It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday Sneak Peek, and, since I am currently writing a new story, I thought I would post this snippet today! **YAY!!** I can hear the applause…and the boos that it’s only a sneak peek. Tehehehehe. For those who I know will ask, no I do not kill off our favorite characters. Yes, I am a cruel author, but I am not heartless, so please believe that this will be a happily ever after…eventually. My plan is to write just a novella length, so it shouldn’t be too much for you to have to endure. Enjoy!
Compelled to Love Again
Chapter 1: Through Many Dangers
A sudden jolt made him open his weary eyes. It took him a few seconds to realize his arm had fallen off the chair causing him to awaken. He re-positioned himself, turning more into the corner of the large wing backed seat that had become his only means of any sleep these last few weeks. Even though the exhaustion was unbearable, he knew he would not sleep again soundly anytime soon.
He looked towards the bed. His wife of six years lay there, her dark brown hair splayed out on the white pillow, her bright eyes closed to all that went on around her. The crisp white sheets were pulled up to her chin and tucked in all around her still body. Even in the dim candlelight he could see how pale her features were.
With shaking fingers, he reached out to touch her hand. His heart hoped she would respond, but there was nothing. No response at all. She did not move. Her fingers lay lifeless in his hand, and his heart broke once more.
Will you ever awaken? The thought had become his constant companion over the last few weeks.
He wound their fingers together, bringing her hand up to place a kiss on it. The strained whisper he often repeated came out through parched voice. “Please, my Elizabeth, come back to me.”
A gentle knock on the door interrupted the moment, but Darcy knew it was for the best. “Enter,” he called out.
“I thought you might need to stretch.”
“No, I am well enough in here.” He gently placed his wife’s hand back on the bed. Then he stood and walked over to the window, drawing the curtains back. The sun was just beginning to come up over the horizon and the gardens and fields of Pemberley’s land—his land—would soon awaken to a new day with new opportunities. He felt his cousin’s strong hand on his shoulder as he was joined at the window.
“Will today be the day?”
“I know not—but we must be prepared for whatever is to come. What do you need, Darcy?”
“I need my wife.”
“I know,” was all Richard could quietly say to his cousin’s anguished words.
The two stood beside each other in silence and watched as the sun slowly rose into the heavens, taking the fog that had settled over the land with it and revealing the snow that had fallen overnight.
Finally, they stepped away from the window. Darcy walked slowly back to his chair while Richard strode towards the door, just as had become their custom every morning.
He turned, “Yeah, Darcy?”
Richard gave a nod and quietly stepped from the room, latching to door and leaving the couple alone once again.
Darcy stretched his arms over his head, arching his back in hopes of the kinks being released, however it did no good. His back had been sore for the last month, and he doubted very much if that would change anytime soon.
Today would at least be a change from the conventional in that his sister was to visit, along with her husband. They would only stay for a few short hours though, as they had a long journey still ahead of them to return to their home further north.
Darcy sighed heavily. Even in the midst of this tragedy his heart rejoiced with his sister’s recovery. It was at Georgiana’s bedside in London just four weeks ago that he sat when the express from Bingley had come saying Elizabeth was in an accident and he must come home. He left his sister’s side, not knowing if she would make it through the difficult delivery of her first child. He received word just four days after his return that he was now an uncle to a beautiful baby girl named Anne, named after their mother. Today he would be introduced to his new niece.
He shook his head. It was hard to believe Georgiana was now a mother. She was the same age their own mother had been when he was born. Ahhh, their mother. She was so lovely, and Georgiana was very much like her. Lady Anne Fitzwilliam fell madly in love with George Darcy during her first Season, but he wanted nothing to do with her. Instead he was seen gallivanting all around London, dancing with anyone who turned his eye for two seconds, promenading with a different lady every evening, and generally avoiding the little sister of his closest friend and neighbor.
The next year Lady Anne was determined to avoid him just as he had avoided her the previous year, but when she arrived in London everything changed.
George Darcy was visiting his friend when she arrived. He watched as the gorgeous blonde stepped down from the carriage, and Darcy elbowed his friend, asking who she was.
“That is my sister Anne,” he replied.
