Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Epilogue

I am sorry this took a little longer than I planned to post. I had my lumbar puncture on Wednesday and ended up getting the dreaded spinal headache from it. After 80 hours of torture, I decided to go to the ER and try something called a blood patch. That had its own issues but I am now headache free! I’ll be sending this story to the editor soon!

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen / Fourteen / Fifteen / Sixteen

Epilogue

Ten years later

Darcy smiled politely as person after person entered his London house. Beside him, Elizabeth greeted each guest with a charming smile and welcomed them to their home. This evening, they hosted the founding members of the London branch of the Society for the Preservation of Feminine Talent. Elizabeth had named the organization thus to not garner anger at the idea of encouraging independence for ladies while also not infantilising them.

The foundation formed shortly after their marriage and served the Lambton area first. Eventually, Elizabeth took the idea to influential members of urban populations such as Manchester and Birmingham. Last year, they opened a branch in Liverpool. Expansion to London would be their most extensive yet. Of course, quite a bit of the notoriety belonged to the influence of the former Miss Angelina Maria Lucks.

Shortly after arriving at Pemberley, Darcy had sent his solicitor to confirm from Miss Lucks that she was, indeed, Lydia Bennet. She admitted her real identity but desired no assistance from the Darcys and planned to take the London stage by storm with hopes of marrying nobility. A few years ago, she married an aging lord who needed a new countess after his wife’s death bearing their fifth son. At first, there was still no connection to the Darcys. However, a political rival of her husband dug up proof of Lydia’s fallen status. Society, in general, did not think well of actresses, but Lydia had managed discretion in any affairs she had. The supposed proof, however, was not from Lydia’s time with an acting troupe in Scotland or her elopement with the still-at-large George Wickham. No, someone had visited the South Mimms Inn in Hertfordshire and swore there was once a serving lady who called herself Lizzy Smith and looked just like the new Lady Randall. Lydia could have defended herself and lay the blame on her sister, but she never did. In turn, the extremely respectable Mrs. Darcy befriended the countess. Rather than taking lovers like most of the aristocratic ladies, Lydia had turned her activities toward charitable works after retiring from the stage. Between the two sisters, the Society garnered more attention than expected.

After dinner, and the requisite separation of the sexes, Elizabeth took a moment to explain the purpose of the Society to the assembled guests.

“My good lords and ladies,” Elizabeth said, “we meet this evening to discuss the founding of a new branch of The Society of Preservation of Feminine Talent. It is my belief every woman has talents given to her at birth and are deserving of protection.”

“Protection, you say?” an older man asked. “They ought to have fathers to protect them.”

“I agree, sir,” she answered. “However, some do not. Death is no respecter of persons. We may be at peace now, but war may come again, and disease is never far away. Additionally, not all men who bear children are capable of being responsible parents. Indeed, some abuse their wives and children.”

The older gentleman harrumphed. “Then family ought to involve themselves.”

“Again, sir, that is not always possible. The fact is, some ladies leave the protection of the homes to which they were born. What is she to do? Seek employment when she has no experience or training? The results of such a gamble are seldom in the lady’s favour.”

“What does the Society do, Mrs. Darcy?” a lady from the back asked.

“We do have ministers and physicians, but that is not all that is required to assist the ladies and it is not always easy to find those services given from people with the desire to help and not condemn. The Society provides safe homes and healthy meals for our ladies. From the working classes, we teach them valuable skills which can lead to employment. For the gentry, we fill any gaps in their education and keep them immersed in proper society befitting their station. Most importantly, for both groups, we minister to the damaged psyche of our guests.”

The old gentleman stood up and thumped his walking cane. “Are there not workhouses? Are there not churches? You reach beyond your scope, madam.” He shuffled past the others and stood before Darcy. “Sir, you ought to call your wife to order.”

“She has things well in order, sir, and I fully support her,” Darcy replied.

Shaking his head, the gentleman exited the room, and Darcy had little doubt, the house. This portion was always the most difficult for him to watch. He could hardly conceive of anyone not finding his wife brilliant and was still her most steadfast supporter. In turn, during their ten years of marriage, Elizabeth had been there for him in countless times from the wrath of Lady Catherine, to the unexpected death of his Uncle Joseph, even to inheriting control of Rosings and all the strain of managing two estates after his cousin Anne’s demise.

His eyes met Elizabeth’s, but hers did not shine with tears of rejection. She stood erect, pausing to allow others a moment of decision before she continued. A few others excused themselves, but the vast majority remained. Whether they achieved their goal this night or not, Darcy could barely restrain his pride in his wife’s confidence and courage.

“Now, that we have that over with,” she smiled, and the crowd chuckled. “I wanted you to listen to the testimony of some of our ladies and other benefactresses.”

Elizabeth ceded the floor and came to Darcy’s side as three different women gave their stories. They ranged from as extreme as Georgiana’s experiences to as mild as Elizabeth’s. The other patronesses spoke about the statistical data of the women they helped. The majority of them came from the middle class to lower gentry families. They never turned away a working-class woman, but their primary goal had always been to help the women who no one believed could have terrible families. Shocked gasps and disgusted mutterings ripped through the room when the final patroness explained one in four of the ladies they helped, regardless of social class, had been sexually abused before adulthood.

Elizabeth had a final speech to close the presentation portion of the evening. Afterward, it would resume as any regular dinner party, and card tables would be brought out. In another room, ladies were welcome to exhibit on the pianoforte.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Elizabeth beseeched, “do not merely take our words on the matter. Visit our facility in Bloomington. We have not invited you here to raid your purses. Our Society is already well-funded and has established our newest location in a respectable neighbourhood, and with all we could need. The meaning behind this evening’s presentation was purely educational. Now, that you know of a need, I only ask what your compassion would have you do.”

The crowd applauded, none heartier than Darcy. When she reached his side, he raised her hand to his lips. She still claimed his act of kindness had saved her, but all Darcy could think about was how many ladies she had saved in the years since.

Slowly, through years of patience and firm boundaries, they had resumed visitations with Jane and Mary. Mrs. Bennet had refused to ever accept any responsibility for matters but wrote civil letters, and they had seen her a few times while they visited the Gardiners, who had fully apologised to Elizabeth. Neither the Gardiners nor Mrs. Bennet were welcome at any Darcy property, but Elizabeth did not lack for company. She had found a faithful, steadfast sister in Georgiana, who while much healed had not yet married, and a loving relation in Darcy’s paternal aunt Katherine Sneyd. Elizabeth had made many acquaintances via her work with the Society, and several of them were her bosom friends. None of it surprised Darcy, he always knew she would be well-loved.

After their guests left, Darcy escorted Elizabeth to their chamber. Holding her to his chest as they fell asleep, he considered then, as always, how thankful he was for finding her at the inn of a small Hertfordshire town. He could hardly fathom what life would have been like without her, but it certainly would not have included four bright-eyed children with Elizabeth’s smile. Nor would Darcy have known the deep fulfilment one could have when assisting others. The most significant difference of all, of course, was that he would not have the woman he loved beyond all others and who completed his heart in his arms. He had loved her then; now she was imperative to his life. Marrying Elizabeth was not an act of compassion. He had no more choice in the matter than he had in drawing breath into his lungs. She was the greatest gift he could ever conceive, and he would forever be grateful for the second chance which led him to find her.

The End

Thanks so much for reading!

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Sixteen

I was sick with the flu for a week and missed my appointment with the neurologist but finally got in to see her. It looks like I have Multiple Sclerosis. There is an additional test (lumbar puncture) which will be done this week to confirm but between my MRI and personal history, she spoke in very definite terms. I wrote on Facebook that other than a case of strep, I haven’t had a doctor speak so assuredly about my situation in three or four years. Unfortunately, it takes a few weeks for the results to come back and I can’t start treatment without it. The good news is, that this flare up might end on its own and I might be feeling better by then. I sure hope so. Right now I have enough energy to do basically one out of house thing a day and not even every day. There are some days when I can do a few computer things stretched over the day and there are others when I can do nothing, just getting up to use the rest room is a challenge. I’ll be posting more about all things medical and my symptoms later.

I have finished Mr. Darcy’s Compassion but it’s taking me longer to look over it before I send it to the editor. At this point, I’m hoping for a release at the end of February. It’s possible that there will be changes made in editing to round some things out but there should not be any huge changes. I wanted this story to be focused on Darcy and Elizabeth and while they don’t live on a deserted island and the actions and lives of others affect them, I don’t believe it serves the story to have extended scenes with them. Lizzy’s entire journey is about learning to take care of herself so if we get wrapped up in the lives of her sisters, it would detract from that. You’ll have to use your imagination. 🙂

There is an epilogue to come after this post which I’ll share later this week.

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen / Fourteen / Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

It was three days before Darcy or Elizabeth turned their thoughts to leaving the Portpatrick Inn.

“Do you still wish to see Ireland? It would require more ships, but I think you tolerated it well, all in all,” Darcy said over their private breakfast on the fourth day after they married.

Elizabeth hung her head and chewed her bottom lip. It had been such a relief over the last few days to ignore all the problems with her family and just live for herself.

“Or we could go straight to Pemberley.”

Elizabeth did not reply and did not need to seek Darcy’s eyes to know he was looking at her and attempting to read her expression.

After several minutes of silence, Darcy asked in a voice just above a whisper, “Are you regretting our marriage?”

“What?” Elizabeth’s head bobbed up, and she threw her arms around him as they sat next to one another on a settee. “No, never that!” She pressed kisses to his face as tears filled her eyes.

