CHAPTER THREE

Glossary:

Tigger: a joyful character from the 'Winnie the Pooh' series of stories. A tiger who has a decided preference to bounce on his tail instead of walk (see link below)

Scull: to drink a drink down in one mouthful

Raging: going out on the town, usually involves drinking and dancing and staying up very late

Early mark: leaving earlier than usually allowed, in this instance leaving work early

Lounge: sofa, usually well cushioned, seats 2 - 3 people

PA: Personal Assistant

Mobile: cell phone



Like a feather playing across Lizzy's mouth, William's lips danced lightly over hers. Seconds passed. Eventually William pulled back far enough to look into Lizzy's vibrant green eyes and found part of the answer to the question he had silently asked, but he wasn't sure as to the rest so

"If you're going to hit me again, Lizzy, I've come prepared " And reaching into a bag, he brought out a rather ridiculous looking foam Tigger mask, slipping it over his face in a rather ridiculous attempt at protection.

In spite of her anger of moments before, Lizzy was hard pressed to cover the mirth that threatened to bubble over at the sight of a grown man grinning at her with a Tigger smile. "William Darcy! What exactly do you think you're doing?"

"Trying to make you smile again. You have the most beautiful smile. Have I told you that?"

Still a bit ticked off, but privately amused by this touching, albeit silly display, Lizzy smiled behind her hand. "I'm not surprised Mrs Smythe was reluctant to retire if you greeted her like that."

"That was just for you. I don't put my Tigger on for just any editor you know. The best that Mrs Smythe ever got was a handshake and a hug for her birthday."

"Really? I should be flattered, I suppose."

"Yes, you should. Can you try to forgive me, Lizzy?" Tigger's muffled voice asked.

"If you take off that ridiculous mask and don't go bouncing anywhere, I just might consider it. I'm finding it a little hard to take you seriously with Tigger grinning at me."

Relieved that William's alter ego was once again being relegated to the bag, Lizzy laughed quietly and looked at William anew. His mouth smiled at her, but the eyes there was a sincerity in them that touched her. And now that they had a professional relationship, the onus was on both of them to make it work. Swallowing her misgivings, she lifted her chin and looked him straight in the eye.

"Yes, William. I forgive you. But next time you feel like giving me the benefit of your advice, take a hint. Don't! You'll live a lot longer that way."

"That I will do or won't do. You know what I mean. And now there's just one more thing."

"Yes?" she said as she eyed him suspiciously.

Cupping her face in the palm of his hands, his intention was soon clear.

Lizzy felt as if she was falling. All her energy pooled in two places: her lips where he was dancing a light little quickstep over hers, and lower, where the butterflies were skipping through her tummy. Gently, she pulled herself out from under Mr Darcy's all too provocative embrace.

"Stop that!"

"Stop what, Lizzy?" asked Will, a picture of innocence.

"Kissing me! You're a kissing fool, William, you know that?" she flared hopelessly.

"Why? Don't you like it? I admit, I don't usually greet my editor that way. But for you, Lizzy, I'll make an exception."

Whether it was the fact that the vision of her had haunted his dreams all night (make that every night), or that she looked so damned sexy in her little red power suit, Will was hard pressed to keep his hands to himself.

"Well don't!" And stop looking at me like that, she thought to herself. That gaze is hot enough to fry eggs. She wouldn't admit that he rattled her - the effect he could have on her was becoming decidedly unnerving.

He was fascinated by the way the sun shining through the window caught the reddish-brown highlights in her hair, although he found the bun a bit disappointing. He loved the look of her with her hair falling over her shoulders, begging for him to run his fingers through it - a treat he had dreamed of many times. He thrust his hands into his pockets in case his thoughts ran away with him again.

"William - you are the writer, and I am your editor. If you are looking for something more, it isn't going to happen. Let me make that perfectly clear. What we have is a professional relationship. I think that's probably for the best, don't you?"

"Would it make any difference if I said 'no'?"

"None. Take a seat." And lets get some space between us before I do something I'll regret.

Will reluctantly took the seat facing Lizzy. His face that had been so happy when he walked in was now shuttered. Lizzy felt a moment of guilt.

"Look, I can't be what you want me to be " she trailed off, looking at the dejection on his face.

