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the barest hint of an open mouth

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“And what about Mr Wickham?” Elizabeth asked, chin lifted.

Mr Wickham?” Darcy spat out the name, astonished that not only had Elizabeth rejected his proposal so humiliatingly but now she had the nerve to inquire about Wickham—that awful man to whom she’d taken such clear interest in his stead.

“What excuse can you give for your behavior towards him?” she asked.

In spite of himself he stepped even closer to her, drawn forward by his indignation. “You take an eager interest in that gentleman’s concerns!” he said. He felt his gaze drop to her mouth, taking in for the briefest moment the righteous fury in its set.

“He told me of his misfortunes,” she replied, and he couldn’t deny the sting of her trust that Wickham had told her the truth of their conflict, even at the cost of her good opinion of himself.

“Oh yes, his misfortunes have been very great indeed!” he said. As he spoke Elizabeth’s own gaze held steadily at his eyes, and the fact that she would see every time his gaze dropped to her lips almost added to his compulsion. His deepening humiliation was a pain behind his ribs, his every admission of his desire for her a keener wound.

“You have ruined his chances, and yet treat him with sarcasm?” she asked. Darcy’s hands tightened into fists at his sides, whether in frustration at her unfounded accusations—or at the shame of her so incisively correcting his misbeliefs about her sister’s feelings for Mr Bingley—or whether in a likely vain attempt to still himself from reaching out to touch her, he wasn’t certain.

“So this is your opinion of me! Thank you for explaining so fully,” he said. Despite the wrath in his voice he found his feet had moved forward yet again. From this distance the smooth softness of her face was clear to him, and the impossibility of ever feeling it was an ache that coursed down his arms and into his palms. He swallowed. “Perhaps these offences might have been overlooked, if your pride had not been hurt—”

My pride?” she interrupted, and if his own gaze hadn’t been so erratic in his aroused state, he might have noticed that here she allowed herself a guilty glance at his mouth, which was already opening again to finish his statement.

“—by my honesty in admitting scruples about our relationship. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?” He noticed the arrogance of these words only after they floated in the humid air between them.

“And those are the words of a gentleman?” she asked. He bristled but chastened, his embarrassment rising now to overcome his fury. “From the first moment I met you,” she continued, “your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.”

Darcy stood astonished, crestfallen. Even now the desire to take her face in his hands, to feel her lips against his, was a compulsion he could scarcely control, and he felt himself swaying toward her like a man drunk. He was ashamed at the depth of his desire even in the face of such vicious rejection.

“I—” he began, and paused, distracted again by her lips, which had fallen open almost as if in shock of her own wrathfulness. He met her gaze, cursing his eyes for revealing, he was certain, the way he beseeched her acceptance, her reciprocation. And this time he did notice when she looked down at his mouth, when she turned her face up to his. But it was too late, he felt, surely an accident of her body; he refused to believe her movement carried any intention.

“Forgive me, madam,” he said softly, “for taking up so much of your time.” He turned then to leave, but her small hand grasped the lapel of his coat, shocking him into stillness.

“Stop,” she said, and then she seemed to notice her hold on him, and her hand lifted quickly to float just so above the center of his chest.

“How dare you confuse me this way, Mr. Darcy,” she said, and her trembling lip bespoke the honesty of her statement.

“Forgive me, but I do not know what you mean.”

Elizabeth’s voice took a breathless air when she spoke again. “How dare you—” she said, and took a shuddering breath. “How dare you speak to me with words that reveal such deep disdain for my self and my station, and all the while the expression of your face and the tilt of your body imply such barely restrained ardor? Tell me, Mr. Darcy, which I am to believe.”

He felt a fingertip graze the skin of his throat, and he swallowed, watching her gaze follow that fingertip as it traced up his neck to rest on his lip.

“Am I to believe your mouth,” she asked, shifting her gaze up to his eyes, “or your face?” He caught the barest hint of her open mouth before she quirked an eyebrow.

Darcy stood speechless, daring hardly to move, let alone speak, lest she remove her touch. And then she smoothed her hand over his jaw to the back of his neck, and gently she pulled his face toward hers. The air froze in his lungs as she closed her eyes and pressed her mouth against his. He lost himself in the soft, constant pressure of her lips, in the feeling of her cheeks, her neck, under his palms, until distantly he heard his shaky exhale when he could hold his breath no longer.

He opened his mouth to inhale, but she didn’t pull away, instead holding tight to his neck and letting her own mouth fall open so that the air he breathed was hers. He gripped her shoulders, breathing heavily and unsure whether to continue, until she slid her mouth back over his in such a way that he felt the silky slickness inside her lip. He flushed at the choked whimper that escaped his throat at such an intimate touch, but Elizabeth only kissed him harder, rising up to press her chest against his.

Somehow the feel of her slight breasts, this new awareness of her body, brought him back to himself, and he startled back several steps.

