Beginning, Section II
Chapter Nine Posted on Thursday, 27 October 2005
Having avoided Darcy's touch for so many days, now that she had allowed it, Elizabeth could not, it seemed, get enough of it.
For his part, Darcy was delighted at her allowing him to hold her so closely. Fearing she would slip away, he was loath to release her.
And so it was a circumstance agreeable to both, she atop his knee in the relative privacy of the library, her arms about his neck, his arms wrapped around her waist. How Darcy wished he could will the others in the house to disappear so that he could take her to his bed directly and marry her tomorrow, or the next day, assuming he could will himself to leave their bed long enough to make the necessary arrangements!
He wasn't thinking rationally, and he cared not. He was crazy with love, crazy with lust. Being conventional, worrying about society's good opinion: that was how he had operated in the past, and it had almost ruined his life.
"I love you," he whispered. "I believe I was born to love you, that I spent the first eight and twenty years of my life waiting for you, do you understand me, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth wanted to make some witty response, but she had no opportunity, as Darcy would not allow her to speak. He seemed to want nothing more this morning than to tell her he loved her, then show her how much he loved her by kissing her so hard and for so long a time that her lips were red and swollen. She gave up trying to speak and surrendered to his will.
"Tell me," he said, during one of the rare interludes when he paused kissing her to take air into his lungs, "when did you begin to love me?"
Elizabeth looked pensive.
"I cannot be sure, sir, but I believe I must date it upon first seeing your beautiful grounds here at Pemberley."
For a moment, Darcy looked stricken, until Elizabeth, unable to contain her glee at having teased him so successfully, burst into laughter.
Darcy suppressed a grin, and shook his head at her.
"You continue to tease me mercilessly, Miss Bennet. I believe you must be silenced," and now it was Darcy who was merciless, silencing her laughter with his mouth upon hers.
Elizabeth considered Darcy's suggestion that that they marry hastily, and it seemed more and more logical to her, as she felt what little control she had over her senses slipping away. She trembled as he whispered hotly, "I believe I have much to recommend me, Miss Bennet, besides the grounds at Pemberley, do you agree?"
"Most certainly, sir," she whispered. "Your charms are many."
"Enumerate them for me, Lizzy," he demanded.
"Oh, so I am 'Lizzy" now, sir?"
"When you are sitting on my lap, you will always be 'Lizzy," he said, a gleam in his eyes.
"Then I must count that among your charms, William. Your calling me 'Lizzy' will always bring to mind how delightful it feels when I am so close to you."
"Then I shall remember to call you 'Lizzy' often when we are married. Continue, Lizzy."
"Yes, pray continue. Your skill has always been considerable in listing my faults, Elizabeth, I now demand the same attention be paid to enumerating my attributes."
Darcy spoke with good humor, but Elizabeth sensed a real insecurity behind his words.
She stroked the curls back from his forehead.
"The strength of your arms. The warmth of your lips. The softness in your eyes when you look at me. I do love you so, Fitzwilliam."
The happiness her words produced exceeded any he had ever felt before, and Darcy's heartfelt joy was written clearly on his face.
"I did not..." he began, then paused. "I did not think it possible I would ever hear those words from you, Lizzy," he whispered huskily, overcome with emotion.
Elizabeth, sensing he was unable to continue speaking, opened her lips most invitingly so that Darcy could employ his mouth in a more agreeable activity. He pulled away from her suddenly, and she looked at him questioningly.
"I cannot wait any longer for you, Lizzy, or I will go mad," Darcy said.
Elizabeth bit her lip and peered up at him through long lashes.
"Must we wait, Fitzwilliam?"
"I thought..." he began awkwardly. "That is to say, I assumed that would be your wish, Elizabeth."
"We must certainly should wait, William. But I fear that I..."
"Fear that what, Lizzy?" he asked, his eyes dark and piercing.
"I fear that I lack ... I lack control," she said finally, looking up at him defiantly.
"I like your lack of control, Lizzy," he said, kissing her softly. "I like it very well indeed."
He played with the delightful curl that brushed her ear.
"May I come to you tonight then, my beloved Lizzy?"
"Yes. Oh yes, yes, please!"
Chapter Ten Posted on Thursday, 27 October 2005
It was a very long day for everyone at Pemberley, for different reasons.
Jane and Bingley were nearly inseparable. They sat together at breakfast and luncheon and walked the grounds for hours, but Bingley was still hesitant about speaking to her seriously about his intentions. He was still unsure of her sentiments, as the seeds of doubt originally planted in him by his sister and Darcy were difficult to dispel.
Jane, as all her friends and relations knew, never found it easy to display her feelings. Darcy, in particular, had been misled by her cool, calm demeanour. However, it was now in his own best interests for Jane and Bingley to come to an understanding, as he wanted both Bingley's forgiveness and continued friendship, and the goodwill from Elizabeth's family that would come from such a union. He was painfully aware that the Bennets, indeed all of Hertfordshire, preferred Bingley to himself, and becoming more closely associated with the Bennet family through a marriage between his closest friend and Jane Bennet would improve his reputation immeasurably.
And, of course, his fondest wish was to make Elizabeth happy, and to make her his wife.
