I’ll be releasing another Christmas story this year! I’m sharing the first two chapters here for free and the rest will be available to paying subscribers on Patreon.
Christmas is a time of healing and love, can their broken hearts become whole?
Leaving London behind, Elizabeth Bennet is a walking scandal in Meryton. Cast out by her mother, she now lives with her married sister at Netherfield. The gossip doesn’t bother her near as much as her own recriminations. How can she ever trust her judgment again?
Fitzwilliam Darcy has no pride left. He has searched high and low for his little sister and cannot find her or the scoundrel who convinced her to elope. When he can’t face the empty halls of his homes, he visits his friend.
Meeting for the first time at Netherfield, Darcy and Elizabeth’s hearts are guarded as they recover from their not-so-distant wounds.
Mistletoe and sleigh bells abound in this heart-warming tale full of Christmas hope that destroys all fear and loneliness.
Elizabeth Bennet sighed as she surveyed the vista on top of Oakham Mount. Having just returned from London after an extended visit with her favourite aunt and uncle, she had missed walks in the countryside. London offered no end of diversions, and she dearly loved her relations. However, she had longed for the fresh air of Hertfordshire.
A December wind blew, and she hugged her cloak tighter. It played with the ribbons of her bonnet. Deciding to tighten the now loose bow under her chin, she turned her attention away from the view. Just as she untangled the strings, a masculine call and a horse’s neigh drew her attention.
“Woah, Pericles,” the voice said.
Elizabeth’s eyes searched for the man and animal. She had never encountered another person on her solitary walks and was uncertain she enjoyed the interruption. Another gust of wind ripped the bonnet from her head.
“Oh!” she cried as she raced after it.
As she made her way down the hill, a branch caught her cloak, threatening to hold her prisoner. Yanking with all her might, she freed herself and fell backward. Jumping back up, she dusted herself off and continued in the direction she had seen her hat.
Her youngest sisters would not go through this much effort; they would prefer something new to purchase. Her eldest sister would not put herself through the unladylike exertion. Mary, the middle sister, would likely sermonize on the imprudent action and how Elizabeth ought to have foreseen the likelihood of tearing her cloak. Replacing it would cost more than a bonnet. Elizabeth rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. Her pride demanded that she have something to show for her efforts.
Finally, she saw the dratted thing, now misshapen and slightly tattered from its intrepid journey. She also saw a pair of highly polished black boots and tan leather gloves plucking it from the ground. This was just her luck.
Well, nearly everyone in the surrounding area had known her all her life and would not think less of her. True, she did not know her eldest sister’s husband well, but he was too enamoured with Jane to care if Elizabeth looked like a hoyden. Unless the boots belonged to a visitor in the area, she would likely see a friendly face. And if they were a stranger to her, then why should she care for their good opinion?
Elizabeth lifted her eyes to greet her hat’s rescuer and stopped in her tracks. He was no resident of Meryton or Hertfordshire. Her cheeks flamed red as her breath caught. He was the second most handsome man she had ever seen. He was tall, dark, and broad-shouldered. His physique told her he rode well, and he had a hint of amusement in his eyes. Worse than being so attractive, he decidedly reminded her of someone she desperately wished to forget.
“Yours?” The man held up the bonnet and chuckled.
“How did you guess?” Elizabeth laughed.
His smile broadened revealing dimples. Elizabeth’s breath caught again. The man stared intently at Elizabeth until her smile faded.
She stretched forward a hand. “May I have it back? Then I will allow you to return to your exercise. I am sorry to have bothered you.”
Her voice seemed to pull him back to reality. With a slightly embarrassed expression and heightened colour, he put the hat into her hands. “It was no trouble at all, Miss.”
Elizabeth arched a brow. “Perhaps it is Mrs.”
“I beg your pardon. I hoped you were only a miss.”
“Only? A lady’s worth is less when they are unwed?”
He licked his lips. “That is not what I meant to imply.”
Elizabeth’s mouth twitched and his eyes flashed to it.
