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Authors: Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's Refuge

BOOK: Mr. Darcy's Refuge
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Mr. Darcy’s Refuge




Abigail Reynolds


Text copyright © 2012 by Abigail Reynolds


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any format whatsoever.



Sharon Lathan and the Austen Authors,

fantastic writers and fabulous writing buddies,


and to

Jane Austen

who inspires us all

Table of Contents


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


Chapter 21


Chapter 1




The break in the rain seemed like a sign. It meant Darcy could ride to the parsonage and discover what was troubling Elizabeth. Her friend Mrs. Collins had said she was ill, but his cousin averred that he had seen her but a few hours ago, and she seemed well then. Darcy would have thought Elizabeth would stop at nothing to come to Rosings tonight, his last night in Kent, and her last chance to ensnare him. Instead she had remained at the parsonage, leaving her friend to make her excuses to his aunt, Lady Catherine.


She must be avoiding him. There could be no other reason for her absence. But why? She had every reason to wish to be in his presence, unless she had decided that winning his love was a hopeless cause. Perhaps that was it. Perhaps his failure to declare himself had left her believing that he was simply toying with her. Perhaps she thought it would be too painful to see him tonight, knowing it would be for the last time. Darcy’s mouth curved a little with the thought. Dearest Elizabeth! How happy she would be to receive his assurances of love.


Just at that moment, the pounding of rain against the windowpanes finally began to slacken as the thunder faded off into the distance. His aunt’s attention was focused on rendering unwanted advice to Mrs. Collins while Richard was attempted to engage Anne in conversation. He could slip away unnoticed. It was definitely a sign.


Once he had escaped the gloomy sitting room, he lost no time in making his way to the stables. In a clipped voice he asked a sleepy groom to ready his curricle.


The man squinted up at him. “I don’t know if that be such a good idea, sir. With those wheels, ‘twould be a moment’s work to find yourself stuck, the road is that deep in mud after all this rain.”


“Then I will ride,” Darcy said firmly. He would not allow bad roads to keep him from Elizabeth’s side, not tonight.


Yawning, the groom went off to saddle his horse. Darcy helped himself to a riding crop from a shelf, then tapped it impatiently against his leg until he heard the clopping of hooves. The air hung heavy on him, thick and full of moisture. Much more of this rain and the crops would rot in the fields before they even had a chance to sprout. He would have to speak to his aunt about relief for the tenant farmers, but now was not the time to think about such matters.


Soon he would be in Elizabeth’s presence, where he would finally be the recipient of her dazzling smiles and hopefully even more. Elizabeth would not be
, certainly. It was not in her character. Yes, he had every reason to assume she would allow him to taste those seductive lips that had been tempting him almost past the point of sanity. His body filled with fire at the mere thought. He would finally feel her warmth in his arms and hold that shapely form against him, her shining energy at last his, only his.


He could not afford these thoughts, not now, or he would be in no condition to be in Elizabeth’s presence. He disciplined himself to think of something else, anything else – the weather, his aunt’s latest rant, his horse. He swung himself into the saddle, ignoring the groom’s proffered assistance.


The groom had been correct about the condition of the road. The horse’s hooves squelched and spewed out droplets of mud. Darcy kept to a slow walk, since he did not want to be covered with mud when he paid his addresses to Elizabeth. The pace seemed interminable, leaving far too much time for thought and memories.


Memories of his father, telling him he must marry an heiress because Georgiana’s dowry would cut into the Pemberley coffers. His mother, taking him aside so that his father would not hear, reminding him that he was an earl’s grandson. She had married beneath her because it was the only way she could escape from the fate her brother had planned for her, but once she had hoped to catch a viscount at the very least. Her voice still echoed in his ears. “Pemberley does not want for money or land. You must find yourself a titled lady to bring honor to the family name.”


Then there was his aunt, Lady Catherine, who was determined that he marry her daughter. Darcy snorted at the thought of Lady Catherine’s insistence that it had been his mother’s wish for him to marry Anne de Bourgh. His mother would not have thought her own niece good enough for her son and heir.


