Ask and ye shall recieve! Nearly everyone voted for more of this story! I can’t say for sure how much longer this will be, I guess less than five more chapters. I’m hoping to finish writing by the end of the month and then I’ll send it to the editor. I’ve heard some interest in setting it up on pre-order so I will probably do that. I’ve been releasing all my stories in Kindle Unlimited, and when I do that, I can’t have it available for free on the blog, so it will be coming down by mid-July at the latest.
Well, Elizabeth has agreed to marry Darcy! Will there be any last minute interruptions to come between them?
About thirty minutes later, Darcy stood before a table in the drawing room. There was a noise in the hall, and he turned to see Elizabeth enter. She had changed her dress for their crude wedding ceremony, but Darcy would have found her the most beautiful woman in the world if she wore nothing but rags. He glanced down at his own dusty clothes. She had deserved so much more than this.
Elizabeth smiled at Darcy, but she advanced too slowly. He could wait no longer and met her halfway between the doorway and the makeshift altar. Wrapping his hand around hers, they continued forward together.
The footman performing the ceremony smiled at them. “There’s not much to it,” he said. “My papa was a blacksmith, and I’ve seen this done a hundred times.”
Mrs. Gardiner had explained that contrary to the popular image of elopements, one did not need to marry at a blacksmith shop. Any person could perform the ceremony, as long as witnesses were available. They could be married without even leaving the house.
“Do you, Mr. Darcy, pledge your troth to this woman?”
“I do,” Darcy squeezed Elizabeth’s hands.
“Do you pledge your troth to this man?”
Elizabeth met Darcy’s eyes before answering. “I do.”
“Then, I pronounce you husband and wife. Congratulations.”
Mrs. Gardiner rushed forward, tears in her eyes, to embrace her niece. “I hope you can forgive me, Lizzy. I know I was harsh, and it seemed I thought lowly of you. I should have known better.”
“Of course, I forgive you,” Elizabeth answered. “I understand how it must have appeared. Can you forgive me for the distress I have caused?”
“Without hesitation. I always would have, you know. In a few years, none of this will matter, and we will hardly remember it at all. Despite the origins of your match, I believe it will be a blessed one.”
“I will do everything in my power to make it so,” Darcy said from Elizabeth’s side.
Mrs. Gardiner met his eyes. “Welcome to our family, Mr. Darcy. I know you will treat her well. I ask for your forgiveness, as well. I did not know it was you, but I surely cursed the man who wounded my dear Lizzy so much. However, now that everything has been explained, I can see that I made many false assumptions.”
While Elizabeth had packed, she had explained the full truth to Mrs. Gardiner. It embarrassed Darcy to have his sins described to another, but he swallowed his pride. “You know that I am guilty of assumptions too, of which I ask your profound pardon. May we all begin again as friends and family.”
“Gladly!” Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed. “Now, it is not a true wedding breakfast, but Mrs. Harding has arranged some elegant refreshments.”
As she spoke, a maid entered with a tea tray followed by another carrying an array of delicate treats purchased from a local bakery or confectionery. Darcy grinned to see plum pudding among the selection and noticed Elizabeth’s eyes light up at the sight. He had heard that women often had cravings while with child. He would have to inform his housekeepers to keep plums at all times.
Mrs. Gardiner and the servants signed the makeshift marriage contract that Darcy had written up. Then, the new bride and groom settled on the settee while Mrs. Gardiner served them refreshments. As they had only recently broken their fast, no one was terribly hungry, and they ate mostly out of politeness. Darcy was anxious to leave but would not rush Elizabeth. However, this was no social call. None of the usual amusements should follow. After a few minutes of conversation about their travels and Darcy’s interaction with Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Gardiner put down her teacup.
“Is your housekeeper expecting you at a certain time, Mr. Darcy?”
Darcy’s eyes widened. “I confess I entirely forgot to send a note informing her of my impending arrival. In all likelihood, I would have arrived before even an express rider.”