“Then what are you afraid to tell me?”

Elizabeth sighed. She should have known he would pick up on her reticence. She should have guessed that he would feel hurt. “Before we left Holyhead, I had a letter from Jane.”

“Yes, I recall. You did not wish to discuss it.”

“She told me that our father was on his deathbed. He most assuredly dead by now. She asked me to return to Longbourn.”

“She asked for your return or attempted to manipulate it?”

“I am not quite sure,” Elizabeth confessed. “You can read it for yourself.” She retrieved the letter from a valise. “I do not think Jane would intentionally manipulate me, however, it hurts to not be sure. You can see, though, that I made my choice.”

Darcy scanned over Elizabeth’s letter and thought for a few moments before replying. “What do you wish to do now? We could go to Longbourn, and you could pay your respects to your father. I assume your mother is provided for?”

Elizabeth nodded. “Despite all of Mama’s fears, I know she had a competent jointure. Mary is welcome to live with Jane. Her income will be more than enough just for herself.” She blew out a long breath. “I suppose I do not know what I want to do. I feel as though I am supposed to return, as though it is a duty or expectation.”

“Do you fear what others will think or say if you do not go?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “Is that so wrong of me?”

“Right and wrong are not at stake. If you feel in your heart it is the right thing to do, then do not dismiss it. However, if you only feel pulled to go because it might displease others of no consequence to yourself, then I would say it is harmful.” He reached for Elizabeth’s hand. “However, I will support you either way. I would not have you go alone.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said and squeezed his hand. “I worry about my sisters and how they might bear the weight. However, it is not my role to save them. Jane is married now and perfectly in her rights to employ her time with her husband. Mama’s situation of losing her husband is pitiable, but I cannot heal her heart—if indeed her heart is touched at all. I will continue to communicate with Jane and begin writing Mary. I can always visit later. It is better to not begin how I mean to continue.”

“Very well, love.” He pulled Elizabeth to him and kissed her forehead. “So, do you wish to journey to Ireland or Pemberley?”

“I know we are far closer to Ireland than we will likely be at any other time and I do wish to see it someday, but I think I would very much like to go to Pemberley. I just want to go home with you.”

Elizabeth cuddled close to Darcy for the remainder of the morning. In the afternoon, they explored the port. Then, Darcy arranged for them to rent a carriage for their trip to Pemberley. They left the following morning and arrived in Dumfries before dinner on their second day of travel. While dining in the coaching inn, a man continually stared strangely at Elizabeth.

Before he left, he paused at their table. “A fine performance you gave a few nights ago, Miss Lucks.”

“I beg your pardon,” Darcy stood so suddenly his knee hit the table, jostling the silverware. “My wife is not an actress.”

“I mean no offense, sir,” the man said with raised palms. “She looks very much like Miss Angelina Maria Lucks who I saw only a few nights ago.” He turned a truly remorseful face to Elizabeth. “I ask for your forgiveness, Missus. You do look remarkably like her.”

Elizabeth blushed, but said, “All is forgiven, sir. I bid you good evening.”

The man nodded and walked on. Darcy took his seat, and the meal resumed as best it could. However, Elizabeth turned over what the man had said. When they returned to their room, she spoke her thoughts to her husband.

“I think, dearest, that man might have spoken of Lydia.”

“Do you think she would be an actress?” Darcy sounded shocked.

“It surprises me no less than her elopement did. She followed reports of many actresses in the gossip columns. She loved putting on plays when we were children. She and Maria Lucas sometimes made their dolls actresses. Maria always chose the name Maria Lucks. I could see Lydia poking fun by borrowing her friend’s never-to-be-realized stage name. Additionally, she would have had very few options available to her after Wickham’s abandonment. People have often said we looked very similar. Although,” Elizabeth added with a sad smile, “she always enjoyed letting everyone know she was taller.”

“Do you wish to see her?”

Elizabeth had a ready answer. “First, it is worth knowing a bit more about this woman. I do not know how she would have made her way to Dumfries. It could also be that she is part of a traveling troupe and has already left. At any rate, I think I should not publicly approach her. I am sorry for your sake if she is on stage.”

“Why is that?”

“The wife of Mr. Darcy related to an actress?” Elizabeth shook her head. “The scandal!”

“I do not care about that at all,” Darcy said. “I have told you I do not care about Society’s opinions anymore. At any rate, some actresses become quite famous and nearly respectable. It would be far better for her to have a visible profession than the more likely alternative.”

Elizabeth could only nod. “Then, I suggest you ask about Angelina Maria Lucks. When we are home at Pemberley, you could arrange for a representative to speak with her. I do not suppose she would give up her career or think we should offer her an alternative. She could not return to Longbourn. However, it would mean the world to me to know that she was alive, healthy, and reasonably safe.”

“An excellent plan, my love. Now, I would much rather discuss Elizabeth Darcy than sisters or actresses.”

“Me?”

“Yes.” Darcy smiled seductively and leaned close to her ear. “There is no other woman worth discussing. Your beauty is unparalleled.”

Elizabeth felt her face warm, and goose pimples covered her flesh. “You did not always think so.”

“Do not quote the ignorant and foolish, my love.”

He kissed just below her ear, causing a shiver to race through her body.

“That was when I only first knew you, and I know you far, far better now.”

He kissed down the side of her neck, and Elizabeth angled her head to give him better access. He reached her collar bone and sucked. Elizabeth’s toes curled, and a longing moan escaped her parted lips. “Fitzwilliam?”

“Yes, Elizabeth?” Darcy murmured against her flesh before continuing his exploration.

“Let us go to bed.”

Darcy scooped Elizabeth into his arms and carried her across the room.

****

“We will arrive at the house in about five minutes,” Darcy said as they turned up the drive to Pemberley two days later.

Elizabeth knew he could sense her anxiety. At first, she had expressed nothing but a desire to see her new home and meet her new sister, but as they drew closer to their destination, she had confessed to being nervous. It was incredibly difficult for her to articulate her fears and misgivings.

Thankfully, Darcy responded with patience, rather than presuming every self-doubt meant she regretted their marriage. He had praised her emotional strength and resiliency. Additionally, he acknowledged her hard work to overcome the crippling self-doubt and distrust which assailed her when they first met again. Darcy said she was one of the bravest people the world had ever known, and Generals could only wish to have her courage.

“Are you still nervous about meeting the staff?” He asked as he took her hand in his. “Remember what I said. There is no pressure to take on any duty for which you do not care. I did not marry you so I could have someone run my estate. I love you just as you are.”

Elizabeth gave him an encouraging smile. He knew just how to ease her fears. How had she ever worried he would regret marrying her? Even better than feeling comfortable in accepting his love, she realized that what she really sought was her own self-approval. She knew he would continue to support her in those healthy feelings. As such, all would be well no matter what the future held. It was fantastic to feel more carefree than she had in months.

She let out a happy sigh before meeting his eyes. “It is only fear of the unknown. I know there will be an adjustment period. I am determined, however, to keep myself happy first.”

“I would not want it any other way,” he said.

He did not ask, and she did not feel the pressure to add that she would see to his happiness. She had worried, a little, that considering her own feelings first was selfish. However, she need not be a slave to her own emotions. There was no reason why she could not consider her happiness while taking care of her husband’s feelings. She would not be like Mrs. Bennet who never thought anyone but herself.

“Here we are.” Darcy tugged on her hand and pointed out the window as the wooded lane cleared and they saw the mansion house situated behind the river they now approached.

“Oh!” Elizabeth breathed. “It is delightful!”

Darcy had turned his head to watch her reaction and grinned in response. He had told her she would like the grounds even more than the house and until this moment she was not entirely sure he was correct. She grinned at the idea of soon knowing every path.

The carriage pulled up to the house, stopping in front of the great stone steps. Outside, the staff awaited their arrival as Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley stood at the top. Darcy shared a smile with Elizabeth before handing her out of the carriage. She was most pleased to note there was no tremble to her hand.

They stopped in front of the housekeeper first. The look in Darcy’s eye as he gave the introductions and formally presented Elizabeth as Mrs. Darcy told her it was one of the highest honours of his life. Next, there was the reunion with Georgiana. After introducing Mrs. Annesley, Darcy addressed his sister.

She met him with nervous eyes, but he smiled adoringly at her. “Georgiana, may I present your new sister and my wife, Elizabeth Darcy?”

“I am very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Darcy,” Georgie curtseyed but did not meet Elizabeth’s eyes.

“You must call me Elizabeth, or even Lizzy.” Elizabeth approached and laid a hand on the younger girl’s arm. “I am pleased to have you as a new sister.”

Georgiana smiled and met Elizabeth’s eyes at last. She had wanted to convey to the younger girl that she was pleased with all she knew of her and would not love her only for Darcy’s sake.

Soon, they were inside and refreshing from their journey before a family dinner planned by Georgiana. As the evening wore on, Elizabeth’s gentle patience with the girl was rewarded. Georgiana’s increasingly left her shyness and timidity behind. They talked mostly of music and discussed duets they could practice in the coming weeks.

Elizabeth also conversed easily with Mrs. Annesley, and a scheme began to brew in her mind. Georgiana was not alone in her struggles. Too often Society would not even care about the causes for her troubles and condemn her as mad before packing her away in an asylum. There were others like Jane. Surely there were even more like Elizabeth. She had never contemplated suicide, but she had been in just as much pain and just as lost. She knew she needed help but had nowhere to turn. How she needed the bright light of compassion from someone! She would spend the rest of her life thanking God that Darcy came to illuminate her way.

