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Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley tds-2, Page 2

Sharon Lathan

  In typical Darcy fashion, he alternately caressed, kissed, and nibbled over each delicate facial feature all the while murmuring endearments and praises for the beauty of his wife. Lizzy's eyes were closed, senses reeling with her husband's words of devotion and heated touch. Darcy paused at her lips, running feathery fingertips over her flesh, observing her rising passion with tremendous satisfaction and indescribable happiness. “Elizabeth,” he whispered, “my wife, my lover”—sliding his tongue over her lower lip as she sighed—“mine forever, beloved”—wet tip over the upper lip then slowly sucking between his own—“Mrs. Darcy.”

  Elizabeth had long succumbed to the amazing reality of her husband. The magnificence of his physique never failed to overwhelm her. His potent masculinity, virility, and stamina continually stunned her. The sensations they roused in each other at the tiniest touch or even at a look staggered her still, yet she embraced it as a heaven gifted expression of the extraordinary bonding love they shared. After nearly six months of marriage, their passion only grew stronger, their lovemaking as necessary as breathing with rarely a day passing without gratifying release and blissful devotion to the other achieved in some manner. They occasionally purposed to experiment with some new technique from the books or an imagined fantasy, yet usually their movements simply evolved naturally at the moment. Opportunities arose spontaneously and were latched onto with zeal, neither of them hesitant to try something new. Trust was unwavering, love unmatched, and desire to please the other first of paramount importance, selfless giving the central goal.

  Tonight was different only in Darcy's residual apprehension which induced him to proceed in a reserved manner despite Lizzy's clear desire for a wild interlude. In the end, she did not care, their mutual rapture as blissful and blinding as always.

  Slowly, reality and strength returned to them both. Lizzy moved first, turning in his arms that encircled her shuddering, damp skin and bestowed a lingering kiss. “I love you,” they spoke concurrently, then chuckled, kissing tenderly.

  Smoothing the tangled hair off her forehead, he kissed a perfectly arched brow. “Are you well, my love?”

  “I am divine but sleepy. Hold me, William?”

  “Forever, Elizabeth. Forever.”

  The next day dawned as bright and lovely as the previous one. Lizzy felt better than she had in the past week, not even a twinge of morning nausea; however, Darcy insisted on tarrying their departure to be sure. He kept the shades partially drawn and had assured plenty of snacks and liquids packed in the carriage. Lizzy was so continually plied with cups of lemonade and water that frequent stops for physical necessities were required, prolonging the journey. Even so, they arrived at Netherfield by mid-afternoon, greeted enthusiastically by Charles and Jane.

  Lizzy's feet barely made contact with solid earth before she was dashing into her sister's embrace. A short curtseyed greeting to Mr. Bingley, and then the two women headed into the manor, arm-in-arm and heads touching as their words spilled over one another.

  “Well, Darcy old chap,” Mr. Bingley exclaimed by way of greeting, “there you have it. I believe we have been abandoned!”

  Darcy smiled indulgently. “Only temporarily, Bingley. Surely they will exhaust their reminiscences and confidences in three or four days and then come crawling back to their mere husbands.”

  Bingley laughed. “Miss Darcy, I trust you are well? Was the trip too difficult?”

  “I am perfect, Mr. Bingley, thank you. And the trip was easy.”

  They made their way into the house, Bingley asking after Lizzy's health. “She suffered a headache last evening, but today is well. They occur occasionally still but with lessening intensity and frequency. The physician assures us it is to be expected.” They had agreed to announce their news once the entire family was together that evening. Darcy privately doubted Lizzy's ability to keep their joy from her sister for even those few hours, but he would not renege on their vow.

  “Mr. Bingley, have you prepared the same room for me as before?”

  “Yes, Georgiana, we did. Your brother assured me this was your preference.”

  “Oh, yes! The view is amazing. Thank you. Brother, Mr. Bingley, if you do not mind, I think I would like to rest a bit.”

  “Of course, dear.” Darcy watched her mount the stairs with a smile. “I doubt she is the least bit tired, but male companionship is decidedly boring to a seventeen-year-old girl. I, on the other hand, am in need of a drink. Lead the way, Charles.”

