Just a quick post today, the subject of which is the second in the No Cause to Repine series. If recall when we last met out intrepid couple in A Tacit Engagement, they met in London and their courtship proceeded there beyond the watchful eyes of Elizabeth’s mother. By the end of the book, they had returned to Meryton to face Elizabeth’s family and the rest of society there. The first chapter of Scandalous Falsehoods takes place between chapters 9 and 10 of the first book. The excerpt happens during the assembly in Meryton. Enjoy!
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Elizabeth did not wish the first impression of her friends and neighbors to be that of a man above his company, unwilling to speak or give consequence to those in attendance. Thus, though knowing that it would set tongues to wagging to a greater extent, Elizabeth tightened her grip on his arm, drawing his eyes down to hers. Then, in a manner calculated to put him at ease, she favored him with a brilliant smile.
The effect on Mr. Darcy was instantaneous, for the gentleman’s demeanor changed, he relaxed noticeably, and nodded to her, gratitude unmistakable in his eyes. “Though we have never been in society together, I am not surprised that you would handle it with aplomb.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Elizabeth, “but you must also remember that this is a society familiar to me. I cannot imagine ever being ill at ease with these people.”
“Whereas I, as I am certain you have noticed, am ill at ease with all society with which I am not intimately familiar.”
“Poor Mr. Darcy,” said Elizabeth, suppressing her laughter, though not with complete success. “Do not worry, for I shall protect you from the evil people of Meryton.”
Mr. Darcy shook his head and chuckled. “Then I shall feel completely at my ease.” Then a hint of mischief appeared in the gentleman’s eyes, and he leaned toward her, whispering: “What would make me even more comfortable would be to have a fiancée, one who will forever put me out of reach of the predatory eyes of young ladies of society. Do you know of a woman who would provide such protection?”
“I may know of a few,” said Elizabeth, returning his banter with nothing less than pleasure. “But I am afraid you must discover them for yourself.”
The look with which he favored her made Elizabeth’s knees weak. Their quiet conversation had intensified the whispers as the set came to a close. While the attention still rested heavily upon them, together they found the strength to ignore it. A few moments later, the music for the next set began, and Mr. Darcy led her to the dance floor.
“I was correct about your talents, Mr. Darcy,” said Elizabeth after a few moments of dancing in which she admired the gentleman’s fluid motions, his effortless knowledge of the steps without particular attention to them. “There are many ladies in this room, I suspect, who are jealous of my position dancing with the most handsome and talented man in the room.
“In fact,” continued she after a brief separation, “if I had known you were this talented, I would have danced with you before.”
Mr. Darcy responded with a diverted grin. “If you recall, we had no opportunity to dance in London.”
“Do not bother me with such details,” said Elizabeth haughtily, much to Mr. Darcy’s continuing enjoyment. “We could have asked my aunt to play for us while we danced in her sitting-room.”
Before Mr. Darcy could respond, the demands of the dance separated them, and Elizabeth noted the woman she had seen enter with Mr. Bingley, who she assumed was Miss Bingley, appear in her field of vision. The woman took Mr. Darcy’s hand as he moved around in a circle and then moved on to the next series of movements. As the woman passed by Elizabeth, however, she glared at her with such a look of heat and utter contempt as to leave Elizabeth in no doubt as to the problem this woman would cause. It was as if all the hatred in the world had been bottled up and stored in her. The sight of such maliciousness surprised her.
“It seems your words about Miss Bingley were nothing less than the truth,” said Elizabeth in an undertone when the dance steps brought them back together.
“She had nothing to say to me, which is unusual,” replied Mr. Darcy. “I can always count on her to make some comment, most of which I will find objectionable.”
“Had she the ability to slay me where I stood,” said Elizabeth, “I am certain she would have used it with great prejudice.”
Mr. Darcy snorted, his disdain for the woman clear. “It is nothing I would not have expected. We shall need to watch her carefully, for she is not above attempting to destroy a perceived rival.”
“And is she a rival?” asked Elizabeth, hilarity for the woman’s pretensions filling her.
“Only in her own mind. I have spoken to Bingley before about his sister, informing him that I will not offer for her. Unfortunately, Bingley is a genial man, disinclined to think ill of others, and he thinks his sister’s obsession is nothing of concern. I believe I shall need to speak with him and reiterate that fact.”
“That would be for the best,” agreed Elizabeth. “For my part, I fear nothing Miss Bingley can do. This is not London. She will not have legions of harpies agreeing with her every rancid comment. Given the way she has looked on us all tonight, I doubt she will attempt to marshal the neighborhood against me.”
“No, I do not suppose she will.”
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And now for a surprise cover reveal! You might notice that this cover has a very autumn feel. Yup, I’m going for that. There covers are symbolic of the story, which follows the seasons. The first book was the summer of Elizabeth and Darcy’s first meeting and courtship. The second takes place in autumn, and indicates some of the events and, as the title suggests, growing opposition and conflict. The third… Well, you’ll just have to find out when the time comes!