Come What May- Modern P&P short story

So, I just tried linking this over on my facebook launch party for A Sense of Obligation page and it won’t let me load documents and it’s far too long to put in a single post. This short story will appear in my next release, which is a collection of short stories. Look for it around September!

*Please tell me if you’d like an epub or mobi file of this story.

working cover

Come What May

A Modern Pride and Prejudice Short Story

Elizabeth Bennet awoke the morning of her wedding day to her mother shrieking. Why had she decided to marry from her home? Her mother took great pride in the gardens and they were beautiful, but if they had married from anywhere else Elizabeth may have won the battle about staying in her own apartment her last night as a single woman.

“Mrs. Darcy!” her mother screamed outside her childhood bedroom she had shared with Jane. Seeing her sister still asleep, she tossed a pillow at her head.

“Hey!” Jane said, her pretty blonde hair still in place.

“Up! It will take hours and hours to get you ready! You have an appointment with the hairdresser in seventy minutes! Lord knows if you’re not perfect he will probably leave you right there at the altar and then think of what the neighbors will say? And the cost! How can you be so selfish, Lizzy? Get up now!”

“Mom, William would never do that. He loves Lizzy.”

Their mother had already left the room, but Elizabeth gave Jane a hug. “Are you sure you’re okay with seeing Charles again?”

“Of course, I am.”

Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. She was less certain her sister’s fragile heart had wholly mended after the terrible breakup with her on again off again boyfriend of the last year. Jane still hadn’t told her everything that happened at the rehearsal dinner, but just when Elizabeth expected Charles to propose, Jane was saying they had broken up for good. But, he was Will’s best man and it was rather late to do anything about it. Sighing, she headed to the shower.

Seventy minutes later, Elizabeth and her four sisters arrived at the salon. After a manicure and pedicure, she sat in the chair for her hair. Being a low maintenance girl, she asked for a simple, sophisticated pony tail with shiny curls. With a sinking feeling, she saw her mother speaking with the manager and shoving a manila folder, undoubtedly full of pictures of more elegant hairstyles, into the woman’s hands. Determined to not let all the wedding fuss get to her, she resigned herself to whatever her mother ordered. The woman approached Elizabeth with trepidation.

“Miss Bennet, I’m so sorry but your mother…”

“It’s perfectly alright. Really, just as long as it fits under my grandmother’s veil, I don’t care.”

The woman let out a deep breath. “If you’re certain…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay, then…” she trailed off as the receptionist from the front called her forward. “Please excuse me for just a moment.”

Elizabeth popped in the ear buds to her ipod and was content to listen to her favorite mix until the woman returned, again with a look of trepidation.

“It seems that we have double booked the salon this morning by accident and are understaffed. The other bride’s wedding is an hour before yours…”

“Oh, it’s no problem! My mother planned on everything taking so long. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of time. We’ll just dress first.”

“Thank you for being so understanding. If you need anything, please let Kelly up front know.”

The manager left, and Elizabeth turned to tell her mother the change of plans. In a matter of minutes, her father arrived with the bridesmaids dresses and the ladies took turns popping in and out of the restroom in the back. When Lydia came out first, Elizabeth was confused.

“Lyddie…what are you wearing?”

“The rockin’ dress you picked out! Way to go Lizzy!”

“This isn’t what Jane and I agreed on.”

“Huh…well, it’s awesome. Look at my legs They’re going to look even better in these heels!”

Elizabeth sighed and was silently thankful her sister was at least over eighteen now. “Jane?” She called to her sister who was chewing her nails and trying to not look guilty. “What happened?”

“Well, you had to leave the appointment early!”

“I was taking my master’s examinations! It was kind of an important thing!”

“It’s just after you left the attendant said they couldn’t have that dress for another six weeks, but they had these, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get bother you, and you had gone on and on about how you didn’t care about things like that. So I text Carrie and…”

“You let CAROLINE BINGLEY select the bridesmaids dresses in my wedding to the man she nearly stalked for years?”

“Come on! You know she never stalked him! She loved him. And you don’t know what loving someone who doesn’t love you back can do! You don’t know!” Jane burst into tears, and Elizabeth’s anger died. The dresses were cute. She’d wear them to a party. They would totally steal the show from her understated bridal gown, but what did she care? She got the man, and she had made her sister cry.

Jane took a deep breath and composed herself. “I’m so sorry, Lizzy! I shouldn’t be crying on your wedding day!”

“Jane, honey. It’s okay. I’m sorry for snapping at you. The dresses are beautiful. Here, you go next for your hair.”

Elizabeth was attempting to put mascara on and wondering how women didn’t poke their eyes out with the wand when her sister, Kate, began sneezing.

“Kate, you need to stop that sneezing. You’ll ruin the wedding,” her mother chided.

“I’m not doing it on purpose!” she wailed and Elizabeth saw that her eyes were puffy and redrimmed as well.

“Are you okay, Kate?”

“I was fine until the bouquets were brought in.”

“What do you mean? Why were they brought here?”

