For those who are wondering about my new release, I am posting the first five chapters here before publication to give everyone a sneak peek! If you missed my announcement a while back, I have a launch date set for Particular Attachments! For those who wish to purchase it, it will go live on September 14th! I will update when I get the pre-order set up, and I will reveal the cover with next week’s chapter, so at the moment, you have the beginning and something to look forward to I hope.
One more daisy! With a gentle tug, the lush stem gave way to her small fingers, and she added it to the cluster she was holding in her other hand. Georgiana Darcy studied the bouquet, giving a decisive nod. Mother would adore them.
She glanced about her, peering around the tall green grass near the pond. Now, where had she left Matilda? After several steps in the direction of the house, she spied a bit of her favourite doll’s painted golden hair peeking from behind the row the lavender she had plundered before the daisies.
“There you are!”
Once Matilda was again clutched in her free arm, she skipped in the direction of an enormous rug set out beside the pond. Her mother reclined on a chaise near the edge, her eyes following a pair of swans glide gracefully along the glassy surface of the water.
She walked the last few feet and held the bouquet before her mother. “I picked them for you.”
Her mother’s pale face broke into a brilliant smile. “Oh, Georgiana, they are lovely.” She took them and pressed her nose into the blossoms as she inhaled. “You know how much I adore the scent of lavender. Thank you.”
She waved a footman closer. “Have these put in some water and have Claire set them upon my dressing table.”
Georgiana grinned as she warmed at her mother’s pleased countenance. She knew she would like them!
Her mother held her arms outstretched, and Georgiana fell into her embrace. Despite her frail appearance, her mother pulled her tightly to her. “I love you, my sweet girl.”
“I love you, too.”
“Oh, a picnic! What a wonderful idea!”
Georgiana lifted from her mother with care and turned. Why were Lord and Lady Lindsey paying a call?
A weary smile greeted the newcomers. “Amelia, I am in your debt!” Her mother’s voice was weak and breathy. She had been ill for so long. When would she again be well?
Lady Lindsey rushed forward and took her mother’s hands. “Nonsense! You would do the same if I urgently required Nathaniel brought to me.” Tears flooded her mother’s eyes as her friend knelt beside her.
“How is Fitzwilliam?” asked her mother.
Fitzwilliam? He was supposed to be in school. Why would he return before summer?
Lady Lindsey removed a handkerchief from her reticule and dabbed the damp from her mother’s cheeks. “He is refreshing himself and will join us in a moment.”
Movement in the corner of her eye drew Georgiana’s attention to the Lindseys’ son standing slightly behind his father. Oh no! Why had they brought him? Was he not supposed to be at Eton? Well, if he was not, they could have left him at Totford Abbey. Why was he to impose himself upon them?
Her mother gave a slight squeeze of her hand. “Georgiana, if you could take Nathaniel to have some punch or tea, and some food. I am certain he is thirsty and hungry after their lengthy trip.”
Why could Fitzwilliam not do so? Lady Lindsey did say her brother would join them soon. Nathaniel was always such a pest! He pulled her curls and tormented her. He was no gentleman! “Must I?”
A feeble gasp came from her mother and Georgiana’s body sagged. Her mother was disappointed. “Yes, you must. You know you should not be so ill-mannered to our guests.”
“Yes, Mother.” Her shoulders were heavy as she stood. She approached the older boy with his tousled, dark chestnut hair and dark eyes and curtsied to him and his father. “Lord Lindsey, welcome to Pemberley.”
The gentleman’s lip curved to one side while he bowed. “Miss Darcy. We are pleased to be here.”
She turned to Lord and Lady Lindsey’s son. Did he not have a title of some sort? Oh bother! Her mother called him Nathaniel and so would she. After all, boys who were a terrible nuisance did not deserve titles. “Would you care for some tea?”
He gave a slight bow. “I would, thank you.”
As they stepped away from their parents, whispers from behind filled her ears, drowning the happy sound of the birds chirping in the trees and the cool breeze rippling the pond. Why were people always whispering? As of late, Mrs. Reynolds often spoke in hushed tones. Her father and the doctor, who was at Pemberley nearly every day, closed themselves in her father’s study, though not a soul would tell her why.
