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It's Hunsford time, campers

Chapter Ten - The War & Peace Accord

Beside Caroline on the picnic bench, Charlotte crinkled her nose at the six little girls of Scarborough eating orange popsicles as though their last meal ever. “What’s that smell?”

 

Caroline’s eyes darted back and forth from child to child whose lips were bright orange, a color she highly approved of and wondered if such a lipstick existed. Guiltily she replied, “Nothing smells.”

 

Charlotte was no dummy. It was an everyday occurrence for her when a child entered the exam room, smelling like spoiled milk, rancid meat, and smelly underwear. She’s witnessed firsthand the temper tantrums that resulted from children who had gone on bathing strikes and had to deal with the ending result of poor hygiene and non-caring parents. She also understood that a smart parent picked and choosed their battles, but hygiene should never be debatable.

 

“You do know about lice, don’t you?” she said.

 

The strangest look of horror crossed Caroline’s face when she repeated, “Lice?!”

 

“Yes, of course. Children must bathe or they attract things like lice and fleas. The lice gets into their hair and it spreads like wild fire, and the fleas … oh my God … the fleas are what caused the Black Plague, which killed about one hundred million people. Not to mention leprosy… that contagious, flesh-eating bacteria … it just eats away bit by bit. Before you know it … noses, fingers, ears—gone! she stated with a swoosh of her hand. “Poof, like that!”

 

Caroline gasped, her hand flying to her mouth.

 

“Did I mention that studies have shown that lice and fleas are particularly attracted to red hair?” 

 

Caroline’s hand dropped from her mouth, “Come girls! … Back to the cabin immediately!  Don’t delay. NOW!” 

 

The Scarbourgh rag-a-muffins responded as if Lou Lou had finally lost her mind, dropping their popsicles onto the table before running back to the cabin.

 

Six showers were about to commence.

 

“Don’t forget to shave!” Charlotte shouted after Caroline. “Even down there!”  

 

On the opposite side of the picnic area Jane, Lizzy and their aunt and uncle discussed Edward’s observations of Lydia and what he felt should be done by her strange behavior.

 

“Something’s not right Lizzy-bear, your aunt and I have seen enough teenagers pass through this camp to know when their behavior is abnormal.”

 

“What could be more normal than packing pickles in her backpack wherever she goes because she thinks she’s a guidette from Jersey Shore?” Lizzy asked sarcastically. “She’s fine, don’t worry about her. She made friends with a good girl in the cabin. Camp might just be the thing for her, after all.”

 

“No Lizzy, I agree with Uncle on this. I see her hanging around that guido-guy Wickham from Lambton,” Jane said.

 

Having been keeping an eye on Georgiana as well, Maddy said, “Well, I have seen her sitting with Georgiana quite a lot and you’re right, she is a good girl, but that Wickham fellow gives us trouble every year. I was sorry to learn the Cat hired him back this summer.” 

 

Edward paced, clearly agitated. “Look girls, your father gave me explicit instructions that Lydia was to have a good time. I believe his exact phrase was, ‘Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances.’  Of course, I scratched my head at that as he did sound like he had become so reclusive that he was reading and regurgitating Jane Austen. But honestly, I don’t approve of his methodology. I know Tom is her father and you are her sisters and that your aunt and I cannot usurp his parental authority, but I’ll be damned if we’ll sit idly by and allow potential harm to come to her.”

 

“I’m watching her Uncle, and while I don’t necessarily concur with Dad about letting her run wild in the hopes that she makes a fool out of herself, I do think she just needs to experience other kids and have some fun and hopefully that will move her beyond this stage of Jersey Shore that she’s in. The key is to continue to show her love and patience. Ya know, give her the freedom to make her own decisions of right and wrong.”

 

“Lizzy, I really need to disagree with you on this.” Maddy interjected. “You girls need to set boundaries for her. She needs to learn appropriate behavior for functioning as a member of society and not be indulged and allowed to live by the standards of a dysfunctional reality TV show. She’s still reeling from your mother’s death.”

 

No one really noticed that Jane sat listening intently neither contributing nor making a firm “eldest sister” decision. Within the privacy of her own heart and mind, she felt a strong defection from the permissive parenting style that both she and Lizzy had been raised with. But if she did voice dissention, it would mean a strong difference of opinion between her and her most beloved sister. Oh, how she hated confrontation—unless of course it was on the playing field.

