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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride - Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

“Our uncle has the connections. His blood should be enough. I do not want Elizabeth to face the censure of Lord Braithwaite’s supporters, not to mention the gawkers. This business is already all over the gossip columns.” Secrets that were anything but secret: the names cited as initials with just enough information for all to know about whom they were writing.

Richard sighed. “A nasty business, this.”

“Elizabeth would need to remain in Town at least another fortnight to be married by Common license at a local parish. And she cannot abide strangers, now.”

It hurt Darcy to see Elizabeth so fearful. This same woman who had led him a merry chase through Hunsford, who had teased him and even climbed a tree to surprise him, now startled by the slightest sound. She refused excursions beyond the garden and, fingers clasped at her back, eyes lowered, she paced slow steps along the same narrow path, circling a fountain, potted flowers, and the spindly, sun-starved sapling that provided meager shade to the one, small bench where she sometimes sat.

Elizabeth put a good face on it. Her smile crinkled the corners of her eyes when he visited, and she told him small things of her days: the chattering sparrows that gossiped in the tree and the squirrel with a scar along his side that she had taken to feeding crusts of stale bread from the kitchens. Elizabeth was healing. Slowly. Darcy had to believe that. He had to believe that one day she would not flinch from his touching her shoulder and that the smudge of sleeplessness beneath her eyes might one day fade, bringing back the young, vibrant woman he had fallen in love with a month and a seeming decade ago.

And then there was the matter of Lord Thomas Braithwaite. Darcy burned to find the man and deliver on him the suffering he had on Elizabeth. But first, they had to find him. Securing his uncle’s support before speaking with Lady Catherine would give Darcy the edge he needed to wring every scrap of information his aunt had about Lord Braithwaite.

The carriage jerked to a halt, and outside a footman yelled at a dirty figure in a heavy coat who dashed past Darcy’s window and elbowed into the throng. It was early summer and too blasted hot. Even through the sachet of lavender Elizabeth had sewn for him, the stench of bodies, progress, and horse droppings filled the air.

“We should not speak to him of Aunt Catherine,” Richard said.

“He cannot defend her.” Edward Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Matlock, was one of the most honorable men Darcy had ever known. Rigid in his principles, much like Aunt Catherine except he at least had the sense to know which topics his knowledge lacked and even listened to those who might be better informed as opposed to forcing those around him to his opinions, no matter how ill-formed they might be.

“She is his sister.”

“And you are his son. He will not dispute your evidence.”

“Perhaps.”

Darcy was not reassured. “Do you believe he would ignore this?”

“If it were Georgiana, would you be so quick to believe?”

“If the evidence were there.” But Richard’s question had shaken Darcy’s confidence. Darcy could not imagine Georgiana forcing a woman, no matter how despised, into the clutches of one like Lord Braithwaite. And Aunt Catherine had always had her ways and rigid beliefs. But perhaps it had not always been such. Had her husband’s death hardened her? Darcy had no way of knowing Aunt Catherine as the girl his uncle remembered.

These troubling thoughts occupied Darcy for the rest of the ride to the Earl of Matlock’s townhouse. The House of Lords remained in session until late July, though some departed for their summer homes before the term was complete, if they attended at all. Thankfully, Darcy’s uncle was dedicated to his duties and still in Town, else Darcy would have been forced to write the entire sordid affair in a letter and put aside all hopes to acquire the special license to marry his love in peace.

A footman led Darcy and his cousin to the earl’s study. Edward Fitzwilliam, Earl of Matlock, sat behind a large writing desk, a tray with the remains of a breakfast at the edge. Two piles of papers lay on the desk. The earl sat behind it on a wide, heavy piece of chair that looked at least as old as he and upholstered in dark brown leather.

The earl himself was a stocky man, face long and round with a thick gray moustache matched by a thatch of gray hair, now thinning at the temples. His lips, like Richard’s, were thin with a determined set, and the lines about his mouth, eyes, and forehead showed a man often mired in the difficulties of managing his large estate. When Darcy and Richard were announced, he looked up, and his expression was grim.

“What is this business with Lord Braithwaite?” he asked. “And how is it I learn of it from the papers and not my own blood?”

Richard said, “I wrote a letter.”

“Eight lines long, accusing a peer of the realm of something this scandalous! Lord Thomas Braithwaite is a gilded cockroach, make no mistake, scurrying about in the dark and rummaging through a man’s larder when he believes no one is aware, but abducting women and branding them?”

“It is exactly that, father,” Richard said. “He has been at this for some time, long enough to have gained property and ruffians trained to this task.”

Darcy said, “He did it to the woman I love.”

“Miss Bennet?”

Darcy nodded.

Col. Fitzwilliam said, “We believe others of the Ton who took liberties with their servants contracted him.”

“Miss Bennet was no servant?”

“She was inconvenient to Aunt Catherine,” Darcy said.

His cousin shot him a glare.

“My sister could not have known, and I will not have you drag her, and all of us further into this mess.”

“It was her carriage that brought Miss Elizabeth to Lord Braithwaite’s thugs.”

“We do not know that Catherine arranged it. Nor that she knew what Braithwaite intended.”

“Aunt Catherine had my fiancée abducted! Elizabeth deserves justice.”

“So, you intend to drag your aunt in front of the House of Lords, and do what, have her shipped in shackles to the colonies?”

“She intended worse for Elizabeth.”

