And finally I have arrived at the last moments of my first Regency story. Not with some fretting, I have to say.
I have to thank with all my heart the nice friends who reached out to give their opinion. Many, many thanks. I will take all your views into consideration when revising everything and will try my best to give my lines a Regency like vibe.
Anyway, here is the Epilogue - rewritten four times, the closing of this journey from effusive happiness, to the abyss of jealousy and arriving at... You'll see. ;)
Love in acts
angst, rated M, short, sequel to P&P
‘My nymph, I am come to pay you my respects.’ She heard her adored husband’s strong voice and surreptitiously stored a letter behind her one second before he arrived close, bowed low and placed a laurel wreath on the top of her head. Heart speeding, she gasped. ‘Tonight-’ He glued lips with her. ‘– I want you do dress as a Greek goddess. Aphrodite.’
‘Will you be Apollo?’ Comfortably stretched in the big chaise, she asked caressing his naked neck in long strokes that dipped inside his opened shirt. ‘I love our new balcony shaded by these tall potted trees, my love.’
‘The doors are locked; you can love me here again if that’s what you mean.’ He offered and she chuckled. ‘Rise so I can lay under you.’
‘I ate normally at breakfast, do you really think?...’
‘I’m sure!’ Proud of his secret ability to plan their lives, he smiled when she scooted to the side and her negligée opened revealing her milky skin and engorged nipples. He half lay beside her and leaned forward to place a small kiss on each. ‘This one is better be a boy or we’ll have to call her Catherine!’ Darcy grinned enchanted by the idea of an heir; Elizabeth smiled although her eyes were troubled. ‘Maybe a boy will allow you a more agreeable confinement.’
For a moment she thought her stomach was already rebelling against the child inside her. ‘According to you, there’ll be another two girls before a boy comes.’ She kissed his ear hiding her face in his neck.
‘Two years since Eliza, it’s about time we have another babe in the house.’
‘After their stroll in the park with the nannies; our daughters will need a long nap. Georgiana is at cousin Margaret’s for the modiste’s visit. Are you finished with your business?’
He nodded combing a loose lock of hair behind her ear. ‘You didn’t want a new dress?’
She shook her head and wrinkled her nose as the wreath balanced awkwardly over her left eye. ‘I have new ones for the next balls. Margaret is too… bossy when it comes to fashion. She is now intent on peacock feathers, I want far from her.’ He chuckled. ‘Another ball in a few hours and we’re officially in the middle of Georgiana’s third shopping season. Half is done, only half more to come.’
‘I hope this will be our last.’ He groaned for her amusement and she kissed his eyelids.
‘Your aunt has a Duke and a future Earl at prise de fer.’
‘I suspect that even if she had a Prince you’d still block his coming to me and it would still cause drama between you and aunt Daphne.’
‘I still hope for a love match, she insists on a fine arranged marriage.’ Elizabeth huffed.
He held her face to look directly into her eyes. ‘Thank you for conducting everything with so much care. For managing with my aunt what it was best for Georgiana after that problem at Ramsgate.’
‘I accept your gratitude.’ She smiled with a twinkle in her eyes. ‘By conducting you mean keeping my family very far from most of the events, is it not?’ She smiled sideways, he pressed his lips. ‘At least Aunt Eliza has made peace with you… and you seem to be fond of Uncle Gardiner again.’
‘I am. Just…’ He trailed off. ‘Never mind.’
Elizabeth bit her lip and silently stared at his shirt for a moment. ‘My love?’
‘I don’t want to upset you but I hate secrets.’ Her delicate fingers combed his chest’s hair and something in her voice made his heart instantly change from the comfortable warm rhythm of love to uneasiness. ‘I got a letter today.’
‘A letter from the New World.’ She twisted and took it from under her, Darcy waited. ‘My solicitor is making a fine life there and-‘
‘You solicitor?’ His face and voice hardened. ‘You keep an attorney?’ She nodded, fine eyes slightly widened. 'After I told you to quit relations with those bastards who consider you a fool?’
