Disclaimer: I am not Jane Austen, nor do I pretend that I created any of these wonderful characters.
AN: I am pleased to present the first chapter of my first Jane Austen fanfic. Austenites beware, this story is based mainly on the 1995 movie. Please give me any feedback you have, mistakes, comments, etc. I so appreciate it!
"My dear Mrs. Brandon, I do believe you're blushing." Colonel Christopher Brandon's husky voice was devilishly close to her ear, his warm breath caressing the side of her cheek. Marianne Brandon, his wife of six blissful months, did indeed feel a flush creeping along her neck and face, but she only laughed softly, thoroughly delighted in her husband's attentions.
"If I'm blushing, sir, it is only because you can be terribly shocking at times," she told him in a low voice, doing her best to imitate the tone of a scandalized woman. Christopher, easily seeing through her playful charade, wrapped his arms tighter around her, gently drawing her golden head back against his chest and kissed her lightly on her cheek.
"A husband kissing his wife is hardly a shocking thing, Marianne," he reminded her with laughter in his voice. His strong fingers traced the gentle contours of her delicate face, encouraging her to lean further into his beloved embrace.
"Certainly not," she agreed, smiling up at him. "Except, that is, when you choose to bestow such affection upon me in the drawing room with the doors thrown wide open." His grin was wickedly unrepentant. "And, of course, when you seek me out in the middle of an aria." Sure enough, Marianne's soaring voice had drawn him all the way from his study and through their mighty house of Delaford to her side. Without so much as a word he'd pulled her into his arms, settling himself on the pianoforte's bench before demonstrating with a long, powerful kiss just how strong his affections apparently were that bright, sunny morning.
"Well then, my dear," he whispered in a conciliatory tone, "we shall just have to take ourselves someplace where we needn't fear the wandering eyes of others." Marianne gasped as her husband practically bounded off the bench, his arms still wrapped tightly around her petite form, and abandoned the bright drawing room. Through the great halls he strode, his heart soaring at Marianne's musical laughter, until he mounted the grand stairs that would take them to their shared chambers.
"Christopher, you truly are shocking!" Marianne burst between her giggles, her arms drawn about his neck as she lifted her lips to gently kiss his own. As if he needed any more incentive, his pace quickened and within moments they were safely ensconced in their bedroom. Wasting no time, he carried her immediately for the four-poster canopied bed, settling her with gentle earnest against the satin pillows. Drawing near her, he lay on his side propped on an elbow, taking in the unblemished beauty of his young wife's angelic face.
"If you stare at me like that any longer, I can't be held responsible for my actions," she murmured, her slender hands cupping his face as she sought for a kiss. He obliged her most willingly, rolling over and bracing his arms on either side of her.
"I am truly the luckiest man in all of England," he whispered warmly before kissing her again.
"And I," she returned after a moment, "am truly the luckiest woman in all the world." He gave a short, disbelieving laugh before his lips descended on hers with more insistency than the kisses they had shared before. Every moment was like a waking dream for both of them, each sharing with growing surprise the true, unfettered love they found in one another.
There truly is no greater felicity than this, Marianne thought to herself happily, and then quite willingly allowed herself to be overwhelmed by the moment, forgetting the world in its entirety for quite some time.
Marianne awoke slowly, feeling deliciously lethargic. Christopher laid close beside her, his strong arm draped across her waist in a kind of intimacy she so loved. The midday sun shone through the grand windows beyond, and she couldn't help but grin. Their honeymoon had ended five months ago, yet nearly everyday was spent in some way reliving many of those pleasurable events. She would have been perfectly content to remain where she was, listening to the cadence of her lover's heartbeat and his slow, deep breaths as he slept on.
Unfortunately, the clattering noise of an arriving carriage drew her wider awake, and with a start she pulled herself away from her husband's side. She heard her younger sister's voice before she drew to the window, chattering amiably to the footmen who assisted her down from the carriage. Peering through the polished panes, she watched bemusedly as Margaret Dashwood blatantly ignored their mother's pointed stare, continuing her lively one-sided conversation with a silent footman who could not help but smile.
