Friday Feature–Letters from the Heart

LFTHEvery few weeks, I’ll be posting an excerpt from one of my back list of previously published stories. I tend to like to be organized in my head (even if I can never remember how many books I have out) so I’m just going in order. Maybe once that’s over I can think about themes or series or exciting things. Last month’s post was The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter. This week’s excerpt is Letters from the Heart. Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Here’s the (current) blurb:

The line between love and hate has never been closer.

 

Memories of Elizabeth Bennet torture Fitzwilliam Darcy during a winter in London. Resenting his love for her, he writes a cathartic letter intended to release his repressed feelings. When it is mistakenly mailed, there is only one thing he can do.
In Hertfordshire, Elizabeth’s mind returns again and again to the exasperating enigma of Mr. Darcy. Distraught and confused, she journals her hatred for the man but soon misplaces the letter never meant to be read.

When others presume an engagement, their paths seem sealed. However, rather than bringing about a marriage, their words of regret and anger threaten to separate them forever.

A stand alone novella in the Jane Austen Re-imaginings series, Letters from the Heart is for all who need a heartfelt Darcy and Elizabeth fix. Treat yourself to a romantic read from Rose Fairbanks.

 

Well, let’s give my faithful blog readers a treat and let you see Darcy’s letter!


Monday, December 9, 1811

Darcy House, London

 

Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth,

Are you shocked at the forwardness of my address? I should hope not, for I dearly love calling you Elizabeth. You will always be my Elizabeth.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Have I shocked you again with my declaration of love? I assure you it is a true, constant love. I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun. 

How have you bewitched me? I have seen the beauties of the first circle and have remained unmoved until I was captivated by your fine eyes dancing not in candlelight, but in mirth and obvious joy. I have listened to the most exalted performers in the land, yet it is your performance that plays again in my mind. I have conversed with women educated by the finest masters at the best schools, but not one of them has your unique combination of intelligence, honesty, wit and sweetness. I know many women whom are lauded for their kindness, but I know none who would walk three miles after a storm to nurse a sick sister, or forebear Miss Bingley’s insults with such civility. I have been hunted in ballrooms since my youth, and you are the first woman of my acquaintance to refuse to stand up with me, and certainly the first to not seek my approbation. 

This must be the answer. I love you because you are genuine and unaffected. You do not simper or seek to flatter. The ladies of my acquaintance may be draped in the rarest silk and costly gold trinkets, and tout many so-called accomplishments, but they can only repeat my own opinion. They are not authentic. You are the most delightful woman of my acquaintance, the only real woman of my acquaintance, as the others are mere figments of fashionable society.

But to one of these insipid ladies I will have to shackle myself one day to serve my duty to my family. Your connections in trade and the improper behaviour of your family could never find a place in London society. Though I care little for it, I must protect my family’s position for the sake of my sister and my future children. And the ladies of the ton would be most unkind to you. I should hate to see you abused or regret a connection to me, though I rather think you would laugh at their folly instead.

In moments like these I must confess I would gladly cast aside my concerns about your family and connections, if only you showed me some encouragement. Instead you have fallen under Wickham’s spell of charming manners. Tell me, what is it young ladies find irresistible about the reprobate? His ability to gamble away three thousand pounds given in lieu of a valuable living—at his request—in the course of two years? Or is it his attempts to seduce young heiresses into elopement, as he tried with my sister? 

I should be angry with you. I should be angry that you are foolish enough to believe his lies, and foolish enough to doubt my honour. You destroyed the pleasure of our dance at Netherfield, which was supposed to offer me a lifetime of memories.  Instead you brought up that cad. But I cannot be angry with you. He has deceived many, myself included. I love you entirely, even if you suffer from some misjudgements. I know you by heart – your errors are just further proof of your affectionate character.

I should be angry that you cannot leave my mind for a moment. You have invaded my senses, my every waking hour and each night as well. I want peace and respite from this, Elizabeth! Yet I cannot blame you. It is my weakness that leads me to love a lady unsuitable for my standing. You are not charming, intelligent, witty and beautiful by design. Your enticements are wholly natural and intrinsic.

