[WIP - Modern/R]
The Times Supplement
14th May 1999
Two Houses - United
Yesterday saw the marriage of the month with two great names becoming one. Miss Helena Boscawen (20) of Hatchlands Estate, Surrey, married Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (20) of Pemberley, Derbyshire at the church of East Horsley, Surrey. The ceremony was attended by close family and friends. The bride looked radiant in a beautiful ivory satin gown with Swarovski crystal detailing along the bodice and skirt. The cathedral train flowed behind Miss Boscawen as she made her way along the aisle.
Mr. Darcy wore a three quarter length frock coat with a Nehru collar, an ivory waistcoat with Swarovski crystal detail and a ivory silk cravat. The flowers were ivory and cream roses and lilies.
Tearful relatives waved the happy couple off from the church as they made their way to the reception to be held at Miss Boscawen's ancestral home of Hatchlands. The temple in the grounds was decorated for the occasion as the newly married couple were toasted by a large crowd of well-wishers from town and nearby. One particular guest was congratulating himself on securing the match between the two. It was a party hosted by Mr. Darcy's cousin, Mr. Richard Fitzwilliam, where the couple met only three months prior to the wedding taking place.
The wedding follows on one year after the death of Mr. Darcy's parents in a horrific car accident in the north of France. Mrs. Boscawen spoke of the wedding as "a new start for Fitzwilliam" and mentioned that they had embraced him as the son they never had. Speculation is rife as to whether Mr. Darcy will be named heir to the estate or whether it shall pass on to the first born grandchild.
After the reception, the couple retired to prepare for the honeymoon, a month travelling Europe in an imitation of the Grand Tour taken by their ancestors. The Darcys shall then divide their time between Pemberley, Hatchlands and their house in Town.
It is a fact, true all over the world, that a woman about to get married wakes up smiling every morning. This was the case with Jane Bennet as she counted off the mornings she would awaken as a single woman. Excitement threatened to burst out and she had to laugh at herself with how silly she was acting. Two more days to go and she would be Mrs. Jane Bingley, wife of Charles and living at his estate of Netherfield. They had been together only a short time. Having met him at one of the village assemblies, they fast fell in love and this was the result.
Months of planning was all about to come to fruition and all she needed to make it perfect was the arrival of her sister Elizabeth. Today was the day when she would be reunited with her, only a few hours left to go. They had not seen each other for three years, ever since a summer Elizabeth had spent in Surrey with her friends Michael and Susan Gardiner. Without a word, she had left the country to tour the world leaving a very bemused family behind. She had not returned for any birthdays or Christmas's. Only a card or a telephone call alerted them to her location and those would be far and few between. It had been a miracle she had called shortly after Jane and Charles had decided on a date for the wedding.
Jumping out of bed, Jane wandered across the room to the bathroom and quickly showered and dressed. She lived in a small apartment in the town of Meryton, long since had she moved away from home, her mother becoming quite unbearable with Lizzy leaving the country. It would be hers after she is married, the pair of them wishing to have a studio in town where they can stay if necessary. Netherfield is a large estate twenty miles away in the countryside. It is close by to where the Bennet family have lived for generations in a small area called Longbourn. This was where she had grown up, the eldest of three sisters. Only one remained at Longbourn, Mary had not had the opportunity to move but then they did not fuss over her as much as they had Jane and Elizabeth.
Once she was dressed and breakfasted, Jane decided to leave for the airport knowing how ridiculous the traffic could be on the London Orbital at this time. Sitting in the car, she began to think back to the last time she had seen Elizabeth. She had been eighteen and had developed into a beautiful young woman. Having recently finished her A-levels, she had decided to spend the summer in Surrey with some friends. Three months passed with barely a word from her, Jane had not worried. It was an indication of Elizabeth having a good time and relaxing before she finally ventured to university.
She never returned however. It had been a mystery and to this day it remained so. The Gardiner's would not answer any questions when pestered and so all roads into the investigation were closed. It was a good two months after her disappearance that they heard from her in Russia. It was a short message answering none of the questions the family had. At least they knew she was safe. Jane could not help but wonder whether any answers would be provided today or at least in the near future.
The phone rang and broke through her thoughts. Pressing the hands-free button, she heard her fiancé's voice break through the silence of the car.
"Morning. What you up to?"
"Other than talking to you? Well, I've just had breakfast and I'm off to pick up Will shortly. You all set for the ball tonight? You got Lizzy yet?"
"Yes and no. The ball is sorted, I have mine and Lizzy's gowns. As for a sister to fit in the gown, I'm stuck on the M25. I shouldn't be late. What time is Will's train?"
"Eleven, so no rush. Don't be nervous, he'll love you. I know he will. And I'm sure I'll love your sister. If she is anything like you then we shall get along brilliantly." She smiled at his boyish enthusiasm for everything.
"We're moving again. I shall see you tonight at the ball. Love you."
"Love you too, take care and don't freak your sister out with too many questions."
"I'll try not too. Bye" The line went dead as he hung up.
An hour later, she was stood at the gate waiting for Elizabeth to emerge from the recently landed aeroplane. A crowd of people walked past her and then there she was. Jane had to look twice to make sure that the stunning woman before was actually her sister. The years had only served to enhance the natural beauty her sister possessed. Her light brown hair was bleached by the sun, her skin dark and healthy, her eyes sparking with the joy of seeing Jane once more.
Before Lizzy could act, Jane had run toward her and launched herself in her arms. Tears of happiness were shed as the emotional reunion took place. It took a few moments for the two women to calm down enough to let got of each other and move towards the exit, but gradually, they did. The sun shone down upon them as they left the building, Jane steering her towards the car that seemed to be parked miles away. Elizabeth looked at the sky and her surroundings.
"It has been too long, Jane."
"Does that mean that you are going to stay this time?" Jane's voice was hopeful, she had gone too long without her best friend.
"I don't know yet. We'll wait and see. So, when do I get to meet this man of yours? Charles isn't it?" Jane's face immediately took on a radiant glow.
"Yes, Charles Bingley and you shall meet him tonight at the pre-wedding ball. Don't ask, mother arranged it as a celebration at me no longer being single." Elizabeth laughed, yes, it was so like her mother.
"Take me home, Jane." Seat-belts fastened, Jane proceeded to do just that.
The gown Jane had chosen for Elizabeth was exquisite. The dark black fabric contrasted perfectly with her golden skin, the cappuccino highlights and embroidery complimenting her natural colour. Flaring out slightly from the hips, it enhanced all her curves to best effect. Yes, Jane had made an excellent choice. She felt better than she had in years, her constant companions being a pair of jeans and trainers. To be dressed as a woman once again took her breath away. Too long had she been running away from being an attractive young lady.
Jane stopped as soon as she entered the room. She also looked radiant in the brown taffeta dress. The beads sparkled excitedly in the light of the room. They smiled at each other, the two sisters back together and would undoubtedly be the talk of the ballroom. It had been so for many years, men could not resist the pair of them. Jane was classically beautiful, Elizabeth had eyes that no man could take their gaze away from.
"I knew that dress was perfect for you as soon as I set eyes upon it. You look stunning, Elizabeth, but then you always do." Lizzy blushed, it had been some years since the last compliment was paid to her.
"Thank-you Jane. You are very beautiful too. Tell me, are there any attractive men going to be there tonight? I want to see if I still have the ability to pull them across the room with one glance." Jane laughed.
"You shall have no difficulty there." Together, they set out to the ball held at Netherfield.
The room was filling rapidly as guests descended upon the great estate to present the happy couple with their well wishes for their health and happiness. The hall itself was decorated from floor to ceiling with floral displays, ivory roses and lilies covered the walls, arches made from the same flowers towered over the guests. The string quartet played a small selection of favourites, waiting until such a time where they would be required to play the first dance of the evening.
Jane and Elizabeth had arrived slightly late and so many of the guests had already gathered. Ascending the stone steps, Lizzy grasped her sisters arm tightly, nerves of entering back into such society gripping her stomach uncomfortably. Jane sensed this and patted her sister's hand gently.
"You shall be fine, nothing can possibly go wrong. Not when you look like that. I doubt even Mother will be able to find a fault." The girls giggled and entered the entrance hall before being lead into the main ballroom.
There he stood, the man of Jane's dreams and future. He smiled widely as he welcomed into the room, kissing Jane briefly on the cheek before turning to her sister. He drew a sharp breath and locked his gaze with hers. Yes, she was as beautiful as Jane had described. Recovering himself, he smiled and kissed the back of her hand. Jane and Elizabeth watched amused as he introduced himself.
"Good evening, Miss Elizabeth. I am Charles Bingley, soon to be your brother-in-law and your host for the evening."
"Nice to meet you too Charles. I have heard a lot about you from Jane." He smiled and released her hand.
"And I about you. Please, make yourself at home here. Refreshments are available over on that side of the room and on this side there will be dancing in a short while."
As she looked about the room to find the places he indicated, she set eyes on a man she had met in her dreams every night for the past three years. His eyes met hers and the world seemed to stop around them. She could hear her heart racing, each beat resounding around her body. He was as handsome as she remembered, dark brown eyes piercing her soul. Slowly, he walked towards her, their gaze unwavering, memories of an event long ago filled her mind.
The excitement of the dance flooded through the room as all the guests mingled impatiently awaiting the music to start. Once a month in the small Surrey village, the dance was held and attended by everyone from the most prominent families to the farm workers and children. A good time was generally had and the buzz of anticipation awakened the senses and prepared the soul for a bout of merriment.
Elizabeth had never attended one before but was confident that she would have a good time. Coming from a small village herself, she knew what to expect from such a gathering and so came knowing full well she would have a good time. She had been in the small village a week now, visiting her friends from childhood. The Gardiners had known Elizabeth when she was a small girl and firm friendships were soon established. They had moved to Surrey as Michael had to work in the nearby town of Guildford. An invitation to stay was made as soon as Elizabeth had completed her A-level exams and off she went. A long summer before she started university in September.
The weather was glorious, the sun shone all day and the warmth carried on well into the evening. The doors to the assembly room were flung wide open and the marquee in the grounds to the rear of the room was decorated pleasantly with small lights and candles. Finally, the music began and partners were sought all around the room. Michael and Susan walked onto the floor and swayed majestically to the lilting notes filling the room.
Elizabeth barely knew anyone in the room and at the age of eighteen, she was nervous about attempting to find the perfect dance partner. It was then that she noticed the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on. He was standing at the side of the room, talking animatedly with the woman beside him. She was laughing and pushing toward the dance floor. He was also laughing and attempting to pull her up with him but she remained steadfast. It was then that the man turned toward Elizabeth and their gaze met.
The music faded and the crowds disappeared as they observed each other silently. Neither noticed Michael walking towards him until the spell was broken. The music rushed back into her ears as she became aware once again of the people surrounding her. Susan began to speak, aware of what had just occurred between her friend and the wealthy young man across the room.
"I do believe Michael is arranging for you to dance with William Darcy. That is certainly an honour." At her words, Michael and the handsome gentleman walked towards her, the woman he had been talking to watching on with an amused expression.
"My dear Elizabeth, may I present you to Mr. William Darcy. William, this is my good friend Elizabeth Bennet."