“Ah, you are teasing me.”
“I am dreadfully impertinent. I apologise.”
“No harm was done.” He looked down at his boots before returning his eyes to her. “I am unused to free conversation with a lady. However, I am also uncomfortable with stiff drawing room discussions. I always assumed it was the environment or the ladies, but I suppose it is just me.”
He gave Elizabeth a sheepish smile and she returned it.
“Our meeting is most irregular. I suppose I have to forgive your awkwardness.”
“Might we begin again? Perhaps with our names?” he asked.
“For shame, sir! There is no mutual acquaintance to introduce us.” Their eyes met with a smile at her tease.
“Then I will have to beg forgiveness again. In fact, I should apologise to your father and mother. If you allow me to escort you home, I will do just that.”
Did he mean to imply that he would like to call on her? She had sworn off charming suitors. “Thank you, but no forgiveness is necessary. I assure you my parents are not such sticklers to propriety that they would think there was anything improper about us exchanging names and greetings before going about our day.”
His smile faltered a little. “If you prefer. I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.” He bowed.
Elizabeth curtsied. “I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Darcy. I am Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, which is just two miles that way.” She pointed in the direction of her home.
“Indeed!” He seemed surprised and confused.
“I know you are not from this area. Are you visiting a relation?” Elizabeth turned her hat over in her hands. It was covered in dust.
“No, I am staying with a friend. Here, allow me.” Mr. Darcy pulled out a handkerchief and motioned for Elizabeth to return her bonnet to him. “His name is Mr. Bingley, and he has taken the lease at Netherfield. I know the name Bennet and Longbourn. However, I am quite certain I have not met you before, Miss Bennet.”
“Jane did not say they expected a guest!” Elizabeth covered her mouth to dispel her laughter. “Charles must have forgotten to tell her. That is very much his way.”
Mr. Darcy bit back a grin. “I hope it is not an imposition to Mrs. Bingley.”
“Jane is the most affable woman in the country. If she can bear with Charles’ sister, I am certain no one else could ever be an imposition to her.” Belatedly, Elizabeth realised she spoke too freely to a stranger. “Forgive me. I ought not to have said that about Miss Bingley. I suppose you must be friends with her.”
Mr. Darcy’s face contorted into a grimace before he forced it back into a neutral mask. “I frequently have interactions with Miss Bingley. However, nothing you have said has offended me.”
Elizabeth met Darcy’s eyes and they shared a silent smile. Ah, so they thought the same about Caroline Bingley.
“I surmise you are related to Mrs. Bingley, then?”
“Yes, I am the sister closest to her in age. I have been in London with my relatives for many weeks.”
Darcy nodded. “Ah, I have heard of that from the Bingleys.”
“Both of them? Oh, dear,” Elizabeth chuckled. “Miss Bingley will have you believe that I am a hoyden.”
“I rarely take heed to anything she says. Bingley merely mentioned that his wife missed her dearest sister and hoped she would return for Christmas.”
Discussion of Elizabeth being in London discomfited her. She took the now-cleaned bonnet from his hands. “Thank you again for your assistance. I hope you enjoy your ride.”
Her stomach did flips as she began to walk away. What a curious encounter and an even stranger reaction she was having.
“Miss Bennet!” Darcy called and she looked over her shoulder at him. “I suppose we will see much of each other at Netherfield.”
“Yes, that seems probable.”
“I look forward to more time in your company.” He paused and smiled a little. “I shall count on you as an ally against Miss Bingley.”
The slight tilt of his lips sent her heart racing again. Mr. Darcy mounted his horse and together they dashed off as quick as her pulse. Determined to return to Netherfield and talk herself into sense, Elizabeth crammed the bonnet on her head and tied the ribbons extra tight. She ought to beware of handsome, charming men or she would have a broken heart again.
Meet Me at Pemberley is now on pre-order! If you are not a patron that will receive a complimentary copy of the story and want to pre-order, you may do so at this link.