I wrote my newest short release back in 2014, just after publishing its predecessor, The Madness of Mr. Darcy. It’s not unusual for readers to tell me they want more from my stories (I admit to having something of a love for an abrupt ending), but because of the highly emotional nature of this book, I felt a bit more responsibility than usual to provide my fans with at least a little bit more. The result was Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Present, originally published at A Happy Assembly and now, three years later, cleaned up and ready to greet a broader audience. Here is a blurb for your enjoyment. Leave a comment telling me what you think and enter to win a copy of the ebook as well as some Christmas goodies. More info below.
Fitzwilliam Darcy awoke with a start, overcome by a blast of familiar panic. Groping about him in the dark, he soon enough discovered Elizabeth, nestled warm beside him. He inhaled deeply, slowly, and silently, holding it in greedily as calming waves of sensation coursed through his mind, then exhaling slowly – one, two, three, four, five. This breathing technique, learned while a guest of Dr. Wilson’s Ramsey House, a retreat for the gently disturbed, had become almost second nature to him. He repeated the ritual twice more before lying back down against his wife and holding her close to him, endeavoring to regain blessed sleep without the aid of the elixir in waiting by his bedside. His valet prepared it for him each evening, just in case it was needed. Matthews had poured it out, untouched, every morning for more than six months.
The nightmares, when they continued to plague him, were of a different nature than of old. No longer was he haunted by the specters of those he lost, failed, or disappointed. Now he was terrified by perspective loss of this precarious happiness he had finally, after so many years, discovered. If life had taught him nothing else, it was that everything could be taken from a man in a moment. He held Elizabeth closer in his determination to keep her safe.
Closing his eyes, he tried to lose consciousness, but sleep continued to elude him. Something was not right. For a moment, he wondered if it was not Elizabeth – did she feel different? The notion was ridiculous, but Darcy could not shake it. If something is different, it must be me, he thought. Elizabeth is perfect.
He sat up in bed, more fully awake than ever, and smiled down on her fondly. He kissed her cheek, causing her to smile ever so slightly as she slept, and crept from the bed.
The days when Matthews left clothes out for his master’s nightly rambles were behind them, and Mr. Darcy had to fumble in the dark to find his dressing gown. He lit a candle, using his body to shield Elizabeth from the light, and opened the door to the master’s suite. They always shared his room. As he explained after their marriage, it was up to her to retreat if his attentions were unwanted. He never wanted to sleep without her again. Thus far, he never had to bear such an occurrence, and they had now been married for more than a year.
Though a bad dream had woken him, it was not the old feelings of torment and pain that sent him down the stairs and into the portrait gallery. If questioned, he would not be able to account for what determined him. Had his movements woken Elizabeth, he would doubtlessly be back in bed instead of stalking the halls of Pemberley, but they had not, and he had an urge to look at the portrait gallery, and so for the portrait gallery he was bound.
He passed right by the older portraits, depicting generations of Darcys in both their glory and gore. It was before his father he paused, his mother in the next frame by his side, Darcy as a babe in her arms. To her left hung his deceased sister, Georgiana, as she looked at the time of her presentation. A portrait of her as a baby hung in what was once her music room, their mother never having been well enough to sit for a portrait with both her children prior to her untimely death. The last painting in the row was of himself as a young man. There was room enough for more in the gallery, and it was this blank wall space upon which Darcy now fixated, realizing with startling comprehension what drove him from his warm wife and comfortable bed into the drafty halls.
He brooded for only a moment or two before turning around and retreating back to the beckoning sanctuary of the master bedroom. He extinguished the candle shortly upon reentering, abandoned his dressing gown on the nearest chair, and climbed back under the counterpane against Elizabeth’s warm body. She squirmed in response.
“Your feet are cold,” she mumbled sleepily. Of course, she had not been asleep. A draft let in by Darcy woke her when he left the room, and she had been lying in bed awake ever since wondering if she ought to follow him or not. The elixir, she readily observed, remained untouched. When the door suddenly reopened, she was quick to feign sleep, not wanting to intrude on her husband’s private meditations. Nevertheless, his health and well-being were of paramount importance to her, and she would know what was bothering him, if she might discover the truth without upsetting him.
“I did not mean to wake you. I am sorry,” he whispered in her ear.
She turned over to face him, blinking sleepily for effect. “Do not concern yourself about it. Can you not sleep?”
“No, but I think I shall now. I have come to a resolution,” he readily shared.
Elizabeth was delighted to find him so forthcoming. Sitting up to show him that he had her attention, she said, “Do not keep me in suspense.”
He smiled at her lovingly. “I wish to commission a portrait.”
She looked at him inquisitively. “And this is what keeps you awake in the night?”
He laughed softly. “I want your likeness to hang in the portrait gallery. All the other Mrs. Darcys are represented. It is high time you were as well.”
“Oh yes,” she agreed teasingly. “We had best do it tomorrow before I get any older, lest future generations mistake me for the grandmother of the handsome young man whose portrait I hang beside.”
He smiled somewhat wistfully. “There will not be any future generations.”
“You do not know that for certain. I am not in my dotage quite yet, and even when I am, there will be the viscount’s children to carry our memory into the future.”
“Yes, but it is not quite the same.” With instinctive practice, he shuffled away all melancholy thought and forced cheerful notions upon his brain. “I know what we shall do. We will sit together. The last Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, memorialized as we are in our prime.”
She laughed. “Not quite in our prime, surely.”
“What finer time of life might there be than this one?” he questioned, gazing at her soulfully and causing her heart to flutter. “I have everything I ever wanted, thanks to you, Elizabeth.”
But an heir, she thought, as he wrapped her in his arms and sunk them both deep into the downy bed.
Along with the ebook, I’m giving away a set of five handmade Christmas cards, featuring seasonal quotes from Austen’s novels, and a collection of Swiss holiday clothes pins, perfect for displaying all your cards. Giveaway ends December 6th and is open internationally. Best of luck and happy holidays to all!