Will gulped and followed his friend to his chamber.
“You have precisely one minute to explain to me why I am should not pummel you for touching my sister, let alone in such a way.”
“You do not understand. It is not what it appears.”
“It looks like you were in the middle of seducing my sister right under my nose. I trusted you!”
“I love her!” Will’s widened as he realized what he had confessed. None of this was going according to his plan. He was supposed to ask Sam and Mr. Bennet for permission to court Elizabeth. Then he would ask hand. During his summer away, he would have time to consider his method of courtship. They were still so young and his father would probably not approve the match. Will had no reason to think they could marry quickly. He would have to tell her as much. A gem like Elizabeth would not wait forever. However, Will did have some independence now and if push came to shove, they could marry. He hoped both their sakes that their families would approve and not keep them waiting for too long.
“I am still waiting, Will. You say you love her. What you know of love?”
“I know I have not supported you as you would like. Given your situation and feelings for Lucy. However, now I understand. The heart what wants it wants, and no amount of logic can gainsay it.”
“Are you saying it is illogical to be in love with my sister?”
“I’m say nothing of the sort. I am not unaware of the arguments you or anyone else have against match. I told them to myself and, if you will recall, before we even met I was not predisposed to like her.”
“Oh yes, the Darcy pride. How could I forget that?” Sam said derisively.
“What does my pride have to do with this?”
“It has every with this! Did you think I did not approve of your admiration for my sister because I found your character wanting?.”
“There is a code amongst gentlemen that we will not touch one’s sister.”
“I would be more worried about that if you touched anybody.” Sam laughed.
“So, you worry that for Charles attentions toward Jane?” Will could not understand Sam’s position on the subject.
“The Darcys and Bingleys are two entirely different worlds. I do not worry for Charles because it is Charles. He might like Jane now, but next week he will move on. We are spending many months away, and Jane has a new suitor every week. She is too accustomed to men to let her heart grow attached so shortly.” Sam sighed and slumped in a chair, waving for Will to do likewise.
“And you believe that Elizabeth and I would feel too deeply?”
“I know that you would not leap into anything without thoroughly thinking it through.”
Will disagreed but kept it to himself. He did not have the self-control his friends seemed to think he did. “I imagine it is much like when you first met Lucy.”
“I thought only of my arousal when I met Lucy.” Sam glared at Will. “Would you like to try again and explain how this is not the same and how you can love Elizabeth so much within a matter of days?”
Will sighed and rested his elbows on his knees. “I recounted it to myself enough in the past day or so as I wandered how I got here so unaware. I can only think that I was in the middle before I knew I even began. Elizabeth is beautiful and I am attracted to her. However, there are one hundred other things that appeal to me and have greater weight. Every day I discover something new. I am unlimitedly fascinated by her.” Will shrugged. “For once, I do not feel like the heir of Pemberly. Elizabeth wants nothing from me. I am free to be myself with her and she makes me want to be better in ways I never thought of before.”
“That is all well and good, but you do not know what you are asking of her,” Sam placed a hand on Will shoulder. “She is only sixteen is unprepared for your world. Your father will not approve. Both of your aunts have their sights set on others for you. The very people Lizzy would need for support in your world would never approve of her.
“What are you saying?” Will thought madness within him.
“Forget about my sister. You have two very different destinies.”
Will staring at his friend in slack-jawed disbelief. He would fight for Elizabeth. He would not give her up. However, as he observed his friend, Sam’s shoulders slumped in dejection. Perhaps his words were far more about his own situation than about Will’s. “I Cannot agree with your opinion on these matters. I did want to speak to you and other subjects. Lord Harcourt seems to have Elizabeth in his sights.”
“Surely not,” Sam laughed. “I assure you, he prefers much more worldly ladies.”
“At the very least, his mode of conversation to her her is impertinent and makes her uncomfortable. I implore you, peak to him again.”
“If you wish, but I see nothing more than the jealous concern of the suitor.”
Will out a frustrated side. “Why is it you trust him at all? Confess it, you have more than a passing acquaintance with the man that all of London knows is a devious rake and a gambler.”
