SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME Chapter 12 Fanfiction by Suz Home Page CHAPTER TWELVE


hit him for a six: colloq. Cricket reference - to confuse or disturb greatly.

skerrick: noun. A very small quantity

stubbies: A 375 ml bottle of beer

Bastard: Just a word here about the Aussie use of the word. It is used widely, frequently and with great enthusiasm between Aussie males, as in "you bloody bastard", "you slack bastard" etc. It is an acceptable form of addressing someone and it can either be an affectionate term of endearment between 'mates' or to describe an unpleasant character ("He's a real nasty bastard"). Rarely used in its proper connotation.

Caroline paced. Her metal-tipped heels clicked a rapid staccato on the highly glazed Italian tiles as her slender arms wrapped around herself in a nervous hug. Distracted, she lit a cigarette and wandered over to the huge bay windows of the lounge room and looked out over the ocean. Her head cocked as the phone rang, the sound shrill in the cavernous space, and in two quick steps she picked it up on the third ring. "Hello?"

"Hello, lover. How's my girl?"

The deep voice on the other end of the line sent an involuntary flush through her and her hand strayed to her chest, trying to still the pounding of her heart beating out rapid thumps from the sound of his sexy baritone. She inhaled deeply, the feeling of relief, sudden.

"Your girl is fine, but I miss you. I wish you were here." She hated to sound like a whiny bitch with him, but she couldn't help it. It had been weeks since they had last touched. Actually two weeks and four days, not that she was counting or anything.

"I know you do, lover, but you can't tell me you aren't having just a little bit of fun, hmmm? Doesn't that make my absence a tiny bit easier to bear?"

Of course she was having fun, but that didn't mean the craving for his touch was any less. A pout formed on her mouth.

"Don't pout, Caro darling. I can feel it from here," he laughed.

The sound was so clear, even with an ocean separating them, and she wished for a brief moment for it all the intrigue to be over.

"So tell me," he pushed, "how did our dear William take the news of his 'son'?" The words were heavy laden with sarcasm.

A dry laugh trickled out and her eyes sharpened as she recalled the previous day. "Oh, it was wonderful! Better than we expected it would be. It's all working out just as you said it would, darling. Of course, the reaction of the little tart he's engaged to was the icing on the cake. I still can't believe he asked her to marry him! She's just so … so … common."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that. I can see what good old Will might like about her. Very nice body," he crooned. "Sexy in an innocent kind of way. And a body that was built to fuck-most definitely. I can imagine he would go for somebody just like that."

"You've seen her?"

"In the flesh, and a very delicious sight it was, too."

"When? You didn't tell me?"

"Really, Caro darling, 'when' is irrelevant. It was necessary. There isn't anything about our boy that I don't know."

"Just don't go getting any ideas. Besides, she's too fat and she looks like a teenager."

"She doesn't and you're jealous," he teased.

"Of her?" she spat indignantly.



"Why? She achieved in a few weeks what you tried for years … and didn't even come close to, I might add."

Having her face rubbed in the truth again didn't help, especially by him. Anger boiled up inside her.

"Fuck you! You need me-and don't you forget it." Caroline couldn't help the feeling of insecurity that snuck under the show of bravado. It was irrational-he said he loved her, but to hear him talk like that about another woman made her see red. Made her bloody mad. Knowing even before she said it that she shouldn't threaten him, the words tumbled out anyway. "Your whole plan falls on its face if I walk."

"Are you threatening me, Caro darling? Bad girl. You don't want me to have to punish you, do you? Maybe a spanking is in order …"

Beyond her control, a tremor of excitement pulsed through her at the suggestion behind his words.

"But if we're going to play that game, did I mention, darling, that I know who James' father really is? I'm sure he would be very interested to know he has a son …" He let the threat hang in the air between them.

"You don't know anything. James is Will's. You can't know for sure that he isn't." She tried to assume a nonchalance she didn't feel.

"Don't play games, Caro." He sounded impatient. "Naturally I have proof, and all it takes is one phone call," he said abruptly. "Come on, darling," he switched, his tone cajoling, "let's not be like this. You know I love you. Not long now and all this will be behind us and you and I can be together at last. You want us to be together, don't you?" his voice purred. "Do you want me to make you feel good?"

Caroline bit her lip. Her body responded to the caress of his voice like it always did; the husky tones sent a hot flush down the pulsing pathways of her body, the heat settling finally in the juncture between her thighs. "I hope this doesn't take too long. I need you."

"Don't be impatient, darling," he soothed. "We've planned too long to spoil this by rushing it. Listen to my voice," he said silkily. "Are you alone?"

"Uh huh," she croaked, her breath catching as she realized what was coming.

"Are you … wet?"

"Yes." A strangled moan escaped her lips, knowing what was coming - hating how easy it was for him to play her.

"Sit down, darling, and let me make it all better …"

Propped up in bed, his head supported on his hand, Will inhaled deeply, the unmistakable flowery scent of Lizzy filling his nostrils. His fingers skimmed over her warm, bare flesh down to the leg that was draped over his before coming back to rest on her hip.

On the drive over from her place, she had fallen sound asleep, and after carrying her upstairs and laying her gently on the bed, he had undressed her slowly, taking care not to wake her. She had immediately curled into a ball, her legs pulled up, her hands tucked under the pillow like a small child. He had stood with his hands in his pockets to still them and watched her for what seemed an eternity, committing to memory every part of her, his eyes hungrily devouring the sight of her in his bed … no, not his bed-their bed. It would always be their bed. No other woman but Lizzy had slept there and he knew that none ever would. But as midnight darkness filled the room, his fears about losing Lizzy had tormented him again. He had lain awake most of the night curled up behind her, holding her tight in his arms, too scared to shut his eyes and surrender to the numbing tiredness in case she woke up before him, still upset, and left before he could wake. He had been surprised when, in her sleep, she had rolled over to face him, kissing and nuzzling into his chest as had become her habit, the touch of her lips burning against his skin. Now that the subtle light of dawn was starting to filter in through the white shoji blinds, her fuzzy outline cleared and he could gaze at her fully, taking in every line and feature of the face he loved.

