"What if Mr. Darcy’s proposal was too late?
Darcy has been bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet since he met her in Hertfordshire. He can no longer fight this overwhelming attraction and must admit he is hopelessly in love.
During Elizabeth’s visit to Kent she has been forced to endure the company of the difficult and disapproving Mr. Darcy, but she has enjoyed making the acquaintance of his affable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Finally resolved, Darcy arrives at Hunsford Parsonage prepared to propose—only to discover that Elizabeth has just accepted a proposal from the Colonel, Darcy’s dearest friend in the world.
As he watches the couple prepare for a lifetime together, Darcy vows never to speak of what is in his heart. Elizabeth has reason to dislike Darcy, but finds that he haunts her thoughts and stirs her emotions in strange ways.
Can Darcy and Elizabeth find their happily ever after?"
“I invited you here early. I wished to speak with you privately.”
“Oh?” Without waiting for Richard’s assistance, Darcy rose and visited the sideboard to refill his brandy glass.
Darcy froze in place. Could his cousin suspect something? He willed himself to act normally, but his hand shook, and he spilled a small puddle of brandy, cursing under his breath.
Richard peered over. “Never mind. The servants will clean.”
Having poured a generous amount of brandy on his second attempt, Darcy gulped, hoping to calm the coil of anxiety in his stomach. He sank back into his seat, regarding his cousin warily.
Richard was rubbing his hands together, gazing absentmindedly at the window. Darcy believed he had been successful in concealing his feelings for Elizabeth, but Richard knew him better than anyone. Perhaps he had guessed.
Darcy stared into the fire. He could do nothing but admit the truth. There was nothing he could say in his own defense, even though such an admission might irreparably damage his friendship with Richard irreparably. Damn! How had they come to this pass? He valued Richard’s friendship above all others.
Finally, Richard sighed heavily. “Elizabeth believes you do not like her.”
“Pardon?” Darcy’s hand jerked, and he almost spilled more brandy. Surely he had not heard aright.
Richard’s expression was somewhat apologetic. “She … believes you do not approve of her family and find fault with her behavior.”
Darcy pulled his gaze from his cousin’s face and stared at the window next to the fireplace, suppressing the temptation to laugh. Only he was in a position to appreciate the irony. “No… I ….” Darcy’s voice was choked. “That is not the case at all.”
“So I told her. I said you disapprove of most people, and even those who meet your approval often see you as proud and distant.”
Darcy grimaced. “I thank you kindly for that endorsement of my character.”
Richard shrugged unapologetically. Darcy rapidly reviewed his carefully stored memories of his conversations with Elizabeth. How had he created such a misimpression?
Unable to look at his cousin, he fixed his eyes on the inch of brandy in his glass. “I do not disapprove of Miss Bennet at all. I believe you have made an excellent choice.” God willing, Richard would never know how excellent. “Her family’s situation is unfortunate and some of her relatives can be … difficult …”
Richard chuckled. “I have been to Longbourn,” he said drily.
Darcy chose each word carefully. “But I believe Miss Bennet to be of superior understanding and excellent conversation. I am often of a taciturn disposition in company, you know this.”
His cousin grinned. “Yes. But I have known you my whole life. Elizabeth believes you spent the greater part of your visit at Rosings staring at her disapprovingly.”
Thank God Richard remained ignorant of the true reason for those stares. That would make the situation intolerable. Well, more intolerable.
Richard stood and used the poker to idly rearrange the logs in the fireplace. It had been unseasonably cold for April, and the room was cooling rapidly as the fire died. “There is more.” Darcy’s gut clenched in apprehension. “Elizabeth’s opinion of you was influenced by lies provided by Wickham during his time in Meryton.”
Darcy let loose an oath, startling his cousin.
He had believed nothing would be worse than the revelation that she thought he disliked her. But now he found that when he thought she flirted and teased him at Rosings, she thought him a blackguard and could not wait to escape his company.
Darcy rubbed his face with one hand. He hated that Elizabeth would give credence to Wickham’s opinion on any topic, particularly himself. Truth be told, Darcy did not like the idea of Wickham breathing the same air as Elizabeth.
Despite being consumed with jealousy, Darcy reflected that he should be grateful she had chosen Richard, who would treat her honorably. At the Netherfield ball, she had appeared to be partial to Wickham; the thought of that alliance could not be borne.
Perhaps he should be grateful that Richard had proposed before Darcy had the opportunity. Apparently, he had saved Darcy from a very embarrassing situation. Somehow the thought was not comforting.
What a great extract! Poor Darcy! I can't wait to read the whole book!
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