Mrs. Gardiner nodded. “I had guessed you were too preoccupied with reaching Elizabeth to have thought of that. In that case, you should depart soon as it will take longer to ready your chambers and prepare a meal. Unless you would rather stay here.”
Darcy shifted uneasily. He would rather have Elizabeth entirely to himself, but he would not deprive her of her family. Just because she had agreed to marry him, and on the very same day that she accepted him, did not mean she was ready to have a real marriage. He looked at his new wife. “Thank you for the invitation. I know I voiced an opinion earlier, but I believe it was in error. We will follow Elizabeth’s preference.”
Elizabeth’s gaze softened at his words. “I know we are not starting off like most other married couples, but I would like to begin our marriage in our own residence, just like most couples do.”
“I shall call for a servant to send for a coach.” Mrs. Gardiner stood and walked to the bell, then waited to speak with the servant.
Elizabeth leaned toward Darcy and whispered, “Thank you for considering my feelings.”
“I apologise for not considering them in the first place.” He searched her eyes. Had she been hurt or affronted?
She looked at him through slightly lowered lashes, the sight alluring. “I believe we are of like mind about the subject on where to stay, Mr. Darcy.”
“I am most pleased. Will you call me Fitzwilliam now?” How he had dreamt of his name on her lips.
Elizabeth gave him a coy look. “I will have to think about it. There may be other names I prefer to call you.”
Darcy chuckled, taking in the way Elizabeth appeared to enjoy the sound of his laughter. “I am almost afraid to ask what you have called me.”
Before Darcy could savour Elizabeth’s undoubtedly saucy answer, Mrs. Gardiner returned.
“Well, a hack should be here at any moment. There is just enough time for the footman to bring down your trunk, Lizzy. Are you certain you have everything?”
Elizabeth laughed. “We have only just arrived here. I had no opportunity to lose track of things.”
Mrs. Gardiner joined in the laughter. “You will have to excuse me. As a mother, I must ask these things.”
A sharp knock on the front door drew their attention. Darcy and Elizabeth followed Mrs. Gardiner into the hallway, where a maid informed them that the coach had arrived. After a heartfelt but perfunctory farewell, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy departed for their Edinburgh residence.
Elizabeth attempted small talk and, knowing that it was important to her, Darcy did his best to contribute.
“I have heard about Pemberley and the estate in Ireland. I know you have a house in London. Now, it seems you have a house in Edinburgh as well. Do you have any other residences?” Elizabeth asked as the rented carriage took them closer to his large home on the shore.
“We,” he stressed the word, “also have an estate in Scotland, not thirty miles from here as well as smaller holdings in eight counties.”
Elizabeth’s eyes went round, and she gasped.
“Do not fret. They are all leased, save the Irish and Scottish estates and those have their own staff. You need only consider yourself mistress of whichever home we reside in.”
Elizabeth visibly calmed. “I know it will be an adjustment to take on a household in the fashionable district in London and an estate as large as Pemberley, but my mother did rear me to know how to manage a household.”
He gave her a reassuring smile. “I have every confidence you will be the best mistress Pemberley has ever seen.”
She blushed at his words. “How long did you wish to remain in Edinburgh?”
“I will allow you to decide. We could stay here for as long as you like. Then, we could go to the Scottish estate, Pemberley, London, or even Hertfordshire. We must be there for Bingley and Jane’s wedding, at least.”
Elizabeth stared out the window for a long moment. “I think I would like to explore the city some. Then, we could go to Pemberley. It makes little sense to head north when we are needed in the south in a few weeks.”
Darcy assessed his wife. “The estate is beautiful. There is nothing like the Scottish countryside. The travel is no trouble for me unless you think you will be uncomfortable.”
“Not yet, I think,” Elizabeth said. “But the cost—”
“Is really of no concern. Do not most married couples take a holiday after they wed?”