A maid helped Nathaniel with a plate of food and a cup of tea while she watched her father stride in determined steps across the grass. He shook Lord Lindsey’s hand and moved behind her mother, placing his palms upon her shoulders. Her father always touched her mother in some fashion, particularly in the last month or so.
“Will you not sit with me?”
She started at the voice before staring at him. Did he actually think himself a welcome guest? “I suppose I must.”
The maid placed his meal upon the table as he turned with a grin. “You may as well stop pretending.”
“I beg your pardon?” Good! She had intended to sound as intimidating as Lady Catherine!
He laughed. Her aunt terrified her. Why would he find her impression humorous?
“I said, you may as well stop pretending. I know you think well of me.”
Pretending? Think well of him? What was he about? “I am not fond of any boys—except Fitzwilliam and my father, of course. I am not playing you false.”
His irritating smile became wider. “You like me.”
“One day, Georgiana Darcy, you are going to marry me!”
Georgiana inhaled sharply and shot forward from the squabs of the carriage.
“Georgiana? Are you well?”
She squeezed her eyes shut to clear her vision, opened them, and nodded. “Forgive me if I frightened you. I was dreaming.”
“Do you need to speak of it?”
Lizzy was too good. How many dreams or nightmares had she recounted to her sister over the last four years? The number was too many to count.
“No, it was just a memory I had long forgotten. I honestly do not know why it suddenly came to mind.” Little William turned his head and nestled back against Lizzy’s chest. “If you are tired, I can hold him for a time.”
Lizzy’s fingers brushed through her son’s curly locks and she kissed his crown. “I appreciate the offer, but I have no intention of sharing him at the moment. He has grown so much in the last two years. I dread the day I cannot cuddle him to me any longer.”
“You will always have me to cuddle.” The sleepy voice of Fitzwilliam made them both turn their heads.
“I hope we did not wake you,” whispered Lizzy.
“No, I was enjoying the quiet. We have not had much of it since William was born.”
A soft laugh came from Lizzy. “We certainly have not.”
Though in looks he resembled Fitzwilliam more than Lizzy, her nephew was certainly a mischievous, stubborn, and exceedingly talkative child. Mr. Bennet, during his last visit to Pemberley three months prior, indicated the boy was as Lizzy was at his age. Between themselves and little William’s nursemaid, they were forever chasing him about Pemberley without a moment’s rest.
“What did you remember?”
Her eyes met her brother’s. “The day we spent at the pond with Lord and Lady Lindsey.”
A line formed between his eyebrows. “We picnicked often with Lord and Lady Lindsey, as well as their son.”
“The week before Mother passed.” Her voice cracked and her eyes burned. Speaking of her mother was always difficult. The pain had dulled some but never truly left her heart.
“Ah, I remember. When Father had Lord Lindsey fetch me from Cambridge and bring me to Pemberley.” Her brother’s lips curved upwards on one side. “Father had to punish you that day as I recall.”
“What did you do?” Lizzy’s voice was incredulous, as though it were inconceivable Georgiana would ever misbehave.
“It was nothing.”
Her brother laughed and nudged his wife with his elbow. “I am sure Sele would disagree.”
“Sele?” asked Lizzy.
“Nathaniel Howard, Viscount Sele. You made the acquaintance of his parents, Lord and Lady Lindsey at Almack’s last year. After Sele completed his studies at Oxford, he travelled to Ireland to oversee mining on Lindsey lands. Once gold was discovered, with the exception of a fortnight or so during the Christmas season every year, he remained.”
Lizzy tightened her hold on her son. “His parents must miss him.”
Lord and Lady Lindsey were certain to miss him dreadfully. Nathaniel was their sole child and heir, and his parents had managed to raise him using a fine balance between doting on an only child and rearing a gentleman, unlike most of the spoiled young men inhabiting society. Of course, Georgiana had not laid eyes upon him since her father died. She had never met the man, only the insufferable boy.
Rumours of his return for Christmas reached Georgiana’s ears on several occasions over the last two years. He usually attended several parties in London during the holiday season as well as the theatre while she remained at Pemberley with Fitzwilliam and Lizzy.
“When will we arrive in Meryton, do you think?” Better to change the subject before Lizzy remembered to ask what had happened that day by the pond!
