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She was everything he needed that he never knew he wanted. There was something unexplainable between them that was slowly growing like a plant’s roots. There was a larger Elizabeth shaped hole forming in his heart that he couldn’t patch up without her. It was all supposed to be a game until it wasn’t. Helen and Elaine played Cupid, and the two of them thought they fooled their respective loved ones. They were wrong. They fooled themselves in the meantime. Helen and Elaine would never let them hear the end of it if they knew the two of them were faking it and then began to fall for each other.
Elaine was right this time, no matter how many times he tried to deny it. Matthew needed someone like Elizabeth to straighten him out. As Elizabeth leaned into his hand, Matthew couldn’t stop the beating of his heart either. His smile turned broader as her lips upturned, enjoying every second of their encounter already. When she admitted there was no competition and that he made her feel alive, Matthew couldn’t agree more. He wanted her in his arms with him. He was notoriously protective of those he cared about.
Matthew saw the sincere look in her eyes that told him she meant every word she said. As his hand dropped to her back, Matthew felt the visible shudder. It drove him crazy. She drove him crazy. Elizabeth spoke about not going anywhere and what he was working on, and he was about to respond when he felt her hand on his chest. The simple motion sent some heat rising upwards, feeling her touch over his shirt. Matthew enclosed her hand in his that was on his chest, looking into her eyes.
[b “I was working on a custom nightstand, but it seems my focus is redirected into something much more beautiful and interesting.”] Matthew smiles once more, knowing she could see the piece behind him a she gently massages her palm and fingers. [b “But I’ve been working too much, and I know you are worried with your mother. You’re certain there isn’t more you’d like to do?”]
Elizabeth didn’t think that seeing him again would seemingly light a fire within her; a fire which she couldn’t see dying out as long as he was around. He was everything she never knew she wanted, never knew she [i needed]. Of course Helen and Elaine would likely be together now looking smug and talking about how their scheme has played out in their favour and in honesty, neither Matthew or Elizabeth could have predicted that their facade would develop into something much more real. If anything, she expected to find a friend within him and have fun teasing Elaine and Helen upon the big reveal. In actuality, what she found was so much more than and friend and she didn’t quite know what to do with that.
She kept her eyes trained on his and willed her heart to slow down but it was clear that it was disobedient. How else could she explain falling for Matthew? As he brought his hand up to her cheek she found herself leaning into it and for only a moment she closed her eyes, just so she could commit the feel of his skin against hers to memory. It was as though even his touch was awakened parts of her body that has been sleeping and she would be discovering so much more of that in the days that might come to pass. Her lips curled up into a smile at his words and her eyes opened once more.
[b “No competition. There has never been a man who makes me feel so alive. I don’t want to be in another’s arms.”] She looked at him with so much sincerity that there was no way he could protest her words. Then his hands dropped to her back and she shuddered once more, feeling her skin react to having his fingers touching her in places she has never been touched. Her breath caught in her throat and it took her a moment to gather herself to speak. [b “I don’t have any plans that don’t involve being with you. I’m not going anywhere so long as you will have me. What are you working on?”] She asked as she brought her hand to rest in his chest.
Elizabeth didn't stop moving. He didn't have to say anything to urge her forward for her to suddenly find herself standing before him and looking up at him. Matthew was proud of her, mixed in with awed by her. Elizabeth took the time to see him out of staying with her mother and surely keeping the house. She was doing something for [i herself.] If Matthew's workshop served as a place for Elizabeth to escape, even with him, he would gladly accept her. She was admirable and respectable and beautiful in ways he never saw before, just with her standing before him. [i It wasn't just a kiss.]
Matthew's ocean blue eyes took her in before him, feeling how close they were. They weren't touching but that could be remedied if even one of them attempted to lift a hand. Matthew showed her that charming, boyish half smirk when she teased back with him in good humor. Her British accent mirrored his as she spoke. [i "It was a gift."] Matthew took another moment to sweep his eyes over her, noting how she was dressed and how her hair looked and how the locket rested so perfectly around her neck.