With unmistakable tenderness, he lifted a wayward curl from her face and tucked it securely behind the pink shell of her ear. Lifting the hand that rested on her pillow, he brought it to his lips, kissing the ring on her finger before turning her hand over to cup his cheek as he kissed the palm. Her eyelids fluttered open at the warm touch. "You're so beautiful." His voice trembled, deep and rough from lack of sleep as his other hand stroked the smooth skin of her face. His breath hitched as she turned her face into his palm and returned the kiss. With a soft touch, he traced a finger over the fullness of her lips before trailing down over the velvety skin of her throat and neck, wandering lower to lightly caress a plump breast. Rimming the nipple, he watched her eyes widen, and the bud grew firm under his touch as she arched slightly into his hand. "And I love you, baby. If you leave me, I'll die without you."

The room was lightening quickly now as the sun hit the blinds, and as he watched, her eyes filled with tears, running in a silent stream down her cheeks. Seeing her cry tore at his insides; he knew he was the reason. Her face in front of him shimmered as his own eyes misted, watered, and the lump in his throat grew bigger. He would never have believed that any woman could make him want so much, need so much, but Lizzy was his soul, his heart. Physically he might survive, but without her, life would have no meaning.

"The boy is not mine, Lizzy. I don't know what to say … how to convince you. Just … trust me? I would never … I couldn't …"

A single fat tear tumbled free over her lashes and he caught it, smearing the wetness from her cheek with his thumb. She bit her bottom lip and he could see her struggle to hold back the tears. He was focused on her so intently that her gentle touch as she reached up to his face, jolted him.

"I love you, too. I believe you."

Simple words. Three simple words that freed his heart from the fear that had been slowly choking it. He closed his eyes tightly, feeling the burn of unshed tears behind his lids. It would be all right. They would be all right. Relief surged through him, followed in a rush with a burning need to bind her to him all over again. Skin to skin. Heart to heart. Soul to soul. Binding on every level available to a man and woman in love.

A small hand crept around the back of his neck, pulling his face closer to hers. Gentle lips on his. Soft as silk. A salve to the heaviness of his soul. Still, he tried to hold back, not wanting to frighten her with the strength of his need for her. A hoarse moan escaped as her tongue swept intimately inside his mouth, twining with his. She sucked harder, fighting his reserve. Her tongue pushed deeper, harder, and he was lost. Surrendering, he grasped her face, crushing his lips against hers. Her response was immediate, savage. Lightning hot desire for her drove him on. He was not alone. Her hunger matched his. His skin burned where her fingers touched-thighs, butt, chest-her hands grasped and kneaded, added fuel to the fire already raging through his body.

"Make love to me …" Lizzy gasped as their mouths broke apart. "I need to feel you inside me."

"God, baby …" He felt out of control, his breath was ragged. He leaned down and flicked at her nipple, about to suckle when she grasped his head firmly, forcing his eyes to meet hers.

"No," she said, even as a breathless sigh escaped her. "Now."

His whole body pulsed in response to her plea and, a need - strong and primal - to possess, to mate, to own - flared through him and his mouth slanted over hers roughly, capturing it with an almost savage urgency. His tongue thrust inside her mouth and tasted the saltiness of their tears as it pushed between her parted lips, bruising them, possessing them. It was only a need for air that eventually dragged his mouth from hers, their breathing harsh and uneven.

He gripped her face and he desperately willed his hands to be gentle. His voice, came out in a guttural croak, cracked with the strength of his passion and need for her. "You're mine, and you will always be mine. I've waited my whole life to find you, and I won't let anything … anything … keep us apart."

He kissed her, fiercely, trying unsuccessfully to subdue the primitive urge to take her, fast and hard, as he swallowed her moan. She brought her body closer, and he felt the thrust of her heated mons against his erection. He groaned, grasping her hip, holding her fast. Her small cry cleared the fog from his lust-filled brain and he tried to pull back, be gentle, but the feel of a small, warm hand slipping between their bodies to encase the pulsating heat of his cock shattered his control and he groaned into her neck.

He inhaled deeply and the scent of her arousal, that heady mix of sweetness and spice, rammed his primordial senses like a sledgehammer. The smell of her ripped at him, shredded the already tattered remnants of his control and he rolled her onto her back and moved quickly between her thighs. Suspended above her, the rock hard muscles of his biceps bulged and the tip of his erection jutting impatiently at her soft folds, feeling the juices that pooled there, the familiar heat.

With one swift thrust, he plunged his full length inside her, grunting as he filled her completely. Her breath hitched at the wild invasion. Agonizing pleasure seared through him as her sensitive flesh sucked him in, pulling him deeper as he buried himself to the hilt. She writhed and thrust wildly up against him, matching him stroke for stroke as he drove into her. Her legs locked around his waist in a vise-like grip and he plunged into her, again and again, driving them both relentlessly to the peak. In the final moment, when both their bodies trembled, hanging on the threshold of a shattering surge of release, he looked deep into her eyes, reading her emotions as if they were his own.

"I love you." His voice was deep, thick with emotion. "I will always love you," he rumbled between ragged breaths. Locking her mouth with his, he thrust into her as deeply as he could.

He felt the change. Starting out as small ripples along the length of his shaft, her building climax spread through her, the uncontrollable, shuddering contractions making her inner muscles clench and grip his cock as she squeezed her eyes shut and a high, keening wail broke from her. Maintaining his pounding rhythm, her shuddering contractions and the uninhibited sounds of her pleasure triggered a reaction in him and with a savage roar, he stiffened as he shuddered, convulsed, and shot deep within her as her orgasm rippled and quaked around him, milking every last drop from him.

Her body was spent. Mini-quakes of her orgasm still tremored through her womb as Will lay slumped and exhausted against her, still cradled between her thighs. She could feel the thudding of his heart through the thin membrane of sweaty skin separating them as they both struggled to suck air back into their starving lungs.

