“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Darcy would have happily married Elizabeth the moment she agreed to be his wife, but he respected her and her family too much to suggest anything that might offend their sensibilities. He knew that David Bennet would expect his future son-in-law to talk with him, asking for his blessing on their marriage. Darcy also realized that Lynne would take great joy in helping Elizabeth to plan her wedding. Having David and Lynne as in-laws would be the closest he would ever get to having actual human parents, and he wanted to please them. He wanted to love them, and to be loved as their son in return. The thought of having an earthly family gave him great pleasure.
Holding Elizabeth in his arms, enjoying the perfect harmony of the moment, feeling the warmth of her body molded to his, Darcy was perfectly contented. He fully intended to begin arranging the details of their marriage before the day was out, but there was something else he wanted to do first.
“Elizabeth,” he said, turning his head to place his cheek on the top of her head.
“I have a present for you.” Darcy’s voice was husky with emotion.
“That’s lovely, but I’m holding my favorite gift from you right now. The only thing I need is a date set for the unwrapping ceremony,” she replied a bit dreamily.
Wonderful. It was difficult enough keeping Darcy in line. Now we must deal with Elizabeth’s passions as well. Michael sounded a little grumpy.
They are young and in love, thought Gabriel with a smile. It is to be expected.
Darcy is not young, answered Michael quickly.
Michael, in the words of truly young humans, lighten up. Gabriel managed somehow to look angelic in spite of his words.
Looking over Elizabeth’s head at Michael, Darcy rolled his eyes a little. “We are in complete agreement, about that, love, but actually, I found this particular present for you last week. Just stay here for a minute while I get it from my bedroom. I will be right back.”
He released her reluctantly and strode toward his room. Elizabeth walked over to the piano and found a sheet of paper covered with words which had been crossed out and rewritten several times. She was reading when Darcy came back into the room with a small box.
“What’s this?” she asked, looking at the paper and then at him.
He grimaced as he walked to her and held his hand out for the sheet. “It is not finished yet.”
“I think it’s wonderful. Is it a song?” Elizabeth held the paper behind her back, smiling at him teasingly.
Darcy held the box just out of her reach, smiling. “I will give you this box if you will let me have that sheet of paper.”
“I’ll give you the paper if you’ll tell me about it later,” she said playfully.
“Agreed,” he answered, holding out the box in his left hand while reaching for the paper with his right.
Elizabeth handed him the sheet with one hand and held out her other hand, palm up. Darcy took the paper and placed the box in her hand.
“More jewelry, Fitzwilliam? You must stop buying things for me,” she said with a slight frown.
“Elizabeth, I have noticed that you wear necklaces, charms, and rings that are special to you because they represent the people you love. You always have on something from your parents, and you usually wear jewelry that belonged to one of your grandmothers or your mother. I wanted to add something to your collection that will remind you of me.” His face was earnest.
“Please, open my gift.”
She could not disappoint him, though she was already wearing an engagement ring from him which certainly made her think of him and the promises which they had made to each other.
The moment she opened the box, a smile spread over her features. Elizabeth took the fine silver chain from the cotton and held it up to examine the charm – an angel fashioned of silver with golden wings.
“It’s perfect, Fitzwilliam. I love it, and I love you.” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss his lips, and then handed the necklace to him, turning her back and pulling her hair over her shoulder so that he could fasten the chain around her neck.
“Ah, but I love you more,” Darcy replied as he helped her with the necklace, and afterward bent to kiss her just below her ear.
Elizabeth turned to face him, mischief in her smile. “Now it’s later. What is written on the paper?”
He sighed. “I have been working on something for you,” he said, kissing her forehead. “It is not yet finished.”
She looked up at him, her delight showing on her face. “Is it a song? For me? Let me hear what you have so far. Please, Fitzwilliam?”
Darcy could deny her nothing, so he sat on the piano bench and patted the space beside him. She sat down beside him, leaning into him to rest her head on his shoulder.
