We have the final chapter! Thank you all for reading and sharing your comments with me. Please let me know your final thoughts. I decided against giving Mr. Collins a comeuppance. It really isn’t that important to the story line and it felt wrong to go back to Meryton after reuniting Darcy and Lizzy in London.
Also, *everyone* has suspected Lady Catherine was the intruder in the last chapter…but I never confirmed that! I bet you’ll all be surprised!
Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen / Fourteen / Fifteen / Sixteen / Seventeen / Eighteen / Nineteen / Twenty / Twenty-One / Twenty-Two
Darcy stopped his forward motion as all previous anticipation, and arousal at continuing the reunion with Elizabeth in his bed disappeared. He recognised the voice as that of his uncle. Why was the earl at his house and accosting his servants? Why was he so angry?
“Find your master!” the earl yelled at the butler. “I will wait in the library.” There was the sound of rushed footsteps, and then the earl called out, “And order tea!”
Darcy opened the door to his chamber and motioned for Elizabeth to enter. She had an unreadable look on her face. “Wait here. I will send him away. I do not know what he wants, but I will not allow him to abuse you.”
“I think I may know why he is here,” Elizabeth said, turning pink.
“I did not imagine he would storm over here, but I daresay my plan made its mark.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you a copy of The Times?”
Darcy nodded, unsure of why Elizabeth needed the paper and how it could be connected to his uncle. He retrieved the paper from where he had left it on his chair by the fire. Handing it over, he watched in fascination as Elizabeth opened to the society section and began scanning the page.
“Here we are,” she said with a tone of triumph. “The paper is pleased to report that Lady B of Hampshire and Mrs. R of Yorkshire confirm that the Earl and Countess F have met with Mr. D of Pemberley’s new bride and find her utterly genteel and delightful. Faithful readers of our publication will recall that he married in reported haste some weeks ago. Mystery has surrounded the situation, including his wife’s identity and origins, ever since. Rumours his family disapproval of the match and refusal to recognise the marriage have circulated. Many said Mrs. D’s avoidance of London meant the marriage already strained, assumingly because her husband regretted his choice due to the lady’s connections in trade, including wealthy merchant Edw. Gardiner of Cheapside. Others claimed that Mr. D broke off contact with his family, grieving Lord and Lady F, who were after the Pemberley purse. Lady F confirms that Mrs. D will be formally introduced to London Society at a party hosted by the Marquess and Marchioness of Cam— on the Sixth of this month.
“‘Further reports say that Lady C, widow of Sir Lewis DB, whose daughter was long reported to be betrothed to Mr. D, welcomes her niece as well, stating ‘Love triumphs all.’”
“Good lord! Where on earth did they get their information?” Darcy had noticed that suspected gossip page informants had seemed to take notice of his movements since being in Town.
“Caroline Bingley,” Elizabeth answered with a sly smile.
“You engineered this?”
“Are you angry? I had thought it a way to prove my devotion by action and nip the reports of a breach, not only between us but with your relatives, in the bud.
“Very cleverly done, my love!” Darcy kissed his wife just as there were indistinct shouting and a slamming of a door downstairs. “I had better go deal with that,” he said with a sigh.
“Would you like me to come as well? I made the mess, after all.”
“I would not subject you to whatever he has to say.”
“It does not bother me,” Elizabeth said. “I know that you love me.”
“More than anything,” Darcy agreed fervently.
“Will you allow me to stand by your side now and always? Let us face our trials together.”
In answer, Darcy wrapped his hand around his wife’s, and they left the room. Words were not needed. The butler hovered in the hall, and Darcy told him he had done well but now would handle the matter. Feeling like a king with his queen on his arm, Darcy entered his library head held high.
“Good. You brought the strumpet.”
“What have I said about treating my wife with respect? My footmen could eject you from the house.”
“You would not dare!” the earl turned red in anger but looked uneasily at the door.
“Only if you continue to be so rude to Mrs. Darcy.”
“If you think I am upset, just wait for Catherine to arrive. She will string you up by your toes.”
“I very much doubt she can do much more than you—which is only rant and rave. I am not one of your political cronies to be bullied by such antics.” Darcy took a step back toward the door. “I am waiting for an apology, Uncle.”
The earl glared first at Elizabeth and then Darcy. After a moment of silence, he relented. “Very well. I apologise for insulting your wife. Pray, would you introduce us?”
“Thank you. I most happily oblige to your request. Dearest, this is my uncle, the Earl Fitzwilliam. My lord, allow me to present my wife, Elizabeth Darcy.” Darcy raised Elizabeth’s hand to his lips. “Do not worry, my love. His bark is worse than his bite.”
“He does not frighten me, darling. I have survived four sisters and an anxious mother.”
Darcy led Elizabeth to the settee and took a seat beside her, keeping her hand in his. He had never felt the least bit tempted to cave in to any of his uncle’s demands. However, this time, he appreciated having company in the battle. Seeing the tea things, Elizabeth set about serving them.
