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Chapter 14

fig3_smThe days that followed the Matlock dinner party had been a whirlwind of activity for Elizabeth Bennet.  With her presentation at Court scheduled in two days, Lady Suzan had her busy nearly every minute of the day.  There were shopping trips and fittings and lessons on how to perform a deep curtsey for the Queen as well as practicing how to walk gracefully with a long train.  She had the walking forward mastered but walking backward still required additional concentration. Then there were the lessons on who was who within the ton and how ranks were to be preserved and added to the rest of all the information being drilled into her were the foibles and eccentricities of some of the more illustrious members of society. 

Elizabeth would have found all this quite taxing except for the startling discovery she had made. She realized she quite liked Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.  After their talk where they had put their past behind them, Mr. Darcy had become a regular morning fixture in Lady Suzan’s drawing room with his daily attendance, often stretching almost until afternoon tea.  Never would she have believed that she and Mr. Darcy would ever be friends, but they were, and every day added to her feelings for him.  He was intelligent and, to her amazement, had a very wry sense of humor which she enjoyed immensely.  They talked of books, music, politics, history, and many other topics as she found they had much in common and shared similar opinions on a variety of subjects.  When those opinions varied, they would hold a rousing debate to try to win the other over to their way of thinking.  Elizabeth found that he stimulated her mind in ways that no one had ever done before, including her beloved father.

While her mind was being inspired by this man, she was embarrassed at the other ways he stirred her.  Before she had only seen him as a tall, dark and brooding gentleman that she had begrudgingly admitted to being handsome.  Now it was like she was seeing an entirely different gentleman.  His physical appearance captivated her, and she wondered why she had never noticed this before.  His broad shoulders and chest were accentuated by the cut of his clothing and showed a masculine strength she had never perceived in a man before.  His dark hair hung in loose curls that looked as soft as silk; she had to clasp her hands in her lap to keep from reaching out and touching them.  Those dark brown eyes always looking at her with such deep intensity which she now discerned held a passion for life that quickly disabused her of any thoughts of arrogance on his part.  Those eyes also could hold a tenderness and gentleness that she would never have associated with the man she had only thought she knew.  She could not help the warmth and happiness that she felt when his smile widened to reveal straight, white teeth and those dimples in his cheeks!  Sometimes she was lost within herself when she looked at him, thankful for Lady Suzan’s presence to help her regain her senses so that he would not think she was some silly, giggling school girl.

The change in Mr. Darcy’s manners could simply be attributed to his comfort around his family.  Lady Suzan had said that her family had always been particularly close to the Darcys which would explain his ease when he was with her.  Had it not been once said Mr. Darcy was lively enough when he was with friends and family?  She knew he was promised to another and there would be no renewal of the feelings that he professed three years ago.  Surprisingly, that brought a twinge of regret to her.  Had I known then of this Mr. Darcy…well, she let out a sigh, life is full of little ironies.  She could not help but be a little sad that there would be no more than friendship between her and Mr. Darcy.  She noted he was a man that she could admire and respect, who would suit her quite perfectly in the role of a husband.  As she had resolved never to marry and the fact that he was engaged made those thoughts moot, she wondered why do my thoughts still continue to revert to something that will never happen?

The afternoon, after his return to the bosom of his family, found Mr. Charles Bingley at the doorstep of Crandall house.

As Darcy was leaving the ladies for the day, he was surprised to see a very disappointed Bingley standing in the front doorway.

“Bingley!” he called.

Looking up, Mr. Bingley cried in a surprised voice, “Darcy!”

Walking over to his friend, Darcy asked, “What brings you to Crandall House?”

“I had hoped to visit with Miss Bennet.  But I seemed to have come at a bad time,” Bingley replied.

“Yes, Lady Matlock is sponsoring Miss Bennet for her presentation at Court and they have been working day and night in order to be ready.”  Seeing the troubled expression on Bingley’s face, he commanded, “Wait right here.”

Turning he went back to the drawing room from whence he came.

“Miss Bennet, Mr. Bingley is here to see you,” he announced.

