& Moira Bianchi: 9 ways to live Pride and Prejudiciously - chapter 8 _ PART II (final)

quarta-feira, 5 de junho de 2019

9 ways to live Pride and Prejudiciously - chapter 8 _ PART II (final)

hi, there.
Years ago, P&P gave me confidence enough to start writing, now it gives me great pleasure to compose alternatives in Regency period. I was very afraid of writing historical romance, never believed myself capable of such a feat.
But once I tried in the LOVE IN 3 ACTS series, I discovered it's very much fun!

In Portuguese I have a Victorian era series, am planning one in English as well. But Regency, ah!... Romantic, isn't it? 

Anyway, here is the final part of this alternative for P&P and Bertha's plot thickens...

Nine ways to live Pride and Prejudiciously
WIP, modern (mostly), adult (you know me...), fun, fluff, heart healing stuff.
read chapter 8- part I

V- Que sera, sera _ PART II

In Bingley’s estate, time passed very slowly for the owner and his lady were very agreeable beings. Servants worked at their leisure, the greenery grew as it pleased, the animals paced instead of gallop. The only interruptions in the idyllic life of the Bingleys came from the visitors.

Bingley’s sisters, Louisa and Caroline, occasionally spend a summer fortnight; Jane’s mother was often with them enjoying the company of her married daughters in turn; Elizabeth, Jane’s only single sister, was a lively companion who had obviously passed her charm to the newborn. During the still of the night, the household already expected to hear the loud complaints of the baby followed by the whispering of the aunt.

Convinced she had to endure the labor of nurse aid, Lizzy spent the nights in the nursery reading magazines, books or music sheet for her little niece. Still young to be called a spinster but old enough to be the only single sister, it was hers the duty of being the help. She sighed, lowered her knees to catch a tall leaf and resumed her morning walk.  

Not a quarter of an hour later, she discovered herself no longer alone but in the astonishing presence of Mr. Darcy!  Maybe she should blame her new bonnet for forbidding her of noticing his immediate arrival or her distracted thoughts, even though no choice could free her from his company. Not with civility, anyway.

‘Good morning, Miss Bennet.’ He bowed.

‘Good morning, Mr. Darcy.’ A curtsey. ‘Miss Darcy waits inside? Have you come to fetch me? Mamma knows no limits, sir; you need not to abide to her ruling.’

He smiled. ‘Georgiana didn’t accompany me today, but I bring you her invitation for Pemberley. Less than one hour can bring you to my estate’s border, two quarters more and you shall comfortably enjoy tea in the big drawing room.’

‘Thank you, that is very generous of your sister. Maybe when my brother can spare the carriage, I could pay Miss Darcy a visit.’
‘It is an easy distance. Very close to your relatives.’


‘Much closer than Kent to Hertfordshire, that would be almost a day’s journey in good roads.’

At that moment, she had her brows drawn together. The haughty man seemed different from when she had met him… 

‘But that could not have been your reason for refusing my aunt’s parson.’

‘Not at all!’ Lizzy blushed and cursed her mother’s insistent diatribe exposing her to indiscretion and speculation of strangers. ‘Distance was the smallest obstacle Mr. Collins posed.’

‘Since the moment I met you, I realized you valued the whims of your heart very dearly.’

‘Is that wrong?’

The unnerving smile never left his face. ‘If less, you inspired me to do the same. Distance shall be no obstacle to a heart’s true desire.’

‘Funny you mention such a thing, sir. Heart’s desire was exactly what my youngest sister claimed when she chose a former friend of yours as husband.’

He groaned very quietly.

‘I remember asking about Mr. Wickham, and your answer is always similar. Discomfort, is it not?’

‘Distrust would be better said.’

‘Why then did you help Lydia legally marry him?’ Lizzy stopped, raised her head to look him straight in the eye. Because she took such a bold movement after the bold question, she saw his astonished reaction. ‘I know you took pains to visit the place he took my sister in St. Pancras in London and arranged for them to be escorted to Gretna Green as Lydia dreamt about since she was six years of age. Grown and deflowered, as I suspect was the case, Scotland was her venue of choice.’

‘You suspect.’ He said through clamped teeth. ‘How?’

