It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good riding crop must be in want of a pair of bare buttocks to thrash. At least, that is how it seemed to Elizabeth Bennet. Tied to the bedpost in Mr Darcy’s boudoir, her stays unlaced and her bloomers in a state of disarray, trembling in anticipation of the first thwack of leather upon her unblemished skin, she pondered upon the circumstances that had brought her to this most indecorous pass. If Mr Bingley had never come to Netherfield and set his heart upon her sister Jane, then she, Elizabeth, would never have encountered his close friend, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. And that one chance meeting was all it had taken for her to be lured into his secret world of hot and horny perverted sex, like a helpless moth drawn towards a candle flame.
Worst of all, she was the mistress of her own undoing. Mr Darcy had made no protestations of love. In fact, he had made his intentions plain from the outset. ‘I do not make love, Miss Bennet,’ he had told her. ‘I bonk. I have it off. I get my end away, I rodger, I boff.’
Could she save this wonderful, sensual man from his own dark desires? Surely if she could but show him how pleasurable genteel nineteenth-century pastimes could be – how a game of backgammon could rival the thrill of nipple clamps, and bonnet-trimming delight the senses as much as the insertion of an XXL butt plug – then he would renounce his S&M ways for good.
But as the first blow fell upon her quivering behind, causing her to cry out in both excitement and pain, that thought was far, far from Elizabeth’s mind.
‘Oh my!’ she gasped. ‘What would Lady Catherine say?’
‘My dear Mr Bennet,’ said Mrs Bennet to her husband, ‘have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?’
Mr Bennet, his head buried in A Gentleman’s Repository, merely grunted in reply. Unlike Mrs Bennet’s first, second, third and fourth husbands – whom Mrs Bennet had bonked into an early grave – Billy-Bob Bennet was not a man fond of repartee. In short, his sole purpose within the pages of this book is to act as a cipher, to represent an ideal of manliness based on hunting, fishing and DIY, in order to form a striking contrast to the kinky, brooding, slightly prissy anti-hero. Therefore the author couldn’t be bothered to give him many words.
‘Do you hear me, Mr Bennet?’ Mrs Bennet cried impatiently. ‘It is to be let to a young man from the north of England, Mr Elliot Bingley, who comes hither in the company of his great friend Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.’
Mr Bennet sat taciturn, staring at his magazine and waiting for the invention of television.
His wife was in no way discouraged by lack of an audience. ‘I have heard,’ she continued eagerly, ‘that both men are considerably well endowed. Both have huge packages, I’m told, and now they are come here, to Meryton, with a view, no doubt, to meeting young ladies upon whom they can blow their wads.’
Elizabeth, the second eldest – and arguably hottest – of the Bennet daughters, inwardly winced. Her mother’s inappropriate use of street slang and general lack of modesty were often a source of mortification to her and her virtuous elder sister Jane. For instance, why, Elizabeth asked herself, could Mrs Bennet not sit demurely with her hands folded in her lap like any other nineteenth-century matriarch, instead of slumping upon the chaise longue with her legs wide open, so everyone could see her vulgarity?
‘Well endowed?’ Mary, Mrs Bennet’s middle daughter – and arguably the least hot – looked up from her Latin primer and gave her mother a disapproving look. ‘It is not seemly to talk thus of gentlemen’s fortunes, Mama,’ she chided.
‘Who said anything about fortunes, girl?’ Mrs Bennet replied. ‘I am not talking about the size of their incomes.’ She rolled her eyes in exasperation. Why were her daughters so hopelessly strait-laced? Although her two youngest, Kitty and Lydia, were starting to display signs of interest in the young officers in Town, no doubt she would be in her grave before any of them got laid. Mother to five virgins! It was a torment almost too great to be borne!
‘Silly goose,’ she scolded Mary. ‘A few of their manservants have been talking to the dairymaids in Meryton, and the word is that both gentlemen have simply enormous co ...’
It was a matter of felicity that at the very moment Mrs Bennet was about to utter a word that would have made a courtesan blush, Elizabeth’s wayward hair chose to make a dash for a hole in the wainscoting.
‘After it, girls!’ shrieked Mrs Bennet, as the thick, hugely attractive yet unruly brown mane slithered hither and thither about the floor in a bid to avoid Elizabeth and her sisters, who leapt about, jabbing at it with hairbrushes and ribbons. For a few moments the scene in the drawing room was one of chaos, until Elizabeth – who, like many a romantic heroine, was hopelessly accident-prone – caught her foot on a leg of the card table, and landed upon her lustrous chestnut-tinged curls, wrestling them into a scrunchie.
‘There,’ she declared, panting, sprawled upon the Aubusson rug, ‘I have it under control at last!’
Mrs Bennet looked admiringly at Elizabeth’s long, stockinged legs, which had been exposed by her exertions. ‘A fine pair!’ she thought proudly. ‘Just apt for wrapping about the waist of a lieutenant in the Dragoons.’ What an irony it was that her daughter was so well shaped for the act of lovemaking, yet displayed precious little interest in the subject. It seemed she would rather be occupied in reading books, wearing hopelessly frumpy clothes and going for bracing walks in the countryside. Mrs Bennet sighed discontentedly. ‘Mr Bennet, you will, of course, be paying a visit to Mr Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.’
Mr Bennet raised his eyes at last. ‘If he shoots, plays pool or has a shed, I shall. If he is one of those newfangled metrosexuals, I shall not.’
‘Consider your daughters!’ Mrs Bennet continued. ‘Jane is twenty-two and Lizzy past twenty, and no one has so much as groped them. If it weren’t for Lydia, who I suspect has at least had her fancy tickled by Dick the stablehand, I would lose hope entirely!’
‘I do not know why you take on so,’ her husband replied. ‘Were this the twenty-first century, I agree that it would be preposterous that a twenty-one-year-old, stunningly attractive girl had never so much as held hands with a young man. In fact, I would think it some sort of contrived literary device to make her eventual deflowering all the more salacious. But this is 1813, and it is quite acceptable for a young lady to remain chaste until marriage.’
‘Chaste? Chaste? It is easy for you to say, Mr Bennet,’ exclaimed his wife. ‘You do not have to suffer the neighbourhood talk of “Mrs Bennet’s Dykey Daughters”!’ Mrs Bennet fanned herself with her copy of Britain’s Hottest Hussars. ‘You will go to see Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy at the earliest opportunity, and ask if either of them fancies a go on one of your daughters. I insist upon it.’
And with that, the matter was settled.
An invitation was soon afterwards dispatched to Netherfield, and Mr Bingley duly visited Mr Bennet and sat with him in his study for ten minutes or so, where an offer of daughter-fondling was formally made. The whole endeavour must have proceeded favourably, as a week later reports reached Longbourn that Mr Bingley was to host a ball, and the Bennet sisters were to be invited. Also to be present were Mr Bingley’s two sisters, Looseata and Carrotslime, newly arrived from Town, and his close friend Mr Darcy.
Mrs Bennet could barely contain her excitement. ‘I have heard from Lady Lucas that Mr Bingley’s balls are legendary!’ she exclaimed to anyone who would listen. ‘Everyone of quality admires his balls! Until now, sadly, he always held his balls too far away for my daughters to reach. But now he resides at Netherfield his balls are within their grasp!’
At her command, the young Misses Bennet visited Meryton for new trimmings for their best dresses, and long discoursed upon what they would wear. Mrs Bennet had Jane’s pale-blue muslin gown adjusted, so that it made her breasts appear the size of ripe pumpkins. Elizabeth, however, resisted her mother’s entreaties to don a leather minidress and white ankle boots and settled instead for a dress of plain cream calico. Cragg, the housekeeper – having strong, although unpleasantly gnarled, working-class hands – managed to knot her unruly hair into a simple braid.
Glancing in the looking glass, Elizabeth sighed. With her alabaster skin and full lips, she thought herself not so pretty as Jane, whose strawberry-blonde locks attracted so much attention. She would never draw admiring glances, she decided, with so many faults; her breasts were too pert, her legs too long and shapely, and her vivid blue eyes too large and limpid. And what man would want her once he knew about her magical vibrating vagina? No, matters of the heart were not for her.
Elizabeth’s needless worries were dispelled at once, however, by the merry nature of the gathering at Netherfield. Mr Bingley himself was the most genial of hosts – a gentleman with an easy, cheerful manner, a pleasing countenance and blue eyes that shone in mirth. He lost no time in exhorting every lady in the assembly to dance. He launched himself into the Gay Gordons with aplomb, could not seem to have enough of Lord Percy’s Yardstick, and cried out in delight at The Captain’s Hornpipe. Elizabeth could see at once that Mr Bingley had made a favourable impression upon Jane; her sister remarked at length upon his muscular body, his cherubic blond curls and the cut of his jib. His jib, in fact, escaped no one’s notice – it was enormous.
‘Truly, he is a most affable character,’ she remarked. ‘I fancy, though, that he is not the most intelligent of men.’
‘Whatever makes you think that?’ Elizabeth replied.
‘Oh, it is but a supposition. Based on the fact that when I asked him how he was enjoying our shire, he replied that Arseshire was the prettiest of counties, but he had been mistakenly pronouncing it “Hertfordshire”.’
‘Intelligence matters little, if his general nature is as agreeable as you say,’ Elizabeth replied, watching Mr Bingley punching himself in the face over the punchbowl. Her attention was soon diverted, however, to Bingley’s friend Mr Darcy, who stood in the corner of the room with his back to the company, busily arranging some dusty tomes on the bookshelf into alphabetical order. ‘How inconsiderate,’ thought Elizabeth, ‘not to dance when there are so many young ladies left without a partner.’ She could not help noting, however, Mr Darcy’s athletic physique. He must have stood six feet two or three inches in his Cuban-heeled riding boots; his carriage was upright, his shoulders broad and his buttocks firm and well sculpted. Elizabeth felt a pull in some dark, secret place inside her belly. It might have been her spleen. Or then again, perhaps it was her G-spot. Having received minimal schooling and being largely ignorant of female anatomy, she could not be entirely certain. Just as she was musing on her inner organs, Mr Bingley called out to his friend.
‘Hullo there, Darcy! Do come and dance!’
Mr Darcy turned and – oh my! – Elizabeth saw his face for the first time. His lips were sensual and full, his ginger hair – no, wait a minute, let’s call it copper – hung down over grey eyes so alluring they could have been hammered from boulders of solid sex. He was so freakin’ hot!
‘There are ladies waiting,’ Bingley implored him. ‘Leave the books and come hither.’
Darcy’s sculpted lips curled up into a disdainful smile.
‘Normally I would dance,’ said he. ‘And expertly – just as I do all other things. However, I must whip this bookshelf into shape. Some fool has put Lord Byron before William Blake, do you see?’
‘Oh, that will have been me!’ cried Bingley happily. ‘You know how hoples i am at speling! But come, Darcy, I beg you to desist! Why concern yourself with books when you can dance with some delightful young ladies? There are many lovely creatures here tonight. What about that pretty young thing over there with the humungous chest?’
Darcy’s lips quirked up into a sneer. ‘You mean Miss Shapen? She is not to my taste.’
‘What of Miss Anthrope?’
‘She sounds promising. Where is she?’
‘I just lost sight of her.’
Darcy gave an exasperated sigh. ‘None here can tempt me. You, my friend, have been dancing with the only true beauty here tonight.’
Mr Bingley beamed with happiness. ‘Jane Bennet? She is most agreeable, is she not? But what about her sister, Elizabeth? Is she not a handsome creature also?’
‘Hmmm ...’ Darcy appeared lost in thought. ‘She is tolerable, I suppose,’ he said eventually. ‘But too innocent-looking to tempt me. And her mother is a vulgar creature.’ He turned his steely gaze in the direction of Mrs Bennet, who was dirty-dancing with a young fusilier. ‘Look at her tattoos. What is that large one upon her shoulder? Is it a penis?’
Mr Bingley peered. ‘I’m not sure, I think it may be some sort of jellyfish.’
‘In any case, it is badly done.’
Elizabeth, who had overheard every word of their exchange, lost no time in telling her acquaintances with much wit and playfulness how she had been spurned by Mr Bingley’s proud and disdainful friend. But privately, her spirits were much affronted. There was no denying that she thought Mr Darcy the most handsome billionaire she had ever seen. Gazing upon his lithe frame propping up the bookshelf, one leg cocked at a rakish angle, the other leg arranged at a cockish angle, she felt a jolt of energy coursing through her body. Elizabeth wondered what it would be like to take a turn about the rose garden in the company of such a man. Or to sit in the shade of an arbour, reading Wordsworth together. At the very thought of a mutual poetry-reading session, her body gave another little shiver of excitement.
‘I think he’s dangerous,’ her Subconscious counselled. ‘Keep well away from him.’
‘God, you’re so frigid,’ her Inner Slapper interjected.
‘Does anyone else think he might be gay?’ her Gaydar piped up. ‘I mean, check out the paisley cravat.’
While her inner voices sparred, and Elizabeth berated herself for forgetting her medication, Mrs Bennet came whirling across the room accompanied by four young officers of the militia. Evidently, she had partaken liberally of the rum punch, and her face glowed like a beacon.
‘These nice young gentlemen have offered to take me outside and show me their manoeuvres!’ she exclaimed. ‘Captain Yates here tells me his musket is half-cocked already, and with my help it will be fully cocked in no time.’
Elizabeth noticed that Mr Darcy had turned his attention to their party, and was staring at her with those unsettling, penetrating grey eyes of his. She turned crimson with shame. Her mother’s lack of decorum would once again be the talk of Meryton, no doubt.
‘I will join you boys in just a moment, but I must find a chamber pot first!’ Mrs Bennet exclaimed. ‘I swear I have already piddled in my pantaloons!’ Her gaze landed upon Mr Darcy. ‘Lor, that must be the Mr Darcy I have heard so much about! Well, I can see that what they say is true – he is so freakin’ hot! Is he not hot, Lizzy?’
Elizabeth placed her finger upon her lips, in an attempt to signal to her mother that their conversation might be overheard.
‘I imagine if Mr Darcy is overly warm, he will see it upon himself to step away from the fireplace,’ she whispered.
‘I was not referring to his temperature, child. I am speaking of his appearance,’ Mrs Bennet trilled, fanning herself with what Elizabeth realized, with horror, was a pair of bloomers.
‘His breeches are snug-fitting after the London fashion, do you not notice, Lizzy? In fact, when he stands there in the firelight you can clearly see the outline of his –’
‘Shuttlecock?’ Bingley interjected. ‘We are setting up the card tables in the drawing room if you care to make up a party.’ He looked from Elizabeth’s scarlet countenance to Mr Darcy’s dark, glowering one. ‘Or we can play whist, if you prefer?’
With one last penetrating look at Elizabeth, Fitzwilliam Darcy turned on his Cuban heels and stalked off towards the gaming tables. Elizabeth, mortified and exasperated all at once, turned her attention back to the dancers, determined to put all thought of Mr Bingley’s arrogant friend out of her head.
Yet, that night, she dreamt of loosening her stays under his steely grey gaze, as if in a daze. While lost in a maze, with her bloomers ablaze.
It had been one of those days.
When Elizabeth and Jane were alone in Jane’s bedchamber the next morning, the latter expressed to her sister how very much she admired Mr Bingley.
‘Oh, Lizzy, although we are not well acquainted, I cannot help but feel a great deal of affection for him already. So what if he is a trifle dim-witted? He is also handsome, agreeable and good humoured.’
‘He is all of those things, indeed,’ Elizabeth replied. ‘And, I believe, he admires you, too.’
‘I cannot allow myself to think so. After all, he danced with me but twice.’ Jane tossed her strawberry-blonde locks. Elizabeth caught them deftly and threw them back. ‘But he did try to touch me up on the balcony.’
‘There! That proves it! He returns your affections!’
‘Dear Lizzy, do you think it can be true?’
‘It was plain to all! But sweet sister, be wary. You have met him but once, and his reputation ...’
‘There are rumours of impropriety?’
‘Oh, Jane ...’ Elizabeth sighed. ‘Carrotslime Bingley told me that in Town, among the ladies of fashion, he is known as “Mr Bang-Me”. But we only have her word for that. I, for one, am convinced there is little truth in the matter.’
‘And what of you, dear sister? Slighted by Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy! Are you affronted?’
‘Indeed, I am not,’ Elizabeth smiled. ‘If Mr Darcy considers himself above our station, I can understand it. After all, our stepfather has but two thousand pounds a year, and Mr Darcy is a man of vast wealth, and well known for his charitable works.’
‘Indeed, his educational foundation is spoken of highly,’ agreed Jane. ‘Its aim, I believe, is to introduce corporal punishment into every finishing school for young ladies. There is much to admire in his philanthropy.’
‘If not his character,’ added Elizabeth. Although, inside her head, her Subconscious and her Inner Slapper were having a bitch-fight in a metaphorical car park.
‘Admit it – there is something about Mr Darcy that attracts you!’ shouted her Inner Slapper, grabbing a handful of her Subconscious’s hair.
‘Oww! Don’t listen to her!’ her Subconscious yelled, forcing her Inner Slapper into a headlock. ‘He’s dangerous. And anally retentive. Did you notice the way he rearranged the ornaments on the mantelpiece? He did it with a tape measure, for Christ’s sake!’
Elizabeth shook her head, forcing herself out of her reverie.
‘Do not worry,’ she reassured Jane, whose lovely face radiated sisterly concern. ‘I shall soon forget Mr Darcy’s insult. I will endeavour to put him behind me.’
Jane gave a wry smile. ‘Behind you? I fear that is exactly where he would be if Mama has her way.’
Following Mr Bingley’s ball, the ladies of Longbourn fast became better acquainted with those of Netherfield. Miss Jane Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the goodwill of Mr Bingley’s sisters, and she was oft invited to spend time in their company.
Looseata and Carrotslime made a great pet of Jane, and together the young ladies passed many an afternoon decrying other people’s dress sense, and waiting for someone to ask them to marry them. On occasion they would be diverted by some small project, such as knitting balaclavas for the terminally ugly of the parish, and one such scheme led to a letter being delivered to Longbourn early one morning.
