Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #10

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

This will be my final post for this story. Hopefully, I’ll have a new one next week. I have renamed this story at least once, maybe twice. It’s finalized title is Darcy’s Surprise Betrothal. I hope to have it available for sale next week.

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

The next day dawned bright and clear. As it was her wedding day, Elizabeth did not go for her customary stroll around the estate. Her mother and sisters insisted she not see Fitzwilliam before the ceremony, and to prevent such an occurrence, one of them remained with her at all times. Mary, known to be the sister most likely to stick to the rules, slept in the bed with Elizabeth. In the morning, the rest of the girls took turns, ending with Jane, who helped her next younger sister with her hair and gown.

“It is a black dress, Jane. There really is not much that can be done to improve it.”

“That does not mean it cannot be presented in the best possible manner. I am grateful that the irises are blooming. They are both appropriate to our mourning, and cheerful in color.”

“Yes, I appreciate the blue and purple of the blooms.” Elizabeth sighed. “I wish Papa was here.”

Jane handed her favorite sister a handkerchief. “If he were here, you would not be marrying. You would not even be aware that you were betrothed.”

Elizabeth smiled her thanks to Jane and used the cloth to dab at the dears that had rushed to her eyes. “I think that I might be. Mr. Darcy’s health would still be poor, and his late wife’s sister would still be pushing him to marry Fitzwilliam to her daughter.”

“True.” Jane sighed and then pulled out her own handkerchief. Her father’s passing still seemed unreal, despite the many new and unexpected things that had occurred since that day. “Uncle Gardiner invited me to join them in London when they return.”

Elizabeth watched her sister’s reflection in the mirror. “Will you go?”

Jane was silent for a minute, fussing with a strand of her sister’s hair. “I will. Aunt convinced me that Mama really does not need me as much as she says she does; she has the other girls, and Mary is old enough to begin learning how to run the house, anyway.”

“Fitzwilliam tells me Mr. Bingley is returning to town after the wedding.”

“Yes.” The corners of Jane’s mouth tipped up a bit. “Aunt used that information, as well. She said Uncle has given Mr. Bingley permission to call on me, if I allow it. It was very generous of him, especially since we are in mourning.”

“Yes, but I think Uncle feels that exceptions can be made for certain circumstances, and given ours, he does not wish to deter a possible suitor.”

Jane nodded, then sighed. “Yes.”

“Do you want Mr. Bingley to call?”

Jane startled. She looked up, her wide eyes meeting Elizabeth’s in the mirror. “Oh, yes! Very much so.”

“Good. You did not sound very enthusiastic for a second there.”

“I am, though. Oh,” she exclaimed, letting go of the tendril of hair she was trying to arrange to clench her fists in frustration and pump them up and down. “I do not know what is wrong with me. I find Mr. Bingely attractive, and I want to know him better, I truly do. I know in my heart Mama does not really need me, and I know that Papa would want me to be happy. He would laugh at me if he could see me dithering as I am. And, he would tell me to go to town and allow myself to be courted. I know this. Still, I feel as though I’m behaving wrongly to do so.”

Elizabeth turned around and took Jane’s hands. “I hear Mama’s voice in some of that. Has she been upset that you are going?”

“Yes,” Jane admitted, misery clear in her voice and the tears in her eyes. “She told me I am neglecting my duty to her by leaving.” Jane sobbed, and Elizabeth immediately stood, wrapping her in a tneder embrace.

“She is wrong. Mama does not like change, and she wants her girls around her to coddle her while it happens. You cannot live your life catering to her whims. She is a woman grown, and she should be leading us, not you or I or Mary.” Elizabeth pulled back a few inches, and looked her sister in the face. “You must do what is best for Jane. Mama will cope. The only real difference in her situation is that she is going to be living in a different house. She will not have to cook or anything else. Everything has been provided for her. Do not allow her to run you, Sister.”

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #9

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

I can’t remember if I told you last week, but this story is rapidly coming to a close. There will probably be not more than two more posts for it. I changed the name, too, after being advised that it was weak. So, when it gets published it will be Darcy’s Surprise Betrothal.

