Chapters Nineteen - Twenty-One



Chapter Nineteen

The Darcys had left London with the company of Jane and travelled towards Brighton. They had settled in a charming house that Darcy had leased. The house, located in Royal Crescent – a fashionable area of Brighton, faced the sea. Elizabeth was utterly enchanted by the view that a grand terrace provided over the beach. The ladies felt enraptured by the delightful gardens in bloom that surrounded the house.

Jane and Elizabeth felt thrilled with Brighton, especially the magic of the sea waves. Inspired by their raptures, Georgiana was as enthusiastic as her new sisters, though the seaside was a familiar sight to her. Darcy had granted them a tour over Brighton in an open coach. They were fascinated about the exoticness of the Royal Pavilion and surrendered themselves to the delightful sights of carefully trimmed gardens, elegant façades and the wild beauties of the coast. Elizabeth’s eyes shone with pleasure as she observed keenly the surroundings. And the sight of her enjoyment warmed Darcy’s heart and filled him with hope.

Slowly, they all fell into the peaceful and quiet existence provided by the seaside.

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He reached the door that opened to the terrace facing the sea. He closed his eyes as he breathed in the smell of ocean mixed with the fragrance of the late summer blossoms. A soft laughter awakened him from his brief respite. He opened his eyes and observed the lovely trio sitting at the end of the terrace, relaxing in the sun. Elizabeth’s countenance grasped his attention immediately. Her face was brightened by the soft smile that graced her lips, reaching her fine eyes. She laughed quietly as she listened to Jane and Georgiana.

Darcy sighed as he watched them and realised that their coming to Brighton was already working wonders on his wife. He hoped to have his wife back. No, he thought, my Lizzy back. He had no longer any reason to be worried about her physical recovery as the doctor in London had assured them both that she was well. He had even declared she was physically able to try begetting a child again. However, Darcy sensed that it might be too early for her. They still had not talked about what had distressed her so at Longbourn. He suspected it had been the confrontation with an expecting Charlotte and he had heard Georgiana’s account of what occurred between Elizabeth and Mrs Bennet. He knew she was suffering about her miscarriage, but he wanted Elizabeth to open up her heart to him. He wanted to reassure her of his love even if she was unable to love him back. She would always be the object of his undying devotion. A twinge of sorrow tightened his chest as he thought of his unrequited love. Closing his eyes tightly he prayed in silence. He yearned to win her love with time.

He was startled when he felt the warmth of a soft hand touching his that grasped the door. He found himself staring into his wife’s adorable smiling face.

“William, are you listening?” she inquired laughingly. “We have been trying to call your attention for some minutes! Where are you, sir?”

His lips curled into a shy smile and, unable to stop himself, he impulsively stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. She stood mesmerized by the tenderness of his gesture. Then he framed her face with his hands and, caressing it with his thumbs, he touched her nose with his, rubbing it gently. She gasped softly as his mouth brushed her lips in a tender kiss. Elizabeth leaned forward into his arms and, forgetful of their sisters’ presence, they prolonged the kiss. Darcy stopped as he became aware of his gesture. Was she displeased? Was he being presumptuous? He withdrew slightly and attempted to evaluate her reaction. Elizabeth stood in his arms willingly and with a dreamy expression on her face. They both smiled shyly and they blushed as they realised they had company. However, Darcy refused to relinquish his wife from his embrace. He informed their sisters he would be taking his wife away for a short stroll on the beach.

Georgiana quickly went for Elizabeth’s bonnet and shawl and her brother’s hat.

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They walked close the sea hand in hand. His heart swelled with love and pride as he felt her small hand fitting perfectly in his strong one. The warmth of their touch enveloped them in a fuzzy sensation of tenderness. They had fallen in a quiet but companionable silence. Darcy watched her from the corner of his eye. Elizabeth seemed at peace and content. Her smiling face was somewhat different. The sun had already enhanced the adorable freckles that coloured lightly her cheeks.

Sensing his gaze upon her, Elizabeth turned and arched an eyebrow quizzically towards her husband. Darcy fervently wished to introduce the topic that was on his mind. Would she be willing to talk about their loss? How would she react to his wish to be intimate with her again? Would she be displeased? Would she feel it as her “duty”? And submit? His jaw tightened at the thought of her being a “dutiful wife”. He did not want to impose upon her. He wanted her as an equal, a partner in love and in life. Perhaps it is too soon, he thought worried.

As he lost himself in his thoughts, Elizabeth was gathering her strength to approach the same subject with her husband. He had been wonderfully attentive and devoted to her lately. She had never felt so cherished. She could not have imagined that the stern and proud Mr Darcy would reveal such a tender side, capable of setting aside his own needs and obligations to tend to his wife. She had wronged him so much that she felt utterly vexed. How could she not but regret all the harsh words and unfair treatment bestowed upon her husband?

As she thought of his solicitous care and loving presence, she felt giddy and humbled by the sensations washing over her. The warmth of his strong hand holding hers tightly caused delightful shivers down her spine. And he brought me to Brighton! She thought. How lovely this place is! Elizabeth observed the dance of the waves splashing on the sand and rocks as they strolled on the beach. The mesmerizing motion of the sea calmed her and she felt emboldened enough to speak to him. Glancing quickly at him she saw his tightened jaw, his lips in a straight line. He is displeased, she thought. Is he upset? She recalled his earlier distraction on the terrace. Perhaps he is worried about something… she wanted to be able to comfort him, to please him. He definitely deserved a better wife than she had been to him. She would strive to make him happy. At least they seemed to be making some progress. They were becoming friendlier and more open with each other. And she believed that the physical side of marriage might be able to heal the breach between them. It would bring them closer to each other. She wanted to give her husband the pleasure he had for long been denied.

