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Volume Three.

Chapter 9: Contemplations.

I know I don't know you
but I want you so bad.

Secret, by Maroon 5.
From the album Songs About Jane.

Sunday, 27th June 2004. Fourth Round.

"William Darcy verses Thomas Bertram.1 Darcy to serve."

Elizabeth sat back in her seat, wondering for the hundredth time why she had decided to this. Why it had occurred to her that the best way to decide who she should believe; George Wickham or William Darcy, would be to watch the latter man play a tennis match. As if a tennis match could really show the true character of a person. But last night, something in her mind had told the rest of her that this was the best way to solve her dilemma, although why it mattered so much who she believed in, Elizabeth had no idea.

The first serve was about to be played out, so Elizabeth shut down the doubts of her mind and directed her gaze to the green and white court below. She could not deny that William Darcy knew the sport he had chosen as a profession, and that he played it well. There was nothing wrong about his first serve. The ball went high and true, and his racket connected with it at just the right moment. It shot across the court. Even before it had passed the net, Elizabeth could see that his opponent had no chance of catching it.

"Fifteen, love."

Elizabeth had no need to worry about the time, even so, she checked her watch, out of pure habit more than anything else. Her match was straight after the man she was watching, on the same court. She watched silently as William Darcy sent another ace rocketing across the court. Two in a row, both at the impressive speed of one hundred and forty-six mph. Evidently he was a man on a mission to win. But then this was the fourth round, where those who wanted to reach the final had to show that they had the capability to do so.

After this, it was the quarter finals. She reflected over the story she had heard once more, as she watched one of its protagonists make his way through his first game of the first set. Looking at it, Elizabeth could see a few flaws. For one, it was Wickham's own choice not to turn pro in his career. The need to support his family had nothing to do it.

Whatever George Darcy had left his godson- if he had really left anything at all -would have been a paltry amount compared to what one could earn in professional tennis. Plus, her youngest sister possessed a vivid imagination. There were good odds on the story they had heard being false in its entirety.

"Game, Darcy. Bertram to serve."

Elizabeth halted her thoughts and concentrated on the game, observing how William Darcy played his opponent in this deep into the championship. As each hit progressed and evolved into Bertram winning the game, Elizabeth could see what most of those who did not play the game could not, that it was a deliberate defeat, in order to evaluate his opponent's ability and detect the weaknesses, if any. It was the way her father, - and her uncle when she was younger and just starting out in the sport -had taught her to play.

And like her, Darcy had taken the lessons to heart. It was strange, she realised now, that she had never taken an interest in her country's main hope for the male trophy of Wimbledon, especially considering her uncle being his coach. She and William Darcy shared similar techniques in their game play. And relative connection aside, he played an extremely watchable game. His winning was interesting. Until the last serve or return had been played in each game, you had no idea how it was going to end, even if he had a lead of forty love.

As the match progressed, turning ever so steadily and smoothly to Darcy's advantage, Elizabeth could see why critics had named him the sport's hottest player of the moment. There was a certain something about his game and his person, which instantly drew you in. Some unnameable force, which no one could deny. Even though the scores at the end would look one sided, you could see throughout the match that he gave his opponent every chance to take the match, and that it was their own errors that made victory unavailable to them, while he produced an almost spotless performance. If this match alone was anything to go by, Britain had very good chances of finally receiving the title of their home Grand Slam.

"Game and set. Darcy leads by two sets to love."

Elizabeth watched the players walk to their chairs for a brief break before the next set, her mind forming the decision to give William Darcy the benefit of the doubt concerning George Wickham. Suddenly a series of excited cries rose up amongst the crowd, and she uttered a mock groan as she saw the reason why. Darcy had decided to change his tennis t-shirt.

Reluctantly she admitted to herself that the crowds did have a reason to scream. There was not an ounce of fat on his well formed chest and torso, which was still tanned from the previous sunny tours before Wimbledon. Unconsciously, she even found herself licking her lips. Shaking her head, she laughed at herself, wondering why once more she was so hung up on who to believe. In the end, it all came down to her sister Lydia.

Along with the rest of the family, Elizabeth was concerned with the way she was growing up. The wild child of the family, with nothing to show for what career she might go in to in the future, if indeed she had one at all. She showed no interest in academics, her passion for tennis was something she should have trained for earlier if she wished to make a name for herself in the sport, and she was tone deaf, which eliminated the rest of the family inheritance.

Elizabeth feared what Lydia would take up next, and how far she would pursue this crush of hers at present. She would be a difficult one to watch, with the demands the tours put on herself and the rest of the family to keep to their best levels in the sport.

"Love, forty, match point."

Elizabeth pushed her concerns about Lydia to the back of her mind and leant forward to watch the last shot of the game. She followed the ball as it passed from Bertram's racket over the net for Darcy to catch. She watch him connect his racket to it, and smiled and clapped with the rest of the crowd as his return ended in a beautifully timed drop shot. The ball landed on the floor on Bertram's side of the net, bouncing too low for him to hit.

"Game, set and match, William Darcy. 6-1, 6-0, 6-0," the umpire announced. Elizabeth continued to clap as she watch him press the racket handle to his lips, then with arms raised, turn to each side of the court to bow and thank the crowd for their continued support. That spoke something for his character, surely. No man who was blind to the needs of others could thank the crowds every match.

Her eyes remained on him as he walked up to the net to shake the hand of his opponent and the umpire, then back to his bag to put his racket away. Then up to the crowds at the end of the barriers before the walk to the changing rooms to sign a few magazines and autographs books. She waited until he disappeared into the hut which led to the changing rooms, then got up from her seat and made her way out of the stalls to prepare for her own match.


William walked into his locker room for the day, closed the door and leant against it, allowing an almost stupid grin to form upon his face. She was there. She had watched his match, from start to finish. He felt like jumping up in the air. Instead he closed his eyes and recalled the moment he had first noticed she was there. It had been just after the pre-match warm-up.

He had happened to look up into the crowd, and somehow, he had managed to define her form from the thousands of others watching the match. Even now, he still was not sure how long his eyes had stayed fixed on her. Certainly they had not moved until the umpire had announced that it was time for the first game of the first set. Her presence had not caused him to loose any concentration. Quite the contrary, in fact. It had been the best match he had ever played.

The smile refused to move from his face when he opened his eyes and made the move to change out of his tennis clothes and step into a shower. Idly he wondered if she had noticed him bowing especially long to the side where she was. Probably not. According to Toby, who as her brother, was his best source of reliable information, she had no idea what he felt for her.

William turned his face into the full power of the shower head as his smile dimmed a little. This was getting ridiculous. He had to tell her how he felt about her. Soon. Already he was in too deep to do anything about it if things did not work out. Somehow, he would probably survive, But most of his heart would probably be lost from him forever.

William stepped out of the shower and got into his jeans and t-shirt. He pushed the uncertainty to the back of his mind and tried to focus once more on the joy he felt seeing her watch him play. The smile came back. He had to stop thinking about it and just do it. Follow the thoughts through, and turn them into reality. But he had to make it perfect. There was no way he wanted it to go wrong or mess it up. He needed it to go as smoothly as possible. If things did not work out due to a easily fixable mistake, if he did not make a move he would regret it for the rest of his lonely life.

