posted on 1-Jan-2002 1:18:51 PM
TITLE...Century
AUTHOR...duh...Polar lee
RATING...for a first...PG 13
CATEGORY...AU...BIG TIME! Um...Mi/L (duh!) I/K hints of T/Al
AUTHOR'S THANKS...Okay...I HAVE to thank Laura, Gaudy, Nikki and Spink for helping me out...especially Laura who has had the brunt of my annoyance of this stupid fic...So thanks to you lot...each of you helped me out with this story and I really needed it!! Oh and Spink who gave me confidence and BOINGed me!! TA!!
AUTHOR'S NOTES...okay, this took me a LONG LONG time to write, a lot of effort and a lot of grief. I don't know how I feel about it for the moment cause I just wanted to post it, but please, PLEASE, be kind and tell me what you thought...it was give me a happy...and COME ON IT'S CHRISTMAS (kinda! lol)

Okay guys...here it is...I hope you like it...lee xx


The day was New Year’s Eve 1899, and walking through the snow-covered, bustling cobbled streets of the town, one could only hear about the annual Parker party, held to celebrate the beginning of the new year.

The Parker parties were thoroughly entertaining, and talk of it had started in September, and would not stop until April the following year. To say that people had expectations of the Parkers and their parties was an understatement, but the Parkers never failed at rising to the high expectations of their peers. The majority of the talk was about Geoff Parker’s youngest child, and only daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was thought very highly of, and most of the people of the town had come to think of her as one of their own, and thus wanted to see her happily married. However, her protective elder brother and her equally protective father had seen to all her possible wooers, and she remained alone. However, there had recently been rumour that a man had won her heart, and many of the people were hoping that the mystery man would make an appearance at the evening’s festivities.

No one knew who this man was. There were only five men allowed close to Elizabeth in her home, Geoff and her brother Maxwell, Alex the House master (?!), Kyle Valenti, a childhood friend, and Michael Guerin. Geoff Parker was a powerful businessman who owned much land throughout England and on the Channel Islands, and Michael Guerin was Geoff’s most trusted colleague. Despite his young age, Geoff wanted Michael to become a partner with his son Maxwell once he retired. Indeed, Geoff thought of Michael as a son, and wanted only the best for the promising young man.

Michael Guerin, and his sister Isabelle’s family were one of the richest families of all the land and thus had no obligation to work. However, Michael had not wanted to be idle all his life and so sought out work regardless. He had gone to Geoff, and Geoff, liking this young boy’s attitude, had taken Michael under his wing to teach him the trade, and watched the young boy turn into a man. Geoff had seen the rude, emotionally challenged boy that Michael had been, grow into a handsome, polite, successful young man, and thought of him as highly as his own son, Maxwell.

Due to the close relations of the two families, Isabelle had soon been introduced to Elizabeth, and because they were involved in the same upper class society, had seen each other at parties and social gatherings and had soon become close. When they were old enough they had decided to help the people of the town who were less privileged than they themselves, which is the reason behind Elizabeth’s popularity. Isabelle had married at seventeen to Elizabeth’s childhood friend, Kyle Valenti, a soldier, and thus had stopped in her and Elizabeth’s good deeds.

Elizabeth, however, had carried on alone, sometimes accompanied by her brother Maxwell, her maid Tess, or Isabelle, Kyle or Michael, but mostly on her own, and was always kind and thoughtful, and never without a smile on her face. People knew of her mother’s death when she was seven and so the women gave her advice on female problems, while the men looked out for her. But she was known by everyone, and loved by everyone.





A long way away from the hustle and bustle of the town’s streets, Elizabeth Parker was slowly arousing from her night’s sleep, waking up to the peacefulness that the surrounding lands blessed her with. Yawning, she stretched before rolling onto her side to face the windows that gave her a stunning scene of her father’s gardens. The vast lands were draped in snow, glistening in the early morning sunlight and making the scene romantic, like something out of a fairytale.

She didn’t bother turning her head when the soft click from her door was heard, but instead merely groaned. “Tess…give me a while longer please?” She whined, not wanting to get out of bed just yet. She turned on her front and dropped her head onto the pillow when ‘Tess’ didn’t reply. “Tess…” Liz moaned, but it was muffled because her face was buried in her pillow. Liz felt the dip of someone sitting on her bed to her side and then gasped when a finger trailed down her spine. She sat up straight, only to find herself looking into the amused eyes of one Michael Guerin.

She gasped again, her cheeks turning a bright pink as she pulled the covers over herself to hide her barely covered body. “Sir! What is the meaning of this?” She hissed quietly, dipping her head in embarrassment, but also to hide the smile that came to her lips as always when she was faced with her persistent wooer. “Oh Elizabeth…must we be so modest in private?” Michael asked gently, trailing a finger down her cheek and lower. Elizabeth slapped his hand away with a frown. “Really Michael, this is too forward. What if my father, or god forbid, my brother, sees you?” Michael sighed, for the first time looking away from Elizabeth to gaze out of the window.

