Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2 (9 page)

BOOK: Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2
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“I see we share the same opinion of him. He’s going to school here.”

Though she had never heard him speak in such a way before, Richard allowed a couple of curse words to slip out while she gave him an abbreviated version of what happened and what she promised about calling security.

“She never would have trusted him if she had known what happened. I kept warning Will that he should tell Georgiana and Anne, but he refused, thinking they’d never need to know. He’s so stubborn sometimes.”

I shouldn’t have waited to tell Richie or Will—I should have called someone right away.
“I don’t know what happened with Wickham before, but who would think that he’d show up here, of all places? Listen, Richie, don’t react like this with Georgie. She’s been shaken up enough for one night.”

“I hear you, Lizzy.” He sighed. “I’m glad
you
told me first so I didn’t have to hold it in. I’m coming to pick her up right now. I’ll change my room to a suite; she’ll be staying with me tonight. Is Anne back from her study group yet?”

“No, she’s not. Nobody else is either.” She heard the bathroom door open. “Call me when you get here, and we’ll come downstairs.”

“Thank you, Lizzy. I don’t know what—”

She interrupted, “You’re welcome. We’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Hanging up the phone, she turned to find Georgiana standing in her open doorway, her eyes red and swollen, as if she had been crying again.

“That was Richie. I’ll help you pack a bag; he’s coming to pick you up.”

~%~

Elizabeth opened the door just enough to peek out and make sure Richard was alone. Opening the door further, she stepped out. Georgiana ran past her, into Richard’s open arms.

“Thank God you’re okay, Poppet,” Richard mumbled into Georgiana’s hair.

“You can thank Lizzy, too.”

“I already did, honey, and maybe I’ll say it again... someday.” He winked at Elizabeth.

Elizabeth thought it was a good sign to see Georgiana smile so soon.

He took the bag from Georgiana and noticed that Elizabeth was holding another. “What’d you pack for, a week?”

“I don’t want to sleep alone. Lizzy’s coming, too... if that’s okay?”

“Sure. It’s fine with me.” He shot Elizabeth a questioning look.

“I texted Anne, Jane, and Charlotte, telling them that Georgie and I wouldn’t be at the dorm tonight and they should call me later.”

A worried look passed over his face.

“Next week is mid-terms, Richie—it’s normal to be at study-group this late.”

About half-way to the hotel, Richard cleared his throat. “I called Will. He should be on his way here by now.”

“Oh...” Georgiana whispered.

Elizabeth took Georgiana’s hand. “I agreed to leave security out of this, Georgie, but you didn’t think we’d keep this from your brother, did you?”

“No, but...” Georgiana hesitated. “No. How long before he gets here?”

“He had already boarded his jet to head home from a job site when I called.” Richard said. “He only had to wait for new flight plans to be filed. Shouldn’t be more than an hour or two.”

“Oh.” She stared at the dashboard.

~%~

“Wow!” Elizabeth exclaimed upon walking into the hotel suite.

“What? It’s sort of like your dorm. This sitting room is like the common room. There are three bedrooms.” He pointed. “You girls will sleep over there, I’ll be in that room, and that’ll be William’s room over there.”

Waiting until the bellhop left, Georgiana moved away from Elizabeth and Richard’s protection. “Excuse me for a minute?”

Elizabeth stepped toward her. “Do you want me to come along? I’m here to make you feel more comfortable.”

“No, it’s okay.” Georgiana disappeared into their bedroom, leaving the door open.

“Want some ice for that black eye?”

“Yes, please, though it’s probably a little late for that.”

Richard walked across the room to the bar and loaded a cloth napkin with ice. “Hopefully this will keep it from getting any worse.”

Elizabeth winced when she placed it on her eye. Trying to distract them both, she asked, “Are ‘sitting rooms’ usually twice the size of my great room at home, and do they all come fully equipped with an entertainment center, a bar, and a kitchen?”

