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Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Chapter Text

They managed to keep their secret for two full days before they were discovered. When Lizzie thought about it later, she was impressed it had taken that long. There were too many variables to control. Lizzie lived with Lydia, a notoriously bad secret-keeper, and her parents, both of whom were on high alert: Mr. Bennet because of Lydia's recent troubles, and Mrs. Bennet because she simply could not operate in any other fashion. Charlotte could be counted on to keep their fledgling relationship quiet, but she was the least of their concerns.

Then there was the fact that Lizzie's town wasn't a busy metropolis by any stretch of the imagination, and people recognized and took an interest in her simply because she had lived there all her life. Anywhere they went, they ran the risk of casually bumping into an old classmate or teacher or acquaintance, any one of whom could just as casually mention to Mrs. Bennet that they had seen her daughter out with a tall, handsome gentleman. Even being spotted coming or going to Netherfield could attract attention, especially given the fact that Bing and Caroline had been conspicuously absent for months.

The fact that they had two days of blissful secrecy was kind of a miracle, all things considered.

On Tuesday morning, they had planned to take a trip into town so Lizzie could show off her favorite used book store. ("We'll find you a copy of The Brothers Karamazov that you can highlight and scribble in to your heart's content. Nonsense, William, used books are made for margin notes! It's practically a rule.") The shop was peculiar and charming; the owner sold pipe tobacco and cigars alongside dogearred volumes of poetry and trashy romance novels, and worn out, squashy leather chairs hid around every corner. Of course, what she had failed to tell William was that she found nothing so erotic as the smell of old books, leather, and tobacco. She entertained a private fantasy of pinning him up against shelves in the 19th Century British Literature section and thoroughly rumpling his carefully groomed hair and buttondown shirt.

The house was quiet that morning. William arrived after Mr. Bennet and Lydia had left for the day, and Mrs. Bennet was running errands. Lizzie didn't expect her back for hours, so they took full advantage of their solitude. What had begun as Lizzie insisting she just needed one more cup of coffee had turned into an hour of kissing and flirting and not so innocent touches in every corner of the kitchen and den.

Lizzie hadn't meant to stop in the full view of the front door, but she simply could not wait to kiss William again for a second longer. It had started out innocent enough, just a peck on the lips, really. But she was learning that something about being that close to William Darcy seemed to ignite her, and before too long she was pawing at his shoulders, running a hand through the hair at the nape of his neck, and squirming impatiently as she struggled to reach. Sensing her impatience, he wrapped his arms around her and lifted, groaning incomprehensively when she wrapped her legs around his waist and began to kiss him with renewed vigor. 

Neither one of them heard the quiet click of a door swinging open.

"Elizabeth!"

Mrs. Bennet's exclamation came out in a breathy sort of squeal, equal parts delight and utter shock. She stood framed in the doorway, a bag of groceries in one arm and a large purse under the other, gaze trained on the spectical before her.

William reacted instantly, swinging Lizzie down to her feet and disentangling her arms from his body with a speed that impressed and perturbed Lizzie. She made a vague grunt of dissatisfaction, but any sound she made was lost under a torrent of Southern hospitality, which Mrs. Bennet could turn on and off like a hose.

"Mr. Darcy, we had no idea you were in town. I can't imagine why my Elizabeth didn't mention anything about it." She paused for the space of a breath, pointedly glaring at her middle child before turning a megawatt smile on William. "I hope you'll excuse her manners, I swear we raised her better."

"Mother," Lizzie muttered, finding her voice. She reached out and grabbed William's hand, squeezing it comfortingly. His returning squeeze was more like a vice grip. "My manners are fine; I don't think that William was complaining. And actually we really have to get-"

"Honestly, Lizzie, it's like you were raised by wolves. Your father will want to speak to your gentleman caller at some point, I'm sure, and you haven't even invited him to dinner yet! And after he's already been in town for..."

Mrs. Bennet paused again, this time directing her piercing stare at William. Her eyes were exactly like Lizzie's, he found, only at her most intimidating and self-righteous moment Lizzie never looked so calculating. Still, her smile was warm enough, and something about the way she was sizing him up reminded him of long-off memories of his own mother.