"Don't you realize, Lizzy you already are," he said softly, instantly surprised at his own admission.

She shuffled some papers on her desk to cover the flush rising up her neck and cheeks. "Um, now about your manuscript "

"You think I just want to take make love to you, don't you?" His bluntness surprised even himself, but what the hell what did he have to lose?

"What I've read so far "

"You're wrong, you know. I mean, yes, I do want to make love to you - I am a man, and you are a very desirable woman. But I want much more."

" is certainly consistent with your previous books. What format do you follow, so I know for future "

"I want to watch sunsets with you, walk in the rain, lie on sandy beaches under moonlit nights, wander through the Champs Elysee on a beautiful Paris spring day with you on my arm," he said leaning forward, warming to his subject.

" reference? And how many revisions do you usually go through "

"Can I take you to lunch, Lizzy?" Say yes, his eyes begged.

" before you go to print?" She sighed in exasperation. "You, William Darcy, are incorrigible. No."

"Just this once. I promise."

"No."

"Why not? Don't you trust me?"

"Do you really want me to answer that, William?"

"Just lunch. I'll behave," Will said with a winning smile, sensing her softening and imminent capitulation.

"Why do I have the feeling that you don't mean that?" she asked, attempting to glare at him. "All right, all right. One lunch - and that's it. Okay?"

"Great," said Will, jumping out of his seat, his huge smile creasing into dimples. "I know this wonderful little seafood restaurant "

Lizzy shook her head and sighed as William opened the office door for her and walked beside her to the lift. Somehow his hand found it's way around her waist, and she smiled to herself as she removed it and returned it to its owner.





The streets were filled with Saturday morning shoppers as they strolled the five minute walk to the delightful little seafood restaurant where they dined al fresco, sitting at tables set up on the sidewalk under sail cloth stretched to provide a filtered barrier against the harshness of the midday sun. A light breeze wafted up off the Quay, rustling the fronds of the potted palms. A delightful memory of another shared meal in a tropical setting ran through his mind.

After a light appetizer for two of stuffed scallops, Will settled back to wait for the main course, content just to sit and listen to his companion. This was how he liked to visualize Lizzy - animated, vivacious. He looked at her silently, smiling, breathing in her beauty. Even in business mode, she was stunning. Anthony was an absolute fool, letting a woman like her get away. He wondered what had happened to them, to her. She still carried the scars; that much was obvious. He would need to move slowly, gentling her along through the rocky path ahead until she could accept him and the gift he was offering. If only he could keep his hands and mouth to himself, he thought ruefully. Where Lizzy was concerned he had no control. He watched her intently, his gaze consuming her. She talked with her hands, he noticed distractedly, whilst paying too little attention to what she was saying, mesmerized as he was by her movements.

"So I said to Charles, if we could just get Elizabeth Courtois to do a Winnie the Pooh romance novel, with, say Piglet, we could stand to make a fortune. What do you think, William?"

"Definitely, Lizzy," said Will dreamily.

"Did you hear anything I just said?"

"Every word," he smiled.

"Good. Then I'll tell Charles you'll do it," Lizzy laughed mischievously.

Will looked blank, realizing he had obviously missed an important part of the conversation. He smiled in embarrassment. "Um what did I just agree to, Lizzy?"

Lizzy laughed at his discomfort. "You just said you'd write a romance novel about Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. It'll be a huge seller, I'm sure."

Will laughed back. "Okay, you got me. But I can't help it, woman. You have no idea what you do to me."

Lizzy turned serious. "Well, we have to work together, William. Professionally. So you had better learn to pay attention. Can you see now why this can be nothing more than a professional relationship? That means no more flowers, no more kisses, and no more lunches like this."

Will looked crestfallen.

"It has to be this way, William. I can't do my job if I have to keep wondering if you're going to be grabbing me every time the door to my office closes."

Will's eyes glowed with a devilish glint.

"Besides, I need to try life on my own for a while. I'm not blind William. I can see no, I can feel the attraction between us, but I need you to understand what I need. Please?"

"How much time do you need, Lizzy? I'm quite prepared to wait for you, for us, until you feel you are ready."

