Hot off the Press!
Available Now, exclusively on Amazon Kindle Unlimited
Hot off the Press!
Available Now, exclusively on Amazon Kindle Unlimited
However, holidays are over and that means - back to work, or B.I.C.H.O.K.
Butt. In. Chair. Hands. On. Keyboard.
Today I'm sharing a scene from my next book. I do not have a blurb prepared - yet - but I will set the scene. Elizabeth and Darcy were compromised during the ball at Netherfield and subsequently married. Darcy is convinced she set them up. (silly boy) Because of his anger, and a boatload of pride, he allowed Bingley, et all, to believe he was leaving Meryton without offering marriage to Elizabeth, thereby ruining her. In a conversation between them all, this was discussed - in front of Georgiana, no less. Needless to say, Darcy's sister is very upset with the idea that her brother would not do the honourable thing and took herself off to Matlock House. This scene is Darcy explaining to his uncle that he HAD married Elizabeth.
“Lord and Lady Matlock await you in the green drawing room, Mr. Darcy,” Matlock’s butler informed him as a footman divested him of his outerwear.
In an unconscious effort to steel his nerves for what he suspected, Darcy squared his shoulders and tugged down his vest. Upon entering the drawing room, he was greeted by a bevy of unhappy faces, the most distraught was his sister, who sat close to Aunt Lucinda, the Countess of Matlock and would not even raise her gaze to him. He had disappointed her deeply, he knew. By end of night, he hoped he would begin to salvage the relationship with his most beloved sister.
“Uncle Robert, Aunt Lucinda,” he said by way of greeting. “Georgiana, I am glad you made it safe to our uncle’s house.”
“Before we go into dinner,” Uncle Robert began, “I will have a word with you in my study.”
Darcy gave a curt nod in agreement and followed his uncle down the hall to his study. As soon as the door closed, his uncle turned and said, “What in god’s teeth is going on?”
He stomped to the far side of the room and brought out two cut glass tumblers. “Georgiana arrived here this morning in tears, blubbering about a compromise. Lucinda and I thought she was talking about that reprobate Wickham and began to console her, only to find out she was not aware we knew about Ramsgate, which caused her to cry even harder. Between the hiccups and the wailing, we finally discovered that you – you, Darcy! – have compromised a gentleman’s daughter and refuse to marry her!”
“I am marrying her,” he managed to say once his uncle had calmed down. Uncle Robert handed him a full glass of brandy and sat down heavily behind his desk. Darcy took the chair opposite. “I am surprised Richard did not tell you, I saw him at White’s the day after the compromise.”
“We have not seen Richard for weeks. They captured some high-ranking spies and have had their hands full with interrogations. If you are marrying the chit, then why is Georgiana so upset?”
“I had the Bingley’s over for dinner last night and the topic of the compromise came up.”
“They are aware of the compromise?”
“It happened at a ball Bingley hosted.”
“I take it there were plenty of witnesses?”
Lord Matlock took a sip of his drink. “Explain why Georgiana thinks you will not marry this lady.”
“I cannot say she is a lady,” Darcy muttered bitterly.
“Is she a gentleman’s daughter?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Her mother has connections to trade and a more uncouth woman I have never met.”
“You mean, other than Catherine?”
Almost against his will, the corner of his mouth tugged upward. “On par with Aunt Catherine.”
“The father is a gentleman? Does he have an estate?”
“His estate is called Longbourn. Of decent size and entailed away from the female line. With five daughters, you can well see how they are desperate.”
“Very few estates are not entailed away. Our family has been fortunate there has always been a male heir and our ancestors did not slap entails on our estates. Surely you do not hold that against this young woman?”
He did, but that was neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things.
“Their circumstance has made the family desperate.”
“I can imagine how trapped you felt, with these Bennets pushing their daughter beneath your nose every chance they got. You are, by far, wealthier than Bingley and already have an impressive estate. No parent worth their salt would let you escape their notice.”
An uneasy realization settled in his chest. During his whole time in Meryton, no mother – or father, for that matter – had ever sought his attention. Not even the ill-mannered Mrs. Bennet. In fact, she had looked upon him with derision, and the father not once attempted to curry his favor. Why had he not seen that before?
“The citizens of Meryton were very aware of my circumstances. Our first night there, we attended the local assembly and I myself heard the titters of ten thousand a year before I barely entered the room.”
“You were introduced to the Bennet’s at this assembly?”
“And they did not push their daughters forward?”
“The mother hinted about dancing in general terms. It was Bingley who badgered me to dance.”
“How singular. A mother of five unwed daughters with an entailed estate, and she did not force them upon you? You say Bingley was the only one who urged you to dance.”
