Friday, November 20, 2009

Darcy moment 1

Darcy adjusted his cuff for the fourth time in as many minutes. The best coat, the finest shirt, the most elegant slippers--everything had been carefully chosen for the moment Miss Elizabeth Bennet appeared at the top of his stairs--his stairs!--on the arm of her aunt and uncle, and made her way into the ball, the ball he had spun out of thin air, with no more than two-days' notice, specifically for her. Oh, he'd told her it was something he'd been planning to do in any case, though whether those amused green eyes believed what he said, he did not know, and no amount of cajoling on the part of his neighbors, whose wives and daughters desired more time to make dresses and shop for earbobs, would change his mind.

"A prime gathering," said Sir Michael, friend of Darcy's late father and one of most ancient and esteemed faces in Derbyshire, "absolutely prime. You may ruffled a few feathers among the ladies, but to my way of thinking, if their feathers aren't ruffled by the ball being too soon, then they're ruffled by being too late--or too small or too far or made up of too few gentlemen. I think you have erred in the least offensive way possible."

Sir Michael had moved between Darcy and his view of the stairway, and Darcy was trying as unobtrusively as possible to peer over Sir Michael's balding head. "You are kind."

"Your father would be proud. He enjoyed a rousing party."

Darcy took a half step to the right, causing Sir Michael to follow suit. Darcy tried turning a quarter turn to the left, giving himself at least a peripheral view of the steps. Sir Michael obliged by turning two quarter turns, giving himself a wholly unobstructed view of the prospect upon which the desire of Darcy's heart would soon emerge and causing Darcy to have to choose between turning his back to the stairs or be seen as slighting his neighbor. Darcy sighed. He'd had less agreeable dance partners, but only when he'd been forced at age five to dance with his twin eight-year-old cousins, Vivien and Maria, who pulled his hair when he trod on their feet, then danced with each other and made him oink like a pig and wallow on the floor of the nursery the rest of the afternoon. All he wanted to do was ensure he might win Elizabeth's hand for the first dance. How he longed to feel that soft warm flesh in his.

"There she is," Sir Michael called. "I see her."

"Where?" Darcy jerked in the direction Sir Michael was looking, but saw only a portly matron in a shockingly crimson gown.

"There," Sir Michael said. "'Tis my daughter-in-law's older sister. I have been most eager to introduce you. Her dead husband had an interest in a bridge-building concern in--"

"After the first dance."

"I beg your pardon?"

Darcy realized the incongruity of his response. "I mean, I shall have more time to confer on matters of ship-building--"


"-bridge-building, yes, of course, when I have ensured each guest has been properly greeted. If you'll excuse me--"

Sir Michael tilted his chin and smiled. "Ah, look at them," he said. "How beautiful they look together. Do you know her, Darcy?"

And, of course, he did. The 'them' in question was Anthony Westfield, a horseman whose estate, Tustin Hill, touched Darcy's, and Elizabeth Bennet, who had managed to float down the stairs while Darcy was lost in crimson and bridges.

"I do. That is Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Hertfordshire."

"A beauty. I do admire the dark ones. Don't you, Darcy?"

"Aye." She was in gown of pale gold that made the sparks of fire in her eyes seem like diamonds. "I think someone might tell Westfield he is not examining horseflesh."

"Oh, Darcy, do leave the young people to their devices. We are too old to judge them by our rules."

Kind as the thought had been meant, Darcy wondered at being lumped into the same generational group as a man slightly older than his father. He looked down. Perhaps his tailoring could be a touch more outrĂ©…

"Besides," Sir Michael added, "he is only asking for a dance."

"He is?"

"Aye. He told me he intended to throw his bridle upon her as soon as she appeared--that's bridle now, not bridal, do you see?--ho ho ho--though that may come as well. I said to myself, sir, if you want to see how the young people do things, get yourself lodged in a good spot by the staircase."

"Excellent thought."

"Is Westfield still badgering you about buying that black mare?"

"No. I told him I wouldn't sell under any--" Darcy straightened. "--circumstance. Will you excuse me for a moment?"

"Certainly, certainly. 'Tis not too late to find a partner, Darcy," he called. "Use Westfield as an example. Why my daughter-in-law's sister--"

The rest was lost in the buzz of the crowd as Darcy pelted over to Westfield, who was enjoying a celebratory glass of punch as the musicians tuned their instruments.


"Darcy, I am in a fine mood. Will you share a glass with me?"

"I am most eager to sell the black mare."

"What? Tonight?"

"Aye. Right now. She's grown restive and mean-spirited."

"The black mare? Impossible. Darcy, are you drunk?"

"No. She--She bit me. I shan't have her on my property another night. Would you like to look at her? Else I shall put her down."

"Are you mad? She's some of the best breeding stock I've seen in years. Are you saying you're willing to sell her?"

"Aye. Tonight. If you want to look now, go ahead." The musicians were straightening their music, and Lizzie was making a slow approach from the far side of the room.

"I…" Westfield fingers twitched. "I should dearly hate to see that mare go to anyone else."

Darcy knew exactly how he felt. "Then go. Now."

"The same price we talked about?"

Darcy winced. Westfield had offered him half of what she was worth. "Aye. The same price."

Westfield put down his glass. He looked at Lizzie and back at Darcy. The fingers hadn't stopped drumming. "Will you do a favor for a friend?"


"I know you don't like making a spectacle of yourself, but I promised Miss Bennet the first dance. Would you take my place while I run out to the stables?"

It took all his self-control not to shout "Yes." "For you," he said with a small bow, "I will make an exception."

"Keep her warm for me," Westfield called as he jogged toward the door.

Darcy turned toward Lizzie. Warm, yes. For Westfield, no.


*source for Darcy

*Guest blogger, Gwyn Cready, RITA®-Award winning author of Tumbling Through Time and Seducing Mr. Darcy.

This piece was created for the pleasure of the Pemberley Ball attendees. It is titled, Pemberley Ball: The Horse Trader.

*Special thanks to Gwyn!

In Cready's next novel, Flirting with Forever, a long-dead painter comes back to life to settle the hash of the author of The Girl with a Coral Earring, whose series of sexy, tell-all autobiographies is driving the dead art world nuts.

Look for Flirting with Forever in stores March 30, 2010.

Let me know if you'd be interested in reading this book.

You can visit Gwyn at
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