Here's chapter two. I offer it free because this is a new venture for me and I'm interested in knowing what you think. Please remember it isn't edited and any feedback is appreciated.
I hope you enjoy:-)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man seeking a relationship (or spouse) will need a wingman. Who better to fill that role than the staff at Meryton Matchmakers? Particularly when one is seeking something permanent with the opposite (fairer) sex.
“How do the numbers look this month?” Elizabeth asked her sister, looking over her laptop.
Only the top of Jane’s head showed as she had the rest downward and was typing madly. She made a grand gesture of waving her hand, pressed one key then looked up to answer Elizabeth.
“Not good. Not bad. Sort of a lull.” The printer behind Jane started up, made a whirling sound, and then spit out a paper.
Elizabeth was thankful every day that she was able to work with her kindhearted and easygoing sister. Even sharing an office with their desks pushed to face one other did not wear neither their bond as sisters nor their business relationship. Plus, the arrangement allowed them to communicate without so much as speaking a word. With just knowing looks.
“Is there a trend? Does love have a down season?” Elizabeth asked and took the paper her sister was passing over.
“Apparently. Or, perhaps more precisely, we do.” She crossed her arms.
Jane, the picture of beauty with peaches and cream skin and sun kisses tresses, was in possession of a sharp business mind. It was her, after all, who drafted the initial business plan (on cocktail napkins) for Meryton matchmakers the same evening Elizabeth pitched it to her four years ago over tapas and wine.
“Let’s spend some time this afternoon talking about marketing and troubleshooting some new ideas.”
Elizabeth nodded. Nothing made her feel less effective and unimaginative than marketing meeting where she’d struggle to produce one sound, quality idea.
“All personnel to the conference room immediately, please. Be quick people.” The voice of the phone systems speaker belonged to Bill.
Contracted as the businesses spiritual advisor, Bill was an on call employee. Yet that didn’t stop him from popping in most days and hanging about. Mostly to talk about what had happened on Game of Thrones or some other show.
He was a good guy with a quick wit even if his floppy bangs drove Elizabeth nuts. She wanted to take some scissors to them. They didn’t help his cause to be taken seriously. Particularly when clients were present and he wanted to be called Mr. Collins. It took a lot of will for Elizabeth to not break into a boy band song when he was around. But the wicked scar he his under those bangs are what kept her from needling too far.
“What could he possibly want?” Jane asked as she pushed away from her desk.
“I’m half tempted to bring my laptop so I can scoop him with spoilers. If this is about some show—“ Elizabeth said.
“Lizzy, you would never be so rude!” Jane wouldn’t swat at a fly, much less try to one up it.
“You’re right. I shall bring my phone. Just in case.” She tucked her phone under her arm and grabbed a notepad and pen. At the very least she could get lost in creating a Zen tangle or make a to do list. As much as Kitty and Mary enjoyed the water cooler chats, and some days she did as well, the numbers on the paper Jane had handed her earlier were weighing on her. She wasn’t in the mood to talk about The Walking Dead.
“Be quick,” his excited voice echoed throughout the rooms.
“He’s using his Reverend Collins voice. This can’t be good.” Jane said her voice laden with worry.
Elizabeth closed her laptop and fingered the edge. He did sound…different. More business like.
Though Bill’s employment was a direct result of his beloved Lady Catherine’s demands, a condition of her investment, he was an integral part of the team. He was quick to recognize pairs that might look good on paper but in person would be a wreck together. Plus, Bill has a knack for diffusing arguments between her younger sisters and making the others laugh.
Following Jane into the large waiting room, Elizabeth glanced through the large glass divider that separated the waiting room from the lobby, their younger sister, Kitty, their part time receptionist was waving madly at them.
“I’ll be along in a moment, Jane, Kitty’s looks to be having a fit.” Crossing the room, Elizabeth opened the glass door and pop out her head. “You need something, Kitty?”
“Do you think he wants me to come?”
He being Bill.
“Why not ask?” There are no clients in the building as its an ungodly hours of half past eight in the morning and people looking for love and the Matchmakers to bring said love to them usually don’t come around till after ten. Well, the really anxious (dare she say desperate) occasionally come in right as we open.
Making her way to Kitty’s desk, Elizabeth picked up the receiver and pressed the intercom. “Do you want Kitty to come Bill?” She intentionally put her lips as close to the receiver as possible so as to muffle ad amplify her voice. She does enjoy vexing him so, a task she’s done since they were young children.
