hello, happy Easter! May The Lord bring us joy in new beginnings. Amen. For this Darcy and Lizzy, life is full of possibilities and blue skies ahead. The lovely love story continues. Enjoy!
Love in acts
ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
angst, rated M, short, P&P, Alternate Universe Part 1
Part 2 -
her again, the idea was always looping in his head. He wanted to meet her
night at the theater seemed to be a perfect occasion to casually meet those
fine eyes again, also the privacy of their box might persuade Georgiana to let
her curiosity guide her. Although she was in London with him, she refused to
leave Darcy house even for a stroll at the park. Her being still a recluse
killed him inside for in truth, he would forever blame himself for not arriving
at Ramsgate in time to prevent her falling.
needed years to somewhat recompose after the disastrous events of her Ramsgate
stay and since that awful summer Darcy had been partial to a quiet life at
Pemberley among few and close friends. Bingley did include in those, but he was
frequently surrounded by his social climber sisters and that society was what
Darcy avoided more than everything. He continuously refused his friend’s
invitation but Bingley still made an effort to include Darcy in social events.
Now Darcy had a good reason to comply.
‘Are you sure, sister?’
You go and enjoy your night.’
could meet her…’
Darcy smiled sadly; he really was the best brother one could have. ‘I know
merely you want to cheer me, for you have no real inclination towards Mr.
Bingley’s spinster sister, brother. You could not have, be serious.’
is that, pray tell me, miss?’ He frowned.
can marry the most eligible debutante of the season if you so wish, in spite of
my evil.’ She raised a hand so he would let her finish. ‘Your money can
overcome my past, and any young lady would pick you once the Dukes and Earls of
the season are taken. I’m to be easily ignored in Pemberley dowager’s house.
Maybe you’d raise more interest than a Viscount.’ She shrugged. ‘Why would you
waste time with an old woman of little consequence?’
Why indeed? He twisted his mouth to a side. ‘Those
reasons so eloquently exposed explain why I am not wedded.’
grateful for her brother’s choice in life, Georgiana shook her head.
bid you good night, then.’ He leaned forward and kissed the top of her head as
she kept seated in the parlor.
during the first intermission Elizabeth could leave their box and walk the
theater. They had been caught in the long line of carriages and entered the
theater in the nick of time. Eager for refreshments, she took Bingley’s offered
arm as Ben offered his to Jane. Sharing Bingley with his blood sister Caroline
Foxton was a nuisance for the woman was snotty and a big gossip but once in
society one had to endure such tasks.
the refreshment table, she was surprised by Vaughn Clarence, the Third Earl of Brakenbury
crossing the room to offer her a glass of Limoncello, the liqueur of the
pre-season. She smiled shaking her head and blushed.
me, fair lady, to offer you the refreshment come from Heavens.’
Lord.’ She curtsied and when she raised her head, he was bowing low. She
immediately curtsied lower and he bowed as if she were the Queen and Elizabeth
lowered as if he were the King. Aside from their chuckles, only his wife’s were
heard for the rest of the surrounding crowd was in surprised silence.
take the liqueur before I spill it all, please.’
took it and sipped very gingerly. ‘Perfect! Only you could have discovered such
a delicacy, my Lord.’
brought from home.’ He confided in Elizabeth and nodded to his wife who was
busy conversing with a dashing gentleman of their party. ‘It’s only for our
most dear friends.’
do you think your love for attention will someday lead you to the stage?’ She
raised one eyebrow at him.
He sighed. ‘But I’d love to play auctioneer for Ben. Did you talk to him?’
he is still adamant that he’d rather have your money from the audience.’
take that lad.’
he is. Ben!’ The Earl called out catching not only the young Bennett’s
attention, but also another gentleman’s who was discreetly searching for
Elizabeth. ‘Bennett!’ He smiled, Elizabeth groaned. ‘Ben, how do you like this
amazing play, my lad?’
evening, my Lord. I had the most peaceful slumber just now.’ The men chuckled,
Elizabeth shook her head.
was just asking your lovely sister if she talked to you about my deepest desire
of hosting one of your auctions.’
would be an honor to sell your treasures, sir.’ Ben sidestepped the question.
day, when I decide to renovate my family’s ancient house, I’ll be sure to call
you, Ben. But I meant…’
let her eyes wander in the crowded room and noticed the handsome gentleman from
almost two weeks earlier, Mr. Darcy, standing awkwardly at a corner holding a
glass of port and looking very grim. She frowned and wondered why one would
come to a theater to feel that way when suddenly she realized Caroline near him
joining heads with other spiteful women.
she walked their way and had a frightful chill run down her spine when she
heard them speak of the silly girl who gave in to a cad. ‘A landed gentleman’s
daughter falling for a handsome man’s sweet words, how silly! Every girl is
warned against low life cads from the cradle, only the stupid ones are prey.’
swallowed trying to keep her face blank and the smile on her lips.