Sam opened and closed his mouth several times before any sound out. He held his hands and let out a dejected side. “I will tell you the truth. I needed money for Lucy’s sake. I went around banks and other creditors and Harcourt was the only one that would have mercy on me.”
“Dear God! Could you not have asked me?”
“I did not think you would approve. I was ashamed.”
“How much do you owe? You should not be in debt to such a man.”
Sam shook his head. “I cannot ask for you to pay. I would rather take my chances being debt to him than take advantage of our friendship.”
Will stared at his friend for a long time. “Is it very much?”
“It would not matter if it was a mere twenty pounds. I would not ask of you.”
“You spoke of the Darcy pride, but I perceive your pride at work here as well.”
“I made a mess of things, but it is my burden to clean it up.” Sam stood and walked to the door. “Now is time for us to join the others for dinner.”
“I will be speaking to your father soon.”
“You had better talk to your father first.” Sam shook his head. “Do not be in a hurry to seal your fate, Will. You may think you love her now, but only time will tell. Learn from my mistakes.”
As they were no longer in the privacy of Sam’s chambers, Will said no more on the subject and followed his friend downstairs. Sam said he would not accept money from him, but Will still intended to make a substantial withdraw on the morrow. Some would go to Sam if he would take it, and the rest to Wickham so he would find a life away from the Darcy family.
Throughout the meal, he could not keep his eyes from falling upon Elizabeth. She looked lovely, but more than that, she looked as though she belonged at a Darcy table. She sat near his father. Now and then, she said something to make the older gentleman laugh. George Darcy had a different temperament than his children, and the death of his wife sobered him, but he still enjoyed amusement. It was why George Wickham became his favourite. Elizabeth’s humor, however, was a different sort than Wickham. Around her, she involved others as well and remembered interests that they shared and could converse on. She had all the qualities a hostess should have.
On the previous nights, Will’s father had not encouraged the ladies to separate from the gentlemen. This evening, he maintained tradition. As it happened, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam dined with them. Will’s aunt served as hostess and led the ladies to the drawing room. The first few minutes of the customary separation from the ladies passed in the ordinary way. Port and brandy were poured while cigars were smoked. Before too long, Mr. Darcy approach Will and asked to meet asked for them to speak privately. Will agreed, although uncertain of what would follow.
The older gentleman shut the door to his study and motioned to a chair. Will sat and father took the seat next to him rather than behind the imposing desk.
“Well, I had not thought that I had landed upon the truth so much when I mentioned that you would not enter a relationship with Sam’s sister. It appears I was mistaken.”
Will’s mind raced. Had they been seen? “There’s nothing to say on the matter because I have not asked anything of the lady. I am aware of Sam’s disapproval and attempting to overcome his arguments.”
“But you cannot doubt her answer. A girl like Elizabeth Bennet would jump at a chance to marry you. Beware, my son, for you are now of age and finished with University. Many ladies will try to capture you in their claws.”
Will shook his head. “I will not abide any criticism of her character. Miss Elizabeth is nothing of that sort. She could not care less about fortune or rank. She is not like the other young ladies I have encountered who simper and fawn. I sometimes think she has more strength of character than many a man I know, for she will not play Society’s games. She will not bend her moral compass to suit the whims of others.” As Will spoke, he clenched his fists. This man would malign his friend’s daughter without knowing her. Meanwhile, he condoned Wickham and refused to criticize him. Even Sam had bent his honor to suit his needs.
“Pardon me,” Mr. Darcy said with genuine remorse. “I did not mean to offend. You are correct. I do not know her well enough to make these assertions. Might I remind you that you also do not know her well enough?”
“I have done much more than merely dine with her in the last few days. She has awakened parts of my soul that never knew existed. There can be no doubt about her loyalty. With her beauty and charm, she would have no shortage of wealthy suitors in any circle in which she walked. At the theatre, many gentlemen peered at her with an approving eye. Lord Harcourt did not make his admiration secret at all.”