“You know that I don’t obey the rules Elizabeth, and methinks that fact is part of the attraction is it not?” Michael replied, his gaze returning to Elizabeth’s flushed face. Elizabeth noted the smirk that graced Michael’s lips and rolled her eyes before smiling slightly. “Well, that might have been part of the attraction, but it won’t do me any good to be banned from seeing you.” Michael noted Elizabeth’s will crumbling, and smiled broadly, raising himself to kneel on her bed, looming over her form. Elizabeth had to look up to meet his eyes and couldn’t resist stroking his cheek. “How do you override my better judgement so easily?” she asked him softly, her eyes coming to rest on his plump lips. Michael chuckled slightly, “You think that this is not against my own better judgement. Your father’s opinion is extremely important to me, as is my job, and I don’t doubt that if he found me here in your bed chambers I would lose that job, as well as be forbidden from seeing you.” Michael cupped Elizabeth’s own cheek as he concentrated on memorising her beauty. “And believe me, that would be the death of me, my sweet,” he whispered passionately.

“Well then we must make this risk worth your while,” Elizabeth whispered, while pulling Michael down on top of her and kissing him gently all over his face before engaging his lips in a hot kiss, portraying the emotions that they dared not say out loud. “Oh Beth!” Michael groaned quietly, pulling away from the kiss and rolling them over so that Elizabeth was lying on top of him. “You are so beautiful,” He whispered, stroking her hair back off her face. Elizabeth smiled softly; looking down at the man she loved lying beneath her before bending down to kiss him softly, sucking at his bottom lip gently. She then lay back down on his chest and turned to look out of the window again, this time with Michael’s strong arms protecting her and keeping her warm.

The comfortable silence within Elizabeth’s room was disturbed a short while later by Elizabeth’s maid, Tess, coming in the room and shutting the door behind her before turning around and gasping in shock. “Oh uh, sorry milady!” She mumbled, turning a bright pink and averting her gaze. “Would you like me to come back shortly?” She asked hiding her smile in her hands even though neither Michael nor Liz could see anything of her except her back. Michael chuckled at the girl’s obvious embarrassment and sighed, looking into Elizabeth’s eyes. “Well my visit appears to have been cut short love.” Michael spoke softly to Elizabeth while sitting up and pulling Elizabeth with him. Elizabeth smiled as he stood and pulled her up to standing. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she leaned up to whisper in his ear, “Our parting will not be for long my sir. We will meet at breakfast.”

Michael looked down at Elizabeth’s fresh face and smiled. “You are an angel Beth, my angel!” Elizabeth smiled but upon hearing Tess’s cough, tore herself away from Michael. “Well kind sir, I will see you at breakfast.” Michael gave Tess a smirk as she turned, before turning back to Elizabeth. “I look forward to dining with you.” He said loudly. Elizabeth smiled, taking his hand in hers and walking her to the door. “Heat some water up for me will you?” She asked Tess, who smirked before walking into Elizabeth’s adjoining bathroom as Michael groaned. “How I would love to watch you bathe,” He growled, nipping at her ear. “Elizabeth smiled but ignored his words. “Why are you here so early?” She asked, having been bothered by the question since he had arrived. Michael smiled but shook his head. “You will find out shortly my sweet,” was his only comment before he opened the door, gave a quick glance around, and vanished after a quick peck on Elizabeth’s lips, leaving Elizabeth standing at her door smiling and blushing at her unorthodox morning visit.

**********************************
“Well Elizabeth, and how was your night’s rest?”

Geoff, Maxwell, Elizabeth and Michael were all sitting at the Parker’s breakfast table; Max and Geoff at each end with Michael and Elizabeth sitting opposite each other in the middle. Michael caught Elizabeth’s eye and smirked when she flushed slightly and looked away. “Why father it was very restful, thank you.” She glanced at Michael quickly, catching his eyes before turning away, “And I had such a nice view this morning!” She paused for long enough for Michael to get the underlying message before continuing, “The sunrise over the snowy lands was magnificent…it simply took my breath away!” Michael coughed while Geoff smiled in ignorance, and Maxwell sent Elizabeth a knowing look to which she returned with her own look of innocence.

