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Authors: Linda Berdoll


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Chapter 1


Under Heaven



In the year ’18, Mr. Darcy remained the tall, handsome-featured gentleman of his youth. The figure he struck remained much admired by other than just his wife. Given the peculiar tribulations he had withstood, society certainly could have forgiven him (even expected) an alteration in his bearing. However, he suffered no stoop, no dishevelment of his costume, nor had he taken to drink.
If he had scars from the wars, they endured indelibly, only examined upon retreat. Hence, there was little improvement in his public mien. Upon social occasions, his conversational skills remained hampered by a continued disinclination to share his private thoughts. Indeed, Mr. Darcy’s silences remained near legendary. When he did speak, it was at great personal sacrifice.
The birth of his children did not alter his pride nor meliorate his arrogance. In many ways he was of even stricter sensibilities. Indeed, he made no more outward show of affection for his children than the average man of condition. When unobserved, however, he had a habit of tousling his son’s hair and lifting his daughter into his arms that suggested a fondness for them few people of station would forgive.
Until he returned from his sojourn to the Low Countries, his fastidiousness would have required a month’s ablution to cleanse him of the indignities of town. Of late he had become remarkably tolerant of the patriciate. Indeed, he had accustomed himself to the notion that one day it would be necessary for him to deliver himself unto The Season on behalf of his children’s future. He was happy only in knowing that as an eventuality—a far distant prospect not to be bothered with until the day was at hand.
As for the Darcy marriage, some whispered that few love-matches could withstand the boredom of constancy. Elizabeth Darcy was far too happy to be bothered by those ill-informed opinions. As before, their two hearts beat as one. So abiding was their love that they felt no need to put it on display.
The armies of devotion stood firm, only vulnerable to injury from within.
In the year ’18, to every thing there was a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.



Chapter 2
How Does Your Garden Grow?



It was a fair estimation to say the Darcy marriage had remained… well-tended. Despite their duties to hearth, park, and children, they consoled each others’ enduring appetence with great enthusiasm. Time and children had not mitigated their passion whatsoever. If any consternation bedevilled them, it was finding privacy wherein to avail themselves of their desire, not the want of it.


Due to what certain mavens of propriety might have decreed as an inordinate degree of indulgence in their children, it had become the Darcys’ custom to allow them to come to their chambers at will. Whereas Mrs. Bennet (and her unheralded intrusions) had returned to Longbourn, they had leave to forswear the heavy bolts placed on their door. Elizabeth had given specific directions to nurse that should her children awake from some night terror; they were free to go to their mother.
This freedom made it necessary for the Darcys to be more circumspect about when and how their conjugal exchanges were enjoyed. When once they had not hesitated to enjoy achievement in a random closet or deserted dining room (enduring the wrath of scattered cutlery and mahogany veneer as they did), such acts were now proscribed. When in want of true abandon, they simply visited the verdant grounds surrounding the estate. (One particular spot so well-used as to be absent of all but the most unflappable wildlife.)
Of course, time was the test of all tribulations, even for the impervious Mr. Darcy. It did happen that his hauteur was challenged—most often from awakening prematurely from his night’s rest by tiny toes imbedded beneath his chin. (This happenstance, of course, was better entertained than when small, thrashing feet brought him to that singular grief—the sort that only a man could appreciate.)
This night a passing storm had been accompanied by a huge clattering of thunder. The twins had fled to their parents’ bed just before dawn. They had made their way with such haste as to be through the door and in their parents’ bed ere nurse caught them. Margaret Heff halted at the doorway, wringing her hands and extending profuse apologies. Elizabeth waved her away, content to quiet their fears herself. Mr. Darcy was less pleased, for as she cosseted them, their cold feet found warmth against his. By the time every tear was dried and fear calmed, there was no question of them returning to the nursery.
By daybreak, Geoff was sound asleep on his father’s chest. With well-rehearsed precision, Mr. Darcy betook himself from the bed and carried the boy to the door. Owing to his father’s care (or that the boy was simply a good sleeper), he did not awake.
Darcy opened the door but a crack and peered out. Seated in a chair just outside, sat the nurse, still in a fret. He whispered to her and she leapt to her feet, allowing him to hand the boy to her—still without waking him. Nurse began an apology for allowing the escape, but Mr. Darcy put a finger to his lips and shushed her. She nodded and withdrew, Geoff still fast asleep. A stout housemaid stood ready to collect his sister.
It took some time for Darcy to untangle Janie’s fingers from her mother’s hair. It was his particular wish not to awaken his wife. (Of late, she looked to be well-nigh fordone by half past four.) She must have her rest. Despite his guardianship, Elizabeth awoke before he could transport Janie to the door.
“Does she stir?” she asked.
He shook his head, gave Janie over to waiting hands and closed the door.
As he turned to the bed, he said, “Roused by the slightest bit of thunder outside their window, our children would sleep through Armageddon in the room.”
Running her fingers awkwardly through her hair, she tossed back the bedclothes as if to rise.
“I must look a fright,” said she.
To him, her mussed hair and sleepy eyes were nothing less than an aphrodisiac.
He announced, “You look nothing of the sort.”
As he walked towards her, he drew his nightshirt over his head and tossed it aside. Well-honed and well-hung, he sported a rather magnificent genital tumescence, one that gently swayed with every step he took in her direction.
Was she given to histrionics, she could have managed a swoon. As it was, she had to stifle an anticipatory gasp. She knew well that his sexual capital included, not only immoderately appointed loins, but a penchant for passion that included the bestowal of pleasures upon her person so exceedingly well-executed that her toes curled at the very thought of them.
Without word or hesitation, she quit any thought of taking leave and extended her arms to him. He slid in beside her, nuzzling her behind the ear.
She laughed.
As he serried his body next to hers, the evidence of his affection (at present heavy with morning pride) insinuated itself between her thighs. Overborne by her own indocile desire, she turned to meet his touch. Within their embrace, Mrs Darcy’s hand slithered downward to Mr. Darcy’s nether-region—to guide, to encourage, or, perhaps simply to admire. Whatever her motive, Mr. Darcy’s response to his wife’s caress was immediate—and thorough.
As much as they loved their children, languorous longing and supine delights would never be suspended.
The ruling passion conquered reason still.


