Miss Darcy's Secret Love excerpt
Miss Georgiana Darcy's debut into Society—if
judged by proposals of marriage—should have been considered a
spectacular success. Eleven men had offered for the lady, and she
had just barely turned seventeen! Those gentlemen included six
lords, one up-and-coming Member of Parliament, one poet of moderate
success, and three mere misters. These eleven men all had one thing
in common: each was in want of a fortune.
And Miss Darcy came with an exceedingly generous
dowry of thirty thousand—the same as the enormously rich Duke of
Devonshire had settled upon his daughter.
Though Georgiana knew that to return to Pemberley
without being betrothed would vastly disappoint her brother, she had
been powerless to choose to spend the rest of her life with any of
those eleven men. Dearest Fitzwilliam had taken such pains—not to
mention considerable expense—to procure for his sister the finest
drawing masters, and music teachers, and dancing masters in the
kingdom. She truly hated to disappoint him.
She thought perhaps, since she could not win the
heart of the only man she had ever wanted to wed, she might accept
Lord Hampton. With an eye to appeasing her brother, she had asked
that Fitzwilliam invite his lordship to Pemberley, and the earl was
due to arrive that afternoon.
Because half the ladies in the ton
practically swooned whenever the handsome (purportedly reformed)
rake was near, she had been flattered by Lord Hampton's attentions.
She must own, he was exceedingly handsome. And his
Rafferty Hall was one of the greatest English aristocratic homes.
His prowess at sporting pursuits had won the admiration of other
men. He was said to be a noted whip. He took fencing from Angelo,
and he'd studied pugilism under Jackson. His betting at White's was
That last, single piece of information about him
may have contributed to her reluctance to bestow her dowry upon him.
She would not at all approve were Lord Hampton to squander it away
on a wager over which raindrop could reach the window sill the
fastest. For while the Darcys were possessed of a large fortune,
they had never been flamboyant spenders. She knew too many noble
families deprived of the homes their ancestors had built because of
the frivolous wagering of this last generation.
How she wished there was someone to whom she could
confess her apprehensions. Though she adored her brother's wife,
dear Lizzy was just as desirous as Fitzwilliam for Georgiana to make
a brilliant match. If only Lucy—now Lady Fane—hadn't gone off to
Italy. She could ask Lucy anything and be assured of a thoughtful,
intelligent response. How she missed Lucy!
Now that her brother had invited Lord Hampton to
Pemberley, Lizzy—who truly was wise like Lucy—would have an
opportunity to observe his lordship. An excellent judge of
character, Lizzy could be depended upon to give Georgiana wise
counsel once she was better acquainted with Lord Hampton's
Georgiana had time enough before Lord Hampton's
arrival to indulge in an activity that had always contributed to her
felicity. Fitzwilliam had told her that while his lordship was at
Pemberley, it might be best if she did not demonstrate her more
masculine qualities. Such as angling.
As a young girl she had become nearly obsessed
with angling at Pemberley's lovely lake. The obsession had begun
when she followed Robert Farrington around like a devoted pup.
Wherever Robert went, she had followed. Whatever Robert had done,
she did. Vastly kind hearted, he put up with her devotion and
allowed her to join him in his endeavors. The inclusion demanded
that she emulate a boy. Which she did. Robert thought of her as he
would a younger brother. He even shortened her name to George. He
could have called her anything as long as he permitted her to shadow
his every move.
Though he thought of her as a lad or as a brother,
she never thought of him as a brother. To her, Robert Farrington was
a demigod. He was the man she dreamed of marrying when she grew up.
Her heart had very nearly broken when he became an
officer in the Dragoons and went off to the Peninsula. She prayed
often for his safe return, and she vowed she would never fish in the
lake until he came home.
And she had not. Until today. Before she united
herself to another man, she must resolve to purge Robert from her
dreams. She must return to those activities she had previously
associated with Robert, activities that had always brought her great
When his eldest brother, Lord Fane, had told her
that Robert had fallen in love with a Spanish noblewoman, she had
only barely been able to conceal her devastation. After many
agonizing days, she came to the conclusion she must abandon her
dreams of capturing Robert's heart now that she was all grown up.