Her hand tightened around the locket as if securing it in her grasp. [i "A very precious gift, given to me by someone very special to me."] Matthew's eyes found hers, locking in as her look proved to him that she meant it. [i You are special to me too.] He thought, beginning to breath a little heavier with how close she was and the feel of her eyes locking and burning into his, but they weren't in anger. She inched closer, causing his breath to caress over her skin as he leaned down some intuitively. His heart was racing just from seeing her. Matthew still didn't fully understand what she was doing to him, but he would in time. [b "A very special person? Do I have competition to fight off?"] He grinned and then brought his hands up to her face, caressing her jawline and cheek as he looked down into her eyes. [b "Because I don't want anyone but me in your arms."]
He wanted to kiss her badly, but he just stood there, inches away from her, dropping one hand to her back to pull her closer to him. [b "Do you want to help me with orders today? Or did you have other plans?"]
Elizabeth paused for a moment, trying not to move too fast towards him. Anyone would think that the two were in love and has not seen each other in months with the way she felt as though she wanted to run to him. To have his arms around her and take in the scent of him. Her cheeks flushed a little pink at the thought of what she wanted to do. It was strange to think that not that long ago she was determined that she would not fall in love with a man or even feel as though she needed a man in her life. Oh how things had taken a change so quickly. With Matthew, she felt like everything she had come to know has been turned upside down. Perhaps it was also his encouragement of her following whatever path she wanted in life added to her feelings for him. Elizabeth had never met a man who found worth within a woman and the fact that he wanted to foster her desire to work made her all the more attracted to him.
He understood her completely and not just in the sense of her desires from life but also what she was going through with her mother, having lost his own too and even now he vocalised that he wanted to be there for her and she appreciated it. Helen offered to be there for her but in reality she had her own life to worry about now, being married meant that she has less and less time for her and Elizabeth didn’t want to encroach on that. Perhaps now that it was clear Matthew intended on being in her life meant she finally had someone to lean on and there is was telling her exactly that. She had never had someone willing to be that for her, nor had she ever really let herself need the support. She was a strong woman and she would continue to be but perhaps with Matthew she could begin to let herself show a little bit of weakness.
Elizabeth continued moving forward, almost as though there was something that wouldn’t allow her to stop until she was standing right before him, close enough to touch him if she were to lift a hand. She looked down at her locket and then smiled up at Matthew. [b “It was a gift.”] She said, humour lacing her tone as she lifted her hand to close around it. [b “A very precious gift, given to me by someone very special to me.”] Elizabeth locked her eyes with his when she said her final words, wanting him to know that meant it; that he was special to her. Now they were closer, not even an inch about and she could feel his breath caress her skin and her heart was beating faster than she had ever experienced it. If this wasn’t the beginnings of her falling in love, she truly had no idea what it was.
[i “Here I am.”]
With that, he couldn’t stop looking at her. She was elegantly beautiful, and the rays of sunshine from the sunrise was melting over her hair in a golden brown crown. She looked good although a bit weary. He was sure her days were spent by her mother’s side, caring for her as she faded away. Matthew wished he knew more. Maybe he could go into town to buy her some sweets or something like Elaine always urged him to do? Nevertheless, his mind was on Elizabeth, and the next thing he noticed sent his heart on another roller coaster a la Elizabeth.
His necklace that he made for her was resting there on her neck over her heart. She hadn’t taken it off. She strode to his workshop with it still on, looking as natural as it had when he kissed her. It only served to strengthen the thoughts he had of their moment and their heat and their connection. As she took steps forward, Matthew just stood there. Magnets inside each of them were trying to pull them together in an opposites attract type vibe, and she strengthened the frequency with each step.
[i “I’m fine. I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner. Things weren’t great at home. My mother is stable for now. Thank you for asking.”] He lingered on each word, making sure to listen to full attention. Her mother was stable, but it sounded like she didn’t have much time left. Matthew remembered the death of his mother to illness as well. She had fallen from cancer while his father died of a drunk carriage disaster about a year afterwards. Matthew was much younger granted, but he felt for her.
He wanted to reach out to her and hug her and tell her it would be okay. He wanted to tell her he was there for her, and she would never be alone. No one told him that, so he wanted more for her. His heartbeat was quickening as she kept walking to him, running a hand through his long, blonde hair. [b “I’ve busied myself with orders and work, but I’m more concerned about you. My mother died of cancer when I was young. I know how it feels to wait and wait. I’m here for you. If you need someone to lean on, lean on me.”] He offered her genuinely then his tone changed.
[b “Nice necklace.”] He breathed, beginning to feel himself losing his words at the feeling of her coming closer and closer to him, drawing him into her beautiful nature.
