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Eleanor Marshall
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:03 pm    Post subject: Family Reply with quote

Paris bustled with life. The couture boutiques were busy with the custom of ladies preparing their winter wardrobes for public engagements; the bars and clubs thronged with gentlemen avoiding being a part of that outing. It was not Eleanor's first visit to Paris, but it was the first time she had simply walked the streets, rather than been ferried everywhere in taxis or carriages. It was a liberating feeling, made even more so since her refusal to dress like a lady. She had discovered a distinct comfort in trousers, insisting on having several pairs made for her, and with Jay at her side, she didn't care who looked down their nose at her. Fashion was, in her opinion, a waste of money now. And besides ... she wasn't here for the clothes. This was the day she would meet the woman who was now her sister.

For a man who was usually the epitome of calm, Jay seemed a jangle of nerves, filled with both excitement and nervousness at seeing his "baby sister" again. It wasn't that he was worried about her reaction to his wedding or his wife so much as the fact that the last time she'd seen him, he had not been at his best. Despite his nervousness, he was eager to see her again and eager to show her how his life had changed, all because of the woman at his side. He had no doubt the two women would get along swimmingly, possibly to his detriment, but that didn't bother him either.

"We have only been here a few days, and you are already drawing the attention of gossips," he whispered as they strolled the avenue.

His wife smiled back at him, hugging his arm as they walked. "As it is only your attention I care for, that really does signify nothing," she assured him. She wasn't immune to the comments they occasionally overheard about her choice of attire, but she was stubborn enough to make it seem as though she was. "After all, I do not have to deal with sudden gusts of chill wind up my gusset."

At least here in Paris, people were a little more forward-thinking than those who populated the upper crust of English society. "Perhaps in a few years, the fashion will catch on," he suggested, though he had no way of knowing that.

"Whether it does or not, I am now of the opinion that being comfortable is far more important than being fashionable," Ellie told him with a smile. She glanced along the street. "Isn't that the cafe?"

"I'm sure it is only a matter of time before other women join you," he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling with amusement before he swung his head toward the cafe in question. "I believe it is," he confirmed, gaze scanning the crowd for a familiar face. "But where is -" His question was cut off by a sudden audible squeal and a young dark-haired woman rushing his way to tackle him in a hug.

Ellie laughed and swiftly unhooked her arm from her husband's, stepping smartly out of the way to allow the woman she assumed was his sister to tackle him in the street and deafen him squealing at close range.

The young woman who was presumably Eliza promptly kissed both Jay's cheeks, just as a Parisian might do, a happy smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes at the sight of what she considered to be her "long lost" brother. "Jamie! I'm so happy to see you! Let me look at you!" she said, stepping back to inspect him and only then noticed Eleanor. "Oh!" she declared. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you had a companion."

Eleanor's smile deepened. "Oh, no, please continue," she encouraged the other woman, enjoying the sight of her husband reuniting with his sister. She had a feeling there was going to be a scolding to enjoy, as well.

But Eliza was having none of that, her smile turning to a grin, as if she'd just caught her brother doing something naughty, which she thought was very unlike her brother. Her eyes were sparkling with mischief again as she eyed her brother's companion. "You're wearing pants! Who is she, Brother? I adore her already."

Jay chuckled, sounding just a little embarrassed, despite his previous eagerness to surprise his sister. "Um, Liza, this is my wife, Eleanor," he said, introducing the two of them as casually as he could.

Glancing between the siblings, Ellie offered Eliza a shyer smile this time, hoping Jay had been right in his assertion that his sister would not take too much offense at being the last to know.

Liza blinked, looking between them in a moment of utter shock and confusion, before turning back to her brother with a grin. "For a moment there, I thought you were serious," she said, looking back at Eleanor a moment. "You're not serious," she said, more statement than question.

"I am, actually," Jay replied with a straight face, though there was a hint of a smirk ghosting his expression. "Ellie, this is my sister, Eliza," he continued, gratified to find his sister gaping and speechless, which was something of a first.

"It's wonderful to meet you, Eliza," Ellie said, her own nerves hidden in the steely grip of her manners. "I have heard so much about you." She offered the other woman her hand, uncertain quite what to do if this news had broken her.