‘I came to understand my… brother-’ A small pause to swallow bile. ‘A little more following his marriage to Lydia. 

‘Wickham is a vile man.’

‘I prefer to say mercenary, and my sister a foolish girl trapped in a loveless union. At least from his part.’

‘And the reason you can attest to that is…’

Lizzy raised her shoulders. ‘Not all married men devote their time to casual flirts with single ladies.’

Darcy groaned.

‘Especially his wife’s single sisters.’

‘Damn that mongrel to the lowest pits of hell!’

‘Mr. Darcy?’

‘Wickham has insulted my family in more manners than I could tell you, Miss Bennet. Knowing he tried to contaminate you propels me to take actions against him once more.’ He gesticulated. ‘Nothing that should harm your sister and nephew.’

‘Saying such a thing you allow me to entertain a notion that we share some kind of companionship, Mr. Darcy.’

‘Little would bring me more contentment.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I value your good opinion, madam; I know that it is rarely offered and would gladly do my share to erase any ill uttered words you may have heard leave my lips in the past.’

Her lips curled to a side.

‘Your company is not only tolerable, but cherished.’ He asked for her hand and placed a kiss while pressing her fingers. ‘When you overheard me, my mind was tormented with evils I’d rather not recall. Forgive my uncivil words, Miss Elizabeth.’

She blinked. He had covered more than one touchy subject in the quick speech, aside from using her name. And she still needed to ask something very risqué. ‘You and Mr. Wickham have a history, he has told me some particulars about-’

‘I can vouchsafe he lied.’

‘If I am yet to talk about it, how can you-’

‘A low-life mongrel as Wickham would certainly fail to mention how he plotted to elope with my sister the same way he successfully ruined yours. His intentions were far from romantic; your family’s good name was of no concern for him.’

‘But it was for you. Why?’

He inclined his head in inquiry. ‘Miss Elizabeth?’

‘My aunt Gardiner wrote me, you see, and planted a small doubt in my mind. I needed only to ask Lydia the right question.’ She crossed her arms under her bosom, adjusted her feet on the grass, prepared her soul for the attack of the powerful man. ‘You have insulted me in the past, acted with cold disregard for my person, now asks for my pardon without much explanation. When asked, you speak ill of Mr. Wickham but shuts when it is relevant to explain the reasons-’ 

He actually saw when realization formed in her mind. Her face changed, cheeks reddened, eyes rounded. 

‘Miss Darcy?’ A whisper. 

He nodded. ‘I managed to stop him before night fell. Saved Georgiana before the worst happened to her. I apologize for being late towards your sister.’

‘How could it be your responsibility?’ She was still blinking, still taking in whispers.

‘I noticed the malice with which he stared at you, I myself wanted to be that forward. If only I knew you would welcome such advances.’

She gasped.

‘He had always been more socially agreeable than me, ever since we were children roaming Pemberley grounds. My father used to reason that being him the son of the steward, not a half of what was expected of me fell on his shoulders. For that reason, he was carefree and I was a sullen lad.’

‘I… Sir… Pray…’ Phrases and questions formed and dissolved in her mind confusing her intelligence. ‘I must beg to return to the house.’

Darcy once more cursed his somber nature for tying his reactions in front of the instigating girl. He lacked spontaneity necessary to win her emotions when she was obviously shaken. ‘Allow me the pleasure.’ He offered his arm feeling dejected. 

Should she take his arm? Or was it better to walk on her own? Would it be uncivil to dismiss his company in the middle of grounds? Unsure, torn and more than a bit perplexed, she looked towards the house to gauge the distance. Unfortunately, there she spotted her mother and sister chatting near a window from the second floor landing, eyes on her. 

The strike was similar to a cannon ball hitting the chest – at least that was how she supposed a soldier felt standing in a war ground. Betrayal was a heavy blow to handle.

‘Miss Elizabeth?’ Darcy insisted waving his arm. ‘Do you feel unwell? Your face just paled.’

Her hand snaked around his arm while her eyes kept directed to the women on the window because she knew what would happen but still she wanted to see it take place as if she twitched a wound. ‘Tell me, Mr. Darcy, what you felt when you found out the intentions of your sister.’ She asked hearing her voice as if it came from other person. ‘Was it betrayal?’

