“Do you fancy yourself in love with her?”
“No—I am not in love. I admire her.”
Lady Victoria arched her brow. “Most ardently?” She huffed. “For if that indeed is the case, let me be the first to congratulate you on your future happiness. No doubt, the Duke of Dunsmore is beside himself with joy.”
Darcy listened to his cousin with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself in this manner. Sensing she was in no danger from her cousin, she continued her taunting unabated. Still, Darcy pondered his behavior of late. Have my attentions toward Lady Elizabeth been so unguarded as to leave others to suspect my partiality to her? He really believed that were it not for her family’s staunch determination that Lady Elizabeth was destined to marry Lord Robert Frawley, he would be in some danger.
When the dancing recommenced, Darcy approached Elizabeth to claim her hand, paying no attention to his mind’s cautioning whispers. Truth be told, I have never been so bewitched by any woman as I am by her. Along with the start of the dance, came Elizabeth’s questions or rather her suppositions regarding Lady Victoria. “Am I soon to be wishing you joy, Mr. Darcy?”
Darcy’s countenance clouded. Wishing me joy? “What is that supposed to mean, Lady Elizabeth?”
“Forgive me, but I could not help noticing the closeness that you and your cousin Lady Victoria share, and I must say what a striking couple you are.”
They were then separated by the dance, giving Darcy time to reflect on the irony. First, my cousin was insinuating more of a relationship with Lady Elizabeth than I have the right to boast of, and now Lady Elizabeth is insinuating something more between Lady Victoria and me. Ironic indeed. Will I ever truly understand the workings of the female mind?
Reunited by the dance once again, Elizabeth said, “And all this time, I was given to believe you were engaged to be married to Miss Anne de Bourgh.”
“May I ask what led to your belief?”
“People talk, Mr. Darcy, and all the talk has you paired with your cousin.”
“There’s a reason for the saying that one should not believe everything one hears.”
“Indeed. I know the saying well. Perhaps you care to enlighten me with the truth.”
“I will make you a promise, Lady Elizabeth. When the time comes for me to proclaim my love for the one woman on earth with whom I wish to spend the rest of my life, you shall be the first to know.”
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