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Seated next to her husband-to-be, Amanda Price leaned into him as she noted the new arrival. "Might I suggest you ask your aunt to shield her eyes?"

Darcy's eyes were on the room as he inclined his head to his loved one. "Why so madam?" he answered in an equally low tone.

"We might have had a slight-" the word was emphasised with the use of forefinger and thumb to indicate a small measure "-agreement about me leaving and never returning," hedged Amanda, wincing.

"Cease to speak of such things," he admonished her, briefly taking possession of her hand in his alarm.

She threaded her fingers through his in reassurance, not caring for society's dictation on acceptable physical touch. "I'm here to stay, but you might need to run interference with that fire breathing relative of yours."

She paused momentarily. "At least until I can get Jane out of her loveless marriage to Collins."

Lady Catherine – to say the least – was less than impressed to discover that not only had Miss Amanda Price broken her promise to be gone, her nephew had declared that day – that very same day – his engagement to said Miss Price.

She had been tempted to renege on her part of the promise, but she was an honourable woman and in some depths of a heart she seemed to have, she couldn't bring herself to subject the sweet Miss Bennet to a life with the insufferable Collins.

Entering the room, her beady eyes scanned the crowd. She found her target instantly and frowned disapprovingly at the close proximity of her nephew and that woman. "Fitzwilliam," she ordered in a clear voice firm with authority, summoning the man. "I will speak with you."

Darcy bowed to his alleged bride-to-be and obediently made his toward her.

She could barely hide her distaste as she bid him stand beside her. She spared a glance in Miss Price's direction and her disapproval soared as she saw her openly fiddling with the bodice of her dress, making her discomfort known.

Lady Catherine turned her gaze to the tall man beside her then. "You marry that g-woman Fitzwilliam, and you bring great shame to our family name," the elder woman began, her voice deathly low.

Darcy refused to be affected. "I thank you for your concern aunt, but I will marry who I please, and this is my choice."

"Are the halls of Pemberley to be thus polluted?" she cried, emotions getting the better of her for once. "Follow through with this charade and I wash my hands of you."

Fitzwilliam Darcy let his actions speak louder than words. "Aunt," he spoke with a stiff nod before he moved away, leaving behind a shocked woman used to getting her way.

Well I never!

Next chapter: Mrs Bennet.