A New Muse

This is a little fanfic I wrote to get my muse kick-started.

A New Muse

“Despite all the trials and tribulations, all the obstacles thrown in their path, Sir Harold Claymont led his bride to their bridal chamber. Tonight, no one would stand in the way of their ultimate happiness. All was well.”

Elizabeth sighed and leaned back in her chair and away from her keyboard. It was done. Another novel was complete. Oh sure, it needed work, and her editor would tear it apart and put it back together – even more whole than Humpty could ever dream – but Angels Fear Not was done; and she was done in.

Writing romance took it out of her. When she was working on a project, all of her – heart, mind and soul – was given to the story. There was little left for anything or anyone else. So when the book was done and the last words were saved, and then saved again to a backup, she was exhausted. It was in those moments that she dejectedly wondered if she would ever meet her Sir Harold.

Not if Jane could help it. Her older sister was an incorrigible matchmaker, almost as obnoxious as their mother. But even Jane knew that when Liz was working, she was unreachable. Now that Angels was done, Elizabeth had no doubt Jane would sniff out that bit of information and set to working on episode – what was it now? – fifteen of her favorite reality show… “Lizzy Looks for Love in All the Wrong Blind Date’s Faces.” Date number 14 was the worst by far. Bill Collins was so absurd that Elizabeth actually called Jane the moment she had safely locked and dead-bolted her door, threatening to move, change her phones and never speak to her sister again. For three moments, Jane actually believed her.

Elizabeth sighed; she was just not ready to face the world… or her sister… or her mother right now. She had finished four days before her confessed deadline. That was a first. Normally she was pounding away at the keys right up to her editor’s mandatory day of reckoning.

Four days.

Four nag-free days before Jane came back to the apartment they shared.

Suddenly Elizabeth felt a little better. She’d sit on her manuscript, take some time to review the new sections, and enjoy life. When these days were over, she’d meet with her new editor and they would begin the process of turning Angels into a novel worth every penny of the $9.95 retail price.

<<>>

Elizabeth wasn’t normally one for coffee shops. They sounded a little too trendy for her, but after a successful day of working on the revision of Angels, she really felt like doing something different. Day one of her mini break was nearly over and she wanted to be around people. Just as long as those people did not share her genes. She wasn’t hungry, but a nice cup of hot caffeine sounded like heaven.

The coffee shop was fairly full; that was why she had chosen it. Collecting her drink, Elizabeth claimed a chair and pulled out a book. She had little plans for reading, but it did give her a way to hide her people watching. She had a wide selection to choose from. In the far corner sat a couple that looked to be around her age. They noticed no one but the other. Heck, Elizabeth doubted they would notice if a wrestling match broke out at the table next to them. There were a few odd college students with their laptops open and the coffee forgotten and growing cold. An older woman perched a novel open while a group of bedraggled businessmen, ties loosened, were no doubt bemoaning another long workday. There were a few others, but no one that piqued her interest.

Then he walked in.

Now, Elizabeth may not have been very lucky in relationships. To be honest, she’d had no relationships to have any luck in for over two years; but that was not for a lack of looking, or trying.

She watched him order and pay for his iced coffee. She quickly looked back at her book as he started to turn around to survey the room for a place to sit. Somewhere in her wicked youth she must have done something good; the only available spot was a chair next to hers. His name was called, “William,” and he grabbed his drink and walked toward her. Elizabeth looked up.

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?”

“No.” ‘Good job, Lizzy! Nice steady voice.’

William sat down and pulled a note pad, pen, and a paperback out of his attaché case. He looked at the cover, jotted down a few words and opened the book to start reading. Elizabeth tried hard to focus her attention on her book, but was doing a spectacularly lousy job of it. Oh, her eyes stayed mostly on the pages in front of her, but her attention was totally focused and the man sitting next to her. At least one of them was able to concentrate. What intrigued her most were the random moments when William would stop and write something on the notepad.

On one of these occasions, he sighed, tapped the pen against his chin and happened to look over, straight into Elizabeth’s eyes. She blushed and he smiled. Treading where her angels normally feared to tread, she took the plunge.

“You seem rather engrossed in the book you’re reading.”

“This?” William held up the book, and to Elizabeth’s eternal shock, she recognized it. It was her last book. He chuckled. “Not used to seeing men reading romance novels?”

