He could have anything he wanted…except her.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy finds himself in the unusual position of chasing a woman rather than being chased.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet is exasperated as Mr. Darcy, the rudest man of her acquaintance, is being nice—to her! How can she continue to despise a man who apologizes so well?
Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s arrogance and pride are equally matched by Miss Elizabeth’s prejudice. While Mr. Darcy hesitates to speak, his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, quite against his canon character, blurts his thought in the most inconvenient manner, adding to Darcy’s distress. In this fast-paced novella set in Regency England, can they both overcome strongly entrenched personalities and the attempts to matchmake by the colonel to discover peace and happiness? Of course, they can. This is Mr. Darcy and his Elizabeth, he hopes.
Elizabeth is appropriate for all readers. This story can be read in about an hour and is around 100 pages.
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“My unsociable cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy has finally fallen head-over-heels in love?” Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam teased. “Can this be possible?”
The journey from Darcy’s house in London to his aunt’s estate in Kent had seemed the perfect opportunity to catch up with Richard. At the colonel’s sudden change of conversation, Darcy immediately revised his thinking. It had not been such a good idea after all.
“Who has finally found the key to unlock the three-inch thick, icy enclosure around your heart?” Richard reached across the carriage and jabbed him in the arm.
Darcy, the younger of the two by two short years, scoffed. “You know nothing.”
“Ha! As a decorated war hero, I am exceedingly competent in ferreting out minute details and deciphering clues until mysteries are revealed in their entirety.”
“Of what are you speaking, Richard?” Darcy chuckled. “I sincerely doubt being gifted a ribbon by the daughter of your general, the youngest child not yet out of the nursery I believe, would hardly qualify as being decorated. And, hero? You?”
Smirking, the colonel gazed out the carriage window as, with each turn of the wheel, it rocked closer to their aunt’s estate of Rosings Park. It was his turn to snort. “I will have you know that I have been accurately accused of heroics since I was in leading strings.”
“By your father, not by your commanding officer,” Darcy interjected.
“Be that as it may, Cousin, you are wandering far from the point.” Richard’s eyes were now directly upon him. The colonel continued, “You cannot deny the long sighs, far-off looks, and building tension in a man are evidences of distress. Either he is heading to the battlefront thinking of the family he is leaving behind or meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bring each morning when he wakes to find her tucked tightly next to him.”
“Richard!” For the first time since they left London, Darcy was unsettled. He had used that exact phrasing when he had been speaking privately with Miss Caroline Bingley while attending a gathering at the home of Sir William Lucas in Meryton, Hertfordshire.
Hearing his specific verbiage spouted by his cousin confounded him. How could the man possibly know? The colonel had not been at Lucas Lodge that evening. Nor, in fact, had he been to Hertfordshire in the recent past. Richard had returned from fighting on the continent only three weeks prior, after having been gone from England’s shores for the past ten months.
“By chance, have you spoken recently with Miss Bingley?” To have quoted him perfectly, Richard had to have spoken directly with Caroline Bingley. When, where, and how? The stomach acids in his gut churned at the thought Bingley’s sister had shared Darcy’s private conversation. He had no idea the two individuals were acquainted.
Richard’s nose wrinkled as his brows came together to a point where they almost touched.
“Bingley’s unwed sister? No, I have not…” Colonel Fitzwilliam’s eyes opened wide as his mouth dropped open. “Pray, tell me she is not the object of your regard, Darcy, or I will have you shipped off to Bedlam for your own protection. Have you lost your mind?”
Briskly shaking his head, Darcy quickly reassured the other man, “Never!” He shuddered. “By your intent to send me to an asylum at the idea of attaching myself to her, I am given to understand you also do not find her a worthy candidate for your hand in marriage?”
“Never!” Richard shuddered in turn.
Darcy was relieved to hear his cousin’s firm reply. As a second son of an earl and a career military man, Richard needed to look to a woman’s dowry before selecting a bride. Miss Bingley came with twenty-thousand, a considerable sum that could draw the attention of a potential husband where her lack of connections and poor attitude would not.
Richard narrowed his eyes. “Why did you mention her if you have no desire to make her Mrs. Darcy?”
“Your comment about fine eyes was one I happened to make to Caroline Bingley recently. I merely wondered if she had mentioned my distraction to you?”
“Distraction? Who distracted you, if not her?” the colonel was quick to ask.
“Did I specify it was a woman who distracted me?” Darcy had to watch himself. His cousin was clever.
“Before I will answer, you must recall how my father often says the same of my mother when he is attempting to restore himself to her good graces. He makes sure she overhears him claim he has been meditating upon her fine eyes when the reality is he was thinking of a bill before the House of Lords or wondering when his favorite nephew…” Richard pointed at him, “…will be taking a bride.”
“Ah, you are correct.” Relieved he had not been overheard, he recalled, “I have heard Uncle Malcolm say those exact words to Aunt Helen.” Mystery solved.
“It seems to work. Perhaps I should use them the next time I am in ill favor with the woman of my dreams?” Richard teased. “Who would absolutely not be Caroline Bingley.”
Darcy nodded. Miss Bingley was not the woman of his dreams either. “Then, let me state again with clarity so there is no confusion: I will not take Miss Bingley for my wife—ever.”
“Blast it, Darcy! If not her—thank the good Lord by the by—” He would have crossed himself had he been Catholic. “—then who has captured your heart? For I am now convinced someone has.”
Darcy snickered. He loved nothing more than to perplex his cousin. “I shall not say a word.”