"Two days," he supplied, not wanting to be rude.

"Two days! I apologize on behalf of my daughter, Mr. Darcy. Such inexcusible inhospitality. You must join us for dinner this evening. I'll make a roasted chicken and my famous mashed potatoes. And you have to try my Lizzie's chocolate pie! It's the best in town. You'll never want to eat anything else ever again."

"Mom, I really don't have time to make a pie. We have plans." Lizzie leveled a fierce stare of her own, and for a moment, William forgot the terror of this first official parental engagement, lost in the memory of the things Lizzie Bennet was capable of when she stared that way.

"Nonsense, Lizzie." Mrs. Bennet's smile managed to be both serene and manic. "I'm sure you have plenty of time. And while you're doing that, I'll entertain Mr. Darcy here. We didn't get nearly enough time to talk last time he was in town, and I'm just dying to get to know him better." 

Chapter Text

Thirty minutes later, Lizzie was rolling pie crust in the kitchen and Mrs. Bennet was entertaining William in the den. It couldn't have gone better if her mother had planned it. Though of course, Lizzie reflected, batting at a dab of flour on her nose, she couldn't have. She didn't even know that William was in town, let alone that he and Lizzie were...doing whatever it was they were doing.

Lizzie glared at the wall that separated the den from the kitchen, wishing for x-ray vision.

"Lizzie just could not stop talking about Pemberley Digital after she finished her internship."

Mrs. Bennet was in all-out flirtation mode. Without seeing her, Lizzie knew that she had just leaned in toward William with a winning smile.

"Yes, well...we miss her. Lizzie is extremely talented, and we were lucky she was able to spend so much time with us."

"Of course, of course." There was pride in her mother's voice, Lizzie noted happily. "But you know, she is a woman of many talents. If I had a nickel for every time her father and I have told her that there's more to life than work..."

Lizzie laughed outloud at this, turning back to the pie crust in front of her. Barking up the wrong tree, Mom, she thought with a grin.

"My sister often has to remind me of the very same thing. It can be easy to get absorbed in a project and neglect other, more personal matters." 

Lizzie's smile grew and she shook her head admiringly. Then again, maybe not. Well played.

"Well said, Mr. Darcy."

"Please, ma'am, call me William." 

Lizzie stopped mid-stir, and her breath caught in her chest. In the den, there was a meaningful silence, and she prayed that the next words out of her mother's mouth wouldn't be And you can call me Mama.

"Of course. William." 

The excitement in her voice was unmistakable, and Lizzie dropped her wooden spoon and rushed toward the doorway, hoping to prevent the scenario from unraveling any further than it already had.

"Now, William," Mrs. Bennet said quickly, clearing her throat. "I think it's fairly obvious what my Lizzie's intentions are, given the way she was climbing you like a tree back there." 

There was a choking sound, and Lizzie slapped a hand over her mouth to stop the horrified groan. 

"Don't get me wrong, I'll grant you you're a handsome young man. But I know what handsome young men can do to impressionable young ladies, and I'd like to know just what your intentions are regarding my daughter. Her manners may be horrendous, but she has a good heart, and we love her very much. I want only the best for my daughters." 

Not for the first time, Lizzie wondered if they had underestimated Mrs. Bennet in failing to tell her about Lydia's situation. There was steel in her tone, lurking under the sunshine and sweetness reserved specifically for rich, handsome gentlemen courting her daughters. In spite of herself, Lizzie stayed very still, listening with all her might.

William's response was solemn, reverant even. 

"So do I, Mrs. Bennet." 

There was the sound of shifting fabrics, and Lizzie wondered if it had all become too much for her mother to bear and whether she was about to collapse into rapturous tears. Then, abruptly, her face appeared in the doorway, cheery smile in place, eyebrows raised.

"Enough eavesdropping, Lizzie, dear. That pie's not gonna bake itself." 

Chapter Text

"No, you don't understand, it's all part of some convoluted scheme!"

