Elizabeth alighted from the carriage, reveling in the beauty of the season. How wonderful to be back at Pemberley! she thought blithely. Though I delight in the company of Jane and Charles, it is always pleasant to return to one's own home. Especially when one has a husband such as this. For Fitzwilliam Darcy had just appeared in the courtyard, having anxiously awaited his wife's return. Business had prevented his visiting the Bingleys, but he refused to forestall Elizabeth's pleasure and insisted on her going. They greeted each other joyously and, as soon as she exchanged her traveling clothes for her favorite muslin frock, they embarked on a walk.
"I hope you have enjoyed good health, dearest," Elizabeth remarked.
"I am afraid that I have not; I endured a terrible illness in your absence," Darcy replied somberly. He picked a small white blossom and placed it in her hair.
Alarmed, Elizabeth stopped abruptly, dropping her husband's arm. "Why was I not told? What ailed you?"
Darcy walked on. "I had a case of uxoriousness."
His wife felt a bit suspicious. Did she see a twinkle in his eye? "Uxoriousness? I do not believe I am familiar with that disease."
"I believe it is defined as 'excessive love of one's wife.'"
"I see." Elizabeth tried to repress a smile.
"A rather inelegant-sounding term for so divine an emotion, especially as the wife in this case is you." His hands found hers and drew her close. She gently brushed a curl of dark hair from his forehead.
"Did you suffer greatly, sir?" she inquired archly.
"Dreadfully, I must report." He sighed and spoke slyly. "I am nearly recovered, however."
"Nearly recovered! That does not reflect at all well on me. I see that I shall have to personally ensure that you have a chronic case."
Darcy smiled, looking down at the wind-burnished cheeks and dark eyes of his fair lady. "I shall not mind."
He bent his head down over Elizabeth's and touched his lips to hers very gently.
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