“Yes, he wished me to dance with Elizabeth. I stopped him cold by saying she was not handsome enough to tempt me.”
“I have a sneaking suspicion you made sure the lady involved heard you. What were you thinking? I am no longer surprised no one sought your attention to their daughters.”
“Mrs. Bennet turned her attention to Bingley. She was quite vociferous in her hopes of my friend offering for her eldest daughter. Her joy would have been compounded by the compromise Miss Elizabeth successfully executed on the terrace at Bingley’s ball.”
“A compromise witnessed by many and you still have not answered why Georgiana believes you have not offered marriage to a gentleman’s daughter.”
“I may have allowed the Bingleys to believe I was leaving Hertfordshire without speaking to Miss Elizabeth’s father.”
“Why would you do that? The minute your wife arrives on your arm in town… ah, I see… you intend to squirrel her away at Pemberley.” Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his chair and nodded. “You mentioned the mother thought Bingley would offer for her eldest.”
“I am positive if this incident had not occurred, Bingley would have offered for Miss Bennet.”
“And with you making them believe the family’s reputation was ruined he would not stick around to have the stain spread to his family.”
“And what of Miss Bennet? Were her feelings engaged?”
“I do not believe they were.”
“But you are not one hundred percent guaranteed of that, are you?”
“I am not.”
“You said, Miss Elizabeth compromised you.”
“An opportune stumble on the terrace and she fell into my arms. The lace on her gown conveniently caught my button and tore.”
His uncle stared at the ceiling; his drink cradled in the palms of his hands. “Were you not leery something like this might happen when she asked you to join her on the terrace?”
“She did not request my presence, I followed. I thought she would catch a chill,” he explained.
Uncle Robert snapped his attention to him. “You followed her.”
It was a statement, not a question.
His uncle began to laugh. He took a sip of his drink, silently shook his head, and chuckled again. Brow furrowed, Darcy could only watch and wonder what was going on in his uncle’s mind. Finally, the earl stood and held out his hand. Surprised, Darcy put down his drink and accepted the handshake.
“I wish you well in your marriage, Darcy,” he said before exiting the room. “You are going to need it.”
Yup - that boy's gonna need a whole lotta luck...
I will admit. I am not writing this as fast as the last two. At first, I was worried to offend my readers again because there is a compromise at the beginning of this story - but not the same kind. It is your typical "Oh my goodness, you were found with Mr. Darcy's arms around you!" kind of compromise. And, given Mr. Darcy's temperament, you know he will not be happy with how it all came about. His pride will be extremely stiff and it's my job to soften him up so Elizabeth can fall in love with him.
Pfffttt.... how hard could that be????
I took my time with the beginning of the story and thought I'd share the first chapter with you.
Compromise & Consequence
Good gracious! Lord bless me! only think! dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh! my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have!
Four of the Bennet sisters from Longbourn walked a familiar laneway to the closest village of Meryton. In their midst, desperately attempting to keep up, was their out of shape cousin whom they had met for the first time yesterday. Between trying to take hold of Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s arm, which she conveniently kept out of his reach by various means, and doing a funny hop skip step as he was not used to walking so far, he kept up a steady, if labored one-sided conversation.
“My esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, would be well pleased to know how you keep fit by walking, Cousin Elizabeth.” He paused to suck in a breath and then hurried to catch up with her and the eldest Miss Bennet, Jane. “Do you always walk so quickly?”
Elizabeth glanced at Mr. Collins over her shoulder and then looked straight ahead so he wouldn’t notice the wide smile she could not hold back any longer.
“Oh no, Mr. Collins. We have slowed down our pace in deference to you. Normally, we walk much faster.”
“Faster?” he panted out, finally coming to a halt and bent low over his knees. “I must catch my breath.”
“Lizzy,” Jane said beneath her breath. “We are now bordering on cruel behavior.”
“I know,” she whispered back. “I shall stay with Mr. Collins. I see Charlotte down the lane, we will accompany her. You go ahead and keep an eye on Lydia and Kitty. I do not trust what they are up to. They were too insistent on walking to Meryton today.”
Jane would have hesitated, but she saw Charlotte Lucas coming toward them, so with a friendly wave, she hurried to catch up to their two youngest sisters.
“Charlotte, good timing on your part. Mr. Collins and I are walking into Meryton. Are you by chance also going into the village?”
By this time, Miss Lucas had come alongside. “I am. Mama has asked me to post a letter to our uncle.”
“Mr. Collins, may I present to you Miss Charlotte Lucas of Lucas Lodge?”
