A few days ago I shared an excerpt from my first novel – Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy – wherein the newly married Darcys celebrated their first Christmas together. Scroll down to read that snippet. Today I am sharing a small portion of the chapters that surrounded the holiday events for the Darcys’ second Christmas. These portions are from my fourth novel, In The Arms of Mr. Darcy. There is much more within the novel, let me assure you! This sampling will hopefully whet your appetite and enhance the joy of the holidays. Merry Christmas!
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The Darcys were not roused on this Christmas Day well after the dawn by a light knock on the door. Rather, it was a good two hours before the dawn to the sound of a ringing bell hanging by the bedside. Darcy was in a customary deep sleep augmented tremendously by sexual gratification. Lizzy, on the other hand, was already beginning to rise through the deepest stages of sleep due to the increasingly painful pressure in her breasts. Therefore, when the unfamiliar tone of a chiming bell invaded her consciousness she was instantly fully awake and alert.
She untangled her limbs from Darcy’s with alacrity, out of the bed and retrieving her fallen robe before a breath was taken. The abrupt movement and sudden blast of chill air over his uncovered skin, Lizzy forgetting to re-tuck the blankets in her haste, roused Darcy.
“Alexander is awake. Go back to sleep, dearest.”
“Bring him here,” he mumbled, rising laboriously to stoke the fire as Lizzy dashed from the room. Angry howls greeted her from the middle of the sitting room, their son’s lungs in no way fragile. Mrs. Hanford was completing the annoying task, in Alexander’s opinion, of changing his diaper, the infant only calming when his crooning mother picked him up.
“Come, sweetheart, be patient. Let’s go see your father. Not too far away, little love. No, no, do not cry!” But it was to no avail, Alexander’s stomach especially empty after the nighttime stretch of sleep. If Darcy had managed to drift into a doze, it was shattered at the entry of his wife and hollering son. He merely chuckled though, withdrawing the blankets so Lizzy could nestle against his warmth, lying on her side and finally quieting the distressed babe at her breast.
Darcy leaned on an elbow, encircling his family with the other arm and stroking Alexander’s back. “Yes, quite the temper, my lad, but it is good to know your appetite is a healthy one.” He kissed Lizzy’s neck, settling in the soft bend to observe the baby nursing. “I love how he kneads against your breast while he sucks. Rather like a kitten.” The smile could be heard in his voice, Darcy rubbing one finger over the tiny rhythmically opening and closing hand atop the breast he suckled on. The baby’s eyes were closed in deep concentration, by all appearances unaware and unconcerned with the people around him. Of course, this was not true; Alexander was merely innocently confident and content in the love of his parents. “Merry Christmas, my little kitten. And to you as well, beloved wife.” The words were accented with a warm caress down her side, over hips to abdomen, pulling closer against his pelvis. He bestowed another kiss to her neck and sighed happily before settling to watch their son.
It was a wonderfully lazy way to begin their second Christmas together. Darcy had returned to sleep by the time Alexander finished. Mother and son drifted away within the heat of Darcy’s embrace, the comfortable bed a haven on a wintry day.
The gentlemen assumed the roles of couriers, delivering labeled packages to the ladies. Every attempt was made to open neatly, one at a time, but enthusiasm occasionally overcame caution with ribbons and paper flying. Darcy rejoined a group in a state of moderate, lively chaos. Laughter was rampant with frequent jumping up to hug someone across the room, gifts being passed about for inspection, and exclamations of appreciation.
Darcy stood beside his wife, hand warm on her shoulder. She glanced upward, eyes sparkling as she clasped his fingers, lifting for a kiss to his knuckles. He smiled, brushing across her cheek before turning to Richard. “Colonel Fitzwilliam, the gold wrapped box to your right is addressed to Mrs. Darcy. Yes, that one. Bring it here please.”
“For you, my lady,” Richard bowed gallantly, placing the flat box onto her lap.
“Thank you, Richard. William, I thought we were done. You already gifted me three new gowns, the sardonyx cameo brooch of a mother and child that I absolutely adore, the leather bound edition of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, two new pairs of gloves, handkerchiefs, and what else… oh yes, the wooden table with drawers to sit beside my chair!”
“Trifles, my dear. The latter essentially because I was weary of seeing your sewing scattered all over the ground.” He grinned and squeezed her shoulder. “This, in addition to the larger box in yonder corner”—he pointed to a now visible package previously buried under the mound of presents—“is your main gift from me.”
“You may as well just open it, Lizzy,” Jane interjected, smiling at her brother-in-law. “It is purchased and wrapped. I doubt if there is any chance it will be returned.”
“Absolutely none. Thank you, Mrs. Bingley, for your support. My wife has yet to comprehend the realities of being spoiled by her husband. I pray you do not torment Bingley with useless arguments and quibbling.”
“I fear she does,” Charles said with a laugh. “However, I do believe we should be thankful, Darcy. After all it was the modesty, virtue, and economy of spirit which partially drew us to the Bennet sisters, along with other stellar attributes I hasten to add.”
“Lord have mercy! We will be here until next Christmas at this rate! Open it, Elizabeth, before these two begin reciting poetry and destroy all our appetites!” George declared, Mr. Bennet laughing and nodding in agreement. Jane blushed, Lizzy laughing as she began untying the ribbons.
“Honestly, Lizzy, and you too, Jane, be thankful you have husbands able to present such treasures! How fortunate you both are!”
“Thank you for the reminder, Mama,” Lizzy said with sarcasm. Of course Lizzy was quite familiar with her husband’s need to shower her with gifts. It was a habit borne of his deep love for all those dearest to him; an expression established long before she entered his life. The logical conclusion was simply to accept it, but her nature would not allow her to ever be mercenary or greedy and, therefore, it was mildly uncomfortable. She glanced upon his glowing visage, much like a child with a secret, and could only say a silent prayer of thankfulness.
The box contained a book bound with fine calf leather dyed a deep blue with gold leaf etching along the spine. The pages inside were blank, the intent of which was unmistakably indicated by the gold emblazoned Alexander William George Bennet Darcy scrolled across the front cover. Before Lizzy could find her voice, Darcy was kneeling with hands caressing over the exquisite binding. “It is a memory book. I saw something similar in Derby. I had this made by a bookbinding establishment in London that has restored numerous antique volumes I have purchased over the years. You can write your thoughts, facts as he grows, ink prints of his feet, memories of first words, when he walks, and anything else that comes to mind. Is it not a fabulous idea?”
“Darcy, this is marvelous!” It was Charles, face suffused with enthusiasm. “Where did you get it?” The new father and father-to-be launched into a discussion, Jane and Lizzy exchanging amused glances.