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In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

Sharon Lathan




  Copyright

  Copyright © 2010 by Sharon Lathan

  Cover and internal design © 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

  Cover photos © Getty Images/Benjamin Bathurst (1784-1809) (who disappeared mysteriously between Berlin and Hamburg while travelling with dispatches from Vienna), Bridgeman Art Library/Court Ball at the Hofburg, 1900 (w/c)

  Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

  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, Sourcebooks, Inc.

  The characters 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.

  Poems quoted by Darcy in Chapter 9:

  “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe, 1599

  “Your Smile Stops the Minutes” by Stephen Lathan, 1986

  Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

  P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

  (630) 961-3900

  FAX: (630) 961-2168

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Lathan, Sharon.

  In the arms of Mr. Darcy : Pride and prejudice continues / Sharon Lathan.

  p. cm.

  1. Darcy, Fitzwilliam (Fictitious character)--Fiction. 2. Bennet, Elizabeth (Fictitious character)--Fiction. 3. Married people--Fiction. 4. Marriage--Fiction. 5. England--Social life and customs--19th century--Fiction. 6. Domestic fiction. I. Austen, Jane, 1775-1817. Pride and prejudice. II. Title. III. Title: In the arms of Mister Darcy.

  PS3612.A869I55 2010

  813’.6--dc22

  2010018226

  This novel is dedicated to my husband, Steve. For over twenty-four years this amazing man has proven to me what romance and true love are. The poem that Mr. Darcy writes and recites to Elizabeth while dancing on Twelfth Night was actually written for me by my husband, at the time my fiancé, and he still quotes it from memory often while gazing into my eyes, just as he did all those years ago. Because of him, my tale of happily-ever-after is possible. Honey, I love you forever! You truly are my soulmate, my blood and bone.

  Table of Contents

  Front Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Cast of Characters

  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

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Back Cover

  Cast of Characters

  Fitzwilliam Darcy: Master of Pemberley in Derbyshire: 29 years of age, born November 10, 1787; married Elizabeth Bennet on November 28, 1816

  Elizabeth Darcy: Mistress of Pemberley: 22 years of age, born May 28, 1795

  Alexander Darcy: Heir to Pemberley; born November 27, 1817

  Georgiana Darcy: 18 years of age; companion is Mrs. Annesley

  Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam: 33 years of age; cousin and dear friend to Mr. Darcy; second son of Lord and Lady Matlock; regiment stationed in London

  Lord Matlock: the Earl of Matlock: Darcy’s Uncle Malcolm, brother to Lady Anne Darcy; ancestral estate is Rivallain in Matlock, Derbyshire

  Lady Matlock: the Countess of Matlock: Darcy’s Aunt Madeline, wife to Lord Matlock

  Jonathan Fitzwilliam: Heir to the Matlock earldom, eldest Fitzwilliam son; wife is Priscilla

  Lady Annabella Montgomery: sister of Richard and Jonathan Fitzwilliam

  Charles Bingley: Longtime friend of Mr. Darcy; residence Hasberry Hall, Derbyshire; married Jane Bennet on November 28, 1816

  Jane Bingley: elder sister of Elizabeth and eldest Bennet daughter; wife of Mr. Bingley

  Caroline Bingley: sister of Charles Bingley

  Louisa Hurst: married sister of Charles Bingley; husband is Mr. Arbus Hurst; residence London

  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: Elizabeth’s parents; reside at Longbourn in Hertfordshire with two middle daughters, Mary and Kitty

  Mary Bennet: Elizabeth’s sister; middle Bennet daughter

  Joshua Daniels: betrothed to Mary Bennet; son and partner of Mr. Darcy’s London solicitor, Andrew Daniels

  Katherine (Kitty) Bennet: Elizabeth’s sister; fourth Bennet daughter

  Lydia Wickham: Elizabeth’s sister; youngest Bennet daughter; married to Lieutenant George Wickham, stationed in Newcastle

  Edward and Violet Gardiner: uncle and aunt of Elizabeth; reside in Cheapside, London

  Dr. George Darcy: Mr. Darcy’s uncle; brother to James Darcy; resides at Pemberley

