º An Excellent Hiding Place º

It was a rainy afternoon in Netherfield Park, and even though the morning had seemed to be promising, as hours passed enormous graying clouds settled over the glorious mansion. In the house Mr. Bingley, Miss.Bingley and Mr.Darcy all sat in the drawing room; Bingley was staring off in to space probably thinking about the sick Miss Bennet who lay upstairs accompanied by her sister. He sighed and felt slightly jealous of Miss Elizabeth for being able to spend so much time with the beautiful Miss Bennet. Miss Bingley kept walking around the room slowly while looking at a certain dark-haired gentleman who did not bother to pay any attention to her at all; he was deeply immersed in a book, or at least he appeared to be, for thoughts of Miss Elizabeth kept popping into his mind and so forbidding him of actually advancing on his reading.

As the rain continued to increase, and the dull atmosphere which surrounded the house intensified, Miss Bingley was starting to get positively annoyed at Mr. Darcy's lack of attention and her brother's dreamy expression and after some time she stopped her pacing in the middle of the room and remarked with an exasperated voice:

"Lord! What a dull afternoon this is," she looked at her brother, "we should play a game to amuse ourselves,"

"What do you suggest, Caroline?" Bingley asked with a happy smile plastered on his face.

"Well, do you remember that game we used to play?" she let a smile cross her face, "Sardines, Charles, do you remember?"

"Ah yes!" he exclaimed enthusiastically, "Indeed, that is quite an amusing game!"

"Will you join us Mr. Darcy?" Caroline asked with what appeared to be a seductive smile.

Mr. Darcy took his time to answer Caroline's inquiry, he sighed deeply, closed his eyes for a moment and looked up just in time to see the door of the room open and the woman who plagued his thoughts enter it. His breath hitched and he completely forgot about Caroline's invitation to the game, his eyes were drawn to Miss Elizabeth's figure. He stared at her for a few seconds before she met his gaze and he broke the connection clearing his throat nervously. Upon her entry Mr. Bingley did not hesitate to ask after Miss Bennet's health.

"I believe she is getting better," Elizabeth replied with a smile, "I am deeply ashamed of trespassing so much on your hospitality,"

"Please Miss Elizabeth, you are certainly not trespassing," he smiled at her, "It is a real pleasure to have both of you here." Caroline certainly looked like she did not agree with her brother's last statement but she kept quiet. Mr. Darcy on the other hand nodded and moved closer to the party.

"Actually," Mr. Bingley added, "we were just about to start playing a most amusing game Miss Bennet, would you like to join us?"

"May I inquire which game this is?" she asked with a small smile at him, she did not notice Caroline's sulk at the knowledge of her presence in the game nor Mr. Darcy's nervousness and slight blush. He knew how the game was to be played and though at first he was feeling quite reluctant to join because he was aware of Caroline's real intentions at suggesting the game, he now felt quite overwhelmed by the possibility of Miss Elizabeth playing. If she were to hide and I was able to find her first…it would certainly be quite a unique opportunity to be with her. But there's also Caroline…she will not hesitate to get me alone with her…

He shivered at the thought and looked up to see all the party staring back at him with expectant looks in their eyes.

"Darcy?" Bingley asked, "Are you joining us? Miss Elizabeth has agreed to,"

"I suppose I will join your little game," he appeared uninterested but on the inside his heart started beating faster, "Have the rules been explained yet?" he asked with his usual stoic expression and he then noticed Miss Elizabeth's playful smile.

"Oh yes, the rules!" Caroline exclaimed, "Dear Miss Eliza does not know them," she said with a satisfied smile.

"Well, the game starts by someone hiding somewhere in the house," Bingley started, "and after a hundred seconds the other players are to look for the person and whoever is able to find them has to hide with them,"

"The last person to find the hiding spot is the loser," added Caroline, her stare boring into Miss Elizabeth's. "Is that clear Miss Eliza?"

"Quite clear thank you," she smiled innocently, "I suppose we should get started?" she turned her eyes towards Mr. Darcy's face for a moment and she noticed his abrupt intake of breath and smiled once more.

