Friday, 6th November 1812
The night has come that I must bid goodbye to the life I have known as Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn. It is past midnight, and everything is quiet in the house. It is strange that a house so full of people in daytime, with so many guests, with so many noises and faces and movements seems almost deserted now. Even Jane, the other bride, is fast asleep. I hear her breathing, I see her peaceful face smiling a little, as if enjoying the pleasantest, sunniest dream. And it is only I who cannot surrender to Morpheus, who is so restless that I cannot even pretend to lie on my bed.
It is a price I am willing to pay for my happiness. My mood is so strange tonight. I long for tomorrow with a yearning that is completely unreasonable. Only few hours are separating me from joining the man I love at the altar, and yet I am afraid that time will play a trick on me and stop, and I will stay a prisoner in this night forever. And yet, the clock says that the minutes are passing. I can breathe in relief, I suppose. How silly I must appear!
However, this trepidation, this longing is mixed with a feeling of homesickness. How can I be homesick when I have not even left my home? The fearless Lizzy, who is never intimidated and whose courage rises with every challenge, will shed some tears tomorrow when she leaves her home to go to the north.
Mistress of Pemberley indeed! I remember how I felt when I first beheld its sight. It took my breath away. I stood in complete awe! And now, I will become familiar with it. It will be my home, replacing Longbourn in my heart. I will find favorite little places, favorite paths, favorite flowers, rooms, furniture, smells. This is indeed beginning my life anew! Every woman in the ton envies me, and yet I believe I would be terrified at the prospect of all these changes—if it were not for him.
Fitzwilliam approached me tonight after dinner. We hardly shared any words together all day—and I am afraid we scarcely had any time together at all since we returned from London, but I always felt his presence—loving, reassuring—as if he were my ally in all this chaos, ready to save me and escape with me, if needed. Today, in particular, he was so discreet. He was here since early in the morning, along with his set of guests. I believe Mama has never prepared a dinner for so many, but even the Earl was impressed by our hospitality, if not our meals in the end. But it was not until after dinner that he sought me out. Then, I hardly know how he did it, we found ourselves alone in front of the staircase. He smiled conspiratorially, and I laughed, yet it was such a nervous, spiritless laugh, and so unlike me, that he turned immediately serious.
“You are very quiet today, Elizabeth,” he observed.
“I am trying to be, sir. In a house so full, are we not grateful for those who speak less.”
He laughed. “No, madam, you are inconstant. The Meryton Assembly was full of people and there was music that added to the general noise, and yet you disliked me exceedingly for doing my duty and standing as quietly as I could.”
That at least produced a heartfelt laugh on my part. “You are quite right, Fitzwilliam. I was young and naïve. Had I experienced all these preparations before that fateful night, I would have been more favorably disposed towards you.”
“I believe I am quite glad you knew nothing of the bustle of the wedding preparations, even if that resulted in your prejudices against me. The mere idea that you could have been engaged to someone else before I knew you…” he turned very serious and averted his eyes, but I saw the look of anxiety in them and almost shivered.
I came closer to him and put my arms on his shoulders. His eyes still refused to meet mine, and his arms made no movement to embrace me. “My love, I was…My teasing was silly and insensitive. But, do you not see? My heart is yours, as if it were destined to be so before either of us was even born. It is true, I did not know it a year ago, but now I do. I could never, ever love anyone as much as I love you. I would have waited patiently had you not come to me. My heart would have waited. Had a smart lady of the ton trapped you into a marriage of convenience, I would have ended a very peculiar and unsatisfied old maid.”
His eyes looked deep into mine, and his lips were ever so slightly parted. He wore an expression of mild wonder—indeed, he always was the most eloquent in our professions of love, and I felt a little shy for having been so bold, so I dropped my eyes. His hand was on my cheek, his fingers caressing me almost hesitatingly.
“My heart,” he whispered, “my life.”
I could not but lift my face after such endearments, and his expression made me press my body against his and bury my head on his chest and lose myself in his embrace, for his arms were finally around my waist, encircling me in the way that made me feel safe, as if I were at home.
“Forgive me,” he murmured against my head. “I love you so much, and I have feared of losing you for so long. I never doubted you, never, Elizabeth.” Then he bent to kiss me. His lips assaulted mine so passionately that I left my body’s weight in his hands. His grip tightened as he went on, tasting me and letting me taste his flavor, languidly and yet with some fervent urgency, as if trying to reassure some secret fear. I understood him, for as soon as our kiss ended, before I even recovered my breath, I hurried to speak to him in a small voice.
“I love you. We are both in strange moods today, Fitzwilliam. It is because of tomorrow. All that will be new and…”
I stopped as I recalled that nothing was new for him. His status has always been grand. Pemberley was his childhood home. I hoped he would not notice my concern. I did not wish to burden him with my uneasiness, when he seemed tormented enough himself.
“My dearest Fitzwilliam, it appears that I cannot utter two sound words together this evening. Your company is too distracting, I am afraid,” I said in a light tone, but his face remained somber. I sighed, because I knew from the beginning that it would be impossible to tell him anything but the exact truth. He could read my soul even better than I. How was I to conceal anything from him?
