Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley: Prologue
While there aren’t any werewolves and goblins in this story, there are vampires, but I’m not telling you who they are . . . yet.
Throughout the month of October I’ll be sharing a short novella I’ve been writing for fun. For those of you who don’t care for horror and gore, you don’t have a thing to fear. This story is actually a love story, without a drop of goriness in sight. It just so happens that a few of our favorite P&P characters have become vampires. (But it’s really not their fault. You can blame the author and her unhealthy obsession with the undead.)
So far there are six parts, the last of which should be posted on Halloween. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Many things are rarely as they seem. That much he knew. It had taken but one evening spent in her company to understand she was like no woman he’d ever encountered. There was something in her air, in her manner of speaking, in the way she moved, and laughed that prevented him from dismissing her as commonplace. Miss Morton, Miss Redgrave, Miss Bingley—the dozens of others—with their simpering attention, banal conversation, and exhausting single-mindedness were commonplace; not Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Though they’d been acquainted less than a fortnight, Darcy had become thoroughly enamoured with her. For a man used to being his own lord and master, the development of such a strong attachment was unsettling; especially when nothing—not even the inferiority of her situation and connexions—had proven a powerful enough deterrent against the spell she’d woven.
Her intelligence was formidable, and had fanned the flames of his admiration with as much ease as the teasing curve of her lips had coaxed his smile. Her wit and vivacity garnered equal veneration, as did the subtle sway of her hips whenever she entered a room, or danced a reel, or strode confidently through the countryside as though she hadn’t a care in the world.
Her complexion was flawless. Her skin pale and pure, and her dark, glossy locks—whether seen by the glow of a wax taper or the natural light of day—were, to Darcy’s eyes, more luxurious than the finest silk.
His fingers itched to caress her cheek, her bare shoulder, the supple swell of her breast. The hours he’d spent thinking of her, fantasizing about her, wondering whether her body might be as responsive to his touch as he’d imagined had become too numerous to count. Darcy wanted to lose himself in her eyes, to immerse himself in her scent, to brush his lips against the shell of her ear and whisper his deepest desires.
He longed to make her breath quicken.
He longed to make her blush.
The thought of her blush alone was enough to make his pulse race. The idea of seeing Elizabeth with a flushed countenance, of hearing the quickening of her heartbeat—and at his hands—did sinful things to him; dangerous things; things that, as a gentleman, he could ill-afford to act upon with any lady, never mind one so utterly lovely and trusting as Elizabeth Bennet.
With an exhalation, he closed his eyes and attempted to put a rein on his heightened emotions. The last thing in the world that ought to be on Darcy’s mind was engaging in a flirtation, however deeply felt on his part; especially when his beloved sister was almost completely alone in the world, in isolation at Pemberley.
He scowled, frustrated and bitter about the cruel situation in which they now found themselves. A few months ago Georgiana was innocent and whole; completely unspoilt by the world and any evil that dwelled in its shadows; and Darcy, though he wouldn’t go so far as to say he was happy, neither had he been miserable.
But at Ramsgate everything changed.
Yes, he had arrived in time to save Georgiana, but not soon enough to prevent her current state, or eliminate her suffering. And though he and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam had acted swiftly to exact retribution on the one responsible, in the end their actions were too little, too late. Georgiana was ever altered. Never again would she be the same girl they’d known and loved; and yet, neither would she be anything else.
Darcy doubted that any man—even his good-natured friend Charles Bingley—was capable of enough compassion to marry her. The fact that she could claim a dowry of thirty-thousand pounds and ties to an ancient, though untitled family would carry no weight should Georgiana choose to confide her story to an unsuspecting suitor. In fact, the repercussions could be catastrophic.
Should Darcy decide to take a wife the outcome could be equally disastrous. Deception of any sort had always been abhorrent to him; therefore, he could never in good conscience enter into an engagement without absolute honesty. But what if, after revealing all, his intended refused to accept his beloved sister? Darcy would never disown Georgiana, but what if the woman he chose to spend his life with demanded it of him? What if she told the world his sister’s darkest secret?
Perhaps he would do better to remain a bachelor than take such a risk.
His conscience, however, whispered that Elizabeth Bennet would never make such a demand of him; that her heart is too kind and her spirit too generous to behave so cruelly, either toward Georgiana or himself.
For half an hour his mind entertained impossible scenarios. Should Elizabeth consent to visit Pemberley, then Darcy could introduce her to his sister. Georgiana, he knew, would take one look at Elizabeth and adore her with all her heart; and Elizabeth, after seeing the sweetness in his sister, would undoubtedly feel the same.
But would such tender sentiments survive once Elizabeth understood what his sister had so recently become? What Georgiana would always remain in the eyes of Society?
Darcy swallowed thickly. Would Elizabeth shun them? Or would her inherent compassion prevail, even in so hopeless a case as theirs? His practical side knew no connexion between them—either with his sister or himself—should even be considered, never mind attempted. But there was a part of him that was undeniably selfish, especially after the sacrifices he’d made for his sister’s sake. Was it so awful of him to wish to know such happiness as Elizabeth could bring? Would it be so terrible of him to attempt it?
He exhaled roughly and ran slightly shaking hands through his hair. It was October, he was settled comfortably at Netherfield, and, by Georgiana’s insistence, at leisure until Christmas. There is no need for rashness, he told himself. At least not at present.
His late father had been a firm believer that impetuosity was a mark of weakness in a man; weakness of mind and weakness of character. Until a few months ago Darcy had staunchly believed it, too; but no more. It was his impatience to see her that had ultimately enabled him to rescue Georgiana. Perhaps a bit of impetuosity could rescue Darcy as well.
Susan Adriani is the author of The Truth About Mr. Darcy