Excerpt — Awkward Conversations in a Carriage

Here is another excerpt from my most recent work in progress, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue — currently in final editing and hopefully to be released soon!  Enjoy!

Elizabeth enjoyed the passing scenery from the carriage window, but Mr. Darcy, seated opposite her, was making her uncomfortable. Often when she happened to glance his way, she noticed his gaze on her.
After a while, Elizabeth could not bear the silence between them and engaged Mr. Darcy in some innocuous conversation about the weather and the state of the roads; then their dialogue faltered. Still, Mr. Darcy persisted in giving her heated looks from under the brim of his hat. Elizabeth felt herself grow warm and uncomfortable. What did he mean by watching her so? She refused to be intimidated! The thought made her smile.
“You find something amusing?” Mr. Darcy asked.
She supposed a version of the truth would do. “I was reflecting that you have a way of making things happen.” Elizabeth replied, careful to keep her tone distant and neutral.
He arched a brow quizzically. She explained: “You wished to leave Rosings Park, so we did. You wished to take us to Pemberley, so we are on our way.”
A crease formed between his eyebrows. “Is this a bad quality?” He inquired. Naturally he was too intelligent not to notice the potential criticism in her observation.
“Not in the main, no.” Elizabeth responded. “I would imagine it is a desirable quality for many. However, some people in your position might be tempted to bend others to their will.”
Both his eyebrows rose. “Is this flaw to be laid at my feet as well?” Was it possible he was hurt by her implication? No, he could not possibly care so much for her opinion.
“I do not know you well enough to say.”
Mr. Darcy covered his mouth and coughed. “You overwhelm me with your flattery.” When he removed his hand, a smile curved the corners of his mouth.
“Do you require my flattery?” She asked archly. “Others might fulfill that role more ably than I.” She kept her tone from being overly friendly; it was far too easy to be drawn into an easy banter with him.
“I do not require it, but I would like to believe I have earned your admiration at least in some ways.” His smile had disappeared. Was he in earnest? Did he really desire her good opinion? Why? No, most likely this was simply empty chatter, a little meaningless flirtation to pass the time.
She could play that game as well. “My admiration? Of what use is it to you?” She asked with a cool smile.
He paused for a long moment, and she thought he might not answer. “I do not believe it is very liberally bestowed and therefore all the more worth the earning.”
Elizabeth tilted her head to the side and regarded Mr. Darcy quizzically. Did he truly believe his words or was he only seeking to flatter her? No, I cannot afford to believe he cares for my opinion.
“Or, am I mistaken?” Mr. Darcy’s voice recalled her to the conversation.
“No. I suppose there are few people I think well of and even fewer I could be said to admire.” She conceded, casting her gaze down at her hands. But then she reflected on the statement; how arrogant it made her sound!
“It is wise not to form judgments too quickly.” Mr. Darcy’s voice had a rough edge she could not identify. “But I will not importune you with questions about where I stand in your opinion. Hopefully this trip will help improve me in your estimation.”
Elizabeth’s head shot up, but—for once—Mr. Darcy’s gaze was directed out the window at the passing scenery. His expression was shuttered and unreadable, although the rapid drumming of his fingers on his leg betrayed some tension. Had he sensed her dislike for him, or had someone mentioned it to him?
“From what I have heard of Pemberley, an invitation to visit would be enough to raise its master in anyone’s estimation.” Elizabeth replied, striving to lighten the tone of the conversation.
Mr. Darcy’s gaze slid back to Elizabeth. “I am sure that is not true of everyone.” Did he mean her? “And I would rather win admiration through the content of my character.”
“Surely we all wish that.” She replied.
“I cannot imagine any would find fault with your character.” He regarded her steadily as he spoke.
Before Elizabeth had a chance to reply to this rather enigmatic statement, she felt Jane stir next to her and raise her head. “Oh, Lizzy, I believe I fell asleep! I shall have such a horrid crick in my neck now!”
Elizabeth had never before been so pleased to have a conversation interrupted.

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