She knew Will's fear about losing her and understood it, better than he knew. The thought and the knowledge yesterday that she could lose him had made her feel sick in her gut. And terrified. Absolutely terrified.

If nothing else, the king hit of Caroline's announcement had forced her to fully confront the prospect of a life without him, and she knew that she couldn't do it. Not this time. Not as much as she loved him.

Even though she had dozed on and off through the night, for brief snatches, she had lain there in the tight lock of his arms feeling his warmth surround her, thinking about the two of them, what they had and she was forced to put aside her insecurities and face a few truths about this man of hers. Of late and on more than one occasion, William had been given the opportunity or the provocation to walk away from her, but he hadn't. Each time he had demonstrated how much he loved her, how she was more important to him than his family, even his desire for children of his own. This thing with Caroline was just one more example. Caroline was offering him the one thing that she thought he had wanted more than anything else-a child, and still he clung to her. She had to give the man full points for tenacity. Most men would have given up by now and decided it was just too much work to hang around, but he stuck like Superglue™. And now, she decided, it was time for her to prove her love for him. This time she was going to stand and fight with all that she had, with whatever it took. Will was her life, and she was determined she would battle the hounds of Hades or Caroline Bingley if necessary, to keep him.


The sound of his breathing had changed. The ragged breathing of moments before had altered to the slow, sonorous beat she recognized as deep sleep. Poor guy. She suspected he had hardly slept - every time she had woken during the night he had been awake, stroking her. Even before their lovemaking, he must have been exhausted and she didn't blame him-she felt like she could sleep for a week herself. With a little difficulty, taking care not to disturb him, she eased herself out from under his leaden weight, her taxed muscles resisting the exertion. Leaving Will sleeping soundly, she padded into the ensuite and turned on the shower. Leaning back against the tiles, she closed her eyes and let the steamy torrent of water soothe the aches left over from the wild love-making with Will, out of her body.

Ten minutes later, she stepped out of the shower, pink and relaxed. Fighting the chill of the cold air on her wet flesh, she grabbed a huge bath towel, wrapping herself and warming for a moment before she toweled herself dry. Realizing that even if she hurried, she would still be a little late for work, she dressed slowly. Not that she thought Charles would mind; she had a feeling he would be surprised if she even turned up today. As much as she knew that she and Will needed to talk, she really needed some time away from him today to sort out her head. Too much had happened and work could be the one thing to give her some distance to try and sort it out.

Without the familiar waft of coffee aroma greeting her as she neared the kitchen, she remembered that Mrs Reynolds didn't start till lunchtime on Mondays, so she grabbed some eggs from the fridge and decided to make herself useful, making breakfast for herself and Will. She cracked the eggs into a basin and whisked them, mixing in some orange juice and a pinch of nutmeg and black pepper to season. The mix bubbled immediately when she poured it into a warmed pan and stood there, stirring it occasionally, trying to clear her head of the tumult of thoughts pressing for dominance. After popping the bread in the toaster, she grabbed the butter out of the fridge and placed it on the breakfast bar, turning just in time to see Will flash into the kitchen, his eyes frantic.

"Lizzy! Thank God."

"Will?" she asked in concern. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

He sure didn't look okay. Nearly smothering her, he pulled her into his arms, hugging her tight. "I woke up and you weren't there. God, I thought you'd left …"

Tapping him lightly on the chest, she wriggled out of his arms. "Relax, honey. I'm not going anywhere. Here, sit down and make yourself useful," she said placing the toast on the plates and passing him the butter. She finished cooking the scrambled eggs and turned to see him looking at her strangely, the toast in front of him still unbuttered. Freeing the knife from his grasp, she finished the job and then scooped the eggs onto the toast. "Eat," she smiled as she pushed a plate in front of him.

He opened his mouth to speak, but her finger to his lips stilled the words. "Now … there're a few things you should understand, William Darcy," she said calmly, pausing a moment to delicately fork some of the eggs into her mouth before she continued. "Today, I am going to go to work and you are very kindly going to offer to drive me in. Then tonight when I come home, you and I are going to talk and clear up this mess-as much as we can, of course, and then we are going to plan our wedding. I love you, you big galoot, and nothing and no one, is going to stop me from marrying you, preferably as soon as possible. In fact, at this point in time, the idea of eloping is definitely appealing. How are your eggs?"

Will sat there a moment, a portrait in stupefaction. When he had woken up alone, his fears of last night had rushed back at him and he had jumped out of bed, nearly breaking his neck trying to hop into a pair of shorts to come looking for her. Now, seeing her sitting across from him, her serene smile directed totally on him, he let the flood of relief wash over him and smiled nervously back at her.

The rush of adrenaline hadn't subsided and his stomach didn't feel quite ready for breakfast, so he played with his food, pushing it around on the plate.

"Why are you going in to work? You know Charles would understand if you stayed home today." In all honesty, he didn't want her more than five feet away from him until she said 'I do', which was a damn good reason as far as he was concerned to get the marriage organized as quickly as possible.

"I told you why," she answered simply.

"Can I meet you for lunch?"

"No, but how about if we compromise and you can pick me up early. Say four o'clock?"

"No. Too long."

"Three thirty?" she offered, pushing her plate away and picking up her coffee.

"Two," he stated decisively.

"Too early. I do have to work, you know," she grinned at him

"Three o'clock and that's my final offer," he stated in mock seriousness.

She smiled. "Three it is, then. Now, if you're not going to eat that, go get dressed and let's go."

He was relieved, delighted at her change of mood from yesterday, but he had to make sure. He came around to stand in front of her, his hands on her shoulders. Lizzy's turnabout had him confused. He had been expecting anger at him or certainly something other than this. "Are we okay, baby?" Her calmness had really hit him for a six, but he as he watched, the cheery smile on her face sobered for a moment before it was back again.