Elizabeth was anxious. More anxious than she could ever remember feeling but she understood why. A part of her was worried that Kyler would regret kissing her, that he would come to realise that he had made a mistake and that he didn’t want her at all. She would understand it if it came to that but that didn’t mean she couldn’t hold out hope that there was still something there. He had stolen her heart and she hoped that she had done the same to his. Another part of her was equally concerned that because it has taken her a few days to visit, that he would doubt that she truly wanted to be his person and that she would find a drunken mess of a man who she would then have to piece back together, even though she knew that she would be happy to do it but she hoped, more for his sake that hers.
When she ventured further into the workshop she laid eyes upon him and even though she could not yet see his face, her heart quickened with the anticipation of seeing him again. It took him a minute to face her but it truly felt like a lifetime but when that time finally came, her heart stopped completely. That was when she knew that it wasn’t [i just] a kiss. That it had not been a moment they shared simply because they were both feeling vulnerable. He was the owner of her heart and she didn’t want it back. It belonged to him. A smile broke out across her face upon seeing his own and hearing his voice. [I There you are.]
The locket he had made for her rested around her neck, now having one side filled with a picture of her mother. She had known that moment she put it on that she would never take it off again. It meant far too much to her to ever have it’s presented missing from her heart. As long as she has this locket, she would have a piece of Kyler and her mother with her and she knew that her time with her mother was shortening with each day. The doctor has given her a matter of weeks now which meant that she had started to prepare herself for the loss. The knowing didn’t make things any easier for her, how could it? She was still her mother and she was so very important to her and once she was done she would be left alone to deal with her withdrawn father. Of course she loved him but she did not particularly care for him in the same way she did others around her.
[b “Here I am.”] She said with a smile as she took a step forward, just needing to be that little bit closer to him. [b “I’m fine. I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner. Things weren’t great at home. My mother is stable for now. Thank you for asking.”] She took a minute to catch her breath. How was it even possible that he could steal a breath from her with so much as a look. He hadn’t even touched her and here she was, overcome with these emotions that she didn’t know how to describe. [b “And how are you?”] She asked taking another step towards him, feeling a pull towards him but not wanting to run into his arms, even though every instinct was telling her to do just that.
Days passed since that eventful day on her doorstep when they shared their first kiss. Part of him thought that she was still tending to her sick mother while the other part told himself she only told him that as an excuse. Nonetheless, he was fine with waiting for her. As the days passed, he finished several orders on things such as desks, nightstands, and tables. Matthew set out to deliver them on the busy streets, taking each custom piece to home fronts and businesses, following addresses on his orders. He always hand-delivered his finished pieces since it was important to keep up customer service. Elaine always wrote him a handwritten note with each order in her beautiful cursive handwriting, and the women of the house loved them. There he was, going door to door with the pieces when he finally noticed a gathering of men around a newspaper stand.
Curious, Matthew stepped forward and handed a few pounds over in exchange for the paper that was a few days late. Curiously heading back to his horse-drawn carriage holding the wooden pieces in the back, he sat on the back. Staring at the paper and the words printed on it, Matthew read about the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It was definitely frightening to say the least, even to him. He normally blew off things like this, but the Austria-Hungary empire would certainly wish to fight back against Serbia and their allies. It spelled disaster. Matthew read it over several times to fully understand it all. He'd heard about tensions just South of England for months now. They were never anything to the amount of an assassination of an Archduke. Tensions would heat up surely, but there was also a potential positive. He may gain more orders for specialized products to aid allies of Britain, and that meant more money for him. Matthew sometimes struggled to pay for everything that meant a good living for he and his sister, including their small home and his workshop and supplies.
Elaine helped him with things such as taking and orders and recommending him and the handwritten letters, but she didn't bring an income of herself. He didn't expect her to. Matthew wanted to work for them both, and he wouldn't let her worry about the bills. He tried to take care of everything and remember everything. With this news, Matthew began to worry in the back of his mind about more to come. There was a note that stated that war may come. He'd only heard of the tragedies of war, but he hadn't experienced it firsthand. Matthew didn't want to waste more time thinking. People were trying to pass, and he was in the way, so he tossed the paper in his carriage and took his horse back home.