‘Yes.’ He paused. ‘I admit risking your poor judgement. Georgiana was very young, very naïve, I did feel betrayed.’

‘You do not deserve my poor judgement any more than I deserve yours. I feel very betrayed here.’

‘What do you mean?’

She turned her face a little so only he would see her eyes and indicated the window. 

He had been wanting more of her, more of her sassy looks and tempting instigations; an ardent response to his love declaration, but when she did direct those fine eyes to him, they were wary. Darcy searched the big house, didn’t find anything amiss, returned to face her. ‘I still do not understand.’

‘My sister gossips with my mother about me.’ Her eyes again averted to the house. ‘I’m afraid you will be the source of great inconvenience to me in the next hours, sir.’

With narrowed eyes he searched the windows again and thought to have identified movement behind a curtain on the second floor. ‘How much inconvenience?’

‘I am the unworthy child who left my mamma unsheltered. Your time spent with me will reinforce my inability to guarantee her existence.’

‘How so?’

‘Such a handsome rich man, single, must want a wife. Not me who unfortunately have no talent to secure a husband. I’m destined to be a spinster for my heinous offense.’

‘Refusing the loathsome parson of Rosings?’

A chuckle escaped Lizzy’s lips. ‘Yes!’

‘Fear not, Miss Elizabeth, time shall right your path with your mother.’

She shook her head. ‘I was always the wrong one, the daughter who could retort her orders, correct her teachings, spend time with my father instead of knitting or embroidering.’ An unhappy sigh. 
‘Do you regret not being your mother’s favorite?’

‘You think me petty?’

‘Merely want to search the yearnings of your being.’

How odd the last year made that man… ‘Shouldn’t that be the work of some kind of surgeon for the thoughts?’ She teased.

‘I have no knowledge of such kind of science. And I’m only interested in your yearnings.’ He wanted to know, craved even. ‘You may confide in me. It was betrayal and not sadness that you mentioned.’

‘Jane was the right one, mamma’s friend. Lydia was the best one, her own young self. In the middle stood me, Mary – the religious one and Kitty- the funny one. I’m the disobedient one.’

‘The naughty girl?’

It was the first smile they shared. Somehow she knew, she just knew, it would be the first of many to come. Both blushed.

‘Let me advise you, Miss Elizabeth, to console yourself as much as possible for now.’

‘Not easy at times such as this. Since I arrived, I have been dotting on Jane’s child but as soon as I turn my back, she joins heads with my mother gossiping about me.’

‘I understand.’

‘No, you don’t!’ A chuckle. ‘You’re a gentleman, only son.’

‘I do have a sister, you met the girl.’

‘Many years younger. You reigned as the sole Prince of Pemberley for years.’

‘Overthrown by a perfect princess.’ He made a funny sound with this tongue against his teeth. ‘It was not easy!...’

She laughed. ‘I can imagine!’

He loved that sound, and realizing it he tossed his nature aside determined to act by instinct for the first time. ‘Come to Pemberley, spend time with us instead of feeling uncomfortable here.’

‘As soon as Charles can spare the-’

‘Now, today.’


‘I came on horseback, alone unfortunately. But Charles has horses for sport, one can easily make the distance to Pemberley. Once there, the shades of Pemberley will protect you.’

‘Shades? Is your home haunted?’

‘See for yourself!’ He was pulling her towards the stables then, taking care to escape the view of the higher windows by walking under the canopy of trees. ‘Later tonight you can send a note asking for your trunk.’

‘Are you insane, sir? Have we ever met?’ She giggled nervously, unable to deal with the developments of the simple morning walk.

Darcy stopped, turned towards her, bowed. ‘Hello, madam. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. The name is Darcy. Family call me Fitzwilliam. Or Fitz.’

She hid her giggle in her hands. ‘My pleasure!’ A curtsey. ‘Elizabeth.’

‘Allow me the intimacy to use Lizzy?’

‘Yes, Fitz.’

‘Perfect!’ The smile she rarely saw on his handsome face broadened and he kissed her hand. ‘Now that we are properly acquainted, we can go.’