Elizabeth huffed. ‘It certainly is not how he sees me!’ He closed his eyes to contain his annoyance. ‘Don’t distract me; I have to tell you something important, Fitzwilliam.’ She waited until he looked at her again. ‘There was a big fever, it got out of hand.’
Darcy frowned considering why that would be important for them and maybe because he was slightly upset for having his plans for an erotic afternoon frustrated, he had trouble understanding. Soon his beautiful wife would change and he wanted to appreciate her figure and bed before their child growing in her womb took possession of her. Then it hit him, he swallowed with difficulty afraid his inferno was about to erupt again disturbing his perfect life and frowned deeply.
‘The mother survived the illness.’ She said measuring his reaction carefully; he was intent on her eyes trying to do the same. ‘But not the children, I’m very sorry.’ Elizabeth closed her eyes and her shoulders sagged. ‘Grieved.’ He nodded. ‘I feel guilty.’
‘Why?’ He asked horrified.
‘If not for me, you would never have sent them away and-’
‘I didn’t.’ He held her by the arms. ‘I gave them means to live far from us, wherever they chose. Merely that.’
She bit her lip, eyes troubled. ‘What shall we do?’
‘The other one-’
‘Nothing. It’s taken care of, my love.’
Tense silence engulfed them and even though each dwelled on a distinct perspective of the situation, in essence their hearts relapsed. It was the same pain deemed long forgotten returning.
‘May I ask why do you keep an attorney, Elizabeth?’ He asked at last, eyes in slits, already en garde for a fight.
She shrugged. ‘It seemed practical to have the assistance of a gentleman who knew the law and-‘
‘I demand you quit any business you have with that bastard or any other solicitor.’
‘Fitzwilliam!’ She gasped for he never used that tone of voice with her.
‘You once minced my heart with your jealousy and insecurities-’ He accused and she stood hugging her gown around her chest, then adjusted the wreath on top of her loosely braided hair as if physically holding their love in place. ‘You cannot deny that was what you did.’
‘I can and I do, sir.’ Elizabeth considered to be happily married, assured of her stance in life, proud of the family she had been creating beside the man she had had three chances to accept; but she hadn’t changed enough to be intimidated easily. ‘Four and a half years ago I took a blow much fiercer than I could handle.’
‘You cannot bring those misinterpretations to light again, Elizabeth.’
‘Misinterpretations, sir?’ She defied him.
Darcy loved his wife with all his heart, with his own life, more even than he loved his sister and those two angels Heaven had sent for him to baptize as Daphne and Eliza Darcy. But, oh, how his lady had the power to control his emotions like the sea played with boats, throwing him from a moment of paradise-like peace to the most violent storm in a matter of seconds. ‘Listen, madam-’ He also rose to impose the power of his height and strong voice over her. Barefoot and half naked she needed to toss her head back to look at his face, those fine eyes glowing with courage and… love – of course he realized how much she loved him. ‘Listen to me, my love.’ He tried again controlling his voice and emotions. ‘It is in the past, those women, those children, everything was buried long ago. It pains me to discover almost five years past you still plan to leave me.’ Her eyes widened. ‘I can’t think another reason for you to keep an attorney.’
‘For…’ Surprised, she blinked. ‘Merely because…’
‘You expected I would break my promise and resume the habit of paying visits.’ He felt all the weight of the world in his heart. ‘All along you have been suspicious.’ She bit her lip, he wanted to shake her and utter a guttural scream but ran a hand on his hair because she was with child again and with it the fear of losing her returned with monumental force to his chest.
‘I never again considered leaving you.’ She said in an uncertain low voice that robbed her of any conviction. ‘I trust you.’
She shook her head. ‘It seemed appropriate. I… well, I…’ Elizabeth blinked nervously. ‘You are a landed gentleman of consequence and I simply a gentleman’s daughter; your family never hid how they considered me below you.’ She walked to the tall planters and fingered the trees with disinterest. ‘My papa is never around to aid me, after those horrible months my uncle was estranged from us for a while, I felt vulnerable.’
‘You considered me a menace. Is that it?’
