Better late than never or so the saying goes. Indeed, an apt expression of my sentiments as it relates to today’s post. Irrevocably Gone was published weeks ago but I have yet to share a new release excerpt from the story in conjunction with a giveaway contest for the eBook edition here at Austen Authors … until now.
Chapter 4 – Speaking in Confidence
Moments later, Elizabeth pushed the door of the library open and peeked inside. If either of the Bingley sisters were present, she would forgo the pleasure of a book. She breathed a sigh of relief upon observing that the room appeared to be empty. She stepped inside. A quick glance in the direction of the stacks did not bode well for her reading prospects. Nevertheless, determined to be pleased with whatever she might find, Elizabeth proceeded directly across the richly carpeted floor.
The sound of a gentleman clearing his throat halted her steps. She turned. “Mr. Darcy!”
He walked towards her, bowed and said, “Miss Elizabeth.”
Remembering herself, Elizabeth curtsied.
“I trust you found your sister, Miss Bennet, to be well taken care of.”
“Yes, it would appear so.” Feeling the awkwardness of her current situation and the possibility that she had intruded on the gentleman’s privacy, she said, “Actually, Jane was resting so peacefully when I looked in on her that I did not dare awaken her—not knowing all the particulars of the morning. I thought I would come here and pick out a book to read while I wait for her to awaken.”
He glanced over at the mostly empty bookshelves. “I do not know that you will have much luck in that endeavor. Might I suggest you have a look at this?” Mr. Darcy asked referring to the book he was holding.
“I do not dare accept your kind offer, sir. I feel my being here uninvited may be viewed as an impertinence. I should not wish to compound my transgression by claiming your reading material.”
“No—I insist. Besides, I have read this book before. It is one of my own that I am forced to read again owing to the scarcity in my friend Bingley’s library. I believe you will enjoy the book very much. In fact, you are welcome to bring it to Longbourn upon your return.”
She accepted the proffered book with a tentative smile. “Sir, you are very kind.”
Their eyes met. For a time, it seemed neither was willing to be the first to look away.
At length, Elizabeth withdrew hers. “Sir,” she spoke tentatively.
“Yes,” he replied softly.
Their eyes fixed on each other’s eyes once again. “Will you allow me to apologize if it seems that I have deliberately placed myself in your path? I assure you that was not my intention.”
“Are you referring to coming here to be by your ailing sister’s side?”
“You might have questioned if my doing so was ill-advised, especially in view of my appearance—my hem six inches deep in mud, my hair, wind-blown and unkempt, and my expression, no doubt, hurried and wild-eyed.”
He laughed just a little at Elizabeth’s description of herself. “I am not one who normally takes note of a lady’s wardrobe. As for your hair, I found it quite refreshing loosely draping your shoulders and as for your eyes, I find they were brightened by the exercise.”
Elizabeth felt her color rise in response to his warm words, and she began to sense that all would be well. Whatever was the opinion of the Bingley sisters on her being there, Mr. Darcy did not share their feelings.
“Miss Bennet is very fortunate to have a sister as loving and supportive as you. I would wish for no less for my own sister, Georgiana.”
“As her older brother, indeed her only brother, I am sure you must dote on Miss Darcy exceedingly.”
“Indeed, I do, but it is not quite the same. There is the matter of the difference in our ages. She is my junior by more than a decade.”
Her spirits rising to playfulness, Elizabeth said, “With four sisters in total, I am sure I would gladly lend at least one of them to Miss Darcy.”
Once again, he laughed a little, and Elizabeth could only imagine it had to do with his thought on how his sister would get along with girls so silly as Kitty and Lydia. If such were indeed his sentiments, he did not speak on it. In all their time together since he had called on her at Longbourn, he had never uttered a disparaging word against her younger sisters, regardless of their antics.
He said, “I sense that you may have longed for a brother somewhere along the way.”
She sighed. “More than you know,” Elizabeth said wistfully. “A male heir to our family’s estate would have made all the difference in the world, I am sure.” Just saying the words out loud pained her, but there was something about her companion’s manner that made it easier to confess her most worrisome concerns.
“It cannot be easy not knowing what your family’s future might be should some ill fate befall your father.”
“Then you understand why my mama may at times appear rather impolitic.”
He nodded. “I do. Pray tell me, do you know who is the heir apparent of your father’s estate?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I have never met him. On the one occasion when I spoke on this matter to my father, he said there has been a longstanding disagreement with that particular branch of our family tree.”
“Which must compound your family’s apprehensions even more.”
“Indeed, as my mother likes to say, we might be thrown out into the hedgerows as soon as my father passes.”
“Pray that such an event as she espouses will never unfold.”
Smiling tentatively, she bit her lower lip. “I certainly did not mean to burden you with my worries, sir.”
“You did not, Miss Elizabeth. Nothing pleases me more than spending time with you. While I join you in praying for your sister’s speedy recovery, I shall not be unhappy to have the chance to spend more time getting better acquainted with you.”
Images of Miss Bingley’s reaction to such a declaration sprang to Elizabeth’s mind. “I can think of at least one or two people who might take umbrage with such a prospect and balk at the impropriety.”
As if speaking in confidence, Darcy leaned closer to Elizabeth. “We must be careful to avoid giving rise to suspicion.”
“Do you not consider that such a thing is easier said than done? Are we not alone at this very moment with no one to attest to what the two of us are doing?”
He tucked his hands behind his back. “Your point is well taken. Shall I step outside into the hallway and summon a footman to attend us?”
Elizabeth clutched Mr. Darcy’s book to her chest. She smiled. “That will not be necessary. Now that you have satisfied my reason for being here by lending me your book, I think it is time for me to return to my sister’s side.”
“Of course. I shall not delay you a moment longer. I will, however, ask that you do not hesitate to seek me out if you are in need of anything at all. I am at your service.”
“I shall take your offer into consideration, sir.” Curtsying, she then turned away and proceeded to quit the room. A warm feeling washed over her when she glanced over her shoulder and saw that he was still looking at her in the manner that she had now come to appreciate as admiration.
Comment below for a chance to win an eBook edition of Irrevocably Gone. One winner will be chosen. The contest ends on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.
What if you already own Irrevocably Gone? First, thanks so much for reading and hopefully enjoying the story. If chosen as the winner, you will be awarded a copy of the P. O. Dixon story of your choice.
Other Happy News!
I’m having a sale on three box sets featuring many of my bestselling stories: The Makings of Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice Untold, and recently re-released with a brand-new cover and all, Everything Will Change.
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