Excerpt for Elizabeth's Ordeal by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


A Pride and Prejudice Regency Variation

Charlotte Browning


Orlando, Florida

Copyright © 2017 by Charlotte Browning

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.


PO Box 540375

Orlando, FL 32854


Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

Elizabeth’s Ordeal/Charlotte Browning -- 1st ed.

ISBN 9781370741533


Chapter One

Elizabeth looked around enjoying the beautiful view from her bedroom window and sighed, feeling a little sad. She had lived some amazing days in this house, in some sort of fantastic world, where the daily problems seemed to elude them. But, even the best honeymoon has to end and now it was time to leave, to go back to the real life. After a few weeks in paradise, she and Mr. Darcy were heading to Pemberley, her new home.

For some reason, that idea pressed her heart a little bit and though she tried to ignore it, it was not easy. She did not seem able to shake that bad feeling off of her.

Of course, she wanted to finally go to her new home, especially to see the library she had heard so much of and yet, she would have stayed here if she could.

With a heavy sigh, she turned to look at her maid Maggie. The girl was just finishing packing all her clothes and all the incredible dresses she had found stored in the house, in what she named the treasure room.

Maggie had been her maid while they were at Scarborough, but she had accepted her offer of becoming her personal maid and she was traveling with them back to Pemberley. That idea made her a little more comfortable with going to there. She would have a familiar face with her.  

The journey back to Pemberley was a very long one, but Mr. Darcy had decided to make it slowly trying not to tire themselves or the horses. The traveling would take them at least three days.

“There are a few good Inns on our way, so we shall not have problems with that.” He had assured her when he was discussing his plans with her and she had nodded pleased.

The departure day had finally arrived and she was not feeling euphoric.

“All done, ma’am. Will you need anything else, or may I call one of the servants to take the trunks to the ground floor?” Maggie’s voice interrupted her thoughts and with a faint smile she shook her head.

“No, Maggie, nothing else. Please, call him to help you. I shall meet my husband in the dining room.” Informed she, leaving the room.

Mr. Darcy was already waiting for her at the table, enjoying his first cup of coffee.

“Good morning, Mrs. Darcy. How was your night?” he asked her with a broad smile on his lips.

She smiled back, in a smaller version. “It was good, thank you.” she assured him.

He looked at her with a slight frown. “You do not look very happy. Is there a problem?”

“I would not call it a problem, Mr. Darcy.” Recognized she. “I cannot help feeling a little sad for leaving this place.”

“Why is that?” the frown on his forehead became deeper.

“We have been so happy these last few days I fear to change things. I am aware that does not make any sense, but it is how I feel.” Admitted she.

Mr. Darcy got up and closed the distance between them, and crouched next to her, taking her hand in his. “No matter where we are, as long as we are together, we will be happy, I promise you that.” He assured her, kissing the back of her hand.

“I know that, it is just a bad feeling. The last thing I want is to ruin what we have achieved here.” Confessed she.

“I feel the same way, my love, and trust me, that shall never happen.” He kissed her hand once more, before he kissed her forehead.

“Of course, you are right.” She put on her brightest smile and he returned to his place at the table.

They left right after breakfast. This time, Mr. Darcy traveled next to her the whole time, talking about all the things they would be able to do in Pemberley as well as in his house in London. The enthusiasm in his tone was quite contagious and her irrational fears soon were forgotten.

The journey the first day was quite pleasant and they stopped for the night, before sunset, in a very cozy two stories high inn. It was clearly a family business, handled with care and attention. You could smell fresh bread all over the ground floor and that was quite promising.

A very kind girl guided them to their room, and Elizabeth was finally able to freshen up a little.

“Would you like to go for a walk before dinner?” Mr. Darcy suggested after they settled down.

“Oh, yes, it would be fantastic to stretch my legs a little.” She accepted at once, turning to pick her shawl from the bed. It was a bit cold but fortunately it was not raining.

Mr. Darcy offered her his arm and soon they were following a trail through the woods near the inn.

“I have meant to ask you this for some time now, but I guess the moment has never been appropriate.” Mr. Darcy said at some point, during their walk, sounding a little concerned.

“What is it?” she asked him, tilting her head to look at him.

“You have not met my sister yet. She has been living with me ever since my father passed away. As you know, I share her custody with my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whom you already know.” He started explaining.

“Yes, of course.”

“Probably is not fair what I am about to ask you, since no newlyweds need another young woman living underneath her roof, but I would really love to keep her living with us, if you agree, of course.” He finally asked her.

Elizabeth almost sighed with relief. She had feared he would tell her something else. She had no problems accepting his sister in her new home, after all, she had lived with four sisters most her life. “Of course, I agree. I am sure we will get along well, like the sisters we now are.” She assured him with a big smile.

Mr. Darcy stopped and pulled her closer to him. “Thank you, Elizabeth, this means a lot to me.” He cradled her face in both his hands, before he leaned forward and gently kissed her lips.

“There is nothing to thank, Darcy. She is now part of my family and I am more than pleased to have her near me.” Said she, with a broad smile, feeling her heart jumping in her chest. The passion between them was still new and amazing and the slightest caress set her heart on a frenzy.

He kissed her once more, this time deepening the kiss, stealing her breath away.

“I love you, have I told you that today?” asked he, with a naughty smile on his face.

“Hmmm, not today, I do not recall it.” Replied she, tilting her head with a wicked smile.

