Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride by @reginajeffers is a Stress Busting Festival pick #regency #histfic
Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
Regency romance; Austenesque; clean romance; historical fiction
Love or Honor or Both? Miss Elizabeth Bennet cannot quite believe Lieutenant George Wickham’s profession of affection, but young ladies in her position do not receive marriage proposals every day, and she does find the man congenial and fancies she can set him on the right path. However, the upright, and, perhaps uptight, figure of another man steps between them and sets her world on its head. When Fitzwilliam Darcy spots Miss Elizabeth Bennet slipping from the Meryton Assembly to follow a man who favors George Wickham into the darkness, he must act. Although he has not been properly introduced to the young woman, he knows Wickham can be up to no good. Later, when he discovers the lady in London and searching for Wickham, Darcy does the honorable thing and assists her. Yet, when they are discovered alone in her uncle’s house, the pair find themselves being quickstepped to the altar for all the wrong reasons. Can they find happiness when they are barely speaking acquaintances?
“Miss Elizabeth,” he said with a bow of respect. “Imagine encountering you in London.” Darcy filled his eyes with the woman’s unconventional beauty. Like it or not, he was more than a bit glad to have the opportunity to speak to her again.
“Mr. . . . Mr. Darcy.” She appeared as surprised by their meeting as was he, for he had thought the only opportunity he would have to see her again would be at Bingley’s wedding, but only if she had avoided Mr. Wickham. “I hope this finds you well, sir.”
“Very well, Miss Elizabeth. And you?” This conversation was becoming more awkward by the second.
People streamed around them on both sides, but Darcy made no effort to remove from the way. “What brings you to London?” He glanced up to notice no servant awaited her. “Pardon my impertinence, ma’am, but I pray you are not out without a maid or one of your father’s footmen to aid you. Is Mr. Bennet in London on business?”
“You ask a grand number of questions, sir,” she said in obvious irritation, “for someone I barely know.”
Darcy forced himself not to flinch from her intended insult. “I do apologize, Miss Bennet. If you are alone,” he said softly, not really knowing how to speak to such a fiery woman, “I would gladly serve as your escort. I cannot, in all good faith, allow you to proceed alone. London is a very dangerous city, even in some of the better neighborhoods.”
He knew she studied him for the truth in his words, for a frown formed on her forehead. “I would be glad of your assistance, sir,” she repeated dutifully. “However, I feel it necessary to make you aware my mission in London involves learning of Mr. Wickham’s whereabouts.”
Mr. Wickham’s name on her tongue was like a blow to his heart, but, beyond stiffening briefly, he managed to ask, “Have you reunited with Mr. Wickham?”
A scene from his youth flashed before Darcy’s eyes. Sweet Marjorie Thistle, a girl Darcy had favored for nearly a year, stood before him and confessed her preference for his long-time companion, George Wickham. Later, her father had approached his own dear parent, along with the elder Mr. Wickham, to explain how Miss Thistle was with child. Likely suspecting the worst, Wickham had disappeared for several months, and Mr. Thistle begged both Darcy’s father and old Wickham for redress. Other than some money, there was nothing to be done to save the girl’s reputation, for no one claim knowledge of Wickham’s whereabouts. Darcy looked upon Miss Elizabeth again and prayed she had not followed Miss Thistle’s road to shame.
“I have not,” she admitted in apparent reluctance, and Darcy said a private prayer of thanksgiving.
He glanced about him to take a quick inventory of their location. “There is a tea room along the street. Perhaps you will join me. You might explain your purpose in London. Despite our previous exchange of harsh words, I would offer myself up as your companion.”
“If you could oblige me in claiming a hackney, such would be well done. I would not have you soil your hands in a matter you will surely find repugnant.”
“I never thought—” he began, but shook off the rest of what he wished to say. He had always been welcomed at the balls and musicales marking every London Season since he was a young man of one and twenty, but Darcy understood his appeal rested more with Pemberley and his ten thousand pounds a year than it did with his social skills, which were awkward at their best. He knew he was too exacting to be thought of as amiable in the eyes of the ladies of the haut ton. Certainly, each of those women would have immediately accepted his hand in marriage and been grateful for his notice of their person, but Darcy had always wanted someone as devoted to him as Miss Elizabeth was to Mr. Wickham. It hurt him to think she would be wasting her youth on such a callow fellow.
Unfortunately for each of them, Mr. Wickham’s fine countenance and pleasing manners always prevailed. Darcy’s former companion knew how to please a woman with more than intimacies. Whereas, Darcy often found it difficult to be more than polite to many of his female acquaintances.
“Where do you wish to travel?” he asked as he directed her out of the way of those rushing around them to their own destinations.
She looked down briefly before clearing her throat. “I had hoped someone at the Home Office would know how to reach Mr. Wickham,” she admitted.
At the age of thirty, Wickham had successfully tempted another woman into losing her heart to him. The idea made Darcy sad, for the inkling of interest he might have mustered in the young lady standing before him would not truly have time to take root. Not that he required another woman setting her cap for him, but it would be nice to outmaneuver Wickham just one time.
Even as he thought they might find a common ground if under different circumstances, he studied how her expression changed from hope to despair. When he first laid eyes on her, her auburn hair had reminded him of Marjorie, but Miss Elizabeth’s eyes—a pair of very fine eyes— were so expressive, he could not drag his gaze from her features.
“I see you think me a fool,” she murmured as she pulled herself up taller, although “taller” was certainly not relative when it came to the lady. “I shall not bother you—” she began to gather her wits about her again.
“I sincerely wish, Miss Elizabeth, you would quit assigning me emotions or conclusions I do not hold,” he said in exasperation. The lady met his gaze, not blinking or looking away, which spoke to her mettle. Darcy noticed for the first time a sense of weariness about her. Not asking her permission, he caught her elbow. “We will have tea, and you will explain the necessity for your discovering Mr. Wickham’s directions. From there, I will determine how best to aid you.”
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With 55+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense and historical romances. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, as well as a Smithsonian presenter. Her stories have been acknowledged by the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction, the coveted Derby Award for Fiction, the International Digital Awards, and the Chanticleer International Book Award, among her many accolades.
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