This is the first book in the Friends and Follies Series, a companion series to Loving Elizabeth.
Three years after the events of Treasured, Elizabeth Bennet stands at her father’s grave, when unexpectedly, the brother she thought dead reappears!
Elizabeth and Will stared at the markers in the ground. In between them with his tiny, chubby hands in one of their own stood their two-year-old son Bennet. Another child now grew in Elizabeth’s belly. Jane and Bingley had married a few months after them and now had two girls. According to Mr. Bennet’s will, the next Longbourn heir would be his first grandson who would not inherit an estate. Elizabeth placed her hand where the babe in her now kicked.
“We should name him after Sam,” she said.
Will nodded. “I agree.” He knelt to arrange the flowers she had brought. Upon standing, he lifted Bennet in one arm and wrapped the other around Elizabeth. “It is as we always planned.”
“Not quite,” Elizabeth sniffed.
Her eyes wandered to the patch of land next to her mother’s grave. The physicians warned them Mr. Bennet would likely leave them before the year’s end.
“I had thought they would be older,” she said.
“True, but he is fortunate that his family may be near as his time comes.”
Jane and Bingley had talked of giving up Netherfield and purchasing an estate closer to Pemberley, but at the news of Mr. Bennet’s ailing health, they chose to stay.
“If it were many years from now,” Will added, “your sisters might be married and living far away.”
It mattered little that Pemberley was such a distance from Longbourn. Will took care of everything so they could be near the Bennets at this time. The thought always made Elizabeth’s heart swell in love for him even more.
“We have been blessed,” he murmured into her hair. “Bennet is healthy and strong. We have another little one on the way. We have had nothing to trouble or vex us since our wedding day.”
Elizabeth nodded. When she considered that time in her life, she could scarcely remember any particulars. She only recalled the constant anxiety. For over two years, they had lived blissfully happy at Pemberley with visits to Hertfordshire and London.
The first Christmas was celebrated at their estate with everyone present. The next year, the Bingleys hosted. This year would be a subdued affair at Longbourn as Mr. Bennet could barely leave his bed.
London had been nothing for Elizabeth to worry about. They spent a few weeks enjoying the theatre and shops before retiring to Pemberley with Georgiana. When they returned in the Spring, the new Mrs. Bingley was making a splash. Who could dislike Mrs. Darcy when her sister was so angelic? Elizabeth knew, of course, they had not met with universal approval. However, they had experienced the ton without any extreme censure.
In time, even Lady Catherine had written to make amends with her nephew. At first, he was unwilling to accept any apology. However, Elizabeth advocated for peace in the family. He could not stomach visiting Rosings or seeing her face yet, but he replied civilly to her letters. For a time, Anne had visited them, and Elizabeth was happy to see for herself that the lady had no attachment to Will.
Mary continued to reside mostly with the Darcys. She and Georgiana were fast friends, spending the majority of the day at their pianofortes and clustered together in the evening. If they should dare to attend a ball with the Darcys, one never danced if the other was unattended. As such, both ladies were still unwed. They were only twenty, however, and had many years before they needed to worry about being on the shelf. On the whole, Elizabeth was pleased with how each lady brought out the best in the other. Although not sisters by birth, they were as close as Elizabeth and Jane.
Through the many seasons of the last three years, Will had provided Elizabeth with the support she always knew he would. She rejoiced to see his growth from friend and lover to devoted husband and father.
“Lizzy,” Jane’s voice interrupted Elizabeth’s thoughts. “Charlotte is here and wishes to see Bennet.”
“I will take him,” Will said, and he kissed his wife on the cheek. “Do not stay out too long.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said. “I love you.”
“Lub you,” Bennet cooed.
“Aw, I love you too,” Elizabeth laughed as she tickled the boy. His laughter lifted her spirits.
Before leaving, Will whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. “These trials make us stronger, never forget that. I learned to love you during one, and it strengthened through another. Everything we now have we owe to them. I would not trade our love for anything.”
“Nor would I,” Elizabeth agreed. Will placed a soothing kiss on her forehead and departed with Bennet in tow.
Elizabeth sighed as she looked at the graves again. “I wish you were here, Sam. I think Papa would be more at ease if he knew the matter of the estate was settled before he went. There is so much I wish you could have known and seen. You would be the very best uncle to Bennet and Jane’s girls! However, I have learned to accept what I cannot change. I have determined to find happiness no matter what life tosses me. Soon, you will have Papa with you just as you are with our mother and sister. I know he has missed you every day. Take care of him for us.”
Elizabeth turned to leave, a feeling of peace settling in her heart. It was as Will had said. These trials would make her stronger. They had been very fortunate, and unfortunately, the demise of one’s parents was a natural occurrence. Like the tress who lost their leaves in the Autumn and bloomed again with new life in the Spring, Elizabeth would accept this change.
She was so calm at the idea that she nearly missed a rasping voice say her name.
“Lizzy,” she heard again.
Turning, Elizabeth found herself looking into the unmistakable eyes of her brother.