Her cousin had finally caught his breath and offered Charlotte an awkward bow.
“Miss Lucas, this is my cousin, Mr. Collins of Hunsford, Kent.”
“You should introduce me properly cousin. I am the Reverend Mr. William Collins of Hunsford parsonage, of Rosings Park, Kent.”
“I stand corrected.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Collins. Are you here for an extended stay?”
Lizzy almost rolled her eyes, knowing what was coming next. Mr. Collins did not disappoint.
“I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of the Hunsford parish. With her blessing, I intend to trespass upon the hospitality of my esteemed cousin Bennet till Saturday next, which I can do without any inconvenience, as Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional absence on a Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of the day.”
“Your patroness sounds like a fine woman,” Charlotte said, a twinkle in her eye. “It is well that she can spare you for so long.”
“Oh yes, she is the one who urged me to heal the breach in our families. My father did not like Mr. Bennet and refused to even speak his name, but now that he has passed, God rest his soul, I felt the time had come for me to extend the olive branch and make amends.”
“Yes, Charlotte. Lady Catherine de Bourgh takes prodigious care of our cousin. There is nothing that escapes her notice.” Lizzy faced Mr. Collins. “You must tell her about the shelves in the closet.”
Mr. Collins, as expected, launched into a rapturous soliloquy about his patroness and her various recommendations to the parsonage and adjacent garden.
“I dare say she is a very knowledgeable woman,” Charlotte murmured when he finally finished speaking. “It is a pity that great ladies, in general, are not more like her. Does she live near you, sir?”
“The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.” Mr. Collins practically beamed from the attention Charlotte paid him, which set Lizzy to think and plot a new direction for her verbose cousin.
“Mr. Collins, when we reach Meryton, would you be so kind as to escort Miss Lucas to the post office. I fear the gentleman there might charge her too much for her letter and having you there will keep him honest.”
“But I had intended to stay by your side, cousin Elizabeth.”
“Dear Mr. Collins, I have three sisters with me, I am not without company. Plus, I have need to visit a lady’s shop, and you cannot enter the establishment.” He looked as though he would argue. “No, my mind is made up. You must be the dashing gentleman and provide protection for Miss Lucas.”
Charlotte raised an eyebrow at her obvious meddling but said nothing – just as Lizzy expected. Her best friend always said she was not looking for romance in marriage, seeking instead security and a good man. Lizzy may not look to her cousin in that way, but Charlotte would make a wonderful mistress of Hunsford parsonage and in the future, Longbourn. She just had to make sure the officious donkey followed the carrot of Miss Lucas. Also, she had plans for when she reached her majority in May, and they did not include marriage.
By the time Elizabeth had finished the little bit of shopping required for her needs, Jane waited outside sporting a bright smile, while Kitty and Lydia appeared quite disgruntled.
“Are we ready to walk home?” she asked them.
“We may as well, Denny and Wickham have gone back to the encampment. There is nothing to do now.”
“Denny and Wickham?” Lizzy queried.
“Kitty and Lydia introduced us to some officers from the ____shire Militia. A Captain Denny and a Lieutenant Wickham. I did not speak with them for very long as Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy were on their way to Longbourn and when they saw us, stopped to query about my health.”
Jane had fallen ill while visiting Mr. Bingley’s sisters and ended up staying six days at Netherfield Park, along with Elizabeth while she recovered. It seemed promising that Mr. Bingley made the attempt to visit Jane before two full days passed since they last saw him.
“Mr. Bingley stopped, but Mr. Darcy took off as though his horse had a burr in its saddle,” Lydia laughed out. “Wickham was well pleased by that.”
“Why is that, Lydia?”
“I do not know all the details, but he did say in passing he and Mr. Darcy do not get along.”
“I am not sure there are many people who do,” Lizzy mused out loud, thinking of Mr. Darcy’s behavior and manner whenever he was out among the citizens of Meryton. “Well, I am glad Jane saw Mr. Bingley. At least one of us had a bright moment.”
“Where is Mr. Collins, Lizzy?” Jane’s head had come out of the clouds long enough for her to see her sister was quite alone.
“I asked him to escort Charlotte to the postmaster. Should we check and see if they are still there?”
The Bennet ladies had not gone far when Charlotte and Mr. Collins exited the building and joined them for the walk home. The younger sisters spoke of nothing but officers, Jane daydreamed about Mr. Bingley and Lizzy walked with Mr. Collins between her and Charlotte. If she lagged behind them every now and then, he did not seem to notice as Charlotte gave him much attention. For which both he and Lizzy were grateful.
That evening, after dinner, Mr. Collins solicited a request to sit next to her in the parlor. About to excuse herself from the room, she was stopped by Mama.
