CHAPTER 14 The Wedding
"Lizzy? Liz, are you all right?"
The soft tapping on the bathroom door brought a wry grimace to Lizzy's face as she lifted her head and opened her eyes. She swallowed, fighting to control the heaving of her stomach and then breathed deeply as it passed.
"I'm okay, Jane. I'll be out in a minute."
She climbed up off the floor, still feeling a bit shaky. It was a great way to start her wedding day, she thought, with her head in a toilet bowl heaving up nothing but bile. Resting her arms on the sink, she turned on the tap, splashed her face with water and tried to clean her teeth. Wrong move. She gripped the sink as her stomach lurched again and small beads of sweat broke out on her brow while she waited for it to settle again. She looked up at herself in the mirror. Her face was puffy, but at least the shade of green was passing and some colour was starting to return to her cheeks.
She opened the door to be met by Jane holding a cup of tea and a curious look.
"I'm almost scared to ask. I don't suppose it was something you ate?"
"Not really," replied Lizzy with a weak grin.
"Nope. You want to go for the $64,000 question, Sis?"
"Are you trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me, Lizzy Bennet?"
"Give it your best shot, Jane. Really let your head go. Wild as you like "
Jane closed her eyes tight and bit her lip like she was either concentrating or praying. "Are you pregnant?" The word came out as a tentative whisper.
Lizzy sipped at the hot, weak tea and laughed. "Bingo!"
"I think I'm going to faint," Jane gasped, and then smiled, "right after I cry. You're sure, Liz?" she asked as she followed Lizzy down the hall and sat beside her on the sofa. Jane picked up her sister's hand and started to rub it between her own.
"Doctor Jo thinks about eight weeks."
"Oh, Lizzy! I'm so happy for you!" she exclaimed. "Does Will know? What did he say?" she bubbled excitedly, hugging her tight.
"Will doesn't know yet. I planned on finding the right moment. Sometime today, actually."
"But how, Liz? I mean, you and Anthony " She left the sentence hanging.
"Looks like I wasn't the one with the problem after all," she grinned at Jane and winked.
"Then the baby that he and what was her name again?" asked Jane.
"Who knows? Who cares? Lizzy replied.
"This must mean it can't be his!"
"It certainly looks that way," mused Lizzy, "and if that's the case, it would be poetic justice, wouldn't it?"
"But, Liz, what he put you through "
The pain that once would have haunted her about that period of her life was no longer there, she realised with relief. With sparkling clarity, it suddenly all made sense to Lizzy. "Don't you see? None of that matters now. If Anthony hadn't done what he did, I never would have met William, and I wouldn't be getting ready for the happiest day of my life." Her hand strayed to the still non-existent bump of her stomach and her eyes were shining as she looked at Jane. "William is going to be my husband and the father of my child or children, Jane. Whatever pain and heartache I went through, this makes it all worth it."
"Oh, hell, now you're going to set me off, too." She smiled at her sister through a mist of tears. "I love you, little Sis, and I am so, so happy for you," she said, pulling Lizzy into a hug. "Look at us, bawling our eyes out. Just as well they're happy tears."
"The best kind. The only kind from here on in."
"I know this is terribly mean of me, Liz, but a naughty part of me just can't wait to see Mum's face when she hears the news."
"Maybe she'll be rendered speechless."
"That would be novel, wouldn't it?" Jane tried to keep a straight face, but one look at the twinkle in Lizzy's eyes and they both burst out laughing.
"I don't know who's worse, Jane-you or me."
Lizzy curled up comfortably on the lounge and sipped her tea. The nausea had passed. Just as well. The last thing she wanted was to be rushing to the bathroom every five minutes.
"So, are you going to be all right today?" Jane cut into her thoughts, a hint of concern lacing her voice.
"I should be. I haven't been sick for a couple of weeks now. I think this morning's little episode may have been brought on by a spot of nerves. I'm fine now, though. Thanks for the cuppa. It really hit the spot."
"You sure Will didn't suspect anything? Surely he wondered why you were sick "
"No. It only happened a few times and I thought it was just a bug. So did he."
"Well, good. You'll knock his socks off when you tell him, but right now you need to eat. What do you think you can keep down?"
"Dry toast and another cup of tea?"
Jane stood and walked to the kitchen. "On it's way. What time is Charlotte due here?"
"Not until eleven."
"Does she know about ?"
"Only you and me, Jane. I want to keep it that way until I've had a chance to tell Will."
"No problem. I understand."
Lizzy had no doubt that William would be thrilled once she told him. The hard part would be finding the right time today to tell him. But tell him today, she must. Keeping the news to herself was nearly driving her crazy.
The morning had passed in a blur of self-indulgence. Facial, hairdressers, makeup she felt completely and utterly pampered and relaxed. But the moment she slipped the dress over her head, suddenly it all hit home. The wedding was now just an hour away and the drive up to Charles' place would swallow up at least thirty minutes of that in the Saturday morning traffic. Her hands smoothed down over the bodice of her dress as she turned this way and that in front of the full-length cheval mirror. The deep 'U' of the neckline seemed to be showing a little more cleavage than it had a couple of weeks ago; already her body was starting to change in small ways. The softly draped skirt flared from her hips, swishing with her movements. Jane attached the comb in her hair, then the mantilla. Her transformation was complete.
"Twirl, girl," said Charlotte behind her, spinning her hand around in the air.
Lizzy twirled, the fullness of the skirt and the fine lawn petticoat lifting before settling once again into soft folds around her ankles. "What do you think? Do I look okay?" Suddenly she felt very nervous.
"With your hair and colouring and that dress, all you need is the castanets," teased Charlotte until she saw the look on Lizzy's face. "No, senorita, you look beautiful and sexy. Will is going to pass out when he sees you. Trust me."
