The Darcy Brothers will be coming to your favorite book seller later this summer!
Here’s a very special (brand new) excerpt for your reading pleasure. To put it in context, this scene comes after Darcy reads Wickham’s letter to Theo about how he’ll be happy to “look out for” Georgiana since neither of them is in town.
Georgiana knew the minute she opened her eyes that her brother had returned from Rosings. There was something about the way the servants moved through the house. They walked more quickly and spoke in softer tones so as not to disturb the master.
After dressing in a pale pink muslin morning gown, she descended the stairs to investigate. With each step she took down the long stairway, she wished she were older, old enough to wear bolder colors. The pink made her appear even younger than her sixteen years and that was the last thing she wished for these days. William still saw her as a child, but she supposed that was at least partly her own fault for exhibiting such poor judgment last summer over Wickham. Just as she set her foot on the last step, William came out of his study with a man whom she did not recognize.
“I want to know where he is before the end of the day,” her brother was saying. She recognized that look of intensity he wore. Others might not see the worry lurking beneath it, but she could.
“I will do my best, sir, but London is a large city,” said the man.
“That is not my concern. Your job is to find him and…” Darcy stopped mid-sentence when he saw her. He only faltered a moment, but it was long enough for Georgiana to read a world of emotions on his face. Then his mask of control fell back into place.
“Good morning, Georgiana. I will join you in the family dining room in a few minutes.” Everyone was always telling her to go somewhere or do something.
As Darcy and the man walked toward the front door, her brother continued speaking but kept his voice so low she could not make out the words. Georgiana considered moving closer to listen but thought better of it and made her way to the family dining room to wait. After rejecting the morning offerings from the kitchen such as eggs and ham, she chose a pastry. It was one of her favorites, and Cook had undoubtedly made it especially for her. In spite of her lack of appetite this morning, she would have to force herself to sample it. The next time she met with Mrs. Cotton, the housekeeper, she would certainly be asked how she liked it so word could be passed to the kitchen.
After one of the footmen had brought her fresh tea, she sat quietly poking at the pastry, waiting for William. It seemed she was always waiting – waiting for one of her brothers or her cousin, waiting for something to happen…waiting for her life to begin. Taking out her frustrations on the pastry, she stabbed it repeatedly with her fork until the delicate layers fell apart leaving flakey debris around on her plate. Just then, William appeared. He kissed her cheek and busied himself at the sideboard fixing a plate for himself.
“I thought you would be at Rosings for another fortnight, William. Has something happened?” she asked, trying to keep her voice even and calm.
“You are up and about early, my dear!”
Another evasion. Georgiana set down her fork and crossed her arms resolutely. She would have try again. “What are you doing here? I did not expect you for another fortnight.” He was always very precise, staying exactly the same number of days at their aunt’s so coming home early alerted her that something out of the ordinary had happened.
“Does that mean you are not pleased to see me?” he asked.
She knew he was attempting to distract her. “William, I am not a child. I know when something is wrong. Please tell me.”
Joining her at the table, Darcy indicated to one of the footmen to pour his coffee. As soon as the young man completed his task, Darcy dismissed him. “Georgiana, we do not discuss private family matters in front of the servants.”
“We do not seem to discuss family matters, private or otherwise, at all, let alone in front of anyone,” she challenged, looking him straight in the eye. “Now what are you not telling me?”
He frowned at her. “It is nothing. I was called into town to see to some matters of business. It should only take me a few days, and then I will return to Rosings. I thought perhaps I would take you back with me.”
Georgiana could scarcely hide her surprise. “You want me to come with you?”
“I think it would be good for you to spend some time with your brother and me. With Anne, too.”
“If that is what you wish,” she replied. “Of course, I will come although you know I do not like listening to Aunt Catherine’s endless lectures on comportment.” As she spoke, she watched her brother closely. In spite of his reassurances, something still did not seem quite right. He had never asked her to come along with him to Rosings for his annual Easter visit.
“You look surprised,” he said between sips of coffee.
“I thought you were planning to spend time with Theo.”
“I will be spending time with him, but I would like you there, also. Could you be ready by the end of the week?”
“Yes. How long do you think we might stay?” She absentmindedly added more sugar to her tea and stirred. The sound of her spoon against the china was the only sound in the room.
“I am not certain. About a fortnight, perhaps.” He raised an eyebrow in her direction.
“Very well, I shall begin preparing. I will go out today with Mrs. Annesley and purchase some gifts for Aunt Catherine and Anne.”
He gave her a disapproving look that carried a hint of something more. Fear? Whatever could he be afraid of?
“No, I do not want you going about town on your own,” he said vehemently.
Taken aback by the strength of his reaction, she said, “Mrs. Annesley will come with me. I will hardly be alone.”
“You are not to go out without me. Do you understand?”
She nodded reluctantly.
“Would tomorrow suit you?” he asked.
“Yes, that would be lovely.” Georgiana picked up her fork again, took a bite of the delicate pastry and chewed thoughtfully. She was determined to discover whatever it was he was not telling her.