"You are the most gentle, caring man I have ever known, and in spite of Caroline, and your father, and even Catherine, I know how much you love me. It took a lot for me to trust you, but I do. So trust me, honey, that whatever happens, I won't run from you, I won't leave you, and together we will get through this." Reaching up, she hooked her arms around his neck and kissed him.

"Hi, Jane … No, I'm fine … I know and I told him how much I love him … No, we're going to talk tonight … so don't worry … She what? … Oh, shit! … No, I'll be there. Are you going to take Charles and Robbie? … Of course I'm taking Will … No, if I can put up with his father, Mum shouldn't be too hard for him … Okay, I'll talk to you later … Love you, Sis, and thanks for yesterday … Sure … Bye."

Lizzy put the phone down with a sigh. Just what she needed - a family dinner. As if her life didn't have enough complications at the moment, now her mother, who 90 percent of the time ignored her and Jane, wanted to get the family together this coming weekend.

"You got a minute?"

She looked up to see Charlotte resting on her doorframe, her hands in the pockets of her jeans. The look of casual elegance was completed by a deep red silk shirt that showed off her summer tan and a pair of strappy sandals allowing a peak at her blood red toenails. Her sun streaked hair hung loosely around her shoulders and she looked like a teenager without a skerrick of makeup on.

"Sure, Char. Come on in. What's with the casual look?" she asked, nodding at her as she scanned her from head to toe.

"Running late for work, hangover … you know how it is," she smirked.

"What happened after I left? I take it you got home all right?" A devilish grin tweaked the corner of Lizzy's mouth as she watched Charlotte settle herself into the chair opposite her desk, smoothing imaginary wrinkles down the leg of her jeans as she crossed her legs.

"Of course. Charles came and picked up Jane and Richard drove Annie and me back to my place." She paused at Lizzy's raised eyebrow. "You have a naughty mind, Lizzy Bennet! Annie was disinclined to go home in her condition, so she camped out in my spare room."

"And Richard? Where did he sleep?"

"Ha! Wouldn't you like to know," she teased back. "But look, enough about me. I thought I'd just pop in and see how you are after yesterday."

"Surprisingly, I'm doing okay."

"You're right. That is a surprise. What happened? Have you forgiven Will already?"

"No, that's just it, Char. I realised there was nothing to forgive, and fortunately, I came to my senses before I did something stupid for once."

"My, my, you have changed. The old Lizzy …"

"Exactly! The old Lizzy would have run off with her tail between her legs to go somewhere quiet and lick her wounds. Not anymore. The new Lizzy is going to stand and fight for her man."

"But what about the boy?" she asked carefully.

In light of her history, it was natural she supposed, that the old tightness in her chest would return, but she closed her eyes and took a deep breath and felt it ease slightly.

"Whether or not the boy is Will's, I don't know and we have yet to discuss it, but I decided this morning, that I'm not going to just step down and walk away without a fight this time." Her voice softened although her gaze remained firm. "William already knew that I can't have kids before he asked me to marry him and he still asked me anyway. I'm more important to him than having kids, and I believe him. So what if I can't have kids? Maybe we'll adopt."

Charlotte reached for Lizzy's hand and squeezed it. "You have no idea how glad I am to hear it. He's totally crazy about you, you know." Sitting back in her chair, she steepled her fingers under her chin and looked thoughtfully at Lizzy. "He was shattered when you walked out yesterday. Looked like his whole world had just crumbled to dust. If any man loved me as much as Will loves you, I'd fight for him, too."

"Is this the Charlotte that I know and love?" asked Lizzy in amazement. "Can it be that underneath that tough 'love 'em and leave 'em' faηade beats the heart of a true romantic?"

"Maybe," she hedged. "If the right guy came along I might be interested. But let's face it, guys like Will don't exactly grow on trees."

"Oh, I don't know. I think there might be one or two around like him." A little plan started to form in Lizzy's mind that even her mother would be proud of, but she pushed it to the back for now.

Charlotte stood to leave but then leaned over the desk with a small smile on her face. "Don't even think about it, Lizzy Bennet. I know what's going through that wicked mind of yours and I can take care of my own love life, thank you very much."

They both looked up at the soft cough coming from the open doorway.

"Hi, ladies," said Will. "Am I interrupting anything?"

With a chuckle, Charlotte walked towards Will. "Not a thing, gorgeous," she said with a wink. "I'd better be getting back to work anyway."

"Before you go," said Will, his hand reaching for her arm as she went to walk past him. She looked up at him questioningly. "I just wanted to thank you for yesterday, and for looking after Lizzy for me." He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight and kissed her cheek before releasing her.

"Hell!" she said, chucking him on the chin. "If they ever clone you, William Darcy, I want the first copy. Now, I'll get out of your hair and let you two lovebirds get going," she said. At the doorway she paused. "I never would have believed it, but seeing what you two have together is almost enough to make me change my mind about love." She shook her head. "God, it's contagious. Let me get the hell out of here before I catch it," she said, her laugh fading as she walked away.

He looked back to her with a smile. "Ready, baby?"

"Yes. Take me home," she said, her eyes alight.

Lizzy poured water from the kettle into the two mugs and stood there absently jiggling the tea bags.

'Take me home,' she had said earlier.


What really is a home? she thought as she picked up the two steaming mugs and headed out to the deck. Her flat with Jane was a home, but here with Will was a home, too. In fact, a tent on a beach would be a home with Will if she wanted it to be - for the simple fact that he would be there. A home, she decided, is any place where love between two people lives. Her home, his home, my home, our home - they were all the same thing. Home for her now was with Will, wherever that was.

The news from Caroline, although enough to wobble her assurance about Will, had not been enough to unsettle the foundation they had built together. She trusted him, not only to love her, but to protect her and cherish her, and most importantly, not to deliberately hurt her. Not only her body, but also her heart felt safe with him. As she approached silently on bare feet, she watched him leaning on the railing, looking out at the waves crashing over the rocky beach below and felt her heart swell as she stared at her man. Her man. Just the thought sent a tingle through her. To most, he was an imposing figure, but to her he was warmth, smiles, cuddles and hot. And boy, was he hot! she thought, feeling her breath hitch.

