I hope you all enjoyed the chapter two sneak peek a few weeks ago! Well, I am back again to announce that this book is finally written and is now in the final stages of editing before it will be released later this month! Exciting, isn’t it? I will be starting to post this one on the two forums A Happy Assembly and Beyond Austen in the next few days.
While I am speaking of posting, if you want to join the comments as I post my Leaving Bennet Behind series, then please do! You can find the first book, Chosen, being posted at A Happy Assembly and Beyond Austen. (Those are links to the stories. Both are free forums to join.) I have just posted chapter 7, and will continue on through this first book and on through the series until they are all four up on the forums. If you comment on the Beyond Austen comment tread, each comment will be one entry into a final drawing for a free ebook or signed print copy of the book being posted. So don’t forget to comment!
I know y’all are, like me, ready for the coming Christmas Season, then hopefully this story will get you in the mood. If you missed the previous posting, an excerpt from chapter two, you can read it here. In this story, Darcy and Bingley, and Georgiana along with them, returns to Netherfield Park for the Christmas season instead of remaining in London. We will now join the party-goers who have come to Lucas Lodge for a card party (an excerpt of chapter four). I promise, mistletoe does come into play, just not in this chapter. Keep your eyes out for postings for this to start soon, and enjoy!
December 14, 1811
Nearly the last to arrive, Darcy was nervous when all the eyes of the room turned towards the three as they entered. Sir William Lucas was happy to greet them with great enthusiasm, and Darcy held tightly to his sister’s arm as they followed their host and Bingley around the room. Once the introductions were made to most of those present, he and Georgiana excused themselves from Bingley’s side to get a drink.
Georgiana held the delicate cup in her hands and gently blew on the piping hot liquid as her gaze wondered around the room. She saw her brother looking towards the dark haired young lady sitting alone at a table on the other side of the room. “Who is that, Fitzwilliam?”
He took a drink of the liquid, burning his throat in his haste. Quickly turning, he placed the cup down on the tray and answered, “That is Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Georgiana smiled, but knew this was no time to tease her brother, so she continued to gaze around the room until she stopped upon the blonde that now stood conversing with Mr Bingley. “And who has our host found?”
Darcy looked over and replied, “That is her older sister, Miss Jane Bennet.”
It seemed her brother was still thinking of Miss Elizabeth. The tinkling of a glass was heard and Sir William Lucas addressed his guests, stating that they awaited only a few more, but the games could begin. Georgiana knew what she must do, and with a flourish that would have impressed even Miss Bingley, she put her glass on the tray and wound her arm around her brother’s. “Come, you must introduce me.” Then she walked with a determined stride towards the table.
Darcy did not have time to gather his thoughts before they were standing before Elizabeth. He gave a short bow, “My sister wishes an introduction,” he said, his voice coming out more harshly than he had hoped because of the effects of the hot liquid just moments before.
“Certainly, sir,” Elizabeth said. Turning to the young lady on his arm she gave a nod, “Please do excuse my remaining seated, Miss Darcy.”
Georgiana smiled, “I can understand completely, Miss Elizabeth. My brother told me of your injury. May we join you at this table?”
Before Elizabeth could even answer, Georgiana was seated next to her and directed her brother to the chair directly across from Elizabeth. “I do not know if my card skills will impress, but they will certainly keep you entertained.”
Georgiana only smiled as she picked up the cards and began to shuffle them with practiced ease.
“Elizabeth looked around the room as she asked, “Will Mr Bingley not be joining you this evening?”
“He will join Sir William Lucas at his table for now,” Darcy answered, though he wondered why she would ask such a question.
Elizabeth now saw the table at which he sat, and directly across from him was Jane. Her heart sank knowing how much Jane felt for him and that he was not interested in her in return, but these were not feelings known by Sir William, so she could not fault the man for trying to further a relationship he thought to be a budding romance.
Georgiana asked of the others, “What shall we play first? Whist, or Loo, or is there another game you prefer?”
Darcy looked to Elizabeth for her answer.
“Whist will do, I suppose, though I must warn you of my lack of proficiency with card games. Perhaps, Mr Darcy,” she looked across the table at him, “you will not wish to be my partner after all.”
“I assure you, Miss Elizabeth, it is a great desire I have long possessed to be your partner.”