“Darcy! Quiet.” Richard stepped to the desk, leaning over it to interpose himself between Darcy and the earl. “We do not mean to have Aunt Catherine shipped off in shackles or anything so punitive.”

Richard didn’t? Darcy certainly did. Aunt Catherine could have accepted his decision to marry Elizabeth. Instead, she had committed a grievous crime and subjected an innocent to barbaric treatment.

And what other unfortunates had Lady Catherine sent to Lord Braithwaite? If Elizabeth were not gentry, and if Darcy had not loved her enough to do everything in his power to see her returned to him, then she too would have disappeared to India. It was only Miss Elizabeth’s status as the daughter of a baronet that allowed her to bring a charge against Lord Braithwaite. Darcy tried to remember if any other young women had disappeared from his aunt’s service, but what attention had he paid to his aunt’s maids?

Richard continued, “We need to find out all she knows of Lord Braithwaite to flush him out and bring him to justice. We only mean to speak with her.”

What game was Richard playing? They had said nothing of excusing Lady Catherine for her crimes.

“But if she admits to her involvement?” Darcy cut in. “Are we to continue on as if none of this happened?”

The earl sighed. “Darcy, son. You are young and full of fire. I envy that. I do. You wish those who have hurt your fiancée, the woman you love, to suffer. But what then? If you implicate Lady Catherine in this vile business, it stains us all. You wish to marry this woman?”

“Yes. I love her.”

“Then spare her. Give her a family whole, not torn to pieces. What good will you accomplish by making such an accusation? Against your own blood!”

“I was there.” Darcy swallowed. “Lord Braithwaite starved Miss Elizabeth, drugged her, and burned his brand upon her skin. If my aunt knows how to find him, she will tell me. Aunt Catherine is just as responsible as Lord Braithwaite for what happened to Elizabeth, and I will not forgive her nor give her quarter.” It was a matter of honor. “I love Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“If you love her, you will not pursue this path of harming your family. Miss Bennet deserves a life. Your children deserve a life without the blemish of this scandal defining their every moment.”

“I cannot forgive Aunt Catherine.”

“Have you spoken with her? How do you know she was not as deceived as the rest of us by Lord Braithwaite?”

Darcy doubted it. How could his aunt have sent Elizabeth away and fabricated the story of her returning to London to be with her family while instead driving Elizabeth into Lord Braithwaite’s clutches without having some understanding of the man’s plans? Aunt Catherine had expected Elizabeth to disappear. She must have known something. She might know something now of Lord Braithwaite’s whereabouts. Darcy had hoped to secure his uncle’s aid in acquiring the special license and his support in the upcoming trial. He had thought his uncle would be as revolted by his sister’s actions as Darcy was. Instead, Edward Fitzwilliam defended Aunt Catherine.

An icy coal of rage burned in Darcy’s gut. He could not speak. He stood, fists clenched at his sides. A family whole with the woman who had sold Elizabeth to a monster?

Richard said, “We will speak with Aunt Catherine. Find out what she knows of Lord Braithwaite. Better us than the parish constable. Or an investigator from Town.”

The Earl of Matlock nodded. “You will keep it quiet. Best we keep Catherine’s name out of this altogether.”

“No,” Darcy said. How could he face Elizabeth while covering up Aunt Catherine’s crimes?

“I know you are hurting, Darcy, and angry. Heaven knows I would be. But don’t let your anger rule you. And do not compound harm with further harm.”

“If she did this—”

“Catherine may not have known.”

Darcy doubted it down to his soul, but he could also see the pain in his uncle’s eyes. He and Aunt Catherine were siblings. She, the elder who had cared for his hurts and wiped his tears as Darcy had done with Georgiana. In acknowledgement of that pain, Darcy said, “I will not judge her before we have spoken.” It was the best he could manage.

His uncle, the earl, nodded.

“There is a matter of a special license,” Richard suggested. His expression has softened, and Darcy realized his cousin had feared the outcome of this discussion. It explained his taciturnity in the carriage and the question of Georgiana, an inkling planted in Darcy’s mind with the deftness of a well-plotted stratagem. Darcy expected no less from his cousin.

The earl agreed to make the request, and after a few more pleasantries, enough to maintain the fiction that something of this was salvageable, Darcy and Richard left.

In the carriage, Richard stared out the window as Darcy brooded. The noise, heat and stench of Town faded to a background concern, one that troubled him far less than his own thoughts.

“If Aunt Catherine is responsible, which you and I blasted well know she is, we cannot allow her to escape justice.”

Richard’s gaze remained fixed through the tin carriage window on the crowded street. “I know,” he said. “It is easier on the battlefield, when one’s enemies are obvious and one’s duties clear.”

“I have no experience of battle, Richard.”

“I fear you will soon, Darcy. In one form or another.”

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Cover

Compromised. Married. Whole?

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride, Book 2 of 4 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words where love truly does conquer all.

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

Read More »
Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 2

Elizabeth and Jane sat together in the garden, ostensibly watching their niece and nephew. Mrs. Bennet, thankfully, was out with Mrs. Gardiner looking to choose flowers for the wedding ceremony as the promise of a special license had Mrs. Bennet in fits of ecstasy.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 3

While Darcy had often found Rosings Park tedious, with his aunt’s incessant and ridiculous attempts to force himself and Anne into matrimony, it had not before felt sinister. Which of the servants had known Elizabeth’s fate? Which had suffered it? And what other secrets did his aunt hide?

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Graphic

New Release – Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapter 1

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.

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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.

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“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.

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