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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Chapter 2

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

“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.

“Yes, I always look forward to seeing my relations who bring news of other places.” It was the most she had said all evening, and with that statement, she seemed out of breath.

“Are you well, dear?” Lady Catherine asked. “Perhaps, this is too much for you?”

Anne sat up straighter smiling, but even with her will, she seemed small. “I am quite fine,” she replied. “The air is dryer than I like this evening, but I can measure up.” The pale yellow gown she was wearing did little to add to her look; in fact, it lent a sallow color to her already wan countenance. Her hair was carefully done with curls and small gems that added a glitter to her look, but nothing could erase the dark circles under her eyes and dull skin.

“When the time is right and the person amenable, then a match can be made,” Lady Catherine looked at Mr. Darcy when she spoke, but he ignored her.

“The ladies enjoy walking; we came upon them earlier today in the woods between Mrs. Collins’ home and here,” Colonel Fitzwilliam changed the subject, before Mr. Darcy could respond. Not that it appeared Mr. Darcy planned on making any response, Elizabeth noted. This seemed to be an old bone of contention.

They passed the evening pleasantly enough, with Lady Catherine insisting that Elizabeth play the pianoforte, much to the delight of everyone there and the disguised chagrin of herself. She played and smiled, but refused to sing. One could only be pushed so far. Elizabeth received applause for her efforts. She noticed Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam looking on appreciatively and wondered which of the gentlemen’s interest she liked the most.

Mr. Darcy, dark, distant and aloof, held a certain attraction for her, although Colonel Fitzwilliam was an open book, full of jest and compliments. Elizabeth liked puzzles, and Mr. Darcy was certainly an intriguing enigma.

She wondered why Lady Catherine kept foisting – and there was no other word for it – her daughter on Mr. Darcy. The Lady’s hints were less than subtle. Elizabeth also wondered why Mr. Darcy did not object outright, just looked uncomfortable enough to be amusing. Clearly, Mr. Darcy was not interested in marrying Anne out of amicability, and there seemed no spark from her side either.

Anne did not regard Mr. Darcy as one would a cad, but she seemed to light up in conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam. As did Miss Lucas, though the young woman was far too intimidated to say more than a few mumbled words before allowing the conversation to continue on without her. To Mr. Darcy, Anne gave a bored look, one of forbearance for her mother’s wishes and nothing more.

And for Mr. Darcy’s part, he gave perfunctory conversation snippets raised out of courtesy more than anything else. He seemed less interested in Anne than the potted fichus plant that sat near the door, and it needed watering.

Elizabeth caught him looking at her. When she returned to her seat from the pianoforte, he stood to help her with her chair, although she needed no such help.

“Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” she smiled at him.

He bowed curtly and resumed his seat.

Elizabeth had the impression her earning Mr. Darcy’s solicitude was not to Lady Catherine’s liking, because the Lady regarded the exchange with a sour look, down-turned mouth forming a thin line, eyes squinting as if facing direct sunlight.

Lady Catherine was in a well-lit, but not overly so, drawing room. There was no reason to squint, Elizabeth noted to herself, unless one were attempting to frown and failing that, settling for a squint and a sniff.

She is displeased at Mr. Darcy’s kindness toward me. That amused Elizabeth, causing her to smile at Lady Catherine and earn herself another squinty sniff.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne were engaged in a conversation that was interrupted by Lady Catherine. “You should talk with Mr. Darcy, Anne.”

“About what, Mother?” Anne asked, her gaze traveling from Mr. Darcy to Lady Catherine.

“Well, about your plans for the future,” Lady Catherine said. “Surely, you have some ideas for when we go to Town, something that would interest a man of his stature and means.” Silence followed her statement.

Mr. Collins stepped into the hush, waxing poetic about life in the Ton. “It is a time when all things are alight in London, where you can dance the night away at balls and private parties, is it not, Lady Catherine. I mean, everyone who is anyone is there, and the fashion . . .” he breathed in as if he could smell high society, “it is without equal I’m told.”

“You have attended balls in Town?” Mr. Darcy asked, and Elizabeth saw it again – that slight upturn in his lips, and the twinkle in his dark eyes. He was joking with Mr. Collins.

“Me, no! I am a Man of the Cloth. However, I have heard tales and stories related to me. It sounds wonderful.”

“I should like to attend balls in town,” Miss Lucas said softly. Her gaze drifted to Col. Fitzwilliam who in turn

“I find balls tiresome,” Mr. Darcy replied, dismissing Mr. Collins with a slight wave of his hand.

“Unless, you are with the right person,” Lady Catherine put in. The words ‘like my daughter, Anne….’ hung in the air unspoken.

“That is true, Aunt,” Darcy agreed, but his gaze did not go to her daughter, but to Elizabeth who returned his look with one of mild curiosity. His lip quirked, and she felt a flutter in her stomach in response. Mr. Darcy was quite a curious creature, a mystery to solve. Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she liked or loathed his subtle humor. Mr. Collins did not see where Darcy was having him on. And, Darcy let him put his foot in his proverbial mouth more than once that evening.

Elizabeth found it both funny and annoying. No one less endowed with intelligence should be laughed at, but it was her cousin, which made that inference less offending. He was such an obsequious person, and she laughed at him. Even his wife found humor in his long soliloquys to Lady Catherine.

