Meet Me at Pemberley– Chapter One

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.

Chapter Two

Darcy’s unease at being a guest and the probability of enduring Caroline Bingley’s flirtations evaporated upon entering Netherfield’s drawing room and seeing the lovely Miss Bennet.

“What a delight to have you at my home, Mr. Darcy,” Mrs. Bingley said. “I believe you recently met my sister, Elizabeth.”

“Indeed, I did have the pleasure of meeting Miss Bennet. I had not thought I would see her so soon, though.” Darcy accepted Mrs. Bingley’s offer to sit but continued to gaze at the beautiful Elizabeth. “I suppose you came to warn your sister of my presence. I hope I am not an imposition, Mrs. Bingley.”

Mrs. Bingley beamed. “Absolutely not! I know Charles has been desperate to have you visit and I scarcely so. However, I must speak with the housekeeper for a moment. Will you excuse me?”

“Certainly,” Darcy said. He looked around the room for a moment and only then realised that Bingley’s sisters were absent.

“I had understood Bingley’s sisters currently resided with him,” Darcy said.

“Yes, but they have gone into town to look at the shops.”

“Do I have you to thank for that?”

Miss Bennet arched a brow. “Do you suppose that I sent them on an errand? Mr. Darcy, I do not know if that speaks more of your own arrogance or of unkind assumptions about me.”

“I meant no insult,” he said quickly said. “And I do not presume that you would feel the need to see to my desires. I recalled our earlier conversation…” He trailed off. Perhaps it was not wise to mention that they had conversed alone for several minutes.

“Forgive me,” Miss Bennet said. “I have teased you for a second time when I am unsure if you have recovered from the first episode.”

She smiled at him, and it tugged a similar response from his own lips. “I am a little unused to it, but it does not follow that it is disliked.”

“Mr. Darcy, would you like to refresh in your chamber?” Mrs. Bingley interrupted their conversation.

“Certainly, when it is ready.”

“It is prepared now.”

“Then, I shall take up your offer,” Darcy said. He stood and bowed to the ladies before walking toward the door where the housekeeper stood. “Good day to you, Miss Bennet, if I should not see you when I come back downstairs.”

Following the aging servant up to what would be his chamber for the next several weeks, Darcy blew out a breath. He had spent the last several months in a depressed stupor. When he finally emerged, he had no idea of what to do with his life, only that he needed a respite from Pemberley and his London house full of memories and recriminations. While sorting through old mail, he found Bingley’s invitation. He left with no firm plans but to continue his recovery in the country.

His encounter earlier that morning with Miss Bennet had filled him with a sense of refreshment. Here was a country miss who knew nothing of town and its troubles. She was unspoilt by the ton and how they might corrupt the soul. Perhaps even divine providence set them on the same path. She could be a healing balm to his soul; he knew it.

Unfortunately, with Miss Bingley around, he would have to moderate his pleasure in Miss Bennet’s conversation and fine eyes. Caroline would imagine enough to become jealous and make Miss Bennet’s life miserable. Darcy had absolutely no intention of a courtship. He merely desired lively company that could make him forget the mistakes of his past. He wondered if there was a polite way to make his wish known to the lady in question.

They arrived at his chamber, and finding his valet already within, Darcy quickly refreshed his clothing exchanging dust and the aroma of horse for fresh things. As Smith tied his cravat, Darcy wondered what he had learned of the area.

“Meryton is not so different from other small market towns. There is a larger variety of company and shops than in Lambton. However, there is little to pass the time aside from visiting and hunting.”

“That is precisely what I need,” Darcy said. “And is anything said about how long Bingley’s sisters will remain?”

“They are to depart soon for a house party.”

“Ah, God is smiling upon me at last!” Darcy said.

He almost did not come to Netherfield, but he had no greater friend than Bingley. His next nearest companion was his cousin, a colonel in the Regulars, but he did not have leave at present and therefore could offer little in the way of entertainment. He would be left in the company of his relations who would ask him questions he had been avoiding.

“It is reported there is a family nearby full to brim with beautiful daughters. Indeed, Mrs. Bingley comes from such stock,” Smith said.

“Well, I have no need of such information.” Darcy’s tone implied a slight reprimand.

“I beg your pardon, sir. I am simply passing along what I have gleaned.”

“Forgive me.” Darcy sighed. He had not meant to be rude. “I did not mean to be sharp with you. Have you learned anything else?”

“Only that Mrs. Nicholls makes the best jam and biscuits I have ever had.”

Darcy and Smith laughed together. His job complete, Smith stepped back.

“There you are, sir,” Smith said. “A smile does suit you better than all the frowning you’ve been doing.”

Darcy frowned in response, then caught himself. “I must have looked miserable indeed if it is worth remarking on being more than usual.” He paused just before his hand reached for the doorknob. “Has anyone else commented on it?”

“Mrs. Reynolds did worry for you, sir, but I have kept the secret.”

“I had no doubt that you would,” Darcy agreed. Then with a firm nod of his head, he left the room.

Surprised but not displeased to see Miss Bennet still in the drawing room when he returned downstairs, he agreed to Mrs. Bingley’s invitation to tea and refreshments. His breakfast had been early and there were hours until dinner. The three of them made polite talk about his journey and the weather.

“Mr. Darcy, you said you are from Derbyshire,” Miss Bennet said when she had finished with her tea.

“That is correct.”

“Do you know of Lambton?” she asked.

“Indeed!” Darcy started at a name he did not expect to hear. “That is but five miles from my estate. It is the closest town and one my family has always frequented.”

“How intriguing!” Mrs. Bingley said. “We have something of a family connection to it. Our uncle’s wife grew up in Lambton.”

