Note: This idea wouldn’t let me go until I started writing it. Enjoy!
For one moment, only pride seemed to stand between Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and certain death, and then the air was filled with feathers and screaming chickens.
A slight, dark-haired gentleman—though he wore no cravat, and a bruise purpled his lower, swelling lip, his manners and way of speaking offered no doubt Mr. Darcy’s benefactor was a gentleman—waved Darcy and Bingley towards him.
One of the ruffians, stocky with a scar over his right eye, pulled free a large, sharp blade and ran screaming towards the gentleman. The others, all except their leader, who clutched his side wheezing orders, and the man beneath the broken crate shedding chickens, ran towards them, all sense of order forgotten.
Bingley gripped his pistol. Darcy met his gaze, and as one, they ran towards their rescuer.
The young gentleman stood stock still as the cutlass-wielding man charged.
Frozen in fear? Darcy had seen such things. Even the bravest could freeze up when faced with death. Col. Fitzwilliam, his cousin, spoke of friends who had succumbed to this fear, some dying, others surviving a time, believing themselves cowards, until the weight of their shame drove them to tragic ends.
Darcy did not wish such an end for his rescuer. Searching around frantically with his gaze for a weapon, he dove for a heavy, rotted board leaned up against a barrel beside him.
Grabbing it in both hands, Darcy ran for the rogue with the cutlass.
The young gentleman’s gaze darted from his attacker to Darcy, his eyes widening. “I told you to—blast!”
The rogue whipped his blade as Darcy, rotted board driving wet splinters into his palm, swung.
With shocking speed, the gentleman ducked and spun, his feet a rapid dance as he raised clenched fists up, guarding his chest and chin with seeming unconscious grace as he kicked at the rogue’s knee.
The rogue buckled, shouting as Darcy connected, slamming the rotting board into the side of the ruffian’s head.
“Aaargh!” the man shouted, flailing out with his blade.
“Blast!” The young gentleman stumbled, speed and pattern broken as he grabbed at his right shoulder.
Too dim to see, caught between flickering lantern light and the visible half of the nearly full moon peeking through a break in London’s thick cloud cover above.
Darcy’s guts clenched, guilt and regret. Was the wound mortal?
The gentleman whirled around, eyes narrowed, expression a mix of pain and fury. “I said run!” He glanced behind him.
Bingley, shoving a second round into his pistol, lifted it and squeezed the trigger.
The shot echoed.
“Come!” The gentleman was still clutching his shoulder, the fabric of his sleeve darkening, a slow spreading stain of blood.
They ran, following the young gentleman in a zig-zag path, scrambling between crates and through alleyways until they reached a main thoroughfare. Only after they’d jogged another street and stood between two proper boarding houses, bright lanterns flickering above their front stairs, did the gentleman slow their pace.
Darcy’s chest burned, and his legs, back, and shoulders ached. He kept himself in well-enough shape, boxing at the local men’s clubs, riding, and shooting in the autumn. None of this prepared him for late-night sprints with a young gentleman who did not have an ounce of fat to spare.
The gentleman who whirled on Darcy, and pointed a bloody finger in accusation. “I told you and your friend to run. Why did you stay?”
“Was I supposed to watch that cur slice you to ribbons then?” Darcy snapped.
“Slice me to ribbons!” The young gentleman spat at the ground. He was pale, too pale, and now that they were standing still, Darcy noted the tremor in his hands.
“You are losing too much blood,” Darcy said, pulling at the knot of his cravat. “Bingley, give him your flask.”
The young gentleman took a step back. “I do not need your help.”
“You certainly do.” Darcy unwound the cravat from his neck. “Take off your jacket and shirt.”
“I will not!”
Bingley, blessed amiable Bingley, reached into his jacket and handed over the flask. “Brandy,” he said. “Do not mind Darcy. He hates the river and becomes domineering when worried. Charles Bingley,” he added.
“Elias Bennet,” the young man said, accepting the flask and taking a gulp. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed, letting out a breath. “Excellent brandy,” he said and smiled.
Something in Darcy’s gut clenched again, not fear or concern, but…
No, Darcy’s blood was up from the attack. Who were those men, and what had they wanted? Bingley’s concerns about smugglers hiding goods on his ships might have merit. But if so, how had they learned of his and Bingley’s plan this evening to keep watch on Bingley’s ship?
