Hello friends! It is officially summer and there’s so much to do. My second book, Cause to Repine, is deep in the editing process and I’m hopefully that I’ll be in a position to share the cover with this group in August. Thank you to everyone who encouraged me to push through last month, I’ve made some good progress on my re-write and it’s looking like book #2 will be on time for a launch at the end of the year!
For my June post, I wanted to change gears a bit and give you guys a little view of my next project, after Cause. It’s fitting for Pride Month since this variation will have an LGBTQIA+ original character as the main protagonist.
So, without further ado, please enjoy this excerpt from A Soldier in Mr. Darcy’s Manor, a time travel alternative universe retelling of Pride & Prejudice with a modern woman coming to change the story in interesting and unexpected ways.
Chapter 1. An Unexpected Visitor
Falling. No, rolling. The van is definitely rolling, but it fells like falling. It feels like being in NASA’s special airplane, the “vomit commit,” probably. Now everything in the back of the van is lifting off the floor and floating around inside the bed of the vehicle. Exactly like the videos of the vomit commit. I can see bullets spraying all around the side and back of the vehicle. It is so very loud.
Look left. Look right. There is no clear sight to our attackers. I’ve still got my gun, but there’s no clear shot. Another explosion somewhere to my right and the world goes bright then dark.
A sharp pain in my side.
After a momentary reprieve from the weightlessness of the rolling/falling, gravity immediately comes back to pull at my body with so much force. All the objects which were previously being tossed about in the back of the van fall all around me. After the world stops moving, then comes the shouting. And more gun fire. My eyes open for just a second and there’s the strangest sight of more people coming from a new direction now. Attacking our attackers. One man is coming straight towards me.
Where is my gun?! What do these people want?!
More falling, this time, though, it seems like falling through a tunnel. Finally, darkness and quiet.
March 15, 1811
It was nearly midnight, but Fitzwilliam Darcy was still sitting at the large oak desk of his study going over plans for the upcoming spring planting on his estate. Pemberley was the largest estate in more than 100 miles and the Darcy family had commanded ownership of half of all the land in Derbyshire county for five generations. Darcy’s uncle, the Earl of Matlock, Henri Fitzwilliam, was the second largest landowner in Derbyshire county. It was said that no matter where you were in Derbyshire, you were never more than a stone’s throw from land owned by the large and illustrious Fitzwilliam family.
Normally, Darcy would have had the plans for the spring already well in hand, but he had spent more time than he had wanted looking for a new companion for his 15-year-old sister, Georgiana. Just before the Christmas season, his sister’s long-time governess had declared that she had nothing more to teach Georgiana. The younger Darcy was already a proficient on the pianoforte, spoke 3 languages, and had mastered the fashionable drawing room artistic accomplishments required of young ladies of fortune. It was now time to either send his sister to a finishing school or hire masters and a companion. The Darcy siblings had lost their mother incredibly young and their father not quite five years prior, so Darcy was loathed to send his baby sister away to finishing school for two years. Their aunt, the Countess of Matlock Josephine Fitzwilliam, had advised him that it would be both a boon for Georgiana’s social status to meet with the daughters of other well-situated gentlemen at school and the nobility. Additionally, she argued the time apart would the perfect opportunity for Darcy to turn to his own search for a suitable wife without the burden of caring for a much younger sister. However, it was too painful to consider letting her go away from him.
So, it was decided between Darcy and his cousin, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, the second son of Lord and Lady Matlock, with whom Darcy shared custody of his sister, that Georgiana was to have a companion and London masters. The majority of her education would take place in London during the fall and winter months when the air in Town was tolerable. It would also have her in Town with Darcy during the Season entertainments so that he might at least appear to be diligently applying himself to his aunt’s oft stated need for him to finally take a wife.
However, finding a suitable companion for Georgiana had proved more difficult than Darcy had previously anticipated. He had watched his father many years ago find masters for himself and Georgiana’s governess with what seemed like absolute ease. In fact, his father had displayed an ease in life that Darcy could never quite duplicate. He was completely at a loss as to how to evaluate the suitability of the applicants for Georgiana’s companion. Some came with many perfectly adequate recommendations, some came with only one exceptional letter, some were otherwise known to him through some social connection or another, but most were a total mystery. Hiring a scullery maid or footman for Pemberley or his house in town was easy. You simply found some young son or daughter of one of his tenants or a relation of one of his long-standing servants and gave that person the position. But a companion for a young lady had to be gently bred, educated, and in need of employment, so the relations and connections of his other servants or tenants were out of the question. Darcy had taken out an ad in the Times and had received so many responses that it was overwhelming.