“Very well, Fitzwilliam. I have been thinking of my new home and my new position in society, and all the new things in general. I do love variation, and I cannot wait to be your wife, but it is only natural to be overwhelmed, is it not?”
The moment I had said “your wife” all his features relaxed, and he was smiling when I ended my speech. “Of course it is, my darling. I am overwhelmed myself.”
I had such a look of puzzlement on my face that he burst out laughing. His laughter was the best medicine for all the gloominess around us. Every tension was gone, and I could not remember ever feeling uneasy about anything.
“But Fitzwilliam,” I said playfully, “you have always been Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.”
“But I have never been your husband before, Elizabeth. That is my most important role now, the core around which I am building my life. I will see Pemberley so differently—not as the estate I inherited as a son, but as the home we will share and where we will raise our children. I will care for my duties there not for my personal pride or to honor my father’s memory, but as the means of bringing you prosperity. I will strive to guess your wishes, to make you comfortable, to keep you safe and protected and happy for a lifetime. That is all new to me, Elizabeth, and I will do it with all my heart. But,” he added with mock terror, “it does not appear very easy, does it?”
“I am not sure about duties, but as for keeping me happy, it must come very naturally to you, sir. Unless you tell me that you rehearse such wonderful speeches.”
“You are my muse, Elizabeth. As we both know, usually I am pathetically tongue-tied.”
“It is a privilege, then, that I am the only one privy to the eloquent aspect of your character. I would not want to share such discourse with anyone.”
He kissed my brow—it was a kiss and a sigh of relief combined.
“I missed you today,” I told him, still safely in his embrace. “I thought we would never find ourselves alone.”
“It was torment for me as well, my love, but it is better this way. Your father asked you to be with him at every opportunity today. Did you not see it? He misses you before you are gone. I, who am going to take his joy from his house, and keep her with me forever, how can I be selfish and deny him this last day?”
If all his previous words had not succeeded in making me cry, those did. He allowed me, sweeping away the tears silently when they blurred my vision. “You are the best man I know, Fitzwilliam. The most generous…the most kind-hearted…”
“For you, my darling. Everything I am and will ever be, it is because of you and for you. You are the making of me.”
“I love you,” I said quietly, and we silently held each other until my father came out and asked me to join him. He did not seem annoyed or surprised to find us in each other’s arms, Fitzwilliam’s hands caressing up and down my back. He only cleared his throat, and said, “Elizabeth, I cannot remember the title of that book we were discussing yesterday. The Earl seems impressed by my description, but I can neither locate it nor recall the name. Will you please help me?”
I think that Fitzwilliam winked at me when he released me.
I wonder what he is doing now. I am sure that he cannot sleep any more than I can. Is he gazing out of the window? Pacing up and down the room? Drinking some port with Mr. Bingley?
No, I prefer the idea of him being alone and thinking of me, as I do of him. If I close my eyes, I see him, I see tomorrow, I see our future. Is he yearning for me as I am for him?
I have been imprudent enough, staying up so late. It will not do to look ugly because of lack of sleep on my wedding day. Mama will never have it, and I could never bear to disappoint my fiancé. So I will lie on my bed and close my eyes tightly and try to think of nothing until I surrender to the sweet numbness.
Before that, I will sign, for the last time,
Elizabeth Viola Bennet
Darcy sat by the window of the library, his port in hand, and gazed into the heavy darkness outside. It was a moonless night, and the stars appeared very clearly in the sky. His eyes sought Polaris, so strangely detached from the rest, a unit that stood alone in the chaos of universe. He always felt a kind of sympathy for it, as he considered that it reflected his life very well. He was always surrounded by so many people, but deep in his heart, he was painfully aware of his loneliness, ever since his childhood. But now, Elizabeth had come into his life, and the feeling of dissatisfaction, of being incomplete, had been replaced by the utter joy of his soul as it sought out hers. His mind, his heart, everything in him had found in her its mate, its equal, and he was no longer alone.
“I say, Darcy, you seem very calm. Astonishingly calm, considering that tomorrow is such a day. Do you not feel the slightest nervousness? You sit over there and look at God knows what in that darkness, and you do not need to talk about anything at all. Just like every other night. How do you do that? I want to know!” Bingley said, taking large sips of his third glass of port.
Darcy would have infinitely preferred to be left alone with his thoughts, but he could not find it in his heart to abandon his friend, who was in such evident need of some company. He suspected that if Charles had to spend the night on his own, he would drink so much that he would not be able to stand at the altar in the morning, and he did not cherish the idea of being accused again of separating Bingley and Miss Bennet.
“My friend, this is not a usual night for me, either. If it were, I would be sound asleep at such an hour.”
Bingley conceded the point. But then, as another idea forced itself on his mind, he said, “But you do not appear nervous or frightened.”
“I am not frightened. Why should I be? Surely you are not, either.”
There was no answer.
Charles averted his eyes.
“Bingley, look at me. What can possibly intimidate you? Surely not Miss Bennet.” Suddenly, he wondered if Elizabeth’s sister hid a very different personality under her calm exterior and unvarying sweetness.
“No, no,” Mr. Bingley denied passionately. “Jane is angelic as ever. So pure, so innocent. Oh God, what am I going to do tomorrow night?”