Elizabeth’s face lit up at the unexpected visitor but was transformed to sadness at Lady Suzan’s response.

“Tell Mr. Bingley that we are too busy to receive him,” Lady Suzan said. 

Looking at Elizabeth, Lady Suzan saw her friend’s sad expression and knew that Elizabeth did not have many friends here, so she reversed herself and offered, “Tell Mr. Bingley if he can return later, we will be pleased to have him at tea.”

Seeing the smiles on both Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s face, she could not help a small smile herself before adding, “You are welcome to join us as well, Nephew.”

Darcy left them again to join Bingley and extend the invitation which was heartedly accepted.

As the two men left Crandall House, Darcy asked, “Bingley if you do not have other appointments, will you not join me back at Darcy House? It has been a long time since we have had a chance to talk.”

“I would be delighted, Darcy,” Bingley responded as he ushered his friend into his carriage and gave the order to the coachman to take them to Darcy House.

As they settled in Darcy’s study, Darcy was quick to bring up the topic that had most concerned him at Bingley’s recent behavior.

“Bingley, where have you been the past few days?  Your sisters have been frantic with worry.”

“I am sorry you have had to deal with them,” he apologized.

“Yes, accepted, but that still does not answer my question,” Darcy said.

Blushing as he looked away, Bingley muttered, “I would really not wish to answer it.”

“Then I assume you returned to Madame DuPree’s.”

Looking back at Darcy, he stated, “Yes. Yes, I did.  And it was a most enlightening experience.”

Darcy viewed his friend with astonishment.

“Darcy, I do not know why you seem to disapprove of my whereabouts.  The stories I have heard of your frequenting such establishments are legendary.”

“That was a long time ago.  I would hope that I am older and wiser now.”

Realizing his friend’s concern of what might be perceived as adopting a dissolute life, Bingley conceded to give Darcy his reasons, “I do not plan to return in the foreseeable future, if at all.  But that night, I realized that any hopes I may have harbored for my future were destroyed.  I felt the need to feel like a man again-–to feel the passions and desires of a man.  To know what I had missed.  What I did not realize was that I had gained some confidence and esteem in myself to look to the future, my future.  I saw that my dreams and hopes had not changed, but rather that I needed to find someone else to share them,” Seeing Darcy’s skepticism, he added, “A proper young lady.”

“You are planning on using the upcoming Season to find that proper young lady?” Darcy asked.

“Yes, though I already have someone in mind,” Bingley relayed.

As he took in his friend’s statement, a sense of terror invaded him.  He could not be thinking about Elizabeth Bennet, could he?  I am willing to help in any way I can as I feel responsible for what has happened to him these last years.  I cannot, will not, watch him pay court to her–-it is too much.

“May I ask who this young lady might be?” Darcy asked, fearing the answer.

“You may ask but I will not tell you,” Bingley stated with conviction.  “I hope I have learned my lesson about making my intentions known until I have all the facts to support them.”

Darcy could not help but smile at his friend’s wise decision, but that did not garner him any relief that it was not Elizabeth, so it continued on, “It is not Miss Bennet, is it?”

Bingley laughed, “No.  As much as I admire Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I do not think we would be suited for each other.  You know how much I abhor confrontations.  Besides, I would be at a loss at being able to understand her wit.  It sometimes goes well above my head.”

Inwardly, Darcy let out a sign of relief.  Though he was curious as to Bingley’s choice as he still considered him an excellent match for Georgiana, he asked about what Bingley expected from the match. “Bingley, what will be your plans once this paragon of virtue has accepted your suit?”

“Of course, I will want to marry straightaway.” He grinned.  “Then I suppose we will select an estate where we will reside.  I really would like to see that my father’s wishes are met.  There we will live happily and produce the next generation of Bingleys.  I do not require a busy London social life, as my sisters.  I quite fancy myself as a country squire, raising a family with a lady who shares my affection and respect.  If we can have those two things, I believe love will come in time.”

Darcy gazed at Bingley somewhat unsettled as those were the same wishes that Georgiana had expressed to him two weeks ago.  With a shred of hope, Darcy asked his friend, “If your paramour does not meet your expectations, do you have someone else in mind?”

