(Don’t) Ask Me How I Know (One-shot)

This is “officially” a one-shot but I do have a habit of coming back to old stories. So no promises that I won’t continue it one day. This is all due to Leenie Brown and Zoe Burton demanding I write a fluffy piece. The novella I’m working on does not count as fluff, so I thought I’d try a one-shot to appease them. 🙂


(Don’t) Ask Me How I Know

 

Elizabeth Bennet sighed in frustration and told herself for the thousandth time to quit recalling the events of the day and simply go to sleep. Staying in an unfamiliar room did not help matters. Her chamber at Netherfield was very comfortable, but it was not home. Now that she had seen Jane was in no real danger with her cold, Elizabeth regretted visiting and the civility which prompted her to stay. No one besides Jane and Mr. Bingley enjoyed her presence. The Bingley sisters would never be rude to Jane, and so Elizabeth felt reasonably sure her sister would have been well tended to whether she had arrived or not.

As for Mr. Darcy… All he chose to do was stare or argue with her.

Or ask you to dance.

Annoyed, Elizabeth sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. After sliding her feet into slippers, she donned a dressing gown and tied it firmly around her waist. Lighting a candle, she left her room and returned to the drawing room. She had left some embroidery behind. Not that she typically enjoyed the activity, but it might be sleep inducing.

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After rummaging through the different work tables, Elizabeth looked through the drawers of the desk that Mr. Darcy had been seated at earlier in the evening. Finally, finding her needlework and wondering what maid would have put it away there and how aghast Miss Bingley would be at the idea of an inferior servant, Elizabeth picked it up only to see her name on a piece of paper.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet is quite the wit. She has somehow construed my words praising Bingley’s amiability into an insult which resulted in an argument about the persuasion of friends.

Elizabeth’s cheeks burned as she read Mr. Darcy’s words. She had no idea that he would include her in his letter and she blushed to consider that his sister, of whom she had heard a great deal, would know her character without ever having the benefit of meeting her. Glancing around to assure she was indeed alone, Elizabeth snatched up the letter to read more. She held it close to the dim light from her candle and although Darcy’s handwriting was quite clear the darkness made her go slowly.

The beginning of the letter contained only information about his stay at Netherfield since he last wrote and then recorded Jane and Elizabeth’s arrival. What a kind brother to include details which must be of little interest to him, but apparently interested his sister. He even described Jane and Elizabeth so Miss Darcy might have a clear image of them. Here, Elizabeth blushed again, for she did not expect Darcy calling her lovely with very fine eyes. Additionally, he praised her cleverness and abilities on the pianoforte.

Shaking her head to dispel the thoughts and strange feeling diffusing through her body, Elizabeth returned her attention to the letter. Darcy also added snippets of other conversations and gave commentary on them directed to his sister. Heat slapped her face again as mortification swept through her at the recounting of her mother and sisters’ visit. However, Darcy was kinder than she had expected and only counselled his sister to be more discreet than demanding a ball. He seemed to dwell quite some time on the need to curb one’s impulses. Elizabeth rolled her eyes considering he needed to learn the lesson as well.

At last, she reached the recounting of the evening. After the section regarding Bingley and his humility came an unexpected passage of deep reflection.

You have asked me how you should know next time when you are truly in love. Beware, my sweet sister, for you have the Darcy spirit of stubbornness. You swear now that you will never trust again and never marry. One day, however, you will find the gentleman you never thought you would.

Real, genuine love is an entirely new sensation. It steals your breath and leaves you feeling like you just ran down Thompson Hill at breakneck speed. All the while you feel a thrill and yet, in the distance lingers disaster. You will fight to keep control. In short, nothing like your feelings with W.

Soon, you will spend all your time wondering how he ever worked his way into your heart. Your pride will demand walls of defense. For example, you might think him too low. You may scrutinize his family and find them lacking all the while dismissing the prick of your conscience that others like our Aunt Catherine are no better. The harder you cling to our noble lineage the more you will know you have fallen hard.

Then, after you have pushed him away due to all your own fears and insecurities, he will hate you, and you will see how lonely your life is.

Do not ask me how I know.

I will tell you what I wish I were brave enough to do myself. Embrace this sort of love, do not fight it.

Elizabeth heard a step in the hall dropped the letter, retreated to a corner and blew out her candle. A moment later, Mr. Darcy entered with a candelabra and began rifling through the desk. Dropping to one knee, he discovered the letter on the floor. Belatedly, Elizabeth realized her snuffed candle would surely tell him someone had recently been in the room. If she could just keep quiet, she might fool him into thinking he was alone.

