysterious and helpfully ordered me a drink…I mean…it wasn't helpful at all…total prick..."
She immediately went back to marching up and down the small stretch of sidewalk and cursing the day William Darcy decided to have a breakfast meeting at the Ritz. Jane sighed.
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks," Jane said none-too-slyly.
"Jane! What are you insinua – that is so not what is happening here. I am not…That is ridic – How could you even…You…You…You Gertrude…Betrayal, thy name is woman!"
Jane giggled at Lizzie's sudden inarticulateness. This only happened when Lizzie was really nervous and unsure about something. Or someone.
"Oh my God, you like him! It's all over your face! By the way, it was frailty, not betrayal. I think? Charles and I went to see Hamlet off-Broadway last weekend."
The book nerd in Lizzie was ashamed. "Whatever, Jane, I hate it when you're right."
"Hell yes, I'm right! So you do like him! You practically admitted it at dinner! What was he again? 'Insanely, unfairly hot,' was it? You weren't lying. He is kind of a babe."
"Jaaane! I was talking about the Hamlet quote, you conniving…conniver. You totally twisted my words. You're like…worse than Evil Gay Footmen and Evil Lady's Maid from the early twentieth century –"
"Whoa, leave the beloved and Emmy winning Downton Abbey out of this. Besides, Thomas totally redeems himself when he gets all tragic. Hello, season two? And anyway, O'Brien is just misunderstood – Oh my God Lizzie, you did not just try to distract me with English period dramas!"
Lizzie shrugged. She knew her friend's weaknesses very well. Jane never could say no to British accents and bonnets. "It almost worked, didn't it?"
"And you were calling me the manipulator? I'm onto your tricks now. Fess up, you definitely have the hots for Forbes' Richest American Bachelor."
"That was before I found out that he was Patrick Bateman, okay? Hello, did you suddenly forget about how he almost had me burnt at the stake for ruining his stupid designer handbag?"
"Jane, it was the most mortifying moment of my entire life!"
"I thought finding condoms in your parents' suitcases after they got back from their couples' retreat was the most awkward –"
"Lalalalalalala! NOT. HELPING."
"Okay, okay, sorry I brought it up! But while you were working everything out of your system between Park and Madison, Charles texted and told me that Darcy's briefcase actually holds a lot of meaning for him. Apparently, it's a significant one-of-a-kind family heirloom that he's really attached to, so maybe his reaction wasn't too extreme in that context."
"Jane, are you seriously taking his side?"
"No, Lizzie," Jane said wearily. "What he said to you was atrocious, but I can also understand where he's coming from. And don't you think you're overreacting a little bit?"
"Gertrude! Traitorous Gertrude!"
"You did throw a drink in his face. I mean, I know you work in Hollywood now, but I never thought that you would pull a Naomi Campbell."
"Yeah…that was pretty out of line…" Lizzie said through the side of her mouth, humbly chastised.
"So are you going to go back in there and apologize or what?"
"Me? Apologize? To him?"
"Uh, you're lucky they didn't kick you out of the place! It's only because Darcy is, well, William Darcy that we're not all banned for life!"
"Yes, Mother…I will go and make nice with Darcy. And tell Charles not to worry, his choice of friends have not affected my good opinion of him."
Jane smiled and put her arm over Lizzie's shoulders, leading them back into the restaurant.
Once at the table, Lizzie sent Charles a small smile before seating herself primly next to an abashed Darcy. Both affronted parties mumbled apologies while managing to avoid looking at the other in the eyes. Dessert was declined (much to their beleaguered waiter's gratitude). Charles and Darcy fought over the check. Bills were signed. And soon enough, Lizzie and Jane were hugging each other good-bye while waiting for Charles' car to pull up at the valet station.
"Are you sure you don't want a ride? It's really no trouble," Jane again insisted on seeing her friend home.
"Jane, I'll be fine. And I live on the complete opposite side of town anyway," Lizzie assured.
"Alright, but call me when you get there! And have a safe trip."
"I'm so happy that we could get together tonight. I'll miss you!"
The two best friends hugged again, making promises to call and Skype each other.
"Lizzie, it was great to finally meet you," Charles went in for a hug as well.
"Keep my girl out of trouble, Chuck," Lizzie winked at him.
An attendant had already called the attention of a yellow cab for her. Just before getting in, Lizzie remembered her manners and looked back at the looming, silent presence on the busy New York sidewalk.
"Um, good night then," the young brunette nodded at Darcy. She got in the taxi and rode off before Darcy could fully register what had happened.
Charles' Prius appeared at the curb shortly after. Jane and Darcy said polite, reserved goodbyes before she situated herself in the passenger seat.
After getting the keys from the valet and tipping him, Charles clapped his friend on the back. Still lost in thought over Lizzie's unanticipated attention towards him, Darcy was brought out of his muddled musings by the sudden impact.