Silently he stepped outside and went to find a seat in the stalls in order to return the pleasure she had unknowingly bestowed upon him only a few hours ago. He had just sat down when he saw her enter the court. Gone were the casual skirt and top he had seen her in before, replaced by one of her tight tennis dresses. Her long dark brown hair pulled back in a ponytail.

He recalled the only time he had seen it long; when they had stayed over at Netherfield. Even now he could imagine curling a strand around one of his fingers. He watched as she put her bag down beside the chair he had sat in only minutes ago for his brief breaks from the match. As she took out her racket and walked into the white lines of the court, receiving a few balls from the ball girls and boys with which to warm up. His eyes remained on her as she practised her serves and shared a rally with her opponent.

"Miss Elizabeth Bennet verses Miss Marianne Dashwood. 2 First set. Miss Bennet to serve," the umpire intoned, William acknowledging the information given only just. He did not spare even a single glance for her opponent. Silently he watched her serve. As usual she played without emitting a sound. He loved that about her. Softly he sighed as he realised what he had just said to himself. He was definitely in too deep.

"Game, Miss Bennet. Miss Bennet leads by two games to one. Miss Dashwood to serve."

His eyes remained fixed on Elizabeth as she stood waiting to receive her opponent's serve. It had only been six days. Six days. Had it really only been six days? William could still not believe he had fallen this fast this soon. But then, he had never felt this way about anyone before. In the past it had taken weeks, even months for him to reach this stage. With Caroline he had barely even noticed if he liked her, as he wrapped himself up in tennis, almost to the exclusion of everything in his life. Now it had come so soon and so suddenly. And he had barely spoken to her.

"Game, Miss Bennet. 3-1. Miss Bennet to serve."

She played the same way he did, he realised. Evidently his coach had taught his niece when she started out in the profession. Like him the strategy had become habit, a reflex. Ingrained so deeply that they could spot an opponent's weaknesses from their first service game. Like him, now that they had reached the fourth round, they were taking no prisoners. He caught the briefest flash of a smile from her as she served a perfect and fast ace. They had another thing in common. They both loved the sport they had chosen for their careers.

"Game, Miss Bennet. 4-1. Miss Dashwood to serve."

William leant forward, watching Elizabeth play, a smile still lingering on his lips. Last night he remembered, he had dreamt of her. It made his jeans uncomfortable just thinking about it. He had to ask her out. The dream had been wonderful, hot, and erotic beyond belief, but the downside had come when he had opened his eyes and been greeted by the empty pillows next door to him. It had felt so incredibly real. But it had been fiction. A product of his active imagination. Which was why he had to try and see if he could make it reality. He needed it to become reality.

"Game, Miss Bennet. 1-5. Miss Bennet to serve."

Silently, William made his decision. He would ask her today. This afternoon, after her match. He would wait for her outside this court, and ask her as she came out from the changing rooms. No, beg her probably. To give him a chance. To let him prove that whatever Wickham had told her younger sister, he was a good guy. Who was crazy about her. And wanted, more than anything right now, to make her happy.

"Game, set, Miss Bennet. Miss Bennet leads by one set to love," the umpire announced.

The board recording the scores flashed up results and current scores of the other matches that were occurring. Both his cousins had won their matches against Frank Churchill3 and Christopher Brandon4 respectively. Charles was still playing against John Wiloughby5 and currently winning by two sets to love. Jane Bennet was also still playing her match, although it looked to be in the last stages; she had a lead of one set and five games to one on Julia Bertram.6

Jane would probably meet her sister, William suddenly realised. Charles' match would still be in progress by the time she had finished. He shot a quick glance down to the part of the court reserved for coaches and family, and saw the absence of Mr Bennet, who was most likely at Jane's match. He saw a girl there, whom he did not recognise, but who looked like Jane from this distance, so William presumed she was Mary Bennet, Elizabeth's other sister.

"Game, Miss Bennet. 0-1. Miss Bennet to serve."

William turned his eyes back to Elizabeth. She looked to be in her element out there, playing Marianne Dashwood, a seasoned finalist, like she was someone who barely made third rounds. Maybe he was biased, but he thought her matches very enjoyable. Like him she gave her opponents plenty of chances to snatch the match away, but to no avail. Whatever errors they made, were their own fault and no one's else's.

"Game, Miss Bennet. 2-0. Miss Dashwood to serve."

William continue to watch Elizabeth stride through her second and what proved to be her last set of the match without any trouble. By the time the umpire had announced that she had won by two sets to love, he had made up his mind. He would ask her.

Now.


Elizabeth never noticed once that William had watched her match. She bowed to the crowd as usual, wrote autographs, then retired to the changing rooms. Attired in her casual clothes once more, she met Mary outside and they walked to the training courts. If they noticed that Britain's hottest tennis player was falling into step behind them, they did not show any indication.

Conversation was mostly on the match. Elizabeth kept silent about her presence at Darcy's match, and reviewed her own with Mary instead, and received news of Jane's victory. They walked steadily towards their destination, where the last worries of Elizabeth's mind presently were. Lydia had mentioned something about meeting her coach at Wimbledon and training with him during the summer vacation.

Sure enough, when they reached the training courts, Lydia was there. Elizabeth uttered a quiet groan and exchanged a mutual rolling of the eyes with Mary as they caught sight of what their youngest sibling was wearing. It barely fit the description of a tennis skirt, short enough to be hot-pants, and a tight t-shirt, knotted under her breasts. Elizabeth reckoned that there were good odds on her sister not wearing a bra.

"Afternoon, Lydia," she greeted her as they came to a halt just behind her. Their sister turned around to display a smug grin. "Hi Liz. Mary." She stepped aside and gestured to the man before them. "May I introduce George Wickham. Mr Wickham, these are my sisters, Elizabeth and Mary."

"Pleased to meet you both," Wickham began, shaking their hands. Elizabeth acknowledged him, and glanced at her sister, wondering what Lydia saw in him, other than him being a man. She had seen better looking.

"Oh, god, give me a piece of that," Lydia announced suddenly. Elizabeth turned to admonish her, but the words died on her lips as she saw who it was behind them.

William Darcy was staring at all of them, but his eyes took in few things except George Wickham. He had arrived. All of his progress with Georgia was about to switch into full reverse. So much for a smooth championship for the both of them.


1. & 6. Thomas and Julia Bertram are from Mansfield Park.
2, 4 & 5. Marianne Dashwood, Christopher Brandon and John Wiloughby are from Sense and Sensibility.
3. Frank Churchill is from Emma.


Chapter 10: One Love United.

Its not complicated, we're just syncopated.
We can read each other's minds.
One love united, two bodies synchronising....

Breath On Me, by Britney Spears.
From the album, In The Zone.

Monday, 28th June 2004. Second day of the Fourth Round.

William woke the next morning with a heavy heart, the previous success of his match the day before conquered by the appearance of George Wickham. For the first time since Wimbledon had begun, he had dreamt about something other than Elizabeth Bennet. And he knew now which he had preferred. It may have been a torment to wake from the most erotic dreams he had ever experienced to an empty bed, but what he had imagined last night was truly a nightmare.