She glanced up at the sky; big, dark thunderheads were forming over the horizon. As dusk faded and the darkness of night settled, the clouds looked even more threatening than they had earlier.

"Storm's coming," she said, handing him a mug.

As if in confirmation, a crack of thunder followed by a flash of lightning lit up the night sky. The wind had picked up, gusting the heavy smell of the salt air up to them from the ocean below and electricity fairly crackled in the air.

He leaned down to kiss her briefly as he took the mug from her. "Hmmm. A nice night to lie in bed and listen to the rain fall."

His free arm slipped around her waist and pulled her closer; she snuggled into his side as she sipped her tea. They had talked all through dinner and after, clearing the air of all the misunderstandings and tension. Of course, the whole Caroline situation still hung over their heads, but Will felt sure that nothing had happened and she was believed him. He wasn't one for casual sex, and even if he had had too much to drink, he would never let his control slip that far. They discussed the possibility of DNA testing to clear up the whole mess, but had decided eventually to save that as a last resort. They had other avenues to explore first before that became necessary. But that was obviously not what was on his mind.

"I've been thinking, Lizzy. Six weeks would be perfect."

"Six weeks? For what?"

"Our wedding. July 9th. What do you think?"

"Wow! You really can be a mover and a shaker when you want to be, can't you?"

"I try," he winked suggestively down at her.

"You know what I mean." Incorrigible, she thought. "Look, I know I said I wanted to marry you as soon as possible, but I don't know if I can organize a wedding so quickly. There's so much to do." A million details flashed through her mind.

"No, I've been thinking. All you have to do is to pick out your dress, decide who you want to invite and leave the rest up to Mrs Reynolds. What she can't handle, I will. I used to run an international company, Lizzy; I think one little wedding shouldn't be too hard. Unless you want a big wedding, of course. That might take a bit more organizing, but we can manage it. Whatever you want-just tell me."

"But … but … you haven't even met my family, and I need to call Kitty and … and …" She paused, the enormity of the whole thing overwhelming her. "I can't, Will. It's not enough time. There are a million things to …" She stopped as a pen and paper appeared under her nose.

"Unless you have a better reason for putting it off, start writing and leave the rest up to Mrs Reynolds and me."

"Poor Mrs Reynolds," sighed Lizzy.

"Poor Mrs Reynolds nothing," he grinned. "She's been dying to see me settle down for years. Actually, she's the one who offered to help."

"You might want to wait until you meet my mother, and you will have that dubious honour this weekend. It'll be your last chance to change your mind about marrying me."

An embarrassed grin spread over his face. "You don't honestly think your mother could be any worse than my father, do you? Give me a break!" he scoffed lightly.

She tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.

"Come on, my little sleepyhead. Time for bed."

"Hmmm. Sounds good."

When Will pulled up in front of Lizzy's parents house the next weekend, he switched off the engine and sat, his hands resting easily on the steering wheel. Silence filled the car. He glanced over at Lizzy, noting the small wrinkle between her brows that he knew meant she was feeling stressed. She had hardly spoken two words on the way over except for the odd direction. Looking outside at the incessant drizzle, he noticed that Charles and Jane were already here.

"You ready, baby?"


"Come on. It won't be that bad. And I'll be there with you," he reassured her, grasping her hand.

"Just don't say I didn't warn you, okay?"

"Promise," he said, leaning over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

Even with Lizzy's warning, the reality was still a shock. As Lizzy opened the door and called out announcing their arrival, Will followed in behind her, noticing as he entered that the house, though modest and very suburban, had a comfy, warm feeling to it.

Mr Bennet, a kindly, scholarly looking man, came out to greet Lizzy with a fond, spontaneous hug. It was plain to see that they both adored each other, and he smiled warmly at Will, shaking his hand in a firm grip as Lizzy introduced them. There was a sparkle in her father's eye that hinted at a devilish sense of humour and Will took an immediate liking to the man-unusual for him. The intimacy of the meeting was broken by the shrill yell that came from what Will supposed was the kitchen.

"Bernie? Where are you? Has Elizabeth finally arrived?"

'Warm and comfy' ended right there. It was a sound, Will decided, that could shatter crystal at a range of 50 feet, or an eardrum even closer, which was what looked might be about to happen.

"Bernie! Why don't you answer me?" said the voice, getting closer by the second.

Trying not to screw up his face, Will risked a glance at 'Bernie' only to see him roll his eyes. From where Will's hand rested, nestled into the curve of Lizzy's back, he could feel the sudden tension thrum through her body.

'The voice' rounded the corner and the body that housed it stopped directly in front of them.

"Well, it's about time!"

Mrs Bennet had obviously been a very attractive woman in her youth and was still good looking, even in late middle age. If only she kept her mouth shut!

"Hi, Mum," said Lizzy quietly.

No hug looked to be forthcoming from this latest quarter, Will noticed, and he was surprised when he felt Lizzy reach around and grasp his hand tightly between their bodies.

"Well, well. And who's this?" she asked, looking Will up and down.

Quite apart from the fact that the woman obviously had no manners, the effect was amazing. He was being checked out. The feeling was most disconcerting.

"I take it you are Lizzy's friend?"

"Yes, I'm William Darcy," he said, extending his hand and determined for Lizzy's sake to be pleasant. "Pleased to meet you, ma'am."

She seemed somewhat mollified as she shook his hand and smiled rather coyly at him. "Well, let's go through and join the others. Can't lollygag around out here in the entrance all day." And she turned on her heel and led the way through to the large, airy sitting room that opened out onto a spacious pergola.

Charles was sitting on a rather overstuffed rattan sofa with Jane at his side, holding a beer in his hand and wearing a decidedly strained look on his face that broke into a smile of relief when he saw Will and Lizzy. In a flash, Will understood how the cavalry must have felt arriving at the Alamo.

"God, it's about time, Lizzy," whined a younger female lounging in a chair who obviously attended the Mrs Bennet School of Charm. "Who's the hunk?"

