INSTEAD of receiving any such letter of excuse from his friend, as Elizabeth half expected Mr. Bingley to do, he was able to bring Darcy with him to Longbourn before many days had passed after Lady Catherine's visit. The gentlemen arrived early; and, before Mrs. Bennet had time to tell him of their having seen his aunt, of which her daughter sat in momentary dread, Bingley, who wanted to be alone with Jane, proposed their all walking out. It was agreed to. Mrs. Bennet was not in the habit of walking; Mary could never spare time; but the remaining five set off together. Bingley and Jane, however, soon allowed the others to outstrip them. They lagged behind, while Elizabeth, Kitty, and Darcy were to entertain each other. Very little was said by either; Kitty was too much afraid of him to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate resolution; and perhaps he might be doing the same.
Jane, for her part, was simply relieved to once again be alone with Bingley. The autumn weather had proven consistently inconsistent the past few days, and that combined with frequent calls from well wishing neighbors had prevented Jane from receiving anything more than a stolen kiss and a warm caress since they last walked out together.
While Jane enjoyed the company of her family and her friends, she could not suppress the desire she shared with her betrothed to be alone together.
When the others were still in view, yet safely out of earshot, she took Bingley's arm and said, "It was such a surprise to see Mr. Darcy this morning."
Charles, mindful that they must wait a little longer answered, "I was quite surprised myself, but pleasantly so. He came home last night, after I had returned to Netherfield."
"He sent no word of his coming?"
"None," Charles smiled, "it is not like Darcy to be so impulsive, but he is always welcome at Netherfield, and I am glad he felt comfortable enough to come in such a sudden way."
Jane laughed softly to herself, "You approve of impulsiveness, Charles?"
Charles paused a breath, to savour the sounds of his name on her lips. "Indeed I do, in Darcy's case, at least. He has lent me some of his caution, so I feel it is only friendly to lend him some of my hastiness."
He took advantage of the momentary privacy granted to them as the other's crested a hill, to kiss Jane for as long as he dared. "I believe," he said against her sweet mouth, "that haste can sometimes be a virtue."
Jane flushed with pleasure, her eyes softening; she felt as if she had been granted the one thing she required for life. "Far be it for me to disagree, Charles."
The others reappeared before them, and Charles and Jane reassumed their positions of propriety. "I was quite astonished that Darcy insisted on accompanying me this morning," Charles continued.
Jane frowned thoughtfully, "Do you think it is possible he is still in love with Lizzy?"
Charles' eyes narrowed on his friend's straight back. "I doubt that is possible, more's the pity. They would be well matched, but I do not believe his tender feelings could survive being rejected in the way he was."
Jane nodded, her eyes on the other couple, "Yes, it is quite impossible. Lizzy has always disliked Mr. Darcy, though I cannot understand why."
Charles took Jane's hand in his own. "It is difficult. I feel such felicity with you, my own, I would wish it upon all I love."
Jane smiled up to him, "That is exactly how I feel as well. I want everyone to be as happy."
The others had finally passed from sight and Charles took the time to kiss Jane the way he wished to: long and lovingly. She returned his kiss with pleasure, taking delight in being able to express her affections once again. She moved into his embrace, her hands stealing beneath his great coat to wrap around his back.
"Oh my darling love," he sighed against her, feeling a sense of completion on holding her close once again. "Are you well, Jane?" he asked with a candour that their prior lack of privacy had prevented.
Jane smiled at his question and lifted her eyes to meet his, "Why should I not be?" Then she saw the concern clouding her lover's eyes. "I am well, Charles. Do not worry for me."
With a sigh of relief, Charles clasped her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. "We have not been alone since - and I was worried you might be distressed about what happened then." He looked down a moment. "I know you are incapable of deceit, my own, but you can be very reserved about your feelings and I might fail to see if you were in distress."
Jane realized that her beloved needed her reassurance, which she was only too happy to give. She kissed him, gently and lovingly. "Charles, do believe me. I am well." She let her fingers brush the soft curls resting at his collar. "The only distress I have felt over what we did at the folly is wishing we could do it again."
Charles studied her eyes, and saw her eyelids drop while a becoming coy smile graced her lips. Desire he had kept tightly reined rose and he kissed her, exploring her mouth with his own, while expressing his own wishes.