Lizzy giggle all the way to the stables and still while they started the ride.
ja world
‘Miss Bennet?’

The small girlish voice reached Lizzy as she felt every part of her body ache under the warmish water. Eyes closed, she considered that whatever the lovely maid had to say could wait only a few more moments so she could ease the pain…

‘Miss Bennet, are you there?’


‘It is me, Georgiana.’

Instantly alert, Lizzy sat up sloshing water around her. ‘Oh, Miss Darcy. I didn’t recognize your voice.’

‘How is your health?’ Georgiana asked from behind the curtain. ‘My brother suspects you might feel discomfort from the ride.’

‘I am fine, thank you. But I surely feel aches all over!’

Georgiana giggled. ‘Brother forgets that we do not have his proficiency in riding. I bet he inflicted a fast pace on your mare.’

Lizzy returned the giggle. ‘He was very attentive. It is my fault, really. I could destine more of my time for the sport, but I prefer walking. I almost never consider horseback riding a transportation mode.’

‘Ah, here in Pemberley we need to practice. Or you could learn to drive the phaeton.’

Lizzy waved for the maid suggestion she needed aid to leave her bath. The air felt cold against her drenched camisole, but the towels were… warmed! How thoughtful. And the girl helped her into a very cozy dressing gown of wool that felt like a hug. Barefoot she walked around the screen to face the lady of the house with a sinking in her chest.

During the ride she had observed the man, how handsome he was, how regally he carried himself atop of his tall horse, how his few words to her sounded like a proposal of some sort… After months without meeting, they were suddenly thrown in each other’s company for two days in sequence and he spoke of her heart’s whims, yearnings, true desire, the proximity of Pemberley and her relatives, the contentment her cherished companionship would bring him, the malice he wanted to bestow on her, and how time shall right her path with her mother. Then, once in his mansion, his sister speaks of a future…

‘Hello.’ Lizzy smiled a bit ashamed for her attire. ‘I apologize for this indiscretion, but my clothes are soiled and I need to thank you for your hospitality. I assume this robe and the lovely dresses the maids brought for me to choose are yours?’

‘Yes! Did any of them please you? The green one is new, I considered if you’d like the shade because your mamma spoke of how much you enjoy walking the grounds.’

‘I adored it. But if it’s yours and new-’

‘It should be yours now!’ Georgiana grinned.

‘Thank you… Miss Darcy, may I ask you something?’

‘Sure! But before allow me the impudence of asking for us to use our given names? I can be Georgiana and you, Lizzy.’ She bit her lip. ‘Or Elizabeth.’

‘It’ll be a pleasure to use of intimacy with you, Georgiana.’ Lizzy smiled. ‘But let me ask the reason why you implied I’d be riding or driving a carriage here in Pemberley.’

The girl blinked several times. ‘Won’t you, Lizzy?’

‘Do every guest ride and drive while spending an afternoon here?’ She raised one eyebrow. 

‘You are far from a simple guest, Lizzy. Fitzwilliam almost never offer our hospitality, the Bingleys are the only friends who come, aside from family.’

Clasping the lapels of the warm robe against her chest, Lizzy closed her eyes preparing to say the words she feared but knew she had to ask. ‘Surely his fiancé is welcomed in her future home.’

Georgiana nodded smiling and blinking happily.

‘Miss De Bough drives the phaeton?’ Her voice broke. What are you doing with your life, Elizabeth? What did she agree with by accepting the adventure of riding unaccompanied through the fields towards his realm? 

‘Cousin Anne? No!’

‘She must have a coachman, then. The future Mrs. Darcy ought to have means to visit her estate-’

‘No, no, no!’ Georgiana shook her hands. ‘Was it my aunt’s parson who told you this old tale about an engagement decided as my brother and cousin were babies? It is merely a delusion.’

‘Are you sure, Georgiana? Perhaps the arrangement is set on a will or deed you have no notion of.’

‘I am absolutely assured. Brother has spoken about this with me before.’ A giggle. ‘Poor cousin Anne who refuses to leave Rosings could never offer what Fitzwilliam demands.’