“Oh, my shame. I promise it shall not happen again.”

She chuckled and caressed his cheek. “I love you too.”

They continued their walk for a little longer, before they decided it was time to return to the inn. The sun was starting to set on the horizon and it would not be sensible to be out in a strange forest at night.

When they reached the inn, the main room was full of people, ready for dinner. Fortunately, Mr. Darcy had rented a private dining room and they would be able to eat in peace, away from the roar produced by all the conversations taking place in the main room.

He guided her there and they were about to enter the private section when a man’s voice across the room surprised them.

“Darcy… old chap.” A man, around Mr. Darcy’s age, with blond hair and blue eyes, dressed in black, crossed the room to meet them.

“Sutherland. What a surprise.” Mr. Darcy said, in a cold tone.

It was evident to Elizabeth that the man approaching them was not a close friend, more likely an acquaintance he did not appreciate much.

“I know. You are the last person I thought I would find here.” The man said, standing close to the couple with a fake smile on his face.

“I could say the same. I thought you never left London.” Mr. Darcy replied in a curt tone.

“And I do not. There is no better place to be in, as the old city.” The man agreed. “But one of my aunts passed away last week and I had to come pay her my last respects.”

“Of course.”

“Will you not introduce me to the fair lady with you?” the man asked, finally noticing Elizabeth’s presence at Mr. Darcy’s side.

“Of course.” Mr. Darcy said, but his tone revealed he wished he could avoid it. “Elizabeth, meet Rufus Sutherland, a friend from Oxford. Rufus, she is my wife, Elizabeth. We got married a few weeks ago.”

“Oh… I did not hear about your marriage. Was it a rushed thing?” asked he, in a very impertinent tone, glancing at Elizabeth thoroughly.

“No, it was a very private celebration. We will throw a party later on, when we feel is the right moment.” Mr. Darcy retorted with a frown. He knew what the man was implying and he was not very pleased. “It was good to see you again, Sutherland, but our dinner waits for us. Have a pleasant night.” He bowed his head and they were about to head over to the private room when the man interrupted them again.

“May I join you? I hate eating alone.” He asked.

The man was clearly self-absorbed, unable to see his presence was not appreciated. Elizabeth looked at Mr. Darcy praying he would find a way to dismiss the man without being extremely rude.

“I am sorry to hear that, but as you must understand, we are still enjoying our honeymoon and we would prefer to be alone. I am sure you will find someone else to have dinner with.” Mr. Darcy explained and with a slight bow, he turned around and quickly guided her to the private room, closing the door behind them, before the man had any time to react to his words.

Elizabeth chuckled as she turned to look at Mr. Darcy, still standing by the door, as if to stop the obnoxious man from entering, in case he decided to insist.

“I am guessing he was not your best friend.” Said she, with a naughty smile.

Mr. Darcy let out a small laugh. “Not even close. Sutherland was always a parasite of the worst kind.” Once he was sure the man was not going to interrupt them anymore, he walked to where she was standing. “I had no intention of letting him ruin our night.”

“Thank you, that is very much appreciated.” She assured him.

He picked up both her hands and kissed them before he guided her to the table in the middle of the room.

A few minutes later, one of the waitresses walked in carrying a small tray with fresh bread, still hot and a small bowl with butter. “Good evening, Sir, ma’am. We have a stew with vegetables and grilled chicken for tonight’s dinner. What would you like?”

Mr. Darcy glanced at Elizabeth. “The stew would be nice.” She said, picking a loaf of bread and smearing the butter on it.

“Then stew it is. Would you please bring us a bottle of your best red wine?” Mr. Darcy ordered.

“Of course, Sir. Would you like anything else? My mother prepares a carrot cake that is quite delicious.” The girl offered.

“Yes, please, bring us some of it as well, thank you.”

The food was quite delicious and they spent the rest of the evening discussing Mr. Darcy’s plans for the next weeks.

Chapter Two

“After we’re settled in Pemberley, we could set some time to go visit your parents. I am sure you must miss them dearly, as well as your sisters.” He suggested.

Elizabeth nodded, but she was still hurt by her parents’ decision of not attending her marriage, especially, her father’s. She was aware he would do very little things against her mother’s will, but she had expected him to do it for that matter.

But that was now in the past, and she would have to accept it, like she had learned to accept her mother’s character with all her faults.

“Yes, of course. I especially miss my sister, Jane, but I am not sure she has returned from London. I have not received any message from her.” She replied.

“She probably has not yet received the letter you sent her. Mailing services up here are very slow.” Mr. Darcy explained, covering her hand with his.

“Yes, you are probably right, but I miss her terribly.”

“You can invite her to Pemberley as soon as we are established.”

“Thank you, that would be perfect, but I believe it would be better if I deal with one sister at a time.” Replied she, referring to his sister. “I need time to get to know Georgiana, before I add my own sister to the scene.”

“Yes, you are probably right.” He nodded.

The food arrived and they started to enjoy their meal. They were about to finish it when the inn’s owner came into the room.

“I’m very sorry to disturb you during your meal,” the man was clearly nervous and wriggled his hands continuously, “but this is a family business and thus I do not allow unmarried couples to stay together under my roof. One of my customers just told me that might be your situation and I am forced to ask you for proofs.” The man demanded, in a shaking voice.

