I’m sorry I’m so behind this week. I had wanted to switch to Wednesday and Fridays for this story. However, I got no work done over the weekend thanks to my MRI. I’ve been playing catch up all week!
Well, Elizabeth is Mrs. Darcy at last! Is it smooth sailing for our newlyweds?
Elizabeth perused the shelves of Darcy’s library with no intention to read. Instead, she sought to understand more about the man who had become her husband. She never thought to see their tastes so similar. They were not identical, of course, but then there would be no shortage of conversation, as he had once said to her. Her eyes alighted on a new volume of poetry, she had just settled in a chair by the window when Darcy returned.
“I hope I did not keep you waiting too long,” Darcy said, dressed in only his shirtsleeves and breeches.
“Not at all. I had just decided upon a book the minute before you entered.”
“In that case, would you rather have more time to read before we walk along the beach?”
“Certainly not! The volume will be here when we return. I would dearly love to view the sea.”
Darcy smiled at her enthusiasm. “If it pleases you, the housekeeper has provided refreshments in a basket. We could have a picnic after our stroll.”
“That sounds delightful.”
Darcy led Elizabeth to the back of the house. After descending a series of stairs, there was a small wooden walkway to the sandy beach. Elizabeth stopped in her tracks and sucked in a deep breath as she viewed the glittering water. Without hesitation, she began to move forward.
“You may find it easier to remove your shoes and stockings,” Darcy said as he sat on a bench to remove his boots. After struggling, Elizabeth offered to assist. “I apologise, I only brought my boots. I would not normally wear them when I know I must remove them on my own.”
Elizabeth crouched before him and tugged one boot free. It seemed impossibly intimate, and she blushed. “It is no great difficulty for me. At least for now,” she chuckled.
Once Darcy’s feet were freed, he returned the favour. His hands skimmed over her leg as he untied her garters and rolled down her stockings. Elizabeth shivered at the sensation. Recalling their near kiss in the library added to the heady feeling.
His hands lingered on her leg for a moment before he rocked back on his heels and snatched them away as though burned. “Shall we?” He stood and offered Elizabeth his arm.
She gladly took it, as they walked in silence across the sand. The experience was not entirely new for Elizabeth. She had gone barefoot through the creeks around Longbourn as a child. However, this sand felt coarser and finer at the same time. Yet, most of her attention was caught on the sight of waves crashing onto the shore and the sound of their gentle lapping. Heedless of her skirt, she let go of Darcy’s arm and rushed to the edge where the water gently foamed around her ankles.
“What does it feel like?” Darcy asked when he reached her side.
“Absolutely marvelous,” she grinned up at him. “I have swam in the creek and pond at Longbourn, but the waves are entirely new.” She glanced around and saw bathing houses in the distance. “Is it truly safe to go further into the water? You will not be tossed about?”
“If you wander too far, it would be dangerous, especially if one is not an experienced swimmer. However, the shallow area is entirely harmless. It is most refreshing to immerse your entire body in the water and feel the waves around you.”
“I would love to try it sometime.”
“Tomorrow, if you like.” He stared across the sea. “Has it lived up to your expectation?”
“More than I ever could have imagined. It is utterly beautiful.”
He turned his head and gazed at her face. “Indeed, I have never beheld such beauty.”
Elizabeth blushed and to avoid having to say anything else, slowly eased forward, allowing her feet to adjust to the slippery and sloshing feeling. When the water reached her knees, she stopped. She looked over her shoulder at Darcy. “I daresay my petticoat will be more than six inches deep in the sand now. How shall you endure such a hoyden for a wife?”
Darcy rolled his breeches over his knee and stepped to her side. “You are free-spirited and alive. I would have you no other way.”
“You did not criticise my appearance when I first arrived at Netherfield?”
“Indeed, I did not. Your eyes and complexion were heightened by the exercise. I do not know when I had ever seen a lovelier vision—until now.” He reached for one of her hands and lifted it to his lips.
“I misunderstood you then,” Elizabeth admitted. “I thought you only looked at me to find fault.”
“I misunderstood you more. I did look to find fault. I wanted to fight my attraction to you and thought if I looked hard enough, I would see irredeemable flaws.” He shook his head. “Such conceit!”
“Let us not think about the past then,” Elizabeth said. Her stomach grumbled. “Well, I believe your child would like to be fed now.”
Darcy kept Elizabeth’s hand in his as they waded through the water. Picking up the basket and blanket he had put aside, he found a suitable area for their picnic.
“I do not believe there is any plum jam, but I hope something is appetizing.”