"Pleased to meet you Miss Bennet." He smiled at her, his gaze never once leaving hers.
"Likewise Mr. Darcy."
"Perhaps you would care to dance, I know Elizabeth is short of a dance partner this evening." Darcy looked toward Michael and smiled.
"I would be honoured, Miss Bennet." She nodded demurely and he lead her onto the dance floor. The music began once again, a slow melody drifting around them.
He held her waist gently and they began moving to the rhythm. The eye contact never wavered as he gazed lost into the most engaging expression he had ever seen. At length, she broke the silence, her voice barely a whisper.
"So Mr. Darcy, do you come here often?" He chuckled at her clichéd expression.
"Yes I do actually. I spend the summer months here at the nearby estate. I have one request, you must call me William." He smiled, dimples forming. Her heart nearly stopped. "I assume I may be allowed to call you Elizabeth?"
She nodded and the dance continued. His grip on her waist became firmer and she leaned into him slightly. Their bodied brushed against each other, each could feel the tingle of excitement with each accidental touch. This was becoming dangerous and both knew it well.
"Who was the lady who you were talking to before Michael kidnapped you?" The spell broke once again as he looked away from her to smile at the lady in question.
"That lady is my wife, Helena. It is her family's estate where we are staying, Lealands Park."
"Ah, and why is it that it is not her in your arms instead of me?"
"She has recently given birth to my third son, Edward. Naturally, she is not inclined to dance at this time but she always accompanies me to these dances. She is constantly pairing me up with someone else. Tonight I think is her best attempt so far however."
Elizabeth blushed and the intensity of his gaze descended back upon her person. He was entranced by her, and she by him. Too quickly, the music came to an end and together they left the dance floor. Smiling, he squeezed her hand and kissed the back of it gently. His eyes never once left hers. She could feel her legs turn to jelly as he stepped away from her. Turning away, he returned to his wife and she to her friends, her mind full of William Darcy.
The Ball at Netherfield
"Ah, Will, there you are. May I introduce you to some very important people? Will, this is Jane Bennet, my fiancée and her sister, Elizabeth. Ladies, this is my best friend, William Darcy."
Barely did he look at Jane before he returned his attention to the woman beside her. She had not changed, her skin was darker and her hair lighter but her eyes still glistened with expression he remembered so well. She dropped her gaze, unable to look at him lest he'd guess the direction of her thoughts. Jane and Bingley noticed this interaction.
"I take it you two have met before, Will?" Elizabeth looked up the man before her, awaiting the response that would direct the course of their evening.
Tearing his gaze away from her, he looked at Bingley and pronounced the word that speared her heart. "Never." The word was said with such finality as she watched him turn his back and walk away into the middle of the room.
The ball progressed as planned with the dance floor playing a major role in the celebrations. Jane and Bingley danced the first and rapidly they were joined by the other couples in the room. Elizabeth did not dance even when requested by her father with whom she always danced. The majority of the evening was spent talking to family, old friends and acquaintances, only one daring to ask where had she been for the past three years. That was her mother.
"Where have you been Lizzy? You gave us such a fright leaving as you did." Tears were shed by both women. A sight that shocked both Elizabeth and her mother. Everyone embraced her return and various dinner engagements were arranged for the following weeks.
All throughout the conversations, she could feel his gaze caressing her. She basked in the feel of it, a warm shroud of contentment she knew all too well threatened to overwhelm her but she pushed it aside. He had made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of starting where they left off.
The clock was about to strike midnight and the last dance of the evening was being announced. Bingley had yet to see his friend dance one all evening and was determined to make him stand up with his soon to be sister-in-law. Stealthily, he manoeuvred across the room to stand beside Darcy. He declared his presence with a question.
"Come now, Darcy. It has been three years now, surely you can start to enjoy yourself once again." His friend did not acknowledge his presence, he knew full well what Bingley was about. "I shall have you dance, Darcy. How about Jane's sister? Elizabeth has not danced this evening either."
Darcy did not notice that the object of their discussion was walking nearby and happened to hear the question posed by Bingley. She slowed endeavouring to hear the answer he would give. A brief smile crossed her face as she remembered that dance at the assembly, the warmth of his hands around her waist.
"I am not inclined to dance especially not with a girl that no other man would touch. It says something about her which I find disagreeable. You had best enjoy yourself with her sister. Leave me to my misery." He chose that moment to turn around, his eyes immediately drawn to the sight of Elizabeth, tears in her eyes, walking past and leaving the room. "Shit!"
The dance continued as Elizabeth sat in a daze wondering what had just occurred between herself and the handsome but married stranger. His gaze caressed her entire being, he read her soul and a connection was felt when their eyes met. It was unlike anything she had ever encountered, not that she had much experience in the way of men. Susan sat beside her, worried at how quickly her friend seemed to have been enchanted by the very tempting William Darcy. On the other side of the room, he too was in a similar state.
Helena attempted to engage him in conversation but his attention would soon draw back to the woman across the dance floor. He could still feel her in his arms, the warmth of the beautiful skin that he was sure to be under the dress she wore. He was bewitched, and he knew it. As did Helena.
"William! Please, will you listen to me?" He turned distractedly towards the woman beside him and smiled. "If you are so interested in the girl then bring her over here. I must admit to some curiosity as to the type of person she must be to attract you so." He looked shocked at her words but she merely smiled.
Standing, he walked toward the table where Elizabeth and Susan sat. She sensed him walking toward her and looked into his face. He smiled at her and Susan before finally coming to stand before them. Unsure of what to say and exactly his wife's purpose in having him perform this task, his words were spoken in an unsteady and clumsy manner.
"I...we... my wife and I, request...would like you to join us Elizabeth...I mean Miss Bennet." It seemed wrong for such a confident man to stumble and stutter through such a simple request but ultimately it endeared him to her heart all the more.
Elizabeth looked from him to the older woman beside her. Upon observing Susan's smile of encouragement, she tentatively agreed and stood. Taking her arm, he guided her through the crowds of spectators surrounding the dance floor. Both felt the tingling of proximity as she followed the gentle pull of his hand. Both attempted to ignore the sensation that could cause them to fall into ever deeper waters.
Elizabeth decided to take a closer look at the woman that had captured the man beside her. She was beautiful. Similar in look to her sister Jane, her shoulder length blonde hair framed her fine features and dazzling blue eyes. Even though seated, Elizabeth could tell she was tall and slender, her skin so pale and delicate, not sickly but perfect. Men would fall at her feet, of that Elizabeth was sure.
"Ah, you must be Elizabeth Bennet." The welcoming face of Helena Bosacawen-Darcy put Elizabeth's mind at rest as William disengaged her arm and pulled out a chair for her to sit on. Once seated, the conversation between the three began.
"I am sorry my husband dragged you over here Miss Bennet but I told him too. He was barely listening to a word I said so enraptured he was by you. Tell me, what did you put in his drink? I must remember to purchase some for use at a later time." Helena smiled as she observed the change in Elizabeth's features transform from worry to amusement.
"You must forgive my wife, she is a merciless tease and delights in making people feel decidedly uncomfortable. If only I had known before I married her." At this comment, Helena playfully swatted her husband on the arm and rolled her eyes much to the amusement of Elizabeth.
"Do not think I am even remotely jealous of his attraction to you, I can see why he would find it difficult to take his eyes off such a vibrant personality such as the one you possess. That is after all why we got married in the first place."
"You are wrong, my love, it was your money." At this Elizabeth laughed, all worry disappearing as she watched the interaction between husband and wife before her.
"Well, I certainly did not marry you because of your name. In fact, when I first heard his full first name I had to laugh."
"Do not, Helena, I beg you. This poor young lady will not look at me again once she hears." A thought passed across his wife's face and a wicked smile broke forth. "No!"
"Of course, Fitzwilliam." Upon seeing the miffed look crossing his features, both women took to laughing and before long he was joining in.
"I cannot believe you actually did!" The laughter slowly died down and a comfortable conversation ensued.
"So Elizabeth, what brings you to Surrey? I can tell you are not from around here."
"Is it that obvious? Well, I am from Hertfordshire so not a million miles away. I live with my family. My father is a biology teacher for a local grammar school and my mother is a house-wife I suppose. Although she spends all day gossiping with the neighbours and her sister. I have two sisters, Jane and Mary. Jane is older than me by two years and is currently at university in London. Mary has just completed her GCSEs and will be starting at the local college in September.
My reasons for being in Surrey are that I have recently completed my A-levels and I wished to have a holiday with my excellent friends Susan and Michael before leaving for university in September."
"And which university are you attending?" Helena reached for her wine, long slender fingers gripping the tall this stem of the glass.
"Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. That is if I get the required grades of course." At once William started. Such coincidences were not to be taken lightly.
"That is amazing. I also attended Cambridge for exactly the same subject." Elizabeth smiled at his enthusiasm, also amazed at the link between them.
"I see you two have something else in common. Maybe all scientists bunch together and have secret signs to attract them to one another. I myself am a student of English and I believe 'in the expansion of my mind by extensive reading'." At once to the two women chuckled leaving William to be confused at their private joke.
"William and I met at Cambridge." Elizabeth noticed Darcy's expression darken but the conversation progressed before she could remark upon it. "We met at a party thrown by William's cousin, Richard. I am sure he planned it so." His mood lightened as he smiled at his wife. Nodding, he agreed with her comment and such an expression of love suffused his features.
"Two months later I proposed and another month after we were married. Love at first sight I suppose. Do you believe in such things, Miss Bennet?" His gaze returned to her, she could feel herself drowning in the depth of his eyes.
"Yes, for how else could authors find such extraordinary sources of inspiration." He smiled and stood to retrieve more drinks from the bar.
"No we are alone we can speak woman to woman. I can see you have attracted my husband's unwavering gaze." Elizabeth swallowed hard and dropped her eyes to the table in front of her. "Do not fear, I am not the jealous type. I know my husband and I trust him implicitly. Just take care not to fall in love yourself. He is very easy to love but he is also loyal and dedicated. I would hate to see such a young and impressionable heart be broken." Elizabeth nodded and looked straight into Helena's eyes.
"You need not be afraid of anything. It is quite obvious that you two are happy and nothing I or anyone else can do will ever stop that." Helena nodded and turned to smile at her returning husband. Not noticing that anything had occurred during his absence, he resumed the conversation.
During their time spent together, Elizabeth observed the couple. They were so much in love it was easy to see. Secret smiles and small touches accented their colloquy lending them the image of a happily married couple. More than once did she feel his gaze resting upon her, more than once she felt the desire for him to touch her in the same way, to smile at her as he had done on the dance floor.
Before long, the evening was coming to an end and Helena was quite ready to re-enter the world of being a full-time mother. Together they stood and waited for Michael and Susan to collect their guest before departing the village hall. Darcy whispered something in Helena's ear and smile and a nod were the reply. Walking towards Elizabeth, he smiled and delivered the invitation.
"You have certainly made a good first impression on my wife. As such, we would like to invite you for afternoon tea and dinner tomorrow. Would you like that?" The smile that graced her lips as soon as his offer was complete gave him the answer he desired.
"I would be very happy to Mr. Darcy." At his feigned look of disapproval, she amended her answer. "I mean yes, William." His smile broadened and he nodded before making his way back to the woman waiting for him by the door.