But Eliza's shock only lasted a moment before she recovered, stepping in to kiss both of Eleanor's cheeks, just as she had her brother's. "It's wonderful to meet you!" she declared. "I thought Jay would never get married. You must tell me how you managed to snag him," she said, in a conspiratorial voice, linking her arms with the pair, Eleanor on one side of her and Jay on the other as she led them into the cafe.

Ellie laughed, glancing over Eliza to Jay for a moment as she was tugged to walk beside her new sister. "I pulled him out of his comfortable life in Georgetown and wore him down," she told the other woman in amusement. "When I proposed, he couldn't say yes fast enough."

Jay rolled his eyes at Eleanor's story, doubtful his sister would believe that, further surprised to hear his sister declare, "I do not doubt it! I had almost given up on him, you know. I am so happy you both are here. I have been trying to talk him into coming to Paris for ages," Eliza rambled on, before stopping at a table and releasing them both. "Sit, sit!" she urged. "I want to hear everything."

Eleanor laughed softly once again, setting her coat on the stand before moving to sit with her new sister. "Everything may well take us longer than the space of a single meal," she warned in amusement. She was already delighted with Jay's sister, with the bright warmth that was such a contrast to the brother and yet so similar at the same time.

"You could at least stop pretending I'm not here," Jay said, though he didn't seem too upset by the fact that his sister had commandeered both the conversation and his wife.

Eliza waved a dismissive hand at her brother. "Don't mind him. He's just being sour grapes because he hasn't got my complete attention," she said with a conspiratorial wink at Eleanor.

Eleanor's expression softened in concern for a moment as she looked between the siblings. "I could go for a walk," she suggested, unwilling to come between them. "Perhaps I should. You must want to catch up, and you hardly need me here in order to do that."

Eliza frowned, or more accurately pouted, at Eleanor's suggestion. "Now, I've upset you both," she said. "I'm sorry. I was only teasing. It's just ..." She paused a moment, gnawing at her lower lip. "I've missed him so much, and I'm so excited to see you both."
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Eleanor Marshall
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ellie's hand covered hers gently. "I am not upset, Liza," she promised. "But I do not wish to come between you both. It has been so long since you have been together. Another hour will hardly make any difference in you and I getting to know one another, after all."

"Where did you find this woman, Jamie?" Eliza said, her tone softening. While some women would have reacted with jealousy to share their brother, Eliza only seemed happy her brother had found someone to share his life with.

Jay chuckled. "Would you believe Georgetown?"

A waiter approached to hand them menus and take their drinks order, something Eleanor was comfortable to give in fluent French with a bright smile that made the man stand up a little straighter and walk a little taller. She turned back to the siblings with her, amused by Jay's answer. "I hardly think you were the one to find me, darling."

"Oh! A woman who knows what she wants," Eliza declared, jumping to conclusions a little bit and assuming Eleanor had pursued him, rather than the other way around. She paused a moment to place her own order in just as fluid French, delighted she did not have to worry about translating for either of them.

"It's true," Ellie agreed with deceptive innocence. "I sought him out within days of arriving in Georgetown. He had such an impressive reputation, you see."

"Did he, now?" Eliza said, brows arching upwards as she regarded her brother with renewed interest.

"Before you get the wrong idea," James interjected, "she was looking to hire a guide."

"Yes, do go on," Eliza urged either or both.

Laughing again, Ellie did just that, entirely honest in her speech as she spun the tale of how business had turned to love in the depths of the Amazon Basin. By the time she was done, she was blushing again, remembering the thrill of those weeks on the boat, sipping a glass of wine in an attempt to calm her shy response to her own thoughts.

By the time Eleanor was through with her story, with Jay adding bits and pieces, the three of them were looking like they'd known each other forever. It didn't hurt that they'd each imbibed of the wine a little, which did wonders to relax jangled nerves. "And now, here you both are!" Eliza declared, smiling fondly at them both, with the merest hint of tears in her eyes. "I really have missed you, Brother," she said, looking from one to the other. "And I really am very happy for you both. Truly, I am."

That hint of tears was not lost on Eleanor, though she was careful not to make it obvious that she had noticed. Her hand squeezed Eliza's gently, half-apology for being happy in her presence, half-concern and an offer to listen if she needed it. "We are hoping to take rooms here in Paris for a while," she told the other woman. "We have many plans to make for the future."