Elizabeth’s eyes rounded at the fruit, fresh bread, butter, cold meat, and cheese. “It is a feast!”
They ate and chatted about their travels until the sun began to set. Darcy had spread his legs and invited Elizabeth to rest her back against his chest. She revelled in the closeness she felt as he wrapped his arms around her. His hands rest over her growing belly, and they descended into silence as they watched the waves. They stayed until the sky lit up with vibrant colours as the sun dipped below the horizon.
For once, Elizabeth found herself content with the silence. She felt too much to talk at the moment. She had begun the day unsure of when she would see Darcy again and, admittedly, with some doubt as to if he would still wish to marry her. The next few hours proceeded in such a whirlwind, she had little time to consider if she should confess her love for him, and he made no mention of his heart. For months, she had wondered how he felt about her. Now, she had determined that it no longer mattered. She would be brave and declare her sentiments this evening, even if he did not. He deserved her honesty.
When dusk fell, they returned to the house hand in hand. Elizabeth could not explain it, but sitting alone with Darcy on the beach had felt like paradise. They had created their own haven, and although they had not spoken many words, she thought she understood him better than ever. Not bothering to put back on their shoes, an ewer of water and towels awaited them at the door so they could rinse the sand their feet.
“Are you tired?” Darcy asked.
“Not yet,” Elizabeth answered.
“Where would you prefer to have our supper? You have yet to see your chambers. There is a private sitting room between our chambers. There is a pianoforte in the drawing room, although it has seldom been used in at least ten years. Or, we could return to the library.”
“Would you read to me?” Elizabeth asked shyly. Her husband was not given to many words, but she dearly loved the sound of his voice.
His eyes lit up. “May I select the volume, or do you have something in mind? You put aside a book earlier.”
“I do not mind waiting to read my selection until later and allowing you to choose what you read. However, I should warn you that I have been told I have developed a snore, as is common for women with child. If you do not wish to have the walls cave in, do not select a dull agricultural report or political treatise.”
Darcy chuckled before taking Elizabeth’s hand in his. “I am afraid that I also find those sleep-inducing, and I would be joining you in the Land of Nod. They are best not enjoyed after dinner.”
“My father would taunt my mother with his agricultural reports in the evening when he wished to be alone in his library, but she had nagged him to join us in the drawing room. Eventually, she would send him off or fall asleep. Of course, nothing was as terrible as when my cousin Mr. Collins had produced Fordyce’s Sermons. My mother had to fight the urge to slumber while also complimenting his choice and appearing everything moralistic and upright.” Elizabeth laughed at the memory before sobering. Longbourn now seemed very far away, and she did not know how often she would be permitted to see her family. In his first proposal, Darcy had made his disapproval of her family obvious. He had accepted the Gardiners despite their position in trade. Still, Elizabeth knew what offended Darcy the most was the behaviour of her immediate family. They were a hopeless case.
He squeezed her hand. “You must miss your family dreadfully. I promised your father that I would bring you back to him, and I mean to do so for more than just Bingley and Miss Bennet’s wedding.”
Elizabeth turned her face to Darcy, scrutinizing his earnestness as tears glimmered in her eyes. “Truly?” she whispered as they entered the library.
“I was so arrogant and spoke abhorrently that night. I beg your forgiveness. You would be justified to loathe me forever.”
“I do not hate you. It wounded me to hear such words about my family and did not recommend your suit, but I was in no frame of mind to accept you regardless of your speech. I was also arrogant and full of pride. I thought I understood you completely and abused you horribly in return.”
“I deserved every word, Elizabeth.”
“You certainly did not. You did not deprive Wickham of anything due to him. He was no selfless victim. You separated Jane and Bingley with pure intentions, and everything you said of my family was accurate.”
“I cannot turn my conduct from that evening into anything good. At the very least, you were justified in your reaction, given what you thought of me. What do I have to defend my words and behaviour with? I was declaring my love for you and asking for your hand and thought nothing of insulting you in the process.”
Their hands were still entwined, and Elizabeth squeezed Darcy’s. “I have no ill-feelings about that evening. How can I?” Her other hand dropped to her belly. “Our words were intemperate and our conduct reproachable, but I would not change it for the world.”
Darcy leaned forward, his eyes a dark blue that Elizabeth gladly would have drowned in. She lifted her face, expecting to be kissed, yearning for it more than her next breath. Instead, he rested his forehead against hers.
“I know this is not what you wanted, but I will make you happy, Elizabeth.”
