p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"span style="text-decoration: underline;"emstrongspan style="font-family: Verdana, Verdana, Arial;"span style="font-size: 14px;"This story is the property of the author and as such is not to be reproduced without authorization./span/span/strong/em/span/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"strongChapter 1: The Kiss/strong/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Elizabeth could not remember how she passed the evening. She stood in the parlor for a very long time, staring at the door Mr. Darcy had exited through. It was too shocking. He proposed marriage to her. Mr. Darcy really loved her all this time. But he also rejoiced in separating Mr. Bingley from Jane and refused to talk about the history between Mr. Wickham and himself. Well, the last part was not too shocking, she had had her suspicions in that regard. Despicable man!/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Eventually, she became sensible of the hour and knew that the Collinses would return soon. She did not feel capable of feigning indifference. Finding her room, she attempted to lie in her bed, but her mind refused to cooperate in sleep. When asked, she stated that she had a headache to calm Charlotte's mind without needing to converse with anyone. She returned to the parlor as soon as the others returned and were safely asleep. Light from a corner startled her and made her turn, but she soon saw it was only her reflection in a small mirror./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"She moved towards the mirror, not recognizing her own reflection. Time passed, and she stood still. Instead of Mr. Darcy, she thought of what she had said to him. Truly, she had said some terrible things. She declared he was no gentleman. She had said she hated him, and that he was the last man in the world she could be prevailed upon to marry. With such feelings of self-[word], she paced for hours. Despite his actions and words, she had no excuse not to be kind. Feeling haggard, she finally took a seat and only barely shut her eyes. Next thing she knew, it was morning, only a few hours later. A noise from upstairs alerted her to the hour. Still not wishing to disturb the others, she quietly slipped outside./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"The sun was warm enough that she could walk without her pelisse, and the ground was dry enough that her indoor shoes would not get very soiled. She started out, not really knowing where she went. She was halfway to her favorite grove when she remembered that Mr. Darcy would often meet her there. He was the last person she wished to see right now, so she steered away. An hour later, she was no nearer a resolution. She still hated herself for being so cruel to him. She had nearly entered the gate when she heard a noise behind her. Since she was close to the house, she hoped it would be only Mr. Collins./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"The person began walking towards her silently. The fact that he had not spoken and the weight of the footsteps made her realize it must be Mr. Darcy! She waited for him to speak but remained facing away from him./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Darcy stood irresolutely, hoping to see her face one last time. He knew he would never see her again. Remembering she had no desire to see him, he placed a thick letter on the gate beside her and attempted to turn and leave. When she did not respond, he stopped. emWas she well? Did she regret her decision?/em He wanted to speak, but he could not find any words. Instead, he placed his arm on her shoulder very lightly. "I came to leave you this letter."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Elizabeth finally turned and looked directly into his eyes. Her pulse beat quicker as she noticed the hurt expression spread over his face. He looked miserable. She wanted to think emserves him right/em, but it was impossible to be so mean. She could see the love and hurt he felt, and she felt mesmerized by the depth of feeling she found there. For a moment, she even thought a knife to the gut must be less painful. And here she had thought him an unfeeling cad not twenty-four hours ago./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Darcy was not faring any better than she was. As he watched her expressions change from one moment to the next, he almost broke down and begged her to reconsider, but his pride rescued him. She wanted nothing from him, and he had to remember that. However, when she reacted to his pain and leaned forward slightly as though to comfort him, he gave into his urges and leaned forward to kiss the lips that had haunted him for so long, lips that he knew he would never taste again./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Her lips were softer than he had expected. He knew he should step away, but he could not move, his mind warring between what was right and what felt so good. When she did not resist, he deepened the kiss and placed a hand on each of her cheeks. For some reason, it did not bother him that she was standing still and not responding to his advances. He continued tasting her sweet lips. He did not move again until the door of the cottage opened and a loud gasp reminded him of where they were. Mr. Collins was standing in the doorway gaping at them./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Darcy quickly broke contact with Elizabeth, and as soon as he made certain Elizabeth was steady, for she had swayed at first, he turned and blocked Mr. Collins' view of her. His muddled mind was grasping at every thought it could muster in an attempt to save himself from the inevitable embarrassment./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Collins could not comprehend what he had seen at first, so he relied on his duty to the nephew of his ladyship. "Mr. Darcy, I hope Miss Elizabeth has been entertaining you well. We were having breakfast and did not know you had come. You have my sincerest apologies for such a breach in decorum. Would you like to come inside? I am certain we have provisions aplenty for you."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"At the word emdecorum/em, Elizabeth finally regained her senses enough to recognize what danger she was in. After refusing his suit, Mr. Darcy had kissed her, and she had done nothing to stop him. And now, her infuriating cousin had seen could Mr. Darcy do this to her?/em She looked down in a desperate attempt to find an escape. The letter, still sitting on the gate, caught her eye, even though she had only a vague memory of him placing it there. Unable to stand still any longer, she took a deep breath and picked up the heavy letter. The next moment, she darted past her cousin and into the house. She did not even glance at either of the gentlemen, although they stared at her. emHow would she ever recover from such shame?/em/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Darcy took courage when she disappeared and thought of a way out of their predicament. He could not abandon her now, despite her previous words and what he had written in his letter. He turned his attention to Mr. Collins, who had not yet stopped talking. Mrs. Collins stood beside him now. "Mr. Collins, my betrothed is somewhat overcome by her fortune and is going inside to rest. Please, do not disturb her. When she returns to your company, please tell her that I have gone to speak with Mr. Bennet. Until I return, I would appreciate it if this could remain as discreet as possible." As an afterthought, he added, "My aunt will not look favorably on anyone who brings her this news. I wish to tell her myself. Am I clear?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Mr. Collins tripped over himself in his assurances, and Mr. Darcy felt he could now leave. This was the only possible course of action now. He must speak with Mr. Bennet and marry her before Mr. Collins let loose his tongue. His only consolation was that Elizabeth had his letter. Perhaps she would read it while he was gone. If she gives any credit to its contents, it is possible that she might think better of him when he returned. If not, perhaps someday she would find a way to forgive him./p