They broke apart and aware of their surroundings, began walking again. "Jane," he sighed, her hand tightly clasped in his, "You are too good for me. I am sure I do not deserve you."
Jane smiled; pleased at the happiness she was able to give her beloved. "Shall we return to the folly then?"
"It's a bit cold for the folly, my love, but I have a different proposal you might find acceptable."
Jane looked to him in expectation.
"Walk with me a while, love."
Jane did as she was bid, making light and happy talk along with way. They talked some more about Elizabeth and Darcy, wondering at the purpose of the visit of his aunt, then turned the discussion towards the anticipated arrival of Bingley's sisters.
Charles directed them off the road and up a wide path. Finally a tiny building came into view. "What is this?" Jane asked as they walked to it.
"This is a shooting box belonging to Netherfield," he said with anxious quickness. He removed a key from his pocket and unlocked the door, opening it wide and allowing Jane to enter.
Jane's eyes traveled around the interior of the structure. It was small, but clean and she was surprised to find a large and comfortable looking bed, freshly made, in the midst of it. She returned her gaze to Charles, who was smiling nervously.
"I had my valet arrange to have it cleaned and made up. It's for us."
Uncertain yet trusting, Jane entered, hearing Charles follow and lock the door. There was a large fireplace, with a high backed bench before it, a scrubbed table with a few chairs, and the bed made up the whole of the single room, and while it was small, its attractiveness eased Jane's concerns.
Charles removed his greatcoat and gloves and started building up a fire in the grate. Jane walked slowly about the room, finding that everything met her with approval. "This is not for hunting, Charles."
He turned to look at her, and smiled guiltily, then turned back to the fire. "No, my love. It is for us. In truth, while our families are very dear to me, I have spent the last few days thinking on how there might be a time when we would wish to be by ourselves. I had this set up so that we might have some privacy, just the two of us, a respite away from mothers and sisters and servants." He looked to her again, "Do you approve?" he asked sincerely.
Jane was moved by the great concern for her feelings she found on Charles' face. Rarely had she encountered such a simple and artless expression of the affection he felt for her. She nodded, not trusting her voice and he crossed the short distance to her, embracing her close.
Jane closed her eyes to the comfort of his arms, his warmth and strength a balm for her strained emotions. "It is lovely, Charles. I'm sure it is the sweetest gift I have ever been given." She felt kisses raining down upon her bonnet, and quickly undid the ties, letting it fall from her head, as she lifted her lips to him. Questions and concerns were forgotten in the touch of his lips to hers. She lost herself for a happy time in his arms, until the need to be closer brought her out of her haze.
"May I?" he asked with gently solemnity as his fingers raised to the clasp of her cloak. Jane nodded once, equally solemn. He unfastened her cloak, and drew it from her shoulders, placing it with her bonnet on a hook behind the door, next to his great coat. Jane studied the garments, hanging together, side by side, and was reminded of how far she had developed in her relationship with Charles. In a little more than a month, they would be wed, and spend the rest of their lives side by side. While this thought brought her a spark of giddy happiness, it also reminded her of the impropriety of the current situation.
Charles stood beside her, seeming for understand her need to quiet reflection. Giving him a warm look, she said, "We should not be here."
He met her look with equal warmth, "Do you wish to leave?"
"No," she answered simply,
"Good, neither do I." He led her to the bench called a settle, where they sat, close to each other and stared into the fire, their hands gently touching, seeking reassurance in the other.
It seemed strange to Charles. He had set up this place just as he said, as a refuge, but he could not deny his hopes that in this private and comfortable location, he might continue Jane's education in love. It was that desire more than any that fuelled his plan he was forced to admit. Yet now that they were here, alone and free from any danger from prying eyes, he was content simply to hold her. A deep and uncommon thoughtfulness had fallen on him, and while he watched the patterns of flames in the fire, he meditated on Jane and their future together.
"Are you well, Charles?" Jane asked him from what seemed like a great distance.
He kissed her lightly and gently pulled her onto his lap. "I was troubled, my heart, that you would think ill of me for bringing you here. That you might think I meant to take advantage of you, or worse." He looking into her eyes, which were untroubled and understanding. "I was a fool, who should have known better," he grinned at his own expense. "Forgive me, Jane, for thinking you capable of such a thing."
