It’s the wedding night!
Elizabeth laid the brush down and looked at herself in the small mirror on the wall. She had married Darcy earlier in the day, and, surprisingly, Miss Bingley offered to host the small breakfast at Netherfield. A small one had been planned for Longbourn as Mr. Bennet would have been too ill to move. It was suggested that they wed at Netherfield as well, but Elizabeth put her foot down. She had always meant to marry from Longbourn, and if she was not marrying in her parish church, then she intended to marry in the house itself. She agreed to move the breakfast only as it allowed for more movement since one room in Longbourn had been reserved to hold Mr. Bennet.
The ceremony itself was small, with only Elizabeth’s family and Mr. Bingley in attendance. As he had made his intentions clear to Elizabeth, she was happy to consider him a brother. In fact, he had offered to walk her down the aisle, but she preferred Mr. Gardiner. At the breakfast, a few of the neighbours were invited. Among them, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte congratulated Elizabeth on her match and had many wise words on the potential happiness in her marriage. Mrs. Bennet had remained at Longbourn, and so, Mrs. Gardiner gave Elizabeth the customary pre-wedding night talk. Now, Elizabeth sat in the small cottage bedroom in Longbourn village and awaited Darcy’s entrance.
His knock on the door interrupted her thoughts, and she managed to croak out, “You may come in.”
Slowly, the door opened, and Darcy stepped in. He did not come to her side. Nor did he seem faint in amazement at her beauty. Elizabeth supposed that was not surprising. She had spent much of the day crying, and while her face was not as puffy as it had been before the ceremony, her eyes and nose were still red. Additionally, he might have seen women in their bedclothes before. The thought brought a blush to her cheeks, and she averted her eyes.
“I—I do not wish to force anything upon you this night,” Darcy said. “I told you after proposing that despite the brevity of our engagement, we would continue as a courting couple.”
Elizabeth glanced first at Darcy, still clothed in shirtsleeves and breeches, and then the lone bed in the small cottage. “There is nowhere else for you to sleep.”
“I am sorry. When I arranged for our housing, I had thought you would be more comfortable closer to Longbourn than Netherfield or an Inn would afford. I took for granted that a cottage with two bedchambers would be available.”
“Thank you for thinking of me.” Elizabeth understood Darcy had supposed she did not wish to be far from her father. Indeed, she had hated the thought of leaving him at night, for fear that she would miss his final moments. The memory of waking this morning to his still form brought tears to her eyes.
Silently, Darcy approached. He offered Elizabeth a handkerchief. When she was finished, he pulled her into an embrace. Her ear landed over his heart, and she focused on its robust and slow beat. Darcy rubbed soothing hands up and down her back and pressed a kiss to her hair. He was far better at comforting her than she had ever supposed he would be. Perhaps it was because he was guardian to such a younger sister.
“You must rest,” he said, at last. “I had Jones arrange for some wine for you. I thought it might help you find sleep.” He led her to the dresser that held a bottle and glasses she had not noticed before.
Elizabeth accepted the offered glass, and next, he led her to the bed. Motioning for her to sit, she did so. She looked up at him with uncertain eyes. He observed her but said nothing. The awkwardness made Elizabeth long to fidget or prattle away with small talk. Alas, she was too tired to do so. When she had finished drinking, he took the glass from her hand and returned it to the dresser. She had noticed he drank nothing.
Returning to her side, he placed a kiss on her cheek. “Try to rest, Elizabeth. I will be just outside if you need anything.”
“You are sleeping in the sitting room?” Truthfully, to call it a sitting room was a stretch. It was the kitchen and dining area in one and contained only hard chairs. He would get no rest. “Is it—is it possible for a husband and wife to merely sleep in the same bed?”
Elizabeth blushed furiously. She knew most couples of their class had separate bedrooms, and Mrs. Gardiner had said that Darcy would wish to lie with her often early in their marriage. However, nothing was said about actual sleeping in one bed. Peeking up at Darcy, she saw that she had shocked him.