Mr. Darcy wanted to be very sympathetic to his friend, but he could barely hide his smile. “I am very certain, old friend, that you know exactly what to do tomorrow night. If we compare our past, I am by far the one who would need moral support.”
“Exactly!” Bingley’s eyes were sparkling, and Darcy moved decidedly towards him and took his glass away from him. “Why do you not need it?” Charles continued, unperturbed.
“This is ridiculous. I did not tolerate this kind of talk, not even back at Cambridge, and I certainly will not do so now.”
“Oh, there is no need to be angry now, Darcy. You understand what I mean. My past experiences were so different, the women were… Jane is a daughter of a gentleman. She is so, so innocent and… How will she trust me? How can I do this to the woman I love?”
“Ideally, Bingley, this act is supposed to take place between a man and a woman who love each other. As for the past women,” he blushed a little, “I am well aware that what you felt is nothing compared what you now experience, but I trust you always treated women with respect and kindness.” As an idea occurred to him, he added hastily, “If that was not the case…”
Bingley interrupted him. “Good God! What do you take me for, a brute?”
“Good. Good.” Darcy coughed a little and continued. “I really wish your father and mine were alive tonight, Bingley. But I am sure that if they were here with us, they would say this very thing: ‘Love her and show her your love, and all will be well.’”
As Bingley absorbed the idea, a smile started to spread across his face, not an inebriated one that would displease his friend, but one that bespoke of his genuine relief and happiness.
“Very true. Very nice thought, Darcy. I thank you. I, too, wish our fathers were with us tonight. How proud they would be of our choices, eh?”
Darcy felt a lump on his throat and could not answer immediately. Indeed, how happy he would have been to receive the blessing of his father and mother on this day of his life! How he wished he could introduce them to Elizabeth, to tell them of her excellence, of her worth! How he yearned to make them happy by showing them his happiness! But he could only have faith that they were watching and approving and loving him and his future wife from the heavens.
Bingley’s ramblings brought him out of his thoughts.
“My father always had an eye for beautiful women. He would have appreciated our fiancées like none other. I am sure that he would…”
“Bingley, I really think it is time to go to bed.”
“Of course.” Turning to the door without ceremony, he was ready to say goodnight, when a final question came to his mind.
“If you have no fear of tomorrow, why could you not sleep?”
“Because I am impatient to see the day coming.”
Jane only smiled and kissed his cheek tenderly, while Elizabeth laughed openly. “I am afraid that it is too late now, Papa. I have read The Taming of the Shrew again, at your recommendation, I should add, and I am transformed into the obedient Catherine now, ready to oblige my husband’s every wish.”
“Oh Lizzy, I would not call reading what you did—sighing and exclaiming and scolding the poor characters at every page,” Jane betrayed.
“No, our Elizabeth Viola Bennet will always remain a Twelfth Night girl—sacrificing herself for her family, if needed be, but always having a mind of her own,” Mr. Bennet said fondly.
“And always having the oddest ideas!” Jane added, while Elizabeth protested that this was not the case, and that they had mistaken her character entirely, before she surrendered to laughter.
“Come now. You must not keep your Duke Orsino waiting.” Mr. Bennet’s voice was much lower than usual, and his daughters could see how deeply touched he was.
“Nor Jane Hero’s Claudio,” Elizabeth added lightly, and she kissed her father.
“I believe your middle names served you well, my girls. You surpassed the plays’ characters in good fortune in marriage. I believe that by choosing them, I was an active benefactor in your welfare.”
“Oh Papa, you have done much more for us than choosing our middle names!”
“Yes, but if I explain to your mother how Viola and Hero helped you, she might come to understand my appreciation of Shakespeare and understand why I chose those ‘incomprehensible’ names.”
“I am afraid it will take much more for Mama to appreciate the Bard,” Elizabeth sighed.
“It would help if your fiancé mentioned his admiration for Shakespeare to his mother-in-law. Then she would be certain to become a profound scholar.”
Elizabeth let out a laugh, as she and Jane hugged their father one last time before walking down to the altar.
Mr. Darcy made his first steps with his new wife barely registering what was happening around him. As he walked outside the church, people came forward to shake his hand and girls embraced and kissed Elizabeth, but the only thing that of which he was aware were Elizabeth’s words, uttered but a few minutes before. “I, Elizabeth Viola, take thee, Fitzwilliam Andrew, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”
She had accepted him, and she had vowed to love him for as long as they both lived. Elizabeth had bestowed on him the gift of her love some time ago, and she was most generous in her reassurance, but only when he heard those words, did he allow himself to understand how utterly committed she was to him. His heart beat hard in his chest, rejoicing in that moment of total bliss, when the final tiny fear and doubt chose to leave it. He wanted to embrace, to kiss his beloved at that very moment—to explain to her what wonderful events took place in his soul, that was hers more now than ever before. But he checked himself, knowing they had an eternity to love and cherish each other. And he was determined he would not allow a moment of their time together to be wasted.