"You do not have rooms?" Eliza asked, looking quizzically and a little worriedly from one to the other. "No matter," she said with another wave of her hand. "I'm sure we can find you something. How long are you planning on staying?" she asked further, trying not to look like she was too eager to have them stay as long as they wanted.

"We're not sure exactly," Jay replied, with a glance Eleanor's way. "We're still working that out."

"I should think we will be here until the new year begins, at the earliest," Ellie suggested. After all, they had an entire lifetime to settle, and that would involve a certain amount of communication and waiting for responses. "My friend, Alex, is currently in the process of taking rooms for us," she added, to reassure Eliza. "We are not homeless, Liza."

"Oh, good!" Eliza said, not quite breathing a sigh of relief. Paris was a fun place to live, but it was also expensive. She had her own fair share of troubles trying to make ends meet here, even with her brother's help. She murmured her thanks to the waiter as their meals arrived, waiting until he left before launching into more questions. "This friend of yours, Alex ... He was with you both in South America?"

"Yes, Alex is ..." Jay started, looking to Eleanor for explanation.

Of course, one of the first things Ellie and Jay had done when they arrived in Paris was pay the next five months' rent on Eliza's apartments, but she wasn't likely to realize that until later. Ellie's smile flickered into view at the curious glance sent her way.

"Alex is my best friend," she told Eliza. "He is also a lawyer - he came with me to officially witness any evidence of my father's fate. I may have bullied him somewhat into taking a holiday here in Paris while we visit with you."

"Is he handsome?" Eliza blurted, before she could stop herself, eyes sparkling with mischief. She was, after all, feeling the effects of the wine on a mostly empty stomach. And this was Paris - arguably, one of the most romantic cities on Earth.

Her new sister-in-law rolled her eyes. "I am hardly the person to ask that," she admitted with a smile. "I have never really seen Alex as a man. He has always been just ... there. Would you say he is handsome, Jay?"

Jay actually snorted at the ridiculousness of the question. "I do not think I am a good judge of that," he said, mostly because he was a man, too, and had no idea what women found attractive. He didn't even really understand what Eleanor found attractive about him.

"Are you particularly against certain accents, Liza?" Ellie asked then, delicately cutting into her meat as she spoke. "Alex has a beautiful Edinburgh Scots accent."

For some reason, Eliza had to think about that a moment before answering. "Does he go about in a skirt?" she asked, knowing full well that it was properly called a kilt.

Eleanor spluttered, choking on a laugh around her mouthful of pork. She had to grope for the water glass to soothe her throat, her face bright red with a mixture of respiratory distress and giggles. "No," she gasped eventually, clearing her throat as delicately as possible. "But please ask him that to his face where I can see the reaction."

Jay was quick to pat her back, albeit gently, a concerned look on his face, before he realized she was going to survive. He eyed his sister, but could not find it in him to scold her. Eliza laughed, either not noticing or simply ignoring her brother's expression. "When am I to meet him?" she asked, smiling.

"At dinner tonight?" Eleanor suggested, still a little breathless. She smiled at Jay, gently taking his hand for a moment. "I am fine," she told him firmly. "I should not have taken so large a bite."

"Brilliant!" Eliza declared, seemingly excited to make a new friend. It didn't hurt that he was of the male persuasion. She just hoped he was handsome, though she knew she probably shouldn't get her hopes up, considering how her last romantic entanglement turned out. "To fresh starts and new friends!" she said, lifting her glass to them both.

"To family and the future," Ellie agreed, raising her own glass with a smile. If nothing else, she predicted that Alex and Eliza should at least amuse each other.

"Cheers!" Eliza declared, clinking her glass first against Ellie's, then Jay's.

"I'll drink to that," Jay said, getting a few words in edgewise at last. "So, tell us, what have you been up to these last few months in Paris?" he asked of his sister, thinking it was only fair to turn the tables on her a little.
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Eleanor Marshall
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eliza took a gulp - not a sip - of wine at her brother's question. "Moi?" she asked with a shrug of her shoulders. "Not much, really. Monsieur Bernard thinks I have talent. He may put one of my paintings on display in his gallery," she said, as if that wasn't much to be proud of.

Ellie bit down on a smile. She'd had a few thoughts of her own on how to promote Eliza and her work, but it depended on whether or not she liked the woman's art, really. She was a terrible liar, after all. "I should very much like to see your work," she said hopefully. "Could I visit your studio some time?"

