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Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley tds-2

Sharon Lathan

  Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley

  ( The Darcy Saga - 2 )

  Sharon Lathan

  The second in Sharon Lathan's Darcy Saga (Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy) fails on two levels. Readers new to Darcy and Elizabeth will be bored reading page after page about two paragons—he is a gracious and expert billiards player, she is an excellent manager of the household—while they go about their life, with the occasional dustup with Lady Catherine, all while awaiting the birth of their first child. Meanwhile, Austen lovers may well be insulted to read un-Austenesque conversations, scenes and goings-on. Either way, the brilliance of Austen is notably absent. Too often the day-in-the-life focus seems small, as do the couple's PG-13–level lusty thoughts and behaviors. Yes, it's romantic that in a break of Regency tradition they sleep in the same bed and make love often, but it's a lot of nothing after their 15th bout, as is suffering through Darcy hiding his erections from a jovial, knowing father-in-law-to-be. Austen's characters deserve far better than this.

  Sharon Lathan

  Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley

  Cast of Characters

  Fitzwilliam Darcy, Master of Pemberley in Derbyshire: 29 years of age, born November 10, 1787; parents James and Lady Anne Darcy, both deceased; married Elizabeth Bennet on November 28, 1816

  Elizabeth Darcy, Mistress of Pemberley: 21 years of age, born May 28, 1795; second Bennet daughter

  Georgiana Darcy: 17 years of age; sister of Mr. Darcy with guardianship shared by her brother and cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam; companion is Mrs. Annesley

  Col. Richard Fitzwilliam: 31 years of age; cousin and dear friend to Mr. Darcy; second son of Lord and Lady Matlock; regiment stationed in London

  Lord Matlock, the Earl of Matlock: Darcy's Uncle Malcolm, brother to Lady Anne Darcy; ancestral estate is Rivallain in Matlock, Derbyshire

  Lady Matlock, the Countess of Matlock: Darcy's Aunt Madeline, wife to Lord Matlock; mother of Jonathan, Annabella, and Richard

  Jonathan Fitzwilliam: Heir to the Matlock earldom, eldest Fitzwilliam son; wife is Priscilla

  Charles Bingley: 25 years of age; longtime friend of Mr. Darcy; currently resides at Netherfield Hall in Hertfordshire; married Jane Bennet on November 28, 1816

  Jane Bingley: elder sister of Elizabeth and eldest Bennet daughter; wife of Mr. Bingley

  Caroline Bingley: unmarried sister of Charles Bingley

  Louisa Hurst: married sister of Charles Bingley; husband is Mr. Arbus Hurst; residence London

  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: Elizabeth's parents; reside at Longbourn in Hertfordshire with two middle daughters, Mary and Kitty

  Mary Bennet: Elizabeth's sister; middle Bennet daughter

  Katherine (Kitty) Bennet: Elizabeth's sister; fourth Bennet daughter

  Edward and Violet Gardiner: uncle and aunt of Elizabeth; reside in Cheapside, London

  Dr. George Darcy: Mr. Darcy's uncle; brother to James Darcy

  Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Mr. Darcy's aunt; sister to Lady Anne Darcy; residence Rosings Park, Kent

  Anne de Bourgh: daughter of Lady Catherine; Mr. Darcy's cousin

  Stephen Lathrop: Cambridge friend of Mr. Darcy; resides at Stonecrest Hall in Leicestershire; wife is Amelia

  Henry Vernor: family friend of the Darcys; residence is Sanburl Hall near Lambton, Derbyshire; wife is Mary, daughter is Bertha

  Gerald Vernor: son of Henry Vernor; childhood friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Harriet; resides at Sanburl Hall

  Albert Hughes: childhood friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Marilyn

  Rory Sitwell: Derbyshire resident and Cambridge friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Julia; residence Reniswahl Hall near Staveley

  George and Alison Fitzherbert: Derbyshire residents

  Clifton and Chloe Drury: Derbyshire residents and friends; residence Locknell Hall near Derby

