The Secrets of Pemberley- Chapter One

IMG_6301.JPGBlurb: To the world, Fitzwilliam Darcy has it all. He’s the young master to one of the kingdom’s oldest and wealthiest Norman families. Through his mother, he is related to a powerful line of earls. Beneath the perfect façade lies the truth: he’s the product of his mother’s affair and the heir George Darcy never wanted.

At twenty-eight, Darcy has fought hard to put to rest the pains of the past and earn his place in Society. But can he resist the allure of ending his loneliness with the unsuitable woman who has tugged at his heartstrings? Will he tell her his secret and if he does, will she keep it? Or will someone else from the past destroy everything Darcy has worked for?

Chapter One

“You have done this, Anne, and I will never forgive you.”

A large, stern man hovered over Fitzwilliam Darcy’s sobbing mother. Her cries awoke the boy of eight from his nighttime slumber in the small Scottish cottage where he and his mother shared a room. The only light was a lantern in the man’s hand. Outside the open window, the world remained quiet except for the sound of horses snorting and stamping impatiently. A coachman attempted to calm them.

“But do not take him away from me! Do not take my boy!”

Fitzwilliam attempted to hide behind his mother who now sat on his bed.

“You have taken mine!” the man roared. “Have you no words of regret on the passing of your firstborn? My son! My heir! He needed his mother — but no, you were here.”

Lady Anne Darcy remained mute and continued her sobs. Her son peered curiously at the angry man. Mother had another child? He had a brother?

“Do not fret,” the man glared and had no sympathy for the tears he saw. “I kept your affair a secret, and he has my name. He will be accepted.”

“But he will not be loved!” Lady Anne sobbed anew, and she hugged Fitzwilliam.

“You should have thought of that before you played the harlot.”

“If you would allow me to come with you,” she pleaded.

“Absolutely not. You will remain here for your “health.” Now, pass the boy over.”

The man looked at the Fitzwilliam. He looked strange, unfamiliar and in clothing that showed no signs of wear. Mother had always said one day his father would come for him one day, but looking at this man, Fitzwilliam did not want to go.

“No, anything but that please,” Mother cried.

Large hands tried to snatch Fitzwilliam’s arm, and she threw herself in front of the child. He darted to the other side of the room.

“Anne,” George said in a warning tone. “The law is on my side.”

He sounded angry, and Fitzwilliam flinched at the voice, but his mother did not cower. Either Mother was very brave, or perhaps there was no reason to fear violence from the man.

“Allow me to say goodbye,” Mother pleaded.

At last, the towering man relented.

“Fitzwilliam, my darling son,” Mother choked out and embraced him.

He wrapped his hands tightly around her waist and pressed his head to her chest. “Mama, please do not send me away. Do not make me go with that man.” Tears streaked down his face, and he trembled in fear. Other than Cook and the maid, he had seldom known other people. He was even too shy to greet the minister they saw every Sunday.

“He is your father,” Mama said.

The man snorted, and Fitzwilliam lifted his head.

Mother turned her head to face Father. “What else is there to tell him, George?”

“Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence,” he said through gritted teeth. “Am I not lying enough as it is?”

“Please,” Mother asked as her chin trembled and tears fell down her cheeks. “Please.”

“Blast it. You always knew how to get your way,” Father whispered. “I will tell him when he is old enough.”

Fitzwilliam felt relief in his mother’s frame, and she exhaled the breath she had been holding.

“Thank you.”

Turning back to her son, she ran comforting hands over his hair and face. “Now, you will go with your Papa and learn everything you can about running a big estate. So many people will look up to you and will count on you. Do you think you can do that?”

Fitzwilliam shook his head.

“Our son was never afraid of anything,” Father said sadly. “Did you ever wonder?”

Pain and anguish flooded Mother’s eyes, and she squeezed them shut. Upon opening, determination filled them.

“You can do this! I know you can! Do you remember the name of the estate?”

“Pember…Pemberley?”

“Yes! See how smart you are already?”

Fitzwilliam did not care about praise at this moment. Why did he have to leave Mother behind? “When will I see you again?”

“Do not worry about that,” she answered with a quavering voice. “I must remain here and get healthy.”

Mother often said they lived here because of her health. She never seemed ill to him, only sad. However, he would never wish to hurt her. “Must I go?”

“Yes, it is your duty to be the heir of Pemberley.” She pulled him into a crushing hug. “Now, never forget how I love you. No one will ever love you as your mother.”

“Boy, it is time,” Father called.

After another minute, Mother released him and gave him a kiss on each cheek. He reluctantly walked to his father’s side.

“I am pleased to meet you, Father,” he said.

