Those had been blissful days. Since that heart wrenching morning at Meryton she had been riding one overwhelmingly happy wave after another.
Not blissful days since the double wedding, but months - five and a half months, twenty one weeks of love and devotion and the exciting discovery of the man she came to adore.
Marriage had only been an admissible option to her if propelled by nothing but the deepest love. Not affection. Not friendship. Certainly not necessity. Jane had been finally proposed by Bingley which meant that if the fickle headed could make good of his word, her mama and sisters would have a safe and comfortable life, so would she, naturally, being Jane's best friend. Love it would have to be for her then, nothing short from passionate and absolute love.
And she loved him with passion and enchantment and admiration. He was the best of brothers, a generous landlord, a loyal friend and a voracious lover. Avid, relentless, thorough, insatiable. She was tender - had been occasionally since the wedding night but he was patient and careful. When she claimed to be too tender, he caressed her and encouraged her to caress him. They kissed and explored inside skirts and breeches when in his luxurious coach the long way from Hertfordshire to London to Pemberley, had lovely nights at the inns they spent the nights until she arrived at her new home.
It had been a shock to realize that the big mansion was hers and it waited her orders and whims to be ran. There was a lot to learn and two weeks were spent in reverential lessons provided by the housekeeper, the butler, her husband's personal secretary and the man himself. She wanted to please him and the unanimated being Pemberley was, so she dedicated her hours, days and night, to both her lovers. Excitement ran in her veins like poison, her hairs were constantly standing and she blamed the chilly north wind but it was the product of her new situation in life: no longer a second daughter, second beauty, second nothing. Elizabeth Bennett was now Elizabeth Darcy, mistress of Pemberley. Though imposing, the title was also of raw accuracy: wife to Darcy, lover to the mansion that robbed all her time.
From the second month on she began taking charge, ordering the staff, demanding renovations, visiting tenants with the vicar and his wife. Her husband occasionally paid her the courtesy of his company raising her esteem to the local society and reassuring everyone -including her- of the strength of their marriage.
The months passed and she was glowing in self-assurance which made her more beautiful, sassier and happier. It surely wouldn't be an easy life; she was no naive country chit. Although not a noble, he was a gentleman of consequence and her hole was to assist him in his duties, from the sassy fabrication of heirs to the horrifying annual Easter visits to Rosings. There was the season in London, the harvest balls, vicarage commitments, occasional visits from her family.
When not plainly sweet, there was some bitter sweetness in every prospect because he would be beside her with all his male exuberance. It was impossible not to giggle.
‘That was definitely a giggle.’
‘Can't help it!’ A whisper followed but another fit of giggles.
‘I must say switching two chairs for a couch was such a thoughtful modification that you'll have trouble exceeding.’
Her face moved from his neck to look directly in his eyes. There was lust there, and mirth, and joy and love. ‘Watch me try.’
He grinned. ‘With pleasure.’ His hands never stopped working on petticoats and undergarments. ‘Darn these clothes. Next time you choose to invade my office, leave some of these in your rooms.’
‘That's exactly where I'll work next.’
‘Undergarments?’ His fingers finally reached curls, soft as cotton, warm as tea, moist as his tongue licking her lips as she sighed.
‘Yes?’ He goaded her working his magic on her silky folds, thinking about his luck in being the only one to ever have the privilege.
‘I'll demolish everything to be forever prisoner of yours.’
‘Excuse me?’ He frowned and jerked his head back.
‘Don't stop!’ She widened her eyes. ‘Please, please don't stop, my love. I'm not even close to...’ A goosebump and his finger invaded her. ‘To be ready to receive you.’
