Wendy's breath was caught in her throat, her heart paused on its previous beat, waiting for the apparition in front of her to disappear so that her heart could continue beating once more…but instead, he extended his left hand towards her and his trademark, silky smile crossed his lips. His goatee was shaven, but she knew it was him; she would know those eyes anywhere.
"Miss Darling…" Her heart beat for a second and then stopped again. "A lady such as yourself should not be on the ground."
His hand remained before her, and she was still reeling in shock.
Seeing her shock, he knelt down and whispered in her ear, "I am very real, Wendy Darling, and I am here to collect you and return you to your home. I believe your father insisted on it."
At this, her eyes widened even further than they had already been open. She was gaping like a fish, until she felt a gloved finger gently press against her chin, closing her mouth, and then she had to hold back a shiver as the finger continued along her jaw and then gently brushed a strand of hair from her face, curling it behind her ear.
Hook leaned in closer.
"Now, will you please take my hand as a lady would, or will I be forced to throw you over my shoulder as I would a burlap sack and drag you back to your home kicking like a child?"
He drew away from her and then stood back up, extending his hand once more.
Incensed at his words and insensitivity, she bristled and moved her pages to the side and at first attempted to get up on her own, but realized that there was no way to do it without flustering herself or making herself look ridiculous. She glared up at him as he stood there, looking almost regal with his arm outstretched…and she begrudgingly put her hand in his.
In one smooth movement, she was suddenly on her feet and she stumbled almost immediately, and she flushed as she found herself pressed against him.
In an elegant arch of his eyebrow, he gave her another smile, this one slightly different than she remembered him ever giving her.
"Why, Miss Wendy, do watch your step."
And with that, he turned and suddenly, with his one good arm, managed to hoist her onto the horse that had been standing at attention behind him the entire time. He then swung himself up behind her and, wrapping his arms around her waist, firmly grasped the reins and moved his hands to walk them down the road, but she protested.
"Sir, if you must take me home, then may I please have my belongings retrieved?"
She wouldn't look him in the eye, nor acknowledge him by his name, as she still did not quite believe what was happening.
In another fluid movement, he was back off the horse. He reached down and grabbed the drawing board and papers and then was back on the horse behind her, sliding the materials over her lap. His lips brushed against her ear once more as he whispered, "Your belongings, Miss Darling."
She said nothing, but felt herself flush in response.
He urged the horse into a canter and she was pressed against his chest, but she resolutely ignored that fact.
They were at her home in moments, where he abruptly pulled up and slid off with ease, and then turned and lifted his left hand and arm to her.
Feeling bold, Wendy stared him dead in the eye…and was surprised to see no lingering smirk or flash of red. Though she loathed to admit it, he was being genuine. And it entirely unnerved her; a villainous Hook was easy to understand and predict, but this kind…well, she didn't know what to expect.
Hesitantly, she took his arm and let herself be helped down off the horse.
She couldn't help but notice that he was clean shaven. It was strange seeing him without his customary goatee, and curly hair, but he looked nice.
His hair was drawn back, pulled into a tight ponytail, showing off his striking profile, one that she was very familiar with.
She felt a faint fluttering in her stomach as she felt his left hand at her lower back, ushering her through her front door after handing off his horse to the young man who worked for her parents in the stables.
She was still wondering in the back of her mind if her father had really sent him…but her question was soon answered when her father walked into the foyer.
"Wendy! There you are…I was worried about you! I was about to call the constable, but then our new neighbor, Mr. Haestings, volunteered to go out and find you. It seems that he had seen you more than once heading to a private park that was apparently not too far from here. Thank you, sir," he added, giving a slight bow to the man.
Wendy looked up at Hook in shock, not quite believing what she was hearing.
"It was nothing, Mr. Darling. I am simply pleased to have retrieved your daughter…" He let his fingers linger on her waist a moment, and then turned his head and gave her another one of his trademark smiles. "…and to have made her acquaintance as well."
Mr. Darling saw the approving look in the man's eyes and then he saw…no, it couldn't be. Was his Wendy…blushing?
Wendy was suddenly surprised when her father said, "Would care to join us this evening for supper? We have more than enough, and it seems the least I could do."
She tensed beneath Hook's hand, but her tension eased when he responded.
"I wish I could accept the invitation, but I cannot tonight as I have a previous engagement…" She let out a sigh of relief. Too soon, it seemed, as he then said, "…Perhaps tomorrow evening instead? My schedule is free then, and then I will be able to meet your entire family properly."
She could hear the intonation in his last word, even if her father couldn't, and she had to withhold the urge to simply stomp up the stairs to her a room like a child.
Instead, she took a deep breath and quickly interjected.
"Father, if it is alright, may I please be excused to go freshen up for supper? I have been outside all day, you see, and I should change."
Mr. Darling nodded, watching intently as Mr. Haestings' eyes followed Wendy as she went up the stairs, and he smiled to himself.
Had this been mere chance, or had his daughter found a possible suitor?
He turned back to Mr. Haestings and gave him a parting smile.
"I am very pleased to have made your acquaintance, Mr. Haestings…may I show you out?" The man nodded, and George was silently proud of himself for not embarrassing himself in front of their new neighbor and that he had not said anything uncouth or inappropriate.
Considering the man had no right hand, he was very proud of himself for maintain propriety.
He could not wait to tell Mary the good news.
He had found a new suitor for Wendy.