“We have to get ready for everything here!” her mother replied. “Now, Will’s sister and aunts should be arriving any minute now. The photographer is here already so we can take pictures of all the primping!”

Elizabeth began to wonder how many wedding planning movies her mother watched during her engagement. She was relishing this entire ordeal far too much. Kate began scratching at her arms. Elizabeth’s eyes went wide.

“Kate, I think you’re allergic to something.”

“Your grandma Glenda was allergic to some flowers like that.”

This is not happening, Elizabeth thought. “Do you know which kind?”

“Chrysanthemums, mostly.”

“Chrysanthemums!” Elizabeth gasped. “I picked that kind because you said they were Grandma Glenda’s favorite.”

“Why would I say that? She never cared for flowers much.”

“I asked if there were any flowers she was particularly fond of or not fond of and…” she trailed off. She had been so scatter brained planning this wedding and studying for her finals and worrying about defending her thesis. Her mother would have answered Chrysanthemums to that question, and Elizabeth would have understood only what she wished.

Mary, who had been overhearing the concern, came forward. “Well, we just won’t have bouquets then. I think this entire wedding thing is far too gaudy.”

“No bouquets!” their mother shouted. “No, we’ll think of something! And what did I tell you about that eyeliner today? Take it off!”

Mary glared before scampering off to redo her makeup. She enjoyed pretending she was somewhat “goth” and eschewed all things mainstream, but when it came down to it, Elizabeth thought Mary just liked the attention and wasn’t that committed to the philosophy. Their mother corralled the other girls to get the bouquets out of the shop.

Will’s sister, adopted aunts and cousin arrived at just that moment, followed by Elizabeth’s aunt, Meg Gardiner. “Oh, Meg!” her mother cried. “We all in an uproar. Kate has my mother’s allergies to Chrysanthemums—which Lizzy never would have ordered if she would have let me plan the whole thing but she was so headstrong—well, never mind. We can’t have a speck of them around today, and now there’s nothing for the girls to carry!”

“The wedding of William Darcy is the most talked about event this season. It is imperative it does not appear as some kind of thrown together backyard barbeque!” Will’s “Aunt” Cathy declared. Her daughter, Anne, giggled. “What are you laughing about?”

“I was looking up bouquet alternatives on my phone. Here’s one for wine corks. I think us Fitzwilliam ladies might be able to gather up enough.”

Cathy blushed. “Hush, Anne. You know the doctor even recommends a glass or two of wine at dinner each night.”

“Uh huh,” Anne said and bit back a smile.

“Elizabeth,” a hairdresser called her name. It was finally her turn. Aunt Meg walked to her.

“Go, we will find an alternative. Nothing will ruin this day. Relax!” The two women hugged, and Elizabeth took a deep breath to calm her nerves.

Upon sitting in the chair, she wished her hairdresser would do the same. The woman was young, exhausted and clearly frazzled.

“Just like in the picture?” she asked.

“Yep, that’s fine.”

“Okay, then,” and the woman set to work.

Elizabeth popped in her ear buds and tried not to notice what seemed like an inordinate amount of pulling and hairspray. When the stylist at last got her noticed so she could look at the finished product, she was speechless. There was something that was supposed to be either beehive or a victory roll protruding from the side of her head, and she had a braid wrapped around her forehead.

“Mama!”

The woman came dashing over. “Oh, Lizzy! You’re so beautiful!” Tears welled in her eyes. Aunt Meg came just behind her with the veil ready to pin it in place.

“You truly are lovely, Lizzy.”

“Aunt Meg…” She stopped as she looked at her mother again.

“It is just like how I pictured it.”

Elizabeth put on a fake smile, to please her mother, and was thankful she had noted to the photographer she liked a lot of silhouette poses.

“Lizzy, you’ve got to move, now.” There would have been no time to redo the hair even if she wished it. She was shoved toward the bathroom and shimmied into her proper undergarments and gown. At least this went as she had planned. Almost. First she fell in love with a short, swingy number but her mother insisted her gown needed more lace. Then, she adored an all lace sleeveless gown with a bare back. It was sleek and sexy. Will was certain to love it. Her mother declared it was too modern. In the end, Lizzy chose a classic A-line white satin gown with a v-neck front and lace sleeves. It wasn’t her first choice, but it was perfect.

She piled in the car with Jane and Will’s sister, Gina- no limo was rented since she intended to get ready at her home- and was handed a beautiful bouquet made from vintage brooches. “Anne found the idea online and then Aunt Ellen and Cathy had someone pick up some of their old ones. These here,” she pointed to several stunning pieces, “were my mother’s. Several are from your grandmother as well.”

Elizabeth blinked back tears. She couldn’t think of a more meaningful bouquet to carry, and it would last forever. The car pulled up, and she could see they were the last to arrive. Will’s cousin, Richie, greeted them.

“Glad you ladies decided to show up!”

“Very funny, Rich. Is everything set?”

“Yes, but I think if you don’t start walking down that aisle Caroline is going to usurp your place.”

