If you only knew
Author's note: Part of the ideas in chapter one come from "Finding Paradise" by Michelle Ashman Bell and of course Jane Austen.
The seagulls flew overhead the ocean lapping on the shore and the salty breeze making the day on the beach perfect. The voices of the nearby volleyball game drifted over, but not enough to ruin the scene. With her sketchbook and towel Elle looked out over the clear blue ocean. Most of her friends, including her sister, were off somewhere, probably at that volleyball game. Elle didn't care she was enjoying the peace and beauty. She knew that it was her spring break and they were at a beautiful beach she should be out socializing, having an adventure. Normally she would be the life of the party but she was enjoying the rare moment of peace and beauty alone with her sketch book.
Days before she was in a hectic state her mother getting on her case about graduation, there shouldn't have been an issue, but her mother has an issue with everything Elle does or doesn't do. Elle wasn't sure how much more of her mother's nagging she could take. Good thing in a few months she'll be graduated and living across the country in New York. What a good day that will be, Elle thought.
Lost in thought Elle hadn't noticed the volleyball rolling next to her. Grabbing the volleyball she looked up and saw dark curls falling down over the bluest eyes she had ever seen. She admired the smile that lit up his face, his bronze skin and couldn't help smiling back. "I'm guessing this belongs to you," Elle said holding out the ball to him.
"Thanks," he said, "Do you want to join us?"
"No thanks, I'm enjoying my solitude for the time being."
"What brings you to paradise if you're just going to sit alone?"
"What would paradise be if you didn't do exactly what you wanted when you wanted?"
"Good point. I should take a page from your book sometime. I feel too obligated to those around me to do exactly what I wanted and have too much of a tight schedule to do things when I want to do them."
"What kind of schedule could you have in paradise?"
"Hey Will! You got that ball?" Someone from the game called out.
"Sorry, I've got to go. It was nice to meet you," Will said.
Elle smiled, turned back to her sketchbook, but not before watching the lean figure of the very attractive Will jog back to his game. That was interesting, Elle thought.
Later that day Elle met up with Jane and her group of friends. "What have you been up to all day?" Jane asked Elle. "Not much, enjoying the beach with my sketchbook," Elle replied. "What about you?"
"We met up with a group of models and we went snorkeling. It was so much fun, one of those adventures that you usually initiate."
"I enjoyed my day; it is so rare that I get a day with no obligations where I can just enjoy time alone in paradise."
"Yeah, but paradise is supposed to be shared otherwise it wouldn't be paradise."
"That depends on your perspective."
"True enough, I guess. We need to get ready; we're supposed to meet everyone for dinner in an hour."
While Jane showered Elle looked through her sketches. Several were of the ocean and the seagulls. Some were of couples enjoying the beach; she even got one of a paraglider. Then she noticed that she had sketched that guy from the volleyball game, Will, she thinks that's what he was called. He was gorgeous. She had only seen guys who look like that in magazines, with their perfectly sculpted bodies and chiseled jaw line. That smile and those eyes were sparkling like she had never seen before. Someone like him would never go for someone like her. Yeah, she was often the life of the party and she had many friends but in all reality she was not as pretty as her sister. She had her brown hair and green eyes; she was in shape from playing on her high school sports teams. But she wasn't model beautiful like Jane. Jane's sweet disposition and stunning looks it was definitely believable that she would be seen on the arm of someone like Will.
No matter, Elle was happy with who she was and had direction. She had been accepted to New York University where she planned to go in the fall. She was going to receive a full ride scholarship for her art and academics. She just needed to get through the next few months before graduation. This spring break trip was a much needed vacation, not only from the stress of school, but from her mother. Her mother, Francis Bennett loved to nag her least favorite daughter. Nothing Elle did was ever good enough, she wasn't pretty enough, or smart enough. When Elle found out she was to receive a full ride scholarship to one of the best schools in the world, all Francis could say to her daughter was that it wasn't an Ivy League school. Giving up on ever trying to please her mother, she has become more at ease with herself.