She’d no sooner put the phone on the cradle when he responded, his voice heavy with exasperation.
“What have I said about calling me Bill at work, Elizabeth? If we are to be perceived as profession we must behave as such and treat each other in the same manner. My most generous mentor has said this on several occasions and I most heartily agree.” The snicker that followed gave away his jocular manner.
Elizabeth nudges Kitty who’s covered her mouth to stifle her laughter. Because Bill is their third cousin once removed or something to that sort, the ribbing they gave each other spanned from days when they were children in a Mr. Yelvington’s field tossing cow patties.
Elizabeth held up one finger, it doesn’t take much patience to out wait William Collins.
“Elizabeth?” He breathed into the phone.
“That’s Miss. Bennet to you, sir.” It echoed loudly throughout the offices. “If Madame, de Bourgh were here she’d have rolled over in her grave at your lack of professionalism.
Teasing him about The Bourgh was too easy.
Bill laughed. “Kitty, just stay there. Someone can fill you in later,” he said drawing out every vowel possible.
Elizabeth shrugged. “Can’t be that important then.” But Kitty’s turned away to answer an incoming call.
“Meryton Matchmakers. If you have a lonely heart, we have the key.” Her phone voice was quite engaging.
Elizabeth gave her double thumbs up because Kitty’s been trying to come up with a catchy pitch line. Some of the previous ones have been bloody awful.
Meryton Matchmakers- We’re located near Rosings Park where love comes to bloom.
Meryton Matchmakers, we have an eight-five percent success rate. Take a chance on us and find love.
Or not, Elizabeth had argued. Why point out their failures?
Kitty smiled at the thumbs up and launches into the pitch about the company.
“Elizabeth!” Bill bellowed, after sticking his head out the conference room door. “We’re all waiting on you. Come quick.”
She made her way to him, slowly of course, knowing he’d prefer her to speed walk or likely preferred she’d run. The longer she took the larger his eyes grow.
“What is the matter, Bill?” Your eyes look as if they’re going to spring right from your head.” When she reached the door he gave her a slight shove toward a chair and slammed the door behind her. Elizabeth made a production of slapping her notebook on the table and uncapping her pen.
“What’s all the drama for? You favorite person bite it on TV?” Elizabeth plopped into a chair.
“Hey.” He pointed a finger at her. “No spoilers. Mary and I were working the soup kitchen and haven’t seen anything yet.” He turned to Mary. “But come to Lottie’s tonight so we can get caught up. Maybe she’ll make those cupcakes that have that oozy red center.”
“That’s disgusting,” Lydia said.
It had not escaped Elizabeth’s notice that the two most “spiritual’ people in the room were also the most macabre.
“The rush is because if I made a simpler request only a small percentage of you would come.” He faced Mary. “Thank you, Mary. And I have something to share.” He clasped his hands before him with a loud smack and began nodding vigorously “I have some exciting news. Lady De Bourgh will be here this week. Tomorrow even. Isn’t that wonderful.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. If it’s so wonderful, why is he wringing his hands? And what was up with the manic nodding.
“Bill?” Jane asked. “DO you know why she’s coming?”
“Why else does Lady Catherine De Bourg, such a blessing her presence will bestow upon us, need to come but to see me?” Bill tossed his bangs out of his eyes before briefly tilting his face upward as if thanking his maker. Then his gaze met Elizabeth’s and she knew that he knew something was going to happen and it might not be good.
“Honestly, I don’t know why she’s coming. I’d only be speculating if I were to say,” he answered.
Unable to control herself, Elizabeth snorts which results in an elbow to the ribs from Jane. There are two characteristics people can possess that Elizabeth is not overly fond of: A pretentious mannerism and conceit. Mrs. Catherine -who’s now deceased husband was some ninny who’d bought a title simply so she would be called Lady- De Bourgh embodies both of those human flaws and is quite proud of it.
“I feel a bit under the weather.” Elizabeth coughed in her hand for good measure.
“Oh no you don’t.” Bill pointed at her then blew his bangs upward. They fall directly as they had been a moment ago. The jagged scar beneath barely seen. “I do know she is bringing her nephew, Mr. Darcy, and they both want to meet with head of Human Resources and Public Relations. You will be here every day this week.” He looks between her and Jane, the tempo of his wringing increasing.