"Jane?" asked Lizzy.
"Charlotte's right, Sis. Absolutely beautiful. Where on earth did you find that gorgeous dress?"
Lizzy lifted the skirt and peered down at the white leather tap shoes sans taps, they had bought at a dance shop to complete the outfit. "A little costumers shop Georgie knew of. We bought the mantilla there, too," she said, referring to the delicate veil of chantilly lace that fell just past her elbows. She looked up at her two bridesmaids and smiled tremulously. "I guess this is really it, huh?"
Just then the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it," said Char. "It's probably the flowers."
"I'd forgotten all about them," gasped Lizzy.
"God, I'm good," said Charlotte, coming down the hall with a box of bouquets. She placed the large box on the coffee table and carefully lifted out a delicate cascade of white roses tinged with pink, a spray of Dendrobia orchids and baby's breath, and handed it to Lizzy. "I'd say that's for you," she winked. "Oh, and there's a card, too."
After sniffing the exquisite fragrance of the roses, Lizzy lay the bouquet down, picked up the card and flicked it open to read
The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.
But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.
"Lizzy?" asked Jane.
Wordlessly, she handed the card to Jane who read it and smiled before passing it on to Charlotte.
"The man is a god, Liz," Charlotte smirked. "You know that, right? Damn, you are one lucky girl."
"And don't I know it," she smiled. She lifted the bouquet to her nose again, the scent intoxicating.
"It's almost time to go," said Charlotte, looking at the clock. "Are we all ready? Oh, hang on, door again "
"The cars are here," said Jane, turning back to Lizzy and letting the curtain drop back in place. "Shouldn't Dad be here by now?"
"Dad is here," called Bernie, following Charlotte up the hall into the living room. "Well, well," he said, looking at the three of them. "I doubt I've ever seen three more gorgeous women in my life. But you, Lizzy, are more beautiful than I've ever seen you. Your William is a very lucky man."
"Not nearly as lucky as I am, Dad," she said, hugging him, taking care not to muck up her make-up.
"Jane, Charlotte? Why don't you go down to the cars and tell the drivers we'll be along in a minute. I just want to have a few moments alone with Lizzy," he said.
"No problem, Mr B," said Charlotte. "No point in rushing anyway. It'll do Will good to sweat it a bit," she grinned.
He waited until they had gone and turned to Lizzy, re-adjusting the fall of her veil. He took her hands in his and gave them a squeeze. "I know we've done this before, love, but this time I know it's the last time. You'll be happy with Will. I watched both of you the day you came to lunch. I doubt I've ever seen a man more in love than he is with you. He deserves you, my darling Lizzy, and you deserve the happiness he can give you." He kissed her forehead. "Just don't forget your dear old dad. Like every father, I enjoyed being the only man in your life for a very long time," he teased gently.
"I love you, Dad."
"And I'll always love you, Lizzy my sweet."
With one final look in the mirror to assure herself that she was ready, she walked down the stairs to where the cars were waiting.
"It's showtime!" said Charlotte to Jane as their limo pulled up in front of Charles' house.
The door opened and she smiled when she saw who had opened it.
"Well, well. Don't you look spiffy, Rich. You do scrub up pretty good after all."
"As do you, Charlotte. Nice dress, by the way," he admired, grazing a path up the leg that was exposed through the long slit in her skirt as she made to step out of the car.
"Eyes above the navel if you don't mind," she said as she stood. "I already feel half naked in this getup." Without looking, she patted at the neckline of her top, making sure it was still preserving her modesty.
"Hey, works for me," he grinned wickedly, taking in the dropped shoulder of the peasant style blouse she wore.
"So, what's with the shirts?" She fingered the black silk of the full, billowing sleeves. The shirt was open far enough to give her a hint of the definition of his chest muscles playing under the fabric and the tapered shape highlighted his slim waist and hips very nicely indeed. "I thought you guys were wearing tuxes."
"Georgie. She got hold of us the other night and was adamant we had to wear these instead," he said, holding out his arms. "Will nearly had a fit as you can imagine, but Georgie can be as stubborn as he is when she wants to be. She insisted that unless he wanted to ruin the wedding, we had to wear them." He glanced up and down at Charlotte. "Now I can see what she meant," he considered. "Makes you want to shout 'Ole'."
In keeping with the Spanish theme of Lizzy's dress, she and Jane were dressed like something out of an upmarket Mexican cantina. Very nice, but not her usual style by any stretch of the imagination. She moved out of the way so that Jane could get out of the car.
"So, how's Will this morning?" asked Jane with a smile.
"A bundle of nerves. What else?"
"He's not having second thoughts, is he?" Charlotte realised even as she asked the question just how stupid it was. Everyone knew the man was totally batty over Lizzy.
"Will? You're joking, right?" asked Richard, incredulous. "I think his only worry is how soon he can get Lizzy to say 'I do' in case she changes her mind."
"As if that would ever happen," retorted Charlotte dryly. "Never seen a girl so crazy in love with a guy in my life."
"Well, personally, I don't understand why anyone would put themselves through this sort of torture."
"Oh, Richard," sighed Charlotte theatrically. "Girls all over Sydney will be devastated! That the great Richard Fitzwilliam will never marry."
"Cheeky wench," he said with a wink. "Anyway, Charles is with him now trying to keep him from rushing out here."
"That figures." Charlotte smiled as she looked around, running a discerning eye over the garden. A few guests were waiting, no doubt to see Lizzy as she arrived. "It looks like everything is ready. No hiccups this morning?"
"Only one," said Richard, his expression darkening momentarily.
Charlotte looked at him curiously. "What?"
"Caroline. I caught her trying to come in through the downstairs entryway."
"What the hell did she want?"
"You need ask?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"I hope you got rid of her."