Richard laughed loudly, but his words were quiet enough for only Elizabeth to hear. “They are when you’re a Darcy.”

“Ahhh!”
Georgie never seemed to mind our tiny dorm suite, but her brother must’ve hated it.

Richard’s phone started playing Anne’s favorite song. “It’s Anne... I’ll tell her what happened.” He started moving toward his room.

“Wait! Can you ask her to explain it to Jane and Charlotte, too? I don’t want to have to tell the story again in front of Georgie.”

“Sure thing.”

~%~

Elizabeth did not realize how many scratches she had acquired from her encounter with Wickham until the water of the shower caused them to sting. After drying off, she was tempted to slip on one of the thick, luxurious robes that hung on the back of the door, but knowing that William would soon be arriving and would probably have questions for her, she got dressed instead. She felt like a little kid playing with all the switches and knobs on the wall, but finally found the one that worked the exhaust fan. Since Elizabeth had remained under the hot water for a long time in an effort to work out some of the stiffness in her muscles, the fan was not very effective with such a great amount of steam. She cracked open the door to the bathroom to clear the air a little faster and heard a male voice that did not sound like Richard’s. Elizabeth chuckled to herself.
Who am I trying to kid?
I would recognize William’s voice anywhere.
For the price they must be paying for these rooms, you’d think the walls would be thicker.

Combing through her hair, she heard Georgiana say, “Lizzy was there...”

William’s voice boomed. “Elizabeth Bennett! Did she fall for that lowlife and convince you to go with him? Exactly the kind of thing I was expecting—she’s just like all the others.”

Seeing red, Elizabeth scooped all her things off the counter and into her overnight bag, grabbed her sneakers off the floor, and walked straight out into the sitting room.

“Will! Lizzy didn’t—”

William would not allow his sister to speak. “You’re coming home with me tomorrow! I never should have...”

Elizabeth cut in. “Georgie, I’m leaving. I’ll send Anne back to stay with you tonight. Maybe he’ll approve of
her
.”

William stared open-mouthed for a few moments. She could see he had no idea she had been in the next room.

“Wait, Lizzy. I’ll explain. He just doesn’t understand...” Georgiana stopped speaking when Elizabeth shook her head.

“I’m sorry, Georgie, but I can’t stay where I’m so obviously not wanted. I’ll call a cab when I get to the lobby.”

“What happened to your eye?” William asked.

If Elizabeth hadn’t been in such a tizzy, she’d have laughed at how wide his eyes had opened upon seeing her.

Elizabeth huffed loudly and mumbled a few words—arrogant, pig-headed, and jerk among them—as she stomped out of the suite.

~

As the door slammed behind Elizabeth, William closed his eyes.
Idiot!

At the sound of Richard rushing out of his bedroom, William turned to look at him.

He had never seen his cousin so angry. He pointed at William. “If I hadn’t been in the bathroom, maybe I could have stopped you from acting like such a complete jackass! You couldn’t just
listen
instead of jumping to ridiculous conclusions, could you?” Richard glanced at Georgiana, then back at William. “Of all the idiotic things you’ve done, this is probably one of the worst.”

Richard paced away from William, then back again. “You want to know what happened to her eye? When Lizzy risked her own life to stop Wickham from attacking Georgiana, he hit her. And
that
was the thanks she gets from you for saving your sister from who knows what?” Though still red with anger, Richard lowered his voice. “Other than Wickham, don’t go blaming this on anyone but yourself. If you had warned Anne and Georgiana about that maggot, neither of them would have been tricked by him.” Richard started to walk toward the door, but he turned back. “I’m even angrier with myself than I am with you. I
knew
you were wrong, but I didn’t tell them, either.

Richard sighed loudly. “Listen, Will, Anne told me that Lizzy tried to warn her about Wickham. She was bothered by the way he looked at Georgie. Anne brushed off Lizzy’s concerns, remembering instead how much your father liked him, and that we all used to hang out together before your parents died. If she had
known
...”