Darcy bent his head over the letter, rereading his lines. Elizabeth’s mind wandered. Was his gruff nature due to his tormented feelings? It was all a pretense while he fought his attraction to some lady? Could he be in love with Miss Bingley? And yet, he was never less than civil to her. The only one he had truly seemed unkind to was herself.

“Elizabeth,” Darcy said with so much anguish it tore her heart. “What am I to do without you?”

A gasp escaped her and immediately, he swung his head in her direction.

“Who is there?”

Elizabeth tried to hold her breath, but it did no good when he picked up the lamp and came nearer. She blushed and stared at her feet, unable to meet his eyes.

“Here,” he said and reached for her candle.

When his fingers brushed hers, sparks of fire shot up her arm. Her heart began to pound suddenly she felt as though she had just run down a hill. It brought her head up.

Darcy stared at her imperiously. “You should leave. It would not do to be found here with me.”

Elizabeth mutely nodded. Her throat too dry to speak.

“Be careful on the stairs,” he murmured.

“I will,” she stammered.

As she left the room, she felt his intense blue eyes watching her. When she reached her chamber, Elizabeth conceded that perhaps all the time he had seemed too unkind, he was expressing his love. The times he seemed too cold, he was attempting to restrain his feelings.

valentine invitation with hearts and red roses

All night, she thought over his words. She well understood pride and walls of defense. She understood being hyper critical. She perceived how she felt out of control the minute she had first seen Mr. Darcy’s face and tried and failed countless times to reassert dominance over her feelings.

But did danger truly lurk in the distance? What could be so very terrible about Mr. Darcy loving her or Elizabeth loving him? After reading his letter, she was persuaded she was well on her way. It had not been a sweet, gentle emotion as natural as the lapping of the tide at a beach like Jane felt for Bingley–but then she and Darcy had very different temperaments from Jane and Bingley.

If Elizabeth and Darcy acted on their attraction, would anyone be harmed? She could bring him little fortune — but he had enough for both of them. By his own pen, they both had ridiculous relatives. He had admitted to needing only more courage. Well, Elizabeth had never been accused of lacking that.

Tossing aside the counterpane for the second time that night, Elizabeth approached the small writing desk in her room.

Dear Mr. Darcy,

As you know, I stumbled across your letter to your sister. Feeling certain that although I do not know the lady, I might know more about ladies than you, I have impertinently determined to lend some assistance.

Some women know they are in love when the world stands still and they look in their beloved’s eyes. For others, it is during their first dance or unexpected touch. Still, for some, like me, it is only after they have told themselves a thousand times that they hate the man do they recognize the signs.

Yes, some women are headstrong and as bullheaded as any man. They may judge a man’s character due to prejudice and irrational beliefs. Their vanity and pride might be wounded all the while masking a heart that is afraid to trust and love.

Then, something will change. She will see the man beneath the exterior that is hidden from so many others. His every word, look, and action becomes clear in the new framework. In the face of such overwhelming love and devotion, only a cold-hearted woman could remain unmoved. Feeling assured of the secret object of her affections’ admiration, she will no longer insist on hiding them from herself.

Do not ask me how I know.

The only question remaining will be if she dares have enough courage for them both?

The sun was just beginning to rise when Elizabeth snuck out of her chamber and slid the note under Darcy’s door. As she managed to be the first to breakfast, she stayed just long enough to inform Bingley and the others that she intended to walk this morning.

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Pacing the garden, Elizabeth wondered if she made the correct choice. At last, she heard a crunching noise and turned to see Darcy walking toward her in bold strides. He reached her in a matter of seconds.

“Elizabeth,” he said breathing as heavily as if he had run to her. “Tell me how you know.” He pulled her letter from his pocket. “You said not to ask, but I must know.”

A slow smile crept across Elizabeth’s face, but she shook her head. “Is it not obvious?”

Darcy gathered her hands in his. “I will be brave enough for both of us,” he kissed each knuckle. “I love you. Will you take my hand in marriage?”

Rather enjoying his large hands wrapped around hers and thinking of the night before, her mouth went dry. Finally, she managed a nod and a weak, “I will.”

Instantly, Darcy grinned, restoring her to playfulness.

“I believe your letter said something about embracing now,” she teased.

“That it did. That it did.” Darcy pulled her into his arms and expressed himself even better with his kisses than he did in letter form.