"Charles," her voice was gently chastising him. "I have tried to be ashamed about what has happened between us, but I have failed completely. Not only can I not disapprove of my actions, but also my mother and father know I have spent some hours alone with you, and have not found cause to say anything about it. I doubt very much that you have any reason to censor our behaviour, so I will not waste any more time worrying about it." Her eyes met his and he saw the flash of steel they held. "I suggest that you follow my example, love."
Charles knew he was beaten and smiled in defeat. "I yield to your wisdom, my love."
Jane settled against him, at once soft and yielding in his arms and sighed contentedly. "Good. Now tell me your thoughts. Silence does not suit you well."
Charles kissed her lips, resting so close to his own. He was becoming increasingly aware of her body, as her scent penetrated his mind, stirring his desire once again. "I was thinking that the road to marriage was a long one," he told her, delighting in her closeness.
Jane's face erupted into a bright smile and a soft laugh escaped her lips.
"What makes you laugh so, my love?"
"I was simply amused at how our thoughts seem to be the same."
Charles smiled back, "Well, our coats are together, why should our thoughts not be?" He yielded to her merry lips and kissed her sweetly. "So, dearest angel, you have had thoughts regarding our passage to marriage?"
She nodded, "Yes indeed. It seems like it has been a very long time in coming. There were so many days when I felt so lonely, sure that I would never see you again." She said no more, but he could see in her expression that she was recalling the dark days, when they were separated and all the light had gone out of the world.
Charles indicated his agreement. "There are times when I fear this is all a sweet dream, and that I will wake up, alone and hopeless again."
Jane pulled his body close to hers, so that their hearts were at a level, and pressed her cheek to his to try and reinforce the strength of her presence. "I know. I have the same fear, late I night when I'm alone. But I'm here, Charles, and I'm real. We are together and never need feel hopeless again."
Charles' hands rested at her sides, and he pushed her back gently, so that he could reach her lips. The fears they shared needed more than words to overcome, and through his kiss, he both gave and took the comfort they needed so dearly.
"Jane, Jane," he sighed between kisses, her name the sweetest word he knew. She intoxicated him, her taste a potent wine, dizzying his mind. The soft cry she made in response inflamed him, as his hands traced the roundness of her figure.
She broke away from kissing him to remove his cravat. Charles lifted his chin to assist her as she struggled with trembling fingers against the complicated knot. "Love?" he asked softly.
"I need to touch you, Charles," she answered without any further explanation. In that moment, Charles learned something: that he could deny her nothing she needed. Plans and expectations shifted suddenly as he accepted this new knowledge. He recognized that her needs could lead them into dangerous grounds, but he accepted that. This was Jane, who in a little more than a month would be his wife and who long ago had become his reason for living. The rules of society, even those of the church, fell before her. If she needed him, he could not deny her, he would simply protect her afterwards.
When she finally pulled the yards of muslin free, he lowered his eyes to meet hers in complete confidence. "What do you need, my love?"
He gently raised her off his lap and stood up, offering her his hand, She took it, and walked with him the short distance to the bed. Although he was loath to break the silence between them, he felt he must, "Jane," his eyes capturing hers, "if you are at all unsure-"
She stopped him with a kiss. "I'm certain, Charles. I need this. I need to be yours. I need the fear that this isn't real to go away."
He pulled her close, and could feel her body tremble, though if it was from fear or excitement, he knew not. He kissed her, and found no fear in her, only passion. It was enough.
Between slow kisses, in which they seemed to melt into each other, they undressed each other. Any awkwardness was dismissed by gentle laughter as Charles helped Jane with her gown and she struggled with his boots, until finally they stood naked beside the bed. Jane felt her breath catch as she looked with new eyes on her beloved. He was flawless, pale and golden, his limbs formed in beauty and strength. Her eyes traveled up his length, only to be surprised by the admiration she found in his eyes.
Jane for the first time in her life, was fully aware of her beauty, and was glad of it, for the joy she found in Charles' face. She felt not only beautiful, but more worthwhile; she felt adored. Beauty had given her many lonely days; it was of little value compared to the devotion of the man she loved.
Overcome, she fell into his arms and breathed deeply his scent; it was clean and manly, totally foreign to her feminine past. Another glaring example of how her life was to change as she moved from the family of her birth, to the new household she was creating together with Charles.
At that thought, she stopped short and blushed. Her adoration had brought her to this point, but she was on uncertain ground, and gave way to allow Charles to lead, acquiescing to his greater experience. He pulled her close to him, his flesh hot against hers. She sighed happily as his arms closed around her, promising to take her to a new place that would be theirs alone.