“So Michael, without meaning to be rude, but what is requiring you to join us for breakfast on such a busy day?” Elizabeth inquired over the table to the man who was watching her intently. Michael was about to reply when Geoff beat him to it. “Elizabeth!” He scolded. “Michael is free to join us whenever he pleases. Remember that, and be courteous please!” Michael smirked at Elizabeth before hiding it by taking a sip of water when she frowned at him. “I did not mean to be bold, it’s just that I assumed that Michael was here because of business, and,” Elizabeth stopped then to breathe and look at her father desperately, “it’s the holidays daddy, you should be resting for this evening’s entertainment, not having meetings at such early hours.” Michael and Geoff shared a concerned look at Elizabeth’s outburst before Michael cleared his throat. “Actually Beth,” He said, letting the endearment slip out naturally, “I am meeting your father on personal matters, nothing to do with business.” He then lightened his tone to lift the atmosphere. “Then he is free to do as you please…he won’t be working at all today!” Elizabeth looked sceptically at her father but relaxed when she saw the honest smile and nod of his shoulders.

“Okay,” She relented grudgingly. “I just don’t want you to overwork yourself daddy. Max and Michael are here to do the overworking for you!” Geoff smiled and reached to take his daughter’s hand in his. “Don’t worry baby,” He said kindly, “With you around, I could never overwork myself…you look after me too much to do so!” Elizabeth smiled at her father before they returned to their meal. “So,” Maxwell spoke up, “What are the plans today Lizzie?” Elizabeth looked at her brother and smiled, knowing that Maxwell knew that she would need his help. “Well after breakfast we should do a round of the preparations to make sure everything is up to standard. By the time that is finished, we should have time for a late lunch before we have to get ready.” She replied with a smile to Maxwell and a wink to Michael. Michael smirked, thinking that if he had his way tonight would be a more momentous occasion than Elizabeth was aware.
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“So Lizzie, what is going on between you and Michael?”

Maxwell and Elizabeth were taking a walk in the gardens making sure the fireworks and decorations were set up properly. They had full trust in their servants work, especially with Alex in charge of them all, but their natures as perfectionists didn’t allow room for mistakes. The servers took these last checks with ease, seeing them as a chance to chat to their master’s delightful children.

Elizabeth looked out over their gardens with a secretive smile which made Maxwell’s curiosity expand, and he dragged her over to a bench, pulling her down to sit next to him and turning her face to his. “You like him don’t you!” Maxwell exclaimed in shock. Elizabeth immediately clapped her hand over his mouth. “Would you be quiet!?” She hissed at her brother. Noticing the twinkle in his eyes, she took her hand away from his mouth noting his small smile and sighing in relief that her brother didn’t mind. None of her previous wooers had got past Max, not that she minded because she was always interested in one person, but now that one person was her wooer she wanted Max to be happy for her. “So, how long has this been going on for?” Maxwell asked slyly making Elizabeth roll her eyes in shock and mock annoyance. “Don’t make it out to be a dirty love affair Max!” She exclaimed before taking her brother’s hands into her own. “I really like him Max. I’ve never felt this way before…in all honesty, it petrifies me!”

Maxwell looked at her in sympathy and love. Wrapping one arm around her shoulders he drew her near to embrace her. “Oh Lizzie,” he sighed. “If only you saw how he looks at you when you aren’t aware he’s watching. You would see how much he cares, and your fears would be banished for eternity.” Elizabeth raised her head and smiled at her brother. “Do you mind?” She asked him hesitantly, letting out a breath when he shook his head. “Liz, my sweet, Michael is my best friend and I am proud of that such fact. If you like him as much as he seems to like you, then I am happy for you. That’s all I want, for you to be happy.”

Maxwell sighed before continuing. “When mother (god rest her soul) died, Father and I were greatly concerned for you. We made a pact then that you would always be our first priority and that your happiness and well-being would be our main concern. That is why I never approved of the other men…because they didn’t make you smile or create that certain twinkle in your eyes.” Maxwell ducked his head. “I may be somewhat of a romantic, but I believe in true love… and those other men were not it.”

Maxwell smiled gently before standing and drawing Elizabeth to her feet before continuing. “And if Michael is your true love, then who am I to stand in the way. Although if he hurts you I will not hesitate in requesting his appearance in a duel!” Elizabeth giggled, resting her head against Max’s as they began walking back to the house. “I love you Max,” she whispered. “I love you to sweet Elizabeth,” Maxwell returned, kissing her temple softly as they continued on to witness the preparations in the kitchen.
***********************

posted on 1-Jan-2002 1:21:41 PM
While Maxwell and Elizabeth were conversing in the garden, Michael and Geoff were in Geoff’s office. “So Michael, what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?” Michael sighed and sat down, taking Geoff’s letter opener in his hands and fiddling with it. Geoff noted Michael’s nervousness and tried to calm the boy he considered a son. “Michael stop.” He commanded, gaining Michael’s attention as he put his plaything back down on the desk. “Michael, there is no need to be worried, you are with a friend…just tell me what is going on in that, somewhat complex, head of yours.” Michael smiled at Geoff before taking in a deep breath and letting it out.