Caroline Bingley was eaten up with jealousy at the obvious affection that was growing between Darcy and Elizabeth. Had she been aware of the assignation they had planned for the coming evening, she would have taken pleasure in exposing their illicit union to all! Lizzy, perhaps even more so than Darcy, knew it would behoove them to proceed cautiously when near Caroline Bingley!
Georgiana was growing impatient. She wanted her brother and Elizabeth to marry, and the sooner the better! Her heart was gladdened by her brother's happiness and she was thankful to Elizabeth for the tenderness and compassion she saw etched on her face when she regarded Fitzwilliam. Her brother's wounded heart was healing in the glow of Elizabeth's love.
For Darcy and Elizabeth, the day was interminable. In many ways, this night would be their wedding night, without the benefit of formal vows. Darcy, for all his lustfulness, questioned the advisability of their plans more than did Elizabeth. Elizabeth, once her mind was made up, proceeded with no hesitation; Darcy felt she was under his care, and he did not want her reputation besmirched.
Dinner was at 7. Six young people, all of them with so much to contemplate, dined together. Elizabeth and Darcy ate very little, as they were consumed with thoughts about their planned assignation. They were seated next to each other, and Darcy intentionally touched his knee to hers, and the physical contact, slight though it was, sent a pleasant heat radiating throughout her body. She wanted him, wanted him desperately, and had they been alone in the dining room, she would have taken him by the hand and led him directly upstairs to her bedchamber.
As they sipped coffee, Bingley leaned forward to whisper in Jane's ear and she smiled and nodded. They left the room together, without even bothering to excuse themselves. Lizzy caught Darcy's eye and smiled hopefully as Caroline Bingley seethed!
When they returned just minutes later, Bingley was beaming and Jane was flushed with happiness.
"You must all congratulate me," Bingley exclaimed. "Miss Bennet has consented to be my wife!"
Lizzy immediately flew to them, embracing Jane and congratulating Bingley. Darcy hung back for a moment, still unsure of his reception.
But now that Bingley's happiness was assured, he was in a most forgiving mood.
"Darcy, are you not going to wish us well?"
"Bingley, I ... you know I wish you both all the happiness in the world!"
He stepped forward to shake Bingley's hand, and was both shocked and pleased to be enveloped in a most enthusiastic hug! He was indeed fortunate to have such a friend, and contemplated how close he had come to losing his friendship.
"And I only wish you equal felicity, my friend, and as soon as possible," Bingley replied meaningfully.
Caroline offered immediate, if entirely insincere, felicitations to the newly engaged couple. She wisely realized that her brother's mind was made up and that Darcy approved of the match, even though he had opposed it in the past nearly as vehemently as she did. There was no sense in persisting in an obviously hopeless battle.
What worried her far more was the ease and intimacy she sensed between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy. Georgiana Darcy sensed it as well, but she made no secret of her approval.
"I am so happy for both of you, Miss Bennet, Mr. Bingley. It seems that romance is in the air tonight, is it not?" she said, casting a sly glance in her brother's direction. Mr. Darcy shook his head at her in disapproval, but the ghost of a smile was playing on his lips.
A blissfully happy couple, an embittered young woman, and a hopeful younger sister retired for the evening. Another couple, for whom the night held the promise of love and longing fulfilled, lingered just a bit longer.
Darcy stared into Elizabeth's eyes, and raised her hand to his lips.
"Are you certain, Lizzy?"
"Quite," she responded simply.
Darcy looked up at the clock above the mantle. "It is 10:30. Sometime after midnight, when all is still, I will come to you. I will understand if even then you change your mind, Elizabeth."
She smiled, lips parted and shook her head. "I shall not change my mind, Fitzwilliam. I have never wanted anything more than I want to be with you tonight. I want to be yours."
"You will be mine, Lizzy. Mine forever, from this night forward. I want all of you. Your body, your mind, your heart. I have always been yours, heart and soul, from the moment I laid eyes upon you."
Reluctantly, he let go of her hand and watched from the foot of the stairs as she went up to her bedchamber. It was all he could do to prevent himself from following close behind her and carrying her off to bed, the thought of even another two hours' wait unbearable.
He sat and poured himself a snifter of brandy, hoping the spirits would fortify his courage. What kind of gentleman was he, to even consider bedding the woman he loved more than life itself before their marriage? He closed his eyes and saw his Lizzy, saw her calm certainty that what they were doing tonight was right and fitting. Being loved and trusted by Elizabeth Bennet was the greatest gift he had ever been given, and the union they would achieve tonight would be a tribute to their love. Yes, they would marry, as soon as possible, but their passion was so strong that there was nothing for it but to consummate it this very night. The usual progression of love, marriage and conjugal union would be in a different order for them than it was for others, but had not their relationship always been unconventional?
She wanted me, he remembered dreamily, even before she knew she loved me. Just thinking of her provocative words aroused him to the point where it was nearly unbearable.
Was she thinking of him as he was thinking of her?
Oh, Lizzy, he moaned. Another half hour, I cannot wait any longer!
Chapter Eleven Posted on Thursday, 27 October 2005
Lizzy, dressed in her nightgown with her hair streaming down her back, lay on her bed. The room was illuminated by a single candle, and she thought of her Darcy, no doubt impatiently sitting downstairs willing the time to pass. When finally he came, a soft knock on the door his only signal, she arose and opened the door.