I am alternately angry and relieved that Miss Bennet does not hold my friend in the same esteem he holds her. If they had married, would I meet with you frequently? Would it be enough to simply keep an acquaintance with you and to satisfy myself with a few lively conversations a year? Would I be forced to see you marry another and bear his children? Or would I claim the honour? And should I try, would you deny me even as you have denied me a dance?

I have made a mess of things, Elizabeth. I cannot see myself through this, though I pride myself in my superior judgment. Since I cannot see clearly, I have run like a coward, hoping the distance would remove the need to find answers, but it has not. You are here with me, Lizzy. You are in my heart.

Perhaps this letter may serve as a balm, and I can regain my composure. Perhaps after this confession I will be able to close my eyes and not see yours laughing at me. It may be that after I conclude this note I will stop searching for your face everywhere I go, remembering your words, and faintly smelling your fragrance.

It may be. I pray it is. And yet my heart tells me there will be none but you residing in it.

Forever yours,

Fitzwilliam Darcy


What would you do if you read such a letter? What do you think Darcy does when he realizes it’s been mailed?

This letter is still one of my favorite things I’ve written. When I posted it on a forum, I had a reader say it reminded her of a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. I absolutely love that movie so I took it as high praise!

http://youreon.net/wonderful-life-phone-scene/

Buy links: (I am still loading the new cover on the other sites)

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

iBooks

 

Cover Reveal

I didn’t share the cover on here before because what I selected and photoshopped was just to be a place holder to get the book on pre-order, but No Cause to Repine has a gorgeous and official cover now! As with all my covers this was done by Peculiar World Designs made by the irreplaceable and multi-talented Sarah Johnson. 

Coming out on Amazon and Nook May 25!!!!

 

No Cause to Repine

This story is being edited for publication and will release May 25, 2015. Here is a sample of chapter one. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Blurb:

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 await Jane Austen’s most beloved and willfully blind couple as they attempt to master their own destiny in life and love.

Ch. 1
Monday, March 30, 1812
Hunsford Parsonage, Kent
“I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near her family. Where there is enough fortune, distance becomes no evil. Such is not the case with my friend. I am certain she would not call herself near her family under less than half the present distance,” Elizabeth Bennet said in her usual pert way in response to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s claim that Mrs. Collins was settled near her family.

Darcy drew his chair a little towards her. Since leaving Hertfordshire in late November, he had missed Elizabeth’s manner of conversation immensely. He had missed her immensely. Now he believed she just settled his final concern on their alliance.

“You cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at Longbourn.” He often wondered how she was more refined than her family. His fortune would allow her to visit her family, and yet the distance would be enough to discourage frequent trips.

Elizabeth looked surprised. He had not meant to show so much emotion before declaring himself, but it was too hard to resist. Leaving Hertfordshire had resulted in torture of the acutest kind for him, for he could not rid his mind or heart of the lovely and witty Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Meeting her again at his aunt’s estate must be a matter of fate.
Darcy drew back his chair and took a newspaper from the table. He did not consider if it appeared uncivil; he only desired to hide his expression.

In a colder voice than he used only a moment ago, he asked, “Are you pleased with Kent?”
The two had been speaking of the differences between Hertfordshire and Kent as Darcy considered this fortuitous and solitary call on the parsonage. He had needed time, since his arrival in the country, to reconsider his long-held arguments against the union. A deliberate and thorough man, taking time to review all the facts and weighing the concerns and outcomes of every decision, he did not act impulsively. Once his course was set, however, he was obstinate about making his will, superior as he was convinced it was, come to pass. Knowing no woman could refuse him, and believing Elizabeth partial to him, he was tempted to present his suit immediately. Still, he desired to show his enduring admiration and court Elizabeth for the remaining week.

Belatedly, Darcy realised the impropriety of extending the visit. Rising to take his leave, he tripped over a lump in the rug caused by the previous movements of his chair. He fell directly into Elizabeth’s lap.