She chuckled, “I see we shall begin our evening with you professing opinions which are not your own.”
“A gentleman must have some great enjoyment in the evening,” he teased. “Unless, of course, you would rather sit on the sofa and speak of books?”
She laughed, though she could not determine why he teased her so this evening. The last of the guests arrived and Elizabeth looked to the doorway to see if Lieutenant Wickham was among them. He was, and he gave a small bow of his head when he saw her looking his direction. She waved him over to join her table, then turned back to the two already seated. “I hope you do not mind, but the person who was to join me at my table this evening has now arrived.”
Wickham and Darcy saw each other when Wickham arrived at the table, and for the second time one’s face turned white while the other was noticeably red. She remembered this was their individual reactions the first time they met on the road in Meryton as well and she wondered at the two gentlemen and what could have led to such a display. Mr Wickham had told her of their lack of comradery because of an inheritance dispute and Mr Darcy’s proud nature, but certainly it could not be as bad as it now appeared?
Georgiana was taken aback and felt her heart start to beat heavily and her brother’s hand came to rest on top of her own. Though she knew of Wickham’s presence in the neighborhood, she did not expect him to approach her table this evening. Georgiana looked to her brother, whose eyes silently questioned whether she was well. Yes, I am strong enough to handle this, she told herself. Then, with shoulders high and a measure of poise she knew she possessed, she looked to the gentleman and said, “Good evening, Mr Wickham. Miss Elizabeth said you are to join our table this evening, so it looks as if we shall be partners.”
Wickham knew this could not be good, especially with the lies he had already been spreading around town about the Darcys. After a cursory greeting he tried to evade joining them, but Elizabeth insisted that they had one chair left and needed a fourth, so he sat down across from Georgiana. He would have to be very particular with what he said tonight.
As Georgiana dealt the cards for their first game of Whist, Elizabeth said to the Darcys, “Mr Wickham tells me he has been an intimate friend of your family since he was very young.”
Darcy nodded and Georgiana kept her eyes down, looking intently at her cards.
“He has also told me of his attachment to your father especially,” she added when no one else spoke.
Darcy looked at Wickham then turned to answer Elizabeth, “My father was all that is good, and he provided for all those in his employ and their families, including the son of his steward.”
Wickham said quickly, “We both know I was more to him than just the steward’s son.”
Darcy looked to the cards in his hands, shuffling their order as he added, “It is true that he cared for you, paid for your education, and had high expectations for your life.”
Georgiana smiled at the memory of her father, such a good man. “He would like that you are so well established now.”
“Am I? I certainly could have had an easier life than that of the militia.”
Elizabeth could feel the tension building around them and could not help but add, “My cousin was grateful to be blessed with the patronage of your aunt, Mr Darcy, and so, I would guess, Mr Wickham could have been so blessed with the living that was meant for him, if only your father’s wishes had been fulfilled. It is a shame it could not be for Mr Wickham as it has been for my cousin.”
Darcy’s eyes flashed in anger and he looked to Wickham, then back to Elizabeth, “I know not what he has told you of our past, but if Mr Wickham feels his life in the militia is too demanding then he has only himself to blame, not my family.”
Wickham scoffed, “We all know of your family honour being upheld over everything else, Darcy. Is that not correct Miss Darcy?”
Georgiana was shocked at the way in which he drew her own past into the conversation, but she would not sit here and listen to his lies. “Everyone can be deceived, Mr Wickham, as I have been with you. I only hope those in this neighborhood will see you for what you are and not what you portray yourself to be.” With that she put her cards down and said to her brother, “I am in need of some air, Fitzwilliam.” He stood to go with her, but she stayed him with her hand. “I only need a moment.” She walked away.
Wickham looked around the now silent table and knew he had to escape as well. “I will just get some punch,” he said, then disappeared, leaving the two who remained alone.
They sat in silence looking at the cards in their hands and on the table for a full minute before Darcy finally said, “I know not what he has told you, but if you wish to know the truth then you need just ask.”
“Your truth, sir? What would make you think I wish to hear your version of events over that of what Mr Wickham has told me when I myself know you to be the proud and overbearing person he claims you to be?” With that said, she stood, and though the pain in her ankle was immense, she walked away from the table, leaving Mr Darcy alone.