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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Under the Weather

Hello, everyone. As I am feeling under the weather this week and can't come up with anything witty or brilliant for you to read today - or maybe even coherent, darn head cold/allergy/whatever you are - I am going to post a snippet of my entry, The Jane Austen Society Pages, for you to read. Also, I open the floor to you to speculate on what you think may - or should - happen with Athena and Gabriel. Thanks, Margay.

Had he really said that to her? Gabriel chastised himself the moment the words left his mouth. “I feel as if I know you from somewhere.” Despite the fact that it was true, that he did sense something familiar about her, he couldn’t have sounded more trite if he’d asked her what her sun sign was. Or if she came there often Or why not, what’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this? He was the cliché he warned his students about. I feel as if I know you from somewhere, indeed. What a fool, what an utter fool. And it was clear from her reaction that she felt the same way for she laughed at him. Granted, it had a nervous edge to it, but it was a laugh just the same, and if he had any sense at all, he would turn around now and retreat to the bar to wait for his colleague.
But of course he didn’t. No, he just stood there like an idiot, waiting for her laughter to subside so he could – What? Encourage more by trying to cover up his gaffe? Or worse, offer an explanation for his statement? Yes, that would work. About as well as his opening line did. And yet he could not move away from the spot.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured when her laughter finally subsided. “I shouldn’t have bothered you. I just…well. I’m sorry.”
And now that you’ve secured your position as an idiot, you should just walk away now, he mentally coached himself.
“No!” she said in a voice husky from her mirth. She pressed a hand to her mouth, as if that delicate appendage could stop another bout of laughter. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I have a bad habit of laughing when I’m nervous.”
In a gesture that was becoming too habitual of late, Gabriel lifted a hand to rub at the grooves between his brows. A and W. Named for another colleague who was responsible for putting them there. Athena Willoughby. Who also had the habit of laughing when she was nervous. He should know; he made her laugh. A lot. Gabriel dropped his hand to his side as his sense of familiarity expanded. Either he was losing his mind or –
“I know someone like that,” he said as he leaned forward in an attempt to better gauge her reaction. If only it wasn’t so damned dark in here; he could barely see anything in this light – or dark, as it were. “A colleague, actually.”
“Really?” Her voice ended on a high note as the nervousness crept back in. Well, that was interesting. “And here I thought I was the only one.”
With his sense of sight impaired by the atmosphere, Gabriel attuned himself to every nuance of her voice. Her tone, her choice of words, even her speech pattern. Was there something familiar about that, too? Granted, it was deeper than…a certain other woman’s, but…it was there, just below the surface. Something, something…he just couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

If she didn’t distract him in the next five seconds he was going to figure it out, Athena fretted. They didn’t make him the dean of the college because he looked like he just stepped out of the pages of Pride and Prejudice, after all. No, he earned that spot. Earned it and took it very seriously. He wouldn’t take it well if he learned what she was doing to supplement her income. She already had several strikes against her already; this would be just what he needed to finally oust her from her position at the college. Some sort of ethics code, she was certain.
She couldn’t keep up this pretense much longer. Couldn’t keep pretending she was something she was not with him. It was difficult enough being herself in his presence; he didn’t like that much, either. Maybe it was just her, wig or no wig, she simply got on the man’s nerves. She couldn’t even pretend to be someone he’d like.
And she couldn’t keep pitching her voice this low without succumbing to a fit of coughing. Her vocal chords were actually beginning to ache from the effort of keeping her naturally melodic tone at bay. And that blasted nervous laughter! It was going to give her away. Didn’t she read somewhere that a person’s laugh was just as unique to them as their fingerprints?
Oh, lord, did he just say something to her? What was it? Did he figure it out?
“I’m sorry – what?” she asked, gesturing toward her ear. “The music. I didn’t hear you.”
He leaned down toward her, coming perilously close to the safe cocoon of shadows she’d gathered around herself. She resisted the urge to pull back even further as he answered her.
“I said you’re not the only one.”
“Oh.” All right, she didn’t know what to do with that, exactly. Should she make light of it? “Well, there goes my campaign for being unique.”
One corner of his lips curled up in a smile that triggered all of her attraction sensors, making her uncomfortably aware of the fact that he was a man. A charming man, virile – oh, lord, this is m boss! What am I doing?
“I think your campaign is quite safe,” he said, just before he took a step back from her. “I wish I could stay and talk with you longer, but the person I’m meeting here just arrived and I – “
“No, it’s all right. Go,” Athena encouraged, even as she tried to resist the urge to check out who he was meeting. “I wouldn’t want to keep you.”
With what appeared to be a regretful smile – to her, at least – he retreated from her table completely, weaving his way back to the bar. Without even asking for her name, she realized. Well, of all the – at least he could have feigned politeness by asking, even if he had no intention of pursuing her. Not that she would’ve given him her real name, of course. But still. What an insult that he didn’t even ask!
And why would he, she wondered as she finally gave in to her urge to look, when his companion for the evening looked like a starlet in the realm of Jennifer Aniston? It would’ve been a comfort if she had an IQ to match her shoe size, but she knew that face and it belonged to Elinor Moreton. Better known as Elle. Better known as the woman who wanted her ousted from the college.
Wonderful, Athena thought. It was bad enough when only the dean of the college was there and her job was at risk. Now the one person who wanted her gone more than Gabriel was there as well. With him.
Could the night get any worse?

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