Can you believe it’s almost the end of May already? My daughter turns 7 next week and we are actually celebrating her birthday a bit today. Just the 4 of us. My husband is gone during the week, though, so she wanted to open presents and have cake when he was home. What she really wanted for her birthday this year was a camping trip with Daddy. She’s wanted to go on one since my husband took my son a few years ago. She was too young at the time and my husband hasn’t been able to go camping since. For awhile, it was looking like they would have to camp in the backyard. However, the campgrounds have opened up in our area, so they can go camping.
I’ll be *inside my house.* I am not a good camper. If I’m going to “rough it”, please let me go back in time.
The Darcys are still at Pemberley, enjoying long summer days and nights of idyllic harmony…or are they?
Darcy watched in avid fascination as his wife gasped in delight. Over the last week, they had been making a tour of Pemberley’s grounds. Today, Darcy showed Elizabeth a glen, which had always been one of his favourite spots. It was very similar to the secluded meadow he had shown Elizabeth at Rosings. However, this area lacked a crumbling and ancient building.
“You are quite the connoisseur of hidden beauties,” Elizabeth said. Her eyes roved over the untamed beauty full of tall grasses and wildflowers.
“You are the gem of my collection then, Elizabeth,” Darcy murmured into her ear, allowing his lips to graze the sensitive skin.
He led them forward, and they selected a spot to set up their picnic supplies. After eating, they lounged while watching the clouds, then took turns reading poems. They had brought with them William Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes.
Eventually, Elizabeth put aside the book. “Will you dance with me as we did in the glen at Rosings?”
Darcy eagerly granted her request. Their waltz in the shadows of an ancient church was one of his fondest memories. Now that they were married, they held each other a little closer than they had that first time. There was no need for a respectable distance as their chests brushed against one another. As they hummed and went through the motions of the dance, their eyes never left one another.
“I almost kissed you that day,” Darcy admitted.
Elizabeth smiled. “I almost let you.”
Pausing the dance, Darcy began to unpin Elizabeth’s hair. He pulled a lock to his lips and gave it a reverent kiss. “I have always loved your hair, especially when the light hits it. I enjoy having it graze over my skin when we are in bed and how your scent lingers on your pillow even after you leave.”
“Will,” Elizabeth said as more of a sigh than a word.
One of Darcy’s hands slipped around Elizabeth’s waist and brought her flush against him. The other caressed her cheek as she raised her face to him. Then, his fingers slid to the back of her neck as his lips sought hers. The kiss immediately caught fire, and their passion blazed white-hot. Scooping her into his arms, Darcy brought Elizabeth back to the blanket. She reclined backward, welcoming him to her with open arms. Before he could avail himself on her offer, she jerked upward.
“Ooh!” she cried as her eyes flew open, revealing discomfort.
“What is wrong, my love?”
“I believe there is a stick under my back.”
Darcy chuckled before rolling them. He was now on his back, and she straddled him. Reaching upward, he pulled Elizabeth to him once more. Her hair falling around him like a curtain.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered against her skin.
There were no sisters present to worry about, no servants that might catch them in an embrace. Here, Darcy felt they were alone in the world. He was not Lord Darcy or the Master of Pemberley. He did not have to find answers to any of their burdens. He could simply be a man desperately in love with his wife. Lacking the words to describe the simultaneous peace and passion their adventure brought to him, he showed Elizabeth the burning of his heart by worshipping her body.
Later, after they had rested in one another’s arms, and the sun began to set, they made their way back to the house.
“If only we never had to leave the glen.” Elizabeth sighed.
“We should build a cottage. We can retire there when we desire privacy. What do you think of that idea?”
“That is absolutely splendid!” Elizabeth grinned and squeezed Darcy’s arm.
“And you shall design the structure.”
For a moment, Darcy thought Elizabeth would argue. Her eyes widened in fear, and her mouth dropped open. He raised a brow, and she matched his expression before lifting her chin and squaring her shoulders. “Do you have any requests?”
“Only that there is a bed, and you remain in it as long as possible,” he said huskily.
Elizabeth blushed, but her eyes twinkled, and a small smile played on her lips. Darcy enjoyed surprising her from time to time with rakish words. She always feigned shock, but also seemed quite pleased that she could affect him so. He felt no need to deny it.
“I love you,” she said with a chuckle while squeezing his arm tighter to her and leaning her head against his shoulder.
They reached the phaeton they had brought and left hitched on the main path. The last stretch of their journey was after night had fallen, and the sky was alive with stars.
Darcy had never considered himself a poet or gifted with words. Words could never fully convey how much he adored Elizabeth and needed her in his life. However, that night in bed, he told her how her eyes shined brighter than all the stars in the sky. The rest of his feelings, he illuminated better with action.
About a fortnight after they had arrived at Pemberley, their dinner was interrupted by the arrival of an express from Dorset. As Darcy knew Elizabeth had received no word from Jane, he was had every intention of sharing its contents with his wife. After a quick scan of the missive, he dismissed the servants and read-aloud for his sisters to hear as well.
Jane has expressed a wish to see her sisters. As such, we will set off for Pemberley on the morrow. This letter should reach you about a day before we do. Do not trouble yourselves on our account. Any guest rooms will do. Additionally, we bring with us several servants.
“How unusual,” Elizabeth said. “It is not like Jane to be so insistent and come without an invitation. If I had any notion they had concluded their wedding tour, I would not have hesitated to invite them.”
