I'm taking part on a very interesting on line course about Pride and Prejudice - can you imagine how much I'm enjoying having a plausible excuse to talk about P&P? I'm on cloud 9!
Last week I was asked to compare Darcy and Collins - I have never thought about such a comparison!
This week we compared Lady Catherine and Mrs Gardiner - also I never considered comparing these two ladies... There's so much more in P&P than my humble mind can spot!
A lot, it seems. (ha!)
Also, I'm learning a lot on Regency and this story I'm posting here will be severely revised in the future but I'm also glad to confirm that some of the plots I came up with for this Regency trilogy do make sense.
Anyway, let us move on with this situation Elizabeth can't find her way out.
Love in acts
angst, rated M, short, sequel to P&P
He paced the inn’s parlor in suspended expectancy. Something had to be done to solve this situation, and it would have to be done that day. Her solicitor entered, held the door and she came in, lovely and sad and thin.
He bowed. ‘Good morning, sir. My love.’
She sighed, the solicitor bowed back. ‘Good morning, sir. I brought Miss Bennett with me as you required -’ He gesticulated at Elizabeth seated on the corner quietly while Darcy touched his knuckles to his lips to refrain from protesting against the use of her maiden name ‘–to witness the settlement’s negotiations.’
‘Very well.’ His eyes rarely averted from her still form.
‘The lady wishes to cause no difficulties for you, provided you agree to an annual allowance, a London house that need not be Darcy house, can be another of the same consequence–‘ He paused and she nodded ‘-a small property for her parents, and the lady will retire to the South of Italy to start a small business of ladies’ items. You will not be bored by her any longer.
He nodded, she blinked sadly, the solicitor nodded happy that this time he wouldn’t be attacked and there was silence.
‘I wish a private interview with my wife.’ He demanded and she pressed her lips. ‘She still is my wife.’ He raised his imposing voice.
She nodded for the solicitor and the man left promising to remain by the door in case she needed him.
‘Italy?’ He asked as soon as they were left alone.
‘Is it far enough?’
He shook his head; she widened her fine sad eyes. ‘I would go to you without much trouble.’
Her shoulders slumped. ‘Let me go.’
‘Let my past go. Send it far away.’ He offered, she frowned. ‘Name the place: West Indies, the Colonies, the New World. Whatever you decide, I’ll agree.’
‘That’s what you meant… I don’t want to meddle with any of them.’
‘Yet you visited, to further hurt yourself.’ His eyes bored into her.
‘That reminds me.’ She opened her reticule and extended him two cards, the ones his mistress had given her. He stretched his hand and took them, frowned on what was written and his face paled.
‘You were with child, then.’ He roared, she shook her head. ‘You last claimed your indisposition the week we arrived at Pemberley, months ago.’
She nodded grieved for having had their overwhelming intimacy broken on that fateful day when he admitted his pernicious practices as normal. ‘I bled on the road, the first night I spent away from Pemberley.’ He felt his heart bleed too, for he had still been hopeful. ‘My aunt thinks it was my being so busy with the house and you; my body was playing tricks on me. It happens, she said.’ Her eyes roamed the room, his boots, his legs, the table at the other side of the room; but never fixed on his face. ‘You were truthful to me; I can only give you the same treatment, Fitzwilliam. I was equally sad and relieved when my courses arrived symbolically the night I left your domains.’ She paused for a ragged sigh. ‘When that crippling nausea hit me at dinner with your cousin, I thought it was a child, but how could it have chosen that day to let me know it was coming? Why not the day before when I was so deliriously happy?’ She risked a glance at his eyes and saw reflected her own torment. ‘Later when I had that first fit in your arms, I was sure it wasn't love growing inside me, a love child couldn't open a hollow in my chest with every heave.’ She paused, he stared out the window. ‘Your… ladylove scribed these cards for me; she said it would be my key to freedom. A nurse to take measures and a solicitor. How… practical of her, isn’t it?’
He pressed his teeth together with so much force his bones jumped against his skin. The year settlement he arranged for Miss Trent would be curt immediately and she would surely be sent to the New World.