The End

 

Love Lasts Longest- Excerpt and Giveaway!

I’m so excited to announce the release of my latest book, a collection of short stories! They were loads of fun to write and I think you’ll enjoy reading them too! As a busy woman I’ve got so many things to do when I get a break in the day it’s not for very long. I was always the type to have a book at my side, even while waiting for the doctor, but I HATE having to put it away. I ALWAYS get interrupted at the good part!! These short stories are designed to fill those few moments of quiet time you have when instead of playing candy crush or thumbing through a left over magazine caked in germs, you can dive into the world of Darcy and Elizabeth for a quick swim of refreshing romance.

Here’s an excerpt from Tolerable Feelings.

LLL_finalBlurb for Tolerable Feelings: When Charles Bingley accidentally tears Jane Bennet’s gown at their first encounter, they must wed to save her reputation—or so Mrs. Bennet says. What can it mean for Darcy and Elizabeth if the issue of Jane and Bingley’s marriage is not a source of disagreement?

*****

March 2, 1812

Bingley residence, London

“Eliza! Are you certain you must leave Town on the morrow to spend so much time in Kent? You will be missing much of the Season, and Colonel Brandon seems quite taken with you!”

Elizabeth quelled the urge to roll her eyes at Caroline. They had both been staying with the Bingleys for several months, and Caroline assumed a false closeness with her. “I will be very happy to visit my friend and enjoy all Kent has to offer. I am certain Colonel Brandon will find other agreeable company.”

Caroline tsked. “Always so imprudent. First rejecting the parson, resulting in your mother’s insistence in your banishment from your family home, and now spurning a wealthy and agreeable suitor.”

“He is hardly a suitor. Mere dances are not the same as paying court.”

Instead of replying, Caroline declared a desire to perform on the pianoforte. After she left, Darcy took her place and spoke with Elizabeth.

“Did you enjoy the evening?” They had just returned from a ball in Town and now were having a light supper at Jane and Bingley’s house.

“It was certainly tolerable.” Darcy grinned, and Elizabeth smiled at the sight. She could not understand why he was never provoked by her teasing but was pleased she could always humour him.

“Do you truly look forward to your holiday in Kent?” He studied his hands before adding, “Or do you only desire a change in companionship?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I do miss Charlotte, and I am always curious to see more of the world. As for my London companions, I find them all excessively agreeable, save one. I do not know why she dislikes me so!”

They both looked towards Caroline, who narrowed her sharp eyes at them. “Perhaps she is jealous of certain friendships you have established.”

“A friendship is hardly the sort of thing Caroline is likely to be jealous over.”

Certain friendships easily inspire jealousy,” he said gravely, and when Elizabeth turned to see his face, she was surprised to see an unmistakable look of admiration in his eyes.

She said nothing as her heart beat faster. Surely he could not be implying he cared for her! Why, they had been friends for months now, and he never said a thing!

Before she could gather her wits, Darcy spoke. “How long will you be at Hunsford?”

“I am to remain six weeks.”

Darcy grinned. “I have recently had a letter from my aunt and conferred with my cousin. We are to visit her for Easter.”

Elizabeth smiled. Darcy’s presence would be an agreeable addition to what otherwise would likely be mostly ridiculous company. They moved to the coffee table to refill their cups.

“My sister will miss your friendship in your absence.” She reached for his cup, and his hand lingered on hers for a moment. “May I hope you will miss certain friendships as well?”

Elizabeth could hardly breathe. He removed his hand, but hers now felt afire. Dropping her eyes, she managed to reply, “Yes, I will.”

She heard a quick intake of breath and gathered courage to look at him. Although he tried to hide it, she easily noticed his smile. “I wish you a very enjoyable stay then.”

Before Elizabeth could make sense of why the candles all seemed to burn brighter, the music sounded sweeter, and all the company more enjoyable, Darcy was making his apologies to his hosts. Unaware of her eagerness to catch one last glimpse of him, her eyes locked with his before he left with a slight smile on his face.

****

Ah! So sweet! But can it really be that simple for them? You’ll have to find out what happens in Kent!

Amazon is still working on linking the pages, so for now it’s separate.

Kindle

Paperback

It is in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means I can’t sell it on other vendors for 90 days.

Giveaway

I’m giving away 2 ebooks, open international. Comment below to be entered. Entries close Sunday, September 27, 9:59 pm EST. It’s not a lot of time, but I’m going to be out of town all of next week and want it taken care of before I leave.

