Happy New Year’s Eve! I couldn’t resist writing another of these for the holiday. I’ve sort of turned Halloween around on its ear. I don’t know if it’s as humorous as the other installments, but we set up a bit of other characters. It’s long, though, so I hope you don’t mind! 😉
For those who haven’t been on this little adventure since it started unfolding in random order, here’s the links to the rest of the posts 🙂 50 Shades of… Jane? , The Perverseness of Mischance, Ladies’ Night, A Tempting View, The Effects of Well-Fitted Breeches.
Lizzy groaned when he walked through the arched doorway of the ballroom. Why was it necessary to be in his company once again? Halloween and Christmas had been bad enough! His behaviour had been atrocious, so why did no one exclude him from their invitations? He was the most ill-mannered individual. Who stared at people in the disdainful manner he did? His comments at the Halloween Gala, and his subsequent behaviour in the ladies had not helped make a favourable impression as well. She took a drink from her champagne. He must pay off the tabloids for them not to report his rudeness or his drunken exploits.
Jane had kept her from telling off Mr. Snitzwilliam Darcy and his haughty demeanour at Charlotte’s on Christmas Eve and at Charles Bingley’s holiday party on Boxing Day—not that Mr. Bingley didn’t cause a diversion from Jane’s peace-making. Jane had been distracted by Charles Bingley’s sandy hair and hazel eyes, though his sister and rude friend managed to prevent them from actually getting to know one another that evening.
The hair on the back of her neck prickled. Why did that man always hover about? He was the most insufferable human being! He was likely gawking in her direction from behind, and she could do nothing about it without making an idiot of herself.
She smoothed the rich wine silk of her dress. It was a Christmas present from Jane. She had admired it when they were last shopping, but had not given in to temptation as she never had much money to spare around the holidays, but her dearest sister ensured it was under the tree. Jane was too good to her.
She pivoted on her heel to find a pudgy little man dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief. “Forgive me, but do I know you?”
He held out his hand, which Elizabeth shook rather gingerly. Her now damp fingers itched to be wiped down her dress, but she would not mar her sister’s gift with a stranger’s sweat.
“No, you would not, would you? My name is Lewis Collins. I also work for de Bourgh Industries. I recognised you from the photo of you and Lady Catherine de Bourgh taken at the charity function on Halloween.”
“I see.” She glanced to her left and then her right. Why was no one she knew nearby?
“You see, Elizabeth. May I call you Elizabeth? I believe we are cousins—third cousins once removed to be precise.” He rolled up onto his toes and then back down, coming precariously close to her chest. One foot inched back.
“I beg your pardon?”
“My great great great grandfather, was your great great grandfather. When I researched the Bennet family online, I believe your father and grandfather married and had children at a younger age than mine, which is why we are once removed.”
Elizabeth took a gulp of her champagne and eyed her surroundings. Where was Charlotte or Richard? “You researched my ancestry?”
Lewis Collins all but preened with a wide grin. “I remembered a Bennet relation when I traced my own family, so I simply followed that line down until it ended with you.”
“That must’ve taken some time. The Bennets have always had large families.” She again scanned her surroundings. She needed an escape!
With a shrug, Collins stepped closer, pushing his black horn-rimmed glasses up his nose. “It didn’t take too long. I have become rather adept at navigating birth and death records. It didn’t take any longer than a fortnight.” He was quite smug about his success.
“I see.” A waiter passed, and with a swift motion, she swapped her empty flute for a full one while taking a sizeable step back.
“I hoped you would attend tonight.”
Her body stiffened. This couldn’t be good! “You did?”
“I hoped you might allow me—”
“Pardon me.” Elizabeth’s head jerked in the direction of the unfamiliar voice. A man stood to her side—a handsome man with dark hair and eyes. “Would you care to dance?”
“Yes, I would. Thank you.” She pressed a hand to Lewis Collins’ forearm. At least he was wearing a suit. It would take the entire night to soak through a polyester jacket with perspiration… wouldn’t it? “Would you mind?” After gulping the last of her drink, she placed the empty glass on a passing tray.
Collins’ jaw moved up and down, but before a word could be uttered, Elizabeth scarpered with the gentleman. At first glance, he appeared respectable and that was enough at the moment. His suit was pressed and neat, he was not dripping from his forehead, and he was definitely a fitty! As long as his personality was not a dud, she would be set!
When they reached the dance floor, he wrapped his one arm around her waist and she took his hand as they began to move to the music. He could dance, too. Not bad!
