Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2 (6 page)

BOOK: Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2
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“I should go. It’s been a very long day. Thanks for listening.”

“Call me anytime you need to talk, Will. I’ll see you next week when I come to help Georgiana get ready for university.”

Why’d she have to remind me of
that
?
William furrowed his brow. “Are you sure you don’t want to get an apartment with Georgiana? I still have doubts about letting her stay in the dorm.” His opinion on this subject kept flopping around like a fish out of water.

“Sometimes you make me so angry, William. Why don’t you just say it like my mother did? ‘A de Bourgh
will not live in a dorm with commoners!’” Anne imitated her mother’s haughty tone so well, William almost laughed. “We’ve gone through this often enough already, but I’ll explain it all again.” It almost sounded like she was ticking off items on a checklist as she went on. “You know what living in the dorms and being exposed to more people did for me, and I was even shyer than Georgiana—at least she’s had
some
contact with the outside world, while I’d had very little. I’ll be there. Charlotte, Jane, and Lizzy are very nice and will be protective of your sister. We’ll all help her with her studies, though I doubt she will need it. Please believe me; the experience will be good for her. You know that Georgiana met Charlotte years ago, and they got along well. She really enjoyed the weekend with Jane and Lizzy when they were in the city last month. One of the reasons I suggested that you join us this weekend was to meet them, so it would set your mind at ease.”

William felt a pang of guilt. When he had first heard that Elizabeth would be in the city staying with Anne and Richard for the weekend, he had worked himself up to the point of frenzy, torn between anticipation and fear of finally meeting her. One reason he had forced himself to agree to meet her was that he was becoming alarmed and frustrated by what he perceived as his cowardice. The deciding factor was his need to protect Georgiana—he really
should
meet the girls that his sister would be living with. When he had become ill with the flu, there was no choice but to bow out. He still wasn’t sure which part of his reaction had been more potent, his relief or his disappointment to have missed the opportunity. When the stories he had heard of the things Elizabeth had enjoyed most while in the city matched his irrational expectations of her flawlessness, disappointment had won out.

But, after sitting through the trial for the past few days, he was definitively not at his best. If there was the slightest chance that Elizabeth really was as wonderful as they all said she was, he didn’t want to give her the wrong impression. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Why can’t I just accept the fact that she could not be that perfect without it being a façade?

“I just can’t right now, Anne. You and Richard wouldn’t urge me to trust them if you thought there was any chance that Georgie would be harmed. I feel obligated to try to support Charles through the verdict for his sister. It was partially my fault—there had to be something I could have done differently. Maybe I shouldn’t have feared insulting her because she was my friend’s sister, or maybe I should have been more forceful when letting Caroline know that I had no interest in her. I—”

Anne interrupted his self-bashing session. “Stop! You can’t take on the responsibility for
everything
, Will. What Caroline Bingley did was not your fault.”

Nothing Anne can say will ease my worries right now.
William was disgusted with himself. “I have to go. Enjoy your visit. We’ll talk again in a few days, when you get here.”

Chapter
3

~Late August - a couple of weeks later

Georgiana and William sat in a traffic jam. According to the radio, a car was stalled near the exit to the university. Normally, he would have no patience for such a thing as “rubbernecking,” but this delay gave his mind a chance to wander to the one subject he had managed to avoid while concentrating on driving.

Elizabeth Bennett.

This was it! Absolutely
nothing
could keep him away from helping Georgiana move into her room at school. He would meet the Bennetts today, he was certain of it, and he was once again filled with very strong mixed emotions about meeting Elizabeth in the flesh.

William shook his head.
Flesh
... why did he have to think that word? Anne had sent him a copy of one of her photos that won an award in an amateur photography competition. It affected him deeply—he couldn’t seem to get it out of his mind. Elizabeth was lying on her side, facing away from the camera, her long, dark hair hung over her shoulders, and she was wearing nothing more than a towel casually draped low over the swell of her hip, accentuating her small waist. It was simple and tasteful, exposing nothing more than if he saw her back while wearing a bikini, but he was certain the memory of the smooth caramel of her skin would drive him insane.

Rubbing his hand over his face, he realized he been in such a state this morning that he had forgotten to shave. A new sense of panic gripped him. Traffic was barely moving. Maybe he could get out and dig his battery-powered razor from his luggage. What would Georgiana think if he were to use the rear view mirror to shave?

He shook his head at the thought.

Trying to distract himself, he looked over at Georgiana, who smiled widely in return. Since meeting Jane and Elizabeth during the summer, his sister had been excited about starting college. Meanwhile, as each day passed, William became more nervous.