The night terrors had taken him back in time to the all too reality of the day he had played his last match before Wimbledon, the final of Stella Artois at Queens. The game itself had been a good but hard struggle that he was only too glad to end, even if it was as runner up. When he had wrapped up the interviews and changed, he had been met by his coach with a message from his sister's school.

Apparently the staff had lost sight of Georgia Darcy for a moment during the trip to Ramsgate, and had no idea where she was. William remembered a quiet terror stealing over his heart as he asked if they knew who was the last person she had been seen with. The reply that came back was enough to turn the terror into pure horror.

He had ended the call as soon as was politely possible, then made a mad dash for his car. He must have broken a few speed records along with a few speeding limits along what proved to be a short drive from London to Ramsgate, but William had noticed nothing of them. He had been extremely lucky not to have a crash that day.

Ramsgate had seemed perfectly unaffected to him as he pulled the car to a screeching halt and jumped out, barely giving the security on it the time of day. William had ran to the edge of the coastal road and looked out on to the rocky path by the sea.

Apparently he had arrived just in time. A single glance was all it took to confirm that his sister was the woman pressed up against the rock-made wall, with her skirt pushed halfway up her legs, and her blouse ripped, blowing in the wind. He had leapt down the stairs, rushed to her side, and swept away Wickham with little care for the man's safety.

Then Georgia was in his arms, crying with relief. William had held her for what seemed like hours on that treacherous path, but in reality it had been only minutes, before, with his arm still wrapped around her shoulders, he had guided her back up the steps and had gone to find one of the teaching staff responsible for the trip.

After that, the reality had turned into a blur. William had seen nothing of Wickham. He had only learnt later on that the man had managed to crawl back up the path and into the school to resume his position as sports coach. He had been unable to make the school fire the man for two reasons; it was his words against Wickham's that it had been non-consensual assault; and the matter would inevitably become public once Georgia turned pro. And there the matter had come to an end. In this nightmare of his however, events had been very different. He had been delayed along the way, or- for the journey was repeated in a constant medley in his mind last night -had arrived only in time to watch his sister be raped by his childhood friend.

William was only too thankful not to wake up screaming after that dream. Its lasting effects had served to make him doubt his previous decision not to inform Georgia of Wickham's arrival. He had feared the evening before that the news would destroy her confidence and cost her the fourth round.

But that nightmare had made him realise that even if he did not tell her, she would notice his concern, and the increased security around her and himself. And he had sworn never to lie to his only sister. He had no choice. He would have to tell her this morning, and endure whatever guilt the inevitable consequences would bring.

He rose from his bed and went through the motions of the morning, coming down to breakfast dressed in casual trousers and shirt, their dark grey colour reflecting his sombre mood. When he had entered the breakfast kitchen of their family's townhouse- both he and Georgia had apartments in town, but the siblings preferred to be together whenever they happened to be in the same country -William had come to a sudden halt.

His sister was already up, attired in her tennis dress, and eating the remains of a bagel. William could not but help smile at the picture. She looked more like their late mother each and every day. She looked so happy, which made the news that he had to tell her all the more dreadful and all the more terrifying to him.

"Mornin' William," Georgia suddenly said, looking up from her breakfast. Too soon she caught sight of the conflict on his face. "What is it?" She asked him.

William closed his eyes for a moment, hating himself for the pain he was about to cause. He moved slowly to take a seat beside her. Taking of her slender hands in his, he stared into her eyes as he began to speak. "Georgie, I have warred long and hard with myself over telling you this, out of concern as to how you would react. But we promised each other a long time ago that we would never lie to each other. I saw George Wickham yesterday."

It was five simple words, but to Georgia they had the power of death knells. "Where?" She struggled to ask, her voice soft and small.

William gripped her hand tighter. "At the training courts. He was coaching one of the Bennet's sisters."

"Which one?" She was surprised at how calm she felt.

"The youngest; Lydia."

"I remember her," Georgia answered slowly, absently. "She was in the year behind me." She paused, pushing her empty plate away. "Do you think he will stay for the rest of the championship?"

"I think he might," William admitted. He reached out to stroke her cheek tenderly. "Was I right to tell you, my dearest?"

"Yes, you were," Georgia replied, blinking steadily to hold back her tears. "I shall be fine," she added, more to herself than to him at first. "I shall be fine. I will win my match against Mary Crawford1 today, and he won't trouble me at all."

"That's the spirit," William said, his lack of conviction carefully hidden by his wall of control. He leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead, then stood up to fetch himself a coffee. He had long since lost the appetite for anything other than a liquid breakfast.


For the Bennet family, the morning had passed far more agreeably. Jane in particular was looking at the day with the contented composure of one who was in love and knew that she was loved in return.

Parting from her father and her siblings, Jane left their London home early, making her way to her boyfriend's apartment. Charles had asked her to spend the day with him. His very name alone had the power to make her smile. Jane hummed to herself as she reflected over all the joys the relationship had brought her so far.

When Toby had introduced them to one another in France, she had had no idea of the things to come. The mere idea of a tennis player like Charles Bingley taking an interest in her had been almost laughable. Yet he had, in fact he had asked her out that night. And the night after that. And the night after that.

By the time they had arrived back from Roland Garros, Jane had two things to celebrate; her brother's victory and her new, but very serious relationship. Charles had told her that he loved her the night before they all left, during the most romantic candlelit dinner Jane had ever partaken in. And her own feelings, like now, were just the same.

And that's how they had stayed, despite the uncertainty she had felt three days ago, thanks to his sister Caroline. Jane was so thankful that she had met Charles that morning at the foot of his staircase. His reassurance had been everything she had needed. Though they had made love since, that moment in the study still held to power to make Jane blush and smile at the same time. Charles Bingley had by no means been her first, but he had been the only one to make her feel so sexy and alive like no other.

Jane reached his apartment in good time, and took the key out of her pocket that he had given her only a week ago. Slipping it into the lock, she opened the door and walked inside. Instantly, she halted on the threshold, as a gasp escaped from her lips. Below her lay a path of petals, the type and shade of her favourite flower; ivory orchids. Carefully she made her through the hall, following their delicate path to the living room.

Another surprise met her when she opened the door of her destination. Somewhere in London, there were a flower and candle shops closing early due to lack of stock, for the place was littered in more petals and slender lit wax in a shade to match. Jane glanced around the room in amazement. From somewhere not too far away, where its twentieth-century technology would not spoil the look, she could hear the sounds of a sweet love song, by one of her favourite artists. "Charles?" She called out, awe-struck.

"Here," he announced in the tones of his native Savannah. Jane managed at last to distinguish his figure from the yellow blond flames of the candles. He was dressed in a white casual shirt, part undone, and casual tan trousers. In his open palms was a little velvet box, and suddenly Jane realised what was about to happen next. Allowing a little sigh of quiet joy to escape her lips, she advanced across the floor to stand before him.