  Laughing, they made their way into the billiard room, where Bingley poured a whiskey for them both. Sitting onto a comfortably cushioned chair with a sigh of relief, Darcy studied his friend's face. “You look well, Bingley. Marriage agrees with you also, I presume?”

  “Very much. I do not require asking you the same question, Darcy. It is evident. By the way, I prepared your room as you requested. The same room you inhabited on your previous visits. A single room.” He paused, blushing mildly, the question unasked.

  Darcy placidly sipped his drink, gazing at Bingley with amusement, remaining silent.

  After a spell, Bingley continued, “Jane was concerned. There is a lovely bedchamber next to yours if…”

  “One room will be all that is necessary. I selected that bedchamber when you and I dwelt here last year based on the view and décor. Mrs. Darcy has similar tastes. She will appreciate it with the same enthusiasm, and I am aware of the attached dressing room.” He smiled at Bingley's ruddy face. “One bedchamber will be adequate.”

  Bingley cleared his throat. “So, tell me about the duel. I wish I could have witnessed the encounter.” His eyes were bright with a youthful zeal. “I almost pity the fool who would willingly take you on, Darcy.”

  Darcy smiled grimly, but proceeded to tell the tale.

  Down the hall in the parlor, Lizzy and Jane were sharing tea and sisterly conversation. They sat side by side on the sofa chatting companionably, Lizzy sharing her version of the horrific events leading up to and including the duel. Jane shuddered. “How awful, Lizzy. We were so worried. Papa wanted to leave for Pemberley immediately, but Mama was ill with anxiety and begged him to stay.” Lizzy made a face but said nothing. Jane continued, “Fortunately, Mr. Darcy sent a second missive soon after informing us of your recovery. Are you wholly restored?”

  “Headaches on occasion, that is all. The light, if it is too bright, pains me, but that is lessening. The doctor seems certain that it will resolve in time.” Lizzy laughed. “Between my weakness and William's wounds, we have been quite the pair of invalids!”

  Jane shuddered once again. “I do not know how you can jest, Lizzy. A duel with swords! I would faint away if Mr. Bingley did something so reckless.”

  “I did not know until after the fact and I scolded him to be sure. Still, it is rather romantic, do you not think, Jane? Also, Orman received his just reward.”

  “Has he left Derbyshire?”

  “Yes. Apparently, he has an estate in Devonshire. William crippled him. I do not imagine he will hurt any other women.”

  “I must confess, I cannot picture Mr. Darcy in such a manner. He is so proper and composed. Medieval dueling simply boggles my mind.”

  Lizzy smiled. “I was not surprised in the least. Remember, during our engagement, how we shared our first kiss experiences, Jane?” Jane blushed and nodded. “I spoke then of William's enthusiasm and you were shocked.”

  “Please, Lizzy! We should not speak of such things!”

  “Oh Jane! You are so silly. We are married women and sisters. If we cannot confide in each other, whom can we talk to?” Lizzy grasped Jane's hands. “I have so missed talking to you! There is no one on earth I can express my joy to as I can to you, dear sister. Are you and Mr. Bingley happy, Jane? You look happy. Please tell me you are as much as William and I!”

  “Lizzy, we are extremely happy, but you know it is not my nature to enthuse as you do. You have always yearned for excitement and passion more so than I. There is no doubt you have found both
with Mr. Darcy, despite his cool demeanor. Mr. Bingley and I are content and steady in our love, as well as quite joyful.”

  “How is it living so close to Mama? Tell me truthfully!” Jane attempted to evade but Lizzy laughed at her. “You say more with no words than with paragraphs, Jane! Truly, you and Mr. Bingley should move closer to us. William intends to discuss it with him. Would you not rather have your own home, Jane?”

  Jane seemed uncomfortable. “Charles and I have talked about this very matter, Lizzy. He would like to have his own home—our own home. The question is where. We both love it here and Mama would be so distressed if we left. Charles inquired about purchasing Netherfield, but the family does not wish to permanently part with it.” Jane shook her head. “I leave these decisions to him. He will do what he believes is best.”

