A knock on her office door brought her attention away from the list in her hand.
"What's up Charlie?" she asked as her boss, slash brother in law, stepped inside.
"Just wanted to make sure everything is ready for tonight," he replied.
"It's all in order Charlie" she smirked,
"Great, well, I'm heading out now to pick up Darcy," Lizzie groaned, and Charlie gave her a sympathetic smile and her head came to rest on the desk
"I feel awful," she cried.
"Aw, Liz, it's not your fault, don't worry about it," Charlie consoled her with a grin.
"Just, make sure you apologise for me okay?"
"I will, see you tonight Lizzie," he smiled jovially and left her office, heading towards the elevator bank.
Will was coming back from New York today. He'd had to fly out unexpectedly two weeks ago, leaving the final preparation for this years, Casino Royale themed benefit, all in Lizzie's hands. At first they had all laughed about how reminiscent this was all turning out to be of last year's benefit, when Will had been in Derbyshire, but in this case, he wasn't back a day early to double check her work. Although, he'd since admitted that all of that had really only been a ploy to get some alone time with her, and he really did believe she was capable of planning the benefit alone. He'd also had to remind her of that several times on the phone since he'd left for New York.
So, today, with only four hours until the benefit was due to start, Will's flight was delayed. His new arrival time was right when she was due to meet the caterers, serving staff and valet's at Netherfield. So it wasn't until half past six, with the guests due to arrive at seven that Will walked through the door to their room at Netherfield.
"You look beautiful Lizzie," he said, taking in her 'costume' of a deep purple cocktail dress, topped with sparkly diamond jewellery.
"Will, you're here!" Lizzie said, jumping up from the vanity. Will pulled her into a hug and kissed her.
"I missed you," he whispered,
"Same here," she whispered back, breathing in the scent of him, nuzzling him, she pulled back.
"You smell like airplane," she crinkled her nose, "You'd better hurry and get ready, take a shower" she leaned down and pulled on her strappy, heeled silver shoes "I'll see you downstairs, your tux is hanging in the bathroom already,"
"Thank you," he said, giving her another kiss, "I don't know what I would do without you,"
She stroked his cheek,
"You'd manage," she answered truthfully,
"But I wouldn't want to," he said, equally as seriously.
"Then it's a good thing you've got me, now get ready, people are going to start rocking up in like, twenty minutes!"
He stole one last kiss, and then went into the bathroom, to quickly shower and get ready. While she quickly reapplied her lip gloss, since he'd smudged her first coat, and rushed downstairs to make sure everything was ready.
Unlike last year's benefit, Lizzie didn't have to spend all of her time trying to track Will down. Instead, at precisely seven, just as the doors were opening to admit the first guests, he came down the main staircase, looking beyond handsome in his tuxedo, freshly showered, shaved and smelling like Will again. He slipped into his place beside Lizzie, linking his arm through hers and they greeted their guests together.
During the mingling hour before dinner, he left her side only to collect their drinks, and then led her around the room, hand in hand, chatting to their clients and donors, welcoming new faces that hadn't attended the event before, and catching up with those who had become old friends. This year, Will had decided to mix up the schedule, and dinner was to be served before the welcome speech. Lizzie didn't know why, but Will had a very specific reason for doing so.
During dinner, they were seated next to each other at the main table for all three courses. Miraculously, neither of them was interrupted.
"I'm shocked," Lizzie said as they were enjoying their desserts,
"Why's that, dear?" Will asked, holding her hand under the table.
"Well, hopefully without jinxing anything, that there haven't been any emergencies for me to deal with this year! Last year with the exploding pipes… you know, I don't think I've ever managed to catch your speech at a single one of these things,"
"Then you've been missing out," he teased,
"You'll have to prove that to me, looks like I'm finally going to hear one this year,"
He didn't answer her, but just smiled and kissed her on the cheek. In truth, Will knew Lizzie was usually run ragged at this event, but this year, he wanted her to enjoy it, so Charles, Richard and Charlotte had been given strict instructions not to bother her with anything.
As the dessert plates were cleared, Lizzie excused herself.
"I'm going to go and make sure the tables a ready in the casino," she said,
"Alright," he said, checking his watch, "Don't be long,"
"I'll be right back," she promised, disappearing into the crowd of people who were leaving their seats and beginning to mill around again.
Darcy pulled Charlie aside and gave him a two minute warning for his speech, then went to hang out behind the stage and prepare himself.
