We last saw Lydia and Wickham as they made their bed for the night in a coaching inn on the road to Gretna Green. Who were the mysterious figures in the darkness who caused Mr Wickham such concern, and how will our eloping couple fill the hours until dawn now the bedroom door is closed?
-Catherine Curzon and Nicole Clarkston
Catch up on their previous adventures here!
“Oh! George, you are a cad,” Lydia giggled as she try to free her mouth from her lovers ardent affections. “Where did you learn to kiss like that? I declare, you could never be mistaken for a gentleman! If only my mama had warned me that a man such as you would be impossible to resist.”
“Them I am very grateful to that good woman,” Wickham told her, touching the tip of his nose against hers. “For you are quite irresistible yourself, Miss Lydia!”
“Naturally. Now, George, come a little closer so that I might help you out of that awful black coat. Such a pity you did not wear your red one, but I suppose it is better for traveling, after all. Oh, my, such a complicated knot you have tied for your cravat! Is that uncomfortable? I think I shall loosen it.”
“I did not forget my redcoat, my love, you need not fear.” He settled her down against the pillows and shrugged off the coat. “Now, is this bed warm enough for your liking, miss?”
“Not by half. I will require your presence, you silly man. What a very fine weave your shirt is! I knew you were a man of impeccable taste. I think I shall like it even better once I have got it off of you.”
He shrugged as though her suggestion was only simple common sense and decided, “Even on a chair, a man cannot sleep in his travelling clothes, it’s true.”
“The chair? Oh not with that ridiculous notion again. How can you possibly tease so? I am no goose, you know. I know we are to be married sometime or other, and I have the fullest confidence in your intentions. What matter a few days? I mean to have a little sport to break up the monotony of travel. How else shall we endure these many days?”
He silenced her with another kiss, and then another for good measure, yet still, despite Lydia’s opportunely wandering hands – and they had wandered a good deal – George Wickham remained mostly clothed. The coat was gone at last and the cravat would certainly be next, but how much more might Lydia achieve? She had set herself a lofty goal indeed, and it went far beyond a coat.
“I expect you’ve no notion of how to remove a lady’s garments,” she purred, but there was a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “I know everyone thinks a maid is required to see it done properly, but I assure you, my darling, there are ways. I shall instruct you. Firstly, a gentleman ought always to begin by removing the lady’s hair pins. That way, he may play with her hair as she helps him with the more challenging bits.”
“Might I take my cravat off first?” He asked it so sweetly, so gently, that she wondered for a moment if he really hadn’t any notion of ladies, yet even in her adoration Lydia knew that to be a nonsense. In fact, she reasoned, he asked it so sweetly and so gently that it suggested he knew all too well what ladies liked.
“That sounds a capital notion. Now, is it true that men have….” her jaw dropped as her words trailed off. “Oh!” she interjected with appreciation. Her delightful fingers tickled beneath where his cravat had been, but a moment before. “It is true! Where did you get such marvelous hair upon your chest! It look so… I almost fear to pronounce the word, but it describes you! Is there more I have yet to see?”
“You might be assured of it, Miss Lydia.” He reached up to pluck a hairpin from her head, his gaze glittering in mischievous concentration. “Am I undressing you even now? Is this simple, unassuming hairpin the first step on the road to mutual ruin?”
“Most assuredly!” She grasped his free hand—seductively, rather than wantonly, for she was learning a deal from his slow, savoury approach to their pleasures. “And what of this, Mr Wickham? If I place your hand here, does it inform your next actions?”
“Your heart is beating marvellously quickly,” he quirked his eyebrows up for a second, a devil’s gleam in his dark eyes. “Is it time for a second hairpin?”
“I was thinking it might be time for me to see just how far this lovely chest hair of yours extends.” Without awaiting a response, her warm fingers slipped under the folds of his shirt. She turned her palm down, forcing her upper body to arch most distractingly as she leaned near. The tips of her fingers brushed his lower abdomen, her lips tickled lightly over his neck, and she seemed not at all concerned that she might tumble forward from the edge of the bed.
