My kids are back in school and seem to be handling screen time detox pretty well. I’ve had a lot of appointments to catch up on, but have finally had some writing time.
First, though, let me share with you an excerpt from Eavesdropping. I wrote this novelette for a big bundle which released in April. The bundle is now old enough that I wanted to release Eavesdropping on its own! It’s short and sweet with light-hearted humor. If one overheard conversation can set them at odds, can another unite them?
He was pleased to see her! All this time, she had thought Darcy watched her to criticise.
“Did you need me, Miss Elizabeth?” Miss Bingley asked.
“You must pardon Miss Bingley,” Darcy interrupted before Elizabeth could speak. “She was just going to the house to request Mr. Jones examine your sister once more.”
“Oh, in that case, allow me to walk with you, Miss Bingley.” Elizabeth looped her arm through the woman’s and nearly dragged her away from Darcy. “You are most kind.”
Elizabeth walked briskly, and Miss Bingley seemed disgruntled at attempting to keep up. For a few moments, they walked in silence. Then, she heard steps behind them.
“There is no need to cut your exercise short, Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy said as he reached her side. Blast his long legs! “Miss Bingley is an excellent hostess and knows how to send a servant to find the apothecary and direct him to your sister’s room. You must not neglect yourself.”
“I know what I am about,” Elizabeth said, hoping to sound indifferent but internally pleading for some way to put distance between them. She needed to reconsider how to speak with him regarding Jane. She could not even look at him now!
“You have cooped yourself up in Miss Bennet’s chamber nearly since you got here.”
She could hear the frown in his voice and tightened her grip on Miss Bingley’s arm. “Hardly, sir. I dined with you all on the first night and came downstairs for supper. I was in the drawing room when my mother called the following day—although perhaps the less said about that, the better. I again dined downstairs yesterday and spent the evening in the drawing room.” They had almost reached the steps. “I did come to spend time with Jane, and you can hardly ask me to sacrifice her comfort.”
Releasing Miss Bingley’s arm, Elizabeth raced up the steps. “I shall get her ready for Mr. Jones’ visit. Thank you again, Miss Bingley. Good day, Mr. Darcy.”
Then, she dashed inside and did not cease moving until she was on the other side of Jane’s door, safe from Mr. Darcy and his unwanted admiration. She panted from her exertion, or was it the rapidity of her thoughts? His esteem was unwanted, was it not? She had never liked him. Ever since he made that remark about her at the ball …
“Oh, dear,” she said aloud, her back still against the door. Had she really only disliked Mr. Darcy because he wounded her vanity?
“Of course, I have other reasons!” she muttered to herself. “He … he … well, everyone knew that he was uncivil and too proud to mingle with the company of Hertfordshire.”
“What are you saying, Lizzy?” Jane asked sleepily from the bed.
“Nothing, dearest. How do you feel? Did I wake you?” She smoothed a hand over her skirt and feigned a look of calm composure.
He can’t keep his eyes or ears off her.
Ever since Elizabeth Bennet overheard Mr. Darcy criticizing her at a ball, she has disliked the man. She immediately discerned his arrogance and has no patience for him. However, she is not the only person who eavesdrops on others.
Unable to fight his growing attraction to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy has developed a bad habit of listening to her conversations with others. By chance, he hears personal information regarding Elizabeth’s sister. When Elizabeth asks for a private meeting with him, her sister is the last thing on his mind.
As Darcy and Elizabeth attempt to discuss the nature of their friends’ attachment, their own hearts become involved. One overheard conversation has set them at odds, can another unite them?
Misunderstandings and assumptions abound in this short, sweet, and humorous novelette that all Pride and Prejudice fans will enjoy. If you love fast-paced inspirational stories with witty heroines and loveable heroes, then grab your copy of Eavesdropping today!
Now, let us see how Darcy and Elizabeth are adjusting to married life!
Previous Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven / Chapter Twelve / Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen
After two weeks at Darcy’s estate near Perth, the couple journeyed to Pemberley.
“I hope you shall like your new home,” Darcy said as they entered the grounds.
Elizabeth tore her eyes from the window, marvelling at the natural beauty, to give her husband an indulgent smile. “My home is wherever you are.” Darcy squeezed Elizabeth’s hand in return.
Perhaps it was cliché to say, but she meant every word. Longbourn seemed like a different lifetime. Elizabeth supposed it was because she had spent so many weeks longing to be with Darcy and in doubt of his regard. Now that she had him forever, she was determined to enjoy every moment, and it left little space for anxieties. Her one regret was how she had left matters with her father.
“Look here,” Darcy pointed out the window.
Elizabeth gasped in delight as the carriage crested a small hill, and she saw Pemberley House below.
“Do you think you can tolerate living there?” Darcy murmured in her ear.
“Oh, the outside is grand enough, but how can I be sure the attics do not leak, and the rooms are not draughty? I will have to wait to make my pronouncement.” She chuckled after her tease.
“Mrs. Reynolds would tie me up if I ever let the house fall into such disarray. She will be your ally in all things regarding the house. She is quite formidable.”