Mr. Darcy last. “Harcourt has always loved the ladies. His admiration of Miss Elizabeth does not mean an offer would be imminent.”
“That is true,” Will conceded. “But Miss Elizabeth is hardly aware of his true nature or his reputation. Many would hear his rank and see the quality of his fashionable attire and assume he would be a worthy suitor to try to entrap. I’ve seen dozens of ladies operate similarly including the Miss Bingleys.”
“Yes. Joseph’s daughters are quite cunning.”
“Indeed.” Will sighed. “I respect you, father. However, I will choose my own bride and in my own time. There are qualities I must consider for the sake of Pemberley’s future that go beyond its purse strings. We are on the cusp of a new world and a new way of running things. Merely finding a noble daughter with a hefty dowry is not the only way to keep funds afloat.”
Mr. Darcy raised his brows. “Do you mean to suggest I married your mother simply because she was a good match?”
“Whatever feelings came after the ceremony, I believe you have confessed enough for me to say with some assurance that it was an alliance and not a love match.”
“Precisely!” Mr. Darcy nodded emphatically. “Those feelings did come after the ceremony, so why do you think they would not come for you?”
“I have never argued with you about this in the past. I appreciate that you have supported me against Lady Catherine and her desire for me to marry Anne. I know now I can never marry a woman without loving her because my heart is already engaged.”
“The reasonable, Fitzwilliam. You have known her for less than a week.”
Will rose to his feet. “And yet men that I have known for many years, perhaps even all my life, I have to question their loyalty and their character. Why do you persist and annoying George Wickham’s faults? Why are you on such friendly terms with Harcourt?
Will’s father turned red. “I do not need to make any answers to you. I cannot tell you who to marry. You have some income from your mother, but even if it were in my power to completely cut you off, I would not. You have given me no reason to distrust you, but it hurts me to hear that you do not trust my judgment. Perhaps when you are older, you shall see things differently.” Mr. Darcy hung his head.
Will took a step toward his father. “Forgive me, father. I look forward to the additional responsibilities I will receive in the autumn. Your trust means the world to me, but I will not compromise my beliefs for you.”
Mr. Darcy stood and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “No, I would not wish for you to do so. I cannot say that I approve of your choice and I caution you to not be in any rush. However, I trust you, Fitzwilliam. I will support any decision you make in this matter.” Mr. Darcy’s eyes flitted to the clock in the study. “Now is time to rejoin the ladies.”
The two men separated and returned to the dining room before announcing their intention to go to the drawing room. Will looked around the chamber and noted both Miss Bennets absent.
“Sam, where are your sisters?” Will asked.
“I have been informed by your aunt that Lizzy claimed a headache and Jane went upstairs with her.”
Sam’s attention was drawn away, but Will believed the situation unusual. He scanned the room once more and noted Miss Caroline Bingley’s pleased expression as she sat next to Lady Fitzwilliam. Will came closer to hear their conversation.
“You are so charming, Miss Caroline. I regret I was not able to speak with you more at the theatre.”
“Perhaps we may be thankful after all that Miss Elizabeth became indisposed.”
“Yes,” Lady Fitzwilliam nodded. “She surely gave her opinions most decidedly, although she was charming enough during the meal.”
“Some women can only be agreeable when there are men around to impress.”
Louisa Bingley nodded. “Oh, yes. Quite true.”
Will had heard enough. One of them, or perhaps all of them, must have made Elizabeth feel uncomfortable or regret being in their company. He would need to speak with her before retiring for the evening. While listening to Lady Fitzwilliam continue her conversation with Louisa and Caroline, Will reluctantly agreed that Sam’s arguments had some merit. None in his family would be happy for Will to marry Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Jane sat on Elizabeth’s bed. Elizabeth looked around the room inside. Had Miss Graves been correct? Could she ever grow accustomed to a life like this? Lady Fitzwilliam had not been rude to Elizabeth, but she tolerated Caroline’s rudeness, which was enough to make Elizabeth desire to avoid the company. Pleading a headache came naturally to her. For as long she could remember, her stepmother had been complaining of headaches. If she ever truly needed to, Elizabeth thought she could even pretend to swoon or have an attack of nerves.
