A have gone back and edited previous chapters to make the story less repetitive and cleared up some grammar issues. Thanks!
After Bingley's ball, Fitzwilliam Darcy sat at the desk in his room at Netherfield Park. He had just finished corresponding with his sister, who he invited to stay at Netherfield Park with him and the Bingleys.
Hearing a knock on the door, Darcy replied to the knocker to come in. Bingley walked in, looking ecstatic with his eyes shining with happiness. "Darcy, what a wonderful ball! What a wonderful time! I simply could not be happier!"
"I think for your first ball as an estate owner, you did a fine job," Darcy said, turning around to face his friend. "I am glad we postponed our trip for your sake, Bingley. I believe you have made you new neighbors very happy, indeed."
"I think I have! Thank you for allowing us to stay longer. Did you not see how lovely Miss Bennet looked? An angel!" Mr. Bingley was speaking to Darcy, but without looking at him. The gentleman had a dreamy, happy look on his face. Suddenly, his facial features turned contemplative and he nervously glanced at the other gentleman.
"Darcy, I think I am going to ask her for her hand in marriage tomorrow. Would you mind coming with me tomorrow night to Longbourn tomorrow night?"
Darcy looked at his friend, studying him.
"If you wish," Darcy simple said.
Mr. Bingley broke into another wide grin, not unlike the grins he's been frequently showing. "Excellent! I'll send a letter tomorrow morning." Bingley turned to leave, but Darcy stopped him.
"Bingley, I have written to Georgiana to invite her to come here. Would that be acceptable to you?" Please don't ask why I invited her, I do not need your questions now.
"Of course, Darcy! I would love to see her again! She is always welcome to Netherfield." With that, Bingley turned and left, humming a tune that he danced to with Jane Bennet previously that same night.
. . .
Darcy road his horse to the trails between Longbourn and Meryton for thirty minutes or so without finding another person walking, let alone the woman of his desire. Blast! Where is she?
Feeling silly and dejected, Darcy got down from his horse and found a stump to sit on and wait. How this woman can make a fool out of me. Finding a nice looking wildflower next to his impromptu seat, Darcy picked it and unconsciously stared at the yellow flower with a look of concentration too severe for merely pondering wild flora.
What is to be done? I cannot ask her break her engagement with Mr. Collins without declaring myself, I cannot have her for myself, and I cannot get her out of my mind. I just need her to know about Wickham's true character for the sake of her family. Who knows what lies he has spread and what gullible country girl will be disgraced due to his charms.
To break off her engagement for my own peace of mind is not fair to her or for my own future. How would I handle an unengaged Elizabeth Bennet now?
Unbeknownst to Darcy, he had become an object of observation by the very woman he was thinking about.
Elizabeth Bennet had been walking along her favorite path to Meryton, more for the sake of snuffing her curiosity about Mr. Darcy's comment the previous night than about shopping in the local town. She had been enjoying the fine weather when she spotted a male figure sitting in an opening right off the path. When she became closer, she realized it was Mr. Darcy, looking somehow even more pensive than he usually did, except his steady gaze was directed at a poor wildflower instead of an unfortunate person. Her lips quirked up in an amused manner, and she decided to remain unseen for the next several minutes, for she never could give up a chance of amusement at the gentleman's expense.
Meanwhile, Darcy continued his musings. He could not stop thinking about how he would handle it if Elizabeth would suddenly become unattached. Her situation is so beneath my own. She would not be accepted by the Ton in London, and she would not know how to be the Mistress of such a large estate as Pemberly. He smiled softly at the thought of Elizabeth being the Mistress of Pemberly. Surprising even himself, this was the first thought of her as his wife, and he could easily picture her walking the halls and enjoying the garden with himself and Georgiana. This is really an unproductive topic Darcy, please discontinue this line of thinking, he willed himself. It was already too late for the gentleman, however. The thought, so appealing, would not leave his conflicted mind once it set root. He continued thinking in this manner, with the smile on his face, for the next several minutes.
Elizabeth continued to watch, unobserved, and was shocked to see a gentle smile appear on the gentleman's face. How much more handsome he became when he smiled, and she had never seen such a content smile grace his face. Fearing she would continue to have generous thoughts about the man she was determined to dislike, she decided to interrupt his reveries.
