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Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley tds-2, Page 3

Sharon Lathan

  The five days they tarried in Hertfordshire were filled with a vast number of visitations and numerous memories.

  Sir William Lucas and his wife, Lady Lucas, hosted a dinner party at Lucas Lodge the second evening after the Darcy's arrival. A generous portion of the four and twenty families of distinction attended. Darcy had met most of them at various events during the time of his previous stays in the region, although the impression he had made on the bulk of them had not been favorable. With the exception of the various young ladies in residence, who had overlooked his reserve in recognition of his wealth and position, many of them had simply abandoned any attempt at ingratiation, finding him aloof and impossible to become acquainted with. During his engagement, Darcy had pointedly striven to rectify the damage done and had largely succeeded, except for the previously mentioned young women who then had no interest in him whatsoever.

  Nonetheless, aside from Mr. Bingley and Mr. Bennet, not a single man could claim to know him even moderately. In truth, Darcy could care less. Never a man to make friends with ease or to have an abundance of confidants, Darcy saw no point in endeavoring to form relationships in Hertfordshire. This honest assessment had disturbed him only in that he wished to please his fiancée. He had assumed that she, sociable and popular as she was, would desire him to be the same. He was in error. The agony he had suffered over those initial weeks of forced gregariousness had taken their toll on him, Elizabeth noting his constant tension, increased fidgeting, and loss of appetite. In another one of their forthright conversations, she had bluntly confronted him over his obvious distress. He evaded, fearful of her disappointment, but in the end she drew it out of him. With a multitude of assurances, dangerous kisses, and embraces, she finally convinced him that she loved him as he was and that it mattered naught what the people of Hertfordshire thought.

  His relief had been palpable. Now, all these months later, confident in his marriage and the mutual admiration he and Elizabeth shared, not to mention his unrelenting joy, Darcy discovered that there were actually several men he rather liked. Bingley, a walking example of congeniality, had readily made friends with nearly every man his age for miles around. The newly relaxed Mr. Darcy rapidly saw his social calendar filled with shooting, horseback riding, a billiard tournament, a turn at the faro tables, and luncheon twice.

  Lizzy was delighted to see her husband busily entertained. Knowing that he was happily enjoying himself with Charles and the rest at the various male pursuits he had neglected over the past months gave her the freedom to devote her time elsewhere. Most afternoons were passed at someone's house for tea, Lizzy utilizing the time to renew old friendships. However, her main purpose in visiting home was to be with her family. In a strange turn of events, Darcy became the social butterfly flittering hither and yon, while Lizzy rarely left Longbourn or Netherfield.

  Lizzy's pregnancy symptoms vacillated, but her overall health seemed to be improving. She did not suffer a headache the entire time at Hertfordshire and slept very well, so her fatigue was minimal and her morning nausea was mild. Jane assured Darcy that she would keep a close eye on her sister while he was gone. Lizzy merely smiled indulgently at her husband's solicitude, relieved when he apparently abdicated his self-proscribed guard duty, wholly unaware that Jane and every servant in both households were enlisted to watch her carefully and notify him instantly of any troubles.

  The men left each day shortly after breakfast, leaving Jane and Lizzy alone. Georgiana and Mary had taken quite a liking to each other, so Mary had been invited to stay at Netherfield and the two girls quickly became inseparable, to everyone's surprise. Darcy had been concerned that Kitty would resent her exclusion, but the opposite was true. Kitty found her sister and Georgiana dull as posts so was perfectly content to be left out.

  Lizzy and Jane, therefore, had an abundant amount of time each day to talk. Walking about the Netherfield gardens the morning after their arrival, Jane inadvertently broached the same topic of conversation so amusing to Darcy when Bingley advanced it.

  “Lizzy, did you sleep well last night?”

  “Very well, thank you, Jane. I woke refreshed and only slightly queasy. Mrs. Reynolds taught Marguerite a tea recipe that nearly always calms my stomach. The tea along with a few pieces of toast before I rise, and I generally avoid any severe illness.”

  “That is a relief. I was concerned.”

  “You need not worry yourself, Jane. Marguerite dotes on me and has the tray at my bedside before I fully awake. William rings for her as soon as I begin to stir. Between the two of them, I am well cared for.” She laughed at the understatement.