Once her resolution was taken, Elizabeth stopped walking. He looked at her surprised and asked why she had stopped.

Elizabeth blushed furiously and fixed her eyes on the buttons of his waistcoat. In a small voice she asked him “Will you hold me, sir?”

Though surprised, Darcy chuckled lightly as he observed the beach searching for any presence. Once certified that they were in fact quite alone, as it was late afternoon, he opened his arms invitingly and tightened them around her soft body. He rocked their bodies gently as he kissed her hair and waited for her to speak. When she did, he didn’t understand a word as her voice had been muffled by his coat.

He laughed quietly which caused Elizabeth to grow angry and embarrassed. How can he laugh at me? She fumed as she struggled to free herself from his arms.

Darcy quickly became aware that she had mistaken his laughter and told her immediately that he had laughed only because he could not understand a word she had said. Her mouth pouted in a perfect O as she blushed further from sheer embarrassment. Suddenly her boldness seemed to have vanished.

“Will you please repeat that again, Elizabeth?” he reached for her hands in reassurance.

She turned away from him as she felt her face redden. It had seemed much easier when he was holding me, she mused.

“You can tell me anything, Elizabeth. I won’t be upset.” He touched her shoulder and nudged her to turn around and face him.

After a moment of silent hesitation she stammered nervously, “William, I… That is… I wish… I mean…” She twisted her hands frantically and looked away. Recalling her resolution, she slowly gazed up at him and stared into his dark eyes. She blurted out hastily “Will you come to me tonight, husband?”

She felt that her face would explode from the hot blush of shame.

Darcy stood frozen. Speechless. The silence stretched into an intolerable one for Elizabeth. She was deeply mortified. What must he think of me? I was shamelessly forward! She started running back towards the house.

His strong hands grasped her arms preventing her from escaping. Her knees weakened by her distress faltered causing her to fall on the sand.

“Elizabeth” Darcy cried as he knelt beside her. “What is the matter?”

He stared into her teary eyes deeply concerned about her. “Please, Elizabeth, tell me why you are upset?”

She looked at him irritated. How can he not see that I’m upset about his reaction! “You… you are displeased… what must you think of me?” she cried between sobs.

“No, I would never be displeased with you! Elizabeth, you need not feel shame to be with me. Ever!” he told her earnestly as he held her hands in a tight grasp.

“B-but you… you looked shocked… you said nothing! I know I’m a disappointment to you, sir.”

Exasperated, Darcy held her face between his hands forcing her to look into his eyes. “You are not a disappointment to me!” he let his words sink into her. Then he added, “I wasn’t shocked, Elizabeth. I was… just surprised. I know that…. I realise that our intimacy displeases you and…”

He was unable to continue as his sorrow overwhelmed him. How could he possess her body as he knew she would come to him in duty? He released her face and stood up. Turning his back on her, he faced the sea and uttered bitterly,

“I don’t want a wife who comes to me in duty, Elizabeth. I’d rather be alone than having you against your will.” The memory of her ill-fated words rendered his handsome face livid – How can I love you, sir? You’ve made me your whore!

Elizabeth sat frozen and observed her husband. She had hurt him deeply the last time they had been together. She stood up and approached him quietly. He flinched when he felt her hand on his back. He did not want her pity. Tears filled her eyes at his reaction but she was determined to reach to him. She walked around to face him. Her watery eyes and the regret written on her face disarmed Darcy.

“William, I’m very sorry… I have wronged you… said dreadful things to you. The truth is… I never really meant them… I was utterly unfair…” she whispered to him as she cried quietly. “I truly want to be your wife. Please, William…” she pleaded in a strangled voice.

The sight of his teary wife pleading moved him. He folded her into his arms and held her until she stopped crying. Gazing into her eyes he whispered, “Are you sure, Elizabeth? Are you certain this is what you want?”

“Yes! I want to be your wife! In earnest!” she replied firmly. She rested her head on his chest allowing the beating of his heart to calm her. It felt so right to be held in his arms.

“Elizabeth?” he murmured between soft kisses in her hair. “Does this wish… does this have anything to do with what happened? The child?” He perused her face as he asked her in concern.

She flushed slightly and sighed into his chest. “I know I have disappointed you, sir. I was unable to give y—“

“Elizabeth! For the last time… Listen to me – you have not disappointed me! This can happen to anyone! It was unfortunate but it wasn’t your fault!”

“B-but I feel… I fear… Oh, I was negligent! Our child… oh William!” she sobbed into his coat. She revealed to him all her bottled up distress. “How could I have lost a baby? What kind of a mother am I? I didn’t even know I was with child! How could that happen! Your Aunt is right, my mother is right… I-I’m unworthy of you… I…”

Darcy tightened his hold around her, bringing her body closer into his embrace.

“Stop it! Stop saying such nonsense! Listen to me, dearest! You heard the doctor… miscarriages are common! You have done nothing wrong! Pay no heed to Lady Catherine or your mother… They talked nonsense! They were unjustifiably cruel to you! Beyond measure!”

“Wh-what if… B-but what if it happens again? What if I can’t give you children?” she cried trembling.

“Hush, my dear…” he soothed her with the gentle rubbing of his hands on her back.

“There is no reason to believe that that might happen. You heard the doctor say so. And even if we aren’t blessed with children… my sweet Elizabeth, I will never, never blame you or I for that matter! Please understand, dearest. We cannot control that.”

His reassurance brought some peace to her mind and she relished being in his tight loving hold. They stood facing the sea enjoying their embrace as the watched the sun setting on the sea. A healing silence fell upon them.

“I have never told you about my mother… her death.” Darcy told her quietly, breaking the silence.