“Do you know what this is?” the earl said, without touching his cup. He held up a sheet of newsprint ripped from the page.
“I can hazard a guess,” Darcy said.
“Then you do know about this! It could not have been you who manipulated this article. Your wife is a schemer, Darcy! I warned you.” He clenched his fist around the paper and shook his finger at his nephew.
“I will allow that it was Mrs. Darcy’s idea, but I applaud it wholeheartedly. It clears up all the rumours in one fell swoop.”
“And you roped Camden into this somehow?” He looked at Elizabeth.
“Never doubt what can be accomplished by making a man’s wife happy,” she answered enigmatically then took a sip of tea.
“Too true,” Lord Fitzwilliam chuckled. “However, I did not think you knew him, Mrs. Darcy.”
Darcy laughed as well. “When he heard I had married, his wife eagerly sent an invitation for both of us. I have since met Lady Camden and believe she and Elizabeth will soon become fast friends. You see, we would have managed without your support. This article allows you to save face. Unless that is, you would prefer to be cut from my notice? You may or may not have had your eye on Pemberley’s accounts, but I know that you do need my sway for Harold to win in the next election.”
“You would hold my sins against your cousin? Harold has no other way of life outside of Parliament.”
“It is a shame that although his father is an earl, he has no money set aside for his sons. Harold could always join the army as Richard has done.”
“No! One son in the service is more than enough. Fine, fine. Your aunt and I will recognise you and Mrs. Darcy in public.”
“That will not be enough, sir.” Darcy looked at his wife and squeezed her hand. “She has come from a close family of sisters and has relations living in London.”
“Yes, this Gardiner. Do not think I do not know what you have been up to with him.”
“Oh, I am sure you know all about it. I wish for us to be a real family. No more scheming and demands. I should like to host a dinner for Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle and my aunt and uncle to meet.”
“You go too far!”
“Honestly, Uncle, you just agreed that you needed more income. Perhaps you ought to consider investing in Gardiner’s enterprise. Now that we have the nobles paying their bills, business is booming.”
“I will have to consider that,” the earl said. “Now, about Catherine…”
“Anne’s income would be better for Harold or Richard. I believe she would happily have either of them. Why not talk to my cousins and see what arrangement meets their needs.”
“And your wife thought of all of this?” the earl gaped at them.
“Of course not, uncle.” Darcy laughed. “We are partners in all things. We concocted this together.”
The earl, at last, took a long sip of his tea, searched their faces, then grinned. “We may not have always agreed, my boy, but I very happily wish you the best. You have needed a wife who would fight by your side.” He set aside his cup and stood. “Well, my dear,” he said, bowing to Elizabeth, “welcome to the family, and I hope next time we may be allies and not foes.”
Lord Fitzwilliam bowed to Darcy then left the room. When they heard the front door close, Darcy pulled Elizabeth into his arms and kissed her passionately.
“Upstairs,” he commanded.
Elizabeth grinned and allowed him to lead her back to his chamber. Dashing up the stairs, he called to the butler. “If anyone else calls, I am not at home. I do not care if it is the King himself!”
Reaching the bedroom, Darcy shut the door and locked it before turning to take his fill of Elizabeth. Her breath came rapidly, a slight flush on her cheeks, hair in disarray, and her pupils dilated. Was there a more beautiful sight than his Elizabeth waiting to be ravished? Yes, he thought as he grinned and approached. Her look of contentment after finding her bliss.
Approaching, Darcy began unbuttoning his layers of coats and untying his cravat. Elizabeth followed suit, shedding her gown faster than he guessed possible. Their feet met, and Elizabeth stayed his hands, unravelling the fabric around his throat, then using it to guide his head to hers. She sought his hungry lips, and Darcy was only too happy to oblige. Walking her back to the bed, his feet trod over her gown, a crunching sound under his foot stopped his movement.
“What the devil?”
“Oh! I forgot!” Elizabeth said against Darcy’s lips as he pressed her onto the mattress. “That must be the glass. We will have to reframe it.”
“Reframe what?” he said, rubbing one hand up and down a stockinged leg.
“I had Charlotte paint a miniature of you, to match the one of me. Now, I need never be without you again.”
“You never will be, darling.
As Darcy and Elizabeth consummated their reunion, he acknowledged how blessed he was to overhear Elizabeth the day her father had collapsed. She may have begun as his grieving wife, but now she was the other half of his soul and his reason for living. She ruled his heart and would one day bear his children. Gone were the days of his lonely existence. His original intention of marrying only to gain freedom from his relations seemed laughable compared to the love he had for this woman. She challenged him like no other but could also sit beside him as an equal. Having her love made him desire to be a better man and have the courage to face any difficulty life could throw at them. Elizabeth was everything he had never known he wanted or needed, but precisely the woman he would cherish forever.