"William, don't. There is no us, and I don't want you waiting for me. I need time to sort my life out and I have to get to know myself - the new me, the single me. Go and live your life - I'm going to live mine. Look, I have to get back to work," she said abruptly, feeling guilty at his downcast expression.

"I'll walk you back."

"There's no need "

"I'll walk you back, Lizzy," he said firmly.

They strolled slowly back to the office, both highly aware that this would be the last time they would be this way for some time. No words were spoken, but as Will's hand brushed Lizzy's, he discreetly took it in his. As she attempted to withdraw, William's grip tightened slightly around it. She let it be.

Once back in the office, Will gathered up his bag and stood ready to leave.

Lizzy prepared to say goodbye and awkwardly held out her hand to him. He looked down and grasped it, but instead of shaking it, pulled Lizzy to him.

"This is going to have to last me a while by the looks of it, so hold on, woman." And wrapping his arms around her, proceeded to kiss her very thoroughly. Deep, intense, tingling, he kissed her until breath ran out. Releasing her at last, with a final kiss on her forehead, he swept from the office, leaving Lizzy shaken, speechless and definitely breathless.





How Lizzy made it through the next week was a mystery to her. She had tried to contact William to arrange a time to talk about his book, but was advised by his housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds, that he was out of town for the week. For reasons she would not admit to herself, she felt an emptiness, a void, a loss that she would not see him until the following week.

To top things off, Charles requested she stand in for him at a mid-week publisher's conference dragging over 3 very long days. She fell into an exhausted, deep sleep each night. Her dreams were troubled and restless, and each day she woke in the morning with less enthusiasm and less vigor than the day before.

By the following Thursday night, her attempts to drag herself along finally got too much for Charlotte and she decided that what Lizzy needed was some good old fashioned fun, preferably with drooling men in tow, but if that was not to be, getting very drunk would have to suffice.

Always one to be prepared, Charlotte made a couple of phone calls before telling Lizzy what she had planned. Two phone calls later a smile of satisfaction spread across her face. Now she was ready. She picked up the phone and dialed Lizzy's extension

"Lizzy? Could you stop by here on your way out tonight? No, it will only take a minute Good, see you soon."

Ten minutes later, arms loaded with briefcase, folders and manuscripts, Lizzy wandered out of the lift.

"Take a seat, Lizzy. And put all those papers down. You look like a pack-horse."

"What is it Charlotte? I really have a lot to get done tonight and I just want to go home and get started."

"Look, I don't interfere in your life, Lizzy " she stopped and smiled at Lizzy's raised eyebrow. "Well, not very often. But when I do, it's for a damn good reason. You've been pushing yourself too hard since you got back from Bedarra - in fact you look worse now than when you went. So, you and I my dear, are going to have a little bit of R & R tonight. Drinks at that nice little Irish pub on the corner, and then I've booked us a table at the Mexican place you're so fond of." She held up a hand as Lizzy opened her mouth to protest. "This offer is not open to negotiation. You and I are going to go and get sloshed, wasted, whatever you want to call it, and I will even spring for the taxi to get you home safe and sound. Okay?"

With no energy left to fight, Lizzy acquiesced. She arrived home at 1:30 am on Friday morning, very drunk and ready for bed. Stopping only to kick off her shoes, she crawled fully clothed into bed. For a change, dreams did not haunt her, unable to penetrate through the thick fog of alcohol induced sleep. She slept like a baby, through Jane leaving, through the alarm, through the bright morning sunlight pouring in through her window, and finally awoke 10 hours later feeling decidedly furry around the gills, but well rested. Taking a look at the time, she squealed and rushed to the phone.

"Charlotte? I'm running really, really late. What was in those drinks last night by the way?"

"The 'cock-sucking cowboys'? Butterscotch schnapps and Baileys. Nice, huh?"

"How many did I have? No, don't tell me - I don't think I want to know. Did I eat? It's all a bit of a blur after the fourth drink." She held her head in her hand, waiting for the throbbing to ease, comforted by Charlotte's confirmation that she did at least get to indulge in her favorite Mexican food, even if she had no memory of it. "You owe me a dinner, Charlotte, because I sure as hell don't remember that one."

Charlotte laughed at her friend's feeble attempt at humor. "Certainly. How about tonight?"