Mr. Darcy’s face closed in a stern expression. “I understand your position, sir, but let me assure you, the lady with me is my wife. If you allow us to finish our meal, I shall show you our wedding certificate.” He announced in a very cold tone. “I am afraid you were a victim of a prank directed to me.”

The man sighed relieved. “Yes, sir, that would be perfect. Again, sorry for disturbing you. Let me know when you are done with dinner so that we can clear things.” The man accepted but still insisted.

“Of course.” Mr. Darcy nodded.

When the door closed behind him, Elizabeth turned to look at him. “I guess your friend was not very pleased when you refused to invite him to have dinner.” Said she, in an ironic tone.

“Yes, you could say that. It is the typical bad joke he would play.” Admitted he, clearly upset for having his word questioned that way.

“It is a good thing you carry our wedding certificate. I would hate being expelled from the inn at this hour.” Said she, with a scowl.

“I would never allow that to happen, my darling.” He sighed heavily. “This is a bit my fault. I should have announced our wedding in the newspapers, but I thought I could do that when we returned to Pemberley.”

“Please, do not let this ruin our night. You would be giving him undeserved power over us.” Asked she, with a pleading tone.

“You are right, of course, let us forget Sutherland and his bad jokes.”

She smiled and they returned to their meal, trying to put the unpleasant scene behind them. When they were done, Mr. Darcy went up to their room to pick the wedding certificate.

“I have ordered a hot bath for you, so Maggie should be arriving with it. Take your time. Meanwhile, I shall clear things with the innkeeper.” He suggested, as he grabbed the certificate from his bag.

“Thank you, that will be perfect.”

He closed the distance between them and cupped her face with his hands, resting his forehead on hers. “You are the only thing perfect in my life, Mrs. Darcy.” He teased her before he brushed her lips with his in a sweet, passionate kiss.

She chuckled and covered his hands with hers. “Thank you, Mr. Darcy, I feel the exact same way about you.”

He smiled and finally left the room. Only a couple of minutes later, Maggie entered the room with a couple of servants carrying all things necessary for her bath.

By the time Mr. Darcy returned to the room, she was already in bed, but still awake, reading a book at the soft light of a couple of candles.

“You will ruin your eyes, you know that, do you not?” he scolded her in a soft tone.

“I know… but the story is too good for me to wait for the morning. Especially, when I had nothing else to do.” Replied she, with a self-deprecating smile.

“You could have slept.”

“Yes, but it seems I have developed a problem with sleeping alone.” Admitted she, with a naughty smile.

Mr. Darcy started getting ready for bed, as they were talking. “Yes, I know exactly how you feel. I have been experiencing the same problem.” Explained he, from across the room, where he washed, before he approaches her.

The bed grunted underneath his weight as he crawled next to her. “Now I am here, so you will have something else to do.” Murmured he, as he leaned forward to steal a kiss from her lips.

Elizabeth wrapped her arms around his neck, with a naughty smile, and just moments later, they were lost in their own private paradise, where pleasure and bliss ruled.

The rest of the trip elapsed with no more particular occurrences. When they were almost reaching Pemberley, Mr. Darcy had the carriage stopping at the top of a small hill.

“I want you to have your first sight of Pemberley from this point.” Explained he, as he helped her out of the carriage. “You can have a perfect image of the house from here and I am looking forward to knowing what you think of it.”

He took her to the edge and presented her the scenery. It was amazing.

The house, much bigger than what she expected, laid on a huge field down the hill, surrounded by lovely gardens with flowers and bushes, and even a small labyrinth, designed with tall bushes at one of the sides. The house itself, had two stories, and huge French windows that opened up to small balconies and it looked very much like a small palace rather than a house. She was astounded. She had not been expecting a house like this one, in her mind she had built a similar house to the one they had left behind in Scarborough, so this was quite a surprise.

“Well, what do you think?” Mr. Darcy asked her, sliding an arm around her waist and pulling her closer to him.

“I am speechless…” she muttered.

“That is a new thing… I have never seen you speechless before.” he teased her, with a wide, proud smile.

She tapped his hand, protesting. “Pemberley is just… perfect. How can you bear to leave it?” she finally expressed her opinion.

“It is not easy, but sometimes, duty calls, and I have to attend the other properties I own.” Explained he, with a sigh. “Georgiana lives here almost all year round, she prefers it to the other houses.”

“I totally understand her, believe me.” Assured she, her eyes still locked on the beautiful estate displayed down the hill.

“The park around it, with its woods, belongs to the property, so you will have a lot to explore.” Informed he, smiling. “We can also ride our horses freely.”

“It is marvelous.” She sighed, pleased.

A few moments later, they were on their way to the house. Once there, the serfdom came out to receive them, starting with the butler and the housekeeper Mr. Darcy introduced to her as Mrs. Reynolds.

“We wanted to welcome you home, ma’am and offer you our congratulations on your marriage.” The plump, older woman, dressed in grey said with a welcoming smile.

“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds. It is very kind of you.” Elizabeth responded, feeling a little shy.

She had never been in charge of a house, and she was sure handling one this size would not be an easy thing. She would need all the help the housekeeper could provide her.

“Where is my sister, Mrs. Reynolds?” Mr. Darcy asked, with a slight frown.

“She went to visit Lady Catherine and Miss Anne with her governess, Mr. Darcy.” The woman replied, feeling a little uncomfortable. “She said she would not be long.”