Georgiana whispered, “Lizzy told me there was something about him she didn’t trust, and I didn’t listen, either.” Georgiana turned to her cousin. “I’m worried about her going home by herself, Richie. George was very angry when she sprayed him with the pepper spray. He called her all kinds of names as we ran away.”

Richard grabbed his keys off the table near the door. “Don’t worry, Poppet, I’ll make sure she gets home safely. I’ll be back with Anne soon.” He glared at William one more time before he headed out the door.

Chapter
5

William stood in the sitting room, staring at the door that both Elizabeth and Richard had just slammed in anger—because of him. “She helped you?”

“Lizzy
saved
me, as you would’ve known if you had let me talk.” Georgiana’s boldness surprised him.

He nodded.
Georgiana is criticizing me, Richard is furious, and I’ve probably caused the one woman I can admire to despise me—and rightly so on all counts. I’ve accused Elizabeth of something horrendous only because I resent the way other women have treated me—none of whom would have acted as unselfishly as she did today.
He ran his hand through his hair.
What have I done?

A sniffle off to his right called him back to the present. He turned to his sister and took her hands. “I’m sorry, Georgie. Richard is right. I should have told you. I swear I’ll try my best to remain quiet while you explain what happened tonight, and then I’ll tell you everything that occurred in the past with George Wickham.”

~%~

Anne, Jane, and Charlotte met Elizabeth and Richard at the entrance to the dorm building.

Jane embraced Elizabeth. “I’m sorry. I should have been there to help you.”

Elizabeth laughed. “So now you’ll never leave my side again, just in case I might need you, Jane?” She shook her head. “None of this was your fault.”

Jane backed away a little to look at her younger sister. She gasped. “Oh, Lizzy, look at your face!

Elizabeth touched her cheek lightly. “Maybe gossip about how I might have gotten this will take everyone’s minds off being nervous for their midterms.”

“I’m so glad you’re both safe!” Jane hugged Elizabeth again.

“How’s Georgie?” Anne asked.

“Shaken up and bruised, but she’ll be okay. Thanks for going back to the hotel, Anne. I just couldn’t stay there.”

“After the things Will said, I don’t blame you for leaving.” Richard rolled his eyes. “But, I think our little Georgie is growing up. When I left, she looked like she was just about to tell off her brother for the first time.”

Anne’s eyebrows rose. “Really? What happened?”

“For some reason, Will thought that
I
was somehow influenced by Wickham and had convinced Georgie to go with him so he could take advantage of her.” Elizabeth shook her head. Everyone looked appropriately shocked. “I keep telling you that Will doesn’t like me. Maybe now you’ll believe me.”

“I’m sorry, Liz.” Anne took Elizabeth’s hand in hers. “All of this would have been prevented if I had called Will to find out more about Wickham like you asked—or even if I had mentioned to Richie when he called that I had seen Wickham, but I didn’t. They’re both so protective of Georgiana that I was afraid they’d overreact if they knew she was seeing
anyone
.”

By the look Richard and Anne exchanged, Elizabeth could tell they must have had this conversation on the phone already.

Richard nodded. “Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and you’re probably right. Although I think I’d have responded better than Will would have, we both do tend to be overprotective of her.
But
in this case, our reactions would not have been unwarranted.”

“I know I’ll take your ‘gut feelings’ more seriously from now on.” Charlotte hugged Elizabeth.

“Wow, at least something positive came out of all this. It’s an evening of firsts. Georgie stood up to Will... Anne, Charlotte, and Richie admitted they were wrong. What’s next?”

Although she didn’t think anyone else did, she heard Richard mumble, “It would be a first if Wickham finally pays for something he’s done.”

~%~

William sat in an overstuffed chair, watching Richard pace his hotel bedroom.