 

Edward hugged Lizzy and said, “I don’t want to upset you my sweet, just promise me you’ll keep her away from Wickham, ok?”

 

She nodded, and the Gardiners left to assist with dinner preparations in the barn kitchen.
           

~~oo~~


With dinner long over, Darcy talked with Rick about the condom debacle, as well as his growing unease over Georgiana’s unusual behavior. He’d been observing her for a couple of days now, taking Rick’s earlier advice and remaining unobtrusive so that she could enjoy her summer without his treating her like a child. But something was off. His sister was sleeping a lot, and she talked back to the other counselors. Further, unlike other years, she wasn’t sociable with any of the girls accept Lydia. To make matters worse, her counselor Miss Perfect Feminist, who happened to give the best head on the eastern seaboard, was seen codling and placating her, completely oblivious to his sister’s withdrawn, fresh-attitude demeanor.

 

The issue and cause, he suspected, was Lydia whom he just found out from Maddy was Lizzy and Jane’s sister. This was going to get ugly, he prophesized, because L-Scream, as the girl liked to be called, was trouble and trouble wasn’t the direction he wanted Georgiana to head in. Georgie was a good girl.

 

The sun was setting over Mount Oakham’s ridge when both men spotted Lydia and Georgiana depart from the equipment shed, both looking around with paranoia in their eyes.

 

So what was a big brother and muscle-clad, ex-military cousin to do? They followed them, hiding in the shadows of the surrounding trees and paths to their destination. Darcy looked at Rick knowingly. Yeah they knew this spot well. In fact, he’d lost his virginity in this very cave to Mandy Jones at the ripe age of fifteen to her eighteen years. It was her first year as camp counselor and would end up becoming her last year as soon as Aunt Cat had found out that she had been screwing her nephew. He shuddered to think how his sister found this cave—worse yet, what was she doing it it? His heart hammered; his blood boiled.

 

The cousins stood at the entrance of the cave, discerning whether or not the girls were alone. They listened to them joke and laugh about girl stuff until hearing the very distinct sharp sound of and inhaled breath intake. Then came the familiar sweet scent of marijuana wafting toward them.

 

“No way,” he whispered to Rick.

 

“Smells like pot to me.”

 

Darcy stormed into the cave, arms flailing. The only light in the cave was the orange embers at the end of the joint Georgiana held. “What the fuck are you doing?!”

 

His sister was horrified and panicked seeing her brother enraged with fear, anger, and as he got closer to her―disappointment. 

 

Lydia broke out in loud laughter, “Oh this is rich! Hey bro, you want a toke?” she offered.

 

Rick grabbed L-Scream’s arm, dragging her kicking and screaming from the cave. Burning with anger, Darcy pulled the joint from Georgiana’s fingers, squished it, and broke it apart, oblivious to the burning leaves and hot seeds within. His hand wrapped around Georgiana’s arm and he tugged her up from her seated position out of the cave. In her stoned state, she cried like a baby. “I’m sorry Will. It’s not what you think … I’m so sorry … Please don’t be mad.”

 

“Shut up Georgiana. Just shut the hell up! I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!” He couldn’t even look at her; he was that disappointed and seething with red-hot anger. “I don’t want to hear it!”

 

As they made their way along the pathway to the girls’ campus, tears streamed down her face because she knew she had finally crossed the line. He had never cursed at her before, and he sure as heck never told her to shut up. In fact, he hardly ever got mad at her. He had trusted her and she knew he would never do so again.

 

They reached the cabins and at seeing Lizzy sitting on the front porch, the men stormed across the grass with strong hands wrapped around slender biceps.

 

Infused with sudden bravery by her passive sister’s presence, Lydia demanded, “Get your hands off me Thing or I’ll kick you in your little nuts!”

 

Lizzy ran down the steps, meeting all four in the center grassy circle. “Rick, please take your hands off my sister,” she said calmly, eyeing her sister’s face and noting the bloodshot eyes and goof-ball smile.

 

“Yeah! Who do you think you are, all up in my biznez?!”

 

“What’s going on here? Why are the girls cyring?”

 

Darcy didn’t miss a beat. “They’re stoned! Your fucking sister is getting my sister hooked on drugs!”

 

“It’s true Lizzy,” Rick said. “We found them smoking a huge doobie in one of the caves at the east end of the camp. They’re both pretty baked.”