A satisfied grin spread across his face. "I did. I got one of the security guards to remove her and told him to feel free to use whatever force was necessary to make sure she got the message."
"You're bad, Richard," chuckled Charlotte.
"And don't you know it, sweetpea."
"Okay, you two," grinned Jane, shaking her head at them. "Action stations. Here comes the bride."
Charlotte turned around and noticed Richard still standing there.
"Um, don't you have to go and let the groom know or something, Rich? You are the groomsman, yes?"
"Sure thing. Just as soon as I see Lizzy. I want a sneak peek before Will sees her."
"Yeah, but you have to admit I'm loveable."
As the car pulled up in front of them, Richard leaned over and opened the door. His face registered surprise when Lizzy took his hand and stepped out.
"Senorita," he drawled out the word, ending with a wink. "May I kiss the bride?"
"Sure, Richard," she smiled, offering him her cheek.
"You look beautiful, babe," he said seriously. "Will's eyes are going to pop out of his head when he sees you."
"Smooth, Rich. Very smooth," teased Charlotte behind him.
"My middle name, Charlotte, my sweet."
"Thanks, Richard," said Lizzy, squeezing his hand. "I really needed to hear that."
"Right. I'd better go and let them know you're here. See you soon," he waved as he hurried off.
"The place looks beautiful, doesn't it, Lizzy?" asked Jane.
Lizzy paused from straightening her dress and looked around, taking a deep breath before she nodded at Jane. Gaily coloured bunting and streamers gave the garden a carnivale air. The sun was shining. It was a perfect day. The breeze had dropped during the morning and the day was a little warmer than usual. Just right for a winter wedding. She was still glad though, that her dress had long sleeves in case the winter chill returned with the afternoon sea breeze.
The sounds of music drifted out to them. Jane adjusted Lizzy's veil one more time before leaning down to kiss her cheek.
"This is it. I love you, Sis."
"That goes for me, too," followed Charlotte, squeezing her hand affectionately. "Are we ready?"
They all nodded. Charlotte led the way up the path that led around to the garden in back.
The very second the music started up, Will had felt a rush of adrenalin flood through him, but that was nothing compared to the moment he first caught sight of Lizzy coming down the path following Charlotte and Jane. For the rest of his days, the picture of her at that moment would be permanently etched into his brain. She was, without a doubt, the most perfect vision he had ever seen in his life. He felt Richard nudge him, but for the life of him, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of her.
"She's something else, isn't she, mate?"
"And she's all mine, Rich." Will smiled smugly to himself.
If he lived for a thousand years, Will knew there would never be another moment in his life to compare with this.
Flashes of detail would always stay with him: the loving look in her eyes and the radiant smile as she walked towards him, the subtle scent of the lavender she always wore as she drew close, the softness of her small hand as he clasped it in his large one, and the sweet sound of her saying 'I do' to spending all their tomorrows joined as one.
When he was finally allowed to kiss his bride, it was at that moment when her lips touched his, that very special moment when the bonds on their hearts and souls were sealed, that the rest of the guests just faded into oblivion. For as long as it lasted, it was just the two of them, cocooned and apart from the rest of the world. A moment, the first moment, of perfect peace in his life.
How much time passed as he kissed his bride, he would have no recollection of later. If it weren't for the insistent tapping on his shoulder, by chance he might still have been there.
"Ah, mate "
Will shrugged his shoulder as if to dislodge an annoying bug. He was drowning in Lizzy-her scent, her taste, the feel of her lips moving under his.
"Will um, you can stop now."
Stop? What on earth would he want to stop for? The touch of Lizzy's lips under his was pure heaven.
"Will, for God's sake, save some of it for the honeymoon!"
He lifted his head finally, his eyes following as Lizzy licked her bottom lip and then smiled at him with those beautiful green eyes. "Can't get enough," he said to Rich, his eyes never leaving Lizzy's, as if his words made sense to anyone but him.
But the bubble was burst. Friends and family swooped in to congratulate them and before he knew it, they were separated by well wishers and he bemoaned the loss of contact with his wife, however short-lived. With barely half an ear on the conversation of those around him, he watched Lizzy talking and smiling with their guests, occasionally flicking a provocative glance towards him when no one was looking that fired up his blood. Each time he tried to make his way to her, a guest would intercept him. He grew more and more frustrated and his frown grew deeper as the minutes passed. In sheer desperation, the prospect of scooping her up and racing away with her was given serious consideration; it was a thought that held definite possibilities. He caught her looking pointedly at him, her eyes asking what was going through his mind and he realised he had been staring at her during his deliberations. He smiled back at her, reaching out to her with his thoughts, as if the power of their connection was a current passing between them.
After all his efforts to reach Lizzy were thwarted, he relented in the end. He could share her with their guests for a few moments--he would, after all, have her the rest of their lives. But for all his good intentions, he reached his limit for socialising shortly after. There were things he wanted to say to his wife, and he intended doing them in private.
With that in mind, he cut into something Georgie was saying, abruptly made his excuses to her and his father and threaded his way through the crush of guests to Lizzy, determination in every step of his stride, and wrapped his arm possessively around her waist.
"If you'll all excuse us," he announced to their gathered guests, "I would like a few minutes alone with my wife." He winked down at Lizzy, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Into the house and downstairs he hurried her until they finally ended up in the guest room where they would change before leaving on their honeymoon. After the noise of the crowd upstairs, it was a haven of quiet. He shut the door and clicked the lock, effectively blocking out any further interruptions.
"At last," she sighed.
"My thoughts exactly. If I'd known this would happen, I would have taken you up on your suggestion of an elopement," he murmured, burying his face in her neck and inhaling her fragrance as he wrapped his arms around her. "I missed you last night," he sighed, holding her close. "No more sleeping without my wife. Never again."
