Chocka: also chocka-block meaning full up

Skinny minnie: females who are of the slender, skinny variety

Reefing: grabbing quickly, with some force

Decree Nisi: a decree issued on a first petition for divorce; becomes absolute at some later date

Chuffed: pretty damn happy and smug with it

Raked ceiling: a ceiling that is slanted, generally higher than a normal ceiling, called in the US a 'cathedral ceiling'

Ensuite: a private bathroom, attached to the bedroom, usually the master bedroom

Dee Why and Curl Curl are suburbs on the northern beaches of Sydney.

Lying in bed, Lizzy picked up the manuscript, it naturally falling open to the well-thumbed and worn section she had read over more times than an edit warranted.

Skimming over the page, she stopped at the section that always drew her in, fascinated her, the imagery strong and evocative …

Damien's eyes fluttered opened just before dawn and he lay there quietly watching as the dappled sunlight broke through the half-closed wooden shutters of the window, tracking over the bed and leaving golden stripes over their languid bodies that were still entwined at elbow and knee.

Careful not to wake the beauty beside him, he raised himself up on an elbow, looking intently down at her, loving the disheveled sight, taking in the flushed cheeks and puffy, passion-bruised lips, the curls in wild disarray cascading over the pillow.

Gently hooking a stray curl away from her face, he watched her sleep, her breathing even, the ghost of a smile playing about her lips. He wondered what she was dreaming. He hoped she was dreaming about him, about them, and the future they would share.

He felt the band of love tighten around his heart and a lump rise in his throat as he watched. Last night she had given herself to him in the oldest way known to man, fighting her way through the barriers of her emotional pain to offer her body and her heart to him; but the true gift, the treasure he had yearned for - her trust - had been surrendered simply and so subtly, he couldn't fully comprehend what he had been gifted until this moment.

He had been waiting for Eloise to come to him for a long, long time. His body and soul had burned for her so many nights, and the fever he had been fighting had now flared into a raging inferno, consuming both of them, joining and bonding them together until they were two halves of a whole. He just couldn't get enough of the taste and the feel of her - she was ambrosia itself, the food for his soul, the blood pumping life through his heart.

What had started as a fierce coupling, with a shredding of clothes and prejudices and an explosion of torrid feelings, had gradually abated during the night into a languorous melding, a continuous meeting of hungry bodies and hearts, a sexual and emotional tango that had taken them from a frenzied, lust-filled allegro through a symphony of movements to a calm, soothing adagio.

His muscles ached from shoulder to toe, but he embraced the deep-seated contentment that arose from it, knowing that it was born out of sharing himself with the woman he loved. Giving and receiving, relinquishing and taking, their loving had filled the twilight hours until their hearts and bodies had surrendered, sated at last into an exhausted sopor.

He watched as, in that semi-dreamlike state just prior to waking, she stretched and raised her arm over her head, and her breast - full and soft, moved closer to his lips. Unable to resist, he took the nipple in his mouth, laving and suckling until it hardened to a tight, dark bud. He lifted his eyes to glance at her, noticing that, although her breathing had quickened, she slept yet, a small whimper of pleasure escaping her at his touch.

Impatient to feel her again, he trailed his fingers lightly over her torso, ridiculously pleased to feel her writhe slightly, moving towards his hands, her legs straightening and stretching as her body and mind continued to awaken. Running his fingers up her legs to the downy apex, they found her lips, swollen and still wet from their loving through the night. Playing gently with them, still suckling her nipple, he was not surprised when she mewled sleepily and her legs parted to allow him better access.

Releasing her nipple with a moist 'pop', he laved his tongue lazily over her body, amazed at the erotic contrast of silky softness mixed with the heat of her skin. Over ribs and stomach, leaving a damp trail as he moved lower, he heard her moan again as he licked and nipped his way down, nestling in the damp curls at the base of her tummy, his hot breath wafting over her.

Slithering down to the end of the bed, he settled between her parted legs and gently licked her lips, separating the moist folds with his tongue, smiling when he heard a gasp as his tongue softly reached out to flick over her nub. He stopped for a moment, teasing, delighted as her hips rose off the bed, her body seeking the source of her pleasure. He looked up at Eloise, eyes tightly closed. She was awake now, he thought to himself grinning wickedly.

Dipping down to her sweetness once again, he licked and tasted, feeling her body move in time with him, as he slowly inserted his tongue into that place he had filled again and again last night, tasting their juices - the result of their insatiable appetites for each other seeking satisfaction over and over.

He heard a moan and felt a hand tangling through his hair.

"Damien," gasped Eloise, "oh God! Please …"

He felt his body respond to her plea, his hard cock throbbing in response against the tangled sheets, knowing what she wanted, but determined that this time the pleasure he would give would be all for her.

Inserting a finger and then a second one, he gently stroked in and out, her swollen wetness sucking at his fingers as his tongue continued its dance over her lips and her inner thighs. Her body shivered, her nerves screaming against the indescribable tension of his rhythmic touch. He could feel her body shaking against his lips as the pressure built.

Eloise was moaning loudly now - her body bucking against his hand and face. He could feel her thickening around his fingers and knew from the trembling passing through her body that her moment was close.

He moved up alongside her while his fingers continued their cadenced stroking, needing to see the pleasure on her face as she came. Eloise's eyes snapped open and she reached over to run her finger over his still moist lips. Nipping it gently he then drew it in to suck and lick it, the feel of his mouth pulling on the tip sending an electric shock down her body to where his thrusting tempo has increased. Releasing her finger, he leaned over her to touch her mouth softly with his, his tongue licking her lips, teasing her with light flicks, until hers parted, drawing him in.

Her hands held his face firmly against hers as she felt the tremors of her climax start to shudder through her. The feel of his tongue thrusting in her mouth sparked off the final paroxysm and she let go, screaming breathlessly against his mouth as she hit the peak again and again, gradually subsiding into soft, throbbing pulses, leaving her gasping.

He cradled her lovingly in his arms, easing her back from the brink with soft kisses in her hair and soothing endearments. He would never tire of the joy he could give her. He cherished her more than words could ever say, and hoped that in time the evidence of his love would erase the painful hurt she had suffered.

