P&P200: An Anniversary
**Technically, according to our P&P200 timeline, the one week anniversary of the Darcys was yesterday. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to share this excerpt from my novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, today instead. I hope you enjoy this romantic glimpse into the early days of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s marriage.
Lizzy was awoken by the sensation of something velvety with a lovely aroma brushing across her face. She opened her eyes to see her husband’s handsome face hovering over her. His jubilantly dimpled smile, sparkling blue eyes, and disheveled hair were enough to instantly set her heart racing. It took her a moment to realize that he held a pink rose in his hands and it was this with which he was gently tickling her face.
“Happy anniversary, my precious wife,” he declared in his rich, musical voice. “Elizabeth my love … my light … my heart ….” He unceasingly grazed her face, neck, and shoulders with the rose, sprinkling kisses between his endearments. “One week ago today, you made me the happiest of men, Mrs. Darcy, my beloved wife.” He kissed her deeply then, pulling her body onto his, caressing her back with his hand and the flower.
“My husband, I note you are wearing your trousers. Under the present circumstances, is this not a ludicrous encumbrance?” she tantalized, planting nibbles to his neck.
“Nothing that cannot be easily rectified, my love.” He laughed. “I did not think it wise of me to traipse to the conservatory unclothed. The staff has been shocked enough lately at my lack of modesty and propriety.”
“I needed to pick this for you,” he touched her adorable nose with the rose, “and those as well.” He waved his hand about the room and the five vases of varied flowers scattered about the chamber.
Lizzy sat up in bed, unconscious of the heavenly sight she presented to her husband, and smiled radiantly at the array of blooms. She turned her smile onto Darcy, devastating him further with love and desire, and teased, “You are doing it again, Mr. Darcy. Being entirely too fabulous, spoiling me beyond endurance, and setting the standard so high that you may exhaust yourself in an effort to reach higher than the previous pinnacle!”
He rose and kissed her quickly on the cheek. “Let me worry about that,” he responded, and then left the bed before her beguiling charms drove further thought away. He returned from his dressing room swiftly with an enormous box, which he placed on the bed in front of her.
“William, you must cease buying me gifts! I do not require such gestures.”
“Whether you require them or not is irrelevant, Mrs. Darcy. I will shower you with presents because I am entirely egocentric and I extract pleasure from admiring your happy face! Humor me, if nothing else.”
She pretended to scowl, but could not maintain it for long. She opened the box and gasped in shock. She pulled out an ankle-length pelisse of russet wool, lined and edged with sable. It was by far the most exquisite garment she had ever owned. With a squeal of glee, she robustly hugged her husband and then stood up on the bed, wrapping herself in the lush softness of the coat. The luxuriant contact of the fur on her bare skin was positively vivifying. She pranced seductively about the bed, making Darcy smile and laugh aloud.
“You see,” he gushed, “the pleasure is wholly mine. I am selfishly overcome with joy.” He clutched her legs and drew her onto his lap. “Now let me see what other self-serving indulgences I can secure.”
~ * ~ * ~
Just prior to noon, Lizzy sat in Darcy’s study while he worked at his desk. She pretended to read a book, but was more fascinated with inspecting her husband. A small crease sat between his brows as he concentrated. He rolled the quill in his fingers and rubbed his chin when ruminating. Occasionally his lips would silently mouth the words on the document before him. Frequently he would sigh or harrumph or aah or curse or grumble, without being aware he did so. Lizzy adored simply observing him, learning more about him in these unconscious mannerisms.
A knock at the door led to the entrance of Mr. Keith, who requested a moment of Mr. Darcy’s time. With alacrity, and a thankful nod to Mr. Keith, Lizzy rose and left the two gentlemen alone. Mrs. Reynolds stood outside the door. “Is everything ready?” Lizzy asked.
“As you requested, Mrs. Darcy.”
“Thank you!” and with a brief squeeze to Mrs. Reynolds’ hands, Lizzy flew up to her dressing room where Marguerite was waiting.
About forty-five minutes later, Mr. Darcy emerged from his study, asked a footman where Mrs. Darcy could be found, and was told that she was in the conservatory. Darcy walked speedily, already lamenting the absence of his wife. He called to her when he entered, and her voice came from the far side of the room. He made his way around the profusion of potted plants and trees. The tableau before him stopped him dead in his tracks.
A clearing had been made and a luncheon was arranged as if outdoors, hamper and all. Elizabeth stood, wearing her lightest muslin summer gown with only a thin chemise underneath and satin lawn slippers. Her hair was down, with the side strands twisted into an elaborate braid in back. The warmth of the conservatory, the aroma of the blooms, the sunlight shining through the ceiling and walls of glass, along with the blanket on the floor, created the perfect summer scenario.
“Happy anniversary, Fitzwilliam!” Lizzy approached her stunned husband and without preamble began unbuttoning his coat. “I know it is a poor substitute for your grotto, so we must pretend.” She laid his coat aside and then kissed him. “I could not forget the day you made me the happiest woman in the world, my love. One whole week you have tolerated me! You have earned a medal, but instead you will get only lunch. Now sit. I shall serve our food.”
Lizzy also had a gift for her husband. “It is rather silly,” she blushingly remarked when she handed him the small box. “I did not have the foresight to buy a real gift for you. Instead I recalled an inane French novel I read when I was a girl, a poorly written romantic piece of tripe. There was this one thing I thought sweet, in my girlish idea of romance.”
Darcy opened the box and saw a small satin pouch with a drawstring closure. “Look inside,” Lizzy said, biting her lip in nervousness. He pulled out a long slender tress of her silky hair that had been braided and tied on each end with fine thread. “You see,” she explained, “now you will permanently have a small part of me with you even if I am not there.”
He stared at her in disbelief. “You thought this was silly? This is … astounding! Elizabeth, I do not have the words!” He kissed her tenderly and held her chin with his fingers. “My love, I resort to buying gifts because it is what I am accustomed to. You look inward to your heart and give far more generously than I. I will cherish this and bear it with me for all my life. I so love you, Elizabeth.”
It was a lovely afternoon. There is something mysterious about picnics—even indoor ones—that immediately causes one to feel mellow and whimsical. One week of wedded bliss, and they both already had scores of memories to record into their journals, not that either of them would ever forget the passion and joy of these first days.