When he arrived, Elaine met him at the door. [i "I have a message for you. Might wanna listen in."] She grinned, full of energy and life as always as she bounced down the stairs to meet him. Smiling slightly, Matthew stepped forward, [b "What now? Another male suitor?"] He teased and then Elaine only shook her head and pushed him playfully. [i "No it's from Helen, remember her? One of my best friends and the one who has a certain best friend that you have taken a liking to... Miss Elizabeth Stone? Elizabeth told Helen to tell me to tell you that she will see you as soon as possible after taking care of her mother. You have a date."] She sang the last words, and Matthew just shook his head.
[b "You are a lovesick fool Elaine."] He laughed though, moving past her and relaxing inside. It comforted him to hear that. She was still thinking about him, wanting to assure him she would see him again. [i Hell, he hadn't stopped thinking about her either.] Matthew considered the newspaper a little longer until he fell asleep that night and woke up early to get to work on his busy schedule. He was sawing some wood after measuring it when he heard a voice. A lovely voice. One that he'd been waiting for since that day on the steps of the Stone home. Elizabeth.
Setting down his piece of unfinished wood, Matthew quickly adjusted his shirt and ran a hand through his hair before turning his eyes to take in the woman before him. There she was, as beautiful as ever. [b "There you are. How are you, Elizabeth?"] He asked, instantly breaking out into a half grin type of smile. He took her in in all her beauty, instantly reminded of their pull to each other and that electric kiss. [b "How is your mother?]
Elizabeth didn’t want him to go, nor did she want them to part but she genuinely did care about her mother being alone and she hoped that he would understand that her time left with her was limited and she would never forgive herself if something were to happen to her while she stood on her doorstep kissing a man. However, he did seem to accept her genuine excuse to leave even if it seemed to heart her heart to think about parting from him. How strange a feeling that was. Alien and new, yet something that made her feel renewed and excited. Elizabeth had no idea just how much her life was about to change. When they finally parted she watched him walk away with a heavy heart and promised herself that she would see him again as soon as she had the chance to.
A few days had passed and she was saddened that she had not been able to find the time to see Kyler. Her mother had taken another turn for the worst and she couldn’t bring herself to leave her. By the third day she was looking a little better and she convinced herself to go to the market to buy a few supplies that they needed for the house. Helen had been to see her and she ensured to send a message to Kyler through Elaine that she wasn’t avoiding him and that she would visit him as soon as she had the chance.
When she returned home from the market she had expected to return home to an empty house as normal but she found herself to be greeted with an unfamiliar sight. For the first time in weeks, her father had found himself home before the house had already retired for the night and it seemed that he had company. As she looked upon the man, she realised that he was not someone who she recognised. Perhaps he was a new associate of her father’s. Either way, she remembered her manners, smiled towards them, and introduced herself to the stranger. His hair had been slicked back, every inch of it so perfectly combed so that there was not a single hair out of place. A handsome smile came into play the moment he saw her and she recognised the look almost instantly. Her father had clearly promised to introduce them and he had turned on his charm the second he realised just how beautiful his daughter was.
“Sebastian Gray, it is lovely to meet your acquaintance Elizabeth. Your father has told me so much about you.” He lifted her hand to place a kiss upon it. His air of confidence would not have been enough to make her forget about Kyler. This man was clearly here to win the heart of a woman who no longer had one to give. Her father turned to her with his false demeanour, pulling her into his embrace as though it was something he did every single time he saw her. That could not be further than the truth but she was not about to give him away in front of a guest.
[b “To what do we owe this pleasure?”] She asked them both as she took a step back and closed her left hand over her right and checked her posture. [b “We were not expecting you home so soon today. You have been working such long days.”] Elizabeth smiled towards his father while he explained that he had a meeting cancelled and that he had been meaning to show Sebastian around the house for some time. It appeared that somewhere along the line, her father had fallen into the habit of gaming with him; playing cards and gambling. The very idea that he was spending his evenings that way rather than spending time with his sick wife upset her, but she did not let it show. Instead, she nodded along politely while the three lost themselves in conversation. All the while, Elizabeth kept a safe distance from Sebastian, knowing that he was trying to impress her with some of the conversation topics he brought up. She would have given anything to have an excuse to get herself away from such company but it might have seemed impolite if she merely walked away from them with a proper reason.
As luck would have it, soon enough that reason had arrived. One of their staff members entered the room. The woman whispered into Elizabeth’s ear and she nodded and smiled towards the company she had been keeping. [b “If you would excuse me. I have some business to attend to.”] She offered her hand before exiting the room with the woman at her side.