“Miss Elizabeth,” he said, closing his eyes abashedly at the shakiness of his voice. “Forgive me this impropriety. I had no intention to disregard—”

“No, Mr Darcy,” she replied, and stepped forward to close the distance between them. “This is my intention.” Her hands were back on his face, and he closed his eyes again to avoid her gaze. Even as he relished in her touch, her words echoed in his mind: arrogance and conceit, selfish disdainthe last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry. At least, he supposed, he was not the last man she could be prevailed upon to kiss.

Even so his humiliation and desire were a sparking tangle in his belly. Every moment he allowed her to touch him, allowed himself to return that touch, after her sound rejection of his proposal revealed the depth of his pathetic desperation. Yet he found he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure.

Her thumbs brushed his cheekbones, and as she kissed his forehead she murmured, “My darling Mr. Darcy.”

“Are you mocking me?” he asked, pulling his face from her hands.

“I am not,” she replied. “But might I ask you not to speak, lest your arrogant mask belie the truth I’ve found in your touch?” Her smirk was small, but it did not escape him. Darcy looked away above her head, jaw clenching, but felt his shoulders relax when her hand took hold of his cheek again.

She pulled him back down to her by the ear, and her kiss this time was firm and insistent. As she opened her mouth to him, he found his hand clutching at her throat, the other dug into the fabric of her dress at her waist, beneath her coat, holding her against him. When he tasted her tongue his knees weakened, and he felt her grasp on his cravat was all that held him on his feet. She slid her fingers beneath his collar, and then her mouth was there too, open against his skin as she loosened the fabric around his neck.

He held tight to her waist, breathless, as she worked open the buttons on his coat, his shirt, her mouth moving to bite softly at his collarbone once it was bared to her. And when his layers hung open to reveal his chest, she stepped back to take him in. His heart pounded at her smile, and he fought the urge to clutch his shirt back together under her gaze. She touched a finger to his mouth, traced it down to the waist of his trousers, slid her hands around under his shirt to stand flush against his chest.

He stumbled back when she stepped forward, until he found himself pressed against the wall. Her hands were cold as they roamed over his back, his ribs, his chest, but her breath was hot against his neck. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, kept them pressed flat over her shoulder blades, distracted by the feel of her hands, her mouth, on his torso.

She pulled back to look up into his face, and guided one of his hands to slip under her dress at the shoulder. He shuddered out a breath at the warmth of her skin there, and when she caught his mouth in another kiss, he slid his hand up under her jaw, down her throat to splay across her décolletage, and back under dress, relishing in the smoothness of her skin, the jut of her collarbone.

His other hand roamed down to her hip to pull her close against him, and both of them gasped at the thickness of his cock pressed between them. She pulled back in his grasp, her hands clutched at the muscle above his shoulders, said, “My, my, more truth yet from this body, hmm?” And she reached down to trace the shape of him through his trousers as he blushed fiercely.

One arm twined around his neck, her face pressed against his bare chest, and her other hand teasing over his cock, she said, “Do you know what I think of you, Mr. Darcy?”

“Not even a little,” he replied, struggling to maintain his composure, his own hands stilled again at her shoulder and her waist.

“I think you are arrogant, and complacent to let your status stand in for your personality.” She stroked that hand firmly, slowly over his length now, and he knew she could hear the rapid pulse in his chest. “And perhaps you don’t know how to talk to people, but I think truly you’re afraid even to try, afraid that to speak would be to reveal some truth about yourself that a person you care for might not like.”

His eyes fluttered shut as he let his chin rest on top of her head, and he felt himself throb in her hand, her every word sending a jolt of shame from his heart to his cock. He felt so deeply seen that he couldn’t speak, so humiliated that she had seen so readily through his practiced air of confidence to his close-held fears, which he had admitted scarcely even to himself. She had seen him, had rejected him so thoroughly, and yet here she stood with his body in her hands.

He felt raw, stripped bare, and bent to find her mouth, to kiss her deeply. After a moment she began to pull back, perhaps to speak again, but he held her to him with a hand on her neck, unable to bear any more of her truths.

“May I touch you?” he asked against her lips, hoping his meaning would be clear. At her whispered yes he turned her around to pull her back to him, his head falling back to thud harder than he’d intended against the wall. He gripped her hips, and couldn’t stop himself from rutting against her, breathless. He looked out into the rain in front of them, heart pounding, and saw no one.

He brushed her still-damp hair from one side of her neck, pressed his mouth there as she had done to him, and when he opened it to taste the salt of her skin her head fell back against his shoulder. She opened herself to him so freely this way, and yet he was glad her face was turned to hide his blush when he sucked at her throat and a high whimper escaped her lips.

He let one hand drift up her torso to her coat buttons, hesitant, giving her time to ask him to stop. But she said nothing, and when the warmth of his palm met her breast over her dress, her chest heaved with her breath. He wanted to see them, knew that he could not out here where anyone might spot the two of them. He brushed a thumb across her nipple, wondered at its stiffening through the fabric, and he imagined how his hand might spread across to gather both of her breasts together at once.