“That is true, but we are not most couples…”
Darcy reached for one of Elizabeth’s hands just as they stopped before the large stone building on High Street. “I would like to try our best to forget about our marriage’s origins and late date. There will be some talk and criticism, but I am determined they will not affect our happiness. We have erred, but we have been penitent. Surely, we deserve good things, do you not agree?”
Elizabeth squeezed Darcy’s hand, although it was so much smaller than his. “Very well. An adventure to the Scottish countryside sounds excessively diverting.”
“Then, it is decided. Now, are you prepared to see your first home as Mrs. Darcy?”
Nodding shyly, Elizabeth scooted to the edge of her seat. After Darcy descended the carriage, he held his hand out for her. He watched in fascination as she emerged and took in her surroundings. She crinkled her nose and glanced at him.
“It is the salt from the sea. It is just behind the house. We may walk on the beach later if you wish.”
“I would love that!”
Darcy wrapped her hand around his arm and led her up the stairs where they were greeted by an astonished servant. In due course, however, they were taken to the drawing room. The dust cover was hastily pulled off the settee, as other servants rushed around to prepare their bedchambers. The housekeeper appeared looking anxious, but Darcy had difficulty focusing on anything other than the fact that he had finally made Elizabeth his wife.
“Is there anything you require?” Mrs. Baxter asked.
“I apologize for giving you no notice,” Darcy said to the woman. “My wife and I plan to stay for several days, perhaps a week.” He glanced down at his clothes. “I shall need to wash and change my garments. Mrs. Darcy,” he looked at Elizabeth, “would you care to wait in the library while I change?”
Her eyes twinkled. “Just try and keep me away!”
Darcy chuckled. “I think that will be all for now. Perhaps in an hour or two, we will want a light repast. Also, I would like as much plum marmalade as you can acquire while we are here.”
“Of course, Mr. Darcy,” Mrs. Baxter said before curtseying and leaving.
“Now, shall I show you the library, Mrs. Darcy?” Darcy held his arm out for Elizabeth again, thrilling at her light touch.
Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip, pulling nearly all of Darcy’s attention to her mouth. “Will you call me Mrs. Darcy in private? I had thought when you asked for me to call you Fitzwilliam that you did not wish to have such a formal arrangement between us.”
Arriving at the library, Darcy led her inside before answering her question. He shut the door behind him and took Elizabeth’s hands in his. “Forgive me. If you do not prefer it, I will be sure to always call you Elizabeth in private. However, I have dreamt of calling you Mrs. Darcy for a very long time. I confess to taking quite a bit of pleasure in calling you thus.”
They hovered just at the library’s threshold, their eyes locked, and their breathing matched in uneven spurts.
“I count myself blessed and am delighted to be your Mrs. Darcy. You may call me it whenever you wish.”
Darcy’s head was moving forward without conscious thought. He could not stop himself any more than he could that night at Rosings. This time, however, he would ask before he took her sweet kisses. He caressed her cheek, thrilling when she nuzzled into his hand. With his face mere inches from hers, his breath fanned over her skin. “Mrs. Darcy, may I—”
There was a knock on the door. Reluctantly, he pulled back. Elizabeth stepped away, allowing him to open the door. A servant had come to tell him his bath water was ready.
“Thank you. I will be up in a moment.” Turning back to Elizabeth, he gave her a warm smile. “I remember asking you once what you enjoyed reading, and you did not answer me. I am unsure what will interest you, but histories are to the left, poetry in the middle, and business and agricultural treatises to the right.”
“Arranged by the preference of the owner, no doubt.”
“Just so.” Elizabeth moved toward the middle section of bookcases. Darcy tucked away the fact that she liked poetry. “I will be down as quickly as possible. Then, if you like, we may walk along the beach before dinner.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I look forward to it, Fitzwilliam.”
His name on her lips, the rosy glow of her cheeks, and the coy smile she wore nearly had him stepping forward to claim their interrupted kiss. However, he did not wish to overwhelm her. They had the rest of their lives to kiss and more. There were other things to attend to, at the moment. With a tilt of his head, he left the room, taking the stairs two at a time so he could return to her faster.