Hi guy's sorry about the delay, thanks for your messages and those people checking to see if i'm continuing with the story, just so you all know yes I will finish it as I hate half done story's that I find on here...however no promises as to how long it'll take me to get done...sorry. That said, hope you guys enjoy and I will try to update as soon as I can.
Thanks wand for the editing job, fab as always.
Please review if you can, thanks.
Chapter 5: Catherine's treachery
"Darcy!" Lady Catherine's imperious voice rang out, seemingly all the louder in their confined space. "I demand to know what you are doing here! And unhand Miss Bennett at once."
Darcy reluctantly loosened his grasp on Elizabeth. But, unable to break the contact completely, claimed her small hand with his own. Lady Catherine's sharp eyes spotted the gesture at once and her mouth tightened unpleasantly with anger.
Elizabeth was unequal to facing the situation. She buried her head in her free hand, sobs of embarrassment racking her body.
"Aunt," Darcy tried to forced his voice to into a soothing tone - a difficult task as his body still flamed from Elizabeth's passionate kisses. "What brings you out in this storm?"
"What brings me out in this storm?! That is hardly the most pressing question, considering that harlot still sits there half dressed and as brazen as you please."
"I will not allow you to speak that way about Elizabeth," Darcy warned. He rose from his seat and took a step towards his aunt without releasing Elizabeth's hand.
"How dare you speak thus to me!" Lady Catherine fumed. "I am one of your closest relation and when you finally marry my Anne I will be your mother, so I will speak of that cheap baggage as I please."
"I warn you, Aunt Catherine" Darcy bit out, barely concealing his seething anger "do not refer to Miss Bennet again in that derogatory manner"
Lady Catherine contemplated him for a few moments, contemplating her next step. She could not push him too hard, despite the fact the boy deserved to be put over her knee and given a good thrashing. He has his fathers wilful streak, which made him tempestuous and prone to ridiculous gallantry, if she wasn't careful she would push him further into the arms of that disgraceful hussy instead of pulling him to safety.
"We became concerned for your safety when you didn't return to break your fast" she began in a much more even tone "when the weather became worse we feared for the worst, then then Collins dared the rain to come looking for Miss Bennet as she too had not returned from her walk I immediately summoned every available servant to set forth and find you."
Darcy looked back at her, unabashed, still holding tightly to Miss Bennet's hand. She still sobbed silently into her hand. Her form barely covered by the threadbare blankets around her.
Spotting a weakness to exploit, Lady Catherine turned back to the boy, silently contemplating a way to get Miss Bennet alone. She eyed him shrewdly as she formed her plan.
"Darcy? Would you be so kind as to step outside?" She noticed his grip on Miss Bennet hand tightened, his mouth already forming the words of refusal. "Anne is waiting in the carriage for me. She was ever so concerned for you and Miss Bennet," Catherine added as an afterthought. "She would be so relieved to know that you are returned to us unharmed."
"Surely you did not drag poor Anne out in this weather simply to look for me!" His tone was full of annoyance but he hastened to comply.
"Of course Anne accompanied me. She cares for you so dearly that it would have been a punishment to make her stay at home when your life was at risk." Her attempts at pleasantry folded under his insolence and her anger slipped out in her reply.
"My life was never at risk." He said, rolling his eyes in exasperation. "However this folly may very well have endangered the fragile health of your daughter."
Darcy was gone but a moment. Lady Catherine did not even have the opportunity to put her plan in motion before he came rushing back in, his face full of concern.
"Anne must be returned to Rosings at once," he barked. "She is nearly blue with cold and her cough is much worse that it has been in some time."
"You return with Anne back to Rosings. I will wait here with Miss Bennet until another carriage can be sent," Lady Catherine commanded in a voice that brooked no refusal.
"I cannot leave Elizabeth." Darcy insisted. "She is injured."
His eyes sought Elizabeth. She was crumpled in upon herself, her slender arms wrapped around her waist. He longed to take her in his arms, to comfort and sooth her, and - above all - to claim her mouth once more as his own.
"Then surely she requires a doctor - as does my darling Anne. If you would be so kind as to accompany her back to Rosings you will be able to summon a doctor for both. I will remain here to care for Miss Bennet. You can see, can you not, that it is improper for you to remain here any longer with an unchaperoned lady who is such a state of undress. If we have any hope of stemming the tide of gossip we must contain the chance of discovery now."
"We have already been discovered, aunt, as you are well aware since you yourself discovered us."
"Don't be clever, young man," she snapped. "At this point only we three know of this. No one else need be involved."
Darcy was immobile. "I intend to marry Miss Bennet," he told declared.
"The moment I am assured of her health, I will make haste to Longbourn where I will beg her father for the honour of her hand."
Elizabeth's sobs ceased. Though tears still clung to her eyelashes, there was something akin to hope in her eyes.