“It concerns your daughter sir.” Michael said hesitantly. “Okay…continue,” Geoff replied, having an idea where this was heading. “I, um, well I’m in love with her sir,” Michael finally admitted. Geoff hid his smile. “And what are your intentions with Elizabeth? You know that both Maxwell and I will not see her messed about with…you understand this yes?” Michael nodded. “Yes…which is why,” He took yet another deep breath to calm his nerves, knowing that Geoff’s reply to this next comment would either make him the happiest man in the world, or the saddest. “I’m asking for your permission to take your daughter’s hand in marriage…I'm asking for your approval sir.” Geoff was impressed with the boldness and confidence Michael had just said his last sentence with, and let the huge smile he had been restraining spread across his face.

Michael watched Geoff’s face carefully for his reaction and didn’t know how to take the smile that was now plastered on Geoff’s face. “Nothing, Michael, nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing you as my daughter’s husband. It is obvious that she loves you in return, and I wish you all the happiness.” Michael let out a shaky breath that he had been holding and let his head fall back for a moment before sitting up smiling. “Thank you so much Geoff!” Michael said, reverting to his typical informality with his master, and future father-in-law (If Liz accepted). Geoff stood and took Michael in a manly embrace, patting the younger man on the back.

“All I ask of you is that you treat her well and with the respect that she deserves. She has not had the happiest life, and I want you to continue Max’s and my job of keeping her as happy as possible.” Michael nodded seriously. “That I will. If she says yes then I will spend every waking moment trying my hardest to make her the happiest girl in the world!” Geoff nodded his head, knowing that the boy was telling him the truth, and smiled knowing that he would stay true to his word, and that Elizabeth would indeed be happy. They sat down to go through the details, Michael so happy that he thought he would weep for joy.
****************************
Maxwell and Elizabeth were on the way to the dining room for lunch when Michael came running up to them. Maxwell saw the change in his sister’s face and smiled at the man that had made his pride and joy, his baby sister, this happy. Maxwell nodded his head in greeting and immediately noticed how jovial Michael was, and had to ask what had made his friend so happy. “Michael, my friend, what has happened to you, that is causing such happiness?” Michael grinned at Maxwell but shook his head. “I’m afraid I cannot explain for the moment, but you will find out in the not so distant future.” Elizabeth looked at him quizzically but he just shook his head, his eyes twinkling in amusement, and she had to smile. “Have you ever seen Michael so secretive Max?” She asked her brother smiling at Michael to know that she was teasing. Maxwell shook his head. “I indeed have not,”

Michael’s grin did not waver, “Well there’s a first time for everything and I will not weaken, I just wanted to say farewell until this evening.” Maxwell noticed the look between Michael and Elizabeth and knew they wanted to be alone. “Well Elizabeth, why don’t you walk him to his horse…it’s only polite.” Elizabeth ducked her head in acquiescence while Michael smiled and bid farewell to Maxwell before taking Elizabeth’s arm to walk the opposite way. Maxwell watched their retreating figures, chuckling to himself when he could hear Elizabeth pestering Michael about why he was in such a good mood, while Michael continued to avoid answering.
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Elizabeth had just got to her door after lunch to prepare for the evening when her father knocked on her door before opening it. “Lizzie, I forgot to mention at lunch…Tess is also invited this evening, as is Alex. Max is preparing Alex’s dress, could you find something for Tess to wear?” He smiled then at Tess who was gaping at him regardless of custom, and chuckled. “Well you and Alex are two of Lizzie’s closest friends, and good workers. You deserve to have a night of fun!” Elizabeth snapped out of her surprise and squealed, before wrapping her father in a fierce embrace. “Thank you so much daddy!” She exclaimed, grinning madly. Her father left then and she and Tess began squealing, jumping up and down with joy, before Elizabeth suddenly rushed for her wardrobe, “I have exactly what you should wear!” She said over her shoulder. Finally she found it and brought it out to show Tess, who gasped at the beauty of the dress, before taking Elizabeth in an embrace.
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“This is my first ball.” Tess said quietly while sitting at Elizabeth’s vanity watching as Elizabeth brushed her curly blonde hair through. Elizabeth smiled at Tess’s reflection in the mirror. “Are you nervous?” She asked smiling gently as Tess nodded her head slowly. “Don’t worry about the ball. It is so much fun, and we will be there together. And you know Max and Alex, and Michael and Isabelle will be there. We will all be together to enjoy ourselves.” Tess smiled at Elizabeth’s reflection gratefully, “Thank you so much!” She breathed, as Elizabeth put the final touches on Tess’s hair: a silver chain of sapphires to contrast her blonde hair and to match her deep blue dress.