‘Yes, close.’ He smiled sideways, his head still tossed back to look at her flushed face, a hand holding the damned undergarments away from her curls while he delighted her as an excuse for his own pleasure. Funny it was a caress he seldom gave because aside from a quick exploration, there wasn't anything more for him; but with his bride he was fascinated by it. She had been virginal and coy, curious and passionate in their first night spent on the best inn a hundred miles from Hertfordshire he had arranged to be cleaned, painted, vacated and made as immaculate as it could be to receive his lady on her first wedded night. There was Netherfield with another newlywed couple and their unpalatable family, there was her parents' home- actually, there wasn't; he would probably buy Netherfield just to have a place to stay when visiting her family. The renovated and empty inn was the best choice and when he visited her room, she was lovely in embroidered white silk, her delectable figure outlined by the hearth, impatient for him. Him. Alone. So very naive, so very eager, so very tight. He touched her with care first to prepare her, then again in awe, then in delight and only then in pure lust. She was his first virgin, he was her first, and only.
‘But not near though.’ She trembled. ‘Right?’
He heard his wife begging. ‘I'll have to check, my love.’
She blushed. ‘Cad! What do you mean?’
‘You know what…’ His fingers never stopped.
‘Oh Fitzwilliam, if you do lay me down in this couch, undress me and conduct your indecent inspection, you'd better send your cousin away.’ She rocked over his hand demanding his pumping.
‘One or two?’
He gave her and she ravished his mouth. ‘I can't send Fitz home before he takes his leave after dinner. I'll inspect later.’ She nodded. ‘This is it, you're ready.’
He chuckled trying to open his breeches' flap.
‘Are you unbuttoning?’ He nodded in her mouth. ‘I love that part...’ She purred and sat fully in his hand. She was not petite, but he was big so she fitted perfectly in his outstretched hand that in the moment had two fingers marvelously engaged. ‘Do it for me later?’
‘Anything you want, my lady.’
‘I want everything now.’ She demanded with her elbows on his shoulders, hands inside his hair while his lips grazed her décolletage. ‘Everything indecent and marvelous.’
‘As you wish.’ He guided her carefully until she felt his tip touch her delicate womanhood and from there she didn't need assistance, it had been weeks of education already; he only needed to relax and enjoy. Enjoy he did holding her hips, opening his mouth so she'd feed him with kisses and licks, groans and sighs in turns until she glued her lips to his ear, trembled moaning and finally whispered ‘I love you ardently’. It was his clue to take charge and spill inside her completing their love. Even her orgasms were his, in his ear, not even the shades or the walls knew about them. She was all his, would always be, and for how long had he wanted her.
‘Off you go, vixen!’ He patted her buttock; she frowned and shook her head unable even to utter an oath. He chuckled. ‘I do have work, Lizzy.’
‘I won't budge.’ She pouted.
‘You only have to giggle and wiggle and I'll be ready again.’ He rocked her gently over his lap, his deflating member still inside her. ‘And I'll have you again. After dinner when I come to your chambers, you'll be tender.’
He chuckled again. ‘Move, my spoilt darling. Go bathe and rest for a while, you're entitled to.’
‘Because you already used me?’ She plopped unladylike on the sofa beside him.
‘Because you are the lady of the house, completely ravishing, still unused to this much work as a married woman.’ He stood holding his breeches.
‘Sex, you mean?’ Her lips curled in the sassy little grin he loved, the kind her eyes followed and she used to build after making fun of him during their supposed courtship.
‘Yes.’ He grinned back. ‘And managing the house, the hostess affairs, having a master.’
‘You gave me an order?’
He made a show of thinking for a while. ‘I see it as an investment.’ She frowned lowering her garments. ‘I'll make good use later, I want you rested.’
She laughed and nudged him with her stockinged foot. He smiled back at her buttoning his breeches and arranging his necktie as best as he could without his valet.
‘Can't I rest here?’
She retrieved a letter from the side table where she had discarded it with her bonnet. ‘I got a letter from my aunt.’
‘Yes. I'll read it here.’
‘I'll ring for tea. Stay before the fire, I have to open the windows to clear the air.’
When her giggling and gasping united with the chill coming from the opened window caught the best of his attention, he stood from his desk, closed the window and raised her feet from the small couch's arm to seat.
She averted her eyes to him and he raised his eyebrows in questioning.
She blushed, he was more interested.
She sat up and folded the letter, he was curious.
She sipped her tea forgotten on the coffee table and he was impatient.
‘I suppose you want to know what the letter contains.’ He raised one eyebrow. ‘Of course it's my fault; I could have decided to read it in another one of the thousand rooms in this house.’
