Welcome back for Part II or my Elinor/Colonel Brandon mashup. Will they get together? Read on to find out. If you missed Part I, check it out here.
Ellie turned this way and that, sizing herself up in the mirror. The navy sheath dress was a bit fancy. Too fancy? Should she change into pants? She leaned close, checking that no mascara had run or foundation hadn’t pooled in the lines around her eyes.
She stepped back, laughing at herself. She was going to an awful lot of trouble for something that wasn’t even a date. It was just dinner between old friends.
Then why was her heart pounding and sweat pooling under her armpits? She waved her hands in front of her face, trying to cool off. It was just because she hadn’t been on a date in a long time, she thought. Except this wasn’t a date.
It sure felt like a date.
It felt like a date when she answered the door and Brandon stood there with a bouquet of tulips in hand. He shrugged at her expression of surprise. “I saw them and thought you might like them?”
She stammered a thank you and quickly put them in a vase before grabbing her coat and purse and following him out the door.
It felt like a date when he opened the car door for her.
It felt like a date as they awkwardly tried to find things to talk about on the drive to the restaurant.
It felt like a date as the waiter seated them in the restaurant—an intimate French place with dim lighting and candles on the table.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this place was so…” Brandon waved his hand in the air and it relieved some of the tension.
Ellie smiled. “It’s okay, the menu looks good.”
“It came highly recommended.”
After they ordered, Ellie tried to make small talk. “So… the weather was good today.” She shifted in her seat. She’d never been good at small talk.
“I’m afraid I’m going to miss the summer heat,” he replied. At least he wasn’t laughing at her for her lame conversation starter. Not that Brandon would do that.
“Me too. Mostly because I really haven’t been able to enjoy it.”
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Sounds like you need a holiday.”
“Maybe.” She ran her finger along the rim of her water glass. “Yes, I really do.”
“Where would you go if you could?”
Ellie shrugged. “Mexico. Hawaii. Paris. Rome. Greece. Spain. Jamaica.”
He gave a small smile. “So anywhere, basically.”
“Basically. I’ve barely been anywhere so I’m not too picky.” As long as there weren’t huge crowds. But Ellie balked at the idea of travelling alone. Unless you had someone to share all those new experiences with, what was the point? Eventually though, she would have to just give up and go otherwise she’d never see any of the places she longed to see. “One of these days…” she murmured.
“What’s holding you back?” he asked.
She wasn’t about to admit her desire for a plus one. “Never the right timing, I guess.”
“I understand.” The way his eyes softened as he looked at her, she thought he understood more than she wanted him to.
“Is this a date?”
She blinked at the sudden change in conversation.
“Sorry.” He laughed a little and looked down.
Ellie chewed her lip. The better questions was, did she want it to be a date? Did he? She wished she could ask him, but the words would never leave her lips. Brandon fiddled with his napkin, his blond hair falling across his forehead. As if he could feel her gaze, he looked up.
Her cheeks heated.
“Listen, Ellie, I know this is a little strange. But I also know I like it. Being with you.”
She gasped a little. Her heartbeat quickened.
“But if it’s not what you want… if it’s too weird, I would understand. I never imagined…” He ran a hand through his hair, a look of frustration passing over his face. Then his eyes met hers and his face softened. “And yet…”
Ellie knew she had to say something, but it felt like her heart was in her throat and her hands had started to tremble. She pressed her palms into the table.
Brandon noticed, misinterpreted. He leaned away from her. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s a date.” Her voice came out strangled. She took a deep breath, trying to regain some composure.
He froze. His eyebrows rose a fraction.
Ellie slid her palm across the table toward him. She flipped her hand over, an offering. “It’s a date.”
Brandon smiled, his lips spreading slowly, his eyes twinkling. He brushed his fingertips lightly over her palm. Ellie’s nerve endings sparked. Their fingers entwined until they were holding on tight to each other, their hands gripping across the table.
Ellie’s heart leapt within her chest while at the same time she felt her whole body relax. As strange as it was, as unbelievable to be sitting there with the man who wasn’t Edward, the man who’d loved her sister, Ellie felt the rightness in this moment.
Looking across the table at Brandon, Ellie knew this was the start of something. Something amazing.
Well, it was fun getting Elinor and Colonel Brandon together. I could totally see it happening. Thanks for joining me in this little bit of fun! And *shameless plug* I’m holding a giveaway on Goodreads for SWAY, my modern Persuasion retelling. Go check it out here and enter to win one of five signed copies!