Elizabeth sighed. ‘I came here for nothing; you just wanted to waste my time.’
‘Absolutely, I have a proposition.’ He said suddenly as if breaking from a spell, she blinked. ‘I can’t erase my past, neither would want to. What I want is my life back with you by my side, in my house, in my bed.’
‘No. I said I can’t deal-‘
‘Wait.’ He pulled a chair and seated in front of her, his legs opened on either side of her clasped knees. ‘I offer my hand again, this time you accept me with your eyes opened. First time you were polluted by a cad; second time we were in love; now we know how our life can be good, our faults, where we need to make an effort. You can send my past as far as you want.’
She took air to answer but the door opened, he looked at the delivery boy with rage and it took anyone with sense but a few moments to leave.
‘Sir…’ The boy trembled. ‘It’s an urgent delivery.’ He extended a shaking hand.
‘Sir, I was sent from London to deliver this post haste.’
‘Take it. The boy is here.’ She looked away, actually glad for the chance to break free from the power of his gaze on her.
He rose, took the letter, tipped the boy and broke the seal. In a moment he was livid. ‘Love…’ He tried to speak but his voice faltered, he turned the letter trembling and found the date. ‘More than a week ago, they probably didn’t know where I was…’
‘What is it, Fitzwilliam? You look very ill.’ She was on her feet the moment the dreadful idea occurred to her. ‘Georgiana?’ She held his wrist and he shook his head, eyes wide perusing the letter, face livid. ‘My family? Jane?’
‘Fitz.’ He whispered, she covered her mouth with a gloved hand and tightened her hold on his wrist. ‘Injured in battle, he is being brought back to England.’
‘Good Gracious. More than a week! He may already be in London.’ A shudder passed through her and reached him. ‘Go! Go now.’
‘I can’t.’ He blinked slowly and turned his eyes to her. ‘What if he-’
‘No! don’t think about it.’
He looked at her dainty hand on his arm: that was what was keeping him warm. She was in mourning, though. ‘Come with me, you like him as much as I do.’
She shook he head and took a step away. ‘Not as much as you do, he is your family.’
He reached out for her and brought her to his chest, this time she hugged him back. ‘He is, you are. Come with me.’ His eyes filled with tears. ‘Help me.’
She looked up fearing he was crying and on finding that he indeed was, her eyes misted too. ‘He is merely injured, you’ll see. Take my coach; it’s smaller and faster than yours. Go now.’
‘Come with me, my lady.’ A tear rolled down his cheek. ‘Please.’
Her maid had all of two hours to pack whatever Elizabeth had in Scotland and they departed with their hearts perilously bleeding. His cousin was badly injured, may not resist the crossing, but at least his wife was with him even if not back to him, yet. In a way, the agony patched their marriage.
She was in a carriage with him again, but this time there wouldn’t be any exploration or giggling. His cousin may as well be dead, as much as her marriage. She ached for him, for that afternoon of impromptu lovemaking in his study straddling his lap brazenly and instigating his libido until he touched her. She ached to love and be loved in return.
‘You didn’t bid farewell to your beau.’
She looked from the window to him. ‘Mr. Neville?’ He nodded. ‘I left him a thick letter apologizing and explaining my heart.’ His eyebrows rose and his lips pressed, she sneered. He let his lips crawl up at the corners as her fine eyes smiled returning to the window.
They stopped to change horses and rest and for those few minutes he took extremely care of her offering refreshments or explaining the landscaping but soon they were en route again.
‘We’ll make it to the border in three days.’ He said examining his pocket watch.
‘Faster than when I came.’
He nodded. ‘We have to make haste. I sent order to hold any letters at the last post in England. May God permit to be good news.’
‘Amen.’ She whispered and returned her eyes to the window. Suddenly she sat up straight as if she had been bitten by a snake.
He was instantly alert. ‘Lizzy?’