Darcy frowned as he looked over the words once more. He did not know Dorset well, but it seemed there was something unusual about the wording. It was far more the behaivour of a self-centered peer than he had come to expect of Dorset. He stated and commanded.
Even odder was that they should cut their honeymoon short and spend so much time traveling to visit them just for Jane to see her sisters. Was she unhappy in the marriage already? Gazing at Elizabeth, Darcy could see she wondered the same thing.
Or was Dorset coming because of one of the other troubles which assailed them? Darcy still had not told Elizabeth about his “offer” from Lord Liverpool. Was Dorset sent to pressure Darcy into accepting the Prime Minister’s request? Or could there be trouble with Lydia, who stayed at Dorset’s estate? There was nothing to do but wait.
The hours drudged on. Elizabeth alerted Mrs. Reynolds to the pending arrival of guests. Then, the ladies played the pianoforte and sang as was their wont in the evening while Darcy sat with a book. Unsurprisingly, they all lingered after supper. No one seemed to want to be the first to retire, undoubtedly not wishing to know what tomorrow held.
At last, the small family went to bed. As Elizabeth curled up next to him, Darcy pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Do you worry about Jane?”
Elizabeth sighed. “She seems happy in her letters, but then I am not sure when she has ever seemed less than content. I will admit that I am glad that I will get to see her with my own eyes.”
“You do not think Dorset is cruel or unkind to her, do you?”
“No. However, I have been concerned, from the beginning, that Jane accepted Dorset’s offer simply because she mourned the loss of Bingley. I do not think she ever stopped loving him, even if she found room in her heart for Dorset too. I can think of nothing worse than not marrying the man I loved. She might now be realizing that she has made a most egregious mistake.”
Darcy squeezed Elizabeth closer. “Let us hope it has nothing to do with that. Maybe she genuinely missed you and Mary. Or perhaps it has nothing to do with that at all, and it was just something convenient to write as Dorset could not state his true reasons for coming.”
“You think something has happened regarding Lydia’s secret?”
“It could be. Although, it seems like there would be no harm in saying something along those lines in a private letter. However, I do not know Dorset well and cannot attest to the working of his mind.”
“Do you think it would be absolutely detrimental if Lydia’s situation were known?”
“You know the rumours that circulate about our marriage. I am afraid some speak just as ill about Jane and how she managed to marry Dorset.” Darcy scrubbed a hand over his face. “It is a horrible double-standard of our Society. The man who caused all this will not be spoken against, or at least not as horribly as Lydia would be. To say nothing of the fact that a man’s mistakes seldom paint his entire family badly.”
“Do you think it will affect Georgiana when she comes out?”
Darcy shrugged. “I do not care, and I do not think she does either. We would rather her be accepted and loved for herself than because she appears to have a faultless family, which is certainly not the case. We have enough scandal attached to the Darcy family in any case.”
“What about the Club?” Elizabeth asked before chewing on her bottom lip.
“What about it? You are not promoting a female Hellfire Club. I trust there are enough sensible people in the world that they can understand a young woman might make a mistake.”
“I hope you are right,” Elizabeth said. “We had wanted to let it be Lydia’s choice about how to raise the baby. Do you think that is still wise? Perhaps we ought to advocate that she marry.”
“Lydia has had to face enough consequences. I will not tell her what to do out self-interest.”
“But you must recognize as well as I, that this affects far more than Lydia. The potential for scandal was awful enough, but now that you have inherited the barony and we are set to reestablish the Bluestocking Club, we must appear above reproach.” A tear streaked down her cheek. “You ought not to have—”
Darcy placed a finger over her lips. “Do not say it. Do not say I would have been better off without you. I would be utterly lost and incomplete.” He kissed her forehead. “All will be well. Dorset and Jane’s arrival might have nothing to do with Lydia.” He was attempting to find the words to explain about Liverpool’s demands.
Elizabeth yawned. “You are right. I suppose we should cease with our speculations and get some rest. Who knows what we will need to bear on the morrow.”
Darcy agreed, deciding he would tell her about Liverpool later. They kissed and murmured their goodnights, Elizabeth nestling her head on Darcy’s chest.
The following day was spent in pursuits close to the house, lest they miss the arrival of Dorset and Jane. At last, their carriage was sighted. Darcy, Elizabeth, Georgiana, and Mary greeted them outside. Their guests chose to refresh themselves before joining the others in the drawing room.
Darcy had been relieved, however, that there was no coldness that he could perceive between Dorset and Jane. Darcy noticed that Elizabeth’s features relaxed as well.
The reunion between the three sisters was exactly what Darcy had expected. They made sure to include Georgiana as much as possible. For at least an hour, Darcy and Dorset allowed the ladies to become reacquainted. Now and then, they were called on to describe something. However, on the whole, they watched their ladies and only now and then spoke of some topic in the news. Neither gentleman seemed to feel the need to fill the silence between them. Darcy was surprised that Dorset did not talk more. Richard and Bingley would have chatted his ear off or inserted themselves in the ladies’ conversation.
When the tea and refreshments had been consumed, and the ladies finished discussing the passing of their weeks apart, the room grew quiet. Jane turned to look at her husband, which alerted the others to do so as well.
“My dear?” said Jane.
Dorset took a deep breath and wiped his hands on his breeches. He met each pair of eyes in the room before speaking. “Lydia has been discovered.”