“Of course, you will not.” Richard crossed his arms and slid down in the seat, ‘accidentally’ kicking Darcy’s polished Hessians with his own. Grumbling, he admitted, “You did not deny my charge, my man. You have found a pleasing woman, and I demand to know who you plan to bring into your home. After all, do I not share guardianship of your sister? Should I not learn whom you will inflict upon my ward to guide her through her presentation and debut?”
Nodding, Darcy agreed, in theory, with his cousin’s suggestion. Additionally, he yearned to speak of his internal battle resulting from disparate feelings about the young lady, for his cousin was indeed correct. Unexpectedly, an unmarried female had infiltrated his mind and heart until he was almost paralyzed at the thought of her. She invaded his sleep, the hours he had set aside for working on estate and investment issues, and the time he typically spent reading for pleasure.
Closing his eyes briefly, he recalled her clearly, as if she was standing outside the carriage as they closely passed by. She had a propensity for walking, the exercise enhancing her fine looks. Her rich chestnut curls would have loosened from the knot she wore at the back of her neck. Her cheeks would be pinked from exertion as she strolled the pathways beyond the garden walls. Her eyes…never had he observed the level of healthy vitality in a lady whose blue-grey orbs glistened with wise counsel, tender kindness, and mirth. Ultimately, each time he was in her company, he marveled at her ability to draw his attention and engage his sensibilities.
“Who is she, Darce?” The colonel was persistent. No sooner were the words spoken than he slapped his hand to his forehead. “Good God in Heaven! Please say you have not fallen for the latest diamond, Miss Millie Stafford? She may be the loveliest of the debutantes this season, but my mother, who has an eye out for daughter-in-law candidates, calls her Silly Millie for a reason.
Darcy lifted a brow.
“Her looks will fade with time, Darcy, and you will be left with a wife who incorrectly assumed ‘Earl’ was my father’s first name, rather than his position.”
“What?” Darcy was intrigued by this particular tidbit of information. “She did what?”
“I am not speaking to humor you.” Richard guffawed. “We were at dinner with no less than seven families besides my own three evenings past, when she inquired of her host if anyone other than herself was confused by those who would address him by his name and title, The Right Honorable, The Earl Earl Fitzwilliam.” He gulped. “I tell you, I and others had a cursed time containing our laughter as Father informed the lady his first name was not Earl, but Malcolm.”
Joined merriment flooded the interior of the coach. Wiping tears from the corners of his eyes, Darcy sighed. Inadvertently, Richard had hit upon one of the greatest sources of his frustrations. Since entering the marriage mart, he had been unable to avoid the insipid interchanges promoted by young ladies who had been trained to pander to a single man possessed of a large fortune in an attempt to entice him to the altar.
“You can rest assured your Miss Millie Stafford was as forgettable as the rest of the daughters of the upper ten-thousand.” She was the season’s diamond? He could not recall even a vague description of her appearance.
“You are not considering marrying Anne, are you?” The colonel had reached forward to pluck the newspaper from Darcy’s hand, his tone suddenly serious. “I mean, I admire our cousin as much as you do, but she would never be a fitting Mistress of Pemberley. Nor could she guide Georgie in society as she rarely travels to London and has never had her own season. Aunt Catherine keeps her securely under her control.”
“I am not considering Anne.” Darcy would not bend to his aunt’s will to marry her daughter, establishing one of the largest land ownerships in all of England. “
Georgiana would require a woman with a compassionate heart who could not be swayed by the desires of a young sister. Anne would never do.
Miss Georgiana Darcy had displayed poor judgment the past summer when she agreed to elope with the son of Pemberley’s former steward. While the man, George Wickham, possessed the ability to charm the pants off…well, he had convinced Darcy’s own father that he was endowed with a character superior to the man’s own son. Wickham had held the subterfuge for over a decade. How could an innocent, guileless child, like Darcy’s sister, stand firm against such charm? Had Darcy not arrived at his sister’s cottage in Ramsgate early, the deed would have been done. She would have been wed to a rogue before her sixteenth birthday.
Their cousin Anne, the only child of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, had not the ability to confidently express her preferences for any aspect of her life. She had been sickly and frail since childhood. The idea of her setting a proper example for his sister was ludicrous. No, despite her mother’s insistence that her daughter and Darcy wed, it would never happen.
“I am not, nor have I ever, considered Caroline Bingley, Millie Stafford, or Anne to be my wife.”
“Yet, you have found someone?” The colonel persisted.
“Richard Fitzwilliam, you are as stubborn in your course as my old donkey. I have no intention of sharing the contents of my heart with a man who would use the information to torment and tease.” In a quick move, Darcy snagged the newspaper back from the colonel. “Look! We are almost arrived.”
Gesturing out the window to a view of an approaching building, the bend in the road revealed the parsonage at Hunsford, inhabited by the ridiculous Mr. Collins, whom he had met during his sojourn in Hertfordshire.
Noting that spring had been generous with the foliage behind the fence of the parson’s garden, Darcy was surprised to see a woman standing within its gates. Mr. Collins, who stood beside her, must have married.
Before Darcy could express his shock that a sycophantic fool had succeeded in claiming a woman as a bride, the lady turned.
Rich chestnut curls fought for freedom from her confining bonnet. A light and pleasing countenance spun towards his carriage as the parson pointed excitedly to Darcy’s conveyance.
Pain stabbed at his chest as her head tilted and her chin rose. To his chagrin, the very person who for the past months since he had retreated from Charles Bingley’s leased estate in Hertfordshire had consumed him day and night had been snatched from his consideration by an idiot. Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn was now the Mistress of Hunsford Parsonage and would forevermore be addressed as Mrs. Collins.
He wanted to vomit.