In addition to all of Anne’s reasons for Georgiana to stay at the dorm, his cousin Richard’s arguments ran through his mind again. At least this year they knew all the girls sharing the dorm suite. While Anne and Charlotte would stay on at Longbourn University for graduate work, both Bennetts would graduate in the spring. He had no way of knowing who would occupy the other two bedrooms next year.
Maybe Anne would reconsider the idea of an apartment for next fall?

No, he needed to concentrate on
this
school year before he started to worry about the next.

Over the summer, Richard—usually not the heart-to-heart-talk type—had noticed William’s increasing agitation. When William voiced his concerns about his baby sister leaving home, Richard was satisfied with that being the only thing that was bothering him. His cousin had raked his reasons for being upset over the coals, much like Anne had done.

Of course, both Anne and Richard had been right, and William knew it, but he could not shake a few lingering doubts.

Georgiana interrupted his thoughts. “Do you mind if I listen to my iPod, Will? I forgot that Anne wanted me to hear this new band that she and Lizzy are going to see next week. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, and I’m supposed to tell them if I want to come along.”

“Sure, go ahead.” He sighed quietly. Now that Georgiana would be living with Elizabeth, he’d probably never stop hearing about the woman.

The night he had talked to Richard about Georgiana, Richard must have kept refilling his drink without William realizing it. By the time he had told his cousin about his fears for Georgiana, William had been very drunk.

He wasn’t sure how he ended up there, but the next morning, he woke up in Anne’s spare room. The room spun and light filtering in through the drapes pained him. He closed his eyes and lay perfectly still, concentrating on a very pleasant fragrance in the bedroom where he slept.

Later, after assuming it was Anne’s perfume, he asked her for the brand name. Anne surprised him by explaining that while Elizabeth stayed there a couple of weeks earlier, she had spilled her perfume on the rug. She apologized that she had forgotten to clean it more thoroughly.

The scent had begun to spur on much different feelings within him, and he had instantly abandoned all his previous thoughts of buying it for his sister.

He sighed.
This obsession is definitely becoming a problem. Lately, everything seems to lead to thoughts of Elizabeth. Only in fiction do people fall in love with a person they have only seen in a photograph or heard on the phone.

Love? I
have
gone insane.

Elizabeth
would
turn out to be a mercenary shrew, at least when it came to him. It was easy to ignore someone who had the personality of a selfish witch, no matter how beautiful she was.

Georgiana’s voice pulled William from his thoughts once again. “I hope you aren’t going to be wearing that scowl when you meet my suitemates.”

“Sorry, Georgie, I was just... thinking.” He shook his head.
I will never get through this day without making a complete fool of myself.

~%~

William lifted a large box out of the hatchback of his SUV. As he turned, he saw Georgiana wave toward the building. Anne leaned out of a third floor window slightly, waving back at them.

The siblings made their way up the stairs and found Anne in the hall waiting to greet them.

“Hi Georgie, Will. Welcome to Longbourn.” Anne showed William and Georgiana around the suite. There were five bedrooms and a bathroom off the common room. William insisted on retrieving the remainder of his sister’s things alone while Anne showed his sister around the dorm.

On his fourth trip up the stairs, William entered the room, his polo shirt clinging to his skin, damp with perspiration.

“You’re all finished moving in, Anne?” He hoped he would not have to bring some of her things up three flights of stairs, too.

“No, I—” Anne looked up and her eyes widened. “Sit down for a little while, Will. You look like you’re going to pass out. It’s so hot today!” Anne motioned to the couch in the common room. William gratefully accepted the cold bottle of water she brought him from the fridge as he slumped into the couch and rested his head on the overstuffed cushions behind him.

Anne sat in a chair across from him. “Being part of a family that’s one of the university’s major contributors has its perks.” Anne wiggled her eyebrows. “The university honors my choice of staying in the same rooms every year, and I get to leave my things here during the summer break. I keep duplicates of everything I need at home so I don’t have to lug everything back and forth. I’m surprised you didn’t just buy everything that Georgie needed new, too.”

“I did, but we needed to
get
it here—though now I wish I’d hired somebody. Couldn’t you have chosen a building with an elevator?”

Melodic laughter came from behind him and William’s breath caught. Absolutely certain that Elizabeth Bennett had just entered the room, he was suddenly re-energized. He sat up straight and turned to look in that direction.

As her gaze briefly met his, and then moved on to his sister, William was sure his heart stopped beating. If the shock of meeting her would kill him, having witnessed the smile that brightened her face would make it worthwhile. Just seeing it could improve the mood of anyone, anywhere, even under the worst of circumstances.

Her voice gave his heart the jolt necessary to begin beating again, and it pounded wildly in his chest. He drew in a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself.