My dear friend Jane,
We do entreat you to dine with Looseata and me today. We are planning to submit a little piece to The Lady’s Fancy Bits about the philanthropic works of our mutual friend Mr Darcy, and given your eloquence and skill at letter-writing, we are quite determined that you should be the author of the same. Come and discuss the matter as soon as you can on receipt of this.
Yours ever, Carrotslime Bingley
‘May I take the carriage?’ asked Jane.
‘Certainly not,’ replied Mrs Bennet. ‘You must go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain and then you must stay all night. And you can pretend to be saddle-sore, and ask Mr Bingley to rub your inner thighs.’
Thus the matter was decided, and Jane set off on horseback the three miles to Netherfield. Before long her mother’s prayers were answered, and it began to rain hard. Elizabeth was deeply concerned for her sister, but Mrs Bennet was delighted with the turn of events.
‘When she arrives at Netherfield her dress will be quite soaked through!’ she declared. ‘Do you not think so, Mr Bennet?’
Mr Bennet, who was a poorly developed character in every way, merely shrugged.
‘Her nipples will be poking through the muslin like chapel hat pegs! Mr Bingley cannot fail to take notice!’
And indeed, the very next morning a note arrived from Netherfield, addressed to Elizabeth.
My dearest sister,
I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. Mr Bingley says I have a congestion of the chest, which he is seeking to ease by assiduous hourly massages. He says he fears I will have to stay abed until he has quite rubbed the affliction out of me. All of this means I will be unable to write my character study of Fitzwilliam Darcy for The Lady’s Fancy Bits, as I so faithfully promised Carrotslime Bingley. Would you be so gracious as to take my place, Lizzy? Please say yes.
Elizabeth was conflicted. While her compassionate heart urged her to be with her sister at this most worrying time, she was anxious to keep her distance from Mr Darcy. After much cogitation and anxious pacing of the parlour, at length she made her decision.
‘Mother, I must go to Jane. Bingley’s ministrations are well intentioned, no doubt, but I cannot believe they will result in much easing of her symptoms.’
Mrs Bennet was exasperated. ‘She is being well taken care of, Lizzy! It is but a trifling cold! And Mr Bingley is unlikely to get past first base if Jane is to be chaperoned by you.’
Nevertheless, Elizabeth insisted, and when no horse could be found to accommodate her, she determined to walk the short distance to Netherfield across the fields. She leapt over stiles, sprang over puddles and – being hopelessly accident-prone in a cute yet vulnerable way that made all red-blooded men want to shag her – she arrived thither with her dress in shreds and her ankle shattered in several places, and was shown into the breakfast parlour.
The Misses Bingley were aghast at her appearance, and shrieked aloud at the muddy state of her petticoats.
‘And what, pray, has happened to your hair?’ asked Carrotslime Bingley, as tendrils of Elizabeth’s mane escaped from under her bonnet and tried to head towards the French windows.
But Mr Darcy stared upon her countenance with such intent that her cheeks turned even ruddier than before.
‘It is thrilling to see a young lady so invigorated by exercise,’ he murmured, never taking his slate-grey eyes off her own. ‘I am a great believer in it as a discipline.’
Elizabeth’s enquiries after Jane’s health were politely answered, and after breakfast she was able to visit her in her bedchamber. Mr Bingley leapt up from the bedside as soon as she entered.
‘Why Miss Bennet!’ he exclaimed. ‘I was just about to deliver your sister’s daily treatment!’
It was evident that in his anxiety for her sister’s health, Mr Bingley had barely rested – his attire betrayed him. His breeches were loosed, and his shirt was unlaced, and his face bore the look of someone who had spent the night tossing, and possibly turning, too.
Elizabeth crossed to Jane’s bedside. Her sister was flush of face and breathing heavily.
‘Jane, my dearest, I am here now. I shall nurse you until you are well. Mr Bingley, pray summon the apothecary.’
‘I will send someone at once,’ he replied, tucking his shirt hastily into his breeches. ‘I’ll be back soon, Snuggle Bunny.’
Jane smiled weakly. ‘Don’t be long, Dumpling.’
When Bingley had quit the room, Elizabeth turned down Jane’s bedsheets. Thankfully, they dealt with rejection pretty well – they were turned down every day.
‘I’m so grateful to see you, Lizzy,’ Jane murmured. ‘Yet I am loath to ask you to take on my duties as scribe, as well as those of nursemaid. The Lady’s Fancy Bits will have to do without an article about Fitzwilliam Darcy.’
‘Hush, now, do not tire yourself,’ chided Elizabeth, gently. ‘I will take on your journalistic duties gladly. I am a great reader of novels, as you know. Indeed, on the strength of that alone, I would no doubt be able to breeze into a job in a prestigious publishing house just like that, should such opportunities for young ladies ever exist in the future.’
‘So you will speak with Mr Darcy, even though you abhor him so?’
‘For you, Jane, I would do much more,’ replied Elizabeth tenderly.
‘It is agreed then.’ Jane settled back gratefully onto her pillow, and soon her breathing settled into the steady rhythm of sleep. Elizabeth kept watch upon the invalid, occasionally mopping Jane’s brow and at other times dusting and polishing it, but after a while took down a book of poems from the bookshelf and began to read.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the breakfast room, the talk was of the second eldest Miss Bennet, and the exhibition she had made of herself. Her manners were dissected and pronounced to be very ill indeed, a mixture of pride and impertinence. In short, she had no style, no taste, no beauty.
‘My, did you note her countenance on her arrival?’ remarked Looseata Bingley. ‘She looked entirely wild!’
‘To walk three miles! What abominable independence!’ declared her sister.
‘And what of her petticoat? Six inches deep in mud!’
‘All was lost upon me,’ Bingley said gallantly. ‘I confess I did not notice her petticoat. Did you, Darcy?’
‘Indeed not,’ replied Mr Darcy. ‘I was far too busy looking at her tits.’
When luncheon was over and the rest of the party were at the card table, Elizabeth petitioned Mr Darcy for an hour of his time, that she might discern from him some facts that might pique the interest of readers of The Lady’s Fancy Bits.
‘You flatter me, Miss Bennet, to suggest that young ladies may have any curiosity about my life and day-today business,’ Darcy remarked. ‘I hardly think myself a fit subject for anyone to study. Moreover, speaking about myself gives me little pleasure.’
‘Rest assured, Mr Darcy, it will afford me little pleasure either,’ Elizabeth replied archly. ‘I think we are both of an understanding in that regard.’
Nonetheless, together they repaired to the drawing room, where Elizabeth laid out her notebook and writing pencils upon an occasional table, which was keen to let people know that it was only occasionally a table – most of the time it was a wingback chair. While she did so, she could not help observing that Mr Darcy’s eyes were fixed upon her.
‘If you think to embarrass me, Sir, with your scrutiny, be informed that I am not intimidated easily,’ she said airily. ‘If there is something about my behaviour or appearance that you find reprehensible, pray tell me, that I might seek to rectify it at once.’
Mr Darcy smiled.
Oh my! His mouth was so ... so ... mouthish!
‘I make no such observation, Miss Bennet,’ he replied. ‘I was merely wondering how it would be to take up one of those fine pencils of yours, and to insert it, oh so slowly ...’
Elizabeth’s heart thudded in her chest.
‘ ... into a pencil sharpener,’ he continued, his grey eyes dancing wickedly, like two evil imps high on cider.
At that moment, a servant Elizabeth did not recognize, his hair cropped close and his visage roughly stubbled, appeared from behind a potted-plant stand.
‘Ah, Taylor,’ said Mr Darcy. ‘Have you made your final appraisal as regards Miss Bennet?’
‘I have, Sir,’ replied Taylor.
‘And your conclusion?’
‘Good! Then make haste to Meryton.’
Taylor gave a curt bow, and headed for the door.
‘My manservant, Taylor, has been despatched to buy some new undergarments for you,’ Darcy remarked, by way of explanation. ‘I could not help noticing that your bloomers and stays were sullied during your journey from Longbourn.’
Elizabeth bristled. Mr Darcy’s impertinence seemingly knew no bounds!
‘I assure you, I have no need of charity, Sir,’ Elizabeth replied, both abashed and affronted. ‘My underthings may not be as finely stitched, nor as decoratively embroidered, as those belonging to the Misses Bingley, but they are perfectly adequate for my needs.’
‘And what exactly are your needs, Miss Bennet?’ Mr Darcy asked playfully.
‘I have no needs, as you put it, Sir.’
‘You just said you did.’
God, he was an arse. ‘I think you understand my meaning perfectly, Mr Darcy,’ Elizabeth said firmly. ‘And please, no gifts.’
Mr Darcy looked disappointed. ‘Please indulge me, Miss Bennet,’ he said in a low voice, edging a little closer towards her on the chaise longue. ‘I am an inordinately wealthy man, and if I wish to buy you a silk shift with little cut-out bits that allow just a fleeting glimpse of nipple, that is my prerogative. Or satin bloomers that cling, like water, to your firm young ...’
Mr Darcy’s eyes were now taking on a feverish intensity. Elizabeth decided it was in everyone’s best interests to cut him short.
‘Pray, do not embarrass me again, Sir. I cannot accept your gifts. I have no wish to be beholden to you.’
‘You are refusing me?’ Mr Darcy looked puzzled. He cocked his head to one side. Then cocked it to the other side. Then cocked his leg for good measure.
‘You are fond of cocking, Sir?’ Elizabeth enquired.
‘Oh, I am, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy murmured. ‘Very fond indeed.’
‘Come now, let’s move the plot along!’ shouted Elizabeth’s Subconscious.
Glancing down at her notebook, Elizabeth read the first of her questions in as commanding a voice as she could muster. ‘You have vast wealth at your disposal. Pray tell, how is it possible to manage your estates and business interests so successfully?’
‘By exercising the strictest control,’ Mr Darcy replied. ‘I have over four hundred servants at Pemberley, and those who do not meet my exacting standards, or who displease me, are soon beaten into shape.’
‘You are speaking metaphorically, I trust?’
‘No. I personally pull down their breeches and give them twenty strokes. Next question, Miss Bennet.’
‘Pemberley is considered one of the foremost houses in the county of Derbyshire, if not in all of England. What do you consider to be its finest merits?’
Mr Darcy gave a wicked smile. ‘Firstly, you must inform the young ladies who read your magazine that I am changing the name of my estate.’
‘Indeed, Mr Darcy?’
‘To Member ley.’
Elizabeth fought to keep her composure. She would not be baited into responding to his puerile schoolboy humour.
‘You must do me the honour of visiting, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy continued. ‘There is much there that I would like to show you. I have decorated many rooms after the French fashion. You would pass many a happy hour there, I’m sure, fingering my bibelots.’
Elizabeth, occupied by the hurried writing of notes, was grateful to be looking down at her notebook so Mr Darcy could not see the blush that was now starting to spread across her cheeks.
‘Aside from calling upon friends in the country, how do you spend your time?’
‘I sail. I indulge in various physical pursuits. I ride – hard. And I get up whenever I can in Charlie Tango.’
‘Charlie Tango? Is that your hot-air balloon?’
‘No, he’s my rent boy.’
‘I knew it!’ yelled her Gaydar.
Seeing her discomfiture, Mr Darcy appeared to soften. ‘I am toying with you, Miss Bennet,’ he said in an amused voice. ‘Yes, Charlie Tango is my hot-air balloon.’
‘And your charitable pursuits? Are they close to your heart?’
Mr Darcy’s smile instantly vanished. ‘Some would say I have no heart, Miss Bennet.’
‘How can that be so, Mr Darcy?’
‘There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.’
He leant closer, and Elizabeth could smell his enticing, manly smell – she sensed cologne, linen, leather and something else. Pickled onions, perhaps?
‘I have many vices,’ Mr Darcy said huskily. ‘My libido, for one, I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding.’
‘That is a failing indeed!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘Implacable lust is a shade in a character.’
‘I have many shades, Miss Bennet,’ said Mr Darcy. ‘About fifty, last time I counted.’
The invalid being not much improved, and dusk drawing on, Elizabeth was invited to stay overnight at Netherfield. She passed a great deal of it in Jane’s room, but was much disturbed by Mr Bingley knocking upon the door several times during the night, obviously desirous of administering to her sister himself. Carrotslime and Looseata also called in upon them before they made their way to bed, keen to enquire after Jane’s health and to be a pair of complete bitches.
‘Mr Darcy informed us that you have “very fine eyes”,’ the elder Miss Bingley remarked. ‘If you were not of such low social status and diminished means, I would declare him to be in love with you!’
‘I cannot imagine Mr Darcy has any tender feelings,’ Elizabeth replied coolly. ‘He seems to be a man of large appetite and little delicacy, and unused to female company.’
‘It is true that he shuns the company of our sex,’ complained Looseata. ‘When he is in Town, he is most often to be found at his Club, Spanky’s.’
‘A shame indeed,’ added Carrotslime, ‘that a gentleman of his fortune and position should be a confirmed bachelor. Still, when he marries – as all men must – he will doubtless choose someone of his own standing in society. Like myself, perhaps.’
‘It would be a good match,’ Elizabeth declared, with much sincerity, for at this time she could imagine no better spouse for Mr Darcy than this vain and prattling creature.
‘And what of your own matrimonial hopes, Miss Elizabeth Bennet?’ Carrotslime continued. ‘Perhaps some impoverished clergyman might take a fancy to you, or, if you are exceedingly fortunate, a farmer?’
‘Cow!’ hissed Elizabeth’s Subconscious. ‘I harbour no such hopes. I am content with my reading, and my country walks. Love holds little attraction for me.’
‘Indeed. No doubt that is why you pay so little attention to fashion. Your lack of interest in the opposite sex would explain your hopelessly outmoded clothes.’
Elizabeth bristled again – she really should shave her legs. ‘I am fortunate enough to have a benefactor in that regard,’ she remarked. ‘Mr Darcy has sent to Town for new undergarments for me. In the finest silk and satin.’
Carrotslime Bingley seemed taken aback. ‘Mr Darcy? Buying gifts for you?’ Then she seemed to recover herself. ‘How like him to be generous! He has taken pity on your family, no doubt, and your greatly reduced circumstances. He is an ample benefactor of the poor and needy.’
With that she took her leave, and with Looseata following close behind, the two Bennet sisters were presently left alone.
‘How kind-hearted Carrotslime and Looseata are,’ Jane remarked. ‘They are such good friends to us.’
Elizabeth could only sigh. Jane was such a dumb-ass sometimes.
The following morning, Jane’s health was much improved, and Elizabeth wrote immediately to her mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them during the course of the day. Mrs Bennet’s reply, however, dashed all her hopes of an imminent return to Longbourn.
My dear girls,
Have either of you managed to ensnare any of the young gentlemen yet? I am loath to send for you until you have. Jane, you must hitch up the hem of your gown a little; no, make that a lot. You have such shapely thighs, you must show them off to Mr Bingley. And Elizabeth, pray, do not read books in front of the gentlemen, lest they think you a lesbian. You will have more chance of securing the gentlemen’s attention if you giggle girlishly at their witticisms, and, when they win at cards, shriek with excitement while jumping up and down so your bubbies wobble like jellies. It has always worked for me.
Your loving Mother
Elizabeth, who had little intention of giggling or shrieking, and was determined at all costs to avoid wobbling, urged Jane to borrow Mr Bingley’s carriage, and at length it was settled that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be carried out.
This communication excited many professions of concern, and they were pressed to stay on at least another day. Mr Bingley, in particular, seemed keen to continue administering to Jane, declaring that his regular massages were having many beneficial effects. To Elizabeth, however, their departure was a welcome relief. Close proximity to Mr Darcy over the past day had produced in her a tumult of emotions, chief among them vexation that she could be so powerfully physically attracted to someone who was so evidently a twat.
After taking tea in the parlour, the sisters took their leave. Carrotslime Bingley proclaimed herself distraught over Jane’s departure, and the young ladies parted with promises to meet very soon. To Elizabeth, who was mounting the steps of the carriage, she remarked, ‘Oh! You have something all over your face, Lizzy.’
Elizabeth reached up a hand to brush her cheek. ‘Is it cake crumbs?’ she enquired.
‘No,’ Carrotslime declared in a voice too low for anyone else to hear. ‘It’s poverty.’
Mr Darcy stood erect on the steps of Netherfield, his gaze fixed upon Elizabeth, running one of his long index fingers back and forth across his upper lip.
Is that just some sort of tic, like the lip quirking and head cocking, or is he trying to tell me something? Elizabeth wondered, searching in her valise for her pocket mirror to see whether her moustache needed bleaching. Under his scrutiny, she sensed a blush creep up her cheeks. She could feel his grey eyes burning into her, like red-hot pokers stirring the coals of her desire. The more they poked, the higher her flames of longing rose, until the metaphor exploded in a burst of sparks and badly written prose.
Yet if Elizabeth had hopes to forget Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and his poking eyes, it was not to be. A week after she and Jane had returned from Netherfield, the Bennets were invited to attend a gathering at the home of Sir William Lucas and his unfortunate-looking daughter Charlotte. With a face like a King Edward potato and a figure to match, Charlotte was deemed unlikely to catch the eye of any suitor, and destined, seemingly, to remain an old maid. Yet what she lacked in good looks, she more than made up for in liveliness of spirit.
‘I do declare, this party totally sucks,’ Charlotte complained to Elizabeth and Jane as they took a turn about the parlour together. ‘Father can be such a lame-ass. I don’t suppose either of you have any drugs?’
Both sisters shook their heads in bewilderment.
‘Then at least we should have some music,’ said Charlotte determinedly, beckoning Elizabeth towards the pianoforte. ‘Come, Elizabeth, let us have “Willy Is Everything To Me”.’
Elizabeth demurred. ‘My talents upon the pianoforte are meagre, as you know,’ she said modestly. ‘I would rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing only the very best performers.’