  Lizzy would have continued the conversation, but the very topics of their discussion entered the parlor at that moment. Darcy went immediately to Jane. “Mrs. Bingley, my wife stole you away forthwith and I did not have the opportunity to greet you properly.” He bowed low over her hand. “Thank you, dear sister, for opening your home to us.”

  Jane blushed prettily.

  They all parted then to dress for dinner. Lizzy, as Darcy anticipated, adored the rooms selected for them. They were not as plush or spacious as their chambers at Pemberley, but the décor was the same rustic tones they both preferred. When Lizzy rejoined her husband in the tiny sitting room it was to mutual approbation. Darcy, in blue as usual, wore the pale azure waistcoat Lizzy had gifted him at Christmas; he was incredibly handsome and his eyes sparkled as he gazed in admiration at his wife. Lizzy wore a new but simple gown of lavender and gold chenille with the Darcy strand of pearls around her neck, her lush hair elegantly coiffed by Marguerite, as always.

  Darcy kissed his wife's hand and then her cheek. “Are you well, beloved?”

  “Do you not ever tire of asking me that, Mr. Darcy?” she teased and he laughed, clasping her arm in his as they exited the room.

  It was only fifteen minutes later that the Bennet carriage arrived. Mrs. Bennet was honestly at a loss as to whom to gush over first: her daughter in finery and jewels or her illustrious son-in-law. Darcy had discovered early in his engagement that the best way to deal with Lizzy's mother was to politely and formally greet her then pointedly ignore her. This form of subtle intimidation was a pose Mr. Darcy was expert at, and since Mrs. Bennet truthfully did annoy him profoundly, it was a natural response on his part.

  He met the problem head on by purposefully placing his towering body directly in her path, seizing her hand smoothly for a brief kiss, and addressing her with a deep bow and voice lower than normal. “Mrs. Bennet. What an absolute delight it is to see you again. If I may be so bold, you are radiant tonight. Blue becomes you, and I daresay you have shed ten years since last we met.”

  Without skipping a beat or waiting for a reply—not that one was forthcoming from the stunned Mrs. Bennet—he adroitly stepped to the side and looked at Mr. Bennet. The older man's eyes were twinkling and a cryptic smile, which Darcy had initially found so disconcerting but now delighted in, hovered about his lips. He actually winked at his son-in-law and Darcy solemnly winked back. The two gentlemen bowed and greeted each other formally, barely managing to get the preliminaries out of the way before Lizzy was in her father's arms. Lizzy had jumped at the opportunity provided by her mother's paralysis to greet her father first. Darcy smiled at the obvious joy the two felt at seeing each other after such a long absence. During the engagement, he and Mr. Bennet had developed a relationship bordering on friendship, or at least as close as two men of a nearly thirty-year age gap and vastly differing upbringings could attain. Darcy had been continually amazed at the breadth of the older man's knowledge of literature, science, and politics. Although they argued on some matters, it was in a friendly debating sort of way and they both enjoyed the challenge provided. More and more often, he had found himself secreting away from Mrs. Bennet's boisterous presence to repose in Mr. Bennet's study over brandies and quiet conversation. Lizzy had learned that it was the usual place to find her betrothed when he mysteriously disappeared.

  “Lizzy,” Mr. Bennet declared with heartfelt relief, “my Lizzy! I have missed you so.” Darcy turned away to greet his new sisters and to allow father and daughter a moment. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennet had recovered her voice and the private interlude was interrupted with her shrill exclamations. Lizzy was captured in a soft embrace and female prattling as both her mother and Kitty descended upon her. Mary, Darcy noted, hung back and was shyly approached by Georgiana, the two young women having formed a tentative friendship prior to the wedding. As the group slowly edged their way into the parlor, Darcy lingered to the rear, as did Mr. Bennet.

  “Mr. Darcy, my daughter appears well. Quite well, in fact. I want to thank you for your constant correspondence during her illness. I am sure it must not have been easy for you to take the time.”

