Chapter 1

A shadow fell down over the page upon which she was drawing. Emily looked behind her and nearly jumped off of her seat when she saw that there was a man standing only inches away. "Who the heck are you?" she asked, clutching her book to her chest. "And why on earth are you sneaking up on people like that?"

The man, who appeared to be about twenty seven or twenty eight, smiled and took this as his cue to sit down next to Emily. He leaped over the back of the bench and scooted close to her. "Why are you letting yourself be sneaked up on?"

Despite herself, Emily smiled back. "I must ask again, who are you?"

"My name is Eli Michael Richard Fox, and I am completely at your service for the remainder of this beautiful June day." He leaped up off the bench and bowed low.

Emily shook her head in confusion. "Why?" she asked. "And...yeah...why?"

Taking a seat next to her again, and stretching out his legs, Eli replied, "I woke up this morning and felt like I should do something nice for someone. Anyone. Just a random person. And so, I came to the park today and I saw this lovely young woman sitting on a bench all alone. I decided that you would be the recipient of my random act of kindness."

"Um...okay. What does that mean?"

"It means, Miss...?"

"Emily March," she said.

"I means, Miss Emily March, that if you need help with anything at all today, I will help you. For example," he said, "if you suddenly decide to climb a mountain so that you may drink from a glacial lake, I will carry your equipment and provide you with a Styrofoam cup. If you have been invited to some obscure relative's wedding and you don't have a date, I'll go with you and make sure you have fun. If you lost your dear puppy, I will not only find it, but I will give you the reward advertised on the posters. I am completely and utterly at your disposal."

Emily was quiet for a minute, thinking about this. "You're really weird, Eli Michael Richard Fox," she said with a smile.

"And proud of it!" He grinned and then got down on his knees and spread his arms. "Your wish is my command, Miss Emily. What shall we do first?"

"Well as it happens, I actually am going to the wedding of an obscure relative later today and I really didn't want to go alone. Will you go with me?" She couldn't believe she was actually asking this strange guy to go with her to this wedding.

"I would be glad to. Is it a formal wedding? Casual?" he asked, sitting on the bench again.

"Very formal," replied Emily. "That's why I'm dreading this. It's my second cousin, Stuffy Amanda, who is getting married. She's a very formal kind of gal, so this wedding is going to be traditional and uptight. If I show up in something less that elegant, she'll probably scream at me."

"Do you have something to wear already?"

Emily made a face. "No," she said. "After I was done relaxing here I was going to go buy a new dress. That's something else I'm dreading. Clothes are stupidly expensive and I hate shopping and I rarely wear dresses."

Another grin spread across Eli's face, which, it had to be noted, was a rather handsome face. "Lucky thing I came along today then," he said. "I shall pay for your elegant gown, Miss Emily, and we shall arrive at Stuffy Amanda's wedding in style."

Unable to help herself, Emily giggled. "You're so weird! I just met you and you're going to buy me an expensive dress!"

Eli stood up and offered Emily his hand. As he pulled her up off the bench he proclaimed, "You only live once! Make the best of it!" He said this so loudly that a nearby flock of birds was startled and flew off. "Let's go shopping." He held out his arm and Emily linked her own through it. Together, they made their way down the road to the mall.

When they arrived, Emily began to panic a little bit. "I really hate shopping," she moaned. "Malls make me nervous."

Stopping, Eli turned so that he was facing her. "Don't worry Miss Emily," he whispered. "I'll protect you from the evils of this mall. Together, we'll find the perfect gown and I'll make sure that you're not assaulted by salse people. Just follow me and we'll get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible. Now, take my hand."

Take his hand? Emily had only ever dated two or three guys, and they'd certainly never held hands. Tentatively, she placed her hand in his and was surprised when he squeezed. It was comforting and she smiled up at him. They pushed through the doors to the mall, and then went inside and headed straight for the nearest dress store. Once inside, Emily felt totally overwhelmed by all the garments hanging around the room. This task ahead of them seemed so daunting, and she really wished she didn't have to go to Stuffy Amanda's stupid wedding. However, since her mother would kill her if she did not attend, Emily took a deep breath and followed Eli's lead.

They approached a perky looking saleswoman and Eli said, rather grandly, "We are looking for an elegant gown for this beautiful young woman. She is attending a wedding this evening and needs to look smashing."

The woman, whose nametag said 'Pauline', smiled. "I'm sure we can find something for you, dear. Do you know what style you'd like to try?"

Emily frowned. "I have no idea. I don't really do the whole dress thing."

Eli and Pauline both looked Emily over, as though trying to decide what would look best on her. Emily watched as the whispered back and forth to each other and she couldn't help feeling a little bit paranoid at not knowing what they were saying. Finally they quit their whispering and with a delighted smile, Pauline began scurrying around the shop, grabbing dresses off the rack at a mad pace. Eli grabbed Emily's hand again and led her to the changing rooms. "Get inside that one," he said, pointing to an open door, "and Pauline will pass you the dresses to try on."

Emily nodded obediently and went inside the change room. It wasn't long before a beautiful yellow gown was tossed over the stall door. Emily caught it and quickly got into it, struggling only briefly with the zipper. With an empire waist, embellished bodice, and draped chiffon, it made Emily feel rather pretty. She opened the door and shyly stood out, hoping she looked alright. Both Eli and Pauline grinned when they saw her and gave her thumbs up. "Try on a few more and then we'll decide," ordered Pauline. Emily went back into the change room, caught the next dress Pauline tossed in, and then hurriedly put it on.

The second gown was gorgeous, but clearly not the one. It was dark blue, empire wasted again, with two big flowers at the waist. It was comfortable, but neither Eli nor Pauline were wowed. Emily sighed and then went back into the changing room and waited for Pauline to toss in the next one. When she re-emerged, Emily was clad in a beautiful purple gown. The criss crossing on it really flattered Emily's body, but unfortunately, she hated purple.

As she took it off back in the change room, she heard Eli saying to Pauline, "If it hadn't been purple, that would have been the one. She was gorgeous in that one!" Emily blushed at this comment, and smiled to herself. She quickly zipped up the fourth gown, and right away Emily knew that there was something different about this gown. She felt like more than just some pretty girl. She felt like Aphrodite herself. She felt almost too nervous to go out there and show the other two this dress. For a few seconds more, she just gazed at herself in the mirror and marveled at her own reflection. Slowly, she opened the stall door and stepped out.

AN: If anyone is interested in seeing pictures of either the gowns described, or the people I have picture in my mind as Eli and Emily, just send me a message and I'll send you the links!