‘No!’ His violent reaction fueled her courage and she squared her shoulder before turning back to him. ‘And not only that, you must know, sir.’ She pressed her eyes and he rose to the challenge. ‘Being your wife has responsibilities. Those children came from you; it is my duty to see to their wellbeing. I sent money-’
‘What?’ He roared.
She shuddered and her head spun, she had to press her eyes close to regain her balance. Yes, he was right, she was with child again. ‘I tried to forget the whole affair but after Daphne was born and I saw you taking her up a horse when she was but a babe I realized those other children…’ She groaned with the effort of controlling her body.
He walked towards her, bent by the waist and kissed her still thin stomach. ‘My love, let’s not dwell on unnecessary problems when you need to worry about this child here.’
‘How can you be sure I’m with child before me?’
‘Your cheeks.’ He ran his hooked finger on her face. ‘They are constantly rosy when you’re carrying.’ He gently kissed her nose and hugged her close to his chest feeling his whole body tense. ‘Elizabeth, it is now time for you to put my heart in peace. I need to ask again why would you nurture plans to leave me.’
She opened her eyes with care to evaluate her balance. ‘You need not, husband. It never crossed my thoughts again, especially after I felt our first daughter stir inside me.’
‘Convince me, my lady.’ He begged, his lips against her forehead. ‘Once you demanded I convince you of my fidelity, now you convince me of yours.’ She blinked looking up at him. ‘Cut all relations with any attorney or solicitor; abdicate the notion that you are vulnerable with me, Mrs. Darcy.’
‘It had been long since there was any correspondence from the New World, sir, it was merely-‘
‘Severe all business. I demand.’
She nodded with a deep sigh.
‘I’ll pen a nope, you add one of yours and my solicitor will take care of the rest.’ He returned to the chaise and once seated, brought her to his lap again. ‘I’ll ask him for a meeting so he can care for anything you might think necessary to calm your heart, he’ll tend to you.’
‘Thank you.’ She smiled sadly. ‘And he certainly will discuss with you before or after he answers to my needs.’
He locked her in his stare. ‘Can’t you trust me completely?’
Vanquished, she forced a ghost of a smile. ‘I do.’
In his torment, he only considered one option: solve the matter with haste for there was no chance his heart could take that much suffering again. ‘I want to believe you.’
‘I’ll prove it to you.’ She leaned forward and touched her lips to his fleetingly.
A delicate feather like caress such as that did nothing to calm him; it only made him more insecure. In a whim, he held her neck with both hands and deepened the kiss to rob her soul. ‘Kiss me again.’ He demanded and still a little breathless, she complied. When he released her, her face was flushed and there was a lazy smile on her swollen lips. ‘I love how my heirs render your cheeks rosy.’ He whispered caressing her with a hooked finger once more.
‘It’s the sun, sir. I’m here in this shaded balcony enjoying the warmth of the sun since you went downstairs to attend to your business…’
Darcy had faith in his calculations; planned their life carefully and was intent on her body’s functioning. ‘I’m positive you are with child. Your nipples get fatty and rosier.’ He caressed her left nipple with the same hooked finger. ‘And here…’ He lowered more to place a kiss on her inner thigh, so close to her delicates that his nose touched the curls and she trembled. ‘The perfume is slightly different.’ He sniffed again. ‘Stronger somehow.‘
‘Fitzwilliam, this is – Oh!’ His caress on her breast changed from a fleeting touch to a full claw and she arched her back. ‘It’s indecent for a husband to say those things-’ He shut her with his mouth.
‘Indecent, yes. You wanted everything.’ He moved so she laid over him on the stuffed chaise she had been napping on and off for the best part of the morning. ‘This is all of me.’
‘Only I know how much of a cad you are.’
‘Only you can give me everything in return, that’s what I need.’
She raised his shirt and expertly opened his breeches’ flap. ‘Only me.’ He nodded sighing as she guided his member inside her with practice. ‘Move, cad.’ She whispered in a sassy smile. ‘Treat your wife with all the impropriety you can- oh!’ She gasped as he gave her what she asked.
