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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Chapter 1

Note: These chapters are from the unedited first draft and are subject to change in the final draft. Read at your own risk. 

Some weeks earlier . . .

It was early morning, and the sun was resplendent, its rays coloring the budding floral displays and grasslands that appointed the gardens of Rosings. Elizabeth Bennet delighted in the patches of warm sunlight on her skin. It was the edge of summer, the end of spring and the weather was at its best: not too hot or cold, but warmth touching the earth and encouraging the flowers to bloom.

 “Your husband speaks incessantly of Lady Catherine’s nephew and his impending arrival.” Elizabeth said as she walked with her friend Charlotte. Miss Maria Lucas, Charlotte’s sister, had chosen to stay close to home that afternoon, pleading a headache though Elizabeth suspected the young woman preferred to stay closer to the parsonage with her paints and small canvasses. Maria Lucas enjoyed drawing and painting and was talented at both.

Charlotte sighed. “Yes, William waxes poetic at the prospect of seeing Mr. Darcy, does he not? One might assume a long acquaintanceship from his words, but knowing William as I do, I am assured the praise is due wholly to Mr. Darcy’s relation to the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh.”

“Everything your husband praises has ties to Lady Catherine’s thoughts, thus her good opinion gives him cause to dictate elegies of Mr. Darcy’s abundant virtues. As he does.” Elizabeth could talk to Charlotte freely. They both knew her husband’s nature. “Have you met Mr. Darcy?”

“No,” Charlotte responded. “However, my husband has spoken elegies on Mr. Darcy’s behalf. He finds him more than simply praiseworthy, but looks upon him with a level of adoration that I find hard to believe.”

“Anyone who warrants that much approbation from your husband, who is only that fulsome in his praise of Lady Catherine, gives me pause.”

“In what way, Lizzy?” Charlotte asked as they turned onto another path.

“I feel that too much praise of one person limits the reality of that person with faults, as we all have, and that person might think too much of themselves if no one gives them a realistic assessment.”

“I would not prejudge,” Charlotte responded.

“It is not a prejudgment, just my observation of human nature. Given nothing but praise, a person can believe themselves more than what they are, and their actions become reflective of that belief,”

“My husband can exaggerate a person’s good qualities, and this opinion is coming from Lady Catherine.”

“Yes, and Lady Catherine is not a person to overrate anyone who comes into her orbit.”

Both women laughed at the thought of Lady Catherine finding anyone more than just tolerable.

Elizabeth continued, “The idea that Lady Catherine speaks so highly of Mr. Darcy would lead one to believe that he is exemplary in all that he does. Perfection comes with pride, and that can lead to being aloof and condescending with people.”

“I do not believe that to be the case. And, even if I did, dear Lizzy, I would prefer to give Mr. Darcy the chance to prove his worldview before making any judgment.”

“I am not prejudging him but merely stating precedent based upon my limited human observation.”

“At least meet the man before deciding him aloof boor, too full of himself by half to live in the world.”

Both women laughed continuing to walk together in the meadow. “Dear Heavens, Charlotte, I will not be rude with the man. I will give him a chance, but do not be surprised if he turns out to be a self-absorbed lout not worth the time we give him.”

“Do not prejudge,” Charlotte insisted again.

“I am not. For heaven’s sake, I have not laid eyes on the man, just heard your husband prattle on. He waited by the roadside and bowed as Mr. Darcy’s carriage passed?”

Charlotte giggled. “Well, that is why we are out walking. I had to stop you chortling in his presence.  How long do you think it would take for him to figure out you were laughing at and not with him? William sometimes takes things a bit far.”

“On that point, I will not argue with you.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of horse hooves.

Confusion gave way to curiosity as two men on horseback rode perilously close, across the meadow and down the path.

Elizabeth backed away, stumbling.

“Lizzy!” Charlotte grabbed her arm.

The horses slowed.

“Miss, are you well?” A fair-haired man dismounted, releasing the reins of his horse and jogging to Elizabeth’s side. He had a muscular build and bright, blue eyes.

“Well. I am well.” Elizabeth took a breath, steadying herself.

The second man, dark-haired with a slimmer mien, dismounted. “Richard, we have disturbed these ladies enough.”

“Hardly a disturbance,” Charlotte said with a smile.

Annoyance flashed over the dark-haired man’s expression before he schooled it to rigid formality. Both men bowed.

The fair-haired man said, “I am Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, and this is my cousin and a great friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

Mr. Darcy bowed straight from the waist which brought an involuntary smile to Elizabeth’s lips. Stiff and aloof as expected.