Elizabeth frowned. “Someone told Will, right?”

“Yes, he knows. He looks like he’s going to pass out, but that’s just his usual ‘being in front of people’ face.”

“Well, let’s put him out of his misery, shall we? Daddy?” Elizabeth asked while searching for her father. Her mother began shooing everyone in their places, and the groomsmen appeared to seat her and Will’s aunts.

“Honey bee, I didn’t tell you last night because I didn’t want to worry you, but now I hope you can contain your reaction. Pastor Ron called last night. He’s in the hospital with food poisoning.”

“Oh no! Is he going to be okay?”

“Yes, he’s doing much better.”

“I’m glad to know it. Since the wedding is still going on, I assume you found a replacement?”

“I did…” he prevaricated and Elizabeth narrowed her eyes.

“Daddy?”

“He is…well, uh…more impressive than you might guess.”

Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth shrugged. “As long as it’s legal, I don’t care.” It was beginning to be her mantra for the whole event.

The bridesmaids had gone down the aisle and the song she selected for her bridal march began. They walked arm in arm and turned the corner to go down the aisle. The attendees stood, and there was an audible gasp. Elizabeth chuckled. There was nothing else to do about it.

Her eyes met Will’s. If he could make out her unique hairstyle, he didn’t seem to care at all. And she knew he wouldn’t. All he wanted was to marry her and begin their lives. This ceremony was entirely for her own vanity and to please their family. She really ought to know better by now. Her vanity nearly cost her everything with Will. But then, he had been stupid and proud too.

At last she was in front of her love. He mouthed the words “I love you,” to her and it was only because she was so impatient to be at his side that she paid attention to the minister at all. She listened for the cue on when her father would place her hand in Will’s and give her a kiss. Suddenly she realized the minister dropped his r’s completely. Not in a Boston way…but in a very impressive clergyman way. She and Will tore their eyes from one another at the same time to take in the officiant.

He looked exactly like the pseudo-Medieval minister from the movie The Princess Bride. It had to be a joke. Priests didn’t still dress like that! Beside her, she felt her father laughing. His breathing was hard, but he didn’t let a sound escape. Just when she wanted to step on his toes for playing such a trick on her, she glanced at Will again. He had a small smile on his face, and his eyes shone with amusement. She couldn’t help but join in. Her shoulders heaved up and down and from behind she supposed it looked like she was crying, but she contained her laughter.

At last her father kissed her cheek and took his seat. Will grasped her hands and leaned in and whispered, “Do you think we could just skip to the end?”

Elizabeth had to bite her cheek to not laugh. From behind Will, she heard Richie cough but it sounded suspiciously like “Say, man and wife.”

She grinned and shook her head. Somehow, they made it through the ceremony without collapsing in laughter. After ceremony pictures went quickly but Elizabeth rolled her eyes at the number of times Lydia was called to attention from flirting with a groomsman. Jane and Charlie did their best to avoid one another, but nobody missed the awkwardness between them. Aunt Catherine knew the best poses for everyone, of course.

Finally, they made their way to the reception. They nearly chose a mash up of songs for their first dance but then decided upon “Come What May” as it seemed to capture their route to the altar; everything was worth it. She expected her new husband to be a ball of nerves, but he was nearly as calm as he had ever been.

“You’re not nervous?” she asked Will as they were alone on the floor.

“I hope you are not consulting your own feelings with that question. It wouldn’t do for a bride to feel nervous with her groom.”

Smiling at the tease, she replied, “I’m not even sure that ceremony was legal. Daddy told me the pastor got sick, and he found a replacement, but I can’t imagine how he found someone with a costume like that!”

“I’ve been told your father called Rich…who knows all kinds of people. I asked no other questions but to confirm that the ceremony was valid. But you have not answered my question.”

She laughed. “Today has been long and trying with surprises at every turn, but the only feeling I have right now is happiness and completeness. Will, when I think of what I almost threw away…”

He silenced her with a gentle kiss, their guests cheered. “You know I bear most of the blame. Today is for new beginnings.”

Elizabeth couldn’t agree more and returned the kiss. Upon breaking it, her eyes landed on an unexpected person. “Is that why you invited George Wickham?”

“We can’t keep them apart, Lizzy. If I kept George from Lydia, it would be no better than when I tried to separate Charles and Jane. We can’t decide what is best for others.”

“Yes, but she’s so young!”

“He stayed away until she turned eighteen. She has her whole life ahead of her!”

“She may not want what you want.”

“You didn’t think that was enough when it was your sister he was trying to feel up.”

“I was wrong to let my grudge get in the way for them if they could have waited until she was older. You taught me true forgiveness. But Gina is happy now.”

Elizabeth looked at the young women in question. Gina was talking with guests, something she was surprised to see. When they had first met, she was terribly shy. She also knew how excited Gina was to begin college in the fall. Lydia declared she wanted to take a year off and travel with some friends or work before trying to settle down and think about a career. She wondered too if some of Lydia’s behavior the last few months had more to do with trying to forget her feelings for George.