Before either of them could even cry out in astonishment, the door flew open, admitting not only Mrs. Collins and Miss Lucas but Mr. Collins and a maid as well. Immediately, Elizabeth jumped up, ignoring Darcy entirely, and he landed on the floor with a grunt. His heart raced and not merely from being caught in such a position.

“Eliza!”

“Cousin Elizabeth!”

“Charlotte, I… ”

Utter pandemonium ensued. While Darcy rose from the floor, Mrs. Collins shooed Miss Lucas upstairs. The maid immediately fled, but Mr. Collins would not be moved. He stammered something about being saved from a disastrous fate before walking briskly across the room to throw open the door.

“Elizabeth Bennet, how dare you impose yourself on Mr. Darcy! A nephew of Lady Catherine! You shall leave my home immediately on the next post carriage. I care not where you go; your death would be a blessing compared to the way you have shamed your family by prostituting yourself. Mr. Darcy, let us leave directly for Rosings.”

Elizabeth turned red, and before Darcy could say a thing, she spoke with vehemence, “Mr. Darcy only tripped over the rug! You cannot possibly believe I would ever…”

She was cut off by Mr. Collins again, this time looking at Darcy. “I can see that you have surrendered to the allurements of my cousin and designed to meet her privately while we were without. Rest assured, I shall tell your esteemed aunt everything, and I am most certain that she will forgive you of your weakness. Men often do fall prey to such cheap arts,” he said, giving Elizabeth a disdainful look.

Darcy attempted to pay no mind to Mr. Collins; he was too worried for Elizabeth. She took a step forward, and he nearly believed she would strike her cousin. Then she turned and looked at Darcy in anger before storming out of the room.

Darcy watched her leave, then came in close to Mr. Collins. Not caring to dignify the toady man’s accusations, he only said, “I am not leaving, and you can have no reason to inform Lady Catherine of my affairs.”

Undeterred, Mr. Collins declared again his intent to speak with Lady Catherine and left in a great hurry for his patroness’s abode. Darcy stood in stunned silence for a moment.
He could hope that his aunt would not believe her parson. Darcy had an honourable reputation. Then he considered her likely low opinion of the male sex in general. While he lived, there had been rumours of her husband taking mistresses and visiting brothels.

Even if she believed in Darcy’s honour, she would have no difficulty believing Elizabeth as mercenary and scheming. He always knew his aunt would be angry over his choosing any bride but her daughter, and would certainly be outraged by one from a lower circle, but she had no tolerance for improprieties. Darcy had no doubt, his aunt would terribly abuse Elizabeth. Advancing his plans by a week, he strode confidently to the garden.

He saw Elizabeth standing still with her back to the house, her shoulders slumped and arms wrapped around herself. He walked closer to her, but she seemed not to notice his presence.

“I will not allow her to harm you in any way.”

“Sir?” She dropped her arms to her side as she whirled to face him.

Darcy saw she did not understand him. “I do not know your cousin well, but I know my aunt will likely believe his report. Between the two, I do think they would expel you and smear your name.”

Elizabeth slowly nodded. “Yes, Mr. Collins would tell the tale far and wide to congratulate himself on not marrying me or into such a family.”

He started at the suggestion that Mr. Collins had actually proposed to his Elizabeth. He could hear the anxiety in her voice as she continued.

“Charlotte could do nothing to stop him, nor would she want to displease Lady Catherine. Maria loves to gossip, so does her mother. Who knows what the maid would say? My family…”

He quickly interrupted and took one of her hands. “I had wanted to take the time to display my regard more deliberately and assure you of my constancy. This is not at all the way I imagined this moment for these last several months, but I am happy for the opportunity.”

He paused a moment and looked to the side, struggling to find the words he wished to say but thankful he had given it some thought already. He missed the look of incredulity on Elizabeth’s face.