“Then, I look forward to meeting her! I like to hear you praise the servants and tenants. I marvel at ever thinking you arrogant and proud! I can tell you think very highly of Mrs. Reynolds and care about her a great deal.”
Darcy blushed a little. “She has been the housekeeper since I was four years old. She always had a soft spot for me, and I for her.” He ran a hand over Elizabeth’s stomach. “She will be thrilled to know that I have married and will be having a child.”
Elizabeth linked her hand through Darcy’s. She knew that not everyone would be pleased with their marriage. She also understood that many would condemn the date of their child’s birth. Elizabeth and Darcy had decided that they would not perpetuate lies regarding their marriage. If pressed, they would merely say complications prevented its earlier date. It could hardly be kept a secret that they were not married when Darcy left for Ireland or when Elizabeth left Longbourn. Tongues would wag, and they would simply have to bear with it as best they could. In time, they believed, the gossip would die down.
At the moment, however, Elizabeth’s more significant concern was with meeting Miss Darcy again. Elizabeth knew that Darcy had explained matters to his sister. Despite his reassurances that Georgiana had not seemed to think less of Elizabeth, doubt remained. She may not miss Longbourn as intensely as she had imagined she would. However, she still desired a good relationship with her new sister.
They soon pulled up to the front of the house, and Darcy handed Elizabeth out of the carriage. The servants had gathered on the steps and were introduced. Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley awaited them at the top.
Georgiana greeted them with an exuberant smile. “Welcome home!” She curtsied to Elizabeth. “I am so pleased that you have married Fitzwilliam!”
“I am as well,” Elizabeth laughed. “And I am also glad to have a new sister.”
“How nice it sounds to have a sister! I had often wished for Fitzwilliam to marry before now, but I am glad he has waited for I can think of no one better than you, Mrs. Darcy.”
Elizabeth blushed at the praise, then she slid a sly look to Darcy. “I have only had sisters, so I cannot understand what it is like to have a brother. However, I assure you sisters are not always so wonderful. Surely Fitzwilliam has never stolen your favourite ribbon or ruined a bonnet.”
Georgiana’s eyes widened until Darcy let out a chuckle, and then she joined her brother in laughter.
“Now, I shall feel like a sister for I have shocked and amused you in equal parts. As a sister, you must call me Elizabeth or Lizzy.”
“Then you must call me Georgiana.”
Darcy directed them inside. “Elizabeth and I would like to refresh ourselves,” he told his sister. Turning to Mrs. Reynolds, who hovered in the corner, he said, “Could we have some tea in the blue drawing room?”
Elizabeth slid her hand in Darcy’s waiting one, and they ascended the stairs. Now and then, her husband explained some piece of history about the house: tapestry made by some great-great-grandmother, a wing added during a forefather’s time, the portrait of the last relative of a thirteenth-century lord, and so on. Elizabeth’s head swam with the details, which she hoped in time she would learn. Instead, her eyes took in other things. The arrangement of furnishings and the colours were all to her liking. More than that, they seemed so very like her precious Fitzwilliam.
They did not pause at each room, as their intention was to change out of dusty clothing, but Darcy stopped at a few notable chambers. Elizabeth wondered if he had the rooms re-designed when he became the master or if she owed their present decoration to the former master or mistress. Lady Anne Darcy had been the sister of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Rosings was full of ostentatious finery with the point of proclaiming wealth. Guests were to be intimidated or awed, and residents were to be puffed with pride at their surroundings. Pemberley invited guests, or a new-comer as Elizabeth could not be called the former, to relax and sigh in relief. Here was comfort from the difficulties of city life.
Turning down a secluded wing, Darcy stopped in front of a door before opening it. “This is the mistress’ chambers. I ordered it to be cleaned and aired.” He paused as he glanced around. “I believe Georgiana might have overseen the project.”
Elizabeth entered the room flooded in natural light. The tall windows were open, allowing a gentle breeze to flow. The pale blue papered walls reminded her of a summer sky. Several bouquets of wildflowers were arranged around the room. A painting of a meadow with Pemberley in the background stood over the fireplace opposite the bed, which dripped with fine linens.
“You may alter whatever you like,” Darcy said, breaking Elizabeth’s silent observance.
“I love it,” Elizabeth breathed.
Immediately, she sensed tension leave her husband’s frame. “To the right is a dressing room, and through the left is my room.”
“May I see it?” she asked.
Darcy gave her a small smile as he led her to his room. However, she had no time to take it in before he pulled her into his arms and kissed her. “I spent Christmas here, staring at that door. In my dreams and fantasies, you would walk through it and into my waiting arms. By day, I told myself that I must put you out of my mind and visualize some lady of the ton on the other side of this wall. I was miserable. After Rosings…well, I could not think of returning here.” He kissed her with desperation before pulling back. “I never want the door between our chambers locked. Will you promise me that?”
Elizabeth cupped Darcy’s face in her hands. “I am sorry for all the torment you went through because of me—even when I did not know I was in your thoughts. I am here now, always to be with you, and I will leave the door unlocked.” She kissed him until she felt his body relax.