"God, no! I need time to recover. I don't know how you do it. Could you be a real sweetie and re-schedule any of my appointments before lunch to another time? It's going to take me at least a hour before I can get in there."

"Already done, Lizzy-girl. All rebooked to next week. And I spoke to Charles and told him you wouldn't be in until after lunch. He's fine, you're fine. Don't worry. Everything is under control."

"Why don't you sound as bad as I feel?" Lizzy moaned into the phone. Her friend's laughter filtered down the line as she hung up.

With the consumption of many cups of coffee, she dragged herself through the rest of the day, and sighed deeply when she realized it was time to knock off. Avoiding Charlotte in case she had another night of carousing in mind, she ducked straight out to her car. Suffering through the normal Friday night rush of peak hour traffic, she pulled into her parking space, switching off the ignition and sighing deeply as she rested her head on the steering wheel. She lifted her head with a slight smile on her face. Thank God it's Frida. She wondered briefly what William was doing tonight, wondering if he was back in town yet. Realizing she was heading into dangerous territory, she consciously crushed further thoughts by grabbing her briefcase and heading inside.


"I'm home, Sis," called Lizzy as she opened the apartment door. Jane had been staying with Lizzy ever since she returned from England six months ago. She had fled there after her own divorce 3 years ago. It was no small vexation to their mother that she had two divorced daughters, and they never heard the end of it. Jane had considered finding her own place, but Lizzy had convinced her of the silliness of the idea. They were both single, and until such time as their status changed, it seemed a little foolish for them to be paying two rents. They had always been close, and it was wonderful to be together again. Lizzy had found the apartment a little lonely on her own.

"I'm in the bathroom, Liz. I have a date tonight, but I've got an appointment with the lawyer to go to first. I have to leave in about half an hour. Will you be okay on your own?" she called through the partly opened door.

"I'll be fine, Jane." So, Jane has a date? It's about time. She had been wondering what was wrong with the male population in Sydney letting such a gorgeous woman like Jane sit at home every night. Jane was a couple of years older than Lizzy, but as sisters, they couldn't have been more different. Chalk and cheese. Where Lizzy was dark, Jane was fair; where Lizzy was short, Jane was tall; where Lizzy was full-figured, Jane was willowy. She smiled as she remembered that she had always wondered growing up if one of them had been adopted.

Jane came out of the bathroom in her robe, but with a light covering of make-up on and her long blonde hair gleaming and soft.

"So, who's the lucky guy, Janey?"

"One of the fathers from school," Jane said blushing.

"I hope we can safely assume he's a single father, Jane. Unless you've taken to dating married men?" Lizzy teased.

"He's a widower, actually. He's really good-looking and awfully sweet. His little boy has been having a few problems getting over his mother's death, but Charles is wonderful with him."

"Did you say Charles, Jane?" Bells started going off in Lizzy's head. "And he's a widower? What is his little boy's name?"

"Robbie. Robbie Bingley. Why?"

Lizzy laughed and laughed causing Jane to start looking concerned.

"Lizzy? What is so funny?"

"Charles is my boss, Jane. He owns and runs Netherfield Publishing," she smiled.

"Oh no! Is he safe, Lizzy? You would tell me wouldn't you? I mean, he isn't one of those guys with wandering hands whose middle name is Octopus "

"Oh, Jane. You couldn't have picked a better one if I'd picked him for you. Charles is one of the last true gentlemen. And you're right - he is very sweet. You'll be quite safe with him, don't worry. He will probably ask your permission to kiss you," she grinned. "You know, I don't think he's been on a date since his wife died two years ago. He must really like you."

