Motivational Monday– Slow Progress

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A lot of writers spend November manically trying to write 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo). It’s really not so unattainable for the average full-time writer. It averages out to 1667 words a day, which I can do in about an hour. As long as I know what I’m writing… And the hardest part is always the consistency–doing it every day. If you miss a day, then you’re playing catch up and trying to add to it. Miss more than one and it’s even harder etc.

November is a hard month for me. The first time I tried NaNo was in 2014. I had two published stories (well, one was on pre-order). I had completed several other stories before but had never tried to do an entire novel in one month. I got sooo close! If memory serves, I got to 45,000 words and had one day left. I could have made it. However, I was moving literally the next day and my kids–only 4 and 1 at the time–needed a return to normalcy. My son has Autism Spectrum Disorder the fall wreaks havoc on his routine. He shifts from waking up at 6 am to waking up at 5 am. He just turned 8 and by now, I have accepted this. In 2014, I was far less prepared to accept the reality of more 5 am (or earlier) wakeups.

I’m mentioning my history with NaNo because the other day I saw a Facebook status which upset me. It was a memory of one of my status from 2014. I was working on a story in which Darcy was to inherit Longbourn and Lady Catherine’s rector. Essentially, he was Mr. Collins. How would Elizabeth react? About 20,000 words into it, I realized this should just be an original story. I had already started writing the story before November began, so I realized that within a few days of the month. I spent the remainder of the month working on that story and changed all the names and tried to make it not like Pride and Prejudice. Then November ended and I froze. The almost completed manuscript is still on my hard drive.

I didn’t stop there though. I did turn my attention to other things but for the last four years, I have dusted off that manuscript every few months. I’ve sent it to beta readers and asked if it should really be an original. I’ve even thought that I could do both–make an original and keep the premise of Darcy in Collins’ place and write two different stories. In 2016, I came up with a series theme focusing on one real-life event from the Regency era per book. I had a few other non-JAFF stories that would work perfectly in the series. However, I had the most words on this story and it would have been the last one in the series. So I started on what was supposed to be Book One. Last year, I realized that book is really a prequel and they don’t do well until the rest of the series is out. I abandoned that story. Earlier this year, I realized that I should just round out the books and make it the full Regency. I started on the new Book One of the series and gave everything new titles. The Baronet’s Heart is now Tempting Scandal. I began posting but then got caught up with other things.

Can you see why I’m disappointed in myself? So much start and stop. So little progress. But is it really? I have learned a lot about myself, writing, my goals and so much more during each of these stops.

Oh, there’s more that I could be disappointed about. Things never go according to plan. I’m working on 2019 goals right now and know I won’t reach half of them. Sigh. However, this pic has reminded me that forward is forward and looking back at my supposed “failings” doesn’t help a thing!

When is a time you had to focus on just moving forward and not worrying about the timing? Or is there something in your life right now that this could apply to? Oh, and in case you were curious, my goal this November is to write at least 500 words every day! I did miss one, but instead of despairing I just said, “The whole point is to learn to do better and be more consistent. I will make mistakes at the beginning, but hopefully, by the end of the month I will be doing better.” That’s MAJOR progress for me, a perfectionist in recovery!

Treasured– Chapter Seven

treasured finalI’m FINALLY within a few chapters of ending the story (not here…but where I am in writing) so I am hoping to post Treasured more frequently this week!

Previous Chapters:  One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six


Chapter Seven

 

“Young man,” Mr. Bennet stood in the open doorway, bringing Will’s attention to it. “Follow me, if you please.”

Will followed the patriarch to his library, knowing the rebuke his betrothed’s father would be giving him. Will sat opposite Mr. Bennet and patiently waited for the older man to begin.

“Will, I tire of seeing my daughter with tears in her eyes because of you.” Mr. Bennet sighed.

“It tears at my heart as well,” Will agreed. “Are you rescinding your blessing?” The papers had been signed but had not been mailed to his solicitor yet.

“And have her angry with me as well?” Bennet laughed. “No, but we must resolve this latest complication as fast as possible. What is your plan? I can assume it must be foolish and reckless to upset Lizzy so.”

Will blew out the breath he had been holding. “If Wickham wants to kill me then we have the surest chance of capturing him if he feels assured of his success. He does not know that his plan with the carriage almost worked. It is likely he will attempt such a scheme again.”

“So, you will endanger your life?”

“I see no other way.”

Suddenly, the door to the library banged open. Turning to see the intruder, Will’s heart seized to see Elizabeth standing in the doorframe with puffy eyes and tear streaks on her cheeks. She held a crumpled paper in her hand. A determined glint was in her eyes, but she gently shut the door before saying her piece. Once the door was closed, she sailed forward and demurely sat in a chair near her father’s desk before addressing them both.

“It is not the only way. This may be indelicate for me to suggest, but how does Wickham hold his liquor?”

“It was many years ago when we were last in company,” Will began to answer. “However, even when in his cups he seemed more in control of his faculties than others such as—”

“Such as Sam,” Elizabeth answered and nodded. “One night while we stayed at Darcy House, I found him in a drunken state and unable to open his chamber door. The drink had loosened his lips*. I did not understand all that he was saying then, but now I know he was explaining his regret over the engagement with Charlotte Lucas.”

“What are you suggesting?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“Ply him with drink and see if he will spill his secrets,” Elizabeth said with furrowed brows and pleading eyes.

“Do you think that will work?” Bennet asked Will.

“I doubt it,” Will shook his head. “Forgive me, love. It is very innovative, and I dare say on many another man it would work. However, I have never seen Wickham talk when he preferred to be silent.”

“Is it not worth trying?” Elizabeth approached and laid a hand on Will’s arm. Anguish filled her eyes and tears threatened to overspill once more. “At least attempt this before you risk your life.”

Will gulped and slowly nodded. “We will try it,” he murmured.

Truthfully, he had little hope of success but how could he not offer her this balm? Will had spent years wishing he had done something differently the night of the fire in Scotland. He might have saved his father and friends’ lives. If Elizabeth had an alternative, no matter how confident he was of its failure, he would allow her the opportunity to see it in motion. If anything happened to him, he did not wish for her to feel as though they had not done everything else possible.

“You will?” Elizabeth’s voice contained a mixture of disbelief and relief. Her shoulders sagged and let out a long exhale.

“How shall you manage that?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“We will have to have someone else approached him. He would be far too guarded if it were me or anyone associated with us. We can probably find somebody willing to get drunk for a few pounds.”

“Keep me apprised of your plans, please,” Mr. Bennet said, nodding at Will.

“Papa, may speak with Will privately?”

“Very well,” Bennet stood. “However, the door stays open.”

Will did not even pay attention to Elizabeth’s father as he left the room. His eyes were focused entirely on his betrothed. The minute he said they would try her plan, he became entranced. Would she always have this hold over him? He was utterly fascinating captivated by the many sides of her. At the moment, she held his gaze with softened eyes. What had he ever done to deserve the look of love he saw there? He had thrown away her love when she first offered it. Since his return into her life, they had quarreled and feared for their lives. They desperately needed a routine courtship. A part of Will knew, however, they would not get it. He would simply court her after they married.

“What changed your mind?”

Will shrugged. “I love you. This concerns you just as much as it does me. You have a stake in the matter, and your idea should be listened to.”

“Is that all?”

“I could sense how desperately you wanted to try this method. I do not wish to lie, Elizabeth. I think it unlikely that it will succeed. However, not only does it make sense to try it, I knew it would assuage some of your anxiety.” Will dropped his head for a moment and took a deep breath before bringing his eyes and back up to meet her gaze. “I know what it is to be haunted by remorse and regret, constantly feeling as though you might have done something different to prevent catastrophe.  I would not put you through that. If you have any other suggestions, I will hear them out, and we will attempt them. If this were should happen–”

“Hush, my love.” Elizabeth placed a finger on Will’s lips to silence them. “Do not speak about that. Do not even think it. We shall be victorious. I believe that with every beat of my heart. Thank you for agreeing to my suggestion.”

