You can read other Friday Features here: Pledged / The Secrets of Pemberley / Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter Second Edition / Sufficient Encouragement/ Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
They’ve been separated for five years? Do they still love one another?
Reunited is book two in the Loving Elizabeth series. I’ve already explained how the series developed over several years. It began as The Bennet Brother, and Elizabeth had an older brother. Well, I knew from the beginning, that Darcy and Elizabeth would be separated despite their first falling in love with each other at a young age. Most of what I first wrote for The Bennet Brother ended up occurring in Reunited.
It’s essentially what the title sounds like. It’s a second chance trope. I’ll admit that it’s not exactly my strong suit. My imagination doesn’t go there very often. Every time I admit that Persuasion is my least favorite Austen novel, I am met with shocked faces. It’s not that I hate it. It’s just that I had an intense fear of messing up my one chance of love (even though I was also only 19), so it’s harder for me to relate to scenarios where the couple broke up for some reason and then get back together. However, I’ve also said that I like to challenge myself with my books.
I recall being nervous when I was writing it and constantly seeking the opinion of my beta readers. You see, despite it being a second chance trope and Darcy and Elizabeth SHOULD be wary of one another, they would not behave! My outline meant nothing to them! Eventually, I quit worrying about it and fighting them and just gave into it. It really was fine since it wasn’t so much something one of them did or didn’t do that broke them up. There were outside forces at play and once that was explained, it was easier for them to forgive and forget. And boy did they pick up where they left off!
I also utilized speech to text software with this novella. I was really getting the hang of it and it did make for faster writing! I released this book within 30 days of Pledged coming out.
Again, I’ll be editing this book match up with my current brand a little better.
Will awoke after a night of fitful sleep. After leaving Elizabeth, seemingly stunned at his words, on the balcony, he danced every remaining set regardless of growing discomfort. Even as he distracted himself with other ladies, he was acutely aware of Elizabeth’s return to the ballroom. Despite the exhaustion of dancing too much on a knee prone to injury, he found little rest that night. Once more, Elizabeth Bennet stole his peace and slipped into his dreams.
Sighing, Will sat up in the bed and swung his legs over the edge. His feet touched the plush carpet and memories washed over him. Years ago, he had heard about Netherfield. He had suggested that he might rent a house when he proposed to Elizabeth, although she invited him to stay at Longbourn. In the weeks of their time apart during his summer holiday, Netherfield availability came to Will’s notice. Even if he could stay at Longbourn while he was courting Elizabeth, they would need their own house once they married. She had a far larger family than he did and Meryton was convenient to London, so Will might still visit with his sister and his father. He had envisioned residing in Netherfield as the master with Elizabeth as his wife.
Disturbed by the direction of his thoughts, Will rang for his valet and readied for a morning ride. Sam had told Will all about the Hertfordshire countryside, and he was eager to see it. Pushing aside disappointed hopes and frustrating encounters, Will let the calm of being in nature and breezing over the ground envelop him.
After galloping over meadows and meandering along trails, Will chose to climb the only hill in the area. Sam had always marvelled at the mountainous peaks of Derbyshire when he visited. All Meryton could claim was Oakham Mount, and as a man raised in the Peak District, it was nothing special. Still, Will could understand that, for the locals, it would be a pleasing enough vista.
His horse tired and himself needing more exertion, Will tied Apollo off and went up on foot. As he crested the hill, he discovered another already there. From behind, most would not readily identify her. Still petite, Elizabeth’s frame could be mistaken for many ladies. A part of Will wondered if he had taken to seeing her everywhere, but mere miles from her house, it only made too much sense. Just as he had discovered five years ago, there was not another lady like her. She alone would be the Meryton miss who chose to watch the sunrise from a hill, heedless of the way the wet grass stained her petticoats.
She had not changed…and yet she had. She was such a vulnerable mix of confidence and regret last night. Will had turned their conversations in his head over and over as he attempted to sleep. She appeared uncertain when he mentioned having sent letters. Had she never received them? Instead of being jealous that other ladies had tried to court him, she seemed hurt that he would bring it up.
Had he been wrong all those years ago? Had Elizabeth not rejected him? He could stand the uncertainty no longer. He had vowed to himself he would make her love him during this visit. With confidence that only the Master of Pemberley could hold, he strode to her side.
“Good morning, Elizabeth.”
She started, and he chuckled.
“Good day, Mr. Darcy,” she said after recovering, then turned her head forward once more.
“You look lovely. I always liked you in green. I am pleased to see you have not given up your love of nature.”
Elizabeth whirled to face him, red-faced. “Stop this! I insist you cease all familiarities. You have no right to call me by my Christian name. Nor do you need to incessantly bring up the foolishness of my youth.”
Mesmerised by the fire in Elizabeth’s eyes, Will remained mute. He had experience dealing with an angry Elizabeth. Additionally, her ire gave him hope. It could be her behavior indicated a false assumption. Did she believe he had abandoned her?
“I believe I have every right,” he said and stepped forward. “Do you forget the promises we made to each other?”
“Did I forget them?” Elizabeth nearly screeched.
Will welcomed her vehemence, but she took a deep breath and swallowed her emotions. In the blink of an eye, she was the proper miss again and had her mask fixed in place.
“I waited to hear from you. I had expected letters or perhaps some clue via Sam. Then, after he…” she trailed off. “You never came. You never wrote, not even to my father.”