He felt her hand squeeze his as they came out of the church and turned to look at her lovely, flushed face. For a brief moment, he wished they could forego the wedding breakfast and all the festivities so that he would be able have his wife all for himself, but he forsook the thought soon enough. He was so deliriously happy that he wanted the rest of the world to share his joy and celebrate with him.
This was nothing like the state of quiet contentment he was used to—it was deeper and much more powerful, shaking him to his very core. Caring very little for propriety, he leaned down and kissed Elizabeth, if only for a second. Some relative of Elizabeth’s cheered, and the little children who had been watching with awe the tall groom during the entire ceremony applauded. When the moment was over, Darcy’s eyes located his aunt, Lady Matlock, in the crowd and noticed her awestruck face. He shot her a devastating smile that only made her more surprised, and she needed some time to recover herself and smile back at him.
The sun was shining brighter than ever, and it was an unusually warm day for November. Darcy heard Elizabeth saying, very amused, “Happy is the bride that the sun shines on.”
“So, are you happy, my love?”
She looked at him very fondly, but he could discern the unmistakable glimmer of teasing in her eyes, even before she replied, “With such an amount of sunlight, how could I ever be miserable?”
“It appears that even in the elements of nature are in our favor,” he commented, slightly caressing her hand that was still in his. “However, I do wish to be a more active participant in your happiness.”
“You are my sun,” she whispered so that only he could hear. His look changed from momentary surprise to utter tenderness, as he brought her hand to his face, pressed it against his cheeks and then gently grazed it with his lips. Elizabeth was deeply touched by his gestures that bespoke in such a wonderfully simple way of his love, and she shivered as she felt the stirrings of passion behind their exchange.
“I love you, Elizabeth Viola Darcy. If I am certain of anything related to the future, it is this: I will love you forever.”
She leaned towards him, and Mr. Darcy’s hands encircled her waist, bringing them closer and closer until their lips were almost united. Colonel Fitzwilliam had been watching them closely, and experienced as he was in tender and passionate interludes, he could guess where this kiss would lead. He could also guess how little his parents would be pleased by witnessing such open displays of affection, therefore, he approached Darcy, patted him on the back and spoke in a light tone.
“Darcy, selfish, lucky man! You have to share your lovely wife with a few people this morning. It will not do to be late for your wedding breakfast. Bingley is well on his way, and you have not gotten into the carriage!”
However little pleased Darcy was by the interruption, he did understand his cousin’s good intentions and thus helped Elizabeth into the carriage. Before getting in himself, he heard his cousin whispering to him, “You are a lucky man, Darcy.”
Darcy appreciated the quietness of the carriage after the bustle of the wedding breakfast more than he could express. There were no other sounds than the horses’ hooves and the wheels, and even those seemed comforting. Elizabeth had fallen into a peaceful slumber, her head lying on his chest, so that he could feel her breath against his throat. His hand had slipped behind her back and now was holding her hand, caressing it very lightly so as to not disturb her rest. She seemed to enjoy it though, even in her sleep, for a tiny smile of unconscious satisfaction played on her lips.
He let out a sigh of deep contentment. This was how he had always imagined genuine happiness to be—returning home with the woman he loved. There was no sense of loneliness, no feeling that he had left half his heart elsewhere, as was the case each time he went back alone either to the townhouse or Pemberley in the past year. The day had been long and full, but as he inhaled the soft fragrance of the roses that adorned his wife’s hair, he felt positive that he was not fatigued in the least.
They were approaching the townhouse when Elizabeth opened her eyes and was greeted with a soft, gentle kiss from her husband, who was looking at her adoringly.
“I am sorry,” she whispered.
“For falling asleep. I wanted to be alone with you all day long, and when we finally were, my fatigue overwhelmed me. I should not have stayed up so late last night.”
“There is no need to worry, my love. We will have all the time we want to ourselves, and I will never feel alone when I have you in my arms, asleep or awake. But tell me, what kept you up late yesterday? Were you nervous for today?” His hand moved to stroke her cheek, again and again, and it brought such comfort and love that Elizabeth instinctively kissed his fingers, an action that was rewarded by an imperceptible moan from Darcy, who closed his eyes only for a moment.
“I am not sure how I felt,” Elizabeth replied snuggling closer to him, “but I believe that the longing for our wedding was prominent in my heart.”
Even though he knew they were almost outside their home, he could not resist the temptation to kiss the lips that spoke words so sweet to his soul. The carriage halted and they pressed against each other, still kissing. The realization of their arrival at the townhouse intruded, however, and they drew apart, Elizabeth desperately trying to regain her composure, while she was very worried about her appearance.
“Do I look …disheveled?” she asked her husband, patting her hair to know if the small blossoms that had adorned it in the morning were still there.
“You look devastatingly beautiful and alluring, as always.”
“Be serious, Fitzwilliam! I wish to make a good impression on the servants, or I will find myself very ill at ease with your household.”
“Our household, Elizabeth,” he reminded her gently. “Do not concern yourself, my love. Everyone will admire you. You should not underestimate your natural gift for charming people,” he told her smiling, but upon noticing that she did not relax at all, he continued. “I promise you that they will respect and love you. I will do everything in my power to keep you happy in our house.”
“Thank you,” she whispered as the footman opened the carriage door. “You always know how to comfort me.”
