Darcy and Fitzwilliam
a tale of a gentleman and an officer
By Karen V. Wasylowski
Sourcebooks, Inc. Copyright © 2011 Karen V. Wasylowski
All rights reserved.
It was now a full two months after their wedding, and a sunny, crisp winter morning to boot. The newly wedded Elizabeth Darcy, née Bennet, was making a concerted effort to look out the window at the beautiful winter expanse below and not turn her gaze immediately upon waking to her magnificent husband as he slept, admiring his strong jaw line and his long eyelashes. He was, to her eyes, simply put, beautiful.
She would stare at him all day if he had not whispered to her during a performance of "The Magic Flute" that her gazes were unsettling to him and that she really must stop. But then, of course, his own eyes had been dark with longing as he squeezed her hand and kissed it during his reprimand, so how serious could he really be?
She decided to compromise and just gaze at him when he couldn't possibly be aware, like in the morning, when she always awoke before him, or perhaps when she watched him ride his horse from the stables, or maybe at breakfast as he read the daily reports from his estate manager.
All right, I think I've been very good and deserve my reward. I can allow myself another quarter hour to watch him again. She rolled over to lie on her stomach facing him. My heavens, he's so handsome. What a wondrous gift you have given me, dear Lord. Whatever could I have done to deserve this much happiness?
"Elizabeth?" He said her name softly, his eyes still closed.
She pulled up the sheets to just beneath her eyes, which were sparkling with anticipation.
"Elizabeth," he repeated, "are you watching me again?"
They were both lying on their stomachs, each facing the other, both bathed by the same streaming sunlight. She knew if she kept very still and didn't answer him, he would open those beautiful eyes. She just had to be patient. Just wait a moment longer ... just a moment ... aaahhh!
And suddenly, his one visible eye popped opened, and she giggled, still hiding her face up to her lashes. "Good morning, husband," she whispered, closing her eyes tightly, giddy with the knowledge that she would soon receive the first of her morning kisses. She puckered her lips.
After what seemed like an eternity she felt a soft kiss on her forehead and then on her nose and finally on her lips. "Good morning, beautiful one," he said dreamily. His morning beard stubble tickled her, and she rubbed her face quickly. He raised himself up on his elbow and pushed her hair back from her forehead. "Did you sleep well, little angel?"
"Yes, very well. And you?"
"Like an earl." He laid his head back down very near her face, their noses almost touching.
"Is that good or bad?" she whispered.
"I don't really know. I am too tired this morning to care, and too happy." He reached for her and pulled her close. "You were very enthusiastic last night, Lizzy."
She blushed and buried her head in his neck. "William! Please have a care! You'll embarrass me!"
"Why? How could I? It's just us here. No one listening, no one to hear our enthusiasms." He softly kissed her mouth and stared into her sweet face. She was all sweetness and delicate femininity, with beautiful eyes, rosebud pink lips, and a quick mind that kept him always on his toes.
He reached down and began to tickle her sides. "And besides," he whispered, "young lady, if you would be a little quieter, you wouldn't have to be so embarrassed." His tickling intensified as they tussled, both laughing, tears streaming down her cheeks. He held her fast around her waist and pulled her closer to prevent her tumbling from the bed.
She squealed, giggled, and squirmed, and as he laughed at her excitement, he found himself becoming excited in a wonderfully different way. Unfortunately, however, in their gyrations, her hand had mistakenly grabbed the bellpull.
She broke from his grasp and raised herself up, turning toward him with her pillow high above her head ready to strike, naked as the day she was born. Almost too late, she heard the doorknob turn, signaling the imminent arrival of her husband's valet. She lunged for the floor.
"You rang for me, Mr. Darcy?" Raising one eyebrow was the only outward evidence that Darcy's valet Bradford was aware of the bloodcurdling shriek that had greeted his entrance. Well, there was that and the flutter of the bed cover and a thud that was heard on the side of the bed not within his view.
Darcy, lying alone in the middle of the massive antique structure, smiled broadly. "The devil you say. No, Bradford, I didn't ring for you." He rested his clasped hands casually behind his head, looking very smug and quite cheerful, closing his eyes and grinning when a disembodied and very heartfelt "ouch!" was heard from the floor beside him.
"Well, this is quite the quandary, is it not? Perhaps Mrs. Darcy rang for you. She was here only a moment ago." Bradford discreetly turned his gaze away and toward the ceiling. Darcy lifted up the sheets to peer within. "Hello?" he called to his legs and feet. There were muffled pleas and giggles as the covers began to slowly be pulled off the edge of the bed.