Charles was a typical contemporary American, but he had gone entirely traditional for his English love. Rising on to one knee, he held the box before her and opened it for her to see the ring inside. "Jane," he began, his voice surprisingly calm considering the tears of nerves and hope in his eyes, "from the moment we met, I was lost. You held my heart beside yours that night, though I'm sure you had no idea. Even before we had left France I was carrying this," he paused indicating the ring before her, "waiting for the right moment to offer it to you. Jane, I offer you everything I have, all that I am, and all of my love. Will you marry me?"

Her answer, was on her lips before Jane even knew it, and it felt completely right. "Yes," she said, kneeling down to be level with him, smiling and tears clouding her own eyes to match his. Charles took the ring out of the box, and took her left hand, slipping it on her third finger. Jane only vaguely managed to notice that it was a topaz, her favourite gemstone, before she had closed her eyes, and allowed herself to swept away by their kiss.

The light cushions and blankets around them provided comfort from the wooden floor below as they gently fell down amongst them. Charles explored her hair and her skin, as, bit by bit, it was slowly revealed to him. Jane did not notice the music switch into repeat, as she took care not to scratch him with her new ring while her hands caressed his skin. Their bodies fell into the timeless ancient dance, expressing all the joy and contentment that they felt concerning what had just occurred.

Afterwards, Jane lay nestled against his bare chest, and brought up her left hand to her face in order to admire the ring which she now possessed. The bright blue of the Topaz glittered in the candlelight, as though it contained a fire below its icy surface. Its delicate setting was in the contemporary style, with the platinum metal beginning at a point on the top, round her finger to end at the bottom in a complete circle. It fit her finger perfectly, even though Jane could not remember Charles asking for her ring size.

"What do you think of it?" Charles asked her softly.

Jane laid her hand down on his bare arm, and turned to face him. "Its perfect," she replied, drawing light circles upon his chest with her other. "You've had this since France?"

"Yeah," he affirmed once more. "I was shepherding Caroline around the shops one day;- don't ask me how I got conned into that adventure -and I saw it on display. I went to take a closer look, and suddenly saw myself putting it on your finger. I went in and brought it right then. I kept it in my carryon case, waiting for now."

"You don't even know my ring size."

"That was pure guesswork," he confessed, before bending his head slightly to kiss her forehead. He turned a little to admire the ring on her hand, his face breaking into one big smile of joy. "I still can't believe how fast this has happened."

"Nor I," Jane agreed, looking at him with a smile of her own.

Somewhere above them, a clock softly chimed the hour, bringing the couple reluctantly back to reality. Charles grabbed one of the blankets and wrapped it around his legs as he got up. Walking over to the stereo, he shut down the CD and put the radio on, the station which covered Wimbledon kicked in.

"As the time is two thirty, we come to a roundup so far of the current and finished matches," the radio DJ intoned as Charles rejoined his fiancee. "This second day of the fourth has seen a great many notable names loose and win. In the ladies, Georgia Darcy has bowed her way out of her first Wimbledon, losing in three sets to Mary Crawford; 6-4, 6-7, 6-4. Caroline Bingley is to be Miss Crawford's quarter final opponent; she also won her match against first time entrant Kitty Bennet in three sets; 6-2, 6-7, 6-3.

'From the mens'; Toby Bennet is through to his fifth quarter final in Wimbledon; winning in four sets against Henry Crawford;2 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 8-6. The rest of the matches today are currently still in progress, here's an update of scores so far; Leo Gardiner and George Kinghtley3 are one set all, whoever wins that match will face Toby Bennet. Denton Lucas is losing two sets to love against Edward Ferrars,4 and in the last match of today, Detroit Morgan-Debourgh has just started off the first set with Frederick Wentworth.5 The winners of the last two, will face each other in the quarter finals."

Charles pressed a button on the stereo's remote, turning the radio off and the CD back on, turning to Jane with a mixed smile. Commiseration at her sister's defeat against his own sibling, and her brother's victory. "You'll think they'll have noticed your absence?"

"No, I did warn Elizabeth that I might be away the whole day," Jane admitted with a soft blush as she reflected on how the day had been spent so far. "Why don't you come over for dinner tonight and we will tell them then."

"That sounds an excellent idea," Charles replied, drawing her into his arms. "Until then, however, may we continue the rest of our celebrations?"

Jane's only assent in reply was a passionate kiss, which stopped all conversation for the rest of the afternoon.


It was a quiet house which Charles returned to that night, mainly because the house was not his own, but his friend's. William had offered him a room for the night after Charles had phoned him fresh from a conversation with Caroline. His sister was proving to be insufferable with her gloating on winning over a Bennet. As a result of which he had yet to tell her that they would soon be related to them.

"How is Georgia?" He asked his friend when he noticed that she was not there to greet him as well.

William uttered a sigh and replied as he led his friend into the study. "She went to bed." He slumped into one of his armchairs. "I hate myself."

"Whatever for?" Charles asked.

"You know George Wickham is training Lydia Bennet?" William queried. Charles nodded grimly, suddenly understanding. "Well I made the mistake of warning her about him this morning."

"Ah," Charles answered. "It was a difficult match, Will. She's only sixteen, and at her first Wimbledon. To get as far as the fourth round is still impressive. And Mary Crawford has managed to get to the semis before. She's a tough opponent. You can't blame yourself. Its all Wickham's fault." He paused as a stray thought crossed his mind. "What do you think he will do? If anything?"

William got up and walked over to the decanters nearby. Pouring himself and his friend a snifter of brandy, he said nothing until he had handed out the drinks and returned to his previous position in the chair. "Its the 'anything' that bothers me. I'll do all I can to make sure he doesn't get within a mile of Georgia, but there are many other girls out here, and all vulnerable. I'm hesitant to do anything though, just in case he talks."

"Should I warn the Bennets?" Charles asked. "Discreetly?"

William finished his brandy, was about answer with assent, then changed his mind. "No, I don't think that will be necessary. Michael Bennet is a wise man, I think he will know to keep an eye on him. And I gave Toby a warning to keep an eye on Lydia."

Charles nodded, and the discussion was at an end. William just hoped that he was doing the right thing.


1. & 2. Mary and Henry Crawford are from Mansfield Park.
3. George Knightley is from Emma.
4. Edward Ferrars is from Sense & Sensibility.
5. Frederick Wentworth is from Persuasion.


Chapter 11: And You Just Want The World To See.

Love can be a many splendoured thing
Can't deny the joy it brings
A dozen roses, diamond rings

The Trouble With Love Is, by Kelly Clarkson.
From the album Thankful.


Tuesday, 29th June 2004. Quarter Finals.

"Game, set and match. Brandon1 wins by three sets to two; 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 9-7."

Charles Bingley acknowledged the defeat with an upbeat mood which belied the fact that the loss meant he was now out of the Wimbledon championships. Walking to the net line, he shook the hands of his opponent and then the umpire. As he turned to wave the fans farewell, Charles reflected once more why the defeat did not bother him.

The answer could be conjured up in one word. Jane. Yesterday she had accepted his proposal of marriage. From that moment of hearing her 'yes,' nothing else had mattered. Not his forthcoming quarter final, not his tennis career. He would have the honour of her love for the rest of his life. He felt like dancing, like walking on air. He was on cloud nine.

