Despite her intention to do otherwise, Lady Elizabeth allowed her gaze to pore over his face—his chiseled chin, his stunning eyes. Her older brother’s friend, Mr. Darcy, fascinated her in a manner she dared not confess to anyone. She could not help but consider what a handsome man he was, even if he were a bit taciturn. As much as she would have hated being caught staring, she could not bring herself to obey her mind’s cautioning urges to look away.
Her lingering memory of first having met him at Pemberley crept into her mind. How presumptuous he had been. He knew nothing about her, save whatever Avery may have mentioned in passing. Yet, he suffered no compunction whatsoever in admonishing her to be wary of a gentleman named George Wickham, who also resided at Pemberley.
That Mr. Wickham was indeed a charmer was evident from the moment they first met. For a gentleman who for all intents and purposes was mourning the death of his godfather, Wickham did not hesitate to woo her whenever her grandfather and her brother were not present. All of his charms were wasted on her. Oh, he was indeed a handsome man. However, he was old. Why, at least ten years her senior, a fact that was not nearly so consequential now as it had been when she was barely sixteen. At the time, Elizabeth was not about to confess any of that to Mr. Darcy. How dare he presume to tell me whom I should be wary of? Who did he think he was? My brother? Such had been the thoughts she entertained back then.
Elizabeth continued to study her brother’s friend. No doubt, he is brooding over Avery’s keeping him waiting. His brooding enhances rather than diminishes his handsome face. She could look at him all day, even though she had been woefully disappointed that he had not been among that morning’s early callers. Elizabeth’s stomach fluttered. Even now, she could feel the touch of his lips against her skin from the evening of her coming out ball.
The first time he had met his friend’s younger sister came to Darcy’s busy mind. The Montlakes had traveled all the way from their home in a neighboring county to pay their respects when the elder Mr. Darcy, a longtime friend of the duke, passed away. Darcy’s initial impression of the charming young lady lingered with him still—her pleasing smile, her teasing manner.
Even though Darcy’s friend, Avery, had spoken of his younger sister on several occasions, her legend did not meet with the loveliness of the young lady herself. He was surprised that a young woman of her standing and her age would be prevailed on to travel such a distance to visit people whose acquaintance she had not made. Avery said his sister thought her being there might provide comfort to young Miss Darcy. Indeed, Georgiana, her brother’s junior by ten years, was quite taken with Lady Elizabeth, and it was Darcy’s understanding that the two young ladies had corresponded one or twice since. Were it not for the disparity in their ages, he was confident they would spend time in each other’s company. Not that it was likely now. He had recently taken his sister from school and set her up in her own establishment in town. The woman who presided over the establishment, a Mrs. Younge, seemed like a sensible woman. She came highly recommended by his uncle’s people. At present, Georgiana and Mrs. Younge were in Ramsgate.
Darcy pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. Where is Avery? The two friends had plans to attend an art exhibition that afternoon, and he was to meet Avery at the Montlake townhouse. Upon his arrival, the butler informed Darcy that the young lord was temporarily detained elsewhere and that he would be most obliged if Darcy would wait for him, for he would be along shortly.
He was not unaware that Lady Elizabeth was staring at him. Having garnered more than his fair share of stares from young ladies, he was given to believe that was a practice they enjoyed. Whereas this was normally the worst means of garnering his approbation, nothing could be further from the truth when it came to Lady Elizabeth. He recalled thinking how she was much too young to give any serious consideration when they first met at Pemberley. Now look at her.
Darcy supposed some conversation ought to be had; the room was too quiet, and they had been sitting in that same attitude for a while. On the other hand, she had joined him. Although their prior time in company had largely extended to those times when Darcy visited her brother, he knew her well enough to know that if she desired conversation, she would not hesitate to embark upon it. Turning the page, he suppressed a chuckle. The first time they talked - really talked - came to mind. It had been the evening of her coming out ball.
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