She looked up at him and touched his face gently as she whispered, “No, you haven’t. Do you wish to tell me? I would love to hear about her…”

Darcy’s arms wrapped her waist pulling her closer, settling her head against his heart. Her lavender fragrance soothed his bittersweet memories and he softly told her about his parents – their love match, his and Georgiana’s childhood and his mother’s ill-fated confinements.

“You see, dearest, my mother too grieved over the loss of children. She had miscarried twice before I was born and afterwards… she suffered three miscarriages before Georgie was born…”

“Your poor mother…” she whispered.

“It is just as the doctor told us. An unfortunate but very common event. You need not be afraid about this.”

“But it was… a child, William. Our baby…” she replied subdued.

He stroked her back as if he could brush her sorrows away. “I know little one. I know… I am very sorry as well. Grieved. And we shall never forget our first…”

Elizabeth breathed in deeply his spicy familiar scent as she snuggled into his neck. In a muffled voice, she asked “And after Georgiana? What happened William?”

“Georgie’s birth had left my mother even more fragile than she had been. She was so happy with my sister! She was a beautiful baby… her little angel… that was what she called her. Mother was always weak and tired after her birth… but almost two years later… she was with child again and lost it.” His voice trembled from emotion. “That time was fatal for her. There was nothing the doctors could have done for her… no one could save her.”

A sob caught his voice, stopping his account. Elizabeth kissed the spot over his heart and held him tighter, trying to pour into his soul all her support, her understanding, her care.

Both were conscious they had taken steps towards a better understanding of each other. In silent accord, they walked back towards the house as the night threatened to fall upon them.

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Chapter Twenty

When Elizabeth entered the drawing-room to join her sisters and her husband for supper, she was startled by a familiar male voice addressing her as soon as she crossed the door.

“Miss Ben-- Mrs Darcy! I’m delighted to see you, madam.”

She glanced first at her husband and smiled shyly at him. His grim demeanour was softened as he returned her smile. Turning back towards their guest she addressed him with enthusiasm.

“Mr Bingley! This is an unexpected surprise, sir!”

“May I congratulate you on your marriage, Mrs Darcy?” he looked coldly at Darcy who acknowledged his friend’s generous felicitation with a nod. “I wish you joy.” He bowed over her hand and kissed it lightly.

“Thank you, Mr Bingley.” Elizabeth replied with a bright smile. “We are delighted to have you with us, sir. And surprised, if I may say so.”

She happily watched the blushing Jane whose bliss overflowed from being in the presence of the man she loved for so long. Both her sister and Bingley could not stop sneaking looks at each other, their nervous fidgeting making them endearing to watch. They were obviously in love. She beamed at Georgiana who was observing their shy interaction as well. She had already learned to love Jane’s sweet disposition and she seemed happy for her friends. Contrary to Miss Bingley’s assertions, Georgiana and Mr Bingley were never meant to be a couple.

Elizabeth faced her husband again and observed him as he stood stiffly by the window, gazing into the night. She knew Darcy was responsible for his friend’s presence in Brighton. And she had sensed Bingley’s cool manner towards him. Her husband suddenly turned and noticed her gaze upon him. She bestowed upon him a tender and grateful smile. His beautiful eyes revealed the sadness he felt and he was obviously becoming uncomfortable from her scrutiny. Elizabeth had then realized he must have told Bingley about his interference and tried to make amends by inviting him to their home. But it had clearly come with a price: their friendship had been wounded.

“Yes, I see it is a surprise. Darcy was very generous… He had invited me to join you, your family, during your stay in Brighton. I do hope I’m not imposing upon you… Mrs Darcy…” he added nervously but without removing his eyes from the flushing Jane.

“Oh no, Mr Bingley. You are very welcome. Isn’t that true, Mr Darcy?” she added reassuringly and trying to encourage her husband to join their conversation.

“Yes, it is true, Mrs Darcy.” He twisted his ring in a nervous twitch and looked up at her. “Bingley seems to have arrived when just after we came back from our walk, Elizabeth,” he informed her as he stared awkwardly into her lovely eyes. He wished to tell her how deeply sorry he was for having hurt his best friend and Jane. He wished to tell her he wanted to earn her good opinion and be deserving of her affection. He willed his expression to communicate all this to her. His earnest gaze seemed to do so effectively as she broke into a dazzling smile giving him the hope he needed. He yearned for her forgiveness over his high-handedness and his failures. He yearned for her tender regard. And, suddenly, he felt the need to feel her gentle touch, the warmth of her skin. He needed reassurance.

Encouraged by her smiling face and her open generosity, he strode elegantly, but determinedly, towards his wife and reached for her hands. His strong hands enfolded her smaller ones as he raised them towards his lips. After bestowing a loving kiss on her hands he laced his fingers with hers. If the party was surprised by his public display of affection, they did not show it as he kissed Elizabeth’s hands reverently for a second time. Mindful of the presence of others, Darcy realized they should resume the conversation.

Bingley frowned in bewilderment as he watched his friend’s tenderness towards his wife. Darcy had me believe he was miserable in his marriage… He either lied to me… which is uncharacteristic of him… or something has changed... His perplexity was soon shattered as he realized his host was speaking to him.

“Are your accommodations to your satisfaction, Bingley?” Darcy asked without wavering his gaze from his wife.

“Y-yes, yes they are. My sisters are delighted!” he replied immediately.

“Your sisters? ” Darcy turned swiftly facing his friend, his face a scowl. “Are they here? But how… I mean… I’m afraid we have not rooms to suffice all their needs.”

“Do not worry, Darcy. They are here in Brighton, not in your home.” He quickly described to his hosts that his sisters, upon learning about his invitation to stay with the Darcys, expressed their adamant wishes to come to Brighton as well. Thus, he had decided to decline the offer of a room at the Darcys’ and leased a house in Royal Crescent as well. “Mrs Darcy, my sisters send you their regards and wish to inform you they will call on you tomorrow.”