She tilted her head back and looked up at him as his head dipped closer to hers. The touch of his lips was little more than a breath, a light sensual suggestion of what was to come.
"Mrs Darcy," he murmured, his voice a delightful rumble.
"Mr Darcy." A grin spread across her face at the words.
"I have something for you," he said. "A special gift for today, so that you'll never forget what your love means to me." The heart-warming smile belied the seriousness at the base of his words. He released her hands and picked up the gift that had been sitting on the bed. Wordlessly, he handed it to her.
As she slipped the bow undone, the paper fell away revealing the new leather of a freshly bound book. She ran her fingers over the softness and inhaled the smell of it before looking up at him curiously.
He nodded at her. "Open it."
The book appeared to be a journal of sorts, written throughout in Will's even hand. Turning to the first page, she read the small introduction
To my darling wife, Elizabeth.
With much love, on our wedding day.
Take this piece of my soul, darling, and never fail to remember how much I love you
What followed, was indeed a journal. She stopped at the first page, noting the date. It was the day they had met.
Today I met a woman. Beautiful, fiery, intelligent, with green eyes I could happily drown in for the rest of my life
I made a complete fool of myself when I descended on her the moment she hit the beach. But I don't care. I imagine she could make any man do foolish things to catch her eye...
I asked her to have dinner with me and she said, YES! I felt for all the world like a bumbling teenager asking a girl out on a first date. What is it about her that so captivates me?
She read further, excitedly moving through the book, picking out random days here and there, her jaw dropping in surprise. Every day, since the time they had first met on Bedarra till the previous night, Will had written down his thoughts and feelings about her and later, as their relationship grew, them. All the things that had happened; all the things that had been said. His hopes and fears, and how his love for her had grown.
A piece of his soul. For such an intensely private man as Will, it was all that and more. Lizzy was speechless.
"I don't know what to say, Will," she gasped, crushing the book to her chest, unable to find the words for such an amazing gift. "I'll treasure it-always."
"I know you will, Lizzy. I trust you with this like I trust you with my heart."
He took the journal from her then, placing it on the bed before coming back to her. His lips brushed across hers again, initially a brief touch that rapidly fired into a deeper burn between them as their emotions of the day came into play; a kiss so intense it left her trembling in his arms. A final taste of his tongue over her lips and they pulled apart, foreheads touching.
"You're everything to me, sweetheart. I love you so much. Words just don't seem to describe how I feel when I'm with you."
"I know and I love you, too." Her heart felt full and she knew that the right moment had come. Taking a deep breath, she reached up to cup his cheek. "I have a gift for you, too."
"You didn't have to get me anything, Lizzy. Just having you as my wife is the only gift I'll ever need."
She savoured his words, feeling the truth of them in her soul. But she knew the gift she had for him was one he would cherish as much as he cherished her. "No, honey, this gift is for both of us. Just a second," she said as she turned to the dressing table and the small gift that sat there.
She took a deep breath and handed it to him. "This is for you, my love. It's something I know you've always wanted," she said, her eyes misting even as they crinkled when she smiled up at him.
Her heart pounded as he took the gift and grinned, holding it to his ear and gently shaking the box. She watched him closely as he peeled the paper off. Inside was a small, silver coloured box with a clear plastic lid. Cushioned in the box, sitting on a bed of tissue, was a tiny pair of white knitted booties tied with a thin satin ribbon.
He looked sharply at her, a spark of hope flashing in his eyes before confusion spread rapidly across his face. "What is it, Lizzy?"
As she was still coming to grips with the knowledge herself, she could understand the bewilderment he must be feeling. Hit with the import of what she was about to say, a huge lump formed in her throat that words couldn't get around. Locking her eyes with his, she took his hand in hers and placed it on her tummy, smiling her answer up at him.
He sucked in a breath, his eyes searching hers intently. "You don't mean "
"The test results?" she reminded him, her voice catching even yet.
He nodded, speechless.
She swallowed. "It wasn't a virus, Will. We're going to have a baby."
She watched him closely, gauging his reaction, seeing the tentative flicker of hope in his eyes and feeling the tightening of his arm around her waist. In the stillness and quiet of the room, his voice sounded hushed.
Will didn't seem to know what to say. For once in his life, words appeared to have failed him. He glanced down at their hands layered over her stomach and then back up at her face. "I'm not dreaming this, am I? This is really true?"
He looked scared to believe what she was telling him and tears trickled down her cheeks. She brushed them away impatiently as she nodded.
His breath hitched as he tried to inhale. Keeping one hand on her stomach, he cupped her cheek with the other, resting his forehead on hers for a moment.
When he lifted his head to look down at her, it was with such an expression of love and wonderment on his face that Lizzy just knew she would start crying again. Silly pregnant tears.
A baby. He tried to get his head around it and say something, but he was flabbergasted, to say the least. A baby! With a shaking hand, he reached down again to move it over the flatness of her stomach. A vivid image of her swelling with the fullness of their child over the coming months flashed into his mind and he pulled her quickly into his arms, hugging her fiercely. Lifting away slightly, he crushed his mouth to hers, pouring all the love he felt for her into it the kiss.
"I love you so much, sweetheart. I'm sorry. I'm probably not saying the words you want to hear, but I just can't believe it," he said, incredulity in his voice. "God! A baby!" he exclaimed, laughing suddenly with the swoop of joy he was feeling. Impulsively, he lifted her up and spun her around, smacking her soundly on the lips.
Lizzy chuckled as her feet touched the ground again, grabbing his arm for support as she regained her balance.
"But how?" he finally asked.
"I asked Dr Jo the same question, and as he told me, we really didn't get to finish the fertility testing before with well, you know who but it looks like the problem may not have been with me, after all."
"So this may not have been a fluke? We might be able to have more?"
