June 1812 – Mayfair, London
Fitzwilliam Darcy dropped his pen onto the blotter and pushed himself away from the desk, leaning back in the worn leather chair that had borne his father’s and his grandfather’s weight before him.
The seasons had altered. Spring had tumbled full-blown into summer with a rapacious enthusiasm, and London was stifled by its unexpected intensity. The open French windows, which overlooked a charming walled garden, encouraged nothing but warm air into the room. Not a breath of breeze stirred Darcy’s hair nor brushed against his cheek, and he tugged at the restraint of his neck cloth. Then, with a frustrated sigh, he sat up.
Even now, with the time lengthening between his visit to Kent and the change of scene to one with no possible association with…her, he could not rid his mind of Elizabeth Bennet. No matter where he was or what he was doing, she would intrude.
These past weeks had proved little other than removing to Town solved nothing. Knowing the Bennets had family in a distant part of London was sufficient to persuade him he might catch sight of her at any given moment. A head of chestnut curls, a glimpse of a light and pleasing figure, a lady’s laugh of genuine pleasure – all these things conspired against him, tugged at his senses, intensified the heavy weight he now bore in his chest. He seemed unable, despite her blatant aversion, to quench his desire to lay eyes upon her.
Getting to his feet, Darcy walked over to the hearth and stared at the landscape gracing the wall above the mantel. Pemberley had called to him, but he knew heading northwards would not answer for his needs.
No; he had awoken after yet another night of fitful sleep with a renewed determination to shed all memory of Elizabeth Bennet and her summary rejection of his hand. He would venture abroad – leave behind the verdure of an early summer in full bloom, a season all too reminiscent of Elizabeth’s vivacity, and seek distraction elsewhere, in places where he could not possibly expect their paths to cross.
He intended to secure passage for himself, his sister Georgiana and her companion on a sailing for Antwerp departing in six weeks’ time. From Belgium, they would tour across northern Europe, away from the conflict currently gripping the south.
A smile graced Darcy’s countenance. His sister had made no secret of her delight in the scheme, a fine balm for his lowness of spirit. They had been much apart of late, with his spending part of the previous winter in Hertfordshire – he caught himself quickly as his thoughts rushed with no consideration for his heart back to that time – and then he had travelled to Kent in the spring…
Enough! Exasperated with himself, his weakness, his folly, Darcy stared at the painting, desperate to focus upon something, anything other than Elizabeth. A welcome knock came upon the door, and he turned about as Pagett, butler to the Darcy family since the present incumbent had been a young child, made his stately entrance.
‘This has just arrived for you, sir,’ intoned Pagett gravely with a formal bow and an equally solemn offering of the slim packet resting upon the silver salver in his gloved hands.
‘Thank you, Pagett.’ Picking it up and noting the mark of the shipping line with which he had made his enquiries earlier, Darcy dropped it onto the desk; he would study the documentation later.
Pagett began his deferential removal from the room, and Darcy sighed. Despite endless requests, the man would not relax his formal tendencies and persisted in backing out of the room as if Darcy were royalty and not allowed to observe the man’s back.
The door closed, and he threw himself back into the chair, retrieving his abandoned pen and selecting a piece of parchment. He felt a renewed sense of purpose. It was good to be doing something, making plans, taking positive steps towards putting the past behind him. As he anticipated an absence of several months’ duration, he needed to put his affairs in order and, with a quick glance at the clock, Darcy dipped his pen into the well and began to write.
The Darcys set sail from Southampton one fine morning in early August, a day bathed in warm sunshine and blessed with a steady breeze. As the vessel moved away from the docks, Georgiana Darcy and her companion elected to return to their cabins, but Darcy lingered on deck as they slowly made their way out into open seas.
As the expanse of water between ship and land widened and the dockside faded, disappearing into a blur of coastline until indistinguishable from anything else, Darcy released a long, slow breath, firmly closing his mind to any thought of Elizabeth Bennet.
Had he but known it, the lady herself was travelling, but not to foreign climes. She was part way through a tour of the Peak District with her aunt and uncle and staying but five miles from Pemberley.
As Darcy threw one last glance at England’s diminishing shores before turning away, Elizabeth seated herself by a window in the inn at Lambton in Derbyshire. Then she broke the seal on the first of two letters from her sister Jane, settling back against the cushions in happy anticipation of what news her correspondence might bring.
What’s it all about?
Fitzwilliam Darcy is on a quest. Convinced he is over his foolish infatuation with Elizabeth Bennet, he returns from a year of travelling with a plan, both to protect the estate of which he is guardian and to ensure his sister’s happiness: he intends to do his duty and secure a wife at the earliest opportunity.
Duty; a path from which Darcy knows he should never have been diverted. Duty was safe and nothing would persuade him from it a second time.
Soon restored to his home in Derbyshire, Darcy puts his quest in motion, preparing to welcome guests from Town, one of whom is the suitably eligible young lady he has earmarked as his future wife.
But what of the Bennets of Longbourn? What befell them in Darcy’s absence from England? And what of the new tenants on his estate named Bennet? Is his path fated to cross with Elizabeth’s once more?
With the addition of his friend, Bingley’s, mischievous twin younger sisters, letters from a stranger and a shadowy figure lurking in the grounds of Pemberley, Darcy’s life is about to be turned upside down.
Can he remain steady to his purpose, or will his carefully laid plans soon be in tatters as the rigid protection he has placed around his heart begins to falter?
The eBook was released on 22nd June 2017. The paperback will be out during July.