With this book, I’ll have a brand-new cover style. Be looking, especially on Facebook but probably also here on the blog, for it. I plan to share everywhere I can so my readers are not shocked or anything. 🙂

I’m not sure how much I give away here. I’ll leave it to you to tell me. 🙂

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

Just as the sun began to rise, a shout was heard among the searchers, and everyone rushed to reach the spot. Darcy was overjoyed to see his son, wet and bedraggled, walking towards him.

“Son!” Darcy rushed to Fitzwilliam, pulling him in for a quick hug and then releasing him to step back, hands on Fitzwilliam’s shoulders. “I am very happy to see you. You kept us all up, pacing the floors last night. Are you well? Where is your horse?” Darcy looked over his son’s shoulder.

“I am well. I stumbled across a small barn last night. It was abandoned, I think; the roof was mostly missing. Orlando is tied there. He came up lame not long after I made the decision to find shelter. He slipped in the mud. I cannot feel a break; I suspect a strain, but since I had no idea where I was, I thought it best to leave him there until I had worked out where we were.”

“That was wise. Can you point us in the direction of the barn? I will send someone to bring the gelding back.”

As Fitzwilliam directed one of the tenants to the building, Gardiner walked up, blanket in hand. Handing the piece of cloth to Darcy, he informed his new friend that he had sent for a carriage to pick Fitzwilliam up.

“Thank you, Gardiner, I appreciate that.” Darcy took the blanket, laying it over the shoulders of his now-shivering son. Once Fitzwilliam turned back to him from speaking to the farmers, he informed him of the coming carriage.

“Are we really that far from Longbourn? I would far rather walk. It warms the blood, and I need warming.”

Darcy’s brows rose in surprise. “I do not believe we are more than a mile away, what say you, Gardiner?”

“Not much further than that, I would imagine. But are you certain you are well enough for that, Fitzwilliam?”

“I am. I have a little chill is all.”

“Very well, then. We will walk.” Darcy positioned himself on one side of Fitzwilliam, and Gardiner on the other, and they began the trek back to Longbourn.

“How is Elizabeth? Was she worried?”

“She was. She remained below stairs until after midnight.”

“Your father had to force her to go to bed, or nearly so.”

“Did you see her this morning?”

Darcy assured his son they had. “She was waiting in the drawing room for our return.”

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #8

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

I have gone back in and added a whole bunch to this story, because I felt that I was missing it in spots. I’m nearing the end of the actual writing process, so there will only be a few more of these posts. I will soon begin to post the story in its entirety at darcyandlizzy.com and start editing. Keep watching my blog for a cover reveal, too!

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter, sometimes more?

~~~***~~~

Just as Elizabeth stopped speaking, a noise drew Fitzwilliam’s attention behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Mary on the ground. Immediately, he turned back.

Elizabeth heard the same sound, and when Fitzwilliam turned back, so did she.

“Mary!” Picking up her skirts, Elizabeth scurried to her sister. Fitzwilliam got to her first, and as he helped Mary to her feet, Elizabeth grabbed her sister’s free arm. “Are you well? What happened?”

“I tripped on something.” Mary looked over her shoulder. “I do not know what. I suppose I should have glanced up earlier, but by the time I thought about it, I was already falling.” She brushed at her pelisse, knocking some small twigs and leaves off.

“Oh, Mary,” Elizabeth scolded. She began to brush the dirt off her sister’s clothes as she spoke. “You must watch where you walk. I would not wish to see you hurt.” The gown and pelisse as clean as Elizabeth could make them, she stood straight again, pulling her sister into a hug. “You frightened me for a second. Are you certain you are well?”

Mary hugged Elizabeth back. They did not often have these kinds of moments, and Mary was going to enjoy every second of it. “I am, I promise.” When Elizabeth let go and Fitzwilliam handed her book back to her, Mary continued, “I will be more careful in the future. I am sorry for frightening you.” She thanked Fitzwilliam for his assistance and then asked how much further they were going to walk.

“We can turn around now, if you wish, Miss Mary. Is that not correct, Elizabeth?”

“It is indeed! Would you rather we return to Longbourn, Mary?”

“Oh, no! I confess I would enjoy sitting on one of those big rocks while I read. They hold the warmth of the sun so well.”

“Then I say we carry on. Fitzwilliam, do you agree?”

“Absolutely.”

With those words, the trio continued on, spending no short amount of time at the top of Oakham Mount, in conversation and private contemplation.