"Um, yes," she replied cautiously, seeing where his mind was leaping. "But let's just have them one at a time, okay?"
"Sure. And if this one's a girl," he punctuated his words with a kiss, "then next time we can have a boy," another kiss, "and after that "
"Just a second, Will," she gasped. "How many are you thinking? Just a ball park figure will do." She couldn't help herself and laughed. His excitement was infectious.
"Five? Ten? Hey, as many as you can stand," he shouted, the joy breaking free again.
He picked her up and sat on the bed with her on his lap, tracing her line of her jaw with a fingertip. "Now I know we're truly blessed, Lizzy," a hint of seriousness creeping into his voice, "and we'll be the best parents."
"I know we will."
He stood up, putting her down but keeping a firm hold on her hand. His huge smile broke out again. "I've got to tell somebody. Hell, I've got to tell everybody!" With her hand in his he pulled her along and started to leave the room. He stopped abruptly and turned to her. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No, honey, I don't mind at all," she replied, shaking her head in bemusement as she squeezed his hand.
Luckily it was a small wedding, so it didn't take long for the sound of Will's excited and booming voice to gather everyone around under the tree in the garden where they had said their vows. He waited until they were all gathered and stood looking at him expectantly.
"We didn't plan on having any speeches today, but all of you here are very dear to us. So I have something I rather, we have something," he said, looking down at Lizzy, "we would like to share with you."
Murmurs rippled through the gathered guests, but quieted as he continued.
"I thought marrying Lizzy would be the happiest day of my life, and I was right. She completes me in a way I would never have believed possible. But just now, I found out something that will change our lives forever."
He turned to face her, seeing the excitement, the love, the joy in his heart reflected in her eyes.
"Lizzy and I are going to have a baby," he said, more softly than he intended, but then it hit him. What had just moments ago been words and emotion suddenly became reality and it hit him like a bullet.
He cupped her face in his hands and his throat tightened as he tried to speak so that the words came out as a whisper halting. "I-love-you-so-much."
In an emotion charged moment as Will made the announcement, Jane stood back, happy tears streaking her cheeks as she watched them. It was a blessing to see her sister, after so much heartbreak in her life, so loved by the man of her dreams. She glanced back as she felt Charles' arms go around her, holding her tight.
"Next time, it'll be us, beautiful," he said quietly but firmly.
"Charles? What "
She turned quickly in his arms, seeing the nervous but hopeful look on his face.
"But Charles! You-"
"Do you love me, Jane?"
"Oh, Charles, you know I do."
"Look, I didn't intend asking you today, like this, but I can't wait. I don't want to wait." He clasped her hands in his. "I love you, Jane. You must know how much. You've given me my life back." He looked over at the happy newlyweds. "And I want to feel what Will and Lizzy are feeling. I want that in my life again. Knowing that whatever happens, you and I will be together. I want you to marry me and..."
Jane felt a tugging on her hand and she and Charles both looked down to see Robbie standing there. Charles quickly picked him up and grabbed her hand. "You realise of course, that it's a package deal-two for the price of one."
"What's a package deal, Dad?"
"You and me, squirt. So, would you like Jane to be your new mummy?"
Robbie squealed. "Yeah, Dad! Is she? Did you ask her?"
Jane and Charles laughed. "I sure did, mate. I'm just waiting hoping she'll say yes."
"Say, 'yes', Jane," Robbie pleaded. "Please, please, please?"
She looked at the two Bingley men watching her expectantly and smiled. Who could say no to a proposal like that? she thought with a smile.
"Yes, I'll marry you. Both of you," she replied, mussing Robbie's hair as she turned to Charles, her happiness lighting up her face.
Lizzy felt an arm go around her shoulder and turned to see who it was.
"In one day, I gain a sister and become an aunt-to-be," Georgie said, hugging her tight. "I know how much this means to you and Will, Lizzy. Whatever you need, whatever I can do, just ask, okay?"
"That goes for me, too, Lizzy." Bill Darcy was right behind Georgie. "I hope you and Will will allow me a small space in your lives after my appalling behaviour when we first met. I can't look back on that time except with the utmost abhorrence for the hurtful things I said to you." He took her hand in his. "There is a lot about you that reminds me of Isabelle-the quiet strength, the determination, the same inner beauty. You will make my son very happy, and for that, I'm glad."
"And I think that's a good time to hug, don't you?" asked Georgie, attempting to relieve the intensity of the moment.
"I think you're right," laughed Lizzy with relief. She held out her arms and was enveloped in arms and a hug that felt familiar and comforting.
"Where is Will, Lizzy? I must tell him congratulations, too."
She pointed over where Will was standing with Richard, their heads close together in earnest conversation, the occasional laugh filtering over to them.
"If Will weren't a married man, I'd be wondering what those two were up to," said Georgie, her eyes narrowing in good-natured suspicion.
"Hmmm when they were teenagers, Lizzy, it always spelt trouble whenever those two got together. Most times we didn't find out until it was too late. Shall we crash their little tκte ΰ tκte, honey?" he asked Georgie with a wink.
They left to talk to Will, and a frisson of apprehension came over Lizzy as she watched her father and mother approach her. After the thoughtless, hurtful words her mother had spoken when she and Will had visited them that Sunday, she was a little reluctant to speak with her mother. But then she felt a prickle of satisfaction at knowing now what she hadn't known then.
Her mother leaned over for the briefest of pecks on the cheek.
"Congratulations, Elizabeth. And about the baby, too, although I must say, I'm still amazed about that little announcement. I mean "
"Frances," rumbled her father in warning.
"Well, yes, it's wonderful news. Just take care, and don't do anything stupid."