‘And what is that?’ Lizzy asked, then bit her lip repenting the forward question, then waited expectantly the answer clasping the robe’s lapels to her chest. Not engaged, Mr. Darcy was not engaged… was he really a free man? With all that handsomeness, fortune and consequence, interested in her inner yearnings and heart’s desire? 

The deep blush that colored Georgiana’s face answered Elizabeth very eloquently.

‘Pray, Lizzy, will you send for your trunk? Would your mamma allow you to spend a sojourn with us? I would rejoice in sisterly companionship! Brother broods so, refuses to discuss literature or music with me.’ She smiled hopefully. ‘Did you read Belinda? How did you like it?’

‘More than Ivanhoe, if you can keep a secret.’

‘Same as me!’ The girl gushed.

Lizzy contained her emotions for she had absolutely no understanding of the developing of her own life.

When she arrived at the library before dinner, already dressed and coiffured with Georgiana’s generosity, Lizzy had a resemblance of a speech ready in her mind.

She would ask for a few words in private with the lord of the estate, would thank the hospitality, compliment his sister and say in civil but sincere words that she was not a woman of free living. Single yes, but still not turned two and twenty, much could came her way and she needed not resort to vile alternatives.

Deep down she hoped she would have the opportunity.

Also hoped he would deny such notions. 

Then she feared he would return to his frowns and brooding from his stay at Hertfordshire what would lead to slighting her once more. This time she couldn’t let her tongue respond freely, she was a guest of his. A prisoner of Pemberley’s shades.

Darcy listened to his sister play the pianoforte with his hands clasped behind his back or else Georgiana would notice his anticipation. How many nights have he dreamt of what was about to happen? Elizabeth Bennet would arrive for dinner in a homely setting. 

Putting his delusions at the test before deciding on the intelligent manner of making actual arrangements was an opportunity he could never miss. She seemed out of spirits at Bingley’s, saddened as a jailed bird. Luring her to his home had been easy as opening the trap. 

Any moment her loveliness would enter the library and…
He could never have expected it would alight so many emotions on his being.

She could never have imagined how cozy the picture was. Handsome brother with handsome sister playing a handsome instrument in such a magnificent place! All those books!

‘Miss Lizzy.’ He hurried to offer his arm. ‘Good evening.’

‘Sir.’ She curtsied blushing as it was easy to recognize in his eyes his words about malice.  ‘Pemberley is magnificent, sir.’

‘Do you approve of it, of a sojourn here?’ His approval of her person and presence in his home was as clear as he could make it. Inside his sister’s attire, who was slightly smaller, Lizzy’s forms were perfectly outlined presenting her as a figure from a fine artist’s portrait.

‘Yes, of course!’ A surprised giggle. ‘A place of angels, not shades! At first impression, it seems to be as sweet as the alcoholic cordial your housekeeper offered me.’

‘I advised her to, considering the toll the journey might have  taken from your countenance without the aid of a proper riding habit and a side saddle made for you.’

‘How very… considerate, sir.’ She still smiled trying to decide if he could possibly be critiquing her simpleton manners, but he haven’t even given her a chance to change frocks! ‘Pemberley’s very essence is of sweetness, then, even if shrouded in sullenly sociability.’ 

Her left eyebrow elevated showed such feminine charms as to remind him of the archness and sweetness that had first endeared her to him. Darcy blushed, she had complimented him while poking fun on his own words.

The exchange of pleasantries carried through the song, the tunes giving them shelter. When that protection for their intimacy arrived to a close, Darcy started to walk Lizzy towards his sister.

‘Lizzy, do come and play a duet with me!’ Georgiana waved her fingers.

While the girls played, Darcy calculated the changes his life would suffer if he moved according to his instincts. She was all loveliness, no, not all. Lizzy showed intelligence as well. But with her came dubious connections that could not be overlooked.

While dinner was served, Lizzy imagined the gossip involving her name. She had sent for her trunk, at that hour her mamma and sister already knew she had been invited by Miss Darcy to Pemberley, the house of an engaged man, and accepted without the Bingley’s approval. She talked and laughed tasting the delicious meal, but her mind was filled with vile words and accusations. Would Charles be involved so he could clarify the inexistent engagement? Did he know of such particulars of Mr. Darcy?

It was with some sort of surprised dread that she received the words from the butler as they started the veal with carrots and peas. 