He then looked her directly in the eye. He stood a bit straighter and proclaimed with confidence, “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

He exhaled then and was proud that he was able to perform the premeditated words to his fastidious standards. With less vigour and a hint of uncertainty as he attempted to conceal his original reservations, he renewed his sentiments. “This is not the match expected of me, but I believe that we will find such extraordinary causes for happiness that we will not repine our union, even if society should act its worst—which I do not truly expect.”

Taking a long breath, he paused over the most important words he had uttered in his life. “Please, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, will you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?” He spoke with tenderness and believed his expression displayed all the longings of his heart.

Elizabeth was silent for some time before stammering, “You are offering marriage?”
Darcy paused for a moment until he believed he understood the source of her confusion.

“Elizabeth,” he presumed to call her and triumphed when he was not corrected, “I can see that my regard has surprised you, and we can certainly speak on that later, but we are running out of time to make arrangements before my aunt arrives at the parsonage with all the fury a scorned and delusional woman can exhibit. Nevertheless, I would like to hear the words.”

She paused and took a deep breath before speaking softly, “Yes, Mr. Darcy, I accept your request. I am honoured.”

“My love, you have made me so very happy.” He smiled and squeezed Elizabeth’s still captive hand. He did not observe her look of unease. “Now, I wish we could enjoy this moment, but I think it best if we leave immediately. I shall send an express ahead to your relations in London, and we shall arrive before nightfall. I will continue to Hertfordshire tomorrow to speak with your father.”

Elizabeth quickly cut in, “I wish to go with you.”

He smiled at her eagerness. No, he had no desire to separate from her either. “I had planned to return right away to begin arrangements. I had hoped you would stay with your relatives in London.” He squeezed her hand. “I do not wish to part with you, and you would be able to meet my sister.”

“Perhaps…perhaps I could return to London, but I must insist on going to Longbourn with you.”

Darcy smiled again. Of course, she should be present to share her family’s joy. Thinking of how they would express said joy made him readily agree she should be present. Elizabeth had a way of silencing her mother.

“I am certain my aunt will demand you be removed, but you can be assured I will not allow you to be cast off and sent by post. I will send a footman to Rosings to direct my valet to pack my things and have my coach ready. I dare not leave you, even for a moment, for fear of my aunt somehow spiriting you away.” Darcy realised he sounded overly authoritative.

He quickly added, “Did you have any suggestions?”

“I shall ask Mrs. Collins to arrange for a maid to travel with us as chaperone,” she snapped.

Although disappointed, Darcy agreed. He had not thought it would be too large a breach in propriety to be alone with her, but given the accusations already thrown at her, he could understand her concerns.

“An excellent suggestion. Should we not return to the house?” He was growing anxious. His aunt would likely arrive soon.

Elizabeth mumbled, “Very well, sir.”

“William, please, dearest.”

“William,” Elizabeth conceded, blushing profusely, while Darcy lightly chuckled.

In the hallway, he saw a maid and asked that Mrs. Collins be brought down.

When Mrs. Collins entered, she immediately went to her friend. “Eliza, are you well?”

“Oh, yes, Charlotte. Merely preoccupied.” She glanced at Darcy, and he was pleased to continue with the announcement.

“I am happy to announce that Miss Elizabeth and I are betrothed. Regrettably, we see the need to depart, allowing for my aunt’s expected displeasure. I wonder if you might have a suggestion for a chaperone, as we plan to be gone within the hour.”

Mrs. Collins smiled and replied, “I am certain that my maid, Molly, may serve suitably. I shall go tell her at once and have her help Eliza pack her trunks.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Collins. Please allow me to apologise for any strain in the relationship you may experience between my aunt and yourselves. If you have difficulties,” here they shared a knowing look, “please do not hesitate to contact my housekeeper in London, Mrs. Campbell. She shall alert me directly should you require my assistance.”

“I thank you, sir. And please allow me to congratulate you. Elizabeth is a gem and a very fortunate woman.”

“It is I who am fortunate. I feel as though I can breathe again.” He glanced to Elizabeth, who had an unreadable expression on her face.