“Of course, you may sit with Lizzy, Mr. Collins. I am sure she will not object to your company.”
Although Mrs. Bennet could not technically decide whom she would marry, it was better to not tip the cart at this juncture. Therefore, Lizzy determined to use this time for a better, far-reaching purpose.
“How did you like my friend, Mr. Collins?”
“She is a very pleasant lady. Well refined, soft-spoken. I know Lady Catherine would find her an acceptable friend.”
“I am glad you think Lady Catherine would like my friend, Miss Lucas. I do worry about what she would think of me.”
“Why is that?”
“Mama has always told me I am too opinionated and is forever lamenting the fact that my skirts are always six inches deep in mud. I do so like to walk no matter what the weather.”
“She says you are opinionated?”
“Most definitely. Ask any of my sisters. I think that is why I walk so much; Mama and I tend to have small arguments over my perceived behavior. She thinks I am too headstrong for my own good and blames it on all the books Papa allows me to read.”
“Your father allows you to read his books?”
“Oh, yes. He has not curtailed what I have read at all. Why the other week I started reading Mrs. Wollstonecraft’s book. Miss Lucas warned me I should not. She would never dare, but I found I agreed with a lot of what Mrs. Wollstonecraft had to say.”
Mr. Collins partially leaned away from her; his mouth dropped open.
“Oh, this will never do. Lady Catherine would never approve.”
“Mr. Collins, I tell you these things because you are such an honorable gentleman and you have made your intentions quite clear. I cannot in good conscience allow you to engage your heart when you deserve a lady who will match you in equal temperament and manners. Someone like my friend, Miss Lucas.”
“Thank you for your consideration, cousin Elizabeth. I had been thinking of you as my future companion but Lady Catherine would never approve of a woman who read such radical books. I think I will speak with your father about this. It is quite distressing.”
“Please do, Mr. Collins. Papa will tell you I returned the book and told him to hide it as I do not think my younger sisters are ready for such far-reaching ideas. The only thing I would ask is that you do not speak to Mama about this. It distresses her that we sometimes rub the wrong way, and I do not want to add to her burden. We may have our moments, but I love her dearly and would like to think she would be happy about you and I having an amicable relationship as cousins and friends.”
“Consider it done, cousin Elizabeth and I look forward to a long friendship.”
“Will you be calling on my good friend, Miss Lucas? As you know, we had a few moments of sharing confidences when you stopped to fix your shoe during our walk from Meryton, and she expressed an interest in your situation and made mention of how lucky you were to have such an attentive patroness. I do not think I would be remiss in directing your attention toward her.”
“I will think about this very carefully.”
“Yes, you must do that. Fortunately, we are all going to my aunt Phillips for cards tomorrow evening and I know Miss Lucas has been invited as well. This would be an excellent time for you to see how well she behaves in a social situation. You will not be disappointed. Sir William and Lady Lucas have raised a very well-mannered lady.”
“Oh, her father was knighted?”
“Yes, Mr. Collins.” Lizzy peeked through her lashes to see if Mama still watched them. Given that Mr. Collins was quite engaged in their conversation and she was smiling, the scene was set for what Mrs. Bennet would perceive as a courtship. Never had she acted so foolish in her entire life. Pray that he does not ask Uncle about Mrs. Wollstonecraft. He had no such book in his library. “Sir William delights in telling new acquaintances of how he was presented at St. James’s court. No other person in Meryton can claim that honor.”
“I will indeed make myself known the gentleman.”
Satisfied her prodding had planted the seed, she left it at that, confident that tomorrow the watering could be taken over by Charlotte.
The next evening was the card party at their Aunt Phillips. As no objection was made to the young people’s engagement with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins’s scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton. Lydia and Kitty were well pleased to hear, upon entering the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted their uncle’s invitation and was also in attendance. Lizzy herself had not been introduced to the gentleman, but she could see why her sisters were in such a tither. He indeed was a handsome man and from what she could tell, his manners were quite engaging.
At one time in the evening, he sought her introduction, but Charlotte and her brother Jonathan had just entered the room and Lizzy was anxious to affix her to Mr. Collins’s side.
“Pray excuse me, Mr. Wickham. My friend has arrived and I have some important news to impart. Please do not think me rude, I have enjoyed our conversation.”
“I would never think you rude, Miss Elizabeth but I will request, in order to make up for our shortened visit, that next we meet if there is dancing, you would grant me a set.”
“I would be more than pleased to dance with you, Mr. Wickham.” She caught Charlotte’s eye and acknowledged her. “It has been a pleasure, sir.”