  Dr. Raul Penaflor Aleman de Vigo: Spanish associate of Dr. George Darcy

  Joshua Daniels: son and partner of Mr. Darcy's London solicitor, Andrew Daniels

  Mrs. Reynolds: Pemberley housekeeper

  Mr. Taylor: Pemberley butler

  Mr. Keith: Mr. Darcy's steward

  Samuel Oliver: Mr. Darcy's valet

  Marguerite Charbonneau: Mrs. Darcy's maid

  Phillips, Watson, Tillson, Georges, Rothchilde: Pemberley footmen

  Mr. Clark: Pemberley head groundskeeper

  Mr. Thurber: Pemberley head groomsman

  Mrs. Langton: Pemberley cook

  Mr. Anders: head coachman

  Mrs. Smyth: Darcy House housekeeper

  Mr. Travers: Darcy House butler

  Reverend Bertram: Rector of Pemberley Chapel

  Madame du Loire: Modiste in Lambton

  Chapter One


  Elizabeth Darcy stood next to Georgiana on the massive portico before the main doors to Pemberley. They were dressed in their traveling clothes and were waiting patiently for the Master of Pemberley, who was currently speaking with his steward, Mr. Keith, while the grandest and plushest of the Darcy carriages waited in the drive.

  The warmth of May in Derbyshire had set in full force, making the days radiant with bright sunshine until late into the evening. The vast gardens of Pemberley were responding to the weather as Mr. Clark and his staff diligently engineered the grounds, which were now bursting in nearly eye-piercing splendor with every color of the rainbow. Every species of tree indigenous to England, and many that were not, enhanced the landscape with diverse shades of green and leaves in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Lizzy had regained her strength and mobility by traversing the miles of pathways weaving through the varied gardens. The by-product of her wanderings was a familiarity with and a deepening love for this place that was now her home.

  Lizzy dreamily mused at how tremendously she had changed in the nearly five and a half months since she ascended the steps to Pemberley as a nervous bride. Outwardly, her entire appearance was drastically altered; gowns, jewels, and furs beyond her vaguest imaginings six months ago were now typical. Her hair, even in its traveling coif, was superior to anything she had ever fashioned previously. She was largely unaware of it, but there was a serenity and grace to her bearing that had not been present before. She would forever laugh spontaneously and carry a ready quip on her lips, but her character was notably more refined and softened. The minute gestures and vocal intonations associated with the social etiquette of the upper classes had permeated her being unconsciously.

  Inwardly, she recognized a happiness and contentment that anchored her soul. Although there remained an enormous amount of Pemberley's management and the Darcy business affairs that she did not understand, her role as Mistress of Pemberley was a comfortable and accepted one. Her place in the household and the community was firm, and her confidence was secure. This massive house, which had frankly frightened her to death initially, was now home. She no longer walked through the endless halls with feelings of paralyzing awe and unworthiness. In five short months, she had grown to love the manor and its surrounds with a devotion transcending anything she had ever felt for Longbourn. Already she missed the library and bedchamber and sitting room and, well, all of it! The approximately six to seven weeks of their planned absence stretched before her as an empty sadness despite her excitement to see her family, and it was necessary to exert every ounce of self will to not rush inside for one last glance.

  At that moment her husband strode out the door with the purposeful and powerful gait uniquely his own, mien intense and serious as he imparted a few last minute instructions to his steward. He paused as Mr. Keith commented about something. Lizzy smiled in admiration at the p
icture he presented. Commanding all to attention as he stood with shoulders back, masculine six-foot-three-inch frame erect, and impeccably dressed, he was elegant and regal, with sonorant voice authoritative. Pure, potent love and incredible pride burst through her as a wave. All that she had become in these past months was due to him. His love for her, his devotion and respect, his loyalty and faith in her capabilities, his steadfastness and latitude, and mostly his intuitive comprehension of her temperament, perceptions, and requirements encouraged her to blossom into the woman she now was.

  He nodded in finality, shook the steward's hand, and turned to his sister and wife. Instantly his face lit with a beaming smile, and although no less noble or masterful, his countenance softened considerably.

  “My dears, are you ready?”

  “Waiting for you, brother.”

  “Come then,” he said, offering an arm to each of his two favorite women in the entire world. He assisted Georgiana into the carriage first, made sure she settled comfortably, and then turned to Lizzy, inquiring with deep concern, “Are you well, beloved?”

  “I am fine, William. Do not fuss so.” She patted his cheek and took his offered hand.