‘A coachman from Almond Lane has just delivered Miss Bennet’s trunk, sir. It has been sent to her lodgings.’

Darcy smiled to Lizzy and nodded for the butler. ‘Very well.’

‘And Mr. Bingley sent a letter for you, sir.’

‘Leave it in my study.’

The butler answered with a nod, Lizzy lost her appetite.

Long moments carried the last dishes, dessert, port, music afterwards. Somehow, Lizzy managed to keep civil when all she wanted was to rush upstairs and rummage her trunk. 

Finally, alone in the room designated for her, as the maids carried for the coziness of the bed and stroked the fire, she opened the heavy lid with caution. An animal could jump and bite her!
Surely there it was, the snake ready to lunge forward in the form of neatly folded letter.

Almond Lane
I write on behalf of mamma who is in effusive suffering since we witnessed your escape in Mr. Darcy’s company this afternoon. It felt as if our eyes deceived us, your handsome figures joined by the hands running together filled our dear mother with hope for your future.
If her nerves thus permitted, she would pen you these words herself, sister, but it has fallen to me, as a married lady, the responsibility to advise you as she has advised me in the past. 
What will be done of you if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage?
We do recognize in you the inclination of caring more for your beliefs than for us, provided an alternative can be presented. You had your own way when you refused Mr. Collins, after all. Mamma has reasoned that it is my duty to provide for her. You have already discussed with me the suspicion that Lydia will probably need pecuniary help, Mary is set to have a modest living and so is Kitty. 
You must think about who is to maintain you when our father is dead. Mamma’s nerves compel her to say that she should never speak to you again in case you let any kind of proposal Mr. Darcy shall offer slip away. 
We remember what brother Wickham said about the Darcy family arrangement of marriage between cousins, Mr. Collins has also hinted such a connection. I shall find courage to discuss such business with my husband, ask his opinion and try to find out what he thinks of his friend’s commitments and inclinations. I have no pleasure in talking to you of these terms, Lizzy, but it is my duty as your sister and mamma’s pen.
Better to conduct one’s reasoning in the shelter of youth than suffer regret in the bitterness of destitution. Bear your future in mind, sister, be a dutiful daughter.
Little Charlotte may miss you, but now it is time for selfishness, Lizzy. Do not permit this sojourn at Pemberley be unfruitful as mamma has cared that mine at Netherfield Park rendered me my attachment to Charles. Please, pay respect to the words of your mamma and older sibling.
Your dear sister, Jane Bingley

Almond Lane
Darcy, my friend
I have just learned Lizzy’s trunk is being sent to Pemberley! No one tells me any news in my own house. My wife barely gives me time to pen this letter in hurried lines.
What in hell moved you to act as such? Kidnap my best sister under my nose without even a note to prepare my spirit for the attack of my wife’s mother’s altered nerves. 
Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Bingley speak of undutiful child and unconcerned girl referring to Lizzy. Mrs. Bennet’s nervous complaints led me to understand that they understood you were engaged to be married with your cousin and planned to form an attachment out of wedlock with Lizzy. The women pitied Lizzy and complained about her predicament while praising the fruitful future of being a mistress kept by you.
I almost have the inclination of allowing them to keep this notion, but Lizzy – Mrs. Darcy if I can gloat in the knowledge of your honorable self - do not deserve the talking. But I doubt my opinion would lessen my wife’s mother suffering, she is of a peculiar nature – what makes me think of my own future provided her close relation with my Jane. 
I shall save this episode in my memory to pay you forward as Mrs. Bennet is to be your mother as well. When Pemberley hosts her, be assured I will send any form of unsettling news with the sole purpose of spurring an effusive dinner chat such as I just had! 
You will find me as good as my word, Darcy!
Allow me to be the first to offer congratulations.
your brother, Bingley

Darcy still smiled at the silly letter when he saw the shadow of a thin veil pass through the slightly opened door of his study. Georgiana always slept soundly, the servants used dark heavy clothes, so that one could only be… He jumped to his feet and went after her.