“If you are asking if I will find more rest lying in a bed with you mere inches from me than I will on a hard chair, I do not think it likely.”
Her face grew hotter. “What if I had another reason? It will ease my mind at the very least. What kind of wife would I be that I cared so little for my husband’s comfort?”
Darcy shrugged. “No one but us will know, and I understand the situation perfectly. I hold no grudge about it.”
Elizabeth’s heart skipped an irregular beat as an uncomfortable truth gnawed in the pit of her belly. Quelling her courage, she gave it words. “I—I do not wish to be alone tonight. Please stay.”
Darcy stared into her eyes, and Elizabeth returned his gaze. She would not back down. Filled with sorrow and exhausted she may be, but she was anything but timid. Finally, he nodded and walked around to the other side of the bed. Elizabeth scampered up it and pulled back the coverlet. The mattress sank when Darcy joined her.
Her pulse fluttered, but she turned to look at him. “Good night, William.”
Darcy’s lips turned up in a brief smile. “That is the first time you have called me William.” He raised a hand to stroke her cheek. “Good night, Elizabeth.”
He pressed a quick kiss to her lips, then they stiffly laid back in unison. Elizabeth stared at the ceiling for what felt like hours. The bed was uncomfortable, and her heart was too sore to find easy rest. She lay ram-rod straight, too scared to move a muscle. Beside her, it was quite some time before Darcy’s breathing turned easy and regular. When at last she found slumber, she dreamt of being a little girl again and putting a chain of daisies around her father’s head.
Darcy awoke to the blissful feeling of feminine softness in his arms. His dream became all the sweeter when Elizabeth moulded against him. He buried his head into her hair, surprise jolting him awake when her hair tickled his nose. This was no dream. Elizabeth was really in his arms!
Resisting the urge to squeeze her tightly to him and allow his lips to wander over her exposed skin, he released her. She had been plain in her disinterest in consummating their marriage last night. They had unconsciously become closer while they slept, but that did not mean she desired him now. Instead, he watched over her as she slept. One day, he hoped to see her sleep in peaceful repose rather than with a furrowed brow and as though tormented by thoughts.
The sun began to climb over the horizon, shining through the thin curtains of the room, and Elizabeth squeezed her eyes tighter before popping them open.
“Good morning,” he said in what he hoped was a soothing voice.
Elizabeth shook her head as though clearing her mind of the lingering effects of sleep. She leaned up on one elbow, and her gaze swept the room before landing back at him. Then, she flopped back on the bed and flung an arm over her eyes.
“I had hoped yesterday was naught but a nightmare,” she murmured.
Raising up on one arm, Darcy peered at her, seeing a few tears streak down her face. “I wish it were for your sake. Mr. Bennet was a kind gentleman and a loving father. I wish I had known him better.”
Elizabeth took a shaky breath and rolled over to face him. “Thank you for saying that.” Her lips turned up in a slight smile. “I think you might have liked him. You have a similar sense of humour.”
“He was more given to finding folly in the world in general than you. However, you both presented your thoughts sarcastically and unapologetically.”
“As all sensible people do.”
Elizabeth chuckled a little. “Jane would disagree with that.”
“So would Bingley.”
“I suppose they are made for one another then.”
Elizabeth eyed Darcy, and he knew she was assessing his feelings about the developing romance between his friend and her sister. Bingley had made his choice, so there was really nothing more for Darcy to do or say about the matter. “I think they will get along well. Although, I worry they are too complying and generous. Servants will cheat them, and they shall exceed their income in half a year.”
He added a wink, earning a laugh from Elizabeth. “An excellent tease, indeed! Yes, my father would have been most proud of it.”
“And what of his daughter? Does she approve of me?”
Darcy held his breath. He had worded his question so it might mean more than the approval of his ability to tease. Elizabeth raised a brow, as though she saw through is vain attempt at flattery.
