“You can see why she married him, can’t you,” Serena said as they gazed out of the window at the gardens, a thick frost once again coating the ground in sparkling white.
“What?” Bernie asked, “Who?”
“Elizabeth. Married Mr Darcy. Well, this would definitely persuade you, wouldn’t it?”
Bernie laughed and slipped an arm around Serena’s waist, “Aside from the dubious idea of marrying somebody simply for their relatively impressive garden, there would be one serious impediment to me marrying Mr Darcy.”
“He’s rather too male for me.”
“But you were married to a man,” Serena turned in Bernie’s arms.
“Were,” Bernie said, pressing a kiss to Serena’s forehead, “Past tense.” The room was empty aside for the two of them and she pulled Serena closer, kissed her soft lips, smiled at the feel of their bodies so close. “Never doing that again.”
“Bernie,” Serena said as they parted, “About last night. I meant it, you know.”
Bernie stood very still. “I know. I – Serena – I –”
An anxious frown crossed Serena’s face, “You didn’t? Oh, god, have I messed this up ?”
Serena tried to pull away but Bernie held onto her firmly. “I did. Serena wait.” Bernie traced one hand tentatively from Serena’s waist to her shoulder, her cheek. “I’m not good with words, usually. I’m not good at – at relationships. I run away, I ruin things. But with you, Serena,” she scanned Serena’s face, held her gaze firmly, watched the frown lines between her eyes fade, “ I don’t want to run. And I’m going to try not to ruin it. You’ve – you’ve made me very happy, th e last few days .”
A grin crossed Serena’s face and Bernie smiled in relief. “Likewise. In a variety of interesting ways.”
Bernie laughed, “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“True though,” Serena said with a wink. “Come on, enough of this sentimental chit-chat, let’s have a look round.”
The ground was crisp under their feet and their breath floated in front of them like mist.
“It is beautiful, isn’t it,” Bernie said as they made their way along the front of the house to the gardens.
“It is. And can you honestly tell me, Bernie, that if Colin Firth appeared at this moment, in a dripping wet shirt that was clinging to his every muscle, you wouldn’t have a good look?”
“I’d definitely have a look round for something to treat his inevitable hypothermia with,” Bernie said, “But no, not for me. All the person I want to have a good look at is right here.” She squeezed Serena’s hand. Then, wondering if she was coming on a bit strong, she added, “I take it you would be appreciating the view?”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind the view, hypothermia aside,” Serena admitted, “But, likewise, you’re all I want at the moment.”
Bernie stopped abruptly and pulled Serena to face her. “Campbell,” she said seriously, brushing Serena’s dark hair back from her face, “Are we becoming horribly romantic?”
“Why don’t you kiss me and we’ll find out?”
“Happy to oblige.” Despite the cold, Serena’s lips still felt warm and Bernie kissed her firmly, eagerly, wantonly even.
“Hmm, that’s the stuff,” Serena murmured as they parted, “Bet Darcy doesn’t kiss like that.”
Bernie laughed and took her hand. “We’ve got a lot more garden to explore,” she said and led Serena down the path. She glanced across at her, amused to see that Serena appeared to still be in something of a daze. “Glad to see my kisses have an affect,” she said, and then, having not been paying attention to where she was going, promptly tripped over a hedgerow. “Ouch!”
“Bernie! Are you okay?” Serena hauled her up. “What happened?”
“I was looking at you,” Bernie said a little sheepishly. “Oh, that holly is prickly.”
“It looks it,” Serena said, and, realising that nothing more than Bernie’s pride was hurt, she laughed.
“We’re a right pair aren’t we.”
“You said it. Can we find a nice bench so I can kiss you again?”
“That sounds like it would be safer, yes. Come on, I can see one over there.”
They reached the bench without further mishap and Serena pulled Bernie down, sat on her lap and wound her arms around Bernie’s neck. “Kiss me now, soldier?”
Oblivious to the cold and the hard bench beneath her, Bernie obliged.