He stood there, lightly flushed with spirits and carnal arousal, his eyes searing into hers.
"I know I told you earlier that you could change your mind, Lizzy," he said, biting his lower lip. "I retract that statement. Being here, in your room, beholding you thus, there is no turning back. I must have you, Lizzy. I must."
"Lock the door," she said, and when he complied she put her arms around his neck. He lifted her into his arms, and lowered his lips onto hers, kissing her as he carried her to bed.
"So beautiful," he whispered. "Even beyond my imagination. My God, how I love you, Lizzy."
Elizabeth knew she should be ashamed at what had occurred this night, but she was not. Such joy as they had experienced could not be the result of something evil, of that she was certain.
"Don't leave me," she said, turning onto her side, as Darcy pressed up against her back.
They knew not what the morning would bring nor when they would have an opportunity such as the one they had tonight. So while they knew on one level that the sensible course of action would be to separate, for Darcy to return to his own bed while the other occupants of the house still slept, on another they knew that a more perfect union of man and woman than the one they shared could not exist and to disrupt it would be sacrilege.
So Darcy and Lizzy spent the entirety of the night together. They would awaken much as they had fallen asleep, his arms enfolding her, his chin resting atop her hair.
They could not know that the next day would be a difficult one, in many ways.
Darcy awakened first.
Still pressed up close behind Elizabeth, he whispered hotly into her ear.
"You must allow me," he said, pausing to kiss the back of her neck, "to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. Pardon me if I repeat myself, Lizzy."
"It appears my impertinence is rubbing off on you, sir," she responded, delighted at how easily Darcy had learned to tease her.
"Just one more sin for which you will have to answer, madam. When we are married, you will redeem yourself daily.
"No long engagements, Elizabeth. Marry me. Soon," he demanded.
Her arms around his neck, she lifted her mouth to him to be kissed.
"William ... William ... I would marry you today if it were possible. Oh my love, my love, what you do to me!"
"And you to me, Lizzy. I know not how I will bear to leave you this morning. Oh God, Lizzy..."
Elizabeth reached up to stroke his stubbled cheek.
"I want to memorize your face as it is this morning, William, for I know not when I will see it again."
"You will see it over breakfast, Elizabeth, although you may have to look away so as not to blush in front of the others," he answered, with a twinkle in his eyes.
"No, no ... I mean as you look now. I am rather enjoying this picture of you, all disheveled and wild and unshaven, sir."
"Never tell a man you prefer him unshaven, Elizabeth, or he may never shave again!"
Elizabeth grabbed at his hair and pulled his head down to kiss him.
"Perhaps I am learning to like you in your more uncivilised state, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said, trying to repress her laughter, but not quite succeeding.
"Alas, civilisation beckons, Elizabeth. I am afraid we must dress and try to part without being detected. But I am warning you: When you return to Longbourn I shall accompany you. I intend to speak to your father at the earliest opportunity!"
He dressed quickly, sensing that others would soon be awakening. After one last kiss, he made his way to the door of her bedchamber and paused before leaving, looking at her longingly.
"Lizzy, I live for the day when I may stay in your bed the entire day if we so choose."
"We shall scandalise the household, sir!" Elizabeth exclaimed in mock horror.
"You may count on it, Elizabeth. And if you don't cease looking at me in that impertinent manner, the scandal may begin at this moment," he growled.
"I shall do my best to be proper and demure, Mr. Darcy, at least until the next time I have you in my bed," Elizabeth replied daringly.
Darcy laughed. "I surrender, Elizabeth, I have no answer to surpass yours! I shall look forward to seeing you at breakfast."
His expression turned serious before he left. "I adore you, Lizzy. And I shall, forever."
Elizabeth's eyes filled as she looked at him. "Well, Mr. Darcy, I have no impertinent answer to that. All I can say is that I adore you, too."
Elizabeth forced herself to look away, for she knew that in another moment, she would be on her feet, luring him back to bed, and today, that could not be. But they parted with the same thought: Soon.
Elizabeth was luxuriating in a warm bath, when she heard some commotion downstairs, followed by the sound of footsteps on the stairs, then outside her chamber.
She regretfully left the bath, wrapping herself in a robe, and was shocked when the door to her chamber flew open, revealing Jane, with Miss Bingley close behind her.
"Oh Lizzy, Lizzy," Jane cried. You must dress, quickly! We have had some dreadful news from home, it is Lydia, she has..."
Jane could not continue, and burst into tears.
"Your sister has run away from Brighton with Mr. Wickham, Miss Bennet," Miss Bingley said, with no small amount of triumph in her tone of voice.
Her eyes swept the room, taking in the sight of Elizabeth's nightdress lying inside out on the floor, the rumpled sheets and, finally, Mr. Darcy's cravat thrown carelessly over the bedpost! She said nothing, but Elizabeth saw her meaningful glance.
"Miss Bingley, will you please leave me alone with my sister? I fear these are matters that must be discussed in private."
"Certainly, Miss Bennet. Shall I tell Mr. Darcy that you will be needing the carriage?"
"Thank you, no, Miss Bingley. I shall speak to Mr. Darcy myself."
After Miss Bingley departed, Jane and Lizzy embraced.
"Oh, Lizzy," said Jane. "How shall we bear such disgrace?"