“Are you certain you feel well, Lizzy?” Jane asked Elizabeth in concern.
“I’m quite well. I merely detest Caroline Bingley.”
Jane’s blue eyes rounded. “She is Mr. Charles’s sister. She has seemed most friendly to me.”
“She is friendly to you, my dear, because you will tolerate her. She also knows no soul in creation could speak a bad word about you. To be the friend of Jane Bennet would mean something in the world.” Elizabeth shook her head. “She gains nothing by a false friendship with me.”
“Do you really think she’s only using me?”
“She would be far more foolish than I would give her credit for if she merely used you and did not enjoy your friendship. However, I do believe she’s cunning enough to see she gains nothing from me.” Elizabeth’s lips turned up and formed a wry smile as she reconsidered. “Now that I think about it. She should be grateful for my company. I surely show the world how truly ladylike and accomplished she is by comparison to my own wild behavior.”
Jane giggled. “You are not wild. You…well, you…”
“Go on. I am waiting to hear a compliment in there,” Elizabeth laughed.
“You are rusticated!” Jane cried in triumph. “Rustic beauty is all the rage. Now, that is precisely what you are. If others cannot appreciate you as you are, then it would be no different than calling a wildflower a weed merely because it looked out of sorts in a perfectly manicured garden.” Jane nodded her head as though she completely settled the idea.
“That will not work on me,” Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “For people do call wildflower weeds.”
“Oh well, I never was the great debater.”
“It’s just as well. Mama says I am far too argumentative, and I will never catch the eye of man.”
“Oh, I think you have.”
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth fiddled with a tassel on her blanket.
“Mr. Fitzwilliam could not keep his eyes off you this evening. In fact, he seems to frequently desire to be in your company or you two go missing together entirely.”
“That was merely one time, and we wandered too far in the park. We were hardly alone.”
Jane nodded her head and bit back a smile. “And during the Sardines game?”
“I…I…I…” Elizabeth gulped. “I found a wonderful hiding place but fell asleep and awoke too late to return to the game.”
“And you did not see him at all?”
“What are you asking me, Jane?”
“I ask no questions. I merely make observations. I believe that Mr. Fitzwilliam is sweet on you.”
“That would seem quite the stretch for I have no fortune or rank, and hardly any beauty. The heir of Pemberley could certainly attract the notice of any lady.”
Jane raised a brow. “Does that mean he’s attracted yours?”
“That is not what I meant to say.”
“And yet it is exactly what you did say.” Jane chuckled and playfully nudged into Elizabeth’s shoulder.
“How should a lady act as a gentleman is sweet on her?” Elizabeth fiddled with the tassel on her blanket once more before looking up and searching Jane’s face for clues.
“I think most importantly you should not act any differently than you normally would.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, I would not want to appear to be trapping him.” Elizabeth sighed and covered her face with her hands. “Jane, I am in so far in over my head!”
“You need not be so mortified,” Jane said as she smoothed her fingers through Elizabeth’s hair. “Falling in love will happen to all of us.”
Elizabeth blushed, and her head immediately popped up to meet James gaze. “How did you know? That is to say…I…oh!”
“It must come as a shock to you because I think you would much rather have fallen in love with a poor farmer and not until your fifty than to find yourself helplessly desiring the good opinion of such a young and powerful man.”
“Indeed. I cannot fit into his world. This is madness.”
“I would not say that. You are both full young, and there is no need to rush into anything. In time, his family and friends will see how happy you make him and will support his choice. You will both learn and grow to fit into your new positions in the world. I do not doubt that my dear Lizzy could be anything she desired, including the next Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley.”
Elizabeth cocked her head to one side looked at her sister. “I had never complained about Will’s family and friends not supporting me. I think you speak from your own feelings. I have often seen you talking with Mr. Charles.” Elizabeth playfully nudged Jane.
“He is the most amiable gentleman I have ever met.”
“And that is saying something!”
“Do not tease me so. I have not known so very many gentlemen.”
