Darcy employed Mrs Annesley instead of Mrs Younge, so Georgiana visited Ramsgate without incident. When Darcy arrives at Netherfield with his friend Bingley, he is in a bad mood for an entirely different reason: his mistress of seven years, with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love, has abandoned him to marry a duke. If Darcy thought he was having a wretched Tuesday after visiting Diana, things suddenly become worse, when he arrives at his uncle's townhouse only to discover the earl, who generally leads a very dissipated life, has suddenly become concerned for the future. Darcy's uncle reminds him that he needs to marry and provide an heir for the Pemberley Estate. His cousin Richard, who had no plans to marry, finds himself in a similar boat, but without a paddle. His elder brother has produced only daughters, so it may be up to him to sire the next earl. He now has the unenviable task of convincing a lady to marry a second son with no expectations. Temporarily escaping the debacle, the cousins accompany Darcy's friend Bingley to his newly leased estate in Hertfordshire so that Darcy can help his friend pursue his father's dream that his son become a member of the landed gentry. Fitzwilliam, who is more at home with business decisions, must navigate his way through the most important social decision of his life, with nearly disastrous consequences.
Chapter 1 The end
Leaving her lover sprawled in her bed, Diana rose, pulled on a sumptuous wrap and tidied her auburn hair. Walking back to the bed, she contemplated the example of male beauty lying there. He looked so young when he was asleep, exhausted from their recent exertions. His magnificent body was that of a Greek god, though his unlined face, with its strong jaw and slightly hooked nose, was more reminiscent of Mars than Apollo. His dark curls were tousled adorably. Despite the opportunities that modern clothes afforded men to enhance their physiques, he looked best without a stitch on.
Dragging the bed hangings closest to the door shut noisily, she tugged the bell-pull and sat down on the mattress near him. He still did not stir.
A knock was heard and a maid appeared. Her eyes downcast, she placed a tray containing a bottle and two glasses on a small table just inside the door and withdrew.
Diana walked to the table, filled the two flutes with champagne and returned to the bed.
"Fitzwilliam," she said, shaking his shoulder.
Darcy opened one eye.
"Have some champagne," she said, handing him a glass.
He raised himself on an elbow.
"What's the occasion?" he asked. "Your birthday is not 'til next week."
"A celebration," she said with a wistful smile, "of our last kiss."
Darcy froze. "Why, our last kiss?"
"I'm getting married."
"What!" Darcy bolted up. "To who?"
"The Duke of Redford."
"Bertie Thomas?" blurted Darcy. "He's as old as the hills!"
The duke was in fact a respectable fifty-five.
"You can't be serious!" Darcy continued. "You're terminating our relationship?"
"He's going to make an honest woman of me, Darcy. He's made a very good offer."
"You can't do this! Marry me instead!"
"You know we can't do that, Darcy. I'm seven years older than you - too old to bear a child. The Duke already has an heir and several spares from his first marriage. You need an heir for Pemberley."
"You can't do this," he repeated stubbornly. "I love you!"
"I'm doing this because I love you. You'll thank me in the future."
"Please, Diana, no! Plenty of women over thirty-five have children."
"Some do. But you forget that I was married for over five years to the marquis without issue."
"It might have been him!"
"He had a child out of wedlock during that time, Darcy."
"I'll get a special licence. We can get married right away!"
"No, Darcy, we can't. Be sensible. Drink your champagne."
"You're being a child."
"I think you had better go," sighed Diana. She had known this was not going to be easy, but she had been determined to do it in person - sending a letter was so shabby.
"This is because I don't have a title, isn't it?" he said softly.
"Don't be ridiculous," she replied.
"You married a marquis, and now you've worked your way up to a duke. Plain old Mr Darcy is not good enough for you."
"Please stop," she said, stroking his hand.
He was not to be mollified. "You do realise Pemberley is one of the grandest estates in Derbyshire? In England!"
"This is not about titles or estates, Fitzwilliam. It's about being sensible. We had seven good years. Now it's time to move on."
Darcy stood chewing his lip, his mind in turmoil. It would be humiliating to burst out crying.
"This is not finished," he managed to croak. "My uncle has summoned me, but I will be back tomorrow to talk sense to you."
He moved to kiss her and she submitted. It was a passionate kiss that drew on all their sensual experiences of the last seven years. He was determined to show Diana how wrong she was.
Pulling on his clothes, he allowed her to tie his cravat. Then he fled downstairs, demanding his hat and cane.
After Darcy left, Diana cried on her bed for half an hour. When her tears were exhausted, she got up and retrieved his letters from her bureau. They were tied together with a red ribbon.
Lying back down in the bed she reread these love notes, most of them written from his estate of Pemberley, where he withdrew for the summer to supervise the harvest. The letters were not poetic, but heartfelt. As she read she smiled and played with a locket round her neck that contained a curl of his hair. Finally, getting up, she walked to the fire and consigned the letters to the flames. Opening the locket, the curl followed.
Then she rang for her maid to ready her for Lady Montagu's soirée.
As a supplement to the story I have collected a set of illustrations on Pinterest. Just google Times Up Fredrica123 to find it. Vols I-III are now up in correct order; while my sandbox, TimesUpDates, is in reverse order, so you fill need to scroll to the end and flip backwards through it.