Elizabeth lowered her hand and turned the crumpled paper over in them for a moment. Her eyes lingered over the note before returning to Will’s. “I am very sorry to hear that you have regret and feel as though you could have prevented something happening. Do I understand that you reference the fire?”

Will could not speak, the emotions threatened to well up once more. He nodded and knew that would be enough for Elizabeth.

“Has it helped at all to know that it was arson? If you had been with your father or Sam, you could not have prevented the fire. A madman was determined to set fire to the inn that night. If you had been with them, you probably would have perished as well.”

Will blinked at what Elizabeth said. Suddenly awe and understanding flitted through him, and a weight the size of a house lifted from his shoulders. “I had not thought of that. I have been so consumed with blaming myself that I did not even consider it in that light.” Will enveloped Elizabeth’s hands in his. “Thank you, my dearest. You always know what to say.”

Elizabeth lately chuckled. “I would not go that far.” Her soft smile began to fade, and she grew serious once more. “No matter the cause of the fire, it would not have been your fault they died. Accidents happen, and there is no one to blame. However, I am pleased if what I said brought some comfort to you. I hate that you have blamed yourself and felt wretched for so long. Why do you do it? Why do you think everything is your responsibility and that if the smallest thing goes wrong, you have failed? You are only human.”

Will’s eyes shuttered close at Elizabeth’s words. “You did not see much of my father. He was a very good man, but he had high expectations for the Darcy family. The ways of charm and grace did not come naturally to me, so I often felt inexplicably flawed and doomed to failure, unable to live up to the Darcy legacy.”

“I see,” Elizabeth nodded. “So continuing to accept only perfection from yourself has eased those feelings?”

“No. I suppose not.” Will furrowed his brow. “The Darcy legacy demands the best. With me at the helm, it feels as though one blunder after another.”

“One blunder after another? I suppose your tenants are starving and their roofs caving in? Your servants are owed money or leave en masse? You have no friends and no admittance to any events wherever you go. You have debts at every shop in every town you ever visited, and no creditor would weight your entrance to his establishment.”

A small slowly crept over Will’s face. “Fair enough, clever minx. None of those things are true. I know I do very fine by the Darcy accounts. The Darcy name is as strong as ever it was my father’s lifetime and continues to command respect. However, I failed to save my father’s life, I failed you, I failed Georgiana.”

Once more, Elizabeth silenced him with a finger to his lips. “Do you not see? All those things revolve around other people’s choices. You cannot control everything, Will Darcy. I am pleased to hear that the accounts do well, you are wise with investments, and others continue to respect you. However, even those things do not rely entirely on your actions. Do not judge yourself by the success of this or that. Those things do not determine your worth.”

“Are not most people given to arrogance and conceit? Would not most people fail to inspect themselves and admit when they have done wrong?”

Elizabeth nodded. “I suppose you could say that. However, thinking you have done wrong where there is no responsibility is just as terrible.”

“How so?”

“For some, that would only be false modesty and really would be an indirect boast. I have done so terribly, and then their final say own know you have not, and inwardly the person will congratulate themselves. I know that is not your feelings. No, yours speaks to hurt and insecurity. When you continue to feed that feeling, it will infect more and more facets of your life. Right now, it is mostly centered on Wickham, but it has affected your relationship with me in the past. You admit that you never told Georgiana about the scoundrel. I know your relationship with her at the moment is not what you would like it to be and perhaps you cannot fully expose what Wickham is to her for she will not listen. Again, that relies on her as well as you. However, if you interpret everything as a failure in those situations, you will tell yourself that is all you are. You will lack the confidence you need to make wise decisions on other matters.”

“I do not think I have ever heard such things before. I certainly have never considered them. How wise and right you are, my love. Thank you. I shall try to do better.” Will looked down Elizabeth’s hands, she continued to finger the note she held. “Is that my message to you from yesterday?”

Elizabeth looked down as well.” Yes. With all the excitement of yesterday. I did not have a chance to read it. When I left you in the drawing room and ran up to my chamber, I noticed it on the table. However I garnered your attention, I do not know. I am forever grateful for it, though. Reading your words of love, your devotion to me and to the future we will build, allowed me to see the reason behind your choice. You did not suggest to bait Wickham because you have no desire to be with me or just shorten your life. You have only wanted to end this so we might have our future at last. Once my mind was clear, I recalled the situation with Sam and knew that I could suggest the idea to you. I did not know if you would agree to it. Nor do I want you to do so merely out of deference. However, I was unable to think of it in the drawing room. All was doom and gloom in my head until I read your loving words.”

Will squeezed Elizabeth’s hands again before raising them to his lips. He would have liked for much more but was conscious of the fact that they had been alone for quite a while, even if the door was open. “I meant every word. I will love you until my dying breath. Now, I believe we should join your family. There ought to be congratulations in order.”

“Do you mean he has–?” Elizabeth’s hands flew to her mouth to contain a squeal of delight. “Oh, Jane will be delighted!”

“Yes, Charles has asked your father for courtship with Jane.”

“Well, it is about time. Although,” Elizabeth slid Will a sly glance. “I suppose not everyone is as rapid to the altar as we.”

“Considering that when I proposed five years ago, I expected a marriage within months, I would say we have taken quite the adventurous route to get to it.”

“It will make us enjoy the moment all the more.”

“I know I shall.” Will raise Elizabeth hands to her his lips once more. Before allowing himself to be escorted to the drawing room.

Treasured– Chapter Six

treasured finalWhat does Will plan to do about Wickham? It should be as simple as gathering his debts, right?

Previous Chapters:  One / Two / Three / Four / Five

Chapter Six

The following morning, Elizabeth waited impatiently for Will to arrive she did not know if he would bring Georgiana or not, but she rather doubted he would. Elizabeth did not know why Georgiana disliked her, but she also did not think was worth much of her concern. While she waited, she spoke with Jane.

“Mr. Bingley was to ask Papa the for permission to court me yesterday,” Jane said.

“And I ruined it!” Elizabeth shook her head. “Pray, forgive me. I did not intend to steal your happiness.”

“I know you did not mean to create a disturbance in our plans. Please, do not worry my behalf. I am only happy, no, happier that he will ask today. Now, the memory does not need to be marred with Wickham and your troubles.”

“Troubles, indeed.”

“Do you really think he is so evil? We did not know him for long. I do not think even spoke to him. He seemed very gentlemanly, and Will’s father enjoyed his company.”

“You know what he tried to do to Miss Graves. Will tells me there were other ladies too. If Wickham were willing to resort to such tactics with women, why would he stop there?”

“I suppose you are correct but I hate thinking.”

“I know, dearest,” Elizabeth embraced her sister. “You would rather go through all of life without realizing such evil existed. But it does. And unfortunately, it has seen fit to attach itself to Will.”

“Lizzy,” Jane began hesitantly. “Do you think… That is…” Jane sighed. “Well, is there not some sense in delaying the wedding? Why make yourself a potential target?”

“I have waited long enough to marry Will Darcy! I will not delay anything simply because of the tactics of George Wickham. I  shall tell you what I told Will the other day on our walk. I would rather live one moment in this life as his wife than love hundred years without him.”

“No one is saying you ought to give him up for good. I only wonder if it should be postponed.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No. Two much as happened in our past. Too much has already been in the way. Could you imagine giving up Mr. Bingley?”

Jane sucked in a deep breath. “That would be very difficult.”

“Now imagine being asked to do it not once but twice, and all due to your own fear. I will stand by him.”  Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “He needs someone beside him.”

Jane sighed and looked out the window. “Then there is nothing left for me to say about the matter.”

“You are not any less stubborn than I am when you are convinced you are correct. You merely do it with more grace.

Jane smiled a little. “I do have more tact than you. However, I would not change you one bit.”

The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mary. She hummed a tune they had not heard before.