His beloved Jane was there to great him when Charles entered his changing room. He had an interview to attend in a few minutes, but the conception of time at this moment was rendered alien to him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and bestowed upon his lips a searing kiss. Only when they had to break apart in order to recover the ability to breathe, did the knocking at the door finally come to their attention, reminding Charles of his interview. He uttered a sigh, and let his hands fall to her sides, loosely holding hers.

"Come with me," he said suddenly. "I want to announced this," he raised her left hand to lips and bestowed a kiss on the ring, "to the entire world."

Jane blushed, but could not refuse him anything right now. She had never felt so happy. It was too much, far too much. She wanted everyone to be as happy as she was right now. Even if they could only manage a moment of happiness, it would help her to feel not so very selfish as relishing as she the prospect of a lifetime of the emotion with her Charles.

They walked out of the changing room, through the long corridors to the interview room, where a reporter from the BBC was waiting for them. America's current number one had just bowed out of Wimbledon to New Zealand's champion Christopher Brandon, increasing the chances for a possible British win. That was news enough, and indeed, all the reporter had expected. But he was now about to get an exclusive as well.

Not that it mattered to the bearers of this exclusive. They were in love, and they wanted to broadcast it to the entire world.


"Game. Darcy leads by five games to two. Churchill2 to serve."

William was in the middle of his second set of his own quarter final match while his friend was busy spreading his happy news. He was genuinely happy for his friend, despite the small part of him feeling slightly envious at his good fortune in finding the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life so soon. Pushing the thoughts away with a resolute shove, he focused on his match. Frank Churchill was a tough contender, known for turning what looked like easy wins into five set defeats for his opponents. If he wanted to get through to the semis, he had to put all his thoughts into the match.

"Game. 5-3. Darcy to serve."

William caught a ball from a ball-boy and bounced it on the ground behind the white line at the back of his side of the court. A deft flick of the wrist and it was up in the air, on a race to meet the clouds before the inevitable onset of gravity upon its trajectory.

William watched its descent, then brought his racket up to come behind the ball and send it flying across the court. It shot off like a rocket, the white lines upon it becoming indistinguishable from the yellow, as it flew over the net, down for a bounce right on target and past his opponent to ricochet off the green wall barriers that marked the end of the court. He glanced at the speed counter. One hundred and forty mph.

"Fifteen, love."

He turned to catch a second ball for his next serve. Like the first, his movements for the second were an equal mixture of instinct and long ingrained habit. However his aim was slightly off, so this ball did not produce an ace, but a return. William moved across his side of the court and caught his opponent's parry.

This had the potential to be the final game of the second set, and William did not want to loose the advantage of a lucky break a few games ago. Their first set had gone to tie-break, his first since France. And he was determined not to let this match end like his last at Roland Garros. Churchill turned his return into a short drop shot, and William saw his chance, running forward and sending the ball to bounce low and land close on the other side of the net.

"Thirty, love."

Once more he turned to catch a ball for his third serve. The sound of the crowd's cheers or boos had long since become drowned out by the beating of his heart, and the sounds which the rackets and tennis balls made as they played their match. William threw the ball up into the air, waited for it to descend, and connected his racket to it. A prayer unconsciously made its way through his mind as he watched the shot reach its destination.

"Forty, love. Set point."

William repeated his actions, allowing a brief smile to appear on his face as the shot turned out to be another ace, allowing him to win the set; 6-3. He retired to his chair, sitting down and pulling up his water bottle for a drink.

During this brief break between sets he should have been thinking about the third, and how to keep it being his final of the match. But stray thoughts concerning yesterday's events entered his mind and refused to go away. He had stayed with Georgia throughout her match with Mary Crawford, hoping against hope that her inner self had enough strength to forget about Wickham only to feel even more guilty for telling her about his presence when she lost the match.

On reflection, he could see that without Wickham, the match would still have been hard, and he could also see that Georgia had fought as hard as she could, winning the second set through a tie-break that quite easily could have gone either way. But William still wondered what would have happened if he had not told Georgia about the possibility of running into her attacker.

Last night, as he mused over a brandy with Charles, William had wondered once more if it had been possible to make a case against George Wickham without the press getting wind of it. But the sad truth was, they would have done so no matter what. For George would have sold himself to any rag that would have offered for the rights for the story. And turn them against the girl who was the victim, along with her brother.

"Third set, Churchill to serve," the umpire announced at that moment. William silently thanked him for his timely intervention. This was no way to be thinking right now, with a match still very much up for grabs. He rose up from his chair and walked to his position on the court. holding his racket between his bent and apart legs, he waited for the ball to come, wiping his mind of all thoughts but the game.


"Arrgh! Oh the cheek of it! Oh the nerve of her! I knew this would happen, I saw it from the moment she came to the London house that this would be the end. Well it won't, not if I have anything to do with it! Oh, no, Jane Bennet, you will not win this fight! Because this is only the beginning. By the time I have finished with you, you'll wish you'd never been born into this world."

"Come in, Caroline," William managed to air out loud at this point, trying to ignore the fact that she had barged in without knocking just after she had begun her rant. His match had finished some hours ago in a three set victory, and now he was cooking himself and Georgia a dinner in his apartment on Baker Street. "Sit down, make yourself at home," he added, purely for sarcasm as she had already done so.

"You have to talk to him, Rainier," Caroline now remarked, addressing William by his middle name, simply because it happened to be one that had been used by royalty, a gesture which he absolutely loathed.

"Talk to him?" He echoed, leaning against the back of his kitchen cupboards of his London apartment, and adopting a nonchalant pose. "Why should I talk to him?"

"Because your his friend, and he respects your opinion!" Caroline screeched back at him. "Tell him that marriage to Jane Bennet simply isn't right!"

"Why should I?" William asked. "You're the one who doesn't like her."

"And you do!?!" Caroline queried in amazement.

"What is there not to like? She's intelligent, good-looking, plays tennis just as well as he does if not better. Her family is very comfortable. And, most important of all, she loves him, and he does her."

"Love? What do they know of love? They've only been dating for six weeks! Charles falls in love at least once a week, and as for her, she's just in it for whatever she can get!"

"And what do you know of it?" William yelled back at her, allowing his annoyance and frustration at her belief that she could steal her brother's key to his apartment and barge in like she was still his girlfriend. "If I remember correctly, you testified that we were engaged after only two days of us dating!"

"I was only showing you how deeply my feelings ran!" Caroline cried out.

"You only wanted me for the same things you claim Jane Bennet wants of Charles; money, name and position!" William stood up, walked over to the sofa where she was sitting and pulled her up by grabbing her arm. "No, I will not help you destroy your brother's or Jane's happiness. You know where the door is."

"Fine! I'll put an end to it myself!" Caroline cried and walked to the door. William waited until she had opened it and was over the threshold before walking up and catching the door in his hand. "Oh Georgia," Caroline suddenly added before he could get a word in, "I am sorry about your loss to Mary Crawford. I promise to slaughter her tomorrow on my way to winning the title."