‘Oh, but Elizabeth, if you do not play, I shall have to start self-harming,’ entreated Charlotte.
With great reluctance, Elizabeth arranged herself upon the piano stool, and fingered the keys gingerly.
‘I did not know that you liked to play, Miss Bennet.’
Holy stalker! Where did he come from? Looming over the pianoforte, his flint-grey eyes boring into hers as though trying to tunnel right through her eye sockets, down her neck and through her stomach and intestines to her vagina, was none other than Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.
‘I like to play, too.’ His tongue caressed the words. Elizabeth was suddenly thankful she was sitting on the piano stool, as her legs seemed to have turned to water.
‘Would you care to play together, Miss Bennet?’ Mr Darcy stroked his bottom lip with a long index finger. Jeez, it was long – it must have been nearly ten inches. Her huge blue eyes widened to the size of saucers.
‘D’you think he’s huge all over?’ her Inner Slapper asked slyly. ‘Go on, take a look at his feet. You know what they say ...’
Elizabeth glanced down. How could she not have noticed it before? Fitzwilliam Darcy’s feet were the largest and the thickest in girth of any she’d seen in her life. She swallowed nervously.
‘It was my intention to play “Good Morning, Pretty Maid.” Are you familiar with the lyrics, Mr Darcy?’
Mr Darcy’s lips quirked up into a smile. ‘Oh, I am bound by many things, Miss Bennet, but never by convention,’ he murmured. ‘I shall sing my own lyrics. Begin!’
With trembling fingers, Elizabeth began to sound out the first notes of the familiar air.
‘Good morning, pretty maid,
Whither are you heading?’
Mr Darcy’s voice was disconcertingly low and sensual. He had moved behind her now, to the back of the piano stool, and she could feel his hot breath caressing her neck.
‘To Gloucester, if it please you
For ’tis my sister’s wedding.’
‘Fair maid, it does not please me
It gives me much vexation
I told you to stay home
And eat a pound of bacon.’
‘Good sir, please stay your hand
It’s true I have not eaten.’
‘A wicked miss you’ve been
And now you must be beaten!’
Thwack, whack, smack!
Three strokes he did deliver
Thwack, whack, smack!
Her flesh was all a-quiver.
‘If you disobey me
You’re sure to be berated
I’ll flog you with my riding crop
Until I’m fully sated!’
Thwack, whack ...’
It was at this point in the proceedings that Elizabeth felt her body begin to sway.
‘Take care, Sir, she faints!’ shouted Sir William.
In an instant, Mr Darcy had swooped down and gripped Elizabeth’s slender frame tightly in his attractive arms.
‘Fetch some smelling salts!’ Charlotte called out.
‘Forget the smelling salts,’ Mr Darcy growled, his eyes, blazing with concern, locked on to Elizabeth’s. ‘What this young lady needs is sausages – lots of them. And maybe some eggs and pancakes with maple syrup on the side.’
The servants at once rushed hither and thither and Mr Darcy, hooking his freakishly long index fingers under Elizabeth’s armpits – holy sweat glands, why hadn’t someone invented deodorant yet! – lifted her gently onto a nearby chaise longue.
‘Let us give Miss Bennet time to recover,’ he commanded, waving away the crowds of anxious friends and acquaintances, and the hordes of officers who had gathered in the hope of catching a glimpse of her knickers.
‘You gave us quite a scare, Miss Bennet,’ he whispered, brushing a tendril of her hair gently behind her ear.
‘Oh my! I have no idea what came over me,’ Elizabeth murmured. Mr Darcy was gazing at her so intently, she found it impossible to meet his eye.
‘If I had known my song would shock you so, I would not have performed it,’ continued Mr Darcy, tucking another tendril of hair behind her other ear.
‘No, Sir, please do not think your song offended me. It was a most ... unusual ditty.’
‘Oh, it was just a little something I wrote when I was but a boy at Beaton.’
‘You attended Beaton?’ asked Elizabeth, wide-eyed. But of course! Now it all became clear why Mr Darcy was the way he was. In the English Public Schools Annual League Table, Beaton came top every year in Flogging, Fagging, Ruggering and Buggering. That kind of education had to have an effect upon a child. Suddenly she could picture Fitzwilliam Darcy as a young, innocent boy, being forced to listen to endless dirty jokes and to fag for the senior boys, trying not to cry as the housemaster thwacked him again and again with his yardstick . . .
‘Indeed. My parents would have engaged a tutor, but my mother’s friend, Lady Catherine de Burgh, who had great influence over her, insisted upon my attending.’ Mr Darcy looped both tendrils of Lizzy’s hair together at the back of her head, worked them into a French plait, and sat back to admire his handiwork.
‘You are a beguiling woman, Miss Bennet,’ he murmured. ‘I find you most intriguing.’
Elizabeth blushed to the roots of her now beautifully coiffed hair. ‘Um, hello?’ her Gaydar interjected. ‘Is no one else thinking what I’m thinking?’
But Elizabeth paid no heed. This man, this beautiful, sensual man, was intrigued by her! And she feared that she was, against all wise judgement, becoming equally drawn to him.
‘I do believe you would not have fainted if you had eaten before you came here, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy continued. ‘A young lady should take nourishment at least five times a day.’
‘I rarely feel hungry, Mr Darcy. But thank you for your concern.’
Mr Darcy’s eyes darkened.
‘You must eat more, Miss Bennet! I insist upon it!’
At once, Elizabeth’s mood changed from one of desire to one of annoyance. ‘You insist? You presume too much, Mr Darcy. We are of but meagre acquaintance. Insistence is the preserve of those with whom I enjoy more intimate friendship.’
Mr Darcy’s eyes were blazing now, like a malfunctioning boiler. ‘I do not like to be defied, Miss Bennet,’ he breathed huskily. ‘If indeed I knew you more intimately, I should put you across my knee and spank you!’
Spank her? Now Elizabeth felt light-headed again. ‘I would remind you, Sir, that we are in polite company. And talk of spanking is both indecorous and insulting.’ Now her own blue eyes blazed, too, with humiliation and anger.
Mr Darcy stared at her for a long moment. His brow creased, and his expression was pained, as if he was torn between two choices – a cheese sandwich vs tuna mayo, maybe, or between pride and desire.
All of a sudden, he stood and gave a curt bow.
‘Laters, Baby,’ he said stiffly, and turned upon his heel.
‘Seriously, what a knobend,’ muttered her Subconscious.
But that night Elizabeth dreamt of intense grey eyes, muscly arms and huge, throbbing feet.
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton, a most convenient distance for the young Bennet ladies, who were tempted thither three or four times a week to visit the milliner’s or to run various errands for their mother and stepfather. Lydia and Kitty were ever more frequent visitors now that a whole regiment of the militia had settled in the neighbourhood for the winter, and even Mrs Bennet was fond of accompanying the girls there for the opportunity of casting her eye upon a pleasing male form made ever more appealing by close-fitting army breeches.
It happened that Elizabeth walked with her two younger sisters to the village one morning, despite a light autumn drizzle, in order that she might visit the haberdashers for buttons and patronize the poor of the parish with a basket of groceries. Before long, Kitty and Lydia had become distracted by the sight of a red jacket.
‘Why, there is Captain Carter!’ Lydia declared. ‘Look, Kitty, he is just coming out of Slaggy Sal’s hovel – I do wonder why he has been visiting her. Pray, let us waylay him and ask!’
Thus the sisters parted company and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing the village green at a quick pace and tripping over, vulnerably yet somehow sexily, upon the steps of the haberdashery shop.
‘Allow me, Miss Bennet.’
Oh, this was insufferable! Here, yet again, was Fitzwilliam Darcy, the last person she hoped to see in Meryton. His hair was tousled from the rain, and his grey eyes sparkled silver in the dull morning light. He was holding out his powerful hand in order to help her up. Reluctantly, Elizabeth allowed him to lift her from the step, and, using a pocket handkerchief he had taken from his waistcoat, delicately remove one of her teeth from where it had become embedded in her lower lip.
‘I worry for your safety, Miss Bennet,’ he murmured, gently dabbing the blood from her chin. ‘It is clearly not healthy for you to be walking about on your own. I will see to it that Taylor accompanies you in future.’
‘Good morning, Miss Bennet.’ Taylor’s head suddenly poked out from behind a horse trough beside the shop. Jeez, he got everywhere!
Elizabeth would have demurred – she was perfectly able to perambulate the neighbourhood unaccompanied – but her mouth still smarted and, under Mr Darcy’s penetrating stare, she somehow found herself unable to argue.
‘Now, Miss Bennet, we must get you out of this rain.’ His eyes surveyed her gown and petticoat. ‘You are wet, I see.’ Now they ran over her embonpoint. ‘And I am stiff ...’
Elizabeth felt a blush blooming from her cheeks down to her chest.
‘Stiff, Mr Darcy?’
‘Indeed. Bingley and I engaged in an archery contest yesterday. And I fear my aching arms cannot hold this door open for long. Come ...’
She knew not why, but she felt powerless to resist his entreaty. Stepping inside the shop, she feigned concentration, shaking the raindrops from her gown as she tried to regain her composure. Holy catalogue model! Mr Darcy was the very picture of early nineteenth-century hotness. His white linen shirt was freshly pressed and open at the collar, while his grey flannel trousers hung off his hips in a most distracting fashion.
‘What brings you to Meryton, Miss Bennet?’
Mr Darcy’s sensuous, low voice startled her from her reverie.
‘Necessity, Mr Darcy. I have a basket of eggs for Granny Egbert, and some butter for Sergeant Butterworth. Oh, and Mr Sexpest requested I bring him some of my unwashed underthings.’
‘You are visiting the needy?’ Mr Darcy looked pleasantly surprised. ‘It is most commendable for a young lady to take an interest in good works.’ He gazed at her admiringly, his grey eyes glinting from beneath his floppy copper-coloured locks.
‘I, too, am involved with many charitable causes.’
‘Indeed, Sir, I have heard much of your benevolence.’
‘Then you may know of my plans to open a refuge for fallen women, here in Meryton?’
‘That is most commendable. But it will be necessary, will it not, to find honest labour for the young ladies in question, or they may be tempted back to their licentious ways.’
Mr Darcy nodded in assent.
‘I have considered that, Miss Bennet. I plan to open a tavern in the village, and the girls will work there as serving wenches. I shall call it ...’
He paused, and for a moment his smoky-grey eyes lingered over Lizzy’s heaving bosom.
‘An unusual name, Sir.’
‘It is after my manservant, Mr Hooter, who shall be landlord there.’
‘I see,’ Elizabeth answered. ‘And what brings you hither, Mr Darcy?’
‘To the haberdashers. We ladies are not accustomed to seeing gentlemen perusing ribbons and trimmings.’
Mr Darcy cast his eyes about the shop. ‘I come here often, Miss Bennet,’ he replied, with a hint of a smile. ‘There are many accoutrements a gentleman of my nature requires for his private pursuits. See here,’ he murmured, running one of his long index fingers down a length of grosgrain ribbon, suspended from a hook on the wall. ‘This may prove useful.’
‘You are preparing a collage, perhaps?’ Elizabeth enquired.
Mr Darcy’s lips quirked up into a half-smile. ‘No, not a collage, Miss Bennet,’ he murmured.
‘Perhaps trimming a pair of curtains?’
He chuckled softly, as if amused by some private joke. ‘It is true that I favour a pair of neatly trimmed curtains.’ His eyes pierced hers, and for a moment the air between them seemed to hum. Had someone farted?
‘Yes, let us say that I am trimming some curtains. Perhaps you could assist me in choosing the materials?’
He proffered his arm and led her across to the counter, where numerous frills and furbelows and bolts of cloth were displayed.
‘How may I oblige you, Mr Darcy, Miss Bennet?’ asked the haberdasher, who, obviously being already acquainted with the former, was nonetheless bowing obsequiously low.
‘Pray, give me four feet of your best horsehair braid,’ Mr Darcy commanded. ‘And ten feet of your finest curtain cord – it must be strong, mind you.’
Mr Darcy ran his eyes over the shelves. ‘Fetch me some of that black leather-look fabric, there.’
‘How much, Sir?’
‘Oh, about enough to wrap once, tightly, about this young lady here.’
Black fabric and horsehair braid? These would certainly be distinctive curtains, Elizabeth thought. There was no denying Mr Darcy had unusual tastes.
‘Will there be anything else, Sir?’ asked the haberdasher.
‘Just this curtain tie-back,’ replied Mr Darcy, picking up a large golden tasselled braid. With a sudden ‘whump!’ he struck it, hard, against the wooden countertop. The whole counter trembled violently, and – although she could not discern why – so did Elizabeth’s ladyparts.
‘Is that all, Sir?’
‘Let me see ...’ Darcy was deep in thought for a moment. ‘Do you have any dildos?’
Elizabeth’s face blushed crimson. She lowered her eyes. This was insufferable! Why did Mr Darcy attempt to bring every conversation down to a crude level? To mortify her and shame her at every turn? How could he so cruelly disregard her feelings?
‘You know why,’ her Subconscious sighed. ‘He went to private school.’
It was true! Poor Mr Darcy. How else could he possibly be, having been exposed to smut and salaciousness on a daily basis? Years of knob gags and lack of interaction with the opposite sex had moulded his character into a double-entendre-making, permanently smirking sex maniac, who simply could not help debasing himself.
The shopkeeper appeared to have been frozen to the spot by Mr Darcy’s request.
‘Do not trouble yourself, my good man,’ the latter said, picking up a curtain rod with a decorative finial. ‘This will do instead. Have everything delivered to Netherfield and charge it to my account.’
The haberdasher recovered his voice at last. ‘As you wish, Mr Darcy. Good day, Sir.’
Elizabeth, who in her shame had turned her back on both gentlemen, was by now halfway to the door.
‘Wait one moment, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy called. ‘You must at least allow Taylor to escort you back to Longbourn.’
She whirled round in anger. ‘Pray, do not go to any trouble on my account,’ she retorted. ‘I am able to negotiate my way from Meryton to my home quite satisfactorily. You may leave me alone hereafter. It would be far better than your continued attempts to harass and embarrass me whenever we have the misfortune to meet.’
Her words appeared to have a dramatic effect upon Mr Darcy. His lips de-quirked themselves at once, and his head ceased its cocking. Did she imagine it, or did his lower lip start to tremble, and his grey eyes grow dim with tears? Suddenly, he looked so young, so forsaken, that Elizabeth knew that if it was within her power, she wanted to save him. To save him from his dissolute life of butt plugs, handcuffs, golden showers, fisting, flogging, and anal probing. And to introduce him instead to a genteel world of découpage, shell collecting, lacework, needlepoint, and harpsichord recitals – gentle pastimes that would salve his damaged soul. But where to begin?
‘If you won’t go with Taylor, at least take hold of my knobkerry,’ Mr Darcy said, proffering his cane. ‘That way, if you are waylaid by ruffians, you will have no trouble beating them all off.’
Elizabeth’s shoulders sagged. The road ahead, she realized, would be long and hard. A bit like an erect penis. Holy crap, now she was doing it, too! Mr Darcy was a dangerous influence indeed.
‘We shall,’ said Mr Bennet to his wife as they were at breakfast the next morning, ‘have reason to expect an addition to our family party this evening.’
‘Who do you mean, my dear? I know of no one who should happen to call in,’ replied Mrs Bennet.
‘The person of whom I speak is both known to us, and yet unknown.’
‘Come, come,’ cried Mrs Bennet impatiently. ‘You speak in riddles, which is most out of character for you. Pray tell, who is this guest you speak of?’
‘I have this morning received a letter from my cousin, Mr Phil Collins, and he intends to pay us a visit this very afternoon.’
‘The Phil Collins?’ exclaimed his wife. ‘Who used to be in Genesis? And is set to inherit Longbourn upon your death?’
‘The very same!’ Mr Bennet replied. ‘It seems he has newly settled in Hertfordshire and comes hither to Longbourn with the intention of seeking a mistress.’
‘One of my girls, having it off with Phil Collins!’ cried Mrs Bennet. ‘What a thought! Lady Lucas will be beside herself with envy! But come now, read out his letter, that we might all hear what he has to say.’
Mr Bennet duly obliged:
Having been ordained at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Burgh, widow of the late Lord Chris de Burgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish. Of Lady Catherine, you will have heard much, I do not doubt – of her affability, kindness, and magnificent embonpoint. She is indeed a remarkable woman. She’ll get a hold on you, believe it. Like no other. And before you know it you’ll be on your knees.
But I digress. I have desire to make amends to your daughters for the circumstances of my being next in the entail of Longbourn estate, and with that in mind, I request the pleasure of waiting upon you and your family, this Monday 18 November at 4 o’clock. My intention, if it please you, is to pick one of your daughters to share my bedchamber, and possibly thereafter to enter into a three- to five-year marriage followed by an acrimonious but financially advantageous divorce. It may seem hasty, but I believe you can hurry love, despite what Mama said.
Yours, Phil Collins
‘He seems most conscientious and polite,’ commented Mrs Bennet. ‘You could do worse, girls, than hook up with a Grammy-award-winning rock god.’
‘Nonetheless, there is something rather pompous in his style,’ observed Elizabeth. ‘The way he has managed to work in some of his song lyrics. And his obsequiousness regarding Lady Catherine. I wonder what kind of man he truly is?’
Elizabeth did not have to wait long for her answer. Mr Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great politeness by the whole family. He was a small, balding man of about three score years, with a grave and formal manner, and little beady eyes. He had not long been seated before he complimented Mrs Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters. He found it impossible, he confessed, to choose between them, given that each clearly had her own merits.
‘My Jane is easily the prettiest of them all,’ remarked Mrs Bennet. ‘Such fine strawberry-blonde locks! Such a magnificent rack! But alas! She is all but engaged to Mr Elliot Bingley, of Netherfield.’
‘What of that one, with the slightly too-limpid eyes?’ Mr Collins enquired, indicating Elizabeth, who was rolling about on the floor beside the fireplace, trying to force her unruly hair into a bonnet.