“What is that you are humming?” Elizabeth asked.

“Oh, you would not know it.” Mary shook her head and gave an exasperated sigh. “It is from Faniska and came out in Vienna a few years ago. Miss Darcy tells me both Herr Beethoven and Herr Haydn applauded it.” Mary sat down and pulled out some embroidery with a fond smile. “She bought the piece for me. It is the newest work I have ever had. You know how difficult it is to get the new pieces from the Continent and they are so expensive.”

“You seem to get along very well with her.” Elizabeth watched her sister closely for signs that anything was you irregular about her meeting with Miss Darcy. Additionally, it was peculiar that Mary was sitting with them at all, and desired to do something as mundane as needlework.

“I felt more akin to her than I do with nearly anyone else I have ever met in my life. I do hope we can become very great friends.”

Elizabeth heart sunk a little for her sister. Jane and Elizabeth had never meant to exclude Mary and yet they nearly always did. She was a few years younger than Elizabeth and the eldest of Fanny Bennet’s daughters. Jane and Elizabeth had gone through things before Mary’s birth which may then close. During those dark years, the sisters became inexplicably close. The youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, were very close in age. They had the similar temperaments, while Mary was more severe and yet was not included with the older girls. However, she was now out in society, and that should change the dynamics. Elizabeth and most likely Jane would soon marry, but that did not mean they could not speak with their sister in a more adult way. Marriage would not be too many years off for her either. Before long they would all be married ladies. Elizabeth mentally applauded herself for her rational thoughts. Yes, it did not matter if so far for the last 17 years, they had not given Mary enough attention. They had far more than 17 years ahead of their lives to make the difference.

“I hope Miss Darcy can visit today,” Mary said as she pulled the needle through the fabric. “I do not like to say it, but I thought Mr. Darcy was a little harsh with his sister yesterday.”

Jane touched Mary’s arm. “He only appeared harsh to you because you have never had any critical words spoken to you. Miss Darcy needed correction, and her brother is her guardian. We have no business having any sort of opinion on the subject.”

“You cannot tell me that you think everything he was saying and how he treated her was right.”

There was an edge to Mary’s voice Elizabeth had not heard before. Jane glanced at Elizabeth, silently pleading for assistance. Elizabeth had not told Jane about Georgiana’s near elopement. That had been a Darcy secret she was not free to share. However, Jane simply saw the best in everyone. She would not be able to doubt Will solely by virtue of who she was. Mary, on the other hand, had no such prejudices.

“I am not at liberty to speak about it,” Elizabeth said. “However, Miss Darcy does deserve her brother’s censure. I knew when she suggested the idea to we separate that Will would not approve. However, I am not her mother or her guardian, and I cannot insist or make her obey. Indeed, she is at an age where nobody can. All Will can do is offer consequences for disobedience in hopes she learns to make the correct decisions.”

“But you only know what he has told you.”

“This is true, but I trust him. Believe me, he would have no reason to lie. If it appears he is harsh with his sister it is nothing compared to how he blames himself. I assure you, he only wants what is best for her. As none of us have ever had to raise a 16-year-old sister, I would say we do not have the right to have an opinion.”

“But Papa is never so strict, and we have all turned out fine.”

“Papa trusts us, and we have earned that trust. Miss Darcy has broken Will’s and that is all there is to say about it.”

Mary said nothing more but stabbed the fabric and angry manner as though she were biting her tongue and willing herself not to speak further. Her loyalty to Miss Darcy shocked Elizabeth. Jane and Elizabeth exchanged a glance. They would discuss it later. For now, they looked forward to the arrival of their suitors.

A few minutes later, Will and Charles arrived. It thrilled Elizabeth’s heart to see the unabashed joy enter Jane’s eyes at Charles’ arrival. His grin matched her intense feelings exactly and after a quick greeting, excused himself to Mr. Bennet’s study. Mary glared at Will for a few minutes before giving some reason to leave.

“Your cousin did not come?” Elizabeth asked once Mary was gone.

“No, he was needed with his Regiment. You may guess why Georgiana was not invited.”

“Indeed,” Elizabeth nodded. “I am sorry she is behaving so poorly. If we did not have enough worries with Wickham, I would find more compassion for her. I know it will soon be my place.”

Will sighed. “If she continues to treat you with such disrespect, I will not have her in our homes. She is welcome to stay with Richard’s mother. The countess asks after her often. Perhaps I ought to have allowed her to be raised by one of my aunts. However, Father left her in my care, and I did not wish to send her away. She had disliked going to school so much that I did not think making her live with relations would be any better.”

“The poor dear has gone through very much,” Jane said.

Elizabeth agreed. “I do not like her behaviour, but it could have very easily have been Jane or me acting that way. I know Sam thought I was full headstrong when I declared my love for you.”

“You think I have been wrong about Wickham?” Will eyed her with bewilderment.

“No! Of course not,” Elizabeth shook her head. “However, I understand the sentiments of a lady her age believing herself to be in love. If Father had not remarried and if Sam were much older than me and I did not have dear Jane, then I might have very well turned into something resembling her.”

“You do not blame me?” Will asked looking at his eyes and Elizabeth perceived he was too afraid to meet her eyes. “I have thought over it and cannot think of a time when she was spoiled or not held to consequences. Perhaps I was too harsh on her—”

Elizabeth placed a hand on Will’s knee which bounced during his speech. “Dearest, you are not to blame. You have done the best you can. Was she always so difficult? I do not remember her being this way a few years ago?”

“No,” Will shook his head. “She returned from Ramsgate spewing venom, but I never would have allowed her to go if she had behaved like this. I am surprised that a few weeks around Wickham could have her reacting this way so much later, but then I learned he had frequently visited her without my knowledge.”

“I do not understand it any better than you,” Elizabeth said with an encouraging smile. “However, none of us are frozen in time and cease to develop and change. Somehow, she will move on from this, and in a year or two’s time we can look back and sigh in relief.”

“I suppose you are correct. I have learned the value of patience.” Will sighed. “Now, I should tell you about my meeting with Colonel Forster.”

“I assume it was not successful or you would have led with that.”

“It was not as successful as I had wished,” Will acknowledged. “Wickham is in the Militia but has behaved above reproach. There is nothing I could say that would persuade the colonel to treat Wickham differently than the other officers. I could not explain about Georgiana and stories about how he spent his inheritance too freely made little impression.”

“I recall him being friends with Lord Harcourt,” Elizabeth said slowly. Still, the thought of the detestable lord made her skin crawl. “I thought Wickham gambled heavily. Does he not have debts?”

Will shook his head. “None that I am aware of. I could have Richard investigate about London, but I know he was not in debt in Lambton.”

“How did he live after spending the three thousand pounds from you?”

“I know not. When he made his application for the living in Kympton, he did not mention bad living situations, and I had supposed he lived off the interest of his income. Wickham always had expensive tastes, but I assumed he had learned to moderate them lest he exceed his income. Just because he realised he did not prefer to study the law does not mean he had spent all of the money.”

“I see,” Elizabeth said and bit her bottom lip. “What is your next plan?”

Will tensed and did not immediately reply.

“Will?”

“Before leaving, Richard came up with a possible method of ascertaining Wickham’s plans. He is a very accomplished military strategist, and his suggestion was a very common practice.”

Elizabeth turned to her sister. “Jane, would you excuse us a moment?”

“I am not supposed to leave.” Jane looked conflicted.

“Fear not, I will not be sacrificing my honour.”

“Your honour?” Jane and Will asked in unison.

“Will’s reputation shall be perfectly safe with me,” Elizabeth grinned.

“Very well,” Jane sighed and stood up. She hesitated at the door but left Will and Elizabeth alone.

The second the door closed, Elizabeth turned to her betrothed. “Tell me.”

“Did you really send your sister away so you might question me? Did you think I had qualms stating my plans before her?”

“Oh, no,” Elizabeth gave Will a sly look. “I merely assured our privacy for later.”