Elizabeth frowned but quickly replied, “I-I thank you, Mr Bingley. I-We are looking forward to seeing Mr and Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley again.”

An awkward silence fell upon the drawing room as its inhabitants pondered on the impending proximity of the Bingley ladies. Mixed emotions perturbed them: Georgiana was nervous as she had always been around Caroline’s fawning over her and her brother; Jane was apprehensive due to Miss Bingley’s snubbing of her in London; Elizabeth was annoyed for both her sister and because of the twinge of jealousy that hit her as she recalled the woman’s designs on her husband; Bingley was apprehensive over his sisters’ interference in his love life and Darcy… Darcy was most seriously displeased.

Fortunately the uneasiness was dispelled as supper was announced and the whole party moved towards the dining-room. Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst were quickly forgotten as the conversation turned lively over the meal and afterwards as they partook of coffee and dessert. The evening went comfortably well for all.

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He entered the room quietly and halted immediately when his eyes fell upon her. Clad in a bluish silk nightgown, Elizabeth brushed her dark curls absentmindedly. He could see her sparkling eyes in the mirror as well as her luscious mouth. A pensive look rendered her features even more enticing to him. How he loved her! How he longed for her! She suddenly sighed and closed her eyes as she set her brush down on the vanity-table. He could see her hands trembling slightly as she sighed again and again.

He recalled their interlude on the beach – her face as she beseeched him to become his wife in earnest. To become one again. Even though she does not love me, at least as I do love her… He could plainly see she was nervous. For a moment, doubt crossed his mind. Was she regretting what happened earlier that afternoon? Was she wishing to withdraw her request for intimacy? Darcy did not know what to think any more. He did not want for anything in the world to harm that sweet and fragile understanding between him and Elizabeth. What they had gained that afternoon as they strolled by the ocean was too precious to risk over a fleeting moment of physical satisfaction.

He shuffled his feet in hesitation as how to proceed. His tentative movements caught his wife’s attention who blushed deeply as soon as she realized he was in her room. Both stared at each other intensely into the mirror, wondering what the other was thinking. The silence suffocated them and the tension was palpable. Who would reach out first? It was then that Elizabeth stood up from her seat and turned around to face Darcy. She could bear the unease no longer.

“Fitzwilliam…” she whispered anxiously.

He moved one step forward and stopped. He wanted to be certain of her wish to become reacquainted with him in the marital bed. He did not want her to do so for his sake alone. Memories of an unwilling and passive wife in his embrace shadowed his eyes as he looked at her. He did not want his wife out of duty. But then, the smiling and shy Elizabeth of that afternoon willed him to take another step and another until he could reach for her hands.

The warmth of their skin caused Elizabeth and Darcy to shudder as they held their hands tightly. She smiled timidly at him as she looked up and saw herself reflected in his dark eyes.

“Elizabeth… You are so beautiful, dearest.” He whispered as he pulled her gently into his embrace. The sensation of having her ill-clad body in his arms, so warm and soft… He had missed her so sorely! He was suffocating from his own feelings. The intensity of her touch upon him, her body moulding onto his, was so powerful that he felt he could not outlive it. He breathed in deeply trying to control himself. If embracing her is causing such an effect upon me, how will I survive when we… He stopped himself and slowly regained his senses. He withdrew slightly from her and watched her face.

“Elizabeth, my dear, are you certain? I will not be angry or disappointed if you wish me not to stay…” he said cautiously.

He could feel her trembling hands upon his chest as she slowly moved them in a soft caress upon his linen shirt. He grasped one and kissed it soothingly as he waited for her response. Her lovely face rapidly turned into a deeper shade of crimson but she willed her eyes to meet his steadfast gaze. Boldly, she framed his handsome face with her small hands and pulled him down towards hers. No words were needed. She kissed him hesitantly at first as she brushed her lips against his.

Elizabeth knew he was being passive and cautious for her sake, but she did not want it. She was determined to make her marriage work. She was determined to follow her dear aunt’s advice. She was determined to give in to the “wantonness” she had feared before. She knew it would please her husband.

Her kiss had surprised Darcy and she took advantage of it. She repeatedly kissed his lips as she caressed his face. When his mouth opened slightly with an unrestrained groan, she tentatively deepened the kiss as he had done so many times before. Darcy lost control. He crushed her onto his chest and allowed his hands to touch her body in a ravenous manner. Elizabeth was acting no better. She let her hands wander over his back and his buttocks, in a frenzy, such was her need to melt into his body. She could hardly understand the intensity of their embrace but she could no longer dwell upon her qualms. She could only think of her husband’s hard body pressing against hers and their passionate kisses.

Darcy swept her off her feet into his strong arms and swiftly approached her bed. He set her down and inquired hoarsely, “Are you certain of this?”

“Yes, yes… Make me your wife, sir.” She answered breathlessly amidst her panting.

Once again, speech was not required. Darcy kissed her ardently but more slowly this time, as he untied her dressing-gown and let it pool at her feet. She opened the buttons on his shirt but the task was not completed as he impatiently grabbed it and pulled it off his head. He looked at his wife and he could see her body through the gauziness of her white shift. The soft light from the candles made her figure look ethereal but the promise written on her soft curves were dangerously alluring to his senses.

He leaned down and caught her mouth in a deep kiss and they allowed their hands to once again express their yearning for each other. She could feel the hardness and heat of his loins against her as he pressed her into the circle of his arms. Elizabeth felt herself falling into a haze of passion as her senses were so aware of his touch. She truly wished to become his wife in the right sense of the word. She wanted to come to him free from all the hurt, misfortunes and prejudice that had kept them foolishly apart. She wanted to bare her soul to him. Thus, she decided to ignore her own bashfulness and regard for propriety. She took a step backwards from her bewildered husband who was keenly feeling her loss already.