“The stairs are part of the exercise program here at Longbourn University. Climbing three flights several times a day works wonders to counteract some of the junk food we eat during late night study sessions.”

“Lizzy!” Georgiana squealed and rushed across the room to greet Elizabeth with a hug.

As the two girls exchanged a few words of greeting, William took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy her beauty more fully. Though shorter than he expected her to be, the woman who stood chatting with his sister was even lovelier in person than photographs had depicted. Her silky brown hair framed a cheerful expression. William did not believe that he would ever see a woman appear more alluring than she did in a mere white tank top and jean shorts, with no other adornments than a “peace” ring on her right forefinger and two plain gold studs in her ears.

Elizabeth turned her emerald eyes upon him again, and her smile changed slightly to one that, he hoped
,
spoke of attraction. She returned her gaze to Georgiana.

He swallowed hard. The woman before him was practically the sole designer of the Lambton Village project. She had nearly read his mind when it came to every building without his ever having spoken to her directly about what he had envisioned, even designing his dream house for the very land that his father had selected before Elizabeth had been born.

Right now, he lived and breathed the Lambton project, and he would continue doing so for some time. Even if Anne and Georgiana didn’t share the same dorm suite as she did, Elizabeth Bennett would have been thoroughly involved in his everyday life.

Thanks to Anne’s photography hobby, he had seen so many aspects of Elizabeth’s personal life that he felt he knew her, but it all could be an illusion. Could the flesh and blood woman live up to the Elizabeth of his dreams?

At the moment their eyes met again, he could not help but picture her as a part of every facet of his future as well. Entranced, William was very glad that he had just made so many trips on the stairs, hoping that exertion would excuse his current breathing pattern.

He watched as Elizabeth raised one of her delicate eyebrows. Her smile faded, and a slight frown soon took its place. It was as if the moon had eclipsed the sun.

William blinked a few times in rapid succession, trying to understand what had happened. Already addicted, he tried to think of what he could do to have her smile return. He’d give half his fortune to see it directed at him again.

Heaven help him, after fewer than five minutes in her presence, he was already in big trouble!

The expressions on his sister’s and Anne’s faces made him think that something was very wrong. Had Elizabeth spoken to him, and he just stared at her in response? She would think him rude if he didn’t answer her, but for the life of him, he could not remember hearing her speak to him.

William cleared his throat. “I’m Georgiana’s brother.”

She cocked her head slightly to the side and bit her bottom lip. The way her eyes sparkled, he knew she was suppressing a smile. “Nice to meet you, Georgiana’s brother.”

William’s eyes widened. “Will!” he blurted out, but it sounded like a command.

Elizabeth frowned. For the briefest of moments, he saw something else—confusion... possibly fear—in her eyes!

Please, someone tell me I didn’t make her afraid of me.

“Okay.” She turned to Georgiana. “I have a lot of work to do. See you later.” She quickly withdrew into her bedroom.

William’s mind was thrown further into a whirlwind.
I knew I’d make a fool of myself.
An unexpected glare from Anne served only to confuse him further. Turning to leave, he almost whispered, “I have to make a couple more trips.”

~%~

It’s happening again!

In a rush to escape from the common room, Elizabeth slammed her bedroom door behind her. She flipped through the photos on her cell phone until she found the right one. Staring at the first photo, then the next, and the next, she sat down heavily on her bed.
He’s wearing the same clothes.
She looked down.
So am I. It changed... I purposely left the outfit I was wearing in that photo at home.
She pressed a button and moved on to the last picture in the sequence.
This is
exactly
the way it happened!

Trying to calm herself, she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. An idea occurred to her, and her eyes snapped open. She pressed several icons on her phone, but no matter how she tried, she could not delete those photos.

She looked at the last one again, where she was walking away from him.
The others
did
come true, but what about this one?
Did this really happen when my back was turned? In the photo, he seems sorry about the way he spoke to me.

~%~

Georgiana caught up to her brother at his SUV. As he opened the hatch door and was about to reach in for the next load, she took hold of his arm. “I thought I’d made it clear that I wanted to make a good impression. You knew that.”

“Of course, I did. It’s all you’ve talked about for weeks.” His anger at himself reflected in his voice.

“You were looking at Elizabeth as if she had a disease you didn’t want to catch. I don’t understand why you would insult her like that.”

William sighed. “Please tell me you’re joking, Georgie? Did I really come off that badly?”

Georgiana’s anger quickly changed to concern when she saw his embarrassment. “Will?”

He shook his head. “Believe me, Georgiana, I didn’t mean to do that. I was just so…” He huffed.

BOOK: Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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