The bedclothes were pulled down and slowly they lowered themselves to it. Jane made room for him, then quickly returned to the warmth of his side, the sheets cold against their skin, prompting them to both laugh.
He regarded her eyes, which were happy and eager. His patience in instructing her had been rewarded handsomely as she turned to him with nothing but joy and desire, all fear and worry having been banished.
They kissed and Jane shivered again, not from the chill but from the unique sensation of her bare skin touching his. She explored him with her fingertips as they kissed, his skin surprisingly smooth and lightly covered by soft curls. He was comfortingly familiar yet excitingly foreign at the same time, and she sought to know all of him.
She sighed happily into his mouth at the feel of his hands upon her, discovering her form and making her dizzy with the heat of his touch. 'Touch me," she sighed encouragingly.
She felt rather then saw his smile against her lips as he stroked her nearest breast. Jane felt her breath catch as the delightful feelings she had longed for since that afternoon at the folly returned. An unanticipated sense of reassurance came to her, with the return of her bliss. She was relieved to know that the last time had not been an aberration: that those sweet sensations would and could be repeated again and again. She smiled and laughed silently as she realized that she was tasting lust for the first time, and it was not horrible at all.
While Charles was pleased with the success that his role as educator had achieved, he realized now that it was more important for him to assume the role of lover. This moment was one he had been waiting for for over a year now, and he wanted to cherish it in his memory for the rest of his life. He would not rush her. Indeed, they had as long as they needed. He would be careful, to make sure her experience was all it should be, but mostly he needed to be with her, their spirits joined as their bodies.
Jane sighed again, then opened her eyes, to seek something in him. "Love?" he asked gently.
She blushed as she spoke. "I want to kiss you."
With amazement, he wondered how could his Jane be both so innocent and sensual. Her head slipped down to his chest and he felt her wet, warm tongue lightly licking his nipple. She seemed pleased with her discovery and continued her explorations, as he gasped softly. "Jane," he said lightly. "I thought you wanted me to touch you?"
She lifted her eyes to him and Charles was struck by the mixture of humour and wickedness he found there. "Can you not do both?" she asked softly, before returning to her self-appointed task.
Charles briefly wondered about the legends of fairies stealing the shape of women to bewitch and seduce men, then gave up on it all as Jane switched to his other nipple and her own body was exposed to him. One hand caressed her breast while the other went to her secret place. Jane sighed her approval, as her legs parted.
After a very short time, Jane found Charles' actions too distracting and she gave up his chest and laid on her back, to concentrate on what his hands were doing. She had tried, once, to recreate the sensations Charles was producing in her on her own, but while she had made some interesting discoveries, it was not the same.
The hand at her breast yielded to his mouth and Jane moaned. This was what she had been longing for, and it was even more pleasurable because she knew what was to come. She relaxed completely to his touch and her hand sought his soft silky hair, her fingers burying themselves there.
Jane felt herself getting taut with arousal, her release not fair away when Charles suddenly and quickly changed position so that it was not his hand between her legs but his body, his face and chest above hers. She had barely time to gasp in surprise when she felt a new sensation. Charles was still touching the heart of her pleasure, but she realized with a shock, he was not doing it with his fingers, but the tip of his erection. The knowledge of this, combined with the sensation of his body resting on hers, proved so exciting that she very quickly found her release, and cried into his mouth sweet sighs of pleasure.
Charles kissed her again, softly and gently then asked if she was ready. Jane nodded, her eyes still hazy with fading euphoria. He gathered her body in his arms and slowly entered her, pushing past the resistance he found and whispering comforting words in answer to her surprised gasp.
When he was halfway home, he stopped, allowing her to adjust to the sensation. "Are you well, my love?"
"Oh Charles!" she sighed.
"It won't hurt any more, my love. I promise, the pain is all over. Try and relax now.
'My maidenhead is gone' she thought silently to herself. She tried to do as she was bid. The pain had been sharp and sudden, but it was now fading away, and as she relaxed, Jane became aware of a much more exciting sensation, as she realized that Charles was inside her.
Charles could feel her easing around him and gently pushed a little deeper. He was rewarded by Jane's eyes widening and a timid smile. A gentle stroke strengthened her smile and by the time he was fully buried in her, the happy sighs he knew so well had returned. He kissed her, an expression of love amidst the passion, then let slip the reins that had been holding him back.