  “You are welcome, sir. Nothing about that episode was easy, but it is behind us now and she has nearly fully recovered.” Mr. Bennet detected the note of strain in the younger man's voice and the hint of residual pain in his eyes despite Darcy's careful regulation. He smiled. Any doubts he may have had initially of Darcy's affection toward Lizzy had been dispelled within a week of their betrothal. He further saw the evidence of the deep love that had grown between the two already in the glances shared as they made their way into the parlor.

  “She is more beautiful than I remember her,” Mr. Bennet continued. “I would not guess her needing to recover any further. She positively glows. Your doing, I am certain.” He glanced slyly at Darcy, who looked at him sharply.

  “Whatever do you mean, sir?”

  “Calm down, my boy. Any secrets you two have are safe with me for the present. I merely was referring to the flush on her cheeks, the radiant happiness she exudes, and the serenity about her. I am familiar with the pose from Jane, but never Lizzy.” He clapped Darcy on the back as he moved away, “You have made this old gentleman's heart shine, and I thank you.”

  Darcy stood there wondering as Mr. Bennet strolled to greet his other son-in-law, catching Lizzy's eyes from across the room. She raised an eyebrow in question with a subtle nod toward her father. He shrugged imperceptibly. Mr. Bennet was far too astute for his own good.

  As usual in these family gatherings, Darcy tended to retreat to quiet corners as often as possible. Lizzy and Jane were in the center of a female cluster, all the women seemingly talking at once, Darcy amazed that any of them could distinguish a word the other said. Even his normally bashful sister was caught up in the enthusiasm, which educed a pleased smile.

  Dinner was announced; Darcy escorted his wife and sister and was happily ensconced between Lizzy and Mr. Bennet at the table. Conversation flowed in the rather jumbled manner that Darcy associated with the Bennets. Gradually, he had familiarized his sensibilities to what society would universally deem a hideous breach in dining etiquette, seeing beyond the outrageousness of it to recognize the relaxed harmony. It was not comfortable for him, decades of protocol hindering full involvement, but he appreciated it.

  He and Lizzy touched clandestinely under the table whenever possible, sparking humorous memories of stolen caresses at this very table during their engagement. Leaning over at one point, Darcy whispered in her ear, “When do you wish to announce our news, beloved?”

  She graced him with a beatific smile and a squeeze to his knee. “After dessert, otherwise the entire meal will be delayed.”

  By the time the dessert course was served, Darcy was ready to erupt with impatience. Standing suddenly and thereby instantly commanding the attention of all at the table without uttering a word, Darcy cleared his throat. Glancing at his beaming wife, he grasped her hand then addressed the staring group. Only Georgiana knew what was to be declared, and she was grinning.

  “Pardon me for the interruption. Elizabeth and I have an announcement that we no longer wish to delay in imparting.
We have suspected for some weeks now but have just two days ago had it confirmed.” He paused dramatically, rather enjoying the varying expressions of curiosity, dawning enlightenment, and frank bafflement that graced the features around the table. Lizzy began to giggle under her breath, knowing her staid husband's flair for the theatric. Smiling, he resumed, “Elizabeth's accident created a scare for us, but we now are certain, so can state with confidence, that we will be, roughly sometime in early December, welcoming our first child.”

  He kissed her hand as everyone lurched to their feet to converge on the jubilant couple. Darcy's hand was pumped and his back was slapped; Lizzy was hugged and kissed. The party gradually retired to the parlor where Lizzy was plied with questions and baby plans were set in motion. Meanwhile, the gentlemen retreated from the female twittering to celebrate and congratulate the father-to-be with glasses of Bingley's finest port.

  As always, Darcy's gaze frequently alit on his wife. Therefore, he readily interpreted her mildly increasing pallor and weakening smile as a sign of fatigue. With alacrity, he weaved his way to her side, smoothly extracting her from the clutches of her family with apologies. Once outside the room, he swept her into his arms, ignoring her protests.

  “Darling, I am merely tired not incapacitated!”

  “Do not argue with me, Mrs. Darcy. Have you not deduced that I simply create reasons to hold you in my embrace?”

  “Oh, is that what you are doing?” she asked, laughing.

  “Of course.” He kissed her forehead then grinned. “I figure I better take advantage of the opportunities before you are so rotund that I cannot pick you up.”