The morning before Elizabeth and Jane's wedding Lydia Bennet left the house in a dark and raging mood ...not that her mood had been much lighter in the past few weeks. From the moment Fitzwilliam Darcy set foot in the assembly rooms her thoughts were never far from imagining what it would be like to be loved by him. He towered over every man in Hertfordshire. He was slim and powerfully built with long slender fingers. His hair was curly and dark and often unruly due to his endearing habit of running his hands through his hair when he felt uneasy or unnerved. But most of all there were his eyes so deep and penetrating seeming to reach into the soul. Wickham was nothing to Darcy...not that it mattered anymore. Wickham had been carted off to debter's prison weeks earlier and there was talk that his debts were so high that there was a good chance he'd never again see the light of day.

Lydia could hardly bear to look at her sister Elizabeth knowing that this time tomorrow she would be marrying the man who couldn't keep his eyes off her. He couldn't keep his hands off her either. Lydia had spied on them every chance she could get. What she had seen had made her blood run hot...for what, she knew not..but she would have given anything to be able to share his bed and have him show her how to please a man. Her insides ached for those hands to move over her body the way she had seen them moving over her sister's body.

Her torment and anger made her senseless to what was approaching her from the other side of the glen. Her eyes were blind with hot tears of frustration when suddenly she was knocked to the ground by that fat toad of a clergyman...namely her cousin the Reverend William Collins. In reflex, she kicked out at him and to her utter horror his ungainly form lost it's balance and fell on top of her. She let out a not so mild oath flailing her legs in a most unbecoming manner while trying desperately to push him off her. It was just at the moment that she heard from the ridge "don't look!" with the one and only voice that could make the trees quiver and the earth to move and that instrument could belong only to General Bailey James Foxx. And his admonition had to be to Miss Caroline Bingley who lately had become his inseparable companion.

"Bloody hell," her mind screamed. To be compromised by such a repulsive creature was too horrible to contemplate. "Get off me," she spat.

"Oh, oh, oh," he squeaked, standing and trying to repair the damage his fall and Lydia's reaction had caused to his apparel.

How she wanted to laugh at the expression on his bloated countenance when he realized their accident had been seen. She doubted he knew just who had seen them but he knew as well as she just what spiteful gossip might do to the reputation of otherwise upstanding citizens and he knew just how much he had to lose. After all, he was the clergyman of Hunsford Parsonage in the Shire of Kent and his esteemed patroness was none other than Lady Catherine De Bourgh who was the esteemed aunt of her esteemed nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

As she watched her cousin's pea-brain wrangle with the problem Lydia's eyes unconsciously narrowed in thought. This situation had the potential of being catastrophic. If this news reached Lady Catherine, that woman was mean and disgruntled enough to cause a scene at the wedding ceremony. It didn't matter that her daughter Anne was marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam and was happily doing so. It was Fitzwilliam Darcy who should have been marrying Anne. Instead he was connecting himself to a country nobody who possessed neither title nor dowry. That nobody was Lydia's sister and nothing must interfere with the wedding plans of her sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was marrying wealth beyond Lydia's imagination and she planned to take full advantage of it. And how better than to ingratiate herself with that dragon Lady Catherine De Bourgh. After all, as everyone in Hertfortshire knew by now, the parsonage was separated only by a narrow lane from the palatial residence of his patroness. And then, of course, there was the living at Kempton which Darcy had in his power to bestow.

Lydia stared at her cousin, her mind slipping from disgust to growing excitement. If she had planned to seduce this idiot man and force him into asking for her hand it couldn't have been easier than what had been handed to her. Suddenly, she had the means to get out of Hertfortshire; to have a home of her own and access to a lot more money than she'd ever have at home. She visualized gowns and laces and bonnets.

On the other hand, if it got out that the cleric of Lady Catherine De Bourgh had compromised the sister-in-law of her nephew Darcy, there would be hell to pay. William Collins would lose his position and any plans she might contemplate would all come to naught...that is to say, she would no longer have a reason to marry William Collins and without a reason, she would prefer to come upon the town than marry such an obnoxious creature. No! It would not do for a scandal to blight the reputation of this poor excuse of a man.

Lydia Bennet was not known for thinking ahead. She grasped the moment and never looked back She only knew that life had to improve and she was clever enough to grasp at any opportunities that came her way. With Jane and Elizabeth gone from Longbourn life would never be the same. The chances of another rich handsome man finding his way to the outskirts of nowhere were slim indeed. She was not as dim-witted as her sister Kitty in thinking that the Darcys would be holding balls every week and there she would find her prince charming. She had seen how Darcy had looked at Elizabeth's three youngest sisters. They would never be invited to Pemberley until they had each gained a modicum of sense and that might be years far in the future.

"Straighten up your clothes," she hissed to the hapless cleric, "and go to my father this minute. There is not a moment to lose."

William Collins stared at her in confusion. "Your father?"

"Yes, cousin! My father. You must ask for my hand immediately."

"But my dear cousin," he gasped in horror," next to Jane and Elizabeth, I thought Mary..."