She closed the well-thumbed manuscript and shut her eyes, allowing her mind to hover over the images, savoring and testing each one, wanting them to be real, wanting it to be her. A tear escaped her eye, followed by a second one. She couldn't believe that making love could be that way. But that, she realized, was the difference between sex and making love, where two people give so completely and unselfishly to each other. She felt sad for what she knew she had missed and what she had discovered she wanted and craved. She cursed Anthony for his inadequacies as a husband and a lover. She was coming to realize just how mediocre her introduction to the game of love had been, and was, at last, completely glad to be rid of him.

Curling up into a small ball, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep. But sleep wouldn't come. Not for many hours.

When Lizzy awoke that morning, she was tired, but strangely, she finally felt free. As she slept, the realization, hard won, that she was heading into a new and better life, had settled into her subconscious and she arose calm and surprisingly content.

It was hump day, that special day of the week that workers the world over looked forward to as it presaged the imminent weekend. Lizzy was no different and sat at her desk gazing vacantly out at the million-dollar view of the Sydney Opera House.

But her mind was not on the view. It was instead more pleasantly occupied with the pleasure that a pair of fine eyes in the face of a handsome man can afford. Chocolate brown, gold flecks, fire and sparks, they were a heady mix of decadent richness fused with an electric quality. Lips that were made for kissing, she thought, that shot fire down her limbs turning her into a gooey, boneless lump of gasping womanhood. Good grief! She was starting to sound like Elizabeth Courtois. Lost in her musings, Lizzy jumped as the phone rang, its shrill ring cutting into her daydreaming. Quickly she lunged for it, reefing it off its cradle.

"Hello?" she asked quickly.

"Hello," a deep baritone rumbled down the line.

Lizzy's heart started to hammer against her ribcage, adrenaline rushing through her veins as she heard the warm, comforting tones of the voice that belonged to the eyes and lips she had been ruminating over for half the morning.

"Just touching base, Lizzy. Wasn't sure if you needed to see me yet." Or in other words, give me an opportunity to come in and see you.

A million thoughts rushed through her head at his words. Needed, wanted, craved, hungered … sure, all of the above, which was, of course, why she couldn't, wouldn't and mustn't see him yet. The thought of William Darcy's scalding lips on hers was still too fresh in her mind, and was eroding all her attempts to maintain a professional detachment. But the implications of the final passage of his book still rang through her mind. She was definitely not ready … yet. "My diary is chocka this week, William," she lied uneasily, tapping her pencil on the desk nervously. "Can I slot you in for early next week?"

You can slot me in for the rest of your life, thought Will to himself. Knowing that saying this was not what would get him into her office (and at this point, her life), he attempted to sound detached, realizing that the only way for him to eventually be as close to Lizzy as he needed was to back off. For now.

"Yeah, whatever suits. I'm free most of next week, so pick a time."

"How about Wednesday at 2pm?" She waited for his reply. She thought she caught the hint of a sigh on the other end.

"Sure. See you then. Bye." Click.

Lizzy was confused by his offhand replies. She knew she had told him to keep their relationship on a professional basis, but now a part of her unreasonably missed the playful, determined and very sexy William. Her raging hormones got in the way every time he came near and it was all she could do not to throw herself at him, strip him naked and have her lustful way with him. But she knew - he had been so clear - that the playful William came with a lot of other baggage that she wasn't sure she could carry yet, not in addition to her own. And in her entire career, she had never mixed business with pleasure. It was the first rule she had learned. But would she be able to survive this edit without breaking it, she wondered. Her career meant a lot to her. Hell, let's face it, she thought, it was all she had. Still, she now had a week to get herself under control and get some much-needed perspective. She sighed and buried herself under the growing pile of manuscripts and memos on her desk that begged her attention, endeavoring to get her head out of the stormy, billowing clouds that always blew over it when she thought of William Darcy.

Sitting on his deck in the sun, long, bare legs stretched out in front of him, Will tapped the hands-free phone against his cheek as he pondered what he was going to do about Elizabeth Bennet. The last month had been a heady whirlwind of highs and lows for him. His previously ordered existence had been thrown into a confused mix of emotional upheaval, which he knew he could trace back to that fateful morning and a gorgeous woman in a yellow bikini.

He was resolved to try and hold back his feelings for Lizzy, at least until he was sure of them himself. Will Darcy had never been one to enter lightly into a relationship. Irrespective of what his writing might indicate, he had always looked forward to meeting and loving a woman who could love him for what he was deep down. In recent years though, he had grown battle weary, giving up on finding that woman who could crack through the hard shell in which he had encased himself, to find the soft center within.

He was in a tumult over his feelings about Lizzy. He never, ever threw himself at a woman. In fact the opposite was usually the case. He had had his share of predatory females hoping to ensnare him into either sexual peccadilloes or matrimony, but the shoe, this time, was decidedly on the other foot. He found the experience to be extremely frustrating in more ways than one.

His image of Lizzy was so firmly imprinted in his mind, that with very little effort he could summon up her face with sparkling clarity, sitting opposite him, smiling at him, her eyes laughing and her seductive lips drawing him in. He remembered the feel of her body against his … he groaned quietly as he recalled the curves he had cradled too few times for his liking. He had never been fond of skinny-minnies, so slim that their bones dug into you. He liked the feel of her softness, her fullness, and the way she moulded to him … or would if she gave him half a chance.

But the thing about Lizzy, that indefinable spark that lit his flame, was not the look of her. It was … he shook his head as he tried to define it to himself. It was the feeling he always had of … of … what? Desire? Passion? Contentment? He struggled to find the right expression. He knew that he wanted to soothe her hurt, ease her pain, fill her sometimes sad eyes and heart with laughter and love … Love? He felt a jolt as he recalled Charlotte's words to him. Is this love? Am I in love with Lizzy, he asked himself? He frowned and shook his head in denial. No, it can't be. Falling in love like that only happens in those romantic fluff books I write. But if not love, then what is it? He knew he wanted to look after her, care for her, cuddle her. And in his heart of hearts, he wanted her to look after him too. He was tired of living alone. He wanted someone to share his life. Until he'd met Lizzy, he had never contemplated allowing someone into his space - the thought of sharing that much of himself was repugnant. But since meeting Lizzy, his life seemed stale, dusty, vacant and hollow. My god, he thought to himself derisively. the adjectives are certainly flowing this morning. Meeting her had been the most amazing case of serendipity. He knew deep down, way down in the part of his thoughts that he rarely visited, that she was meant to be his mate, his partner. Love? I guess this must be, he smiled ruefully to himself.