Dressed in a cropped top that threatened to break apart at the next deep breath, hip hugging jeans and enough makeup to keep Estιe Lauder in business for the next decade-from Lizzy's description, this had to be Lydia. In an unnerving display by Lizzy's youngest sister, Will felt as though he was being visibly undressed, a look that hadn't gone unnoticed by the lady at his side.

"Hello, Lydia." Lizzy's tone was clipped.

"So, who's Mr Studly?" she asked, nodding at Will with what could only be described as a predatory gleam in her eye. He stiffened in response.

Lizzy was saved from answering straight away by a tall, plain looking woman who entered the room just then with a toddler on her hip. "Hey, Liz," she said as her free arm wrapped around Lizzy in a tight hug.

"Mary!" smiled Lizzy, cuddling her other sister and the child she held in a group hug. "And how are you, little Amy, my sweet?" she asked the blonde, curly-headed little poppet who immediately reached out her arms to Lizzy, smattering kisses all over her face before gurgling gleefully. "Mmmm, Auntie Lizzy loves you so much," she said, returning the baby kisses.

For all her plainness, Mary's smile effected a startling transformation. She looked quite pretty. A man not much taller than Mary came up behind Mary with another child in tow and wrapped an arm around her before holding out his hand to Will.

"I'm Michael. Mary's husband. And this is Mickey."

"Sorry, Michael." Lizzy blushed, handing Amy back to her mother. "Mary, Michael, Lydia, this is William Darcy, my fiancι."

Hearty congratulations to both of them were immediately forthcoming from Mary and Michael, and Mary shyly grasped Lizzy's hand to see her ring.

"It's beautiful, Lizzy," said Mary, pulling her into another hug. "I'm very happy for you," she whispered quietly to her.

A surprised snort came from Lydia. "Well done, Liz. Mum will be thrilled, I'm sure," she added dryly.

"Sit up properly, Lydia," rebuked Mrs Bennet, coming through from the kitchen with Jane following her. "One doesn't lounge in front of company. You'll never get a man until you learn to act like a lady."

"Oh, I can get plenty of men, Mum," she retorted, needling, "just none that I want to marry."

Sighing, Mrs Bennet turned her gaze on Lizzy and Will. "Did I hear you correctly, Elizabeth?" she asked. "That William is your fiancι?"

"Yes, Mum."

"Amazing. Wonders will never cease," she uttered, incredulous. "You see, Lydia? If Lizzy and Jane can manage to snare such nice, obviously well-to-do young men, it should be a breeze for you."

He felt, more than heard, Lizzy's quickly indrawn breath and he looked to Charles, noticing the look on dismay on Jane's face as she sat down next to him. Only good manners and concern for Lizzy prevented Will from taking immediate and vocal offense to her mother's remark. How any mother could speak that way of her own children - in front of them and their guests - left him speechless. That one comment, however, set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

They sat down to a roast dinner around 1 pm, by which time Will had reluctantly consumed four stubbies of beer that Mr Bennet, trying to be hospitable, had urged upon him. That was actually one less than Lydia had imbibed, although he was sure no one else had noticed, especially as she had been told not to have anymore after the first two. It was starting to look like Lizzy would be driving them home today.

Fortunately, Charles was sitting opposite him at lunch and many a guarded look was exchanged between them at the conversation, mainly led by a steadily more inebriated Lydia and encouraged by a doting Mrs Bennet. He watched both Jane and Lizzy as they sat at the table with a quiet, controlled grace and found it unfathomable that they had sprung from the same loins as Lydia.

During a surprising lull in the conversation, Will caught Charles' eye. "Did you leave Robbie with Mrs Chifley, Charles?" he asked quietly.

As Charles started to nod in answer, he was cut off abruptly.

"Who is Robbie?" asked Mrs Bennet.

"Robbie is my son, Mrs Bennet," he said pleasantly. "and, no, Will, Robbie slept over at a friend's house last night. We'll be picking him up on the way home."

"A son, you say?" asked Mrs Bennet. "I certainly hope you two young men aren't hoping for any more children. It's sad, but Jane and Lizzy seem to be a bit of a dead loss in that department."

"Mother!" gasped Jane, a ruddy flush of embarrassment rising up her face as Lydia stifled a giggle behind her hand. Incensed at her insensitivity, Will couldn't resist turning to glare at her, at which point she stopped and sullenly returned to her meal.

"Yes, my dear. I agree with Jane," said Mr Bennet firmly. "That isn't a very nice thing to say about your daughters in front of these nice young men."

"I'm only stating the truth, Bernie."

"Still, it's …" he attempted to intervene.

"No, it's as well they know up front. Would anyone like some more roast beef?" she asked, completely oblivious to the embarrassment she had caused. Will noted Mary's look of support to Jane and Lizzy. Michael rolled his eyes. Obviously this was not the first time the subject had been discussed.

Still, Will felt Lizzy stiffen beside him and reached discreetly under the table for her hand, squeezing it in reassurance. Even though the food was wonderful, Will found that the company and the conversation had killed his appetite completely. Finally, thankfully, it was over and Bernie invited the men to watch the rest of the football game on TV in the lounge room while the women cleaned up. As reluctant as he was to leave Lizzy on her own with her mother, he realized it would look a little strange to hover in the kitchen, so he followed Mr Bennet and an equally reluctant looking Charles into the other room. Michael and Mary luckily escaped to put the two children down for a nap.

Football, especially rugby league, was not a favourite sport of Will's to watch, and it was with limited concentration that he took in the game while they waited for the ladies. He was aware of the chatter in the kitchen but was unable to hear over the sound of the TV. Until, that is, the game reached the half time break and Bernie muted the sound to turn and talk to them. The conversation never had a chance as it soon became patently obvious to the men exactly what was being discussed in the other room as they caught snatches of Mrs Bennet in full flight.