"It is not only our family that will be disgraced, Jane. I am certain that Miss Bingley is triumphing over our misfortune, and will speak of it to her brother and to Mr. Darcy."
"Mr. Darcy? How will he be disgraced by this, Lizzy?"
"We are engaged, or I should say, we would have been after he speaks to our father. But now...I don't see how we can ever marry, Jane."
"But Lizzy, surely, Lydia and Wickham will marry! Father and Uncle Gardiner are on their way to London searching for them even as we speak."
"You think far better of Wickham than I do, Jane. He is a scoundrel of the worst sort."
Elizabeth dressed as they spoke, wondering just how far Miss Bingley would go to discredit her. Jane, in her innocence, did not notice the evidence of the night of passion Elizabeth had spent with Mr. Darcy, but Miss Bingley did notice and was surely suspicious.
When they arrived downstairs, the first sight that greeted Elizabeth was Mr. Darcy, his face pale with anger as Miss Bingley spoke to him.
Our marriage can never be, she thought sadly. All his worst fears of my family have been proven true.
Chapter Twelve Posted on Thursday, 27 October 2005
Elizabeth would soon be ashamed of even thinking Mr. Darcy would no longer consider their marriage feasible. His reaction upon seeing her was swift and heartwarming.
He took both her hands in his as Miss Bingley seethed.
"Elizabeth, I must go away to London, immediately, to join your father and uncle in searching for your sister. Much as I abhor the idea of your sister being permanently joined to that man, I am afraid there is nothing else for it!"
"You take too much upon yourself, Mr. Darcy," said Miss Bingley with a sneer.
Darcy turned slowly to look at her.
"No, I do not. Miss Bennet and I are engaged to be married. Lydia Bennet is to be my sister, and as such, she is subject to my protection!"
Georgiana swiftly crossed the room to place her hand on her brother's arm. She raised her chin and looked defiantly at Caroline Bingley.
"And she will be my sister as well!"
Caroline laughed derisively.
"And Wickham will be your brother! How lovely for all of you!"
Georgiana paled and looked at Darcy, who shook his head at her almost imperceptibly.
She gathered all her courage before continuing.
"If having George Wickham as my brother is the price I must pay for the joy Miss Bennet has given my brother and myself, then it is a price I will gladly pay."
Caroline could hardly contain herself.
"Oh yes, Miss Bennet has brought much joy to your brother, much in the same manner that Lydia Bennet has brought it to Wickham. Are you missing your cravat, Mr. Darcy?"
Darcy, not knowing her meaning, did not respond.
But his valet, standing quietly in the corner, coughed.
"If you are indeed missing a cravat, Sir, I believe I may be of assistance. One of your cravats was apparently folded within the bedclothes when the laundering was taken inside by one of the housemaids. She noticed it while making up the beds and put it over the bedpost, intending to give it to me later. She apparently neglected to do so, and when she realized her omission, everyone had already retired for the evening."
After finishing this remarkable unsolicited speech, the longest Darcy had ever heard him utter, he looked impassively at Miss Bingley.
Darcy and Elizabeth simultaneously realized the implications of Caroline's comment and the valet's response.
"Thank you, Lewis," Darcy said meaningfully.
Lewis merely nodded. He knew better than any other how Miss Bennet's absence had agonized Darcy and how her loving presence had revived him. And while he may not have approved of Darcy's tryst with Miss Bennet the preceding night, he emphatically approved of Miss Bennet!
"I am ashamed of you, Caroline," Mr. Bingley said sorrowfully. "I will not allow you to insult my fiancée and her family any longer. If you cannot be civil, perhaps you should remove yourself from our presence."
Without another word, Caroline left the room.
Bingley smiled at Darcy and Elizabeth.
"I am overjoyed that the two of you have found your way to each other."
Elizabeth's joy was tainted, however, by Lydia's predicament. She looked earnestly at Darcy.
"Sir, I ... if you no longer feel that you can be connected..."
Darcy looked shocked.
"What on earth are you saying, Elizabeth?"
"That in light of the disgrace facing my family, you need not feel obligated to..."
"Obligated? Do you think it is obligation that binds me to you?"
Darcy, normally the most private of men, seemed to have forgotten there were others in the room.
Elizabeth began to weep, and Darcy immediately enfolded her in his arms.
"I could kill Wickham at this moment. He has hurt so many people that I love. But listen to me, Elizabeth. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could dissuade me from marrying you. Do you understand?"
She nodded, her head buried in his chest.
"Good. I don't want to hear another word about it, Elizabeth. If you are to be my wife, it is time you learned to not only love and honour, but obey."
She pulled away to look at him and was relieved to see the barely suppressed merriment in his eyes.
Georgiana, Jane and Bingley couldn't help but laugh with Darcy. Jane thought to herself that Elizabeth may have finally met her match in Darcy, and that it would be interesting to watch!
"Shall I come with you to London, Darcy?" Bingley asked.
"No, I think it best you remain behind with the ladies, Bingley. I am hopeful my business can be completed within a week. The sooner all this is resolved, the sooner we will all find our happiness."
"I assumed that I, at least, would accompany you, Sir," Elizabeth said.
"Absolutely not, Elizabeth. I want all of you as far from Wickham as possible."
