it's been a longtime since I updated this story.
In the midst of releasing my new book in Portuguese - a Pride and Prejudice inversion - these lovely Darcy and Lizzy in their mature form got sidetracked. I apologize.
I'm a sucker for my own writings - I do write what I like to read - but this couple is one of my favorites... They are so sweet...
Here they go, struggling to face life from a new perspective.
Love in acts
ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
angst, rated M, short, P&P, Alternate Universe
Part 7 -
‘No, Lizzy. I have to be back at Longborn before summer ends.’
‘If you say so, Lesley, I believe you.’ She said calmly over dinner that night.
Uncharacteristic silence reigned over their dinner.
‘You said your suitor wouldn’t bother us.’
‘Well, I did refuse his offer.’ She informed calmly and he choked on his food. ‘Raise your arms, Lesley dear, breathe slowly.’ She waited until he stopped coughing. ‘That is why he invited us to his estate up North. Jane and Caroline gush about how beautiful and big it is, maybe you could learn from the way it is run.’
‘We have the next auction pieces to catalog and price.’
‘I did that yesterday.’ She delicately ate a piece of lamb. ‘Also, I thought it could be a good opportunity to visit the estates around the area, maybe Clarence could tell us the ones in rather difficult times and would like to sell a few items.’
He pressed his eyes. ‘You are maneuvering me.’
‘That’s not the point, darling.’ She sipped her wine and he waited. ‘The point is: will you let me do it?’ She eyed him expectantly.
‘You want to go.’ He sighed sadly.
She nodded. ‘Don’t ask me why him, why now, or any reason. I can’t tell you why fate has plotted his coming now. I’m old enough to try to find out, though.’
He ate in silence, the food tasting like sand. ‘If I were to approach Clarence asking for a favor, he would ask to host our last auction before the season starts.’
‘Clarence is such a dear…’
‘Can you convince him to give this idea up?’
‘Maybe Mr. Darcy can.’
After a day travelling, the large party of the Bennetts with the Bingleys in a carriage and the Darcys in another was extremely tired.
Elizabeth was uncomfortable feeling like a silly young girl being courted by the dashing gentleman riding in a carriage in front of hers and felt a mix of sadness and guilt for having had that opportunity denied in her youth by duty to her infant son.
Darcy was anxious and kept looking through the window to make sure the other carriage was behind his, that the ghost of his cousin hadn’t convinced her to change her mind.
Georgiana was upset with the intrusion; they hadn’t had guests outside the family at Pemberley since that fateful summer.
Once he handed down his sister, Darcy immediately walked to Bingley’s carriage to help Elizabeth. First came Bingley, then Bennett who handed both his sisters down. Darcy contained his annoyance knowing his lady would protect her cub – for the lad was, in reality, her son. He never considered having a woman who had grown children, that was unusual unless one was guileless enough to take a widow as mistress. Some of his friends did it but even those rarely spent time with the lady’s offspring.
Presenting Georgiana to Elizabeth on the road at the first inn they stopped wasn’t probably the best idea. The women greeted one another with proper restraint, Elizabeth he noted was especially careful of how she talked to his sister. He had wanted a few private minutes with her during the changes but they were in a tight schedule and he couldn’t share more than a few words about the weather with her. Seeing how she tensely made mild conversation with Georgiana as they entered the inn, he craved the chance to talk privately with her.
The ladies dined in their chambers with the help of their maids, the men lingered in the salon. Afterwards, he had brandy with Bingley in the back courtyard and let his eyes search the stars as Elizabeth approached the window. She didn’t see him, but he could see her in her nightgown, hair loose around her shoulder, head tilted to the side smiling, maybe talking to the lad.
Later that night when he rested his head against the pillow, he thought about having a wife after giving up the idea for long years. Georgiana needed him; he had a debt with her. Only when he found Elizabeth he considered a woman might help his sister, one that could be a wife to him and a strong sister for Georgiana, a grown woman with understanding and a kind heart, one that had gone through similar problems... The thought stole his night; he tossed and turned thinking about how broken Georgiana was after being left and the miscarriage. He imagined Elizabeth in the same situation, she was but sixteen, had a mama to cover for her as she carried a child of his damned cousin who left her.
Worst, what if he had returned and had married her, would Darcy also feel so powerfully drawn to her?
In the morning, he tried to look his best, his valet did work diligently to make him presentable, but the ache in his chest was almost visible. Discreetly he took Elizabeth aside to show her a silly trait in the back courtyard as an excuse to hold her to his chest and inhale her sweet perfume.
