When they found themselves seated in a quiet room at a table for four, Wilkes spoke hesitantly. "I, er ... I have something I would like to confess ..."
"So do I," Felice said quietly. "But you go ahead, Wilkes ..."
Taking a deep breath, Wilkes blurted out, "Last year, when I was asked when I was going to get married to lend credence to my interest in this charity, I very foolishly decided to just say that I WAS married ... yes, I lied. I really didn't think it would matter to anyone. So I pretended that I was married ... and never thought of that lie again until you phoned the other day."
"Sir Wilkes!" Nanny was horrified. Surely he wasn't confessing NOW that they weren't married! NOW? Oh my LORD!
"I'm sorry, but I just couldn't keep quiet any longer!" Wilkes hung his head. "I hated knowing that my one little lie kept growing and encompassing you and ... and Eloise ... and it wasn't fair to ANY of you. The lie was growing and growing into any number of lies ... well, I just HAD to confess! That night last year, I felt so foolish and so ... well, left out, in a way, not being married when everyone else WAS, and I thought it would be easy enough to say just one little lie ..."
Nanny couldn't look at the other two. She felt her face growing hot, hot, HOT! This must be absolutely the most embarrassing moment of her life! Then she heard a faint chuckle, and looked up to see Felice trying to hide a grin.
"So ... you made up Nanny?" Patrick asked slowly, raising his eyebrows. "A rather ... real ... figment of your imagination, wouldn't you say?"
Nanny frowned slightly. Neither he NOR Felice seemed particularly surprised. And Felice was ... was AMUSED, for Lord's sake!
"Nanny is completely innocent of all duplicity ... it was all me ... all my lies." Wilkes spoke desperately. "If you blame anyone ..."
"Naoww, Sir Wilkes ..." Nanny protested. She had gone along with his lies, had pretended to be a 'Lady', and had very much enjoyed herself ... very much indeed!
"Tosh, tosh, tosh. This is my time to speak," he hushed her, patting her leg gently and leaving his hand there as he looked at the other two across the table. "I ... I was feeling the strain last year ... now I realize it was because I was already half in love with Nanny and didn't even know it."
Nanny stared at him, incredulously. "In LOVE with me? THEN?"
Felice put her hand out. "Shh ... let him speak ... oh, this is so romantic!" She leaned forward eagerly. "Go on, Wilkes!"
"I ... I made the whole thing up, having just danced with Nanny a few nights before ... at the Debutante Ball. I lied about being married ... but now I really WOULD like to marry her! In fact, I can't think of anything I'd rather do!"
Nanny could not believe her ears. He was telling his friends that he wanted to MARRY her? HER?
Felice clapped her hands. "Oh, this is JUST what we hoped would happen!"
Both Wilkes and Nanny turned uncomprehending faces towards her.
"Felice," Patrick said, putting his hand over hers, "I think you had better explain ..."
Making a face, Felice began HER confession. "We knew you had lied right from the very beginning. Well, actually, we just SUSPECTED at the beginning because, Wilkes, I'm sorry but you are a very poor liar! We KNEW shortly afterwards that you had lied about being married and to a woman named Nanny, because we met our very good friend in Paris two weeks later."
"Friend? Paris?" Wilkes asked weakly, still trying to process the fact that the Fitzgeralds had known all along that he was not married.
"Yes ... Kay Thompson."
"Wh ... KAY?" Nanny was floored by this revelation. "You know KAY?"
"Yes. She told us that you were most definitely not married ... not as far as SHE could tell, or from anything her daughter ever said to her."
"You knew we weren't married?" Wilkes asked, needing to hear it said yet again. "You KNEW? How ... remarkable."
"I just wanted you to be married so much that, when Kay agreed that Nanny would be an ideal wife for you, I put tonight into motion ... a suite for the two of you and everything!" Felice said with a naughty grin.
Nanny blushed deeply and couldn't think of a thing to say. She snatched at her water glass and buried her head in it.
"I'm sorry, Nanny," Felice apologized at the same time as her husband said, "Nanny, pay no attention to Felice! That is something that is none of her business!"
"But you know, Nanny and Wilkes," Felice added impishly, sticking her tongue out at her husband, "you COULD stay in the suite for a few nights ... for your honeymoon!"
"But we're not, not, not married!" Nanny stammered.
"That can easily be remedied! This is New York City! Anything can happen here!" Patrick informed her.
"Surely not getting married in the space of a few hours!" Wilkes protested.
"If you know the right people ... and we do ... it can be done." Felice smiled.