Emotion welled in her heart. She longed to tell him that he had already made her joyous, but before she could find the words, he pulled back. Tugging on her hand, he led her to the settee before wordlessly approaching the poetry section. He returned with a smirk.
“When in Scotland, one must read Robert Burns. Do you know his work?” He settled beside her, their legs brushing against one another.
“A little,” Elizabeth said with a blush. She was quite fond of his romantic works, would Darcy read them to her?
By the time Darcy had read through all of the first volume of Burns’ poems, there was no more delaying what should follow: their wedding night. When Darcy closed the book, Elizabeth expected him to request they ascend the stairs. Instead, he put the book aside before brushing a tendril off Elizabeth’s cheek. She shuddered as his fingers grazed her skin. She had yearned for his touch for months. His breath fanned over her face as he whispered in her ear.
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee!
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu’ twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.
He paused his recitation to kiss one cheek, then the other.
I’ll ne’er blame my partial fancy;
Naething could resist my Nancy;
For to see her was to love her,
Love but her, and love for ever.
Had we never loved sae kindly,
Had we never loved sae blindly,
Never met—or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.
Elizabeth held her breath as Darcy kissed her forehead.
Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee!
Finally, Darcy’s lips met hers. The sensation made her want to weep and cry out in joy all at the same time. The connection she had with Darcy was what had been missing in her life. Joining with him made her feel complete. His mouth moved over hers, tentative at first and allowing her time to pull away. Determined to show him that she had no such desire, she pulled on the lapel of his shirt to bring him closer.
Darcy lost restraint after that. As his lips caressed hers, and his hands trailed over her arms before wrapping around her waist, Elizabeth’s emotions swept over her. They had begun everything on the wrong foot, but they had the rest of their lives to sort it out. What she felt and what they shared could not be denied. With each fervent kiss, he lay claim to her body and soul, and she had never been more willing to lose herself.
Unexpectedly, Darcy pulled back, breathing heavily. He jumped from the settee as though burned, then ran a hand through his hair. Elizabeth used the minute to catch her breath and allow the thrumming sensation in her body to cease. When her mind could focus again, she glanced at Darcy, wondering if she had done something wrong.
He flung a trembling hand out and motioned to the door. “Shall we retire? You must be exhausted.”
Too overcome to speak, Elizabeth placed her hand in Darcy’s. Excitement had replaced nerves, and she looked forward to consummating their marriage. Last time, she had not understood her feelings for Darcy, and yet it had been an enjoyable experience. She could only assume it would be even more so now. Fleetingly, she wondered if that made her wanton.
“Good night, Elizabeth. Sleep well,” Darcy said when they arrived at the door before a brief kiss on the cheek. He continued on to the next door down the hall and entered it.
Elizabeth stood in the hallway blinking in confusion for several minutes. Coming to a decision, she entered her room and marched through the sitting room before knocking on the door to Darcy’s chamber.
The door flung open. “Is something wrong? Do you need anything?”
The words were not very lover-like, but there was concern and anxiety in his features. Elizabeth swallowed her misgivings. “Is it the baby?”
“What? Something is wrong with the baby?” His eyes dropped to her belly, and he paled.
“No! I did not mean to alarm you. The baby is perfectly well. I meant, will you not lie with me because I am with child? My figure has changed…”
Darcy sucked in a deep breath as his shoulders sagged in relief. “You are more beautiful than ever swollen with my child.”
“Then what is it? I have been assured it is perfectly safe,” Elizabeth explained.
“I did not think I would be welcome in your bed.”
“You are my husband.”
“I will not force my legal rights. The very idea disgusts me.”
Reaching for him, Elizabeth leaned on her tiptoes and kissed him. She could feel how he barely restrained himself even as one arm wrapped around her waist. “All day, I have been trying to find the right way and the best time to tell you. I love you, Fitzwilliam.”
His hand tightened at her waist, bunching the fabric of her gown.
“It came on as gently as the waves on the shore, but you are so very dear to me now. After how I treated you, I know you may not return my feelings—”
“I love you,” his voice cracked as he pulled her closer. “I will never stop loving you. I could not stop if I wished to. You are a part of me, and I will never be whole without you by my side.”
“Then, take me to bed and make love to me.”
Darcy swept Elizabeth into his arms before kicking the door shut. He laid her on the bed, where they spent the night exploring their bodies and their love. Everything was different than their frenzied encounter at Rosings. Every touch and whispered word weighted with love instead of hurt and heartache. Each caress and sigh stripped away the barriers Elizabeth had erected around her heart. She had nothing to fear when in Darcy’s arms. The months of indecision and confusion melted into nothing, leaving only room for love.