If he could fall to his knees, no lay flat out on his paunchy stomach to let Lady Catherine walk over him and not muddy her shoes, he would do so with pleasure and thank her for the privilege. So, Darcy’s bit of humor at Mr. Collins’ expense was funny. Elizabeth realized it was only her guilt as his guest, and more importantly, best friend to his wife, that gave Elizabeth pause.

Colonel Fitzwilliam resumed his conversation with Anne, and they spent the rest of the evening laughing and what Elizabeth determined was subtly flirting with each other. In her last visit to the de Bourgh estate, Anne seemed almost disinterested in life, but with the Colonel, she was livelier, engaged, her cheeks reddened and her eyes a twinkle.

This had a disturbing effect on her mother, because although Lady Catherine loved both her nephews, Colonel Fitzwilliam had only his military stipend to live on and provide for a family. Mr. Darcy was a far better prospect in her opinion. However, love knows or cares little of status or wealth, and this instance was no exception.

You are much like my mother, Elizabeth thought. It was not a bad thing that a mother would want what was best for her daughter. Lady Catherine, like her own mother, could be aggressive to a fault in trying to secure it. Both Mr. Darcy and Anne were little inclined to oblige.

“How long will you be with us?” Mr. Darcy’s voice interrupted Elizabeth’s musings. She blushed with the idea that he had caught her wool gathering and smiled.

“At least another fortnight, maybe more,” she answered. “Then I will return home, I believe. I also might take in London and visit with my aunt and uncle. My aunt asked for me to come and visit, as I have not been there in quite a while.” Elizabeth kept her gaze to the left of his, finishing her sentence and looking at him directly at last.

If it was possible, Elizabeth realized that his dark gaze darkened, and she realized, with some consternation, that she felt like she could fall into those obsidian pools. There was something about the way he looked at her that made her stomach clinch.

It wasn’t until after Elizabeth looked away that she realized she had been holding her breath. Carefully and silently, she exhaled lest he know the effect he was having on her.

It happened a couple more times over the course of the evening, and each time her heart quickened. The feeling was both nerve-wracking and wonderful, the latter a betrayal of her firm determination not to get wrapped up and lose her objectivity. That appeared to be a losing battle as Elizabeth’s feelings took charge. She was enamored. But love differed from interest or passion. Elizabeth knew this. She had always depended on her mind in all things: rational judgment, keen observation and quiet objectivity to form an opinion of someone.

In this instance, her mind seemed to be betraying her.

Yes, Mr. Darcy was an attractive man, even when he was being severe and reserved, but she kept seeing cracks in that detached armor which belied the image he had carefully constructed and portrayed. Behind that armor was a mystery, a nice mystery she guessed the slight quirk of his lips betrayed.

Mr. Darcy had a sense of humor, and in conversation, he withheld much of his own thoughts when dealing with buffoonery like her cousin exhibited. However, in a single joke, delivered with the seriousness of an undertaker, she gleaned some of how his mind worked. Or, at least she thought she did.

Was she just making all of this up, based on a flight of fancy? Infatuation?

Could she really know all this from the lifting of an eyebrow, the quirking of his very kissable lips?

Stop that, she admonished herself. You cannot be thinking of kissing the man. You barely know him. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Elizabeth looked at a vase of flowers near the window regrouping. Her thoughts gave her pause, and her silence apparently caused him some concern, because he gave her a shy smile when his aunt was engaged in conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam. It was fleeting, but it reached his eyes which twinkled in response, and she felt hot with the attention.

Her previous opinion of him evaporated. There was a lot more to Mr. Darcy that she wanted to know, she needed to know for her own sanity. If he could bring forth such feelings in her in the parlor while his aunt played matchmaker, what else was he capable of? Clearly, he was not interested in Anne which was just as well. She seemed enamored of the colonel, and he was reciprocating, much to Miss Lucas’ visible dismay.

She is much like my mother when it comes to getting her daughter married, although if I told the great Lady Catherine that, she would have my head for such a rude and ‘wholly untrue’ reflection.

What Lady Catherine hoped was if Anne was left without conversation, she would naturally gravitate towards Mr. Darcy. What happened was the opposite, and judging from the sharpness of her tone, this vexed her. Anne sat as close as was proper to Colonel Fitzwilliam. She ignored Mr. Darcy, leaving him to shower Elizabeth with veiled considerations. He was not flirting, per se. He was more open, showing her what lay behind the wall of propriety and detachment he maintained.

Why in the world was her mind spiraling out of control like this? It was just a smile, but then he gave her another smile, secret from everyone else, just for her. Because she was facing the group, she felt it indecent to smile back at him. So carefully, lest someone notice, she inclined her head, quirking her lips like he did. She stared into his eyes for a moment, then looking away at some perceived mote of dust or shadow on the back of Lady Catherine’s chair.

When their eyes met again, his lip quirked and the softness of his look spoke volumes.

They had reached some understanding and nary a word spoken. Few gentlemen in Elizabeth’s experience could do that. Maybe, because she and he were in harmony; their rapport seemed complete.

With that realization, Elizabeth felt the pull of him. She wondered what would happen next, but only for a moment. Best not dwell upon that which she had no control.

2 Replies to “Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 2”

  1. I was just thinking how much of a conversation they were having, without a single word spoken. Well done!
    As far as to The Missing Bride…I have two words to say!
    Lady C! WOW!

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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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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 – 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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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 12

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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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 14

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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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 19

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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