"But if he and Lydia are married..." Elizabeth began.
"Yes, I fully realize that after their marriage, we may have to be in their company. But he will not earn the right to be near anyone I love until he has done at least one honourable thing, in marrying your sister. And on that point, I will not be swayed, Miss Bennet!"
Elizabeth wisely realized she could not press the matter and nodded. She leaned closer to him and whispered, "I capitulate, Sir."
Darcy realized her meaning and could not help but be affected by the memory of her "capitulation" the previous night. He allowed his eyes to briefly sweep down the length of her body, and his heated glance was seen only by her.
"I must go now, Elizabeth. But I will be back soon."
"I am counting on it, Mr. Darcy."
He readied himself to leave, and Elizabeth followed him into the hall. When Darcy was quite sure they were not visible to the other occupants of the house, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her, passionately and thoroughly. When he finally broke the kiss, she looked up at him seriously.
"Are we any better than Wickham and Lydia?"
Darcy could not fault her for asking such a question, but he did his best to answer her convincingly.
"Yes, Elizabeth, we most assuredly are. I adore you, and you have promised yourself to me. What we have together has been hard won, and if you ever left me, I would be lost. I could marry no other, because in my heart, you are my wife before man and before God."
"You humble me, Fitzwilliam."
They kissed again, lingeringly, as they both knew it would be some days before they would meet again.
"Good-bye, Elizabeth. Keep me close to your heart." He lowered his voice. "And keep my cravat under your pillow."
"You may count on it, Sir. Thank you, on behalf of all my family, and God bless you."
Chapter Thirteen Posted on Tuesday, 24 January 2006
Elizabeth slept fitfully that night, her cheek resting upon Darcy's cravat, which she had placed atop her pillow. His scent still lingered in its fabric, and she tried to imagine the man himself was in her bed, as he had been the previous night. Having spent just one night with him lying beside her, she knew she would not know complete happiness until he lay beside her every night, his arms encircling her.
She wondered how she had ever thought so ill of him. How quickly he had risen to her defense, and her heart swelled as she thought of him venturing to London in search of her sister and a man he detested. She knew how distasteful he must find the task of wandering through the bowels of the city where someone of Wickham's ilk would conceal himself, and she knew he did it for her, simply because he loved her.
When Elizabeth awakened in the morning, she reached out to stroke the pillow, remembering how his dear face had looked. How fervently she wished for his presence, if for no other reason than she wanted to assure him of her love.
She decided that she would make every effort this day to be kind to Caroline Bingley, if only to make matters more pleasant for Jane and Charles. Breakfast was awkward, Miss Bingley more silent than usual, and Elizabeth's attempts to include her in the conversation were met with indifference. Charles realized that Elizabeth's efforts were on his behalf, and he was grateful for them. But even his jovial manner was not enough to coax Caroline out of her displeasure over Darcy and Elizabeth's engagement.
Elizabeth passed much of the ensuing days outdoors, taking long walks either alone or with Jane and Georgiana around the park in Pemberley. This paradise would soon be her home. She was impressed with its beauty, but she was even more impressed with the beauty of its owner's heart, his love more important to her than any stately home or worldly possessions she would acquire.
By the end of the fifth day without his presence, she was pining for him. It was nearly 10 p.m. and she was almost ready to retire for the evening, when she heard the sound of a carriage outside. With no thought of propriety, she ran to the door, and when she saw Darcy emerging from the carriage, she hurried into his arms. He held her tightly, his lips buried in her hair. He put his arm about her shoulder and said, "Come inside, love, I have much to tell you."
Elizabeth settled herself next to him on the divan and reached up to lovingly stroke his stubbled cheek. He looked so weary, so serious.
"Oh, Lizzy," he said sadly, tears in his eyes. "They are married, there was nothing else to be done."
"Thank you, William," she said softly. "I know this is all your doing."
"No, no. Don't thank me! It was with a heavy heart that I watched them wed, Elizabeth...he is such a man! Lydia is but a little girl, no older than my own sister, and her youthful indiscretions have cost her dearly. To spend the rest of her life joined to Wickham...it might have been my own sister, had circumstances been different. I take no joy in this Lizzy. No joy whatsoever."
He looked so distraught that Elizabeth took pity on him. She put her arms around him and drew him closer. He let out a deep sigh and rested his head on her shoulder, kissing her neck and whispering her name.
"Oh, how I wish we were married, William! It seems so cruel to have to be separated tonight."
"I've spoken to your father, Lizzy. He required some convincing, you may have to assure him I am not such an ogre after all!"
"That should be easy, dearest," Elizabeth said. "All he need see is how I look at you to know how much I love you."
"Lizzy," he said seriously. "I've acquired a special license. We can be married in as little as two weeks, if you are agreeable. I ... I do not want to wait, Lizzy. I have lived far too long without you."
"Oh, yes, yes, I am agreeable, Sir," she replied. "I would marry you today, were it possible. Even two weeks seems an eternity."
"I am overjoyed to hear it, Lizzy. I did not know how much pomp and ceremony you would require in a wedding, or how much time it would take to arrange. Two weeks' preparation will be sufficient?"
"More than sufficient, William. A dress, a church, a curate and the people who love us to witness. I require nothing else!"
