September 12, 1785
It is impossible to adequately describe the feelings that bombarded Elizabeth when she saw Edward Attenborough for the first time in nearly three years. She nearly dropped Charles, who was sleeping soundly in her arms, and she squeezed John's hand so tightly he cried out in pain. She let go of John, made sure he was alright, and shifted Charles in her arms. Little blue eyes peered up at her from beneath the blond little crop of hair on top of his head. When he saw he was still in his mother's arms he snuggled back into her warmth and out of the cool London drizzle.
Her eyes stayed on the Earl as he stepped out of the parliament building, a man slightly younger and striking in his resemblance to Edward, at his side. The two had a type of amused smile on their faces as they conversed. She felt as if she had been gutted, her stomach seemingly hollow and now non-existent. Her chest burned and constricted, her heart raced and she felt hot water press at the back of her eyes.
He was dressed in blue, a color Elizabeth had always admired on him, and he did not look as if he aged a day. His dark brown eyes were piercing even form the distance. He walked toward her as he approached the carriage that was waiting to bring him to his London home and Elizabeth could do nothing but stare. Her lips were parted and her throat burned. John took hold of her hand again and began swinging it back and forth as he waited for his father.
Pain, shock, Regret, and guilt. These were all the emotions that were vying for dominance inside of her. Pain that this man she had loved so deeply and now so out of reach was in front of her once again. Shock that after three years in England not seeing the Earl once it should be now that they were to come into contact again. Regret that she had not fought down her pride and gone to England with him when she had the chance and guilt that she felt that regret. After everything William had done for her, how loving, kind and gentle he was, part of her still longed for Edward, still burned to have his arms around her and his lips on her body.
Just when Elizabeth thought he would pass her without recognizing her he stopped, looking to his right, and their eyes met. Her lips immediately clamped shut and her jaw clenched. He ceased walking, abruptly cutting off his conversation with his relation. They were within a few feet of each other, neither speaking, neither moving. His eyes took in her face, glanced down at the boy in her arms before searching at her feet. When he found John a smile came to his face and he reached out, hooked a long finger under his chin and examined him. John looked up at his mother and then back at the man, a defiant frown settling on his face.
"What a strapping young lad you have here, Lady Nottage," he said smoothly, looking away from his son and up toward Elizabeth again. His eyes seemed to glow with pride. The boy looked just like him; a little carbon copy.
His voice brought back countless memories; dinners, brunches, learning French with him. She remembered lying in bed with him all night, telling him about her life and listening to his. She remembered the way his arms felt around her, and how safe she felt pressed up against his warm, hard body.
"Thank you, my Lord," she barely forced out. Her voice was shaky but she held eye contact with him. So much was being conveyed through his eyes at that moment and Elizabeth was horrified to think her eyes were showing him exactly how she still felt about him. How weak her resolve was to keep from wrapping her arms around him and squeezing him tight. He nodded slowly, a small smile on his face.
"Give Sir William my regards," he said, bowed his head slightly, and moved passed her. Elizabeth let out a deep breath as he walked passed her.
A deep breath that Edward had heard. It brought a smile to his lips and James, who had remained silent and merely watched, looked back at the young American.
"He looks more like me than you," James observed, glancing at the boy one last time. "Are you sure I am not the father?"
Edward gave him a hard look and James chuckled. Edward climbed into the carriage first, followed by his brother.
"So that was her I take it"" James asked when the carriage pulled forward. Edward nodded, pulling the curtain to the side so he could look out the window. He craned his neck to keep his eyes on Elizabeth as long as he could.
She was more beautiful than he had remembered, no longer the simple young girl he had met all those years ago. She would be in her twenties now, mid twenties actually, and he, he was closing in on forty rapidly. She was thinner than she had been previously, something that he wrongly blamed on William Nottage. He imagined he was not providing her with an adequate amount of food and it angered him immensely. Still, she was sickly thin and looked healthy. Her cheeks were full and pink, her hair neatly done up in one of the more modest, but popular London styles. Her accent, from the little she had said to him, seemed to not have changed much, which he was happy to learn.
When his eyes first landed on her he thought his brain was once again playing tricks on him. Too many times he had walked through a crowded room, thinking it was Elizabeth he would meet on the other end, only to find yet another young gold digging aristocrat's daughter. He would smile at them, excuse himself and go back to his table. But when he saw the look on her face he had stopped in his tracks. He had considered reaching out, taking her hand and bringing the soft, creamy skin to his lips, but decided against it.
Touching her again would drudge up to many feelings, too many emotions. If he was going to woo her back to him, get her to leave her husband to be his mistress he would need to be in complete control of his faculties. The job would be tough, frustrating, and rage provoking at times, but he had made his mind up years ago that no matter how long it took he would have Elizabeth for himself. He loved her, and he had to show her that his love was not diminished in carrying out his social expectations. One thing gave him hope though. One thing told him it might not be as hard as he had initially imagined.
"Did you see the way she looked at me?" he asked his brother softly, her small form fading out of view. He leaned away from the window, letting the curtain fall. He leaned back in his seat, a smug smile coming to his lips. He made eye contact with his brother, who had a smile of his own decorating his lips.
"She's still in love with me," he nearly whispered. He looked away from his brother and to the rest of the open carriage. "She's still in love with me."
Edward, William and Elizabeth are BACK!