George Darcy harrumphed and left the sparse room. Fitzwilliam cast a parting look at his mother, who tried to smile and waved goodbye. Then, he trailed down the stairs and maintained silence until they were in the carriage. As they pulled away from the cottage which been his only home, Fitzwilliam cried.

“See here, boy,” George said sternly. “You are a Darcy. Darcy men do not cry.”

“I am sorry, Father.”

“And we never apologise for being ourselves. Hold your chin up high.”

“Like this?” his voice warbled as he held back more tears.

Father did not praise him but nodded. After a few moments, Fitzwilliam managed to control his emotions. Seeking his father’s approval, he asked about his new home.

“Mother told me so much about Pemberley. She told me about the horses. I like horses. Do you?”

Father said nothing and only looked out the carriage window. Fitzwilliam tried again.

“I like reading too. Mother says you will teach me how to run Pemberley. I am a very good student.”

“Boy, a Darcy does not chatter. I am not interested in your interests, and you are not interested in mine. Be silent until I speak to you.”

Father’s command was so harsh it rattled off the walls of the carriage, and he followed it with a harsh glare. Fitzwilliam’s lip trembled, and he sank back in his seat, remaining silent until they reached the gigantic house.

“Mr. Darcy.”

“Yes?” the now adult Fitzwilliam Darcy asked without opening his eyes as the images of his long-ago past settled into the recesses of his mind.

“You wished to arise early for your journey to Rosings.”

“Yes, thank you,” Darcy said, dismissing the valet.

The master of Pemberley rose and swung his legs out of bed. As he went through his morning ablutions, he pushed aside the thoughts of his past. The man he had thought was his father was not his father at all, of course. He was the product of an affair, and there was not one drop of Darcy blood in his veins. However, of all their worth he was now master.

His mother had told the truth on one score. She was the only one to ever love him. When his foolish heart brought up the memory of a pair of fine, dancing eyes and free laughter, he closed his eyes and gripped the dresser before him.

“Think with your head, not your heart,” he muttered through grit teeth. The mantra had been pounded into him from the man who raised him, and he would not see all that he worked for to be a true Darcy come to an end through wayward thoughts of the beguiling Elizabeth Bennet.

 

*****

“Will this be the year, Darcy?” Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam asked his cousin.

“Pardon?” The question pulled Darcy from his brooding.

“Do not play dumb. You well know Aunt Catherine has wanted you to marry Anne.”

“If I were at all likely to do that, why would I have waited so long?”

“Because you are Fitzwilliam Darcy and brood over everything and take your time with your decisions?”

“It would be ungentlemanly to make Anne wait so long.”

“She has already waited.”

“Her mother has waited. It does not follow that Anne has been left in the dark about my feelings.”

“Ah, I see,” Richard grinned. “This is the first I have heard you ever criticize Aunt Catherine.”

“It is not my fault that I am the son of her long-lost sister,” Darcy murmured.

He had not been allowed to meet his mother’s family until after George Darcy’s death. While many saw Lady Catherine de Bourgh as proud and intrusive, she had a soft spot for her youngest nephew.

“I happened to spend time in an area this autumn with a woman whose matchmaking attempts rival Aunt’s.”

“Never say you were nearly caught in her web. I thought there was not a miss alive who could ensnare you!”

“No, no. I was not her target.”

Darcy grew quiet as he recalled a ball at his friend’s house in Hertfordshire. The woman he was thinking of had five daughters, and she had selected her eldest for his friend. She had loudly extolled to any guest within earshot that she expected a wedding before the New Year.

“A friend then?”

Darcy nodded. He did not meet with Richard more than once or twice a year, and so there was always much to catch up on. Darcy would not reveal his friend’s identity, but it would take little imagination to make the correct guess. He never had made many friends.

“I had to separate him from a young lady.”

“Grasping wench, was she?”

“No,” Darcy shook his head. “I do not think so bad as that, but she was not the type to fall in love off a short acquaintance. All advantage of the match would be on her side, and she was a very dutiful daughter.”

“And so we return to Anne,” Richard said.

“There certainly were similarities,” Darcy agreed.

“And so this woman was looking for helpless, foolish sots seduced by a pretty face for her penniless but dutiful and complacent daughters. Did she have any sisters?”

Darcy laughed at the picture Richard painted. “Certainly not all complacent.” Elizabeth’s teasing words came to mind.

“Ah,” Richard smirked. “So, was this an act of friendship or self-preservation? If the eldest miss was out of the way, the mother might foist her next upon you!”

Darcy’s heart pounded at the thought. So Richard would not think him affected by the idea, Darcy chose to tease. “You sound jealous,” Darcy raised a brow. “Perhaps you would like an introduction?”

“No, no,” He waved a hand. “Harmless flirtations only for me.”