‘Georgiana. Is she still at-’
‘Oh goodness, she must know about all this, poor girl. She’s in the heart of the maelstrom, Fitzwilliam.’ She watched the freight take him over. ‘She’ll be ill again.’ He swallowed. ‘Oh, Fitzwilliam…’ Elizabeth changed seats to hug his neck. ‘I’m so sorry.’ He hugged her back. ‘And so worried.’
He buried his nose in her neck and kept her close for as long as she allowed him, his whole body vibrating with longing and worry. ‘You are very thin, my Lizzy.’ He whispered in her ear giving her the chills. ‘After we see to Fitz and Georgiana, we’ll take care of your health.’
‘Never mind me, worry about your family.’
‘That’s what I’m planning.’
At the inn, she retired to her room to rest and dine alone with the help of her maid. Restless, Elizabeth stood at the mansard behind the closed window watching the moon praying that Colonel Fitzwilliam was alive and on his way to recovery but it didn’t bode well. There was also Georgiana and her nerves, the Matlocks... And there was her marriage, his mistresses and children.
The man himself appeared on the courtyard pacing nervously, she need not open the window to recognize him. His imposing figure, the regal way he carried himself made it impossible for her to resist admiring – the sad truth was that she loved him too much to bear. While she pined for him, he stopped by a corner, leaned on a tree and hid his eyes in his fingers. Without thinking, she opened the window and called out; he looked up and averted his eyes quickly while his fingers searched for his handkerchief in his waistcoat’s pocket. When he looked up again after dabbing his eyes, she was practically climbing out. In an unspoken communication, he went to her.
She was at her door waiting for him to climb the stairs. As she extended her hand, he made haste and took her in his arms closing the door behind them.
Wings – Road Inn
‘This inn is improper for Mrs. Darcy.’ Ashton’s pretty nose wrinkled. ‘Even with her own linens and towels, this is filthy.
‘Didn’t you stop here when you came?’ Rodgers asked raising one eyebrow before spooning food in his mouth.
She shook her head in a disgusted little movement making her small curls bounce. ‘We came by the other route. Mrs. Darcy wanted to fetch Mrs. Neville from relatives as Mrs. Collins asked.’
‘Ah.’ He nodded. ‘Eat.’ He pointed at her plate. ‘It’s actually good.’
‘I had soup with the mistress.’
‘This is better. Meat will help you endure the rest of the journey.’
‘I doubt. I have a delicate organism.’
He eyed her for long moments. ‘You’re not talking so much… calmer?’
‘Oh, yes. Mrs. Darcy is with Mr. Darcy now; we’re traveling comme il faut.’
‘I have to go soon, he’ll need me.’ Rodgers spooned more food in his mouth and Ashton cringed in disgust.
‘Don’t bother to hurry, he’ll be with her for a while.’
He squinted. This pretty girl thought she knew his master better than he did, huh?
‘I know her, she is terrified. Has been since we left Pemberley. She is stubborn, refuse to admit to be intimidated but doesn’t block fear. He makes her feel safe.’
‘A week ago you said he made her fall sick.’
‘That too.’ Ashton giggled and Rodgers shook his head. ‘It’s just that she…’ He waited and Ashton bit her lip. ‘She…’
‘Never mind.’ She sighed, sipped her ale, cringed again and watched the man eat like a mongrel. It was common for a lady’s maid to wed the master’s valet but Rodgers was so very different when far from Mr. Darcy.
Handsome, thin, polite when he chose to, imposing… Maybe a tumble, but no more than that!
‘All will be well.’ He nodded hearing her sweet whisper, his nose in her hair tied with a simple ribbon on the back of her neck. ‘Fitz is a strong man, a good soldier. Have faith.’ He sniffed, her heart broke. Elizabeth looked up at Darcy and tried to press a sad excuse for a smile. ‘Wash your face and take off your coat, rest a while here.’ He gladly did and more gladly yet saw her small fingers open his waist coast and free his shirt from his breeches, something he always enjoyed.
It felt like a dream to see her undress him like she did in the evenings after dinner to help him relax with her reading a book until their desire made them search their bed, what they did at that moment and laid side by side even if she was under the covers and he over them. ‘I apologize for this inn.’