She had not known how she would fill her time once she came to Pemberley, but as the evening wore on, Elizabeth considered a profound thought. If she could find others willing to be a beacon of hope, they would not be a small and distant light as dim as a candle. Instead, there would be a torch aflame for all to see. She knew no one save the people in Pemberley’s music room and relatives who had abandoned her or were too stubborn to admit their need. Elizabeth could change that, though. She had always been gifted in the art of conversation. This shared goal would be a quality she looked for when making new friends. Surely, she would meet Darcy’s neighbours and eventually they would go to London. She was not as confident as he that there was no good to be found in the ton.

As Elizabeth ended her first day as Mistress of Pemberley in her husband’s arms, she sighed in happiness. She had found the love of her life and perhaps the reason for her struggles. She would use them to help others. Georgiana could never replace her sisters, but she offered something even better: a sibling relationship built out of genuine love and respect and not merely the ties of blood. Soon, there would be letters from Longbourn as well as news of Kitty and Lydia. She would decide how to reply to them when the time came. However, Elizabeth was determined to never be guilted or manipulated again. Despite it all, she could forgive, even be grateful for, Mrs. Bennet. For, without the woman’s destructive parenting, Elizabeth never would have met Darcy once more or learned the most valuable lesson of loving herself.

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Fifteen

I had my MRI on Tuesday and I’m scheduled for an appointment with my neurologist tomorrow but I have the flu and might not make it. I’ve been working on this manuscript even though I’ve been sick most of the week. Just in small doses. I think I’m down to the last chapter or two (ending in chapter 17 or 18).

I bet this chapter will shock all of you. The letter is not entirely forgotten about and will be discussed later, but for now, Elizabeth has more important matters to attend to.

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen / Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Elizabeth waited behind the folding screen in the room of the Jester’s Inn. She focused on taking deep breaths despite the hammering in her chest. A crack in the window let in a faint breeze. Salt air filled her nostrils calming and tantalizing in equal measures. Soon she would begin on a journey crossing the sea, and she knew her heart had just started its journey in loving Darcy.

How had she not seen it all earlier? This week must have been torturous for Darcy as she kept him at arm’s length. It was only testament to how hurt she had been when they met again that she feared she could love no one, even him. Now, that she realised it, she could barely wait to tell him and launch herself into his arms. Nervously, she shifted her weight from foot to foot waiting for him to appear.

In due time, Darcy knocked on the door, and Elizabeth called for him to enter. She could hear him come into the chamber then shut and lock the entrance. Unable to see, her ears were more alert than ever to the now familiar sounds of her beloved readying for the evening. There was a gentle scraping sound as he placed his cufflinks on a table. Next, he sat and tugged off his boots before removing his coat and waistcoat.

The noises of Darcy removing clothing sent goose pimples over her skin and made her breath catch in her lungs. In the silence, she could even hear the fabric of his cravat thread through his fingers. He had been without his valet since they left London. At first, Elizabeth was too timid to watch Darcy disrobe. He came to bed in his shirtsleeves and breeches which seemed unbearably intimate. The first night without his valet, Elizabeth had hidden her face while he discarded his garments. In recent days, she had grown bolder, sneaking peeks at him now and then. She could imagine him now although she could not see him.

Finally, he stood, and the moment of truth had arrived.

“Elizabeth?”

She could hear the confusion in his voice.

“Where are you?”

“I—I am here,” she said from behind the screen. Her voice shook.

“Is anything wrong? Do you need assistance?” He stepped toward the screen.

“I am perfectly well. Stay where you are.”

Hearing his obedience, Elizabeth exhaled and emerged from behind the screen. She stared at her feet until Darcy’s quick exhale brought her eyes to his. Quickly, he averted them.

“Forgive me—I—I—I thought you were ready for me to enter.”

“Fitzwilliam, look at me.”

“Pardon, you are—you are—”

What she could see of one cheek was bright red. His embarrassment and shyness at her nudity were so endearing. She took a bold step forward. The sound of her movement made him begin to turn his head before he snapped it away again. At the closer proximity, she could see how rapidly his chest rose and fell. His hands tensed at his side as though he were forcing them to remain there. His posture was taut, reminding her of a string pulled to its maximum and about to snap.

“I want you to look at me.”

Again, his head began to move, but he would not turn it all the way. A muscle in his neck twitched. “You do?”

“Very much,” Elizabeth said as she took another step. She was close enough to touch him now.

Slowly, he turned his head. His eyes widened, and a look of utter fascination and delight filled them. She stood as he perused her body, his eyes dropping over specific contours and curves before returning to her gaze. The tension in his body remained.

She ought to feel timid or ashamed. However, she could see his appreciation. She had never felt more beautiful not because this honourable man loved her or looked at her with undeniable desire in his eyes. She felt beautiful for she finally loved herself. She accepted her flaws and could see her strengths. What more could she ask to be in life than a woman who fiercely loved? Judging it the right time to speak, after a long moment of unspoken communication, she broke their silence.

“I want you to see me now, bare before you, as you have always seen my heart.” She reached for one of his hands and pressed it to her heart, and Darcy let out a shuddery exhale. “I love you, Fitzwilliam. I love you with my whole heart, and you have shown me that it is not absent or numb or shattered. It finally knows what it is to love and be loved because of you.”

She raised his hand to her lips and tried to pour all of her love into her gaze as their eyes remained connected. “I have nothing to my name. According to Society, my future would be desolate and as exposed as my body now is. However, if you will have me, I offer my heart for as long as you or I shall live.”

“You love me?”

Elizabeth nodded as Darcy’s hopeful look turned to disbelief before being replaced entirely by joy. “I love you.”

Darcy’s restraint was gone. He pulled her into his arms for a sizzling kiss and held her so close she could feel his heart beat against her skin. His hands roamed over her body. “We will wed tomorrow,” Darcy panted between breaths when he broke their kiss. “There is no rush to—”

“I trust you.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself further against him.

Darcy let out a strangled moan as his lips fell to her neck. Feeling her legs buckle as glorious sensation swept over her body, Darcy caught her in his arms and carried her to their bed.

Darcy murmured words of love into Elizabeth’s ear causing her mind to empty of everything but this moment. When he kissed down her neck, and his fingers began gentle caresses over her body, she grew dizzy on the heady sensation of pleasure coursing through her. Settled against the pillows, she opened her arms and welcomed Darcy into her heart and placed her body into his loving care.

****

Darcy awoke to the feeling of Elizabeth’s exploratory and inviting touch as she caressed the thick patch of hair at the top of his chest. She seemed entirely fascinated with what he had always considered a rather unremarkable part of his anatomy. He feigned sleep to see how far her curiosity would take her.

The evening before, his wildest fantasies came true. Elizabeth loved him and displayed her trust in him with more courage than he thought likely found in most men. A night of spine-tingling pleasure ensued and yet this evening promised even more, as he had shocked even himself by withholding full consummation of their love until their marriage could be legally condoned.

However, Elizabeth began pressing kisses to his chest, her head trailing lower, and his resolve was quickly vanishing.

“If you continue that, we will not only miss the sunrise but our ship as well. I might never let you out of this bed again,” he said to her in a husky voice as he opened one eye.

She moved her head to look at him, her curls trailing over his skin, make him tense at the pleasure. Elizabeth blushed but her eyes danced with merriment.

“We already missed the sunrise.”

“Did we?” Darcy leaned up on his elbows to see the window on the other side of the room. “I am sorry. I had wanted your first glimpse of the sea to be spectacular.”

Elizabeth’s lips turned up in a pleased smile before she kissed his stomach, allowing her tongue to briefly lave over the skin. Darcy slumped back in the bed. “Lizzy.” He did not know if he were warning her or begging her.

The head popped back up. “As it happens, I cannot complain about my morning. I can view the sea at sunrise some other time. I would not trade this moment with you for the world’s most splendid vista.”

Darcy tugged on Elizabeth’s arm, bringing her lips to his. She cut the kiss far shorter than he would have preferred.

“Let us ready for the day, Fitzwilliam,” she said. “I am most eager to become Mrs. Darcy.”

While Darcy could think of a hundred pleasurable things that would keep them in bed for a week, he could think of nothing better than making her his wife this very day. “And so, the ordering about begins already?”

“Of course,” Elizabeth smirked as she climbed out of bed. “I plan to be a most proper wife.”

Darcy frowned, and Elizabeth laughed at his expression. “Have your laugh now, but you will see that I rule my household firmly. I will not be nagged by my wife into every all her bidding.” He got out of bed and immediately reached for her.

Elizabeth laughingly danced away from his reach. “Dearest Fitzwilliam. I have a much better plan than to nag you to death.”

“Do you?” he asked as he followed after her. She was all playful movements, and he moved more like a cat on the prowl. “What will you do?” He asked as Elizabeth reached a wall and Darcy leaned both arms on either side of her head.

“Oh, I will convince you with sweetness instead.”

“I am not so easily swayed,” he murmured against her ear, smiling at her shiver in response. “Now, perhaps a kiss…”

“A kiss?” Elizabeth’s tone belied astonishment. She pulled his head down to her level and whispered in his ear. “I had planned on seduction.”

Before Darcy could reward her bold impertinence, she ducked out from under his arms and chuckled as she danced away again.

“Why are you over there if that is your intention?” Darcy asked, the pout on his lips very real.

“I have to be your wife first, silly.” Elizabeth grinned. “Come, we must make haste. I am afraid our lovemaking last night tired us out.”

