In case you missed it: Prologue
Charles Bingley folded the last of two letters he had spent the past hour composing. The first had been quickly dashed off, but this second one… Bingley blew out a breath, unfolded it, and gave it a third reading. The news this missive contained would not be well-received. He only hoped he had written his wishes in a fashion that would leave his sister, Caroline, with little option but to comply.
“You look rather fatigued,” said Darcy, entering the library and taking a seat near the window.
“What keeps you here?” asked Bingley.
“It is my library,” replied Darcy with a grin. “I am allowed to use it whenever I like.”
Bingley’s eyes narrowed. “That was not my meaning, which you very well know.”
“I cannot spend every moment at Willow Hall,” said Darcy with a grimace, “no matter how much I might wish to do so. There were some matters of business that required my attention and after Mr. Bennet leaves this morning, Elizabeth is to come here for another, more extensive tour than the one she had during the soiree three nights ago. And I have arranged a meeting with Mrs. Reynolds. There are not many days left to prepare Pemberley to receive its mistress.” His grimace slid into a pleased smile at the thought. “Now, tell me what has you looking as though you have gone three rounds dodging swords?”
Bingley lifted the letter in his hand. “There is not much time to prepare Caroline for Pemberley to receive its new mistress — seeing that it is not her, that is. I have told Hurst to accept the invitation to ___ house party. It is time that my youngest sister get on with her duty of securing a husband.” Bingley sealed the letter. “I shall not be staying past the wedding breakfast.”
“You are welcome to remain as long as you wish,” said Darcy with some concern. “Miss Bennet will be in Derbyshire until at least Michaelmas.”
Bingley nodded slowly. “It may be best if we both realize that you were correct and her feelings for me were not what I imagined.” He blew out another breath. “Which is why this will likely be my last visit to Pemberley.”
Darcy sat forward in his chair. “I was not correct. She loved you and still may.”
“I will give it until your wedding, but if I see no more encouragement than I have seen since arriving nearly ten days ago, I shall wish her well and move on.” He stood at the window to the library. The garden was cheery and the day, bright, but he did not feel it. Indeed, he had not felt the loveliness of any day since he arrived. How could he when Captain Harris kept acting the part of a cloud blocking the sun? “It can be done, can it not?” He glanced over his shoulder at Darcy. “I can find another happiness eventually?”
“As much as I do not wish to encourage your line of thinking, I would dare to say that if anyone could accomplish such an arduous feat it is you.” Darcy rose and crossed to the window to stand next to his friend. “I am sorry.”
Bingley shrugged. “You did not know.” He sighed heavily as he shifted to lean against the wall next to the window. “My sister, however, would have known more. Ladies always do. I am glad not to be seeing her.”
“You cannot be certain she knew. Miss Bennet was very circumspect in keeping her attachment unknown.”
Bingley laughed. “I dare say it would appear to be so to you, but you are not a lady. They have their own understandings of each other about which we gentlemen know nothing. I have witnessed it many times with Caroline and Louisa.” He shook his head. “No, Caroline knew and whether she wished to separate me from Miss Bennet or you from Miss Elizabeth is my only question regarding the whole matter.”
“Why would she have wanted to separate me from Elizabeth? I had declared nothing in Elizabeth’s favour. In fact, I was rather rude at times.”
Bingley chuckled again. “I do hope for your sake you have more sons than daughters. A gentleman cannot declare a lady’s eyes to be fine and not be suspected of marking that lady for marriage.” He raised a brow, challenging Darcy to deny it, but Darcy did not and admitted he supposed that such a thing was possible.
“What are your plans for the afternoon?” Darcy asked. “It is warm so I would advise against a ride for both your sake and that of your horse. Miss Bennet is to accompany Elizabeth.”
“What of Harris and Fitzwilliam? Are either of them to accompany Miss Bennet?” He had seen Miss Bennet on the arm of one or the other of the gentleman whenever an opportunity arose for a stroll. He had been relegated to escorting Mary Ellen Dobney — not that there was anything particularly wrong with Miss Dobney. She was a lovely lady and were Bingley’s heart not attached elsewhere, he might have considered her as a match. Her humour was pleasant. Her figure was all that it should be. Truly her only imperfection was that she seemed to have a modicum of a fiery temper, which having endured the peevishness of his youngest sister, Bingley was inclined to avoid even in small doses in a prospective wife. He had had his fill of fits and tantrums — and meddling interferences, he thought with a scowl. Caroline could not marry soon enough to suit him.
“It is my understanding that it is just the ladies of Willow Hall who are to call. Georgiana has arranged to have tea in the garden with Mrs. Gardiner and Mrs. Abbot as well as Miss Bennet and Elizabeth.”
“Very well, if Harris and Fitzwilliam will not be present, then it might serve me best to join you.” And so he did. He smiled and act the part of a charming gentleman enough to make all save one of the ladies from Willow Hall smile and laugh in reply. Unfortunately, it was that one lady, Miss Jane Bennet, whose refusal to act as anything more than a person forced to be civil, that coloured the whole event with a deep stroke of grey and sent him in search of a good drink later that evening.
More in the Willow Hall Romance Series
A Pride and Prejudice Prequel ~ Willow Hall Romance, Book 1
Events from the past combined with threats in the present threaten to tear Lucy and Philip apart unless Darcy can help his friends save their blossoming love and rid Lucy of her uncle once and for all.Click cover image to find that book in your favorite store.
Click cover image to find this book in your favorite store.
A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella ~ Willow Hall Romance, Book 2
When Fitzwilliam Darcy bought Willow Hall, he thought he was helping a friend escape an untenable situation. Little did he know he was purchasing a second chance for his own happiness.
A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella, Willow Hall Romance Book 3
Lydia Bennet only meant to surprise her sisters and enjoy some fun. She thought she had planned well enough to avoid any disagreeable consequence, but she did not. However, when plans go awry, the results, much like the lady who made the plan, can be very unexpected.
Publication of this book is expected to be February 2017.