"Go Caroline," William began, "return your stolen key to your brother and tell him that I'm changing the locks tomorrow." And with that he shut and locked the door.

Georgia broke into a round of applause from her seat at the kitchen bar. William smiled and made his way back over to her. "I never thought she'd leave."

"Me neither," Georgia echoed. She paused, then added in a different tone. "You do know that I didn't mean Mary Crawford to win that match."

"I know," William assured her. "I'm just guilt-tripping myself over the possible alternatives that could have occurred if I had not told you about his presence."

"I did forget about him," Georgia replied. "During the match, he never entered my thoughts once. It was just tough and not my year. Do you know whose year I think it is?"

"Whose?"

"Elizabeth Bennet's."

William tried to hold back his smile as his thoughts silently agreed with his sister. "You do know if Caroline wins her match and Miss Bennet wins hers they will face each other in the semis?"

"I know. I hope Elizabeth slaughters her." Georgia finished her tea. "Are you really changing the locks tomorrow?"

"Definitely. I'm not having her walk in here without knocking ever again." William sighed and joined her at the bar, grabbing a seat. "I wish she'd tire of this belief that I am in love with her still. I never was."

"Have you ever been?" Georgia asked him, curious.

"I.... No, I've never been in love," William replied, before getting up to answer the timely beep of the oven. His words were not a total lie. He had never been in love.

Until now.


"And finally, today at Wimbledon, America's current number one, Charles Bingley announced his engagement to Jane Bennet, eldest daughter of English champion Michael Bennet, and a contender for the female title of the British Grand Slam. The couple announced the news after Bingley's defeat to New Zealand's number one, Christopher Brandon this afternoon, to a BBC correspondent.

"They apparently began their courtship in France during the French Open, and have been inseparable since. Both proclaim themselves to be very happy with each other. When asked which of their native countries they would choose to live in, Charles said that he hoped they would keep both America and Great Britain as their homes. The wedding is planned to be some time after Wimbledon and before Bingley begins his fight to keep the American Grand Slam title for a second year running."

Elizabeth turned the television over to another channel and turned to see her sister's face a mixture of happiness, smiles and blushes at being on the six o'clock news.

"Congratulations again, Jane. Enjoy this, you deserve every minute of it."

"Oh, Lizzy," Jane said, trying to turn the attention away from herself. "When will I see you in such a position of joy?"

Elizabeth laughed, shaking her head at the notion. They were at leisure in her apartment on Baker Street, enjoying a girls night in. It was a weekly tradition between them. They would come to one or the other's apartment or hotel room, watch chick flicks, eat pizza, and talk. "I could never be as happy as you, Jane. Till I have your goodness, I can never have your happiness." She stood and crouched before the entertainment system to turn on the dvd player and put in the first of their chosen films that night. "But if I'm very lucky, Wilhiem Collins might decide to try his hand again."

"Lizzy," Jane answered in mild reproach. "Seriously, when will your turn come?"

"I have no idea, Jane, no idea." Elizabeth rose up and returned to her seat. "But until my time does come, I shall have your happiness to sustain me."


1. Christopher Brandon is from Sense & Sensibility.
2. Frank Churchill is from Emma.

Chapter 12: The Nearness Of You.

Its not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me,
Oh no, its just the nearness of you.

The Nearness Of You, by Norah Jones.
From the album Come Away With Me.

Wednesday, 30th June 2004. Second day of the Quarter Finals.

Elizabeth and Toby Bennet were up early the next morning, arriving at Wimbledon to train just after nine. Their matches were both due to start at one o'clock on courts number two and three respectively. Their father, having come up with Toby, joined both on the training courts for some final pre-match coaching. For all of them, this was a time to focus solely on their fitness and aptitude for their chosen career. Three of the Bennet quartet were in the last stages of their home grand slam. Jane was already through, having won against Elinor Dashwood1 in four sets the day before. Now it was up to her other siblings to follow her today. They had a reputation to keep up.

Half an hour before time found Elizabeth in her changing room, already attired in her tennis dress, sitting on the bench waiting for the end of the twelfth hour. A book was in her hand, by one of her favourite living authors, but it had not held her full attention for a while now. Instead her mind was occupied with not her forthcoming match, or her opponent, but what was to come tonight. Jane and Charles were celebrating their engagement with a party at Netherfield, and everyone who they knew in and out of the tennis scene were invited.

Elizabeth had received her invitation last night, and had been looking forward to it, until Toby had informed her of a number of developments which she and Jane had missed at the Bennet home. Wilhiem Collins had phoned to say he was coming and looking forward to dancing with them all, and Lydia had let it be known to all but her father that her guest was to be George Wickham.

Elizabeth did not need to be a genius to work out why; it was party at someone else's house, the only chance that her fifteen year sister believed she could get at trying to get off with her tennis coach undetected. Which meant that none of the Bennets could let themselves enjoy the party tonight without making sure that Jane was happy and watching Lydia like hawks for the entire evening.

Whether George Wickham would actually come was immaterial. Elizabeth could name at least a dozen male tennis players that would latch on to Lydia if- there was actually no 'if ' about it -she made it be known that they were in with a chance. And unfortunately, Lydia could be relied upon for not dressing her age. Elizabeth wondered if it was really true that George Wickham had accepted the invitation. When she had met the man on the first day of the fourth round, she had been under the impression that he was merely humouring her sister's crush.

Even after William Darcy had shown his if-looks-could-kill glance at the man, George had talked mainly to her and Mary. That encounter had been strange within itself, she had thought at the time, for she knew of no reason why William Darcy would need to come down to the training courts. He was not carrying his racket, so he had not intended to train, and as far as she knew, no one had known that George Wickham was planning on training her sister that day. So why had he followed her and Mary down? Elizabeth could not understand the man, and she was tired of trying to merely for the sake of validating her sister's tennis coach alleged sob story.

A knock on the door disturbed Elizabeth from her thoughts. Putting her book away, she turned to face her father as he popped his head round the door.

"Time for your quarter final, Lizzy girl," he said.

"I'll be right out," Elizabeth replied, rising from the bench. She walked over to where her sports bag were stored, and shoved the night's possibilities to the back of her mind.


"Elizabeth Bennet verses Catherine Morland.2 First set; Miss Bennet to serve."

Elizabeth threw her ball up into the air, let it start to descend a little, then brought up her racket to connect. The ball raced across the court, bouncing neatly in the far right-hand corner of the right first quarter square the other side of the net, then ricocheting up into the air to hit the green wall barriers at the edge of the court. Ace.

"Fifteen, love."

She took a second ball out of her pocket and threw it up into the air. A few seconds later her racket came up behind it, halting the ball's descent and sending across court. No ace this time; her opponent was able to return it. Elizabeth moved to where the ball's direction showed it would finish, waited for it to bounce, then sent it back. After her third return, Catherine Morland's parry finished at her side of the net and the first rally of the set and match was over.

"Thirty, love."