"Yes, of course!" Liza replied, with the tiniest hint of a frown, unsure if she was relieved or horrified that her brother's wife was at all in interested in her work. "I know my chances of becoming a successful artist are slim," she said with a small sigh. "But I've never really wanted to do anything else." She frowned again, looking from one to the other. "I must sound like a spoiled brat to you."

"Eliza ..." Eleanor laid her hand gently on the other woman's wrist. "If anyone at this table is spoiled, it is me. You have worked hard to reach your place, and you should be proud of that. I did not work at all for what I have. I was simply born."

Eliza lifted her brows, surprised at the other woman's confession, which she found entirely unnecessary. "I think perhaps you do not give yourself enough credit," she said, taking a better look at her brother and his wife. "My brother would not marry a woman who is spoiled or snooty; only one who has a kind and gentle heart. Am I not right, Jamie?"

"You are indeed," Jay confirmed. "But, um ... No one has called me Jamie since I was in school," he reminded her.

"But you will always be Jamie to me," Eliza teased, reaching over to pinch her brother's cheek.

Eleanor's soft chuckle punctuated the affectionate gesture as she watched, a little nvious of the sibling bond between brother and sister. "You are rather adorable to watch together, you know."

"I adore him," Eliza pointed out, leaning sideways to brush a kiss against her brother's cheek. "We are all the family we have left," she said quietly, almost immediately regretting her words as they likely reminded Eleanor of her own loss. "I'm sorry," she said, blushing a little at her faux pas. "I only meant ..."

She frowned but Jay patted her hand. "It's all right. I'm sure she knows what you meant."

"He knows me so well," Ellie drawled quietly through a smile, though her eyes were sad for a moment. "I hope one day to be included in your family, but I know it will take time."

"I'm sure it will take no time at all," Eliza countered. "I like you already," she added with a warm, sincere smile on her face. "But here I am, going on and on about myself. Tell me about your plans! Have you ever been to Paris? I must show you all the sights."

"I have only visited once or twice," Ellie admitted, her smile warming again. "There are already a few cards at the hotel, so I think I shall have to go visiting this week, but I would much rather rely on you to tell us where we should go and what we should see. We have months to enjoy the city while we work on what happens next."

"Well, you simply must visit the Louvre, and of course, the Eiffel Tower," Eliza was quick to point out. "And the Folies Bergere," she added, with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. This was Paris, after all, and it was the 1920s - the Annees Folles, the crazy years.

The mischief was enough to spark Ellie's interest. "Are the Folies Bergere as scandalous as the gossip columns say?" she asked, setting her knife and fork to one side now she had eaten her fill.

"Oh, oui, tout a fait!" Eliza replied with a giggle of her own. "We shall have to bring your Monsieur Alex along with us." She leaned in, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "There is an American dancer there who is all the rage."

Eleanor raised a brow curiously. "I look forward to it," she said cheerfully. "But tonight, we shall invite you to dinner at the Ritz, where we are staying for the time being, so you may meet Alex and tell us more about this beautiful city."

Eliza's eyes widened at the mention of the hotel. She'd already figured out that her brother's wife was well-to-do, but she hadn't been expecting such a lavish invitation to dinner. "Oh, dear," she said, with a slightly nervous giggle. "I will have to search my closet for something suitable to wear."

"Or we could go shopping," Ellie suggested innocently. Alex was expecting them to join him at the apartment building where he had taken rooms for them, and for himself, but perhaps Jay wouldn't mind going along ahead of her?

What woman wouldn't want to go shopping, especially given it was Paris? Eliza's eyes lit up a moment, before realizing she really couldn't afford the kind of boutiques Eleanor was likely to frequent. "Oh, I don't know ..." she murmured, uncertainly. "I'm sure I can find something," she said, considering a couple of dresses she had bought second-hand.

"Liza," Jay was quick to jump to the rescue. "It will be my treat," he promised, reaching over to give her hand a reassuring squeeze. He'd been supporting her for the last few years; it was the least he could do.

"Our treat," Eleanor corrected gently. "We are family now, and I have not had someone to spoil for a very long time. You may simply have to grin and bear it as I shower you in gifts, Liza."