Mrs Bennet, who held her second-born the least dear of all her children, could not hide her delight. ‘Now there is a suitable match, Mr Collins! My Lizzy will not mind that you have been married three times before, nor that it is rumoured you consider marriage to be a difficult proposition,’ she said earnestly.
‘I would need to ensure that Lady Catherine de Burgh, of course, approved of my choice,’ said Mr Collins. ‘As it happens, she is not well predisposed to romantic affiliations.’
‘Why ever not, Mr Collins?’ asked Mrs Bennet, who imagined all widows to be sex-starved nymphomaniacs.
‘After the late Lord Chris de Burgh had a dalliance with the children’s governess, she turned against romance. I know that she is adamant that her godson, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, should never marry.’
‘Happily, he appears to be of the same mind,’ broke in Elizabeth, who had caught the last few words of their discourse. ‘Love does not appear to be one of his predilections.’
‘Then he is very unlike me,’ Lydia piped up, settling herself down upon Mr Collins’s knee. ‘I think of little else.’
‘For shame, Lydia, do not make a show of yourself,’ her sister Mary hissed, through pursed lips.
‘Why, Philip does not mind!’ Lydia declared, rubbing Mr Collins’s bald head affectionately. ‘Now, Phil, tell us more about how you went Loco in Acapulco.’
Mr Collins declared his intention to stay the week, and over breakfast the next morning, the sisters were regaled with many tales of his former abode in Switzerland.
Lydia declared a desire to walk into Meryton, every sister agreed to accompany her, and Mr Collins insisted on attending them because he could ‘feel something coming in the air tonight’ and was anxious for their safety.
In pompous nothings on Mr Collins’s side, and civil assents on that of his cousins, their time passed until they entered the village. Lydia and Kitty immediately cast about for soldiers, and their gaze soon settled upon a young officer with a most gentlemanly bearing. All the party were struck by the stranger’s pleasing appearance, and upon enquiry, discovered him to be a Mr Whackem, a recent recruit to the militia.
Whackem was a tall, well-built fellow, with two silver hoop earrings glinting in his ears, and eyes of a fathomless deep blue. Elizabeth couldn’t help but compare his red hair, tied back into a ponytail, with Mr Darcy’s floppy copper locks. And neither could she help herself from trying to say, ‘floppy copper locks’ very fast, twenty times. It was surprisingly difficult.
Introductions were made, and soon the whole party was engaged in very agreeable conversation, when the sound of horses drew to their attention two riders approaching. It was Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, the latter mounting a fine-looking chestnut mare. He deigned to acknowledge the company with a nod, but was suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger, and Elizabeth, happening to see the countenances of both gentlemen, noticed that Mr Darcy’s eyes grew dark and his jaw set firm, while Whackem visibly paled. After a few moments, Mr Whackem raised his hat, a gesture that Mr Darcy acknowledged by raising his middle finger and mouthing the word, ‘Asshole.’
Whatever could it all mean? wondered Elizabeth. Was there some enmity between the two gentlemen?
Without another word, Mr Darcy wheeled his horse about and galloped back down the street, the way he had come. Mr Bingley appeared vexed.
‘I told him to go to the water closet before we left,’ he complained.
Mr Whackem, however, soon seemed to recover himself, and declared his intention to accompany the young ladies as far as the millinery shop.
‘The militia is just a hobby for me,’ he confided to Elizabeth as they walked along together. ‘My true interest lies in books.’
‘You love to read, Mr Whackem?’ Elizabeth asked. ‘So do I! Pray, which authors do you favour?’
‘Reading is indeed a passion, Miss Bennet,’ he replied, ‘but it is to the business of books that I am most drawn. I have a small independent publishing company, Whackem Enterprises. We publish the Whackem Official Sporting Guides. You may know them better as the Whackem Off Series.
‘Oh, but we have the Whackem Off Guide to English Cricketers at home!’ Elizabeth cried. ‘How fascinating that I have now met Mr Whackem Off himself!’
She pondered a moment. ‘I always imagined, had I been born in some future time when young ladies might receive as rigorous an education as men, that I might have sought employment in the same sphere as yourself.’
‘You might have wished to be a publishing executive?’
‘A copywriter, perhaps, or a literary agent.’
Whackem’s eyes lit up. ‘Maybe you could consider doing a little proofreading for me?’
Elizabeth smiled. ‘I could not possibly work for a living, Mr Whackem! I am far too busily engaged in pacing about the parlour, sticking pressed flowers in scrapbooks and embroidering cushion covers.’ And yet she was not so lacking in pride as to deny that his talk of employment was flattering. The idea of enlisting her mind outside the domestic sphere appealed to her vanity, and, for a brief moment, she allowed herself to entertain the tantalizing thought.
The talk continued about Meryton, and forthcoming recitals and balls, but Elizabeth found herself chiefly wishing to hear what she could not hope to be told: the history of Whackem’s acquaintance with Mr Darcy. Her curiosity was unexpectedly relieved, however, when Mr Whackem began the subject himself.
‘We have a mutual acquaintance, I understand; one who abides at Netherfield.’
‘You refer to Mr Darcy?’
‘The very same. We are not on friendly terms. He has, in the past, used me very ill.’
Elizabeth’s interest was at once piqued.
‘I can never be in the company of Mr Darcy without being grieved by a thousand painful recollections,’ Whackem continued. ‘We grew up in the same household – my father managed the Pemberley estate – and he and I were boyhood companions, although I believe he disliked me even then. Later we were both sent to Beaton together.
‘I had a teddy bear that I loved very much – Mrs Pickles was her name. She was given to me by Darcy’s own father, the best man that ever lived. How I loved Mrs Pickles! She came with me everywhere.’
Elizabeth frowned. ‘Forgive me, Mr Whackem, for interrupting your account, but I believe teddies have yet to be invented.’
‘It is a deliberate anachronism, Miss Bennet,’ said he, ‘probably due to laziness on the part of the author. May we just gloss over it?’
‘Of course. Please, continue.’
‘One day, I woke to find Mrs Pickles was not in bed beside me as she was accustomed to be. She had quite vanished. How I searched in vain! Mrs Pickles was truly lost, it seemed, and my tears could not be stemmed. I was tender-hearted, you see, at that young age.’
‘How old, may I ask, were you?’ Elizabeth enquired.
‘I was but fifteen.’
Elizabeth was deeply moved. The loss of a teddy bear, for one so young! It was sure to have scarred his character irreparably.
‘At length,’ Whackem continued, ‘Mrs Pickles’s whereabouts was discovered. It seems Fitzwilliam Darcy had taken her.’ Whackem discreetly brushed away a tear.
‘But what,’ asked Elizabeth, after a pause, ‘can have been his motive?’
‘The pleasures of the flesh, Miss Bennet. Or in this case, the fluff. He had Mrs Pickles tied to his bedpost, whipped her, and used her sorely in a way that is not fit to describe in the presence of a young lady.’
Elizabeth let out a gasp. How could Mr Darcy be so cruel? To treat a soft toy in that way, it was truly monstrous!
‘Mr Darcy declared Mrs Pickles to be his “submissive”, and used his superior rank and connections to ensure that, from thereon, I had no claim upon my dearly loved toy. Mrs Pickles was kept in a makeshift sex dungeon under Darcy’s bed, and flogged and debased on a daily basis. There was nothing I could do to save her.’
‘Good heavens!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘How could this be disregarded? Why did you not seek legal redress?’
‘I am a man of honour, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Whackem said sadly. ‘I would never knowingly do anything to sully the memory of Mr Darcy’s late father, whom I held most dear. I thank God that he is dead and buried, and does not know of the shame his kinky son has brought upon the family name.’
‘I had not thought Mr Darcy so bad as this,’ Elizabeth confessed, ‘althought I admit, I do find him disturbingly oversexed. I imagined he would attempt to penetrate anything with a pulse, and may even harbour lustful designs on melons, cream cakes, bolsters, and possibly even garden furniture, but soft toys? Never! It is wicked beyond belief!’
‘You will understand now, Miss Bennet, why he and I are careful to avoid each other?’
‘Is is only natural, Mr Whackem,’ commented Elizabeth. ‘And you need have no fears on my account. He is not welcome at Longbourn, and you are most unlikely to find him there if you choose to visit us. Which I sincerely hope you will.’
Mr Whackem smiled. ‘I am gratified, Miss Bennet. Come, let us have no more talk of Mr Darcy and his abominable vices. My only consolation is that no woman will ever have to suffer as Mrs Pickles did, as Mr Darcy will never marry.’
‘How can you be sure?’
‘Lady Catherine de Burgh has forbidden it, and, for reasons unknown, Mr Darcy would never defy her.’
‘She has some influence over him, then?’ Elizabeth asked, puzzled. She could not imagine that a proud man like Mr Darcy would take orders from a mere woman.
‘Indeed, it seems so. She has known him since he was a young boy. It is possible, I suppose, that he might harbour some affection for her. She is, after all, a very handsome woman.’
‘Bitch troll!’ snarled her Inner Slapper, most unladylikely.
‘Does Lady Catherine...’ Elizabeth struggled to find the appropriate words. ‘How is she shaped? Is she tall or short? Is her figure ample or slender? How would she compare, for instance, to me?’
Mr Whackem glanced briefly at Elizabeth’s modest embonpoint and shrugged. ‘I would say she definitely has bigger knockers.’
The next day Elizabeth related to Jane what had passed between Mr Whackem and herself. Jane listened with astonishment – she knew not how to believe that Mr Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr Bingley’s regard. Yet it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Mr Whackem. The possibility of Whackem having endured such torment was enough to interest all her tender feelings.
The sisters were interrupted in their conversation by the arrival of Carrotslime Bingley, who bore an invitation to yet another ball at Netherfield. This afforded Mrs Bennet ample opportunity to make many more testicle-themed double entendres, and the next week passed quickly in a whirl of bawdy jokes and the acquisition of new gowns and dancing slippers for all the Bennet sisters apart from Mary, who insisted that she found balls to be hot, sticky and unpleasant. Instead, she declared, she would stay at home and perfect her fingering with her music teacher, Mr Fiddler.
When at last Elizabeth entered the ballroom at Netherfield, she searched in vain for Mr Whackem among the cluster of red coats there assembled. She had the suspicion of his being purposely omitted for Mr Darcy’s pleasure in Bingley’s invitation to the officers. Lydia, who had already conversed with half the soldiers present, soon after delivered the news that Whackem was washing his hair that very evening, and would be unable to attend.
I do not imagine he would have chosen tonight to attend to his toilette, had he not wished to avoid a certain gentleman here, Elizabeth thought to herself.
She herself had dressed with more than usual care, borrowing Jane’s plum-coloured silk gown, which accentuated her fine, lissome figure. It was a fact not lost on Mr Collins, who pronounced her to be almost as attractive as his beloved Lady Catherine de Burgh.
Mr Collins had secured the first two dances with Elizabeth, and for the latter they were dances of mortification and distress. Mr Collins, surprisingly for the former drummer with Genesis, displayed little rhythm, and often moved the wrong way without being aware of it. The moment of Elizabeth’s release from him was ecstasy.
Discovering Charlotte Lucas in the orangery sneaking a cigarette, Elizabeth believed she had found both a refuge from the attentions of her stepfather’s cousin, and a sympathetic ear.
‘Oh Charlotte,’ she sighed, ‘I am beginning to think that I am being singled out among my sisters to be Phil Collins’s mistress.’
‘Would that be so disagreeable a thing, Lizzy?’ Charlotte asked reasonably. ‘Mr Collins is of no mean fortune, and with his back catalogue of hits, is sure to earn handsome royalties for many years to come.’
‘That, I fear, is not enough to overcome my aversion to his company. I find him both foolish and tiresome. If I have to listen once more to his recollections of the Montreux Music Festival in ’84, I declare I shall top myself!’
Charlotte smiled. ‘You are too harsh, I think, Lizzy. I find him quite personable.’
‘You surprise me, Charlotte! I had thought you more discerning.’
‘At least you are attracting some male attention, however unwelcome,’ countered Charlotte. ‘I’ve had to dance with a yucca plant for the last two hours. Anyway, take a look under my petticoat. There should be a bottle of tequila somewhere.’
The young ladies’ plan to get totalled on cheap booze was soon thwarted, however, as Mr Collins, upon spying Elizabeth rummaging under her friend’s gown, made his way out to the orangery to join them.
‘I have found out,’ said he, ‘by a singular accident, that there is now in the room a close acquaintance of my patroness, Lady Catherine de Burgh. How wonderfully these things occur! I am now going to pay my respects to him, and trust he will excuse my not having done it before.’
‘You intend to introduce yourself to Fitzwilliam Darcy?’ asked Elizabeth.
‘Indeed I am. He is Lady Catherine’s godson, is he not?’
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him that Mr Darcy would consider his addressing him when improperly attired in a ‘Genesis Reunion World Tour’ T-shirt as an impertinence rather than a compliment to his aunt. ‘He is a proud man and a great stickler for appropriate dress,’ Elizabeth advised him. ‘At the very least put on your tailcoat.’
‘Do not distress yourself, dear cousin,’ Mr Collins reassured her. ‘I have made a study of these points of etiquette, and when a man of the cloth, such as myself, is addressing the minor aristocracy, there is No Jacket Required.’
With that, he made his way across the room to the fireplace, where Mr Darcy stood prodding the coals with his poker.
Too mortified to witness the unfolding exchange, which would doubtless end in humiliation for Mr Collins and, by extension, to herself, Elizabeth contented herself with watching Jane and Mr Bingley. Their happiness and ease in each other’s company was evident to all, and Elizabeth allowed herself to imagine Jane settled in that very house, in all the felicity that a marriage of true affection could bestow. Mrs Bennet evidently felt the same, as sidling up to Elizabeth, she said in a state of great animation: ‘It goes well, does it not, for your sister? See how Mr Bingley rests his hand upon her buttock!’
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to persuade her mother to describe the scene in a less audible whisper, for to her great distress, she sensed that the exchange was overheard by Mr Darcy, who had moved away from Mr Collins at the first opportunity and was now busy colour-coding a nearby fruit bowl.
‘I am certainly not afraid to speak my mind in front of him,’ her mother scolded, ‘just because he has ten thousand a year! I dare say he thinks us a bunch of uncouth country bumpkins, but he would not look quite so superior if he knew that earlier, when he was not looking, I pissed in his glass of claret.’
Glancing sideways, Elizabeth discerned that Mr Darcy was not looking at her mother after all. Indeed, his smouldering grey eyes appeared to be trained, constantly, on her, following her every nuance of movement, every curve of her body. She squirmed under his scrutiny. It may have been Mr Darcy’s persistent appraisal, or the heat of the room, the exertion of dancing or too many tequila slammers, but at length Elizabeth began to feel quite light-headed.
‘I must go onto the balcony and take some air,’ she declared to her mother, and, throwing open the doors, stepped into the clear, frosty night.
‘Miss Elizabeth, are you not well?’
Mr Collins had appeared by her side, as if from nowhere, and his beady little eyes were boring into hers. ‘May I be of assistance? Some water, perhaps?’
Elizabeth gathered some of the hair that had escaped from her chignon and tucked it back behind her ears. ‘Pray, do not trouble yourself, Mr Collins. It is a momentary weakness, that is all.’
Mr Collins sprang forward so that his hands were upon her waist – they were drummer’s hands, and surprisingly strong.
‘Mr Collins! Whatever are you doing?’
‘Oh Elizabeth...’ Mr Collins stood up on his tiptoes and attempted to plant a kiss on her cheek.
‘No, please do not!’ Elizabeth protested. ‘Stop, I beg you...’
‘We could have a Groovy Kind of Love, Elizabeth,’ Mr Collins whispered into her hair. ‘Just let me kiss you...’
‘I think the young lady said no!’
Holy hero! Mr Darcy was standing in the doorway, his rangy yet muscular physique almost blocking out the light from the ballroom beyond. His countenance betrayed a tumult of feelings: rage, passion, indigestion.
‘Mr Darcy!’ Mr Collins released Elizabeth at once. ‘Miss Bennet was feeling unwell, and I was giving her succour.’
Mr Darcy’s voice was clipped. ‘If Miss Bennet is in need of succour, then I should be the person to administer it!’
‘I do not need succour at all, I merely need fresh air,’ Elizabeth said in an exasperated voice, bending over an aspidistra – she had an unsettling feeling that she might be sick. ‘Please, I beg you both, leave me alone. I will be quite recovered in a moment.’
‘You heard the lady,’ Mr Darcy ordered.
‘As you wish, Madam.’ Giving a curt little bow, and a sideways glance at Elizabeth, Mr Collins retreated into the ballroom.
Mr Darcy strode across to Elizabeth and grasped her, tightly, by the buttocks.
‘Are you quite well, Miss Bennet?’ he asked anxiously, his eyes burning with concern.
‘Quite well, thank you, Mr Darcy,’ Elizabeth murmured weakly. But just then, to her mortification and dismay, she was caught in a paroxysm of nausea and was violently sick all over Mr Darcy’s calfskin boots. She was aware, as she was bending down, of Mr Darcy holding back her hair with tender care, and then, as she straightened up, of him braiding it deftly into plaits.
‘Oooh, that’s better,’ he announced, clapping his hands. ‘Pigtails!’
Looking upon her ashen countenance, he cocked his head to one side.
‘Whatever are we to do with you, Miss Bennet?’ he smirked. ‘You are unused to alcohol. I take it you did not eat before you came here tonight? Perhaps I could get you a vol-au-vent?’
‘I do not need to eat anything,’ Elizabeth said impatiently. What was it with him and food?
‘Pray, do not keep defying me, Miss Bennet!’ Mr Darcy ordered. ‘My God, you have no idea what it does to me...’
Seized by a sudden agitation, Mr Darcy strode about the balcony, his hands balled into fists at his side. After pacing for a minute or so, he turned to her and growled, ‘Do you know what it did to me to see Phil Collins with his arms about you?’
