Fitzwilliam darcy poet, p.1

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Poet, page 1

 

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Poet
 


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Fitzwilliam Darcy, Poet


  Fitzwilliam Darcy, Poet

  A Pride & Prejudice Variation

  Jennifer Joy

  "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Poet: A Pride & Prejudice Variation"

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems — except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews — without permission in writing from its publisher, Jennifer Joy.

  This is a work of fiction. The characters, locations, and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Published by Jennifer Joy

  Facebook: Jennifer Joy

  Twitter: @JenJoywrites

  Email: contact@jenniferjoywrites.com

  Sign up for my Historical Romance New Release Newsletter for the latest news about my books and additional scenes!

  Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Joy

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-944795-25-2

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Epilogue

  Impertinent Minx

  Nonpareil

  Thank You!

  About the Author

  Other Books by Jennifer Joy

  Prologue

  Summer, 1801

  Fitzwilliam Darcy patted his waistcoat pocket, smiling and imagining Isabella’s reaction to his token of affection — no, “affection” was too cold to describe the ardor burning in his heart. Darcy loved her.

  Where was she?

  He roamed the grounds at Wyndham Hall, an estate as familiar to Darcy as his own home at neighboring Pemberley. Phillip Vaughan, Isabella’s elder brother, had been Darcy’s constant childhood companion. They would ride over the countryside while Isabella perfected a new tune on the harp or embroidered an intricate flower of satin ribbon and pearls.

  They were adults now. Along with Darcy, Vaughan would leave for Cambridge that year — thus the gathering Mrs. Vaughan had arranged for them. Darcy did not wish to celebrate. Every day apart from Isabella would be torture.

  Twilight cast shadows over the gardens. The first stars emerging in the clear sky winked at Darcy, encouraging him to continue his search before darkness obscured her from his vision.

  Would he find Isabella in the garden? Would she like the necklace he had helped the jeweler design — a tasteful gold chain with tiny diamonds that would dance around her neck?

  She was not by the fountain.

  He ventured farther away, following the neatly trimmed hedges to the rose garden. The heady perfume of the full blooms filled Darcy’s senses with wistful dreams of a life with the young lady who inspired his heart. He had written her a sonnet, his first love poem, and his limbs quivered in nervous uncertainty. He did not trust anyone with his innermost expressions, much less the emotions he poured out and recorded on paper. But he trusted Isabella.

  Darcy had not meant to fall for her. They had been neighbors their whole lives; their parents were old friends. Darcy could not recall how or when it had happened. Isabella was like a painting he had seen every day, only to have the light filter across the frame in such a manner that awakened him to a deeper appreciation for the artistry. One day Isabella had been Vaughan’s bothersome younger sister; the next she was a captivating young woman.

  Isabella was more beautiful than any work of art Darcy had seen or was likely to see. Her hair was the color of the wheat fields shimmering under the rays of the sun. Her eyes were never the same color, sometimes gray, often gold, and occasionally green. Her manners were perfect, her air graceful. She was exquisite.

  She was not in the rose garden.

  Leaving the hedges, Darcy continued down the path to the Grecian folly. Shielded by a copse of trees on one side with a stunning view of the lake on the other, the folly had become their secret meeting place over the past few months. It was where they had shared their first kiss.

  Spurred forward by amorous memories, Darcy slowed when he heard voices ahead.

  Two figures stood under the domed roof. Isabella was partially covered by one of the Greek columns, but the gentleman invading their meeting place was fully visible. Lord Conway.

  Darcy’s blood heated. He had little respect for Lord Conway. Seeing the man standing where he had last embraced Isabella transformed Darcy’s dislike into outright contempt. Conway used his title and influence for his own selfish gain, with no thought for those affected by the consequences of his dishonesty.

  The clouds shifted, and a beam of the setting sun glinted off a shiny object in Isabella’s hand — a sparkling red object. Rubies. Jewelry. Darcy’s disgust intensified. Was Conway so desperate to win her affection, he resorted to expensive gifts?

  Darcy did not see more than a glimpse before her hand disappeared from his view behind the column. She must be returning Conway’s gift — and well she should! Isabella would never encourage the attentions of another when she had promised her heart to Darcy only the week before. She would not be swayed by rubies.

  Taking comfort in his superior taste — Isabella preferred diamonds — Darcy continued down the path.

  Before he was close enough to make himself discreetly heard, Lord Conway bowed and turned, clipping Darcy on the shoulder as he sped down the path toward the house. His lordship must not have received the reply he expected.

  Darcy’s chest burst with pride for his Isabella. She would not betray him for another. Titles and presents would not sway her loyalty.