As soon as they were alone she hugged the staff member. She had told her that Helen had given her the alibi of seeing her so that she could see Kyler [b “Thank you Maria. I appreciate how discreet you were with my father. I will not forget that.”]
Elizabeth didn’t waste another second as she grabbed her coat and raced out of the door towards Kyler’s home and upon arrival she head straight for her workshop knowing that he would be in there if she was going to find him anywhere. Her heart leapt as the workshop came into view and her feet carried her there quickly. [b “Kyler?”] She called as she arrived at the door.
Rosy pink. It was the color of her cheeks when their lips separated. Matthew still felt the warmth of her lips on his. It was spontaneous, and he hadn't planned on kissing her exactly when he went to her house to give her the gift of the wooden necklace. Things sort of just progressed and heated up all in one moment. When he was standing there, waiting for her forgiveness, he felt this immeasurable need to kiss her. He didn't want to wait any longer. They met and agreed to continue meeting to act as a fake couple, but somewhere, somehow, they began feeling something real. Matthew hadn't felt in a long time, if ever, so he wasn't sure about it until then. Until he kissed her.
Matthew took in a deep breath that mirrored hers and let it out, releasing his large hand from her brunette locks. As he ran his hand downwards to her cheek, holding it gently in his hand, Matthew felt her own soft one on his. Leaning slightly into her hand, he drank in her words. They were words he never thought he'd hear from another person. [i She wanted to try.] Elizabeth wanted to deal with him and give him a chance. Either he just hit the lottery or Elizabeth hit her head. No matter which way, Matthew wanted to try, and he wanted to try with her. There would be no more waiting and hoping and worrying and drinking. He needed to get off his ass, and Elizabeth served as a bit of a spur to it. He needed change.
Matthew’s light blue eyes studied hers, not sure what else to say yet. he was almost at a loss for words. The thought of her father seeing didn't cross his mind. He certainly would hate the sight of it. Matthew kept a low profile to say the least, but he was sure her father had other plans from what she explained. Matthew was not rich by any means. In fact, he worked hard to balance the books. From the look of her home, Elizabeth's family didn't exactly seem to struggle for cash. Nevertheless, he wasn't thinking about any of it. All he could think about was her in his arms right there.
Then, she broke the moment. [i “Matthew, I... I have to go. My mother has been alone all morning. But, I want to see you again. Can I see you again?”] Was that just an excuse? Bringing his hand from her cheek to scratch behind his head some, Matthew finally nodded. [b "Yes, of course. You know where to find me."] His eyes found hers knowingly, and there was a warm feeling down his spine as she caressed his cheek gently. Covering her soft hand in his own, Matthew gave her a small smile and lowered it. [b "I'll be in my workshop. Take care of your mother. Then do something for yourself."] He spoke those last words as he was looking straight into her eyes. It was time for her to stop worrying about Helen and the marriage and then her family and every other problem that wasn't hers. She gave so much to everyone else that she didn't have enough time to do something for herself. She didn't give enough time to open up. In that manner, they were somewhat alike.
With one last almost longing gaze, Matthew released her hand and walked away, hands in his pockets. He wouldn't stop thinking about her on the long walk home. When he finally got back, he buried himself in his work, but he didn't reach for a drink. As he carved the wood, Matthew found himself more relaxed and smiling more than ever. It was the Elizabeth effect, and it was creeping up on him more and more with every passing moment.
Elizabeth looked upon his face when her words have begun to settle with him and she could have sworn she observed something upon it that told her he was thinking about what he would do next. She felt the hand she had taken intertwine with hers, only now his grip tightened. Her heart began to race with anticipation and excitement as he pulled her close to him in a swift movement that practically took her breath away. She had not expected this. She thought he might accept her offer and become a good friend to him but it was clear from his actions that a friendship between them simply wasn’t good enough for him.
He moved so that his body was close to her own so that she was now trapped against him. A heavy breath escaped her lips and she did everything she could to avoid looking in his eyes until his hand snaked through her hair and tilted her heart up so that she could no longer avoid looking at him. Her heart jumped with the anticipation of what might happen between them and the heat rose to her face as he nudged her nose gently with his, causing yet another breath to get stuck in her throat. Elizabeth swallowed the nerves that were slowly beginning to surface. Now his motivations made sense and the feel of his hands in her hair became an intoxication. Their eyes were now locked together, knowing that she could do no more to avoid his gaze especially as his skin connected with hers.