There was that hint of tears again, though she quickly blinked them away. Had life in Paris been harder than she'd let her brother believe? "You are too kind," Eliza said, reaching for Eleanor's hand as she looked to each of them in turn. "I will repay you, as soon as I am able." Which likely meant as soon as she was able to sell one of her paintings.

"No, you won't," Ellie told her in a firm tone. "This is a treat, a gift. I outright refuse to be repaid. If you attempt to do so, I will have to find duplicitous ways to get the money back to you, and as Jay will tell you, I am terrible at duplicity."

"I don't know what to say," Eliza said, uncharacteristically at a loss for words, other than the obvious ones. "Thank you," she said, moving to her feet and kissing both of Eleanor's cheeks again. "Would you excuse me a moment? I need to powder my nose," she said, hurrying off before she burst into tears.

"Of course." Ellie smiled as Eliza hurried off, letting that smile fade as she met Jay's eyes. Her brows rose as she sighed softly. "I do hope those rooms Alex has taken have an extra bedroom, darling," she told him quietly. "Your sister needs looking after."

Jay looked a little flustered at his sister's sudden burst of emotions. If she was having difficulties of some sort in Paris, this was the first he was hearing of it. "I don't understand," he murmured, following his sister's departure with his eyes before turning back to his wife.

Eleanor reached over to touch his hand. "It seems she is struggling, and does not wish for you to know it," she told him quietly. "It is my experience that those who have the least object the most to being helped. So, with your permission, I would like to ask her to live with us, while we are here at least, and use her own living space as her art studio."
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jay blinked, still looking a little confused, despite her explanation. "But I thought ..." he muttered, brows furrowed. "She never said a word of it in all her letters," he argued, feeling a pang of guilt at not having known or done more to take care of her. He had been sending her money for years - what had she been doing with it?

"Of course she didn't," Ellie told him. "She has her pride, and she loves you a great deal. Do not mention this to her, love. When she is ready, she will tell you. But I suggest we shower her in generosity and family feeling."

Jay nodded, not quite sure what to make of it, but trusting Ellie to know, seeing as how she was female. "Of course," he said, still looking a little bewildered by all this. "Whatever she needs."

She squeezed his hand, glancing toward the powder room. "Give me a moment, I will go and check on her," she told him, rising from her seat. She bent to kiss his brow. "Try not to worry so, darling. We are in the perfect position to look after her now."

He nodded again, still looking like he was in a state of shock. Why hadn't he known? Why hadn't she told him? He only hoped things weren't as bad as they seemed. It worried him to know she might be having a hard time and suffering through it alone. He thought she'd been happy here.

By the time Eleanor reached the powder room, she could hear the sound of sniffling from inside one of the stalls.

Ellie let herself into the powder room, gently knocking on the door of the one occupied stall. "Liza?" she called softly. "How can I help you with this?"

Eliza coughed, as if to try and cover up the fact that she was crying. "I'm fine. Really, I am. Just happy to see Jamie again. It's been too long," she said, the threat of tears apparent in her voice.

"Darling, you don't need to pretend," Ellie promised her, her own voice still gentle as she spoke through the door. "I can see that you have been struggling, and I have no intention of allowing you to struggle again. But you need to tell someone before you explode."

Eliza blew her nose gently, dabbing at her eyes to try and make herself look halfway presentable before stepping out of the stall to face her new sister-in-law. "I'm sorry, Ellie," she told the other woman, choosing to shorten Eleanor's name, just as her brother had. It sounded so much more intimate that way. "I didn't mean to get upset. I am happy for you both. Truly, I am. You cannot imagine how much I have missed him."

Eleanor took her hand gently, drawing her over to the plush seats in the powder room proper to sit down and calm down. "Liza, whatever has happened has clearly touched you deeply," she said quietly. "You do not have to make excuses for your own emotions. Feel what you feel. I would just like to help, however I can."

Eliza let herself be led, taking a seat beside Eleanor, only to wring her hands in her lap before dabbing once again at her tears. "You are very kind, Ellie, but I'm afraid no one can help," she said. All the money in the world wouldn't mend a broken heart, but what was troubling her went even deeper than that.

Ellie inched a little closer, pulling her own handkerchief from her pocket and offering it over. "Tell me," she suggested softly. "We are sisters now. Family looks after its own."

