Since my last posting, I’ve released my latest book, Pride & Perception. Today I’m sharing an excerpt.
In the original canon, Elizabeth chastises Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, teasing him that they should have some form of conversation during their set. She made a comment on the ball, he should reply with something about the size of the room, or the number of people. It’s a classic scene and I have a version of it in my book, but I also mirrored it later in the story when Darcy is desperate to start a conversation with Elizabeth after the Hunsford debacle.
Darcy cringed when Richard halted in his advance toward Miss Bennet. She’d practically squeaked out his name, her surprise had been so great.
“You know each other?”
“Yes, I met Miss Bennet and her sister Miss Elizabeth when I was in Hertfordshire. I told you this, Richard.”
“No, my dearest cousin,” Richard said, his eyes glinting dangerously. “I knew you’d met Miss Elizabeth, but had no inkling to whom, exactly, she was related.”
Darcy knew he was in trouble when they had a private moment.
“We all know this was a bad oversight on my part.”
“Now you see what is before you, you dunderhead.” He moved to stand by Miss Bennet. She raised her face to his and smiled.
“Elizabeth is my sister, Colonel. You met her then, while in Kent?”
“I had the very great pleasure?” He stopped and faced the door at the sound of a small gasp.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam!” Elizabeth had entered the room and then stopped dead in her tracks. “Mr. Darcy,” she said and afforded him a polite curtsy.
All four of them stood, looking awkwardly at each other. Finally, Richard spoke up.
“Shall we continue to stand about in a stupid manner, or shall we go for… oh I don’t know… a little walk in the park before returning for some tea?”
Darcy shot him a dirty look. Richard smiled. Miss Bennet looked from one to the other before saying, “That would be lovely, Colonel. Lizzy and I will get our things. Pray, excuse us.”
She moved toward Elizabeth and took a firm hold of her arm. Darcy could tell by the mulish expression on his beloved’s face, she had no desire to walk anywhere with him. Low murmurs from the sisters were all he could make out until he heard a disgruntled, ‘Fine!’
Darcy muttered when Richard sidled up beside him, “This is an unmitigated disaster.”
“Yes, and Miss Bennet and I shall enjoy the fireworks.”
“I am rethinking that favorite cousin thing.”
“We all have our crosses to bear and, happily, I am yours.”
“Sadly, I have no Simon of Cyrene to take mine up when it becomes too heavy.”
“Oh ho! You were listening to the parson this past Easter. I thought you might have been ruminating on a fine pair of eyes in the face of a handsome woman.”
Darcy gave a start. How had his cousin known he’d used those exact words to describe Elizabeth?
“What? What did I say that made you look at me like that?” Richard asked.
“Nothing.” Darcy scrubbed a hand across his face. “My past keeps coming up from behind and biting me in the derriere.”
“Darcy,” Richard said, “there was a time I envied your life and wished I could have but half of what you had. But now,” he glanced toward the door where the two ladies would hopefully come through soon, “I envy you nothing. I have all I need, right here, right now.”
“At this moment, you are by far richer than I.”
They didn’t get a chance to say more, because the Bennet sisters returned and soon they were promenading down the street toward the park. Richard and Jane took the lead and Darcy and Elizabeth followed. They walked a good block and a half before he attempted to engage her in conversation.
“It is a lovely day.”
That went well. She didn’t run off screaming. He was reminded of their dance at Netherfield when it was him who couldn’t form words and be polite. Aha!
“It’s your turn to say something now, Miss Elizabeth. I commented on the weather, and you ought to make some kind of remark on what a fine spring we are having, or how uncommonly warm the sun is.”
She hesitated briefly before replying with, “Whatever you wish me to say, it shall be said.”
He couldn’t be sure, as he was trying devilishly hard to look straight ahead, but within his peripheral vision, he was sure her mouth had quirked up with a small smile.
“Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps I might observe that smaller parks are much more enjoyable than larger parks. Fewer people to bump elbows with. But now we may be silent.”
“Do you,” she giggled and started again. “Do you, as a rule, always talk while walking in a park?”
“One must speak a little, you know. Especially if they are practicing a new art. It would look odd if we didn’t speak with one another while we stroll around, arm in arm, for over half an hour.”
“So, you are practicing this new art of speaking?”
“Yes, I’ve been told that to become proficient, one must practice. Instead of finger exercises, and tedious scales, I am prepared to launch into soliloquies on the great works of Wordsworth and Shakespeare.”
Elizabeth slowed to a halt and looked up at him.
“Mr. Darcy, I must apologize.”
“For the way I responded when we last met. It was badly done and I have long since regretted my words and tone of voice.”
He placed his hand over hers that rested on his forearm and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“You have nothing to apologize for. I did not behave in a gentlemanlike manner and you were right to call me on it. Who was I to degrade your loved ones in such a manner? I have been heartily ashamed of myself and knew that if anyone had approached my sister in like manner, I would have called them out at dawn.”
“Thank you for that, but I am grieved you left the parsonage in anger and in turn, had words with your Aunt.”
“No. You cannot take any blame for the disagreement between Lady Catherine and me. What was said between us may have been spoken in a moment of anger, but truer words were never spoken, and I will not take them back. She now has to come to terms with my resolute behavior in that regard.”
“Your good opinion once lost is lost forever?”
“With my aunt – yes.”
She shifted to face forward and began walking again. “Well, I am sorry any of that happened.”
“I am not.”
She stopped again and looked up at him, her eyes wide with shock.
“No. I would have continued to behave in a despicable manner if you had not dared chastise me. I will say, you do not lose command of your words, even when in high dudgeon. You made me want to become a better man. Even if I’d never seen you again, I wanted to improve myself and know that you would have approved. Richard and I were on our way to Netherfield so I could court you properly.”
“You wish to court me?”
“Of course. My feelings have not changed, although one word from you would silence me forever and I would stand aside so you could find your true love.”
“I… I’m honored.”
She cast her gaze to the ground and bit her lip. How he wanted to kiss that mangled piece of heavenly flesh, but instead he waited, not daring to breathe. Finally, she looked up at him, her eyes warm and welcoming.
“I must admit I do not love you, Mr. Darcy, but I find that I am coming to like you. Immensely.”
He heaved out a great sigh.
“I will accept that. Do I have your permission to court you, Miss Elizabeth?”
“Do you have any more books in the original Greek?”
“Oh, how you pierce my heart. If you ever decide you do love me, I shall always wonder if it was for my tall, good looks or for my libraries.”
She laughed gaily and they made to catch up to Richard and Miss Bennet. It wasn’t until they’d escorted the sisters back to their uncle’s house, had some tea and were taking their leave, that in a brief moment of privacy she lifted herself up onto her toes – forcing him to incline his head – and whispered, “Yes.”
“Yes, you may come to Longbourn and court me.”
Today, I will give away a digital copy of Pride and Perception to one of you who shares in the conversation below (ie: leave a comment wink) Winners will be announced next month.
Available now in Kindle Unlimited