 

Lizzy was at a complete loss on what to do—what to say—to this shocking information. She needed Jane’s level head because her knee-jerk instinct was to shove her fist into L-Scream’s fat face, but that wasn’t what she was taught either by her father or by her books. Confusion shrouded by her countenance and mind.

 

“Say something!” Darcy yelled at her, alerting the cabins’ occupants to the escalating confrontation.

 

“She’s my sister! Jane and I will handle this!” she finallysnapped back, grabbing Lydia’s elbow where Rick’s hand had just vacated. With a tug towad Longbourn, Lydia fought her, squirming to break from her hold.

 

“Oh that’s right, Miss Child Psychologist, you don’t believe in discipline, you don’t believe in punishment.” Darcy called out, infuriated. “You’ll just put on a Band-Aid or pour some tequila on it and pray to your feminist god that everything will work itself out. It’s because of you and your coddling that your sister is so wild! Of course, what else could we expect from a liberal hippie’s, feminist daughter. But, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by and allow Snooki here to corrupt my sister! It’s your job as counselor to protect both girls for Christ sake! And you failed. You failed at your job!

 

“Stop Will! Stop!” Georgiana sobbed at the embarrassing scene he was making in the middle of the  campus. He still held onto her arm tightly as she writhed and struggled below his hand trying to run and hide from absolute mortification.

 

By this tim,e Jane and Charlotte had come running out of their cabins just as Lizzy let go of Lydia. Jane grabbed L-Sream grounding her in her spot with the evilest eldest sister look she could muster.
 

Incensed, Lizzy stormed to him, standing toe-to-toe only inches apart from his unyielding posture. Her nostils flare, here eyes shot daggers into his.  “How dare you criticize my parenting and counselor skills, Mr. Self-Righteous Bastard, when you think nothing of abusing your sister in such fashion as you are now, grabbing her and twisting her arm like that! You’re a vile pig, Darcy. You have no respect for women, so you think that every woman is beneath you, even your sister! Oh, except of course when you want to get laid. You treat your campers like you’re the Gestapo! I’m sure the owner of this camp would be interested to know just how bad a counselor you really are. And further, you sir, know nothing about parenting. A big bossy brother does not a parent make! I’m sure your parents will be curious about the bruises you’re inflicting on Georgie’s arm right now!”

 

Rick groaned.

 

Anne whimpered.

 

And Charlotte covered her face, shaking her head in shame—and embarrassment—for Lizzy’s unknowing inaccurate accusations. The woman was in for a rude awakening.

 

Darcy let go of his sister’s arm when Lizzy’s last words broke through his panicked rage.

 

Silence held between them as their eyes remained locked, penetrating the other to their core. Darcy turned on his heel and ran after Georgie headed to Aunt Cat’s cottage, as Lydia laughed hysterically in the background.

 

Anne timidly walked to Lizzy, frowning until she cleared her throat. “You may want to spend the night with your tequila. I’m sure you don’t know this …I mean, how could you, because if you did that would be a really, really low blow … but both of Will’s parents died when he was fifteen. Since the age of eighteen, he ostensibly has been both Georgie’s mother and father since she was seven. And it’s also clear that you don’t know ... Will is the owner of the camp, your employer and the gentlest person I have ever known. As for being a sexist, you’re completely delusional, and it seems to me that you’re a bit too hung up on your feminist agenda.” 

 

Lizzy’s mouth went slack.

 

“I think you really need to either get laid or get over yourself.”

 

She turned from Lizzy’s shocked expression, walking purposefully back to Rosings. Clearly, getting laid had worked wonders for the girl, too.

 

Left suitably admonished, Lizzy’s hung her head. Jane’s hand rested upon her shoulder.

 

“I didn’t know Jane. Honestly, I didn’t know.” Tear-filled eyes looked up into her sister’s compassionate ones. “I never would have said such a thing if I knew his parents were dead. It explains so much about Georgiana. I was angry at Lydia, scared for her and feeling so responsible. I didn’t know what to say or do and I lashed out at the wrong person.”

 

“I know, sweetie. You don’t have a mean bone in your body, well apart from your trying to kill him and all.” Jane wrapped her arms around her and then the sobs came. Big fat weepy tears of contrition and embarrassment at her own stupid pride.