‘Exactly the lady I deserve…’
Wings – Darcy house
‘You took too long to return, Mrs. Darcy has already asked twice.’ Ashton complained angrily. ‘Look at you, little darling. Rosy cheeks…’ The young girl giggled. ‘And this hair…’
Little Daphne Elizabeth Darcy frowned and ducked to escape her mama’s maid who was always tugging on her hair to fill it with pins that itched her scalp.
‘Good luck, Ashton!’ Susanna, the nanny, chuckled. ‘Mrs. Darcy has to call her husband to post guard in the nursery so I can comb these curls.’
‘And what about you, Miss?’ Ashton pinched the toddler’s chubby cheeks and Eliza Jane Darcy started a torrent of jumbled words explaining about a fish she saw in the Serpentine. ‘Good Lord, that big?’ The girl’s curls bounced as she nodded vigorously. ‘Go bathe and have tea, my dear. Then hurry to tell your mama before she has to get ready for tonight.
‘Any news of Evans, Ashton?’
‘Sorry, Susanna.’ Rodgers answered from the door as he entered the hall. ‘He is still away dealing with Mr. Darcy’s secret task.’
Susanna sighed. It was too much to hope anyway that he would arrive without notice in the middle of the season. Before she could waste any more of her time and tears on the absent secretary or the spite of her former lover, the children’s preceptor arrived and there would be hell to pay for letting the two Darcy angels run free at the park as their mama had ordered.
By the end of the season, as everyone was already tired of preparing gowns and head pieces and bonnets and trousers the master was adamant of in sympathy with his cousin but unfortunately needed careful ironings, it was with great joy that they started to prepare the return to Pemberley.
There, not only Ashton had her own chambers she didn’t have to share with the severe preceptor, she could find distance from Susanna and her drama. Why would it be interesting to anyone where the thin man had been sent by the master or why she had refused the valet who got her the job?
What did matter to Ashton was how happy her mistress was when the silly man returned to London after months in a secret mission for the master. That same day, after the last grand ball of the season, while Elizabeth grinned telling Ashton about the several sets Miss Georgiana danced with the same future Earl for whom she had a splitting smile, Mr. Darcy entered his wife’s chambers to presented her with a detailed map of warehouses and milliners’ shops in Venice. She gasped and gasped as he explained the ones marked with stars were available for lease, the ones with a star and a red heart had ‘secret parlors for unnamables such as women’s delicacies, fur negligées, masks and ladylike liqueurs’. The mistress’ fine eyes widened and glowed as she perused the sketches beautifully handmade, the master’s pressed smile and infatuated gaze never left her.
Although Ashton heard many conversations over the years, she didn’t understand what the master meant by: ‘My lady, I now fulfill my last promise. It is time you reciprocate.’ Or why he was so moved with her answer but, when the mistress said ‘Complete trust needs balance, Fitzwilliam.’ he sent the maid away with orders to return only the next morning.
As for the map, it took Mrs. Darcy a long time to confirm its accuracy. The lady had just felt the first stirrings, her bump was then almost impossible to conceal and from that to the breeding, one could count at least four months.
The laurel wreath did confirm there was another Darcy child on the way. When, all those years before, his wife had first told him she had left her courses in Scotland, he had trouble finding laurel but of course she would need it beautifully entwined to adorn her pretty hair: it was either a ‘Daphne’ or an ‘Apollo’ coming for without his Aunt Matlock’s aid, there would be no such wondrous joy. By the birth of his second daughter, there was a laurel tree growing in the garden he saw from his den’s window.
Darcy was gladly proved wrong in his predictions for their family with the birth of a boy instead of his third girl. He couldn’t be named Apollo after all for ‘Apollo Darcy’ was a name too unusual to be had without the parents having to explain a good deal of their indecent intimacy and meddling of dear aunts. Nor ‘Napoleon Darcy’ as his eldest sister couldn’t receive ‘Josephine’ as their uncle-cousin thought fitting. He was named Bennett Richard Darcy as was expected.