"Stupid? Do you honestly think I would do anything to endanger the life of this child that I've wanted for so long?" She prickled with indignation, but then she noticed Will striding over to her, a concerned look on his face, no doubt prepared to save her from her mother if necessary. That thought made her feel wonderful. Diffusing the irritation she was feeling. It was such a secure feeling, knowing that he would always be there for her in future. It appeared that Will disconcerted her mother somewhat, as she moved away soon after his arrival-a thought that pleased Lizzy no end.
Maddie and Edward, who had flown in from Bedarra that morning, waited until the press of guests cleared before coming over to the two of them.
"I always hoped for this day, Lizzy. I couldn't be happier for you. For both of you."
"Thanks, Aunt Maddie, Uncle Edward. But if it weren't for you two, Will and I would never have met. We have you to thank for that."
"Maddie knew, the moment she saw you two together, that you were right for each other. I remember her telling me so," commented Edward with a fond look at his wife. "Make sure you come and visit us soon."
"Definitely," said Will with a grin as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. "I have a hankering to see Lizzy in that little yellow bikini again. It was what caught my eye, after all."
"We'd better go soon then," offered Lizzy. "Before long I'll be too big to be seen in a bikini."
"Why?" asked Will blankly.
"My tummy?" she said, glancing over her shoulder and looking at him pointedly.
"You don't think you'll be even more beautiful to me with our child growing inside you?" he asked, squeezing her. "Nothing is more sexy than a pregnant woman."
"Good. I'll remind you of that when my ankles swell and I start to waddle like a beached whale," she teased, bringing laughter from the other three.
When Maddy and Edward moved away, Lizzy looked up at Will. "Is it time to leave yet? I want to you all to myself. Selfish, I know, but "
"I thought you'd never ask!" he sighed with relief. "Do you think anyone would notice if we just slipped out the back way?"
"We could try," she giggled.
"I don't know about you, Rich, but I'm pooped!" Charlotte flopped down on the sofa. "And my feet are killing me."
The last of the guests had finally departed and she sighed with relief as she sank into the soft leather seat.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he removed her shoes, tossing them over his shoulder in such a cavalier way that she had to laugh. "All right, you've got my attention. Now what do you do for an encore?"
"How about this?"
Charlotte groaned with the pleasure as his hands started to massage her feet. "God! You have no idea how good that feels. It's almost better than sex!"
"Nuh-uh. The word 'orgasmic' comes to mind actually." She moaned again as his nimble fingers freed a particularly aching knot in the ball of her foot.
"Babe, if this in any way compares to sex, you've been sleeping with the wrong guys!"
Her eyes drifted shut as she surrendered to his relaxing ministrations. "Tell me about it. But this, this is heaven. Just don't stop please "
"I won't. Not until you tell me to."
She was sure there was a lot more to what Richard was saying, but she was just too damn tired to ponder it and brushed it away. Later, maybe
"Where are Charles and Jane?"
"Downstairs putting Robbie to bed, I think. Why? Are you worried that they'll come in and see me grovelling at your feet?"
"No. It's where you're meant to be after all." A soft chuckle escaped her. She was being naughty, but she felt so damn tired, she just didn't care. A hand crept up the back of her leg and started to massage the calf muscle. As delicious as the sensation was, and she couldn't lie to herself that it was anything but, she knew she should stop him.
"Heading anywhere in particular, Rich?" She opened one eye and stared at him.
"Maybe Why? You got any other bits that need massaging?"
"You just never give up, do you? Is that the secret to your success wear them down until the don't have the energy to fight you anymore?"
"It's not usually necessary "
"You're really such a shy boy, aren't you?" she asked dryly.
"But in your case, whatever it takes, sugar."
"Would it make any difference if I said you were wasting your time?"
"No, of course not."
She tried to wriggle her tingling foot out of his hand, but he gripped it firm.
"What is it, Char? Why won't you let me make you feel good?"
"Because I feel fine just as I am. Sorry to disillusion you, big boy, but I don't need a man to give me a foot rub. I have a foot massager at home that can do the job just as well."
"You must spend a fortune on batteries keeping all your little appliances going."
"It's a small price to pay."
"But they can't do everything, you know."
She tried to sit up from her comfortable slump when he got up from where he was sitting and knelt in front of her. It happened so quickly, she still wasn't quite sure how it did, but before she knew it, he had manoeuvred between her legs and placed his hand on the armrests of the chair, effectively hemming her in.
"I know something you can't buy a gadget for."
"What?" Dumb, Charlotte. That's as good as an invite, you moron, she castigated herself.
He was right, she realised as his mouth closed over hers, licking and nibbling. Definitely no batteries for this one. God, but his mouth felt good tasted good, too. A hint of stubble rasped the soft skin of her face as his lips pushed hungrily against hers. The silky touch of his tongue probed provocatively, then slid between her parted lips. While his mouth was draining her brain of every rational, sensible thought, a delicious heat was spreading from that point where he was nestled between her thighs, gently nudging her with what felt to be a considerable erection. It had to be because she was tired, because to her amazement, her mindless body was responding, her hips arching against his in a sensuous reply. She tried to sort out 'foot massage' from the simulated, fully-clothed sex that was happening as he thrust against her through the layers of clothing, but her synapses were shot to hell. Pure instinct with a healthy dose of lust was driving this hotrod. It was such a short step over the edge of the vortex that beckoned. She deliberated for about two milli-seconds and was about to take the leap and damn the consequences, when she felt Richard pulling away from her.
Their lips parted and she looked up at him, confused, disoriented. To be honest, he didn't look a whole lot better. His eyes were dark and stormy, his hair ruffled and the way he was looking at her as if she were the entrιe and main course all rolled into one, just set off a new flood of heat between her legs.
"Not here, Char."
Here? She looked around and gulped when she realised that they were still sitting in Charles' living room.
"No." Her voice cracked but she couldn't help it, rapidly trying to swallow the need she had been feeling. "Where then?" That's it, Char. Jump in with both feet, why don't you?