She had seen little of Pemberley since that afternoon. The long ride made her body ache and her clothes soiled, upon arriving at the great mansion she cared only for a warming bath and clean garments. By the time she joined the Darcys for dinner, she was ushered to the library by a maid and from there to her chambers by the man himself.  At that hour, unable to sleep due to her sister's unkind words, Lizzy had no other place to go other than the library. Among books she could find solace, she thought, counting on the company of the Bard or some other classical thinker.

But, by the third door she tried, it was his rich voice that reached her. 

‘The parlor, Lizzy.’

She pivoted on her toes.

‘I always thought you'd favor that room.’

‘Sir!’ She breathed clutching the lapels of the robe close to her skin. ‘You frighten me!’ The thick bath clothes over her camisoles did little to contain the feeling of vulnerability. 

He smiled at the loveliness she presented, face colored, hair in a long braid, curves inside the robe he had presented his sister the previous Christmas.  Was the hall brighter, he could have a better view of his future there in front of him. ‘I beg your pardon. Do you search a place to await sleepiness?’

‘Yes. No.’ A sigh. ‘I don't think I'll be able to sleep at all tonight, Fitzwilliam. My head swims in agitation.’

‘Can I offer you brandy?’

‘After all the wine we had at dinner?’ She raised an eyebrow. 

‘My company, then.’

‘Just as inebriating.’ She mumbled.

He heard and chuckled.  She blushed darker but he didn't see. ‘Tell me what agitates you so, enlighten me about the moving of your yearnings.’

‘Ah, you take great interest in my being, indeed.’

‘More than you can think of.’ He smiled sideways, leaned on a mantelpiece, eyed her with lazy pleasure.

She considered if he had any idea of his charms. ‘It was a mistake coming here, I'm sorry. But I fear it'll be an even bigger one leaving.’

‘I hope the idea is not crossing your mind.’

‘It did, yes.’ She nodded waving her right hand in front of her face. ‘Comes and goes every other moment.’ 

‘Such an ungrateful decision, Lizzy.’

She frowned. ‘I'd talk to Georgiana. And you.’

‘That would not have been enough.’

‘You do not know what my mother and sister are concocting!’ Her hands went up in the air, he smiled with that reaction. ‘All sorts of vile accusations and projections!’

‘I know.’

‘You do?’ Her mouth and eyes formed perfect O. ‘Charles letter…’ A whisper.

He nodded.

‘The shame, the shame…’ Her hands covered her burning face.

‘You, my darling, are the one who don't know that I endured an Easter season at Kent for you. Last year, when my aunt told me her parson had chosen a bride at Hertfordshire, I was consumed with dread thinking the parson married you. If not, at least it must have been a friend of yours and maybe I could have the chance to meet you again, this time away from your family.’

‘Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins and is to inherit Longbourn in the event of my father’s passing.’ She bit her lip. ‘I had no idea of your inclination, Charlotte quitted society with me because she disliked my understanding of her choice of a husband.’ Try as she might, Lizzy couldn’t keep her face serious and a sassy smile escaped her. ‘She said I was meddling.’

‘A choice you wouldn’t do for yourself and couldn’t approve for your friend.’

‘Exactly!’ A giggle.

‘Because love is the food of marriage, you said as much.’

‘No, Fitzwilliam. I said poetry could be food for a fine, stout, healthy love.’

‘As the one we’ll share?’

Eyes connected, hearts beating in synchronicity, Lizzy knew she had before her a perverse reality: she could indulge her mother’s wishes, reinforce her sister’s gossips and make a huge decision that’d change the course of her life. ‘Have you no fear of bold assumptions, Fitzwilliam?’ The smile gracing her lips was her own, though. Because answering her mother and sister’s wishes paled before the wild reactions that banter in the dark created in her womanly sensibilities. She wasn’t sure, but imagined that was love – or the beginning of it.

‘Bold would be to roam my house in under clothes.’ He pointed her attire.

‘I checked from the top of the stairs, there was no one to be seen.’ She raised her nose. ‘You present yourself to me in your shirt and breeches.’ 

‘Bold, Lizzy, yes… As bold as me catching your figure in such a manner.’ He surprised even himself by lunging forward and snaking his arm around her slim waste to bring her to his chest. ‘And assume you’d want to be kissed by me.’ He whispered.