"Nanny?" Wilkes turned to her, a pleading look on his face. "It would solve a lot of problems, if we just married quietly tonight ..."
It was as if Nanny and Wilkes were the only two in the room. Felice and Patrick didn't move a muscle. "That's CRAZY!" Nanny gasped. "I ... I can't ..."
Wilkes' face fell. "I'm sorry, Nanny." He hung his head, then muttered, "It ... it's understandable, although highly regrettable. I suppose in a way you could say that with these lies, I was deceiving YOU as well as the Fitzgeralds."
Confusion swept over Nanny. "Deceiving me?" she asked, blankly.
"Yes." He looked a little uncomfortable. "I ... I had been wondering the best way to, well, REALLY get to know you, you know? I know we've seen each other for years, but we really haven't spoken much until this last year. And, well ... I ... I have grown very fond of you. I admire you. I ... I do believe I ... love you." His voice dropped to almost a whisper.
Nanny blinked. "LOVE? Sir Wilkes ..."
Then Wilkes flushed himself. "I know it would only solve MY problems ... and they are problems that have arisen mainly because of my own inability to tell the truth and to be ... assertive. But you know, Nanny, I DO love you ... and I DO want to marry you ..." He picked up her left hand and looked at the rings still firmly on her finger. "These rings look good on you, but I will get you any ring you want, if you'll just say you'll marry me ..."
"But ... but ... ELOISE!" Nanny was grasping at straws. Despite Wilkes' protestations of love, she wasn't sure he really DID want to marry her. How could he POSSIBLY want to tie himself to HER, for Lord's sake? He was a KNIGHT!
Now that Nanny almost looked to be weakening, Felice ignored her husband's restraining hand and leaned forward again. "Kay knows I'm pushing for you two to be married. She's in on the plan, Nanny. She picked out your ballgown for tonight as your wedding dress ... the lingerie as your trousseau!" Felice grinned. "Just say the word, and Patrick will have a minister here tonight and you two will be legally married within the hour without anyone at the gala knowing a thing!" She paused for a moment, then added, "Just THINK of the putdowns you can give Leota Daniels THEN, Nanny!"
Wilkes and Patrick looked a little puzzled, then Wilkes shrugged it off for more important matters. He held both of Nanny's hands in his, and looked pleadingly at her. "Please, Nanny? Will you marry me? Tonight?"
"Aoww, I don't know ..." Nanny continued to hesitate.
Patrick stood up and cleared his throat. "Come, Felice ... let's give them a few minutes ... for Wilkes to persuade Nanny that it's the right thing to do. Wilkes, old man, I'm going to speak to the manager. I've already got a minister on call, so he can be here in less than half an hour, with the paperwork that needs to be done. Ten minutes, Wilkes, then we'll be back."
Open-mouthed, Nanny watched as the Fitzgeralds swept out of the room. Then Wilkes, who had stood when Felice had risen, took Nanny's hands in his again and drew her up out of her chair. Her entire body prickled with awareness.
He studied her for a moment before saying softly, "You know, I simply cannot decide whether your eyes are more beautiful when they are dancing like the sun on the sea, or when they resemble bluebells bathed in morning dew ..."
Nanny couldn't move or speak. He drew her closer and kissed her, and she tasted passion and tenderness and desperation. She closed her eyes and kissed him back with all her heart. Then she drew back, pressing her hands to his shoulders, saying, "No more."
"Why not?" Wilkes' breathing was erratic. "We're alone ... please, Nan ... marry me."
"I cannot bear it, Sir Wilkes. I ... I know you started this ... THIS ..." and she waved at herself and the room in general "as a little white lie, but it has grown too, too, too much. And I fear that if we ... continue ... I can never go back to who I was before I agreed to help you. Here, take your mother's ring before I lose it ..." She tried to wrench the rings off her hand, but her fingers were slightly swollen, and her mother's engagement ring would not budge or slide over the first knuckle. His mother's wedding ring remained firmly in place on her finger.
"Nanny, don't worry about the ring ... not tonight ..." He put his hands over hers, then leaned closer and kissed her again. "With every moment, my desire for you is growing. Yes, Nanny, I do believe it IS love!"
She put her hands up to his chest to prevent him from drawing her too close. "Sir Wilkes! We - we shouldn't confuse love and passion or ... or lust."
"They are different things?" he asked, arching his eyebrows.
"They can be ..."
"But they are not mutually exclusive?"
"Of course not!"
"Good ..." and his mouth covered hers again. "I love you, Nanny, ever so much! Marry me ..." he murmured as he kissed along her jawline. "Marry me ..." and he kissed behind her ear. "Marry me ..." His kisses feathered across her cheeks.