Darcy waited for a while and then grabbed them back with a jerk, tucking them neatly around himself. Phantom murmured threats and muffled indignation could be heard, along with stifled laughter. A pillow sailed up from the floor, which he easily deflected. "No, no I don't see her anywhere. Perhaps she's out riding." He leaned his body over the mattress, off the far side of the bed, and looked down toward the floor. "Why, Mrs. Darcy, wherever have you been? By any chance did you ring for Bradford?"
Lizzy reached up and pinched his nose very hard, causing Darcy to yelp and laugh. "No, no, I don't believe she needs you either," he offered rather nasally, rubbing the injured protuberance as if to put it back into place. "You may go, Bradford; sorry to have bothered you."
"Very good, sir." Bradford bowed and closed the door. As he walked back down the hall, he allowed his mouth the smile that had more and more invaded his very professional demeanor. Shaking his head, he laughed softly. Was I ever that young or that in love?
Life had certainly changed at stately old Pemberley since the newlyweds had taken up residence. He thought fondly back to when he had begun working for Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the lad's transformation from callow young Corinthian to somber estate owner and now to besotted bridegroom.
* * *
Mr. George Darcy had passed away after a brief illness, in the early evening hours of 17 April, 1806. His son, Fitzwilliam, was named his heir, inheriting at barely twenty-one years of age the single largest privately held estate in all of Derbyshire, as well as being named co-guardian to Georgiana, his nine-year-old sister. Overnight, young Darcy seemed to age, to mature, to toughen; he soon became obsessed with responsibility, with achievement and success.
A natural leader, he astounded men twice his age, and this when he was still little more than an adolescent. Now he moved among a new circle of acquaintances bringing about new interests—viewpoints more conservative than the young. Darcy gradually abandoned the ideas and pursuits of youth as well as the follies and mistakes that would have been his by right to make, and became more appreciative of class and privilege. He rarely relaxed and was seldom carefree, still naïve enough to believe a serious demeanor more befitting his station in life than frivolous laughter. Time and responsibility were sedating his youth.
It was an unfortunate incident involving his beloved sister, Georgiana, that pushed him that final meter into premature dotage. He and his co-guardian to Georgiana, his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, had relaxed their vigilance, assuring themselves that Georgiana was a sensible, well-bred young woman, but little more than a child, still with childish interests. They both adored her but took no real notice of her maturing; after all, the colonel was far away in Portugal, chasing Napoleon, and Darcy was drowning in drainage concerns at Pemberley.
At fifteen years of age, she ran away with a hireling, a thoroughly unsuitable young man whom she had known her whole life, had loved and trusted. Darcy discovered them before her ruination, but destroyed was any measure of folly that remained lurking within him. Darcy aged from twenty-six to sixty-six within two days. Georgiana was devastated with guilt.
Fitzwilliam, the closest thing to a true brother Darcy possessed, acknowledged that gone forever was his coconspirator in disasters, his fiercest competitor, his staunchest defender, his best friend. In his place was the reincarnation of his stolid and sensible old Uncle George, only without the powdered wig.
But, no matter how proud, how aloof, how miserable he became, it was inevitable that a wealthy, handsome, single young man would inspire great matrimonial interest. Feverish competition exploded among the masses of aristocratic women vying for his hand, with the fiercest, the most vocal, and the most relentless of these being two particularly ambitious women.
In the country, his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, insisted to all who would listen that he would marry her sickly daughter, Anne. In the city, his best friend Charles Bingley's amoral sister Caroline informed all in her circle of friends that he would choose her.
Neither was correct.
Speculations and prophesies ended with Fitzwilliam Darcy's surprise marriage to a little country mouse named Elizabeth Bennet. All who thought they were "in the know" were stunned when Darcy fell in love with the sparkling Elizabeth, a poor but gently bred young lady of infinite humor and intelligence, and although Miss Eliza Bennet never once chased Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, he was run to ground like a fox, and happily so.
He was alive again, a bit older perhaps, but a healthy young man rescued nonetheless, besotted and hopelessly in love.
"Oooh, you are an evil, wicked, vile man." A mortified Lizzy emerged from the floor as soon as Bradford left, closing the door to their bedroom behind him. Covering her burning cheeks with her hands, she squeaked with laughter. At first faking his remorse, and badly at that, Darcy swiftly grabbed her and tickled her back into the bed, beginning again his inventory of kisses. First her forehead, then her eyes, then her nose ...
"No! No, you don't. Not this morning, oh please, William! You have made us late for breakfast every morning since our return. It is past embarrassing. The whole staff knows we're up here." She then tilted her head to the side and pointed to a spot just beneath her ear, thereby ensuring a continuation of his barrage of kisses to the underside of her throat. "...Ooh, here, you've missed a spot, aaahhh lovely ... and they know what is going on; they are not stupid! Please, dear, let us just get dressed and go down to breakfast before they stop bothering with it altogether."
