Hi there, everyone! This is a bit I wrote in 2014 for a theme called “April Showers.” I’ve done a bit of editing on it, but hopefully, I’ve caught all of the errors. Stick around after! I have a link for the first chapter of my new book, Agony and Hope, that I posted Tuesday at Austen Variations!
The Ride Home
Weighted with a shopping bag in each hand, I stood under the awning of the local grocery store with my son, watching the rain. With the pleasant spring weather, we had walked the short distance from our house. Now, in light of the sudden downpour, my decision seemed to be a poor one.
“The sun was out when we went inside,” said Jensen, my fifteen-year-old. He leaned forward, looking past the awning to the sky overhead where more menacing clouds loomed in the distance.
“I don’t think the rain will let up anytime soon. We’re just going to have to get wet.”
His eyes widened, and he shook his head. “The loaf of French bread won’t survive.”
“If we wrap the groceries in the garbage bags we bought, everything will stay dry.” Jensen groaned before glancing back out into the rain. I peered around then grabbed a cart, settling the bags inside before fishing around for the box of trash bags.
My son stepped beside me, so I nudged him in the ribs with my elbow. “Come on, you used to love jumping in puddles when you were a little boy. Where’s that adventurous spirit?”
“I haven’t jumped in a puddle in years, Mom, and I’m wearing my new sneakers.” I glanced down, and sure enough, the expensive athletic shoes I’d purchased a few days ago gleamed, even in the cruddy weather. Crap! I certainly couldn’t spare the money to replace them if they were ruined.
I bit my lip. “We’ll have to wrap those in a bag, too. You can go barefoot.”
“Mom!” His voice hit a higher pitch than it had in years. “There are no sidewalks until we cross the street, and I’m not walking barefoot through the parking lot!”
He was right. I dropped back against the brick wall behind me. The last thing I wanted was for him to cut his foot on some glass or metal we couldn’t see in the water. “I’m sorry. I’ll call a taxi.” I pulled out my cell phone and pulled up the phone number for a taxi service. How I hated spending even five dollars for a ride of a little over a mile.
“I have an umbrella if you need help getting to your car.”
I spun around. The last person I’d expected to see when I woke up this morning was William Darcy, but there he was, and still as hot as the last time we’d crossed paths. We hadn’t spoken for a few years—the night he drove me home from Charles and Jane’s anniversary party. I cringed. The things I’d said to him. How was he even speaking to me?
“Hello, Elizabeth.” The arm at his side held a large umbrella while the other held a full, reusable shopping bag.
“Hi,” I said. My voice was weak. The assumptions and accusations I’d made that night. He’d been nothing but kind by driving me home when my father’s car broke down, and I’d treated him horribly. My cheeks burned at the memory.
Jensen glanced back and forth between us, his eyebrows drawn down in the middle. “Hi, Mr. Darcy.”
William smiled and extended his arm to shake my son’s hand. “You’ve certainly grown since I saw you last. I understand from Charles that you’re doing very well at your swim meets.” My jaw nearly hit the ground. Had he asked my brother-in-law about my son?
“At my last meet, I won the 200-yard butterfly and freestyle, and placed second in the 400 I.M.”
Darcy smiled wider. “Congratulations.” His tone held a note of warmth. His praise of Jensen was genuine. “I know you’ve worked very hard for it.”
I inhaled a fortifying breath and took a small step forward. “I appreciate the offer of the umbrella, but we walked here before the rain started. I was actually just calling a taxi to take us home.”
He looked into the rain. “As I recall, you don’t live very far from here.”
“No, it’s about a mile.” I peeked over my shoulder. What had captured his attention? When I turned, his eyes had returned to me with that same appraising stare that once made me uncomfortable—made me believe he was criticizing me. Now I knew, that was not criticism. My eyes couldn’t maintain the intense connection and latched onto a nearby puddle.
“If you give me a moment to get my car, I’d be happy to give you a ride home.
I shook my head vehemently. How could he be so nice when I’d been so horrid to him? “That won’t be necessary. We’ll be fine with a cab.”
“I know you’d be fine, but you’d have to wait. The weather is worsening, and I’d like to know that you’re both safe at home before that happens.” He began to rummage around in his pocket. “I’m parked right there.” He pointed to an electric sedan parked in one of the closest spots.
“Please, Mom. I don’t want to sit here forever. I have that paper due tomorrow.”
I plastered a smile on my face and dropped my phone into my purse. “Thank you, it looks like we’ll accept your kind offer.” I picked up my bags while William high-tailed it out to the car.
How long had I known William Darcy? Twelve years seemed like forever these days. The first time I met him, I’d been Matron of Honor for Jane’s wedding, and Darcy had stood with Charles as his Best Man. I’d been drawn to him more than any man I’d ever met. I’d been forced to ignore that pull, because although I was only twenty-three, I’d been married to Ryan for the past three years. Jensen was also a rambunctious toddler of three.