Elizabeth watched his long fingers caress the keys, playing a beautiful melody that she had never heard before. Then, Darcy began to sing to her, his rich baritone singing words of love for her alone.
I thought that I had everything I needed.
I thought I was complete all by myself.
I thought that I was happy ‘til I met you.
You placed the missing piece within my heart.
And then I thought that I had truly lost you.
I learned the bitter meaning of “alone.”
I died a little when you turned and left me.
I grieved each moment that we spent apart.
But God heard my cries.
He answered my prayers.
He counted my tears.
He spoke to your heart.
You let me back in.
And now I want to live forever
Always with you, together.
You overwhelm me.
I want to be the man you need.
I want to be the one you love.
I want to live forever
Forever I will love you.
Forever I will hold you.
Forever I will need you.
You will be mine.
I want to be yours
His expressive voice seemed to envelope her in his love. He soared on the final verse, declaring his heart’s desire for them, and she heard the subtle ache in his words.
“That was beautiful, Fitzwilliam. Thank you, my love. I do not deserve you, and I’m sorry I ever doubted you. I’m sorry that I ever believed anything Gregory said. I was childish and immature, yet you loved me through all of it. Until this moment, I never knew myself.” She kissed his cheek, turned her face away to wipe her tears, and then fell silent.
With anguish, he heard her thoughts. He knew that Elizabeth understood his meaning. Darcy put his arm around her, and stroking her shoulder with his fingers, he spoke softly.
“Elizabeth, my heart, I appreciate your apology, but it is truly unnecessary. You are everything that is lovely and good. It pains me to say it, but I do not know the answers to the questions in your mind. Only our Father knows what life holds for us. There is no one else like me, so I have no basis for comparison. I do not know if I am aging, though my hair and nails grow normally. I have no idea what will happen when I die, or even if I can die. My DNA is probably completely undamaged because I am a new kind of Adam of sorts.”
As she looked back at him, she forced her eyes open in a way he remembered from her elementary and high school days, enabling her to hold her tears after her feelings had been hurt. Her eyes glistened as she put her arms around his neck. “You said you want us to be together forever – not that we would be. Please don’t leave me to become an angel again. Even if you stay human, how can our marriage work? I am not Eve, and my DNA has been corrupted by thousands of years of human sin. I will do well if I live to be ninety, but Adam lived to be over six hundred years old.”
He drew his brows together and embraced her. “I will never leave you, my love, though you may leave me. I do not wish to outlive you though. God Himself put us together, Elizabeth. He has a plan, and He will reveal it to us in His time. We must trust Him.”
Elizabeth rested her head on his chest, listening to his strong heart beat. “What if I grow old, but you remain young? What if you are aging as slowly as the Old Testament saints did before the Flood? I will be like your grandmother. Will you leave me then?”
He held her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Believe this, Elizabeth,” Darcy said firmly, fixing his blue eyes on her brown ones, “I will not leave you no matter what happens. Our wedding vows will include the words ‘for eternity.’ Even death will not part us. Our Father cannot be anything but good. We will do what He wants us to do, and He will take care of the rest. There is no mountain so big that He cannot move it. Nothing is too difficult for Him; nothing is impossible for Him.”
His strength flowed into her, the force of his faith leading her to a fuller understanding of Jehovah Adonai.
Darcy bent his face to hers, wrapping her in his arms as he kissed her. His intention was to comfort her, to tenderly show her how much he loved her, but she was consumed with need. Elizabeth entwined her fingers in his hair and pulled him to herself, conveying the depth of her feelings for him. He heard her thoughts of love and fear mingled together, and he kissed her more deeply, trying to erase her pain.
Knowing that his control was slipping, Darcy broke the kiss and buried his face between her neck and her shoulder. He struggled to slow the beating of his heart and regulate his breathing, for he had never wanted her more than he did at that moment. Joining with her would make them one flesh; it would ease the uncertainty felt by both of them.