Darcy found Wickham at the tavern on Chestnut Street just as his agent had described. Rather than confront him in the public rooms, Darcy arranged a private meeting and asked someone to send Wickham to him. Wickham’s curiosity and the thought of possible easy money would encourage him to stay and talk instead of simply disappearing. Darcy watched in silence as the bar maid brought in a bottle and two glasses. The minute she turned to leave, Darcy picked up one of the glasses and examined it. Finding it disgustingly smudged and dirty, he drew out his handkerchief and wiped, first around the rim and then over the rest of the glass. He was so absorbed in his task that he did not hear the sound of someone approaching. He started when Wickham chuckled.
“Darcy, old man, what are you doing in this part of town with the great unwashed? Surely this little establishment is beneath your notice.”
Looking up, he saw Wickham standing in the doorway, leaning indolently against the doorframe. He did not bother to stand or speak but merely gestured to the chair opposite him. Seeing a bottle of brandy on the table, Wickham’s look brightened, and he sidled over. After settling himself, he poured himself a healthy measure of the amber liquid.
“Are you not drinking?” Wickham asked.
Darcy’s response was to push his glass, now much cleaner, across the table.
Darcy began without preamble. “You will leave Georgiana alone. I do not want you within miles of her. Do you understand me? A different town altogether would be satisfactory. A different country even more preferable.”
“Whatever makes you think I would have anything to do with the girl especially after Ramsgate?”
Without a word, Darcy laid the charred and tattered remains of the letter to Theo on the table. Wickham went slightly pale, and his eyes slid away. Clearly, he recognized it.
Recovering quickly, he laughed. “Oh, that little jest? It was nothing. Only a way to tease your brother. He and I often exchange such…”
Wickham’s words were stifled when in one motion, Darcy reached across the table and grabbed his old enemy by the cravat.
“I do not find it amusing in the slightest,” Darcy snarled in Wickham’s face.
“Well, it was not intended for you, now was it? Is Theo so under your control that you read his mail now?”
Darcy yanked at the man’s cravat again, bringing them almost eye to eye over the table. Deep in his heart, Darcy felt a flash of satisfaction when Wickham’s eyes widened with alarm.
“Let me go!” Although Wickham put his hands up to break free, he was unsuccessful as Darcy held on with an iron grip. “There is no need for violence! See here, you’ve made me spill some of this lovely brandy.”
Darcy’s civility had worn paper-thin. He wanted nothing more than to make Wickham hurt – for mistreating Georgiana, for deceiving his father about his true nature, for stealing Theo’s friendship from him. Releasing his hold on the cravat as suddenly as he had taken it, he pushed Wickham away from him causing him to fall back into the chair at a strange angle and with such force that for a moment it looked as if the chair might topple over backwards. After scrambling to regain his balance, Wickham’s fingers again went immediately to his cravat. Darcy’s keen eyes did not miss the way the other man’s hands were shaking as he straightened his clothing.
“I thought you invited me here for a friendly chat,” Wickham said, clearly trying to cover his discomfort.
“I am not your friend,” Darcy said flatly.
“Yes, but Theo still is. Some people are more loyal than others.”
Darcy stabbed a finger at the letter on the table. “Is this the kind of letter one friend writes to another? Does a friend threaten a friend’s sister?”
“I told you it was a joke. I like to tease Theo. It’s so easy to get him riled.” Then under his breath, he added, “Apparently not as easy as it is to excite you.”
Darcy stiffened as he heard a rough sound emanating from deep inside himself. Had he truly just snarled at Wickham? All the anger and frustration, all the wrongs Wickham had perpetrated on his family seemed to rush at him with such rapidity that he was almost dizzy. He shook his head to clear it and knew he was dangerously close to laying his hands on the man again.
Wickham took a large swallow of brandy, and that familiar smug smile spread across his face again. So apparently while Darcy felt himself unraveling, Wickham was regrouping, his bravado returning. Darcy, usually cool and calm in most any situation, fought for control.
“You still owe me for keeping silent about Georgie’s near elopement. It wouldn’t do to have any rumors about her out there bandied around, now would it? Ruin her chance at a good match on the marriage mart.”
“I owe you? I’d say it is the other way around. You should be glad I did not let my cousin hunt you down and run you through with his sword. He was very keen to do it, too.”
Wickham’s eyes narrowed. “We both know you would never allow that. Fortunately for me, you’re too…too honorable.” He spat out that last word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“I think you might be rather unpleasantly surprised at what I will do to keep you away from my sister. Now you listen while I tell you how this will go.” Darcy stood and looked down at Wickham. “You will keep away, far away from Georgiana, or I will find some way to have you transported. And you will cease all contact with Theo.” When Wickham looked skeptical, Darcy added, “You know I do not make idle threats. Do you really want to risk it?”
Wickham leaned back in his chair and lazily raised the glass to his lips. He actually had the temerity to look bored. “Whatever you say, Darcy.” He took another sip. “This is really good stuff. Did you already pay for the bottle? If you did, I will just take it back to my room and ponder my sins.”
Darcy grunted in disgust and made his way out of the room, through the tavern and back into the street. Good lord, he could not wait to be back home so he could change his clothes and take a bath. That encounter had left him feeling positively unclean. When the footman dutifully opened the door, he gathered his cloak about him and slipped into the vehicle. Once inside where no one could see him, he put his head in his hands. Threats did not seem to work very well on Wickham. He had to find some other way to protect his family from further damage at that man’s hands.