‘I don’t care. I want to arrive soon.’
‘Me too.’ They gazed into each other’s eyes. ‘I missed you in my bed.’ She closed her eyes, her face in pain. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too.’ She blinked trying to see his dear face in the feeble candlelight. ‘Too much to share. Don’t be so proud, my-’ She bit her lip. ‘Forget about pride, Fitzwilliam, let me go.’
‘What pride do I have left, Lizzy? For two months you have been mincing me.’
‘Somehow you never realize you destroy my pride with your actions and words; the way you destroy me... Those children, that woman insinuating I keep you from her.’ She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the nausea growing inside her.
‘You shouldn’t have searched for any of them. It had been months since I had any inclination to visit anyone. And that first proposal you still think so offending, was merely my deepest concerns. Wait.’ He touched her lips to stop her. ‘If you were from my stance, you wouldn’t be so shocked about this whole affair.’
‘I’d be cynic enough to think it normal.’
‘Yes. And that was probably why I wouldn’t have thought twice of you because it was exactly what I despised in a woman, such as Caroline Bingley you so generously offered me.’ She snorted, he caressed her nose with the back of a finger enjoying the simple pleasure of having her in bed with him. Stupidly he had taken it for granted since the wedding night. ‘Let’s rest, we need it.’
Albeit their hearts also needed the proximity of being side by side in bed and hold hands helped calm their fear, for her it didn’t feel right.
The more they traveled, the more their hearts suffered. When he sent order to hold any letters in the last English post, he wanted to avoid missing any important news but not receiving anything put them deeper in desperation.
Both soothing and upsetting were the nights spent in Scottish inns. She loved him in spite of herself, of anything - she had learned to love him with all her being after the complicated courtship, refusal, family falling, his heroic efforts to save their name and his bewitching constancy. Loving him that much meant she would never let him spend a night alone dwelling on dark imaginings for his favorite cousin.
He loved her more than he thought himself capable of ever loving a wife. Having been prepared to choose any handsome lady from the Ton, he was surprised by Elizabeth’s wit, her intelligence, the spark in her eyes that ignited him. To Darcy, with each married morning she looked more handsome, more enchanting until that fateful day... Well, marriage was supposed to enclose sickness and health, richness and thriving times, they both sworn this in front of a minister with her sister and Bingley. Only he had never thought the sickness and thriving would come within the first six months.
His aunt, may Heavens bless her, had obnoxiously warned him about marrying off his stance, about this particular lovely headstrong girl but he was sure it was her he wanted to be his life companion. Still was, actually.
She was indeed headstrong and at the moment, her problem was loving him too much to be able to share. He chuckled to himself. She didn't want to share him. So handsome sleeping beside him in bed, her long dark lashes kissing her thin cheeks, the dying candle flickered giving her an even more charming aura. He leaned forward and placed a feather-like kiss on her closed eyelid; she grumbled, stirred and turned her back to him. With a half-smile, he laid his head on her pillow and closed his eyes inhaling her weak perfume of rose water.
Yes, he had chosen right, she was the woman for him. A lady from the Ton would possibly expect him to keep mistresses to make his visits to her chambers scarce and businesslike. She would also choose to take cicibei herself... The thought of his Lizzy in other man's hands killed him inside… that Neville cad wanted to court her, the gall!
Once this was all over, for he was sure things would return to normal, he would have to address the matter with her uncle. It was unacceptable of him to help her find and visit the women who serviced him. It degraded her; she should have been shielded from herself!
He opened his eyes and flexed his fingers to keep from caressing her sinuous silhouette. His lady, so lovely, loved him this much...
And who needed him as much as he needed her.
By the time they arrived at the first post in England, there were several letters for ‘Darcy’ and ‘Bennett’. She read half, he read half and aside from several matters concerning his estate, the ones concerning Colonel Fitzwilliam were either prior to the one that reached him or saying the same: he was on his way crossing the Channel and everyone was worried. To feed the hope still carrying them, there was a letter from Bingley announcing Jane was with child and for her one from Aunt Gardiner containing several from her sisters and mother saying jolly silly nothings.
