A Jane Austen Mashup Short Story. What happens when Emma meets Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice? A wedding perhaps?
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Saturday morning—Friday was unfortunately too soon for the butcher to prepare Emma’s order—Elizabeth stood before the mirror in her second best gown. No, it was not new, but it was silk, and pale blue, and lovely. Perhaps she ought to be wearing her best gown, but Fitzwilliam’s favorite color was pale blue and somehow pleasing him seemed more important than wearing a slightly newer gown.
Father, with Miss Carteret and the Dowager Lady Dalrymple waited downstairs. Miss Carteret, who seemed disposed to be sentimental, insisted that father should present the bride to her groom. They would be attending the wedding breakfast, too, gracing Hartfield with their presence and titles, thus lifting the status of her wedding out of the mundane.
Such a thoughtful gift, albeit a cheap one, considering what the Earl had settled upon them.
That was an ungracious thought, especially after the settlement Father had agreed to—with the encouragement of Miss Carteret. It was equal to, if not slightly more generous than the settlements to Mary and Anne.
Had she not been so fond of Fitzwilliam, that would have been important, but now it was just merely trivia.
The truly important thing was that Fitzwilliam would be waiting for her at the church and in just an hour, perhaps a wee bit more, he would be her husband.
“Are you ready?” Liza peeked in.
“I think so. What do you think?”
“You are everything a bride should be, my dear. Have you thought of any further questions?” Liza took her hand with all the tenderness of a sister.
Her cheeks heated. “I think not. Our conversation yesterday was quite … thorough.”
Liza bit her lower lip. “I believe I warned you once that directness was my way, uncomfortable though it may be at times.”
“I do appreciate it, and I think he will as well.” She looked away, anything not to meet Liza’s inquiring gaze.
“That was the point of the exercise. My sister Mary was equally mortified when I sat with her before her wedding, but later she told me she was glad for it. Shall we go now?”
Hopefully, Fitzwilliam would be, too.
Elizabeth picked up her cloak and muff and followed Liza downstairs.
Father escorted Miss Carteret and Lady Dalrymple in their coach, leaving the ladies to go in Knightley’s carriage. The men followed on horseback.
Emma and Liza exchanged encouraging glances with her, but they had little to say. Probably for the best. She was too nervous for conversation.
Though not asked, it seemed Mrs. Elton had seen to the decoration of the church. No doubt the gesture was more to insert herself into the proceedings and claim credit for their success than out of any fondness for Elizabeth. Still though, it was pleasant to see the church porch strewn with rushes and flowers, and the inside of the chapel appointed with several attractive bouquets, offering a welcoming perfume as they entered.
Father escorted his ladies to their seats and joined her at the back of the church. Mr. Elton approached them, fawning. Elizabeth stepped back and allowed Father to enjoy the attention without her.
Long heavy steps approached and stopped just behind her. A shadow leaned close and whispered in her ear, “Despite knowing Darcy was escorting you, it is still a relief to see you here.”
His voice sent delightful little shivers down the back of her neck. “I am pleased to see you here as well.” She clasped her hands behind her back.
He covered both her hands with his large, calloused one, barely lacing fingers with her.
She must not smile—not too much—and give their secret away. What a thrill to be so bold and improper with so many witnesses.
A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the same thought written in his twinkling eyes set above a very square and proper jaw.
They must invite Anne and Wentworth to stay soon. The two men were so similar. They would relish each other’s company.
He squeezed her hand and sauntered to the front of the church. His long, easy steps betrayed his mood—his steps always did.
Mr. Elton called them to order and Father paraded her to the front, making a very great show of presenting her to Fitzwilliam for the reading of the service. It seemed only a moment later Fitzwilliam slipped a braided gold band over her finger and she presented him with a sturdy, plain one. Mr. Elton trundled them to the back of the church for the signing of the marriage lines.
And it was done. She was now a married woman.
“Come, Mrs. Fitzwilliam.” He placed her hand in the crook of his arm.
He had that look in his eye. Mischievous. Pleased with himself. Playful. The one she anticipated and—if she were honest—adored.
“Close your eyes and walk with me.”
Did he not realize it was nearly impossible to think, much less obey when he whispered in her ear like that? And completely impossible when he brushed the side of her neck with his lips.
“Do you not trust me, my dear?”
“Teasing man! Just remember you are not the only one who can play at such things.”
“I count on it. Now, step over the threshold and outside. Just a few more steps. Now open your eyes.”
A freshly painted carriage waited before her. A matching pair of bay horses regarded her placidly.
“Later today we will go riding, but I thought perhaps you might like to ride to your wedding breakfast in your own carriage. I confess it is not new. It has enjoyed years of service to Listingbrook. But I have had it refitted for the occasion.” He opened the door for her.
“A carriage?” Her vision blurred and her eyes burned. A new carriage had been out of the question—she had not even brought up the notion. But this—such a perfect gift.
“Of course, Mrs. Fitzwilliam—”
Oh, the way he said that!
“How else will you make your bridal visits around the neighborhood?” He handed her into the carriage.
Buttery soft leather seats invited her into the warm interior, heated by wrapped bricks. Fresh, crisp white curtains covered the side glass, letting in just enough light to enjoy the expression on his face.
He was so pleased with himself.
He deserved to be.
“I am perfectly delighted with it—with you and with everything.” She slipped across the carriage to sit beside him and settled in very close.
He slid his arm around her shoulder and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Tension drained from him and he leaned into her, warm and heavy. “Mrs. Fitzwilliam, you have made me a very happy man.”
“Then you, sir, are far too easy to please.”
“Let us hope you continue thinking so for quite a long time.” He tipped her chin up and pressed his lips to hers.
Yes, let it be a very long time indeed.