Returning to the bed, she drew around to the opposite side where Christopher slept, placing one of her sweet kisses upon his cheek. He smiled sleepily, his eyes still tightly shut. "Come back and lay beside me, dearest," he urged her drowsily, reaching blindly to grasp her arm. Marianne gasped, startled as his eyes flew open, and with another of his wicked smiles, he pulled her off her feet and back onto the bed.
"Christopher," she laughed, "you're incorrigible. Don't you remember that you promised to take Margaret fishing this afternoon?"
He sighed deeply, burrowing his face in her golden curls, most of which had come loose from their stylish chignon. "Confound it all," he murmured, trying unsuccessfully to hold Marianne any tighter. He already had her so near they were practically one body. "I had forgotten. There is no hope for it, then." They rose together, helping one another straighten their slightly rumpled clothes. Marianne straightened Christopher's cravat before going to her vanity. Almost laughing at her own disarray, she managed to create a new tidy chignon, though several stubborn curls refused to be pinned with the rest of her long tresses.
"Leave it," Christopher instructed her from across the room, drawing his boots back onto his feet. "You look like spring itself, Miss Marianne." Glancing over her shoulder at him, she smiled at his endearing name for her. She was, of course, no longer a Miss Marianne at all, yet it was what he had always called her before and during their courtship, and her heart always soared when he called her such.
"As you wish, Colonel," she teasingly replied, offering a mock salute as she rose from the cushioned chair.
"Do I look presentable, do you think?" he questioned with some seriousness, standing tall and with his arms at his side so she could look him over. He was to her eyes one of the most devastatingly handsome men she had ever known, though perhaps he had not always been to her. Dressed impeccably in simple, dark colors, he needed no extravagant clothing to make him appear any better. Peacock colors and other strangely feminine fashions that some of society's fops still favored would look ridiculous on him, and Christopher Brandon was anything but ridiculous.
Her eyes strayed from his body to his face, unremarkable to some but most extraordinary to her. His hair was light in color as hers, though darker in its shades perhaps, and no doubt sporting a bit of premature gray. But those waves framed his chiseled features perfectly, and he looked an officer in every way. Approaching him with a gliding step, she observed him with what appeared to be a critical eye, allowing a playful frown to turn his soft pink lips down. "Well," she murmured daintily and politely, pretending to look away for a moment. "You'll have to do, I suppose. You are, after all, only the most handsome man from here to London, at least, so I'll made an exception of your appearance just this one."
"Wicked thing," Christopher laughed, drawing her to him and kissing her forehead. "You're an angel next to me, and you know it. You're an angel next to anyone, and you know it."
"If I am a wicked thing, then I couldn't possible be an angel," she quipped, giving him her hand so he could escort her to meet her waiting family.
"Believe me, Marianne," he assured her, his voice suddenly softly serious. "There has never been an angel such as you, my dearest. I have truly been blessed with a woman who is heaven sent."
Moved, she wanted nothing more than to lead him back into their room so she could show him what his words meant to her. But since they were now descending the stairs, she could only kiss him on his cheek and squeeze his hand, though her eyes glowed with true happiness.
"There you are!" Margaret's voice found them before she was even seen, though shortly she came bounding out of the largest of Delaford's sitting rooms much to the alarm of Mrs. Dashwood. "I thought this day would never come!" she gaily told them, rushing to Marianne's side and linking her free arm with her own. "Today is a perfect day for fishing, though Mama says it's a little cold, and I'm wild with excitement!"
Marianne and Christopher laughed as the trio entered the sitting room. Mrs. Dashwood rose and moved to embrace her second eldest daughter, shooing Margaret back to one of the settees. "As always, you look remarkably well, darling," she praised her child before turning her attention to her son-in-law. "And you, Colonel Brandon, are looking extremely well, too. I am so happy that marriage agrees with you both."
Christopher could not help but look adoringly at his Marianne, pleased beyond measure when she returned his look. Yes, marriage did agree with the both of them, more so than they could have ever imagined. "Thank you, madam," he responded, gesturing with an arm for her to sit before leading Marianne to an elegant couch. "Have you come to fish yourself?" he asked teasingly, taking Marianne's hand and clasping it tightly as he sat beside her.