“No need Tess. This is going to make my evening perfect having you and Alex there with me. We are friends first Tess, no matter our circumstances, and tonight people won’t see you as my maid, but as Tess my cousin!! Elizabeth giggled then, her eyes glinting mischievously and Tess could not help but to join her as they swapped positions on the vanity so Tess could fix Elizabeth’s hair, before they put their make up and dresses on.

Elizabeth was buttoning up Tess’s dress when they heard the first carriages arriving. Tess’s body stiffened suddenly in fright but Elizabeth merely smiled and turned to face Tess to look in her eyes. “There is no need to be frightened.” She assured the younger girl. Elizabeth looked at Tess critically and smiled in appreciation and awe. “You look beautiful Tess…stunning! You are going to be the talk of the party!” Tess smiled at Elizabeth nervously, but allowed herself to be dragged to the mirror regardless. What she saw astounded her. Next to the giggly Elizabeth stood a beautiful noble woman. Her hair was half up, half down and Liz had straightened it, making it look much more controllable and neat than her normal messy curls.

The dress amazed her the most though. It was dark blue velvet with a relatively low cut front, but still dignified; a corseted waist and an A-line skirt that went straight down to the floor. The sleeves of the dress were tight to her wrist where they flared slightly down to her knuckles. To top the outfit off, she wore a sapphire necklace and chains in her hair, and natural make up making the blueness of her eyes stand out. She couldn’t believe that the reflection showed her, and turned to Elizabeth with eyes full of tears.

“Nooo!” Elizabeth said chuckling. “No tears Tess…you look beautiful, don’t spoil the look by making your mascara run!” Tess giggled softly and turned again to the mirror. Elizabeth smiled at Tess in her reflection and then looked to herself. She was wearing a satin dress of deep red. Like Tess’s dress, the front was scooped, and was slightly off the shoulders, with a tight corset revealing her small waist, and a skirt made of numerous layers of material that flowed when she moved, down to the floor. Her sleeves were loose and made of chiffon giving her a fairy-like look. Her nails were red to match, and she wore a ruby necklace and earrings. Her hair was flowing down her back and shoulders in big ringlets and she had natural make up except for deep blood red lips that suited her dark hair and eyes. They met eyes in the mirror and smiled.
*********************************
Downstairs the party was in full swing. Michael was trying to carry a conversation with Alex but kept on getting interrupted by people that he was acquainted with due to Geoff and his business. Alex found it amusing how Michael would be so polite and charming to the numerous people’s faces but as soon as they turned their backs Michael just rolled his eyes and continued. When Alex finally questioned him on it Michael smirked and rolled his eyes. “They aren’t my friends, why should I talk to them and make time out for them? In business yes, but I hate this small talking shit! You’re my friend…I want to have a conversation with you…not these pieces of lint that have nothing interesting to say to me anyway.” Alex chuckled, earning a smile from Michael, but that soon vanished when Isabelle turned up by his side with Maria Deluca.

Isabelle mouthed an apology to Michael when he gave her a glare and shrugged. She couldn’t have done anything else, Maria had been talking her ear off for the previous ten minutes about her good-looking brother, and so she just wanted her out the way with, even if it was through handing her over to her brother.

She just wanted Elizabeth to arrive. Kyle, her husband, had been whisked off almost immediately by his father, and she disliked Maria strongly, but there was no one else to talk to. She didn’t really want to talk male things with Alex and Michael, but decided that if Michael had Maria on his hands then she could talk to Alex.

“So,” She began as she sidled up to Alex. “What do you think of this so far?” Alex smiled at Isabelle good-naturedly. “Honestly? It terrifies me. I’m out of place here, and I don’t like that feeling.” Isabelle placed a hand on his arm. “You certainly don’t look out of place, you look incredible. No one would know any difference.” Alex smiled at her but shook his head. “Regardless; I feel it, I know it.” Isabelle refused to let this get to him, and so smiled and took his hand. “Well maybe that is because you haven’t danced yet. Come on…It’s so fun!” “But, I can’t dance!” Isabelle laughed. “Neither can Kyle, but it’s easy, I’ll show you!” Alex finally allowed him to be pulled into the adjoining hall where the dancing was held, with a chuckle and a nod to Michael.

Michael noticed Isabelle and Alex go past him and gave Alex a desperate glance, but was just replied with an apologetic smile. “So…” Maria leered, looking away and then back at him coyly. “Would you like to dance?” Michael stiffened as Maria stroked his arm and took her hand and placed it by her side. “Not really, no.” He replied, looking around for an escape route. Maria frowned, and answered, “It’s not like you are with anyone Michael…I like you, I’m a beautiful lady, why not?” Michael looked at Maria in surprise. “I cannot believe you are being so forward! Your behaviour is quite unnatural, and very degrading. Besides, I am very sorry, but my interests lie elsewhere.” Maria gasped at the words that were being spoken and was about to reply when a hush went through the crowd, signalling the entrance of the Parker family.