Darcy had told no one, and none who knew him would suspect him of going anywhere near the docks, day or night. Bribing a servant was a possibility, though Darcy had confidence in his maids and footmen as most had been with the household since Darcy was a child.
Bingley’s family, on the other hand, were new to their wealth and did not possess the same resources as the Darcys. And even without a bribe, servants gossiped with each other. Such talk could be easily overheard.
A coin, deftly slipped, could yield any amount of information. Darcy was not foolish enough to believe secrets easily kept in Town. This was another reason he was so reluctant to have his sister brought here until she was older, especially considering what had happened between Georgiana and Wickham the year before.
“At least take off your jacket and hold out your arm so I can bind your wound,” Darcy said.
Reluctantly, Elias followed Darcy’s instruction.
“Bingley, hand over that flask.” Darcy ordered. The wound looked shallow, but even the slightest cut could lead to wound sickness and death. Darcy doubted the cutlass had been kept in the cleanest condition.
“I told you,” Bingley said, giving Elias Bennet a conspiratorial smile. “Here, have another sip before I do as my master commands.”
Elias laughed, a low, throaty sound that made Darcy’s lips twitch.
Goodness, he would need the dregs of the flask after he was done. Clearly, brushes with armed gangs did not suit Darcy’s temperament.
Elias drank and handed the flask to Darcy.
Elias. Darcy had no business using the young man’s Christian name, even in his own mind. They were strangers. Strangers bound in shed blood and life debt, but strangers nonetheless.
“Mr. Bennet,” Darcy warned, “This may sting.”
“It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Darcy,” Elia—Mr. Bennet said, hiccupping. “Blast,” he muttered and then added with a solemn nod. “I do not hold my liquor well. It is a failing.”
“You would need some spare place to hold it at all,” Darcy said. “I suggest meals. In quantity. With multiple courses.”
Elias threw his head back and laughed. “Mr. Bingley, you are correct. Your friend is a touch overbearing.”
“We should not gang up on him,” Bingley said. “Darcy means well. Always.”
Darcy ignored them. Bingley’s attempt to distract the young gentleman, while irritatingly at Darcy’s expense, kept Mr. Bennet calm, and Darcy could find no fault in that.
Darcy rested fingers on either side of the sliced sleeve of his shirt. Mr. Bennet tensed, and the sound of his breath ceased.
“Look at me,” Darcy said. Slowly, Mr. Bennet turned his head towards Darcy. His chin was narrow and smooth. Either he had shaved recently, he was still just out of boyhood, or he did not have a face that easily grew a beard.
Or some combination of the three. Darcy had no business reflecting on this, nor the fullness of Mr. Bennet’s lips, nor the slight flush that darkened his cheeks as he said, “Yes, Mr. Darcy,” in a light, slightly strained tenor.
Now Darcy’s face warmed. Foolish. He wished he did not need the brandy for the wound. He could use a drink. Or five. “Stay still,” Darcy mumbled. “I will be quick.”
Oh heavens, that sounded like the advice a man with no experience or interest in women might offer his virgin wife.
Mr. Bennet nodded.
Darcy pulled at the ripped sleeve to see the arm beneath. It was not so chilly that Mr. Bennet would catch cold by removing his shirt. At the same time, blood loss chilled the flesh. And it was not Darcy’s place to insist. He had already been, in Bingley’s words, overbearing enough.
Mr. Bennet’s arm, while lean and hairless, was dense with corded muscle. A fighter’s frame, one who depended more on speed and technique than power. Darcy said, “If you will not take off your shirt, then I will need to pull the rip wider to see.”
“As you will,” Mr. Bennet said. “The cut is not deep.”
Darcy did as he had promised. The linen of the man’s shirt was neither shabby nor of excellent make. Sweat stained his back and chest. From the running, for certain, but this shirt showed evidence of mending and areas of discoloration.
“I will have to retire it at last,” Mr. Bennet said with another laugh. “My uncle will be pleased. He would be more pleased if I did not come to the docks at all, not at night, but if I had refrained this night, I would not have been here to assist you.”