  Leaning close and wholly indifferent to the hovering servants, he kissed her forehead. “I will fuss whether you wish it so or not, Mrs. Darcy. Therefore, you may as well own to any discomfort you have immediately to save me perpetually questioning!”

  He assisted her into the carriage, following behind, as she laughed. The truth was that she had been increasingly indisposed for the past five days. She had attempted to hide her infirmity from Darcy, but this was a fruitless endeavor. His eagle-eyed scrutiny and intimacy with all matters regarding his wife penetrated any guile she ventured. The physician had examined her yesterday and confirmed that which they had presumed: She was definitely with child. Despite previously harboring little doubt, the Darcys greeted the validation with jubilance. Although her queasiness and extreme fatigue prevented her from actually jumping for joy, her heart was leaping. Darcy was nearly beside himself with euphoria and only Lizzy pleading with him to enlighten their families first kept him from informing all of Derbyshire.

  The doctor had given her a clean bill of health, assuring them both that her symptoms, albeit difficult, were totally standard. He guessed that the worst of her nausea and lethargy would pass in a month or so, at about which time quickening would occur. He had spoken to them both at length and bluntly as to what to expect. As for the trip itself, he saw no reason to postpone or cancel, merely urging them to take it slowly. In light of the occasional mild headaches Lizzy suffered as a lingering effect of her trauma, coupled now with pregnancy, it was wise and essential not to overextend.

  With this in mind, Darcy had plotted the normally one-day trip to Netherfield as a two-day journey, departure planned for mid-morning, when Lizzy usually felt better. So here they now were at nearly eleven o’clock and finally pulling out of the long Pemberley drive. The two carriages with their luggage, Samuel, Marguerite, and Mrs. Annesley had left earlier. A courier had been dispatched to London the week prior to prepare Darcy House and another to Hertfordshire for the Bingleys and Bennets.

  Lizzy sat close to Darcy, gazing out the open window until Pemberley, with Mr. Keith and Mrs. Reynolds waving their adieus, completely disappeared from view. With a heavy sigh she nestled under his outstretched arm and he hugged her tightly. “I miss it already,” she said.

  “I always feel that way too,” Georgiana replied, “until I get to London. There is so much to entertain! The symphony, the plays, the park across from our townhouse, the little paddle boats on the lake…”

  “The shopping,” Darcy interrupted with a grin.

  Georgiana blushed, “Yes, the shopping as well, although it is you, dear brother, who insist I obtain new gowns and the like. In the end, you buy more for me than I acquire for myself!”

  Lizzy laughed. “Somehow that does not surprise me.”

  Darcy was unfazed. “I shall not apologize in providing for and spoiling the women in my life.”

  “Elizabeth, you will so enjoy the shopping. We can purchase baby items! Oh, how wonderful it will be.” Georgiana glowed and clapped her hands in enthusiasm.

  The elder Darcys smiled indulgently, Lizzy too weary and queasy to visualize tromping through the clogged, odiferous streets of London as anything less than horrible. In truth, she was taking this entire excursion one step at a time. Currently, she only focused on seeing her family and proudly being squired about by her handsome husband. As shameful as the emotion was, she experienced fresh surges of vanity at how wonderful he was in every conceivable way—as far as she was concerned—and how amazing that he belonged to her. She glanced up at his face as he exchanged pleasant conversation with his sister, his lush voice vibrating through her body where she pressed against his side. Six months ago she thought her love for him stronger and deeper than her heart could contain, yet it was as a single star in the array of the endless heavens compared to now.

  He met her eyes, smiling sweetly as he stroked her cheek and then kissed her briefly. He repositioned his body slightly sideways, long legs stretched completely across the spacious carriage interior, so she could recline onto his chest. She dozed for short spells throughout the journey, snacking sporadically from the generous provisions while Darcy read.

  The trip was uneventful, their carriage arriving safely at the inn Darcy had secured near Northampton. From the unrelenting sun and jostling, Lizzy had a moderate headache which she had successfully hid from her husband for the past hour. However, when she exited the carriage, Darcy aiding her, a flash of light reflecting off a glass window of the inn pierced her brain as a bolt. She cried in pain, reflexively released Darcy's hand to press palms to throbbing temples, and crumbled to her knees.