Elizabeth waited for the small bite of applause to die down, then prepared her third serve of the match. She collected the ball from one of the ball girls at the back end of her side of the court and bounced it off the grass to test it's worth. Then holding it close to the racket, she threw the ball up into the air, and reach up to put her racket behind it. The ball darted across court, bounced in the first quarter square of her opponent's side of the court, then rose up and hit the racket of Catherine Morland as she returned it. Another rally ensued; ending in the ball flying across the court low enough to catch the net. It was only due to fate or luck that it landed on her opponent's side.

"Forty, love."

Another smatter of applause, and Elizabeth turned to collect another couple of balls from her end of the court. Another serve; another parry, all of her movements so set into her mind that they had become habitual. Twang, the ball bounced off her racket, across the court, bounced once more then came back from her opponent. Elizabeth moved across court to send it back, right on target.

"Game. 1-0. Miss Morland to serve."

Elizabeth bent, waiting in her corner of the court for her opponent to make her serve and send the ball across court. She watched it bounce, then moved her racket in an arch to hit back to the other side of the net. A rally ensued once more. As usual Elizabeth played the second game with more of mind to observation of her opponent's game-play, rather than to winning. It was something her father, her uncle, and her late mother had taught her, so there were, in theory, no surprises during crucial moments of the match.

"Game. One game all. Miss Bennet to serve."

Elizabeth turned to collect a couple of balls. A look across the court while bouncing the ball on the grass, a throw upwards into the sky, wait for it to descend, then send up the racket behind the ball and send it across court. A few rallies, a few serves later, and another game done.

"Game. Miss Bennet leads by two games to one."

She walked to her chair for the customary rest after three games. Elizabeth put her racket down and picked up her water bottle. As she took a drink, she surveyed the crowd. As usual there were the patches of the red and white of the English flag, some with messages of support written on, and some patches of her opponent's native country; Canada. Faces were mostly indistinguishable due to the angle of the seats. She put her water away, and picked up her racket, examining it to see if any of the strings needed to be adjusted. None did, so she sat back and waited for the break to be over.

A minute or so later and she was back on the court, waiting for her opponent to serve, with nothing on her mind except the match.


"Game, set and match, Miss Bennet. 6-2, 7-6."

Elizabeth put away her racket, relieved that the second set tie-break had been comfortably won, and the match had not progressed into a third set and hour. Slinging the bags on her shoulders, she walked to the edge of the court and reached out to sigh autograph books and magazines. A part of her could still not believe it. Her first semi final for Wimbledon. If nothing else, this would improve her world ranking. She reached the end of the viewing area, turned to wave one final time to the court, and then disappearing into the changing rooms.

"Well done, Lizzy!" Jane cried, as soon as she had entered. She had been watching with their father, while Mary had gone to their brother's. Elizabeth smiled and hugged her sister.

"How's Toby doing?" She asked when she had set down her sport bags.

Jane put her ear-piece for her walkman back in, listened for a moment, then reported back. "One set all with Knightley so far. 6-4, 6-7."

"George Knightley3 is going to be tough," Elizabeth mused. "He reached the final last year, didn't he?"

"Mhm," Jane replied as she sat down the bench to wait for her sister.

"Heard from Charles today?" Elizabeth asked as she slipped on her jeans, lifting up her tennis dress in order to fasten them.

Jane smiled dreamily in reply. "He called to confirm tonight's preparations." She looked up at her sister. "Bringing anyone?"

"Nobody but myself. I haven't had time or the inclination to even look for someone new," Elizabeth said as she put her dress away and slipped on a t-shirt. "And I've sworn off tennis players since Denny."

"Some of them are nice."

"Your Charles is the rare exception, Jane." Elizabeth picked up her bags and slung them on her shoulders. "Come on, I'll get through my interview, then we'll meet Dad, then go and get ready for the party."

"Agreed."


William spent a couple of hours on the training courts with his coach, then met his sister for some shopping. Georgia was attending the night's party with him, and wanted a new dress, so he was being the good brother and her clothes advisor. For him, the evening event held little joys. While there was a good possibility that he would see Elizabeth Bennet, he would also have to endure Caroline for the evening.

The afternoon had found him sitting with Georgia watching Elizabeth's match, glad that he did not have to hide some of his appreciation for her. They left at the end of the match, both having no desire to watch Caroline verses Mary Crawford. He drove them back to the family townhouse in time for Georgia to be able to watch the interviews after the match, and found himself paying attention to Elizabeth's, before going down to the kitchens.

Mrs Reynolds was there as usual, greeting William with a smile and a hug. Housekeeper for both the townhouse and the family estate in Derbyshire, she had known both of the Darcys since he was three years old. William had often spent some of his holidays from school and tennis with her, and had come to think of her almost as a close Aunt. The sort of Aunt he would like to have still in the family that is. Whenever they were in town, she would stay in the house with them, and when they were in Derbyshire or away, she would return to her home town of Lambton with her family.

"Looking forward to Charles' do?" She asked him as he helped her with lunch for the three of them.

William shrugged silently, then said, "I'll probably end up spending most of the evening trying to avoid Caroline."

"I'm sure it won't be too bad," Mrs Reynolds said. "What about that woman you like? Will she be there?"

William shook his head and mocked a groan. "How on earth did you manage to divine that?"

"I have my ways. Who is she?"

William resisted for a moment, then encountered her look and relented. Mrs Reynolds knew him far too well. "Her name is Elizabeth Bennet. She's Jane's, Charles' fiancee's, younger sister."

"Georgia's idol, yes I know of her. Her aunt is Madeline Gardiner, right?"

"Yes, Edward's, wife. How do you know?"

"Oh, me and Maddy go way back. She grew up in Lambton, you know. She and I were friends up until university and beyond. She speaks very highly of her two eldest nieces. Elizabeth is her favourite though. So, will you ask her to dance?"

William blushed and moved to pour a drink. He had put the mineral water back in the fridge before he answered. "Maybe, if I get a chance. I don't really know her too well though."

"I gathered that. You'd be in a much happier mood if she accepted your attentions." Kate Reynolds paused as she sliced the sandwiches. "I heard George Wickham was at Wimbledon on Sunday?"

William grimaced, taking a sip of his water. "Yes, I believe he's training Lydia Bennet, Elizabeth's youngest sister."

"You should warn her, you know. Or tell Toby."

"I know," He confessed. "But I can't do that for everyone that comes into contact with him. And I can't press charges on him without damage to Georgia."

"You need to do it for your friends though, William."

"I'll see how things play out," he decided, while his mind hoped that his concern would all be for naught.


Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief when she and her family walked into Netherfield that night and there was no sign of George Wickham anywhere. Lydia groaned dramatically to her sisters, but soon mingled amongst the rest of the guests, her roving eyes happily occupied elsewhere. Elizabeth kept a cursory eye on her as she followed her father to talk with Jane and Charles, the former of whom had left home early in order to hostess the evening with her fiancee.

"Elizabeth, wonderful to see you," Caroline Bingley immediately began when Elizabeth had turned to her after Charles. Cognisant of the fact that they would soon be related, she was at her most charming. "Even though we will soon meet on the playing fields of Wimbledon, I hope this temporary rivalry will not affect our relationship as sisters in law."

