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Elizabeth Darcy beamed at her new husband from across Longbourn’s drawing room. Gone were the signs of his melancholy when they had first met. It was not only their wedding day which had brought joy to his heart. Although engaged, Elizabeth had to leave Derbyshire the day after the Twelfth Night Ball. Darcy soon found a house to lease near her father’s estate. He brought several friends with him which, of course, earned him Mrs. Bennet’s undying devotion. For any man who would bring several promising bachelors within walking distance of her three unattached daughters would be a son-in-law worth having. Elizabeth laughed to herself that it was not Darcy’s wealth which made him excel in Mrs. Bennet’s eyes.
Her father, too, seemed to enjoy his company. Elizabeth was most anxious that he should. While life at Longbourn had been strained since Lydia’s elopement, she had always been her father’s favourite child, and she feared he would resent her becoming engaged without his knowledge of the man. As it turned out, the two were of similar temperament although Mr. Bennet was far more sarcastic and willing to tease. Darcy was learning, though.
Elizabeth’s sisters all seemed to respect and admire Darcy, although not as much as they appeared to admire his friends. Elizabeth watched with growing interest as Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley talked with Jane. She had seen many men instantly smitten by her elder sister, who despite being five and twenty still had the bloom of youth now combined with greater sense and assuredness. Despite dozens of suitors, no one had ever made Jane’s eyes light up the way Charles Bingley did. If they would not take too long to come to the point, Elizabeth thought they might visit Pemberley by mid-summer as newlyweds.
Among Darcy’s other friends were his cousins, the sons of an earl. Mrs. Bennet had nearly fainted when she heard the news. The elder one was a viscount and in Parliament and would be quite the catch, in the matron’s opinion. The younger was a colonel in the Regulars. Elizabeth thought he was the better natured of the two and looked forward to regular visits in Derbyshire or London. However, he would need a wife of fortune, and the Bennet sisters had little to offer in the way of monetary wealth.
George Wickham also came, pleasing Elizabeth greatly. Fortunately for him, as a mere solicitor in a country town, he had not become the target of Mrs. Bennet’s machinations. Elizabeth could not find it in her heart to scold her mother. She had spent months missing all of her nerves and anxieties.
Due to bringing so many friends, Darcy had assured privacy with Elizabeth even in drawing room conversation. If he had arrived with a smaller party, he would be a more interesting character to Mrs. Bennet and her other daughters. As it was, Darcy and Elizabeth managed to have many illuminating conversations in the weeks of courtship. They would sponsor Mary and Jane in the spring. Kitty complained of being the only sister at home, but Mrs. Bennet said she could not do without her and that pleased the girl. Yet, Elizabeth was cognizant of the need to distinguish Kitty in some way. She did not want another sister feeling neglected by her. Kitty would come to Pemberley in the summer.
With all the upcoming plans to be surrounded by family, Elizabeth looked forward to her wedding holiday all the more. Darcy caught her eye. The time had come to leave.
A dozen embraces and handshakes later, and the happy couple was alone in a carriage headed toward a cottage a few hours away. During their travel, they teased and read between kisses and caresses, all allowing them to learn more about one another body and soul.
“I have a surprise for you, love,” Darcy said when they exited the carriage.
He produced a blindfold. After testing its effectiveness, he scooped Elizabeth into his arms, causing her to yelp in astonishment before laughing. After they entered the cottage, Darcy put Elizabeth down. Before he even lifted the blindfold, the familiar scent of holly and pine needles tickled her nose. Finally, he freed her eyes, and she saw a room decorated with red bows, holly and evergreen boughs adorned the windows and doors. A yule log burned in the fireplace. Christmas sweets were with the tea things.
“You did this?” Elizabeth asked.
“You did not get to have the Christmas you wished for,” Darcy acknowledged. “I have promised to give you everything your heart desires that is within my power. I thought it fitting to start with this.”
Elizabeth embraced and kissed her husband. His generous heart was on full display, even if she were the only one to enjoy it. Pulling back, she looked into his eyes. As she stroked his cheek, she said, “From now on, all I need at each Christmas is you. The greatest gift I have ever received is your love.”
Darcy grinned and shook his head. “It is not very charitable of you to copy my own thoughts, love.” He pulled her close for a deep kiss. “You are all I will ever need. I will forever thank Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner for bringing you to Lambton.”
“Yes, we do owe them much!” Elizabeth laughed. “How did you find fresh holly?”
“They are painted glass beads,” Darcy said. “George suggested the shop in Lambton.”
“I like thinking that one of them helped make something for our wedding,” Elizabeth smiled. She looked up, and her eye caught on a hanging ball of greenery. “Is that mistletoe?”
“Indeed, Mrs. Darcy,” he said before kissing her then scooping her into his arms once more.
“Where are you taking me, husband?” Elizabeth asked as they ascended the stairs.
“There is more of the house to see,” he murmured in her ear, sending shivers down her spine. “Let us start with the master chamber.”
In the coming days of their Christmas honeymoon cottage, Darcy and Elizabeth determined to always keep a Christmas room at Pemberley. It would serve as a reminder of their love for each other and to always keep their hearts open.
The morning they left the cottage, Elizabeth sighed into Darcy’s shoulder in the carriage. “I will always be grateful for the way you saved Christmas. I could scarce believe my eyes when I saw you on the street. I thought my heart would burst. Even if you did not love me, I was so pleased you had conquered your pain.”
“My heart was galloping harder than any thoroughbred at a track,” Darcy laughed. “I was certain you did not care for me and that I did not deserve you. What great feat is it to save Christmas when you saved my life?”