Bingley responded, “No, I had not thought beyond that point.”

“If I may be so bold, I would like to offer someone who might suit you exceedingly well if it comes to that point.”

“Who might that be?” Bingley looked at his friend questioningly.

“My sister, Georgiana,” Darcy stated.

Darcy was quite taken aback at Bingley’s laughter as he did not find the idea of Georgiana and Bingley humorous.  Nor did he take kindly to his friend making mirth over the idea.

“Bingley, I do not see what is so amusing.  Georgiana is a sweet girl and will make someone a wonderful wife.”

Sobering when he realized that he may have offended his friend, Bingley was quick to clarify, “Darcy, it is not amusing.  It is just that Georgiana is my ‘paragon of virtue’ as you so aptly put it.”

“Georgiana is your choice?” Darcy was amazed and quite surprised at Bingley’s revelation.

“Yes, but I had hoped to determine whether she would consider me a suitable husband before pressing my suit.”

It was Darcy’s turn to laugh. “Well, I will say that I do not know her thoughts about you as a potential husband but I will say that her wishes as to her future are similar to yours.”

“They are?” Bingley asked.

“Yes, they are.  Though I would ask one thing of you before paying court to my sister,”

“What is that?”

“Give her a chance to meet other young gentleman to see if there is someone else that she might have an interest.  While it would make me happy to accept you as my brother, it is her happiness in her future husband that is paramount to me.”

“Yes, Darcy, I understand your reservations, and I will be quiet and discreet in courting Miss Darcy until she hopefully shows a marked interest in my suit.  If I find that her interests lie in another direction, I will desist and seek another young lady.  I do not wish for a match where affections are unmatched.”

“That is all I can ask of you, my friend.”

The two gentlemen continued to while away the afternoon discussing all manner of topics.  After all, it had been a long time since they had spent any time together without the company of family and friends.

If Darcy’s lack of enthusiasm on his impending nuptials caused concern in Mr. Bingley, it was not noted.  Bingley was more interested in learning the fate of his Jane from Miss Bennet.

Later as Bingley had dropped Darcy off after tea at Crandall House, he was both sad and happy about what Miss Bennet had imparted about her sister, Jane.  Though he still felt a little sadness at not having a chance to win Jane Bennet, he was happy to hear the she was well settled in a marriage to a kind and decent man who held great affection for her.  Miss Bennet had also assured him that her sister was content and held great affection for her new husband as well.  That was all Mr. Bingley needed to know before he could move on with his life.

Darcy stood at the window of his study feeling happier than he had felt since…well, ever.  Miss Elizabeth Bennet had requested his friendship.  She no longer thought ill of him, and he had her good opinion.  The fact that he was engaged to Virginia Wagstaff was not going to interfere in pursuing that amity.

He had always loved Elizabeth, but this new found insight to her personality had increased those feelings, feelings he knew were foolish as nothing would come of them but still he could not keep them at bay.  Coupled with his nightly dreams of her, Elizabeth was everything he had imagined her to be and more.  Knowing her better, he realized that she was just as he had remembered her to be three years ago.  Her beauty grew daily. Her mind was constantly searching for improvement and her wit was razor sharp, but her teasing was in a kind and caring way while her compassion knew no limits.  And her body…her body…he signed deeply. It could raise a dead man as he had almost constant daily proof.

His thoughts turned to his one impetuous act, kindled by lust, which had eliminated his second chance with Elizabeth.  If he had waited a week longer to propose to Mrs. Wagstaff, he would not now be engaged to her.  He could not but rail at the irony that the passage of one week would have made such a dramatic difference in his life.

No! He would not dwell on those thoughts, not when he felt this happy.  Moving away from the window, he stretched himself out on the sofa in his study with his hands linked behind his head as he relived his morning with Elizabeth.  They had quickly established a habit for his calls. He would arrive just after breakfast, too early for a proper call but as he was family, it did not matter.  If the weather permitted, they would walk in the park after luncheon and discuss whatever was on their minds that day.  Returning to Crandall House, he would sometimes stay to help with her presentation ‘lessons’ unless he was informed by his aunt that they did not need his presence for their afternoon tasks.  Those times usually involved fittings for her presentation gown, though he was more than willing to give his advice, especially if he was able to watch her change from her day gown to the presentation gown.  Alas, he knew that as a single gentleman, his presence at the fittings would not be considered proper.  