“I gave my condolences in person.”
“And was that all we should have expected from Sam’s best friend?”
“Is that all you wanted from me? Acknowledgment of my friend?”
“No,” Elizabeth shook her head. “You must know what I wanted. What I longed for.” A tear escaped one eye, and she brushed it away. “Are you so cruel, after all these years, to make me say it?”
A part of Will needed to hear her profess that she had loved him and had desired his comfort. “I imagine realizing you lost a wealthy suitor so soon after the death of your brother must have been a hard blow.”
Elizabeth paled, and for a moment, Will thought she might be sick. He opened his mouth to apologise and offer assistance. She held up a hand, silencing him.
Hurt flashed in her eyes. “I never sought your attention. I set no trap. No matter what poison your relatives and friends may have told you, I was guileless.”
Will could bear the facade no longer. He did not wish to wound her. “I should have believed that.”
“Yes, you should have.” She raised her chin in defiance. Then, she shook her head, and her shoulders slumped. “It is no matter. We were reckless youths who had not even known one another a week. I will not hold you to what we pledged then.”
Elizabeth turned to look at the view once more. “We were so young and naive. We did not know how our whole world could change in an instant. We did not understand the expectations we faced.”
This was the Elizabeth he had fallen in love with. The one who shocked him with empathy and wisdom, even if, as she said, their romance had been reckless. “I was not so young or naive as you,” he said. “I knew my promises, and I meant every word.”
Beside him, Elizabeth’s breath hitched. Will turned to look at her, although her bonnet hid most of her profile. A gentle breeze played at the locks of curls which framed her face. Stretching forward a hand, he caught one shiny lock between his fingers. As he stroked the silky fibers between his gloved digits, he inched closer to her, drawn by a magnetic force he had never fully understood. “I did write to you, Elizabeth. I wrote every day for weeks. I received no replies. I could hardly ask Sam directly as he still did not approve of our attachment. I knew from his reports you were well.”
Letting go of her hair, Will sighed and looked to his feet. “By the time of the fire, I confess, I had thought you did not care for me at all.”
Elizabeth gasped, drawing his head up. She wrenched her neck in his direction. Tears shimmered in her eyes. “How could you think that of me? Did you have so little faith in my constancy?”
Shaking his head, Will withdrew a handkerchief and offered it to Elizabeth. “No. I had begun to believe you never loved me at all.”
“You supposed I set out to entrap you!” Elizabeth burst into tears.
“Pray, forgive me,” Will said and attempted to soothe her.
Elizabeth violently shook her head and wiped her eyes. Turning his handkerchief over in her hand, a look of disgust and derision crossed her face before she threw it at him. “You had so little respect for me that you believed I would act like all those other debutantes. Nay! You believed me worse. Did you think I acted as a strumpet for you?”
Guilt spread through him, causing nausea to rise in his belly. He had thought that. He had supposed she had found someone better as well. Wickham intimated that he heard her confess to setting her cap at Harcourt. Will was too disgusted to consider the source upon hearing that she could desire Harcourt as a husband when she held no affection for him and after everything she and Will had shared. Sam had supposed Will envious of Harcourt. His father had known of his resentment for Wickham. Now, Will saw the effects of his jealous nature which he had always claimed never existed.
“Whatever disservice I gave you in my thoughts were nothing to how I abused myself,” Will confessed.
“What do you mean?”
“If I were a better man, you would not have forsaken me. You would have really loved me and not -run off to find richer pastures.”
“Will Darcy you are as stupid as ever!” Elizabeth cried, and her chest heaved. “Find a richer man? How? When did I ever care for such things?”
She stepped forward, wagging a finger at him with her other hand propped on her hip. “I did love you!” She poked him in the chest. Dropping her chin, she whispered, “I still do.”
The breeze quit blowing, and birds stopped singing. The whole world stood still, Will was sure of it. “What did you say?” The distance between them now was thinner than paper. He had heard her words but needed her to consciously speak them.
Elizabeth remained silent. Will tilted her chin up, hoping to read her gaze. A blush had spread over Elizabeth’s cheeks, and she squeezed her eyes shut.
“I thought your courage always rose,” he said to bait her.
Her eyes flew open, meeting his. “I never stopped loving you.”
Will thought he heard a cracking sound deep in the forest, but it must have only been the walls around his heart collapsing before he pulled Elizabeth into his arms and covered her mouth with his.
Beneath layers of mistrust and betrayal, the embers of their passion and love continue to burn.
Jilted for years, Elizabeth Bennet has vowed to never allow Will Darcy back into her life when he arrives in Meryton five years too late. However, her defenses begin to crumble with his sweet words of regret and persuasive kisses. When he proclaims they will wed, Elizabeth’s friends and family reinforce what she already knows: she should never trust Will with her heart.
Facing his demons, Will finally journeys to Meryton determined to make Elizabeth truly love him this time. Soon, he learns he had misjudged her—she was never unfaithful. Someone plotted to tear them apart, preying on their insecurities. With many suspects and few clues, Will must discover who sabotaged their relationship while endeavoring to earn Elizabeth’s trust. Her respect is the one thing he cannot buy and may never attain.
The second volume in the Loving Elizabeth series, Reunited tantalizes readers with a swoon-worthy hero, passionate encounters, and a love that transcends all obstacles.