“Elizabeth,” he whispered.
She kissed his ear. “Mmmm?”
His voice was deep when he spoke. “I was going to try to wait until next summer for our wedding. I know that you and your mother will want time to plan it, but this is torture. Would you consent to a Christmas wedding? Please?”
“Would you consider an elopement today? I am of legal age now,” she whispered.
Are you serious? he asked, amazed.
You can read my mind. What do you think? she answered.
Darcy knew that she meant what she had said, and the idea that her desires were as strong as his made his self-discipline even more difficult to maintain.
He groaned inwardly and released her. Standing rather abruptly, he took her hands and pulled to her feet.
“I am extremely tempted, Elizabeth. You cannot imagine how much I wish that I could marry you tomorrow –today even, if the courthouse was not closed on Sunday. I am afraid, though, that your parents would not appreciate a rushed wedding with the two of us standing in front of a judge. Four months will pass by quickly while we find a house, go to school, and plan the wedding. It need not be an elaborate affair.”
She sighed. “I really don’t care about a fancy wedding, either, but you are probably right about Mom and Dad. A small church ceremony would please them. I can have Charlotte and Janna as bridesmaids. Oh, my!” Elizabeth stopped speaking, putting her hand over her mouth. Then she burst out laughing.
“What is funny? I hear your thoughts, but I do not see the humor,” he said, puzzled.
“Fitzwilliam, think about it. Who will you have for your best man and groomsmen? Gabriel and Michael? Jonathan?” She dissolved into giggles.
Darcy smiled at her. “Actually, Niall, your mother’s guardian, should be my best man. Gabriel and Michael can be groomsmen. Would you like for Josh Lucas and Chance Bingley to be ushers?” She nodded at him, and he continued, “Perhaps Jonathan could help your father perform the ceremony. After all, someone has to ask, ‘Who gives this woman?’ Your father could walk you down the aisle and answer the question, and then Jonathan could sit down and let your dad finish the ceremony.”
Gabriel and Michael wore twin looks of amazement.
I have never been a groomsman, thought Michael with uncertainty.
You are never too old to learn, answered Darcy.
You are the perfect example of that, my brother, added Gabriel, attempting to accept the idea of assuming human form in front of so many people and having to make conversation with them. It will be well, Michael. We have four months to prepare for the wedding.
Darcy chuckled at the rapidly changing expressions on the faces of the archangels. It is too bad that Elizabeth cannot see you. She would enjoy this.
After Gabriel adjusted to the idea, he responded with aplomb. I think I shall like wearing a tuxedo, and I think further that I might wear it rather well.
When Elizabeth sees me in formal attire, she will no longer think you are the handsomest of the brothers, said Michael without any hint of humor.
“I hadn’t thought of the other guardians. Won’t we be rather decimating the ranks by using the three angels in the wedding?” she asked, genuinely curious.
“No, substitutes can be arranged for the day. Roark, Edward, Lexus, Alexis, and Hector will be there for your father, Charlotte, Jonathan, Janna, and Chance. There will also be guardians for every other believer there. Michael can assign warriors to guard us and your mother, or I can bring in guardians who are between assignments. There are hundreds of thousands of angels, Elizabeth, and all of them would like to be at our wedding. Unfortunately, that will not be possible. The rest of the world must be guarded while we marry.” Darcy smiled at her shocked expression.
She was silent a moment, mulling over what he had said. Then she looked at him in contemplation. “Fitzwilliam, if you have two groomsmen and a best man, I must have two bridesmaids and a matron of honor. What would you think of Caroline Bingley being a bridesmaid with Charlotte?”
He raised a brow. “Would you want that, Elizabeth? I will accept whatever you decide, of course, but I know how much pain she caused you and others in your church. I was there, holding you while you cried. And think of the Williams family. They are your friends. How will Delores and Jim Williams feel? What about Richard?”