He shook his head in frustration. He knew now what he wanted and needed and why. The question was, how to go about obtaining it. Patience was definitely not his strong suit, but he knew it was about to be tested, to its very limits.

On the other side of Sydney Harbour, Lizzy put her pencil down and closed the manuscript she had buried herself in after completing the initial edit. Allowing herself a break, she walked to her kettle and flicked the switch to boil the water. After plopping a tea bag into a cup, she folded her arms across her chest and hugged herself, and waited. Minutes later, tea in hand, she wandered back to her desk, reaching it as the phone rang again.

"Hello. Lizzy speaking." She held her breath for a moment, wondering if it was William calling her back.

"Hey Liz," called Jane's happy voice. Lizzy swallowed the small flare of disappointment.

"Hi Jane. What's up?"

"I'm just on lunch at the moment, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind if I brought someone home for dinner tonight."

"Charles?" asked Lizzy. She hadn't told Charles yet that his Jane was her sister. She thought it would be a lot more fun if he found out later. And she and Jane had different surnames, Jane electing to keep her married one for some reason, while Lizzy had reverted to her maiden name as soon as the ink was dry on her decree nisi, so there was no reason for him to guess.

"No, not Charles, although I am hoping he will call tonight. No, you remember Lewis? I introduced you on Friday night." Lizzy remembered very well - Mr Paul Newman eyes. "We're working on a funding proposal tonight for some excursions we would like to take our classes on, and I thought he could come for dinner first, if that's okay with you. And don't worry, Lizzy, I'll cook."

Lizzy grimaced at the thought of Jane's "cooking". Jane tried, really, very hard, but she was one of the few people Lizzy knew who couldn't even boil water without a disaster. No way she could let Jane inflict one of her parodies of gastronomic justice on a poor unsuspecting guest.

"Don't worry about cooking, Jane. Just bring Lewis and I'll whip up a stroganoff or something, then you two can get straight down to work, okay?"

"Thanks for that. See you at home."

When she arrived home, Lizzy quickly threw the stroganoff together and went to shower and change before they arrived. She had just turned off the shower when she heard voices moving up the hall. Quickly, she dried and dressed, running a brush through her unruly locks before heading in the direction of the voices.

Popping her head through the door of the small office she and Jane shared, she said "hi" to the two teachers, heads down and laughing over something on Jane's desk. They looked up as they heard Lizzy, and both turned to her, smiling widely.

"Hi, Lizzy," they said in unison.

"Lewis was just showing me what one of the kids in his class wrote in their writing exercise today. It really is cute. Here, have a look," she said, handing the exercise book to Lizzy.

Starting to read, Lizzy was soon giggling along with Jane and Lewis. Written in a tiny, shaky hand, she read …

My name is Molly. I am 4 5 yeers old. My teecha is Mr Weal Wels Whelch. He has blew eyes. He is nise. I sit next to John, but I don't lick him. He farts.

Lizzy was soon wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. "Looks like you'll have to move Molly, Lewis. Can't have her 'licking' the boys," she chuckled.

Her laughter carried down the hall as she left Jane and Lewis to their work, quickly finishing off the stroganoff with a generous addition of cream. Lighting some scented candles just for the hell of it, she opened the bottle of red she had brought home and called them to let then know dinner was on the table.

Over dinner, the conversation flowed easily between the three with lots of laughs, kidding and easy banter. Jane couldn't help noticing the occasional quick glances that Lewis threw at Lizzy when he thought no one was looking. Well, well, she thought. This is very interesting. I do believe Lewis is interested in my little sister. She knew what a gentle soul Lewis was, and Lizzy certainly wasn't dating anyone, she mused. Hmmm. This has definite possibilities.

After dinner, Jane and Lewis settled down to finish their funding proposal, while Lizzy curled up with the TV. She was dozing off through "Joe Millionaire" when the phone rang on the extension in the office. A couple of minutes later, Lewis came out to join Lizzy in the lounge-room.

"Charles," he replied to her silent question.

"Looks like you won't be getting much more work done on your proposal then," said Lizzy knowingly.

"Charles is your boss, isn't he?" Lewis asked.

She nodded and they both settled back to watch the TV, chatting companionably. Eventually though, as the conversation developed, Lizzy switched it off altogether and they just talked. For the 40 minutes that Jane was on the phone, Lizzy and Lewis covered every topic from the state of world peace to the joys of little kids. She found him so easy to talk to, and was fascinated by his job as a teacher of 5 and 6 year olds. He loved kids - that much was easy to see. She felt very relaxed talking to him, his company was easy and comfortable, and she was a little disappointed when Jane came out to drag Lewis back to their work.

Shortly after 10pm, they put their pens away, and Lewis came to take his leave.

"I've had a wonderful evening, Jane, Lizzy. You're a great cook. Thanks for having me around."

"Yes, well it's just as well Jane didn't cook, Lewis. You probably would have left screaming in agony hours ago, she teased cheekily from her position on the couch.

"No problem, Lewis," said Jane, fixing her sister with a glare. "You know you're always welcome." Lizzy nodded happily in agreement.

After he had gone, Jane came and sat on the lounge next to Lizzy.

"So, what do you think of Lewis?"

"Are you match-making, Sis? You're not becoming like Mum, are you?"

Jane looked at Lizzy like she needed to wash her mouth out with soap. They had both been on the receiving end of their Mother's matchmaking efforts. Neither of them wanted to end up like the formidable Mrs Bennet.

"No, but you like Lewis, I can tell. He's actually kinda cute, and besides, I don't see any other man breaking down your door."

"That's from choice, Jane. I think there is one other one who would probably sweep in here with a bulldozer if he thought it would do any good."

"Really? And who might that be? Why wasn't I told?" she asked, curious as hell to know who her little sister's admirer was.

