This particular novella is one of the shorter books I’ve done. Why? Because this particular one had much more angst than any other I had written. I even cried as I wrote part of it. I could have expanded it, however, I didn’t want my readers exhausted by the end of it. I endeavored to keep them on tenterhooks throughout most of the book, but I didn’t want them swooning by the end.
Here is an excerpt that I hope you will enjoy. Do please forgive me for the cliffhanger. 🙂
Fitzwilliam Darcy frowned as he read the brief note from his friend, Dickie Cummings. Apparently, he had injured his hand, and his butler was writing the note for him.
“Well, that explains the strange handwriting. But this just does not sound like Dickie,” he muttered.
“Will, is something wrong?”
He continued frowning, shook his head, and said, “I’m not sure. My friend, Dickie Cummings, says he has a problem that he cannot solve and asks me to come to his estate and give him a hand. But…he does not say what the problem is. And that is totally unlike him. In person he is very voluble, speaking on and on with plenty of detail. However, there is nothing like that here.”
“Perhaps, it is because it is in a letter rather than face to face. Could that be the difference?”
“Or could it be that the problem is with his health or a family member that has him concerned and not quite himself?”
“That is a possibility.” Darcy was pensive for a few moments, then said, “But, Elizabeth, the phrasing is unlike how he writes…or talks. And he is an incessant talker who rambles on and on…even in his letters.”
“Mayhap, his butler saw no need to ramble on and on.”
Darcy chuckled and agreed with his wife.
He thought for a moment, then added, “There is time today, as his estate is not far. If I take the pass through the mountain, I can be there within two hours. With luck, I can help solve his problem in a short while and arrive back here before dark.”
“I’m sure he will appreciate your responding so promptly.”
“Yes, and if I am delayed, I’ll send a note with a servant and stay overnight if needs be.”
It pleased him that his wife seemed a little perturbed that he might stay the night, and not with her. Will had slept every night with his wife since his wedding, and he had no desire for that to change anytime soon…or ever.
With a sigh, he arose from his desk, went over to his wife’s chair and pulled her to her feet. Then he gave her a kiss that nearly made her swoon.
“I will miss you, my love.”
“And I you, my darling.”
Hurrying up the enormous staircase to the family suites, Darcy had his valet help him change into his riding clothes in the large dressing room attached to his bedroom. All the while, something nagged at his memory. The note from his friend bothered him because it seemed out of character, and he couldn’t help the feeling of foreboding that hung over him. Looking at the door that led to his wife’s bedchamber, he felt his heart clench as if he might not see her again. Shaking his head, he admonished himself that it was nonsense, and he would see her this evening.
“Nothing, Jenkins. I’m just mumbling to myself.”
The valet just smiled and said, “Very good, sir.” He was used to his master muttering either over business matters or putting forth an effort to hurry his valet when he was meeting his wife. He was pleased that Mr. Darcy had found a wonderful woman that made him happy. His job as Darcy’s man had become much easier since the couple’s wedding.
“Hurry back, my love.”
“I will, Elizabeth. I have much to come back to.”
Darcy held his wife close and gave her kiss that made him want to put off his journey to the Cummings estate.
“Perhaps, I should send a note and tell Dickie I will see him in a couple of days or a week…or a month.”
“Elizabeth couldn’t help the giggle against his mouth and, for a fleeting second, was almost afraid to let him go. That one second had made her feel like someone had plunged an icicle into her heart.
“Are you well, Elizabeth?”
Giving him a lovely smile, she mentally shook off the momentary feeling of dread, and feeling very foolish, she kissed him and told him to go, see Cummings, and then to hurry home.
He kissed her again, walked out Pemberley’s large front door, mounted Windstorm, and then rode out of sight.
Elizabeth didn’t know that it would be the last she would see of him.
At the knock on the study door, Elizabeth said, “Come.”
She had expected Mrs. Reynolds and a maid with tea, but was surprised when Mrs. Reynolds’ husband, the butler, entered instead.
Noting his expression, she asked, “Reynolds, is anything wrong?”
“My apologies, Mrs. Darcy, but…”
Elizabeth cocked her head. “What is amiss? Tell me immediately.”
“I’m so sorry, ma’am, but Mr. Darcy’s horse has returned…without him.”
“Oh, God, please no. Has the stable manager made arrangements to hunt for him? He could be injured.”
“I do not know, but I feel a servant should notify Colonel Fitzwilliam if he is still at Matlock Manor.”
“Yes, of course. I believe he is to be there for a sennight. Send a footman over there immediately. Richard can be here in three hours or less.”
Reynolds ran out the door of the study to follow her orders and because he was afraid of what they would find. He feared for his master.
Less than two hours later, Richard appeared, his horse in a complete lather and nearly exhausted. Gesturing to a footman, he ordered the man to take his horse to the stable and have a groom feed and water him.
After determining that Elizabeth and Georgiana were in the study, Richard hastened there to see if there was any news.
“Elizabeth, Georgiana, are you well and is anything known of Darcy’s whereabouts?”
“No, we are not well and…there is no news. Jefferson and the stable hands came back and said there was no sign of him.”
“Elizabeth, even if the worst happened, they would have found…him.” Richard hesitated to mention Darcy’s body as the two women in front of him were both in tears. “There must be some indication of what happened to him. It is late and darkness will prevent us from searching thoroughly. I will stay the night after making arrangements with the stable manager and servants to begin searching first thing in the morning. We’ll find out what’s happened, I promise.”
“Thank you, Richard, but I…I fear the worst.” And she covered her mouth.
“Now, Elizabeth. We may find that Windstorm just threw him, he sustained an injury, and someone took him some place, and we’ll receive news of him soon.”
With a small voice and tears causing her eyes to glisten, Elizabeth said, “I hope so, Richard.” But she didn’t look hopeful, so he turned to Georgiana.
“Georgie, will you be well?”
“I don’t know, Richard. Will is like both a father and a brother to me. I will die too if something has happened to him,” said she, with tears in her eyes as well.
Richard pulled her close and gently patted her back. “Do not speak so, poppet. We will find him, and, hopefully, he will be well. Think positive, sweetling.”
Elizabeth watched the two of them for a few minutes, and when Georgiana’s tears subsided, she asked, “Perhaps we should get something to eat and then go to bed early. The day has been very trying.”
When Georgiana declined food, Richard finally talked her into eating a little of the light meal before going to her rooms. He also encouraged Elizabeth to do the same.
Richard had always liked his cousin by marriage ever since meeting her and knowing Darcy loved her. Colonel Fitzwilliam loved Elizabeth, though not as a lover. He loved her spirit, her intelligence, and that she made Darcy ecstatically happy and cared about Georgie as well. He was proud of the bride that his cousin had found, but he worried that the worst may have happened, and he loathed that he might have to be the bearer of terrible news.
He went to bed with a heavy heart.