“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Darcy, Niall, and Roark flew above Lynne’s Honda as David drove Elizabeth and his wife to the airport early Friday morning. Since the concert which unintentionally had become her worldwide debut a few months prior, resulting in the creation of her reputation as a widely renowned pianist and vocalist, she had received numerous offers to perform, and she had decided to accept an engagement in Toronto after making it clear that she wished to perform sacred as well as classical music. Lynne would be traveling with her; they planned to spend the weekend as there would be a rehearsal Friday evening and the performance on Saturday night.
David had insisted on leaving well before the time that was necessary. It was an hour’s drive to the airport, and he hoped to miss the morning rush hour in Greenville. Any hope of avoiding traffic problems evaporated as a car sped off of a ramp in front of a semi-truck several cars ahead in the lane to the right of them. To their horror, the truck was unable to stop and could not pull into the adjoining lane without hitting other vehicles. The driver had nowhere to go. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as they watched the scene of the accident unfold. The driver of the car realized, too late, that the truck was going to hit her. She attempted to merge with the cars in the next lane, but the truck clipped her from the rear, sending her into a spin across three lanes of traffic. Her Toyota Camry was hit by four cars as the truck jackknifed and slid down the road sideways. The terrible screeching of tires skidding and metal impacting metal seemed to go on and on; then suddenly everything was eerily quiet for a moment. All traffic came to a complete standstill in the wake of the multiple wrecks.
The Camry was crushed and twisted, and several other cars were also badly damaged. The truck driver opened his door and began to walk back down the road to survey the damage and await the police. He was already on his cell phone calling 911. Lynne and Elizabeth bowed their heads to pray for the people involved in the crash as David left the car to see if he could be of assistance to anyone. Roark walked beside him.
Darcy already knew that praying for the woman in the Camry was unnecessary. Seconds before the collision, he had seen her guardian flying over the car with a tall, slender angel dressed in flowing, shimmering robes of blinding white. The angel’s eyes were large and violet, and his long, white hair was held back with a silken cord. His blue-white wings were not created for speed, unlike those of a guardian or a warrior, but they were large and beautiful. Darcy had seen death angels many times before when Jehovah-Shalom was ready to call one of His children home. The presence of such a light being signaled to the protector that the battle was over, and the reward for the saint was at hand. He was always filled with awe and reverence for his Master each time he witnessed the escorting of a child of God to heaven. It was never a time of sadness, for Jehovah-Rohi’s timing was always perfect. The believer simply closed his eyes in one world, and opened them in the arms of an angel. Darcy watched in peace as the eternal spirit of the woman left her lifeless mortal shell and went to her escort. The death angel held her close in his embrace and spread his wings, lifting her into the air as he flew with her from one world to the next, followed by her guardian.
David had gone directly to the Camry, and, seeing that the woman had not survived the accident, he had hurried to another car to comfort a crying infant whose mother was unconscious. A few other people had also approached the wrecked cars to stay with the injured until the ambulances had time to arrive. Before long, the wailing sirens were heard, signaling the arrival of the police, medical personnel, and wreckers. David returned to the car, but did not tell Elizabeth and Lynne that the woman had died. He saw no need to further upset his wife and daughter when there was nothing they could do. Roark and Niall knew that he would tell Lynne later, apart from Elizabeth.
Well more than an hour had passed before the road was cleared enough for a single line of cars to begin the painfully slow process of breaking up the traffic jam. Even though the Bennets were near the front of the congestion, by the time they reached the airport, checked their bags at the curb, and wended their way through security, Lynne and Elizabeth had missed boarding their plane. Followed closely by their guardians, they hurried to the ticket counter. Lynne explained what had happened, and they were put on another flight that would be departing in an hour, but, unfortunately, their luggage had already been loaded on their original flight and was on its way to Toronto via Pittsburg, while they had a layover in Philadelphia before changing to a different airline for the remainder of the trip. Since both flights were to arrive at Toronto International Airport, Lynne thought there would be no problem retrieving their bags. She had been assured by the customer service agent that their luggage would be kept safely for them during the one hour time difference between the flights. Lynne used her cell phone to call their contact in Toronto and apprise him of the problem. Because David had left them at the airport curb thinking that they had made it in time, she also called him to let him know about the delay.