“Beware. A lady’s imagination is very rapid,” Darcy cautioned.

“I’m no green boy.” Richard then leaned forward, “She will ask about Georgiana. She will ask about your summer.”

Darcy sighed and swiped his brow. Some four years after Darcy had been separated from his mother, she had born a daughter. Once again, George Darcy concealed his wife’s adultery and paid for the child’s care and education. When he died, he named his wife’s son and her nephew as guardian rather than any Darcy relatives.

Darcy had been delighted to finally get to know his sister. She remained at school, but he visited often. When she turned sixteen, he withdrew her from the seminary and put her in the care of a companion who was meant to oversee her transition to womanhood and presentation into society. Instead, disaster struck. Missing her friends and feeling no great affection for her brother, Georgiana readily believed herself in love with an old friend and planned to elope. The merest chance interrupted their plans: Darcy had unexpectedly arrived, and Georgiana confessed all.

Even now, nearly a year later, what hurt Darcy the most was that his sister had not loved him enough to consider his feelings. Of course, that was his sentimental Fitzwilliam side talking. The man George Darcy raised him to be would worry first about the family reputation.

“She has no way of finding out the particulars. If we make it seem uninteresting, she will not care. Georgiana went to the seaside, and I was at a house party.”

“That may work,” Richard agreed. “I only have to be myself to irritate her in some way and distract her attention from you.”

“You have my thanks for that,” Darcy chuckled. Too soon, the lightness faded, and heavy loneliness weighed on him again.

“You should marry,” Richard said suddenly.

“What?” Darcy asked. Surely he hallucinated.

“A wife would ease your burdens. If you marry well, she might make you laugh and ease those worry lines on your brow. She could help with your sister since you will not allow my mother or Aunt to take her—”

“Georgiana is my responsibility,” Darcy said firmly.

Richard held his hands up again. “I only wished to express my concern.”

“Of course,” Darcy said and exhaled. Never having felt he was a true Darcy, he neither fit in with the Fitzwilliams. His insecurity over acceptance often made him push loved ones away rather than rely on anyone else. “Thank you.”

Richard stared at him for a moment and opened his mouth but then shook his head and closed it again. Whatever he was going to say, he had thought better of uttering. He turned his head to look out the window, and Darcy did likewise.

“Here we are again,” Richard sighed. “The palings of Rosings.”

“Another year older,” Darcy said. “Another year wiser.” Another year lonelier, he added to himself.

 

 

Blog Tour- Excerpt + Giveaway: Promises Kept by Zoe Burton

Zoe is a great friend and I had the wonderful honor to be one of her beta readers for Promises Kept. The love between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is so sweet. Strong and tender in all the right places. The perfect read for when you need the perfect man in your life- as those only exist in books! (Sorry hubby, love you but you’re not perfect.) It just hits so many good spots!

Promises Kept is the sequel to I Promise To… and showcases Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam’s first year of marriage- things unseen in the novella- but also works as a stand alone read.

Blurb:

pkThis ‘Pride and Prejudice’ novel variation follows Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy through the first year of their marriage. Arranged by his father in the I Promise To… novella, their union saved Elizabeth from a persistent, abusive suitor. The couple has known each other for years and quickly come to realize their love for each other. However, not everyone is happy with the marriage, and trouble comes quickly upon them. Dealing with jealous ladies and scornful gentlemen in London as well as illness and injury at Pemberley, they grow together as a couple while Elizabeth regains the confidence she has lost.

Excerpt:

“Fitzwilliam, I need to ride out to visit Mr Barton today. Wickham has told me the roof of their house is leaking. I wish to see the damage myself and ensure we get everything repaired. I would not put it past Barton to fail to report something, so as not to be a bother to anyone. Far too self-effacing, that one. Would not do for him to try to make those repairs with his own funds, not with four children to raise.”

“You are correct. It would not do. I do not understand such behaviour. Surely he would rather not use his own money to repair a home he does not own?”

“One would think not; however, he has done so in the past. I recall his father being a harsh man, always chastising his wife and children for being an impediment to him. He was not happy with his life, I think. Perhaps that is why his son is this way. At any rate, would you ride with me? I should like to get your opinion of the matter.”

From the bedroom attached to the sitting room they were in, the gentlemen heard a series of harsh coughs. They looked at the door, then back to each other.

“If you do not mind, Father, I would much rather stay here and tend to Elizabeth. She woke in the night with that terrible cough and a sniffling nose. I am concerned about her.”

“I had not realized she was ill! Certainly you should stay with her,” Mr Darcy replied. “Does she need the doctor? I can send him a note when I go downstairs.”

“She does not show signs of a fever yet. I would prefer waiting until that happens. You know how she can be if she feels she is being fussed over unnecessarily.” Fitzwilliam rolled his eyes as his father chuckled.

