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The Trouble with Mr. Darcy tds-5

Sharon Lathan

  The Trouble with Mr. Darcy

  ( The Darcy Saga - 5 )

  Sharon Lathan

  In the fifth in Sharon Lathan's bestselling series, George Wickham returns to Hertfordshire bent on creating trouble, and Elizabeth and her young son are thrown into danger. Knowing that Wickham has nothing left to lose, Darcy and Fitzwilliam rush to the rescue in a race against time.

  This lushly romantic story takes a turn for the swashbuckling when Mr. Darcy has to confront the villainous Wickham and his own demons at the same time... devoted as he is, what battles within will Mr. Darcy have to face?

  Sharon Lathan

  The Trouble with Mr. Darcy

  This novel is dedicated to my children who are a constant delight and inspiration.

  My daughter, Emily ~ You have grown into a beautiful, Christian woman whom I am proud to say is my friend. My prayer is for your Mr. Darcy to joyfully enhance your life as your father has mine.

  My son, Kyle ~ You are my baby but now a man on the cusp of entering the world away from your parents, yet I have no fears because I know God holds you in the palm of His hand.

  Cast of Characters

  Fitzwilliam Darcy

  Elizabeth Darcy

  Alexander Darcy: born November 27, 1817

  Michael Darcy: born September 14, 1819

  Georgiana Darcy

  Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam

  Lady Simone Fitzwilliam: Colonel Fitzwilliam’s wife; sons Oliver, the Earl of Fotherby, Harry, and Hugh Pomeroy

  Earl and Countess of Matlock: Darcy’s uncle and aunt; residence Rivallain in Matlock, Derbyshire

  Dr. George Darcy: Darcy’s uncle

  Baron and Baroness of Oeggl: Darcy’s Aunt Mary and husband

  Charles and Jane Bingley: residence Hasberry Hall in Derbyshire; son Ethan

  Joshua and Mary Daniels: residence London; daughters Deborah and Claudia

  Katherine (Kitty) Bennet

  Major General Randall Artois: Kitty Bennet’s fiancé

  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: residence Longbourn in Hertfordshire

  George and Lydia Wickham: reside in Devon

  Dr. Raul and Anne Penaflor: residence Rosings Park in Kent; daughter Margaret

  Lady Catherine de Bourgh

  Marchioness of Warrow:Dr. Darcy’s aunt and Darcy’s great-aunt

  Sebastian Butler: heir to the earldom of Essenton; Lady Warrow’s grandson

  Earl and Countess of Blaisdale: the former Caroline Bingley and her husband; son John

  Stephen and Amelia Lathrop: residence Stonecrest Hall in Leicestershire; daughter Fiona

  Gerald and Harriet Vernor: residence Sanburl Hall in Derbyshire; sons Stuart and Spencer

  Albert and Marilyn Hughes: residence Rymas Park in Derbyshire; son Christopher, daughter AbigailGeorge and Alison Fitzherbert: residence Brashinharm in Derbyshire; sons Andrew and Neville

  Rory and Julia Sitwell: residence Reniswahl Hall in Derbyshire; four sons

  Clifton and Chloe Drury: residence Locknell Hall in Derbyshire; son Clive

  William and Charlotte Collins: residence Hunsford in Kent; daughters Rachel and Leah

  Mrs. Reynolds: Pemberley housekeeper

  Mr. Taylor: Pemberley butler

  Mr. Keith: Mr. Darcy’s steward

  Samuel Oliver: Mr. Darcy’s valet

  Marguerite Oliver: Mrs. Darcy’s maid

  Mrs. Annesley: Miss Darcy’s companion

  Mrs. Smyth: Darcy House housekeeper

  Mr. Travers: Darcy House butler

  Mrs. Hanford and Miss Lisa: nannies to Darcy children


  After a Time

  Elizabeth Darcy walked through the bedchamber doorway and released a heavy sigh as she threw her traveling gloves onto the chair.

  “Finally got the baby to sleep. He nursed intermittently, but I do not think hunger was the issue. He definitely does not travel well! I have never seen him so upset, and that is saying something.” She plopped onto the edge of the large bed and gazed around the room as she removed her pelisse. “I know I have said it a few times already, but I am amazed that this house has never been sold. You would think the family weary of maintaining a manor so far away for so many years. What is the point?”