‘You’re stalling and blushing.’
She sighed. ‘Well, we are one now…’ She looked at him through her lashes and he knew there was something juicy coming. ‘And I’m not supposed to keep secrets from you…’ She averted her eyes from his face to the letter folded over her lap and he feared he wouldn’t quite like to hear what she’d say. ‘And you might discover things one day.’ She bit her lip and he was sure it was bad news.
‘Your sister and the lowlife who used to live here.’
She shook her head, he nodded relieved. ‘You see, my aunt Eliza was always very fond of me, perhaps because I was always very particular to her since my uncle brought his bride for us to meet. You know mama and can understand why a sensible older woman would be appealing to me.’
‘Perfectly.’ He said and she wanted to be cross with him but ended up chuckling. ‘I’m very fond of your aunt too, she was the one who brought us together when I had lost all hope.’
‘She’s the best aunt one could have.’
‘Also, in comparison with a one aunt of yours, it’s totally understandable you think this way!...’
He leaned over her and pinched her waist. ‘Stalling.’
‘I have always spent time with her in London, because we liked each other’s company. I’m almost the age of her youngest sister, it seemed easy.’ He nodded, they had already paid regular visits to her aunt’s remaining family in Lambton and that had helped said sister to find an advantageous marriage to a local lawyer. ‘Anyway, as I was there a lot and uncle always has business to attend, his associates dine at their house regularly; a few gentlemen generously paid me their attention.’ She risked a glance at her husband excited to play with fire. ‘Older men, widows… sometimes not widows yet.’ He squirmed and she sipped the almost cold tea to gain courage. ‘One asked permission to court me.’
‘When was that?’
‘Two years ago.’ She squinted to the fireplace. ‘Maybe not so long ago, but definitely before you arrived at Hertfordshire.’ He was serious; she could see his jaw bone against his skin. ‘Of course I was flattered, he was not too old or demented or repulsive or without means.’
‘You accepted the courtship?’
She shook her head. ‘My uncle refused before he even spoke to me, he said I was young and still had a lot to see before accepting any man’s courtship.’
‘You were seventeen or eighteen.’ He mused more to himself and nodded. Gardiner was each day gaining more of his respect.
‘Yes, eighteen. My uncle wouldn’t say but he had other reasons he told my father on a letter and when I arrived home a few weeks later, papa talked to me about opportunities missed and what could be gained with it. Maybe he thought I was sad when in reality I never had even the chance to grown any affection for the gentleman. He was polite and attentive to me, as much as to my aunt, not nearly as handsome as you but not hideous, had a prospering trade that he didn’t tire to explain how much would grow.’
‘He actually had a design for you; why else would he talk of his business?’ He felt his chest squeeze, idiotically he had thought that aside from the pitiable excuse for a parson, she was a diamond in a rough solely he had had the clinical eye to spot.
‘I suppose…’ She still had the smirk on her cute face and fine eyes.
‘What’s this bastard’s name?’ He needed to know who he would have to send his solicitor investigating.
‘Evans.’ She raised the folded letter and let it fall back in her lap.
Definitely nothing he would like to hear. ‘Your aunt wrote to tell you he married.’
‘Oh no, he married not six months after my uncle refuse his courtship. Now my aunt discovered why he was in such a hurry to find a suitable wife.’ The devilish grin was back, he smiled in return. ‘He wanted to produce a legitimate heir because his mistress was with child. Darcy pressed his lips together. ‘My aunt may not be of the Ton, but she is part of a distinct society.’ She nodded for emphasis. ‘A fortnight ago Mrs. Evans took her two girls for an ice at a new parlor in Cheapside street, quite close to my aunt, and was surprised by a boy so very similar to her husband, almost the same age as her daughters. The boy’s ball rolled to their table, the girls rose to play and when the poor woman saw the boy’s face, she was curious. The boy’s mother’s reaction at seeing her and the children playing together put her in shock. There were two more children with the woman, all boys, all similar to Mr. Evans.’ Elizabeth raised her brows. ‘It could have been me.’
