November 1, 2016: The Day I Became a Local Legend (Part 2)

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Now the panic and embarrassment caught up with me.

Bravely declaring "I love him" to Will's unpleasant aunt is one thing. Declaring it to Will himself--plus a roomful of strangers recording me with smartphones--is quite another.

Robotically, I smiled at Will. "Hey, there you are. I brought croissants."

I shuffled over to him and shoved the basket in his hands. "Well, nice to see you!"

The elevator opened, and two passengers stepped out. I made a beeline for the doors, ducking my head and walking as fast as I could without breaking into a run.

That was exactly the wrong thing for me to do.

As it turns out, the Deschutes County Courthouse has the slowest elevator in the state of Oregon. Though I jammed the button for the first floor repeatedly, the doors didn't close. They took an excruciating minute to gather up the energy necessary to do their job.

Will had more than ample time to place the basket down on a chair, saunter over, and stand beside me. The doors finally creaked closed, leaving us alone in the small space.


"Don't look at me!"

I covered my red-hot face with my hands. Why, oh why did I not take the stairs? At this moment I could have been on my bike, pedaling frantically away from this wretched place.

As the ancient elevator took a century to go down one floor, Will said, "I know how embarrassing it is to declare your love for someone unintentionally. I did it myself just two months ago."

I wailed, "But you did it on a hiking trail in the woods, not in the middle of the courthouse!"

It's not fair! I was the only one who heard Will's impromptu confession on the butte, but a bunch of Will's colleagues heard mine just now. And who knows how many people would later watch the video posted on Reddit and write clever puns about it in the comments. Now I'll be forever known as "the girl who got into a public fight with the mayor pro tempore and basically proposed to a guy by accident."

Will patted my shoulder. "If it helps, you didn't say anything I didn't already know."

I peeked through my fingers to glare at him. "What, you know you're that loveable?"

Will grinned. "I read your novella. The mafia romance. The hero was so rigid and tactless, I knew he must be me in fictional form."

"Wait, wait. How did you know about my novella?" So the fourth person to buy my book wasn't one of the extended relatives Dad plagued with mass emails? It was Will?

"Charles sent me the link. Jane showed it to him, I assume."

Will dropped this information casually, as if it weren't mind-exploding news that Jane and Charles were together again. Jane didn't tell me anything! Who called whom first? Were they still "just friends" or did they stop dragging their feet? What did the famous five-million-dollar house in Beverly Hills look like? I'd have to grill Jane about the details later. When she said she was taking charge of her life, I guess she meant it.

The rickety elevator shuddered to a stop, and the doors mustered their strength to open. I hurried out, simultaneously trying to look nonchalant and escape from the building as fast as I could.

Will kept up with me easily. In a warm, husky voice he said, "You did a great job. This time, you made me feel a lot of things."

Out of context, Will's compliment sounded suggestive...and I swear he was doing that on purpose. I couldn't believe Will was flirting so boldly in the middle of his workplace.

He said, "I shouldn't have pushed you away because of your sister's crime, even if it was only temporary. I didn't realize you were pining for me so much."

I wanted to shriek in dismay. Will was definitely doing this on purpose. I forced myself to whisper. "Is that why you meddled with Lydia's case and dropped out of the election? Because you read my novella and thought I was pining for you?"

"Partially. I was ambivalent about becoming a judge to begin with, and I decided I shouldn't run when I lacked the conviction for it. But I also couldn't sit back and do nothing when you were so heartbroken. I was especially touched by my fictional counterpart's death scene. 'The desolation of living on without him overwhelmed me. I choked back my tears with a smile, so our final moments together on this pitiless earth would be happy ones...'"

A squeak of embarrassment escaped from my throat. I picked up my pace and sped towards the courthouse entrance.

The jolly security guard waved. "Good, you found him!" He remarked to Will, "I wish my girlfriend would bring me snacks at work."

I stopped to protest that I wasn't Will's girlfriend. Will beat me to it. "Oh, she's not my girlfriend yet."

If we weren't standing in front of a security guard with a taser, I would have strangled that man. "Yet?"

Will put his arm around my shoulders. "No, not yet. But she will be in about two minutes."

Why do I love this guy, again? Seriously, do you know the answer, Diary? Because I don't.

The guard said, "Oh, congratulations!" He shook Will's hand, and I huffed out the front door. Will came out after me.

On the front steps of the courthouse, I rounded on him. "Will Darcy, you are an arrogant, insensitive, lemon-sucking jerk."

Will repeated, "Lemon sucking?"

"You don't know when to keep your big mouth shut. You have major trust issues. And you're terrible at telling jokes."

I sighed and put my hands on Will's shoulders. "'re probably the only man in the world whose flaws I'm willing to overlook."

Will's face broke into the most dazzling smile I've ever seen. I stood on tiptoe to kiss him, and he met me halfway. He put his hands on my waist and pulled me close, and I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer.

I'm glad now that I didn't kiss Will when we first met at the Lucas' Fourth of July barbecue and I wanted to jump his bones. I'm glad I didn't kiss him when we were at the top of the butte and I wanted to throttle him. I'm even glad that Jane's phone call interrupted our romantic moment at Will's house, when I was a blubbering mess.

Though making out on the courthouse steps was tricky because we were smiling and laughing so much, I'm glad I kissed my Mr. Darcy for the first time when we were both completely, perfectly, incadescently happy.

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