“My dearest Lizzy, I have but one thing to add to my letter and this is it. Although I have given you my consent to marry your Mr. Darcy, my decree is not without conditions. I have it on good authority that nothing would please your mother more than to see you married by special license. Twenty-odd years of marriage have taught me how persuasive your dear mother can be, and thus I am obliged to tell you that so long as I have the honor of walking you down the aisle, I shall have no reason at all to repine, or simply stated, get yourself back to Longbourn as soon as you can.”
Expecting His Proposal, Chapter 8 ~ Hope for the Future
When I wrote those words in 2015, I could have no way of knowing that four years later I’d be inspired to revisit the storyline. But then something happened while I was stuck in I-95 traffic one fine summer day in late July en route to Disney World. Hmm. My muse tends to be quite lively on that particular route. Recall, I wrote the earliest chapters of To Have His Cake (and Eat it Too) while traveling on I-95. But, I digress.
Today, I want to share a couple of chapters from my new release, Expecting His Wife, with all of you. Although inspired by Expecting His Proposal, Expecting His Wife was written to be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story.
Chapter 1 ~ His Proposal
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an anxious mother with five unwed daughters to get rid of shall leave no stone unturned in hastening the first one of them who receives an offer of marriage to the altar.
Gracechurch Street, London – 1812
The second reading of Mr. Bennet’s letter, giving his favorite daughter his consent to wed along with his most ardent blessing, incited in Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth an excitement and joy which neither wished to deny. He lifted her from the floor, and holding her tightly in his arms, spun around. This closeness unleashed their passions for each other, and their lips met as he lowered her to the edge of the desk. Purposely positioning their bodies just so, a violent expression of their desire for each other ensued.
Elizabeth was so mesmerized by the touch of Mr. Darcy’s lips on hers, and by his hands about her waist pulling her closer and closer, she almost forgot they were in her uncle Mr. Gardiner’s study, mere moments away from one of her relations possibly barging into the room. Almost.
Mr. Darcy must have felt the same, for he gradually lowered her to her feet. Both eased away, albeit reluctantly. Elizabeth missed him already, for kissing Mr. Darcy proved more pleasurable than even she had imagined.
“Sir,” she began, even as she savored the lingering taste of his lips upon hers, “we ought to return to the others before we are missed.”
Leaning closer, Mr. Darcy brushed his lips against Elizabeth’s one last time. “You are correct; however, if you will give me but a few minutes more, I have something that belongs to you.”
“You do?” Elizabeth asked, wondering what that might be.
Mr. Darcy retrieved a royal blue velvet box from his pocket. Presenting it to his lady, he opened it for her inspection. “I have wanted to give you this for days.”
The brilliant diamond ring inside took Elizabeth’s breath away. “Sir, it is stunning.”
“My father presented it to my mother when she accepted his proposal, and now I present it to you.” He retrieved the ring and slipped it on Elizabeth’s finger. “It is a perfect fit, just as I knew it would be.” He raised her hand to his lips and bestowed a lingering kiss. “Just as you and I are a perfect fit. You complete me, my love. From this day forward, I never wish to be parted from you again.”
Every inquiring eye fell upon Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth when they entered the room. Having tidied her hair and gown, as well as aided her intended to the extent their circumstances called for, Elizabeth hoped their appearance bore no evidence of the liberties she had allowed while alone with the gentleman.
“My dearest Lizzy,” cried Mrs. Bennet, hurrying to where the young lovers stood. “Where on earth did you run off to?” She directed her speech to Mr. Darcy. “Oh! Thank goodness you found her, or I shall have gone completely distracted.”
Assured that their appearance was the last thing on her mother’s mind, Elizabeth silently exhaled.
Mrs. Bennet continued, “Why, I almost feared she had run away to avoid your proposal. It would not have been the first time she acted so precipitously against her better interests.”
“Mama!” Elizabeth exclaimed. Talk of her refusal of another man’s hand in marriage was the last thing in the world to bring up at such a time.
The lady returned her eyes to Elizabeth. “Oh, but you are here now, which is all that really matters.”
“Mama, I did not leave, and nor did I intend to,” Elizabeth replied. “I simply took the opportunity to read Papa’s letter in privacy.” She threw a furtive look of gratitude at her aunt Mrs. Gardiner not only for suggesting Elizabeth steal away to Mr. Gardiner’s study, but also for hinting to Mr. Darcy that he might find her there.
Mrs. Bennet’s eyes opened wide. “Well, Child, do not keep us in suspense. What does your excellent father have to say? Has he given you his blessing?”
Smiling, Elizabeth nodded. “Papa has given his heartfelt consent.” She held up her left hand, so everyone in the room might see her diamond ring. “Mr. Darcy and I are engaged. We are getting married.”
