What if Darcy and Elizabeth met during a volcanic eruption?
“What do you mean by we can’t take off?” Darcy raised his voice. He was fed up with the delay. He had been stuck in the airport in Athens for two days and needed to be back in London as soon as possible. But it wasn’t just his jet that was grounded; other commercial airlines were standing still as well. And there were thousands of people in the terminal.
“It’s the volcanic ash from Iceland. The air safety authority expects it will last for another four to five days,” the pilot explained.
“Bloody hell!” Darcy swore. He would miss an important meeting if he was stuck here for four days. “What other alternatives are there?”
“Some people are hiring cars.”
“Drive back to London? From Athens? Are they crazy?”
The pilot kept silent. He had never seen his employer, nicknamed Iceman Darcy, lose his cool like this. Darcy got onto the phone and talked to his assistant immediately. After nearly half an hour on the phone with Mrs. Reynolds, he swore again. “All the rental cars are fully booked. She couldn’t even get me help from the Ministry of Justice.”
“Perhaps, sir, you can try the taxi rank,” the air hostess suggested. “I saw some people paid enough to have the taxi drivers take them all the way to northern Europe.”
This was crazy, Darcy thought. But with a curt nod, he grabbed his hand luggage and went outside. There were angry people everywhere and the taxis were driving off like hot cakes. The cars were gone in a flash, fully packed. He saw a few of them with six people in them. It seemed most of the drivers were trying to get as much money from as many people as possible.
Darcy would pay a fortune just to be alone. He didn’t want to share the hundred miles of the journey in polite chitchat with four strangers.
When he managed to find a roadworthy-looking and clean taxi, he opened the door to talk to the driver. He was surprised that she was a young girl. “I want to get to London, as soon as possible,” he said slowly in English. Several people were already crowding him and offering huge sums of money to the young driver. “And I want the taxi all for myself. I’m willing to pay four times the money.”
The young girl looked at him and the other protesting travellers with glittering eyes. “Show me the money. And I need the return fare, too,” she replied in perfect English, not a trace of Greek accent. How strange! An English rose driving a taxi in Greece?
Darcy normally didn’t have so much money with him. Luckily, Mrs. Reynolds reminded him to take cash out before he left the hotel early this morning in case of emergency amid the air traffic chaos. He flashed his wallet, pulled out 500 euro notes and gave them to her, as down payment.
She whistled with a smile. “Hop in.”
“Hey love, I need to get to Rome so I’m on the way. I’d pay you 500, too,” another tourist with sweaty hair and many pieces of luggage yelled and tried to get into the taxi behind Darcy.
“Sorry, less people, less weight and less fuel,” she said.
With less than a gentlemanlike manner, Darcy elbowed the man accidentally and closed the door with a slam as the taxi sped away.
“We will take the ferry to Italy,” the driver said after a short while.
“The fastest way is fine by me.”
She looked into the rear mirror at Darcy and shrugged. Then she switched on the music. Michael Bublé.
“Aren’t you Greek?” He asked bluntly. “Have you really got the licence to drive a taxi?” After the words left his mouth, he saw the photograph display on the dashboard. It was definitely not her. It was the image of an elderly woman. “I hope you didn’t steal the taxi from that elderly Greek lady.”
She glared at him. “It belongs to my grandma. Not that it is any of your business, Judge Darcy.”
His eyes opened wide. “How did you know my name?”
She tilted her head with a challenging look. “I work in forensics in London. It’s hard not to know you.”
“Have you come to my chamber before?”
“Luckily, no,” she said.
He thought so as well. If he had seen her before, he would have remembered her, especially with those fine eyes. “So you moonlight as a taxi driver for your grandmother in Greece from time to time?”
“As I mentioned, it’s none of your business.”
Feeling an unwanted attraction to the woman and frustration with her evasive answers, he decided to put on his famous judge expression and took out his mobile to talk to Mrs. Reynolds. He wanted to get information about the ferry ticket and the best hotels on the way to London.
“I don’t need to stay in such expensive hotels,” the woman said, on hearing him asking for two rooms.
“You’re making this trip because of me. It’s my responsibility to provide you with the accommodation I deem appropriate.” Darcy replied.
“A motel near the highway is fine for me.”
And let some leering Romeo try to chat you up? Darcy thought not. “I always stay in the best hotels. And you stay with me,” he said. On seeing her arch expression, he added, “I don’t want to find another mode of transportation in the middle of a foreign country.”
“Waste of money,” she murmured.
“And you need a change of clothes,” he added. “I will pay for that, too.”
“My grandma needs to take out her wisdom tooth. Do you want to pay for that too?” She raised her voice.
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