Elizabeth Bennet slipped into the library at Netherfield Park for her sixth time in three days. Her sister Jane on the mend, she could not cease her curiosity for the chessboard. As soon as Jane fell asleep, she left her sister's sickbed to check the progress she was making with her unknown opponent.
Beneath the expansive double set of windows looking out on the south side of the property sat the rosewood carved chess set. Elizabeth spied the board on her first afternoon in the grandest estate in all of Hertfordshire. She had not meant to start a game, with anyone, but resisting the urge to move a single white pawn proved to be too much of a temptation. Returning a few hours later to replace the novel she had finished sitting by Jane's side as her sister lay violent with fever, Elizabeth stood stunned to see someone had responded in kind. Black's corresponding pawn rested two squares away from the starting line to face hers. Soon Elizabeth found herself eager to return to the library every few hours to continue her clandestine game.
The board stood deep in the throes of a true battle with black's knight decimating her numbers. The most clever Bennet daughter carefully read the positions of her pieces and considered her options. Her mysterious opponent was of the aggressive sort, but not too blinded by the taking of just any piece. She had offered up both a pawn and a knight and the opponent did not fall distracted by the easy kill. Therefore, the only way to beat him or her was to lay a trap of the wickedest kind; Elizabeth would sacrifice her queen in four moves.
Smiling to herself, she made her move and a calling voice from outside the library made her hastily select another novel. Perhaps a servant was looking for her and Jane had not slept long? Either way, her bishop sat ready to take the opponent's offending knight and she would have to wait to see the next move her anonymous enemy made.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire frowned when he spied Elizabeth Bennet leaning over his chess game with Bingley. She had not noticed him sitting solitarily in the far corner with his book and brandy. A master of years' worth of ducking the attentions of Miss Bingley granted him an ability to turn into proverbial wallpaper when he willed it so. A swirl of the amber liquid kept him occupied as he sat astounded that the woman would dare to move the pieces of a game she was not a party to!
He had meant to say something, but too quickly she moved a piece and then scurried out of the library, leaving him once more to his own company. Groaning, he finished his drink and supposed he could set the board back to the last position. One gift he held included memorizing even the slightest glimpse of a picture. Darcy felt confident he could move back the piece she dared to upset, but when he reached the board, he paused. She had not moved a piece randomly, she had made a very cunning move forcing him to choose between sacrificing his knight or his rook!
A knot of understanding twisted tighter in his gut. That he was already in very grave danger of more than a passing fancy of this dark-haired, bright-eyed creature was a foregone conclusion, but now he was in the thralls of a very thrilling chess match with a worthy opponent. And the worthy opponent was none other than that dark-haired, bright-eyed creature named Elizabeth Bennet.
"Mr. Darcy! There you are!" Caroline Bingley entered the library and swiftly attached herself to his arm. "Oh bother, are you and Charles again playing that silly chess game? Upon my honor, I don't see the point in moving little wooden pieces to simulate a battle. Besides, you always win, according to him."
Darcy cleared his throat and carefully studied the board. It was a fool's trap, he did not mistake the gambit. If he sacrificed his rook this early in the game, he would be limited in defensive maneuvers later to protect his king. But his knight was paramount to his plan of attack to put her in checkmate. Her, the concept felt foreign though surprisingly pleasing to him. Could his future include many delightful afternoons at Pemberley in a challenge of wits?
"On the contrary, Miss Bingley, this match I may very well not win."
"Shall we reset it and you can teach me the particulars?" Caroline Bingley batted her eyes most fetchingly and began to reach for the pieces to take them off the board, but Darcy quickly grabbed her hand.
Hastily he released her hand as he realized she took more meaning in his visceral reaction than he meant, and the look of pleasure on her face made his stomach wish to remove itself of its contents. He swallowed before making an insincere offer. "It is such a lovely day, perhaps we should take a stroll?"
Caroline made the unmistakable sound of a squeal and promised to ready herself presently. Darcy nodded and agreed to await her just outside, finding himself in desperate need of fresh air. Once Caroline left, he moved his knight to a more advantageous spot and exited the library and the house itself. The rook would be a shame to lose, but one cannot win a war without casualties.
A/N I started my writing life IN fanfiction communities, and I am so happy to return! This story will be a rewrite of the 12 days in November in the original Pride&Prejudice. I am on deadline, so I will be posting chapters every day. I love any and all feedback, encouragement, or gripes. XOXOXOX EAW