For all these years Darcy had been determined to choose a bride who would have pleased both his mother and his father, but he had yet to meet an aristocratic heiress he could tolerate for an evening, much less a lifetime, and here he was, about to completely defy his parents’ wishes by proposing to a lady whose breeding was questionable and whose fortune was non-existent. The scandal of it might even hurt Georgiana’s chances at a brilliant match. How could he do this, knowing he was failing in his duty to his entire family?


His decision to follow his heart and marry Elizabeth had been the hardest of his life, and even now he had his doubts. He was being a fool and he knew it, but for once in his life he was in the grip of a passion beyond his control. He could not help himself. At least that was his excuse, though he could just imagine his father’s scorn and the curl of his mother’s lip if he had ever dared to say such a thing to them.


For a moment he considered reining in his horse and returning to Rosings free of the encumbrance of a distasteful alliance, but the memory of Elizabeth’s sparkling eyes and the way the corner of her lips twitched when she was amused spurred him on. He had to have her. There was nothing else to be done, at least not without dishonoring himself more than he already was by making this proposal. The wild young men at White’s would have some very different ideas about how he should slake his lust, caring nothing for who might pay the price as long as their own desires were fulfilled, but that was not for him. It was such things that made Darcy prefer Bingley’s company over that of his peers. Bingley had been foolish to fall in love with Jane Bennet, but at least he had never considered dishonoring her. It had been marriage or nothing for Bingley, and it was the same for Darcy. But how would Bingley feel when he discovered that Darcy was marrying the sister of that same woman he had insisted was not good enough for his friend? He was a hypocrite as well as failing his parents’ wishes, but Elizabeth would be his.


The sucking sound of the hooves in deep mud gave way to the thud of horseshoes striking wooden planks as he crossed the bridge. The flood waters rushed loudly beneath him, the usually peaceful, meandering river now a raging torrent after the last month of pounding rain. Even in the darkness he was certain that the water must be over the banks by now. The wind was picking up again, starting to lash against his coat.


A flash of lightning split the night sky, causing his horse to shy. Darcy automatically quieted him as the rolling rumble of thunder seemed to make the very air tremble. His skin was tingling, a certain sign that another storm was in the offing. Yes, it was far better to think about floods and rain than to hear voices from the past railing at him.


By good fortune he reached the parsonage at the top of the hill just as the skies opened. Dismounting hurriedly, Darcy led his horse into the slight shelter of the eaves and tied his reins to the waiting ring. Silently he made his apologies to the horse who deserved better than the drenching he was about to receive. Under normal circumstances he would never treat one of his mounts in such a shabby manner, but tonight was not normal, and the shelter of a stable was a quarter mile further along.


He thanked his lucky stars that the front entryway was covered. Already a cold trickle had found its way down the back of his neck, sending a shiver down his spine. He rang the bell loudly, hoping someone would come quickly. No one would be expecting callers, and it would be hard to hear anything over the drumming of the rain and the rolling thunder.


The door was opened, not soon enough for Darcy’s taste, by a timid, half-kempt maidservant holding a single candle. Clearly she had not expected her services to be needed tonight. He set his hat and gloves on a small table and brushed the remaining drops of rain from his coat. His valet would have fits were he to see his normally immaculate master in such disarray, but there was nothing to be done for it. He had a mission, and he meant to accomplish it. “I wish to see Miss Bennet,” he told the girl in a clipped voice.


He did not notice her reply, his entire being concentrated on the knowledge that in just a few minutes, Elizabeth would be officially his, putting an end to his months of torment imagining a lifetime in which he would only see her in his night-time fantasies. Half in a daze, he strode past the girl into the sitting room where Elizabeth stood, a pile of letters on the small painted table beside her. She was noticeably pale and did not smile at the sight of him. Perhaps she was in truth unwell?


Suddenly nervous, although he did not know why, he made a correct bow. “Miss Bennet, your cousin informed me that you were too ill to join us at Rosings. May I hope that you are feeling better?”


“It was nothing but a slight headache.” Her tone was decidedly cool.

BOOK: Mr. Darcy's Refuge
7.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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