Elizabeth was astounded, and immediately coloured.
‘Put down those damn crayons and look at me!’ Darcy commanded.
Elizabeth laid her colouring aside, and, tentatively, looked up to meet Mr Darcy’s cold, penetrating gaze.
‘You have no idea of the effect you have upon me, Miss Bennet,’ Darcy said, running his hands through his copper hair. ‘You do something to me. Something deep inside.’
‘Please,’ Elizabeth groaned, ‘I have had my fill of song lyrics.’
Mr Darcy seemed to check himself. His face relaxed and, straightening up, he held out his hand. ‘Come...’ he ordered. ‘Dance with me.’
Elizabeth gazed up into those molten grey eyes, full of erotic promise and dark, dark desires. ‘You still have sick on your boots,’ she breathed. Mr Darcy shook the diced carrot from his feet with one sexy flick of each ankle. How masterful he was!
Elizabeth felt the eyes of all the assembled company upon her as Mr Darcy led her back into the ballroom. The fiddlers had just struck up a lively tune, and he bowed low, his lips quirking into an amused half-smile.
‘Shall we jig, Miss Bennet?’
Although Elizabeth’s every inclination was to decline, to retreat to the safety of the balcony, she felt inexorably drawn to him, like a mouse is lured by a hunk of cheese towards a steel trap. Into what dangers would her desire for this cheesy hunk lead her?
Curtseying, she took Mr Darcy’s hand, and allowed herself to be chasséd across the room. He dances so beautifully, thought Elizabeth, as Mr Darcy performed a neat fleuret.
Her head still swimming from her tequila binge, Elizabeth was soon lost in the music. It was hypnotic: the drummers drummed, the flautists flauted, and the fiddlers kept on fiddling – despite many polite requests to do it in private. Mr Darcy moved sensuously to the rhythm, moving his hips in snake-like patterns, grinding his body against Elizabeth’s and then pulling away – teasing, tantalizing her until she wished for more. As the music reached a crescendo, he span away across the dance floor, performed two high kicks followed by a shoulder shimmy, and then landed – with a high-pitched squeal – in the splits.
‘Don’t say it,’ she muttered to her Gaydar.
Mr Darcy rose languidly from the floor, and made his way through the throng to Elizabeth’s side, never once taking his eyes from hers. She could smell his by-now-familiar leathery scent wafting across the dance floor as he moved, and her insides performed a somersault, with her kidneys ending up somewhere underneath her bladder. There was no denying her powerful attraction to him. Dancing, walking, talking – was there anything Mr Darcy didn’t do sexily? she wondered.
‘You look faint, Miss Bennet,’ he said in a voice tinged with anxiety. ‘I trust you are not feeling unwell again?’ He guided her towards a chair. ‘Wait there, I shall fetch you some hors d’oeuvre.’ Before she could speak he was away again, striding purposefully through the dancers as they attempted to do-si-do in formation, scattering them hither and thither and accidentally kicking Carrotslime Bingley in the shins. Jeez, he even collected snacks sexily, thought Elizabeth.
At that moment, she was distracted by the sound of giggling from underneath the console table to her right. Curious, she lifted up the floral swags and muslin drapery with which it was decorated and peered underneath. In the darkness she could just make out two figures, evidently a man and a woman, closely entwined.
‘Why, whatever are you doing there?’ she enquired.
The figures immediately sprang apart. Elizabeth stared in astonishment as the young lady hastily adjusted the buttons of her gown.
Her companion reddened.
‘Miss Bennet.’ Mr Collins nodded gravely.
‘And Charlotte?’ Elizabeth gasped. ‘Is that you?’
Charlotte Lucas, for it was indeed she, looked up at Elizabeth with a grin that lit up her potato-like face.
‘Have you lost something?’ Elizabeth asked, uncertain as to why her stepfather’s cousin and her closest friend were scrabbling under a table like kitchen mice.
‘Indeed I have, Elizabeth,’ Charlotte replied with a triumphant smile. ‘My virtue.’
To be deflowered, by Phil Collins, under a table at a party! This was unwelcome news indeed! Whatever was Charlotte thinking?
‘Charlotte! I confess I am shocked! I had not thought you would give up your virtue so easily.’
‘Oh, get real, Elizabeth,’ Charlotte sighed. ‘It’s easy for you to say. You’re gorgeous. I, on the other hand, look like the back end of a coach-and-four. We both know I’ve been lucky to get rid of it at all.’
Poor Mr Collins was by now the colour of Elizabeth’s gown. ‘Please . . . this is a most indelicate situation. I have taken advantage of Mr Bingley’s hospitality most grievously. You must forgive me, ladies...’ He attempted to scrabble to his feet, but only succeeded in hitting his bald head upon the underside of the table.
‘But Charlotte, did you even ever consider the consequences?’ Elizabeth said with passion. ‘What would happen if you got with child?’
Mr Collins turned an even deeper shade of puce. ‘Please rest assured, you need have no worries on that score,’ he mumbled, his eyes fixed upon the floorboards. ‘I Missed Again.’
Elizabeth was not sure whether to be insulted or amused. Not an hour before, Mr Collins had been making protestations of love to her, and assuring her of the strength of his affections in no uncertain terms. Yet here he was, getting his leg over Charlotte Lucas under a console table. She felt no jealousy, however, only relief; if Mr Collins truly had transferred his affections to Charlotte, she would no longer have to entertain the prospect of becoming his mistress.
She heard footsteps approaching behind her and hurriedly dropped the tablecloth, anxious that her best friend’s disgrace remain undiscovered for at least a few more moments.
A husky, familiar voice murmured, ‘Titbits?’
She whirled round and was once again caught in the mesmerizing gaze of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.
‘If you must demean me by calling me by a pet name,’ she declared with what she hoped was hauteur, ‘I would rather it was anything but that.’
Mr Darcy seemed amused. His grey eyes danced with merriment as he held out a plate laden with sugared almonds, sugared plums and deep-fried cheese balls.
‘I was referring to these titbits, Miss Bennet.’ He looked so smug, so pleased with himself, Elizabeth was once again roused to anger.
‘What is it with you and food?’ she burst out. Damn her cheap stays, they were ridiculously flimsy! Blushing, she tucked her bosom back into place.
‘What is it with you and food?’ she repeated, this time without bursting out.
Mr Darcy’s expression darkened. ‘Do not ask me that, Miss Bennet.’
‘I just did.’
‘Believe me, you do not want to know the answer.’
‘I do. That’s why I asked you.’
Mr Darcy’s grey eyes had lost their warmth now, and turned dark as the blackest sea. His palm was twitching, as if it had a life of its own. What was going through his mind? Elizabeth wondered. Which of his fifty shades was she witnessing? Suddenly, Mr Darcy’s palm lifted high in the air, quivered there for one tantalizing moment, then swept down and landed – thwack! – upon Elizabeth’s reticule. Her whole body shuddered, both with dismay and shame.
‘That is what you get for defying me!’ Mr Darcy growled, and with that, he turned upon his heel and stalked away without looking back.
Elizabeth found herself unable to speak, so badly shaken was she by the turn of events. Her legs felt suddenly weak and, putting out a hand to steady herself, she sank onto a nearby chair. ‘Thank heavens I brought my reticule out with me tonight,’ she shuddered, ‘or that smack would have landed right on my beaver.’
Thus it was settled. Charlotte was to marry Phil Collins. The arrangement would come to an end in a few years, when Mr Collins met someone younger and prettier, and as part of the settlement, Charlotte would receive Hunsford Priory.
Elizabeth found it hard to reconcile herself to so unsuitable a match. It would be impossible for her friend to be happy, she believed, with Phil Collins pawing at her day and night.
‘But I am not like you, Elizabeth,’ Charlotte countered. ‘I have not the advantage of your good looks, your wit. I just need to get out of Meryton. It’s dead round here.’
‘And you believe sharing a bed with Mr Collins is a small price to pay?’
‘I would shag the Prince Regent if I had to.’
Charlotte could not be swayed, and so Elizabeth made a strong effort of will to reconcile herself to the match. Charlotte’s departure for Hunsford was imminent – Mr Collins being so eager to introduce her to Lady Catherine de Burgh – and with the prospect of losing her close friend, Elizabeth turned increasingly to Jane.
Her sister’s happiness was a cause of great anxiety for Elizabeth, who noted that Mr Bingley had called only once in the week following the ball. Now they heard he would be absent from Longbourn for another week, having gone to London on business with Mr Darcy – a fact that caused Elizabeth much relief.
‘You have not put out enough!’ Mrs Bennet berated Jane. ‘Gentlemen wish to feel that all is not hopeless in a courtship. A sneaky feel behind the shrubbery, or a glimpse of nipple in the rose garden, is enough to keep their ardour aflame.’
Kitty and Lydia shared their mother’s concerns, and advised Jane on the gown-slippage techniques that ensured they remained popular among the officers of the Meryton militia.
Only Mary was disinterested. ‘Please, do not discuss affairs of the heart in front of me,’ she declared. ‘I have little interest in such matters. If most young ladies occupied themselves with books and music, as I do, the world would doubtless be a happier, less discordant place.’
Her younger sisters scorned her, but Mary paid little heed, and threw herself more vigorously into her music lessons with Mr Fiddler. There was no denying that under his tutelage her fingering had improved exponentially, and he himself evidently took pleasure in teaching her, and frequently left the house quite flushed with satisfaction.
While Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy were absent, Mr Whackem was a more frequent visitor to Longbourn. His easy charm and beguiling good looks made a favourable impression upon Mrs Bennet, who declared him the most amiable young man of their acquaintance. Her husband was most appreciative of the many freebies Mr Whackem was wont to bring along from his publishing company: indeed, he spent many happy hours poring over Steamy Pumping Action: Piston Engines of Industrial England. Meanwhile, Lydia and Kitty professed themselves delighted by Mr Whackem’s gifts of Rockin’ those Stockings! and Bootylicious Bonnets.
Whackem singled out Elizabeth at every occasion, and the pair made it their habit to take a turn about the formal garden while discussing their many topics of mutual interest. Mr Darcy was occasionally the subject of their discourse, in particular, his insufferable arrogance and insatiable sex mania.
On one bracing January morning, Elizabeth and Whackem were partaking of their usual perambulation, when Mr Whackem raised the issue of Mr Bingley’s intentions towards Jane.
‘It is a delicate issue, I know,’ he declared, ‘but I cannot help but wonder whether Mr Darcy has had something to do with Mr Bingley’s apparent coolness towards your sister.’
‘Mr Darcy?’ cried Elizabeth, plunging her hands deeper into her muff, in order to ward off the cold. ‘What ever would it have to do with him?’
‘He is, as you know, a cold and unfeeling creature,’ Whackem replied. ‘He hates to see happiness in others, and especially in those who value finer feelings such as love, honour and trust, and do not share his dark predilections.’
‘You are too harsh, I think. Mr Darcy has his faults – indeed, they are myriad – but to wilfully separate Jane from Mr Bingley? Even he would not sink so low.’
‘Then what lies behind Bingley’s current indifference?’ Whackem asked. ‘You tell me he has corresponded with Jane but once this past fortnight.’
Elizabeth was silent for a few moments while she weighed up Mr Whackem’s words. She was loath to believe so badly of Mr Darcy, even though she was still not yet recovered from the blow he had landed on her reticule.
‘I believe Carrotslime Bingley is at fault,’ she declared. ‘Her intention is for Mr Bingley to marry Mr Darcy’s sister, thus hoping that with their two families so entwined, Mr Darcy will marry her.’
‘And what of you, Miss Bennet?’ Mr Whackem asked, looking at her askance through ginger eyelashes.
‘Me, Mr Whackem?’ Elizabeth laughed. ‘Why, I do not think of matrimony at all!’
‘You can think of no one who you would wish to marry?’
Elizabeth frowned. ‘Did you just say “who you would wish to marry? It should be “whom”.’
Far from being abashed by her perspicacity, Mr Whackem appeared delighted.
‘You are correct, Miss Bennet!’ he exclaimed. ‘I threw in that little grammatical error to see whether you would pick up on it, and I am gratified that it did not pass your notice.’
‘You are testing my grammar, Mr Whackem?’
‘You seem to have an aptitude for it, Miss Bennet. I would bet ten guineas that you would be able to distinguish the proper use of the colon and the semicolon.’
‘Surely most young ladies would know that?’ Elizabeth said, shivering a little in the frosty air. Mr Whackem appeared not to notice. How unlike Mr Darcy, Elizabeth thought. He would have seen to it that I was smothered in muffs by now.
‘You would be surprised, Miss Bennet,’ Whackem sighed. ‘Most young ladies are wantonly ill-educated. It is most vexing trying to find copy-editors with the necessary skills.’
Was he about to propose work again? Elizabeth remained silent, conscious that any response might serve to give him encouragement.
Whackem appeared to sense her reticence, and, walking at a brisk pace back towards the house, they soon began discussing the many benefits of outdoor exercise. Lydia was waiting for them at the door.
‘Lizzy, you have had Mr Whackem to yourself for quite long enough,’ she complained. ‘Mary is studying, Kitty is at her toilette, and I long for conversation.’ She seized Whackem’s arm. ‘Let us walk along the path towards the rose garden,’ she said brightly, ‘and you can tell me all about how you came to be a lieutenant.’
Whackem appeared momentarily disappointed to leave Elizabeth’s side, but his handsome countenance soon recovered its usual attentive guise, and he allowed himself to be led away by a chattering Lydia. Elizabeth watched them round the corner to the orchard, and heard Whackem’s voice cut through the frosty air. ‘Pray tell, Lydia, how do you suppose you spell “lieutenant”?’
February took Elizabeth to Hunsford, to visit Charlotte and Phil Collins. The plan had been laid some weeks before, and Elizabeth had not at first thought very seriously of going thither, but Charlotte, she soon found, was depending on her presence.
Avoiding Mr Darcy was now Elizabeth’s main intent, and a stay at Hunsford would be exactly what was needed to distract her. Besides, absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and she found herself looking favourably upon the scheme.
The journey, some twenty-four miles, passed pleasantly enough, and when the carriage left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, Elizabeth was eager to gain sight of the Parsonage. Soon there behoved into view, at the end of a long gravel path, a small yet elegant building of pale stone, with windows and a door and some fancy eighteenth-century features that the author didn’t have sufficient architectural knowledge to describe.
The inhabitants of the house had all emerged to mark her arrival.
‘Lizzy! I said you’d come!’ smiled Charlotte. ‘Mr Collins declared that it was Against All Odds, but I did not agree.’
Charlotte did not appear diminished from having to have sex with Phil Collins every night; indeed, she seemed to glow with inner happiness.
‘How well you look!’ commented Elizabeth, as the two friends walked arm in arm into the lobby. ‘Marriage seems to suit you very well, Charlotte. I trust you find Mr Collins an agreeable husband?’
Charlotte grimaced. ‘He is out in his stu-stu-studio every night, playing the drums,’ she said quietly, so as not to be overheard. ‘But thankfully, that gives me time for a little liaison of my own, with Mellors the gardener.’
‘Yes, he is a man from the village – a very rough type – who comes over whenever my box needs to be trimmed. Oh, Lizzy, I think he is in love with me, and I with him! He is such a wonderful listener, and I have so much I want to say to him.’ She gave a girlish laugh. ‘He calls me Lady Chattery.’
‘No, this will not do!’ exclaimed Elizabeth, vexed beyond all measure. ‘Two books colliding is enough! It is too, too confusing. I beg you, Charlotte, do not mention Mellors again.’
Charlotte was taken aback by the vigour of Elizabeth’s protestations. ‘You are tired from your journey, perhaps?’ she suggested. ‘Come, let me show you to your room, and then perhaps you will tell me your impressions of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Lord knows we hear of little else from Lady Catherine.’
When Elizabeth had rested awhile, Mr Collins invited her to take a stroll in the gardens. They were large and well laid out, and more than once she was required to stop and admire his peonies. He spoke at length of the affability of the Hunsford populace, the pleasing aspects of the surrounding countryside, and especially the many estimable qualities of his neighbour, Lady Catherine de Burgh of Rosings Park.
‘You will have the honour of meeting Lady Catherine tomorrow night,’ Mr Collins informed her, ‘when we are all invited to dine at Rosings.’
‘Lady Catherine was a great friend of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mother, was she not?’
‘That is true, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Collins replied, clearly delighted in her interest, feigned or otherwise. ‘They were both beauty therapists originally, I believe. Lady Catherine owns a chain of beauty spas, which have brought her great wealth. And of course, she married exceedingly well.’
‘Ah yes,’ mused Elizabeth, ‘to international MOR star Chris de Burgh. If only we could all be so fortunate.’
In truth, she had little desire to meet Lady Catherine. After all, it was under her influence that Fitzwilliam Darcy had grown into the smirking sex pervert he was today. And yet her curiosity was roused. Lady Catherine was by all accounts a powerful woman, and a handsome one, and Elizabeth had many unanswered questions. Chief among them, which of them did have the bigger bubbies?
Mr Collins could talk of little else all day but their forthcoming visit to Rosings Park that evening. When the time arrived for Charlotte and Elizabeth to attend to their toilette, he came to their rooms several times, ostensibly to advise them not to keep Lady Catherine waiting, but in actuality to try to catch a glimpse of Elizabeth’s undergarments.
‘I beg you to excuse my husband’s sex-pestery,’ Charlotte said apologetically when Mr Collins had finally gone downstairs to await the carriage. ‘I’m afraid the prospect of an evening in Lady Catherine’s company invariably has a stimulating effect upon his natural urges.’
‘In that respect he is not alone,’ replied Elizabeth, thinking of Mr Darcy’s unwillingness to defy his godmother. ‘She appears to exert a powerful hold over men.’
Charlotte nodded. ‘It’s true, she is a beauty. You will see for yourself soon enough. But she is also a total bitch.’
‘Try not to anger her; she has a wicked temper. I said something she didn’t like last time we were there, and she nearly twisted my nipples off.’