“Later?”

“After you tell me your plan, of course.” Elizabeth raised her brows.

Will let out an exhale, and his eyes drifted to her mouth. “That was quite a wager. I did not think you were the gambling sort.”

“Indeed, I am not,” Elizabeth leaned closer and Will’s breath quickened. “I have long admired your logical mind and how you make use of our time,” she murmured near his ear. She glanced at the clock then pulled back. Sitting demurely in her seat, she allowed a finger to trace a circle on Will’s knee. “However, if you prefer, we could spend the few minutes of privacy we have speaking about the weather, your sister, or—”

“Enough, woman!” Will clutched her to him, and Elizabeth let out a surprised yelp. With his mouth hovering over hers, he confessed, “Wickham has waited years to make his move. He will only do so under certain conditions. However, he showed his desires, and now we can pretend to give him what he wants.”

Will met Elizabeth’s lips, and for a moment, she gave into the kiss. However, her brain had not stopped operating despite his best efforts. She pushed him back. “Will, are you saying that you plan on baiting Wickham?”

“Yes.” He trailed kisses down her throat as his hands wandered across her back.

Focusing all of her attention on his words, and not his heavenly ministrations, Elizabeth attempted again. “You would never endanger someone else. Who will you use?”

Will nuzzled into the where her neck met her shoulder. The effect was dizzying. Elizabeth began to consider he would beat her at her own game. “Will?”

He kissed across her collarbone and up the other side of her throat before finding the sensitive spot near her ear. Thinking he had not heard her, she shook his shoulder a little. “Are you putting yourself in danger with this plan?”

Will then met Elizabeth’s lips in a crushing kiss, stealing all thought for a moment. It was not more than they had shared before but certainly more openly—in her family’s drawing room! The thought brought her mind back to the present. He was avoiding this conversation. She could not blame him, she had provided the tools for it. This time she pushed him away and dodged his lips when he attempted to kiss her again.

“Will, do not tell me that you are to be the lure.” When he did not answer, she cried, “Answer me!”

“Which do you prefer? That I answer you or that I do not tell you that I will be the bait?”

Elizabeth gasped and felt as though she had been slapped. The headiness of their previous kisses was now gone. “You would put yourself in harm’s way? Why? Do I mean nothing to you?”

“You mean everything to me!” Will said and raised her hands to his lips. “We could think of no other way to make him take his mark.”

Elizabeth could hear no more and ran from the room sobbing.

Tea Time Tattle– Series vs. Incomplete

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I’m still working on Treasured, Book Three in the Loving Elizabeth Series. I hope to have it out in October. From time to time I’ll hear–or rather read–a comment about the story not being complete. This isn’t unique to me, of course; lots of writers of series get this comment.

Let’s do a bit of research about series. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Fictional series typically share a common setting, story arc, set of characters or timeline. They are common in genre fiction, particularly crime fiction, adventure fiction, and science fiction, as well as in children’s literature.

Some works in a series can stand alone—they can be read in any order, as each book makes few, if any reference to past events, and the characters seldom, if ever, change. Many of these series books may be published in a numbered series. Examples of such series are works like The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Nick Carter.

Some series do have their characters go through changes, and make references to past events. Typically such series are published in the order of their internal chronology, so that the next book published follows the previous book. How much these changes matter will vary from series to series (and reader to reader). For some, it may be minor—characters might get engaged, change jobs, etc., but it does not affect the main storyline. Examples of this type include Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn books. In other series, the changes are major and the books must be read in order to be fully enjoyed. Examples of this type include the Harry Potter series.

There are some book series that are not really proper series, but more of a single work so large that it must be published over two or more books. Examples of this type include The Lord of the Rings volumes or the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

Some authors make it difficult to list their books in a numerical order when they do not release each work in its ‘proper’ order by the story’s internal chronology. They might ‘jump’ back in time to early adventures of the characters, writing works that must be placed before or between previously published works. Thus, the books in a series are sometimes enumerated according to the internal chronology rather than in publication order, depending on the intended purpose for the list. Examples of this series include works from the Chronicles of Narnia, where the fifth book published, The Horse and His Boy, is actually set during the time of the first book, and the sixth book published, The Magician’s Nephew is actually set long before the first book. This was done intentionally by C. S. Lewis, a medieval literature scholar. Medieval literature did not always tell a story chronologically.

The post on this site sagas, serialized epics, and continuing adventures. The author writes SciFi/Fantasy, so things are filtered through that genre. In Romance, we usually find sagas as multi-generational family pieces. He describes serialized epics as:

These are the series where the next book in the series picks up right where the previous one left off. In essence, the author is writing one enormous book, releasing it in installments.

Mr. Sanderson lists The Lord of the Rings as an example. Finally, he says of continuing adventures:

This is the series where you get one central protagonist who has a complete story in each book. Then, when another book comes out, that character can go on another adventure. It differs from the saga in the fact that it goes chronologically and focuses on a single, central viewpoint character.

Sanderson adds that he finds this type of series very successful and the most popular outside of Scifi/Fantasy.

I’ve heard different names for this breakdown of series specifically for Romance. The Continuing Character Series is a series with one or two central protaganists and each story is a stand alone. Connected Character Series would be similar to the description of Saga above. The best friend or brother in Book 1 might be the protagonist of Book 2. Multivolume Series has one large conflict that extends throughout the series while each book will deal with a subplot and will finish the conflict central to that story.

I’ve heard different names for this breakdown of series specifically for Romance. The Continuing Character series is a series with one or two central protagonists, and each story is a stand alone. Connected Character series would be similar to the description of Saga above. The best friend or brother in Book 1 might be the protagonist of Book 2. Multivolume series has one massive conflict that extends throughout the series while each book will deal with a subplot and will finish the conflict central to that story.

Let’s consider my various series.

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This series is getting new covers!

The Jane Austen Re-Imaginings series is entirely stand alones. Read them in any order. They do not build upon one another. This would be close to the Continuing Character series. Obviously, it is not the same Darcy and Elizabeth in each story, but it is as though the game board has been reset and the pieces are set up all over again.

The When Love Blooms series was supposed to be a Connected Character series. Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married, and their storyline is complete. Book 2 then fills in the gaps of what the minor characters were going through before they each get their own book. It’s not sold well, and I think the issue is mixing up all the points of views in book 2, Renewed Hope. My new intention is to give the connected characters their own series while continuing to follow Darcy and Elizabeth in When Love Blooms. This will involve taking down the current book 2 (Renewed Hope) and possibly adding scenes from it into Extraordinary Devotion. Instead of following what happens to the Bennet family through the eyes of each sister, I will be keeping with Darcy and Elizabeth.

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Pride and Prejudice and Bluestockings is multivolume. The first book was so long that if I had continued to follow all the storylines, it would be probably 1,000 pages long and years of writing. The primary conflict is completed at the end of Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride, but other issues remain. Additionally, Darcy and Elizabeth will be going on a new “adventure” in each book.

 

Loving Elizabeth is intended to be a Continuing Character series but within a self-contained universe. The conflict of Pledged is “can they fall in love despite their family’s disapproval?” Wickham and Lord Harcourt were up to no good. Sam and Mr. Darcy disapproved of Will and Elizabeth’s attachment. Reunited begins after they were separated for years. Wickham isn’t even mentioned for most of the book, Harcourt never is, Sam and Mr. Darcy are dead. Yes, Will and Elizabeth loved each other and wished to marry at the end of Pledged, and that never changed. Reunited poses a new question. Why were they separated? The answer is as much about their personal flaws as it is about stolen letters. Treasured‘s conflict will center on conquering all opposition. There are now even more people against Will and Elizabeth’s marriage and for different reasons. Wickham is a potential threat again. Will they give up on each other or will they fight and overcome together?