Today things had been different between him and Elizabeth.  Usually when Lady Suzan was called away to attend to whatever current disaster that had the household in an uproar, Elizabeth took that time as a respite from her studies and would engage in conversation directed at getting to know each other better. However, this morning their discussions became more of a personal nature.

“If I had not been so prejudiced in my earlier assessment of you then I might never have been so harsh with you those years ago…” she began.

“Miss Bennet, my manners at that time were not as they should have been as you so aptly pointed out, but I hope that they have improved because your words at that time are constantly echoing in my head to be a better man,” he stated.

“Mr. Darcy, do you ever wonder how things would have transpired if we had been friends then as we are now?” she asked.

Oh G-d, yes!  Every minute of every day since that time. 

Reaching over, he gently tucked a loose strain of her hair behind her ear.  Not wishing to lose this intimate connection with her, he traced the outline of her jaw. 

Not to be undone, she had run her fingers through his unruly locks which had fallen forward onto his forehead, pushing them back.  Her hand brushed along his temple to rest on his cheek as they stared intensely into each other’s eyes.

All five of his senses were highly attuned.  He had never seen such a light in her eyes, and he knew it was for him and him alone.  The feel of her silky hair and soft skin sent a fissure through his body.  Her smell intoxicated him with its light fragrance.  His tongue longed to taste her luscious lips.  However, it was his hearing that put a stop to whatever his next actions would have been as the sound of Lady Suzan’s footsteps could be heard coming down the hall.

Now as he lay on the sofa in his study he let his imagination loose.

That is until a knock on the door disturbed his reverie.  In a panic at being caught in such a state, he shot up and called, “Yes?”

“Sir, General Fitzwilliam is here to see you.” Hudson informed his master through the door.

After taking several deep breathes to compose himself, he walked to his desk and sat down behind it in order to hide the evidence of his musings. 

Calling out “Enter!” He watched his cousin come in the room and sit in a chair in front of the desk.

“Fitzwilliam, what brings you here?”

“It has been a long time since we have had a chance to catch up with each other,” Fitzwilliam said.

Darcy laughed and retaliated, “Though I believe your main purpose in coming is to find out why I chose to give up my bachelor status.”

Sheepishly, Fitzwilliam nodded and agreed, “Yes and that, too.”

Darcy wanted to avoid the conversation he knew was Fitzwilliam’s purpose for calling and, therefore, sought to divert him, “Fitzwilliam, how was Scotland?”

“Cold!  I am glad to be back in warmer climes.”

“Yes, you must have been gratified to see your mother doing so well,” Darcy continued.

“Yes, Miss Bennet has worked her magic on Mother.  She certainly has been able to draw her out of her grief.”

“Yes, Miss Bennet is a remarkable young lady,” was Darcy response.

“Yes, that she is,” Fitzwilliam agreed and then decided to see how much Darcy was going to admit in regards to Elizabeth, “And a young lady you have taken inordinate interest in as you are engaged to another.”

Darcy lowered his head.  He was not going to admit to his feelings for Miss Bennet and decided that he would rather answer the questions he knew would be forthcoming from his cousin on his engagement.  “I have been fortunate to gain Mrs. Wagstaff’s notice after the loss of her husband.”

“Yes, I thought I understood from Edward that you knew her husband.”

“Yes, we were at university together.  But I also courted her, along with Wagstaff, during her debut season,” he explained.

“And since you could not win her then, you sought to win her now.”

“We will never know if I could have won her then as I was called home when Father took ill.”

“Ah! And Wagstaff was left to win her hand.”

“Something like that.”

“I must say she is a beautiful woman and quite provocative,” Fitzwilliam taunted.

“Just what do you mean by that?” Darcy’s temper flared.