"A client, Jane. Which is why he isn't, and won't be calling. You know I don't mix business with pleasure. By the way, you haven't told Charles that you're my sister, have you?" said Lizzy, more as a statement than a question.

"No, I thought I would wait and see how things go. I don't want to make things difficult for you at work if nothing happens."

"And is something happening?" asked Lizzy, more than just a little bit curious.

One look at Jane's face, and Lizzy burst out laughing.

"What?" asked Jane with embarrassment.

"That's the same goofy grin Charles has been wearing all this week whenever Charlotte kids him about his 'new lady'. You two have got it sooo bad," she laughed. "So what did he want?"

"He's invited me over this Sunday to spend the day with him and Robbie. Isn't that sweet?"

"That's not just sweet, Janey, that's serious. So you really like him?"

"Oh, Lizzy, he's wonderful. He's everything I ever wanted in a man. Kind, sweet, romantic, very sexy, and he's great with Robbie. He just loves that little guy so much," she mused.

"So, it is serious," Lizzy stated. "You never get all gooey like this over a guy, Jane. Oh boy, I am so hearing wedding bells …"

"It's early days yet, Liz, but all I can say is that I'm certainly willing to see how far this will go. I feel so happy and complete when we're alone together. It's like we're the only two people on the planet. Anyway, Charles may not be ready for another marriage. I don't want to rush things. And don't forget there's Robbie to think of too. He has to accept me as much as Charles."

"One thing you'll learn about Charles, my dear, sweet sister, is that he is the master of quick decision making, and what is really annoying is that 95% of the time it's the right decision. So if he decides you're the one, be prepared for a real, short courtship, honey," she laughed.

Jane was staring off into space with a private smile on her face, causing Lizzy to smile to herself. Oh yeah, she thought, you are definitely hooked. "Anyway, I'll leave you to your sweet dreams. I'm off to bed. 'Night."

A distracted, mumbled reply was all that she received.

Jane left for Charles place at Whale Beach mid-Sunday morning, electing to drive there to save Charles having to pack a squirming 6 year old in the car.

Half an hour later, just as Lizzy was finishing her second cup of tea and reading the weekend paper, the doorbell rang. She wasn't expecting anyone, and checked the peephole before she opened the door, surprised to see Lewis standing there.

"Come in, Lewis. You looking for Jane?" The blue of his shirt set off the clarity of his startling eyes, and she looked into them, fascinated by the diamond-bright shafts of light they reflected.

"Yes, she told me to meet her here at 10.30. Not sure why. Is she up?"

Lizzy smiled to herself at Jane's transparent manipulations. "Jane had to rush off, Lewis, and I don't know when she'll be back. Would you like to stay for a cuppa?"

One cuppa became two, and exactly as Jane had planned, Lizzy and Lewis ended up spending the day together. After strolling around Manly for a while, they decided to hop on a ferry and head over the Harbour to the city and take in a movie. Stopping off for a coffee before heading back, they ended up staying through coffee, a snack, and finally dinner before eventually arriving home later in the evening. They came through the door, laughing at the drenching they had received on their return trip across the Harbour on the Hydrofoil - standing on the bow like a couple of teenagers and getting completely soaked.

"You had better dry off, Lewis. You'll catch pneumonia." She went to grab a towel and came up behind him, admiring the spread of his shoulders as she approached. Hmmm, nice, she thought in honest appraisal, noticing the way the shirt stuck to the firm planes of his back. She tapped him on the shoulder as she came close, turning him around, and playfully started drying his hair as he grinned down at her, those eyes now smiling and crinkling with delight.

"You know, I've had a wonderful day," she said. Impetuously, she pulled down on the ends of the towel wrapped around his neck, bringing his lips to hers, enjoying the pleasurable taste of him. Caught unawares by her impulsive behaviour, he shyly returned the kiss, but soon overcame his bashfulness and took her face in his hands deepening the kiss, leaving her with a hint of the tiger lurking just beneath the surface.

"At your service, ma'am," he said huskily.

Lizzy felt a tingle go through her, pleasantly surprised at the feeling. It made her feel good.

"I, ah, think I had better get going, Lizzy. You'd better get out of those wet things too," he winked at her, "and I don't trust myself to be here when that happens. Maybe we can do this again?"

She nodded, pleased with the thought.

Happy, he kissed her lightly as he left, letting himself out.

Lizzy smiled to herself as she heard the door close, It had been a wonderful day. Sighing contentedly, she filled the bath, relaxing into the bubbles and feeling the warmth spread through her body still chilled from the soaking. She suddenly realized that she hadn't thought about William all day. Well, that's an improvement, she thought to herself. And she had had a lot of fun; Lewis was great company (and not a bad kisser too - hmmm, still waters run deep). But boy, did she have a bone to pick with Jane when she got home - matchmaking little missy.

Will stripped off his sweat-soaked clothes and dropped them on the floor of the bathroom before reaching over to turn the taps on the shower, forcing hot needles of water out of the showerhead under great pressure, not unlike how he was feeling at the moment. The run along Curl Curl beach had started out as a jog to clear his head and had ended in a flat-out sprint.

Having nothing better to do, he had joined Georgie for a Sunday in the city, giving in to her badgering to see a movie with him. He definitely wished he hadn't. The unexpected sight of Lizzy had shaken him, but he drank in the sight of her from a distance, laughing, eyes sparkling, until that is, he saw the man who was with her. The easy way his hand had touched her back as they walked into the darkened cinema nearly caused Will's blood to boil. And the fact that she looked to be enjoying herself so much did nothing to improve his disposition either. He was not a happy chappy.

Standing in the shower, he hung his head under the pelting stream of water, trying to wash the tremble out of his exhausted leg muscles, and the fury out of his heart.

Following the easy directions, Jane arrived at Charles' house a little after ten. Even before she could ring the bell, the door was opened and a little body rushed at her, smiling up at her with undisguised joy.

"She's here, Dad," shouted Robbie to his father who was following quickly in his son's footsteps.

"Hi, Robbie. Hello, Charles."

Charles' answering look filled her heart with pure pleasure.