The following afternoon arrived and William Darcy was waiting for her in front of the Gardiner's house. It was a glorious day, the sun beat down heavy on the ground, not a cloud interrupted the deep blue sky. He sat in his Volvo C70, the roof down, head thrown back against the head restraint, eyes closed enjoying the feel on the sun on his face. Elizabeth felt the familiar sensation of her heart beating quickly in her chest as she gazed upon the man before her. She could have looked at him forever, so serene were his features, so calm and peaceful.
Breaking herself from such thoughts, she spoke to him.
"Hello William." He opened his eyes and looked at the girl he had been waiting for. She was breathtaking in her light summer dress. Her light brown hair hung loose over her shoulders, how he wanted to run his fingers through, No, he thought to himself. That kind of image was not going to help.
"Hello Elizabeth. Jump in." That accomplished, they made their way along the country roads joining the village of East Horsley to Lealands Park. They spoke little during the journey, content were they to observe the countryside and be in each others company.
It was only a few minutes before they turned off into the park and a short distance before they saw the house for the first time. A Georgian red brick building greeted them over the brow of the hill, the surrounding parkland beautifully un-landscaped, left to its natural state. Cows grazed in various fields, birds flew through the trees, a small lake harboured many types of ducks and bull rushes performed its duty as shelter for other lakeside animals. It was beside the lake that a small picnic was being arranged by Helena. Two young boys ran around after each other shouting and laughing. A pram was stationed nearby the rug that was lying on the floor.
William stopped the car and smiled at his wife. Helena walked toward the car and opened the door so that Elizabeth could get out.
"I'll park the car and be round in a few minutes. Don't start without me." He smiled and once the door was shut, he drove towards the house leaving Elizabeth with the rest of his family.
"Well then, I suppose it is time you met the rest of the gang. Boys! Come here please." At once they stopped their game and ran toward their mother. Upon seeing the strange woman, they crowded around their mother's legs, suddenly shy. "Come on out of there, let Miss Bennet see you properly."
The were handsome boys, just like their father. Brown curly hair and brown eyes seemed to be descended from him as was their reticent nature. They had fine features, like their mother. They were a perfect combination of both parents. It would have been impossible for two such beautiful people to have created unattractive children.
"Right then, Elizabeth, may I introduce my sons. Lucien, he's four," At once the boy held out his hand for Elizabeth to shake.
"Nice to meet you Lucien," He smiled at her, his eyes gleaming at meeting someone new.
"And this is Richard, he's three." Richard hid behind his mother and brother.
"Nice to meet you Richard." He smiled shyly and hid his face behind his hands.
"And over here, we have the newest Darcy." They all walked toward the pram. Helena picked up the child and hugged it against her gently. "Meet Edward." Elizabeth looked into the blanket and saw the most beautiful baby she had ever seen. Blond wisps of hair adorned his head and bright blue eyes stared out from under heavy eyelids. It was a perfectly small version of his mother.
"He is beautiful, Helena. You and William must be so proud of your three."
"Oh, we are." A deep voice spoke from behind them and the boys ran to their father. "Hello boys, did you miss me?" He hoisted them both up into his arms and kissed both of them on the forehead. Lucien squirmed free and dropped to the ground ready to commence the game with his brother once more. Darcy released Richard and laughed as the younger raced against the elder. "They can be a handful at a times though."
He smiled and walked toward the two ladies stopping to take Edward off his wife. Sitting on the rug, he commenced to talk and play with the young baby before him. Elizabeth smiled at the picture he presented, imagining what it must be like to have a husband like him playing with their first born child. Such thoughts she rapidly removed from her mind, it could never be, she realised that.
Helena gestured for Elizabeth to take a seat on the rug and began preparing the picnic once again. It was not long before the family were seated and eating the food contained within the wicker basket beside them. William was surrounded by his sons and was constantly being asked to peel fruit or hold things, all of which he did the greatest of pleasure. It was plain to see that he was most content with his family around him. Before long though, the boys had finished as were becoming restless.
"Daddy, can we play in the lake today?" Lucien asked his father in his cutest voice, Helena knew that William had no choice but to say yes.
"Maybe, but we have to wait a while. Shall we tell Elizabeth a story until we can go in the lake." At this, both boys smiled and snuggled up to their father.
William proceeded to recite a story well known to all the people there (apart from Edward who was snuggled fast asleep in his mother's arms). The boys made all the noises and silly voices, William acted as narrator amidst rounds of laugher and giggling. It was obvious to Elizabeth that they spent time telling stories in this way often, and that William obviously doted on his wife and children.
The time came from them to be able to play in the lake and William walked to boys back to the house to get changed into their swimming gear. Elizabeth helped Helena pack up the remnants of the picnic and voiced her opinions of the afternoon.
"You certainly have an idyllic life here, the park is so peaceful."
"Yes, it certainly is. That is until Will and the boys get back. It shan't be so peaceful then." Both women laughed, suddenly Helena turned more serious. "Thank-you for coming today, it's nice to have someone to talk to other than two small children. I rarely see William when we're here. He's constantly talking to the farmers or someone. I really don't know what he gets up to but I do get lonely."
"I have enjoyed it too. I can also admit to have been lonely these past couple of weeks. Michael and Susan seem to work all the hours that God sends and I have little to do knowing so little of the surrounding area and having no friends to speak of."
"Well, then, we are settled. You shall come to Lealands often and keep me company. My parents are holidaying in Italy for the summer and as I have already mentioned, I see little of William each day. He even takes the boys with him now. Sometimes I think he prefers their company over mine."
"I am sure he loves to spend time with you just as much. I would be happy anytime to come and keep you company." Both women smiled at one another.
"We shall be good friends Elizabeth, of that I am certain. But here comes trouble." Elizabeth turned to look towards the house where William, Lucien and Richard were marching across the fields in shorts and t-shirts. As they approached the lake, all three broke into a run and headed straight into the clear water of the lake.
A large splash resulted followed by the quacking of shocked ducks and then the laughing of the three children playing in the lake. Helena and Elizabeth sat back and watched them play, a content silence falling between them.
"Lizzy?" Jane called her sister's name as she observed her flee from the room. Tears were clearly flowing and Jane's protective instincts flew to the fore. She glanced back in the direction her sister had run from and saw her fiancé and his friend talking. From the posture of Charles, she could tell he was angry and this was being directed at the man beside him. At once, Charles abruptly walked away from Darcy and over towards the woman looking at him intently.
"Jane, we need to talk." He took her arm and gently led her through the score of dancers and spectators, left the room and entered the library. It was dingy with only a selection of small wall lights providing the illumination. A silence that is only found in rooms such as this pervaded, not even the noise of the festivities outside could penetrate the deathly stillness.
For a while, Charles could not speak. Anger filled his mind as he recalled the callous comments produced by his friend. It was many minutes before he could bear to repeat them to his fiancée, only her calming gaze and small smile stopped him from finding Darcy and escorting him from the premises. At length, he continued.
"I have just been attempting to get that stubborn mule to dance. I suggested that he ask your sister, she has looked so lonely this evening."
"Oh Charles, that was very thoughtful." She kissed him on the cheek and a small smile interrupted his disgruntled expression.
"Well, we did not realise she was at that moment walking past us and could hear every word he said. Nevertheless, it should never have even entered his head to say such a thing had he known she was there or not. Honestly, I do not think he can even blame was happened three years ago for making him so bitter and unfriendly." He turned and walked toward the crystal decanter. Pouring two drinks, he walked back towards Jane and handed her a glass containing the amber liquid.
"What did he say Charles? What has Lizzy overheard?" She sat on a small settee and watched him pace before her in an agitated manner.
"Oh, I cannot repeat it. Needless to say he questioned your sister's suitability as a dance partner for him or any other man for that matter." Jane gasped and stood. Her intention to find her sister was apparent. "Jane, I know I am angry but please, do not think that Will is a prick all the time. He isn't. He's, well, he's been through a lot. I know that doesn't excuse his behaviour but do not confront him or decide that you'll never like him. I'll tell you all about him when we've finished this party. There are a few things you need to know."
Slowly, she nodded and promised to not judge him until she knew all the particulars. A bad first impression could also be ignored, couldn't it? Turning, she placed the still full glass on a side table and left the room to find her sister. Whatever he had said must have hurt, it was more than obvious to Jane that the pair had met before. Something had happened and she was about to get to the bottom of it.
Lizzy was not hard to find. She was standing alone on the terrace, a gentle breeze loosened some hair from its binding causing it to flutter delicately around her face. The stone balustrade supported her weight as she leant against; her face was obscured by the darkness surrounding them. The moon was new and only the lights from the room behind them provided a faint glimmer of illumination. Jane walked toward her, careful not to make a sudden noise.
"Jane, what are you doing out here?"
"How do you always know?" Jane moved more quickly now to stand beside Lizzy overlooking the Dutch gardens.
"You are the only person I know who would tiptoe towards me when it is quite obvious I wish to be alone." They both smiled.
"And why is it you wish to be alone? Nothing to do with the extremely handsome Mr. Darcy is it?" Normally, a chuckle would have escaped Elizabeth's lips, today it was not so. A shuddering sigh, a tear falling silently against her cold skin.
"He is an excellent judge of character Jane. I shall allow him that. There is certainly something about me that causes nothing but trouble. He can see it so clearly."
"No Lizzy, you are not serious. Do not take the words of some jumped-up aristo to heart."
"That 'jumped-up aristo' hit the nail on the head. Not only is he ridiculously handsome for someone nearing thirty but he's also exceptionally perceptive." She laughed ironically, the sound making Jane flinch.
"Lizzy, please stop using such silly adjectives to describe such a horrible man. Anyway, you make him sound like an old bloke! Thirty doesn't mean he's ancient. Besides, how do you know how old he is?" Jane felt like she was about to get the answers she craved, Elizabeth sensed this too.
"I must have read it in a magazine somewhere. Surely you must have seen him." Elizabeth turned away in an effort to disguise her lie.
"Maybe. So, how upset are you? Don't try hiding it. The tears stand out a mile away." Lizzy laughed properly this time and faced her sister.
"I've been happier but I am determined to not let that man get under my skin. I think I'm just tired. Jetlag I suppose. I mean this time two days ago I was the other side of the world." Both women nodded and smiled. Jane realised that she was getting nowhere with this line of enquiry.
"O.k. sis. You win this time. There is something you're not telling me and I promised Charlie I wouldn't give you the inquisition. But if you ever need to talk, I'm your girl." Lizzy nodded and gave her the best smile she could muster. It never quite reached her eyes.
She watched as Jane rejoined the party just as the music for the last dance started. Her contented fašade slipped away once again and she allowed her true misery to be displayed to the dark night sky above her. It was painful to be with him again and listen to him speak about her with such bitter, scathing words. Tears coursed down her face, her heart clenched tight in her chest. It hurt, just as she knew it would.
Footsteps could be heard walking towards her, gentle and soft but not like Jane. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, a shiver running the full length of her spine. It was him. He had come but why? To cast more aspersions on her character? To apologise? There was only one way to find out but before she could open her mouth, he spoke first.