Her breathing grew heavier as his lips neared hers. She was about to receive her first kiss and she could almost hear her heartbeat echoing in her ears, almost sure that he might hear it too. Their lips met with such a softness that she could hardly feel them, yet when he would pull back she would still feel the imprint that they left upon her. How one simple kiss could have had such an effect on her would be something that she would never be able to explain. She allowed herself a deep breath in hopes that it would calm her beating heart but the task was almost impossible as it merely continued to beat more irregularly.
When his lips parted to speak she tried to force her eyes to look upon him although she wanted to hide the fact he had caused her cheeks to turn a light shade of pink. It was as though she had forgotten where she was. If her father had seen such a display of affection she would have been in for a world of trouble but as luck would have it, he was away on business and would not return until the next day. Upon hearing Kyler’s words she sighed softly and brought her hand up to his cheek. [b “I want to try.”]
This was not going to be easy. Her father would never allow a relationship to form between the two but Elizabeth was determined, now more than ever, that she did something for herself rather than her father and his expectations. However, now that her thoughts were returning she remembered that she was on the doorstep of her home and her sick mother was lying alone in bed. [b “Kyler, I... I have to go. My mother has been alone all morning. But, I want to see you again. Can I see you again?”] She asked as she caressed his cheek with her thumb.
He didn’t expect what she did next by any means whatsoever. After spilling his guts in a matter of speaking, Matthew imagined Elizabeth would pity him then make some excuse to go inside and never see him again. Matthew always found himself earning pity from people, and it may have been another reason he hardly cared for social gatherings or people for that matter. He told himself he would live alone because it was better that way. Little did he know how a lonely bachelors life could affect him. It wasn’t like he didn’t admire women because he held them in a higher regard than most men of the era simply due to his own sister.
She was all he had growing up, and he despised his fathers drinking and abusive attitude towards his mother, a housewife. Matthew knew Elaine didn’t remember the fighting and breaking plates and slapping, so he wouldn’t ever tell her. He vowed that. Never once did Matthew want to see the reflection of fear in another woman’s eyes like his mother looked to his father. Then, he filled his shoes like father like son. He threw the glass before he knew it, and Elizabeth looked so [i so] scared.
[i “Let me in. Let me be the one to help you through dark times. You have already helped me so much and I want to return the favor. Talk to me when you feel lost, talk to me when you feel like the other option is to pick up a bottle of scotch.”]
He wasn’t sure he heard that right. She wanted to be there for him? She didn’t mind putting up with him and his broken self? Matthew wanted to pinch himself to see if he was dreaming, but the feel of her silky smooth skin on his hand made him realize he was fully awake. In that one period of time, Matthew finally felt at ease. It was as if a cool breeze swept over his body and took away all worry for a few seconds and left him floating on a cloud. He felt like he could change and live more worthily. He felt like he could care again and open up again.
[i He felt alive.]
He needed her more than he knew. More than they both knew. Before he was even thinking, Matthew’s light eyes trailed down her soft features to her plump bottom lip. Taking in a few breaths, Matthew knew he didn’t want to stop. He wanted to pull her in his arms right then and there, no matter who saw them or what happened. He wanted her to be as close to him as possible. So, he did.
With one swift movement, his hand closed in Elizabeth’s as he pulled her flush against his body but not hard enough to hurt her. He towered over her, but he didn’t mind. Then, he leaned his head down, bringing one large hand to tangle in her brown locks and guide her head. Before he kissed her, he nudged his nose against hers once and drank in her beauty from so close. Without saying much more, Matthew let his lips breathlessly speak his feelings. He passionately pressed his lips against hers, feeling the soft, irresistible skin of her mouth on his. It was like heaven. He’d kissed women before, but they didn’t really matter to him. Elizabeth was different. She was good. Oh, so good.
As their lips separated, Matthew’s chest rose in and out a little faster, leaving his hand tangled in her hair unless she were to rush away. It felt [i right] like no woman he had ever kissed before. Whispering against her lips in a soft but deep voice, he spoke, [b “Be my person then.”]
