The Nearness of You
"I don't know how I will ever face Jane again." Elizabeth could not help but dissolve into laughter, her eyes tearing with the strength of her emotion. It took only a moment for her to sober remembering her audience. Laughing with Darcy was not a normal occurrence in her world.
"I'm sure they had no idea you'd be visiting when you did, or they wouldn't have been doing precisely." Darcy stopped, obviously a mental imagine of the scenario Elizabeth had described temporarily robbing him of the ability to speak.
"No." She leaned a hip against the kitchen counter, chewing on her lip having no idea the effect such a slight action was having on him. She accepted the cup he held out to her and silence deepened between them.
For Elizabeth, it had been one hell of a day. First, she accidentally stumbled on her sister and Charles engaged in relations in the living room of her sister's home. Then, her car broke down as she fled the embarrassing situation while there was a freak blizzard going on.
Standing in the toasty warmth of Darcy's kitchen, she wondered why she had even shared the incident with him, but she supposed they had to have something to talk about. Mutual subjects seemed to elude her whenever in his presence. Fearing he felt this subject exhausted, she rubbed her arms a little subconsciously, not sure when the next one would come along.
"If you are cold," he said seeing her motion, "I could put another log on the fire?"
"No, I'm warm." She said to her savior. She had been lucky that as she was inspecting her engine on the side of the near deserted highway, Darcy had happened by. He'd explained he was on his way to Charles and had immediately offered her a ride back to her place. "I'm lucky you stopped when you did or who knows when I would've been found in this weather. Probably not until the spring thaw." Elizabeth nodded to the window and it was clear the snowfall hadn't let up since they arrived at his place. She sipped from the steaming mug of cocoa and moaned softly in appreciation. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her. Feeling slightly uneasy by his gaze, she asked, "I wonder who invented hot chocolate?"
"The Olmecs. They taught the Mayans how to make it." His cheeks reddened a little, before he turned to create his own drink. "Sorry. Forgive me. I forget sometimes other people aren't interested as I am in history."
"You're smart, Will. There's no way to hide that fact. It certainly isn't something to apologize for." She had always been impressed by his intellect. "I mean the only interesting thing I know about chocolate is that it is an aphrodisiac."
He responded wryly, "I know."
It was only then, it seemed, she became aware of the fact she was alone with him – truly alone with him for the first time of their acquaintance – and there was little she could do about it. She couldn't insist he drive her on to her own loft nearly a half of an hour away in normal weather – the weather was too frightful and she had been the one to suggest they stop here rather than risk continuing on as was their original plan.
She followed him back into his den taking a seat on the couch closest to the roaring fire he had insisted on making upon their arrival. Floundering in the silence between them as she cast about for another suitable subject, her eyes landed on the photos on the end table next to her. The most prominent were of a beautiful girl a few years younger than she.
She did not know why, but she was somewhat surprised Darcy was in a relationship – and in a relationship with someone so young. He'd seemed like such an old soul. She absently lifted one of the frames to get a better look at the woman who evidently meant a great deal to him.
"Your girl is lovely, Will." She winced. She had just watched The Way We Were with Charlotte the previous night and had used the famous phrase without thought.
"She is." Darcy joined her on the couch, taking the frame from her hands admiring the image lovingly.
Feeling as if she'd invaded his privacy, Elizabeth felt the return of the familiar awkwardness she always seemed to experience around him. "Where are my manners? I shouldn't have just picked it up. I'm sorry."
"It's alright. Feel free to touch anything you like." Darcy put the picture on the end table by him, silently berating himself for such a slip. He had to pace himself. He didn't want to offend her or worse, scare her off. The fates that had conspired to bring her to his home could only do so much. He feared he wasn't very good at seduction. All of his previous attempts at flirtation with her had ended in arguments. A handsome face and a healthy bank account had given him more female attention in one life time than he ever would have the time to appreciate, but neither seemed important to Elizabeth.
From everything he had seen, and he paid attention to her, she was not impressed by such things. It wouldn't do for her to believe he was involved with anyone. "That's my sister, Georgie."
"Sister?" Elizabeth glanced once more at the collection of frames noticing that there was none of any other women. "No woman back in England, then?"
"No, no one in England." Darcy wished he was more at ease. He fought his instinct to ask her boldly if she was interested in the position. Instead, he stretched his arm behind her, trying to relax while his heart hammered in his chest. It was so loud sometime when she was present that he wondered if she could hear its clamoring for her.
"No other family you don't want to claim?"
