We’re now into day five of FanstRAvaganza 3! Hope everyone’s enjoying themselves so far.
If you haven’t had a chance yet:
Also, head on over to see what Maria Grazia has posted today!
Here’s the next installment of Maggie & John’s story. Since this is part of FanstRAvaganza 3, expect a lot of John Thornton in this chapter! Many thanks to Jael and UK Expat for beta-ing this chapter for me. It is much appreciated, ladies.
If your just joining this story and interested in reading the previous chapters, you can do so here.
John stared at Maggie and felt as if the fates were looking down on him with favor. While his day had been busily spent with one of his suppliers, his thoughts had frequently been fixed on her. He had wondered how she spent her day, what sights she had visited. He longed to see her expression as she took in the new surroundings, to hear her delight as she spoke of each new experience. Each time his mind had strayed to her, he reminded himself that he would probably never see her again. The likelihood of her calling seemed miniscule. Yet here she was, with Nick’s daughter.
“Hello John,” Maggie said with a timid smile.
“Hello Maggie,” he replied. “I wasn’t sure if I would see you again,” John continued with the slightest hint of nervousness in his voice.
“It seems as if we don’t really have a say in the matter,” Maggie continued, “Perhaps we are meant to be friends.”
Throughout this exchange, Bessie looked from one to the other. Observing John’s obvious attraction to her new friend, she was less certain of Maggie’s interest. After a few moments she decided to remind them of her presence. “So, how do you two know each other?” she asked, “You don’t exactly run in the same circles.”
“We were seated next to each other at the airport this morning,” Maggie answered, “then we rode the train into Paris together.”
“Really,” Bessie said, “well I’ve known Mr. Thornton my whole life.”
“Bessie,” John started, “you know you don’t have to call me Mr. Thornton. John will do just fine.”
“Well then, John,” Bessie said impishly, “would you like to join us for dinner?”
Casting his gaze towards Maggie, he tried to ascertain her wishes. His glance was met with a smile and a slight nod. Heart swelling, John offered a brilliant smile in return and replied, “I’d love to, ladies.”
Settling in at the table—John quickly placed his order—insisting that Maggie and Bessie eat while their food was hot.
“So, you both are from Milton then?” Maggie inquired.
“Born and raised,” Bessie answered.
“My family has been in Milton for ages,” John replied.
“And Bessie’s dad is your business partner?” Maggie asked John with a quirked brow—reminding him of their unfortunate introduction that very morning.
“Yes,” John began, “he’s worked for my family’s business since before I was born. He started at the bottom when he was 16 and gradually worked his way up.”
“That’s quite admirable,” Maggie said, directing a smile towards Bessie.
“He really proved his value to the company after John’s dad died,” Bessie said. Quickly realizing the inappropriateness of her comment, she continued, “I’m sorry John. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, its fine Bessie,” John reassured her, “you’re right. I’m not sure if I could have coped without his help in the beginning.”
“Your dad,” Maggie hesitantly asked, “how long has he been gone?”
“It’s been about a decade,” John said, “I was only 18 when I had to take over the family business. My mum, she knew a lot. But Nick, he’s the one who really got me on my feet.”
At that moment John’s food arrived and the conversation lulled, as each of them savored their meal.
John’s attention was caught as Maggie took a sip of wine; he was entranced as she licked a drop of the ruby liquid from her lips—his entire body heating. In an attempt to redirect his thoughts he asked, “Did you two stay busy today?”
“Yes,” Bessie began, “we did all kinds of things today!”
Listening to Bessie recount their day, John’s attention was again drawn to Maggie. He noted the sparkle in her eyes as she relived the day through Bessie’s story. It was clear to him that in just this one day, she and Bessie had formed a close bond. He couldn’t help but wonder what had drawn these two very different women together. Bessie was so young and exuberant about everything. While Maggie seemed to have a joy for life, she was clearly several years older than Bessie, and of a more sedate nature. Pondering their differences, he concluded that their contrasting personalities complemented each other. Finally catching a pause in Bessie’s story John asked, “So, what was your favorite place you visited today?”
“Ooh,” Bessie gushed, “I loved visiting Notre Dame. It was so beautiful, and that bell was huge!”
“And Maggie,” John turned to her, “what was your favorite part of the day?”
“Visiting all of those historic buildings and gardens was wonderful,” she replied, “but if I’m honest, the part I’ve replayed most in my mind was the taste of our midmorning snack!”
Laughing heartily at Maggie’s admission, they continued with their meal. “Your glass is empty,” Maggie observed. Both reaching for the wine bottle, John’s hand lightly brushed against Maggie’s. The electric charge that ran up his arm was palpable. Heart pounding, John chanced a look into Maggie’s eyes. Her returned gaze astounded him—shock, attraction, desire—everything he felt was reflected back at him. Maggie turned her attention to Bessie and the moment was over.
Soon after they had finished dinner, Maggie began to rise, “Bessie, we should head back to the hostel. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day, so we should get some sleep.”
At this declaration, Bessie started to get up—but seeing the disappointed look on John’s face—she changed her mind. “But Maggie,” she stalled, “we haven’t had dessert yet.”
“Dessert,” Maggie teased, “were the pastries this morning and ice cream in the afternoon not enough?”
“I figure we balanced things out with all of that walking,” Bessie suggested, “Besides, I want to try some crepes.”
“There is a street vendor close by,” John suggested, “that has the best crepes I’ve had in Paris.”
Outnumbered, Maggie agreed, and the three set off in search of crepes.
Bessie—hoping to give John a few moments alone with Maggie—hurried ahead in the direction John pointed them. Leaving John and Maggie to follow, side-by-side.
“She’s quite exuberant, isn’t she?” John asked, hoping to draw Maggie into conversation.