 

Lydia walked over to her sisters, laughing like this was all a joke; the pot, the discovery, the fight, the shame, it was all one big game to her, and she thoroughly enjoyed the drama. It was just like Jersey Shore only better; this was her life not a TV show.

 

“Waaa … waaaa ... Get over it sista. What’s a little pot between friends. That prissy girl needed something short of an enema to get her rockin’.”

 

Lizzy turned on her sister, ferocity flashing in her eyes, and for the first time, she nearly raised a hand to L-Scream, almost slapping her across the cheek, but instead jabbed her finger into her chest. “Your party is over from this moment on.”

 

Realizing that Lizzy had turned a corner, Jane smiled brightly addressing Lydia. “Yeah. It’s been a long time coming, sista. Your ass is ours!” She made it clear that Lizzy and she were a united front and would no longer sit idly by while Lydia not only ruined her own life but also the lives of those around her.

 

When Lydia ran back up into the cabin, slamming the door behind her, Jane turned to Lizzy. “I know, given the enorimity of what just happened, but I need to ask you something. Did you sleep with Will?”

 

She shook her head. “I don’t think so, but … honestly, I can’t remember.”

 

“Oh, honey… I think it’s time we tell Jose that the party’s over, don’t you?” 

 

Lizzy nodded. “Yeah, I think it’s time that I address quite a few things in my life.”

 

“Good. Now I’ll go speak with Aunt and Uncle, and you go back to Longbourn and deal with L-Scream’s fallout. This isn’t going to be easy, but tough love is what she needs from us until we can get dad to see the light.”

           

~~oo~~


The rain fell in sheets outside of the ranch house where Aunt Cat and Darcy watched Georgiana ball her eyes out in sheer embarrassment, not only because of her brother’s actions in the girls’ campus, but most especially because of her own.

 

Like an obvious premonition, she knew The Good Time was going to crash and burn under the influence of L-Scream and her wanton, destructive ways.

 

Darcy paced back and forth before his sister, trying to control himself from saying the wrong thing. He wanted to scream, punch, and point at everyone with blame, but deep down he knew he had a share in the blame. He’d become a horny teenager with a one-track mind, and because of it he failed his sister. The only thing he had really thought about these past two weeks was fighting with, besting, and screwing Elizabeth Bennet and not necessarily in that order. The woman had garnered all his attention, which garnered all hers, thereby letting Georgiana slip through the crack. He was his sister’s guardian, not the Gardiners and not Aunt Cat, and certainly not any camp counselor. All of them had their own responsibilities to all the children.  Georgiana was his responsibility, and he’d been asleep at the wheel, playing cat and mouse with the only other person who should have been watching out for her.

 

He finally knelt before her, brushing the hair away from her red eyes. “Tell me. Tell me everything that happened.”

 

“No! You’ll be mad!”

 

“I promise, I won’t get mad at you. You have my word; just tell me. I need to know for the sake of the other children at camp.”

 

“Georgiana! Shit or get off the pot! Tell your brother or I’ll move in with you and lock you in the basement!” Cat threatened to the horror of Darcy and Georgiana causing the latter to sing like the proverbial canary.

 

“I didn’t want to do it at first, but Lydia said it was medicinal pot not the drug pot that potheads smoke, and I had a headache from being in the car for so long with Caroline and then in the hot sun the next day, and then we just started to smoke everyday. I’m so sorry Will. I’m so sorry.”

 

Darcy asked incredulously, running his hand through his hair. “You’ve been smoking since our first day here?”

 

She nodded. “You said you wouldn’t get mad!”

 

“I’m sorry but that’s a little shocking. Don’t you think?”

 

“I know. Yes. Since the beginning of camp. We snuck out that first night when the girls’ counselors were fighting and drinking on the grass. They never saw us leave.”

 

“Where did she get the drugs, Georgiana?” He asked calmly.

 

Georgiana shook her head violently and looked away from everyone. “Tell me,” Darcy said calmly trying not to frighten her.

 

Basically, Georgiana would rather have splinters shoved under her fingernails than tell her brother that it was George. After G-Train’s almost seduction last year, her brother would have a fit knowing that she had been hanging around him again. “Her boyfriend,” she answered.

 

“What kind of boyfriend gives a girl drugs!” Cat yelled. “Who is he, Georgiana?!”

 

“No one ... I don’t know.”

