We are now officially in the Month of Love! February is when we start dreaming of lovers, roses, fine wine, chocolate, and walks in the moonlight with that special someone. I will be posting something fun almost every day this month, so come back to enjoy what I have in store.
From time to time I do share snippets from my novels, both those already available and my works-in-progress. Today, for a special treat, I am sharing a small sample from Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. I am laboring daily, and a portion of the manuscript is with my editor Gretchen Stelter already. My hope/prayer is to have the novel available by the end of February or early March at the latest. Stay tuned!
This bit will be familiar to those of you who have read my previous novels. I referred vaguely to a second unexpected meeting between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy at Lizzy’s secret grove of willow trees, this one after their engagement. In this book I am able to develop that encounter from Darcy’s point of view. Enjoy!
The trot became a sedate walk, Darcy leading Parsifal directly toward Elizabeth. Without preamble he leaned in, cradled her face with his right hand, and kissed her. Just a tender press of closed lips, yet enough to ignite a fire inside his veins.
“Miss Elizabeth, what a delightful surprise. Come here often, do you?”
Caressing her cheek with gloved fingertips, Darcy bestowed a second kiss before she could answer. The feel of her hand pressing his tighter against her cheek, and the slight parting of her lips, nearly sent him over the edge. Literally. Maybe Parsifal sensed his master about to topple out of the saddle, or maybe he was bored of standing still. Whatever the instigation, his sudden shift and loud snort broke the spell.
Elizabeth jerked backward, and Darcy grabbed her arm before she tumbled off the fence. “Hold up there!” he shouted, the exclamation for Elizabeth and Parsifal. Yanking on the reins, Darcy squeezed his legs around the horse and leaned back, while steadying Elizabeth at the same time, causing an odd dance to ensue. Both laughed at the absurdity, which only served to increase the shakiness!
Once assured of her stability, Darcy let go and walked his restless horse in a series of prancing circles. He was still laughing, but stopped when he saw her face.
“My apologies, Elizabeth. Did Parsifal frighten you?”
“A little, yes. All my attention was focused on you,” she flushed and glanced down for a second, “and I almost forgot you were on a horse. His commentary on the situation took me by surprise.”
“He is quite opinionated, I fear. Especially when his purpose has been interrupted.” Darcy pointed to the wandering cattle when Elizabeth cocked her head in question. “I do believe he was anticipating scattering the herd when I changed our course. In that case, his pique is directed at me, not you.”
“Well, I do apologize to Parsifal for spoiling his fun, although I imagine yonder cows would thank me. I pray my interruption did not spoil your fun, Mr. Darcy?”
“Indeed not, Miss Elizabeth,” he teased. “While stampeding cattle is tremendously satisfying, the pleasure of meeting you transcends. I cannot fathom a better way to end my ride than with you.”
“What a pity, then, that you are on that side of the fence. We are doomed to be parted unless I climb over the fence. I have done it before—“
“Yes, I imagine you have,” Darcy interjected, laughing.
“If you imagine it, then I suspect you know what I mean when I say it is not the most ladylike of ventures.”
“Probably not, by some standards. I tend to think I would enjoy the spectacle, not the least because of the possibility of seeing a bit of your legs.” He grinned at the rosiness that infused her face, and loved it even more when she tossed her head and made as if to climb higher, her expression arch. Gods but she is a minx! “Save your dignity, Elizabeth. My solution to the dilemma is expeditious, and does not involve either of us resorting to improper behavior.”
Wheeling Parsifal about, Darcy left her with mouth agape and eyes wide. Galloping full tilt a good clip, he whirled around, and with a shout and added jab with his heels, launched into a barreling rush straight at the fence. A glimpse at Elizabeth’s pale face, as he and Parsifal leapt cleanly over the top rung, did send a sharp stab of regret into his heart. By the time they slowed and came about, exhilaration from their acrobatic feat and the sheer delight of seeing her standing feet away under the trees usurped any regret.
Until, that is, he dismounted.
“How could you do that without warning me? My heart stopped, I swear it did! You could have hit the rail or fallen off when he landed! Or what if he decided the fence was too tall and stopped? Off you would go, flying through the air and— You think this is funny?”
“Yes— that is, no, of course not, but, well, you are overreacting, Elizabeth. None of those things were likely to happen.”
“How can you be so sure?”
He dropped Parsifal’s reins, the stallion immediately wandering off to graze without a backward glance, and crossed to where Elizabeth stood. She was pale and trembling, but had her hands fisted at her hips, and glared at him furiously. Her anxiety for his safety was rather touching, a warm glow spreading through his chest, and he tried not to grin. Obviously he was not showing an adequate amount of contrition because her scowl deepened.
Grasping her fists and pulling them up to his lips, he answered, “I am sure because Parsifal and I have jumped all sorts of obstacles, including fences, and many were taller than this one. In fact, we have jumped this fence before, a bit further south. My mistake for not giving due warning, or elucidating my expertise as a horseman. Your concern warms my heart, but there is no need to fret over my safety on a horse, trust me.”
“Anyone can have an accident, Mr. Darcy, and I would prefer it not be my fiancé weeks before our wedding,” she scolded. “I shan’t argue your skill as a horseman. That is evident even to my untrained eye. Just try to show a bit of restraint, please? For me?”
“I promise to be cautious. Or at the least not to frighten with my exploits while you are watching.”
“That is not the same thing, sir!”
“No, I suppose not,” Darcy agreed, grinning. Then he kissed her forehead. “You really must trust me, Elizabeth. I can handle Parsifal, and he is my friend so would never do anything foolish to jeopardize my safety. At the risk of annoying you with my arrogant boasting, if there is one special talent I possess, it is as a horseman. My grandfather said it was in my blood.”