HR, the glue that held this place together-Elizabeth Bennet. Not that her degree in psychology and human behavior were the qualifications needed for the head HR position, which is why she did the extra course work for an HR certification, but her primary degrees are what make her such a spot on matchmaker. Any failures to match have not been because she’d targeted incorrectly but because the person in question hadn’t been as ready as they’d thought.
Jane’s job was to spin love in such a way to make people flock to Meryton Matchmakers in search of it. Elizabeth didn’t envy her. Of the two of them, Jane is most decidedly a true romantic and therefore is better suited to speak of love.
“Do you not think it’s suspicious Mr. Darcy’s coming?” Jane’s question sounded less threatening coming from her. Something about her easy nature or soft voice that brings out the best in people.
Bill shrugged and leaned toward her. “I’m not sure but I’m told that he’s learning the ropes. She wants him to learn about MM is my speculation. It could mean that he’s going to be stepping into a more active role in her empire. Again, just a guess.”
“What aren’t you telling us?” Elizabeth asked, pointing to his hands and the inordinate twisting.
Bill went still.
“If you think there is something we should know—“ This from Jane.
“Ecclesiastes 3:7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak,” said Mary, the sister behind Elizabeth in birth. She has a verse for everything, though usually ones that don’t promote the cause at hand.
“I know what the bible says, Mary,” huffs Bill. “I am a minister.”
“Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be at your other job? I think the fact that you are here telling us this is a bad omen. Go off to work and don’t come back until you have some holy water and can bless this place,” Elizabeth said. What he’s said here today could have easily been passed along in an email.
“Yeah, like she won’t be able to cross the threshold,” said Lydia.
Jane gasped and Elizabeth smothered a chuckle.
“Be nice Lydia. We have this job because of Lady Catherine,” Jane scolded.
Not one to hold her tongue, Lydia, the youngest merely shrugged before she continued. “Well, I for one don’t like it.” She slaps her hand on the table. “Things are fine here without their interference. I don’t want anyone telling me how to do my job.” Lydia ends her tirade with trout mouth. That puckered lip pose she thinks is so becoming and likely pouty but really looks quite stupid. We’ve told her this. Not that she listens to any of us.
“Oh go pluck your eyebrows or something,” said Mary.
“You should pluck your eyebrows or should I say eyeBROW.” Lydia drew an imaginary straight line across her brow.
“Knock, knock,” Bill said. As the company’s spiritual advisor it’s his job to make sure there’s peace among the staff as much as it’s to make sure the couple who get matched together are well suited. Spiritually. For the staff he’s known to use humor, specifically knock knock jokes. Elizabeth could only hope he didn’t do this with the clients.
“Please, not a joke.” Lydia covered her eyes.
“Knock, knock.” Bill said again with more force.
“Who’s there?” Mary always takes the bait.
Bill looks at Lydia who’s peeking at him through her fingers before answering, “Babylon with hurtful word all you want but cuts require time to heal.”
“That’s not even a joke.” Lydia crosses her arms over her chest.
Aware that the meeting is moments from deteriorating, Elizabeth goes for a distraction. “Mary, is everything set for the mixer Friday?”
Their biggest event yet, an outdoors concert and BBQ, mixing happily matched clients with new ones and (hopefully) potential ones. Only three days were left to weed out potential problems.
Elizabeth made a note on her pad to stop in and speak with Lottie Lucas, her bestie and caterer for the event.
Mary consulted her two calendars before answering, “Yes.” She keeps both for fear she’ll mess something up.
“We have two video shoots today. One is that dreamy Captain Wentworth. I do love a man in uniform. I hope he’ll let me do his hair at least.” Lydia sighed dreamily.
“That’s unlikely and remember that you are not allowed to date the clients,” Elizabeth reminded her. Not that its written explicitly in their handbook but it was pasted into the one they gave Lydia and Kitty. A fortuitous insight on Jane’s behalf.
“Whatevs.” Lydia tossed her curls and rolled her eyes. She’s quite masterful at it, really. “One day, I’m going to get a real job in a city much bigger and better than this one. Watch and see.”
Everyone has one such person in there family, Elizabeth assumed. The obnoxious-know-it-all-entitled one. Yes, that’s their Lydia. As much as it annoyed her, she tried to remember that this Lydia monster was the product of two things: being the baby of the family and their mother. A diva in her own right. What can’t be overlook is that Lydia continues to ride it as long as she. It can’t be easy not having all your expectations met.