 

“Georgie, if I know one thing about you, it’s that when your forehead crinkles like it is now it tells me that you’re lying. Out with it,” Darcy demanded, knowing the answer before it even left her lips. He was just awaiting confirmation.

 

“G-Train.” She looked at the floor, ashamed but continued speaking now that the cat was out of the bag. “They’re having sex, too, like, everyday, and he showed her the cave where you found us. He wanted me to have sex with both of them, but I ran away. I haven’t gone near him since. I swear, Will. I swear.” 

 

In a rare moment of tenderness that surprised even Cat, she placed her arm around Georgiana when the girl started to sob in abject shame. 

 

Darcy rose from the floor and stormed to the door. He turned back to his sister. “I hope you know, you will be punished for this. Smoking pot was stupid and wrong and getting involved with George was worse. I’m really disappointed in your poor judgement.” He left the cottage, slamming the door behind him. He walked in the rain, turning his back on Georgie’s wails. Furious, but too enraged to go down to Lambton and beat the crap out of Wickham, he chose a path in the other direction: the one that led toward the dock. For the sake of the children, he needed temperance and a quiet place to decompress.

 

Sitting on the edge of the wood planks, his feet dangling above the water as the rain pelted him, soaking through. He chastised himself and cursed George, swearing under his breath for the 147th time that he was going to sell the camp. This would be the last year.

 

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he turned.

 

He sighed. It was Lizzy. She said nothing, but came to sit beside him. Locking eyes with her, it was clear that she had been crying. They sat side by side saying nothing for about ten minutes, the rain slowly tapering, when she quite unexpectedly reached for his hand, entwined her fingers with his. He didn’t object or pull away.

 

This was tough for her and if it hadn’t been for Jane’s honesty, then she might not have gotten up the guts to seek him out. Her sister had confessed of her own realization that their father and both of them had failed Lydia. That all three, in her opinion, were self-centered and distracted by their own careers and passive leanings. Not to mention their avoidance of the necessary confrontation that caused for Lydia to spiral so out of control without a safety net. Not only did she need love and attention, but also a strong guiding hand and, if necessary, boundaries and discipline set by the adults of the family. It was Jane who had conveyed her personal inability to discipline in any form and that she was proud that Lizzy broke down for a small moment to demonstrate a wake up call punishment. Not that it did any good since Lydia was too stoned to take note.

 

These things that Jane said resonated with Lizzy, and the methodical being that prided herself to be reasoned them out. Yes, they had all coddled and placated Lydia for far too long, her father especially. But, she had even more culpability―taking personal responsibility for her own actions, or inaction, as it were. She had been so preoccupied by the fighting and competition between she and Darcy, she had turned a blind eye toward what was happening right under her nose. And not just to Lydia but to a child left in her charge. Darcy was correct—she had failed them both.

 

Her unkind words to him were meant to wound in retaliation for his wounding of her own vanity and pride. He had been right in everything he said, well with the exception of the feminist-god remark. But, truth be told, she was done trying to find fault with him. She liked him ... a lot … maybe more than a lot, for all the things she knew that he was. Now that veil of prejudice had been removed, she could see all those things clearly, realizing just how alike they really were.

 

“I’m so sorry, Will. I’m so sorry for everything. I didn’t know … about your parents, you being the owner … nothing. My cruel words just spewed when faced with fear for Lydia. Seeing her in that state was a huge wake up call.”

 

Defeated he replied, “I understand. I’m sorry I provoked you by saying those insulting things to you, Lizzy. I was scared for Georgie―and your sister, too―and acted in the same manner. You’re not entirely at fault in this.”

 

“I am. I have made such a terrible mess of everything, especially in regard to your sister. I’m so sorry.”

 

“I think we’re both equally to blame where the girls are concerned. You and I were too busy with our own foolish agenda while both she and Lydia were up to no good.” He shook his head, his eyes settling on the frown upon her lovely lips. “But, there’s something you should know. It’s about Lydia, and … and … I want you to know, on that account, I take full responsibility.”

 

She furrowed her brow.

 

“Georgiana said that not only is Lydia smoking pot daily, but she’s also been having sex with George Wickham, too.” 

 

His heart broke at Lizzy’s nonplussed expression. It was as though she expected such behavior from her sister, and quite honestly he was expecting her Cracken wrath in full force in light of his statement.

 

“How is that your responsibility? It’s not like you made them do it. She’s to blame for her own actions. Granted she’s immature and has no self-respect, which causes her to act irresponsibility, but you didn’t take advantage of her, Wickham did.”