"I certainly like what I've seen, Lizzy. And he is so wonderful with Robbie. I've always been attracted to men who love kids, with the exception of David of course." Jane had married her ex-husband, David, straight out of university, much to her mother's delight. He had left Jane straight after he found out she was pregnant, and even though she miscarried, he stayed away. She had fled to England on a working holiday, anxious to get as far away from the memories and hurt as she could get. "Anyway, I have to finish getting ready and go, Lizzy, or I'll be late. Don't wait up, okay?" she grinned. Dressed now in a loose t-shirt and sweat pants, Lizzy settled back on the sofa, curling up for her date with the TV remote for a bit of channel surfing. This was her standard Friday night - no real date for her. Her thoughts flicked idly to William again as she channel surfed, and lingered on that final kiss in her office. She felt a tingle go through her body at the memory. The man could make her toes curl with just a look. One thing was for sure - Anthony had never aroused that sort of reaction in her. Their sex life had been perfunctory at best - not that she had that much to compare it against. But William now that would be anything but perfunctory! she smiled to herself. She was disappointed at their situation, but it had to be. She couldn't be his editor and his lover at the same time. It just wouldn't work. Attempting to clear her mind of thoughts of him, she decided to put a DVD on. Steering clear of mushy romantic ones which would do little for her state of mind, she settled instead on something safe - "Lord of the Rings" - a little bit of elf-magic would do the trick, she smiled to herself.





Jane arrived at The Boulevarde ten minutes late, having spent the last fifteen minutes trying to find a space to park her car in the Friday night rush. Breathless from her run, she found Charles pacing the entrance with a very worried look on his face.

"Charles?" she called, coming up behind him.

"Oh, Jane. I was worried you weren't coming. I thought you must have changed your mind." Jane smiled at the evident relief on his face.

"I couldn't find anywhere to park. I'm sorry I'm late." She smiled at Charles and his heart flipped. He couldn't help noticing how different she looked away from school. Not quite so confident, just as beautiful, definitely sexier.

Together they entered the restaurant. Jane had heard of The Boulevarde restaurant, but she had never had the opportunity to actually eat there. Her teacher's salary certainly didn't lend itself to 5-star dining on any sort of basis, infrequent or otherwise, so she was quite unprepared for the impact of the room. The subtlety of the design was breathtaking. Instead of packing patrons in like sardines as per her usual dining experiences, skilful positioning of greenery and semi-structural partitioning allowed each table a modicum of intimate privacy. Huge swathes of rainbow silk cleverly draped the ceiling giving the room an Arabian feel, soft lighting from candles and discreet recessed lights created a suffused, timeless feel to the room. All that was missing were some cushions to recline on and a sheik in desert robes. They were shown to their table, happily situated by a trickling fountain surrounded by palms. The Boulevarde was an oasis in the middle of a teeming city. Jane felt the cares of her week floating away as she sighed down into the softness of the seat, succumbing to the relaxing sensation.

Charles noticed the change flicker over Jane's face and smiled. He was feeling the same. Relaxing in each other's company, they tiptoed past the initial nervousness of shy glances and softly spoken words until, by the time dessert arrived, they had progressed to more obvious meaningful glances and the occasional touch of hands. Like a soft, much-loved, well fitting glove, they slipped into an ease with each other which neither overtly noticed, but which hugged them with a warmth and comfort, a feeling of rightness which gentled them through their first halting attempts at conversation to dreamy, revealing exchanges over coffee.

Charles was besotted. He knew it. He hoped Jane knew it. He didn't care. He couldn't take his eyes off his partner. Her eyes sparkled in the candlelight; her skin glowed. He had an overwhelming urge to kiss her - slowly, softly, lastingly, all night. The feel of Jane's hand reaching over to stroke his sent a tingle up his arm. Covering hers with his free hand, her eyes consenting to the unasked question, he slowly leant over and kissed her softly, for but a brief moment, a tender morsel of anticipation coming at the end of a romantic repast.

He looks so different now, than before, thought Jane. Why did I never notice how blue his eyes are, how heart-stopping his smile? His kiss, brief and soft, held a promise of such exquisite tenderness that it took her breath away. She smiled back at him, expressing wordlessly all that she was feeling, in a language he understood - a language they shared - the language of love.