“I only try to read your feelings. And I happen to know that my Elizabeth is often worried about first impressions, quite needlessly, I might add.”
“Needlessly indeed,” she replied, openly smiling as she stepped out of the carriage. “For as I have found, in the most pleasant way, that when people’s good opinion is once lost, it is not lost forever.”
Mr. Darcy had to suppress a chuckle, as he offered his arm to his wife to walk to the door.
“I will reward you for that fine speech later,” he told her, and she shivered as she discerned the chords of passion in his deep voice. The skin of her cheeks was flushed, as she felt his lips coming ever so close, but never quite touching it. Elizabeth felt something stir inside her, something that made the prospect of introductions and formalities almost unbearable. It seemed to affect both her mind and body, preventing her from thinking clearly or controlling her weight as she clung closer to her husband. Later that night, she would learn that what she felt was yearning.
If someone had asked Elizabeth what she ate that evening, she would not have been able to answer. She knew that it was her first supper as the mistress of the house, and her feelings were very different than all the times she had dined there during her previous stay in London as Mr. Darcy’s guest. The servants who addressed her as Mrs. Darcy startled her, and she had to try to smile politely at them and not let her nervousness be interpreted as conceit. But most of all, her thoughts and senses were drawn to the man who sat opposite her—her husband. He had been very animated when they reached the house, but as the time passed, he grew quieter and quieter. Elizabeth realized that she preferred their camaraderie of few words to pointless conversation that would certainly fail to assuage her embarrassment.
Even though her husband talked little, his eyes did not leave hers for a moment—and she did not fail to feel warmer and grow a bit more confident under his steady, loving gaze. Only when they had finished supper and he offered his arm to her, did he look elsewhere, as he asked, “Shall we spend some time in the music room before we… retire?”
When he finished his sentence, his eyes returned to her face, intense, scrutinizing. Elizabeth felt his gaze slowly giving birth to a fire deep inside her, a fire she was certain would consume her with its growing intensity. But she was drawn to it more and more with every moment that passed, and nothing could lessen the instinct, the primitive power that was destined to unite them. Flushed, but feeling bolder than ever, she replied, “I am ready to retire, Fitzwilliam.”
She heard him inhale deeply, but he made no other sign to show he was affected. He spoke in a voice that could have appeared very calm, had not Elizabeth discerned, at the last moment, its slight trembling.
“You must need time to prepare. Certainly… Would an hour suffice?”
Elizabeth had initially thought of asking for such an amount of time, but suddenly the thought of parting from her husband became insupportable. She had taken a bath before supper. Surely her maid could undress her in a few minutes, could she not? Her hair could stay as it was—Fitzwilliam liked it and had told her so more than once that morning.
“No,” she replied and immediately she saw the surprise diffused on her husband’s face. “A quarter-hour is enough. That is, unless you have something important to do. In that case I can wait an hour, or more than an hour. You can take all the time you need.” She felt all her previous boldness cracking under his dark, searching gaze.
Finally, leaning towards her and cupping her face into his hands, totally ignoring any servants that might be passing by at the moment, he whispered, “You are what is most important to me, tonight and every other day and night, for the rest of our lives. I can vow that you will never find me unwilling to come to you when you wish for my presence.”
They stood thus for a few moments, his palms on her cheeks, his fingers slowly moving on her temples, their eyes locked. Their breaths came out quickly—in unison. Each could feel the other’s heart, beating in tandem with his own.
“I am very happy to hear that. For I doubt I shall ever wish to be parted from you, from this day forward.”
They climbed the stairs without any more words, relishing the impact of their last declarations in their souls. They parted in front of her bedchamber.
“Wait for a quarter-hour, my love,” she whispered, and suddenly, she felt like the princess of the fairytales, who sent her knight on an adventure, begging him to come back as soon as he could. She was grateful she did not have to wait for long—she missed him already, and he was not even gone!
“And then I shall come to you,” he completed her meaning and brought her hand to his mouth, barely touching it with his lips. As he turned to leave, he heard her soft sigh. That sweet sound accompanied him for the long minutes that followed.
Mr. Darcy stood in front of the door that adjoined his bedchamber with his wife’s, his body a few inches away from the heavy wood, his hand almost touching the doorknob. The time had finally come that he would love Elizabeth without inhibition or restraint. His longing mixed with concern for his wife. What did she hope, and what did she fear about this night? Suddenly, he wished he knew exactly what mothers and aunts told young brides on such occasions. He would dearly appreciate an insight into women’s minds. Earlier that night, Elizabeth had seemed welcoming, almost taking initiatives to encourage a greater amount of intimacy between them. But was it because she yearned for him in the same way he did for her, or was she innocently acting, induced by her purity and love, as she always had before?
No, Darcy was not a fool, and he would not permit groundless doubts to obscure his happiness. He knew his wife was passionate. He had seen it during their engagement, in all those interludes away from their world and its rules, when her response to him had exceeded every dream he had ever had in life. She had not pushed him away when his hands explored her body, time and again—and the fabric of her dress was always inadequate to stop the fire that his touch lit in both their bodies. On every occasion when they would steal a few moments, they sought those wonderful sensations together, even if they both knew that they pushed their limits and their sanity further and further. Darcy shivered as he remembered their kisses, the caresses, Elizabeth’s soft moans against his lips, the way she closed her eyes and pulled her head back as he tasted her cheeks, her chin, the sweet skin of her throat, every little precious spot that was not covered by her dress. He recalled the look in her eyes every time those passionate exchanges ended. Even if she were unaware of it, her eyes promised more every time they looked into his.