"Lizzie, you're being ridiculous."

They had finally escaped Mrs. Bennet's clutches and were driving toward the bookstore, hours after they intended. Mrs. Bennet had promised to take care of the getting the pie out of the oven and letting it properly set.

"After all, that last step is the one that requires all the patience, and that's one thing that our Lizzie doesn't have in spades, isn't it, William?"

"She's so embarrassing," Lizzie moaned, tipping her head back and staring out the moon roof.

"Mothers often are, I'm told."

There was a softness in his voice that made Lizzie peek over at him. He was watching the road, but his eyebrows had pulled in, and there were creases around his mouth.

"Oh, William, I'm sorry. I'm being ungrateful."

"Yes." The reply would have hurt her feelings but for the accompanying quirk of his lips. "Although I feel that I should tell you my mother probably could have topped this. She showed naked baby pictures to my prom date and never stopped kissing me in front of my friends, even when I was a moody teenager who wanted nothing to do with her." 

"There was so much in that story to comment on," Lizzie said with a laugh. "One, prom date? Details, Darcy, I need details! Did she dress all in black? Did she have a lip ring? Two, I cannot imagine you as anything other than a moody teenager. I just figured you must have had a rebellious phase where you were cheerful and out-going with people, before you reverted to your socially awkward self." 

His eyes narrowed dangerously, and she felt her heart speed up. 

"Lizzie Bennet, contrary to what you may have been told, mocking the ones who love you is neither charming nor a particularly good way to ensure you get kissed later." 

"That stern voice really turns me on, you know that?" She leaned over the center console and dragged her fingertips over his thigh.

A smile flickered across his lips for a half a second before he straighted out his mouth.

"My prom date was a very nice girl with blonde hair and no piercings whatsoever. She wore a pink dress. At the end of the night she kissed me on the cheek and said she thought we should just be friends. The next week she asked...George...out."

Lizzie winced. "Ouch." 

"It wasn't as bad as you might think, actually. Her best friend thought I had been treated very badly and offered to take my mind off things." 

"She did not! Fooling around with her best friend's date? Come on, chicks before dicks!" 

William took his eyes off the road and stared at her for an extended moment. "Excuse me?" 

"Your prom date's bestie was a bad friend." 

"Oh. Well. I can't say that I mind, in hindsight." 

He trapped her hand on his leg and twisted their fingers together, enjoying the warmth of her touch and the feel of her small, soft hand in his. 

"You're a pretty smooth customer, William Darcy." 

He lifted one shoulder and threw her another half-smile, the kind that she was beginning to learn meant that he was completely content. "I did handle your mother in pretty short order. After that, nothing scares me." 

Lizzie chuckled dryly. "Ohhh, William. I know I spend a lot of time mocking my mother on my videos, but at least all her crazy is out there for the world to see. She's not the one you have to worry about, not really. Tonight...you get to meet my dad." 

She got a certain amount of satisfaction from the way his Adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he gulped.

Chapter Text

"We can't," she whispered, stretching her neck back and exposing more skin as he kissed his way up from her shoulder.

"Can't or shouldn't?" he murmured. The vibration of his voice sunk into her skin and made her dizzy. She clutched at the hair on the top of his head and pulled tightly, feeling a burn in the pit of her stomach when he moaned involuntarily.

"Anyone could see." Her protests grew weaker by the second. "We're less than a block from my house, William!"

He bit her earlobe and she tightened her grip on his hair, enjoying the sound of his heavy breathing. 

"No one is going to see, Elizabeth." 

The sound of her full name on his lips did unexpected things to her libido. She made a mental note to explore that later and was about to agree and throw caution to the wind when Lydia sped by in Mr. Bennet's car, leaning on the horn. He jerked up, and she sighed heavily.

"I think my sister just made my point for me." 

He heaved himself up into a sitting position, hair mussed, lips red, and bowtie deliciously crinkled. "We need a better plan for these moments." 

Lizzie laughed and pulled down the passenger side mirror to fix her hair. 