“Lady Catherine? My sister went all the way to Rosings?” he almost barked the question.

“No, Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine moved to the Dower house a few days after your marriage. She told us she had discussed it with you, the need to keep Miss Georgiana company while you were at Scarborough.” The housekeeper explained, clearly feeling uncomfortable with Mr. Darcy’s reaction to the news.

Mr. Darcy pursed his lips and said nothing more on the subject. Elizabeth was sure the old woman had not consulted her nephew on her decision and she had a very bad feeling about that.

But that was not the moment, nor the place to discuss those things with her husband.

Elizabeth slid her arm on his. “She had no way to guess at what time we would arrive.”

The frown disappeared from his forehead and he smiled. “Yes, I guess you are right. I was just looking forward to introducing you to her.”

“We shall have plenty of time for that.” She assured him, smiling back. “Right now, I would die for a good cup of tea.”

It was past four in the afternoon and tea time was close. They had not stopped for lunch, eating on the carriage the bread and cheese they had bought in the last inn they had slept at.

“Of course, ma’am. It will only take us a few minutes to serve it in the drawing-room.” Mrs. Reynolds announced, motioning her to enter the house.

The serfdom was dismissed and Elizabeth followed the housekeeper into the drawing room, with Mr. Darcy right behind her.

“Is there anything in particular you would like to eat, ma’am?” the good woman asked, as Elizabeth took a seat on a couch, looking around thrilled.

“I am sure anything you have will be perfect.” Replied she, still smiling.

“Very well, ma’am. I shall get it right away.”

Elizabeth nodded, but her focus was on the elegant room she was in. Decorated in shades of beige and cream, with dark wood, it was quite beautiful.

“Do you like the room?” asked Mr. Darcy, taking a seat in front of her on an armchair.

“It is gorgeous.”

“It is my mother’s work, but you can change whatever you do not like. This is your new house now.” Offered he, smiling.

“I love it the way it is.”

Mrs. Reynolds returned accompanied with one maid, and soon she had displayed the tea and the food on the table between them. There were cucumber sandwiches, pastries, toasted bread, butter and jam.

“If you need anything else, please, ask, ma’am.” The woman said before she headed to the door.

“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds, I will.”

She served the tea for Mr. Darcy and herself and soon they were enjoying their tea.

“It is a pity Georgiana is not here, with us.” Mr. Darcy commented at some point.

His sister’s absence clearly, upset him.

“I am sure she thought she would have enough time.”

“Yes, I am sure you are right, but it still bothers me a little.” Admitted he, finishing his cup of tea. “I have not seen her in a while now, and I truly thought she would be here to receive us and finally meet you.”

“I am sure you are giving too much importance to her absence. She will be here soon and you will be able to introduce us.” Elizabeth tried to appease him, but she did understand his concern.

The girl’s absence was not a good sign for her and though she tried to shake that thought out of her mind, it was not very easy.

After the tea, Mr. Darcy took her in a quick tour around the house, showing her the main rooms. She asked him to show her first the library she had heard so much about and she almost started hopping when she saw it. The room was any reader’s paradise, with thousands of books all over the room.

For the reader’s comfort, there were a couple of sofas, a chaise longue and a desk with its chairs. It was amazing. The sunlight still enlightened the room and she was sure she would spend amazing moments in that room.

Mr. Darcy almost had to drag her out of the library to continue with the tour.

“I shall have a lot to explore. The house is bigger than I expected.” Admitted she, as he guided her to her new room.

“You shall have all your life for that, my love.” Assured he, opening the door to her bedroom.

She let out a small cry of ecstasy when she walked in. The room was incredibly beautiful, decorated in shades of oranges and yellows, with dark wood and a fabulous brown carpet on the floor. The canopy bed had its drapes made in an incredible terracotta silk chiffon. The whole room was amazing and she loved it.

“I love it.” Said she, with a broad smile.

“Do you think you can live happy here?” asked he, pleased with her reaction.

“Of course, I can. There is no doubt in my mind.”

He showed her the big dressing room that connected with his own room and with the hallway. “This way, the servants can prepare your bath without disturbing you.” He explained.

All of their clothes were already hanging in the wardrobes of the room and Elizabeth was able to see the huge bathtub stored in the corner of the room.

“It is perfect, I really love it.”

“That makes me very happy, my love.” He picked up one of her hands and kissed its palm. “Would you like to take a bath before dinner?” asked he, with a smile.

“Oh, yes that would be perfect, thank you.” Nodded she, going back to her room to ask Maggie to assist her with the bath.

“I shall leave you to it, my darling. Dinner will be in an hour and Georgiana should be here by then.” Said he, still upset with his sister’s absence.

“I am sure that will be so. Please, do not scold her for such littleness.” Pleaded she, with a faint smile. The last thing she wanted was for Mr. Darcy to give her a bad start with her sister in law.

“I should, but I believe I understand the reason behind your request, so I shall not mention her absence.” He acquiesced, kissing the back of her hand before he left the room.

Elizabeth pulled the bell’s cord to call Maggie and walked to the window, thrilled to see it opened to the front part of the house and its gorgeous gardens.

A gentle knock on the door announced the arrival of her maid and soon she was ordering her bath and getting rid of her dusty clothes. It was impossible not to get some of the road’s dust on you when you travelled such long distances.