  Lady Simone Fotherby: widowed Marchioness of Fotherby, Buckinghamshire

  Marchioness of Warrow: Darcy’s great-aunt; sister to his grandfather

  Sebastian Butler: grandson to Lady Warrow; future Earl of Essenton

  Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Mr. Darcy’s aunt; sister to Lady Anne Darcy; residence Rosings Park, Kent

  Anne de Bourgh: daughter of Lady Catherine; Mr. Darcy’s cousin

  Dr. Raul Penaflor Aleman de Vigo: betrothed to Miss de Bourgh

  Stephen Lathrop: Cambridge friend of Mr. Darcy; residence is Stonecrest Hall in Leicestershire; wife is Amelia

  Henry Vernor: family friend of the Darcys; residence is Sanburl Hall near Lambton, Derbyshire; wife is Mary, daughter is Bertha

  Gerald Vernor: son of Henry Vernor; childhood friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Harriet; residence is Sanburl Hall

  Albert Hughes: childhood friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Marilyn; residence is Rymas Park near Baslow

  Rory Sitwell: Derbyshire resident and Cambridge friend of Mr. Darcy; wife is Julia; residence is Reniswahl Hall near Staveley

  George and Alison Fitzherbert: Derbyshire residents and friends; residence is Brashinharm near Barlow

  Clifton and Chloe Drury: Derbyshire residents and friends; residence is Locknell Hall near Derby

  Charlotte Collins: Longtime friend of Elizabeth’s; married to Rev. William Collins; resides at Hunsford, rectory of Rosings Park in Kent

  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

  Phillips, Watson, Tillson, Georges, Rothchilde: Pemberley footmen

  Mr. Clark: Pemberley head groundskeeper

  Mr. Thurber: Pemberley head groomsman

  Mrs. Langton: Pemberley cook

  Mr. Anders: Pemberley head coachman

  Mr. Burr: Pemberley gamekeeper

  Mr. Holmes: falconer

  Mrs. Smyth: Darcy House housekeeper

  Mr. Travers: Darcy House butler

  Reverend Bertram: Rector of Pemberley Chapel

  Mrs. Hanford: Nanny to Darcy firstborn

  Chapter One

  RELATIVE INVASION

  Meryton, located roughly one hundred fifty miles to the south of Pemberley in Derbyshire and nestled in the pastoral valleys of Hertfordshire, was experiencing an atyp
ical cold spell for this winter of 1817. Snow had not yet fallen and it was warmer than the northern counties, but beyond a doubt, winter had descended with a vengeance not seen in years. Whatever the facts, weather or otherwise, none of the inhabitants of the modest manor known as Longbourn took note. All energies were either focused on preparations for the trip to Pemberley or avoiding said preparations.

  Mrs. Bennet had been in a barely controlled dither since her springtime trip to Darcy House in London. She was further incited by Kitty’s gushing descriptions of Pemberley, after her daughter’s return from visiting there in August. Despite her incessant declarations to anyone listening of the great wealth that her second daughter married into, the woman of humble means had no true concept of such a life. The subdued opulence of Darcy House had amazed her, and based on the picture painted by Kitty, Pemberley promised to be vastly superior. Frankly, she was overwhelmed at the concept and her infamous nerves were on high alert—for justifiable reasons this time.

  Between Mary’s wedding planning, the Christmas vacation arrangements, and his wife’s histrionics, Mr. Bennet found himself retreating to the solitude of his study more and more to evade the frenzy. He merely wanted to see his favored daughter and new grandson, enjoy the pleasure of good company, and lose himself in the library. Inconsequentials, such as fashionable clothing and haircuts, were of no interest.

  Transportation to Derbyshire had not actually occurred to him as an issue. His plan was simply to utilize the landau, and if five persons proved a bit snug, all better to maintain warmth! The arrival of the luxurious Darcy coach two days before their scheduled departure, with an obviously carefully worded letter from Lizzy, explaining its purpose with her natural humor, brought a smile to his face. The rationale was of no real importance to the practical gentleman. He instantly recognized the advantage and was pleased, not only for the reasons delineated by his darling daughter, but also for the comfort afforded his old bones. It never crossed his mind to be offended. Besides, Mrs. Bennet’s theatrics would have effectively smothered any sensations of insult had they come to mind.