Mr. Elias Bennet was talkative in his drink. Normally, inane chatter made Darcy a bit murderous, but he did not mind Mr. Bennet’s observations. At least he knew Mr. Bennet was upright and conscious.
The cut was, as Mr. Bennet had said, shallow. A thin splitting of skin from just below the bone the running diagonally across the bicep. A surgeon would need to stitch it at its deepest point, but first, to clean.
Col. Fitzwilliam had walked Darcy through the importance of cleaning a wound quickly, preferably with a healthy dousing of spirits.
“This will sting,” Darcy said, and then before Mr. Bennet could protest, he poured the contents along the cut.
Mr. Bennet let out a string of curses, squeezing his eyes shut as the brandy washed over the wound. Darcy, knowing kindness was best served by quick action, tied the cravat over the cut, binding it as best he could.
Mr. Bennet let out a long breath. “Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” he said.
“I’ll call for a surgeon when we return to my town house.”
“Will you?” Mr. Bennet laughed, that same sound that tickled through Darcy’s body like a caress.
Darcy took the flask and knocked it back. Only a few drops of brandy fell on his tongue, not enough to mitigate the effect of Mr. Bennet’s mirth.
“Come.” Darcy looked around. He was not as familiar with this area of town, having no interests in shipping and no business, outside of Bingley, on the docks. “Which way can we find a hackney, Bingley?”
Bingley looked up and down the street, orientating himself.
Before he could speak, Mr. Bennet said, “Follow me.”
They walked, and Darcy found his gaze straying, his interest caught by Mr. Bennet’s stride. The movement of his hips. Not an ounce of fat on this man. If he had attended school, he would likely have been bullied fiercely. Which explained his swift, vicious style of fighting.
Darcy’s gaze drifted towards Mr. Bennet’s backside. That stirring again.
Darcy had engaged in… boyish explorations during his time at school, but he had never wished to prolong that part of his life. He was not one who found the experience more than a convenience, sinful in the vague sense that rebellion often was.
Some of the other boys had developed deeper friendships of the sort, but Darcy was not prone to such desires. He preferred women, and while he did not wish to support a mistress, he had partaken of the acceptable entertainments for a gentleman of his age.
It must have been the shock of nearly dying. And Darcy had been too long without satisfying his baser urges, an issue that surely would need rectifying if his interest was straying to strange men. However beautiful his laugh or compelling his dark eyes.
The cobbles beneath his boots were dry and caked with dirt and the occasional pile of manure. Darcy let out a long sigh.
“Mr. Darcy?” Elias Bennet stopped, looked back. “Are you well?”
“No.” Too little brandy to excuse so much honesty.
“Did one of them get you?”
“Darcy?” Bingley put a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “Why did you stay silent?”
“I am well! Not injured.” Darcy took a breath. “Merely tired. I am not in the habit of late nights, with or without ark ruffians and badgers waylaying me and mine.”
“Those were not lumpers stealing an opportunity,” Mr. Bennet said, slowing to walk at Darcy’s side, their shoulders near to brushing with each step. “Someone hired them.”
“So you heard the whole thing.”
Mr. Bennet shook his head. “It is not my affair. I apologize.”
Him, apologizing? “No need,” Darcy said. “You did not need to help us.”
“Nine on two is not a fair fight.”
“And nine on three?”
Mr. Bennet laughed again, dark eyes twinkling. “Fairer. Mr. Bingley here took two in hardly an eye-blink, so perhaps you did not need me after all.”
“We needed you.” Bingley grinned. “I am only a passable shot.”
Mr. Bennet stopped at a larger intersection. The rattle of wagons and the thud-click of hooves on stone sounded slowly from the street. “There’s a hackney,” he waved at a vehicle, perhaps eight horse lengths in the distance.
“It has been a pleasure.” Mr. Bennet bowed, and Darcy realized Mr. Bennet intended to leave them.
“You cannot go like this!”
“I doubt those ruffians will venture this far from the docks. And here, if you yell for a constable, two gentlemen’s word will triumph over obvious riff-raff.”
“Three gentlemen, Bennet,” Darcy said.