Darcy was not afraid of the night that was to come. If he did not trust himself, he trusted what he shared with Elizabeth. As he knocked on the door, he felt certain that their love would make that night, as well as each and every one that was to follow, greater than he could predict.
Elizabeth bid her husband enter, and he walked in to find her sitting with her back to the mirror and her eyes focused on the floor. He came closer and sat on the rug before her, allowing his arms to rest on her knees. His movements were completely unhurried, and he did not speak a word, giving Elizabeth as much time as she needed to become comfortable with his presence. If his heart beat wildly at their closeness, he did not betray the slightest sign of it.
Finally his wife spoke, and as she did so, her fingers reached up and began to play with one of his curls. “I am so sorry. I have had time only to change into my… my nightdress. I had thought that my hair was acceptable, but now I look positively ridiculous with all these wilted flowers. I should… Do you think… Are you displeased?” She stumbled over her words in the end, and her expression showed that she was genuinely troubled by her appearance. Darcy stroked her calf reassuringly, while his smiling eyes looked deeply into her worrying ones.
“You seem to have developed a propensity to apologize without there being a reason, Elizabeth, for I happen to find you more beautiful than ever this evening. You are enchanting. Irresistible.”
His words filled the space between them, enclosing them in their warmth, while he made no other movement than the light caress of her calf, and she persisted in passing her fingers in and out of his lock of hair.
“Thank you, Fitzwilliam,” she said at length. “I know I have been acting strangely today, and you have not dismissed or laughed at my childish ways. I am blessed to have you as my husband.”
“Not half as fortunate as I,” he replied, touched. “Would you feel more at ease if your hair was free?”
“I feel quite comfortable now. And I would not trade your company for my maid’s skills tonight.”
“I do not claim to be as skilful as your maid, but I could help you remove the blossoms and pins. I have often dreamed of it,” he said in a low voice, but tentatively, as he was afraid of telling her things that she was not ready to hear. Her small smile and the blushing of her cheeks shook his uncertainties away. He stood up and gently turned his wife so that he could see her face through the mirror while he worked.
A few minutes passed quietly, Elizabeth acutely aware of her husband’s tender movements and Darcy utterly charmed by the simple task he had undertaken. His voice broke the silence, while his hands continued their seductive combing through her hair.
“Elizabeth, I know that the prospect of this night may be overwhelming to you. We have never talked of it before, so let me know if I am asking too much from you. I wish, though, I dearly wish that we will be able to talk openly tonight. You can tell me anything you desire, anything you fear, anything that makes you uncomfortable.” Upon seeing the hesitation on her face, he continued, “Share your thoughts with me, my love—and I promise I will cherish your feelings and will do anything in my power to make every wish of yours come true.”
Elizabeth hid her face in her hands, but only briefly, as she felt his touch on her shoulder and his voice against her ear, whispering, “Do not push me away, Elizabeth. I want us to be one, but in much more ways than in flesh.”
She smiled nervously, and even if her voice shook a little, she matched his gaze in the mirror steadily. “I promise I will try. Will you do the same?”
She discerned the unmistakable signs of his fighting for his composure—one palm passed across his brow, his lips tightened, and his breath grew a little heavier.
“Fitzwilliam?” she insisted.
“Will you start then? I am very good at opening conversations and teasing you at balls, but I find myself particularly tongue-tied tonight.”
“And why is that?”
“I am not sure I know.”
“Do you not feel as much at ease in my presence as you have in the past?”
“No,” she replied truthfully, but upon noticing his furrowed brow, she added hastily, “Do not think that I am not grateful for this day… and this night. But Fitzwilliam, I fear I will do or say something that is totally and unforgivably improper or silly.”
Mr. Darcy pulled out the last pin and watched the final curl fall to her shoulders with royal grace. Then he moved in front of her seat and knelt down, touching her knees with his hands and looking straight into her eyes.
“There is no silliness or impropriety between us, Elizabeth. We are husband and wife, in the privacy of our rooms. Have no fear or restraint—we are free from the eyes and notions of society. We can be happy, just the two of us, here.”
She leaned and met his half-parted lips into a kiss that began quite passionately and grew more and more demanding. Soon the contact of their mouths became insufficient. Elizabeth held his neck tightly, bringing him closer to her, as if guided by a desperate need. His hands were on her waist, and her skin burned from the intensity of his touch.
When they parted, their breaths labored, Mr. Darcy’s searching eyes were met with a smile in Elizabeth’s. Emboldened, he spoke. “You are so beautiful. Watching you as you are is a gift I can hardly believe has been bestowed on me.” He turned his face in the mirror. “See yourself through my eyes, Elizabeth. See your soft skin that illuminates the whole room. See you hair, enchanting waterfalls crowning your head. Watch your lips, red like the finest wine. The remnants of our kiss are still there. Look at your eyes that have enchanted me from the beginning. Their expression can change in a split second. I know that your soul can be read in them—I strive to find your beautiful heart, your soul in them, every time I look at you. See my love, Elizabeth, and fear nothing.”