“Eliza, come. We must get you packed,” Mrs. Collins broke Elizabeth’s reverie.

“Oh, yes, Charlotte, of course,” she said, and with a nod, added, “Mr. Darcy.”

She tried to quickly exit the sitting room, but he strode to her and kissed her hands. “I shall anxiously await you, my future Mrs. Darcy,” he said, causing another round of profuse blushing for Elizabeth.

*****

Elizabeth followed Charlotte up the stairs to her room, insensible to anything but her rapidly progressing thoughts. Future Mrs. Darcy! Mrs. Darcy! Wife to Mr. Darcy! Wife to arrogant, hateful Mr. Darcy!

Upon reaching Elizabeth’s room, Mrs. Collins shut the door and stated, “I see you are puzzling this out, Eliza. Let me caution you to wait until at least the carriage ride. Heaven only knows how long we have before Lady Catherine descends upon us.”

Elizabeth finished packing the last of her items in her trunk and closed the lid with dread, acknowledging that with the action, all her hopes for happiness were shut out of her life. Then she watched with resignation as a footman carried it out of her room, and she collapsed on the little chair next to her bed. Mr. Darcy’s carriage had arrived, and Mrs. Collins and the maid had left to make the final arrangements for Elizabeth and Darcy’s departure. Mrs. Collins had warned Elizabeth not to take time to reflect on the recent occurrences, but Elizabeth had never been as practical as Charlotte. I suppose if I were, I would have married Mr. Collins!

Charlotte believed happiness in marriage was a mere matter of chance, no matter how attached the couple were at the beginning. Elizabeth vehemently disagreed. If a couple nurtured their affection and sustained their friendship, then no matter the fickleness of life, their happiness should be assured. No, happiness in marriage was not a matter of chance; it was a product of work and attention. How is happiness achieved with mutual dislike?

Although Mr. Darcy had uttered a scant few words of professed love, Elizabeth perceived no sentiment behind it. He barely knew her; his attachment would be as imaginary as Mr. Collins’s had been. She still could not understand his allusion to a previous desire to propose when she had always been certain he disliked her. Perhaps he felt it would alleviate some of her duress if he feigned admiration for her? Elizabeth snorted at such a thought. Mr. Darcy could barely be civil most of the time, let alone be sensitive to another’s feelings, nor could she suppose him able to affect such a romantic notion as love. At any rate, he is clearly willing to put his dislike for me aside, and I should probably do the same.

If only I were Jane. Jane would find a way to be content, perhaps even happy. Jane could forget that the hateful man she was to marry was so dishonourable that he cheated his father’s favourite, the companion of his youth, out of a valuable living and left him in poverty. Elizabeth knew her lively talents put her in grave danger in an unequal marriage. How can I esteem and respect him? How can I live but in misery with such a man? She willed herself not to resort to tears of frustration, anger, and self-pity.

Annoyingly, Mr. Darcy’s smiling face rose to her mind then, and she was reminded that he did not have to offer her marriage, as his reputation was not of concern. He was doing the honourable thing. He even seemed happy about it. What a bundle of contradictions Mr. Darcy was! She wondered if she were mistaken in her impression of his character or if this afternoon was an anomaly.

Before she could contemplate further, a great ruckus was heard at the main door. Lady Catherine had entered the parsonage. Elizabeth swiftly descended the stairs, propelled by intrepid curiosity. She expected to be abused by Lady Catherine and paused in astonishment as she heard Darcy’s vehement defence. She could do naught but stand stock still and listen in wonderment.

*****

Lady Catherine sat in the expansive blue drawing room in Rosings Park. She expected her daughter and nephews to enter momentarily, as they always gathered before dining. Instead, her butler entered.

“Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins here to see you on urgent business,” the aged butler informed her.

Lady Catherine sucked in a steadying breath, preparing to handle whatever imaginary crisis her clergyman would present.

Bowing deeply, Mr. Collins breathlessly began, “My dear patroness, I fear I bear bad tidings and assure you that I will condole with you most readily.”