Mary snorted. “One day you’ll go to a bigger city you say? That’s not hard to do as Westerham had less than five thousand people.”
“While Lady Catherine is here, see about moving the company to New York? Why you two picked here—“
Elizabeth didn’t both to raise her voice. “Privacy. That’s why.” They’ve repeatedly had this conversation. Not one to flog a dead horse, Elizabeth stood and effectively cut off further discussion. “We’ll not be suggesting a move to anywhere. Is that all Bill? Any other bombs you’ve got up your sleeves? I’d like to get back to my desk.”
Bill pantomimed pulling his sleeves wide and looking up them. He then faced Elizabeth and shook his head.
“Jane,” Elizabeth whispered. “You think she’ll give us a hard time about how almost our entire family works here?” It’s been something she’s worried about before. More than once.
“No, We’re the owners. We don’t need to run every decision by her.” She shrugs. “I’m not worried, Lizzy. Everything works out.”
Normally, Elizabeth would roll her eyes at such blind optimism but Jane’s been that way since she was in diapers.
They walked back to their shared office in silence. Though Jane immediately took a seat and got to work, Elizabeth stood at her desk staring at her to-do notes but not really reading them, all the while flipping her phone over repeatedly in her hand.
“I don’t like this, Jane. Why didn’t she tell us she was coming?” Giving up the pretense of reading, Elizabeth plopped into her chair then lifted the top of her laptop and start searching her emails for answers.
“I think she may have.” Jane ducked behind her laptop.
Instantly, Elizabeth’s attention was back on Jane. “I beg your pardon?” It’s not like Jane to forget something like this.
“She asked me to talk to you about automation so that we could all speak about it at a later date.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Something niggled at her memory pushing to come forward.
“I tried, remember? A few weeks ago at Mom and Dad’s?”
What she was kindly not saying is how Elizabeth nearly bit her head off at the mention of turning their beloved company into something like those online sites.
“I’d told her we talked and that it wasn’t in MM’s future. We continue to believe in human factor.”
Elizabeth nodded and returned her attention to her computer.
Pulling up a search engine she typed Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine De Bourgh. A few articles down she found what she was looking for, the Wiki page for William F. Darcy, billionaire. Who, oddly enough, can’t take a picture that isn’t blurred?
It doesn’t take much reading to have a bead on what’s really going on.
“We’re in trouble, Jane. Mr. Darcy is not coming to learn more about us. I’m willing to wager this year’s salary that he’s coming to automate us or…worse.”
“What do you mean by worse?”
“Darcy, according to this page.” She turned the computer so it faced Jane. “Is a business broker.”
Jane leaned toward the screen. “Why is he fuzzy? Are there no quality pictures of him?”
“Perhaps he’s so unsightly that the camera breaks every time its snaps a shot of him. This is what we get.” Elizabeth pointed to the grainy, squint inducing images.
“What do you mean by business broker?”
“I mean that’s a gentle way of saying corporate raider. Most of The Bourgh’s assets come from what he’s acquired and sold.” (Now more than ever her Star Trek reverence seem more relevant. Too bad no one in her family got it).
“Why would he be coming here?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Why indeed?”
Meryton Matchmakers was a rising matchmaking company, and it was her matchmaking company. And Jane’s, of course. Too bad Lady Catherine De Bourgh struggled to be the silent partner she was intended to be. In today’s world where people make up and break up on social media, TV bachelors’ spar pencil thin, fame seekers against each other for his affections, and wooing is done though text messaging, Elizabeth and Jane figured cupid could use a hand.
Ironic it may be, Elizabeth wasn’t a believer in love. At least not the love she sees today. No, she was worse than a non-believer, She subscribed to the ideal that each person had one true soul mate. The odds of finding them were exceedingly impossible and though Elizabeth knew she might never find that person she couldn’t imagine going her entire life not having tried.
Hopefully, what we they did here everyday at MM narrowed those odds some.
AUTHORS QUESTION: I'm thinking of renaming Bill to Liam . Its hard for me to get all sexy about a guy names Bill. Sorry. What do you think? Bill vs. Liam?
*** Thanks for reading 🙂
Hope you all are well. Catch you again soon.