Pairing: Gordon Selfridge/Grace Calthorpe
He was the love she lost…
Now he’s back.
When Grace Calthorpe called off her relationship with Gordon Selfridge she thought she’d lost him forever. Now he’s back and both find themselves working at the same wedding. Can the magical setting help heal the past, and allow them both to trust their hearts again…?
Working at a wedding was a different experience from working in a shop. This was only the second one Grace had worked at, but it was an opportunity to earn a little more money. Selfridges, it turned out, paid the best and nowhere else was quite the same. But seeing Gordon every day had been too hard and since he couldn't leave, she'd had to.
Tonight she was surrounded by the sort of people who shopped in Selfridges, who saw someone with a tray of champagne, but didn't see her. Which was a lot like working in a shop. But here there were far more reminders that a wedding likely wouldn't be in her future.
She'd heard, of course, that with so many eligible young men dying in the war, many girls her age would never find a husband. To make it harder, whenever she did meet a man, she couldn't help but compare him to Gordon. Leaving Selfridges was supposed to help her get over him, but it hadn't worked at all. She still thought about him often and wondered when it would get easier.
It wouldn't be today because the man who came around past a group of people and reached for some champagne was Gordon.
"Grace!" He said her name in a whisper, eyes wide.
The lump in her throat prevented her from speaking. But since he'd taken the last two glasses from her tray, she was able to turn and flee.
She couldn't run, not through the crowds, but she could walk purposely. Like someone who had an empty tray and needed a refill. Her heart pounding, she glanced over her shoulder to find he was still staring at her.
The expression on his face was the same one she used to see on him every day. For a moment she was transported back to Selfridges. It left her in no doubt what his feelings for her were.
She stood there for some time, unable to take her gaze away from his, when he was interrupted by a girl taking a glass from him. Then he turned, smiled at her and let her take his arm.
Frowning as she refilled her tray with champagne, Grace took some time to work out where she recognised the girl from. Eventually she remembered the fateful day when she'd realised she could never be with Gordon. He belonged with the girl on his arm: Polly Maxwell Taylor.
Staying where she was for a little longer, eyes closed, she reminded herself it was for the best. By the time she stepped back onto the floor she had a plan to avoid Gordon. All the waiters and waitresses had their assigned area, so she was limited in where she could go. But he wasn't, and as long as he stayed away it would be easy. What she hadn't reckoned with was hearing his name. She hadn't been paying attention to the question, but she did slow her walk to eavesdrop on the answer.
"He's going to propose to me any day now, I'm sure of it."
A quick glance confirmed this was Polly Maxwell Taylor. She would have stared if she hadn't felt the tray unbalance, and had to grab hold of it with her free hand to steady it. She smiled through the knot in her stomach so no one would notice anything amiss. Perhaps it would be a good thing if Gordon did get married. With him unavailable it would be much easier to stop thinking about him.
The trouble was she'd been lost in her thoughts and he managed to ambush her.
"Are you all right?" he sounded concerned as he frowned at her.
"Fine," she lied. She tried stepping around him, but he sidestepped, blocking her path.
"It's good to see you." He smiled briefly.
"I can't do this." She dropped her gaze to the tray. "Not here. I can't lose this job. Go and marry the girl you came with."
This time when she tried stepping around him, he let her. She wasn't sure whether to be upset or relieved.
After that he was a far easier person to avoid. Even if she sometimes unwittingly caught his eye and quickly looked away. Being around him was as hard as it ever was and she found herself wishing for the night to end. Except part of her wished for it to never end.
Clearing up at the end of the night seemed to take forever. By the time it was finished Grace's feet hurt and all she wanted to do was to go home and go to bed. But outside, leaning against a wall was Gordon. She sighed, too tired to fight her feelings. She kept walking, ignoring him when he came over to her.
"I'm trying to understand what it's like to be you," he said, walking in step with her. "I'm doing my best."
Not knowing what to say to that, she settled for shaking her head, not convinced he'd ever be able to understand an experience he'd never lived.
"I've just taken Polly home and told her plainly I have no intention of marrying her. Maybe a little too plainly," he added, and despite herself, she smiled. "I was only with her because I thought she'd help me forget about you. But it isn't working. I'm not going to let you go again."
Now she stopped and stared him down. "You didn't let me go, I left."
"And I did nothing. Because..." he paused. "Because I was a coward."
"Oh, Gordon," she remonstrated. He'd done what she asked - that wasn't cowardice.
"I should have told my father about us at the start. I don't care if he doesn't approve," he added forcefully. "The only person's opinion I care about is yours."
She shook her head, but was unable to tear her eyes away from him.
He stepped closer. "I love you and I want you to marry me. That way your job won't matter." He took a deep breath. "But if you tell me you don't love me, I'll go."
"I do love you," she said softly. Because she couldn't lie, not to him and not about that. But also because hope had sprung up in her breast and she didn't know if she could leave him again.
"Then marry me." She could see the hope in his eyes too, which made it impossible to say no, and the last of her objections fell away.
"I will." Uncaring of who else might be around, she leaned in to kiss him, the sweetest and most desperate of all their kisses. But it would not be their last kiss.