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The Heart Asks Pleasure First

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I

One small, pale hand rested between them on the settee: Elizabeth's left hand, where he would soon place his ring, a symbol of their binding. Darcy's own, larger hand stole across the space and covered hers. He studied their contrast for a moment and then his eyes flickered up to her face. Her attention with Jane, she turned her hand under his so that they lay palm against palm.

The intimacy was shocking.

His fingers slid over her skin until they rested upon the faint blue veins at her wrist and he could feel the beat of her pulse. His desire for her was suffocating; even this one, innocent touch inflamed him. Something of what he felt must have communicated itself to her; she dropped her gaze to their hands, a faint blush rising in her cheeks. His thumb began a purposeful caress over her sensitive skin. She raised her eyes to his, her lips parting on a silent indrawn breath. Helpless, he felt his body tighten in response. He let his gaze fall to her mouth deliberately for a heartbeat, two. When he raised his eyes again he saw the awareness in her own of their very first kiss.

II

She had never touched his skin before. The thought floated into her mind as she felt the warmth of Darcy's hand covering hers. Doing her best to attend to Jane's conversation, Elizabeth turned her hand under his. The contact of palms echoed through all her body like the heat of the sun.

She felt his fingers moving across her, thought he surely must feel the rapid beat of her heart. Helpless, she turned her eyes to where their hands lay joined, felt herself blush at the heat coiling in her belly. Surely he must know how dizzy he was making her. His eyes held that intensity she had so often mistaken for disapprobation in the past. Knowing now what it truly meant, she could not prevent a silent gasp.

The entire world had narrowed to the sensation of his thumb brushing back and forth across her wrist. And when his gaze dropped down to her lips she forgot to breathe entirely. It stayed there for a moment, two, and then met hers again: pupils so dark they were almost black. Everything inside her was liquid fire. She could scarcely breathe.

He had kissed her, with his fingers, with his eyes.