  “Elizabeth!” She was in his arms within the span of a heartbeat, Darcy barking orders that sent servants dashing to obey. It was all rather a daze to Elizabeth, her head hammering and stomach churning. In record time she found herself lying on a plush bed with a cold compress over her face, a frantic Darcy at her shivering side.

  “Here, my love, drink this. I do not believe you have consumed enough fluids today. An error of mine that I shall not repeat. Marguerite,” he said, turning to Lizzy's maid standing nearby, “please retrieve Mrs. Darcy's blue gown and robe.” He assisted Lizzy with the glass, unbuttoning her dress as she drank.

  “Darling, I will be fine in a moment,” she began shakily, but he halted her by pushing the half-empty glass against her lips.

  “Hush now, Elizabeth. You need to rest. Drink. That is an order. And then, you must sleep. I will have dinner brought to us later.”

  “No, William! I will rest here as you wish, but you go and dine with Georgie. Spend the evening with her as we planned. Marguerite will stay with me.” He started to protest but she interrupted. “It is merely a headache from the light. My own stupidity for not shutting the shades is to blame. It will fade quickly, these headaches always do. You need to eat a complete meal.”

  He argued further, but Marguerite assured him she would send for him if needed, and as Lizzy was already slipping into a doze, he reluctantly relented. By the time he returned several hours later she was awake, had eaten a hearty dinner, and the headache had dissipated. She sat on the balcony gazing at the stars when he joined her. She nestled onto his lap, cuddling contentedly, and they talked in hushed tones. She appeared rested and in her usual lively humor, but he remained anxious for her health, internally chastising himself for not lowering the shades.

  He kissed the top of her head where it nestled so perfectly under his chin, his arms tightening around her body. “As delightful as it is to stargaze with you, I insist we retire. You need your rest for the remainder of our journey and I will not risk the health of you or our child.”

  “You worry unnecessarily, my love. The headache has vanished, I slept, so am well rested, ate an excellent dinner, and am currently blissfully embraced by my hands
ome husband. What more could a woman possibly want?” She smiled up at his anxious face, wiggled closer, nestled her face into his neck, and bestowed a light kiss. “Actually”—another kiss—“I do have a marvelous idea”— sliding one hand under the hem of his shirt—“for a final activity”—nibbling on an earlobe—“to fully restore my health”—slipping the tip of her tongue into his ear.

  “Elizabeth,” he sighed, eyes shutting in pleasure, “we should wait until”—he gasped as a nipple was grazed—“settled at Netherfield… please…” Moans interrupted words as she firmly situated his hand on a breast, while lips traveled deliciously along his jaw. “Your headache could return, beloved, listen to me…”

  Lizzy stopped his voice by seizing his lower lip and sucking gently. Darcy moaned again, unconsciously rocking a burgeoning arousal into her bottom and rubbing her breast.

  “You talk too much, Fitzwilliam.”

  “No one has ever accused me of that!”

  She smiled and began seductively stroking and kissing him. He earnestly struggled to dissuade her but to no avail. Lizzy's obstinacy was manifest in a myriad of ways, and one was when she desired him. Of course, Darcy never strived to avoid romantic activities with his wife so was not well experienced in how to do so!

  Lizzy laughed at his stammering opposition and met passion-darkening eyes. “I want to love you, Fitzwilliam, any way you desire. I crave your touch on my skin and your body on mine. I hunger to bring you pleasure and show you how ardent my love for you is.” She kissed his eager mouth passionately, overwhelming his senses with her breath and insistence. Pulling away finally, she whispered, “Take me to bed, my lover.”

  He stared into her eyes for a moment longer, searching carefully for any residual pain or fatigue, but only sheer desire and love shone forth. With a sigh, gripping her securely in strong arms, he stood and entered their bedchamber. The inn's bed was not as large as Pemberley's or as fine, but it was comfortable. Darcy sat on the edge, lying his wife gently back onto the downy comforter while kissing her lovely mouth. Pulling back mere inches, he stroked the hair from her face, twining silky tresses about his fingers as he gazed at her. “Elizabeth, you are incredibly beautiful. With each day your loveliness increases. I do not comprehend how it is possible, yet it is true.”