As they sat down to wait, Elizabeth, already upset after witnessing the pileup on the freeway, started to worry that she might miss her rehearsal. I need that time with the orchestra for my vocal pieces, and I want to be able to spend several hours becoming familiar with the piano I will be playing. We need to do sound checks with the technicians, too. Darcy, behind her, stepped closer, rubbing her shoulders and whispering in her ear. Be anxious for nothing, my beloved. It will be well. Our Father will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. Darcy’s blue eyes twinkled in merriment. I will fly you there myself if need be. Elizabeth pulled a book from her bag and began to read.
Beside him, Niall rolled his eyes. Darcy, being with you now is like enduring a lovesick human male. You have not yet introduced yourself to the lady, you know.
Darcy squirmed a little uncomfortably. Niall, I have been preparing myself for that by closely observing the ways of men with women, and there were other things I had to accomplish as well. You know that I am now registered at Converse and ready to start my classes when the term resumes. I had to take all those CLEP tests, and qualify for my degree at Liberty. Michael has been helping me by guarding Elizabeth when I have had to be gone and is now prepared to step in when needed. There has been much to arrange, and everything had to be done to my satisfaction. I cannot just appear and start talking to Elizabeth. She will ask questions, and I have had to think about the answers.
Niall laughed at him. Admit it, Darcy. You are afraid. You are as nervous as a moonstruck teenager asking for his first date.
There was silence between the brothers for a few minutes. Darcy, his hands resting on Elizabeth’s shoulders, turned his head to look at his brother.
What if she does not ever love me, Niall? Darcy’s voice was low and strained.
Niall looked at his brother, and his expression was serious. Of course she will love you, Darcy. Then he grinned. What woman could resist a tall, handsome fellow like you?
Darcy released his breath slowly in obvious frustration. I know that human women find my physical form to be attractive, Niall, but what if she does not like the way I am? I am not witty and, even in the angelic realm, I do not converse easily with those whom I do not know well. I fear that I am boring, Niall. Elizabeth loved the human boy, Richard, and I am nothing like him. It is safer to love her from a distance than to reveal myself and risk her rejection. Darcy looked at the floor morosely.
‘Faint heart never won fair lady,’ Darcy. You said that our Master told you that you were formed for each other. As Shakespeare said, ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place.’ If you accidentally bump into Elizabeth when Lynne is there, I will be with you to whisper hints into your ear if you become tongue-tied. I am fluent in the Song of Solomon.
But you have no more experience with human women than I do! Darcy exclaimed aloud. A few guardians passing by with their charges glanced at him in wonder. He took a deep breath and calmed himself.
Niall chuckled. I am witty and the essence of charm. He smiled roguishly. The material point is that I am not in love, and I will be able to think of interesting things to say. I guarded one of Solomon’s closest advisors, and you are well aware that Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. I know a few things about wooing a woman.
I have always wondered about that. Solomon was the wisest human who ever lived. Why did he have so many women? If it is difficult to keep one woman happy, why would he choose to multiply the effort by one thousand? It does not seem very wise to me, Darcy interjected.
That is exactly the sort of thing you should not say to a woman, Darcy. You are definitely going to need me. Niall let out an exaggerated sigh.
I will know when the time is right, insisted Darcy, crossing his arms over his chest.
Try to make it before her child-bearing years are past, returned Niall with just a hint of sarcasm.
Do not quit your day job. Stand-up comedians have a short shelf life.
Ouch. Am I leaking light from that wound?
Darcy snorted, but resumed his usual stoic mien as several more guardians passed by with a group leaving on a mission trip. He was silent as he contemplated Niall’s words. As much as he hated to admit it, his brother was correct on two points: he needed to make Elizabeth’s acquaintance very soon, and he was gripped by fear at the very thought of it. Elizabeth had reached her full height of five feet nine inches – not short for a human woman, but much smaller than he was. How could such a little person cause such anxiety in him? He knew the answer; she held his heart in her small hands. Her rejection would crush him, and his failure to win her would have far-reaching consequences for the rest of humanity. Darcy set his jaw with determination. He must win her love, and he must start that process as soon as possible. He would conquer his fear by facing it.