One hour's drive away, at a grand house overlooking the beach at Curl Curl on Sydney's northern beaches, Will Darcy paced his verandah, looking out over the crashing waves, inhaling the salt on the air. Clinking the melting ice in his tumbler of Jack Daniels, he frowned distractedly. He was not a happy man. Striding the length of the deck, he suddenly kicked the chair, cursing silently under his breath. Damn it! he thought. He had to find some way to get Lizzy to change her mind. She invaded his thoughts constantly - the memory of her lips, the smell of her perfume, the feel of her tiny hand in his. He couldn't stand the torture of seeing Lizzy and not be able to touch her. What had started as a chance meeting on a tropical island, had developed into a passionate obsession for Will. When he was near her, he wanted to touch her; when he was away from her she filled his thoughts. God! Is this what love feels like? he thought. The pain of being separated from her for a day or a night was suffocating. As unfilled as his life had felt previously, it was nothing to the devastating emptiness now stretching out in front of him. His heart thudding to the beat of the pounding ocean below him, he sculled the last of his drink, shuddering at the burn as it ran down his throat. Her words came back to him again, deepening his frown "Live your life - I'm going to live mine." Now what the hell did she mean by that? If that meant what he thought it meant His expression darkened. He ran his hands through his hair in exasperation.

"Hello? Anyone home? Will?"

Will looked up as a stunning young slip of a girl dressed in a shimmery grey, and obviously expensive silk dress walked through the cavernous living room to join him on the deck. A ghost of a smile crossed his face.

"Hey, big brother. Where have you been? I've been trying to get hold of you all week. Why didn't you have your mobile on?" She stopped her rapid questioning as she caught the distracted expression on his face. "Okay, what's up? You look like you lost your best friend."

"Hi, Georgie. I didn't know you were coming here tonight," said Will, leaning down to kiss his little sister on the cheek. "How was work today?"

"Not too bad. The boutique is doing pretty well now. I may have to hire another sales assistant soon." Since her days as a top model had come to an abrupt and terrifying end twelve months previously, Georgiana Darcy had been the proprietor of a small, exclusive boutique in The Strand Arcade in Central Sydney. She stopped as she noticed Will's pre-occupied expression again. Georgie was a few years younger than her brother, but they had always shared a special brother/sister bond. He was the perfect big brother, she thought. "So, are you going to tell me?"

"Tell you what, Sis?" Will looked blankly at his sister.

"Will " she warned. "You can treat me like a child if you like and shut me out, but whatever it is, I may just be able to help you. The least I can do is listen. So give."

He smiled at his little sister's powers of perception and gave in. "I've met a woman "

"Well hallelujah! I never thought it would happen! It's about time you fell in love for real instead of just writing about it."

"Georgie," he said helplessly, "I did not say I was in love. Do you want to hear this or not?"

"Absolutely!" she said. Sitting down on the nearest chair, she rested her chin on her hand, giving her brother her full attention. Haltingly, Will described his 'relationship' with Lizzy, holding nothing back, not even his disastrous gaffe on the island. Finally finished, he sighed, dropping into the chair next to Georgie.

Georgie swallowed her initial reaction - one look at her brother's deeply troubled countenance told her he would not appreciate it. Instead, she replied more reasonably, "You're very lucky, Will."

"How on earth do you figure that?"

"You're lucky she ever spoke to you again after what you said to her on Bedarra. You really don't have a lot of experience with women, do you? No, don't answer that. It's pretty obvious. How on earth you make so much money writing those books is beyond me. But she must be a pretty amazing woman to forgive you - I'm not sure I would in her place."

"Gee, thanks Sis," he said with a wry smile.

"But fear not, I have the solution to your problem. I can't believe you didn't think of it yourself, but take me to dinner, big brother, and I'll tell you what it is," she said as she walked across the tiled expanse toward the front door, sure that he would follow.





At Georgie's suggestion, Will arrived at Netherfield Publishing Monday morning ready to put her plan into action. Charlotte was surprised to find him waiting when she arrived at work.

"You're awfully early, Will? You don't have an appointment, do you?" she said quickly, checking her diary.

"No, Charlotte. I just wanted to catch Charles as soon as he comes in. I'll only take 5 minutes."

"So how are things going with your new editor? Are you and Lizzy getting on?" she asked cautiously. She couldn't help notice the sparks flying between the two.

"How well do you know Lizzy, Charlotte?"

"Very well. She's a very good friend. Why?"

"Has she dated anyone since her divorce?"

"You've got the hots for her, haven't you?" The look on Will's face gave her all the answer she needed.

"That's my girl, Charlotte, cut right to the chase," smiled Will weakly.