Come What May- Modern P&P short story

So, I just tried linking this over on my facebook launch party for A Sense of Obligation page and it won’t let me load documents and it’s far too long to put in a single post. This short story will appear in my next release, which is a collection of short stories. Look for it around September!

*Please tell me if you’d like an epub or mobi file of this story.

working cover

Come What May

A Modern Pride and Prejudice Short Story

Elizabeth Bennet awoke the morning of her wedding day to her mother shrieking. Why had she decided to marry from her home? Her mother took great pride in the gardens and they were beautiful, but if they had married from anywhere else Elizabeth may have won the battle about staying in her own apartment her last night as a single woman.

“Mrs. Darcy!” her mother screamed outside her childhood bedroom she had shared with Jane. Seeing her sister still asleep, she tossed a pillow at her head.

“Hey!” Jane said, her pretty blonde hair still in place.

“Up! It will take hours and hours to get you ready! You have an appointment with the hairdresser in seventy minutes! Lord knows if you’re not perfect he will probably leave you right there at the altar and then think of what the neighbors will say? And the cost! How can you be so selfish, Lizzy? Get up now!”

“Mom, William would never do that. He loves Lizzy.”

Their mother had already left the room, but Elizabeth gave Jane a hug. “Are you sure you’re okay with seeing Charles again?”

“Of course, I am.”

Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. She was less certain her sister’s fragile heart had wholly mended after the terrible breakup with her on again off again boyfriend of the last year. Jane still hadn’t told her everything that happened at the rehearsal dinner, but just when Elizabeth expected Charles to propose, Jane was saying they had broken up for good. But, he was Will’s best man and it was rather late to do anything about it. Sighing, she headed to the shower.

Seventy minutes later, Elizabeth and her four sisters arrived at the salon. After a manicure and pedicure, she sat in the chair for her hair. Being a low maintenance girl, she asked for a simple, sophisticated pony tail with shiny curls. With a sinking feeling, she saw her mother speaking with the manager and shoving a manila folder, undoubtedly full of pictures of more elegant hairstyles, into the woman’s hands. Determined to not let all the wedding fuss get to her, she resigned herself to whatever her mother ordered. The woman approached Elizabeth with trepidation.

“Miss Bennet, I’m so sorry but your mother…”

“It’s perfectly alright. Really, just as long as it fits under my grandmother’s veil, I don’t care.”

The woman let out a deep breath. “If you’re certain…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay, then…” she trailed off as the receptionist from the front called her forward. “Please excuse me for just a moment.”

Elizabeth popped in the ear buds to her ipod and was content to listen to her favorite mix until the woman returned, again with a look of trepidation.

“It seems that we have double booked the salon this morning by accident and are understaffed. The other bride’s wedding is an hour before yours…”

“Oh, it’s no problem! My mother planned on everything taking so long. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of time. We’ll just dress first.”

“Thank you for being so understanding. If you need anything, please let Kelly up front know.”

The manager left, and Elizabeth turned to tell her mother the change of plans. In a matter of minutes, her father arrived with the bridesmaids dresses and the ladies took turns popping in and out of the restroom in the back. When Lydia came out first, Elizabeth was confused.

“Lyddie…what are you wearing?”

“The rockin’ dress you picked out! Way to go Lizzy!”

“This isn’t what Jane and I agreed on.”

“Huh…well, it’s awesome. Look at my legs They’re going to look even better in these heels!”

Elizabeth sighed and was silently thankful her sister was at least over eighteen now. “Jane?” She called to her sister who was chewing her nails and trying to not look guilty. “What happened?”

“Well, you had to leave the appointment early!”

“I was taking my master’s examinations! It was kind of an important thing!”

“It’s just after you left the attendant said they couldn’t have that dress for another six weeks, but they had these, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get bother you, and you had gone on and on about how you didn’t care about things like that. So I text Carrie and…”

“You let CAROLINE BINGLEY select the bridesmaids dresses in my wedding to the man she nearly stalked for years?”

“Come on! You know she never stalked him! She loved him. And you don’t know what loving someone who doesn’t love you back can do! You don’t know!” Jane burst into tears, and Elizabeth’s anger died. The dresses were cute. She’d wear them to a party. They would totally steal the show from her understated bridal gown, but what did she care? She got the man, and she had made her sister cry.

Jane took a deep breath and composed herself. “I’m so sorry, Lizzy! I shouldn’t be crying on your wedding day!”