William and I ran into each other from time to time over the years—Charles and Jane’s birthdays, the births of their children, christenings. He’d always made me uncomfortable. The way his eyes seemed to follow me around a room with an intensity that gave me goosebumps, the way my insides shook when we spoke, as well as all of those little physical signs of attraction that I tramped down as best I could. I was married after all!
Then, four years ago, my marriage imploded in a spectacular fashion. Ryan had been having an affair for years. I made that discovery when the other woman, Lydia, showed up at my house one day while my husband was at work. She was pregnant and with a toddler in tow—a mini-me of Ryan. I filed for divorce as quickly as I could get my friend Charlotte to file the paperwork.
Not long after, Darcy not only delivered me home, but also delivered the bombshell that he’d been in love with me for years. Perhaps I would’ve been kinder, if he hadn’t given his opinion of my marriage to Ryan? Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so insulted if he hadn’t insulted my mother? I freely admit she’s not the most sophisticated of women, but in my defence, I was still trying to pick up the pieces. I was also in no position mentally to be dating anyone yet, so I lashed out. I’m still mortified by the worst of it.
“What kind of man falls in love with a married woman! Did you fantasize that I would leave him—that I would abandon my son for you, or that we’d have an affair?”
Now here I am, about to climb into a car with him for the first time in four years. Not only was William enough of a gentleman to congratulate my son on his success, but also he would ensure we arrived home safely.
An elbow to my side made me jump. My head whipped around to Jensen. “What?” He did nothing more than lift his eyebrows and point to the car at the curb. Before I could apologize for snapping, Darcy sprang from the driver’s seat and took the shopping bags from my hands. As soon as Jensen scooted inside, he shoved the groceries in after him and opened the passenger side door for me.
After he was out of the weather, he turned to me. “So, do you still live in Beau Chêne?”
“Yes.” I glanced down at my hands and then back to his face, studying him. He had a few grey hairs sprinkled in at his temples and maybe a line or two around his eyes. When had that happened? “Thank you so much for doing this.”
“I’m glad I saw you out there,” he said, his eyes on the road. “You could’ve been stuck for a while, especially if you waited out the weather.
She nodded and peered down at her hands in her lap. Was he involved with someone? A pang ripped through her chest at the thought. The question was valid. After all, he could’ve eloped or married privately. Charlie mentioned little of him over the last few years, and I sometimes wondered whether Darcy had confided about what happened that night. My brother-in-law had always spoken of William without reserve before I made a mess of things.
I glanced in his direction and was just about to face forward when he turned the car, giving me a clear view of his left ring finger—bare. There wasn’t even a tan line. My hands began to quiver. I often thought of him, and I hadn’t dated since my divorce. Of course, I’d had men ask me out, but for some reason, I was never interested. Was a part of me was waiting for William to return?
He stopped the car and turned. I practically flinched when he busted me staring at him. When I diverted my eyes, I gasped at the view of my garage in front of us.
“Thanks a bunch, Mr. Darcy!” The backdoor opened and Jensen tore across the driveway with the grocery bags in hand. He punched the code into the panel, the garage door lifted, and my son disappeared into the house.
A loud roar began to pound against the top of the car as the rain began to come down in sheets. The garage was barely visible even though we were as close as you could get without entering.
“You can’t drive home in this,” I said. “Lord only knows how long you’d end up sitting in this driveway, much less the side of some highway somewhere.”
“I don’t mind.” He gave a tight smile. “I’ll probably remain parked here until it passes, if that’s okay with you.” When I faced him, he stared at me the same way he did years ago—with that same intensity—turning my insides to mush. He cleared his throat and dropped his gaze to study his hands. “It was good to see you again.”
“William.” Had I ever called him by his first name before? I’d always been so ill-at-ease in his company, I’d tried to remain distant in any way I could. When I said his name, his head popped up, and I held his steady gaze while I inhaled in an attempt to gather my courage. “Please come inside for a while. You can’t sit out here in the rain. You could be here for hours if it doesn’t let up.”
“I’ll be fine,” he said in soft tones.
“I know you’ll be fine, but you’ll have to wait.” A corner of his lips twitched. Had he recognized that I’d turned his own argument against him? “We can bring your groceries inside and put any that need to stay cold in the freezer or refrigerator. You can even bring your briefcase and ignore us while you work. Jensen has a paper to finish so he won’t be watching TV.” My heart plummeted as he began to shake his head.
Impulsively, I reached into the back seat, grasping his grocery bag by the handles. I then grabbed his briefcase as I opened the car door. I heard him call out to wait, but I was already running for my open garage. I glanced back and motioned for him to follow before I walked into the utility room door.