Presently the carriage arrived and the party set out from the Parsonage, up the long, winding driveway that cut through Rosings Park and led to the house itself. It was a grand, imposing building of the old style, with some windows, some walls and a door blah di blah. Ascending the steps, they followed the servants into the lobby, and from thence to the room where Lady Catherine was waiting for them.
Elizabeth’s heart was in her mouth. She swallowed, hard, and it slipped back down. It was the last thing she needed, she thought anxiously, on the back of her kidney/bladder problem, which still hadn’t quite righted itself.
Standing in the centre of the room, one spike-heeled boot pressing down on an unfortunate footman’s head, was a tall, shapely woman in a full leather gimp suit, brandishing a long leather whip. She turned to glare at the party. ‘Did I say you could come in?’ she snarled.
Mr Collins cringed. ‘N... no, no, your ladyship,’ he stammered. ‘Please accept our humble apologies. Should we, um, go back out again?’
Lady Catherine took her boot off her servant’s head. ‘You may go now, Saunders,’ she said coldly. ‘Let me not catch you whistling again, or it’s the thumbscrews for you.’ The servant scrabbled to his feet and backed hurriedly out of the room, muttering apologies all the way.
Lady Catherine turned her attention to the newcomers. ‘Well, do not just stand there! Come forward!’ she demanded. As the party tentatively advanced, she pulled off her gimp mask, and a cascade of pale-blonde hair tumbled down past her shoulders. She was a magnificent-looking woman, despite her advanced years, and her bubbies, Elizabeth noted sourly, were indeed far larger than her own.
‘You!’ Lady Catherine exclaimed, pointing the whip directly at Elizabeth. ‘What is your name?’
Elizabeth gave a brief curtsey. ‘Elizabeth Bennet, your ladyship.’
‘And where do you reside?’
‘At Longbourn, in Hertfordshire.’
Lady Catherine wrinkled her exquisite nose. ‘Hmmm, you are sorely in need of a makeover. Let me see...’ She stepped forward and grasped Elizabeth’s chin, hard, turning it this way and that with her leather-clad hand. ‘Eyebrow threading. Upper-lip bleach. And for pity’s sake, do something about those open pores.’
Abruptly, she let go, leaving Elizabeth feeling bruised and humiliated, and turned to Mr Collins.
‘And what time, pray, do you call this? You are three and a half minutes late.’
Mr Collins blanched. ‘Forgive us, Lady Catherine, the ladies and their toilette...’
‘Be silent!’ commanded Lady Catherine. ‘You are a very naughty boy! What are you?’
‘A very naughty boy?’ Mr Collins said in a small voice, visibly cringing.
‘That’s right. And what do I do to very naughty boys?’
‘Punish them?’ squeaked Mr Collins.
‘That is correct. Go over to my armoire, Mr Collins, and select from within it the largest butt plug you can find. You shall sit upon it while we dine, until I am satisfied you have learnt your lesson.’
Elizabeth gasped. Charlotte lowered her eyes in mortification. But Mr Collins’s expression, perversely, was bright-eyed, even eager.
‘Thank you, Lady Catherine, it is an honour,’ he said, bowing low.
‘Come, ladies, we shall take our repast,’ announced Lady Catherine. ‘Join us, Mr Collins, when you have arranged yourself.’
She strode off towards a door in the corner of the room, her gimp suit creaking and her spike heels clicking on the wooden floorboards.
‘We must follow at once,’ hissed Charlotte, ‘or risk displeasing her.’
‘What a bitch troll she is,’ Elizabeth hissed back. ‘I don’t care whether she does own a string of top beauty salons, I’m going to tell her what I think of her.’
‘Pray don’t, Lizzy,’ Charlotte begged. ‘We have asked for her permission to hold a music festival, Philstock, on her land, and if she refuses, we will lose a considerable investment.’
Elizabeth sighed. ‘Then for the sake of our friendship, I must hold my tongue. But it will not be easy.’
‘Where are you, lazy trollops?’ Lady Catherine’s voice boomed from the next room. ‘Bestir yourselves!’
Elizabeth followed Charlotte into the dining room and immediately her jaw dropped in astonishment. What kinky fuckery was this? Several chairs were laid out in the centre of the room, and before each was a servant, kneeling on all fours. Lady Catherine was seated in the grandest chair, and had rested her wine glass upon a buxom serving girl’s buttocks.
‘Mrs Jenkinson!’ Lady Catherine called, and from a side door there emerged a frail-looking maidservant, almost bent double with age, wearing a leather harness and bridle. A pony’s tail was attached to the back of her gown.
‘Yes, Mistress?’ she enquired, the metal bit grinding audibly against her teeth.
‘Bring the soup!’
Mrs Jenkinson shuffled off, her tail swinging limply behind her.
Holy crap, what was this place? Elizabeth could only shudder that Fitzwilliam Darcy had fallen into Lady Catherine’s clutches at such a tender age; there was no humiliation, no degradation that was not on display here. Tentatively, she took a seat in front of a young footman, who was wearing nothing but leather trousers and nipple clamps. Mrs Jenkinson laid a bowl of soup and a spoon upon the footman’s hairy back.
‘Well, eat up,’ Lady Catherine barked. ‘This will soon go cold.’ She slurped her soup loudly.
‘Do you play, Miss Bennet?’ she suddenly asked. ‘A young lady should most definitely play the pianoforte.’
‘A little,’ Elizabeth replied, ‘although I confess I have not much natural talent.’
‘That is most displeasing!’ Lady Catherine declared, her icy blue eyes narrowing. ‘You shall play for me later, and if I judge your performance to be lacking in skill, I shall have to chastise you.’
Elizabeth felt her skin prickling. How dare she?
‘With respect, Lady Catherine, how do you intend to do that?’
‘With ten lashes upon your derriere, of course.’
‘And if I am resistant to the idea of punishment?’
Lady Catherine eyed her appraisingly. ‘You are defiant, Miss Bennet. Perhaps, in your case, ten lashes will not suffice. Perhaps I shall have to leash you to my pony trap beside Jenkinson, and have you pull me about the grounds.’
‘Go fu...’ Elizabeth began, but at that very moment, there emerged in the doorway a very uncomfortable-looking Mr Collins.
‘I do so hope I have not kept you all waiting,’ he said obsequiously, shuffling gingerly across the room like a man three times his age. He lowered himself into a seat, wincing. Jenkinson laid out a bowl of soup on the servant in front of him.
‘None for me, please.’
‘You are full, Mr Collins?’ Lady Catherine asked, her cold eyes glinting with malice.
‘Painfully so, Lady Catherine.’
‘I insist that you partake of the next course. It is roast goose,’ she commanded. ‘Although on this occasion, given the circumstances, I shall allow you to forgo the stuffing.’
The first fortnight of Elizabeth’s visit soon passed away. She and the Collinses dined four more times at Rosings, each occasion being more deplorable than the last. Lady Catherine appeared in various guises: sometimes in her gimp suit, sometimes in a red leather corset, and, on the fourth evening, sporting an eyewateringly huge strap-on dildo – a sight that caused Mr Collins almost to fall into a faint. At that particular dinner, Lady Catherine announced that they were soon to be graced with a visit from her godson, Mr Darcy, a prospect that gave her great joy. Mr Darcy, she pointed out, could never do enough to please her.
Hearing the news, Elizabeth was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. The prospect of being in such close proximity to Fitzwilliam Darcy alarmed her. And yet undeniably, he thrilled her in a way that her usual pleasures such as tinkling her harpsichord could never do. Would he launch another assault on her reticule? Her Inner Slapper certainly hoped that he would.
Mr Darcy’s arrival at Rosings was quickly noted by Mr Collins, who had witnessed the gentleman’s carriage approaching Rosings Park when he was in the garden watering his peonies. That very afternoon, Mr Darcy arrived at Hunsford to pay his respects. A sharp rap on the door announced his arrival, and shortly afterwards he was shown into the parlour, where Charlotte and Elizabeth were at their needlepoint.
‘How do you do, Miss Bennet, Mrs Collins.’
Mr Darcy bowed low, his breeches stretching tight over his taut buttocks. A lock of curly copper hair fell in front of his eyes. Holy hornbag, he was so hot!
Why do I keep uttering profanities whenever I encounter Fitzwilliam Darcy? pondered Elizabeth. It is so out of character for me, for crap’s sake. Holy crap, I just did it again!
Mr Darcy took a seat beside Elizabeth. ‘You are well, Miss Bennet? Have you been eating heartily?’
Elizabeth could not resist toying with him, as he had so often toyed with her. ‘I skipped breakfast this morning,’ she declared, and immediately noticed his jaw tighten.
‘Then it is well that I have a baguette in my pocket,’ he countered, reaching into his breeches and pulling out a thick French stick. ‘Would you oblige me with a nibble?’
Once again, Elizabeth was conscious of a stirring in her nether regions. What was it about this arrogant billionaire that attracted her so?
‘Your baguette looks most enticing, but I rarely eat at this time of day. I cannot be tempted!’
‘A banana, then?’ Mr Darcy suggested, reaching into his other pocket. ‘Or this German sausage?’
Elizabeth felt her blood beginning to heat up her cheeks.
‘It is kind of you, Mr Darcy, to be so desirous of my well-being, but I assure you, nothing shall pass my lips until luncheon.’
Mr Darcy’s eyes flashed in anger. ‘Very well, Miss Bennet,’ he said darkly. ‘I see you are defiant. Be assured, if you were a guest in my house and refused my hospitality, I should see to it that you were chastised.’
For a moment he sounded so like Lady Catherine that Elizabeth was at a loss for words. Then, recovering her composure, she declared, ‘You are too harsh, Mr Darcy. If you were ever a guest at Longbourn and found my syllabubs, say, or my hare pie were not to your liking, I should endeavour not to hold it against you.’
Mr Darcy leant forward and held her in a penetrating gaze. ‘You and I are very different, Miss Bennet,’ he murmured. ‘You see, I would find your hare pie quite delicious, and would be sure to enjoy it morning, noon and night. I would dive into it at breakfast, luncheon and dinner, then I would ask for seconds.’
‘I would find your appetite most gratifying, I am sure,’ blushed Elizabeth. ‘But some of us are less gluttonous than others. I myself am content with the occasional muffin.’
Mr Darcy smiled lasciviously. ‘Then we are in agreement at last, Miss Bennet,’ he smirked.
‘Um, should I leave the room?’ asked Charlotte.
‘No need, Mrs Collins,’ said Mr Darcy, rising from his chair. ‘I must depart. Lady Catherine urged me to hurry back; we are going riding – hard – together. She is to send a carriage for you at eight,’ he continued, ‘in order that you may dine with us tonight.’ Then, addressing Elizabeth directly: ‘I am so glad that the two of you have met at last.’
‘I’m sure we shall be great friends,’ said Elizabeth with a tight smile.
‘Really?’ Mr Darcy’s face lit up. ‘I do hope so. She is a remarkable woman.’ With a bow he departed, and Elizabeth turned back to her needlepoint. She frowned. She would have to unpick it and start again. ‘There’s no place like home bitch troll bitch troll bitch troll bitch troll’ would not look quite right on a cushion cover.
At the proper hour Elizabeth and Mr and Mrs Collins arrived at Rosings, to be told Lady Catherine was at her toilette and would not keep them waiting long. A footman led them into a small, comfortable parlour, tastefully decorated with black leather furnishings and paintings of goats being sodomized by demons. Suddenly, Charlotte let out a cry of alarm, and, following her gaze, Mr Collins and Elizabeth noticed a figure kneeling in the corner of the room, his eyes downcast, clad only in leather hotpants and a studded collar: Mr Darcy! Elizabeth gaped at him. Jeez, he was ripped!
‘Pray, what are you doing down there, Mr Darcy?’ she gasped. ‘For shame, get up and put on some clothes.’
‘He is not to move!’
Lady Catherine appeared in the doorway, her impressive leather-clad bosom halfway across the threshold and her skintight catsuit creaking menacingly.
‘Mr Darcy has displeased me, and this is his punishment.’
Mr Darcy remained motionless. It’s almost as if he’s in a trance, thought Elizabeth. What power Lady Catherine has over him! How cruel and domineering she is!
‘I am sure your ladyship knows best,’ Mr Collins simpered, bowing obsequiously. ‘It reminds me of a Genesis tour in ’78, when I had to send Mike Rutherford to Coventry for–’
‘But to humiliate him so!’ Elizabeth burst out. ‘Can it truly be justified?’
Charlotte tugged at Elizabeth’s sleeve. ‘Please hold your tongue, Lizzy,’ she whispered. ‘Think of Philstock ...’
Lady Catherine swept over to Mr Darcy and seized him by the hair. ‘Get up!’ she ordered. ‘Our guests need some peanuts.’
‘Yes, Mistress,’ Darcy intoned in a low voice, rising to his feet. Making his way over to a sideboard, never once lifting his eyes, he took down two china dishes and made his way over to Mr Collins.
‘Will his punishment last long?’ the latter asked, seizing a handful of Mr Darcy’s nuts.
‘Until I am satisfied,’ replied Lady Catherine.
Elizabeth watched Mr Darcy as he moved wordlessly about the room. He looked so different – so young, so vulnerable, so broken. Damn Lady Catherine! How could she have dragged him into the dark, twisted world she inhabited? She, Elizabeth, would show him there was another way. An afternoon of découpage, a duet upon the dulcimer ... Such diversions could surely lead even the most damned soul towards the light.
‘Sit!’ Lady Catherine barked, and Mr Darcy returned to his place beside the doorway and knelt, wordlessly, once again.
Lady Catherine turned to Elizabeth. ‘Now, Miss Bennet, I insist upon hearing you play the pianoforte. Mr Darcy shall turn the pages for you, with his teeth.’
The evening continued in excruciating fashion, Mr Darcy performing the work of a humble servant, and Elizabeth and the Collinses in a constant state of mortification and distress. The only person who enjoyed herself was Lady Catherine, who seemed to delight in both Mr Darcy’s humiliation and her guests’ discomfiture. Try as Elizabeth might to turn the conversation towards innocent pastimes, such as flower arranging, Lady Catherine would insist upon turning it back to subjects such as fisting and genital clamping. And not once did Mr Darcy so much as glance at Elizabeth, despite her best efforts to catch his eye.
‘She is the most interesting woman, is she not?’ declared Mr Collins as the carriage journeyed back to Hunsford. ‘Unusual hobbies, though, I admit.’
‘I confess, I find her taste in dress a little outlandish,’ commented Charlotte. ‘I had never imagined that it was possible for a lady to wear earrings down there.’
Mr Collins beamed at Elizabeth. ‘And how, cousin, do you find Lady Catherine? She seems to take a particular interest in you.’
‘She is a complete and utter bi...’ Elizabeth began, but Charlotte’s pleading look arrested her mid-sentence. ‘She is,’ she began more diplomatically, ‘a law unto herself’.
‘And a slag,’ her Inner Slapper added.
But chief among the impressions that particular evening at Rosings had left upon Elizabeth was her fresh determination to save Mr Darcy from his errant ways. The burden weighed heavily upon her, and she slept fitfully that night, dreaming of firm buttocks in leather hotpants, and scratching out Lady Catherine’s eyes.
Over the next few weeks, as Elizabeth’s sojourn at Hunsford continued, Mr Darcy was a frequent visitor to the Parsonage. In fact, he had a habit of appearing when Elizabeth least expected it. Once he surprised her in the garden when she was trimming Charlotte’s box; several times she stumbled across him in the woods – though quite what he was doing concealed in a pile of leaves was beyond her – and he even tapped upon the window of her bedroom when she was using the chamber pot, ostensibly to talk about new harnesses and fittings for his pony trap. It was all beginning to have a detrimental effect upon Elizabeth’s nerves.
‘You always come unexpectedly!’ she accused him when next they met, in the lane behind the Parsonage.
Mr Darcy’s eyes narrowed. ‘Who have you been talking to?’ he said in a low voice.
‘I mean to say,’ Elizabeth explained, ‘that you never give notice of your visits.’
‘Why Miss Bennet, I like to pop up and surprise you,’ he said with a sly smile. ‘Indeed, I am popping up right now as we speak.’
Their talk was usually of Longbourn, Pemberley or the weather, and Elizabeth did not feel she could raise the matter of what she had seen on her last visit to Rosings. Why did Lady Catherine have such power over Mr Darcy? He had money of his own, property and prestige, and, she was informed, a joint share in her beauty spa business. Why did he need to debase himself in such a fashion? And those leather hotpant ... She could not quite erase the memory from her mind.
Late one morning, a few days before she was due to depart, Elizabeth was roused by the sound of the doorbell. Her spirits were made a little anxious by the idea of it being Lady Catherine, who had threatened to come down and take tea with her. But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr Darcy stride into the room, his grey flannel breeches hanging halfway down his hips and his definitely not-ginger hair soaked through by the rain. Oh my! He was Byronic!
In a hurried manner he began an inquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she had been eating well. She replied, cordially, that she had enjoyed a hearty bowl of Frosties that very morning, and that he should have no worries on that account.
Darcy sat down for a few moments, and then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began:
‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I wish to bind your limbs with cable ties and flog the living daylights out of you.’
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the list of every kinky thing he wanted to do to her, from tickling her fancy with feathers to sandpapering her nipples, immediately followed.
‘You must understand, Elizabeth, that this will not be a boyfriend-girlfriend thing,’ he concluded, running his hands through his copper locks in an agitated manner. ‘I wish to formalize our relationship, and to that end, I have had my lawyer draw up a contract.’
Elizabeth struggled to compose herself. A marriage contract! This was the culmination of all her hopes. Fitzwilliam Darcy was proposing!
‘Yes!’ she breathed, her face alight with joy. ‘I shall be your wife.’
Mr Darcy visibly blanched. ‘My wife? I do not do matrimony, Elizabeth. I told you, my designs upon you are far darker than that. The document to which I refer is a kinky-sex contract. A detailed list of what I intend to do to you if you agree to be mine. A list which, if the reader of this book happens to be titillated by the BDSM scene, will no doubt be highly arousing. But to all other readers, will prove about as sexy as a list of borough council town-centre parking restrictions.’