After what seemed to be an eternity, an airline employee stepped to the counter and announced that boarding would commence for Lynne and Elizabeth’s flight. Mother and daughter gathered their belongings and joined the line, Niall and Darcy on either side of them. They found their seats in coach, and in due course, they arrived in Pittsburgh and disembarked, crossing the terminal to get to the gates for the other airline. Lynne was mystified to find no one at that desk, and she and Elizabeth went in search of the ticket counter for their original airline. Lynne approached a ticket agent and handed her their tickets.
“Hello. My name is Lynne Bennet. We have just arrived from Greenville, South Carolina, on your airline and were supposed to connect with a flight to Toronto. There is no one at that airline counter. Could you possibly help us?”
The woman looked at their tickets with a puzzled expression. “Mrs. Bennet, I’m sorry to have to tell you that the airline you are booked on is not flying today.”
Niall and Darcy flanked Elizabeth who stood behind her mother.
“Excuse me? There must be some mistake. Your airline booked us on that flight,” Lynne said with exasperation.
The ticket agent turned to her computer and typed in some information. “Mrs. Bennet, you are correct. I have no idea why they set it up this way in Greenville.”
“You don’t understand. We have to be in Toronto tonight. My daughter is performing at Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow night and she has a rehearsal with the orchestra this evening. She has to be there.”
The woman looked around Lynne at Elizabeth and recognition lit up her face. “Didn’t I see you on YouTube?”
Elizabeth nodded shyly.
“Have a seat over there, ladies, and let me see what I can find. It doesn’t look very promising, but I’ll do my best.”
Lynne and Elizabeth trudged to the seats indicated by the agent and sat down heavily. Elizabeth bowed her head. Father, you know we need to be in Toronto in just a few hours, and it doesn’t seem that we have a way to get there. Please help us, dear Lord. In Jesus’ name.
Elizabeth thought, Amen, and then opened her eyes to see a pair of feet in low heels directly in front of her. She lifted her head to see the lady from the ticket counter looking at her, smiling.
“It’s not wonderful, but it’s the best I could do. I have booked you both on an Air Jamaica flight flying stand-by. They’re ready to board, so you need to get to that gate as quickly as possible.”
“Thank you so much,” said Lynne, accepting the tickets from her. The woman quickly gave them directions, and the group of humans and angels jogged to the Air Jamaica terminal and found the correct gate. Lynne approached the agent there and presented their tickets. The last passengers had just finished boarding the plane.
The agent smiled at them. “This is your lucky day. You are in the last row on the flight. We have room for three.”
Darcy glanced at Niall. Watch them both for a second. I will be back immediately.
Niall raised an eyebrow at Darcy, and then turned to follow Lynne and Elizabeth.
Darcy stepped into the men’s room beside the gate, changed to human form, and emerged carrying a small bag and wearing a long-sleeved charcoal Henley, a black sports coat, jeans, and boots. He walked up to the agent and handed her his ticket. She looked up at one of the tallest men she had ever seen, and briefly lost her ability to speak as she took in his angelic face and powerful physique in one up-and-down glance.
“Did I make it in time? I am on stand-by for this flight,” he asked, flashing his most devastating smile at her, dimples on full display. He heard her heart accelerate and read her jumbled thoughts. If only I could be assured of this response from Elizabeth! But Elizabeth looks beyond outward appearance. She is more concerned with the heart. When the woman made no response, he cleared his throat. I need to get back to Elizabeth – today if possible. The sound jolted her back to coherence.
“Uh, yes. There’s one more seat. In the back. In the last row.” I sound like a complete fool. I wonder if I could sneak a picture of him with my cell phone. No one will believe me when I describe this man.
“Thank you. Have a wonderful day.” He smiled again, and she stared at him, dumbfounded.
Darcy boarded the plane and made his way to the very back of it, heads turning toward him in a wave as he walked. All chatter ceased as he walked down the aisle, and the men and women gave him their full attention. He could hear their thoughts – the men noticed his musculature and wondered about his work-out regimen, and the women absorbed his physical beauty while their minds turned to images of intimacy. Darcy felt naked, and he was embarrassed as the sound of his boots tapping on the floor seemed to grow louder with each step. They are all looking at me. I am now a spectacle for humans instead of them being a spectacle for me. I Corinthians 4:9 now applies to me, ‘We have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.’ He tried unsuccessfully to make less noise.