She chose her simplest evening gown for dinner, a dark blue chiffon dress, determined not to outshine Georgiana in any way. She wanted to become a good friend for the girl, and she was willing to do all in her power to achieve that goal.

Chapter Three

When she was ready, she went down the stairs, directly to the drawing room, where she expected to find Mr. Darcy already waiting, and so he was, handsome in his dark blue jacket and cream pants.

“Good evening, Mrs. Darcy. Did you find all to your pleasure?” he asked her, smiling.

“Good evening, Mr. Darcy. I could not be more pleased.” Assured she, looking around, in search for Georgiana.

“My sister arrived only a few minutes ago, so it will take a few minutes to ready herself for dinner.” Explained he, noticing her search.

“That will give us time to enjoy an aperitif before dinner.” Suggested she, smiling.

“Indeed, it will. What may I get you?”

Elizabeth took a seat in one of the room’s sofas. “A glass of white wine would be perfect, Mr. Darcy.”

“The butler brought us champagne, to celebrate our wedding. Would you like that?” suggested he, with a smile as he approached a small table with several bottles on it, including a small bucket with ice where the bottle of champagne waited to be opened.

“That would be excellent.” She clapped her hands happy and Mr. Darcy, proceeded to open the bottle. He was handing Elizabeth her cup when the door opened up and a beautiful girl entered the room. With fair hair, and a petite figure, Georgiana Darcy did not resemble much her brother.

“Ah, Georgiana, here you are.” Mr. Darcy exclaimed when he saw her come in.

“Brother, please forgive me for not being here when you arrived this afternoon. Aunt Catherine asked for my help in her intents to cheer poor Anne up.” Explained she, in a very cold tone.

Elizabeth was sure she could sense scold in her tone, though it was beyond her imagination why the girl would be scolding her brother.

Mr. Darcy deposited the cups on the table and crossed the room to greet his sister appropriately, with a tight hug and a kiss on the girl’s cheek. “I was very sorry you could not travel to Rosings for my wedding, but we are here now, and I would like you to meet my wife, Elizabeth.” He guided her to where Elizabeth was now standing. “Elizabeth, darling, she is my beloved sister, Georgiana.”

Elizabeth took a step closer to the girl to greet her, just to freeze on the spot, when the girl took a step back. The cold tone of her following words showed perfectly, she resented Elizabeth’s presence there.

“It is a pleasure to know you, Mrs. Darcy.”

“You can call me Elizabeth, Georgiana. After all, we are now sisters.” Said Elizabeth, trying to alleviate the heavy tension installed in the room, in vain.

The girl nodded and turned to look at her brother. “You will excuse me for not having dinner with you, but Aunt Catherine insisted that I had dinner there, and I saw no reason to oppose her desires.”

Mr. Darcy frowned, obviously wishing to protest, but Elizabeth’s hand on his arm prevented him from exteriorizing his nuisance. “Will you at least, join us at the table? I have not seen you in a while and I would like to talk to you.”

“It will have to be tomorrow, brother. You must understand I am feeling quite tired tonight.” She excused herself, and without waiting for an answer, she left the room.

Something was wrong, Elizabeth could feel it and Mr. Darcy’s expression told her this was not a typical behaviour of his sister and she wondered what could possibly be behind all this.

“Something is wrong.” Mr. Darcy’s words confirmed her suspicion. “Georgiana is not like this. I am sure her attitude is a result of my aunt’s influence.”

“Did your aunt show any rejection to our marriage when you announced it?” Elizabeth asked, trying to find an explanation.

Mr. Darcy sighed, drinking the contents of his cup in a single gulp. “She was not pleased, that is for sure. She had held hopes of me marrying my cousin, in order to inherit Rosings when the poor girl finally died due to her various illnesses.” He admitted.

“Perhaps, she has shown her nuisance to Georgiana and that has influenced her.” Elizabeth suggested, realizing she was in for more trouble than she had anticipated, as she took a sip of her champagne.

“Yes, I am starting to believe that. I must pay a visit to my dear aunt in the morrow.” Said he, upset.

“Let us not allow this to ruin our night. I am sure you will be able to solve whatever problem there is.” She asked him, with a faint smile.

“Of course not. I do not want the memories of your first night at Pemberley, tainted by the occurrences of my dear aunt.” He assured her, picking her hand and kissing its palm, in a sweet caress.

The butler announced dinner was ready and the couple headed to the dining room, trying to recover the mood they had prior to the arrival of Georgiana.

The rest of the night was not as bad as its beginning and they were able to enjoy a succulent meal, and an exquisite wine.

That night, Mr. Darcy chose to go up to her room with her and play Maggie’s role, helping Elizabeth to disrobe and prepare herself to bed, interspersing every chore with sweet kisses and caresses. Somehow, they both needed to spend all the time they could together.

The following morning, Darcy got up early and decided to pay a visit to his aunt. She had never paid him a visit uninvited, and of course, she had never settled in one of his houses without asking for his permission before.

Something was definitely wrong and he needed to know what it was.

He returned to his own bedroom where his valet was already waiting for him with his bath. “Thank you, Jones. Could you please warn Jameson I’ll need a horse as soon as I am done? I need to pay a visit to my aunt.”

“Of course, Mr. Darcy. Will you have breakfast before you leave?” the older man asked him.

“No, I do not wish to waste any more time. I am sure my aunt will invite me to her table.”