"So!" Charles smirked. "Good work tonight, Darce."
Darcy scoffed indignantly.
"I got wine thrown at me – not the first to be targeted at me in a matter of weeks and from the same woman. Just how was tonight in any way a job well done?"
"Honestly, Darcy, don't you listen at all?"
After Darcy sent his friend a look that demonstrated his total confusion, Charles rolled his eyes and decided to clue in his totally inept friend. Dear God, how did he and Caroline ever date? Charles wondered. And shuddered.
"Darcy, she thinks you're hot, bro."
With a nod of his head, Charles left Darcy standing alone and flabbergasted and…curious.
São Paulo, Brazil
Standing atop of Pico do Jaraguá, Lizzie could hear the electric humming from the multitude of radio towers and satellites of media broadcasting companies. A little out of breath and sweaty from having spent the early morning hiking the highest mountain in São Paulo, Lizzie took a minute to absorb the scenery. The city of São Paolo stretched out below her, its chaotic grid of old and new neighborhoods clashing against one another, the metropolitan skyline covered by faint clouds. Lizzie dug out her Nikon Digital SLR camera from her backpack and began taking aerial views of the city where her current movie script was set.
This "fact finding mission" was considered completely unnecessary by Lizzie's agent, but she was adamant about playing a more significant role in her next film project. Besides, this was to be her downtime between movies and production. The press was completed for Bent Tulips, the film festivals had come and gone, and awards season was not for another couple of months.
Breathing in a lungful of the cool, crisp air on top of São Paulo's highest peak, this was Lizzie's idea of a productive vacation.
So far, Lizzie had walked through several of the city's public parks, spent leisurely days reading and writing at cafes in older neighborhoods that housed university students and small families, strolled through flea markets and stopped to listened to street musicians, hung out at art museums and admired the city's clashing neoclassical and Beaux Arts architecture. Lizzie loved to travel alone, free to explore and do whatever she liked.
But there were moments – such as this one as she soaked in small rays of the rising sun that peaked through the clouds – when she found herself looking at a magnificent painting or accidentally walking down a residential alley with lovely window gardens, that she wished she had a friend or even a lover whom she could ask, "Isn't it beautiful?"
Her only companions were the German tourists who were a part of her hiking group. But they were currently snapping pictures of their own and mostly kept to themselves. Besides, Lizzie only knew danke shoen and vague lyrics to "99 Red Luft Balloons."
Her peaceful respite was broken by a shrill ringing from the pocket of her fleece jacket. She picked up her cell phone to see the Caller ID identify a "Private Number." Curious, and knowing all too well in her line of business that big-shot producers and directors enjoyed their anonymity, Lizzie answered the call.
"Yes, Elizabeth Bennett speaking," Lizzie said, using her professional voice.
"Hello. Ms. Bennett? This is William Darcy."
Well…"Have a phone conversation with William Darcy while on top of a mountain" was certainly not on today's schedule.
"How did you get this number?" Lizzie asked abruptly.
"Ah…well…I hope you don't fault your friend for this, but she took pity on me and –"
"Gertrude," Lizzie narrowed her eyes and mumbled.
"Never mind. So Jane gave you my number, I guess? Is there something that I can help you with?" She could not imagine any scenario in which the All Great and Powerful William Darcy needed anything from her.
"I just…um…I just wanted to apologize again for my actions in Paris. I treated you deplorably and acted in a very ungentlemanly manner. And I deeply regret it."
Acted in a very ungentlemanly…Who talks like that anymore?
"Thank you…I guess. I'm sorry too. For, um, throwing wine at you. That was…inappropriate."
"It was nothing less than I deserved, Ms. Bennett."
"Uh…I know we're not friends or anything. But you can call me Elizabeth…"
"Sooo…did Charles ask you to call or…"
"No. Ah…I am making this call out of my own volition. The reason for my calling, Ms. – er, Elizabeth – was to inquire if you would like to have dinner with me sometime later this week; to make a fresh start between the two of us. I figure, if Jane and Charles are going to be seeing a lot of each other, then we should make peace for their sakes."
Lizzie was currently staring at her phone as if it had grown a unicorn horn and could also dispense rainbow Skittles.
"Elizabeth?" A slightly panicked voice came through the speaker.
"Um. Wow. Well…I have to admit that this was unexpected. Um…thank you for the offer, but I'm not actually in New York right now."
"Sorry…" Lizzie nervously chuckled, not entirely sure what she was apologizing for.
"So I guess…you won't be in New York any time soon?"
"No…I'm actually in São Paulo doing research."
"But, uh, thanks anyways."
"Well…ah…next time you're in New York then."
Hold your horses, buddy. I haven't exactly said yes.
But you want to, a tiny, covert voice surfaced.
