Never Too Late
By lfleurdelys

Chapter 9

AN: Thank you so much for your reviews. It means the world to me. I am leaving the SM fanfiction realm because it's time to retire after spending so many years here. I've enjoyed every minute of it, but it's time to move on. It's been a pleasure to write this story and truly a miracle that it is completed. I had no expectations to finish this story last month, but I am glad to present the final chapter today! Lastly, thank you for reading!

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Quickening her pace, she slowly exhaled the breath she was holding before she stepped inside the spacious office. Behind the elegant glass desk sat the imposing figure of Kenneth Jones. Yet for the first time, she noticed the hint of a ghost smile forming at the corners of his lips and she wondered if her dear friend was the reason behind the unusual gesture.

"Please take a sit Ms. Wendler."

She nodded instinctively before she fulfilled his request. Smoothing her navy blue skirt with ease, she curiously waited for her superior to begin.

"First, let's discuss your work with Project NY2. Although Ms. McKay and yourself were suppose to headline the project, circumstances arose and you were left with the bulk of the work. I decided that after the rewarding efforts you displayed on your part, you deserve the credit of the design on your own. Ms. McKay will be dutifully mentioned as your assistant in this case."

"Sir, I do believe that such lengths are necessary. Ms. McKay's help was commendable."

"Nevertheless, you showed leadership qualities and your title as head designer on this project is fairly assigned. Now onto my next point," he clearly emphasized as a second wave of protests was arising from his subordinate, "I am pleased to announce that you have been selected to become our new senior associate at the firm."

Shocked by the untimely declaration, she stared at him for a few minutes before regaining her composure. With a heartfelt tone, she responded, "thank you for this generous promotion. But I am afraid that I can only refuse it."

"Excuse me? Did I hear you correctly Ms. Wendler?"

Unwilling to part bitterly with a man she recognized as her mentor for the past couple of years, she exclaimed with newfound determination and a hope for understanding the impossibility of her acceptance and her warm gratitude at the promotion. He nodded at her words before the tentative smile from earlier returned in full display. He shook her hand resolutely to seal his comprehension and his approval at her decision.

"This will be all Ms. Wendler. I only expected the best from you and I am glad that you did not disappoint," he respectfully concluded.

--

A month of daily conversations and emails exchanged did little to appease the enamored couple as their impatient craving for physical presence was growing exponentially as the hands of the clock moved forward in each passing day. Nevertheless, as the cliché went, absence did make the heart fonder and they gradually came to understand the delightful gift of their mutual love and the undeniable knowledge that they were meant to find each other again on a fateful night in New York City. It was with insurmountable relief that she walked past the terminal gate to find the adoring gaze of a handsome man waiting for her with open arms.

"I have missed you so," she cried out as he gently twirled her before a shower of kisses on her expressive features broke her loud exclamation into musical giggles.

"I have been waiting for this day to arrive since your last departure," he whispered before hungrily capturing her lips.

"How I love you Darien!" she fervently replied to his amorous display.

"This is a very exciting day for you," he told her, beaming with pride as he intertwined their fingers in a loving clasp.

"It means the world to me that you will be here to celebrate my success tonight."

"I would never miss it," he softly pronounced as he led her toward the parking lot. The remaining hours were unfortunately spent apart since there was much to accomplish as the nervous flutters in her stomach strongly indicated. He bid her a passionate goodbye after he gallantly left her at his apartment for her personal use while he kept himself busy at the office eagerly waiting for the evening to come.

--

The seductive light of the handcrafted glass wall sconces basked the entrance hall of the newest skyscraper in the New York financial district, openly revealing the grandeur of the exquisite room. Dark window panes shielded the dignified guests of the reception from the impatient flashbulbs of photographers who were attempting to capture a glimpse of the particularly awaited grand opening. A gorgeous petite blonde in a crimson asymmetrical dress slowly snaked in amidst prominent groups and hired waiters toward the contemporary empty ballroom conveniently situated at the very back of the lobby. With a gentle but firm push on the brass door handle, she successfully arrived at her destination and perused the interior with a satisfied nod. Eyeing her silver watch bracelet, she quickly asserted the time and a warm smile spread on her painted lips at the pleasure to be derived from the upcoming event. As if on cue, a deep and strong voice directed the invited crowd to pass through the oak doors for the dinner section of the agenda and accordingly, she moved to the designated table of honor near the decorated stage prepared especially for this stimulating evening.

"Do my eyes deceive me or Serena showed up in time?"

Teasingly scolding at the owner of the biting remark, she turned around and embraced the tuxedo clad figure. "Andrew, we are the guests of honor after all. It would have been inappropriate to arrive fashionably late and I've now realized that I've confided too many childhood stories to your dear wife."

An endearing chuckle escaped her giddy mouth at her own response and discovery before she smacked him playfully on the shoulder and happily greeted the gossip inclined culprit in a stunning tangerine halter dress.

"Where's your boyfriend?" Mina curiously asked her when she noticed the unusual absence of the dark haired man.