“Mr. Collins, might you tell me the bad tidings before you offer condolences?” Lady Catherine picked at invisible lint on her silk gown. She did not take his concerns too seriously; she had wanted a sycophant, but there were times when the price was great.

Part of his hair came loose and bobbed with his head in agitation. “I wish to apologise for ever bringing her here. You may be certain that I have already made orders for her to be sent away immediately.”

Lady Catherine looked sharply at her clergyman, and her eyes narrowed. “Her? Do I understand correctly, your troubles involve one of the young ladies who are your guests?”

Mr. Collins did not seem to discern the beginnings of Lady Catherine’s wrath and fearlessly replied, “Yes, madam, my cousin, Elizabeth. Though I should not be surprised at her wanton acts, given the flirtatious behaviour I saw her younger sisters exhibit. Indeed, it was one of the reasons I could not bear to unite myself with the household. For who would wish to connect themselves to such a family?”

Losing her patience, Lady Catherine’s shrill voice broke in, “What grievous wrongdoing has your cousin committed, Mr. Collins? I demand you come to the point.”

The gentleman blushed slightly and, while attempting to bow over her hand to ask forgiveness, explained, “My lady, it gives me great pain to tell you that she has used her arts and allurements to entrap your nephew in a most compromising manner.”

Lady Catherine gasped and gripped the arms of her chair. “The colonel! Whatever was he doing with her alone?” After catching her breath, she declared, “Yes, send her away at once. Undoubtedly, she thought to secure him due to his connections, but he has not the income to be bound to her. She shall not see a penny of my money, so it shall all come to naught.”

She waved her hand dismissively and began to demand Mr. Collins leave her presence when at last he managed to stutter, “Not the colonel, madam. It was…was…was Mr. Darcy.” The words came out in a squeak.

Lady Catherine bellowed, “This is not to be borne! I am most seriously displeased!”
Quickly realising that the notion of Elizabeth Bennet in a compromising position with Darcy was much different than that of the colonel, she began to make for the door. “Bring me to her at once! I shall deal with her myself! Mrs. Jenkinson! Mrs. Jenkinson!”

Upon seeing her daughter’s companion enter, Lady Catherine continued, “Keep Anne in her room; she is not to leave. I shall be back after the dinner hour.” Thus, the nearly apoplectic Lady Catherine departed with a great rustling of skirts, followed by her toad of a clergyman.

*****

Lady Catherine fumed during the carriage ride to the parsonage and entirely ignored her clergyman’s bumbled apologies. She was outraged, of course, but more than that, the great lady was afraid. Terrified. Fitzwilliam Darcy was an honourable man and had successfully avoided London society’s machinations of ensnaring him for the last ten years. If he were found in a compromising position, it must be by his own will. Additionally, for him to succumb to any desires of the flesh so blatantly could only mean one thing: he was in love with and betrothed to Elizabeth Bennet. But the lady could not fathom that her nephew, who held great familial pride, would forsake everything for a romantic notion. Few knew it, but the lady had a very quick and shrewd mind, and she instantly began to formulate a plan that would make her nephew bend to her will.

Lady Catherine would provoke his pride and remind him of Miss Bennet’s inferior place in society, of his duty to family. She would prey on his fear, that he was once again being used merely for his wealth and connections. Her ladyship was not above invoking his mother’s name or even using his role as guardian for Georgiana against him. Lady Catherine knew all about the aborted elopement last summer. Darcy’s beloved sister nearly married, in the most scandalous fashion, the son of his father’s steward. The betrayal felt by Darcy was all the greater, given his history with George Wickham: once a playmate and dearest friend turned depraved and mercenary, motivated by jealousy and resentment of the Darcy name.