“What is the matter Elizabeth?” he asked concerned.

Elizabeth had never felt a blush as hot as she experienced at the moment she looked into her husband’s eyes and untied the front of her nightshift. A shy smile graced her lips as she let the fabric slide down her, revealing her naked body to his hungry eyes.

“Fitzwilliam… Husband? Do I please you?” she whispered anxiously. But the astonishment frozen on his face made her edgy. She dropped her gaze to the floor as she let her embarrassment take hold of her. Perhaps, I was too forward… He must think I’m a wanton--

Darcy grabbed her beloved face and kissed her uneasiness away. He gently brought her down to her bed and covered her face and neck with soft kisses as he mumbled in between his undying devotion to her. He had planned to take this slowly for her sake but his resolution was steadfastly wavering as her passionate response ignited his. He undressed his breeches hastily and laid himself by her side. His eyes roamed possessively over her bare body and admired the flush of embarrassment that covered her from her face to her supple breasts. He smiled brightly at his wife as he cupped her breast in a gentle manner.

Elizabeth felt her boldness melt away as his eyes pierced hers. She closed her eyelids as she felt another wave of shame cover her upper body. But Darcy would have none of it. He coaxed her to open her eyes as he worshipped her curves with feathery touches. Her excitement increased rapidly when he traced his mouth from her throat to her plump breasts and paused to repeatedly suck her nipples. She arched against him, frustrated, wanting to be filled by him.

He whispered hoarsely her name as he covered her bosom with wet kisses, going upwards towards her face. He paused over her lips and murmured “You’re so beautiful…so very beautiful…” And he kissed her with abandon. She kissed him back with an impatient, building need she had never felt before. Elizabeth grasped his shoulders more roughly, urging him closer, wanting more of him.

“More… Fitzwilliam, sweet William…” she begged, her voice husky from passion, her hands ensnared in his dark curls, pressing him to her breast. “More… please…”

He understood her need and he gently slid his hand towards her feminine core. He teased her slowly with his persistent fingers until she writhed against him. Elizabeth felt weaker and weaker from the waves of desire radiating from the spot where his fingers diligently caressed her. A whimper of pleasure escaped her lips causing him to hover over the brink of his self-control.

“Oh, William,” she sighed. “Please… William…”

He raised his head to look at his wife, her eyes dark with passion and her hair dishevelled. She was exquisitely bewitching. Unable to postpone the inevitable any longer, Darcy gently pushed her legs apart to position himself between them. His strong aroused body covered hers fully as he entered her softness. Both gasped as they shuddered from the immediate contact of his pulsing flesh inside hers. Elizabeth instinctively wrapped her legs around his hips, pulling him further within her. Deeply embedded in her, he began to move slowly in a steady, graceful rhythm. The intensity of their intimate dance swiftly hastened their pace and soon they found release in each other’s embrace, as the waves of pleasure rumbled through their bodies.

A tear of pure bliss ran down her cheek as she opened her eyes and lost herself in her husband’s passionate gaze. She felt utterly sated and marvelled with the intimacy of the moment. She wanted it to never end.

“Are you unwell, dearest? Have I hurt you?” he whispered worried with the sight of her tear. He tried to move off her when she stopped him.

“Please don’t go! I-I am well…” she murmured shyly. How could she explain to him her wanton desire to prolong the physical connection inside her body? She had never felt so…

“But I will hurt you… I am too heavy… Are you sure?” he added cautiously.

“I am not fragile, William. I want this… Unless you want to leave…” she replied uncertainly.

He felt a deep contentment as he understood her wish to continue their communion. He smiled openly at her and kissed her doubts away. “Are you pleased, my love?”

Elizabeth blushed but did not waver her gaze from her husband’s eyes. “Yes… you might… I believe you think me wanton… but… the truth is, I have never felt so… beautiful, so cherished…

He ran his fingers through her hair. With the other hand he traced feathery touches along her cheek. He was moved by her words. He truly loved her more than anything in this world. However, the spectre of another night of passion came forward to his mind as he recalled the last time he had professed his love for her and learnt, in the cruelest manner, that she did not love him back. He wanted to reassure her, but he could not utter those words… Not now, he thought. I would not bear not hearing her say “I love you” back to me.

Therefore, he reassured her the best way he could. He kissed her lovingly pouring into her all his love, imprinting on her skin beneath him his unwavering devotion. They smiled at each other and then he slowly moved off her to lie beside her and pulled her head to his chest. Elizabeth quickly entwined her limbs around her husband’s body and slowly surrendered to sleep. Her lips curled into a sleepy smile as she heard him whisper repeatedly into her hair “my wife”.

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Chapter Twenty-One

Staying at Brighton had enabled the couple to slowly strengthen the bond between them and heal the hurt both had suffered. Elizabeth and Darcy could not decide upon what had brought them closer: she believed that the sun and the sea had lightened her husband’s sombre mind and heart; he believed that the wild beauty of the coast and the winds suited his wife perfectly as they had blown away her pain and reticence towards him. Whatever their musings were, they were content with each other’s constant presence. The quiet serenity in each other’s company by day was surprising and satisfyingly contrasted by the passionate intimacy expressed in her bedroom by night.

Mr and Mrs Darcy reflected silently about this as they strolled at leisure through the fashionable gardens of Brighton or observed the mesmerizing motion of the sea waves. They had fallen into a quiet but tender routine: every morning they would walk with Georgiana while chaperoning Jane and Mr Bingley. They were glad to be of service to the courting couple as they relished in their own blossoming relationship at the same time.

