Accepting a marriage proposal is merely the beginning.
How did Lady Catherine restore Mr. Darcy’s hope to prompt his second proposal? Did Caroline Bingley yield gracefully? Were the Bennets and Meryton citizens approving?
Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are betrothed!
Readers of The Darcy Saga have shared in the romance, life, and marital escapades of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Now the “prequel to the sequel” recounts the weeks in between as two new lovers prepare for happily ever after.
Embark on the journey as Darcy and Elizabeth overcome the rocky past and discover the depth of their love. Delight in budding passion and sweet romance. Enjoy the wedding planning and adventures during the initial weeks of their engagement.
A Season of Courtship promises Hope of the Future.
“I distinctly sense you are mocking me, Miss Bennet, and do not appreciate flippancy after being subjected to witnessing my future wife cavorting with another man. A man you touched, and who touched you, several times, including, to my horror, on your leg!”
“As I see it, Mr. Darcy,” she emphasized, matching his stern expression, “you interpreted what you witnessed and drew conclusions as you chose to rather than with a trusting, unjaundiced heart. Therefore you deserve to be mocked. Or worse. Instead, I shall ease your distress, but not for your sake. Matty is too kindhearted to have anyone misjudging him. Matty,” she called, “come here please. I want to introduce you to Mr. Darcy.”
Dropping the rake as if on fire, Matty rushed over, his hands scrubbing through his unruly hair and patting over his clothing in a vain attempt to compose himself. “O’course, Missy Lizzy! Iffin’ you wish. Meetin’ Missy Lizzy’s gen’leman is special, yes, sir, it is!”
Lizzy clasped one fidgeting hand between both of hers, smiled at her childhood friend, and then pierced her fiancé with chilly eyes. “Mr. Darcy, allow me to introduce Mr. Matty Beller—”
Matty interrupted with a snorting laugh. “I not a mister, Missy Lizzy! Jus’ simple-headed Matty Beller. That’s me. Your fine gen’leman is a mister. Very special meetin’ simple me, I say!”
“No talk of being simple, Matty, remember? You fixed my shears, and how would I have finished the roses if not for your excellent assistance?” Matty blushed and stared at his toes. “In fact, Mr. Darcy was just commenting on how helpful you were to his future wife—entertaining me while we pruned the roses, steadying me so I would not unbalance on the ladder, and aiding my descent so I did not fall. Is that not so, Mr. Darcy?”
“Yes.” Darcy cleared his throat gruffly. “I…I was. Thank you, Mr. Beller. Miss Elizabeth’s wellbeing is important to me, and I am pleased to know her safety is assured when I am absent.”
“You like bunnies, mister?” Darcy blinked at the unrelated query, stammering a vague affirmative. “I gots pretty bunnies at home. Soft and fuzzy. You come by anytime, pick any bunny ya want, ’kay?”
“That is very kind of you, Matty. Now, can I impose upon you to return the tools to their proper place? I wish to speak with Mr. Darcy alone.”
Lizzy watched Matty stack the equipment into the wheelbarrow and ignored Mr. Darcy until the young man was gone. Then she broke the silence, speaking coolly while gazing toward the empty pathway under the arbor. “I presume it is now apparent that Matty is harmless. That is why your comments amused me initially. No one has ever been jealous over me, so for a moment it was flattering—until you insulted me with your insinuations. Do you trust me so little, Mr. Darcy?”
She turned around as she asked the question, fully expecting to see embarrassment at the least, preferably deep remorse. To her surprise, Mr. Darcy’s expression was largely unchanged! His face was stony, with furrowed creases between his brows and eyes hard as agates.
“Trust must be earned, Miss Elizabeth. Until this, I had no reason to distrust you.”
He spoke bluntly, as if stating the obvious. Astonished, Lizzy asked, “And now?”
“Now I know my interpretation was erroneous.”
“Quite magnanimous of you, sir. Is that to be the extent of your admission of guilt?”
Mr. Darcy pressed his lips together and she saw his jaw muscle twitch. Again speaking in that maddeningly icy, clipped tone, he said, “It is a statement of fact, not an admission of guilt. The advantage of knowledge was not in my possession, thus I interpreted based on what I saw. Yet rather than enlightening me immediately as to my error and easing my heart, you responded with mockery.”
Ouch! That hit a nerve. Still irritated, Lizzy crossed her trembling arms over her chest, lifted her chin, and scowled. “Dealing with the ridiculous provokes me to mockery, Mr. Darcy. Be prepared for the consequences if irrational jealousy is to be your standard reaction.”
“Jealousy, by definition, is ofttimes irrational, no matter how strongly one attempts to maintain control and a clear vision.”
“Is this a warning, sir, to beware of smiling or talking to any other man?”
“If the talking and smiling includes that man touching you, then yes!”
With each sentence, their voices grew louder and their bodies stiffer. The space between them had narrowed to a mere foot. For several seconds the only sound was angry breathing. Then Darcy sighed, squeezed his eyes shut, and pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers.
“Elizabeth, I cannot apologize for my jealousy because it is, and always will be, my natural response where you are concerned. Maybe a man who felt less for his betrothed would not experience possessiveness. I am not that man. The intensity of my love for you prohibits me from reacting complacently to what I saw today. Perhaps it is too soon to hope for, but I would like to imagine that if the situation were reversed, you might feel a glimmer of jealousy as well.”
Lizzy gasped as a weight abruptly slammed into her chest. Instantly she recalled the day in Meryton and the powerful sensations that had rendered her physically ill when she suspected Caroline Bingley’s advances toward Mr. Darcy. Since then Lizzy continually fought the urge to squeeze the jezebel’s scrawny neck. Indeed, she understood Mr. Darcy’s jealousy and distrust far better than he suspected.
Before she formulated a reply, he tenderly grasped her hands and bent until level with her eyes. “My dear, while I cannot apologize for my jealousy, I can and do apologize for succumbing to it before seeking an explanation. That was wrong of me. I humbly beg your forgiveness, on behalf of Mr. Beller as well, for presuming precipitously and casting aspersions. Can you forgive me, Elizabeth?”
Inhaling, she whispered, “I will forgive you, William, only if you forgive me first.”
“Pardon? Have I missed some—”
“You must forgive me for envisioning wild acts of violence toward Miss Bingley every time she says your name or smiles at you, or finds some excuse to touch you or…basically anytime she is present.”
He stared silently, a smile fighting to emerge, as his eyes reverted to their normal glittering blue and rosiness bathed his cheeks. “If I refuse to forgive you, will you act upon your inclination? A fracas between you and Caroline would be entertaining.”
SHARON IS KINDLY OFFERING TWO COPIES OF A SEASON OF COURTSHIPTO OUR READERS. TO WIN A COPY, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author
Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga a nine-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Sharon began writing in 2005 and her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was published in 2009. Sharon’s ninth novel – Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship – is Book One of the Darcy Saga Prequel Duo recounting the betrothal months before the Darcy Saga began. Miss Darcy Falls in Love, Sharon’s seventh novel, was selected as one of the thirty-two titles chosen for World Book Night US 2014.
Sharon is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, JASNA Louisville, the Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde and Hearts Through History chapters of the RWA, the Louisville Romance Writers, and serves on the board of her California RWA chapter, the Yosemite Romance Writers.