‘Indeed.’ He mused and was silent for a moment. ‘It’s not unheard of.’ She looked at him with a certain surprise. ‘This Evans obviously is a stupid fellow; he should have shielded his family better.’
‘That’s his crime, you think?’ She asked indignantly.
‘Many gentlemen have mistresses; some have better lives with them than with the legitimate spouses as marriages are usually a convenience deal. What is appalling is that the man chose to keep them in sight.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t quite understand you, love.’ She squinted at him.
‘You are naïve, my love, that’s why this seems so strange to you.’ He caressed her cheek with his thumb. ‘But before being married, a man has needs and duties to his future bride; he must be active in-‘
‘Before being married.’
‘Some even after, as your former beau.’ He joked sarcastically, completely oblivious of his wife’s state of mind.
‘Someone as virile as you…’
He pressed his lips and raised his brows.
She pressed him under the power of her stare.
‘You want me to admit?’
‘We are one, there should be no secrets between us.’ Her chest burned so much she was afraid she would spit fire if she kept her mouth opened.
‘For how long?’
‘Ah! Cousin. Here you are.’ Colonel Fitzwilliam said smiling. ‘You too, cousin!’ He grinned.
‘Were you out riding, cousin?’ She rose, stepped into her slippers and fanned her face with the damned letter. ‘Shouldn’t you be resting? You’ll be riding for days on an end soon.’
‘I was just walking the grounds… I’ll miss Pemberley.’
‘Then let me buy you out of this wretched situation, Fitz.’ Darcy walked to her side and hugged her waist for reassurance. He didn’t but should have perceived her discreet shudder.
Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed. ‘Not again, cousin! We’ve talked about this.’
‘I’ll make sure dinner will be out early as you requested, cousin.’ She disengaged from her husband and tapped his cousin’s shoulder before leaving them alone.
At dinner, she stared at her food as if the duck chest was about to dissolve in worms. Her stomach churned; his voice that had been velvet in her ears now dripped with venom as Wickham’s did the last time they spoke. The thought brought her eyes from her plate to him and when he caught her gaze, he smiled and blinked slowly. It was a love communication for when they were in public. It meant ‘I love you ardently’. She rose in a flash, the men jumped in their seats. ‘Excuse me, gentlemen.’
‘Anything amiss, my love?’
‘No, I…’ Her eyes searched everywhere hoping a suitable explanation would pop out of thin air for her to read and repeat. ‘I…’ She looked from his cousin, to the butler, to the footman, to him. ‘I’m indisposed, that’s all.’ The common lame excuse out of her lips, she sighed in relief because as lame as it was, it was also believable. ‘I’ll retire sooner than I first expected.’ She threw her napkin on the table and instead of walking behind her husband, she took the other way around the big table to touch her hand lightly on his cousin’s shoulder thinking Colonel Fitzwilliam must too be adapt of the mistress practice. ‘I wish you good luck on the battle field, cousin, and Godspeed back to your family.’ She said sincerely thinking: “Wherever and whomever they are.” She forced a closed lipped smile. ‘Please, excuse me.’
He rose and took her hand for a kiss. ‘No need, cousin. I’ll be dining at Pemberley again sooner than you may expect.’ He reassured her.
She backed towards the footman opening the door as her husband rose.
‘I’ll escort you upstairs, my lady.’
She shook her head. ‘It’s just an indisposition. Enjoy the last minutes with your cousin.’
‘I’ll send your maid. ‘
She had left before he finished the sentence.
‘Turner.’ Darcy addressed the butler. ‘Send her maid and the housekeeper to my lady with tea.’ He returned to his chair. ‘A bath would be nice as well?’ He mused. ‘A hot bath. Maybe some crackers.’
‘And smelling salts.’ Colonel Fitzwilliam mused searching his memory.
‘And smelling salts.’
They both grinned as the butler left.
‘We’ll have brandy and cigars here.’ He informed the footman. ‘The good ones I keep on the high shelve in my study.’ As soon as the young man left, Darcy grinned bigger. ‘Cigars saved from a long time.’
