“The Pemberley Ball” originally appeared in The Road to Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories, published by Ulysses Press in 2011. Each author whose work was included in the anthology received a one time payment (in lieu of royalties). He/she maintained the rights to his/her story. I have chosen to rework my original story and re-release. It is now a 36,000+ word novella rather than a short story.
That being said, you should know that I wrote several versions of this story, and I have made many changes from the one printed in the anthology. For one thing, I am so much wiser about the Regency period than I was in 2011. In other words, the historical elements are more accurate. Secondly, I have added passages and description that I could not include in the original because of the limited word count permitted for each story in the anthology. Finally, I have decided to include three versions of the story’s climax in this new release. Therefore, when the reader reaches Part 5 of the story, he/she will find three passages; the first shows the constantly in command Mr. Darcy. This is the one we all know and love. He anticipates every possible obstacle in his way and perseveres. The second proves Mr. Darcy the consummate Alpha Male. Personally, I liked this Darcy. He goes after what he wants and permits the chips to fall where they may. However, one of my Beta readers was not so enthralled with this characterization. Let me know what you think when you read the story. The third gives our hero the opportunity to proclaim his frustrations with Elizabeth, as well as with Mr. Wickham. This one will likely be the most popular of the offerings for Wickham receives his comeuppance. The reader may choose to read alternate passage #1, #2 or #3 or all of them.
Elizabeth Bennet’s acceptance of his hand in marriage presents FITZWILLIAM DARCY a hope of the world being different. Elizabeth offers warmth and naturalness and a bit of defiance; but there is vulnerability also. With characteristic daring, she boldly withstood Caroline Bingley’s barbs, while displaying undying devotion to her sister Jane. More unpredictably, she verbally fenced with the paragon of crudeness, his aunt, Lady Catherine, and walked away relatively unscathed. One often finds his betrothed self-mockingly entertaining her sisters and friends, and despite Darcy’s best efforts, the woman makes him laugh. She brings lightness to his spirit after so many years of grief.
Unfortunately for ELIZABETH BENNET, what begins gloriously turns to concern for their future. She recognizes her burgeoning fears as unreasonable; yet, she cannot displace them. She refuses to speculate on what Mr. Darcy will say when he learns she is not the brilliant choice he proclaims her to be. Moreover, she does not think she can submit to the gentleman’s staid lifestyle. Not even for love can Elizabeth accept capitulation.
Will Elizabeth set her qualms aside to claim ‘home’ in the form of the man she truly affects or will her courage fail her? Enjoy a bit of mayhem that we commonly call “Happily Ever After,” along with three alternate turning points to this tale of love and loss and love again from Austen-inspired author, Regina Jeffers.
(You may read the beginning of Part 1 on Austen Authors HERE.) The excerpt below is a continuation of the scene.)
“I suppose my mother forgets that I, too, have a wedding to plan,” Elizabeth said softly beside him. They sat together in a small Longbourn drawing room.
As was typical, after the evening meal, Mr. Bennet retreated to his study to read. Miss Kitty examined the latest fashion plates, and Miss Mary practiced her music. Mrs. Bennet demanded that Miss Bennet and Bingley join her in her sitting room to finalize plans for their wedding breakfast. So, although others remained in the room, he and Elizabeth were essentially alone.
With a deep sigh, Elizabeth turned to him. “It is abhorrent of me to complain after all your ministrations on my sister’s behalf. Forgive me, Mr. Darcy.”
Darcy watched her features carefully, expecting Elizabeth to turn her moment of envy into another disparagement on her own failings, but she did not perform to expectations. Evidently, this was one of those private moments. Elizabeth would show him a face, which spoke the truth: Her mother’s preference bruised his future wife’s ego.
“I would forgive you anything, Elizabeth, if you could see your way clear to call me something less formal than Mr. Darcy. In private, could you not consider my given name?”
Elizabeth’s smile broke her mouth’s line. “You wish for me to call you Fitzwilliam?”