That is when she had decided she would have a Season after all.
When she did marry, her prospective husband must
be made to comprehend how important angling was to her. And riding.
She loved to ride hard and fast. Her future husband must understand
that she would never consent to sitting a horse with her spine stiff
as her mount gently cantered across the landscape.
Dressed in her shabbiest dress, she strolled
across the park, toting her fishing pole and creel and admiring the
varying shades of green in Pemberley's landscape on this fine spring
day. As she neared the lake, she saw that someone was already
fishing there. It could not be Lord Fane, who regularly fished at
Pemberley. Perhaps Lizzy's aunt and uncle had come. Her uncle was
fond of fishing. But surely Lizzy would have told her if the
Gardners were to be there during Lord Hampton's stay.
As she drew nearer the lake, she thought for a
moment the man fishing from the banks was Robert. But it couldn't
be. He was standing on the same spot that Robert had always favored.
Dear heavens above, could it be Robert? Her heartbeat began to roar.
The fisherman must have caught sight of someone,
for he turned toward her.
It was Robert! He was smiling at her. She was
powerless to suppress a huge smile.
"George! I thought you were in London."
"I have only just returned." She hurried across
the thirty yards that separated them.
He put down his pole and faced her, bowing.
Even if she had lost him to a Spanish noblewoman,
she wanted to demonstrate to him that she was now all grown up. She
continued to hold the fishing pole in her left hand, but put down
the creel, freeing her right hand, and offered it as if they were in
a drawing room or ballroom, despite that she wore no gloves.
He stood frozen for a moment. "Good lord, you
truly are all grown up!" Then he realized he must kiss the hand,
which he barely did.
Her pulse accelerated. Robert Farrington had never
before touched her like that. "When did you return?" she managed,
her voice surprisingly free from the trembling that seemed to have
overtaken her body.
"Only last night. I was disappointed to learn Fane
was out of the country." His eyes sparkled with mirth. "I was
especially looking forward to meeting the new Lady Fane. I have been
apprised of her beauty."
"When you do meet her, you will find reports of
her beauty were not exaggerated." Her expression collapsed. "Poor
Robert! You must feel exceedingly low to have missed your brother
after not seeing him for so long." Then she was unable to prevent
herself from gushing, "By all that's holy, it is so very good to see
"I cannot tell you how powerfully I've longed to
"You were greatly missed."
His gaze rolled along her, fastening on the pole
she held. "Let us continue our conversation as we fish."
For the next few minutes, they got themselves
situated on the banks, she baited her hook with maggots, and tossed
in her line.
"Often during these past four years, I recalled
those lazy summer days when you and I would never tire of angling."
"Me too." She would not admit she'd no heart to
ever fish without him. "Did you have the opportunity to fish in
Spain or Portugal?"
"As often as I could, and each time I did, I
thought of you."
His comment sent her heart fluttering. In his
absence, she could not bear thinking of him. Perhaps that is why she
had refused to fish without him. She would have too painfully
recalled him, and thinking of him only caused her to worry over his
welfare. Scarcely a family she knew had not lost one of their young
men to this terrible war. Or they returned with a missing limb. She
wanted to remember the cheerful youth Robert had been.
"I daresay you pictured me as twelve," she finally
said, squinting at him.
Was he not going to make some sort of comment
about her maturity? "Oh, Robert, I am so sorry no one was at
Bodworth to welcome you home." Her gaze swung from the lake to peer
into his amber eyes. "I assure you, all of us at Pemberley do
rejoice in your return."
"I will own, I was disappointed that Bodworth was
bereft of my loved ones, but it is entirely my own fault. I should
have stopped at Fane House in London before proceeding. It was my
hunger to see Bodworth—and Pemberley—that forced me to come straight
from Portsmouth to Derbyshire."
She was pleased that he had such a fond desire to
return to Pemberley, that to him it also resonated as home. Of
course, this very lake had been built by the Farringtons. Much of
the land that was now part of Pemberley had once belonged to the
Farringtons. "Whilst you are here, you must think of the Darcys as
your family. We shall expect you to dine with us every night. I
shan't like to think of you eating alone."