"What makes you think you'll be able to hang onto this one, Lizzy? God only knows how, but you managed to lose Anthony to that cheap floozy in quick time. And now Will. He seems like a nice man-good looking, wealthy, obviously virile … what a waste! What is a man like that going to do with a woman like you who can't have children? Men like to see their line continued. And that goes for you too, Jane. Still, at least Charles already has a child …"

Furious, Will felt a chill that built to a boiling anger surge through him and saw the same look mirrored on Charles' face. They stood at the same time prepared to head directly into the kitchen, but Bernie was ahead of them, a grim look on his normally placid face.

"Frances!" He stared down at her darkly. "I think you've said quite enough, don't you?"

"What do you mean?" she asked, surprised to see her kitchen filled with the sight of three angry looking men.

"I think we have all tolerated your rudeness quite enough for one day, Frances," he stated tiredly. "Jane, Charles, Lizzy, Will, please accept my apologies for my wife's rudeness."

"Bernie!" gasped Mrs Bennet.

"And you wonder why none of your children ever visit?" he asked her incredulously. "Perhaps instead of denigrating Jane and Lizzy every chance you get, who, by the way, have turned out remarkably well in spite of your intervention, you should take a closer look at your youngest daughter who is snoring her way through a drunken stupor as we speak." He turned to the shocked foursome. "I realize this is terribly rude and I apologise, but I'm sure you won't mind seeing yourselves out. I must have a talk with my wife-a long overdue talk." He smiled sadly at them before grasping his wife's elbow firmly and steering her from the room.

"What on earth is going on?" asked Mary coming into the kitchen with a disposable nappy in her hand, dropping it in the bin.

"Just the usual, Mary," sighed Jane, tears welling in her eyes. Charles moved quickly to put his arms around her.

"Oh, God! I'm so sorry, you guys," she said, looking around the room at the long faces. "I take it you're off now?" At their nods, she reached out to hug her sisters, smiling at Will and Charles. "It was lovely to meet you both. I hope you don't think the whole family is like Mum and Lydia. Kitty and I are quite normal, I assure you."

The earlier rain had cleared to scudding grey clouds, and as they walked down the driveway to the car, Lizzy put out her hand for the keys.

"Are you okay to drive, Lizzy?" Will asked her, the concern he felt for her showing in the firm hug he gave her.

"Nothing I'm not used to, Will. Same old story. Let's just go home."

Peering at the illuminated numbers on the bedside clock, Will noticed it was still a couple of hours till dawn, which didn't explain why Lizzy wasn't in bed with him. Glancing around the room, he noticed a sliver of light shining under the ensuite door. From the sound of it, Lizzy was not well. The toilet flushed and he lay awake as he waited for Lizzy to come back to bed. Water ran in the hand basin, the light clicked off, and then came the muffled sound of bare feet on the carpet before he felt Lizzy ease onto the bed and under the sheet, obviously trying not to wake him.

"Upset tummy?" he enquired as he wrapped his arms around her.

"I think my mother is trying to poison me."

"Come on, sweetheart. It's not that bad."

"You've met her and you can still say that?"

"How are you feeling now?" he asked, trying to change the subject. During the drive home from the Bennet's and for the rest of the evening before they decided to have an early night, Lizzy had been quiet - too quiet.

"A bit better now. Just aching and a headache starting. I guess I must be coming down with something."

"Maybe you should have a check-up, Lizzy. You've been under a lot of stress lately. Your system could be run down. And I want you healthy in time for our wedding. I have great plans for our honeymoon."

"I'll bet you do," she chuckled.

"Now," he said firmly, "sleep."

"Yes, master."

As she dozed off again, Will lay awake thinking of the jobs he had lined up for tomorrow. First thing was to get Mrs Reynolds started on the wedding preparations. They had decided that if Charles was agreeable, they would get married in the garden at his place and then have the reception there as well. They didn't intend on inviting very many people - close friends and immediate family only - so catering would not be a problem. Also, he had to call Richard and work out what was the best course of action to follow with Caroline. She had to be neutralized before she could do any more damage.

Lizzy stirred restlessly in her sleep, rolling over facing away from him but still nestled into the curve of his body. Pulling her more firmly against him, his hand skimmed over her skin to cup a breast, not in a sexual way, just a light comforting massage that he knew from experience would settle her. Knew from experience? In spite of the fact that it had only been a couple of months, there were times like this, when they already felt like an old married couple. The sense of 'rightness'. Going to bed with her at night and waking up with her in the morning was still a miracle to him, even though it felt as though it had always been so. He could easily envisage them fifty years from now, still wrapped around each other at night. It was a thought that brought a smile to his face. And on that pleasant thought, his hand still gently caressing her, he dozed off again, content.

There it was again! The same car he had seen the last two days tucked away in the lane two doors down from his house. It was a nondescript colour and model, and seeing the car in itself wouldn't have bothered him - it could have been anybody's. But now the same car was parked across the road from Lizzy's office. In a city the size of Sydney, that meant it was no coincidence. Someone was following Lizzy. Reaching for the electronic control on his side mirror, he adjusted it so that he could see the car more clearly. With the degree of cover that his dark sunglasses afforded him, he peered intently at the car's reflection, trying to see who was inside. The car looked to be empty. His concentration was broken as the passenger door opened and Lizzy sank into the leather seat beside him.

"Right on time," he said, leaning over for a quick kiss before he started the engine and pulled out from the curb.

"How was your day, honey?" she asked with a sigh as she leaned back in the seat, tiredness etched over her features.

"Pretty good. You'll be happy to know that my part of the wedding preparations is nearly all organized. Between Mrs Reynolds and Mrs Chifley, the whole thing is humming along like a well-oiled machine. All we need now is for the bride to be ready. How are things your end?"

She grinned. "I called in the troops today. Well, actually, 'troop' to be more exact."

He looked at her curiously.

"I gave Georgie a call. She's going to help me find the dress." She paused a moment as if considering what she was going to say. "Even if she weren't your sister, Will, I think I would love Georgie anyway. She has a beautiful soul."

"I know. She's so much like Mum ..."