"Let's talk about it while I drive you home," he said as he helped her up.
She tried to stand and wobbled unsteadily. Now, if she could just get her legs to function again
The squeal of engines starting up was muffled in the cabin of the Qantas 747 as the final passengers hurried to get settled and stewards moved to assist them.
Still feeling a little cool from the early morning rush to the airport and with the cold blast of air-conditioning on her face, Lizzy snuggled under the warmth of the rug that covered both of them. She turned to Will who was absently flicking through a magazine he had picked up in the airport shop and linked her arm through his, snuggling closer.
"So, where are we off to?"
He reached over and kissed the tip of her nose. "First stop, Singapore."
"I know that much," she frowned. "It's just a stop over. But where after that?"
"You'll find out in about six hours," he grinned secretively as he looked out the window.
"Mental cruelty is grounds for divorce, you know," she said with a jab in his ribs.
He laughed and faced her, that devastating smile all for her. She felt her heart flip under the impact.
"You are so gorgeous, Mrs Darcy," his fingers trailed down her cheek. "If we weren't on this plane, I'd "
"Well, Mr Smarty Pants, you're the one that booked us on a long flight to somewhere, so you're just going to have to wait, aren't you?" A wicked thought crossed her mind and she slipped a hand under the rug.
Watching her out of the corner of his eye, Will was still grinning to himself over his wife's efforts to find out where they were headed for their honeymoon. He caught that mischievous look and wondered what she was up to just before a fingernail scraped up the length of his fly stopping at the top of his zipper.
"Tell me," she pushed, her voice warm and throaty.
"No. Patience is a virtue, or so they say."
"Really? Let's see about that, shall we?"
He quickly glanced down at the blanket, his jaw dropping open in surprise. Nothing was obvious to a casual onlooker at least not yet. Tooth by tooth, he felt the zipper on his jeans being slid down under the blanket. He grabbed her hand as he glanced around again to see if they were being observed. Fortunately for Lizzy and what she obviously had in mind, they were in the second row of first class and as he was in the window seat, covered by a rug and hidden from further prying eyes by Lizzy's body turned as if she was looking out the window, he knew he was in deep, very deep trouble.
"You wouldn't!" he warned, looking at her in shock. From the glint in her eyes, he could got the message loud and clear that, yes, she most definitely would.
"Tell me," she prodded, running the zipper down all the way and raking that same fingernail up the length of his now straining erection.
He bit his lip and tried to muffle a moan. Even though they had made love in bed before they got up and then again in the shower as they were getting ready, his cock sprang to life as if it had been on a starvation diet for the last ten years. A finger slipped inside the front split in his boxers and stroked a hot line up and down his length.
He squirmed and pushed back in the seat. "Don't, Lizzy. Someone will see."
"No one is looking, honey. They're all too busy. Well, at the moment "
He felt her lift out his cock, and he stiffened all over when she grasped it in her warm hands before skimming down the rigid length.
"Not yet," he bit, arching up into her hand.
Her hand slid in a sensual caress up and down the shaft, teasing the swollen head and the sensitive glands the rimmed it.
"Give me a hint, then," she suggested.
He grit his teeth. At any moment they could be discovered and as much as wanted her to stop, it just felt too damn good. A hint. What would his darling wife consider a hint?
"M," he offered. "It starts with 'M'."
"Really? Okay, I can play that game. A letter for a letter. Mine starts with 'O'. Tell me, honey, how long is your word?"
"Just wondering which one of us will get to the end first-if you know what I mean," she grinned, feeling for the tightening sack under his throbbing erection.
"O-R," she teased.
Will sucked in his breath as she smoothed the pearl of moisture he released over the head of his penis. He gritted his teeth and fought for control, trying to resist the urge to pump against her hand.
"This isn't going to work, Lizzy. It's a surprise."
"Hmmm, let's see. O-R-G. Can you guess my word, William?"
"L!" The sound was torn from him as she increased her pace. At the rate she was going, he'd have lift off before the plane had even left the ground.
"Good morning," said a voice behind Lizzy.
He froze and watched Lizzy turn slightly to face the stewardess. "Hi," she said brightly as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
Lizzy's hand had paused in its stroking, a fact for which he was extremely grateful, allowing him to catch his breath for a moment. He wasn't game to glance down in case the stewardess noticed and worked out what was going on under the rug.
"Is there anything I can get you?"
"No, we're fine, thanks," replied Lizzy. "When do we take off?"
"About five more minutes. Ahh just buzz if there's anything you need."
Any chance of a private room with a bed? he was about to offer.
"No, thanks. We have everything we need at our fingertips."
"Enjoy your flight," the stewardess said pleasantly, with what looked suspiciously to Will like a knowing grin.
Lizzy waited until they were alone before moving again.
"You only have five minutes, honey. Shall we speed things up a bit?"
His respite was short lived and he groaned as her hand increased its pace. His knuckles turned white as his hands gripped the armrests, and he looked at her intently. "D," he rumbled.
"A. Only two left for me, Will honey."
He closed his eyes against the sensations shooting up his cock. If they weren't on a plane he would lift her off her seat and onto his lap and wipe that teasing grin right off her face. "Geez! Stop, Lizzy. I can't hold on much longer." She just looked at him with that smirk on her face and he knew she had no intention of stopping. "I. Now, guess. For heavens sake, give it a shot."
"Oh, I intend to," she chuckled. "S. Last chance, Will. Come on. There's still time."
Not much if you keep that up, he thought. He could feel the blood surging, the pressure building relentlessly in his cock, his release closer than she knew. "M-A-L-D-I Stop!" He felt her other hand slip under the blanket, a piece of something soft that he guessed must be a tissue in her hand. "MALDIVES!" he exhaled in a rush, groaning then as she stopped stroking just before he came.