“If Fitzwilliam does not suit you, the family often calls me ‘William.’ With Fitzwilliam being the family name for my mother’s brother and my cousins, ‘William’ causes less confusion.”
“I would be honored,” she said softly.
“Then say it, Elizabeth,” he whispered hoarsely.
An inexplicable emotion spread through his veins, and Darcy’s breathing suddenly constricted. His gaze slid over her. Elizabeth’s eyes mesmerized him. She looked upon him, her head angled to bare the length of her throat. Darcy noted the pulse point at the base of her neck throbbed as prominently as did his. He wished to touch her, to caress her cheeks, to bury his hand in the thickness of her hair. The effect Elizabeth had on him always took Darcy by surprise. A pleasant surprise! But a surprise nonetheless. Elizabeth leaned in, unaware of what her nearness did to his composure.
“William, did I tell you how pleased I am to become your wife?” she murmured.
Darcy swallowed a shot of desire shooting through him. He planned to kiss Elizabeth this evening–actually dreamed how it would be. His finger now traced a line from her temple to her chin.
“You, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, do not know how often I prayed to hear my name upon your lips, and the fact that you express a pleasure in our future joining raises my hopes of our marital felicity.”
Realizing the impropriety they practiced, with a slight blush, Elizabeth leaned back, placing distance between them.
“May we speak of the wedding, Sir?”
Darcy frowned with the return of formality, but he said evenly, “Most assuredly, Miss Elizabeth. What do you wish to settle?”
Elizabeth turned to sit more squarely on.
“It would…it would seem, Sir, that we must agree on the ceremony’s date. Do you favor a long engagement?”
Darcy straightened his shoulders, a posture he instinctively adopted when completing business transactions; after all, among his society, marriage was a business.
“I waited to claim you for a year. I must admit that I am of the persuasion to finalize that claim as quickly as possible, but I am not insensitive to the fact that this is a greater change for you. You must leave your home and family behind to start a new life with me. And although I want none but you on Pemberley’s staircase waiting for my anticipated return from a business journey or from a day in the fields with my tenants, I will understand if you insist on a longer waiting period.”
Elizabeth blushed again. “You thought of me with you at Pemberley, William?” she asked sweetly.
Darcy smiled at her return to flirting with him. “You would be quite shocked, Elizabeth, at how often each day that you enter my mind.”
“How often?” she prompted innocently.
“Too often,” he growled in hushed tones. “And in too many ways,” he purposely said to shock her.
If this conversation continued, he would embarrass himself with an increase in his manhood.
“Oh!” she gasped. An elongated pause followed. Elizabeth glanced toward where her sister sketched changes in a dress pattern.
“Other than my father, I do not believe anyone at Longbourn will realize I am absent,” she mumbled. Elizabeth swallowed her obvious moment of regret and then presented Darcy a fresh smile. “A shorter engagement appears advisable,” she said with more confidence. “Mr. Bingley tells me that the roads to the north can become more hazardous as winter approaches. If we are to Derbyshire, it would be judicious to do so sooner rather than later.”
“Mr. Bingley is correct: Derbyshire winters can be quite cruel. Moreover, I would wish to celebrate the festive days at Pemberley. Georgiana and I spent the last few Christmases in London. It is my dream to bring you to my home and for you to share it with my sister. With your acceptance, I instructed Mrs. Reynolds to set plans for a winter ball. We have not held one at Pemberley for more than a decade. I will introduce my new wife to my close family and the neighborhood. It will make your transition as the estate’s mistress easier.”
Elizabeth attempted to hide her apprehension, but Darcy took due note of it.
“Then after the calling of the banns…how much longer after the vicar makes the third call?” she thought aloud.
Darcy smiled at her. It amazed him how nervous Elizabeth was about the reality of their joining. He held the advantage in that manner, for Darcy long ago began imagining their life together.
“Although I do not know why you insist upon a calling of the banns, when I could easily purchase a standard license, if the choice of dates is to be mine, the day following the third calling.”