Elizabeth tried to ignore the quickening of her heart as her skin briefly grazed his when she took the locket from him, yet somehow it still felt as though they were touching even with the distance between them. She glanced down at the locket resting upon her chest, realising that he had made it to sit perfectly above her heart. She would make sure to insert a picture of her mother when she got the chance, knowing that she wouldn’t be around for much longer considering her deteriorating state. Every single day she seemed to get weaker, even though two weeks ago it appeared as though she was getting better but the doctors assured her that there was no coming back from her illness. She just wished that she could do something to alleviate her mother’s suffering.
Now she tried to put those thoughts out of her mind because Kyler was before her and seemingly ready to offer some sort of explanation about his attitude towards drinking. Perhaps she shouldn’t have asked him and let him get on with things since it was his business and his alone but she did care about him, even if she shouldn’t have. Elizabeth should have been able to detach herself from him after his behaviour that morning in his workshop but she could not deny that she thought about him regularly since they had been apart and she wanted nothing more than to find a way to be in his life, even if she didn’t quite understand why just yet. A part of her wondered if there was just something about her nature that wanted to help those who seemed in need much like she would help a wounded bird if she were to come across one, but in reality this was so much more than this. Elizabeth had been running from love for so long that she was yet to realise that it was about to catch up with her in the most unexpected way. Something that started out as a joke, a trick, would end in something far more serious and real.
She watched as he ran a hand through this hair and speak from the heart, recounting things that came across as genuine experiences and emotions. She listened to his story and her heart went out to his once more. She knew that he hardships and she was sad that he ended up making some choices that led him down a path of self destruction. Part of the problem here was that he had gained so much responsibility when he was clearly far too young to understand how to help himself or his sister.
[b “Let me in. Let me be the one to help you through your dark times. You have already helped me so much and I want to return the favour. Talk to me when you feel lost, talk to me when you feel like the other option is to pick up a bottle or scotch.”] She moved forward and took his hand. [b “I want to be that person for you.”]
Finally, she was reaching for it. Her soft fingertips brushed against his palm in featherlight kisses of his skin. As she fastened the necklace around her neck, it fell just perfectly over her heart. It looked even better on her than he’d imagined, partly because it was a gift he crafted for her that she now wore. No slaps yet. No yelling. No crying. He was doing good then. Elizabeth was unlike most women at this point in time, and her actions only solidified his opinion. She did not stick up her nose towards him as if she held an elite position over him that he could not manage to meet. When he offered her the apprenticeship, he had done it because he saw just how much passion she had for running a business as his. It was difficult for women to follow their dreams outside nursing and teaching and simple jobs as that. Elizabeth didn’t follow the tradition. She wanted more for her life, and it attracted Matthew to her further. She was worth the apology. He wasn’t even sure if he’d done the same thing to many other people. Surely he wouldn’t have just a few years ago, but she inspired him to be better in a way he didn’t understand yet.
He closed his fist and returned it to his side when Elizabeth spoke. His attention stayed on her. He granted her that. When she said something about him not being a bad person, he shook his head. He [i knew] he was a bad person. He didn’t believe in himself to be better, but she was standing there telling him that she [i did.] When she scolded him, he listened. Of course he would. She was right. He couldn’t walk around getting in fights and drinking and just hoping for everything to work out. He needed change. He needed someone to make him change.
Running his hand through his hair, Matthew finally spoke. [b “That’s an understatement. When my... when my parents died, I was young and Elaine even younger. I was all we had to survive, so I got into some things not always legal, but I worked for it. I guess alcohol got in the way somewhere down the road, and I became a miserable man like my father. I never cared though. That’s the point. I didn’t care about finding someone to make me better or going to see someone about what happened. I never let anyone help me.”]
Matthew was opening up to her in that moment more than anyone other than his sister. He was asking her in his own way for help and telling her he thought she could. He didn’t want to look weak in front of her, but he felt like he needed it off his chest. He needed someone to know. He needed to lift the tons of pressure off his chest, so he chose Elizabeth. Now it was up to her to react.
Elizabeth was an understanding woman at heart and a kindhearted one too. She didn’t judge people by their appearance or by their reputation but by their actions. When she had first laid eyes upon Kyler, she imagined that many people often judged him before truly getting to know him and so she took the time to learn things about him. It was true that at first it was all for the sake of a facade but after learning more about him, it made her realise just how misjudged he had been and she wanted to give him the chance to know kindness and that had been her intention from the offset.