For now she was in paradise and Elle was determined to do exactly what she wanted when she wanted. except for fulfilling her obligations to her sister. That meant going out to dinner and dancing with her and the group. At least they had a fun group of people to hag with while here, even if they were the mindless drones from her school who thought they were cool. At eighteen, Elle felt she was more than ready to move on from high school and all of the people that went a long with that.
Jane came out of the bathroom wearing a beautiful white cotton dress with colorfully embroidered flowers. Her green eyes sparkling and blond hair flowing down her back she looked like a vision. Elle wanted to sketch her so that she could capture the beauty, but she knew there wasn't enough time, so she grabbed her camera instead. When there wouldn't be enough time for a pencil, a camera is the next best tool in her artistic tool belt.
"Stop that. You know how I hate it when you get lost behind that thing. Besides, you've got to get ready. Everyone will be waiting for us," Jane said.
"Alright, alright. I'm going," Elle replied.
Elle came out of the bathroom twenty minutes later ready to go. She was wearing a colorful cotton dress that brought out the green of her eyes.
"Wow, Elle, you look beautiful," Jane exclaimed.
"Nothing compared to you," Elle replied. "Where are we meeting everyone?"
"We're meeting at the hotel restaurant," Jane said.
When they walked into the restaurant the party had already started. The music was pumping and the tables on the edges of the dance floor were filled with people laughing and talking. The atmosphere was high spirited and just plain fun. Elle was drawn to the familiar beat of the music and couldn't resist the pull of the music. She was on the dance floor before she knew what happened. One of the simple pleasures in life for Elle was dancing. Her body just moved to the beat and it looked good. Elle was so natural on the dance floor that people just made space for her to just go. She became lost in the music and was oblivious to the world around her. She was unaware of the eyes that fell upon her as she moved, especially a pair of eyes as blue as the ocean.
"Who is that?" Will asked his friends.
"I'm not sure, but I'd like to get a piece of that," George replied. Will responded by punching him in the arm, "Have some respect."
"I would, but look at her."
Will was definitely looking; he had been entranced by her earlier that day when he first saw her on the beach lost in her own world. As she appeared now lost in her own world. Will couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be a part of her world. "Just lay off," Will said forcefully. "Oh, I see how it is. The mighty Will Darcy has finally set his sights on a girl. It's about time. I mean especially after all of the girls who throw themselves at you," George said. "They don't throw themselves at me; they throw themselves at who they want me to be. They see a pretty picture and create a fantasy that doesn't exist," Will said. "Not a bad life, fulfilling women's fantasies," George said. "Yeah, but I want something real," Will replied. "Now speaking of reality and fantasy, where did Charlie disappear?" George cleared his throat and pointed across the dance floor to the most stunning blond that they have seen, and that is saying a lot for them, they see and work with models every day. "Here we go again," Will said while George smirked.
Realizing she had done it again, Elle left the dance floor in search of Jane and the rest of their group. She found the group sharing a joke and laughing over their drinks.
"Isn't it great here? The drinking age is only eighteen," one of the guys said. Elle just rolled her eyes; Of course they would need to drink to have a good time.
"Has anyone seen Jane?" Elle asked.
A couple of the girls giggled and pointed across to the bar. Jane was standing there with a very attractive blond. He was tall and appeared to be well built with a friendly smile. Well, good for you Jane, Elle thought. Smiling Elle grabbed the menu and took a seat at the next table. She was starving; she wasn't sure what it was about being at the beach that made her so hungry. Good thing this is an all-inclusive resort, Elle thought as she looked at the menu. The server came and took her order with raised eyebrows, she just smiled and shrugged.
Looking at Jane and her admirer made her smile some more. Jane was so sweet and beautiful; she had no idea the pull she has on men. Elle was brought out of her revere when another server set down a colorful drink with an umbrella in front of her. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't order this," She said to the server.
