It is the morning after… but after what?
It seems that Miss Lydia has learned from the best when it comes to beguiling. Though head over heels in love with her soldier, she is not quite through teaching George Wickham that she is not a lady to underestimate. Find out what our daring couple is up to next!
-Catherine Curzon and Nicole Clarkston
Catch up on previous adventures here:
He was watching her.
Lydia slitted one eye as she nestled her face further into the pillow. She had thought, possibly, that if she awoke early enough, she would have the pleasure of gazing upon him as he slept. Alas, that was not to be, for he was already waiting for her.
Here in the light of the early morning, Lydia Bennet felt for the first time the glorious, scandalous truth of what they had done. She was snuggled in this cramped room wearing George Wickham’s shirt and he was standing at the window, his face turned to her wearing– well, very little. Breeches, at least. Only.
Feeling, for the first time in her life, a little shy, she raised the blankets just up to her nose. Perhaps he could not see the bashful little smile stealing over her face, but he could certainly see the batting of her lashes, and the way her eyes seemed to smile of their own accord. She lifted her fingers over the edge of the blanket and waved coyly. “Good morning, George.”
“I had the most marvellous dream.” With that and a cheeky quirk of one eyebrow, Wickham raised his arms above his head and stretched. It was a little display of shameless peacockery for her benefit, Lydia knew, and he held it for a moment before he relaxed his arms and added, “Good morning, Lydia.”
It was a moment before she could respond. Fully aware that her eyes were sweeping greedily over his half bared form, and equally assured of the fact that he did not mind, she openly stared. The dim light of the previous evening had not afforded her this morning‘s view of his chiseled abdomen, nor the way the light played off his supple skin as the muscles flexed and flowed beneath. It was an image well worth relishing.
He was, however, looking expectantly at her, waiting for her to respond. Her cheeks only slightly warm, she twisted so that her toes would reach the floor, but held the blankets up high, not permitting him to see one sliver more of her skin until she had fully stepped out of the bed and stood upright before him. “George, where ever am I to dress? There is no screen in this room.”
“Think of it as an army encampment, all thrown in together.” He ruffled his fingers back through his hair, then set his hands on his hips. “Whatever will you do, Miss Bennet?”
She shrugged airily, herself once more rather than the wide-eyed innocent who had awoken in that bed with a man watching her. “I shall manage,” she asserted. “After all, I did grow up with four sisters and we often had to share our maid. Why, I saw all of them in less than their undergarments, and I am certain this will be no different.” So speaking, she bent to the floor to gather her petticoat.
It was not quite as simple as she had thought to locate all of her strewn items. The petticoat she found easily enough, as well as the overskirt but how had she cast her garments so wide? It seemed absurd, and Lydia could hardly imagine how she would gather them all without surrendering some of her feminine mystery.
As the thought occurred to her, Wickham moved to go down on his knee before her. He caught her hand just as he had already caught her heart and said, “Miss Lydia, make yourself comfortable and let me gather your finery?”
She tilted her head, teasing him a little before she granted him permission to touch her most personal and delicate of items. Slowly, she turned and walked with conscious grace back to the bed, glancing over her shoulder on occasion to see that he watched her. She paused, then turned and elegantly lowered herself to the edge of the mattress. She sat with perfect poise, as an empress surveying her subject and lifted her hand as if she expected him to kiss her ring. “You may proceed, sir.”
And what a sight it was, watching George Wickham collect the clothes she had discarded. Lydia made a valiant effort to convince herself that the fact that he was doing it without his shirt was, of course, immaterial, but it was an effort that was doomed to fail. Instead she let her gaze roam freely because she knew he enjoyed it as much as she did, taking in the physique that would be hers and hers alone from now to the end of her days. Her George Wickham, for he had promised himself to her, and soon they would be wed.
A delicious shiver coursed through her as an equal realisation warmed her belly. She would belong to him, forevermore! No other man might have the privilege of knowing her, of touching her whenever he pleased and calling her his own. No other would be granted her presence in these intimate hours, when only the twin of one’s own heart and soul was permitted to draw near.
He had chosen well, for no woman could be as faithful or devoted, and no other so worthy of him as she. And her affections were not the only bounty he could claim. She glanced down at what was yet visible through her sheer clothing. His shirt was a poor disguise for the youthful, nubile sensuality of her generously endowed figure. How many other girls had less than half her assets? Yes, she assured herself, George Wickham was a fortunate man indeed.
Eventually, having gathered all of Lydia’s assorted lace and frills, Wickham crossed to stand before her. He bowed as low as any equerry might and carefully set the items down on the bed. When he stood straight again, however, Lydia could hardly help but notice the rather wolfish manner in which he swept his gaze over what little of her form he could see. The smile he gave then was far from that of a respectful courtier, nor was the dark gleam in his eyes.
Lydia smiled and gathered her clothing as she stood from the bed. He leaned near as she did so, perhaps hoping that she would endow him with some token of her favour, but she pressed her fingers lightly to his chest as she had done the previous night. “Mr Wickham, you look the very picture of a man who would not permit a lady her secrets in the morning. Pray, turn your back so that I may make myself beautiful for you.”
“I will turn my back,” he told her politely. “But you are already beautiful.”
With that, Wickham turned away, every inch the gentleman.
Lydia made her preparations quickly. After all, a girl who shared her maid with four sisters learned to adapt, if she wished some measure of freedom, and Lydia had always wished for that very much. Thus, when she announced herself presentable, her news was received with some measure of surprise by her companion. He turned back, and Lydia had the pleasure of watching his gaze rover her as if it was the first time he had seen her in that gown.
“My Lydia.” Wickham reached out for her hand, and drew her to him. He expected a kiss, of course, a kiss and his shirt, no doubt. “This is a bright morning indeed.”
She cast her eyes with obvious appreciation over his bare chest. “Sir, the morning is bright, but also rather cold. I wonder,” she leaned near, almost near enough to kiss, her breath whispering over his lips. “Would you mind terribly if I kept your shirt? I think it will tuck rather cleverly under my dress as a fichu.”
“It’s yours for a kiss” he murmured sweetly.
“Then consider the debt paid,” she advised him. He waited with a knowing and perhaps triumphant smirk, his hands already prepared to assist her with the shirt’s placement, but in this, he had once again underestimated the lady. She stalked half a step closer, holding his eyes with a seductive gleam in her own, then overturned his hand to place a lingering, and not at all demure kiss to the inside of his wrist.
“Well, then,” she straightened with a casual air. “I thank you for the shirt.” As he was forced to look on in helpless wonder, she stuffed the shirt into her rather large traveling bag, caring nothing for its expensive ruffles or stitching. “I shall keep that as my trophy, sir. I expect by the time we arrive in Scotland, it shall be you who are cold.”
“On the contrary,” Wickham beamed, “I think we shall be warmer than ever.”
To be continued…