The excitement which Elizabeth’s announcement inspired in her mother, her sisters, her aunt, and even Mr. Bingley was everything that could be expected upon hearing such happy news and included eager proclamations which Elizabeth would rather wish her intended had not heard.
Mrs. Bennet started clapping her hands gleefully, celebrating her own good fortune. As if the gentleman was not standing there, she happily proclaimed, “Oh, my sweetest Lizzy! How rich and great you will be! What pin money you shall have, for he has ten thousand pounds a year!”
The youngest of the Bennet daughters, Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humored countenance. Her wild animal spirits ideally suited her determination to leave her own unique mark on the world. Her mother’s favorite by far, she was just as eager to find herself a husband as her mother was determined to find her one: preferably a tall, handsome gentleman in a red coat.
Picking up where her mother’s exaltations ceased, she exclaimed, “Oh! He is so very rich, and you shall have such fine clothes and exquisite jewels so far as the eyes can see.” Her arms outstretched, she spun herself around. “Why, if only he were an officer, I would be so very jealous of you, Lizzy.”
The fourth Bennet daughter, Catherine, suffered a rather accommodating nature, which notably manifested itself in a less than desirable way so far as her younger sister Lydia was concerned. Affectionately known as Kitty among her family and friends, she echoed her sister’s sentiments and further added, “That is to say nothing of the magnificent balls you shall have, putting the rest of us in the path of many rich men.”
Try as she might to suffer her family’s antics with every appearance of composure, Elizabeth colored. Surely Mr. Darcy believes we are the most mercenary lot he has ever had the misfortune of knowing. A sidelong glance at her intended gave her to know she had nothing to fear, for he only had eyes for her: eyes filled with love.
The character of the third Bennet daughter, Mary, relied upon strict adherence to propriety. To her, the appearance of accomplishment and knowledge was everything, to the point of deceiving herself of her own true feelings. As it was her turn to speak, she chose her words with some care.
“What are fine clothes, fine carriages, expensive jewels, and crowded balls in the grand scheme of things?” Pausing her speech, she pushed her spectacles closer to her eyes. “Balls, especially,” she continued. “They are nothing in comparison to good conversation and reading. I have heard it said that Pemberley boasts of having the finest library in all of Derbyshire.” With that said, some semblance of a smile reached her mouth. “I think I shall love to come to visit you with alacrity.”
Jane’s exuberance, though warm, was somewhat more subdued, in keeping with her character. “I am so happy for you, Lizzy.” Amid the ongoing outpouring of felicitations from the others among themselves, she whispered in her sister’s ear. “I have always thought very favorably of your Mr. Darcy. I do not know that I have ever met a more perfect match for you.”
The sisters embraced.
As for the others in the room–Mrs. Gardiner and Mr. Bingley: the happy smiles that diffused over their faces confirmed their joy. Seeing this in the latter of the two, Elizabeth clung to her sister a little longer and wished with all her heart that Jane, too, would soon know such happiness.
While the two youngest sisters continued to flutter about the room, Mrs. Bennet retrieved a crumbled linen cloth from her pocket and used it to fan her face as a means of calming herself. Breathlessly, she said, “You must be married by special license.” Pausing long enough to catch her breath, she continued, “Why, Mr. Darcy is as good as a lord. No doubt his family will expect nothing less.”
She looked at the gentleman intently. “Pray, we shall soon have the opportunity to meet your relations. From all that I have been told about your aunt, the Right Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, no doubt it will be a great honor for us all.
“Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet’s cousin, boasts incessantly about her ladyship’s benevolence and her goodness. I can only suppose Lord and Lady Matlock will be equally agreeable.” She pursed her lips. “Although it is entirely possible that they may indeed be the complete opposite, I suppose. But then again, what do I know? I thought you hated my Lizzy—that you hated all of us, in fact, and now look at the two of you – engaged to be married. Who would have thought such a thing possible?”
“Mama!” Elizabeth cried. How she wished her mother would hold her tongue. While it was true that Mr. Darcy had often been accused of being haughty, arrogant, and above his company, while in Hertfordshire several months prior, he had never really displayed any such antipathy towards Elizabeth. Toward her mother, he may have been rather less cordial than his amiable friend, Mr. Bingley was. Seeing my mother’s behavior now, I can hardly find fault in his having felt that way.
Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, said, “I must beg your forgiveness, Madam, for any ill will my behavior may have caused when we first met. You must allow me to make amends.”
“How kind and considerate you are, sir,” Mrs. Bennet replied in a conciliatory tone and one laced with approbation. “Of course, all is forgiven. And I would hope that you will forgive my own rush to judgment where your relations are concerned, for I shall be pleased to meet them.”
Mrs. Bennet’s words drew Elizabeth’s mind to the day in Kent when Mr. Darcy first offered his hand in marriage and they later visited Rosings to have tea with his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and his cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh.
