Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my upcoming novel, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, which is about to go into formatting–hopefully to be released soon!
“I had a letter from Jane Bennet yesterday.”
These words, falling from the lips of Caroline Bingley, had the power to make Darcy’s gaze lurch in her direction. Was that her intent? The smirk forming on her lips suggested it might be. He turned his gaze back to the fireplace.
Darcy had invited Bingley to tea at Darcy House, and the addition of Miss Bingley to the party had been an unwelcome surprise. When she had followed her brother into the drawing room, Bingley had given Darcy a small, apologetic shrug. Darcy was most concerned about her effect on Georgiana, who found Miss Bingley intimidating. When would Bingley ever learn to gainsay his sister?
So far, however, the afternoon had proceeded smoothly. Georgiana had not uttered a word, but at least had remained in the room. Then Miss Bingley had proceeded to introduce this sensitive topic of conversation.
Charles Bingley was hardly less interested in his sister’s surprise announcement than Darcy. He shifted in his chair and set down his tea cup. “Ja-Miss Bennet wrote to you? W-what news is there from Meryton?” He made no attempt to sound casual.
Enjoying the effect she had on her listeners, his sister leaned back in her chair and drawled, “They have had a good deal of rain over the past fortnight.”
Bingley rolled his eyes. “Yes. And?”
“Jane’s Aunt Phillips had a cold but seems to be improving.” Miss Bingley’s smirk only widened.
Bingley made a frustrated noise. “Is that all?”
Darcy could sympathize. Her triumphant tone suggested she had news of great import, but perhaps she was simply teasing them. Darcy settled back in his chair and took a sip of tea.
Caroline Bingley had been the only member of their party at Netherfield who had guessed about Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth. Three months before, he had left Hertfordshire determined to forget everything about Elizabeth Bennet but had found the task far more difficult than he anticipated. Elizabeth haunted his days and nights without ceasing. During the day, his thoughts turned to her: her musical laugh, teasing voice, light and pleasing figure. At night, he struggled to sleep, and when he did, he dreamed of her.
Again and again, he had examined the problem but had always determined there was no other solution than to banish her from his thoughts. So far, he had met with little success, and now this reminder from Miss Bingley only threatened to further disturb his equanimity.
Georgiana nibbled a biscuit, attempting to appear interested in a conversation about people she had never met.
“Caroline—” Bingley’s voice held a note of warning.
Miss Bingley sighed dramatically as if extremely put out by her brother’s demands. “Well… There was one item of interest. One of Jane’s sisters is engaged to be married to that parson who is a cousin of theirs.” Miss Bingley sneered, a singularly unattractive expression.
“Mr. Collins,” Darcy supplied.
“Yes, that is his name.”
Darcy’s chest compressed with anxiety, making it hard to breathe. “Which sister?”
“The second. Elizabeth.” Miss Bingley slid him a look that could not be interpreted as anything less than triumphant.
It was now impossible for Darcy to breathe. What had happened to the air in the room?
Elizabeth! Engaged to that idiot? Married to that fool for the rest of her life? Going to his bed? Bearing his children?
No! It was not possible. Darcy needed to protest the impossibility of this pronouncement, refute it immediately, but nothing emerged from his mouth save a strangled gurgle. Georgiana’s gaze shifted to him, wide-eyed with alarm.
Bingley, fortunately, had not lost his powers of speech. “Engaged to Mr. Collins! I thought she had more sense.”
“She does,” Darcy growled. “There must be some error.”
Miss Bingley’s laugh held no actual mirth. “Jane would hardly make such a mistake!”
“The man is a fool!” Darcy expostulated. “How could she accept him?”
Georgiana had plastered herself against the back of her chair, her eyes never leaving his face. His outburst was out of character, he knew, but at the moment, he could not find the means to control himself.
“Now that I think of it,” Bingley said, “I do recall that Collins danced two dances with her at the Netherfield Ball.”
“Yes, he danced very ill!” Darcy said.
“Perhaps he had been courting her back then,” Bingley concluded.
Darcy closed his eyes and considered this. The idiot parson had danced with Elizabeth and made a fool of himself. He had tried to engage her in conversation, but Darcy had seen no signs of interest on her part. Elizabeth had far too much sense. She had been mortified when Collins had presumed to converse with Darcy without an introduction. No, it was impossible. How could she have accepted his hand?
When he opened his eyes, he noticed the gaze of everyone in the room upon him. Damnation! He too easily betrayed himself when it came to Elizabeth Bennet!