She hugged him to her and rested her cheek on his chest. “It was the worst thing that ever happened to me until yesterday. However, Caroline has truly demonstrated that she is sorry, and she is Chance’s sister. We go to church together, and we’re together all the time at family gatherings. It will seem odd if I don’t ask her.”
Darcy’s eyes hardened as he remembered Elizabeth’s agony. He kissed the top of her head and rested his chin on her dark hair, blowing out his breath.
“God has forgiven me for so much, Fitzwilliam. I forgave Caroline long ago because God demonstrated His forgiveness to me through Christ. If I ask her to be in our wedding, she’ll know that I truly accept her into our family,” said Elizabeth softly. “Perhaps, though, instead of asking her to be a bridesmaid, I could invite her to keep the guest book and greet people as they arrive. I think I should include her that much at least.”
Darcy held her more tightly. “Ask her only if you want to, my love. Do not have her in our wedding because you think you should.”
She pulled back a little, looking up at him with a smile. “I will be marrying you, the most wonderful man in the world, while Caroline is still paying for her mistakes. Her past will always follow her. I can afford to be generous. I want to do this for her and for me.”
He dipped his mouth to hers and kissed her lightly. “That is one of the reasons why I love you, Elizabeth. You are selfless and kind – and obviously blinded to my faults. If you want Caroline to keep the registry at our wedding, I will be pleased to welcome her. Who will you ask to be the third bridesmaid?”
Elizabeth thought a moment, and then her face brightened with a smile. “My cousin, Bethany Martin, of course. I should have thought of her first. She’s Aunt Grace’s daughter from her first marriage. I’m sure you already know that I was never around her as much as I wanted to be because she is four years older than I am – five years younger than Janna – and she had to split her time between Aunt Grace and Uncle Scott. I hope that she can do it. She lives in Lynchburg now, you know. After she graduated from Liberty University last spring she took a job teaching in the Academy there. I’ll get her number from Mom later. I can’t wait to call her!”
That problem solved, Elizabeth’s mind then leapt in a different direction.
“Fitzwilliam, if we are to live here, we need to do some serious shopping,” she said with determination, looking around at the nearly empty room.
“Again, we are on the same wavelength. I was thinking of buying a couch immediately, and I would appreciate your input. Sitting on the floor is not very comfortable. However, as to where we will live, I was thinking of buying a house for us. We could pick it out together.”
“Our own house. Happy thought indeed!” she answered.
“Before we go house hunting, love, there is something else we must do,” he said, holding out his hand for hers.
Darcy and Elizabeth were late to church that evening and slipped into a back pew just as the singing ended. He had taken her back to her house so that she could change her clothes, and she was so lovely to him that he had great difficulty in concentrating on her father’s sermon. Darcy held his hand in hers, admiring the way that her engagement ring seemed to be perfect for her in every way, and he was pleased to see that she wore his necklace. He felt a sense of intense satisfaction that she was finally his, for he viewed their engagement as a betrothal in the Biblical sense. In his eyes, they were married already, merely awaiting the formality of a ceremony before consummating their vows. Any breach between them now would be a divorce in his mind.
He gazed at her profile with adoration, thinking back through the events of the afternoon, reliving each detail over and over in his thoughts. How could twenty-four hours have made such a dramatic difference in my life?
Gabriel glowed with happiness from his place behind Darcy, while Michael smiled beside his fellow guardian. The other guardians in attendance noticed the happiness of the protectors and their charges and watched Darcy and Elizabeth with interest. No one had ever before witnessed Darcy daydreaming in church. As Elizabeth lifted her left hand to hide a smile at the blissfully unfocused expression on her fiancé’s handsome face, the assembled angels saw the ring on her finger. They knew then that Elizabeth had agreed to be his bride.
Suddenly, Darcy was called back to reality by the sound of David Bennet’s voice saying, “Amen,” at the end of the benediction. He shook his head to clear his mind and waited for Elizabeth’s father to come down the aisle. When his future father-in-law was nearly even with his pew, Darcy caught his eye and cleared his throat.