"That's me, honey. No point in beating around the bush where love is concerned." Will looked up quickly, Charlotte smiling at his reaction. "What? You didn't realize you're in love with her? Take a look in the mirror, Will, whenever Lizzy's name is mentioned." She smiled at the embarrassed look that flitted across his finely chiseled features. "Now this goes against my better judgment, but from the look of you, you have it bad and I happen to think you two would be perfect for each other. No, Lizzy hasn't dated since her divorce. No, she will not get involved with you while you two are working together - she has a thing about that. And yes, if you hurt her, you'll have to answer to me. She is finally getting over her divorce, and believe me, as strong as she is, she nearly went under. So play nice, or you'll answer to me. You got that?"

"I hear you, Charlotte," said Will, bending down to give her a peck on the cheek in thanks.

Charles arrived at that particular moment, early again as was becoming his habit.

"Will! Please explain to me why you are kissing my PA. Unless this is in the course of research " he grinned.

"You're awfully chirpy this morning, Charles. Good weekend?"

Will and Charlotte both noticed the goofy grin plastered all over Charles' face. It fell to Charlotte to explain the transformation of her normally quiet, sober looking boss to Will.

"Charles has a new lady friend. They had their first date on Friday night. Have you been wearing that grin since then, Boss?"

Charles looked embarrassed. "Do you think you could stop teasing me for five seconds, Charlotte, and do something useful and get me a coffee? And one for Will too, please. That should keep you out of mischief for a few minutes," he laughed. "And no more bandying my love life around the office, or I'll start telling a few secrets about yours," he winked.

Charlotte laughed as she went to fetch the coffee. "No secrets you could tell about me that aren't common knowledge, Boss."

Will followed Charles into his office. Immediately serious, he came straight to the point. "I don't want Lizzy as my editor, Charles. Find me a new one."





Lizzy wandered into the office late that Monday, which was something she never did. She popped in to see Charlotte on her way to pick up any messages that were waiting for her.

"Are you okay, Lizzy? You're looking a little tired. Don't tell me you went out raging on the weekend."

"No, Charlotte, no raging for this little girl. Housework and sleep. Exciting, huh?"

"You want exciting, Lizzy? Well, how's this? Will Darcy is waiting for you down in your office. He's been here since 9:00 this morning. Even beat me here." She sat back and waited for her friend's reaction. A kaleidoscope of emotions ran across her face, from delight to sadness, but her body language said it all: the tightness in her posture, the slight drooping of her shoulders, the fidgeting hands.

"Thanks. Guess I had better get going then. See you later."

Charlotte watched her friend walk away, concerned over her once again. Boy, did that girl need some good luck with men!





Will stood when Lizzy walked in, trying to smile, although she noticed it never quite reached his eyes. He looked tired, much like her. He took in Lizzy's expression and became concerned. Too nervous to touch her, his eyes begged her to let him help. He felt pretty sure he knew what the problem was - he was afflicted in a similar fashion. The only cure was one which she unfortunately wouldn't take.

"Take a seat. I wasn't expecting to see you today, William. Did you come to talk about the book?"

"No, actually I came to see Charles about something this morning. I thought I'd drop in and say 'Hi', but if you're busy I can go." Will had been dying to see Lizzy, and he couldn't just leave knowing she was in the building. He drank in the sight of her like a man in the desert offered a glass of pure, sweet rainwater. He could smell her perfume and he clearly remembered the feel of her in his arms and the same scent in her hair. The pain of not being able to touch her was palpable. His arms longed to hold her, to feel her warm breath against his skin and her lips soft under his.

Lizzy could see where his thoughts were heading. The look in his eyes spoke volumes to someone who was more used to interpreting the written word, but the message was so clear. And besides, her thoughts were traveling along a similar path. The familiar smell of him brought on by that aftershave ran through her head, invading her senses, and like one of Pavlov's dogs, she almost started to salivate. Determined not to fall into the same trap as every other time, she swallowed and cleared her throat, bringing the subject around to a more neutral territory

"This book is a slight deviation on your usual style, yes? I mean the um, sex is shall we say um, fairly explicit."

"Yes, Lizzy, it is. But that depends totally on where my motivation comes from," he looked at her intently.

"Your motivation? I would be interested to know where the motivation for 'Undesirable Stranger' came from. Damien and Eloise certainly have a very " she struggled for the right word, "physical' attraction."