"Maybe tomorrow," he growled, and truth be told, she capitulated happily.
* * *
It was very late in the morning when the smiling bride and groom finally emerged hand in hand from their suites. Nearing the middle of the grand staircase, they encountered Mrs. Reynolds.
"Good morning, Mrs. Reynolds."
"Good morning, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy." The aged housekeeper smiled warmly up at her beloved boy, silently thanking the Lord for his obvious happiness.
"Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam has arrived and is waiting for you in the library." Mrs. Reynolds beamed with the joyful news. She knew how deeply her master had mourned when they thought his cousin dead, and how hard he had fought back tears when the news had arrived of his safety.
"Why that old degenerate; we didn't expect him for at least another two weeks! Has he been waiting long?" Darcy's pace down the stairs quickened. Lagging behind but still holding her husband's hand, Elizabeth began to feel flutters of embarrassment and turned her head away, wondering how she could perhaps better blend into the wallpaper.
"Well, about three hours, I should say," continued Mrs. Reynolds. "He arrived very early, as always, and has settled into the library with 'Fanny Hill.' Oh, he's not lost his appetite, I can tell you. He's already had several servings of breakfast and even went downstairs into the kitchen to hug the cook—greeted everyone below stairs. Why, he had us all laughing like fools, he did. He specifically requested that we not wake you, insisted that the 'newlyweds' not be disturbed."
A low moan escaped Elizabeth as she blushed crimson from her forehead to her toes.
Darcy tried not to laugh and patted Lizzy's hand. "It could be worse, believe me," he whispered. "Knowing my cousin, we're lucky he didn't barge right in on us with his morning tea." He continued down, Elizabeth dragging in tow. "Mrs. Reynolds, Could you send a tray into the library with some breakfast for Mrs. Darcy and me?"
Elizabeth suddenly stopped. "Oh no, William, I don't ... I mean, I'm really not that hungry. I think I'll take a walk in the garden ... my afternoon walk ... I mean morning walk ... if you don't mind."
Her face was flushed, and she chewed viciously on her lower lip, all the while trying to appear perfectly reasonable. How in the world was she expected to face Darcy's cousin now? He had just sat there in a room directly beneath theirs while they were so busily enthusiastic upstairs. No, thank you, she would just as soon take a brisk walk.
"But it's too cold for a walk this morning, isn't it?" He successfully kept the smile from his face. She was still so easily embarrassed by so many things, and he loved her all the more for it.
"No, it's fine, really. I'll merely walk faster." Her face brightened up a bit. "You know how I adore a good trudge in the mud. Excuse me, I'll just run up and get my wrap." Elizabeth turned, retreating quickly up the stairs, muttering bitterly all the way. "This is so humiliating! How am I supposed to behave rationally with dozens of people around knowing what's happening? Even when we haven't done anything, I feel obliged to blush just for decorum's sake."
It had been much easier in Scotland and Wales where they had honeymooned. For eight wonderful weeks they were alone and in love, traveling and seeing new wonders daily, a romantic dream come true every night.
Their first time had been thoroughly embarrassing, romantic, and very funny—all at the same time. How could a country girl have been so ignorant? She was blushing again at the remembrance and smiling to herself. However, one day he'll have to tell me how he knew so much himself. He certainly wasn't ignorant.
Still grinning, she grabbed her wrap from her dressing room and headed down the stairs, spying the back of Fitzwilliam's head as he stood to greet Darcy, just before the door to the library was shut. They will probably be in there for hours. I'll go in when I return and say a quick hello. That should suffice for the moment.
* * *
When Fitzwilliam saw Darcy enter the library, he immediately stood and extended his hand in greeting, a huge grin spreading across his tanned face. The colonel had not been back to Pemberley since the great victory at Waterloo, when after being wounded on the battlefield, he had been listed as missing and mourned as dead for several days. The sensationalized reports of his valor, his injury, and his extraordinary recovery had all made him a darling of the ton and a favorite of the newspapers, one amidst a handful of the surviving heroes of the long Peninsular War.
And, worse yet, it had made him a national celebrity.
Darcy grabbed his hand and struggled to suppress misting eyes. "I am afraid that just won't do this time, you old bastard." He spoke huskily, pulling his cousin into an uncharacteristically emotional embrace. Moved by Darcy's sentiment, Fitzwilliam fought back his own tears as they both began to pound each other's backs in manly fashion. He was nonplussed. This was not the normal greeting received from the reserved and achingly proper Darcy, at least not the morose Darcy that Fitzwilliam had left eleven months earlier. This was more like the mischievous companion of his youth. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski. Copyright © 2011 Karen V. Wasylowski. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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