“Yes, that’s part of why I’ve had so much fun with her today,” she replied.
Falling into silence, they continued down the street. Then Maggie spoke, “I was sorry to hear about your father. I know it was a long time ago, but losing a parent is never easy.”
“Thank you, Maggie,” John looked into her sympathetic face, “I was blessed with the support of my mother and Nick, that’s more than a lot of people have in such circumstances.”
“You were 18 when he passed, were you in school at the time?” she inquired.
“I was in my first term at university, when he died,” John confided, “I had to quit school and take over the family business. Things were a bit precarious; dad hadn’t left things in the best shape.”
“Do you wish you could have finished school?” Maggie asked.
“Sometimes I do, when I’m on trips like this, I get to see amazing things, buildings in particular. I wanted to be an architect and sometimes I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to design a building and see it through to completion,” John shared, “I’ve made the best of the life I have. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made, but sometimes…” he trailed off.
“You think about what could have been,” Maggie finished for him.
“Exactly,” John smiled at her. It was a relief to share these thoughts with someone. For so long he had kept his feelings inside—worried that his mother would be upset if she knew. Talking to Maggie, he found it easy to confide, the words just rolling off of his tongue.
Bessie’s call drew them out of their conversation, “If my nose can be trusted, we must be getting close.”
“That girl,” Maggie smiled, “she thinks with her stomach.”
Arriving at the crepe stand, they placed and received their order—John insisting it was his treat. Once again John found himself watching Maggie, smiling at the chocolate spread that lingered at the corner of her mouth. Without thinking he reached over with his thumb, wiping the chocolate from her lips. “Sorry, you had some chocolate there,” John said, when he caught the look of surprise in her eyes. Never breaking eye contact, John lifted his thumb to his own lips and licked the offending chocolate—his heart speeding as he watched Maggie’s pupils dilate in response.
Satisfied with both dessert and the way things were progressing between John and Maggie, Bessie decided it was time to call it a night. “Alright Maggie,” she said, “My sweet tooth has been appeased. Let’s go get that beauty sleep, so we’re ready for tomorrow.”
John, reluctant to part just yet, offered to walk them back to the hostel. “I never asked what the two of you have planned for tomorrow,” he said.
“We’re going to visit some of the art museums,” Bessie offered.
“Do you know which ones, Bessie?” John teased.
“Maggie’s the tour guide,” she tossed back, “you’ll have to ask her.”
“We’re starting at the Louvre, then going on to the Musée de l’Orangerie and then the Musée D’Orsay,” Maggie said.
Wondering if he was pushing things too far, John decided to suggest anyway, “My meetings tomorrow are in the morning and then I’m free for the rest of the day. Maybe I could join you in the afternoon. I’m quite fond of the Impressionists.”
Smiling at this admission, Bessie winked at Maggie and commented, “Isn’t that something, Maggie’s a big fan of the Impressionists as well.”
“Really,” John said, his blue eyes lighting up, “I’d love to see their works with another admirer.”
“If we’re going to meet up, we should set a time and place,” Maggie suggested.
Thrilled that she was willing for him to join them, John asked, “Do you think you will be done at the Louvre around noon?”
“If everything goes according to plan,” Maggie responded.
“I could bring lunch and meet the two of you outside of the Musée de l’Orangerie,” John said, “We could have a picnic in the park before going in.”
“That sounds like a good plan to me,” Bessie opined, “What do you think, Maggie?”
“If it won’t be an inconvenience,” Maggie faltered, then said, “it’s a very nice offer, John.”
Pleased with her acceptance, John bid them goodnight as they entered the hostel. Setting off in the direction of his hotel, he couldn’t be happier that he’d kept his promise to Nick of checking up on Bessie.
Sliding into bed, Maggie sighed as her body relaxed after the long day. Her thoughts, firmly fixed on the man who had captivated her attention all evening. Hearing Bessie come in she chanced a question, “Bessie, John’s father, was he sick?”
“No, why do you ask?” Bessie asked in return.
“He was away at school when his dad died, that seemed strange to me,” Maggie answered truthfully.
“I’m not sure I should say anything,” Bessie said uncertainly. Quickly making up her mind, she continued, “His dad killed himself, Maggie. He’d gambled away most of their family’s money, and the business’s money. When he couldn’t ignore what he’d done anymore, he took the coward’s way out. At least that’s what my dad says. Just don’t repeat that to John, okay.”
“How awful for him,” Maggie said more to herself than to Bessie, “At least our mothers didn’t choose to leave us.”
“John’s a good guy, Maggie, and he’s had to work hard,” Bessie pushed on, wanting her friend to understand what kind of man John truly was. “He did everything he could to make sure the company didn’t close—worried about the employees and what would happen to them,” Bessie went on, “I know from what my dad’s told me, that John and his mum and sister lived on less than they should have, so that more money could be put into the business. He even saved up money so Fran could go to school, even though he never got to finish. He hasn’t had much of a life apart from the company. If anyone deserves to find some happiness, it’s him, Maggie.” Finished lauding the many merits of John Thornton, Bessie added with a yawn, “I didn’t realize how tired I was. Sleep well, Maggie.” With that she rolled over and promptly fell asleep.
For Maggie, sleep was longer in coming. There was so much to think about. John had taken her by surprise from the moment they had met. He seemed such a contradiction, but the more she learned of him, the more she was drawn to him. Certainly she was attracted to him, although physical attraction was quickly taking second place to genuine interest. He seemed like the kind of man she could truly admire, be friends with, maybe even love. It was crazy to think like that, she reminded herself, they had only known each other for a day. Caution aside, Maggie finally drifted to sleep with thoughts of John Thornton floating through her head.
Heads up for the Fanfic Chain:
If you haven’t already, visit Maria Grazia to see what she’s posted.