"I was writing this book on Bedarra Island, Lizzy. When I met you," he said pointedly. "I was feeling a pretty strong physical attraction to someone at the time."

"Oh am I the person behind Eloise, William?" Lizzy blushed at her question, the audacity of it, hesitant to ask, but needing to know.

"Yes, Lizzy, you are. And now you know who Damien is. It is not something I do, normally. The motivation was completely different this time."

"So, I was right, Will," she said sadly. "You did just want me for sex. What was I? Research?" she snapped in her tiredness.

"You haven't read the whole book, have you, Lizzy? If you had, you wouldn't need to ask that," he said sadly. "Let me know when you have, and I'll be back."

Hands in his pockets, Will stood and left. Guiltily, Lizzy realized she had committed a cardinal sin as an editor - she had been commenting on a book (however informally) without having finished it. Watching the closed door for many minutes, Lizzy finally turned to the manuscript on her desk, and, opening to the marker where she had suspended her reading previously, carried on.

Three hours later, after missing lunch, phone calls and meetings, Lizzy closed the manuscript. Heedless to the slow stream of tears trickling down her cheeks, she dialed Charlotte's extension.

Noting the extension number flashing, she picked up the phone. "Yes, Lizzy?"

"Is Charles busy at the moment?"

Charlotte was confused at how sniffly Lizzy was sounding. "No, he's free for the next twenty minutes. Why? Are you okay?"

"I'll be straight up."

Less than two minutes later, Lizzy walked out of the lift.

"Can I go in, Charlotte?"

"Yes, Lizzy, but "

Lizzy opened the door, walking straight in.

"Lizzy? Charlotte said you needed to see me. What's up?"

"Charles? I want to be taken off the Elizabeth Courtois account."

Charles was becoming quite used to people coming into his office without an appointment today. "Lizzy, I don't know what is going on between you and Will, but he came and asked to be assigned another editor first thing this morning. I will tell you what I told him - I'm sorry, but I just can't. Debbie is on four weeks holiday and Carol phoned in sick this morning. She won't be back for a fortnight. So, you and Will are just going to have to find a way to work together." He looked at Lizzy, unable to determine from her expression what was troubling her. "Is there anything you want to tell me, Lizzy. You know whatever you tell me will be in the strictest confidence," he said encouragingly.

"That's very sweet of you, Charles - but no, I'll be okay. Do you mind if I take an early mark? I have a few things I need to take care of."

"Sure, off you go. Call me if you need to talk."

Lizzy thanked him, and left. Charlotte was not at her desk when she passed, and for that she was grateful. She didn't want to have to explain, and she knew Charlotte would have too many questions.

Lizzy arrived home ahead of Jane for once. She flopped on the lounge, closing her eyes, trying to block out the day until she felt able to deal with it. The sound of voices in the hallway roused her from a light restless sleep. Sitting up, she waved hello to her sister.

"Hey, Janey."

"You're early, Lizzy. Are you all right?"

"I will be - don't worry. Just a little tired and worn out. Nothing to worry about."

Jane turned to her companion. "Lizzy, this is Lewis Welch. He teaches the littlies in the room next to mine."

"Hi, Lizzy," he said, shaking her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Jane has told me so much about you. Her description didn't do you justice though," he said shyly.

"Hello, Lewis," she smiled. "It's nice to meet you too." She couldn't help but notice what beautiful blue eyes he had. Paul Newman blue, she thought. He held her gaze for a moment, before turning back to Jane.

"If I can just grab those books, Jane, I'll get out of yours and Lizzy's hair," he said before glancing back at Lizzy. He had noticed the strained expression on her face and the tiredness in her eyes.

"Sure thing. They're in the study. Right this way," she said, heading towards a small room off the living room.

"I hope I see you again, Lizzy. Take care," he said with concern before following Jane.

Lizzy closed her eyes again, seeking sleep. But sleep wouldn't come. Imprinted on her brain were the final words of William's book

" with my body I worship you, with my soul I meld, and with my heart I surrender, for all the joyful days and blissful nights for the rest of our lives, Eloise. I will take your pain, and share your joy. I will be there for you when you need me, and even when you don't. I will be your husband, lover, friend, and mate from this day forward, my love "




Chapter Four