The sight of Jane walking on Mr Bingley’s arm warmed Elizabeth’s heart. She knew how her sister had suffered over her broken heart! It was pleasing to see her bashful smiles and her flushing face, happy with the attentions lavished upon her by her Mr Bingley.

On the other hand, Darcy mulled over the cold demeanour of his friend towards him. What could he have expected? Immediate forgiveness? If Bingley had interfered in such a way in his life, he would never have forgiven him! Thus, he knew he was extremely lucky his dearest friend was able to be in the same room with him and talk to him. The generosity of Bingley’s character humbled Darcy. He sighed deeply as his lips tightened into a thin line. I behaved abhorrently… Disguise of any sort always disgusted me, and I consciously deceived Bingley! And looking at Miss Bennet… How could I have been so blind?

Elizabeth noticed her husband’s scowl. She briefly hesitated but, emboldened by the new understanding between them, softly inquired about his obvious displeasure. Darcy blushed lightly as he turned his eyes to meet hers. She smiled at him and caressed the arm she was leaning upon with her free hand.

“I don’t deserve your concern, Mrs Darcy.” He grinned shyly as he covered her delicate fingers with his hand, squeezing them gently. She arched her eyebrows quizzically, determined to learn what he was thinking. Darcy inhaled deeply and continued in a subdued voice, “I was simply thinking about Bingley… Of how I wronged him... Deceit of any sort is abhorrent to me, Elizabeth, and Iwilfully lied to him. I’m ashamed of myself… and by acting as such I hurt two wonderful people…” He nodded pointing Bingley and Jane walking ahead of them with Georgiana.

An awkward silence fell upon them. She sensed that her husband would be in need of some sort of assurance from her part that she had forgiven his interference. Elizabeth squeezed his arm affectionately and smiled gratefully as she glanced at the aforementioned couple.

“True, Fitzwilliam… You have indeed hurt them… but I do understand how you have acted in belief that you were protecting Mr Bingley’s feelings. And now you have made amends… you have allowed him to come to us, to Jane… The happiness my sister feels… is too much, I assure you, my dear husband!”

Her endearment filled his heart with a pleasant warmth and quietened his sorrow. He returned her smile as he caressed her hand resting upon his arm.

“Thank you, William…” she whispered softly and she impulsively withdrew her hand from his grasp. Their gaze locked as she grabbed his hand and brought it to her lips, bestowing a tender kiss.

They stopped. A shiver of pure delight coursed through their bodies. Darcy closed his eyes savouring the bliss of the moment. Pulling her hand against his chest, the spot over his heart, he silently prayed for her generous forgiveness.

I thank you, Elizabeth Darcy… my wife,” he whispered back.

The intensity of the moment made them almost forget themselves of their whereabouts. As they gathered their wits, they started walking anew. Elizabeth still felt slightly breathless. Glancing at her husband, she realized he was faring no better. A change in conversation was in order.

“On the other hand, my dear Mr Darcy, I am quite put out with you!” she stated seriously.

Darcy startled at her words but relaxed as he observed the mischievous gleam in her dark eyes that betrayed her true disposition. With a sly grin he inquired about what she was implying. Her chuckling was music to his ears. How I have missed the sweetness of her laughter…

“Why? Well, by inviting Mr Bingley here, bringing him to Jane… you have brought dear Miss Bingley into our company! And you know how I have longed for her company!”

The sight of her adorable pout was irresistible. Darcy laughed openly as he agreed. Indeed, he thought, Miss Bingley is a nuisance.

The visit of the Bingley sisters had been everything that Elizabeth had expected it to be. Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley had lavished poor Georgiana with all their smothering attention and they occasionally condescended in including their “dear Jane” in their babbling. Mrs Darcy, or rather Miss Eliza as Miss Bingley had repeatedly and purposefully called her, had been mostly ignored by them. Elizabeth could not care less about their opinion of her. Nevertheless, Jane’s attachment to Mr Bingley obliged her to at least be civil towards them. And she was certainly able to do so, silently, as she worked on her embroidery.

The sisters prolonged their visit as long as they could, hoping to be able to meet the true object of their call: Mr Darcy. Although their purpose had been denied, they had at least secured an invitation to dine with the Darcys on the next day.

“Yes, my dear Mrs Darcy… It seems we have secured for ourselves such pleasant dinner companions for tonight!” he stated merrily and laughed at his wife’s scowl.

< < < < <> > > > >

The modest staff of their Brighton home were able to serve a delightful dinner. The Hursts praised the tastiness of the fish and even Miss Bingley silently appreciated the roasted duck as she was served twice quite generously.

The feast might have been a pleasant one but the company was not. Miss Bingley had tried repeatedly to vex both Jane and Elizabeth with her sly remarks about the Bennets and the Wickhams’ infamous elopement. Both Elizabeth and Darcy knew it was her disappointment of not having been the one to bear the title of Mrs Darcy that lead her to her scorn of the Bennet family.

The ladies withdrew to leave the gentlemen to their glass of port and cigars and headed to the drawing room. The lack of a pianoforte in the house had to be compensated by conversation as guise of entertainment. Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley quickly joined Jane and Georgiana in a discussion over Caroline’s latest acquisition of a fine orange silk ball gown. Once again, Elizabeth had been rudely dismissed by the sisters’ conversation.

As she was not one to pine over the loss of Miss Bingley’s pert opinions over the fine silk of an orange shade, Elizabeth settled herself in the settee opposite with Wordsworth’s poetry to soothe her mind.

But her quiet interlude was quickly perceived by Miss Bingley as an ideal opportunity to engage her hostess in a private exchange. She stood and approached Elizabeth. She gave a great yawn and said,

“How pleasant it is for you to spend an evening in this way! I do declare, Miss Eliza, there is no enjoyment like reading!” she smirked at her.