"I know he did," the server said, pointing the bronzed Adonis she met earlier. He as smiling and waving, but all she could do was stare. When she brought herself back to reality she told the server thank you and asked if the drink contained alcohol. When he said that it did she apologized and asked if she could get a virgin instead. The server chuckled and told her it would only be a moment. When Elle looked up and met the questioning look in his blue eyes all she could do was shrug. He replied with what appeared to be a laugh and his laughing friend punched him in the shoulder. Elle smiled repressing laughter at the look on his face when the server brought the drink back to her.
Will saw her smiling eyes and knew he was trapped. Although he was only twenty-one and had only spoken with her briefly he knew he had to have her. When the drink she sent away came back a few minutes later he had to know. As he made his way across the dance floor and weaved through the tables he knew how many looks he was getting. He always got looks, especially from women. He didn't know if it was because of how he looked then or if it was for how he looked in the magazines or ad campaigns. It was one of the many things that came with being a model. One of the biggest benefits in his mind was the confidence it gave him.
Will who became orphaned at eighteen when his parents died in a car crash four years ago became responsible for his ten year old sister. He never saw himself as others did; he was just trying to find a way to provide for his sister. He didn't want to use up all of the life insurance money for daily needs, but wanted to make sure she would be able to pay for college. He was thinking of her future, so when the opportunity came for him to make enough money to pay provide for his sister right out of high school he jumped on it. Modeling came naturally to Will, it wasn't something that he desired to do, but it was what he needed to do. For some reason companies wanted him for ad campaigns and magazines wanted his picture. Somehow in the last four years he became one of the most sought after models in the industry.
Will always wanted to go to college, but was too busy traveling to attend classes on a regular basis, so he settled for online classes. He was done with his bachelor degree, but he didn't know what he would do with a business degree. Will just figured it would be useful to learn how to handle the money he was making. He was smart with his money and made some good investments, but it wasn't what he wanted to do.
When he reached her table, Elle's heart was beating so fast she was sure that her heart would bust out of her chest. "Hi, I'm Will," he said with a smile. Elle took this line to be so straight forward and so cocky sounding that it made her laugh washing away all of her nerves. Will's face scrunched up in confusion that made Elle laugh even more.
"What's so funny?" Will asked in complete confusion.
"Nothing," Elle replied when she gained control of herself.
"It was obviously something," Will said, not used to this kind of reaction from a woman.
"Really it's nothing. I've just never had someone with so much…a…confidence come up to me and introduce themselves like that," she answered.
Not sure how to reply, Will sat down next to her and asked, "What would you have preferred? Believe it or not I don't do this much."
Surprised Elle raised her eyebrows, "You mean to tell me that you don't normally send an alcoholic drink to a girl you don't know then introduce yourself like she should be pleased to speak with you? Somehow I find that hard to believe."
"It's true, completely true."
"Uh-huh," Elle looked at him skeptically.
Will chuckled, "Really, women normally send me the drinks and then come up and introduce themselves to me. Somehow I didn't think you were going to do that and I really wanted to meet you."
Elle was saved from replying when the server brought her food out to her.
"Whoa, is someone going to join you or were you just playing it safe because you were hoping I would?" Will asked with a cheesy grin that it made Elle laugh.
"Actually this was all for me, so if you want something you better tell the server before he leaves or you can order when he brings my dinner."
Will wondered how she was going to eat all of the food that was laid out in front of her. She had hot wings, nachos, cheese sticks, and jalapeño poppers. He was guess from what she said that this was just her appetizers.
"How can you eat all of that?" He wondered aloud.
"Easy, I have a fast metabolism that comes with playing sports."
Elle took pity on him and let him share her food and even some of her dinner, but she made him get his own desert. They laughed and talked about the food, the area, and some of the sights. When they were done eating Will asked if she wanted to dance, but as much as Elle loves to dance she didn't think she could do it after that big of a meal and told him so.
