After a few days of awkwardness, Elizabeth and Darcy began to develop a routine. When she arrived in the morning, Elizabeth would stop in the kitchen and make two cups of tea, Fitzwilliam would mumble a ‘good morning’ and a ‘thank you, Elizabeth’ from behind a mountain of manuscripts, and Elizabeth would sit down in the chair across from his desk and begin working.
Every morning a stack of manuscripts was left on Mr. Darcy’s desk. He’d split them into two piles, one for him, and one for Elizabeth. Throughout the day they’d work through them, tossing the good ones to the edge of the desk and the bad ones into the trash. They usually finished around three in the afternoon, leaving them two hours to go back over the good manuscripts and talk with each other.
It was Friday afternoon, and Elizabeth was sitting comfortably in what had become her chair. She pulled her knees up to chest and rested the manuscript on them. This one was particularly good, and Elizabeth was enthralled. She turned page after page, gripped by the short story. Fitzwilliam watched, fascinated with her. The way her eyes scanned over the page, studying every word. He leaned back in his chair, and began to chew on the end of the pen in his hand. She lifted her hands away from the manuscript and tied back her hair, all without looking away from the page. Darcy felt his pulse quicken.
As she turned the final page, she let out a deep sigh and a small, contented smile crossed her features. She looked up at him, and in a burst of movement he took the pen out of his mouth and sat upright in his chair. He tried to compose himself and hide the fact that he had been staring at her, but she knew. She had felt his eyes on her, she had felt her heart pound in her chest at the thought of him watching her with those deep green eyes. She set the manuscript down on his desk, trying to conceal a smirk.
“This one’s quite good, you should give it a read.” He nodded and pulled it across the desk towards him, flipping it open to the first page. “Shall I make some more tea?”
He nodded, not looking away from the manuscript on his desk. He unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt and began rolling up the sleeve. Elizabeth watched, unable to pull her eyes away as he carefully rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. Her lips parted slightly, and he looked up, meeting her eyes. She turned quickly on her heels and rushed out of the door, her eyes on the floor the entire time.
After she had left the office, she shut the door behind her and leaned against the wall. He knows exactly what he’s doing, she thought and sighed angrily. She straightened up and turned towards the kitchen.
As she filled the kettle, she heard someone entering the room. She turned, seeing a young man standing in the doorway watching her. He smirked when they made eye contact and Elizabeth felt her cheeks flush.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“No, no… just having a look,” his face seemed to be in a perpetual smirk. He took a step forward, and extended a hand to shake. “I haven’t seen you around here before, have I? I’m George Wickham.”
Elizabeth shook his hand, smiling at him. “Nice to meet you, I’m Elizabeth Bennet.”
“Well, Elizabeth, how long have you been working at the esteemed institution of de Bourgh Publishing… and how has your radiant presence escaped my notice?”
Elizabeth noted a slight hint of sarcasm in his tone, but his charm was enough for her to ignore it. The flush on her cheeks grew hotter with every word he said to her. “I’ve not been here long,” she started, “just a few days.”
“You must be Mr. Darcy’s new assistant then?” She nodded and he shook his head, an exaggerated grimace crossing his face. “And how’s that been treating you?”
“He’s not too terrible… quiet, mostly.” She shrugged. “I’ve gotten used to it.”
Wickham turned towards the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. He smiled at her and twisted open the bottle. “Well if you ever feel like slipping away from Dickhead Darcy, come visit me… room 37, third floor.” He turned away from her with a smirk and left her there, standing alone, slightly smitten, with the kettle in her hand.
When she finally got back to her flat, she was still thinking about George Wickham. There was something so very captivating about the spattering of freckles across his nose, the warmness of his deep brown eyes, and his disheveled mop of dark hair. Elizabeth had been unable to wipe the smile from her face as she’d walked back into Darcy’s office and he’d noticed.
“Something funny?” he had asked, gruffly after glancing up from his desk to accept the cup of tea she held out for him.
“Absolutely nothing at all.” Her smile didn’t fade and Fitzwilliam knew that she was lying, but he didn’t have the energy to pursue it any further.
The rest of the day passed without much else excitement, as most days did and Elizabeth was left to replay her exchange with Wickham over again countless times in her head without interruption. She had never been especially interested in romance or anything regarding men, she was always too wrapped up in her own affairs to put any energy into that sort of thing. But there was something about Wickham’s boyish, flirtatious charm that sparked a fluttery feeling of girlish excitement in the pit of her stomach. Perhaps it was his casual half-smile, or his perfectly pressed oxford shirt. She couldn’t be sure, but it was certain that the thought of him had followed her out of the office kitchen, back to Mr. Darcy’s office, and then finally, home.