Mindful of Georgiana waiting for them, they moved to their dressing rooms before reuniting to descend the stairs. Georgiana varied between timid and awkward and adorably enthusiastic. Mrs. Annesley politely added to the discussion. Elizabeth quickly took the kind but wise woman’s measure, thankful she would not be left as the only female example to her new sister. Darcy exerted himself more than Elizabeth had expected. Still, he sometimes gazed at her with a fond smile, seemingly oblivious to the others in the room. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation, Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn to the windows. Finally, Darcy stood.
“I see the direction of your thoughts, Elizabeth. Would you care to see the grounds?”
Elizabeth chuckled while taking Darcy’s hand to stand. “You have found me out. I suppose being cooped up in a carriage for so long has made me long to stretch my legs.”
“Do not let her fool you, Georgiana,” Darcy said. “She dragged me all over the estate in Scotland, and before that, we did a great deal of walking in Edinburgh.” His eyes had brightened with the tease but then softened. “Of course, I shall always be fondest of our walks at Rosings.” He raised her hand to his lips.
“I shall look on those memories with fondness, but I confess to enjoying our more recent walks more. My pleasure is enhanced by understanding and loving the company I have.” Tearing her eyes from her husband’s intense gaze, she smiled at Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley. “Would you care to join us?”
Georgiana eagerly accepted the offer, only needing to change her shoes and fetch her parasol. Mrs. Annesley chose to remain behind as she could not walk as far. They covered the nearby gardens and maze, as well as a bit of the main path around the grounds. Darcy and Elizabeth made plans to traverse it by phaeton later in the week if the weather held. Upon hearing that much of the estate was accessible only by horse, Elizabeth admitted that she had little experience with the animals. Darcy swiftly offered to teach her after the baby was born.
When they returned to the house, there was time only to change for dinner. After the meal, they withdrew to the drawing room, where the ladies took turns on the pianoforte and singing. Next, they played charades at Elizabeth’s suggestion. Darcy paired with Mrs. Annesley, and Elizabeth paired with Georgiana, to not give anyone an unfair advantage. It gave her the opportunity of getting to know her sister better, as well. After an hour or so, Darcy offered to read before their light supper.
Thus began an evening routine of music, recreation, and reading. In the mornings, Darcy and Elizabeth would take breakfast in their chamber, as Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley preferred to sleep late and breakfast on their own. Next, they would walk together before attending to separate duties. Elizabeth found that Mrs. Reynolds was as capable as Darcy had claimed. Elizabeth was not the first new mistress she had taken under her wing. She had a way of asking Elizabeth for help or suggesting she take on certain duties that relied on her strengths first.
In years past, the estate held a harvest ball for the tenants and servants. Given the limited time there would be to plan it, and as Elizabeth would be heavy with child, they elected to wait until the following year to host it. Instead, Elizabeth suggested they pack boxes for the tenants, and she and Darcy would visit each house personally. Elizabeth could see by the impressed smile Mrs. Reynolds gave her that she was pleased with the idea.
Elizabeth learned that gossip spread in Derbyshire as quickly as it did in Hertfordshire. Within a week of her arrival at Pemberley, neighbours called to meet the new Mrs. Darcy. A few seemed critical of Darcy’s choice and barely concealed their surprise to find his wife already with child. However, if most of them were astonished or displeased, their reactions remained polite. One of the neighbours whom Darcy most respected was visiting his wife’s family in a different county for the summer. They would not meet until the autumn, but Darcy assured Elizabeth she would find a friend in Mrs. Randall.
Lambton proved diverting when Elizabeth desired the bustle of a town over the quiet of Pemberley. The ladies of the house visited the small town once or twice a week, where Elizabeth continued to learn how well-respected the Darcy name and reputation was.
There was only one part of Elizabeth’s new existence that gave her unease. Mr. Harville was a kind and elderly rector. He spoke like a loving grandfather in the pulpit and took most of his own services despite his son serving as curate. Elizabeth had held her breath when first entering the church, expecting to be struck for entering God’s house in such a state. When such a calamity did not occur, she anticipated fiery sermons on the path of sin and fornication. Instead, she was met with nothing less than kindness and warmth from Mr. and Mrs. Harville and their son. Still, she did not have peace.
Before leaving each service, the Darcys would take a moment to pause at the final resting place of Darcy’s parents. When Darcy or Georgiana talked of memories of their father, it made Elizabeth restless. She had disappointed her earthly father and her heavenly one. The one specialised in the business of pardons for the unworthy. To the other, she had always been a source of joy and pride. An apology could never be enough, and no atonement could be made to Mr. Bennet. She had been sent away and then immediately rescued from the situation. She would bear her child, a forever reminder, loved as he or she was, that she had failed. She had learned her lesson, but it did not erase the consequences.
As August turned to September and the date of Jane and Bingley’s wedding approached, Elizabeth worried about her reception at Longbourn. Would Mr. Bennet ever think upon her without a pang of regret? When they next met, would his smile reach his eyes?