“Jane, honey. It’s okay. I’m sorry for snapping at you. The dresses are beautiful. Here, you go next for your hair.”

Elizabeth was attempting to put mascara on and wondering how women didn’t poke their eyes out with the wand when her sister, Kate, began sneezing.

“Kate, you need to stop that sneezing. You’ll ruin the wedding,” her mother chided.

“I’m not doing it on purpose!” she wailed and Elizabeth saw that her eyes were puffy and redrimmed as well.

“Are you okay, Kate?”

“I was fine until the bouquets were brought in.”

“What do you mean? Why were they brought here?”

“We have to get ready for everything here!” her mother replied. “Now, Will’s sister and aunts should be arriving any minute now. The photographer is here already so we can take pictures of all the primping!”

Elizabeth began to wonder how many wedding planning movies her mother watched during her engagement. She was relishing this entire ordeal far too much. Kate began scratching at her arms. Elizabeth’s eyes went wide.

“Kate, I think you’re allergic to something.”

“Your grandma Glenda was allergic to some flowers like that.”

This is not happening, Elizabeth thought. “Do you know which kind?”

“Chrysanthemums, mostly.”

“Chrysanthemums!” Elizabeth gasped. “I picked that kind because you said they were Grandma Glenda’s favorite.”

“Why would I say that? She never cared for flowers much.”

“I asked if there were any flowers she was particularly fond of or not fond of and…” she trailed off. She had been so scatter brained planning this wedding and studying for her finals and worrying about defending her thesis. Her mother would have answered Chrysanthemums to that question, and Elizabeth would have understood only what she wished.

Mary, who had been overhearing the concern, came forward. “Well, we just won’t have bouquets then. I think this entire wedding thing is far too gaudy.”

“No bouquets!” their mother shouted. “No, we’ll think of something! And what did I tell you about that eyeliner today? Take it off!”

Mary glared before scampering off to redo her makeup. She enjoyed pretending she was somewhat “goth” and eschewed all things mainstream, but when it came down to it, Elizabeth thought Mary just liked the attention and wasn’t that committed to the philosophy. Their mother corralled the other girls to get the bouquets out of the shop.

Will’s sister, adopted aunts and cousin arrived at just that moment, followed by Elizabeth’s aunt, Meg Gardiner. “Oh, Meg!” her mother cried. “We all in an uproar. Kate has my mother’s allergies to Chrysanthemums—which Lizzy never would have ordered if she would have let me plan the whole thing but she was so headstrong—well, never mind. We can’t have a speck of them around today, and now there’s nothing for the girls to carry!”

“The wedding of William Darcy is the most talked about event this season. It is imperative it does not appear as some kind of thrown together backyard barbeque!” Will’s “Aunt” Cathy declared. Her daughter, Anne, giggled. “What are you laughing about?”

“I was looking up bouquet alternatives on my phone. Here’s one for wine corks. I think us Fitzwilliam ladies might be able to gather up enough.”

Cathy blushed. “Hush, Anne. You know the doctor even recommends a glass or two of wine at dinner each night.”

“Uh huh,” Anne said and bit back a smile.

“Elizabeth,” a hairdresser called her name. It was finally her turn. Aunt Meg walked to her.

“Go, we will find an alternative. Nothing will ruin this day. Relax!” The two women hugged, and Elizabeth took a deep breath to calm her nerves.

Upon sitting in the chair, she wished her hairdresser would do the same. The woman was young, exhausted and clearly frazzled.

“Just like in the picture?” she asked.

“Yep, that’s fine.”

“Okay, then,” and the woman set to work.

Elizabeth popped in her ear buds and tried not to notice what seemed like an inordinate amount of pulling and hairspray. When the stylist at last got her noticed so she could look at the finished product, she was speechless. There was something that was supposed to be either beehive or a victory roll protruding from the side of her head, and she had a braid wrapped around her forehead.

“Mama!”

The woman came dashing over. “Oh, Lizzy! You’re so beautiful!” Tears welled in her eyes. Aunt Meg came just behind her with the veil ready to pin it in place.

“You truly are lovely, Lizzy.”

“Aunt Meg…” She stopped as she looked at her mother again.

“It is just like how I pictured it.”

Elizabeth put on a fake smile, to please her mother, and was thankful she had noted to the photographer she liked a lot of silhouette poses.