Colonel Fitzwilliam continued, smiling: “And, to whom do we have the pleasure of meeting?” Elizabeth found him attractive, the shock of blond hair and blue eyes that seemed to twinkle in the sun. His partner said nothing, his dark gaze unreadable. Reserved might be a better term. You are prejudging, Lizzy.

Charlotte made introductions in return, making clear her married and Elizabeth’s unmarried state, thus emphasizing her role as chaperone. Propriety maintained, each of them smiled awkwardly, waiting for someone to continue the conversation. Charlotte leaped into the pregnant pause, “I believe we will have dinner with you gentlemen this evening at your aunt’s request.”

“I see,” Colonel Fitzwilliam replied. “That will be most pleasant, and we can get to know each other better.”

“Yes, I am looking forward to spending another evening with your aunt.” Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed, and Elizabeth noted with curiosity, Mr. Darcy’s reaction. It was subtle, but there was a quirk in his lips that reached his eyes. Humor? She thought him distant, that touch of mirth tugged at her consciousness.

“Miss Bennet, I am glad you will grace us with your presence. It will make evening that much merrier, I suspect.” He offered his hand which Elizabeth took and started walking. Mr. Darcy and Charlotte fell in behind, leading the horses alongside.

“I am sure I cannot wait for that occasion. I so enjoyed having dinner with her a week past. It was indeed memorable.” Elizabeth smiled as she spoke. In actuality, it had been quite trying with Lady Catherine giving unwanted advice from the price of livestock to the marrying within your class. Each of these missives had been delivered with Mr. Collins agreeing on every point.

Miss Maria Lucas had barely spoken three words and seemed like to hide herself under the table as she focused on her meal with grim determination.

“Your sister is very modest,” Lady Catherine said. “A fine trait in any lady, and Mr. Collins has shown me some of her sketches. Very emotive. The style is still lacking, but with more practice and a dedicated tutor, Miss Maria may, perhaps gain some accomplishment.”

“I find her drawings very fine,” Elizabeth said.

“Yes, you certainly would. Miss Lucas, I will give Mr. Collins the addresses of some fine tutors. I was once proclaimed quite talented, though my eyesight has begun to fail.”

“Oh, Lady Catherine, do not jest!” Mr. Collins interjected. “Why, your eyes are as young as a spring bird’s, just cracked from its shell. Why, you noted the uneven curtains on our second floor as you passed by our parsonage just last month, and explained not only the nature of the problem but offered many excellent solutions, is that not right, Charlotte?”

“Very right,” Charlotte said, spearing meat with her fork. “We took every suggestion to heart, as always.”

“As you ought! Miss Maria, you will be pleased for lessons three times weekly, will that suffice?”

Miss Maria looked up, her face pink. “Umm…as you wish, Lady Catherine,” she mumbled.

“Yes, very modest, indeed,” Lady Catherine said. Her gaze flitted to Elizabeth and narrowed.

The entire affair had given Elizabeth a headache and a jaw ache from smiling so much. At least, the food was well-prepared and the wine refreshing. Elizabeth could better take all the advice with a bit of wine to offset the delivery.

“We are looking forward to an evening with our aunt, are we not, Darcy?” Colonel Fitzwilliam turned in his friend’s direction slowing his pace.

“Yes, it is something I look forward to with every visit.”

“She thinks the world of Mr. Darcy, and tells us always that he is both a paragon of virtue, a white knight and the most intelligent gentleman in all of Derbyshire.”

“And what of you, Colonel Fitzwilliam? Surely, Lady Catherine thinks just as highly of you.” Elizabeth replied looking at him squarely. “A military man of your rank and status, she must have wonderful things to say.”

“I am but a poor relation compared to Mr. Darcy. I am, however, the more congenial of the two of us. My dear friend, Mr. Darcy, judges everyone from that pedestal he lives on.”

Pedestal? Maybe, she had not prejudged him after all.

“You jest, dear Richard.” Darcy replied quietly. “I do not live on a pedestal, at least not a very large one. And, only my aunt thinks I’m a paragon of virtue.”

Everyone looked at Mr. Darcy for a moment, then broke into laughter. “Good one, Darcy.” Colonel Fitzwilliam replied. “We are best of friends, you know.”

“I can see,” Charlotte smiled.

“So, would you say then that your angel wings are singed about the edges?” It fell out of Elizabeth’s mouth before she thought about the implications of her statement. It was at the very best an inappropriate remark.

“Maybe, singed is too strong a term.” Darcy replied. Elizabeth looked back at him but could read nothing in his face. She took a chance and looked in his eyes, his dark gaze capturing hers with words unspoken. Her cheeks pinked, and she looked away back at the safer environs of Colonel Fitzwilliam. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Now what brought that on?