That night, the third sleeping together, she raised the covers and he laid close to her.
‘All will be well.’
‘You repeat this, it gives me hope.’ He blinked slowly. “I love you ardently”, it meant. ‘Can you please stop with the mourning dresses? Those give me the worst ideas.’
‘I’m sorry but my trunks never arrived and my aunt had all those mourning dresses from her papa’s passing and…’
‘I held your trunks; I wanted you to come get them.’
‘Ah…’ She bit her lip. ‘I wouldn’t wear anything in those anyway… My clothes are fashionable now.’
‘They compliment your handsomeness.’
‘But they call attention.’
‘Especially from men.’ She nodded. ‘You’re with me now, it’s safe to use what you have with you.’
‘I’ll see what can be arranged in the trunk we’re carrying.’
‘Use my shirts, but please, don’t use mourning while we hope he’ll live.’
She contained a heave. ‘I’m sorry.’
They made love in silent long glances.
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too.’
The next day she wore the lovely yellow simple day dress with her heavy travelling coat over it. Usually it'd be a dress to wear at Pemberley when her husband would spend the day out and although simple, it was three notches more fashionable then her best strolling dress from before her marriage. Still, she felt self-conscious of his appreciative stare on her figure and cleavage; he probably never saw that dress before. Would he think she indulged in modistes and purchases while away from him? Would he compare her with the woman similar to her who he paid to please him? She was thinner and... And...
Her maid arrived in a hurry. ‘Your bonnet, madam. Let me tie the ribbons for you.’
Darcy stretched his hand to her maid. ‘Allow me, Ashton.’
Elizabeth felt a tremble run through her.
At Darcy house in London three days later, his secretary already had news that Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived alive but suffering and was taken to Matlock hall. Arrangements had already been made for the Darcys to leave in a day or two.
‘Ah! My dresses!... I thought I wouldn’t miss them, but I did. How fickle of me...’ Elizabeth uttered with dismay in her dressing chamber to the chuckles of her maid and the housekeeper.
Darcy smiled at the other side of the door. Of course it was ridiculous for the master to lurk and eavesdrop but, intending on a bath after the long journey and the heartbreaking months, once in his dressing chamber that was connected to hers, he heard her voice. His wife was finally home with him; he had barely started to get used to having her when she fled. They wouldn't stay in London long enough to order several new gowns to make her decision of leaving them behind harder, but his secretary was downstairs waiting for him; he'd give the man orders to send for the best pelisses and bonnets in the city so when she woke up, there'd be a warehouse at her disposal for her to choose whatever she wanted.
They dined sharing halted conversation for she felt awkward to be back at Darcy house while he patiently gave her time to return to him. He also anticipated with delight the moment she would invite him to her bed, the first Darcy bed they ever shared.
That evening, before he went down to dinner, he had tried the door between their bedchambers wanting to surprise her with his gallantry of escorting her downstairs, but had frustratingly found it closed. If it had been different, he would have gone to her immediately after she retired. He chose the library as a secluded place to build courage to try again, and there Darcy looked out the window to the streets thinking about nothing for hours, remembering all the times Fitzwilliam was with him in that house before or after one or another ball when they escaped the matchmaking mamas, chuckling and planning that when they decided to marry, the woman would be this way and that.
His escaped him and locked her bedchamber door barely half a year into their marriage.
He sipped his brandy, a hackney passed by and her delectable small form appeared silently beside him making his whole body vibrate.
‘Go rest.’ She said. ‘We’ll have a full day tomorrow before parting early the day after.’
‘Was waiting an invitation to arrive.’ She gasped and took a step back wide-eyed. ‘From you!’ He added hastily. ‘Your door was locked.’ He explained but she was still in shock, clearly suspicious of his intentions. ‘I wonder what would it take to convince you that I don't want anyone else!’
Until she realized he spoke rhetorically, Elizabeth was silent for long torturous moments. ‘It was Ashton.’ She whispered. ‘Ashton locked the door, I didn’t ask for it.’ She was lovely, he thought, still dressed for dinner but already free of her gloves. ‘I miss our bed.’