She then took her leave and crossed the room to where Charlotte stood.
“I am so glad you came tonight, Charlotte. I have much to relay and not much time.”
“You sound almost frantic. Whatever is the matter?”
“Nothing is the matter, but I have laid the cornerstone for the foundation of your marriage.”
“Yes. Mr. Collins was making much noise about choosing me as a future wife, but I cannot abide the man – at least not as a husband. With subtle nudges, I have set him on a path that hopefully leads to you.”
“But, if you married him, your family could remain at Longbourn when your father passes.”
“True, but as you well know, I am already well situated and my cousins need not worry about where they will lay their heads when Uncle Thomas passes.” She had at one time, confided in Charlotte a little of her family history. “Also, marriage is for life and I cannot see myself making him happy. I know he would not make me happy. If I could have pushed him in Mary’s direction, I would have, but he is very much under the thumb of his patroness and Mary would only sermonize, making it worse. Oh! Here he comes.” Lizzy and Charlotte both turned to greet him with pleasant smiles. “Mr. Collins. I was just complimenting Miss Lucas on the minced pies she brought over the other day.”
“You cook, Miss Lucas?”
“Cook? Miss Lucas not only makes mince pies but Sir William has been heard to proclaim her dinner rolls are the best he has ever tasted.” Charlotte reached between them and pinched her arm. Lizzy smiled and took a small step away. “I know she will deny all this because she is a modest Christian woman, but it is true.”
By this time, Mr. Collins had turned his undivided attention to Charlotte and when Aunt Phillips called her guests to the card tables, he asked if she would partner him for a round of whist. With a small skip in her step, Lizzy found Jane and filled her in on her successful evening.
“You are lucky Mama is not here.”
“Truer words were never spoken. It is a good thing they let us come alone. At this rate, he will probably make an offer to Charlotte by the end of this week.”
“You are that confident?”
“Jane, the poor man wants to marry so badly. He thinks it is his duty and dares not fail in the one task his patroness set for him before coming to Longbourn. And we are all aware that Charlotte also longs for marriage. Mr. Collins is not a horrible man, but he is someone I could never marry. I want to marry only for the deepest of love, as do you.”
The ink had barely dried on Pride & Perception when the muse struck with another delicious plot bunny. I keep all my bunnies safely penned in my OneNote, but this little beggar escaped and... I'm 35K into the story.
Unwitting Compromise centers around... well... a compromise. It occurs early in the story wherein Elizabeth, quite fatigued after caring for Jane, finds she cannot fall asleep. She thinks if she grabs a boring book from the library, she'll nod off in no time. Unfortunately, she falls asleep on one of the couches, and at first, thought she was having a vivid dream, but when the dream - ahem - forges a pathway into untried territory - she awakens.
Of course, there are consequences, and Mr. Darcy denies it all when confronted. In his defense, he was very drunk and has no recollection. Left on her own, Elizabeth and her father, with the aid of extended family members, find a gentleman who will marry Lizzy and claim the child as his own.
This vignette is the scene where Lizzy meets Mr. Talbot.The next day, Papa returned to Longbourn saying that he’d given permission to Uncle Gardiner to negotiate any marriage offers in his stead. The following week, her uncle asked her to come to the study. She entered to discover a stranger seated by the fireplace. He stood immediately upon her arrival and she noted his height and athletic build. Although older than Papa, he was handsome and had a ready smile.
“Elizabeth, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Henry Talbot.”
The man’s voice had a pleasant rumble to it and soothed her frayed nerves. She gave him a curtsy and he nodded back in acknowledgment.
“Mr. Talbot is a friend of your cousin, the Marquess.”
“Oh!” Her eyes widened. Was he a titled gentleman? She mentally shook her head. No, Uncle Gardiner had introduced him as Mr. Talbot. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Mr. Gardiner. May I be so bold as to ask your niece if she would accompany me to the little park at the end of your street?”
“I… ah… yes. Of course. Her sister Jane can accompany you.”
“No, I would rather a footman, please. Our conversation will be a private one, which she can share with her sister when we return.”
Uncle called for a footman and soon Elizabeth was walking the paths of the park. Mr. Talbot said not a word until they reached a bench and he asked if she’d take a seat. The footman stayed a few yards away at a respectful distance. Not too close to hear the conversation, but close enough for propriety. She almost laughed out loud at the thought.
Propriety flew out the window last November, Lizzy girl.
“Miss Elizabeth, I am aware you may be enceinte. Maybe about six weeks. Is that correct?”
She blushed and lowered her eyes. “Yes.”
She gave a start when his finger touched the bottom of her chin and raised her face.