  Jane, however, was looking at her in astonishment. “Mr. Darcy is with you every morning? How early does he arise?”

  Lizzy was baffled. “He is an early riser, as am I, if you remember. Lately I have tended to sleep later, prompting him to leave for a ride or business before I wake. We are both hoping the physician is correct in this blasted fatigue being of short duration. I hate being tired all the time! I have no patience… Jane, why are you looking at me like that?”

  “He comes to your room every morning?! Is he so demanding, as Mother said?”

  Lizzy stared for a moment then burst out laughing. “Oh, Jane! Shall I shock you further by confessing that I am every bit as ‘demanding’ as he is? William does not ‘come to me’ in the morning. He never leaves me. Neither of us wishes it otherwise.”

  Jane was blushing but studying Lizzy's face closely. “He… shares your room with you?”

  “In a manner of speaking. We only have one room. Well, technically, there is his mother's bedchamber, but I do not use it. His chambers are now ours. Jane, do not you and Mr. Bingley ever stay together?”

  Jane grew even redder and resumed walking briskly. “Lizzy, we should change the subject.”

  “Oh no, dear sister! You tendered the topic. If you assure me that you are perfectly content with your arrangement then I will desist. However, I saw a curiosity in your eyes. Tell me truthfully.” She grasped her sister's arm until she halted.

  Jane avoided Lizzy's eyes, but Lizzy could see the tears shimmering. “I do not think Charles wishes to stay with me,” she said in a small voice.

  “Why would you think that?”

  “He… comes to me frequently and it is wonderful. He holds me for a bit, then he… leaves.”

  Lizzy was frowning. “What does he say when you ask him to stay?”

  Jane looked at her with absolute mortification. “Ask him to stay? Lizzy, I could never do that!”

  “Why ever not? He is your husband. You should be able to discuss all subjects. Perhaps he believes you want him to leave.” Lizzy clasped her sister's arms and intently met her eyes. “Jane, I will not presume to assert that your relationship with Charles should be as mine is with William. However, I will say with confidence that you have listened far too much to Mama's advice. I know several incontrovertible facts. One, sharing a bed with your husband, and sleeping in his arms is heavenly, joyous, blissful, and practical! I was not cold once all winter! Second, the intimacy engendered adds a depth to the relationship beyond comprehension. There is truly not a single matter William and I cannot talk about. We share everything.”

  She linked Jane's arm in hers and resumed walking. “I know Mr. Bingley fairly well and believe you would be surprised at how deep his love for you. This is my suggestion. Tonight do not wait for him to come to you. Go to him instead and tell him how you feel. Be bold for once, Jane.”

  “I do not know if I can do that, Lizzy.”

  “Oh, for heaven's sake, Jane! This is Mr. Bingley and you: the sweetest couple in all of England. He will not bite you!”

  That afternoon, after lunch and tea at Longbourn, Lizzy returned to Netherfield for a nap. Darcy and Bingley had been out all day; doing what, she had no idea. She woke to a shadowy room and the pressure of soft lips on her brow. With a happy sigh, she gathered her husband into her arms, pulling him onto the bed.

  “Elizabeth, i
t is time to prepare for dinner. Lucas Lodge, you recall.” Despite his words he planted tender kisses along her neck.

  “Later, husband. I have sorely missed you. What have you been up to all day?”

  “Bingley wanted to show me some property twenty miles north that he is interested in. I found all manner of distasteful proofs as to why the manor and grounds were unacceptable.”

  “You are a devious man, Mr. Darcy! Has anyone ever enlightened you to that fact?”

  He assumed a haughty purse to his lips. “Only employing my business acumen in the service of a friend. I know for a certainty that the Hasberry estate in Derbyshire is far superior to this property.”

  “And the fact that it sits less than fifteen miles from Pemberley has no bearing whatsoever?”

  “Absolutely none. Now kiss me, beloved wife, and then tell me about your day. How are you feeling?”

  “Very well. I had a delightful afternoon with my family, a refreshing nap despite the lonely bed, and a most enlightening conversation with Jane this morning.” She proceeded to tell him about her discussion with Jane.