Darcy was both touched and gratified that his intended bride expressed her desires so simply, and that her love for him was more important than any material concerns. He was a man who had often been revered for his wealth and possessions and here, at last, was a woman who wanted him for what he was, not what he owned.
"And a bed, Elizabeth," he whispered hoarsely. "We will require a bed, and a locked door, and several days alone."
He kissed her, his lips soft and warm against hers, and what started as a gentle, loving touch soon became something more urgent and demanding. His impassioned moans aroused all Elizabeth's senses, and she pressed her body hard against his.
"Oh, have mercy on me, Lizzy," Darcy cried, finding it more and more difficult to restrain his passion. "Damn convention, damn propriety, I don't know how I will be able to sleep without you."
Elizabeth eyes, wide and trusting, looked into his.
"This is your home, William, it is for you to decide what is best. I am at your disposal."
"Bless you for that, my dearest. But I cannot again risk exposing you to censure, we both know there are suspicions about us already. Tomorrow, Lizzy, we will walk outside together, dare I hope we can walk to some remote part of the estate alone?"
"I am an excellent walker, Sir," Elizabeth said teasingly. "I assure you I will keep up with your pace."
"Oh, I am counting on that, Lizzy. Let me escort you upstairs now, I have kept you up late enough."
He followed close behind her on the stairs, his hand on her shoulder. He whispered, "When we are married, I will carry you to bed, Lizzy."
"Do you not think I will accompany you willingly, Sir?" Elizabeth asked with a flirtatious smile. "In fact, I dare say I would accompany you willingly this very night."
"What a temptation you are, Miss Lizzy. Tomorrow I will be only too happy to test your willingness!"
With these seductive words, Darcy delivered Elizabeth to her bedchamber.
"Will you kiss me good night, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy was only too willing to grant her request, and Elizabeth fell asleep with the memory of his lips upon hers.
Chapter Fourteen Posted on Tuesday, 24 January 2006
The next morning dawned full of promise, and Lizzy hurried through her toilette, anxious to see Darcy again. He, apparently, was even more eager than she, because when she arrived downstairs, he was already at table waiting for her. Except for the servants, they were alone.
"If we eat breakfast quickly, Lizzy," he whispered conspiratorially, "we need not waste time conversing with anyone else. I need you, most urgently!"
Elizabeth giggled as Darcy wolfed down his muffins and tea.
"Surely, Sir, a strapping gentleman like yourself requires more than that in the way of nourishment!"
Darcy put his face close to hers, his eyes burning.
"My most pressing hunger, Madam, will be better satisfied beyond the view of others. Quickly now, before Jane and Bingley come down."
He extended his hand to her and pulled her most unceremoniously to her feet.
"You may take something to eat with you if you like."
"That is most generous of you, William," she said with a smile.
Her cloak was hanging on a rack in the hallway and Darcy hastily threw it over her shoulders and hurried her out the door.
Luckily it was a sunny, mild morning, perfect for an extended walk outdoors. And walk they did, far into the park, until they were a good distance from the house. Darcy wasted no time in pulling Elizabeth into his arms, holding her tightly against his body, and depositing a lingering kiss on her mouth.
"I can barely catch my breath, William!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"Good. Good. I want to take your breath away, Lizzy," he responded, bringing his mouth down upon hers once again. He removed her cloak and spread it out underneath a nearby shade tree and said "Do not worry yourself about being chilled, Lizzy, I will keep you warm in a very pleasing manner."
"Whatever can you mean, Sir?"
He put his mouth close to her ear and bit her earlobe lightly before whispering, "I will be happy to demonstrate for you, my love."
He pulled back to look at her face, a mischievous grin on his lips.
"Ah, finally, madam, I have you at a loss for words. And you blush so prettily, Lizzy, but you do not fool me with your maidenly blushes. I know what a wanton you truly are, and how I adore you for it!"
"This is highly improper," Lizzy said, trying mightily to keep a serious countenance, but ultimately she failed, dissolving in giggles.
"Yes, most improper," Darcy mumbled, laying her down upon the cloak, then lowering himself atop her. "You must remember to inform me when the impropriety of it all is too much for you, Lizzy."
"Now?" he asked, kissing her hungrily.
"Mmmm ... no, not yet. You may continue."
"Oh no ... do not stop. There is nothing improper about that, Sir, nothing at all."
"I am so very glad you see things my way, Lizzy," he whispered.
"How can I not, when faced with such delightful persuasiveness," she said seductively, her eyes with passion.
"Oh, Lizzy, how warm and inviting you are! I will never get enough of you."
"Nor I of you, William. I missed you so while you were away, I dreamed of us joined together as we are now."
"Did you, my love? Oh Lizzy, it makes me wild to know you want me as I want you, tell me, love, tell me how you feel!"
"Like heaven on earth, William, that is how this feels to me. Oh my God William, I cannot bear the pleasure, it is too much," she responded feverishly.
"I love you Lizzy," he said softly, kissing her face, her chin, and her neck. He rolled off her, lying back against the tree and pulling her into his arms, cradling her head against his chest.
"In two weeks, we will be husband and wife, and Pemberley will be your home. Perhaps we shall take a walk such as we did today each morning. I believe I will take you under each and every tree on the grounds, Lizzy!"
"And if it rains, Sir?"