“I guess you’re right. It’s their lives…” She trailed off and bit her lip. “Do you know what happened with Charlie and Jane? Jane won’t tell me anything.”

Will rubbed the back of his neck. “I think maybe I had a hand in that?”

“What did you do?”

“Charlie wanted to practice his proposal and I may have given him a nudge with certain wording. I’m not sure it came out well.”

“Will! Why would you try to help there? If you were the last man in the world, I wouldn’t ask you for speaking advice.”

His grip on her waist tightened a bit. “You’ve obviously amended some of your other ideas on what you’d do with me as the last man in the world.”

She sighed. “You’re right. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.”

He leaned his forehead against hers. “I may need that in writing.” She laughed and he kissed her forehead. “I promise to help Charlie with Jane. If they’re meant to work things out, a poor choice of words can’t stand between them.”

“I suppose you know that from experience.”

“I certainly do.”

“Hmm…I like the sound of that. I do. The best words I’ve ever said.”

“I was thinking after the speech.”

“After the speech, what?”

“After the speech you could bring Jane to a certain spot, and I could get Charlie there and then they could talk.”

“You’re going to try and patch this up during the wedding?”

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Ask me that some other day. This dance is the only thing that’s gone right!” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Well, and you being there, of course.”

She worried he might be offended, but he just laughed. “I love your fierce loyalty and sense of justice, Lizzy.”

The dance ended and soon they were seated at the head table. Rich leaned over and said that it was time for the speech. Charlie wasn’t at his seat and before they could even look for him in the crowd, Aunt Cathy was taking the microphone from the DJ. Elizabeth held her breath. The woman made no secret of her dislike of all things Elizabeth Bennet, although she seemed had seemed helpful earlier today at the salon.

“Willie was just a teenager when he came to live with me,” she said and Will blushed red. “His mother was always like a sister to me and I was humbled they left Will and Gina in my care. I know there were times in life when I was hard on him. I always expected him to make his parents proud. There have been times when I’ve disagreed with how he did that, but I always wanted what was best for him. Will, I know your parents would be proud of all you’ve accomplished and very pleased with Elizabeth because she makes you so happy. Congratulations to you both.”

It was as near a blessing on their marriage as they would probably ever get from her, and when put that way, Elizabeth found a great deal of compassion for the woman. They stood in unison and walked to her, hugging her tightly until she pushed back and playfully smacked Will’s arm.

Soon, dinner was being served, and they returned to their seats. Jane and Charlie appeared hand in hand. Elizabeth immediately pulled Jane to her side. “Tell me everything now!”

Jane blushed. “I was so silly, Lizzy! He was trying to propose!”

“Of course he was! But what made you angry?”

“Well, he started off with ‘There comes a time when you realize you’re going to have to settle’ and I thought he meant he was settling for me, and I just ran away before he could say anything else!”

“He would never mean that!”

“No, that’s what he said when I finally let him talk to me tonight. You don’t mind do you?” She held up her hand to show Elizabeth her engagement ring.

“No! I’m thrilled for you!” The sisters hugged. “So what was he trying to say?”

“He said he was explaining that he was beginning to think he was going to have to settle for something less than what he hoped for in life, that he couldn’t have it all. Then he met me.”

“I knew you would work it out!” Elizabeth was soon called away to greet other guests, but she thought between marrying her best friend and her sister’s engagement, nothing could make today better.

Before she knew it, it was time to cut the cake. Her mother insisted they do the Southern tradition of a cake pull, and the single ladies all gathered around. Lydia pulled a hot air balloon, prefect for her desire to travel. Gina pulled a flower-meaning blossoming, love. She blushed before glancing at one of the guests she had been chatting with. Caroline got a star, and Elizabeth found she truly wished all of Caroline’s dreams would come true…as long as they had nothing to do with Will Darcy. Jane pulled the ring, of course, she would be the next to marry. The other charms were less symbolic- meaning things about happiness, security and longevity.

The single ladies were already gathered, so the bouquet toss was next. She hoped her friend, Charlotte would catch it but decided against aiming for her. She tossed it high, and there was a bit of a struggle, Caroline and a woman named TaNeshia knocking each other out of the way for it. Anne had just reached out her hand in response to Caroline falling over when the bouquet landed right in her arms. Elizabeth thought Anne looked mortified, but Aunt Cathy smiled as though there was more to the tradition than just an old wives’ tale on who would marry next.

The garter toss had an entirely different feeling to it. Will’s eyes never left hers as his hand slipped under her dress and seemed to travel far too high for where she had the garter directly above her knee at. His look conveyed the promise that they would be leaving very soon. As he tossed it over his shoulder, Elizabeth was struck with the awkwardness of her husband throwing her garments at other men. Strangely, the only one who seemed interested in it was her father’s junior partner, who she always found rather creepy, Bill Collins. He lunged and tripped over Rich’s feet. The garter hit him in the chest, and he caught it by reflex.

