Here is an excerpt from Darcy vs. Bennet, my upcoming P&P variation (a full length novel set in the Regency). It’s not available yet, but hopefully will be in a few weeks. This excerpt is from near the beginning of the novel. At a masquerade ball, Darcy and Elizabeth meet for the first time, but each is unaware of the other’s identity.
Darcy had barely taken three steps when he saw a vision. Clad in a pale yellow gown, the woman’s figure was light and pleasing. Lush curls of dark hair piled high on her head, intertwined with tiny flowers. Instantly Darcy knew he had not encountered her before. She was not moving or conversing with anyone; in fact, she seemed a bit lost.
When Darcy stepped toward her, her eyes flashed up to his, and his breath caught. Set off by the pale yellow mask, her eyes were a vibrant blue he had never seen before. There was something about her…as if he knew her already…which was ridiculous since he had never met her before. Without a conscious decision, Darcy took several more steps toward the mystery woman.
She had turned her face away and was now scanning the crowd. Seeking another man? He felt a twinge of unease, which was ridiculous. He knew nothing about this woman.
A crease appeared between her eyes, and her mouth tightened. Was she in distress? “May I be of service, miss? You appear uneasy.” What a ridiculous thing to say! Surely he could think of a better way to introduce himself to this vision of loveliness.
Her eyes met his, and again he felt that thrill of recognition. “I was looking for my friend.” His surge of jealousy was instantly alleviated by her next words. “She is blonde and wears a blue dress.”
“Ah, I believe she has accompanied my friend into the veranda for a dance.”
“Oh. So I have been abandoned.” Her lips quirked into a half smile. She sees her friend’s abandonment as a cause for amusement rather than resentment, Darcy noted.
“As have I. Perhaps we may be abandoned together.” How did such flirtatious language emerge from his mouth? Usually he had no facility with words. Perhaps the mask offered him some kind of license? But her clear blue eyes held his in a captive gaze. No, it was her. Something about this woman stirred feelings deep so all he saw—all he could see—was her. The rest of the world simply fell away.
Her eyebrows tipped upward doubtfully. Was he being too forward with a woman he had just met? Darcy almost did not care. He would do anything, break any rules of propriety, to stay with this enchanting creature. “Would you do me the honor of the next dance?”
She blinked rapidly and blushed, her gaze not meeting his. Was the request such a surprise to her? Of course, they had not been introduced, but a masquerade should allow them to dispense with such formalities. Then she gave him an arch look. “A stranger in a mask has just asked me to dance. What would my mother say I should do in this situation?”
Was she teasing him? He has seen other men engage in such banter, but it never happened to him. He cleared his throat. “I believe your mother would advise you to accept under the circumstances.” He found himself smiling at her. “I assure you, miss, I am not a highwayman, despite the mask.”
She tapped her lips thoughtfully with her forefinger. “So you would have me believe you are a respectable gentleman? I would expect a highwayman to say so.”
Darcy could not prevent a laugh from bursting forth. At the beginning of their conversation he had suspected she might be unaware of his identity, but now he was sure of it. No woman ever dared to banter with Fitzwilliam Darcy in such a way; they were too eager to compliment his figure, his features, his clothing, his horse…and anything else he possessed. Every exchange with a marriageable woman was colored by awareness of his fortune—except this one—and it was delightful. How had such a woman found her way into the Berwicks’ masquerade?
He restrained an impulse to take the woman’s hand; he did not know her. “Very well, will you promise to dance with me if I promise not to purloin your reticule or jewelry?” As he said this, he realized she possessed neither. How odd.
She laughed, a bright, silvery sound. He had made her laugh! “Yes, I thank you. But this set has just begun.”