Should that fail, she would pressure Miss Bennet. Lady Catherine thought she noticed some reserved admiration from her nephew for the girl the prior evening but perceived no regard in return; in fact, it appeared she disliked him, or perhaps they simply were in the midst of a lovers’ spat. She knew Elizabeth to be intelligent but worried about her sensibility. If she were truly sensible, or what many called mercenary, all would work in her ladyship’s favour. But Lady Catherine believed the ridiculous girl was too principled to feign attachment and seek Darcy’s approbation to earn his esteem. Nor did she believe him capable of being lost to blind lust. If Darcy could be taken in by a mercenary woman, he would have succumbed years ago. If he valued her, then she must be genuine.

Lady Catherine would attempt to offer some funds for Elizabeth to break the engagement but suspected that plan would fail. Yet with relatives as ridiculous as Mr. Collins, and knowing Miss Bennet had others in trade, it should prove no difficulty to find some harmful secret. Surely Darcy’s attachment could not withstand a scandal, and if Miss Bennet truly cared for him, she would not wish to tarnish his reputation. In fact, she knew exactly whom to hire. As Lady Catherine thought longer on the matter, she realised that although this plot would take more time, the expense would be less, and she was astutely aware of Rosings’ need for funds.

The idea that her scheming for the last sixteen years may come to naught enraged the lady anew. She would not allow this union to continue. She had allowed Darcy too much latitude in the past, always bringing Fitzwilliam with him on visits, impervious to any chances of meeting Anne alone. This was supposed to be the visit that brought her greatest wish. Anne would be well settled, Rosings would be saved, and Lady Catherine would never see the dower house. Finally reaching her destination, she clambered from the carriage, surprisingly limber for her age due to her rage, blind to all else but her mission.

Incensed, she barged into the parsonage.

*****

As usual, Mr. Darcy heard his aunt before he saw her, even more so with the thinner walls of the parsonage, and was thankful that he stayed within to shield Elizabeth from his aunt’s wrath.

“Nephew, what is the meaning of this? I demand that you leave this harlot immediately. Depart for London to make arrangements for your marriage to Anne!” Lady Catherine thundered at Darcy, the feathers on her bonnet bobbing furiously as her whole body shook with rage.

“I will not marry Anne, Aunt. I shall marry Miss Bennet and no other,” Mr. Darcy calmly replied.

“Marry that Jezebel?”

“Do not speak of my future wife in that way!”

“Have you lost the use of your reason? She has beguiled you in a moment of infatuation and made you forget what you owe yourself and all your family.”

“I assure you, my affection has been above six months; this is not the work of a moment. And I will not remind you again to not speak ill of the future Mrs. Darcy. She has always conducted herself with the utmost decorum and grace!”

Lady Catherine began again, “I am the nearest relation you have in the world. Is this any way to repay me for all my notice to you?”

“I believe my dear sister has that claim on me, and any notice you have given has been of a devious and selfish bent,” Darcy replied bitterly.

“Let me be rightly understood. This match can never take place. You are engaged to my daughter. I shall make it known to this Miss Bennet and all of society as well!”

“You know that is the greatest falsehood, and it is a rumour perpetrated by yourself alone. If you announce that there has been a pre-existing engagement to your daughter, you shall only harm her reputation. I shall not be moved in this,” Darcy spoke uncompromisingly.

“It was the dearest wish of your mother!”

“Perhaps, but its completion depended on others. I am neither by honour nor inclination confined to my cousin, and I have made my choice.”

“Do not expect her to be noticed by your family or friends. She will be censured, slighted, and despised by everyone connected to you. This alliance will be a disgrace; her name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”

“These are heavy misfortunes,” Darcy said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “But our union shall have such extraordinary sources of happiness attached to the situation that upon the whole, we shall have no cause to repine. Nor should you presume to speak for the entire Fitzwilliam family. You know I am the head of the Darcys.”

“I am determined and resolute to carry my purpose. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment!” Lady Catherine spoke with an air of finality.

“You are widely mistaken in my character if you think this will have an effect on me,” Darcy interrupted.

Lady Catherine slammed her walking cane on the carpeted floor with such force that its loud thud reverberated through the room. She roared, “Hear me in silence! You and Anne are formed for each other. You are descended, on the maternal side from the same noble line; and on the father’s, from respectable, honourable, and ancient, though untitled, families. Both of your fortunes are splendid.”