"How about a walk on the beach then?" suggested Will.
"Do you even know my name?" Elle asked.
After spending almost an hour in her company he realized that every time he tried to get her name they got distracted. Sheepishly he looked at her and made her laugh. She stood up and started walking towards the beach entrance. It took him a minute to realize what she as doing and followed her. When he caught up to her she started laughing again.
"You really enjoy laughing don't you?" He asked.
"Laughing is one of life's many pleasures, not to mention the calories you burn," she replied.
As they walked and talked, Elle became fascinated by Will. His career fascinated her, not for the modeling aspect, but for the photography. She was secretly interested in fashion photography. He talked about the companies he worked for and all of the places he's traveled. It seemed like he had so much life experience, but he wasn't much older than her and she decided she was going to make the most out of her life.
For Will he was fascinated by her plans for college, he had always wanted that experience and new that he missed out on that particular life experience. He felt happier just being around her, he never knew anyone to laugh and enjoy life as much as her. Will was trying to understand the enigma that was this beautiful woman. He knew that she was a few years younger than him, but she seemed so smart and so on top of things. Like she knew exactly who she was and what she wanted to do. He wanted to be more like her, he decided.
As he walked her back, they discovered that they were staying at the same hotel. Will asked if she wanted to get together the next day after his shoot, then he realized that he wanted to be around her more and asked if she would be interested in going to his photo shoot. She was surprised and hesitantly accepted. She was fascinated with how these photo shoots come together. He walked her to her room and wanted to give her a good night kiss so badly, but then remembered that he still didn't know her name. She looked up at the bronzed beautiful face and into the blue eyes before her and wanted all of the same things. Elle smiled and said thank you for a lovely evening and that she would see him the following morning. As she slipped inside of her hotel room she said to him, "Elizabeth, but my friends call me Elle." She could hear his baritone laughter as she shut the door.
That night she dreamed of sparkling blue eyes, a blinding smile and when she woke up she couldn't remember the last time she slept so well. She got up early and dressed for her morning run. Just because she was on vacation was no reason to slack off one of her favorite activities. Besides, she couldn't miss out on the opportunity to run with such beautiful scenery.
As she ran down the beach and the waves lapping at her feet she thought about the night before. Jane came home after she was in bed and wondered what she had been doing. Then her thoughts would betray her and she would think about her time with Will. He told her about having to raise his little sister with the help of his aunt and uncle. That is where she was right now, whenever he had to travel to go on a shoot or to a show she would stay with his aunt and uncle. He talked about how much she had grown and how glad he was to have his aunt around especially in recent years. His sister, Georgia, as he called her, was almost fourteen and he was worried what he was going to do now that she was becoming a teenager. He loved what he did because it was easy and he made good money so that he could support them, but he was tired of traveling.
Spending a good chunk of the year away on photo shoots was getting hard for him and their relationship. He wanted to be there more; he missed her last recital and was really disappointed. He wanted to be there for that stuff especially because his parents couldn't be. Although he was able to get a bachelor's degree from an online university, he wasn't sure what he could do to stay closer to home and still make the kind of money he was making now. Elle couldn't help but admire the man. She just hoped that she would be able to be like that someday.
What Elle didn't realize was at that moment Will was thinking the same thing about her. He was out early for his morning run before he had to get to work and his thoughts kept drifting to last night. He never knew he could laugh so much and enjoy the company of a woman that much. They talked about so many different things even his sister and he never talked about Georgia to anyone, especially women. Something about Elle, Elizabeth, that made him feel at ease. She was beautiful, smart, funny, talented, and she could make him laugh. With such a thirst for life that he found infectious, he was determined to be more like her. He knew he was on dangerous ground but he didn't care. He wanted her. He wanted her like he had never wanted anyone before. What Will Darcy wanted he got.