Lydia eyed him in disgust. "Have you no idea of what you have done? Do you realize that if word gets out to Lady Catherine that you tried to seduce the sister-in-law of her nephew it will be the end of you? Lady Catherine will ruin you! There won't be a position open to you in all of England."

The terror on his face was palpable and for a scant moment she felt a tinge of remorse for what she was doing but her rue was fleeting. A poor woman in English society faced a life of misery and sorrow and that was not the way she pictured her life. Not for her was a life worrying about starving in the hedgerows. She saw herself wearing pretty dresses and attending balls. Playing the poor relation of her rich sisters was not for her.

She watched in disgust as William Collins came unglued and began to twist and turn in several directions attempting to get his bearings. His huge black frock coat flapped around his ungainly body and Lydia finally stood up and shoved him off in the right direction. She refrained from telling him to move his fat ass and try not to get lost, feeling that it might be too soon in their relationship for her to appear so insensitive.

She watched him disappear over a shallow ridge and smiled to herself. So far so good. Her mother who was the silliest woman in Hertfordshire would be overjoyed to have a third daughter married, and she just fifteen years old. Of course Kitty would be green with envy and Mary would no doubt lament not being able to read Fordyce's sermons to her husband every night. Poor Mary. She imagined herself in love with the Reverend William Collins. Obviously her taste was all in her mouth.

Lydia checked her watch impatiently. She had decided to give WC an hour before following him back to Longbourn and time seemed to be standing still. She was anxious to be back to Longbourn before any possible rumors spread. Her story was set. The Right Reverend William Collins had proposed marriage, Lydia had accepted and then in a maidenly swoon had crumbled at his feet. He leaned over to revive her and coming to her senses she had kicked out at him and he had fallen on her which was why her legs were flailing in the air. She was simply trying to disengage herself. Lydia shrugged. It was a ridiculous explanation but it wouldn't matter in the long run. She would be married and respectable.

As she slowly made her way back to Longbourn she tried to imagine what her life as the wife of a stupid cleric would be like but gave it it up with hardly a second thought. It would do no good to dwell on what the future would bring. She would make her future her own. William Collins was only a stepping stone. Eventually she would have to bear the son and heir to Longbourn and it really wouldn't matter who the sire was as long as he believed himself the proud father. And after that, well husbands didn't live forever. She didn't bother to suppress a giggle at this last thought. And once more her eyes narrowed in thought.

The entire house was in a uproar when she arrived back at Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet was twirling around in an ecstasy of nerves. "Oh, my dear child," she squealed, "we are saved. We are saved."

Kitty was coughing and sobbing. "But I'm older than she is," she cried. I should be getting married first."

In the background Lydia heard her sister Mary pounding out a funeral dirge. At least she thought it was a dirge. It was hard to tell the difference between Beethoven and Brahms. Mary's playing was both pedantic and awful to hear.

Elizabeth and Jane sat side by side on a settee looking white-faced and in shock.

In the corner of the room her pasty-faced balding future husband stood grinning like a gargoyle. "Dearest, he simpered, "your father would like a word with you."

Lydia bet he did. She turned on her heel and headed for her father's study. She didn't bother knocking but barged right in. "You wanted to see me, Papa?"

Her father was walking about the room, looking grave and anxious. "Lydia," said he, "what are you doing? Are you out of your senses to be accepting this man? From the moment he stepped into this house you've had no qualms about stating just what you thought of Mr. Collins. I believe your exact words were that he has to be the stupidest man in England."

She giggled and gracelessly dropped into a chair. "You don't approve of my choice? You've never had any qualms about referring to me as one of the silliest girls in England so I can't imagine why you would think my choice of husband surprising."

Mr. Bennet stared at his youngest daughter in shock and Lydia suppressed a smile. Her father had ignored his three youngest daughters for years and had no idea of what they were really like except as creatures that afforded him much amusement. Finally Mr. Bennet found his voice. "my dear child, he's twice your age and completely humorless. You'll be miserable."

"One of us may be," Lydia allowed, "but it won't be me. Oh don't look so surprised, Papa," she added impatiently, " though I have lived a somewhat narrow life in this backwater hamlet, we Mama says...dine with four and twenty families. I've seen the different kinds of marriages that seem to be successful enough. I've also seen how a woman with no dowry can end up living in misery. When you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins's character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state." Lydia did not have the grace to blush at the lie.

"But Lydia," her father responded, "you're only fifteen years old. You have several years before you have to marry.

"Not according to Mama. If she'd had her way we would all have been betrothed in our cradles."

If Mr. Bennet heard the bitterness in his youngest daughter's voice he chose to ignore it. "And what of the redcoats? Two months ago your mind was full of the militia. Have you really lost interest in uniforms?"

Lydia shrugged. "Wickham was carted off to debtor's prison and Lt. Denny is the youngest son and has not much of a future. None of the soldiers has much of a future and I want more for myself." She stood up, bored with the conversation. "I've quite made up my mind, Papa. Do I have your blessing?"

Lydia's father stared at his youngest child for a moment before waving her away dismissively. "You have my blessing," he said.

At the door she turned and looked at her father. He was pouring himself a glass of port. He'd already lost interest.

And so it was done. She would marry a buffoon at the tender age of fifteen and leave the only home she'd ever known. It would be quite an adventure.