As she slipped behind the screen to dress, Darcy marvelled not only at her lingering modesty but that he had never heard so many statements which could lighten his heart in such a short time. Elizabeth loved him, she could not wait to marry him, and she delighted in making love. By the time they had left their room, he could not stop grinning. He reckoned no man who saw Elizabeth would need to wonder at the cause of his joy.

They packed the few items they had needed for the evening and were on their way. Despite Elizabeth’s anxiety, they had arrived with enough time to allow them a brief excursion along the promenade. Darcy smiled hearing Elizabeth’s oohs and ahhs at the sights. The morning son dazzled on the sea, the clouds of the night before had vanished. She relished the breeze on her face and the smell of the salt air. He could hardly contain his mirth at her expression when they approached the harbour.

“They are much larger than I had expected.”

“This is good,” Darcy chuckled. He would hardly like to cross the sea with his bride on nothing sturdier than a fishing vessel. “Had you never seen the docks in London?”

Elizabeth replied that she had not, and he considered again how sheltered her life had been. He relished the opportunity to give her new experiences.

“Are you scared at all?” He whispered as they boarded the ship and he thought he detected a tremor in her hand as it rested on his arm.

“Not with you here,” she said, and she squeezed his arm.

Despite her brave words, Darcy believed she carried some anxiety and knew it was perfectly ordinary. The journey to Portpatrick was only a few hours, and the ship had no cabins for the passengers. The few vessels which attempted longer sea travel due, always a dangerous venture made worse by Napoleon, offered places to sleep. Their ship offered only a large common room, leaving the cabins for the crew and much of the area for cargo.

As the ship set sail, Darcy and Elizabeth stood on the deck and watched as Holyhead’s harbour grew smaller and smaller. Having been on a ship a few times to travel to Scotland and Ireland, Darcy adjusted to the rolling sensation of the ship. A glance at Elizabeth assured him she did not fare as well. Escorting her to the common area, he found a seat for her and offered some refreshment, which she refused.

“Is it her first time on a ship?” a friendly voice said to Darcy’s right.

Elizabeth nodded, a bit shyly, Darcy thought, at the lady.

“Ah, I remember my first time. The sickness always hits me but not nearly so bad as the first time. All I can promise you is that you don’t die from it and we are in safe hands with Captain Harvey. It will all be worth it in the end,” she said as only the old and wise can. “Scotland is a beauty. It’s proof that God can paint as well as any Master.”

“No one said she had never been to Scotland before,” the gentleman next to her harrumphed.

“Oh! I suppose you are correct, my dear,” the lady bubbled. “Well, have you been to Scotland before, Misses? What brings you to journey there?”

Darcy and Elizabeth glanced at each other and blushed. They had not rehearsed what to say if asked such a thing. Darcy had not thought it likely to be approached in such a fashion.

“Harriet, mind your tongue,” the man said. “You have embarrassed them. Why do you think two young people are going to Scotland?”

“Goodness!” She glanced at them, eyeing the way Elizabeth’s hand rested in Darcy’s as she nearly leaned on him for support as the long bench provided none for her back. “Pray, forgive me. I am not usually so chattery. My nerves get the best of me on a ship, you see. However, I had thought you must be a married couple of some years. She seems to rely on you so and trust you implicitly.”

With such an observation, Darcy and Elizabeth blushed again, but he could not be displeased.

The woman’s husband leaned forward and spoke in softer tones. “Do not mind us. We do not judge you in the least. We ran away together thirty years ago, and it has been the best decision I ever made.”

“I should say so, Mr. Scott!” the woman chuckled. “We go back now to visit our daughter. She has married a clergyman who resides in Glasgow. We could sail all the way there, but I prefer to spend the least amount of time on a ship as possible. Of course, it will all be worth it to see the baby.”

“My congratulations,” Elizabeth offered with a smile.

The two couples chatted amiably for the course of the journey, Darcy noting that Elizabeth seemed to perk up from the conversation.

“Oh, I wish my Agnes could meet you,” Mrs. Scott said to Elizabeth as the ship docked. “If ever you two are in Glasgow, you must visit Mr. and Mrs. David Russell in Parkhead. I am sure you both would just adore little Johnny. What a bright one he is already!”

Darcy smiled as the lady affectionately continued on about her grandson as her husband added his own pieces until they had to depart from the ship. The couple seemed lower in status than him and were far more outgoing than he typically preferred, but they were amiable and kind. Additionally, he could see the enduring love between the two, and it was impossible for him to not wish that thirty years hence, he and Elizabeth might be just as in love and enamoured of a grandchild.

Directing a young man to send their trunks to the appropriate inn, Darcy and Elizabeth walked to the nearest church, although not required by law, and pledged their troth. Assured of a legal and consecrated marriage, they ended the day in each other’s arms finally one in body and soul.

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Fourteen

The babysitter asked to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese today so I am getting some work done! I’ve been able to resume writing some and you get rewarded with a post!

I’ve said a few times the conflict here is Elizabeth and her head. She’s going to face another test. What do you think she’ll do? Panic or stay?

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Over the next few days, Elizabeth thought much about Jane’s letter. She had replied the following day. Uncertain how to approach Jane’s presentation of her illness, Elizabeth avoided addressing the past at Longbourn. Instead, she congratulated Jane on her marriage and reiterated her blossoming feelings for Darcy.

Soon, she would need to explain to Jane the change in her understanding not about Darcy, but about herself and her family. That would be best suited to do in person, however, so Elizabeth decided to bide her time. She wished for Jane to know that Elizabeth had no doubts regarding Darcy’s character, but more importantly that Elizabeth knew she would have a healthy future for she chose to heal. Jane’s insistence in pushing away her mental strain and redefining her feelings and actions worried Elizabeth. She knew it was impossible for Jane to merely wake up entirely new and healed the next morning and skip down the sunny lanes of Meryton and into the arms of a Prince Charming. Happily ever after was possible, of course, but the dragons must be defeated first. Judging from her letter, Jane acted as though there was nothing to vanquish.

The days and nights with Darcy furthered their intimacy. Elizabeth still wished for moments of greater privacy and a greater variety of activities. She was ever so tired of carriages and inns. Darcy had kept his promise, however, of arranging for her to have time to walk in the middle of the day. They would have a light repast and then walk about whatever village or town they in before returning to the carriage.

Her time with Darcy did bring to mind her own deficiencies. It was allowable that she not have any other pursuit while travelling, but Elizabeth noticed she had no activity to occupy her when they stopped in the evenings. She had always thought she used her time wisely and her parents were sensible in not pushing their daughters to learn things which did not appeal to them. However, now she saw how ill-prepared she was for anything beyond being the daughter of a gentleman of middle means. She believed she could speak with the housekeeper and handle her tasks for the estate fine enough. If the rest of her life was merely attempting witty conversation at dinner parties, she could perform those duties well. What she sorely lacked, though, was knowledge in how to exist in quiet moments with a reserved man.

She did not mind the silence, of course. She was curious enough to read about current affairs and intelligent enough to converse with her betrothed about them. It was the other times that she did not know what to do. At Longbourn, there had always been a sister to talk or argue with. There was always some conflict to ignore, watch, or attempt to stop. The lack of distress and crisis made Elizabeth decidedly restless and nervous. Perhaps if she embroidered or painted fireplace screens, she would have some activity to take her mind off such things.

Darcy did not seem to mind. In fact, he appeared inordinately pleased merely to be in the same room as her even if they were silent for much of it and occupied in separate pursuits. Elizabeth supposed much of her life at Pemberley would be this way. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. At Longbourn, she acted as she did out of a need for survival. She did not enjoy those mindless accomplishments thrust upon most ladies, but even if she did, she would not have been able to study them to mastery. There was too much conflict in her home. Indeed, much of her character relied on who she had to be for her family. She must direct her sisters. She must share in her father’s jokes. She must not cringe at her mother’s vulgarness. She must not partake of her sisters’ frivolity too much but not be as severe as Mary. She should not be as kind as Jane, who was easily taken advantage of.

Who was Elizabeth Bennet without her family? The thought which used to anger or terrify her suddenly felt like great freedom. She could be absolutely anyone she wanted. And what was more, she knew that Darcy would love her unconditionally.

He looked up from his book just as the realization of that struck her. She was saved from having to explain the queer expression in her eyes by the carriage jostling over a rock.

“We should make it to Holyhead before nightfall,” he said.

Excitement brimmed in Elizabeth. At Holyhead, they would board a ship to ferry them to Scotland. They would marry at Portpatrick and, Darcy had promised, a quick journey to Ireland after before they returned to Pemberley.

Despite Elizabeth’s desire to arrive in time to tour the coastal town, they reached the inn as darkness blanketed the sky. The road the last several miles was rough and required a slower pace. Even then, the carriage was stuck in a rut twice and required the men to push it out. Elizabeth let out a sigh that her first view of the seaside was not during daylight or even the romance of the sunset. Clouds covered much of the sky meaning there were very few visible stars to reflect on the water and it was not safe to walk on the promenade. Darcy had promised, however, that they could rise early the next day. Elizabeth supposed seeing the sunrise was fair enough compensation.

When they entered the coaching inn, he needed to speak with the inn’s proprietor about a few matters. Elizabeth was shown to their room by a maid. Unexpectedly, she returned a few moments later with a letter in hand. Elizabeth thought she made out Jane’s new address, but the writing was not as neat as usual. Tearing it open, Elizabeth stumbled into a chair as she read the words.

Dearest Lizzy,

I have directed this letter to Holyhead in hopes that it will reach you before you board your ship for Scotland. I have just come from Longbourn and have been urged to send for you.