He and Richard had finally settled on a Mrs. Young. She was not the most impressive candidate, but she came with a recommendation from their other aunt, the Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Apparently, Mrs. Young had served as companion for the young niece of one of Lady Catherine’s great friends, the Dowager Countess of Blythe, and as the young lady had just married, was now in need of a new position. Neither Darcy nor Richard had ever formally been introduced to the Dowager Countess of Blythe, but she had been frequently mentioned by their Aunt Catherine over many years, so Mrs. Young’s bona fides were as good as any Darcy could otherwise confirm. As a plus, Mrs. Young was in possession of her own widow’s share income and had been the only applicant able to make the journey to Derbyshire for the purpose of personally being interviewed by Darcy and Richard. After only three quarters of one hour, Darcy and Richard had offered Mrs. Young the position and the newest member of the Darcy household was off to get settled into her new rooms.
With the unhappy task of hiring and meeting such unknown persons complete, Darcy returned to his ledgers and correspondence after dinner. He was facing a mountain of work which needed to be handled without delay. It was now five minutes before the clock would chime in a new day and Darcy was finally at a stopping point. He rested his quill, capped his ink pot and stood to stretch out the sore muscles in his back. As was his habit in many situations, Darcy wondered to the large window in his office that faced the front drive and the large lake at the front of the valley where the Pemberley Manor house was situated. It was a clear night with a bright moon and the lake was illuminated almost as well as it ever was during the full sun of the day.
Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, a very loud BANG sounded from the far side of the lake. It was accompanied by an unnatural purple light flash that lingered for a few seconds before seeming to explode out from a centre point. Darcy was confused about what in the blazes could have caused such a disturbance. It must have been some kind of lightning, though the sky was completely clear. He looked again at the point from which the disturbance had seemed to emanate. In the bright moonlight, Darcy saw a large pile of something and what appeared to be an arm.
Staring in disbelief, Darcy rushed to his desk to grab a pair of spyglasses and returned to the window to look more closely. Even though he could not account for how it came to be, there was no denying that a number of large canvas bags had suddenly appeared by the side of the lake and in the centre was a person!
Darcy started shouting for Richard to come downstairs as well as calling for several of the footmen to grab a cart and follow him out to the front drive.
Lieutenant Colonel Ashlan Kipling tried desperately to open her eyes. Something had been happening just moments ago and she needed to get up! GET UP!
Every instinct in her body shouted at her to get up and draw her weapon. Thankfully, her M4 was still strapped to her body and she could feel it pressed against her breast plate. If only Ashlan could make her legs respond. Suddenly, a large weight was lifted off the back of her calves and Ashlan felt like a spring uncoiled. In one nearly instantaneous movement, Ashlan showed exactly why she was a respected member of the Marines Raiders special operations forces. She sprung to her feet, drew her weapon, switched on the flashlight attachment on the side of her sights, and assessed the situation.
One sweep of the landscape and the people now standing before her told Ashlan that she must have been unconscious for some time. It was now fully dark when it had been only early afternoon the last she could remember. Also, the men surrounding her were dressed like they had just come from some kind of renaissance fair, which seamed weird. Several of the 8 men looked like they were probably teenagers while one of them looked like he was almost 80. Ashlan took one final sweep of the area before concluding there was no one on her flank and this group of men would not be an immediate threat.
There was the matter of the staggering pain in her side. Probably a bullet wound, or perhaps shrapnel from the melee she had been part of earlier. That would need to be fixed sooner rather than later.
Deciding to take a chance and knowing she had no real choice but to trust these men, to a degree, Ashlan turned off her light and lowered her weapon to a tucked position pointing down, but still ready to shoot in less than a second at the smallest hint of danger.
“Sprichst du Englisch?” Ashlan inquired. If she had to conduct this interview in German, so be it. But her German was a bad as her Portuguese and it would be much faster if someone in the group spoke English.
A tall man, wearing much more formal clothing than the rest of the group, came forward with one arm half raised and the other arm holding back another man, who seemed to have dressed in a hurry. “I am sorry, what did you say? Can you speak English?”