“Not from lack of desire on their part, my dear. I’ve seen more than one fellow become incoherent or flee at the thought of conversing with you or merely being in the presence of your beauty.”
“I’m sure that is not true.” Jane smoothed her gown. “I would hope it’s not. I would not wish to frighten anybody.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “It would only prove how foolish and unworthy they are. So, tell me what Mr. Charles.”
Jane immediately blushed. “There’s nothing else to report. He is excessively friendly, but he is to everybody. However, I greatly enjoy his company. I will be sad when the gentlemen leave on the morrow.”
“I do not think the impending separation would affect you so much merely because he is a kind gentleman. Do you feel more for him than any other man you have known?”
Slowly, Jane nodded. “The sensations are so new. One minute I am exhilarated and can hardly catch my breath and the next I am terrified of being laughed at or being made a fool. What if the feelings are not mutual or welcome? I am not blind to his sisters’ desires for him. I know I am not rich or important enough for them. More than this, I do not know what Mr. Bingley feels.”
“I wish I had some advice for you but is entirely without my ability.”
“Yes, I should have advice for you as I am the older sister. I do not know what to say though. When I was your age, I had a gangly youth attempting to court me, but he could not speak in my presence. Instead, he would thrust ill designed posies at me when he called at our Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s house. I also had a portly gentleman nearing our father’s age attempt to write me poetry. He talked only of news and weather. My heart was in little danger of either them.”
“Would they have been suitable matches? Do you ever regret not encouraging them so that you might have a house of your own and children? It would have been the safer choice.”
“I think you have been speaking to Charlotte bit too much. She is ever prudent and practical. But I do not know that it will lead to great happiness in her life. I’d much rather be alone and happy than with the company of others that I might find tiresome.”
“But people change so much. Who we find pleasant now we might one day find tiresome. Think of our own parents.”
“It is true that sometimes after years of knowing a person they might annoy or differences of opinions of her. However, I think Mama and Papa would do more for each other now than they would have fifteen years ago.”
“I like that,” Elizabeth nodded. “I have been missing the girls while we have been away. It has occurred to me that although they are excessively noisy and bothersome when we are all at Longbourn together, I do love them dearly.”
Jane stifled a yawn. “As you are not ill, I think I had better leave you. Do not forget to pack, my dear. We will be going to the Gardiners’ after the gentlemen leave in the morning.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes. I am well on my way to finished.” She hugged her sister and said good night.
The next hour or so passed in solitude. When Elizabeth’s mother first passed away, Mr. Bennet quickly remarried. When the new Mrs. Bennet expected her first child, she found it difficult to get the adequate rest she needed with so many other children underfoot. Sam went to a nearby school while Jane and Elizabeth stayed in London with Mrs. Bennet’s brother and new bride. The Miss Bingleys had, more than once, mocked them for their address. Although the son of a solicitor, Mr. Gardner chose to enter a trade and owned warehouses near Cheapside. His residence was on Gracechurch Street. Elizabeth dearly loved her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner and did not care where they lived.
Soon, Elizabeth heard the other occupants of the house returning to the chambers and settling in for the evening. Finally finished with her packing, but unable to sleep, Elizabeth chose a book from her luggage to read. Before too many pages, someone knocked on her door.
“Enter,” she called out. She expected to see Jane or perhaps a maid.
Without looking up, Elizabeth heard the door open and close. The shuffling of feet that did not sound like Jane, or any other lady, brought Elizabeth’s head up. She started at what she saw.
Will was in her bedchamber.
Elizabeth blushed and immediately stood.
“Pardon me, I did not mean to surprise you, or intrude.” Will stammered and had a hard time meeting her eyes.”
“What are you doing here?” Elizabeth glanced toward the bed where her dressing gown laid.
“They said you were ill and I worried about you.” Will took another step closer. Elizabeth
Elizabeth smiled. “As you see I am well. I preferred my own company to some of the other ladies.”
“I’m sorry to hear that they were unpleasant. Was anyone rude to you?”
“Not particularly. Or at least not more than usual.” Elizabeth shrugged. “Why do you ask? You must tell me what happened after Sam pulled you away.”