Her hand slipped out from under the blanket and she sat back in her seat, a satisfied grin on her face. His body was still trembling from the near release. His erection throbbed and he looked at her, his face telegraphing his need.
"Patience, Will. I hear it's a virtue," she laughed, a teasing wink in her eye.
He growled at her before she slipped her hand around his erection again, taking up where she had left off. The roar of the engines as they started down the runway muffled the groan as he came, finally, the shudders leaving him feeling weak and trembling.
"ORGASM," she whispered in his ear. "No more secrets, Will," she said, leaning over to kiss him. "It's not worth it."
"Oh, I don't know," he offered weakly, a smug, satisfied smile on his face as he leaned back into his seat and closed his eyes.
A White Rose by J B O'Reilly (1844-1890)
Visit http://www.banyantree.com/maldives/picturegallery1.htm. Also, to view the room where they stayed, click on 'Villa's and then 'Deluxe Jacuzzi Beachfront Villa'.)
The rustle of a lightly scented breeze blowing in off the sea at their door billowed the sheer curtains in passing and fanned a waft of cool air over Lizzy's face. A tendril of hair tumbled down, falling to rest on her cheek. The familiar tickle disturbed her and she scrunched her nose and blew a short, sharp puff of air, attempting to dislodge it. The hair, still damp with perspiration from their exertions during the night stayed stuck. She lifted a hand and brushed it back, letting it join the rest of her tresses fanned out over the crisp linen of the pillow. With a gentle rub, her eyes opened and she smiled dreamily at the vista in front of her. A few steps over wood decking, half dozen more over white, fine sand, and the sparkling aquamarine waters of the lagoon beckoned. If this was heaven, Lizzy never wanted to leave.
Slowly rolling over, she faced Will stretched out over the bed beside her. Her hungry eyes skimmed over the sight of her husband lying flat on his back, his muscular arms flung up over his head, strong hands lightly clutching the headboard. His tanned body was bare to the waist where the crumpled sheet discreetly and rather annoyingly camouflaged the trim hips and crisp curls covering his groin. She grinned at the sight of his large feet sticking out at the bottom. Resting on an elbow, she ran her eyes over his face. The rigid lines and worried frown of the past weeks were no longer in evidence. A wayward curl flopped over his brow and she lifted it, moving it off his face.
As her gaze ran lower, she felt inordinately satisfied that the gorgeous specimen in the king-sized bed with her was her man. Her man. Lock, stock and beautiful, hunking barrel - the whole package was all hers. From the light dusting of dark curls over his chest, the dark, flat nipples cresting through the hair to the rampant erection that even now was waking far ahead of its owner a proprietary smugness settled over her and she smiled.
"If you keep looking at me like you're going to eat me, we may just have to do something about it, Wife."
Will's sleepy rumble jolted Lizzy out of her mental wanderings and she glanced up, her face tinting a pale shade of pink at being caught out, to find a satisfied smirk on her husband's face.
"Make a suggestion. I can assure you of my complete co-operation." As if to punctuate his words, his erection waggled under the sheet.
"I swear that thing has a mind of its own," she laughed.
With a quick roll, he pinned her under him. "Are you complaining?" His eyebrow lifted, giving him a rakish and decidedly naughty air.
He spent some moments feasting with extreme skill on every available inch of her skin, making her restless with need, so that when he lifted his head and spoke, it took a few seconds for her body to allow her mind to re-engage, and for the question he asked her to penetrate the fog of lust he had encouraged.
"So, was the surprise worth it?" he asked.
"I think half the fun was getting it out of you," she said, recalling her methods of extracting the information.
He nibbled her nipple playfully. "Hmmm," he murmured, flicking the tip of the hardening bud before fixing his gaze on her once more, "keeping secrets from you has certain advantages. I must remember that in the future. Now, however, I have something in mind that is definitely no secret."
She felt something hard, hot and thick nudging at the warmth between her thighs and with a barely muffled moan, she lifted her legs and wrapped them around his hips, locking her ankles over the tight muscles of his butt. "Show me," she uttered just before his lips settled on hers and the familiar length thrust deep inside, effectively halting any further thoughts from entering her mind, save those that settled on the tightening and clenching where their bodies met.
Before she knew it, almost a week had passed and it was their final day on Vabbinfaru before check-out tomorrow and the short trip by seaplane to Male and the flight home. She sat on the deck chair under the shade of the sala pavilion looking out over the tranquil waters, sparkling in the morning sun. The morning, though hinting at the heat that would come later in the day, was kept cool by the breeze eddying around her.
Absently, she stroked circles over her tummy, thinking of how their lives were to change over the coming months. And always there was Will, loving her, hovering over her even now.
"It was that yellow bikini that did it for me, you know."
She hadn't heard him come up behind her, but the warmth of his breath tickled in her ear as he spoke. His hand moved over hers, continuing the gentle strokes.
"I suspected as much. Every time I put this bikini on, your eyes change, go darker. It's very, very sexy."
"Well, it makes me think of the moment I first saw you on the beach that morning on Bedarra. I think I fell in love with you with that first glance. I knew I had to get to know you. And now, I can't imagine my life without you in it."
With a few movements, he had replaced himself in the deck chair with her on his lap. She thought he was going to kiss her and her breath quickened in anticipation, but instead he just looked at her, communicating with his eyes the depth of his emotion.
"Do you have any idea just how much I love you, Mrs Darcy?"
"Yes, I do."
She sighed. Falling in love, getting married, expecting a child-at times, the past few months felt like a whirlwind to Lizzy, but the confidence, the surety that she felt about her and Will, though hard come-by, was one more blessing she had never anticipated in her life; a gift all the more precious for the unexpectedness of it.