Richard kept his voice down, he assumed so that Georgiana and Anne wouldn’t overhear, but there was no mistakening his angry tone. “I know you didn’t want to do anything in the past because you thought he would smear your parents’ reputations, but this time, we’ve got to
do
something!”

William raised his eyebrows and interrupted calmly. “While you were out, Wickham called my cell. He’s agreed to drop out of Longbourn University and leave the area.”

Richard threw his hands up in the air. “Come on! I didn’t think you’d let him get away with something like
this.
Call the police!”

William shook his head stubbornly.

Richard took a deep breath before continuing. “If you’re afraid the story will leak to the press if we go to the police, we’ll take care of him ourselves.”

“Not only is that wrong, but he’s threatened to go straight to the press with a fabricated story about Georgiana if we retaliate in any way.” William stood, his temper rising again. “I won’t put her through that. We almost lost her last time the press hounded her—and he knows it. He must have turned the charm all the way up with her because she told him
everything
. Even if he stuck to the truth, it would be worse than last time.”

Richard swallowed hard. “It’s wrong not to report it to the police, too, but I don’t see you worrying about
that
.” He hesitated. “How much did you have to promise him to get him to leave?”

“Why would you think—”

“You don’t really think I’m stupid enough to believe you aren’t paying him off, do you? How much will you have to give him?”

After a minute or two of staring at each other in silence, William conceded. “One hundred thousand dollars.”

“That’s obscene, Will.” Richard shook his head. “After you’ve paid him, what’s to prevent him from coming back and bothering Georgie?”

“I’m in control of the situation, Rich. I told him I’d split up the money into ten payments and send it by a private messenger who knows what he looks like. The address must be on the other side of the country, and he’ll have to show identification.” William smiled smugly, feeling proud of himself. “The payments won’t be at regular intervals, and my man won’t wait more than three hours for him. If he isn’t there, he doesn’t get that payment.”

“That’ll be good enough for now.” Richard shook his head forcefully. “But you do know that anytime that dirtbag needs money, he’s going to blackmail you—or Georgiana. She has a lot more support now than she did last time. It might not be pleasant, but I think she’d be okay if the story did hit the papers. Go to the police, Will. Wickham should be in jail.”

William shook his head in response. “Will you explain to Anne and the other ladies that Wickham will be far away and they’ll be safe? I doubt any of them will want to talk to me.”
Especially Elizabeth.

Richard’s nostrils flared. “I want to go on record as telling you this is a big mistake. By the way, how’d he get your super-secret cell phone number?”

William shrugged. “Georgie thought we had just drifted apart. I assume she gave it to him at some point, thinking she’d be the one to reunite us as friends again.”

~%~

Elizabeth awakened to the sound of the piano piece that Georgiana had written just for her. Confused, she blinked a few times to take in her surroundings before she realized it was her ringtone for Georgiana.
It’s still dark—something must be wrong!
She snatched her cell phone off the night table. “Georgie?”

Her breath caught at the sound of Wickham’s voice. “I’d rather you call me something more manly, Liz.”

She shook her head, trying to whisk away the cobwebs of sleep from her mind. “You have Georgiana’s cell.”

“Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one. I used to be quite the pickpocket, especially around Mr. Darcy. I had the ridiculous man convinced he was losing his wallet all the time. He really started worrying about his memory when, most days, when he found it, he had less cash in there than he’d thought.” He chuckled. “His daughter is so much like him. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem to lift the phone off Georgiana during our
romantic rendezvous
.”

“You make me sick!”

Wickham laughed loudly. “How’s your eye, Liz?”

His laughter ended abruptly when she asked, “How are yours?”

“The next time I see you, you’re going to wish you hadn’t done that. And I’m going to enjoy every minute of convincing you that you shouldn’t have stopped me from getting what I wanted from Georgiana.”

Wickham went on, spouting off quite a few vulgar words before she ended the call.