And Wickham’s reply, his frustrating, wonderful, agonising reply, was to pluck out another hairpin and another, casting them down onto the bed. All the time his mouth was on Lydia’s, kissing her with a fire that gave the lie to his claims of innocence.
She slackened her posture—whether out of a desire to lure him down, or a failure of her own strength in the face of his passionate onslaught, it mattered little. In the next breath, she allowed him to push her gently down, and when he laid his hand lightly on the small of her back and she could feel the warmth of his touch through her soft muslin gown, she made no protest.
“What does a lady wear to bed, my love?” He whispered it between kisses, still picking the pins from her hair.
“Whatever the gentleman wishes for her to wear,” she sighed. “You would think my old garments perfectly ghastly, so prudish are they. They certainly do not suit a woman of my tastes and fortune in love.”
He pulled back a little, not so far that she feared he might be about to head for the infernal chair and leave her alone in this suddenly cold bed. Then, with that same impish smile brightening his features, her soldier removed his shirt in one well-practised, graceful movement. He bunched it in his hand and asked in a tone so gruff that it made her heart leap anew, “Wear this?”
She had been hungrily admiring his physique, but the instant his offer registered to her, her smile fell. “Why should I? I had intended to make do with…” she batted her lashes, “just the blankets tonight.”
“Because– well–” Wickham frowned and looked down at the shirt, tutting in the way that her father did whenever she disturbed his reading. Tutting indeed. “Because I thought you’d like to? Because it’s not the sort of thing good girls should do?”
Her eyes widened. “Indeed, when you put it that way, I think I have never heard of a girl trying on a soldier’s shirt. May I?” She slipped her arms into the filmy cloth, allowing it to slide over what he could see of her bare skin as she stroked it.
Somehow, that masculine raiment had suddenly taken on aspects familiar to him from very different sorts of ladies—white lawn was as intoxicating as red satin, and small ruffles as visually alluring as exotic lace. She cast her eyes appreciatively over the garment, a wicked gleam illuminating her expression, before she looked for his approval. “Am I irresistible, sir?”
“Perhaps on our wedding night, we might see how the redcoat looks on you!” Wickham pressed her down to the pillows again with his kisses, his lips at her earlobe when he murmured, “Will you dress yourself in my shirt, Lydia? My shirt and my kisses tonight?”
“Which, do you suppose, will heat me more thoroughly when I take a chill in the night? The shirt which was so recently warmed from your own skin is a perfectly delicious means of warding off the drafts, but your kisses warm me from the inside. And you are truly offering me both? You are a prince, my love.”
“Both are yours,” he promised, teasing at her ear with the tip of his tongue. “All night.”
She drew back with a gentle smile. “George, my love, I think there is something you must know about me. I do not always speak what I mean. I thank you for the shirt and I mean to delight in it all night, but as for the kissing—” at this moment she yawned and gave him a playful shove in the chest. “I have had a quantity of those, and it is rather late. I know you shall be here in the morning, for I have your clothing. Good night, George.”
“Wha- So, I– You–” Wickham stammered, one hairpin still between his finger and thumb. He glanced over his shoulder at the chair, then turned his gaze back to Lydia, cosy and settled with the shirt and blankets. For a moment there was a flicker of dismay in his expression but it disappeared in a bright, appreciative smile. “You are a sportswoman indeed, Miss Lydia Bennet. At least spare a blanket for this poor old soldier so I don’t need thawing come the dawn?”
Lydia pursed her lips in a moment of consideration. Without a word, she bent near the bed and retrieved an item from the floor, then tossed it neatly across the room. “Do be gentle with my petticoat, it is new. Is that not a delicious perfume?”
“Exotic, heady and maddening!” He hopped nimbly from the bed and bowed low. “Just like the girl who wears it. Sleep well, Miss Bennet, and dream of your shivering soldier!”
With that he retreated to the chair, pausing only to scoop up Lydia’s cloak on the way.
To be continued…