Darcy drew no less attention from the few other guardians onboard the flight. The entire angelic realm was aware of their chief’s dual nature and of his love for Elizabeth. To see him in his human form approaching the object of his interest raised their curiosity to unheard of heights.
I am a spectacle for the angels, too. Maybe meeting her publicly on a plane was not the best idea, after all. If it goes badly, I will be trapped for the entire flight.
It will be well. You can do this, thought Niall. You cannot back out now. The course is set.
Lynne sat by the window, and Elizabeth was in the middle seat. They were probably the only two beings on the plane who had not noticed him. Perfect, thought Darcy with great relief, smiling at Niall a little smugly.
Niall smirked in response and nodded toward the seat by Elizabeth. Darcy’s smile rapidly faded, and his muscles bulged as he lifted his bag to put it in the overhead compartment. His head nearly touched the roof of the cabin.
Good thing I am in the aisle seat. Otherwise, there would no place to put my legs. He straightened his shoulders. This is the time. Now or never.
He glanced at Niall once more before turning toward Elizabeth and Lynne. Leaning over slightly, he asked, “Do you ladies need for me to put anything up here for you before I take my seat?”
Both Elizabeth and her mother had been looking out of the window. At the sound of a low, masculine voice, they turned their heads toward him. Immediately, Lynne went back in her memory to the time her four-year-old El was lost at Tabernacle. This young man looks like the same man who brought El back to me, though his hair is shorter. But, it’s not possible that they are the same. That was almost fourteen years ago, and this guy can’t be older than twenty or twenty-one. The man who found El would be between thirty-five and forty now. I guess it’s true that everyone has a doppelganger, even Hercules. Niall rolled his eyes again.
Elizabeth stared, transfixed, into Darcy’s eyes. I’ve seen those eyes before. There could not be another clear, blue pair like those in the world. Those wonderful, kind eyes reassured me when I was a lost child, and they comforted me when we were in the wreck with Janna. She looked down to her lap at her hands. It can’t be him. He’s not old enough.
Darcy cleared his throat. I seem to be doing this quite a bit today. He was pleased that they had come up with their own explanations for his reappearance. His effort to look a little younger by wearing his hair in a modern style and dressing in clothes that were popular with college students had been successful. He was twenty years old according to his identification papers.
Lynne was the first to leave her reverie. “No, thank you. We’ve already put our things away.” She started reading her magazine.
Darcy sat down by Elizabeth, trying unsuccessfully not to crowd her. His frame was too big for the seat, even when he scooted as far as he could toward the aisle. Maybe meeting her on a plane was not the best idea.
Elizabeth started giggling. He’s trying so hard not to touch me.
She is laughing at me. I am dying here, Niall.
Give her a moment, Darcy. It is not every day that a giant appears, you know. It will be well. Relax.
She turned her head to tell him not to be concerned about taking some of her space, but she was struck dumb by his perfect profile. She had been so caught up in his eyes, that she had completely missed seeing the rest of him. I thought Gregory was beautiful, but even he isn’t as gorgeous to me as this guy. There’s something . . . a little too smooth about Gregory that makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but I feel completely the opposite about this man. It’s almost like I know him, but surely I would remember meeting a guy who looks like this. Everything Gregory does, or says, or wears seems very studied, but this man appears to be genuine.
Darcy, reading her thoughts, could not help but smile. She already prefers me to Gregory. He also heard Niall’s response. Humph!
He slowly turned his face toward hers, and she forgot everything she was going to say. Darcy decided that helping her express what she had been thinking about telling him might be a good way to start a conversation. He had spent hours daydreaming of this moment, and the idea of talking to her made his palms sweaty. That has never happened before, he thought with surprise. He took a deep breath and forged ahead. It was easier to close the mouths of the lions in the den with Daniel.
“I am sorry that I take up so much room. These seats are not made for someone like me.”
She bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “You are rather, uh, large, but don’t worry about it. We were just glad to get on the plane. We were afraid that we’d be stuck in Philadelphia.” She smiled a little shyly at him. She had never been so aware of a man’s presence before. He seemed to fill the space around her. Even his scent was powerfully appealing to her. What cologne is he wearing?
“Me, too. I am flying stand-by. Last minute trip on family business,” he said. It was difficult for Darcy to think clearly as she leaned a little closer to him and breathed in, trying not to be obvious about it.
He smells heavenly.
Lord, please help me not to sound like a blithering idiot. Being human around her has heightened all my senses, and I cannot think well.
The flight attendant’s voice came over the speakers instructing them to buckle their seat belts and prepare for take-off. They complied with her request automatically.
His voice is musical. She struggled to think of a response. This is ridiculous. Stop thinking about the way he sounds, and looks, and smells. That’s three of my five senses he has overwhelmed in one shot.
Darcy could not suppress a small smile. The Acqua Di Gio was a good idea.
Niall smirked behind him. You are welcome.
After another moment’s pause, she answered, “So are we. Flying stand-by, I mean. We missed our flight in Greenville, and somehow we were booked onto a connecting flight on an airline that wasn’t flying today. It’s been crazy.”
Darcy looked out the window past Elizabeth and Lynne, spotting two demons riding the wing of the plane. Niall, do you see them? he asked with a small frown.
Yes, they have been there a few seconds, observing you and Elizabeth.
With an effort, Darcy replaced his slight scowl with a more pleasant mien and returned his attention to his companion.
“May I ask why you are going to Toronto?” he queried.
“I’m giving a concert tomorrow night at Roy Thomson Hall,” she answered, lowering her eyes.
She is so beautiful. I would love to touch her face. I remember how soft her skin was when I held her close and flew her to the hospital. Patience, Darcy, patience. He forced himself to concentrate on making a sensible reply.
“Really? How interesting. What sort of concert?”
“I play the piano and sing.”
“Have I heard of you? What is your name?”
“Probably not. Elizabeth Bennet. Everyone calls me El.”
“I have heard of you! I have just enrolled at Converse for the spring semester. I, too, am a pianist and a vocalist, though not of your caliber, I am sure.”
“That’s amazing! What a small world. What’s your name?”
“Fitzwilliam Alexander Darcy.”
Niall looked heavenward. Nobody gives their full name, Darcy.
You are right. Darcy cringed inwardly.
Do not worry. It was a small error.
Elizabeth chuckled, her brown eyes full of amusement. “That’s quite a mouthful. What should I call you?”
Whatever you want to. Just call me, please.
Focus, Darcy! Niall thought, smiling behind his hand.
Darcy fought his way through his mental fog. “Most of my friends call me Darcy or Xander. Do you like Fitzwilliam?”
“Yes, I do. It’s unusual, but it fits you. I’ll call you Fitzwilliam, then.” Maybe I won’t be like everyone else to you.
That would not be possible, Elizabeth.
“May I call you Elizabeth? You seem more like an ‘Elizabeth’ to me than an ‘El.’” I do not think I could call you anything else. You have consumed my thoughts as ‘Elizabeth.’
“You’ll be the only one that calls me that, but that’s okay.” Just call me whatever you want to.
“I would like to come to your concert tomorrow night, if that is all right with you.”
“I wish I could invite you, but it’s been sold out for a while now. I can’t get a ticket for you.” What if I never see him again?
He smiled widely, showing his dimples. “I am not entirely without connections. I may be able to get a ticket myself. If I can come, would you and your mother like to go to dinner afterwards?”
Dimples! How is it possible that he could be even more breathtaking? Elizabeth tore her eyes away from his face and looked at her mother, a question in her eyes.
Lynne had been following the conversation carefully, though she had not looked up from her magazine. She caught Elizabeth’s glance in her peripheral vision and raised her head to see El’s eyes pleading with her. Niall whispered to her, This is a good man. You can trust him.
Lynne reflected a moment. She hasn’t shown any interest in a boy since Richard broke her heart last year. Perhaps we should get to know this young man a little better.
“What did you have in mind, Fitzwilliam?” she asked, directing her gaze toward him.