“No shame, Miss Elizabeth. I am aware of the circumstances surrounding your condition and will not allow you to bow your head because of it.” He smiled at her look of confusion. “If we rub along nicely, I expect you to hold your head high and look people in the eyes. I will claim your child as my own, and male or female, they will inherit all that I have.”
“Why?” she finally whispered.
“I am unable to have children. My wife, who passed away about ten years ago, thought the fault lay with her, but I have had a few paramours in my time and they have never fallen with child.” He chuckled at her blush. “I am no innocent boy, Miss Elizabeth. I’ve seen over fifty summers and will not paint myself as a saint.”
“I cannot judge your actions, sir. I do not even know you.”
“No, you do not, but I would like to change all that.” He took one of her gloved hands in his. “My doctors have informed me I have only a few short years before I leave this mortal shell. I have no heirs and no other family. All my properties will go to waste and my family’s heritage will become nothing but words written on aging parchment.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” Even though she’d only just met the man, she liked his manners and his honesty. “But my child will not be your heir.”
“I have a special license…” he chuckled again at her gasp. “Yes, I know… presumptuous of me. If you are agreeable, we shall marry three days hence. You are not far enough along to show and I abhor Town, so no one will be surprised if I tuck you away in the countryside. Upon my death, all that I have will go to you and our child.” He stressed the word ‘our.’ “The entail on my estate and title – yes, I do have a title – are in fee simple and once our child is born, I will change my will to add their name and no one will ever contest it.”
“Why three days?”
“A lady must have a courtship. Are three days not enough?”
For the first time in months, Elizabeth laughed.
“Sir, a half-hour was enough.”
“Have you no desire to know what title I have?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I’ve never been one to hold the peerage in awe. They serve a purpose and unless you have a title where my son – if the child is male – must take a seat in the House of Lords, I can stay in the country and rusticate to my heart’s content.”
“Our son will have a seat in the House of Lords when the time comes. Do you still wish to move forward?”
She paused. If he had a seat in the House of Lords, his title was most likely Earl or higher. Could she do this? Her thoughts flew to Jane and then the rest of her sisters. Their chances of marrying well increased with this connection. For the sake of her child and her unwed sisters, she would accept Mr. Talbot’s proposal.
“Yes, sir. I do wish to move forward.”
“Well, then.” He moved off the bench, went down on one knee, and pulled a small ring from his coat pocket. Taking her hand in his, he slid the ring up to the first knuckle on her finger while saying, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, would you marry me?”
“Yes, Mr. Talbot, of…,” she paused.
“Buckinghamshire,” he supplied the answer to her unspoken question.
“Mr. Talbot of Buckinghamshire, I will marry you.”
Upon her acceptance, he slid the ring all the way down her finger and then pulled her to her feet. Before she could even think or breathe, he kissed her lightly on the lips. Her eyes widened and she sucked in her breath.
“Fear not, Miss Elizabeth. I am not a libertine and will not exercise my husbandly rights. Not right away. I will wait until you are ready and only then, will I come to your bed.”
Her cheeks heated and she knew she’d blushed deeply.
“I thank you.”
“Let us get to know one another, shall we?” He turned and tucked her arm in his and continued their walk through the park. “Ask me anything you like.”
To set the scene:
Shelby Stewart - a small-time private investigator, determined to make it on her own without any help from...
Tank - aka, Jake Steele, ex-husband, and former business partner. His main goal is to win back the heart of Shelby and he'll get some help from...
Polly - Shelby's best friend as well as her very bored receptionist. She is firmly in the corner that Shelby and Tank should get back together.
He pushed off the desk and moved around to stand in front of me. By sitting at my desk, I’d boxed myself in. That Tank was aware of this was evident by the hint of a smile touching the corner of his lips. Testosterone and male awareness poured off him and my heart suddenly began pounding in my throat and I closed my eyes. He drew close enough that I caught his scent.
He smelled like peppermint. I bit back a groan. I used to love peppermint.
I could feel the warmth of his breath, brushing my temple and had a death grip on the arms of the chair. This time I’d stay in control. No good-looking, drop-dead, gorgeous man would turn me into a wilting female. No way, not this time. I... Warm lips covered mine.
Blank. My mind went blank when he began nibbling on my lower lip. He was such a good kisser. Wanting more I leaned forward, lips parting in anticipation. My eyes flew open when he broke off the kiss. With his face mere inches from mine and his eyes twinkling with humor, I knew I’d been had.
“See you later, darlin’.” He straightened and swaggered out, looking like he kissed girls senseless all the time. Bemused, I watched him walk away. His jeans, low on his hips, the material faded and worn, caressed him like an old friend. He really did fill those Levis out nicely. Oh crap! I forgot to tell him where he could stay.