~~~***~~~

That afternoon, the gentlemen went about the estate and the tenant farms to survey the conditions of the fences, drainage, and so on, and the ladies, Elizabeth included, sewed, adding to the number of items she had in her trousseau. While she worked, Elizabeth pondered her betrothed, and what she knew of him. While she was determined to have him, she still longed for love and wished to know if he was someone she could, eventually, come to feel such a strong emotion for.

He was very kind to Mary today, she thought. And it was not planned. He could not have known she would trip and fall. His concern for her was genuine. She looked at Georgiana, who was diligently applying herself to her sampler, under the guidance of Miss Smith. It was the same care I have seen him give to his own sister. This speaks well of him, I think. He is respectful of his father, but I would expect that from anyone, and, despite his words yesterday morning, he has never treated my mother or sisters with anything other than gentleness and respect. As Papa said in his letter, I already know his character. If he continues on this path, perhaps I will come to love him someday. Satisfied with her conclusions, Elizabeth turned her attention back to the chatter of the other ladies.

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #7

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. Mr. Gardiner was required to climb Oakham Mount just before this. While it’s undoubtedly a small hill, for a gentleman (or tradesman) unused to such activity, it’s a bit of a hike! 😉

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

Elizabeth stared out over the view she loved so much with tears in her eyes. How could he say those things? Was I so wrong about him? I don’t want to live the rest of my life with a man who thinks so little of me and my family. These thoughts and others raced through her mind on a continuous loop, until she thought she might go mad. Lost in her reflections and the remnants of her anger, she didn’t hear her uncle as he walked up to her. She jumped when he touched her arm.

“Lizzy.” Gardiner was out of breath from the walk. He was not accustomed to such exercise.

“Oh, Uncle!” Elizabeth pressed her hand to her chest. “You startled me.”

“I am sorry,” Gardiner replied. “I was certain you would have heard my wheezing as I approached.” He gestured to the wide boulder. “Might I sit with you a while?”

“Certainly!” Elizabeth scooted over to make room and waited for her uncle to settle himself. Finally, when he seemed to be comfortable, she spoke again. “What brings you all the way up here?”

Sighing, Gardiner began. “I heard your argument with young Darcy, as did his father.”

“And you are here to speak to me about it. I assume Mr. Darcy is speaking to his son, as well?” Elizabeth could not help the tiny bit of bitterness in her question.

“He is, as a matter of fact.”

“Hmph.”

“Lizzy,” Gardiner sighed. He hated that he was the one tasked with this. His wife was much better in these sorts of situations. Still, it fell upon him and it was not in his nature to shrink back from unpleasant things. “I am not certain I know where to begin. You and Fitzwilliam had an argument.  These things happen from time to time. Lord knows, Maddie and I have had our fair share. I heard what he said to you, and cringed when he did, knowing how … ugly his words were and how you would react. Which you did, by the way; you reacted exactly as I imagined you would.”

He paused for a moment as his niece let out a soft snort and trained her gaze once more on the landscape spread before them. “I am going to say something here, and I want you to listen to all of it before you speak. Will you do that for me?”

Flattening her lips into a displeased line for just a moment, Elizabeth reluctantly gave her assent. “Yes.”

Nodding once, Gardiner continued. “Young Darcy should not have spoken as he did, but he was not incorrect in his observations. You know this. If you look into your heart, you will see that he spoke the truth. Your mother and younger sisters are largely unchecked. As much as I liked your father, I have never agreed with his indolence in regards to the raising of his children. I suppose that had he a son, he might have done differently, but I have my doubts about it. However, that is neither here nor there. The issue at hand is your argument with your betrothed.