“Bennet is it?” Mr. Bennet smiled, his lips rising a little more on the left than right. “Should we meet again, it will be Darcy and Bennet between us. Three gentlemen.” Mr. Bennet nodded to each of them.
“Wait!” Darcy called out as Bennet began walking away. “You need a surgeon.”
“My aunt is an even hand with a stitch,” Mr. Bennet said. “Better than most surgeons and less with the leeches.”
Mr. Bennet turned and looked back over his shoulder, a too-long curl falling over his forehead in a ray of moonlight that made him seem more dream than man. “Yes?”
Darcy could not stand the thought of letting Mr. Elias Bennet slip away. The young gentleman intrigued him. So slight of build yet fierce in spirit with the speed and power of a dervish.
They were not of the same station. The quality of the gentleman’s clothes made that clear, but they were like enough in upbringing. Bingley’s family, and Bingley was one of Darcy’s closest friends, had the stink of trade. Shipping. Something Darcy ignored, until Bingley dragged him to gather information at the docks in the dead of night.
“My cravat,” Darcy managed.
Mr. Bennet’s brows lowered, and he reached up to his bicep, fingers fumbling over the crude knot Darcy had constructed to hold it in place.
“No!” Darcy snapped. “Later, after you have been seen to. I—where are you staying? In Town?” Surely he had to have some residence? He could not simply have walked out of the air, all fighting fury and uncomfortable laughter.
“If you give me an address, I can call on you,” Bennet said with sudden formality, his gaze not quite meeting Darcy’s.
Before Darcy could parse the man’s sudden reticence, Bingley recited the address of Darcy’s townhouse. “We will be in town the next fortnight.”
The hackney slowed, and the driver called out, “Where to, gentlemen?”
With a grin and wave, Mr. Bennet stepped away from the haloed light and made quick pace in the opposite direction the hackney faced.
More To Come!
After the birth of twins Elias and Elizabeth Bennet, a sickness sweeps through the household, killing the boy and leaving Mr. Bennet near death. To protect her family from losing their home, Mrs. Bennet takes the desperate action to raise the daughter as their son.
Now, twenty years and three sisters later, Mr. Elias Bennet is content with her ruse. She may never find love, but her role offers freedom, and she is committed to seeing her sisters happy.
Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy makes her question everything.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is not inclined to dockside brawls or improper passions. But he finds himself making an exception for mysterious Mr. Bennet.
The young gentleman awakens hidden desires, and now Mr. Darcy is questioning everything. Someone is trying to kill Mr. Bingley. Is Mr. Bennet involved?
Or is his secret something far more dangerous?
Mr. Darcy’s Bennet is Part 1 of A Bennet by Any Other Name, an adventurous sweet and spicy Pride and Prejudice serial where gender lines are blurred as passions rise.
Warning: This is a serial. Each part ends on a cliffhanger. I will be collecting the parts into one volume whenever the serial is finished, so if you’d rather wait, I understand.
Will deceptions, highwaymen, and a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together or tear them apart?
After rejecting Mr. Collins proposal, Miss Elizabeth Bennet assumes the persona of a widow and goes to Lambton to find work. But when she befriends Mr. Darcy’s half-sister Rose and becomes her governess, she must contend with Mr. Darcy, a man she wishes to despise, and Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, a man she wants to love but cannot. With Rose’s help, will Elizabeth find the strength to follow her heart?
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would sooner face bandits than return to Pemberley and deal with his stepmother — alas, he must do both. And when he discovers Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his home, serving as governess to his half-sister Rose, things go from bad to worse. Col. Fitzwilliam is falling for her. Mr. Darcy is too — or would be, if Miss Elizabeth were at all suitable. Will Mr. Darcy stop denying his heart before his cousin steals Elizabeth’s?
Find out in An Unsuitable Governess, a standalone Pride and Prejudice novel of 64,000 words
Warning! This book contains: one not at all wicked stepmother, one 100% wicked band of highwaymen, one rambunctious eleven-year-old, one deceptive governess with a heart of gold, one love-stricken colonel, one handsome gentleman in denial of his true feelings, one found treasure, and two happily ever afters to set your heart aflutter.
If undeterred, grab a copy of An Unsuitable Governess today!
Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.
After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.
“Highwaymen you say?”
Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.