"I-I don't want James to know," Eliza confessed, gratefully accepting the handkerchief, as well as the offer of family. She had been even younger than Jay when they'd lost their mother, and though she adored her brother, she had desperately missed having another female with whom to share life's joys and sorrows.

"Then I will not tell him," Ellie promised her with a soft smile. "I do not tell him everything. Your secrets are safe with me, unless you are in danger."

Eliza shook her head to indicate that wasn't in any danger. "It's nothing like that," she said. "I just ... I feel so foolish. I'm ashamed, Ellie, and I don't want James to know what a silly girl I've been."

Rubbing her hand gently over Eliza's back, Eleanor offered up her small smile once again. "There is no one in this world who has not been foolish at least once," she assured her new sister. "I will tell no one, I promise you that. But there is no need for you to suffer in silence."

"Not as foolish as I," Eliza replied, with a hint of self-loathing in her voice. It was not usually like her to be so hard on herself. She was usually the more optimistic of the pair of siblings, but something had obviously happened to shatter her idealistic view of the world around around, and that something involved a man.

"No," Ellie said firmly, catching her hand. "Berating yourself will not improve matters, Liza. Learning and moving on will."

"Oh, Ellie!" Eliza exclaimed, fresh tears springing to her eyes. "James is going to be so disappointed in me. I didn't mean to lose all our money. Really, I didn't! I am no better than Father. He is going to hate me."

Ah. Comprehension began to dawn with this first inkling of what was truly wrong. Ellie pulled the other woman into a gentle embrace. "It is just money, Liza," she murmured gently. "He could never hate you. You are all that has kept him going for years; he adores his sister. And besides, now you both have me. Money will never be a problem again."

Liza let Ellie pull her close, missing the kind of comfort that might have otherwise come from a mother or sister or even a friend. James had obviously not told his wife everything, or at the very least, had not told her what he himself did not yet know. Liza sniffled again, shaking her head at the other woman's suggestion. "Oh, no, Ellie! I could never do that. I could never take your money."

"Darling, believe me, money is all I have," Ellie told her gently. "I have sold my estates, my inheritance in land. My mother left me money, my father left me money, my uncles both laid endowments on me. I have more than anyone could sensibly know what to do with. Let me look after you? You are my family now."

Eliza shook her head again, more in disbelief this time than in denial. Eleanor and Jay had told her their story, but somehow she had not quite realized just how well off her brother's wife really was. "You would do this for me?" she asked, eyes wide. She didn't believe she deserved such kindness, especially from someone who hardly knew her.

"You are my sister," Ellie told her again. "I would do this, and far more, to see you happy and hale. And I must tell you, I have already paid your rent for the next five months. Jay wanted me to be patient, but I am rather stubborn when I decide to do something."

Eliza's mouth dropped open in a gasp of shock. "I think I love you already!" she said, hugging the other woman to her. As much as she adored her brother, she had never had a sister and missed her mother desperately.

Ellie laughed as she was embraced fiercely, hugging back with growing affection. She was unused to having a woman she could talk to and be herself with, and Eliza was proving to be a wonderful surprise. "Now then," she said in her gentle way, "no more worries over such things. Dry your eyes, and let us return to your brother before he begins to panic. We can talk this over another time, in better privacy."

Eliza nodded, sniffling again as she released her sister-in-law from her embrace. "You'd better go before he starts to worry," she said, dabbing the handkerchief at her eyes. It would take a few minutes to make herself look presentable again, and she knew her brother well enough to know how he worried.

Eleanor cradled Eliza's face in her hands for a moment, holding her gaze. "You are not alone, dear one," she promised softly. "You never will be again. We are family now, and I look after my own." She leaned close, kissing the tip of Liza's nose with a smile. "Do remember to wash your face, darling, you look dreadful," she added with a teasing flicker to her smile, rising to her feet.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eliza held the other woman's gaze, a smile shining through her tears, all her woes forgotten for now. Here was someone who truly wanted to help, not like the fly-by-night swindler who had made her life a living hell. "Oh, goodness!" Eliza exclaimed at Ellie's assessment of her face. "You wouldn't have any mascara, would you?" she asked, as she moved to her feet and turned to the mirror to assess the damage for herself.

Eleanor chuckled softly, extracting a soft cloth purse from her bag and setting it on the vanity beside Eliza. "Help yourself, darling," she said cheerfully. "I will go and soothe the savage beast."