Eliza. You come from a small society, pray tell me how many silly girls have
you heard of falling for a cad.’
gossiping women changed the sneers on their faces to curiosity. ‘Of course you must
have, Eliza.’ Caroline snorted feeling her cheeks warm. ‘It happens all the
it happened to you?’
Caroline was appalled.
were not landed, I apologize.’ Elizabeth blinked almost losing the battle
against her panic. ‘But we’re bound to be romantic when young, don’t we? I saw naïve girls in love, also men taken
away by business and broken hearts.’
held his breath keeping his eyes on the other side of the room. He knew Bingley’s
sisters were among the social climbers who took pleasure in the falling of
the ones above them, either one or the other had already carelessly let him
overhear them speaking of Georgiana. Masochistically he heard the gossiping
telling himself it was better to know what was still said about his sister’s
mishap over twelve years before and while he stood paralyzed hearing the ugly
rude women talk about his fall as if it had happened the previous season, an
unknown woman came to his rescue.
cannot be so naïve, Eliza!’ One of the women chuckled.
not? It happens, I can almost bet something of the like happened to you too…’
She raised one eyebrow smiling sideways. ‘Have you never been infatuated? How
women blushed and sputtered. ‘That’s not what I meant; I was talking about a
grand-daughter of an Earl falling prey of-’
Caroline, the Earl is right there!’ The relief made her heart thump close to
her ears, Elizabeth even felt a little dizzy realizing she wasn’t defending
herself but someone else. ‘Don’t let him overhear you talking evil about any
grand-daughter he might have! His daughter is but twelve!’
and her friends turned their heads sharply towards the Earl who was still
trying to convince Ben to hire his services and the motion called his
attention. He raised one eyebrow to Elizabeth, she sighed and averted her eyes
to the women shaking her head almost imperceptibly, a funny little smile on her
lips and he understood she was making fun of them. Ben also realized her
intention and both men walked to her side. The women sucked in their breaths
with the imminent proximity of the Earl of Brakenbury himself and as Elizabeth
stifled her mirth, her eyes wandered around the room because once Clarence
arrived close, she knew it would be virtually impossible to keep a straight face
around her old friend.
fine dark eyes met Darcy’s and she was surprised by the intensity of his
expression. Was it gratitude she found in his penetrating gaze? Sympathy?
Awareness? Did he know anything about her past? To this day, thirteen years after
Jane’s marriage, she wasn’t even sure Bingley suspected Ben wasn’t really their
silent communication lasted for innumerable seconds, enough for her to feel
heat behind her ears, her breath caught and she parted her lips, he looked down
before raising his gaze to the end of the hall. Not one second later he was
the second act of the play, she discreetly searched the seats but didn’t find
him. If asked; she wouldn’t be able to tell many details of what the actors
said or did. As they rose to leave the theater at the end of the play, she
found herself face to face with him. He
had a box, as Bingley had, directly in front of them; hidden in the dark, he
was not seen but could see directly into theirs.
her ears heated.
on, Ashton.’ Elizabeth smiled. ‘It will not kill you to take a stroll in the
miss Elizabeth…’ The maid whined miserably. ‘I was not made for strolling.’
Elizabeth swung her arms about her and raised her face to the sun happily, satisfied
with the good safe life she had built. The business she had with Ben empowered
her, the search of precious items to auction was a delight, an activity she
undoubtedly liked so much because the need to hide their real connection was
not the most important aspect.
The maid frowned but Elizabeth didn’t see because her eyes were kept closed.
morning, Miss Bennett.’
halted blinking as her eyes tried to adapt to the light, the imposing figure of
a big man in front of them. ‘Good morning…’
He pressed an apologetic smile bowing slightly and holding the brim of his hat,
he had hoped she remembered him. ‘The name is Fitzwilliam Darcy.’