“Very well, sir.”

A few minutes later, Darcy was riding his horse on his way to Dower’s house.

Lady Catherine’s butler opened the door for him and guided him to the dining room where his aunt was already having breakfast.

“Darcy, I was expecting you yesterday.” She scolded him, in a cold tone.

“I arrived yesterday, aunt. I had a lot of things to attend to.” He explained in a soft tone, trying to remain calm despite her tone.

“Have breakfast with me.” Ordered she, pointing a chair next to her.

He kissed her cheek and took a seat where she asked him to.

“How are you, Darcy? How was your ‘honeymoon’?” Asked she, sprinkling the last word with obvious scorn.

“I am fine, aunt, thank you for asking. My honeymoon was very good.” He poured a cup of coffee for himself.

She snorted, still emphasizing her displeasure. “You should have listened to me when I told you not to marry that simple commoner.”

“I have no idea why you are still bringing up this subject, aunt. I am married now, and Elizabeth is everything but simple.” He replied, keeping his temper under control.

“But now things will be a lot more complicated.” She scolded him still.

“What things?” he asked, tired of her little game. “Why do you not tell me what is on your mind, aunt?”

“You will have to find a way to dissolve that marriage.” She ordered him.

Startled, he raised his head to face his aunt. “Have you lost your mind, aunt?” he asked her in a stern tone.

“I have never been saner in my life.” She assured him, in a cold tone.

“Why would I ever even consider dissolving my marriage to the woman I love?” Asked he, furious with the intrusion in his private life.

“I told you it was mandatory for you to marry your cousin Anne. I shall not live forever and neither will she with her weak health. And if that happens while she is still single all will be lost.” She declared once more, repeating a speech Darcy had heard a thousand times.

“And I told you I would never marry under such circumstances.” Retorted he. “You should have chosen another man for the job.”

“You are the only man I could ever trust my daughter to.” Insisted she.

“Then, I am afraid she will never get married. I am happily married and I intend to continue that way.” Assured he.

“No, you shall not, at least not with that unimportant woman.” Lady Catherine pounded her fist on the table. “I am sure she will accept to be your mistress, when you are already married to Anne. After all, your money is the only thing important for her.”

Darcy got up, furious. “I shall not allow you to address my wife this way. I am afraid you have lost your mind completely and I will not continue hearing your mumbling.”

“Sit down, Darcy. I am not done yet.” The old woman yelled at him.

“But I am.”

“Anne is expecting a child.” She dropped the words like a bomb.

Darcy was so surprised it took him a few moments to react to them. How was that even possible? According to her mother, his cousin was on the brink of death.

“Then, all you have to do is to marry her with the father of her child.”

“I am glad to see you agree with me, because that is exactly what I have been talking about.” Said she, with a triumphal smile on her face.

“Then…” started he, when comprehension hit him like a brick wall. “Oh, no… you will not do this.”

“Of course, I will. As far as I am concerned you are that child’s father and I shall make sure everybody knows it.” Threatened she, with a determined look on her face.

“You shall bring scandal to the family name.” To say he was astounded with his aunt’s behaviour was an understatement.

This had to be a nightmare, this could not be happening

“No, Anne took care of that. I shall only use that scandal to get what I want: for you to marry that stupid girl and ensure the future of the family.” Replied she, very calmly.

“Aunt Catherine, I am already married. Even if I decided to dissolve my marriage, something that shall never happen, the whole process lasts more than two years, and you know that.” He tried to get some sense into the old woman’s head.

“There are ways to solve that kind of problem, and you know that.” Insisted she, determined to have her way.

“Make Anne marry the man that got her pregnant and everything will be alright.”

“Never. She will marry you.” Insisted she. “And besides, she has told me you are the father.”

“That is a terrible lie, and you know that perfectly well.” Shouted he, losing his temper, in the face of such lie.

“Yes, but believe me everybody else will believe me.” She made a pause, as if to allow him to assimilate her words. “Your marriage can be nullified. Or even better, I can make it disappear as if it had never happened.”

Darcy’s astonishment was so great, he was not able to utter a single word.

“Give that Bennet girl enough money to last her a lifetime, in exchange for her to disappear from your life and I shall take care of everything.” Ordered she, convinced he would do what she wanted.

“Never, do you hear me? I shall never do that.”

The firmness of his tone told more to Lady Catherine then he thought. Being a very intelligent woman, she backed up, for the time being.

“Very well. If that is what you want, I guess I will have to accept. Please, understand I had to try.” Said she, in a conciliatory tone.

“Who is the baby’s father?” he asked, after a few moments of silence.

“The stubborn girl will not tell me. But, I am sure I will be able to convince her to tell me.”

“I am sure you will.” He let out a heavy sigh, not sure he could believe in his aunt’s apparent surrender.

That was not like her, at all. She had been after him to marry Anne ever since the girl turned fourteen years old.

“Are you sure I cannot convince you to change your mind?” asked she, in a soft tone.

“Yes, I am sure.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Please, do not include my sister in your schemes. She has been acting weird since I returned home.”

“I promise you I shall do as you ask me to.”

“May I visit Anne? Perhaps I can convince her to tell me who is the baby’s father.”

“Yes, of course you can. Try to get some common sense into her stubborn head.”, picking up her cup and taking a sip from it, dismissing him.