During the obligatory subsequent dance, Will whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. “Anne has been in love with Rich forever. I was sworn to secrecy, I hope she doesn’t read more into this than he means.”

Elizabeth looked at the dancing couple. “I don’t know. Rich seems to be enjoying himself. Didn’t you say earlier we have to let others live their lives?”

“I did. Will you choose now to learn of my infinite wisdom?”

“If you’re so wise then why do you keep our honeymoon destination a secret from me?”

“For the surprise, darling.”

She would argue more, but she loved it when he called her darling. The next song came on, which was to be the final one and instead of the DJ’s voice, they heard Mary’s over the microphone. “We’re closing out tonight with what I call Ode to Mainstream Mix.”

Elizabeth groaned as Lydia’s favorite dance came on, and she began twerking with George. She truly thought she might be nauseaus, but then she saw Aunt Cathy attempting it and began laughing. The entire crowd danced in tandem to other overdone songs such as the Macarena and the Electric Boogie before finishing it up with the Chicken Dance.

Finally, Will was pulling her to the door. His red, convertible mustang was just outside. Their family surged forward for hugs and kisses, they would be gone for a month. And then, it was just the two of them, driving into the night.

“Will you tell me where we’re going now?” Lizzy asked while she unpinned her hair and shook it free, letting it whip in the wind.

“No, because it’s up to you.”

“What?”

“Look in the glove box.”

She opened it up and found information for Italy and Hawaii. “Oh, Will! How am I going to choose?”

“Well, I thought we’d do one for our honeymoon and then go away again before school starts again for you.”

“It seems like too much!”

“Making you happy is never too much.” He pulled off the road and pulled into a hotel lot. “But for tonight, we will be staying here and I plan to make you very, very happy several times.”

“Will,” she scolded and blushed, but it secretly thrilled her when he talked that way.

He checked them in and led them up to their room. In the elevator, he pulled her close. The kiss started with her hand. He turned it over, he kissed her palm and then lingered on her wrist, making her pulse race. His lips had just met hers when the door opened. Without breaking the kiss, he led them to their room. When his head fell down to her neck while still in the door way, she pulled away just enough to shut the door.

Elizabeth awoke the next morning to her husband kissing her awake. Raining kisses over her face, he started with her eyelids which fluttered open to see his beaming smile and ended with her ear. It was a good thing their flight time was so flexible…

A Sense of Obligaiton excerpt

It seems that I have a broken link on here and I just found out about it while in the car! So until I can get it fixed this weekend, I want to have an excerpt of A Sense ofo Obligation up. Release date is July 25 and is currently available for preorder on Amazon but will be on other sites as well when it’s live.

Blurb: A chance, but meaningful, encounter in Netherfield’s library changes everything between Darcy and Elizabeth. As they rush to the altar, Darcy’s faulty memory may destroy their chance at domestic comfort before they begin. Knowing their obligations and no longer resisting their attraction, they forge a foundation of trust and respect. New feelings may not be enough, however, to overcome the misunderstanding which lays between them. Exploring the juncture of sentiment and reason, A Sense of Obligation, takes Darcy and Elizabeth on a passionate, humorous and introspective path toward happiness in marriage.

Chapter On
The first rays of sunlight filtered through the flimsy, but fashionable, curtains of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s bedchamber at Netherfield Park. Darcy groaned a little at the light and tried to ignore the signs of dawn in hopes of returning to his dream. It had been the most erotic and satisfying dream of his life; it nearly felt real.

“The best feeling ever,” he muttered to himself, only to have his sleep-addled mind reply, nothing could feel better than last night with Elizabeth Bennet.

The thought made him suddenly sit up in alarm, which made his head swell in pain. With a sinking feeling, he noticed his tangled bedclothes and felt a familiar sticky substance between his…bare…legs.

No, no, no. This is impossible, he thought. He was a gentleman; he did not importune innocent ladies, daughters of gentlemen, and Elizabeth Bennet had too much sense to succumb to any man’s seduction, let alone his. She did not seem to court his good opinion like most other ladies he knew. Darcy did not think she would attempt a scheme to entrap him, but neither did he think her in love with him or wanton.

He felt certain his earlier thought was the mark of a befuddled mind, caused by too much brandy from the night before if his headache was any sign. However, as he slowly disentangled himself from his bedclothes, he spied a red stain on the white bed linens.

Impossible! He told himself again. Surely, it was from an injury he unknowingly acquired. And then he saw it. A lady’s handkerchief embroidered with wildflowers, monogrammed ERB, with another blood stain.

He quickly checked himself for any sign of injury and found none. His senses became more alert as he recognised the lingering scent of lavender on his person.

“Dear Lord, forgive me!” he cried out in despair.

*****

At last, the birds were chirping, and Elizabeth felt it was a reasonable hour to begin her day. She had not slept, and her head pounded. Today she was to leave Netherfield after morning services. Not that I should walk into God’s house after last night.