I know, Mr. Darcy. My brother’s school friend.’ She curtsied, her stomach
burned. It had been years when she last heard the name: Fitzwilliam.
nodded, a bit relieved. ‘May I accompany you on your stroll?’
maid sighed happily.
need, sir. Ashton loves the exercise, don’t you, dear?’ Elizabeth asked
mischievously and the maid whined miserably.
chuckled. ‘I see.’ Her eyes were indeed bewitching, especially with her cheeks
flushed from the sun and mirth adorning her face. ‘Well, if she prefers to sit
and rest for-’
do, sir.’ Ashton hurried to say. ‘I can wait for Madam here.’ She pointed at a
shaded spot near them.
shook her head but took his arm when he offered it fighting the silly notion
that she needed to keep distant from him simply because of his given name. The
lane was packed of morning strollers, fashionable ladies guiding or being
pulled by their small dogs, children with their nannies, flowers coloring the
park. After a few moments walking in silence, she looked at up at him and found
him looking down at her. ‘You shouldn’t have indulged my maid, sir.’
smiled, not sure why, just because the mirth in her eyes and expression was so
enjoyable. ‘Did I, miss?’ Her bonnet could be a little smaller, he thought; he’d
like to see more of her face when she was not looking directly at him.
She smiled bigger. ‘She is a bit lazy, I fear. Excellent lady’s maid, but
anything outside the house tires her excessively! Even a visit to a modiste.’
can imagine she was not fooled by this, even a man uninterested in fashion as I
know there aren’t many modistes in Hyde Park.’
laughed. ‘A stroll here is my reward for a morning of pinching and prodding.’
He chuckled. ‘I usually have long walks every morning when we’re staying at
nodded tilting her face up to the sun.
maid acts as your guide as you walk with your eyes closed?’
She giggled. ‘I go alone most of the time, and there are spots I like best so that’s
where I stop to let the sun warm me. I’m counting on your protection to keep my
eyes closed here.’ She twisted her face to him and half opened one eye.
all means, madam, you are completely safe.’
what I hoped.’ She pressed a sassy smile.
returned the smile and they walked in silence for a while. Darcy took diligent
care of her guiding, shielding her from small dogs escaping their owners or
children and their toys. ‘I believe I have to thank you for your protection,
actually.’ She frowned, he raised his brows. ‘At the theater, two nights ago.’
tilted her head still frowning. ‘Ah, Caroline Foxton and her friends?’ He
nodded, she tried to understand what he meant and slowly a faded memory came to
her. Some years before she had been visiting Jane’s new home when a juicy
gossip of a fallen girl filled the rooms. She had paid little attention because
it made her terribly upset. Could he be related to any fallen lady? ‘Why, sir?’
believe she was trying to hurt me.’
grapes?’ She raised a corner of her lips while pouting. He loved the sassy
expression of disdain and defiance at the same time. ‘You slighted her in the
past and Caroline resents you? Or maybe she overheard you calling her a
spinster… I know she married well past her five and twenty.’
closed his eyes, his cheeks coloring. ‘I apologize completely, madam. You know
Bingley; he can be very irritating when he tries to be lively.’
chuckled. ‘He does!’
you really don’t look one day older than four and twenty.’
are so very kind.’ She pressed the crook of his arm where she held him. ‘It’s
plain to see I’m seven and twenty.’
chuckled. ‘You are the most handsome seven and twenty I have ever seen.’
She blushed. ‘I thank you; I suppose this was a compliment.’
most sincere I can bestow without uttering any other silliness.’
smiled and again was caught in the depth of his stare. ‘Why such a kind
gentleman is alone at the Park? There should be a lady adorning your arm, sir.’
any reaction witty enough to let out, she looked away as they walked slowly.
sister was supposed to meet me at the gate, but she changed her mind.’ He
finally said. ‘I had business with my solicitor before coming here; when I
arrived I found her maid with a note.’ He reached his waistcoat’s pocket and
handed Elizabeth a small note. ‘I saw you entering soon after.’