  Hopping up the stair into the small Grecian temple, Darcy joined her.

  Isabella greeted him with a mischievous glint in her eye. She said, “I suppose you saw Lord Conway. He is seeking a wife and seems to think I shall fill the role nicely. He did not bother to ask me what I thought about him. He would not have liked my full answer had he bothered to listen to it.”

  Darcy took her hands in his. They were cold. “And what do you think about him?” he asked, warming her fingers between his.

  She tilted her chin upward, tempting Darcy with her plump lips. “I could never love another man as I love you.”

  He lifted her hand to his lips. There was no lovelier woman in the world.

  Her eyelashes lowered, fluttering over her cheeks. “I am decided, Darcy, but my father has already entered into negotiations. He is too easily influenced by Lord Conway’s fortune and title. Even my mother considers it an enormous compliment to me to be made an offer by a peer so soon after making my debut into society.”

  “He is twenty years your senior!” countered Darcy.

  Isabella freed her hands, stepping closer and fingering the lapels of his coat. “You do not need to convince me. I find him repu
lsive.”

  “Do you wish for me to speak with your father?” It was a bold move, but Darcy would do it.

  She shook her head. “That would not do. You have yet to reach your majority and until you inherit, you have little to bargain with other than the promise of the fortune and properties you will eventually come into. Hardly persuasive when an earl in possession of his inheritance and unaccustomed to refusal offers for your daughter.”

  She was right, blast it all. Darcy would not reach his majority for four more years — an eternity when others contended for the hand of the very lady he had determined to marry.

  Isabella smiled at him. “I will show myself so indifferent, his lordship will soon lose interest. Do not trouble yourself, only I pray you remember me when all of your friends are chasing after skirts at Cambridge.”

  “I could never forget you.”

  “Good. Then we agree, and the matter is settled. Now, let us join my mother’s guests for dinner before we are missed and eyebrows start raising.”

  They walked to the house, a touch closer than decorum permitted, Isabella departing from his side to refresh herself before returning to the dinner party assembling in the drawing room.

  Only then did he remember the token was still in his pocket. He would have liked to see her wear it at dinner, to know it was his gift — his token of devotion she wore.

  Darcy would have preferred to wait for her in the entrance hall, but the butler was diligent in seeing to his duties. He led Darcy to the drawing room where Darcy had no option but to make the rounds as was expected of him.

  Vaughan clapped him on the back several times, but since he said nothing of import, Darcy credited his odd display with excitement for the morrow when they would make their way to Cambridge. Unlike himself, Vaughan looked forward to attending university.

  Wickham was there as well, charming the family’s guests with his lively comments and amiable manners. He always was a favorite, and between his connections to the Darcy family and his own charisma, Wickham made himself a welcome inclusion to any social gathering.

  The only gentleman with whom Darcy did not attempt to converse beyond the barest greeting was Lord Conway.

  Isabella returned to the room just before dinner was announced, and Vaughan clumsily stepped into Darcy’s path, preventing him from reaching her side before Lord Conway.

  “I am sorry, Darcy. Really, I am,” Vaughan mumbled.

  Darcy glared at him, offering his arm to one of the few ladies without an escort to dinner. Vaughan’s apology seemed overly dramatic for the incident it was.

  Attending to his duties effectively, Darcy did not see the glint of diamonds and rubies clipped in Isabella’s hair until he sat down. He blinked hard, but they did not disappear. They filled his vision until all he could see was red.

  His stomach twisted.

  He looked to Isabella for an explanation, but she did not — would not — look at him. She was, however, full of smiles for the earl sitting beside her. The fool who had given her a token of fickle affection. A token she had accepted.

  Darcy now understood Vaughan.

  Isabella had lied to him.

  Darcy groaned. Before he knew what he was about, he had risen from the table. “I apologize. I am suddenly taken with an unbearable headache.”

  If anyone attempted to stop him, Darcy did not hear it. Ears humming, vision blurred, he made his way out of the dining room to the entrance hall where a servant ran ahead of him … hopefully to have his horse readied. Darcy could not bear to spend another minute at Wyndham Hall.

  “Darcy! It is not what you think,” Isabella said, rushing around to step in front of him.

  He stopped, his limbs stiff and his voice hard when he spoke. “You accepted his gift. Why would you take something from a gentleman if you did not mean to encourage his affection?”

  Darcy watched Isabella widen her cunning eyes in an attempt to look innocent, but he saw her differently now. He saw the deceitful disguise of a manipulative female. She had lied to him. His heart felt numb, dead.