“Indeed I do.” He slapped his hands on his knees as he rose, adding, “Well, then, I will leave you to comfort and coddle your wife. But promise me that if she begins to get fevered, you will send for the physician.”

Fitzwilliam had risen along with his parent. “I promise. I will see you upon your return. Please be careful.”

Waving his son’s concerns away, Mr Darcy headed down the grand staircase and out the door to mount his waiting horse for the ride to the Barton farm.

He had not been gone an hour when the wind began to pick up and a light rain to fall. By the time he had thoroughly inspected the tenant house, spoken with both Mr and Mrs Barton, admired the children, and consulted with Mr Wickham to give specific instructions as to repairs, the rain was coming down in sheets. Turning down an offer to wait out the storm with the Bartons, citing the closeness of Pemberley House to their own, he mounted once again and began the trek back. Moving more slowly than he had earlier, due to the reduced visibility caused by the weather, he turned his collar up in hopes of preventing any more rain from sliding down inside his coat. Suddenly, what had been a simple downpour became much more dangerous.

Darcy heard the thunder rolling in seconds before he saw the lightning. His horse moved uneasily beneath him, and every ounce of focus and skill he had was required to keep the animal under control. When the next blast of thunder sounded loudly in his ears followed by an even closer crack of lightning, the horse began to rear. Darcy fought to regain the upper hand, but when it began to buck, he lost his seat, landing on his back with a thud, his head slamming into the hard-packed earth of the path.

Out of breath and woozy, he laid on the ground for a few minutes, rain soaking and pooling around him. After a few minutes, he tried to rise. Pain in his leg and head stopped him, and he lay back down in the hopes it would recede once again. Next he tried to peer through the storm to locate his horse, but was unsuccessful. Hopefully, the silly thing returned to the stables, he thought. That one will need some additional training.

He attempted to move once or twice more before giving up. He knew an alarm would be raised if his horse appeared without him. Even if it remained nearby, when he failed to come to supper, Fitzwilliam would know something was wrong. He’s a good boy. I am so glad he did not fight me about Elizabeth. She was just what he needed. Darcy’s thoughts continued on until, exhausted and in pain, his unconscious took over and allowed his mind to rest.

At the house, his son was trying to entice his wife to take some tea laced with honey, for her throat. She had not eaten much that day, and Fitzwilliam was anxious that she take some nourishment, even if it was of the liquid variety. He had begun to threaten her with honey-laced Scottish whiskey if she did not take the tea. Stubborn woman that she was, Elizabeth argued with him, which, of course, made her throat hurt worse.

“Sweetheart, did you not just recently chastise Georgiana for being so impatient for her lessons to be complete so she could attend our picnic? And did you not tell her that the quicker she worked, the sooner she could play?” At her nod and before she could begin to speak, he continued, “Do you not see the similarity in your situations? The quicker you drink this tea, the sooner I will stop fussing at you about it and threatening you with stronger remedies.” He hid a smirk at the roll of her eyes and twitch of her head. “Drink this tea, my love, and I shall leave you be about it for a few hours.”

With a loud sigh, followed by another harsh bout of coughing, Elizabeth drank the tea. It did feel good on her throat, though she was not about to tell her husband that. He was correct entirely too often; she must do her best to ensure his understanding that this was not allowed. She opened her mouth to say so when a knock came upon the dressing room door.

Entering at Fitzwilliam’s bidding was his valet. “Pardon me, sir. I have an urgent message for you.” He threw a quick glance at the mistress, telling his master without words that it was serious and that perhaps she did not need to hear.

Turning to his wife, Fitzwilliam stroked her face, saying, “Let me go listen to what Smith has to say. I shall return shortly.” He leaned to her, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead, then stood and left the room, gesturing for his valet to follow him. Upon gaining his dressing room and shutting the door behind them, he asked, “What is it?”

“Sir, word has just come from the stables. Your father’s horse has returned, without him. Mr Wickham has been notified, and search parties are being organized. Wickham felt you would wish to take part. I was not as certain, knowing Mrs Darcy to be ill, but I promised to tell you straight away.”

Giveaway:

Zoe is giving away one ebook copy! Please comment below before 11:59 pm EST August 28th to be entered.

Buy Link: Amazon

Bio:

Zoe Burton first fell in love with Jane Austen in 2010, after seeing the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice on television. While making her purchases of Miss Austen’s novels, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction; soon after that she discovered websites full of JAFF. Her life has never been the same. She began writing her own stories when she ran out of new ones to read.

Zoe lives in the snow-belt of Ohio. She is a Special Education Teacher in an online school, and has a passion for romance in general—Pride and Prejudice in particular, and NASCAR