When Elizabeth looked at him that sassy way under her lashes, he could think of little but kissing her. He crossed his legs trying to maintain an air of aloofness, hoping to hide his body's growing interest. "I lost both of my parents nearly ten years ago and my sister is the only immediate family I have. This past May, she graduated from Dartmouth Suma cum laude."
"Intelligent like her brother?"
"We both have our strengths." Darcy was sure his sister would never have behaved, as he had, when introduced into Meryton society the previous spring. His behavior the first time he'd met Elizabeth had been horrendous and regrettable. Who had known that in this far, out of the way speck on a map, he'd find the women his soul declared was his missing half. "Georgie's comfortable in crowds, much better at meeting new people, making a first impression than I. Those are skills I do not possess."
Elizabeth wished she could vehemently deny the validity of the statement, but somehow knew he was not seeking her defense. Was this his way of apologizing for insulting her the first time they met? Darcy had only arrived in Meryton to head operations of his computer software company and had within a month alienated most of the community. His partner, Charles Bingley, had spent a great deal of his time after his arrival to soothe ruffled feathers and close the deal that on Mr. Darcy's behavior alone had been in jeopardy.
In the end, Darcy Electronics had been given a sweetheart of a deal for first opening in Idaho and then given tax credits for rehabbing the old telecommunications business that went under two years earlier. Now months after the opening, half of the town was employed by the man before her while the other half questioned his continued presence in Meryton. They were anxious and speculative for it was well known Darcy had planned to leave the oversight of the day-to-day business dealings to his friend and return back across the ocean.
But, when would he go?
Elizabeth had been a witness on more than one occasion when Charles had teased Darcy mercenarily about 'the real reason behind his prolonged visit.' Darcy always reacted, clearly uncomfortable, and made comments that Charles was being immature and that 'he would leave when he was ready.' Many, including herself, wondered at his reluctance to leave the area.
"Are you going home to spend the holidays with your sister?"
"Yes, I had planned to leave in the morning. She is spending time with her boyfriend's family and I was going to join them. " He nodded to the windows, sighing heavily, "But now, I doubt very much if there will be any airlines flying tomorrow."
"Maybe it won't be so bad in the morning." Elizabeth moved the curtains aside in the window behind her. The BMW sedan Darcy drove had been parked haphazardly in the driveway and had she estimated three inches of snow covering it since they arrived. "Then, again, what are your alternative plans?" When he did not answer, she whispered. "No one should be alone on Christmas, Will." Her mother would kill her. "You know you are welcome to join my family. Charles would be there."
As a friend of Charles Bingley, who was now her future brother-in-law, Darcy had been a constant fixture to the weekly Bennet dinners at her parent's home. Her mother believed in lively communication at dinner and he was very reserved, almost to the point of rudeness. Of course, her mother had felt the offense and took many opportunities to make sure everyone knew how much she hated feeding 'stone statues.' Feeling charitable, Elizabeth allowed while he didn't contribute to the collective dinner conversation that flowed easily and loudly amongst her family as many of their guests, he had never come to their table empty handed.
It was a curious thing for a man who clearly did not enjoy their family functions, but Darcy arrived each week with an elegant deserts, a few bottles of expensive wine for the group to enjoy or as he had just this last week with an arrangement of beautiful and exotic flowers which he had presented to her mother. He'd not forgotten her father either. The last few months, while Charles gravitated to Jane after dinner, Darcy would often disappear with her father to the family library. She'd find the two men in quiet debate as they discussed loftier subjects than those introduce at the dinner table. Her opinion was always requested and she'd begun to look forward to the challenge they posed.
As she watched him over the edge of her mug, Elizabeth was struck anew by how young he was. He had, she'd been surprised to learn, just turned thirty. He'd seemed older to her at first because of his accomplishments and his stately air. So much done! He created and successfully ran his fortune 500 company and if Charles was to be believed, had been scouted by a soccer team in England after university.
Elizabeth couldn't help but admit that he possessed the body of a disciplined athlete. Her eyes glided over his straight, long legs, his chest, his shoulders, his chin, his eyes. She became instantly aware that he was aware of her staring. The chill that had surrounded her since she'd entered his home evaporated leaving her feeling toasty.
"You never know tomorrow the weather might break." She said, suddenly remembering where their conversation had stalled. "Perhaps there'll be a holiday miracle after all."
"Always a sunny optimist." A dimple appeared in his cheek as he shifted beside her. His normal stiff posture, relaxing, but the intensity of his eyes did not. "I'll admit a Christmas Miracle would be nice."
