(A/N) Sorry for the delay right after a cliffhanger and that this chapter is shorter than my norm. I haven't had as much quality time with my computer and I am in the middle of moving. I figured something was better than nothing and at least I answered a few questions from the last cliffhanger. Happy Reading.
Previously: He continued to be patient and was soon rewarded. The woman stopped in the hallway to take a breath. She sat on a chair that was in an alcove for a moment of peace. She was tired from all of the activity and stress of that night. As she caught her breath and was about to stand again a hard object came crashing down upon her head. All she remembered was grabbing a curtain as she fell before the world went black.
Ch 39- Preparation -What If Wickham was more evil than we thought.
Wickham hurried to pick up his load and move her quickly through the house. He knew he could not go back out of the kitchen entrance. An unconscious woman brings a lot of questions. He stood for a moment to contemplate the best exit. Then he remembered the room he always snuck out of when he was a teenager and wanted to dally with the girls in the village. Rushing through the passageways he was thankful that he encountered no one on his way. He moved to the room where herbs and flowers were dried in case they were needed for the Darcy family or tenants. Mrs. Reynolds had always believed that they should have medicinals on hand and Wickham mentally thanked the woman for her insight. He moved towards the cellar door that led out towards the groundkeepers cottage. He quietly deposited his captive on the ground before going to find his horse. He quickly gathered the horse and managed to get the woman on top before rushing away towards the dowager house. To anyone passing by he simply looked like another man rushing to help fight the fire. When he was under the cover of trees he turned away and rode towards his hide out. Let us see how well Pemberley copes when it's heart is taken.
Georgiana looked around the room at all of their guests and was becoming more each minute her mother did not return. She was supposed to return with refreshments but had not been seen since they moved to the rear sitting room. She could feel the tension in the room rise each time her uncle looked out of the window and checked his gun. She was sure he was not conscious of it but it still made her nervous.
She checked the clock one more time before making a decision. She stood and walked to the door and called for a maid who was rushing past. "Can you tell Mrs. Reynolds to send tea, wine and brandy to the sitting room please? Some of the guests have certain preferences and she knows them all. Thank you."
When Georgiana turned around to return to the sitting room her aunt Lady Sophia was standing in front of the doorway. "What is going on little dove?" She asked in Spanish.
Georgiana hesitated for a second and her aunt saw it in her eyes. "You know I will find out so you should tell me now." Georgiana knew she was right. Her aunt Sophia was the oldest of the Darcy siblings and was a second mother to Georgiana. After her failed elopement she spent the summer with her aunt. Without her I would still be that shell of a girl. "I am not sure. I know there is a fire on the estate but I have not been told why the weapons are deemed necessary. I am sure brother has a plan."
"Uninformed is unarmed my dear. Never allow yourself to be kept in the dark. You cannot fight an enemy you don't know is there." With that Lady Sophia walked into the sitting room and up to her husband. "What is happening?" she asked loudly
"My dear, this is not the time." He said pleadingly knowing that his wife was about to make this situation difficult for him.
"What is happening? I will not be kept prisoner inside of my own home. If something were to happen and we need to evacuate quickly but quietly, the only people who will be of any help are the women in this room." Lady Sophia stated regally as her three sisters and niece walked to her side. The five Darcy women were serious and would not tolerate any dissonance. "This is our home not yours. I will ask you again; what is happening?"
Her husband Lord Jacobs looked toward the other older men in the room for support but each was conveniently looking out of a window, except for Mr. Bennet who watched the scene with a large smile.
"There is trouble on the estate." Lord Jacobs finally responded.
"Yes my love, I have puzzled that out all on my own. What is the trouble on the estate?" She said refusing to be placated by meaningless statements.
Mrs. Bennet finally stood behind the women and stated "There is a man who wishes harm to Mr. Darcy. It is believed that he started the fire. What he hopes to gain by this is unsure. We are to stay here until Mr. Darcy returns unharmed."
"What if he starts a fire to the main house as well?" Lydia screamed hysterically but was silenced quickly when Kitty roughly pulled her down back into her seat.
"I do believe that is my wife's area of expertise." The Duke of Woodworth said with a smirk.
The former Esmerelda Darcy had told her husband story after story of her time spent navigating Pemberley's secret passageways and corridors. Returning to the nursery hours later covered in dust and dirt but pleased with her expedition for the day. Her mother always stated each of her gray hairs represented one of her expeditions. He father would always laugh and said she will be back in time for dinner. If there was one person who would be able to get over thirty people out of the estate quickly it would be her.
"You know me so well. I already have it covered." She said with a smirk. "I have left twice since we have been in this room." She stated smugly as she walked to a large tapestry that was hanging on the rear wall and lifted it to show a small door in the wall. "I have checked the passageway and it is clear. As long as the fire is not on the other side of the door, we will be safe."
"Do you see what happens when you listen to your wife, dear." Lady Sophia said to her husband. She loved her husband but he was a product of his time. Well, we have the rest of our lives for me to continue to prove him wrong.
I hate horses, I hate horses, I hate horses! Elizabeth was completely sure dying of fear was now possible. As she rode in front of the Colonel on Poseidon's back she could only wonder how long it would take them to reach their destination. Just as she thought that she was relieved when the horse slowed its pace to a steady walk. Breathing a sigh of relief she heard the colonel chuckle behind her.