It was from that moment on that George Darcy gave his attentions only to her, and Anne gladly accepted this change. By the summer, the two were married and living at Pemberley, George Darcy’s family home.
While Pemberley was an enormous estate, and thus had a large income, there was one thing it had lacked in each generation of Darcys before—a longstanding mistress. That is not to say the mistresses did not care for it properly while she were able to do so. Indeed, each did their best. However, the Mistresses of Pemberley, in each generation, did not live long enough to leave many marks upon the estate.
Just as in the past, Anne Darcy died young. Fitzwilliam Darcy was only twelve years of age when his mother delivered his baby sister, giving her own life in exchange. They thought the babe would not live either, but she pulled through and began to grow strong. She was named in memory of the love her two parents held for each other, a combination of their two names, George and Anne—Georgiana.
George Darcy never fully recovered from losing his wife. He retreated into his own quiet world of grief, not going to London any longer and only receiving guests when they were his closest friends. No one else dared show up at the doors as it was known he would refuse them entrance. He had once even refused entrance to his wife’s only sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. George found her to be overbearing and was weary of hearing her espouse that her own daughter should be married to his son Fitzwilliam. His boy was not even out of school yet, and she was already planning their children’s names. And so, when she arrived uninvited at Pemberley, he refused to even allow her entrance into the park. When she was turned away she swore revenge upon him, but in his lifetime it never happened.
George Darcy lived only until his son came to the age of twenty-two, then his sorrow overtook him and, while taken ill, he lost the will to fight. He died, leaving his son the lands that had been in their family for generations, and leaving his precious daughter’s care to his son, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his nephew, Richard Fitzwilliam.
So it was that the next generation of Darcys took over the vast lands and fortune of Pemberley. It was several years before he found the person he wished to marry, and the story of how it came to be was one for the books, with his insulting her upon their first meeting and her refusal of his first proposal. There were lessons of pride and prejudices to be learned by both, but eventually he won her heart and the two were joined in holy matrimony in November of 1812, right alongside his best friend, Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth’s eldest sister, Jane, who were also wed that same day.
The Darcy family was blessed with the birth of their first child—a son—during the second year of their marriage. James Bennet Darcy was the golden child of Pemberley—spoiled by his parents and the staff alike. Though the cause was unknown, it seemed the Darcy’s were not to be blessed with another child in the years since James’ birth. He was now four years of age, soon to be five in just a few short weeks.
The best doctors in all of England were called in to care for Elizabeth Darcy, but nothing they did would pull the mistress from her slumber. It was with baited breath that everyone waited to find out whether the same misery would befall this generation of Darcys just as it had the generations past.
Through it all her husband lingered at her side, refusing to let her go. He would read aloud her favorite books, talk of things the two liked to discuss, and tried to encourage her to open her eyes. Every day it became more painful for him, but he still refused to leave her side. No matter what happened, he wished to be with her when it happened.
Three weeks of this distress. Three weeks of his heart crushing within his chest at every minute that passed. Three weeks of the agony of knowing that every minute she remained asleep was one minute longer the two were held within the grasp of a chasm between life and death.
When would it end? Would it be the tragic death of another Mistress of Pemberley?
If he had anything to say about it, Fitzwilliam Darcy would give every ounce of his own strength to see that Elizabeth made it through this. Their son deserved to have his mother, and Pemberley deserved to have its mistress.
It was during this time that Fitzwilliam Darcy came to understand, more than any other time before, just why his father had given up the will to live when he became ill. George Darcy had lived with this kind of grief for years and it was too much to bear any longer. He needed to be with his Anne once again.
A soft knock at the door interrupted Darcy’s musings, and he realized it had been hours since his cousin had left him alone. The person knocked again and the familiar sound made him smile. Georgiana. He stood and quickly walked to the door, opening it and embracing his sister in a crushing hug.
Georgiana wrapped her arms around her brother’s larger frame and he clung to her in a way she never expected. Tears formed in her eyes and her heart broke. She should have come before now to be by his side, but it was simply not possible due to her own difficult confinement. Her doctor was not even certain she should be traveling such a distance now, but she insisted it was time they return home. Her husband knew it had more to do with the fact that Pemberley was on the way to their own home, and she needed to see her brother to be assured of his well-being.