Since he appeared to like the subject, she teased. "And, what did you want Santa to bring you for Christmas this year?"
"I don't think I should say." He sipped from his mug as reticent as ever. "If I tell you, Santa might not bring me what I want most this year."
"That's not how it works!" Elizabeth playfully whined turning more to face him. "The only way Santa won't bring you what you've asked for is if you've been a naughty boy." She looked at him skeptically, waging a finger at him. "Have you been naughty?"
For a moment his mouth opened then slowly shut. Elizabeth had shocked him with her teasing and fought through her embarrassment.
He lowered his mug to a coaster on his immaculate coffee table. "I promise, Lizzy, I've made every effort to be good as I possibly can be."
"Then Santa will bring you what your heart desires most." She explained logically before leaning against his arm. "So, tell me what does a man who has everything wish for?"
"That's easy." His eyes never wavered, his smile deepening. "The one thing he doesn't have."
She couldn't help the laugh that escaped her at his response. "That would be?"
"My secret." His voice felt like a caress and she looked questioning at him for his teasing smile had evaporated. He cleared his throat, straightening, nodding at the windows. "I should find us some candles. We'll probably be without electricity soon."
He returned a moment later carrying candles and a pack of matches. In his absence, she'd contented herself with going through his CD collection. The jeweled cases lined three shelves in a built in book case on the far wall. It was diverse and had a little something for everyone leaning heavily on classic jazz from the 50s and 60s.
"Would you care to listen to some music?"
Nodding in relief, Elizabeth watched with interest as he made his choice. A moment later she heard the timeless crooning of Ella Fitzgerald "The Nearness of You."
"Is this alright?" He asked, evidently assuming her silence was a sign of disapproval, he was quick to pull another CD from his collection. "I could put on something else if you'd prefer."
"No, it's fine. It's actually one of my favorites."
"I know." Darcy regarded her momentarily before turning back to tend the fire. It looked fine to Elizabeth but evidently he found it lacking. She watched him stab at the offending logs a few time before satisfied returned the poker to its stand.
"There is just such attitude in the piano playing on the opening." She loved Ella and Louis. What woman could not? She swayed in time with the music, the romance of the song enrapturing her. Eyes shut, she twirled. "I love the Sinatra version too. I can't help it, but every time I hear this song, I cannot help but want to dance."
When she stopped, Darcy was standing before her. He bowed, causing her to giggle at his properness. Then, he moved forward. Without asking for permission, he wrapped a hand around her waist while his other took her hand in his. Standing so close was nice. She inhaled his delicious scent, a rich aroma of spice and musk, leading her in tight circles around the den.
Elizabeth watched entranced as he licked his lips. Was he nervous? Nervous to kiss her? She knew he was going to kiss her. Was sure he was. Wanted him too. A foreign tingling sensation inside of her spoke of her attraction of him. How was he making her feel like this?
"Elizabeth?" Her name had never been uttered in such a way by any other man. It was the sexiest thing she had ever heard. Darcy lowered his head to hers, closing the small distance between them, taking forever in her opinion.
Suddenly, everything went silent and she was aware the music had stopped. He swore softly, releasing her hesitantly. As he had anticipated, the electric had finally given way to the storm outside and she felt grateful and annoyed at the interruption.
As he stepped away from her, she questioned her sanity. Was she really about to let Will Darcy kiss her? From the way her body was reacting to him, yes. Hell, yes.
Darcy lit the candles. There was something decidedly romantic about the scene – the comfortable den, the fire in the hearth, the candlelight. Elizabeth self-consciously rubbed her hands on her sweats. She knew she must look a mess compared to him. She was clad in the outfit she wore when she was cleaning her house, oversized sweats. While casual, he looked fabulous in designer jeans and a sweater that was the exact shade of green as his eyes.
Darcy looked apologetic as he rejoined her by the hearth. "I knew we were on borrowed time." He held out his hand to her. "Where were we?"
She already felt ridiculous. Awkward at their near kiss. "There's no music, Will."
"We don't need any." He folded her back into his arms. 'It's not the pale moon that excites me, the thrills and delights me. Oh, no, it's just the nearness of you.' While he was nothing on Louis Armstrong, she was impressed at his soft baritone. 'It isn't your sweet conversation that brings this sensation. Oh, no, it's just the nearness of you. When you are in my arms, and I feel you so close to me, all my wildest dreams come true.'
