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“If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty.” ~ Jane Austen

When Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet meet by accident at Pemberley, they fall violently in love with each other. What is the consequence of their hastened understanding? Will the young lovers face it together, or will they be torn apart?

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Chapter 1

Derbyshire, England – Summer 1812

“Elizabeth, my dear, I could not help but overhear you questioning the chambermaid about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s presence in this part of the country. Are you really so opposed to touring his home? Are you afraid you might encounter him?” asked Mrs. Madeline Gardiner, her expression puzzled. An elegant lady of sense and education, she sat down opposite her niece. “I know there was a time when you thought rather poorly of him, but I was given to believe your opinion of the gentleman had suffered a material change after your having spent time in company with him while the two of you were in Kent at Easter.”

One of five unmarried daughters whose mother made it the business of her life to marry each of them off to whoever would have them, Miss Elizabeth Bennet measured her response to her dearest aunt carefully before speaking. She had concealed so much of what had actually transpired between Mr. Darcy and herself from her family, her friends, everyone apart from her dearest sister, Jane: specifically, that the gentleman had offered her his hand in marriage. Her trip to Derbyshire with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, had allowed her to escape her matchmaking mama’s machinations, but it was not without its risks.

Elizabeth softly exhaled. “It is true. My opinion of Mr. Darcy has improved considerably over the course of our acquaintance, but that does not give me license to visit his home with impunity. Were Mr. Darcy to discover me roaming about his estate, I fear he might think I am impertinent, or worse, throwing myself in his path.”

The older woman shrugged. “These great men have always made their homes available for public tours. Why should you not avail yourself of the same liberties as anyone else?”

“Oh, Aunt, I fear my reasons are very sound, and if you really knew the nature of my acquaintance with Mr. Darcy, you would think so too.”

“What is there to know other than he wounded your vanity when you first met and it was many months before he was able to overcome your ill opinion as a result? Do you harbor some lingering resentment over what you perceive as his ill-treatment of Mr. Wickham, or perhaps what you believe is his part in separating Jane and Mr. Bingley? Perhaps you believe he is too proud?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth cried with energy. Quickly rethinking her firm stance, she said, “What I mean to say is no. Indeed, no. I do not think … I do not know.” Again, carefully measuring her words, Elizabeth continued, “I harbor no such resentment of Mr. Darcy for either of those reasons you cited. As I told you, Mr. Wickham’s character is not at all as he would have any of us believe.”

While in Kent, Elizabeth had learned that Mr. George Wickham, a man whom she had once held in the highest esteem upon making his acquaintance, was not only a scoundrel, he was an accomplished liar, especially in matters concerning Mr. Darcy.

“Then, what am I not understanding?”

“Dearest Aunt, I have been harboring a great secret since my return from Kent–one I have shared with but one other person: my dearest Jane. I fear nothing short of a complete disclosure will help you comprehend the nature of my despair, but first, I must have your promise that you will tell no one.”

“Of course, I shall keep your secret, my dear.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Mr. Darcy offered his hand to me. He professed his love for me, most ardently, when the two of us were in Kent.”

Oddly enough, her declaration was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, she had shared her secret with someone other than her sister Jane and with her favorite aunt, no less, whose good opinion Elizabeth relied upon.

Her surprise in hearing this evident, Mrs. Gardiner said, “I know you too well to suspect you are secretly engaged, and thus I must beg you to disclose the reason you refused such a man.”

Elizabeth hesitated, but only for a moment, attempting to collect herself. “It is a rather long sordid affair to be sure, but suffice it to say that Mr. Darcy could not have proposed to me at a worse time, neither did he do so in a manner which might possibly recommend his suit.”

Indeed, the gentleman had confessed to loving Elizabeth against his will, against his reason, and even against his character. She told her aunt as much.

Having rejected two marriage proposals in the span of five to six months, Elizabeth was not sure her aunt would understand why she would refuse a man of Mr. Darcy’s consequence.

It was Mrs. Gardiner, after all, who had cautioned Elizabeth to be reasonable as regarded her esteem for Mr. Wickham and quite explicitly advised her against falling in love with such a man whose circumstances in life would do nobody, not even himself, much good.

Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, was of ten times Wickham’s consequence. Even her best friend, the former Miss Charlotte Lucas, who later went on to marry a decent albeit ridiculous man, had told Elizabeth thus.

Mrs. Gardiner had advised Elizabeth of just how such a disadvantageous alliance would affect her father, her mother, and her sisters. Surely she would think her niece was not so clever as everyone liked to believe, were Elizabeth not to understand the advantages for everyone if she became Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, the mistress of Pemberley.

At length, Elizabeth said, “I know I have your promise not to confide my secret to anyone. I must also beg you not to judge me too severely. I do not know how I would endure were I to lose your esteem.”

“I should hope that I have never judged you, my dear. I confess I am wont to share my opinion when I believe it is warranted to alter a particular path you might be tempted to choose for yourself, but I should like to think I never judged you.”

Another burden was thus lifted from Elizabeth’s shoulders even though she could not say she did not sometimes second guess herself. Mr. Darcy’s letter explaining his motives in separating her sister and Mr. Bingley, as well as his exposing George Wickham and possibly subjecting his own sister to censure, had made a lasting impression on Elizabeth.

After Elizabeth and her aunt had exhausted the topic of Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal, and Elizabeth had confessed all that she could without risking the demise of any esteem her aunt might hold for Mr. Darcy, the older woman threw a furtive glance outside the nearby window.

“It looks like there may be rain today. Perhaps Mr. Gardiner and I are the ones who should forgo the tour of Pemberley. We might easily send you to Pemberley alone, on horseback, no less, and of course, you may be forced to spend the night. You might be compelled to remain there until Mr. Darcy’s eventual return, at which point he will profess his undying love for you and the two of you shall live at Pemberley as man and wife for the remainder of your days.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Now, who is entertaining silly conjectures and playing matchmaker?”

“Oh, do let us go to Pemberley,” Mrs. Gardiner cried. “I daresay it will probably do you a great deal of good to see the place at least once. As I recall from having spent a good part of my life in this part of the country, it is by far the most spectacular estate you have yet to behold.

“I fear if you leave this part of the country without visiting Pemberley, especially out of misguided fear, you might never forgive yourself. The chambermaid has assured you Mr. Darcy will not be there, and we have no reason to doubt her.

“Besides, what if she were mistaken? What is the worst thing that would happen? That Mr. Darcy might behave the scorned man and refuse to acknowledge your presence. If such is the true nature of his character, then you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right thing in refusing his hand–forever eliminating any lingering doubts you may be harboring.”

Elizabeth half smiled at this picture of a possible encounter with the gentleman. He had been rather abrupt in taking his leave after handing her the letter in the grove. She, as much as anyone, knew aloofness, haughtiness, and thinly veiled disdain were not beyond him. She would be surprised if such a characterization did not aptly describe him.

Indeed. What is the worst thing that can happen?

 

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“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Miss Elizabeth Bennet believes the state of matrimony is not something to be entered into lightly. She is determined to do anything rather than marry without affection. On the other hand, indulging her cousin’s fanciful marital scheme is harmless enough. What does she have to lose? Other than perhaps her heart?

Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by Elizabeth. Owing to the inferiority of her circumstances in comparison to his own, he makes up his mind to admire her from afar.

The mind, however, does not always rule, especially in the game of love. Will Darcy lose his heart to Elizabeth, and in so doing, end up winning hers?

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Chapter 1 (Excerpt)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the topic of discussion among four unmarried young ladies, who are gathered together in the same room and in want of diversion, must invariably center on the prospects for marital felicity for each of them in their turn. Such was indeed the case in Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s bedroom at Longbourn manor that day.

“I contend that happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance,” declared Charlotte Lucas, who was visiting from the neighboring village.

“Spoken by the least likely of the four of us to reach the altar.”

Elizabeth, the second eldest of five Bennet daughters, stared at her cousin in utter dismay on behalf of her intimate friend, Charlotte. Elizabeth’s junior by two years, Phoebe Phillips paid her no notice. Not that Elizabeth expected any real sort of regret on the young lady’s part. If ever one might be described as her mother’s daughter, admittedly, it was Phoebe. Though closest in age to Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary and closest in terms of sensibility to Elizabeth’s two youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, Phoebe much preferred the company of the two eldest Bennet sisters, Jane and Elizabeth.