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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Cover

Compromised. Abducted. Rescued?

What if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy met not at Hertfordshire but Hunsford? Rather than unwitting insults, they court in secret while exploring the grounds. It is perfect until the couple is caught in a compromising position. Will a forced engagement and a missing bride-to-be derail their love?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride, Book 1 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words with a guaranteed happy ending.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Prologue

Thirst. Elizabeth that she had never truly been thirsty before. Before, drinking happened without a second thought; a servant was called, and Elizabeth drank. Now, her tongue lay like dry dough in her mouth. Elizabeth ran her fingers along the damp, stone floor. Her chained leg clinked with her movement. The links ran to an iron ring nailed into the wall, too dark and too far away to see.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapter 1

It was early morning, and the sun was resplendent, its rays coloring the budding floral displays and grasslands that appointed the gardens of Rosings. Elizabeth Bennet delighted in the patches of warm sunlight on her skin. It was the edge of summer, the end of spring and the weather was at its best: not too hot or cold, but warmth touching the earth and encouraging the flowers to bloom.

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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 2

“My nephew always makes dining that much more lively,” Lady Catherine de Bourgh waved her handkerchief at the two men seated at her table. She was making a point to the guests in attendance: Mr. and Mrs. Collins and Elizabeth Bennet. “My daughter, Anne, is always so excited to see Mr. Darcy, aren’t you my dear?” She inclined her head at a pale, young woman sitting next to her at the table. Anne gave a half-hearted smile in return.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 3

Book in hand, Elizabeth headed to her favorite reading nook, a small tree at the top of a hill, fifteen minutes or so from Charlotte’s house. Maria did not wake before eleven in the morning unless prodded, and Charlotte had insisted Elizabeth feel comfortable walking about wherever she wished in the morning, with or without her friend who preferred less active morning pursuits. While it impressed Elizabeth with how well Charlotte managed Mr. Collins, she could not imagine such a life for herself. Elizabeth wished to marry for love.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 7

Lady Catherine de Bourgh paced the length of her library, clasping Mr. Collins’ all too delighted missive of two full pages. She was not gauche enough to reduce herself to foul language, instead detailing Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s lowly status – the daughter of a baronet with her family estate entailed – and the clear faults in her character, which the young lady made no efforts to correct.

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“What do you mean, she left?” Mr. Darcy was nearly shouting as he stood in the middle of the parsonage’s drawing room. On his uncle’s name, he had received an audience with the Archbishop that morning and, Special License in hand had returned to make a proper proposal.

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The rocking of the carriage and the drawn shades gave Elizabeth the feeling that she was in her own world, the outside blew asunder on its own axis. The trip to London was long, not as lengthy as the trip to Longbourn, but this road was choppier than she recalled.

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Under normal circumstances, Mr. Darcy had patience with his aunt. He sat through her tirades about one piece of society gossip or another, or her condescension of the servants, the abhorrent state of the grounds or some supposed slight in her life.

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It was past nine when Mr. Darcy arrived at his London town house. He could not, with any politeness, pay call to a lady at her home after dark, as much as he might wish. Besides, if she was angry, which she had a right to be considering the liberties he had taken with her on their last walk, he would better make his explanations in the light of morning when both had occasion to sleep.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 15

Days later, back in the Gardiner’s drawing room, Darcy struggled not to lose hope. He and Richard had questioned Lady Catherine’s coachman who revealed the Lady had hired men and a carriage for Miss Elizabeth.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 16

Mr. Gardiner was waiting when Mr. Darcy arrived with Col. Fitzwilliam at his home the next morning. They sat in the breakfast nook over rolls and preserves with tea while they informed Mr. Gardiner on what Philips had told him the night before.

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Elizabeth sat in a small boat on a still pond tethered to a wooden dock. The tether was very long, and thus, the boat drifted to the middle. Mist obscured everything beyond the pond’s banks and dock. Every direction she looked was mist, and because it shrouded everything, she felt safe.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 20

Darcy was exhausted, having spent much of the evening pacing between his bed and the library, choosing and then discarding books he hoped would Elizabeth smile. Nothing he said or did would change what happened to his beloved, and that he had not protected her weighed heavily.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Epilogue

“It is not enough.” Richard pressed his index fingers at the bridge of his nose. He and Mr. Darcy stood in Mr. Gardiner’s study with Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Bennet. Mr. Gardiner sat at his desk with Mr. Bennet in a chair on the opposite side. Two glasses of port sat atop it, the one closest to Mr. Bennet half-empty.

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