Sighing, Darcy left the room and headed to the stairs, assuming he would find Anne in one of the bedrooms.

“Darcy, I’m here.” A whisper to his right, revealed the frail body of his cousin, hidden behind a column, clearly eavesdropping on her mother’s conversation.

She shushed him and guided him out of the house. She only spoke when they were a few yards away from the house.

“You must be furious with me and this whole situation.” Murmured she, with her cheeks bright red.

“Yes, I am, but not with you, Anne.” He assured her, taking her hand in his and kissing the back. “Though your mother said she was leaving things as they are, I know she will insist on her plans.” He had not trusted his aunt’s sudden truce.

She hardly changed her mind about anything and she surely would not change her mind about having me marrying Anne.

“You have no idea how sorry I am things turned out this way.” She tilted her head to look at him, making sure he realized she meant every word she was saying.

“Then, why are you allowing your mother to manipulate things like this?” asked he, his tone a bit colder than he intended.

“I have never been able to face my mother, Darcy, you know that.” She looked away ashamed of her own weakness.

“She is threatening to ruin my marriage, Anne.” He scolded her.

“I am aware of that, but I really do not have a say in that, Darcy.”

“How can you say that? All you have to say is the truth, and all of your mother’s machinations will turn into dust.” Insisted he.

She shook her head vigorously. “No, I cannot do that.”

“Why not? Is the baby’s father a married man?” asked he, trying not to lose his patience.

“No, of course not. But he would never be able to face my mother and she would certainly ruin his life if she ever knew who he is.” She assured him, showing so much determination it surprised Darcy.

Anne was a very peaceful person, she would avoid conflict at all cost, but he could tell she would go to hell just to protect the man she was obviously in love with.

“And what does this man say about all this?” he was not able to hide the disdain from his tone.

She let out a heavy sigh. “I told him the father was not him.” A tear rolled down her cheek.

“What?” shouted Darcy, astounded.

Anne took a couple of steps away from him before she turned around to look at him. “Do you not understand? He is a good man. He would have insisted on doing the right thing, no matter what the costs would be for him.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes, clearly trying to keep her tears at bay. “You see, I seduced him. We had been in love for so long, though we knew our love had no future. After one of my asthma crisis, I convinced him to make love to me. I dreaded the idea of dying without knowing how it felt being in the arms of the man I loved.” Explained she.

Darcy let out a sigh, understanding his cousin’s position. She had lived all her life with a death sentence hanging over her head.

“Why do you not run away with him? You are over twenty-one. No one can stop you.” Inquired him, his mind working at full speed, trying to find a way out of the situation his aunt had put them all.

“I would never do such a thing. My mother would take away my allowance and she would make sure he would not make a decent life again.”

Her words confirmed his suspicions. Anne had fallen for her doctor, a very handsome man, and as far as he knew a much respected one, a highlander baron’s youngest son.

“Where is he now?” asked he, curious.

“When we discovered I was with child and I told him he was not the father, he was so hurt, so furious he decided to go visit his family.” A small cry escaped her lips. “I have not seen him ever since.” This time she was not able to contain her tears, and Darcy took her in his arms, comforting her.

“We will find a way out of this situation, I assure you.” Murmured he, running his hand down her long hair.

Her sobs became louder and it took her several minutes until she finally stopped crying.

“Thank you for listening to me. I really needed this. I have been so lonely ever since he left.” Confessed she.

“Then, tell him the truth.”

She immediately took a few steps away from him. “No, I shall never do a thing like that. I shall not be responsible for ruining his life.”

“Very well, but I am afraid I shall do the same with my wife.” He warned her, in a soft tone. “I will not allow her to ruin our lives, of that you can be sure of.”

“Of course. I am ready to face the consequences of my acts.” Said she, determined.

“Anne, have you thought about that child’s future?” asked he, with a frown. “If you do not get married, the child will be a bastard and rejected by society.”

By the look on her face, Darcy was able to tell she had not thought of that. She had been so determined to protect the man she loved, she had not considered her child’s future.

“I am sure mother will find someone willing to marry me.” replied she, though her tone showed no certainty at all.

“Let us hope that is true.”

They returned to the house and Darcy bid his cousin goodbye.

There was so much on Darcy’s mind, he did not feel ready to return to the house, so he decided to go for a long ride to clear his mind and search for the best solution to this messed up situation.

He was sure the good doctor was the man in his cousin’s life. He had been the only man that had spent enough time with her to make her fall in love with him.

He had to find the man and convince him of her lie, so that he would return and make things right.

He would take care of his aunt at the time, forcing her to accept the man and allow them to make their own lives. It would not be easy, but he had no other option.

Chapter Four

The morning sun greeted Elizabeth still in bed, but already alone. She remembered Mr. Darcy’s words of visiting his aunt and she hoped that visit had positive results, but her instincts told her it would not be that easy.

She got up and Maggie helped her get dressed, before she went downstairs for breakfast.

Georgiana was still at the table when she arrived and with a deep breath, Elizabeth put on her brightest smile as she walked into the room and greeted her sister in law.

“Good morning, Georgiana, how are you this splendid morning?” asked she, taking a seat at the table.

The girl barely looked at her and her tone did not invite further conversation. “Fine.”

“I am glad to hear that.” Elizabeth served herself a cup of the rich tea tempting her with its scent and picked a raisin muffin from a tray. “Your brother has told me so much of you I feel I already know you.” Added she, still smiling.