She did not want to be forced into a marriage that she was quite, quite, QUITE certain Wilkes would regret very quickly, but she had not counted on Wilkes using her love for him against her. Hearing him say he loved HER to distraction almost broke her resolve to be firm and noble and self-sacrificing ... for a sacrifice it would be if she were to continue to refuse his offer of marriage. She was being tempted almost beyond endurance! "Sir Wilkes!" she gasped again. "Please, stop, Sir Wilkes! You're a knight ... you're much too far above my station ... much, much, much ..."
"Nonsense!" he said briskly. "You'll marry me?" He kissed her.
Nanny kissed him back, unable to help herself, then turned her head away regretfully. "I can't ... It's not right!" she insisted faintly.
"Nanny, you MUST marry me! I can't live without you! I'll ... I'll continue asking ... and begging ... and persuading ..." His words were punctuated with frantic kisses. "And ... the Fitzgeralds ... will be ... coming back in ...a few minutes ..."
"Oh my Lord!" Nanny couldn't resist him any longer. Her lips met his and she kissed him back with all the love in her heart; with all the yearning and dreaming and heartache and acceptance she was feeling.
"This is love," he murmured, softly stroking her neck and shoulders while feathering kisses on her lips. "This is passion ..." and he deepened the kiss, making her head spin. "And THIS is lust!" he finished, sliding his hands to her buttocks and holding her firmly so that she could feel his hard body pressing insistently against her softness. "But this ... this is all three ..." His mouth clamped possessively, tenderly and fiercely over hers.
Melting, Nanny found that in a heartbeat most of her doubts and fears dissolved. Under the heat of his hunger, his ravenous, driving need, all her resolutions about keeping him at arm's length evaporated. She wanted him. She NEEDED him! She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him wildly, thrilling in anticipation of what she had already decided.
O o O o O o
The speed with which their very small wedding took place left Nanny speechless. As Patrick had said, having money and connections made all the difference in the world. When it came time for Wilkes to put the ring on Nanny's finger, she remembered that she hadn't taken his mother's ring OFF ... it was still behind her own mother's which would not come off no matter how much she twisted it. Wilkes even tried himself to ease the ring off, then he gave up and simply held her hand as if he had just placed the ring there that moment.
The minister did not seem to notice, but solemnly intoned, "I now pronounce you man and wife."
As Nanny turned from Wilkes' kiss to be enfolded in Felice's tearful but laughing embrace, she could hardly believe how her life had changed so much in the space of only a few minutes. Then the older minister was gravely shaking her hand and wishing her a happy life together with her new husband, and he left the room.
"So," Patrick rubbed his hands together. "THAT'S taken care of! Now, shall we go back to the gala and dance some more? And maybe see if Leota Daniels can be goaded any further?"
"Er, perhaps we'll just leave you to it, old man," Wilkes clapped him on the back. "We have other things on our mind now, actually ... being newlyweds and all ..."
Nanny flushed brilliantly, protesting, "WILKES!"
"I barely remember the time ..." Patrick's voice was doleful, but his eyes were twinkling. "See you both in the morning. Ten o'clock sharp. Good night, Nanny. Pleasant ... dreams. You, too, Wilkes." He saluted them and putting his arm around Felice, guided her out the door.
"Do you wish to ...?" Nanny began.
"Retire to our room? Brilliant! Shall we?" Wilkes grinned.
Nanny allowed herself to be shepherded out. Wilkes took the coats when the valet handed them over, and carried them as he escorted Nanny to the elevators. On the way up, Nanny eyed him carefully, trying to figure out if he really HAD just married her, or if this was just a wild dream. His hand squeezed hers where he had pulled it through his arm, and she smiled tremulously at him when he mouthed, "I love you."
Nodding to the elevator operator who wished them a good evening when they got off at their floor, they found their room and Sir Wilkes unlocked it and ushered Nanny in. She looked around the suite as Sir Wilkes took her coat and hung it up with his. "My stars, stars, stars, this is absolutely divine," she said, a little nervous now that they were alone.
Wilkes didn't seem nervous at all. He took her in his arms and proceeded to kiss her until all her nerves had fled. Then he said gently, "Come, my love ..." and drew her into one of the bedrooms where the bed had been turned down.
In silence broken only by heavy breathing, they continued to kiss and touch and explore as they unbuttoned and discarded clothes. Nanny saw how he was looking at her, and suddenly nothing else mattered. She felt beautiful ... and she felt powerful. It was heaven. It was torment. Nanny was boneless with pleasure and rigid with anticipation as she collapsed back onto the bed, pulling him with her.
