Lessons to Learn
CRACK! Darcy leaned back from the billiards table at Netherfield to watch the balls scatter with a contented sigh. His wedding was to take place in less than two weeks, and for the first time in many days he had successfully contrived to have some time to himself. The only thing that would improve his scheme would be if his fiancée were able to be with him for the afternoon.
He had been claimed as part of a hunting party for the day, but had managed to leave the crowd of gentlemen early, offering suddenly remembered business as his excuse to Mr. Bingley, Mr. Hurst, Mr. Bennet, Mr. Gardiner, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. He doubted any of them actually believed him, but only Hurst had been rude enough to call him on it. Hurst's outcry had been easy for him to ignore.
He took a swallow of brandy, thankful that Charles kept such a fine selection available. Of course he was obliged to, with such a brother-in-law as Hurst always about!
Darcy chose his next shot carefully, struck the ball, and then froze as he heard the sound of voices in the hallway. He prayed that the sound of the ball landing in the pocket would not carry to those outside the room.
Mrs. Bennet prattled, "Oh, sister. Now you must see the upstairs rooms. I tell you, Netherfield will be a delightful home for my Jane. Jane, straighten your shoulders. You must be beautiful and elegant with such a house as will soon be yours."
Darcy heard polite murmurs from Mrs. Gardiner and then the voice of his own beloved, "Mama, I believe a rest would benefit me greatly. I have seen the house already. Would you be greatly offended if I waited on you in the library?"
He heard Mrs. Gardiner answer kindly, "Well of course you may rest in solitude, Lizzy. You have been quite busy these past weeks and I know that this morning's party was tiring for you. We shall come back for you as soon as we have seen the other chambers." The rest of the party was easily tracked as they mounted the stairs with Mrs. Bennet saying loudly, "You must see the nursery, sister. I am sure that it will be full in no time at all! Jane is so beautiful and Mr. Bingley is so excessively in love with her!" Jane's embarrassed cry of "Mama!" was the last Darcy heard of the departing group. He laughed softly.
Elizabeth laughed as well as she peeked around the corner and came into the room, "Oh, how I hoped it was you I heard in here!" She ran up to him breathlessly, stopping suddenly as he took her hand to kiss with a deep bow. He looked up into her sparkling eyes with a smoldering glance and released her hand, ever conscious of propriety. She had no idea just how tantalizing her found her energy and warmth. Though she saw passion in his glances from time to time, she had as yet to really see beyond the propriety that bound them both.
Darcy stepped back and waved to the table, "Well, they say that practice makes perfect."
"Then you must be quite proficient at this game," said Elizabeth as she surveyed the table. "How is it played? Would you show me?"
Darcy nodded and replied, "I should be much obliged to, dear Elizabeth. I think we both could use a diversion after the endless round of parties and society we've endured these months." She laughed. He handed her a stick and arranged the balls carefully on the table.
"Here," he said as he placed one ball carefully before a pocket with the white cue ball lined up behind it. "You hold the stick like… this," he said as he demonstrated, "aim here… and strike the ball like… this." The ball landed in the pocket.
Elizabeth nibbled her lip as he lined the balls up again for her to try. She awkwardly held the stick as he had shown her. He crossed next to her to correct her grip. As his fingers touched hers, he felt their warmth and the warmth of her body so near his. She looked up at him with a small smile. He took a step back to advise her from a more appropriate distance.
Once she had corrected her grip he moved to the other side of the table to advise her on her aim. As she leaned over the table, he helped guide her aim. He chanced to look up at her and found great distraction in the sight of her neckline as she leaned over the table. She saw the look on his face and straightened up, looking at him quizzically, "Whatever is the matter?"
Embarrassed, he stammered, "N.. nothing at all. Pray continue." He watched breathlessly as she attempted a first shot. She struck the cue, but without sufficient force to propel the target ball to the pocket. She smiled ruefully at him. He lined the balls up again, "That is fine. Many people strike the cue so badly that it either flies from the table or skids off in an altogether inappropriate direction."
She smiled gratefully at his careful praise. "I am glad you do not view my attempts as seriously as the expression on your face would have me think." He smiled at her and took a sip of his drink.
As Elizabeth moved to make a second attempt, Darcy forced himself to move back to her side of the table. He watched her leaning over the table, brow furred in concentration. She struck the ball and squealed with delight as it landed in the pocket. She turned to him with a radiant smile. He was delighted with her delight and leaned over to place a kiss on her forehead. Then he indicated for her to return to play as he took a seat on a bench against the wall.
For the next several minutes, Darcy enjoyed the sight of his fiancee determinedly attacking the table. Most of her shots went awry, but her level of play was not the source of Darcy's enjoyment. Watching her from the variety of angles afforded by each different shot left him dizzy with desire. He could not seem to redirect his thoughts in proper directions. He was helpless against the strength of his desires.
At first, Elizabeth did not know what to think of his expression as he watched her, but as time went on, she began to understand. She had not so much doubted his admiration of her person as she had wished to see more evidence of it. The look on his face as he watched her now was exceedingly gratifying. She began to realize that her suspicions that Darcy possessed a deeply passionate nature were even more true than she'd imagined.
She moved to the seat next to him, noticing the look of alarm in his eyes, with a grin she almost managed to repress. "You've taught me nothing of the rules, but the mechanics are quite enjoyable. I can see why you enjoy it. Thank you."
"I assure you, the pleasure is all mine," he said huskily, looking at her. He found himself unable to move, but trembling.
Elizabeth was entranced by the desire she saw in his eyes. Teasingly, she said, "I know what you are thinking, my love."
Weakly he grinned, "I should imagine not." He closed his eyes and leaned back against the cool wall behind him. He was startled to feel her lips on his in the next instant. Unable to resist the temptation, he returned her kiss passionately. With the greatest of efforts, he prevented his hands from moving to her. His breathing was ragged and he felt as though he were teetering on the edge of a tantalizing abyss with each kiss.
She pulled away from him and moved to the far edge of the bench, breathing heavily.
He spoke quietly, "I stand corrected. You knew what I was thinking. Now I think that the rest of your lesson must wait until we are together at Pemberley, man and wife." She turned to smile at him. He reached for her hand and placed a kiss on it and watched as she left for the library.
Three Weeks Later
It was the middle of the night. The master and mistress of Pemberley were dressed in their night clothes as he led her to the billiards room. Once there, the light of understanding came into her eyes as she laughed, "Ah, the lesson continues, does it?"
Darcy smiled as he took Elizabeth in his arms and kissed her passionately.
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