Additionally, each book in the Loving Elizabeth series uses a different romantic trope. Pledged combined the brother’s best friend and young lovers tropes. The conflict is centered around those problems. Reunited is a second chance story at its core. Treasured will be… well, that’s a secret for now! 😀

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All this to say, each Loving Elizabeth story is a complete story. Should you read in order? It would be helpful. However, enough is said in Reunited and Treasured that you could read out of order.

But if they’re short and I’m releasing several of them, aren’t I just cutting up the story and publishing it in installments?

They are novellas. Length does not determine completion of a story. I have read a few very, very long stories that did not complete the conflict they introduced. I can think of one that despite this fact is a favorite of mine. The Lord of the Rings series is described as being released in installments in both sources above. They are some of the longest books out there. By the same token, even micro of flash fiction can give a complete story: conflict, climax, resolution. Most children’s books contain these elements but are only a few pages long.

Combining the three stories into one book would make for a poor reader experience as the would not be a sustained conflict that continues to build until the final quarter of the book. It might one day be available as an anthology, the way I offer others from time to time. That should not be confused with putting the story into one volume or releasing it as a “complete book.”

To address a less openly discussed criticism of the series: if I had written it as one novel, then it would be nearly 100,000 words or about 600 pages and would be $9.99. It’s actually cheaper to buy it as three novellas.

In conclusion, here’s my confession about incomplete stories being series. Pledged and Reunited at not part of a chopped up longer story. However, Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride is. No one complains about it because it’s long. Chew on that for a bit.

Additionally, even that isn’t wrong, incorrect, unfair, or unusual. It may not be the standard in JAFF but there’s a wide, wide world of books out there. JAFF is a teeny, tiny niche compared within other genres. Most would place JAFF in Regency Romance (a subcategory of Historical Romance (a subcategory of Romance)) or in Regency Historical Fiction.

Adopting practices from other categories that might not be the norm in JAFF can keep the genre relevant and revitalized. It’s not enough to merely write JAFF as it’s always been done for the sake of always doing it that way. I don’t care if no one else has done a series this way or that way and therefore some readers think I’m doing it wrong. I’ve done my research. I know I’m doing something acceptable and crafting a story intentionally around it. If Regency Romance folks like that style, maybe they will give our JAFF a try. This is something to keep in mind regarding length and series before judging an author’s work.

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters Chapter Four Part Three

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The following morning, after the food had been cleared from the breakfast table and Mrs. Bennet ordered the school things brought out for the little ones, Jane, Elizabeth, and Kate made their way to Mr. Bennet’s library. He had been asked by the steward to pay a call on a tenant, and so the girls occupied themselves in his absence.

“Did any of you suspect we were witches or that they even existed?” Jane asked.

Elizabeth vehemently shook her head. “No, never! I am not known for a sweet temper, but I had never guessed that I was secretly a pyrotechnic!”

Kate chewed her lip. “I had forgotten entirely about the dreams I used to have until yesterday. In fact, I haven’t dreamt at all in years until last night. I suppose that is why it seemed so unusual to me.”

Elizabeth surveyed her sisters. Like her, Jane seemed to feel no apprehension about their new powers, but Kate appeared less content. Elizabeth wondered if Jane could use her empath powers on Kate. Jane had always been very conscientious of the feelings of others. Perhaps she had retained a bit of her powers all these years. Elizabeth gasped at a sudden memory. “Jane, do you remember that time when Lydia took my ribbon and would not give it back? I singed her hair when I ripped it out of her braid and Mother scolded me like never before.”

Jane laughed. “Now that you mention it, I do. What about when my favorite barn cat disappeared for days, and I was inconsolable? I cried so much I made myself sick!”

Elizabeth smiled. “Then the dratted thing turned up a few days later with six kittens?”

“I named them “happy” in different languages.”

Kate’s eyes grew wide. “How old were you?”

“Seven or eight?” Jane glanced at Elizabeth, who nodded, for confirmation. “Tell us a story, Kate.”

Elizabeth smiled at Jane’s thoughtfulness and hoped it might make Kate feel more at ease. Elizabeth and Jane had immediately accepted Kate, and all the others, into their family but in the last few months, their relationship with Kate had changed. She always wished to tag after them, but being nearly four years younger than Elizabeth, was not in company until only a few weeks ago. Now, it was difficult for Elizabeth to see Kate as a young woman and not as a child. No matter the differences in their ages, it seemed like now there were constant reminders that Kate was a step-sister and not blood. She was now formally “Miss Morland” rather than “Miss Catherine” when in public.

Kate screwed up her face as though she was trying very hard to remember something…anything. “Besides the dreams I told you about last night, I always knew when my brother James would prank us on April Fool Day.”

Elizabeth exchanged glances with Jane. For as long as she had known James he could never keep a secret. He would drop hints about his plans, and in the end, only a true fool would be left unaware.

“Lizzy!” Jane scolded although Elizabeth had said nothing.

Elizabeth tried to look apologetic as she realized Jane must have sensed her thoughts. However, she would not apologize for the truth. Besides, she felt proud of her sister’s abilities and could not hide an expression of pride.

“What?” Kate looked between the two.

“Nothing,” Elizabeth said too quickly, and Kate raised her eyebrows expectantly. “I had a sarcastic thought — but did not say it — and Jane must have sensed it. Well done, Jane!” Lizzy beamed.

“I hardly see why you need to be so excited over being sarcastic at my expense,” Kate frowned.

“Don’t be silly!” Elizabeth said. “I’m happy to see how quickly Jane is learning to use her powers. At least you two can practice and learn without potentially harming someone. I hope Father returns soon so he might begin teaching me.”

Jane nodded. “Let us forget about magic for a few minutes. What did you think of the ball?”

Inwardly, Elizabeth smiled as Jane was once again the peacemaker. Kate immediately filled with nervous fluttering like a butterfly. The blush on her cheeks confirmed what Elizabeth guessed. Catherine was infatuated with her dance partner from the night before. Elizabeth wished the blush she felt rise in her was from such pleasant thoughts.  As thunderous thoughts filled her mind, her skin grew hot.

“Lizzy!” Jane quickly grabbed wine from her father’s cabinet and thrust a glass into her sister’s hand. “Lizzy, calm yourself.”

Steam rose from the glass as Elizabeth brought the drink to her lips.

“That’s it,” Jane encouraged another sip. “Now take a deep breath.”

Elizabeth complied.

“There. Better?”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, her voice shaking. “I did not expect… I didn’t know how to stop it,” she said quietly.

“Kate,” Jane said in a voice that was higher than normal. “Tell us about Mr. Henry Tilney. I did not speak with him last night, but I saw you two dancing.”

“I do not quite know what to think of him.”

“He’s very handsome,” Elizabeth said still more subdued than usual.

“He is,” Kate beamed.

“And I thought I saw you laughing?” Jane asked.

Kate giggled and then pressed her hand to her lips in an attempt to muffle the unladylike reaction. “We were having a genuine conversation, and he interrupted it for silly nonsense about if I like music and the theater. Things like that.”

Skepticism flared in Elizabeth, and hot tingles returned. “Does he think that such things are nonsense—”

“It was the way he said things,” Kate spoke over her sister. “The tone and expression… He was making a joke of things.”

“Oh!” Elizabeth calmed and smiled.

“I believe I am indebted to him for bringing up more usual topics of conversation for new acquaintances,” Kate said with a frown. “I quite forgot them and am afraid I was nearly impertinent.”

On the subject of impertinence, Elizabeth had to tell her younger sister what Mr. Darcy had said. Surprisingly, Jane’s expression turned dazed, and soon she closed her eyes as though concentrating. It reminded Elizabeth of attempting to make out a noise in the distance.

“Jane?” Lizzy called sharply.

Jane opened her eyes as Kate waved a hand in front of her face. “Are you ill? Did you hear us?”

“I’m perfectly well,” she smiled at them. “I was only lost in thought. What did you say?”

Elizabeth’s dark feelings returned, but not as unchecked as before. “I told Kate what I heard Mr. Darcy say.”