Will looked over and noticed that Lizzy had closed her eyes. He didn't think she was sleeping but he couldn't help feeling disquiet over her tiredness of late. The bug she had picked up after the visit to her mother's hadn't completely cleared up and he was troubled. Of course, considering the stress she had been under over the last few weeks, it was probably her body's way of coping. Whatever, he stayed quiet and let her rest.

The traffic ground to a halt at the lights and he glanced in the rearview mirror at the stream of traffic stretching behind them. Suddenly he stiffened. There it was. Three cars back and one lane over. The same car. His worry took a different direction and he wondered if he was imagining things. But there were just too many coincidences. There was little he could do until he had something substantial to go on, but he resolved to keep a closer eye out from here on in.

After dinner, Lizzy curled up on the lounge while Will made a few calls from his office. He looked up surprised when she came in and walked around his desk to stand behind him, draping her arms over him.

"I'm off to bed, honey. There's nothing on TV worth watching and I'd rather be comfortable," she said, stifling a yawn. "You coming up soon?"

"Sure. Ten minutes. Fifteen max," he said, pulling her down closer so that he could kiss her cheek. "Warm up the bed for me, okay?"

"I'll warm up my side," she grinned. "The rest is up to you."

A final hug and she was gone.

Will spent a few minutes tidying up the notes on his desk and turning off the computer before he stood, stretched, then walked over to turn off the light. Lizzy had left all the downstairs lights on, and he went around one by one and flicked them off.

Standing there in the darkness, he wasn't sure what it was - an instinct, a feeling - but something made him glance out the window into the street. And then he saw it. The shadow of a man on the fence next door. Still. The person obviously not moving. Watching? The prickles of disquiet he had felt earlier crept into his mind again. He waited a bit longer, his eyes straining to see in the darkness and finally was rewarded. A man, tall, in good physical shape from the looks of him, left the darkness of his shadowy vantage point, passed near the bright yellow arc of the single street light and walked down the lane. Will waited a little longer and heard the sound of a car engine starting up. After idling for a few minutes, the dull glow of a car driving only by parking lights, crept down the lane, pausing for a moment before pulling out into the street. Faced away from the house, headlights came on full then, twin bright beams in the darkness, and Will watched it drive quietly down the road, a thoughtful expression on his face.

All the next week, Will watched Lizzy like a hawk. He was discreet, but everywhere she went, he went with her. If he couldn't be with her, he drove her there and picked her up. Whoever the bastard was, he wouldn't get within five feet of Lizzy without Will knowing about it. The one day he couldn't go with her was the following Saturday. Lizzy wanted to go shopping with Georgie for her wedding dress. Finally, in sheer desperation, he called Richard. Explaining quickly what was happening, he asked Richard if he could call in on Georgie that morning, casually, out of the blue.

"So, you're asking me to drop in on Georgie and suggest driving the girls around? And you don't think that those two girls will suspect something is going on?" Richard asked incredulously. "Give them credit for a few brains cells, Will."

Will raked his fingers through his hair. "Well, do you have a better idea, Einstein? I can't tell Georgie what this is all about. She's finally getting over all that crap from a couple of years ago. The last thing I want is to put her on edge again."

"Hey, calm down, Cuz," Richard soothed. "I understand your concerns-believe me. How about safety in numbers?" he offered. "Why don't we let Charlotte in on what's going on and get her to offer to go with them? Nothing suspicious in the bridesmaid wanting to tag along."

Will deliberated, not wanting too many people to know about his suspicions until he was sure himself. But he wanted Lizzy safe and Richard's idea sounded reasonable. "Okay. I could call Charlotte at work I guess …"

"No need, mate," interrupted Richard quickly. "Leave it up to me. I'll take care of it. You worry about something else. You must have plenty of other stuff to do."

A light went off in Will's brain and he swallowed a chuckle. "Sure. Just a sec, Rich, and I'll get you her phone number."

"I've already got … it." Suddenly Richard stopped.

For the first time in days, Will laughed. "I'll just bet you do, Richard Fitzwilliam. You sly dog. Interested in the delectable Charlotte Lucas, huh?"

"You're a sneaky bastard, you know that?" Richard grumbled and then laughed as well. "So what if I am interested? I plan on being around for a bit. She's a beautiful lady and I'm available."

"Available? That's putting it mildly. Actually," he considered, "I think you two might just be made for each other. So, I can leave Charlotte up to you, then?"

"Sure. It'll give me an excuse to call her."

Will couldn't resist a subtle dig. "You need an excuse? The great Richard Fitzwilliam needs an excuse? This just gets better and better. I think she's got your number, boyo."

"You're enjoying this way too much, Will," he said, derision lacing his voice. "Just remember I'm doing this for Lizzy-not for you, you old bastard."

"Yeah, I'm sure she'll appreciate the sacrifice you're making on her behalf."

He said goodbye, a small smile still lighting up his eyes.

He wasn't smiling later that day when he went to pick up Lizzy and noticed 'the car' again. He was even more worried when he saw a vaguely familiar shape come out of a shop across the road, pause, look in the direction of Lizzy's office block and get back in the car. At least now he had a better description of the man. Around six feet, broad shoulders and strong legs that hinted at a body that had regular workouts, early forties, buzz cut hair … ex-Army or police if he wasn't missing his guess. But even so, if he hadn't been looking for him, he would never have noticed him. The guy moved like a shadow.

He wondered what else he could do to keep Lizzy safe. He considered again telling Lizzy, mainly so that she would be aware and not do anything reckless, but then decided to keep it to himself. It would be just one more thing for her to stress over. But he kept coming back to the questions that had been plaguing him for days. Who the fuck was it, and why the hell was Lizzy being followed?

His thoughts flashed back to Georgie and an all too familiar feeling of dread came over him. There was no way that someone he loved was going through that again. A thought flashed into his mind … one he was reluctant to contemplate … What if this bloke was following, not Lizzy, but him?

He thought about it, a frown creasing his forehead. That still didn't explain who or why? His scowl deepened. Fuck!

Chapter Thirteen