  This entire speech, including the unanswered question, was directed toward her husband. Darcy lay spanning the whole width of the generous bed, his long, lean body supine with booted legs dangling over the edge by Lizzy’s knees and hands loosely clasped in the empty air above his head. By all appearances he looked soundly asleep, but Lizzy was not deceived. The simple facts that his mouth was not parted and breathing not deep were a sure giveaway. Therefore, she continued to ramble.

  “Whatever the reasoning, it is fortunate for us. Much more comfortable than an inn or trying to cramp into Longbourn.” She sighed again, folded the sable-accented woolen jacket, and absently placed it onto the mattress beside her as her eyes swept over the furnishings and wide windows. “In truth, I will miss this place if they ever sell it. So many memories.” Her voice grew silent. A happy smile adorned her lips as one hand caressed Darcy’s nearest thigh. “Yes, many memories. Remember the time… Oh!”

  “No walks down the lane of Netherfield remembrances as yet, my dear. Put your mouth to better use and kiss me.” He had grabbed her elbow and tugged until she lay alongside him, bouncing slightly from the impact.

  “William, the door…”

  But he turned toward her and engaged her lips before the rejoinder was complete. Nothing improper, they were both fully clothed mind you, but a vigorous kiss ensued for a blissful few minutes.

  “Sorry to interrupt the exhibition,” declared a voice that sounded anything but remorseful.

  Darcy reflexively released his wife and jerked upward, only then registering the voice and tone of latent laughter. “Uncle! Are you unaware of knocking on doors?”

  George’s brows rose, the feigned expression of surprise not hiding his amusement. “On open doors? What an astounding concept! I must have missed that lesson in my youth.” He shrugged. “I only disrupted the romantic interlude to inform you that dinner shall soon be served. Since Mrs. Darcy whined about her hunger for the past hour, feeding two and all that, and I distinctly heard your stomach growl between the infant wails, I thought you both would be interested in the news.”

  Lizzy’s giggle and Darcy’s sharp retort were cut off by a sudden piercing scream echoing down the hallway, shut door and stout walls not greatly muffling their son’s healthy lungs. Lizzy sighed yet again and closed her eyes for a momentary skyward supplication for strength. Darcy halted her rising, however, leaning for a kiss to her forehead.

  “Go and eat, Elizabeth. I will see to it. I doubt it is sustenance he is wishing for, so perhaps I can handle it.”

  “Thank you! I am famished.”

  “Just save a bit for me. Uncle, will you escort my wife to the dining room?”

  “With honor.”

  Briskly and bravely entering the nursery chamber, the doting father was greeted by lusty yells, soothing vocalizations, and the faint clunk of wooden blocks being banged together. The former two issued forth respectively from the mouths of his six-month-old son, diminutive face angrily screwed-up and beet red, and the nanny, Mrs. Hanford, who stood near the window swaying and bouncing as she crooned to no avail. The latter noise, barely audible amid the cries, came from the serious, blue-eyed boy sitting on the carpet surrounded by a pile of building blocks in dozens of shapes and sizes.

  The toddler lifted his adorable face, azure gaze serenely greeting the tall man, his piping voice calm. “Papa, baby sad.”

  “Yes, Alexander. I gathered as much. Thank you.”

Darcy smiled at his firstborn, stooped to ruffle the wild curls that resisted any form of tamed combing, and turned to the nanny.

  “You need not fret, Mr. Darcy. I can attend to him while you dine. Nothing we haven’t all seen before!” she concluded, hugging the irate infant and bestowing a loving kiss to his sweaty forehead.

  “I do not doubt your competence, Mrs. Hanford, you know that. But Mrs. Darcy will dine easier if I am here with him. Come here, little demon, let your father deal with your tantrum. There, there now. Is it really all that bad? Carriage rides not for you? Shall we add that to the list of items that disturb? My poor baby boy! So particular you are, my lamb.”

  He chuckled as he sat onto the sofa, the baby not even mildly amused, and winked at Alexander who observed the proceedings with quiet interest while still banging blocks. Darcy laid the thrashing, belligerent infant belly down over his knees and proceeded to bounce and pat the diapered bottom. It took awhile, but experience gleaned narrowed this down to the best avenue to hush and pacify.