Okay… Well, it seems, Ashlan thought, I have found a group of wandering British … Victorian street performers? … in the middle of the Alps? At least they speak English.
“Yes, I speak English. What are you doing here and where is the van? Did you move me and these bags from the site of the crash? What is your purpose?”
The well-dressed man seemed very confused. “I am not sure I take your meaning. I am not sure what a van might be, and we certainly did not move you or your … luggage. You appeared here, quite suddenly and without advanced warning, moments ago. I can believe there was some kind of accident as your arrival was accompanied by a very loud noise and some kind of light flash that looked like an explosive. Our purpose was simply to assess your health and assist as needed.”
Ashlan raised her gun a hair in a long-engrained response to someone talking nonsense. In her experience, someone talking about nonsense usually meant they were trying to distract her from some danger in her periphery vision. A quick glance to the right and the left confirmed that one of the younger men had indeed taken out an ancient looking pistol.
Immediately Ashlan stepped back into a shooting stance and raised her weapon to full ready. She then began shouting.
“LOWER YOUR PISTOL! THROW IT TO THE GROUND! DO IT NOW! I WILL NOT HESITATE TO FIRE IF YOU DO NOT THROW DOWN YOUR WEAPON IMMEDIATELY!”
The young man, boy really, who had been trying to load the pistol with shaking hands, immediately it. The man who was half dressed started marching forward toward Ashlan, so she fired 5 rounds into the ground as a warning.
“FINAL WARNING, STAY BACK AND NO MORE WEAPONS!”
Everyone, especially the half-dressed man, looked aghast and took a large step back.
The well-dressed man, after a very pregnant pause, spoke again. “I believe that there has been some kind of huge mistake. It seems that you have been through an ordeal in the very recent past, but I assure you, we will not hurt you. My name is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you are here on the front drive of my home, Pemberley. These men are my relations and member of my household. My sister is inside along with my housekeeper and the rest of my staff. If we could perhaps move this conversation inside the house and without that extraordinary gun pointed at any of us, that would be most pleasant.”
This was too much. Someone was obviously trying to divert her attention away from something important. If she could only figure out where she was and what had happened to the van and her team.
Before Ashlan had time to respond to Mr. Darcy, a cry from directly behind her drew everyone’s attention. Ashlan whirled around and raised her gun ready to take down whatever was coming her way, but upon making a full 180, three things became clear. First, there was an enormous house that had been just out of Ashlan’s line of sight the whole time, and every window had a face looking out of it. Second, the noise had come from a young woman, hardly older than a child, dressed in a ridiculous nightgown and robe who had come rushing out of the front door. Probably in response to the men being held at gunpoint by some crazy lady in full tactical gear. And third, Ashlan’s side was absolutely wrecked. This last fact came barrelling into her as one of the men behind her tackled her to the ground. The impact was so hard and the pain so intense, Ashlan blacked out again.
Coming back to the land of the living for the second time was harder and more gradual. Ashlan could only hear snippets of the conversation.
“Darce, it is a woman!”
“… bleeding quite badly from her side.”
“Why is she dressed in such appalling clothes?”
“…gold bars weighing more than I could carry …”
“No! I will not call the magistrate and send her to the gaol! I am not in the practice of turning away injured women in need of help!”
“… dangerous weapon, the likes of which I have never seen …”
“… large piece of metal lodged in her side, it will have to come out.”
After this last snippet of information, Ashlan was aware of a searing pain in her side. She woke up screaming, then blacked out again, this time completely.
After showing the surgeon out of the front door, the sun was beginning to peak out from behind the trees to the east of Pemberley’s lake. It had been a long and unbelievable night, but their new guest was finally resting in what appeared to be a peaceful manner in an upstairs bedroom.
The doctor had pulled out a large piece of sharp metal from her side but declared that no internal organs were mangled, so as long as there was no infection or other fever, it was likely that this mysterious woman would survive with only a sizeable scar. Darcy hoped that she would survive, for the other items they had found that evening were as mysterious as the lady herself. There were three massive canvas bags filled with gold bars, a rifle of some kind that was larger and more complex than anything Darcy’s war weary cousin, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, had ever seen, and a host of other devices, odds and ends for which none of them had any inkling as to the function.
This woman was a mystery and Darcy hoped he would have the opportunity to uncover the truth.
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