‘Very bold.’ She whispered back. ‘And slightly correct.’
A smile lighted his handsome face in the dim hallway, ages separated the moment he inspired the perfume of her skin until the instant their lips touched, but they did kiss. Chastely at first. Then with fire starting to burn inside them, he tightened both arms around her, she held his neck for unnecessary support.

‘Your mother is a problem. my darling. Forgive me to say.’

‘I agree.’  She answered breathless, eyes on his lips. 
‘She lacks decorum and motherly love towards you.’ He allowed her lips to claim his one more time, trying to control his urges and give what she wanted without taking what he needed. ‘I don’t want her close unless she apologizes to your content.’

‘You mean?’

‘I could do as she imagines and make you mine now, tonight, but the right thing to do is to leave for London in the morning in order to purchase a special license. Then I’ll visit your father to ask for permission and we shall be married here in less than a fortnight. I want to make you my wife, have been wanting for months. Won’t do it hurriedly just to prove her right.’

Lizzy felt a bit dizzy, her breathing was hurried due to the excitement of his arms and shades of his house around her. ‘Why… All these months… You never said a word, never came to me?’

‘I thought you disliked me because I forced your sister to marry that mongrel.’

She giggled. ‘I disliked because you slighted me.’

‘My darling… I’m merely awkward. And enraptured by you.’ He kissed her again. ‘I always admired you from afar. Before considering how wise it was to submit myself to the scrutiny of my aunt and cousins Fitzwilliam and Anne, I accepted to spend Easter at Rosings only for the chance to see you.’

‘I never noticed…’ The smile was almost splitting her face. ‘How could I be so blind?’

‘I thought I was being plain, showing my partiality.’

‘My fault, entirely my fault! Mamma has all the reason; I suffer the inclination of caring more for my beliefs than for the reality surrounding me.’

‘Your mother has no reason whatsoever. All I ever heard her say about your person is obtrusiveness. Mrs. Bennet shall not have the power to upset Mrs. Darcy, ever.’

Some sort of comforting heat spread over her, starting from inside and melting her core to the point of rendering her feverish. ‘You said something about giving her reason, about her vile assumptions about my stay here as your guest.’ Lizzy bit her lip.

‘You are officially Georgiana’s guest.’  He smiled impossibly charmingly.

‘Meaning that if we were to spend time alone no one would take notice.’

‘No walls of Pemberley would ever comment on the particulars of its shades and ghosts’ love dealings.’ Darcy breathed behind her ear. ‘Much less their living lords and ladies.’

A shudder so violent ran through her to the point of passing on to his arms ‘Oh, Fitzwilliam, I might have need for that brandy…’

‘I might even offer you more. Tomorrow morning, in bed, to start your new life, we may share a nice cup of tea …’

Bertha slowly drifted back to consciousness hearing small voices from somewhere afar, ghosts inside the walls, whispers and giggles, steps and noises.

‘And this room is where-’ Her mother opened her door and stopped short. ‘Oh, Bertha! Here you are! This is my daughter, Gia, the one that lives far from us.’ She leaned away so a smiley white haired woman could see her.

‘Hi, mom.’ From the bed, still blinking the rest of the Belladama away, Bertha forced a smile and waved. ‘Hi.’

‘Hello, dear.’ Gia, the friend, waved. ‘Such a sleepy head. Is it because of the rain, huh?’

‘What rain?’ Bertha yawned.

‘We almost couldn’t leave the hotel, there’s a storm coming. Pippa even left before us, you know how she cowers from storms. Gia and her hubs are Rotary friends from another county, wouldn’t reach their home before the bad weather. They came to spend the night here, no one will be able to leave the county till Tuesday. It’s all over the news.’

‘Oh, no!’ She sat up in a hurry and her head spun. ‘I have to take my shift at the coffee shop tomorrow morning!’

‘Forget about it, Bertha.’

‘My son will try to come rescue us Monday night, he drives a big car.’ Gia smiled still. ‘You’ll go with us, dear.’

‘Monday night?...’ 

‘See?’ Her mom clicked her tongue. ‘This is how she is. A few more days with us sound like a nightmare.’ She waved towards the hallway. ‘Let me show you the rest of the house.’

~ next chapter ~

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