“Mr. Bennet?” Darcy was struggling to keep a ridiculous grin from his face. The man will think I am a lovestruck fool.
David paused to recognize the younger man and his daughter.
“Yes, Fitzwilliam?” David looked at Darcy’s face and noted that the young man looked much happier than he had when he and Elizabeth had left the Bennet home after lunch.
Darcy continued. “When you are finished talking to the church members, might Elizabeth and I have a word with you and Mrs. Bennet?”
David nodded. “Certainly. Here in my office, or at the house?”
Darcy looked at Elizabeth, and she smiled up at him. Then he turned his face back to David. “Elizabeth and I will go to your home to wait there for both of you, if that is agreeable.”
“I’ll see you there in a few minutes, then,” answered David, continuing down the aisle, shaking hands and speaking to members of his flock. Roark nodded to Darcy as he followed David.
Darcy and Elizabeth spoke to a few people but managed to leave the building without revealing their engagement to anyone. They had talked in the car on the way back from Spartanburg and had agreed that Elizabeth’s parents should be advised before anyone else was told. The couple had also agreed that they wanted to talk to David and Lynne together.
About half an hour later, Darcy and Elizabeth were comfortably ensconced on the couch in the Bennet’s living room with her parents seated across from them on the loveseat. Michael and Gabriel faced Niall and Roark, forming a square with their charges. Four warriors stood at the corners of the room.
Niall had immediately looked for a ring on Elizabeth’s hand, and he had not been disappointed. Grinning broadly, he had slapped Darcy on the back when he entered the house.
Now, having read Niall’s thoughts, Roark smiled as well, emitting a gentle glow along with the other three protectors. Happiness radiated throughout the room, though the warriors’ faces remained neutral.
Darcy held Elizabeth’s hand on his thigh, and the ring was plainly visible. Lynne’s eyes were drawn to it as Darcy looked at her daughter’s hand. An expression of sheer delight crossed her face, but she kept her silence.
“You wanted to talk with us?” asked David, maintaining a serious mien with difficulty. The ring was definitely the elephant in the room, and he had not missed it.
“Yes, Rev. Bennet,” Darcy paused to clear his throat. He glanced at Elizabeth and turned back to her father with a joyous smile. “I love your daughter with all my heart, and to my great happiness, she loves me, too. This afternoon I asked Elizabeth to be my wife, and she has accepted me. We wish to have your blessing, as well as Mrs. Bennet’s.”
David smiled. “Elizabeth, is this true?”
“Yes, Daddy. I love Fitzwilliam, and he loves me. We want to be married before Christmas.”
Lynne raised her eyebrows. “Before Christmas? That’s barely four months!”
Darcy nodded. “We know that it will be a relatively short engagement period, but both of us prefer a small, simple wedding at Tabernacle. Truly, I would not have you exhaust yourself planning a grand event, Mrs. Bennet, and we do not wish to burden you with an expensive affair. We would be happy to have a private ceremony, but we thought that you would want Elizabeth to have a wedding with a white dress, a few bridesmaids, and a couple of groomsmen.”
Elizabeth spoke with conviction. “The only thing that is not negotiable is the date. We want to marry as soon as classes are out in December. That would make the date Saturday, December 13. Other than that, I’ll do whatever you want, Mom, though I do want to pick out the dresses for me and the bridesmaids.”
Lynne knew that specific tone of Elizabeth’s voice, and she acceded to her daughter’s request. “Four months will be plenty of time if we start right away. We can go shopping this week. I’ll reserve the church and the fellowship hall tomorrow. The church will already be decorated for Christmas, and we can work out the details about the reception, flowers, musicians, invitations, a photographer, and a caterer this week. Christmas weddings are popular, so we need to line up those people right away.” Lynne’s mind was buzzing, making lists and organizing what had to be done.
Elizabeth smiled. Mom will be in her element. She was made to plan things. She’s been planning my wedding since I was ten.