Fortunately, she could claim the headache and a desire to stay with Jane as a means to miss the service. But she could not think of a way to avoid appearing at breakfast. If her headache were too intense to leave her room this morning, Mr. Bingley would likely demand she and Jane stay longer. Her mother would put up no fight at all, and then she would be residing under the same roof as Mr. Darcy even longer. And he was the last person in the world she desired to see, ever again!

No, he is not. As she looked at her stained mitt, the thought she had tried to keep locked away since last night came unbidden, and Elizabeth blushed in remembrance.

Last night, she had not been able to sleep and went to Netherfield’s library, hoping to find something dull and sleep-inducing. Instead, she found Mr. Darcy.

He had jumped up from his chair when she entered, and although she saw a glass of brandy in his hand, she had not considered him in his cups. Her eyes darted to the mostly-full decanter. He had stared at her, unspeaking, for a long minute before Elizabeth realised she was in her dressing gown and alone with him, her hair a wild mess and loose down her back.

She was turning to go when he grabbed her hand, bowed over it, and asked, “Miss Bennet, might I have the favour of this dance?”

Elizabeth looked at him as though he were fit for Bedlam, but he persisted. “I will not be denied your hand thrice. Now, come.”

Before she could be irritated at his high-handedness, he was singing “The Ash Grove” and leading her through the steps of a dance. She was quite surprised he chose the song she sang at Lucas Lodge and had to admit he sang and danced very well. He bade her join him in song, and all was well until they disagreed on the words for the last verse and dissolved into laughter. The sight of his handsome face lit up in a smile with dimples only added to her breathlessness. He seemed no less affected and nearly collapsed into his chair.

“In Derbyshire, my version is correct,” he insisted, unwilling to concede defeat.

She laughed and shook her head. “But you see we are not in Derbyshire, sir!” In truth, he had slipped into “Cease Your Funning” from The Beggar’s Opera, a song with a similar tune. Mr. Darcy’s ending was bitter about a woman’s charms, but it was more pleasant than a lover’s death. Elizabeth chose not to argue with him.

His eyes took on a look she could not make out, and he replied in a low voice, with sudden intensity, “Should you like to see Derbyshire, Miss Bennet?”

Elizabeth gulped but felt certain his meaning could not be what it seemed. He had only looked at her with disapproval and argued with everything she ever said, had he not? “Aye, sir, and perhaps one day I will. My Aunt Gardiner is from Lambton, and I frequently travel with my aunt and uncle in the summer. They speak often of visiting the northern counties and even the Lakes someday.”

“Indeed? What was her maiden name?” 

“Clark. Her father was…”

“The vicar at Kympton. My father knew him well. Father was quite sorry when Mr. Clark had to relocate the family to Bath for his wife’s health. I have only recently been able to find a satisfactory replacement.” An odd expression passed across his eyes, but he continued, “What a curious connection.”

“Yes.”

“And do you often stay with them?”

“Jane and I frequently do. To my mother’s dismay, I admit I prefer the bookshops and theatre to balls and soirées. I would rather not go during the height of the Season.”

He gave her another odd look and grew quiet for a moment, and Elizabeth stood to leave, realising the impropriety of the entire tête-à-tête.

Mr. Darcy hastily stood to bow, but when he did, he knocked his brandy glass from the table. Elizabeth immediately knelt down to pick up the broken shards, and at the same time, her dressing gown slipped open. Realising she must be much too bare to Mr. Darcy’s eyes with her shift indecently low on her bosom, she wrenched her hand back and tried to stand.

She cried out at a sharp pain in her hand, near her thumb. In her haste, she had cut herself on a piece of broken glass. In an instant, Mr. Darcy gathered her into his arms. Gently, he removed her lace mitt and produced a handkerchief from his pocket. Elizabeth was shocked to see it was her own. Where had he got it from? Earlier that very day, she had worked on one in the library. When he walked in, she set it aside, reading a book to discourage conversation. She must have left it behind when she finally went back to Jane, and Mr. Darcy must have pocketed it to return to her the next day.

The wound soon stopped bleeding, leaving a large blot on the handkerchief. As they inspected her hand, it was clear that stitches would not be required. Fortunately, it was her left, and she was right-handed; she could avoid using it until entirely healed. Elizabeth wondered why Mr. Darcy treated such a minor injury so seriously. He held her bare hand in his own, even caressing it while they stood looking into each other’s eyes. When Elizabeth discerned not disapproval but affection —and perhaps desire—in his blue eyes, she nearly swooned.

“Allow me to help you to your room.” He lifted her as though she weighed nothing and carried her to her room. Later she wondered how he knew which door was hers.

When they reached the door, he spoke softly. “I apologise that my actions were the cause of your pain.” He paused, and she almost believed he blushed, but the lighting was poor as only a small lamp lit the hallway, and she could not be sure. “And as for my display earlier, I fear the brandy may have gone to my head. Good night, Miss Elizabeth. Sleep well.” Then he turned and strode away.

She stumbled into her chamber and spent the hours until dawn in deep confusion. She was filled with shame to admit she found great comfort in his touch. She had seen a playful side of him she had never known before and confessed to herself he had always been handsome, but his smile and the disappearance of his arrogance made him captivating.