“Do attempt to forget it,” Jane said. She took Elizabeth’s’s hand in hers. “Do not judge him by one evening.”

Elizabeth’s nostrils flared. “Is not one evening more than fair when he judged me with a mere glance?”

“It was very wrong of him to say such things, and if you were merely finding his looks at fault, I would not reproach you. But you attack his character when you do not truly know it.”

“He attacked mine too. It is not only beauty that attracts dance partners. He supposed I did not make good conversation or was not a good dancer — ”

“You are leaping to conclusions!” Jane interrupted.

“Besides,” said Kate, “how does poor dancing mean bad character?”

“Perhaps — perhaps it would mean I was unintelligent or too arrogant to pay attention during my lessons or lazy or —” Elizabeth broke out in laughter and defeat as she recognized the ridiculousness of her claims.

“What has my girls in such a good mood?” Mr. Bennet said as he came into the room.

The sisters said nothing but grinned at him, and he sat behind his desk.

“I suppose you have many questions,” the ladies nodded their heads in unison. “I have worked up a schedule for each of you. You will have time to learn magical theory as well as practical application. I must warn you,” he gave them each a stern look, “most of Meryton does not know about our magical heritage or of the wizarding world at all. It is imperative they do not learn of it. As of now, everyone in our community is cleared with the High Council and the Quorum as trustworthy, but jobbards are not screened. You must guard your secret.”

The smiles slipped from the girls’ faces, and Elizabeth did not need empathic or telepathic abilities to know the thoughts and feelings of her sisters. Someone had killed their parents. They understood the high cost.

Elizabeth was the first to break the silence. “Only say we will not need to go shopping for funny hats and brooms.”

Mr. Bennet shook his head and chuckled. “You have much to learn,” he said and handed out their schedules.

Later that day, Lady Lucas and Charlotte visited. Elizabeth was surprised to learn that her best friend’s family were magical. They did not have demonstrative powers. Instead, they were proficient in medicines and cookery. Elizabeth smiled at the pride Lady Lucas had as she talked about Charlotte’s abilities with tonics.

Charlotte grinned and then turned to Elizabeth. “Perhaps I should not mention Mr. Darcy, knowing your power is the gift of fire, Eliza. However, now that you know the truth would you like me to give him a “tonic”? I could momentarily turn him into a goat!”

Elizabeth laughed. “That was your thought all along last night when you suggested one for his eyesight! I confess many things in the past now make sense. Mrs. Long was once an oracle was she not?”

“Yes, but now you know her predictions are usually wrong.”

“Why would that be?”

“The Council told us by hiding the existence of the Bewitching Sisters,” Mrs. Bennet explained, “it might affect the strength of magic for the entire area.”

“Like a cloaking,” Elizabeth suggested, and the elder ladies agreed. “Now there ought to be an increase of magical abilities for everyone,” she concluded.

“In that case, I shall turn Mr. Darcy into a hawk. His eyesight does need improving,” Charlotte said.

Elizabeth laughed again. “Unless there is a spell to cure his pride, I am afraid there is nothing to be done.”

The conversation was soon interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Allen. It was revealed that although she was not magical at all, her mother had been. She had the opportunity to learn spells and potions but chose not to. Elizabeth sighed in relief that they did not need to hide their abilities from so many of their close friends.

Mrs. Allen had called to ask if the girls would like to walk with her into town. Kate quickly agreed. Elizabeth had no desire to stay in the house lest Mr. Bingley and his friend call on them.

“I should like to stay home, Mama,” Jane said.

“You do not wish to stay home as well, Kate?” Elizabeth asked with a teasing smile.

“I feel urged to go,” was her reply.

“Have you had a premonition?” her mother asked.

“I do not think so. Not like before, that is. I did not see a scene unfold. Perhaps before I regain the ability to see I have the talent to sense?”

The other ladies looked at each other, hoping one may have the answer. Lady Lucas, at last, suggested, “It may be impossible to know since powers come to most as children, and they likely could not express it so well if it began in such a way.”

“I know before the ceremony last night I awoke to a burning feeling in my limbs, but I have yet to create fire,” Elizabeth said then sipped her tea. “Not that I have tried or would know how if I wished it.”

Mr. Bennet spoke from the doorway. “Go on with Mrs. Allen, Kate. When you return, if we do not have visitors, we will begin your lessons. You are all bright enough girls and had your powers for many years before the binding, so I have no doubts you shall catch on fast. Elizabeth, I request that you stay here.”

The ladies all agreed, and Kate set out with Mrs. Allen while Elizabeth and Jane continued their visit with Lady Lucas and her daughter. Elizabeth wondered why her father had asked her to remain at home, but her father did not stay in the room. Determined to enjoy herself while she could, she returned her attention to their guests.

Reunited- Chapter Nine

reunited 2Chapter Nine

 

Rage coursed through Will’s body as the name fell from Elizabeth’s lips. He had been so careful to not mention him to her.

“Will?”

Elizabeth’s words drew him back to the present. Concern clouded her features. “Might we walk now?”

“Is there something you do not wish for my father to know?”

Will shook his head. “No, I will speak with him later. I know myself only too well on this subject. I can relay the facts coldly which I believe would wound you, or I might become overly-emotional. I do not know if it makes any sense to you.”

Elizabeth looked at him for a moment before nodding her head. “Sam and I once found a pup who had lost his mother. When we found him he was hurt but when we attempted to help him he gnashed his teeth. Sam bundled him up in his coat and carried him home. We thought to keep him in a pen so he would be safe but he only became more belligerent, attempting to bite anyone who came near him, even with food in hand. Finally, we believed he might do better on his own—his wound had healed. We opened the pen but he never left sight of us. That night, we left the door open and he willingly slept in there. The next morning, we visited again and instead of growls and angry barks, we were met with a wagging tail. He would follow Sam everywhere after that. We were both heartbroken when he went away to school.”

“I recall Sam talking of his pet. He does not still live does he?”

“No,” Elizabeth sighed sadly. “Jasper passed the autumn after Sam did.”

“I am sorry,” Will touched her hand. “It sounds as though he was a great comfort to you in the absence of your brother and then…”

“All is well,” Elizabeth answered. “I told the story to explain that I understand your feelings. Jasper was not a bad-natured animal. He only needed his freedom and space. Feeling caged heightened his anxieties.”

“That is it exactly,” he closed his eyes in relief at her perception and understanding. How had he ever been so fortunate as to meet her? “Shall we?”

Standing, Will asked for Mr. Bennet’s permission for the walk. Having received it, they set off.

“I have always regretted that you ever met Mr. Wickham,” Will began once they were some distance from the house. “He should never have been in a house full of ladies.”

“I know,” Elizabeth nodded and squeezed his arm.

“You know!” he repeated in amazement. “But how? Did he importune you? I ought to have killed him!”

“No, not me—” Elizabeth hastened to say and tugged on his arm to cease his movement. “Miss Graves told me she had explained it to you. I thought you knew.”

“She did indeed,” Will nodded, “but I did not know she had informed you as well.”

“It was…” Elizabeth sighed. “She found me distraught on the stairs and had assumed the worse.”

“Why were you upset?” Will cast his mind back to the week he had known Elizabeth. His memory was clouded by distance and through layers of regret, pain, and anger. He could barely recall any particulars but only knew that his heart could not deceive him. He had really loved Elizabeth.

“It was after we hid in the cupboard,” Elizabeth answered as she blushed.

Instantly, Will remembered the moment. She had sent him away after he kissed her senseless. He had believed at the time that she had believed he was ungentlemanly. She spent some time avoiding him, but when he came to her to apologise, she had nothing but sweet words and tempting looks for him. “Is she why you had calmed by the time I spoke with you next? What did she say?”

Elizabeth began walking again, nervous energy filling her. “I had built all sorts of ideas in my head. I had thought you only meant to use me—you said nothing about love or courtship, and at the theatre, you had said nothing could exist between us. She allowed me to see the differences between you and a vile abuser like Wickham.”