"We should select certain rooms for the game," Darcy remarked suddenly, "If we do not we might not end this game today,"

"I agree with Darcy," said Bingley, "How about the library, dining room, the study and the first two chambers next to the stairs?"

The whole party nodded and Caroline was about to state her desire of hiding first but her brother drew a deck of cards and said kindly:

"Whoever draws the lowest card is to hide." They all grabbed a card; Darcy got a four, Caroline a three which plastered a triumphant smile on her face, Bingley got a queen and finally Elizabeth got a two.

As Elizabeth saw her card she quickly looked up and saw the amusing expression change in Miss Bingley's face, she almost started laughing but managed to restrain herself and just let a teasing sparkle appear in her eyes. Darcy felt his throat tighten and stared at Miss Elizabeth until Bingley drew him out of his reverie by shooing the lady out of the room and started counting. Elizabeth stood in the middle of the main hall feeling quite puzzled for she did not know where to find a suitable hiding place. As she heard Bingley nearing a hundred, she bolted to the door which lead to the study. She pushed the door open and found a slightly sunlit room. She could spot several decent hiding places yet she noticed a door behind an enormous curtain and decided that that one was certainly excellent.

As she closed the door, she found herself in what appeared to be a small storage room with two bookshelves one on each side of it; these two made the room look even smaller and she found that the room was quite dusty because after one minute of being in it she could not help but sneeze softly. Is not this brilliant, I am now allergic to dust…they will find in me in no time. She sighed and stood leaning on one of the bookshelves being careful not to move it so much so that the dust would not start floating around the room.

As soon as Bingley finished counting out loud, Caroline all but bolted out of the room as if her life depended on it; she was determined to find Miss Elizabeth first even though the idea of spending time alone with her while waiting for the other two gentlemen to find them did not appeal to her at all. She hurried to the upper rooms while her brother followed her upstairs; Darcy stood in the middle of the hallway just like Elizabeth had, wondering where she could be hiding. He thought of the library, but then again a small voice in his head assured him that she would be smarter and less predictable than that.

He took a peek in the dining room but saw that there were no hiding spots in the room. With a long sigh he decided to try the study before he went upstairs.

He pushed the oak door open and was mesmerized by the tangible warmth which caressed the room; he could see some dust floating in the air and several opened books lying on an old table. He stood still in case he heard any slight movement that could tell Miss Elizabeth's location but she had heard his footsteps as he entered the room and so did her best to stay still and silent. Darcy started a slow pacing through the room looking at each surface, behind the large window curtains, in between some bookshelves and even under a rather large tea table which was innocently settled next to a large velvety curtain.

He bent down to look beneath the table and felt rather foolish. He was sure that if anyone was to enter the room it would have been a most embarrassing situation for him; as he stood up he noticed a wooden door behind the curtain and was quite surprised for he had never noticed that door during the afternoons he had spent in the study. He pushed the curtain aside and slowly opened the creaking door and walked into the dimly lit storage room. He saw the two bookshelves and as he looked down at the floor he caught a glimpse of a white garment. Elizabeth was pressing herself painfully onto the other side of one of the bookshelves; she felt the air being squashed out of her lungs and stifled a small cough. I am starting to believe I am taking this game too seriously…being found cannot be half as bad as not being able to breathe!

She started coughing non-stop and as she tried to step away from the book shelf she tripped and closed her eyes for she feared her collision with the floor which in turn never came. Instead she felt warm arms holding her up and as she steadied herself she looked at the person who had helped her; she held her breath as she saw Mr. Darcy's intense blue eyes looking back at her and for a complete minute no words were uttered. Noticing the awkward silence which fell between them Elizabeth felt the necessity of saying something:

"It appears to be that you have found me," she said uncertainly.

"So it would seem," he said in a deep voice, "are you quite alright, Miss Elizabeth?"

"Oh, yes, I just tripped while trying to move," she felt a slight blush reach her face. "Thank you for helping me Mr. Darcy."

"I heard you cough," he said softly almost worriedly.

Elizabeth unconsciously smiled sweetly at him and saw how his eyes visibly softened.

"You need not worry Mr. Darcy," she said gently, "though your worry is quite appreciated," she added with a teasing smile.