"I'm sure it won't, Caroline," Elizabeth answered, in a deceptive tone. She was not too concerned about the semi final she would face on Friday. It would be her first with Caroline Bingley, but her only interest was in the game. She would just do her usual; play her best and hope that would be enough to win the match.

Elizabeth turned away to survey the rest of the guests. Soon she spotted Charlotte, and made her way over to her.

"Hey, Lizzy. Great match today."

"Thanks," Elizabeth replied as she hugged her friend. Like Kitty, Charlotte was now out of Wimbledon thanks to Elizabeth's opponent, but she still watched what she could before her next challenge. "This is Dakota Morgan-Debourgh," Charlotte added, indicating the woman who she had been chatting with, America's current number one. "Dakota, Elizabeth Bennet."

"Nice to meet you," Elizabeth greeted her, shaking her hand. "Well done on your match yesterday."

"Thank you. And same to you," Dakota replied. She had won against Emma Watson4 in the quarter final matches the day before and was a hot favourite for the final as well as for the title.

"Thanks. Your brother played today, didn't he?"

"Yes, he lost after five sets to Ed Ferrars.5" Dakota did not seem too disappointed by the result, but then Detroit had won Wimbledon before.

"Ahh, cousin Elizabeth," injected a voice at this point. Elizabeth tried to hold back a groan as she turned to greet Wilhiem Collins.

"Would you care to dance?" He asked her, making the situation even worst. Elizabeth glanced around for someone to rescue her. None were to be found. Then the music changed from slow to fast, and the prospect brightened a little. With fast music there was no closeness, meaning a chance to switch partners. Still it was with reluctance that she accepted.

Two minutes in, and Elizabeth was glad that the song would end soon. Collins' dancing was mediocre at best. At the change of music she had the chance to meet with her other cousin Leo and spent a couple of songs dancing with him, enough to loose Collins and begin to enjoy the evening again. She walked with him back to the Gardiners and joined their conversation.

"William," her uncle said a few minutes later, and Elizabeth watched as Great Britain's number one exchanged greetings with her Uncle. "How are you doing?"

"Just fine, sir. Yourself?"

"Oh well, well."

Then to Elizabeth's surprise, William turned to her. "Elizabeth," he began, his voice a little deeper than usual, "may I have this dance?"

She was trapped. With all her relatives around her, and her uncle his coach, it was impossible for her to refuse without good reason. Elizabeth reluctantly nodded, and took his hand, following him out on to the dance floor.

As if on cue the music changed tempo again, into a slow love song. William hid a smile as he hesitantly took her into his arms.

Its not the pale moon that excites me

He danced well, Elizabeth was forced to admit as they began swaying to the first verse of the tune. He was just the right height for her to rest her head on his shoulder, as most of the other couples seemed to be doing, and she felt obliged to follow suit.

That thrills and delights me,

William meanwhile could barely believe his luck. He did not what compulsion had led him to ask her out on to the dancefloor. He had been leaning against the wall, watching his sister in the careful arms of Toby Bennet, when his eyes had locked on her. Unable to withdraw, he was before the Gardiners before he was even half aware of his movements. Now he was just content to enjoy the sensation, and relish in the moment.

Oh no, its just the nearness of you.

Elizabeth felt herself powerful to resist as well. The spell of the song, its haunting melody and soft lyrics were working their magic on her, and she was soon aware of nothing but herself and William. He was England's sexiest tennis champion, and he had chosen her to dance with. For once, she let the reality of it over take her rationale.

It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation
Oh no, its just the nearness of you.

William was currently having the best evening of his life. He had managed to stick with Georgia, avoid Caroline as much as possible, and now he was dancing with the woman he was falling in love with. This was not a sudden revelation. He had realised during the day why he had been unable to shake the image of dancing with her. Of kissing her. Of making love to her. It was the first time in a long while that he had ever enjoyed such erotic dreams. There was no other word for it. He was in love. And now part of that dream was true.

When you're in my arms
And I feel you
So close to me
All my wildest dreams
Came true

If William clasped her tighter at one point, Elizabeth did not notice. She was too wrapped up in the moment. Too lost in the spell which the music had seemed to weave around them both. Too aware of his tall, slim and strong body next to hers, and the sensations it was creating within her.

I need no soft lights to enchant me
If you will only grant me
The right to hold you ever so tight
And to feel in the night
The nearness of you

The song slowly came to an end. The room drifted into silence. Couples gradually ceased their swaying.

William parted unhurriedly from her, taking care to let his hands caress her bare arms, and his eyes to do the same to her face. She was wearing a long black evening dress, he had noticed, with an chain of amethysts around her slender neck, bracelet and ring to match. But the most bewitching part of her were her dark brown eyes, which glowed with light of the room, drawing him in.

"Thank you," he felt himself softly utter, before she nodded and walked away. He let her go, still lost in her spell, watching her departing figure, until he could see her no more.


For Elizabeth, the end of song signalled the end of the spell upon her, and she was left to wonder what had come over her in the first place. She acknowledged his softly spoken gratitude and walked away in a daze to the edge of the room. Only when she was leaning against a wall did she come back to reality. What had possessed her? He was arrogant and annoying. Why on earth had she danced with him like that?

Telling herself that it had been the power of the music, Elizabeth straightened and made her way out through the double doors nearby into the cool night air. The slight chill slowly composed her. She was determined not to dance with him again if she could help it for the rest of the evening. He would not be allowed to think that she was interested in him. For she was not. Never had been, never will be. It was the fault of the music, that was all.

A gasp sounded suddenly, catching her attention. Elizabeth stilled, waiting for a repeat, so she could locate its whereabouts. Sure enough it was nearby. And at the second cry, she realised with a groan, what it was.

A turn to her left was all that it took for confirmation. Then, things became even worse. Just to the right of the double doors, on the narrow gap of wall that was between the doors and a window, rested her sister. Her short dress was up the one millimetre required to allow her to be occupied in her present actions, and she was the origins of the gasp. But that was not the sight which had Elizabeth sickened. No, it was the identity of the person slamming into her like there was no tomorrow.

Denny Lucas.

Elizabeth stared at them for no more than a moment. Then she was back inside the ballroom and locating her brother. Grabbing Toby discreetly aside, she explained in a few words what was the problem. Seconds later and her brother was walking off outside. She let him deal with it alone, knowing that if she broke them up, she would be accused of ulterior motives by Denton.

But still she found herself near the doors when they opened a moment later, to admit Toby, holding on to Lydia firmly by a hand on her arm and dragging through the thankfully otherwise engrossed guests and out through to the hall. Denton, noticeably shaken, followed through a moment later, anxious to forget the entire incident.

Elizabeth watched him go with no regrets. She had not felt anything when she saw him with her sister, except outrage at Lydia's actions. Nothing remained of whatever it had been which had drawn her to him.

Instead, the remnants of the spell from her dance with William continued to exist inside her subconscious, and refused to go away.


1. & 5. Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars are from Sense & Sensibility.
2. Catherine Morland is the main character of Northanger Abbey.
3. George Knightley is from Emma.
4. Emma Watson is the main character from The Watsons, one of Jane Austen's unfinished novels.

Volume four