"Come on, Ms Brown," he said, dragging her through the house. "I want to show you Buster. He's my puppy. Uncle Will got him for me for my birthday."

Jane knelt down to Robbie before he could whisk her away, and spoke seriously to him. He looked at her intently, wondering what was wrong.

"When we're not in school, I would like you to call me Jane. Do you think you can do that, Robbie? Ms Brown is just for school, do you understand?"

"Sure, Ms Brown, err, I mean Jane. This isn't school, so it's all right. Anything else?"

"Err, no, that's it."

Jane smiled helplessly at Charles. "You have a very smart boy," she said before being dragged enthusiastically by the eager Robbie through to the back yard. Charles stood in the doorway watching Jane and Robbie playing catch with Buster, his heart feeling full to see his son, so withdrawn over the last couple of years, running and laughing just like any other kid his age.

"Robbie, let Jane rest for a moment," said Charles to his excited son, as he tried to drag her off for another round of catch with Buster.

"But, Dad, I want to play with her. Buster and I are just having fun," said Robbie looking chastened.

"Yes, I know that squirt, but I didn't invite Jane round just so that you could run her ragged playing with Buster. Now, off you go. We'll watch you from here, okay?"

They watched Robbie play, and with only the occasional request for attention, Jane and Charles slipped effortlessly into the intimate conversation that was becoming a hallmark of their budding relationship. Each was aware of the electricity between them, but were also sensitive to the inclusion of Robbie into their easy rapport. Although Charles considered Jane his lady-love, he was secretly chuffed that he seemed to have some serious competition for Jane's affections in the form of his rambunctious son. She certainly appeared to have bewitched all the Bingley men.

The only thing that could slow Robbie's enthusiastic display of juvenile energy, was the announcement of food, and when burgers and hot dogs on the barbeque were mentioned for lunch, he soon showed playing was not the only area he displayed such zeal. After a short break to allow the mini-mountain of food he had consumed to go down, he was allowed a swim in the pool while Jane and Charles looked on, talking and holding hands discreetly. Finally exhausted and barely making it through an early dinner before his eyes gave up the fight and closed, Robbie fell into a heavy slumber on Charles' lap.

After Charles had carried his exhausted but happy little boy to bed and tucked him in, he quietly came downstairs, eager to spend time alone with the beautiful woman who had put a smile on both their faces again.

He stood at the doorway, his presence unobserved, and watched Jane staring out the window at the ocean vista. She is so beautiful, he thought. But he realized that the beauty came from within, as much as without. He walked quietly over to her and turned her to face him.

"Will you play with me now, Jane?" he asked smiling at her.

"Only if you're a good boy."

"I've been very good all day, when all I've been wanting to do this," he said, lowering his face to hers and kissing her deeply.

Jane felt her knees start to weaken at the intensity of the kiss, and was relieved to feel Charles arms holding her tightly. Finally he released her, only leaving her wanting more.

And Charles was more than happy to oblige. In Jane, he had found a woman who could fill the gaping void left by the untimely death of his wife, and even after such a short time, she looked and felt like she was a part of their home. Without either being consciously aware, their relationship was moving to another level.

"Jane, I don't want to rush or scare you, but I just feel so right with you. I haven't been this happy in a long time. Neither has Robbie. You've brought so much laughter back into our lives." He took her hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it softly.

"We've both suffered hurt, Charles, and I know this may seem a little scary, but I think we both feel there is something special between us. It makes me want to savor every moment of our time together. I love being with you and Robbie."

"We both adore you, Jane, I hope you know that." And taking her other hands in his, he looked deeply into her eyes. After their first date, he had wondered if the feeling of 'rightness' he had felt with Jane had just been a result of the romantic setting. But here he was, two dates and numerous phone calls later, and he still felt the same. They fit together so perfectly. Like peas in a pod. He knew she felt it too. But he needed to know if she was ready to be a larger part of his life.

"I would like to introduce you to some of my friends, Jane. I'm having a birthday party Saturday week and they will all be here. Would you come as my partner? I want everyone to know that I'm serious - about you, about us."

Jane looked at the man holding her, touched by the love she saw in his eyes and the raw vulnerability she saw lurking there, and she knew that this was where she wanted and was meant to be. She smiled at him, caressing his cheek, knowing he could understand her wordless reply.

Wednesday rolled around, bright and sunny. Knowing William would be coming in later, Lizzy had been unable to concentrate all morning. After ducking out for a quick bite for lunch, she arrived back at her office, surprised to see William waiting for her. He always seemed to be waiting for her. She looked quickly at her watch to make sure that she wasn't late.

"I know, I'm early. I can come back at at 2pm if you'd prefer." The truth was that Will had been unable to stay away any longer. It had been the longest week of his life, not seeing Lizzy, except for that Sunday of course. His brow furrowed as he thought of it.

Lizzy was confused. William seemed so, offhand … no, it was more like he was … displeased. She didn't understand. She wondered what was going on.

"How have you been, William?" asked Lizzy, attempting to break his mood. "What do you do when you're not writing? Do you still go for a run in the morning like you used to on Bedarra?"

"Yes. I seem to be doing a lot of running lately - helps to relieve the tension," he said looking down at the hands in his lap.

Lizzy was not quite sure what he meant by 'tension' or what was going through his mind, but she decided to leave it alone for now. She moved the subject onto the slightly safer topic of the book.

"I have finished the initial edit of 'Undesirable Stranger', William."

He looked up quickly, knowing that meant she must have read the whole book. His eyes searched hers, looking for a response to the message he had placed in there.

She acknowledged it, saying, "The ending was beautiful, William. Very romantic. You surprise me. Always the happy ending. But then this is fiction - real life isn't always like that, is it? But it's a wonderful notion - happily ever after. It's the only way to end a real love story," she reflected.

Will looked searchingly at Lizzy, wondering if he was receiving the correct message. Her eyes held his - drawing him in with that penetrating gaze of hers that shot a throbbing pulse all the way down to his toes. Did that mean what he hoped? Did he still have a chance?

They spent the next two hours going over Lizzy's suggestions for changes, looking at artwork for the cover, and double-checking some of the layout she had lined up. By the time they were finished, it was nearly time for home.