“It means that you have always had a healthy appetite for women and with an inducement of such a sultry figure, you found it hard to resist,” Fitzwilliam smirked.

“Fitzwilliam, if you were not my cousin, I would call you out for such a remark.” Darcy glared at his cousin.

“Darcy, there is no reason to get so puffed up.  A lonely young widow just out of mourning must be in want for male companionship.  I grew up with you; we have few secrets from each other.  Edward and I have long admired, have been jealous of, your sexual stamina.  I understand the temptation.”

Darcy rose at that statement.

“Do settle down, Darcy!  I meant no harm or insult to your fiancée.  I just wish to know why you chose to take her as your wife instead of taking her as a lover.”  Fitzwilliam smiled at his cousin as he watched Darcy returned to his seated position.

Rubbing his hand over his face, he decided there was no need to hide anything from Fitzwilliam and went on to explain. 

“There were several reasons.  First, our cousin, Anne, would never have a life of her own until I married.  Lady Catherine’s constant badgerings have given ample evidence to that in spite of what either Anne or I might want. No, even the carrot of Rosings Park could tempt me into that match, but that’s immaterial.”

Fitzwilliam nodded.

“And secondly, Georgiana has reached the age where she needs more guidance than two old bachelors can give her.  Mrs. Annesley has been a big help in that aspect but Georgiana needs someone closer to her age, someone to be a sister to her, someone she can confide in on womanly matters.  I do not think we qualify in that regard.”

Fitzwilliam nodded his head again and laughed.  Sobering a bit, he asked, “And you think that Mrs. Wagstaff can be all this to her?”

“Yes, they have already spent quite a bit of time together preparing for the season.  I believe that they have already made some headway.”

“Have you asked Georgie how she feels about it?”

Darcy looked at his cousin and then soberly admitted.  “She just said that Mrs. Wagstaff was not someone she thought I would be interested in marrying.”

“Georgie does not like to speak ill of anyone nor does she wish to offend anyone.  Look how she treats Miss Bingley, and we both know she does not care for the lady.  How do you know if she thinks any better of Mrs. Wagstaff?”

Look blankly at his cousin, Darcy offered, “I do not.”

“Well since you are now engaged, it is a little late to find out.  Let us just hope you are right or that Georgiana finds a suitor this season and she will not have to spend too much time with a sister that she does not like.”

Darcy rested his forehead in his hand.  He had not considered that Georgiana would not like Mrs. Wagstaff though his sister had mentioned her surprise at his choice.  He had some thinking to do before he approached Georgiana about what her feelings were toward Virginia.  Hoping to change the course of this conversation away from his reasons for becoming engaged, he offered, “Speaking of Georgiana and suitors, what do think about promoting Charles Bingley as a possible suitor?”

Fitzwilliam smiled at his cousin’s diversion and decided to play along but he definitely would get back to the subject of Mrs. Wagstaff, “Bingley is a good sort of chap.  He and Georgiana would do well together.  Do you know how each feels about the other?  If I were you, I would not forward the match if either or both are not so inclined.”

“You are right.  Though Bingley has expressed an interest in her, I do need to talk to Georgie and see if she has an interest in him,” Darcy reflected.

“Though you will have to deal with Julia as I have first hand knowledge that Bingley is not someone Lady Julia would consider as a match for Georgiana,” Richard said.

Darcy responded, “There are always ways around Lady Julia.  Besides, it is you and I who will give our consent and blessing to whomever Georgiana may choose for her husband.”

Fitzwilliam laughed.  “Now, let us get back to your reasons for marrying Mrs. Wagstaff besides her obvious assets.” Fitzwilliam said to return back to the main purpose of this discussion.

“Well, I guess I decided that I needed to settled down and start a family.  Lord knows everyone in this family has been hounding me to do so for ages.”  Taking a deep breath, he added, “Also, I am lonely.  When Georgiana marries and moves away, I am not sure what I will do with myself.”

“Do you love Mrs. Wagstaff?” Fitzwilliam asked.

Darcy looked him in the eye and flatly stated, “No!  But in marriages such as these, love is not necessary. Besides, I am not a romantic like you.  I do not need love to be happy.”

