"It was fortuitous that Georgiana scheduled a visit to our aunt the same week your sister invited us to join them at Netherfield Park." Darcy commented as he handed the last of Lizzy's bags to the footman. It relieved him when Elizabeth spoke of the invite. Darcy watched her slipping from the ever-smiling wife he married to a melancholy young lady. These were the times he wished his parents were still alive for him to consult.
"I thought so as well. I am looking forward to spending time with Jane, and we will no doubt have to attend to my parents as well." Elizabeth responded with more enthusiasm than Darcy had seen.
"I am pleased you suggested the phaeton. Are you sure the distance won't be uncomfortable?"
"Well, if it is, we will know for next time. I am sure it will be lovely."
Darcy helped her climb up onto the passenger seat, which with full skirts and an overcoat, to keep out the early fall chill, he feared she would have to hike her skirts to a dangerous length. When they stopped for lunch Darcy would take care to find a stable boy with a mounting block.
The sun shone through the trees and warmed their faces as they meandered out of Pemberley's drive. They only returned from London days ago to help Georgian prepare to leave. While he loved his childhood home, since his family passed it didn't hold the same warmth as he remembered. When Elizabeth took over as mistress, his hope was she would bring love and warmth back to the halls of his family seat. At first, it seemed possible, but as of late Darcy wondered.
"How did you sleep last night, my dear?" Darcy tried to start a conversation. It would be a deuced long trip in silence.
"Very well, thank you? And you, how did you sleep once you left my room?"
Darcy felt his cheeks burn. "We have discussed that talk of the bedroom should not come up in polite conversations."
Her response was silence. What in the devil happened to the Elizabeth he married? Perhaps an extended time in the fresh air would help to raise her mood. Instead of talking, Darcy put his mind to the fishing he and Bingley would do once they arrived.
When the phaeton made its way into Meryton Elizabeth perked up. Over lunch she chatted about how she noticed small things she had not in her years of visiting the town. Maybe Darcy had been spot on, when he thought she was just homesick. They spent some time walking around, before making the last leg of the journey.
Not ten minutes into their return to the road, Lizzy showed signs of illness, "Are you unwell?"
"I fear I am," she answered, holding onto the armrest with one hand and covering her stomach with the other. The sun had dipped below the hills and Darcy knew it would be dark when they arrived.
"What can I do?"
"I think I need to stop. I had not eaten in advance of us leaving. It may not have been such a good idea to have such a large meal then return to such a precarious perch. I don't think I can go on Darcy."
"We can't just stop in the road."
"No, ahead, do you see that road? There is a cabin. It is on the Netherfield property but has no occupants over the fall and winter months. We can stop there."
"How long will you be sick do you think?" Darcy knew how close they were, perhaps if she just steeled herself, "We are so close. Can't you just hold it until we get there? We told Bingley we would arrive tonight. It would be rude to make them wait on us and we have no servants to send along."
He turned to see if Lizzy heard him, because she did not answer. He had not been married long, but her expression made clear what she thought of his suggestion. At the road he turned the horses left, and that was when the first raindrop hit his cheek. The road's upkeep had waned with no tenant and for a phaeton could prove dangerous. The contraption did not have a good center of balance because of its height. If it were to hit a rather large rut, they could all go tumbling and injure the horses.
"There, up ahead do you see it?" Lizzy asked with urgency.
"Yes, I hope it is just sickness from the motion and not bad food."
"No, I am certain it is the motion. In fact, I am worse on this road than the main one."
Darcy pulled the horses to a stop next to a tiny little farmer's cottage. It didn't look as if they had occupied it over the spring or summer either but didn't comment. "Come, let's get you inside. The rain is being persistent," Darcy could feel it seeping through his jacket, and Lizzy's velvet over coat had changed color from the soaking.
Inside the cabin there were candles set on the table and the last residents even laid the fire. Lizzy sat in a chair watching as Darcy put to getting the fire going. Not a difficult task with well dried wood.
He knelt in front of her and look her over. A bit of color washed her cheeks again, "Are you feeling better?"
"Yes, actually, as soon as I was on the ground, the nausea eased."
Darcy glanced out the small high window, raining even harder. They would go no further tonight with his phaeton. "I am afraid we will have to remain here until the weather clears. It is not safe to travel in such weather with the phaeton. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea. In the future, I will need to take the weather more into consideration."
Elizabeth set a hand to his cheek. Her glove was wet, but her warmth seeped into his face. This was his Lizzy. "I apologize for putting us off schedule. I do so appreciate your willingness to put my comfort first."
"Well, speaking of comfort we will need to see the shape of the bed, if there is one. It will not be a night spent in luxury."
"It will be a night spent with you." Darcy thought that a strange answer but left her to warm by the fire as he braved the relenting rain to find cover for the horses. As luck would have it, there was a lean-to attached to the back of the cabin and they piled it ground to roof in the back with fresh hay. He would replenish the stocks, as it appeared someone planned to return and perhaps would not afford the loss of their property.
Once unharnessing and leading the horses into the shelter using a bale of the hay in bunches to brush off as much of the rain as possible, he grabbed as many bags from the back as possible hoping to find some dry clothes closer to the bottom. Soaked to the bone and concerned about Lizzy, Darcy wanted nothing more than to be in the cabin with his wife, but something stopped him.
For months Darcy warred with his own desire. It was becoming clearer why many men of his ilk married wives they were not attracted to or in love with. His need for Elizabeth crossed from the ballroom to the bedroom and increased ten-fold. Their wedding night proved to be the best night of Darcy's life and his worst. His desire for her so great, it scared him. Not to mention how it would have shocked Lizzy had she knowns the depths of his need for her. It was not proper, the thoughts he had about his wife. She was a lady and deserved his respect in all things. His appetite for having sex with his wife was not a burden he would inflict on her.
As he tried to tamp down his passion in the lean to pressing against the horse for warmth, he took a fortifying breath. He was a grown man, not a randy youth. If he loved his wife, he would continue to practice his bored indifference in the bedroom. Other men controlled themselves, why not him, "Good night gentlemen. I hope yours is restful," he said to the horses as he hoped the cold rain running down his neck would help to tamp his growing need at the thought of sleeping next to his wife.
His plan would have worked, he was certain, until he entered the cozy little cabin to see his wife naked warming her entire ivory skinned person by the fireplace. Oh, Damn.