Welcome back to my blog!
This post is brought to you by I Promise To … (affiliate link … free for you to click on but might result in me getting a small payment).
Missed the previous chapters? Click the links below to go back and read.
I have reached the part of this story that was not re-edited last year, so this is freshly proofread, with some minor changes. Enjoy!
Darcy House, London
Darcy House was quiet, its residents tucked up in their beds, when there came a ferocious banging on the door to the servants’ entrance. Mr. Baxter, the butler, roused a footman to accompany him, and then approached the door.
“Who’s there?” He called through the wooden panel.
The response came. “Edward Gardiner. I have my niece with me and urgently need to see Mr. Darcy.”
Mr. Baxter had been alerted by his employer that Mr. Gardiner was always to be granted entrance, so the butler cautiously opened the panel. Once he was sure the visitor was truly the master’s friend, he threw the door back and hurried the gentleman and his niece into the house. He was shocked to see that Miss Bennet appeared distraught and wondered what could have happened.
“Please, I know it is very late, but I need to speak to Mr. Darcy immediately. It is a matter of dire importance.”
“Of course, sir.” Mr. Baxter turned to the footman. “Wake Reeves and have him bring the master to the kitchen.” To Gardiner he said, “There is no fire in the drawing room. You will be more comfortable here in the kitchen. Miss Bennet, allow me to pull out one of these stools; please rest while you await Mr. Darcy.”
“Thank you, sir.” Miss Bennet’s voice was soft, but Mr. Baxter could detect a note of fear in it. This greatly concerned him. Miss Bennet was a great favorite with all the servants at Darcy House and he did not like seeing her in distress. She was usually so cheerful and happy. He wondered what had happened. He vowed to himself that if necessary, he would avenge her, and he knew the footmen and stable boys would back him up.
Soon, Mr. Darcy rushed into the kitchen, closely followed by his son. Elizabeth and her uncle quickly stood, Elizabeth with a definite wobble. Fitzwilliam rushed to her side, putting his arm around her and helping her to sit back down on the stool. He could see that she was upset and all of his protective instincts came to the fore.
“Gardiner, what is the matter? What has happened?” Darcy sounded slightly out of breath; he had rushed to the kitchen as soon as summoned. He knew his friend would not have come knocking in the middle of the night, at the servants’ entrance, for no reason. He had been quite alarmed when his valet awakened him with the news.
“Lord Regis has made an attempt to get to Elizabeth.” Everyone in the room knew who he was talking about, so Gardner felt no need to explain. More than that, he did not want to frighten his niece any more than she already was. With their quick and clever minds, he was sure the Darcy gentlemen would figure out the truth without further details.
“He tried to break into a bedroom through a window. I believe he thought it was Lizzy’s, but it was a guest room. I am thankful I took you up on your offer of protection and that you hired men to guard the place at night. The sentry posted outside saw the ladder at about the same time as the one in the upstairs hall heard a noise. The intruder got away, but the guard followed him to a house here in Mayfair. It was definitely Lord Regis. The commotion woke the entire household. My wife and I no longer feel that we can keep Lizzy safe …”
At this, Fitzwilliam interrupted. He could see the strain in Elizabeth’s eyes and knew she needed rest. At the same time, he knew how he could keep her safe. He had, with his father’s and Gardner’s permission, already bought a special license. He could marry Lizzy at any time and in any place. The marriage articles had already been signed. There was nothing standing in their way. He would marry her now, as soon as the bishop got here, and Elizabeth would be protected, as he and his father would make sure Lord Regis would be unable to get close enough to her to cause problems. Picking her up off the stool, he strode to the door to the hallway.
“Father, send for my uncle, the bishop. I am taking Elizabeth to our room.” Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth had briefly discussed their post-marital sleeping arrangements, but had made no firm decision. With Georgiana still in the nursery, there was the space for them to each have their own room, though that is not what Fitzwilliam wanted. Elizabeth had not insisted on it, either. He did not want to make assumptions; however, at this moment in time it mattered not to Fitzwilliam what their future plans may or may not be. She needed to rest, and he needed to make that happen. He was not about to take additional time to rouse someone to prepare an extra room, thereby delaying Lizzy’s comfort.
Neither Darcy nor Gardiner batted an eyelash. It had been obvious for the past week that the two young people had not only reconciled themselves to their arranged marriage, they were well on their way to falling deeply in love. They would allow Fitzwilliam to do what he felt he must.
Fitzwilliam climbed quickly up the servant’s stairs to the floor where the family’s quarters were. He could feel Elizabeth’s arms around him, hands clutching his shoulder and one side of his neck, with her face buried in the other side. He whispered words of comfort to her, dropping occasional kisses into her hair. Soon they had arrived at his chambers. He struggled a bit with the latch, but quickly made his way inside, depositing his lovely burden on the bed. Elizabeth sat quietly where he had set her, tears running down her face. Fitzwilliam’s heart contracted to see her so distressed. He sat beside her and wrapped her in his embrace.