Elizabeth decided to remain silent as she smiled politely to her guest. The woman definitely upset her nerves. G-d, she thought shocked, I’m starting to sound like my mother!

In her obvious displeasure, Miss Bingley turned to Elizabeth and said,

Miss Eliza Bennet – oh my, I forgot myself – Mrs Darcy” she choked as the appellation rolled on her tongue, “Shall we take a turn about the room? It is very refreshing…”

Elizabeth was surprised as she recalled a similar moment long ago at Netherfield. Only her husband was missing to complete the tableau. What is she up to? , she wondered. She agreed to it but reluctantly. Miss Bingley was not deserving of being the object of her civility, but for Jane’s sake and Mr Bingley’s she would try.

Their walking brought them further away from the other ladies and closer to the French door that opened to the terrace facing the sea. They stopped in front watching the beauty of the night falling upon the dark quivering mass of the sea. Elizabeth was intrigued about Miss Bingley’s motive for their turn around the room.

“Eliza,” she drawled snubbing, “you seem to have a prettyish kind of a little terrace out there. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company.”

Annoyed, Elizabeth obeyed but she was determined to make no effort for conversation with her. Miss Bingley was lately more than usually insolent and disagreeable. But silence was not what the odious woman wished for. She immediately set the tone for their talk as she coldly and insolently sated her opinions to her hostess.

“My dear Eliza,” she started, “you ought to know that you may have been able to fool Mr Darcy, but certainly not me or any of those among our social circle.”

“What is your meaning, Miss Bingley? I do not understand you,” Elizabeth cried astonished. “I have not fooled any one!”

Eliza,” she replied in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness. And it is not a pretentious upstart as yourself who will stop me! I have long resolved making my sentiments known to you.”

She paused as she let her resentment reign freely through her, losing all restraint and propriety. Raising her voice higher and higher she continued her tongue-lashing. “When the most alarming report reached town about your infamous wedding, no one could believe that Mr Darcy would have willingly taken a country bumpkin as a wife. The poor man has obviously been forced to marry you! You must have cast upon him your arts and allurements, seducing and compromising him into a shameful union… making him forget himself of his station, his family, his duty!”

“Miss Bingley! It is you who forget yourself! I will not tolerate this discussion any longer!” Elizabeth cried indignantly and started to turn back to remove herself from her company.

Miss Bingley grabbed Elizabeth’s arm forcefully as she pulled her back. Their discussion was definitely not over. Her bitterness was such that she was far beyond any sense of decorum or propriety.

“You have made him the laughing stock of society!” Miss Bingley continued. “Mr Darcy connected to such a family? Why, if he had not bought Netherfield out of charity, you, your mother and your sisters would have been thrown in the street where you should belong!”

“How dare you, Miss Bingley?” Elizabeth shouted trying to release her arm from her grasp.

Oblivious to anything but her anger, Miss Bingley went on, “…and now he is forced to be the brother of Mr Wickham? I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all; it was a patched-up business, at the expense of your husband’s money. And is such a man, the son of his late father's steward, now his brother? Heaven and earth! – Such a connection has tarnished the Darcy name! You have polluted the shades of Pemberley!”

“You can have nothing further to say!,” Elizabeth resentfully answered. “You have insulted me in every possible method!”

“I will not stop idly by and see my brother fall into your sister’s clutches as well! To be connected to such a family? And poor Mr Darcy! What a fool! He will soon regret being connected to you – a woman of no importance in society! And I for one shall be glad to see him reject you as he begins to loathe you and your family.”

Elizabeth gasped. She was so bewildered by the audacity of the woman that she no longer seemed able to refute her abuse. The violence which Miss Bingley applied to Elizabeth’s arm prevented her from withdrawing from the terrace. Fear crossed Elizabeth’s mind as she gradually understood that the woman standing in front of her seemed utterly mad.

Both women were so caught up in their quarrel that they failed to notice the gentlemen’s return to the drawing-room. Darcy instantly looked for his wife and saw the open door to the terrace. The pale worried faces of his sisters and Mrs Hurst’s frightened expression intrigued him. The loud voices coming from outside drove him to the door. He was appalled at the insolence being thrashed upon Elizabeth. However, the verbal duelling between the women mesmerized him, leaving him uncertain over whether or not he should interfere.

“I warn you, Eliza, do not expect anyone in polite society to notice you! Even Mr Darcy’s friends and family are disposed to censure, slight and despise you! Your alliance has become a disgrace to him and I will certainly make sure your name will never even be mentioned by any of our circle! You are certain to be his ruin and you will make him the contempt of the world!”

Darcy blanched at her words. He took a step forward onto the terrace determined to interfere but his wife’s sudden outburst halted him.

Elizabeth held her head up high, dignity personified. “These are heavy misfortunes,” replied she. “But as the wife of Mr. Darcy I have been bestowed such extraordinary sources of happiness which you, as a single woman will never understand. Mr Darcy and I, upon the whole, have no cause to repine. My husband is the most wonderful man of my acquaintance – and being his wife has made me the most fortunate woman, indeed. As you can see, Miss Bingley, you need not fear about the success of my marriage.”

While Mr Darcy felt his heart warming to his wife’s statement, Miss Bingley flushed violently in anger. She shouted back “You and your sister are nothing but harlots and fortune hunters! Fortunate? Why, yes… ten thousand pounds’ worth of fortune makes one fortunate indeed…” she sneered. “But my brother will not be fooled! Your sister has no right to aspire to such a match! An upstart with no family, no connections, no fortune! This is not to be borne!”

Darcy could no longer refrain himself from interfering. He stepped forward and grabbed Miss Bingley’s arm forcing her to release Elizabeth.

“THAT is quite enough, Miss Bingley!” he yelled. “How dare you come into my home and insult me and my wife?”