Will gathered Elizabeth’s hands and raised each of them to kiss. Elizabeth’s heart skipped a beat, and her insides felt like jelly.
“I need to speak with you,” Will said. “But first, I need to kiss you.”
Before Elizabeth could reply, Will had gathered her in his strong arms. Thoughts of how scandalous this meeting was immediately left her mind as his lips met hers. She had never known the pleasure found in the arms of a gentleman. She also never would have thought lips could create such sheer joy or sensation. Nor had she ever expected that kissing could involve so much more than the lips.
Will’s mouth was everywhere at once, trailing down her neck to collarbone. His hands ran a frenzied path across her back and up and down her arms. The thin fabric of her night rail brushed against her skin creating goose pimples making the sensation all the more forceful. Elizabeth clung to Will, propping her arms around his neck and kneading her fingers through his hair. Will groaned and tore away from her lips. As their breathing evened, he pressed their foreheads together.
“I will never let you go. I do not care what they say. I belong with you.” To further enunciate his feelings, he squeezed her tightly.
“Will, you said that they. Has someone else spoken against us? Besides, my brother? My father?”
Will let out a low breath. He led Elizabeth to the bed and had her sit there. Then, he let go of her hand and took several steps away. “I cannot touch you and try to explain. I must think rationally. Touching you in your chamber and night rail is exceptionally dangerous to my honor right now.”
Elizabeth blushed, but secretly thrilled and knowing she could make Will come undone.
“Sam does disapprove of any match between us. However, that was not unexpected. I believe, in time, he will come around the idea. He did say he has no objection to my character. Nothing can be said for my inability to provide or to treat you well.” Will paused and frowned a moment. “My father also noted my interest in you.”
“Yes, Jane asked me about that as well.”
“Perhaps it would have been more prudent for me to conceal my affections, but I am glad others can see my obvious admiration for you. I want them to see that you are worthy of my hand.”
Elizabeth’s heart beat rapidly in her chest. She could hardly credit the words she was hearing. Will had not asked, yet, everything he said indicated he intended marriage.
“My father has expressed some concerns.” Will began to pace around the room. “Among them was the short nature of our acquaintance, but he says he will support my decision in the end.”
Elizabeth nodded. Yes, their short acquaintance was a matter of concern, but she could not deny her heart. She had not known Fitzwilliam Darcy for long, but she knew he would never give her any reason to distrust him or change her opinion of his honor. She had been wrong about him before, due to her insecurities, she would not question him again.
Will stopped in front of Elizabeth and the corners of his mouth tilted up in a light smile. “When I return from my holiday, I could visit Longbourn. There must be a house nearby I could rent, or I could stay at the inn.”
“We do have a guest room.” Elizabeth smiled at Will. “You are more than welcome to stay with us.”
“Oh, in that case,” Will grinned, “I thank you for the invitation. I will be sure to take the opportunity of convenience to be very near my intended. After a suitable amount of time, we could announce our engagement. If you do not mind a modest income of five hundred pounds a year, we might marry within the year.”
Elizabeth’s hand flew to her heart. “You are speaking of things that require questions, and you have had no answers. I believe you are getting ahead of yourself, sir.”
“Allow me to rectify that.” Will drop to one knee and took Elizabeth’s hands in his. “Marry me Elizabeth Bennet not because I am the heir to Pemberley or come from a wealthy family. Marry me because you love me as I love you. Marry me because you see the man I really am. Your support makes me a stronger and better man than I had ever dared to hope I could be. Marry me because I see who you really are and appreciate every nuance. I want to discover every new thing about you every day until I draw my last breath. Marry me because I could search my entire life and never find another lady as worthy as you.” Will raised Elizabeth’s hands to his mouth.
Elizabeth shook her head and Will immediately drew back.