 

“No ... but … but I have to ask you to keep this confidence Lizzy, please. No one knows this not even Rick or my aunt.” He took a deep breath. “Last year I found Georgie in a compromising position with Wickham up in the woods. I shudder to think if I didn’t find her when I did she would have had sex with him. He was on top of her and his hand was up her shirt. It was ugly.” Darcy closed his eyes as if to shut away the visual image emblazoned in his mind. “I heard her say no, but he continued, and I rushed to her. Anyway, Georgie, of course, was mortified and he, of course, was uncaring. I told my aunt only part of the story, enough so that she would get rid of him. My sister made me swear not to tell her or the police the whole truth of what happened, and by foolishly doing agreeing, Aunt Cat hired him back this year because we were short staffed. So you see this is all my fault.”

 

She squeezed his hand tightly. “If it wasn’t Wickham, Lydia would have had sex with someone else. She’s been sexually active for the last year; I’m sure of it.”

 

“How can you be so blasé about my inaction and the fact that a jail bait predator is employed here?”

 

Lizzy’s voice raised defensively, “I’m not being blasé, but the fact remains that she’s been spiraling out of control ever since my mother died and then she got hooked on watching Jersey Shore. You were right, she thinks she’s Snooki. This isn’t completely your fault Will. Let’s blame The Situation, J-Woww, and Pauly D… and me, Jane, and my dad. While I am inclined to blame you for not calling the police on a 25 year old who was found feeling up a 15 year old last year, I do understand your need to protect your sister.”

 

Now it was Darcy’s turn to raise an eyebrow. He was simply questioning her realization without actually asking her for an explanation to her admission, but she offered one anyway.

 

“Yes, Will. As much as it pains me to say this, I have to admit that you were correct. At home, we never set boundaries, never disciplined Lydia. She had no restrictions whatsoever, even when faced with bad report cards, fights in school, and smoking. I know now that everything was a cry for attention. All three of us thought that self-governance and a healthy dose of love was enough to mend her ways. I’m ashamed to say I must have slept through child-rearing 101 at Drexel.”

 

“Lizzy, you’re a sister, not a parent― that was your father’s job. And from what um … I was told … about your father, you were brought up in a very ‘free-love’ type of household. All the books in the world weren’t going to influence you on how to handle your sister, any more than they would have influenced me.”

 

Silence prevailed between the two as Darcy’s thumb brushed back and forth on her hand. It felt so soothing to her, like he was wiping away the guilt she felt.  It felt natural to be sitting here on this dock with him, discussing her sister and her own admitted shortcomings. She wished she hadn’t fought this side of them—together—since day one.

 

“What now? What will you do next?” she asked quietly.

 

“Well, as soon as I check to see how Georgie is and get out of these wet clothes, I’ll call the local Sheriff and have Wickham arrested for drug dealing and statuatory rape. Of course, with it being dark and us being up the mountain, he probably won’t come up until first thing in the morning. Then I’ll have to put the traumatized pieces of Georgie back together and then divvy up Lambton’s kids into Charlie’s and my cabins once Wickham is taken into custody. I’m seriously contemplating dragging his ass outside of the campground and beating the shit out of him.”

 

“I wouldn’t recommend that, he might high-tail it out of here before the cops get up here.”

 

“Yeah. He’s slick.”

 

“Is there anything I can do?

 

“Try to keep an eye on your sister. Try to find out if any other kids are using drugs in the camp. That would be a big help.”

 

This was an incredible turning point for them, conversing without vitriol or challenge. To Will it was promising, and not just because those damn condoms had burned a hole in his pocket. Those weren’t even a consideration at that moment. It was promising because Lizzy was so much more attractive than he already thought when she allowed the wall to come down. She was honest, and sensitive, and caring. Suddenly, all the things that attracted him to her in the first place became so much more. All that posturing … all that vitriol was just a cover, hiding the real girl inside. He was truly falling for her deeply … madly. He was crazy about her. Yes. He freely admitted he had been pussified by Lizzy Bennet.

 

“How long has your mother been deceased?” he asked, squeezing her hand.

