Unedited beta version
After the evening meal, they wandered to the music room. In the quiet moments that followed, Elizabeth found herself nestled against Mr. Darcy’s side, listening as he played a gentle melody on the piano. The soft notes filled the air, a testament to the passion and devotion that existed between them.
Yet, with each tender moment shared, the ever-present shadow of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disapproval seemed to loom larger, threatening to engulf their happiness.
Elizabeth sighed, nestling closer to Mr. Darcy and resting her head on his shoulder. “What are we to do, Fitzwilliam? How can we weather the storm that is sure to come?”
Mr. Darcy’s arm tightened around her. “Together, my love. As long as we stand united, there is nothing we cannot face.” His lips found her temple, kissing away the furrow marring her brow. “We knew our love would not come without trial or hardship. But it will make it all the stronger.”
Elizabeth pulled back to meet his gaze. “I do not care what anyone thinks or says about us, as long as I have your love. But your family…” She hesitated, her chest tightening at the thought of being the cause of strife between Mr. Darcy and his cousin.
“You are my family now,” Mr. Darcy interrupted, his voice gentle but firm. “My love for you eclipses all else. My cousin will come to understand that in time. But for now, I will not allow his disapproval or the scorn of society to come between us.”
His words washed away the last of her doubts and fears. Smiling, she wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him down for a searing kiss.
Mr. Darcy groaned against her lips, desire flaring as her hands slipped beneath his dressing gown to explore the contours of his body. When at last they broke apart, he whispered, “I will follow you anywhere, Elizabeth, as long as we are together.”
Tears glistened in her eyes as she gazed up at him. “As will I. No power on earth can keep us apart.”
He leaned in, she closed her eyes to kiss away her fears —
“Fitzwilliam, Miss Bennet, this has gone far enough!” he said, his tone laced with disapproval.
The couple started, their hands falling away from each other as they turned to face the colonel. Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment, a deep blush suffusing her skin, while rage momentarily tightened Mr. Darcy’s jaw.
“Must you intrude on our privacy at every opportunity?” Mr. Darcy asked, a dangerous glint in his eye.
Colonel Fitzwilliam did not so much as twitch, his countenance remaining implacable. “When your actions so directly impact the futures of those around you, I must interfere.”
“Richard, I have already explained to you the depth of our feelings for one another,” Mr. Darcy said, his voice hardening. “I will not apologize for loving Elizabeth, nor will I let you dictate the course of our relationship.”
“You speak of love and yet bed her like a common whore,” the colonel replied coldly. “Your reckless passion threatens everything we have built, Fitzwilliam. Our family’s reputation–”
“Damn our reputation!” Mr. Darcy thundered. Elizabeth steadied at his vehemence, though she felt no fear. She knew the anger was not directed at her. Laying a hand on his arm, she felt the tension easing from his frame.
Mr. Darcy’s eyes softened as he gazed down at her. “Our family’s good name means nothing if I have not love and joy in my life. Elizabeth is my heart, Richard, and I will not give her up for the sake of propriety.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam regarded them impassively, his countenance betraying no hint of relenting. “So be it. But do not ask me to stand by and watch you discard our ancestry for a penniless country chit.” With that parting shot, he turned on his heel and quit the room.
Silence descended until Elizabeth turned into Mr. Darcy’s arms. “Fret not, my love. We shall face far greater trials than your cousin’s disapproval.”
Mr. Darcy embraced her tightly, relief etched in every line of his body. “You are right, as always. With you by my side, there is no trial I cannot face.”
Mr. Darcy kept Elizabeth close by his side as they walked through Pemberley to his bedchamber, his touches tender and possessive. Every brush of his fingers against her bare skin beneath the table sent shivers down her spine, anticipation building with every smoldering glance.
The storm still raged outside, rain lashing the windows of the bedchamber as Mr. Darcy drew Elizabeth into his arms. “At last, we are alone,” he murmured, nuzzling her throat.
Heat sparked in Elizabeth’s blood at his touch, her heart racing. “The world falls away,” she breathed. “When I’m with you.”
“As does mine, darling,” he whispered. His eyes glowed with love and longing as he gazed down at her. “Tonight there is only us.”
Elizabeth drew him down for a searing kiss, desire pooling low in her belly. “Yes,” she gasped as his lips trailed lower, setting her aflame.
Tonight they would be cocooned in their own private universe, alone with love and pleasure. The rest of the world faded away, unimportant in the face of her swift unraveling. Mr. Darcy wasted no time in slowly undressing her, his hands reverent upon her skin.
When at last she stood bare before him, he could only stare. “Exquisite,” he rasped. His touch ignited fires wherever it roamed, leaving a trail of simmering need in its wake.
Elizabeth flushed, but held his gaze. “I am yours,” she whispered. “Take me, Fitzwilliam.”
A low groan rumbled in his throat as he laid her upon the velvet bedding, their bodies and souls joining as rain streamed down the windows, cloaking Pemberley in the secrecy of night.
He hovered over her, braced on his elbows as he claimed her mouth in a searing kiss. “My love for you burns eternal, like the fires of Mount Olympus,” he vowed. “As does mine,” she whispered, pulling him down to her. “My love, my heart, my soul – they all belong to you, today and always.”
Elizabeth gasped, clinging to Mr. Darcy as he filled her so exquisitely, her senses shattered into a thousand pieces. She had never known such bliss, never imagined she could feel so profoundly connected to another. He gazed down at her, his eyes dark with desire, and captured her mouth in a searing kiss.
