I saw a meme a few weeks ago that said the real new year starts in February and January is just the free trial. I really like that! Perhaps I’ll be better at consistency on the blog starting in this month? Maybe.
I don’t have much of a good excuse for the delay in posting. I finally finished writing and just needed a break before I could even edit the final chapters. We are down to the final two!
Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen / Fourteen / Fifteen / Sixteen / Seventeen / Eighteen / Nineteen / Twenty / Twenty-One
Inside Mr. Bingley’s carriage, Elizabeth’s stomach roiled in discomfort. She had done her best to not think about Darcy’s reaction to her arrival, but the closer she came to London, the harder it was to dismiss it from her mind.
Would he be displeased she came? Would he be angry at her past behaviour? Something had driven him to leave Netherfield. Elizabeth could guess it was related to her perceived rejection—but why did he leave so suddenly and without a word? Her pride wanted to dismiss her actions as wounding so deeply to deserve such treatment. However, she considered her new resolve to love her husband in the way that made the most sense to him. She could see, only too clearly, that while he did not wear his heart on his sleeve, he would deeply feel any emotional injury. It was not enough that she would think to have more patience than he evidently did. Elizabeth must consider what it might mean to Darcy.
There was so much about him that she still did not understand. She knew very little about his past and family. Did her rejection strike a tender nerve in his heart? Weeks ago, she would never have thought that Mr. Darcy was anything less than arrogant and over-confident. Now, she could see shades of uncertainty in his conduct. She perceived, too, that every time she sought to explain her growing but unclear feelings, they rang as hollow and merely gratitude to him. If Elizabeth’s arrival at his home and pleading for a second chance did not convince Darcy that she loved him, with any luck, her plans involving Charlotte and Caroline would.
Finally, she reached Darcy House in the expensive Mayfair district of London. At any other time, Elizabeth’s slight tremble would be due to the size of the homes and the thought of being mistress of something so large. Today, it was entirely the effect of her nerves. As boldly as she could, she alighted from the carriage and approached the door, announcing herself as Mrs. Darcy to the butler when it opened.
To his credit, the man’s face remained impassive. He brought her inside and had her wait in the upstairs sitting room. It was a large, well-appointed room, decorated with a timeless elegance rather than over-done finery. She could not remain on the sofa. Instead, she peered out the window at the street. They had left so early in the day, that very few people were about. She imagined most of the residents in this neighbourhood would still be abed. Indeed, she saw a few gentlemen arriving that looked as though they had been out all night. Her pulse raced at the thought that her husband could be one of them. Had she driven him to rakish living? She shook her head to dispel the notion. He would never resort to that.
“I am so sorry, William,” Elizabeth murmured and clutched the object in her pocket. A lone tear streaked down her face.
“Elizabeth?” a voice rasped barely above a whisper, but she would know the voice anywhere.
Slowly, she turned, her heart jumping in her throat at the sight of her beloved. Darcy looked ill—faint, even, as though he had not eaten well—with dark shadows under his eyes. Indeed, a moment ago, a similarly haunted look stared back at her in the windowpane.
“It is you,” he murmured, slowly approaching her, as though she might disappear.
Before Elizabeth could gather her wits and think of what to say to such a greeting, Darcy ceased his movements. A look of coldness overtook his features. She gulped. This is what she had been afraid of seeing.
Elizabeth moved to the sofa. “I apologise if you are surprised to see me. I believe we have much to discuss. Might we sit?”
Darcy raised a brow and took a chair opposite her. Elizabeth’s stomach dropped in further disappointment. He would not sit next to her or make this easy for her.
“First, allow me to apologise—” A maid entered, interrupting Elizabeth. The woman set the tray down and dashed out of the room as though she expected to be scolded.
Using the disruption to gather her thoughts, Elizabeth focused on serving the tea. She nearly dropped the cup on Darcy’s lap as he awkwardly took it from her so their fingers would not graze. Did he know how much she had hoped for just a sliver of his touch?
They sipped their tea in silence for a few minutes before Darcy finally drained his cup and set it down. “I had thought you had something to say to me. However, if you do not, then you will excuse me. If you desire to stay, please speak to the housekeeper about preparing your rooms.”
Elizabeth blinked at him. She forced herself to see beyond his curt words. He held himself stiffly—he was uncomfortable. He looked pained even. Could it be that being in the room with her brought him the same agony she felt? He was attempting to be civil and protect his heart at the same time. Oh, her dearest William!
“I apologise for my confusion since our marriage. I did not intend to hurt you, but I believe I have.”
“No apology is necessary. You acted exactly as you should have. You should not be sorry for your feelings.” Darcy stood.
Panicking, Elizabeth held up her hand. “Please, William. I came here to tell you that I love you! It took me too long to realise it, and I know you may no longer welcome it—but I thought I should tell you.” She ended the words on a whisper. It took every ounce of courage she had to put her pride behind her and be so honest and vulnerable.