Eliza laughed, her face brightening. "You are truly a lifesaver, Ellie. I'm so glad you married my brother." Though they had just met and hardly knew each other, Eliza could was hopeful they'd become good friends. She could see how much the other woman adored her brother, and that alone was reason enough for her to welcome her into their family with open arms.

"I am very glad to have done so as well," Ellie told her with an impish smile, gently squeezing her shoulder before stepping away to slip from the powder room and return to the table before Jay did something scandalous, like barging in to see what they were up to himself.

Just as they might have expected, Jay looked like he was just about slowly going out of his mind as he impatiently waited for the two women he loved most in all the world to return to the table. The bottle of wine was now empty, but thankfully, he was not yet drunk. He jerked his head up from his contemplation of the wine glass to find Ellie returned, brows arching upwards in concern.

"Is everything all right?" he asked, mainly of his sister.

"It is now," she assured him, retaking her seat. "She has not told me everything, and she is afraid of telling you; she does not wish you to be disappointed in her. I believe I have alleviated the worst of her distress, by being stubborn as usual." She smiled, kissing his cheek. "She should be her usual self again when she comes out."

Jay's expression changed from concerned to confused. "Why would I be disappointed in her?" he asked. While Eliza hadn't become as popular as Picasso, he believed in her. He believed she had talent, and he believed she could succeed at her art, if she only put her mind to it. "She-she isn't ..." he stammered, his thoughts going to worse case scenarios, the worst of which was an unwanted pregnancy.

"No." Ellie was quick to assure him of that; she felt certain that Eliza would have blurted that out to her if it was the case. "I promised I would not tell you, but I can assure you, love, that she is in no danger. I am sure she will tell you in time."

Jay seemed to relax a little at Ellie's reassurance, though he still looked worried. "And she's not ill?" he asked, voicing another worry that had been going through his head. Money was not something that came to mind right away, as it was not much of a concern for him anymore.

"No, she is not ill." She squeezed his hand gently. "She has been worrying herself sick, perhaps, but that is done with. We found a solution together, and her smile came back as soon as she realized I wasn't going to change my mind. She is well, she is safe. She is just terrified of disappointing you."

"I can think of nothing she could do that would disappoint me," Jay was quick to say. Even if his worst fears came to pass, they would find a way to help. That was what family was all about. He sighed, his expression darkening, his eyes sad. "I'm afraid I wasn't a very good brother to her after the war. I should have stayed here. I should have taken care of her, instead of running away from my troubles."

"My dearest one, all that is over now," Ellie assured him fervently. "I will look after you both, if you will let me, and you have the leisure to be the brother you wish to be to the sister you adore. There is no call to dwell upon the mistakes of the past. They are done, finished. Looking forward is far preferable to looking back."

"You really are a very special woman, El," he told her, a warm smile on his face as he drew her hand to his lips for a soft kiss. He needn't say more than that; his affection for her was written all over his face.

She leaned toward him with a fond smile. "I consider myself more blessed to be a part of your family than special, love," she murmured in answer, but her eyes sparkled with delight that he thought so highly of her.

"We will make a family of our own," Jay replied, taking both her hands in his. "And Alex and Eliza will be part of it," he added. Though the two of them weren't a couple, they were as close as Eleanor was going to get to having siblings.

"Yes, we will," she agreed, glancing up as the waiter discreetly delivered dessert menus to the table. "We will make up for the mistakes our parents made."

"We'll make a fresh start," he promised, mirroring her smile. "Leave the past behind." It might not be easy; they all had their crosses to bear, so to speak, but he was hopeful that together they could build a new life together, not only for themselves, but for those they loved, too.

"All of us, I hope." She kissed his cheek, uncaring who saw. She had no intention of returning to England; home was with Jay now, and though it might mean parting ways with Alex, she wasn't entirely sure that was how things would go. Her friend had his own views about what he wanted to do with his life.

"I suppose it's up to them," Jay said, with a shrug of his shoulders. He would not decide for either Alex or Eliza, though he hoped they would join them in whatever decision they made about their future. "It looks like we're staying here, for the time being though," he added with a smile. They hadn't had a proper honeymoon, after all, and he'd promised to show her all the sights.

"We certainly are." Ellie nodded firmly, already sure what she was going to do. She may not have moved much in society in England, but she had every intention of using her title to good effect here in Paris.