‘Pray, are you ill?’ She asked worried trying to free her arms from his prison.
‘No.’ He murmured, his lips on top of her head. ‘I just wanted to feel you close.’
She didn’t ask for a reason, it felt nice to be hug by a big man; it awakened in her a part she had buried years before while she carried inside her a child from a deceased man.
‘Oh, sir, good morning, sir.’ Ashton blushed seeing Darcy regard her with furrowed brows. ‘I was just searching for wild berries, sir. The inn has no jam and Miss Bennett likes to eat strawberries and-’
‘Good morning…’ He pressed his eyes.
‘Ashton. Carry on, don’t let me stall you.’ He continued walking in long strides towards the stable and she lost herself admiring his big imposing figure. ‘He sure would be a good master for Miss Elizabeth.’ She mumbled to herself walking back to the Inn.
‘Where have you been? Help me with this breakfast tray!’ Burton, Mrs. Bingley’s maid complained. ‘I hate to stop at this Inn. The other we usually use has a girl for trays.’ The old woman continued to complain. ‘What are those?’
‘Strawberries. I noticed them last night when we arrived; Miss Bennett likes to have strawberries with honey over her porridge in the morning.’
‘Mrs. Bingley eats what I take her, thank Goodness. No silly demands as wild berries.’ She grumbled indicating the other heavy tray for Ashton and started towards the narrow servants’ stairs. ‘What do you think she meant by Miss Bennett having to hide her figure?’
‘That she envies it.’
A chuckle. ‘She wasn’t always this plump. You try breeding four times in a row and you’ll see what comes to your body. Miss Bennett has never met a man, probably. It is easier to keep a figure this way.’
‘She doesn’t eat much, and prefers chicken to pork.’ Ashton said and Burton made a horrified face. ‘I know, how can one not eat pork, right? I love it. But you should see, poor Miss Bennett, it makes her ill for days. Her mama says she has always been like this. Also she walks a lot, every morning. God forbid, I hate it. I hate when she insists on me going with her.’
‘She needs a house and a family to settle.’ Burton snorted. ‘She is always fussing around her unmarried brother, working. A woman needs a man to give her children and a house to occupy her time. If Mrs. Bingley is right, Miss Elizabeth is bound to be a mistress for a wealthy gentleman, a richly kept woman, you have to decide if you’ll still want to work for such a woman.’
‘Miss Bennett won’t…’
‘He sure is dashing.’
‘He is. I just met him now, at this hour, already dressed…’
‘Here we go.’ Burton sighed. ‘Mrs. Bingley, Miss Bennett?’ She knocked with difficulty before opening the door. ‘Your breakfast.’
‘Oh, let me help you, Burton.’ Elizabeth hurried to help while Jane sat idly in front of the dressing table’s looking glass.
Two more nights came, all carried in the same way, she dined and shared a bed with Jane as they had done before Ben. In the morning, as they prepared for the third day on the road, Jane couldn’t hold her curiosity any longer.
‘Lizzy, are you considering being mistress for Darcy?’
‘You should.’ Jane shrugged. ‘You are old enough to have fun if you’d like to.’
‘Too old for marriage, though.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Jane’s eyes widened. ‘You had better accepted the crazy son of an Earl who wanted to marry you. Even if he had been disinherited for marrying out of his stance, Clarence is a fine gentleman.’ Elizabeth nodded. ‘If he hadn’t been, you’d be a titled lady now. Ironically.’
‘And you would be very glad, would you not, sister?’ Elizabeth asked sarcastically.
Jane nodded smiling. ‘You were young and pretty, not that you lost any of your figure with time, even after car-’ She stopped before she babbled in front of their maids. ‘Of course now it’s a bit easier to hide certain situations, it is clear no gentleman-’
‘Enough, sister. You have successfully convinced me Caroline’s spirit is speaking through your mouth.’
Jane gasped, the maids hid their giggles behind the garments they prepared and Elizabeth considered Darcy’s reasons again. It felt like a waste of time to give in to her insecurities, but she was old, he could find a young pretty lady of the ton and she did have a lot to hide. If he was considering it his duty towards his dear cousin, more than twenty years past, he proved to be a very silly man! He guaranteed it was not what moved him, the way he vehemently said so made her feel warm all over, but the seed of doubt was planted in her.
These weeks in his estate would have to help her realize what were his intentions - and hers.
continues (@ Pemberley)
a revised & unabridged version of this story will be available in Kindle, ebook and brochure from Jan 25th, 17.