lots of stuff happening here in Brazil and I discovered myself having a lot (more) in common with Kitty Walker: I am addicted to our own kind of C-Span. Politics here is each day more similar to House of Cards (very unhappy face).
Meanwhile, in my second Regency story, we find our dear couple in a stall. A very sad one.
BT, the first Regency story is here.
Love in acts
ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
angst, rated M, short, P&P, Alternate Universe
Part 5 -When Elizabeth was properly dressed, she knocked on Ben’s door before entering. ‘Good afternoon, dear sir.’
‘Going out?’ He asked after averting his eyes to her for an infinite moment.
‘Yes, for a stroll.’ She faked a brave smile. ‘I left a couple of notes for you to check, items for our next auction, prices I think we need to correct. Would you take a look later?’ He nodded, eyes lost on the window, body slumped in his chair. ‘Something the matter with you, Lesley?’
‘Something the matter with you, my Lizzy?’
‘Why there should be? I’m the same as last night, a bit more rested. You seemed in better spirits last night, talking about two or three ladies you danced with, the business connections you made.’
‘This morning I received a call.’ He said and she waited. ‘Mr. Darcy was here.’
‘Asking me permission to court you.’ Ben snorted. ‘No, he came here to let me know he was going to court you. He said you seemed old enough to grant him permission, but he also had a sister and deemed it proper to talk to me first.’
‘He did, did he?...’
‘Ma-’ He stopped as she raised a finger at him. ‘My Lizzy, this buffoon is wasting his time.’ She frowned. ‘You are six and thirty, who in his right mind-’
‘Would choose me over a rich and handsome silly debutante lady of the ton?’ She cut him. ‘Who indeed.’ She mused. ‘What did you say?’
‘That he was wasting his time.’
‘I wasn’t granted the right to refuse.’
She sighed. ‘Sorry.’ She tried to keep a straight face but a giggle escaped her. ‘You sounded like a spoilt brat, Lesley.’ He snorted again, louder this time and she smiled loathing to kill his naiveté. ‘Don’t worry, dear, this will not bother us for long.’
Before she could say anything else, the footman opened the door announcing Mr. Darcy had come for Miss Bennett.
‘Well.’ Ben said raising his brows.
‘I’ll be in the sitting room. Don’t disturb me.’ She ordered and he raised one eyebrow. ‘It’s an order.’ Both the master of the house and the footman nodded solemnly.
‘Miss Bennett.’ He bowed.
‘Mr. Darcy.’ She curtsied and extended her hand to the sitting room. ‘I shall order refreshments, sir.’ Elizabeth said hoping he would tell her there was no need for he didn’t plan to stay for long, but he nodded and walked to the window holding his hands behind his back. Once they were left alone, she sighed deeply and stood in the middle of the room, right in the center of the rug and waited.
He could see her on the window glass and again admired her figure, her loveliness. Still he waited the few minutes it took for the ordered tea to arrive and the maid to be sent away.
‘We will not be disturbed, Mr. Darcy.’ She said blinking to gain courage. ‘If you are here, I believe you consider there are still questions you need to ask.’
He turned from the window slowly and regarded her with so much longing, she felt her knees weaken. The same woman - no: she must have been but a girl, now she was a sensible fine lady. ‘I am grieved.’
She nodded lowering her stare. ‘Sir, as I said-’
‘He loved you.’ She looked up, eyes wide. ‘Richard hated writing letters, always mocked me for my ability to compose big ones. He used to say I never used words with less than four syllables!’ He chuckled with his own memories and heard her respond. ‘But he wrote me speaking of a girl who captured his heart and the life he planned to live in Meryton.’
Elizabeth blinked. ‘It’s not easy to believe.’
‘Unfortunately that letter is long lost, but you can trust me, madam.’ Her eyebrows knitted and he nodded sadly. ‘He made jest about keeping his men sober under duress for his own heart had been stolen by a very tempting country beauty. A small society such as Meryton was bound to make a show out of a second son of an Earl having a connection with one of its ladies, so he decided to keep your attachment private, asked me to keep his secret. I understood his predicament.