They both laughed a little when she muttered, "And I thought you wouldn't SEE this underwear!" and Wilkes carefully worked at unclasping the garters to roll down her stockings, smoothing his hands down her legs and back up to unhook the girdle.
"It's beautiful ... you're beautiful ... and I won't tell Eloise if you don't ..." he murmured.
The exquisite tension continued to build impossibly higher. In moments, Nanny felt as if she was flying, vaguely hearing cries of completion and not even realizing they were coming from her. Then they both shattered into oblivion.
"Nan?" Wilkes' voice penetrated her daze, and she dragged open her eyes to see him leaning over her, a faintly worried look on his face. "Are you all right?"
"Oh ... my ... Lord ... yes ..." Nanny managed to say.
A tremulous smile crossed his face. "So I didn't hurt you?" He eased from her and rolled onto his back, drawing her into the crook of his arm with her cheek pillowed on his shoulder. There were no words. What could they say? They both lay in the darkness, staring at nothing, listening to the even and steady beat of each other's heart. Yes, they loved each other. Was it enough? Suddenly nervous once more, Nanny wasn't sure.
Wilkes was convinced that none of this would have happened had he not lied to the Fitzgeralds. His arms tightened imperceptibly around the woman he adored. He would love her for the rest of their days. He suddenly thought of the other room in the suite registered to the two of them separately. He wondered if the bedclothes had been turned down and wondered if the maids (who knew everything and were more than likely inclined to tell everything they either knew or guessed!) would notice that it had not been occupied as had been originally expected. Perhaps they should move over there next. He smiled and nuzzled Nanny's hair.
"Hmmm?" she managed to respond, fearful that he was going to admit that he had made a horrible mistake by marrying her.
"Want to try another bed?" he whispered. "Perhaps ... with a scarf?" he added daringly. The sweetness of Nanny's love had given him increased boldness.
He clutched her worriedly as her body began to tremble almost uncontrollably ... then realized she was laughing.
O o O o O o
They met the Fitzgeralds for breakfast the next morning, Nanny looking neat and impeccably dressed in her old blue knit cardigan, royal blue skirt and a pale blue blouse, with the same Hermès scarf that she had gotten from Kay for Christmas. Wilkes, admiring her, remembered the fluidity of her body in his arms, and the heights to which her hands had driven him ... and he blushed at his thoughts.
"Good morning, Nanny! Wilkes!" Felice waved them over to the table she and Patrick were sharing. "How did you sleep last night?" Her bright eyes darted from one to the other inquisitively.
"Fine, fine, fine," Nanny murmured, a faint smile on her face. Well, she HAD had a fine sleep ... short, but fine!
"FELICE!" Patrick scolded his wife.
Felice grinned unrepentantly. Nanny returned her grin. Had it not been for the Fitzgeralds, last night might have remained an unreachable dream!
O o O o O o
Later that morning, as Nanny and Wilkes walked back into the lobby of the Plaza, Wilkes courteously touched his bowler, then said, "If you will excuse me, Nanny ... I must speak with Mr. Salomone. I'll meet you upstairs, shall I? We still need to talk to Kay and Eloise ..."
"I'll just go on up to ... my room," Nanny said faintly, noticing that both Miss Thompson and Mr. Salomone were staring at them with open mouths.
"We'll ... err ... talk upstairs," Wilkes said, holding Nanny's gaze.
She nodded. Holding her head high, Nanny walked across to the elevator. Just before Max closed the doors, Mrs. Daniels appeared out of nowhere and stepped right up to Nanny. "You may THINK you have snared him," she hissed, "but I KNOW that he couldn't possibly be happy very long married to the likes of YOU! You! Why, you're not even remotely connected to the best people! Why should such a highborn gentleman as Sir Wilkes be tied to a woman like YOU? YOU, openly spending the night with him, then sauntering home the next morning as if nothing was amiss! Outrageous! I tell you, I cannot and will not believe that he ..."
Nanny was so staggered by the venom in the words Mrs. Daniels continued to spit out in an undertone that she could say nothing in her own defence. Besides, part of her was still insisting that it was true ... Sir Wilkes WAS above her station! She barely noticed that Max, at the controls of the elevator, was frowning. At the eighth floor, he edged Mrs. Daniels out of the elevator, and pressed the button to close the door even before Mrs. Daniels was finished giving her speech.
Then he turned to Nanny, obviously having overheard what Mrs. Daniels had been saying. "Pay no heed to her, Nanny ... she's always been a shrew!" he advised her.