With a sly bit of a smile, Lizzy glanced through the window. “We passed through St. Albans a half-hour before you woke. We are not far.”
“I am glad we found that less congested coaching inn just outside of Northampton for our stops rather than the one we had used on our previous journeys,” commented her brother. “Not being forced to wait for nearly an hour for a change of horses at a busier establishment certainly helped ease our journey.”
“The stop would have woken William as well. Without the interruption, he will have a better nap before we arrive at Longbourn.”
Fitzwilliam checked his watch and returned it to his pocket. “What time is the wedding?”
“Half ten.” Lizzy shook her head. “I still find it difficult to believe Papa is to be married—again. I thought that upon Mama’s death, he would have retreated to his book room until he one day passed in his favourite chair. I expected Mrs. Hill to discover him when she brought him his morning pot of tea.”
“I hope you are pleased for him.” Fitzwilliam’s fingers trailed along the top of her arm. “Your father seems to have found contentment with Miss Talbot.”
“His letters are so different to what I am accustomed. He writes more of her than of books and inanities, but I am pleased he will not be lonely. Since Kitty wed Josiah Lucas and Mary wed Samuel Audley, I worried for him being alone with Lydia at Longbourn.”
A giggle escaped Georgiana’s lips, and she pressed them together. “Forgive me. I just remembered your mother’s reaction to Kitty’s and Mary’s engagements.”
Lizzy rolled her eyes. “Mama was not a woman of sense. She assumed after I married Fitzwilliam that all of her daughters would be part of the first circles. With Mr. Bingley betrothed to Anne de Bourgh, she was adamant Jane would marry Milton, Lydia would attract a duke, and Lord only knows whom she planned for Kitty and Mary. Samuel is brother to a baronet—even if he is a vicar—and well situated, and Kitty will be mistress of Lucas Lodge one day. While Sir William started with very little land, he has added to his property during his lifetime. I am certain Josiah will do the same.”
“Your father describes Miss Talbot as possessing a great deal of good sense,” observed Fitzwilliam. “He may have found her refreshing.”
A sigh came from Lizzy as she leaned her head against the cushioned back of the seat. “He always did describe Mary, Kitty, and Lydia as three of the silliest girls in all of England.”
“But Mary and Kitty are not silly,” cried Georgiana. Why would Lizzy’s father say such things?
“You did no more than make their acquaintance when your brother and I married. Prior to our wedding, Mary played the pianoforte very ill indeed and enjoyed reading and quoting theology. Her favourite book was Fordyce’s sermons. Mr. Collins’ mutual fondness for the same subject, however, gave her pause, and she began to read more of the contents of Papa’s library.
“Kitty improved after your brother’s warning against Mr. Wickham, when my father kept a tighter rein on both her and Lydia. Lydia fought him tooth and nail, but Kitty was not as stubborn.”
Fitzwilliam pointed out the window. “I can see Netherfield.”
The house was in the distance, but its appearance meant Longbourn was not far, and London was a mere afternoon’s drive from Meryton. Georgiana swallowed hard. Her fears of venturing to the theatre and Bond Street had been conquered some time ago, but deflecting the barbs and titters of so-called polished society still disturbed her. After all, they were bound to gossip of the reason she was not yet out.
She jolted from her thoughts when the equipage halted before Longbourn. Her eyes scanned the small columned portico when Mr. Bennet, Miss Lydia Bennet, and an unfamiliar woman, who could only be Miss Talbot, stepped from the door.
Fitzwilliam exited first, took William, and then helped Lizzy. Georgiana stepped down with the help of her brother’s hand as Lizzy rushed forward to greet her father.
She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Papa, you look well.”
“I am quite well, and pleased to see this little one again.” After shaking Fitzwilliam’s hand, he tousled a fidgety William’s curls, then stepped beside the unknown lady and placed her hand upon his arm.
“Miss Sarah Talbot, may I present my daughter, Elizabeth, her husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, their son William, and Miss Georgiana Darcy.”
Miss Talbot curtsied, her smile tight and nervous. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I anticipate coming to know all of you better.”
“We look forward to the same.” Lizzy’s eye held a familiar twinkle. Her sister was amused.