“Let me take care of you,” he whispered as he held her. She nodded against his shoulder, and Fitzwilliam began to unfasten the morning dress she was wearing. He eased it down to her waist and then stood her up to push it and her petticoat down to the floor. After laying her on the bed, he removed her slippers along with his own boots and tailcoat. He had gotten dressed too quickly to worry about a waistcoat when he had been awakened upon Lizzy’s arrival. Finally, he lay down beside her, cradling his betrothed in his arms and covering the two of them with a quilt. She felt so right there. He suddenly realized just how undressed she was. Certainly she was still in her corset, chemise, and stockings, but to be so close to her when she was in her undergarments made his pulse pound. However, she was still weeping silent tears. Any even remotely lascivious thoughts were thrust to the back of his mind as he held her tight and attempted to soothe her.
Fitzwilliam whispered more words of care and comfort and love to her as she began falling asleep. Yes – love, he thought. I love her. I do not know how it happened, but she has captured my heart. He was most pleased by the realization.
As he thought further, imagining telling her what was in his heart, Fitzwilliam paused. He was well aware that Elizabeth did not love him, at least not yet. If he shared his feelings with her, she might feel bound to say the words back to him regardless of her own feelings. At the very least she would be made uncomfortable, and that would not do. He could not add to the anxiety she was already feeling. No, he would keep his sentiments to himself but would continue to court her even after the wedding. In his heart, he was assured that one day his Elizabeth would love him back; at that time he would feel free to speak those words to her. His last thoughts as he drifted off to sleep were happy plans for their life together.
A couple hours later, William’s valet, Smith, quietly spoke to him. “Sir … sir … your father requests your presence and that of the young lady in the blue parlor. The bishop is here.”
“Thank you, Smith,” Fitzwilliam whispered, looking over his shoulder at the gentleman.
He looked back to Lizzy, who was softly snoring in his arms. He hated to wake her. She had been so upset when he brought her upstairs that he was hesitant to distress her again. However, they needed to get married, and his uncle was here to perform the ceremony.
“Lizzy,” he whispered into her hair. “Come, my love, we must rise and greet the bishop. It is our wedding day.”
Lizzy startled at his soft voice and the kiss he bestowed on her ear. For a brief second she was confused, before the events of the previous night flooded her memory. She tensed, causing Fitzwilliam to gently squeeze her.
“All will be well, Elizabeth. Trust me. We will marry, and once you are officially a Darcy, Lord Regis will no longer be a threat to you. We have the standing and resources to stand up to him. You will be safe.”
Lizzy nodded, relaxing a bit in his arms. She did feel safer here at Darcy House than she had at her uncle’s. She was surprised she got any sleep at all, but even last night in the middle of her crisis, when Fitzwilliam picked her up to carry her upstairs, it had felt as though she had always been there. She almost felt like she had come home. She would have liked to ponder these thoughts and feelings for a while, but Fitzwilliam was insistent that she get up and dress.
Abruptly, Lizzy realized that she was wearing nothing but her undergarments and blushed profusely. She had vague memories of Fitzwilliam removing her dress. She was exceedingly embarrassed to be seen by her betrothed in such a state, and the fact that he was the reason she was undressed to begin with made it worse. She could not look him in the face as he gently helped her into her gown and fastened it up.
Fitzwilliam’s feelings, on the other hand, were harder to define. He was very much aware of the impropriety of bringing her to his room, then essentially stripping her before sleeping with her. Never mind that they did just that—sleep. Despite the slightly guilty feelings he had in regards to those actions, he was very happy to serve his wife—for that is how he thought of her and indeed she was very nearly—in such a gentle manner. Thoughts of what would happen the next time he helped her out of her dress were trying very hard to take over his mind, but he valiantly fought them. Now was not the time or place.
After affixing the last button, Fitzwilliam turned his attention to Elizabeth’s countenance. She would not look at him, and he could see that the tips of her ears were red. He tilted her face up to his with his finger under her chin. Soon she was forced to look into his eyes and see their expression.
Elizabeth’s mortification was eased by the affection and warmth she saw there. As she began to smile at him, her betrothed leaned in and softly touched his lips to hers in their first shared kiss.
“Now, my beautiful girl, are you ready to be married?”
“Yes, Fitzwilliam, I am, but I believe there may be something wrong with your eyes, for we both know I am not beautiful,” she said with a smile and a lifted eyebrow.
Fitzwilliam broke into a grin. She was teasing him! It eased his worries about the state of her emotions. “Indeed, I do not. You are certainly the most beautiful lady I have ever laid eyes upon. Your sister Jane is nothing to you, I assure you, and I insist that you allow me to tell you. You must, you know, as you are about to vow to obey me for the remainder of our lives.”
At this, Elizabeth giggled. It felt good to tease and be teased and forget for a few minutes the pain and tension that had filled her life these past few months.
The couple stared at each other for a brief time, smiling widely, before Smith once again stuck his head in the door and cleared his throat. Suddenly, the smiles were wiped off their faces as the seriousness of their situation and what they were about to do struck them. Holding hands, they left the room and descended the staircase, ready to begin the ceremony that would join them forever.
To be continued …