Try as she might to forget either ladies’ hurtful words, they were as fresh in her memory as the day they were spoken.
Seeing how the news had upset Miss de Bourgh, Elizabeth had set off to explain the matter to the aggrieved young woman only to be halted by her ladyship.
“Explain? Explain?” Lady Catherine had furiously questioned. “You mean to explain to her how the pretensions of an upstart like yourself have been the means of thwarting the favorite wishes of her dearest aunt, Darcy’s own mother, my own sister, Lady Anne, that my Anne and Darcy should be united in wedlock. While in their cradles, we planned their union.”
Miss de Bourgh’s willingness to listen to Elizabeth had been no better.
“This union will not be ordained by anyone in the Fitzwilliam family, not even by Georgiana,” the other woman had threatened. “By your earlier assertion, you have yet to meet her. By the time I’ve told her about you, you will not wish to meet her.”
Elizabeth shuddered amid this recollection. She had taught herself to believe the de Bourghs were alone in their staunch opposition to the union. Having met the Fitzwilliams as well as Miss Darcy on the night she dined at Darcy House, she had detected no hint of their disapprobation toward Jane or herself.
Of course, I had not been presented to Miss Darcy as her future sister or to Lord and Lady Matlock as their future niece. Have I cause for concern as Miss de Bourgh forewarned, or am I merely worrying for naught?
Wanting to dissuade her mother from any further talk on the matter, Elizabeth said, “Mama, I am sure we cannot impose on the Fitzwilliams with such short notice. They are very prominent people, and this is a hectic time of year. As we will all be at Longbourn in a matter of hours, there is no time to meet anyone. Besides, there will be time enough to meet Mr. Darcy’s family after the wedding.”
“Nonsense!” the lady exclaimed with energy. “Acquiring a special license will surely require more than a few hours. It will probably take days, if not weeks. With all that there is to be done to order your wedding clothes and the likes, there is no reason at all to leave town.”
“Oh, Mama!” cried Lydia. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Lizzy’s wedding were to be held here in town at St. Paul’s Cathedral? Oh! Our neighbors and friends at home will be exceedingly envious, will they not? Oh! Do let us have a wedding here in town!”
Chapter 2 ~ A Delightful Scheme
“I do not see why Mr. Darcy and Lizzy cannot be married at St. Paul’s as easily as in the church in Meryton, but that must be their decision,” said Mrs. Bennet, her voice affecting dispassion.
Leave it to the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, to handle a delicate situation so indelicately. Judging by the haste in which Mrs. Bennet echoed the idea, she likely had secretly entertained the notion herself. Any wonder Lydia was her mother’s favorite? Their minds were so similar.
Mrs. Bennet looked at Darcy. “Sir, I am sure it will mean the world to my daughter to be married in such an auspicious place as St. Paul’s Cathedral. Do you not agree?”
He gave a slight nod. “I am happy to marry your daughter anywhere she pleases. I defer to her, for a happy bride is the surest ingredient for a happy wedding.”
The gentleman’s words were like music to the lady’s ears. Her face beamed with pleasure.
“Then, it is settled,” Mrs. Bennet responded. “Lizzy shall be married here in town.”
“Mama!” Elizabeth cried.
“What possible objection can you have to such a charming scheme, Lizzy? Surely Mr. Darcy’s family would expect nothing less,” cried Mrs. Bennet impatiently.
“Papa hates town! In fact, in his letter, he expressly urged me to return to Hertfordshire as soon as could be.”
Mrs. Bennet dismissively waved the crumpled handkerchief in her hand. “You must leave your father to me, Lizzy. Surely he would not wish to deny you such a pleasing prospect as a wedding at St. Paul’s, and in a manner suitable for the future wife of a gentleman of Mr. Darcy’s stature. Your Mr. Darcy has ten thousand pounds a year and likely more for I have heard it said he owns half of Derbyshire.”
If looks alone had the power of silencing one’s speech, Elizabeth would not have suffered such mortification. How could her intended be anything other than offended by her mother’s mercenary words?
“Mama!” Elizabeth exclaimed with energy.
Being a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper, subtlety was not Mrs. Bennet’s strong suit. “You need not worry about a single thing, Lizzy,” she replied to her daughter’s outburst. “I shall see to every detail of your wedding and the wedding breakfast, too, of course. Why, it must be held at your house here in town, Mr. Darcy! Pray you do not object to such a delightful scheme.”
“Consider my home as your home,” Mr. Darcy said.
“Now,” she began, “the only thing that remains to be settled is the matter of our living arrangements in the interim. It will hardly be feasible for all of us to travel back-and-forth between Longbourn and town what with all that needs to be done and with time being of the essence.”
Interrupting her mother’s speech, Elizabeth said, “Which is even more reason to keep things simple and return to Longbourn.”