‘Not more than me.’ He offered her the last drops of his brandy and she took it.
‘To Colonel Fitzwilliam.’
‘To us all.’
She drank, winced, her cheeks reddened, she swallowed several times to tame the lingering afterglow on her tongue. ‘The way you put it's very easy to believe me a child throwing a tantrum.’ He pressed his lips, she sputtered and put the tumbler at the small table by the window with more force than she meant. ‘You believe I'm being childish, don't you?’
He would much rather have her angry than sad or - God forbid - indifferent. ‘You are unwilling to share your toys...’
She balled her hands at her sides, her husband smiled sideways and a groan escaped her throat as realization reached her. ‘You're amused...’
He shook his head. ‘Flattered.’ That got her by surprise. ‘I'm a precious toy you refuse to share.’
‘You're used goods, Fitzwilliam.’ She tried to be spiteful. ‘I don't want hand-me-downs.’
He laughed. ‘You can't return me.’
‘I'm trying. My solicitor said I have a fair chance to succeed.’
‘You don't, my love. These lowlife lawyers are specializing in taking money from proud ladies when they well know it's impossible to achieve what they want. These bastards should be hung for feeding off someone's hope.’ Darcy secretly planned to hunt down the ones who did this to his lady and have them sent to the New World, if not further.
‘My solicitor also said you'd say that.’
‘Of course, I love you, I will never mislead you.’
‘Except you did.’ She challenged him.
‘I didn't. I have told you the truth when you asked for it. I severed all ties to soothe you, I-’
‘You cannot severe ties to your children.’
‘My children will come from your body.’
She opened her mouth to speak but closed feeling frustrated and confused. ‘Still they came from you.’
‘I could tell you I was squeezed to the marrow, but I already showed you how it works.’
In spite of herself, she laughed. ‘Cad!’ He laughed with her. ‘You hired them to offer you a service!’
‘It was not breeding.’
‘Right!’ She snorted. ‘That is my job.’ She turned and looked out the window.
‘I didn’t hire you, I married you.’ He explained calmly but inside he was hot as lava with her arguments. ‘If I wanted to hire you, I wouldn’t have chased Wickham. Your sister had already made it easy.’
She gasped and hugging her chest turned her back to him.
‘You know I did it all for you.’
‘When I breed a male heir, what will you do? Return to mistresses?’
He sighed. She waited.
‘I expect that to happen in... Twenty years or so.’
‘What?’ She turned sharply to face him.
‘You are tightening my leash because of something I did before you accepted me, actually before I proposed to you for the first time. With my luck you'll produce one little Elizabeth after another and by the time a boy comes out, I'll be bed ridden because you and your daughters will have destroyed me already.’ She gasped again and he laughed loud.
She was in his house again, drinking brandy with him, sparring. It took all of him not to lay her on the couch.
She sputtered and wanted to protest but no words came out, he tried to contain his mirth and it infuriated her more. She stomped once and turned to leave but he held her by the waist and easily lifted her off the floor, her back to his chest. ‘Let me go, cad!’
He touched his sprawled hand to her belly. ‘My girls will come from here, heaven help me.’ He laughed.
She stopped struggling and waited him to calm his laughter. ‘You know what is rather funny?’ He didn't answer thinking nothing good was coming. ‘Time and time again you hurt my pride to sooth yours.’
‘You are, my lady.’ He touched his nose to her neck, her coifed hair caressing his forehead. ‘To prove, as soon as it's safe, I'm taking you to Italy so you can see where your shop will be.’ She froze. ‘I'll be there with you for a while so you can see if a shop would be respectable enough for such a handsome lady. I'll let you buy one, and run it for a while, and then we'll talk.’
She easily left the imprisonment of his arms. ‘That would be only when Napoleon is vanquished.’
‘Until then, you stay right here.’
‘Is this a deal you're proposing?’
He offered his hand and she shook it.