Niall remembered Lynne’s telephone conversations with the booking agent. They are staying at the InterContinental Toronto Centre which is within walking distance of the Roy Thomson Hall. The Azure Restaurant there has a reputation for being classy and romantic.
Darcy smiled at Lynne. “The Azure Restaurant is located in the InterContinental Toronto Centre near Roy Thomson Hall, and it is very good. I would love to treat you, ladies.”
“I think it might be good for you two to be friends, since you’ll be going to school together in a couple of weeks, and the location is perfect. We are actually staying in the hotel,” Lynne replied.
Thanks for the help, Niall.
Actually, you are doing quite well on your own. I am pleasantly shocked.
“Excellent. I will meet you backstage after the concert.”
“But what if you can’t get a ticket?” asked Elizabeth.
“I promise you that I will be there. You can trust me on this. I would not miss it for anything,” said Darcy, looking rather seriously at her.
He is very self-possessed for such a young man. Very mature, Lynne mused.
You have no idea, thought Niall.
Darcy, quite pleased with his progress, continued to chat with Elizabeth and Lynne until they landed in Toronto.
After they retrieved their items from the overhead compartment and exited the plane, he joined them as they walked to the baggage claim area. They waited until all the passengers had retrieved their luggage, but there was no sign of theirs. Together they approached the customer service area.
Lynne explained the entire ordeal to the agent, and he checked his computer. “Ah!” he exclaimed. “Air Jamaica passengers are already in Canada when they leave the plane. The flight from Pittsburgh was on a different airline and left your bags in their area. Your bags have not yet cleared customs, and you can’t go get them because you are already through. Let me see what I can do.”
“But we’re in a hurry,” Lynne said.
From behind them, Darcy had scanned the large area and had seen their luggage, actually sitting some distance away at the other airline’s baggage area. He stepped outside the small office. Niall, get their luggage. I will stay with them.
Niall flew at flash speed to the men’s room on the other side of the customs area. After he had morphed into human form, he walked to the other baggage area and picked up the luggage. Niall telepathed with the guardian standing by a customs agent, and the agent’s protector stepped into an office and came back out in human form, dressed as an agent. Niall approached him, produced a passport, and was quickly cleared through customs. Then he casually walked by Darcy, left the luggage behind him, and walked rapidly away, returning seconds later in angelic form.
“Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth,” Darcy called from the door. “Look what I found.”
Lynne was delighted. “How did you do that?”
“I told you that I had a few connections,” he replied, winking saucily at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth blinked. Is he flirting with me?
Lynne turned back to the office and called to the young man who was still busily typing away at his computer. “Never mind. Everything’s fine.”
He looked surprised as he glanced up to see the Bennet ladies walking away with a towering man carrying several large pieces of luggage, along with his own small bag, as if they were of no weight at all. Is there an American pro basketball team in town?
Darcy waited with Lynne and Elizabeth at the curb while Lynne hailed a cab. While the cabbie stowed their bags in the trunk, Darcy had a chance to say a few words privately to Elizabeth.
“I will look forward to your performance tomorrow night, Elizabeth. Do not forget our dinner engagement,” he said, smiling into her deep brown eyes.
She looked up at him in wonder. There are very few boys my age who treat me this way. He’s huge, but I like it. Rather than feeling threatened, I feel protected and safe.
“There is absolutely no chance that I will forget it.” She turned from him and slid into the cab with her mother.
He stood watching as the car drove away. Look back at me. Please, Elizabeth, my love. I want to see your face looking at me.
As if she had heard him, she turned to look out the rear window at him, and lifted her hand to wave goodbye.
Darcy smiled widely and waved back. Then he quickly stepped into a crowd of people and changed into angelic form. In less than a second, he had caught up to the cab and flew over it with Niall.
You are grinning like a lovesick teenager.
Darcy could not find it in himself to care whether or not he looked foolish. His heart was light and filled with hope. This may not be as difficult as I thought it would be.
Then he remembered the demons on the wing. There will be complications.
We will deal with them, answered Niall with confidence.
I look forward to it, said Michael appearing suddenly on Darcy’s other side, flying with them in formation.