When the family was made aware of the mutiny on board that took his life, I needed a few weeks to think straight, we were very close. Once I could mourn my cousin, I wanted to offer my condolences but he sadly didn’t disclose your name in his letter. If my memory doesn’t fail me, he said ‘I might search you while he was in the Continent and try to steal his flower.’’ Darcy pressed a sad smile.
Elizabeth sat heavily and a whimper escaped her throat. ‘That is how he called me.’
‘I am very sorry for bringing sad memories back and wish I had your talent to dig happy ones to link.’ He swallowed with difficulty. ‘Also very ashamed of having sent someone I trusted at the time to do something I should have done myself.’
‘George Wickham, he was the one asking questions about Richard…’ She whispered. ‘The same man who wronged your sister.’
He nodded. ‘I was the only one who knew of Richard’s intentions, but Wickham was also his friend.’ Darcy greeted his teeth remembering how he insisted on sending at least a secretary to inquire after the fetching girl with magical eyes his favorite cousin was so partial about, his father snigger at the temptation quote and how in the end he settled for sending Wickham. ‘I told him only that my cousin had left friends in Meryton.’
‘He was very clear in his inquiries, sir.’
‘Knowing that low-life as I do know, I consider he may have seen a good chance to secure a good living by finding a girl – any girl – that could be persuaded to present my uncles any solace for their dear deceased son, any seed of hope.’ Darcy turned away from her to look out the window and luckily didn’t see her face turn livid. ‘All he needed to do was to throw a bait, wait for a girl to claim a promising future and profit.’
‘I never trusted him, although he was congenial and charming.’ She said and Darcy had to approach her again to hear. ‘My mind was… clouded. I would never talk about Richard with someone I didn’t know.’
‘Of course you wouldn’t, Miss Elizabeth.’ He pressed his lips looking at her, so fragile she was. He wanted to take her up in his arms and cradle her thin body in his lap until her heart calmed. He wanted to protect her of any harm, should have protected her from a conniving Wickham, the shock she must have taken hearing the news from someone so vile, from his own cowardice. ‘Would you like tea, madam?’ She shook her head. ‘Can I offer you brandy?’
‘He didn’t find me.’
‘No, I considered my cousin had played me. I am so grieved, madam. Perhaps if it were me, you would have let me know how to lessen your suffering?’
She shook her head looking up at him, her fine eyes widened and sad.
‘When Bingley searched for estates to let, he asked for my help and I traveled with him until Kent when a letter from Ramsgate reached me.’ He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. ‘But I have to admit that I wasn’t prone to go to Meryton because the sad memories of my cousin’s last days seemed too painful.’ She nodded. ‘Please, madam, believe me he did love you.’
She forced an ironic smile. ‘Pray sir, have you not just said you considered your cousin had played you? ’
Darcy reached his waist coast’s pocket and took a time piece. ‘Is this the heirloom you keep, madam?’ She gasped. ‘His had RF instead of FD, of course.’ He ran his thumb over the shining silver and delicate mother-of-pearl. ‘My dear grandpapa, the former Earl of Matlock had one of these and used to commission one for each male heir born. Mine doesn’t work anymore, but I carry it anyway.’ He opened the lock, checked the stopped hands and closed it again with a click. ‘If Richard gave this to you, his intentions were true.’
She cried quietly, he awkwardly watched the elegant fetching woman let go of her sadness from a past deemed long forgotten.
‘I shall leave you alone, madam. I don’t want to impose any longer.’ He took her hand and posed a lingering kiss before leaving.
For the following fortnight, Darcy brooded locked in his den. He was silent at the dinner table as his sister; both dwelling on the nefast wounds time didn’t seem capable of healing.
Elizabeth put on a brave face for Ben’s sake and tried valiantly to close the gap in her chest. Richard was a turned leaf and his ghost had no business returning to haunt her days, he had had her nights for countless years, that should have been enough.
a revised & unabridged version of this story will be available in Kindle, ebook and brochure from Jan 25th, 17.