  “Such a fine, fine carriage it is!” she gushed. “What a marvelous gentleman he is to be sure! Married our Lizzy when surely no one else would likely have her, always far too independent and sharp-tongued for her own good. Truly a wondrous gentleman, so generous and kind, is he not Mr. Daniels?”

  Mr. Daniels’s agreeing reply, the hundredth or so such offered since departing Longbourn, was lost in the continuing rambles of his future mother-in-law. Mary’s gentle smile and soft eyes met his, giving the flummoxed young man the inner strength necessary to deal with the situation. His weekly visits to Mary since her departure from London had given him the opportunity to become acquainted with his soon-to-be family. As Darcy before him, Mr. Daniels was baffled at how the demure, proper young woman who was his fiancée had arisen from such a family. Mr. Bennet was quieter than his wife, but with a clever wit and penetrating gaze not possessed by his middle daughter. In all ways, Mary was an enigma in the Bennet clan, far more than Lizzy ever had been.

  Joshua Daniels counted himself a fortunate man indeed, the antics of the Bennets notwithstanding. His betrothed was a steady young lady, prim, stoic, and fairly humorless; but intelligent, kind, and warm. Since these were character traits identical to Mr. Daniels, the two were well matched. Both approached their union with logic and sensibleness, emotion only a dim part of the decision initially. That there was a physical attraction was obvious to them both, but to say it was a raging passion would be erroneous. Their innocent and balanced natures did not lend well to consideration of such things. However, as the long weeks of their engagement unfolded, both began to sense the stirrings of something stronger; emotions that simmered far under the skin as they gradually took tender liberties with chaste kisses and hand touching. This excursion to Pemberley, as painful as it was for the decorous solicitor to reside as a guest in a client’s home, would be an eye-opener. The extended period of time the couple would spend together, often inadvertently alone as people came and went about the enormous manor, as well as witnessing the blatant if constrained demonstrations of affection between their hosts, would enlighten them to the greater riches possibly uncovered in a passionate marriage. Without giving too much away, it is safe to conclude that Mary and Joshua would have a fulfilling marriage in all ways.

  This, of course, was in the future. For now, they all persevered for the ride. It rained and snowed intermittently as they traveled, but the sturdily built coach, with thick walls, window shades, rugs, and compartments for heated bricks, made for a fairly comfortable journey. By the afternoon of the second day, as they rumbled through Matlock, the clouds broke and sleety rains ceased. The sun peeked through the gaps, offering no warmth of any significance, but casting eye-blinding tendrils of illumination over the glittering snow blanketing the fields.

  It was Kitty who recognized the hamlet of Lambton, familiar from afternoon shopping trips with Georgiana. “Oh! This is Lambton, Papa. It means we are very close! Just a few miles and across the river is Pemberley!”

  Lizzy had instructed Mr. Anders to approach from the north rather than the slightly shorter southern avenue veering from Beeley. She would never forget her initial view of Pemberley, as seen from the bridge crossing the River Derwent: the mansion sitting proudly amid the gardens and fountains, ringed to the rear by vast forests, the main façade a breathtaking vision of Darcy heritage and prestige.

  The coachman slowed on the bridge, allowing the occupants to gaze lingeringly as well as permitting word of their arrival to reach Mr. Darcy from the unseen sentry he knew was waiting. By the time the carriage drove under the massive stone and vine swathed archway and halted before the portico, the Bennets and Mr. Daniels were silent with awe.

  Darcy stood under the entry, commanding and formal, with Dr. George Darcy to his left, wearing a broad, welcoming grin. Georgiana, hair regally arranged and dressed in a lovely gown of pale blue velvet, stood to his right.

  Mary and Kitty enthusiastically greeted Georgiana, Darcy’s welcoming speech lost in the flurry.