What with Phoebe being the only daughter of Mrs. Agatha Phillips, and Mrs. Phillips being the only sister of Mrs. Fanny Bennet, it was generally expected that the cousins would be the dearest of friends, even if the girls’ temperaments were as varying as day and night. To her credit, Phoebe was not quite so vulgar as was her mother was thought to be. Elizabeth rather supposed it was merely a matter of time.

Whereas the embarrassment of it all caused the eldest Bennet daughter’s angelic face to redden, the younger daughter’s astonishment was not so easily repressed. “Phoebe!” Elizabeth exclaimed with energy.

“What did I say that is not true?”

“It is not what you said so much as it is the manner in which you said it. You owe Charlotte an apology,” Elizabeth declared.

A very plain-looking, intelligent woman and the oldest in the group by at least four years, Charlotte said, “Dearest Eliza, you need not censure your cousin on my behalf.”

Phoebe smirked. “There, you see, Lizzy,” the young lady cried, “Charlotte knows the truth when she hears it. She is not at all offended.”

“Heaven forbid,” replied Charlotte. “Were I to be affronted by any of the things you say, Phoebe, I might be as miserable as you are.”

Pleased by her friend’s retort, even at her own relation’s expense, Elizabeth covered her mouth to mask her smile. She loved nothing more than laughing at the ridiculousness of others: a trait she inherited from her dear father, Mr. Thomas Bennet.

Jane’s disposition demanded a more amicable resolution to the ebbing tension among their little group. “I believe no one is ever really too old to find happiness in marriage,” said she.

“Says the second least likely person among us to find a husband.”

“Phoebe!” Elizabeth exclaimed once more.

“Although, I will allow that Jane is the only one of us who has ever come close to securing a marriage proposal. How many times have we heard my aunt Bennet boast of the young man at my uncle Gardiner’s home in town who was so much in love with her and the general belief that he would have made her an offer even though he did not?”

“Lest you forget, Phoebe, Jane was only fifteen at the time. I recall Mrs. Bennet saying that likely was the reason,” Charlotte said.

“Oh, but he wrote such pretty verses on her,” Phoebe waxed poetically. “Pray, whatever became of your young beau, Cousin Jane?”

Elizabeth said, “Who really gives a care? Poetry or no poetry, the man is no doubt a fool.”

Charlotte scoffed. “I wager all men are fools. How else might one explain the abundance of single young ladies in want of husbands among our general acquaintances?”

“Owe it to our rather exacting standards,” Elizabeth promptly asserted. “That and the limited variety of single young men in this part of the country.”

“Exacting? Pray what exactly is your opinion on the ideal husband, Lizzy?” Phoebe asked.

“I should like to think the ideal husband is respectable and kind and one who honors his wife and protects his family.”

“And handsome—”

Her spirits rising to playfulness, Elizabeth said, “I see no reason why the ideal husband should not be handsome. I posit one might just as easily fall in love with a handsome man as one who is rather less pleasing to the eye. Handsome men deserve love too.”

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A titillating tale of two strangers in the night. Because now and then, a short and steamy romantic escape with our dear couple is what you’re searching for.

Long after the Netherfield household has retired, a servant shows Mr. Darcy to an apartment thought to be unoccupied. The gentleman is more than capable of attending himself for the night, and thus the servant is dismissed. What is Darcy to do when he discovers someone else in his bed?

Feeling as though she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, with no one to help see her through, Elizabeth awakens from a restless slumber to find a stranger in the room.

Utterly disappointed in her life, she is poised to embark on a path destined to cause her misery of the acutest kind mainly for the sake of her family. Will Elizabeth put her own needs above everything else – if only for one night?

Does Elizabeth dare spend her life forever regretting what might have been, or does she choose a night with Mr. Darcy to remember?

A Night with Mr. Darcy to Remember is just that—one night and quite a steamy one at that. At under 10,000 words, this story is best termed a novelette. It is short. It is provocative. A tale of two strangers in the night, it is also enticing.

A fan of short and steamy romantic escapes with Darcy and Elizabeth? If yes, look no further. Intended to be the first of a number of episodic encounters, this novelette presents but the first of many obstacles for Darcy and Elizabeth on their journey to happily ever after—obstacles they must face together and against all odds.

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