  “It is you I love.” She pulled a piece of paper Darcy recognized all too well out of the bodice of her dress. “See? I carry your poem with me always. It is my dearest treasure.”

  How quickly deceit turned love to revulsion. “I wish you would burn it,” he growled, stepping around her.

  Isabella called out after him until her father silenced her.

  Darcy did not turn around. Nor did he wait for the stable boy to bring his mare to him. Darcy met them halfway to the stables.

  Taking the reins and flinging his leg over Rhea’s side, his loyal mare responded beautifully, taking off at a gallop that pulled tears out of the corners of Darcy’s eyes. They raced home to Pemberley. It was a blessing his father had chosen that evening to take Georgiana to a traveling circus in the village. Darcy could grieve in peace until the morning, for he refused to mourn Isabella a moment longer than she deserved.

  Rhea seemed to know her master was out of sorts. However, the old girl could not keep up such a pace so long as she once could, so when Wyndham Hall was well behind them, Darcy eased her to a walk.

  Patting her neck, Darcy said, “You and my little sister are the only females I will ever trust.”

  Rhea pulled against the reins, flattening her ears and complaining with loud grunts.

  Darcy chuckled. “You were not done running yet, were you? Very well, if you will put up with me, I will let you have your way.”

  Loosening his hold on the reins, Darcy leaned forward in his saddle, ready for what was to come.

  Rhea did not disappoint. She flew down the road, doing exactly what she had indicated she would do. There was no deception in her. No mixed messages or cunning manipulations. When Rhea was cross, she made her displeasure known. When she was happy, she whinnied and swished her tail from side to side. It did Darcy good to indulge her. She was safe.

  Darcy would return the necklace to the jeweler’s. He had no use for it.

  Too bad the only honest female in Derbyshire — quite possibly in all of England, or the world — was a horse.

  Chapter 1

  Ten years later in a shire far away from Pemberley…

  Elizabeth Bennet’s mother rarely dared to enter the sanctuary of Mr. Bennet’s book room. Elizabeth could recall only two such occasions in all of her twenty years, and each incident had convinced her mother of the futility of intruding her husband’s lair.

  Today was special.

  “Mr. Bennet! There is a cart outside our house!” she exclaimed, steadying herself against the edge of the desk where he sat contentedly smoking a pipe.

  He lowered his book and peeked over his spectacles at her. With a wink at Elizabeth, he replied, “A cart, you say? How extraordinary. I have only counted five out of my window since rising this morning. How fortunate for me that I may now bring the total up to six with your shrewd observation.”

  Mother huffed.

  Truth be told, Elizabeth felt her patience running thin as well. Father loved nothing more than to tease Mother; and Mother had a way of encouraging Father’s wit at the sacrifice of the action she wished for him to make.

  “There is a very large crate in the cart,” Mother said, puffing a dislodged clump of fluffy hair out of her eyes with a hearty breath.

  Father removed his spectacles, folding them and placing them carefully on top of the book he had been reading. “Ah, I see,” he said, pushing his chair back as if he made to rise and confounding Mother when he did not immediately march out of the house to see why the cart with the large crate was currently stopped in their circular drive.

  Donning his spectacles once again, Father said, “No doubt they are lost and will continue to Meryton with no help from us.” With a cheeky grin, he flipped his book open and pretended to resume reading.

  “Mr. Bennet! Why do you insist on misunderstanding me? You must go out and see if the crate is for us, of course.”

  “Why did you not say so f
rom the start, my dear? Although it is dreadfully wet out of doors.” He looked out of the rain-streaked window, continuing with mock cheer, “But if I catch my death of a cold, then you will take comfort that it was done in the pursuit of the contents of a large crate on a cart stopped in our drive.”

  Mother did not take kindly to hints of Father’s demise, his estate being entailed to a distant cousin they had not met and who she was convinced would toss them out into the hedgerows as soon as he inherited.

  Their usual banter continued, and while Father’s retorts were clever and oftentimes humorous, Elizabeth did not laugh.

  She looked behind her to the parlor where her two youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, pressed their noses against the window. They produced such a fog on the glass it was a miracle they could see anything at all. They commented on every motion of the cart driver, shoving each other for a more advantageous position when neither willingly yielded her post.

  Mary, between Elizabeth and Kitty in age and having inherited all the seriousness her younger sisters lacked, continued rehearsing the tune she had been playing with meticulous care and determined enthusiasm (to the detriment of its rhythm and the pianoforte’s ivory keys.) She lived to display her talents … if only she could ascertain what they were.

  Elizabeth admired Mary’s persistence and prayed she would settle on a quieter accomplishment before they all lost their hearing.

 
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