"Good heavens, no," she laughed, scarcely able to imagine such a thing. She was not truly an old woman, though time had flown by swiftly for the widow. Still clinging to some of the beauty of her younger days, it was not difficult to see where the beauty of her three golden-haired daughters came from. "I am here to make sure Margaret does not get into trouble," she assured them as pleasantly as she could, though her wizened eyes glanced at Margaret with some concern.
"I'll see to that, Mamma," Marianne said bemusedly, subtly winking at her sister. Margaret giggled, trying unsuccessfully to smother her humor with her hand. Mrs. Dashwood nearly rolled her eyes, thinking of the times when Marianne had been part to blame in some of the mischief that Margaret tended to cause. Though her new role as wife to Colonel Brandon had certainly helped to settle some of her passions, she was still the same passionate young woman she had always been. No doubt the two of them together would find something silly to accomplish, though hopefully with her presence and the strong presence of Colonel Brandon, any drastic events could be avoided.
"If only Elinor were here," the mother bemoaned with some humor.
"Edward and Elinor are due to arrive shortly," Marianne informed her happily, and everyone seemed genuinely. As if on cue, footsteps approached from the wooden floors of the hall, and Harrison, the distinguished old butler, announced the arrival of the parish priest and his wife.
"What a delightful surprise!" Mrs. Dashwood gushed, going to embrace her eldest daughter. "I did not know you would be coming today."
"Margaret promised dire recompenses if we did not attend," Edward Ferrars mentioned teasingly, smiling in the young girl's direction.
"Margaret, you didn't!" her mother gasped, giving her a sharp look.
"They were invited by the Colonel and myself," Marianne quickly corrected. "Margaret was so kind as to help us persuade them, that is all."
Their mother did not look convinced, but she accepted the explanation with good humor. "And how do you fair, Elinor?" she inquired of the tallest of her daughters, referring to her rounded belly.
"Very well, I thank you," she assured her, smiling at Edward. "I am only five months along now, but it seems an eternity before we will be able to welcome our son in to the world."
"Or daughter," Edward was quick to add, grinning.
"Yes, or daughter," Elinor amended. From where Marianne stood beside her husband, she saw with great joy how well motherhood already agreed with her sister. Elinor, ever graceful and serene, had been positively glowing ever since she had discovered that she and Edward were destined to become parents. The looks they shared with one another were reminiscent of the ones she and Christopher shared, and Marianne looked forward with great anticipation to the time when she and her own husband would take that next wonderful step of life.
"Well, the weather is perfect, as Margaret has reminded me," Christopher announced. "I've also taken the liberty of having a picnic prepared." This was received with a chorus of clapping and happy words, most emphatically, of course, from young Margaret. "So, if everyone is ready, we shall set off."
All had been prepared for well ahead of time. Colonel Brandon had been a military man for some years, and one of his great qualities was his ability to plan any event perfectly. Earlier that morning he had reminded Harrison and Mrs. Jones, the housekeeper, to see to the preparations for their little party. As the happy group exited Delaford to the front drive, he saw with satisfaction that one of his finest carriages was prepared as directed, the very same that had brought Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret to Delaford, and a cart with an awaiting servant atop it was filled with two large baskets for their picnic and the various requirements for a fishing excursion.
Mrs. Dashwood, Margaret, Elinor and Edward happily filled the carriage, aware that Colonel Brandon and Marianne would ride by horseback, as was their wont. Marianne had been an avid rider before their move to Barton Cottage, but now that she was Mrs. Brandon, she had again available to her some of the finest horses in the entire county. Her beloved mare, Athena, was saddled and waiting beside Leopold, Christopher's most favored and boldest stallion.
With Christopher's assistance, she settled onto her mare, stroking her neck lovingly and whispering her affections in the horse's flickering chestnut ears. Climbing onto his own horse with flawless ease, Christopher sat astride in perfect form, gathering the reigns as the animal beneath him impatiently skirted about. "There, Leopold," he soothed in his deep baritone, handling the horse with just the right amount of strength. "Shall we?" he intoned chivalrously to his wife, who nodded with a smile. And so with great merriment and high spirits, the party set off for the intended spot some two miles away. The path through gentle rolling hills was easy to follow, and a feeling of great contentment settled upon every member of the jolly family. It was sure to be an afternoon to remember.