About a week ago, Papa was injured riding over the fields. He had fallen from his horse, and it was many hours before anyone found him. He sustained a head injury and a severe break to the leg. His pain was acute but more troubling was the amount of blood he lost. It was evident too, to the men who found him, that his leg would most likely be lost. The apothecary and surgeon were sent for. They agreed an amputation was necessary.

They had hoped for a quick recovery, but Papa was too weak from the blood loss. After several days of fever, a physician has been sent for. He arrived earlier today and has observed Papa all day. He has given us no reason to hope.

I know your differences with our parents. I can even understand you blaming them for Kitty and Lydia’s elopements. However, no matter their faults, they are our parents. If you hasten, you might have some time with Papa before he passes. Either way, your presence will be a balm to our mother. They have lost two daughters already. Will you make them lose another?

–Jane

Elizabeth’s mind raced with thought. She could be ready in an instant. They could be on the road again in less than an hour. Surely Darcy could arrange for them to travel overnight and they might arrive at Longbourn in less time than it took for them on the first journey. He would support her.

As soon as the thought crept in, she dismissed it. Darcy had every reason to think ill of the Bennets. He would never condone Elizabeth cancelling their plans to see to her wayward parents. Indeed, he never would conscience to see them again. He had admitted only to a willingness to write to Mr. Bennet about how to help find Lydia. He had made no promises to visit Longbourn or to personally search for Lydia. Mr. Bennet would soon die, and she doubted he would be willing to communicate with Mrs. Bennet. Even more, he would not get a sensible reply. Darcy surely esteemed Mr. Gardiner even less between his lower rank and the greater pain the Gardiners had given to Elizabeth.

There was the continued issue of propriety. It was one matter to elope. It was another to spend weeks together unchaperoned and in inns without marriage. She would be no better than Lydia at that point. Gossip could hardly be avoided if she arrived at Longbourn unmarried. If he accompanied her, it would taint him and possibly even his sister who had been through enough.

Besides all this, he would feel any request to alter their plans to be an abandonment of him. He would feel jilted. He had sacrificed so much for her, and she would be just as well leaving him behind. Oh, he would be too honourable and selfless to say anything. He might even accompany her all the way to Longbourn. However, it would burn in their relationship. Once there, she would be at the mercy of her mother’s grief. All the expectations would weigh on her.

Jane and Mary had become ill once before and might again under stress. What would happen if they succumbed again and Elizabeth was not there to assist them? She could hardly hope they—or even herself—would be able to behave perfectly. Something would invariably happen that would separate her from Darcy. He would see why she was so unsuitable and come to his senses at last.

Elizabeth understood if she desired to return to Longbourn, she would be as good as ending her relationship with Darcy. As such, she should finish it rather than prolong the pain. She would need to rescind her agreement to marry him and flee. The heartbreak was impossible to avoid, and it was better to face it on her own terms.

Two choices were before her. Return to her family or marry Darcy.

****

“Here we are, my love,” Darcy said as he opened the door.

Elizabeth hastily shoved the letter under the folds of her gown. Two servants walked in behind him carrying trays of refreshments and tea. He motioned for them to set them down on the table near Elizabeth. He sat in the chair opposite her. After the servants left, he inquired which items she would prefer and served her.

Elizabeth found she had little appetite. Her mind considered how she might do what needed to be done. Could she bear to see the heartbreak in his eyes as she chose her family over him? Could she bear knowing that she was forever separating herself from perhaps the only person in the world that could love and respect her so unconditionally?

“You are quiet this evening,” Darcy observed after Elizabeth had either not heard or delayed in answering three or four of his questions.

A knock sounded at the door, and Darcy bade them enter. A maid appeared with wine and Elizabeth’s eyes lit up. Yes, if Darcy would imbibe enough, she could leave while he slept. She would leave a note for him to find in the morning.

Elizabeth jumped when he placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked at him in surprise. When had he left his chair?

“Are you well, Elizabeth?”

“I suppose it was the journey today. I am more tired than usual.”

“I am not surprised,” he said. “I ordered the wine in case you required it.”

He handed her a glass, and she took it with a tense smile.

“You have barely touched your food,” he frowned at her plate. “Perhaps you need rest more than anything else.”

Elizabeth leaned forward to take a biscuit so he might fret over her less. She had never deserved his goodness. The movement caused the letter to crinkle underneath her gown.

Darcy eyed her curiously and then his eyes fell on a scrap that she had torn in her hasty opening. It had dropped on the floor.

“Did you get a letter?”

Elizabeth nodded and held her breath, searching to find something to say.

“From Jane again? What did she have to say so soon? I would be surprised if she even got your reply yet.”

“I would prefer not to speak about it at present,” Elizabeth said with an exhale.

Darcy’s hand left her shoulder. He caressed up her neck before lifting her chin with his thumb and forefinger. “No wonder you seem downcast this evening.” He placed a kiss on her forehead.

Elizabeth nearly whimpered at the gesture. “My stomach is unsettled. I do not think I should have the wine,” she said and glanced at the carafe. “You must be exhausted from helping with the carriage. Please, drink as you please.”

“I would not wish for you to think I am a drunkard.”

“I will worry about you otherwise,” she said, and it was not the lie she had intended.

Darcy’s affectionate and grateful look pulled on her heart more than anything else. He looked so pleased to see a sign of her regard. What was she doing? Why was she willing to leave the man she loved?

The realization of her thoughts made her still as Darcy refilled his glass. She loved him as she had never loved another. She loved him without reserve and without fear. She was not entirely sure what he would say or do regarding her sister’s request, but Elizabeth realized her thoughts had been flawed. He would not condemn her for wishing to be with her family. He would not reject her or even make her choose between them. She thought even if all the worse would be said about them and it taint his good name, he would still stand by her. The man practically lived to make her happy and had sacrificed so much for her.

No, it was not Darcy that would make her choose between him and her family. How had it not occurred to Jane that requesting she return unmarried would likely forever ruin the possibilities of it? Perhaps Jane supposed that mattered little to Elizabeth after the months she spent away from Longbourn, but a woman with a botched elopement could not be Mrs. Darcy. Elizabeth thought too highly of the Darcy name and loved him too much to make him live with a tarnished legacy. Once rumours started, who knew what they would contain. Before too long they would hit upon something so close to the truth it would remind someone of a memory. Some passing traveller would have seen her at the inn. From there it would be easy to assume she had prostituted herself and then all their efforts to conceal her identity would be ruined. Marrying Darcy only worked if she could do so honourably and without destroying his name.

“Come,” Darcy said as he put his glass down. He walked to Elizabeth and took her hands in his, raising them up to assist her in standing. “I will leave so you may get ready for bed. We want an early start tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Elizabeth said with a tremulous smile. “For the ship.”

“Yes, I would not want to miss that. It is not every day I plan to sail to Scotland to marry my love. However, I meant so you may view the sunrise over the sea.” He kissed her forehead again before departing.

The kiss sealed it. She could not forsake him. She loved him too much. Lord forgive her, but she could not choose her family over Darcy; over them; over her. She had genuine love and happiness before her, and she would take hold of it with both hands.

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Thirteen

At long last! A new chapter! In case you have missed my other mentions of it, I’ve been unwell. I currently have loss of feeling in almost my entire body. Bouts of pain, especially at night, have accompanied the numbness. I am going to try to catch up with this story in the next few days as the majority of the pain has subsided during the day, but I must take care of myself as well. I’ll know more after my MRI next week.

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven / Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Darcy and Elizabeth had sat in companionable silence in the carriage the following day for nearly an hour before she spoke.

“Fitzwilliam, tell me about your friends, your family, the people that make up your life.”

Darcy started at her interest. “I have already told you about my sister. You will soon get to know her better. You will meet her companion and nurse, Mrs. Annesley. She is a very genteel lady.”

“What about anyone else? You mentioned a cousin is also Miss Darcy’s guardian and relatives that might visit her while you are away. How frequently do you see Mr. Bingley?”

“Richard is often posted to the Continent. When he is not, he is busy with his Regiment in London. One day, I hope you two will meet. Aunt Katherine and Uncle Joseph live in Edinburgh, and we do not get to visit with them very often.” He frowned a little before answering her final question. “I do not see Bingley more than once or twice a year—although I would say he is my closest friend. He is always getting about—a house party here or there, a soiree in Town, a trip to Scarborough. I much prefer to visit with him at Pemberley.”

Elizabeth thought for a moment. “That is just what I would have expected.”

“That I hate Society so much that I have only one friend that I rarely see?”

Elizabeth shook her head as she gathered Darcy’s hand and raised it to her lips. “I have discovered you value time together free of other distractions or activities. At the assembly in Meryton, you barely spoke. However, you were talkative enough in privacy at Netherfield. You never seem at a loss for words, now, with me. You do not hate Society. You simply crave more intimate gatherings with your friends.”

Darcy felt the corners of his lips turn up. He had never known anyone else to understand him so well. Even Bingley seemed unaware of Darcy’s hatred of crowded events. He knew Bingley thought he was an amiable host by arranging activities for his guests, but Darcy much would have preferred quiet evenings at the house. A thought struck him, causing his tentative smile to slip.

“What is it?” Elizabeth asked.

“I fear after growing up in such a busy household, you will find me and Pemberley quite boring.”

“I would never find you boring,” she smiled. “Do not you know that I could not cease thinking about you and attempting to puzzle you out from our first meeting?”

“Did you really?” He knew she had not thought of him the way he thought of her but knowing that she thought of him at all pleased.