“Lizzy, you’ve got to move, now.” There would have been no time to redo the hair even if she wished it. She was shoved toward the bathroom and shimmied into her proper undergarments and gown. At least this went as she had planned. Almost. First she fell in love with a short, swingy number but her mother insisted her gown needed more lace. Then, she adored an all lace sleeveless gown with a bare back. It was sleek and sexy. Will was certain to love it. Her mother declared it was too modern. In the end, Lizzy chose a classic A-line white satin gown with a v-neck front and lace sleeves. It wasn’t her first choice, but it was perfect.

She piled in the car with Jane and Will’s sister, Gina- no limo was rented since she intended to get ready at her home- and was handed a beautiful bouquet made from vintage brooches. “Anne found the idea online and then Aunt Ellen and Cathy had someone pick up some of their old ones. These here,” she pointed to several stunning pieces, “were my mother’s. Several are from your grandmother as well.”

Elizabeth blinked back tears. She couldn’t think of a more meaningful bouquet to carry, and it would last forever. The car pulled up, and she could see they were the last to arrive. Will’s cousin, Richie, greeted them.

“Glad you ladies decided to show up!”

“Very funny, Rich. Is everything set?”

“Yes, but I think if you don’t start walking down that aisle Caroline is going to usurp your place.”

Elizabeth frowned. “Someone told Will, right?”

“Yes, he knows. He looks like he’s going to pass out, but that’s just his usual ‘being in front of people’ face.”

“Well, let’s put him out of his misery, shall we? Daddy?” Elizabeth asked while searching for her father. Her mother began shooing everyone in their places, and the groomsmen appeared to seat her and Will’s aunts.

“Honey bee, I didn’t tell you last night because I didn’t want to worry you, but now I hope you can contain your reaction. Pastor Ron called last night. He’s in the hospital with food poisoning.”

“Oh no! Is he going to be okay?”

“Yes, he’s doing much better.”

“I’m glad to know it. Since the wedding is still going on, I assume you found a replacement?”

“I did…” he prevaricated and Elizabeth narrowed her eyes.

“Daddy?”

“He is…well, uh…more impressive than you might guess.”

Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth shrugged. “As long as it’s legal, I don’t care.” It was beginning to be her mantra for the whole event.

The bridesmaids had gone down the aisle and the song she selected for her bridal march began. They walked arm in arm and turned the corner to go down the aisle. The attendees stood, and there was an audible gasp. Elizabeth chuckled. There was nothing else to do about it.

Her eyes met Will’s. If he could make out her unique hairstyle, he didn’t seem to care at all. And she knew he wouldn’t. All he wanted was to marry her and begin their lives. This ceremony was entirely for her own vanity and to please their family. She really ought to know better by now. Her vanity nearly cost her everything with Will. But then, he had been stupid and proud too.

At last she was in front of her love. He mouthed the words “I love you,” to her and it was only because she was so impatient to be at his side that she paid attention to the minister at all. She listened for the cue on when her father would place her hand in Will’s and give her a kiss. Suddenly she realized the minister dropped his r’s completely. Not in a Boston way…but in a very impressive clergyman way. She and Will tore their eyes from one another at the same time to take in the officiant.

He looked exactly like the pseudo-Medieval minister from the movie The Princess Bride. It had to be a joke. Priests didn’t still dress like that! Beside her, she felt her father laughing. His breathing was hard, but he didn’t let a sound escape. Just when she wanted to step on his toes for playing such a trick on her, she glanced at Will again. He had a small smile on his face, and his eyes shone with amusement. She couldn’t help but join in. Her shoulders heaved up and down and from behind she supposed it looked like she was crying, but she contained her laughter.

At last her father kissed her cheek and took his seat. Will grasped her hands and leaned in and whispered, “Do you think we could just skip to the end?”

Elizabeth had to bite her cheek to not laugh. From behind Will, she heard Richie cough but it sounded suspiciously like “Say, man and wife.”

She grinned and shook her head. Somehow, they made it through the ceremony without collapsing in laughter. After ceremony pictures went quickly but Elizabeth rolled her eyes at the number of times Lydia was called to attention from flirting with a groomsman. Jane and Charlie did their best to avoid one another, but nobody missed the awkwardness between them. Aunt Catherine knew the best poses for everyone, of course.

Finally, they made their way to the reception. They nearly chose a mash up of songs for their first dance but then decided upon “Come What May” as it seemed to capture their route to the altar; everything was worth it. She expected her new husband to be a ball of nerves, but he was nearly as calm as he had ever been.

“You’re not nervous?” she asked Will as they were alone on the floor.

“I hope you are not consulting your own feelings with that question. It wouldn’t do for a bride to feel nervous with her groom.”