Will stood to leave. "Give me a call if you think of anything else. I'll be out of town for a week and a bit," he said. He had decided the only way he could cope with not seeing her was to get away. Being so close to her and not seeing her was driving him up the wall. "Do you have my mobile number?" She nodded. "I'll have it switched on all the time, so you should always be able to reach me. Anytime. Bye then, Lizzy."

"Sure William. You take care," she said a little wistfully to his retreating form.

After he left, Lizzy despondently packed up her things and, grabbing her handbag and briefcase, she switched off the lights and closed the door to her office.

She walked out into the late afternoon sun, strolling down the road in the direction of the Quay, hoping the crowd on the hydrofoil at this hour of the day wouldn't be too bad. Her car was in getting it's 3-monthly service, but the public transport wasn't too bad, so she didn't mind the occasional commute across the harbour.

Lost in her thoughts and daydreaming a little, she didn't notice the blue BMW crawling alongside her until she heard the toot of the horn. Looking around, she finally noticed it. It was the latest model, very nice, very sleek, very expensive. And a gorgeous looking man behind the wheel. He reached over to open the door for her, saying, "Hop in, I'll give you a lift."

"Do you think that's a good idea, William? And besides, I don't want to take you out of your way."

"Don't be silly. Where do you live?"

"Dee Why."

"Really? Well hop in. I live in Curl Curl. You're barely five minutes away from me," he smiled, "and it's silly for you to catch the hydrofoil when I'm going that way anyway.

Lizzy looked a little doubtful.

"Come on, I won't bite," he winked.

It was good to see him smile again, thought Lizzy as she sank into the plush leather seat, smiling back at William as she buckled herself in.

They chatted companionably as he wended his way through the early peak hour traffic. The radio was playing softly in the background, providing a peaceful buffer against the shy pauses in their conversation.

"Where abouts in Curl Curl do you live, William? Do you have a view of the beach?"

"I'm right on it actually. The deck overlooks it. I love sitting out there on clear nights when the waves are really crashing onto the rocks. I love the sound of the ocean - can't seem to get to sleep at night when I'm away from it," he smiled.

"I don't have a view from my balcony. I would have loved it, but that would have cost me another $40,000 for one of those, and I just couldn't afford it after Anthony and I broke up. I can hear the ocean though. I love it too. If I've had a really bad day at work, I go out there with a glass of wine and just sit in the stillness of the night and close my eyes and let the sounds of the ocean wash over me. It relaxes me more than anything else - even music. Sometimes the natural quietness is a lot more soothing, don't you think?"

He nodded at her in agreement. "Would you like to see my house, Lizzy? The view is pretty spectacular and I have to go right past it to get to yours." He realized after he had asked the question, that he desperately wanted her to say yes. He deliberately kept his eyes on the road so that she wouldn't see the need in his eyes.

"Sure," she said quietly. "Only if it's no trouble. I would love to see your house."

They drove the rest of the way quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Ten minutes later he pulled up in the driveway of a beautiful house of stark, white Mediterranean stucco and huge picture windows. Will noticed the openly surprised look on Lizzy's face as he went around to open her door.

"It looks even better from inside," he chuckled to her as he took her hand to help her out.

She followed him into the huge foyer, looking around her in wonder at the clever use of windows and skylights in the raked ceiling to maximize the effect of natural light.

"Is that you Will?" she heard a female voice call from another room.

"Yes, Mrs Reynolds. I have a guest with me."

Hand at her back, Will led Lizzy through to the largest domestic kitchen she had seen - all gleaming stainless steel and every mod-con imaginable.

"Lizzy," said Will, leading her over to the plump, older woman busy taking off her apron, "this is Mrs Reynolds, my housekeeper. Mrs Reynolds, this is Lizzy Bennet, my … editor," he said, pausing slightly.

"Very pleased to meet you, Lizzy," smiled Mrs Reynolds. "I hope you're staying to dinner with Will. I've left him enough food to feed a football team."

"It's nice to meet you too, Mrs Reynolds. Is William a big eater?" she asked, smiling at the friendly, older woman.

"Normally, yes. He used to have the appetite of a horde of hungry teenagers, but lately … no. Eats like a mouse. Seems to have lost his appetite. Personally," and here she leaned closer to Elizabeth to whisper, "I think it must be a woman. Nothing sends a man off his food quicker, you know. So," she said directly to Will, "either you start eating more or we are going to have to get a dog."

Lizzy couldn't help but smile as she realized from the flushed look on his face, that William had in fact heard Mrs Reynolds hushed comment to her.

"Wouldn't it just be simpler to cook less?" asked Will artlessly.

She stared at him as if he had just suggested a permanent course of starvation for the rest of his life. Dismissing him lightly, she said, "Silly boy. Well then, I best be off home, before Burt, that's my husband, dear," she said with a twinkle in her eye as she patted Elizabeth's arm, "comes looking for me. 'Night, Will. Lovely to meet you, Lizzy. And please stay to dinner. Will spends much too much time alone. I keep telling him it's not healthy. But he never listens to me. Typical male - they never hear a word you say," she said, rolling her eyes.

Lizzy was hard pressed to contain her mirth until Mrs Reynolds had departed. But suddenly, she had to laugh. All the tension of the day and their meeting released, and she found she couldn't stop laughing. William was looking decidedly uncomfortable realizing he was the source of her mirth.

"I'm sorry Will, but where did you find her? She's wonderful!"

"I think she talks too much," he said defensively. "So," he said hesitantly, "would you like to stay to dinner? We have," and he lifted the lid of a huge pan to see, "some sort of stew, I think."

Lizzy leaned over to look, and gasped. "That's Chicken Chasseur, William. Mrs Reynolds would be mortified. A stew!" she exclaimed in exasperation.

"Stay … please. I hate eating alone and I'll never hear the end of it if there are too many leftovers."

Lizzy smiled at William as she acquiesced. She enjoyed seeing this side of him - he was like a little boy who had received a scolding. She was fascinated by all the shades of him that she had seen. It was hard to believe they all belonged to the same man.

'Would you like to see the rest of the house before we eat?" he asked.