She pressed back against him, gasping, he guessed, at the hardness she felt behind her, and her voice was desperately breathless when she said his name. He felt her body rise and fall under his hands with his own heavy breaths. She began to ruck up one side of her skirts, grasped his wrist to place his hand against her bare thigh, letting the fabric fall back over his hand to the front. Her skin there was hot, and the downy hair there softer, he thought, than the best silk.

He wrapped an arm around her waist and pressed soft kisses to the back of her neck, catching his breath as he stroked her thigh. Each stroke strayed higher, until he felt a dampness in the divot at the very top of her thigh and stilled. Abruptly she clutched his wrist to remove his hand, and he feared he had dared too much—but then she sucked his first two fingers into her mouth. His mouth closed over the skin on her shoulder, and he struggled not to bite down at the intimacy of being inside her this way, of his body being taken inside that mouth that had so thoroughly stripped away his confidence, his conceit.

And then his hand was brought back under her skirts, and he did bite down when she pressed his fingers against her vulva, when they slipped so readily through the hot wetness near her cunt. When his fingers slid down toward her entrance she grasped his wrist, and her choked moan rang in his ear as he pressed one finger up into her.

“Mr Darcy—please don’t leave a mark. My reputation, as you know, is tenuous enough.” Embarrassed he let go her shoulder, kissed the spot where he’d bitten her. She pressed his palm down over her vulva so that the heel of his palm ground firmly over her clit. He slowly slid that finger out and back in, felt her knees weakening, and held her up with an arm braced over her chest.

“Darcy,” she said, “will you fuck me?”

He stuttered, astonished at that crude word from her mouth: “I—that is, are you certain that—” Grasping his wrist Elizabeth took his hand from her cunt, whining softly, and spun to face him. She clutched his shoulders beneath his open shirt and said, “Sir, I am very certain.” She pressed up to kiss him, and with the taste of her in his mouth and her fingers digging into his ribs he knew he could not deny her.

He feared, though, that they might be seen; even though some dark part of him relished in the idea that someone might see him claim her this way, might see evidence of their reciprocal desire, he couldn’t bear to see her fall from public grace. So he turned them around, pressed her to face the wall in front of them, hoping his body and his open coat might hide her from the view of a passerby.

He kissed the palms of her hands in turn, placed them flat on the wall near her face, and breathed a slow kiss at the back of her neck as he shakily freed himself from his trousers. He licked clean the fingers she’d allowed inside her, relishing in the taste of her, and spread that wetness over the head of his cock.

As he gathered up the back of her skirts he wondered who else might have done so, and the image of Wickham standing in his place left a bitterness on his tongue and a harshness in his hands he tried to restrain. He bent his knees to align himself and braced a hand above hers on the wall as he slid his cock through her labia. And as he began to press up into her cunt she gripped tight at his wrist near her face, soft whimpers escaping her mouth.

Breathless at her slick warmth and desperate not to hurt her, he sunk into her slowly. When their hips were flush he brought his free hand beneath her dress to press against that sensitive place she’d done earlier, and she jolted at his touch there, clenching down over his cock inside her. Finally Darcy permitted himself to move, and as he eased out her nails dug into his wrist. He hesitated, and with her other hand she reached back to grasp his hip and pull him back into her.

Elizabeth rested her forehead against the wall, and he his own forehead against her back, as he worked into a steady rhythm. That image of Wickham behind her like this flashed unbidden through his mind, and he barely contained a growl, his fingertips whitened against the wall. He sped up, channeling his jealousy into each thrust to hit some place deep inside her that made her keen.

He thought of her low opinion of him, her sound, repeated rejection, and he felt his rhythm become nearly frantic, need and desire and humiliation rising feverish together with the pleasure in his body. His fingers slipped over her clit in a shameful attempt to bring her up to her own orgasm, and he was surprised when he felt her shudder against him, her teeth biting into his wrist, her cunt clenching hard on his cock, over and over.

He squeezed shut his eyes as he worked to stay inside her until her body calmed, but her high soft sounds and her harsh words echoing in his ears and the heat of her cunt preempted his patience, and he tore away from her abruptly to spill into his hand. Before his cock had even stilled he turned away, crouching at the edge of the awning to rinse his hands in the steady rain.

When he turned back to face her, her dress was righted, coat buttoned, hair smoothed, and the only evidence of their activity a high color in her cheeks and lips. Abashed and disheveled, he hurried to right his own clothes, shaky hands struggling with the buttons until Elizabeth stepped forward to help him. Once dressed he looked up into her face, and she stepped away, that steady rejection already returning to her eyes.

He heard his words before he knew he’d thought them: “Miss Elizabeth, you admit yourself you see the truth of my admiration for you. Please, I ask that you reconsider my proposal.”

Even as he reached toward her hand, that hand that had so recently gripped his wrist in pleasure, she was stepping farther away, shaking her head.

“And you know that I cannot, while I know you to be the cause of my dearest sister’s unhappiness. Despite your admiration, despite—” she faltered, gesturing futilely, and repeated, “I cannot.”

Darcy nodded in attempt at stoicism, tears springing to his eyes at the renewed pain in his chest. “Forgive me,” he said. And he strode out into the rain.