It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, socially awkward FBI IT Specialist must be in want of her very own Austen-worthy hero.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't universally true, but it sure summed up the hopes and dreams of Paige Adams. Paige shifted her focus off the three enormous computer monitors on her desk to the iPhone in her hand. She opened the recently launched dating app that was exclusively for Jane Austen and regency fanatics, and began scrolling through past messages from her sorta almost boyfriend. She may only know him by his username, but it still counted as a relationship, right?
If only Wyatt saw me as more than a friend. Her co-worker, Special Agent Wyatt Stevens was the only man who'd ever made her feel like putting her heart on the line and taking a step into the realm of the unknown, aka dating, was something she could possibly do.
Sure, he'd come over to her place the night of her Birthday last summer to chow down on Chinese food and watch 13 Going on 30. And, sure, sparks of electricity flew when their hands accidentally collided mid-grab for the fortune cookies, but their romantic relationship had never gone beyond that. Paige wished things were different, but it wasn't likely to happen. Wyatt was still mourning the death of a past love, and Paige would never intrude on his grief. Her heart twinged at the thought of Wyatt. The truth was, she loved him. But it wasn't to be, and she needed to move on, so Cyber Dude for the win.
A ding sounded, and a new message popped up on her screen.
RealMenReadAusten: Good day, beautiful. Are you well, my dear?
Oh, this man. His sweet words always sent her floating into visions of handsome men in period garb splitting wood in the rain, flexing their fingers after handing her into a carriage, or striding toward her across a meadow in the early morning fog.
BookBoyfriendCollector: I am well, kind sir. Thank you for the virtual daisies.
Paige's lips curved up in a smile, remembering the photo he'd sent her that morning: a bouquet of daisies nestled in a vase of sharpened pencils.
RealMenReadAusten: You are most welcome. I have been told they are the friendliest flower, and I want you to know how much I value your friendship.
Paige's heart swelled. A man who not only loved Austen, but could quote You've Got Mail! Could he be real?
BookBoyfriendCollector: GIF from Toy Story with the words 'You've got a friend in me.'
Instant regret filled Paige and she slapped her palm against her forehead. Nice going, Paige. Nothing screams romantic feelings like Woody and Buzz. Why am I always so awkward when it comes to communication?
Cyber Dude didn't seem fazed, however.
RealMenReadAusten: I cannot wait to finally make your acquaintance this evening, and discover if our relationship could become more than friendship.
Introverted anxiety knocked on Paige's heart like an unwelcome guest. She bowed her head. “Father, should I cancel? I want to meet this man, but You know how nervous I am. Please give me wisdom and help me to know what to do. I love you and I praise you, In Jesus Name. Amen.” She prayed aloud.
Her brain started cataloging everything she knew about this man. He'd been a chemistry major; he plays the piano; he is passionate about ending human trafficking; his best friend is his spunky younger sister; he loves to bake, Nutella cheesecake especially; he believes in mercy and forgiveness; he loves Jane Austen novels and rom- com movies, and most importantly he loves Jesus. He'd shared pieces of his testimony with her and she was in awe of the amazing ways God was working in his life. A serial killer? Probably not.
Decision made. I'll meet him, even though peopling makes me want to burrow under a blanket, cover my head, and hide. Besides, if things go awry I'll call in the cavalry, namely Wyatt. Mr. Special Agent loves to ride to the rescue. And, let's face it, I definitely wouldn't be mad if he came to my rescue.
A daydream filled Paige's mind: She was in a regency gown, huddled against a massive tree, crying. Wyatt galloped toward her on a dappled- grey horse, the tails of his greatcoat flying behind him like a superhero's cape. When he reached her he swiftly dismounted, and pulled her into his arms with the fierceness of a man in love, holding her and letting her soak his linen shirt until her tears ran dry.
“I'm here. You're safe now, Paige,” he whispered against her hair. And she believed him.
Wyatt eventually pulled back just enough to survey her. His eyes flashed with unleashed fury when he discovered the bruises on her skin.
“Who did this to you?” he asked, his voice part rage, part agony.
Before Paige could speak his name the awful man skulked out of the nearby forest.
Wyatt took up a protective stance, placing himself between her and the threat. And in the blink of an eye Wyatt had drawn his sword and challenged the man to a duel...