"Or we need to not make out in your car like two sixteen-year-olds trying to get out of curfew. You might want to smooth down some of your wrinkles there, Mr. CEO." 

But William had closed his eyes and was taking long, slow breaths. He scrubbed his hands over his face as he let out a low, gutteral noise.

"Um, William?"

"Not now." 

"Are you okay?" 

"We just spent the last twenty minutes fooling around. I have to go meet your father for the first time. I require a little...preparation." 

Lizzie snorted. "Oh. Well, um, if it's any consolation, you've met him before. And compared to the last couple of guys who have come to date his daughters, you're definitely the most impressive."

He didn't open his eyes, and Lizzie reached out and patted his knee. "Seriously, William. I'm sorry if I freaked you out earlier. I was only teasing. He's going to love you. Just like I ... love you."

She hadn't said it before, not in so many words, and it was enough to get him to snap out of his funk and stare at her, color flooding back into his cheeks.

"I love you," she said again, ignoring the tremble in her voice and loving the way the declaration made her feel. 

He laughed and leaned in for a chaste kiss, pressing his forehead against hers before pulling away and cracking open the door.

"William, wait!" Now she was laughing, pulling him back to adjust his tie and smooth down his hair. "You still look like you just spent twenty minutes getting mauled by a crazy girl." 

He chose not to comment on that, instead jumping out of the car and making his way to her door before she could get it herself. And if he clutched her hand just a little tighter than usual as they made their way to her front door, she didn't say anything.

"Just remember," she whispered. "If you make it through dinner, I understand there is some very tasty chocolate pie in it for you." 

Before she could open the door, it swung open, and waiting there was not Lydia, not Mrs. Bennet, it wasn't even Mr. Bennet.

"About time you two lovebirds got back," Charlotte said with a grin. "The natives are getting restless. Let's get this bad boy started."

 

Chapter Text

"Oh, good, you're back!" Mrs. Bennet swept into the front hall, beaming at Lizzie and William as they shrugged out of their coats. "I was worried dinner was going to get cold."

Lizzie rolled her eyes and smiled. "Sorry we're late."

"Don't be silly, dear. I'm sure you have excellent reason for being-" she peered at the hall clock exageratedly "-thirty minutes later than we agreed. William, I hope she showed you some of the more exciting parts of town. She does love to spend time at that silly bookstore."

William cleared his throat, and Lizzie watched him fight for composure for a few precious seconds. She was enjoying learning his facial tics and cues. A whole world bubbled just below the surface, and every minute she spent with William Darcy further confirmed just how much she had misjudged him. He wasn't a cold, emotionless robot; quite the opposite. It was only a love of control and propriety that kept him so restrained most of the time. And Lizzie found great joy in testing that restraint, as he had discovered pressed against a wall of Shakespeare's sonnets just a few hours previous. He had taken equal pleasure in his revenge in the car, however, which had led to their late return.

"Yes," he answered politely. "We took a stroll down Main Street. It was charming."

"Yo, Mom, let's get this show on the road!" Lydia's loud voice interrupted the awkward smalltalk, and Lizzie breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm starving!"

Mrs. Bennet shot her youngest daughter a look, then turned back to William. "Can I offer you a drink, William? I have some red wine breathing in the dining room."

"I'll have a glass of wine, Mom."

"Lizzie, darling, guests first."

As they followed her mother into the dining room, Charlotte nudged William in the side. "You may want to hold off on the wine. I have a feeling you're going to need your wits for this particular dinner."

"I'll drink yours," Lizzie offered. "I'm not sure I want to do this sober."


At first, William was quite pleased with how dinner proceeded. The food was excellent, Charlotte and Lizzie managed to keep the conversation on safe topics, and he hadn't said anything horribly awkward. He was just beginning to relax when Mr. Bennet dropped the hammer.

"So, William, last time your name was mentioned at the dinner table, the general opinion was you were taciturn and unlikeable, and not my Lizzie's biggest fan. This turn of events must have taken quite the public relations campaign."

