When you want her only choice to be you
In this fast-paced novella set in Regency England, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy has competition for the hand of the only woman he will ever love. Making a poor first impression, he had no idea how far out of the hole he needed to dig himself until she could view him as anything other than arrogant and unworthy.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet loathed Mr. Darcy. His selfish disdain for the feelings of others, including herself, made him the last man on earth she would ever marry. Of course, she felt the same about his competition.
Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride & Prejudice, will Darcy and Elizabeth ever obtain the happily-ever-after they desire? With each other? Enjoy Darcy’s point-of-view as he tells a tale that might take you by surprise. It sure did the both of them.
One Bride & Two Grooms is appropriate for all readers. This story can be read in just over an hour.
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“Miss Elizabeth Bennet, wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”
Before she could reply, the heavy wooden door slammed into the stones lining the entrance to Longbourn chapel. Silence fell over those gathered as they turned to see who dared to disturb the wedding.
“She will not,” Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s rich baritone filled the silence. He was absolutely in no doubt of his opinion. He knew her as well as he knew himself.
The soles of his finely polished Hessians pounded down the aisle as he, master of Pemberley in Derbyshire, approached the bride and groom, the tails of his great coat billowing behind him. He knew he would be unwelcomed. He cared not. His purpose was not to make friends nor enjoy the celebration. As far as he was concerned, the marriage between Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her father’s cousin, Mr. William Collins, was a travesty of epic proportions.
Mr. Bennet stood and moved alongside his second daughter. Her eldest sister serving as her attendant stepped back, distancing herself from the coming confrontation. The groom sputtered his confusion.
The bride’s eyes captured and held Darcy’s attention as he strode towards her. The lack of sparkle; the almost lifeless acceptance of her future tore at him. A trail of tears had already dried on her cheeks, giving evidence of her abhorrence at becoming Mrs. Collins.
Do not worry, my Elizabeth. I will rescue you.
Mr. Collins finally found his voice. “You cannot interfere, Mr. Darcy. Your betrothed, your own cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh would be appalled at your actions. Your soon to be mother-in-law, my esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, will hold you in disapprobation for interrupting a religious service.”
“I am not betrothed.” While Darcy knew it was the desire of his aunt that he marry Anne, he had never agreed to the match. Never! He was his own man, not subject to anyone other than Almighty God. “Neither should you be forward enough to attempt to attach yourself to this lady.”
Mr. Collins grasped the lapels on his coat as his chest swelled in mock piety. “I comprehend your meaning, Mr. Darcy. I do know her position is inferior to mine. However, I promised during my offer to never hold Miss Elizabeth’s poverty against her. That I am heir to her family estate and the current clergyman of Hunsford parish elevates me to a status far above the Bennet family.” Mr. Collins snorted. “By the by, the rector has already asked if any objected, and no one did. I am afraid, good sir, that you are too late. I will be taking Miss Elizabeth as a bride. She will reside in my house and share my bed. You have no business here.” His smirk belied the simpering tone of his voice.
Darcy’s eyes glanced at the parson only to find the toad’s eyes leveled at Miss Elizabeth’s chest as the disgusting man’s tongue licked the drool from his lips.
Had they not been in a chapel, Darcy would have wrapped his fingers around the oaf’s throat and squeezed.
“What is the meaning of this?” Mr. Bennet demanded, ignoring his wife’s practiced swoon and the chortles of his youngest two daughters.
In the blink of an eye, Darcy bent and hefted the bride over his shoulder, quickly spinning to walk out the door. Three steps later, he turned back to Mr. Bennet. “She is marrying the wrong groom. She abhors him. She loves only me.”
Less than twenty paces later, Darcy deposited her on top of Apollo then mounted the horse behind her. As he dug his heels into the flanks, a rush of spectators pushed through the door behind them. Within seconds, the escaping couple were out of the view of the crowd, the noise of Mr. Collins’ yelling and Mrs. Bennet’s wailing receding as Darcy and Miss Elizabeth galloped towards Meryton. They were almost two miles on the other side of the small farming town when Darcy drew to a stop behind his most luxurious carriage. His bride deserved comfort for the long journey to Scotland.