Elizabeth glanced at the clock. They’d all been up so late last night, she really did not want to call Richard at five o’clock in the morning, but she was afraid of the damage Wickham could do with all Georgiana’s contact numbers. She dialed his cell.

“Lizzy?” Richard’s voice sounded thick with sleep.

“I’m sorry to call so early, but I had to tell you right away. Wickham has Georgiana’s cell phone.”

“Wonderful! Well, at least that explains how he got Will’s number, but it also means he has quite a few belonging to others who would rather never hear from him again.” He groaned. “Including my parents. I’ll go wake Will and see if he can cancel her phone right away. I wonder if they can wipe out the phonebook remotely. Thanks, Lizzy. Oh, hey, how’d you know?”

“I just received a wake-up call. What’s the number at the hotel so I can call Georgie later?”

Turning the light on, Richard squinted until his eyes adjusted and then read her the number off the phone near his bed. “What’d Wickham say this morning?”

“He obviously felt it important that, before the sun came up, he prove that he knows every dirty word in the book—even some I’ve never heard before.”

“Did he threaten you like he did last night?”

She was quiet for a few moments. “How’d you know about that?”

“Anne wasn’t sure you heard the message, but I had a feeling you did. You’re always pressing ‘save’ instead of ‘erase,’ Squirt.”

Her tone was annoyed. “Why can’t they print words on the buttons instead of those tiny pictures that make no sense?”

He chuckled. “
That’s
what you’re angry about? Not Wickham?”

“I refuse to let that man intimidate me.” She told him about Wickham’s morning threats, omitting the colorful language.

~%~

Later that day, Elizabeth sat cross-legged on the bed in Georgiana’s hotel room. The expression on her face left nothing to the imagination—Elizabeth was in complete shock. “Will is allowing you to live at the
dorm
?”

Anne winked. “It’s more like ‘accepting’ that she will stay, but only after being ganged-up on.”

Georgiana nodded. “He wanted to hire a bodyguard to follow me around, but I wouldn’t let him. I had to promise not to walk anywhere alone unless it is broad daylight and others are around, which wasn’t a difficult concession after what happened.”

“Now that Wickham is gone, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t continue with her music degree here, right?” Anne asked.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I agree. I’m just surprised after the way your brother acted last night.”

“I’m really sorry about that, Lizzy. I don’t know why he thought—”

Elizabeth put her hand up to stop her. “I had already guessed at his opinion of me, Georgie—it isn’t your fault. But, are you really comfortable staying?”

Georgiana hesitated. “Are you?”

“Me?” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows high on her forehead. “Yes, but our experiences were different. I
chose
to get involved in the situation. You were a victim. Don’t force yourself to stay only because others want you to, Georgie. You have to be sure that this is what
you
want.”

Elizabeth and Anne exchanged significant looks as the younger girl hesitated a minute or two.

“I’m pretty sure.” Georgiana didn’t sound very confident. “I know I’ll have to walk past that spot almost every day, so I want to go there today and sleep in the dorm tonight—
before
William goes home, just in case I change my mind.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Sounds reasonable to me.”

~%~

As she was walking out of Georgiana’s bedroom, Elizabeth looked back to answer a question of Anne’s and walked straight into a mountain of firm muscle. Hands reached out to steady her. Assuming she had collided with Richard, a deep sense of guilt came over her at the way her body reacted to being pressed against him.

She looked up into crystal blue eyes and felt her insides begin to melt.
Will!

“I was just coming in,” William stuttered out at the same moment that Elizabeth mumbled, “Sorry.”

The drumming of her heart increased with every second they remained in that position
. If he thinks I’m worse than Wickham, he probably thinks I’m easy, too!
Elizabeth reminded herself. She raised one eyebrow. “You can let go now.”

His eyes widened. “Oh!”

As he jerked his hands away and stepped back from her, the force of her disappointment surprised her.
It’s just physical attraction!
She retreated a few steps.

BOOK: Foundation of Love: The Gypsy Blessing 2
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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