Darcy brushed both hands over his face. Morning had come despite the fact that he barely slept at all. Troubling thoughts had been his sole companions throughout the night. There was but one solace for Darcy after his pointless conversations with his relations the evening before. Elizabeth. He could hardly wait to see her that day, and he wanted to do so away from Rosings. Thus resolved, he quickly dressed and nearly raced down the stairs and set out down the lane, intending to encounter her.
After wandering about the lanes for some time, Darcy espied Elizabeth heading his way. What a balm catching sight of her was for his restless attitude. He walked towards her with long, determined strides.
“Miss Elizabeth,” he said, bowing when they were close enough.
“Mr. Darcy,” she replied with a slight curtsey. “This is a welcome surprise.”
“I have been walking in the lanes in the hope of seeing you. Are you planning to practice today?”
She nodded. “Indeed.”
“May I prevail on you to walk with me instead?”
His voice, as well as his dark, brooding eyes, spoke of his desire for companionship, and Elizabeth was not inclined to deny him such a request. What was the harm of eschewing practice another day, especially when half of the joy of being at Rosings was the prospect of spending time with him?
“I shall be delighted, sir.” With that, the two of them fell into step beside each other and soon struck a different path.
They walked much farther than usual and soon came across a trail not yet explored by Elizabeth.
“Shall we turn and head back, Miss Elizabeth?” Darcy asked, his voice tentative.
Despite the fact that silence had accompanied them most of the way thus far, Elizabeth said, “I am not opposed to walking a while longer, sir.”
He smiled. “I was hoping you would say that. You see, there is a lovely spot just up ahead. I do not think you have seen anything like it during your visit. I would love to accompany you there.”
“I am placing myself in your hands, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth replied, her spirits rising to playfulness. Theretofore, her walking companion had been much too silent and reserved. He wanted nothing but liveliness, she considered, hoping the diversion would serve both of them well.
They did not walk very far before Elizabeth began to appreciate Mr. Darcy’s invitation. What a beautiful sight to behold, a magnificent stone structure on a slightly rising hill awash in the colors of spring to their fullest effect. Its presence was neither obstructed by nature nor intrusive on its surroundings. The weeks that she had now passed in Kent had made such a significant difference to the countryside.
Nowhere are the season’s glories more evident than here, she considered in wonderment. In her haste to ascend the stone stairs to command a better view of such a marvelous place, Elizabeth stumbled.
Darcy came to her rescue just in time. Finding herself in his arms, she turned and faced him. She was not so much embarrassed by her mishap as she was confounded by the dizzying emotions wrought by her situation. Never before had she been this close to him, and never before had she seen such a look in his eyes. The thought of what it must be like to have a man look at her in such a manner every day for the rest of her life stole her breath away.
Standing that close to Elizabeth, holding her in that way, and gazing into her amazing eyes, Darcy gave his mind over to his wildest imaginations. Two nights previously, he had spent the best part of it dreaming of bringing her to that very spot. The two of them were lost in the unbridled expression of their mutual desires as true lovers were wont to do. And during the moment that meant the most, he called out her name: Mrs. Darcy.
Is this, too, a dream? Moistening his lips, he leaned even closer. His eyes met hers and then fell to her slightly parted lips.
What intoxicating madness Elizabeth suffered standing so close to this man; the unknowing of what it would mean if he kissed her, as he was kissing her, and, just as importantly, after he kissed her.
Her sentiments a baffling mixture of bewilderment and yearning, everything she had been taught about how a proper young lady ought to comport herself echoed through her mind. As though lost to all of that, Elizabeth closed her eyes.
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