Smiling at the tease, she replied, “I’m not even sure that ceremony was legal. Daddy told me the pastor got sick, and he found a replacement, but I can’t imagine how he found someone with a costume like that!”

“I’ve been told your father called Rich…who knows all kinds of people. I asked no other questions but to confirm that the ceremony was valid. But you have not answered my question.”

She laughed. “Today has been long and trying with surprises at every turn, but the only feeling I have right now is happiness and completeness. Will, when I think of what I almost threw away…”

He silenced her with a gentle kiss, their guests cheered. “You know I bear most of the blame. Today is for new beginnings.”

Elizabeth couldn’t agree more and returned the kiss. Upon breaking it, her eyes landed on an unexpected person. “Is that why you invited George Wickham?”

“We can’t keep them apart, Lizzy. If I kept George from Lydia, it would be no better than when I tried to separate Charles and Jane. We can’t decide what is best for others.”

“Yes, but she’s so young!”

“He stayed away until she turned eighteen. She has her whole life ahead of her!”

“She may not want what you want.”

“You didn’t think that was enough when it was your sister he was trying to feel up.”

“I was wrong to let my grudge get in the way for them if they could have waited until she was older. You taught me true forgiveness. But Gina is happy now.”

Elizabeth looked at the young women in question. Gina was talking with guests, something she was surprised to see. When they had first met, she was terribly shy. She also knew how excited Gina was to begin college in the fall. Lydia declared she wanted to take a year off and travel with some friends or work before trying to settle down and think about a career. She wondered too if some of Lydia’s behavior the last few months had more to do with trying to forget her feelings for George.

“I guess you’re right. It’s their lives…” She trailed off and bit her lip. “Do you know what happened with Charlie and Jane? Jane won’t tell me anything.”

Will rubbed the back of his neck. “I think maybe I had a hand in that?”

“What did you do?”

“Charlie wanted to practice his proposal and I may have given him a nudge with certain wording. I’m not sure it came out well.”

“Will! Why would you try to help there? If you were the last man in the world, I wouldn’t ask you for speaking advice.”

His grip on her waist tightened a bit. “You’ve obviously amended some of your other ideas on what you’d do with me as the last man in the world.”

She sighed. “You’re right. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.”

He leaned his forehead against hers. “I may need that in writing.” She laughed and he kissed her forehead. “I promise to help Charlie with Jane. If they’re meant to work things out, a poor choice of words can’t stand between them.”

“I suppose you know that from experience.”

“I certainly do.”

“Hmm…I like the sound of that. I do. The best words I’ve ever said.”

“I was thinking after the speech.”

“After the speech, what?”

“After the speech you could bring Jane to a certain spot, and I could get Charlie there and then they could talk.”

“You’re going to try and patch this up during the wedding?”

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Ask me that some other day. This dance is the only thing that’s gone right!” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Well, and you being there, of course.”

She worried he might be offended, but he just laughed. “I love your fierce loyalty and sense of justice, Lizzy.”

The dance ended and soon they were seated at the head table. Rich leaned over and said that it was time for the speech. Charlie wasn’t at his seat and before they could even look for him in the crowd, Aunt Cathy was taking the microphone from the DJ. Elizabeth held her breath. The woman made no secret of her dislike of all things Elizabeth Bennet, although she seemed had seemed helpful earlier today at the salon.

“Willie was just a teenager when he came to live with me,” she said and Will blushed red. “His mother was always like a sister to me and I was humbled they left Will and Gina in my care. I know there were times in life when I was hard on him. I always expected him to make his parents proud. There have been times when I’ve disagreed with how he did that, but I always wanted what was best for him. Will, I know your parents would be proud of all you’ve accomplished and very pleased with Elizabeth because she makes you so happy. Congratulations to you both.”

It was as near a blessing on their marriage as they would probably ever get from her, and when put that way, Elizabeth found a great deal of compassion for the woman. They stood in unison and walked to her, hugging her tightly until she pushed back and playfully smacked Will’s arm.

Soon, dinner was being served, and they returned to their seats. Jane and Charlie appeared hand in hand. Elizabeth immediately pulled Jane to her side. “Tell me everything now!”

Jane blushed. “I was so silly, Lizzy! He was trying to propose!”

“Of course he was! But what made you angry?”

“Well, he started off with ‘There comes a time when you realize you’re going to have to settle’ and I thought he meant he was settling for me, and I just ran away before he could say anything else!”