  “Interesting,” he murmured, relating his amusing conversation with Bingley about their room assignments. “Lends an added spin to the questioning. Not certain what I can do about it, though. As close as Charles and I are, we do not speak of such things. I am fairly confident he was as innocent as I was upon marriage. More so probably, as his education was not as inclusive and he is younger, less well traveled. His only journey out of England was when we went to France two years ago. I do not warrant him such a slave to convention that he would not deign to sleep with his wife though, and I know how deep his love for Jane.”

  “I wish to see them as fulfilled and complete as we are.”

  He hugged her to his side. “I know you do, beloved. Yet who are we to say they are not? All relationships are different. However, I will observe Charles and exploit any vantage offered.”

  In the end, it was not necessary for either of them to act. All through the dinner party at Lucas Lodge, Jane seemed pensive, eyeing her husband with a lingering, thoughtful gaze. Darcy and Lizzy noticed, exchanging occasional knowing glances.

  It was late when they returned to Netherfield. Lizzy was exhausted, actually having fallen asleep on Darcy's shoulder in the carriage. He assisted her up the stairs, murmuring their goodnights to the Bingleys. A brief backward glance as Darcy opened their door, revealed Jane clutching Charles's hand outside Bingley's bedchamber. The last picture visible was Jane snaking her arms about her husband's neck with clear intent before he had even latched the door. Darcy chuckled softly. Unfortunately, his night did not end as blissfully, his wife already soundly asleep when he reentered their chamber. He nestled close, stroking her face gently, happily gazing at her beauty for a half hour or more before sleep claimed him.

  Chapter Two


  Lizzy woke as the sun crested the horizon, the merest traces of sunlight entering the darkly curtained room. Darcy lay on his side next to her, one arm lightly draped over her abdomen, his top leg trapping hers. It was rare, even prior to her accident, to wake before him. Consequently, she seldom had the opportunity to simply stare at his sleeping form. She grasped her adventitious good fortune, especially as she diagnosed a state of total wellness for the first morning since early April! Her mind was racing ahead with urges growing as she lovingly admired him. He slept with lips parted, hair in utter disarray, face relaxed and so youthful. His body was akin to an oven in generating heat. It was wonderful in the winter, Lizzy had discovered, as she had not once been cold at night for the first time in the whole of her life. Now that it was summer, it meant that he tended to shove all the covers off, lying mostly exposed. Such was the case now. The thin blanket swathing her body was barely touching him, loosely cloaking hips, lower back, and one leg only. The remainder of his perfect physique was bared for her rapt inspection.

  With a delighted smile, she ran dainty fingers through his hair, down to a firm shoulder and chest, edging closer to him incrementally. He slept on. How many mornings he had roused her in a similar manner were unfeasible to recollect. Therefore, the twinge of guilt felt at disturbing his slumber was overshadowed by her desires and the certitude that he would not be annoyed in the least.

  Darcy, she knew, was a deep sleeper. He required little sleep overall, a mere six to seven hours more than adequate, and his body utilized the time proficiently by entering a state nearing hibernation. Therefore, she had the advantage and used it. Without haste and as delicately as possible, she removed the blanket and commenced caressing him. He sighed faintly a few times, stretched once, and rolled toward his back thus exposing more of him to her tender touch. He slept on, breathing regularly for quite some time as Lizzy thoroughly enjoyed herself.

  Lizzy never wearied of simply studying her husband. Knowing the delights of his flesh and the perfection to his figure had on several occasions led to her embarrassment. Her decadent musings frequently invaded her during evenings reposing in the parlor. If Darcy glanced up and caught the gleam in her eyes as she stared, he would smile and wink or raise a brow. However, Georgiana had far too often been the one to notice the frankly sexual gazes between her brother and his wife or to interrupt them in an amorous embrace, to their extreme mortification. Yet, they could not seem to stop themselves. Last night, at the Lucas dinner party, Lizzy is almost certain her father saw her run a hand over Darcy's derriere. Earlier in the day, Mr. Bingley had walked into the library mere seconds after they separated from a particularly heated embrace with Darcy massaging one breast and Lizzy brushing the slight bulge emerging in his breeches.

  This morning, contemplating the vision before her feasting eyes, Lizzy could raise only the slightest remorse. Honestly, as logical as it was to conclude that they needed to reign in their passion when in public, she had no desire to do so. Let the world know how ardently they loved each other, and if it disapproved, so be it. Lizzy would never regret a single expression of her devotion to Darcy, and she knew he felt the same. Lightly, she trailed her fingertips down the line of hair leading from breastbone to groin, circling then dipping into his navel. He slept on but the unconscious response as her fingers feathered over thighs, groin, and lower abdomen was instinctive.

