CHAPTER_3_REGRETS R AND E DISCUSS BACHELOR PARTY

When they returned to the house, Lee said goodnight and went in. Then Rosemary, knowing they needed to talk, followed Elizabeth to her house. They knew each other so well Elizabeth didn't need to ask Rosemary to come over and talk.

"That was such a fun and wonderful party, huh?" Elizabeth began nervously. "Minnie did a great job with the food."

"Yes, she and Clara did a great job on the food. All right, Elizabeth! Spit it out!"

"Rosemary, what am I going to do?" cried Elizabeth as she prepared the tea for them.

"I'm mortified that I chose Nathan's hands for Lucas. Then to make it worse, I called him Lucas in front of everybody. I can only imagine what everybody else thought since they know the two of us are courting,"

"Elizabeth, maybe you are worried for nothing. It was a simple game, and I'm sure it will be forgotten tomorrow. I know it was embarrassing and awkward for all of you. But as I said, it will be forgotten by tomorrow. But the bigger question I have, which you should consider, is this. Ask yourself why didn't you stay and talk to Lucas about it. Did you already talk to him at the party?" asked Rosemary.

"No, I haven't," Elizabeth replied. "I needed time to sort out what happened for myself before talking with him. I wouldn't even know what to say."

"Elizabeth, if I might, do you think that maybe it happened because Nathan is who you are supposed to be with?"

Elizabeth paused for a minute as if pondering it before answering, "I have thought about Nathan being the one. I can't do it again because losing Jack was devastating enough. You know how hard it was coming back from that. I was considering it until the day I thought he had been shot. I knew then that Nathan and Allie had my heart, my whole heart. I knew without a doubt I was in love with him. All I wanted to do was put my arms around him and never let go. If I am being honest, I still do and always will. I loved Jack very much, please don't get me wrong. I will always hold my love for him deep in my heart. But there was always something that we held back from each other. With Nathan, though, there isn't, and maybe that's part of the problem. Nathan will give me everything he is, and I can't keep from doing the same. If he weren't a Mountie, I would take him over to Bill and ask him to marry us."

Rosemary was in the middle of taking a sip of tea and almost choked on it. She knew then that Elizabeth's feelings ran very deep for Nathan.

"But after it happened, and things settled down, I knew I couldn't take the risk again. Rosemary, it's not just me anymore because now I have to think of little Jack too."

"I understand, Elizabeth, but can I point out a few things?" Rosemary continued.

"I only want your happiness, so I must speak up as your best friend. I know that you are afraid of losing Nathan like you did Jack. That in itself is very telling, in my opinion, but I understand what you're saying. However, you are forgetting that Nathan isn't like Jack when it comes to being a Mountie. First, Nathan is willing to give up the Mounties for you. That is something that Jack never would even consider. Nathan always tries to keep you informed when he doesn't have to, except for Fort Clay and that one incident with that strange man. Jack never gave you any information except the absolute minimum. I think part of that was probably he had a front-row seat to what Charlotte went through. Nathan wants to settle down in Hope Valley. Did you ever think that he might want to leave the Mounties anyway? He even gave up the promotion that he wanted for Allie. He saw she was thriving, and he felt she was more important. He wants to adopt Allie to cement their relationship. You can tell family comes first with Nathan. I think there was a certain schoolteacher who was also the reason he didn't. He isn't the type to put himself in danger unnecessarily. He adores your Son and would be a great father to him, and little Jack loves him just as much. You adore Allie and consider her like a daughter. You have become closer and more invested with her than any other student you have or had. You are missing her just as much as your missing Nathan. I would wager that she is how you got past Nathan's walls to his heart. You admitted you have strong feelings for Nathan and a deep connection with him. One that is unlike any you have ever had. Elizabeth, do you feel like you are betraying Jack's memory if you choose to love him? Have you ever considered that possibility even?"

"I have Rosemary; deep down, that is a small part. I need to get over it and move on, and I want to, but I'm scared. I know that Jack is gone, our chapter is done, and I need to turn the page. I need to take off his rings to begin doing that. I'm letting my fear dictate my life, and I'm drowning in what-ifs. I also feel guilty that my love for Nathan is stronger than for Jack. Maybe it's just deeper and different; I'm not sure. As I said before, it seemed I held a part of myself back with Jack because he ran into danger. It was almost like I knew I would lose him at some point. Does that make sense?"

"Yes, it does, Elizabeth. Don't forget I knew him a long time."

"But with Nathan, I don't think I could because of how I feel about him. I long to kiss him daily and run my fingers through his hair repeatedly." As she realized what she had just revealed, Elizabeth stopped and brought her hand to her mouth. She could see the sparkle in Rosemary's eyes and knew an inquisition would happen. But this time, she was pleasantly surprised.

"If I'm not mistaken, Nathan is the first man you have kissed since Jack. I'm also thinking of the only other man, period." At this, Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and started to comment.

Rosemary raised a hand and said, "Elizabeth, all I am saying is that it was obvious how innocent you were. You are someone that doesn't just casually go around kissing men, say, like Julie. I'm also going to guess you haven't done the same with Lucas?"

Elizabeth just shook her head, embarrassed by the conversation.

