If you're a follower of my other Bane story...well...my apologies. I've never been the best at committing to stuff. However, I've been hit with so much love for this Eli character and the possibility of him and Jane that I had to start writing for it. Hopefully someone else likes him, too! I don't own Jane by Design, by the way. In case you figured I do, you crazy.
"I was thinking we could do it again sometime."
Eli's smile is infectious, but Jane doesn't return it as quickly as she had during their (fake?) date earlier. Her eyes are clouded with confusion, and a hint of uncertainty. At twenty-four, Eli is intimidatingly handsome and has proven so far to be exactly the kind of guy she could see herself with...if she were older. Although they have things in common, a 'passion for fashion' being the most obvious on the checklist, she knows that the deception with her age makes the promise of any long-lasting relationship pretty grim.
Jane self-conciously asks Eli, "You mean another fake date or a real one?"
He winces a little bit, and offers her an explanation. Validates his intentions and feelings - no big declarations, of course, but it is evident in his sincerity that he truly likes her - in all the right places and internally it's Jane's turn to do some wincing.
"A real date, Jane. I...like you," he says with a grin. There's a small, appropriate, maybe even affectionate pause between 'I' and 'like' that makes her heart beat a little faster.
"You do?" she asks, dazed and a little incredulous. The concept is lost on her, as it always is.
Eli laughs, but she doesn't get the joke. Clearly, he starts to realize, this special, one-of-a-kind girl is inconceivably oblivious to her affect on the men around her. Even the half-witted celebrity they'd recently dealt with could see the light in her. Jeremy saw it (and frankly Eli didn't like that someone so boring could see the same wonder in Jane as him). And her best friend, although Eli hadn't met him yet, he could feel in his bones that this guy wasn't oblivious to Jane either. He knew, was certain of it, that Jane could have her pick of anyone.
Eli lifted his hand to push back an invisible piece of Jane's hair, a solid excuse to move in closer and touch her. She didn't shy back, and he took that as a good sign. All he wanted to do was kiss those soft, inviting lips of hers, but he refrained.
"Yes, you silly girl. Of course I like you. I mean, I gave you a red balloon, didn't I?"
Finally, that smile he'd been waiting for broke through and it was her infectious spirit that had him grinning right back at her. She laughed and said, "So, is that all it takes to win a girl's heart these days? A balloon on a string?"
"No," he replied softly, "of course not. You, Jane, deserve much more than just a balloon on a string."
The intensity caught her by surprise. "I - I do?"
"Yes." It was so simple, and maybe she was expecting a much longer, more eloquent response, but that single word was all he had.
She blinked, incapable of stringing together a coherent response.
"Jane, will you please consider going out with me?" Before she could respond to that, he clarified once more, "On a real date. Without any ulterior motives. Just you and me."
She groaned and then it was Eli blinking, surprised by this reaction. At worst, he expected a no, but her groan was completely unexpected.
"...or we could not," he added lamely.
"No!" she exclaimed. "Oh, God, no. It's not that I don't want to, Eli. I'd love to go on a date with you, I really, really would. It's just..." She sighed. "I want to go out with you, Eli. You're handsome and sweet and you like me. You're amazing, but..." Again, Jane was at a loss of how to explain herself. Was it worth telling him the truth and losing her job? She'd lose him, too, she was sure of it.
"See, I'm really confused by that. If you think all of those things, why can't you just go on a date with me? Is it because we work together? Because I can fix that."
"I don't want you to quit for me," Jane said, perplexed. "You love it here. And I wouldn't let you anyway," she added.
"Well, what do you want?"
"I want to be honest with you. But if I do that, I'll lose everything I'm passionate about, and you won't look at me the way you are right now."
"How can you be sure of that?" he challenged her.
She swallowed uneasily. "Because I've gone over it a thousand times in my head and no matter how I say it, no matter when I say it, you always end up hating me for it."
Her insecurity kills him. "Jane, I could never hate you."
"I'm not counting on that," she says with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
"Well, how about this," he offers. "You go on one date with me, and tell me the truth...whatever it may be, no matter how bad it is...and we can decide together what happens next."
She bites her lip, unsure. "I don't know if that's such a good idea."
The look in his eyes, his sincerity, his sweetness, it wipes out any rhyme or reason to her hesitant, "Okay."
His grin widens and he kisses her, albeit on the cheek. With this girl, he decides, he needs to earn that first kiss. "Good."
Jane's stomach is in knots, and uncertainty flows through her. Oh, I hope so, she thinks.
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