If he had not announced that any sign of regard she had seen him display for her was solely due to being half-drunk, she might have concluded he was in a fair way to being in love and think an offer was near. She could argue the sentiments she feared she now harboured, and the sensations she enjoyed, came naturally when in love. Instead, she was mortified, for she had thrilled to his touch, the touch only a husband should give. She could not even say she liked him, and they had no understanding. What did it say of her to allow him such liberty and enjoy it?

Never once did she reproach him or try to pull away. What must he think of me? She had conversed with him and danced with him late into the night, entirely alone. She arrived in only her night clothes, and when her dressing gown slipped open, her body was much too exposed to him. She allowed an embrace, caresses, and even acquiesced as he carried her to her bedchamber door. If they were seen, her reputation was ruined! She could even now still smell his scent, and the feel of his arms around her was seared into her memory and branded onto her flesh. Shame at her wantonness mingled with unrepentant enjoyment of the memory.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts and readied for the day before slipping silently into Jane’s room. She still slept. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth descended the stairs and entered the breakfast room. At the sight of Mr. Darcy, who made no acknowledgement of her presence other than rising, her traitorous heart screamed out, never yours!

Pre-order link

WIPSunday: A Sense of Obligation

This week I didn’t get to write anything new, which means it’s been a crazy week. Instead, I edited A Sense of Obligation. I’ve mentioned before that I expanded Jane and Bingley scenes and here’s a snippet from one of my favorite additions!


dress finalIn the carriage on the way to his solicitor’s office, he shook his head. Caroline had not taken the news of his engagement to Jane well. She took the news of Darcy’s engagement to Elizabeth even worse. When Miss Lucas’ betrothal was announced at the ball, Caroline’s mouth fell open. He found Charlotte Lucas very pleasant company, but women like his sister only saw that she was plain, nearly on the shelf, and had no fortune and no style. Caroline had not kept her complaints to herself in the days between the ball and Darcy’s wedding.

“What can possibly recommend her to him?” she asked over breakfast while Darcy was out riding the morning after the ball.

“I daresay he loves her,” Louisa replied.

“Love? Nonsense! Why should a man of Mr. Darcy’s stature marry a woman as lowborn as Eliza Bennet for love?”

He and Louisa shared a look and simply shook their heads.

“He has a duty to his estate and blood line to marry someone of better standing. It was rumoured he would make a match with his cousin.”

Bingley rolled his eyes. “You have spent years saying that rumour was incorrect. You cannot change your opinion merely because he did not choose you.”

Caroline scoffed and rose to pour another cup of tea. “You ought to have done better than Jane, too,” she said. She furiously stirred the tea, and the spoon clanging on the side of her teacup grated his nerves nearly as much as her words.

“Jane is a gentleman’s daughter and will make a wonderful mistress to any estate I purchase. I have done fine by my duty.”

Mr. Hurst grumbled, “See to yours now, Caroline.”

She returned to her seat and pouted a moment. “There were far too many betrothals announced at the ball! Reverend Black’s scandalous sermon the other week must have instigated all of these. Good heavens! Can you imagine Miss Lucas found in a compromising position?”

“That is enough! I will not allow you to malign another person’s name at my table.” It had felt good to take a firm stand.
Caroline continued as though she did not hear. “It must be why Darcy proposed to Eliza as well. I am certain she used some kind of allurement on him when she stayed here. There was no need for her to arrive at all! She came solely to gain Mr. Darcy’s notice!”

Bingley stood and tossed his napkin on the table. “You have gone too far. You have attempted to smear Miss Lucas’ name and now Darcy and Miss Elizabeth’s. Who is next? Jane? Me?”

“Do be serious, Charles. You at least liked Jane the entire time we have been here. If only you would have returned to Town, we could have nipped this little infatuation in the bud, but you must see it is quite different than Darcy’s interest in Eliza.”

Bingley had turned red in anger. “It is clear you will not learn. I will not be beholden to your welfare any longer. You know I journey to London in part to change matters of your dowry as you are recently of age, and I am no longer your guardian. As such, you will have complete control of your shares of our Father’s company, and I encourage you to either marry this Season or make plans for your own establishment, for you will no longer be welcome in my home.”


A Sense of Obligation is available now for preorder on Amazon and will be releasing there, Nook, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, ibooks, GooglePlay and Scribd (I hope) on July 25th.

Throwback Thursday- Lady Elizabeth Hamilton Stanley

Countess of Derby, by George Romney c. 1776-78.
Countess of Derby, by George Romney c. 1776-78.
I’m editing A Sense of Obligation (and posting a newer version on Beyond Austen, Austen Authors, and The Peculiar Ramblings Library) and while working on it I recalled the research I put into Darcy’s London House. They don’t spend much time at Pemberley before the story ends, so I really wanted Darcy House to mean something instead. There weren’t any London outings for Darcy to show his love and devotion to Elizabeth, etc.