 

“Five years. I suppose that’s why I’m so easy on Lydia, I understand where she’s at. I felt lost, too, but Jane and I handled it differently than Lydia is handling it. Aunt Maddy sought a grief counselor for us through Hospice. I was eighteen and already at Drexel. I think we all thought dad would help Lydia through this because she was only eleven at the time, but he just became more and more withdrawn while we were struggling through our own pain and our studies and living in Philadelphia away from home.”

 

Feeling the pain of his own loss, as if the scab had been torn off all over again, he nodded forelornly. “Yeah, I get that. I can relate. My parents died when I was Georgie’s age now. She was just four then.  Of course, she really couldn’t understand, but at fifteen I struggled big time. Thank God for Aunt Cat. She closed the camp for a three years and came to live with us. Once I turned eighteen, I became Georgie’s legal guardian. It’s been a crazy, crazy road of being a parent without actually being a parent. I have a feeling it’s a road that you and Jane are about to embark on very soon.”

 

“Will, why didn’t you tell me that you owned the camp?”

 

He shrugged then glanced down at their still entwined hands noticing how well they looked snuggled together with palms pressed against each other. “No one knows. Besides would you have even considered getting to know me if you knew who I was?”

 

“No. I wouldn’t have. You’re right about that, but I certainly wouldn’t have fought with you as much as I did.”

 

He snorted. “Why do I find that hard to believe? It’s in your nature, Lizzy. You’re as pig-headed and competitive as I am.” Furrowing his brow, his gaze met hers. “I just can’t figure out where you got your outrageous ideas about my being a misogynist and a child beater. Heck, I love women and kids.”

 

“Well you had certainly made enough comments about your dislike of feminists.”

 

“It’s the proselytizing, angry, man-hating I could do without, not my belief in a woman’s ability or my appreciation of them. You just read into inaccurately.”

 

“Let’s just say it was willful misinterpretation. To be honest ... I just wasn’t prepared for the likes of you, and I’ve been fighting against the tide. This thing between us … I don’t know what it is, but I feel the pull. It’s really powerful, and it frightens me.”

 

The sun had set and the rain had ceased, and Darcy turned to face her full on. He brushed a strand of wet hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear. Their eyes locked and in this tender moment of truth he knew he’d never seen a woman more beautiful in countenance and heart than she. “Lizzy… this thing… it could be really good. I think we’re more alike than you realize. Don’t be frightened, I won’t bite ...”

 

She cocked an eyebrow, and he playfully smiled adding, “ … just nibble.”

 

“Do you promise?” she asked, grinning. His gaze was heated and intimate and she blushed, looking down a the lake.

 

There, hooked on a log at the shoreline was something she recognized. Her mouth opened formed an O, and her finger pointed downward toward the driftwood. 

 

“What’s the matter?”

 

“Those are … Those are my missing pink underwear. How the hell did they get here?”

 

Darcy chuckled. “You really don’t remember do you?”

 

“Does it have something to do with the reason you handed me a row of Magnum condoms?” she asked beginning to get the picture. “Did I make you an offer you couldn’t refuse, Will?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Oh my God, I am so sorry. Damn Jose! I can’t believe I slapped you. You must think I’m a total jack ass. What did we do? And please don’t tell me I slept with you and forgot it!”

 

It was now or never and the moment couldn’t present itself any better than this he thought. Well maybe it could. Apart from that sweet moment in the lake last night, this was the closest they had come to showing that they actually cared for one another. As swiftly as her hand had slapped the side of his face that afternoon in the woods, that was how quickly he grabbed her waist, held her tightly and pulled her into the lake with him. 

 

She laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck when his legs entwined with hers.

 

“This. We did this and so much more.”  

 

His lips met hers in a scorching, wet hot kiss, which she most agreeably accepted with equal fervor. Tongues dancing, mouths consuming.

 

They parted with breathless pants. “Will, this is wrong, our timing is really wrong, [kiss] but so right.”

 

“Yeah ...[kiss] … so right. [kiss] Have you had any tequila today?”

 

“No. Why?”

 

“Because this time I want you to remember how my lips feel on you.” His mouth covered hers with deep tenderness, his tougue now gently caressing hers in unhurried worship.

 

“William Alexander Darcy!  Get the hell out of the lake, boy or you’re going to catch a Strongyloides parasite!” Aunt Cat screamed from the edge of the dock, wearing yellow galoshes. She shined a flashlight on their connected lips, and grinned. Wait until I tell Maddy.

Finally! The quickest Hunsford ever! :)