During the journey she had thought of all the reasons they should remain at Pemberley, but every mention to her husband was quelled with his insistence that she needed to rest and they must return home. She knew he was right. If she remained here she would be at her brother’s side constantly worrying over him. Pemberley was not where she belonged any longer. No, she must return to Parkwell Manor with her husband and their dear, sweet, precious babe Anne.
Finally Darcy released his sister’s much smaller frame, apologizing for his actions.
She lifted her hand to cup his cheek, the rough hair from days without shaving were felt even through her glove. “Fitzwilliam, what do you need? I am here for you, so please tell me what you need.”
“I am well enough,” he replied quietly.
“Your cheeks are hollow, your eyes are sunken in and dark. Richard says you are not eating. He says even Mrs Bingley cannot convince you to take some broth.” She stepped back and looked over his body. “Your clothing is hanging off of you like they belong to someone else. You must not let yourself go like this. You must eat something. Let me call for Mrs Reynolds to have cook prepare your favorite meal.”
“No, I could not eat at this time.”
“Oh, Fitzwilliam, you know Elizabeth would not wish you to be like this. She would always wish good health upon you.”
He gave a wan smile, remembering the promise his wife had once extracted from him when she was ill a few years before and he refused any food. “I will eat, but only if you join me in here.”
Georgiana smiled, “I will.” She turned to nod at Mrs Reynolds, who awaited the signal that the Master of Pemberley would finally take a meal. The housekeeper looked relieved as she turned made her way below stairs to speak with the cook.
Georgiana entered the room and removed her spencer and gloves, laying them on the chair by the door. She walked over to the table that held a vase with Elizabeth’s favorite roses in it. They were old and the dark petals were falling off the stems, so she gathered the petals in her hand and placed them into the bowl Elizabeth kept on her dressing table just for petals such as these. She would often make scented oils and water with the flowers her husband routinely picked for her.
“Fitzwilliam?” When her brother turned towards her, she continued. “You have not kept your promise to replenish these flowers. After we eat, you must accompany me to the garden. We cannot have Elizabeth awaken to such a dreadful sight as this.”
“I… I have not left her side.”
“I know; Richard told us. We will be just outside though.” She walked over to him and wound her arm through his, leading him over to the window. “Just down there, below this window. That is all I ask you do to. We can even take the back stairs if you wish to not walk all the way around to the garden from the front entrance.”
The barren garden below reminded him of the sorrow within his chest. Then his eyes came to rest on the small greenhouse in which Elizabeth kept her favorite flowers. The hothouse would give Elizabeth just what she desired all year long, and Fitzwilliam had gifted it to her just a few years before. Since then she could often be found in the enclosure on these cold wintery days. He knew he would find the perfect flowers to brighten her face when she did awaken within the glass walls. After a large intake of breath, he finally said, “Five minutes.”
“Yes, we will quickly pick the roses and you can be back at her side in just five minutes.” When she felt his arm relax a little more, she said quietly, “Thank you.”
“For letting me care for you during the few short hours I am able to be here at Pemberley.”
He reached around her shoulders and pulled her close to his side, resting his chin on the top of her head as the siblings stood by the window looking out across the snow-covered lands below.
“You must meet my Anne as well,” Georgiana said quietly. “She is simply gorgeous; the most precious babe.”
Darcy heard in his sister’s voice that she needed him to do this for her, so he willingly gave in. “Perhaps a few minutes longer then, but we must eat in here.”
“Yes, we will eat in here first.”
Mrs Reynolds returned with their meal in record time. It was clear that the staff had the food prepared for just the opportunity when their master would agree to take sustenance.
Darcy ate what he could, but it was not much. When his sister was satisfied that he had done his best, she pulled her spencer on and picked up the basket Elizabeth often used when gathering flowers, then turned towards her brother who stood beside his wife’s bed looking down at her lifeless form. “Are you ready?”
With a heavy sigh, he lifted Elizabeth’s hand to his lips, placed a tender kiss upon it, and smoothed the blanket before he laid it back down on the bed once again. “I promise to return in just a few minutes,” he said lovingly. He then joined his sister and the two left the room, latching the door quietly and leaving Elizabeth Darcy alone in her chamber.