Darcy's heart was pounding since the moment he held Miss Elizabeth in his arms. He felt his whole body ache with longing for her and as he helped her up he was overwhelmed by the deliciously intoxicating lavender scent her hair left in his nostrils. When he let go of her he could not help but feel the emptiness in his arms and it took all of his self restraint not to reach out for her once more. They stood quite close but they were not pressed to each other, and as the room fell silent again a whole stack of books fell on the ground with a dry thud and the sound was followed by a wave of dust which quickly dispersed through the room and made Elizabeth cough madly.

Mr. Darcy went to her and patted her back gently while handing her his handkerchief so that she could cover her face with it. She nodded her head slightly as her coughing subdued, and as she had been standing where the fallen books now were, she had to stand closer to Mr. Darcy. He gently put his hand on her shoulder to keep her steady and they stood still, her back pressed against his chest and he leaned on the bookshelf.

Time passed by and slowly the room darkened, Elizabeth could still see the palm of her hand but if she wanted to see any surrounding objects it proved to be impossible unless she stared long enough. How can it be possible that they have not found us yet? she thought as she tried to ignore the warmth Mr. Darcy's hand produced on her shoulder.

"It appears to be that you selected an excellent hiding spot, Miss Elizabeth," he whispered into her ear. She shivered slightly and by being pressed to Mr. Darcy it was no surprise that he felt it.

"You are shivering," he said with that soft voice," Please, allow me." He took his hand off her shoulder and shrugged his black coat off while gently putting it over her shoulders.

"Oh," she was speechless for a moment as she felt the warmth from the coat and his body coursing through her and shivered once more. "Thank you, sir."

Darcy nodded once more and took the risk of gently putting his hand on her hip. Elizabeth slowly and unconsciously leant back against his chest and his hand moved slightly surrounding her waist. They were blushing profusely and Elizabeth could feel Darcy's speeding heart and she even felt how her own seemed to match his. Each breath he took gently caressed her ear, her breathing started speeding up and she looked down.

"It appears Mr. and Miss Bingley will not be finding us anytime soon," she said with a nervous yet amused voice.

"As I said before Miss Elizabeth," he said softly, "You chose an excellent hiding place."

"And yet…you found me," she whispered.

"Hmm…it was mere luck," he stated simply, "I had never seen the door which lead to this room,"

"Oh?" she turned her head slightly to look up at him and saw his eyes shining brightly in the dark. She was overwhelmed by their beauty and was reminded of the morning in which she saw him look up at her dripping water from the pump and looking like a completely different person. Just like he looks now, she thought. She felt that with such a longing gaze it was so easy to forget that he was an arrogant and pompous man, it was so easy to forget that remark he had made about her being "Barely Tolerable" when he looked at her with such intensity.

Darcy looked down at Elizabeth's beautiful eyes and felt himself drown in them, he felt utterly exposed under her gaze and he felt himself leaning down, closer to her…he could see how her eyes drew closer and for a moment he averted his stare towards her soft looking lips. Elizabeth turned her face back down and looked at the floor; if Darcy had been his usual self he would have let the matter go, but since that morning when he saw her walk in with her hair down and looking so breathtakingly beautiful he knew he was not himself anymore. He knew for a fact that it was her who controlled his every action and reaction…she had cast a full body- and soul-binding spell and he had no intention of breaking it.

As so, he boldly but gently reached out for her small face; he touched her chin tentatively and with painful softness turned her face once more towards him. He felt her soft hair caress his face and he breathed in deeply. He slowly leaned his head down and placed a small almost non-existent kiss on her long neck and he heard her breath hitch. He whispered huskily into her ear with his eyes closed:

"Elizabeth," she felt her name vibrate against her skin making her shiver more and so his reaction to this was to put both of his arms around her waist. Lizzy, get a GRIP! This is a man whom you deeply dislike! His lips slowly traveled up her neck in a silent caress. This is highly improper, tell him to stop right NOW! He was turning her face once more towards him until she was staring into his passion-filled, blue eyes; she saw him look at her lips and saw his own lips tremble in anticipation. Their breathing was ragged and nervous; she felt his warm breath gently touch her lips and she looked back into his eyes. This is Mr. Darcy…he does not like me, I do not like him…I do not…

