Weeks passed, and Darcy and Elizabeth’s connection continued to develop. After they had spoken about many of the large issues, they felt freer to discuss the smaller ones, and they found themselves comfortable with one another in a way than neither could have imagined possible.
Darcy still burned for his wife, but he found it easier to wait for her now that he felt that their relationship was moving in a positive direction. Elizabeth, on the other hand, found herself experiencing emotions and feelings she had never imagined. She would notice certain mannerisms of Darcy’s: the way that he held his fork delicately but firmly, the set of his jaw when he spoke to his steward. These tiny movements led her to distraction far more often than she was willing to admit. Sometimes she would find herself staring at his fingers with no awareness that was doing so. Once, he caught her doing it, and he could not hide the small smile that came to his lips. Even this led to a fluttering in her stomach. Elizabeth finally allowed herself to admit how very attractive she found her husband. However, as to what to do with those feelings, she had very little idea.
Darcy had quite a few more ideas, but he was determined not to rush her into anything that might distress his wife. Elizabeth, having been rebuffed the last time she suggested that they might enjoy a greater intimacy, was likewise nervous about Darcy denying her yet again. So for much longer than it ought to have, their relationship was, to a degree, simply stalled.
This might have continued for much longer if it had not been for Elizabeth’s hair once again acting out quite of its own accord. One evening, the couple retired to their own suites at the same time. They bade one another goodnight in the hallway outside their rooms, and Elizabeth’s hair chose just that moment to slip free of its styling. It was only a few curls around her temples, yet it was enough that Darcy smiled and reached over, tucking the strands behind her ear. Elizabeth felt her breath catch at his touch, and Darcy froze, feeling the excited tension between them. After a moment, his fingers traced their way down Elizabeth’s jawline. She shivered under his touch, shocked that such a small caress could have such an enormous effect on her.
Darcy felt powerless to stop what was happening; what was more, in no way did he want to stop it. His eyes locked on Elizabeth’s, searching to see if what he was doing was acceptable. What he found was more than acceptance: the hunger in her eyes mirrored the hunger that he had felt for months. He tipped her chin up and kissed her, gently at first; to his great delight, she responded, stepping in towards him, so he deepened the kiss.
Elizabeth rose on the balls of her feet to get closer to her husband. She parted her lips and gasped as he kissed her more fervently; she realized that she was shaking, a bit in fear but mostly in anticipation. Darcy put an arm around her waist and pulled her closer still, growling softly in his throat as he did. The growl was her undoing: any part of her that had been reticent was swept away in a great wave of wanting.
“Please,” she whispered to him.
Even if Darcy had been able to restrain himself, that one word would have undone him. He lifted Elizabeth in his arms as if she weighed nothing. Her arms went around his neck and her hand into his hair as she kissed him again. Darcy opened the door to his suites and took his wife to bed for the first time.
Elizabeth woke in his bed the following morning, glancing around and trying to get her bearings. This was the first time she had so much as seen his sleeping chambers and she momentarily forgot where she was. She glanced over at her husband sleeping peacefully beside her and smiled. She had the opportunity to look at him, really look at him, for the first time. His hair was tousled and she resisted the urge to reach out and trace his cheekbone with her finger. Even in sleep, he wore a contented look on his face that she was sure was mirrored on her own.
All this time, she had been worried about the consummation of the marriage. She knew now that she need not have worried: Darcy was gentle and giving, checking with her often to ensure her happiness. She laughed quietly at herself for worrying so much.
Although her laugh was soft, it was enough to wake Darcy. He rolled over and smiled at her, reaching an arm out for her. She lay next to him, tracing a finger over his chest. In the past, she could not imagine being in this place with him. Now, she could not think of a future that did not include him.
“Did you sleep well?” he inquired.
She blushed a bit. “Very well, thank you.”
He smiled. “Well, now that you are well rested…” and pulled her in for a kiss.
Breakfast was, at the command of the master and mistress, served very late that morning. After their meal, Elizabeth returned to her room and unlocked the door that connected their two suites. At that moment, she never intended for it to be locked again.