Hello, AuAus! I’d originally written this particular chapter of my supernatural novella Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley as a scene between Darcy and Elizabeth, but as I was editing it this week I realized I would have preferred if I’d included a scene between Darcy and Mr. Bennet. So I wrote one and, as you probably guessed, this is it. There will be another chapter after this one. I’ll post it next Saturday, December 22nd; and yes, it’s between our hero and heroine. Phew! Finally!
Many, many thanks for your readership throughout this story. That and your comments are very much appreciated. Until next Saturday, happy reading, AuAus!
Just in case you wanted them:
Darcy combed his fingers through his hair, exhaling heavily as he paced the length of Longbourn’s drawing room. Six months had passed since he’d last been in Hertfordshire; half a year since he’d seen Elizabeth. So much had happened in that span of time!
Too much, he thought as his mouth twisted ruefully.
The anticipation of finally seeing her again, coupled with the agitation he felt regarding the obvious differences in his appearance, was enough to drive him out of his mind. Darcy needed a distraction and strode to the nearest window, where he was afforded a picturesque view of the Bennets’ small park. The weather was fair—partly sunny and dry, if not a bit chilly for late spring—and he wondered whether Elizabeth would consent to walk out with him, preferably without a chaperone. He’d be foolish to think she wouldn’t have questions the moment she laid eyes on him, and figured it would be better if they had no audience under foot. Whether his answers to her questions would anger or delight her, however, remained to be seen.
His injuries had been severe, so severe in fact that Colonel Fitzwilliam immediately sent to London for a physician. After several weeks passed with no sign of improvement, Darcy’s sister was instructed to prepare herself for the inevitable. Richard was grieved, but Georgiana had been inconsolable. By the time Darcy’s heartbeat had grown so faint it could barely be detected, she’d borne all she possibly could. Richard hadn’t even tried to stop her.
Darcy’s hand went instinctively to his neck, where two small puncture wounds were once visible. They’d faded almost instantly after his change, but would have been concealed in any case; neatly hidden beneath his shirt collar and the artfully tied layers of his cravat. He’d lain unconscious for weeks and had barely even felt Georgiana’s bite, but the pain that followed was vivid. It consumed him utterly and raged in his body for an entire day before it gradually receded to nothing more than the minor discomfort of a sore throat.
His thirst was always with him, but, to his immense relief, it by no means ruled him or defined who he was. As it turned out, the well-practiced self-control Darcy had so prided himself upon throughout his eight-and-twenty-years as a human proved an asset to him still. Not only had the master of Pemberley learned to resist the mouth-watering lure of human blood, but he’d become adept at ignoring the incessant burn in his throat as well.
Sighing heavily, he laid his forehead against the window and closed his eyes. It was nearly tea time, and the room he occupied faced the east, untouched by the late afternoon sun. The smooth panes, however, weren’t cool to his touch, but almost warm. He still wasn’t quite accustomed to that; to his body’s temperature being either lower than or equal to that of inanimate objects. He recalled the first time he’d grasped Georgiana’s hand in his after he’d awoken from his transformation and smiled. By then, Darcy was so used to feeling the chill of death whenever he touched her that he hadn’t expected her skin to feel warm to him. It’d come as a shock, but it didn’t follow that shock was unwelcome. They were the same once again. The same temperature and the same type of entity; brother and sister still, yet bound by so much more than the blood of their birth. In a way, it was a relief.
A door slamming above-stairs roused him from his reverie, and the sound of approaching footsteps alerted him to the fact that he would soon have company. They were not the light staccato cadence of a lady’s, however, but the heavier footfalls of a gentleman. Darcy muttered an exhalation as he straightened to his full height. At the last moment, he chose to remain as he was, with his back to the room as he continued to admire the park. Seconds later the drawing room door was thrown open and the master of Pemberley sensed rather than saw Mr. Bennet enter.
“Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet said without preamble. “I thought I made it perfectly clear to you the last time you were in Hertfordshire that your presence is neither desired, nor welcomed in my home.”
Darcy took a fortifying breath and turned to greet Elizabeth’s father. He was gratified to see the expression of anger on the elder man’s face transformed to one of shock. “How do you do, Mr. Bennet?” he replied pleasantly.