“But the six of us are already here in town. As we are all here at the Gardiners’, the only one who really needs to be inconvenienced is your father.”
“Surely you must consider the inconvenience to Uncle and Aunt Gardiner caused by the addition of so many guests: unexpected guests at that.”
Mrs. Bennet peered at Mrs. Gardiner, who had remained a silent witness to the thickening wedding plot. “What say you, Sister?”
An elegant woman, who was several years younger than her sister-in-law and leagues ahead of her in terms of sense and sensibility, Mrs. Gardiner replied, “I am sure your brother and I will do our best to see to everyone’s comfort.”
Lydia exclaimed, “La! Mama, did you not hear Mr. Darcy say his home is our home? Why should we not all stay at his townhouse? No doubt it is very large and very grand, too.”
Kitty lifted her skirt just so and commenced dancing about the room. “We may even be invited to elegant soirees and society balls. The balls at home are nothing compared to the balls in town, I am sure.”
“Lydia!” Elizabeth said. “You cannot invite yourself to another person’s home!”
“Lizzy, how can you be so selfish?” Lydia asked. “If Mr. Darcy does not object, then why should you?”
Having likely heard enough, Mr. Darcy said, “Mrs. Bennet, Misses Bennets, if you give me leave to have a private audience with Miss Elizabeth, my lovely bride, I shall be in your debt.”
“You are welcome to talk in privacy in Mr. Gardiner’s study,” Mrs. Gardiner said in compassion to the young lovers’ plight.
With that said, Darcy and Elizabeth were gone directly.
When they were alone behind closed doors, Elizabeth released a frustrated breath. “Welcome to my life, Mr. Darcy.”
He took his intended in his arms. Their lips met. Gently, he coaxed Elizabeth’s lips apart, ran the tip of his tongue inside, and for a moment or two, it seemed they were the only people in the world. Oh, the power of his kiss to lift her spirits.
Their lips parted, he gazed into her eyes. “There is no place else I would rather be.”
The agony she had suffered in the parlor now all but faded, Elizabeth said, “Are you certain? It is not too late to change your mind.” With some reluctance, she eased away. “Save yourself while there is still time.”
“Never,” he said. “Your family is excited about our wedding. I can only wish for a fraction of such exuberance on my own family’s part. You are fortunate in that regard.
“Besides, I can think of far worse things than spending the next few weeks or so under the same roof with you – night after night.” He drew Elizabeth once again into his embrace. “After night.” He brushed his lips against hers. “Once the rest of the household has settled – silent footsteps away.”
More aroused by his conjecture than she cared to confess, Elizabeth said, “Indeed, having my dear mother close by.”
“Well, there is that.” Still holding her in his arms, he whispered softly in Elizabeth’s ear, “With a bit of ingenuity on our parts, I believe we shall persevere.”
Her spirits rising to playfulness, Elizabeth said, “Perhaps I ought to remain here in Cheapside while the rest of my family reside at Darcy House.”
“You would not dare!”
“Leave you alone with my mother and my younger sisters? I love you too much to subject you to such a fate.”
“You love me, Elizabeth?” Mr. Darcy asked, taking her somewhat aback.
Smiling a little, she nodded. “Do you really need to ask?”
“Given how we parted in Kent and the events leading up to this very day, I must confess to having suffered a bit of concern.”
“I suppose I might have handled things more sensibly, and I will do my best to behave with more thought than emotion going forward. The fact is, I can scarcely recall a time that I did not love you, Mr. Darcy. I love you with all my heart and soul.”
Darcy and Elizabeth sealed her ardent declaration as warmly and sensibly as could be expected until a general awareness of their surroundings drew them apart.
“Elizabeth, my love, why not allow your family to have this time? Soon enough, we shall be man and wife, happily secluded far, far away from everyone at Pemberley for an indeterminate amount of time and making such happy memories as to render the next few weeks or so inconsequential. If this is what is required to bring your mother and sisters a modicum of satisfaction, I say so be it. Our happiness is assured.”
Gently retaking her lips, he drew her into a lingering, sweet kiss.
Soon enough, he added, “Of course, as it is my mission in life to deny you nothing that is within my power to bestow, I shall defer the final word on all such matters pertaining to our wedding to you.”
If you enjoyed this extended sneak peek and you’d like to know what happens next, I invite you to grab your copy today!
~ or ~
Comment below for a chance to win a $5 Gift Card. One prize is up for grabs.
Because the gift card will be sent directly from Amazon.com, the winner must be able to redeem the gift card on Amazon.com.
Alternatively, the winner may claim an ebook edition of an eligible P.O. Dixon story. Hurry! The giveaway contest ends on Tuesday, October 22nd. Best of luck!
Another Giveaway Underway!
How about another exciting chance to win! I’m giving away gift cards and audiobooks. Up to three winners will be chosen.
Hurry! The contest ends soon. Click here now!