‘I’m glad I’m here to waste them with you; excellent timing, my friend.’ Colonel Fitzwilliam patted his favorite cousin on the shoulder. ‘Already with child, my, my…’
He nodded already imagining his adored wife big with child, smiling and laughing, a babe on her breasts sucking with hunger.
‘I’ll say, if it was not for my post, I’d be tempted to steal her from you.’ Colonel Fitzwilliam said wistfully and Darcy frowned angrily. ‘She is even more enchanting; a beauty, already reigning over your kingdom.’
‘I could wish you good luck trying to rob my lady from the man who loves her so ferociously, but it gives me more satisfaction wishing you luck with Napoleon!’
Right after the cigars, Colonel Fitzwilliam left promising not to make himself an easy target and in spite of the chuckles the cousins shared, they both were very worried. At least one of them had the comfort of a loving wife to sooth his soul. He sent for the housekeeper to enquire after the arrangements ordered for his wife and was told she had sent the maid away because she wanted to be left alone.
‘Not even tea?’
‘She accepted tea. It was left on her dressing chamber and collected an hour later untouched. The girl said the room is almost in darkness, only the fireplace and a single candle on her writing desk provide any light.’
Wings – Pemberley
‘Ashton, the master just asked about his lady.’ Mrs. Reynolds said entering the servants’ parlor.
‘She’s still awake, still dressed for dinner.’
‘Alone in the darkness?’
Rodgers, the master’s valet, frowned interested for once on what his master’s wife’s silly maid said.
‘I lighted another candle on her dressing chamber, but she didn’t want it to be brought to her bedroom.’
‘Maybe she’s ill…’ A maid mused.
‘Probably with child.’ Another giggled. ‘He must be so excited… imagine an heir! A babe in this house.’
‘I’ll apply for nanny.’ Another maid said, a slip of a thin girl. ‘I raised five brothers and sisters, I know how to care for a babe.’
‘Or maybe she is just waiting the master to-‘
‘Enough.’ Mrs. Reynolds said eyeing Mr. Turner with reproach. ‘We may know Mr. Darcy since he was a lad, but it does not give us leave to speculate his intimacy with his bride.’
The maids shrugged and left.
‘Soon Miss Georgiana will be back, Reynolds, they will have to be more careful.’ Mr. Turner said quietly over the rim of his tea cup. ‘Both of us have already walked in on them more than once.’
The old woman sighed. ‘I’d love for them to be more careful. How awkward these last months have been.’
‘Mrs. Darcy has been very serious about running Pemberley.’ Ashton defended her mistress. It was a great job for her, the first since she had been trained by that awful Parisian lady in London. ‘She has been very careful on what concerns Pemberley.’ She nodded. ‘She almost caught her death visiting that family down the lake…’
Both Reynolds and Turner raised their eyebrows and pressed their lips not to laugh. Rodgers sighed impatiently, rested the newspaper on the table and rose to attend to his master.
He climbed the steps two at a time almost trotting to his chamber to get rid of unnecessary garments before reaching her. In his shirtsleeves, he walked silently though their private sitting room and opened her dressing chamber thinking that only three or four longs strides would take him to her bedroom. She might be sick, alone, in bed he thought with worry. But when he did enter her dressing chamber, he saw her figure against the moonlight, hunched as she leaned on the windowsill.
‘My love…’ He walked slowly to her. ‘How are you feeling? Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ First she gasped and then shook her head. ‘You’re pale and this room is stale, let me open a window and take you to bed.’
She watched as he worked on the side window and felt the night chill reach her heart. ‘Fitzwilliam?’ Came a whisper of a voice and he turned to her with smoldering eyes. ‘I can’t reconcile with the idea.’
‘My love?’ He tilted his head to the side. Why being with child worried her so much?
‘I insist to know.’
Silence persisted. ‘The idea’ was not a child.
‘Think of poor Mrs. Evans, I could be her.’ She reasoned. ‘Think of me. Tell me everything I need to know, don’t let me be disgraced by surprise or the subject of a bitter woman.’
‘You are a gorgeous man; any woman would be insane with the idea of sharing you, of giving you up for another.’
