© copywrite 2010
by Sarah Baughman
Liz glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Her gown was cut in the traditional Regency style with an empire waist. It was a bit more fitted in the front, but the back was gathered and had a small train. The underdress was made of pink silk with a sheer over-dress of shimmery white. She wore her hair curled and up, with curls falling about her face. Small white beads were woven throughout the locks. After placing a long necklace around her neck, pulling on gloves that came well above her elbows, and slipping her feet into delicate pink slippers, she was satisfied with her appearance.
A loud knock made her start. She opened the door to reveal Zach – dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Her heart sank. I gave him the suit; wouldn’t he know to wear it the whole evening?
His heart, however seemed to have done anything but sink. He let out a low whistle. “Wow, Eliza.” He shook his head a couple of times. “Wow.”
Amusement lifted some of Liz’s disappointment. Was Zach finally speechless about something? Jerking her mind back to the problem, she scowled. “Where is your suit?”
“In my truck. It’s been giving me trouble lately—”
“No, my truck. I didn’t want to chance getting under the hood in that getup, so I decided to change once we get there.”
Relief sank into Liz’s heart. “Oh. Well, good. Shall we go?” She picked up her reticule, a small purse of the time which contained her keys, a fan, and a few other things.
“Yes, my lady.”
On the drive to Town Hall, Zach was oddly quiet. She was surprised that he didn’t talk her ear off, but they just sat, listening to the quiet strains of Mozart playing.
“Is this Mozart?” she asked suddenly.
“Yeah. Didn’t think I knew who he was, did ya?” He grinned at her surprise.
“Well, no,” Liz admitted. “I didn’t.”
“There is much, Miss Elizabeth that you do not know about me.”
She raised a brow at that.
His truck carried them to the Town Hall without incident. Soon he parked in the lot beside the building. He jumped out, ran around to open her door, then helped her climb down from the truck’s cab. He then reached behind her to take out a bulging garment bag. Carrying it with one hand, he held out his other to her. “Shall we?”
Smiling, Liz placed her hand on his arm. “Thank you, kind sir.”
* * *
Zach changed in the men’s room. Liz had surprised him. He knew she was pretty, but tonight. . . I’m not sure I could describe her. Radient? Gorgeous? Enough to make a bachelor think about marriage? But he had already been thinking about marriage. He hurriedly tied the cravat. He’d been practicing at home for the past week, to make sure he could get it right. Zach had attended the dancing workshop, disappointed that Liz wasn’t there. At least I’ll know how to dance with her tonight. The anticipation made his fingers a little less sure than normal. Finally, he had the ridiculous thing tied. He slipped on the vest – waistcoat, Liz had called it when she gave it to him, then the jacket over that. Fastening the buttons, he looked in the mirror, hoping he was ready. It’s tonight or never, Eliza. Tonight you’ll be mine or . . . But he didn’t want to think about the alternative.
Zach reached the ballroom and glanced around for Liz. He spied her in a chair off to the side, talking closely with another man. As he drew nearer, he saw that it was Rob. Rob! Drawing a breath to psych himself up, he sauntered over to the couple, his gait belying the anxiety he felt.
As he drew near, he heard Liz’s voice. “Um, Rob, I must say that I am very flattered, but—”
“But she’s promised this dance to me.” Zach bowed, as he’d been taught by the teacher of the workshop, holding out his hand to Liz.
She took it, stood, and gave a brief curtsy to Rob. “Mr. Meyer,” she said, then followed Zach’s leading out to the floor.
As they walked, Zach asked, “Trouble?”
Liz seemed distracted. “Hm?” Her eyes were tracing his person, taking in his appearance. “I—that is, um, no.” She seemed to tear her eyes from him. “No trouble at all.” A smile graced her beautiful face. Zach led her through the steps of the country dance quite well, he thought. Afterward, he led her to the tables full of food, where they selected a few things to eat, as well as a glass of punch. He led her to a couple of empty chairs and they sat, sampling the food and observing the dancing couples.
Liz broke the silence. “So, is it as terrible as you thought it would be?”
“Not at all.” Zach’s face took on an impish grin. “Worse.”
“Do you mean ‘Mr. Taylor’?” he asked, winking.
“Of course, forgive my improper use of your Christian name.” She played right along. “I know that is reserved for immediate family and whatever woman claims your affections.”
Zach’s heart felt tight in his chest as he said, “Then by all means, call me Zach.”
She hadn’t heard him, for she said, “I beg your pardon?
Zach set his plate and cup on the empty chair next to him, then took the same from her hands, setting them on the chair, too. He grasped her hands, gently pulling them until she stood, and then placed her hand on his arm to lead her from the crowded room.
* * *
Liz was confused and could not think of a possible reason for his wanting to leave now. Had she offended him somehow? She followed, though, as he led her from the building and to a small bench in the front lawn. She sat when he bade her to do so, and waited for him to speak.
The sky twinkled with stars, the night air warm around them. The Town Hall was on a secluded street, so no cars drove past that Liz noticed. The heady fragrance from some roses planted around the bench filled her senses.
“Eliza, I—” He seemed unable to say more. Suddenly, she was being hauled from her seat and into a fierce embrace. He held her for a few moments. She was too speechless and confused to say anything. Then his lips found hers. His kiss was filled with the suppressed emotion that Liz suddenly realized had been beneath his teasing, his crowding her space, his getting under her skin. Suddenly something within her broke and she finally realized that her frustration had not been with his actions, but with his inactions. She kissed him back for all she was worth.
They broke apart, breathing a bit heavily. They sat upon the bench then, at opposite ends. She stared straight ahead, trying to let sink in what had just happened. She jumped when Zach’s hand reached out to take hers, but did not pull it away.
“Marry me, Eliza?”
They returned to the ball, happy to keep their secret for the time being. Everyone would know soon enough.
by Sarah Baughman (email: mailto:email@example.com)
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