"Hello Elizabeth." His voice caressed her skin, enfolded her in a blanket of warmth and emotion. The rich sound found its way into her soul, it was hard to remember her pain of mere moments ago.
"Hello William." She did not turn to face, the shame of having to admit that he hurt her unbearable.
"How have you been?" Regret filled his mind as the words left his lips.
"What an incredibly stupid question, Will. Are you completely insensitive because I'm sure you weren't always so tactless." He winced as her words cut through him. "Why are you here anyway? Just come to make my return home just that little bit harder?"
Looking down at the floor, he replied. "I'm Charlie's best man, I know it seems an inappropriate title, even to me."
Finally, she did turn to look at him. The years had been kind to the woman before him, her youthful beauty remained but with an elegance and refinement he knew she would grow into. Her eyes still captivated him, their sparkle made his breath catch, his heart skip a beat. He knew it was a lost cause, he had to have her no matter the consequences. His heart captured all those years ago was once again beating in union with hers.
"Would you care for a dance, Elizabeth." She turned to face him, eyes flaring with anger.
"After what you've just said? Not if you were the last man on Earth!" And with that she turned to leave, a look of pure outrage, her eyes belying the depth of her ire, her lips set in grim lines. He still felt it impossible to deny her anything. He stopped her with his words.
"So you ran away did you? It was not so easy for me." She faced him once more.
"So what if I did? You dismissed me with nothing after I had given you everything." Her voice was raising. The music played on.
"I gave you nothing? I guarantee that I had far more to lose than you have even now. I lost it all for you. I was willing to leave it all behind." Each word was punctuated with a step towards her, his voice equalling hers in volume.
"What changed, William? What stopped you?"
"You know what happened!" People started to look out on to the terrace, alerted to the argument by his shouting. He shocked himself, not a man prone to shouting, especially not at a woman. "Let's walk." Grabbing her arm, he steered her into the gardens, away from the prying eyes of the Hertfordshire gossip mill.
Silence reined for minutes, each second stretching into the warm night air. She could feel his hand on her arm, the familiar sensation of his skin on hers. She dragged her arm from his grip, the effect his proximity caused too unnerving. They came across a stone bench surrounded by melee of scents. He gestured for her to sit amongst the roses and turned his back toward her. His emotions were high, overwhelmed with wanting to be with the woman behind him but afraid to turn the clocks back three years.
"Have you brought the boys with you?" The voice was quiet, nothing like the medium with which the argument was delivered. Sinking to sit on the floor beside her, he allowed the question to swell around his head, absorbing the voice he knew so well.
"No, they are at boarding school near home. They have been for such a long time now. I go and see them often, I'm amazed by how fast they grow. Lucien is far taller than all the other boys as is Richard. Eddie is doing well too. You can tell they're brothers, they all look alike but so different. The teachers all think they resemble me but I can see their mother in them, all the time I can see her." Elizabeth listened silently to him, watching as his shoulders slump as he hid his face in his hands.
"It's been hard, Liz, so very hard. I can't bear to look at my children anymore without thinking about that summer." Glancing up to the woman beside him, he took in the beauty of her eyes, just as he saw every night in his dreams.
"It's been the worst three years of my life, Will. I see you every time I close my eyes, I feel your touch, hear your words and I cannot get away. I went to China, Peru, Chile, Australia and I could not escape your presence in my mind. I return only to find you here and I realised that no, I am not over you. And then I think how ridiculous I'm being. I was eighteen, a girl with no experience with men at all and all of a sudden, I find myself in love with an older man, married no less with the three most beautiful children I have ever seen. Why did I not run away? What made me stay and become all the more dependant on you?" He knelt before her, gazing into her eyes.
"Do you regret what we did?" A small nod was her reply. "I see. You have grown, Elizabeth, I hardly know you."
"You never knew me, and I never knew you. It was all silly and should have been forgotten. If only..."
"Enough. I'm going to go back to the ball and wish your sister and my friend all the happiness in the world. I'm then going to leave and visit my children. You don't ever have to see me again." With a conviction he truly felt, he stood and began to walk away.
Two weeks had passed since that first day by the lake. Elizabeth had barely spent a moment away from the park, so in love with the beauty of the surrounding and the family that resided there. Friendships had been struck, a curiosity to know each other better had resulted in Elizabeth visiting everyday. The weather continued to be glorious with the sun shining all day long and today was not going to be an exception.
She was going to visit once again and as usual, Darcy was going to collect her from the Gardiner's house. She waited impatiently, her excitement growing with each minute closer to the designated time. Susan walked into the sitting room and saw her friend staring out of the window, her foot tapping gently against the table leg beside which she was sat. Susan could not help but smile at the happiness she observed on Elizabeth's face. At the same time, she knew that no good would come of this continued hospitality shown by the Darcy's. She had observed the younger woman on several occasions and knew exactly what kind of relationship was developing between William and Elizabeth.
At last he arrived, his convertible slowing to a halt before the house. He saw her looking from the window and gave her a wave before turning off the engine and getting out of the car. He had a request of Elizabeth and her friends, one he felt sure the young woman could not refuse. The door opened at his approach, Michael having been alerted to his presence.
"Good morning, William. Come to take Lizzy away from us again?" At this William laughed and shook the older man's proffered hand.
"Indeed I have but I also have a question to ask."
"By all means, come on in." Darcy entered and walked into the sitting room followed by Michael. He smiled a greeting at Susan and then his gaze was drawn to Elizabeth. Her eyes sparkled with joy at seeing him, his breath caught as he stood transfixed.
"So, Will, what is this question you have?" Michael's voice broke him from his reverie and he turned to face him.
"Well, Helena and I were wondering if Elizabeth would like to stay over for a few days." He turned expectantly to the object of his question. Her smile grew and a quick nod was her answer.
"Well well! I take it you would like to Elizabeth?" On seeing her happy expression, he gave William the nod of approval. "So, Lizzy, you had best go and pack some more clothes." At once she left the room. Susan followed her leaving the men to sit down and chat whilst waiting.
"What an honour, Elizabeth. It seems like the Darcy's are serious in becoming friends with you. No wonder, you have the most beautiful personality I have ever seen in such a young lady." At this Lizzy blushed and continued with packing.
"Yes, but I have grown to love them and Lealands itself."
"And what about William, do you love him too?" Elizabeth stopped, her back facing Susan. Thoughts filled her head. Could she be in love with William? She was certainly very happy to see him, she missed him dreadfully when he was not there. Maybe. She was rescued from her thoughts by the man himself shouting up the stairs.
"Elizabeth, Lucien tells you to bring your swimming gear." Smiling once again, she finished her packing and ran down the steps. Susan took a deep breath. It was going to be hard for both of them when they realised what had happened.
Jumping to the car, William smiled at the woman beside him and took a deep breath. It took all his strength to not give in to the thoughts circulating his mind. How much he wanted her he could not say. He sensed the same predicament with her too, but he wasn't sure. In any case, they couldn't. She was so young and he married. His smile disappeared at the realisation that was dawning, the fact that it was a hopeless cause.
These thoughts plagued him all the way along the drive back to the house. She sensed his disquiet and wondered silently whether it was anything like the thoughts swimming in her mind. Not once had she allowed herself to examine the feelings she was developing for the very handsome William Darcy. The more time she spent with him, the more she craved his company, the more she was desolate without it. Could this be love?
They arrived at the entrance to the park and once again, he stopped by the lake where the rest of his family were awaiting their arrival. The eldest boy, Lucien, ran over to them, a broad grin displaying his excitement at their approach.
"Did you tell her daddy?" William nodded. "You gonna come in the lake with us?" This time it was Elizabeth that nodded. Lucien and Richard were all ready for their dip and so Lizzy and Darcy drove straight to the house to get changed themselves.
Pulling up into the courtyard beside the stables, he turned off the engine and sat for a moment in silence. All trace of happiness had left his features, his thoughts unsettling him. After a moment, he turned to face her, a similar desolate expression etched into her expression also.
"We need to talk, Elizabeth." He turned slightly toward her, awaiting her response.
"No, we don't William. We need to get changed and join your family." There was no emotion in her voice, feelings of sadness were buried deep down inside. Turning away, he looked at his hands before nodding slowly.
"You're right. I'll show you to your room and you can get changed. I'll meet you here when you're ready and we'll walk to the lake." Nodding, she got out of the car and followed him silently to her room.
Thirty minutes later, screams of laughter could be heard from the lake where the family played. After saying hello to her friend, Helena with baby Edward, sat on the banks of the lake in the shade of the lime tree. She watched as her husband, Lucien, Richard and Elizabeth threw water at each other. The sun glistened off the water, the distant fields obscured by waves of heat and haze. It was perfects summer's day.
Elizabeth and Will took it in turns to dive beneath the clear water and tickle one of the boys causing them to shriek with laughter. Each time they held their breath for longer, increasing the anticipation of the boys stood eyes closed eagerly awaiting the sensation of being tickled. It was William's turn, taking a deep breath, he dived under and swam towards Elizabeth. She could sense him coming toward her before she felt his touch on her thigh. He wasn't tickling. Instead he ran his hands up her legs, caressing her under the water. She allowed her eyes to drift shut, the feelings he was evoking causing a knot to form in her stomach.
At once he stopped and swam toward the now super excited boys. Ticking both at the same time, they both screamed as he jumped up from under the water, laughing and pulling both Lucien and Richard to him for a hug. He quickly looked toward Elizabeth, her heart still beating rapidly after his touch. He had his answer, she wanted him just as much.
The ball had been a complete success and Jane was told so by all the guests as they left for their own homes. It was nearly three in the morning and even make-up was failing to conceal the exhaustion felt by the organisers of such an event.
"You be a good girl and go straight to bed, Jane. You are exhausted and nobody wants to see a bride with puffy eyes." Jane smiled tiredly and kissed her mother on the cheek.
"Sure thing mum, you sleep well too and I shall see you in the morning."
Her father smiled and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek before following Mrs. Bennet out from the house and into the taxi awaiting them by the front door. Closing it behind them, Jane sighed and closed her eyes for a second. It had been a long night and not completely free from worry. She had not seen her sister since the talk on the terrace and naturally she had started to become apprehensive. She felt his arms sneak around her waist and pull her towards him, embracing her in his strong arms.
"You can relax now, everyone that needs to has gone and I'm sure Lizzy is around here somewhere." Leaning into her fiancé, she smiled and nodded allowing him to lead her towards their bedroom.
After getting undressed and laying on the bed, Jane felt quite awake, especially as she recalled the information Charles wanted to tell her concerning his friend William. After seeing her sister quite distressed over his comments, she was doubly intrigued with the man. Now would be a good time to find out.
"So, William Darcy." She addressed the man beside her, his eyes closed his breathing steady.
"Not now Jane, I want to sleep." Neither spoke for a few minutes but he could sense her restlessness. "Ok. You might want to sit up though, it's a long story." He heard her shuffling the pillows behind her and continued once she had gotten comfortable.
"Will was born in Derbyshire twenty-eight years ago. He is the son of Lucien and Maria Darcy, a very wealthy and long established family. He is an only child, a sister was born three years later but she died when she was four months old. After the loss of one child, they lavished all their attention on Will and amazingly he didn't grow up to be a spoiled rich boy.
