As Darcy spends time in London, he attempts to put one woman and her “fine eyes” out of his mind. Will a letter and his annual trip to Rosings be just what he needs?
Monday, 9 March 1812
The door opened to reveal none other than Georgiana, who remained in the doorway until he gestured her inside.
“Did you wish to speak to me?” Her voice was little more than a whisper, but such a tone was not unusual since Ramsgate. Blast George Wickham for hurting her as he had!
With a nod to the footman in the corridor, the door was closed behind her as he rose to escort her to a chair. Once she was settled, he sat upon the corner of his desk.
“I received a letter from Lady Catherine.”
Georgiana’s eyes bulged. She never had dealt well with his aunt’s overbearing nature and her present state would only make matters worse.
“Do not fret. She merely wished to inform me that she expects us for Easter. Colonel Fitzwilliam will join me as he does every year, but would care to make the trip with us?”
Her head began to shake. “Please do not make me. I could not bear Lady Catherine—not since…”
His hand grasped hers. “I have no intention of forcing you, Georgie. My intention was to know your wishes, remember?”
She gulped as she glanced at the portrait of their parents that graced the spot above the mantle. “Will she be angry, do you think?”
“Nothing I cannot manage.” He gave a gentle squeeze of her hand, and she turned back to him. “I am certain she will use your absence to press me to finalise a betrothal to Anne, so she will be distracted soon enough.”
With a gasp, she leaned forward. “But you said you would not wed Anne! You have not changed your mind, have you?”
“No, I have not changed my mind.” He released her hand, stood, and resumed his place at his desk. No, he had not altered his opinions on that subject. He would never marry Anne! His quandary was the image of the lady he now envisioned in the role!
“I shall never marry Anne, despite her mother’s proclamations of us being destined from the cradle.”
How could he wed his cousin when Elizabeth Bennet possessed his heart and mind? Images of her now haunted him as he wandered the rooms of his London home. She sat his mother’s dressing table, grinning mischievously at him in the looking glass and penned letters at the escritoire in the mistress’ sitting room. The worst, however was the evenings, when he would inevitably find her lying upon her side in his bed! She painted an irresistible picture with her chestnut curls trailing down her arm to the mattress below.
He required a distraction from the memory of Elizabeth Bennet! He needed to depart London!
After a shake of his head, he cleared his throat. “Do not worry yourself. I desire more from marriage than an estate, regardless of who deems me a fool.”
“I am relieved,” she responded. “I may have never said as much, but you are the best of brothers. Anne is too much like her mother, and I fear she would never develop the regard you deserve. You should not have to settle for such a marriage.”
Darcy’s eyes burned, and he blinked hard as he cleared his throat. His sister was too good a creature!
“I am flattered.”
Her cheeks pinked, and after a quick look around the room, she rose. “I should return to Mrs. Annesley. I have not yet finished practicing the pianoforte and the master comes tomorrow for my lesson.”
“I hope so.” Georgiana stepped forward and embraced him, her arms squeezing his chest. After a moment, she withdrew with a small smile and departed.
The sound of a sigh joined the ticking of the clock on the mantle as he glanced to the sofa. Elizabeth looked up from where she was seated at the end, reading a letter, her feet tucked under her as she relaxed against the back of the furniture. She glanced up at him and lifted one eyebrow with an impish grin.
His hands flew to his face and he rubbed his eyes hard with the heels. When he peered back in the direction of the sofa, she was gone.
This madness had to stop! He could not continue on in this manner!
With a huff, he dropped into his chair and lifted his pen. He would immerse himself in work, so he could no longer dwell on Elizabeth Bennet!
After twenty minutes of sitting in such an attitude, he thrust the pen back into its place. “Blast!”
The chair scraped discordantly against the floor as he stood and strode from his study. He required a diversion! He peeked into several rooms, but to no avail. A low growl resonated through the corridor. He would go out! There was sure to be something! After all, this was London!
An hour later, he returned. How could Elizabeth follow him to Hyde Park? And the booksellers on Bond Street? Why did she continue to haunt him?
His walking stick and greatcoat were thrust into the hands of the footman before Darcy stomped up the stairs. Once in the privacy of his bedchamber, he poured himself a large glass of brandy, which was brought with haste to his lips. After a searing gulp, he dropped into the closest chair and stared into the fire.
He could not continue in such a fashion. He would go mad! The trip to Rosings was propitious, as it would keep him occupied and free of the spectre of Elizabeth Bennet. At Rosings, he would conquer this infuriating infatuation!