“Guest bedroom only,” I called after him. “Tank?”
The front door slammed. Why did my noodle go on vacation whenever he was around? Heavy sighing could be heard in the next room. Polly was drooling over Tank again.
“Pull it back in, Polly. I can hear dripping from here.”
She sighed out, “Oh god, he’s the most gorgeous man ever!” I pictured her with her chin resting on her palm, all gooey and dreamy-eyed, watching him get on his motorcycle. “I don’t know why you won’t take him back, honey. If he was mine, I’d be in his front pocket all day.”
Yeah, well, those days were over. I grabbed the keys to my car. I should have about an hour head start on him. By the time he got to my place, dropped off his stuff, and made it out to the Grant’s, I’d be long gone.
I loved it when a plan worked.
What do you do when things don’t go According to Plan? For starters, you trick, deceive and lie to the very person who ruined your best-laid plans.
Welcome to the world of Shelby Stewart, P.I., who’s been hired to find socialite, Harrison Grant. To complicate matters further her ex-husband, Tank shows up looking for Harrison as well, albeit for a very different reason. Harry is the prime suspect in the grisly murder of a call girl in L.A.
That wouldn’t be so bad, but Tank plans on staying at Shelby’s house and makes it obvious he’s quite willing to help her heat the sheets, again. Shelby knows that sex with Tank is dangerous, fast, and sometimes a little dirty. Now is not the time to become side-tracked.
Frustration becomes Shelby’s newest partner as she makes plans to out maneuver Tank in their parallel quest. Tank, on the other hand, is always one step ahead of the game—and is not what, or who Shelby thought.
He broke her heart once before. This time she’ll harden her heart. This time his sweet, slow kisses won’t take her knees out from under her. This time she won’t tumble into bed with him. This time it will all work out ~ According to Plan.
Ah well, soon we can travel again and then have a good visit. Let's get crackin' on this story. It is now available at Amazon (Kindle Unlimited until June). Click the image in the right sidebar for more details.
We left off with:
“I will allow you to dislike him Lizzy, and you are not required to dance with him. Ever.”
“I do believe that is one promise I will have no difficulty in keeping.”
Now for my lines this week:
“Speaking of promises, we’ll discuss your unauthorized visit to Netherfield Park later.” Mama cut a quick glance toward Papa. “Can I behave in a silly manner with the gentleman from Derbyshire, my dear? I’m sure we will not court his great opinion.”
“Maybe just a little, my love. We don’t want him to influence his amiable friend with a poor opinion.”
“Then I shall flirt with sensibility and lead him on a merry dance.” Mama turned her intelligent gaze upon Lizzy. “Now, missy. What is this I hear about you going to Netherfield Park this morning?”
And a taste of more:
“Mrs. Nicholls sent word that two of the upstairs maids had fallen violently ill. She thinks it could be a simple case of eating some bad food, but she wanted to promote Sally from the kitchen for the few days the others would be indisposed.”
“Why would she not ask the sister who is acting as hostess for Mr. Bingley? Surely that falls within her realm of duties while they lease the manor.”
“It appears Miss Bingley - while telling all that she has the capacity to be the mistress of a grand estate - lacks the knowledge. Her vaunted seminary for young women did not give her the sense of a goose. She has absolutely no concept of how a house is run efficiently. Mrs. Nicholls was beside herself with worry.”
“Hmmm… very well, but I do not want them to know we are involved with the estate. You must take great care when it comes to our newest tenants. I don’t have a good feeling about them. They almost make my fluttering and heart palpitations reappear, and not as a charade.”
Lizzy reached over and took her mother’s hand in hers. “I will be a soul of circumspection and stealth. As it is, I’ve asked Mrs. Nicholls to meet me in the afternoon while the others are occupied with their tea for our bi-weekly meetings.” Her breath hitched. “Oh, dear.”
“What is wrong?” Mama asked.
“In my haste to take Jeremy around, I forgot to lock away my personal stationery from the desk in the study.”
“It’s not the end of the world if they are found, but I do believe it’s better if Mr. Bingley remains unaware of who actually owns Netherfield Park. I want him to like Jane for herself.”
I am in shock.
I am also in love. I wrote all these characters fairly close to Miss Austen's outline, but as she didn't give us much on the character of Mr. Darcy I freely delved into him and fleshed out his friendship with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Some of my favorite scenes are between these two gentlemen, and I will say - Mr. Darcy is not so fussy with his language when he's with a man who's known him ALL his life. I'll be sharing excerpts from Pride and Perception on Austen Authors, March 24, 2021. Please come on over and share in the conversation on that date.