Lizzie choked on her wine and Lydia laughed, but Mrs. Bennet turned white.

"Mr. Bennet, you'll scare the boy away! He's joking, of course, William. Please don't pay him any mind."

But Mr. Bennet, a twinkle in his eye and the barest hint of a smirk on his face, didn't break eye contact. "You'll have to admit, it is a stunning about-face."

Finally, William raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "All's fair in love and war, is it not? It was less a campaign and more of...guerilla warfare."

Lizzie relaxed infintessimilly, chancing another generous gulp of wine. She reached for William's hand under the table and squeezed it.

"When it comes to the Bennet ladies, persistance is key." Mr. Bennet finally dropped his gaze back to his plate, and William exhaled. "You'll never believe this, but my wife spent the better part of our early relationship under the impression that I had no sense of humor at all. It was only after extensive experience that she came to understand my biting wit."

Lydia grinned. "Oh my God, Lizzie, you're dating DAD." 

"Lydia, I swear I will dump this wine over your head, and damn the consequences."

"Girls, girls! That is quite enough." Mrs. Bennet jumped to her feet, clearly determined to take the night back to safer waters. "Lizzie made a beautiful dessert for our special guest this evening."

"You never make me pie," Charlotte grumbled.

"You never ask," Lizzie replied primly.

"I don't know," Mr. Bennet drawled. "Lizzie's pie is decent enough, I suppose, though not handsome enough to tempt me. What do you think, William?"

Chapter Text

After dinner, Charlotte went home and William was shooed off, despite multiple offers to help clear the table and wash the dishes.

"Don't be ridiculous, dear, you are our guest. Lizzie can clear all this up, can't you?"

"Actually-"

"Lydia, help your sister, please. William, I believe Mr. Bennet wanted to speak to you in his office."

Lizzie watched helplessly as her mother led him away.

"Oh, relax, Nerd. He's a high-powered businessman. I think he can handle Daddy." Lydia turned on the hot water and started piling dishes into the sink. 

"Hey, Lydia?"

Lizzie formed the question carefully, not wanting to ruin what had been a relatively normal evening. Her baby sister had regained some of her natural exhuberance lately, but the barest mention of George could sometimes bring her down for hours.

"Did you tell Dad? About...what William did?" 

"Well, not exactly."

Lizzie wrinkled her forehead. "I'm sensing a but." 

"I think he's been keeping up with your videos. He definitely wasn't surprised to hear that William was coming for dinner. He was giving off that smug I-knew-it vibe." 

"Ugh, seriously? Why didn't he say anything?"

"Are you kidding? Dad just quoted Darcy to Darcy. Like five times. When he called Mom's opinion on winter weddings illuminating I thought Darceface was gonna shit a brick."

Lizzie shifted from foot to foot, fighting a smile.

"You're right. Telling would have spoiled the element of surprise, and Dad does love a good joke." 

"Do you think he's making sure your boyfriend practices safe sex?"

"Lydia!" 

"Don't be a fool, son, wrap your tool." Lydia imitated the gruff tone of Mr. Bennet's character in costume theater, and despite the hot flush of embarrassment Lizzie could feel working its way across her cheeks, she laughed.

"No glove, no love. Condomize to womanize."

"Where do you get this stuff?"

"Don't be a dick, wrap your stick."

Lizzie plugged her ears. "La la la la! I'm not listening!"

Dropping the affected tone, Lydia grinned. "You know, Lizzie, if you're not mature enough to talk about sex, you probably shouldn't be having sex."

Lizzie's face burned, and she stuck out her tongue, turning back to the leftovers deliberately. There was a long silence.

"Oh my God. Lizzie Bennet, please tell me you've tapped that."

Chapter Text

"Do you like trains, William?"

"Sir?"

The two men sat across from each other in the first-floor room that Mr. Bennet had claimed as his office. Model trains lined the walls and pieces of trains in progress covered the surface of his desk.

"Trains are marvelous things. Get on a train, see the world. Take a trip, change your life. I love trains."

"I can't say that I've given a lot of thought to the matter, although I can recall a certain fascination with them when I was a child." 