“Yes,” Elizabeth said as she turned her sparkling eyes to his. “I heard your words about me and wanted to hate you. I had to search deep and hard to find other reasons to dislike you. Not a day went by that your name was not on my tongue as I talked with a friend. Poor Jane and Charlotte must have tired of me. They must have seen through to the truth long before I ever did.”

“The truth?”

“I was utterly obsessed with you.”

“Why was that?”

“I do not know, but fortunately, I have the rest of my life to find out.”

“Do you know I was just as enchanted?” Darcy reached forward to stroke Elizabeth’s smooth cheek.

“I thought you only looked at me to criticize.”

“At first, I had hoped to find faults. The more I looked, the more attracted I became.”

“So, it was my arts and allurements after all?” Elizabeth gave a coy smile.

“No, it was the spark in your eyes, the tone of your laughter, the smoothness of your skin, the lusciousness of your lips—”

Darcy could contain himself no longer. He sampled her lips now parted in invitation. After several minutes, he pulled back. “I still find it difficult to believe that you are here with me, in my arms, and willing to marry me.” He hung his head for a moment. “I know you do not love me and I fear one day you will regret this union. I know you think that you bring nothing to this marriage, but you offer so much. Anything I can give you in return is not what you desire. My wealth and jewels mean nothing to you.”

Elizabeth sighed and nuzzled into the hand which still touched her cheek. “You offer me what I desire above all others, Fitzwilliam.”

“What is that?” Stability? A home?

“You,” she whispered. “All I want is your love.”

Darcy’s heart swelled at her words and the look in her eye. Perhaps she was too timid to say the words he longed to hear. Maybe she needed more time, but it gave him hope as he never had before. He expressed himself the only way he could, and they were locked in mutually pleasurable pursuit until they arrived at a coaching inn.

No private dining room was available, so they sat in the large, common dining area of the tavern. Darcy observed Elizabeth, to see if it brought back any bad memories of her recent employment. Instead, she encouraged them to mingle with other customers and play a singing game of who knew the most Scottish reels.

“I did not think you would know so many,” Elizabeth whispered in his ear after they won the tenth round.

“I asked you to dance while Miss Bingley played a reel, did you forget?”

“I had thought you meant to mock me.” Elizabeth shook her head. “I should have guessed differently once I began to think differently of you.”

“Dance with me now,” he said and tugged on her hand.

“What? Here?” Elizabeth looked around the room. “Before all these strangers? Has the ale gone to your head?”

“Not at all,” Darcy said as he stood. “Mr. William Smith wishes to dance with his lovely bride. Won’t you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth blushed, but Darcy could see that he pleased her. Others soon joined in, and they had a merry time until they were forced to sit out and catch their breath. Mindful that they needed to arise early to continue their journey, they soon said goodbyes to their new friends and ascended the stairs.

“Thank you for tonight,” Elizabeth said once they were in bed and she nestled in Darcy’s arms.

“What did I do?”

“You were so carefree. You mingled with people far beneath you. Was it not for my sake?” She kissed him on the cheek.

“It was for as much my own as for you,” he answered with a grin.

“You see, you do not hate people as much as you would like to say.”

“I think it is as you said this morning. I enjoy quality time with those I love. We may have been in a group of others, but I knew your focus was entirely on me.” Darcy leaned forward to capture her lips.

“Oh, did you now?” Elizabeth ducked her head away.

“I can hardly believe it, but as I am helpless but to watch you no matter which room I am in, I know very well how often you, in turn, were watching me.”

Elizabeth blushed, and Darcy kissed one rosy cheek. “I watched you even in Hertfordshire,” she admitted.

“I know,” Darcy nodded. “However, it is different now. I know the signs of your affection. I know the soft look your gaze takes when you are pleased with me. How I could take your expression from those months ago to mean admiration is proof enough of my arrogance and conceit.”

“Hush,” Elizabeth said. “Do not think of those times. Let us think only of now. We are here together.” She gripped him tightly. “I will always be with you.”

Darcy welcomed Elizabeth’s kisses and responded in kind. She melted at his touch and molded herself to his body. At that moment, Darcy knew that she would allow him to touch every curve of her body, every inch of her smooth skin. However, he had promised both of them, he would not claim her until she was in love with him. Until she could say the words and speak of her heart, he would have to resist. Slowing their kisses and his hands’ explorations, he laid her head on his shoulder and held her while their breathing returned to normal and they both fell asleep.

When they reached the inn on their third night of travel, a letter had arrived for Elizabeth.

“It’s from Jane,” she reverently stroked over the script. “I would know her writing anywhere, but it did not come from Longbourn. How interesting.”

“Let us hurry to our room, and you may read it there.”

“You do not wish to eat first?”

“We will have refreshments brought to us.”

Elizabeth’s smile was thanks enough. Once she was settled, she began reading aloud.

Dearest Lizzy,

Undoubtedly, you are curious about the address from which this letter was posted. This might shock you, but given your own good news about a match with Mr. Darcy, I am sure you will not resent it. I have married.

Elizabeth paused to gasp and bring her hand to her mouth. “Oh, Janie.”

“Does she say to whom she is wed?”

Elizabeth returned her eyes to the paper and began reading once more.

After you left, I met a gentleman with an estate about ten miles from Meryton. We had not met before because he has spent the last five years in Bath for his wife’s illness. She died last year, and he returned to his estate to complete his mourning. He had an acquaintance with Sir William Lucas, and we met at an evening at Lucas Lodge. Mr. Nash is exceptionally amiable, and while he had not spent much time in Hertfordshire in the last ten years, he quickly resumed his friendships in the Meryton area. We met many times for some weeks and eventually, he made me an offer.

Mama is beside herself as his income is nearly equal to Mr. Bingley’s and certainly more than Mr. Collins. I suppose you would say there is some advantage to having Mama further away than the few miles between Longbourn and Netherfield. However, I must tell you that I do believe you misunderstood my feelings. I was not nearly as overwrought as you seem to think. I resorted to the laudanum only to sleep, and due to my long fatigue, I must have taken more than I should have.

Elizabeth ceased reading and gasped. “That is not true at all!”

Darcy captured Elizabeth’s hand in his.

“She had not been sleeping, that is correct. However, she did quite intentionally take too much laudanum. She confessed it to me. She wanted it all to end.”

Elizabeth turned watery eyes on Darcy, and his heart broke for her. Jane’s desire to erase Elizabeth’s memory of an embarrassing moment for her was understandable. He did not think Jane intentionally wounded Elizabeth in her need for self-preservation, but she was injured all the same. He pulled Elizabeth into his arms. “Dearest, I believe you.”

“According to this testimony, I left Longbourn for no reason. Jane was not ill. It was not wrong of our parents to refuse her help. She makes my sacrifices into ridiculous selfishness. I am no better than Kitty and Lydia.”

“Is that what you truly think?”

Elizabeth cried quietly for several minutes on Darcy’s shoulder as he stroked her back. Finally, she lifted her head and met his gaze. “I know the facts. I can see that Jane is putting forth this version to hide her own hurt and she feels ashamed of her actions. She should not, of course. I can also see that Kitty and Lydia left not because they were wicked but as an attempt to salvage their lives somehow. I only wish we knew where Lydia was.”

“We will find her, love. As soon as we marry, we will begin our search.”

“It would require communication with my father. I did not think you would prefer that.”

Darcy frowned. “It is true that I cannot respect the man and certainly cannot understand his actions. However, I wish to find and assist your sister almost as desperately as you do.”

“You truly are the best man,” Elizabeth said with a sad smile.

“You know I am not. I have flaws, and I will not let you forget them. I could not even if I tried. Whatever good you see in my choices in helping Lydia are from knowing you.” Would he ever find the right words to convince her that she made him a better man? “What else does Jane say? Do you feel ready to continue?”

Elizabeth nodded and resumed reading aloud.

We married about a month ago, and Mary resides with us. So, you see, there is no cause to worry for Mary or me or hasten to Longbourn. We, however, fear for you.

Elizabeth blushed and ceased reading.

“What is it?” Darcy asked.

“She cites my former dislike of you. I thought I was profuse enough in my praise in the letter I sent, but perhaps I was not. I will amend that in the reply.”

Her eyes returned to the paper she held and continued to scan. “Mama and Papa were very angry at my departure. You were correct,” she met Darcy’s eyes. “They claimed I was suddenly sent to London. When the Gardiners did not find me at the inn, they returned home rather than arrive in Meryton. They were the ones who came up with the suggestion that I was with them.”

Elizabeth blinked back tears. “They had searched for Lydia and Kitty for so long. I suppose they tired of the Bennets’ follies. Or perhaps they were out of money.”

Darcy wrapped Elizabeth in an embrace. “What are you thinking, love?”

“I am worth less to them somehow. They love me less. If my own flesh and blood can do so…”

“I will silence those thoughts,” he pressed a kiss to her temple, then cheek, and finally her eyelids. “I cannot say why they gave up the search for you. I would leave no stone unturned to find you. You are more precious to me than my own heart.”

Darcy captured Elizabeth’s lips for good measure. Drawing back, he nestled her head against his shoulder and stroked her arm. “What do you wish to do?”

Unexpectedly, she turned her head and pressed a kiss to his jaw. “Can you show me what love is again, Fitzwilliam?”

Darcy pulled her to her feet and scooped her up in his arms.

“Your arm!” she cried as she wrapped her own around his neck.

“It is much recovered, like your ankle.” He laid her on the bed and brought her hand to rest over his heart. “Our injuries mended together as our hearts have. As long as I live, I will love you.”