Miss Bingley stepped backwards frightened at his tone.

“And you are mistaken, Madam!” he continued. “My wife and all my sisters are a gentleman’s daughters. Unlike those who were fathered by wealthy tradesmen…”

She paled at his words, her mouth wide open, most unladylike.

“And connections, Miss Bingley? You should not worry about them… What better connection could you aspire for Charles than being the brother of Mrs Darcy?” Darcy had by then joined his wife’s side and reassured her by clasping his hand around hers tightly. Both faced the pale and trembling Miss Bingley.

Unable to bear the awkwardness of the moment any longer, she flew from the terrace, screaming madly for Louisa, begging to leave immediately. The thought of Mr Darcy having witnessed the horrors of her exchange with Eliza Bennet was utterly unbearable. She had condemned herself to being permanently banished from being welcomed by a Darcy ever again.

A bewildered Bingley stared at the Elizabeth and Darcy’s displeased faces as they stepped in the room. What had happened?

“Bingley, your sister seems to be taken ill. Perhaps we should all retire. We certainly need the rest.” Darcy’s countenance brook no opposition and no further inquiring. But in the sight of Bingley’s silent questioning, he offered “Tomorrow, my friend, tomorrow. We would be honoured, if you joined us for breakfast.”

Thus, the Bingley party left hastily leaving behind a silencing shock. Jane and Georgiana were trembling from the blow, their eyes filled with tears. Jane advanced towards her sister and asked softly,

“Lizzy, are you well? We could hear most of what Miss Bingley shouted at you… How could she be so unfeeling, so… so-s-so despicable? There must have been some sort of misunderstanding….”

Concern was written all over her pale face. Her eyes wide from fright.

Elizabeth laughed in disbelief at the absurdity of the moment. Her sweet Jane, as always, could not see any meanness in any one! Poor Jane, to have such a woman as sister…

“I am afraid, dear Jane, that Miss Bingley meant every word she said. But her opinion does not matter to me. And neither should it matter to you. Do not worry… Tomorrow Mr Bingley will assure you that his regard for you is as strong as ever… and all will be well.”

“Elizabeth is correct, Miss Bennet. Fear not. Perhaps we should all retire and forget this unpleasant business. Shall we?” Darcy reached for his sister’s hand and pulled her into his embrace, kissing her brow lovingly. “Good night, my love. Sleep well, Georgie.” And with a tender smile he kissed Jane’s blushing cheek as he wished her a pleasant night.

Elizabeth and Darcy turned towards each other and sighed. The ordeal was finally over.

< < < < <> > > > >

Later, in the darkness of Elizabeth’s room, Darcy lay awake with his wife asleep in his embrace. Sleep evaded him as he dwelled upon the night’s events. His emotions were in an uproar. His outrage over Miss Bingley’s despicable behaviour was high. He had repeatedly apologized to Elizabeth for having his guest insult her in their own home. But Elizabeth would not allow it, as she had begged him to forgive her for being the reason of Miss Bingley’s disappointment and resentment.

His feelings for his wife were restless. Her words had filled him with hope – hope that she might have, at last, some affection for him. Could she love me? He kept asking himself. His heart swelled as he gazed her beautiful face, peaceful and innocent in her sleep. His body spooned hers and whenever he tightened his hold upon her, she instinctively snuggled deeper into his arms.

His arousal was heightened by her warmth and each motion. As the moonlight crept into the room, Darcy’s senses awakened further. He could not stop himself from caressing her skin and kissing lightly her hair and neck. Elizabeth started to stir as she slowly became conscious of him cupping her breasts gently. She smiled suddenly awake. Her husband was growing quite eager for an intimate interlude. She purred as his attentions upon her breasts became more and more focussed.

She agilely turned in his arms to face him. She could see his beloved face in the moonlight. His dark eyes conveying all the love he felt for her. She could see the depth of his emotion… and understand it… and finally reciprocate it. She broke into a dazzling smile and whispered tenderly,

“My love…”

Darcy startled in disbelief. Could she? Was he dreaming?

“What did you say? Elizabeth?” he whispered frightened that it might all be but a dream.

“Fitzwilliam, my love… I love you, my husband.” She said louder, her gaze pouring all her emotions into his dark eyes.

“Oh Elizabeth, my love… How I longed to hear you say that!” he whispered back bewildered. He kissed her passionately and held her in an ardent and tight embrace. The profession of her love aroused him and humbled him at the same time. The bliss of having Elizabeth’s love at last was such… he could no longer contain himself. He willed her to accept him into her body as he gently nudged her legs open. She gasped as he entered her and both swiftly engaged their bodies in a fervent dance. The novelty of her love inspiring him to make love to his wife in a possessive manner. Darcy felt her arch upward as he kissed her, pulling him deeper into her. He lowered his mouth again to hers. His tongue darted and teased her as he slipped it between her eager lips, and he lowered his hands to the delightfully rounded cheeks of her bottom, shifting her to a different angle. The slight movement ignited in her the waves of pleasure and she cried out his name. He cried hers as he finally climaxed and plunged deep into her, arching his back as he pumped his seed into her.

They both sighed in contentment at the wonderful feeling that resulted, both from the physical pleasure they gave each other and from the intimacy they felt at this time. As in other nights, Elizabeth held him close to her, her legs and arms still wrapped around him, his manhood still throbbing in her body. She savored the connection and she would not let him move off of her. Both of them were sweating and panting from the exertion, but Elizabeth was oblivious to everything but the feeling of her husband both in and on her.

“I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy.” she whispered reverently but softly. Darcy’s heart leapt with the warmth and tenderness expressed by her voice.

“I love you Elizabeth Darcy.” he whispered back.

Chapters 22-23

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