  Steadily, she emboldened her attack, adding kisses to the agenda, finally noting a variance to his respirations and a definite physical consequence to her ministrations. With a mighty sigh of pleasure, he drew her to his lips and kissed enthusiastically before briefly encountering her shining eyes. With a sultry smile he sighed again, closing his eyes and sprawling fully on his back, bestowing unimpaired access.

  My lord, he is gorgeous!

  Never one to refuse an offered gift, Lizzy besieged his body with relish. Seriously kissing all over his muscular, downy-haired chest, Lizzy stimulated him in all the ways she knew he adored. She knew how sucking his nipples incited him, that lightly tickling down his rib cage and sides thrilled him, nibbling his ears drove him insane, and kissing his neck and the pulsing hollow of his throat made him groan. She did all this and more, delighting in rallying his urgency. Darcy was wholly aroused in minutes, fists clenched together to avoid taking control, breathing heavily, and rumbling deeply in his chest. Nonetheless, Lizzy took her time, glorying in the sight of clenching thighs, rippling abdominal muscles, and thick, wiry hairs… all of him virile and powerful and alluring.

  She sat astride him, elbows locked and hands pressed onto his chest, fingertips embedded in hard muscle ridges as she moved, asking throatily, “Reminiscent of the dreams you had when first staying here, Fitzwilliam?”

  He merely groaned, grabbing her arms and pulling her onto his body for a voracious kiss.

  Down the hall, in the Master of Netherfield's bedchamber, Jane Bingley was being woken up in a similar fashion for the first time since her marriage. It was fortunate that the walls of Netherfield were very thick and that Georgiana, whose room was situated roughly midway between the twin d
ens of delight, was as deep a sleeper as her brother.

  The couples entered the breakfast room much later, Mary and Georgiana already dining. Georgiana glanced up at the glowing countenances of her brother and sister-in-law, youthful innocence nonetheless fully aware of why they beamed and surreptitiously touched while filling their plates. Darcy piled his high, ravenous for good reason, and even Lizzy discovered her appetite tremendously improved. Georgiana never tired of witnessing her brother's uncontrollable happiness; her love for him was so heartfelt that observing the joy he and Elizabeth shared warmed her soul and overcame the occasional embarrassment at witnessed embraces.

  Minutes later, the Bingleys breezed in. A rosy-cheeked Jane, arm in arm with her husband, met Lizzy's eyes for the briefest second. Lizzy nearly spit her tea at the supreme smugness visible on her sister's face. Mr. Bingley was frankly grinning like a fool, face ruddy. Darcy and Elizabeth exchanged a meaningful look, vainly struggling not to laugh.

  Darcy greeted his sister with a kiss to the cheek then sat across from her and beside his wife. Looking to Mary, who sat next to Georgiana, Darcy inquired, “Miss Mary, I trust you slept well?”

  Mary jolted at the sound of Mr. Darcy's voice. Despite the near constant presence of the man at Longbourn during the course of her sister's engagement, Mary had probably exchanged twenty words with him. She was not afraid of him, exactly, merely unsure. He intimidated her, although she conceded that he did nothing to specifically tender the emotion, having been unfailingly polite and almost pleasant. Mary simply had no idea how to converse with him, nor any other man for that matter. She flushed at his serious gaze, briefly encountered his eyes with an expression of perplexity, as if having suddenly been addressed by a frog, and stammered something along the lines of concurrence regarding her night's slumber, then commenced studying her plate as if the answers to the world's problems dwelt therein.

  Darcy frowned slightly. Miss Kitty he understood; found her annoying to be sure, but he understood her. Miss Mary baffled him. That she was somewhat shy he acknowledged, yet her shyness was not nearly as profound as Georgiana's or even his own. He had observed her in many lengthy conversations. She avoided men like the plague, universally treating them all as if inferior creatures, or at least so alien as to preclude any possible communion. She seemed to have not the slightest tinge of humor. Of course, many had erringly assumed the same of him, so he was willing to extend latitude. However, try as he might, he could not break through her shell. Frankly, he could not fathom why Georgiana had befriended her or what the two talked about.