“He was wrong to say what he did, in the manner he did, but you were wrong, as well. You responded in an intemperate manner that bordered on vicious. You let your anger get away from you.”

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #6

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. I only wrote a few hundred words last week on this story, because I was deep in edits for my Western. I hope that one will be ready to go live this week. 🙂

This scene takes place just a couple paragraphs after last week’s excerpt. Please, do let me know what you think of it!

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

“Only if you truly can. I know all of us will miss you, especially Charlotte. She was lamenting your departure just last night. Promise you will write to her, so she can tell us all how you get on.”

“I will. I promise.” Elizabeth squeezed his hands before letting go and stepping back. She watched her old friend glare once more at Fitzwilliam and then turn and stride out of the room. She sighed, then looked around. Seeing that only two of her sisters remained, she grabbed her betrothed by the wrist and dragged him off to the back parlor.

Fitzwilliam had watched and listened as she had spoken to John Lucas, his brain slowly working out a possible reason for her anger. When he heard Lucas call him jealous, Fitzwilliam was taken aback. Jealous? Am I jealous? He mentally reviewed his behavior. I suppose my actions could be seen as those of a jealous suitor by someone who does not know me well. Even as he told himself this, Fitzwilliam knew it was correct. His behavior had been that indicating possession. He had not appreciated his prize being sweet-talked by another man. He could clearly see that Elizabeth was unhappy with it. Before he could say a word, Lucas was leaving, and his betrothed was pulling him to the next room, shoving him in, and shutting the door behind them. He heard the click of the lock as it slid home.

“That was the singular most arrogant, stupid, haughty, hot-headed, spiteful thing I have seen anyone do in my entire life. What gives you the right to treat my friends so poorly? John Lucas has known me since I was a young girl. We climbed trees together, and played pirates in his parents’ garden. His sister is my best friend. What were you thinking?” Elizabeth’s hands were on her hips, her countenance red, and her eyes almost black, their brows joined by the crease between them. She exuded anger from every pore.

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #5

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. In this one, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gets just a bit … arrogant, shall we say? LOL Surely you did not think he could go a whole book and not annoy his betrothed just a bit, did you? Well, I guess in my books, he generally doesn’t, but this time he will. 😀

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

When Fitzwilliam entered the room, he was not pleased to find another man sitting so closely to his Elizabeth. Instead of sitting down with the rest of the company, he strode to the window and stood looking out, his hands clasped behind his back and his jaw clenched. When he felt he had regained his composure, he moved away from the window to stand behind Elizabeth. He caught a glimpse, out of the corner of his eye, of his father smirking at him. He wondered what had caused that look, but did not wish to take the time to discover it.

A quarter hour later, Fitzwilliam Darcy was fit to be tied. He had stood behind his betrothed as she laughed with another man; a man who, it seemed, knew everything about her. He heard stories of what seemed to him to be every misdeed she had ever committed as a girl. Fitzwilliam’s stance had become more and more rigid and his jaw clenched harder and harder as he listened to John Lucas flirt with Elizabeth. Just when he thought he could not take more, Sir William stood, indicating the end of the visit.

“Lucas, a word?” Fitzwilliam growled his question.

John paused for just a second but then consented to follow Fitzwilliam to a corner near the room’s doorway. “What can I do for you?”

“You can leave my future wife alone is what you can do.” If his dark, severe look had not indicated his displeasure, his severe tone of voice would have.

John’s brows rose, demonstrating his surprise. “Excuse me?”

“I sat there and listened to you flirt with Elizabeth. I will not have it. She is engaged to me and not available for other men to flirt with. You will cease and desist immediately.”

“Now see here! You cannot tell me what to do. You are not married to her yet, and if you were, I have known her for years. Years. You have been acquainted with her for days.”

“I can tell you what to do where it concerns my wife. I will not have people like you making her uncomfortable. I am telling you to stop or face the consequences.” With one last, hard look at John, Fitzwilliam turned on his heel and stalked away.