She had the time her maid took to prepare her for bed to think things over.
Her heart thumping on her ear, she knocked on her husband's dressing chamber's door. Darcy house was smaller than Pemberley, of course, and between the master and mistress's dressing chambers there was only a small service chamber. Standing there, fidgeting with the small candle holder she held, Elizabeth considered the wiseness of curiosity and impatience. She could have waited until the morrow, but that would mean leaving him alone at night when the visions of a crippled and marred Colonel Fitzwilliam corroded him.
‘Yes?’ Rodgers said impatiently at the door. ‘Oh, ma'am.’ He bowed averting his eyes to the floor immediately.
‘Good evening, Mr. Rodgers.’
‘Leave, Rodgers.’ His heart skipped a beat. She came to him. What a relief!
‘I'll come back in a hour to help-’
‘No need. You may retire.’ Darcy ordered.
‘I'll help if he needs, Mr. Rodgers.’
The man left without looking up and she walked slowly inside.
‘Do I bother?’ She rested the small candle holder over his dresser, beside the big one shining bright.
‘Absolutely.’ He smiled easing the cravat from his neck. ‘You’re always welcomed.’
She wriggled her hands looking away from him already barefoot, waistcoat opened, taking off his cravat… ‘I was wondering what the terms are.’ He looked at her from the corner of his eyes. ‘Our deal, what terms it entails. I supposed you’d want me to… visit you.’
‘I’d love for you to visit me, my love, but there are no terms.’
‘No terms!’ He shook his head calmly taking off his waistcoat, her mind rolling in high speed. ‘So this is just… just… You are just humoring me.’ She felt dumb. ‘You never meant to let me go.’
‘I never said anything about letting you go.’
‘But what about Italy?’
‘I meant it.’
‘But you said-’
‘I’m taking you to Italy as soon as we can, it’s a lovely place, you’ll like it. It’s sunny and you can bathe in the sea.’
‘Oh!’ Her eyes shone. ‘That would be lovely…’ She smiled. ‘And my shop?’
‘Where did this shop idea came from?’ He frowned.
‘London. Meryton. Lambton.’ She shrugged and moved to help him free his shirt from his breeches while he laboriously opened his cufflinks. ‘A milliners is always bound to attract women.’
‘Not if it belongs to a fallen woman.’ She gasped. ‘No respectable lady would even pass by the front window.’
‘I would.’ She pouted. ‘If the items were to my liking.’
‘You are different from most of the ladies in the world, love. I never heard of a gentleman’s wife helping her husband prepare for bed.’
‘You’d rather I leave?’ He shook his head. Even so, she took a step back and leaned on the window sill. ‘Maybe I’m not respectable enough.’ She mused. ‘Not in the expected way.’
‘No, you’re nothing expectable at all.’ She snorted. ‘You help me undress – good God how I love that; you fancy your long walks, speak your mind and challenge everything… Only you could have gone after those women.’
‘My uncle wanted to go with me.’
‘He told me.’ He opened his shirt, his eyes trained on her loveliness inside an almost sheer nightgown outlined by the moon coming from outside. ‘He should have convinced you not to go.’
‘I had to.’ She whispered. ‘I could only think of you and their beds-’
‘Enough.’ He ordered raising his voice, his eyes shut.
It was the thing she wanted most in the world, to have enough of that disgrace and put it behind her. Behind them.
There was silence, he took off his shirt and opened his breeches before reaching for his nightgown. As he tried to get it passed his head, she moved closer and gingerly helped him maneuver the fabric. ‘My aunt said her parents shared only one bed.’ Elizabeth said in a half voice. ‘They were in trade in Lambton, didn’t have a big house.’
‘Gloves and leather goods. I knew them.’
She nodded arranging the collar, her negligée opening as she helped him. ‘My aunt uses her bed only when she’s indisposed or when in her courses.’ She said and waited. He also waited hoping she’d say what his body hoped she meant, but his silence weakened her. ‘I came here today to ask you the terms to our deal… if I’d have to use your bed often.’
‘You considered your husband would force you?’