“And therein lies your problem,” Fitzwilliam countered.

“Problem, I have no problem,” Darcy said.

“You have a very big problem; you are marrying a woman you do not love…”

“I said love does not…” Darcy interrupted.

Holding his hand up, Fitzwilliam continued, “While the woman you do love resides in my mother’s house.”

“Who said anything about Miss Bennet?” Darcy put on his inscrutable mask.

“Miss Bennet has everything to do with it.  Whether you will admit it or not, you have very strong feelings for Miss Bennet or else you would not be at Crandall House every morning.”

Darcy leaned forward, startled at Richard’s words.  He had hoped he had not been that obvious.

“Miss Bennet is an acquaintance of long-standing.  I am only helping Aunt Suzan.  I do not see you offering to assist your mother in such an undertaking,” Darcy said.  He was not going to admit to any feelings he might have about Elizabeth.  Besides, he was an engaged man and feelings, especially of love, for a lady other than his intended was in bad form to acknowledge.

“I beg to refute your last statement.  You do not spend your evenings pouring over peerage books and having to watch Miss Bennet perform an excruciatingly difficult curtsy.  Why is it they wish to torture ladies so?” The general grimaced.

Darcy could not help a twinge of jealousy at the way Richard spent his evenings.  He would be more than happy to take his cousin’s place.

Darcy responded, “I do not know.  But I believe Miss Bennet is progressing quite nicely in her efforts.”

“Yes, I dare say she is.  Mother seems pleased with the progress they are making.”                                                                                                           

Richard leaned forward and smiled, “So you are not going to admit to be taken by the lovely Miss Bennet.  I am sure she will be the toast of the town once the gentlemen make her acquaintance.”

Darcy scowled at his cousin, “No, there is nothing to admit to.”  Though the thought of other gentlemen taking an interest in Elizabeth does not sit well; I hope I can find enough restraint to keeping from beating them to a bloody pulp at a mere greeting.

Fitzwilliam also raised another concern, “You and Mrs. Wagstaff have not anticipated your wedding vows, have you?”

“Fitzwilliam!” Darcy exclaimed.  “That is none of your concern.”

“I only wished to know the true reason why you chose Virginia Wagstaff to be your wife.”

“I have already listed my reasons for choosing her.”

“No, you listed your reasons for marrying, not the reasons for choosing her.”

“Fitzwilliam, we are all aware of your penchant for young widows.  I am well aware that you view them on the same level as a bawd.”

“That is not true, Darcy.  It is just that a widow, fresh from mourning, desires a man’s attentions to replace that which she has lost.  I provide comfort to the lonely woman.  And in doing so, I am rewarded with a comfort of my own.  Besides, a soldier does not always have the coin to fritter away in a bawdy house,” Richard Fitzwilliam grinned.

Darcy shook his head.  He was well aware of his cousin’s attitudes toward satisfying his carnal impulses. 

“Darcy, I just do not understand why you did not simply take her as a mistress instead of letting her manipulate you into marriage.”

“Do you not think that I might have felt some responsibility to my friend, Lemuel Wagstaff?  For his two young sons who have been left fatherless? That I could betray his memory in such a way,” Darcy countered.

“I can understand your compassion to the man’s widow and children, but enough to marry the lady?”  Fitzwilliam shook his head in disbelief. “Would you marry Julia if something were to happen to Edward?  You are a far sight closer to Edward than you were to Wagstaff.”

Darcy wrinkled his face in disgust at such a suggestion.

“Yes, I thought so.  Why is the Wagstaff woman so special that you shackle yourself to a woman that you do not love?  A woman, I might add, that expresses herself in such a way to gain a man’s attention.  You cannot say to me that her generous display of her bosom is not designed to entice a man.”

Darcy flushed a little at the way Virginia Wagstaff taunted and teased men with her voluptuous body.  But he had no answer for his cousin, at least not one that he would admit to.