Shut up, meddling know-it-all subconscious!
Before Lizzie had a complete psychiatric breakdown in front of some stoic, no-nonsense Germans, she gave Darcy a waffling, middle of the road answer – the coward's way out.
"Yeah…Maybe…I'm not sure when I'll be in New York next, to be honest…"
"Oh...Some other time then. Good luck with your research, Elizabeth. I hope you have a good day," Darcy said hurriedly in one breath, as if he was desperate to remove himself from the awkward situation as quickly as possible.
"Okay. Er, thanks again."
"No need to thank me. It was my pleasure. Or, um, would have been my pleasure."
Meanwhile in Manhattan, Darcy was seconds away from stabbing a fountain pen into his eye for mentioning "his pleasure" to a girl who had just turned down a dinner date with him.
"Er, good-bye, Elizabeth."
What the hell was that?! Lizzie stared at her phone, wondering when the host of the hidden camera show would appear from behind the bushes.
Ten hours, one long car ride into the city, a long nap, and a shower later, Lizzie was sitting on the rooftop deck of her trendy, designer hotel located in the elegant Jardins District of São Paulo. Still bewildered by the strange phone call she received earlier in the day, Lizzie rested her elbow on the back of her chair as she stared off into the sun setting over the city skyline.
She observed the evenly tanned and tall Gisele Bündchen look-alikes in their Brazilian style bikinis "lounging around" in five-inch stilettos by the infinity pool. Men in nice chinos and pastel colored button-ups leisurely carried drinks while talking about the day's stock exchange. No children were in sight at the rooftop bar of decadence. The hotel that Lizzie's "people" booked for her was definitely not a family destination or a representation of everyday Brazilian culture.
"Senhorita," a voice interrupted her thoughts. A waiter appeared at her side with a pink, frou-frou looking drink containing several morsels of fruit on a stick and an umbrella. "Para você. Do cavalheiro," he nodded towards the bar.
Only having a rudimentary understanding of Portuguese, Lizzie's wide eyes and non-response alerted him to try again in English.
"This is for you," he said with an accent. "From the gentleman over there."
"Oh! Obrigado," Lizzie smiled and accepted the drink. She turned and made eye contact with a tall man in a leather jacket and tight, low-slung dark jeans. His trim and toned physique screamed athlete. His playful gaze, crooked nose, scruffy five o' clock shadow, and the gleaming diamond in his ear screamed bad boy athlete.
Now normally, Lizzie jumped at opportunities to make merry with persons of interest such as the Brazilian James Dean before her. Francine Bennett raised no snob, but Lizzie also didn't play footloose and too fancy free with just anyone. If the lusty spark in Playboy Footballer's eyes was any indication of where and how he expected the evening to proceed, Lizzie simply did not consider a stranger in a foreign country the greatest choice for breaking her streak of celibacy. Yes, it had been an extended period of months, bordering on alarming if she thought about it for too long, since Lizzie engaged in certain bedroom activities with another person.
Lizzie warily raised her new drink in the air and nodded, hoping that he would leave her in peace. But no man buys a woman a drink expecting to be ignored. Sure enough, Bejeweled Bad Boy made his way over to her table.
"Olá beldade," he said over her shoulder.
A whiff of strong, musky cologne invaded her senses and Lizzie internally wondered if she could evade him by playing the clueless American card.
"Um, sorry, I don't speak Portuguese."
A silent moment later, the man grinned, showing a mouthful of straight, unnaturally white teeth.
Like a shark, Lizzie thought.
"You are American?"
"I am Breno Silva." He paused and looked at her expectantly.
"Um…nice to meet you, Breno," Lizzie replied, hoping that he wouldn't notice that she withheld her name.
"I play for center for São Paulo FC. Do you follow football?"
"Er, sorry, no."
"Ah. So you have never seen me play on the television?"
Lizzie shrugged awkwardly. As of thirty seconds ago, she hadn't even realized that the city had its own football league.
"I am very good. I have many expert skills, on the field and off the field," he smiled toothily.
Lizzie figured that if she made herself seem extremely dull and completely devoid of any personality, then São Paulo's Most Valuable Cologne Over-enthusiast would eventually get bored and leave. Apparently, Breno the Bear – as he was known by the ladies, he told her – was not perturbed by this.
I knew I shouldn't have worn this dress to dinner, Lizzie reprimanded herself retroactively.
It was yet another dress that Charlotte picked out and Lizzie packed it at the last minute just in case some situation called for it. When she felt the urge to dress up for dinner after a day of slumming it in the mountains, she should have resisted. Now Lizzie was wearing a deep cherry red, jacquard-woven, and sleeveless a-line dress designed by Victoria Beckham. It had a tasteful boat neck, yet totally indecorous hem length that ended, if Lizzie had to guess, somewhere around her uterus. What made her feel sexy and confident in front of her hotel room mirror earlier in the evening now made her the unwanted object of several lecherous male gazes, one of which was currently sitting too close next to her.