"He attended Harrow at the age of thirteen where we met and became very good friends. Because he is slightly older then me, he looked after me. Showed me around and made my transition from day school to boarding school that little bit easier. Eventually, Will had to leave for Cambridge having secured all his qualifications to the best of his ability - he scored top marks on everything. His parents thought him a genius as did we all. Being super intelligent couldn't stop what was about to happen.
"He was in his first year at Cambridge, a promising student of natural sciences, a firm favourite with all his tutors and with those around him. He was the friend to have, a fact that unnerved him more than you can imagine. Having been brought up an only child, he had not had the opportunity to socialise often and so grew reticent and shy. Most people took it as pride and arrogance, only those that truly knew him knew otherwise.
"It was coming up to Easter and he was going to venture home for a few weeks. He hadn't seen his parents for months, not since the September when he began his course. On his day of departure, he received a phone call. From the people around him at the time, the first indication of it being bad news was after he put the phone down. Only then did he react. Nobody knew what to do when they saw him drop to his knees and scream. His parents had been travelling from a friend's house in Scotland where they had spent the winter. On the drive back, his father had a heart attack at the wheel causing them to crash. They both died Jane, all his family were dead in one fell swoop."
He watched as Jane gasped upon hearing the words she had dreaded. Charles took her hand and pulled her close, holding her against him. He had much more to tell.
"Darcy continued his studies after a month; he needed to throw himself back into his work to cope with the grief he was undoubtedly feeling. In his second year, I joined him at Cambridge and we re-established our friendship. I had heard what had happened and was eager to help him get over the hardest part. It was not me who made Darcy re-emerge from the depression though. One night, we were invited to a party thrown by his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam. It was there that he met the beautiful Helena Boscawen.
"She attracted men easily with her blond hair and dazzling blue eyes, her personality vivacious end engaging. Once introduced, they spent the rest of the evening together, talking, dancing and by the end of the night they had agreed to meet once again. More than one man was disappointed by the interest she showed Darcy that evening, myself included. Anyway, meet they did, and again, and again, until two months after they had met, he proposed to her. Within a month they were married and it was hailed 'the wedding of the year'. Both of them were young and incredibly rich. Most of all, they were in love which is still a rare thing for the circles he moves in.
"By the time they had completed their studies, Helena was well on to expecting their first child. A son they named Lucien after Darcy's father. The year after Richard was born. They were incredibly happy together and he made an excellent father to his young boys. They lived primarily in town but summer was always spent at her parent's estate in Surrey. Her parents never lived there choosing to spend the summer months enjoying the Italian climate. Three years later, Helena gave birth to another son, Edward.
"To anyone on the outside, they looked to be the perfect family but appearances can be deceiving. The summer Edward was born, rumours started circulating about William having an affair with a younger woman. I don't know if there is any truth to it but it did a lot of damage. It was late August, Will was involved in an accident but the details were all shushed up, all I know is he spent a few days in hospital before finally going home to his wife."
Jane didn't know what to say. Her heart felt for the man she had only just met. His life had certainly been hard. Three years ago, rumours of an affair with a younger woman and his knowing Lizzy. The thoughts swam around her head until she came to the only possible conclusion.
"Where is his wife now? What happened to Helena?" Panic gripped her heart as she awaited the answer.
"Oh Jane, the night he returned something quite dreadful happened. Helena Boscawen-Darcy killed herself."
The alarm cut through the silence, its sound invasive and unwanted. It pierced her slumber like a knife through flesh at once awakening her to the harsh reality of the previous evening. Thoughts sprung into her mind as she recalled what had taken place. That he had returned to her life was true and could not be denied. Or was it that she had returned to his? Either way it was a dilemma that she was now facing.
The talk the previous evening disconcerted Elizabeth. He was right, she had run away. Too ashamed to see her family, too upset to see him, too angry at herself for things that should not have happened. Yet they had. Three years had seemed a long time when she away from everything that linked her to Surrey, now is felt as if it were yesterday when they met. He could still affect her, that was for certain. The shivers that ran up her spine as he walked towards her, the surge of blood through her veins as he held her arm. An all too familiar need to be in his arms, his lips kissing hers.
"Stop it, Elizabeth. You couldn't have him then and you certainly can't now." Running her hands down her face, she stood and walked to the shower. Waiting for the water to heat, she thought on the resolution to their last conversation. Was it what she wanted? He had been friends with Bingley far longer than she had known him, in fact, she had known Jane only slightly longer. Was it fair for her to demand him leave his friend's wedding? He was right, she had run when he could not, he had given far more than she could ever have.
Stepping into the shower, guilt plagued her mind. She barely knew him but their love had flourished that hot summer. Forbidden and dangerous, it tempted them all the more. She was as much to blame and he. It had all felt so right the moment he took her into his arms at the dance, the second their gaze locked ensnared them into a path of self-annihilation. They welcomed their destiny with open arms and embraced the love they shared no matter how wrong it may have been. That was their mistake.
His reaction last night had been one of frustration and shock at seeing her again, she knew that. Yet she reacted like the spoilt little girl oh so reminiscent of the last time she lay eyes on him three years ago. He was willing to leave for her comfort and it was not right. Neither should have to live with the ghosts of unwanted memories but both would. Now was a good a time as any to confront each other.
Rivulets of hot water ran down her back, through her hair, over her skin. It could not wash away the feel of him, the smell of him. How she had missed the exquisite torture of his caress. If she had not believed herself in love before, now she had the proof. Her feelings for him returned full force taking her breath away. Tears welled in her eyes as she recalled seeing him talk about his children. The destruction caused by their actions was still going on.
Determined, she quit the shower and began drying herself. Memories of a hot summer day sprang into her mind as she ran the towel down her legs. Laughter had filled the air but underneath was a longing that threatened to spiral out of control. Would she have turned back the time if she could? Shaking her head she answered her thoughts. That day was special and she needed him to know. Hurriedly dressing, she ran from the room.
The corridor was empty it still being early following the ball. She had not slept well, only in the last hour of darkness had she finally found peace. Her mind was in turmoil as she kept revisiting that summer over and over again. She didn't notice Jane walk out in front of her until it was too late to avoid the meeting.
"Lizzy?" Elizabeth stopped and turned toward her sister. "I was worried about you last night. Where did you disappear to?"
"I... I bumped into an old friend." She looked away to disguise the truth.
"I think we both know who you mean. Charlie told me about him after the ball." Elizabeth couldn't look at her sister. Swallowing hard, she replied.
"It's true, I know William from a few years ago when I visited with Susan and Michael."
"You were there, weren't you? You knew she killed herself?" Jane looked at Elizabeth as her suspicions were confirmed; her sister had been having an affair with William Darcy.
"Oh Jane, you don't understand. I must find William. I must stop him." With tears in her eyes, she ran away from her sister and the truth.
"I'm going to take the kids back, Will. I think they've worn themselves out." She laughed, a light feathery sound that made Elizabeth smile. Her friendship with Helena had built quickly. So much time had been spent together since that night at the dance. An understanding gained early had blossomed into a healthy relationship. Helena was intelligent, her wit matched Elizabeth's and the two had laughed the afternoons away whilst William had worked in his office. Both women played with the children and would then settle down for conversation on almost any topic.
It was not this relationship that bothered Elizabeth. She could still feel his touch on her bare skin. The sense of excitement as his hand slipped further up her thigh, temptingly close to her most sensitive area. He knew what he was doing, that was certain. He wanted her to want him just as much and she gave him exactly what he wished. Watching him now as he played with Helena's hair, wrapping it around his fingers. It would have made a touching scene if he had not continued to gaze at Elizabeth. Goose bumps ran down her arms, the sun beat down upon her skin.
Helena stood, William with her. "No Will, I'll take the kids back, you stay here with Elizabeth. Besides, you look like you both need the sun far more than I. You've both been stuck in offices at desks for too long." Elizabeth and William looked at each other, neither knowing what to do: what was right or what they wanted. He started to pack the picnic things away.
"We'll follow on with this stuff. You take the kids, good compromise?" Helena smiled and nodded, her eyes studying the intense expression on her husband's face. Her smile faltered slightly before talking to her children and walking home. For a few moments it was quiet as the boys' laughter and voices faded into the distance. Neither William nor Elizabeth looked at one another, the tension between them palpable.
Slowly, she resumed packing the rug away, desperate for something, anything to break the silence between them. Even the birds were quiet as they waited in the shadows for the day to cool. All the while she could feel his gaze upon her, caressing her body as he wished to with his hands. Bending down, he helped her pack the rug away. He touched her hand, she flinched. He touched her again, this time holding on to her hand. She couldn't pull away. Didn't want to.
"Elizabeth." One word, barely whispered. Her breath caught, she stared at their joined hands. His thumb ran across her knuckles. So light a touch, so significant a gesture. Her heart beat loudly, her breathing faster. She looked up, afraid of the feelings inside her head telling her to jump. Her gaze met his, locked together with the intensity of the moment. She sensed him kneel before her, his free hand moved to touch her face, gently moving her hair behind her ears. He was shaking. Fear and excitement welled in her mind. He closed the distance between them, she could feel his breath on her lips. They closed their eyes as their lips met for the first time. Gentle, caressing, exciting. The promise of more in one kiss, the guilt of what they were doing, the sense of completion all poured forth from such a simple action. It stopped as quickly as it started.
He leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes still closed, his breathing heavy, his hand gripped hers tightly. Gradually he calmed. Opening his eyes, he looked at the woman before him. Her face was flushed, her eyes sparkling, her expression telling him all her wished to know. Brushing a kiss across her lips once again, he stood and held out his hand. She accepted it and he helped her from the ground. Words unnecessary, they collected the rug and bag before heading back to the house.
The Library at Netherfield
He paced backwards and forwards in front of the window. The conversation from the previous evening kept replaying in his mind. His reaction at seeing her again was born from anger at himself. That after all these years, the first thing to enter his mind as he set eyes upon her was to hold her, kiss her and tell her he loved her. His lack of control over his emotions angered the usually taciturn Darcy and that was the reaction. He knew he should not feel such for her, that their chances of happiness were limited from the moment he met her. They always say you can't choose who you fall in love with, well, that was true. That first dance, the sensation of her being in his arms, the way her body brushed against his as she swayed to the music. It was all too much and his heart fell for her from that second onwards.
Sitting in a chair, he recalled her walking towards him in her summer dress, her hair cascading down her back, her smile warm, her eyes sparkling with happiness. He was undone. Some would say it was lust that made him desire her. She was young and innocent, her youthful beauty enamoured him, captured him. It was more, of that he was sure. Her eyes were alive and danced when they looked at him. Maybe it was that he was flattered that he could attract the attentions of a girl almost ten years younger than himself. Who knows? What happened did and now he had to try to recover from the affect she had on him once again.
As he entered the house the previous evening, he walked to his room. To talk to his friend in such a state as he was would have been difficult. His distraction would have made the discussion awkward and would certainly have invited more questions that he was quite simply not prepared to answer. In the quiet of his room, he began to think about his actions. Why was he doing this? To appease a guilty conscious? To make it easier for her to come back home? To run away and leave the situation unresolved? They had not parted well three years ago, was this the time to finish the story or start again? Doubts had plagued his mind. Three years and every night all he saw was her face when he closed his eyes. Guilt filled his mind, should it not be Helena's ghost that appeared to him?