She nodded and he led the way up to the first floor and the most beautiful suite of bedrooms Lizzy had seen. It was like a decorator's paradise. Each bedroom had a queen-size bed and it's own ensuite and was decorated with a definite Asian flavor - minimalist, but tasteful, calm and peaceful. The master bedroom was the last room they visited, up another flight of stairs, taking up the whole floor of the three-storey house, like a penthouse.

Standing in the doorway, Lizzy was stunned by the tranquility of the room. In the center was a king-size futon on a black wood base with white, embossed bamboo print sheets and crisp lines. In fact the Japanese theme carried through the whole dιcor. With an encouraging look from William, she entered fully and walked around the room, amazed. A feeling of calm came over her. The sound of water trickling caught her attention and she moved toward a partially enclosed, discreet balcony. A feng shui fountain trickled water off stones and pebbles before ending in a pool of lotus blossoms. The effect was beautiful. She turned to William, her eyes shining. There was such a feeling of peace and restfulness in the room.

"Would you like to see the bathroom?" he asked quietly.

As she nodded, he took her hand and led her the few steps to the concealed, sliding shoji panel of the ensuite, sliding it silently along.

A deep, black rectangular bath, so big it could easily hold three people, stood in the middle of the huge room which was almost the size of her whole bedroom. Soft cream wallpaper, imprinted in a delicate black and red fan print, lined the walls. Lizzy reached to touch it, surprised to discover the silky look translated to a silky feel as well. A huge glass encased shower consumed a large corner, wooden benches on two sides and two directional shower heads set to aim down at the bodies that needed the quick relief the bath could not provide. She had never seen anything like it in her life. And plants - everywhere she turned there was discreet greenery, never intruding, always subtle. The recessed down-lights gave the room a soft, ethereal ambience.

"How about dinner, Lizzy," Will asked softly, his voice penetrating the spell.

She struggled to find her voice, still bewitched by effect of the room. "Yes, that would be lovely."

They carried their dinner and wine through to the deck, eating at the small, glass-topped rattan table and chairs. The conversation flowed so freely, it was hard to remember where their problems had gone to, or indeed what they had been. It was like their first dinner together at Bedarra.

As he watched her in the flickering candlelight, he couldn't remember a more enjoyable evening he had spent in his home. That Lizzy was here with him, was a joy he had never expected, and that made it all the more precious.

He had to get some space between himself and Lizzy. Watching her mouth as she talked, and the way her little tongue flicked out to lick her bottom lip was driving him crazy. He breathed deeply, trying to get himself back under control. What was wrong with him? He couldn't be alone with her for five minutes without wanting to grab her.

He excused himself on the pretext of getting dessert. What he really needed was time. And space.

He took his time in the kitchen, looking in the fridge to see what goodies Mrs Reynolds had in there. His eyes lit up as he saw the perfect ending to their meal right in front of his eyes. Grabbing them, he walked back out to the deck with two creamy desserts in frosted glasses.

"Which would you like, Lizzy? We have white chocolate mousse or dark chocolate mousse."

Lizzy's eyes lit up. "Oooh! I can't decide. Can we share?"

Will smiled back at her face lit with pleasure.

At her first mouthful, Lizzy's eyes closed as the decadent confection melted in her mouth. A second mouthful quickly followed the first. "Hmmm," she moaned in delight.

"Mrs Reynolds makes them with real chocolate. She knows they're my favorite."

"This is divine. Can I have a taste of yours?"

Scooping up a good-sized dollop, Will fed the scoop of rich dark chocolate cream to Lizzy. Her hand held his while she licked the spoon clean, her eyes sparkling.

"What about me? Are you going to eat all that?" he asked as he eyed of the diminishing level of white chocolate in her glass.

Grinning wickedly, she placed a spoonful of mousse into his mouth. He smiled back at her as he held her hand where it was. "I'm not quite finished yet," he said, eyes glinting.

She laughed at the look of surprise on his face when she dived into his dessert, grabbing another spoonful and quickly eating it before he could stop her.

"Just a second," he said, "I think you missed a bit." And, reaching over, he ran his finger over the corner of her mouth, wiping the bit she missed. Before he knew it, she had directed his finger into her mouth and proceeded to link it clean. His eyes grew dark at the feel of her tongue rasping lightly over his finger. "Not fair," he said, "that was mine." He was very agreeably surprised therefore when she ran her finger around the inside of her glass, collecting the remainder of white chocolate mousse on her index finger. Reaching over, she offered it to him.

"No, that's yours," she said breathily as he took it into his mouth, his eyes never leaving hers as he sucked on it lightly before licking it and letting her hand go slowly.

Realizing the dangerous ground they were treading on, Will suggested coffee and port - anything to give him breathing space from the erotic spell she was weaving over him.

Lizzy sat there on the deck after William had left for the kitchen, wondering what was wrong with her. No, she knew what was wrong with her. She wanted William, like she had never wanted any man in her life. When he had smiled at her, or accidentally brushed her hand with his, she had felt as if her skin were burning. The look in his eyes and the feel of his tongue as he licked her finger had sent sparks shooting through her body, leaving her breathless. It wasn't hard to believe that the 'talents' of his fictional heroes bore more than a passing resemblance to his own arsenal of sexual skills; certainly from what she had experienced, at least.

It had been two years since she had been with a man, but until now, she hadn't wanted to. Having Anthony as her only teacher in the school of lovemaking had left her wondering what all the fuss was all about, and until she'd started reading a certain type of fiction, she had no reason to doubt that his way was the only way. Now she suspected differently. The feelings that were running through her were alien. It was like every nerve ending in her body was alive. But it was like a drug-she wanted more.

She was 26 years old, divorced, and she decided it was finally time she stopped acting like a scared little girl. Men can do sex without the emotion, she reasoned; her ex-husband had certainly done it enough. And in spite of her resolution to find out about making love, she knew that she needed at this precise moment was to be held and made to feel desirable more than anything else. And the person who could do that was William.