From the pocket of his waistcoat he produced a slim roll of parchment, presenting it to Elizabeth with a curt nod of the head.
‘Read!’ he commanded.
With trembling fingers, Elizabeth unrolled the parchment.
This document, dated 28 February 1814 (hereafter known as ‘the commencement date’), is a contract of voluntary sexual slavery between Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy (‘the Dominant’), of Pemberley, Derbyshire, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire (‘the Submissive’).
Oh my! What was this?
Mr Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed upon her face, surveyed her hopefully. Elizabeth continued reading.
The purpose of this contract is to allow the Submissive to explore her sensuality safely, with due respect for her needs and well-being. The Dominant and the Submissive agree and acknowledge that whatever occurs under the terms of this contract will be consensual and confidential, and subject to the agreed limits set out in this contract.
Mr Darcy fidgeted impatiently. ‘Just skip to the dirty bits,’ he urged. ‘That’s what everyone else does.’
Elizabeth unrolled the scroll further, and gave a gasp.
Which of the following sexual acts are acceptable to the Submissive?
1. Slap and tickle
4. A bit of how’s your father
5. Rumpy pumpy
6. Having clamps applied to your apple dumplings
7. Getting your nancy whacked with a cat o’ nine tails ...
Her hands fell into her lap, and the document slithered to the floor.
‘Say you’ll sign, Elizabeth,’ Darcy urged, his grey eyes smouldering. ‘My penis depends upon it.’
‘Your penis depends upon it?’ Hot tears welled up in Elizabeth’s eyes. ‘Not your happiness, Mr Darcy? Have you no tender feelings at all?’ Colour rose in her cheeks and her eyes flashed in anger. ‘You cannot seriously expect me to accept these terms?’
‘Am I to understand that you are refusing me?’ Mr Darcy said incredulously, surprise etched upon his handsome features.
Elizabeth stood up, unsteadily, and declared in a voice that shook with emotion: ‘You could not, Sir, have made me the offer of being your sex slave in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.’
Mr Darcy’s astonishment was obvious, and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on:
‘From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your sex mania, your arrogance, and your verging-on-stalkerish behaviour. I have recognized you as an overgrown public schoolboy with a penis fixation. What is more, your constant exhortations to “Oooh, give it to me, baby,” belong in a bad amateur porn film rather than a romantic novel. In short, Mr Darcy, your character needs more weight.’
Mr Darcy’s mouth set in a grim line. ‘I must take issue with you, Miss Bennet,’ he remarked coldly. ‘I am, as you know, unbelievably hot, which makes most of my character flaws forgivable. If a balding, paunchy middle-aged guy with bad shoes kept turning up when you least expected it, it would be creepy; when I do it, it is both ardent and deeply flattering.’
‘You, Sir, are a badly drawn, one-dimensional figure!’ Elizabeth countered. ‘Fifty shades? More like two: “gagging for sex”, that’s one, and “in a bad mood”.’
Anger made her voluble, and she continued: ‘Who – who– I ask you, at twenty-seven, controls a multimillion global company just by occasionally picking up the phone and saying, “Talk to Peters”, and “Get it there by Tuesday”? What do you actually do anyway? Furthermore, what heterosexual man even has tracks by Nelly Furtado on his iPod, let alone considers them a suitably erotic soundtrack for an S&M sex session?’
‘Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy remarked coldly, ‘I do believe you are discussing the wrong book.’
Elizabeth checked herself. ‘You are correct, Mr Darcy,’ she replied gravely. ‘On that point I must beg your forgiveness. It is somewhat confusing being in a mash-up of two very different novels.’
‘No matter, Miss Bennet,’ Darcy answered curtly. ‘I believe you have made your intentions clear. I perfectly comprehend your feelings. Forgive me for prevailing upon your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.’
And with these words he hastily left the room, his grey flannel breeches hanging so far off his hips that Elizabeth was afforded a last, tantalizing glimpse of his bicycle rack, and she heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house.
The tumult of Elizabeth’s mind was now painfully great. Her astonishment, as she reflected upon what had passed, was increased by every review of it. That Mr Darcy should suggest that she become his sex slave! It was an abomination! And yet, the tumult of Elizabeth’s ladyparts was equally great. Why did her heart race, and her bloomers quiver, at the thought of submitting to Mr Darcy’s every whim? She picked up the contract again, and glanced at the licentious, shocking words written therein.
‘Bondage with curtain trimmings,’ she read. ‘Blindfolding’; ‘gagging’; ‘spreader bars’ – what could they possibly be? Heat suffused her body, and she fanned herself frantically with the parchment. To think that she, Elizabeth Bennet, was tempted to abandon her family and her reputation, and enter a world of sado-masochistic sex! And that Fitzwilliam Darcy should be her Master, to deal with her as he pleased!
‘You’re not seriously considering it?’ her Subconscious asked incredulously. ‘He’s clearly unstable.’
Elizabeth sighed. ‘But leaving aside his constant innuendo and smutty talk, and his controlling personality, and his arrogance, and jealousy, and slightly camp dress sense and appalling taste in music, I think he’s basically a nice guy. What do you think, Inner Slapper?’
At that moment, her Inner Slapper burst out of her metaphorical closet wearing a peephole basque and crotchless knickers. ‘Ta-da!’ she trilled. ‘Now, which way do I go for the seeing-to?’
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. It was impossible to think of anything else but Mr Darcy’s kinky proposal, and she resolved, soon after breakfast, to read the contract in more detail. Taking the parchment out of a drawer, in which she had concealed it the evening before, she unrolled it fully and laid it upon her bureau.
She read with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension. Indeed, many of the terms in the document were beyond her understanding:
The Dominant may use the Submissive in any sexual way he sees fit, at any time, except when the vicar comes for tea.
The Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporally punish the Submissive for his own personal gratification.
The Submissive shall accept the Dominant as her master, and obey all the rules set out in this agreement.
The Submissive shall not touch the Dominant at any time.
The Dominant and the Submissive will make use of safe words which will be used to bring events to a close.
In addition, the Submissive will ensure she achieves eight hours’ sleep at night, eats from a list of foods provided by the Dominant, and keeps herself waxed and exfoliated at all times.
Waxed? Exfoliated? Elizabeth had never heard those terms before, but they sounded distinctly uncomfortable. But then this whole scheme was madness! That she should submit to the whims of a debauched rakehell such as Mr Darcy, allow him to use her ill and then, no doubt, cast her aside ... And yet, there was something in his offer that tempted her.
Taking up her quill, and a sheet of hotpressed paper from her bureau, she hastily wrote:
Dear Mr Darcy,
Regarding our discussion of yesterday, I find myself both shocked and offended by your offer of sexual slavery. However, contrary to all good sense, I am curious to know more about the lifestyle you are proposing. Having perused the document more closely at my leisure, I have a number of questions. Chiefly, what is exfoliation?
Yours, Elizabeth Bennet
‘I shall send this at once,’ she decided. ‘Where is Lapptop?’ A ring of the bell duly summoned the aged manservant, and Elizabeth instructed him to hasten to Rosings Park and deliver the note personally to Mr Darcy.
She had to wait less than an hour for his reply:
My dear Miss Bennet,
Exfoliation is the topical application of an unguent, of an abrasive nature, in order to smooth and beautify the skin. This you may do using a cosmetic formulation. However, I would rather you allow me to exfoliate you all over using my chin stubble.
Yours, Fitzwilliam Darcy
All over? Elizabeth felt a pull deep in her belly. She took another sheet of writing paper from her bureau, and penned:
What, pray, are safe words?
Yours, Elizabeth Bennet
PS No fisting of any kind.
After luncheon, Darcy’s reply was brought back by a weary Lapptop.
If, at any time during our kinky sex-play, you utter the words ‘fluffy kittens’ or ‘I wuv you!’, I shall immediately lose tumescence and, as such, our encounter will be over. I trust this sets your mind at rest.
Dear Mr Darcy,
Why may I not touch you? Is your member, perchance, the size of a button mushroom?’
Dear Miss Bennet,
You ask too many questions. Impertinent young ladies are liable to receive chastisement. The next time I see you in the grounds of Rosings, I shall have to remove your undergarments and thrash you with my riding crop.’
Yours, Fitzwilliam Darcy
Dear Mr Darcy,
You may have difficulty in removing my undergarments, as next time I have occasion to meet you, I do not intend to wear any.
Dear Miss Bennet,
Is it your intention to inflame me? Then you must be prepared for the consequences.
By now Lapptop was wheezing and on the verge of collapse, and Elizabeth, concerned for the elderly servant’s wellbeing, decided it was in his best interests not to reply. She spent the remainder of the evening playing whist with Charlotte, and had just excused herself and gone up to her bedchamber when there was a tap upon the door. It was Charlotte, with a note for Elizabeth.
‘Forgive me for disturbing you, Lizzy, but this just arrived from Rosings. Mrs Blackberry brought it over.’
So Mr Darcy now had Lady Catherine’s staff delivering messages! ‘Thank you, Charlotte,’ said she. ‘I will attend to it in the morning.’
Charlotte hesitated. ‘Mrs Blackberry is still downstairs, awaiting your reply.’
‘Oh, Charlotte, I am far too tired to write any more this evening. Please be so good as to tell her to go back.’
Charlotte retreated, and Elizabeth, unable to contain her curiosity, opened the letter with eager fingers.
You have not replied. I do not like to be kept waiting. I shall be forced to call in at Hunsford Parsonage drag you out to my carriage and xxxxx your xxxx with my xxxxx. And when you’re begging for mercy, I shall xxxx xxxxx your xxxx until you xxxxxxx.
How frustrating! Raindrops had smudged some of Mr Darcy’s words. She could only guess at his intentions. She would, she determined, sleep on the matter, and consider it afresh the next day. She had not realized how much the tumult of her emotions had exhausted her, and it took only moments for her to fall into an uneasy slumber.
She was dreaming of fluffy kittens wearing nipple clamps when something started her out of sleep. The fire was dwindling in the grate, its embers sending out an eerie glow. In the half-light, Elizabeth discerned a shape, looming menacingly in the corner of the room by the window. Oh my! There was someone in her bedchamber!
Fitzwilliam Darcy stepped out of the shadows.
‘Why did you not reply to my note, Miss Bennet?’ he asked huskily.
‘My goodness! Mr Darcy! How are you here, at Hunsford?’ Elizabeth clutched the counterpane tightly; her heart was pounding and her breath came in shallow gasps. What the holy hell was he doing in her room?
‘Oh, I came in the carriage,’ he said in a low murmur, his eyes burning with intensity. ‘And then I got out, cleaned myself up and walked over here.’
He ran his hands repeatedly through his copper locks, an anguished look upon his face. ‘Scabies,’ he explained.
Suddenly, he flung himself towards the bed and gripped Elizabeth by the shoulders. ‘When I did not hear from you, I knew I had to see you. I cannot stop thinking about you, Miss Bennet. You. Are. So. Sweet.’ His grey eyes were like pile drivers, hammering shards of intensity into her soul. Briefly, a look of uncertainty flashed across his face. ‘Am I being passionate, or is this a bit creepy?’ he asked in a low voice.
Elizabeth pondered the question. ‘Many young ladies would undoubtedly call the night watchmen,’ she conceded. ‘But having no previous experience of courtship, I find myself flattered by your attentions.’
Mr Darcy seemed to relax. Cupping her chin in one hand, and her breast in the other, he said softly, ‘Promise me, Elizabeth, that you will consider the terms of the contract. It would mean everything to me to have you as my kinky-sex slave.’
Elizabeth could feel her resistance melting away. ‘Fitzwilliam ...’ she breathed, lifting her face to his, longing to feel his lips upon hers.
‘Urrrgh, yucky!’ Mr Darcy cried, starting back in horror. ‘No kissing!’
Elizabeth’s blue eyes pricked with tears. ‘You never kiss?’
‘Bleurgh! No way. It’s soppy.’
Elizabeth was crestfallen. It was as she had first thought. Fitzwilliam Darcy had no tender feelings. He was nothing but a machine. A sex machine. Get up, get on up. Get up, get on up, stay on the scene, like a ...
‘Elizabeth, are you unwell?’ Mr Darcy was staring at her intensely, his brow furrowed with concern.
‘You were singing,’ he explained.
Elizabeth shook herself. ‘Oh, forgive me, I got carried away.’ She gazed up into his grey eyes: they seemed cold, fathomless – perhaps, after all, he was beyond her reach?
Perhaps he could not be saved?
‘I am leaving Hunsford in a matter of days,’ she said firmly. ‘I think it best if we do not see each other again until then. I shall consider your offer while I am at Longbourn and send word to you.’
Mr Darcy looked pained.
‘I have hurt your feelings,’ Elizabeth said gently.
‘No. Well, yes, but I’ve got terrible indigestion today. Too many pickled eggs.’
He stood up abruptly. ‘If that is what you wish, Miss Bennet,’ he said coolly. ‘I shall not trouble you further. Unless you have any Gaviscon?’
Elizabeth shook her head, tears beginning to spill over her dark lashes. Mr Darcy leapt out of the window with one athletic bound, and a second later she heard a crunch and a muffled, ‘Bloody hell!’ as he landed in a rose bush below. Burying her face in her pillow, she let her tears flow. He was gone – the only man she had ever desired. The only man she had ever loved. Gone, gone with the wind.
Elizabeth’s absence from Longbourn had long been mourned by Jane, and upon the former’s return, the two sisters greeted each other with much cordiality. Elizabeth’s impatience to acquaint Jane with all that had occurred could not be overcome, and as soon as she was able, she related to her the chief of the encounters between Mr Darcy and herself.
‘Are you at all tempted by his offer, Lizzy?’ Jane asked.
Elizabeth coloured. ‘I confess I am, just a little,’ she replied in a hushed voice.
Jane pondered for a moment. ‘I suppose I can see why. I imagine Mr Darcy would be most appealing as a lover, if his size fourteen feet are anything to go by.’
‘And what of Mr Bingley?’ Elizabeth asked. ‘Is he as much in love with you as ever?’
Jane sighed. ‘I have heard nothing, Lizzy. He has not written to me at all, nor has he visited.’
Her sister’s surprising news tainted Elizabeth’s own joy at her return. Mrs Bennet, however, was determined to celebrate Elizabeth’s homecoming and to spread word about the neighbourhood of her daughter’s imminent deflowering. ‘My Lizzy! A sex slave!’ she exclaimed in delight. ‘Who would have thought it! I can hold my head up in society at last. And with Lydia now a firm favourite among the officers, she is sure to be rogered before Easter!’
Day after day passed without bringing any word of Bingley other than the news, which prevailed in Meryton, that he intended not to spend Easter at Netherfield, but to go surfing in Maui instead. Unwilling as Elizabeth was to admit the inconstancy of Mr Bingley, and all that might imply about his close friend Mr Darcy’s own character, she could not help but believe that the attractions of South Sea island beauties clad in string micro-bikinis could only weaken his attachment to her sister.
At last a letter arrived that brought an end to uncertainty. With trembling fingers, Jane tore open the seal and read in silence.
My dear Jane,
I do so hope you are well. Just to let you know, I will be out of the country for a while. I’m going to the Pacific to catch some waves. Apparently, it’s a big, big ocean on the whole other side of the world! And there was me thinking the rest of the world was made of cheese! Or is that the moon? Oh well,
Hope was over, entirely over, and Jane could find nothing in Bingley’s missive to give her any comfort. Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the contents of the letter, heard it all in silent indignation. The curly haired fuckstick! Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and resentment towards Mr Bingley. That he was truly fond of Jane, she doubted no more than she had ever done, and much as she had always been disposed to like him, she could not think without anger that he was prepared to sacrifice his own chance of marital happiness to the caprice of a pathetic adolescent desire to go backpacking.
‘Whatever did you do to drive him away, you silly girl?’ chided Mrs Bennet. ‘Or, more importantly, what did you not do? Lord, do not tell me you introduced a “no touching beneath the bodice” rule?’
‘Please desist, Mother!’ complained Jane. ‘You have no idea of the pain you give me with your continual reflections on Mr Bingley. Let us leave the matter,’ she continued sadly. ‘He will soon be forgot, and we shall be as we were before.’
Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulity.
‘Dear Jane, you are too good! I wish I had half your sweetness of temper. He is a commitment-phobic twat, and if I ever see him again, I shall certainly tell him so.’
‘Oh Lizzy, I beg you not to!’
‘No, how dare he lead you to believe his attachment to you was genuine, if he was intending all the time to bugger off to Hawaii?’
Jane smiled sadly. ‘Please, Lizzy, you have nothing to reproach him with. If there was a misunderstanding, I assure you, it was all on my part. Pray, let us not speak of him again.’
Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish, and from that point on, Mr Bingley’s name was scarcely mentioned by either of them. Mrs Bennet, however, still mourned Mr Bingley’s leaving Netherfield, and was convinced that he would return after his Pacific-island sojourn, and if Jane would only put out this time, she might engage his interest once more.
One morning after breakfast, when Elizabeth was returning to Longbourn from a stroll about the grounds, she encountered a bedraggled-looking young woman waiting on the steps at the front of the house. On seeing Elizabeth, the woman bobbed into a curtsey, and announced, ‘I’ve bought a note, if it please you, Miss. From Mr Darcy of Pemberley.’
The young woman was pale and seemed exhausted; her boots and the hem of her gown were splattered with mud.
‘Heavens, have you come all the way from Derbyshire?’ Elizabeth asked in surprise.
‘Mr Darcy told me it was urgent, Miss, and not to rest until I had put the note into your very own hands. I’ve been walking for four days solid.’ With that, she took from her pocket a piece of paper, folded and sealed with the distinctive Darcy coat of arms: two cocks rampant.