He lost himself in the sensation that was surrounding him. The vision of Jane, beneath him, heedless to all rational thought in pleasure, drove him on to his own climax. Her cries were met by his own, as he lost himself in her.
He rolled to his side and gathered her trembling body to him, holding her securely and whispering soothing words to her. When at last she opened her eyes, he asked, "My dearest, did it hurt?"
Jane smiled and kissed him lightly. "My love, the pain is forgotten. But the pleasure- the sensation- I have no words to describe it, but I hope that will never leave me."
Charles eyes' softened with relief. "Never, my sweetest one," he smiled happily. "The pleasure is something we will have for the rest of our lives together. It is a well, from which happiness and comfort shall always flow." Jane smiled, her arms tightening around him. "Seriously, my heart, I hope you have no regrets."
Jane looked it him with heartfelt delight. "My only regret is not doing this sooner, my love." He kissed her thankfully. "And that we will have to wait so long until we are married." He stretched sleepily beside her. "May we do this every night?"
Charles smiled, his heart feeling surprisingly protective toward her as she settled in his arms. "We may." He kissed her lightly. "I was going to ask if you would do me the great pleasure of sleeping with me, when ever it is convenient."
Her eyes closed, Jane smiled. "Love, there is no place else I would rather sleep, then just like this." Charles agreed, and promptly matched his actions to his words and slumbered peacefully.
He awoke an hour later, to find Jane still slumbering and watched her as she slept, amazed at his own good fortune. It seemed that fate, having tested the lovers, was now rewarding them with the happiness they had struggled so long for. The loneliness and pain, which had almost destroyed them, was banished forever, and a golden sweetness had taken its place.
He woke her with kisses and they made love again before dressing and returning to Longbourn.
"MY dear Lizzy, where can you have been walking to?'' was a question which Elizabeth received from Jane as soon as she entered their room, and from all the others when they sat down to table. She had only to say in reply, that they had wandered about, till she was beyond her own knowledge. She coloured as she spoke; but neither that, nor any thing else, awakened a suspicion of the truth.
The evening passed quietly, unmarked by any thing extraordinary. The acknowledged lovers talked and laughed, the unacknowledged were silent. Darcy was not of a disposition in which happiness overflows in mirth; and Elizabeth, agitated and confused, rather knew that she was happy than felt herself to be so; for, besides the immediate embarrassment, there were other evils before her. She anticipated what would be felt in the family when her situation became known; she was aware that no one liked him but Jane; and even feared that with the others it was a dislike which not all his fortune and consequence might do away.
At night she opened her heart to Jane. Though suspicion was very far from Miss Bennet's general habits, she was absolutely incredulous here.
"You are joking, Lizzy. This cannot be! -- engaged to Mr. Darcy! No, no, you shall not deceive me. I know it to be impossible.''
"This is a wretched beginning indeed! My sole dependence was on you; and I am sure nobody else will believe me, if you do not. Yet, indeed, I am in earnest. I speak nothing but the truth. He still loves me, and we are engaged.''
Jane looked at her doubtingly. "Oh, Lizzy! it cannot be. I know how much you dislike him.''
"You know nothing of the matter. That It is all to be forgot. Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.''
Miss Bennet still looked all amazement. Elizabeth again, and more seriously assured her of its truth.
``Good Heaven! can it be really so! Yet now I must believe you,'' cried Jane. "My dear, dear Lizzy, I would -- I do congratulate you -- but are you certain? forgive the question -- are you quite certain that you can be happy with him?''
"There can be no doubt of that. It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world. But are you pleased, Jane? Shall you like to have such a brother?''
"Very, very much. Nothing could give either Bingley or myself more delight. But we considered it, we talked of it as impossible. And do you really love him quite well enough? Oh, Lizzy! do any thing rather than marry without affection. Are you quite sure that you feel what you ought to do?''
Jane received her sister's assurance and was eventually satisfied. They spent half the night in conversation, in which Jane learned of Darcy's share in Lydia's marriage. Jane was pleased to finally receive Elizabeth's confidence in the matter, but was also relieved in that she need not feel any guilt in not sharing her recent education with her dear sister, who she had no doubt, would soon, if she had not already begun, be receiving an education of her own.
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