Welcome back to the next chapter in our scandalous tale!
Lydia Bennet, never one to let a chance slip past, has engineered a liaison with George Wickham safely away from prying eyes. Yet who is the hunter, and who the game?
Lydia opened her eyes as a whisper of cool air blew again over her face. “Is that to be my only kiss, sir?” she inquired. “If so, I think I shall return to the ball, for I shall doubtless find something there to amuse.”
“You wound me, Miss Bennet.” Wickham stroked his fingers gently down her soft cheek, gazing at her with soft, dark eyes. Then he pressed his lips to her again and slipped his arm around her narrow waist to hold them together as the nightbirds sang above.
Lydia shivered giddily and strung her arms about his neck, drawing up into his chest in a more intimate embrace than she had ever bestowed. He was so powerful, so full and robust in his manhood, and her head swam faintly as she felt the strength in his arms, cradling her with a gentleness which belied the power to crush her.
“Will you think of me?” He brushed his lips across her jaw, caressing, teasing the promise of another kiss that didn’t come. “Shall you miss me, Miss Lydia?”
Her frame quivered. Was this to be the end, then? Was she really to depart for Longbourn and he for his next assignment, nevermore to pass one another? She left her arms about his neck and buried her face upon his braided epaulets. “Miss you!” All the salt and fire with which she had tempted him fled, and a few unbidden tears sprang to her eyes. “I cannot think how I shall go on without you!”
He hushed her, stroking his hand down her back. Might he speak, she wondered, and offer some solution that might mean their love would not be lost? What might George Wickham be able to offer that would save them from the misery of a parting Lydia could scarcely countenance?
“If only I were a gentleman of means, then I might make you mine.” HIs voice was a low whisper, suffused with longing. “I cannot think how I will go on without you in my arms; I can hardly bear to think of it.”
She shook her head, frustrated and baffled by her thwarted passions. “A man of means! I am sick to death of that phrase. Think you men that we women only seek position and a deep purse? What sort of woman can you think me, to say such things to me? Do you really suppose that I would reject the man I love, simply because he wears a red coat and has not a fine estate of his own? What, then, is the proper measure of a man which makes him worthy of a lady’s affections, without casting the shadow of mercenary intent upon his lady?”
“Not you, my love, never you!” Wickham slipped his fingers beneath Lydia’s chin and lifted her face to his. “If love were all, then we would have the happiest days, but your people would never allow it. I am not what they would choose for their daughter, not when she is fit for a prince of her own!”
“What use have I for a prince? I should think such a man exceedingly dull, for his heart could never be fully mine. Give me a man who pays me court and looks at me as though the sun rises upon my shoulders, as you do. My father is not a horrid man, and he would never wish an unhappy marriage upon his daughters. He supported Lizzy when she refused that odious Mr Collins. He will support me when I accept someone I love.”
“There are those who find their sport in serving me ill, for whom it is an entertainment.” Wickham kissed her forehead with a tender softness. “And I will not have your hopes dashed on the rocks of another man’s ill-mannered interference in my business.”
She drew back, a brittleness hardening her tones. “You think to protect me, do you? What then of my prospects? Have you any thought that another could care for me as well as you? I shall end up bound to some coarse fellow who desires only a broodmare, while you shall face the privations of a soldier’s life alone! Far better that we should voyage together, for what comfort could I give you when troubled by such reprobates as could persecute you? And what affection could you give, me that no other could offer? Aye, give me your arms upon a straw bed, for I should prefer them far above an empty bed of satin.”
“Voyage together? If only I dare ask you to do it, for the thought of you in another man’s arms–” He shook his head, his eyes closing for a moment as though the idea were utterly abhorrent to him. “Would you– I can hardly ask such a thing from you, I know, forgive me–”
She tightened her arms, her figure straightening to her full height. “Yes! Whatever you ask, if I needn’t part from you, my answer is yes!”
“Miss Lydia, you truly are a unique lady indeed!” Wickham caught his arms around Lydia’s waist and lifted her feet clear of the ground as if she were utterly weightless. “You have made me the happiest man on this earth tonight! I must be the envy of all with your love to call mine!”
“No, that honour is mine!” She leaped to kiss him freely upon the lips. “Let the world judge and envy as they dare, for by heaven, we shall care nothing for any of them!”
“Then we will escape, my darling, and no matter where the road takes us, you and I will be happy!” He kissed her joyously in return, his arms tight around her. “And hang protocol, eh? What need of it when we have our love?”
“String it up and let it flap in the breeze!” she laughed. “What need for formalities? We need only the security of love, and mine shall be yours forever!”
“I love you, my wonderful girl!” Wickham kissed her again, his eyes dancing with happy abandon. “My Lydia!”
…To Be Continued…