Isabelle, Kyle and Alex joined the two to watch the family enter down the stairs. Maxwell and Tess appeared first, followed by Geoff and Elizabeth. Isabelle and Kyle glanced at Michael who was transfixed by Elizabeth’s beauty. Isabelle then looked to Alex to share the amusement but noticed that he was watching Tess closely, making Isabelle smile and share a look with her husband. Geoff, Maxwell and Elizabeth then had to mingle with the guests together, as did Tess so as to pose as Elizabeth’s cousin. Elizabeth wanted Tess to get the complete idea of a party, and as she watched Tess’s face when greeting the guests, she saw how Tess enjoyed herself, and was happy.

The Parker group got to the small group of friends and Geoff greeted both Maria and Isabelle with a kiss to the cheek, as did Max and Elizabeth, before shaking hands with Alex and Michael. Elizabeth kissed the cheek of Alex first whispering, “You look wonderful,” in his ear, before facing Michael. Maxwell, Tess, Isabelle and Geoff were all interested in this greeting and turned towards them, trying to be subtle. Michael and Elizabeth didn’t notice however, as they were in their own world. Elizabeth snapped out of the abyss that Michael’s pale transfixing eyes were lulling her into and slowly reached up to kiss him on his cheek, as was custom. She was intently aware of his body: could feel his body heat merging with her own, his breath against her neck, and his hand that was resting lightly on her waist.

“You look beautiful,” he whispered, and she couldn’t help but shiver at his husky voice. Closing her eyes gain control she replied, “and you, you look incredible Michael, so handsome,” before resting her cheek against his own and placing a kiss to it, and pulling back reluctantly. “Thanks for coming,” she said lamely, refusing to look him in his eyes, and blushing a slight pink. Michael smiled at Geoff who nodded his head. Gently he cupped her cheek raising her head to meet his gaze. He leaned in as if to kiss her on her cheek and noted that the closer he got the tenser she became in anticipation. “You look so adorable when you blush, Beth” he whispered, before gently pressing his lips against her cheek in a drawn out kiss.

Isabelle and Tess grinned at each other while Maria saw this exchange and narrowed her eyes. “Come on Elizabeth, you can talk to Michael and the others more later,” Geoff said, giving Michael a wink while nodding to Maxwell who took Elizabeth’s arm in his and continued on to the next guests. They continued the rounds of the guests, but Elizabeth wasn’t so interested anymore, and instead kept her gaze locked with Michael’s for most of the time, their eyes sharing a silent conversation, while Maria unsuccessfully tried to draw Michael’s attention towards her. Michael barely listened to Maria’s constant chatter, and finally she left him, so he was free to make his focus Elizabeth, watching as she spoke to Tess, smiling slightly and dipping her head in amusement.

Finally, Tess, Elizabeth and Maxwell walked over to their group again and Elizabeth, Tess and Isabelle immediately started conversing in girlish whispers and giggles. Michael rolled his eyes at Alex and Maxwell and interrupted the girls’ conversation. “If I might be so rude…would you mind if you excused Elizabeth to dance with me?” Isabelle and Tess smiled and nodded their head’s in acquiescence while Elizabeth smiled. “Tess, may I have this dance?” Maxwell asked, bowing slightly, and making Tess laugh. “Why of course kind sir!” She replied cheerfully. Alex turned to Isabelle, “Isabelle, care to get your feet trodden on?” Isabelle smiled and nodded her head. “As long as they are your feet Alex, then lead on!” The three couples then retreated into the adjoining ballroom, Michael and Elizabeth sneaking glances to each other the entire time.

The group stopped at the edge of the dance floor to wait for the music to stop, signalling the end of that particular dance. Elizabeth stood leaning onto Michael’s shoulder, their hands intertwined between them, and watched the guests waltz by her. She didn’t notice the interest that she and Michael were receiving, and didn’t hear the hushed whispers of how sweet they looked together. All she was thinking of was Michael, the way he felt next to her, and the way he would feel next to her for all eternity. Tess and Isabelle watched the couple happily. Isabelle knew her brother was in love with Elizabeth, and knew that something was going to happen that evening, while Tess had witnessed their hushed meetings and now that they were in public watched with interest the subtle ways they showed that they cared about each other.