“Despite Mr. Bennet being a gentleman who recognizes a calling of banns is, generally, not done among our social class, my father believes the neighborhood that depends upon his charity deserve to know of Longbourn’s happiness. But more importantly to the issue at hand, my sister and Mr. Bingley chose the Monday after our third Sunday calling for their date. Had you thought of a double wedding? Is that your wish, Mr. Darcy?”
Darcy’s frown lines met. “I never considered a double wedding as a possibility, nor did I foresee our final banns being called so close to Miss Bennet’s chosen day.” In spite of a bit of apprehension, Darcy infused his voice with an encouraging tone. “Notwithstanding my close association with Bingley, I would not be pleased to share the day of your and my joining with him and Miss Bennet. I would have you gloried in your own right as my wife.”
Elizabeth expelled a sigh of relief.
“Thank you for understanding, William,” she whispered. “I love Jane, but the day I am named Mrs. Darcy is not a day I would want to half with another.”
“Then a week after the final calling,” he declared. “That is a month from this Sunday. Is that sufficient time, Elizabeth?”
“It is perfect, William. The first week of November,” she said wistfully.
* * *
“Your hat, Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth teased him by clinging to Darcy’s arm, and he knew a sense of satisfaction.
“Walk me out,” he said softly as he caught her hand and tugged Elizabeth along behind him. As quickly as they were away from the lights streaming from Longbourn’s windows, Darcy pulled her into his embrace.
“William,” she giggled, but Elizabeth came willingly against him, resting her head on Darcy’s chest. He wrapped his great coat about her to keep her both warm and in his embrace.
He bent his head to speak to her ear. “Elizabeth,” he rasped, “it is my intention to kiss you.” He felt her stiffen with uncertainty. “If you do not wish me to do so at this time, then you should return to the house immediately.”
Darcy waited for her decision. When she remained in his arms, he felt the exhilaration: Elizabeth would accept his kiss. He lifted her chin and lowered his mouth to hers.
He kept one arm about her to steady her. With his other hand, Darcy cupped her chin, tilting her head gently upward. Elizabeth was an innocent, and he moved slowly, permitting her to withdraw if she became frightened.
At length, he brushed his lips across hers before adding a bit of pressure. A slow caress of mouth against mouth. A gentle nip. He skimmed his tongue along the seam of Elizabeth’s lips, and she opened for him. Even then, Darcy did not deepen the kiss–just enjoyed the possibility. After a few moments, he reluctantly ended the pleasure of knowing her intimately.
“You are delicious,” he whispered seductively.
Elizabeth clung to his coat’s lapels, but she breathed the words, “So are you.”
Darcy recognized her blush’s heat when she realized what she had said. He bent to kiss the tip of Elizabeth’s nose.
“We will take my curricle and see some of the countryside tomorrow,” he declared.
“Orders, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth taunted as she released her hold on his lapels.
He slid his hands down Elizabeth’s arms, capturing her hands in his. Darcy chuckled. “As you, my dear, are new to courtship, needless to say, you will not object if I issue orders. It is only after we marry that you will voice your opposition.”
Elizabeth stepped back to release his hold on her, her hands fisting at her waist. “Have you learned nothing of my nature, Mr. Darcy? There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”
Darcy laughed warmly. “Now there is the Elizabeth Bennet who plagued my every waking moment for a year.”
He caught her hand again and led Elizabeth to where his horse stood waiting. “I will call for you at eleven.”
“Yes, William,” she said in a coy taunt. “I shall be anticipating it.” Elizabeth emphasized her tone’s sweetness.
With fondness in his gesture, Darcy kissed her forehead.
“Good evening, Elizabeth. I, too, will anticipate the day.”
NOW, FOR THE GIVEAWAY. I HAVE THREE eBOOKS OF “THE PEMBERLEY BALL” AVAILABLE TO THOSE WHO COMMENT BELOW. RANDOM.ORG WILL CHOOSE THE WINNERS. THE GIVEAWAY WILL END AT MIDNIGHT, EDST, ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2016.