Lizzy startled and stepped forward to hug her youngest sister. When she withdrew, she held Lydia’s arms out to her side. “What a becoming shade! Is the gown new?”
Miss Bennet brushed her palms down the front. “Papa bought fabric and took me to the seamstress for my birthday. I have another new gown in my bedchamber for the wedding. Would you care to see it?”
A grin lit Lizzy’s face. “Perhaps once we have refreshed ourselves and had some tea.”
Lydia’s enthusiastic nod was reminiscent of the Lydia of four years ago. Fortunately, her governess, now companion, and Mr. Bennet proved themselves more stubborn. Lydia was not to be declared out until her behaviour was no longer so wild and unrestrained. The death of Mrs. Bennet two years prior allowed for Lydia to mature for another year while she was in mourning. Yet, if one looked closely, the eyes of the sixteen-year old girl still lurked behind those of the twenty-year old before them.
“Miss Darcy, I hope you are well.”
Georgiana returned Miss Bennet’s curtsey. “I thought we agreed to address one another by our given names?”
“We did, but I was afraid you might have forgotten.” Lydia responded with a reserve she only exhibited when she was uncertain. They had become better acquainted at Pemberley, but had not been in company since.
“I have not.”
A dry laugh from Mr. Bennet interrupted. “Shall we take this reunion into the parlour? Mrs. Hill muttered about starting tea when your carriage arrived. We shall be drinking it cold if we continue here.”
As they were about to take their seats, William’s nursemaid fetched her whining charge, and Mrs. Hill bustled in with tea. She set out the service and exited with haste.
No one commented as Lydia prepared cups for the family, speaking little as she worked. She was so altered. Even prior to her mother’s death, Lydia had become better behaved, but still lacked a certain amount of decorum. The most striking transformation was noticed when Mr. Bennet journeyed to Pemberley that autumn and brought a proper young lady rather than the barely restrained Lydia they expected. No one was aware of what occurred during the year of mourning, but the youngest Bennet sister was certainly changed for the better.
As the conversation flowed around her, Georgiana listened while she attempted to surreptitiously examine Miss Talbot. The lady could not have been more than five and thirty. She had ginger hair and a pale complexion, yet she was not terribly freckled. Her colouring suited her. She was, in fact, quite pretty.
“Miss Talbot, you are from Hertfordshire, I believe?” Lizzy cocked her head to the side. The pose was one Georgiana saw often: Lizzy was sketching Miss Talbot’s character.
“My sister is the wife of Mr. Henry Newell of Leabrook.”
Lizzy’s eyes widened a hair before she smiled. “Your resemblance to your sister is remarkable. I thought you familiar, but now that you mention Mrs. Newell, I know why.
“I understand from my father you were a companion for a time.”
A small line formed on Miss Talbot’s forehead. “My sister was newly married when my father passed. I had no wish to intrude, though she offered me a place to live, so I took a position with an elderly widow. Mrs. Stanton was kind, but her eyesight was poor. I spent my days helping her pay calls and my evenings reading aloud and playing the pianoforte. I was quite fortunate. My brother was acquainted with Mrs. Stanton’s grandson and knew the family to be respectable and kind.”
“Mrs. Stanton could have said she was fortunate in her choice of companion as well.” Mr. Bennet’s lips had a slight curve at each end as he complimented his betrothed. How peculiar! Who would have expected to see Mr. Bennet besotted!
Georgiana’s eyes met Lizzy’s as her sister bit her bottom lip. They had wondered at Mr. Bennet’s marrying again, but the consensus among the family was perhaps a need for companionship. Loneliness might have been a factor, yet the adoring gaze he was bestowing upon Miss Talbot could not be misinterpreted. Stodgy, reclusive, never leave his book room Mr. Bennet was in love!
When she turned back to Miss Talbot, the lady’s pink cheeks left no doubt of her mutual affection for Mr. Bennet. How lovely! He had not had an easy time between Lydia and Mrs. Bennet these last few years.
They chatted long after their teacups were empty, and likewise, their plates contained only crumbs. At a pause in the conversation, Lydia stood. “If you have finished your tea, I shall show you to your rooms, so you can remove the dust from your travels and rest. I am sure your journey was taxing.”