“I have always liked Miss Graves,” Will grinned for a moment. “She is Mrs. Annesley now—widowed to a footman we had at Darcy House. She has returned to her post as Georgiana’s governess.”

“Governess?” Elizabeth wondered. “Is she not getting quite old for that?”

“It was necessary,” Will bit out. “Come, let us sit here,” he motioned to a bench under a currently bare tree.

“Unbeknownst to me until only a few days ago, Wickham would often visit with Georgiana as a child. Even after my father died—no, I must explain matters first.”

Elizabeth listened patiently as Will paced before her and explained the situation of his father’s will. He had left a valuable living for Wickham but the young man refused all claim to it. He requested instead funds to study law—claiming that Will had given him the idea from one of their arguments—and Will had supposed that would be the end of his acquaintance with the man. Instead, like a bad cold, he came back again and again, abusing Will’s name far and wide whenever he denied him money.

“It seems while I was away from Pemberley, he would visit Georgiana. After Mrs. Annesley married, I decided to send her to a school in London. She has perceived this as me tearing her from her only friend—as she told me in today’s letter. Last summer, my cousin and I removed her from school and allowed her to travel to Ramsgate with a companion. It turns out this woman had a connection to Wickham, who arrived at Mrs. Younge’s invitation. There, he convinced Georgiana to an elopement, and it is only my unexpected arrival that put an end to the scheme.”

“An elopement!” Elizabeth cried. “And to such a man! Thank goodness you arrived in time to prevent it.”

“I saw the packed bags and confronted both her and Mrs. Younge, but the confession was most unwilling. I wrote to Wickham—he renounced all interest and intention in Georgiana, and so she blames me now for separating her from her lover.”

“How could she be so deceived in his character? How could she not believe you given your history?”

“I am afraid it is my fault,” Will said as anguish seized his heart. “I concealed the truth from her as I did not wish to wound her impression of our father. He was much to blame in permitting Wickham’s behavior. By now, you must suppose Mrs. Annesley was not the only Darcy servant to be importuned by him.” At Elizabeth’s nod, he continued, “I failed her.”

Shame gripped him. It ought to have been him to die in the fire. How many lives had he destroyed? Elizabeth’s, Georgiana’s, if he had been in his room, he might have saved Sam or his father. Mr. Bennet never would have been hurt. Instead, he selfishly drank himself near to oblivion at the tavern below.

“You did not.”

Elizabeth placed her hands on his cheeks, wiping away tears he did not realise had spilled from his eyes.

An anguished sob tore from his throat as he buried his face in her hair. “She was but fifteen—what did she know of the world? I was her only family—”

“I was only sixteen when we met and I never would have consented to an elopement. Do you remember? We discussed it.”

“I remember,” he gripped her tightly.

“And you never would have suggested it. Georgiana must face some responsibility for her choice, but most of it resides in the schemes of one man. How long have you blamed yourself for his every evil deed?”

Elizabeth’s words struck him. He had never realised before that was exactly what he had always done. “What would I do without you?”

“What did you do without me? You wrote in your letter—the one I was fortunate enough to receive—that you continued to write to me even after Sam died and all hope died. If you have kept them, I would like to read them.”

“It would do me no good in your view, I fear. I poured my anger out on the page.”

“Might I help heal those wounds? If I can understand the pain, I may better nurse them.”

“I burnt them all before coming to Hertfordshire. I had wanted to let go of the past. I never expected that you still loved me—I had convinced myself you never did. I wished only to prove that I no longer would be your fool.”

“I do not fully understand why you would believe that of me. If you recall, we did not talk very much a few days ago.”

“Oh, I remember,” he chuckled. “I would tell you of the sweetness of your lips,” he whispered in her ear, “but I do believe you said you would rather be shown love than told of it.”

Elizabeth whimpered and arched her neck as his lips inched down the column of her throat. “Yes, but I spoke of fidelity too.”

Will met her lips for one delicious moment, then pulled back. “And I will show you that as well.” He placed her hand on his arm, laughing as she returned from her daze. “I am capable of some restraint, although I do not think you can blame a man after desiring a woman for so many years and so sure he would never have her again to act as I did.”

Elizabeth agreed, and they meandered through the Netherfield gardens.

“I was a fool,” Will admitted. “Sam hinted a bit too strongly one evening about my being in love with you and Wickham heard. He taunted me for the entire trip. How would I know how to court a lady? I was too stupid to please one. She must only desire my money. I could only interest one as young and poor as you.” He shook his head. “I have little doubt that I appeared the epitome of an arrogant heir to you, but the truth was that I felt intensely insecure in my own value. I had often experienced friends who desired only to use me. Wickham is the primary example. He knew more than any other how a person could appear interested in me only to desire the Darcy name and wealth. He always knew how to make me feel most vulnerable. I do not know why I persisted in listening to him and believing him—I suppose I could not believe myself so worthy of deserving you. Can you ever forgive me for that?”

Elizabeth leaned her head against Will’s arm, and they walked in silence for a few moments. He dared not look at her face. The fact that she had not pushed him away was more than he had dared to hope for.

“I do not like that you were so easily deceived, but I do forgive you, and I can understand it. I had only my inner voice saying the same sorts of things about you.”

“Have you put those feelings to rest?” he asked as they arrived near the stable.

“I hope so,” Elizabeth answered honestly and sighed. “I suppose I will be going home soon.”

Just then, the coachman emerged. Wearing a stern face, he stomped in anger toward the house. Will called out to him.

“What is the matter?”

“Yesterday, we had supposed the carriage was stuck in the mud. I apologise, miss,” he glanced at Elizabeth, “for the dirty walk you faced in the rain.”

“As you see, I am no worse for the excursion.”

“You sound as though the problem was not the mud?” Will asked.

“The axle is broken. A nearly clean break.”

Dread knotted in Will’s stomach. “Do you suspect someone tampered with it?”

“One of our saws is missing,” he said. “I believe it must have been cut down so it might appear intact but very weak once in motion. If we had not been going so slow due to the rain, it would have been dangerous—perhaps deadly—when it broke.”

Will turned to Elizabeth, her face appearing as snow and her hands feeling like ice even through the thickness of his coat and her gloves.

“Who would do such a thing?” she asked in a trembling voice.

 

*****

 

A terrified shudder wracked Elizabeth’s body while Will and his coachman stared at one another. An unspoken conversation occurred, and although Elizabeth could not say she shared in it, in the pit of her stomach, she knew the logical culprit.

“Come, dearest,” Will led her to a stool in the stable and withdrew a flask, pressing it into her hands.

Elizabeth murmured her thanks and took a few small sips until she felt warmth and vitality rush through her. No one could have known ahead of time that it would be Elizabeth who rode in Will’s carriage next. No, he was the target. She had little difficulty believing Wickham hated Will and was capable of evil—but to attempt murder? Even worse—did this mean he was here? Near Netherfield? Near Meryton? Her eyes scanned the trees as though she would see his menacing visage. How had she ever found him handsome? In her memory, now, he was akin to a monster.

“Let us walk back, we have much to discuss with your father,” Will said and assisted her in standing.

“What will you do?” Elizabeth asked Will as they approached the house.

“I will speak with your father and also Charles. I do not believe he or any of his family is a target, but they should be careful at any rate.” He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Fear not. You will be returned home safely.”

“It is not me that I worry for!” Elizabeth cried, bringing them to a stop. She threw herself into Will’s arms, clutching him tightly. “Why when we have just found one another again must this happen?”

Will whispered soothing words of love in her ear and rubbed her back until the spell of emotion passed. “We do not know that anything intentional happened. I know your intelligent mind. I know you can perceive what Davis and I did not say—but if he is to blame, then you can be sure he will not be showing his face again any time soon. He thrives on lulling me into a sense of security and is too clever to push his luck and be caught. I would hazard a guess even if we found proof that he had been here he is now far away.”

