It’s been almost two weeks since Agony and Hope was released, and I’m still bowled over by the response. Nearly 600,000 page reads and 196 reviews (Undoing still has 197). That’s just amazing. Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed. I couldn’t have asked for a better response.
As for more amazing news, Stevie Zimmerman has completed the narration for Agony and Hope and it is submitted for approval! It’s just the ACX review team standing between that lovely recording and your ears. Hopefully, the process won’t take too long!
I have another Agony and Hope scene for you! This is another scene from before the rewrite. You can read the visit to Mrs. Bennet here and the theatre scene here. The theatre scene precedes this one and the epilogue that was in the published book is the scene after. I hope you’re ready for another wedding!
I have left the scene as is from the original draft, so this is completely unedited. Sorry for any errors!
Fitzwilliam straightened his cuffs, glancing at the clock to ensure he had arrived downstairs in time. While he and Elizabeth had a wedding to host today, the allure of his wife and their bed had proved impossible to resist, which was why he arrived with only three minutes to spare.
He rubbed his hands together and attempted to push the lingering memory of this morning from his mind, when instead of rising early and preparing for the busy day ahead, they lingered to make love and breakfast together in their sitting room. During the meal, the knowledge Elizabeth sat beside him in nothing but her dressing gown had done little to help him consider the day ahead, and rather brought to mind images of her fresh from sleep, dishevelled and writhing beneath him, her soft murmurings and noises driving him to bury himself inside her again and again. As soon as she finished her last bite, he dragged her back to bed where he loved her until they both could do naught but hold each other as they recovered.
He entered his study, determined to not take the steps two at a time to return to Elizabeth. No sooner had he stepped behind his desk, but a rap at the door drew him back to the hall where Butler allowed Richard entry. “Good morning, Lord Carlisle. I hope you are well.”
“Yes, exceedingly well, thank you.” Once his coat and hat were left with the servant, Richard took one look at Darcy and chuckled. “For goodness’ sakes, remove that ridiculous grin from your face. I do not even have to ask to know what has pleased you so.”
“Just you wait. You will be in a similar place soon enough.”
Richard ducked inside and shut the door. “Speaking of that.” He scratched his neck and winced before opening his mouth then closing it.
“Well, come on. Spit it out man.”
With a growl, Richard sat and propped his elbows on his knees. “Neither of us are without experience.”
Laughing, Darcy shook his head. “You more than me, Cousin. I rarely partook, and once I knew I loved Elizabeth, I refused to be a part of something so meaningless.” He never even tried. How would he have even managed to begin so much as complete the act? He would have been humiliated.
“I never imagined I would marry, Darce,” said Richard throwing himself back and crossing his ankle over his knee. “The problem I have is that she is a maiden.”
Darcy sat upon the edge of his desk and frowned at his cousin. “Are you saying you would have preferred her come to you already experienced?”
“No!” Richard waved his hands in front of him before covering his face. He let his arms drop. “I am saying this poorly.” After a minute or so pause, he looked back to Darcy. “I am terrified of hurting her. I have heard stories at the club of men and their wedding nights, but most could care less whether their wives want them in their bed. You are the one person I trust to ask advice on the matter.”
Darcy crossed his arms over his chest and made a study of his feet. “I suppose I should be flattered that of all people you would ask me, but since the subject is such an intimate one . . .” He exhaled and ran a hand through his hair, his arm falling back to its former position. “I wish I could tell you some secret to help you, but I was unsuccessful in that regard. Unfortunately, I do not know if it was something I did naught to prevent, something I did, or whether she would have hurt regardless.”
After a knock, Butler showed Gardiner inside. They greeted each other before Gardiner sat in a chair near Richard. “So, what are we discussing? Or did I interrupt?”
“No, not at all.” Darcy waved dismissively. “Richard was asking the secret to a successful wedding night.” His cousin stepped over to the fire, picked up the poker, and jabbed at the coals. His complexion somewhat red, though whether from the light of the flames or his embarrassment, he could not say.
“Should I worry about my niece?” asked Gardiner with a laugh. He held up a hand. “Forgive me, I am teasing you, but I do remember having the same concern when I wed my wife. The only advice I can give you is patience and control.”
Richard’s expression remained tight as he nodded, yet he said little afterwards as the conversation turned to business matters. A maid delivered coffee, which they drank until Witney arrived and the voices of the ladies carried through the open doorway, luring them to the drawing room.
~ * ~
“Oh, Jane,” said Aunt Gardiner. She held a handkerchief near her mouth as she gave a teary smile. “You are so lovely.”
Elizabeth stood back and allowed her aunt the opportunity to act the part of mother for the day. She and Jane had spoken of whether to send a carriage for her mother, but after the manner in which Mrs. Bennet behaved during their visit, Jane decided she preferred not to remain mortified for the entirety of her wedding day.