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said while she approached the gentleman, now only twenty feet away.
Darcy started, and he quickly stood up and bowed with all the civilities that was bred into him since childhood. Fool! "Miss Elizabeth." A faint blush appeared on the high cheeks of the gentleman, for while the lady did not know where his thoughts previously were, he felt conscious of the improper contemplations. It did not help that the object of such improper thoughts was looking striking in a light green muslim gown and an amused twinkle to her matching emerald eyes.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your ponderings on such a fine flower, but I could not help feeling sorry for the poor object for receiving such a stare-down from such a man as yourself," Elizabeth said, feeling bold as she teased the man who was usually so composed.
"And what sort of man do you consider me, Miss Elizabeth?" Darcy said with a teasing tone, enjoying this lighter side to Elizabeth while also appreciating the privacy of their aloneness.
"A man who does not allow the local growth to win staring contests, of course. For how could a small flower expect to out-gaze the Master of Pemberly?"
"Indeed, I am always sure to win any such contests with lilies, daisies, and wild flowers. It is the roses that give me difficulties and always win such competitions."
Elizabeth's eyes widened in surprise at such a reply by the usually short-worded man, and allowed him a smile in appreciation of such a quick reply. She was used to her father's quick wit, but this confusing man enjoying her teasing manner was a new, not unwelcome revelation. She always knew he was uncommonly intelligent, but that he actually enjoyed her teasing temperament was surprising.
My G-d, she is beautiful. How could I have thought of her as anything else is absurd. And that new smile! I believe she may be warming to me, if she still holds a resentful heart. There would be no resentment if there were no more lies from Wickham cloudly her judgment. Wickham! I need to tell her.
Darcy cleared his throat, "Miss Elizabeth, I believe I need to enlighten you to my previous relationship with Mr. Wickham. He seems to be spreading lies to the neighborhood about me, and I believe you need to know the truth. Not only for yourself, but for your sisters as well as female connections. He is not to be trusted around women, and I can explain why." Darcy finished, looking uneasy but resolved.
"Please," Elizabeth said, looking at the gentleman warily. "I can assure you that he has been upfront about your previous dealing with me, and I would like to hear your side of the tale."
Darcy sighed heavily, and related to her all his dreadful past dealings with Wickham; The close childhood, the awkward college years, the aftermath of his father's death, and the situation with Georgiana. Darcy's hands were clenched while he explained how he found out about Georgiana's almost-elopement to Wickham and her heartbreak afterwards. The wildflower, still in the hands of the gentleman, suffered some bruising from his forceful limbs.
Elizabeth, with wide, confused eyes, stared at the gentleman after he finished his story. He saw her hand reach towards him and then quickly go back to her side. How much I wish I could know her thoughts!
"Thank you for telling me. I can only relate that I am ashamed that I could not tell his nefarious nature myself. And thank you for your confidences. I shall warn my sisters, but not give them the particulars with regards to your sister's dealings with him."
"Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. I thought you should know." Have I changed any in your estimation?
"And – I have written to my sister this morning to invite her to Netherfield. I am sure you will meet her during her stay here. If you could, quietly, help me keep Mr. Wickham from her presence, whether when she is visiting your household as a guest or perhaps you meet in the town and he is near, I would greatly appreciate it."
"Of course," Elizabeth said, smiling at the tall gentleman before her.
"I must get back to Netherfield. Bingley wanted to make a call to your home later tonight and I must get some business completed before we are out again this evening. Until later," Darcy said. He bowed, and, while looking at Elizabeth with unreadable eyes, handed her wildflower. He turned, embarrassed, and got up quickly on his horse and rode away.
Elizabeth Bennet, a changed woman from merely an hour ago, stood planted on the spot from where Darcy gave her the flower, looking at the plant. The poor flower once again became the object to a staring contest while the holder processed her own, quite unexpected thoughts.
Enjoy! And I'm sorry for the long delays between postings. I have not given up on this story, just a little bit of writer's block. Who knew running your own law practice took up so much time? Any reviews and suggestions are welcome, as always.