Can she melt his frozen heart?
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy arrived in Hertfordshire with his sister’s words ringing in his ears. “You have a heart of stone.” He had no reason to doubt Georgiana Darcy. Or so he thought—until he met Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Each time he was in her company, Miss Elizabeth’s impertinence chipped away at Darcy with her wit and kindness. By the time autumn turned into winter, he was captivated. In the springtime, Darcy felt stirrings of love. By summer, he would do whatever it took to convince her he was a worthy gentleman with a warm heart brimming with tender affection.
This variation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is a 20,000-word glimpse into the Regency life of a man of means who learns to value the love of a good woman more than the wealth and position he was born into as the master of Pemberley.
This story is appropriate for all readers who should be familiar with the original story by Jane Austen.
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A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu, 7th c. BC
“I hate you, Fitzwilliam,” his fifteen-year-old sister screamed at him. “For the first time in my life, someone loves me and me alone. You, in caring naught for my desires, had to chase him off with your threats. Have you no compassion? Have you no care for anyone’s feelings other than your own? You, who have everything, have taken away the only thing I ever wanted. I love my dearest George. Until this moment I thought I loved you too. But no more, brother. I despise you and your frozen heart of stone!”
To say Fitzwilliam Darcy was stunned when Georgiana ran out of the room would have been the understatement of the century. He had rescued her, his only remaining family, from the hands of George Wickham, a known rake and womanizer. She should be grateful. She should understand how close she had come to losing her future prospects. However, she was far from displaying any appreciation for his stepping in to save her cherished reputation. Over the next several months she continued in her course. Stubborn girl!
In essentials, Georgiana was a good lass who gave him many reasons for pride in her accomplishments. In this one area, her shy nature turned obstinate. Who was this female who went from pleasant to irritated to tears in a matter of moments? How was a man to deal with such a volatile nature?
The fault was entirely his. After the death of their parents, Darcy had indulged her. She was his princess. He delighted to shower her with gifts, to be the recipient of her smiles.
However, his failure to realize she was no longer a little girl had serious consequences. Although he would do everything within his power for her reputation to be saved, it appeared that her trust in him and herself was destroyed.
Darcy was still angry at being singularly unable to do anything about his sister; angry at being clueless when it came to how to control the emotions of a fragile female no longer a child and definitely not yet an adult. He was devastated that she no longer needed nor wanted to lean upon him for support.
The tears she had carelessly wiped away with the backs of her hands had bled into his soul where they remained permanently embedded. Each drop had frozen as soon as it touched his heart. She was correct. He was an unfeeling monster.
No, he was not.
Looking out the window of the Darcy home in London, memories of other times he had been called a man of cold stone passed through his mind like an art gallery filled with pictures of the same theme.
The pain in his chest went from the sharpness of a sword stroke to throbbing.
Despite a series of crushing blows, the physical muscle was as strong as ever. Nevertheless, his emotions, those base feelings every human is born with, were locked tightly inside his inner chamber with no conceivable means of escape.
At the age of twelve, he had faced the loss of his mother. At his father’s direction, he had forced himself not to shed a tear. In his father’s viewpoint, weeping was unmanly. Thus, it was not done for a Darcy to make a public display.
By twenty-two, his father was gone. Weeks after leaving the haven of university, Darcy had the weighty responsibility of caring for a staff of hundreds, a monumental amount of investments and properties, plus the guardianship of his sister dropped upon his shoulders. He was too overwhelmed to mourn properly.
The fawning attention from the majority of his peers coercing, conniving, and using means—both moral and immoral—to attempt ingratiating themselves into his society disgusted him. Yet, it appeared to be his lot in life to have bloodsucking fools try to leech his riches and the honor of his family name from him. There were but a handful of men he trusted. There were fewer whom he considered true friends. There was nobody with whom he confided
He was very much a man alone. Isolation was his safe place. Thus, he would not bend to please others. He never yielded or veered away from the course set by generations of Darcys before him. His father raised him to be an honorable man who viewed duty as his priority. Such had been, at the ripe age of almost twenty-eight his life’s purpose.
In this he had failed grievously.
Months after leaving Ramsgate, Georgiana avoided him like the black plague.
One final confrontation with his sister had led to his accepting an invitation he normally would never have considered.
Charles Bingley, a man of almost twenty-three years, had leased an estate in Hertfordshire. With a background in the textile mills from the north, he had no experience in land management. Therefore, he sought assistance from the one man he often proclaimed an expert, Darcy. Agreeing to spend two months at Bingley’s estate once the harvests were well underway on his own properties, Darcy traveled from London to his friend’s new home.
After a rocky beginning where Bingley’s unattached sister attempted unsuccessfully to compromise Darcy into marrying her—thus his reason he hesitated in accepting Bingley in the first place—he pondered the saying from the ancient warrior. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
He had heard it before. His father had said it often. So had his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Despite its familiarity, there was a moral principle in the reminder worth stopping to ponder. For the journey in Darcy’s life, the insurmountable obstacle as strong as granite and as colossal as a mountain was the very organ that kept him alive—his heart.
During the first social invitation Bingley accepted from his neighbors, Darcy discovered exactly how to make his journey of a thousand miles.
He started with one step, one moment in time…