Lizzie was surprised to see that their makeshift casino was set up and ready to go, the dealers were already at their stations getting ready to entertain their guests with blackjack, roulette, craps and poker, with all proceeds of the bets going directly to Darcy Enterprises charities. Seeing that she wasn't needed there, she quickly ducked into the loo to freshen up before heading back to the ballroom. She arrived just at Charlie was introducing Will for his speech.
"Good evening," Will started as he stepped up to the microphone, "Thank you all for coming tonight. As those of you who have attended before will know, Darcy Enterprises has a strong focus on charity work, and trying to make the world a better place for those in need, from third world countries, to hospital research funds to children's work. Our charitable interests are wide and this annual event, and the contributions of the wonderful people, who attend, make up the largest percentage of our donations per annum, even after we pay for all of the booze," the crowd chuckled at his joke, and he continued "This year, is even more special,"
This had Lizzie's attention, because while every fundraiser was special and unique, she wouldn't say there was anything more special this year, than there was usually.
"As usual, I have to thank the wonderful people who help to make this event what it is, year after year, everyone from the servers who keep us liquored up, the caterers who fatten us up and the valet's who, we hope very carefully, park our cars. But beyond that, the support of my own staff and a few key people are who make this night possible, Charles Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam, my seconds in command, who are always there to share the load, and Charlotte Lucas, for keeping the home offices in perfect running condition. But the reason we are all here, enjoying ourselves every year, and for the past four years, with spectacular theme nights, all comes down to out Head of Donor Development, Elizabeth Bennett."
He paused and scanned the audience that had gathered in front of the stage, he spotted Lizzie standing right in the middle of it all and smiled at her, everyone started to follow his line of sight until half of the room was watching her too.
"Lizzie has been with us for the past four and a half years, and as some of you know, or might have guessed, or predicted would happen someday, I'm lucky enough to call her my girlfriend. Don't look at me like that Lizzie, everyone's already figured it out. I said this night was special, this is why,"
He paused and took a breath.
"Lizzie, it hasn't always been smooth sailing between us, but I've always said the best things in life, you have to fight for. And god knows we've done our fair share of fighting, but it's all been worth it, to get us here, and take us further. My lovely, beautiful, clever, kind Lizzie, I love you, I never want to be parted from you, so Lizzie," he reached into his inside pocket and withdrew a small box, holding it up beside him, "Will you marry me?"
The whole room was silent, and every single person in it was staring at her, waiting for her response. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words that came out were so quiet, nobody could discern them.
"Sweetheart, you're going to have to speak up, I can't hear you," he teased, making her laugh.
"Yes!" She cried out, loud enough that everyone heard, the silence was broken by a squeal that could be recognised as Georgiana, followed by a wolf whistle from the same vicinity of the room, Lizzie assumed it was Richard. Then everyone was clapping and smiling.
"Would you come up here please?" Will asked over the microphone, and the crowd parted, so that a very flushed Lizzie could make it to her fiancée. When she was stage front, Charlie helped her climb up onto the raised stage and Will pulled her up.
"Hey," he said, brushing her hair back out of her blushed face.
"Hi," she breathed, eying the crowd that seemed to be following her. He held the little ring box in between them and popped it open, shielding it from the crowd. He wanted her to be the first one to see it. She broke into a smile and had to cover her mouth, biting down on a finger to stop squealing as he kneeled before her.
"You've already asked me," she said, words muffled through her hand,
"Lizzie, you know better than anyone that I'm a traditionalist, humour me. I promise this part is simple," she laughed,
"Alright, get on with it please, everyone is staring," she pleaded, making him chuckle.
"Lizzie Bennett, I love you, please do me the honour of accepting my hand,"
"Nothing would make me happier," she smiled, using the same words she'd spoken to Catherine all those months ago. He stood up, slipping the ring onto her left hand and kissed her.
"IT'S ABOUT TIME!" Someone yelled from the back of the room, pulling them apart, they laughed and Will leaned back over the microphone.
"Thank you for coming, I hope you all have a wonderful night," he said, then dragged Lizzie off the stage.
That night when they went to bed, in that same master suite, Lizzie knew exactly who she was getting into bed with, and she couldn't be happier.
AN: Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed reading Masquerade. It's been a while now since I wrote it, but I am thankful to those who are still reading this story, and to those who travelled with me on the journey as it unfolded. This story has now been edited, and original's authors notes removed for interruption free reading. I hope you've enjoyed this HEA, and I look forward to bringing you more in the future.