I’m working on the sequel to Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds as I write – here’s a glimpse at chapter one-I do hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear what you think!
Georgiana Darcy was awake early, woken by the sound of birds chirruping noisily outside her window, and by the dreams that haunted her. The latest had been so real that she was sure if she pulled the curtain aside, he’d be there on the bridge and she’d see him waving to her. In her dream Antoine had been mounted on Arion, the chestnut thoroughbred from the stables, as if he’d never left Pemberley when snow still blanketed the hills. Five months on, Georgiana knew before she glanced out of the window that the approach of summer was nigh, and that the memory of the man she loved would fade on waking like a puff of warm breeze coming through the open window. Antoine did not know how wonderful Pemberley looked in the summer months, or how exhilarating it was to ride across its green fields and hills with the sun on one’s face, and yet she’d experienced both with him in other dreams. He was so real to her when locked in sleep, she heard his voice, and could see his strong features so clearly. But, as soon as daylight claimed her, the visions and images evaporated like the wisps of mist rising from the fields she could see stretching to the peaks beyond.
Georgiana poured cold water from the patterned jug into a porcelain basin, and splashed it on her face, before scrubbing hastily with a piece of wet linen, performing what her brother always referred to as a ‘lick and a promise’ when he was in a hurry. Gasping from the chilly water, she thought how her maid would scold her for not waiting for her hot water to be brought up, but Georgiana couldn’t wait another second to delay. There was only one place she could go where the memories of the brief happiness she’d enjoyed with Antoine could be instantly revived, and she was determined on riding out to find it. She fetched the rosewood box aunt Catherine had given her for Christmas, removing the scent bottles and silver-topped canisters, and took out the velvet-covered divider which separated the secret space underneath from the objects above. There were several piles of ribbon tied letters, missives from Antoine’s sister Louise, full of news of her brother, and with messages sent from him, but the sheet she was looking for had its own ribbon, and a special place at the very bottom where prying eyes would not immediately see. It was looking a little dog-eared from having been read so often, but Georgiana kissed it on sight, tucking it inside her chemise, next to her heart, before skipping out of the room and heading to the stables.
Elizabeth was lying awake in bed and thinking. Darcy slumbered at her side, and as she watched his face flushed rosy with sleep, she couldn’t help thinking what pleasure it was to watch him looking innocent as a child. With every breath he took she delighted in observing the rise and fall of his chest, the occasional flutter of dark lashes against his cheek, all the while hoping that those eyes would flicker open and bring to life the handsome man she’d married. It was impossible to observe him without touching him, and Lizzy couldn’t resist twirling a curl round her fingers. Sensitive to her lightest touch, Darcy stretched, simultaneously opening his eyes, and flashing that extraordinary smile he reserved especially for his beloved wife. Reaching for her he pulled Elizabeth into his arms, kissing her forehead and pecking her eyelids with tender kisses.
‘How long have you been watching me, Lizzy? You know I hate to be sleeping whilst you are awake.’
‘Oh, not long,’ Elizabeth answered with a smile, unwilling to share just how much pleasure she had in observing him sleeping, ‘I must admit that I would have woken you if you’d slumbered on much longer. We have plans to make, and we cannot be lying about in bed all day.’
‘More’s the pity,’ Darcy whispered in her ear, and kissed the tip of her nose before reluctantly releasing her to prop himself up on one elbow. ‘Anyway, if you’re talking of fresh schemes, I must admit to have been thinking of some of my own … thinking about an excursion to London. You haven’t had a chance to see your house there, and it’s high time you did. Besides, we really ought to consider taking Georgiana and getting her out more into society.’
The moment Elizabeth had been expecting was upon her. She knew how much Georgiana was dreading a move to London with all that would entail – an official ‘coming out’, being presented at court, along with numerous balls and parties where the most eligible young men in the land would be vying to meet her. In all their private conversations Georgiana had begged that they might delay a trip to London, and only Elizabeth knew the real reason why. Fitzwilliam’s sister had no desire to be courted by strangers, there was only one man she had set her heart upon, and though Darcy approved of him, he’d been disinclined to encourage an engagement between them.
‘I really am very excited to see the London townhouse,’ Elizabeth began, but hesitated, not sure how to continue.
‘Excellent,’ said Darcy, sitting up to rake his fingers through his dark curls. ‘Then we shall make arrangements forthwith. I cannot wait to show you all of London’s diversions, and parade you before all society at the theatre, in Hyde Park, and at all the museums and galleries, not to mention at Almack’s.’
‘I hope our constitutions capable of such an exhausting itinerary,’ Elizabeth said with a laugh.
‘Perhaps we’ll get your portrait painted whilst we’re there,’ interrupted Mr Darcy enthusiastically, ‘I should like nothing more than a painting of you dressed in that favourite yellow gown above the desk in my study.’