So, having said all that, let's get on with this week's snippet.
We left off with:
“Whom do you mean?” Darcy turned around and looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and said in a voice that would have frozen over the Thames, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” At Bingley’s horrified gasp, he continued. “You had better return to your simpering partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
My seven lines:
Stunned, Lizzy took small comfort in the apologetic look Mr. Bingley afforded her before removing himself to seek the company of Jane. Mr. Darcy gave her one more haughty look before stalking off to join his own party, who’d not strayed far from the door, as though they expected to take flight at any moment.
Lizzy remained in place, not wishing the rude Mr. Darcy to think his words had pierced her outward confidence and toyed with the idea of sharing his caustic comments with friends. It was only when she remembered the words Papa had spoken to her mother earlier, of taking the high road when it came to the gentleman from Derbyshire, that she pasted a smile on her face and joined her parents, ne’er a caustic word crossing her lips. She’d no sooner greeted her Mama that she was asked to dance and was never in want of a willing partner for the rest of the evening.
She also never realized the eyes of one taciturn gentleman followed her all night. Even when he danced with the ladies of his party.
Continuing on with the start of Chapter Two:
“I still cannot believe he said that about you.”
Jane laid a comforting hand upon her arm. After more than two weeks, Lizzy had finally shared what Mr. Darcy said on the night of the Assembly.
“Indeed, such a rude man. Not handsome enough to tempt him, indeed. His manners, though there was not much evidence of them, seems to indicate he is well bred, but not inviting.” Mrs. Bennet settled her skirts about her knees, then folded her hands onto her lap, spearing Elizabeth with a confident look. “I give you leave to dislike him Lizzy, and you are not required to dance with him. Ever.”
“I do believe that is one promise I will have no difficulty in keeping.”
SHE'D RATHER EAT BLOOD PUDDING FOR A MONTH THAN ENDURE TONIGHT'S FESTIVITIES
Before Mary knew it, the days had flown by and the night of the quarterly Assembly was upon them. She stood staring at her reflection, wishing she could refuse to attend. The dress Mama had commissioned from London was lovely. Although the pale-yellow silk boasted a modest scoop neckline with delicate capped sleeves edged with lace, she was a tad uncomfortable with how much of her bosom was on display. Fine clothes did not ensure her a successful night of dancing. She would not be surprised to find herself seated along the edges of the assembly hall just like all the other times, and wondered, with a wry twist of humor, if her gown would clash with the wall paper. A knock on her bedroom door claimed her wandering attention and the reflective glass revealed her mother peeking around the door into her room.
“Why aren’t you ready? Your Papa is waiting.”
“Can I not stay home?”
“Stay home? Absolutely not.”
“I will not enjoy this evening, Mama.”
How could she explain, to a woman who lived for social gatherings, that she’d rather eat blood pudding for a month than endure tonight’s festivities?
“You certainly won’t if you approach it with an attitude like that. No young man worth his salt will want to partner with such a sour puss as you.” With an agitated sniff, head held high, Mama turned and headed for the stairs.
Mary took a moment to quell her rising agitation. Becoming vexed with her mother was not the way to begin the evening. Her mother had been positively giddy with excitement preparing for the Assembly as tonight all of Meryton would recognize her as Lady Bennet. The upcoming hours stretched interminably before Mary. Her only hope lay in Mama becoming fatigued and wish to leave early.
“Mary! Stop delaying. Your Papa does not like to be kept waiting.”
She picked up her shawl and threw it over her arm. The evening still retained some warmth from today’s sun; however, if they stayed late at the Assembly, the night air would be too cold for bared arms.
“Coming,” she called back and closed the door of her room before hurrying down the stairs. Her mother stood framed in the front door; the color high on her cheeks. Her silk gown of deep blue became her and on impulse, Mary gave her a light kiss on the cheek. “You look lovely, Mama. Papa will not enjoy the evening if he’s busy fighting off other men.”
“Oh, you.” Mama tapped Mary’s arm with her fan as she giggled like a schoolgirl. “Your father never enjoys these events, as you well know, and he will not fight off any men. I shan’t be asked to dance. I’m too old.”
“You, Madam, are wrong on one account. I intend to dance with you,” Papa declared from the front step. “Let us be off, and don’t kick the dueling pistols I loaded into the carriage.”
Mary could only shake her head at the teasing tones of her parent as she climbed into the carriage. After years of subtle derision on her father’s part to their mother, this light-hearted exchange gave her hope for their future, regardless of the baby’s sex.