Jay smiled back, leaning in to touch a kiss to her lips, only interrupted by the very female clearing of one's throat as his sister rejoined them.

"Sorry, am I interrupting?" she asked, her makeup retouched and looking as if nothing had happened.

"Oh! Not at all!" Ellie laughed, sliding over into her own seat to make room for Eliza back at the table, glad to see the other woman looking far more herself. "I was contemplating something dreadfully sweet."

Eliza laughed at Ellie's remark about sweets, her eyes sparkling again, but not with tears. She slid into a chair and returned Ellie's handbag under the table, so as not to draw her brother's attention. "The words dreadful and sweet should never be used in the same sentence," she chided playfully.

"I have an appalling sweet tooth," Ellie told her in amusement. "If left to its own devices, it would eat everything containing sugar it could possibly find."
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Eleanor Marshall
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eliza reached for the bottle of wine, frowning to find it was empty. "Oh, Jamie, you didn't!" she complained, tipping the bottle to see if there was anything left at the bottom.

"Sorry," Jay apologized, looking guilty as charged. "It's just ... You were taking so long in the loo - I mean, powder room - that I got bored," he explained with a shrug.

It was the work of a minute to catch the waiter's eye and silently request another bottle, which Ellie was already doing when Eliza noticed the current one was empty. "His ladies did abandon him, rather," she pointed out with a faint smile. "And this is the most he has drunk since we met."

Jay arched a brow, unsure if he agreed with Ellie in her assessment. Had she forgotten the first time they'd met, when he'd had a pretty good start on a bottle of amber liquid before they said their first words to each other. But in a way, she was right; he hadn't really had much to drink since then, until now.

"Yes, poor James," Eliza commisserated, affectionately patting her brother's cheek. "But we're back now. And you never need be lonely again," she assured him, with a look that was more serious than witty.

Eleanor smiled to herself at the warm way Liza spoke to Jay, turning her own attention to the menu in front of her. A moment of psuedo-privacy for the siblings was all she could give them right now, but she would make sure they had time just for themselves in the days and weeks to come.

Jay smiled, taking his sister's hand between his own. He was astute enough to notice that her makeup was slightly different than it had been a little while ago, as if the shades were just slightly off, but he said nothing of it. It wasn't hard to figure out what had happened in the powder room, but it only made him love them both all the more to know they had bonded in ways he could never understand.

"How could I ever be lonely with the two of you around?" he countered.

"Ah, I see how it is," Eleanor pronounced in a drawling, teasing tone. "We are going to have to give you plenty of activities to keep you entertained whenever we have business that does not involve you, I see. Like a small child." She flashed her husband a wicked little smirk.

Jay laughed. "I would like to think I can take care of myself for at least a little while," he pointed out, with a smirk.

"Well said, Brother," Eliza saluted her brother with a glass of wine that was only half full. "What decadent dessert have you decided on, Sister?" she asked, turning her attention to Ellie.

"I must admit, I am rather intrigued by the chouquettes," Ellie admitted. "I do not believe I have ever had them. But I am also tempted by the crème brûlée ... However shall I choose?"

"Ah," Eliza murmured with a grin. "Tres bien! Both very good choices, but I am a little biased toward the crème brûlée. C'est magnifique!" she declared, touching the tips of her fingers to her lips as if she'd just had a taste.

Ellie laughed softly. "Then I shall bow to your recommendation, sister," she said easily, setting the menu aside. "And, of course, coffee is a must."

"Of course!" Eliza replied with a satisfied smile, all her earlier sadness replaced with a happy smile. She even sighed. "It is so good to have you both here, you cannot imagine," she told them both, not for the first or probably the last time.

"Oh, I am delighted to be included," Ellie teased her gently. "Especially since you did not know I existed until two hours ago." Her gaze flickered to Jay in amusement, appreciating now why he had chosen to keep it as a surprise.

Eliza cackled with laughter, as if nothing in the world could possibly go wrong now that her brother and his wife were there with her. And why shouldn't she think that? In her eyes, Jay had never let her down, and Eleanor seemed determined to help her get back on her feet. If Eliza hadn't believed in miracles before, she most certainly did now.

It had been a long few years for all of them, struggling alone in their own ways. Together, who knew what they might achieve? And all because of one stubborn meeting on the other side of the world.
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