  Alexander rose, tossed the blocks aside, and grabbed one lumpy leg of a tattered, stuffed hound dog. He walked to his father’s side, adding soft pats to the firmer ones calming the infant who was now intermittently gasping while sucking on a plump thumb. Leveling his small face with the smaller one, bright azure eyes engaging the teary cobalt ones of his brother, he added phrases in a soothing voice mimicking Darcy. “Go sleep, baby. Hush, hush now. Papa here. No more tears, sweet baby. Be happy.”

  Darcy smiled, watching Alexander bestow soft kisses to the wet cheeks as angry eyes glazed with serenity and sleepiness. For several minutes after regular breathing was reached, Darcy and Alexander continued to administer pats at a gradually lessening pace. Experience had also taught them not to trust the newest Darcy’s complacency too swiftly, a fact they were recently reminded of when his mother’s declaration of slumber was proven erroneous.

  Michael James Anton Darcy was born on the blustery afternoon of September 14, 1819, after a mere seven hours of labor. His birth, a good month earlier than Dr. Darcy’s soonest estimate, caught everyone by surprise, especially his father who galloped frenziedly up the drive and barreled through the bedchamber door an hour and a half before the blessed event, as no one, not even Lizzy, had anticipated the imminent delivery that morning when he blithely rode off to attend to estate business. The uneventful pregnancy and easy birth of the delicate five pound, premature baby was in no way an indication of future complacency.

  Darcy teased that their second son was simply fashioned after his mother. Lizzy could not dispute these realities too vigorously, as the stories of her infant years were gleefully related by both parents to an amused spouse. She had searched through the journals, but alas, the writings of Anne and James Darcy conclusively revealed a child Fitzwilliam who was even-tempered and tranquil. George Darcy, who delighted in teasing his serious nephew, could not disagree.

  Her counter argument was to blame it on their holiday at Matlock Bath, neither her or Darcy doubting Michael was conceived within that three-day span of crazed lovemaking. After an extended business trip to London, Darcy returned to Pemberley and an ill wife. It was his idea for a recuperative visit to the healing mineral waters. Frenzied intimacy amid the untamed atmospheric conditions was a bonus; the humorous jests of personality traits of the unborn being influenced were not taken seriously until after Michael was born.

  Alexander was a happy baby and contented toddler. He rarely cried and tantrums were exceedingly unusual, but spontaneous hilarity and uncontained laughter were infrequent as well. He naturally dwelt in a state of calm neutrality and quiet humor, the stoic twenty-eight-month-old so like his father it was uncanny.

  Michael, conversely, was perpetually at opposite ends of the mood spectrum. When not in a rage over some perceived slight, he was bursting with mirth. Thankfully, his sprightliness was infectious and all it took was witnessing one episode of wiggling gaiety to forget any moments of pique.

  At six months of age, his devoted parents and loving brother had long since fallen under his spell and learned ways to avoid or remedy the tantrums. Waiting until absolutely certain Michael was asleep, Darcy transferred the snoring babe to his shoulder with steady competence. Alexander climbed onto the settee, settling against the welcoming warmth of his father’s side with faithful stuffed companion secure on his lap. Darcy embraced his firstborn, his strong arm hugging tight, and called to Mrs. Hanford.

  “Mrs. Hanford, could you please inform the kitchen to bring our dinner here. I will dine with Alexander.” Once alone, he looked at his son and asked, “What do you say? Shall we build a tower to the sky once we have dined?”

  In true Alexander fashion, he thought it over carefully before replying. “Nanny say it bath time after dinner.”

  “I believe I can overrule Nanny’s orders just this once.” He winked at the staid face, Alexander assimilating the words before nodding and smiling happily.

  “Aunt Giana here, Papa?”

  “Not yet, my sweet. Soon she will be here. I know she misses you and will hurry to Netherfield as soon as it is possible.”

  “Gramma and Grampa here? Aunt Kitty?”

  “We will see all of them tomorrow. Longbourn is only three miles away, but it is late. Michael was in no mood for extended visitations. Tonight it shall just be us, but rest assured your grandparents are anxious to see you.”

  Alexander nodded at that statement of fact, reaching to pat his sleeping brother’s back. Yet the tiny crease between his brows did not disappear.