‘Look at me.’ Her eyes were hollow but the room was dark, he couldn’t see clearly. ‘I’m suffering from jealousy and resentment. Tell me, please.’ She insisted. ‘You owe me the truth.’
‘This is not something one discusses with his wife.’
‘I didn’t ask you to discuss, I asked you to tell me.’
He ran one hand on his hair and poised another on his hip.
‘How many, Fitzwilliam? Children?’
‘Three.’ He admitted and she gasped. ‘Steady ones, that is.’ He added and her legs buckled. He leaned forward to steady her.
‘Children?’ Her voice cracked.
‘Please, Lizzy, let it-‘
‘You said three women- oh, three children…’ She let the weight of his words take over her chest and slumped against the windowsill. ‘One from each?’ He cursed under his breath. ‘Speak, damn it!’ She raised her voice.
‘No. The first left one child before she died. Another had two.’
‘One is childless… Either she takes measures or you didn’t have time to seed her yet.’ Horror gripped her heart. “As you didn’t have time to seed me”, she thought. ‘Which it is?
‘I’m recent. Why did the one die?’
‘Consumption. Don’t fret, I wasn’t affected, nothing will come to you.’
‘Me?...’ She felt dazzled. ‘The child?’
‘Taken care of.’
‘With their mother.’
‘That you visit?’
She gasped again.
‘The children, not the mother.’ He hurried to explain.
‘Because you visit another.’
‘My love, listen, I-‘
Elizabeth raised a hand to her forehead. ‘Can I be left alone, please?’
‘No?’ She asked almost in a shriek.
‘No. You insisted to know, I complied as I do with everything you ask. Now you don’t get to treat with contempt.’
‘Really? You really think that?’
‘I told you, it is common.’
‘Because you needed to practice sex?’ He nodded. ‘So you could be proficient when you love me on that bed?’ She pointed a shaking hand to her enormous and enormously frightening bed at the other room. He winced. ‘How do you think it makes me feel?’
‘You wanted to know.’ He said between his teeth.
‘I feel dirty. My skin crawls thinking I crave someone else’s man.’
He rose to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest. ‘I’m not someone else’s. I’m yours.’
‘I lust after someone’s papa.’ She despaired. ‘A boy? Two?’
She whimpered. ‘I lust after those little girls’ papa. They may be at the window looking outside to see if you arrive with toys and little frocks. And I’m here, rearranging furniture, ordering new drapes, dreaming about you seeding me.’ Her eyes lost focus with the tears running. ‘Please leave.’ She sniffed.
‘You want me to leave my chambers? You are the master, if you say you don’t care what the servants will gossip, I’ll leave.’
‘Love.’ He hugged her as she hugged her shoulders and it felt like hugging one of the marble busts from the gallery. ‘My love.’
‘Unsay what you did, that one is recent, probably young, probably chosen after I refused your first proposal, perhaps close to our marriage.’ She begged. ‘Say I’m wrong!’ She shouted, he kept silently hugging her tight. She cried loud, unladylike, desperate.
‘It was not like that.’ He whispered but she obviously couldn’t take any more that night. And he’d be damned if he was to ever explain his mistresses to his wife.
She was losing her strength by the minute; she needed to protect herself quickly. ‘Tell my maid I need laudanum.’
‘Pull the bell!’ She cried and wept.
He did, and ordered the maid, and stayed with her until the woman returned with the medicine. By that time, she was not crying anymore, just curled in bed looking at the window as if not seeing anything. When Elizabeth smelled the cup, she jumped to her feet and ran to the pot to purge her stomach of any meal she had ever consumed.
“The baby!” He remembered. “My heir.” Stupid, stupid mongrel should have changed subjects before it escalated to this dire situation.
The housekeeper banished him from his wife’s chamber not at all gently saying a lady needed her privacy and from their sitting room he heard her suffering for infinite more minutes until she calmed and everything went silent. His valet woke him to change clothes, but instead of going to his bed alone, he tried her dressing chamber to find it locked. The housekeeper, deuce take her. He knocked and settled on the sitting room couch to wait for her maid to open.