Catherine swallowed the bile rising in her throat. The boy truly was a fool in love, just like his idiotic father.
Once upon a time, Catherine had been the intended match for the handsome Mr. Darcy senior. Everyone had been eagerly anticipated a marriage proposal – instead, he had fallen for her younger sister's laughing charm. Catherine remembered the way he had mooned over her sister like a calf while she, herself, had instead been forced to accept the hand of Sir Lewis, a philandering, elderly noble. Pemberley had been lost to a lesser woman.
She would not allow history to repeat itself.
"This how you would wish to begin married life?" She struggled to reign in her temper. "Under the haze of scandal? Your wife," she spat the word, "Will never be accepted in polite society. And what of Georgiana? Would you have her suffer? If we are prudent we can salvage this situation. We will say that I happened upon Miss Bennet during my search for you, whilst you were drawn to the sound of the carriage and emerged from you hiding spot in the forest. Once we establish our story no one will dare question it. You will save your lady's reputation as well as your own."
She watched Darcy's face as he contemplated her words. Though he seemed reluctant, he eventually agreed.
"Very well," he said. "I will return with Anne and call a doctor post haste, I will also arrange for a carriage to collect you immediately."
He crossed the room to Elizabeth. Lowering his voice, he said, "As much as I want to stay here with you, my love, Lady Catherine speaks the truth. I will await your arrival at Rosings and, once the doctor has seen you, we will continue our fascinating discussion."
Darcy gently took her red, tear soaked face tenderly between his hands as he placed a soft kiss upon her forehead. Only then – and reluctantly – did he head towards the door.
Upon hearing the carriage depart, Lady Catherine descended upon Elizabeth.
Catherine approached Elizabeth slowly, knowing that she had to play this carefully. The boy would be obstinate – that was just his nature - and this prickly country miss would not be much better. Ironic that they would suit each other so well in that regard. Miss Bennet would certainly be an even match for him in bull headed tenacity but there was no way that Lady Catherine would allow the match. Darcy was for her Anne only.
"Never before have I been so shocked," she said, shaking her head.
Elizabeth's hands tightened on the blanket but she said nothing.
Catherine smiled to herself; this was too easy. "My nephew has used you extremely ill," she said in a kinder tone. Elizabeth looked up, surprise stamped on her face.
"Just like his uncle and wayward father..." She sighed sadly for effect. "Using this old hut to satisfy his carnal lusts and desires."
Elizabeth's eyes widened dramatically at this. "His uncle, my late husband, did not believe I knew of his deceit, of how he liked to bring his cheap women here to use and defile them. But I always knew. For the sake of my family I simply chose to turn a blind eye to his indiscretions. My poor departed sister, Lady Anne, suffered a similar fate by Darcy's father – who, I believe, had a similar cottage built within the grounds of Pemberley. I fear Darcy, despite my best attempts to shelter him from their worst habits, has followed in their footsteps."
The lie tasted well in her mouth. As if that simpering fool, Sir Lewis, could disobey her! He would return home with his tail firmly between his legs from spending his day hiding here, reading his stupid books, and she had made it clear to him on many occasions that she knew precisely what he was about.
"I would have expected better of Darcy. To be dallying with a gentleman's daughter! I am sorry for us both. He has bought shame on his family - just as your compliance in this shameful act has bought shame upon your own."
"No!" Elizabeth's voice broke with the force of her denial. "You are mistaken Lady Catherine. Nothing scandalous has taken place, I assure you!"
Catherine raised a sardonic eyebrow. Did this chit take her for a fool?
"Young people must have abandoned all forms of society and decorum if you can say with sincerity that a young unmarried woman can be found in a carnal act without bringing disgrace and dishonour upon her family."
Oh, how she relished cutting down her broken opponent! Lady Catherine had been sorely tempted to release her venom upon Miss Bennet at several times during the last month to teach her not to behave so forwardly with her betters.
"It was not as you have painted it, Lady Catherine," Elizabeth replied in a hollow voice.
"It matters not what occurred, girl, only what people will say. As well you know. We must hide the truth if either you or Darcy are to walk away with any shred of dignity."
"You wish us to marry then?"
Catherine almost choked. "Not at all! A forced marriage will only paper over the cracks of disgrace. It would never be forgotten that Pemberley's mistress and master were caught in the centre of a scandal - and I very much doubt Darcy would marry you. He might choose to take pleasure in the lower circles but he will marry for duty."
"You are mistaken," Elizabeth replied fiercely, a hint of her former temper returning.
Catherine eyed her opponent carefully. Darcy was clearly bewitched by this scheming nobody. She had not thought Miss Bennet returned his feelings but no doubt his fortune overcame any objections she might have had.
