Blue Sky Moon is the working title of my current JAFF work-in-progress (WIP.) I still don’t know if that will be the final title, but there is a symbolism in it that is explored in the novel that is very front of mind as I work on it. The story encompasses Elizabeth and Darcy’s first year as a married couple. I’ve learned that finding the heart of a romance where the couple is already in love initially carried challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. In One Thread Pulled, they fell in love. Then, in Constant as the Sun, they had to overcome obstacles to their marriage. In the current WIP, which is the final book in the One Thread Pulled trilogy, the stakes had to be just as high–if not higher. This excerpt introduces us to Lady Phyllis, a recently widowed neighbor, and also includes Robert Darcy, who was introduced in Constant as the Sun. Enjoy.
Lady Phyllis made certain to sit beside Darcy and, as she had with Robert on her call, dominated the conversation. Darcy was not as aloof in his own home as he had been in Hertfordshire and was an amiable dinner companion. This observation was made by Robert, who was seated on her other side. Having met Lady Phyllis before, he realized that the widow appeared to have expectations of Darcy that were problematic in light of his recent nuptials. His attempts to divert her attention were met with disinterestedness. Never had he seen a lady throw herself so shamelessly at a married man in the presence of his wife. He held his tongue, continued trying to turn her from Darcy, and wished for the evening to end.
The next day, Robert approached Darcy in his study, confronting him with the suspicions that had grown as he observed the lady’s flirtations with Darcy. “You are wrong,” Darcy said, pouring them both a cup of port. “She knows that I hold no interest in her, that I am happily married and very content with my wife.”
“Then you should not have included her in the party. Her behaviour was an insult to ‘your wife’”
“She is having a difficult time re-entering the society here in Derbyshire. She has been away for many years, and…”
“Oh yes, I understand all of these things and more. She was doubtlessly once considered the jewel of the county, the highest prize to be won, and then she married and went away, and with her, dashing the hopes of many a young suitor. So tragically widowed at such a young age.”
“Yes,” Darcy agreed as he nursed his cup. “That is a fairly accurate way to say it.”
“And you were one of those suitors?”
Darcy looked at him thoughtfully. “I suppose she thought so. I never felt any attachment to her, but she is rather determined to have her way, as you have surely seen. I was already accustomed to people thinking they were able to lay claim to me. For example, Aunt Catherine had repeated the lie that Anne and I were engaged so frequently that she had come to believe it.”
“Did Lady Phyllis ever get wind of Anne de Bourgh’s engagement to the heir of Pemberley?”
“I didn’t see the point of telling her. It was a lie.” Darcy shrugged with a nonchalance that was too indifferent.
Robert crowed, pointing his finger at Darcy. “Ha! Admit it, Darcy. You enjoyed her attentions. You did not tell her because you liked her fussing over you.”
Darcy nodded. “To be honest, she was the only eligible match in the neighbourhood. Many thought that it was inevitable that I would offer for her. She, like my mother, is the daughter of a nobleman, with rank and high-born connections to bring to the marriage. At the time, she had a large dowry as well. I was too filled with pride to consider that she might reject me before I rejected her.”
“You are not disappointed, are you?” Robert said, “Disappointed that she married another, costing you the only eligible match in the neighbourhood?”
The shake of Darcy’s head was barely discernible. “No. I was at the time. I could not see my future then, and what had seemed inevitable was snatched away before I had even considered if it was what I wanted. In a way, Lady Phyllis marrying her cousin is responsible for my disdain of all the ladies I encountered in society after that. They all seemed so false, just as Phyllis had been.”
“Yes,” Darcy agreed. “Elizabeth refused to flatter my ego, and she was disgusted with my pride. It was something of a shock, really, to have one beneath me in all the measures of the world hold me in contempt.”
“Contempt is a strong word, Darcy. Surely it was not so bad as that.”
“You say that because you have never seen her when ire is flashing in her eyes.”
“Oh yes. She is a magnificent creature when angry. I am fortunate to have won her hand. She told me no when I proposed to her, you know.” Darcy took another sip. “I had to beg.”
“You begged? I cannot believe it.” Robert tried to conjure up the image in his mind, then shook his head to emphasize his disbelief. “She is such a kind person with such an affectionate, generous nature that it seems at odds with what I know of her to think of her as having the capacity for anger, let alone expecting a suitor to grovel for her hand.”
Darcy narrowed his eyes and glared at Robert. “You can know nothing of her virtues, Robert. You barely know her,” He growled.
Robert was startled by the sudden turn of Darcy’s mood and raised his hands in submission. “You know that I hold your wife in the highest regard. My esteem for her has not been dimmed by getting to know her better, but I would not presume to claim a more intimate friendship than that of what, say, a brother might hold.”
“You have been spending a great deal of time in her company since you came to Pemberley.”
“Yes, and that of Georgiana as well, and you also, when you are not running around your estate mending fences and chasing cows out of the fields.”
Darcy glowered. “I did not chase that cow. I sent the tenant’s sons after it. I only waved my arms a bit to get her to turn.”
Robert shrugged. “As you say.”
Darcy threw back the last of his drink and swallowed. “I care about the concerns of my estate.”
“I would be happy to help you if you would let me.”
Darcy regarded his cousin and said with a shade of sarcasm, “You are helping me by keeping my wife and sister amused while I am out working.”
“That is not fair, Darcy. Give me some better occupation, and I will not play at bowling and archery all day.”
Darcy poured out another drink. “You have made yourself quite at home here at Pemberley, Robert. Does it bother you that had your father not been a scoundrel, all this would be yours?” Robert scrutinized Darcy but held his tongue. Then, after a pause, Darcy continued. “Be honest. Do you not feel the least bit cheated by the winds of fate?” Robert crossed his arms and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. Are you afraid to answer, man? Do you resent me my inheritance?”
Robert set down his cup. “No, Darcy. I have a good life and comparable property in Virginia. Surely you would acquit me of breaking the tenth commandment without cause. I do not covet your house, or your manservants or maidservants or your oxen or your asses. Are you satisfied?”
“You left out wife.” Darcy leaned forward accusingly and spat the missing phrase at Robert. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”
“Did I?” Robert shrugged. “I suppose I need to be more constant in my church attendance. I had committed all ten to memory as a child. I do not know how that happened.”
“Well, man, do you?” Darcy pursued.
“Do I what?” Robert blinked innocently.
“Do you covet my wife?” Darcy’s voice lowered dangerously.
“You are not my neighbour; you are my cousin,” Robert retorted, “But I will not claim innocence on the pretext of a loophole. You have caught me. I find Mrs Darcy everything that is good and virtuous in a woman and had I met her before you, I would certainly have pursued her for myself. I will overcome it, though, for I have long since reconciled myself to your marriage. You need not worry on my account.”
Darcy barely heard the end of Robert’s reply. Once the words ‘you have caught me’ were uttered, his blood began to boil in anger. “If you even look at her, you will be out on your ear!” he growled and quit the room before Robert said another word.
Thank you for taking the time to read this excerpt. If you have any thoughts on it, I would love to hear them.