At some point in my youth, I wanted to be an architect and/or a home designer. Naturally, I wanted to see actual floor plans of houses on Grosvenor Square and other fashionable districts. One of my favorites was of Derby House, renovated by Robert Adam- famous Georgian architect- at the direction of the 12th Earl Lord Stanley. I didn’t do any research on the Earl while I wrote my story, but I recalled there being only one room listed as a bedchamber, and I thought that was rather interesting for the era! Upon further, recent research it seems there was a twin bed made for his lordship’s dressing room (which reminds me of the arrangements for Downton Abbey). The other week I decided to look him up, and I expected to read about a happily married couple. Instead, I found one of Society’s scandals!

Born in 1753, Elizabeth Hamilton was the eldest daughter of the 6th Duke of Hamilton. When she came out, she was considered quite the catch, but it was Edward Smith-Stanley, heir to the Earl of Derby, who won her hand. After a publicized and fervent courtship in which Derby hosted a ball in Lady Elizabeth’s honor twice, they married in 1774. They settled in his recently remodeled town house, and her husband inherited the earldom in 1776. A son was born in 1775 and daughters in 1776 and 1778. Lady Derby became a leader in Society, on the scales of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

The first two floor plans here are the renovated layout of No. 26 (formerly 23) Grosvenor Square, known as Derby House. The changes were commissioned by the future 12th earl when he came of age and inherited the family London house, but before he inherited the earldom.
The first two floor plans here are the renovated layout of No. 26 (formerly 23) Grosvenor Square, known as Derby House. The changes were commissioned by the future 12th earl when he came of age and inherited the family London house, but before he inherited the earldom.
In early 1778, however, rumors arose that she was having an affair with the 3rd Duke of Dorset, John Sackville. The situation escalated so by August of that year she was openly living apart from her husband. At first it was expected that they would divorce, and she would marry Dorset. Her standing in Society was not immediately destroyed as she might soon be a duchess. A year later her husband announced he would never divorce her, and Lady Derby’s reputation was obliterated. Her husband kept custody of the children, as was the standard of the time. Historians believe blocking access to her children contributed to her poor health, and she became chronically ill. She lived abroad until 1783 when she returned to London as her husband was openly in a relationship with actress Elizabeth Farren- reportedly unconsummated. Around 1784, Lady Derby was finally accepted in London society again, including being seen in company with the Duchess of Devonshire (later to have her own scandalous affair and matrimonial tale). Still refusing to divorce his wife, Derby and Farren finally married in 1797, two months after Lady Derby died of tuberculosis.

Historians disagree over if Lady Derby’s loss of standing was because she left her husband or because the affair was not conducted more privately. While many ladies of the huate ton had affairs, to keep their social status, they were tolerated if conducted out of the public eye. Additionally, there were cases of elopements and divorce in which the lady was still accepted in Society. In Lady Derby’s situation, it seems she misplaced her trust not only in choosing a husband, but in selecting a lover who appears did not press the case of desiring to wed her. She quickly fell like a star from the heavens, illustrating how hypocritical and fickle high society could be.

Publishing news!!

So, I’ve been busy behind the scenes with publishing things. Which means editing, more editing, formatting and book cover decisions etc. Don’t worry, I’m still writing! I like to stay busy and the Muse won’t leave me alone.

So here’s what’s coming up:

UndoneBusiness-EBookFinalUndone Business: releasing April 8 and then will also be part of an anthology later in April or May.

Upon leaving Hertfordshire in early December, Darcy feels certain he provided reasons for Elizabeth to distrust Mr. Wickham. She, in turn, believes Darcy understands Jane’s feelings for Mr. Bingley. Disappointed in her attempts to see Bingley again, Jane despairs of ever finding happiness. Yet, the business of life cannot always remain undone. When Darcy and Elizabeth meet again in Kent, both couples must face the courses their lives have taken. Undone Business explores the cost of both opportunities missed and second chances seized.

 

photoshopped3No Cause to Repine: Releasing May 25. This is a full length novel. Now available for pre-order on Amazon!

When a simple accident is misinterpreted and threatens Elizabeth Bennet’s reputation her fate seems sealed as Fitzwilliam Darcy’s wife. While the bride is resigned, the gentleman could hardly be happier until betrayals and schemes threaten to entirely take the matter out of their hands. Overcoming the plots before them will take all the patience, perseverance and collaboration they can muster, but a partnership requires truth. Self-discovery and trust awaits Jane Austen’s most beloved and willfully blind couple as they attempt to master their own destiny in life and love.

A Sense of Obligation: August 2015. Full length novel.

A chance but meaningful encounter in Netherfield’s library leads Darcy and Elizabeth to face their poor behavior and feelings for each other.

A Winter Wonderland: November 2015. Short stories.

I’m really excited about this and taking this step to writing full time. But you’ll always see the stories first here on the blog. So while these are being published, new ones will be posted.

Also, I’m editing A Sense of Obligation and adding some scenes. This new version is available on Beyond Austen and Austen Authors’ The Writer’s Block.