Darcy did not flinch at her vulgar display and instead merely raised an eyebrow in skepticism at the last statement but allowed his aunt to continue.

“I will not allow this upstart without family, connections, or fortune to divide you and Anne. If you truly cared for this strumpet, you would not wish her to quit the sphere in which she has been brought up! Society shall scorn her for reaching so far outside of her rank.”

“In marrying me, she should not be quitting her sphere. I am a gentleman; she is a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal ,” Darcy marvelled that he could realize such a truth while doing battle with his aunt.

Lady Catherine tried the route of reason again. “True, she is a gentleman’s daughter. But who is her mother? Who are her uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.”

“Whatever her connections may be, I do not object to them. They can mean nothing to you.”

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young man. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I require.”

“And I certainly never shall give it! I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable.” Darcy grew bored with her attempts at browbeating. His experience as master of an estate made him quite impervious to such arts.

“You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude? You are determined to be ruined in the opinion of all your friends and make yourself the contempt of the world?”

Darcy perceived Lady Catherine’s attempt at an acknowledged weakness in him: submitting to honour and his duty of position.

Previously, Darcy wished he had not taken so long to overcome his reservations regarding a match with Elizabeth, but now he saw the blessing in so persistently studying the arguments until he could vanquish his concerns.

“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude has any possible claim on me. None of these shall be violated by our marriage.” he said with confidence. “And with regard to the resentment of my family and the indignation of the world, if the former are excited by our union, it would not give us one moment’s concern— and the world in general will have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

“And this is your real opinion? This is your final resolve! Very well, I shall now know how to act. I hoped to find you reasonable; but depend upon it—I will carry my point.”

“Enough!” Darcy had finally lost all patience, and though his countenance brooked no room for opposition, he did not bellow. “Lady Catherine, you shall not be welcome in any of my homes until you recognize my union with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. You may ask your brother for help in matters of your estate. I wish you a good evening and good fortune in your life.”

Opening the door to the parlour, he paused to see a dazed Elizabeth and an astonished Mrs. Collins at the bottom of the stairs. “Mrs. Collins, again, I apologise for this unpleasantness. Please let me know if I can be of any use. Come, Elizabeth. Let us depart.”

He reached Elizabeth’s side and led her to the carriage with Mrs. Collins following to bid them farewell Mr. Collins, who had been too awed earlier by the fury of his patroness to speak, hurried outside and stepped forward, in a moment of imprudent bravery, to offer his own objections. Darcy’s fierce mien and cold glare caused the other man to retreat.

Casting a last look at the parsonage, Darcy and Elizabeth embarked on their journey to London.

Knowing You by Heart

Summary:

Resolved to forget Elizabeth Bennet during a winter in London, Fitzwilliam Darcy writes a letter in bitterness of spirit. Frustrated by her growing obsession with the arrogant man, Elizabeth commits her thoughts to paper. But angry people are not always wise, and secret thoughts do not always remain secret. Compelled to face their selfishness and fears, their actions encourage those dearest to them to change as well.


LettersFromTheHeart-Ebook-1aThis story is now published as Letters from the Heart on Amazon. You can read a free sample by following the link.

 

 

A Sense of Obligation

This story is releasing for publication on July 25, 2015. You can now preorder it on Amazon. Below is a sample.

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.

dress final

Ch. 1

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 was 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 again.

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 stared at her unspeaking for a long minute before Elizabeth realised she was in her dressing-gown and alone with him with her hair a wild mess, 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 was 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 to 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. While Darcy’s ending was bitter about a woman’s charms, 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 in 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 theater to balls and soirees. 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.

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. Realizing she must be much too bare to 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 Darcy gathered her in 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 Darcy 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 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 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 Darcy treated such a minor injury so seriously. He held her bare hand in his own, even caressing it, while they stood looking in 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 in 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 on 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 Darcy, who made no acknowledgement of her presence other than rising, her traitorous heart screamed out, Never yours!