When the entire party stood, Lydia led them up the stairs where she opened the first room along the corridor. “This bedchamber is yours, Georgiana.”
Lizzy leaned to catch a glimpse of the room. “It has not changed since Jane wed.”
“I have not altered much.” Lydia scanned the walls and furniture. “Jane’s preferences were simple and very fine. As long as the wall coverings or draperies do not fall into disrepair, they will not be replaced. Sarah felt much the same when I took her through the house a fortnight ago.”
“Do you like her?” asked Lizzy.
“I do. She is kind and cares about Papa. He has been unhappy for so long, but now, he smiles and even hums as he tends to Longbourn’s business. He is a different man.”
“Perhaps some of that change could be attributed to you as well?” Fitzwilliam’s eyebrows were raised. No doubt he was correct. Lydia’s improved disposition was certain to lessen Mr. Bennet’s displeasure.
Lydia’s forehead creased, she cleared her throat, and turned to Georgiana. “If you require anything, your maid need only request it of Mrs. Hill.”
A small smile was upon her brother’s lips. “My sister is usually as quiet as a mouse. You will hear little from her this evening, I assure you.” He placed a hand to Lizzy’s back. “We will only be a few rooms away.”
“Oh, yes! They will be two doors down on the left should you need them.”
She nodded to Lydia, whose hands were clasped before her. “Thank you. When do I need to be dressed for dinner?”
“Hill will serve at seven. Papa thought you would be fatigued this evening and wished for a quiet, family meal. I hope that is acceptable?”
“A quiet, family meal at Longbourn?” Lizzy laughed. “I have never attended one as such.”
The youngest Miss Bennet had appeared in good cheer since they arrived, but she gave a brief giggle and glanced between her guests. “I should let you have your privacy.”
Georgiana gave a slight bob of the head. “Thank you.”
When she closed the door, Georgiana took in the room. Bright floral papers adorned the walls with pale blue window coverings. Lady Audley’s tastes were similar to this day, though she now had the funds for richer materials.
By the open lid of her trunk, her maid had unpacked what she would require for this evening and the wedding on the morrow. Georgiana’s journal lay upon the escritoire in the corner. Lucy knew her well.
She sat in the dainty chair and dipped her pen in the ink well.
December 16th 1816
I dreamt of Mother as we journeyed to Longbourn today. How long has it been since I have done so? Seems an age ago! She visited my sleep often when I was young, but she has not ventured into my mind like she did this afternoon for several years. I have missed her presence as much in my dreams as I have in my waking hours. Moments in which I long for the safe haven of her embrace have lessened, but never fully waned. Lizzy has helped in that I can speak to her of those matters one confides in a mother, yet the experience could never be the same.
I remember once waking in tears and Father holding me while I cried. How miserable I was to wake and find my mother gone once again! Today’s experience, however, was different than those that preceded it. Rather than my mother holding me or speaking to me, I experienced once more our last picnic before her death. Fitzwilliam and I rarely speak of that time, but through my dream, I have come to realize that she knew her time was near. Her countenance was sombre, and she clung to me so when I brought her the bouquet of lavender and daisies. She was as despaired at the knowledge of leaving us as I was when she left this earth. How could I have forgotten?
Fitzwilliam returned to Pemberley from Cambridge that day. Lord and Lady Lindsey brought him as a favour to my parents. My mother must have wished for time with him before her passing. She was not like most ladies of fashion. Her days were passed tending to household duties, yet she never failed to spend as much time as she could spare with us.
Lord and Lady Lindsey! We have not enjoyed their society for so long. They were such great friends of my parents and came to Pemberley often until Lord Lindsey fell ill almost three years ago. His recovery, according to rumour, was slow, so two years passed before Fitzwilliam and Lizzy happened upon Lord and Lady Lindsey at Almack’s. I have been seldom to London so I have not had the opportunity to be in their company. My parents would be upset their closest friends should be estranged from us now. I should call on them while we are in London. No, I will call on them while in London! My parents would expect no less than the utmost consideration for their closest friends.
She read back through the latest entry while she stood and stepped over to the bed. When she finished, she sat and fell back upon the pillow.
“As long as I am not forced into the company of Nathaniel.”
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to join me next Tuesday for the exciting cover reveal and a giveaway!!