I know, answered Darcy.
Smarty pants, thought Elizabeth.
The guardians smiled, enjoying the teasing exchange.
“Fitzwilliam, I think it’s time to stop calling us Rev. and Mrs. Bennet,” said David, smiling at his future son-in-law.
Darcy was confused. “Then what shall I call you?” he asked.
Lynne laughed. “Mom and Dad? Would you be comfortable with that?”
Darcy’s delight showed in his display of dimples. “Mom and Dad? Really?”
“Really, Fitzwilliam,” answered David. “I always wanted sons in addition to my two beautiful daughters. Now I will have two whom I love and respect.” He stood and extended his hand to Darcy.
Darcy got up and went to shake David’s hand. “Does this mean that we have your blessing?”
“Do you need my blessing?” chuckled David.
“Actually, no, but we would like to have it just the same.” Darcy’s blue eyes twinkled.
“Of course you have my blessing. Go to it.” David embraced first Darcy and then Elizabeth.
“I love you, Daddy,” she whispered. He murmured, “I love you, too, my El. I could not have given you to anyone less worthy.”
After Elizabeth had hugged her father, she reached for her mother, who had left the loveseat and stood before her.
Lynne clasped Elizabeth to her, hugging her fiercely. “I will always love you, El, my baby girl.”
“I love you, too, Mom.”
Lynne turned to Darcy, and for the first time, he extended his arms to her before she did so to him. “I love you, Mom.”
Though Lynne had controlled her emotions very well to that point, Darcy’s declaration broke through her resolve, and her eyes filled with tears. “As I love you,” she choked out. “I’m so silly,” she said as everyone laughed with her.
Lynne reached for her daughter’s hand to admire her ring.
“Fitzwilliam designed it himself,” Elizabeth said, looking up at her intended with justifiable pride. “He truly is the best man I have ever known.” She turned her head to wink at her father, “Except for you, of course, Daddy.”
“That goes without saying,” replied David, trying to hide his pleasure at her declaration of his status. “Fitzwilliam, we’ll have to call Chance and do some male bonding.”
Elizabeth hit her head with the palm of her hand. “I should call Char and Janna. And, Mom, I need Bethany’s number. I want her to be a bridesmaid.”
“And I will let my brothers and the ushers know. I already have a tuxedo, but they will need to be fitted. Dad, I do not think you have met my three brothers.”
Three? asked Niall.
You are my best man, answered Darcy.
Cool, replied Niall with a grin.
“I look forward to it. Maybe we can meet for lunch soon,” said David.
“Oh, yes. They would enjoy that,” Darcy replied with a huge smile.
Eat? Michael’s face reflected his shock.
Get used to it, smirked Darcy.
Order something very plain, Michael. It will be well. We will practice eating ahead of time. Gabriel thought, stoically.
Piece of cake, added Niall.
Have you ever eaten? asked Michael, looking at Niall a little sternly.
No, but how hard can it be? Darcy does it all the time. Niall feigned nonchalance.
True. I can do anything he can do. Well, almost, answered Michael, thinking of Darcy kissing Elizabeth.
Darcy laughed and immediately coughed into his hand to cover it up. The sound was strangled.
“Are you all right?” asked Lynne with concern.
What’s up? thought Elizabeth. What are the other angels saying?
I will tell you later. Darcy nodded at Lynne and kept coughing.
“Let’s go to the kitchen, and I’ll fix us something to eat and drink,” said Lynne, leading the way.
The others followed her as the light beings floated through the walls.
David and Darcy sat at the kitchen table as Lynne served them leftovers from Sunday dinner, and Elizabeth got out glasses and poured their drinks.
The conversation continued long after they had finished eating. Lynne and David told Darcy stories from Elizabeth’s childhood, never realizing that he already knew all about her life. After all, he had been present for nearly every moment of it.
Fitting into their family was as easy for him as flying. It was second nature to him. He was content.