“I am afraid I cannot say the same, since he had not mentioned you at all, prior to the wedding.” There was resentment in the girl’s tone that was for sure.

“We had only met for a few weeks when we decided to get married.” Elizabeth tried to explain, even though she was clear it was a lame excuse.

“And that is just one of the things I am not able to understand. My brother is the least impulsive person I know.” The accusation was clear in her tone.

“People usually change, when powerful feelings are involved.” Assured she.

The girl only snorted, before she got up. “If you will excuse me, I have to attend to my pianoforte practice.”

Elizabeth nodded, watching the girl leave the room as she considered asking her to assist her practice, but the deep frown on the girl’s face discouraged her.

She finished her breakfast and she was about to leave the dining room when Mrs. Reynolds joined her.

“Good morning, ma’am. I thought you might like to see the menus for the rest of the week with me.” Said she, standing next to the table.

“Of course, Mrs. Reynolds, I would love to.” she immediately accepted. “Would you like to do it here, or in the kitchen?”

“In the kitchen would be a little easier, ma’am. You would be able to see the ingredients.” The woman suggested, with a shy smile.

“Then, lead the way, please.” Elizabeth said, motioning the woman to take her there. “Where do you get the groceries you usually need?” asked she, curious.

“We produce most of them in the small garden, in the back of the house as well as in the greenhouse, and the rest comes from the farms nearby, and the grocery store in the nearest village.” The woman explained, with visible pride.

“Oh that is perfect. My mother has a small garden too in our estate, and it surely makes things easier.”

“Yes it does, ma’am.”

They reached the kitchen, a room a lot more comfortable than all the kitchens Elizabeth had seen so far, quite big and spacious, with a lot of natural light coming through the high windows in three of the four walls of the room.

“Oh, this is an amazing kitchen.” She commented, walking around the room, watching the small group of maids already working on lunch’s preparation.

“Yes, it is ma’am. Mr. Darcy remodelled the old kitchen when he inherited, and gave us this fantastic place to work in.” The cook said, with a wide smile as she put a few balls of dough in the stone oven.

“No wonder the bread is so fresh.” Elizabeth smiled, pleased.

“Yes, ma’am, we bake bread three times a day.” The woman explained, with a wide smile.

Mrs. Reynolds invited her to take a seat at the kitchen table and showed her a small notebook where she had the meals already written down. “This is what we had decided for the week, ma’am, but we can change it all, if you see fit.” Informed she.

“Let us see.” She picked the notebook up in her hands and took a look at it.

Mrs. Reynolds was very thorough and she had everything annotated in it, from how many bread loafs they had to bake to which hen to sacrifice for which meal.

“This is a very complete menu, Mrs. Reynolds.” She praised the woman. “And except for turnips, that I simply cannot make myself eat, the menu looks delicious.”

The woman chuckled as she nodded. “I shall make sure the cook does not add many to her recipe. Mr. Darcy loves them.” She explained.

“Then, by all means we need to give them all to him.” She replied with an amused scowl in her face.

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Would you show me the rest of this area of the house, Mrs. Reynolds?” asked she, standing up and looking around.

“Of course, ma’am.”

And so it began their small tour through the cupboard, the laundry room and the servant’s rooms. Unlike most houses, all the facilities were renewed and looked very good.

Pleased, Elizabeth decided to go for a walk in the gardens, when she was done with Mrs. Reynolds. The sun was still shining up in the sky and she needed the distraction her walks always provided her.

She still had not seen Mr. Darcy that morning and his absence was starting to worry her a little. Could it be possible that he was still at his aunt’s?

Lunch time arrived and for Elizabeth’s relief Mr. Darcy showed up. The expression on his face though was so stern, she immediately tensed up. Something was wrong, very wrong and she wanted to find out what, but the presence of Georgiana and her governess, prevented her from talking.

Lunch was a very tense meal, with Elizabeth and the governess trying to sustain all the conversation at the table, not an easy task in the face of the mutism of the other two.

Lunch was finally over and Elizabeth followed Mr. Darcy into his studio.

“I missed you this morning at breakfast.” she told him, closing the door behind her back.

“I decided to go visit my aunt as early as possible.” Informed he, taking a seat behind his desk and rubbing his face with his hand.

“What happened?” Elizabeth took a seat in front of the desk.

“My cousin Anne was not feeling alright, so I made her company until she got better. Her doctor had to travel north to visit his family and she misses his medicines.” Explained he.

“And is she alright now?” Elizabeth asked, concerned.

“Yes, I believe she is.” He sighed. “I had breakfast with my aunt, so I was able to talk to her. She told me she had moved into the Dower house to be closer to me, in case Anne’s health deteriorated. According to her, she could not expect me to move to Rosings so soon after our wedding.”

“Did she mention Georgiana and her behaviour?” Elizabeth asked, with a slight frown.

Somehow, she was having trouble believing that version of Lady Catherine’s sudden move to the Dower house.

“No, not at all. And when I brought up the subject, she said she had absolutely no idea of what I was talking about. I insisted and she sustained her version.”

“Well, then it will be up to us to find out what is going on in Georgiana’s mind.” Elizabeth concluded.

“Yes, you are right. I will talk to her this afternoon and see if she confides in me.”

“I am sure she will and we shall be able to get to the bottom of this.”

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