"I…" she whispered against his lips which were just barely touching hers. I cannot help this; they both thought and leaned towards the other. Their lips connected and bliss coursed through their bodies, Elizabeth turned in his arms and raised her hands to touch his face and his hair while he trailed one hand up her back and undid the plait which held her long mane. As her hair fell on her shoulders she shivered and she felt Darcy do so too; he trailed his hand gently and slowly through her hair while he continued to kiss her. The kiss had turned from a simple touch to a full kiss in which Mr. Darcy's hesitant tongue had softly caressed Elizabeth's lips as if begging her for more; she obliged unconsciously and as soon as their tongues met both of them heard a very soft and desperate moan in the back of their throats.

They kissed slowly and as the kiss neared an end their hands went back into place except for Darcy's right hand which was feather-caressing Elizabeth's cheekbone. They reluctantly let go of each other and they stood with their eyes closed as if not wanting to wake into reality. Elizabeth opened her eyes first and let out a ragged breath and when Darcy opened his eyes she could not help but gasp; they glowed with passion, longing and another feeling which she could not quite put her finger on. Is he looking like that because of me?

"Miss Elizabeth," he started hesitantly almost fearfully, "I am…I" he looked at her pleadingly as if begging for forgiveness which he did not really want to ask for.

"Perhaps it would be wise if we go look for Mr. Bingley," she whispered and looked intently at Darcy with an unreadable expression.

"Yes," he looked back at her and nodded, he opened the door for her and let her out of the small room; he looked back at it and sighed deeply, engraving the moment which had occurred there forever in his heart.

They walked silently out of the study, Elizabeth always in front of Mr. Darcy feeling betrayed by her own emotions and heart…feeling utterly confused and even embarrassed. Darcy, as he stared at Miss Elizabeth's figure, felt sure about the constantly growing feelings he harboured for this woman; he wanted to reach out and hold her just like he had a few minutes ago but he could not risk pushing this any further and so he silently continued to walk behind her until they reached the hall and he heard Bingley.

"Darcy!" he exclaimed surprised, "Old chap, where did you run off to?" he looked at Miss. Elizabeth and then back at Darcy, "Oh, I believe you managed to find her?"

Mr. Darcy could only nod his head numbly and he almost jumped when he heard Bingley's laugh.

"Capital!" he said with an amused smile, "Caroline and I spent hours looking for you two," he smiled at Elizabeth and she forced herself to smile back and ignore the turmoil inside her head.

"Well Miss Elizabeth," he said happily, "do tell where you were hiding! It has proved to be quite an exceptional spot!"

Elizabeth cleared her throat softly and answered softly.

"I found a room behind a large curtain in the study," she glanced at Mr. Darcy for a moment and then looked back at Bingley, "Mr. Darcy found me about fifteen minutes later,"

Bingley laughed heartily and gave Darcy a light pat on the back.

"I did not know you had it in you," he said.

Darcy only nodded slightly and the corners of his mouth twitched upwards. Miss Elizabeth saw Caroline coming down the stairs with a clearly annoyed look on her face; as she reached the bottom of them Elizabeth curtsied to both men, her gaze lingering for a moment on Mr. Darcy and she left for her room in the hope of some peace and a chance of organizing her thoughts. Darcy watched her go and completely ignored Caroline's sulky remarks and complaints about how bad the game had turned out; he certainly had a different opinion about it.

Late that night Darcy and Elizabeth each laid on their beds thinking about the other. Darcy could not erase the feeling and taste of Elizabeth's kiss nor did he think he wanted to. Elizabeth could not get the image of Mr. Darcy's gaze and caresses out of her head…she shivered as she thought about it and hugged the bed covers tighter around her. As she had entered the room, Jane had asked her if anything exciting had happened during the day; Elizabeth hesitated and with a small smile she said:

"No, nothing special," and she went to change into her pajamas. As she thought back on Jane's question she thought sadly and quite longingly, if you only knew…

And she reached up to her lips touching them softly, exactly the same way in which Darcy touched his as he laid in bed in his room thinking about Elizabeth and saying in a soft voice:

"If you only knew."