Elizabeth, who had been standing a few feet behind them, waiting for them to finish, had heard every word. She stood, arms crossed, jaw set, and face a deep red, waiting for one of them to turn and see her. It was Fitzwilliam who did.

He saw all the signs of her agitation, but did not connect her apparent anger with his speech to her old friend. “What is wrong?”

He knew he had asked the wrong question when her snapping eyes jerked up to his face and her hands landed on her hips. “Why do you not tell me, Mr. High and Mighty Fitzwilliam Darcy?”

 

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #4

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. It happens after last week’s but not too far after.

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

The next day, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth spent more time together, this time in her father’s chambers, sorting through his clothing and other possessions. This was a difficult day for Elizabeth, as Fitzwilliam knew it would be. There were many times over the course of the morning when he stopped their work to draw her into his arms and hold her. With the housekeeper in the room, and maids and the Bennet’s man of all work constantly in and out, Fitzwilliam could not kiss her like he wished to, but he made the most of the time he did have to just be close to her.

Fitzwilliam reflected, as he held her close and let her cry out her tears for the fourth time in as many hours, that he rather liked the position they were currently in. He felt comforted as much as he hoped she did. She feels so good, he thought, as though she belongs in my arms. As though she was formed for me. Startled by his mind’s reference to one of his Aunt Catherine’s favorite sayings, Fitzwilliam mentally shook himself, but did not let go of Elizabeth until she pulled away, her tears dried once more.

“Perhaps we should stop for the day, Dearest. We have made good progress, but it does not need to be completed in one go. I would rather you take some time and rest.”

Knowing he was correct and finding herself shamelessly wishing Fitzwilliam would rest with her, Elizabeth agreed. “We have made significant progress, have we not? I confess that I feel worn out. Heavy emotions do that to me. I should like to rest, I think.”

“Good. Then, let me escort you to your room. I will go down and see what my father is up to.”

Having arrived at the door to Elizabeth’s chambers, Fitzwilliam looked both ways down the hall and, seeing no one, ran his hands up his betrothed’s arms to her shoulders. “Sleep,” he whispered, “and if you need me, do not hesitate to summon me. I will send someone up to wake you in time for you to prepare for tea.” Seeing her nod in acceptance, Fitzwilliam leaned toward her, his hands skimming up and across her shoulders and settling around her neck. He tilted her chin up with his thumbs and pressed his parted lips to hers.

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #3

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. Mrs. Bennet is about to get a bit of a shock. 😉

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

It was later that afternoon before Mrs. Bennet could be convinced to hear anything regarding the will, and then only because Mr. Gardiner insisted. Since Lizzy had been the one to sit in on the reading of the document, it was decided that she would explain it to her mother and sisters. She gathered them all together in the drawing room and patiently explained the situation with Mr. Collins, the dower house, and their income.

“The dower house! Why, it is not fit for humans to live in!” Mrs. Bennet was not pleased. It was bad enough to be forced from Longbourn; living with one of her siblings would have been tight, but manageable. The dower house, however, was only half the size of the manor house.

“Nonsense, Fanny!” Gardiner was not shy about rebuking his sister in front of her guests. “That dower house is gorgeous! It is true that the number of bedrooms is less, but that will not matter. There is plenty of room for entertaining small numbers of guests, though they may not be able to spend the night without the girls doubling up. You will be mourning for a year, anyway, so you cannot entertain.”

“Oh, Brother!” Mrs. Bennet’s wail drew the staff in from the kitchen, but seeing there was nothing wrong, they immediately returned.

“Enough! You are moving to the dower house. Now be quiet; there is more you must hear.” Gardiner gestured to Elizabeth to continue, and she explained that the heir was told he must wait thirty days to take possession, they were not certain he would do so, Sir William had been apprised of the situation and promised his assistance, and oh, yes, she was getting married, the ceremony would be in a fortnight, there would be no wedding breakfast, and she would not be making any clothing purchases due to their mourning. Having finally gotten all of the details out, without offering to reply to questions, her mother and sisters were left not knowing what to comment on first.