Darcy had heard before that Bingley’s wife had ties to trade. Caroline made it known to him when he had come for the wedding. Not that he cared in the least. There were few things he would not do for Charles Bingley, but attending his wedding was purely for selfish reasons. He had to go about the usual routine. Even now, Darcy wondered where his plan had failed as Georgiana had been invited as well and he had to say she was too ill to come.

“If I should ever meet your aunt, I would enjoy discussing Lambton with her. I would delight in talking about the charming town.”

“If you stay until Christmas,” Miss Bennet said, “you may meet her then. Or perhaps you had plans with your family.”

Darcy had been putting his cup down and her words surprised him so much that he missed the saucer, smashing his half-full cup on the table.

“Oh, dear!” Mrs. Bingley cried. “Are you hurt?” She ran to the bell cord.

Darcy looked down at his hand to slowly see the brown liquid drip away and be replaced by bright red. His hand was immediately snatched away and wrapped in a handkerchief. Miss Bennet had come to his side and now cradled his hand on her lap. It was enough to make a gentleman blush, especially with how the touch of her hand elicited a thrill racing up his arm. Had he hurt himself so badly that the nerves were cut? He knew, of course, why he felt no pain. Nothing would ever hurt the way his betrayal last summer had.

“It is not so bad,” Miss Bennet said as she dried his hand. “See, there is just a small scratch.”

Darcy stared in wonder as she turned his hand over again in hers, her face leaned close over it and inspecting for any other wounds. She returned to the small cut on the inside of his pinky.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not in the slightest,” he said, but his voice sounded low and gravelly.

He really did not think he would ever experience anything less than raw grief and yet with each innocent stroke of her fingers, Darcy felt waves of excitement course over him. By the time Mrs. Bingley returned and Miss Bennet applied the plaster a maid brought in, he was dizzy from her touch.

“I do apologise,” Miss Bennet said after the maid had cleaned everything up and left the room. “I did not mean to distract you so.”

“Pray, do not blame yourself. I think it was merely the effects of my early morning. I had not meant to use such force.”

“Ah,” Miss Bennet said. Then, the room descended into awkward silence.

“Lizzy,” Mrs. Bingley said, “did you wish to practice before Caroline and Louisa return?”

Miss Bennet laughed. “I suppose I should. I rarely have a turn at the pianoforte when they are in the house. Although, I must confess that I never was diligent at practicing. I do so now only to annoy them.” She ended her speech with a chuckle.

Darcy enjoyed the image she created. “Does that mean you do not wish to practice now?”

“I shall wait until we hear the carriage on the drive!” she declared.

Darcy had every intention of asking her about music, anything to continue to hear her lovely voice and fascinating conversation, when there were sounds in the hall and Bingley appeared.

“Darcy, man!” He declared. “I did not expect you!” Bingley walked over and gave Darcy a hearty handshake. “I had hoped to but did not expect it.”

“Did you not receive my letter?” Darcy asked.

Bingley swept a hand through his hair. “The truth is if it arrived in the last day or so…”

He trailed off and the room erupted into laughter. Bingley made a poor correspondent but had always been a loyal and stalwart friend. He turned, looking for a place to sit. Miss Bennet vacated her seat next to Mrs. Bingley, making her return once more to the opposite settee with Darcy.

“Well, I could use some tea!” Bingley declared.

Miss Bennet laughed first. One giggle escaped before she clamped a hand over her mouth and looked desperately at her sister. Mrs. Bingley’s eyes widened, and she squeezed her lips together tightly. When her shoulders began to shake, Miss Bennet lost her restraint and freely guffawed. Bingley looked between the sisters and then helplessly at Darcy. By this time, his cheek hurt from biting it, and had to relent to laughing himself.

“Would someone tell me what on earth is going on?” Bingley asked, laughing a little despite himself.

When they had all calmed, Mrs. Bingley explained the matter in her kind way. Darcy chanced a look at Miss Bennet. Her eyes slid to his and they shared a small smile. How had just a few moments in Bingley’s house relieved some of the tension Darcy had carried around for months?

The sound of a carriage drew their notice, breaking Darcy from his pleasant thoughts.

Miss Bennet stood. “Shall we adjourn to the music room?”

Mrs. Bingley looked out the window. “It is only Mama.” Her eyes went to the clock. “Oh, yes. It is time for her daily call.”

A faint line formed on her forehead before immediately vanishing. Bingley squeezed his wife’s hand. Darcy glanced at Miss Bennet. Some of the colour had drained from her cheeks.

Darcy had met Mrs. Bennet at Bingley’s wedding. She had crowed about the match as much as he expected any country matron to do. That she was less restrained and educated than women he was used to was not surprising. However, she appeared to be a very doting mother, even if she did push him toward her youngest daughter. The reactions of his companions to this news and the insinuation that she came every day intrigued Darcy.

Miss Bennet stood stiffly. “Shall I go?” she whispered.

“Absolutely not,” Mrs. Bingley said. She left her husband’s side to embrace her sister. “This is my home, and we are pleased to have you. If Mother cannot abide that, then she may go elsewhere.”

Miss Bennet gave her sister a brave smile and nodded her head. It was slow at first and then seemed to take on an air of more certainty and authority. Everyone resumed their seats and when Mrs. Bennet was announced, Miss Bennet’s chin lifted in defiance. Darcy’s curiosity was piqued.

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.

2 thoughts on “Meet Me at Pemberley– Chapter One

  1. Well, I am definitely curious as to why Elizabeth has been banished to Jane’s and how Darcy has been betrayed. My curiosity knows no bounds on this one. It’s good to see that Jane is standing up to her mother. It’s about time for the Bingley’s to relocate to Derbyshire. Darcy has already fallen to Elizabeth’s arts and allurements. He just doesn’t know it yet, poor man!

    Liked by 1 person

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