“There is no need to lie to me, Elizabeth.” Darcy approached the door. “I waited in Hertfordshire for weeks for a sign of your esteem. I have been in London for a week, and you did not even take the trouble of replying to my letter.”
“What letter?” Elizabeth stood.
Darcy’s hand hovered over the doorknob. He turned to look at her, scrutinising her face. “I had thought you too charitable to toy with my feelings this way. What is it? Are there rumours in Meryton that bring you here? Has Miss Bingley been unkind to you?”
“William,” Elizabeth said firmly. “I had no letter from you. What letter do you mean?”
“How can that be? I left it beside you.”
“On the table?”
“No. On the pillow.”
On his pillow. The one she had held to her nightly as she cried her heart into it. “I saw nothing. I awoke, and you were gone. I went to the sitting room, hoping to find you. I entered your room—even your dressing room. That is when I realised you had left Netherfield. By the time a maid brought me back to my bed, I could not see clearly. Perhaps it fell.”
Elizabeth could see Darcy’s throat working as he swallowed at her words. She hoped the new look in his eye was one of acceptance. “Why could you not see?”
“I had been crying.” She approached him. “If you wish, I will tell you about my pain; the searing agony I felt knowing you had left me. Not even my father’s death had brought me to such desolation.”
“Elizabeth, you do not need to tell me more. How can you love me when you thought I left you so unjustly? I can never forgive myself for wounding you.”
“You did nothing unjust! I did not blame you. I knew I fully deserved it!”
“But to leave you without a word? That is unforgivable!”
“I think it is exactly what I needed.” Darcy started at her words, and Elizabeth smiled reassuringly. “Let me explain. I did not know until then that I loved you. I would relive that pain a thousand times if it brought me such understanding. What made it intolerable, was knowing it was all due to my own folly and the fear that I may never have another chance to see you. I did not know if you wished to permanently separate or planned on deciding later. I only knew that you had offered me your love, and I had rejected it. I knew I had hurt you and that you could no longer wait as I tore your heart to shreds. I had no letter, but I think if I had, I would not have spent so much time in reflection. In the end, I had to make an effort to come to you, unsure of my reception, but finally willing to name my feelings and stare down my fears.”
“Elizabeth.” Darcy pulled her into his arms. Her head rested over his beating heart. “I did leave you a letter. I wrote that I thought a little bit of time away from each other would be best, but if you still desired to attend Camden’s dinner, I would retrieve you. I also wrote that I would always wait for you and give you as much time as you needed. It did not matter that my heart was breaking. I would go through Hell for you!”
Elizabeth could not stop the sob that tore from her throat at Darcy’s declaration. That is what it meant to truly love someone. He had been willing to sacrifice so much for her sake, and now she was ready to do it for him. “I understand now,” she said through the tears. “Do you believe me? Please do not say that you doubt my love again.”
“I will not, as I think I understand what you must have been through.” He led her back to the sofa and pulled her onto his lap, circling his arms around her. “You heard nothing from me and decided to approach me anyway?”
Elizabeth nodded against his shoulder.
“That must have cost quite a lot of pride. And you hired a coach?”
“Mr. Bingley would not let me. He offered to escort me, but I could not wait until it suited his schedule. He lent me his carriage and servants as companions.”
“But you did not know where I was!”
Smiling, Elizabeth lifted her head. “I could not be certain, but I thought I knew enough of you to think that London was the most likely place.”
Darcy chuckled. “Do you know that I had a wild thought of going to the seaside? I imagined you coming to me there and us having a proper honeymoon.”
“That sounds splendid. Let us do that after the dinner with the Camdens.” Elizabeth’s eyes stared at Darcy in wonder. She placed a hand on his cheek. “I have missed you so very much, William. I never wish to be parted from you again.”
“Never,” Darcy agreed before meeting her lips.
They took their time welcoming each other in an unspoken way that words could never convey. Between the kisses were hushed words of promise and love. The broken pieces of Elizabeth’s heart mended and sealed—stronger than they had been before. She marvelled at how suddenly everything was so very right in the world. Even when she could not understand what she had felt for this man, and her life seemed upside down, it always felt perfect in his arms.
“Are you tired from your journey?” Darcy said, at last, breaking the connection of their lips.
“No, but I deserve to see the Master’s chamber, do I not?”
“I will perish if I do not escort you there this very moment,” Darcy said against her neck.
Interrupting Elizabeth’s moan of delight, he set her feet on the ground and tugged her to the door. Hand in hand, they raced to the stairs. They were nearly to Darcy’s bedchamber when there was a loud commotion at the main entrance.
“Let me see him! And his little hussy too!” A loud, angry voice boomed from the entrance.