Mr. Darcy arrived early at the posting inn, his body tingling with anticipation of meeting his mistress and wife. It had been ten days since he had kissed her, ten days since he had brought her to shuddering pleasure, and ten days since he had lost himself in her glorious heat. Ten days was ten days too long, handling business in town which he could have ignored.
Especially Wickham’s hair-brained shipping scheme.
Darcy had arranged for the best room the posting inn had, and after paying his fees and having a footman put his things in his room, he went to the waiting area to have coffee and await Miss Eliza, his wife and mistress.
An hour became two and three. The storm, which had threatened, unleashed fury. Had the roads been too muddy for Elizabeth to pass? He knew the road his wife would take to arrive here. As much as he enjoyed their game, it was not as important as ensuring he knew his wife was well. And if something had delayed Elizabeth at Pemberley, then better to meet her there, charade or no.
At half-four, from outside came shouts.
The posting inn was at the edge of the main street. The market town was situated along the road, which allowed the village a great deal of traffic and contributed to its prosperity.
Darcy stepped out of the posting inn and onto the muddy thoroughfare.
The noise was not, as expected, a minor altercation between villagers; instead, a group of men were trying to take hold of a driverless carriage.
Darcy’s guts froze. The carriage was his. He ran to it. “Elizabeth!” he shouted. But there was no response.
What happened to the driver and footman? The carriage itself was damaged, the left side scraped and scarred. One door had torn off, and the other swung, rapping against the frame as carriage moved.
Darcy called out again, “Elizabeth!”
Four village men had caught hold of the carriage, one leaping into the driver seat to pull the horses to a halt.
One of the village men called out, “Is this yours?”
“My wife was to meet me here,” Darcy said, climbing into the carriage. No sign of Elizabeth. “I have to find her!”
If it was highwaymen, they might have taken Elizabeth for ransom. But if they had done that, would they not have taken the carriage, with two fine mounts, which would fetch a good price if sold?
It hardly mattered. If they demanded a ransom, he would pay. He had money. He would spend it to ensure his wife safely returned.
But if there had been another mishap, if Elizabeth had been in the carriage and come to harm, perhaps been thrown and now lay, near death, at the roadside… Darcy could not wait.
He turned to one of the men and said, “I need a horse. Now. Please.”