A wide, toothy smile stole across his face and something clenched in her gut. “I’m George Wickham. I apologise if I interrupted an important conversation, but you appeared as though you required an escape.”
“I am Elizabeth Bennet.” Something behind his grin was not genuine, but perhaps her first impression was incorrect? “What gave me away?”
An almost nasal laugh escaped Wickham that reminded her of Jimmy Carr. She went rigid in an attempt not to jerk back. “It’s not often a woman begins drinking champers like it’s water and searching her surroundings every few minutes.”
“Do you have plans for later?
A prickling along the side of her head caused her to turn. There he was, Snitzwilliam and his glare of disapprobation.
Wickham followed her lead and chuckled. “Do you know Darcy?”
Of course, he would know Darcy. Everyone seemed to be acquainted with the man and loved him. She couldn’t escape him no matter how she tried!
“Ah, I see he has charmed you as he does all he meets.”
She examined his expression at the sarcasm in his voice. Could she have finally found someone who disliked him as much as she did? “Do you know him well?”
“We were the best of friends when we were boys. We even attended the same schools—until my parents were killed in a car accident.”
“I’m sorry.” The poor man!
“It was a long time ago,” he responded, looking towards the floor. “I was thirteen. I had an aunt who was willing to take me in, but my father had left me nothing and my aunt couldn’t afford the school’s fees. Darcy’s father, who was close friends with mine, offered to pay, and he did until his son convinced his father to discontinue the payments.”
Darcy’s face came into view over Wickham’s shoulder for a moment before disappearing behind Wickham’s wide eyes. “Why would he do that?”
One of Wickham’s shoulders lifted and dropped. “I had become a favourite of his father’s and he was jealous. Mr. Darcy preferred to spend time with me and took me to football games and invited me to ride horses with him at Pemberley.”
“Surely, he would bring his son.” For a brief moment, Darcy’s face came into view once again over Wickham’s shoulder, his usual dour frown on display for the entire room.
“Sometimes. Mr. Darcy knew I missed my father and intended to ensure I didn’t miss those things a father would do with his son. Darcy joined us on occasion, but whether he tagged along with us or not, Darcy always resented the affection his father showed me.”
His accusations were plausible. After all, Darcy was the son of a wealthy man and obviously over-indulged. He had become pissed at the gala and was not sociable in the slightest at the Christmas and Boxing Day parties they’d attended. He was certainly capable of being a daft prick.
Caught off-guard when Wickham stopped moving, she glanced around; the music had ended. Wickham gave her a smile that was sure to charm the panties off of the most frigid of females. “Care for a drink?”
He was friendly, but did she care to further their acquaintance. Something still niggled inside her. He was too nice somehow.
Before she could respond, Charlotte grabbed her arm. “Lizzy! I’ve searched everywhere. Fortunately, Richard noticed you and insisted I fetch you at once. We need to toast the new year, you know.” She glanced across at Wickham. “I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion, but I must have a glass of champagne with my friend before the clock chimes midnight.”
Wickham who had peered between them while Charlotte spoke resumed his grin once she looked to him for a response. “Of course not. Perhaps we can have that drink later.” He handed her a card with the logo of a major car company, his name in bold lettering, and a selection of phone numbers. “I look forward to hearing from you.”
As he gave a slick smirk, Charlotte yanked her across the room where Richard, good man that he was, held an overflowing glass of champagne out as she approached.
Richard held out his other hand, palm up. “I’ll take whatever offending article Wickham gave you before you left.”
“You don’t fool me, Lizzy Bennet. I know he gave you a phone number, and trust me when I say you don’t want anything George Wickham has to give or sell.”
Lizzy crossed her arms over her chest with her glass held slightly out from her gown. “He had an interesting story about your cousin.”
“Oh, I am sure he did,” Richard responded as he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “The story is Darcy’s to tell, but I can assure you whatever Wickham said was not true.”
“I confess I don’t care much for his slick manners, but his story was quite convincing.”
Richard stepped forward. “I am not saying all of it is a lie, but Wickham has a way of weaving a tale to suit him. Do not trust him and do not ever be alone with him.”
“I don’t know him personally,” added Charlotte with a shrug, “but I’ve never heard anything good of him.”
Lizzy knocked back the contents of the flute in her hand. Why did this evening have to be so complicated? She merely wanted to escape the annoying Lewis Collins and ended up dancing with Wickham as a result. She had no desire to call Wickham. His story earned her pity, but he struck her as a bit of a tosser.
A peek back at the dance floor revealed him swaggering to the next song with a busty blonde. His eyes were trained on her cleavage and a stupid grin plastered upon his face—yeah, definitely not her type.