Jensen had dumped his shoes in the middle of the laundry room, so I shifted them to the side. At least didn’t track wet footprints through the house! I removed mine and joined my son in the kitchen where he was already unloading our shopping bags.
“Thanks, honey,” I said. I set William’s bag on the kitchen table.
“Is that Mr. Darcy’s briefcase?” Jensen’s forehead furrowed.
“Yup, I stole it.”
My son rolled his eyes. “Why would you want his briefcase?”
“Because the rain is too heavy for him to drive, and he was insisting on sitting in the driveway until the storm passed.”
“So you stole his briefcase so he’d have to come in?”
“Pretty much.” My son’s laughter never failed to make me grin in return, but the moment was broken when the door in the utility room open and closed. A moment later, William entered in sock-clad feet. Had he always had such big feet?
My son smirked and shook his head. “I’m going to go work on my paper for a while.”
“I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
William walked up to the table, and I turned to him with a raised eyebrow. “Do you have anything in here that needs to stay cold?” He nodded and pulled out some milk, cheese, and frozen dinners that I stored away.
Jensen had left out the ingredients for dinner, so I began chopping peppers while William leaned against the counter. I sighed. I couldn’t keep avoiding the elephant in the room, so I set down the knife and faced him. “I owe you an apology for the last time we saw each other.”
He squeezed his eyes closed then quickly reopened them as if I’d put the knife through his heart. “No, much of what you said was true. For most the time we knew each other, I was horribly rude to you.” He stepped over to the kitchen table, removing his suit jacket and hanging it over the seat. “I have realized since our argument that I felt horrified at falling in love with a married woman. To keep from falling at your feet, I did everything I could to push you away. I would’ve never been able to live with myself if you’d only been an affair.” He returned to the counter and gave a long exhale. “When I learned that you were finally free, I’m afraid I leapt without thinking. I should’ve known you’d need time, and I never should’ve made those comments about your ex-husband.”
I shook my head. “Why not? They were true.” I wiped my hands on a nearby towel. “Why don’t we do our best to forget it happened? Remember the past that’s pleasant?” I held out my hand for him to shake. When his palm made contact with mine, I bit my cheek instead of gasping at the spark when our skin touched. Had he felt that too?
I picked up the knife and continued chopping the peppers. “I know you moved after, but Charles never said where.”
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter. “There were some major leadership issues with the offices in Australia. I was asked to take control and get that wing of the company back on its feet. After that night, I thought the opportunity a good opportunity to get away… to forget.”
I swallowed hard when he said “forget.” During the past few years, how many times had I thought of him? I’d tried to convince myself that I’d put him behind me—I’d forgotten, but had I been honest with myself?
Now that I knew he’d left to get away from me, my heart cracked and bled. Tears stung my eyes, and as much as I blinked and tried to keep them from falling, I couldn’t do a thing when they began running down my cheeks like the rain in rivulets down the glass of the kitchen window.
A sob escaped from my lips as he took the knife from my hand. He placed it on the cutting board and gently pulled me back from the counter. “It must be the onions,” I said. I swiped at my cheeks with the backs of my hands.
“The onion hasn’t been cut yet.” I groaned and covered my face.
“Elizabeth?” He pulled my hands away. “I left to forget, but I couldn’t. I found myself constantly wondering what you were doing. I drove poor Charles crazy with questions whenever I called. He finally told me to come back and find out for myself.”
A laugh bubbled from my lips, and William smiled, gently brushing the tears from my cheeks. “Do I dare hope that your feelings have changed?”
“Oh William, I was so stupid that night.”
He put his finger over my lips and pulled me close. “I thought we agreed to forget that.” I chuckled and leaned my forehead against his chest. He was so warm and his large hands rubbed up and down my back. I knew Jensen would return soon and ask about dinner, but I didn’t want to move—ever.
One of his hands caressed my face and tipped up my chin. He leaned in ever-so-slowly and kissed me. I nearly gasped at the softness of his lips, the feel of his strong body pressed against mine, and the way he gradually deepened the kiss. His tongue caressed mine, and my body went up in flames. Good Lord, I needed to put a stop to this or I’d spread him out on the kitchen table and have my wicked way with him! Who knew that feeling could be real—that an attraction could be so overpowering? I pulled back and bit my lip in an attempt to prevent a wide grin from spreading across my face. William smiled brilliantly, and kissed my temple as I turned back to the peppers I was chopping.
“So, what’s for dinner?” he asked. That mischievous glint in his eye brought a heat to my cheeks that hadn’t been there since high school.
I laughed and looked outside at the rain. Maybe the downpour would continue all night long!
Have you read the first chapter of Agony and Hope yet? If not, click here! Coming soon!!!!