She judged people by her actions but that didn’t mean she would judge him solely on the action he had shown her a few days ago. People were allowed to make mistakes and if he told her the truth, she would treat this as such; a mistake. However, she was also experienced with men who didn’t know how to apologise for their mistakes or even admit to them. That was what her father was like and she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were more men in the world like him but she did hold out hope that Kyler was different. That was when he started to talk again and it seemed like he was going to offer her an explanation and it would be a truthful one judging by his demeanour.
Elizabeth didn’t have siblings and she certainly didn’t have someone she felt protective over, not that she didn’t feel protective of Helen but she has found a perfect man for her and she was happy so there was a lot less for her to worry about and she supposed it was very different for Kyler knowing that he didn’t have parents around to take some of the responsibility of looking out for Elaine. He clearly felt like it was his job for make sure she found someone who was right for him and because he thought very highly of her. He wouldn’t accept her with just about anyone. She could understand that at the very least.
Elizabeth remained quiet while he continued with his explanation and she did feel something towards him. It wasn’t pity. That would be the last thing he wanted from her anyway but her heart did go out to him. When he finished talking she looked him over and glanced back down at the gift in his hand. [b “It really is beautiful.”] She said as she reached for it. Elizabeth didn’t need to contemplate him any longer because she could tell how sorry he was for the way he has acted. She placed the locket around her neck and smiled up at him.
[b “I do not believe you are a bad person Kyler. I never have and I never will. I did not like the way you behaved and I do not expect that to happen again.”] She said with a raised eyebrow, trying not to sound too much like she was scolding a child. [b “I knew you had been drinking. I thought perhaps the night before but I didn’t realise that you drank the way you say you do. Do you...have a problem? It is not my intention to offend you! I just want to understand you. If you just drink to help you along that is very different to drinking because you do not feel like you will be able to make it through the day without one.”]
She didn’t run. That was a good sign. She didn’t take one look at him and go running off the other direction. Her shoulders still looked rigid. Her whole demeanor wasn’t the same. Elizabeth wasn’t as open with him. Her light was diminishing. Was that all his fault? Damn he was more of a fool than he considered before. When she tightened her coat around her, Matthew just stood there. It was like she felt colder just being near him. Or maybe the act of pulling her coat tighter to her made her feel safer? He was sure that right then and there he blew his chance by showing up unannounced at her house. But there she went surprising him again. Elizabeth moved closer to him rather than away.
Yes, he still looked every bit intimidating, but he also looked softer with his hand outstretched to her like he was feeding a fragile animal and was afraid of scaring it off. Matthew didn’t dare move a muscle. He just let the wooden necklace sit there in his hand, enticing her to come forward. He hadn’t put any pictures inside just blank canvases for her to choose. The wood was handpicked and smoothed so there were no blemishes. It was stained in a dark color that would sit nicely against her skin and match her hair he’d hoped. Not only that, he’d cared an intricate E in the front of the locket and an S on the back. It would hang just over her heart.
Now she just had to take the bait. She didn’t grab it just yet, but she was close. Oh so close... Surely, she could see the general idea of what it was. When her eyes moved to his, he didn’t waver his ocean blue ones. They stayed on hers, attempting to prove that he’d never hurt her of his own will. [b “It is yours to hold and cherish as long as you wish. If you pop it open you may replace the photos inside with people you care about.”] He tried to explain the piece, but it was better seen than said.
He just kept his hand forward, eyes scanning the smaller woman before him. Then, a sigh escaped his lips and his other hand found its way through his long hair. [b “I did, Elizabeth... I do. That morning Elaine and I got in a fight about suitable men and love and she acted as if she were off to elope that night. She ran away, but I know that is no excuse. I’m not a perfect man Elizabeth. I’m not even a good man. Far from it to tell you the truth. You may not have seen it before, but I let my ugly side be known to you and I regret it. Life hasn’t always been easy for me. Actually, it never has. I guess that’s part of the reason Elaine wants me to find love so badly. Thing is... You are way too good for me. You walk in a room and people feel calm and safe. I walk in and everyone is on edge. You hardly ever drink except champagne at formal events, and I start before sunrise is over. But you never gave up on me, even if this whole thing is fake. You didn’t run. You didn’t shy away. Until I forced you out. So if you’ll accept this gift, I will continue your apprenticeship even to use the workshop in my absence.”]
There it was. A monologue of his best attempt. Now he was at her mercy even more than before. She may laugh at him or ignore the necklace and ridicule him. Really, he deserved it. He was willing to admit it too.
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