She pressed the card into Richard’s palm. “I doubt I would ever ring him, so here.”
Richard turned, lit the card on the closest candle, and dropped it in an empty coffee cup. When the flames had consumed it, he placed the saucer over the cup to extinguish the fire.
“Was that truly necessary?”
“Miss Bennet,” came a familiar deep voice to her side. “Would you do me the honour of dancing the next with me?
Really? Who speaks like that anymore? Richard hid a laugh in his glass of scotch and Charlotte took a keen interest in the chandelier. Prats! Did she have an excuse other than she didn’t want to be within a ten-mile radius of him? Regardless of how much of an arse he was, she couldn’t afford to offend him. Thanks to Charlotte and Richard, most of her design clients were friends or business associates of his.
“Yes.” The response had to be forced, but thankfully, it didn’t sound as though she gritted the words through her teeth.
He turned his back to set his drink on the table, and she downed another glass of champagne. She was going to need the reinforcements for this! Without another word, he took her hand and led her off as she glared daggers at a chuckling Richard and Charlotte. And to think she’d called them friends!
When they reached the centre of the large black and white marble dance floor, he took her in his embrace in a smoother manner than Wickham and began to glide. She stumbled into his toe.
She straightened, and he began again. For such a tall and broad shouldered man, he danced well, as though his feet didn’t touch the floor, and he smelled—yes, he smelled divine. What cologne was that?”
His haughty expression earlier and her memories of the Halloween Gala prompted her to straighten and draw back a bit from him, but after a few minutes, she startled when her chest began brushing his.
How she wanted to sink into his arms? He was handsome, strong—and the most infuriating, rude man she’d ever met!
“I met a friend of yours a moment ago, Mr. Darcy.”
A space a few inches wide appeared between them once again. “Yes, I noticed. He is quite adept at making friends, though he has a difficult time keeping them.”
“He has had occasion to lose your friendship in an extremely painful manner.”
“What are the reasons behind these questions?” His shoulders were unyielding and solid and his voice stern.
“I am merely trying to sketch your character.”
“Then I ask you to refrain. I do not believe your impression of me tonight would do either of us credit.” Could he be any ruder? What could he mean by such a statement?
The music ended and they joined Richard and Charlotte. She searched the room for a waiter bearing further liquid sustenance for the evening when the champagne she’d already consumed began to make its presence known.
“Charlotte, I need to go to the loo,” she whispered.
Charlotte was busy chatting with a contributor to the children’s hospice and gave her a dirty look. Well fine! She didn’t need her company! She stepped in the direction of the toilets, but a hand to her elbow made her stumble.
“Forgive me.” William Darcy, asshole extraordinaire, grabbed her other arm and prevented her fall.
“What do you want?” she asked testily, wrenching her arms from his grip.
“I thought to escort you to your destination.”
A snort escaped. “How chivalrous.” She straightened herself to her tallest height—not that it did much to his six-foot plus frame. “I thank you for your consideration, sir, but I am well able to see myself to the ladies.”
He leaned in closer. “Do you know where it is?”
Bollux! “No, but I am certain some kind waiter can point me in the correct direction.” She clenched her legs together to keep from bouncing in place.
“My way is faster.” A corner of his lip curved upwards.
She gave a growl as she took his arm. “Very well, but can we hurry?”
He indeed did help her locate the ladies with haste, and when she exited, he remained leaning against the wall opposite the door. “Miss Bennet.”
As a waiter passed, Lizzy grabbed another glass of champagne from his passing tray.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
“Ha!” she cried incredulously. “After your display at Halloween, you have the nerve to criticise me.”
“I have apologised for that evening several times to you, to Charlotte, and to Richard. I had not eaten since breakfast that day, and I drank several glasses of scotch quicker than I should have.”
“You still have no right—”
He stepped impossibly close and leaned into her face. “I have watched you consume at least four glasses since my arrival, you have begun to slur your words, and you have stumbled twice. I don’t want you to embarrass yourself.”
Embarrass herself? Oh Lord! She downed the glass and set off for the party. Where was that waiter? If she was going to deal with stick up his ass Darcy all evening, she’d need several more!
~ * ~
A piercing pain shot through her temple, and she licked her lips. Eww! Why did her tongue feel all fuzzy? And the taste? She smacked a few times. Why did it feel like she’d been sucking on a dirty towel?
“How are you feeling?”
She drew her brows down in the middle, sending another horrific pain through her head. How was Jane’s voice so low?
With a groan, she put her hands to her face. “Darcy?”