  “Do not worry, my son. Everyone will be coming for your Aunt Kitty’s wedding. You will be reacquainted with dozens of relatives and meeting new ones. Far more than your young mind will be able to absorb.” He paused, dwelling momentarily on the intelligent gaze of his son and shook his head as he continued, “On second thought, I would be unwise to underestimate your memory. You have not seen Aunt Giana in months and ask about her every day! Come, help me tuck your brother into bed and then we can get started on that tower while waiting for our food.”

  Netherfield Hall, the finest country manor in all of Hertfordshire, had remained greatly unoccupied over the intervening years since Mr. Bingley first let it over four years prior. The question as to why the owners continued to do so was a mystery that none of the current lessees knew.

  On the occasion of Mary’s nuptials two years ago, the Darcys had resided in the local inn; a modest establishment that served well if humbly. One other time they had stayed at Longbourn. That was one of the longest weeks in Darcy’s life and he stubbornly, and not too kindly, refused to do so ever again! Space for their family was not an issue with only Kitty still at home, but seven days with Mrs. Bennet in close proximity was intolerable. An additional distress was being cramped into a bed not designed for two grown people in a bedchamber surrounded by thin walls that made the necessary joy of loving his wife impossible.

  Thankfully, Netherfield was not rented to another party this March of 1820, so they were again able to dwell in comfort. This was a convenience for the Darcys, but also for the other visitors who would be staying there for the wedding. Once again this building belonging to strangers would play host to a gathering of folks intimately involved with the Bennets.

  There was never a question of Darcy and Elizabeth occupying the bedchamber that Darcy had inhabited since his first sojourn at Netherfield. The memories surrounding this suite of rooms were special for a host of reasons, but also because of the view of rolling green pastures and a small lake. A nearby chamber served as a nursery, the Darcys insisting on their children staying close. Mrs. Hanford and her daughter, Lisa, who was now employed as an assistant nanny, slept in a bed located behind a privacy screen. This was essential due to the fact that Mr. Darcy nightly crept into the room his boys occupied to check on them.

  The need to ensure their contented rest and security was an urge he could not deny, thus it was no surprise when, much later that night, he ignored the post-lovemaking lang
uor that screamed for his body to succumb to satiated sleep. Instead, he kissed his dreaming wife, untangled his limbs from hers, and slipped quietly from their bed.

  Soft snores reached Darcy’s ears as he padded lightly to the bed where Alexander lay curled around Dog. Four other stuffed animals lay near his body. Darcy moved the gibbon gifted by “Uncle Goj” during Alexander’s second Christmas so he could sit beside the toddler. Alexander slept as Darcy did: with lips parted as dreams wove through a submerged consciousness. He knew from experience that he could grant dozens of kisses and caresses without Alexander flinching. In fact, he slept so deeply and lengthily that already, at not quite two-and-a-half, Alexander was eschewing the need for a long daily nap.

  As the babyish profile and body matured, he weekly grew to mirror his father. There was a great deal of infantile fat here and there, but he seemed to grow taller by the hour. There was a masculine cast to the youngster that disallowed any doubt as to his sex and promised a future figure as powerful as the man who sired him. The squared jawline had a tendency to clench when considering a puzzling toy or dilemma; the thick eyebrows straight on a mildly ridged brow with the left arching in humor or contemplation. His nose was long and prominent to Darcy’s dismay but Lizzy’s delight, his forehead wide and high, and he had a full lower lip accenting a firm mouth. It truly was only the coiled curls that prevented him being a duplicate of his father.

  Darcy bent and kissed the ruddy cheek, whispered words of devotion, and tousled the magnetic springy tresses before rising with a contented smile. He turned to the cradle sheltering Michael.

  The infant’s plump fists curled beside his head, chest rising steadily with each breath, and skin almost translucent in the dim moonlight. Both of the boys had inherited Darcy’s fair complexion, Alexander even beginning to display a faint scattering of freckles over his nose and shoulders as his father did. Michael, however, aside from the blue eyes that seem to dominate the Darcy clan, resembled neither of them overly. His once delicate, premature body was now stout and strong. His facial features grew daily bolder with a wide nose, almond-shaped eyes framed by thick, arching brows, high cheekbones, and plump lips outlining a generous mouth. His brown hair, a trait both parents possessed, was dark, sparse, and waved gently.