Elizabeth wiped her tears with the handkerchief Will offered and nodded. London was a very convenient distance, and he easily could hide there.

“I will write to my cousin and inquire about Wickham’s whereabouts, but if I know Wickham, he would much rather have me alive than dead. You cannot blackmail a dead man.”

Elizabeth was not at all proud of the fact that for a fleeting moment, amidst the gut-wrenching pain of imagining Will dead, she considered that his heir must be his sister. Would Georgiana want him dead so she might marry Wickham? Or would he put a plan into action without her knowledge to remove her guardian? Biting her tongue, Elizabeth chose not to voice her concerns. Will knew both far better than she did and if he did not entertain the possibility of them then more than likely she would only pain him with such wild possibilities.

Had she learned nothing in recent days? She should put her most fevered ideas behind her and not give into her imagination. There were no clues to lead to her recent thoughts. Good heavens! Was she turning into her step-mother?

Upon reaching the house, Mr. Bennet greeted them. “I am feeling much recovered, and your mother has sent a missive begging our return on the morrow. My cousin arrives the following day and she says the master of the house is required to be in residence.”

“Your cousin?” Will asked.

“He is the son of the man who was heir before Sam was born. We have never met Mr. Collins before, but he seems quite ridiculous.”

“Indeed,” her father laughed. “His letter contained more compliments to his patroness—a Lady Catherine de Bourgh, he mentioned as though I should know her name—than it did to my wife or daughters—of which there were many although he has never seen them.”

Will started at Mr. Bennet’s words. “Pardon me, did you say Lady Catherine de Bourgh?” Upon confirmation, Will looked between father and daughter, and said in an amazed one, “She is my mother’s sister. How came he to know her?”

“He did not say,” Mr. Bennet answered. “I had thought you might return with certain news you wished to share?” He glanced between Will and Elizabeth. “Will told me you would soon be selecting a wedding date?”

“Oh,” Elizabeth answered and looked at her feet. Yes, she had told Will she would compromise and settle a date but must she decide just now? Her stepmother must have opinions about such things and still as far as the rest of the world knew they had never spent much time together. They could not announce it right away.

“Unfortunately, we did not have a moment to discuss the date,” Will hastily intervened. “On that subject, I do request an audience with you but not on the topic of the wedding.”

“Certainly,” Mr. Bennet agreed and followed Will to the library.

Sighing, Elizabeth determined to join the others in the drawing room. Her mind could not focus on any of the conversations at hand. Caroline must have delighted in seeing what looked like evidence of her stupidity. Elizabeth’s mind worked again and again. Why would Wickham wish to kill Will? Was Wickham as harmless as Will believed?

Elizabeth and Will had no more opportunity to talk and the afternoon and evening were filled with Caroline’s insistence upon music and cards, gently scolding Will for writing letters when he had requested the music. Elizabeth stole glances at him during her time at the pianoforte. He rarely looked up from his page, but often his pen did not move as though he were lost in the music. A few times their eyes locked and Elizabeth almost believed then that love was a tangible thing. She could feel his caress with his eyes. His arms were around her once more and the safe, secure feeling she always felt in his presence filled her.

The following morning, Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth returned to Longbourn. After describing the house to her sisters and her mother, Elizabeth retreated to her room for solitude. A half hour later, she was not surprised when there was a knock at her door, and Jane entered.

“Are you very jealous of me for getting to spend time at Netherfield?” Elizabeth teased.

“I am very thankful that Papa recovered so quickly and you were there to help. Was it an agreeable visit?”

Very agreeable,” Elizabeth beamed. “Will and I managed to have many conversations, and I think we understand one another much more now.”

“Do you trust him now? Do you have peace about the past?”

“I think I do,” Elizabeth nodded. “Now, I will tell you that Mr. Bingley asked about you several times a day and always seemed to work you into the conversation.”

“He did not,” Jane blushed. “Do not tease me so.”

“I am telling the utter truth!” Elizabeth grinned and hugged her sister. “Perhaps when I next visit the house you will be its mistress.” She could not contain a set of giggles as she used her best Fanny Bennet impression.

“Lizzy!” Jane pretended to scold but smiled at Elizabeth’s words.

Suddenly, Elizabeth sobered and squeezed her sister again. “Thank you for always being so selfless. I am sure you listened to me cry over Will far more than you ever wished.”

“I would say so! I would never wish for your heart to be broken.”

“I did not mean it in that way. I am certain if the positions were reversed, I would have lost patience with you in a matter of weeks.”

“No,” Jane shook her head. “You are my dearest friend and can be excessively protective. If the situations were reversed, you would have girded your loins and marched to London to demand explanation and retribution. I am weak compared to you.”

“Never say such a thing!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Your strength is, perhaps, different than mine. It is quieter, but I see it and so must all who call you friend.”

Jane smiled, and the sisters sat in companionable solitude for a few moments until there was shouting from the hallway. “Lizzy! Jane!” Lydia yelled. “Mama says to come downstairs!”

Sharing a smile, they left their chamber and rejoined the family below.

Thursday Three Hundred–Greater than Friends

 

Rose Letter

On Monday, I posted the song Friends Don’t by Maddie and Tae. I wrote that it reminded me of Emma and Knightley. I could have written from a few other locations in the book, but chose the scene where Harriet Smith acknowledges that she loves Mr. Knightley–and believes he loves her in return. I generously use some lines straight from Miss Austen. I don’t think she would mind. 🙂

cd4fab69d19e6c58bb41e5fe62b0bcaeGreater than Friends

“Let us understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake. Are you speaking of—Mr. Knightley?”

“To Be sure I am.”

Harriet continued speaking, and Emma vaguely registered the girl’s words, managing somehow to talk while all her mind worked on Harriet’s strange series of utterances. Harriet Smith in love with her good friend Mr. Knightley? But no, that was not the correct word for Mr. Knightley.

Did friends mean to one another what Mr. Knightley and Emma meant to one another? How often had they made plans around the feeling of the other? How many silent conversations had they had with nothing but their eyes? If Mr. Knightley were only a friend, should she not be able to hear Mrs. Elton speak of him with familiarity without possessive irritation?

For months, years, even he had often visited Hartfield. His visits began shortly, but now they seemed to linger. He found any excuse to come and the purpose seemed just as much to visit Emma as to sit with her father. A hundred tender memories of conversations and Knightley’s nearness flashed like lightning in Emma’s mind and swelled her heart.

However, unfortunate recollections also recollected. She had pushed him aside. He probably believed—just as everyone else did, it seemed—that she loved Frank Churchill. His low opinion of her was very plain and Harriet—sweet, simple, pretty Harriet—he had confessed to think well of.

No, no, no! It would not do! “Good God!” cried Emma, “this has been a most unfortunate—most deplorable mistake!—What is to be done?”

Again, Harriet chattered on. Emma could not speak. Mr. Knightley would never linger at Hartfield again. No, he would have his dear Harriet to think about. They would visit together, and Emma would have to find a way to send them off. No more chats after supper while the stars shone. No more daily walks from Donwell Abbey.

No, no. Mr. Knightley was not merely her friend. “Have you any idea of Mr. Knightley’s returning your affection?”

“Yes,” replied Harriet modestly, but not fearfully—”I must say that I have.”

Emma sat in silence while a thunderclap sounded in her mind—nay, her heart. With the speed of an arrow, she acknowledged Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!

On and on, Harriet continued explaining and rationalizing—with merit, Emma detested to admit—that Knightley did care for her.

Feeling her heart die and her soul weep, Emma acknowledged, “I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is the last man in the world, who would intentionally give any woman the idea of his feeling for her more than he really does.”

Finally, Harriet left, and Emma sat in dejected spirits wishing she had never met the girl. This much she knew, no one would love Mr. Knightley as she did. How she wished she had the opportunity to tell him before he made a choice that would forever separate them.