Catherine tried to sound as sympathetic as possible. "Miss Bennet," she said, "You must understand that people in Darcy's circle behave in a very different manner as to what you must be accustomed to. Did he make an offer to you, child?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yes," Elizabeth replied, straightening her back and meeting Lady Catherine's eye.
"I thought as much. He never intended to carry though with the wedding, my dear," she lied easily.
Patting Elizabeth's hand sympathetically, she added, "Once he had your consent, he would persuade you with kind words and grand gestures until you gave yourself to him."
Lady Catherine shook her head in mock indignation. "After he had ruined you, Darcy would have no need to go through with the marriage. He would have established you in a house in London as his mistress. He has done it before," she added for good measure.
Elizabeth could not have been more shocked if Lady Catherine had struck her; she recoiled, as if she could avoid the truth of the words.
"Why else would he bring you hear alone?" Catherine asked, pressing her advantage.
"It was raining heavily and I have injured my ankle," Elizabeth replied but her voice was less sure than it had been the moment before. "Darcy was being a gentleman."
"A true gentleman would have seen you safely to shelter and then departed forthwith to retrieve assistance. Or he would have waited out the storm under the shelter by the door, rather than compromise you as Darcy has."
Catherine watched the impact of her words and was pleased at their effect. "If his intentions were true, he never would have laid hands upon you. Come now, Miss Bennet, I thought you a clever girl."
Elizabeth shook her head, trying to deny the ideas forming behind her wide brown eyes.
"Do you truly believe that proud, silent, rich Fitzwilliam Darcy would take a nobody country girl to be his wife?"
"I..." Elizabeth faltered, suddenly uncertain.
"Perhaps I have grievously misjudged his character," she admitted. "He seemed so genuine..."
It was all Lady Catherine could do not to laugh aloud.
"What will become of you, Miss Bennet, if you return home to your family despoiled? Will they accept you back - or will you go live in seclusion, never to marry or enter into civilized society again?" she asked driving her message home.
"I am offering you an opportunity to save yourself from such a fate. Once the carriage arrives, you will return at once to the Collins' residence. The doctor will tend to you there and, once he is done with his exam, you will be loaded into my carriage once more and carried back to your family. We none of us will speak of what has occurred here today."
Elizabeth sat in silent contemplation. Catherine bit her tongue; it was difficult not to press further when she so clearly had the advantage. Instead, she watched her words slowly worm their way into Elizabeth's psyche.
"Yes," Elizabeth said, finding her resolve at last. "I will do as you ask. I will remain silent on today's events. I will tell my family I have returned early as I was concerned for my sister, Jane."
Catherine could not conceal her victorious smile. The sound of horses drew her attention to the door. Right on time, she thought.
Now to tackle the boy...
Lady Catherine was accosted the moment she descended from her carriage. With a shocking lack of decorum, Darcy ran toward her.
"Where is Elizabeth?" He peered around her into the depths of the empty carriage. "Where have you been? Why did not you return to the house immediately, as agreed?"
"She did not wish to return here with me," she replied. "And lower your tone, nephew, or else gossip will surely follow."
Catherine made her way into the great house slowly, showing Darcy that she, at least, could act with the dignity required of her by her station. Ignoring him completely, she made enquiries after Anne who, she was told, had taken to her bed. Poor girl, Catherine thought, she had never been strong.
"What do you mean she did not wish to come here?" Darcy demanded.
"Just that. Miss Bennet practically begged me to take her to the Collins' residence. She seemed to feel you had tried to compromise her and that coming here would only exasperate the situation. I could not, in all good conscious, bring her once more within your power."
The look of hurt on his face demonstrated she had struck a nerve.
"I must go to her," he declared abruptly. He immediately mad for the door.
"No, Darcy," she said. "You will not. I will not allow it." Her voice was full of steel.
"You cannot stop me," he replied indignantly.
"You are correct. However, I would advise you to stop yourself. The lady does not want you, Darcy."
Catherine played upon his fears. Having watched their interplay with rapt attention this past month, she knew well where to aim her arrows. "Miss Bennet wanted nothing more than to be returned to her family post haste and has already taken her leave."
"She is gone?" Darcy asked, his voice echoing with despair.
"Yes, she is gone. She asked that we never speak of this again so she might carry on with her life."
An idea struck her. "Miss Bennet spoke of a gentleman she esteemed highly whom she did not to hear of today's misdeeds."
"Another man? Who?" he demanded. Jealously flared behind his eyes.
"I did not enquire. I cared only with preserving your reputation and once she had not only consented but insisted on silence on this matter, I cared not one whit what she did." Lady Catherine watched Darcy sink down into one of the chairs by the fire.
At last, she had him. Now, whilst he was weak and broken, she would bind him to Anne and finally gain triumph over her sister.
Pemberley would be hers at long last!
please review if you can. thanks