She managed to check the tears that welled up in her eyes, but not the trembling in her voice. “I can see only you, gallant, gentle, wonderful as you are. I can see your tenderness, your patience, your love. I am not afraid of anything when you are near me. I love you, Fitzwilliam, more than anyone else in the world.”
She felt his hands on her back, lifting her as he stood up himself, while his lips seized hers. She was thirsty to taste him, to explore his mouth, and she let her tongue dance with his more and more daringly. Her body was pressed against his, and she was aware of a new need. Her breasts were begging to feel his body, to be crushed against his torso, to know his own bare skin. She pulled even closer, and without quite knowing what she was doing, she moved her hands behind his neck and then under his shirt, feeling the skin of his back. His response was a loud moan, as his hands proceeded to unbutton her nightdress, caressing fervently every little part of the surface he exposed with his intimate touch.
When this kiss ended, Elizabeth was not certain if she was capable of coherent thought or speech anymore. Darcy appeared equally affected, for his gaze never wavered from hers, but no words came out of his mouth. As the time passed, the relative coolness of the room after the heat of the contact of their bodies restored Elizabeth to a degree of composure, and she extended her hand to her husband.
“I believe we should lie down. I am not sure how much longer my legs will support me, if we continue thus,” she told him boldly, and she watched him swallowing hard and even taking a step backwards.
“Did I say anything wrong, Fitzwilliam?”
“No, no. But, my darling Elizabeth, you have no idea what your words do to me. I have to check myself or soon, I will not know what I am doing.”
In that moment, Elizabeth saw vulnerability in his face and read behind it to understand him and his feelings. He was not the great Mr. Darcy, the master of Pemberley, but a young man of nine-and-twenty, who wanted to make love to his wife and was filled with concern regarding her response. She was so moved by that, that she took his face her hand and brought it closer to hers.
“I do not wish you to check yourself, my love. I am not afraid of you. Did I not promise not to hide from you and extorted an equal promise from you? Please, show me everything you feel, exactly as you feel it. I will not step back.”
“Elizabeth.” His mouth sought hers and did not leave it until the need for air was completely vital. After the briefest of breaths, it was back, washing her eyes, her brow and neck in kisses that spread on her skin like liquid fire.
“Take me to our bed,” he heard her repeat, and upon his first impulse, he lifted her in his arms and walked the few steps to the bed, eliciting a delighted moan from her. He sat by the edge of it, motionless, admiring almost with awe how right, how perfect she looked there.
“My heart,” he told her softly, lightly caressing her mouth and cheeks with his fingers. She sat up to meet his lips for another kiss, and his hands moved decidedly to unbutton the rest of her nightdress, while hers contented themselves with running up and down his back. As he changed his position from sitting to kneeling on the bed, Elizabeth mimicked him, giving access to his hands to roam lower and lower. She gasped when he touched her bottom and lingered there, pressing it tightly, but she whispered against his mouth, “Do not stop. Please do not stop.”
He proceeded, reaching the back of her thighs and then her knees, until he reached her calves that her nightgown exposed. He began pulling her attire then, lifting it upwards with slow, almost ceremonious movements, till he passed it over her head and gently discarded it on the floor. She shivered as she knelt nude before him, and he instantly enveloped her in his arms, his hands comfortingly resting in her back.
“I am a little embarrassed.” Her voice came muffled, because she pressed her cheek against his shoulder.
“I know, my love, and it is natural, though you should know that never have you looked more alluring and pure than you now do. With every gaze and every touch, I love you more. My heart, my mind and my body are all yours.”
She pressed her lips on his shoulder as an indication of how much his words were appreciated.
“Will you not …” She paused, swallowed hard and averted her eyes, unable to continue.
“Will you not remove your clothing as well?”
“Would that make you uncomfortable?”
“No!” she cried with candor, “on the contrary, I would feel more at ease… As though we are equal tonight.”
He smiled as he pulled back and proceeded to do as his wife asked. His eyes searched hers and captured them in a long gaze, so as to not intimidate her at her first sight of his naked body. But the mere expression on his face was enough to make her shiver more and wish for the protection of his arms around hers. She remained still, however, and slowly her eyes moved a little lower, to his neck, his shoulders, his torso, seeing them for the first time. The planes of his body, so very different from hers, attracted her in a way she could not quite explain. She was drawn to them, to the power, the masculinity they revealed, and she caught herself wishing to touch them, stroke them, kiss them, inch by inch.
“We are equal, Elizabeth,” he said, moving a little closer to her. “Tonight and every other night.”
“I am afraid I am much your inferior in the gentle art of seduction.”
“I think you have no idea of your affect on me, my beautiful girl. I am in your power, utterly and completely.”