Shaken, Nanny tried to smile back. "Thank you, Max."
"For what it's worth, I never saw Sir Wilkes look at ANYONE the way he looks at you. I think it's real love."
"Aoww, I ..."
"And no one here pays any attention to her much, you know. She tells some pretty wild stories! You just can't believe a word of them! Mark my words ... Sir Wilkes loves you, Nanny! Personally I think you two are very well suited! So if she was right in saying that the two of you are married, I say more power to you!"
"We ... ARE married ..." Nanny murmured, nervously twisting the rings on her left hand.
Max grinned broadly. "I HOPED that was true!" He opened the door at the sixteenth floor, and Nanny got off, her legs a little wobbly. "Frederic will be up in a minute with your bags."
"Thank you, Max." Nanny stood for a moment in the hallway after the elevator had gone, more than a little worried about what to say when she saw Kay again, now that she knew Kay had been privy to all that had happened between Wilkes and the Fitzgeralds. At last she forced herself to walk over to the door and ring the buzzer.
Eloise was so excited to see her, "and you're EARLY, Nanny! Maman said you wouldn't be back for a while ... maybe even DAYS!"
Nanny's head came up and she stared at Kay who had the grace to blush a little. Eloise continued to prattle, and Nanny, who had bent down to hug the little girl, got up slowly, her thoughts racing. She wasn't sure what she was going to say to Kay ...
Before she expected it, Wilkes' knock came on the door. Eloise let him in, dancing excitedly around him, too. He was holding Nanny's overnight bag. "Frederic just brought them up," he said. "I took the liberty of bringing yours in here, but ..."
"Well, you two?" Kay suddenly said. "I think I've waited long enough! Did Felice's plan work?"
"Not completely," Nanny said after a pause when she and Wilkes looked at each other questioningly. Suddenly she wanted to make Kay suffer with curiosity just a little bit longer ... as payment for all she had been put through the last couple of days.
"What do you mean, not completely?" Kay asked.
"WHAT PLAN?" Eloise cried shrilly. "I absolutely HATE not knowing what's going on, and I want to KNOW!"
"You do know, pet ... the plan to have Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald think Sir Wilkes and I are married." Nanny tried to smile at her.
"Oh. That plan." Eloise nodded, satisfied.
"Why not completely?" Kay asked again, sounding almost like her daughter as she repeated herself.
"*I* think that if you want to fix things," Eloise said nonchalantly, "then you just have to get married quietly today! Then you won't HAVE to explain anything, cause everyone thinks you're married anyway!"
"Magnificent solution!" Wilkes praised the child. Then he turned to Nanny hopefully, "... don't you think?"
"Oh, HONESTLY!" Nanny shook her head.
They argued a few more minutes, then suddenly Kay said, "Nanny? Wilkes? Might I suggest that you go to Wilkes' suite and finish settling this matter? After all, Nanny, you're still on your time off!"
"But I want to hear it!" wailed Eloise.
That was the deciding point for Nanny. She agreed instantly to go with Wilkes to his suite, the two of them sharing a secret look of anticipation and delight. They would tell Kay and Eloise the truth later ... or Felice would!
"Do you really love me, Nan?" Wilkes asked a while later, as they lay together in the privacy of his suite.
"Willy, you know, know, KNOW that I do!" She spoke reproachfully even as she gazed at him in mute adoration.
"And ... I didn't force you into this because of my silly lie?"
"No, no, no ..."
"You really love me?" he repeated, needing the assurance more than he had thought he would, but still feeling deliciously sated by what he KNEW was her love washing over him.
His hands began to roam again and Nanny caught her breath. Surely he wouldn't ... he couldn't ... oh, KNICKERS! It was still the middle of the day, for Lord's sake! Nanny tried to concentrate on her words but the delight was beginning to overwhelm her once more. Panting between kisses, she managed to repeat, "Wilkes ... I love you ... but ... look at me ... I just didn't believe ... you could love ME! ... You're a knight, for Lord's sake ... you're much too far above my station ... much, much, much ... I'm BENEATH you, Willy ..."
Putting his hands under her buttocks, he suddenly rolled so that she was on top of him. She let out a little scream, and clutched at him. "There now, Nanny, you are not beneath me..." Wilkes kissed her, then added, "It is I who is beneath you, literally!"
Her eyes widened, then she smiled tentatively.
Wilkes gently ran his fingers down her cheek. "NOW you must agree that we are on an equal footing, right, my love? You are NOT beneath me!"
"Aoww, Willy ..."
The rest of her words were lost as he began to kiss her again. Yes ... perhaps she would agree ...