"Hmm ... I will spread your cloak on the floor in front of the fire in the drawing room and take you there. Or sweep you up and carry you up the stairs to bed. Any other saucy questions, Miss Bennet?"
"Yes! Did you speak to my father when you were in London?"
"I most certainly did, and while he expressed some surprise at our engagement, he has given his consent to our marriage. Had he objected, I am afraid I would have been obliged to inform him that your virtue had been compromised and..."
Lizzy lightly slapped his backside in mock indignation, and he caught her hand with his.
"Now, now, Lizzy, there will be none of that! I can easily overpower you, you know!"
She protested, and he proceeded to demonstrate that he could overpower her very easily indeed. Her protests were feeble, however, and gave way to expressions of rapture when her conqueror took his reward in a manner that was most pleasing to them both.
Several hours had passed since they left the house, and they regretfully rearranged tidied themselves so that they could prepare to return. It was fortunate that they did so, because the sound of hooves was heard and they were surprised to see Col. Fitzwilliam arriving on horseback.
"Darcy ... and Miss Bennet!" he said, evidently surprised at finding them inexplicably sitting under a tree before noon. "What brings you here?"
"I am having breakfast with my fiancée, Fitzwilliam."
"Your fiancée!" the Colonel exclaimed. "I must congratulate you, Darcy," he said, no small amount of jealousy creeping into his tone, which Darcy noted with some satisfaction. Darcy had long suspected the Colonel of having a tendresse for Miss Bennet, and had been dismayed at Lizzy's preference for his easier manner. He put his arm around Elizabeth possessively.
"Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I am the most fortunate of men."
"So, Aunt Catherine was right!" the Colonel said.
Darcy looked puzzled.
"She has long suspected your preference for Miss Bennet, Darcy. In fact, I had to give her a piece of my mind just yesterday when she made a remark about her suspicions regarding your impending engagement. I will not repeat it, as it was a ridiculous insult to both you and Miss Bennet."
Elizabeth smiled. "Come now, Col. Fitzwilliam, I dearly love to laugh at anything ridiculous, and nothing Lady Catherine might say could truly offend me."
The Colonel grimaced. "Oh, just her usual self-importance, Miss Bennet! She spoke of what she called your objectionable relations and asked 'Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?'"
The Colonel was surprised at the exchange of sly glances between his cousin and his fiancée and at their hearty laughter, and didn't hear Darcy's whispered remark to Miss Bennet, "Aunt Catherine should only know what transpired beneath the shades of Pemberley just this morning!"
Chapter Fifteen: Conclusion Posted on Tuesday, 24 January 2006
It was a most fortunate circumstance that Darcy and Elizabeth's wedding took place just three weeks after their impromptu picnic at Pemberley.
It was a glorious late summer day, the sky a brilliant, cloudless blue. Breaking with tradition, they decided to be wed at the church at Pemberley. Many of those in attendance conjectured that Darcy's pride did not allow him to condescend to be married anywhere else. They would have been scandalized to know his true reason: he wanted to be as close to the marital bed as possible when the festivities had ended! Since their private picnic at Pemberley, he and Elizabeth had had no opportunity for physical intimacy save a few stolen kisses and caresses. These three weeks had been a whirlwind of wedding preparations, and there had been time for little else.
All Mr. Bennet's doubts as to the couple's loving each other dissipated when he saw the expression on Darcy's face when he saw his bride. Darcy clearly adored his daughter. His lips were trembling, his eyes gleaming with tears of joy.
"Thank you, Sir," he whispered huskily when Mr. Bennet took Elizabeth's hand and placed it in his. "I promise you..." he said, his voice trailing off as his emotions overwhelmed him.
"I know, son," Mr. Bennet replied kindly.
No one who heard their vows spoken could remain unmoved by the mutual love radiating from the happy couple. The wedding reception was held in the grand dining hall at Pemberley, but Elizabeth ate very little. For one thing, Darcy refused to let go of her hand throughout most of the meal, and when Elizabeth protested that she was unable to eat, he reassured her that he would have a tray sent up to their bedroom so he could feed her himself!
"Fitzwilliam!" she exclaimed, pretending to be offended. "What will everyone think?"
"That I want to be alone in my bedchamber, with my wife. In fact, Lizzy, we will have one dance, and then upstairs we will go!"
"Sir, we could not possibly..." she said, as he pulled her to her feet.
"Oh, so it's 'Sir' now, is it? And may I remind you, Mrs. Darcy, that you promised to 'obey' me but a few hours ago! Are you reneging on your marriage vows already?"
"You are incorrigible!" she replied, as he swept her into his arms for a dance.
He bent down to whisper hotly into her ear.
"I've spent all my life, Elizabeth, modeling my behaviour for society's approval. It did nothing for my happiness. The evening you magically reappeared in my life, I decided that the only person's good opinion I would concern myself with was yours."
He pulled back to stare into her eyes.
"Your good opinion and your love, Elizabeth. They have been hard won, but more worth the earning than anything else in my life," he said seriously. "And if I appear too impatient to have you to myself, I apologize."
"Do not apologize, Fitzwilliam, for I find having you to myself is what I long for as well."
"And have me you shall, my love. Many times before this night is through, I dare say," he replied wickedly.