The music finally stopped and the couples got into position. The band started a sexy blues and Michael grinned, amused with his luck. As they began to dance Michael pulled Elizabeth closer to him, gently pulling her head to his chest until she was resting her head on his shoulders, and had one arm wrapped around his shoulder while the other was intertwined with his by their sides in a casual dancing position that still held the formalities. That is until Michael’s hand wandered lower…

“Michael!” Elizabeth hissed, immediately pulling his hand up from where it had got to and putting it back on her waist. “Would you please stick to the rules?” Michael rolled his eyes, but held her close. “You know I don’t follow the rules Beth, just go with it, I’m sure you would enjoy it.” Elizabeth closed her eyes as he lowered his head to her neck and kissed it lightly there. “I’m sure I would too, but not when we are attending my father’s own party, what would he say?” Michael looked around to find Geoff, and was amused when he saw him grinning madly in their direction. “Take a look for yourself sweeting,” he murmured in her ear, before twisting her out in his arms and back in again so that she could see her father’s expression.

Elizabeth wasn’t sure what was happening. Michael was being the most forward with her than ever before in public, and her father wasn’t protesting although it was unorthodox. “What is going on Michael?” She whispered, stopping her dancing to lean up and whisper the question in his ear. Michael sighed and stopped his movements to look into her eyes. Elizabeth noted a kind of conflict in his eyes and then they flicked past her shoulder and he nodded slightly, making her even more confused.

Michael didn’t know what to do. Now was the time, but he didn’t want the confrontation of their feelings just yet because he was worried about Elizabeth’s reaction. Finally he looked over her to Geoff and saw his concerned frown and nodded, pulling Elizabeth out of the room and out onto the balcony, immediately taking off his jacket for her as it was so cold. Then he was at a loss of what to do. They stood there in silence for a few minutes until Elizabeth couldn’t take the silence any longer. She slipped her arms in his jacket sleeves and then walked determinedly up to Michael, placing her hands on either side of his face, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him long and hard.

“Wha…what was that for?” Michael exclaimed when Elizabeth let him out of her grip. “A conversation starter?” Elizabeth suggested nervously before sighing. “Look Michael, there’s obviously something on your mind and it concerns me. Just talk to me about it.” Michael sighed and took Elizabeth’s face in his hands, leaning his forehead against hers to soothe himself. Elizabeth seemed to read his mind because a moment later he felt the pads of her thumbs rubbing his neck soothingly. He took a deep breath and led her to a bench nearby, pushing her down to sit and kneeling down in front of her. Taking her hands in his own, he brought them up to his lips to try and calm his nerves by somehow touching her.

“What are your feelings towards me?” Michael spoke so suddenly that Elizabeth didn’t understand the words at first and it took her a few moments to answer. “Truth?” She asked. “Yes Beth, truth.” Elizabeth sighed, releasing one of her hands and cupping Michael’s cheek with it, stroking her fingertips over his skin lightly while looking into his eyes, collecting her thoughts.

“Before you there was nothing. And after you there will be nothing. That’s how I feel like Michael, like you are the centre of my universe. And my god Michael, it terrifies me and excites me at the same time. When I wake up in the morning I think of you,” She paused then to smile, “And I sometimes see you,” She continued, smirking, “and I dream of you and I fantasise about you, and I imagine my life with you, and I do all of these things because I feel more strongly about you than anyone ever before. These feelings that I have overwhelm me, but I embrace that Michael…I want to drown in them, because they are of you. It’s almost like I am a masochist…I want this confusion and bewilderment, because it makes my feelings real…” Her voice then dropped to a whisper, “Michael, it makes the love I hold for you real…I love you Michael…so so much!”

Michael didn’t think about his actions, but immediately crushed his angel to his chest whispering endearments and words of love to her. Elizabeth let him embrace her, glad to know that her admission was received in this way. However, after a few minutes, the limited air supply began to get to Elizabeth, and she pushed him slightly. Immediately, he stood up to sit down next to her, drawing her into his lap to hold her close. “I love you too my sweet. So much that I feel like I might implode with the feelings,” Michael muttered huskily, his head dropping onto one of her shoulders, inhaling her scent. “Which is why I want to ask you…and before you say anything, your father has accepted my offer; if you would be my love forever… my mate, my best friend, my lover…”

Elizabeth Parker, would you accept me to be your husband? Will you live with me by my side for eternity? Love me and my faults forever? Beth, my sweet, will you marry me?”

Elizabeth looked into Michael’s eyes and saw the truth and love and fear in his tear filled eyes and knew. She knew that she could and would love Michael Guerin for the rest of their lives, and nodded her head slowly. “Yes Michael, I will.” Michael looked at Elizabeth as if he didn’t understand. “R…Really?” He stuttered. Elizabeth smiled. “How could I not?” She breathed before taking his face in hers and kissing him, signalling the end of the discussion.
*********************************

posted on 1-Jan-2002 1:22:49 PM
Michael and Elizabeth walked back into the room, arms wrapped around each other. Elizabeth still had Michael’s jacket on and had one arm wrapped around Michael’s waist while the other was clutching Michael’s hand around her shoulder. Michael’s other arm was deep in his trouser pocket, and they were both smiling joyously. They went straight to Elizabeth and Michael’s father’s who were standing together with Maxwell and told them the news. All that could be seen was the father’s grins while Michael and Elizabeth hugged each of the three men.