Elizabeth kissed Darcy with a desperation which inflamed his passions. It was still three days until they reached Scotland and his honour had never been in greater danger. Judging by the pleased smile Elizabeth wore and her restful slumber, she had no complaints at all about the way he showed his love.

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Twelve

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten / Eleven

Chapter Twelve

A heavy weight draped across Elizabeth’s midsection when she awoke the morning of their departure from the inn. Darcy’s palm gently cupped a breast. Although her ankle was still weak, she looked forward to the journey. The quicker they got to Scotland the better, in her opinion.

Beside her, Darcy stirred. He pulled her closer and kissed the exposed skin of her neck. “I love waking up to you in my arms.”

Elizabeth grinned and burrowed closer against him. “You always shall, until death do us part.”

Before her upset about Bingley and Jane, Elizabeth had thought she was more than halfway to being in love with Darcy. Now, she had lost some of her restraint. Why should she not love him? He was deserving of it, and she was willing. He declared she also was worthy of love… That she found more difficult to believe.

Such thoughts evaporated from her mind, however, as Darcy’s hand proceeded to wander. His fingers grazed the skin of her collarbone and the tops of her shoulders. Elizabeth sighed at the sensation.

“Do you enjoy it when I touch you like this?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth’s answer sounded more like a breathy moan, and she arched herself, wordlessly begging him to continue.

“Roll over and face me,” Darcy said.

Elizabeth immediately obeyed. For several minutes, Darcy worshipped her lips. Slowly, one hand began to wander over her curves. His hand made lazy circles until reaching the center of one breast, he pulled at the tight bud. His hand continued its work as his mouth ceased his ministrations, uttering instead:

“While walking down yonder path one Spring day,

I espied a Summer bud wild and free.

It grew among the weeds and hay

Wind and frost rose up, I could not leave it be.

Pruning, sheltering, and nurturing

It survived and grew full height, you see,

Loudly now the church bells ring,

My wild Summer bloom ne’er fails to delight me,

As it drinks up the sunlight’s ray.”

As he recited the words, Darcy pulled open the ribbon in front of Elizabeth’s gown, gently pushing it aside. His eyes never left hers, as his hand stroked her skin. The warmth from his palm was welcome on the cool early Spring day, yet, her body shivered with each graze of his flesh against hers.

Darcy alternated pressure during his exploration, sometimes eliciting a gentle sigh, other times a long moan from her lips. Her mind could barely form a coherent thought. “Did you write that?”

“Yes.”

“It is beautiful,” Elizabeth sighed as his hand continued to work over her body. Perhaps it was not the most laudable piece of poetry compared with the works of the greats, but it sounded infinitely superior to her ears.

“You are beautiful.” He nudged more of the fabric over, and his eyes finally left hers. “So very beautiful.”

“When did you write it?”

“I considered a few lines of it last autumn. More pieces came to me during the winter. However, the final line occurred to me just now.”

He pulled back, and Elizabeth smiled as a ray of sunshine bathed her flesh in a yellow glow. “You wrote it about me?”

“Yes.”

Darcy answered as his eyes followed the circles of his fingers, doubling the sensations Elizabeth enjoyed.

“You are my wild summer bloom, Elizabeth. And I will care for you through the storms which would destroy you. You think you are the problem, but you have only grown too early and in a difficult position.”

Elizabeth sighed as tears pricked her eyes. This was what it felt like to be loved, to be genuinely and unconditionally loved. She pulled Darcy’s head to hers and told him all the whispers of her heart in the only way she knew.

Later, they separated to prepare for their journey. Elizabeth decided to return to her old chamber and visit with Molly and any of the other ladies who might be there as it was still early in the day.

“La! She is to leave today,” Molly’s voice rang out through the open door to the maids’ quarters.

Elizabeth stopped outside to hear more. 

“You ought to have seen her preening in his room,” Molly continued, “as though she were a duchess or married to a prince.”

“But how can they be married?” One of the other barmaids asked. “Do you think she left him? I knew a girl once who did. She said she would go back as soon as he could learn to be grateful for what he had.”

“They ain’t married. She kept saying he would marry her and give her his name, but I don’t believe it for one minute. She will be Lizzy Smith forever—if that is even her real name! We know Cordelia uses a false one.”

“The men like thinking they are with a fancy piece,” the named maid sniffed. “They would much rather have Cordelia in their arms for a tryst than Nellie.”

“I thought you were going with them,” one of the maids said to Molly.

“Well, isn’t that just like her? You remember when she first came? I said she was too uppity to make friends with the likes of us.”

“But she did,” someone offered timidly.

“Like she had any choice! But you see how she really treats her friends. Said I couldn’t come with them, but I would bet she doesn’t want anyone knowing about her past.”

Elizabeth pushed open the door. “I thought you just said you doubted he would marry me at all,”

The other girls immediately gasped and blushed. A few stammered an apology.

“What do you want, Lizzy? Thought you were leaving to be with your fancy mister,” Molly said with a raised chin.

“I wanted to say goodbye to people who I thought were my friends. I can see now I was mistaken. You know I never said you would leave with us. Did you ever count yourself as my friend or was it only when I had a greater opportunity than you that you became jealous and spiteful, Molly?”

“Don’t act like you wouldn’t say the same thing to any of us.”

“No, I would not.”

“Then you are stupider than I thought. Good luck with your man. He will grow tired of you just like whoever you came from before.”

Elizabeth stared at the young woman she had called a friend for months. Had Molly always been so mean and she just had not seen it before? Casting her mind back, Elizabeth did see the signs. She had done the same with her family as well. She always made excuses for people.

Elizabeth left the room and found Darcy waiting for her in their chamber. He was ready to depart. The bill was settled with Cuthbert, and the carriage waited for them. Elizabeth hated the uneasiness that was in his eyes. Had she thought she was not returning? Did he think she would argue about hiring Molly?

The start of their journey was quiet, and it took some time for Elizabeth’s mood to lighten. Just as quickly as it improved, her good humour evaporated. They were nearing London, and she could not forget her aunt and uncle and the wrong they had done her.

“Will we stay in London for the night?” Elizabeth asked.

“No, I did not think you would prefer it. My valet arranged for us to stay a few hours from here, once we are on Watling Street. We stop in Town only long enough for me to sign the final drafts with my solicitor. Did you post your letter to Jane? If not, we surely can while we are here.”

Elizabeth admitted she had not put it in the post. She had intended to do so after speaking with her friends but entirely forgot after hearing their gossip.

While Darcy spoke with his solicitor, Elizabeth waited in the coach. She watched people from the carriage window and even thought she saw Miss Bingley. She was on the arm of a wealthy looking man and looked as carefree as when Elizabeth last saw her. Had it only been five months? It felt as though it had been years to Elizabeth—lifetimes. She thought about how insufficient she had felt compared to Miss Bingley’s list of accomplished ladies in November and how much worse she would be considered now after labouring for her bread. She considered how even girls she had known closely and unguardedly for months thought she had prostituted herself. Molly’s last statement stung the most—Darcy would tire of her, just like whoever she came from did.

Leaning back against the squabs, Elizabeth closed her eyes to keep the tears at bay. She focused on breathing in and out while counting to ten in English and French. By the time Darcy returned to the carriage, she had begun to hum an Italian aria she had always liked. Not only did it remind her of the positive things about who she was as Elizabeth Bennet, but it also helped preoccupy her mind. In that vein, she found things to chatter about until they reached their first inn.

Darcy grasped Elizabeth’s hand as the carriage came to a stop. “I hate to present it in such a way, but as we will be feigning a marriage, I thought you should wear this.” He pulled a simple band from his breast pocket and held it for her inspection.

Elizabeth nodded and removed a hand from her gloves. She knew as much as he did that she had to play a role. Still…something seemed lacking. “Do you think…do you think you could say the words? We could just say our vows now, and although it is not legal, it would mean something when I wore this? It would not be as much of a lie?” She had grown ever so tired of lying.

“When we really wed, you will wear a Darcy heirloom ring. Until we reach Scotland, we shall present ourselves as Mr. and Mrs. Smith to be less conspicuous. However, no matter our name or the jewellery on your hand, I will eagerly say our vows and faithfully keep them.”

They rushed through their makeshift wedding ceremony with Elizabeth promising to love and obey Darcy. It was the first time she had said the words, and she hoped more than ever she could make them true.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Darcy said as he slid the band over her finger then raised her hand for a kiss. Smiling, he added, “I love you.”

Elizabeth wordlessly returned the gesture although he wore no ring. She knew he loved her. He had orchestrated all of this for her. For now, that would be enough.

That night, as he held her in bed, Elizabeth confessed to her altercation with Molly. She aired the feelings which had nagged her all day.

“What upsets me the most,” she said, “was, do I not deserve genuine friends? Perhaps if I had been more open—”

“There was nothing about you that could change her. You are very worthy of friendship, and I think once you are in a larger circle of acquaintance you will find some. She provided you with companionship when you most needed it, but she is really just another weed that needs pruning.”

“I am sorry if I was in a sour mood. The day started off so well…” Elizabeth sighed with the memories of Darcy’s touch.

“I shall happily repeat my actions from this morning,” he murmured before capturing her lips.