She wanted to feel him, his skin close to hers, his heat warming her, his hands roaming all over her body, the weight of his body on her as he entered her. She gasped inwardly at the turn her thoughts were taking. Thoughts of Damien floated into her mind. Her stomach fluttered as she made her decision. It went against all her beliefs, but client or no client, this time it was for her. Up until now, she had sacrificed her identity for her husband, and her husband for her job, but this time her decision was purely for her. She got up quickly and went in search of William before she had a chance to analyse what she was doing and talk herself out of it.

The coffee was filtering, the rich aroma wafting through the house, when he turned at the sound of stocking feet on the marble tiles.

He started as he felt a warm hand on the small of his back. Lizzy was standing there, so tiny, looking up at him with those gorgeous green eyes, and he felt his heart melt. As she moved her hand up to his neck, he held his breath. The pressure of her hand on his neck pulled his head down towards her as she rose up on tippie-toes to meet him. She kissed his lips, moving slowly over them, tasting and teasing them until she felt his response, hesitant at first, then slowly deepening as his mouth opened under hers. His resolve to wait and not push her crumbled in the face of her erotic entreaty. His arms moved around her, holding her like a fragile piece of china, expecting at any moment for her to push away. When both her hands moved around his neck, he sighed against her mouth, unable to believe that she had come to him.

He wondered briefly if he was dreaming, but when she broke the kiss and flicked the switch on the coffee machine to 'off', he knew that this was real.

"Lizzy …"

"Shhhh," she said with her finger to her lips.

"But you said …"

"William? You talk too much."

Lizzy reached up to lightly brush her lips against his. Not wanting to spoil the fantasy she was creating, he let her set the pace, holding back from grabbing her - scared to give his passion free rein in case the spell she had cast was broken. Instead, he cupped her face in his hands, kissing her forehead and cheeks before he allowed himself to taste her lips once again. But her lusty response shattered his resolve. Plunging her tongue inside the hot wetness of his mouth she swallowed the moan that rumbled up through his chest. His fingers grabbed handfuls of her hair, holding her against him as he plundered her mouth in response.

Impatient for more, Lizzy grasped his hand and moved it to her breast, her excitement showing through the thin fabric of her camisole. She moaned as she felt his fingers cup her breast, rubbing the nipple softly through the silk. An electrical current of pure lust shot through her. Deepening the kiss even more, he felt her lean into him, her heat firing his desire for more as her hand reached down to stroke his hardness.

The clamour of warning bells started to ring in his head, slowing his progress. Taking her roughly in the kitchen was not how he wanted their first time to be, dammit! He had to stop. Her hand moved to grasp the belt of his trousers and he could feel her trembling against him. Grasping her hand in his, he held it, saying one word.


"No?" said Lizzy, her desire heavy eyes not quite registering the request.

"I want to make love to you, Lizzy. Is that what you want? Are you sure?" he asked softly, his voice croaking slightly as he strained to regain his control.

"Yes, William, I want you to make love to me," she said as a sob caught in her throat. The room which had been spinning dizzily started to slow and she realized what he was asking, what she was saying … what she was doing.

"Hey, don't cry, Lizzy." He held her to him and stroked her hair. "I won't hurt you, I promise."

"I think … I mean … It's not that. I know … It's just that I … I'm not very good at this," she said finally. "I … I mean, he …"

He waited patiently for her to finish, but when no further words were forthcoming, he suspected what she was trying to tell him.

"Lizzy," he said softly into her hair, "Anthony was your first, wasn't he," he stated quietly. He felt the answering nod against his chest, and his heart tightened. It all made sense.

Cupping her face in his hands, he lifted it to look at her, gently wiping away her tears with his thumbs. "Sweetheart, I want to make love to you, more than anything, but I want it to be something we will both never forget. I don't want it to be an impulse and I don't want to rush it. It won't be just sex. I want it to be the start of something special between us, something meaningful. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

She looked at him, seeing the desire shadowing his dark eyes, but also the concern, and the plea for her to understand what he was offering. She nodded.

"Then I think now would be a good time to stop, don't you?" he asked gently, not wanting to stop but knowing that the prize he sought was more than worth the wait.

Gaining her hesitant agreement, he hugged her tightly, feeling protective and grateful for the trust she was offering him.

She burrowed into his embrace, feeling safe in his arms, the warmth of his skin against her face and the smell of him sending a tingle through her body. She never wanted to leave. She had moved so fast, fearing that he would reject her, but he hadn't. They stood for many minutes, content just to be with each other, holding each other close.

She lifted her head to kiss him, her relief evident in her eyes. It soon deepened, leaving him throbbing and aching for more. With a soft moan, he tore himself away from her mouth - holding her safely at arms length. "I think I had better take you home, Lizzy. I'm only human after all, and I can't take much more of this."

When Lizzy walked in later that night, she was greeted with a curious glance from her sister.

"Been working late?"

"No," said Lizzy with a faraway look on her face, "I've just had the most wonderful dinner."

"That's not all you had, by the look of it," said Jane skeptically. "So are you going to tell me who he is?" She made room for Lizzy on the lounge, patting the seat beside her for Lizzy to sit down.

Flopping beside her sister, she sighed, a huge smile on her face. "Do you remember the client I mentioned, Jane?"

"Oh, please tell me you're not sleeping with him, Lizzy. That's not like you."

"No, Jane. Don't worry, but it isn't for lack of trying on my part. I decided to break my own rule and tried to seduce him tonight, but he stopped me."

"Are you sure he's not gay?" asked Jane in disbelief.

"He wants our first time to be special," she said dreamily.

Jane's level of concern for her relatively inexperienced little sister rose sharply. "What do you know about this man, Lizzy? How do you know you can trust him?"

She filled Jane in on the details of her relationship with William since their strange meeting on Bedarra four weeks ago. "And I know that he and Charles have been friends since childhood. Surely you trust Charles opinion, Jane?" grinned Lizzy, placing her ace in the hole.

Jane smiled back. "Okay then. Well, I guess I'll get to meet him soon at Charles's birthday party. He's bound to be invited. You'll probably get an invite anyway at work, but he asked me to bring along family and friends. Apparently it is going to be huge."

Her sisterly concern took over once again. "Just be careful, Liz. I would hate to see you get hurt again," she said as she hugged her.

"I'm fine, Jane. Better than I've been in a long time. Relax … there's nothing to worry about."

Chapter Five