Elizabeth murmured her thanks, and tore open the seal. She read:
Dear Miss Bennet,
I could not wait any longer for correspondence from you, so I have taken the liberty of sending a female, in order that the conversation we began at Hunsford might be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
‘I still do not understand why Mr Darcy thought it fit to send you,’ Elizabeth remarked, addressing the servant. ‘It is mystifying. You must have been vulnerable to all manner of dangers upon the road.’
‘Mr Darcy said he wouldn’t have trusted a young man to deliver the note, Miss. Females are more reliable, he said.’
There had to be a more efficient and speedy means of communication than this, Elizabeth thought. Maybe one day, far in the future, someone would devise another method. Until then, she supposed, females would have to suffice.
She read on:
Now that you have had time to ruminate, I hope that you find yourself more amenable to considering the terms of my sex contract. Believe me, Elizabeth, I want nothing more than for you to become my Submissive. I believe you would attain pleasure from it, too. Please agree to an imminent meeting, to discuss the hard and soft limits, and any queries or concerns you may have. Send your reply by means of another female. I will be waiting.
Yours, Fitzwilliam Darcy
Elizabeth felt light-headed; her mouth was suddenly uncomfortably dry. She had, in truth, hoped that Mr Darcy would somehow forget the matter of the contract. But it was evident that if she wished for any sort of relationship with this complicated, brooding billionaire, it would have to be on formal terms.
Memories of Mr Darcy slapping her reticule came, unbidden, into her head. The humiliation of that moment! And yet, although she had been shaken, she had to admit she had also been stirred. He was so masterful, so in control, that it was easy to imagine herself surrendering to his whims – allowing herself to be strapped up, stripped naked, and left vulnerable, for Mr Darcy to do with as he pleased ... The thought was arousing, and she let out a low moan.
‘Are you all right, Miss?’
The servant’s gratingly common accent brought Elizabeth back to reality with a jolt.
‘Thank you,’ she replied, fanning herself with the letter. ‘Go round the back way into the kitchens and take some refreshment. No doubt you are tired.’
‘But the reply, Miss?’
‘Do not trouble yourself. I shall send a female of my own in due course.’
In fact, Elizabeth retired to her room as soon as she had taken off her coat and bonnet, in order to pen a letter to Mr Darcy. With trembling fingers, she dipped her quill in ink and wrote:
Your missive reached me at a time of great inner turmoil. I have been betwixt and between, I have blown hot and cold, I have hemmed and hawed – I particularly enjoyed the hawing – but still I am no closer to making a decision.
Once again, you have the advantage of me, Sir. As you well know, I am largely ignorant of the ways of the flesh. My sisters are as ill-informed as I, and I dare not ask Mama for fear of having her tell me yet again, and in great detail, about the time she gave the Prince Regent a blow job. I have considered consulting Old Granny Google in the village, who in her youth was mistress to several gentlemen of quality and knows much of these matters. Although I am not sure how much she can tell me of sado-masochism. From the stories she tells the dairymaids, I don’t think it was particularly her scene.
But my questions about sexual matters can wait. The matter that perplexes me most is why you demeaned yourself at Rosings, by wearing those tiny leather hotpants? What hold does Lady Catherine have over you? And if I were to allow you to become my Dominant, would I be required to don similar attire?
Yours, Elizabeth Bennet
She waited until the afternoon, and then sent one of the footmen into Meryton with instructions to find a suitably robust young woman capable of delivering the message to Derbyshire. Within days, another female arrived at Longbourn, sent by Mr Darcy.
My dear Miss Bennet,
Lady Catherine has no hold over me – I serve her willingly. She was my Dominant for many years after I left Beaton, and she taught me everything I know about sexual congress. As for the hotpants, if you wish not to wear them, I shall not force the issue. However, I would very much enjoy the sight of leather cutting into your ripe young buttocks.
As for your questions about the sexual act, pray address them to me. I will endeavour to answer them honestly.
Yours, etc., Fitzwilliam
Another willing female was dispatched from Longbourn, with Elizabeth’s note:
Lady Catherine was your Dominant? But she is so hideously old – at least thirty-five! And you yourself must have been young and vulnerable. How could she do it?
PS Can you get with child just by kissing?
Lady Catherine saved me from myself. If it wasn’t for her I would be a fucked-up, humourless, control-freak loser. As opposed to a fucked-up, humourless, control-freak successful billionaire.
In answer to your question, no. You get with child by having a ‘special cuddle’. And rest assured, we shan’t be having many of those.
Is it true that if a man’s member has risen, it is bad for his health if he is subsequently unable to achieve release?
Yes. He might die. We must make sure this never happens.
Females were sent to and fro between them for the next fortnight, until Mr Darcy wrote to inform her that he would shortly be calling in at Netherfield at the request of Mr Bingley, in order to take care of some estate business on his behalf. The news threw Elizabeth into turmoil. Although her Inner Slapper yearned to see Mr Darcy again – to smell his musky body wash, and to be probed by his piercing grey eyes – her Subconscious told her to beware. With every moment spent with Mr Darcy, she edged nearer to the precipice, the precipice that loomed over a great chasm of disrepute and perversion. Would she plunge over? Hmm, I can’t imagine.
At seven the next evening, Taylor arrived at Longbourn in a small phaeton drawn by a grey mare.
‘I’m to collect you, Miss, and take you to the Roger Inn.’ His plebeian face wore an apologetic expression. ‘Mr Darcy’s orders, Miss.’
Mr Darcy’s orders indeed! Elizabeth’s hackles rose. He was so arrogant! And yet so irresistibly horny!
‘Thank you, Taylor. I will be just a moment.’
Seizing a cape, and grabbing her reticule in a most unladylike fashion, Elizabeth quit the house. She was aware of Mrs Bennet looking out at her through her bedroom window. What is Mama trying to tell me? she wondered, watching her mother alternately pointing down at her, and then frantically pushing her bosom up and down with both hands so that it quivered like a giant blancmange.
Taylor helped Elizabeth into the phaeton. The air was chilly, and she pulled her cape tightly round herself as they set off on the short journey to Meryton.
‘Is Mr Darcy well?’ she called up to Taylor.
‘As well as can be expected, Miss,’ came the gruff reply.
‘Oh, has he been ill?’
Taylor continued to stare straight ahead. ‘He has been ... distracted, Miss. Not his usual self.’
For one moment, Elizabeth allowed herself to think that she might be the reason for Mr Darcy’s preoccupation. ‘I confess, I am not altogether familiar with Mr Darcy’s usual self,’ she remarked. ‘How would you rate his general character, Taylor? Does he treat his servants well?’
Taylor turned and smiled, and his stubbly lower-class face looked almost human. ‘In that regard he’s the best that ever was, Miss. We all get a shilling a year, and one-and-a-half days’ holiday.’
‘A generous arrangement indeed!’
‘Oh, but Mr Darcy is a wonderful man,’ Taylor continued. ‘All the good works he does with the poor! And there’s no denying he cherishes his little sister. There is nothing he would not do for her.’
This must have been the Georgiana that Elizabeth had heard so much about from Carrotslime and Looseata – the young lady they felt would make a more suitable match for Bingley than her own dear sister Jane.
‘So, we have established that he is a loving brother, and a beneficent employer. He must have some faults, surely?’ she said teasingly.
‘Well, Miss, now you come to mention it, he is an incurable sex maniac.’
They trotted on in silence, and on rounding the curve of the road leading up to the inn, Elizabeth could feel her stomach fluttering in anticipation. Holy crap, she was nervous.
Mr Darcy was standing outside the inn, leaning casually against a low wall, drinking a glass of claret. He was dressed in his customary attire: white linen shirt, grey breeches and, this time, just to ring the changes, a sombrero. Beneath it, his hair was sexily tousled. She had forgotten how freakin’ hot he was! Elizabeth stared slack-jawed for a few moments.
‘Allow me, Miss Bennet.’ Mr Darcy stepped forward to wipe the drool from Elizabeth’s chin. With one sexy hand he lifted her down from the phaeton. Cocking his head to one side, and his leg to the other side, Mr Darcy surveyed her.
‘You look beautiful, Elizabeth,’ he murmured appreciatively. ‘Your gown becomes you.’
Elizabeth smiled shyly. See-through lace had been the right choice after all.
‘Shall we go in?’
Together they traversed the snug bar, where gnarly handed farmers and rough-looking labourers were hunched over their flagons of cheap ale, and entered a private dining room to the left. Elizabeth gave a gasp: the table was laden with baskets of cut flowers and piles of fresh and sugared fruits. In the chandelier above, three score candles glowed seductively, their light glinting off the silver cutlery and crystal glassware below. It was romantic beyond her wildest dreams. Mr Darcy pulled out a chair for her at one end of the long trestle table, then took his place at the other end, directly opposite her. He smiled, and his long fingers reached out to pluck a cherry from a nearby plate.
‘You have thought about my contract, Miss Bennet?’ His voice was ardent, and his eyes burned into hers like sexy blowtorches.
Elizabeth took a sip of her wine.
‘I have, Mr Darcy,’ she declared. ‘But I cannot agree to everything you ask.’
‘I said, I cannot agree to everything you ask. Should we sit a little closer, do you think?’
‘It will be fine,’ Mr Darcy shouted, ‘as long as we both annunciate.’
Reaching into his waistcoat pocket, he pulled out a sheaf of papers. ‘I have a copy of the contract here.’
Elizabeth took another nervous gulp of wine. Mr Darcy looked down and scanned the first page.
‘Let me see... No fisting’. A serving maid who had just entered the room with a jug of ale gave a start, splashing froth all over the floor. ‘I think we have established that already,’ Mr Darcy continued. ‘Do you have any other concerns, Elizabeth?’
‘I do not know where to begin,’ Elizabeth said, exasperated. ‘What you ask of me is beyond my experience.’
‘Then let us go over the contract point by point,’ Mr Darcy replied, laying out the papers in front of him on the table.
‘Item 1: Social activities,’ Mr Darcy began. ‘The Dominant is free to visit the gaming tables, any house of ill repute, or his drinking club, whenever he so chooses. When the Submissive asks where he is going, he is entitled to say, “Just out.” The Submissive may leave the premises once every two months, in the company of Taylor, in order to purchase new sexy underthings.’
Darcy paused. ‘There is no negotiation on those particular points, Elizabeth,’ he said firmly. ‘You are not safe walking about on your own. I need to keep you from harm.’
‘Item 2: Personal grooming. The Submissive shall keep herself waxed, shaved, exfoliated, plucked, bleached and deodorized at all times.’
Oh my! Elizabeth blushed furiously as Mr Darcy fixed her with his smouldering grey eyes. ‘I want you like an oven-ready chicken, Elizabeth,’ he said seductively, ‘ready for basting. Agreed?’
Elizabeth nodded. The two sips of wine she had taken were making her head swim, and she was finding it hard to focus.
‘Item 3: Food. The Submissive shall eat when the Dominant gives the command. She may not choose her own meals, but will eat from a menu compiled by the Dominant and prepared by the housekeeper, Mrs Jones. Foods that will not directly benefit the Submissive’s health, such as chocolate, are prohibited.’
‘Hang on, no chocolate?’ Elizabeth asked, finding her voice at last. ‘That is most definitely a deal breaker for me, Mr Darcy.’
Mr Darcy glowered. For a few moments he was quiet, surveying her with eyes that shone like shiny things. Elizabeth sensed that the author was running out of ways to describe his eyes. ‘Very well,’ he said at last. ‘Chocolate will be permitted.’
Elizabeth smiled. It was a small victory, she knew, but what was a life of sexual slavery without chocolate?
‘Item 4: Exercise. The Submissive shall not jog, run, play contact sports, swim, ride or undertake any other activity that might put her at risk of injury. She may, however, indulge in yoga or gentle aerobics, provided she wears only a tiny Lycra thong and the Dominant is allowed to watch.’
‘Are country walks permitted?’ asked Elizabeth, thinking how much she would miss her daily outings were they to be outlawed.
‘I have told you, Miss Bennet, I do not want you wandering about on your own. You might trip over a tussock.’
‘Perhaps if Taylor were to accompany me?’
Mr Darcy’s eyes narrowed as he considered the request. ‘I cannot consent to this,’ he said finally. ‘The countryside surrounding Pemberley is hilly, and I will permit perambulation only where the gradient of the land is 1:1. Shall we continue?’
‘Item 5: Domestic duties. The Submissive shall be responsible for the washing, ironing and dusting, and shall clean the bathroom twice a week. If the Dominant happens to drop his socks and pants on the floor, the Submissive shall pick them up and put them in the laundry basket. If the Dominant on occasion leaves the toilet seat up, the Submissive shall put it down ...’
‘Hang on a minute, there’s something really dodgy about this,’ muttered Elizabeth’s Subconscious.
‘...The Submissive has the right to ask the Dominant to put out the bins once a week, and to mend any wonky shelves that may require re-aligning. Although whether or not he complies is the Dominant’s prerogative.’
Just then, Mr Darcy was interrupted by the arrival of another serving maid, bringing the first course. She set down a dish of braised ox tongue on the table, and Mr Darcy prodded it gently with his fork. ‘I hope you enjoy tongue, Miss Bennet,’ he said teasingly.
Elizabeth sighed and raised her eyebrows. ‘Are you making an oblique reference to cunnilingus, Mr Darcy?’
Mr Darcy gave a start. For a moment he struggled to speak, and could only stare at her in confusion. ‘We both know that’s not how this works,’ he spluttered at last. ‘I make the innuendos, and you just blush.’
‘Oh. Forgive me, I don’t know what came over me,’ said Elizabeth apologetically. A blush crept prettily across her flawless cheeks. ‘No, Mr Darcy,’ she said in a shocked whisper. ‘I am unused to tongue.’
‘You will have to develop a taste for it if you are to reside at Pemberley with me,’ Mr Darcy said lasciviously, his grey eyes raking her body.
To reside with him at Pemberley! Elizabeth’s heart beat a little faster.
Mr Darcy poured gravy over his tongue and sprinkled it liberally with pepper.
‘You have barely touched your food, Elizabeth,’ he said curtly. ‘You must eat. You will need the same calorific intake as an Olympic rower if you are to keep up with my intensive boffing regime. It will be the equivalent of competing in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race every single day.’
Elizabeth fanned herself with her napkin. ‘Will it truly be that arduous, Mr Darcy?’
‘Oh, indeed it will, Miss Bennet,’ Mr Darcy said in a low voice, his grey eyes like molten steel. ‘When I have it off, I have it off hard.’
Elizabeth winced. Mr Darcy took another mouthful of tongue.
‘Now that we are in agreement on the basic rules, what do you say? Will you come to Pemberley with me, and be my sex slave?’
Elizabeth, deep in thought, bit her nails. Mr Darcy gave a growl of desire.
‘Say yes, Elizabeth.’
She gazed into his smoky-grey eyes, which were sizzling now, like sausages on a griddle. ‘Yes,’ she breathed.
‘Then let’s not wait Elizabeth,’ he murmured back. ‘Right now all I can think of is ripping off your dress and thwacking you until you are black and blue.’
Elizabeth’s nerves began to tingle. His voice was irresistible, and rivulets of desire cascaded over her whole body.
‘I want you, Elizabeth. Here. Now.’
Elizabeth glanced anxiously at the two servants who were hovering by the door.
‘And I know that you want me too.’
She frowned. His arrogance knew no bounds!
‘How can you be so certain?’ she enquired.
‘I know because your body gives you away,’ Mr Darcy said confidently. ‘You are flushed, your breathing has changed, and you have just stripped off and are lying naked on the table with only a few frosted grapes covering your modesty.’
Elizabeth glanced down. Holy heck, he was right! She hadn’t even realized that she’d been disrobing. Why did he have such a powerful effect upon her?
‘Taylor!’ At Mr Darcy’s command, Taylor’s stubbled face appeared from beneath the tablecloth.
‘Be so good as to preserve Miss Bennet’s modesty.’ Averting his eyes, Taylor laid his cloak gently across Elizabeth’s body.
‘I have taken the liberty of booking a room,’ Mr Darcy said. ‘Taylor will carry you up there.’
‘Are you coming too?’ Elizabeth enquired, as Taylor scooped her into his lower-class arms. The wine she had drunk was making her head swim, but also making her bold.
‘I have never slept in the same room as a woman, Elizabeth,’ Mr Darcy said darkly, and for a moment his beautiful face took on a mournful expression.
‘Then perhaps you will make an exception tonight?’
‘I cannot sleep beside you,’ he said sadly. ‘But I will come up later for a grope.’
A grope! Her insides turned to liquid at his words.
Carefully, Taylor carried Elizabeth through a small door in the corner of the room which led to a narrow staircase. Thank heavens she did not have to go through the public bar, Elizabeth thought gratefully, and be exposed to the ogles of the lower classes. The stairs wound up to a tiny attic room, sparsely decorated but for a bed and a washstand.
‘Thank you, Taylor,’ Elizabeth said as the burly manservant set her down gently upon the floorboards. Taylor nodded briefly and turned to go, then seemed to hesitate.
‘Just one thing, Miss,’ he said hurriedly, thrusting something into her hands. ‘You might need this.’
He had vanished before Elizabeth had had a chance to read the label on the tiny tube he had given her. ‘Hmm, KY Jelly,’ she said aloud. ‘Sounds delicious. Maybe it’s for toast?’ She rubbed a little on her lips and immediately pulled a face. She was sorry to scorn Taylor’s gift, but it was nowhere near as good as Cragg’s marmalade.
Flinging the jelly onto the washstand, Elizabeth threw herself upon the bed and wrapped the coverlet about herself. Mr Darcy would be here soon; she had to stay awake. Yet the two sips of wine she had partaken of, and her fraught nerves, meant that sleep was soon upon her. At one point, she was vaguely aware of Mr Darcy slipping naked into her bed – or did she dream it all? He reached out a hand, cupped her right breast and squeezed it gently.
‘Honk! Honk!’ he whispered.
If ever a man needed saving from himself, Elizabeth thought through the fog of sleep, it was Fitzwiliam Darcy.