Darcy had been overly optimistic in his approximation of the time at which they might desert their guests for the welcoming confines of their bedchamber. Their families and friends were taking such pleasure in the wedding party revelries, that it was nightfall before all had departed and the newly wed couple had the house to themselves. Their lack of solitude throughout the day had not, however, prevented Darcy from cornering his beautiful bride in the deserted corridor outside the dining hall, pressing up against her, his body's need for her painfully evident to both of them.
"We must desist Lizzy," he threatened, "or I shall put you over my shoulder and carry you up to bed this instant, wedding guests be damned!"
"If that is your wish, Sir, as an obedient wife I will comply, although I would prefer..." and she cast her eyes down modestly.
"What would you prefer, Mrs. Darcy?"
"To wait until later, Fitzwilliam, when we are alone and at leisure. When I may look upon and touch you lingeringly, with no thought as to guests waiting for us to return."
"Oh, teasing woman! How you tempt me! Very well, Lizzy, tonight. But I warn you...I will not wait one moment longer than is necessary!"
Darcy was true to his word. As soon as their last guest departed, he lifted Lizzy into his arms and headed for the stairs. Her startled maid called after them, "Mrs. Darcy, I will be up directly to attend to you." Darcy looked back at her over his shoulder and growled, "That won't be necessary, you may retire for the evening, Sarah," and quietly, to Elizabeth, he said, "The only hands that will touch you tonight will be mine, Elizabeth."
The bridal bedchamber had been sumptuously decorated under the guidance of Mrs. Reynolds. The room glowed, moonlight streaming through the windowpanes. As directed by Darcy, a warm bath had been drawn for his bride. No one had dared question his orders that no further assistance would be required by Mrs. Darcy this evening, although when Mrs. Reynolds was not present, the young housemaids had whispered among themselves about what Mr. Darcy could be up to, ordering a bath for Mrs. Darcy with no lady's maid to attend to her!
Whatever they imagined, it could not have been as sensual as what Darcy had in mind for his lady. Yes, he had "known" her already, but not in the way he intended to tonight.
"Come, Mrs. Darcy," he said. "It is time for your bath."
Hands on her shoulders, he turned her around so that he might unfasten her bridal dress from behind. As each open button revealed another inch of soft skin, he covered the area of flesh thus exposed, with slow, hot kisses.
Then, one arm around her, the other under her knees, he carried her to the bath. He bathed her with motions that were like caresses, his hands massaging and stimulating her. He pulled the pins from her hair so that her curls tumbled to her shoulders, and he poured warm water over her head so that he might lather and rinse her hair. When he was satisfied with his handiwork, he tenderly dried her with a thick, soft towel and led her to his bed.
So much pent-up longing and three weeks' deprivation made for a coupling that was volcanic but somewhat brief. Their passion spent, they nestled under the down comforter, warm and satisfied.
"Such lovely silk nightdresses, still in my valise," Elizabeth said almost wistfully.
"Leave them there," Darcy replied brusquely. "You are mine, Lizzy, and this is how I want you, just as God made you. It seems you females wear entirely too much clothing, anyway. You may wear your silken nightdresses if ever you sleep alone. And since you will never sleep alone again if I have any say in the matter, in your valise they will stay. The Master of Pemberley has spoken!"
He was quite pleased with himself!
He pulled the covers up around them, and settled her in his arms to sleep.
"Lizzy," he whispered. "Just a few short months ago, my life had no meaning. I had everything a man could want, except the one thing I needed to make me whole. Telling you 'I love you' seems woefully inadequate. You complete me, Lizzy. You changed me, my love, into a man who was worthy of you."
"I love you so, William. And no, I didn't begin to love you because you had changed, but because you allowed me to see the man you always were. The man I will love forever, the man who will be the father of my children."
"Children?" Darcy said sleepily, holding her tighter. "I do not know if I am ready to share you just yet," he teased.
Elizabeth smiled to herself as they drifted into sleep together.
Epilogue Posted on Tuesday, 24 January 2006
On their first wedding anniversary, the Darcy's, each carrying a basket, walked into the park at Pemberley, to the very spot where they had picnicked together three weeks before their wedding. They set the baskets under the same tree where they had enthusiastically made love that warm summer afternoon, and Darcy spread a blanket in the grass, hopeful that they might have a repetition of that delightful experience. He was well on the way to success in his endeavours when a sound, soft at first, then more insistent, began to emanate from the larger of the two wicker baskets sitting under the tree. With a measure of skill born of three months' experience, he reached over with one hand to gently rock the basket until he had lulled his son back to sleep.
"A temporary respite at best, Fitzwilliam!" Elizabeth exclaimed, hastily pulling her husband atop her so that they might proceed expeditiously. "Little William is due to be fed."
Darcy grinned wickedly. "Perhaps he senses that he was conceived on this very spot, and merely wants to join our picnic!"
Baby William, being a considerate sort of little fellow, obligingly waited until his Mama and Papa were well satiated, both with loving and a hasty lunch of bread, wine and cheese, before he awakened. He suckled contentedly at his mother's breast as she reclined against his papa's chest under the tree where his life had begun. As the years passed, two brothers and one sister joined them in their annual picnics, but they had been conceived in more conventional places.
Two in their parents' bed, and one on the desk in papa's library.
But that is the subject of another story!