Night of the Netherfield Ball

Anne de Bourgh thought herself to be a generally sedate young woman. Having a childhood filled with doctors and an over-attentive mother, as she had, would cause even the most spirited child to adopt a calm demeanor. However, over the past year, Anne decided that she could no longer wait for her future…she must take action to gain what she most desired.

For most of her life, she was told that the most desirable thing was to become Mistress of Pemberley. Anne had long known that she would never be happy with her cousin Darcy by her side. Their personalities were far too similar and she felt a stir toward adventure that a quiet life at Pemberley could not provide. However, her lively, military cousin would do very nicely.

Thankfully, her mother was slowly coming to agree with Anne in regards to Richard's suitability as the next Master of Rosings Park. As Anne watched Richard flirt with that insufferable Miss Bingley, she decided that she must dispose of that dreadful woman as soon as possible.

Shortly before the supper set was to begin, Anne happened to overhear Mrs. Hurst request of Darcy to join Caroline in Bingley's study. Anne rolled her eyes as the simple-minded woman claimed that it was simply a desire to apologize that drove the request. As soon as Mrs. Hurst turned away, Anne approached Darcy and took him arm.

"Dear cousin, you are needed on the balcony, I believe. I just noticed a certain dark-haired Bennet sister stepping out for some air and I am sure she would enjoy your company." Anne said with a smile.

Darcy's brow furrowed as he responded.

"As pleasant as that sounds, I am unfortunately required in Bingley's study."

"Oh Darcy, I overheard Mrs. Hurst's request and you can certainly delay such an uncomfortable meeting until after the supper set. It would be rude towards your partner to be late for the set. Go, join your Miss Bennet and I will ask Richard to inform Miss Bingley that you will be along before supper is served."

Darcy made up his mind to follow his cousin's advice quickly since it was in accordance with his true wishes anyway.

"Thank you, Anne. I appreciate it. Please be sure that Richard informs Miss Bingley that I will be delayed."

"Don't worry, cousin. I will be sure that she is not left alone in the study for long." Anne replied with a smile.

With a quick nod of his head, Darcy made his way towards the balcony. Anne turned her attention towards the occupants of the ballroom, searching for a certain militiaman. He was quickly found amongst his friends. Luckily, his eyes met hers and he realized that she was trying to gain his attention. Although Wickham appeared suspicious, he made his way towards her. He stood looking out a window while she continued to smile towards the ballroom.

Wickham barely began to greet her when she cut him off.

"I am in no mood, sir, to exchange pleasantries with you. I acknowledge you only for personal gain which will also benefit such a one as yourself."

Wickham's full attention was on the frail young lady at this point. Anne quickly continued.

"If you wish to fulfill your dream of marrying an heiress, then I suggest you rush now to our hosts library. I will be along shortly with others to ensure that your meeting is sufficiently scandalous. One word of caution…any mention of this conversation and your life will not be worth that shiny brass button on your coat."

In a show of his true character, or lack thereof, Wickham took his leave and made a direct line towards the hallway leading to the library. Anne smiled before approaching her mother. Fortuitously, Colonel Fitzwilliam was nearby and joined them.

"Mother, I would like to show you a most impressive painting in Mr. Bingley's library." Anne sweetly said.

"Truly, Anne? What is so special about this painting to require our attention in this midst of a ball?" Lady Catherine asked.

Colonel Fitzwilliam also gave Anne a questioning look but Anne only responded to her mother.

"I believe that the painter has a particular style and is gaining the attention of the Ton recently. If you find it acceptable, perhaps we should commission him to paint our portrait next year?"

"Fine, fine…let us go and assess his work. I am sure that with my fine eye for identifying superiority in painting, I will be able to confirm if all of this excitement is warranted. Fitzwilliam, you will escort us." Lady Catherine demanded before taking her nephew's arm.

Colonel Fitzwilliam merely bowed his head and proceeded towards the library with his aunt on one arm and a smiling Anne on the other.

10 years later

Anne sipped her tea on the veranda at Rosings Park with a content smile upon her face. She was currently watching Richard chase their little Cathy across the grounds before catching her, tickling her and starting all over again. Anne thanked God each day for her husband. He brought joy and lightness to her life and, finally, after many years of trying, he gave her their daughter. Her mother's namesake was quite a force. All sweet, dimpled smiles when happy but the devil came out of those blue eyes when she didn't get what she wanted. Richard laughed that her mother would be proud that there was another Catherine running Rosings Park.

It was difficult when Lady Catherine passed away before Anne gave birth to Cathy. Anne was already in the middle of her confinement when Lady Catherine was unable to be roused in the morning. Although her mother was a demanding, difficult woman, Anne would miss her every day.

"What's this, darling? Is the shadow on your face due to the fact that your gallant husband was too far away?" Richard asked while smirking.

"Why, of course that is the reason. Whatever will I do?" Anne teased.

"Fear not, my lady. Little Cathy is off for an afternoon rest and her papa has plans for her momma." Richard whispered while taking his wife's hand and leaning down to kiss it.

"I am certainly glad that I chose you, Richard." Anne laughed.

"As am I, sweet Anne."

A/N: I hope you enjoyed this final look at our friends. I am putting together my plans for my next story, which will be regency as well. Thank you again for all of the encouragement and kind words! ~ Jessi