“He would never mean that!”

“No, that’s what he said when I finally let him talk to me tonight. You don’t mind do you?” She held up her hand to show Elizabeth her engagement ring.

“No! I’m thrilled for you!” The sisters hugged. “So what was he trying to say?”

“He said he was explaining that he was beginning to think he was going to have to settle for something less than what he hoped for in life, that he couldn’t have it all. Then he met me.”

“I knew you would work it out!” Elizabeth was soon called away to greet other guests, but she thought between marrying her best friend and her sister’s engagement, nothing could make today better.

Before she knew it, it was time to cut the cake. Her mother insisted they do the Southern tradition of a cake pull, and the single ladies all gathered around. Lydia pulled a hot air balloon, prefect for her desire to travel. Gina pulled a flower-meaning blossoming, love. She blushed before glancing at one of the guests she had been chatting with. Caroline got a star, and Elizabeth found she truly wished all of Caroline’s dreams would come true…as long as they had nothing to do with Will Darcy. Jane pulled the ring, of course, she would be the next to marry. The other charms were less symbolic- meaning things about happiness, security and longevity.

The single ladies were already gathered, so the bouquet toss was next. She hoped her friend, Charlotte would catch it but decided against aiming for her. She tossed it high, and there was a bit of a struggle, Caroline and a woman named TaNeshia knocking each other out of the way for it. Anne had just reached out her hand in response to Caroline falling over when the bouquet landed right in her arms. Elizabeth thought Anne looked mortified, but Aunt Cathy smiled as though there was more to the tradition than just an old wives’ tale on who would marry next.

The garter toss had an entirely different feeling to it. Will’s eyes never left hers as his hand slipped under her dress and seemed to travel far too high for where she had the garter directly above her knee at. His look conveyed the promise that they would be leaving very soon. As he tossed it over his shoulder, Elizabeth was struck with the awkwardness of her husband throwing her garments at other men. Strangely, the only one who seemed interested in it was her father’s junior partner, who she always found rather creepy, Bill Collins. He lunged and tripped over Rich’s feet. The garter hit him in the chest, and he caught it by reflex.

During the obligatory subsequent dance, Will whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. “Anne has been in love with Rich forever. I was sworn to secrecy, I hope she doesn’t read more into this than he means.”

Elizabeth looked at the dancing couple. “I don’t know. Rich seems to be enjoying himself. Didn’t you say earlier we have to let others live their lives?”

“I did. Will you choose now to learn of my infinite wisdom?”

“If you’re so wise then why do you keep our honeymoon destination a secret from me?”

“For the surprise, darling.”

She would argue more, but she loved it when he called her darling. The next song came on, which was to be the final one and instead of the DJ’s voice, they heard Mary’s over the microphone. “We’re closing out tonight with what I call Ode to Mainstream Mix.”

Elizabeth groaned as Lydia’s favorite dance came on, and she began twerking with George. She truly thought she might be nauseaus, but then she saw Aunt Cathy attempting it and began laughing. The entire crowd danced in tandem to other overdone songs such as the Macarena and the Electric Boogie before finishing it up with the Chicken Dance.

Finally, Will was pulling her to the door. His red, convertible mustang was just outside. Their family surged forward for hugs and kisses, they would be gone for a month. And then, it was just the two of them, driving into the night.

“Will you tell me where we’re going now?” Lizzy asked while she unpinned her hair and shook it free, letting it whip in the wind.

“No, because it’s up to you.”

“What?”

“Look in the glove box.”

She opened it up and found information for Italy and Hawaii. “Oh, Will! How am I going to choose?”

“Well, I thought we’d do one for our honeymoon and then go away again before school starts again for you.”

“It seems like too much!”

“Making you happy is never too much.” He pulled off the road and pulled into a hotel lot. “But for tonight, we will be staying here and I plan to make you very, very happy several times.”

“Will,” she scolded and blushed, but it secretly thrilled her when he talked that way.

He checked them in and led them up to their room. In the elevator, he pulled her close. The kiss started with her hand. He turned it over, he kissed her palm and then lingered on her wrist, making her pulse race. His lips had just met hers when the door opened. Without breaking the kiss, he led them to their room. When his head fell down to her neck while still in the door way, she pulled away just enough to shut the door.

Elizabeth awoke the next morning to her husband kissing her awake. Raining kisses over her face, he started with her eyelids which fluttered open to see his beaming smile and ended with her ear. It was a good thing their flight time was so flexible…