The unseasonably pleasant weather for November in Hertfordshire was perfect for a walk. That was one of the voiced reasons daily given to the Bennets for what had swiftly evolved into a habitual activity for the betrothed couples. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley offered the benefits of exercise and fresh air for one’s health, as well as the selfless wish to provide a period of peaceful quiet to reign at the increasingly chaotic Longbourn, as additional logic for spiriting the eldest Bennet daughters away from their watchful parents.
Mrs. Bennet typically waved them off without a glance, her attention engaged with some wedding detail. Mr. Bennet pretended to consider the matter, extended the obligatory warnings to stay together and not stray too far – knowing full well his orders would be disregarded – and pierced each gentleman with as stern a glare as he could muster, before granting permission.
On this day, the afternoon before the scheduled nuptials, the ruse was all but ignored, with only the stickler-for-propriety Mr. Darcy making the slightest attempt to act interested in Mr. Bennet’s opinion.
While in eyesight of the house, the foursome walked in a close knot as they set out on the frequently trod trail leading between Longbourn and Netherfield. As they strolled along, conversation was light and companionable, laughter and banter flowing easily. In every way it was a highly enjoyable activity equally appreciated by all, which is one reason why the inevitable conclusion to their joint exercise was surprising.
Never was it precisely planned. Never could either couple recall exactly when the four-way discourse ended or when the gap widened or who diverted onto a side trail first. It simply…. happened. Yet, surprising as it may be in one respect, not a soul considered retracing steps to find the others! To put it bluntly, as the day when controlling their passions would no longer be an issue loomed closer, both ardent young man unconsciously decided to toss caution into the wind. Clearly the ladies were of the same opinion.
“Georgiana insisted I reiterate her pleasure in spending yesterday shopping with you in Meryton,” Darcy said. “If I had forgotten to relay her message she would be devastated beyond repair.”
Lizzy laughed at his dramatic tones. “I would never wish for Miss Darcy to be devastated, however she adequately expressed her appreciation yesterday with enthusiastic praise. I am quite certain that never has a living soul been so utterly delighted by the charms of Meryton. If I had not seen Lambton myself, I might presume it no more than a crude village with mud huts and pigs wandering freely in the streets, based on Miss Darcy’s response to our humble town.”
“In her desire to please she can be overly dramatic at times.”
Lizzy glanced upward into his calm, serious face. “Indeed. I have noticed this propensity within certain Darcys. It begs the question as to where this trait originated. One of your parents? Or better yet is it a familial connection with a famed stage actor? How scandalous and exciting would that be!”
Darcy met her impish expression with a teasing grin. “I deem it best to wait until after our wedding before revealing the skeletons hidden in our closets, my dear. Allow me another day of being perfection in your sight.”
Lizzy rolled her eyes, harrumphing and jabbing her elbow into his side. “Arrogant man! Must I again chronicle your numerous faults?”
“There is no need. I now have them memorized.” He leaned to kiss her cheek, chuckling and drawing her closer to his side. “In truth, neither of my parents were particularly gifted in dramatics. They possessed excellent humors, loving to laugh and jest much as you do, but displayed minimal acting skills. The tendency runs deepest with my Uncle George, and my Aunt Beryl as well. I long for the day when you can meet them both.”
“As do I.”
“Soon we shall be at Pemberley, together as a family. There you can acquaint yourself with my ancestry and feel the strength of our relations.”
“Our relations,” she repeated in a whisper, pausing on the trail to stare into his tender eyes. An affectionate, slow smile spread. “I like the sound of that.”
Darcy matched her wide smile with one equally as brilliant and filled with love. And, a generous allotment of raw passion that sent a pleasant shiver racing up Lizzy’s spine. The wild flutters attacking her insides were simultaneously exhilarating and flustering. The latter emotion provided the strength necessary to break the mesmerizing pull of his gaze, Lizzy’s eyes darting across the landscape surrounding and noting, for the first time in nearly an hour, exactly where they were.
They shared a mischievous grin, nodded once, and without speaking a word broke into a chase toward the copse of willow trees located on a small rise near the fenced boundary of Netherfield Park. It was a preferred destination during their walks, the secluded spot a childhood favorite Lizzy had shown to her betrothed weeks ago.
Lizzy reached the trees first, although the long-legged Darcy obviously forfeited. Her shout of triumph morphed into a squeal when he grabbed her about the waist, lifted her off her feet, and twirled twice in a circle before halting their laughter with a firmly planted kiss. As was becoming more and more common, the playful, caste kiss rapidly spiraled into a serious breach of all propriety. Within seconds their bodies were fused along every plane, hands roaming freely as the kiss accelerated.
Abruptly they pulled apart and retreated to lean onto opposite trees. Staring at each other with passion-drugged eyes, a full five minutes of silence passed – not counting the heavy panting and pounding heartbeats – before speech was remotely possible. And then it was Lizzy blurting the only coherent thought ringing in her brain.
“I love kissing you!” She felt the blush flooding her cheeks, released a nervous laugh and stammered while peering at the ground, “I imagine that is obvious.”
“Yes.” Darcy choked the word, clearing his throat before continuing, “as I am certain it is obvious I love kissing you, Elizabeth. Ardently so, in fact, which is why it best I remain over here for at least a few more minutes.”
Lizzy lifted her gaze. Darcy was standing with hands flattened harshly against his thighs. He wore a dreamy smile, the shadows of the shaded alcove unable to hide his darkly glittering eyes.
“Fortunately by this time tomorrow I will no longer be required to halt the joyous delight of kissing you. You shall then be Mrs. Darcy, my wife,” he whispered the word reverently, “and kissing you will only be the beginning to all the ways I intent to express my love for you.”
He paused, inhaled deeply, and visibly shook himself. Flashing a grin almost normal and speaking in a lightly jesting tone, he went on, “The timing of our wedding is fortuitous, since I do believe my prized forbearance has been exhausted. One more day and you would have another fault to add to your list.”
“Considering the pleasure I receive in teasing you about your faults, Mr. Darcy, perhaps adding another would be a kindness.”
“Ah! Do not tempt me, Elizabeth! Trust me when I say that the pleasure I intend to bestow upon you tomorrow night will be far greater than a mere tease will grant.”
Lizzy flushed scarlet at his implication, but she did not look away from his lusty gaze. Rather, she met it with as much intensity as possible considering her general lack of experience in such matters. Silence again inundated the dimly lit willow grove, broken this time by Darcy as he crossed to where she stood.
“Now, Miss Bennet, I must return you to Longbourn. I somehow doubt the fact that we will be husband and wife in less than twenty-four hours will prevent your father from skinning me alive if darkness has fallen before you are safely inside.” Cupping her face between his broad hands, he bent until a breath away from her upturned and parted lips. “Not, however, before I thoroughly kiss you one last time so your dreams tonight will be of me, our love, and the promise of pleasure soon to come.”
Later Lizzy would inform him that his final kiss as her betrothed accomplished the task remarkably well.
~ * ~ * ~
Be sure to return tomorrow for the wedding!
Details are on the invitation below, and on this post: You are Cordially Invited