Swallowing hard, he repressed the sadness he felt over losing her. He never once stopped loving her. Now was not the time to think on that however. It was the time to make the decision. Should he walk away and endeavour to forget her once again or confront their demons together?
The door opened silently behind him. So lost in his own thoughts, he failed to notice her entrance. Carefully closing the door behind her, she walked over to the chair where he remained deep in thought. His face betrayed many sleepless nights, worry lines etched across his brow. He looked much older, stress and memories playing havoc with his mind. Would he have run away if he could? Had he been prepared to leave it all behind for her then yes, maybe he would have run. Not with her though.
How much had he sacrificed for their fling? When compared to her own circumstances, it was an awfully large amount. A family, a stable, loving home where at the end of the day he was welcomed home with open arms. She had none of that. Perhaps it was her freedom that made her attractive to him in the first place. He married young, had a family not long after, had so many responsibilities when he should have been trying to be himself. With her he could let go and imagine a world where he could move around and not be tied down. It was not to be.
She lay her hand on his shoulder - he did not flinch, merely covered her hand with his own. It was comforting that after all that had happened they could find solace in such a simple touch. His hand held hers tightly, his eyes closed as he savoured the scent of her washing over him. It had been too long since he had touched a woman; Elizabeth had been the last. He desired her still but so much stood between them now. Their love once innocent was lost; ravaged by time, jealousy and guilt.
He hoped she would understand his need to be with her. He didn't want to leave. Now that they were reunited he wished to stay with her and overcome their past. As he looked at her yesterday, his gaze resting on her face for the first time in years, he saw in her a hope, a happiness that would help them work through it all. He also watched that same hope die when he uttered the word 'never'. No matter, she had found him again and he was not about to make the same mistake twice.
"Yes. You knew I would." He nodded.
"I think we should start our re-acquaintance again. I don't believe that we were in the best situation or mood yesterday evening." He opened his eyes and looked up at her.
"Agreed. I was shocked to see you."
"Me too. I thought we might again some day. I have played our meeting over and over again in my mind but last night it all disappeared."
"So you reacted with anger, insults and resentment?" Her voice remained calm. He half smiled at her increased maturity.
"A mistake, but we agreed to start again. Sit with me Elizabeth." She shivered as he spoke her name. Sitting opposite, she made sure that there was distance between them.
"How have you been Elizabeth?" She winced as she recalled her response from the previous evening.
"I've been around the world trying to escape the feelings of guilt and attempting to forget you. Yourself?"
"I've been at Pemberley trying to escape my guilt and attempting to suppress my love for you but never to forget you." His gaze did not waver from hers. "I did not wish to have your image, our memories removed from my mind. Those and the guilt are what have made me feel alive after all that has happened."
She nodded and looked away, the intensity of the emotion in his eyes disconcerting her. He watched her, sensations of kisses shared long ago touched his lips, the feel of her skin tingled on his fingertips. He was drowning again.
"How do you affect me so? How is it you can make me want to throw everything away just to be in your arms again, to feel your kiss on my lips? What do you do to me?" Meeting his gaze once again, she let his words sink in. It had to have been more than youth and freedom.
"I don't know William. But you do the same to me." Reaching over, he took her hand in his and kissed the back gently.
"Kiss me." It took a moment for her request to register in his mind, her voice so quiet. Before he knew what he was doing he was facing her, tracing the outline of her lips with his thumbs. Her eyes spoke of the love they once shared causing his breath to catch. Closing his eyes, he lowered his lips to hers allowing them a gentle caress before drawing away. Her eyes were still closed as he looked at her again, her lips slightly parted.
"No, that won't do." Kissing her again, he poured all the longing and heartache he felt into her taking her breath away. Familiar feelings resurfaced as her arms wound around his neck pulling him closer. He could not leave her, not again.
Everyone was quiet that evening. The situation they had found themselves in disquieted Elizabeth and William to the point that even basic conversation was difficult. Helena assumed that with the heat and swimming that both of them were simply tired. She chose to ignore the looks between them not wishing to believe the niggling feelings in her heart that something more sinister was taking place.
At length, she decided to retire for the evening and kissed Elizabeth on the cheek before walking over to William.
"Will you join me shortly?" Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she hugged him from behind and kissed him on the top of his head.
"Not yet, I have work to finish for tomorrow. I shall be up when I can." Nodding her understanding, she smiled at the pair left in the room and walked away, closing the door behind her.
"I suppose I should also go to bed."
"Wait." He stood and walked towards Elizabeth. Standing before her, he bid her stand also. She did, so close they were almost touching. His hands cupped her face, his thumbs running across her lips, his eyes never left her mouth. Taking a deep breath, he looked deep into her eyes. Leaning down, he resisted the need to kiss her and instead whispered in her ear.
"I need you. All night I have wanted you. Not here though. Meet me. Midnight. Meet me at the ice house."
"I need you. All night I have wanted you. Not here though. Meet me. Midnight. Meet me at the ice house."
She nodded in breathless anticipation. He was so close, his words a whisper touching the skin on her neck. Skin tingled, breath caught, eyes half closed. He was gone before she realised, left her standing in the middle of the room, her senses full of him. Not long to go, then there would be answers, or so she hoped.
The ice house was an interesting structure; subterranean, unused and near the house. It overlooked a dell filled with naturally overgrown shrubs, covered by a dense canopy of ancient trees. An ornate archway belied its existence, an oak door closing the entrance from the summer light. Once used to store ice, it had a small passageway that lead to a second door before plummeting five metres down into the cavernous ice room. A high domed ceiling rose above, walls a metre thick and covered with foliage to trap the chill inside the room. It was cold, dark and intense. Fear welled inside her as she walked toward the building.
The moon was new, stars provided pin-pricks of light against a background of dark blue. The night was calm, not a breeze disturbed the slumbering trees, all was silent. He stood by the doorway awaiting her arrival. It was warm, the sun during the day heating the air and earth. Yet he shivered as he saw her approach in the darkness. A chill ran down his spine as he saw her face, her smile arresting his attention. She was calm, not a worry blemished her expression. He wished he were as composed. It was not long until they took the step that would change their lives forever. No return path - she was worth it.
To meet in the dark in such a place made he skin tingle with anticipation. The danger of their encounter threatened to overwhelm her. She knew that what they were about to do was wrong on so many levels but the feelings he evoked in her were so great. She looked up and saw him standing there, by the door, waiting. He looked nervous, she smiled. He had far more to lose. Was it all worth it?
"Obviously." Her arch reply diffused some of the tension. He smiled and closed the door behind her.
It was a small corridor, a metre wide, three metres long. At both ends stood a thick wooden door; one the way out, the other a path they could never return from. He switched on a light, the illumination alerting her to his agitation. He was nervous, far more than she. He would not make eye contact, his confidence all but disappeared. She moved to stand before him, resting her hands on his chest. His head snapped up, his eyes locking her in his gaze,
"How did this happen? What have you done to me?" She shook her head, similar questions in her mind. Neither had the answer. "The moment I saw you my heart beat that little bit faster. It was harder to breathe as you walked toward me. Holding you in my arms I knew that my life was about to change."
"I know, Will, I know." "You're so vibrant, so alive. Your energy has been missing from my life - a life I once considered almost perfect has been reduced to nothing. Its imperfections magnified as I basked in you, you have shown me what was missing and I am grateful." His lips hovered close to hers, his words touching her skin, a silken caress. Lizzy was entranced, her eyes fixed on his mouth, her breathing fast, heart beating loud in her ears.
"Oh Liz, without realising, without trying, I have..."
"Don't say the words William. We don't need them. I know." Her words brushed against his skin and he knew. They had already gone too far. He closed his eyes before claiming her lips with his own. The sensations whirled inside his head as he felt her respond, her arms wrapping around his neck, his around her waist pulling her closer. So young, so innocent, so perfect, words blended into nothingness as they lost themselves in each other.
The Wedding Day - Morning
The sun beamed through the windows, bright golden light covered the room and all its inhabitants. Today there was to be a wedding and strangely the bride was more worried about her sister than her own nerves. She had watched Elizabeth the previous day and noticed how out of sorts she was. Of course she was fairly certain it was to do with one William Darcy but nothing she could do or say would bring the old Elizabeth back. She sat and watched her again this morning as she laughed and helped prepare the blushing bride for the day ahead. Jane couldn't shake the niggling feeling that something was seriously not right.
Two hours to go and all but Elizabeth had left Jane's room to ready themselves for the event of the year. The younger woman walked toward the elder. Meeting in the middle, they looked long and hard at each other. Both knew what was about to happen and neither looked forward to it.
"Lizzy. I came to find you last night. Where were you?" Elizabeth sighed. Walking over to the window, she looked outside at the perfect weather.
"I was talking, to an old friend."
"Talking. Is that what it is called?"
"Yes Jane. We talked. It has been a long time since we just talked. In fact, it may have been the first time. If only we had all those years ago."
"What's going on Lizzy?" Elizabeth turned to look at Jane as she stood in the centre of the room dressed in a beautiful ivory wedding gown.
"Not on your wedding day." Elizabeth smiled before turning away once again.
"When you will tell me? We used to share everything. Now I feel I hardly know you. What happened all those years ago?" Jane walked toward her sister, concern almost causing tears to cascade down her face.
"Jane, I will tell you. Not today. As for what happened, well. I hardly know. One day, it will all work out. I shouldn't have run away but I would do it all again. My one consolation is that I am here to see you marry your perfect match. Don't cry, you'll ruin your make-up"
"Oh Lizzy. I only wish I could see you so happy. You will stay for a while won't you? I want you to still be here when I return. Promise?"
"I shall try Jane, for you." Jane briefly hugged her sister and turned to the mirror. Lizzy once again looked out of the window only to see William Darcy smiling up at her from the garden. He looked amazing dressed for the wedding. She couldn't help but smiled back finding herself wanting to run from the room and straight into his arms.
"Why do you look so happy?" Turning away, Elizabeth smiled at her sister and at once Jane saw it. "Who are you in love with?" Walking over to join her sister, Jane looked down to see William Darcy looking back as he walked away.
"Well Lizzy. I think that's enough questions for today. Maybe you will tell me, maybe you won't. But at least I have some answers now." Elizabeth nodded and attempted to remove the look of pure happiness from her features.
"Well Miss Jane. I think it's time for you to become Mrs. Bingley. Don't you?" Jane nodded and stepped back from her sister.
"Well, what do you think?" Elizabeth walked over and embraced her sister.
"Perfect, but you always were."
"And you weren't?" The happiness disappeared.
"Once maybe. Now I'm human, and you are still an angel. Be happy."
"You too Lizzy."
His lips were firm as they massaged hers. She didn't know what to do - he showed her. Running his tongue over her lips, he slowly teased her mouth to open. Strange at first, she soon grew accustomed to his tongue being inside her and gently began to respond. His tongue thrust against hers and she responded in kind. He moaned and pulled her tight against his body. She could feel his heat, his muscles, his arousal.