"Miss Elizabeth, since we have slowed our pace, if you could kindly stop gripping my arm. I would appreciate the blood continuing to circulate through my body."
"Oh! I am so sorry." Elizabeth said worriedly. They had been riding for at least an hour so she knew that she had been holding on that entire time.
"It is no matter. Darcy told me that you were afraid of horses before we left."
"I am not afraid of horses." She insisted. When the colonel immediately picked up the paced she grabbed his arm once more and said "Yes, I am afraid of horses."
"See there. That was not so hard." The colonel said with a chuckle.
"When I marry your cousin you are banished from Pemberley for life." Elizabeth sad sullenly
The colonel placed a hand over his heart and leaned back as if he had been mortally wounded. "How you hurt me madam! To derive me of Darcy's good port is unconscionable."
Next to the pair Diego could not stop the smirk from his lips. He liked his cousins betrothed from what he had seen of her. She would be a good fit for him.
Darcy examined the damage to the dower house and was relieved to see that most of the structure was intact. He spent many hours in this house with his grandmother and would have been crushed if it was utterly destroyed. Though most of the furnishings would need to be discarded because of the smoke damage. He watched as all of the tired men departed. He thanked those whom he recognized by name and gave a distinct nod to those he did not. He was grateful that this had been such an easy fire to fight with the help of his cousins.
When he found his cousins standing in a circle he approached them and stated his intention of returning to Pemberley. He knew there was much planning to do before he could safely bring Elizabeth back home.
Home. He was already thinking of Pemberley as their home. He had pictured her there so many times that it was hard to believe that she had only been in residence for less than a month. He wanted more than anything for her to be by his side in that moment but he knew she was safer away from him. I simply have to work quickly to bring her back. Darcy thought as he mounted his stallion and rode toward Pemberley.
"Where are we headed?" Elizabeth asked her travel companions not sure if she would receive an answer.
"We are heading to my estate." The colonel said sheepishly
"Your estate?" Elizabeth nearly exclaimed in shock "But I thought you were in the militia because . . ." She let the rest of her sentence hang in the air.
"Yes, well your future husband is as stubborn as they come." He replied without adding any detail.
"Yes I am aware of his stubbornness but I do not see what that has to do with your property."
"It is not mine. It is Darcy's"
Now I am really confused. "Speak plainly colonel." Elizabeth said. She was exhausted and had no patience for his mental riddles.
"Darcy bought the house for me while I was on the continent. He oversees all of my investments and has the power to make decisions in my stead."
"Including transferring the deed of an estate." Elizabeth stated
"Exactly. He says that it was a late graduation gift. He does not like that I am in the milltia. He bought this estate for me hoping that I would one day sell my commission and settle down without worrying for my future. He stated that he wanted me to have the option."
"But you do not want a gentleman's life?" She asked quietly
"I do or I will… eventually." He said.
Diego gave another small chuckle. "And what of you?" Elizabeth asked her more aloof companion. Who simply gave her a mysterious smirk and kicked his horse to pick up the pace.
Darcy entered Pemberley immediately calling for Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds to be brought to his study as he went. He only had to wait a minute for Mr. Reynolds. "Where is Mrs. Reynolds?" Darcy asked
"Last I heard she should be in the kitchen preparing refreshments for the guests. They are still in the rear sitting room, sir."
"I will go update them shortly. Keep the footmen on high alert. I want to do a sweep of the entire house from top to bottom. I want Pemberley to become a fortress. Nothing in and nothing out. We need to do a count of every chambermaid, footman, gardener, groom, valet, lady's maid and even the dogs if we must."
"We must conduct the sweep first then instruct Mrs. Reynolds to do a count of the servants. I will count the guests. Alert me when the count has been completed. I need to meet with the men to determine the next step."
"I will take ten men whom I trust. We will search each room and passageway immediately."
"Mr. Reynolds, do not underestimate Wickham. He lived here as well, he will know the house just as well as any of us."
"Yes sir." The butler said as he left the room.
Darcy took a moment to breathe a heavy sigh. The weight of the night came crashing down upon him and his had to sit down. What have I don't to deserve this?
Wickham waited for his prisoner to wake. He had a hard time getting her out of the house undetected but he pulled it off. The hardest part was getting her back to his hideout. He knew he was taking a risk but the payoff would be so worth it. He would not only get out from under Darcy's threats but finally live his dreams.
He heard her start to wake and knew it was time to finish what he had started. "Good Evening Mrs. Reynolds. I have some questions and I do believe you have the answers." He said with a smirk as he sat across from the older woman who was gagged and bound to a chair. He sat arrogantly twirling a knife in his right hand while the point swiveled on his left index finger. A single drop of blood rolled down the knife. They both sat transfixed as they watched the progression of the droplet to the base of the knife. When it reached its destination, Wickham quickly looked up at Mrs. Reynolds as he stood to his feet. "Let's get started, shall we?" Mrs. Reynolds screamed through her gag as he began making his way towards her.
(A/N) What do you think Wickham needs Mrs. Reynolds for? If he has Mrs. Reynolds where is Lady Anne? Also this cliffhanger thing is kind of addictive. Sorry.