“Pardon me, but I believed you would hear my proposal with enthusiasm. Do you object to something about me or the limited amount of time we have known each other? “
Elizabeth intended to hold back her laughter, but a giggle escaped. “No, not that.” She stood and threw her arms around Will. After peppering his face with kisses, she drew back. “I do love you! As terrified as I am, I will happily be your wife.” She paused as Will wrapped his arms around her waist. “I only found it amusing that not once in your well-articulated speech did you make a request. Instead, it was all demands: Marry me, marry me, marry me.”
At first, Will looked affronted, but then a smile came to his lips. “I think I will enjoy being teased by you for the rest of my life.”
“And even when admonished you still will not ask the question?”
“Oh, I have many questions. How are you so beautiful? How do you fit so perfectly in my arms?” Will nuzzled his head into Elizabeth’s hair. “How do you smell so fragrant? How soon can we marry?”
Will scooped Elizabeth into his arms and she giggled. “You are the one who told me we would have to wait for a year.”
Will laid Elizabeth down gently on the bed and sat one side. Leaning across her, he stroked her cheek before meeting her lips. “I already see how my future can be improved with a wife. You are far more intelligent on these matters than I am.”
“That is the burden I believe I can bear.”
Will wrapped his arms around Elizabeth and kissed her lips once more before bringing her head to rest on his chest. For several minutes, she listened to his heartbeat.
“I offer you my hand in marriage. If I had not one penny to my name, I would still offer it. Would that be enough for you? Will you have me? Will you marry me, sweet, sweet Lizzy?”
Elizabeth smiled against Will’s chest and pulled back to meet his eyes. “I would marry you, Fitzwilliam Darcy, if I had a thousand offers from all the richest men in the world. It is you and your heart that I love. I only tremble by being selected by so great a man.”
Gathering Elizabeth into his arms, Will pulled her to sit on his lap. Once there, she placed her arms around his neck and leaned into his kiss. Will’s hands traveled similar paths to before, up and down Elizabeth arms and back. Soon, however, his fingers caressed her shoulders and slipped underneath the fabric of her night rail, causing her to shiver and gasp. Will must have enjoyed the sensation for his kiss deepened. Soon, his lips left hers and descended her throat and across her collarbone. Will pushed the strap of her night rail to the side and he pressed a lingering kiss on the exposed skin.
Elizabeth’s heart hammered in her chest and desires she had never known before coursed through her. If Will asked for more intimacy, she would never be able to tell him no. Instead, Will ceased his movements and held Elizabeth to his chest once more.
“Soon, Lizzy. Soon.” Will press a kiss into Elizabeth’s hair. “I never thought I would find this. I never thought I could combine passion and such deep respect for one woman. I’m constantly in awe of you.”
“I feel the same way,” Elizabeth said. “However, I think you can articulate it better.”
The clock in the chamber chimed the hour, and they loosen their hold on one another. Standing, Elizabeth escorted Will to her door. “I think we will have to adjust some of your plans in the future. However, coming to Longbourn and publicly courting me there is a stroke of genius.”
“So, I cannot persuade you to smuggle yourself aboard one of our carriages and elope while we are in Scotland?” Will smirked.
Elizabeth quite loved Will’s joke. Still, she answered soberly. “We would only choose that route if we felt we had no other option because we were afraid of the consequences of facing certain people’s disapproval. I have already told your father and, now, I will tell you, I always rise to every attempt of intimidating me.”
“My avenging Goddess,” Will said and kissed her forehead. “I agree, we will give our family a chance to come to the idea of our marriage before resorting to such desperate tactics.” Will pressed lingering kiss to her lips. “But I vow, I will marry you one day Elizabeth Bennet. You are imprinted on my heart, and there is room for no other.”
Elizabeth sighed as she returned his kiss. “You have my whole heart, Will Darcy. I will never give it to another. I will wait for you. When you return to me, we will plan our future.”
Will embraced Elizabeth once more before whispering in her ear. “Fear not, my love. Fitzwilliam Darcy always gets his way, and I will find a way to marry you with the blessing of our families.”
Elizabeth nodded as she fervently believed his promise. Opening the door, she made sure the hall was empty before Will left her chamber. She fell asleep that night confident of Will’s love and knowing she needed nothing else in life.
To be continued…