‘No!...’ She shook her head, fine eyes wide. ‘I know you would never-‘
‘I would never make demands. Is that it?’
‘Me, who always humor you?’
‘I thought you wanted me to.’
‘I crave it.’ He let the breeches fall to the floor and kicked it far from him. ‘But I’m still waiting for an invitation.’ She swallowed. ‘I don’t have to force you, Lizzy, I can seduce you. I know how, as you bloody well know how to seduce me. We’re both tied waiting for invitations, though.’
She wanted him with all her being, deep down she knew it was not for his sick cousin she accepted to return with him. ‘We should get some sleep.’ Were the words she found courage to say. ‘We’ve been travelling for more than a week, I’m exhausted.’
‘Me too.’ He said realizing it wasn’t that the night they would be a couple again.
In the middle of the night she turned and sleepily searched for the narrow south window overlooking the valley from where came a cold weak wind. For almost a month in Scotland, it was this wind blowing around dawn that woke her up. Instead, it was warm and even… noisy. There were busy voices and coaches somewhere far. She sat up in surprise and turned to one side and the other not recognizing where she was and like a child, she whimpered.
‘Lizzy?’ He sat up as well, she shouted and he hugged her close. ‘What is it?’ He asked ready to defend her.
‘What is it?’
‘Oh my goodness.’ She sighed. ‘I woke up disoriented, didn’t remember where I was.’
‘At home, in my bed, in London.’
‘I didn’t see you.’ She panted. ‘Didn’t feel you close.’
‘I must have rolled to one side.’ He kissed her forehead as she nodded making his lips also brush the bridge of her small nose.
‘I was scared.’
‘I’m here.’ He kissed the tip of her nose, the side, the corner of her mouth.
His arms still around her, still sleepy and disoriented, she wanted to move but miscalculated and her hand rested over his lap instead of the bed. She retracted gasping; he groaned in delight, she felt her insides awake. His lips found hers and she opened to let his tongue lick and invade. Soon she was on her back with him on top, her hand raising his and her nightgown so her legs could encircle him.
‘Undress.’ He ordered. She complied taking her nightgown off first, than his. Fingers went immediately to nipples and she arched her back. When his organ touched her wet curls, he trembled, she melted. It had been weeks for both of them, weeks of agony and denial made worse by the estrangement and uncertainty.
Once connected, nothing could make them stop except… He maneuvered her leg over the crook of his arm and on his side, thrust deeper until he could feel his shaft touching her core. He groaned and repeated again and again making her open her eyes and see in him something she had never seen before.
‘Who taught you that?’ She whispered.
He opened his eyes and in the semi darkness of the dying hearth, stared seeing though her face, too overwhelmed by her tightness to think straight.
‘Did you do this to the other-’
‘I forbid you.’ He bellowed making her jump, eyes wide. ‘I forbid you to ever bring anyone else to our bed.’ He let go of her leg and got to his knees, shaken and frustrated, almost withdrawing completely. ‘Deuce!’
She ran a hand angrily on her left eye to clean the stupid tear that escaped. He wouldn’t see her cry naked and open legged, that would be too big a shame. Preparing to leave his bed, she scooted back but as he felt her move, he grabbed her hips.
There was a silent war under the weak light until she held him by the arms and brought him to her. He moved a millimeter, she pulled him again. Soon they were back in the motions, he kept on his knees, she rose on her arms behind her. The view favored both of them making their first love session since the fight unmistakably sweet.
‘Never ever do that again.’ He panted hugging her after they were finished.
‘I forbid you.’
‘Me too. But I dread what’s in your head when we’re in bed, I can’t control what you think or remember.’
Impatient and frustrated again, worried about how thin his wife was, he groaned loud and ferociously. ‘Yes, you do control. You control what’s in here–‘ He touched her hand to the bed. ‘In here–‘ To his hair. ‘And here as well.’ To his deflating organ. ‘There isn’t space for anyone else.’
Oh how much she wanted to be sure of that…
a revised & extended version of this story will be available on Kindle Unlimited from Jan 25th, 17.