His trunks were packed and loaded at the back. Miss Elizabeth’s luggage had been picked up by Darcy’s footmen. They were currently tied to his carriage, not that of the rented hackney obtained by Mr. Collins which had stood at the side of the chapel.
Thank heavens Longbourn’s housekeeper was a sensible woman. Had she not been so, Darcy would have had to purchase clothing for his bride-to-be as they rushed to Gretna Green. They had no time to lose.
Without a word, Darcy tossed the reins to his groom and lifted Miss Elizabeth from the horse. Keeping her in his arms, he moved to the carriage only to have the door refuse to open. He pulled and pulled. To no avail. No matter how hard he yanked, the door would not budge.
Behind them, Mr. Collins, the remainder of the Bennet family, and the townspeople approached, holding cudgels, clubs, and torches—anger and determination on their faces.
Turning back to the carriage, he pulled with all his might. Nothing.
Yelling at his driver, Darcy tried and tried until the violent crowd was immediately behind them.
The first blow dropped him to his knees as Miss Elizabeth was pulled from his embrace.
“No!” he yelled. “No…..!”
“Sir?” Darcy’s valet, Parker, pulled back the curtains to allow daylight to stream into his chambers. “Sir? I believe you were having a bad dream. Pray, wake up, Mr. Darcy.”
“What?” Fragments of the nightmare continued to hold him in its grip. His hands quivered as he sat up and pressed his palms over his eyes. Leaning back against the headboard, he strove to clear his head.
“Mr. Darcy, you attended Mr. Bingley’s ball last evening, retiring but four hours ago. Mr. Bingley will be leaving for London as soon as he wakes. You advised me to have your belongings packed to depart for Pemberley by nine this morning. It is now the eighth hour. Your bath is ready, and your traveling clothes are laid out in your dressing room. A tray has been ordered to break your fast. Is there anything else you desire, sir?”
“No, no.” Darcy dropped his hands and looked around him as the autumn air chilled his sweat-soaked brow. The dream had felt real. So real that the vestiges of panic remained.
Confusion transformed into awareness of his surroundings and the events of the evening prior. Bingley’s infernal ball.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet had opened the gathering by dancing the first set with Mr. Collins. The man had no business on the dance floor. He could not follow even the simplest of patterns. Darcy worried for Miss Elizabeth’s toes as the parson repeatedly turned the wrong way.
Before the music had completely stopped, she stepped away from her father’s cousin to seek the company of Miss Charlotte Lucas, a sensible woman in Darcy’s opinion. He had watched Miss Elizabeth the rest of the night. Although Mr. Collins approached her for the final dance, she refused to stand up with him. Miss Elizabeth would not be leaving any of her neighbors with the idea she was in any way attached to the parson.
However, in the clear light of morning, the salient point was why in the world he was upset about whether or not the country miss had intentions towards Mr. Collins or not. It meant…she meant…nothing to Darcy.
Or, did she?
Perhaps he had overindulged in drink. Counting back, Darcy had consumed only two glasses of punch. The trace of alcohol in each cup was not enough to bring on such a fantastical vision. Surely!
What was it that had Darcy’s sub-conscience thinking of her as a potential bride? She had only a small portion, her connections were almost non-existent, and the conduct of the majority of her family was reproachful.
He was a Darcy, grandson of an earl with a family name that went back a multitude of generations. He was proud of his heritage—his noble lineage.
Ah, he remembered. The reminder filled his chest with heat and his mind with wonder.
She was a lady like no other of his acquaintance. Miss Elizabeth was lovely, kind, loyal, and intelligent enough he could foresee decades of interesting discussions should they be in company. Her happy countenance and pleasing manners would make it a joy to have her at his side. And, those eyes…brilliant orbs holding the wisdom of the ages.
Running his palm over the scratchy morning growth on his chin, Darcy pondered his own circumstances. He was proud of his accomplishments in the five years since his father died, increasing Pemberley’s coffers as he tended to the Darcy investments and properties. He knew his place in the highest circles of society. He bore his family name well.