And he went on to show her how seduced he was, pushing her lightly back, until she lay on the mattress. His hands touched her belly, and he silenced her nervous giggle, claiming her mouth again. The shaking of her body when his fingers reached her breasts was almost violent, and his lips left hers so he could look into her eyes. Her closed eyelids prevented him from witnessing her expression, but an incoherent whisper that he understood nonetheless induced him to continue. He returned his attention to her breasts, stroking them with adoring hands, as his mouth began a maddening journey from her mouth to her chin and then lower. It explored the base of her neck, nipping and then tasting every little bit of it with his tongue, extorting soft moans from her. His lips continued, until they replaced his hands in their worship of the silkiness of her chest and his thirsty palms moved to her thighs.
He sensed Elizabeth’s eyes opening, and he lifted his head to match her gaze, unable to hide the wild passion in his eyes anymore, but his wife’s fervor equalled his, as she spoke in short, labored sentences.
“My body, Fitzwilliam, it is yours.” He smiled adoringly, understandingly, and after an almost imperceptible nod of her head, his mouth returned to her breasts, intensifying, nipping, almost biting softly. “I feel… I feel… pleasure.” She gasped as Darcy’s hands touched her sex tentatively. “I feel pleasure…and passion… and fire…” He continued more boldly, exploring her, his hands the carriers of his love, teaching, adoring, guiding her to sensations she never knew existed. She responded, moving her hips and pressing her body against his hand out of instinct, as a screaming voice in her mind demanded more and more of this heat. She gave out a cry, as a shock overtook her body, a shock that she had never experienced before but that she had unconsciously been craving forever. Millions of powerful, stormy waves conveyed and magnified her husband’s touch until there was not a part of her body that was not aware of the unique satisfaction he gave her.
Darcy was mesmerized by his wife’s reaction, and watched her closely with hungry eyes, wishing to mentally note every little detail of her expression, every small sound she made. He was in a struggle with his body, his mind, his sanity, wishing to prolong that moment forever, until he heard Elizabeth’s whisper again.
“I also feel… the need. I need more. I feel… What do I feel, Fitzwilliam?”
“You feel yearning, my own, passionate Elizabeth,” he replied and spread a feather caress from her thighs to her toes, before he parted her legs with one small but burning touch.
“I love you, now and forever, Elizabeth. Beyond any comparison, beyond life and death, beyond time and mortality. Marry me, my love, with your body, as you married me with your soul.”
Elizabeth inhaled deeply, and Darcy noticed she had tears in her eyes, as she replied, “My body is yours, as is my soul.”
She nodded and smiled into his eyes that held a shadow of concern. Elizabeth Darcy was not afraid of pain, let alone of this one, the mere prospect of which was exquisite.
She felt him enter her and the contact was so new, so different than anything she had ever experienced, that she gasped. He leaned to kiss her passionately, their tongues united as their bodies moved towards their own union, his hands sensually traveling from breast to breast, to the line between them and to her belly. Then he pushed an inch further—and the pain was there. It grew and grew and filled her mind, the pain of maturity, the pain of sharing of the union, of love and commitment, the pain of the promise of the future. The feeling of aching gave its place to the awareness of its meaning. She belonged to him, and he to her. This was above their sweet interludes, above the stolen kisses and the forbidden caresses of their engagement, even above the pleasure he had offered her moments ago. This was their marriage, their vows realized, their being one, their living into the other’s body and mind, their sharing, their union and commitment. Elizabeth could not stop the tears in her eyes that ran freely down her cheeks, as her husband’s words of love and comfort flowed around them.
“My beautiful, my enchanting, my wonderful wife, my source of happiness. Tell me. Does it hurt? Does it hurt too much?”
“Yes, but it is not bad,” she replied. There was a trace of wild joy, of triumph in her voice, “The pain… It means so much. I have never felt safer or happier in my entire life. I love you—more now—I do. Make me yours—completely yours, Fitzwilliam.”
Her words took the last remnants of self-control away from him, and he surrendered to the unparalleled delight, satisfaction and happiness that deep emotion and unprecedented passion brought. And all the time, his hands and mouth kept contact with her skin, as though it were his guide for heaven. As his mind raced madly, it was able to discern, to treasure her voice, her whispers, her moans, the way his name sounded from her lips, the grip on his back that grew tighter and tighter, her cries. And as he collapsed on top of her after the most breathtaking experience of his life, he knew that every little detail would remain vivid in his mind forever, as a precious token irrevocably bound with the memory of the first time he knew Eden.
Some time later, they lay still entangled, their bodies pressed as closely as possible, laughing and crying. Elizabeth’s tears had not stopped, and now Darcy felt his own eyes moist as well. He was not afraid of tears anymore, for he knew how much they meant, how they expressed what language could not possibly do.
“I cannot say anything now, my love,” Elizabeth told him. “My heart is so full, and there is no way that thought can follow it. I know I promised I would share everything with you, but this…”
His voice came deep and low.
“You are sharing everything, Elizabeth. I never dreamed you would allow me into your heart so completely. Now I understand you, Elizabeth. Rest close to me, and I will hold you all night. I will hold you forever. Dream of happiness—and I will protect your dreams and your waking hours. Love me, love me always as you loved me tonight. Cry and laugh with me. I understand you my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth. Completely. And despite my failings, I promise I shall never fail you.”
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