"Please don't get me wrong. Lucas seems to be a very charming man." Rosemary added silently, a little too charming if you ask me.' "He is very romantic and knows how to appeal to women. I wouldn't be concerned if you truly had feelings for him and he was in your heart. But you only say that you are enjoying your time with Lucas. It bothers me that you don't mention any other feelings you have. Even though you are courting, you haven't kissed him yet. I do not doubt that Lucas has tried more than once. But you have kissed Nathan, and it stirred up stronger feelings if you long for more."

"Rosemary, I have to be honest with you. There have been a couple of moments when it seemed like I wanted to kiss Lucas, but I stopped it. I just told him I couldn't because I wasn't ready. Another thing I wouldn't say is I like holding hands either, and when he reaches for it at the saloon, I'm uncomfortable. But I also feel bad if I refuse, so I let him walk me home holding hands. As for kissing Nathan, I was the one who initiated it. Something just came over me that I couldn't resist anymore." Elizabeth said.

"Elizabeth Thornton, you have been holding out on me. That's it. I am never going away as long again. Right, there is yet another reason you should take that risk. You never instigated something like that before unless you were courting." Rosemary smiled and then asked for the details.

Well, you know about our conversation at the pond and that I chose to begin to date Lucas. I didn't say we kissed before I got up on Sargent. He had told me that he knew I felt the same way. We stood there, Rosemary, and our gazes locked as if everything had fallen away. Then I looked at his lips, and suddenly all I could think about was how they would feel on mine. I felt like a magnet was drawing me closer to him. Before I knew I cupped his cheek and kissed him. I knew it would be the only time I would get an opportunity to learn." Elizabeth was taken back to that day by the pond when she finally found out what it was like to kiss Nathan Grant, and she loved it.

She had begun the kiss lightly, wanting to get a taste and savor it, but he quickly deepened it, and the fire ignited between them. She had put her hand at the nape of his neck, playing with his hair that brushed his color. All the pent-up passion she had been hiding was unleashed, and he was just as ensnared. They pulled back quickly, realizing that they were reaching the limit of their control, and they stepped back, trying to catch their breath and regain control. They barely stepped back and were drawn quickly into another kiss. How long they stood there exchanging kisses, they didn't know but even care. Rosemary looked at her friends and thought, 'those must have been some kisses, ' seeing the blush come to her friends' cheeks.

"So, I finally just got back up on Sargent and rode away before I did something stupid tell Nathan how much I love him too."

"I see; well, let me point out another important thing. You didn't react to Lucas when the oil derrick exploded like Nathan did when you thought he had died. You were concerned more for Helen. But you hugged Nathan for a long time as if he was your greatest treasure. You did it in the middle of the street in front of everyone. Don't forget I've also seen your face when Nathan rides off on missions. Everyone knows Nathan is your match, and Lucas is just a friend. Do you want to know why we do? We have all seen you gaze longingly at Nathan whenever he passes by. You two always gravitate to one other and know where the other is. The looks between you two could start fires spontaneously. You are very close to losing your second chance at a great love. Most people are lucky to find one in a lifetime—one with which you can share your thoughts, even the deepest ones. You have told me about some of your discussions with Nathan. Even the one in the cabin when you two argued. You aren't afraid to let him know your thoughts, and he doesn't hesitate to do the same. Can you say the same about Lucas? Are you going to give it up without a fight because of fear?"

"You said that he offered to give up the Mounties, but you told him still rejected him?"

"Yes, he did offer, but I can't let him give up on a dream to be with me."

"I see," Rosemary said, but the tone said she didn't. "Elizabeth kept her eyes lowered, looking in her teacup as if it held answers to the myriad of questions she had.

"Elizabeth," she began, "Do you even know what his dream is? Gabriel Kinslow, Nathan's friend, told me that Nathan's priority was always Allie before the Mounties. I think he has proven that time after time which is different from what Jack would have done. Men like that don't grow on trees, Elizabeth. Jack was focused on saving the world and fighting the good fight, but Nathan is content being a town Mountie. They are complete opposites, and as much as you and I both loved Jack and he loved you, he was always looking for danger. He wouldn't even allow you input on his decisions. I want you to ask yourself how you will feel if and when Nathan moves on and you see him court another woman? When you see him marry and have children with her? Having to see them at church or when he comes and picks up their children that you have to teach. Watching Allie draw close to her and doing everything you wish you could be doing with her. You seem to have already lost him by shutting him out. I'm sure that deep inside, you have a huge hole and a lot of heartache and pain. As much as you want to, you can't replace what belongs in that hole with something else. Elizabeth, Nathan is a wonderful man and a great catch for anyone. I will even go as far as to say he is your second chance at great forever love. You have to gain the courage to take the first step and reach out and grab it. To allow Nathan to help you conquer those fears. You're also forgetting that you need to stop trying to be God and trust in him, who is the one that is really in control. How do you know he didn't send Nathan here to be your lifetime love? Also, ask yourself, is it fair to Lucas to continue to force feelings, thereby keeping him from his perfect match?" Rosemary said as she finished the last of her tea and stood up. She hugged Elizabeth and left to join her husband, who was already asleep.