Paige shook herself out of the delicious imagining, and pulled in a deep breath that was supposed to be calming, but did nothing at all to dissuade her nerves from firing on all cylinders. She typed a reply and quickly pressed send before she could talk herself out of it.
BookBoyfriendCollector: Me too! See you at 7:00. I'll be there with bells on.
* * *
Paige shifted on the gazebo's bench. Her nose tingled from the slight chill in the Vermont spring night air, or from trying to hold back her tears. Most likely the latter. Paige dabbed at the moisture in her eyes, and then tapped her phone screen: 8:05 PM. She'd been stood up.
Real life relationships rarely had happy endings, there were just too many Wickhams and Willoughbys in the world, and too few Tilneys and Darcys.
A shadow fell over the gazebo entrance. Had he shown after all?
“Paige, is that you?” Not Cyber Dude. Nope it was the guy she was trying to forget. Why did Wyatt have to be the one to witness her coming unglued?
“Hi, Wyatt.” Her voice broke on his name.
His boots clomped softly as he stepped into the gazebo and sat next to her.
Wyatt's gaze studied her in the moonlight. “Are you all right?” he asked, each word overflowing with tenderness and concern.
“My date was supposed to meet me here. He never showed.”
Wyatt's arm twined gently around her shoulders. “Maybe he has a good reason for being late.”
“Well, hypothetically, of course. Maybe his sister needed a fill-in assailant for the self-defense class she was teaching and a ten-year-old girl gave him a bloody nose that refused to quit and he didn't want to show up looking like an extra from a Stephen King movie. You know, hypothetically. ”
“That is oddly specific.”
“What can I say? I have a great imagination.”
Paige gave a watery chuckle. “You know, if we were in a romance novel, it would turn out that you're the one I've been messaging.”
Wyatt's eyes turned serious and his lips froze on their way to a smile. “I am. At least I think I am. Please say your handle is Book Boyfriend Collector? If it's not, then I'm not him and I just made this really awkward.”
Paige's world brightened like Dorothy opening the door to the land of Oz. Could this be real? Cyber Dude and Wyatt were one and the same? Everything Paige had dreamed of was within her grasp, all she needed to do was find the courage to put herself out there. Be brave, Paige. Be like the heroines in Bethany Turner's romcom novels.
She knew Wyatt, and he knew her like no one else did. A sudden burst of boldness filled her and she did something she never dreamed she'd do.
She grabbed Wyatt's collar and silenced his rambling with a kiss. And he kissed her back.
If she were a writer perhaps she could find the words to describe the magnificence of her first kiss, but honestly she had a feeling it was a kiss that might make Jane Austen, Savannah Scott, Janine Rosche, and even Pepper Basham speechless.
Wyatt pulled away first. “I love you, Paige.”
Paige stared at him, stunned. “You do?”
Wyatt rested his forehead against hers. “Most ardently,” he murmured.
Paige somehow managed to stop herself from swooning so she could reply. “I love you, too. I always have. But what about Katrina?”
“I miss Katrina. I'll always miss her, but I ache for you, Paige.”
A delicious shiver ran down Paige's spine. “Ooh, quoting Return to Me. Well played handsome, well played.”
Paige woke her phone and tapped out one last message. Wyatt's phone dinged. He pulled it from his pocket and glanced at the screen, his handsome face spotlighted in the blue-lit glow, and seconds later he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her again.
“Wyatt, what's the red fleck on your cheek?”
He gave her a sheepish smile. “Blood that I missed.”
They both dissolved into laughter.
This man was a dream come true. Thank you, Jesus.
BookBoyfriendCollector: You are an Austen- worthy hero.
Thank you so very much for reading this little story! I pray that it made you smile and brought a little bit of joy to your day! If you enjoyed this story please leave a comment below letting me know your thoughts, and consider sharing with a friend who might enjoy the story as well.
If you would like to see more of Wyatt and a little of Paige (several years before they became a couple!) you can check out my Christian YA Suspense novella Deadly Obsession! It stars Kennedy, that spunky little sister of Wyatt’s! It’s available on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited.
Click HERE to check it out!
It was an absolute joy to shoutout some of my favorite authors (who also happen to be Paige’s favorites too!) in this story!
I absolutely love their books, and I f you are unfamiliar with any of them here is a list of what they write and links to their website and Instagram account so you can follow them and I hope you will, they are all absolutely amazing!