‘I’m sorry. I can’t do it, brother.’
a handsome penmanship.’ Elizabeth said returning him the note.
handsome young lady? Shy?’
handsome lady of nine and twenty, unmarried.’ He said hoping his slight
indiscretion would give her enough information.
bit her lip and thought that it must be her, then, the fallen grand-daughter of
an Earl. ‘There’s too much sun today. She is probably fearing freckles.’
smiled at her kindness. ‘You don’t.’
shrugged. ‘Already have enough, and my bonnet hides me well. I like the sun too
much to miss an opportunity to enjoy it.’ Then she bit her lip. It hadn’t been
her intention, but she believed she had given him subtle hints of her own sad
past. ‘Maybe we should return. Ashton will worry.’
course.’ He took the first lane to their right and started to return.
with her supposed admittance of guilt, she searched her mind for any
conversation that could distract him. ‘Fitzwilliam is not a common name. Is it?’
larger one with the new bonnet? I don’t see it here.’
the smaller ones, miss, attached to the handle.’ The coachman pointed lazily.
nodded. ‘Good. Very well.’ She looked around them. ‘I wish Miss Elizabeth didn’t
care so much for exposing her skin to the sun. She’ll have rosy cheeks for
reckon the lady looks fetching with her cheeks rosy.’
turned sharply to the coachman and frowned shaking her head. Of course he had
an opinion, he usually drove Miss Elizabeth and helped her in and out of the
carriage countless times, have been close enough to smell her perfume and
admire her figure.
Elizabeth was indeed a handsome lady; her age didn’t add a thing to her figure.
Ashton knew, had seen her undressed countless times since she had started to
work for the lady three years prior. She had an elegant slender air, strong
legs from daily walks, toned arms from not shying from work around the house
claiming to hate to be idle, a lovely shade of dark blonde hair she liked to
braid herself at night, thin body almost devoid of belly, round breasts and a
modest gap right at the junction of her tights. Ashton lusted for the male
body, but she actually felt a little envious of her mistress’ fine figure.
was also lively and good humored, clever and smart. Of course men admired her,
the old man from the previous year even offered to bribe Ashton to pass
information on Miss Elizabeth’s routine. At the time, fearing some kind of
ill-intentioned act, Ashton had declined the offer and was really relieved when
Mr. Bennett refused the man’s courtship to his sister.
giggle escaped Ashton’s throat and the coachman looked at her sideways. ‘Wait
right here, sir. I’ll go wait for her inside the park.’
was too warm to be outside, it would be so much nicer to be in their quarters
enjoying marmalade jam with scones, but oh, why did Miss Bennett want to walk
from the modiste all the way to the park and more! Stroll with a gentleman who
thought she didn’t remember him… Oh, good Lord.
Ashton smiled and walked briskly to the shaded spot she was supposed to be
waiting at. ‘There comes the mistress with the gentleman… My, my, what a
handsome couple they make, I’ll say!...’
Elizabeth tried and stopped.
Darcy asked distractedly, content.
nervously fidgeted with the sewing on the end of her gloves’ fingers trying to
understand why playing with fire seemed so beguiling. He blinked and waited.
She looked the other way for a few instants. ‘Maybe your sister could be
persuaded to attend the Venetian garden ball, next week.’ Elizabeth said, her
voice faltering. ‘Lord Brakenbury is an old friend; I’ve been to enough of his
events to know discretion is the utmost of his qualities. The garden will be
poorly lit yet proper enough for his guests to enjoy the summer night.’ She bit
her lip, he nodded with eyes hooded and again she couldn’t identify the
expression they communicated: kindness, perhaps gratitude. ‘And his fireworks
are a famous spectacle of grandeur.’
you received an invitation? I could-’
nodded and looked away to the shaded spot where Ashton waited fanning her face.
‘I hope you didn’t refuse it just yet, I mean-’
you consider talking to your sister?...’
He stopped close to her maid and taking her hand from his arm, bent to place a
kiss on her gloved knuckles. ‘Can I offer you ladies a ride home?’
curricle is waiting for us at the gate; I’ve been there but a moment ago, ma’am.’
Ashton pointed to where they could see a set of carriages waiting their
masters, not fifty steps away.
nodded, his eyes focused on Elizabeth’s face. ‘I will see you in a few days,
madam.’ He bowed to her maid and took his leave.
Love, love, love, love: love
Different FONT sizes, I know. Who doesn't hate when that happens?
a revised & unabridged version of this story will be available in Kindle, ebook and brochure from Jan 25th, 17.