Only the former Posh Spice would make a dress like this, Lizzie thought. What is this guy talking about again? Lizzie had tuned out minutes ago. Oh right, tattoos. Of course.
" – my next one is going to be hidden from sight, only a select and lucky few might see it, near my pelv –"
Lizzie mentally cringed, but was saved from discovering Breno's body art aspirations by a sudden and loud whirring noise above her.
Everywhere on the rooftop deck, people's conversations were interrupted as their hair and clothes began to flutter chaotically among the sounds of a helicopter's powerful blades descending on the raised helipad a hundred feet away from them. A city of impressive skyscrapers and even more impressive sights, São Paulo was known for its aerial tours and millionaires who casually travelled via personal helicopters. While it was not an unusual sight for São Paulo natives, it completely captivated Lizzie's attention.
The more she watched the lone pilot land smoothly and expertly, the more anxious she felt – although she could not reasonably say why. As the blades whirled to a stop and the man inside the cockpit spoke into his headset and logged in his landing, Lizzie couldn't help the rapid bouncing of her knee.
Why am I suddenly so antsy?
A warm, biting sensation spread and made its course through her entire body. It made her uncomfortably aware of the scratchy lace of her lingerie and eventually settled low in her abdomen. Lizzie's body recognized that it was at once arousal and completely ridiculous. Because there was no way that she could be turned on by a helicopter.
Admit it to yourself, Lizzie.
Seriously, it's right in front of you.
"Oh my God," she whispered in the middle of the rooftop's quiet observation of the tall, finely suited man stepping onto the helipad's pavement.
What is he doing here…?
How on earth did he…?
Well, he is a mega bajillionaire, apparently. If anyone could pull off a Bruce Wayne and travel half the world in less than a day, it would be William. Fricking. Darcy. William Darcy. Followed me to Brazil. Holy shit.
He was a dominating vision in a navy blue suit – sans tie and windswept hair making him look like the careless playboy billionaire more than ever – magically unwrinkled after sitting for who knows how long while flying a helicopter.
On his own. William Darcy can fly helicopters. Jesus, I'm in so much trouble.
Darcy casually adjusted his cuffs as he scanned the deck, his strong jaw line set in determination belying his relaxed stance. Although his aviators – Not the best time to revisit those fantasies you had in high school of marrying Tom Cruise from Top Gun – hid his deep blue eyes with the dark and lush eyelashes – STAY STRONG, BENNETT – every hopeful woman on the rooftop knew that he was searching for a particular person.
Deciding it was futile to deny the inevitable, Lizzie gladly left Breno's side and started down the path that led to…whatever this was.
Her temptingly short red dress and rich, voluminous mane of dark auburn hair – let down for the first time since he met her in Paris – attracted the internal magnet that Darcy had already developed for Elizabeth Bennett.
His slowly developing smile turned into a full blown grin, dimples and all, once he stood in front of the beautiful young woman with the inquisitive and sparkling eyes. Lost in simply taking in her every movement, Darcy didn't realized that he took several strides towards her until there was barely a foot of space between them in the middle of the rooftop deck, uncaring that dozens of eyes were upon them.
"Mr. Darcy. Welcome to São Paulo," Lizzie smirked, hands on her hips which only drew his gaze to her slim waist, imagining what it would feel like to cover them with his large hands, enshrouded in enticing red. His eyes wandered lower to her bare legs; they were long and toned and would look perfect wrapped around –
"Ahem. Elizabeth, I'm delighted to be here."
He took her hand and bent down to place a chaste kiss on her knuckles. Darcy's sunglasses partially slid down his patrician nose, revealing an intense pair of eyes that peaked up at her. Making eye contact for the first time since, well, their disastrous first meeting, Lizzie could barely contain her breath from catching in a very clichéd damsel-in-distress manner.
"And what, might I ask, brings you here?"
"Dinner," he replied coolly, still holding onto her hand. "Have you eaten, Elizabeth?"
"As a matter of fact, I haven't yet," she smirked again, not knowing how much Darcy wanted to kiss those full pink lips.
"Excellent. Come, I know a place," he said, pulling her towards his helicopter.
Her eyes almost fell out of their sockets.
"We're not going country hopping, are we?"
"Hmmm," was Darcy's non-answer.
All of her practical questions were silenced – where was he taking her? Did she need her passport? How would she get back to her hotel? Did wherever they were headed have a couch or any available flat surface on which they can heavily make out? Helicopters have backseats, right? DAMN IT, STAY STRONG BENNETT – when Darcy looked over his shoulder at her with a lopsided and boyish grin, evidently excited about where he was taking her.
At the moment, Lizzie decided to simply follow where Darcy led.