Jane smoothed a hand down the white embroidered silk gauze and tilted her head. “Do you think it will do?” She pivoted and studied the elegant train behind her.
“Do?” Lady Fitzwilliam stepped beside Jane and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Madame Villers is known for her masterpieces, and this gown is no different. You look every bit a viscountess. And, I much prefer that wig to Lady Anne’s, which was terribly out of fashion. I do know it is all you had at the time, but this is much more becoming.” She clasped her hands together in a dramatic fashion. “Now, I have a gift from my son.” She stepped over to the dressing table and picked up a wooden box she had brought with her.
Jane opened the lid with care as it protested by creaking at the movement. When her sister gasped, Elizabeth came to stand beside her. Nestled in velvet was a sapphire, pearl, and diamond necklace with matching ear bobs and comb. “Oh, Jane,” she said quietly.
With two hits of her walking stick against the floor, Lady Catherine craned her head to see from her chair. “What did he give her? I must have my share in what is happening?”
Lady Fitzwilliam took the box and tilted it. “They are the Carlisle sapphires. The housekeeper found them in the mistress’s dressing room when she cleaned it for Miss Bennet’s use.”
At a glance from Lady Fitzwilliam, their aunt took the necklace and draped it around Jane’s neck.
“My son said Lizzy had not yet found you a maid, but I have a young lady who has been training under my maid for some time. I have sent her to Carlisle House for the next fortnight. If you like her, you may hire her to remain with you.”
“Thank you, My Lady,” said Jane while her aunt placed the comb.
Lady Fitzwilliam rolled her eyes and handed Jane and ear bob. “None of that, my dear. You can address me as Evelyn or Mother, whichever you prefer. Your sister has yet to address me by my name since I invited her, but I assure you I am in earnest in the matter.”
When Mary stepped to her side, Elizabeth wrapped an arm around her. “You are next. Is aught prepared?”
“Yes, Aunt has been wonderful,” said Mary with teary eyes. “After Papa’s death, did you ever believe we would be where we are today?”
“No, I did not.” Elizabeth hugged her younger sister a bit closer. “We seem to have truly reversed our fortunes.”
“Not seemed, niece.” Their aunt tilted her head down as she spoke. “You have indeed.”
At a light knock, Elizabeth turned to the servants’ door. “Come!”
“I beg your pardon, but the bishop has arrived as has Lady Witney.”
Lady Fitzwilliam patted Jane’s hands and helped Lady Catherine as they made their way to the drawing room. After one last embrace, Aunt Gardiner and Mary followed Fitzwilliam’s relations, leaving Elizabeth and Jane to each other.
“I never imagined that when I rushed to beg Fitzwilliam’s help that it would lead us here.” She took Elizabeth’s arms and shook her head. “I am so happy. I never dreamt I could be thus.”
Elizabeth cradled her sister’s face and sniffed in attempt to hold back tears. “No one deserves felicity more than you, Dearest.” After a peck to Jane’s cheek, she inhaled and grinned. “Let us get you married. I am certain a very eager groom awaits you.”
As she made to turn, Jane grabbed her arm. “Lizzy, wait!”
“What is it?” Her sister bit her lip. “Aunt spoke to me of what to expect tonight. I want to know what advice you would give.”
Elizabeth’s cheeks heated, and she pressed her palms to them for a few seconds, hoping to cool them a bit. “I shall only say to trust Richard and to speak to him. He will learn as much from you as you will from him.”
“I do not understand,” said Jane with her nose crinkled.
“You will. I promise.” She took Jane’s hand and gave a gentle tug towards the door. “Are you ready.”
Her sister smiled and nodded. “Yes, I am.”
When they arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Uncle Gardiner awaited to give her to Richard, who still paced when Elizabeth entered the room. The moment his eyes landed upon the bride standing in the doorway, a calm overtook him and a wide grin replaced the tight lines of before.
Fitzwilliam took Elizabeth’s hand, and she rested her temple against his shoulder while they watched the besotted couple recite their vows. After they signed the register, Jane covered her mouth and laughed, but Richard pulled her hands away and drew her to his side. Jane Bennet was no more. She had been replaced by Jane Fitzwilliam, Lady Carlisle.
~ * ~
As Lady Fitzwilliam accepted her glass of sherry and relaxed back into her chair with a grace befitting that of royalty, her eyes darted to Jane who spoke to Aunt Gardiner near the fire. “She is a lovely girl,” she said to Richard. “I am pleased you discovered a lady you found tolerable. I began to fear you would never marry, and I would like to enjoy a grandchild or two in my dotage.”
“We have not even been wed a day, Mother, and you are pestering for grandchildren?” He took a gulp of his brandy, bearing his teeth as he swallowed, and touched his shoulder to Darcy’s. “Good Lord, Darce. Me? A father?” He had spoken in low tones, but Witney, who happened to be passing behind them, laughed and slapped him on the back.