Their lovemaking was frantic yet tender, each touch stoking flames anew until Elizabeth thought she might combust from sheer ecstasy. At last, unable to bear it any longer, a hoarse cry escaped her lips and she arched against him. Mr. Darcy tumbled seconds after with a guttural groan, shuddering in release even as tears pricked hot behind her eyelids.
They clung to one another through the fading tremors, heartbeats slowing, souls and bodies still joined. Mr. Darcy smoothed damp curls from Elizabeth’s forehead, gazing at her with open wonder.
“You have unmanned me,” he whispered. She gave a wistful smile, fingertips tracing the beloved lines of his face.
“As have you, dear one.”
“Tonight was…” He seemed at a loss for words, eyes gleaming. “Perfection.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “It was.”
At length they parted, but still could not bear to remain out of one another’s sight. As Mr. Darcy tucked her beneath the bedclothes and drew her close, Elizabeth sighed in contentment. The storm may have long since passed, but in her heart, a tempest still raged. She had never felt more at peace.
The next day at Pemberley was fraught with tension and awkward silences as the unusual storm raged on. They took their meals in strained silence, his cousin still absent from the dining room.
After breakfast, as Mr. Darcy entered the drawing room in search of Colonel Fitzwilliam, he found his cousin brooding by the window, gazing out at the rain.
“Richard, have you received word from our aunt, Lady Catherine recently?” Mr. Darcy inquired. “I am expecting an update on my cousin Anne’s health.”
The colonel turned, his countenance dark. “I cannot say that I have,” he bit out.
Mr. Darcy frowned, studying his cousin with concern. “Is something amiss?”
“Do not pretend you care for my relations when you have made it painfully clear where your true affections lie,” Colonel Fitzwilliam snapped. He took a menacing step forward. “How can you stand there, so righteous, as if you have not betrayed us all for the likes of that woman?”
Mr. Darcy’s hands clenched at his sides. “I will not have you disparage Elizabeth. Our love is not a betrayal.”
“Love!” The colonel spat. “You know nothing of the concept. If you loved your family at all, you would not have embroiled us in scandal for the sake of that selfish passion.”
Anger flickered in Mr. Darcy’s chest, but he kept his tone level. “And if you cared for my happiness you would not begrudge me the one thing that has brought me joy. Good day, Colonel.”
He turned away with a derisive snort. “Good day to you as well, Darcy. Let us hope it remains so.” With that, he quit the room.
Silence descended upon the drawing room as the colonel’s angry footsteps receded down the hall. Mr. Darcy sank into a chair with a weary sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Through the windows, sunlight tentatively peeked through the clouds as the storm began to lessen. The roads would likely be quite impassable this day; it seemed Elizabeth would remain unexpectantly longer at Pemberley. Mr. Darcy frowned, knowing the delay would only increase the Gardiners’ anxiety for their niece.
“You seem quite disturbed, Fitzwilliam.”
He started at the soft voice, turning to find Elizabeth regarding him with a mixture of concern and tenderness. “I fear I have acted with haste regarding our…attachment,” he said slowly. “My cousin is unlikely to easily forgive my disregard for decorum.”
Mr. Darcy abruptly stood, his expression darkening. “If you will excuse me,” he said stiffly, “I have business to attend to.” Without another word, he strode from the room, his boots echoing on the wooden floor.
Elizabeth stared after him, bewildered and hurt by his sudden change in demeanor. She twisted her dress between nervous fingers, anxiety churning in the pit of her stomach. Clearly Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disapproval had affected Mr. Darcy more than he let on.
While Mr. Darcy claimed his duty was to his own heart, a man of his position had certain responsibilities. Marrying a woman of no connections and no wealth would reflect poorly on the venerable Darcy name.
Tears stung Elizabeth’s eyes as she stared into the crackling fire. After all his pretty words and tender overtures, was she merely a dalliance to be discarded when it no longer suited him? Had these past days meant nothing in the face of duty and responsibility?
The tea in her cup had grown cold. With a heavy sigh, Elizabeth rose and quit the room, unable to bear the ache in her heart a moment longer.
Mr. Darcy was sitting at his desk quill in hand staring down at his steward’s notes and receipts of the sale of wool from his sheep, but he could not stop thinking about his cousin. They had always been the best of friends and now they were fighting over a woman. Mr. Darcy did not want there to be discord but his cousin was family.
A brief knock on the door and then the man himself Colonel Fitzwilliam strode into the study, eyes alight with excitement. “There is something unusual in the storm, right overhead. Come, I must show you.”
Puzzled but intrigued, Darcy set down his quill and stood. “What is it?”
“Something the likes I have never seen before,” Fitzwilliam said mysteriously. He motioned for Mr. Darcy to follow him out of the study, up to the next floor and down an unused hallway all the while dodging Mr. Darcy’s questions as to what possibly could be unusual with a storm. Hail? They’ve all seen hail.
Colonel Fitzwilliam held his arm out with flair for his cousin to enter the rarely used art room before him. “After you.”
Curious, Mr. Darcy stepped inside the spacious room walking directly to the windows. In the dim light of evening filtering through high windows, he could not make out—
A hard blow struck him across the back of the head. Stars exploded across his vision as he crumpled to the floor. Mr. Darcy barely registered Colonel Fitzwilliam’s voice echoing in his ears.
“Forgive me, Darcy. But I cannot let you throw your life away.”