His lips left hers and his warm caresses continued down her neck. Her pulse raced as he trailed fiery hot kisses across her shoulders. She felt a flush of warmth overtake her and she allowed her eyes to close as the sensations overwhelmed her. His hands were shaking as he tried to undo the buttons closing her blouse, his lips still pressed firmly against her neck.
"Let me." He nodded and stepped back, watching as she undid the fastenings herself. He observed with baited breath as more and more of her skin came into view. Opening the shirt fully she exposed herself to his gaze. His breath caught - even in the dim light he could almost feel her perfectly soft skin. Moving close once again, he ran his fingertips down her face and neck, across her collar bones before tracing the outline of the fabric against the soft skin of her breasts.
"You are incredibly beautiful, Elizabeth. So perfect." She shivered at his touch. Pulling her to him, he resumed their kiss, less frantically this time. He kissed her slowly as he pushed the cotton garment of her shoulders and down her arms. His lips followed until the shirt dropped to the floor. Her bra quickly followed and joined the blouse on the ground. He stopped once again, standing back to enjoy her body. Swallowing hard, he began to pull his shirt off over his head. Again he trembled as he unfastened his belt.
She moved to him, taking her hands in his. Bestowing a kiss on the back of each of his hands, she resumed unfastening his belt and jeans.
"What is wrong William?" He shook his head, drawing her body against his.
"Of being found out?"
"Of losing you." He crushed her lips with his, thrust his tongue into her mouth. His hands moved to caress her breasts, kneading her skin, enjoying the sensation of her nipples hardening against the palm of his hands. They moved further down. With a steadier touch, he unbuttoned her jeans and pushed them down uncovering her bottom. He squeezed her flesh as he kissed her deeply. She thrust her hips against him, his arousal pressing against her abdomen insistently.
He carefully slid her jeans all the way down to the ground, his hands caressing her thighs, knees and calves before gently pulling each foot free from the material. She stood before him clad only in her underwear. She bid him stand and performed the same service for him. Both there, almost naked, they quietly admired one another. The only sounds to break their silence their breathing and the low hum of the electric light overhead.
The church was filled with guests of both the bride and groom. Laughing children played happily as they ran around the trees lining the path to the door. Groups of people stood talking leisurely until the time came for them to take their seats. At the altar pew sat two very nervous men. They fidgeted, kept looking behind for any sign that the ladies they awaited were about to make an appearance.
"Why on Earth are you so nervous Darcy? Anyone would think it was you about to tie the knot." Charles attempted a smile before once again looking toward the door.
"I'm even more nervous than I was that day but I don't really know why." He played with the signet ring on his little finger; a clear indicator of his discomposure.
"It wouldn't have anything to do with my soon to be sister-in-law would it?"
They looked at each other before laughing. Darcy nodded and smiled at his suddenly quite perceptive friend. Before a further response could be made, the organ began to play the very familiar wedding march.
Charles was stunned as he watched his bride make her way down the aisle on her father's arm. The ivory of her dress looked perfect against her skin, the cut of the fabric accentuated her beautiful figure. Darcy agreed - she did indeed look radiant. It was then that he saw the person who had a far greater affect on him.
Her dress matched the tone of her sun-kissed skin, the bodice clinging delightfully to her curves. As he felt his breath caught, he remembered the feel of her body pressed against his. As the group moved closer, his eyes never left hers. He could almost imagine that she was walking towards him on their wedding day. The smile on her lips matched his.
She came to stand across the aisle from him and the ceremony began. The electricity between the two was overwhelming, both were flushed at the effect each had on the other. It was as those they were in the ice house again, standing before each other for the first time. Their breathing became unsteady - how easy it would be to fall all over again.
They looked away from each other, brought back to the present as Charles nudged his friend indicating it was time for the rings. Handing them over, he smiled bashfully at Elizabeth; she smiled demurely back. The service couldn't be over quick enough.
Before long the bells were ringing as the new man and wife walked down the aisle to the door. William gently took Elizabeth's hand and placing it upon his arm, they followed the happy couple. Once outside the door, they moved to one side allowing the many photographs that would certainly be taken. He stood before her, his gaze moving up and down her form; she felt the caress as he intended.
"You've looked at me like that before."
"So I have." He moved closer, she could feel his warm breath on her skin. "Can you remember what happened next?"
William swallowed hard as he looked at her closely. She was so innocent, so pure, untouched by any other man and yet here she was, offering herself to him. She looked nervous yet she tried to hide it. He was unsure what to do. She was little older than a schoolgirl yet she acted and looked far more mature. Shaking his head, he pondered why those thoughts had not arisen before.
"William, what is it?" Her voice shook, her hands moving to cover her body as best she could.
"Elizabeth," He took her in his arms and held her against him. "I'm your first." He felt her nod against his chest. Of course I am you idiot!
"Don't you want me now?" She looked up, her natural confidence and vivacity all but gone. He smiled at her youthful expression.
"Yes, I do. But I don't want your first time to be in a cold ice house with an older married man. You deserve far more than that." He kissed her lips gently, the heat of moment waning. Closing his eyes, he savoured the feel of her soft mouth against his. She responded, flicking her tongue across his lips. Before he knew what was happening, her arms were wrapped around his neck, her kisses becoming more intense and heated. They broke apart gasping for air.
"I do believe the decision is part mine then. I want you William. All day I've been wondering if this is some passing infatuation but I don't think it is. Since our first dance there has been a connection, sexual and base at first. Now it is so much more." He nodded, taken aback by the forcefulness of her voice, the determined glint in her eyes.
With a growl, he pushed her against the wall, his tongue thrusting into her hot mouth. Her felt her moan as he ran his hands down her chest reawakening her desire, The responses she gave told him she did not want the steady, gentle first time. Innocent she may be but she was a quick study. Moving away, he spread out a rug on the floor. Kneeling before her, he carefully removed her shorts before manoeuvring her to stand before him.
"You're sure?" Her fingers ran through his hair, pulling him to her. His kiss burned her skin as his lips touched her. His fingers ran down her stomach to the juncture between her thighs. Tenderly, he stroked her, his thumb caressing her most private areas, helping her body prepare for what was about to happen.
"Lay down." His voice husky, barely a whisper. She complied with his instruction. Laid there, she looked into his eyes and gasped. Passion clouded his expression, this was it; there was no turning back. He saw his feelings reflected in her face; she aroused him so much it almost hurt. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans, he extracted the bright pink foil square. Standing, he quickly removed his shorts and attempted to open the packet.
Kneeling before him, she took the packet from his trembling hands and made him kneel before her. Opening the wrapper with her teeth, she removed the contents and looked him in the eyes. Their gaze held as she placed the condom on his erection. His eyes drifted closed at the sensation of her rolling the sheath down his shaft. She lay back on the floor; he kneeled before her, opening her legs wide enough for him to lie between.
"Are you ready?" Before she could respond he thrust into her, sealing their fate.
They danced, each revelled in the sensation of being in each other's arms. Skin on skin tingled with excitement, their pulses raced, their breathing heavy. Conversation was sparse, the whole day an elaborate foreplay for what was sure to happen after the party. They looked hard at one another, assessing whether it was their imagination playing tricks or if there was something between them. Surely after all these years it had to be more than just infatuation.
The light was drawing in outside, the party still in full swing. It was almost time for the bride and groom to leave for their honeymoon. Lizzy and Darcy stood awkwardly by Jane and Charles. Elizabeth moved to embrace her sister, her eyes never leaving his.
"Remember what I said Elizabeth, be here when I come back." Lizzy nodded before leaving Jane to her mother and father. She observed William shaking hands with Charles, they smiled knowingly at each other.
"Not long until your next time eh Darcy?" William smiled and looked at Elizabeth.
"Maybe, maybe not. We'll talk when you get back." After a pat on the back, William moved to allow the happy couple to walk from the house to the car waiting outside. The rest of the guests followed, all except two.
They stared at one another, neither daring to move or speak. Slowly they moved together, meeting with a couple of inches between them. He looked deep into her soul, his hand cupping her cheek gently, his thumb running across her lips.
"You remember that night? You remember what we said?" She nodded almost trancelike. "Is it still true?" Her breath hitched as she recalled the emotions that those four words inspired in her. Her heart beat louder, her throat constricted and she whispered the word he needed to hear.
"Yes." Resting his forehead against hers, he released the breath he barely knew he had been holding. Closing his eyes he kissed her nose, her cheeks, her forehead before finally kissing her lips. It was tender, not like the kisses they shared in the ice house. So much lay between them that night that was now gone; so much had replaced it since then.
He took her hand in his and led her away, tugging her gently up the stairs and into his room. The door closed behind them, he started to pull the pins from her hair allowing it to cascade down her back and over her shoulders. Burying his face in her hair, he breathed deeply. His hands found the zip on the side of her bodice and slowly pulled it down until it would go no further. Stepping back, he pulled the material away from her body and freed her from its constraints.
She sighed, since she had first seen him at the ball a few days previous, she had wanted this. To feel the connection once again, to become one with nothing to separate them anymore. She held his hands in hers and pulled him close.
"I know, it's in your eyes." Turning out the lights, he pulled her to the bed and together they fell into heaven.
The air clung to their bodies as they lay still, their breathing returning to normal. Sweat covered their skin, mingling between their bodies. Neither knew where one began and the other ended, they were complete. He raised himself up on his elbows, looking into her face as her eyes remained closed. Tears ran from her eyes down past her ears into her hair. Her breath shook as she tried to suppress her emotions. Panic welled inside as he wondered what was wrong.
"William? Thank you." She opened her eyes and looked into his worried face. Reaching out, she stroked his cheek. "I love you."
As her words sunk in, a strange mixture of emotions ran through him. Happiness, joy; all marred by the dawning of realisation that this could never be. Closing his eyes, he attempted to blink the tears away.
"Oh God Elizabeth, I love you." As he hugged her tight against him he repeated the words again and again. In his heart he knew he loved her. In his mind he knew he couldn't.
His arm pulled her closer to him, his face buried in her hair, his hand resting possessively upon her stomach. Their breathing was heavy; eyes closed as the sun arose and draped golden light over their sleeping form. Such contentment he had not felt for years and he aimed to bask in it for as long as possible. He daren't open his eyes for fear that the woman next to him would disappear. He focused on the feel of her skin beneath the palm of his hand, the smell of her hair, the deep breaths she took as she slept beside him. He smiled to himself. Years of dreaming about her, moments spend recalling her body, exploring it in his mind. The smile faded as he remembered how it was the memory of her that stopped him going out of his mind those years ago.
His heart ached, the familiar sensation of guilt building inside once again. Not even Elizabeth could make it disappear altogether. He did open his eyes and rolled toward the window, the sunlight burning but he didn't care. Blinking back the tears, he prepared to live with the ache again. He felt her stir behind him, her hand running over his back, her lips on the back of his neck as she gently kissed him. She pulled him to lay on his back, her eyes meeting his and sensing the pain he held inside. Smiling, she kissed him on the lips slowly and tenderly. Closing her eyes, she kissed him again, feeling him relax. The kiss deepened, the guilt receded and once again, he became the William she knew.
It was a long while before they left the bed; each taking time to reacquaint themselves with each other. Words were shared but briefly, actions spoke louder. The lust from the previous day was replaced with a tenderness neither had known together. As they lay catching their breath, he observed as much.