“One thing at a time. If you consider all at once, you may faint.”
Darcy pressed his lips together to keep from chuckling but could not prevent his shoulders from shaking. He peeked at his cousin who glared at him. “Forgive me, but I do not believe I have ever heard you so overwrought.” He pointed to the glass. “Do not indulge too much in spirits as you do not want to be in your cups later.”
After his cousin peered into his drink, he downed the last and set the tumbler on the tray. “Good point.” His eyes set on Jane and softened though his foot tapped in an incessant rhythm on the carpet. “How long before we can depart for home?”
“If you are so inclined, say your goodbyes. I shall have the carriage brought around.”
Richard shook his head. “I do not believe I have ever used a carriage between our two houses unless I intended a brief stop during a trip to the club or my solicitors.” The work for the servants for such a short trip—”
“Jane’s trunks were packed and sent to your house this morning, so she has no boots to walk—only the slippers on her feet. The length of her gown would also be a problem for her. You will want the carriage.”
“You are correct, of course. I have never needed to pay heed such considerations. Thank you.”
While Richard collected his wife, Darcy poked his head into the hall and gave instructions to Butler. His cousin and Jane dispatched their farewells with an efficiency born of Richard’s military training and departed the moment the carriage was at the kerb.
The rest of their party, including Lady Catherine, made for their own homes not long after, leaving Darcy blessedly alone with Elizabeth. He knew once Jane wed Richard she would no longer live with them, but the reality of that arrangement and the benefits struck him as he brought her into the study and closed the door behind him.
She sat in the corner of the sofa, angled herself towards his desk, and pulled her legs underneath her, reclining into the corner. His breathing all but stopped and his heart pounded against his sternum at the familiar position. How many times had his desperate mind conjured her thus? Her eyes held the same glint, and she arched that one eyebrow in a sultry invitation.
Like a moth to a candle, he could not resist her lure. He sat upon the edge of the sofa and took her in his arms, his face burying into her neck. He tasted the sweetness of her flesh and inhaled deeply of her rosewater scent. He would be forever lost when it came to Elizabeth—to his wife.
He had been so alone for so long. He had family, had Georgiana and Richard, but Georgiana and Richard would have always had their own lives. He would have haunted the halls of this house and Pemberley for the rest of his life if it had not been for Elizabeth. Her return saved him.
“I love you,” he breathed into her ear. “I do not know how I would have survived without you.”
Her soft lips brushed his temple as she drew him up so they were face to face. “You need not ever think of that again because you do have me, and will forever.”
He slipped behind her, and she lay back against his chest, drawing his arms to her stomach. He held her with the side of his head pressed to hers. Holding her thus brought such comfort to him when he returned to that dark place he once inhabited.
She lifted one of his hands and kissed his thumb then his palm, and he responded by suckling that place just under her ear. A soft moan from her vibrated through him and his hand slid up from her stomach to squeeze her breast.
“Oh, Fitzwilliam,” she said quickly with a hiss. “That hurts.”
He jumped back as much as he could with the arm of the sofa behind him and frowned. “You have never complained of such before.”
She turned in his arms and began to touch his cravat. “They have been tender of late.” Her eyes met his and held them fast. “I am not certain, but I was to have my courses three weeks ago. My aunt believes I am with child.”
His eyes bulged and his jaw dropped.
“I shall not know until the babe quickens, and that will be several months from now.” She studied him while his heart raced for an entirely new reason. He could be a father before their first anniversary. He suddenly became dizzy. “Will you not say something?”
“I should not have teased Richard earlier?”
Elizabeth’s chin hitched back. “I do not understand.”
He shook his head and rested his palm on her stomach. “I cannot believe this has happened so soon.”
“Are you upset?”
His gaze returned to her wide eyes. “No, of course not. I am merely in shock. Little more than two months ago, Georgiana had just wed and I faced the prospect of being alone for the rest of my life. Forgive me if I am overwhelmed. I promise I am far from upset.”
“I do understand.” She rested her head against the back of the furniture and smiled. “Mary and I spoke today of how, since Papa’s death, we reversed our fortunes. Three months ago, I no more expected to be here with you, than you expected to be here with me. I do sometimes wonder how long before I become accustomed to so much change.”
“Well,” he said with a smile. “We have months before our lives will change again, but as long as we have good fortune, I shall welcome it with grace—I hope. With you, I have all I ever dreamt of. Any children that join us will be a blessing. When Jane returned you to me, my fortunes reversed as well. Now, my cup runneth over.”
Elizabeth threw her arms around his neck and held him close. “Oh, Fitzwilliam, I do love you so.” He could not remember a time when his heart was so full or he felt so alive, but in that moment, he considered himself the most fortunate man alive.
I hope you enjoyed this! I’d love to hear what you think!
If you haven’t read Agony and Hope yet, then take a stop by Amazon and pick it up 🙂