Fitzwilliam responded to his cousin’s lack of response, “Darcy, you are a master swordsman, even without a foil.” He gave Darcy a knowing look. “I just do not see why you do not want to partake in what she is so obvious in offering to you.  She evidently wishes it.  Your appetites for bounteous breasts are well known among your closest friends.  While Mrs. Wagstaff seems a nice enough lady, she just does not seem the type to attract you unless it was for a roll between the sheets.  What is the real reason you are marrying her?  Unless you have taken her to your bed and there has been a consequence.”

NO!” Darcy cried and then lowered his head and muttered, “I am lonely.”

Fitzwilliam laughed, “So you have not dipped your nib in Mrs. Wagstaff’s ink pot and you claim loneliness.  Darcy I cannot make you out.”

“Fitzwilliam, there is nothing to figure.  Can a man not practice abstinence?”

“Yes, most men can but not you.  You have it in your blood to seek relief for your carnal urges.”

“As a man grows older, combined with his duties and responsibilities, his appetites are dulled,” Darcy stated.

Fitzwilliam laughed and replied, “Yes but that does not apply to the Fitzwilliam men, of which you are included.  Look at Edward, he requires a wife and a mistress to satisfy his desires.  Scotland was not near as cold as I had two lovely ladies vying over who would warm my bed each night.  Look at your own father.  While he was faithful to your mother, it is well known he could not keep his prick in his pants before he married.  After your mother passed, his desires were still there.  So much so, he even installed his mistress at Pemberley in the guise of Georgiana’s governess.  So do not hand me this load of nonsense, for I know that the acorn does not fall far from the tree.”  He gave Darcy a pointed look.

How am I to explain to him what it is like to love a woman to distraction, to desire her to the exclusion of all other women. There is nothing wrong with my libido, it is just attuned to one lady and one lady only.  It just so happens that the lady is not my future wife.

Glaring at his cousin, Darcy said, “I believe this discussion is concluded.”

“Very well,” Fitzwilliam said.  “I have one more question that requires you to give me an honest and truthful answer.  Do you wish to be released from your engagement to Mrs. Wagstaff?”

Darcy looked away and then cautiously gave a slight nod of his head.

“Thank you for your honest answer.”  Rising from his chair, Fitzwilliam said, “I must be going as I am expected at Crandall House.  Give Georgiana my best wishes.”

Darcy stood and offered his cousin his hand, “Yes.  And thank you.”

Shaking Darcy’s hand, Fitzwilliam nodded and left his cousin to brood over his dilemma.

After his cousin left, Darcy went to sit on the sofa.  His conversation with Fitzwilliam had left him feeling uneasy.  The joy of his time with Elizabeth was diminished by the seriousness of their discussion.  How has my life become such a disaster!

After Darcy had left Crandall House that morning, Lady Suzan marched Elizabeth up the stairs to her dressing room for a fitting of the presentation gown.  The seamstresses had worked almost night and day and this would be, hopefully, the final fitting.

Elizabeth stood on a small stool as Lady Suzan and the other ladies fussed about her.  She found it hard to pay attention to what they were doing as her mind drifted back to the tête-à-tête with Mr. Darcy earlier.

Whatever possessed me to touch him in such an intimate way!  Yes, I have longed to do so, but what made me act out that longing?  His touch!  I never expected a man to touch me in such a gentle manner.  His hand caressed me with such kindness and care.  His eyes bore into me as if he were looking into my soul.  Closing her eyes, she sighed.  That feeling of warmth flooded my body, and I was powerless to do anything about it except to respond to his touch in kind. 

Looking down at Lady Suzan examining the hem of her gown, she thought…what if Lady Suzan had caught us in such an intimate display?  What if Lady Suzan had not come back when she did?  Would he have kissed me? Oh! How I wished that he would have kissed me!  Would his kiss be as gentle as his touch?

Elizabeth was startled from her revelry when Lady Suzan questioned, “Elizabeth, how do you think it will do?” 

She looked a Lady Suzan somewhat confused as she had not been paying attention.  Knowing that any attempt to discern what was being asked of her was futile, she responded, “I believe it will do very well.”

Lady Suzan looked at her a bit strangely before instructing the other ladies on what she required them to complete.





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