It was still too dark to see around the room, but her hand traced the end of the mattress. Darcy’s voice was in that direction, so he wasn’t in the bed with her. Thank heavens!
The flashlight on his phone clicked on and was set face down in the duvet to muffle the light. He opened a bottle of water, pressed it into her hand, and gave her two pills. “Paracetamol and water for your hangover.” He leaned down and lifted a small lined rubbish bin. “If you feel sick again.”
The water helped wash away some of the funk in her mouth, but her stomach gave a clench and she groaned.
“Get some sleep. It’s still rather early.”
She laid back down. “Where am I?”
“I don’t know where you live and you wouldn’t tell me, so I brought you to my flat. I helped you put on the old t-shirt you’re wearing so you wouldn’t ruin your gown. You passed out a short time later in my sister’s room.”
Her eyelids were so heavy, they closed before she heard the rest.
~ * ~
The sun was up when she woke next. She blinked hard until her vision cleared. William Darcy slept sitting up in a wingback chair near the side of the bed. An open bottle of water and paracetamol were on the nightstand. She pressed her eyes together hard willing the pounding to go away.
What had happened after the trip to the ladies?
Visions like a disjointed dream floated before her: their argument over how much she had to drink, her conversation with Charlotte about Darcy’s boorish behaviour, the limo ride to his flat.
Oh God! She was never drinking champagne again!
How could she have lectured him as she did? Did she really call him a wanker and a toerag to his face?
Her eyes opened again and when the bleariness cleared, she stared at him, remembering changing from her gown.
“I do not require your help, Darcy. I can do this myself.”
After struggling with the zipper for a time, she huffed and presented her back to him. Once her dress was opened, she pointed towards the corner. “Do not look!”
He lifted a brow. “You can’t even stand straight. How do you expect to do this without my help?”
She turned her back to him, but in trying to get one of the shoulders of her dress off, she stumbled. Strong arms wrapped around her before she slammed into the wardrobe’s mirror and righted her. From the back he helped her with the straps, unfastened her bra, and helped her slide the shirt over her head. Once the gown was draped across a chair, she sat on the bed as he eased the joggers over each foot and up her legs. She curled upon the bed, and he sat in the chair.
“You don’t need to stand guard, you know.”
“No one who is as intoxicated as you are should be on their own.” His low voice was softer somehow, but it was hard to say why. Her mind wouldn’t stop its infernal whirring. She couldn’t think!
Before she could utter another word, she heaved and the bin appeared before her.
Her hands covered her face. He’d helped her change, he’d cleaned up her sick, and she’d called him a toerag. Just brilliant! Carefully, she rose and while tiptoeing around the room found a bathroom. She found a hairband, pulled her ragged curls back in a quick ponytail, and took stock of her appearance. Ugh! She resembled Heath Ledger’s Joker!
A quick rummage through the cabinets met with success in the form of eye makeup remover and cotton wool. Once she’d managed to render herself presentable—well decent enough not to scare small children, she crept back into the room and stared at Darcy for a minute or two. Did she have to wake him? She was horrified. How could she face him?
He shifted in his sleep, and she took a deep breath, trying to hold down the water she’d drank a few hours prior. She grabbed her dress, her bra, and her shoes before sneaking past his chair. With one last quick grab, she nicked the paracetamol and the water from the nightstand before scurrying down the hall.
A quick search of the laundry room provided an empty paper bag from some posh boutique as well as a 5p shopping bag. She shoved her shoes, and clothes into the boutique bag with the paracetamol, holding the water and the plastic bag for the long tube ride back to Meryton. Hopefully, she didn’t need the 5p bag. Talk about a walk of shame!
She managed to turn the latch on the front door and ensured it closed quietly behind her. When she stepped down to the pavement, she looked back and forth. Now where was she and what was the closest tube stop?
Her phone! She searched through the bag and the pockets on the joggers. No, no, no! Her stomach dropped like a weight. She’d left her phone?
She jolted back to the door and tried the handle and felt around the frame. Damn! It was shut tight! Well, there was nothing for it. She wasn’t going back and facing Arsey Darcy!
She looked back and forth once more and on impulse, turned right. Tube stops were everywhere in London, right? One had to be somewhere nearby!
She was never drinking on New Year’s again!
To all of our followers, we’re honored you chose to spend your time with us in 2016
and we look forward to seeing you in 2017!
***Happy New Year!***
Champagne Tower by Filaos https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bigest_champagne_tower.jpg
Cotton wool by Quarti https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cotton_balls_qtl1.jpg
Big Ben on New Year’s Eve: Chris Chabot on Flickr