‘It’s a delightful idea, my darling, and I would enjoy having my portrait painted by some of the London masters, but there are many talented artisans in the country. I’ve heard it said that the artists in Bath are just as proficient. Bath has its attractions too, I hear.’
‘You do not wish to go to London?’ Darcy fixed her with a brooding look. ‘Are you saying that you’d prefer Bath, my dear?’
Elizabeth noted a flash of disappointment cross Fitzwilliam’s countenance. He looked crestfallen for a moment, and was clearly upset by her words, though was now trying so hard not to let her see. He smiled, and waited for her to speak.
‘I think it would be wonderful to go to London … but could we wait until the winter?’ Elizabeth sat up, hugging her knees. ‘It may seem an extraordinary request to delay, and I do not wish you to think I am not longing to see our home and everything you’ve described. I am concerned, however, that Georgiana is not quite ready for a London season. She is still very young, and struggles to feel at ease amongst strangers.’
‘I think she has come on enormously these past months, and is making great strides in company – and I know I have you to thank for much of her improvement.’
‘You are so kind to say so though I am sure it is to Georgiana’s own merit that such progress has been made. She is certainly developing in confidence and is maturing into a young lady with poise, and that is why I feel sure taking her to Bath, first, may be the answer. It offers almost everything London can, and yet will not be so overwhelming. Georgiana can have a little taste of what it might be like to enjoy a greater society without the pressures of a presentation at St James. In the winter she’ll be ready to make a full debut.’
Darcy was silent for a moment. Looking down at her beautiful upturned face gazing back at him he knew he could refuse her nothing, even if he felt disappointed at not being able to immediately show her off in London. He traced the outline of her jaw with his finger and stroked the soft skin on her throat.
‘How did I manage before, without you?’ he asked.
‘I cannot imagine, I am sure … rather ill, by all accounts,’ Elizabeth responded with a coquettish smile and a shake of her pretty curls. ‘It was very fortunate for you that your friend saw fit to suggest a visit to Hertfordshire or I cannot imagine the life you might have endured. Aunt Catherine might have seen her greatest wish come to pass.’
‘Mrs Darcy, I can assure you a marriage to my cousin Anne would never have been on the cards, even if you had not been lucky enough to have the good fortune of securing my affection.’
‘Touché,’ said his wife with a wry smile, and threw her arms round his neck, kneeling before him. ‘All jesting apart, I hope you think my plan a good one.’
Darcy raised an eyebrow. ‘And how long did it take you and my sister to conjure up this scheme?’
‘Georgiana knows nothing about it, I promise you.’
Darcy’s mouth twitched with amusement. ‘Her disinclination for a London season has nothing to do with a certain French gentleman, does it?’
Elizabeth might have known her husband would have considered Georgiana’s feelings for Antoine de Valois. Although he’d rarely been mentioned at Pemberley in the months since he’d visited, she was sure Darcy had reflected on the conditions he’d imposed on the young couple who had fallen in love so quickly. Though at the time Lizzy had not wholeheartedly agreed with Fitzwilliam’s decision to deny Antoine the possibility of courting his sister, at least she was pleased he’d left it open for further negotiation. Elizabeth knew that Georgiana was determined not to relinquish the idea that she and Antoine would be allowed to see one another once the trial period was up. December could not come too quickly for her sister-in-law when Fitzwilliam had promised that if they still felt the same Antoine would be allowed to return to Pemberley.
‘I would not be telling you the truth if I did not say that Georgiana’s feelings for Antoine seem unchanged, but this way, a change of scene will do nothing but good. You’ve said yourself that you wish her to enjoy a wider society. Perhaps she will meet other young men in Bath who will take her fancy, and open her eyes to different possibilities. In London, I fear the experience would be overwhelming, and the young men eager to press their suit, which in turn might frighten her off the idea of introductions altogether.’
‘You really have thought everything through, haven’t you?’
Elizabeth nodded. ‘I want Georgiana to make the right decision about her future as much as you do, Fitzwilliam. When we are satisfied she has had the chance to widen her circle of friends and acquaintances, then we shall see what follows.’
Darcy released her arms from his neck and raised her tiny hands to his lips. ‘You are so wise, my darling, and I can do nothing but agree to abide by your wishes. We shall take a house on The Royal Crescent, and let all of Bath’s young beaux tread a path to our door.’
Lizzy couldn’t help but laugh. ‘Oh dear, that isn’t quite what I had in mind, though a house there would be wonderful. You must promise not to mention anything about young men within your sister’s hearing or I am certain she will thwart all attentions.’
‘For you, my darling, my lips are sealed. I shall epitomise discretion, and even if a young lord with thirty thousand pounds and several estates should come to call, I shall maintain a dignified silence.’
Kissing her husband on the cheek, Elizabeth could only believe his words were heartfelt, even if she felt sure he would never be so calm if such a gentlemen desired to marry Georgiana.
I hope you enjoyed this first chapter!