“I… Well, actually… No, I’m not. Though I do know men read that stuff too. That’s Montana Skies correct?”

“Yes, by Helene Benson. Are you familiar with it?”

Elizabeth laughed nervously. “My sister has all her books.”

“Have you read this one?”

“Sure, a while back.”

“I’d be interested in what your impressions are, without giving anything away; I’ve just started reading it.”

“It’s not her best work, but not her worst… At least that’s what my sister Jane insists. It’s a good story, though a bit too predictable. Then again, it’s a Romance Novel and the woman always gets her man in the end.”

William smiled. “Thanks. I’m reading this for a little research project.”

“I shudder to think research of any import can come from that.”

He laughed again. “Nothing earth shattering, just trying to do my job well.” He leaned across and stuck out his hand. “My name’s William, by the way.”

Elizabeth grasped the offering. Instantly she felt a connection. “I’m Elizabeth. Nice to meet you.” She noticed he held her hand a moment longer than was proper. Recalling himself, he disengaged his grip and they both sat back, a little thrown by the shared sensation.

He recovered first. “What are you reading?” he nodded at the book that now lay at her side.

“It’s a book on World War II.” When Elizabeth was working on a book, at any stage, she needed something totally opposite from love stories and there was nothing more opposite than a gory war drama. Women need not apply.

“So here we are, I am reading a woman’s romance and you are reading a guy’s blood and guts.”

“That about shapes it up.”

They both smiled at the “role” reversals.

The books were quickly forgotten and they launched into new subject matter. They didn’t notice it getting dark outside. They didn’t notice the college students pack up and go, only to be replaced by other college students. The couple so engrossed in each other slipped out hand-in-hand. William and Elizabeth paid them no mind.

Finally, Elizabeth’s bladder would take no more and the spell was broken with a trip to the restroom.

When she came back, she saw William looking at the back of Montana Skies with a rather odd look on his face. He looked up at her, and then back down at the back cover. She knew the jig was up when he held up the book so she could see the picture. It was taken two hairstyles back, but it was clear that Helene Benson was a nom de plume. Elizabeth looked back at her picture.

In a moment she made her decision. “Not many people know my pen name.”

“Actually, I’m one of them.” Elizabeth was at loss for words. “I’m William Darcy.”

She finished the thought for him. “My new editor.”

“We have an appointment next week.”

“I know. I was looking at my schedule this afternoon. The manuscript is done. I’ll have it ready for you in plenty of time without the usual rush.” Elizabeth was supremely disappointed. They were going to be working together, and if she had a hard and fast rule it was ‘No relationships with the editor. Keep it impersonal.’

“That’s great to know.” William’s voice had an edge to it.

Elizabeth stood and gathered her things. “It was pleasant change getting to know the person behind the edits, William.”

“I’ll walk you out to your car. It’s dark out now.”

They said nothing until she was fastening her seatbelt.

“Before you leave, I’d like to ask you a question.”

“Sure.”

“After we’ve finished the book, would you like to have dinner with me?”

Elizabeth heard the hopeful note in his voice.

She flashed him a brilliant smile. “I’ve heard you work quickly.”

“Even more so with such an incentive. Is that a yes?”

“Definitely. I’ll see you next week, Mr. Darcy.”

<<>>

The three remaining Jane-less days flew by. Elizabeth worked feverishly on her revisions. The better the draft, the sooner they would finish the edit.

Jane came home full of plans and new prospects. Elizabeth let her drone on and on.

“Are you finished?”

Jane eyed her little sister, “For now. Is it ok for Blake to call you?”

“No.” She hesitated a moment, “I met guy while you were away.”

“You met a guy while you were working?”

“Sort of; he’s my new editor.”

“Oh, business. That doesn’t count.”

Jane was not to be discouraged, but Elizabeth held her ground and refused to cooperate with her sister’s schemes for the Blake guy.

<<>>

One year later…

Jane Bennet was officially retired as Elizabeth’s matchmaker. The wedding band on Elizabeth’s left ring finger signaled the end of that career; as did the dedication for Elizabeth’s newest project.

To William, who not only corrected my grammar, but who showed me that true love between a woman and a man does happen outside the pages of a book.

~Finis~

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