The young woman flushed at the possessive term used by her nosy friend and she shook her head, smiling inwardly at the fact that the innocent reference to the handsome man in question still made her heart flutters in undaunted paradise despite the passing weeks. She cleared her throat when her interlocutor cocked a defined eyebrow and she rapidly answered, "he's picking up his sister from the airport first since Raye wasn't able to get an early flight."

"I'm excited to meet your best friend. What a joyous party this is!" she finished in a dreamy tone. Her loving husband affectionately smiled at her before he gallantly pulled her chair.

They soon welcomed an addition to their table in the unmistakable form of her close associate and her intimidating superior. Her arm tenderly rested in the crook of his and she smiled silently at the powerful sight they made with his imposing figure, her striking features, and their tall frames. Lita had confessed weeks ago that they had started dating and that she was over the moon at this recent but anticipated development.

"Ms. Wendler, are you prepared for tonight's announcement?"

"Yes sir," she promptly answered him and he unexpectedly offered her a friendly pat on the back. She silently gasped, astonished at the easy mannerism and concluded intelligently that her friend was the reason behind his awkward attempt at camaraderie. She offered a grin in return and deferred from teasing her in such formal setting.

--

Thirty minutes passed in pleasant conversation before Kenneth Jones stepped on stage in front of the steel podium to begin his duty as presenter for the evening. Andrew and Serena took their respective places behind him and stood proudly before their captive audience. The crystal chandelier lights dimmed accordingly and an understanding silence greeted the first speaker. His authoritative voice carried to the farthest corners of the spacious room as he described the extensive project and its successful results. He was joined during his presentation by the partner in charge of the architecture firm and the two imposing men continued their discussion in good nature with the assistance of the large blue screen on their right. During the lengthy exchange, she patiently listened to their informative commentary while her crystalline blue orbs swept furtively to the closed doors in the back for any sign of a certain brotherly pair. Finally, a couple discreetly approached their assigned table and a dark haired man smiled broadly to declare his awaited presence to her enthusiastic and loving gaze.

A prominent member from the tedious board of directors then took over and introduced the creative team and driving force behind the soaring tower and a quiet round of applauds threw the architect and designer into the limelight. With a discrete and good humored wink to his partner, Andrew slowly turned to the microphone and communicated the expected announcement in a proud and merry tone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the grand opening of the NY2 Tower. It is with great pleasure that the committee has allowed me to share most wonderful news with you tonight. After spending ten years at the prestigious McGladrey Architects firm, I have decided to embark on my own venture with the blessing of my mentors. This evening, I present you New York's newest business partnership, Horton & Wendler LLP, as Ms. Serena Wendler has kindly decided to join me in the creation of a new firm combining our architectural and interior design talents."

Before the crowd erupted in cheers, she stepped forward and concluded wittily, "We can assure you that we will leave our mark on the New York City landscape. Thank you for your attention and future support."

It was only at the end of her lasting remarks that she allowed herself to turn toward the object of her desired attention to liberally gauge his indisputably surprised reaction. He cocked an eyebrow and pretended to be hurt by her secret until a brilliant grin enlightened his handsome facial features once more. She laughed slightly after recovering from the brief shock of his teasing response. The intense expression in his cobalt eyes had left her breathless at first glance while a feeling only described as pure bliss had filled the corners of her soul and warmed her affected heart with intense happiness. She rushed down the small steps into his awaiting arms and he gently planted an ardent kiss on her forehead.

"You never cease to surprise me Serena," he huskily whispered.

"A pleasant surprise I hope," she teasingly replied after shivering in delight from his public embrace.

"Most certainly. I cannot believe that you're moving to New York."

"I can," his teasing sister chimed in, interrupting the lovers' interlude. "Serena told me her secret weeks ago."

"When did you find out?" he asked surprised, yet his newfound joy at the declaration left him little time to be vexed at his own ignorance.

"Why, two months ago of course when Andrew first made the proposal," she mischievously taunted him.

"So before you agreed to become my girlfriend," he answered as he mentally outlined the correct timeline.

"Surely Mr. Hall, you didn't think that I would move to the East Coast just to be with you," she paused as his right brow rose charmingly, "but I do believe you are more than a pleasant bonus to this plan."

"And will you be in need of living arrangements Ms. Wendler?"

She flushed and gasped at his alluring suggestion but waited for further clarification, "what are you suggesting?"

"Move in with me," he told her seriously as he firmly grabbed her trembling hands, his adoring stare never leaving the blue of her own. "You may say this is too soon but I know in my heart that this is right. I love you Serena."

Basked in the tenderness of his feelings and the wild beating of her own heart, she nodded her acceptance silently before he claimed her tender lips in a passionate kiss. "I love you Darien," she finally exclaimed softly as her arms encircled his neck for the second time.

The evening continued in a glamorous fashion, but the two lovers hardly paid attention to the bustle of the party as they exchanged embraces and violently expressed their admiration of the other countless of times on the crowded dance floor. Congratulations were offered and accepted by their overjoyed friends and family. The magical night finally concluded with promises of a rosy future impatiently awaiting them under the vibrant city lights of New York City.

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The End