"We've never woken up together." She gently shook her head and rolled onto her side, laying her head on his chest. "We've never shared a bed together." Again she shook he head. "In fact, we've never..."
"Should we make a list and tick them off as we go?" He chuckled.
"Maybe. Do we have time now?" In response, they both heard his stomach growl. Laughing again, he pulled her closer and kissed her soundly on the lips. "Now that is something we've done together before, had breakfast." He stood and began the task of finding his clothes scattered about the floor. She remained, thinking about his comment. Sitting up, she wrapped the sheet around her.
"William. We never did that either." He stopped and looked at her, casting his mind back. He looked down as he recalled, swallowing the lump in his throat.
"Well, we are today. Another first. Get dressed." She did as she was told and together they made their way downstairs to share their first breakfast together.
He was the first down that morning feeling remarkably awake considering that he only managed to sleep for a couple of hours and then on the couch in his office. Hours were spent in the ice house with Elizabeth, wrapped in blankets they talked about each other before making love again. He thought back on what had happened and smiled. Grabbing a cup of coffee, he stood looking out over the park. He didn't notice anyone entering the room, his mind replaying everything from just a few hours before.
"Where were you last night?" Helena's voice pierced his recollections. It was devoid of emotion. No accusation, no worry, no curiosity. He was used to this tone of voice. The plain and simple question he could not answer, not even to a woman for whom he no longer felt the burning of love.
"Working. I slept in the office. Sorry." He remained facing the window, his eyes best kept hidden for she saw everything.
"You spend a lot of time in your office whilst we are here. You spend a lot of time riding the estate when we are at Pemberley. You spend a lot of time at your office when we are in London."
"I'm very busy. Two estates and a business to run does take a lot of time." She sat at the dining table, her eyes boring holes into his back.
"It doesn't seem so when we have Elizabeth here. You seem more interested in your family then."
"It would be rude to ignore guests. I didn't think you would be complaining," He drank the cold coffee, a bitter taste filling his senses. He placed the cup on the window ledge and continued to look across to the lake.
"Elizabeth is different. No one could ever accuse you of ignoring her. What time did Elizabeth go to bed last night?"
"I wouldn't know. She left me shortly after you retired."
"That may be, but did she leave again? I'm sure I heard her footsteps on the landing more than once."
"Do not start, Helena. It was you who bid me dance, it was you who asked her to join us, it is you who asked her to stay. I never did anything but agree with you." His voice remained level, dispassionate.
"I never asked that you fuck her." He remained silent, allowing her words to dissipate. She stood and walked toward him. Standing beside him, she too looked out of the window. "She is dangerous."
"Then why did you insist on her visiting, staying here with us. Why? When you claim she is so dangerous?" She took a deep breath, preparing the answer in her mind.
"I was intrigued by your reaction to her. From the moment she walked into that room you were captured. I don't know why I asked her to visit. Perhaps because she lit up your eyes the way I used to. You were the old William, the one I met and fell in love with. The one I married and planned a life full of hope with." He snorted and turned away.
"Bullshit. Any sane woman would not do that. You invite another woman because I reacted the way I used to around you? Why?" His voice raised, his expression incredulous as he faced his wife.
"To see if you could resist. To see if you'd try harder to love me. To have a friend. All was worth the gamble because if you were half the man you used to be then fucking some school girl would never have crossed your mind." The words hit home and he sat down. "Did you then? Could you resist or was it all too much Fitzwilliam?"
"I shan't answer that question. You know the answer you want so I won't try to dissuade you. I know you want me to say that something happened, but I won't. I can't." Helena turned to look at him. His eyes were cold, not a hint of emotion. At that moment she knew he hadn't even tried to resist. The last of his love for her had gone, driven away because of her foolish actions.
"There won't be a divorce. The children deserve their father." He stood again and walked toward the window. "They deserve a home with loving parents." Shaking his head, he remained silent. "I can forgive you, Will..."
"Not another word. I'll be busy all day. Have your friend. She's obviously served her other purposes." Without a glance back, he strode to the door and pulled it open. So distracted was he that he failed to notice the object of the argument sat by the door, tears falling down her face. As the door slammed shut, Elizabeth stood and ran after him. Catching the door to his office as he slammed it she entered behind him and shut the world out from their conversation.
"What have we done?" He started at her voice but calmed as he saw her face, tear stained, an expression of such guilt and anguish. Walking to her he pulled her into his arms, holding her close, her tears soaking his shirt.
"This won't do my love. This isn't how it's supposed to be."
"No, it isn't. I should have tried to ignore you." Swallowing hard, he pulled away from him, looking into her blurry eyes.
"I don't regret it. Not one moment. I won't have you regretting it either. What happened last night was perfect, don't let this take that away from us."
"But Helena knows." Tears started again, gently cupping her face in his hands, he wiped the tears away with his thumbs.
"How much did you hear?"
"Something about fucking school girls." He smiled.
"Well, I didn't. I made love to a beautiful young woman. A woman I was meant to resist. But I still can't. Helena doesn't know, she guesses. I need you too much to let her words come between us." His words ended a whisper as he closed the distance between them. His lips met hers in a gentle caress.
"Meet me again. Please." She nodded, her lips tingling with the feel of his kiss.
Beyond the door, Helena knew what had to be done.
The days passed as the couple finally became accustomed to the fact that they were together at long last. During the daylight hours they walked, visited relations, read together, and most importantly talked. The night time was taken up with more physical activities. They quickly became very comfortable around each other, both revelling in the knowledge that nothing could come between them now. Neither slept much, dreams invaded sleep and reminded them of a past impossible to erase. Early one morning, as they lay wrapped in each others arms, they discussed what would happen once the honeymoon was over.
"I hope it never does personally, but I know that can't happen. I'll have to go back to work eventually." His eyes were closed, after a week of very little sleep even he was starting to get tired.
"But you own the company. Surely that means you can take a bit longer off." He laughed lightly.
"Even the boss has to make an appearance you know. Only every now and again. Then I need to return to Pemberley to oversee some improvements that are being done. The summer holidays are nearly here and the kids will want to come home." Opening his eyes he felt the weight of it all land upon him again.
"Will, you don't have to do it all alone anymore. You've got me now." Kissing him gently, the smile returned.
"Yes I have. And as my new assistant, you are to come to London with me tomorrow and raid the shops. I can get away with spending an afternoon at work and then we can go on to Pemberley when Jane and Charles get back next week. How does that sound?"
"Perfect. But if we're going to town tomorrow, you need to sleep." Laughing again, they turned off the lights, closed their eyes and drifted into slumber.
The streets were crowded as usual in the busy capital. They parted ways at the bottom of Regent Street and arranged to meet for dinner later on. It was strange to be back in London after over three years. It was not unknown for Elizabeth and Jane to frequently spend Saturdays shopping on Carnaby Street. Now it seemed foreign somehow. Sighing, she endeavoured to enjoy her few hours here before meeting Will.
It was whilst wrestling a large number of bags along the street that she failed to notice the tall, dark stranger walking directly towards. The collision caused Elizabeth to fall backwards, stopped only by the sheer volume of people behind her.
"What the fuck do you think you're playing at? Watch where you're going!" She shouted as she struggled to get hold of her bags again.
"I am so sorry." The strange replied, helping her regain all her shopping.
"Yeah well, thanks. Sorry for shouting. It's rather busy today." He laughed.
"Yep. That's London. Listen, why don't we get you de-stressed and buy you a coffee. It looks like you need one."
"No, I shouldn't. I'm meant to be meeting a friend soon..." A shrill beep from her mobile sounded and cut her off. Quickly reading the message her expression fell.
"I take it you do have time after all." Smiling she replaced her phone in her pocket and smiled.
"Okay. I'm Elizabeth."
"Nice to meet you Elizabeth. I'm George. George Wickham."
She waited until it was dark. William hadn't been seen all day, true to his word he had locked himself in his office shortly after Elizabeth had left. The thought of having to spend time in the company of her husband's lover repulsed Helena and so she too spent all day alone plotting her revenge. She had seen Elizabeth playing with the two older boys, running around the courtyard and onto the lawn in front of the house. She was a natural with children, bound to be a good mother one day but not to her boys, no way.
She loved her husband, always had, always would. When she met him he was a wreck. His hair had grown too long, clothes became too big as he lost weight, pale skin, drawn features. He was drinking heavily - that she knew. Yet still she took him on. She single-handedly saved William Darcy from himself. She was not about to let some slip of a girl destroy all her work. But Elizabeth Bennet was anything but ordinary. Helena too had been caught by the natural energy and vivaciousness she exuded. She was a beacon in a dark night and Helena also fell under the spell.
She knew Will had fallen but she simply had to know Elizabeth better at the same time. Now it seemed silly. Inviting the girl you know your husband is entranced by to your house. Letting them spend time together alone just because you wanted to be friends with such a person. She should have known that William was only human and therefore susceptible to the same feelings of any man in such a position. It was her fault too. But now it was time for it to all stop.
She positioned herself to that she could see the entrance to the house and hid, waiting for them to make their move. It was a little before midnight when William appeared. He was holding the key to the ice house and toyed with the string as he walked across the lawn. As soon as he disappeared from sight, she followed him. Tonight, she would find out the truth.
As William approached the ice house, he noticed that the door was already open. Strange, he looked at the key he held in his hand, the pale moonlight illuminating the writing on the tag 'Ice House Door'. Frowning, he started to think about whether he locked the up the evening before. Shrugging, on he continued. Pushing the door further open, he saw that the inner door was also ajar.
"What's going on?" He asked himself aloud, Moving toward the inner door, he opened it fully and switched on the flashlight. Looking down, he saw that it was empty. Switching the light off, he put the torch in his pocket when he heard a noise behind him. Turning, it was too late. Pain filled his head as something hard impacted with his skull. The ground disappeared from beneath his feet as he fell into the ice pit below. A sickening thud marked his landing and then there was no more sound.
It was not many minutes after the courtyard clock had struck midnight that Elizabeth ventured from the house. The evening was cooler than the one previous, the sun had been less intense. Rain threatened all day and the threat continued into the night as the humidity had built. She took a deep breath, the taste of water in the air making her worry whether this meeting should be going ahead at all. His reassurances earlier that day about what they were doing still had not totally placated her feelings of guilt and dread. She had made up her mind, tonight would be the last time they met for tomorrow she would return home.
When she left the view of the house, she turned on the flashlight, aiming it at the entrance to the ice house. The door was open but there was no light. Maybe he had forgotten his torch. A sound, the rustling of branches, startled her. Turning the light toward the sound, she saw the cause of such noise. A family of deer were running away, startled by the light and the noise.
Calming her beating heart, she shook her head and continued toward the entrance. Once inside she too noticed that the inner door was unlocked. Curious, she walked toward the opening and pointed the light into the bottom of the ice pit. She gasped at what she saw. William was laid quite still, blood covering his face. Certain that he must of fallen, she climbed down the eight metres as carefully as she could. As soon as she reached the bottom, she raced to his side. As she turned her back to the entrance to check his pulse, she heard the door bang shut behind her, the lock being turned, and the sound of their entrapment in the ice house.
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