Time slowly healed most wounds, including Colonel Fitzwilliam’s leg (perpetually protected by stockings, even when visiting expensive boudoirs), Elizabeth’s bruised heart and Darcy’s fear of losing his beloved wife - be it by her own design or by the birth of his heirs. Although her mother assured him ‘every lady from my family can beget several children without trouble’, he saw how much she suffered with each confinement and at the birth of a healthy male heir he declared the job done.
Unfortunately, time did not care to move with enough haste.
Elizabeth had to wait for the promised trip to Italy to see how her daydream from tormented days would look like in real life. Although warmed to know his wife felt pleased with him for keeping his promises, her enthusiasm during their sojourn in Venice killed Darcy.
Behind his mask of aloofness he watched her happily chat with owners or patronesses afraid she would decide this was the life that indeed brought her pleasure. He had intended on showing her how hard a life as a shopkeeper was but incapable of waiting her enthusiasm ebb away or her heart request nearness to her children, Darcy despaired.
When Elizabeth realized Darcy spent hours intent on the patronesses moving around the shops instead of evaluating the business possibilities with her, she felt Earth open under her feet. Their eyes met and held for the space it took their hearts to move in different directions again, her fine eyes misted with bitter tears of betrayal, his with the pain of misunderstanding.
‘We shall leave for Paris on the morrow.’ He announced over dinner that same night breaking their silent torment.
She frowned. ‘A week prior to what was arranged, sir?’
‘Order Ashton to prepare your trunks.’
Hearts bleeding, that night neither of them slept. He returned to their chambers several hours after she retired and found her on her side almost at the edge of the bed. He didn’t see but her eyes were wide opened, intent on the wondrous spectacle the first sunrays played on the canal outside the window of the Venetian apartment they occupied.
Time actually had funny ways of repeating itself and once again they were caught in a long, saddened and hastened trip aboard a luxurious coach – first from Scot to London, now from Venice to Paris. But there were mistakes one couldn’t commit twice.
‘You are not leaving me ever again.’ He muttered as soon as the carriage put distance between them and Venice, a place he had grown to detest.
‘Me?’ Surprised out of her silent sadness, she turned her eyes from the window and winced as the carriage bounced.
‘I saw the idea of living far from me cross your mind while we visited the shops.’
‘I am all astonishment, sir, to know that such an idea occurred to you.’ Her eyes sparkled. ‘Or any idea related to me. Didn’t you spend time ogling the women we met on our tours?’
‘Ogling women?’ He repeated offended.
‘You still doubt my fidelity?’
She shrugged. ‘You doubt mine.’ She snorted and returned her eyes to the window. ‘Prove me wrong, Fitzwilliam.’ She defied.
‘You, madam, you should convince my heart you are mine and will never want anything over me.’ He spat seating on the edge of his seat and inching his body closer to her.
Feeling trapped and challenged, she pressed her eyes into slits to look at him. ‘You were ogling other women.’
He did the same. ‘You consider life here is more exciting than at Pemberley.’
‘I can keep you blindfolded, eternally.’
He opened his eyes to retort with a cruel menace but her sparkling eyes were a perpetual trigger for his lust. He could threaten to chain her to his bed or to forbid even her long walks. But he could also change his meticulous plans allowing a grand denouement… That seemed an excellent choice in his hazed mind.
Unlike their ride from Scot to London expecting to find Colonel Fitzwilliam dead while holding the shreds of their marriage, this time he took action and grabbed her wrists to bring his wife to his lap. Luckily the roads were in pitiable state or else the coachmen and scouts could have noticed the lovers’ enthusiastic patching of old bruises.
Almost a year later, after a very exasperating confinement, their family grew significantly. The Darcy twin boys received their grandpapas’ names and Elizabeth prayed for a way to prevent her husband’s seeds to grow inside her again, because the sowing never stopped.
I have a few plans for Jane Austen's birthday - aside from the release of BOOK 2 of Prince of Pemberley.
My second Regency story... It's here: ECLIPSE OF THE HEART.
Thanks for reading.