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Eleven

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven  / Eight / Nine / Ten

Chapter Eleven


Darcy pulled his wife closer. His wife! How often he had dreamt of calling Elizabeth that. Here she was, finally in his arms. His lips found the curve of her neck, delighting in the shiver he felt wrack her petite frame. As he kissed her smooth skin, he felt goose pimples emerge. He found her earlobe and sucked on it until she let out a breathy exhale. The hand around her waist wandered north. She was so soft, so comforting, so everything he had ever needed but never knew. The tightening bud under his palm and the sharp inhale he heard brought his mind to the present.

The glorious dream evaporated and Darcy wrenched his hand away as he realised he was not embracing Elizabeth, his loving wife, but instead Elizabeth, his skittish betrothed.

She was still beside him, making neither a sound nor a move. Darcy rolled to his back and raised to his elbows. They were no longer touching, but he could feel the heat from her body still. The taste of her skin was on her mouth and the feel of her imprinted on his hand.

Fighting through the temptation and embarrassment, his honour demanded he speak. “Touch…you…apologise…pardon…”

He squeezed his eyes shut and let out a growl as his tongue could not form coherent words. Elizabeth sat up as well. She placed a hand on his arm, causing him to jump. The last thing he needed at the moment was her touching him. Need still coursed through his veins and thrummed in every muscle of his body.

“Fitzwilliam?” Elizabeth coaxed and finally, he turned his face to hers. “There is no need to apologise. Your touch was heavenly.” She picked up his hand and held it in hers.

“I had no right. This is precisely why I suggested you should journey ahead.”

“Are you ashamed of what you feel?” Elizabeth’s voice was just above a whisper.

“Only of the timing. We are not wed, and even then, I vowed I would not demand any husbandly rights. I wish for you to desire me as much as I long for you.”

“I think I do,” Elizabeth acknowledged as she blushed. “Perhaps not as much and certainly not with as much knowledge or for as long but your touch is not unwelcome.”

The noble part of Darcy’s mind stuttered to understand her confession. She was not saying she loved him. She esteemed him enough to feel attraction. She trusted him enough to voice it and know that it would not mark her as wanton. They were engaged to be married and had shared a bed for several nights. Most couples in their position would have gone far past an accidental touch. These were all good signs. However, he was unsure if they were enough to satisfy him.

“What do you feel for me, Elizabeth?” Darcy asked. “We only met again a few days ago, and yet sometimes it feels as if years have passed. I do not wish to rush you. However, I confess to confusion. Sometimes you seem nearly enamoured with me. You have said you esteem and respect me, but you have also been quick to doubt me. You have attempted to flee more than once.”

“Those are my failings, not yours. Trusting you makes me uncomfortable.”

Darcy sucked in a breath. He had known it to be true, had he not?

“It is not because of anything you have done or said. My fears and doubts are not a reflection of your or even reality. I am attempting to improve. I trust you. It still makes me uncomfortable after spending my entire life having only myself to trust, but I do trust you. In time, my unease will pass away. I know you shall not give me any reason to doubt or regret giving you my trust.”

It was hardly the stuff of romance. However, Elizabeth had been so wounded perhaps she did not wish for poetry, flowers, and flattery as most ladies did during courtship.

Interrupting his thoughts, she tugged on him to lay back down. She nestled against him, with her head resting over his heart in what had become a favourite position for him. She let out a happy sigh.

“I feel safe here with you, like this.”

Darcy tightened his arm around her. His injured arm was nearly healed and could stretch out to add to the embrace. “Does my holding you give you comfort?”

Elizabeth nodded against his chest.

“It brings me comfort, as well,” he said. “It settles something in my soul—something only you can satisfy. I love you so very much.” He pressed a kiss to her hair.

He held her in silence for so long he had thought she fell back asleep. It was just as well with him if she preferred to rest in bed all day. Holding her was far preferable to going through the motions of a regular day. They had both tired of reading and sitting in silence in this room. He was just beginning to wonder if they could leave on the morrow when Elizabeth spoke.

“What is love, Fitzwilliam? I do not think I know anymore.”

“There are many types of love, of course. I think at its root is a selfless desire for the other’s well-being and a feeling of belonging. You accept and acknowledge the other’s faults without it lessening their value.”

“I do not know that I have ever felt that,” Elizabeth whispered. “So much of my life was merely a duty to others.”

“I can perfectly understand that. However, did you walk through three miles of mud to take care of Jane at Netherfield only out of duty? She was not gravely ill.”

“Who could do less for Jane? No, caring for her was never a duty.”

“Then that is one person you have loved. Elizabeth,” Darcy said as he pulled her up to meet his eyes, “you have a very great capacity to love. Are you concerned that you do not?”

“I have felt empty and broken for so long.” Tears glittered in her eyes.

“You have felt unloved, but I do not believe for one moment that love did not drive all your actions and thoughts.”

“Perhaps I was only as selfish as my parents.”

“We have already established there was no selfishness in visiting Jane. Indeed, I can think of few places you would have preferred less than to be at Netherfield.”

“I did not do enough for my other sisters. I preferred Jane’s company because she was the easiest and could soothe me. I shunned Kitty and Lydia and look at what they did.”

“You did not reward their ill-behaviour. Did you view their actions with concern?”

“Certainly.”

“And did you think about yourself then?”

“No, I feared for them—for their reputations if not for their strength of mind.”

“Now, let us compare matters. Let us recall the evening of Bingley’s ball, as I have already explained it was important in my understanding of your family. One of your sisters played the pianoforte.”

“You do not need to remind me,” Elizabeth groaned. “I was embarrassed by her putting herself forward so much as to perform a second song when her skills could not support it. I pleaded with my father to intervene.”

“Indeed? Did you? If you recall, I sat very near you and could hear everything else said at your area of the table. I heard no application.”

“I gave him looks which meant I wished him to stop her.”

“Ah, so then you are certainly not accountable for the manner in which he did so.”

Elizabeth agreed. “However, I was selfish at the time. I feared what Mary’s actions would mean for us. My mother was loudly extolling how Jane would marry Bingley. Kitty and Lydia were outrageously flirtatious. How could I not be embarrassed?”

“Momentary embarrassment does not mean you do not love them. Did you fear it meant others whose opinion you valued would cease to admire you?”

“Of course not. Everyone in Meryton was used to our behaviour, and if Mr. Bingley really loved Jane, then he would never blame her for the actions of her family.”

“So you worried, then, for their own account. They ought to have known better and have more pride in their own reputations to behave better.”

“I suppose that would be the best way to say it.”

“That does not sound very selfish to me.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “It does not. However, how is that different from my mother?”

“Do you feel like a lesser person because Lydia eloped?” Elizabeth shook her head. “Has Jane’s situation affected your perception of yourself?”

“No. However, I blame myself for the things we spoke of yesterday.”

“I do not mean to say that you should blame yourself for those reasons, however, it’s certainly not due to selfishness. You have not thought of yourself in all of this.”

“When I left Longbourn, I did.”

“You left to seek help because you could no longer bear the problems at home. You intended to make matters better for others no matter the cost to yourself. Even now, you speak of Jane and Mary often.”

“I was exhausted from it all,” Elizabeth whispered. “I felt as fragile as glass and knew I would be the next to break.”

“It is not selfish to care for yourself, especially when no one else is capable of doing such.” Darcy kissed her forehead. “However, you are no longer alone. I care for you. You need only ask.”

Elizabeth let out a deep exhale. “It will take some time to get used to the idea of not blaming myself. I have spent my life being measured to my mother and have always prided myself in not being like her. My greatest fear was that I became her by rashly choosing to leave Longbourn and indulge in what was best for me alone.”

“Do not be so harsh on yourself. I think you can agree you have deeply loved your family. You have accepted all of their flaws. However, you despise yourself. You demand unreasonable perfection.”

Elizabeth blinked rapidly at his words. “I had not considered that before.”

He wished he could tell her that he would love her enough for both of them, but he believed that would be insufficient. Even if he could convince her of that, one day she would be angry that she relied entirely on him for feelings of worth. She needed to learn to be satisfied with herself, and he could not do that work for her.

“Speaking of love, I have been wondering if you think I ought to inform Bingley of my error. Would Jane welcome his suit if he returned to Netherfield?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I do not know. I do not know that she is well enough to be courted by anyone. She would hate that I broke her confidence and told you of her feelings at all. I wish there were some way for me to know how she fared.”

“Why not write to her?”

“I cannot. I do not wish for my family to discover my location.”

“You felt that way when you first arrived because you feared they would take you back to Longbourn. It was one of the first things you said to me. However, no one can forcibly remove you, and I will not allow them. We are betrothed, and I will not give you up.” He smiled before raising her hand to his lips.

“I suppose I could try. By the time the letter arrived, we might have already left. I would have to indicate where to send the reply and when we expected to be there. However, there would be no way they could journey there faster than us.”

“I doubt they would even try or confront us at all. They would probably only be relieved that you were safe, even if they refused to acknowledge their part in your situation.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said before kissing him. “I can hardly tell you how pleased I am to write to Jane.”

“Your kiss spoke for you very well,” he said before claiming one for himself.

“Then I shall communicate more in such a wa—”

Darcy ceased her words with a kiss. The sun was high in the sky before they ordered breakfast and Darcy sent for a maid to assist Elizabeth in dressing. They had agreed to leave on the morrow and spend the day in bed with each other. Amidst more light-hearted conversation than they had previously indulged in, they each grew bolder in their caresses. As they learned their bodies and the preferences of both, they discovered a shared affinity for history, poetry, and certain novels. Elizabeth had never been beyond London and delighted in hearing Darcy’s descriptions of Pemberley and the adjacent area as well as his memories of Scotland and Ireland. He fell asleep with a pleased smile on his face. Some things were even better than dreams.