Desperate circumstances equal desperate decisions
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy has reason to believe he does not have long to live. Knowing he needs an heir, he offers marriage to the only lady who has caught his eye and held his interest: Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Once exposed to the gentleman’s vulnerability, Elizabeth realizes she may have misjudged him. When he extends to her the opportunity of eventually becoming an independent woman, she accepts his unexpected offer to wed. Both vow to feel only gratitude toward the other. The last thing either wants is to suffer the heartbreak of falling in love when their future is uncertain.
As the couple explore treatment options and listen to sound advice, they are drawn into a love that will last through the ages. Will Darcy and Elizabeth overcome all odds to have their happily-ever-after? (Of course! I always write happy endings.)
This 20,000-word angst-filled Regency variation (appropriate for all ages) by bestselling author Christie Capps can be read in an hour or two.
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Fitzwilliam Darcy crumpled the linen square in his hand, unwilling to allow anyone to see the evidence of his illness. Flinging the stained handkerchief into the burning fire, he rested his arm against the mantel, his free hand clenched into a fist.
His father had died five years prior at the young age of seven and forty from what the surgeon referred to as a cancer of the abdomen. The pain of watching the long-term failure of a powerful body had almost destroyed the son. At the end of his life, George Darcy had coughed up blood.
His cousin, Anne de Bourgh, suffered from consumption. Lately, Darcy had noted spots of red on her linens after a coughing fit. According to her physician, his cousin’s future was grim.
Slamming his fist against the hard wood, a sense of panic enveloped Darcy.
In the three months since rescuing his young sister from an almost-elopement with a scoundrel, there had been repeated bouts of stomach pain that felt like his chest was on fire. Meals he typically enjoyed in the past now made him miserable. At night, he could barely sleep. When his head finally hit his pillow, the suffering increased.
Looking into the flames, Darcy counted back to when he and Georgiana had rushed back from Ramsgate in July. In the twelve weeks since they had been home at Pemberley, he had ruined four handkerchiefs. Two of those four had been in the past se’nnight alone.
Turning to gaze out the large window next to the fireplace, he studied the view.
He loved Pemberley, the estate where he had been born and raised. To him, the stone walls, the aged oak trees, the constantly flowing river that ran across the southern boundary, and the hills and peaks of the property represented permanence. It was only the life contained within those walls that was fleeting, like the morning mist over the moors.
Good Lord! What was he to do?
Rubbing his hand over his mouth, Darcy considered his responsibilities.
His estate employed over two hundred. His properties inside and outside of England were many. His investments were almost endless. He was the co-guardian of a sister who had recently reached her sixteenth year. Her other guardian, their cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, was in the active military. She rarely saw Richard.
Moving to his desk, he removed a copy of George Darcy’s Last Will & Testament. Attached to the file was a letter addressed to him from his beloved father. Unfolding the parchment, Darcy was flooded with all the emotions he had struggled with upon reading the letter for the first time—heartbreak, an overwhelming anxiety, panic, and agony.
Mr. George Darcy, Esquire
My Dear Son,
The surgeon tells me I will soon be joining your mother in the grave. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am of you.
Since you were a lad, you have willingly accepted every task I have assigned you. Your devotion to Pemberley and to Georgiana will serve you both well.
What has impressed me the most about you, Son, is not just your attention to duty, but your honor. I have witnessed the sacrifices you have made for the sake of the Darcy name. You have not gone off and foolishly pursued the same course as your worthless peers. No, your attention to your studies, your humbly accepting suggestions from those with more experience, and the attention you give your sister have been reasons for joy.
William, what burdens my mind now during these final days is your future. You see, I am confident you will do the best for your sister. Will you do the best for yourself? You cannot if you choose to travel the path of life alone.
Your mother was a strengthening aid to me on more than one occasion. When a weighty decision was in front of me, she wisely allowed me to talk matters out, giving her opinion when she felt I was veering away from my duty. Daily, she reminded me of my blessings.
Pemberley is a wonderful place to raise a family.
With this in mind, I will remind you that the continuation of our estate in the Darcy family is by a male heir. You must have a son, William. Georgiana cannot inherit Pemberley on her own. Should you not marry and produce an heir, well, I do not want to consider the consequences, but they would be dire indeed.
Marry well, my son. Should you not find a young lady who would be your true partner in town, look outside the ton to a gentleman’s daughter from the country. Find a woman who is kind, who will challenge you, who would be a proper mistress of Pemberley, and in whom you would find delight.
Raise and train your children to be exactly like you, William. Only then will you know the happiness and peace you have brought me.
I remain your loving father,
Folding the parchment, Darcy reached into his pocket for his handkerchief, only to remember it was no longer there. Resting his forehead in his hands, his elbows planted firmly on the desktop, Darcy pondered how quickly his life’s purpose had changed. Until Ramsgate, he felt he walked in a straight line at a constant pace toward the accomplishment of the goals his ancestors had achieved. With this illness he was facing, he needed to move faster, to run if necessary.
For five years he had danced to the tune of those in the marriage mart. Not once had he been tempted to engage in a second dance with any of the ladies he had stood up with. How could he marry any of them if he was not able to be in their presence for longer than thirty minutes? Impossible!
His eyes settled on the post received only that morning. On the top was an easily identifiable letter from his good friend, Mr. Charles Bingley. Breaking the seal, he found exactly what he needed: an invitation to Bingley’s newly leased country estate in Hertfordshire.
Darcy would do as his father directed him. He would find a gently born wife from the country who would be his full partner until he was no longer able to manage estate business. Then the burden would fall upon her. Yes, he would discover a paragon with a lovely countenance and personality, whose kind heart and ready wit would make her presence in his company tolerable.
Hah! In his dreams, perhaps.
Most likely, he would meet the same sort of avaricious female as would be found in the ton. Well-dressed females who were in reality blood-sucking debutantes, trained by their mothers to claw at him with their talons, hanging on until he could not escape without harm.
The fire that had been simmering in his gut flamed into a conflagration. Rubbing at his chest, he drank the lukewarm tea he had abandoned before his coughing fit.
He had no choice, Darcy had to admit. He needed a wife and an heir. Soon!
Drawing paper from the desk drawer, he first listed the candidates he had felt even a modicum of physical attraction to. Then he crossed off those who bored him to tears within five minutes of being in their company.
Setting the quill back on its rest, he considered the four names remaining. They were well-dowered, with excellent connections, and conducted themselves well in society.
Growling, he also recalled why he had rejected each of them.
Dropping his head in his hands, he wished he was not in his current situation. Inhaling deeply, he sat up, his spine stiff.
He would accept Bingley’s invitation for a fortnight in Hertfordshire, then he would return to London and place the names of the four contenders in a hat. He would draw a name randomly, making the chosen one an offer of marriage.
There! That settled the matter.
His plan tipped upside down not long after he arrived in Meryton, a small farming town in Hertfordshire. During his fortnight with Bingley, his purpose changed, his opinion changed, and his future was set.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Esquire, decided, without wavering, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn would be his salvation.