"When you get to be my age, you think a lot about the journey." Mr. Bennet settled back into his chair, peering down his nose at the nervous young man across from him. "And from what I can tell, you and my daughter have had a very...interesting one."

William ducked his chin and stared at his hands. This was a conversation he was determined to have, but that didn't make it any easier. "Yes, interesting would be a fair term."

"And your relationship with my other daughters...that's an entirely different matter."

A knot formed in William's stomach. He had wondered, of course, whether Mr. Bennet had watched Lizzie's videos. There were too many wry hints for his knowledge to be entirely second hand. With this observation, however, Mr. Bennet confirmed William's suspicions. 

"What you did for Lydia, for example, is something that I cannot forget."

William looked up, already shaking his head. "I really wish you would."

"But the amount of money you must have-"

"On this point, I must insist. I felt responsible for what happened to Lydia, and I was able to right a substantial wrong. I will accept your thanks, but that is all. You owe me no debt."

He straightened his chin and looked Mr. Bennet in the eye, and the steely dertermination was plain on his face.

"And Jane? You're not going to pretend you bear no responsibility there?"

William's gaze did not waver. "I bear a great deal of responsibility in some aspects, but I cannot claim to have a hand in any of Bing's actions concerning Jane for quite some time."

Mr. Bennet nodded. "I see."

"Sir, if I may?" He paused for a breath, then plowed ahead. "Lizzie is incredibly important to me. She has been for many months now. And while I appreciate that, given the circumstances, you are feeling protective at the moment, please believe me when I say that I would rather die than allow anything to happen to her. I would never do anything to cause her pain."

Silence filled the room. William closed his eyes and exhaled. "I have not always acted respectfully where your daughters are concerned. But I assure you that I will do everything in my power to rectify that behavior."

"Well, then. Sounds like you have your journey all mapped out."

He opened his eyes, and to his great relief, saw that Mr. Bennet was grinning. He stood up, extending a hand. William took it gratefully.

"You're a good man, William. I'm not blind, and I can see how you look at each other. You have earned her respect, and so you have mine. That's no small thing."

"Thank you."

"Now, shall we join the ladies? Do you think we've given them enough time to really wonder what's going on in here?"

William smiled. And when Lizzie apprehensively asked him what he had been discussing for so long in her father's office, he simply smiled and said, "Trains."

Chapter Text

Later, much later, after Lydia and the elder Bennets had retired to their bedrooms, Lizzie and William sat in the den, finishing the wine. Well, Lizzie was finishing it. William, insisting that he had to drive back to Netherfield, had stopped after a single glass.

Red-faced and grinning, she leaned into his chest, fondling his tie.

"You did so well tonight."

He rolled his eyes and scoffed. "It was hardly the Spanish Inquisition, Lizzie. I've met parents before. Contrary to Bennet family lore, many parents actually like me."

"Ooh, the truth comes out!" She giggled a little too loudly, then hiccuped. "Excuse me. Exactly how many girls have brought you home to meet their parents, Mr. Darcy?"

He glanced at her sideways under impossibly long lashes, and she was momentarily distracted. "How many?"

"Yes." She inched closer to him, skimming her nose along his jawline. He shivered and twitched, but didn't move away. His cologne was intoxicating, even more than the wine.

"How many...what was the question?" He turned his face towards hers and brushed his lips against the corner of her jaw. His hot breath on her face made her head spin, but she forced herself to refocus on the question at hand.

"Parents. Girls. Whatever. Stop trying to avoid this conversation, it's happening!" She laughed helplessly, swatting at his shoulder.

He sighed. "You're relentless. Including the blonde prom date?"

"Obviously."

"Four."

"Wow."

"Wow, what? That isn't...is that a lot?"

"Well, I don't know if it's a lot, but-" 

"There was Rachel, the prom date. We took pictures at her house, and meeting her parents wasn't exactly optional. There was Elenor, my freshman year at Harvard. Things were just starting to get serious with Margaret when my parents passed away. With Gigi and Pemberley Digital, I guess I just didn't have the time or the inclination to keep that going. And then there was you."