“Perhaps his daughter did not know her approval meant very much to you. It always seems as though you approve enough of yourself.”
Darcy chuckled. “That is true enough, I suppose. However, I do value your opinion, Elizabeth.” He raised her hand to his lips.
Elizabeth’s breath caught in her throat, and Darcy gazed into her eyes. He turned her hand over and pressed a kiss into her palm. Hearing a delighted gasp, he continued up her wrist, where he felt the fluttery pace of her pulse under his lips.
Glancing up, he saw her eyes on him. “You are so beautiful, Elizabeth.”
Unexpectedly, she reached a hand to his brow, and pushed a lock of hair away, before trailing a finger along his jaw. “And you are far more handsome than I expected first thing in the morning.”
“I am in need of a shave,” he said as he rubbed a hand over his stubble.
“I think I like seeing you so informal.”
Words were quickly escaping Darcy. “May I kiss you?”
“You have already kissed my hand several times.”
“Where may I kiss you next?”
Elizabeth pursed her lips in mock thought. “Here,” she said and pointed to her forehead.
Delighted, Darcy placed a kiss there, enjoying her contented sigh.
“I love it when you kiss my forehead.”
“Your wish is my command,” he murmured before placing another kiss there.
“Hmm,” Elizabeth hummed happily. “Here,” she placed a finger to one cheek and then the other. Darcy willingly obeyed.
They continued their game until Darcy had kissed every inch of her face, including her beautiful lashes, except her lips. Feeling bolder, Darcy turned his ministration to her ears and neck while adding gentle caresses to her arms and collarbone. Returning his lips to her face, he inched closer to her mouth. Elizabeth turned, seeking his, and letting out a disappointed huff when she did not succeed.
Darcy held back until she met his eyes. “We do not have to keep going. Or…we can use this time to get to know one another and explore our bodies. Try not to think about anything…just feel.”
Elizabeth slowly nodded before fingering the thatch of hair poking through his open collar. Her touch sent waves of bliss over his body. For several minutes, they slowly caressed one another and learned what made the other sigh in pleasure and moan in desire. Every minute brought a new revelation, and Darcy worshipped Elizabeth’s body as his new-found religion, and he desperate for salvation.
Well and truly lost in each other, an insistent and loud banging at the front door finally roused his mind away from his sensual wife. When he ceased his ministrations, Elizabeth looked at him in puzzlement.
“What is it?”
Darcy cocked his head. “Do you hear knocking?”
Elizabeth waited a minute before her eyes widened in surprise. “I do!”
With a groan, Darcy pulled himself away from his wife. Searching the floor for his shirt, he found it on one side of the room by Elizabeth’s rumpled nightgown. His breeches he had hastily kicked off. He struggled to get them back on, no thanks to his distracting wife, who was kissing his throat and allowing her hands to wander.
“When I return, I will pay you back for those giggles, madam,” Darcy said with a mock glare at Elizabeth. “Then, we will finish what we started.”
“I hope so,” she said with a mischievous smile.
With a quick kiss to her lips, Darcy reluctantly left the room and answered the incessant knocking at the door. Wrenching it open, he was surprised to see his valet.
“Jones! I told you we would fend for ourselves today and go on to Longbourn in our own time.”
“I know, sir, but Mr. Gardiner sent for me as he did not wish to leave the house himself.”
“What do you mean? Why would he not leave the house?”
“It is the new master…Mr. Collins. He is at Longbourn, and one of the younger Miss Bennets said something out of turn. He threatened to turn them all out of the house immediately. The youngest miss swears she will take him up on the offer and is attempting to leave. The widow has fainted, and the woman who says she will be the new mistress is insisting on viewing her future chambers.”
“Good God!” Darcy cried. “Return to the house. Mrs. Darcy and I will be there in just a few minutes.” Turning from his loyal servant, he shut the door on not just his valet but any hopes of consummating his wedding for the day.