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #2

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. Mr. Phillips is reading the will. I’m unclear on details of what actually went into an entail, which is also discussed here, but it makes sense to me that the dower house and transportation bits would go into one. Remember that in this story, everyone is younger. Mr. William Collins is right about 20, and so his father is still alive and he’s technically a minor. The Mr. Collins mentioned as the heir is the father.

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

“Let us get started then. I do feel it is my duty to inform you all that a notice has been sent to the heir, a Mr. ___ Collins, but he has refused to attend the reading of the will. I will not repeat what he said, but I feel that we can expect him any day to take possession of the house. I made it clear in my letter that he was to give the Bennet ladies a full month to make other living arrangements, but his language was so abusive that I am certain he will ignore me.”

“Is that part of Papa’s will, Uncle? That Mr. Collins give us a certain number of days to vacate?”

“It is actually written into the language of the entail, but yes, it is also part of your father’s last will and testament. Mr. Collins appears to feel that he is free to ignore that clause, but it is legally binding.”

“Well, then,” Darcy stated firmly, “he will be turned away until the thirty days is up.”

Elizabeth looked at Darcy, then at her uncle. Seeing a look pass between them, she was confident they had the matter well in hand. She would focus her attention to the rest of the document her uncle had before him. “Very good.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Let us get on with it.”

Phillips smiled at his niece. “To begin with, I have letters for each of you, written by my brother Bennet just weeks before he died.” He passed a sealed missive to each of them. “His instructions were to give them to you at my discretion, before, during, or after the reading of the will. I have chosen, based on what I know of the current circumstances, to give them to you now. I would ask that you wait for a few moments to read them.”

Phillips looked at each face and, seeing agreement in every eye, proceeded. He read the details of Mrs. Bennet’s future income and living arrangements. She would receive an annual sum equal to the interest off her dowry, and move into the dowager’s cottage that was located at the back of the garden. She was to receive full access to the gardens, and a horse and carriage for her use. “This is also laid out in the entail, the part about the dowager’s house and transportation.”

~~~***~~~

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #1

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

I have begun a new Regency story. I call it Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal, in which Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s fathers betroth them when they’re young, and then just don’t tell them.  Today’s excerpt is the first few hundred words, and is from the very first chapter (well, as it stands right now … things sometimes change with editing prior to publication. 😉 ) I have made Darcy and Elizabeth younger in this story, and also made them closer in age than they are in canon.

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“Father,” eighteen-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy began, as he entered the study and stood in front of the large mahogany desk. “Must I go to Rosings with you? My aunt will speak of nothing but my betrothal to Anne, over and over again.”

“I am sorry, Son, I know that is aggravating, but Lady Catherine is your mother’s sister and you must honor the connection. I will steer the conversation away from you, as I always do.”

“But, she will hunt me down and get me alone to do it! Please, Father, do not make me go!”

“Fitzwilliam,” George Darcy said, sternly. “You are too old to whine. You will go. I will protect you as best I can.”

Fitzwilliam sighed. “Yes, sir. I am sorry for complaining.”

“Apology accepted. Go on up to the drawing room and wait for me and your sister. I suspect the bell for supper will be rung soon.”

Fitzwilliam nodded his acceptance and walked to the door, stopping before he stepped into the hall and looking back at his father, who he found observing him closely. “Is she correct?” he asked, his voice so low as to almost seem a whisper. “Am I engaged to Anne?”

“No, Son, you are not. You will never be; it is not possible. However, I want you to be very careful at Rosings; do not allow yourself to be left alone with your cousin for any reason. We are taking Richard with us, and I want you boys to stick together like glue. Do you understand?” At his son’s nod, George added, “She cannot force a marriage, your aunt, but Anne’s reputation could be damaged if Lady Catherine attempted a compromise between you and your cousin. None of us wish for that.”

Fitzwilliam’s shoulders relaxed at his father’s words. “No, sir. I would not want any harm to come to Anne. I simply do not wish to marry her. Thank you, Father.”

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