Mr. Darcy heaved a great sigh as he lowered himself into the steamy water of his bath.

Even though it felt heavenly to be so immersed, he wished for a much different expression of the divine. The one that lay, still sleeping deeply, in his bed.

His bride, Elizabeth.

Smiling, humming to himself as he soaped his arms, he thought of her shining, sparkling eyes and pink cheeks. That lovely swan neck. And the wit with which she teased him as much as she could.

She was, in all ways, so lovely. So wonderful. Darcy wondered daily at his great good luck in meeting her, falling in love with her, and getting her to love him. It put him in a state of awe at times, that she was finally here. That she was his wife, bound to him by law and holy matrimony, but most importantly, bound forever by a connection of spirit that he felt very deeply, but could barely explain, even to himself.

It was something he could see reflected in her eyes at times when he looked at her. As if they could read each other's thoughts and hearts in a single glance. That she could see into the deepest parts of him, the things he disliked about himself, even hated - and cherished him anyway. When she gazed at him in that soft, understanding way, he felt tears smart in his eyes. To be loved so truly - for himself alone - was something he'd almost despaired of ever finding. But found it he had, and it was a great, great blessing.

Elizabeth deserved the very best he could give her. The finest silks and satins and velvets, the best carriage, the most tastefully appointed house in town. But he knew she cared for none of that, none of the material goods that his immense fortune could provide. It still surprised him at times that she had so little interest in possessions - it was a rejection that was far removed from the attitudes of almost all the women he'd ever encountered in his life, especially during the season when busy mothers were at their matchmaking height.

No, what his bride wanted was him. She sparred with him, challenged him, supported him. His Lizzy made him feel like he wanted to be a better man, even going back to the day he'd made his first proposal to her. He'd left the house, angry, discontented, hurt, annoyed with himself at being unable to stop loving her. But within days, he'd realized she was right. He had not acted towards her as a gentleman should. And so had begun months of examining his behaviors and actions with all persons, seeing again and again the truth in her words, and taking actions - painful, but necessary - to remedy his attitudes.

If he had not done so, had not risen to the challenge Elizabeth had unknowingly set before him, he would not be here now, so newly, so blissfully married to her.

For last night had been their wedding night.

If he'd known what she would be like in their marriage bed, he would have pushed - and hard - for a shorter engagement than four months.

But he should have known, really. Elizabeth was spirited in her person, in conversations, so why not in the marriage bed as well? Even if she was a virgin, even if her carnal knowledge and experience was almost non-existent, she was still passionate and curious. And honest.

"I - I don't know what I should do," she said softly, entering the bedroom dressed in a beautiful green silk nightgown and robe that made her skin look more creamy than ever. She did not venture far into the room, keeping close to the door, across the room from him. Too far. "The advice I was given by different parties was so contradictory as to leave me quite confused. All I know is that I love you, William, and I want to be a good wife to you in all respects."

This last was said while Elizabeth looked at her hands, and not at him. Her truthful admissions of uncertainty and love flamed his desire and made him feel tender toward her at the same time. Not wanting to scare her with his ardor, Darcy walked slowly toward his bride until he stood right before her. "And I love you, Elizabeth, more than my own life," he said gently, as he softly kissed the top of her head. "I want to be a good husband to you, in every way possible."

Then she lifted her head to look at him, finally, her brown eyes wide with fear. "I trust you, my love, I do. I know you would never hurt me on purpose. But I'm still so very nervous. What if I don't please you?"

He felt his heart break at the slight desperation in her tone. How could she not know how much she already pleased him? All he wanted to do was comfort her, ease her trepidation. "And what if I don't please you, Elizabeth? Have you considered that?"

She frowned at him in confusion and he could not help but smile at her as he continued. "There is pleasing to be done on both sides, it is not a task just for the wife. And it is not, should not, be a task for either party," he said, pulling her trembling form close. He caressed her cheek gently, letting his fingers trail down her jaw to her neck. "It should be enjoyable. It would give me the greatest pleasure to know you find joy with me in our bed." Darcy bent and kissed her slowly, softly, and increased the pressure as he felt her innocent response, heard her give a small moan. Then he pulled away, to slow his arousal. He didn't want to frighten her, but it was hard to stop. He wanted her so badly. "Did that please you, my lady?"

She blushed, but kept her eyes on his. "I believe you know it did, sir."

"There is more pleasing to be done. Much more, my sweet darling." He pressed his face against her neck, below her ear, reveling in the scent of her. "Let me show you."

And she had driven him almost wild the rest of the night, her innocent responses to his touch, his kisses, his words. Her whispers, her moans and gasps of pleasure.

Her tears.

For she had cried, just a little, when he'd gently pulled off her nightgown, exposing her naked form to his eyes for the first time. He had looked at her, feeling such amazement that she was his.

"Elizabeth. I could never have imagined how beautiful you are. You are so much more than I deserve. I'm almost afraid to touch you." With a few small tears leaking from the corner of her eyes, she took one of his hands in hers and placed it on her bare chest, over her heart. "I love you, William. Please touch me. Please show me how much you love me."

How could a man refuse such a heartfelt request from the woman he loved so desperately? It was simply impossible. "I am yours to command, my love."

Scrubbing his legs, Darcy could feel himself growing hard thinking about her, as he recalled in vivid detail the prior evening's activities. This would not do. He could not go back to bed with Elizabeth, at least not now. He had to be ready, and focused. There were some business meetings occurring later this morning, which he had not been able to conduct before the wedding, but which had to be completed before he and Elizabeth could leave on their month long honeymoon.

He sighed. Such was the life of a landowner and holder of various investments.

Darcy stood slowly and stretched, water running off his muscular frame into the tub. He reached behind him for the large bath towel his valet had set on a chair. Never had he liked anyone in the room with him while he bathed. He was perfectly capable of drying himself off, dressing in underclothes.

But the towel was not within his reach. Nor was the chair. But something was. He could feel someone standing behind him.

"Mr. Darcy," said a most familiar voice, in a rather peculiar tone. "I am most displeased with you."