Mr. Bennet gaped at him before quickly shutting the door. “Are you mad, young man?” he hissed. “What in God’s name have you done!”
“Not a thing, I assure you.”
“Mr. Darcy, I am not accustomed to being trifled with. However insincere you chose to be, you will not find me so. I demand an answer.”
Darcy repressed the urge to roll his eyes, and said succinctly, “I was thrown from my horse.”
“You were thrown from your horse,” Mr. Bennet repeated lowly.
“There is more to this story, I trust.”
Darcy shrugged his shoulders. “My prognosis was extremely grim. I was told that I nearly died.”
Mr. Bennet stared at him, long and hard. “Yet, here you are.”
The corners of Darcy’s mouth twitched, but his gaze was defiant. “Here I am.”
With pursed lips, Mr. Bennet indicated one of two chairs beside the hearth. Darcy obliged him with a curt inclination of his head.
“Exactly how well do you know my daughter, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth’s father asked, narrowing his eyes as he drummed his fingers upon the arm of his chair.
“Well enough to know she was thrown from her own horse several years ago,” he replied, giving the elder man a meaningful look.
Mr. Bennet said nothing, only prompted Darcy to continue with a wave of his hand.
Taking a moment to clear his throat, Darcy decided that complete honesty was most likely his best option. “My sister Georgiana is the one who saved me. If she hadn’t acted, I’m quite certain my cousin would have. So, you see,” he said wryly, “I had little choice in the matter. This was by no means a conscious decision on my part, as I’m certain were your thoughts upon seeing me today, but an act born of necessity, so to speak, executed by a young girl who could not bear to suffer the loss of a brother who she looked upon more as a father.”
“Your sister,” the elder man gasped incredulously. “You mean to tell me you have a sister and a cousin, both of whom are…”
Mr. Bennet shifted so he was sitting on the edge of his seat. “Is my Lizzy aware of them?”
“She knows about my sister, but even I didn’t know about Richard until I returned to Pemberley following my illness last November. At the time, my sister was still relatively…unreliable. She was left in the care of my cousin, who is a colonel in Her Majesty’s Army, and who also shares guardianship of her with me. All things considered, they’ve both adjusted well, Richard especially. His outlook is much like your daughter’s, as is his sense of humour and incomparable ability to tease.”
Mr. Bennet shook his head with a chuckle. “I can well imagine your frustration, then.”
Darcy bowed his head and leaned forward to rest his elbows upon his knees. “I assure you, sir, you cannot. I dare say no one can. The three people I cherished most in the world were vampires. Out of the three, only two wanted anything to do with me so long as I remained human.”
“You’ve come to court her, then,” the elder man muttered. “Even after the inhospitable way I treated you last autumn. I have to say, I’m impressed.”
A lengthy moment of silence passed between them. “With all due respect, Mr. Bennet, your treatment of me went far beyond simple rudeness. It was nothing short of insulting, and that is putting it mildly. Rather than bothering to get to know me, you chose to treat me with contempt, which not only injured me, but your daughter, who, out of the goodness of her heart, did nothing more than offer me her friendship.” He exhaled roughly and ran the back of his hand over his mouth. “To be perfectly honest, at this point I’ve little interest in courting Miss Elizabeth.”
Mr. Bennet removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “If you had a daughter, Mr. Darcy,” he said tightly, “perhaps, you’d better comprehend my reluctance to offer my trust so freely.”
Darcy’s temper flared and before he could check himself, said hotly, “My sister is more than ten years my junior. In my absence last summer, she was transformed from an innocent, carefree young girl into a veritable monster by the worst kind of fortune-hunter. In an instant, her hopes, nay, her entire future was dashed to hell, so believe me when I say I’m well aware of the potential threats posed by an attentive suitor!” He rose from his chair and strode to the opposite side of the room, his patience completely gone.
It was then that the drawing room door was thrown open. Darcy froze, his breath catching in his throat as Elizabeth entered amongst a flurry of pale silk. Her fiery gaze was fixed not on her father, but on him. Darcy swallowed thickly, her name on the tip of his tongue; but, to his consternation, her father’s voice preceded his.
“Elizabeth, exactly what do you think you’re doing?” Mr. Bennet demanded, rising from his chair.
“I’d like to speak with Mr. Darcy, Father. Alone, if you please.” She arched one slender brow in challenge.