  “Mrs. Bennet, how utterly delightful it is to see you again.” George approached the spellbound woman, bowing with a roguish flair and offering his arm. “If I may be so bold? I am quite certain there is a lovely young lady lurking in the foyer with an incredibly cute baby in her arms. I had the honor of delivering this infant you know, first to lay eyes on his beauty, as it were. Of course, the real work was accomplished by your daughter, William having some input here and there…”

  His voice trailed off as he led the bemused woman into the painted foyer. Darcy looked at Mr. Bennet, smiling faintly at the silently laughing older gentleman. “Mr. Daniels, welcome to Pemberley. Please, gentlemen, let us retire to the parlor where it is warm and refreshments are waiting. I should warn you, Mr. Daniels,” he said with a chuckle as the three entered the house, “it is likely you shall discover attention from your fiancée slowly forthcoming for a day or two until female conversation is exhausted. Word of wisdom from an experienced husband given free of charge.”

  Mr. Bennet laughed aloud, Mr. Daniels blushing.

  Lizzy stood at the top of the grand staircase, dressed in a gorgeous gown of brown chenille, a huge smile lighting her entire being, and Alexander nestled in her arms. The proud smile Darcy could in no way prevent lit his face. The two sisters, escorted by Georgiana, were mounting the stairs toward Lizzy. Mrs. Bennet, on the arm of Dr. Darcy, was captivated in open-mouthed scrutiny of the ceiling and carvings abundant in the enormous two-story entryway, momentarily forgetting both daughter and grandson.

  The waiting duo disappeared in a mass of flowing skirts and reaching arms, the chatter and exclamations of marvel rising to the rafters. Lizzy’s merry laughter lifted above the fray until Mrs. Bennet caught sight of her daughter among the general splendor and her shrill outcry drowned all.

  “Oh, Lizzy! How adorable he is! Let me hold my grandson! Hello sweet baby, I am your
grandmamma. Well done Lizzy, birthing a male as I recommended. The heir to Pemberley to please Mr. Darcy. And such a healthy boy he is, yes indeed. Someday all this will be yours, you lucky little dear.”

  Lizzy cringed, glancing into Darcy’s pained visage at the bottom of the stairs. “Papa,” she spoke firmly to her father, cutting through her mother’s proclamations. “Come meet your grandson.”

  Mr. Bennet had anticipated this moment with moderate enthusiasm. He was happy for Lizzy and her husband, but he had not expected to be unduly moved by a tiny person with presumably no personality or ability to interact.

  What a shock it was to the elderly gentleman when his eyes locked with Alexander’s! The seventeen-day-old infant was awake and alert. Grandfather and grandson connected gazes, and then Alexander stretched out one wobbly hand as he wiggled and released the newborn version of a giggle.

  Mr. Bennet was in love, utterly and completely head over heels. His eyes misted and he gruffly cleared his throat while extending the tip of an index finger to stroke the soft fist. “Handsome chap, Lizzy. Quite attentive and serious, like his father, yet with a hint of humor, like you. Fine addition to the family, I daresay.”

  Lizzy was beaming, her immeasurable pride in her son now increased by the obvious effect he had on her relatives. She laid her hand on her father’s arm, drawing his gaze to her, and lifting to kiss his cheek. “Come inside the parlor, Papa, and relax with a brandy, then you can hold him.”

  Darcy had observed the unfolding drama with widely divergent emotions. Like his wife, his pride in their son was infinite. He truly considered Alexander the most perfect baby in the entire world and was, therefore, not the least bit surprised at the instantaneous affection. The negative was the epiphany, foolishly not deliberated upon prior, that he would quite probably have to physically evict his child from someone’s arms if he wished to hold him! It was not a pleasant idea and the scowl that threatened to overtake his countenance was fought with all the power at his disposal. Plainly put, Darcy was ragingly jealous! An unattractive emotion to be sure, but there it was.

  He entered the parlor last, Lizzy already placing Alexander into her father’s arms. Mrs. Bennet had moved away without a backward glance and was strolling about the room, examining with a keen, covetous eye. George was positioned near the three younger ladies, charming unabashedly. Mr. Daniels stood apart by the window in an uncomfortable pose familiar to the anti-social Darcy. He approached the poor man with a smile.