The warmth of his breath against her ear caused gooseflesh to cover her arms. The sensation was fleeting, leading up to something else. Then, she felt his lips graze her neck. The touch beckoned her closer. He brushed his lips against her neck a second time. A third. A quivering started low in her sex.
"Even a man like me. More machine than man," She had made sport of him on more than one occasion for being a true workaholic, "has a heart." The raw hurt in his voice caused her to put a small distance between them so she could look up at him. She was unprepared for the emotions running across his face. "I assure you I do have one." His lips brushed hers. "Or I did until you took it. "
Elizabeth had underestimated Darcy. He was a man use to taking charge in his business world, taking calculated and decisive risks, weighing out probabilities, seeing something he wanted and taking it over, but with her he was content to let her set the pace between them. She was not an innocent, but she had never before been with a man who was so confident. Her misgivings over this afternoon would perhaps come later, but she could do little now to stop herself from encouraging his advances.
There were things she was sure she'd remember forever. A woman knows when those moments have arrived. It was as if her heart had taken snap shots during their lovemaking. The gasp he made as he saw her as God created her, the warm first touch of his body against hers, the stinging of the carpet against her backside as he entered her.
Until Darcy had brought her body humming to satisfaction, he wouldn't give way to his own. It was if he was determined to do everything and anything to bring her pleasure. His hunger felt ravenous, fueling her arousal to the point of action. He had given way, in the end, when she'd pushed him onto his back and took charge of the situation. The look on his face as she lowered herself onto him she would never forget. The fact she could excite him, that he desired her to such an extent was terribly stimulating. The sounds he made only encouraged until they peaked. Together. He cocoon her in his arms as they made their descend back to earth. They stayed that way for some time, breathing against one another, the only other sound the crackling of wood from the fireplace.
The reality of the situation rushed through her. She'd had sex with Darcy. Unprotected sex, something she had never done, with him of all people. Panic sat her up, drew her knees up to her chest, gave her some sort of cover from his inspection when she physically withdrew from him.
"Will, I - "
Darcy had gone up on his elbow, laying a staying hand on her arm. "Don't say it was a mistake, Lizzy. Please, don't. Say anything but that."
Elizabeth looked at him with new awareness. Bronzed by the fire, he looked more perfect than he had clothed. His nakedness not seeming to bother him. Her eyes lowered to take in his chest, his hips, his manhood. The instrument of the pleasure she had found with him. She squeezed her eyes shut. "I wasn't going to say what happened was a mistake."
"Good." He pulled her to him so he could nuzzle her neck. "Being with you was even better than my fantasies." It was clear he was recovering quickly from their recent activity, his kisses expressing more than a cooling of affection. His teeth gently nibbled from her ear, along her clavicle to her shoulder where he planted a very soft kiss.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"What an obvious question." Laughing, he rose onto his own knees, gently guiding her to her back, nudging her legs out of his way before arching his hips to hers. He stopped at her entrance, demanding eyes searched hers. "I love you, Lizzy. For so long now, I don't remember any more a time I didn't. Let me show you. Let me demonstrate that love again."
"How long do you think we should sit here?" Jane asked trying hard not to shiver as she warmed her hands on the car's heater. "I mean how long do you think they could –?"
Charles laughed at his fiancé's flaming cheeks. "I don't imagine they'll be done any time soon. You remember our first night together, don't you?"
Jane turned to him almost accusatorily. "Why didn't you tell me how Will felt about my sister?"
"I thought it was obvious. It was to me. He can't take his eyes off of her." Charles shrugged, drumming his fingers on his steering wheel watching the snow flakes gather on his windshield. "At least we found your sister so you don't have to worry about her now." When they had found Elizabeth's scarf on their porch, Jane had insisted they drive over to her place since she was not answering her cell phone.
When they found her incapacitated car on the highway, Jane had been inconsolable. The main road was closed by the State police so they had no choice but to crash on Darcy's hospitality. When they glanced through the bay window in the living room on their way to the front door, they spotted the amorous lovers, committing their bodies to one another in front of the fireplace.
Charles grumbled, rubbing her arms. "We'll probably die of hyperthermia out here while we wait."
"You sound jealous."
"I am, but I don't have to be." Reading his fiancé's impish look, Charles pulled her onto his lap. "After all, there are ways to stay warm."
"Out here? In the car? You can't be serious?" She tried to sound shocked, but failed miserably. "What if someone comes by?"
"We're in the middle of a blizzard." Jane squirmed against him, but Charles stopped her escape easily.
"Don't worry. The windows will fog over soon enough and no one will see."