Isabelle, Kyle, Tess and Alex immediately gravitated towards the group and a small celebration was heard, before Geoff got onto the main stage and called out silence. “I am overwhelmed at the moment so bare with me. We have ten minutes until the new century arrives but first we have just received news that has made me oh so very happy!” Wiping his eyes he continued. “My daughter, Elizabeth Parker, and Michael Guerin are betrothed to be married.” Kyle and Maxwell began cheering as Geoff beckoned Elizabeth and Michael onto the stage. The applause was deafening until Geoff gestured for silence once more.

“I just want to say a few words before we celebrate the dawning of the New Year. When my beloved died I feared for my daughter, scared that she wouldn’t have a balanced upbringing. One’s daughter is always a treasure one wants to keep locked away, but I didn’t want her to feel like she had missed out when she so obviously had. Both Maxwell and myself kept her protected, not wanting her to suffer or get hurt. Due to her brother’s successful intimidation, not many people entered into my daughter’s life, but they were the best! Alex and Tess who are like siblings to Elizabeth; Isabelle and Kyle, close friends; and Michael…” Geoff turned to Elizabeth and smiled a watery smile. “As I look at her now, about to get married, I can’t help but feel proud with her and myself, because I must be proud at what a wonderful, beautiful young girl she has become.”

Then his gaze shifted to Michael. “And what can I say about Michael? He is perfect for my daughter as they balance each other out perfectly. I also have seen Michael grow up, and I have been proud of him like a father is. He is a splendid young man that I announce as a joint partner with my son Maxwell when I retire. I could not hope for a better son in law; I am so pleased that they found each other, and when I see the sparkle in each other’s eyes, I see true love, the love that does not die or fade like the wind.”

“So I wish them all the luck and love that I possess within me for their future. God bless!” Michael and Elizabeth smiled at each other upon hearing a chorus of “God bless” from the audience. They thanked her father and joined their friends, kissing and hugging for the few minutes that Geoff talked about the past year and the future. Finally it was the countdown, and everyone shouted out the numbers together…

10
Isabelle and Kyle clasped hands, smiling at each other and kissing each other softly.
9
Elizabeth clasped hands with Tess while Michael pulled her into his side.
8
Tess held Alex’s hand and grinned at him, in awe of the surrounding chaos.
7
Alex took Isabelle’s hand and she whispered to him to look up.
6
Maxwell took Michael’s hand and Kyle’s hand, smiling at the group
5
Tess and Alex looked round in awe as they were surrounded by people joining hands and coming together
4
“Say farewell to the nineteenth century everyone” Maxwell yelled.
3
“And greet the twentieth with joy!” Geoff said, as the room was now silent.
2
“Treat everyone with the kindness and respect that they deserve!” Elizabeth shouted.
1
“I love you Michael,” Elizabeth whispered, “I love you too Beth,” Michael returned, kissing her forehead.

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

The pearly balloons drifted down onto the ballroom like snow, a peaceful aspect of the overly chaotic scene. Everyone went around each other kissing and hugging and cheering, except for a small group of seven in the middle, who were hugging and kissing only the people in their group.

“The fireworks,” Maxwell whispered to Elizabeth, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the balcony. The others quickly followed and were met with a beautiful site that lit up the dark sky with many dazzling colours.

Michael watched Elizabeth’s features as the light danced off her face and felt like he was flying in the sky in happiness. He realised that everything he had dreamed for had come true in this one evening and silently thanked God.

Elizabeth turned to Michael and smiled as he looked down at her lovingly. Smirking, he bent down to kiss her gently on the lips before pulling away slightly and trailing kisses to her ear. “You have made me the luckiest man tonight my sweet and I can’t wait to thank you. I love you Elizabeth, with all that I have.” Elizabeth heard his words and smiled leaning back to look into his eyes once more. “I am the lucky one Michael,” She whispered against his lips before kissing him passionately.

Pulling back when they were out of breath, Elizabeth smiled, trailing his cheek with a fingertip. “I will never stop loving you Michael Guerin, never!” She quietly exclaimed, and made a silent vow to keep that promise. “I know my sweet, I know,” Michael whispered, pulling her into his embrace as they continued to watch the fireworks, secure in their love, and with their loved ones all around knowing that this was the start of something majestic and wonderful.

THE END