Chapter 3
Speaking of Love



There were four dining parlours in Pemberley House. The prettiest was well-proportioned and ideal for summer as it had grand windows opening to the grounds below. It also beheld a fine prospect of the hill Elizabeth Bennet and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner descended on the occasion of her first visit to Darcy’s estate. Every disposition of the park was handsome, but that remained Elizabeth’s favourite. It was crowned by a wood, with trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley as far as Elizabeth could trace it.
As it was hithermost to the stairs leading to the nursery, they chose there to breakfast. The children took their own morning meal in the nursery. If they did not dawdle with their food, they were allowed to join their parents. Having them attend his table curled, powdered, and dressed was a concession to their father’s sensibilities.
Whereas the napery was adorned with a pair of fine silver candelabras and a sideboard that groaned under the weight of china tureens (and a chafing-dish embossed with a scene of Perseus turning Phineus to stone), the children were expected to behave accordingly. It was all much more opulent than anything Elizabeth Darcy had enjoyed at Longbourn, but then, material possessions had never been her heart’s desire. As the owner of her heart possessed the finest estate in three counties, she thereby was of the opinion that their children should be witting of their station—but not ruled by it. Consequence had its tax and that included taking care of gilt wood tables and French glass.
Mr. Darcy arrived at the dining parlour behindhand of his wife. Before he seated himself, he came to her ostensibly to bestow a kiss. Whilst engaged in that liberty, he used the morning light to steal a glance at her countenance. Diligent husband of her health, he was a bit troubled by what he observed. Small, dark semi-circle lay just beneath each eye. (Those eyes that once drove him to distraction were provocative still.) In every other way, she seemed fresh as the morning rain. Her hair was glossy and her cheeks pink. Thus he was reluctant to remark on the circles lest she take his observation as censure. It was apparent that she knew they were there for she had taken to dusting her face with a bit of powder. That, in and of itself, was unusual.
He would not have her unwell.
For all their household help, there was great need of another nurse. Obviously, Mrs. Heff needed help. Once another nurse was in place, Elizabeth would be less inclined to take the stairs every time she heard a child cry out. (Their children were, granted, a noisy pair.) When they were young, Mrs. Littlepage, the former wet-nurse had served as nurse as well. However, she had proved far too fatigable to chase the youngsters. Once they were weaned, she had bid take her leave. The search for a second nurse had not been embarked upon in a timely fashion as Elizabeth had braved great travail in finding the first one. She was loath to begin interviews again and he could not help but be sympathetic. (One particularly nasty applicant had tempted him to set the dogs after her.)
In deciding that he should resolve the ongoing worriment for his wife, he began to grumble before he took a plate to the sideboard.
“We must see to obtaining a second nurse, Mrs. Darcy. Or, at the very least, find one a bit quicker than the one we have.”
She turned her eyes in his direction. Her expression, an odd combination of relief and defeat, suggested that she was in agreement.
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