Despite appearing to have it all in the eyes of others, what he lacked was a companion who would fill Pemberley with laughter, who would share the challenges of daily life, and who would care for him. He saw clearly the benefits of having a capable mate.
What he did not want was a wife who desired Darcy for what he had rather than the man he was inside. Miss Elizabeth had never once appeared to have been impressed with his wealth or his position in society.
Darcy had ordered Parker to pack for removal to Pemberley, which was to avoid attaching himself to her. He had felt the danger of her. Yet, now that he knew Mr. Collin’s intent, the simple truth was that Darcy simply could not leave.
During a brief conversation between sets, the parson had boldly stated his purpose of being in Hertfordshire. He had been commanded by his patroness to attach himself to one of the Bennet daughters. Mr. Collins had selected Miss Elizabeth for the position of wife. When Darcy had asked if the young lady had accepted him, Mr. Collins confessed he had not yet made his offer nor received approval from her father. This horrid breach of propriety, where Mr. Bennet’s cousin had given Darcy leave to believe it was a foregone conclusion, left Darcy more determined than ever to stop this travesty. Darcy could not … would not accept vibrant, lively Miss Elizabeth becoming wife to a man lacking in appreciation for her wonderful qualities.
Had the parson been such a wolf as Darcy’s nightmare had portrayed him? Certainly. Many times during the ball, Darcy had noted the direction of the ingrate’s gaze. In fact, he doubted the clergyman could state with accuracy the color of Miss Elizabeth’s eyes but could measure within an inch the dimensions of her chest.
Disgusting that a man of the cloth lacked self-control!
Throwing the bedclothes back, Darcy stood with a purpose. Likely, Mr. Collins would rise early to make his proposal to Miss Elizabeth. Should Mrs. Bennet have her way, the offer would be accepted as it would guarantee her personal security after the death of her husband. Mr. Bennet’s response was unknown. The relationship between him and his second child appeared close. Nonetheless, that did not necessarily make the support of his daughter’s happiness his paramount concern.
Darcy could not take the chance that Miss Elizabeth’s parents would believe this would be the only opportunity for their daughter to marry.
The impropriety of barging in on someone else’s offer of marriage in an attempt to stop the proposal would not be a barrier to Darcy. This was a matter of halting an injustice against a worthy young woman.
“Parker, I have changed my mind. I shall remain in Hertfordshire another se’nnight. I have an important task to perform as soon as I am readied.” Moving quickly towards the dressing room, Darcy stripped off his linen nightshirt and stepped into the bath.
What was he about? Was he thinking his dream had been reality? Certainly, it was not. Never could he imagine Miss Elizabeth willingly allowing her person to be tossed over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes on the back of a merchant. Her independent nature would have had her kicking and pummeling him with her small fists in the insistence that she was more than capable of walking on her own. Nor would she have kept silent during the whole ordeal as she had done in his nightmare. Her tongue would have ripped strips of flesh from his back as easily as a whip.
He chuckled to himself. Would he like to hear her view of his dream-state actions? Oh, yes.
For a certainty, had the dream been real, Mrs. Bennet would have been grateful for his reported ten thousand a year income in comparison to the annual salary of a parson. Despite Mr. Collins being heir to Longbourn, he would never be able to see to the needs of a widow and four dependents should Mr. Bennet die, even if he were so inclined. Most likely, the matron would have knocked Mr. Collins from in front of the altar to see Darcy take his place. Perhaps Darcy should have sought her assistance? Hah!
And, Mr. Bennet himself? His indolence was well-reported upon. Nothing Darcy had learned in the six weeks he had been neighbor to the Bennet’s estate indicated Mr. Bennet would rouse himself for his family’s behalf. Would he have done anything to stop Darcy from eloping with his daughter? If Darcy had read the man’s character correctly, surely, he would not.
Once dressed, Darcy requested Apollo be brought around. He had an important call to make that could no longer be delayed.