She stared into his eyes as he recited their names and significance, and she was embarrassed to feel the pinpricks of tears in her eyes. "You...you're just..." 

He looked away, a faint pink tinge on his cheeks that had nothing to do with the wine. "There were a few girls whose parents I regret to say I never got around to meeting, but not many." 

The tension that had descended over them broke, and Lizzie laughed. "You scoundrel!" 

"Casanova I am not." 

"On the contrary, I find you quite alluring." She had meant it to come out mocking, but with the smell of his cologne still fogging her senses, the words left her mouth in a kind of a purr. His eyes flashed.

"And how many poor souls have you crushed with your beauty and wit, Lizzie Bennet? It must be a long list." 

"Ha. Right. I'm so chronically single that Lydia made a list of reasons why. Most of them were pretty spot on."

William wrinkled his nose and shook his head. "Frankly, all those reasons were things I found attractive about you. I assumed it was ironic." 

"Like your scarves?" 

"Leave my scarves out of this." 

"You assumed that me being terrible at flirting and obsessed with coupons and studying was somehow a positive thing?" Lizzie couldn't decide whether she was insulted or charmed. 

"You're honest, sincere, thrifty, and you're dedicated to your education." The look of consternation on William's face settled the question; she was definitely charmed.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. For the space of a second, he was clearly surprised, but it didn't take him long to catch up. Still waters ran deep, and the passion that was untapped when William Darcy kissed her was something that Lizzie hoped never ran out. It felt as though her bones were melting and her skin was on fire, but in all the best ways. Suddenly, he stopped.

"That was clever," he mumbled against her mouth. "But I won't be distracted that easily." 

"Distracted?" Lizzie tried to catch his lips with hers, but he pulled away, one dimple showing. 

"How many, Lizzie? I told you mine." 

"Parents? Or, um...the other thing." 

He laughed at that. "I don't believe I gave you information about...the other thing." 

"No, actually, but now that you mention it-"

"Lizzie." 

"Fine." She sighed. "Two. Bryan Masterson in high school and Kieran Anders in college. Kieran and I broke up like four years ago. And then there was this guy who I met at a wedding. Terrible dancer. Crazy sister. He stalked me on the Internet. No big deal." 

He laughed quietly, a snuffling little sound against her hair, while one hand traced patterns on her shoulder.

"William?"

"Hm." 

"What about the other thing?"

"What about it?"

"Well, you know." 

"You're going to have to be more specific." 

There was humor in his voice, but Lizzie needed to pull away to make sure he wasn't retreating into himself. He met her gaze with a soft smile on his lips, one eyebrow quirked.

"Don't make me say it," she pleaded.

"If you aren't comfortable talking about sex, Lizzie, maybe you shouldn't-"

"Oh my God, tell me you didn't hear that conversation."

He laughed outright then, a sudden bark that surprised and delighted her. "Only the tail end. I promise you I wasn't listening. It's just that Lydia's voice...carries."

Burying her face in her hands, she moaned loudly. "Tell me no one else heard, please. I'm begging you."

"Your parents were having a private conversation, so there is a chance-"

"Ugh, I need to move out of my parents' house." 

His chest shook with restrained laughter, and she couldn't help but join in. Wrapping his arm more securely around her, William brought her into his chest and hummed contentedly. Taking a deep breath, he said quietly, "I don't know about the long term, but there are plenty of bedrooms in Netherfield."

The quiet that filled the space after his words wasn't exactly tense, but there was a sudden shift in expectations and an electricity that wasn't there before. His fingers danced along the bare skin on the inside of her arm, raising goose bumps.

"William Darcy, are you trying to take me home with you?" 

"It's possible." His casual response didn't fool her. He was tense, coiled, ready to change direction in a heartbeat based on her reaction to his proposal.

Slowly, she turned in his arms and pulled him back down for a sensual kiss. She took her time, sucking on his bottom lip and biting down gently before letting go.

"Let me get my bag."